Chapter 1

Nala, Anitioch

15000 AD

In the city of Nala there are different groups of people who form themselves into class, race, importance, but most of all: power. If you had all the money in the world you lived like you were a superhero. If you have no money, then you'll be called an outcast and live in the slums of Nala where every night you had to fight for food and your own life at times. Lucky for me I was an outcast as well but as Rufus tells me that being an outcast is what I should be until my enemies are destroyed. It's not every day that you see a Princess living in the slums to keep hidden from a bunch of crazed darkness royalty but hey if this life keeps me from becoming a dead Princess then I'll live with it.

"Nice night out huh?" Rufus my protector asked me as we walked past an old lady carrying paper bags filled with food. Rufus tipped his hat to her and she blushed. It's not every night an old guy with white hair and a beard that's just as long as his winter coat is walking around in the streets.

Rufus was a man you should never mess with. Although he looked like a sick old man the man could swordfight like a thirty year old captain of the army. His reflexes were so fast it was hard for me to beat him during sword fight practice.

"Don't you think it's odd that the night is… clear?" I asked him. Rufus just laughed.

"You worry too much Aria. On a night like tonight they're probably hunting for food instead of hunting us down. Besides look I bet we can see Earth from here. I think I just found it too." Rufus said squinting at the sky looking at a blue dot in the sky. I checked to see if he was carrying a weapon and of course he was. He must believe that tonight is a perfect night too since this night is just too… perfect. We approached the lab where Rufus worked and walked through the double doors. The smell of Earth elements and burnt paper filled the air. A guy wearing an army uniform was typing away on his computer and listening to the new Tommy Robison and Abby Rose album.

"Lark open the door will you?" Rufus asked the guy. Lark looked up and smiled at me. Oh boy here comes the flirting once again.

"Rufus is this the girl you told everyone about?" Lark asked looking at me.

"Lark this is Swan. Swan this is Lark the new guy who is supposed to open the door when I say so." Rufus said grumpily but Lark was staring at me. Though you may not know this but my full name is Aria Swan Alstina. Rufus only calls me Swan when strangers or people who don't know who I truly am are around. Other than that he calls me Aria or Princess when he wants to be funny.

"So… how do you put up with this guy here? Here in the lab he's like a demon gone wild. I wonder if one day he'll kill someone and laugh afterwards." Lark said. I smirked at him. Now was my chance.

"Maybe he will pull a murder off if you don't open the door. FYI I'm only seventeen. How old are you? Twenty four?" I asked him coldly.

"Twenty-two actually and FYI you're Rufus's daughter so it'll be alright to flirt a little with the leading man's daughter." Lark said right back. Rufus looked at him with anger in his eyes. It's sad when Rufus and I have to tell everyone I'm his daughter. Really only a couple of people know the real truth but when a whole Darkness army is after you it's best to keep a low profile and keep secrets. In reality only a few of Rufus's coworkers know including the head of the Nala army, a couple of soldiers who are Rufus's friends, Gwen, Tristen, Kyo, Lionel, Lionel's dad, our neighbors, and Gwen's friend Winter.

"Just open the door, Lark, and I'll set up one of those dinner things with Swan." Rufus said tapping his foot. Lark grinned stupidly and opened the door for him. Rufus walked through not saying a word of thanks to Lark.

"See you later Swan!" Lark said before going back to typing. I rolled my eyes and walked down the pure white hallway behind Rufus until we reached the elevators.

"A dinner date? Really?" I asked him smacking his shoulder.

"Would you've rather stay there and flirt with him until my eyeballs melt away? I wouldn't think so." Rufus said running his fingers through his beard. The elevator door opened and another solider stood there looking professional as Rufus and I stepped in.

"Evening Sir." The solider said.

"Steven nice to see you. How's Molly?" Rufus asked pushing a button as the door closed.

"Well. She's excited about the grandkids." Steven said.

"Well I hope for some when Swan here gets married. You're just as old as me and you had seven kids and about to have twin grandkids. Lucky you." Rufus said laughing. Steven laughed with him and fixed his hat.

"Level 5" A voice said.

"Well I wish your grandkids come out in one piece and healthy." Rufus said to Steven as we walked off the elevator.

"And I hope Swan finds a good husband to help take care of that damn mansion you have." Steven said before the door closed. Rufus shuddered at the thought of the mansion that he told everyone that we owned it when really Winter owns it but we use it as a safe house just in case the Darkness finds us because Winter has so many defense spells on it you'll be lucky to even walk in front of it without losing a leg or arm. To keep my profile low Rufus is making me live in the Slums with his old friend Gwen who pretends to be his wife when we go out as a family. She's a really nice lady and treats me like a daughter but she spends her whole time sewing and taking care of her kitchen she has no time for Tristen or I. Tristen though is a nine year old kid who I believe will become a great wizard. He's quick, smart, and wise. He even fools Rufus who is a pretty old wise guy. Although Tristen lacks gardening skills he's pretty good at watering flowers at the museum we own in the slums.

"Swan, I want you to see the new invention the army has made that might be able to destroy the Darkness's army." Rufus said pushing a frosty glass door opened. At once the uniformed men came running and asking for IDs until they saw Rufus. At once they bowed and let him pass. Rufus walked past tables filled with odd weapons and acids. Rufus stopped in front of a large silver box that was guarded by two uniformed men.

"It's alright. This is Swan my daughter. She's training to take over my spot when I finally fall down dead." Rufus chuckled. The men stood back and watched Rufus open the box and take out a small silver ball.

"Um I'm pretty sure that won't destroy the Darkness Army, Rufus." I said looking at the little ball that was only the size of an apple.

"This tracks down where the army is hidden even if it's invisible. After it tracks it down this thing gets as close to them as possible and blows up. The explosion is the size of the whole city and has been known to wipe out land. Here I'll show you how it tested out in the desert." Rufus said turning around and looking through old computer files until a video popped up on the screen. I watched as the scientists placed the apple sized thing in the middle of an empty desert area that was hundreds of miles away from Nala. In the video was Rufus who was behind a thick glass with the other scientists and the military leader who I've meet millions of times. His name was William who was just as old as Rufus but his reflexives were just as fast as Rufus's. It must have been because William and Rufus used to work for my family before they fled to Nala after what happened to my kingdom eleven years ago. In the video William pushed a red button and suddenly the apple sized ball blew up causing dirt and fire to burst hundreds of feet into the air. Rufus was right about the explosion being the size of the city of Nala.

"The best part is its silent. The Darkness army won't know what hit them." A scientist said smirking at the computer screen. His buddy nodded his head in agreement and went back to looking over a gun.

"Why doesn't the army just use magic? Maleagant trains his army to use magic so why can't Nala's army use magic?" I asked Rufus.

"Wiliiam says magic is for sissies and real men use guns and bombs." Rufus said. I took out my wand and looked at it. Since my wand was handed down by my family for ages I'm surprised it hasn't fallen apart. Legend goes though that this wand was made by the Goddess herself and passed it down to heroes when it ended up in my family and my mother ended up giving it to me before she died. My wand was also different from everyone else because it was silver and the handle was a darker charcoal color and it shot out gold and blue sparks every so often. Other than that though I use my wand every day and never let it out of my sight. Rufus though never liked me using magic but I always thought he was jealous because he was a swordfighter and not a wizard even though he looks like one. Swordfighters never won against a magician though as I heard.

"Well William should know that their army is better than ours now since magic conquers over swords and guns." I said crossing my arms.

"I already told him that and all he said was the magic school that's a couple of miles away won't let any graduating students join the army to fight against shadows. The headmaster gives him headaches so he stopped talking to him. Anyway this thing was made by wizards so you have nothing to argue about." Rufus said waving his wand at me and putting the bomb back into the silver box and closing it shut. The guards returned to their normal post on either side of the box and bowed at Rufus. I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight and Gwen would most likely throw the biggest fit at Rufus for not getting me home before eleven so I could help her put the extra yarn away before she went to bed.

"It's almost midnight." I told him as he watched the two scientists mix Iodine and Mercury together to make a shiny blue glow.

"Well then we'll have to come back tomorrow and I'll show you the invention William and I are making. It's a bracelet thing like yours except it shoots little bullets." Rufus said grabbing my arm and looking at my white bracelet. It was a couple of years ago when William gave me the bracelet as protection in case any shadows were after me. I also carried a little gun since shadows could only be destroyed if they are shot with a silver bullet.

"Are you still searching for Materia?" I asked him. Rufus sighed a soft sad sigh before entering the elevator.

"Sadly no but we're still looking since people up in Durbloun have been dropping dead due to disease. William and I both know that this is all Maleagant's doing but we don't want to scare anyone so we just tell the people that an epidemic is just going around and to not walk alone at night. It's the least we can do. I mean, William and I have been tracking Vivian for ages and just last week she popped up in the newspaper for killing a young guy after he walked out of a bar drunk. Some people saw her lure him into the alley and never saw him come out. That wife of his is just as bad as him sometimes. Stupid bitch makes me sick when she kills couples." Rufus said angrily as we walked past Lark's desk which was empty. Outside the air was colder but the stars still danced in the night sky and Rufus smiled.

"If only they weren't hunting us down every damn second I could enjoy this back at the castle but they probably destroyed it and made it an army base. Stupid Darkness." Rufus said throwing his hands into his coat pocket as we walked up the steps to the tram station. For me this was the second time in my life I took the tram. I always hated using this but Rufus insists using it instead of driving his car around at night so the gangbangers won't attack us.

"Careful the stairs are slippery." I told Rufus as he climbed the steps slowly. Once we were on the station platform Rufus was breathing heavily and he took out his stash of wine and took a gulp.

"Rufus!" I hissed. People looked over at us and smiled at Rufus.

"How is the army coming along?" A man in a suit said bowing at Rufus.

"Pretty well. We're just testing out new weapons." Rufus said hiding the wine in his coat.

"Any news on the Sora case?" The man asked him. Rufus shook his head and a few people groaned. The Sora case was about the army looking for clues that could leave up to Maleagant's weakness. The people in Nala though want the Sora case to close because they know the whole story of the tragic day when almost every single person that was living in Sora died since the Darkness attacked the kingdom and killed pretty much everyone including my parents and my little brother.

"Ah finally the stupid tram is here. Fifteen minutes late and I hate that I get home after midnight anyway!" The man in the suit complained as he was the first one to walk in as the doors opened up. Rufus and I took our seat next to a lady rocking a baby to sleep and a man who was fast asleep.

"Did you hear about the ceremony tomorrow?" A lady across from us said to the women rocking her baby to sleep.

"Of course! It's to honor the King and Queen of Sora." The lady said.

"Yeah but I heard they're going to add two new statues. One of Princess Aria and one of Prince Michael. Bless their soul I hope the Goddess is taking good care of them." The lady across from us said praying. I always hated it when people talked about my brother and I and always praying for us cause they thought we were dead. I'm still here but sadly Michael isn't and I pray for him every night before I go to bed.

"Just think, Princess Aria would be your age little lady." The lady across from me said smiling. I smiled back at her and Rufus chuckled. Just then several crashes from above were heard and people grew silent to hear the noises. The child the mother was rocking to sleep woke up and started crying. Rufus sighed and stood up.

"I hate these guys." I said standing up and opening the tram door that lead to the next car. We came face to face with a shadowy figure with red eyes.

"No Survivors" The thing hissed and Rufus took out his gun and shot the thing in the head. The thing screamed and fell off the tram. Rufus looked up to find a ladder and climbed.

"They travel in packs remember?" Rufus said. I climbed the ladder after him onto the top of the tram and saw a pack of them on the other side. The things hissed and were holding silver guns. I pulled out my gun and pointed it at them.

"We can't let this tram stop with them on or they'll have midnight snacks." I said.

"Kill as many as you can." Rufus said pointing his gun at them also.

"The next stop is in six miles. You take back and I'll go front." I said before jumping onto the car in front of us.

"Aria wait! There's too many!" Rufus shouted but the shadows ran right towards us. There were bullets flying from behind us and I turned. William and Lark were on the top of the car behind us.

"Looks like someone needs a hand." William said smirking.

"We heard these things running on the top from our car. Until one of them fell off of course we knew you guys were on it. Lucky for William to carry silver bullets huh?" Lark said.

"Just kill the damn things will you?" William said firing another bullet at a shadow making the thing fly off the tram and vanishing into thin air.

"Lark go with Aria and try to stop the tram before it reaches the next stop." Rufus shouted before firing bullets at the shadows. Lark jumped onto the car and we both jumped over the shadows. The things hissed and tried to scratch us. Lark and I ran as half of the shadows ran after us carrying wands, and guns. The front of the tram was pretty far away but the next stop was pretty close. Lark fired two bullets and killed two shadows.

"They must have caught your scent, Princess." Lark shouted throwing his coat off and grabbing a new case of silver bullets from his pocket.

"How do you know who I am?" I shouted angrily at him firing some more bullets killing a couple more shadows. We both jumped onto the next car and kept running. Lark looked at me and smiled making his green eyes sparkle.

"I'm the army's third in command. I was just working at the desk making sure none of these things got into the lab. Let's just say I'm your other protector." Lark said throwing something silver at the shadows. He grabbed my arm and pulled us both off the car to the next one as the thing exploded killing half of what was left chasing us.

"How long did you know?" I asked him.

"Aria, you ask too many questions. You should know William is getting too old to night watch your house so he hired me and now I command a third of the army." Lark said pulling his black hair away from his eyes jumping onto the next car. The front of the tram was only three cars away and the tram stop was just beyond the tunnel and the statues of my parents. We looked behind us and saw only four or five shadows were left.

"Do you see Rufus?" Lark asked looking back.

"No. They must have killed them all back there and went back into the tram to slow it down." I said shooting two shadows. We jumped onto the next car and looked to our left to see the gigantic statue of my mother and father. My mother was smiling as she held her sword to the side. My father though looked serious as he held his sword in his hand right in front of him. Although they never ruled Nala the people here were always fans of my family. It's no wonder why many of them visit the River of Life where my families' grave is to pay respect.

"The tunnel is coming up!" Lark said as the tunnel was coming up pretty fast. Quickly I handed him my gun and looked around to see a lamp post on the side of the tunnel. I pointed my bracelet at the post and fired a metal rope as it swung around the post.

"Get ready to jump!" I shouted as the tunnel came closer and closer.

"Here I got this." Lark said pulling my bracelet off my wrist and grabbing me from my waist. He jumped and we glided around the tunnel as the tram entered and knocked off the remaining shadows. Below us were the slums where Lark and I were pretty sure we heard gun shots and a couple of screams.

"What a horrible first date huh? Killing a couple of shadows is not how I pictured it." Lark said as we flew back onto the front of the tram. I giggled as I took my bracelet and looked up at the sky. Suddenly I heard Lark scream in pain and I turned to see someone in a black cloak firing at us. Lark was on the ground grabbing his leg as blood started to stain the car. The person fired at me but missed.

"Here" Lark said taking his gun out and handing it too me. I fired two shots at the thing and it ducked.

"It must be a shadow that survived through the tunnel." I shouted.

"Can't be. Shadows are misty. That must be Vivian or someone that spotted you from below." Lark said as the thing came closer. The person fired another bullet and hit me in the arm. I staggered to the side a little and lost my balance.

"ARIA!" Lark shouted as William and Rufus appeared from the back.

"Drop the weapon!" William shouted at the thing but it vanished into thick black smoke and flew off. I lost my balance and time froze as I fell off the tram and into the cold night in the slums of Nala.

"ARIA!"