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In the Nether

Laurance and Gene are fighting

Laurance: Chuckles Where's your Shadow Lord now?

Gene: Unlike you underlings, I don't question him. He knows what he's doing. And that's more than you can say.

Laurance: Tss!

Gene: You know, I would kill you here and now, but honestly, you'd make an excellent addition to our army.

Laurance: I do not seek to be controlled by the likes of you, or anyone else!

Laurance lunges at Gene.

Gene blocks.

Gene: Are you sure? Because you aren't even at your full potential yet.

Laurance: You-

Gene: I hate to see a strong Shadow Knight go to waste like this.

Zenix runs in and attacks Gene.

Laurance: Zenix! Took you long enough!

Zenix: Hahaha! Did you miss me?

Gene gets up.

Gene: You had to make an appearance! Don't think this is over. I'll see you and your pathetic rebellion crushed!

Gene runs away.

Laurance: Zenix! Where have you been?

Zenix: I decided to take the lead and eliminate a few wandering soldiers in the army.

Laurance: You know we're supposed to stay as a unit! It makes no sense for us to-

Zenix: Watch it! No one talks to me like that! Especially you! Besides, I saved your life, didn't I?

Laurance: Look at all the damage you caused!

Zenix: Whoopsie. Oh well, this place is becoming a dump anyway.

Laurance: Do I need to remind you who's in charge? Did you forget the last time we fought?

Zenix: You just got lucky! Wake me up if you need me, I'm going in for a nap.

Laurance: Sighs Now what? They better have made it out safe.

At the base in Brightport.

Dmitri: I was about to give up, but I kept going! Just then, I realised I made it to the top of the mountain.

Alina: Woow!

Dmitri: I decided to make camp for the night before I continued to look for the treasure! I kept walking, and I found a cave!

Alina: Dark!

Dmitri: That's right, it was dark! But I always carry a flint and steel with me! So I fastened a torch with my bandages and a stick and went in! It felt safe, but then-oh!

Alina: But then...

Dmitri: But then.

Lilith Garnet: But then!

Nekoette~Tan: A crazy dragon came out! And he's right behind us!

Alina and Lilith Garnet scream.

Nekoette~Tan: Get behind us girls! We're professional junior agent training! We'll see-

Alina and Lilith Garnet chase the sheep with sticks.

Nekoette~Tan: Uhh, that was unexpected.

Dmitri: My sheep!

Aphmau: Giggles You guys better not let Alina or Lilith hurt that poor sheep.

Dmitri: Don't hurt my sheep friend!

Nekoette~Tan: We didn't mean for that!

Aphmau: Well, you guys shouldn't have told them it was a dragon! You better tell them to be nice to dragons too!

Nekoette~Tan: Yes, Lady Aphmau!

Liochant: Looks like those kids have their hands full.

Leona: Aphmau! You should be resting, leave the babysitting to me!

Aphmau: I wanted to be with them.

Liochant: Yes, M'Lady, but you've been with them all morning.

Aphmau: I just needed cuddles from them.

Leona: Hmm, alright, you little ladies, come here!

Dmitri: Don't kill Pompom!

Alina: Yaay!

Alina and Lilith Garnet run over to Leona.

Dmitri: Phew!

Nekoette~Tan: Giggles Let's get this little guy cleaned up and back to the stables! Thanks Pompom for helping us with storytime!

Pompom: Baaa!

Dmitri, Nekoette~Tan and Pompom leave.

Leona: You girls wanna go shopping in the market?

Alina and Lilith Garnet: Yaay!

Leona: Alright, let's go!

Liochant: Hey! You ladies aren't going anywhere without your guard! Pardon me, Lady Aphmau, Lady Katelyn.

Alina, Leona, Lilith Garnet and Liochant leave.

Aphmau giggles.

Katelyn: You got two little firecrackers there, you know. I'm glad you decided to train them in sword fighting so soon.

Aphmau: They both need to know, especially Alina.

Katelyn: Heh, I've seen your sword skills in action. They're learning from the best trainer, you know. I uhh... briefed Leona and Liochant about what's going on.

Aphmau: What did you say?

Katelyn: I said Alina needs to be watched over closely. Lilith will be fine. It's Alina Shad wants.

Aphmau: Over my dead body.

Katelyn: Aph... are you okay?

Aphmau: No. Shad is after my daughter, and I'm having a hard time letting her be. Even now, I'm so close to following them to the market and-

Katelyn: The guards in town are on high alert. Trust me, nothing will happen around Alina without me knowing about it. You need to rest, you haven't slept since last night.

Aphmau: I got plenty of sleep.

Katelyn: Vincent said you went to the containment bay in the middle of and night and just stood there. I know that Shad being Aaron is-

Aphmau: THAT-That thing wasn't Aaron!

Katelyn: Do you wanna talk about it?

Aphmau: No! I just-I know that was thing wasn't Aaron. When I first saw him, I wanted so hard to believe but, after seeing him close, after locking swords with him, I know that wasn't him. Aaron is gone. It just hurts to see what happened to his body. Why couldn't he be allowed to rest?

Katelyn: I don't know, Aphmau.

Hailey rushes in.

Hailey: Katelyn!

Katelyn: Hailey.

Haile: I've just finished taking readings, it's gone. The Nether Portal is truly gone!

Katelyn: Tell me something I don't know.

Hailey: No, Katelyn. It's gone gone. Vanished! Poof! There's no trace of its power over anywhere.

Katelyn: So what you're saying is there's no way to get it back? Ever?

Hailey: That's what it seems. I'm perplexed

Aphmau: Maybe there's something I can do.

Hailey: I'm not sure, Aphmau, maybe there is, but, at the moment, I don't know. I'll keep looking around and try to come up with an explanation.

Katelyn: That sounds good. Thank you, Hailey.

Hailey leaves.

Katelyn: Come on, Aph. I'll take you to your chambers. You need rest.

Aphmau: But I-

Katelyn: No buts! Chuckles Come on!

Later

Katelyn joins Garroth in the main room.

Katelyn: Any word on Zane?

Garroth: No. We were foolish to let him slip away in the Nether. And the Brightport guards haven't found him yet.

Katelyn: Don't worry about Zane. He's not that much of a threat. Besides, we have what he wants. And when he comes to take it, we'll be there to catch him.

Garroth: I'm not taking any chances! I'll be dispatching a search party to track him down. Sighs Where are Leona and the girls?

Katelyn: They went to the market with Liochant.

Garroth: They did? Growls

Katelyn: Garroth, you don't have to be uneasy about Liochant. Trust me.

Garroth: I'm just going to go check on them. Leaves.

Katelyn: Garroth! Ugh...

At the market.

Leona: Hmm, let's see... there's a ton to buy! We should try to only get one thing. What do you girls want?

Alina: Cake!

Leona: Okay, that's cake for Alina. Lilith?

Lilith Garnet: Cake!

Leona: Oh, great! You both want the same thing!

Alina: Cake to Mommy!

Leona: Aww, you two are so sweet! Giggles Hey, Liochant, do you have the money Aphmau gave us?

Liochant: Uhh, yes, it's right here! Here you go!

Leona: Thanks! Now let's see... Sniffs, barks Over this way!

Alina, Lilith Garnet and Liochant follow Leona.

Alina: Woow!

Leona: There's so many! Let's see... we'll take four slices of this one, please!

Cake merchant gives Leona the cake.

Lilith Garnet: Cake!

Leona: Here, Liochant, try one.

Liochant: Um, no thanks, I couldn't.

Garroth arrives at the market.

Leona: Oh, come on! Lighten up a little!

Liochant: Well, alright! I've always loved these cakes! We have something very similar back home. Takes off helm, eats cake. Mm, this is delicious!

Leona: Isn't it? I'm glad it holds up!

Alina and Lilith Garnet: Yummy!

Shopper 1: Hey! Isn't that Sir Liochant from the Dragon Ward?

Shopper 2: I heard he's from Tu'La.

Shopper 3: Tu'La? They allowed someone like him to be allowed in the Dragon Ward? What if he's a spy?

Shopper 2: He has to be. Think about it! What have we heard from Tu'La? Nothing! But we happen to have some Tu'Laian now show up here? Ru'Uan?

Shopper 1: Yeah, I heard Lady Katelyn appointed him herself!

Leona: You know we can hear you from here!

Shopper 1: Oh! I'm sorry it's just-

Shopper 2: Go back to Tu'La! Scumbag.

Liochant: I beg your pardon but she isn't from Tu'La, she's born in this region-

Shopper 2: I'm not talking about her! I'm talking about you!

Liochant: Me?

Leona: Leave him alone!

Shopper 2: It's bad enough Tu'La is trying to wage war on us in silence! The last thing we need is someone trying to find out about our plans!

Liochant: I can assure you that is not my intent at all. Lady Aphmau and Lady Katelyn have my complete loyalty!

Shopper 2: Grr! What is wrong with you? Just get out of our region and stay out!

The shoppers leave.

Liochant: Well, they seemed nice.

Leona: Nice?

Liochant: They probably just got up on the wrong side of the bed, it happens.

Leona: I was about two seconds away from biting that guy's face off! Grr! How dare he talk to you like that?! You could have taken him!

Liochant: But that wouldn't have been right! Really, I can understand where their fear of me comes from. I cannot blame them for jumping to conclusions.

Leona: Liochant... ugh, that's just not fair!

Liochant: Come on and put a smile on! Like Alina!

Leona: She's only got a smile because she got cake!

Alina: Giggles Yummy! Giggles

Garroth leaves.

At the base.

In Katelyn's office.

Katelyn: Let me know the moment she arrives.

Guard: Yes, Ma'am.

Katelyn: You are dismissed.

Guard leaves.

Katelyn: Garroth there you are. I wasn't expecting you but I'm glad you're here.

Garroth: Katelyn. I need to talk to you about something.

Katelyn: Of course.

Garroth: About Liochant. You aren't the slightest bit concerned about him being a member of the Dragon Ward?

Katelyn: Why would I be? Because he's from Tu'La?

Garroth: Exactly! I'm still uneasy about him. Why the sudden appearance? And the way he acts... It just bothers me. He's so close to Lady Aphmau these days. I feel that that in itself is dangerous. Not only for her, but for Alina too.

Katelyn: Garroth, do you know why the Dragon Ward exists?

Garroth: Of course! It's an elite unit of chosen guards. Not unlike The Jury Of Nine.

Katelyn: Don't you EVER compare the Dragon Ward to The Jury Of Nine! It will NEVER be that!

Garroth: How can you be sure? What if this turns out exactly like the jury?

Katelyn: I assure you the Dragon Ward will NEVER be The Jury Of Nine! Every one of them has a pure heart and I trust them with my life! Katelyn the Fire Fist, Azura the Valor Hand, Gale the Iron Soul, Lowell the Umbrell Claw, Liochant the Devout Blade, each one of them is a warrior worthy of their title.

Garroth: Katelyn, my apologies. I did not mean to offend you.

Katelyn: Sighs None taken. I get where your lack of faith in Liochant comes from, Garroth. I remember what Tu'La did to O'Khasis.

Garroth: Katelyn, let's just drop it. As long as you say you trust him then, I can learn to as well.

Katelyn: Thank you, Garroth. Now, want to help me train a few cadets in the Guard Academy today?

Garroth: Chuckles Shouldn't the headmaster let the teacher do that?

Katelyn: Hey I like to spar with the junior guards every now and then, keeps them in line and respectful.

Garroth: Chuckles Well that's one way to keep order.

Guard bursts in.

Guard: Lady Katelyn!

Katelyn: I'm pretty sure I've told everyone how I feel about people barging in suddenly.

Guard: I'm sorry, but Lady Azura has arrived

Katelyn: Send her in.

Guard leaves.

Garroth: Azura?

Katelyn: Yes. I need someone to take my place here to run the academy.

Garroth: Why?

Katelyn: Someone has to take over if I'm going to be coming with you and Aphmau for a while.

Garroth: Coming with Aphmau and I? Katelyn, you can't be serious!

Katelyn: I am. Aphmau needs me right now. I can't even begin to imagine how she feels right now. Everything with Shad and Alina, even though she's trying to hide it, I can tell.

Garroth: Katelyn, you don't need to! You're more so needed here at the academy!

Katelyn: Aphmau was here for me many times in the past and so was I for her. This time is no different

Garroth: Well, I suppose I can't stop you.

Katelyn: You never stood a chance.

Garroth: Chuckles Glad to know.

Azura: Lady Katelyn, I-gasps

Garroth: Azura, long time no see!

Azura: G-Garroth? I wasn't expecting you here!

Garroth: Likewise. It's always good to see you.

Azura: Yelps, clears throat Now, you've summoned me Katelyn?

Katelyn: Azura, I need you to take over my duties here at the Guard Academy in my temporary absence.

Azura: Temporary absence? Are you okay Lady Katelyn?

Katekyn: I'm perfectly fine. Lady Aphmau just needs her friends right now.

Azura: Say no more. I need not ask questions for matters concerning Lady Irene.

Katelyn: Aphmau.

Azura: Huh?

Katelyn: Her name is Lady Aphmau.

Azura: Did I say Irene? Oh, shoot. My sincerest apologies, it's just I'm so fond of Irene and-well, three years still hasn't gotten me used to the idea that she is the real Irene.

Garroth: I know, it's hard to believe.

Katelyn: I'm used to the idea. Now Garroth, let's get ready to depart back to Pheonix Drop. A boat has already been made ready.

Garroth: So soon?

Katelyn: Aphmau made it clear she doesn't want to be here in Brightport right now. I completely understand. This place right now is bringing back tough memories for her. Ones that I understand. If Jeffory ever came back like that-

Garroth: Katelyn, you need not say more

Katelyn: It is urgent though, that we return to Pheonix Drop soon. Dante and Emmalyn are setting docks if we leave them for too long

Garroth: Zane!

Katelyn: Yes, now, let's get going.

Garroth: Right.

Azura: Safe travels you two! I'll make sure the academy stays safe!

Garroth and Katelyn leave.

Alina, Aphmau, Garroth, Katelyn, Leona, Lilith Garnet and Liochant get on the boat.

Outside Emmalyn and Kenmur's house.

Aphmau: Knocks on door Emmalyn! Emmalyn, are you there?!

Garroth: Odd, Emmalyn always answers the door quickly when you come knocking.

Aphmau: Emmalyn! Emmalyn! What if Zane got here first?

Garroth: Stand back, I'm going to break down the door!

Emmalyn: Answers door Can you guys keep it down? I was in the middle of a good book!

Aphmau: Oh, Emmalyn, we were worried about you!

Katelyn: Oh, thank Irene-I mean thank Aphmau-I mean-ugh! You know what I mean!

Emmalyn: Aphmau! Oh, I'm so glad you're here!

Garroth: To be fair, you're always ALWAYS glad she's here.

Emmalyn: Because she is IRENE, it's like meeting your hero in person everyday, Garroth! And she was your friend this whole time! And she had a baby! It's like mini-Irene! Please, come in, come in!

Katelyn: Glad to see that after all these years, Emmalyn still has that... spark.

Aphmau: Chuckles I'm still not used to it. But, Alina thinks it's funny so, eh?

Emmalyn: I hope you don't mind I just gave the girls some cookies. Kawaii~Chan made them for me and Dante brought them over when he came to check on the fragment.

Aphmau: That's what we came to check on aswell. Is everything secure?

Emmalyn: As ever! If anyone wants this, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead, body!

Aphmau: Uhhh, don't say that Emmalyn. You living is most important to me.

Emmalyn: Well, then I'll gladly give up the fragment if it means you'll be happy.

Garroth: Have you found out any information on this fragment?

Emmalyn: Unfortunately, no. Kenmur went to the Meteli Library to try to find more books on the Shadow Lord and fragments but, well, you know how people love to burn information.

Aphmau: Where would we even begin to find books about Shad?

Emmalyn: Probably not in our region.

Aphmau: Sighs I need to know more about him.

Emmalyn: You do, you know, it's all up there in your noggin! You just need to remember! After all, he was your lover once. You should know everything about him!

Aphmau: That's right, I-

Alina: Pretty fairy!

Emmalyn: A fairy? Here?

Aphmau: That's strange. Imma go see what that's about. Garroth, keep the girls here.

Garroth: I'm on it

Aphmau follows the fairy.

The fairy turns into Zoey.

Zoey: Aphmau, it's Zoey, please, forgive me, I'm unable to make it to you in time. So I sent a fairy messenger instead. I have to make this quick. It's concerning the Heart Of Darkness we found long ago. I'm sorry for not having told you this before but about two years ago, the faint heartbeat, it had stopped. I cannot explain why or how. But, the disturbing part is, a few days ago, it took form and it's asking for Irene.

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