The sky is still burning. Red and orange flames. Blue and white flames. Dragons. Phoenix. Someone’s falling. A voice. A face. Ryleigh . . .
Napadilat ako bigla habang hinahabol ang hininga ko. Was that a dream?
“Rei—” Lalo akong nagulat dahil bigla na lang may mukhang tumambad sa gilid ko. “—ka! Gising ka na!” Nakita ko si Lexi at umiiyak siya nang malakas habang nakatingin sa akin. Paulit-ulit niyang sinasabi ang pangalan ko, hanggang sa hindi ko na maintindihan ang lumalabas sa bibig niya. “Agayagodigayagigisikkkk!”
Napangiti na lang ako sa kanya at gusto ko sana siyang yakapin pero napatigil ako nang makita ko ang paper seals na nakapaligid sa akin. The seals act like a shield and that’s why Lexi can’t touch me. Pinunasan naman niya ang luha niya na kumalat na sa buong mukha niya. Tumingin siya sa gilid kaya sinundan ko rin ‘yon ng tingin at napatigil ako sa nakita ko.
Master . . . she’s alive . . .
“The two of you have been unconscious for four days,” sabi ni Lexi habang nakatingin kay Master na hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring malay.
Our bodies are both covered with gauze cloth and paper seals but the difference is the burns on her skin, from her left cheek down to her left arm and leg. Agad na tumulo ang luha ko no’ng nakita ko ang kalagayan niya.
“Wait!” sabay tayo ni Lexi. “I need to call the Spirit Masters. Hintayin mo ko d’yan,” saka siya nagmadaling lumabas ng kwarto.
No’ng naiwan kaming dalawa ni Master ay hindi ko naalis ang tingin ko sa kanya. Pinilit kong tawagin siya pero walang lumalabas na boses sa bibig ko at hindi ko rin masyadong magalaw ang katawan ko. Memories suddenly rushed in my mind—Master falling with her burning body, Ignus disintegrating together with Hell, the burning sky, my parents and their guardians, Arsen and Phoebe, Ryleigh and Kon.
“We’re sorry for leaving you behind, for leaving you alone, but this isn’t the right time for us to be together.”
“Reika, we’re proud of you. Thank you for saving the world, my princess. Even if you aren’t born as a real one, you will always be my princess. So stay strong and always remember that we’re always here for you.”
Hindi ko alam kung hallucination ko lang ba ang nangyari noong nahuhulog ako pero malinaw na malinaw sa alaala ko ang mga salitang binitiwan nila.
I miss them. Hearing those words felt like home, a place that I won’t ever see anymore.
Napatigil naman ako sa pag-iisip no’ng biglang bumukas ang pinto. Pagtingin ko ay isa-isang pumasok ang Spirit Masters at dumiretso sila sa akin.
“Can you speak?” tanong ni Astrid at dahan-dahan akong umiling. “Looks like you still can’t move your body. Adrielle,” sabay tingin niya kay Adrielle.
“Okay,” sagot naman niya at pareho silang pumwesto sa magkabilang-gilid ko.
Seals appeared in front of Astrid and Adrielle chanted something. The seals from my body disappeared and I suddenly felt a searing pain, as if my insides are burning. I yelled, assuming that it won’t be heard, but my voice unexpectedly returned, filling the room with my unpleasant cry. However, when Astrid and Adrielle finished the incantation, the pain gradually subsided.
“You need more rest. You used all of your strength and stamina, to the point that you even tapped your life force,” Astrid explained. I didn’t object since exhaustion took over me. Unti-unting bumigat ang mga talukap ko pero bago ako tuluyang pumikit ay nakita ko ang pagtingin nila kay Master.
“Reika . . .”
Paulit-ulit kong narinig ang pagtawag ng pangalan ko pero hindi ko makita kung sino. The voice is muffled but sounds familiar. Who is that? I feel like I should know her but I can’t remember anything.
“Reika . . .”
“Who are you?” I asked, hoping for a response, instead, a blue flame appeared in the middle of the darkness. Doon ko narealize na parang nakalimutan ko ang lahat, at unti-unting bumabalik sa akin ang mga alaalang iniingatan ko.
“Phoebe . . .” I called and the blue flame transformed into a girl—a princess.
“Once again, I’m sorry for giving you a hard time,” she said and the smile on her face was replaced with guilt.
“It wasn’t your fault,” sabi ko naman. “It’s our fate and we can’t do anything about that.” Pagkasabi ko no’n ay muli siyang ngumiti, pero kita pa rin sa mga mata niya ang lungkot.
“You really are worthy of being the Second. Thank you, Reika.” Bigla naman akong may naalala kaya tumingin ako sa kanya.
“Phoebe, I . . . I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“D-did . . . did I become an immortal, too?”
My question was followed by silence and I’m actually scared to hear the answer. I know that immortality has a lot of benefits but I don’t want to have it. I want to grow old with everyone. I don’t want to be alone.
“Don’t worry, you aren’t.” Pagkasabi no’n ni Phoebe ay halos tumigil ang paghinga ko. I’m not? Did I hear that right?
“R-really?” tanong ko at ngumiti naman siya.
“Yes. You just gained my power and guardian form, not the curse.”
Nakahinga ako nang maluwag pagkatapos kong marinig ‘yon pero agad din akong naguilty dahil sa mga pinagdaanan ni Phoebe. Mukhang nabasa naman niya ang iniisip ko kaya ngumiti lang siya at sinabing wala dapat akong alalahanin. After that, she turned into a phoenix and soared away from me.
“Reika . . .”
My eyes flew open when I heard my name, expecting Phoebe to appear in front of me but I saw nothing. Then I realized that I am still inside the ‘seals’ made my Astrid and Adrielle. I was about to close my eyes when I heard my name again, and this time, much clearer. With my heart thumping quickly, I turned my head to the right and saw her looking at me.
“M-Master,” I whimpered as tears flow from my eyes. She smiled at me and that made me sob harder.
“I’m glad you’re safe,” she breathed. Walang laman ang isip ko kundi ang makalabas mula sa ginawang space ng seals at makalapit kay Master. With the incantation lingering in my mind, I chanted and blue flames appeared, incinerating the paper seals around me. I can feel the pain throbbing all over my body but I didn’t mind it. Pinilit kong bumangon at naglakad ako papunta kay Master. Umupo ako sa gilid niya at patuloy lang na umaagos ang luha ko.
“I’m sorry,” sabi ko habang nakatingin sa katawan niya. “I’m sorry, Master, I’m sor—”
“Wala kang kasalanan,” pagputol niya sa akin kaya napatingin ako sa mga mata niya at nakita kong umiiyak na rin siya. “That was my own decision so you don’t have to be sorry.”
“But because of me . . .”
“Because of you, the world didn’t fall into Ignus’ hands, and because of you, I am still alive, so thank you Reika. Thank you for saving me.”
Lalo lang akong naiyak dahil sa sinabi niya. Gusto ko siyang yakapin pero hindi pwede dahil sa seals na nakabalot sa kanya. Magsasalita na sana ako pero bigla na lang bumukas ang pinto.
“What happened? The seals were destroyed—!”
Napatigil sina Astrid at Gavin no’ng makita nila kaming dalawa ni Master.
“You . . .” sabay tingin sa akin ni Astrid at nalipat ‘yon kay Master. “Ariah . . .”
“You’re awake. You’re . . . you’re finally awake,” sabi naman ni Gavin habang nakatingin kay Master.
“Yeah, I guess I’m still alive.”
Matapos ang gabing ‘yon ay nilipat na nila ako sa naging kwarto ko sa Hydra habang si Master ay binabantayan pa rin nila dahil mas malala ang kondisyon niya. Wala akong ginawa kundi magpahinga, kumain at matulog kaya after two days ay nakakagalaw na ako nang maayos pero ayaw pa rin nila akong palabasin sa kwarto, lalo na ni Lexi. Dumalaw rin sa akin sina Yano, Tito Leon at Henric kaya naman kahit papaano ay may nakausap ako sa loob ng dalawang araw.
Nalaman ko rin na inayos na nila ang funeral para kay Arsen at lahat ng Divians, maliban sa amin ni Master, ay nagtipun-tipon sa Capital. They honored his life and achievements as the Divine General and Yano said that all Divians cried during his funeral. That was expected since Divians respect and admire him.
Bumalik naman ang isip ko sa kasalukuyan. Nasa kwarto ko naman ako pero pakiramdam ko ay para akong nakakulong. I want some fresh air. I want a breathing space.
Tumayo ako at dahan-dahang lumabas sa kwarto ko. Dahil mukhang madaling-araw naman na ay wala nang makakakita sa akin ngayon. Ilang minuto akong naglakad hanggang sa makarating ako sa pamilyar na lugar. I was about to reach the balcony, which is directly connected to the roof, when I heard footsteps from my right side. The sound of the footsteps stopped and I decided to look at that direction. A guy stood there and we both ended up staring at each other.
“Ryleigh,” bulong ko at bigla kong naalala ang nangyari bago ako mawalan ng malay.
“Lagi na lang ba kitang sasaluhin?”
Napatingin ako sa balcony dahil bigla akong nahiya. Hindi ko na lang siya pinansin at nagdire-diretso ako papunta ro’n pero bigla naman siyang nagsalita.
“Where are you going?” saka ko narealize na nasa gilid ko na siya.
“Above,” sabi ko na lang at saka ako humawak sa railings. Nagulat naman ako dahil bigla siyang tumayo sa railings at nilahad niya ang kamay niya sa harapan ko.
Dahil nando’n na rin naman ako ay inabot ko ang kamay niya at tinulungan niya akong makaakyat sa itaas. Nang makaakyat na kami pareho ay umupo lang kami ro’n at tahimik na nakatingin sa buong Capital.
“So why are you here?” bigla niyang tanong kaya napatingin ako sa kanya. Ngayong nandito na kami sa itaas ay hindi na gano’n ka-awkward. I looked at the Capital from here and I can see some spirit particles dispersed in the air.
“I want to breathe,” I said and inhaled some fresh air. “Ikaw?” tanong ko naman pero bigla kong narealize na alam ko na pala ang dahilan. Ryleigh doesn’t sleep at night because of his traumatic experience from his village.
“I can’t sleep,” sagot naman niya.
Pagkatapos no’n ay tumahimik lang kami at nakatingin lang sa view ng Capital mula rito. Bigla na namang pumasok sa isip ko ang nangyari no’n at mukhang hindi matatahimik ang isip ko kapag hindi ko ‘yon nasabi.
“T-thank you,” mahina kong sabi habang nakatingin pa rin sa harapan. “Thank you for saving me.”
“That’s my job,” sabay tingin niya sa akin. “Saving the princess, I mean.”
“I’m not a princess, though.”
Ilang oras pa kaming nag-stay do’n at no’ng naramdaman ko na ang antok ay napagdesisyunan naming bumaba na. Sabay kaming naglakad hanggang sa makarating kami sa hallway kung nasaan ang kwarto ko.
“You are,” bigla niyang sabi at saka siya naglakad palayo. Naiwan naman akong nakatayo sa harapan ng pinto dahil sa sinabi niya. What was that?
Ilang araw pa ang nakalipas bago ako tuluyang nakalabas sa kwarto ko. Everybody is busy because of the reconstruction of the Capital. The Spirit Masters are having a meeting right now and all Divians directly involved with the battle days ago were also summoned, including me.
Pagdating ko sa Divine Hall ay sumalubong agad ang Spirit Masters sa table at parang lumubog ang puso ko dahil wala nang nakaupo sa gitna. Tumingin sila sa akin at bigla kong naalala ang sinabi ni Arsen bago siya mawala. They just asked me about Ignus and how I defeated him.
“Thank you for the information, Reika,” sabi ni Astrid at mukhang ieescort na ako palabas pero nanatili akong nakatayo sa harapan nila.
“The Divine General . . .” Pagkasabi ko no’n ay napatingin silang lahat sa akin. His name still brings sorrow and discomfort to Divians, especially to them since they’d worked under his command. “The Divine General left his last words to me and I want to relay them to you,” sabi ko at tumahimik naman sila. Huminga ako nang malalim at saka ko inalala ang mga sinabi ni Arsen. “Tell them that I can’t say goodbye personally. Those people are a bunch of troublemakers and gave me a lot of headaches but they are good-natured. I told them before that they should decide who’ll be the next Divine General in case something happened to me but they all refused to do it until I’m here.”
After I said that, they all went silent and I was surprised when I saw them smiling while wiping the tears off their faces. Saka ko napansin na umiiyak na rin pala ako.
“We already know that,” sabi ni Tito Leon at tumingin silang lahat kay Lark. “Paano ba ‘yan? Mukhang ikaw na ang uupo d’yan,” sabay turo niya sa upuan ni Arsen. Kumunot naman ang noo ni Lark.
“It should be you. You’re stronger and—”
“I don’t like big and crucial responsibilities,” pagputol ni Tito Leon sa kanya habang nakasandal sa upuan. I guess that’s true. He might be the strongest and most powerful among them but he’s too laidback to be the Divine General.
“We already know that,” Master chimed in. She’s in better condition now though she’s still being observed.
“And one more thing,” Adrielle cut in. “The Divine General already recommended you before.”
“Then we must prepare for your inauguration,” Henric added.
“Wait,” sabay taas ni Master sa kamay niya. “Where are those Exorcists by the way?”
“Ah. In the underground prison,” sabi naman ni Gavin.
So the Exorcists who aided Ignus were caught, huh?
“Let me be the warden,” Adrielle said with a smile and that made my skin crawl.
“Oh, that sounds nice. Adrielle, let me be your substitute if you have something to do,” sabi naman ni Master.
“The two of you are frightening,” Gavin commented and almost all of them agreed.
Since I’m not needed here anymore, I was escorted out by Henric. I was about to walk away but he suddenly called my name.
“Reika.” Napahinto ako at lumingon sa kanya. “You’re going to start your training next week, so be prepared.”
“W-what?” Hindi ko alam kung nagkamali lang ba ako ng rinig o mali lang ang sinabi niya. “Training?” I asked and he just smirked at me.
“Of course. You have awakened your power but you still can’t control it well.”
Hindi naman agad ako nakasagot dahil totoo naman ang sinabi niya. I defeated Ignus, yes, but I didn’t utilize Phoebe’s power completely that’s why I was forced to use up my own life force.
“Especially your stamina,” he added. “It’s actually better than an average Divian since the Limiter Seal was removed but now that you have her as your main guardian, you have to improve.”
“Then, are you going to be my trainer?” tanong ko naman.
Among the Spirit Masters, I like my own Master to be my trainer but looking at her current condition, I don’t think she can do that. I still feel awkward around them but if it’s Henric, that’ll be better since he’s just around my age age.
“Yes, until Ariah gets better,” he answered and I felt relieved.
“Okay. I’ll work harder,” sabi ko habang nakangiti at ngumiti rin siya sa akin.
“By the way, your comrades are already at the Camp. You should get there, too.”
“Oh. Okay. Thank you.”
Pagkatapos no’n ay nagpaalam na kami sa isa’t isa at pumunta naman ako sa balcony. Usually, Divians use praevala to travel by air, however, those who have aerial or flying guardians can use them instead.
“Phoebe, sal-ve!” I chanted and the familiar blue phoenix appeared in front of me. I smiled at her, even though I know that Princess Phoebe’s essence and consciousness had already vanished.
Sumakay ako sa kanya at lumipad kami papunta sa Divine Camp. Habang nasa itaas kami ay nakatingin lang ako sa baba. I can’t believe that this land was once a kingdom ruled by Phoebe. Ever since she accepted her fate, she worked hard to unite all the neighboring kingdoms and established them into a nation. Along with time and the people, she evolved and protected this land from the Exorcists. With the help of Arsen, they founded Sima, built the Capital and trained the Divians. They had lived their lives eminently until the end and I’m really honored to know them.
“Hey.” Nagulat naman ako dahil may narinig akong boses at pagtingin ko ay halos nasa Divine Camp na pala ako.
“What are you doing here?” tanong ko kay Ryleigh dahil nasa taas din siya habang sakay ni Kon. Lumapit ako sa kanila at nakita kong malapit sila sa cliff kung saan ko unang nakita si Ignus.
“Lorgan wants me to monitor the training from above,” sabi naman niya habang nakatingin sa baba. True enough, the Divians are currently training and the older ones are helping the beginners.
“How about Lexi, Yano and Lycus?”
“Yano is helping those who have water guardians,” sagot niya. Oo nga pala. One of Yano’s guardians is Dip, a whale. Then that means . . . “Lexi and Lycus are in charge of close-range combat.” I knew it. With their main guardians being lion and wolves, they are suited for that job.
Suddenly, my eyes were glued to Kon. I just realized that the Divine Camp was once the border of the two kingdoms and where Erno met his demise.
“Where did you hear that expression?” tanong ko bigla kaya napatingin siya sa akin.
“Ah. That,” sabay tingin niya kay Kon. “When I finally merged with him, that was the first thing I heard.”
“Do you know the reason why he only appears above the ground when summoned?” tanong ko at naalala ko ang nangyari noon.
“No, though he’s always been difficult and demanding.” Hearing that made me sneak a smile but I think Kon didn’t like that because he growled and snarled at Ryleigh.
“It’s basically that saying,” sabi ko naman.
“What?” he asked, confused and curious at the same time.
“Do you know his name when he was still a human?” I asked. After the battle, all of them discovered that guardians were once humans, though I’m sure the Spirit Masters already knew that.
“Erno,” I revelaed and Kon looked at me, as if a familiar person called him. “And like Arsen, he’s one of Princess Phoebe’s personal guards. The two of them protected her in their own ways and lived with that expression--the dragons should always protect the princess.”
After saying all of that, we both went silent. It is still beyond belief the phoenix and the dragon were once comrades and now, they’re reunited as our guardians.
“Too bad the hydra isn’t here,” he said, breaking the silence.
“Yeah. This would have been a lovely reunion,” sabi ko naman.
Phoebe shrieked out of the blue and started flapping her wings. It looks like she’s too excited to fly and I’m pleased to her like this, though I almost lost my balance.
“Sinasadya mo ba?” Ryleigh asked and I realized that they were several meters below us.
“Ang alin?” Ano bang sinasadya ko? O may hindi lang ako narinig?
“Nothing.” He heaved a sigh. “Now I know why hierarchy exists. Rulers should always stay above to overlook everyone and everything. On the other hand, generals remain just below them for support,” sabay tingin niya sa akin, “or catch them in case the ruler falls.”
Natahimik naman ako sa sinabi niya at narealize ko na kung ano ang ibig niyang sabihin kanina. Bigla naman silang lumapit sa amin ni Phoebe hanggang sa magkaharap na kami.
“Be more cautious,” he instructed. “I’m not there to catch you every time.” Pagkasabi niya no’n ay naunahan ako ng hiya kaya inalis ko ang tingin ko sa kanya. I gathered my thoughts and looked at him again.
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Seal it,” sabi naman niya at inilahad niya ang kamay niya sa akin. Nawala naman ang hiya ko at natawa na lang sa kanya. I played along and crossed my pinky finger with his.
Pagkatapos no’n ay nanatili kaming tahimik pero bigla namang lumipad si Phoebe. With her wide and flamed wings, she soared into the sky.
“Hey!” sigaw niya kaya napatingin ako sa ibaba.
“Don’t worry, I won’t fall today!” I shouted back and he furrowed his brows, though he stayed there on guard. He’s so into that phrase and role it made him endearing in a way.
I held onto Phoebe’s neck, feeling her warmth and the cool air that brushes my skin. She glided over the clouds and I feel like I’m on the top of the world.
“Let’s fly away, Phoebe,” I said and we soared higher. “Away from everything and everyone. Just the two of us.”
Alongside, they showed their strength,
And fought together until the end;
The phoenix and the princess fly,
After conquering and guarding the sky.
The explosion caused by the contact of my sword and Ignus’ armor pushed me backwards but my flame wings kept me balanced. Ignus remained inside the explosion, surrounded by thick smoke and flames. I choked back my tears, trying not to lose my focus but I ended up thinking about her.
“I’ll be your shadow, so be my light.”
It felt like someone punched my stomach. I’m just hoping, praying, that Phoebe’s fire will save her.
I was startled when I heard a sudden growl from the fire. Ignus broadsword cut the explosion and I saw him clutching his chest with blood dripping down his armor. He glared at me while summoning a fire on his hand, then he thrust it in his armor, probably to close off the wound.
With the burning anger and frustration inside me, I glared back at him.
“That was for Arsen,” I said and like him, I summoned a blue fire on my hand. “This is for Phoebe.” I flicked my hand and the fire danced, turning into a huge phoenix.
“Hell,” he snarled and just like what I did, a dragon made of fire was conjured.
We waited for each other, observing and being aware of the other’s attack, when he chose to strike first.
Our guardians, immediately responding to our calls, charged toward each other at their full speed, but before the phoenix comes in contact with the dragon, I chanted.
“Ekrixi.” The phoenix exploded into hundreds of flames and it enveloped the dragon. “Synkro,” I whispered and the flames collided with each other, extinguishing the fire dragon. Without stopping, I changed their movement and directed them to Ignus. With the wound on his chest and his gradual aging, his actions became slower.
“Is this your futile act of revenge?” he said while waving his broadsword and it started to change its appearance. “Morfo tou,” he chanted and he was suddenly cocooned with lava and fire.
My flames plowed into him but his cocoon protected him. Seconds after, he came out with a different appearance. His armor dwindled into a mere chest and arm guard, covering his wounded area, with fire and lava spouting from his smaller sword.
“I guess that Spirit Master died in vain,” he said while holding his sword downward with both hands, as if he’s going to thrust it.
“She isn’t dead,” I growled and the fire behind me began to sway wildly. “And she’s not going to die.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll see her immediately in the afterlife. Aperi cael!” he chanted and thrust the sword to the fire and lava below him.
There was a crackling sound from the air and the sky parted, revealing an unbelievable sight—molten lava was gushing out of the sky and the atmosphere turned into a huge cloud of fire. The heat was scorching and suffocating that I had to move downward just to breathe.
“I told you didn’t I? You, as well as the people you try hard to protect, will experience the taste of hell.” With his thunderous laughter, the molten lava cascaded toward the Capital.
“Skinia incen!” I yelled and hurriedly flew toward the lava. Without wasting any time, I summoned a kilometer-long fire sheet to impede the lava’s flow. I felt a thump in my stomach, as if someone pulled something out of it, but I focused on the defense.
“Try to hold it back,” he snickered and dove to the sea of blue fire. Before the contact, his black wings covered and protected his body from being burned. My lips and hands quivered but I chanted and held out my hand.
“Verbin deno!” A rope-like flame came out of my hand and extended until it reached Ignus. The rope twisted its own to his wings and I heard him yell as the fire started to consume them. “You aren’t going anywhere,” pabulong kong sabi habang hinahabol ang hininga ko. “I won’t let you. Aug hyva hino!” Gamit ang natitira ko pang lakas ay nagbago ang anyo ng apoy sa likuran ko. They all gathered into a large fireball, almost the size of his meteors a while ago, and pointed my finger at him while holding onto the rope. “Vlast,” I whispered and the fireball dashed to his direction.
“Ravas! Cies yvri kai!”
Nagulat naman ako nang marinig ko ‘yon. His guardian, the magma dragon, was released from his hybrid form and materialized in front of Ignus. He smiled at me as I watch the fireball advancing toward them.
“N-no . . .” I silently pleaded.
“Protect me. That’s your last order,” he commanded and the dragon spread its wings, covering Ignus behind its back. The dragon bellowed as the fireball plunged to it and I closed my eyes as the explosion silenced its voice.
“These guardians were once humans.”
Phoebe’s voice rang inside my head and even though Ravas was Ignus’ guardian, I still felt sorry for the dragon. It just did everything for its master and in the end, the guardian had to sacrifice its own being, just to save Ignus.
Napatingin naman ako no’ng narinig ko ang biglang pagtawa ni Ignus. Tinignan ko siya nang masama dahil parang wala lang sa kanya ang nangyari. He just lost his guardian but I didn’t see any grief at all. As expected, he’s really a heartless creature.
“And there goes your last shot,” sabi niya habang nakangiti. Nawala na ang armor niya sa katawan at ang espada niya, at tanging ang pakpak at apoy na nakapaligid sa kanya ang natira.
“If you can’t even respect your guardians, then you don’t really deserve this power. The world will be destroyed if someone like you becomes Phoebe’s owner.”
Pagkatapos kong sabihin ‘yon ay iba’t ibang incantations na naman ang tumatakbo sa isip ko, pero wala akong gustong gamitin mula roon kahit isa.
“That power isn’t for a soft-hearted kid like you, either,” sabi naman niya at naging seryoso ang expression niya. “I won’t give that power up even if I die.”
I am still holding back the molten lava from falling to the Capital and the sheet of fire is eating up my remaining stamina. Natulala naman ako nang makita kong unti-unti nang natutuklap ang balat niya sa mukha at nagiging mas maputi na rin ang buhok niya. Nauubos na ang oras niya, maging ako.
“Katan exedo vies ignis han!” He chanted and the fire started to consume him. “Our time is up, kid. If you continue to block that, you’re going to die.”
Hindi ko na siya makita dahil sa lakas at init ng apoy na halos bumalot na sa buo niyang katawan. After some time, I just looked at him, stunned taken aback, because his physical body was nowhere to be found. He became fire itself.
“Farewell!” He yelled and the fire raced at me.
My mind went blank for a moment. With my remaining strength, I can’t win against him. Freeing my other hand isn’t an option because of the lava.
Just when I thought everything is going to end for me, an incantation at the back of my mind suddenly surfaced. But when I read it inside my head, I know it’s going to consume all of my stamina . . . and even my life. Naalala ko tuloy bigla ang sinabi ni Adrielle tungkol sa incantations dati. Sabi niya, may levels ang incantations na pwedeng sabihin o gawin ng isang Divian at naaayon ‘yon sa lakas niya.
So this is why Phoebe is the only one who can do it.
Huminga ako nang malalim at pumikit. Tinanggal ko lahat ng laman ng isip ko sa sandaling ‘yon at tanging ang mga salita lang sa incantation ang inalala ko. The tranquility almost reminded me of home . . . of my parents . . . and then I finally felt how died.
To protect the people they love, they tapped their own life force to carry out a high-level incantation, for their death means others will live.
I smiled as I reminisce my memories with my parents, friends and mentors. When I felt the heat coming toward me, my eyes fluttered open and I chanted.
“Uro mea vim vitae illumina quo cael. Phoebe, rivus.”
Suddenly, the world was engulfed by blue fire and I’m at its center. Ignus, with his plasmic body, hovered in front of me and his fire was starting to extinguish.
“Do you know that blue fire is hotter than orange or red?” I asked him but he didn’t answer. He charged at me but the sphere of blue fire encircling us is evaporating his fire.
“What did you do?!” he yelled, exasperated.
“I’m making their wishes come true,” sabi ko naman.
With a flick of my hand, blue flames gathered around him and diminished his fire volume. He howled and tried to expand his fire but my flames keep on extinguishing it.
“The world will be safer without you in it,” I said as white lights, similar to spirit particles, came off by body. “So disappear, just like what you did to your guardian.”
I moved closer to him, as well as the white lights. When I looked at my hands, they were gleaming, just like what happened to Phoebe when I claimed her. I touched Ignus and he tried to move back but my flames kept him in place.
“But white fire is the hottest of all.” He screamed when I extended my hand to his immaterial body and during that time, his tangible and physical body started to reappear. “Burn,” I whispered and the white lights covered his body.
His ringing howl was as loud as the explosion and both of us were pushed away but Phoebe’s wings kept me balanced. The burning sky finally opened and I saw Ignus along with Hell, falling and disintegrating at the same time.
With that last attack, my stamina ran out and Phoebe’s wings disappeared from my back. Exhaustion finally kicked in and I, too, fell from the sky. The only thing that keeps me from falling rapidly is the mass of white lights around me. Suddenly, I saw a red phoenix and black pegasus above and I smiled because I know them.
“Flare . . . Aron . . .” mahina kong tawag sa kanila. They were my parents’ guardians. I was about to call them again when I saw familiar faces on their backs. My tears started to fall when I saw my parents smiling at me. “Mama . . . Papa . . .”
Ah . . . maybe they’re going to get me . . . maybe I’m dying . . .
“Reika, anak,” rinig kong tawag ni Mama habang nasa likod siya ni Aron pero nagulat ako nang makita kong umiiyak siya. “We’re sorry for leaving you behind, for leaving you alone, but this isn’t the right time for us to be together.”
“Reika,” tawag naman ni Papa kaya napatingin ako sa kanila ni Flare. “We’re proud of you. Thank you for saving the world, my princess,” sabi niya habang nakangiti. “Even if you aren’t born as a real one, you will always be my princess. So stay strong and always remember that we’re always here for you.”
“Reika.” This time, nakita ko si Phoebe sa itaas nila, kasama si Arsen, at ngumiti siya sa akin. “Thank you for everything.”
All of them dissolved into thin air and I continue to fall. I closed my eyes, waiting for my body to hit the ground because I can’t save myself anymore, but I suddenly felt something.
Naramdaman ko ang paghinto ng katawan ko.
“Lagi na lang ba kitang sasaluhin?”
I willed my eyes to open and I saw a familiar face staring at me. When I looked at him, it felt like all the fears and frustration I kept while fighting alone resurfaced. I was scared but seeing someone I can depend on melted it away. But then I realized that the white lights were still with me. I tried to push him away but my strength betrayed me.
“P-put me d-down,” bulong ko dahil unti-unti na ring nawawala ang boses ko. “Y-you’re going to burn yours—”
“Don’t worry. Kon’s scales are just as strong as the other dragons.” I realized his arms were covered with dragon scales.
“The dragon should always protect the princess,” sabi niya kaya nagulat ako. How did he know that? “So just sleep and let me protect you for once.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay lalong bumigat ang mata ko kaya agad akong napapikit. I fell into deep slumber and his words lingered inside my mind.
The dragon should always protect the princess, and the princess should always be with her dragon.
“Lord Ignus, now you’ll experience the wrath of the heavens.”
Blue fire emerged right behind me, forming a circular path. With just a flick of my hand, it formed into several smaller balls of fire and I looked at Ignus, who seemed bewildered with what I did. Maging ako ay hindi rin makapaniwala sa nangyayari pero ayaw kong biguin si Phoebe. Ayaw kong sayangin ang binigay nilang pagkakataon ni Arsen para sa labang ito.
“Seems like you managed to use your power, kid,” sabi ni Ignus habang nakatingin nang masama sa akin. “But you don’t deserve it.”
He once again pointed his broadsword at the sky and the clouds parted. As if there was a volcano above, huge, smoldering rocks plummeted from the sky after he chanted.
“Claustra liven ador!” I chanted but I was late. My fire disintegrated some of the rocks but several of them penetrated the firewall. I was thinking of another layer of wall when I heard someone chanting.
“Sensen barries amplus!”
After hearing that, a huge flatrock appeared below us, deflecting the shower of magma rocks, but upon observing, I realized it wasn’t a flatrock but a shell. A familiar face looked at me with such fervent determination.
“I’ll be your shadow.”
Her words reverberated through my head and I nodded at her. Without a second thought, I flicked my fingers and the fireballs behind me became alive.
“Is this your way of fighting, Lord Ignus?” I asked, ready to launch an attack.
He grinned and pointed his broadsword at me. “Why? Are you worried because you can’t defend those people below us? Now, I am going to ask you. Is that your way of fighting?”
Napatigil ako sa tanong niya pero bigla kong naalala ang mga huling salita na binitiwan ni Phoebe para sa akin. I shouldn’t get overwhelmed.
“Yes, and I will protect everyone. . .” Even if it means fighting alone or dying.
“Following the steps of the princess, I see.”
Just like what I did earlier, a circular path of fire formed behind him, but larger. He flapped his wings, adjusting his position, and all of a sudden, he disappeared from my sight. I immediately looked for him around but I was a second too late.
“Uro!” he yelled as he appeared behind me, thrusting his broadsword at my back but my fire enveloped me and lessen the momentum of it. His attack only grazed me but that was a close call. I moved away from him as my hands tremble.
“Liven cornib!” I chanted and blue flamed-wings materialized behind me. This isn’t the time to be afraid. I need to fight and defeat him if I want to save the world.
A lot of incantations linger inside my mind while I’m in my hybrid form. The only thing I can do for now is to chant the right one at the right time. Now that I’m lacking the offensive power, I need to have a weapon to channel it.
Bigla namang ngumiti si Ignus at muli niyang tinutok ang espada niya sa akin. Naghanda ako sa galaw niya at sa muli niyang pag-atake sa likuran ko pero bigla akong nagdalawang-isip dahil sa kilos ng apoy na nasa likuran niya. When he appeared behind me, his circle of fire was left behind, but now, it moves with him. Then that means . . .
A blue sword came into my hand and I immediately found my stance as Ignus dashed in front of me. Our blades clashed, creating red and blue flames between us. I flew back as the flames started crackling, and I had to bit my tongue to keep myself from shouting. He yields his sword heavily and my wrist suffered from that clash. I willed my fire to enclose my wrist and in just a second, it came back to its previous form.
My sword disintegrated but I chanted another incantation right away.
“Fax eura!” The fire behind me started to move in a swirling motion. “Turben,” I said as I place my right hand in front of me, and five whirlwinds of fire formed, attacking Ignus simultaneously.
The whirlwinds followed the movement of my fingers, and when they encircled Ignus, I closed my hand. He was engulfed by my fire and inside it, I heard his roar. Suddenly, my fire was cut and his broadsword came into view. But before he could get out, I closed my hand once more and trapped him inside the billow of fire.
“Turben!” The fire blazed more intensely as I clench my hand. For a second, I felt a burning sensation in my mouth, but it disappeared after a while. I looked at the pillar of fire in front of me and I saw red fire mixing with it. My hand twitched and its strength began to dwindle.
No’ng narinig ko ang sinabi niya ay napatingin ako agad sa langit, at tama nga ang hinala ko. He did that again. Even though he’s still inside my fire, he managed to launch an attack.
Larger meteors began to fall from above, and this time, at a much faster speed. My mind went blank for a second. I need to protect the city from his attack but once I let go of my hand, Ignus will definitely use that chance to escape from my fire.
In the end, I chose them.
I opened my right hand and raised my left hand, simultaneously pointing at the direction of the meteors and keeping Ignus from escaping.
“Kai feniks!” I chanted and a blue phoenix came out of the fire surrounding Ignus. It immediately flew towards the meteors and collided with them, resulting in several explosions midair. The phoenix managed to melt almost all of the meteors before it vanished but some of them slipped away. I was about to chant an incantation but I suddenly felt dizzy. Just then, I saw Ignus coming out of the fire, and his red fire was already dominating the whirlwind of flames. But what caught me off-guard was his appearance. I knew that using his guardians makes him older but seeing the white strands of his hair and the lines along his face was still hard to believe.
“Don’t look at me like that, kid,” he said and I flinched. “You, too, is starting to run low on stamina.”
Napatigil ako sa sinabi niya dahil alam kong totoo ‘yon. I might have an immeasurable amount of power right now but my body isn’t trained yet to handle it. Phoebe said that she originally wanted to give this power to me once I am fully ready, but due to the Exorcists’ attacks, she didn’t have a choice.
“Using that kind of power isn’t a child’s play, you know.” He smirked at me and waved his broadsword. “You can’t fight me while protecting those weaklings.” With just a slash of his sword, a two dragon-shaped fire formed in front of him. “You have to choose one.”
After saying that, the dragons launched themselves on different direction—towards me and the city, just like what he did a few minutes ago. Without a second thought, I went for the second dragon.
“Just as expected.”
With Phoebe’s wings, I glided towards the dragon who wants to attack the Capital and chanted an incantation.
“Carlos, sal-ve!” Carlos’ physical form materialized. “Verscheiden sie viel hyva mich han! Prasidae fax!” With a swish of my arm, Carlos’ hybrid form, a whip, came into my hand and it was covered with Phoebe’s blue flames. I threw it at the direction of the dragon and it coiled onto its neck. “Caleo gladius!” My blue sword appeared on my other hand and while holding on Carlos’ whip, I lunged towards the dragon. But before I could cut it down, I heard a hissing sound behind me. The other dragon is coming.
“Come,” I whispered even though I know that I can’t do anything about it anymore. Once I cut this dragon, the other one will burn me, and the only thing that I can do is to burn it together with me.
“Caesa!” The fire on my sword burst into flames and with a slash of it, the dragon in front of me disintegrated. Now, what’s left is--
“You’re really like your parents.” Suddenly, a shadow quickly passed by me, heading towards the dragon. “Sacrificing yourself for the sake of the people. I’m really proud to be their comrade and as your Master.”
“M-Master . . .” She turned around and smiled at me.
“Chelys sejungo!” she yelled. Her armor detached itself from her and formed into two large dome-shaped shells. “Capto!” The shells enclosed the remaining dragon, trapping it inside and after a few seconds, the dragon disappeared.
“Master!” Lumipad ako papunta sa kanya pero nag-iba ang expression niya.
“Leave the Capital to the Spirit Masters. Focus on Ignus. He’s trying to divide your attention because he knows that you’ll definitely prioritize the lives of the people. Don’t let him control you, Reika.”
“You do not belong here, Spirit Master,” biglang sabi ni Ignus kaya napatingin ako sa kanya. Lumingon naman si Master sa kanya at ngumiti.
“No. It’s you,” sabi niya habang nakatingin kay Ignus. “You do not belong here, Ignus.”
Nakita ko namang nagbago ang expression ni Ignus.
“Are those your final words?” Ignus suddenly disappeared from my line of sight.
“Reika.” Napatingin naman ako kay Master habang pinapakiramdaman si Ignus sa paligid.
“Master, you need to get out of here. Ignus—”
“I know,” she said while smiling. “As your Master, I want to help and protect you, so don’t lose this fight Reika.”
Just like a while ago, Tortos turned into a defensive wall, just behind Master. Hindi ko alam kung paano pero narealize ko kaagad kung anong balak niyang gawin.
“Master . . . Don’t do this. Tortos will die.”
“I know.” Pagkasabi niya no’n ay napatigil ako sa paghinga. Don’t tell me . . .
“Reika!” sigaw niya sa akin.
Bigla na lang tumulo ang luha ko dahil alam kong kahit anong gawin ko ay hindi ko na mababago ang desisyon niya. What’s worse is, deep inside me, I know that this is the only way to catch him off-guard. I gripped my sword and bit my lip to the point that I can taste the blood on my mouth.
“Ignis!” Ignus appeared behind Master and Tortos’ wall disappeared.
“I’ll be your shadow . . .” Master whispered while Ignus and I simultaneously thrust our swords. She knew he’ll kill her guardian so she chose to take the blow. I cried as I watch his sword pierced her, wishing that the blue fire I desperately placed around her protects her. “ . . . so be my light.” That was the the last word I heard before she fell.
Fueled by anger and pain, I thrust my sword into his chest and both of us were engulfed by our own fires.
In the end, I couldn’t protect everyone.
Hand in hand, they faced Ignus and his guardians. Napansin ko naman na lalong nag-iiba ang mukha nina Arsen at Ignus at sa bawat oras na nasasayang ay lalo silang tumatanda. Maging si Phoebe ay unti-unti na ring nawawala at nababawasan ang spirit particles niya.
Without a warning, Ignus attacked with a ball of fire from Hell, but Arsen was faster. The eight swords danced around him and one of it cut the ball of fire into two.
All of a sudden, Master and Gavin headed in our direction and faced the fireball cut into halves. Master used her armor to push the fire away and change its direction. It ended up falling into the lake, causing a huge explosion of water below. On the other hand, Gavin used his claw, cutting the fire into smaller pieces until they disintegrated.
“Don’t let them interfere!” sigaw ni Ignus at bigla namang sumugod sa direksyon ng Spirit Masters ang Ministers.
Everything happened so fast. Isang segundo lang akong napalingon sa direksyon ng Spirit Masters at Ministers pero hindi iyon pinalampas ni Ignus. Magma erupted from his spear and it almost toasted me, had it not been for the flame barrier I instinctively chanted.
“Stay focused. He won’t miss a chance on attacking us,” sabi ni Arsen at lalo lang siyang tumanda sa paningin ko.
Hinayaan ko na lang ang Spirit Masters sa laban nila at nagfocus ako kay Ignus. Just like Arsen, his physical appearance has started to get older, but it seems like their abilities aren’t affected.
“Is that the extent of your power, kid?” Ignus asked with a mocking tone. “The First wasted her immortality and the Second is wasting the immense power of the phoenix.”
“Convena ensis,” Arsen chanted and his swords looked agitated.
“Arsen . . .” sabay tingin ni Phoebe sa kanya at tumango naman siya.
The swords started to move and spirit particles gathered around them. Bigla namang tumingin sa akin si Phoebe at ngumiti siya.
“This will be our final gift to you,” she said as her spirit particles dissolve into thin air. “Our time has finally come.”
Biglang bumigat ang pakiramdam ko pagkasabi niya no’n, kasabay ng malakas na pagkulog at halos lahat ng ingay sa paligid ay nawala. I’ve only seen her few hours ago but she has been with me ever since I was born. Looking at her right now made me realize how lucky I am to have her as my guardian.
Dahil unti-unti nang nawawala si Phoebe ay mas naging mabilis din ang pagtanda ni Arsen kaya ngayon ay halos hindi ko na makita ang dati niyang itsura. But until the end, he showed us what he’s capable of as the Divine General.
“Don’t go,” I whispered but I’m sure she heard it. I know it was a selfish thing to say but that was my true feelings. I don’t want her to disappear. I want to be with her for a longer time . . .
. . . but I know that it was a useless plea.
“I won’t,” sabi niya kaya napatingin ako sa kanya. “I will always be by your side,” then she looked at Phoebe and I heard her shriek.
Kusang tumulo ang luha ko nang marinig ko ‘yon. She has always been the phoenix, my main guardian, but what I’ll miss is her human counterpart—Princess Phoebe.
“I know,” sabi ko na lang at pinunasan ang luha sa pisngi ko. I looked at them, both prepared and willing to accept their fate. Bigla namang tumingin sa akin si Arsen kaya napatigil ako.
“Tell them that I can’t say goodbye personally,” sabay tingin niya sa ibaba kung nasaan ang Spirit Masters at saglit siyang ngumiti. “Those people are a bunch of troublemakers and gave me a lot of headaches but they are good-natured. I told them before that they should decide who’ll be the next Divine General in case something happened to me but they all refused to do it until I’m here.”
I never really heard the Divine General like this except with Phoebe but I guess being with the Spirit Masters for a long time softened him a bit. But after a few seconds, his expression turned became tough and unrelenting.
“For creating chaos and dragging the innocent lives into your greed, I shall punish you severely!” Arsen roared as the thunder rumbled, and I didn’t know if I got the goosebumps from the thunder or him.
“I won’t allow you,” sabi naman ni Ignus at pinalibutan niya ang sarili niya ng apoy.
“Ignus, the Lord Exorcist, you angered the heaven and its guardians, and I will answer their call.”
Naramdaman ko ang panginginig ng buong katawan ko dahil sa mga salitang binitiwan niya at dahil na rin sa unti-unting pagkawala ng spirit particles mula sa katawan niya.
“You think you can kill me with that kind of body? Don’t make me laugh!” Ignus yelled with a sneer but Arsen and Phoebe remained serious and determined.
Both of their bodies were disintegrating yet there was no trace of panic and fear. In fact, they looked so untroubled, as if nothing is happening. Phoebe held Arsen’s hand and her spirit particles enveloped him.
“Don’t underestimate the power of my general.”
With those words, Phoebe disappeared and Arsen made his last move.
His eight swords danced and each of them attacked Ignus, as if they transformed into their dragon counterparts. Ignus quickly reacted but their speed was faster. Two of the swords pierced his armor while the remaining six targeted Hell, and the simultaneous roars of him, Hell and the swords filled the sky.
“Incerna!” Ignus yelled and a wall of fire covered him, together with Hell and Arsen’s swords.
Napatingin naman ako kina Phoebe at Arsen at halos wala nang natitira sa katawan nila. I mouthed ‘no’ but all I got were their smiles.
“Thank you for setting us free,” sabi ni Arsen at muling bumalik ang itsura niya sa pagkabata.
“Reika . . .” saka tumingin sa akin si Phoebe. “The power to save the world from chaos, now it’s in your hands. Goodbye, my dear Master and friend.”
After saying those words, their bodies disintegrated and their spirit particles disappeared. My mind was blank for a moment, unsure of what to do now that I am alone. But suddenly, I heard Phoebe’s screech and I realized I wasn’t.
“I will always be by your side.”
That’s right. Phoebe’s still here. I caressed her blue-flamed feathers and pushed those thoughts away. She’s still here with me so I have nothing to worry about.
I watched Ignus, still inside the wall of fire, suffering from the wounds that Arsen gave. The fire started to extinguish and I saw him undoing the hybrid form of the magma dragon. Both of his dragon were wounded and it seems like his right shoulder was also injured. Bigla naman siyang tumingin sa direksyon ko at bakas sa mukha niya ang galit.
“Did they finally die?” he said in a low but threatening voice. “I should’ve ended their lives with my own hands!”
He glared at me and it felt like he was looking through my soul. I reached for Phoebe to remind myself that I am not alone. She left me with a huge responsibility and I need to do that, just like what she did hundreds of years ago.
“You succeeded in pissing me off,” sabi niya at biglang nagbago ang expression niya. “Now you’ll experience the wrath of the dragons.”
Without even chanting any incantation, both of his dragons transformed into their respective hybrid forms. Just like before, the magma dragon changed into his armor and spear, while Hell became a broadsword and his black wings were attached to Ignus’ back.
“Ardeo divum,” he chanted, raising his broadsword, and the sky exploded. “Mare ignis!”
The clouds parted, as if someone had cut it, and a massive sea of fire appeared. In a matter of seconds, the blue sky turned into crimson.
“And now, watch as I incinerate the world that you tried hard to protect.” With just a snap of his sword, the fire became alive, and it started pouring down.
“The power to save the world from chaos, now it’s in your hands.”
Phoebe’s last words rung in my ears, pushing back the fear that wanted to overwhelm me. I know. I won’t let you down.
He’s been critically wounded by Arsen and the curse that my parents put on him made him wary of his body and the time. I won’t let their sacrifices wasted.
“And I’ll protect them at all cost,” I said and a familiar incantation, followed with a new one, dawdled inside my head.
“Can you? Look around you. Before you can do anything, everything will be turned into ashes.”
“Verscheiden sie viel hyva mich han!” I chanted to transform Phoebe into her hybrid form but before I could finish it, I chanted another incantation. “Claustra liven ardor!”
Phoebe screeched as her spirit particles enveloped me, but what made me stunned and exhausted was the sea of blue fire below me. Before the meteor-like debris from Ignus’ fire reach the Capital below, my fire extinguished them into nothing.
He looked at me with a dumbfounded expression as I reveal my new form. I only did the half-animal form with Phoebe because of the Limiter seal, but now that it was removed and I’ve acquired my full power, I managed to use her hybrid form.
“You said you want to know the extent of my power so watch as I protect those you want to destroy. Lord Ignus, now you’ll experience the wrath of the heavens.”
Even if it means burning myself with my own fire, I’ll protect those people below. I’ll protect the world, just like what Phoebe did.
Without looking back, Phoebe and I flew towards the middle of the Central that has become a nest of dragons. Looking at them made me remember my travel back to the past—that these two were once generals of their kingdom’s army.
Nang makalapit ako sa kanila ay napakunot ang noo ko dahil may kakaiba akong nakita. Somehow, it looks like both of them have aged. Wrinkles appeared on their faces and their hairs became gray.
“What happened?” bulong ko sa sarili ko.
“Because of the curse,” biglang sabi ni Phoebe sa isip ko.
“Do you remember what I said last time? Your parents were in possession of my tablet but because the Exorcists knew that the Spirit Masters were protecting it, they gave it you despite its danger. And when the Great Havoc happened, your parents gave everything they have to stop Ignus. I don’t know where they got or who taught them the Seal of Time, but they used it against him.”
“Seal of Time?”
“Yes. It’s a kind of seal but is considered as a curse because of its nature.”
“Why? Is it that bad?”
“Yes, because it’s practically the opposite of immortality.” Pagkasabi niya no’n ay halos napatigil ako sa paghinga. “Because once the target is sealed and he uses his guardian, he will age rapidly.”
Kinilabutan ako no’ng narinig ko ‘yon. That explains the symbols etched on his arms.
“Is Arsen cursed, too?”
Kahit hindi ko siya nakikita ay naiimagine ko ang expression ni Phoebe. With the tone of her voice, I’m sure that she’s hurt and worried about him.
“It’s because he chose me,” she said, the words choked in her throat. “I told him that my fate is to fight and live alone but he chose to stay by side. But to do that, he needs a lot of time. In contrast with Ignus’ curse, I sealed Arsen’s spirit with mine. He will still age through time but at a much slower pace.”
Bigla naman akong napaisip sa sinabi niya. But now that she’s with me, does that mean . . .
“Don’t worry,” sabi niya at mukhang nabasa niya ang iniisip ko. “For hundreds of years, he restrained himself from using his guardian too much because it also hastens his time. When you showed yourself to him, he already knew his fate, that’s why he can use Lerna as much as he wants.”
After hearing that, I tried hard to choke my tears back. Inalis ko sa isip ko ang mga pag-aalinlangan at huminga nang malalim. Tinignan ko ulit sina Arsen at Ignus habang nagpapalitan ng atake ang guardians nila. Phoebe glided to Arsen’s direction and both of them looked at me.
“My, my.” Ngumiti sa akin si Ignus. “Is the princess finally awake?”
“That’s enough,” I sternly said. His expression suddenly turned serious but I felt that under that calmness was an enraged man.
“So you really have awaken, Princess Phoebe.”
Hearing those words from him was daunting. Hindi man nabuhay si Ignus noong panahon nina Phoebe, nakikita ko sa kanya si General Helios. Siguro ay iyon din ang dahilan kung bakit nagagamit niya si Hell. They both have the same goals.
“Reika, let me talk to him,” Phoebe said and an incantation lingered around my mind.
“Chroina vien alav,” I chanted and some spirit particles came off Phoebe’s body. Medyo natakot ako dahil baka bigla na lang magdissolve ang physical form ni Phoebe habang nasa likod niya ako.
“Don’t worry. Trust her.” Napalingon naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Arsen. For a second, I thought I was hallucinating because he’s smiling. Even though he has aged so much, his handsome face and confident aura can still be seen.
Even though a lot of spirit particles were liberated from Phoebe’s phoenix form, she didn’t disintegrated. Instead, the free spirit particles formed into a human shape but its features can’t be seen. It looks like the last image of Phoebe when I claimed her—an astral-like body.
“Ignus, Lord of the Exorcist, I am Phoebe Askior, the Princess of Sima.”
She’s just literally made up of spirit particles but the way she said those words were that of a royalty. Her grace and confidence overwhelmed me and by looking at Ignus, I’m sure that he was also, even for a second, affected.
“You finally showed your true self,” Ignus said with a mocking tone and I saw Arsen tensed.
“General Helios,” sabi naman ni Phoebe at hindi niya pinansin ang sinabi ni Ignus. She looked at the dragon where Ignus is and it suddenly roared, fire coming out of its mouth.
“Incen arma!” I subconsciously chanted and I only realized what I did when a wall of blue fire appeared in front of Phoebe. The dragon’s fire didn’t reach her and the wall of fire vanished.
“Looks like you can still remember me,” Phoebe said and Hell looks mad. “And it seems like you finally chose your right owner.”
Tumingin ako kay Arsen at magtatanong na sana ako pero bago pa ako makapagsalita ay naunahan na niya ako.
“You know that once the Divian dies, his or her guardian will return to the spirit dimension, right?” Tumango naman ako. “Hell had a lot of owners before Ignus but they weren’t strong enough to control him and they ended up burning their body even before they can Mark him.” Pagkasabi niya no’n ay agad kong naalala si Phoebe. I almost died, too, because of the immense amount of her spirit particles. “That’s why for hundreds of years, he stayed longer in the spirit dimension than in the real world. However, forty years ago, a kid who shared the same evilness and greed became his owner. He managed to Marked him but ended up unconscious for a few weeks.”
And after several years, the Great Havoc happened. Maybe Ignus somehow saw Hell’s memories when he merged with him, and that’s how he knew the existence of Phoebe and her immortality.
“Are you trying to control my dragons?” Ignus said in a threatening tone.
“No. I already lost him centuries ago,” sagot naman ni Phoebe.
Bigla namang tumawa si Ignus at kinilabutan ako dahil parang wala na siya sa sarili niya.
“What a pathetic princess! I’ve seen some memories but looking at you right now proves it. That immortality is wasted on you.”
“That damned Exorcist,” Arsen growled while holding the grip of his sword tightly.
“C-calm down, Divine General,” sabi ko naman. He’s a general and a loyal subject, and when someone disrespects his princess, he’ll be infuriated. I know where he’s coming from but this isn’t the right time for that.
“That’s true,” sagot ni Phoebe at natahimik kami. “This power was wasted on me and I never really wished for an immortal life. Maybe it’s better if I didn’t have it.”
“That not true,” malakas na sabi ni Arsen at napatingin ako sa kanya, maging si Ignus. “When General Helios led the Garyans to invade the neighboring kingdoms, you protected the people of Sima and sheltered those who escaped the invasion. You unified several kingdoms under your name and in honor of the late King and Queen, you established the Kingdom of Divinos. That power of yours wasn’t wasted. You used it for the greater good, Princess.”
Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero bigla na lang tumulo ang luha ko. Their affection for each other knows no bound. She must be happy to have Arsen as his general and companion, and he must be proud that he served and stayed for a strong yet gentle princess.
“You had served this kind of person?” tanong ni Ignus habang nakayuko kay Hell. “No wonder you chose to betray your kingdom.”
Bigla siyang tumawa nang ilang segundo at naging seryoso ang mukha niya.
“You might have found your vessel,” sabay tingin niya sa akin, “but she’s not capable enough to fight me. I’ll get it myself. The power of immortality that I deserve.”
As if the heaven knows what’s happening, the thunder set the start of a new havoc.
“Ravas!” he yelled and the magma dragon flew towards him. Its spirit particles disintegrated and enveloped Ignus. After a few seconds, an armor made of dragon scales covered his body and on his hand was a smoldering spear.
Following Ignus, the Divine General also transformed himself with his hydra. Eight swords appeared and circled him, each with a distinct shape and size. Phoebe backed away from Ignus and stood beside Arsen. Looking at them made me realize something.
“Thank you for staying with me until the end,” Phoebe whispered as she floats to reach for his face.
“It is an honor to serve you, Princess, and I will never regret it.”
“After all of this, let’s rest, okay?” Phoebe’s voice cracked and Arsen’s face softened.
“Yes. It has been a tiring lifetime.” Arsen reached for her face and smiled. I don’t know if I’m imagining things or not but I saw Arsen changed into his younger self for a few seconds. “At last, Phoebe.”
The eight swords moved and shielded them but before they could close, I saw the two of them kissed. With that few second-privacy, they must have recalled everything they’ve been through and all the feelings they haven’t said to each other, because after that, they won’t see each other again.
They faced Ignus with their determined face and I recalled the line in the prophecy.
I knew it. Tita Aina must have seen me and Lexi rushing to the Capital that’s why she asked us to be trained. She knew that we’ll contribute to this havoc.
“Fangs and wings shall decide”
But it wasn’t talking about me and Lexi.
It was them.
The dragon and the phoenix.