The Light Wand and the Ice Blade Chapter 12
The Calm Before The Storm
The Gullwing hovered a few miles away from Adlehyde seeming to wait upon something. The grasslands stretched below them as far as the eye could see with mountains dotting the horizon in the distance. The sun had finished rising above the mountaintops, its blare in a cloudless sky promising another scorching day.
Here we are, Rudy announced as he lowered the plane to the dry ground. As the wheels touched ground, the captain pressed a button on the instrument panel of the plane and afterwards turned off the engines. The occupants of the Metal Bird then felt something rumble below them.
Curious, Zex gazed through the window to see a hidden door opening up in the ground beneath them. Whats happening? he asked softly as he stared at the scene in wonder. Why is the ground opening up? He watched as the doors finally opened fully revealing a gray metal plate on which the Gullwing stood on.
This leads to the underground hangar of the Gullwing, Jill answered matter-of-factly as the plane was moving downwards past ground level. Zex nodded as he gazed up, watching the two metal doors close above them blocking out the suns light from filtering in. He then looked curiously out the window and saw that they were surrounded by metal walls with lights and numbers fixed in intervals passing by. He turned back to Rudy with a puzzled look on his face.
The knight smiled. Were just on a platform that is being lowered to the ground, he explained. Well reach solid ground soon. Silence followed after that statement until they felt the Gullwing shudder into a stop. Then they felt it shift backwards. Now were just moving into position for our final stop, Rudy explained before any more questions were asked. The platform stopped then shuddered as it was locked into place. It seems were here. Rudy pressed a button on the control panel. Two doors opened at both sides of the plane, in front of the wings, a set of steps lowering to the ground after that. Its safe now to disembark, he informed them before getting off the plane himself.
Cecil followed the captain silently. He walked off the last step of the plane, ignoring all the mechanics that bustled about the plane like bees flocking to a flower. His head down, he walked towards the elevator, not having the heart or the will to wait for the others.
Cecil! Jill called as she exited the Metal Bird. She was about to run after him when Rudy stopped her.
Let him go Jill, he said calmly. He must deal with his own inner demons on his own just like your father did.
The princess sighed then turned to see Zex leading his mother down the set of steps as they exited the Metal Bird and was later followed by Zed who carried two suitcases containing their belongings. Zex looked about him in awe.
The place was huge! Metal walls that were now starting to rust with age surrounded them. He looked up at the ceiling and saw metal rafters with some lights mounted on them running from one side of the ceiling to the other in vertical and horizontal rows. His gaze then shifted to the side where crates lined the walls and rose almost as high as the ceiling.
Originally, the now port was once the secret laboratory of Professor Emma, an ARMs Meister. No one, except for the professor and her fellow workers, knew how the place came into being. Not even the royal family, whose castle stood above the laboratory, knew about its existence.
The secret had been found out twenty years ago when the trio stumbled upon a book called Metal Bird. It was the professors dream to build a machine that could ride the currents of the air. The trio gave her the book and she began building the machine almost at once with a zeal that could rival that of Zeikfrieds plan to destroy Filgaia.
All planning and building took place in this port. This is where the Protowing was born and later the Gullwing. Then tragedy struck.
About four months after the defeat of Motherfried, the trio returned from their monster hunting and reported that the Gullwing was destroyed in a snowstorm up in the north. Emma wasted no time in retrieving the pieces of the Metal Bird. The pieces were brought to the laboratory and once again the Gullwing was reborn. It was dubbed the Gullwing II but they still called it the Gullwing as if it was the original.
It lay dormant for these past twenty years since the trio had settled down into their normal lives. Now it took to the sky once again to carry the bringers of courage, hope, and love all over the world as it did in the days of yore.
But of course it couldnt do all of that without the aid of humans to fuel it and to keep it in good flying shape.
As soon as the group had exited the plane, various people dressed in black pants and blue shirts rushed about the plane, the golden horsehead of Zeldukes emblazoned on the back of their shirts along with the golden words, Gullwing Maintenance Crew. Some of them began to shout orders and the rest obeyed. Ladders were hoisted up against the hull of the Metal Bird as some of the crew climbed them and started wiping down the plane. Two long pipes were connected to the aircraft; their purpose was to pump fuel into the plane. Hammers were clanking as some of them did an engine check.
Zex looked curiously at them. Who are they? he asked Jill as he pointed at them.
Before Jill could answer, someone shouted, Welcome back!
All turned to see a middle-aged woman walking towards them. She wore a white blouse and black pants with a pink coat covering her thin frame. Her smile was bright showing perfectly aligned teeth and her dark brown eyes lit speculatively at them behind her thin black-framed glasses. Her hair was almost completely gray, peppered a little with her natural black.
She walked up to them and studied the visitors. More guests I presume, she said with a cursory gaze. I wonder if theyll be any room in the castle for more.
Excuse me but who are you? Zex asked politely, always the curious one.
The old lady looked down at the boy and smiled. Such a polite young one. She looked at Rosa who held onto the boys hand. I take it hes your son. It was a statement, not a question, but Rosa nodded, staring blankly to where she assumed the stranger was.
The old lady studied her a moment, noticing her blank eyes. She was about to say something when Rudy interrupted.
Excuse me Professor Emma, he said, but what is this talk about more guests?
Professor Emma turned to the knight, a mischievous glint in her eyes. It seems that Captain Bartholomew came carrying two passengers aboard his ship, she replied. A bounty hunter with blonde curls and a wiry man.
Rudy blanched at the brief description. Great, he muttered as he took an involuntary step back. Shes going to kill me!
Surprised by Rudys reaction, Jill asked, Who are they?
Questions, questions, and more questions, Zed grumbled. Can we forget about the questions a bit? Im getting a little tired from carrying this luggage.
Yes, of course, Jill agreed, but I think a formal introduction should be made first. She hinted this at the professor.
Sorry! Professor Emma exclaimed apologetically. Where are my manners? I am Professor Emma, head ARMs Meister and archaeologist extraordinaire. I made this here Gullwing with the help of the other ARMs Meisters.
So those people are ARMs Meisters? Zex asked as he pointed at them.
Professor Emma shook her head. No. As you can see by the words on the back of their shirts, they are the maintenance crew checking on the status of the Gullwing. This place is where we repair and refuel the plane. Originally, this place was a secret laboratory used by me. Zex nodded, satisfied by the answer. Now tell me who are you folks? the professor queried.
The names Zex! the boy answered beaming. This heres my mom, Rosa, and thats my dad, Zed. He pointed at the reformed demon holding the two suitcases.
Nice to meet you, Professor Emma said politely. She then looked at Zed curiously. There is something different about him, she thought as she noticed the strange hair color the man had. I wonder if hes related to Rudy in some way. She shrugged the thought off. Ill probably find out sooner or later.
Well, the introductions are made, Jill said. I guess its time for us to be heading up. Rudy? She turned to the knight.
Why dont you go on ahead without me? Rudy replied, smiling nervously. I need to talk to Emma about our small ordeal up in the sky if you know what I mean.
Sure Rudy, Jill smirked knowing full well that the knight wanted to avoid the other guests that Emma described. She turned to her guests. This way, she said as she led them to an elevator at the southern end of the hangar.
As they walked through the hangar, Zex decided to ask some questions about their surroundings. Being sheltered all his life, he was curious about many things. What are in those boxes? he asked curiously as he pointed at them near the end of the hangar.
Jill glanced at the crates then shrugged. Parts for the Gullwing, I suppose. She then stopped as they had reached the elevator. Next stop, the main floor of the castle.
Jill pushed a button to the side of the two metal doors that stood before them. The two doors opened revealing a small boxlike room. Jill entered followed by Zed with Zex and Rosa closely behind. The doors then automatically closed and soon they felt the structure rising to the upper level.
What is this thing? Zex asked as he listened to the humming of the boxlike chamber rising.
This is called an elevator, Jill smiled as she replied. Its a machine that hoists or lowers people or things within a building. The elevator then shuddered into a stop and the doors opened automatically.
Jill stepped out of the elevator and into one of the hallways of the castle. Princess! the guard who was stationed in the hallway greeted as he turned and bowed to her. Its good to see you again.
Its good to be home! Jill agreed with a smile.
Zed disembarked the elevator followed by the rest of his family. The section of the wall that had acted as a door for the elevator closed behind them, revealing a stone wall with crossed swords mounted on it.
Interesting, Zex mused as he went to study the wall, trying to find any signs of the elevator being there. This is a strange place, he concluded finally as he went back to his mother.
Dont worry, the princess assured the boy, everything else is normal once we leave the laboratory behind. She then turned and started walking towards the door opposite the knight standing in the northeast corner. I think its time to see father, she said. Come this way. She exited through the southeast door.
The others could only follow.
When Rudy saw Jill and the others leave, he turned to Emma. Why are Jane and McDullen here? he demanded a bit angrily.
Calm down, Emma said soothingly. Its not like they came here of their own free will.
Rudy glared at her. Continue, he prompted a little edgily.
They came bearing news about demon sightings, the professor replied. Or so Ive heard. One, disguised as a human, went to Court Seim asking for the Photosphere.
So they sailed from Court Seim to bring us this news, Rudy murmured. Typical . . .
But thats not all, Emma interrupted the knights thoughts. When they were sailing, they spotted another one near Rosetta Town heading towards an island south of the town.
Rudy suddenly became alarmed by this news. South of Rosetta Town . . . he thought to himself. The ruins of Ka Dingel! he exclaimed as he figured it out. By the Guardians! The forbidden tower shall rise again!
The next words Emma spoke sent a chill down the knights spine. It already has.
Were home! Jill announced as the group entered the throne room.
Welcome back princess, one of the guards stationed in the throne room greeted. If you dont mind me asking, your highness, where is the captain?
Hes still down in the hangar, the princess replied. I believe he wants to avoid the visitors that Emma spoke to us about. The knight nodded in understanding.
Jill then looked around the throne room while Zed placed their luggage down. Where is father? I had thought he would be here to greet us.
As if in answer to her mystery, a loud clattering could be heard in the direction that they had come from. What was that? Zex asked still clutching his mothers hand.
Rosa cocked her head to the side as the clattering faded away. Sounded like dishes falling on the floor, she replied.
As if to confirm her answer, a shout was heard in the same direction. Thats your third time today, boy! a gruff voice bellowed harshly. Youll be staying in the kitchen for a very long time!
Sounds like someone has made the chef very angry, the princess sighed. There goes dinner.
When Zex heard what Jill had to say about dinner, he became skeptical. What do you mean there goes dinner? he asked suspiciously. Were not going to have any because the chef is angry?
Jill turned to the boy and smiled. No, she answered, we are having dinner but it wont be as good than when the chef is in a good mood. Just to warn you though, his cooking is terrible when hes in a bad mood. Whoever is helping him isnt being a good help at all. I just hope that whoever is helping him would grow on the chefs good side very soon or else well be out of here before the week is through, with or without the staff.
Zex winced. Sounds harsh, he whispered.
But I hope this wont affect mothers recovery, Jill added softly. She then turned when she saw someone coming from the door they had used to enter the throne room.
Jack limped through the doorway and planned on going to his room when he noticed others than the guards in the throne room. He smiled as he went to greet them. You should have warned me of your coming, he said as he recognized Jill upon closer inspection.
Father! Jill ran up and hugged Jack. Its good to see you again!
Youve only been gone for about a week, Jack said as he hugged his daughter. They parted and Jack gazed at the visitors that she brought. Its nice to see you again Zed, Rosa, he greeted when he recognized them.
Its been awhile, Jack, Zed returned. Im sorry to hear about Cecilia.
Jack shrugged. It could be worse. He then saw a small child clutching Rosas hand, staring up at him intently. And who might this be? Jack asked as he slowly knelt down to the boys height.
The names Zex, the boy answered.
Jack raised an inquisitive brow. Zed saw his look and answered his silent question. Zex is our son.
Jack started back in surprise. What?! he exclaimed as he studied the boy closely.
Zex squirmed under the kings inquiring gaze. He twisted his white sash in one hand; his turquoise covered head lowered to avoid the kings stare.
Jack took note of the boys features. He dressed similarly like his father with the dark blue clothing and sword hung on back but strangely enough, he had no scarf around his neck, only a yellow bandana around his head and a white sash around his waist. His hairstyle was different as well, more wild than his fathers, spiked up in all directions. But the resemblance was there.
The king smiled. Youve raised a fine son, Zed, he said as he stood up slowly and looked at the reformed demon.
Zed rubbed his head as he smiled awkwardly. Not only me but Rosa as well. Without her, I would have strayed from the path of light. He stopped rubbing his head and looked at Rosa. And besides, I had no clue on how to raise a child. It was a whole new experience for me.
I know the feeling, Jack agreed as he grinned at Jill. Women seem to have a natural sense of these things.
Speaking of women, Jill interrupted, Professor Emma mentioned a bounty hunter that seemed to have shaken Rudy a bit.
Oh her! Jack exclaimed as he waved a dismissive hand. He has a right to be afraid. Youll meet her soon, I think.
As to confirm his words, new voices came from the eastern doorway of the throne room. This castle is too big for my liking, a female voice complained. Now where is that garden of theirs?
Perhaps we should ask one of the guards, a mild voice suggested. There are plenty of them around.
A woman about Rudys age adorned in a pink dress that flowed down to her ankles entered the throne room followed by a lean man dressed in black robes. The woman looked around, her curly blonde hair slightly bouncing, threatening to break free from the blue ribbon that held them together, smiled when she saw Jack. Who needs guards when you found the ruler of the place? she said as she went to the king. Jack! she called.
Jack turned to the voice as well as his guests. I see that youre lost Jane, Jack returned.
You could say that, Jane nodded. She then noticed Jill and mistaking her for Cecilia greeted, Hello Cecilia. I see that youre looking healthy than what Jack had described to me.
Jill was speechless. That was the first time someone had mistaken her for her mother. Sure she looked exactly like her but still . . .
Jack noticed her daughters confusion. Jill, he said as he motioned to her, this is Jane Maxwell, former bounty hunter known as Calamity Jane.
Its nice to meet you, Jill bowed. So youre the infamous Calamity Jane. Ive heard so much about you from Rudy. These two must be the guests Emma told us about. No wonder Rudy is afraid, she thought to herself.
Jane blushed when she heard Rudys name but quickly retained herself. So youre Jill, Jane said. I have mistaken you for Cecilia. You look very much like your mother when she was young. You see, its been awhile since I last visited this castle. She then looked around and saw Rosa, Zex, and Zed. More guests? she asked curiously.
Yes, Jack replied. This is Rosa, Zed, and their son, Zex. They came with Jill and the others.
Zed. Zed. Why does that name sound familiar? She studied the reformed demon with a scrutinizing gaze. And you look familiar too.
Maybe because hes the demon we ran into while we were in the Photosphere, McDullen said as if it were yesterdays news.
Thats right! the bounty hunter exclaimed as she drew out her ARM and aimed it at Zed.
Hold that ARM Jane! Jack shouted with authority.
The knights that were in the throne room suddenly surrounded Jane, their swords drawn. Zed and Zex stood protectively in front of Rosa, their hands on the hilts of their swords.
What the hell is this? Jane demanded as she glared at the knights around her. Hes a demon! And they deserve to die! Dont tell me youre protecting him?
As a matter of fact, I am, Jack responded calmly and firmly. He placed his cane in front of him as he stood regally, his face void of expression. Jill noticed that her father was acting the king now. And playing it well, it seems.
As long as he is in my kingdom, Jack continued, he is under my protection. No one is to harm him or his family. Is that clear Miss Maxwell?
Jane clenched her teeth as she tried to suppress her anger. When she was back in control, she asked, Why is he any different from the others? I thought you hated all demons especially after that incident a week ago.
Jacks face darkened when Jane mentioned the incident. That incident involved newer and powerful demons. Zed was an old enemy but he changed his ways, he replied. All shall be answered at dinner tonight. That is all I will say on the matter. Now put up that weapon of destruction lest Ill let my guards wrench it away from you.
Jane glared at all the knights around her, then at Zed, and lastly at Jack. I dont like this one bit, she growled softly, but Ill comply, she bowed and added sarcastically, your most gracious majesty! She straightened up and holstered her ARM. And you can forget about dinner, she added harshly, because Im not going. I dont want to share a meal with a demon.
Jill, the king said while continuing to stare at Jane, would you kindly show Miss Maxwell and McDullen to the garden? Perhaps its tranquility shall ease her temper.
As you wish, father, Jill complied. Come along, she told Jane and McDullen as she walked towards the door the pair had entered from, the garden is this way.
McDullen followed obediently but stopped and turned when he found out Jane wasnt following him. Milady? he called softly.
Jane turned slowly all the while keeping her gaze on the king. Then her gaze shifted to Zed as she finished the turn. Her gaze held no love for the demon. McDullen knew that gaze and quickly grabbed Janes arm. We must be going, Madam, he said as he pulled her towards the door before she decided not to obey the kings wish. They disappeared into the doorway leaving the others.
Everyone sighed in relief when the bounty hunter and her steward left the room. Zed and Zex released their hold on their swords and the knights sheathed their own swords while returning to their posts. Jack grabbed a passing knight by the shoulder.
The knight turned. Yes, your majesty?
Go fetch the royal pennant, he told the knight.
The knight bowed. As you wish, he said before leaving the throne room to do what he was ordered to do.
Jack turned to Zed and his family. Im sorry you had to endure that, he apologized to them. Jane could be stubborn at times. Old habits die hard.
And old wounds reopen, Zed added softly. Jack nodded and an eerie silence ensued.
The knight then returned carrying a pole from which the royal banner of Adlehyde was hanging. Ive returned, your majesty, the knight bowed while holding the pole.
Jack turned to the knight. Very good, he said then turned to Zed. Since there are no rooms left in the castle for more guests, Ive decided to let you live in the town. Theres a house at the foot of the castle that is vacant. Shall we get going?
He started walking towards the direction of the town followed by the knight holding the pole high. Speechless and a bit surprised, Zed and his family could only follow.
Its been a while, Cecil thought as he climbed up to the third floor where his parents room was located. How shall I greet her?
He debated until he found himself standing in front of his parents bedroom. No turning back now, he whispered as he took a breath and opened the door. He entered the bright-lit chamber, carefully closing the door behind him.
Whos there? a sweet melodic voice called from the chamber.
Cecil was a bit surprised that his mother could hear the soft click of the door shutting. He smiled then knowing that Cecilia had overcome her blindness, developing her other senses to compensate for her darkness. Its me, mother, the prince replied, Cecil.
Cecilia sat by the window, her short hair gleaming as the midday sun shone through the window. She wore a loose plain gown of pale green that ran down to her ankles, the sleeves long and wide. She turned her head towards the princes voice and Cecil saw that she still wore the bandage around her head covering her eyes. If it werent for that bandage, Cecil would see that the color of her eyes would mirror the sky.
The queen smiled as she greeted, Welcome back, my son.
Cecil pulled up a chair next to his mother and sat down. He then took a hold of Cecilias hand and asked, How are you feeling today, mother?
Cecilia squeezed her sons hand as she replied, Im fine, a bit weak, but fine. She turned to the window. The suns warmth tells me its a beautiful day outside. I wish I could venture out into the garden to enjoy natures beauty through my other senses.
Then why dont you? Cecil asked. It is a beautiful day outside with the wind blowing and the sun shining. Dont tell me you stay in this room all day? Is that all you do? Witness the worlds turning from this window?
Cecilia sighed. Its not so easy as you think, my son, she said as she turned again to Cecil. Your father has a kingdom to rule and without me beside him, he has twice the workload. Oh, he comes once in a while to check up on me and I appreciate that but he cant play two roles at once. Do you not notice anything different about your father?
Cecil shrugged his shoulders. I have not seen him yet. I came straight to you to see how you were doing. It must be lonely being here by yourself only with the wind and the birds greeting you.
Yes it is, Cecilia agreed as she turned once again towards the window. Outside the window, the leaves of a nearby tree rustled in the light breeze. Two birds of light-brown feathers chirped to each other on one of the branches before deciding to fly away.
Seeing that his mother was lost in thought, Cecil decided to leave. I must be going. He stood up and turned to leave but Cecilia held onto his hand.
Go to where? she asked as she turned away from the window. Youve just arrived. Come stay awhile. I would enjoy your company.
As you wish, mother, Cecil replied as he sat back down next to his mother. Then a sudden thought occurred to him. Why dont we take a walk in the garden? Its a beautiful day, as you said, to take a walk in the garden.
Cecilia was a bit hesitant. The doctor had warned her not to move too much lest she weakened herself. She had walked short distances around the castle for the past week since her recovery but never tried to walk long distances.
Whats wrong, mother? Cecil asked when he saw his mothers troubled expression.
Cecilia turned her head towards the window and sighed. I would love to go but the doctor said---
Forget about the doctor! Cecil exclaimed which took Cecilia by surprise. Seeing her reaction, Cecil calmed himself before continuing. Forgive me for my outburst, mother, but this may well be the last time well have together so why not spend it outside in the garden on a beautiful day like this? This may aid you in your recovery as well.
Cecilia thought for a moment. She felt the warmth of the sun on her skin and heard some birds chirping out in the distance. A cool breeze blew briefly, rustling the leaves of the trees in its wake. It was a beautiful day. She squeezed her sons hand and smiled as she turned her head towards him. I think I shall go after all, she said coming to a decision. If you would be so kind to help me along the way?
Cecil beamed at his mothers decision. Of course Ill help you! he exclaimed as he stood up.
Cecilia followed suit, albeit, slowly. She gasped softly as her torso flared in pain for a brief moment at the movement as it always had. She leaned against her sons strong arm as the pain relented. But with each step, the pain would flare again. My son, she said, would you so kindly pass me my staff? Its on the table.
Your staff? Cecil asked perplexed.
Yes, my staff, Cecilia replied with a smile. I use it on my small walks to help see my way and to support my weak body much like your father uses his cane to aid him in walking.
I see, Cecil said as he gently placed Cecilias hands on the chairs back to support herself. Wait here, mother, while I fetch it. He went to retrieve the staff, which lay on top of the table, its oaken surface smooth and soft. The prince lifted it up and was surprised to feel how light it was. He then went back to his mother and placed the staff in her hands. Here you go, mother, he said.
Thank you, Cecilia said gratefully as she leaned against the staff. The staff was about an inch taller than her, her fingers wrapped around the smooth dark wood as if she was afraid to let it go, her cheek caressing the surface. After a few moments of communal with her staff, she held out a hand to her son. Would you mind leading the way? It would speed up our walk.
Of course, mother, Cecil obliged as he took her hand. Carefully, he began leading her towards the door, maintaining a firm grip on her hand.
Cecilia leaned very heavily on her staff while her son led the way. She sometimes would wince as she walked a stab of pain erupting in her torso every so often. It might take awhile for us to reach the garden, she warned her son softly as they slowly made their way to the door.
Its all right, mother, Cecil said, patting her hand as he helped her along the way. We have all morning unless you want me to carry you.
Cecilia adamantly shook her head. No, she responded firmly. Im tired of being treated as a child or as an elderly woman. All this attention bothers me.
Very well, mother, Cecil said softly, a bit surprised by her words. Then the vision he saw back in Saint Centour during dinner flashed in his mind. Was the vision meant for me?, he mused silently as they finally exited the room. No!, he thought fiercely as he shook his head in denial. The vision clearly depicted father! Is this how it is? How he spends his time with her?
Whats wrong, Cecil? his mother asked when she felt a slight movement in the air.
Cecil was a bit shocked by her question. How does she know that something is bothering me? Then he smiled as he figured it out. Must have been when I shook my head. Amazing. She could feel the slight movements of the area around her. Nothing is wrong, mother, he lied unable to admit his feeling of guilt to her. I was just thinking.
Cecilia knew that he was lying but merely nodded. She thought of how Cecil reminded her of Jack when he could not come to terms with his past actions. She knew that her son was dealing with his feeling of failure towards her. She was about to say something to ease his sense of grief but stopped when she felt her son halt.
Cecil knitted his brows as he looked down the steps that led to the second floor of the castle, then he glanced back at his mother. Cecilia was panting softly, a glaze of sweat glistening on her forehead. She was bent over her staff, her hold on Cecils hand loosening as she tried to recover her breath. Are you all right, mother? he asked worriedly. Maybe this was a bad idea . . . His voice trailed off as he silently berated himself for suggesting such a venture in her current state.
Cecilia noticed her sons trailing voice and quickly gripped his hand hard to arouse him from drowning in his self-pity. Cecil was startled by the grip. He looked at his mother and saw grim determination writ on her face. Mother . . . Cecil began.
Cecil, Cecilia interrupted tightly, stop wallowing in your self-pity. Youre acting just like your father when he was young and foolish. I thought he taught you better. Her features then softened as she continued. But then again, maybe not. Son, do you think I blame you for what happened to me?
Cecil looked at her face and upon seeing the bandage that covered her eyes, he felt a pang of guilt. With a sigh, he replied softly, Yes. He lowered his head, feeling ashamed of himself. If only I could have seen that arrow . . . he continued miserably.
Cecilia frowned at her sons answer. She would have slapped some sense into him if she could see his face but there was always an alternative, rapping sharply with her staff against the hand she held. She heard a sharp intake of breath revealing that she had hit the mark. Now listen! she said striking her staff to the floor for emphasis. Could have, would have . . . Thats all in the past now! You should be embracing the future, not pushing it away just because of that one incident. She then pulled her son closer and looked up to where she presumed his face was. Ive accepted my fate, she continued softly. Why cant you?
Yes, why cant I?, Cecil thought as he looked down at her. He scowled when he saw his answer. The bandage! That piece of cloth that covered his mothers eyes was beginning to irk him! He let go his mothers hand and moved to undo the bandage.
Cecilia, thinking that he was walking away, went to grab his hand but felt it pushed away. If you have truly accepted your fate, she heard her son whisper as she felt something behind her head where the bandage was tied together, you wouldnt be wearing this accursed cloth that is hiding your eyes.
Cecil finished untying the bandage and pulled it away from Cecilias face. He then smiled as he lifted her face to gaze into her beautiful azure eyes that did mirror the cloudless sky though they looked blankly back at him. But that didnt matter to him as long as he saw life flash within those eyes. Did anybody ever tell you that you have the most dazzling eyes anyone has ever seen? he asked as he took her hand again. You shouldnt hide their beauty.
Cecilia laughed softly. You sound almost like your father, she smiled. But we should stop wasting our time here talking about my eyes. The Guardians know how long weve been standing here! Morning may have slipped away.
Of course! Cecil exclaimed as he turned around. He then scowled as he looked down at the stairs again. He turned back towards his mother and asked tentatively, Have you tried walking down the stairs, mother?
Once, Cecilia answered simply. It took me a while though. But its not as hard as climbing back up.
Then well take this one step at a time, Cecil smiled. I dont want you to push yourself too hard, mother. He took two steps down, then waited on the second step as his mother placed her staff on the first step and climbed down. Cecil still clutched her hand in his. One step at a time, he reiterated as they slowly continued to climb down the stairwell.
So you want me to add weapons and defense systems in case you get attacked again? Emma asked Rudy. The knight captain had just finished explaining the situation to her.
Thats right, Rudy nodded. If it werent for Zed showing up at the right time, the Photospheres laser cannons would have blown us away. Besides, he added as he looked up at the slightly battered plane, we might need to infiltrate the Photosphere from the air. How can we do that task when we cant even get near the thing? Zed would be having trouble protecting us as we get closer and we need him near full strength when we do get inside the sphere.
Emma nodded in understanding. All right, she said. Ill see what I can do. I must warn you though that it will take a while to modify the Bird much like the last time we modified it.
More like rebuilt it, Rudy muttered darkly, his eyes becoming distant.
He remembered that day well, the day the Gullwing had crashed in Arctica. They had just left the castle, left the new demons behind, and were flying towards Adlehyde. A snowstorm was brewing as they left but before they could leave the ring of mountains that surrounded Arctica Castle, the snowstorm suddenly intensified.
The gale winds tossed the Metal Bird as if it were a kite caught in a turbulent wind. He had tried to control the Gullwing but the snowstorm was too violent. All he remembered was the feeling of tumbling in the air and seeing the whirling snow approach them quickly as the plane plummeted to the earth.
Must have been a very powerful snowstorm to have made the Gullwing crash, Emma said cutting into Rudys thoughts. I was amazed that you guys survived at all, I mean with the condition the Gullwing was in.
I know, Rudy agreed softly.
Both of the Gullwings wings had been cut off from the plane along with the tail. The hull was split down the middle, cutting the Bird in half. The cockpit was slightly damaged much to Emmas relief. The windshield and several of the windows were fractured and the seats were in slight disarray. But they had survived. Rudy didnt know if it was by fate or by the Guardians protection.
Id better start working then. Emma turned and smiled at Rudy. Besides, I dont want to end up rebuilding it again. Her smile then became a grim line. But I never tried this type of thing before especially with a weapons system. Itll be hard implementing ARMs into the Gullwing without a psychic mind to operate them. This may take a lot of time.
Take all the time you need. Well be staying here a while looking for an ancient artifact. I appreciate what you are doing Emma, Rudy smiled.
No problem! the professor exclaimed as she returned the grin. Its for the fate of the world after all.
Rudy chuckled. That it is. I guess Ill be going now. I just hope Jane isnt around when I show up.
Good luck, Emma said. Youll need it.
Rudy chuckled again and waved a farewell before turning towards the elevator. Youve got to face her sooner or later, he thought as he approached the elevator. Its a matter of how shell react. He stepped onto the elevator and the metal doors closed automatically. Then the elevator lifted him to either a touchy reunion or an enraged one.
When Jane stepped onto the cobblestone path of the garden, her anger quickly dissipated. Its lovely! she exclaimed as she ran into the garden. She stopped and bent down to pick up a white flower. Such beauty, she murmured as she gazed at it, twirling it in her fingers.
It is indeed quite beautiful, McDullen said as he gazed around. Many trees dotted the landscape but not so much as to turn the garden into a forest. Small shrubs lay around the foot of some trees while others hugged the path. Vines ran up the walls of the castle desperately reaching out towards the top where they could be nearer to the nourishing sun. Flowerbeds were plentiful, most of them staying near the benches and around the fountain. Small white butterflies flew among them, drinking their nectar while birds crooned up in the treetops. It seemed that the garden glowed with a life of its own.
McDullen now understood the beauty of what Filgaia was like long ago. With this thought in mind, he went to a marble bench that was resting under a tree near the path and sat on it. Such greenery, he commented speculatively giving voice to his thought.
Its hard to believe Cecilia created all of this, Jane agreed. She closed her eyes as she reveled in the flowers scent. I wish all of Filgaia were like this instead of a barren wasteland. A barren wasteland, she added dejectedly, where one must fight in order to survive. She threw the flower away and it drifted along the breeze finally falling into the fountain where it floated upon its crystalline surface.
Jill remained silent as she walked over to a nearby tree where a couple of doves were crooning. She held out a hand towards them and both flew towards her, one landing on her finger while the other landed on her shoulder. Filgaia may never be green again but at least we still have each other, she said as she stroked the doves chest. The other dove on her shoulder slept contentedly. Without each other, Filgaia will truly be a barren wasteland.
Jane smiled at the thought. I guess youre right, she said. She glanced at the princess who smiled in return.
Then Jill lifted her hand, urging the dove to fly. The dove spread its wings and flew into the sky; the other dove following shortly when it found that it was all alone. The key to survival, the princess said as she watched them fly into the horizon, is each other.
So this is where were going to stay? Zed asked as he studied the building.
The house was structured like all the houses in Adlehyde, with its brown roofs and doors. It was a one-story structure with three windows lined up to the left of the door. Flowerbeds surrounded the home, which Zex eyed in curiosity for he never seen many flowerbeds in one place before. Feels like home already, Zed nodded in approval when done scrutinizing the building.
Im glad you feel that way, Jack smiled. He then took the banner much to the knights dismay. Here, take this, the king offered as he handed Zed the pole, and place it by your door.
Why? Zed asked puzzled as he placed one luggage down and took the shaft.
This banner is a sign to my people that you are honored guests of mine, the king explained, and are under my protection. Its better than having guards at your new home, wouldnt you say?
I guess so, the demon said. Thank you. I dont know how to thank you enough.
You can show it by coming to dinner tonight, Jack replied. You and your family are invited but on one condition: you must leave your weapons behind. I will not tolerate violence in my castle.
Its done, Zed nodded. You can count us being there tonight.
Very well, Jack grinned. Ill see you at dinner then. The king waved a farewell before leaving them. The knight followed silently, feeling empty-handed now with the royal pennant gone.
When the king and his knight left, Zed planted the pole next to the door, the banner flying listlessly in the breeze. The demon then took the luggage he had placed down. Lets start unpacking, he said as he entered the house followed by his son leading his wife.
Rudy entered the throne room at the same time Jack and the knight returned from their excursion into town, the knight bowing to the king before resuming his post. Decided to visit your people for awhile? Rudy asked as he strode up to the king.
Decided to say your greetings to Jane? Jack countered with a grin.
All right, Rudy replied holding his hands up in defeat, you got me. Its bad to put off my encounter with her since Ive been avoiding her all these years. Any longer and she might as well kill me! That answers your question. Lets hear yours.
I went to town to show Zed and his family the house that theyll be living in during their stay here in Adlehyde, the king replied. Theres no room to accommodate more guests here in the castle. And besides, I think Jane would kill Zed in his sleep if he were staying here. Hes much safer in town.
Shes still the bounty hunter even though she claims to be retired, Rudy sighed as he shook his head in dismay. Sounds like she hasnt changed one bit. Where is she by the way?
Jill took her and McDullen to the garden, Jack answered. I was heading there next. Want to join me? Maybe you could tell me all your adventures up till now.
Why not? Rudy shrugged his shoulders. Ill be glad to tell you everything. He stepped back and bowed as he motioned Jack to go ahead. Lead on, he said.
Jack limped towards the northwest door where a knight stood guarding. But, Rudy said as he pointed towards the eastern door, I think its faster if we take those stairs.
Jack stopped and turned back to look at the knight captain. I need to check on Cecilia first, he explained melancholy. She gets lonely once in a while.
I see . . . Rudy nodded in understanding. Please, he said motioning for Jack to resume walking, we dont want to keep her waiting, now do we? He grinned reassuringly and Jack couldnt help but return the grin. The king gave a quick nod before he turned and resumed his small trek with Rudy falling behind him.
The knight that stood guard at the northwest passage bowed before moving out of the way. Does she stay up in her room all day? Rudy asked curiously as they passed the knight and went towards the stairs.
As they began climbing the steps, Jack replied, Yes, but sometimes she takes small walks around the third floor. Taking those walks exhausts her quickly. Im not sure if she could climb down to the first floor. Its hard for me as it is to rule the kingdom without her by my side.
They stepped onto the landing of the second floor at the same time that Cecilia and Cecil finished climbing their way down from the third floor. Father! Cecil exclaimed when he saw them.
Cecil? Rudy blinked in surprise. Cecilia?
What are you doing here? Jack demanded angrily at Cecilia. You should be up in--- His voice got caught in his throat when he noticed her pale blue eyes. Your bandage . . . he whispered, his eyes caught within the cerulean orbs.
Doesnt she look better without it? Cecil asked with a smile.
Not better, but beautiful, Jack said gently as he took his wifes hand from his son. He gazed into those orbs for a moment longer, then realized what he was doing. His earlier outburst returned. Youre too weak to come down here, let alone to walk this far! You should be up in our room resting as the doctor ordered! he reprimanded.
Its my fault, father, Cecil replied sheepishly, trying to shift the blame to himself. I convinced mother to come with me to the garden.
No, Cecilia shook her head as she tried to stand up to her husband. I chose to go of my own free will. I dont want to feel like a caged bird in this castle. Its time for me to experience some freedom.
But, Jack protested, the doctor said not to move too much until your wound fully heals. Do you want to reinjure yourself?
I wont reinjure myself, the queen stated firmly becoming annoyed by his act of concern. She glared at her husband, her blank blue eyes slightly flaring in anger. Do you have a problem with it, Jack?
If you feel that way, Jack began, calming her, then I have no objections. Im just worried about your health, thats all. He then lifted her hand. Since you are going to the garden, Ill escort you there. I was planning to head there anyway.
Cecilia nodded wearily, her battle won. Very well, she said as she leaned on her staff, lead the way.
Jack smiled as he looked down on her fondly. She was never the sort to quit so easily. I think its much shorter if we go downstairs and take the stairs in the eastern hallway, he suggested.
Please no, Cecilia objected, her slightly flaring torso a reminder of her ordeal on the stairs. Im tired from just climbing down these steps and its too tedious for me.
As you wish, Jack said. Come. I dont want to keep Jane waiting.
That makes both of us, Rudy muttered, but first things first. The others looked at him curiously. Since its almost lunchtime, I think its best that we have a picnic in the garden! Rudy exclaimed with a smile. This should pacify Janes anger somewhat. I can pick up a couple of flowers on the way as well, he added thoughtfully.
I dont think . . . Jack began.
Sure it is! the knight interrupted the kings thought. And dont say that Im trying to avoid Jane because frankly, Im not. Itll be nice to give her a bouquet of flowers to show that I have not forgot about her all these years. He grabbed Cecils arm. Lets go Cecil! he exclaimed as he dragged the prince towards the stairs.
But ---! Cecil protested as he was dragged away. Soon both were gone from sight but the royal couple could still hear their sons protests echoing down the stairs.
Jack sighed. Sometimes I wish Rudy hadnt changed. He could be so impulsive at times! He then looked down at Cecilia. I guess we can go ahead to the garden. Cecilia nodded and they both started to walk south down the hall.
They turned a corner, knights bowing slightly at them as they passed by. We hardly spend anytime together like now, Cecilia said trying to get a conversation going.
I know, Jack replied softly. But today we can make an exception. Our children arrived safely and they brought friends from Saint Centour.
You mean Zed is here? Cecilia asked in surprise. They were now passing the doorway leading to the battlements of the castle. Cecilia could feel the suns warmth on her face and the wind blowing through her hair as they stepped onto the parapet.
Yes, Jack answered her question, along with Rosa and their son Zex.
They have a son?! Cecilia sputtered before suddenly going into a coughing fit.
Jack stopped and patted her back. Are you all right? he asked in concern. I guess that surprised you a bit too much. Ill try to be subtler next time.
Yes, you should, Cecilia agreed when she caught her breath. They then resumed their walk, turning at a corner, walking now along the front ramparts of the castle. So tell me about their son, Cecilia said.
Youll meet him tonight during dinner, Jack informed her. There we can learn all of what transpired during their journey. Its a lovely day and I dont want to ruin it by talking of wars and demons. I just want to spend the day among loved ones and friends.
Spoken like a true king, Cecilia smiled as she squeezed her husbands hand.
Jack returned the squeeze as they continued their walk, the rhythmic tapping of their staffs echoing in the air as the wind gently blew dried leaves around their feet, bringing a sense of calm to them both.
Rudy and Cecil stared aghast at the scene before them. Cooks were running around everywhere carrying small buckets of water as they tried to extinguish the small fires that seemed to flare up unexpectedly. Others were carrying plates full of food to the tables while others carried barrels from the wine cellar. Pots were boiling, knives were chopping, and ladles were stirring.
And amidst all this noise was the head chef who was shouting orders to the cooks but he seemed to pay more special attention to a redheaded boy.
Work faster, boy, faster! the chef shouted at the redheaded boy who was washing and rinsing a huge pile of pots and pans.
Yes sir! Galen exclaimed nervously. It was hard scrubbing the grease and oil off the pans since they tend to stick firmly at their bottoms. His hands were wrinkled from washing dishes, pots, and pans since his run-in with the king. He sighed as he placed another washed pan to the side where the other pots and pans were drying off. Must work harder so I can get the hell out of here!, he thought determinedly.
Cecil tore his gaze away from the racket and turned to Rudy. Why did we come here Rudy? he whispered into the knights ear.
We are here to get food for our little picnic in the garden but it seems the chef is in a foul mood, Rudy replied softly. And you know what that means.
Cecil groaned, his stomach lurching at the thought. Wed better make lunch ourselves or should I say meals instead of lunch. Wed be sick to our stomachs if we eat his foul tempered food that we wont even have the strength to search for this staff.
Rudy nodded. Right. Lets go over to the pantry and start making some sandwiches.
Both went over to the pantry at the back of the kitchen, which was dangerously close to where the head chef was standing. They were about to reach it when the head chef suddenly turned in their direction. What are you planning to do? he growled at them, eyes and nose flaring. He pointed a cleaver at them, its sharp edge gleaming in a nearby fire of a stove.
Both slowly turned towards the angry chef. Hes angrier than usual, Cecil whispered from the corner of his mouth.
Rudy nodded then smiled at the chef. Chef Valbuen! Its been a while! We were going to help ourselves to some lunch. Now if youll excuse us . . . Rudy motioned for Cecil to go to the pantry and Cecil went.
Oh no you dont! Valbuen threw his cleaver at the pantry door. It twirled through the air and embedded itself on the door. No one goes through my pantry without my permission!
Cecil stopped when he saw the cleaver. Any closer and it would have been his head that got cleaved from his body. He then turned angrily at the chef. You dare attack your prince? he shouted striding boldly towards the large man. I am your prince and I have a right to these pantries! All activity in the kitchen seem to cease as they watched, even the red-haired boy. Pots continued to boil and the water continued to run but knives stopped chopping and ladles stopped stirring.
Chef Valbuen glared at the prince. Even though, your highness, I cannot allow anyone to come near these pantries. Its bad enough that I was robbed this morning by this child, he pointed at the dishwasher, but for him to work for me as punishment for his crime, I cannot tolerate! He should be down in the dungeon! Its children like him that grow up to become murderers and thieves!
Who placed him here then? Cecil asked calmly, his stern face unwavering.
Your father! Valbuen growled as he balled his hands into fists. The wisest of all kings and he sends this boy to me! He snorted. I think that wound of his has addled his mind.
Dont you dare speak of my father that way! Cecil cried as he glared at the chef, his hand inching towards the hilt of his sword.
The chef noticed this and snickered. Like father, like son. Both of you solve problems by using your sword. He smirked as he saw Cecil forcefully move his hand away from his sword. The prince clenched his teeth as he continued to glare at the chef. His temper was rising steadily with each passing second.
Rudy quickly intervened before anything else happens. Try to remember your princely training, Cecil, Rudy whispered softly to the angered prince before turning to the chef. Youve served long under Jack and Cecilias rule, Valbuen. They brought this kingdom from the rubble that was the Demon War to prosperity. Theyve been wise in their rulings. They gave you this job, Valbuen, when you were just a beginner chef and look where you are now! Dont you remember? They gave you a chance, a chance, Valbuen! You should give this boy a chance as well. The knight chuckled. You may never know if hes the one to take over your position one day.
Valbuen sighed, the anger dissipating ever so slightly from his visage. Forgive me, he apologized as he bowed to Cecil. I have forgotten what I have learned these past years.
The prince looked at the chef and smiled, remembering the lesson he had relearned with his mother. Yes, we do forget the things weve learned, he agreed. But we must keep reminding ourselves of these things or else we go back to being what we were before we learned these lessons.
Rudy clapped his hands together. Now thats settled, we should be making our lunch now. He headed towards the pantry. He stopped when he felt a large hand on his shoulder. He turned to see the chef beaming at him.
Lunch is on me, Valbuen announced. Rudy looked nervously at Cecil who just shrugged and grinned sheepishly. Dont worry, Valbuen assured them when they saw their looks. Im in a good mood right now! My cooking wont kill you! He let out a heartfelt laugh as he went on his merry way to prepare their lunch. Everyone back to work! he bellowed as he put on his apron and took a large knife in his hand and started slicing a roll of bread. The kitchen then resumed to its normal activity.
I guess I can pick some flowers while were waiting, Rudy informed Cecil. Ill be right back. Cecil nodded and Rudy left the kitchen.
The prince yawned as he idly watched the cooks dashing here and there, stirring soups, baking bread, kneading dough . . . He soon noticed the boy washing diligently, his hands raw from the hot water. Cecil strode over to the boy. How long have you been working? he asked him gently.
Without breaking his stride, the boy answered, Ever since this morning. He placed his recently rinsed pan to the side and next took a pot.
Since this morning, eh? Cecil said. He then turned to Valbuen. Isnt it time for this boy to take a break? he asked the head chef.
I was about to do that, Valbuen said without looking up from his work. Take a break Galen.
The boy beamed at the order. Thank you sir! he exclaimed as he turned off the water and wiped his wrinkled hands on his apron. He then jumped down from the stool he was standing on and ran towards the northeast door but before he went through it, he stopped.
Whats wrong Galen? Cecil asked when he noticed the boy stopped.
Galen turned and looked at the prince innocently. I dont know this place very well, he whispered. I just want to find the Boss. I dont know where she is though.
Cecil smiled. Why dont you come with us? Maybe well bump into this Boss of yours on the way.
Really? Galen asked in astonishment and when Cecil nodded, Galen beamed. Thank you! He then added as an afterthought, Your highness. He bowed.
Cecil knelt down and placed a hand on Galens shoulder. Call me Cecil instead, he grinned. I really dont like formal titles. And while youre at it, you can take off that apron of yours.
Right. Galen untied the apron and hung it on a nearby hook. He then looked at the chef. How long is my break sir?
Valbuen was placing the readied food into a basket. He then went over to Cecil, who stood up, and handed the basket to him. He then looked down at Galen. Dont take too long, he answered the boys question. The more you dawdle, the more you wash. You got that?
Yes sir, the boy responded politely.
I see potential in you boy, the chef grinned as he turned away. Maybe Ill start teaching you how to cook as soon as you mastered the art of washing.
Galen groaned. Im already a master of washing, he sighed as he looked at his wrinkled hands.
Cecil laughed lightly. Some things are not what they seem, he said.
I guess, Galen muttered. He then looked at the southwest door when he saw a blue-haired knight enter. He held a bouquet of flowers in his hand as he approached them.
Is lunch ready? the knight asked Cecil.
Yes. Cecil showed him the basket. Rudy then looked at the boy by the princes side. Cecil noticed his stare. Oh! he exclaimed as he pushed the boy forward. This is Galen. Hell be coming with us.
Galen looked up at the knight. He looks like the person the Boss described to us when shes telling us her stories, he thought. How do you do? he asked politely.
Great! Rudy exclaimed. So youre the new dishwasher. Its a tough job but someone has to do it. Are you on break?
Galen nodded. You dont mind if I tag along, do you?
No, not at all, Rudy smiled. By the way, my name is Rudy.
Galens eyes widened when he heard the name. That was the name of the guy who can use ARMs! But it could just be coincidence. If only I remembered his last name! I guess I can ask him this question. Do you know a Jane Maxwell by any chance? he asked curiously.
Jane? Rudy said. Sure I know her. These flowers are for her actually. You can find her in the garden where were heading right now. He then began walking towards the northeast door. Lets go before these flowers lose their luster. I dont want to give Jane limp flowers. Shell start shooting me! An expression of panic lit fleetingly across Rudys face.
Galen laughed at that expression and Cecil caught in the laughter. Rudy rubbed his head and laughed as well as they exited the kitchen, their laughter echoing down the corridor.
Jane sat against a tree with her hands folded behind her head. A gentle breeze blew through the garden, the leaves of the surrounding trees rustling in its wake. The former bounty hunter stared up at the cloudless sky and the sun that shone brightly directly above, showing that it was noontime. Janes eyes started to droop as she yawned. So quiet and beautiful, she murmured as her eyes closed.
Jill sat on the fountains edge, watching fallen leaves float gently along the rippling surface of the crystalline water. She placed a hand in the water and scooped some of it out, watching it slip down slowly between her slender fingers.
She smiled as she remembered a time when she was still young, of how she and her mother and brother would spend their time in the garden together. She stared into the pool as if she was staring back in time.
She and her brother would run around the garden, chasing every bird or butterfly in glee. She remembered when Cecil fell during one of his chases and he scraped his knee. He cried then and their mother came to the rescue. She would cast a simple healing spell and the scrape would disappear. Its all right, she would say. Be careful next time. Cecil then would stop crying and smiled as he hugged his mother.
Then they would go to the fountain and their mother would sit at its edge while they sat on the ground. She would then embark on a story about the Guardians, the Metal Demons, the Elws, or the deeds of ancient heroes. Jill thought about the stories of those heroes.
There was her brothers favorite hero, Aidan Fenrir. An honorable knight who had founded the Knights of Fenril in Arctica, its no wonder that Aidan is Cecils favorite. Their mother also told a story of a sprite named Hodgepodge who united all the sprites against the demons during the first war. They were mostly used for scouting missions but when they were cornered, they fought alongside their human comrades with such ferocity that made the demons gain a new respect for them.
And then there was her favorite hero or---to be more precise---heroine, Eri Lumin. It was she who had stumbled upon the discovery of the crest graph system of casting magic. Without her breakthrough, magic would still be cast by doing a ceremony involving a magic symbol drawn on the ground. Her discovery came just in time during the peak of the war where the Guardians, Elws, and Humans were at the edge of defeat. Spell casting became quick and efficient but not as powerful.
Those past images then rippled away as the wind created small waves within the fountain. Those were happy times, she sighed as she stood up. She saw Jane sleeping under one of the trees and McDullen staring idly at the white butterflies flying around the white flowers that sprouted everywhere. She raised her arms into the air as she stretched and breathed in the clean cool air. Nothing like a walk in the garden to raise your spirits, she smiled.
And to ease tempers, McDullen added mildly as he glanced at Jane.
Jill suddenly felt the urge to laugh. McDullen looked at her in amazement. Was it something I said? he asked in puzzlement to Jills laughter.
Jill stopped laughing as she wiped tears from her eyes. No, she smiled. I just felt like laughing. Mothers garden seems to have a certain affect on people. Like Jane, it has the power to ease tempers. I, on the other hand, feel calm and sometimes happy that I start to laugh for no apparent reason. It feels like this place is another world, a world free of worries and grief.
I can feel that, McDullen nodded. One would think that we should hear the noise from the town without but its so quiet here. How did your mother accomplish in building this splendid garden?
I believe I can answer that question for you.
Both turned to see Jack and Cecilia walking down the cobblestone pathway.
Mother! Jill exclaimed happily. Father! What a surprise!
A surprise indeed, Jack smiled as he led Cecilia to a marble bench, opposite that of McDullen. Sit here, he told her gently, moving her hand to the arm of the bench.
Cecilia felt the cool stone beneath her fingers as she sat down, a sigh escaping from her lips. She leaned wearily against the benchs back as she raised her head to the sky, basking in the suns warmth, breathing in the fresh cool air. She then turned her head when she felt someone sitting beside her.
How are you feeling? Jack asked her as he settled down besides her.
Tired from the walk, Cecilia replied softly, but glad to feel the air blowing in my face and to smell the sweet aromas of the flowers around this beautiful garden.
Jill observed her mother as she spoke. There was something different about her. Then she found out what it was that bothered her. Mother, she began, your eyes, I mean, your bandage. . . When did you decide to take it off?
I didnt plan on taking it off until your brother decided to take it off for me, Cecilia smiled. Why? Is there anything wrong?
Jill shook her head. No, no, she replied quickly. As a matter of fact, you look better without it.
Cecilia nodded then stopped when she heard something unusual. Her ears then attuned to the sounds of the garden. She could hear the water spouting out from the fountain, birds chirping up in the surrounding trees, and that strange sound. Whats that sound? she frowned as she tilted her head to one side to hear better.
What sound? Jack asked puzzled as he tried to listen as well. I dont hear anything besides the water and the birds, he said when he didnt hear anything unusual.
Cecilia ignored her husbands comment as she concentrated on the sound. She knew that sound! It sounded like . . . It sounds like someone is snoring! she laughed.
McDullen and Jill were surprised by the comment. Then both turn to the sleeping Jane. Jack noticed their reaction and decided to take a look as well.
He smirked when he saw the bounty hunter leaning against a tree, her eyes closed and her mouth slowly opening and closing as she snored softly. I see that her temper has subsided a great deal. I think its best to not bother her for now. He looked at McDullen. Is she a light or heavy sleeper?
McDullen thought for a moment. It depends, I guess. I havent really observed her sleeping habits, you know.
I guess it doesnt matter, Jack said as he leaned back on the bench and placed an arm around Cecilias shoulders. Rudy will be here any minute now and that will surely wake her up!
Wake whom up?
Janes eyes snapped open when she heard the voice. She suddenly shot up, much to everyones surprise, and ran along the cobblestone path towards the owner of the voice. Took you long enough, Knight Captain! she growled as she took out her ARM and pointed it at Rudy.
Hello Jane! Rudy greeted nervously with a smile. He took an involuntary step back when he saw the ARM. I see that you are well as can be.
Cut the crap! Jane shouted as she took deadly aim with her ARM. Give me one good reason why I shouldnt blow your head off!
Lets be reasonable here! Rudy exclaimed. This here is a garden. I dont want to shed some blood in this beautiful place. Were in front of the monarchs of this kingdom and, he pulled Galen to the front, we have a child here. You dont want to be a bad role model for him, now do you?
Thats right Boss, Galen nodded. You always told us how wonderful a man Rudy is. How you admire his quiet strength, his charming smile, his . . .
As he continued to list the admirable traits about Rudy, Janes cheeks began to blush furiously. Her hand began to shake, nearly dropping her ARM in the process. Thats enough Galen! Jane scowled interrupting the boys listing. She glared at the boy menacingly.
Galen knew that look. He yelped as he quickly hid behind Rudy. I think I went a little overboard there, he whispered to himself.
Rudy patted the boy on the head as he smiled. At least you tried, he whispered to him. Now I know what she likes about me. He then turned when he heard Jane yelling something at him.
What Galen said is not true! Jane exclaimed. I despise you, Rudy Roughnight! Youre the lowest creature of all Filgaia! I detest you metal boy! She continued to rant about how she hates Rudy. But most of all, I--- Rudy grinned as he pulled out the bouquet of flowers from behind his back and went over to Jane. I . . . I . . . the bounty hunter faltered when she saw the flowers, I guess you havent forgotten about me after all!
Of course I havent forgotten about you, Rudy said as he handed her the bouquet. You were on my mind every single hour of every single day. I would have visited but my duties held me here.
But Rudy, you were---ouch! Jack rubbed his arm when he felt someone pinch him. He turned towards Cecilia and asked, What was that for?
If you had continued with your comment, Cecilia explained, Jane would be more upset. Understand?
I guess, Jack shrugged. Cecilia pinched him again. Ow! Now what was that for? he growled as he rubbed his arm again.
Your incompetence to understand a womans feelings, Cecilia replied. I wonder why I married you in the first place if you cant understand a simple thing as that. Jack muttered something unintelligible but Cecilia ignored him.
Cecil cleared his throat as he approached the group. Sorry to interrupt your happy moment together, he looked particularly at Jane and Rudy, but I believe its lunchtime. Galen has to return to his dishwashing duties soon so I think its best that we start setting up.
Yes, of course, Rudy said sheepishly as he rubbed his head. Ive forgotten about that. Someone should pick a spot for our little picnic.
Why not over there? Jill suggested as she pointed to a small clearing behind the bench where Jack and Cecilia were sitting. A couple of trees stood there, adding some shade to the grassy clearing.
Perfect! Cecil exclaimed. Galen and I will set up lunch. He went to the clearing carrying the basket of food followed by Galen who held a neatly folded white blanket.
Wait! Jill called as she ran after them. Ill help too!
Cecil and Galen turned and waited for Jill to catch up with them. When she did, they continued their way to the clearing.
McDullen stood up and joined Jane and the others. So the whole group is back together again, he said. Jane gave him the flowers for him to hold. It was his job after all. I wonder if the E.I.A is still in existence because we may need them again, he added afterwards.
Jack shook his head. Please McDullen. Were not here to discuss about battles and tactics. Were simply here to enjoy ourselves.
How can you relax at a time like this?! Jane shouted furiously. The demons are out there strategically spreading their influence around Filgaia and youre here enjoying the day away!
I dont like it as much as you, the king began, thats why I requested that you come to dinner tonight to discuss this important matter.
With a demon? Janes temper was beginning to flare again. No, thank you! Id rather eat dirt!
But think of it this way, Rudy explained. Hes a demon and what better way to find out what theyre up to then another demon? He may know something about them that we may have overlooked.
Jane crossed her arms in answer and simply said, No.
Rudy took her hand and Jane blushed. Not even for me? the knight captain smirked as he kissed her hand.
Jane blushed even more. Well . . . I . . . Maybe . . . she faltered. Her tongue seemed to twist upon itself as she tried to find the right words to say. If you put it that way . . . she whispered as she hung her head down. She was defeated. No matter how hard she tried, she could not escape from Rudys charms.
The knight captain grinned. Good! Then Ill stop by your room to escort you to dinner. He looked at the steward. No offense McDullen.
None taken, the steward said.
Then its settled! Jack exclaimed as he slowly stood up from his seat. Dinner tonight at seven in the dining hall next to the kitchen. No one is allowed to bring weapons. Rudy was about to protest but Jack held his hand up, stilling any further protest. That includes you, Rudy, even though you are the Knight Captain of Adlehyde Guard. Im sorry.
As you wish, your highness, Rudy bowed. It was a direct order from the king himself and he must obey.
Very well then, Jack said. He turned and took Cecilias hand and she slowly stood up. They should be done setting up by now. Why dont we join them? He and Cecilia led the way followed by Rudy and Jane and lastly by McDullen.
The blanket was set and the food was spread about, ready to be devoured. Cecil, Jill, and Galen were already sitting on the ground when the rest of the group arrived. Jack led Cecilia to Cecil who immediately stood up and helped his mother unto the ground next to him. So youve made sandwiches, Jack said as he lowered himself to the ground. He then reached for one.
Actually, Rudy said as he sat next to the king with Jane following besides him, the chef made it.
Jacks hand stopped right before he was about to grab a sandwich, a bewildered look on his face. He looked at Rudy and asked slowly, Are you serious?
Whats wrong? a small voice asked. Everyone turned to see Galen happily eating a sandwich, his mouth full. I dont find anything wrong with it. He swallowed and took another mouthful.
Jack could only stare in amazement. He then was surprised to see his son take a sandwich and begin eating it. Like Galen said, Cecil informed, I dont find anything wrong with it. He quickly finished the sandwich and reached for another.
But . . . Jack began.
Cmon your highness! Rudy exclaimed as he handed Jane a sandwich before taking one for himself. Theres plenty for everybody! He took a bite out of his sandwich, chewed, and swallowed. Delicious! Everyone else, including Jane, Jill, and McDullen, nodded in agreement as they finished up their sandwiches and were going for seconds.
But . . . Jack began again. The chef . . . He then turned when he felt a tapping on his shoulder.
Cecilias scowling face greeted him. Stop stalling and give me a sandwich! she demanded. I can hear them chewing and its making my mouth water. Stop being cautious! She held out her hand. Sometime this century, Jack!
Of course, Jack obliged quickly as he grabbed a sandwich and handed it to Cecilia. Cecilia took it gratefully and began eating it. Jack then took one for himself and took a bite. He chewed slowly, his face a mask of suspicion. He swallowed and his face lit up. This is actually good! he exclaimed. But wasnt the chef in a bad mood awhile ago?
Yeah, replied Cecil, but with a few choice words from Rudy, the chefs mood changed. How else would Galen join us if it werent for him?
Youre probably right, Jack said as he finished up his sandwich. He then turned to Cecilia who was waiting patiently for another sandwich, her hand held out. Jack placed another sandwich in her hand.
So Jane, do you find the garden to your liking? Jack questioned as he took another sandwich as well.
Yes, quite, replied Jane. She took a napkin from the basket and wiped her hands. How did you accomplish in building such a beautiful sight?
I believe that was McDullens question as well, Cecilia said as she finished her second sandwich. She held out her hand for another and Jack gave her one. Its a long story and Ill try to explain as best I could.
After eating her third sandwich, she embarked on her tale. She told them of their time when they went to the Elw Dimension to rebuild Rudys arm. It was there that they saw how Filgaia was a thousand years ago, a land that was rich, green and fertile. During Rudys operation, she had talked with Mariel about reviving their world into what Filgaia once was.
Mariel explained that it was possible. Thats what shes been doing in Rosetta but the land there was so dry and hard that her flowers have a hard time sprouting. Then Cecilia had suggested making a garden instead in memory of old Filgaia.
Theres a place within Adlehyde Castle that seem to be teeming with life, Cecilia had said. Maybe Ill build it there.
About a year after the trios venture in Arctica Continent, Cecilia began working on the garden. Armed with the knowledge of some ancient forms of magic she had read from the abbeys Secret Library, the garden began to take shape. Trees began to sprout and grow at a tremendous rate; flowers bloomed all around along with the grass. Afterwards, birds began to nest among the trees and butterflies danced around the flowers. The garden was finally complete after many months of magical work. All that was needed to be done was to build the path, the fountain, and the benches. And that didnt need any magical feat to accomplish.
The only problem I had with making the garden was that it took all of my strength, Cecilia explained at the end of her tale. As if creating it had drained some of my life away, she added softly.
How did it weaken you? Jane asked innocently. Were the spells that powerful?
Cecilia sighed. Let me explain, she began. There are four elemental crests that are the basis of magic: Geo, the Earth crest; Fray, the Fire crest; Wing, the Wind crest; and Muse, the Water crest. Magic is cast by combining two of these four elemental crests. But there are also three more crests that the abbey does not know.
Three more? Jill questioned intrigued.
Yes, three more, Cecilia nodded, Din, the Thunder crest; Pure, the Holy crest, and Vile, the Evil crest. These crests are called secondary crests and are more powerful than the elemental crests.
How do you know all of this mother? Jill inquired. Since they dont know any of this at the abbey.
There is a secret library in the abbey filled with books on the arts, her mother replied. Ive . . ., she paused as she struggled to say the next word, . . . read some of them and learned some of the combinations to create the forbidden magic, as it was called. Combine a secondary crest with an elemental crest and you create forbidden magic.
So you used this forbidden magic to create the garden, Jane stated rather than asked and Cecilia nodded. Must be real powerful, the bounty hunter added. But why didnt you use it against the new demons?
I hadnt thought I would need to use destructive magic so I just memorized the combinations for creation magic, Cecilia replied. Besides, if I did use it against them, I would have been weakened drastically with no chance of defending myself. This garden wasnt built in a day, you know. It took many months to create.
And many hamburgers, Jack remarked with a smirk. He then saw Cecilia was about to pinch him again for that comment but he was ready. Not this time, he said as he caught her hand by the wrist.
You didnt have to say that! the queen whispered harshly under her breath as she tried to pull her hand away.
Well, its the truth, Jack argued as he kept a firm yet gentle grip on Cecilias wrist. And then there was your pregnancy. I was afraid we would have a food shortage with your appetite.
JACK!!! Cecilia screamed as she lunged herself at her husband despite her bodys protest. She then tried to find her husbands throat so she can choke him to death.
Cecilia, dont overexert yourself! Jack desperately reminded her as he tried to fend off her attack. Remember your wound!
Shut up, Van Burace! Cecilia snarled.
The twins, seeing things were getting out of hand, went to pry their parents apart. Mother! Cecil exclaimed as he tried to pull her back. Father is right! Your body is still healing!
Jill knelt down besides her struggling father and whispered, Why did you have to mention that, father? You know mother is in a very delicate state right now.
My . . . mistake . . .! Jack choked as he pulled Cecilias hands away from his throat. Hold her Cecil!
Rudy watched in embarrassment at the scene while the others sat in mute shock, a sandwich hanging from Galens mouth while Janes and McDullens mouths were slightly open. Things never change, Rudy sighed as he shook his head. He then turned to the others. I guess that answers your question, he said to Jane and McDullen, trying to ignore the quarreling family in the background.
Well, I have another question, Jane replied as she looked at Galen, a mischievous smile curving her lips. Galen, how did you get here all the way from Court Seim? Did you sneak onboard Bartholomews ship?
The boy was in the middle of his fifth sandwich when he heard the questions. He quickly devoured it and stood up. Well, look at the time! he exclaimed as he started taking small steps away from the group. Id better get going or else Valbuen would be angry with me! He suddenly sprinted towards the path leading to the castle.
Hey! Jane cried as she stood up and began chasing after the boy. Answer my question, Galen!
While Jane chased after Galen and the royal family continued to quarrel among themselves, Rudy absently nibbled on a sandwich. Things never change, he mumbled between nibbles. McDullen could only nod in agreement.
Wild ARMs Fanfic