.:Chapter Four:.

Demonic 1: Intertwined Fates

 

Chapter 4

 

"Light vanished; 

             Darkness remained."

 

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         "Arggh!" an enraged voice screamed, making Hope shudder from her hiding place behind one of the many great stone columns in the vast palace. "You did what?"

         An obviously frightened voice replied, "I-I simply set a little trap to--"

         "A trap?" the girl roared, interrupting the frightened man. "You idiot! Do you know what you've done? You've killed us!"

         "I apologize..." he said feebly, color draining out of his pallid face.

          "Silence. You have already ruined all the plans. Die." Hope thought she saw a sardonic smile appear on the other girl's face. Every bone in her body, every fiber of her being told her to run away. Far, far away.

         Hope watched in horror as a dark shadow hovered over the man cowering under the teenage girl's unfaltering gaze. No, she thought. It can't be! It's not--          

         Hope felt a shiver run the length of her spine as a cold hand touched her shoulder. "Dear sister... How... welcoming..." She looked back at the man and realized that he was now no more than a mere corpse. His face was blank; completely devoid of emotion. The teenage girl was gone from her stand in front of him. The dark shadow was gone, leaving a patch of sunlight. It was a bizarre contrast seeing the bright, cheerful sunlight upon a corpse.

          Hope turned slowly to the figure behind her. "Y-You..."

          "Want some popcorn? You've been watching quite a show, haven't you?"

          Hope saw the dark shadow lurking behind the girl. It chilled her to the very marrow of her bones.

 

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         Hope awoke with a start, beads of cold sweat upon her forehead. With a shaking hand, she wiped it with the sleeve of her shirt. Hope reached for the clock on the bedside table. Her hands groped the wood surface until she touched the plastic cover of the digital clock. Hope's tired eyes read that it was five-thirty in the morning.  

         Hope got up and walked over to the bathroom outside her room. In the medium-sized cabin, there was only two bathrooms; one downstairs, in between the small commons area and the even smaller kitchen, and one upstairs to be shared by all three occupants.

         Their cabin was only medium-sized in comparison with regular cabins. In all the cabins the masters are assigned, theirs was the obviously the smallest. Masters were assigned cabins by the number of cadents they had, and in some special cases, by the type of master they were. Element type masters were given larger cabins because they usually had many cadents since there were a lot of Elementals in Citria.

         Hope stumbled into the bathroom, yawning widely. She hadn't expected anyone else to be up this early. Although training started officially at six-thirty in the morning, both her cadents had spent hours past midnight training. Hope picked up her toothbrush and started to brush her teeth. She then proceeded to washing her face.

          Hope walked out, feeling refreshed. She started back to her room. Hope changed into a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt. She grabbed a light training jacket, wondering about the day which was to follow. Hope made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. She was surprised to be met with Glacia, who was sipping a cup of hot chocolate. "Good morning," Hope greeted her Cadent. Glacia was dressed in the same fashion as she was, except in an ice-blue color.

         "Good morning," Glacia greeted back. Glacia motioned to a cup in front of her. "For you," she told her.

          Hope was apprehensive towards chocolate but she decided to try it anyway. "Thanks." Hope sat down across from Glacia and took the brown cup in her hands. It was warm to the touch, not hot. She took a cautious sip. The hot chocolate heated her insides in a friendly way. It brought good memories to mind. She smiled slightly, for the first time in a long while. Hope felt happy--genuinely so. "It's good," she told Glacia.

          "Thank you." Glacia smiled sadly at her cup. "Did you know that chocolate helps calm the nerves?"

         Hope didn't reply. She had other things on her mind, like how she would deal with her current problem. Blaze had reacted almost exactly like how she had expected. Having a Demon didn't only mean great power. It also meant isolation from others. Once--if--it got out that Blaze had a Demon, he would most likely be driven out of Citria. She knew how Blaze would react if she told him what she had just thought. He would most likely claim that he would never use his Demon, no matter what it took. Of course, it would be only a matter of time before he ran into a situation where he would be completely wiped out of energy. It would be then that his Demon would come out; it would be then that his Demon would overcome him. That is, if he didn't train.

         But then again, he could be lucky and not be forced into a situation where his Demon would be unleashed. She was proof of that luck. And then again, Blaze didn't have the temperament she had when she had been younger. She admitted, she hadn't been that mellow, but she wasn't the hot-head Blaze was. Hope had endured Paul's torments with only a few outbursts; none of which had made her unleash Blissia. It would be a miracle if Blaze could withstand Craig without doing much damage. And it wasn't only his identity that would become the dangerous aspect of having a Demon, having one could destroy up to a fourth of all of Citria.

         Hope sighed. It was impossible, she decided, for Blaze to deal with his Demon without either changing his hot-headed personality or training him to control his Demon. Even if changing his personality would be the easier option, she would still choose the latter. She wouldn't ever try to change a person's personality, not matter what.

         "Is something wrong?" Glacia asked her, a tone of concern coloring her calm voice.

         Hope looked over at her. She shook her head in response. "It's nothing."

         Glacia looked like she didn't believe the words Hope was saying. "Okay," she finally said. "Are we training today?"

         Hope nodded, glad that Glacia didn't question her about Blaze, which she would have expected from any other person. Glacia seemed like the kind of person who kept to herself and only asked if it was something to be answered in dire need. "We're training until noon and then we'll have lunch and then we'll run through drills."

         "Drills?"

         "One thing that is majorly different about being Cadents and being part of a real team is that you take on missions. You have to run through formations and such before you can take part in them."

         "I see."

         "How far have you gotten with your Ice training?" Hope asked.

         Glacia looked down at her cup, holding the handle of it between knotted fingers. "Well... I made ice..."

 

 

           Hope looked dissatisfied. "Did you spike holes in the tree?"

            "T-Tree?" Glacia was suddenly intimidated by Hope's piercing green eyes. She hadn't noticed before how green they were. Or how they seemed to pierce her to the very soul of her existence. "I didn't know I was supposed to..." Hope let out an exasperated sighed. She sat straighter up. Before, Glacia might have thought Hope was an equal-an older one, but nevertheless an equal-a fellow warrior. Now, Glacia felt as if she were being reprimanded by a teacher for not fulfilling her goal. Tears sprang unwanted to her eyes as she remembered how she had been scolded almost every day for not finishing the tasks that she had been assigned because she didn't know how to manipulate her Element. "I'm s-sorry... I didn't know we had to-"

            Hope cleared her throat, carefully interrupting Glacia in the middle of her apology. "I don't want an apology-I want you to say that you could do better. I'm not going to tell you step to step what you have to do.  From now on, there're no more apologies. There're no more excuses, either. You learn from your mistakes. That's how you learn."

            Glacia nodded. She was reminiscing on her past memories after taking in Hope's short speech. They weren't pleasant. "I will try harder," she promised.

            "G'morning," a tired voice yawned. Blaze came stumbling down the stairs, one hand over his mouth, covering a huge yawn. "Hey Glacia," he greeted his friend. He sat down at the table.

            "Good morning," Glacia replied. She looked sheepish. "I had a hot chocolate for you but it's probably cooled by now."

            Blaze shrugged and gave Glacia a mysterious smile. "I have my own way of heating things up." He picked up the cup in his hands and breathed into it. A wisp of fire streamed into the cup and into the cooled chocolate liquid. It started to steam and a warm scent filled the air.

            Glacia watched with interested eyes. "I forgot you had your element..."

            Hope cleared her throat, interrupting the two Cadents' conversation. "I want to make this clear right now. You can't become dependent on your element. I mean, what Blaze just did. You used your element to do something many other people would have done manually."

            "So?" Blaze asked, his tone airy. "I call it using the tools I'm given."

            "There are circumstances where a person might lose their powers-maybe forever. If you become reliant on that source of power, it could possibly lead to your death."

            Glacia understood what Hope meant, but Blaze didn't. "So you're saying that having an element is a bad thing? Isn't the whole point of attending the Academy intended so we could learn how to use our gift?"

            Hope nodded, seeing Blaze's point. "That's true, but it's also true that the Academy teaches different subjects. I'm sure both of you have been trained in the SPY arts and physical combat training. Why do you think that is?"

            "So that we would be able to have a back-up power?"

            Hope shrugged. "More or less."

            "I still don't see what's so bad about using our element as long as we still have it," Blaze said, a hint of frustration creeping into his voice. "I mean, as long as we don't become, as you put it, reliant..."

            "But how do you know you won't?" Hope countered. Blaze became silent. He didn't know. He couldn't be sure that he wouldn't become reliant.

            "We should still use it," Glacia cut in, shooting a small smile at Blaze. "As long as the cause is just."

            Hope smiled also. "As long as the cause is just. Nicely put."

            Blaze leaned back and took a long drink from his cup.

            "Careful!" Glacia cautioned. "It's hot!"          

            Blaze sputtered and coughed, taken aback by the sudden fire. "I'm-okay," he told Glacia and Hope, waving his hand frantically.

            Glacia held out her hand for the cup. It was clenched tightly in his hand. She was afraid that he would break it or burn it. Unexpectedly, the whole room turned into a winter wonderland, or so the temperature seemed. She hadn't meant to do anything. "Sorry..."

            Hope's smile stayed fixed on her face. "It's alright. Our training starts right now." She turned to Glacia and Blaze. "Now, I want both of you to try to change the temperature back to normal."

            "But I-we-don't know what the temperature was before..."

            Hope smiled. "That's a challenge both of you need to overcome. During missions, you aren't always going to have the information you need. That's where you have to find it out for yourself."

            "What do you...?"

            Hope just gave a knowing smile. "This is your first 'mission.'" She stood up, no visible reaction to the chill at all. Hope set her cup of hot chocolate down. The leftover liquid was still warm. She walked out of the room, leaving her two Cadents bewildered.

 

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            "I got your message," Hope told James grimly as she sat down in front of him. James' office was cool-just as his personality was. He never seemed to react to anything. James was one of her closest friends, even back in her Academy years. Along with Jesse Crown, the current king of Citria.

            "Quick and on time, just as usual, Hope." James' voice was a deep and alluring. Out of all her friends, he was the one she'd call "the ladies' man." And he knew it. He favored her with a slow, crooked grin.

            "Out with it," Hope ordered her long-time friend. "Whenever you give me that smile, it gives me the creeps. What're you hiding from me."

            James dropped the smile immediately. "Alright, since you seem like you're in a hurry..." Two crisp knocks sounded from the direction of the door.

Hope recognized it blatantly. "Why is..."

            "There's something we need to tell you, Hope," James said morosely. Something in his voice informed her that James was holding back something-something important. Something vital.

            "We? So you both know something I don't?"

            James cleared his throat. He stood up. "King Jesse," he said with a different tone of his voice. One more reserved and careful. One he used with royalty.

            Hope also stood up and greeted her sovereign. "King... Jesse..."

            "Good morning, Hope." Jesse's sparkling blue eyes were alive with energy. "Sorry for calling you so early."

            "It's alright."

            "Sit, sit." The king motioned for his two subjects to sit down as he did so himself. "Now," he said, concern written conspicuously on his face. "It's been a while since I've seen you... How are you?"

            Hope narrowed her eyes. She was bursting to ask why the king himself had called her out. Especially this early in the morning. "Get to the point."

            Jesse looked uncomfortably from Hope to James. Hope had a calm questioning look on her face. He knew better than to trust her visible expression. She had long since passed the point where people could tell her emotion from her facial expression. He assumed that she was burning to figure out what he wanted. James was staring expectantly at him. He nodded slightly, motioning to him to hurry up and say it. "Well... It's about... about..."

            Hope looked with disinterested eyes. "What?"

            "Vuldon."

            Turmoil. Pure turmoil.

 

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            "How are we even supposed to change the temperature in the first place?" a skeptical voice wondered.

            Glacia shrugged. "I'm oblivious to the cold. I'm not even aware of the temperature change..."

            Frustration was displayed clearly on Blaze's features. "Neither am I. I'm fire so I have a built-in heater. All I can feel is a cooler feeling than usual. Feel my hand." Blaze held out his hand for Glacia to feel. When she did so, he winced. "You're so cold!"

            Glacia raised an eye. "You're burning... It's like you have a fever..."

            "We're opposing elements; we can't exactly..." Something lit up in Blaze's eye. "What if we combine our elements? That would cancel them out..."

            "That's true... but how would we know how much of our elements we would need?"

            "Half and half," Blaze replied reasonably.

            Glacia shook her head. "Remember, fire defeats ice-it melts it. And then it turns to water..."

            "So more ice? Twenty-five percent to seventy-five percent, maybe?"

            "Let's try it first."

            Glacia nodded, feeling apprehension.  She would have to concentrate hard; Blaze knew more about his element and could actually use it where as she could barely conjure ice. Ice! If she conjured the iceball again, she could spilt it up to the twenty-five to seventy Blaze mentioned. It was worth a try. She closed her eyes and imagined ice... Ice... Ice... She felt the air around her stiffen and harden. Now that she had been expecting the coolness of ice, she could feel the air's chill. Glacia opened her eyes and smiled.

            Blaze watched the iceball hover in midair. He closed his eyes and whispered, "Fireball." He imagined intense heat. He felt warmth spread throughout him. He opened his eyes and saw a round, fiery-red ball of fire. Small wisps of smoke curled up from the tips of the flames. He reached out his hand and grabbed it carefully with his bare hands. He had done the trick so many times, it was habit. He realized Glacia was watching him.

            "How come you aren't burned?" she asked. "You burned your tongue earlier by drinking hot chocolate..."

            Blaze smiled. "It's a trick I made up. Any element can create destruction-it doesn't have to be pressurized or anything. Ice might look harmless but it's not, at least, not in its elemental form."

            Glacia let out a suppressed giggle.

            "What?" he asked, obviously surprised by her outburst.

            "You sound like a teacher. A good one, too."

            Blaze blushed, looking down. "Anyway... You can't grab your ice without suffering from severe frostbite. The way you can counteract that is by molding a bit of your element onto your skin as a forcefield."

            "Isn't that just going to make it worse?"

            Blaze shook his head. "Not if you do it right."

            "There's a right way and a wrong way?"

            "Yeah. There're two kinds of your element you have: offense and defense. The offensive is what most people use. For Blizzard and Blizzaga," Blaze added. "The defensive kind is what protects you from effects of heat, the same way it protects me from ice. This is usually an involuntary thing. You're going to use the second type of Ice to grab the iceball. Try it."

            "How?"

            "Remember, I can't teach you how to use your element. You have to figure it out yourself."

            Glacia sighed and then proceeded to closing her eyes. In her mind, she imagined a solid wall of ice. Not for harming another but for protection. She imagined it clear and shiny... as strong as diamond. She imagined the wall of ice was made of diamond. She pictured it on her hands. She coated the palms and fingers, and the sensitive bits between them. She opened her eyes. She didn't feel any different, neither did her hands. There wasn't any visible effect to them. She looked at Blaze, who nodded back encouragingly.

            She reached out a hand and gripped the ball of ice in her hand. She felt only a cool sensation. She forced the ball down so that it was a fourth of the size it had been.

            Blaze took out about a fourth of the fire's total power. He held it up to Glacia's ice ball. Together, they would make approximately 100 percent. They forced their hands closer together. It was harder work than they would have thought. The opposing elements resisted coming together. Finally, there was a gentle crack where fire touched ice. Steam sizzled between the two elements.

            The warmth spread throughout the room, melting the faint traces of frost on the window.

            Glacia and Blaze grinned at each other. Mission one... Complete!

 

 

The End

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