"They danced as their kingdom fell to the floor
Knowing that someday their children would rebuild their homes
Assured that their grandchildren will grow up in their streets
They danced as their kingdom fell to the floor."
Screams erupted through the streets, flames that couldn't be tamed dancing across the broken cobblestone. People ran furiously, flooding the exits of the kingdom as they ran, tripped, and flew out of the ashes and debris. Frantic yelling, summoning spells, and crying were all that could be heard throughout the death of night. Buildings crumbled, lightning flashed, and thunder roared.
"Alexa?! Alexa, where are you!" A mother cried, going against the flow of the crowd in panic. Her child, her little 2 year old...where was she? Where was her child?!
"I can't let you go back." A masculine voice murmured sternly, and all the mother could see was black. The blackness of unconsciousness. The man who knocked her out, her husband, picked her up into his arms, shifting her until they were both comfortable. Unknown to her now silent form, he was crying; the silvered tears of remorse and guilt. Looking into the sky, he spoke the words he could only hope would sooth his insides. "Be safe, Alexa DiCaprio. Let your spirit guide you...because that's your strongest weapon and your strongest ally." He choked on a sob. "We love you, daughter."
With that, he turned and rushed towards the entrance, slipping through the great iron-wrought gates just before they closed on their backs. Along with the crowd, the villagers, he ran into the thick forestry, and it was a mere 10 minutes later he felt the earth shake with the power of a thousand dragons bearing down on their beloved home, tearing it to shreds and burning everything within. Hope...hope...he hoped his daughter wasn't one of the thing things being torn to pieces.
He couldn't have possibly seen his daughter's form, shrouded by a burning shield of fire that kept the noise of the chaos and destruction silenced from her little ears as she smiled in her sleep.
"Come away, come away, come away little princess and dance with the spirits tonight..."
16 Years Later...
Chapter I: Spirit Indestructible
I felt myself being slowly pulled back into consciousness, the early dawn's light momentarily blinding me. Groaning, I rubbed away the sleep dust at the corners of my eyes whilst sitting up, letting the thin blankets that covered my legs fall back down. The morning was dull, gray clouds coming in from the north; that meant I had to cut training early today. Shifting my eyes away from the window with a sigh of disappointment (really, training was all I looked forward to), I slipped out of bed and walked towards the bathroom, stretching my still-sore joints.
"Maybe I took it a little too hard yesterday..." I muttered to myself, twisting the handles until the water flowing from the tap was lukewarm. Washing my hands, I grabbed the towels and dried myself off, still wondering about the dark clouds that came out of nowhere...or was it overnight? For some reason, they...intimidated me; it was like they'd triggered a part of my brain that held my darkest memories, none of which came to mind even when I sat down for a good ten minutes and thought about it. Almost as if a barrier was blocking them. Sighing, I ran a hand through my curled, brown hair, tinged with golden-yellow highlights (that were completely natural). Walking out of my room and into the kitchen, I grabbed a slice of bread from the pantry and nibbled on it, wondering what I was going to do for the day.
Decidedly, I chose to ignore the dark clouds as I threw on my favourite pair of frayed, denim short-shorts and my off-the shoulder, white shirt. Pushing my hair out of my face, I bent down and threw on my hunting boots, their white leather still in pretty good condition despite all the strenuous activities I put them through. Glancing at my reflection in the mirror, I smiled in satisfaction and walked towards the front door, grabbing my swords' sheaths and the keys before flicking off the lights and opening the door. Locking it behind me, I turned to face the dirty path.
Just as I predicted, the air was musty and disgusting, one of the sure signs of a coming storm. Leaves flitted by, tumbling over my legs before racing away into the undergrowth of the rosebushes. Wrinkling my nose in disgust, I walked down the path quickly, being as silent as possible; you never know who or what was roaming around these areas. Absentminded, I strapped down the sheaths to my thighs, turning down the left side of the path and into the thicker section of the forest.
See, I live in the deeper part of the forest than the rest of Alikane, on a piece of land that had been registered under my name and completely paid for before I'd even been born. What that means is I didn't have to pay the monthly taxes to the royal family, or go to their stupid balls. I guess you could say I wasn't exactly...girly...but I hated dresses and whatnot the most. All those obnoxious girls who have their spoiled lives just handed down to them, and acted so vain about it.
Shaking myself out of my reverie, I realized I was in the clearing that I always came to, everyday. The trees made a crude circle, leaving a large space for the trainer to move around. Not to mention all the wildflowers that dotted the field, bright splashes of colour that bounced against the deep greens of the grass.
"Alex!" I heard someone call from the other side of the field, loud as day. Looking up, I grinned as I saw my best friend Macy make her way across the field, her own sword strapped to her back.
See, Macy wasn't an orphan or a nobody like I was; both her parents worked in the royal court (her dad was the king's adviser). Macy, though, wasn't like the rest of them. She hated dresses almost as much I as do (though she had to put up with them on a daily basis) and agreed with my blunt opinions about the court. Her parents, too, were something out of the ordinary; nothing like the court members, they thought of me as their own daughter.
"Hey, Mace. You decided to ignore the clouds too?" I laughed, giving her a quick hug. Somewhere around us, the trees rustled violently, their crackling echoing through the empty space.
"Of course! Training with you always comes before those bratty court brats!" She exclaimed, giggling and pulling her sword, Drako, out of its holster and walking over to the other side of the field. Finding her footing, she threw down the sheath and turned to face me again. "Are you ready, slowpoke?"
I smirked at her, before walking over to my own side of the field and throwing off my sheaths, grabbing Artemis and Apollo and nodding at her, waiting for her to take the first move per usual. The cawing of the birds in the distance made me slightly wary; it sounded almost like a warning. I turned back to see Macy flying at me, her sword twirling in one hand. Readying myself, I launched myself forward, pumping off the ground and darting across the sleek grass.
The thing with our training sessions was that at some point, 'training' became a battle of will and stubbornness, and the two of us were damn stubborn. Clashing in the middle of the field, I caught Drako's blade with both of mine, twisting hard to the side and yanking her sword out of her grasp and sending it flying across the grass. Immediately, I grabbed her arm and pulled it, throwing her over my shoulder and ducking out of the way so she couldn't kick me in the head.
"Damn it, I always fall for that!" She whined, rolling and grabbing Drako in one fluid movement. I laughed breathlessly, my senses alive and active. I loved training and the thrill that came with it, especially when I was facing someone like Macy; someone who was as strong as I was, if not stronger (really, anybody who could put up with those damned dresses is a soldier).
Hissing, I winced as Macy grabbed my arm and pulled me closer, slamming her leg into my ribs at the same time. Crouching low, I rolled in the direction of the river that ran parallel to the clearing, and grabbed onto one of the low-hanging branches on a nearby. Throwing all my body-weight forward, I hauled myself up and disappeared into the leaves, chuckling lowly as I heard Macy groan in annoyance. She hated it when I used my surroundings to my advantage; one of the things I loved the most about the clearing (and one of the things she hated the most) was that the trees were so close together that the branches were basically mashed together, making it really easy to run across the trees whenever need be. I used that to my advantage a lot, training relentlessly to be able to move without making much noise.
Bending over, I raced across the branches swiftly, avoiding the creaky ones and jumping across the small spaces in between. I heard Macy call my name, but I ignored her, making a semi circle and waiting for a few seconds before jumping out with my swords raised at her back. At the last second, she whirled around, eyes wide, and threw up her arm, Artemis' blade catching against the metallic brace she was wearing over the exposed flesh. Still, Apollo opened a small gash across her forearm, blood slipping out. Smirking in satisfaction, I twirled around her body and somersaulted across the field, landing on my feet in one move.
"That's game!" I crowed, grinning; we always stopped at first blood. Macy was about to retort (she did that a lot), when clapping commenced. Immediately, I felt my body lock up; who the hell was clapping?
"Dad?" Macy sounded confused and was staring at someone over my shoulder. I relaxed, turning around with a smile on my face, ready to greet the father-figure in my life, when I froze at who I saw.
Not only was Macy's father here, but...the king, queen, their sons and daughters, the legendary mages and the royal council stood there, littered across the entrance to the clearing that I'd used. I could also see her mom behind them all, watching me with a worried expression. Macy walked up, putting a calming hand on my shoulder and standing beside me, her smile strained. "The royals, too? Ah, what a party!"
One of them, the princes, was just...staring at me. Okay, I'll admit; it was starting to creep me out. One of the mages stepped forward, beaming. "Macy, why didn't you tell us you had such a talented friend?"
Yup, this discomfort just went up a dozen or so notches.
"She's very shy." Macy smirked at me, accepting my hard glare with a simple shrug. Damn her!
"I am not." I muttered, crossing my arms and pouting slightly. Claudio, her father, laughed heartily, walked into the clearing and gave me a hug.
"It's good to see you too, little Lexi," he chuckled, ruffling my hair. I grinned, returning the hug, before pulling away and wrinkling my nose.
He stared at me in mock hurt, and the royal party burst into smiles and laughter. I smirked at him, falling back to avoid his swinging hand.
"Lexi," he whined. "That's not nice!"
"Neither is body odor."
"This calls for a battle!" He cried dramatically, grinning. "I shall make up for the shame Macy brought upon our family!"
"Hey." Macy whined playfully. "Not nice, Dad."
I burst into laughter, shaking my head at their display, before answering Claudio's request. "Fine, Uncle C. Submission or first blood?"
Submission was when one or the other had to physically say 'I give up' or something along the lines; it was usually how we fought because first blood came fast with us. You see, Uncle C is a Shadow Wielder; his best weapon was the shadows. That was sort of a problem because there were shadows everywhere; I had to be extremely careful if I were to not get caught in his graceful moves.
"Submission, of course," he replied, already stripping off his cloak and throwing it to the side. I smirked (I was doing a lot of that lately), and picked up my arm braces, sliding the cool metal against my skin whilst pulling out my hunter gloves.
"Claudio, are you really intending on going all out on a teenager?" The king mused, amusement in his blue eyes. His blonde hair fell just above his ears, his crown missing for subtlety's sake. His tanned skin was wrinkle-free, despite his growing age, and his built was the same as a soldier's.
"You do not know Alexa, Sirius. This girl is a warrior, in every sense of the word." Claudio was very serious, causing me to blush slightly. The king nodded in acknowledgement, the group of people making their way towards the river, where they sat down on the ground, the two little princesses chatting animatedly. The prince was still staring at me, his blue-violet eyes smouldering, and I found myself wanting to shiver, and not from the cold-front. What was his issue...? More importantly, what was my issue?!
"Alright, angel, let's do this. I warn you, I shan't go easy on you." Uncle C warned me, taking up Macy's old spot across the field. I raised an eyebrow, mocking his gesture, as I took up my own spot. "My family and the royal are watching; I've got a reputation to hold up!"
I snorted. "Of course, Uncle C. Let's do this. On your call?"
"Call!" He roared, cackling, and disappeared. I resisted the urge to groan, immediately on the defensive; another skill a Shadow Wielder had was using the shadows to become invisible. It was excruciatingly annoying.
Closing my eyes and ignoring the whispers of commentary, I concentrated hard. I became the very shake and quivers of the leaves, of the individual blades of grass, of the dancing branches. I became their melody, in-sync with their tune, and with that I felt the shadows shake a little to my left. Purely based on instincts, I pulled out a hunter dagger and threw it in that direction, at the same time as I brought my arm up to shield my face and brought Apollo to my side, protecting as many of my vulnerable points as I could. I was awarded with a hiss as Claudio let go of the illusion, the dagger sticking out of his right arm. I smirked, pouncing at him at a lightning speed, slashing downwards with Artemis whilst Apollo acted as a shield. He brought up his own sword, Eito, to parry, the two blades slamming against each other with a sharp clang that echoed through the valley.
He pulled back, sending my own dagger back at me and forcing me to leap out of the way, landing near the river with my back to the 'crowd'. Narrowing my eyes the slightest, I watched as he fell back into the shadows, leaving me slightly breathless. What was I going to do now?
Slightly unsure of how to proceed, I grabbed the same branch as before and pulled myself up, hanging off of it for a moment and testing its strength. It was then I felt a whoosh of wind, and I just barely managed to save my face, swinging my legs up and grabbing Claudio's still invisible form around the neck.
"Damn it, Lex, you've improved!" Claudio grunted, trying to pull out of my choke hold. I laughed, a rasp because of all the strain on my body. As quickly and efficiently as I could, I slipped Apollo's hilt into my mouth, feeling it change into its counterpart, Zeus; the double-bladed version that I could use if and when I had no hands left. Blocking out the cheering, I let go of the branch, using my legs to flip Claudio over my body. He went flying, slamming into the tree and landing in a heap on the ground, giving me time to recover.
Pulling myself off the ground, I winced as my arms screamed in protest at the abuse; they were still sore from yesterday, but here I was hanging off of trees. I heard Macy's hiss of understanding; of course, she had been the one who nearly ripped my arms out of their sockets yesterday. I gave her a tight-lipped smile, and turned back to where Claudio was back on his feet, panting and gripping Eito tightly. Giving me a look, he approached slowly this time, trying a new tactic. I bent my legs a bit, wondering what in hell he was trying now.
Just like that, he was flying at me, the shadows suddenly lashing out at me and wrapping themselves around my legs and legs. In a blind panic, I struggled feverishly, hissing in alarm; oh, shit.
Quickly, knowing I didn't have much time, I ran my thumbs over my knuckles, hearing the hidden blades fly out from the crevices of my gloves. These gloves were custom-made, the blades my own request. You never know when you needed an extra set of blades, right?
Readying myself as best as I could, I gripped Artemis and started moving my wrist, preparing myself for what could be the do or die move. Claudio, too, was going all out; calling upon the shadows and morphing them into a thousand blades. His special, last resort.
"Mysthene*! Claudio, you're going to kill her!" The queen shouted in fright, standing up. The others, too, stood up, the prince who'd been staring at me making a move to interfere, his hand flying to his sword. Macy, bless her, threw out her arm, catching his and giving him a look. "No, Tristan."
She turned to me, grinning like a maniac. "Kick his ass, Lex!"
Claudio was then bearing down on me, and it became a battle of sheer willpower and swordsmen skills. All my blades a whirl, I battled the thousand swords, whipping my neck around and catching some with Zeus whilst slicing and slashing with the hunting daggers and Artemis, all the while fighting off the shadows that held me captive. Eito was also a problem, opening wounds all across my arms and now, that couldn't be helped. I growled, loosing myself in the blurs and the darkness as my arms grew weaker with every hit, every move. With one last hope for a win, I slashed out, opening dozens of ribbon-like cuts along Claudio's body, blood flowing freely down both of our bodies.
The darkness shuddered, almost as if it was sighing, and dissipated, leaving just our bloodied forms in the middle of the grayness of the day, him on the floor and myself with my knee pressing hard into his back, sword-point at his neck and my other arm holding his ankles together.
"Give in!" I huffed, my vision blurring and almost fading. No...just a little longer..."I...I give in!" Claudio rasped, laughing. "Damn angel, you're the queen of the field, aren't ya?"
With a tired grunt and a smile that was dull, I fell onto the floor beside him, arms and legs spread wide. "Nah. You almost had me that time!"
"Key word is 'almost', hon."
"Well, you probably would've won if Auntie Alice wasn't here. To be honest, I would've given in halfway through because I'm currently bleeding my insides out."
Auntie Alice walked out, bending over our misshapen forms. "Dears, you went too far!"
The king and queen walked out, followed by the others. "That was amazing!"
"THAT'S MY GIRL YA KICKED HIS ASS!" Macy cheered, plopping down beside me as I sat up. I grinned at her, accepting her tentative hug.
"Yeah babe, that was amazing." A very familiar voice sounded, amused. I knew that voice!
"Dante!" I cried, seeing Macy's brother in the throng of people surrounding me. He smiled at me, threading through and bending over.
"Hey, princess," he murmured, hugging me and kissing my forehead.
A very sound growl was audible, causing all of us to turn to the source; Tristan, the prince who'd been staring.
"Get your hands off my mate," he snarled.
A/N: Well, that's a wrap! Leave a review with your thoughts! I hope you enjoyed!
*Mysthene: The 'god' of their realm. So when the queen was like 'Mysthene! You're going to kill her!' it meant 'God!' (: Just clearing that up.