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The stench of blood almost completely overpowered the smell of smoke as the Reeden family manor burned. The bodies of servants littered the floor as the Northern Forces' soldiers slaughtered them one by one as they made their way through the house to the Reeden family.

"Crocell, you need to run!" Crocell's father insisted. They had been making their way to the exit, the soldiers hot on their trail.

"But what about you and Mother?!" Crocell demanded.

"Listen to what your father tells you!" his mother snapped, startling her son.

"Remember what you've learned with fire wizardry and you'll be fine," his father insisted. The house shook as it began to crumble. "Now get out of here!"

The soldiers finally caught up to them, charging at the family with swords raised. Crocell's father took one down with a fireball and killed another that went after his wife with a Plasma Ball. One solder managed to sneak up behind Crocell's father, running him through with his sword. At the same time, Crocell's mother was cut down by another.

"Mother! Father!" Crocell screamed. The soldiers began advancing on him, swords raised. "No! I don't want to die!"

With that, Crocell fired off a fireball at the first soldier attempting to attack him. Two of the others swung their swords and Crocell leaped back, one sword nicking his arm. Crocell flinched at the sudden sting, but continued to fight back.

"Damn kid!" the last remaining solder growled, bringing his sword down. Crocel tried to back up, only for his back to come in contact with the wall behind him. The sword sliced him across the chest, blood splattering as Crocell collapsed to the floor.

"Dammit...!" Crocell spat, blood spilling from his mouth. "I... I can't die... like this!"

As the soldier raised his sword to deal a finishing blow, adrenaline coursed through Crocell, blocking out the pain, as he used the last of his strength to push himself up and tackle the soldier to the ground, knocking the sword from his hands.

"You bastards killed my mother, my father, and everyone else living in this manor. You guys deserve the same!" Crocell growled, charging a fireball in his hand.

"Please don't kill me!" the soldier begged.

"How many times have you heard those exact same words?" Crocell asked, leaping back and firing a large fireball at the helpless soldier, reducing him to a charred heap.

Pain began to seep back into Crocell's body as the adrenaline left him, making him collapse to one knee, one hand clutching his wound. Smoke filled the entire house now, making Crocell lightheaded. Burning beams of wood were falling all around him as the house groaned and trembled.

'Need... to get...outta here...!' Crocell thought, heaving himself back onto his feet. The door leading outside was just down the hallway. He took one unsteady step after another, getting closer and closer to the door. His vision was starting to double and blur and the smoke and the blood loss began to cloud his senses. He coughed into his hand, not surprised at all to find blood on it when he pulled it away. A burning piece of wood almost hit the fire wizard, landing right in front of him. He covered his face with one arm as sparks of fire flew up at him.

At last, Crocell reached his goal, ramming his shoulder up against the door until it finally broke, Cocell tumbling onto the cobblestone streets of Belfort. He took several deep breaths, relishing the fresh air entering his smoke-filled lungs. However, he could hear footsteps pounding toward him. He turned his eyes toward the source of it, dread building up in his chest when he saw several more Northern Force soldiers charging at him.

'I can't die... not here...not now... not when I've gotten so far...!' Crocell thought. He started to pull himself back up, blood still cascading from his wound. He stumbled and fell back down, all his strength gone. Black spots began to invade his vision.

However, through his darkening vision, he swears he sees blasts of wind wizardry hitting the soldiers. Next, a small woman is cutting them down. She leaps back, using lightning wizardry to take out the rest.

'Am I hallucinating...?' Crocell wondered. As the world around him started to fade into total darkness, he swears he sees the Princess of Lanzheim, Rzephillda, running toward him, crouching down next to him.

"Rue! I need help with this one! Hey! Hang in there!"

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Warmth filled Crocell's body, all his pain vanishing. He cracked one crimson eye open. Standing over him was Princess Rzephillda, using healing wizardry one him. She stopped, gazing at him with relief in her eyes.

"You're awake at last," she breathed. Crocell glanced around to see where they were. They seemed to be in a building. The small woman he'd seen before was leaning against a wall. She had short blonde hair and was wearing a backpack with two daggers attached.

"Where am I?" Crocell managed to say, his throat feeling like sandpaper and his voice hoarse. He wasn't surprised by this, considering he'd inhaled a lot of smoke. He was fairly surprised his lungs hadn't been destroyed by it, though.

"We're in Abazet," the Princess replied. "We took a Karma here and I was healing you the entire time. We had heard that Schuenzeit was going to be attacking the nobles of Belfort who were opposed to him and we went there as soon as possible. I'm just sorry to say we weren't able to get there fast enough." The Princess hung her head.

"The only one who should be sorry is that bastard Schuenzeit," Crocell growled, his voice cracking. "He's the one who ordered the attack in the first place. He's the one who killed my parents and the servants working in our manor. You have nothing to appologize for."

"I'm glad to see you're reasonable enough," the blonde haired woman said. "Most of the other people we saved would disagree with you. I'm Rue, and this is Princess Rzephillda."

"You can call me Zephie, though," the Princess interrupted. "Lots of people call me that. So what's your name?"

"Crocell Reeden," Crocell replied with a cough, his throat aching from talking.

"You want to get revenge on Schuenzeit, correct?" Zephie asked. "Count Alex and I have formed the Southern Forces in order to oppose the Northern Forces. Would you like to be part of our unit?"

"Which unit?" Crocell asked.

"The Counter-Sentinal Unit," Rue replied. "Our unit's purpose is to destroy the Sentinals that Schuenzeit employs. It's a dangerous job, though."

"However, we need more wizards in our unit. We understand that you must've eliminated the soldiers that attacked your family, otherwise you probably would not have escaped. Those soldiers weren't the normal pushovers either. You seem to have skills that we need in our unit," Zephie explained.

"Will I be able to fight Schuenzeit?" Crocell asked.

"If this war goes the way we want it to go, then yes," Rue replied.

"Then I'm signing up," Crocell said.

"Good," Zephie replied. "Welcome to the Counter-Sentinal Unit."