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26 A TIME TO BE ALIVE



Head Councilor Dranx arrived in a devastating scene. He saw bodies littered on the bloodied ground, both Exoshan and Oniron. The knights, headed by General Luther sat on the ground with long faces.

He approached the general. "General Luther, what happened?"

"We were too late. It was a massacre Dranx, a massacre." He combed his hair, tears streaming down his face.

Dranx's brain may have short-circuited for he didn't understand what the general said. "What-what do you mean?"

General Luther covered his face. "We were too late. This is what we saw when we arrived."

Dranx pulled the general to stand and shook him. "What about Denaire?! Where is she?!"

The general only let the boy shake him up because whatever he does, the past can never be reversed.

"General! Answer me!" Dranx was getting hysterical now but still the general remained lost in thought.

After a worthless shaking, he dropped to the ground and sobbed. If only he remained. If only he persuaded Denaire to accompany him. If only Denaire led the first group. If only…..

General Luther noticed the despair on the young lad's face. He remembered the first time he felt that. It was the time when he knew that the Crown Prince wasn't with them when they tried to escape. He was so devastated. He was the greatest General ever in Oniro but he failed in his sole purpose: to protect the royal family and Oniro.

He let the boy wallow in his sadness but left with these words: "Cry now. And later, we have to stand up and avenge our fallen comrades. I know you feel that they are alive. Hold onto that thought and make it a motivation to survive every day. Hold onto it, until that dream becomes a reality."

Dranx sat silently after so much crying; an unmanly thing to do for him. But his mind started to work again properly. He was thinking of scenarios that could have happened to them. Just then, he heard a faint help under the debris of a wooden building.

He asked hesitantly, "Hello?"

"He-elp," a faint voice replied.

He immediately removed the wood blocks that were forming a heap. He continued until his hands were all wounded from the wood splinters. The people around him were curious, but it was General Luther who helped him uncover the pile.

And there they found Gina.

Dranx gave her his coat. He surveyed the lady. She wasn't badly wounded but there were burn marks in both her feet and her hands.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

Instead of answering, she cried in Dranx's arms. He couldn't fathom the trauma this lady had witnessed. And so he did what he could only think of: he hugged the girl back and rubbed her back.

The girl continued crying, her sobs echoing between the knights' ranks. That heart-stopping sob made their heart wrench in guilt and remorse. If only they didn't dilly-dally in getting back to base. Without that distress call, they would have stayed at the shore to breathe in that fresh salty sea. But it was still too late.


***

As they were all traveling back to the island, Head Councilor Dranx and General Luther asked Gina of what transpired during their wait.

"Why didn't you just run or hide from them?"

"General," Gina replied. "Running would be futile since there is only one exit. And that one exit would immediately lead us to them. Raj confirmed it, since he knew the whole outline of that underground tunnel. From where we were staying, there's only one exit."

The general sighed. "So, if we continued staying there, there will probably be a time where we will be trapped inside, and there will be nothing that we can do."

Gina nodded grimly. "Okay, so that. We decided to fight it out until your squad, General, comes back.

"Denaire's strategy was superb. He made Raj stand guard at the only entrance to ensure that all of them get in. Her bird was the look out from the outside. When all of the soldiers were inside, Raj closed and locked the door to trap the soldiers."

"Well, that is suicide!" General Luther exclaimed in horror.

"It is. But we set up traps, so that there would just be few who will meet our frontline. The archers were equipped with that wonderful ice magic Denaire enforced it with.

"We were a united fort. I took down one of their captains. We were winning; there was no casualty in our ranks."

"But? There is a but in that story," Dranx sighed.

"Yes. We didn't anticipate of another legion, from the skies."

"From the skies? How come? Exoshans weren't given the chance to become air magicians because of the condition in their lands."

"That was what our minds were all thinking. But there it was. We just saw their general smiling evilly at us. He said something like, you are all mine.

"And then, fire rained down on us. Denaire, she was so quick," there was awe and respect on her eyes to the girl that led them. "She conjured an ice canopy for all of us. But it wasn't enough. The fire kept coming, and Denaire's source of that was dwindling. So we decided to take cover and get out of there.

"We managed to take their general as a hostage, as a bargaining chip to let us go. But they didn't mind that we kill that general. And then, it was that you saw. They were just too powerful and too numerous. We didn't stand a chance."

"But there were others we couldn't find on that battlefield."

"I know. There were some that were taken as prisoners."

"Prisoners?" General Luther asked incredulously. "What are they going to do with having prisoners?"

"I don't even know General. So, I believe, that those who survived were taken as prisoners."

"My Emong was among them," Gina added forlornly.

"But how are we going to take them back?"

Gina looked at both the males who were with her. "We don't. From the way we are now, we can't do anything about it. We are as weak as a dying tree."

General Luther nodded. "I believe she is right. The thing we need to do now is get to Perifaenia before the Exoshans do and seek their support. Or just warn them on the impending attack."

"But our friends…" Drax said; hopelessness evident on his face.

"We just have to trust them that they'll survive until the point where we could take them all back in our midst."

And as they landed on their makeshift island, it was with heavy hearts that they broke the news to the people of Oniro.

Dranx thought, 'What a time to be alive.'