"God of Light, I beseech You. I am and will always be Your Sun Knight. Please return Sun's brothers to Sun!"
Memories flooded me, memories of each of my companions. The first person I'd met after becoming the Sun Knight-in-training was actually Ceo. His teacher had brought him over, and then our teachers had talked about us as if we weren't even there. He had been shorter than me then, but his hair had already been dyed blue. With Teacher's answer to why he had chosen me at the forefront of my mind, I couldn't help paying attention to Ceo's hair. Besides, it was blue.
"Did your teacher choose you because of your hair color, too?" I'd asked, hoping he'd answer "yes" so that I wouldn't be alone. If not for my hair, Teacher wouldn't have chosen me. I'd always thought that Roland would have been a far better choice.
Young Ceo had frozen for a moment, but his eventual answer was a strong shake of his head.
He'd confused me. It wasn't until later that I learned that his hair was dyed. Silly me. Blue hair doesn't naturally exist!
The memories continued pouring in. Elmairy trying to stop an argument between Georgo and me. Demos hiding in the farthest book cabinet. Chikus pounding me on the back. Vival unable to see the stuff he dropped on the ground. Aivis stubbornly denying his stubbornness. Laica accidentally praising me with his "poisonous tongue." Ecilan handing me a small bag of sweets.
Lesus sitting by my side in the bathroom, giving me that rare smile of his that could scare people to death.
All of us, plus Roland, laughing in my wine cellar, without any worries.
All of these moments, mundane they might be, I wanted them back!
Holy light burst forth, bathing us all. Inwardly, I kept chanting for my brothers to be returned to me, for us to be able to return back to how things once were. The bodies scattered over the floor, the blood seeping into the ground... Reality was too cruel. Even if Pink or Stephen told me it was impossible to resurrect ten people, I couldn't not do it. There was no meaning to becoming the Demon King, to imprisoning myself, if I couldn't even save the people closest to me. I'd rather, I'd rather...
I was so focused that I didn't even hear it right away when someone called out, "Sun!"
Sun? Is Roland calling me? He should be behind me. The holy light must be unbearable for him...
"Sun! Stop the spell!"
There was no way I could stop. I'm not giving up on anyone!
"Sun! It's okay. We're not dead!"
"Not dead...?" A whisper escaped me. I tried paying closer attention to what I was sensing. But it was too late by then to stop.
The spell was already cast.
Blinding holy light blanketed us, the gathering of elements so thick that all I could see was holy light. My sensing ability could not tell me who had grabbed my arm just now with a vice-like grip.
I couldn't help closing my eyes, but doing so would provide no respite from the blinding light.
At least, that was what should have happened.
Instead, darkness fell over me, and the vice-like grip was gone.
For a moment, pain exploded across my chest, but it was gone so quickly that I might have imagined it. Or maybe there was just so much healing light around that any pain would immediately get banished. This level of healing was no joke—it was way stronger than an Ultimate Heal.
I pushed myself off the ground, my breaths coming in short gasps.
Wait. Since when was I on the ground?
My eyes shot open.
The magic circle I had Scarlet, Pink, and Stephen draw was smudged. Blood coated the ground. I raised my head.
There I stood, my hair a complete mess, face drained of all color. White hair hung limply against torn black clothing. I looked like some kind of ghastly spirit, but it was still a better sight than what I'd seen the last time I'd looked at myself using farsight—a crazed stranger.
Judgment held me by the arm. So he was the one who grabbed me.
I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding.
So he's okay. Not dead.
I blinked. I... need to breathe while using farsight?
Groans reached my ears.
I turned my head, glancing around me, finally taking in the sights.
One by one, the companions I'd tried so hard to distance, my companions I couldn't bear to lose, sat up. Some climbed up to their feet.
They're all okay.
Thank the God of Light, they're all okay.
Earth was the closest to me. He turned, eyes roving to observe the surroundings. He jolted upon seeing the me that was next to Judgment. By this time, Judgment had dropped his hand and was staring down at it in...
Then, Earth turned and stared straight at me, giving my heart a scare, before he continued taking stock of everyone.
He could see me.
This isn't me using farsight.
Suddenly, the other "me" grabbed at his eyes, body swaying. Judgment quickly caught him.
I didn't do that. I'm here. Not there! Then, who is that?
Earth finished surveying everyone.
He frowned but made his way over to not-me and Judgment. He grabbed hold of not-me's hand, as if afraid not-me would escape.
Judgment looked up then, and Earth asked him, "Who are you?"
With a worried look, Judgment answered in a small voice, "I'm Elmairy. What's going on?"
Earth frowned even harder, that look of his familiar, yet not. Earth never usually frowned so much, not to the point where he'd get wrinkles between his brows. That was more someone else's forte. "Not Georgo? Then..."
But before he could say more, not-me opened his mouth and said, "I can't see."
"Are you Sun?" Earth asked him. No... That person isn't Earth. He definitely isn't. That controlled tone, that dependability, that furrow between his brows...
"Sun? Why would you ask me that?" Not-me said in confusion, but upon hearing his own voice, he touched his throat and gulped.
Leaf suddenly yelled, "Sun! Are you still refusing to return? Don't tell me you still only want to be called Grisia!"
However, right after he shouted and jumped up, he stilled and frantically looked down at himself. Then, he turned wide eyes on us. Upon seeing Blaze, he pointed at him and shrieked, "What's going on?"
One by one, looks of realization dawned on us.
I looked down at myself. Pale fingers. Light blue sleeves. I reached back, only to find short hair. Then, I brought my hands forward, ice easily forming above my palms.
Reflected on the shards of ice was a face that had always been expressionless.
Now, it was surprised because I was surprised.
I was Ice.
Apparently, I'm not done with the bodyswap trope yet, as if Bittersweet Sweetness wasn't enough. :'D I tossed everyone's names in a randomizer and came up with some random bodyswapping. This fic was the result.
Chapter 2: 2: Grisia
Upon realizing the extent of what had happened to us, "Earth" took over. There was no hint of any stuttering—of course there was no need for that pretense right now—but the assurance that his voice provided was unlike any I'd ever felt from Earth. He spoke in a measured, no nonsense tone. Even without hearing an explanation from him to confirm his actual identity, I already knew that he could be no one else but Lesus Judgment.
Still, even knowing that, Earth's face rubbed me the wrong way. It was also all sorts of weird watching "Earth" behave so out of character. That totally wasn't him. It made me feel like Earth was purposefully pretending to be some upstanding guy, and that was enough to make me shiver and want to scowl.
"From what I gather so far, several of us have been swapped." He paused and gestured at himself. "I'm not Georgo. I'm Lesus."
"Captain Judgment?!" Roland blurted out.
I glanced over at him. From that outburst, he's probably not Roland at all. However, he should still be someone from the cruel, cold-hearted faction. They were the ones who would call Lesus "Captain Judgment."
"Earth" gave a nod.
Metal shook his head, giving Lesus a strange look. "Shoot, it's so bizarre seeing myself move and speak when I'm not the one who's doing it."
"You're Georgo?" Lesus-as-Earth asked.
"Yeah," he answered and turned his hand back and forth, examining it.
Georgo is Metal? That's oddly fitting...
Lesus-as-Earth swept his eyes across all of us. "We should find out everyone's identity."
With that suggestion, despite it coming from "Earth," we all gathered around like good little school children making self-introductions on the first day of school. However, I wasn't sure if I should reveal myself.
I'm stuck as Ice. What's going to happen to being the Demon King? After all the harm I've caused, is it really okay for me to stand here among them? I can't be so careless. The dark element is still too overwhelming. The Demon King can lose control at any moment.
The only reason I could still stand here without immediately getting into a fight with them was because they didn't know which person I was at the moment. Should I lie? Should I keep quiet? Or perhaps I should run away...
Can't I... stay?
No... no... I can't...
There was no solution to being the Demon King. All I could do was wait for an opportunity to "whisk" Sun away, whoever was unfortunate enough to be stuck in my body. It would be unfair to Ecilan that I'd have to borrow his body, possibly never returning it, and it'd be unfair to whoever was me at the moment, but I couldn't let danger hang around like this.
I can't do that to Ecilan. I can't do that to the person stuck as me either.
My original plan wouldn't work, not like this.
We'd said, in what felt like ages ago, that we wouldn't sacrifice anyone. If Lesus were a demon king candidate but didn't want to become the demon king, then let the world be damned. Whoever was me at the moment, I couldn't let them suffer for the world. The best thing would be to figure out if we could quickly switch back. Then, I could break away.
Lesus-as-Earth started us off. "I have already shared this, but let me say it again to make it clear. I'm Lesus."
Judgment, who was supporting not-me, softly said, "I'm Elmairy."
It was true that Judgment was actually very kind, but Elmairy as Judgment still felt super weird. I'm not sure I'd want someone who could smile as sweetly as Elmairy to interrogate me. He might even add a few stabs to his straw dolls while he's at it.
Georgo-as-Metal briefly said, "Georgo here."
It seemed that we were randomly taking our turns. I still don't know what I should do.
Roland... no, Hell... no, whoever he was, raised his hand. "I'm Laica!"
I'd never seen "Roland" act so exuberantly. He rarely even broke into smiles, and ever since we'd ended up on opposite sides, he had only grown even more serious. This was quite a big difference from his usual seriousness.
Cloud was surprisingly easy to spot, or perhaps it wasn't so surprising, since he wasn't Cloud. He ran a hand through his hair and said, "Ceo."
I glanced around, unable to rely on sensing, trying to find where Demos might be, but everyone was present. Maybe it hasn't been long enough for Demos to be able to vanish in his current body.
"I'm Demos," came a quiet voice from Moon. He pulled at Moon's bangs, as if he wanted to cover his eyes with them.
Ah, no wonder. Moon was flashy, his usual pride pretty much a scream for attention. Whether Moon's flashiness or Demos's own inconspicuousness would win out was yet to be seen.
Leaf chimed in loudly and pounded on his chest, "Chikus here!"
Leaf kicking doors...
Lesus-as-Earth gave him a nod. I could see some of them counting, perhaps wondering who was left. I still couldn't make myself speak up or run away.
Not-me whispered, voice a bit shaky, "I'm Vival. Whose body am I in? Is it Sun's? I can't see..." He gripped Elmairy's arm tightly, twisting the dark fabric of his sleeves between his fingers.
That's right. Without knowing how to use sensing, he must have been plunged into a sea of darkness.
"Yes, you are currently Sun," Lesus-as-Earth answered.
"Then, where is Sun?" Chikus-as-Leaf blurted.
Eyes stared at me, Stone, Blaze, and Storm.
Storm waved his hand and clarified, "I'm definitely not Sun. This is Aivis here."
I... what should I do?
Blaze curtly said, "Ecilan."
So that's where Ecilan is... To think I'd ever see Blaze be such an ice cube...
There were only not-Stone and me left. Not-Stone looked at me with a steady gaze. It had to be Roland. The Stone Knight wasn't a bad fit for him. Few people were more stubborn than Roland.
If I hint at it, would he get the hint? Would he play along and let me hide a bit longer?
However, I immediately discarded the idea. I was sure I could pretend to be Roland for a bit, but it was unlikely that Roland could believably pass off as me in front of the Twelve Holy Knights for any length of time.
I rather doubted he would agree either, or if he'd get the hint. He wasn't Adair.
Roland-as-Stone said to me, "Sun."
Can I hope that they'd mistake that and think he's saying that he's Sun?
Though maybe I shouldn't hope that. There's no telling if Roland might vanish or not with his lingering obsession fulfilled in such a strange way. He has always wanted to be the Sun Knight...
Does that still hold true, even now?
"He's Sun." Roland-as-Stone pointed at me, leaving me no way out. Then, he said, "I'm Roland."
I was caught, the decision taken out of my hands.
Leaf—no, Chikus—immediately pounced on me, grabbing me by the waist from the back. The force almost knocked me over.
"Quick, don't let him run away!" Chikus yelled, except what came out was Leaf's high voice that I rarely ever heard raised except in extreme situations, such as that time he actually slapped a princess. That sure was extreme and even landed him his sweetheart.
"I'm not going to run away," I finally managed to say.
Lesus-as-Earth gave me a look. Even knowing that he was Lesus was no use. Seeing that kind of look from Earth really makes me want to punch him!
But I knew better than to hurt my own hands. Wait, I'm Ice right now. I might really be able to punch him!
Okay, fine, enough joking around. I did want to run away, but I decided against it in the end! See? I'm still here! Stop giving me that look already. I can't... I can't leave without knowing if you're all okay. But I'm not going to stay either if staying will endanger all of you.
I... I don't know what to do... How can I keep everyone safe?
I took a deep breath and said, "Please, believe me. I'm not going to run away. Now, can someone explain to me what's going on? Not the body swap part, even though that's confusing too, but just earlier, you were all dead."
Chapter 3: 3: Grisia
"From start to finish, the only person you fought against was Roland." Earth—no, Lesus—explained, "We played dead so that you would be forced to use Resurrection and want holy element. You would have no choice but to expel the dark element and welcome the holy element, reverting back to your Sun Knight state."
Play dead? You all...
The pain that had exploded across my chest the moment I'd become Ice had been real. He had had a huge X-shaped injury across his chest, deep enough to show bone. Their act definitely hadn't been as simple as "playing" dead. They'd truly inflicted heavy injuries on themselves, just for my sake. Just so I wouldn't doubt them.
I touched my chest, the skin there still sensitive. One wrong step, and they would have truly died.
I looked toward "Roland," but "Stone" instead gave a nod, acknowledging Lesus's words. I had to remind myself that Stone was Roland, while the person with the scrunched up face to the side wasn't him. From Laica's expression, occupying a dead person's body probably wasn't a fun experience.
As Lesus explained, each of them came over and grabbed me, and "Moon" even grabbed my hair when all other locations were already taken. Grabbing my hair was no easy feat when my current hair was so short.
"Ouch!" I cried out.
Startled, he quickly let go and settled on putting one hand on my head. All the while, he kept pulling on the bangs of his own hair, trying to bring it to the front to cover his eyes.
Good job, Demos, cover those condescending eyes!
However, that wasn't the matter at hand.
"Why are you all holding me?" I asked.
I mean, even Vival, who was currently blind, let Lesus guide him over to grab onto me. Only Laica-as-Hell had given up and stood to the side, instead nudging Roland-as-Stone forward. Having ten men all huddled around me was no fun, and one of them was even myself!
"I already told you that I'm not going to run away."
At this point, someone suddenly appeared from behind one of the pillars. That old coot! He was hiding the entire time! He hadn't even come out when we were all confused and trying to figure things out. Without my sensing ability, I hadn't at all known he was there.
I glowered at him, the temperature dropping. Quite literally. Huh, the ice element sure responds even more readily than usual.
The Pope put his hands up to pacify me. "Hey, how would I know if whatever happened to you twelve would catch or not? I don't want to suddenly find myself stuck as the Storm Knight! I might drop dead from exhaustion. That would be very unfortunate."
To the side, "Cloud" tapped his feet, as if he wanted to throw out a kick at the Pope.
"Ahem." The Pope cleared his throat and quickly moved on. "Simply put, we teleported you out so that the Demon King could be sealed. The seals are already drawn on everyone's chests. All they need is contact with you, and your complete acceptance of having the Demon King's power sealed away. The Twelve Holy Knights and the Divine Sun Sword will serve as your temporary seal. Once we return to the city, we can set up a permanent seal with Leaf Bud City as the base."
So that's what Adair and Elaro were up to. They'd done everything they could to get me here.
"What about this massive mix-up we're currently experiencing?"
The Pope scratched his face. "Well, I haven't had the time to analyze it yet, but my guess is that this is a side effect of having the holy light from Resurrection react with the seals we've drawn. You cast enough holy light to activate the seals prematurely, so this happened."
The Pope shrugged.
"This isn't what the seal is supposed to do, is it?" I asked.
It was just too crazy. If they'd planned on this... on having me thrown out of my body so that someone else could take on the Demon King's role, then that could only be called an insane plan. Being the Demon King is no walk in the park! Roland was right. Once the power takes over, normal thinking just isn't...
It just isn't so simple.
"This wasn't exactly what the seal was supposed to do, but usage of the seal has never been fully documented. This could be the actual result of the seal. Perhaps the way the seal works is precisely that it will kick you out of your body," the Pope explained.
And let someone else suffer? I won't allow it!
"Why are you all grabbing me, then? Aren't there more important things to worry about..." ...than me?
I let my words trail off. That argument would never convince them. Instead, I said, "I can't return."
"Yes, you can," Lesus immediately countered.
No, I can't. I cut off all paths of return. There's no way back.
"I almost killed Vidar."
Lesus shook his head. "He knew the risks."
That's your vice-captain we're talking about! You can't just pass it off like that.
"I let five hundred holy knights get killed," I whispered, still not believing Adair's words that they hadn't died.
However, an infuriating smile came over Lesus's face. It was probably his usual strange smile, but on Earth's face, it was more like a smirk.
"What?!" I yelled at him.
Cloud, no, Ceo, mumbled, "Wow, so weird hearing Ice shout.
And it's super weird seeing Cloud be such a busybody!
Lesus explained, "That fight was a show for you. No one actually died."
Relief flooded me, and I finally dared to believe that they were truly alive and well.
"You can return, Sun," Lesus said patiently. "We will be your temporary seal, and the Church of the God of Light will be the support."
It was as if he were telling me, We are your home. Return to us.
Even after all I had done, they wanted me back.
I felt my eyes burn and heard someone say that such a defenseless look on Ice's face should really be against the rules. I forced some words out. "Do you plan to let the world get destroyed? I can't be the Sun Knight! I have to be the Demon King, or else..."
Georgo-as-Metal snorted. "Do you even realize you have ten men hanging onto you right now? I don't know about you, but I'd like to get this over with already. Make up your mind!"
Just like that, he destroyed the somber mood, and I became all too aware that I did indeed have ten men hanging onto me. Moon... Demos was even rubbing my hair. I wanted to swat his hand away, but I couldn't even do that when Storm—Aivis—and Bla...Ecilan both held onto one of my hands tightly, tying me down better than any chain could.
"Do you realize," I began to say, since I couldn't move much at all, "that since we're all swapped at the moment, maybe you should all be grabbing onto Vival instead?"
There was a moment of collective silence.
"Ah!" Everyone exclaimed.
Our formation soon changed into a large huddle with Vival and me in the center.
"Grisia Sun, are you willing to have the Demon King's power sealed?" asked the Pope.
"Will the seal even work?" I asked in return. We weren't ourselves at the moment.
The Pope explained, "The ritual is currently partially activated. We just need to finish it. In the best case scenario, finishing the ritual will return you all to your original bodies and seal away the Demon King's power."
"And the worst case scenario?"
"The seal will fail and the Demon King will resurface."
I frowned. "Let me ask this instead. What's most likely to happen?"
"If you're willing for the power to be sealed away," the Pope explained, "we should be able to successfully accomplish that. But it may or may not come with the added benefit of returning you to your bodies. That's my best guess. Are you willing, Grisia? The seal requires your acceptance to succeed. If you're not willing, even I'm unsure how it will affect the current mix-up."
I could end up hurting them. I needed to make sure the world wouldn't get destroyed. I shouldn't return. I shouldn't...
But I wasn't the Demon King at the moment. I wasn't even the Sun Knight.
Thanks to that, I could think very clearly.
Vival was holding onto me as if his life depended on it. As the current occupant of my body, he could very well be under the influence of the Demon King the moment we were to leave. I couldn't let that happen to him.
To any of my brothers.
There was only one choice I could make.
Chapter 4: 4: Ecilan
Sun was back. We managed to get Sun back. However, he was quiet, too quiet, letting too many thoughts trouble him. His was a face I knew intimately yet never saw, a cold, impassive face I'd trained myself into presenting to the world. It was always stiff, betraying nothing. Sun should be much more expressive than this, but even such an expressive person was muted once in my skin, hidden behind walls. Sun, don't fall into my patterns. Don't be so quiet. It made me afraid that he was planning to run away.
The ritual had succeeded in sealing away the Demon King's power, but it hadn't succeeded in switching us back.
Rather, it had succeeded in sealing us into each other's bodies.
"Right, it is a sealing ritual, after all," the Pope had said after the fact. Immediately after he spoke, he'd had to hide behind Earth, the one who was actually Judgment on the inside, or else he might have become a huge slab of ice courtesy of Sun.
Sun hadn't been happy with the result. He had been shaken, hands clenched, regretting his choice, and now he was quiet, too quiet.
I reached out, grabbing hold of his hand again—my cold, cold hands—afraid of his silence.
"Bla—" he began saying automatically when he noticed me, then finished with, "Ecilan."
I'd never been good with words. If I had been, would I have been able to bring Sun back before he had almost done the unforgivable? If I had stopped him before he had thrown Blaze at the dragon back when he'd lost his memories, would the trust between us be stronger? Would Sun blame himself less and be more willing to save himself?
Even though I wasn't good with words, I had to try. I couldn't just leave Sun in doubt. "Sun," I said, "even if I must be displaced for the rest of my life, it would be worth it to have you back."
Sometimes, the only way to get through to Sun was to tell him straight, leaving nothing up for interpretation.
He stared at me and then at all the others, like we were all out of our minds. Although I hadn't spoken with anyone to ask them what they thought of the situation, they were all nodding and agreeing with me, with the exception of the other Sun, the one who was actually Moon, and Moon, the one who was actually Cloud. One was too used to not being able to nod, and the other physically couldn't at the moment.
"How can you say something like that without even changing your expression?" Sun gaped. But a moment later, he muttered, "Oh, who am I kidding? You're Ecilan, the champion of ice cubes!"
I cracked a small smile at that. That's more like Sun.
"A shy smile on Blaze's face is so weird," Sun muttered, raising a hand to his hair only to discover that it was too short to play with the ends.
Seeing myself mutter like that, making those kinds of comments, was also quite strange.
To the side, Leaf, who was the true Blaze instead of me, nodded in agreement. He slapped me on the back and exclaimed, "You can smile, you know! Actually smile. Like this!"
A wide, infectious smile pulled across Leaf's face, giving him an unrestrained look.
I tried smiling more widely.
"Uh, keep working on it! You can do it!" Blaze said with not quite a vote of confidence. Instead of practicing how not to smile, I might have to practice how to smile in front of the mirror now. Whatever Blaze had seen, it was not a passing smile.
Blaze then whirled to face Sun. "He's right, you know! Totally worth it. I don't even mind becoming shorter—sorry Leaf, but you're really short—if it means the twelve of us can be back together. If we're missing any one of us, we wouldn't be the Twelve Holy Knights."
Blaze had always been the most vocal of us about our bonds. Could I too be as big-hearted as he is?
"You can let go now," Sun said, as I was still holding his hand.
"Stay, Sun," I said softly. Stay.
I searched his face—my face—looking for a sign, a hint that I could let go and still be sure that he would remain after I did so, that he wouldn't go off and try to solve everything by himself. It was almost like staring into a mirror. He left absolutely no openings. But this was my face, so logically, I should know it well. Sun was—
Blaze slapped us both on the back. "Come on, let's figure this out together."
The first cracks appeared in Sun's mask. Leave it to Blaze to be able to break through all awkwardness.
Sun offered a small nod and said, "Don't worry your head off, Wastelan. I'm not going anywhere. I mean, this is your body, after all."
I hadn't been worried about my body, but I relaxed a bit and said, "You better keep your word, or else, no blueberry pie."
Sun's eyes widened, a hint of his true character finally showing through my icy exterior. Someone snickered at his reaction. However, instead of being appalled that his pie was being held hostage, a wide grin spread across his face, much like the one Blaze said I was allowed to have. I never knew I could look like that. Never in front of the mirror was I able to smile so truthfully like he currently was. He exclaimed, "Now, I'm definitely staying. How I've missed your blueberry pies!"
Just like how we've missed your blue eyes.
And even your terrible nicknames.
Welcome home, Sun. Welcome home, Grisia.
By the time we cleaned up and healed everyone, night crept up on us. We sat around the campfire to get our bearings and to plan. We were twelve in number once again, and the Pope and the three liches were here with us as well. The liches were somehow all in the forms of small crystal dolls, around the same size as the straw dolls that sometimes showed up around the Holy Temple, most often in the hands of the Leaf Knight Platoon.
The lich called Scarlet was perched on Sun's shoulder like an ornamental piece to my armor, while Pink had taken a similar spot on the shoulder of Stone, who was actually Hell on the inside. Pink had threaded her way between our feet to reach him, but he never bent down to pick her up. However, she didn't let that hinder her, taking it upon herself to clamber up all the way to his shoulders.
Scarlet was whispering and conversing with Sun. The latter pair was much more silent. Pink had attempted to speak with Hell, but the conversation had been completely one-sided, and then she stopped altogether, leaving an awkward silence between them. However, Hell didn't remove her.
The third lich, Stephen, had no candidate to go to, and he didn't like any of us. He opted to sit by himself, a small, black doll easily overlooked under the darkening skies. Somehow, however, he eventually ended up on the Pope's shoulder.
The Pope was to return to the Holy Temple to research how to return us to ourselves, and whether removing the current seal would disturb the balance we currently had. We'd also outlined our plan to Sun to deal with the dark element that corroded the continent by having him battle with Hell every half a year. It was therefore ideal if we could figure out how to switch back before then, or else Moon would need to do a lot of learning about controlling the dark element, but Sun definitely wouldn't let anyone suffer in his place. If he were the kind to do that, he'd have been the one to return from the Cathedral of the Shadow God instead of Hell back then.
Meanwhile, there was still the "Demon King" to take care of and both the Cathedral of the Shadow God and the Kingdom of Kissinger to negotiate with.
While we pretended to be each other.
I held my hands in front of me. These hands were a much darker shade than my own, a healthy shade that saw lots of sun. These hands were also much warmer than my own, suitable for baking bread.
The fire before us flickered, threatening to go out.
Curious, I reached a hand out, certain that the fire element would answer my call now that I was currently the Blaze Knight. It had always been impossible for me to gather the fire element, so I'd become an expert at other ways of starting fires for all my baking needs, but currently, things were different. I focused, beckoning the fire element to converge...
The campfire promptly burst into a towering flame even more massive than the dragon we'd fought in the Valley of Trizer.
Oh. That's not quite what I intended to do.
Sun yelped and immediately turned the campfire into a giant slab of ice.
We stared at it, speechless.
Blaze was the first to break into guffaws, laughing so hard that he had to stop for air and to push Leaf's headband out of his eyes. Judgment, who was the actual Leaf, couldn't stop blinking at Blaze, expression perplexed.
Er, would we be able to pretend to be each other?
"T-The look on your faces!" Blaze finally managed to squeeze out, nearly doubled over. "Man, Ice, you need some practice, or you might even burn our tents down."
"I'll practice," I said. I'll practice until I can even heat up the oven properly with just the use of the fire element.
It would be very useful for baking.
Chapter 5: 5: Ecilan
Our first test came before we could practice much.
"How do I look?" Sun asked me while standing tall and still, face void of emotion. It was a different kind of stillness than the grace he displayed as the Sun Knight. Before I could respond, he went on to say, "Spot on, right? Enough to trick him?"
I looked him over a bit more carefully. While we knew ourselves that we were all displaced, there really wasn't anything different he needed to do to appear as the emotionless Ice Knight to the public. They wouldn't be able to tell the difference... as long as we didn't actually have to go into battle.
I frowned. That's exactly what we have to do soon—fight a mock war for the public's eye.
Until we defeated the "Demon King," there would be no dessert making in the kitchen.
Besides, he would be able to tell the difference.
I reached for the Divine Blaze Sword, the hilt almost warm to the touch, unlike the usual chill of the Divine Ice Sword. I pulled the heavy sword in front of me.
Calmness fled from Sun's face, replaced by surprise. "I can't be that bad that you want to cut me down!"
I flicked my eyes at the Divine Ice Sword hanging by his waist.
Sun raised both eyebrows. "You want me to fight you with—" he drew the sword out, "this?"
I nodded and gave a few experimental swings before leveling the Divine Blaze Sword at Sun, the weight of the blade heavy in my hands. How would Blaze act in this situation? I think... he would be loud and say exactly what he wanted to do? So, I tested the words out and said, "...Ice, up for a spar?"
And... Blaze would follow that up with a grin?
I immediately knew that the grin was not much better than my attempt at a smile because Sun was giving me a weird look.
"You know, I don't know which smile is more awkward," he said, nodding at me and then at Judgment, who was awkwardly attempting Earth's famous, bashful smile. "Yours, or his."
Judgment's smile was more of a grimace than a smile, like the kind he would unconsciously show when something was too sweet. I'd resolved never to feed him any of Sun's chocolates to spare him that. To the side, Metal... no, no, Earth, had on a look of disbelief at Judgment's smile.
I tried relaxing my grin, and I let my shoulders loosen as well. There was no need to be so still.
"Ice," I forced myself to speak louder, "let's fight already."
Sun remained rooted to the spot, which fit my fighting style, whether or not he had intended it. "Sword idiot," he muttered.
As for Blaze's fighting style, it was the complete opposite of mine. He always took the initiative and struck hard, favoring strength over strategy.
Then, that's what I need to do instead of just standing here.
I rushed forward, swinging the Divine Blaze Sword at Sun, forcing him to take action. Instead of blocking me, Sun dodged to the left, the temperature dropping.
A glance told me that ice crystals had gathered by his feet, allowing him to glide effortlessly. Flakes of crystals traveled up his pants and his arms, even around his wrists, all the way to circle the Divine Ice Sword. He followed my gaze to the sword in his hand and said with a shrug, "The popsicle made it too easy."
Ignoring his disrespect of my weapon, I considered his words. Indeed, the sword was always icy and made gathering the ice element easier. It was just that I usually saved the ice element for icing my desserts instead of using it in a fight. After all, a lot of ice was required to keep the desserts of an entire Holy Temple fresh. My enemies, on the other hand, usually went down in one strike that fighting with the ice element was almost never necessary.
We caught everyone else's attention with our spar, and Earth—no, Judgment—even came over to give me some pointers on how to wield the Divine Blaze Sword, as it was a much heavier blade than my own. As I corrected my grip, Sun seemed to take that as an opening and struck.
Quick and direct.
The sword was surprisingly still in his hand. I blocked him.
"Could it be that Sun will be able to keep a hold of his sword now that he's not Sun?" someone asked. Metal? Hell? Metal, right? It was difficult to keep them straight in the middle of a spar. "Is it possible? All we needed for Sun to be cured is for him to be booted out of his body?"
"Hey, I resent that," Sun grumbled even as he rubbed his right wrist. He widened the distance between us.
"That's great news then! Oh, but that means... Oh man, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Good luck Moon. You'll need all the luck in the world," someone else said. Storm? No, Stone?
"Geez, thanks," Moon answered. "I'll add overcoming Sun's infamous swordsmanship onto the list of everything else I need to learn. Like, you know, sensing my surroundings. Easy. As if!"
Scarlet actually gave him a pat with her tiny hands.
For the time being, she had switched to perching on Moon's shoulder to be his eyes, and she claimed that they could easily speak to each other using telepathy, so carrying out a secret conversation wouldn't be a problem even in public. While Moon wasn't experienced at telepathy, Scarlet was, and she could direct the conversation even if Moon only thought at her in broken sentences.
Besides, Sun was a natural at telepathy. It should rub off on Moon, as he was currently Sun. At least, we hoped so.
Sun decided to strike again, possibly thinking that the conversation was distracting me. With Sun taking the initiative, I defaulted to my wait-and-see mode again, and the very next moment, I found myself knocking the Divine Ice Sword out of Sun's hand with a swing of my blade.
That wasn't what I had meant to do. Definitely too different from Blaze's style.
The sword landed a distance away from us. Sun walked over to pick it up, only to freeze. I looked over, following the direction the sword had flown in, eyes coming to rest at a pair of feet clad in black shoes lined with gold. I lifted my head. The rest of the person's outfit was similarly deep black with intricate golden designs, giving him a nefarious air that was mitigated only by his messy blond hair that betrayed his hurry to get here.
The Black General. The Demon King's top general and also Sun's vice-captain, as we had suspected given the timing of Adair's departure from the Holy Temple and the appearance of the Black General.
When did he arrive?
I hoped he had only just gotten here.
We had sent him news that our plan of getting Sun back was successful and so were expecting his arrival. We just hadn't filled him in on what had actually happened to us. If we could keep him from suspecting anything, then we could fool anyone. That was the suggested test. More like a challenge, actually. Earth claimed it was an impossible challenge.
Whoever gave us away would be tasked with explaining the situation to him and with taking care of preparations.
I hadn't seen him since he'd left the Holy Temple. Although he was pale and his hair was a mess right now, he appeared far happier than he had been during those aimless days without his captain, when he had wandered down the hallways like a spirit. Even giving him specialized bags of sweets had been of no help. They had only served to remind him of his captain's absence.
Adair bent down and picked up the Divine Ice Sword. As he handed it back to Sun, he murmured, "Captain..."
Sun took the sword stiffly.
It can't be that Adair has already seen through us?
Adair, however, was actually looking at Moon and hadn't paid attention to Sun's reaction.
"Captain..." Adair nearly whispered, voice shaky. He blinked hard, but despite the moisture gathering in his eyes, he refused to tear his eyes away from the sight of his captain in the flesh. Clear blue eyes, although unfocused, turned his way. Then, in a louder voice, Adair shouted, "Captain!"
He all but ran toward whom he thought was his captain.
Sun watched on in disgust. If Adair had been looking his way, Sun would have given himself, and subsequently the rest of us, away already.
Moon only had time to question, "Adair?" when Sun's vice-captain had already reached him, and in his excitement, gripped his "captain's" shoulders and startled him.
Adair exclaimed, "I'm so happy you have finally returned, Captain!"
Scarlet hopped out of the way, grabbing Moon's hair to pull herself on top of his head. "Careful there," she admonished from her perch.
Adair stepped back and wiped his face, regaining his composure. "Sorry, I'm just so elated. Welcome back, Captain. You are back, right?"
"Of course," Moon answered, chin tilted upward. "You played a huge part in making that happen. Thank you."
I agreed wholeheartedly. If not for Adair's involvement, Sun could have done something he would have regretted forever, and we would have had a difficult time getting him to our side once we were ready with the ritual.
"I-It was no problem," Adair answered. "I'm glad you're back."
"I'm glad he's, I mean, I'm glad to be back too," Moon said, quickly correcting himself when Scarlet pulled on his hair.
Adair merely nodded and eyed Scarlet. She cleared her throat, as if she had been trying to grab his attention. But why would a small crystal doll need to clear her throat? She doesn't have an actual throat... She then said, "I must thank you too for bringing my child back to where he belongs."
It seemed that they were all focused on sharing their gratitude, as Adair then said to Scarlet, "And I have to thank you in return for your aid."
"What?!" Sun abruptly exclaimed. "She would nev—"
He hurriedly covered his mouth, but it was too late. Adair swiveled his head to look back at Sun.