It did not take overly long for me to recover. As more time passed with me being whole, I was better able to process the time I had spent as two separate beings.
The Phoebian and Helion blades were going to be my secret weapons against Sadow. I simply had to utilise the abilities that Illyana had detected within them. The problem was his inevitable minions. Even assuming I could defeat all of them, it would certainly leave me drained and vulnerable. I needed to persuade my friends to assist me. I did not anticipate that being a simple task. Not after the abrasive way I had acted towards Callie and Lynai.
I heard a loud bounding towards my door. I knew it was Aiko even before she opened the door. Her interest in me consistently resulted in her becoming overly excited when coming to see me.
“Michael!” she called out, opening my door. “Feeling better?”
“I have regained my strength,” I answered. “Will you assist me in gathering everyone together? There is something I must say.”
“You’ve got it!” Aiko declared. “Just leave it to me!”
“I will rely on you,” I stated. I smiled as warmly as I could.
Illyana, Aiko, Lynai, Callie, Tynan and Gabriel were gathered around. I had carefully considered what I was going to say and was prepared.
“Some of you are well aware of this,” I began “but the draconians, my people, were murdered. I have dedicated my life thus far to avenging them and I believe the time has come to complete that quest. However, my opponent is very powerful.”
“We’ve heard,” Tynan jumped in. “One of the Magi himself.”
I nodded. “I am going to take a journey to Strecner. I know that I have no right to ask you all to accompany me, but I have been through much with all of you. I would ask you all to consider joining me. It is my intention to face Sadow alone but I would ask you all to occupy his colleagues.”
“He’ll have a lot of soldiers,” Gabriel pointed out. “Especially since, as I understand it, he knows you’re after him.”
“That is exactly why I am asking for your help,” I stated. “Beating Sadow will be difficult. Defeating him and all of his soldiers will be nigh impossible. Still, I will make the attempt if I have to.”
“I’ll help!” Aiko declared. I had expected her to agree quickly.
“I will as well,” Illyana said.
“Tynan?” Gabriel asked.
Tynan scratched his chin, thoughtfully.
“I imagine raiding a Magi’s home successfully would prove a great trophy for any mercenary,” I pointed out. “I also imagine most mercenaries are not skilled enough to even consider such a reckless act.”
“You aren’t wrong,” Tynan laughed. It was a deep, bellowing sound. “But Gabe and I are the best out there!” He pointed confidently at himself. “I’m in.”
“Then you have us both,” Gabriel stated. “Someone has to have Tynan’s back.”
“I can think of no one better qualified for that than you,” Tynan said.
“Lyn and I will go, on one condition,” Callie said. “Lyn, you tell him.”
Lynai stood and scrutinised me carefully. “Last time you fought Sadow, you tried to use a binding breath spell to stop him. This time, I want you to vow that you will fight, not to defeat him at any cost, but to live.”
“I don’t want to see you die either!” Aiko chimed in.
“I’m in agreement with them,” Illyana said. “Please, don’t make me bury you.”
Truthfully, I had not expected Lynai to request such a vow. It was not entirely surprising, given her reaction when I had made the initial attempt, true. Still, I had strained our relationship during our journey to Relna and I had expected her to still be somewhat angry over that.
All of them save Illyana were looking directly at me, trying to judge my reaction. Illyana was focused, sensing the atmosphere and listening.
“Very well,” I stated. “I will vow before the Gods themselves that I will do anything in my power to survive my battle. However, if I have taken fatal damage I will use binding breath as a final action in order to avenge myself upon Sadow. Is that acceptable?”
Lynai and Callie looked at one another. Lynai nodded. “Then, we’re agreed,” she said.
“I’ll have some provisions packed,” Illyana offered. “Aiko, help me out, okay? Michael, get a good night’s rest. You might feel better right now but there’s always a chance you could relapse if you push yourself too hard this soon.”
“I will follow your advice,” I said. “Thank you. All of you.”