Tangled Up in You—Version 2!
A/N: See the disclaimer from Chapter 01.
A/N #2: Enjoy…!
Chapter Twenty-six: The Battle for the Midlands, Part 3
King William, seeing that Amanda and Rupert had become even more intrigued by the tale of his adventure in the former Midland's and held anew the attention of his beautiful wife Queen Catherine, continued his discussion of the impact of Joshua as he single handedly, with a little help, took out an entire army…
"So, what happened next…?" Catherine asked as she had not heard this version of the story before.
"Well, he became a one man army…
Joshua, pausing for a moment, began to move towards the Royal Armory when a massive explosion suddenly rang out over the entire capital city of Mediana. The mushroom cloud of the most malignant black smoke rising from a more affluent neighborhood brought looks of alarm to the conscripted, and indentured soldiers, adding to their panic. Joshua, seeing this as an opportunity to get them safely out of the way, yelled at them to run.
"RUN!" A determined Joshua yelled at the other conscripted soldiers as he ran towards the Royal Army Headquarters; a determined Naomika struggling to keep up with him as the power flowing through him gained even greater strength.
The soldiers, knowing that Joshua had their best interest at heart, quickly complied and ran in the opposite direction and towards the gate leading to the nearby forest, dropping arms, shields, and other pieces of equipment. Their quick departure from the battlefield left the Shark Hunters totally dazed as they had expected at least a modicum of resistance out of these soldiers. Their surprise did not last long as Sir Stephan, responding to urgent hand signals from both Prince William and Lord Marcus, called the unengaged Shark Hunters back to the tree line and provided clearer lines of fire for the archers.
The archers, awaiting for the signal to fire, were to be as amazed as the rest of the Shark Hunters as Joshua and Naomika, who had picked up a sword herself, positioned themselves outside the Royal Armory…
"I am confused. What did he do that was so surprising?" Amanda, and Rupert asked.
"Yes, Will, I am confused as well. Why did I never hear the entire story before?" An obviously shocked and dazed Catherine asked as well.
"You see, Kat, until the arrival of Rupert and Amanda, I needed to keep the true tale necessarily in the shadows."
"So, what happened next?" Kat asked, her curiosity plain for all to see.
"Well, Joshua, with an amazed Naomika protecting his flanks and rear, let loose with the most amazing display of swordsmanship ever before seen…"
Joshua, realizing that his destiny was to free the Midlanders, let loose with the ultimate display of swordsmanship that was to leave not only the Shark Hunters absolutely amazed, but indeed all citizens of Io.
Prince William, responding to the hand signals from Lord Marcus, gestured for Sir Stephan to recall those members of the Shark Hunters who were not actively engaged in combat.
"We must let Joshua free his people." Lord Marcus stated to the questioning look upon the crown prince's face.
"I see. It seems that this mission is taking on a life of its own, so to speak."
"Yes it is. You see, I did not know if Joshua would set himself free from his inhibitions or not…"
"It would seem that he did. Yes?"
"Yes. Let us now sit back and watch the miracle of the Midlands, as he will soon be known by throughout Io, as he dispatches the evil."
"You will still have the privilege of sending him to his maker…"
While this conversation was ongoing Joshua, connecting with and listening to the voice of the universe around him, solidified his attack plan. He decided that he would only attack those in the rank of master sergeant and above in the enlisted ranks and major and above in the officer ranks. He silently signaled to Naomika his intention and for her to cover him. He quickly made his way to an open window, paused for a moment, and after taking in a huge cleansing breath, and with Naomika right behind him, leapt into action.
His leap placed him right at the head table and centered in front of the commanding general. To say that the general was surprised is to seriously understate the matter. He was actually quite terrified as he had never seen such a look of determination on anyone's face before; especially among the conscripted soldiers.
"Joshua?" The general asked.
"MEET YOUR MAKER!" Joshua shouted as he quite incredibly, and in the blink of an eye, leapt over the table and neatly decapitated the general. The Rout of the Midlander Army, as it was to be known, was on.
Naomika, following behind the determined Joshua, was hard pressed to keep up. Joshua easily bested each and every adversary he met, his twin swords moving so fast as to seem without matter. The only indication of the swords in Joshua's hands were the telltale sparks as he contacted the stone walls surrounding the ample main dining hall, swords of his outmatched quarry, or the sudden splatter of blood as his swords met their target.
Naomika, once completely awestruck by the young Joshua, soon felt a deepening connection with the young Midlander. As she stood beside him, easily fending off those Midlander swordsmen wishing to undercut him, she felt herself imperceptibly and impossibly forming a deeper connection. This connection, fed by the power of the blue drop of sunlight to land on Io and the red drop of sunlight to land on the island nation of Nihon Koku, was to join them more completely than either thought possible.
As they continued to fight what was thought to be the best swordsmen of the Midland's, they had a remarkable conversation that was to leave all dumbstruck beyond belief.
"How remarkable he is…" The young Naomika sighed, to herself she thought as she bested each adversary facing her.
"Yes. Yes I am…" The young Joshua replied, bringing a look of absolute surprise to the face of the young woman.
"How did you…?"
"Shhh… It is our destiny."
"Destiny? But, how…?"
"It was foreseen to me that one would come to assist me when the time came to overthrow the evil King Leopold. I just did not realize how beautiful she would be."
"Ohhh." Naomika sighed as she singlehandedly undercut not one, but three swordsmen as she somersaulted over them to attack from the rear; much to the surprise of the others.
"Yes, it is quite the wonderful feeling, is it not?" Joshua similarly sighed as he too suddenly attacked four more swordsmen, leaving them all headless and in bloody heaps around him.
"I guess now is not the time to think about it, is it?"
"No, I guess not. I do know how to end this battle here and now."
"You do? But, how…?"
"Like this." Joshua replied as he snapped his fingers.
The silence to overtake the battle was thunderous in its silence. For, except for the Shark Hunters, each and every member of the cadre suddenly disappeared.
"Joshua! Where did they go?" Naomika asked, an absolute look of shock adorning her exotic features.
"I am not sure, but I would bet they are on Ganymede."
"Ganymede! But, that is…"
"I know. It is half way around the planet from Io."
Naomika and Joshua, standing there not even a foot apart, leaned in towards the other, and…
Meanwhile, Misaki, Saika, Charlotte, and Monica, each as awestruck as Naomika but quickly recovering, had an easy time of it as they bested those senior non-commissioned officers, and field grade officers as they attempted to flee the carnage of the Armory. They were among the confused on the battlefield as their quarry suddenly disappeared. They all saw the obviously love struck pair and gently sighed to themselves as they watched the pair amidst the chaos of the former Midlander royal compound.
Prince William, seeing that the time was right, signaled Sir Stephan to prepare for the final stage of the attack. He also signaled that he would have the privilege of giving the signal for the archers to fire their pyrotechnic arrows at the thatched roof of the royal apartments, home to his ultimate target, Aurelius.
The flight of arrows, ever straight and true, made quick work of the thatched roof; the fire spreading ever quickly down the wall until the rear of the building was fully engulfed in flames and driving Prince William's target towards him.
Aurelius stood there, dumbfounded, as he took in the sight of a ruined Royal Compound. Before he could take a single step, he came face to face with Prince William and felt the point of a very sharp sword at his chest. He began to speak before the look in the young Coronian Prince told him it would be better to listen.
"What th-; oh never mind…;" Aurelius began, before stopping suddenly and changing tact's.
"So, Aurelius, we meet at long last; before I kill you, I want you to know that Andromeda is still very well and quite healthy, the mother of four and the grandmother of sixteen; no thanks to you!"
The terrified Aurelius, quite flustered by the prince's words, squeaked out; "Kill me? What have I done to you? You mention an Andromeda; who the heck is Andromeda?"
As the sword in William's strong hand, borrowed from Naomika, the wunderkind from the East, began to penetrate Aurelius' chest cavity, having already and quite easily punctured his ornate breast plate, on its inexorable journey to his heart, blood beginning to be coughed up, William would only cryptically say as he finally thrust the sword completely through his midsection, "Think back about twenty years, you piece of filth, and I am sure you will know. How you could be so cold blooded defies description. I am very happy to give you what you deserve."
With his last breath Aurelius suddenly, and with great remorse at his selfish act, remembered that day in the forest, and his blood lust at the opportunity to take down a defenseless unicorn. Prince William, his own blood lust satiated, took in the sight of the former crown prince of the Midlands; the look of absolute recognition and remorse locked into his facial features as he exhaled his last breath and slid off the sword held in Prince William's powerful right arm and fell to the ground, dead.
Meanwhile, back in Avandell, Mistress Cassiopeia awoke with a start as she felt Andromeda lick at her face.
"My dear Andromeda; it is done. We have avenged you."
Prince William, looking down at the scum who was once the Crown Prince of the Midlands his sword still held at the ready, knew he had one more target to eliminate; the father. As he turned towards what remained of the Royal Armory, he was very pleased to see that King Leopold was in the custody of Naomika, Natsumi, and Saika; the former two holding him by the arm while the latter had her sword at his throat, the point so close as to draw a tiny bead of blood. He found himself even more pleased to see the look on the Monarch's face as he took in the sight of his son lying dead in a growing pool of blood.
Angrily shaking his sword at the former monarch, suddenly reduced in stature, William shouted; "King Leopold, you are now my prisoner!"
"What is the charge? How dare you attack a sovereign kingdom? How dare you attack my son?"
"Don't act so surprised, your highness;" William spat out with great contempt. "It is quite simple, really. You are charged with extortion, piracy, and aiding and abetting."
"These charges shall be explained to you once we return to Corona. Suffice it to say that as of now, I am the newly appointed sovereign of the Midlands."
King Leopold, fully comprehending the look of determination in the face of the young Coronian prince, decided that now was not the time to argue details; sure to suffer his son's fate was he, should the determined young crown prince decide that he said or did the wrong thing.
"As you wish. Prince…?"
"It is Prince William; Crown Prince William of Corona."
"Very well; as you wish your highness. I am ready to accompany you to your home kingdom." King Leopold weakly stated realizing, quite belatedly, that he might have finally gone one step too far.
"Sir Stephan, please shackle and chain this piece of filth to the front cart."
"With pleasure, Prince William."
As Crown Prince William was about to lead the caravan back to Corona, he was distracted by a bright flash to his side. Going to investigate it, he was surprised to see Cassiopeia standing there with an unusual look gracing her flawless features.
"Mistress Cassiopeia, what a pleasant surprise."
"Crown Prince William, you have done well and brought lasting peace to your homeland and its neighbors; a peace to endure. I have news for you, as promised to your father so many years ago. In the distant future, you will encounter two individuals, a young man named Rupert, and young woman named Amanda. Each preordained, even now many years before their births, to be the other's soul mate. They will come to you in a most unusual way. Be ready to accept them and their talents; most importantly, foster their relationship for, as it serves them, it will serve you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mistress Cassiopeia. Shall I seek them out, or will they seek me?"
"Neither. You see, you will meet under very unusual circumstances; yet, circumstances that will be readily apparent to you when they do occur."
"I understand; and thank you for your assistance."
"You are most welcome."
As she turned to depart, she had a final thought and motioned to William to come closer, softly and compassionately stating; "There is one more thing, Prince William. You will go through a dark time, when you are king; the sun seemingly blotted out for almost one score years. At the darkest time, when it seems all is lost forever and life cannot be any blacker; the light will return to your life in a most amazing way. The light, brought to you by one named Eugene, so bright as to cause much surprise and celebration. You will know what to do when this occurs; your future course of action set today, even as we now speak. Good bye for now, Prince William. We will meet again, in the distant future. Come along, Marcus."
Prince William, dumbfounded by Mistress Cassiopeia's words of wisdom, stood there a moment before returning to Stephan and motioning for them to begin their journey back to Corona. As they left the still brightly burning ruins of the royal compound, deciding that traveling through the very heart of the capital city of Mediana would best serve the now free populace, people from each side approached the crown prince attempting to both kiss his hands and beginning to cheer their saviors; while spitting in great contempt at their former and very cruel leader. The members of the team too found themselves hard pressed to remain stoic in the face of such a display of utter relief that a nightmare so long endured was finally at long last ended; the tyranny destroyed.
Meanwhile, many hours later and back in the Royal Palace of Corona, King Jonathan and Queen Rebecca were quite busy entertaining the monarchs of the surrounding kingdoms of Constella, Estrella, and Orion. Queen Rebecca; wondering about the inexplicable timing of these impromptu visits, and sensing her husband was somehow distracted and concerned for their eldest son and crown prince and curious about his somewhat prolonged absence; cornered him in a quiet part of the vast entrance foyer of their palace, intent on learning the details.
"Jon, where is Will? I have not seen him since the evening meal over three days previous." Queen Rebecca asked her husband, the concern in her voice unmistakable.
"Well, Becky, he is on a…;" Jonathan hesitatingly began, fully prepared to answer his true love and soul mate when his reply quite suddenly and conveniently was interrupted by a great commotion and loud voices calling out occurring right outside from where they were standing, in the front entrance of the palace.
"Make way for the prince has returned!" The Royal Guard contingent, posted at the front entrance, happily shouted, their voices carrying through the ornately decorated main palace entrance, obviously in great relief that the crown prince was back after his prolonged absence; yet the shock of the amazing sight before them easily discernible in their voices.
Ever eager to see what the fuss was about and to investigate the surprised tenor of the guard's shouts, the four pairs of monarchs; the calm and all-knowing King Jonathan and the quite understandably flabbergasted Queen Rebecca of Corona, King Thomas and Queen Karoline of Constella, King Hubert and Queen Isabella of Estrella, and King Gilbert and Queen Giselle of Orion quickly rushed out and then stood there. The seven unknowing monarchs quite dumbfounded with mouths hanging open at the scene before them, the eighth all-knowing and broadly smiling.
Before them, in the covered portico right outside the main palatial entrance, proudly standing taller than ever, wearing the most unusual and all black uniform, the insignia of a Colonel adorning his gold braided shoulder boards, Crown Prince William stood; the ever faithful Sir Stephan by his side; the rest of the team having already stealthily disengaged themselves from the caravan of recovered goods and vast quantities of appropriated gold and silver as they initially entered the capital. Most shocking to the palace guards and the gathered royalty was the third individual with Crown Prince William and Sir Stephan. For, to the amazement and wonderment of all, the third individual was the very enemy of freedom, the bedraggled former monarch of the Midlands, King Leopold, now reduced in stature to common prisoner, heavy iron shackles around both ankles and wrists, long chains leading to the first horse drawn cart in the caravan.
A brightly smiling King Jonathan, winking at both his son and Sir Stephan, cleared his voice to gain the other's attention, and announced to the other amazed and quite visibly relieved monarchs as they turned to look at King Jonathan, "My fellow monarchs; as you are sadly aware, the kingdom of the Midlands decided to use their strategic location to their advantage, our mutual disadvantage. They unilaterally, with no attempt at negotiation, imposed unfair and burdensome tariffs upon our goods as they transited their territory. Additionally, and most importantly, I have also obtained vital information concerning the nefarious activities of this supposed member of Royalty, and decided that it was time to act. The sensitivity of this matter was too grave to allow for proper communications with the rest of you, leading me to take this corresponding unilateral action. My son, leading a very special force of loyal Coronian citizenry, has now deposed the Midlander regime and is now the defacto leader of the Midlands; its professional army cadre completely destroyed, the formerly indentured and enslaved conscripted soldiers now free to live in peace among the several kingdoms and principalities of Io."
The three pairs of very stunned monarchs, sighing happily and naturally quite relievedly amazed at the unbelievable turn of events; with King Jonathan and Queen Rebecca remaining behind, so very proud of their eldest son; with a very shy chestnut brown haired and emerald green eyed young princess bringing up the rear, came up to congratulate the young crown prince on his stunning victory, bombarding him with a plethora of statements and questions from all sides:
"You are so very brave and talented!"
"How did you do it?" They all asked him.
"I was fortunate to be leading a very specialized team and had great information." Prince William modestly replied, wary of revealing too much as he now fully understood the need for secrecy in some aspects of kingdom business.
"How large was your force?"
"It was adequate for the task at hand. I really cannot say any more than that."
"Were there many friendly loses?"
"I also really cannot go into operational details. Suffice it to say, loses were quite minimal, to the extent of no friendly warriors suffering as much as a bug bite."
Crown Prince William, however, very quickly found that he had eyes only for the young princess of Estrella, barely visible behind her parents as she peaked shyly from over her mother's left shoulder at the handsome and obviously quite brave Coronian Crown Prince. His father noted his son's blossoming infatuation with the emerald eyed and chestnut brown haired youngest daughter of King Hubert and Queen Isabella. He respectfully disengaged his son from the queries of the other royals; inviting his fellow monarchs in for the afternoon tea and promising a full report as soon as it could be written. Prince William, seeing his father winking at him, went over to quite beautiful, yet shy, brunette with the most amazing emerald green eyes he had ever seen.
"My lady, I am Crown Prince William. May I please have your name?" William respectfully asked, bowing gracefully; reaching out to kiss her hand.
"You may, my handsome prince." A blushing sixteen and a half year old Catherine quietly replied, giggling, winking and allowing William to kiss her hand.
"I am the youngest child of the current ruling family, Princess Catherine of Estrella."
A/N #3: Sorry for the cliff hanger…
A/N #4: Please review…