Michaela and Alistair both approached the main area of Sacred Heart, River standing between them. The member of the Alight Five had been rather passive since first being seized, and they refused to fight back against the two Alitia staff members. Even now, they stared solemnly at the ground, not wanting to step out of line.
Night had fallen on Millennia, and Sacred Heart's common area was empty as could be. However, two figures could be seen across the open space in the darkness, one of which was holding a small flickering fireball. The faces of Minerva and Leviathan were lit dimly in the light as they grew closer to where Michaela, Alistair, and River were.
Since River arrived on Millennia, Michaela had been working to make accommodations for them to utilize, but it was a slow quest so far. However, Minerva had wound up volunteering to look after them until a permanent solution was found, and that brought the five together in the dead of night in Sacred Heart.
Michaela had originally been planning on coming alone, but Alistair couldn't hide his curiosity when he heard that River was at Alitia. He found their magic fascinating and immediately got to work in conducting various observations and tests without ever needing to lay a finger on the former general. It was strange to see him at work in such a way, but Michaela didn't move to stop him in the slightest. After all, anything that would bring them more information about River's magic was likely for the best.
"Thank you for bringing them here," Minerva announced once the group was close. The rest of the people in the school building had long since fallen asleep, and the eerie silence of the entryway had Minerva's voice echoing through the darkened space.
"You're welcome," Alistair said simply with a kind smile and a bow of his head. "We're happy to have been able to help you. So far, General Scorn has proven to be a rather incredible subject to observe. Thank you for being so compliant."
River didn't offer much of an answer, simply nodding and avoiding his gaze to stare at the ground. They could feel the heat stirring beneath their skin once again, and it was starting to grow uncomfortable. Perhaps they had become too attached to the cold that came with Carys' presence in the short time that the two of them were together. They certainly longed for her to be there with her icy magic in that instant.
Leviathan seemed to notice their discomfort and took a step forwards, feeling their warm skin. Everyone else in the circle felt slightly hotter than he did due to possessing light or fire magic, but it didn't seem to bother him.
Leviathan's form began to distort, and with a quick shift, he changed into something else entirely. This time, he appeared to be a small snake of some sort. He slid around River's neck, showing no signs of malice as he settled down atop their shoulders. River was naturally tense at first, unsure of how to respond to such a bizarre action, but they soon released the knots in their body when they realized how lovely Leviathan's scales felt on their skin.
He was an ice creature of some sort, and his scales brought a soothing feeling to River. They let out a small sigh, closing their eyes in joy at the contact. The rest of the group watched them carefully, and Alistair let out a hum of observation as he nodded to himself. Aside from that small action, everyone in the party was still as a statue.
Minerva let out a small sigh and took a step forward, wrapping one hand around River's wrist and pulling them along. River didn't object to such, instead looking briefly to where Michaela and Alistair were standing before walking behind Minerva.
"We'll see you later," Leviathan said simply, raising the tip of his tail in a waving action before settling down once again on the back of River's neck. He didn't seem bothered by what he was doing in the slightest.
Michaela nodded and waved herself before turning on her heel. Alistair trailed behind her by a few paces, and soon enough, it was as if nothing had happened in the lobby when Minerva, River, and Leviathan disappeared for another area of the school.
It was oddly early the next morning when S.M. rose up in her bed. She had always enjoyed simple pleasures like sleeping in late, but there was something about this morning that had her getting up earlier than usual. S.M. covered a yawn with one hand before starting to stretch her arms high above her head.
S.M. slowly slid her way out of bed, taking special care to not wake Sylvia. The energy enchantress was curled up into a small ball, clutching tight to a stuffed bear as she snored gently. S.M. smiled to herself at the sight before continuing to head for the door. She slowly pushed it open, and she cringed at the creaking sound. Luckily for her, Sylvia was a far heavier sleeper than anyone else in the group, so the noise didn't wake her.
S.M. walked into the main area of the dorm and sat down on the couch, leaning her head back against the backrest. A light sigh left her lips as she closed her eyes once again. Everything had been moving so fast since the mission on Igni. It was hard to believe that only a day and a half had passed since then.
It was Sunday now, so classes were going to be starting up again the next day. The rest of the day would undoubtedly be dedicated to finishing up any work that would be necessary for the regular class schedule, though she didn't particularly mind. While homework could be frustrating, it was perfectly mundane for her after the adventure that the past few days had been. She was happy to embrace a bit of normality in the aftermath of all that.
Another sound echoing through the dorm had S.M. sitting up fully, and she realized that she was not alone. She glanced around in curiosity before her gaze fell on the room that Iris and Carys shared. Carys was walking out, and S.M.'s eyes went wide with surprise. Carys had always been a late sleeper, naturally taking the longest to wake up out of the girls in the dorm. S.M. had been surprised to wake up so early herself on a Sunday, but Carys being awake when the sun was still creeping above the horizon was a different beast entirely.
Carys noticed S.M., but she didn't say a word until well after the door to her shared room with Iris was shut. She shuffled over to the couch, still looking rather exhausted. She looked better than she had the night before since she had been given time to recover in the aftermath of the mess on Igni, but it would still be a stretch to say that she was particularly enjoying herself quite yet.
"Hey," Carys spoke up, and S.M. felt shock and suspicion course through her. She and Carys didn't talk all that much, perhaps on account of Carys being her polar opposite in personality. Carys was good at deceiving others to get what she wanted while S.M. preferred brutal honesty. S.M. hated people who acted fake or hid the way they truly were while Carys grew perfect at it after years of practice. Carys was cold with others while S.M. could be somewhat hot-headed when fired up.
In fact, there was only one trait they seemed to have in common, and that was their undying stubbornness. Perhaps that was another reason they clashed so frequently. If an argument broke out among two members of the group, it was most often between them. S.M. hadn't ever grown close to Carys simply because she never bothered, and she figured that the ice enchantress would never want to reach out to her either. Why would she try if she knew that it likely wasn't going to end in her favor?
Seeing Carys extend a hand this way was strange, and S.M. wasn't sure of how to approach it. She swallowed back her nerves and confusion before speaking up. "Hey," she replied simply, not sure of what else she was supposed to say. There was a lot to talk about, but S.M. couldn't find the words that would make everything flow.
"I wanted to apologize," Carys said next. She wasn't looking to S.M., instead training her gaze on the ground as she pressed her palms into her knees. She seemed eager to continue speaking, but her words were failing her.
S.M.'s eyes went wide, and she looked over to Carys, letting her hands fall into her lap. "What are you talking about?" she questioned, staying as cautious as possible to keep from aggravating Carys somehow along the way.
Carys let out a heavy sigh. "I did a lot of thinking while I was on Igni, and... I wanted to say sorry for how stubborn and stuck-up I've been since coming here. I feel like I have to say this to everyone, but you in particular deserve an apology from me," she continued. "I'm sorry for what I've been doing to you since we met earlier this school year."
S.M. continued to watch her, unsure of what else she was supposed to say in order to follow up on that. This was an important moment for them both, and it was important to tread carefully. When she couldn't think of anything to say, S.M. simply let Carys continue, figuring that she would find something to say eventually.
"I know it's somewhat hard to get along with me sometimes," Carys began. "Back home, I was raised to be as perfect as possible no matter the consequences. I had to take over a planet, after all... But my parents weren't looking for someone humble who would interact well with others. They wanted someone who would flaunt openly about how perfect they were. I didn't wind up fitting the bill of what they were looking for, at least not in the start, so they pushed me into it."
"Helena told me about what life was like back at the palace," S.M. piped up at long last. "She said that you were suffering deep down just as much as she was." S.M. didn't trust herself to say anything else without growing snappy, so she did her best to keep her tongue still.
"I don't know if I would go that far, but... Helena cared about me as a person. She didn't want the future queen of Etruna. She just wanted Carys. It... It's sweet to think about, looking back. She wanted to be with me simply because I was her sister. It's not often you find someone like that when you're in the royal family of Etruna. She was tossed aside for not being me, but she never held any malice towards me for it. She's too nice," Carys continued.
S.M. wasn't going to object to that. In fact, she fully agreed with Carys in thinking that Helena was incredibly kind. It was practically impossible to raise an opposing viewpoint when it came to how sweet Helena Palpatine was.
"I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I'm sorry for everything I've done to be rude and all that. I shouldn't have let my ego get the better of me. I don't want to be treated like I'm better than everyone else anymore. I want to be treated like a person," Carys went on. "And I figured I would start with you. After all, we spent a lot of time butting heads... As weird as this is to say, I'm almost glad everything's been going to hell lately. It makes us get along rather than giving us the time we would have otherwise used on arguing and being petty with one another."
S.M. let out a snort, unable to deny that fact. The genuine nature of Carys' words was starting to sink in, and she let out a smile. "Alright... I forgive you," she managed to say. "Maybe we should just... Start over. I don't know if it would be productive in the long term, but... You know what I mean. Put all that previous stuff past us."
Carys nodded. "I would be fine with that... I'm going to try and get better. It's not like you can change overnight when dealing with something like this, but... Still, I feel like it's worth putting in the effort, you know?" she asked. "Plus, you're all changing me for the better already. I think that being in the same dorm as the rest of you is going to help me out a lot as time goes by."
"Yeah. We're all good for each other," S.M. agreed. "I feel like Helena would say the same about you changing. Looking back, I sort of see it too... Around the time we started hanging out with Nebula, you began to shift. You were nicer then, but it was never as obvious a change as the one you're showing me right now."
Carys smiled lightly. "I'm glad you noticed... The last thing I would want is to come off as a brat for the rest of our time here," she admitted softly. "Thanks for talking to me about this stuff. I know it can't be easy dealing with someone like me."
S.M. looked down with a frown. "I do have to ask though... What caused this drastic change in the first place? You said you were thinking, but... You didn't mention much else," she murmured.
Carys sighed. "Yeah, about that... I thought the poison in my veins was going to kill me. It was either that or I would be used as a pawn to start a war between Igni and either Millennia or Etruna. I couldn't talk or move, and then I started dreaming about my childhood life back home. After that, everything spiraled, and then I was Sealed," she explained.
When Carys had gone into the details of her exploits on Igni earlier on, she hadn't gone into details about what led to her becoming a Sealed One. She simply said that she had an epiphany that resulted in her being chosen by the gods. Hearing about it in this light certainly made the pieces come together.
"You were so determined to get back here and apologize to us that the gods realized you were worthy," S.M. murmured with a small smile. "I guess you're not as high and mighty as you try to make yourself seem."
Carys shook her head. "Not anymore. I'm going to get better. That much I can swear to you all. I have to use this new power I got for the sake of good, and since I got it by improving myself... Well, the next step seems perfectly clear to me," she told S.M. firmly.
Another door started to stir from nearby, and S.M. looked up to see that the light in Luce and Helena's room had been flicked on at some point during their conversation. Helena came walking out, and S.M. suspected that Luce was up and moving around inside. After all, the former mercenary woke up the earliest out of the group on a regular basis, so to think that she was still sleeping was somewhat ridiculous.
"What are you two doing up so early?" Helena questioned, shutting the door carefully when she saw the other three rooms still had the lights off. Helena herself was still in her pajamas, not having seen a reason to get dressed quite yet. "I didn't think you would want to wake up so soon after everything that happened on Igni, Carys."
Carys shrugged. "I wanted to get a moment to talk with S.M. about everything," she replied. "I think that we're going to get along a lot better in the future." She gave S.M. a smile, and, surprising even herself, S.M. returned it a few seconds later.
Helena looked back and forth between the two in surprise. "Wait... You're serious? I didn't think this would ever happen, I must admit... But I know I'm not complaining," she remarked, sitting down beside Carys on the couch. "I'm happy that things are getting better for you both. I was worried for a while that we were going to have to worry about breaking up fights between you two forever."
S.M. shook her head. "Nope... Who knew that a genuine apology was all you really needed to make things better?" she questioned simply. "Oddly enough, Faerner and Eros did us quite a bit of good by taking Carys back to Igni. It gave her time to think about life, and then she wound up as a Sealed One. How does it feel to be part of the club?"
Carys grinned. "Amazing! I've always had lots of magic naturally, but this is a sensation unlike anything I've ever felt. It's incredible to know that there's so much power at my fingertips," she told S.M., holding one of her palms up and watching as a spiral of ice shot out from it.
"You know, I was expecting everyone to be Sealed over a longer timeframe, but I'm not complaining that we already have two people like this on our side," Helena told the girls. "Soon enough, I'm sure the rest of us will join you. Who knows who the other four will be? I'm willing to bet on Anneliese, Nebula, and Cessair, but... I don't know who the final one will wind up being."
Carys shrugged. "I bet we'll figure it out soon enough. Until then, I'm more than happy with where I am right now," she said simply, closing her eyes as a smile worked its way across her features. The grin was the most genuine she had created in a long time, and it felt perfect on her lips.
Surion sat atop the throne in the Igni palace, staring down at the ground as he tossed a small piece of volcanic rock back and forth between his hands. Ever since the palace had been frozen and subsequently thawed, he had been in a rotten mood. He had been given a captive that would make everything easier, but then she managed to worm her way out, and she was only an Isolis mage. On top of that, River had been captured, and there was no way for him to get into contact with them. Overall, everything was going to hell, and he was far from happy with the outcome.
The doors of the throne room rattled lightly as someone knocked upon them. Surion frowned to himself. He couldn't say that he was expecting guests. Despite this, he still let out a sigh. "Enter," he commanded, placing the fiery rock in his right palm before making it disappear.
A figure of complete darkness walked into the room. Surion sat up, his back straightening out fully at the sight. The person in question had a build Surion didn't recognize in the slightest, but he got the feeling he would figure everything out soon enough.
It was clear that the person was hiding their true identity behind a spell that created the illusion of darkness. They were tall and had the symbol of Moonlight across their chest. No matter what he did, Surion knew he wasn't going to be breaking through that barrier anytime soon, so he didn't bother. Instead, he asked the most obvious question that sprung to his mind. "Who are you supposed to be?"
The person let out a chuckle, and Surion could tell by the unnaturally deep voice that this was likely a man. "I am someone who is here to help you," the person responded simply. "I know that you have been struggling as of late with people who have posed a threat to your rule. I wish to make your job easier."
Surion arched an eyebrow, looking to the mark of Moonlight suspiciously. "And just how are you going to be doing that?" he questioned. "I will have you escorted from this building if you do not begin specifying soon, you know."
The man laughed once again. "Of course. I am the Keeper of Moonlight, and I am here to give you and a few of your comrades a gift," he explained. He raised one hand, creating a sphere of churning black energy. "I am willing to offer you and your Alight Five generals a Moonlight Blessing. That would make it much easier for you to defeat those who stand in your way."
Surion gasped in surprise. He had not expected to have an audience with the Keeper of Moonlight of all people. After all, the Church of Moonlight had done a pretty damn good job of keeping him hidden from the world in recent years, ensuring that he never saw the light of day to pay for the actions of the previous Keeper, Ragnor.
The Keeper of Moonlight either didn't notice his shock or chose to ignore it. "I will do what I must to ensure your victory over the atrocious figures who would take your power away for their own gain. You have been looking after Igni for years now, and I would not dare to take that from you," he continued. "Do you accept my gift?"
What was he supposed to say to something like that? There was only one true response to give when someone was offering to present him with a Moonlight Blessing. He was not going to deny something of that nature. It would be foolish.
With this in mind, Surion rose to his feet and took a few steps closer to the Keeper of Moonlight. "I accept your gift," Surion declared. "Thank you for your generosity."
The Keeper of Moonlight nodded. "I will gift you and the Alight Five with a Blessing... Are there any others who would require this aid as well?" he asked.
"There is one other... Faerner. He has come to be one of my trusted advisors in this battle," Surion answered. "He would be unmatched if he had the power of a Moonlight Blessing by his side."
"Then it shall be done," the Keeper of Moonlight declared. He held up both of his hands, palms facing the tall ceilings of the throne room. Seven spheres appeared above his hands, circling slowly in the dim light of the morning. The speed of the orbs began to increase, and after a while, six of them were sent spiraling elsewhere as the final one moved towards Surion, pressing into his chest.
Immediately, Surion felt power surge through him. He didn't know how to describe it, simply knowing that something about him was different. He let one hand rise to his chest covering the place where the orb had entered his body. There was an electric sensation coursing through him already, and he knew that the Blessing was growing more powerful as it circulated through him.
"Incredible..." Surion whispered. He looked to his hand and created a flame made of pure black energy. A mad grin appeared on his face, and he looked up to where the Keeper of Moonlight was standing.
However, when he glanced at the spot where the Keeper had been, Surion found it empty. He shrugged it off, too focused on the magic that was slowly making him feel stronger than ever before. His magic was going to be unparalleled from that day onwards. All he had to do was step onto a battlefield, and everything would be over for the opposing team.
He moved back to his throne and let out a small sigh. He was going to have to plan for another battle soon. Millennia wouldn't know what hit it whenever he was finished with that pathetic excuse of a planet. It was only a matter of time before it crumbled as dust beneath his heel...
River shot awake in the dawn light of Sacred Heart. They were positioned in a room isolated from the rest of the building that had a powerful locking charm on it. They weren't planning on trying to break through the door, but all of a sudden, they felt as if they could do that and so much more without even trying.
They could feel their skin tingling on their shoulder, and they frowned to themselves. River swung their feet over the side of the bed they were sitting on and walked over to where a mirror was standing nearby, propped against the wall at a gentle angle.
River pulled their shirt's neck area down over their shoulder, giving them a perfect view of the symbol that was manifesting on their skin. Their eyes went wide as they stared at it, and they immediately pulled the fabric back over the marking. This could not be happening. How the hell would something of this nature wind up occurring in the first place?
It took a moment for River to work up the courage to pull the fabric back over their shoulder to look at the mark, but when they did, their stomach immediately twisted into a knot. How was this happening? It couldn't be real, right? How would they get a Moonlight Blessing? The Keeper of Moonlight was scarcely allowed outside of the Church of Moonlight. Why would the Keeper think of them as worthy for a Blessing? How would they even gift it without coming into contact with them?
Perhaps it was possible to gift a Blessing from afar, but they didn't want to acknowledge that theoretical. It would only make things more complicated for them to figure out, and as it was, this string of events was giving them a headache. It couldn't be real, and yet it was.
River took a step away from the mirror and looked down at their hand. After taking in a deep, shaky breath, they created a spark from their hand. Sure enough, it glowed with a dark purple hue. When they tried it again using their other hand, the regular color of their power appeared.
They could use both the power of their regular magic and the Moonlight Blessing. There was no doubt about it.
River walked over to their bed once again and sunk over themselves, placing their head in their hands. What were they supposed to do about something like this? Everyone was bound to ask questions. Why did this have to happen now? They had just been able to switch sides away from Igni, but they were marked with Moonlight when they hadn't been the night before. That was bound to evoke a negative reaction from someone that they were staying with.
They looked out the window nearby, watching as the sun continued to climb its way over the horizon. They felt as if they were going to be sick, but they were going to have to face the day in spite of this, no matter how much they despised this idea with every fiber of their being.
With the palace unfrozen, Briyana no longer had anything to marvel at. She shrugged such off and continued navigating her way through the capital city near the castle. A hum was on her lips, but she didn't let the sound buzz too loud so that others could hear it. After all, the last thing she needed to do was make someone suspicious of her actions when it seemed to her that change was finally within her grasp.
If she had received correct information, there was something unique happening within the palace. To be specific, River had been abducted by the person who had frozen the palace in the first place. The person in question was Carys Palpatine, a princess and the heir of Etruna. Briyana had more than a few questions about this, but she figured that they could wait. After all, the answers would likely come her way sooner or later.
It was clear that cracks were appearing in the armor. Ever since the death of Octavia, Igni was showing signs of change being on the horizon. River disappearing was simply a symptom of this greater issue, though it was far from being a problem for Briyana. If Igni was going to start to fall apart at the seams, then she was going to sure as hell exploit this until everything began to sway in her favor, began to sway in the revolution's favor.
It was a shame that Octavia couldn't be there to see the culmination of their hard work, but Briyana wasn't going to let her death be in vain. As soon as she figured out who the monster that killed her was, she wasn't going to hold back, even if that wound up being the king himself. The widespread rumors claimed that it was a half-leath princess, but Briyana wasn't foolish enough to fall for such petty phrases. Why would someone with leath blood want to kill a person fighting for leath liberation all across Igni? The pieces simply didn't fit together.
Briyana was going to figure it out though. She was determined to find the full truth behind Octavia's death sooner or later no matter how hard she had to fight in order to drag it kicking and screaming out into the light. Octavia would have wanted everyone to know what happened, and Briyana refused to give up on the wishes of her friend following her death. Briyana's loyalty was far stronger than that.
The steps to the revolution were becoming clearer, and Briyana was going to follow them. Using the power of charisma, she was going to lead Igni into a new age. She was going to ensure that this planet was wiped free of its discriminatory ways, prompting it to rise into a new land that appreciated the work of the downtrodden far more. No matter what difficulties appeared in her path, Briyana was going to overcome them. That much was a promise she was determined not to break.
I hope you didn't think we were done with the Keeper of Moonlight because hooooo boy not yet