[ ｓ ｐ ｅ ｒ ｏ ] － ｏｕｒ ｌａｓｔ ｈｏｐｅ－ Musical Ambiance She stood alone. A strong gust of wind blew across the graveyard in silence. Even the trees dared not rustle. Her footsteps were quiet, gentle. She was almost afraid to approach it at first, but her feelings overtook her fear. She knelt in front of the gravestone, her eyes solemn, her hands shaking as she reached to brush the dirt off the stone surface. Brown pieces of earth crumbled away at her fingertips, clearing away to reveal a name, a date, a quote. Her eyes softened. Here Lies... Princess Aurora Amelie Queen Aurora Forthwind May her smile always be remembered, in wake of the kindred soul that she always was. Princess of Cella, Queen of Cella, Heart of Cella. Another breeze traveled through the air, pulling her long black strands of hair along with it. For a moment, her sight was blinded by her bangs, flying towards the direction of the wind. She rose from the ground, staring down at Aurora's grave in silence. There was no one to put roses on the woman's resting place, no one to honor her beauty, her kindness, no that was capable of betraying the silence that hung in this courtyard. She drew her jacket around herself. It was getting colder. She was a young woman with pale white skin, sparkling gray eyes, and long, straight black hair. She wore a fitting black dress, with laced sleeves and a laced collar. She wore tight black leggings, white ribbons strung along her legs. It was a simple outfit, more solemn than cheerful. Lately, her wardrobe had been filled with the black of funerals and the dark colors of political meetings. She no longer had the chances to wear the colorful chiffon dresses of her youth. Lilac could feel it heavier than ever now, the great dread that had fallen upon Cella. Her eyes left the stone tablet and traveled about the grass, staring up at the dim sky. It was a miracle that she, herself, was still alive. And the others, were risking their lives in an endeavor that was entirely her planning. She wondered if they would succeed. If they would live. It may as well be her last breath. She looked down at the grave again, with a quiet sigh, pulling something out of her neck. Mimmara's necklace. The diamond crystal and key glittered in the light of the early morning. Lilac's eyes set upon the stone key as she let the necklace fall against her chest. She closed her eyes, her lips moving, but her voice lost with another rush of wind. Only a few words slipped past her, echoing into the silence, "...moriar...conans..." With those words, a vow of sorts, she closed her eyes and remembered how it all started... ...................................................................... LILAC'S FLASHBACK....................................................................... There was little to observe. It was pitch black except for a little flame casting shadows on the craggy walls and the low-hanging ceiling. The only constant sound was a steady tapping on the floor. Occasionally a drip of water or quiet splash could be heard, and that would explain the moistness in the air. Her candle’s flame flickered as a drop of water landed near the wick. Its light was so faint that she could barely navigate through the cave. Walls snuck up on her several times, leaving her with a small scratch across her forehead, but she could not afford for anyone outside to see a light within this cave. There was a dangerous secret here, and no one else should know of it. It shouldn’t be removed from its dwelling. But that dangerous secret was hers to keep, and hers to protect. It was dangerous, yes, but what if something dangerous could save the kingdoms from something even more dangerous? That's why she was down here. The candlelight wavered again, this time from her breath as she ducked under a ledge. She was almost there. Betraying her country's most precious secret was easier than she thought it would be. There was no guilt crushing her lungs, no lump in her throat. Just reassurance that betrayal could lead to lives saved and countries at peace. A downward slope in the floor told her that she was nearly at the heart of the cave. Her head no longer threatened to crack against the ceiling as she followed the narrowing passageway. Drips and splashes got gradually louder, growing into the sound of a gently flowing stream. This was deep enough. Quiet rustling filled the cavern, followed by a scratch and hiss as a much larger flame burst into life on the tip of a torch. It lit up the small, open area enough so that she could finally see. The stream that had begun as a trickle as the mouth of the cave was now two feet wide and disappeared into an opening too small for a human to enter. The only other opening that didn’t lead outside was a very thin gap. She approached it without caution. It was not a long way from the cavern to the other side of the gap; when she stuck her torch through it, the light showed her it was only about five feet long. She was a very little girl, but as she squished sideways through the gap with her torch-hand leading the way, two unfortunately places bulges on the walls caught her. For a few moments she thought that her lungs would burst from insufficient air. At last she stood breathing heavily on the other side. It was a tiny, round room that was perhaps eight feet high and six feet in circumference. On the back wall, a thick ledge stuck out. A tiny faceted diamond chest with silver key holes sat sparkling in the torch light. One hand unhooked a silver chain and pulled it off her neck. At the center of the chain was key, silver with two rubies set in its leg. She placed it in the key hole, turned it and seemed unsurprised that the box opened. Inside was an unremarkable diamond on a short silver chain. It was rather small to be so dangerous. Without second thoughts, she reached in and took the diamond necklace in her hand. She shut and locked the box, clasped both necklaces with key and diamond around her neck and squeezed her way of the gap. Extinguishing her torch and relighting her candle, she made her way out of the cave. It was an easier journey going out than it was going in, but she still felt she had taken too long. Her friend had been waiting for a while, now. She puffed out her candle as she took her first few steps out of the cave. Stars were abundant in the night sky, but they were so little, and obscured by the massive trees that littered the area. It was a good thing that the trees hid this cave from being viewed from above. A few blinks later, she remembered her friend was standing there waiting for an explanation. Dark cobalt eyes examined the pale, pretty girl standing in the speckled moonlight like a night-blooming flower. Even if the pretty girl was three or four inches taller than her, it seemed like one harsh poke might break her in half. [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“I’m sorry I took too long. I hit my head,”[/FONT][/SIZE][/I][I][COLOR=#008080][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri] she stated, pointing to the scratch on her forehead. [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“And got stuck in a wall. But I have the crystal, and I will teach you.” [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Lilac watched her worriedly, both scared of the cut on her forehead and the idea of using the crystal. It was all so sudden, [B]"But is it okay? Can I use it? Will I be able to?" [/B]She was speaking so quickly, at a rush for words. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Mimmara took Lilac’s hand and sighed. [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/I][/COLOR][I][I][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“Don’t be afraid. Keep breathing, and watch.” [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Mimmara pulled her behind a tree with a massive trunk. [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“When we fly, we won’t move places. Just times. Watch there when I say.” [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]She jabbed her finger in the direction of the cave, right where they had been standing. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Mimmara’s hands, so pale now that they resembled a deceased child’s hands, clasped around the diamond, and her arm hooked through Lilac’s tightly. A faint glow emitted from the diamond the second that she opened her mouth to speak. [/FONT][/SIZE] [/I][/I][/COLOR][I][I][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“Kurae naq ko aapshara, Qindel, naq pav kurae cemar, kurae che ko obsaln cemar. Kurae vit iyt dahn, bir kuraein tayan ya ielan. Cha yun; qi. " [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Colors abruptly faded, but Lilac and Mimmara remained. The latter gazed around with a blank face that hid her fascination. Fading colors were boring, and the fact that everything around them turned dark blue and dimensionless always scared her because it felt like she was falling. It was when the scene rewove itself fiber by fiber and star by star that Mimmara held on to every second and cherished it. When all was normal again, Mimmara motioned for Lilac to peek around the tree trunk at the scene that was playing out. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]A beautiful girl with black hair stood quietly in front of a dark cave, her relief evident when a figure emerged. She tilted her head at the girl that had emerged who was now staring up at the sky blankly. Before Lilac had to call her name, Mimmara broke out of her daze and apologized for taking so long and pointed to a scratch on her head. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]In the present, Mimmara tugged Lilac back behind the tree and cupped her hands around the crystal and whispered quietly. [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/I][/I][/COLOR][I][I][I][I][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“Qindel pav kurae naq karaein nnda cemar.” [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Returning to the present was more like being sucked into the melting sky than falling into the fading ground. The process of colors reweaving themselves into the scene remained the same. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]When they stood on solid ground once again and Mimmara made sure everything was normal, she released Lilac’s arm and turned to stare at her. Though her face didn’t move, her twitching fingers and crossed arms relayed to Lilac that she was anxious.[/FONT][/SIZE] [/I][/I][/COLOR][I][I][I][I][COLOR=#A52A2A][I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]“That is how it works. Come; I will show you the Kyalian words. I will make them Common Speak.”[/FONT][/SIZE] [/I][/COLOR][I][I][COLOR=#008080] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]The crystal was still dangerous, but it was no longer the secret of Kyal. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]She never imagined that she would reveal the crystal’s existence to Lilac. For a few weeks, she had been pondering on how the crystal could save thousands of lives, including her brother’s. Then one night when they were alone, Lilac voiced her wish that they could go back to the past and change fate for the better. Mimmara almost didn’t tell her; almost kept her secret. But if there was ever a just cause to use the crystal, this was it. Two nights later she brought Lilac to the cave and introduced the crystal. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]After that, Lilac used her knowledge of the kingdoms to come up with a plan to save them all. Mimmara steadfastly refused to hand over the crystal outright. Eventually they decided that Mimmara would continue constantly watching the crystal, but that Lilac could be the carrier as long as its watchful guardian was near. No one else would touch that crystal, or the girl holding it. [/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]Though their plans were still young and fresh, they had little time to waste so Lilac shared her ideas with the other heirs who were hiding in Kyal. With that, Lilac and Mimmara left the other heirs in Kyal with orders to meet them at Aurora’s grave in Cella in three days.[/FONT][/SIZE] [I][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]The journey had begun. [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/COLOR][I][I][I][I][I][FONT=garamond][I][SIZE=3] [/SIZE][/I][/FONT][I][SIZE=3]...................................................................... [B]LILAC'S FLASHBACK (END)[/B].......................................................................[/SIZE][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I][/I] Someone was coming. The footsteps drew closer and Lilac stood stiffened in fear. It was too soon to be caught. Mimmara was nearby, she could not jeopardize her as well. She took a deep breath, letting the wind fly through her hair as she turned to see who it was, accepting the worst that fate could hand to her. If Kaelen finds me here, I will go alone. The others must change the past. Distance, the Wandering Soul. Ask some of the gossipers in the taverns and they will tell you in hushed voices about such a figure. A sad man who forever walks alone in the wastelands of this world. Most people will dismiss it as a legend, one that mothers told to other mothers while quietly sewing their clothes. If that's the case, than the person sitting in the tree at the cemetery must have been someone else. It was a man dressed in ragged black clothing, holding a sword close to his side. His pale eyes coldly studied the names on the tombstones. They were all gone, dead to the world's sins and pleasures. What would it be like to experience something like that? Distance, the man in the tree, stroked the rough bark of the tree. He had lost so much to gain something...was it worth it? As his eyes roamed the many tombstones of the dead, a black figure could be seen through the fog. Distance's grip on his sword tightened. He leaned forward, trying to see what it was. It was a woman, a young one, sadly standing at the front of a tombstone. She looked like such a mournful soul, much like him. And yet, she was strangely beautiful to him. She turned slowly and looked through the fog. The figure that watched her did not seem hostile and Lilac felt strangely comforted by his presence. She turned back to the grave, kneeling to put her hands together in a quiet prayer. When she stood up again, she was smiling. It was a soft, ghostly smile, but it was there. The atmosphere around the grave was no doubt one of grief and mourning. It seemed to cut through Lilac's disposition as well. She looked over at the stranger, making her way through the fog. She was a small girl, and even with age, the fragility had not changed. Where there had once been color in her cheeks, she was pale. And where her eyes once sparkled, there was a solemn grief. And yet, she carried herself with the grace of strength. Though troubled and afflicted, her smile was warm, as if she meant to hide from the stranger the pains in her world. As if she had not been sobbing over Queen Aurora's grave. She felt as if she knew this man, as if the mist was meant only to conceal what her eyes wanted her to see. She wrapped her jacket around herself tighter. She was suddenly aware of the cold. "I'm surprised... to find someone risking to trek to this graveyard..." She spoke softly, gently. Her heart went out to this stranger. For more reasons than just his presence in this ominous place. The coldness his eyes eyes thawed as he saw her walk through the curtain of fog towards him. Her aura was that of gentle kindness. The way she carried herself said much of a soft nature but a troubled soul. Distance watched from the branch of his tree the woman who approached him. Her smile lit up like a flower blooming...but slowly. His mind wandered to the last time he smiled. He studied every curve and line of the woman. Then his eyes were drawn to the necklace that hung at her collarbone. It attracted his sight for some reason and he couldn't help but gaze at it. His eyes then lifted back up to meet her soft ones. The gray hardness shone with an unknown emotion. Fear? Anger? Curiosity? Distance had no need for emotions so it didn't matter much to him...but so many mixed reactions came from this woman. This wondrous beauty. His hood fluttered for a brief moment as a wind breeze clawed at it, revealing more of his pale hair. She spoke softly to him as if her voice was a glass chime. At first he did not speak. He had nothing to say. But slowly he answered with a quiet hard voice. "There no such things as risks for me as I have nothing to lose." Not anymore... Above, dark clouds gathered. Lilac, tearing her gaze away from the stranger, looked up to see the beginnings of a soft rain. She held out her hand, palm upturned as the raindrops splashed slowly across her hand. A smile spread across her face, a brighter one. She looked at him again. His pale hair, his paradoxical eyes, his silence, it was all familiar to her in strange ways. Her expectations of meeting anyone in such a desolate place were low, but life was still handing her surprises. At this thought, Lilac entertained the notion of meeting a stranger, in the dimness of fog. She turned away, looking around and listening for the sound of footsteps. But still, there were none. The others were not arriving just yet. She touched the necklace, absent-mindedly, and it sparked a small glow that hovered around the crystal, lingering in the air for a moment until she moved again, at the sight of someone behind him. Her eyes went wide and she rushed to cover her head with her hood, covering her forehead and casting a shadow over her eyes. She didn't want to be recognized, it seemed, but her efforts were in vain. He stepped forward with a vigor that signaled both his enthusiasm and possible anger, for his eyes flashed with a dangerous glint, one that she knew all too well. It seemed he came for something. For stepped ahead of Distance and stretched out his hand, within inches of her necklace,"I believe that belongs to it's rightful owner, Princess Lilac." She moved deftly out of range. Her mind scurried for answers, her panic evident on her face. The mellowness of Aurora's grave melted away instantly and she became herself. There was no use wandering in the quiet foggy feelings of the Queen's aftermath, Lilac knew, but the moment had just been so stunningly silent that she was overcome with the memories. Her eyes darted from Distance to Kaelen uneasily. Had she been tricked? But the stranger's solemn faced, emotionless demeanor betrayed nothing, but Lilac somehow felt as if she was right on her intuition. It was uncanny coincidence. Princess Lilac. Simply by his words, Lilac knew there would be no easy way out of the situation. He still refused to accept the heirs, it seemed. She was both Princess-Queen of Ethare and Liberta, crowned for one, supporting the empty crown of the other. Her eyes narrowed. The same old Kaelen. And yet, she wanted to hope that she could bargain with him. Something inside her wished that she did not have to fight someone she had grown up with. I have no choice. This is not just my battle. The others...I brought them into this. I have to protect them...There was no way she would give up the crystal to him. She took another few steps back before she spoke. "It doesn't belong to you." What did he want? Why was he here? Had he known all along? How much stronger was Kaelen's power growing day by day? Lilac's mind flurried with questions, with worries, with dismays. Her eyes began to sparkle, the way they did, when she was thinking. There was no mischief, but rather, naivete. It seemed that one thing about her had not changed. Kaelen smiled, though it was a cruelly kind smile, he knew that she would not understand it. He walked closer to her, slowly, until he was within earshot, leaning down and turning around so that he could face Distance. He pointed his pale finger at the man, with a small smirk, and told her "He is the rightful owner.." He straightened, standing tall over her, with his menacing gaze as always. It was as if he was watching your every breath, your every moment. Lilac shivered and moved away, her eyes on Distance. She did not feel the change in air as Kaelen moved close to speak again. It was his flat voice, her memories of Aurora's murder, and the things she had seen that disturbed her more than his presence. "I'll tell you what the crystal does. It brings back those who have left us. If you give it us, I will bring him back for you." Kaelen watched the emotions change drastically on her pale face. "Do you remember? I promised you. If you help me, I'll bring him back to you." From confusion to hatred, to fear, and finally, to an overwhelming face that looked between crying and anger. He started to walk towards the grave, behind her now. "I sent him here for the crystal. I will not accept failure of retrieval..." He paused, kicking dirt at Aurora's gravestone. The action seemed to satisfy him, for a smirk spread across his face. Lilac turned and watched him, holding back the water in her eyes. What was he saying? Was she the one who was confused or was he blind? He could not bring back those who had died. How did Kaelen know? It was her secret, for so many years, it was her secret. They were not like the others, they were not engaged or promised to each other, but Lilac had thought it so without saying it was so. More than a year had passed, and yet, even without speaking his name, there were tears in her eyes and her hands were shaking. She looked up at the sky as Kaelen spoke. The dark clouds dropped raindrops against her eyes, trickling through her eyelashes. She sighed. She did not understand him. If he wanted the pendant, why didn't he take it forcefully? Kaelen's mind games always confused her. What was it that he really wanted? "Ah, don't be so rigid, Lilac. You and I both know how scary I am when angered." Kaelen was behind her again, his hand clamping down on her shoulder in a quick motion. He squeezed softly and released her, murmuring into her ear, "Your dungeon garden is waiting, flower princess. How long will you run from exile? You dare frolic in my territory?" pushing her forward just the slightest. Lilac stumbled a bit, watching him with cautious eyes. She would not fight back, she would relent, for now. There was still escape. If she could get this over with, get the others and time travel, she would live. She closed her eyes for a moment as he walked away, letting the fear leave her. She would not show her weakness, but she couldn't control it. She was shaking at his mere threat. She knew she was in danger, coming here, being seen. " So, why don't the two of you talk it over? I'm not one to meddle in my messenger's affairs. I'll be in my castle." Kaelen walked past Distance, into the fog, casting a final smirk in Lilac's direction, to which she looked away hastily. When he was out of sight, Lilac turned her eyes to the stranger once more, though her expression was none so gentle as it had been. "The necklace. I can't give it to you." Distance watched her closely. Every single detail of her, every angle... He remembered. Princess Lilac. No, he told himself. That part of him was dead. He had died and from his corpse came someone else. And yet, that wonderful Princess Lilac... His heart was beating strongly beneath his chest. Kaelen. His presence could be felt in the air. The man made the air around him bend to his will. Distance was to take the crystal from Lilac. That was the deal they had made. But...Distance took a mournful look at the Princess. Her fragile body that looked as if it would shatter in pieces at the merest touch. He couldn't. He couldn't. There was something in his heart that wouldn't let him. He wouldn't. He wouldn't. When Kaelen grabbed her, Distance unknowingly took a step towards him. "No." The world stumbled out before he could catch it. His voice was sharp ice towards Kaelen. Lilac...he could not see her image ruined. Even as he did this, though, his mind was conflicted. He thought of another woman he loved...His mother. Oh, the tears he hid from the outside of his mother. He loved her and would do anything for her. Then there was Lilac. Part of him wanted to grab her and wrap his arms around her and protect from everything. Kaelen then left, mention him being able to bring back someone. Distance felt his heart race. No no no no, he kept telling himself. He was dead. No longer of the living. But he turned to Lilac to see her with tears in her eyes. He wanted to wipe them away but he resisted, having his arms at his side. When she stated that she couldn't let him have the necklace he simply replied in a harsh whisper: "I know." Musical Ambiance The rain came down, the amount of raindrops per second increasing. Thunder crashed and lightning ripped through the dull sky. Within moments, it came down like a shower, pouring through the treetops upon them. The dim sunlight was blocked out by the clouds. The sounds of nature preceded her rapid heartbeat. I know. Raindrops clouded her view, pattering to the ground in soft clicks. It was too late now. Lilac was defensive and afraid. Somewhere in the distance, she knew the heirs were coming. She couldn't keep playing Kaelen's games. She closed her eyes for moment, trying to still her own emotions, but it was impossible. He was here. She knew those eyes. Never had she seen them crying, but she knew those eyes. Lilac stepped closer, almost afraid to say something. Kaelen was gone. She could tell he had not just walked away, his presence was gone. The way the age changed when he walked away. The way she could breathe without fear. The way her heart wasn't constricting itself. More than anything, she wanted him gone, but more than anything, she could not bring herself to say so. She was the weakest link, the princess with the broken heart, the one who was easily moved by words. If not Kaelen, life played games with her. Even now, she stared at the man ahead of her, whose tears were slowly stripping away her stone facade. She was trying so hard to pretend to be strong, but it was impossible. Even with the others coming, her trepidation continued. Her instincts were not wrong, this man, he was who she thought he was. Left in the fog again, the two of them, separated only by perception. And yet, she felt so far away. No matter how she argued with herself, Lilac could not tear herself away. Her heart was beating so fast that the blood was pounding in her ears. She was walking towards him, without willing herself to. The fears melted away, the thoughts of exile, Kaelen, the heirs. There was nothing, but calm. She knew it was ridiculous. The thought, the notion, that it was him. She must be delusional, driving herself crazy. She was so close now, reaching out to touch his face, her palm against his cheek. Warmth. "Is it that important to you?" She wasn't sure if she was referring to the necklace or to whatever his reason for cooperating with Kaelen was. To see someone crying, to see these tears, her heart was breaking. My eyes are deceiving me. It can't be. But he is warm, he is so real, right here in front of me. How can it be? Working with Kaelen? "Don't work with Kaelen," she pleaded suddenly, pulling her hand away, her eyes sharp,"I will help you. This," she gestured towards the necklace, "does not belong to me. People's lives are staked on it. I cannot give it to you, but I... will help you, with what means that I can... so please... don't let him mislead you." In her dreams, she had prayed for a day like this, but she would not falter. To lean on him now, when they were on different sides of the struggle, would betray those that were depending on her. Her heart ached, to tell him that she remembered, but she could not bring herself to do it. Perhaps they would part away shortly. And she would remember this as her fleeting romance in the fog, drenched by the rain, deluded by fear. Perhaps they would never meet again. If she had not her mission to complete, she might follow this ghost, she might hold to his arm and ask him of his travels, ask him why his eyes were so worn and his face so solemn. She might kiss his forehead and tell him that it was a miracle. But she knew it was either a dream or her life was turning around. It had a been a difficult year. Miracles were rare when the world was falling apart. Lilac tried to convince herself that she was helping a kind stranger, but the moments grew longer, and the rain colder, and she knew that she could not. She looked up into those eyes and she knew. She would not be the one to walk away. I will help you. Those words brought tears into his eyes. Her soul was so kind to such a cold being like him. His frozen atmosphere quickly melted near her. He was no one to her. Her plea to not work alongside Kaelen made him tremble inside. He was at a loss at what to decide. There were so many paths for him to take and he did not know where a single one went. Only one outcome was wanted but there were so many ways. So he took her warm hands into his icy ones. "I...am lost." He said, his eyes glistening beneath his hood. "To gain something you must lose something. But to what extent? How much should you lose?" He let go of her hands, feeling the warmth leave his palms. He took a step back but he did not leave. So badly he wanted to hide his face from her, to mask what he felt. But he couldn't have that. There were some things that needed to be seen. Looking down, he looked at the ground, then at the sky. Then at her. "I wish you could help me...I wish I could help myself." The truth in those words were so intense. It stabbed him to know that. He took her hands in his own and Lilac held her breath, suffering from the fact that she was so dearly hiding from him. She was trying to gain control of herself. If it was true, why was he working for Kaelen? Why was he so broken? This was not the man that she knew. It couldn't be. His hands were so cold. He was still crying, somewhat. A lost soul, a confused shell of a man. Lilac felt sympathy and pain, and heartbreak all at once, but her features did not change. She could betray her true feelings. There was kindness in her eyes, but also something more. A stranger would think her too kind. But this was no stranger to her. He was conflicted by his feelings, unable to hide them from her, but unable to accept them, either. Lilac realized he must not know that she knew. Her breath hitched as he spoke. His words left her speechless. Her hands lay in the air uneasily, awkwardly. She wanted to reach for him, to wrap her arms around him and embrace the warmth that she so dearly had missed. But her body was rigid, confused, afraid. She didn't know what to say. What could it make it better? What could she do to save them both from this tragic fate? She couldn't walk away. She couldn't. To gain something, you must lose something...His words echoed in her mind. how much do you have to lose? Her eyes watered over. All I ever lost was you, but how much more have you been suffering? She knew it was him. The coincedence was uncanny. And her heart... her heart knew. A spark in his mind. A voice? A memory? No. Kaelen. It was like darkness gnawing at his soul as Kaelen's deep voice rumbled through. "Perhaps you might need a bit of inspiration." A image of Queen Rosaisy of Liberta, suffering in bed. Her face pale, sweaty, her illness making her weary and exhausted. Her husband pacing the room. Three doctors, bodyguards, and a nurse, all panicking. She was breathing heavily, teary, crying out the name of her son over and over in her painful slumber. Musical Ambience Distance suddenly felt as if someone was ripping out his very essence. He abruptly took a step back, clutching his head in agony. Kaelen was prying into him, showing him his deepest secrets and fears. His presence caused tremendous pain to course through Distance's veins. The world around him blurred into a sightless wasteland. Everything was blown away and replaced by something else put by Kaelen. Eean, dear... No, not his mother. Anyone but that. But he saw it anyways. His poor mother, suffering in bed. Her pale face mottled with sweat, lips moving to form nothing. Bodyguards and doctors fawned over her, feeding her liquids and fanning her. His father paced the room, eyes filled with such indescribable sorrow. King Fredim stopped suddenly at the side of a window and solemnly gazed out of it. This was the world he lived in. A world where so much sadness had overtaken his life. The world that took his son. Every detail in the scene was crisp in Distance's mind. He could see the beads of sweat collect on his mother's face. The tears in his father's eyes. Kaelen had tweaked it until it was perfect to show in his mind. His weakness... He began to cry. No sobs came from his throat. No sounds came from his mouth. Just the stream of tears the streaked down his cheeks. They fell one by one in drops, creating rivets of wet on his pale flesh. Distance hated himself for it. Showing emotion to a man he never respected and to Lilac. Every regret though, every single thing that gave him sadness was crushing him right now. His tears dropped and fell to the ground before shattering on impact as they hit the surface. "Mother..." He whispered harshly. He just wanted everything to be how it was before this. He just wanted to be at his mother's side answering all the questions she had about flowers while his father watched and listened. Anything to be away from this unforgiving moment. Musical Ambiance "No! Don't watch, don't listen!" Desperate hands grabbed his shoulders, gently trying to shake him out of the reverie. If he were to open his eyes, he would a frantic Lilac, the fear and the enigma of her grief broken to reveal the concern she was trying so hard to lock away. But it was no use, tears were streaming down his face, his eyes glazed over. Lilac held her breath. She knew. The moment he'd looked away and his eyes turned dull, she knew it was Kaelen's doing. She didn't know what it was, but she was scared for him, worried, "Ah, Ah, snap out of it! He's trying to control you! It's not real..!" Lilac wasn't sure about the last part, but she hoped that something that was making his barriers fall apart was not real. She squeezed his shoulders, searching his face for some kind of recognition, some kind of sign that he was free of Kaelen's control. There was none. Lilac took a deep breath, her arms shaking. What should I do? How can I snap him out of it? ! He fell to his knees and she fell along with him, leaning close to hear his words. Mother.. Her eyes narrowed. Kaelen, you're doing this on purpose aren't you? You're purposely trying to instigate me. I'm sorry you think I'm ignorant. But I know who this is. And there's no going back from it now. "Eean, listen to me.." Lilac, with her hands still on his shoulders, tilted her head to one side and brought herself to eye-level with his sobbing face, "What you saw, there's a chance that it's real and a chance that it's a lie...but there are things that even Kaelen cannot do..." Her eyes wandered from his face, to her necklace. She leaned closer, moving so that her cheek was against his, her lips by his ear. "Come with me. I don't know how you are here and if you are real, but I'm going with the others. We're going to change the past. We're going to save Aurora." There were tears in her eyes now. And she realized, that Eean, being there, might be some kind of strange magic on Kaelen's part. For a moment her heart stopped, her voice shook,"I don't know whether I can save you, or whether you will be what you are now, whatever that is, but I can promise you one thing... I will save Queen Rosaisy. I will change everything. Just trust me. Not him." Throughout his suffering agony, Distance heard a soft voice pierce through his veil of torture. It was Lilac's voice calling out to him. The scene around his started to fade and fizzle into nothing. He could feel Kaelen's frustration at his resistance, who proceeded to stab harder into his conscious. Distance groaned with pain. Inside his head, the scene was now pieces of a broken image. Distance tried his best to listen to Lilac's voice. "Eean..." Distance shivered at the name. That name gave him so many mixed feelings...feelings of hurt, angst, regret, and wonder. "Eean..." He whispered back through dry lips. With a final push, the tendrils of his mind broke free of Kaelen's grip and the scene around him disappeared. He collapsed on the ground, exhausted from his mental struggle. Lilac spoke to him, promising help. She promised to save his mother and Aurora. Kaelen did as well. Who could he trust? "How..." The question couldn't make it past his lips. In his mind, however, it was kept on being asked repeatedly. How do you know I am Eean? Musical Ambiance She was so close to him. She could feel the warmth of his body against her palms as she pulled back to look at his face. There were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. The truth was that she didn't know, but she wanted to so desperately to believe it was true. Kaelen. Even if this a lie, even if you brought him here to confuse me, I can't walk away from it. It was only a few months ago that Kaelen came across her traveling between Liberta and Ethare. In their youth, Lilac had looked up to the prince, for he was gentle, and kind, and knowledgeable. Even now, she was only afraid. She could bring herself to hate him. There had to be a reason, she thought, a reason why he was doing this. She wanted to believe that he was confused, that he was rational. It was hard, but her conscience won over her pain. Kaelan admitted to his crimes, but told her that Eean's suicide was also his fault. At the time, Lilac supposed he was trying to trick her into getting angry and trying take revenge for the prince. She did not let herself lose control. Kaelen warned her about his plans to exile the heirs and offered her a deal. If she would become his subordinate, and accept status as a Princess of Malum in the Kaelen regime, he would resurrect Eean for her. At first, she had dismissed her guards and told him that she honestly thought he was going crazy. Magic? Resurrection? Seeing the future? None of it made any sense. But in the middle of the forest, as sunset dropped along the horizon, Kaelen showed her what she feared most. He was not human. And he had reason to believe that she possessed some kind of magic, too, for he'd seen it in his 'visions'. Disturbed and afraid, Lilac did not let him explain further. He threatened her. If she didn't accept his offer now, he would not give her a second chance. He was relenting because she was the smallest, the weakest. Taking it as a insult, Lilac declined. She would never work for him. She would never work against her friends. She would never ruin Spero. And he was lying, she told him, she was nothing like him. Since that day, Lilac always thought back with wonder. Did Kaelen really have the power to resurrect the dead? Or was he bluffing? But, the things he'd shown her were astonishing. She was shocked to say the least. And how much stronger was he now? Why was he letting her roam freely after his threat? There could only be one reason. Lilac's eyes burned. Was it possible, this broken, shattered Eean was a work of Kaelen's, to throw her off balance? Was this what he had seen? Lilac traveling through time. Was that why his fear allowed him to offer her protection on his side? With only questions, but no answers, Lilac sighed and pulled away, releasing her hold on Eean's shoulders. "I had a feeling when you spoke of your loss, your reaction to Kaelen...and your mother.."She touched his cheek again, looking at him, a new sadness in her eyes. "How would I not know you?... " I have thought of you every day since I lost you... Even if you are not real to me now, even if this is Kaelen's creation to mess with my mind, I will take it. After all this is over, after Aurora is saved, maybe you will be alive. I'll cast my hopes on that.