Epilogue: One Month Later

"Come on, sleepy head~!" Vakari called to Patience. "We need to hurry!"

The pinkette mumbled something under her breath and rubbed at her eyes, trudging slowly behind the Fire Tana. "It's my day off from school," she whined. "Why do we have to go somewhere so early? Where are we even going?"

Léo had woken Patience up just barely after the sun had risen, urging her to get ready quickly and telling her he had to run to Luminara for something. Vakari stopped by not a moment later, informing Léo that he was going to be late if he didn't get a move on. So, now here she and Vakari were, walking the path around Centra.

Vakari laughed lightly, slowing his pace a bit for her. "You're so grumpy this morning."

Patience pouted up at him. It had taken her a long while to catch up on all of her schoolwork, after all her adventuring, and she was exhausted from it. This had been the first day she was going to be able to sleep in for the past month, but, apparently, she wasn't allowed to do that. "I'm not grumpy. I'm tired."

He laughed again, messing her hair. "I know, Patience. I'm just picking."

The Tribal pouted a little longer, before a smile spanned her face. "Yeah, yeah~ Sorry, it's just been a long month of catch up."

Vakari grinned. "I understand, believe me. It took me a while to catch up on my paperwork for Taharus, too. Without having to worry about any Corrupted attacking, though, it wasn't very strenuous at least."

She giggled and shook her head. "Well, lucky you. Seriously, though, where are we going so early?"

The Protector of Fire hummed, smirking a little. "You'll see."

Patience rolled her eyes in fond exasperation. "Okaaaaayy~"

. . .

Vakari and Patience stepped up the couple steps of the Great Temple, and Patience couldn't help but glance around in confusion. All six of the Elders were there, along with all of the other Tana – except Léo – and four of her Tribal friends – Peace, Praise, Concise, and Diligence. The other four Tribals' faces held just as confused expressions as hers did.

"Good morning, you two," Taharus greeted, stepping over to her and Vakari.

"Good morning, Taharus," Vakari returned, smiling brightly.

Patience rubbed at her eyes a little again, willing her sleepiness to go away. "Yeah, good morning, Elder."

Taharus chuckled softly, ruffling her hair. "Tired, are we? How has school been?"

The pinkette hummed, giving him a small smile. "It's going pretty well. Since I'm finally able to use my abilities easier, I've been excelling a lot in my classes."

The Fire Elder gave her a warm grin. "I'm very glad to hear that, young one."

Eluminia gave a small huff from where she stood, shooting a glare in the direction of Luminara. "Curse it, Léo. Where are you?"

Teiju laughed, placing a hand on her shoulder. "He'll be here, Eluminia."

"Yeah, sure, just give him another century or two," Platinus said, rolling his eyes. "It's not like this isn't important or anything."

"Come now, icy brother and sister of light," Luwari sang, giving a light laugh, "this is a beautiful and precious day~! Let us try to be happy, not upset!"

"Well said, teacher!" Anari agreed, grinning happily.

Patience, Peace, Praise, Concise, and Diligence all glanced at each other with expressions of bewilderment. What was so special about this day, compared to any other? The Fire Tribal found herself pouting a little. She really didn't like this 'not being told about things' thing that seemed to happen to her so often, as of late.

She glanced up at Taharus. "Will you tell me why we're here so early, Elder? Vakari just keeps saying 'you'll see'."

The other Tribals perked up at that, too. Apparently, their Tana had said about the same. Taharus merely grinned, though, saying, "I hate to reiterate what's already been said, but you will simply have to wait and see, young Patience."

The pinkette gave a tiny scowl at that, causing Teiju to laugh again. "My, my~ I hope we don't have another budding Platinus in the Temple." He glanced at Platinus, grinning widely at the grimace his student made, then asked, "Have you not been getting enough sleep?"

Her scowl changed to another pout. "I stayed up late last night to finish all of my work, because I was expecting to be able to sleep in this morning."

Etrin chuckled. "Just another reason I don't miss being in school."

Flaaris raised an eyebrow at him, giving his arm a light punch. "Keep it up, and I'll make you do twice as much paperwork."

This time Etrin grimaced, earning several laughs from around the sanctuary. Then, finally, Léo's voice was heard, calling, "Sorry we're late!"

Everyone turned to see both the Light Tana and a Light Tribal Patience had never seen before jogging towards the Temple. "Took you long enough," Eluminia grumbled in annoyance.

Léo laughed, bringing a hand to the back of his head. "I ended up pulling a Vakari, when I got to Luminara, and forgot what I was doing there for a moment. Guess that's what happens, when you don't get enough rest and skip out on breakfast."

Eluminia rolled her eyes, but most of the others just laughed and shook their heads. The Light Tribal, however, simply crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at Léo, stating, "I sure hope you aren't always this irresponsible."

Tarja snorted. "Oh, but he is~"

The Light Tribal made a very unimpressed look at the Protector of Light. "Hm. And here I was thinking someone your age would have their act together, by now."

Léo merely blinked down at him, not seeming to know quite how he should respond to that. Patience, however, felt a pang of annoyance. What gave him the right to be so rude to Léo? "Hey," she spoke up, "that's no way to talk to a Tana. You should be more respectful."

He turned to her, raising an eyebrow again, and gave her a once over. "Who're you supposed to be, shorty?"

The pinkette full-on scowled this time. "My name is Patience, and I'm not short."

His eyebrow twitched slightly. "Ah, yeah, I remember. You're the legendary 'Magenta Flame of Innocence', huh?" A smirk appeared on his face. "No offense, but you sound way more impressive than you look."

Patience's hands clenched into fists, but, before she could open her mouth to say anything, Teiju interjected, "Now that we've all arrived, how about we head to our destination?"

Vakari gave a nervous laugh, placing himself between the Fire and Light Tribals and laying a hand on Patience's shoulder. "I think that'd probably be a good idea."

Patience's eyes flickered to Léo, who gave her an apologetic look, before she sighed and nodded. "Yeah, let's go."

Teiju nodded back and smiled, but the Light Tribal just had to speak up again, "Sure thing, Elder Teiju, this conversation was beginning to bore me, anyway." And, without another word, he walked through to the other side of the Temple, stepping onto Centra's path again.

Patience gritted her teeth, but, taking in a deep breath and exhaling slowly, she shook her head and put a smile on her face. She glanced at Vakari and Léo. "Ready to go?"

Both Tana gazed at her blankly for a short moment, sparing a quick glimpse at each other, before Léo returned, "Uh, yeah… Let's go."

. . .

It wasn't until the Elders, Tana, and Tribals entered the Great Coliseum that Patience finally realized what was going on. Is this… the day…? she wondered inwardly, glancing around at everyone walking down the Coliseum's corridor with her. Is it reallythat day?

Her heart began thumping a little harder at that thought. That could be the only reason the Elders, Tana, and six Tribals were heading to the Coliseum like this, right? It had to be! A fluttering glee wove through her gut. How didn't she realize this sooner?

Her emerald gaze wandered up to Léo and Vakari. "Is… is today the day…?" she asked.

Vakari smiled brightly and Léo grinned, but it was the Light Tribal who answered, "Tch. What other day would it be?"

Léo sighed, bringing a hand to his face. "Eminence, save your attitude for later, please."

Eminence smirked. "What's wrong? Afraid our little savior can't hold her own in a battle of wits?"

The Light Tana raised a brow back, crossing his arms. "No, I'm not. I would like you to keep in mind, though, that's my daughter you're talking to."

"And she's basically my sister," Vakari added.

Eminence laughed. "Oh, sure~ so she also gets special treatment from the Tana. I suppose I should have expected that." His smirk widened, his iolite purple orbs moving back to Patience. "I can assure you, I won't be giving you any special treatment. I don't care who you are or what you've done. You'll need to pro—"

"Patience!" Forbearance's voice sounded, from the end of the passage, effectively cutting Eminence off, much to the Light Tribal's annoyance.

The pinkette couldn't have been happier to hear his voice, though. Her face bright, she called back, "Good morning, Forbes!"

The Magician-in-Training walked down the corridor towards them, pulling Patience into a warm embrace. "Good morning to you, as well," he returned, smiling. "It's so good to see you."

Patience hugged him back, before breaking the embrace so they could continue walking. "Same to you. How have your studies with Jhing been going?"

Forbearance offered her a small, toothy grin. "Everything's been going fantastic. I've been learning a lot from him, la—"

"How dare you ignore me?" Eminence fumed, storming up beside the two of them. He glared evenly at Forbearance, crossing his arms.

The young Magician, however, merely raised a brow, asking, "And… who are you supposed to be?"

Eminence's jaw dropped, apparently appalled at the question. "My name is Eminence, I'll have you know! And I'm the brightest and most skilled of all the Light Tribals in our age group – perhaps even of all the Tribals in our age group."

Peace groaned in annoyance. "Oh, Shalua, someone shut this kid up, before I do it myself."

The Light Tribal rolled his eyes. "Oh, please, as if I'd be afraid of the likes of you."

"Excuse me?!" Peace exclaimed, taking a step towards him.

Both Praise and Concise placed a hand on either of her shoulders, though, the former saying, "Just let it go, Peace. Now's not the time for clashing."

Patience nodded, noticing Vakari and Léo glance at each other with worried expressions. Before anyone else could say anything, though, they'd stepped out of the corridor and into the Coliseum's stadium. Lady Faralon, Jhing, and Poise all waved at them as they entered.

"Very good," Faralon said, smiling in approval. "Now all we need to do is wait for the Kana and Lord Be—"

"We're here~" Blarus' voice said, he, along with Shiira, Danzai, and Beserkron materializing from the shadows. "Sorry, if we're a little late, we had our own business to take care of."

Faralon dismissed it with a wave. "Nonsense. Everyone's on time." She smirked over at Léo. "For once."

Beserkron smirked also, looking over each of the Tribals that stood amongst the Elders and Tana. He hummed. "So, these are to be the next Protectors of Shalua." He nodded, his gaze falling on Eminence. "I believe I recognize most all of you, except for you."

Eminence gave him a once over, not looking impressed in the least, then gave a light humph. "You may simply call me Eminence."

Beserkron raised an eyebrow. "May I, now?"

Blarus elbowed Léo's arm. "Bit of a self-righteous apprentice you've got here."

Léo sighed, bringing a hand to his face, but Eminence simply laughed. "I'm not self-righteous; I simply know where I stand among my people. And, since I'll be being trained by our greatest warrior himself, I'm quite certain I'll surpass everyone, someday."

"Actually," Patience corrected, "in the first few years of our apprenticeships, each of the Tana and Elders will be training all of us. Yes, our designated Tana will be spending more time with each of us, but it won't become a more one-on-one teaching, until we reach the status of Tana."

Concise nodded, speaking the first time he had all morning, "That is, indeed, the case. I looked up all of the regulations in my free time, during the past month."

Platinus almost smiled a little at that, but Eminence rolled his eyes. "Whatever the case may be, when it comes down to it, I know I'll be able to rise above everyone else."

"Perhaps we should get this underway?" Teiju suggested, cutting off any other commentary. "Give them the rundown, before the ceremony commences?"

Lady Faralon nodded. "Yes, Teiju, I think that'd be a good idea. Every other Tribal of the land should be making their way here now, so we need to do this quickly."

. . .

Patience gazed around the stadium in awe, as every seat was filled. She wasn't sure she'd ever get used to the feeling of having so many eyes on her – or the anxiety that filled her at the thought of being the center of attention. When she felt Vakari place a hand on her shoulder and glanced back at him, though, a feeling of comfort blossomed in her chest. She'd be alright, as long as he was there.

Eminence, Patience, Praise, Poise, Diligence, Concise, and Peace were lined up in the middle of the Coliseum, each of their respective soon-to-be mentors standing behind them. Behind the Tana and Lady Faralon, stood Blarus, Lord Beserkron, Forbearance, Jhing, Danzai, and Shiira. And across from the Tribals stood the Elders.

"Is everyone prepared?" Faralon questioned, giving a quick look-around, and receiving nods and words of confirmation. She gave a nod of her own, watching as the last of Shalua's Tribals took their seats.

"Tribals of Shalua," her voice rang out, "today is the day we present to you the future Protectors and Queen of our land!"

A chorus of cheers and applause sounded all around the stadium, faltering, as the Queen raised her hand. "Starting from the outside and working our way in, I give you Tana Léo's apprentice, Eminence!"

Both the Light Tana and Tribal took a step forward, a roar of applause coming from the Luminaran section of the stands. Eluminia stepped toward the two of them, offering Eminence his new Tana's Apprentice uniform, which he accepted with a look Patience could only describe as smug.

"Next, I give you Tana Tarja's apprentice, Peace!"

Patience found herself smiling happily, watching both Peace and Tarja take a confident step forward, loud cheers sounding from the Liquan seats. Yulara stepped up to them, as Eluminia had, offering Peace her new uniform, which the Water Tribal accepted with a small smile and respectful nod.

"Back to my left, I give you Tana Vakari's apprentice, Patience!"

The pinkette instantly felt her stomach drop and breath hitch in her throat, as she and Vakari stepped up beside Léo and Eminence, her heart threatening to beat right out of her chest. Her ears didn't even register the resounding Flameran cheers, while Taharus moved to stand in front of her and offered her the apprentice uniform. She lifted her shaking arms to accept it, nearly losing her grip and dropping it, as soon as he let it go. The Fire Elder offered her a warm smile, though, and she felt herself smile back.

Her eyes wandered down to her uniform, barely even noticing Faralon continuing to announce names. "Next, I give you Tana Platinus' apprentice, Concise!"

Patience lifted her gaze, just as Concise received his uniform from Teiju, the Elder smiling kindly and the Tribal giving him a grateful almost-smile in return.

"Next, I give you Tana Etrin's apprentice, Praise!"

Praise and Etrin stepped up to Patience and Vakari's right, the Earth Tribal accepting her uniform from Flaaris and sneaking in a wink for Patience. The Fire Tribal was pretty sure she grinned back, but she couldn't be certain. Her mind was reeling too fast for her to know for sure.

"Now, I give you Tana Anari's apprentice, Diligence!"

Both the Wind Tana and Tribal were grinning ear-to-ear, as they joined the rest of the Tana and apprentices, Diligence almost tripping and falling in the excitement. Luwari caught him by the arm, though, keeping him steady, and handed him his uniform with a bright smile. Diligence simply grinned again, accepting it.

"And, finally, I give you my apprentice and the new Princess of Shalua, Poise!" Lady Faralon and Poise joined the other twelve, the Queen placing a beaded crown on Poise's head not unlike the one she wore herself.

Another crescendo of applause and cheers rang through the Great Coliseum, as Poise took yet another step forward, raising both of her hands in the air and quieting everyone.

"My dear friends and fellow Shaluans," her voice carried, "as your new Princess, I must let it be said, these new Tanas' Apprentices and I shall do our very best in serving all of you any and every way we can!" A broad smile crossed her features. "You can count on it!"

And, with that, she gave a deep bow, the apprentices following suit, as, not just the Tribals in the stands, but the Elders, Tana, Kana, Magicians, and Royalty returned with their own round of applause.

Patience felt a gleeful grin spread over her features and tears of joy well in her eyes, as she straightened her posture again and glanced around. Her eyes looked over the faces of each of her friends and comrades, lingering on Peace, Praise, and Forbearance, before wandering to Vakari and Léo.

Yes, she told herself, I'll do the very best I can… for everyone!

Important Character(s) Introduced: (none)
Side Character(s) Introduced: Eminence

A/N: I can't believe I'm finally posting the epilogue of the first novel I've ever finished. I honestly never believed I'd get this far on any story, after so many years of failing to do so - both in original stories and fanfictions - but... here I am. And I'm so overwhelmed with feelings right now, I seriously want to cry.

To anyone who's read this through to the very end, I can't thank you enough! Knowing that even just one or two people have enjoyed this story means the world to me. So, thank you all, from the bottom of my heart! I know this is far from being the best story ever written and know that I still have plenty to learn, but I'm proud of what I've accomplished and hope I can keep improving from here to continue writing the best stories I can for everyone!

As for what I plan on doing next, I've been working on a side story for -Innocence & Corruption- called -Vengeance & Fate-, which centers around Forbearance and his backstory. Don't be afraid to check it out! (Also, if you'd like to stay up-to-date on things involving my stories, I try to keep my profile on here as current as possible with everything!)

In the meantime, thank you all again! You're all wonderful and amazing people, and I hope you enjoyed -Innocence & Corruption-!

Fun Fact: When I first began this story, I only expected it to be between 30,000 to 40,000 words. And then all my characters were like, "Naaaaah~" So... yep. That expectation went out the window. Very quickly. Oops.