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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15. Chapter 15

Saphira didn't waste any time staying where she was and quickly made her way towards the fight. She didn't understand this situation at all. Why were people from her village here of all places? And why were the rebels fighting against them? As they came closer to the conflict, Ruby jumped off her shoulder and transformed into her bigger form. She leapt onto one of the rebellious men and pinned him to the ground. Saphira went past them and attack another, not caring about the cloak now. As the man came up to attack her, she noticed that his eyes were blank, just like the two back in Natallian.

'It looks like they're in some kind of trance. Is this Zane's doing?' She thought, knocking him out before she went to the next one. While taking care of the rebels, she scanned the area for any signs of her father or Jacob. Either one would make her feel a bit more at ease at this moment.

"Lady Saphira!" A voice called from behind her, but it didn't belong to either of the ones she was looking for. She turned and saw Hyun, her father's 'advisor' of sorts. "You need to leave this area immediately! It's too dangerous!" He grabbed her arm and tried to pulled her away. But Saphira was stronger and continued to scan the area. Through the countless of fights going on at the moment, Saphira could feel a malicious intent behind all of it. Quickly shaking Hyun off her, she ran through the crowd of people and ended up outside of all the fighting. And as she did, her entire body froze and refused to move. Her father, the most caring person she ever knew, was on his knees in his own blood, a large wound on his chest. And the one who stood in front of him was Zane, his blade covered in blood.

"Now you can no longer interfere," As Zane said those words, he lifted his blade skyward, Saphira suddenly able to move again. Without a second of hesitation, she quickly dashed in front of her father and blocked the attack. She obviously caught him off guard, as his attack wasn't as strong as she expected. Before he could do anything else, Saphira stepped forward to get some distance between them and her injured father behind her.  But she didn't see the cliff behind Zane, as his foot didn't touch the ground and he lost his balance. Saphira tried to go backwards to keep herself from falling, but Zane grabbed her uninjured wrist and pulled her with him. The two fell down and rolled against the cliff side. Luckily, the fall wasn't too large and both sustained only minor injuries, her arm throbbing a little. Saphira carefully stood up, her eyes not leaving Zane at all. "You always get in our way,"

"You always do something that warrants interference," Saphira snapped back, but took a moment to think about what he had just said. 'Our way'. Was he just talking about him and his Spirit, or the rebellion? As he stood up, his eyes locked with hers and Saphira felt a sudden wave of dread. The color in his eyes was a dark crimson, and looked ready to kill at any time. She had seen those eyes before, the first time he met him back in Katil.

'Is his Spirit making him do this?' Was the first thing Saphira could think at first. 'No, he can't have gained complete control. Not yet. There has to be something I can do to help Zane.' She knew that making a Spirit let go of their Aolis in this condition was next to impossible. The Spirit has already found a way to get the Aolis wrapped around their finger, so they'll listen to them before anyone else. So what could she do? Before she could think of anything else, 'Zane' charged at her with the intent to kill her in one blow. She quickly dodged out of the way and rolled past him, just to make sure she wasn't between him and the cliff side.

"Then I should just kill you now so you stay out of our way for good," he announced, a scary grin on his face. Zane was violent towards her before, yes. But he didn't express this much enjoyment out of it in the past. He swung at her a second time, Saphira not fast enough to escape it and reflexively used her blade to block it. The intensity of it was so much stronger before, the blow shaking her entire body.

"Stay like that for a bit longer. I'll take care of this," Flarenix's sudden voice caught her slightly off guard, but she did as her Spirit asked and did her best to not move from this position. He was putting more force into his blade, Saphira doing everything she could to make sure she didn't fall on her knee. As the two tried to overpower the other, Saphira felt a slight dizziness and her strength vanished. Due to the sudden drain in her strength, Zane was easily able to push her down to the ground and placed himself on top of her. Saphira did all she could to try and fight back, but her body was sluggish and it refused to move.

'You need to give me a heads up when you do something this reckless, Flarenix.' Saphira thought bitterly, her vision becoming blurry as well. Zane held his blade over her chest, and Saphira could make out a sick grin on his face. She couldn't fight him as she was now, so she just closed her eyes and waited for the pain to come. But it never did. She felt his weight moving off her and she slowly opened her eyes again. Zane let out a loud scream in agony, the scream echoing in Saphira's head. She slowly got up into a sitting position, not attempting to get any further than that. Nor did she get the chance to. A sudden rush of pain came from her head, Saphira grabbing it with both hands to try and get rid of the pain somehow. Her vision went from blurry to crimson every so often, Saphira knowing what was going on now.

"Get out of my head!" she yelled, a roar echoing in her head. Which only made the pain worse. Saphira continued to grasp her head and did everything she could to not lose her consciousness. "I said get out!" Her yell was louder this time, and a flash of bright red blocked her view. The roar that had been in her head faded, and her strength slowly began to come back. She placed her hands on the ground to try keep herself from falling, the pain in her head slowly going away. Her body still felt a bit sluggish, but better than before.

"I honestly didn't expect the bastard to try and take over you instead," Flarenix said, her voice very comforting to Saphira right now. "Sorry about that, I did want to tell you but there wasn't enough time. The Spirit was so close to having complete control and If I didn't act when I did, Zane wouldn't exist any longer. So I entered the boy's head and put the Spirit down a few pegs," Saphira still didn't expect Flarenix to act so carelessly. When a Spirit and Aolis have been together for as long as they have and have such a strong bond, they become dependent on each other. The Aolis' body has become accustomed to having a second sentient being in their mind, and the Spirit needs an Aolis if they wish to use their power in the Human Realm. If either suddenly leave the other, both parties will suffer.

'I'm just glad it didn't last for too long.' Saphira thought, moving her gaze over to Zane. He had fallen to the ground and it looked like he was asleep. He almost seemed at peace in that condition. 'But the fact that the Spirit was so close to take over.'

"It means that Zane isn't as strong willed as one would think, and he himself was planning to do this at some point in time. That's how Spirits can control their Aolis; sweet lies and empty promises," Flarenix finished Saphira's though, disgust and anger noticable in the Spirit's voice. Saphira didn't know if she should feel sorry or angry at Zane. The condition he was in when she first met him showed that he was already relying on his Spirit. And this war didn't do much to help either. She let out a small sigh as she slowly stood up, just barely able to keep her balance.

"Saphira!" She heard her father call her name, Saphira looking upwards and saw the man in question sliding down towards her despite his injuries. Hyun and Ruby was just behind him, the advisor having some trouble keeping up with the two others. Once down, her father quickly went to her and pulled her into a gentle hug, the blood from his wound going onto her shirt. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?" Without looking at his face, Saphira could already tell what his expression was; A mixture of worry and happiness.

"I'm alright, father. Don't worry," she reassured him, leaning her head into his shoulder. No matter how old she became, she always felt safe whenever her father was close by. He carefully pulled away and patted her on the head, his lips forming a gentle smile. "But I think it would be best to bring him to the village," Saphira gestured towards Zane, who Hyun was already beside and checking his condition. "He needs to learn about Spirits and Aolis properly to prevent something like this from happening again,"

"So he's the cause of all this. I thought that an Aolis was behind this," her father said, Saphira confused by his words. "A short while after the two of you fell, all of the men that were attacking us collapsed. Which means that they were being control by that young man," Saphira did suspect that Zane was behind it, but she didn't expect it to wear off that fast. "However, I agree that the lad needs some help to get back on his feet. Though remember, Saphira. We cannot force him to follow our ways,"

"Yeah, I know. I just want him to at least hear what you have to say and consider it," Saphira answered, knowing better than anyone that this teaching has to be voluntary for it to actually means something. His father nodded over in Hyun's direction, and the man pulled Zane over his shoulder and began to climb up the cliff again.

"We will make our way back to Natallian. You have other business to attend to, correct?" Saphira nodded as her father turning her back to her to follow Hyun. "Then I will trust you to finish whatever you have begun. But remember, we are always behind you. If you ever need help, all you need to do is ask,"

"Thanks, father," Saphira said as the two of them began their walk back to the rest of the villagers. As they were walking, Saphira thought of something. Her father's involvement with the war. Why was he fighting, when Natallian was always against it? It was bothering her more now than it did before, probably because she was facing him now. "Father, wait!" Saphira called, Flint turning to face her. "There is something that's been bothering me for a while. Why are you involved in this war now?" Her father let out a small sigh as he told Hyun to go ahead.

"Long ago, before I became the leader of Natallian, our village was a military stronghold for the Royal Army," he explained, Saphira's eyes widen in shock. She was about to ask him something, but he held up his hand to stop her. "Let me finish explaining before you ask," he said, Saphira waiting patiently as he continued. "The stronghold was filled with Aolis, those who specialized in Spirits and using their powers. I was one of the lead Captains, my father being the General. Misa was my closest Lieutenant,"

"Mother?" Saphira asked, not expecting her mother to be mentioned in this. From what Saphira remembered, Misa was always caring and hated violence. Why would she an army Lieutenant?

"Yes, her hate for violence lead her to try and reform the village so we would be cut off from the Royal Army. And many others thought the same. While we did use Spirit as our main weapon, we still respected them and wished the best for them. My father was very against the idea, and tried multiple times to have Misa revoked of her title. But I made sure she stayed my Lieutenant. After many discussions and plans to take my father's place, we finally were able to release Natallian from the Royal Army. And since then, we have been excluding ourselves from the rest of the world,"

"That sounds very summarized," Saphira muttered, Flint placing his hand on her shoulder.

"You do not need to think of our village past right now. That is something I can tell you more about once peace has been restored. But know this, we are capable of fighting and we have experience in fighting with Spirits and using their power. So you do not need to worry about us," he reassured her, Saphira smiling at him. "Now, I have a young man to train. Stay safe, Saphira,"

"You as well, dad," she said as her father made her way back up the cliff. She was surprised by how well he could move, despite his large injury.

"It seems that the Human who caused all this trouble is in good hands. You father is a very kind Human," Flare commented, Saphira nodding in agreement. "Where is our next destination? All we know is that the Guardian is a Shadow Aolis. Is there an area that was used as a shelter that a Shadow Spirit can feel at home in?"

"I don't know the location by heart, unfortunately. But I think our best bet is to find the nearest town like we planned before the commotion," Saphira said, scratching the back of her head. "Although, I don't know where the town is either,"

"I can locate the town closest to our area without any problems. I shall guide you," Ruby said as she walked past Saphira and began to walk with her nose on the ground. Saphira followed soon after her and left the Volcanic Terrain behind her. While they continued to walk, Saphira had taken the time to heal her arm so she wouldn’t be held back by it anymore.

They soon arrived at a small village that looked rather desolate. There were quite a few houses, but most of them seemed to have been empty for quite some time. There were some people outside of their houses, and they all kept their eyes on her as she entered the town. The atmosphere surrounding them and the town was very ominous, making Saphira feel a bit uncomfortable. She noticed a temple like building at the far end of the village, and it seemed to be the only well kept building in the entire village.

'That place would be our best bet. I just hope that I can get some information about the Guardian so I don't wander our aimlessly for too long.' She thought as she began to walk up the steps to the entrance. When she got close to the top, she noticed the robe clothed men from Holie in front of the temple, standing guard from the looks of it. The men noticed her as she reached the top, and they immediately blocked her from going any further.

"Halt. This is a sacred place that shall not be sullied by the unclean. What business do you have here?" one of them asked her, Saphira stopping in front of them as she recalled when she first saw them. Back in Holie, these guys were the highest authority, and according to Jak, they saw the people of her village as enemies. Though she didn't quite remember the reason.

"I wish to speak to the one in charge of this temple. There is something I need to ask them," she answered, excluding what she was going to ask them. The two looked at each other for a moment before the second guard spoke to her.

"We have been told not to allow anyone to enter the temple. The Royal Army has business of their own to take care of inside, and they shall not be disturbed," Saphira narrowed her eyes when they mentioned the Army, surprised that they were even helping them. They didn't seem to fond of the war when they questioned Jak. Maybe it was because they were the ones protecting the Royal Family. But she didn't have time to waste if the Army was here. "We ask that you be patient and-" Saphira interrupted him with a punch to his stomach, knocking you out. She quickly moved her attention over to the other guard and landed a chop right on the back of his neck.

"Sorry, but I can't wait," she said to the unconscious guards as she turned to Ruby. "Make sure no one else comes in. If someone comes out, make it seem like you’re the one who attacked them,"

"Will do," the Kyni answered, Saphira entering the temple. The temple was a lot emptier than she expected it to be. There weren't any statues, no sign of any kind of murals, and there were no people.

"This is giving me all kinds of bad feelings," she said quietly to herself as she made her way deeper. She came at a staircase, and decided that it would be best for her to be higher up so she wouldn't get any surprises from above. As she climbed up the stair and continued down the hall, she soon arrived at the upper level of a larger room, which was a dead end. The room shape reminded her of the room the ball at the castle was held, so she knew it would a long shot for anyone to look up here. As she continued to scan the room, unable to see right underneath her thanks to the railings.

"I'm telling you, wait. This takes a lot longer than you soldiers think. Besides, this language is ancient, I can't decipher it just like that," A voice came from the area she couldn't see, making her freeze. The man's voice wasn't familiar to her, but she suspected that he was talking to a member of the Royal Army based how he addressed the listener. She crouched down just in case, trying to listen in on the conversation that was going on.

"General Paul believes that this writing can help us put an end to this war. That is why I'm being this impatient," The second voice belonged to her brother, Nate. She'd recognize his voice anywhere. She felt a growl in her throat, but remained quiet as the hall was large and could create an echo.

"Yes, you've said as much at least ten times in the span of five minutes. You and your General has asked much of our village already. We can barely keep our lives going as is," the other man said, Saphira speculating that the army had something to do with the small amount of people that were outside when she entered the village. "We have enough on our hands without you increasing our load,"

"I cannot say I know what your village is so concerned with, but as soon as this war is over, we will help this village prosper again," Nate said, Saphira getting more annoyed by the second. Not by his words, as she would probably say the same thing if she was in his position. But the fact that he still hasn't figured out what kind of person Paul really is. "I must take my leave. Please continue your work," Saphira saw him walk out through the door on the far side of the room, the sound of papers moving echoing through the room.

'I won't get another chance if I wait any longer.' She thought as she looked for an easy way down. Seeing none near her, she swung herself over the railings and hung at the very end of it. She saw a climbable wall right in front of her, swinging herself over to it and climbing down. She jumped the last bit, creating a loud echo that startled the man. He looked like he was in his forties, his clothing more expensive looking that Saphira had assumed. His white hair was also well kept. He looked the complete opposite from the rest of the villagers.

"Who are you?" he asked, Saphira looking at the wall he was beside. There was Aleric engraved in a large circle, figures looking like different animals surrounding them. "I said, who are you?" Saphira looked back at the man when he repeated his question. His eyes glared at her in distrust, which Saphira didn't mind at all. After all, she was trespassing.

"No one important. Are you the one in charge of this temple?" she asked, the man not seeming satisfied with her answer. But before Saphira could say anything else to try and convince him, he sighed and looked at her with calmer eyes.

"Not just the temple, but the village as well. My name is Hyrik," he introduced himself, Saphira bowing slightly to him in greeting. "Was there something you needed from me?"

"I was wondering if you knew anything about a Shadow Aolis in the nearby area," As soon as she had asked her question, she noticed a slight change in his expression. It was subtle, but there were some signs of concern.

"You're better off not meeting him. He's not the type to welcome people with open arms. There are many who have gone to him, thinking that he can end all their suffering. But none of them have ever returned," he warned her, Saphira feeling a bit less eager to meet him. But it didn't change the fact that she had to.

"I'll take my chances. Where can I find him?" she asked after a few moments, Hyrik letting out a defeated sigh. Saphira guessed he had met many that said the same thing as her and he had given up trying to convince them otherwise.

"The forest East of the village. It's not far, so you should be able to get there without much problem. But don't say I didn't warn you if you regret it later," he told her, Saphira not expecting it to be that close. Which also made her realize something.

"When you said before that your village has troubles of their own, is that what you meant?" she asked, referring to the conversation he had with Nate just before.

"So you heard that. Yeah, that's what I was talking about. I can count how many people have gone there in desperation for something and never returned," His eyes looked to the ground, Saphira noticing that they looked a bit glossy. He shook his head before he turned his attention back to the wall. "Now, if that's all you needed, I shall return to my work. I need to translate this relic before that soldier comes back to pester me some more," Saphira took a second look at the wall, recognizing all of the letters. She moved next to the man and read it to herself.

The Guardians connection to their Spirit must be unbreakable, unshakable, never doubted. Their combined efforts will bring Light to the those who have lost their way, and the land shall be protected. The Spirit Guardian will rise above the other as a symbol, a figure that they will work to become. They have the fate of the world in their hands, and their fate is to always protect it until their last days.

Saphira wasn't expecting it to talk about the Guardians, nor about her role. But at the same time, she didn't like it. Being fated to protect the world no matter what, it sounded like a sad way to live one's life.

"Now's not time to think about that. The first thing we need to focus on is ending this war," Flarenix told her, Saphira agreeing with her. Just as she was about to tell Hyrik what the relic said, she could hear the sound of the door handle behind her. Before she could tell him anything, she quickly scaled the wall and ended up where she was when she entered the room. As soon as she landed and hid behind one of thicker columns of the railing, Nate and some other soldiers entered the room.

"Has anyone entered the building?" he asked before Hyrik could say a word. The other soldiers began to look around every hiding place in the room, which wasn't too many.

"No, there hasn't. Why do you ask?" Hyrik lied, Saphira surprised by how natural he sounded when he said that.

"There was a Kyni that attacked two men from Holie who had offered to assist us. They won't come to areas populated by Human when they're with their pack, let alone by themselves," Nate stated, Saphira surprised he even thought of that. The two soldiers regrouped with Nate and both of them shook their heads. "We'll be making sure no one is in here. We won't disturb your work,"

"I think you're wasting your time, but do what you feel you must," Hyrik told him, Saphira waiting for them to leave the room before she made her way down again. "You're better off going out the main entrance. Just make sure you don't get caught,"

"Yeah, I know. Thank you for your help," Saphira quickly left the room and continued through the lower part of the hallway. She could hear footsteps over her head, not wasting any time and swiftly but silently made her way to the exit. Once out, she wasted no time being stealthy anymore and dashed down the staircase, Ruby quickly following behind her. When she reached the end of the staircase, she stopped dead in her tracks and saw that the entire main street was filled with soldiers.

"What are we going to do? With so many soldiers, it is an inevitability that we will be spotted," Ruby asked, Saphira looking to her left. Hyrik said the forest was to the East of the village, and that it was close. If that was the case, she should be able to see it. Sure enough, the tall trees of the forest were visible from her position.

"Come on, this way," Saphira said as she entered an alleyway of sorts and exited the village from the side instead of the main gate. "The man in charge of the temple said there was a Shadow Aolis in the forest close to here. So that's our next destination,"

"Is that place also a former shelter?" Ruby asked, referring to what Shakaku said. Saphira didn't know about the exact locations of the shelters used during the first war, but it was possible. When they came closer to the forest, a feeling of dread and death from the forest hung over them as they continued to approach it. "Perhaps we should not enter this place," Saphira looked over at Ruby, who was already trembling.

'Animals a much more sensitive to these sorts of feelings than us Humans. So it makes sense she's already like this.' Saphira thought, taking a look at the forest in front of her. The trees were dead and without leaves, just like how they had looked in Milline. However, the difference between the two trees was that the trees in Milline were in fact healthy and strong. These looked like they were ready to break at any possible moment. There was a mist covering the entire forest, and a purple like color illuminating it. She looked up towards the sky, and noticed that the part of the sky that was over this forest were covered in black clouds. While it was clear blue everywhere else. 'If this isn't a perfect example of a place controlled by Spirits, I don't know what is.' Saphira crouched down beside Ruby and patted her softly on the head.

"You wait out here, Ruby. I'll be fine alone in there," she told her, Ruby not objecting in the slightest. In any other case, the Kyni would've most likely been very against Saphira going somewhere like this by herself. Which only proved just how much of an affect this place was having on Ruby. Saphira got up and entered the forest, the mist already surrounding her completely. She looked back for a moment, and saw nothing but mist. She knew she was just by the entrance, but she couldn't see anything. "This is going to be difficult,"

"I can't sense anyone nearby, either. But I should be able to help you get out if you ever want to turn back," Flarenix said, Saphira not feeling too reassured. She continued deeper into it, just walking straight ahead as that was the easiest. Flarenix did say at time she neared the edge of the forest, which Saphira would then turn to either the right or the left to stay in the ominous woods.

"Look, look! There's someone here!" Saphira froze when she heard a young child's voice echo around her, frantically looking around for the owner of the voice. But there was no one around her, and she couldn't sense anyone in the mist either. "Tee hee, she's looking for us~. But she'll never find us~," A chill ran up her spine as the child playfully taunted her.

"I thought there was something off about this place," Flarenix said suddenly, making Saphira jump. "This place is a Spirits representative in the Human Realm, as you might've guessed. But the Spirit who created this place is the one in charge of the souls of dead Humans and Spirits. So this place has the lingering spirits of the dead, and they're the ones talking to you,"

"So what Shakaku said about the Guardian 'hearing the dead' is true," Saphira asked, not feeling any better. The child began to laugh in a sickly cute manner, Saphira unable to pinpoint where the child was.

"You should pay more attention to your surroundings," A different voice spoke right in her ear, and she could even feel the breath as they spoke on her cheek. She jumped and quickly turned to look behind her, seeing the silhouette of a person in the mist. She couldn't see any details, so all she had to go on was the sound of his voice. But at least she could see him and he wasn't a ghost. "One wrong move, or one instance of weakness, and this place will eat you whole,"

"Are you the Guardian of this area?" she asked, the children giggling all around her. Saphira involuntarily trembled, a small snicker from the one who hid in the mist. "It's not polite to laugh at someone who's afraid,"

"I did not expect you to fear spirits like that. It was just, a pleasant surprise," the man said, Saphira glaring at him. "Now then, you asked me a question that I never answered. Yes, I am the Guardian of Shadow. And this is my home, fittingly named The Forest of the Dead," He stepped out of the mist and Saphira got a good look at his appearance. He also seemed more ‘down to earth’ than Shakaku had made her believe. He looked like he was a villager from the village next door, but there were certain details that really stood out. Most notably was the contrast between his golden hair and amethyst purple eyes. The color was so unique, Saphira was almost unable to pull her eyes from them. "It seems even you are entranced by my unique features," The way he said it made it sound like it was normal for people to stare at them. Saphira quickly moved her gaze away from him, a sudden chill running down her spine.

"This woman is pretty. Maybe she can 'entertain' us," The voice was no longer a small child, but an echo of numerous men all around her. Their words sounded ominous, and it seemed to annoy the Guardian as well as he walked right towards her and swung at the air.

"Stop being dead perverts. I've told you before what will happen if you try anything again," he said in a scolding voice, the presence of someone around them disappearing. "Honestly, taking care of the these wandering spirits is more difficult than one would think," Saphira noticed that his eyes showed fondness instead of annoyance, and the expression reminded her of how Nate used to be when they were young. Protective and loving. Very different from what she heard from the other Guardians.

"Are you primarily focusing on the spirits? You seem very caring towards them in a way," she asked, the Guardian shifting his gaze towards her.

"I have always preferred to talk to the deceased over living Humans. The dead have much better advice about life and need more help to move on," he stated, his view on them very different from Saphira's. Then again, her experience with ghost have not been pleasant. "But enough about me. You came here for a reason, didn't you?"

"Yes. I am a Guardian of sorts as well. So I need some help," she answered him, the Guardian stepping back and creating some distance between the two.

"So, you're the Spirit Guardian. It's certainly about time that one was chosen," he muttered to himself, Saphira confused by his words. He knew right away that she was the Spirit Guardian, but how? Did he know more about the Guardians than the others did? "Then I'll teach you the last step of Sulos. But be prepared, it isn't a pleasant experience,"

"What do you mean?" she asked, thinking back to the paper Sharika showed her. The last step was to 'block' another Aolis' Leot, or something along those lines. Before she could get any answer from him, the shadows from the surrounding trees pulled her down so she was pinned to the ground. The shadows' grip was incredibly tight that she could barely move any part of her body. "What the hell are you doing?"

"The way to learn this technique isn't pleasant, nor is it safe. But it is necessary. I do feel bad for doing this to you, as you seem like a nice person. But this is my duty as a Guardian," he explained to her, Saphira more confused as he continued to talk. Another shadow approached her from the front, looking like a small snake. It slowly moved and began to caress her cheek, a searing pain flowing through her entire body. She let out a pain filled scream, the scream making her own ears hurt. She tried to keep her voice down, but she couldn't do anything. She tried to move her arms so she could get rid of it, but just moving a finger made the pain much worse. "You have to break out of this if you want me to accept that you are ready to carry the title of 'Guardian',"

"How…can I…?" Saphira tried to ask her question, but she couldn't finish it. The snake moved so it was around her neck, like it wanted to be more comfortable. Thankfully the pain didn't get worse, but the idea of a snake on her neck didn't help her as she felt more panicked.

"Relax and try to think. This is exactly what the last step is for; to block another ones Leot," he tried to encourage her, Saphira not really able to clear her mind. So instead of thinking about it, she thought of using brute force. She ignored her pain as much as she possible could as she tried to break through the shadows that had her pinned down. As she did, she tried to use Flarenix's power and spread fire throughout her body to try and numb out the pain. Though it did nothing.

"Come on, don't give up now!" Flarenix cheered her own, Saphira not able to get herself free while she was laying on the ground. So she decided to try and at least sit up, despite the fact that the pain would become even worse. She was able to get up on her knees, the pain became unbearable as she still tried to break out of the shadows. She let out a loud scream of pain in response, the Leot that was around the flames inside of her body in bursting out and destroying not only the shadows that trapped her, but the snake that caused the pain in the first place. Saphira fell on all four and tried to use her arms as support, but they gave up underneath her and she fell to the ground, a very thin layer of Leot covering her body. It wasn't the same as when she learned the technique from Shakaku, as that was supposed to block Flarenix's Leot. She could feel that this one was meant to push away Leot from everyone but her Spirit. The Guardian appeared next to her and gently stroke her hair out of her face.

"You were able to break through it with your own strength as well as the power given to you by your spirits. You're the first to break through it on the first attempt," he said, his voice sounding distant. She was able to see clearly, but her ears sounded like they were clogged. "With strength like yours, Sulos should be no problem,"

"Thanks…" she said, her voice hoarse, trying to get up again. But she could barely move her arms at this point. The Guardian let out a small sigh as he carefully picked her up bridal style and began to exit the forest. As she looked at him, she realized she still didn't have his name. "What… name," She could barely hear some of the words she spoke, but he seemed to understand what she was asking.

"My name is Troy," he introduced himself, Saphira relaxing against his shoulder as he continued to carry her.

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