CHAPTER TEN

"Crystal!" Erin shouted, "Please come back! We're not angry with you!"

"Crystal, I'm sorry for what I did! Please forgive me!" Sebastian and Erin had been searching for Crystal for nearly two hours with little result. The others began emerging from the woods.

"No such luck, boss", Shawn said, his tone just a little indignant, "Why did Crystal have to be so stupid and run off like that? Now we've got to look for her."

"Hey man, cut her slack" said Connor,

"Yeah, she probably feels bad enough as it is and she doesn't need your encouragement!" Ethan finished.

"Hey, I'm just saying!" Shawn said.

"That's enough!" Rose cut in, "There's no telling where Crystal is, we just have to keep looking."

"She couldn't have gone far. We just have to keep looking until we find her," Said Sebastian, "So spread out again, and we'll meet back here in an hour."

"Yes sir!" everyone said, and Sebastian and Erin were left alone once again.

"I feel awful." Sebastian said, "Crystal's missing and it's because of me."

"Sebastian, we've been over this already. You couldn't have known that Crys would go berserk the way she did. You were following the exercise," Erin said in calming tone.

"Still, it's happened", Sebastian snapped, "I made a promise to protect her, and then I nearly killed her!"

"You said you rescued her from a brothel, right?" Erin said,

"Yeah, it wasn't just me, Nick was there as well, our first real mission. I was eighteen, Nick was twenty. We thought it was just going to be a routine check on a place whose liquor license ran out. We got there and we found Crystal and about eight or nine other girls, wearing barely anything at all, they were dirty, filthy, and just looked so lost, like that had no hope left."

"I suppose so," Erin said, "What happened next?"

"When we got there, one of them actually came up and asked us if they could provide us with anything. We both seized up" said Sebastian.

"What did you do?" said Erin.

"We were about to leave, we felt were in over our heads. Then the first girl grabbed Nick's arm, and Crystal grabbed mine. They begged us not to leave, and then the owner came in. He was a quintessential grease ball. He said if we wanted the girl's services, then we had to pay for them. We told him how he could do this. He said it was business."

"What a horrible man!" Erin said, "Now that I think about it, if you hadn't rescued me, I could have ended up in a place like that."

"I know, that thought never left my mind at all. We-we have to find her. Even if it's just to say 'forgive me'."

"Don't worry, my love. We will find her" Erin said, taking her lover in her arms and kissing gently on the cheek.

"Thanks, I needed that", Sebastian said, "I hope we find her soon."

"We will. I'm certain she's just fine" Erin said, and the two Dragon Knights continued their search.

If Crystal had been around to hear Erin's words, she would have laughed. The ogre had grabbed in his hands and was now holding her in a death grip, her daggers lying useless on the forest floor.

I'm sorry everyone, especially to you Sebastian, Crystal thought, I'm sorry for being such a brat and nearly getting you killed.

Her eyes watered not so much at her guilt, but the repugnant odor that came off the ogre. It was so overwhelming that she was about to throw up. She looked into the beast's beady, black eyes, hoping to find some hint of mercy, but the dark pools held no such compassion or even any signs of intelligence.

Crystal thought of Sebastian and the others, the first real friends that she ever had, especially Sebastian, never giving up in a fight.

What am I thinking? Crystal thought, Sebastian would never feel sorry for himself in a situation like this! He would try to get out of here!

She couldn't flail her arms or legs, the Ogre's hands were so large that only her head was exposed. Crystal realized that she only had one option available to her, it was gross, but she had no other choice. Crystal lashed forward and bit the ogre's hand as hard as she could!

The ogre let off a trumpeting howl, and dropped the young Dragon Knight. Crystal began spitting out the grime in her mouth so she wouldn't get sick. She grabbed her daggers and settled back into a defensive posture, ready to fight to the death if need be. However, that would not be called for, as the cavalry finally arrived in the form of Rose and Shawn.

"Oh crap!" Shawn said drawing his spear, "Rose, we got to go!"

"Understood", Rose said simply, pulling out her rapier. The Dragon Knights of Wind and Darkness ran to their comrade, standing protectively over her. Crystal couldn't believe it.

"What are you two doing here?" Crystal said.

"Protecting one of our own, what does it look like?" Shawn said, rhetorically.

"After what I did?" Crystal said.

"We'll discuss it later, right now, we have an ogre to defeat," Rose said.

"Let's do this!" Crystal said, grateful that for the moment she wouldn't be alone. The three charged directly at the ogre, Shawn in the middle, with Rose and Crystal flanking him.

"Let's try this again!" Crystal said, this time going into an elaborate attack that almost looked like a dance, leaping from one side to the other, jumping as she did so, and with each jump, leaving a nice long cut in the ogre's skin.

The ogre roared again, swiping with its meaty arms, but Crystal and Rose speedily dove out of the way.

Shawn pulled out some wind magic, slashing with his arm, creating a blade of wind with a slight greenish tone to it. The moronic beast just stood there, as the wind blade slammed into its chest, knocking it backward.

Rose's rapier began glowing in an eerie, purplish-black light, and she swung downward, throwing out numerous energy blasts. The ogre didn't like that one bit, and its agony wouldn't end there, for the others had shown up.

"Is everyone okay?" Sebastian said.

"Oh yeah, the two of us found Crystal about to face off against this big lummox. He's actually pretty tough, but no real brains" said Shawn.

"Sebastian, I just want to say…" Crystal started, hanging her head. Sebastian took her chin in hand, and gently pointed it upward so her eyes met his again, but this time, they had a gentle, brotherly look to them.

"If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. I shouldn't have used that massive fire wave" he said.

"Hey why don't you two apologize later", Connor broke in.

"Yeah, in case you haven't noticed, we have a bit of a situation on our hands!" Ethan concluded, as the ogre flailed about.

"Anyway, Thanks for saving us some of the action!" Sebastian said to Shawn and Rose.

"We almost didn't!" Shawn said with a grin.

"Let's just put this thing down!" Crystal said, "It's given me enough trouble as is!"

"Consider it done!" Rose said, "Now foul creature, feel my, POISON STING!" Rose surged forward, and slashed once, twice, three times. Each cut digging deeper and deeper. Using her darkness magic, each slice, left a dose of poison that would slowly drain the ogre's strength.

"QUAKE STRIKE!" Connor roared, his axe flaring with golden brown energy. He took a big leap smashing his axe into the ground, causing two things to happen. First, the entire ground under the ogre shook, and then it splintered, and small shards of dirt flew upwards, cutting up the beast even more.

Now the ogre was beyond mad! First the small creature had cut and then bit it, and now others like it had shown up and two had already hurt it very badly, the one in black had done something to it, because the creature could feel its strength ebbing away. It reached for a massive tree and uprooted the entire thing by the roots. He began swinging the heavy tree around, hoping to hit something, anything. The Dragon Knights ducked and scattered to avoid it.

"Now he should know better than that!" Ethan quipped. He then charged forward, purple electricity beginning to surround his hands, "THUNDER MACE!" he yelled and punched the tree as hard as he could, shattering it. The knights were protected by their armor from the numerous splinters, but the poor ogre was stuck like a pincushion!

The beast thrashed his arms around again and this time he connected, sending Ethan crashing into a rock.

"Erin, you know want to do!" Sebastian barked, to which his girlfriend merely nodded, racing over to the fallen warrior and placed her hands on him, "SERAPHIM'S LIGHT!" Erin cried. A white light ran over Ethan's body, healing all wounds.

"Thanks, I owe you!" Ethan said.

"It's my turn now!" Shawn said, "This is for hurting our little sister! GALE FORCE!" and a massive tornado appeared from no where and the ogre was hurled 30 feet into the air and crashed all the way to the ground.

"That did it!" Crystal said, "No way could it have survived that!" Even as the words left her mouth, the ogre groggily picked itself up, and lumbered on again. Crystal's jaw dropped.

"It just doesn't quit!" Erin remarked.

"Ogres and trolls, they're all the same, all brawn, no brain!" said Shawn.

"It's my turn now!" Sebastian said, a predatory grin on his face.

"Wait, Sebastian! I've got a score to settle with it!" Crystal said, the same grin forming.

"Double team?" he said casually.

"Why of course!" Crystal said mischievously. And both the Dragon Knights of Fire and Water moved to attack.

"Now you pay for what you did!" Crystal said, focusing her water magic and recreating the ice blades around her daggers, she went high, the midday sun sparkling off the ice blades, giving them a crystalline look to them. The ogre swung one of its arms to bat the Dragon Knight away. The sickening sound of flesh ripping made everyone wince, as one of the ogre's arms fell to the ground, cleanly cut off by Crystal's makeshift swords.

The ogre howled like mad, clutching the stump where one of its limbs had once been, desperately trying to stop the flow of reddish-purple blood that oozed out.

"let's wrap this up" Sebastian said, "Crys, do you think you do that ice spear you did to me?"

"What for?" Crystal said.

"Because I got an idea for a combo attack, it will take timing to pull it off but if it works, then it could be useful later on, and besides which, it'll look really cool."

"What do I have to do?" Crystal asked. Sebastian leaned in and whispered into her ear. When he finished, a sinister smirk appeared on her once cheerful face.

"That is sick, twisted, and outright cruel! Let's do it!" Crystal said, "alright big, tall, and ugly! This is payback!" Crystal leapt up into the air. The others could see the water vapor in the air, condensing, being drawn together in groups by some unknown force. Instead of creating just one icicle, Crystal had created a whole bunch of them.

"I think I'll call this attack, SPEAR BARRAGE!" and Crystal flung them at the ogre.

"BLAZE SWORD!" Sebastian roared, the entire length of his blade flaring up with fire. He took his own massive leap into the air right into the path of the icicles! He then swung his flaming blade and sliced the icicles into millions of tiny pieces. The thousands of ice shards struck the ogre like frozen needles. It hurt…a lot.

The lumbering creature let out a final roar before it fell to its knees.

"I think that did it," said Sebastian, "This beast will think twice before it tries anything like this again."

"Are you sure we should just leave it?" Crystal said, "After what it tried to do to me?"

"We saved your life, Crystal. That's what we set out to do. We're not Bandar soldiers. I'm not going to shed blood meaninglessly."

"Haven't we already done that, considering I hacked one of its arms off?" Crystal said.

"That's borderline as it is. I'm not going to kill it in cold blood" Sebastian said emphatically, "Or have you already forgotten how this whole thing started earlier?"

"Point taken," Crystal said "Let's go home, I'm tired."

"I think we can all agree on that," Sebastian said, as the two of them turned away, and headed back for the others.

The ogre was a ball of raging fury. The poison had left it almost dead. The other armored creatures had mercilessly beat on it, and then the small one who started it all had hacked one of its arms off! And now they were walking away like it didn't even exist! The ogre summoned whatever strength it had left, let out a massive roar, and charged the red and blue armored ones.

"SEBASTIAN, CRYSTAL LOOK OUT!" Erin screamed.

"There's no time!" Shawn yelled.

Sebastian and Crystal whirled around to see the berserk ogre's final charge. Sebastian raced forward, his sword almost magically appearing in his hand. His blade was awash with flames once more, but even more violent than the last time. Everyone could tell that this would an extremely powerful spell on Sebastian's part, and took care to get out of the way.

"Everyone get clear! This place is about to become a blast furnace!" Sebastian called out to the others, he then directed his attention to the ogre, "I gave you the chance to live, but you just can't take a hint! So suck on this!" Sebastian slashed his sword in the air diagonally downward from left to right and repeated in reverse, creating a flaming "X" in the air.

"INFERNO TSUNAMI!" Sebastian bellowed at the top of his lungs, letting off a piercing animalistic howl. He then bisected the "X" and a massive wave of fire roared outward consuming everything in its path…including the ogre, who just stood there stupidly. As the flames burned away flesh, muscle, down to the bones before they turned to ash and floated away.

"Whoa", was all Shawn could say. The others couldn't have fathomed the power of Sebastian's spell. The Dragon Knight of Fire stood silently, breathing heavily, before he fell to one knee, supporting himself with his sword.

"Sebastian!" Crystal said concerned, going to help him.

"I'm okay, that spell took a little more out of me than I thought it would, but I'll survive."

"You were saying about not needlessly shedding blood?" Crystal said.

"Okay, you got me. Let's just get out of here. There's been enough drama for today" Sebastian said, just wanting to evade the conversation altogether.

"Uh, excuse me everyone, but shouldn't something be done about that?" Connor pointed out the still burning fires that remained from Sebastian's Inferno Tsunami.

"Yeah, I think it's just a little bad for the ecology" Ethan added.

"Ooh, I think you're right", Sebastian said, "Crys, can you?"

"Right away!" Crystal said, she raised her head to the sky and cried out, "APRHODITE!" and the massive water dragon appeared. Crystal leapt up, and began gathering the power for one of the new spells that she had developed over the past few days.

"RAINBOW'S LIGHT!" Crystal cried, a massive rainbow formed, and a gentle rain storm began, putting out the fires before they caused any further damage.

Sebastian put a cheeky grin on his face and his arms behind his head, "I guess should be more selective in times when using my really powerful attacks, so this sort of thing doesn't happen again, huh?"

The seven Dragon Knights exited the forest to the main road that would lead them back to Zona Rosa, Crystal leading the way. She then stopped and turned to face her comrades.

"Guys, I'm truly sorry for the way I acted today. I was arrogant, reckless, and I almost killed a very close friend. I feel so terrible" and Crystal began to cry softly.

Erin took the first step, and laid a sisterly hand on the younger girl's shoulder, saying no words, just giving a gentle smile.

"Don't worry about it", Erin said, "All sins forgiven."

"Do you mean it?" Crystal said looking to the other Dragon Knights.

"Yeah, I do," Sebastian said, "In a way, I'm responsible for this, I shouldn't have used such a powerful spell against you. Maybe it wouldn't have set you off if I hadn't used it."

"Maybe, but I was still acting cocky about facing the Bandar. You're right Sebastian, their not going to run away just because we show up. Can the rest of you accept my apology?"

"Yeah, I suppose. You're like a little sister to us, Crys, it just wouldn't be the same without you" Shawn said, "But I hope you learned something from this, because next time, I personally won't be so forgiving."

"Thanks, Shawn" said Crystal, "I'll do my hardest not to let you down and be a team player."

"We're going to make sure of that," said Sebastian, "Because starting tomorrow, you're going to personally train under Rose. Isn't that right?"

"Yes, when I'm done with you, you're going to be a dangerous opponent for anyone" said Rose, "But I'm not going to be kind to you while we train. Do you understand?"

"Yes ma'am!" said Crystal, giving a perfect salute.

"Okay, people, we've all kissed and made up," said Connor,

"So how about we go home…", Ethan said

"…And do some pranking!" they both finished together.

"Race you there!" Crystal said, and she took off for the city, with the twins right behind her.

"Kids, when are they ever going to learn?" said Rose.

"Probably never", said Sebastian and the other four Dragoons followed behind.