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.