The Light Wand and the Ice Blade Chapter 5
Searching for Answers
Jill and Cecil stared at their father, confusion shown on their faces. It was as if someone had banged them on their heads with a gong. Jill had walked out of Curan Abbey intending to be reunited with her family. Cecil had walked out of Adlehyde Castle to be reunited with his sister. But both ended carrying a heavy burden.
A burden they were not sure how to handle.
Cecil looked at Jill, hoping to find any answers she may have. Jill looked at him and shrugged her shoulders, unsure herself. Cecil then turned again to his father.
"Why?" he asked standing up from his chair. "Why us? I do not understand."
"Maybe it's because of your blood," Jack replied. "Half Adlehyde and half Arctica. Half Light and half Ice. Maybe this bond in your blood makes you stronger. I do not know. But you are the chosen ones to defeat these demons whether you like it or not.
"You have been properly trained to handle this situation. Your training was not in vain, Cecil. You have your reason now and so do you, Jill. You may have learned from the abbey that the royal women of Adlehyde have the power to hear the Guardians and to speak to them. The Tear Drop holds that power."
Jill and Cecil stood silent, absorbing the news their father had given them. "So it is our destiny," Jill stated softly. "I don't know if I could accomplish it." Cecil nodded in agreement.
"I need time to think this over, father," Jill requested.
"As do I," Cecil added.
Jack nodded. "I understand."
A quiet tapping at the door interrupted them. Jack invited entry. Rudy appeared, bearing a loaded tray of food and a pitcher full of wine. He was still wearing his uniform and his weapons still hung on his side and back. He set the tray down at there midst and glanced at Jack. "Have you told them?"
"Everything," replied the King of Adlehyde.
"How do you feel?" Rudy asked the twins, his dark brown eyes mystifying.
"Afraid," Cecil replied.
"And confused," added Jill. "We've been handed a responsibility that we have no experience in handling."
Rudy chuckled. "Don't worry. I'll be right by your side. I'll help guide you on your destiny. You should be proud to be of service to your kingdom and to the world. Your mother was willing to leave her kingdom to battle the demons. But then again, she did it because people expected that of her.
"But you know better than that. She had taught both of you to act the way you are, no matter if you're a prince or princess. You must let go of your ego. It's your choice if you want to do this. But remember what happened today and the condition your mother is in. Courage, Cecil. Love, Jill. We have taught you everything we learned so that you may not be burdened with the same problems we had faced. Do what is right."
With that he left them and Jill and Cecil found that the odors emanating from the food on the tray was the most pressing thing on their minds. They started for the tray and helped themselves with the food.
Jack stood up as they filled their bellies. Cecil stopped, his fork halfway to his opened mouth, and looked at Jack. He saw that his father was troubled. He placed his fork down and gazed at his father worriedly. "Father, is something the matter?"
Jack looked up and smiled. "It's nothing," he replied. "I just hope you make the right choice." He turned around and went to the window. "If you are done with dinner, you may go to your rooms. We still need to change from our clothing." He looked down at his pants.
"Oh, yes," Jill agreed as she gazed down at her soiled dress. She gazed at the dried blood, which was her mother's, her heart burdened by the decision that could change the fate of the world. Her mother was willing to spill her blood for it; was she willing to do the same? She suddenly lost the will to eat and placed her fork down.
Cecil looked up at her as she stood. He saw that she was troubled as well, noticing that she was constantly gazing at her soiled dress. Her face was contorted in indecision. "Jill," he whispered to her, "you don't have to make your decision now."
Jill looked down at him. "But you don't understand! I don't understand!" she shouted in frustration. She looked down again at her dress and lowered her voice as she asked, "Are you willing to give your life for this world?"
Jack turned from his moon gazing when he heard a cry. He saw that his children were troubled. "You do not have to decide tonight," he said to calm both of them. "Look within your heart to find the answer. I know you'll make the right choice."
The twins looked at their father. They wished he could advise them more but knew that it was their choice alone. Jill looked back at Cecil and asked again, "Are you?"
It took Cecil a while to answer the question. He now understood why his sister kept on gazing at her gown. Their mother's blood was spilt on those robes. Was he willing to make the same sacrifice? He gazed at his food as he twirled the fork in his hand. He lifted the utensil planning to continue eating but thought better of it as he placed it down and pushed his plate aside. He then took a glass and poured himself a cup of wine.
Red as blood.
His mind saw the blood pooling around his mother's body as the red liquid poured into the goblet. Like blood flowing freely from a wound. He stopped and stared at the glass, the red liquid swishing back and forth within the cup.
Jill patiently waited for her brother to answer. She knew that it was a difficult choice to make. She, herself, was not sure if she could be as committed as her parents. They had much to live for. What if they died trying to save Filgaia? She was suddenly startled out of her reverie when she heard a crash as glass shattering into pieces. She looked at her brother who was standing and breathing in hard, angry gasps. "Cecil?" she entreated going around the table to get closer to him.
She saw the wineglass--what's left of it--on the floor near the wall. Red liquid was running down the wall and onto the floor. Jill couldn't tell if Cecil had flung it from anger or from indecision. She moved behind Cecil and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Jack also hobbled to his children to see what was the matter. "What's wrong?" he inquired when he had finally reached them. He leaned forward on his short staff patiently waiting for an answer.
Cecil brushed Jill's hand aside. "I don't know," he murmured. He shook his head. "I don't know!" he howled in frustration as he grabbed his sword and pushed Jill aside before running out the room as if the demons were after him.
Jill took a step to follow her brother but a sturdy hand stopped her. "Leave him be, Jill," her father said.
She glanced back. "Father?"
Jack removed his hand and smiled sadly. "He needs time to think, to understand what's happening to him. I know you feel the same way too. Why don't you go to your room and rest? It's been a long day."
"I guess you're right, father," Jill nodded. "Goodnight, father." Jack said his goodnight and Jill quietly left the room.
The king then slowly dragged a chair next to the bed and rested awhile before extinguishing the four torches. He did not even bother changing from his clothes as he put out the flames. The room was suddenly bathed in silver moonlight. He limped towards the silhouette of the chair and sat. His right leg throbbed from the effort of moving a lot. The doctor had ordered him to refrain from using the leg too much. He groaned as he bent over and rubbed his leg. "Look who's complaining," he muttered as he straightened up and leaned against the back of the seat. He looked at Cecilia and took her hand. "You're in worst shape than I am."
Moonlight slanted through the lone window, shining over the bed. It illuminated Cecilia's body, giving her a radiant glow. Jack felt no comfort in the moonlight. Sad memories flooded his mind as he stared at his wife's pale face. I'm glad they didn't have to go through the grief you went through when your father died. I'm glad that we still lived through that battle or else we would have ended up joining your father in the royal crypt.
His eyes became heavy as he yawned. He slumped in his chair as he fell asleep still clutching Cecilia's hand. The moonlight had shifted, encompassing the royal couple in its glow.
"I don't know. I don't know," Cecil sobbed, tears glistening under the moonlight as they ran their course down his face. He ran along the battlements, receiving stares from castle guards as he passed them. "My prince?" one managed to say when Cecil went past him. Cecil paid no heed to his inquiry as he traversed the battlements and continued to the stairwell leading to the tranquil garden.
A lone figure atop the battlements stared down at the prince's hastening form across the garden. Rudy placed a hand atop the stone parapet as he uttered softly to himself, "What troubles you, my prince? The spirit of courage resides within you but you do not embrace it. I pray that you find the answers you're seeking for this very night and embrace the lion of courage."
A gentle wind blew over the battlements of the castle as Rudy continued gazing down at the prince's retreating form. It blew once more, tousling his hair and rustling his clothes. He turned away from the parapet and slowly made his way to his quarters, scattered leaves twisting around his feet in the cool night breeze.
Cecil continued to run through the garden and soon approached the gates to the East Plaza. The knights stationed there were surprised to see the young prince but before they could stop him, he swiftly ran between them and beyond to the plaza. The knights decided to let him go, seeing the grief and pain Cecil's tears bore.
The prince had not stopped running since exiting his parents' room. He had no idea where he was going but kept on running. He stopped when he realized that he was in the plaza, where everything began.
He wiped his tears away as he gazed around the ruined plaza. He walked among the ruined booths and benches; the only light guiding his way was from the silver orb hanging in the sky. His mind was filled with anger, confusion, and grief. His feet carried him to whatever destination he knew not.
He heard the trickling of water as he neared the fountain. White marble shone brightly as the moon glared down at the fountain. Cecil saw splotches of red where marble met with cobblestone. He knew whose blood stained those stones.
He slowly knelt down, placed two fingers at the brown-red stain, and was surprised to see that the blood was still wet. "Did mother lose so much blood that even the sun could not dry?" he muttered to himself as he stared at his red-stained fingers.
The plaza was shortly covered in darkness as clouds passed under the moon's light. Cecil still knelt by the fountain, by the place where his mother had fallen. He couldn't see anything even his own hands. The darkness served only to remind him about his mother's blindness.
He lowered his head and clenched his hands. "I failed, I failed," he wept bitterly. "I couldn't protect mother or father so how am I to protect this world? How, when I couldn't even protect those I love?"
As if in answer, the moonlight beamed through the clouds and onto the statue of his parents and Rudy. "Huh?" Cecil looked up and saw the beam of light glinting off the bronze surface of the statue. "Is this a sign?" Out of curiosity, he stood up and slowly made his way to the statue, the path between himself and the statue as dark as the night sky.
Moonlight beamed through the clouds, lighting the way for Cecil. He slowly approached the twenty-foot tall monument and gazed up at it. Moonlight slowly revealed the faces of the idol as clouds drifted away from the moon. He gazed long at those young faces, so full of devotion and determination. He, however, did not feel devoted or determined as his parents long ago. Light from the moon then revealed a plaque at the feet of the three heroes.
He studied it and began reading it aloud. "To the three who heard the call of the mythic Guardians and had answered their call. Filled with faith and courage, they plunged into battle with the Metal Demons to save our once green world. Our beloved Princess Cecilia Lynne Adlehyde and her two companions; Rudy Roughnight, a boy gifted with the use of powerful ARMs and Jack Van Burace, a talented swordsman with an icy demeanor. This is their legacy that will be remembered in days to come."
Cecil traced the inscription with his fingers as he read it. "Filled with faith and courage," he repeated to himself as soon as he finished. "I have the courage but lack the faith."
You do not possess neither one, a voice seemed to whisper in the wind that blew gently through the plaza.
"Who's there?" Cecil demanded as he drew his sword and turned about. His eyes flickered side to side as he cautiously moved around the statue, keeping his back towards it. He held his sword in both hands as he quickly rushed behind the statue, his sword ready to strike, but no one was there.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he sheathed his sword but his senses were still on the alert. "I'm just tired," he said to calm himself. "I'm beginning to hear things."
Coward!, the wind seemed to mock the prince.
"I am not a coward!" the prince yelled back shakily, a measure of doubt creeping into his voice.
On shaky legs, he strolled to the fountain and sat down on its edge. He buried his face in his hands as he sobbed once more, tears flowing down between his fingers. "I don't know what to do anymore. Forgive me, mother, father. I don't know if I could do what is expected of me."
Look, the wind whispered in his ear. Look at the water.
"Leave me be!" Cecil shouted to no one in particular. "I wish to be alone!"
Look, the wind insisted the troubled prince.
The prince reluctantly obeyed the wind and turned around. He saw a reflection of himself as he knew he would. "It's just a reflection of me, nothing more," he mocked. "What does that prove?"
The wind blew hard then, rippling the calm surface of the water. Cecil then saw a different reflection through the ripples, that of the man on the statue he called father. His own reflection returned as the wind calmed and died down. The surface of the water became smooth and clear once more.
In that one moment, he understood what his father had been through, what he had been teaching him since he was young. They were exactly alike in mind, body, and soul. Courage, Cecil, Rudy's words repeated in his mind. We have taught you everything we learned so that you may not be burdened with the same problems we had faced. Do what is right.
Cecil nodded as he stood from the fountain, looking at his reflection in the water. "Courage is the power to conquer the past," he recited softly, remembering his training. "Learn from your mistakes. It's what makes a knight stronger."
From the corner of his eye, he saw something glint under some charred wood at the edge of the plaza. Curious, he walked over to the flashing light and pushed the wood away. He looked upon a sword, his father's sword. "How did it get here?" he asked himself.
He took a hold of the black hilt and lifted it high to the sky. He studied the blade that flashed brightly when caught in the moonlight. The blade was broad with a groove running down the middle. The edges were sharp to the touch. The blade ended into a sharp point. The hilt was as black as the night. Even though Cecil had not wielded the blade, he felt very comfortable with it. He took a few practice strokes with it, admiring its perfect balance.
He had come to a decision at that moment as he held the sword high above his head. The breeze that swept through the plaza seemed to approve his decision.
Razan sat cross-legged in the middle of his room, a torch on each side of him. His hands were formed into a triangle, his fingers and thumbs pressing each other, and his head was slightly lowered. His staff was laid out in front of him. He appeared to be meditating.
A chill wind blew through the room, almost extinguishing the torches. In a quick and fluid motion, he picked up his staff and threw it in the air. It twirled high above him, making its way down toward a rack, where it landed perfectly straight. Razan stood up and went towards the sole window in the room, overlooking the square courtyard below. He looked at the night sky.
The full moon was bright, reminding him of the time they had arrived on Filgaia. The sky was dotted with tiny white stars, no clouds obscuring those specks. Tzar and Fesel Zeins paced the battlements, their blue and pink armor shining in the moonlight. No torches burned along the outer walls of the castle, the moon being the only light given. Razan observed everything without interest, his only thoughts on the past battle.
He threw back his hood and laughed out loud. "You have won this day but that won't happen again!" He held onto the windowsill with both metal hands as he coughed and sputtered. A hand was raised towards his staff and the staff obeyed, flying towards its master.
Razan leaned against the staff and walked slowly towards his bed at the corner of his room. "I have not fully regained my strength but once I do gain my strength back, they shall know my power. I shall not underestimate them again. I won't!!!"
He threw back his head and again howled in laughter, the two torches extinguishing at the sound. The smoke was blown away by the arctic breeze that blew through the sole window and into the room. The roaring of the small blizzard outside the walls of the castle drowned out the sound of the metal demon's laughter.
Thick clouds covered the sky of the northern continent. The rising sun was a dull orb that hardly penetrated the forest, south of the mountains. Snow covered the magnificent trees and icicles hung from their branches. They glittered into many spectral colors as they caught what little of the sun's light.
Snow fell and icicles tinkled as something fast moved among the higher branches of the trees. It ran on all fours and jumped from one branch to another without stopping. It was like a wraith moving unseen and untouched, blending perfectly with its surroundings. The trees began to thin as the forest came to an end. It came to the last branch and it jumped high into the air, doing a perfect somersault before landing on all fours.
It stood up on its hind legs and gazed at the sun on the eastern sky, which still rose steadily upwards. It panted, its breaths blowing out in puffy smoke in the chill air. It stretched its limbs as a cat would, arching its back and clawing the ground. It stood straight back up and yawned, baring its sharp teeth and its pointy ears atop its head fidgeted as it picked up the sound of birds chirping. Its long, elegant tail swished back and forth as its keen eyes scanned the horizon.
All it saw was white-covered land, nothing more. "Nothing seems to come to an end in this frigid place," Valta growled as he began to run on his hind legs. "Only a day has passed. I must find this place soon." He suddenly dropped on all fours and moved swiftly across the plains of snow. He clawed at snow and dirt as he gained speed and continued his course due south.
Three hours later, he found himself staring at what the humans called the Outer Ocean. The waters churned below, sending silver spume towards where he stood on the cape. The salty breeze blew into his furry face and he wrinkled his nose at the smell. He gazed at the dark blue water in disdain. "Water," he uttered in disgust. He shook his fur at the thought of the liquid. Since he was a cat-demon, he despised the water.
He closed his eyes and brought the map of Filgaia into mind. He memorized every little detail of the small world and knew that he was on the cape that jutted closer to the land in the south than any other location on the snow-covered continent. It was a good one-hour run from his location to the south.
He opened his eyes and observed the waves below. Clenching his teeth, he took a few steps back getting ready to sprint, and sprint he did. As soon as his claws reached the edge of the cape, he jumped off the cliff falling to the churning waves below. The white-tipped waves came closer as he descended but instead of splashing into the water, he landed on top of it. He smirked as if he had defeated an enemy and he did defeat an enemy. Water was always an enemy of a cat.
He began to sprint on all fours, the water lapping at his paws, streaking across the ocean as the sun reached its peak in the sky. Endlessly he ran, not even pausing for a break. The sun was in the mid-western sky when he finally saw land. It took him longer than expected.
He stopped and looked up at the sheer cliffs. No beach was close by for him to smoothly make his way back to land. "This had better be worth it," he growled as he jumped. His claws dug into the cliff face as he took hold. He then began to climb, clawing his way to the top, a little white speck on the sheer wall.
Ten minutes ticked away before he was able to see the top. He climbed faster until he reached the end. He pulled himself up and gazed at his surroundings, seeing only mountains and rocky plains, very different from the northern region. He gazed at the sun, which was almost at the western horizon. "Better make camp soon," he muttered as he ran towards the mountains, planning to find shelter there. "I'll continue my search tomorrow. I wonder how Seth's doing." His shadow lengthened as the sun continued to descend in the sky.
At the same time Valta exited the forest to the west, Seth investigated the strange crater he found south of the mountains of Arushan. A signpost nearby told him that this used to be where the Photosphere was located.
"Where is it?" he asked himself calmly. He began to walk about the crater, searching for any clue he could find. Bits of metal were strewn about but as he got closer to the middle, he noticed something strange about the ground.
It was as if something was blown in the middle. Mounds of dirt were in a perfect circle around the center of the crater. He jumped over that perfect circle of dirt and landed in the crater within the crater. He knelt down and studied the ground, noticing black burnt marks.
He started to chuckle, then burst out laughing. "How could I forget?" he bellowed as he stood up. "The Photosphere could fly! It must be somewhere else on this planet. But where?" He looked up at the sky as if it would provide him with an answer.
All he could see was the sun descending in the western sky.
"I must start gathering information soon," he said as he hovered over the mounds of dirt and landed softly on the other side. He pulled his hood over his head and his mask over his face as a chill wind blew through the crater. He then pulled out a rolled up parchment from his sleeve and unwound it. It was a map of Filgaia.
An X marks Arushan and a circle marks his location. Black dots on the map mark towns with their names written next to them. He growled deep in his throat as he thought about his alternative.
His alternative to talk to people.
He grunted as he rolled up the parchment and placed it back in his sleeve. "No one else knows better about the whereabouts of the Photosphere than the humans of this world." He pulled his mask tighter about his face as he started to ascend into the air. He gazed to the southeast where the closest town, Court Seim, was located. He began to fly at that direction, gaining speed until he was nothing but a fireball streaking across the sky. It would take him a day to reach the small town and to begin interrogating people.
Three days has passed since the attack on Adlehyde. The sounds of hammers pounding wooden pegs and saws cutting wood reverberated in the small plaza. Some men hauled imported wood from Surf Village while others carried tools from one place in the plaza to another. Most of the rubble had been cleared away and some new booths were up, ready for use. It would probably take two more days to completely restore the East Plaza.
The people were grateful for the limited destruction of their kingdom. The battle had taken place in the plaza and it seemed that the demons were set on specific targets, namely the royal family and the Knight Captain. Destruction of a town would seem highly unlikely to help accomplish their goal. Even though the destruction was limited, there were some casualties among the citizens of the Kingdom of Light. Fifteen people had been found dead the day after the attack and were given a proper burial before reconstruction would commence.
It seemed a lot but many more would have died if it weren't for the king's order to build gates at the northern end of the plaza that led to the garden and beyond to the castle. Jack had the gates built as soon as he became king. He had anticipated that an attack from a foe while in the plaza with no place to run to would likely kill everyone. Instead of running to town and to the gates there, they would escape through the gates in the plaza. His plan was a success, therefore, his subjects were grateful for his wisdom.
Jill walked among the constructed booths, gazing at the men laboring at the structures. The Homecoming Festival was definitely over with the abrupt coming of the demons. As she walked by, people slightly bowed to her, paying their respects. She nodded at them and continued to walk.
She stopped at the fountain and decided to sit at its edge. She then studied the plaza very carefully, taking in every little detail. The booths that were destroyed were being reconstructed. The ground where the platform had occupied is now being repaved because of the huge explosion that destroyed not only the platform but the ground as well. Trees that were burned are now being replanted. Everything was being rebuilt into something better but something didn't change.
Jill glanced down and saw a dark stain at her feet. It painfully reminded her of the awful decision she must make and how the battle had led to it. She knew that the workers tried cleaning up the stain but for some reason it stayed. It will always serve as a reminder of their queen's willingness to place her life for the good of the kingdom.
Jill sighed as she gazed at the stain. Yes, three days has passed but there seems to be no decision in sight. She looked up and saw her brother carrying some wood across the plaza. His face was dripping with sweat, his hair plastered to his head.
Jill noticed that something had changed Cecil ever since that night he ran out of their parents' room. She recognized her father in him. That youthful face had grown with wisdom. He was no longer a child playing with a sword but a man destined something far greater.
The blade he carried was no longer his own but their father's. Cecil had offered to return the king's sword but Jack refused saying that it was a birthday gift. He then had given the prince the scabbard. Cecil had cherished the treasure since, always cleaning it every evening and hanging it on his wall. He no longer slung it across his back but on his waist as a proper knight should.
Jill sighed again as she turned and gazed at the water. It was a perfect day. The sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly overhead. A small breeze rippled the smooth surface of the water, little leaves gently drifting in the small waves. She was so lost in thought that she didn't notice someone approaching.
"May I join you?"
Jill saw Jack's reflection in the water and she quickly turned around. "Father!" she exclaimed. "You shouldn't be out here in your condition."
Jack leaned on his cane and gazed at the sky. "My condition will not stop me from enjoying this beautiful day," he said as he hobbled towards his daughter. Jill moved to the side as her father slowly sat down. He sighed as he rubbed his injured leg. It was getting very difficult for him to walk far distances as well as near distances.
Jill looked at her father and saw his pained expression. He no longer wore shirt and pants but a long white robe with huge sleeves, the type of clothing a Guardian priest would wear. His hair was no longer held together by his ribbon, letting it flow smoothly down his back. He also appeared older and weaker as if the arrow's poison had sapped him of his youth and strength as well as crippled his leg. And it's all my fault, she blamed herself. She looked away as tears began to form in her eyes. She shut them tight to prevent them from flowing.
"It's not your fault," Jack said softly reading Jill's mind. He lifted his daughter's face. "Tears?" he asked as he saw the tears brimming around her eyes. "Why do you cry? My daughter, do you blame yourself for my condition?"
Jill couldn't hold it any longer. "Oh, father!" she sobbed as she hugged him. "I'm sorry! I was so careless!" She trembled with each sob as she cried into her father's arms.
Jack placed an arm around his daughter and gently stroked her hair as she continued to sob. It's not your fault," he whispered into her ear. "The fault is mine and mine alone. You need not worry about it. So please don't cry. I cannot bear to see you in tears, my daughter." He lifted her face and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Now where's that smile I've grown so fond of?" he smiled warmly.
Jill wiped the remaining tears away and smiled her sweet smile that had captured her father's heart since she was young. "Thank you, father. I feel a lot better knowing that you do not blame me for your condition." She hugged him again in joy.
Jack held his daughter close as he lightly kissed her on the head. Ten years had passed since he last kissed her like that. He again stroked her hair as he would have done to comfort her when she was a child. He looked up as he saw his son approaching.
Cecil was wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt as he walked towards the fountain. He was surprised to see his father and sister sitting at its edge. "Greetings, father," he greeted as he neared them.
Jill looked up and smiled when Cecil stopped in front of them. "No greeting for me?" she asked mischievously.
Cecil feigned surprise as he stood before them. "How could I forget my own sister?" He bowed. "Good day, my dear sister. Forgive me for not saying it any sooner." He straightened as he gazed at them. "I'm surprised to see you here, father. I would have expected you to be in the castle resting."
"It's a beautiful day," Jack declared with a smile. "You cannot enjoy a day as this within the castle's walls. Furthermore," he added gravely, "I cannot sit idly by while the kingdom is in disrepair. Your mother would not want me to waste my days away waiting for her to awaken. I've learned that there are times to be a husband and times to be a father. Now are not those times. It's time for me to be a king. To show that I can lead this kingdom back to its former glory."
"I see that you've learned something new from this tragedy as you always had."
Father and children turned to the new voice as Rudy came into view. Rudy stood ahead of them, wearing his usual attire, his lips curving into a smile. He came to them as both Jill and Jack stood from the fountain. Rudy looked up at his royal friend. "King Jack," he said as he stood before the king, "the wisest of all kings. That's what your people are saying about you and I believe it to be true."
Jack nodded and, without saying a word, limped towards the statue. The trio followed shortly in silence. Jack stopped in front of the statue and placed a hand on the plaque. He lowered his head, his long hair draping to the sides of his face. The trio couldn't see his eyes shut tight and his teeth clenched behind the curtain of hair. Jack balled his hand into a fist. "How much have I changed?" he muttered. Two drops of tears fell to the plaque. "And still I could not protect her!" He pounded his fist onto the monument.
Jill moved towards her father to comfort him but Rudy motioned her to stay. "Let me handle this," he whispered. Jill nodded and Rudy went to his troubled friend. "Jack," he called softly. "Don't torture yourself like this. I thought you have kept that incident behind you."
"You don't understand," the king moaned as he shook his head. He turned about and faced Rudy, tears coursing down his face. "I failed twice to protect her! Twice! And in both times, she nearly died!"
"But in Arctica, you were the one that breathed life into her," Rudy argued. "If you had not, she would have surely died. It was to your quick thinking that you were able to bring her back. That's not failure."
"But if I had kept an eye on her, then that wouldn't have happened," Jack retorted. Sadness was replaced by anger. "I have grown in wisdom yet I remain weak when it comes to protecting those who I hold dear."
"It takes wisdom to know whom to protect," Cecil declared softly. Rudy and Jack gazed at him. "You taught me that, father," Cecil said as they looked at him. "Have you forgotten all the things you had held dear? The knowledge you have passed down to me? And now I see you faltering in your courage."
"Your son speaks wisely," Rudy agreed, "like a certain someone I thought I knew." He grinned at Jack, hinting him.
Jack did not return the grin. Instead, he studied his son's face. He saw much of himself when he was as young as his son. He looked at a younger Garrett aspiring to be a Fenril Knight. He blinked and that face was gone, replaced by the young prince's visage. He could see a pure aura emanating from his son as the time he powered up for his attack three days ago. His son's set jaw and burning eyes showed that aura physically.
Jill observed both her brother and father as they continued to stare at each other. It was no surprise to her why her father appeared weak and old. The torch has been passed from father to son. Cecil seemed older than his years, as if he possessed all the knowledge of ancient kings. She understood then the magnitude of Cecil's words.
After a brief moment, Jack nodded and smiled. "I see that something had changed within you that night," he said, "and I'm glad it did. Wisdom is a part of victory and I'm sure you will be victorious, that is, if you have decided to fight."
"I had made that decision two nights ago," Cecil nodded. "I don't want to see innocent people get hurt. You've taught me to use my sword in defense. I will use it to defend this kingdom and also to defend the whole world against the threat of the demons."
"I also agree with Cecil," added Jill finally coming to her own conclusion. Seeing her brother so determined had influenced her decision. "I don't want a town, no, I don't want our planet to be ruled by a demon tyrant. I can't just watch and do nothing. I willingly give my life to the world as mother has shown us with her blood."
"Yes," Cecil whispered as he stared at the spot, "her blood." He looked at his hand as if he expected it to be still stained with blood. He balled his hand into a fist as he gazed at each of their faces. "I will not let mother's sacrifice be in vain. We must redeem her blood that was shed. But I plan on not doing it alone."
"Who said that you were doing it alone?" Jill asked as she came to stand by her brother. "I have decided to fight too, you know."
Cecil looked at her and smiled. He then turned his head as Rudy came as well. "And I'll be your guide on this journey," the captain added with a grin. "I'll be supporting you two all the way but you are the only ones with the power to destroy the demons."
"I could not ask for more loyal companions," Cecil beamed as he stuck out his hand in their midst. "For Adlehyde!"
Jill nodded determinedly as she placed her hand on top of Cecil's. "For Filgaia!"
Rudy took both of their hands in his. He smiled softly as he whispered, "For the future." They all stared at each other in resolution. They were determined in their cause and they would fulfill it.
Jack stood in front of the statue memorial, gazing at the group, reminded of his own adventure with Rudy and Cecilia twenty years ago. He smiled as he had smiled on the cliff where they had waited for Rudy to finish climbing up to the top. His hair gently swayed as he felt the cool wind blow across the plaza.
The statue seemed to gaze at the trio as they still clutched hands. Rudy's face was as determined as the Rudy from twenty years ago. Jill, the perfect image of Cecilia, had eyes that were unyielding and power seemed to spark from her fingertips. And Cecil, the young knight, was only filled with sadness and determination; the complete opposite of his father twenty years before.
Jack nodded to himself as he turned and looked up at the bronze monument. "Time had passed quickly," he whispered to the statue. "And you have not aged at all. Not at all." He chuckled at his small comment as he limped away.
It was true that the statue had not aged for the people that represent it were as the trio that stood before it. Rudy represented himself, Jill was Cecilia, and Cecil was Jack. No, the statue had not aged as well as the inscription. Filled with faith and courage. There were no doubts in the king's heart that they were filled with these feelings. He felt peace as he continued his way to the gates, knowing that the world were in safe and capable hands.
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