"Ivan, is that really you?" Eri asked as she eyed him.
Ivan replied, "Yes and no, I'm afraid. The person, who you're talking about, indeed, died eight years ago. I am what the humans call the 'Phoenix Emissary'. I only borrowed this child's appearance to sustain my existence in this world. Still, I wouldn't mind if you had called by the name 'Ivan'."
"What did you mean when you said that you didn't come out from the house, or when you said that you had been with us all this time?" Shanaiya demanded.
Ivan didn't answer; instead he looked back at the blue sphere. He approached it and touched it gently. As he did, the sphere disappeared after a bright flash of light, revealing Reo and Amelia, both seemingly unconscious.
"Don't worry; they aren't dead, just out cold. All of their wounds are healed, by the way," Ivan said, grinning.
Then his grin faded as he looked at Jade, who was sprawled on her back far from Reo and Amelia. "But I can't say the same for that one. She took on damages so serious that even I couldn't do much about it."
Ivan glanced at the deceased Jade and sighed before looking at Null.
"You must be the emissary that's been causing trouble for Anon," he commented.
Null frowned. "I don't want to be too popular among emissaries."
Eri interrupted, "You still didn't answer Shanaiya's question."
Ivan nodded. "Of course, I'll explain. I was a dormant soul living in the human child Ivan, until he died. But, to truly re-emerge as the emissary I once was, I needed an aura of massive energy. Until then, I was forced to use whatever limited powers I had to help you."
He added, "You're curious about Amelia's ability, right?"
"So you mean… you were the reason Amelia can detect otherworldly aura?" Eri asked.
"Correct. Right after that human child died, he and Amelia developed a spiritual bond. With this bond, I was able to live within Amelia's body. And I had been dormant for eight years in her body until finally, Reo's power freed me. This bond was also the same reason I got this boy's appearance, along with an added elemental ability. Because of this ability, I'm known as a Dual-Aspect Emissary."
Eri remembered the term 'Dual-Aspect' from the book she read.
"So you're a Dual," she said. "That means, as well as a sky-type, you're also a-"
"Light-type," Ivan finished Eri's sentence. "They can also be called 'Sprites'."
"That explains that you have his memories. But you're still actually the same sky-type emissary," Null spoke. "But why are you here?"
Ivan glanced back at Amelia. "I came here to stop Anon, as I had tried to stop him for centuries," he replied. "His plans are almost complete, who knows when he's actually going to fulfill that."
Then he faced Null again. "So far, you're doing a good job on being a huge obstacle for him. But I can't count on you for too long; he may be plotting some way to destroy you as we speak. He has to be stopped, and I must do everything I can to do so."
"Including ruining Amelia's life?" Eri suddenly yelled.
Ivan, startled, stared at Eri for asking such a question.
"You said that you were the reason that Amelia had this sensing ability. Did you ever realize, even for a second, on how much of stress she had to go through?" Eri continued yelling. "Did you even notice that she couldn't last even a day without worrying about things that ordinary humans cannot see? She had to live each day in fear and confusion. Why didn't you understand any of that? And now she has to wake up to see someone who had died right in front of her eight years ago. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Ivan glanced down, as if he was being ashamed of what he did.
"I never wanted this to happen," he answered softly. "She's a good person and I never wanted to involve her in any if this. But it seemed like fate had made things hard for me."
Fate, Null thought. Once again, that keeps showing up. Why?
He turned towards where Amelia and Reo in time to see them regain consciousness. They woke up and gazed around the place, disoriented.
"Are we dead?" Reo asked groggily.
Eri brushed past Ivan and ran over to Amelia and Reo.
"Thank goodness, you're both alive," Eri cried out, almost into tears.
But Eri saw that Amelia was staring past Eri, at Ivan. Ivan stared back at her with a sympathetic expression.
"Amelia, I know this is something that you don't want to see," Eri said, trying to give the news to her as carefully as possible.
Amelia looked at Eri. "That's Ivan, right?"
Eri sighed. "Yes, that's also the 'Phoenix Emissary' that had resided inside you for the past eight years. He's the one that gave you your ability to detect aura strongly."
Reo, who was still dazed, murmured, "Phoenix Emissary? There's a phoenix in this world too?"
Ivan interrupted, "Staying here talking isn't going to ward off the people coming here. I suggest we move to a safer place." He turned and began to leave.
"Keep heading northwest from here. There's a small creek hidden by large trees. Get some rest when you stop there," Ivan instructed. "I'll cover these tracks."
Instead of debating on staying to find out what's going on, Eri, Reo, Amelia, Shanaiya and Null decided to follow Ivan's directions and retreat as far as possible.
Eri pulled out the sheath of her sword from the rubble before looking at what was left of the well-known Jade Swords Mistress.
"Jade said that she wanted to protect her son, that she was forced to kill the sixteen people to do so. But she never intended to become a murderer," Reo spoke out from behind Eri.
"Tell me Reo," Eri asked, "would you kill innocent people if they were out to hurt me? If so, why do they deserve it?"
Reo got closer to Eri; clearly, he could tell that Eri was more than upset.
"Understand that my main reason for being here… is to protect you, Eri," Reo replied in a soft tone. "No one can save everyone. Because in the end, everything will perish, just like how Jade says they would."
Eri began to walk away, as Reo began to follow her.
"Even so," she said, "don't end up in the same situation as before. Because if they catch you, they aren't going to exile you like last time."
"I appreciate on how you're looking after me," Reo scoffed, trying to cheer her up. "Just take it easy; I will accept whatever hardships that's going to come my way."
Eri and Reo saw that Null and Shanaiya was helping Amelia up to her feet. They realized that despite the differences that they had, they were still trying their best to help each other. Eri wasn't glad though; the confidence to protect them all was starting to evade her. She feared if any one of them would die, how was she to handle the grief?
"Reo, did Suri really die?" Eri suddenly asked.
"I'm not sure," Reo replied as if he had expected that question to come out. "I saw her, that's for sure, but I don't know if she was among those I killed. Sorry if that wasn't helpful. But, I will help you find her, if that's not any problem with you."
Finally, Eri smiled at Reo, which made him relieved.
"Thank you," Eri said. "To be honest, I can't imagine on how I would manage this journey if it wasn't for your help." Then, she turned to look at Null. "But I wish that he could comprehend the same thing."
As Null, Amelia and Shanaiya walked out of the scene, Eri and Reo followed them from behind.
"Null lacks the reassurance of being protected," Reo said quietly. "He thinks that it's obvious that we can't handle our challenges as long as he's slowing us down. I just don't know why he's not depending on us."
"It's because he's still a human… deep inside him," Eri guessed. "Maybe it's because he hadn't trusted his own kind that he's having trouble trusting you. Maybe… if I talked to him, he would take in on how determined you are to help him."
"You would do that?" Reo asked.
Eri nodded. "It's worth a try. Besides letting him give up like that, what do we have to lose?"
"More than his trust, that's for sure," Ivan replied from behind.
Startled, Eri and Reo turned around.
"Make another sudden appearance like that again and I'll personally wring your neck!" Reo warned.
But Ivan remained expressionless. He was staring over Eri's shoulder at Null, presumably to explain something to Eri when Null was out of sight.
"Do you know what's going on with Null?" Eri questioned.
Ivan nodded. "Although I still have some trouble on trying to find his origin. It's safe to say that you mustn't let him get strayed. His unstable powers are reflected by his emotions, but it's slowly being degenerated because he's staying in this world for too long. If this keeps up, he'll not only fail in his mission, but he will also be lost in the rift of spirits due to the degeneration of his power."
"Degenerated?" Reo demanded. "Staying for too long? What are you getting at?"
Ivan eyed Reo and sighed.
"I'll make this simple," he answered. "Your friend is dying."