Chapter 5

United we stand, separated we fall.
~Anonymous

They were floating and yet standing. Upright and yet they were upside down. For Triton, this was a rather unsettling feeling. One had to have a perfect sense of balance in order to walk a tightrope several stories in the air.

:Hey, where are we?: Duo asked. His eyes were thoughtful, wondering why he was only able to speak telepathically.

The attention of the other six Chosens were immediately fastened onto him and stayed. Eyes widened perceptibly. They glanced at Heero and the eyes widened even more.

:Hey, why are you staring at me like that?: Duo asked nervously.

:Hn, baka. We're in our true forms,: Heero informed him, pointing to something behind Duo with a white feathered appendage.

Duo suddenly realized that he no longer had his human form. Large black wings fanned out behind him. He scratched his head ruefully and smiled shakily.

:Who are you? What are you?!" was the question aimed at the two of them.

:I am the Angel of Death, always have been, most likely always will be. He,: at this Duo pointed at Heero, :got dragged into this when our bond strengthened.:

Heero, who was a bit fed up from the stares he was getting, snapped. :Look at you! Who ever heard of a pointy eared Dryad, Nereid or Siren?:

:Okay, okay, enough already. Sheesh, are you always like this?: came a rather familiar voice. Out of nowhere, seven robed figures emerged. Each one looked exactly like each Chosen except the sign was on their likeness's forehead. Other than that, there were no other differences other than in clothing.

:Who are you?: the Chosens said all at once.

:Hn, not a nice way to ask someone their identify,: snorted Heero's likeness.

:To answer you question, we're your subconscious powers manifested into a spiritual body inside your mind,: the Quatre double said.

:We are you in every way except we really don't exist outside of Dreamscape in these bodies,: Duo's twin said. :The Guardians have ordered us to tell you the reasons your powers, namely us, took the form of transforming you into dragons.:

:First reason is because all of you believed in that whole the dragons were an extension of yourselves,: Triton's double said.

:Wrong! They are not extensions of yourselves. They were your true powers, namely us, given a physical form. You can change your most powerful form to whatever you want. However, the more unnatural the form is, the more draining it is on your powers. And those dragon forms were as far from your real forms as they could be except for Meiran and Wufei. You two merely used more power than the others,: Heero's twin said.

:You can use your powers to enhance any of your physical abilities such as speed and strength,: the Meiran look alike said.

:In order to activate these forms, you must make your power levels go up to a point where you have minimum control. It may be hard for some of you to let go of your control like that but that is the only way. You can say that the power that you release fills up the form you obtain,: Wufei's duplicate stated.

:Any questions?: Treize's likeness said.

:I just find it really weird that we're talking to ourselves,: Duo said.

:Damare, Duo no baka,: Heero said, yanking on his braid.

:Hey! Watch the braid, buster,: Duo pouted angrily.

:Hn,: Heero snorted, wrapping a possessive arm around Duo's waist.

:Possessive, ain't he?: Duo's twin said, arching a delicate eyebrow.

The other Chosens merely stared at their doubles with their jaws hanging open. Idly, they wondered why Heero and Duo didn't seem to find any of this strange at all. In fact, they seemed to think what was happening, perfectly normal!

:Don't you find this weird at all?: Quatre asked.

:I'm guessing that our bodies should be almost done recuperating from the severe energy depletion. After all, we were fighting for well over an hour both physically and magically,: Duo said, idly toying with the end of his braid. He leaned into Heero's embrace and ignoring the question.

None of the Chosens noticed the disappearance of their doubles. As soon as Duo finished his sentence, the seven Chosens began flickering in and out of Dreamscape. Only Duo and Heero didn't seem apprehensive about the fact that they seemed to be disappearing.

 

In the medic wing of the Palace, five bodies bolted straight out of their bed. Duo merely snuggled back under the covers for some more sleep since he was sure nothing called for his presence. Heero merely opened his eyes to stare up at the wall and listen to the conversation around him.

"Allah, what was that all about?" Quatre squeaked.

"I think we should calm down and be rational about this," Wufei said, the scholar in him said.

The door to the room they had stayed in for an entire day, opened. It was Sally Po, the Royal Healer. "You seem to be in perfect health but I recommend you to stay in bed for the rest of the day. All of you exhausted enough of your magical reserves and physical energy for ten soldiers! I'm surprised all of you are not in comas!" she exclaimed.

"Chosens are protected by their Guardians. We're not like normal people," Duo said sleepily. He wrinkled his nose cutely and blinked open wide violet eyes. "I'm all rested up," he said with a smile. His hand brushed against something soft. He removed it to reveal a perfect black feather.

:I don't think angels have molting seasons,: Duo said in disgust to his lover.

:I plucked that out. Gimme,: Heero said, snatching it out of his hands.

"Hey, that's mine!" Duo said in a rather childish tone.

"You can have mine," Heero said, taking out a white feather.

"Do know what trading feathers mean in a certain culture?" Duo asked, taking the feather from his fingers.

"It means that you want to commit to your lovers," Wufei answered.

"We really should talk about our powers and not our sex life," Meiran said in an exasperated tone.

"What is there to talk about?" Duo asked. He looked each Chosen in the eye, none was able to provide an answer. "You all heard what has been told to us. It's as simple as that! Up power, get more powerful form," Duo said, throwing his hands up into the air.

"It is not that simple! I do not relish the fact that we have to depend on us losing control to get this form!" Meiran yelled.

"Well, you better get used to it. It just might be the only thing that would save you," Duo said darkly.

Meiran had nothing else to say, nor did any of the other Chosens. He had raised a very important fact. Their enemy was getting more powerful by the minute and in their current forms, they were cooked. The dragons had disappeared, having manifested themselves into their bodies and giving them more power.

However, the raise in power still wouldn't be able to beat Epyon or whoever he was about to throw at them. None of them liked the idea of losing control like they did while fighting their last enemy.

Heero suddenly realized something. "We do not necessarily have to lose control in order to get our more powerful forms. Our Guardians told us that a pair of soulbonded Chosens can SHARE their power. And with power comes control. For trained mages at least," he said.

Duo's face lighted up as he realized what his lover was saying. "You are an absolute genius!" Duo cried as he jumped over to the other bed and landed onto Heero.

"Would you kindly explain?" Treize said.

"I understand your meaning," Triton said quietly. "You can have one half of the pair controlling the power while the other changes, a channel, I think the mage term is. Because you are not the one supervising the rise in energy, you can have your attention elsewhere, releasing your power," he said.

"Didn't I say this guy is an absolute genius?" Duo said, glomping onto his koibito.

"But I am not soulbonded to any of the Chosens," Treize said, bursting their bubble.

"We all have a bond connecting all of us. We can share our powers but not a lot. With all of us together, we should be able to control your powers enough that you can change without releasing too much energy and telling ever mage in the vicinity that there was someone really powerful out there. We were lucky that there were no mages nearby the last time we did it. Well, other than the one that we exterminated," Duo said in one breath.

Quatre idly wondered if their braided friend ever took a breath at all.

"All of us should get some rest. Now that Epyon knows that we are this powerful, he would be sending his most powerful mage after us. We will need all the energy we have," Heero said, tucking Duo's head under his chin. The violet eyed boy snuggled closer and sighed.

"I agree. We deserve an undisturbed rest after that fight," Wufei stated. "If anyone should need us, we will be in our quarters," he said, extending a hand for his wife to take. Together, they walked out the door.

"We shouldn't be crowding up the medic room," Triton said, walking out the door with Quatre at his side.

"Duo, we should leave as well," Heero said. The violet eyed boy merely latched an arm around his neck and buried his face in the crook of his neck. Sighing deeply, the elf flipped him into his arms and carried him all the way to their rooms.

 

In a castle, across the sea, a mage paced in his throne room. "Those annoying Chosens will be the death of me!" he shouted, his voice bouncing off the empty walls of the room. They had long ago been stripped of the banners and tapestries from the kingdom that previously occupied the castle. Not one servant, other than those under the mage's rule, survived. Nor did any of the rulers or their relatives.

The door opened and a tall blonde walked in. "Lord Epyon, I have a plan to destroy the Chosens," she said.

"Speak, Dorothy," he growled.

"It is simply this. We send a mage to a logical point of attack. While the Chosens are fighting, we can teleport to the capital and take it over. They cannot be in two places at once and they always need every Chosen to fight since they are so few in number," Dorothy stated.

"Excellent. I want you, my Chosen, to lead the force which will destroy the peace loving family once and for all. If you fail, let's just say that it will be your last failure."

"I will not fail, my lord," she said. Dorothy bowed and turned on her heel to inform a mage.

"Impertinent mortal," Epyon spat. "You are powerful but nothing compared to those seven Chosens. With your death, I shall become the most powerful mage this world has ever known!" His dark laughter rang in the ears of the few servants in the empty castle.

 

The seven Chosens sat with their eyes closed in a small circle around a low table. Each wrapped a hand around the focus of their powers. The glow from their stones escaped the fist around it. The meditation Wufei and Meiran had shown them was supposed to relax and soothe them. But it didn't do much good. A feeling of finality surrounded them when they awoke from their rest. That was the reason they had all went to the largest private room in the palace with windows and a balcony that you could lead an entire army lining five soldiers to a row, standing with arms stretched outwards, through.

They needed to test Heero's theory. And as soon as possible. It would do the kingdom no good if they were to try it out right before a battle with no knowledge as to whether or not it would work.

Duo opened his eerily glowing purple eyes and said, "So who wants to try it first? I'm suggesting that Heero does this last so he could supervise."

"Meiran and I would like to go first because our most powerful forms are rather...large," Wufei said, standing up with his wife. The jade on his neck was glowing a dull green against his white clothes as was Meiran's.

"We're ready to shield against any attacks and scans for our presence when you are," Quatre said quietly.

"Ganbatte," Heero whispered as he invoked Mage Sight to its fullest extent.

Wufei began glowing red with the exception for the jade around his neck. The yosei had his eyes closed and had a slightly pained expression on his face. His wife tamped down on her control to wipe it from his features.

All of them saw his shimmering wings change to those similar to that of bats but were built with much more power. The red glow enveloped him and they could no longer see with their physical nor their magical eyes the change brought upon their friend.

The glow took on an outline of a dragon before solidifying, leaving a emerald green dragon in its place. Wufei gave them all a dragon grin before turning to his wife.

Heero could barely suppress his excitement, even with his training that had the number one rule of 'Feelings were useless and it was better to do away with them.' Duo had changed all that of course. However, now was not the time to dwell upon those thoughts, as inviting as they were. They needed to prepare for the upcoming battle.

Focusing back upon the other Chosens, he noticed that Meiran had changed quicker than her husband had. Then again, after knowing how the transformation was to be done, it would be fairly easy for her to follow Wufei's example. She, too, became a dragon. Not surprisingly. Meiran WAS of the Dragon clan.

One after another, they changed. The physical changes for Quatre and Triton were rather menial but one glance into the now silver colored eyes made one look twice. It was a more intangible alteration. There was an increase in the magic they could command and control but aside from a few stamina concerned attributes, they looked pretty much the same.

The change in Treize was just as dramatic as the couple from the Dragon clan. The chain holding his aquamarine amulet thickened and lengthened to provide for a change. And of all the things, he became a gryphon! A little more than half the size of the dragons, but still amazing nonetheless. His entire body as the same color as his ginger colored hair except it took on a golden sheen, making his feathers look rather metallic. A wicked beak more powerful than even ten raptors combined had given them a smile and a telepathic comment.

:You look like a landed fish, the lot of you. I'm not very surprised by this form. My family crest is a gryphon. I suggest you close your mouths before flies land in them,: he chuckled, mental voice full of mirth.

Finally, it was Duo's turn. His lover took the chance to give him a wink and a grin. That made him back up a step, mentally if not physically. The braided boy was up to mischief again. Heero glared at him and telepathically told him not to try anything.

:I won't do anything...much: was the remark.

Before Heero could say a word more, Duo began the first steps to acquiring his more powerful form. The elf had to immediately start channelling the energy but kept one eye on the braided angel all the same. He had never seen his lover revert to his angelic form and to say he was awed was an understatement. Huge black wings covered most of Duo's form, save his head and his feet. They noticed that he was naked but the wings covered that fact.

He grew at least a foot but did not loose any of his lithe form and gained a physique that most if not all dancers would envy. The difference in height still made him a bit shorter than six feet. His muscles became a bit more refined and compact. Black, full body armor covered him from head to toe. Duo's wings folded themselves neatly on his back as the glow from the amethyst on his neck died down.

Heero realized that the angel had deliberately made the change more dramatic than was needed from the gaping mouths around the room. They were more fascinated by the change in Duo than Treize's. He snorted and gave his lover a mental tap before going into the rise in power quickly and efficiently.

He, too, gained at least a foot and had a total opposite color in armor, white. Mentally, he groaned. Surely the enemy would see him at least a mile away. His white wings were already a dead give away and now he had white armor to match. His sapphire focus stone stood out starkly upon the cuirass. Duo realized this and played it to his advantage.

"You know, all you have to do is draw a red circle with a another solid colored circle in the middle and you'd be perfect for target practice!" he chirped as he went back to his normal form. There were no immediately emergencies that needed their presence so they went back to normal.

"Hn," he merely snorted. He could do nothing short of a silencing spell to shut his lover up and that was a waste of precious magical energy. No sooner did he start relaxing in the arm chair he was lounging in, a guard ran in to inform them of an attack on the border.

Heero shot a small burst of energy to open the doors and immediately supervised the chanelling of Duo's magic. As soon as his lover was finished, he quickly launched into his own transformation. Triton and Quatre hopped onto Wufei and Meiran's back, respectively as they could not fly without expending precious amounts of energy. Meiran and Quatre mentally contacted their respective followers to keep a close watch over the palace in their absence before leaving. They quickly went into the air, the dragons first, then the gryphon and last but not least, the angels.

In their new forms, they were able to travel even quicker than they did upon the backs of their dragons which were issued to them about two months ago. The Chosens went as fast as their wings could carry. They did not want to loose any more soldiers of their kingdom than they could.

What they encountered left them gasping for breath. This time, the enemy had sent any soldiers that were human in size or shape. All of them were vaguely humanoid but that was where the similarities ended. Fangs dripping with poison were sunk into soldiers, draining them of their life energy at the same time they died.

These monsters were the equivalent if not worse than blood-path mages. Except these things used the energy to enhance their physical abilities, not mental or magical. That was a relief at least but it left Quatre and Triton painfully vulnerable. Should those fangs pierce through their skin at all, they were done for.

There was an overwhelming hint of desperation to the attack unlike the previous battles. Also, there was something in the back of Heero's mind that whispered wordless cries of wrongness. He had missed a small but crucial fact somewhere along the line and if he didn't find out what it was, NOW, it might mean the end of the Sank Kingdom.

 

The guard which had ran into the room to inform the Chosens of the battle chuckled and then went into an all out dark laughter. His form shimmered and a blonde girl of a mere eighteen summers stood in his place. With the amount of magical energy still not dissipated from the Chosens' change, her little illusion spell had went unnoticed. She flipped her long hair back and smiled.

"Those Chosens were more idiotic than I thought. Even the Guards were a trifle harder to fool than they were," she said to herself. "Oh well, the better for me to work then."

Dorothy cupped her hands together and a entirely black ball of energy was formed. As it increased in size, it changed into a black mist and traveled out through the bottom of the doors. The formless cloud seeped through every nook and cranny of the walls, doors and shields. None, not even the Adepts even noticed anything was amiss. Whoever and whatever it touched paralyzed and put into a deep sleep.

Soon, it went through even the barracks and the capital. Those who laid out of the reaches of the dark mist merely went on with their normal lives, oblivious to the results of the cloud.

The Chosen of former Guardian Epyon stepped confidently over fallen bodies towards the throne room. Once she gained control over the crowns of the monarchs, the people would have no choice but to listen to her. It was part of the kingdom's written law that if anyone should obtain the royal crowns, the reign of the ruling family would be over and the reign of the one who possessed it would begin.

The reason the Peacecraft family had kept their family the ruling house was because of their reputation. It was the legacy of their ancestor Mage Marquise, one of the most powerful mortal mages. He was the first to rule the Kingdom of Sank for he was the one who established the site and saw to its makings. He was chosen to be the leader by the people who made the first cities. To make sure that his descendents would not turn against his/her own people, he put a spell so powerful that it would last till the end of time and then some. It guaranteed the fact that all of his descendents would be powerful mages, unselfish, patient, responsible and a bearer of an unbreakable devotion to their duty and their people.

The Heir had to be of at least a Master-potential mage and have a certain level of training before he/she could be admitted as such. The reason Relena's short reign had been so disastrous was because of the generally unknown fact that she was the daughter or Ambassador Darlian, an extremely close friend to the king before Mirialdo.

Darlian had died in an accident due to an unexpected mage-storm and killed. The Peacecrafts had taken it upon themselves to adopt the girl, merely a year old, into their family. They never anticipated the disappearance of the Heir, Prince Mirialdo, so they could not prepare for the unexpected death of their beloved king. His queen followed soon after. Having found no other candidates for Heir, they put Relena upon the throne since she had already obtained Master-class.

Having been brought up by the Peacecrafts, she had the same beliefs and thoughts but nothing could replicate one's devotion to her people. She had tried disarmament in an attempt to prolong the slowly disintegrating peace but that only brought upon more disaster. The world was not yet ready for such an idea and it left the kingdom vulnerable to attacks. Nevertheless, the people decided to stick with her through the good and bad. That was the extent of the people's devotion earned by the Peacecrafts.

When things died down to a deceptive calm, Relena called for a public meeting. While she stood upon the balcony of the palace, an assassin in a close by building from an enemy kingdom, shot her straight through the heart with a mage bolt. The people went into an uproar and chaos was imminent. Never in the history of the Sank Kingdom had a ruler been killed by an assassin. It was simply unheard of.

Relena had obviously not erected any shields, physical or magical, whatsoever, a hazard to a ruler even in his/her own kingdom amid loyal people. Several days later, a man claiming to be Prince Mirialdo appeared. He went through several tests provided by the most trusted advisors and passed them all. He was immediately put to the throne and the calamities that had been brought on by Relena were mostly cleared. That proved without a doubt that he was who he said he was.

Dorothy was mildly surprised that it was so easy to take over the palace than she thought. Not a challenge at all like she thought it would be. A pity, she remarked with no regret. She threw open the doors of the throne room and found a few councilors and the like lying unconscious on the marble floor. The king and queen laid like ragdolls upon their thrones.

The blonde snatched the crowns off their heads and put the crown for the queen upon her own head. She knocked the king and queen off of their thrones with a bit of magic and sat in their places, idly toying with the king's crown. She sat draped across the seat with her legs on one of the armrests and her arm dangling on the floor. The dark Chosen traced the carvings on her rapier. Dorothy settled herself down for a nice sit and waited for the Chosens to come. In fact, she welcomed them.

It was not popular knowledge that the crowns amplified the possessor's magical and physical powers at least five times without subjecting the bearer to out of control powers. Now, she was a more than formidable opponent for the seven Chosens, even combined. With Epyon's power backing her up as well, there was no possible way for her to lose.

 

Heero was suddenly hit with the answer of why he shouldn't be on the battlefield fighting alongside the other Chosens. The guard. They had told no one about where they were and they were shielded to the fare thee-well. The room was never used by anyone since King Marquise's time but it was well tended to. No ruler had ever needed the powerful shields inside the room to work.

There was no way anyone could find out where they were and with the shielding abilities of seven rather powerful mages, it was not even possible. The servants generally avoided the room they were in because of the closed off feeling it gave off. The cleaning of the room was last priority to the servants of the palace. Unless someone was deliberately looking for them against their request for privacy, no one would be able to locate them.

Hell and damnation! he cursed. He flung a loud mental cry for a retreat and took off to the sky as fast as he could towards the palace. If his assumptions were correct, the king and queen were in danger, a lot of danger.

:Hey! We can't leave these people to fight for themselves!: Wufei shouted.

:Would you rather save a few lives or have the entire kingdom collapse? Because that is what you are risking,: Heero snapped.

:Nani?: Duo shouted as he swung his scythe to kill the ones around him on the ground.

:This is a decoy attack. The real target was the palace,: Heero said curtly. Realization dawned on them like a ton of bricks.

:THE GUARD!: they all shouted at once. They immediately mete out one last blast of power to push the enemy back before taking off into the air. They had to get back quickly.

 

Dorothy relazed further into the soft confines of the throne and smiled when she felt seven powerful energies heading straight for the palace. It was time for the game to begin.

 

The group of seven Chosens looked on upon the unconscious bodies of their people and grew angrier by the minute. They made an effort to not let it cloud their judgement for they could tell that whoever that did it was a very powerful mage. He/She had made it before them. And if what Mirialdo had told them was right, he/she was now five times more powerful in both ways, physical and magical.

This fight would depend on the survival of the kingdom. They had seen that whatever that affected the capital of the country was slowly spreading outwards at a rapid pace. The only reason they weren't collapsed as well were due to airtight shields provided by Triton and his staff.

Wufei and Meiran would not fit very well through the doors and it would be an annoyance for Treize to hold his wings tightly against his body. They were to surprise the enemy mage from the windows on the side of the throne room while the rest of them diverted her attention to themselves. It was not the best tactic for they knew nothing about the mage's powers other than the fact that he/she was very powerful.

But, they had no choice in the matter. They had to act quickly or lose the kingdom in exchange.

Triton, Quatre, Duo and Heero burst in through the double doors of the throne room to see a blonde lounging in a chair King Mirialdo had sat numerous times before.

"Hey, it's that girl that attacked you," Duo said to Heero.

"Who would have known that the idiotic Shilani elf was a Chosen? And who would have known that the stupid long haired girl was one as well?" Dorothy said.

"Why is it that everyone thinks I'm a girl?! Is someone trying to torture me up there?" he shouted at the sky.

"You cannot exactly go against me. I am the Chosen of Epyon and lawful ruler of the Sank Kingdom. I have defeated the monarchs and I have possession of their crown, unless, you would like to challenge me for it," she said, giving them all a sultry smile. "Where are the other three of your ranks? Holding back the army of monsters I conjured up?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," Duo spat. "It is stated that should anyone wish to gain possession of the crown, they would issue an official challenge to the monarchs. No matter where they are, what they were doing, they had to respond to the challenge. The challenger would then pick the appropriate battleground. This was nothing but a coward's way of obtaining what would never be theirs."

"Why you--" was all Dorothy could say for two tough hided dragons and one gryphon sped straight through the windows at that moment, throwing shrapnel all over the place.

Triton and Heero protected their respective lovers with their own bodies while Duo and Quatre shielded the both of them. Treize descended upon her with talons outstretched and neatly snapped her throat in half before she could do anything.

"Now wasn't that a short battle?" Duo said with a grim smile.

:A bit too short if you ask me,: Treize said as he wiped off his talons. :Eck, I got evil Chosen blood on me.:

That got a laugh out of everyone, including the silent Triton but Heero remained as serious as ever. Duo poked him in the ribs in puzzlement.

"Oi, Hee-chan. Daijoubu?"

"It is far from over my friends. Dorothy was not a very powerful mage. She could only boast power of about a low-Adept class mage. Epyon was obviously backing her up but without the anchor for the spell she cast to put the citizens to sleep, it should dissipate. But nothing, NOTHING, has happened! That fight was way too simple to be true," he shouted.

"Aa, you are correct, little Chosen," said an unfamiliar and very disconcerting voice. It should have felt like a soothing tenor but it was more like the sound of nails being scratched down a blackboard.

They all turned away from each other and found a man floating in the air, dark of hair and eyes while staring back at them. Perfectly bronzed skin stood out against the dark black of his uniform. On his back were a pair of batwings made of pure darkness and just as powerful.

Wufei, Meiran and Treize went into a half-and-half form they had discovered during the previous battle. They would need the use of their hands in order to use their weapons. The yosei still retained the dragon wings and claws but looked mostly human. Treize kept his wings and the golden eyes of his gryphon form. All of them took out their weapons in one smooth practiced motion.

"I'm sure that you all know who I am," Epyon said matter-of-factly. He landed right in front of the Dorothy's body. He observed the seven Chosens standing in front of him. His eyes lingered upon Duo's form and looked at his black wings in curiousity. "It seems that one of you has already been tainted by darkness than most," he stated, looking significantly at Duo.

"Don't even try it, buster. You can't turn us against each other no matter how you tried," Duo smirked, making the green fire blade of his scythe flare up a little more. "Are you going to stand there and make idle chitchat or fight? We intend on getting our kingdom back in order."

"None of you are even powerful enough to compare to me. You merely done me a favor by killing this idiot that thought she was her Chosen. I am merely linked to the energy--of her death. You just gave me more power by ending her miserable life," he said nonchalantly.

"You..you monster!" Duo shouted. He charged at him. Because of his powers as the Angel of Life and Death, he more than others had actually felt her life energy become extinguished because he was so close. It was a feeling that he had ignored most of the time but hated to go through with it. It caused him pain that he often kept under heavy shields in order to remain coherent. Killing the mage conjured soldiers did nothing since they were all souless, but those that were controlled, they were another story.

Heero yelled at him to stop but it was too late. Duo had leapt up into the air, brandishing his scythe and swinging it where Epyon's throat was. He saw the ex-Guardian smirk and raise a hand to deflect it. The results were absolutely impossible. Duo was suspended in the air by his own wings as he tried to jerk his weapon out of Epyon's grasp.

The blood-path mage was actually holding the blade! It should have seared his had to a point where he would never be able to use it again! Blinded by rage at the killing of an innocent, Duo avoided all sensibilities. He let go of his scythe and went at him for physical combat. Heero was not about to let his lover die so he went for a full frontal assault.

The other Chosens followed his lead and charged at him. Where there was once one mage, now there were two others. Quatre and Triton dealt with one. Wufei and Meiran was with another and Treize joined Heero and Duo with what he assumed was the original. If a Bard was anywhere nearby he/she would have been inspired to write enough ballads for the rest of their life.

The battle was going to determine the fate of the kingdom and world for the Sank Kingdom held the most amount of power due to the alliances and races living in it. Should Epyon gain control of the palace, he would be able to send out a controlling spell, obtaining countless numbers of Adept-class, Master-class and anyone with the potential to become a mage. With that kind of power, he would be able to conquer the world.

The fight was a brutal one. It was one fought with teeth, claws, swords, magic and so on. You name it, the Chosens probably used it. And Epyon wasn't even close to becoming tired. They all knew that Epyon was a powerful mage and with the possession of both crowns of the monarchs of Sank, he had the power that could be compared to the gods.

However, they weren't about to give up, no matter how tired they were. But their energy was already low from the decoy battle they had fought before they made it back to the palace. They wouldn't be able to hold their own much sooner even if they denied it. No one would be able to help them but themselves.

All at once, the Chosens, with the exception of Heero were hit with a blast of raw power. They were thrown at least halfway across the vast chamber, leaving Heero. The clones disappeared and left the original, smirking at the remaining fighter.

"You are outnumbered, little Chosen. Your power is insignificant compared to mine. But I will let you have a chance to save the others," he said.

"Hn, most likely at the cost of my life," Heero said, cautiously backing a step or two away.

"Oh, you don't have to sacrifice your life. I despise martyrs. In exchange for your comrades' life, I want your freedom," Epyon stated.

"You want me as your slave," Heero said flatly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his lover stirring.

"Of course. It would be amusing to have a Chosen at my beck and call at any moment. Your beauty is just an added appetizer. That other elf is simply contains too pure for my tastes. But you, you are a perfect blend of darkness and light. It seems to me that you contain more of the former than the latter," he remarked.

:No Heero! Don't listen to him! Save yourself!: Duo shouted mentally.

Epyon must have heard it for he sent a mage bolt at him. The angel managed to shield some of the attack but he was too weak to divert it.

"I'm guessing that he is your lover, yes?" Epyon said, walking past him toward Duo. He picked him up by the throat and looked into the amethyst depths that Heero was so fond of. "Do you two come in a pair? How quaint. I could always make an exception for this fallen angel. He is rather pretty."

"I'm no more fallen that you are a Guardian," Duo spat. Epyon's hand tightened but the angel continued to stare into his dark eyes. Heero clenched his fists to prevent a word from getting out of his throat. He could not show any weakness. The dark mage could kill his lover at anytime and he was not about to risk it.

"I pity you," Duo said softly. "Those who cannot...rely on their...own power are weak."

"Those who stand in my way, shall die," Eypon said, preparing to break the neck in his hands.

"YAMERU!" Heero shouted.

"Yes?"

"I...I shall consent...to your wishes," Heero whispered. His fists were held in so tightly that they made crescent moon marks on his palm. His entire stance spoke of resignment. His shoulders slumped and his head was down. His eyes were clenched shut as he made the most difficult decision of his life.

Epyon smiled and tossed Duo away like a piece of trash. "I knew you were going to come to your senses. You wouldn't risk the lives of your...friends," he said. He walked up to Heero and frowned minutely when he saw his new slave did not look up. Forcefully, he tilted Heero's head up to see cobalt blue eyes staring defiantly at him. "I enjoy your fire and I will have a wonderful time trying to break you."

"I don't think so," Duo's voice shouted. The statement reverberated around the room, making it sound louder than it was supposed to due to clever acoustics. Epyon turned sharply to send another blast of mage energy at the annoying angel but the sight that greeted him made his eyes widen in horror.

Six Chosens stood up tall in all their glory. On their foreheads glowed the symbol of which they were Chosen for. The silver characters standing for Death and Rebirth, for the Angel of Life and Death, the green character for Nature for the half-dryad, the gold character for Intelligence for the Prislani elf, a fiery red character for Justice for the remaining survivors of the Dragon Clan and two slightly translucent blue characters for Honor and Chivalry for the heir of the Khushrenada Empire.

The blood-path mage whipped around to see a blue character, representing Bravery, shining upon Heero's forehead. The Chosens, except for Heero, began to glow the same color as their sign. Six columns of light shot into the air to go straight for Heero. The colors swirled and danced until they became a kaleidoscope of power.

Heero's own power joined the others as it amplified his own at least ten times. The Shilani elf smirked. "By my power as the First Chosen of the new age of Peace, I banish you to the darkest depths of the universe. You have brought upon this world much pain and I hope that you will learn the freedom of redemption in your exile."

"You cannot defeat me that easily," Epyon growled. He turned around to blast the Chosens who were supplying Heero with the last of their power but met with impenetrable shields. In a desperate move to regain the upper hand, he spun around to do the same to Heero but before he could do so, a pure white light clouded his vision and then, he knew no more.

The seven Chosens fell to their knees, gasping for breath. They looked at each other in shock and disbelief. Somehow, Heero managed to get enough energy to stumble over to his lover and envelope him in a tight embrace.

"It's over. It's finally over!" Quatre said.

All around them, the courtiers began waking up from their magic-induced slumber. They stared at each other in confusion and saw the seven Chosens leaning against the back wall. King Mirialdo looked at the broken windows and scorch mark in the middle of the room. He immediately knew what had happened.

The threat against the Sank Kingdom was defeated. The period of peace would be able to reign again once more thanks to the combined efforts of the Chosens.

 

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