44 Drums of War Begin to Sound
Laurel looks up at her own face as she sinks below the ocean. The look on her face that isn't her own is a mix of worry and guilt. She saw her mouth the words "I'm sorry."
'Why do you look so sad? I'm the one who wants to cry,' laurel thinks as she continues to sink. Slowly her strength fades her, and she gives in to fate. Her black hair spreads out like an explosion from her as she closes her eyes.
As the vision of herself in a red dress fades, she finds herself back home. However, the area is more developed. The houses are rebuilt into something that looks livable. There are some protective stone fences around the village and even some larger buildings scattered around. The hill even has a small fort on it.
Unlike previous visions, she isn't that much older. 'How could the village change so quickly?' She wonders in awe. A high pitch screech of a sword clashing against her shield brings her back to reality. The sounds of war suddenly fill her ears.
Laurel looks at herself to find herself covered in armor with a sword and shield. Around her are soldiers from her old kingdom. In front, the troops of the Red River Empire stretch out into the distance. Though she is confused her body strikes with her fellow soldiers.
Suddenly she feels her sword cut flesh and the man in front of her falls down dead. Her stomach retches at the site. She could feel every bit of the man's flesh being cut. In the past, she felt nothing while inside the future hers due to the difference in cultivation. The techniques and movements were incomprehensible to the young girl. Now this body is only at the foundation stage, so there is no longer a mystical disruption. Enabling her to experience everything in detail.
Franklin stands next to her they interlock their shields and struggle on. The onslaught shows no signs of ending. From their position, they can see the Red River soldiers slowly climb the hill. Slowly fatigue sets in and the army seem on the verge of collapse. The morale is only sustained by the flag still flying above the hill.
On the hill, a large flag flies exuding respect and strength. As Laurel views the flag, the image seems to burn into her mind. There the image of the hill she knew so well is emblazoned in black with three figures on it. On the left is a heroic woman with a naginata planted into the ground, in the center is a bush whose roots pierce and solidify the hill, on the right is the villages guardian spirit exuding unending strength. The materials are unknown, but they must be made of some magical material. The flag itself pulls to keep going even when their energy had long run out.
As Laurel marvels at the flag, it begins to sink. It is soon replaced by the Red River Empires flag. The allied soldiers instantly lose the will to fight. Their swords clatter on the ground as they almost let the Red River slaughter them.
Franklin and her stand back to back as blades continue to try and bring them down. They were soon covered in painful wounds. Their lifeblood flows mixing with the men who had already fallen.
Laurel's legs shake as she loses her footing. 'I guess that's it. Even the ground feels like its shaking,' she muses as she slumps to the ground. Yet as her hands hit the ground she feels fines the ground is truly quaking. As she looks up, she can see everyone stumbling. Upon the hill, a deafening thunder breaks the sounds of war. The whole hill crumbles as a huge eruption occurs. It's as if the hill had become a great volcano spewing earth and fire.
Ding, ding Laurel begins to hear the sound of the bells that had saved her in the past. Just as she feels secure, a deafening babies cry breaks the tranquility brought by the bells.
"AUGH!" Laurel screams. The baby's cry is filled with both anger and sadness. She is on the verge of complete collapse as the cries pierce her soul threatening to rip it apart. Her vision begins to crack as if she was looking through a cracked window. 'Is this what happened to all those other me who didn't make it?'
The world falls apart, and a void replaces it. As Laurel stares into the darkness, a gleam of green light appears. Suddenly a pair of eyes is in front of her. They observe her inquisitively. "Emerald eyes?" Laurel gasps. They truly look as if you could pluck gems from the pupils of the two eyes.
"Laurel?" a ghastly woman's voice seeps out from the void. The voice has a mix of despair and insanity to it.
As Laurel is about to question who this is the void fades away. Now she is on a new battlefield. However now she is floating as if watching from above. This is the first time she hadn't merged with her future body.
She is floating above a young man who seems to be the standard-bearer. The young man is cowering on his knees as fighting happens in front of him. Next to this young man is an officer that seems to be in his early 20s. His eyes are such a deep green color that the miraculous gems of the eyes she'd seen in the void now seemed dull in comparison.
The army she is over appears to be loosing, causing the officer to clutch his sword in frustration. His eyes surveyed the conditions of the battle with a furrowed brow. It was clear that this man had a much deeper understanding of the battlefield than her. Still, the officer was clearly still young as he couldn't keep his doubts from his eyes.
Men ran by them without pausing yelling "Retreat! We can't win! Run!"
The officer lets out a sigh and gathers himself. He turns to the standard-bearer who also had green eyes though not as bright as the officers. "Come on lad," the officer says to the standard-bearer on the ground.
The officer holds out his hand to pull up the young man. When this happens for some reason, Franklin overlaps with the young man. Laurel rubs her eyes, but the overlay of Franklin remains.
As the officer takes the hand of the standard-bearer, he says, "Come now the Emerald flag leads from the front!" He then lifts the standard-bearer up from the ground and rushes forward. The standard-bearer is shocked at first but grits his teeth and follows the officer.
"Rally to the emerald flag! Forward! Forward!" the officer commands not even looking back to see if the flag-bearer is following him.
The soldiers who were fleeing slow. They seem to be hesitating but then one shouts, "To the Emerald flag!" Others also take up the cry, and suddenly the tides change as the flag soars away.
At this point, the officer bites his tongue and recites, "T..h..o..s.....e." The words seem to start skipping. Hearing just the first word makes Laurel's head feel like it is about to explode. Her nose bleeds, and she tastes blood in her mouth. Everything suddenly comes to a halt.
Laurel felt an eerie feeling as the world suddenly became deathly quiet. Then she noticed the officer shake. He then stands up straight and looks directly at her. It is clear that this is no longer the man who was uncertain. This is now a man without fear or doubt.
He looks around with a bright smile his eyes settle on the location with the floating eyes earlier and then on Laurel. "You girls should be more careful where you play," he reprimands with a playful tone.
"Girls? You mean the other me?" Laurel asks curiously as she wipes the blood from her nose.
"Well them too, but no. Well, it doesn't matter. That was a close call there you know," He says while pacing with his hands behind his back. His eyes seem to say he just found something fun causing Laurel to worry.
"Sir, I don't know what's going on but can you help me?" She enquires hopefully.
"Of course but I won't. That's against the rules you know, and I'm the above the board type!"
"Oh," Laurel mumbles deflating.
"Aren't you a bit too greedy?" the officer asks waggling his finger.
"I don't think so..." she replies pouting.
"Well I mean wasn't your head about to explode from trying to take to much? If I hadn't noticed someone peeping in the past you would have been in big trouble," He lectures while nodding.
"I can't control it though I have diviner's eyes!"
"I know, but didn't you get enough already to take more is quite greedy and dangerous," he says while glancing over at the standard-bearer.
"I don't understand why did franklin overlap with him? I don't understand anything! This is too much," Laurel says as she crumples to the ground crying. She tries so hard but over and over it just gets worst. She doesn't understand, she doesn't know! She'd already taken on more than a ten-year-old should. 'no more!' she cries to herself.
"Crying won't do you any good with me. I've seen it all. You'll understand in time I'm sure. Don't take it so hard," the officer states while still smiling. He then looks a bit closer at the girl and says "oh!" He then reaches out and taps the girls head. Suddenly a filing drawer flies out from the void.
Laurel gasps at this magical site. Her hands over her mouth her tears are blown away by the shock. The man ruffles through and quickly produces a sheet of paper. It has a lot of writing on it, but she can't make any of it out.
"Ha, everyone always gives me a hard time about these but they always come in handy. I'm sure they wouldn't have thought that it would be beneficial in the future when they signed such a benign contract," he says as he smacks the sheet of paper in his hands. Then the sheet lights on fire, and he smiles mischievously.
"What's happening?" Laurel questions.
"You wanted help, right? While now I can give a bit!" the officer says triumphantly.
"Please do something about these eyes!" Laurel quickly requests.
"You think this minor contract will allow me to do something like that? No, I'm afraid not. Though I could shatter this universe its much more fun to gloat over people for getting one up on them without doing anything wrong," He explains with a giddy smile.
"Well can you at least help me get home?"
"That'll happen anyways. Just take this advice. Ahem," He clears his voice and gives himself an official air before continuing, "A promise from the heart to yourself transcends time and space."
"What?" Laurel asks with a scrunched up face. 'Another cryptic saying!' she laments.
"A promise is like a contract with no binding features. Still, it's very powerful."
"Bu.." As Laurel is about to question more the world shakes.
Crunch the space itself attacks the officer. The officer doesn't even look over though. An invisible shield seems to stop the space from eating him up. "You're always late aren't you!" He says laughing.
"Who?" Laurel asks as she looks around fearfully.
"It's not really a person it's the universes defenses. It tries to stop things that aren't supposed to happen or exist. Do you think my advice isn't great now? It brought this guy over just like that!" He says jovially.
"Doesn't that mean I'm in danger? Won't the universe eat me?" She says terrified. Tears begin to stream down her face once more.
"Don't worry it's not such a big thing. It's only so open because we aren't in normal space. Once you return you'll be lost, in the many minor distortions," he says with confidence. Right at this moment, space tries to eat Laurel but again is repelled. "It's pointless I did everything above the board! Don't make me rampage to prove my point," the officer threatens.
The universe's protection seems to give in after this. The officer waves at Laurel and to her surprise she wakes up in her bead. Her mom once again crying over her girl. She'd been convulsing, screaming, and coughing up blood almost all night.
"Honey, please! Don't leave me," Mellisa cries as she clutches her daughter.
"Mom, I'm fine," she says as she hugs her moms head.