Chapter 1: Prologue
There once was a time when the four kingdoms of the Land of the Xiaolin: Pyronia, Skymond, Seismeccia and the Tsunami kingdom, lived in peace. Until the neighbouring kingdom of Heylin was cursed with a drought for its evil deeds and, instead of learning from this punishment, they merely raided and overthrew the nearest kingdom, Skymond.
The people of Skymond were scattered and the young prince, who was only a year old, and his family fled to the outskirts of the Land of the Xiaolin, where they waited for years to regain their kingdom.
But they never did. The other kingdoms were too afraid to make a move against the kingdom of Heylin, the people of Seismeccia were afraid of losing their warriors, the Heylin threatened to poison the water supplies of the Tsunami kingdom if they made any move against them and the young princes of these kingdoms were still too young – the Seismeccian prince, three years of age and the prince of the Tsunami kingdom, a year old – to unite their kingdoms in aid of Skymond.
Pyronia had their own problems to attend to. A young woman in the village had given birth, prematurely, to their young princess and had died bearing her. The child herself was very frail and the entire kingdom was anxiously bringing her father anything that might ensure her survival and by the time her survival was definite, a year had passed and almost all had forgotten about the plight of the Skymondian people.
And so, the young prince grew up away from his country and with no idea of his birthright and his duty to his country, whilst the Heylin grew impatient of only governing themselves and began attempting to overthrow the other kingdoms also.
Chapter 2: Of Prison & Ungraceful Landings
A teenaged boy wandered through the marketplace, his eyes darting around speedily as he took in the new sights, sounds and smells of a new town, a new country. Pyronia was so different from the outskirts of the Land of Xiaolin where he had grown up. The climate was similar, but less humid and there was a distinct absence of the breeze that he had loved so much. It had never failed to bring a smile to his face, no matter the emotion he was currently feeling; even that small breeze could calm him down.
He turned as he heard shouts from the other side of the square and his eyes widened as he saw several of the palace guards running towards him with a skinny, pale boy with flaming red hair and black eyeliner pointing at him, yelling "After him! After that thief!"
His eyes widened. 'Thief? Surely they don't mean me?' He thought to himself before turning to run, but too late, for the guards had already caught up with him, grabbing an arm each and twisting them behind his back. He struggled in utter confusion as he was dragged back to the young man who was perhaps a year or two older than himself. "Yes, that's him. To the dungeon." He sneered, in response to the unanswered question. The guards dragged him away like a puppy obeying its master while the red-headed man smirked maliciously.
"Oof!" The boy landed roughly on the cold, hard floor of the dark dungeon. He heard the guard snicker as he drew the heavy door shut and bolted it and struggled to his feet and slid down the wall and sat against it. He sighed heavily. Why was he here? What had he supposedly stolen?
"You must have done something terrible for them to place you in here with me." A voice spoke from the shadows. A female voice. "Well, you used to have to do something truly atrocious to be put in these dungeons."
"Who are you?" A small ball of flame appeared in the shadows, the same direction that the voice had come from, and rose into the air, hovering in the centre of the dungeon, providing light.
Without even looking at her, he knew the answer to his question. Only one person in the whole of the Land of Xiaolin could do that – the princess of Pyronia – but what was she doing in her own palace dungeon. Perhaps the people had revolted against her for the recent atrocities Pyronia had been committing. But, then again, Pyronia was still taking part in things of the same kind.
He glanced over at the figure he could now see in the corner. She was small, very much so, with impossibly tiny wrists which were encased in shackles and chained to the wall. Her face was framed with long curly black hair that looked limp and lifeless and contained the most mesmerising, bluest eyes he had ever seen. "I'm Kimiko Tohomiko." She stated, looking me over. "But you already knew that. Who are you?" Her voice was gentle and there was no doubt in it; she was sure of his knowledge of her name.
"Raimundo Pedrosa." The boy replied, his emerald green eyes narrowing with confusion. "Why are you down here?"
"The Heylin infiltrated the palace and took over, locking me down here and spreading the rumour that I was sick and Jack was passing my orders on to the people from my sick bed when he is really passing them from Chase and Wuya."
"The Heylin have taken over Pyronia."
"Yes. You didn't think that Pyronia would behave like this without the manipulative influence of the Heylin, did you?"
"Of course not." Raimundo added quickly when Kimiko's eyes narrowed and her face took on a dangerous expression. He didn't doubt that she could still inflict pain on him from where she was chained to the wall. She wasn't renowned for her fighting skills for nothing and the proof of her abilities was hovering above them, allowing them to see.
"Why are you here?" She inquired after a moment of deliberation and Raimundo breathed a sigh of relief as the expression melted from her face.
"I don't really know, to be honest." She raised a brow sceptically. "All I know is that I was looking around the marketplace – it's my first time here, you see – and then, suddenly the palace guards are chasing me and there's this red-headed man wearing eyeliner yelling about how I'm a thief and the next thing I know, I'm down here."
"That would be Jack." She added helpfully, her tone icy. "A pathetic excuse for a human being. He's the Heylin's puppet. It's quite insulting that Pyronia believes that I would have him as my assistant." She hesitated slightly, apprehensive. "Just how bad is the situation? You know, with Pyronia and the things they've been doing…"
"They're on the verge of war." Her eyes grew large in surprise and she drew in a shaky breath, her expression speaking volumes about her worries for her people. "With everyone else."
"Great ghosts of Dashi!" She spoke in a horrified murmur. "What do the Heylin think they're playing at? Unless…"
"Unless they're trying to take control of the entirety of the Land of Xiaolin." She looked surprised. "The stories of the fall of Skymond were my favourite as a kid. And now that they've taken Pyronia, well it's a fair assumption, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." Still regarding him with some speculation. "Well, what we need now is an escape plan." She stood up, brushing off her skirt but without much luck, for the dirt seemed to be permanently embedded in it. She had been in there for months, after all. Her short stature allowed her to stand without too much discomfort of her arms as the chains, which were of an average length for prisoners, were long enough.
"What do you mean 'an escape plan'? What for?"
"'What for'?" she demanded incredulously, hands inching towards her hips. "You don't expect me to sit here and wait, do you? I have a duty to my people and they shouldn't have to live under these tyrants. It will just get worse if the Heylin take over the whole Land of Xiaolin, they will show their true colours as they won't have to pretend anymore!"
Raimundo blinked. "Wow. You really care about your people."
"Of course I do. Any leader should." Raimundo nodded. He agreed that any good leader should, but wasn't sure that any did quite as much as she did. She was one of a kind.
"So how do you suggest we get out of here?" He asked, glancing around at the dungeon, now lit by the fireball dancing along the ceiling. It was sparse, the ceiling high and the walls made of grim stone. The only things in the room were the two of them and the door was reinforced on their side with steel and locked from the outside. It didn't look good for them.
Kimiko started forward but was stopped by the chains between her wrists and the wall and jerked back towards the latter. "Ugh, I forgot about these." She muttered, grimacing at the shackles. Raimundo fully expected her to attempt to wriggle her hands free, he was sure it would work with wrists as thin as hers. However, the shackles melted around her wrists and she looked back towards him, rubbing her newly freed wrists. "Ah, it feels good to be out of these. I would've done it earlier but I wasn't sure I could get out on my own." Raimundo rather suspected she could. "Right here's what we do…" He watched her as she took him through the plan, carefully explaining with such ease, as if she was a born leader, and he supposed, in a way, she was.
The guard came in with their meal later on, after all, they needed Kimiko alive for their little plan, for a shrine would appear in a burst of flames in front of the palace if she died, and it would read who killed her, blowing the Heylin's cover. As soon as he stepped through the door, Kimiko shot out from her position next to the door and with a single flick of the wrist, the man slumped to the floor, unconscious. Raimundo stepped out from the shadows on the other side of the door, where he had been positioned to ensure the door didn't close and lock on them. "Wow." Kimiko stood up from where she had been checking the man, to ensure he was unconscious, but alive. "Remind me not to cross you." She smiled and they quickly left the dungeon, locking the door behind them.
They ran from the castle, keeping to the shadows and soon came to a moderately large house in the outskirts of the marketplace. "Papa?" Kimiko called out once they were inside the door. "Papa, are you here?"
A short man, not much taller than Raimundo though he was considerably older, emerged from the kitchen and quickly engulfed Kimiko in a large hug. "Kimiko! Oh, you're alright! How did you escape?"
Kimiko pulled back, smiling. "Oh, the idiots neglected to put me in fire-proof shackles. I would've escaped sooner but I wasn't sure I could've gotten out on my own."
Her face suddenly became solemn. "Are we really on the verge of war? Is it really that bad?"
"I'm afraid so." He answered sadly. "But don't you blame yourself, young lady! There was nothing you could've done to prevent it."
"No!" He quickly cut in, pre-empting her next words. "You didn't expect the Heylin to be in your palace. You couldn't have anticipated that."
Kimiko nodded her head in defeat. "Anyhow, we need to rally the other kingdoms, stop the Heylin from taking over everything."
"Yes, Clay and Omi will help you, but you need somewhere to go first, somewhere you can be safe, to plan. You can't stay here for long; you'll have to leave tonight. Once they learn you've escaped, they'll search the kingdom for you and this is the first place they'll look."
"You can come to my family's place." Raimundo spoke up for the first time since entering the house. The two Pyronians turned to face him. "We live on the outskirts of the Land of Xiaolin. They'll never think to look for you there."
"That's perfect! We'll leave tonight, we'll go to Keiko and borrow two horses and leave while it's dark." Kimiko continued to think out loud, beginning to pace. "Of course, you'll have to go too papa, they'll try to use you to get my whereabouts – they'll know you helped me. And Keiko's house is the next place they'll look; she'll have to come too."
"Calm down, Kimiko!" Her father laughed, leading the two teenagers back to the kitchen. "You must be starving. I don't expect they fed you too well. Either of you. Come on, I'll make you something and then you can rest until tonight. Oh, and I'll get you some new clothes too."
The night air was only marginally cooler than the daytime, and still without a breeze. Keiko turned out to be a young blonde girl, about Raimundo's age, who managed the village's horses.
Kimiko and Raimundo mounted their horses, Raimundo with a bit of help, and they turned to go. Keiko and Kimiko's father were to come later with a carriage full of anything that might be needed.
The two teenagers left the others with instructions on how to get to Raimundo's home and started on their own journey. They walked through the village, so as not to make too much noise and arouse suspicion but once they were outside and into the more open country, Kimiko urged her horse forward and Raimundo copied. "Whoa!" Raimundo cried out as the horse put on a sudden burst of speed. He wasn't an expert on horses – having never ridden one before – but he was sure this wasn't normal horse speed. He came flying off and rolled over a few times before coming to a stop.
He watched as Kimiko rode over to his horse, reaching out a hand to grab its reins and slow both it and her own to a walk and turn them round, only to race back towards him at the same speed as before. He watched the way she sat in the saddle, it was as if she was glued to it, she moved with the horse and wasn't jostled in the slightest as it put on the brakes, halting before him from the rapid pace in the space of a second.
She held out the reins of his horse to him with a giggle, continuing to do so as he struggled to remount his horse. "Are horses supposed to go that fast?" He questioned as he gingerly sat in the saddle, his backside still smarting after the less than graceful dismount.
"No," she answered nonchalantly. "But these aren't horses. These are Pyronian Ponies – aka, speed machines."
"You couldn't have warned me?" He huffed.
"No, it was funnier this way." She giggled harder as he scowled at her. "Just sit up straight, put your heels down in the stirrups and hold your reins like this," she demonstrated how to sit and he imitated her. "Oh, and if you need to, just hang on to the front of the saddle. That's what most beginners do." His scowl disappeared as he prepared himself for the speed to come. "Then again, they're usually eight, not eighteen." She pushed her pony forward, only glimpsing his renewed scowl, but this time it was more of a playful one, before he too pushed his pony on, smiling when her advice meant he could ride decently. Nowhere near as fluidly as she could, but it was a start.
Chapter 3: Of Family & Unpleasant Arrivals
"So," Kimiko began as she sat beside Raimundo, backs against the tree, watching the ponies drank from the lake before them, "why does your family live on the outskirts of the Land of Xiaolin? Why not in one of the kingdoms?"
"Well…" He glanced at the girl beside him as she dried off the ends of her hair, watching, fascinated, as she evaporated the remaining water droplets, searching for words. "We used to live in Skymond but when I was about a year old, the Heylin invaded. We've lived in the outskirts ever since." He finished with cool shrug, his eyes belying his words and revealing his true emotions; a sense of pain and loss which made no sense to him, but was the spark that ignited the train of thought in Kimiko's head.
"Oh." She watched as he picked at the shrubbery at the base of the tree trunk. "That makes you a year older than me – eighteen, right?" He nodded and the two fell into silent contemplation, at a loss of what to say to each other.
"You know," Raimundo spoke up after a minute, his head tilted slightly to the side, his tone thoughtful. "The stories of the fall of Skymond used to be my favourite – mum would tell them to me every night, and they used to make me feel so…sad…and seemed to fill me with a sense of purpose. As if, if that happened to any of the other kingdoms, I wouldn't hesitate to help them – not like then."
"That's not fair." Kimiko's eyes narrowed and her voice turned deadly serious. "Clay and Omi would've helped if they could've. Clay was three and Omi was the same age as you – there wasn't anything they could've done."
"The Heylin threatened the people – Seismeccia's warriors and crops and the Tsunami Kingdom's water supplies. You know what that means to them. They had no one to lead them, to bring them together to help Skymond. That's what Clay and Omi have done now that they're old enough and so their kingdoms are better prepared and better protected. That's like saying you expected yourself to defend Skymond."
Raimundo stared at her for a moment, face impassive, before he sighed and turned back to face the horses. "You're right. I just…I dunno, I get so worked up about this and I don't know why…"
"Of course, Pyronia may have been able to help." Kimiko's voice was barely more than a whisper. "If it hadn't been for me."
Raimundo's head snapped round to face her, eyebrows raised incredulously. "Come on, now. I told you – mum would tell me the stories every night; I know what happened. The Pyronians were too worried about ensuring your survival to help out. If they had tried, they wouldn't even have been much help – they would've been distracted and gotten themselves killed."
"I suppose you're right." Kimiko sighed miserably. "But that still doesn't mean that they couldn't have helped if I hadn't been born."
"Your birth is the best thing that has happened to Pyronia."
"You think so?" Kimiko asked timidly, looking up at Raimundo through her hair.
Raimundo stared for a moment, taken aback. He had heard all about Princess Kimiko Tohomiko of Pyronia; about her independent spirit, her fragile health, her fighting skills, only made more impressive by her power over her element, her confidence… He had never imagined he would see her before him, looking so…vulnerable. He didn't think anyone had seen her like this, apart from her father and Keiko.
A reassuring smile spread across his face and he took her hand in his. "I know so." Kimiko's face broke out into a dazzling smile and once again, Raimundo stared until his face morphed into one of confusion.
"What is it?"
"I just…why doesn't your father live with you, in the palace? I mean, if you're the Princess, he must be the King… Isn't he?"
"No, he isn't. The royalty of each of the four kingdoms of the Land of Xiaolin isn't decided by bloodlines. It's…" Kimiko trailed off, searching for words. "There are four people on earth who aren't human. They're the four elements in human form and there's one in each kingdom. Prince Clay from Seismeccia is Earth, Omi, Prince of the Tsunami kingdom, is Water and I'm Fire. Wind was never found, so we assumed they were either very young or not born yet when Skymond was taken over. They have a birthmark, which is how they are normally found, and from early childhood, they have a strong affiliation with their element. Since we're the only monarchs the kingdoms are going to have, when the oldest, Clay, reaches the age of 20, they will stop aging, so Clay will always be 20, Omi will always be 18 and I will always be 17. That way, we can always be there for our country and people – we have heightened senses, speed and strength – and we have the power to give one person the same type of immortality we do. You know, so we won't always be alone, we can give it to out husband or wife."
"You said you have a certain type of immortality?"
"We won't die of old age, as we don't age, but we can be killed in battle or of an illness."
Raimundo nodded slowly, taking it all in. The two sat in silence for a moment before Raimundo found something to say.
"I find the idea of a family as small as yours so…strange!"
"Really?" Kimiko's head tilted to the side, still grinning. "Why, how big is yours?"
"There are ten of us."
"Ten!" Kimiko's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. Raimundo chuckled at her expression.
"Yeah, ten. There's mum, dad, Juan – the oldest at 25, then there's Carlos – 23, then Pedro – 21, the twins Fernando and Ricardo – 20, then me, Maria – the only girl – 14, and then Alejandro – 6."
"Wow." Kimiko blinked rapidly while Raimundo stood and offered Kimiko his hand, an amused grin still stretched across his face.
"We should probably get going."
"You think you can keep up now?" Kimiko teased with a cheeky grin, squealing as Raimundo dropped her hand as she was halfway up from the ground.
"You know what; I don't think I'll help you now." Mock glaring at him, ignoring his smirk, she picked herself off the floor and raced him to the ponies.
They soon came to a small winding trail which was very familiar to Raimundo. "We're almost there." Kimiko nodded and the two pushed their ponies to a faster gait. Upon reaching the top of the hill, they stopped, looking down into a valley, where a large house was nestled amongst a fair amount of garden, perfect for a large family.
"It's beautiful." Kimiko breathed.
"It's home." And they began the descent.
As they neared the bottom of the hill, Raimundo noticed Kimiko's usually pale cheeks drain of the little colour they had. "Kimiko?" She turned to stare at him, seeming to stare through him with clouded eyes. "Are you alright?" She blinked a couple of times and focused on his face.
"I-" She seemed to sway on her pony and Raimundo's concern deepened. "I feel…a little…light headed…" Her eyelids fluttered and Raimundo, acting upon instinct, kicked his pony on, appearing by her side in an instant. And not an instant too late as her eyelids continued to flutter and eyes rolling, she fainted right into his waiting arms.
Chapter 4: Of Explanations & the Beginnings of a Plan
"Kimiko? Kimiko!" He called to the unconscious girl in his arms, his worry increasing with each time there was no response.
Two figures emerged from the house that was now close enough for Raimundo to make out their faces. They continued to approach and then the woman seemed to recognise him and ran forward. The man not far behind. "Oh, Raimundo! Thank god you're alright." She hesitated, her arms half risen to embrace him. "But, who is this?" Suddenly she gasped in shock. "Antonio, look!"
The man reached the woman's side and his nostrils flared. "It's alright, Carla, it obviously worked. See, we're safe."
Carla relaxed and stepped towards Raimundo again, patting his arm awkwardly as he was still on the pony. "Don't worry, Raimundo, you're okay now."
Raimundo's eyes narrowed in confusion. "I'll just put her in the basement with the others-"
"Dad! No!" Raimundo snapped, pulling Kimiko closer to him. Antonio and Carla stared at him.
"Raimundo," Carla began gently. "She's-"
"I know who she is, mum!" He snapped again. "I know better than either than you. Leave her alone!"
"Yes, mum, she's Kimiko Tohomiko, Princess of Pyronia; I know! Can't you just drop it?"
"Raimundo, you know what the Pyronians have done."
"They've done nothing."
"That's not true, you've seen what's been happening-"
"I'm not denying what's happening, dad. I'm saying it's not the Pyronians."
Raimundo's parents exchanged glances before turning their confusion back to Raimundo. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I don't know all of the details and the one who does is currently unconscious, so-" He broke off, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Hang on, you said something worked, what did you do?"
"It's a gas, it only effects Pyronians." Carla spoke up, eyes flicking between her son and the girl in his arms. "We had some left over from when we lived in Skymond."
Raimundo groaned. "We just broke out of the Pyronian palace dungeons and I assured both her and her father that she would be safe here. I didn't realise I would have to worry about you sending some sort of noxious gas at her!"
"Broke out of dungeons?"
"Why would the Princess of Pyronia help you out of dungeons?"
Raimundo shrugged, dismounting carefully with Kimiko still in his arms. "It was more helping each other out of the dungeons."
"Why was the Princess of Pyronia in her own dungeon?"
"She'd been in there for months."
"But that would mean…since Pyronia began to do those terrible things…" Carla said slowly, turning it over in her head.
"So, it really is someone else? Someone else has taken control of Pyronia without the people knowing?"
"Yes. The Heylin." Raimundo's parents' eyes widened at his statement. "They're smart, I'll give them that. They got the people to co-operate by making them believe that the orders came from a gravely ill Kimiko."
They began to walk towards the house, Raimundo still cradling Kimiko's unconscious form, with his parents on either side of him. "You can put her in your old bedroom, it should wear off in half an hour."
Carla stepped back to move to Antonio's side. "What do we do with the others?"
Raimundo's head snapped round. "These others; a man and a girl around my age? The girl with blonde hair and green eyes, and the man with brown eyes and black hair, only a little taller than me?"
Antonio and Carla exchanged amused glances. "You know them?"
Raimundo nodded. "Kimiko's dad and her best friend Keiko. They were in danger from the Heylin once they discovered Kimiko had escaped, so they came a short while after us in the carriage… How did they get here first?" He trailed off, squinting in confusion.
"I'm really sorry about that, I had no idea…" Antonio apologised for a second time as he led Toshiro and Keiko to the living room of the house.
"It's alright. I thought Raimundo would've gotten here first."
"Would you like some tea? Something to eat?" Called Carla from the kitchen, and the four became immersed in a conversation about the current situation in Pyronia.
Kimiko woke groggily, sitting up tentatively. Raimundo was reclined in a chair next to the bed with his feet on it. "What happened?"
He smiled grimly, sitting up, replacing his feet on the floor and leaning his hands on his knees. "It seems my parents have taken safety precautions against Pyronians after the last few months. A gas that only affects them. I never knew it was there because it didn't affect me." 'Though it explains why the air felt different than before.' He thought to himself and with the look Kimiko sent his way, he was certain she had heard him.
"Where am I?" She asked, glancing around and realising she was in an unfamiliar blue painted room.
"This is my room. Well, when I'm home, anyway." He shrugged. "I travel a lot. Just staying here is too boring, nothing ever happens."
She nodded in understanding, looking at him speculatively. Raimundo began to squirm, so he stood up. "We should get downstairs, my parents are waiting." Kimiko climbed out of the bed and followed Raimundo down the hall. "Your dad and Keiko are here too. How on earth did they manage to get here before us when we left first?" He remarked, shaking his head, as they descended the stairs.
Kimiko giggled. "Because, a certain someone had to keep stopping. The ponies pulled the carriage non-stop. They're built like that – speed and endurance. You just didn't have the endurance." She teased lightly as they entered the living room where the other four were.
"Hey! I think I did pretty well! It was my first time on one of those things!"
"Yes, I suppose you did well, considering." She conceded as they sat at the table, only then noticing that the others had stopped their conversation to watch their bickering with amused looks on their faces.
"What's the plan, Kimiko?" Keiko piped up, looking expectantly at Kimiko.
"Who says I have a plan?" Kimiko held up her hands defensively. "I just broke out of my own dungeon!"
Keiko raised her eyebrows. "I know you, Kimiko. You have a plan. You've probably been thinking it up since day one in that dungeon."
Kimiko sagged in mock defeat. "Fine, fine." She sighed dramatically, prompting Keiko to roll her eyes. "I suppose I have a small idea."
"When she says 'small idea' she means a fully thought out plan – a battle strategy worthy of war, which, I suppose, this sort of is." Keiko stage whispered to Raimundo and his parents. The three laughed and Kimiko pouted, sending all five of them into fits of laughter.
"Do you want to hear it or not?" Kimiko asked sulkily, but if you looked close enough, you could see her eyes dancing with merriment.
They quietened down and Raimundo mused over how good Kimiko was with people. It surely helped when you had to rule a kingdom. "Alright," He sighed, almost as dramatically as Kimiko had. "Have we quietened sufficiently to hear this plan worthy of a war?"
Kimiko stuck her tongue out at him before leaning closer to the table, beginning to explain her plan with the help of hand gestures and drawings in the air with her fire.
A breeze floated through the house and played through the occupants' hair. Raimundo stared as Kimiko's curls, now revealed to be shiny and vibrant after she had the chance to wash it, bounce around her face and shoulders. The wind picked up, almost seeming to echo the fluttering feeling inside of him and continued to play with Kimiko's hair as he wished he could, abandoning the others' hair completely.
Kimiko glanced at Raimundo out of the corner of her eye as she continued explaining her plan. She eyed him speculatively as he stared while the wind played with her hair despite the fact that the original breeze had left and the others' hair was remaining stationary. It was as if the wind was focusing solely on her… 'Hmmm… I wonder…'
Chapter 5: Of Revelations & Prince Omi
"Alright, we'll see you in a little while." Toshiro called from the carriage he and Keiko had taken from Pyronia; now filled with the two of them plus the Pedrosa family, minus Raimundo.
Kimiko and Raimundo nodded from where they were mounted, once again, on the Pyronian Ponies, and took off towards the Tsunami Kingdom.
"Do you think-"
Raimundo sighed and rolled his eyes. "Kimiko, this plan is going to work. Don't worry about it." Kimiko visibly relaxed and Raimundo chuckled. "You know, when Keiko told me I would have to tell you that at least twice, I didn't believe her. Now…" He trailed off, smirking as he dodged out of the way of Kimiko's fist.
"Ha ha ha." Kimiko muttered dryly, fixing Raimundo with a glare. "The fate of my country depends on this plan, so excuse me if I'm a little worried I got it wrong."
"You didn't. I'm sure of it. The plan is going to work." Raimundo assured Kimiko and her face relaxed into one of uncertainty.
"How can you be so sure?"
Raimundo shrugged. "I just know." He answered simply. "And I trust you."
The uncertainty vanished from her face and Kimiko smiled, glancing round at the small clearing they had stopped in. A small breeze picked up, fluttering around the two of them and Kimiko turned to Raimundo. "You feel a certain…connection…an affiliation of sorts…with the wind. Don't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean…" Kimiko stared across at the two ponies as they drank from the small stream. "You can sense things in the air. You said that the air felt different when you returned than it did before you left."
"Because the gas was in the air."
Kimiko nodded. "Exactly. But to me, the air doesn't seem any different. Plus, when your emotions pick up, so does the wind. Have you never noticed?" Raimundo shook his head mutely, brow furrowing in confusion. "You were watching me, almost staring, when I was explaining my plan, and the wind left the others alone, just playing with my hair."
Raimundo fidgeted uncomfortably. "So, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying," Kimiko turned back to him, her eyes boring into his. "There's a reason you feel the way you do about the fall of Skymond. A reason that the stories fill you with an indescribable sadness and determination, and, in your own words, you 'get so worked up about it'. You're Wind."
Raimundo stared at her for a moment. "W-what?" He burst into laughter. "That's crazy!"
"It's true." Kimiko stated simply, but Raimundo continued to laugh.
"Show me your right shoulder." Kimiko's voice was even, but Raimundo's laughter didn't cease, simply toned down a bit.
"Just show me." She insisted and quite before he knew what he was doing, he was pushing the shoulder of his tunic and shirt out of the way. "See?"
"What? The weird birthmark? What does that prove?"
"Don't you remember what I told you?"
"Uh, you told me a lot of things." Raimundo raised a brow, at which Kimiko rolled her eyes.
"About the four personifications of the elements? They have a birthmark on their right shoulders."
"Coincidence." Raimundo scoffed.
"No." Kimiko insisted. "Each has the Chinese/Japanese symbol for their element on their right shoulder." She pushed aside her own shirt collar to show him hers. "I don't think it's a coincidence that you, originally from Skymond, who has a certain connection to the wind, have the birthmark of the symbol for wind on his right shoulder – the only one who was never found."
"But that's totally crazy! I mean…" Raimundo spluttered. "That would mean…that I'm…"
"Prince of Skymond." Kimiko finished for him, a smile spreading across her face at the awed expression that was crossing his. "Come on, we'd better be going." She picked herself up, giggling to herself at the Raimundo's still awed expression and started towards the ponies. "Oh," she called back to him, "this is the only time we're stopping." She winked at him over her shoulder and skipped the rest of the way to the ponies, Raimundo staring after her.
Night had fallen by the time they reached the outskirts of the Tsunami kingdom, the closest to where the Pedrosas lived. Raimundo and Kimiko slowed their ponies to a walk, pulling up their hoods and scoping the area before continuing.
"We need to go this way." Kimiko hissed to Raimundo. "The people think I'm the one behind the Heylin's actions-"
"-which are carried out by your people." Kimiko's eyes narrowed at him, and he quickly fell silent.
"Anyway, Omi may or may not believe I'm behind it, and so we must make it to the palace without being seen. That is vital."
They soon reached the palace stables and quickly dismounted, tying the ponies to the post outside. They scurried furtively to the palace and stepped inside. Almost immediately they came across guards, tall and well built, looming over them.
"Hello boys," Kimiko started in a teasing voice, her hood still up. "We're here to speak with Prince Omi." The guards glanced at each other before shrugging and letting them past. "Thank God Omi only looks for brawn and not brains." Kimiko whispered to Raimundo as they ascended the main staircase. "I think he's afraid they'll outsmart him."
They were shown into Prince Omi's private study by two guards who were equally as unthinking as the two by the door. Prince Omi himself was seated at his desk, looking through sheets upon sheets of paper with a bored look on his face. "You always did hate actual work."
He spun round, a wide grin spreading across his face at the sight before him. "Kimiko! Wow, I have not seen you in a long time. How was life in the dungeon?"
Raimundo raised an eyebrow. "It was awful." Kimiko scrunched up her nose in distaste. "Now do you understand why I reserve it for only the worst of offenders?"
"You mean like the Heylin?" Omi queried and Raimundo's eyebrows rose even higher.
"How did you know?"
"Oh, it was obvious that Kimiko was not the one committing such crimes, and it was obvious that it was the Heylin." Omi answered in a lofty voice. Suddenly he seemed to realise who had spoken. "Oh, uh, who are you?" Raimundo realised what Kimiko had meant when she had theorised about Omi not hiring smart guards for fear of them looking smarter than he did.
"Raimundo Pedrosa, Prince of Skymond."
Omi's eyes widened. "You found him?"
"More like he found me!"
"Okay, let's get this straight. I am not the Prince of Skymond."
"But," Omi's head tilted to the side in confusion. "Kimiko just said you were."
"Why else would the Heylin have put you in that dungeon?"
"I dunno. They thought I stole something…"
"No. That was just a cover story; an excuse for your arrest." Raimundo's brows furrowed and Kimiko sighed. "They were afraid you would learn of your lineage and try to take your kingdom back." Raimundo's disbelief left his eyes and Kimiko quirked a smile. "Funny that they should put you in the dungeon with me, the only person in Pyronia that would know what you are."
"So…I really am the Prince of Skymond?" Raimundo asked, stunned.
"Uh huh." Kimiko responded brightly, beaming at him.
"You were in the dungeon, too?"
Chapter 6: Of Feelings & Speeches
Half an hour later, Omi was sufficiently filled in on what had happened, and the three of them were seated around his desk. "So, what are we going to do?"
"Well, Raimundo's family has gone with papa and Keiko in our carriage, along with all the armour and provisions we'll need, and they're going to meet us in Seismeccia."
"Hang on." Raimundo's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "That carriage is tiny, how could it fit your dad, Keiko, all of my family, and armour and provisions?"
"It's magically expanded." Kimiko explained. "There's unlimited space inside it."
"Anyway, we came to you Omi to find out if you'll help us. After we get your answer, we plan to travel to Seismeccia and ask for Clay's help. The carriage will meet us there and we will travel back to Pyronia to challenge the Heylin."
"But the Heylin will have to use the Pyronian army," Omi spoke with a contemplative look on his face, "and once they figure out that they've been played and that you're the one that you supposedly told them to fight against, they'll stand down, won't they? Why would you need the armies of Seismeccia and the Tsunami kingdom?"
"Well, the Heylin will have their armies on stand-by for such an occasion. They'll want to use the Pyronians first, but when they fail, they'll send out their own armies." Kimiko's face hardened. "The armies of the Heylin will be vicious – they'll stop at nothing to get their way. We'll need all the help we can get."
"You can count on me."
"Thanks Omi, I knew I could." Kimiko smiled. "Well, there's no time to waste. Gather your army and meet us in Seismeccia."
"So, how does it feel? Knowing your heritage?" Kimiko asked as they slowed their ponies. The kingdom of Seismeccia loomed in the depths of the valley.
"I don't think it's fully sunk in." Raimundo replied as they began the descent. "I mean, it explains so much, but it's just… I dunno…"
"Try using the wind."
"I mean," Kimiko elaborated, grinning, "try using the wind to do something. Pick something up, move something…" Kimiko's hair suddenly started blowing in a sudden breeze, the strands moving to cover her face. "Yeah," she muttered, pushing them back behind her ears, "like that. Only the Xiaolin Dragon of Wind can do that."
They fell into silence as they, once again by cover of nightfall, pulled up their hoods and dismounted their ponies.
The guards outside the Seismeccian palace were much more intelligent and it took a lot more convincing before they got in. Eventually, the guards allowed them entrance under the impression that they were envoys sent by Prince Omi, to precede his own visit. "Well, it's kinda true." Kimiko whispered as they approached Prince Clay's study.
The interior was much different from Omi's. Where Omi's had been decorated in icy blues and whites, in a minimalistic fashion, Clay's was earthy browns and greens, with many possessions littered around the room.
"I've been expecting you for the last few months, Kimiko." The figure at the desk spoke without turning. He signed his name and set the paperwork aside before turning with a smile. "What took you so long?"
"Minor setback, Clay. I was locked in my own dungeons."
They both grinned and Clay pulled Kimiko into a hug. "Well, at least you keep your dungeons better than mine or Omi's. Lord knows how many times we reprimanded you on that, but maybe you were right." He noticed Raimundo standing awkwardly by the door. "And who's this you've brought with you?"
"I'm Raimundo." Raimundo offered his hand and Clay shook it.
Kimiko once again told her plan, Raimundo watching her the whole time, Clay's eyes flickering between them, listening intently to Kimiko's plan, and shooting speculative glances at Raimundo. When she finished her explanation, Kimiko moved off to examine the photographs lining the walls, just out of hearing range from Clay and Raimundo. "You like her, don't you?" Clay's words were more of a statement than a question, since he could see into the younger boy's mind.
"I-I-I…uh…" Raimundo stuttered, turning redder by the second.
"I know you do. I can see it. Just…Kimiko's like a little sister to me – just as much as my own sister, Jesse, and I swear to Dashi, if you hurt her…" Raimundo gulped at the fierce expression on Clay's face. Clay took a deep breath and calmed down again. "Well," a sinister simile came to his face, "you wouldn't want the Xiaolin Dragon of Earth after you, would you?"
Kimiko had wandered back within hearing range in time to hear his last sentence. "Clay, are you threatening your guests?" her eyebrows raised incredulously and a teasing smile spread across her face. "My, my; what would Master Fung have said?" she shook her head, tut-ting mockingly. "Besides; there's no point pulling the Xiaolin Dragon card when you're threatening one of the Xiaolin Dragons."
Clay stared. "So…you're the Prince of Skymond? The Xiaolin Dragon of Wind?"
Raimundo shrugged. "Apparently. According to Kimiko, anyway."
"So this isn't just about getting the Heylin out of Pyronia?"
"No." Kimiko shook her head. "It's about much more than that. It always was. Even before I found Raimundo. Whether or not I found their Prince, the Skymondians deserve to have their kingdom back. The Heylin infiltrated when we were too young to do anything to help them. Now's our big chance."
Clay nodded. "I'll gather up the army. I assume Omi's coming with his?" at Kimiko's nod, he continued. "Well, I'll call all the people to gather in the square. The four of us can talk to the people and the armies, and then we can go."
The day passed, and by the evening, the carriage had arrived, along with the army of the Tsunami kingdom, and all of Seismeccia were waiting to hear their Prince speak.
"The army has been gathered, and I'm sure you are wondering why. Prince Omi has also brought his army, and they will receive the same explanation that you will. You have no doubt heard of the deeds that the Pyronians have been committing, but I beg you to listen to me now, if you didn't before. We know the Pyronians, and their Princess. They wouldn't do something like this. And they haven't." A ripple of shock rang out through the assembled crowd. "Yes, the deeds are being done, and yes, by the Pyronians, but not through their own free will. Nor on the orders of their Princess. I do not know the full details myself, but there is one who does, and she is here to explain to you all. You may choose to believe her, you may not; but reserve your judgement for the end of her speech, and to those who refuse to believe, you may leave your position on the army." Clay's words were clear and strong, showing his people that he was deadly serious, as was this matter.
He stepped down from the podium, and Kimiko stepped up from the shadows, to the immense shock of the people gathered. She was no longer wearing the simple clothes that she had borrowed from Keiko, but was now dressed in her battle armour. She stood tall before the people, in her glittering red and silver battle robes, her tiara perched atop her head, nestled safely amongst the curls, which were pulled back into a loose plait. Raimundo couldn't keep his eyes off of her.
"We all know that seventeen years ago, the Heylin invaded the kingdom of Skymond." She spoke confidently, and with a purpose, commanding the rapt attention of all who were gathered there. "Their own had been destroyed by Dashi, in retribution of their crimes, but this did not deter them. They drove the Skymondians out of their land, and they scattered. Some live here, in Seismeccia; some live in the Tsunami kingdom; some live in Pyronia; some remain in what used to be the prosperous land of Skymond, repressed under the Heylin's reign; and some have left the Land of Xiaolin."
She glanced around the crowd, spurred on by the attention, and the absence of the accusing glares which she had expected to meet.
"However, one family remained on the outskirts of the Land of Xiaolin. One family, who – unbeknownst to them – held the key to the kingdom's power. When Skymond fell, this family's youngest was a boy, one year of age. The kingdom had not yet been visited that year by Master Fung, who made his annual visits to each kingdom, to see if their monarch had yet been born. So this child went unnoticed. I met him almost a week ago, in my own dungeon."
Murmurs resounded through the crowd but they were silenced once Kimiko began to talk again. The crowd was hanging on her every word.
"The Heylin grew tired with how little Skymond was producing under their shoddy care, and so they travelled to the nearest of the remaining three – Pyronia. They took me by surprise and were able to imprison me in my own dungeon. They spread the rumour that I was deathly ill and passed on their own wishes as orders from my deathbed. They needed me alive, and when they discovered the Prince of Skymond in Pyronia, they knew they couldn't allow him to discover his past, and so they put him in the dungeon with me, under false charges of theft. We escaped and travelled, first to his home, then to the Tsunami kingdom, and then here, to enlist the help of all of you."
Raimundo approached behind Kimiko, wearing robes of a mixture of cerulean and sapphire blue, earning a gasp from the crowd. He took her hand, and Kimiko took a deep breath.
"Our kingdoms have both been taken prisoner by the Heylin, and if not stopped, they will continue their reign of terror and eventually will come to your kingdoms too. It may not be for another seventeen years, but it will happen."
Kimiko's eyes blazed with the passion Raimundo had seen in the dungeon when she spoke of her people, inspiring him to speak up himself.
"Seventeen years ago, Skymond was taken. I lost my home, my country, before I had the chance to know it. Then, there were threats from the Heylin as to your well-being if you helped us, and you had no leader to draw you together to. But now you do. And the Heylin are limited from being under this guise – they mustn't reveal that it is they who are controlling Pyronia, not Princess Kimiko, and so cannot threaten you this time."
He took a deep breath.
"This is our chance. Our chance to rectify the mistakes of the past. We cannot change what has happened, but we can ensure that it does not happen to others, and that our people will no longer suffer from the tyranny of the Heylin."
There was silence for a moment across the central square of Seismeccia, before the people gathered there broke out into thunderous applause. The two monarchs of the stolen kingdoms exchanged a determined glance.
Nothing would stop them from taking back what's theirs.
Chapter 7: Of Doubts & the Ride Into Battle
Kimiko emerged from her tent, glancing around at the deserted camp. Everyone else was asleep in their tents, preparing for the fight ahead. Well, except for a solitary figure huddled by the fire. Approaching quietly, she dropped down beside him, muttering a soft "Hey," as she too turned to stare into the dwindling fire.
"I'm not sure I can do this." She turned to him as he sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "I mean, I could handle you telling me that I was the long-lost prince of Skymond – it was all hypothetical. But now…now it's real." He sighed in response to her unanswered question. "I just…I've never even fought anyone before. Just my siblings, but that doesn't count. And tomorrow I've got to fight the Heylin, and everyone expects me to…well, be like you."
Kimiko shook her head, placing her hand comfortingly on his arm. "No one expects you to fight as though you've been trained like the rest of us have, Raimundo. All they are expecting is to see you back on the throne of Skymond, where you belong."
Raimundo turned his head to her, apprehension in his eyes. "Aren't you afraid for tomorrow? Even in the slightest?"
"Terrified." Kimiko muttered, staring into the embers for a moment. "Truly terrified. There's so much at stake here. I've been wondering if I did the right thing involving Seismeccia and the Tsunami Kingdom. I mean, it does concern them, so they do have a right to be here, but indirectly so. What if I've just convinced them to follow me to my death?"
Her eyes were swimming with emotion when she turned back to Raimundo, so that he lost his train of thought for a moment. "It was the only way to save your people. You wouldn't have stopped until you did your best for them." He placed his hand over hers that was still resting on his arm. "You did the right thing, Kimiko. Now, I may not know much about war and battle, but even I know that there is always the chance that you won't come back. Both armies know that, and they've made their decisions. Helping you, helping Pyronia, is worth the risk. And when we defeat the Heylin-"
"If." Kimiko interrupted. "If we defeat the Heylin."
"No. When." Kimiko smiled weakly at him as he wiped away her tears, staring into her eyes. "When we defeat the Heylin, you'll have your kingdom back. Your people will be free from the Heylin's influence."
"And you'll have yours back. After all these years, Skymond will be free, and will have its rightful Prince." Her smile brightened, but Raimundo's eyes dulled and he dropped her gaze. "Raimundo? What's wrong?"
"You'll be in Pyronia and I'll be in Skymond."
"Oh." Raimundo looked up at her soft tone and noticed tears forming in her eyes once again.
"But, hey, we'll still see each other. After all, Skymond and Pyronia are right next to each other. It won't take that long to travel between them." Kimiko smiled, and knowing he was downplaying the distance between the two palaces, ignored it and laid her head on his shoulder as they resumed staring into the now practically non-existent fire. "One thing I was wondering. Why are we Princes and Princess? If our parents aren't King and Queen, shouldn't we be?"
"No. We're not of age, and since we'll never be, we cannot be King or Queen, so we're simply Prince or Princess in the effective roles of King or Queen."
"Too complicated." Raimundo muttered.
Kimiko giggled. "Yes, I suppose it is a bit."
"A bit? Everything surrounding us is complicated!"
"Our lives are never simple."
"No, but then they're not boring either, I suppose."
Kimiko smiled, before a more serious expression overcame her face. "We really should get some rest."
"Yeah." Raimundo agreed, standing up and offering her his hand. "Big day tomorrow."
"Yes." They stood still for a moment, each locked in the others' gaze. "Well, goodnight."
The dawn saw the entire camp up and about, running to and fro, preparing to leave for the short trek towards Pyronia. The four royals lead the way and the entire group wore their travelling cloaks with their hoods up.
As they approached the boarders, Kimiko tensed, spotting her own army on the horizon. "There are going to be some who agree with the Heylin. Some who, when they find out it wasn't me giving the orders, they won't care, since they enjoyed it, and will join the Heylin in fighting against us." She turned her tear-streaked face towards Raimundo. "How can I fight my own people?"
"But they aren't really your people anymore. They're Heylin. You're fighting them to protect your people. To save them." Kimiko nodded grimly and turned once again towards the looming army, face set.
When they reached the Pyronian soldiers, they came to a stop, and the four dismounted their horses, though only Clay and Omi lowered their hoods.
"What is your business here?" snarled a large muscled man Kimiko immediately recognised as Cedric Mazur, her second-in-command when it came to the army.
"We are here to free Pyronia." Murmurs broke out across the Pyronian army at Clay's words.
Cedric's scowl deepened. "Pyronia does not need freeing. Princess Kimiko is a valiant and just leader. We want for nothing under her rule."
"But what of Pyronia's recent deeds? Is that really the work of Princess Kimiko?"
Cedric's face faltered and fell into one of uncertainty. "It does not seem like the Princess Kimiko I know, but who are we to doubt our monarch?"
Kimiko stepped forward and dropped her hood, a small smile across her face. "You know me well, Cedric."
"Princess Kimiko!" Eyes widened and jaws dropped amongst the soldiers. Cedric spluttered, "…but…how…?"
"You have been deceived." Kimiko addressed her army, slipping once again into the manner in which she had given her speech in Seismeccia. "I have not been ill. I do not have another 'deathly illness'. That was all a lie. A cover-up for what had really happened. The Heylin have infiltrated Pyronia." Outraged shouts erupted from the crowd but they fell silent once Kimiko raised her hand. "They crept into the palace – I know not how – and overpowered us. We had no warning – we were unprepared. I was thrown in the dungeon and the lie spread that I was ill again. Their wishes were passed as though my orders from my sick-bed and so chaos began to spread throughout our Kingdom. However, a few days ago, the Heylin placed another in the cell with me. One who they were afraid would learn who he truly was and challenge them. Prince Raimundo of Skymond."
Raimundo lowered his hood, amidst more shocked murmurs from the Pyronians.
"They didn't think about how that would make it easy for us to escape. And escape we did, heading immediately to Seismeccia and the Tsunami Kingdom to enlist their aid in freeing the Land of Xiaolin from the clutches of the Heylin."
Kimiko turned and mounted her horse gracefully, turning towards the Pyronians. "We ride to the palace to finally rid ourselves of the Heylin and free ourselves, and give the Skymondians their freedom back." The Pyronians cheered and fell into line behind their princess, as the three armies rode towards the Pyronian palace, and in the flurry of movement, several soldiers went unnoticed as they galloped towards the palace.
Chapter 8: Of Ancient Magic & The Element of Surprise
It took little less than a day's ride to reach the palace, though they stopped just short of it to rest for the battle ahead. "I don't know what to do." Kimiko whispered to the princes as they huddled around a small fire she had made off to the side. "I mean, the people need to rest, but the longer we put off this fight, the longer the Heylin have to prepare."
"Well, it'll be dark soon, Kimiko. We can't fight in the dark." Clay added, drawing out his water pouch and taking a drink before quickly cutting Kimiko off as she attempted to protest. "Maybe you can, but we can't. Your army may have been trained to fight in the dark by the light you can give them, but the rest of us can't."
Kimiko sighed. "I suppose. Tomorrow it is, then." She stared morosely into the flames.
"We'll get them, Kimiko. Whatever their plan, we can find a way to defeat them. They're not really that smart. They gained control over Skymond and Pyronia using the element of surprise. That's their best chance, and they can't use it here." Kimiko glanced at Clay, allowing a small smile to come to her face.
"Besides," Raimundo added, "they aren't the only ones who will get extra time to plan."
Kimiko's smile grew into a full blown grin at Raimundo's words, who grinned back at her as she rummaged in her saddle bag and brought out a map of Pyronia.
"Alright, so we have the advantage that we know they're coming this time. That's a start." Kimiko stated briskly, spreading the map over the ground in front of where the four sat. "But they have the advantage as they control the palace. So they'll most likely camp here. It is well protected, making it very difficult to approach without being seen." Kimiko indicated the place on the map, studying it intently under the rapt attention of the princes.
"But, of course, we have another advantage." Kimiko lifted her eyes from the map to meet Raimundo's. "You know the land much better than they do." A small smile cracked Kimiko's renewed determined expression. "Come on, tell us. It's difficult. But can it be done?"
"It's not impossible." Kimiko began to explain, her eyes lit with determination. "There's a tunnel...here. Though it can only be opened by me. It can't be seen unless you know it is there, and since the Heylin haven't been here long enough to know the lay of the land as well as I do, they'll have no idea of its existence. The best part is; it comes out right where the leaders – Chase, Wuya and Hannibal Bean – will most likely set up their tents. It's the most well protected area within their fort, and cowards like the Heylin will hide themselves behind the others."
"Alright. So, we know how we're getting in; what do we do once we're in?"
And the four closed ranks and began to plan their battle strategy, whispering fervently, so low and so fast that none but them could've heard.
The armies were up the next day before even the sun and heading towards the cave tunnels. Kimiko led the way with the others following closely behind.
"I'm afraid we have to go the long way around." She had muttered to Raimundo as she shook him awake at 'that ungodly hour'. "We've got to head to the mountain ranges and follow the edges. Otherwise the Heylin would see us coming and that would defeat the purpose of this entire venture." Raimundo had grumbled his assent as he crawled out of the pile of blankets he had been using and pulled on the outer layer of his robes that had previously been used as a pillow.
By the time they came to the entrance the sun had begun to rise. "So, how do we open it?" Kimiko's eyes, which had been tracing the wall carefully, flickered to Raimundo's face.
"You need to stand back." As they did so, she stepped closer lifting her hand and running it along the wall of the cave until she reached a spot at which she could go no further. Taking a small step back, she closed her eyes and raised her hands, palms facing the wall, and began to speak, though in such a low murmur that only the princes could make out the words, to the humans in the armies, she was mouthing. However, the language was not one that the princes could understand – it was the ancient language of the Land of Xiaolin, before it was subdivided into the four kingdoms, and though they didn't understand it, it brought warmth into their hearts upon hearing it.
The longer she spoke the brighter her hands began to glow, a bright fire burning from her palms outwards. It started off yellow, rapidly moving through blue to a flame so hot it was barely visible. Upon reaching this point, the wall began to tremble and all gathered there watched in amazement as the flame spread from Kimiko's hands to the small section of the wall before them, spreading in all directions, and opening the minute crack that existed there until it was large enough to pass through. Opening her eyes, Kimiko muttered another few words before her eyes flashed and she lowered her hands. "It will close behind the last soldier. Let's go."
Kimiko once again led the way with the three Princes close behind her, lighting her palm so they could see where they were going. As the end of the tunnel came into sight – seen only by a small ray of light shining into the cave, as it was another crack in the wall that needed to be opened by Kimiko, and so unnoticeable by the Heylin – they stopped, waiting for the armies to catch up a little.
"This is it." Kimiko turned to Raimundo, who simply looked at her.
"Yeah." She said slowly, searching his eyes. "We're going to get our kingdoms back." He nodded mutely.
"A little." She responded to his murmured question.
"Only a little?"
"Yeah. Mostly…not quite excited, but I'm looking forward to it, I suppose." She fingered the sword at her side as she spoke. "They've taken over my kingdom, abusing the trust of my people, forced them to do things that they wouldn't even contemplate on their own. It's just…"
"It's time for them to get what they deserve." Eyes met and an understanding passed between the two of them, determination drawing up their stances and their hands went to the swords on their hips.
"You have all your weapons, your majesty?"
"Yes, Cedric. Thank you. I trust you have yours?"
"Yes, ma'am. We are just waiting for a few at the back to catch up."
Kimiko nodded slowly. "We'd best start preparing."
With a small nod of his head, Cedric turned back towards the armies. "I've told him a hundred times not to do that." Kimiko shook her head with a small smile. "Bow and address me as 'your majesty'. I suppose it's less of a mouthful to address me as a queen rather than the customary princess greeting of 'your royal highness' but I've told him – told them all – time and time again; if you must address me formally, use ma'am."
"All your weapons?" Raimundo raised an eyebrow.
With a smirk, Kimiko lifted her leg and braced it on the wall, pulling a dagger from the leggings of her battle robes, pulled out two from her sleeves, a bow and quiver hidden from the eye on her back and a set of throwing stars from her hair, placing them on a ledge before them along with the sword at her hip. Raimundo stared wide-eyed at them. "I don't use them if I can help it. I prefer to fight with martial arts and my element, though in case that isn't possible, one must be well prepared."
Kimiko's smirk morphed into a smile as her eyes seemed to laugh at him. "Here." She handed Raimundo one of the daggers from her sleeve. "Just in case."
"Just in case." Raimundo echoed as he stowed the dagger, shaking his head in amused disbelief as Kimiko continued to stash her weapons away again. "It's your own little armoury."
The two grinned broadly at each other until Clay and Omi reappeared at their sides. The four walked the short distance to the crack and Kimiko opened the crack the same way she had before, though this time she didn't leave it to close after them; it was enchanted so that the Heylin couldn't see it, only those who were on their side, and that they couldn't tell one of the Heylin. It was an escape route for any who wanted one, and protected against the Heylin through coercion or any attempt to follow someone through it.
They crept silently to the large tent that was where Kimiko had predicted it would be, listening to the voices inside. It was the Heylin leaders, discussing their strategy.
"No matter what way they come, we'll spot them well before they reach here. They'll be shot down by our archers."
"Though all four Dragons are here. They may use their powers to evade the arrows."
"They still won't be able to reach here before gaining a fatal wound."
"Think again." The witch-hag, the lizard-man and the bean spun round in shock to see the four whose murder they had just been plotting facing them, Princess Kimiko and Prince Raimundo at the front, smirking at them, while the armies of the two free kingdoms and the one which they were currently occupying behind them. Numbers far greater than they had within the camp, all staring at them with determination shining through their faces.
They were on a mission, and they were there to win.
Chapter 9: Of War & the Power of the Elements
Kimiko's smirk grew as she placed her hands on her hips, resting her weight on one foot and adopted a teasing voice. "We-ell, I happen to have lived here for seventeen years and in those seventeen years, being princess and all, the only thing that was required was that I had a thorough knowledge of the kingdom and its history. You couldn't have been arrogant enough to think you knew more about Pyronia and the Land of Xiaolin than I do." Surveying their faces with a smirk, she continued, "What was I thinking?" she turned to Raimundo who wore an identical grin, "Who am I talking to? The ugly witch-hag, the lizard-man and bean-dude – the three most arrogant people I have ever met. And I know Omi." The three princes nodded their heads vigorously in agreement.
"What about me?" whined the same man who had directed the guards to throw Raimundo in the dungeon.
"Oh, please!" scoffed Kimiko. "You were never anything but their pawn, Jack." Jack pouted, causing everyone to roll their eyes.
"Oh, why don't you just run along to your girlfriend, Jack, is it? Maybe she'll comfort you." Raimundo suggested, his eyes narrowed. Jack's eyes widened before he ran off, presumably to do as Raimundo said. A grin broke out on Raimundo's face in response to the others' questioning gaze. "I like this mind-reading thing!"
A bell rang out with a loud clang, causing everyone's heads to snap round. "Well, well, well," smirked Wuya. "It seems that he isn't completely useless."
The Dragons exchanged determined looks. This was it. The warning bell had been sounded and within moments the army of the Heylin was gathered behind its leaders.
"This is your last chance, Wuya." Kimiko stepped forward, as did Wuya, so that they were face to face – or, would've been if not for the height difference. "Surrender."
Wuya cackled, causing the hairs on the back of the necks of the armies of the three kingdoms of the Land of Xiaolin to stand on end. "Or what? You'll kill me?" She looked Kimiko in the eye, a twisted grin spreading across her face. "Oh, no. It'll be me that kills you. And do you know what?" Wuya leant in, dropping her voice, but the four Dragons could still hear her. "I'm gonna enjoy this."
With a cry, Wuya lunged at Kimiko, who dodged with ease, and the fight had begun.
Everything was going according to the Xiaolin's plan. Wuya had focused on Kimiko, Chase on Omi, and Hannibal Roy Bean on Raimundo, just as Kimiko had predicted, leaving Clay to direct the armies, and as he was the oldest and most experienced in war, this gave them the advantage.
Each army was trained differently to each other. The Heylin focused on defeating their enemies through any way possible, while the armies of the Land of Xiaolin were more organised. Omi trained his army focused on skill, Clay on endurance and Kimiko on strategy. Thus each army had their own strengths and each complimented the other, allowing them to fight well together. All were well trained, no matter the focus of said training, and listened well to Clay's commands, working effectively and skilfully through the Heylin's army.
Kimiko had known that Wuya would focus on her, possessing a semblance of control over cursed green flames, she thought she was better than Kimiko and could never be beaten by a mere child.
Likewise, Chase had gone for Omi, as he too focused on skill above all else, and was determined to prove himself more powerful than the young master of water.
Whether or not Hannibal Roy Bean had gone for Raimundo, Kimiko knew that Raimundo would want the chance to fight him. Not only to prove himself, but for revenge. Once the Heylin had taken over Skymond, it had been left to Hannibal to control it. Each had chosen a kingdom for their own. Wuya wanted Pyronia, Chase had wanted the Tsunami Kingdom and Hannibal had chosen Skymond. Seismeccia was chosen to be their prison. A punishment camp for those who refused to support them, those who continued to support the Dragon monarchs. Kimiko knew Raimundo would want his chance to punish the bean for what he had done to his kingdom.
The battle raged. The clangs of swords and shields rang through the air, arrows rained from above and below – both friend and foe. The earth shook, rain fell, wind raged, and flames shot everywhere – both orange and cursed green.
The Heylin leaders were circling those of the Xiaolin, taunting, but the Xiaolin stood their ground, faces impassive.
"Aw, look at itty bitty baby Kimiko. Is she afraid of big bad Wuya?" Seeing that her insults had no effect, she came closer, hissing in her ear. "You know you can't win, don't you? I am far superior to you and your little gang. Why, Omi the idiot and slow Mr Cowboy are no match for us. And 'Prince Raimundo'? Hah! Where did you find him? He's no more a prince than I am!"
Kimiko's eyes flashed in anger, which didn't go unnoticed by Wuya. "Oh, I see." Her eyes flickered over to where Raimundo was glaring at Hannibal before turning back to Kimiko with her twisted grin firmly in place once again. "You like him. Not that I blame you, he is quite handsome. But do you really think he likes you back? Oh, please. He only pretends to like you because he wants your money, your power. Without them, you're no one."
Kimiko looked over to Raimundo who, sensing her eyes on him, looked back. He was startled to see uncertainty and the beginnings of defeat in her eyes. Whatever Wuya was saying was clearly getting to her. He held her eye contact, giving her a firm nod, feeling himself uplifted when her eyes lit up with an unidentifiable something before the fire of determination returned to them.
"…what is there of you to like besides the money and power?" Wuya was still circling Kimiko, and was shocked when a ball of flame shot out of nowhere, singing the edge of her dress. Glancing back at Kimiko, she saw that she hadn't moved. Moving back round, she stopped when they were face to face, and for the first time since Wuya had begun circling her, Kimiko's eyes met hers.
They contained such a fierce fire that Wuya found herself taking several steps backwards. "I never told you Raimundo was Prince of Skymond, Wuya. How did you know?"
Realising her mistake, Wuya began to stutter. "I…well, I… It-it was quite obvious that that was what you wanted us to believe-"
Kimiko shook her head with a smirk. "No. You knew it was him. You knew since he first step foot in Pyronia. And you had him thrown in the dungeon with me for it. But you were too arrogant to consider what you were doing, so we escaped."
"How?" Wuya snapped, unable to stop herself. "How did you manage to escape from there?"
"Oh, Wuya." Kimiko shook her head, grinning. "You'll never learn, will you? Escaping from that dungeon is no challenge for two Xiaolin dragons, and you put him in there with the one person who would be able to tell who he was after you had Master Fung killed."
"That old man had to go." Wuya sniffed in disdain. "He would've figured out our plans soon enough, so we disposed of him before he could. I never would've been able to gain control of your kingdom had he still been alive."
"You haven't gained control of my Kingdom." Wuya opened her mouth to protest but Kimiko quickly cut across her. "Ah, no, you've infiltrated my kingdom, but you will never gain control of it. To do that, you would have to walk away from this battle, and I assure you, you won't."
This time Kimiko lunged at Wuya, kicking her square in the chest, throwing her back several feet where she landed roughly on her back. She pushed herself to her feet with a snarl. Glaring at the smirking Kimiko, she threw herself into the fight.
Chase Young circled Omi, who stood with his eyes closed, gathering his chi. Chase's eyes narrowed as he saw the nine dots on Omi's head begin to glow. "You shall not defeat me."
Omi's eyes slowly opened. "No. It is you who shall not defeat me."
Almost as one, they lunged at each other, matching each other move for move, straight from the ancient fighting techniques. Circling, twisting and dodging, the two battled with the inhuman speed that both possessed, the rain fall filling Omi with strength, causing the dots on his forehead to glow stronger as he started to gain the upper hand over Chase.
Raimundo glared as the giant bean laughed, flailing his many arms. "So this is the great Prince of Skymond. Well, this should be quick."
"Looking at you, yeah. Yeah I am. You know, taking Skymond wasn't really much of an achievement – what with no one to protect it. Not really. Just a few pathetic little humans who stood up to us."
Raimundo clenched his fists. Although he had never known them, and had only been a year old at the time, he still felt anger and pain over their fate. They had stood up for their kingdom, their home, tried to protect it, serving him, though unknowingly, and he would forever honour them for it.
"That wasn't much of a challenge. Not like this time."
"A challenge? Please. You crept into the palace and threw the princess in the dungeon. You aren't the ones with the power over the kingdom. Princess Kimiko is the only one who can ever have that."
"Princess Kimiko isn't here." Hannibal sneered. "We control her precious kingdom."
"Then why didn't you reveal who you were? Oh yeah, because if the people knew they'd revolt against you. You can't have the power of a kingdom without the support of the people. The people of Pyronia serve none but Princess Kimiko."
Hannibal's eyes narrowed, but he continued with his previous speech as if Raimundo had never interrupted him. "I had often wondered what would have happened if we tried to take over Skymond when its monarch had been revealed and was old enough to lead. Would it be like Princess Kimiko's? I had thought it would've been more of a challenge, given that she is only a weak little girl. But now I see you before me I realise that it would've been just as easy as seventeen years ago."
Raimundo gritted his teeth in anger. Kimiko was far from weak and the bean knew it, and the insult to her and his people was more than he could take.
"Look at you, boy. You couldn't fight me, let alone train an army to do so. Face it, boy. You're finished."
Raimundo grinned, leaning back into one of the basic fighting stances Kimiko had taught him. "Bring it, bean-dude."
Hannibal growled before throwing himself into the air, propelled by his many arms. As they fought, Raimundo pulled upon the instincts deep down inside him, calling upon his element when needed. He could now see what Kimiko had meant when she said that she had been looking forward to this. It felt great – exacting revenge upon the one who had caused his people so much pain, the reason he didn't know his people, his kingdom.
Raimundo's fighting ability seemed to frustrate Hannibal. Clearly he had underestimated the boy and if he wasn't careful, he could gain the upper hand with an unsettling ease. He was beginning to think he would have to resort to his dirty tricks when a large explosion threw him to the ground. With a grunt, he pushed himself to his feet, noticing that everyone else on the battlefield was doing so. All but one. The armies of both sides stopped what they were doing to watch the scene in the centre of the valley play out.
Kimiko stood panting. She could still feel her eyes burning, still feeling the burn of her fingertips. The mix of her fire and the ancient magic of the Land of Xiaolin. When Wuya's taunts had finally gotten too much, she had literally felt it explode from within her. She knew she shouldn't have lost control like that, knew that it was just Wuya trying to even out the playing field since she knew that she was losing the battle, but she just couldn't help it.
As Wuya got shakily to her feet across the field, she surveyed the battlefield. Many warriors had fallen, but she noticed with some relief that hardly any wore the colours of any of the kingdoms of the Land of Xiaolin. The fighting had stopped to watch herself and Wuya, who was now back on her feet and walking – only a little unsteadily, though purposely – towards her, face furious. She noticed the ring of blue flames surrounding herself and Wuya and took deep calming breaths to try to control the fire raging white-hot inside her.
"So you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Guess what? So do I." Wuya raised her hand, watching it glow green before pointing it at Kimiko, shooting green flames at her. Kimiko didn't move, didn't have to, for as the green fireball came closer, she concentrated on it, and it dissolved into thin air.
As her eyes reverted to their usual blue, she looked back to Wuya, smirking. "Is that all you got?"
Wuya sneered. "No!" she snapped. "I've got plenty more where that came from." This time she raised both hands and once the green glow ignited, thrust them towards Kimiko.
As the green flames shot towards Kimiko once again, though this time in a continuous stream, she lifted a hand in an almost bored gesture and met the jet of green flames with a jet of her own orange ones. She effortlessly held the green flames at bay, forcing them back towards Wuya. Eyes widening in disbelief, Wuya pushed harder on her cursed flames, causing Kimiko to put a little force into hers. The green flames were still held at bay by Kimiko's, using a single hand.
The strain was evident on Wuya's face, though no signs of it were to be seen on Kimiko's. Wuya's hands shook with the effort and she began to sweat, though Kimiko continued to look almost bored.
"Alright. No more playing around." As Kimiko spoke, she raised her other hand, shooting a jet of flames from it too. Wuya's eyes widened in panic. Kimiko's flames were forcing her own backwards at a rapid pace and yet still no signs of strain were visible on Kimiko's face. Fearful eyes sought out Kimiko's, whose face spread into a smirk, eyes flashing, burning with a white-hot fire as the flames streaming from her hands heated up, shooting through blue to a bluish-white, sparks flying.
Kimiko's face hardened and the blue-white flames shot forwards with incredible speed, finally forcing Wuya's completely back and connecting with her hands. There was a bang, a blinding flash, and an agonised shriek. When the smoke cleared and the light had dimmed, Kimiko was the only one standing within the circle of scorched grass.
Wuya was no more.
Chapter 10: Of Taunts & Tests
There was a silence during which no one moved, only Kimiko taking a deep, calming breath. Her eyes dimmed from the white-hot flames to her usual cerulean blue.
The first to move was a soldier from the Heylin. He raised his sword in the air, cried, "For Wuya!"
"Down with the princess!" was the reply and the army charged towards her. The joint armies of the Land of Xiaolin moved to draw their swords, Raimundo's eyes widened and he began to run towards her a moment before Clay and Omi moved. But even they were not quick enough. With the smallest of movements, a simple flick of the wrist, they were knocked to the ground, several yards from her. By the time they were back on their feet, the armies of the Land of Xiaolin were upon them. The sounds of war rang out through the air once again, though this time Clay only had to direct Omi's army as well as his own, aided by Kimiko, though she also had her own.
Kimiko didn't draw a single weapon, simply felled any Heylin warrior she came upon using her hands and feet with practiced ease. The swords, maces, and other assorted weapons of the Heylin causing no challenge for her quick reflexes.
Chase and Omi resumed their duel, each moving faster than before, though Omi was still faster. Chase's face contorted into a feral snarl, determined to defeat Omi, though with each passing second his chances were slipping away. The rain was falling just as hard as ever, each droplet was fuelling Omi's strength and his blows began to reach Chase more often. Chase's eyes flashed as he was unable to block Omi's attacks and a well placed kick meant that he was flat on his back with Omi over him.
"I believe you have been defeated, Chase." Omi spoke with such a tone of finality that Chase though for a moment he was feeling the beginnings of fear. Omi's eyes closed once again as the dots on his forehead glowed harder than ever. Opening them, he raised a hand, taking a deep breath and focusing his energy on Chase.
His eyes were no longer his usual beady black, but held the power of the raging ocean. Chase felt the tendrils of fear inching closer to his consciousness as he felt his limbs being encased in water, though none was visible. He felt the water creep up his torso and encase his head. He turned his wide, frantic eyes to Omi, whose face was set, giving him a hard stare, and within moments he ceased to exist.
Simply a puddle on the grass.
Omi blinked and his eyes returned to normal, the dots on his forehead dimming. He cast a final glance at the puddle that was all that remained of Chase Young before dashing off to join his army in the fight.
Now each army had the leader they were familiar with, and who knew them and their strengths. The armies moved as one effective unit, each utilising their strengths: skill, endurance and strategy.
Clay and his army strove onwards, using their shields, waiting until the Heylin army tired themselves out attempting to break down their shields – in vain, though, for they were made of the earth, enchanted by Clay to withstand blade and metal – before striking them down.
Under the command of Omi, the army of the Tsunami Kingdom was impressive to see; swords flashing as their superior skill cut down any in their path. The Heylin's army was no match for Omi's soldiers and the number soon depleted.
Through the use of seemingly mundane hand signals and simple movements the Pyronians co-ordinated their attacks, taking the ruthless Heylin army by surprise. Understanding flashed between the army coloured in reds and silver and none but them knew of what, allowing them to move with precision and purpose, swiftly completing their tasks and taking out their fair share of the enemies.
Raimundo faced off against the bean once again, a cocky grin at his lips. "Look at that. It's just you left, bean-man."
"Don't assume that because your little friends took out Wuya and Chase you can do the same to me. You'll find yourself sorely disappointed."
"Oh, I don't think so." Raimundo circled the bean, still grinning. "You know, your over-confidence will get you into trouble one of these days."
"So will yours." Hannibal spat back.
Raimundo smirked. "Maybe so, but my day hasn't come yet."
"Neither has mine."
"It's upon you. Maybe you're right. Maybe I won't be able to bring you down. But I'm sure as hell gonna try. And if I fail, you can bet that one of the others will get you. I may have neither training nor experience, but they sure do."
Hannibal sneered. "So be it."
As each of Hannibal's arms came at him, Raimundo found it easier to dodge each time. The bean may not have been human either, but his speed was no match for Raimundo's, which he soon realised, to immense displeasure. If he was going to beat the boy he was going to have to play dirty. The only question was how. What could he say or do to gain the upper hand over the young prince. His earlier remarks about the fall of Skymond had served to anger the boy but that had only made him stronger. He needed something that would fill him with despair, not make him more determined to kill him.
He stared to talk, taunting him with anything and everything he could think of. "What will happen to your poor family when I kill you? Will they miss you? How could they miss something so pathetic? You'll never see them again, young prince. You'll never see Skymond. It will never see freedom. It will be mine forever. You will never have that right. It was lost to you forever seventeen years ago. Though today you lose so much more. You lose your future. You'll never have a family of your own. You'll never have the girl you dream of."
At the flash of emotion in Raimundo's eyes as he twisted out of the way of Hannibal's flailing arms once more brought a huge grin to the bean's face. "Oh. I see. There's already someone. Will she mourn you? Does she even know you exist? How could she? You're no one. I know it. They know it. Look at them: the three of them directing their armies. Is that you? No. You're here. They've all done this before. This isn't their first time. It shows, doesn't it? Are you capable of that ease?"
Hannibal had stopped fighting, circling Raimundo once again. He could see that his words were beginning to have an effect on the boy, and with a grin decided to try and crush his morale completely.
"What difference does it make? You're only tiring yourself out, dodging like that, and soon I will make my move – strike you down. Then I'll move on to them. I'll make them watch while I kill the pitiful little humans who refuse to join me. Then it'll be their turn. I think I'll start with the oldest. Work my way down to the youngest. Yes, the little princess is quite pretty, isn't she? We'll have some fun before she dies…"
He had expected the boy to react to this, but not in the way he did. The young prince's eyes flashed with the force of a typhoon as he turned and lashed out at the bean, commanding the wind towards him with such a force that when he landed, he made a sizeable dent in the ground.
Hannibal picked himself up with a grin. He had found his weakness.
"Hit a nerve, have I? It seems you have a soft spot for the little princess, eh? Come now, you can't possibly think you have any chance with her? Oh, sure, she acts friendly enough now. But that's only because she needed you to get her kingdom back. You were just a means to an end. Just you wait and see, once this is all over she won't give you so much as a sideways glance. Not that either of you will survive long enough to test that theory. You're no better than the dirt beneath her boots."
With Hannibal's words, the young prince had retreated further into himself, allowing Hannibal to get close enough to wrap his multiple arms around the boy's wrists, forcing him to his knees with a soft cry.
Kimiko froze where she stood, spinning on the spot to see Raimundo on his knees, his back to the bean, wincing in pain. Her blood ran cold as Hannibal's laugh filled the air, causing the fighting to come to a stop, the few Heylin soldiers left cheering with their only remaining leader. Kimiko shook her head wordlessly, rushing forward only to run into an invisible barrier. The warriors followed, testing the barrier with fists, feet and assorted weaponry, though none broke through it. It was a barrier between Raimundo and the bean, and the rest of them, sending a clear message: no one interferes. This is between me and him.
Raimundo looked up and straight into the anxious eyes of Kimiko. They stared for a moment, seeming to notice nothing but each other. Hannibal laughed again upon noticing, leaning in and murmuring in Raimundo's ear, "A final farewell?"
Raimundo couldn't take it any longer. The bean was the reason for everything he had lost. His kingdom, his people, his home. He wasn't about to let him take the only things he had left too. In Kimiko's eyes he found strength, renewed resolve, and he felt himself straighten his eyes surging once again with the winds of a tornado. "You're right, bean. I don't have a chance with Princess Kimiko. Never did. But that doesn't stop how I feel. And even though I'll never have her, that doesn't mean I should give up."
He looked Kimiko straight in the eye once more, recalling her words from the first day he met her, the day his life changed. "I have a duty to my people, and they shouldn't have to live under a tyrant like you. So I'll never get the girl of my dreams. So what? I just leave my people to your mercy? I don't think so. I'm not about to give up on them. Any leader should care about their people, putting their needs above their own."
Suddenly the bean was blasted away from him. He leapt into the air, where he hovered, glaring at the bean as he staggered to his feet. "Your rule is at an end, bean-dude."
Kimiko watched intently as the bean was blasted away from Raimundo by the force of the wind. The barrier had prevented them from hearing what was being said, though Raimundo had looked her in the eye as he said it, and she felt a grin come to her face as she watched him rise into the air. She knew he had it in him to do this all along. From the moment he had first consciously moved the wind, pushing it into her face as they made their way to Seismeccia, she had felt the immense power within him, the untapped potential. He would be the greatest of all of them, exactly what Skymond needed after their seventeen years of oppression.
They all watched as Raimundo raised his arms, summoning the wind around them before thrusting it towards Hannibal. The wind circled around him, lifting him into the air, before it compressed inwards, dissolving the bean until there was nothing left but his dying scream on the breeze.
The last of the Heylin leaders was gone.
The dozen remaining soldiers put up little resistance after that, surrendering to the blows of their foes, or else dealing themselves the fatal blows.
Chapter 11: Of Love & Restored Glory
Raimundo landed lightly on the grass and as the barrier flickered and vanished, Kimiko rushed towards him, flinging her arms around his neck. "You did it! I told you – you had it in you all along!" She pulled back, eyes dancing with pride and joy, and Raimundo couldn't resist. He tightened the arm he had round her waist, placed the other on the back of her neck and pulled her into a kiss.
The wind fluttered around the two of them as they remained locked in an embrace. Clay just grinned as he saw the two of them, shaking his head. He knew that this was bound to happen, though he couldn't believe it had taken them so long. Kimiko's father had known, as had Raimundo's family and Keiko, after watching them behave around one another at the house on the outskirts of the Land of Xiaolin. The armies had known from only seeing them together a day. Heck, even Omi could tell.
The two only pulled away from each other at the sounds of yelling coming from a nearby tent. Turning to see what the commotion was about, unconsciously linking their hands as they did so, they saw two Seismeccian soldiers dragging two protesting forms towards them. The first was Jack Spicer, who hadn't been seen since he had run away from Raimundo, and the other was a blonde girl, presumably his girlfriend.
They were dropped before Kimiko and Raimundo, who Clay and Omi soon joined. "Where have you been hiding, Spicer? I thought you wanted the fight. You rang the bell, didn't you?"
"Yes, but I didn't want Wuya, Chase or Hannibal to be mad at me for running." He whined pitifully.
The four surveyed him carefully. "Well, it's left to you, Kimiko. This is your territory, after all." Clay spoke up, eliciting a whimper from the lump curled on the ground.
Kimiko surveyed him carefully before speaking in a clear voice. "Exile." Jack and the blonde looked up at her in disbelief. "You took no part in the fighting, you caused harm, so you shall be punished, but you took no lives, so I see no reason to take yours. You are banished from Pyronia. You know the punishment should you return." They blinked at her for another moment before scrambling up and taking their leave.
The next day saw the armies returning to their respective kingdoms, the Pyronians to attempt to clean up the mess left by the Heylin, and the four monarchs headed, along with Raimundo's family, Toshiro and Keiko – to Skymond. Kimiko and Raimundo rode on horseback – Pyronian ponies, of course – while the others followed behind in the enchanted carriage.
As they approached the Skymondian boarders, Raimundo started to tense. Kimiko placed her hand on his, claiming his attention. She smiled brightly at him, eliciting a weak one in return. "I'm nervous. What if they're angry?"
"You freed them, Raimundo. They're going to be ecstatic."
Soon they were over the border and Raimundo stared about him in dismay. The land was hard and dry, the plants looked dead and the outlying villages deserted. The further inwards they travelled, the worse it got. Raimundo felt his hands clench into fists. What had the bean done to his kingdom? He had known it would be bad, but he had no idea it would be this bad. He was beginning to think he had gone easy on him.
As they reached the capital of the kingdom, coming upon the palace, they began to see people. Though the people looked lifeless. They were almost as thin as Kimiko, though it was easy to see that while this was natural for her, for these people it was not. Their faces wore defeated looks, as if they had given up hope long ago. They stared at the travellers, their eyes lighting up in disbelief as they noticed the colours upon the robes Kimiko and Raimundo wore, their gaze lingering on the tiara on Kimiko's head, before reaching the crown on Raimundo's rubbing their eyes to ensure they hadn't imagined it.
Both Kimiko and Raimundo felt tears running down their cheeks as they saw the plight of the people of Skymond. Reaching the palace, a sob tore from Kimiko's throat.
It was intact, though it was obvious that Hannibal hadn't lived there. There was a much cruder, more sinister building next to it, bearing shadow images of the wretched bean. The people had taken care of the palace over the years, holding on to their hope that their monarch would one day come to free them.
The time had come at last.
They came to a stop in the palace courtyard, the doors of the carriage bursting open as the Pedrosas rushed out to gaze upon their once noble kingdom with tearful eyes. Clay, Omi, Toshiro and Keiko stepped out next, sadness emanating from their souls at the chaos around them. Raimundo turned to help Kimiko down from her horse, his eyes silently pleading with her. Once on the ground she held his hand tightly in hers for reassurance, though for whom neither knew.
"This is all that's left of it…" Carla murmured, tears rolling down her face as Alejandro clung to her leg, half hidden behind her skirts.
"Carla? Carla Pedrosa?" she turned to see the woman they had seen walking back from the well, defeated, carrying an empty jar in her arms, coming towards them, wide-eyed. "Is it really you?"
"Rosalind!" The two women embraced, tears in their eyes. "It's been so long! Oh, and I see you've had more beautiful children! But why have you come here? You must leave, before he returns. Leave while you still can!"
"I assume by 'he' you mean the bean?" Rosalind turned to Kimiko, nodding earnestly, her eyes wide with fear.
"Yes Princess Kimiko."
"He won't be troubling you anymore." Kimiko said with a smile.
"He's dead." Raimundo spoke up for the first time since laying eyes on the palace that was rightfully his. "I killed him."
"Who…who are you?" Rosalind stuttered. "And why do you wear the crown of Skymond? Where did you get it from?"
Carla smiled proudly. "That's my son. The last time you saw him he was only a year old."
"Little Raimundo?" Raimundo pulled a face at being referred to as 'little' while the women laughed. "So…he is dead? We are…free?" Raimundo nodded and Rosalind let out a cry of relief, pulling a shocked Raimundo into her arms. "Thank you! Thank you!"
When she let go of him he grinned at her, stepping back to slip his hand back into Kimiko's. Clay and Omi stepped up beside them. "Ready?" They nodded.
The four clasped hands, closing their eyes. The only sign of anything happening was the glowing of Omi's forehead dots and the wind whipping around them until they opened their eyes. Kimiko's blazed with white-hot flames, Raimundo's roared with the power of a hurricane, Omi's raged with the power of the ocean and Clay's rumbled like an earthquake. They began to speak in the ancient tongue of the Land of Xiaolin. The people were drawn from their houses at the power rumbling throughout the kingdom, and all stared in amazement at the four, though none could understand the words rolling out of their mouths. None of the four spoke the ancient language, yet somehow they instinctively knew what to say. Their words built up in a crescendo until the final word was shouted to the heavens and the power of the elements was released in an explosion that forced the onlookers to the ground.
As they got up, they blinked in amazement. Magic was moving throughout the kingdom, and in its wake, life was restored. The well was refilled, the trees were once again in bloom, the familiar breeze blew once again, and the crude black atrocity was pulled to the ground, disappearing before their very eyes. Skymond was restored to its former glory.
The people rushed forward as the four's eyes returned to normal, crowding around them, gazing in wonder at the three they knew and the one they didn't, staring at the familiar colours and crown he wore.
Later that afternoon, horses, carriages, and people on foot surged into Skymond, all headed towards the palace to see their monarch who had saved them at last, and to return to their noble kingdom, now free of tyranny and restored to its former glory.
Chapter 12: Of Vows & Questions
Raimundo sat inside the palace, leaning against one of the pillars, staring at the throne. He heard her come and sit beside him, though said nothing. "It's yours now, you know." Her gentle voice spoke beside him. She nudged him with her shoulder. "Don't you want to try it out?"
He shook his head. "It doesn't seem real."
Her silvery laugh echoed throughout the large room. "You're wearing robes with Skymond's colours. Royal robes, may I add. Plus you're wearing the crown on your head."
"I know, but you can dress up in robes and a crown, but that doesn't make you a prince."
"Well, these do. They're the real deal." She stood up, brushing off her own travelling robes. "Come on," she held out her hand, which he took, keeping it clasped in hers, following her when she moved, not stopping until they were before the throne. "Sit."
"What, am I a dog now?" he asked playfully.
"Just sit." She giggled. Slowly, he sat on the throne. "Well, how does it feel?" He just grinned.
Toshiro entered the room quietly, a smile coming to his face at the sight before him. "Kimiko, shouldn't you be getting changed? It's nearly time."
"Yes, papa." She got up with a giggle, rolling her eyes, kissing him on the cheek as she darted past him.
He turned to leave, but Raimundo stood up to stop him. "Uh, Mr Tohomiko, before you go, could I have a word?"
"Yes, your highness." Raimundo blushed, flustered at being addressed in such a manner.
"You don't have to call me that."
"Don't I? You're Prince Raimundo now."
"I guess I'll just have to get used to it, huh?" Toshiro just smiled and Raimundo took a deep breath, preparing himself for what he was about to say. "Uh, Mr Tohomiko-"
"You don't have to call me that." Raimundo grinned sheepishly at his own words thrown back at him before continuing.
"I…well…" he floundered for words, unsure of how to address such a manner.
Toshiro smiled at his flustered state. He had a fair idea what the young man was trying to say, though he would just wait for him to say it himself. "I notice you aren't sitting in your throne anymore."
"It doesn't feel right without her here." He answered honestly before seeming to remember who he was speaking to. "Uh…I…uh…what was I saying?"
Toshiro allowed himself a small smile. He could remember how this felt and decided to help the poor young man out. "You were trying to ask for my permission to marry my daughter." He replied calmly.
Raimundo's eyes widened. "I-I-I…uh…" he stuttered.
Toshiro chuckled. "Oh, yes. I know. I'm not blind. I've known that you would come to me sometime soon with this question since I saw you together at your house on the outskirts." Raimundo's spluttering ceased, though he was still speechless. "I love my daughter, and all I want is for her to be happy. If you really love her-"
"I do." Cut in Raimundo earnestly. "More than anything."
Toshiro smiled happily. "Then you have my permission to ask her. The final decision rests with her, of course. My daughter isn't one who will be told what to do." Raimundo's face spread into a wide grin, his eyes twinkling in a way that made Toshiro certain that he had made the right decision. Raimundo would make Kimiko happy – for he had no doubt that she would accept – and it was clear that he loved her very much. "Just keep her safe."
"I will, sir." The determined reply further increased his certainty.
"I think you'd better go and get changed now, your highness. Your people await you."
The palace courtyard was filled with Skymondians; those who had remained, trapped under Hannibal Roy Bean's tyranny, as well as those who had managed to escape, fleeing to the other kingdoms, or to the outskirts. Though they had lived pleasant lives in the other kingdoms, there had always been a yearning underneath it all, a yearning for their home: Skymond. They had returned when they heard of the kingdom's release from the Heylin's power and the coming of their rightful monarch, all gathered to hear their young prince address them for the first time.
Raimundo fidgeted in the small chamber, his nerves getting the better of him. Just beyond that curtain was the whole of Skymond, all waiting to hear from him. What was he supposed to say? What if they didn't like him?
He was interrupted in his fidgeting by a giggle from the doorway. "Nervous, I guess?" Raimundo nodded mutely, too stunned to speak. She was wearing a red dress which floated around her figure to the floor, silvery threads entwined in the red fabric, the sleeves silver and transparent. Her hair was loose again, framing her face, though a few strands were pulled back to help hold her tiara in place.
"I still remember my first. Though at least you're eighteen. I was six. I had to stand on a footstool just to see over the balcony. I remember that I wanted to have the flag moved so that I could just peer through the little pillars." She grinned at the memory.
"Well, at least they wouldn't expect too much of you if you were six."
She turned to him, eyeing his tie and sighing affectionately before moving to fix it. "They don't expect much of you." She murmured, her eyes on his tie as she spoke. "They just want to see you. Their hope has been restored." She glanced up at him, her hands not leaving his tie, though it had been fixed. "In you."
They stared into each others' eyes, leaning forward slightly, though were interrupted by the entrance of Clay and Omi. "Well, Prince Raimundo, are you ready to address your people?" Raimundo took a deep breath and nodded, stepping through the curtain.
As the young prince appeared on the balcony, the crowd gathered below erupted into cheers. An easy grin came to his face and he glanced behind him to the Clay, Omi and Kimiko step out to stand behind him. Kimiko flashed him an encouraging smile and he turned back to the crowd. He could do this. It couldn't be any harder than defeating Hannibal, could it?
"People of Skymond," the crowd fell deathly silent as he began, their rapt attention giving him confidence. "For seventeen years you have suffered at the hands of the Heylin, at the hands of Hannibal Roy Bean. Seventeen years ago they invaded our kingdom, striking down those brave enough to stand up for this noble kingdom. Some of you fled, trying to protect your families, while some of you were not so fortunate. Under the hand of the tyrannical bean our beloved kingdom diminished, the life draining from it. It lost its beauty, its nobility, its glory… But today it has been restored. With the fall of the Heylin at the Oriel valley, the kingdom and all of its subjects were released from the oppression of the Heylin and myself, along with the three monarchs of the other noble kingdoms which make up the Land of Xiaolin: Prince Clay of Seismeccia, Prince Omi of the Tsunami Kingdom, and Princess Kimiko of Pyronia, travelled back here to return the power of the kingdom to it. May our glorious Land of Xiaolin prosper in this new age, free from the threat of the Heylin."
The gathered people cheered as their new leader finished his speech. Kimiko slipped through the curtain once more to retrieve his crown. In the absence of Master Fung, the duty fell to one of the other monarchs and both Clay and Omi agreed that Kimiko should do it. She stepped up beside him, her face glowing with pride as he began to recite his vows. "I, Raimundo Pedrosa, vow to protect the kingdom within the limits of my power. To protect its people at all costs. I promise to bring prosperity and love to the kingdom and within my eternal lifetime I will not see a threat reach these walls." As he finished, the crown, adorned with sapphires and stones which Raimundo had thought looked to be the same colour as Kimiko's eyes, was placed on his head to thunderous applause.
"You see?" Kimiko whispered to him over the noise. "They love you."
Raimundo turned his head to her. She was smiling brightly at him, glowing with joy and pride, her eye sparkling. He couldn't look away.
It was now or never.
Turning to face her, Raimundo took Kimiko's hands in his, oblivious to the knowing grins Clay and Omi were wearing, as well as his family, Toshiro and Keiko in the crowd. The crowd fell silent once more as they saw their prince begin to speak.
"Kimiko, ever since the day I met you, you have fascinated me. You are like no one I have ever met before. Your smile lights up whatever room – whatever kingdom – you happen to be in at the time, your beauty surpasses all limits, you're brave, smart, funny… I could go on for days, but the point is: I am madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with you. And I think I have been since the moment I met you." Kimiko was smiling again, though there were tears in her eyes. "What I'm trying to say is," Kimiko's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in shock as Raimundo dropped on one knee before her. "Princess Kimiko Tohomiko of Pyronia, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?"
Kimiko's eyes shone brightly. "Yes." The crowd cheered once again as their new monarch pulled his new fiancée into his arms for a kiss, the wind swirling around them, producing a ring on her finger, decorated with two stones, each with the colours of one of their kingdoms.
Chapter 13: Epilogue
And so the threat of the Heylin had vanished from the Land of Xiaolin, and all was once again well. The four Kingdoms lived in harmony once again, with Skymond restored and its people reunited once more.
Princess Kimiko and Prince Raimundo's kingdoms were forever linked through their marriage. They lived in the Pyronian palace, though the Skymondian palace was their holiday home, annually hosting the Pedrosa family along with a friend from Raimundo's youth, a young man named Aidan – who was appointed as an advisor to the prince, to listen to the people's needs and inform the prince of any trouble in his absence – and his wife, Keiko, to whom Kimiko and Raimundo bestowed 'their kind of immortality' as a wedding gift.
Prince Clay found a wife in a young girl named Emmaline whose father had been close with his, and granted her the ability to live with him through his extended lifetime.
Prince Omi married his childhood friend, Lilia, who – along with Kimiko, though in a gentler way – had taught him that girls can equal boys and gifted her with an extended lifetime.
And so, with these long lives, the monarchs of the four Kingdoms of the Land of Xiaolin ruled their kingdoms for centuries, beloved by their people and feared by their enemies.
The Land of Xiaolin lived in peace, for the balance of the elements was once again restored.