He walked out of the Crater and looked at the horizon. The Sun was on its way to sink in the ocean, and the wind brought dark clouds from the east. It was going to be a long-dark-night.
In his mind appeared faces of the High-Guards that had assembled for the battle. The fear, excitement, eagerness, and solemness, each had a different look. They were all the best soldiers of the Aryan Empire, and they were present there without any idea of what awaited them.
Shazan rode the horse to the Palace in grave seriousness. He did not know why the Annihilation Beasts were not arriving in groups, but he was sure that it was not that they could not do it.
He needed answers, and the confidence to make up the plans. And he could only think of one person who could give him some useful information.
On his way, he made calls to Keira and Karen. He informed them that he might not be coming back any time soon.
Keira had not asked him questions and complied with his words, but Karen did ask the questions, and he told her the truth. She was worried, but she did not make things difficult for him.
“Do come back safely.”
Her words lingered in his mind and brought a slight smile on his lips.
It was not his safety that he was concerned about, but the safety of the people that had gathered around him. He had lost too many people in his life, and the last thing he wanted to see was someone dying when he was in command.
He was a Prince raised to be an Emperor. He knew the realities of the Wars. Blood and conflicts were inevitable at this scale of battle. Someone was bound to lose their life, but he would make sure that he tried his best to keep everyone safe in this disaster.
Arriving at the Palace, he headed straight for Maira’s courtyard. The absence of the Maids meant that the Evacuation Plan was in effect, but the Tigers were still roaming around the place, free as ever.
He let loose his senses and found where the people he was looking for were.
A cheerful voice called him out as soon as he entered the room, and he was wrapped in a warm embrace right after that.
“Ella…” He smiled and planted a kiss on her head before hugging her tightly.
Her body was warmer than usual, but it was not in a fever. He loved how she felt in his arms and squeezed her protectively.
He wanted to stay just like that for a while, but then Ella noticed the torn cloth on his shoulder. There was some dried blood on it, and her face paled in horror.
“Master…” She hurriedly let go of him and inspected for the wound.
“It’s fine. It was just a scratch, and it has healed.”
He didn’t stop her from inspecting, and only after she saw no scar, did she smile again.
“Where did you run off to?” She grudgingly pouted. “And what happened last night?” She asked worriedly.
“I was just tired.”
He picked her up in her arms and brought her to the couch where Isha was standing. He sat down by her side, with Ella on his lap.
“Maira?” He asked her.
“She woke up and tried to rush back to the cave, but Rani-ma stopped her and took her to handle the evacuation.”
“Evacuation?” Ella confusedly asked.
Shazan palely smiled at her question.
“I did not inform her about it. She was already too worried about you.” Isha told him.
He nodded to her and glanced at the necklace Ella was wearing. The red in it mesmerized him, and he lightly traced it with his forefinger.
“It’s warm…” He whispered.
Ella giggled at his words and planted several kisses on his face.
“Thank you. I love it!” She said and touched the red gem on it.
“Where did you get it?” He asked her curiously.
Ella confusedly looked at him and tilted her head.
“It was not you?” She asked doubtfully.
“No…” He felt bad when he saw the sadness in her expressions, but he couldn’t lie to her.
“It must have been Rani-Ma. She was with Ella last night, looking after you.” Isha said and leaned in to take a better look at the necklace. “It’s so beautiful. Every time I look at it, I feel warm in my heart.”
Ella was not smiling anymore. She had been happy when she woke up and found such a beautiful necklace on her neck. She thought that her Master gave it to her, but now she knew it was not him.
“It too precious. I will return it to Rani-Ma.” She meekly whispered.
“Don’t.” Shazan chuckled at her words. “Keep it. It looks perfect on my Ella.”
“Realy?” She asked, hopeful.
“Yes!” He nodded and leaned in to take a sip of her lips. “You are so tempting today, I want to eat you.” He whispered near her ear.
“Eat me…” She whispered back and kissed him enthusiastically.
Isha blushed when she looked at their intimacy and lowered her head. Her body trembled in heat, and her senses drifted off as her eyes got misty.
Shazan stopped himself from going further with Ella’s plans. He wanted to indulge in lust with her but now was not the right time.
He sat her down on the couch and pulled the lost Isha in his lap.
The girl was shocked out of her trance, and the blush on her face intensified under his gaze.
“Start calling me Master from now on…” He reprimanded her. “Or… you can call me a husband,” He teasingly added.
Isha surprisedly looked up at him, but her eyes shot wide open when her lips were caught by him.
It was the first time he kissed her properly. It was not a little peck, he was not teasing her.
He inhaled her breath and took deep sips of her sweet mouth. Her soft, warm lips were trembling at the sensation, and her entire body was shaking.
Isha did not know how to respond to him, her heart was overwhelmed with emotions that soon poured out of her eye. She closed her eyes to stop her tears from ruining the moment, and she resigned herself in his embrace.
Shazan kissed her with all his affection. He knew that her heart was finally at peace, and so he held her like that for several minutes.
When he let her lips go, she buried her face in his neck and wrapped her arms around his neck.
Her body was tightly hugged by him. The protectiveness made her feel blissful, but it also took away her courage to lift her face and meet his gaze.
“So what is my Isha going to call me from now on?” He caressed her back and asked.
Her reply was subconscious, and Ella started giggling as soon as she heard it.
“You scared her!” Ella planted a kiss on his cheek and caressed the head of Isha.
“Isha…” He called out to her.
She was too shy to face him, but she was not stupid to have not realized that there was something important he wanted to say.
“You want the two of us to leave Arkaya?”
“Yes.” He nodded to her words.
Ella drew back when she heard their words. She complicatedly looked at them, and then clenched her soft fists.
“Is it dangerous here?” She asked.
“It is. And it could get worse.” He told her about what had happened.
Both Isha and Ella listened to his words with tense expressions. They glanced at the torn cloth on his right shoulder, and their eyes turned grim.
They were both weak. Isha had not awakened yet, and Ella was only a human. There was nothing they could help him with the situation, and their presence would only worry him, and make them a burden on him.
“Why do you have to stay…” Ella whispered but didn’t finish her words. She knew the answer, and her words had only come out as a painful, but a helpless complaint.
He hugged them both for a while, and then let them go.
“Let’s pick up the diary from Maira’s room, and then see if the little prince is okay. And you must try to convince Maira to leave with you. She might not listen to me.” He told the two of them.
Isha reluctantly nodded to his words, but Ella’s eyes were vacant.
They walked in silence to the Inner Palace, the people there were in a hurry with the tasks they had on their hands. The entire Palace was in a state of frenzy.
The Royal Court was full of members of the Royal house.
Everyone was tensed, their expressions were serious, and the whispers were solemn. The children did not know what was happening but seeing their parents stay silent, they dared not to make noises.
Some of the people stepped forward to come to him, but they stopped themselves. They had their questions, but they did not want to disturb him.
Shazan walked over to an elderly couple who were holding the hands of a little boy.
“Lord Silverstein,” The couple respectfully greeted him.
“I am looking for Rani-Ma.” He smiled at them and asked.
“She’s in the lounge with officers of Arkaya.” The woman informed him.
Shazan nodded to her, but he did not leave. He looked around and saw several people ardently looking at him for some answers.
“You are curious about what is happening?” He smiled at the elderly woman and asked.
“Yes,” The couple nodded to him. “We have been asked to evacuate Arkaya. All the High-Guards are missing, and the Elders as well.”
“They are preparing for a long battle,” Shazan told them. “Everyone has been asked to evacuate as a precaution. The forces will be more confident if they did not have to worry about civilian lives.”
The people who heard his words became even tenser.
“Has enemies invaded Arkaya?” The little kid asked him.
“Sort of. But they are not people. They are dangerous Beasts.” He smiled at the little boy and caressed his head. “You will be safe. We will make sure of it.”
The people still had questions. But he had cleared one thing to them that it was extremely dangerous to stay in Arkaya.
“It has been our home for….” The elderly man whispered but shook his head to clear his mind.
“Home is where the family is.” Shazan smiled at him. “We still do not know if Arkaya will survive or not, but it might. And even if it does not, its residents must survive. You will have a conclusion to this issue in a little over a month.” He looked at the people around him. “Kindly cooperate with the circumstances. Nothing is more precious than the lives of the people around us.”
Some did not know how to take his words, but the wise ones nodded their heads and prepared their hearts. Arkaya had been peaceful for all their lives, it was not strange that most of them did not know how to live in the current situation.
“Take care of yourself.” He said to the people and walked to the lounge at the back of the Throne-room.
He knocked on the door, and after waiting a minute, a man dressed in a blue uniform opened it. It was the uniform of the officials of Arkaya, and the two Stars on his chest meant that he was a High-Official.
“Lord Silverstein,” The man immediately lowered his head when he saw that it was him who had knocked.
“May I come in?” He smiled and asked Rani-Ma who was sitting in the middle of the room.
She looked weary, and the smile on her face was pale. The work she had to do was in no way less important than what the others were doing inside the cave. If anything, the responsibilities on her shoulders were heavier.
“Come!” She got up from her seat and called him inside.
Maira was standing right behind her, and her eyes were only locked on the torn cloth on his shoulder. She clenched her fists tightly when he approached her.
“How are you feeling?” He asked her gently.
She did not answer him and only lowered her head.
“She’s fine,” Rani-Ma answered him and inspected him for any injuries. “How are things inside the cave?”
The official perked up their ears at the question. Even Maira looked up at him for an answer.
“We have received bits of information, and the King’s orders, but we are still not clear about what is happening there,” Rani-Ma explained to him.
“We have managed to avoid casualties so far, and have benefited a little.” Shazan nodded to her and sat down by her side.
He explained to everyone what was happening and how grave it could get. They were aghast to hear what kind of creatures were appearing from the other side of the Wall, and some of them even started shaking.
The mere piece of Information that it took a dozen of their strongest to win against one, and that too narrowly, made them all nervous. And when they heard that there are even stronger creatures, everyone felt relieved at not being inside the cave.
“We have to evacuate fast, but it will still take us two to three days to get everyone out safely,” Rani-ma told him about the problems they were facing.
The main issue they had was security. Such a migration would catch the eyes of their enemies, and even the Orders will be informed of such movements. They could not conclude how to conduct the operation as discretely as possible.
Shazan listened to the issues patiently, and the problems were indeed serious. There was a lot to do, and not much time.
“The Dark Knights will be here in a few hours. I need the Security to allow them to enter Arkaya without any hindrance.” He informed them.
“Alright.” Rani-Ma did not ask any questions and nodded.
“About other issues,” Shazan looked at Maira. “Contact Ezio. He will help out as much as possible.”
“Karen called me earlier,” Maira said. “Keira and Ilsa are coming here.”
“I know.” Shazan smiled at her. “You will be going with them. Isha and Ella as well.” He looked at the two girls and said.
To his surprise, Maira stayed silent and did not say anything.
“And you too must head to the Silver Palace with the rest of your people.” He looked at Rani-Ma and said. “Don’t worry about us. Take Princess Kashish and the little Prince with you.”
“I understand…” Rani-Ma painfully accepted his words.
As the Queen of Aryans, she realized that someone from Royalty had to lead people out of here. It was essential to keep everyone calm and together.
Shazan then turned to look at the Officials.
“The Silverstein Empire will help out as much as possible, and you do not need to worry about the security of your people. I will arrange for it.” He assured them. “And you need to play your part in keeping everyone together, and not let chaos erupt. There is no need to forcefully rush things. Take three days, if you need five days, take them. Even if it takes a week, take it.”
“We will evacuate the women, children, and elderly first.” Rani-Ma nodded to his words and said.
The Officials agreed with her words. The priority previously had been to get the members of the Royal House out, and that had roused conflicted opinions. But now they agreed to the proposal. It was because of his presence there.
After the officials took their leave, Shazan stood up and hugged Maira in his arms.
The princess did not struggle and only clenched her fists tightly.
“You are brave, so be brave. I do not want to see my Maira acting weak.” He gently said to her. “You must help your mother and Rani-Ma. And protect Ella and Isha, okay?” He let her go and asked.
“I will…” She nodded her head.
“Good.” He smiled at her and turned around to go make some calls.
“But once everyone has evacuated, I will come to join you.”
Her words halted his steps and made him sigh.
“You are not afraid of being a burden?” He chuckled and asked.
“Am I a burden to you?”
A simple question quietened him. He glanced at the seriousness in her eyes and turned to walk out of the room.
“Even if you were, I wouldn’t mind it.”
He walled in the corridor in silence. He held the Diary of Zihanay, and his mind tried to figure out where to look for Aaleen.
After helplessly wandering in the corridors, he took out his cell phone and made a call to a friend.
“Kaiser…” He called out the name of the receiver. “I need a favor. Hexis will contact you with the details, and remember, the Order must not come to know about any of this.”
“Alright.” A husky voice answered him and ended the call.
Shazan helplessly shook his head and smiled.
The First Lord of the Wise Blood Order was a strange man. But he was capable and trustworthy.
A figure rushed up to him and panted for breath.
“I have been looking for you all over the place!” Ella complained and grudgingly looked at him.
“Is everything okay?” He asked.
“Yes,” She nodded her head. “I just want to spend some time with you, and I felt as if you were looking for me.” She confusedly whispered.
“Alright.” He laughed and then looked at what she was holding in her hands. “Where did you get this?”
“We went to see the little Prince. He was asleep, and the Flute was on the side-table.” She traced the Flute gently. “I picked it up, and Rani-Ma asked me to bring it to you. She said that you might need it.” She presented the Flute to him with a smile.
Shazan had a scare when he had seen the Flute in her hands, but after he checked for any abnormalities, he found none. Even the dangerous feeling the Flute had been previously giving him was gone.
He drew his hand forward and took the Flute in his hand. The Inscriptions were still there, and he traced them gently. Nothing unusual happened, but then when he tried to inspect it for any life-source and secrets, his mind was assaulted with a soul-rendering pain. He cried out painfully, but then the pain was gone.
“Master!” Ella took the Flute from his hands and asked worriedly. “What happened?”
It took him a moment to get back to his senses, and he apprehensively looked at the Flute. He had nearly forgotten that it was the weapon of Annihilation.
“Nothing.” He smiled at her and placed his hand on his heart.
In the moment of pain, he felt as if he was in Renesme’s arms, and he could feel her presence.
“Don’t play the Flute. Okay?” He nudged her nose and smiled.
“Mhmm…” Ella obediently nodded to him and looked at the diary in his hands.
She tilted her head and looked confused.
“What is it?” He raised the hand that held the dairy and asked.
“That’s a strange name…” She mused.
“What name?” He asked doubtfully before looking at the Diary in his hands. There was nothing on it.
Ella read out the name that he could not see. It was the name he had not told anyone.
♛ Author’s Note:
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