|Once and Always|
|Book: Once and Always, Chapter 15|
Chapter 14: Gauntlet of the Ring
Book 3 - Suzuka: Curse of Time
Chapter 15: Love, Revenge, and Loyalty
Once Suzuka emerged in the chamber beyond the fire, the first thing she saw as she walked down the stairs was the strange woman from before standing in the middle of it.
"You." said Suzuka, catching the woman's attention "I thought so."
"I didn't expect you to catch up to me so quickly." said the woman "We must have come down here at least fifteen minutes before you did."
"Do you really think she got all the information she needed without help?" said Erlea, who emerged out from behind a nearby pillar and joined the woman
"Erlea? What are you doing here?" Suzuka asked in surprise
"I was just helping things along with my mother." Erlea responded
"Your mother?" Suzuka asked as many more questions popped into her head
"Of course, we haven't officially met. I'm Dina Omag. Erlea's dear-old-mom." Dina introduced herself
"Omag? That's Omeggadon's-"
"His real surname. Yes." said Dina "As you've been told, Erlea's surname is Gamo. That was a lie."
"Gamo is Omag spelled backwards." said Suzuka "But then that would make Omeggadon...."
"Erlea's father, yes." said Dina "We never married, but I took on his name all the same. I still remember when he asked me to carry his child, I was only 14 years old. After all those times he tried to kill you and your parents, I'm going to kill you tonight!"
"Wait! What? You never said anything about that." said Erlea with every tone of surprise
"I know what you're thinking Suzuka Henrietta." said Dina, ignoring Erlea "You can understand your parents fighting Omeggadon, but not fighting you."
"I was born the same night he died." said Suzuka
"True. But what you were, clearly, never told, was that almost a year before you were born, another version of you came back to the past to change what had happened. And she was successful. Omeggadons Hogarian Empire, never came into existence."
"Hogarian Empire?" Suzuka said, becoming more and more confused
"Now's not the time to press the subject. Wait there while I examine this interesting mirror."
As Dina turned her back to Suzuka, Suzuka then realized what was in the middle of the room. It was the Mirror of Hearts.
"I see what I most desire." said Dina "I see myself holding the Ring of Anderville, and I'm presenting it to Omeggadon. But how do I get it? Is it in the mirror?"
"Use the girl." said a ghostlike voice, that Suzuka couldn't find the souce of
"Come here Suzuka Henrietta! Now!" Dina demanded as Erlea pointed her wand at Suzuka. Feeling it was best to obey at this point, she walked to the front of the mirror and looked in. "Now tell me, what do you see?" Dina asked
Suzuka clenched her fists and continued to look in, saying to herself over and over again that she must not let the ring fall into Dina's hands. Then all of a sudden, her reflection smiled at her, lifted one of her clenched fists and opened it to reveal the ring. It was silver with a purple jewel in it. Then, her reflection winked at her, undid one of her upper shirt buttons, and placed the Ring of Anderville deep between her breasts, and then re-buttoned her shirt. Suzuka felt the ring materialize right where her reflection had put it. Somehow, she had gotten the ring, and was now hiding it on her person.
"What is it, what do you see?" Dina demanded
"I-I'm kneeling before Queen Henrietta." Suzuka lied "I've become a Chevalier."
"She lies." said the ghostly voice again
"Tell the truth!" Erlea demanded "What do you see?"
"Let me speak to her. Face to face." said the voice as Suzuka slowly backed away
"My dear, you are not strong enough." said Dina
"I have strength enough for this." the voice responded
As Suzuka backed away even further, Dina turned her back to Suzuka, undid her cloak, and let it fall away. She then unbuttoned her shirt, and let it fall away too. Suzuka never managed to let out a yell of horror. In the middle of Dina's back, just below her shoulders, was the face of Omeggadon himself.
"Suzuka Henrietta li Bala de vi Hiraga, we meet again." said Omeggadon
"Omeggadon!" said Suzuka
"Yes. You see what I've become? See what I would do to survive? Live off another, a mere parasite. Shortly before my death, I cast an enchantment upon dear Dina, so that I would remain bound to this world."
"My dear old dad will go to any lengths to get his way." said Erlea
"True my child. Any leangths. But there is nothing else I know of that can give me a body of my own. But there is something that can. Do you know what it is Suzuka? It now lies hidden in your very chest." realizing that he knew, Suzuka tried to make a break for it before the potion she used to get through the fire wore off "Stop her." Omggeadon ordered, and Erlea made even hotter flames, that potion surely wouldn't work on, appear in the doorway "Don't be a fool." he said as Suzuka turned to face them again "Why suffer death, when you can join us, and live."
"Never!" Suzuka shouted
"Bravery." Omeggadon said almost lazily "Your old self had it too. Tell me, Suzuka. Would you like to see what you see in the mirror to come true?" at that moment, Suzuka saw herself as Guiche Jr.'s bride in the mirror again "Together, we can make it happen, the four of us can make anything happen. All I ask, is something in return." Suzuka undid an upper button on her shirt, and pulled out the ring from between her breasts. "That's it Suzuka. There is no good and evil. There is only power. and those too weak to seek it. Together, we'll all do extraordinary things. Just give me the ring."
"YOU LIAR!" Suzuka shouted, slipping the ring onto her own left middle-finger
"KILL HER!" Omeggadon ordered, and Dina turned around and launched herself right on top of Suzuka and began to strangle her, with one arm around Suzuka's neck, the other holding her left hand down.
"No!" Erlea yelled grabbing Dina around the neck and trying to pull her off. Apparently, she had a change of heart about this, as even she wouldn't go as far as to kill.
In a desperate attempt to free herself, Suzuka grabbed Dina's hand around throat with her free hand. The moment she did, Dina's hand began to sizzle and burn, along with the hand around Suzuka's left wrist. Still Dina would not let go. Nobody seemed to be able to do anything, but then....
"EXPLOSION!" someone yelled from the door. There was a large blast, and Suzuka fell unconscious.
In what seemed like a few seconds, Suzuka awoke with a start. It was a second before she realized where she was. She was in the infirmary, wearing her nightgown. None of the curtains were drawn, and Suzuka saw that on a couple of beds nearby were Dina and Erlea, both wearing nightgowns as well and still out if it. There was no sign of Guiche, Drako, or Hermione. Sitting in a chair on Suzuka's right was....
"Awake at last I see." said Louise with a smile across her face. Saito was sitting on Louise's right
"Mom, dad, how...? how long was I...?" Suzuka tried to ask
"Four days." said Saito "You and Drako had a string of visitors in that time. He was discharged yesterday."
"What about Guiche and Hermione?" Suzuka asked
"Both of them are still asleep." said Henrietta who just walked in the room "It's a bit early right now. Both of them spent a day here in the ward on nurses orders, and were discharged the following day." She sat down on Suzuka's bed "You gave us quite a scare."
"What about the Ring of-"
"Ah, we thought you might ask that." Henrietta interrupted "It's now under lock and key at the palace."
"And while we're on that subject, I have to ask. How did I get the ring? One second, I was standing there without it, and the next...."
"It was Queen Charlotte's idea." said Louise "You see, only the one who wanted to find the ring, to find it, but not use it, would be able to get it."
"It was one of her more brilliant idea's." said Saito "And yet, I sense something else is troubling you."
"(sigh) It was what Dina said to me down in that dungeon." Suzuka admitted "She said... that another version of me came back from the future to stop Omeggadon's Hogarian Empire from coming to exist."
"She was telling the truth." said Henrietta
"We never told you this because... we thought it irrelevant." said Louise "It was, after all, a thing of the past to us."
"There was another reason." said Henrietta "After all you went through, how much you suffered, we didn't want to cause you any more pain. We love you too much. Can you ever forgive us for not trusting you with this?"
"What's there to forgive?" said Suzuka, her hands around her knees "You were right not to tell me. I was much happier without knowing that. And I imagine that version of me is the one who died in that mission to Germania?"
Saito nodded "And speaking of forgiveness, your grandmother was one of the visitors you had after it became known knowledge what you did." he said "She sat by your side for over six hours, begging for your forgiveness for the way she treated you all these years."
"I'll be sure to tell her she has it." said Suzuka as Dina and Erlea began to stir.
"Welcome." said Henrietta as they woke up
"Where are we?" Dina asked
"In the academy infirmary." said Henrietta, "Shortly after Louise cast that explosion spell, Omeggadon left your body like a ghost, and fled, clearly to leave you to die."
"He wouldn't do that!" said Dina as she felt her back for Omeggadon's face. It really wasn't there anymore "I was his beloved, his...."
"His pawn." said Louise gravely "Omeggadon knows nothing of love. If he loved you, even a bit, he would've stayed and died with you. Of course, we don't kill if we can help it. We prefer to bring in people alive."
"She's right." said Erlea "And killing is a terrible thing to do. It's a violation against nature, it rips the soul apart."
"And you're not a person who will kill." said Suzuka "That's why you tried to stop him killing me. And because Omeggadon can't understand love, that's why Dina couldn't touch me without suffering injury."
"Your heart was full of love." said Saito
"Now back to you miss Dina." said Henrietta "How did you end up with Omeggadon?"
Realizing they were right about everything, Dina told her story "When I was very young, both my parents died. For a long time I wandered in the streets like a dog. A child nobody wanted. Then, he came to me. Omeggadon, or as he was known then, Iagnom de Omag. He took me in when no one else would. He gave me a home. In time, I became his personal maid, and his lover, or so I believed back then.
Then, when I was 14 years old, he was chased out of the Germanian palace. He told me he had to go into hiding, and asked me to bear his child so he could have an heir. I was so happy, I thought he had finally accepted me as his lover. And so, I carried his child, and gave birth. I also allowed him to cast that enchantment on me so that he would remain bound to the earth in the event he died trying to kidnap Suzuka. You all know the rest."
"As I said, you were just a pawn." said Louise "He never really had any affection for you, not even miss Erlea. You two were just tools."
"Looking back, I understand that now." said Dina "Your Majesty Henrietta, I'm so sorry. I was a fool, I was a...."
"An innocent child." said Henrietta kindly "An innocent child who didn't know any better."
"And so was I." said Erlea
"There's no lasting harm done. There will be no punishment." said Henrietta "In fact, you both will receive full pardons. Also, I would also like to offer you a place in my Musketeer Force miss Dina."
"Thank you Your Majesty." said Dina
"By the way," said Suzuka "Do you think Omeggadon's gone for good this time?"
"Alas, we don't know." said Saito "But we don't believe he's truly gone."
Two days later, the group gathered at he Royal Palce for a special event;
"It's great to have all that major trouble behind us." said Guiche, holding hands with Suzuka as they all walked into the palace. Erlea was with them too. The best part of this was that Erlea was now their friend, though still a rival with Suzuka for Guiche's affections.
"Too true." said Hermione, who was holding onto Drako's arm. After realizing how much they loved each other after all, they were now a couple as well.
Later in the throne room;
"I hereby dub thee, Suzuka Henrietta li Bala de vi Hiraga, Guiche de Gramont Jr., and Drako Colbert, all Chevaliers of Tristain." Henrietta proclaimed tapping the three on the shoulders with her staff. After that the all rose and bowed to the crowd, then made way for Dina's appointment. She was now wearing a Musketeer Force uniform, and keeled before Henrietta. "I hereby now appoint thee, Dina Omag, into the Musketeer Force, as a Chevalier." Henrietta tapped her on the shoulders too and Dina stood up and saluted to queen while the crowd applauded.
later on a palace balcony;
"I never thought I'd have you as a friend." said Suzuka "Or become a Chevalier."
"Me neither, girlfriend." said Erlea, and both she and Suzuka laughed
"I'll never understand girls." said Drako "One minute you're enemies, the next, you're friends."
"Now that you have a young and cute girlfriend, I thought you might understand." said Guiche
"I thought so too." said Hermione, and she and Drako kissed on the lips, their first kiss. Suzuka and Guiche kissed too while Erlea looked the other way and into the sunset. It was a pretty warm evening, Summer was almost here.
Not The End....
To be continued: Book 3 - Suzuka: Curse of Time