(Chapter 9: Grandcrest versus Acadius)

The three Grandcrestian knights advanced slowly across a silent and empty Acadian boundary, fully attentive.

Rizzeri lead the small assembly, walking at the head of the group. His eyes were sharp and alert, and he held his fencing sword within the clutch of his left hand. Behind him followed Ensoleillé, who was equipped with bow and arrow. She observed her surroundings just as well as the team leader, and would be wary to any surprise attacks from either ground or the rooftop of a nearby structure. Iazarogen was trailing behind both knights, and he too kept a careful eye of the surrounding area. Occasionally he would glance in about in numerous directions, attempting to spot anything out of the ordinary, but only to find nothing.

Time had passed quite quickly within the span of the recent events. By then it was already approaching an early dawn; the sky began to gain a blue radiance that could only symbolize the approach of morning, and the stars slowly began to fade from view. None of the knights had managed to obtain proper rest ever since the mission had began, but somehow, weariness did not obtain a complete hold on them. It seemed that their determination managed to fuel them with the energy needed to pursue their goal.

"I must say," Rizzeri commented as they advanced, "this has to be one of the longest missions we have ever embarked upon."

"I agree," Ensoleillé replied. "But the thought is altogether tiresome. I simply can't wait until we finish it," she narrowed her eyes and looked towards Rizzeri, "that is, if we can finish it."

"Which we should," Rizzeri said abruptly. "We just have to put all our might into accomplishing this goal. We are few in number, but we can defy the odds..."

The path of which the knights had followed, eventually led them to an unusual location within the city of Acadius. To some surprise, there were no streetlamps in this particular area, nor were there any houses or buildings. It was a circular location with a vast amount of space, and unpaved ground. Upon the edges of the area, stood three tall walls made entirely out of stone, that were spaced apart. These walls encompassed the area, blocking out sight of anything behind it, though the gaps in between provided a bit of vision to the depths beyond. Iazarogen was genuinely surprised at the sight of the area. Out of all the locations he had come across while in Acadius, he had never seen one such as this; though he had no clue as to what it it was, or what purpose it served. His comrades were equally confused, looking about the place with bewildered expressions on their faces.

"What in the world could this be?" said Rizzeri. "There's nothing here but three walls.."

"It must be of some importance," replied Ensoleillé. "...Though what that importance is I do not know."

In unison, the knights wandered further into the area. They observed the area and attempted to find the whereabouts of the Acadian general, but to no avail. However, they did discover something else as they neared the stone walls. Etched into each wall were the figures of Acadian warriors, immeasurable in number. Each held a sword, and their still images bore such ferocity that it looked as if they were going to jump out of the stone and strike. On the middle stone wall however, bore an image that was fiercest of all. The image appeared to be another Acadian, but his image was made to be larger than all the rest, and he held not a sword, but a large axe, which was raised in the air. Beneath is image, were etched the words, "Acadius Zachend, leader of Acadius".

The three Grandcrestians stood stunned before the stone wall. But before any of them could say a word, a faint rustling noise sounded from somewhere nearby. Reacting quickly, the knights jumped back and scattered, weapons at the ready.

"You heard that?" someone whispered loudly from an unfathomable location. "They're here!"

"We must keep quiet!" admonished another voice in a whisper. "I'm afraid we cannot afford another battle."

Rizzeri looked towards Iazarogen and Ensoleillé. "We have them closed in," he said in a low voice. "Let's surround them on all sides. Iazarogen, you go to the left, Ensoleillé, you go the right. I'll go through this middle gap and prevent their escape." both knights nodded silently and took off.

"I think they found us!" the first voice whispered again.

"We've no choice then!" the other hissed. "Prepare for battle!"

Rizzeri ran headfirst into the gap, fully aware of the risks, and Iazarogen nervously ran down the left side of the other wall. Ensoleillé rushed down the right end, gathering a few arrows in preparation to shoot. But when the three knights closed in, and saw their enemies face-to-face, they were stunned all over again. They had run into none other than Xavius and Lancelot.

Both Grandcrestian knights looked to have participated in a war. Not only were they battered, scratched, and bruised, but their respective armors were tattered and scathed, which appeared to have been done by numerous axe and sword slashes. Lancelot's combination of lance and spear was no longer whole, but torn directly in two-and he had only one half in possession. The two Grandcrestian knights stared in disbelief.

"Y-y-you..." Lancelot stammered.

"Are all alive!" Xavius exclaimed.

"And so are you!" Rizzeri said in great surprise. Ensoleillé put away her bow and arrows, and Iazarogen quietly sheathed his sword, grateful not only of the fact that he did not have to participate in another battle, but also because the group was now altogether reunited once again. (Who would have figured we'd find Lancelot and Xavius here….) he thought with a grin.

"What happened to you two?" Ensoleillé asked, "you're both in tatters!"

"Indeed we are," said Xavius. "We've been fighting off Acadians for what seems like decades now."

"They gave us a fight I'll tell you that," Lancelot added, raising the severed half of his lance/spear combination. "I fought so many Acadians, my weapon broke in half."

"Well how did you end up in these conditions?" Rizzeri questioned. "And why didn't you try to escape the Acadian forces?"

"Tryin' to outsmart the Acadians isn't as easy as it sounds," Lancelot said gravely. He stared at the broken lance/spear combination, and placed it on his lap, glaring at the weapon with sharp eyes. "I had a fight with one the Acadian commanders. He was probably one of the toughest opponents I have ever faced. Me and Iazarogen ran into him and some of his troops a while ago...I managed to beat the troops without a problem, but that commander was another story. I asked Iazarogen to go and find you all because I thought I stood a chance against him." Lancelot then scowled, hands shaking with anger. "But I didn't. The fight worn on, but no matter what kinda' strategy I used, I couldn't beat him; he was just too darn powerful. So I had no choice but to get outta' there and escape."

Rizzeri looked astonished. "So this commander is still about?" he asked quickly.

Lancelot grunted and shrugged. "Suppose' so," he replied. "Wasn't able to actually deal any damage to the guy. That's why I escaped in the first place.."

Rizzeri was silent for some time, staring off into the distance. He eventually regained composure however, when all knights turned their attention towards him, puzzled by his sudden act of silence. "Don't mind me, everyone." he said assuringly, "I was just thinking about something." he hurriedly gestured towards Lancelot. "Please, continue whatever it is you were going to say."

Lancleot nodded. "Alright," he said, after a deep exhale. "So as I was saying, because I couldn't beat the Acadian commander, I had to run. But I didn't get off too easily...first the commander tried to catch me, but fortunately I was quick enough to avoid him. I hid somewhere in town for a while, hopin' that I wouldn't get caught....maybe I would have been able to get by unnoticed if the commander was by himself. But somehow, he managed to find some reinforcements one way or another, and before I knew it, he had at least 100 Acadians searching the area I was hidden at. Of course they managed to find me, and there I was havin' to fight em' all off. I put up a good fight, but in return I had to pay a price." he lifted up the severed half of the lance/spear combination for a second time. "I had to block and repel so many sword slashes, my weapon broke in two.."

"Surely you didn't try to fight the Acadians after that," said Ensoleillé in wonder.

Lancelot laughed. "That would have been somethin' close to a death wish," he replied. "But you are right. I didn't try to fight em' after that, so I turned tail and ran as fast as my feet would carry me. There was only a handful of Acadians left, and that commander. The commander didn't seem to think that I was that much of a threat at that point, so he didn't try to go after me, but he did order what was left of his troops to try and catch me. I escaped from them easily...but then I found myself out in the fields. I had no idea of where I was, but I just kept going..... and that's when I found this tall building."

"The building that I had carelessly wandered into," Xavius said, picking up the story from his own account.

"Iazarogen and I had planned to search for Lancelot, when we chanced upon this very same structure. Incidentally enough, we too were also being chased by the forces of an Acadian commander-his name was Bandaun, I believe."

Rizzeri raised an eyebrow. "You don't say," he replied.

"I do say," Xavius said. "And I must note he was a dangerous adversary, one that not even I could face."

"Well, we happened to have run into this exact same commander," said Rizzeri.

"Amazing!" Xavius exclaimed. "How were you able to face such a foe? Did you escape?"

"We defeated him," Ensoleillé replied, quite proudly in fact. "I defeated his troops, and Rizzeri faced the commander himself."

"It was no easy task, mind you." Rizzeri chimed in, "But we were successful nonetheless."

"Ha!" Lancelot barked, in an abrupt fit of laughter. "Rizzeri and Ensoleillé, defeating a commander! Imagine that!"

"What, are you doubtful?" Rizzeri said immediately, glaring at Lancelot.

"Of course not...." Lancelot said, with a grin on his face, looking as if he were trying to hold back more laughs. "I'm just sayin'..the idea doesn't sound too probable if you ask me."

"Well you can choose to be arrogant if you so wish," Ensoleillé said, sounding quite angry. "But the truth is the truth."

Lancelot was prepared to make a sarcastic remark, when Xavius cut him short. "Now now, everyone. This is no place to argue. If Rizzeri and Ensoleillé say they defeated Bandaun, I believe it is so. Now if my may continue my account.."

Rizzeri nodded in confirmation.

"Very well," said Xavius. "I had a sense that I would find some sort of answer within that building, so I requested that Iazarogen stand watch for any Acadians, and gone inside. I must say it was an absurd structure. There was no lamplight to be found, and with it being night, my vision was dulled to great extents. Regardless, I continued to venture into the structure, searching for something, anything, that would be of importance. It was then that I met an unexpected surprise; it had appeared the building was inhabited with Acadian forces. Before I knew what hit me, I was attacked, from all sides! I knew not where my enemies were, for I fought in the dark, but I fought despite this, using both sword and hand to repel my unseen enemies. I was triumphant for a time, and felled quite a few foes. But from somewhere, someone had deployed a powerful blow. I cannot recall exactly what happened, but I do believe someone had stricken me in the back of the head. The next thing I remember is waking up before the building, on the ground. Apparently the Acadians left me there for dead..fortunately I was still alive. Suddenly Lancelot arrives from the fields and we join as a team."

"Our plan was to try and find you all," Lancelot added, "but we weren't havin' much success. All we did manage to find were Acadians. And that just lead us to more fightin'....."

"It pains me to admit it," Xavius said, in a sad tone, "But I'm afraid we were going to give up altogether. Without a leader, or plan, the mission could not go on.."

"It would have been a struggle gettin' back to Grandcrest," Lancelot said, "not to mention what we'd have to deal with from Tomagunus, seein' that we ran from a mission. But hey, I was prepared to deal with the consequences..."

Xavius alternated back into the story, his voice low. "However," he said, "just when we were about to set off, we overheard two unexpected visitors who arrived here some time ago..."

"Unexpected visitors?" Rizzeri said, eyes wide. "Who were they?"

"You may not believe me," Xavius said, "but I presume one of them was the general of Acadius. And the other..." his voice became even lower. "Acadius himself."

"Is it true?!" Rizzeri said, dumbfounded.

"I believe so," Xavius replied.

"Why did you not tell us sooner?!" Rizzeri replied furiously. "Where are they now? We must-"

"I'm afraid it is too late," said Xavius said quickly. "This was actually some time ago. We've been hiding here for quite some time, trying to figure out how we were going to escape successfully."

"But we did learn some valuable information though," Lancelot jumped in.

"Such as?" Rizzeri said, eagerly.

"We learned through their conversation that the Acadian military force was badly damaged," said Xavius. "The individual I suppose was Acadius spoke angrily of the damage caused to numerous sections of the city. He also complained about how poorly defended the city was overall; it almost sounded as if he were scolding the general for all the damage done, the way a parent would a child. Ironically enough, when we heard the general speak, he sounded not much older than our comrade Iazarogen."

"So you're saying the general of Acadius could be a child?" asked Rizzeri.

"I definitely would not rule out that possibilty," said Xavius.

"Whatever the case, he definitely did not sound like the average Acadian," said Lancelot. "And when he spoke, his voice was shaky and nervous."

"Hmm..."said Rizzeri, in thought. "Why would Acadius appoint someone of this description, power over the commanders?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," said Xavius, "but I suppose you cannot judge the strength or capability of one just by the sound of their voice alone."

Rizzeri nodded. "Right," he said. "Did you happen to hear anything further?"

"Indeed," said Xavius. "The supposed 'Acadius' individual stated that he was preparing to recover his fellow peoples from scattered villages throughout the land, claiming that the threat bestowed upon his city has been brought to an end, therefore his city will be inhabited once again....it looked as if he did evacuate his citizenry in the nick of time. He also made numerous degrading comments about our Majesty, but other than that, that is all of which was said. The general said not but a few words throughout the conversation, which were simply side comments to say the least. After they finished speaking, they simply left the area."

"I see," said Rizzeri. He looked up towards the brightening sky, with an expression of uncertainty on his face.

"Rizzeri, if you do not mind me asking," Xavius said, concerned. "What are we to do now? True we've damaged the Acadian's military power, but not entirely. There is still enough power left in their forces to become whole, and since some of us are injured, not to mention tired, there is simply no way we can continue fighting."

Rizzeri sighed. ".....I agree." he said. "Given what I have just heard, the odds are impossible. We might as well have been driving a wooden stake into a wall of stone. If we tried to face the rest of their forces, we wouldn't stand a chance, even with all of our power combined."

"I am glad you have finally realized this," Ensoleillé said, in a stark tone.

"Yes," said Rizzeri quietly. "And even though I was insistent on sending us all to our doom beforehand, you have helped me open my eyes. We are simply not strong enough."

"Perhaps Tomagunus expects too much of us sometimes," Xavius uttered.

"Perhaps he does," agreed Rizzeri. "Regardless, he shall probably have our heads for abandoning this mission, but whatever punishment we may face in our home country, cannot be worse than dying on an unfair account."

In the midst of all this, Iazarogen could only stand stupefied in the background. He didn't believe that the team leader would just simply decide to quit the mission after all the effort he put into accomplishing it. On the other hand, he believed it sounded too good to be true.

"Well..." Rizzeri continued, voice hinted with sorrow. "I suppose we should figure out how we are going to escape in one piece. It looks as if we are located somewhere within the heart of the city, so we'll have to be extra precautious on finding a way out."

The other knights nodded in agreement, preparing to set forth. Behind them lay a vast green plain shrouded with tall grass; in the distance shown the great sheen of distant streetlamps.

"Maybe we should go through this grassland behind us." Xavius suggested. "It looks like it could possibly lead us out of Acadius."

Rizzeri glanced at the grassland and shook his head. "I'm afraid not," he said. "There's the distant glow of streetlamps within that area. If we were to venture in that direction, we would simply find ourselves within another location in the city...we need to find a route that leads straight past Acadius's boundaries."

"I think I know of one," said Lancelot quickly. "If we go directly past these stone walls, we should run into a trail that will take us outta' the city."

Rizzeri did not appear convinced. "How can you be so sure of that?" he asked. "Did you attempt to leave the city by this trail yourself?"

"Of course," said Lancelot said, sounding affronted. "You think I'd lie about somethin' like that? Our lives are hangin' on the balance here."

"That is not what I was intending to imply," said Rizzeri, "but we simply cannot just spring forward and dash down any trail we so choose. We have to be certain that the path we follow will lead us out of Acadius."

"Well I for one say we go down the trail that I found," Lancelot replied brusquely. "It will take us to freedom without a doubt."

Rizzeri sighed and looked out into the circular field that stood before the stone walls. "Ok," he said in finality. "We'll follow this trail you speak of. But we must be careful as we go on….if Acadius and the general paid this area a visit, chances are they will return. Take heed to any suspicious activity, and refrain from making yourself noticeable." He stood to the side and outstretched his arm before Lancelot. "Lead the way."

Lancelot marched forward, broken lance/spear combination in hand. "Let's go forth, my fellow troops." He said with a grin, as if assuming leadership.

"No joking around, Lancelot." said Rizzeri bluntly. "Just lead the way."

"Alright, alright…" Lancelot muttered, walking forward. The rest of the knights followed him shortly thereafter. After not but a few steps within the field, Lancelot, who walked in front the group, suddenly stopped walking and froze on the spot.

"I heard somethin' ahead," he said cautiously.

"It was probably just the wind," said Rizzeri.

Lancelot shook his head quickly. "No, this sounded different. Like footsteps…."

A loud rattling noise suddenly became audible to all of the knights, like footsteps, tearing through a field of grass. The noise then became louder, and then even louder, almost as if it were beginning to near.

"Acadians!" Rizzeri said at once. His head darted to the side. "Back to the wall!"

"It wouldn't be wise to go back there," Ensoleillé said hurriedly, pointing towards the walls. "Look!"

The rest of the knights immediately turned. Approaching through the fields at a rapidly fast pace, were the vast forces of the Acadian army. They were closing in on all sides, from the north, to the west, to the south and east. They surrounded all routes of escape, and covered the fields in a sea of navy and white colors. The battle cries of their harsh voices rang into space, eventually engulfing all sources of sound.

"Another surprise attack!" Xavius shouted, raising voice in order to be heard.

"Do not panic everyone!" Rizzeri yelled. "There must be a way of escape! Try to locate one!"

All knights turned their heads in search of an exit, but to their dismay, they found not one.

"They're surrounding all ends of the place!" yelled Lancelot, "there's nowhere to run!"

Rizzeri closed his eyes momentarily, and then quickly opened them. "…if we cannot escape successfully," he said in a serious tone of voice, "then we must fight."

"But then we'll be killed," said Iazarogen, deciding to voice his fears, "There is too many of them."

Rizzeri turned towards the Blue Fox. "We have no other option, Iazarogen." He said sadly. "Either we fight or we die. I realize that this may be too much for you to bear, but understand the circumstances of war; this is our only alternative."

Without another word, he turned towards the steadily approaching Acadian army. The other knights, faces solemn yet courageous also turned to face the enemy with weapons at hand. Iazarogen stared at the ground, armored hands trembling in fear. (We are bound to lose…) he thought in hopelessness. (How can we face an enemy with a number this vast?) The voices of the Acadian warriors rang louder into his ears, indicating their approach. (….If I have no other option, then I have to fight. I managed to defend myself in the Orange forest, surely I can at least try to fight…but what if I can't-) his thoughts were suddenly drowned out by the Acadian's deafening arrival. Jeers and shouts followed the warriors as they poured into the area, slipping through the gaps between the stone walls, and marching in past the entryway to the location. Like a solid wall, they blocked every potential route of escape, eventually encircling the Grandcrestian knights in a closed space.

Rizzeri eyed Acadians warily, trying to pinpoint their intentions. Even though the Acadians had surrounded the knights, they did not attempt to fight them. Instead they stood short of them, staring with cold, ruthless eyes, and vicious facial expressions. None appeared to have their swords drawn, which was even more questioning.

"Why do you not attempt to fight us?" Rizzeri queried the Acadians in an instant. "Here the enemy stands, bold and brazen, and yet you do not take as much as a step forward."

"Our leader wishes to speak with the likes of you," an Acadian growled, "We have gathered here to ensure that you do not flee."

"And what business does your leader have with us?" replied Rizzeri.

"What a foolish question!" another Acadian exclaimed. "You invade our land, threaten our society, and in spite of this you have the nerve the question our leader? He seeks answers, and answers he shall obtain!"

Several Acadians shouted their agreement to this statement, in a series of savage jeers and hoots. Cowed somewhat by the sound of their voices, Iazarogen backed away slightly-but the other knights however, did not even flinch. Deciding that it wouldn't be wise to chance another question, Rizzeri silenced. He returned to keeping a watchful eye on his foes, keen to any hostile movements or actions the Acadians portrayed. Even if it meant fighting a losing battle, he refused to be caught off guard.

A mixture of comments and shouts sounded in the distance, causing all Acadians to momentarily direct their attentions to the source. "They have arrived!" one Acadian shouted, "Make way for leader Acadius and the general!"

As if parted by some invisible force, the wall of Acadian troops split into two halves before the Grandcrestian knights, forming an unobstructed narrow pathway. Some distance ahead, two figures just barely visible under the morning sky, began to approach. They took their time as they neared, walking in slow and leisurely steps; all Acadians immediately straightened and silenced before the pair, in order to display their utmost gratitude and respect. After at least 4 minutes or so, Acadius and the general had finally made their way before the Grandcrestian knights, meeting them face-to-face.

One character, not yet identified as either Acadius or the general, was a tall lean individual of Wolf species. Unlike many of the Acadians, he wore a silver mail hauberk complete with two silver shoulder-guards, and a variety of badges that were forged from numerous metals, ranging from copper to pure gold. He also sported a navy cape that billowed from behind him in motion to the steady winds. His face was the color of a bright grey, marked both with age and battle scars. He had no hair, save for a slight spike that ran from the top of his forehead back to the base of his pointed ears.

Beside him stood a character that looked slightly more different; He was quite short in comparison, matching Iazarogen's height at a range of just below 5 feet. His facial appearance was stunningly similar to that of the taller character, though there were no battle scars or marks of age to be seen. His hair, though an odd shade of silver, was neatly arranged and styled in the manner of a noble. His assortment of clothing looked exactly the same as the Acadian commander that Lancelot had faced, consisting of a long grey jacket embroidered with many badges, with a single silver shoulder-guard on one shoulder. He looked to have been around the age of 14 or 15, which was a surprising age for a general.

Just by looking at both of these individuals, the Grandcrestians had found it easy to determine which was which. The taller individual must have been Acadius, while the other must have been the general.

"So here you are," spoke the taller of the two characters. "It is you all who have been causing so much distress."

Rizzeri sharpened his eyes on the two individuals. "You are correct," He replied in turn. "I take it you are Acadius, founder of this land."

"You are also correct," replied the taller individual, "I am Acadius Zachend, leader of this country. And beside me stands my son Denre Zachend, general to the warriors of our land. We, as well as what remains of our military forces, are here for one specific purpose." he lowered his voice and glared at Rizzeri. "To get answers."

Rizzeri exchanged the glare, adjusting his glasses with his free hand. "What answers do you seek?" he asked, iron in his tone.

"What were your true intentions when you invaded this land?" Acadius questioned. "You must have had a true goal of some sort."

"I am surprised you all do not already know the answer to that," Rizzeri responded, "Did you not learn of our intentions beforehand, given the fact that we were cornered and discovered in virtually every location we ventured in within this nation?"

"I-I have received word from my fellow Acadian commanders of your plans," said Denre quickly. "But the information was not clear enough for us to create a logical conclusion as to what the meaning behind those plans were."

"We do not dispute the fact that Tomagunus sent you," said Acadius. "For I had known he was bound to resort to these measures long ago. Grandcrest is a country both feared and despised amongst many of the distant countries across the continent. Your king wishes to claim all those lands for his own, including ours, and it is because of his mad greed that I personally set forth to oppose him; I have offered counsel, support, and fair warning to many cities that surround Grandcrest. No land shall fall victim at the hands of Tomagunus." he then paused, staring at the Grandcrestian knights expectantly, as if his words would surely strike them with both astonishment and dismay.

The words had no such effect. The Grandcrestian knights continued to remain alert and wary of the Acadians, and Rizzeri, being the leader of the knights, kept a close eye on both Acadius and the general. He was certain that Acadius at least, was probably the strongest of all enemies in the vicinity, and he did not want to risk a confrontation with the Acadians while his team was in poor condition. The chances that Acadius would actually let them free did not at all seem too likely, for it seemed he was set on obtaining answers, and if these answers were to actually be given, there would be no telling how he or the other Acadians would react.

Rizzeri cleared his throat, preparing to stall for time until he could create a proper method of escape. "We were notified of your actions by none other than our highness before attempting to accomplish our objective," he said, careful of what he spoke, "It was because of those very actions that we were ordered to invade your land, as a counterattack method." the reply was not too far from the truth, but it did well to hide the real intention. Rizzeri then fell silent, hoping that Acadius would believe the false statement.

"With only five knights?" said Acadius, in utter disbelief. "I am sure Tomagunus is not that foolish, to believe that he can do harm to an enemy country by sending forth a mere handful of knights to do his bidding."

"We are no ordinary knights," said Rizzeri. "Some among us are considered to be the strongest in our country. You undoubtedly figured that out when we obliterated a great deal of your military force."

Acadius's glare evolved into a fiercer scowl. "You may have defeated two of my commanders, and many of my troops, but we still stand strong. I have not come here to listen to your conceited claims, but rather the answer to my question."

"But I am afraid I have already told you the answer to your question," said Rizzeri.

"I have doubts about your answer," snapped Acadius, "It appears to me that you are hiding the real intention for your own sake...but regardless, it does not matter, for the answer was of no true importance to me to begin with."

Rizzeri looked quite confused. "Well, if I may ask, why have you gone to these lengths to obtain the answer?" he asked. "What were your true intentions?"

"I wish to challenge you to a battle," Acadius replied sharply. "It has always been an Acadian tradition to settle disputes through a fair duel; the damage you have caused to this land cannot be forgiven, and thus it would go against tradition to allow you leave so easily. I must restore my honor by defeating you in combat, so that my fellow Acadians will not doubt my strength as ruler. You claim to be among the strongest in your land, so it would be fitting that I fight you."

Surprised, Rizzeri took Acadius's challenge into consideration. "What are the conditions of this challenge?" he asked.

"The match shall be a one on one duel," replied Acadius. "If I win, you and your comrades will be sentenced to immediate execution; I shall order all of my troops of which surround you currently, to strike relentlessly until you are ground into dust. If you win however, I swear upon my name to let you and your comrades go free."

Rizzeri sensed that he did not have an option. While speaking, his mind had desperately worked to create an escape plan, but unfortunately he was still devoid of a solution. The Acadians in the surrounding area had left no break in their wall of defenses, and there was no potential escape route. He was thankful, though skeptical, of the fact that Acadius favored combat over a more logical solution such as obtaining enemy information; if he himself were Acadius, he would have done all he could to find out exactly what his enemies were up to. Perhaps Acadius was just another savage who solved his issues through fighting. Regardless of this notion, it had made the situation easier and less complex at that: if he won against Acadius, their freedom was assured, if he didn't they would die a harsh death. No other knight in his team would be able to accomplish the task in their states-it would be solely up to him alone...but was he strong enough to face a founder of a nation?

"I accept your challenge," said the team leader decisively. "On the condition that it be me who faces you, and that there is no trickery involved."

Acadius grinned, bearing sharp fangs beneath his snout. "Very well." he said in a dark tone of voice. Suddenly he glanced at Denre, who had stood quiet and still as a statue throughout a verbal exchange. "Denre," he addressed the general sharply. "Bring me my finest axe."

Denre silently obliged, and walked back down the pathway formed between the Acadian wall.

"My fellow warriors," Acadius addressed his troops in a booming voice, "Let us make an open space suited for combat, for I predict that this will be a sight to see."

The Acadians that surrounded the Grandcrestian knights slowly backed away. They backed so far that they met the edges of the area, encircling it just as the stone walls had. Even though they were at a distance, they still blocked all exits in a solid wall formation.

"I will be courteous enough to allow you a moment to converse and prepare." said Acadius, "But I warn you, do not waste what precious little time you have attempting to craft an escape. If you do that, it shall be counted as a disqualification on your behalf."

Rizzeri nodded. "Understood," he said shortly.

Acadius turned his back on the Grandcrestian knights, navy cape sweeping out from behind him as he walked off into the distance. The knights were left alone in the middle of the field, surrounded by the watchful eyes of the enemy. Light from the dawning sun bore down on the five knights in a bright glare, engulfing the area with a morning sheen.

The team of knights immediately gathered around Rizzeri in a semicircle after Acadius had departed, faces expressing great concern.

"Are you seriously gonna' try and fight Acadius?" Lancelot asked, glancing nervously back towards the spot where Acadius had just stood.

"I have no choice," replied Rizzeri. "It is my responsibility as team leader to ensure the success of each and every mission given, as well as ensuring the safety of my fellow comrades. I have failed one of those priorities as it is, and I do not wish to fail another."

"But Acadius must have the power of a million Acadians combined," said Ensoleillé. "You would not survive."

Rizzeri examined his fencing sword, checking it for any marks. "I am the only one who would stand even half of a chance," he said quietly. "Iazarogen is not skilled enough, Xavius and Lancelot have endured great damage from previous battles, and you Ensoleillé, can only participate in long-ranged combat since you are only equipped with bow and arrow."

"But fencing isn't suited for combat against an axe-wielder." said Xavius. "It is a disciplined sword fighting style that can only work properly against one who fights in a similar manner."

"Not exactly," said Rizzeri. "Axe-wielders are generally barbaric combatants, whose fighting style is known to be dangerous and unrestrained. If this reckless style of fighting were to go up against a disciplined one, which of the styles do you think would be stronger in terms of skill and maneuverability? The answer is obvious."

"Yes, but what an axe-wielder lacks in skill, he can easily make up for in brute strength." Ensoleillé noted quickly.

"I agree," said Rizzeri. "However, if one chooses their tactics carefully, they can easily gain the upper hand in battle regardless of their opponent's strength." His eyes lingered slowly over towards the other end of the area, with the barest glimpse of a smile on his face. "If disciplined fighting does not work, there is another fighting style I can deploy as a last resort."

"What kind of fightin' style is that?" asked Lancelot.

Rizzeri returned his vision back towards his sword. "It was a style I had to use when facing Bandaun. Ordinary enemies I can dispatch with my regular fencing techniques, but opponents of greater power require me to use a greater technique. It is a technique that I am sure you have all heard of before; in fact, Ensoleillé just spoke of it a moment ago."

"That must be brute strength," said Xavius. "But that is the fighting style of an axe-wielder, isn't it? You would merely be fighting on the same level as the opponent, giving you a great disadvantage."

"That is true," Rizzeri replied dolefully, "But if I have no other alternative, it will have to do."

Iazarogen stood partially isolated from the group, staring blankly at the sky. He was uncertain of what would happen next, but given all the incidents that occurred since the mission had began, the alternative would not be good. He believed team leader Rizzeri was a potentially powerful knight ever since defeating Bandaun, but once he had seen Acadius, he sensed a threat greater than all of the other Acadian commanders he had previously faced. As he had thought when observing the Acadian statue, Acadius must have been a powerful warrior in order to become the founder of an entire land; surely his people wouldn't have given him such a high title without a cause. The only current option he had was to hope that the team leader would be strong enough to defeat Acadius, and that in itself did not appear to be likely. With a sense of disappointment, he declined his head toward the ground. It was in instances such as this that he wished he himself were stronger...

"I'll hope that you fare well," Iazarogen overheard the continuous exchange of words beside him, picking up on what Lancelot had said. "Cause' if you don't, that'll be the end of all of us."

"What an excellent thing to say," Rizzeri replied with sarcasm. "That is definitely one thought I would like to carry with me into this battle, the consequences of failure."

"It wasn't meant to be discouraging," said Lancelot, "If you worry bout' the consequences, that should kinda' propel you not to lose."

"Well in that case," Rizzeri said, adjusting his grip on his sword, "I thank you. I will need all the encouragement I can get in order to see this through. But I am afraid to inform you all that I am not that powerful. There is no guarantee that I will be victorious in this battle, so do not despair if I fail."

"Worry not, fellow comrade." said Xavius, "For even if your duel with Acadius does not bode well," he suddenly glanced sneakily at the distant Acadian troops, "We might be able to think of a way to escape."

Rizzeri grinned, though it was a sad grin, tainted with sorrow. "It isn't wise to dwell on ideas such as those, for it may impossible....but the effort is appreciated all the same."

Just visible before the Grandcrestian knights, was gradual return of Acadius and Denre into the area. Acadius was equipped with heavier armor forged from silver, and donned a helmet of Acadian make. Beside him, Denre held within both of his hands an axe with a polished metal hilt, and a silver blade so sharp, it looked as if it could slice through air. Excited, the Acadian warriors drew fraction closer into the area to get a better view of things. Acadius quickly turned helm towards the direction of the Grandcrestian knights.

"You who have been challenged," he called out loudly, "Forgive me, for I have not caught your name as of yet."

Rizzeri turned to face the Acadian. "I am Rizzeri," he replied, in shout. "Rizzeri Katazen." the team leader froze, then continued on, deciding to name his full title. "Current leader of the knights of Grandcrest."

"Rizzeri Katazen," Acadius replied. "Draw your sword and come forth."

Rizzeri turned his head to one side, one eye facing his team. "On I go," he said.

"Fight strong," said Xavius.

"Stay alive," Ensoleillé added.

"Remember what'll happen to us if you don't win." Lancelot uttered.

Iazarogen couldn't think of any words of encouragement that could match those of his comrades, but at the last minute, he thought up a few lines that might have been helpful to the team leader. "Use intellect." he said quietly.

Rizzeri nodded. "Thank you all," he said quickly. "I will remember your words. You may want to keep a safe distance from the battlefield once the duel begins." and moving forward he swept off towards the middle of the area, where his enemy waited.

On the other side of the area, Denre nervously handed his father the axe. "B-be careful, father." he said shakily. "Your opponent defeated Bandaun single-handedly. He may not be easy to defeat."

Acadius accepted the axe and laughed heartily. "You have much to learn, my son." he said. "An Acadian should never fear the strength of his opponent, but rather an Acadian must overcome his opponent's strength through sheer willpower." he adjusted his helmet and looked past his approaching enemy. "As general it is your responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of our society, and also to keep it safe. I want you to keep a watchful eye on those four Grandcrestian knights as this battle takes place; I shall order a few of my warriors to accompany you in the event that they should become hostile. Once I have won this battle, ensure that they do not escape-understood?"

Denre nodded nervously.

"Good," said Acadius. "I will make this battle swift. Now go on."

Denre shuffled forward, several Acadian warriors following behind him. As Rizzeri approached, he had walked by Denre and noticed him and the Acadian warriors go in the opposite direction. Suspicious, he looked back to see what they had planned to do.

"Do not pay them any mind," Acadius called to Rizzeri. "They will simply be observing your comrades."

Rizzeri sighed and continued on. Now an escape would be branded entirely as impossible.

The four Grandcrestian knights that remained behind had already noticed the Acadian's arrival, and slowly, but surely began to worry.

"Isn't that the general?" said Xavius.

"I believe he is," Ensoleillé replied cautiously. "But why is he coming towards our direction, and with Acadian warriors nonetheless?"

"Ha," Lancelot croaked. "I knew those Acadians were up to somethin'. Acadius sent that general over here to kill us so we can't run away," he produced the severed half of his lance/spear combination and began to move. "We better be prepared."

Ensoleillé held Lancelot back with her arm. "Don't jump to conclusions. It doesn't look like they have their swords drawn."

Soon enough, Denre stood before the four knights, hands shaking. To hide his nervousness, he folded his arms behind his back to conceal his hands, and straightened.

"Ahem," he pretended to clear his throat to add the effect, even shading the nervousness of his voice. "As general of Acadius, it is my duty to observe your actions once this battle has taken place. We shall be keeping a close eye on all of you so that you don't try to escape, or something of that nature." gestured towards a section of the area, halfway centered towards the location of the duel, and halfway centered towards the middle stone wall. "Let us move to safe area where we can watch the battle."

The Grandcrestian knights slowly followed after Denre and the Acadian warriors guarding him. As the Grandcrestians walked past the Acadian wall, they were met with cold stares and expressions of resentment, and though they did manage to avert their eyes from these intimidating gestures, they gained a sense of uncomfort in the Acadian presence. They made it to the location that Denre had gestured towards shortly thereafter. From this location, the Grandcrestian knights could spot both Rizzeri and Acadius very clearly, even though they were quite a distance away. Denre and the Acadian warriors stood beside the knights, watching the two combatants with sharp attentiveness. "The battle is about to begin," Denre said, addressing both the Acadians and the Grandcrestian knights. "Let us hope for a good match."

"I'd wager the victory is going to go to Acadius," said one of the Acadian warriors besides Denre. "There's no way that Grandcrestian can defeat our leader."

"I agree," spoke another Acadian beside Denre, "He might as well just give up and surrender."

Xavius glared at the Acadians from the corner of his eye. "Only the outcome can decide the fate of these combatants," he said aloud, risking a remark.

Denre looked towards the Iron-armored knight. "True," he replied. "And it would not do to bicker over the issue. All we can do is observe and see whose skill proves more prevalent."

"Which is of course, Acadius's." snickered one of the Acadians in the background. In that instance Xavius did not respond, choosing instead to ignore the Acadian and withhold his anger.

Rizzeri and Acadius stood within the center of the area, weapons ready. The team leader flexed his arm once, and then stood firmly in place with his fencing sword held at chest level. Acadius observed the surrounding area, making sure that there were no obstacles that would hinder the duel. Once he was finished observing, he rested his eyes on his opponent.

"Are you prepared?" he asked.

Rizzeri nodded silently.

"Very well," Acadius replied, and raised his axe high in the air. "The battle commences!" he announced in a loud roar. All Acadians in vicinity unleashed shouts and cheers, in anticipation and eagerness to see the duel take place.

Acadius lowered the axe and stepped back, focusing his eyes on his opponent. Rizzeri mimicked his actions, promptly moving backward and preparing for battle.

With an unanticipated lunge, Acadius dashed forward and swung his axe swiftly in Rizzeri's direction, attempting to catch him off guard right at the beginning of battle. The team leader dodged the attack just as quickly and parried the blow with his fencing sword, attempting to repel Acadius's axe, but his enemy did not yield. For a moment the two opponents struggled, weapons clattering as one tried to deflect the other. And suddenly with a loud clash, Rizzeri managed to send Acadius backward, using a fencing technique known as the thrust. The Acadian was sent staggering a small distance in the opposite direction, completely disoriented and vulnerable to counterattack.

A vast wave of murmurs rippled across the area at the sight of the outcome; apparently the Acadians did not expect Rizzeri to get the upper hand so easily. In the near distance the Grandcrestian knights instantly gained an optimistic demeanor, while Denre and his protective guard of Acadian warriors did not appear as hopeful.

However, though he was temporarily caught off guard, Acadius had instantly recovered. He regained his fighting stance nearly three seconds after he had been repelled back, and returned directly to battle. With renewed vigor, he ran at his opponent with a fierce growl and slashed at Rizzeri repeatedly, swinging in numerous directions.

Rizzeri began to gain a sense of worry as he dodged and blocked Acadius's attacks. Though none of the attacks hit him directly, it had become increasingly difficult to defend himself against his enemy's furor, and each hit he managed to block felt like the force of a literal battering ram. He then squinted beneath his spectacles and ground his teeth in frustration; not even Bandaun held such strength, and he was five times the size of Acadius. Trying to fend off his opponent, Rizzeri miraculously parried once again and knocked Acadius back-but rather than give him another chance to recover he drove in and thrust his fencing blade at Acadius's attacking arm in a poor attempt to disable him.

As hopeless as the attack seemed, it had dealt damage. Acadius's silver armor was scathed by a small margin, with a long scratch that ran up the forearm and just barely reached the fur protected underneath it. Acadius was utterly surprised, but he hid the expression under a mask of anger and hate. And with a sharp roar, he inflicted a devastating blow upon Rizzeri. What the team leader did not realize when he struck Acadius with the fencing blade, was that he left his overall defenses susceptible to close-range counterattack. Acadius struck Rizzeri with his other hand once the attack was inflicted, and with his axe in the other he banked his weapon upward, sending Rizzreri's epee flying from his grip.

Both Rizzeri and his weapon were thrown helplessly across the field. The team leader landed roughly on the grass, while his sword impacted the ground behind him, jutting out of the earth with the hilt in the air and the blade wedged within the earth.

Acadius had no intention of allowing Rizzeri to return to his feet. He raised his axe and marched briskly over to where Rizzeri had fallen, preparing to end the battle for good. Rizzeri did not waste any time attempting to get up, however. Before Acadius was even a hairsbreadth away, he had already bolted from the grass and recovered his weapon, moving at an extremely swift pace in the process. Acadius frowned, and then continued his assault once again. He ran at Rizzeri and swung the axe with great vigor, this time not in order to try and gain a swift victory, but rather to wear his opponent down through sheer power.

Rizzeri immediately saw through his plan, and instead of blocking or parrying the attacks that were sent his way, he tactfully evaded each strike using his speed. Acadius was indeed a powerful combatant, but he did not possess quickness or agility; a trait that all Acadians seemed to have lacked. With this in mind, the team leader decided to use Acadius's own plan against him, evading each attack until the Acadian leader grew weary. Fortunately Acadius did not realize this, and continued to lash out a number of failing blows, his anger growing to immense heights. Acadius was furious; he deployed nearly a hundred attacks, and none of them hit his opponent. Never before had he remembered facing an enemy with a speed the nature of Rizzeri's, it almost seemed impossible. Suddenly, he drew his attacks to a halt and jumped back a few paces from the fencer's. "You are very skilled at dodging the power of the axe," he commented shortly. Rizzeri said nothing, but he did express a look of vanity in response to those words. "However," Acadius continued suddenly, "Can you dodge power, in its raw form?"

The proud expression was drained from Rizzeri's face. He had no clue as to what Acadius had meant, and if he knew well enough, it would probably be dangerous. "Power in its raw form?" he said questionably. "What could that be?"

Without responding, Acadius raised his axe in the air. And not a second later, he swept the axe down across the grass that stood before Rizzeri's feet.

Rizzeri's reflexes took hold, and he moved to avoid whatever it was that he believed would come his way, but it was already too late. An odd luminous shockwave of blue light swept before Acadius in a brilliant glare, slamming directly into the team leader, and sending him spiraling over 25 feet back and nearly 10 feet into the air itself. The shockwave was so powerful it had literally burned the grass on the field, and left behind a vast, fan-shaped patch of bare earth where it had impacted.

At first the Acadians gasped in awe. And then immediately after that, they erupted into a raucous cheer, praising and complimenting their leader for his action.

Witnessing the attack from beside his Grancrestian comrades, Iazarogen had stared in a dumbfounded manner. He had never seen anything of that kind in his life, and for a split moment he began to wonder if Acadius could have perhaps conjured magic or sorcery on Rizzeri. He was prepared to ask one of the other knights what kind of attack Acadius had used, when suddenly Lancelot had spoke, as if an answer to his question.

"That was cheap thing ta' do," he uttered. "Usin' weapon energy so early in the fight."

Xavius nodded. "Indeed," he growled. "Rizzeri did not even have to use such forces to begin with.."

Iazarogen looked over towards his comrades. "Weapon energy?" he said in wonder.

"Weapon energy comrade," Xavius quickly explained, "Is simply physical power that can be derived from your internal life force and channeled externally into a weapon to boost its strength, or used remotely as a 'raw weapon' of sorts. It is a skill that requires utmost concentration and experience to master, and only few know how to use it correctly. However, when mastered, it can be used in a variety of efficient ways, turning a regular sword into a weapon of fierce power."

"That was how I managed ta' use my lance/spear combination as a boomerang that time we faced those Acadians." Lancelot added with a nod to Iazarogen. "I used my energy to control the direction of the weapon as I threw it."

"I used raw energy to clone my arrows, in order to defeat all of those Acadians that surrounded you and Rizzeri." Ensoleillé noted. "You can even shape weapon energy into a weapon itself if necessary."

Iazarogen listened to all of which was said with astonishment. He had never known that such an ability existed. However, he noticed one thing that sounded negative within these terms.

"If this skill takes away your life energy" he spoke up slowly, "Then does that mean it takes away your overall life?"

Xavius chuckled. "Certainly not, Iazarogen. If that were true, then no one would use such abilities. It merely drains a little of your strength, not all off it. By no means would it take any years off of your lifespan, but if one were to use it constantly, they would lack to ability to even stand. And that is why it should only be used in desperate situations…" Xavius looked thoughtfully at the ground. "But I suppose it truly depends on the individual who uses it," he uttered, "perhaps if one is strong enough, they can use life energy for days on end without tiring."

"Still, Acadius is cheap for usin' it," Lancelot said bitterly.

And from there on, no one had said not a single word further, instead directing their attention back to the battle at hand; Denre and his guard of Acadians had remained silent throughout the Grandcrestian's short conversation. Though at some points Denre wanted to simply order them to remain quiet, he instead pretended as if they weren't even there, which in a manner he supposed was a way of not being rude.

Back on the field of battle, Rizzeri struggled to his feet. The force of Acadius's attack was brutal, but his armor had withstood much of the impact, leaving him with only a few scratches and bruises. At the very mention of 'power in its raw form', Rizzeri figured he should have been able to realize that Acadius was referring to weapon energy. Holding on tightly to his sword, he stood up fully and glared at his opponent, who remained still to bask in the commotion of praise that was being given by his people. "I thank you all," he shouted. "But do not give me praise yet, for I must finish my opponent first before my victory is to be final." He turned to find Rizzeri standing, and laughed. "Still clinging to life, I see." He said.

"Do not claim to title of victor so early, Acadius." Rizzeri replied. "I am still standing, as you can very well see."

Acadius held up his axe. "Well," he said, traces of humor still visible on his face, "Allow me to remedy that." And with those words, he ran directly towards Rizzeri, ready to strike once more.

Rizzeri nimbly ran out of Acadius's direction, and held up his fencing sword as a shield. Acadius made a swift reversal, striking Rizzeri head-on with the axe. Using as much strength as he could possibly bring about, Rizzeri caught the attack and parried it, batting the axe aside and hopping backwards to gain safe distance. Acadius ran at his opponent once again, attempting to close the team leader in, and prevent him from escaping. "You disappoint me," said Acadius as he prepared to bombard Rizzeri with a new wave of strikes. "Believe it or not I was expecting an actual challenge from one of your caliber, but I suppose there was no need. You simply run, dodge and block like a coward."

Rizzeri did not focus on conversation. Without replying, he effortlessly evaded all of Acadius's attacks, and tried to think of a strategy to weaken the Acadian. He was now aware of the fact that Acadius possessed the ability to use weapon energy, and he made certain that he would not get hit with an attack of that nature again. But try as he might, he could not determine a tactic that could defeat his enemy, for even his fencing techniques would prove to be of little use against him. He made note of the manner in which Acadius fought, and suddenly, a memorization hit him: brute strength. If no other means could aid him in this battle, then the concluded he had no other choice but to fight on the level of his opponent.

Again Rizzeri parried away one of Acadius's attacks, but rather than use a fencing technique, he swung his sword as if it were a mace across Acadius's silver armor. The attack knocked Acadius backward a few steps, but neither him nor his armor were scathed.

"Ha," Acadius said, recovering at haste. "Do you believe that foolish excuse for a weapon can damage my silver armor?"

Rizzeri was tempted to point out the fact that he did leave a mark on the armor covering Acadius's forearm, but decided against it. He clenched the fencing blade tightly, bringing forth a small reserve of his energy and transferring it to the sword. If the sword alone could not damage Acadius, then it would require the strength of an additional power. The fencing blade gained a golden radiant hue not previously present, but unnoticed by neither Acadius or the observing audience.

Rizzeri ran at Acadius so quickly, the other did not even have time to process the fact that he had moved. Lunging the sword at the midsection of Acadius, the team leader unleashed a shout so fierce it made the surrounding Acadians, and even his Grandcrestian comrades wince in shock.

With the aid of weapon energy, the fencing blade sliced through Acadius's silver armor as if it were made of dampened parchment, cutting through his opponent's skin and quite possibly fracturing a sector of his rib cage. But Rizzeri did not stop there; he reversed the sword in his grip so that he held the hilt, and then, channeling more energy into his sword, he slammed the hilt into Acadius's armored forehead.

Acadius was sent rolling across the field, taking his axe with him as he went. He rolled for what seemed to have been minutes before finally settling. It was then that he lay, sprawled and apparently defeated, his axe falling free of his grip and landing soundlessly in the grass.

No one had said a word. All surrounding Acadians, once noisy and cheerful, had fallen silent in a heartbeat. Denre stared in utter disbelief as he watched his father lay still in the grass. "I-it can't be...." he breathed. "How is this possible?"

Xavius crossed his arms, grinning triumphantly. "I believe you have underestimated the power of our comrade," he said to the Acadians. "It may have seemed like a one-sided battle, but in conclusion, the less hopeful combatant has taken the victory."

"No," an Acadian guard said indignantly. "Acadius is a million times stronger than that Grandcrestian knight. He simply cannot be defeated so easily!"

Rizzeri unleashed a sigh of relief. If not for quick thinking, the battle would not have gone in his favor. He straightened and patted the dirt off of his copper-plated armor. "Mission accomplished," he uttered. His eyes scanned the area for the other knights, and within seconds counting, he spotted them beside a detached looking Denre, who himself was surrounded by a guard of Acadian warriors. Without hesitation, he walked calmly over to his comrades, observing the terrified expressions on the surrounding Acadian's faces.

"Do you think you have WON?" came a low voice.

Rizzeri froze and turned around.

Acadius was back on his feet as if nothing had happened. He had removed the dented helm that once rested on his head, and the chest armor he had worn was also removed, leaving him with nothing but the original mail hauberk he had already worn, only in this instance it was rent with a long scratch. The axe in his grip suddenly became engulfed in a blue light, very similar to the light of the shockwave he had unleashed previously. The wolf took one step forward, and then another, trudging slowly towards Rizzeri with a enraged expression on his face. "I had not taken this battle seriously from the beginning," he said. "I merely wanted you and your knights to believe that you had a fighting chance, to believe that you had put up a good fight, so that you would not have died without honor." sparks of electricity played around the axe at a circular wavelength, in contrast to the blue light that it had already emitted.

Rizzeri stood back suddenly. "That weapon energy," he gasped.

"If I wanted to I could have destroyed you with one slash," continued Acadius, "One slash could have immediately determined your fate. But yet I allowed my guard to waver. And in return-" his eyes looked have lost their color under the glare of the axe. "I was humiliated. Humiliated before my people, and humiliated before my son! thrown aside like an insect!"

The weapon energy seemed to draw Rizzeri in like a magnet. The team leader fought against its pull, but his feet moved as if on their own accord, dragging him towards his enemy. "No," Rizzeri said, his voice breaking under the strain. "Not possible..."

Acadius raised what looked like a roaring thunderbolt within the grasp of his hand. "This duel," he said, "Is over."

And with Rizzeri within hitting range, Acadius brought the axe down upon the Grandcrestian. The impact knocked the consciousness from Rizzeri before he was even hit, and what followed was beyond imaginable. Sparks of electricity catapulted Rizzeri into the sky, and it looked as if he were being electrified to death by the forces of an actual thunderstorm. Blue lights danced around Rizzeri's airborne form, attacking him repeatedly. There wasn't a shred of hope for the team leader, because not only did he lack the consciousness to fight, he was truly facing power in its raw form.

The Grandcrestians could not fathom what they saw. Lancelot averted his eyes, unable to witness the sight, Xavius bowed his head, and Ensoleillé clasped both hands over her mouth, preventing herself from unleashing a shrill cry. The sight was all the more difficult for Iazarogen to bear. The Blue Fox trembled in anxiety, his face frozen as he watched Rizzeri take hit after hit of pure energy. What made it worse, was the cheering of the Acadian warriors in the background.

Each warrior yelled in approval and excitement, as if they were viewing an entertaining event rather than the torture of a living being. Finally, Acadius suppressed his weapon energy. Rizzeri dropped from the sky and landed in the grass with a hard thud, his entire form blackened and steaming like coal out of a roaring fire. Just judging by the distance of which he fell, and the force of power he endured, the Grandcrestians concluded that Rizzeri was gone.

Acadius accepted the praise and cheer given by his people once again, this time waving his hands in appreciation. "The battle has been decided," he declared. "The threat of Tomagunus shall no longer stand! And now-" he suddenly turned to the Grandcrestian knights. "Let us rid ourselves of the Grandrestians for good."

Denre looked at the knights before him, grinning meekly. "I'm afraid your execution is at hand," he said in a grim voice.

All Acadians drew closer to the four remaining knights, weapons ready. It appeared, even though the Grandcrestian knights put forth their greatest efforts, that their fate was inevitably sealed.