Sitting on the edge of the viewing platform above the capital’s military barracks, I stared out through one of the holes in Autozam’s outer plate, looking in the direction of the bright light that had flared in the sky less than an hour ago—in the direction of Cephiro. I knew what such a brilliant flare of light from Cephiro meant. The Magic Knights had been summoned and the Legendary Battle had taken place.
When I heard a familiar footstep behind me, I knew Eagle had found me. With everything I had told him over the last year or so, he probably knew what that light had meant as well as I did, but he still waited for me to acknowledge his presence.
After a few minutes, I started to speak. “Princess Emeraude…is dead,” I said. And with her had gone my brother. “Zagato…knew that this was going to happen… He said that the princess would never throw everything away to live the way her heart wanted to live.”
That conversation had been a large part of what had finally driven me to leave Cephiro. Knowing that that was Zagato’s assessment of the situation and knowing what he would most likely do if it came to the worst, I had known that if I didn’t leave, my own position as Captain of the Pillar’s Guard would drag me into it.
Standing up, I turned to face Eagle. “Even knowing that, he couldn’t keep from fighting for his own wish.” I had heard his wish—his final words—in my heart and I echoed it now.
“Lantis…” Eagle said, coming over and embracing me, drawing my head down to his shoulder. He patted my shoulder gently.
“I thought it was going to end up like this…” I said, hearing the thickness in my voice as I fought back tears. “They could not lie to their hearts, but their wishes were never going to be fulfilled. Cephiro as it stands now…could not fulfill both of their wishes.”
Bringing my emotions under control, I pulled away from Eagle and grasped his hand firmly. “Cephiro cannot stand without the sacrifices of the Pillar,” I said, looking directly at him. “I… I cannot think that that is right. This tragedy must never be repeated. I will end the legend of the Magic Knights and the Pillar system with my own hands.” I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish that, but I was certain I could find a way to do it.
Eagle looked troubled by my statement, but he didn’t say anything.
Two weeks later, I had figured out how I was going to end the Pillar system, so I had no further reason to stay in Autozam. Also, for nearly a week, I had been hearing rumors of plans to invade Cephiro to seize control of the Pillar system and I knew that if the rumors were true, I would almost certainly be asked to betray Cephiro by spying for Autozam. I set my leave-taking for a morning when I knew Eagle and Geo would be busy with an inspection and resigned my post in the military the afternoon before I was planning to leave.
I had just started to summon my spirit horse when my hopes of slipping away unnoticed were dashed by Eagle’s arrival on Geo’s bike. The fact that he was wearing his dress uniform made it clear that he had been preparing for the inspection when he had figured out that I was leaving.
“You’re going back, aren’t you?” he said as he got off the bike and removed his headband. “To end the Pillar system of Cephiro?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Is there a way?” he asked.
“The Pillar must travel down the Road to the Pillar and accept a challenge,” I said. “But only the past Pillars know where that Road is…”
Eagle immediately saw where I was going with that statement. “You plan to find—and destroy—that Road,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, closing my eyes. It would be dangerous, but I was willing to risk anything to end the Pillar system—the system that had taken the life of my brother and Princess Emeraude.
“Will your life be at risk?” Eagle asked.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the platform we were standing on. I had been hoping that possibility wouldn’t occur to him. I wasn’t going to lie to him, but I was unwilling to confirm it, either.
My silence was enough of an answer for him. “It will be, won’t it?” he said, looking me straight in the eyes. Then he closed his eyes and reached into the pocket of his pants. When he withdrew his hand, he was holding a translucent computer card. “Use my hovercar,” he said, smiling. He opened his eyes and offered the card—his hovercar’s key—to me. As I took the key, he said, “Zazu would have my hide if I let you take the FTO. But I think this is faster than your spirit animal.”
“Eagle…” I said. I didn’t know what to think of his willingness to help me leave Autozam faster, but I suspected that he had some ulterior motive.
“It’s what you decided,” he said, closing his eyes again. “You will go through with it no matter what happens.” He opened his eyes again and gave me a soft smile. “I’ve decided something now, too.”
“What did you decide?” I asked.
“A little secret,” he said, his smile turning slightly secretive to match his words.
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so instead, I slipped the hovercar key into my pocket, then reached out and embraced him. “Thank you,” I said, hoping he would understand that the thanks was for more than just the use of his hovercar.