Chapter 9:

Prelude to the Blight

The Advent of Dual Sentience

The White Haired Princess threw her glass of wine and shattered it to the floor!
"This is an emergency! We need to start preparations immediately! If the Spirits become corrupted then this forest will become a warzone!" 

A soft but reassuring voice from the court subjects called out to her Majesty, "Princess Tsuki! Allow my Disciples and I to aid the war effort on the frontlines!"

The Princess nodded her head with a determined gaze in her eyes, "See to it at once Kazuya! Show these beast the Path to Nirvana!"

The Princess then turned her head to a tall and dark skinned girl with a strange hexagon shape in her eyes, "Rachel! Gather your squad, call Yamada and his squad then head to the outskirts. I will need the Hexers to act as a singular vanguard unit and push the enemy back! We have no idea what we're up against so we can't take any chances!"

The dark skinned girl shook her head obediently and without question, "Yes ma'am! Right away!" and rushed straight out of the tent.

The pink haired girl with fox ears called out to the Princess from the crowd, "Your Highness, allow me to erect a barrier over the camp and support the mana flow!"

Princess Tsuki looked at her and at another small blonde female in full religious apparel, "Sounds good Kyoko! Take Sister Kiyo with you and create a strong Holy barrier around the camp. I'm counting on you two!"

The two bowed their heads and ran straight out the tent with haste. The Princess turned towards the Warrior in golden armor and said, "General Sung-Lee I have an important mission you and your men!"

The Gold General looked intently at his Leader, whatever's about to proceed from her mouth must be carried out till the very end! He girded his resolve and strengthened his will, he vowed to follow his Princess till the bitter end!

The Princess thought for a moment, her eyes lit up and she said, "I need you to call back all our scouts and outskirt laborers immediately. They are endangered out there with the Blight on the move. Also get your men to evacuate all civilians towards the middle of the camp, and if you can, try and get reports from your scouts, maybe they will have information about what's happening out there! I will give you further orders once everyone is cleared!"

The Valorous General crossed his arm over his heart and proudly replied, "Yes your Highness! I won't let you down!"

Princess Tsuki nodded with determination, then turned towards the woman in white and blue garments, "Setsuna, how are the Spirits right now? Are we endangered of affliction?"

The white and blue dressed woman replied, "It seems as though we are safe for now, I can't feel any resistance or corruption, but the Blight are moving fast so we must take defensive measure and find out their motives. I would need a few hours to connect myself to the Spirits to report any further."

Princess Yuki nodded her head, "Okay do as you will then! I will stop by your tent later on! Good luck!"

Setsuna then bowed herself gracefully and walked out of the tent. Princess Tsuki looked around at her remaining court personnel, "The rest of you, get to your posts and assist the others in their work! We don't have much time so please make haste!" 

The Court all nodded and agreed, one by one they all began to disperse out of the tent, soon after a few minutes only one remained. She was Princess Tsuki's main advisor as well as her best friend, she had long luscious green hair and gleaming emerald-like eyes. She also had two snakes wrapped around her arms, one green and the other black.

Princess Tsuki looked at her and said, "Chhaya, please accompany me in assisting the others! We have much work to do!"

Chhaya nodded her head and bowed, "As you wish my Liege."

With everyone sent out on their tasks, Princess Tsuki went out as well. She looked around and already saw armed soldiers on the move getting ready for the evacuation order. She looked up to the sky and saw that it became dark and cloudy, with a concerned expression she said, "Truly something terrible is stirring with skies like that..."

Chhaya then replied from behind, "You needn't worry yourself about small things my liege, you already have many worries and troubles as it is. I'm sure everything will be fine under leadership like yours."

The sound of emergency horns and bugles began to echo through the air, soon people were coming out of their tents with confused expressions, and the soldiers were ushering them to their designated locations. The Princess eye looked upon one small girl in particular, she saw that the small girl was scared and frightened, this touched the Princess's heart. 

Princess Tsuki spoke back saying, "Leadership and tactics isn't the only important thing within an army Chhaya, protecting what's most valuable to you is also important. We must take into account of all the innocent lives at stake, and even the beautiful Earth we transform with every drop of blood that is spilled. I must shoulder this crushing burden with every decision I make for this people of mine. One wrong move can be it for us, and not only us but the children as well, they are our future, we must do well to protect that future. I was selfish when I had rebelled against the Tri-Monarchy, I never considered of all the lives I became responsible for when I started this. Such a reality grieves me, how can I ever atone for endangering the people I swore to defend?"

Princess Tsuki's countenance had fallen into despair, the unbearable burden on her shoulders were too much to carry alone. She felt only regret and sorrow, and she knew she couldn't take it back even if she tried.

"I'm so deeply sorry for all the trouble I've caused in these past few months, I truly cannot forgive myself for dragging you all into the mess I created..."

The Princess became visibly low in spirit, Chhaya saw her leader in distress and came behind her. Without another word, Chhaya embraced her from the back and said, "You naïve and silly girl, you haven't changed one bit since we we're young. Always so caring and equitable for your people, I envy that of you. My Liege did you forget already? We weren't dragged into this rebellion, we sided with you because you had sacrificed everything for us. You gave up your throne, your legacy, your freedom for the chance to give birth to a new future and a new Kingdom. When we were all drowned in misery and oppression, you saw us and became the Light in our despair, you gave us Hope when we had none. If it wasn't for you, we would all still be under the thick iron yoke of the Tri-Monarchy. You saved us and gave us all a fighting chance to ensure that our future generations could live in a world free of repression. So lift up your head, strengthen your will and fight for all that's beautiful in this World!"

The Princess smiled at this and chuckled a bit, "Hehe thank you Chhaya, that means a lot to me. I can't be sad now, what would my people think if they saw me low in despair?" The Princess fixed her expression and brought forth that passionate smile once again. Chhaya released her embrace and stood beside her Leader.
"C'mon Chhaya, we can't let them do all the work! We must help too!"

Chhaya nodded her head and returned a smile, "As you wish my Lady."

The Princess and servant went forth to help in the evacuation, the outside was becoming more and more cloudy as time went on. The breeze brought in a strong scent of rain and the people were almost all gathered together in the center of the camp. Soldiers were stationed at every at every corner with swords ready, bows drawn, and grimoires opened. The sounds of heavy armor and footsteps could be heard all around, including voices from all directions.

Soon a bright yellow barrier shot up and domed over the entire camp with a large light beacon at the very center, Sister Kiyo and Lady Kyoko had succeeded in their job, now they had to keep it up. Princess Tsuki looked up at the very moment it was cast and felt relieved.
"Those girls never fail to amaze me!" she said.

 After a couple hours, most of the camp was fully prepared and in waiting of the pending battle. Princess Tsuki then searched around the camp for General Sung-Lee, after asking around for a bit, she had finally found him. Princess Tsuki went up to him and said, "General Sung, what's the situation looking like on your end? Any news or information?"

The tall Golden General shook his head embarrassedly before his headship, "No my lady, the information is the same as Lady Setsuna stated. The Blight seem to be moving towards the west in great numbers. My men were able to successfully avoid them, some even reported that the Blight ignored  them in some cases. They are indeed acting very strange. Other than that, there isn't anything else, please forgive me for the lack of information."

The Princess then returned a smile to reassure him, "It's okay Mr. Sung! Please lift your head when speaking to me, you've already done more than enough today! Thank you for your help in the evacuation order."

The towering golden warrior felt humbled and glad at his leaders words, "Thank you my Lady, your words always bring me great joy. The Hexer squads are scoping out the perimeter of the Camp as we speak so maybe they will find some clues on to what's going out there."

Princess Tsuki nodded her head and smiled brightly, "Sounds good, well then I will leave you back to your work! Thank you for everything!" General Sung-Lee bowed himself once and began to trail off back to his duties, before he got far, Princess Tsuki shouted out towards him with a loud voice, "Oh one more thing General Sung!"

The General turned back to see her, she then crossed her arm over her heart and shouted, "Your next order is to make sure we all get out of this alive, do you understand!"

The General pledged his heart and responded proudly, "Yes ma'am!" The Valorous General then marched off towards his soldiers with a proud look in his eye.

Princess Tsuki looked around at her rebellion, seeing them work together in one accord helped her realize something important. They were all indeed yoked together under one banner and one goal, and that is the banner of "Freedom" and "Serenity". A future that they all yearned for, a future they've only read in fairytales. The Princess knew that this was the only way to ever obtain such a dream, however though, the stakes were higher than ever and failure was not an option. They had to win this war no matter what, and this is what drove the Rebel Princess. She knew that this would cost everything, and yet she willingly gave herself to the oppressed so that they can be set free.

Princess Tsuki and Lady Chhaya both glared towards a small tent across the camp that was decorated with totems and runes, Chhaya then spoke up, "My Lady, shall we go inquire of the Spirits situation with Miko Setsuna now?"

The Snowy Princess nodded her head, "Yes it's about time we went. Let's go."

The Princess and Advisor soon made their way over to the decorated tent, a strong spiritual energy was emitting from it. It was faint but she could definitely feel it. After a few minutes, the Princess and Advisor stood at the vestibule of the tent. Princess Tsuki walked in without warning and her Advisor followed right behind. As they stepped in, the aroma of frankincense and various plants were soon smelled from within. The inside was dark but slightly illuminated by cyan glowing stones that were aligned alongside the walls of the interior. Princess Tsuki moved further in and soon saw the blue haired girl in pure white and blue apparel knelt down on both knees before a totem in the very center. She had her eyes clothes and was humming some sort of tune as if completely in a trance and unaware of their presence. The place was also filled with thick blue haze and small tongues of blue fire all around.

Princess Tsuki took off her boots and stepped closer to where the Shrine Maiden was kneeling, the Princess then sat down behind her on the other side of the wooden totem and closed her eyes to pay respects to the Spirits. 

Within a few moments, the shrine maiden lifted up her voice, "Princess, I assume you're here to ask about the status of the Spirits?"

The Princess stayed sitting down and didn't open her eyes, "Yes Setsuna, have you made any progress?"

The young Miko nodded her head and never broke her concentration, "Yes ma'am, however though, it is way worse than we could possibly imagine. Are you ready for it?"

Princess Tsuki stayed focused on the totem and girded herself up, "Yes I'm ready, what's going on out there?"

Setsuna nodded her head, "Okay then, as you know a very powerful unexplained entity has awakened somewhere deep in the forest towards the West. From what the Spirits tell me, it was said to have unleashed a massive eruption of Spiritual Essence that disturbed the Forest's balance."

The Princess became alarmed, "What!? Something was unleashing Spirit Essence like that? Is that even possible!?"

Setsuna shook her head, "Theoretically it shouldn't be possible, Spirit Essence is the very foundation of the Soul and connects us to the earth. However, this mysterious individual managed to unleash enormous amounts of Spiritual Essence against afflicted enemies and using it to fight. The Spirits described the strange phenomena as a 'Storm' or 'Maelstrom' of some sort. The mysterious individual then proceeded to eradicate the Horde using this Spiritual Essence as a source of power."

The Princess was becoming more and more uneasy, "What!? It used Spirit energy as a weapon!? I didn't think that was even possible! Has this individual been determined as one the Blight? I doubt a human would be able to pull of something like this!"

The Shrine Maiden paused for a moment, "That's the thing Princess, we have no idea what it is. It somehow emits both essence of affliction and essence of spirit, almost like there was 2 monsters at work but the Spirits only saw one? I asked them if there was two people, but they told me no. It makes no sense to me but the subject somehow gave off both human essence and afflicted. And that's not all either. There was another anomaly that the Spirits informed me of that made me the most anxious..."

Princess stayed silent and listened, so many conflicting thoughts swarmed her, it all made no sense, Spirit Essence being used like a weapon? Both afflicted and spirit emitting from a person? And what did the Spirits mean when they said 'Storm' and 'Maelstrom'? It all made no sense, there was too many conflicting things at work and she didn't have the answers to any! However, this was nothing compared to what was about to be said next.

The Shrine Maiden hesitated a bit, but then spoke out saying, "The mysterious entity then absorbed and devoured the Spiritual Essence of everything that yielded life. The Spirits told me in these words, "The Spirits of the Forest and Skies were being devoured by the masses and we couldn't resist against it. It was almost like it had an infinite reserve of power as it consumed us mercilessly!"

Cold sweat began to run down the Princess's cheek as she became more and more disturbed at this horrifying reality, "D-Did you just say that the monster devoured the Spirits of everything in the forest!?"

Setsuna stayed quiet, the situation was becoming more and more intense with every word that proceeded from Setsuna's mouth. The Princess tried to contain her worry but it was much too great, Princess Tsuki then spoke up saying, "Such a power shouldn't even exist! It's impossible! This monster is a far greater threat to us than anything else right now! We need to act fast, with something like that running amok, it will surely wipe us all out!"

Setsuna shook her head, "Please stay calm Princess, I'm not finished just yet.."

The Princess shut herself immediately, "T-There's more?" she thought.

Setsuna then said, "This is what scares me the most, the entity was then reported to be consuming the Spiritual Essence of the enemies it slain, disrupting the balance and increasing it's own power through every spirit it ate."

The Princess became shocked at this, she was almost frozen in fear. A monster capable of not only devouring the Spirits of the Earth, but also of the corpses it slain. Becoming more and more formidable through every soul it devoured. Truly this entity was not only a menace to them, but probably to everything that harbors life within.

Setsuna spoke up to break the silence, "I don't think fighting that demon is a good idea, if it really uses the essence of spirits as reported, then we probably don't stand a chance. I don't think anyone here is ready to fight something like that. The Spirits are still greatly distressed as it is and it will take a lot to reorganize the balance in the forest again."

Princess Tsuki began to shake a little, fear and tension began to build up in her like never before, "Setsuna, I don't know what to do. Is there any leads or clues to where this monster is at right now? We may need to flee away from here as soon as possible."

The Shrine Maiden nodded her head, "There may be one clue to where this 'demon' is, however it's only a 50/50 chance. Do you want to hear it?"

Princess Tsuki gripped the edge of her coat lining, she nodded her head profusely, Setsuna then said, "The Blight are moving towards the Western part of the Forest in great haste. Now this can be due to a mass fleeing because of the sudden appearance of this Monster, or it can be them all challenging against it. We have no idea what those mindless beasts are doing but it seems they are all traveling in a set direction. That may be our best bet for now, I recommend we bring this before the Court immediately." 

Princess Tsuki nodded her head, "I actually received a report earlier that the anomaly came from the West. They may be trying to exact revenge, but that also means another thing too!"

The Shrine Maiden nodded her head, "Oh and what is that?"

The Princess said, "It means the culprit eliminated a very powerful Blight, most likely one of the leaders. If the individual did that, then we can assume he is more powerful than probably everyone here in the camp. The individual started a war with the Blight, now they will fight to the death till only one stands."

Just then the sound of heavy steel clanked it's way into tent in a hurry, "Princess! Princess! Something terrible is happening!"

The Princess stood up instantly, "What? What now!?"

A decorated soldier stood at the vestibule, "It's the Blight! They have changed their course and heading straight for us!"