Chapter 9:

Crimson Robes (Part 3)

Last Tale: Return of the Guardian Knight

Out of breath and struggling to say standing, Leo rested his back against the large door behind him. The crackling of the red lightning that enveloped his body synced with his strained breaths. His senses were almost numb. He was relying on his vision, hearing, and instincts forged through countless battles.Bookmark here

He grunted and yelled out a strained whisper, "Where is she?"Bookmark here

The man standing before him ignored him and leapt forward, swinging his sword down from over his head. Leo instinctively shifted his body weight to his left leg and leaned left to evade the attack. Using the momentum of the shifting motion, Leo amateurishly swung the sword in his hand upwards; while stumbling and struggling to keep his balance. The man immediately distanced himself from Leo and attempted the same attack again. Leo responded as he did earlier.Bookmark here

He was panting and toiling to remain standing. Even though Leo was exhausted, the man attacking him failed to inflict the slightest amount of damage to him. After each evasive motion, Leo would return to the door and rest his back against the cold stone. His vision blurred and narrowed. Darkness clouded his sight. Bookmark here

Leo continued to murmur like a mad-man the entire time he spent running around. "I'm tired. I can't do this anymore. I'm tired." "You don't have a choice." "I don't want to. I already played my part. My war is over. Let me rest." "Not an option." "I lost. I lost it all. There is nothing more for me to fight for." "Yes, there is." "No, there isn't." "Yes, there is." "It's all over. There is nothing left." "No." "Just let me rest." "No." "Let me sleep." "You have to protect." "I am tired. Can't I just rest?" "Fight." "But I am done." "Struggle." "I don't want to." "Protect." "I have no strength left." "Live." "I'm done." "No, you're not." "Yes, I am." "There is something left." "No, there isn't. I'm done." "Protect." "There is nothing to protect." "The. Promise." "..." "Protect. The. Promise."Bookmark here

He wanted to rest. He desperately desired to sleep. But the voice, in his head, woke up him every time he drifted off into the comfort of the darkness before his eyes. The voice constantly repeated three words: "Protect. The. Promise."Bookmark here

As Leo struggled sloppily against the oncoming attacks, his surroundings started to fill with a humming noise. Suddenly, the door behind him started to vibrate. The humming sound was originating from the door. The blood pool around the door rippled in sync with the humming from the door. Leo was exhausted, and his senses were numbed to the extent of him missing the change in his surroundings.Bookmark here

The ones in red cloaks, including the one continually attacking Leo, distanced themselves from the door. Leo stood with his back to the door like a dummy on strings.Bookmark here

Gradually, the wings of the large door creaked open. The creepy creaking of the door was accompanied by blinding light that escaped from the chink in the door. The bright light was like that of a star. The light hit Leo's back.Bookmark here

The moment the bright light made contact with Leo, the black vapours the covered his body dissolved into the light. All the black vapours that covered him were dissolved by the light and left the red lightning sparking on the surface of his skin.Bookmark here

Leo did not feel any discomfort, instead, he relished the warm feeling on his skin. It was as if he was being kissed by a star and was snuggling with it amid a snowstorm. The warmth of the light slowly lulled him to sleep. The voice in his head forced him awake every time he gave in to his desire to sleep. His eyelids got heavier by the moment as he felt safe since the attackers had stopped approaching him.Bookmark here

The red lightning that covered him on specific points now covered him like a shell. As soon as he was half-asleep, brown roots emerged from the door. The roots crept along the floor and started to cocoon Leo. The roots absorbed the red-lightning that protected Leo and in return, the roots wrapped themselves around Leo, binding him in a wooden net.Bookmark here

Leo murmured in a half-asleep state, "Protect the promise. I will protect the promise."Bookmark here

With a sudden tug, the roots pulled Leo inside the door to the side with the bright light. The wings of the doors snapped shut immediately after the roots disappeared into the light with Leo bound in the said roots. Those who remained in the crimson world looked at the sudden development in awe.Bookmark here

Before any of them had a chance to contemplate what had just transpired, glowing red cracks appeared on the door. The cracks expanded and covered the entire door. The door then shattered like glass. The pieces fell into the blood on the floor, ultimately dissolving into red blood-like liquid, leaving a still world with the rest wondering and questioning the happenings.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

As he drifted into a comfortable and warm sleep, Leo dreamed of a memory from his past. He was recollecting a happy event from his life. In the dream, he was holding Clara, his late fiancee, by her shoulders and leading her, blindfolded, into a cove to the banks of a lake inside the cove.Bookmark here

"Keep your eyes closed," said Leo. He sounded happy and excited.Bookmark here

"This better not be a trick," giggled Clara. Her voice was gentle and soothing.Bookmark here

"No tricks, I really have a great surprise for you," replied Leo.Bookmark here

"Are we there yet? We're not moving anymore."Bookmark here

"Yeah, we're here," said Leo, as he removed her blinds to reveal a large tree at the centre of the lake to her. The tree had a thick trunk and glowing hastate leaves.Bookmark here

Clara watched at the large tree in awe. There was a tremendous amount of pure mana emanating from the tree. "It is beautiful. Is it what I think it is?"Bookmark here

Leo joyously embraced her from the back and rested his chin on her shoulder. Pushing his cheek against hers, he said, "Only if you think a world tree."Bookmark here

Her eyes widened in surprise. "I thought they were all extinct," exclaimed Clara! Her eyes sparkled as she admired the beauty of the majestic tree before her.Bookmark here

Leo smiled warmly and squeezed her tight in his arms. "Yes, they were," whispered Leo. "But I managed to figure a way out to bring them back. What do you think?"Bookmark here

"What I think is," replied Clara, as she turned her head to face him. "This." She leant in and kissed him.Bookmark here

Leo reciprocated the kiss. After the kiss, he rested his head against hers and held her by her waist. He was swinging slightly, almost dancing, and staring at the wide cap of the glowing tree.Bookmark here

"I know I am asking you this a little too late, but, will you marry me?"Bookmark here

"Seriously," chuckled Clara. "You really asked that a little too late. I have been waiting for over a millennium for you to ask that question."Bookmark here

"So what do you say?"Bookmark here

"Is it not obvious?"Bookmark here

"I still want you to say it," whispered Leo in her ear.Bookmark here

Clara blushed and whispered her response, "Yes."Bookmark here

Cours Twent
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