War of the Spirits

Saphira is the future leader of the isolated mountain village Natallian. However, just as she left to being her training, an incident takes place in the naboring town that changes her course of life forever

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12. Chapter 12

Saphira kept following Ruby as she followed the footprints left by the soldiers they had encountered earlier. As they continued, they had met some stray travelers that had warned them about a forest that trapped those who entered. Unsure of where this forest was, or if they even believed them, the two continued. They came to an area packed with trees, even more so than there were before. After a while walking through the trees, Ruby began to walk a bit funny, staggering to the sides as she tried to walk straight.

"Are you alright, Ruby? You're walking weirdly," Saphira asked, the small Kyni sitting down.

"There's something in the air of this forest. I do not think we should continue this way," Ruby answered, Saphira not sure what the Kyni meant. But Saphira did know she was being serious. She walked over and picked Ruby up in her arms.

"Well, we need to see where those tracks will lead us. So for now, take a break and rest a bit, alright?" Saphira smiled reassuringly at Ruby, who had begun to close her eyes as her breathing relaxed. Saphira continued deeper into the forest. With the trees looking exactly the same, Saphira was unsure if she would even be able to exit this forest. She had also begun to sense the presence of an Aolis, but it was too faint for her to pinpoint. Suddenly, a number of footsteps began to close in on her. Worried, Saphira crouched down behind some bushes, keeping Flare close. Saphira looked through the leaves and saw two soldiers, completely out of breath.

"What the hell is up with this place? We were supposed to report back to Commander Paul, but we can't even find our way out!" one of them yelled, his expression full of terror.

"How are we even going to survive. You saw that…that thing! It will kill us in seconds!" the other screamed, Saphira feeling more anxious at their behavior. She tried to see if she could see anything that might be a threat, but there wasn't anything out of the ordinary nearby. Nor could she hear anything.

'I'm starting to think these guys have gone completely mad. I can't see or sense anything. Other than the Aolis from earlier.' She thought to herself, still unsure of where that Aolis was. But just as the thought passed through her mind, a large thud shook the ground, nearly making her fall. She quickly scanned her surroundings, but she still couldn’t see anything that could make such a violent thud. The two soldiers let out a terror filled scream, Saphira quickly changed her attention to them. Her eyes widen in shock as the saw the roots of the trees moving in front of the two soldiers

"What kind of trickery is this?" the Kyni asked, Saphira assuming she had never seen anything like it. And while Saphira hadn't seen anything this extreme, she had witnessed something similar.

"Nature Aolis are able to control trees and plants like this. But I have never seen anyone with this much power and control. And with the entire earth as their weapon, whoever this is could be a major threat," Saphira said, not sure if her ability to control fire would do her much good at this point. The two soldiers continued to scream in fear, Saphira still trying to see who was behind all of this.

But what she was met with was something completely different. A large creature made out of trees and other plant life resembling a lizard began to close in on the soldiers. She could see that the moving roots were connected to what she assumed was his arms. It was enormous, towering over the other trees in the forest. As it placed one of its legs near her, all of the trees under it broke like twigs. Saphira quickly ducked her head to try and avoid the branches from the falling trees. Once the sound of the trees hitting the ground stopped, another scream coming from the soldiers. Saphira quickly moved from her cover to see the soldiers, who had begun to ran out of the forest to escape the creature.

'They're not going to get out of this forest like that.' Saphira thought, feeling a bit more at ease. Just as she began to relax, however, its tail began to swung towards her. She wasn't able to react in time, the tail hitting her hard right in the stomach and sent her flying. Her back hit a tree, which slightly broke when she hit it. She fell to the ground, desperately trying to regain her breath. Her vision had blurred a little, but she could still see her surroundings. Ruby had fallen next to her, still in her smaller form. The creature began to walk again, its step shaking the ground. Worried she might get attacked like that again, Saphira used all her remaining strength to get up, pick up Ruby, and ran. She could run for quite some distance before she heard its roar behind her.

"If it chooses to chase you, you will not be able to our run it!" Ruby said as she moved to sit on Saphira's shoulder. She jumped into the trees to move a bit faster.

"I can't fight it either! Even if I try to burn it, the fact that it's a creation of an Aolis means it won't be that easy to beat!" she pointed out, Ruby growling slightly. Saphira's back was still in pain, which nearly made her fall out of the tree. She stopped after a few more meters as she began to scan the area. She wasn't able to see if before, but she wanted to at least try to spot it.

"Do you think it decided to leave us be?" Ruby asked as she sat herself on Saphira's lap.

"Not a chance. But I think the Aolis needs to know where we are for it to actually chase us," Saphira said, digging in her bag after her journal. She flipped towards the section where she had written Nature Arts, and found what she was looking for.

Rejul

An Art that is unlike any other Nature Arts, and one very few know. The Aolis creates a sentient being out of their surroundings, and it can be made to do whatever the Aolis wishes.
However, it is a double-edged blade. The Aolis can see and feel everything the Rejul creation feels, and will therefore be left completely defenseless when the creature is defeated. They can also not be too far away from the Aolis that creates them.
If it fails, the creature becomes independent and does not have any connection to the Aolis.

Saphira felt a bit relieved after having read that, but she was still unsure of what to do to stop it. But she knew now that the Aolis she sensed before was most likely the Guardian she was after. She hadn't been able to search the area thanks to the plant lizard, but she could sense the Aolis in the general area.

"Looks like our best bet is to find the Aolis and try to convince them that we're not the enemy. Fighting that thing will take too much time and effort. Even if it'll leave them completely defenseless," Saphira said to herself, Ruby moving her head slightly to the side in confusion. "If I wanted to do anything about this, I would have to most likely summon my Spirit. And that will leave me more vulnerable than this Aolis,"

"Then what are we to do?" the Kyni asked, Saphira trying to think of a plan. The best thing would be to try and find the Aolis. And to do that, she would have to find the creature again. As she had written in her journal, the Aolis had to be in a close proximity of their creation.

"We need to go back and find the Rejul. As risky as it is, we have no other way of finding the Aolis. So for now, let's try and go to where we first met it," Saphira said as she made her way down the tree. Ruby jumped onto her shoulder that didn't have the bag strap on it. They carefully made their way back to where they first met the reptile creature, Saphira surprised that the area wasn't damaged at all. "That's strange. I know I heard the sound of trees falling before,"

"You said that the Aolis that gave life to that reptile was a Nature Aolis, correct? Maybe they repaired the damage they caused to preserve the forest," Ruby suggested, Saphira thinking the same thing. Most Nature Aolis were very conscious about the environment around them. So it was certainly possible. She began to survey the area to see if she could find any sign of either the creature or the Aolis. She noticed an entrance to a cave on her right.

'I wonder if they are in there? It's close enough to where the creature appeared, as well as keeping them hidden from whoever they attack.' Saphira thought as she made her way over to it. Before she could reach it, however, a loud thud echoed behind her. She quickly turned and saw the Rejul once again, and it was looking right at her.

"Damn it," Saphira wasted no time was she ran for the cave, the lizard close behind her. She felt Ruby’s claws dig into Saphira's shoulder, obviously surprised by her sudden change in speed. But Saphira ignored it as she ran. She looked behind her for a brief moment and saw that its tail was swinging at her from the side. Reacting just fast enough, she ducked and evaded its attack. Suddenly, something hit her hard in the back and sent her flying. She was able to get back onto her feet and leapt into one of the trees nearby, the reptile now in front of the cave.

"Now what should we do?  The Rejul will not allow us to get close to that cave," Ruby stated as she joined Saphira. She bit her lower lip, unsure on what course she should take. Before she could get a chance to think of a new plan, the tree she was shook and made her lose her balance. The tree broke in two and the tail once again swung at her. This time hitting her right in the stomach. She landed back first onto the ground, her back and head pounding from the impact. She still had her katana strapped to her back, so it made the pain worse. Ruby had been sent away from her as well, Saphira barely seeing her in the corner of her eye along with her bag. However, she did not get a chance to rest easy. As she tried to get up, the top half of the tree felt towards her. Saphira quickly created a ball of fire to smash the trees, only splinters falling onto her. She covered her face to protect her eyes as she waited for the last of them to fall.

"It's right above you! Get up!" Flarenix roared, Saphira moving her hand as she looked right up at it. It stood on all four so that it could look at her closely. Saphira grunted as she forced herself on her feet again. She was unstable, her legs shaking under her weight. A sharp pain from her right ankle only made it worse, Saphira biting her teeth together as she leaned onto a nearby three to help her stand. But she was able to get up, the Rejul looking at her with a curious expression. "You'll have to fight it, you don't have any other choice," Flarenix said, Saphira agreeing. Even if she was in terrible condition, it was the only option left. Except for one option. Saphira closed her eyes and focused the Leot into her eyes, like she had done when she met Mizuko. When she opened her eyes, the reddish color was back, the reptile looking to her with a more submissive look than before.

'Is this working?' She though, though she didn't let her guard down. It could attack at any time. But it never did attack. Instead, it just stood there, staring at her. Just as soon as it appeared, it left her alone and walked away. She let out a sigh as her eyes went back to normal. 'I can't believe that worked.' Her legs gave up under her weight as she finished her thought, Saphira breathing heavily. She heard something being dragged along the ground, Saphira turning her head to see Ruby in her larger form with the strap of her bag in her mouth.

"What did you do to make it leave?" the Kyni asked as she let go of Saphira's bag.

"I honestly don't know. Maybe it was intimidated. Survival of the fittest and all that," she said, grabbing her bag. "In any case, we should go and investigate that cave for now,"

"You must rest before we do anything else, Saphira. You suffered quite a few injuries. Even if none of them are fatal, the amount of them could be quite problematic for you. Especially your back, which has been beaten the most," Saphira did feel exhausted, and she could tell that Ruby had no intention of letting her go.

"Alright, we'll take a short break," Saphira said as took off her katana and dug around in her bag. She pulled out the herbal cream she had used to heal Ruby when the two first met and a piece of cloth. She applied the cream to the cloth and gestured it towards Ruby. "Mind helping me out? You just have to rub it on the bruise on my back, and it's no danger to you even if you bite it,"

"Of course," Flare bit into the cloth and Saphira began to remove her clothes.

After a five-minute break and Saphira tending to her injuries, the two were once again by the cave entrance. Saphira's back was worse than she had initially thought. The bruise had become purple and covered her entire back. The part where her katana was had an even darker color, and the bruise was really painful. In case anything else happened, Saphira had strapped her katana around her waist so that it was positioned behind her around her waist instead of on her back. She had also discovered that her ankle had been badly sprained, hence why she had such difficulty standing before in addition to her body being exhausted. Ruby had to be stay large to support Saphira as her leg was completely useless.

Saphira left Ruby’s side and limped towards the cave entrance, her ankle making her nearly fall.

"Damn it," Saphira commented, trying her best to ignore it. Her companion was quick by her side and assisted her once again. Saphira thanked her as she sat herself down to look into the cave. "It's too dark to see anything. I don't even know if it goes forward to straight down," Ruby crouched and began to sniff the area right outside of the cave, Saphira waiting patiently for Ruby to finish.

"The cave goes forward, but it is in a diagonal position. So, you will have to travel downwards when you enter," the Kyni informed her, Saphira not looking forward to it. Her ankle was giving her problems on flat ground, it was going to be unbearable going downwards. "There are traces of a Human and the trail goes into the cave. There are also numerous plants that have been carried into here,"

"So, it's most likely the Aolis," Saphira said as she tried to get up again. But Ruby bit into her shirt and held her down.

"You cannot walk with your ankle in such bad condition. I will carry on my back. The cave is larger than it looks, so it will be perfectly fine," Ruby demanded, Saphira smiling and thanking the Kyni. She placed her bag on Ruby’s back and climbed on as well, carefully standing up and entered the cave. Saphira had to duck to get into the entrance, but like Ruby had said, the cave was surprisingly large. The cave was still pitch black, though, so she couldn't see anything. She created a small flame in her palm and light up the cave, Saphira surprised to see many different kinds of herbs growing from the walls around her. Most of them she had never seen before. She could also hear the faint sound of water echo towards her.

'This seems too peaceful. What if someone is right behind us and waiting for the perfect moment to strike?' Saphira said as she began to look around. But she couldn't see anyone, nor did she sense anyone nearby.

"You're being to paranoid, Saphira. There's no one stalking us, so relax a little," Flarenix teased her, Saphira getting annoyed at her Spirit. But Flarenix did have a point. Saphira had gotten too used to constantly be on the watch for soldiers and rebels, as they were always after her. But here, there was no one in this forest except for her, Ruby and the Nature Aolis.

"This place is perfect for these types of herbs to grow and flourish. Do you think that the Aolis created the Rejul in order to protect this cave?" Ruby asked, pulling Saphira out of her thoughts.

"That's one explanation," Saphira said, though she completely agreed with Ruby. At first, she thought it was just a place where the Aolis could hide while still staying close enough to the reptile. But now that she has seen the area for herself, it made more sense that she wanted to protect it. They continued through, the cave becoming more light up as they went deeper. There was soon enough light to see that Saphira got rid of the flames and placed her hand on Ruby’s back. Saphira didn't understand why it became brighter, but it wasn't important right now.

"Something's ahead," Ruby said, Saphira trying to see what she meant. Something that resembled a tail moved up and down in what seemed to be a large room. Saphira moved her body closer to Ruby’s back as the Kyni crouched down. She slowly made her way until they were about a meter away. Ruby waited for the tail to move a few more times, Saphira thinking that she was making sure it hadn't noticed them. Ruby then leapt from her position and landed on whatever the tail belonged to. Saphira moved her head, surprised to see a Human face underneath the Kyni. The boy seemed about ten or eleven years old, and his ears were pointy. She could also see that the tail was actually attached to him.

'Wait, is he a Sektil?' Saphira thought, never imagining that she would meet one here. Sektil were seen as the closest relatives to the first Humans that became Aolis. According to ancient scrolls they had access to, some on the Aolis got some of the parts of their Spirit partner. And their children were born with these parts completely independent from their Spirit.

"Bad doggie! What are you doing?" the boy screamed at her face, Ruby growling at him. Saphira was honestly surprised he could talk like that despite Ruby being twice his size. He was either brave, or an idiot. She took a quick look around, not seeing anyone or anything else down here.

'Then could this kid be…?' Saphira almost didn't want to believe it, since he was so young. But nothing would be answered from just sitting there.

"Sorry, but who are you and why are you here?" Saphira asked. Ruby stopped her growling as they both waited for the boy to answer.

"I'm the Guardian of this area and a Nature Aolis! So you shouldn't be so mean to me!" he yelled, both Saphira and Ruby taken aback. The boy soon burst into laughter soon after telling them. "It's always hilarious to see how people react to that! It never gets old!"

"Are you the one who created the Rejul that is outside?" Saphira asked, the boy nodding eagerly.

"Yep, he's my best buddy! And he's going to protect me no matter what!" he said confidentially, Saphira surprised by his energy. He escaped from Flare and stood in front of the two. "Did you see him? Did you play with him?"

"Wait, you don't know?" she asked, surprised he asked that. When a Aolis cast Rejul, they can see and feel everything the creature feels. Which is why the Aolis is defenseless when it is defeated. This boy should know what the creature thought. Unless, he tried to make it but failed. But if that was the case, why was the reptile still here protecting him? The Sektil did say they were best friends, so maybe the Rejul stayed here because it wanted to.

"What's your name?" she asked after a while, the boy still jumping around. If it wasn't for the fact that he snapped at them before, she would've called him 'cute' without any regrets.

"My name is Sarudoshi, and you better remember it!" he yelled, Saphira sensing some pride in his tone. He began to jump around again and sing about something or other that neither Saphira nor Ruby could get. "Now it's my turn to ask the questions: What are you doing here?" His tone sounded almost like Saphira's when she asked him before, the fact that he tried to copy her tone almost made her laugh. She got off Ruby’s back and carefully placed her right foot on the ground to try and not cause herself any pain.

"I came here to find you," she answered, Sarudoshi tilting his head. "The reason I entered the cave was to find the Aolis who had used Rejul to creature that lizard,"

"Why were you looking for me? Maybe you knew I was a Guardian and wanted some greedy wish granted," he asked, Saphira feeling her annoyance growing.

"I wanted to ask if you'd be willing to assist me. I'm the Spirit Guardian and I need to stop this war," she explained, though Sarudoshi didn't seem interested. He just swayed from side to side and made Saphira wait for a response.

"I did feel something odd about you. I don't know what a ‘Spirit Guardian' is, but I should teach you that art for Sulos," he said finally, Saphira waiting for him to continue. "I'm going to teach you how you can heal yourself. It's really easy, actually. Just concentrate your power into the palm of your hand and gently place it on the injured area. That way, it'll heal the area instead of damage it. Thinking happy thoughts are a plus as well," he told her, sounding very proud of himself. Saphira carefully sat herself down and placed her hand on her ankle like he had said, her palm gently heating up. A soothing feeling enveloped her ankle. There was slight pain in the beginning, but it had vanished within seconds. A couple more seconds and Saphira removed her hand, her ankle completely healed. She felt a slight numbness in her hand, however.

"It takes a lot of energy, so it's not something I should use too often," she said to herself, Sarudoshi nodding.

"Especially if you're still learning. It becomes a bit easier to control how much you use to heal yourself over time," he reassured her, Saphira nodding as she tested her leg. There wasn't any pain anymore, so it had worked.

"Then I better get going. Thank you for your help, Sarudoshi," Saphira said as she smiled at the young Sektil. Sarudoshi just grinned back.

"You can get out of the forest by turning to the left and heading straight forward when you get out of the cave," he informed her, Saphira giving a nod in understanding as she and Ruby began their walk back. It took less time getting out of the cave, as they were aware that there was no one else in here. Once they reached the exit, Saphira turned to the left as Sarudoshi had said.

"What is our next destination? We must find the next Guardian, correct?" Ruby said as she went back to her smaller form and hopped onto Saphira's shoulder. Saphira gave her a nod, making sure the Rejul wasn't nearby. "Then perhaps we should investigate the Volcanic Terrain. A pack of Kyni that live in the nearby area has spoken of an Aolis that might be a Guardian,"

"Volcanic Terrain? I've heard the name a few years back, but nothing else," Saphira said. She could guess that it was a volcano of some kind there from the name alone, but nothing else.

"I do not know much of the place myself, but our pack went to visit the pack that has a territory right outside of it. We were told to not enter the area, though I forgot the reason," Ruby explained, Saphira unsure if it would be a good idea to get involved with a Kyni pack. "Do not fear, the pack will not interfere with our journey,"

"That's a relief," Saphira sighed. After a few short minutes, they were able to finally see the end of the forest. Ruby jumped off Saphira's shoulder and ran towards the last tree, waiting patiently for Saphira to catch up.

"Hurry up! We don't have all day!" A loud voice made Saphira stop in her tracks, Ruby quickly going up the tree. Saphira followed soon after, looking down at a group of men from Shadow Knight. She looked around, seeing Zach walking towards the men.

"Do not rush it. I do not want to have to come back here because you were too impatient," he said in a cold voice, all of the men tensing up. "We have been given orders to discover the truth behind the Kings illness, so we have to make sure it is done properly," Saphira's eyes widen when Zach mentioned the King, unsure of what he meant. Shadow had told her that Paul might be purposely keeping the King out of commission, but she didn't know how Shadow Knight knew that. The men all yelled 'Yes, sir' in unison as they went back to their work.

"You certainly know how to make them do their jobs properly," May's voice chimed in as she walked next to Zach. Saphira hadn't seen the Flower Empress since Sektories during her performance, so seeing her again now felt odd. "Is it coming together nicely?"

"Yes, if these useless morons will stop panicking over nothing. The Royal Army has their hands full with the rebels, and they are trying to hunt down the mysterious warrior that vanished a week ago," Zach informed her. Saphira wasn't aware that they were specifically hunting for her now, which would only make things more complicated.

"Right, she popped up again, didn't she?" May said with a thoughtful expression. "Say, have you seen Erik as of late?" Zach gave a short shake of his head in response, May letting out a sigh. "He's been becoming more and more isolated by the day. He's been under the weather for about a while now," Saphira felt her chest clench a bit. Even though he was blackmailing her, she was still worried.

"Saphira, it's too risky to stay here for much longer. Sooner or later, Zach's going to notice you're here," Flarenix warned, Saphira agreeing with her. She tapped Ruby on the head as she began to carefully make her way down the tree. Once down, she circled the area where they were to avoid getting caught, coming to a path. She noticed a wagon a bit further up, hearing voices of people. Curious as to what was going on, she made her way over and saw a group of travelers trying to move a large boulder that was in the middle of the road.

"It's no use, we won't be able to move it. It's too big. We'll have to move around," one of the men said, drying away some sweat from his forehead.

"No, we can't. That'll take us to the Volcanic Terrain. The children won't be able to cope with the heat," another said. "Not only that, but that way in particular takes us through Kyni territory. We won't be allowed through just like that," Saphira clenched her fist and, trying to keep herself from getting involved. Under other circumstances, she wouldn't hesitate to help them. but right now, Shadow Knight was practically right next to them. If she did help, she would alert them within seconds. She closed her eye tight and bit her teeth together.

"Please step aside men," Saphira blinked as a new voice caught her attention. She moved her gaze back to the boulder, a muscular man with coal black hair and a large robe covering his entire body except for his head made his way towards the boulder. The travelers looked at him, some in awe, others with skeptical looks. Saphira moved a bit closer herself, intrigued by what he was going to do. The man placed his entire hand onto the boulder and slightly tensed his muscles, the boulder crumbling within seconds. Everyone gasped at what they had just witnessed, Saphira herself surprised by his power.

'He has to be an Aolis. No Human could do that by themselves. But even for an Aolis, that level of control is rare.' Saphira thought as the man turned to face the travelers again.

"Now the path is open. You may continue your journey now," he smiled at them, Saphira not expecting such a warm smile. She was about to get up to cross over to the other side of the path, a bark like noise coming from Ruby. Saphira quickly turned and saw someone heading towards her. Not risking getting caught, she carefully made her way over the path to the other side. She wasn't seen by any of the travelers, as they were too occupied with the man that destroyed the boulder. Ruby quickly followed as Saphira hid herself behind one of the trees. She looked over and tried to see who had made Ruby bark, but she couldn't see their faces as they had hoods that covered it.

"We should wait here until the travelers have left. As they said, the other path will take us through Kyni territory. I do not recommend that," Ruby suggested, Saphira agreeing. She sat down by the tree as she looked at the path while the travelers prepped for their journey.

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