First, I screamed as noisily as I could, knowing that a scream would generate more attention from the guards. Why attention? There needed to be an audience for any sort of spectacle. Desiderium and I were sprinting down the hall, and when she heard the approaching footsteps of the guards, she placed the dagger on my neck and positioned herself behind me. “You move another step, and I cut her throat.”
          The bearded guard demanded, “Free the Princess and we will . . . speak to the King of your terms.”
          “Do you truly believe that the King would free me?” Desiderium guffawed. “Insolent people! Now, make a path or she will die before you!”
          I desperately begged, “She is not lying. She already murdered the Master Keeper. At this very moment, I could . . .”
          “Sir,” one of the younger guards had rushed to Desiderium’s cell and was back to report his findings, “the Master Keeper has been murdered!”
          “Your decision?” She tightened her grip on the dagger.
          “Leave the Princess be,” the bearded guard answered, “and we will clear a path for you.”
          Desiderium shook her head. “No, I am not leaving the Princess until you lead me to freedom. She will be held hostage until then.”
          “Please . . .” I added as an emotional trigger. “I don’t . . . want to die yet.”
          So, it was decided that the guard who smelled like hard rum would steer us to the right direction. We walked to an underground tunnel poorly constructed by digging a hole about the width of an elephant in the soil. Halfway through, Desiderium whispered in my ear, “I do not trust . . . this man. I already sense . . . his desire to kill.”
          It was awkward for him to take this route when the Master Keeper and I travelled by the other one. The entrance and exit should have been relatively similar. “Be prepared,” I mouthed to Desiderium, who simply nodded in agreement.
          Without a word, we continued to walk behind him until reaching a soiled wall that seemed to be jammed with protruding bones, human bones. I took a few steps back, stunned by what I saw.
          “I am sorry, but I must kill you both.” He rotated his head to give a joyful smile before charging towards us with a serrated sword.
          “Bastard!” Desiderium swore while defending herself with my dagger.
          I quickly scanned my surroundings, hoping to find some other weapon. The edges of the two’s weapons were clanging; from the sound, I could tell that Desiderium was on the defensive side. I knew that it was too difficult for her to face this well-trained guard with such a gap between the sizes of their blades.
          “Argh,” she now groaned.
          I saw blood gushing from her arm. He had successfully cut her and I could tell who the winner would soon be. I couldn’t allow that to happen. Glimpsing at my feet, I realized what I could temporarily use. I reached for a handful of dirt and warned, “Desiderium, move away!”
          Then, I hurled it at his eyes. I dragged Desiderium and we ran forward even though we knew that there was nowhere to run from here. “Hand me the dagger,” I urged.
          She obeyed while I franticly searched for an exit. There was only found a skeleton dressed like the God of Death with his black cloak. At his feet was a stone plaque with the inscribed words, bearing the message in Urcis: “Survival Based on Judgement”. Judgement of what? There was no time for someone to judge us now; there was no sense in waiting for a hero to appear. Looking past the statue, I saw a glimpse of light through the cracks of the wall. Could it be? Then, I remembered how my legs had to adjust to the increasing inclination of the ground.
          “He is close,” Desiderium murmured. “Ten paces.”
          “I want you to lend me your strength,” I continued, “and together, we will stab that tiny dash of light. You see it, don’t you?”
           Her hand was over my fist and on a count of three, we used all of our strength to penetrate the obstacle. Bits of dirt started to spew from the hole we had enlarged, but the rate of its exposure was not fast enough. He was now facing me and again was racing towards me with his long sword.
          “Keep digging through that hole!” I dodged one of his attacks. “I will hold him off!”
          “Good.” He smirked while preparing for another slash. “My target was always you.”
          “Why?” I sidestepped closer to a wall. Then, I saw what was dangling from his sword. Why hadn’t I noticed that prominent tail? A fox’s tail. A yellow one. “Who sent you here?” My back pressed on the wall for his strength had forced me to retreat to where I was.
          “I am sorry, but I have to do this for her,” he answered.
          I was in the perfect position to receive a fatal blow. I closed my eyes and shifted a bit to the right just as his sword aimed for my neck. My buttoned turtle neck was pried apart, exposing the necklace I now always wore, the Queen’s black fox tail.
          “You . . .” His sword had purposely missed, leaving an indent in the wall. “Where did you find this?”
          I felt his hand tug at the necklace, and so I retorted, “Why does it concern you?”
          “Was this from Kanade?” He persisted to interrogate.
          His auburn eyes revealed his handsome nature. I now noticed the make-up he wore to disguise himself as the guard. His sweat had swept some of his wrinkly creases along his eyes. Once I nodded, he sheathed his sword and even planted one knee to the ground.
          “I cannot kill you, Princess . . . no, our Kamikaze,” he uttered.
          Kamikaze? Divine Wind? I was their Kamikaze? The Queen’s relationship with the Kuyaza was too questionable. For one of their warriors to now accommodate me was improbable, yet remarkable. A symbol was sufficient to prevent death and the words from her diary still resonated in my mind: they would heed to me. This was . . . my lucky charm now.
          I felt a gush of wind blowing from where Desiderium stood, still hacking away.
          “Tell your companion to move. Leave this to me.” He removed a small, clay pot attached to his belt.
          “Desiderium, stand back!” I screamed just as he had hurled the device, hitting just where the crack was.
          There was a small explosion, exuding bolts of fire that were quickly disintegrated by the dirt. The damage was enough to create an opening to fit a person. He had wiped his hands on his shirt. “Seems like that scoundrel did a good job after all,” he said with a chuckle.
          “Th-thank you,” I stuttered, wondering if he was truthfully going to allow us to escape.
          He wistfully responded, “If I were you, I would have rather died than to thank me.”
          Before I could ask him more, Desiderium beckoned, “Hurry! I hear the sound of horses heading in our direction!”
          I darted to the searing light, and hopped out of the hole to discover Desiderium in a sea of green fields with the dazzling cerulean sky. The warm wind blew in our faces, whipping the bottom of our skirts upwards to our knees. To the north, I could see the gigantic mountains that served as barriers between Urcis and Slianvwi. We were too absorbed by the beauty of nature until Desiderium suddenly turned to say, “I heard what that man called you. Kamikaze.”
          “Do you know what that means?”
          She shook her head, replying, “I have only heard of it once from the villagers in Kosei. They were praying that the Kamikaze never be found.”
          “And why is that?”
          Desiderium noted, “The Kamikaze is said to awaken or perhaps to strengthen the Kuro Kitsune’s powers and we all know . . . what the Kuro Kitsune brings.”
          I found myself whispering, “Misfortune and death. . .”
          “The horrors of nature,” she sighed.
          “You believe in . . . that legend?” I ogled at her in disbelief.
          She shrugged her shoulders before smiling rather gently. “Who is to know . . . what is true?”
          I would have imagined those words from Nestor’s mouth. I wondered how he was now. Safe on his journey?
          Then, she gave me a discerning look, interrupting my thoughts, “What I do know though is of people’s desires. Now, I usually do not counsel, but you . . . be careful. I see in that man’s eyes a desire for a certain woman . . . and that woman’s desire to murder you is so strong that I can even sense it from him.”
          Woman? What woman? I didn’t recall any female competitors. Before I could analyze even further, Desiderium was already leaving. I had the urge to stop her. Was it because I wanted to know more? I couldn’t help pondering, “Do you know . . . where you’re headed?”
          I shouldn’t have cared about someone else, particularly someone like her. I couldn’t bear not knowing her fate; there was a sudden fear instilled in me, a sudden fear for her life. Departures . . . I shook my head from that thought while stroking the fox tail resting on my chest.
          With her back still towards me, I could only see her long, tangled blonde hair, blowing along with the sudden, harsh wind. It was the first time I was in awe with her beauty, a brisk of naturalness melding with tenderness. “Away from here,” her voice echoed, “Silly.”
          So, I watched her fade with the tall grass, thinking that it was better that way. Sometimes, it was better to watch than to say any words of farewell. A farewell signified a resolute conclusion, whereas a moment of silence could prolong, leaving a chance for a welcoming.
          I did receive a welcoming . . . from a most unexpected character.
          “My dear sister.” I exchanged a glance backwards. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
          There was Cael, dismounting from his horse and striding towards me with his arms pushing back the stalks of grass. His knights had followed him until he swiftly raised his hand and flicked it once backwards. I wasn’t sure what to do. My muscles now felt the aches from our escape. My legs particularly, felt lackadaisical, almost prêt to sink to the ground, but my feet inched in the opposite direction of Cael. About to trip over my own feet, Cael grabbed onto my arm and looked once at my exposed neck. I covered my necklace with hand, but I was sure that he saw it.
          “Tell me . . . everything,” he rambled in a snarling voice.
          The pressure on my arm was almost unbearable; this was a threat, a threat I would use for a trade. Who would say no to fair trading? I smiled though, boldly removing my hand from the necklace.
          “Perhaps, if you tell me who you actually are. Beau . . . or Cael?” I offered in exchange.
          His concern for me had evidently morphed to that for himself. Leaning to my ear, he murmured, “Never say that in public, but I accept your proposal, sister.”
          There was a hissing sound escaping from his mouth as he slithered away and gestured me to follow him. I noticed that behind the horsed knights, there was carriage already prepared for me. I didn’t understand how he knew where I was. The precision of his every move was evident. Had he known then of . . . what I had done? Just like . . . he had known?
          I was concentrating on my textbook, trying to memorize the process of the digestive system, when I saw a hand flatten the book onto my lap.
          “You’re studying too hard for your own good.” He warmly grinned before adding, “What you need is a break. Like . . .”
          He was inching towards me, and I knew what he had in mind. I lifted the book to shield my face. “Stop,” I muttered. “I’m busy studying.”
          “But, you’ve been studying too much these days. You usually don’t study for anything unless there’s a test within a few days,” he moped.
          I explained, still with my eyes glued to the page, “I’m really behind. That’s why. I’ve been too busy finishing up my art project that—“
          “You’ve been avoiding any sort of physical contact with me nowadays,” he interrupted, closing my book in the process. “Something is wrong. I know it.”
          Lightly laughing, I answered, “Nothing is wrong. Everything is fine. You’re worrying too much, Thayne. I’m fine. I’m just . . . a little tired. That’s all.”
          “Tired? I thought you were a heavy sleeper,” he argued.
          “Just couldn’t sleep this week,” I clarified.
          “That’s all?” he asked again.
          I laughed it off and grinned. “Yes, that’s all. I promise that after this project, you’ll get my full attention.”
          That had been a lie and the truth. I let him kiss and hug me. I listened to his words and comforted him whenever he needed encouragement. However, sometimes, I would wonder . . . what it would be like if he was still by my side. Would he understand me more? Would he be more patient? Would he listen to me more carefully? Would I . . . be happier?
Chapter 30                                                                            Chapter 32
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