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This article, Where Do We Go From Here?, is property of Zicoihno.

The enemy has been repelled and Crocus has been secured. Exia has made their name known, launching an attack on Fiore's capital in the midst of a potential war. However, deception sometimes comes at such moments, moments of supposed victory. Lana and Princess Victoria have been taken captive by Mugen Oren. As such, the real victory is seemingly Exia's.

Forgive Me

A tumble of footsteps echoed through the stairwell leading up to the observatory. Xena and Joseph were leading the pack with the others not far behind. Sanosuke Wilkes, one of the Prince's comrades, had just joined up with them. During the attack, he had taken some men and secured the Royal Treasury. Elsewhere, Mugen Terumi and all able-bodied members were scouring the capital's streets to inform the citizens and further secure the city. Everyone was just relieve that Exia had been "taken care of" for now.

Other palace staff were busy sending out dozens of messages to spread the knowledge of the events that had just transpired. Everyone could just predict the rage that would be unleashed among the citizens of Fiore. Every person would want the heads of the dark mages of Exia. It made Sanjo wonder if this Xemen person really knew what he was getting himself into. Unlike the others, Joseph was still biting his nails per se. The young prince could imagine his father's rage, a rage that would fuel the call for the "King's justice". On a similar note, Sanjo wondered on his father's reaction, it was sure to be interesting.

"Well, that worked out pretty good, " Sanjo said calmly, breaking the sudden silence between the lot of them. His comment was met with groans and the like. Everyone seemed a little under stress even if they tried to hide it. Sanjo smirked, "Okay, that aside....we're gonna need to hunt down Exia."

"Obviously, " Xena replied quickly, keep her eyes on the steps as they neared the doors of their destination, "That's gonna happen regardless. Exia is extremely dangerous, but also far more than any dark guild or, to be honest, any faction that's ever tried anything unlawful."

Joseph grunted in irritation. "It's almost uncanny, their tact, " Joseph said sternly, his hand was still on the hilt of his sword, "Or at least their leader's." The group all exchanged some looks between them, though Xena kept her eyes in front of her.

Sanosuke arched an eyebrow. "Wait, who's their leader?" He asked, shooting the others a confused look. "Fill me in guys."

"His name is Xemen, he founded the dark guild, " Sanjo said with a sigh. "What's more, according to Vilmos, the guy I fought in the city, their base isn't in Fiore."

Richard scratched his head, increasing pace to get next to his blonde-haired friend. "Why would he tell you that though? Did you beat it out of him?" He asked, crossing his arms.

Sanjo shook his head. "Because he's a smart ass, " Sanjo replied sharply, earning a surprised glance from Alia. "Apparently, the guy's a bit of an enigma."

Richard smirked, "With a name like that, I wouldn't be surprised." He turned his attention to Alia, who was a bit ahead of them. "I take it you had at them quite a bit?" Richard asked, smiling.

"Hmph, I just did what I needed to do, " Alia replied quickly, not bothering to trade looks with Richard, " I don't enjoy combat all that much, at least not when it's like this." She was not in the mood for jokes.

"You mean real life?" Xena said abruptly. Everyone looked at the Commander in surprise, she had been relatively quiet since they began climbing these seemingly endless stairs. However, Xena found herself very annoyed. She knew the heat that she would catch for this. It wasn't a pretty thought. Not to mention, there was nothing she could of done to prevent this attack.

"Xena, calm down, it's best to--" Suddenly Sanjo cut himself off and came to a halt. Everyone stopped in surprise, staring back at him. His eyes were focused on something at the top of the stairwell.

"Where are the doors? I've been up here before, why are the doors gone, " Sanjo said nervously. He quickly shot up the stairs past them. Something was wrong, very wrong. As he reached the doors, he could see the damaged hinges and door frame. Someone had broken in and with a bang.

His heart dropped as he touched foot into the room. Lana and Victoria were nowhere to be found. Something had happened in his absence. Floating in the air were massive glowing letters written with something like a light pen . The two words were enough to make him want to break something or someone. There were gasps behind him as the rest of the group entered the room. Sanjo's fists clenched tightly as he read the words, such dreadful words. There were only two of them, yet, they brought a horrible feeling to everyone. They read:

Exia Wins.

The unsheathing of a sword caught their ears as they turned to see Sanosuke swish his sword to his side. His eyes were red with rage. Richard frowned, this could go very badly. Joseph stepped before his comrade. He had a worried look on his face. "And you drew your sword, why?"

"We need to get your sister back!" Sanosuke shouted, taking to his knees. "Please, allow me to take some men and pursue her at once. Victoria....I mean, your sister, the Princess is in grave danger." Xena could of sworn Jospeh's face flashed anger for but a moment.

"I don't need to be told what needs to be done, Sanosuke, " Joseph said quickly, gesturing the young man to stand, "And I really don't like people speaking for me. I know what needs to be done."

"Damn, they even got Lana, " Richard said. He was walking around the room, simply observing. "Also, there's no sign of a struggle here, guys. "

Alia stroked her chin. This was bad, not only was the Princess gone but also her best friend. "I've known Lana for a long time, " Alia said sadly, "She'd never get captured without a fight. Unless she let herself get capture along with the princess?" As she thought more about it, her questions simply multiplied. What was going on?

Richard arched an eyebrow, "Why the hell would she do that?"

BOOM!

They all jumped and turned to a see crumbling wall beside Sanjo, or more specifically, his fist. Their eyes widened in shock as they set their eyes on the fuming Wizard Saint. Xena's mouth dropped, she couldn't remember the last time she had seen Sanjo lose his temper.

Sanjo clenched his teeth. "Forgive me, Lana." His thoughts were in disarray.

"Son of a bitch, how could this happen, " Sanjo grumbled. He slammed his fist on the wall again. It continued to fall to pieces, revealing an empty cellar likely used for storing wine. "How could we let this happen! We just played into their palms like fools."

Xena walked towards Sanjo with a soft look. "Sanjo, calm down, " She said nervously, "I shouldn't need to tell you this. Calm down, dammit. " If there was one thing she never expected to need to say, was to tell Sanjo Vista to relax. Sanosuke had sheathed his sword but it was almost like you could feel Sanjo's anger flowing from him.

Sanjo glanced over at Richard. "To answer your question, Richard, it's simple really, " Sanjo said, standing up straight. The room was silent. " Very simple. There was no guarantee the person who kidnapped Victoria would treat her with any sort of care and that would leave room for physical abuse, wouldn't it? So, with that in mind, Lana..."

"Went with my sister to protect her the best she could, even if that meant just sitting with her in chains, " Joseph said in surprise, finishing his friend's sentence. Joseph stroked his chin, pondering on everything that had just taken place. Exia had pulled a fast one on them, this Xemen was deadly.

"They got us, Joseph, " Sanjo said, setting his eyes on the prince. "Exia now has Victoria in their clutches and, " Sanjo's tone weakened, "Lana is captured as well." Sanjo sighed and turned to be on his way.

"And where are you going?" Alia asked angrily. "Victoria and Lana are captured and you're just gonna walk...." She cut herself off as her eyes met Sanjo's glare. It was the first time she had ever seen it. His eyes held no mercy but was overflowing with irritation.

"I need to go somewhere and think. That and cool off, alone, " Sanjo said, stepping into the stairwell. He gave a quick nod to Joseph and continued down the stairs.

Xena frowned and looked at the others, "I don't think I've ever seen him like that."


"What the hell happened here?!"

Natsu smashed his fist into his palm as he surveyed his surroundings. Team Erza had just arrived in the capital, and apparently arrived to a mess it would seem. Lucy's eyes followed the waves of guards zipping throughh the streets. They were all simply confused. Just a moment ago, they had seen a group of scared families heading for the city limits. It had seemed a good deal of the citizens were leaving Crocus. It begged the question: why?

Erza sighed as she slapped Natsu over the head. "I'm not sure what's going on here, but we can go find out, " Erza said coolly, " That'd be the simplest route to take."

Gray shrugged at the proposal. "I tried asking some of the guards, but they just waved me off and went somewhere, " He said with a sigh. " They all seemed a bit preoccupied." It was a mystery to them as to what was going on.

"Guys," Lucy said softly. Her comrades turned to face her. "This is just a suggestion, but how about we go to the castle and ask. We can do that, right?" She smiled nervously, waiting on approval. Erza nodded her head with a knowing look and walked towards the blonde, placing her hand on Lucy's shoulder.

"Great idea, " Erza said, "Let's get going." She looked to find Gray and Natsu bickering once again. Over what was unknown to her, but she couldn't care less eitherway.

"Now!"


The sound of fallen leaves being crushed under heavy footsteps sent a pack of squirrels in a flurry. With a few soldiers on either side of her, Milena found herself deep within a forest near the border of the kingdom. She was given a mission to journey to the northeastern border where Fiore and Seven's borders met. It was here that the bodies of Seven and Bosco border patrol men were said to be found. Raimo gave her one task: look for magical anomalies.

"General Milena, if you don't mind, " a young soldier said next to her, "why exactly were Bosco soldiers in Seven anyway? "

"Well, it's simple really, kid, " Milena said, keeping her eyes ahead of her. "For over a decade, those two countries have forged a strong bond, an alliance. Not to mention, Bosco is a slave trade nation with a weak economy, so..."

"They depend on Seven economically and pay them back with manpower, " He said with a smile, it was all starting to make a bit more sense. The young man was nothing but a rookie fresh out the Academy . He was flattered when he found out he would get to go on a mission alongside General Milena Richards.

"Also, add in that Fiore and Seven are on bad terms, " Another solider said, placing a hand on the rookie's shoulder. " I wasn't surprised they'd jump at the chance to accuse of violence." The newest addition to the conversation was a tall man, he was rather up there in age compared to his rookie comrade. The blade of his spear was blood red, an old tradition of veteran infantry members. The young soldier's face fell back to a confused expression again. Milena sighed.

"Kid, you need to brush on your war history. Dozolin is right, Seven and Fiore have been on bad terms since the war years ago, " Milena said, frowning. "Alot of good men and women died in that one, though our losses were nothing compared to those of Seven and especially Isenberg." For the older members of the squad, it brought back rather unpleasant memories, to say the least.

"Yea, that was back when Raimo-soudaishou was out crushing enemies with the rest of us. I still remember the day news reached our squad that he had captured Isenberg's crown coastal city, what a day, " Dozolin said suddenly. "That was long ago, I was a young buck in those days."

"Alright, sharing time is over."

They both gave a quick nod to Milena, who's firm glare to could kill if such things were possible. It almost sent a shiver down the rookie's spine. Dozolin nudged his side, "Here's the golden rule, kid, never piss off the General," He said with a wide smile.

Milena came to a stop, it felt like they had been prancing around for hours. "Where the hell is Quincy?" She asked, turned to the rest of the squad. They all gave nervous shrugs. Milena arched an eyebrow, what kind of nonsense was this?

"He said he was gonna go take a leak, whatever that means, " a green-haired young woman said from the back of the group. She waved her hand to get her superior's attention.

Milena smiled as she tried to stifle a laugh. "It means he went to go take a piss, Private Keishay, " Milena said, smirking. "That idiot was in charge of communications, and yet he just waltzes off." Her grin only widened as she took in the female's soldier's now disgusted expression. "She's supposed to be a soldier?"

"What was your name again, kid?" Milena asked, turning back to the rookie of the group. All eyes were on him suddenly. It would seem none of them had memorized his name just yet.

He nervously gripped his spear, " Jonathan Stark, Milena-taichou, Private Jonathan Stark. Glad to--"

"General Milena! General! Milena-taichou, everyone!"

They all turned to a frantic young man running towards them. He came to a halt. Panting, he quickly tried to catch his breath. Everyone was in shock. All hoping that a war had not started. Milena arched an eyebrow, stepping before the young soldier. "What is it? Next time, don't go prance off without telling me. Bathroom or not."

"The capital, Crocus and the palace were attacked! And get this, Princess Victoria has been kidnapped!"

Milena was lost for words. Jonathan, the rookie, look around him in shock as he saw nothing but speechless faces. It was hard for anyone to react in any composed manner. Milena's thoughts were flying at light speed, trying to make sense of what was just said.

"What the hell, how?"

Remember the Time

Sanjo rested his arms on the railing of a balcony in a relaxed, hunched fashion. The wind blew through his hair, it was refreshing. After some wandering around he had found somewhere to be alone and think about things. The sun was setting as the evening had arrived and night was inched closer and closer towards them. It had been quite a day, a horrible day to say the least. The idea of Crocus getting attacked was bad enough, but for it to happen when the country was on the verge of war with two opposing nations. He could only imagine the fear of the citizens.

Sanjo gripped the railing tightly as his mind moved onto the next tragedy. Anger, that was swirling around in his head at this very moment. He never got angry much, Sanjo had always found that being quick to anger only lead to screwing yourself over or so he thought. But there were times that he had no reservations to anger. He gazed over the city, it was relatively fine, the palace was the placethat had some serious repairs to be done.

"How could she, uh they get kidnapped?"

He knew why Lana let herself be taken, Sanjo just had no idea how they could let themselves be tricked so easily. It wasn't as if they were being reckless, no, Exia was just so tactful. He sighed, what were they to next? A few chirps caught his ear as he turned to see quite a relaxing sight on a ledge not too far from him. It was bird with her baby. Seemed the little one was learning to fly for the first time.

"First time flying, eh? First times are always memorable, " Sanjo said to himself, keeping his solemn blue eyes on the little teaching session taking place on the ledge. The two birds paid no mind to the nosy human watching them from afar. The mother bird was far more concerned with her child learning how to fly and soon soar next to her in the skies.

Then it came to him, and a small yet weak smile spread on his face. As he watched on, he remembered a specific first time of his own. It was around seven years ago, a long while ago. At that time, he was just a teenager with small issues and no worries. There was no defending the capital and fending off dark mages trying to screw countries over for their own desires. Yes, simpler times. It was seven years ago that he would meet Lana Kaen for the first time, that was quite the memory...


/Flashback/

The cool breeze blew through the leaves of the trees as the blazing sun was high in the sky. It was a typical summer afternoon albeit with a decent breeze luckily. That time of year where people traveled to the coast for parties, barbecues, swimming races, etc. Two figures trudged along a forest walking trail under the comforting shadows of the trees. Just another summer day.

"I still think you should go apologize, man."

A blond haired teenage boy shot a glare towards his companion. He wasn't in any mood for a lecture, especially not from a close friend. "Can you shut up with that already, Sanjo! I'm not bothering with that, damn, " He snapped, turning away.

Sanjo sighed, folding his hands behind his head. "He's your grandpa, Laxus, " Sanjo said quickly, "Stop being a drama queen. I wouldn't even think of talking to my gramps like that."

Laxus rolled his eyes, "I'm being a drama queen?" He stepped closer towards Sanjo and wiped sweat from his forehead. "Damn, it's hot, but drama queen? Who wouldn't be pissed with being in their grandfather's shadow all the time. I'm tired of hearing that people aren't surprised that Makarov's grands...." Laxus trailed off seeing Sanjo roll his eyes. "What's your problem?" Laxus asked defiantly.

"I don't have a problem, it's you, Laxus, " Sanjo said, lowering his arms. "You act like you're the only one. Do you think no one says to me 'As expected of Raimo's kid'?"

"Care to make a point here, " Laxus shot back with an arched eyebrow.

"People are just gonna do that, that's how people are, " Sanjo said calmly. " You're 16, relax for god's sake. People will stop with that crap when we get a bit older."

"So, " Laxus muttered, "Get over it? Just like that?"

"Bingo, my friend, stop getting all bent out of shape, " Sanjo replied with a smile. He was sure his friend would bring his whining to an end. All he knew was that this stuff was getting annoying.

"Whatever, that's just stupid. You don't just ignore stuff like that, " Laxus stopped himself, he felt this argument had really run its' course, "Actually let's just drop it, okay?"

"Suits me, man, " Sanjo said, shrugging. If it would end the argument then by all means he was fine with that proposal. He really didn't enjoy seeing his friend act like this. It wouldn't be too long before Makarov and Laxus would have a real falling out, and that could get ugly. "Now, where are we going?" He asked.

"Balsam Village, man, Balsam, " Laxus groaned. They had decided to chill today. Originally, Laxus had wanted to start the day off with a spar but his lazy, carefree friend would not oblige to his offer. Now that Laxus thought about it, Sanjo was a bit too quick to refuse.

"Isn't Balsam that spa town?" Sanjo asked, looking over at Laxus. A sly smile crossed Sanjo's face, which only made his companion roll his eyes. "Out to pick up some ladies, Mr. Dreyar?"

"What ladies would we find at a spa town that would be interested in two 16 year olds?" Laxus replied nonchalantly as he slid his hands into his pockets.

"Way to ruin the fun, there's always a chance for some chicks our age, " Sanjo said through a frown. He looked up ahead to see the tops of buildings over head and a mountain back drop to match. It seemed they were finally in Balsam, about damn time, Sanjo figured. He shot a finger at Laxus suddenly, "I heard the food here is great and I'm starving, so...."

Laxus chuckled at the proposal. "We just get here and you're interested in lunch? Typical, " He laughed, "But now that you brought it up, and I don't mean the food. Let's hope some chicks our age decided to take a breather and come here. "

Sanjo's grin grew wider. That was what he liked to hear. "And what's the main reason we came here?"

Laxus gave out a nervous laugh. "I dunno, " He said, " Since you turned down the duel, I wasn't sure where we should go chill. So, I picked somewhere out of random and so we are here."

Sanjo figured he could say alot of things, but the whole thing was amusing. "Whatever, long as we head to the buffet. I kind of skipped breakfast, " Sanjo replied calmly.

They soon entered the town to find themselves flanked by tourists sweeping past them in a rush. The buildings were different than what you'd normally see in Fiore as they all held a design normally found in the eastern nations. It wasn't a big place, but it was a memorable one if not just by the feel of it all. However, something troubled Sanjo as people continued to rush past the two of them.

He came to a halt as his eyes followed the passing crowds. "What is up with everyone?" He turned to see a few approaching figures. But, they didn't look like tourists so much as people of a "rougher" persuasion. They were coming at them full speed. Though they weren't attacking the pair, no, as Sanjo narrowed his eyes, he noticed they were running for their lives.

"We're getting out of here! What the hell is going on?!"

"What kind of kid is that?!"

"Leave us alone!"

The bunch zipped past Sanjo and Laxus narrowly. Their faces were hysterical, though somewhat funny in Laxus' viewpoint. Both of them had no idea what was going on. Who was this kid? Why were they so scared? Sanjo sighed, regardless of his confusion, if they were indeed thugs, he would need to deal with them. He had gotten quite tired of wiping out thugs, it gets old quick.

Suddenly, a shadow passed over their heads. Laxus and Sanjo shot up their heads to see, following the shadow. The figure landed on the ground gracefully in a crouching position, it was a teenage girl in mostly white attire . The sound of boots caught their ears. Laxus turned back to see a squadron of the Council's Rune Knights coming up from behind them.

She rose to her feet slowly and peered over shoulder at them. "You kids stay here, let us Rune Knights handle this, " She said, smirking. Immediately, she sped off after the four thuggish looking men. Those men were still screaming in fear.

Sanjo arched an eyebrow, "Kids?"

The two of them stood their, stiff as trees as they watched the most overdone and unnecessary beat down of their lives. It wasn't even fair. The girl was too quick, too agile, and just too good for them. They knew it, the thuggish looking fellas getting trampled by her knew it, the Rune Knights behind Sanjo knew it, but this girl didn't seem to. Sanjo felt himself cringe for them, he almost felt bad for the guys.

Sanjo's mouth hung open as they questioned them on what their intentions had been and other things. It would seem they were dark mages, though run of the mill at best. This girl reminded him of someone, another woman who's temper and strength were poorly regulated. Yes, she reminded him of his own mother, and that was problematic.

He wasn't sure what to say. Sanjo noticed that Laxus was as speechless as he was. He did recall hearing a "hot damn" from one of the men behind him when the girl was delivering blows and then some. It was clear to him that the girl lacked restraint in every sense of the word. Yet, ignoring that, she still managed to keep some air of grace about her somehow. He couldn't place his finger on it. What was special about this girl?

She dusted her hands off as she glared at the fallen group of men. They looked about ready to cry. "You guys aren't even worth arresting, get lost!" She shouted, the fire in her eyes only getting stronger. They quickly crawled back, still shivering. In that moment, they struggled to get up and limped off.

"Damn...."

She turned back to Sanjo and Laxus with a smile on her face. As to why, Sanjo did not even know. She walked towards the two, her face coming to a calm expression. Her utility belt bounced gently with every step. Now they were sure she couldn't be any older than them.

"What's wrong with you two?" She asked, throwing a hand on her hip. They gave no response. The girl sighed, "Anyway, I'm Lana Kaen. We're with the 8th Custody Enforcement Unit. Our unit got a call...." Lana trailed off as she noticed Sanjo's surprised gaze. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I didn't know the Council took in people our age, " Sanjo answered, smiling. He hoped he hadn't done anything wrong, though this girl came off as a bit abrasive.

Lana smirked, " Now you know."

Sanjo shrugged, didn't feel like making anything more of the topic. Lana suddenly waltzed past them. "I have things to do now. But, " She added, " Now at least I made your day a little more interesting. If we ever meet again , I'm sure you'll remember. What was your name?"

"Vista, Sanjo Vista."

/Flashback End/


Sanjo sighed as his mind mulled over such old memories. That was years ago, his first meeting with Lana was an interesting one. It wouldn't be long after that he would see her again. He continued to feel the breeze pass over him, it was soothing. Yet, on the inside, his frustration would not leave. They all needed to save Lana and Victoria, he needed to save her.

"It's not your fault."

Sanjo quickly turned to see Xena standing in the doorway to the balcony. Her eyes felt a soft look to them, it looked as if she was worried about him. Now that he thought about it, it had been a while since he left that balcony. Sanjo worked up a weak smile. "I'm aware, but...."

"What's your next move?"

Sanjo blinked, "Pardon?" Xena gave no response and simply stared at him, her eyes gaining intensity. He sighed at the question. "I'm not even sure. I mean, Exia's base isn't even in the country. I don't have any sources for info outside of Fiore, so--" Sanjo cut himself as the sounds of footsteps approached Xena and himself.

"The Golden Lion I know would be on top of things, not being glum. How pathetic."

Sanjo looked past Xena to see quite a surprise. As four figures and a cat approached them. Behind them was Zeo and Richard along with Joseph. "Erza, what the hell are you guys doing here?" He asked through a confused look.

"Stuff, " Natsu said, grinning. " The old man gave us a job and we ended up here."

"We've been brought up to speed and know about Lana-san and the princess, if we can help in anyway, " Lucy added quickly. Her expression was ripe with worry and surprise. Sanjo smiled, Lana had become pretty good friends with her and Erza after that Olympic Code business.

"Get it together, Lana is counting on you, Sanjo, " Xena said sternly. "I'd be damned disappointed if you keep acting like this. Snap out of it." Xena wasn't interested in moping around like an idiot. He needed to pursue those two and she knew he could do it. It was time to man up for the young man that she loved like a little brother.

"You're right, " Sanjo said, smirking. Smiles crossed the faces of those near him. He looked back towards Erza suddenly. "Since you're offering help, I need you to deliver a message to someone. He lives in Falcana, I'll share details later." She nodded in compliance. Sanjo smiled, it was rare for them to get along like this.

"Another thing, " Xena said, tapping Sanjo's shoulder," What does it matter if they're not in Fiore? We already know someone outside of the country with an extensive intel network, don't we?" A sly smile crossed her face with those last words.

Sanjo smiled at the reminded and nodded in agreement. The others looked a bit confused. "I had almost forgotten the connections he has, " Sanjo said with a small smile. He looked towards Zeo and Richard, "It's time for another trip, gentlemen." The two looked at each other confused.

"Sure, sure, " Richard said quickly .

Sanjo walked off the balcony and into the room. He set his eyes on the prince. "Joseph, I promise I will get Victoria back. We will save her," He said sternly. His eyes moved over to Erza's group, " And we will save Lana, I can promise that."

"Aye, sir!" Happy blurted out as the rest of them smiled.

"I have full faith in you, Sanjo, " Joseph said, giving a respective nod. "So, where do we go from here?" All bets were on Sanjo and co here. Joseph knew he had to stay here and run things till his father returned. He was heir to the throne after all. The blood of the King and first in the line of succession. Joseph had duties to uphold.

Sanjo felt a hand grab his shoulder and jerk him around. The hand had belonged to Alia. He could feel her eyes piercing into his mind, or so it felt. "Get my best friend back, Sanjo. Fail and you're dead, " Alia commanded, sticking a delicate finger in the Wizard Saint's face.

"Of course, Cap'n," Sanjo mused, taking a step back. He looked back at Joseph. "About your question, on where we go from here...."

The room fell silent for that moment. It had been quite a day. However, in the midst of this adversity, the desire to press on was not in need, no, there was an abundance of it. Richard smirked, things always worked out. Lana was strong, he actually didn't feel worry for her or at least nothing serious. Nevertheless, they needed to get moving now. The sense of urgency was obvious to everyone.

"We're off to be Exia's reckoning."

A Bumpy Road Ahead

"This is unbelievable! Absolutely outrageous!"

Guran Doma paced around the meeting room of the council's higher ups in a flurry of confusion and irritation. The news had just reached Era and it struck a chord in an enraging sort of way. With each step, his staff came down hard, almost rhythmically. "In Fiore's capital of all places."

Org turned in his chair to the short older man beside him. "I'm glad you came, Yajima , " He said calmly, "It was helpful that you were in the neighborhood now of all times." The Council's headquarters was on high alert as word of Crocus' attack had recently been relayed to them from their branch in Fiore. Yajima and Org sat alone with the chairman, these two being the only ones of the old council.

"It's fine, Org, I had just finished seeing some old friends, " Yajima said through a frown. "There was no way I could not lend myself in such a grave situation. Lady luck does not seem to be on the side of my homeland."

Doma came to a halt and shot a glare towards the pair. "Of all the nations that the council has jurisdiction over for magical affairs, Fiore is among the most important," He grumbled, his aggressive eyes not leaving them be. "Yet, you tell me you knew of this man? Of the threat he could pose?" They both uttered no response, but Doma would not be pleased by such silence.

Yajima raised his hands in defense, "What were we to do?" The chairman's glare only grew fiercer. "Listen, we could not find him. He's the type of man that can only be found if he wants to be found, " Yajma added nervously, this was not the time for council members and former ones to be fighting with one another.

"Elaborate, " Doma said gruffly.

"We really can't, " Org said quickly. "Of the little worthwhile information we do have of him, we know the man can use Teleportation magic to unheard of extents. With skill that would make Doranbolt look like a child." He hoped his superior would get this through his head, that they were dealing with an enigmatic troublemaker.

"And that information is years old, " Yajima said sternly. He looked out the window near them. This meeting room had always had a lovely view of Era. "You could speak to the old chairman if you desire, but you will get no more information than you could with us." He stroked his chin, not bothering to take his eyes off the view.

"Years old, Yajima?" Doma asked coolly. The man had finally found it in him to finally calm down. Such anger was not becoming of anyone.

"He is no young buck, " Org said abruptly.

Doma stamped his staff hard on the tile floor. "This Xemen and his guild, Exia, are no joke, " He said, turning his look to Org. "After this, tell those two to head to Fiore immediately. I made a promise with Raimo to help with domestic security, tell them to take two airships as well." Org nodded in obedience.

Yajima stood from his chair. He felt a sense of fear flow through him. It had been a long while since such a thing had happened, that he had felt fear so clearly. He wasn't young, not even close. He could only pray the right people would take up arms and fight the good fight.

"I hope this passes quickly. Such a bumpy and trying road ahead of us."

To be continued.

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