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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Crown Prince Yoshi - 17. Chapter 17

Chapter 17

The Imperial Lands, outside the Capital - Lexin City

Midori remembered the last time he laid eyes on his father with crystal clear image. He doubted he could forget. Namik Sanori covered in blood after slaughtering the Fier Nobles who dared voice their protests, hoping to stop him from rebelling against the Empress.

That night, his father had looked a mad man. Unable to stop his father, Midori rode out of the Fier Castle in the night. His goal to save as many as he could from Namik’s rebel forces. The families he introduced to Yoshi in Earith, and others who found safe passage into the Furian Forest, thanks to Princess Naria. The ones saved weren’t enough. The losses were bigger.

At the time, Midori felt helpless watching his father divide Fier into chaos. The people left without a choice, join Namik’s rebellion against the Empire, or die. It was oppressive. Midori missed the Fier of his childhood, when his mother was alive, and his father could smile, and find joy. After his mother’s death, Namik’s passion for power reared its ugly head and refused to die down. Bringing them to this moment, Midori frowned as he was brought into the main rebel army tent.

“Lord Namik, we bring you General Midori.”

The two holding his arms, pushed him forward deeper into the tent. Midori almost lost his balance as his hands were still tied behind his back. Straightening up, Midori looked up and met his father’s dark, dark gaze.

“So, you’ve returned,” Namik said, a deceiving smile curving his lips. “What plot brings you here, Midori? Or do you now want to play my son because the throne is almost at hand?”

Midori kept his silence.

Namik nodded to the two men holding Midori’s arms, and the ties behind him fell away, his arms free. Midori flexed his fingers, hoping to ease the ache on his wrists. Rolling his shoulders, he looked up and met Namik’s gaze.

“I’m home, Father,” Midori said. “No plot, this is my place.”

Namik studied him for a full minute then scoffed.

“Whether you speak truth, my dear son,” Namik said with a slow grin. “We will have to see.”

***

“Your plan did not work,” Lady Tinya hissed, her gaze on Tai Migi who rode his horse beside hers. “Lord General must mean more to the Prince than you know.”

“I underestimated him,” Tai confessed.

“Because of your plot, we’ve turned into traitors in a single night,” Lady Tinya hissed. “We do not want Namik to win this war. Terra must offer its support.”

“Support the Prince,” Zia Sayu stated from behind Lady Tinya. “It’s not right having us stay out of a battle to save the Empire.”

“Your twin’s brilliant ideas have us on the outside. I dare say if we had not listened to your advice, we would be standing next to the Prince right now.” General Benal’s tone was heavy with frustration. “My Lady, what is our plan now?”

“We get to the front,” Lady Tinya said. “When he gives us a chance, I will bend the knee before His Royal Highness and pledge Terra’s loyalty.”

“What of Lord General?” General Benal asked.

“The Prince gave us direction. We do not belong in the Palace inner court,” Lady Tinya said. “Matters of who joins the royal family are left to the Empress and the imperial diet. Royal Prince Yoshi is the heir and that is all I know.”

Tai gave a sigh, giving his sister a warning glance when she started to protest. He bowed to Lady Tinya.

“Thank you for your wisdom, Lady Tinya,” Tai said. “If we must reach the Prince, we need to ride hard. Princess Naria is to meet the Prince from Earith. They will face Namik together.”

“Then Terra plans to join them,” Lady Tinya said, urging her horse into a faster speed.

Her urgency mirrored by her generals and the soldiers following behind.

****

“Report to his Royal Highness. The Furian Princess approaches from the west, she has crossed through Earith to join the Phoenix Army.”

The courier knelt at the entrance of Yoshi’s tent, a yellow cap on his head. Indicating he was part of his army’s communications network.

Yoshi watched Telia shift the allied forces marker on the map on the great table. Hands braced on the edge of the large table, Yoshi narrowed his gaze on the red markers that indicated Namik’s forces.

“Namik’s main army is stationed outside the main gates into the capital. He has an auxiliary force blocking entrance through the three other minor gates. We must bring him down first to gain access,” Lady Pipa said.

“What of those living in the capital?” Telia asked.

“The palace will be hosting half the population,” the Head of the Black Guard said, and then with his index finger, he traced a thin circle on the homes around the palace walls. “Protocol is to move the rest into the ceremonial arena, and noble homes here. The Royal Guard, or in this case Lord Hong Ma’s Royal Bureau will patrol and provide security to stop an initial attack.”

“Bold move, but a major attack will leave them vulnerable,” Lady Pipa said. “Lord Hong’s men cannot stop thousands of seasoned soldiers.”

“With the palace shield up, entrance into the palace is off the table.” Yoshi straightened up. “They now become our only vulnerable point.”

“And the capital,” Telia said.

“If we are left with no choice, the capital can be rebuilt,” Yoshi stated. “How long until the Princess arrives?”

A loud battle horn greeted his question and Telia smiled wide.

“She wastes no time.”

“Won’t her announcement alert Namik to our presence?” Lady Pipa worried.

“Namik has not seen our banners, and will assume we’re part of the Princess’s forces,” Telia said. “Your Royal Highness—

“You’re excused,” Yoshi said, his gaze remaining on the map.

Telia rushed out of the tent, no doubt to meet The Princess Naria.

“What of Terra?” Lady Pipa asked, once Telia left. “Do you think they will make it in time? Lady Tinya looked ready to face Namik.”

Yoshi had hoped Lady Tinya would choose to follow him, even with his obvious support of Midori. Yet, night was quickly turning to early morning, and no sign of Terra’s army yet. He would dwell on their response later.

“We must focus on the battle ahead. A fast, decisive fight is best; we must not drag on for days. As soon as The Furian Princess arrives, invite the Dwind Generals. We’ll engage Namik before morning ends.”

Lady Pipa acknowledged his order and left the tent.

***

“Were she not such an Empress’s supporter, I would have her as an ally,” Namik said, his spyglass held to his eye as he watched the allied forces making ready to face him. “Look at that, she has convinced quiet General Heloth Janir of Earith to go to war.”

Midori bit his lip.

Princess Naria had not convinced General Heloth, Yoshi had. Midori was glad the Princess Naria had arrived. At least with the Furian Princess, he was sure Yoshi would stay safe.

“Do you want a look?” Namik handed him the spyglass. “There is a Furian legend that states a Princess of the Furian Forest can breathe fire. Naria’s ancestors knew how to breed fear and create a cloak of danger to keep out intruders. I wonder if she can truly breathe fire now.”

Midori searched the barriers hoping to catch a glimpse of Yoshi walking the perimeter. He knew it was impossible. The Black Guard would keep him secure until this battle ended. They would not risk his life by having him traipse along the barrier. Midori still hoped for a glimpse. He took in a deep breath when he caught sight of Sando standing next to two soldiers. A red flag in his hand, holding the spyglass steady, Midori watched Sando turn the red flag to reveal a gold color.

Yoshi was ready to face Namik.

Midori brought the spyglass down and gave it to his father.

“Once we win,” Namik said, still staring at the enemy forces. “Our people will have free reign, Midori. They will not have to hide in Fier. Isn’t that what worries you?”

“What of the Empress and those she protects?” Midori asked, curious as to what Namik wanted to do with their revered ruler.

“She is too much trouble. Prince Tailen cannot stand her. Her presence, like her son, will cause unrest. When we get the chance, we shall have her dead, if she’s not already. Hold a funeral, just like we did with her son.”

“She did nothing to you,” Midori pointed out. “Only ruled the Empire into peaceful time.”

“Yes, you’re right. However, the world must change,” Namik said, gripping his horse’s reins. “If I succeed here, it will be obvious to others that one can change their fate. Almira’s family cannot rule forever. The empire must have a new leader.”

Midori closed his eyes.

“At what cost?” Midori shook his head. “The number of people dead is—

“They are collateral damage,” Namik said. “Success does not come without effort. People’s minds do not change without severe action.”

Midori held his tongue. His father’s ideas frightened him. There was no changing Namik’s mind at this stage, though he had one more question to ask.

“Do you think mother would have wanted this?” Midori asked.

Namik turned to look at him then, putting away his spyglass.

“Your mother would have wanted to see her son rise to the highest point in the land. I’m making it happen. Stay still until this is over, Midori. I will not have you in battle. Who knows what your heart will tell you to do.”

“Father?”

Five of Namik’s men came up behind them and pulled Midori from his horse. The chains they put on Midori’s wrist were not easy to break.

“You will stay in my tent until this battle is finished. You may join me in the victory, Midori. I would have you ride by my side on the way to the palace.”

Namik gave him a sinister smile, and ordered his men.

“Keep him guarded. He is not to be free until I give the order.”

Midori cursed under his breath, refraining from struggle. He hoped Naro and Lenoth watched. As long as they knew where he was, they could free him as Namik rode out to meet Yoshi. It was important they act as Namik rode to face Yoshi.

***

“This is right and wrong,” Naro whispered, as he took a hammer to a box full of arrows. “These men are our people in a roundabout way.”

“They are fighting for the enemy,” Lenoth pointed out. “Our Lord General is a captive among them, even as they call him the heir to Namik’s position. They will use these arrows to murder our allies. Our Lord General’s beloved.”

“When you put it that way,” Naro put more effort into damaging the thousands of arrows used by the archers.

“Leave five boxes,” Lenoth advised.

“For what?”

“We don’t want to alert them that we have damaged their weapons. The archers take five boxes out first, for the five units. We’ll make sure our men act as couriers.”

“Aren’t we defeating the purpose of this if they get to shoot arrows at the allied army?”

“We should keep the rebel army oblivious to our plans, Naro. Keep up, will you?”

“You’re a confusing one, Lenoth.”

Lenoth returned to his task. He was mapping Namik’s camp. Midori was under Namik’s direct care. Held in the center of the camp, surrounded by Namik’s very loyal men. In a perfect world, those loyal men would have been Midori’s guard. Yet now, they were his prison wardens. No matter, Lilind’s two men were perfect for this. All he had to do was unleash them as needed. They would help him release Namik.

As for their hundred men mingling within Namik’s camp, Lenoth smiled.

“Once we’re done here, pass orders to the leaders of the twenty groups of five. Each of them must finish their task if we are to win this.”

Naro stopped destroying arrows and walked to Lenoth’s side to see the symbols Lenoth had drawn on the map.

“Food, weapons, armor, the archers, and the rest to take on the army officers,” Naro whispered. “Ambitious, and very well planned, Lenoth. What of you?”

“We must get our Lord General,” Lenoth smiled.

“No easy task,” Naro shivered. “Namik’s guard is deadly, which is why Namik has set them upon his son.”

“Yes, well, I’ll answer to a Royal Prince if anything happens to him. Lilind’s two men will help me.”

“I can’t wait for this to end. I miss a real bed, and warm food, a laugh with a beautiful woman.”

Lenoth grunted and nodded.

“I miss my wife.”

Naro sighed. “I miss your wife’s cooking.”

“Get back to work before I hit you.”

Naro grinned and hurried back to his task.

***

Yoshi inspected the men’s equipment with Sando and the Head of the Black Guard. Arrows, bows, cross bows, swords, mullets, armor, boots, and horses. Sando was thorough. Working with army officers to ensure the soldiers had everything they needed.

“Coordinate with the Furians and the Earith ordinance team. From this point on, we don’t stop until we’re standing before the Empress. Be it day or night, Sando. We leave you with this heavy burden.”

“Yes, Royal Prince.” Sando gave him a short bow and hurried away.

Yoshi entered the council tent to make ready for the meeting with Princess Naria, General Heloth of Earith and Lady Pipa. Yoshi frowned when the Head of the Black Guard stopped his progress and blocked his path.

Yoshi looked around his diligent guard to see Lady Tinya standing by the round table in the middle of the tent. Yoshi lifted a brow in surprise when she got down on her right knee, even as the Head of the Black Guard walked up to her, sword drawn.

Yoshi lifted his hand to stay him, surprised by her presence. She must have ridden hard at their heels.

“What brings you here?” Yoshi asked. “You should be halfway to Terra by now.”

“I’m sorry for arriving late, Your Royal Highness. Terra is here to serve you and the Empire.”

“Is that so?” Yoshi removed his gloves and unclipped his cloak. “We don’t have time to discuss petty issues. The council is about to convene, we face Namik this day.”

“Your Royal Highness, I swear allegiance to you. Terra embraces all your allies, and we are here to help win the battle against Namik.”

“If that’s the case, get off your knees. Tell us what you think of the map,” Yoshi said, shifting his banners until they were facing Namik’s Army. “What do you see that we cannot?”

“Where is the Furian Princess?” Lady Tinya asked, her gaze already roaming the map showing the imperial lands and the capital.

“She is securing our line as Namik’s men make ready to face us.” Yoshi studied the map. “We cannot ignore their spies. They have sent close to two dozen in the three hours since we arrived. We are looking for a decisive strategy. One that will keep us going until we reach the palace.”

“Divide the soldiers into groups, start with short attacks. As we plan a massive attack on Namik. My men will take on the first attack, while Dwind and Earith follow our tide.”

Yoshi looked up and smiled, thinking of Princess Naria.

“The Furians refuse to sit out any battle.”

Lady Tinya returned the smile.

“I would not dare try to advice the Princess Naria on war matters.”

“Good decision, my Lady Tinya,” Princess Naria said, entering the tent. She removed her cloak and adjusted her sword at her hips. “Namik is sly and is probably forging a plan to devastate us.”

Yoshi sat in his chair and took in a deep breath.

“With Lady Tinya here,” he started, not missing the narrowed gaze Princess Naria gave Lady Tinya. “We have the numbers to overwhelm Namik’s Army. Why don’t we meet them with all that we have? We can surround his army on all sides.”

“In the past few days, he has excelled in frustrating the allied forces,” Princess Naria said with a sigh. “I was cautious though, wanting to buy time for both, Royal Highness and the Empress. There should be no need for caution now.”

Princess Naria sat in the closest bench to the table, giving her servant a nod when a plate of hot food was placed before her. She dug in without ceremony.

“We have met every attack, but it is difficult keeping up morale in a state of constant battle.”

“Then His Royal Highness has a point. The faster we end this, the better for those in the palace, and us out here,” Lady Tinya stated. “Full on attack, no retreat.”

Princess Naria held Lady Tinya’s gaze, then smirked.

“I agree with you, but before that, let’s clear the air. Do you know why the Prince wants this battle to end today?”

Lady Tinya turned to him, Yoshi held his tongue. Princess Naria’s information network was only second to that of the Empress. Nothing escaped her notice. Lady Tinya met Princess Naria’s gaze.

“The Lord General has infiltrated Namik’s camp. He works to sabotage the Fier Army as we attack from the front.”

Princess Naria spooned rabbit stew into her mouth and chewed with silent relish. Her gaze never leaving Lady Tinya. It was difficult to ignore Princess Naria’s gaze.

“There was a misunderstanding, in the Village Qi. I’m sorry we came late,” Lady Tinya said.

“Misunderstandings have bred a war. A Prince used Namik to plot against the Empire, only to be used in return. Namik’s main goal is to take over the throne.” Princess Naria placed her spoon down and folded her hands. “He is so blinded by his goal; he has yet to notice the plan is foiled. He is alone in his quest.”

“Lady Tinya, there are truths you have not seen. Lord Midori Sanori has many sides to him. He is a man faced with the most difficult decisions of his life. Make no mistake, having a treasonous father is a very huge burden. He has kept loyalty through it. I’ve met the families he rescued from Fier’s initial unrest. Many of whom have opted to join the allied forces and help with ordinance.”

Princess Naria looked down at her plate.

“I would not have them join the battle though they are willing. Lord Midori might be the son of a traitor, but he is the most loyal to the House of Taimeng. Life is unexpected. You’ll find allegiance in the oddest of places. And that is the only price I demand in this battle, as should you.”

Lady Tinya swallowed, tracing the map with a finger.

“Princess Naria is right. My decision was made in haste,” Lady Tinya said.

Yoshi shifted in his seat then, drawing Princess Naria’s gaze.

“I’m glad to hand over leadership to you, Royal Prince,” Princess Naria said, giving him a small smile. “Once you take over, you realize the first step to investiture is complete. The allied forces now see you as their Commander. Are you ready?”

“Yes, of course, Princess Aunt,” Yoshi said with a nod.

“I’m glad you’ve found your confidence,” Princess Naria said. “This is excellent stew. Lady Tinya, you should try some. We might not have another chance until we meet the Empress.”

Lady Tinya nodded taking the offer of peace, making Yoshi hide a smile. He should have waited for the Princess Naria to handle Lady Tinya. Then he would have arrived here with a full army. Yoshi sighed, drawing both women’s gazes. He lifted his hand at the men of the black guard to order more food.

The tent was soon filled with Generals from Dwind, Earith, Terra and the Furians. Yoshi sat at the head of the table a bit in awe. Lively discussion flowed around the table, some ate, others chose not to. Each of them in agreement with battle strategy, they fine-tuned it to perfection until there was no doubt in their minds.

***

An hour later, Yoshi sat atop Senbon, clad in full regal armor, a helmet fitted over his head, with a red tail. Midori’s red cloak was safely folded away in his chest. In its place, Yoshi now wore a yellow cloak, a phoenix embroidered on its surface with red and gold. Sword in hand, Yoshi held Senbon’s reins, grateful to Sando.

Senbon wore protective armor as well, to protect the horse from wandering blades.

It was mid-morning, the dew dry on the grass. In the distance, Yoshi saw the shield over the palace gleaming in the sun. Home calling, his heart responded with a tight squeeze. He wanted to see Almira. See her face; see her smile when she saw him. He had missed her smile.

Standing in his way was Namik’s rebel army. Here stood what was once the Imperial Army, thousands of men meant to guard the empire, now standing against it. Mixed in with Namik’s Fier men, all of them determined to put Yoshi in his grave. Namik and his four generals stood at the front, their horses still, ready to face him and take his crown.

Yoshi let out a shaky breath.

Midori was somewhere inside that mass of negative energy. His beloved. Was he alive? There was no way to tell right now, but he could hope.

Yoshi closed his eyes and took in a deep breath to calm his anxiety. He nudged Senbon, turning him to face his allied forces. There was Lady Pipa, a short breeze lifting her white cloak. Her grey horse shifted and she gave him a short nod. His gaze shifted to General Heloth of Earith. His green armor vibrant in the morning. He wore his helmet and gave Yoshi a sharp nod.

Senbon shifted to the right and Yoshi’s gaze met and held Lady Tinya’s dark one. She smiled at him, her blue cloak shifting on her horse. She gave him a nod, and brought her right hand to her chest. Yoshi turned then and met a most fiery gaze.

The Furian Princess brought her right hand to her chest too and gave him a small bow.

In the middle of these great Lord and Ladies, he found Telia, who smiled at him wide. Then Tai Migi and Zia Sayu, the twins who would die for him. Yoshi took in a deep breath and for the first time felt calm fill him. Gripping his reins tight, he urged Senbon into a faster pace to cover the length of the Phoenix’s Army.

Lifting his gold sword, Yoshi found his voice and called the army to arms.

“Fight today for peace, for choice, and for the generations to come!”

Wild roars accompanied his words and as Yoshi rode back to his place, all sense of fear escaped.

“Glory to the Empire!”

Yoshi roared, urging Senbon into a fierce gallop toward Namik.

Yoshi felt his army at his back, their energy, their eager response urging him and Senbon into a faster speed. A barrage of arrows greeted their attack; thin waves of sand met the arrows, slowing down each arrow’s speed. They fell to the ground with no lethal effect. Lilind’s men were a force to reckon with, even this far from the desert. Emboldened by this, the allied forces charged forward, meeting Namik’s men in a fierce collide.

The morning filled with the sound of clashing blades, metal skating against metal, connecting against flesh, damaging skin as deep as possible, taking life. The stench in battle unbearable, blood splatters on Senbon’s hooves, green grass turned grown from a gory mix of blood and mud. War in its greatest glory. Cries of men filled the morning, echoed by the battle cries of the Furian women. The Black Guard kept a fierce barrier around Yoshi, allowing no rebel soldiers through. It was frustrating, Yoshi wanted to get in the fight. Yet, his presence on Senbon kept his forces moving. Three of Namik’s soldiers broke through the guard’s line. Yoshi gripped his sword and met their attacks, killing one while the Head of the Guard got two.

Yoshi decided to focus on getting to Namik.

He wasn’t the only one.

***

The Fier armor heavy on his shoulders, Lenoth walked with confidence to the inner circle in the camp. The colors on the armor matched those of Namik’s guard. He hoped they wouldn’t recognize him. Namik was out facing Prince Yoshi in a battle Namik thought was a simple attack. As though he was facing the Furians again, trying to push them back.

Lenoth shook his head.

Namik was wrong. The Prince had Dwind, Earith, Terra and Furian generals in the lineup. Yoshi was making a decisive attack, which meant Lenoth had no time. It was time to get Midori out of his prison. He made it the center tent without question, but when he started to enter the tent, a hand dropped on his shoulder and he turned to find the guard surrounding him.

Taking his sword out, Lenoth sunk it into the closest soldier, determined to end this fast.

***

Inside the tent, Midori sat on a mat on the ground, his arms stretched out and chained to pillars sunk deep into the ground. His father’s guards left nothing to chance, to the point of getting a serf to feed him his meals, clean him up after, in fear that he might try to escape. Eyes closed, Midori listened to the rhythm of the day.

The camp was bereft of soldiers, save for those guarding him. Orders to meet the allied forces rang as the sun broke the night. It was late morning now. Midori wondered if his men had managed their tasks. Lenoth was late.

Midori opened his eyes and tagged on the chain holding his right arm. The chains were heavy, forged with steel from the Fier forges. He could not break them alone, though he might have to discover how tight the chains were wedged into the pillars.

Studying the bolts holding the chain in place, Midori adjusted his position, hoping to get closer. The clang of swords and screams outside the tent had him pausing. A sigh of relief flooding him when Lilind’s two men slipped in to the tent from the sides.

“I need to name you two,” Midori said in greeting. “Why are you late?”

“Lenoth delayed action. Namik just joined his forces. He hoped to mount an assault during the night after exhausting the allied army. However—

“Something’s changed his mind,” Midori said, moving his arms to get their attention. “I need to get out there.”

“Working on it,” one of the men said, his hand on Midori’s left wrist. “And my name is Hinda.”

Midori smiled at the introduction. He looked up at Hinda’s companion.

“Apologies, Lord General. I have joined the Black Guard permanently. I have no name or face.”

“How does Yoshi address the men in the black guard?” Midori asked as Hinda worked on the chain on his left wrist.

“By number or color,” the man said. “You may call me White for our time together.”

“Intriguing,” Midori frowned. “I suppose Hinda has not joined the Black Guard.”

“I have not, Lord General,” Hinda smiled at him. “I promised myself to the Lady Pipa. I cannot live without a name as I care for her.”

“Lady Pipa, hmm…I wonder if she knows,” Midori murmured just as Hinda released his left wrist. He shook it out and watched Hinda move to his right wrist. “What has Namik running to lead his forces?”

“The Royal Prince,” White said. “He led Dwind, Earith, Terra and the Furians into battle. It was a sight to see, My Lord. A tide of white, green, blue and red cloaks charging toward Namik’s forces. Namik’s archers attempted a barrage of arrows, but their supply is depleted.”

“Or damaged,” Midori said, watching Hinda work, impatient to be free.

“The officers are in disarray, they found one of their own dead. The food was contaminated. This has left more than half of the rebel soldiers ill.”

“White, it feels a little like you are attempting to seduce me with all this talk,” Midori teased, grinning when Hinda finally set him free.

Midori got to his feet and took the sword White gave him. It was his sword, the one confiscated with his items. Stretching his arms above his head, he cracked his neck and dropped his arms.

“Let’s go.”

Outside, Midori, White and Hinda helped Lenoth bring down the rest of Namik’s guard. They were not easy: Lenoth came out of it with a deep cut on his shoulder. Midori insisted on dragging to the nearest healing tent and spent a few minutes patching him up.

“Where is Naro?” Midori asked, as he tied a bandage around Lenoth’s shoulder.

“At the camp entrance with fifty men, fighting the Fier Army. The others are at the Capital gates. The allied forces are concerned about civilians outside the palace. Sando sent us a message to make sure no rebel soldiers try to enter the Capital.”

Midori finished helping Lenoth wear his armor. He looked up when Hinda entered the healing tent carrying Midori’s armor.

“The allied forces are pushing back Namik’s forces. The fight is at its height,” Hinda reported as he helped Midori. “The men on our side have managed to stop supplies to the rebel forces.”

Midori adjusted the red cloak tied to his armor on his shoulders and picked up his sword.

“Take everything in my father’s tent, place it in chests and send it into the Capital to the palace gates. Make sure the Royal Bureau takes it into custody. Burn the camp down, Lenoth,” Midori said, leaving the healing tent. “Send forty of the men at the Capital gates to me.”

“What about the Royal Prince’s worries—

“Don’t worry, no rebel soldiers will enter the Capital this day,” Midori said, already heading for the rebel camp entrance. “Our job is to leave no hope for Namik’s forces. Get to work, Lenoth.”

***

“Fire ahead,” Telia called, moving closer to the Prince. “Fire ahead, dark smoke in the sky.”

Yoshi mounted Senbon again, his gaze on the dark cloud rising in Namik’s camp.

“What do you think is happening?” Telia asked, slipping past the black guard so that she stood next to Senbon.

“Midori,” Yoshi whispered.

“Find Namik,” Yoshi said to Telia. “Get Tai and Zia to help you. He must not escape.”

“Yes, Commander,” Telia slipped back into the fierce fight.

“Surround the enemy forces. No retreats close the rebel forces within ranks,” Yoshi ordered his allied forces.

***

Midori worked his way into the fight, conscious of the Furian sisters closing in on his group of soldiers. Pushing the rebel forces inside a huge circle. Midori missed a Furian blade by an inch, saved by General Helioth calling out his name.

“Lord General,” the Furian sister said, giving him a short nod before she went after a pair of rebel soldiers.

“Spare those with purple cloaks. They are mine,” Midori called after her.

Standing in the middle of a gory battlefield, Midori caught sight of a red cloak with gold trimming. The tongues of fire shining in gold, so easily identified. His father and three of his trusted men moved in deadly rhythm, cutting down soldiers from the allied army. Clearly trying to make an escape.

Midori broke into a run heading straight for his father.

“Namik,” Midori roared, drawing his father’s shocked gaze.

“You traitor,” Namik roared.

Midori raised his sword, frowning when the two men standing beside Namik fell dead to the ground, daggers lodged in their chests. He turned in time to see Hinda and White at his back.

“Lord General!” Hinda stepped in his path. “This task, leave it to us. Your life is worth more.”

“Step away, step away, Hinda!”

“I can’t,” Hinda said, as White moved to stand behind Namik.

Midori growled, holding his father’s gaze. Dropping his sword to his side, Midori looked around the battlefield. The tied of the battle had changed.

“The Prince has ordered him taken in,” Telia said coming to stand on Midori’s right.

“Midori,” Namik said his name in a low tone.

Before Midori could speak, a Furian screamed out in victory and Midori looked up to find the remaining rebel soldiers standing in a small hurdled group surrounded by Furian soldiers in the distance, their swords held out. Yoshi was riding in their direction on Senbon, his armor stained red, Senbon’s legs muddy with red mud.

Midori returned his gaze to his father.

“You tried to murder him more than once. Look at him now, a true Prince of the Empire,” Midori said. “He has won.”

“You’re a fool,” Namik spat at him. “If he was a genuine royal, he would face me in a duel.”

“I won’t let him,” Midori said, lifting his sword up. “You have trampled on Fier’s honor. Placed us on the lowest rank possible. I want the chance to regain it back on behalf of my people. I challenge you, Namik of Fier, to the death.”

Namik scoffed.

The allied soldiers surrounding them, all stopped cheering; instead, they watched Namik, waiting for his answer.

“I accept.”

***

Yoshi dismounted Senbon, the stench of blood and smoke heavy in his nostrils. Amid the smoke, an argument filled the afternoon. The Furians against the rest of the council members.

“We should leave none standing,” Princess Naria said, her gaze on the last of Namik’s Army. “They have murdered, pillaged, and brought pain to countless people. Their sentence is death.”

The fields were scattered with fallen soldiers, both allied and rebels. Victory was theirs, but it also felt like a loss. All the men lying dead this day, Yoshi’s gaze settled on the men now kneeling on the muddy grass.

“They have surrendered,” Lady Tinya insisted. “Take them in and have the justice system deal with them.”

“Commander, what is your order?” Lady Pipa asked, standing next to the Furian Princess. Her white cloak long stained with mud and blood.

Yoshi gripped his sword tight, his gaze on the men who looked at him, hope lost in their eyes. None of them held any weapons, their gazes shifted from the Furian sisters to him. Their fear apparent.

“Commander, victory is ours. These men are on their knees. Executing them will turn us into Namik,” Lady Tinya stated.

Yoshi narrowed his gaze at this advice.

Yoshi turned to General Heloth, and found the Earith leader watching him.

“And you, General?” Yoshi prompted.

“As much as they are on their knees, I suggest a trial,” General Heloth said. “Let the people decide what to do with them.”

Yoshi met Princess Naria’s gaze, her anger clear in her eyes. Her forces had suffered longer than the rest of the Empire. She kept the rebels at bay when no one believed they existed. His gaze slid to General Aruku who stood behind the Princess.

General Aruku was the new generation of Furian that wanted into the Quad Council. He held her gaze, hoping she remembered their discussion at the Furian banquet.

“Princess Naria, relinquish the rebel soldiers into Lady Tinya’s custody. Lady Tinya will lead them into the Capital.”

Princess Naria hissed, making ready to protest, but then General Aruku placed her hand on the Princess’s shoulder. After a whispered discussion, Princess Naria gave in with a short nod.

“Commander, we have a situation,” Zia interrupted the scene. “Namik—

“Has he escaped?” General Heloth demanded, his grip on his sword tightening.

“No, but Lord General has challenged him to the death for Fier’s honor. The fight started before we could interfere. Namik and Midori are locked in a fight now. What do we do?”

Yoshi cursed under his breath, following Zia. He had to push his way through hundreds of soldiers hoping to watch the fight. Yoshi stopped short when he came to the open circle. Midori and Namik were in the center of a wide clearing. Their blades clashing, their fight brutal and fast. When they disarmed each other, and swords went flying out of reach, heavy fists took over and Yoshi fought the urge to run out and help Midori.

“Your orders, Commander,” Zia said. “The Black Guard can easily overpower Namik.”

Yoshi watched Midori fall to the ground, Namik standing over him. Heart trembling, Yoshi willed Midori to get up as he gave the hardest order of his life.

“Do not interfere.”

Midori scrambled to his feet, blocking his father’s fists when they came at him. He fought dirty to counter his father skilled, and angry blows. Yoshi wanted to look away, unable to see blood dripping from cuts on Midori’s forehead, his nose and his lip. The fight ugly and hard, then Midori’s thick arms wrapped around his father’s neck, dropping them both to the ground in a brutal drop.

Yoshi grabbed Zia’s arm tight.

Then Midori rolled to his back with a sigh, while Namik stayed still on the muddy ground, his head at an odd angle.

The silence that filled the afternoon was heavy.

Telia walked into the circle, her steps hurried as she crouched over Namik, her fingers pressed to his neck. It took one moment, and when she shook her head, the allied soldiers shouted in excitement. Telia straightened up and moved to Midori’s side, taking his arm and helping him up. The allied soldiers ran to Midori’s side, shouting his name in joy.

Yoshi felt a smile tag on his lips as the allied forces lifted Midori up on their shoulders.

“Midori will want to escort Namik’s body into the Capital,” Yoshi said to Zia. “Protect him, and bring him to me in the Palace.”

Yoshi gave Midori’s smiling face one last look before he turned away and headed toward the burnt rebel camp. He walked through the debris, not stopping to see the extent of the damage. Tai would see to it. Heart pounding, Yoshi remembered leaving the Capital weeks ago in a state of annoyance. His mother had coerced him into the trip to Fier. Those days the burden of leadership had made him want to throw up. He wondered if he would have been the same, had he known he would have to fight a rebel army to get back home.

Life, really, was too full of surprises.

The Capital gates opened slowly as he approached. The Head of the Black Guard brought Senbon to him, and Yoshi wasn’t surprised to see Sando riding up with two of the Black Guard and Tai. Yoshi mounted his horse, pausing to look back at the mix of allied forces working to secure the battled grounds, and start clean up.

Yoshi met Sando’s concerned gaze, and winked, turning Senbon to the cobbled path that led straight to the palace.

“Nervous?” Sando asked, moving up to ride beside him. “You’ve been waiting to get back since we entered the Furian Forest.”

“Didn’t think it would take so long to get back,” Yoshi said, gripping Senbon’s reins tight.

The capital was quiet, the usual bustle of a working city missing. It saddened Yoshi as he realized the people’s fear had brought commerce to a stand still. The ride to the palace was not long, but it was not short either. Brave citizens emerged from their hiding places within the capital to greet Yoshi along the path. Some with tears in their eyes, most with wide smiles.

Yoshi wanted to pause and greet them, but his thoughts were now with those locked in the palace. He hoped the key Tai had given him would work. Men in navy blue uniform emerged from their patrols, and Yoshi recognized them as the Royal Bureau.

Reaching the palace, Yoshi stopped Senbon and dismounted, moving to touch the warm metal shielding the palace.

“This is work done by Fier forgers,” Sando said beside him, also touching the smooth metal. “It would have taken a long time to create this contraption. Ages. Did you know this existed?”

Yoshi trailed fingers over the surface, wondering how to bring down the shield.

“The Empress told me stories about a shield that could protect the palace, but I thought them fantasies.”

“How do we get it down to get in?” Sando asked, stepping back.

Yoshi pressed his palm on the surface with a frown.

“We’ll have to discover how.”

“It’s good you decided to come first. We wouldn’t want to panic the allied forces when they discover the palace is stuck under a metal dome.”

“Way to keep up morale, Sando,” Tai Migi said, reaching them.

“Tai.” Yoshi said, reaching for the leather string he had around his neck.

He pulled it off and took the key Tai had brought him after visiting his mother. It was flat, like a key, meant to go into a slot of some shape.

Tai traced the shield as Yoshi had done. Tai stopped where Yoshi assumed the palace gate pillar stood. Urging Yoshi closer, Yoshi followed Tai’s fingers and sure enough, there was a slot hidden between two overlapping sheets of metal.

Yoshi bit his lip, studying the slot. It looked like he had one shot at this, if he slid the key in, it didn’t look as though he could pull it back out for another try.

“Trust the Empress,” Tai soothed, touching Yoshi’s shoulder.

Yoshi started to put it into the slot, but Sando stopped him.

“Wait, if this doesn’t work, can we call the blacksmith to find if we can cut through?” Sando asked.

“Cutting through would take days,” Tai said, touching the shield. “The metal is fine steel, stronger than a sword, it’s not easy work.”

Yoshi ignored their bickering and pushed the key in to the slot. Silence greeted his actions, and when it persisted, Yoshi took a step back looking up at the shield. Had his mother been wrong? What would happen if he couldn’t get in? His mother—

“I’ll get the blacksmith,” Sando said, moving to mount his horse.

Yoshi touched the shield, willing it to open.

A loud grating sound filled the afternoon, the earth shaking, forcing Yoshi to take a step back. The shield started moving, sinking down into the ground. The noise was loud, harsh, grating against the nerves. The gleaming metal disappeared into the ground, and Yoshi watched heavy slots come up to close the space made by the metal, turning the path into its usual cobbled normal.

“When this is over,” Yoshi said, meeting Sando’s gaze. “We should discover what else is under the palace. Don’t you think, Sando?”

Sando groaned, while Tai chuckled.

Yoshi grinned and watched with nervous energy as the heavy palace gates started to open.

He was nervous.

Thinking of Namik with his rebel army, Yoshi wondered how his mother had faired under a siege of poisons and Prince Tailen’s deadly politics. He hoped Almira had weathered it unharmed.

Not waiting for the palace gates to open fully, Yoshi hurried up the palace path to the outer palace. He breathed out when he caught sight of a flash of red and gold silk. The Empress was running down the long path from the outer palace to meet him.

She was alone, so Yoshi turned to make sure he was too. He was glad to find Sando, Tai and the Head of the Black Guard had remained outside the palace gates. Yoshi raced up the path, and when he reached her, he stopped, watching her fingers tighten on her silk skirts as she came to a stop too.

He removed his helmet and dropped it on the ground. Almira’s gaze on him widened, her eyes bright with tears. She was as beautiful as Yoshi remembered. Majestic in her regalia.

Yoshi smiled, and decided to break all the rules she drummed into him.

“Mom.”

***

Tears spilled down her cheeks as Almira stared at her son in full regal armor. He was muddy, blood stained his cloak, his face looked haggard, and there was a bruise on his left jaw. He was alive, and smiling at her. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life.

“Mom,” he said.

The single word enough to tell her his emotional state.

She smiled through her tears. Yoshi could never keep to protocol when he was emotional. She was glad for Sando; she could see him at the palace gates, together with Tai Migi and the Head of the Black guard. They held back what looked like a horde of soldiers, generals, and Quad leaders.

Many people, all of whom she owed for choosing to ally with her son, and restore the Empire’s peace.

That could wait though, she opened her arms wide, and peace flooded her when Yoshi pulled her into a tight hug. The only thing that mattered was the feel of him holding her, his warm breath on her shoulder and the kiss he pressed on her neck. Her fingers touched his hair, and she closed her eyes in joy.

“Welcome home, Yoshi.”

***

Sorry for the long delay, was trying to straighten out the last part. A lot of edits, back and forth with the peanut gallery.
So, one more chapter left. I hope you guys look forward to it.
I thank you for reading all the way here,
You amaze me,
Sui.
2012 lilansui
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Chapter Comments

Thank you for having the battle itself in only one chapter.  I don't think I could have handled it (LOL).  What a great chapter with a great end.  I'm glad Midori killed Namik rather than him being brought into the city alive to face trial.  The end was inevitable and it will really help reinforce Midori's standing.

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Great! The war is over and they have to rebuild the Empire. I thought Midori was going to enter the palace with Yoshi. I have a provocative question... Something as a gay man I wonder about.. How do you keep the reigning family in place ruling, in a gay relationship? I know Almira said he could marry who he wants, but I don't see her being happy about the Taimeng extinction after Yoshi. Maybe some compromise, a ritualised/religious "coupling"... Thinking about it, Fire will need heirs also... So maybe a foursome with Yoshi, Midori, and two female volunteers :gikkle:

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Sooooooooooooo well done!! Thank you...can't wait for the last chapter...should be just as stunning!!!:heart:

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As always, this was a truly riveting chapter in a spectacular story! Thank you so much!! I’ll be truly sad to have the story end☹️

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:worship: Literally every day I've been checking my notification for this new chapter, and it was well worth the anticipation. I am so happy everything turned out so well for everyone; Lol, except for Namik and his rebel army. I'm happy Lady Tinya saw the light and decided to give her full support to Yoshi. It was such a rush reading the scene leading up to the battle, when Yoshi rode in front of his allies and their army to galvanise them into battle. It reminded me of the battle scene in The Chronicles of Narnia , and I kind of input the score played from that battle while reading the aforementioned scene. I was so nervous when Midori challenged his dad in a fight to the death, but he was able to beat him. I kind of wished he was speared, so he could face the consequences for his traitorous  act, as well as face Almira and Princess Naria.The reunion between Yoshi and the queen was very beautiful. I can't wait for Yoshi and Midori to reunite, as well as for Midori and Almira to meet.

 

P.S. Yoshi is pretty smart for stalling his reunion with Midori to have him lead his father's body back to the capital. I think that will kind of solidify with everyone that Midori's totally loyal to the royal family, and especially to Yoshi.

 

Thank you so much for another great chapter. I'm already looking forward to the next.:heart:

Edited by bookjunky18
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Just perfect that Yoshi broke protocol, enough of a message for the Empress to see that despite all the changes he has undergone , he remains the Prince she raised, true to himself. Now he just has to sell the idea of Midori as his consort to her. 

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@Elfstone Thank you so much for reading!

 

@Gene63 Thank you so much!

 

On 3/31/2018 at 4:24 PM, Terry P said:

Thank you for having the battle itself in only one chapter.  I don't think I could have handled it (LOL).  What a great chapter with a great end.  I'm glad Midori killed Namik rather than him being brought into the city alive to face trial.  The end was inevitable and it will really help reinforce Midori's standing.

Haha, worked very hard to get it into one, it would have been pretty hard to wait for the end. Midori has a bit of a choice to make now.  Looking forward to it  now.

 

On 3/31/2018 at 8:36 PM, Sweetlion said:

Great! The war is over and they have to rebuild the Empire. I thought Midori was going to enter the palace with Yoshi. I have a provocative question... Something as a gay man I wonder about.. How do you keep the reigning family in place ruling, in a gay relationship? I know Almira said he could marry who he wants, but I don't see her being happy about the Taimeng extinction after Yoshi. Maybe some compromise, a ritualised/religious "coupling"... Thinking about it, Fire will need heirs also... So maybe a foursome with Yoshi, Midori, and two female volunteers :gikkle:

Gosh, I had a laugh over this!  I bet that would be fun to write, hehehe.  Well, you have hit Almira's argument on the head, though the inner palace has more designs on this problem than I could ever write out.  Yoshi will get his heir, problem is, will Midori's people? Or what does he want? hehehe will have to find out.

 

@Onim Thank you so much!

 

@flesco I'll be sad too. Yoshi and Midori are like old friends.  We've had an on and off since 2012...hehehe...I guess they want their happy ever after now.  Sigh. This writer will miss them too.

 

@bookjunky18 Yoshi's ride at Namik's Army part was a rush, him being so fearless, willing to rush into danger, for the Empire, but mostly I think for Midori, that was a crazy moment.  Midori's challenging his dad was sad for me.  That he had to make that choice, faceoff with his dad.  A huge part of me wanted to spare him this burden, and have Namik face the people's court, Almira and Naria, but--, Midori's choice is also right.  He was betrayed most.And you're right, the act of Midori taking down Namik, and bringing him into the Capital will raise his standing with the people.  Thank you so much for being on this journey with me!  I'll try to get the last chapter out faster.

 

17 hours ago, deville said:

Just perfect that Yoshi broke protocol, enough of a message for the Empress to see that despite all the changes he has undergone , he remains the Prince she raised, true to himself. Now he just has to sell the idea of Midori as his consort to her. 

When I was writing that scene, I kept thinking it was about them missing each other.  Then you sent this comment, and I'm like that's really true. Thank you for that. Yes, now Yoshi has a job of making the future he wants happen.  Let's hope Midori wants it too, and that the Empress will allow it.

 

3 hours ago, Trevin Behrens said:

Who is the peanut gallery?

:P You're the only one that asked!  So, the Peanut Gallery is two crazy guys who read my work before I post it, and put me through a grinder.  I decided to call them the peanut gallery, because in one sitting, they can tear my chapters into pieces and leave me annoyed for days.  Over peanuts...so I've almost banned peanuts in the house...just kidding.  They're great folks.

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3 hours ago, lilansui said:

@Elfstone

@Gene63

Haha, worked very hard to get it into one, it would have been pretty hard to wait for the end. Midori has a bit of a choice to make now.  Looking forward to it  now.

 

Gosh, I had a laugh over this!  I bet that would be fun to write, hehehe.  Well, you have hit Almira's argument on the head, though the inner palace has more designs on this problem than I could ever write out.  Yoshi will get his heir, problem is, will Midori's people? Or what does he want? hehehe will have to find out.

 

@Onim

 

@flesco

 

@bookjunky18 Yoshi's ride at Namik's Army part was a rush, him being so fearless, willing to rush into danger, for the Empire, but mostly I think for Midori, that was a crazy moment.  Midori's challenging his dad was sad for me.  That he had to make that choice, faceoff with his dad.  A huge part of me wanted to spare him this burden, and have Namik face the people's court, Almira and Naria, but--, Midori's choice is also right.  He was betrayed most.And you're right, the act of Midori taking down Namik, and bringing him into the Capital will raise his standing with the people.  Thank you so much for being on this journey with me!  I'll try to get the last chapter out faster.

 

When I was writing that scene, I kept thinking it was about them missing each other.  Then you sent this comment, and I'm like that's really true. Thank you for that. Yes, now Yoshi has a job of making the future he wants happen.  Let's hope Midori wants it too, and that the Empress will allow it.

Really, it was a question I thought and not only in your story. Nowadays in modern times we have  surrogate and IVF, but I always wondered in fantasy or historical stories. :gikkle:

 

Ohoh, you are hinting on possible problems, I am worried, hope Midori doesn't decide to do anything "noble", that would break Yoshi spirit, if Midori betrays him, whatever the reason... He did fight for his mother and for the Throne, but until now he never behaved power hungry, and he admired his father for his carefree spirit, so I believe he would be strong enough to face his mother. Hope Almira doesn't risk the Empire for her will. 

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