A ring of fire surrounded us, yet I felt a chill through my body. Seeing the winged dragon up-close scared the life out of me but Ignus' presence made it worse.
"I finally found you, Princess," he said with a taunting smile.
Trembling with fear, I leaned back to get away from him, even just a centimeter. I bumped into Ryleigh and felt his hitched breathing. When I turned around, he was in a state of shock and fear.
"R-Ryleigh?" tawag ko pero nakatulala pa rin siya. "Ryleigh . . ." With my trembling hands, I reached for his arm and finally caught his attention. Nagkatinginan lang kami pero hindi namin alam ang gagawin. Hindi namin alam kung paano siya haharapin.
I already saw him before but I still got paralyzed by his appearance. His brawny physique and raging eyes highlighted his presence, but something caught my attention. I didn't notice it before but his veins were visible, glowing like spirit particles, and seal symbols covered his entire arms up to his neck. However, before I could tell it to Ryleigh, the dragon started to growl.
"Oh, hell. This is bad. Kon! Dai kafa!"
Kon twisted his body and went down, crossing the ring of fire. Ryleigh immediately covered the both of us with his cape to protect our bodies from the fire, but the searing heat still seeped into our body. Just then, I heard a sizzling sound and before we could react, a ball of fire came roaring towards us.
I was too scared but I willed myself to move. Humarap ako kay Ryleigh at humawak sa damit niya. Napatingin naman siya sa akin pero parang wala siya sa sarili niya.
"Ryleigh!" sigaw ko. "Send him off. Now!"
Napakunot ang noo niya dahil sa sinabi ko pero wala pang isang segundo ay nakuha niya agad ang gusto kong iparating. Kumapit din siya sa akin at napapikit ako sa sobrang kaba.
"Kon, nes-sa!" he chanted and right after the incantation, Kon's physical form vanished.
Hindi ko alam kung sumisigaw ba ako o kung ano na ang nangyayari sa amin pero ramdam ko pa rin ang init sa loob ko, maging ang init ng apoy sa paligid. The ball of fire almost hit us and it burned the ends of my hair. But the bad thing is, we were falling and below us are buildings and roads.
"Sa tingin mo ba ay matatakasan mo ako?"
Kinilabutan ako no'ng marinig ko ang boses ni Ignus malapit sa akin. Agad akong dumilat para hanapin siya at lalo akong nanghina noong nakita kong lumilipad siya papunta sa amin.
"Shit, this isn't getting better!" sigaw ni Ryleigh at naramdaman ko ang pagbilis ng paghinga niya. He's getting drained because of summoning his guardians repeatedly and going into their half-animal and hybrid forms.
Then there's no other choice. I need to fight, even if it means using my life force.
"Phoe—" I was just about to call Phoebe but something passed between us and Ignus. Seconds after, several dart-like objects flew towards the direction of Ignus, and one managed to wound his arm.
"We made it in time. Cies kai!"
Pagtingin ko sa likuran namin ay nakita ko sina Master at Astrid habang nasa kanilang half-animal forms. Both of them have wings but Astrid undid her half-animal form and they glided to our direction. Ryleigh and I landed on the parrot's back and I almost blacked out due to shock.
"Are you guys okay?" Astrid asked and we nodded while still bewildered. Hinabol ko ang hininga ko at sinubukan kong pakalmahin ang sarili ko.
"Astrid, it should be ready in a few seconds," sabi ni Master at bigla naman akong nagtaka no'ng nakita ko siya.
Her wound has stopped bleeding and spirit particles gathered on that area. Magtatanong na sana ako pero bigla akong may naramdamang kakaiba. Just then, Ignus roared and looked at us with rage while burning the wound he received from Astrid.
Bigla namang tumayo si Astrid at doon ko lang napansin ang hawak niyang parasol. She pointed its end to Ignus' direction and chanted.
Then I realized that the things she sent to Ignus' direction a while ago were darts that resemble a bee's stinger.
"Indi caven suru!" she chanted.
All of a sudden, the darts started to surround Ignus and seals rolled out from their tips. With just a flick of Astrid's parasol, the darts with seals attacked Ignus but his dragon breathed fire.
Habang distracted si Ignus ay tumingin ulit sa amin si Astrid.
"Summon your dragon and get out of here. Now," sabi niya kay Ryleigh at agad naman iyong sinunod ni Ryleigh.
He summoned Kon again and we immediately jumped onto him. However, as we sailed through the sky without any inhibitions from Ignus, I noticed something odd with Astrid and Master.
"Ryleigh," I said while pointing at them. "Look."
On their bodies were solidified spirit particles which formed some sort of symbols, just like the seal on my back. Sa noo ni Astrid lumabas ang symbol, habang si Master naman ay sa kamay. Their symbols were familiar but I can’t remember when or where I saw them.
“Aren’t those the symbols on the statues?” sabi ni Ryleigh kaya napatingin ako sa kanya.
“Naalala mo no’ng unang beses tayong nakaapak sa Hydra? The statues in the hallway? Hindi ba sabi nila ay guardians ‘yon ng lahat ng Spirit Masters?” Bigla ko namang naalala ang mga ‘yon kaya napatango ako. “Those statues are marked with some sort of symbols located at their holders.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay biglang may nagliwanag sa likuran namin kaya agad kaming napatingin. Nagkumpul-kumpol ang spirit particles kung nasaan sina Master at Astrid. The symbols on their bodies projected at their front while transforming their guardians into their respective hybrid forms, and Ignus suddenly stood still.
May kakaiba akong naramdaman. A shiver went up my back when the atmosphere became incredibly silent. It’s as if everything stopped moving and breathing.
“W-what’s happening?” tanong ko dahil maging si Kon ay huminto sa paggalaw.
“I don’t know. But this silence is ominous.”
Nagulat naman ako no’ng naramdaman ko ang paggalaw ni Kon. His body was vibrating and a gluttural snarl escaped from his throat. As if on cue,he other guardians below started to produce the same sound.
“Damn it,” rinig kong sabi ni Ignus at parang tuluyan nang nawala ang atensyon niya sa akin. “So he’s finally here. You, Spirit Masters, are really a pain in the ass.”
He suddenly distanced himself from them and summoned another guardian. I started to shudder when the spirit particles began to form a physical body. Why? Why does it have to be a guardian like that? Is this his way of telling us that he’s the strongest?
“No way,” bulong ni Ryleigh habang nakatingin sa guardians ni Ignus.
“It isn’t real, right? I’m just hallucinating. Right?”
But I already know the answer to my question. Ignus has really summoned another dragon. A black dragon that spits something more dangerous than fire--magma.
“Ski en hyva excieo bestia!” Saglit na nawala ang takot ko no’ng narinig kong sabay na nagchant sina Master at Astrid. The spirit particles surrounding them thickened and their symbols glowed more intensely. “Excito quo hydrus de dux es dormia! Sal-ve!”
Pagkatapos ng incantation ay nabalot silang dalawa ng sobrang taas na concentration ng spirit particles. The guardians suddenly stopped growling and howling, and right after that, Kon started to drift hurriedly. I almost fell off but Ryleigh managed to keep the both of us in a steady position.
“Kon! Lente!” he chanted to slow down Kon’s speed but it wasn’t effective. In fact, Kon was getting faster, like he’s avoiding something. But what would he avoid--
A loud and low-pitched sound suddenly filled the air and even from up here, I can feel the shaking of the ground below us.
“Holy shit. What . . .the hell is that?”
Pagkarinig ko sa sinabi ni Ryleigh ay napalingon ako at nakita kong nakatingin pa rin siya sa direksyon nina Master kaya tumingin din ako.
And that was my biggest mistake.
I stared at it with my mouth hanging open and I almost forgot to breathe. How in the world . . . I can’t even comprehend its existence with my own eyes. The creature, no, the creatures growled at the same time, piercing my ears and head with a painful throbbing.
Kahit masakit na ang ulo ko ay nagawa ko pa ring tignan iyon no’ng narinig ko ang boses ni Master. Hinanap ko ang pinanggagalingan ng boses at nakita ko siyang nakatayo sa ulo ng guardian na ‘yon, habang nakatingin kay Ignus. She’s on her full armor and a long strip of white cloth covered each of her hand. But what astounded me was the fact that each of the Spirit Masters, the seven of them, stood on top of each of the creature’s heads.
“You ordered your Ministers to finish the Spirit Masters because you know that we’re essential for this reason. He needs the seven of us to summon his main guardian, and you failed to stop it.”
“You have two dragons?” Astrid sneered. She’s also in her hybrid form—wearing a colorful kimono while holding a parasol on her left and a flute on the right. “He has eight.”
Habang palayo kami nang palayo ay unti-unti nang naglalaho ang boses nila. Pero nakikita ko pa rin ang nangyayari. Arsen, the Divine General, stood on the middle head and confronted Ignus.
Now I know why the headquarters was named and designed like that. To fight Ignus, the Divine General, with the help of the Spirit Masters, just summoned his main guardian—an eight-headed dragon—a hydra.