Umi shivered inwardly at the deafening silence of her house. Since her mother had taken ill the clatter of plates in the morning as well as the evening had ceased to be. The comfort of family talks dissipated with a wave of Fate's uncaring hand. The doctors had yet to say what had caused Mrs.Ryuuzaki's sudden health problems or why she was, at the current moment, laying in a hospital bed motionless in a coma. Umi pulled her knees up to her chin and rested there, her tears had stopped coming over the weeks. The phone rang and jerked Umi out of her reflections. A pale hand stretched out to the receiver and picked it up hurriedly.

"Hello? Father?" Umi cleared her throat hoping, no, praying that the person on the other line would be her father. Since her mother's sporatic illnesses... and the coma he had ventured into his buisness forgetting his trouble at the hospital and his daughter at home. 'But it isn't his fault,' she scolded herself mentally. 'This is hard on him... very hard.' She swallowed. "Hello?"

"Oh.. sorry. I understand. Thank you. No don't worry. I wont stay up waiting for you." Umi bit her lip and kept a fresh batch of tears at bay. "Goodbye." Another phone call to annouce another late arrival. She hung up the tellephone.


"Hikaru! Phone!" A student from the dojo rushed in and smiled warmly at the red haired girl. He bowed keeping one fist tightly closed over the other to show her he ment no disrespect in suddenly interrupting her studies. "Your brothers said it might cheer you up." He scurried out of the room after motioning that the phone was out in the front hallway.

******************************************** Umi paused for a moment and caught her breath. She grinned and wiped away a single tear when she heard the fire Knight's voice come over the speaker. After so long she retained her perkyness. Umi held back a laugh. Trust in Hikaru to change her moods that drastically.

"So I'll see you at Tokyo Tower at five today. Alright. I'll see you then." She laughed hearing Hikari barking at Hikaru over the phone. "Don't worry I'll call Fuu. Im sure Hikari won't mind me doing that. Ja ne." She hung up then picked up the receiver almost instantly. Her fingers reacting before her mind as they traced the well worn path of numbers.

"Fuu?" Umi waited and subconciously followed through Fuu's habits. Push back the glasses, dwell on the voice, and deduce who and why they were calling. Umi almost fell out of bed. "No it isn't guy problems! I just wanted to schedule a get together." Umi pushed back her hair band and fumbled into a sitting position. "Where else would it be?" Her eyes softened briefly going back four years ago when they were first carried off to the mysterious land of Cephiro. "Today at five." She nodded to herself. "Okay then. We will see you there. Don't forget to bring some money and make plans on eating there. Dang it... oh. I forgot to tell Hikaru that. Don't worry. I can cover her. Ja ne." Umi stood up and put the phone on it's final resting place.

"Meeting in five... that means I have an hour to get dressed and rush over there. Im going to be late." Her laughter rang through the empty house.

Hikaru quickly got dressed and braided her hair. "Maybe seeing the others will help!" Running out the door, she was quickly stopped by questions coming from behind her." I'm just going out, and oh, tell my brothers thank you." She cheerfully yelled back, closing the door.

Hikaru ran as fast as her legs could take her to Tokyo Tower, memories flashing in her head of that infamous field trip that sent herself, Umi, and Fuu to that beautiful world called Cephiro. But her smiling features darkened a little to the fact that after they came back from their second trip there they never returned and time passed so quickly.

She finally saw Tokyo Tower and saw someone with blonde hair step on the elevator-not just any blonde person."Fuu!" she cheerfully yelled running to her. They exchanged hugs and took the ride up to the top, talking along the way.

When they finally got to the deck they saw that no one was here but them." Trust Umi to be late." Hikaru said laughing," Things haven't exactly been going that wonderful with my family and the dojo I don't know what to you think?" she paused to listen to Fuu concerned voice. " I know that I shouldn't be putting on myself, but...I don't know. What about you? How are things going...?"

Umi plucked nervously at her skirt. Before she had left home her father had called again requesting her audience at Hotel Nibbin for some buisness afair. She held the invitations for Fuu and Hikaru in her hands. She thought a little social gather, even if it did consist of her father's buisness associates who were well in their late twenties and thirties, would brighten up their lives some.

She had gotten her dad to send the invites over by a suborninate of his. She settled back against the guard rail of the observation tower and glanced towards the elevator. Her breath caught in her throat as the doors opened up revealing the cheery faced red haired Knight and the mature blonde haired Knight.

"Fuu!! Hikaru!!" She waved her hand while rushing forward.


In Cephiro

Clef gazed sadly from the a castle balcony and onto the supposedly beautiful land he lived in. With the way Cephiro was restored and left to appear as after the Knights left, he thought it might have finally been beautiful, where everyone could be happy. But now, shrouded under it's again beautiful exterior, people still fought on as if wanting a pillar again. Them looking up to Ferio also concerned the advisor; such a young boy, in love with a knight from another world, to be burdened with the responsibility of ruling Cephiro as their sole leader. Speaking of which, he remembered he wanted to see Ferio about his opinions. Even though it was quiet, his mind wasn't at rest from his worry about their future again and the three Knights as well. Having not seen the girls in such a long time he wondered how they were all doing.

Turning back towards the entrance inside again, his robes fluttered silently behind him as he made for the main room. The door opened swiftly before him and he looked at the chair turned with it's back to him.

"Ferio?" Clef asked hoping the Prince was in the chair, lest he'd have to search elsewhere for him.


Fuu tilted her head, honestly interested in Hikaru’s answer.

“Well,” The red head squeaked. “as you know, Fuu-chan, it all started when my brothers were in a car accident, and then when my Mama burnt her self and-and, it just isn’t getting any easier, Fuu-chan,” Hikaru sobbed gently, falling back against the side of the railing gently. Fuu reached a gentle hand onto her friend’s should, squeezing gently, doing her best to comfort her distraught friend.

“Hikaru-san, do you remember what happened here, at Tokyo Tower?”

Hikaru stared at Fuu as though she had suddenly turned into one of Ascot’s beloved ‘Friends’.

“How could I forget? So much has happened here, so many happy memories. . .”

“That’s exactly it, why do you want to destroy such a happy place with such a frown-ey face?”

The Blond relaxed slightly as her friend giggled at her silly rhyme, providing Fuu with the smile she was trying to get from her vertically challenged friend.

“I-I guess your right Fuu-chan, thank you.”

“Now, I do believe we should look for Umi-san, are you coming, Hikaru-san?”

Fuu sighed happily as Hikaru bounded over to a bench located conveniently located near the Elevator and Stairwell. The minutes went by and Hikaru began to look more and more crestfallen. Fuu knew she was obviously worried about Umi not being there. Fuu looked to the red head questioningly as she dug her heels into the ground, which was Hikaru-talk for she was embarrassed to ask something.

“Is there anything wrong, Hikaru-chan?”

“Do you think that Umi is waiting for us on the bottom floor of the Tower?”

“I don’t know. I suppose she could be, do you want to go check,” Fuu asked. Hikaru nodded and hopped back to the elevator and pressed the button animatedly. It amazed Fuu that when she was with her friends all of her problems seemed to plunge headfirst off of the highest building in Tokyo. The duo stepped into the elevator only to climb back in moments later when discovering that Umi wasn’t waiting at the bottom. Fuu didn’t mind, it gave her something to do until the third in their party arrived.

“Okay Fuu-chan, your turn,” Hikaru said.

“Alright, alright! Would you like to buy a Duck?”

“A what?”

“A Duck.”

“A what,” chorused Hikaru questioningly.

“A – ummm, neon green pogo stick,” Fuu answered.

“Does it spin and light up?”

“Of coarse it does! It is a North American Grizzly Bear.”

The game stopped as the doors dinged open, revealing the elusive Water Knight.

“Fuu! Hikaru!,” Umi yelled, rushing forward.

“UMI-CHAN!,” Hikaru gushed rushing forward and tightly embracing Umi. Fuu follwed meekly behind, bowing politely to Umi.

“Aw, come on Fuu, get over here and give me a hug,” Umi grinned, pulling Fuu into a hug.

“It’s good to see you too, Umi”

“Same to you.”

They pulled apart from the hug and Fuu glanced around.

“It’s so great to see you all again,” Fuu commented, the others nodding in agreement. They all stood in a comfortable silence for a bit until Hikaru broke them all out of their thoughts.

“Umi-chan, would you mind telling us why you asked us to come here?”

"I think everyone is in need of a rest from their normal lives." Umi smiled looking at the two. "Since your Teacher's death Fuu... and your brothers' accidents...and my mother's illness." Umi paused a moment as her smile vanished. She wouldn't give into tears, she wouldn't! She shook her head and looked up with a smile.

"I figured we could all go to a party. My father has conveniantly invited us to .. tonight. Perhaps after that you could all spend the night at my house." She grinned holding out the invitations. "I know the party is for two buisness firms but..." She shrugged. "We can eat all the food and drink all the drinks we want. I think everyone was invited to bring their daughters and sons along... if that helps." Umi deposited the invites into the other girls' hands.

"So what do you say Hikaru? Fuu?" Umi smiled clasping her hands together behind her back.

The butt of the pistol swung down and crashed on the back of the bundled and trussed man's neck. He yelled in pain as another of his five assailants kicked him in the side. Takeda Matsuo grunted again and rolled against the alleyway's wall. Red was slowly creeping into the man's vision, blood scoring across his face.

The yakuza gang sniggered as their leader, a short squat bearded man with a missing finger yanked him up and shoved him in his face. Known and feared in the underworld as the Karasu, the crow. Rank breath brought from alcohol and nicotine invaded Takeda's nostrils. "Had enough, doctor? Hand over the formula you created for us, and we'll make it seem like you never killed your own father."

Blood dripped down the side of his mouth and he was mildly bruised, but the doctor had enough strength to spit defiantly in the gangster's face. "I burned it. I refuse to be responsible for destroying any more people's lives."

The gangster laughed, shoving Matsuo against the wall. He winced as the cold barrel of a pistol pressed against his head. "Sugoi. I guess we'll just have to kill you now..."

The laughs of the criminals filled his ears as Matsuo closed his eyes.

And was drowned out entirely by a new cacophony of laughter. Low, eerie, and mocking, it drove a dagger of ice into his heart just to hear it. "Nani?! Who's there?!" the leader demanded, Matsuo forgotten and brandishing his pistol menacingly at the dark walls about them. Then came horrified screams, slams, and staccato bursts of gunfire.

Matsuo's ears registered the sound of a struggle of some sort, and he willed his eyes to open a crack. His blood ran cold at the sight and he blinked his eyes several times to be sure he wasn't being tricked.

His would be murderers were were stumbling back and groaning, punctutated by bone cracking slams, as if engaged in some mock brawl. The problem was that their assailant was unseen. One henchman's head rocked upward, almost as if he had been smashed in the chin with an uppercut. This was accompanied by the distinctive impact of hard leather on flesh and bone. Another bent in pain holding his stomach, then flew back head over heels. Almost as if someone had kicked him in the face.

The mocking laugh stung Matsuo's ears as he cowered against the wall. Right before his eyes, another one of the criminals was screaming. Floating in the air on his back, held aloft by some unseen hand and screaming for his mother, only to be thrown against the wall.

For a split second, Matsuo could have sworn he had seen a dark distorted blot on the wall. And a pair of piercing emerald eyes that seemed to dig into his soul. He sucked in a gasp.

With good reason. One of the criminals turned to Matsuo and, as if remembering what they were supposed to do, raised his dagger and aimed it for the doctor's heart. Matsuo raised his hands and flinched. The laugh rose in volume as if its owner had moved right in front of him. When Matsuo heard a thud, he glanced down and paled. The yakuza had his own dagger impaled up his throat.

Takeda Matsuo's mouth was hanging open at all this. What was this unseen phantom?

Finally, the only one left was the leader. His pistol was pointing in all directions, turning left and right as if fearing the attacker would spring on him from behind.

He grunted and rocked to the side as SOMETHING smashed into the side of his face, making him drop the gun. The Karasu doubled his fists up, only for another unseen strike to conect with his porcine face. Then came a low raspy voice from the shadows, tinged with dark and mocking amusement. "You framed this man for murder, Karasu. Only scum like you would set up an innocent man to further the desires of your greedy little mind. A derisive snigger. "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. You were going to kill this man to try and assuage your negative feelings at what you did. would have given yourself one more sin to answer for."

"SHOW YOURSELF, DAMN YOU!!!" the crook screamed hysterically.

Those words were cut off as three more hits connected onto the Karasu's mouth, gut, and cheek. The voice hissed again. "You'll turn yourself in for Dr. Takeda Kaoru's murder. And if you don't, I'll be there to haunt you. Hiding in every shadow, every corner...just like your guilty conscience." The terrifying laughter seemed to bounce off the walls.

The criminal was engaged in a mixture of sweating, chuckling just like his tormentor, and screaming. Matsuo gasped again as the criminal's own gun seemed to levitate and press itself against the crook's throat. "Oh, OKAY OKAY!!! L...L...eave me alone!!! I'll do it!!! I'LL CONFESS!!! Ehehehehe...heeeheee!!!"

And suddenly, a tall black shadow seemed to detach itself from the darkness and project itself onto the floor. That shadow coalesced into the form of a tall man in a long black overcoat and cape, with a black slouch hat and a scarlet scarf protectng his mouth. Matsuo took a step back, cold sweat on his brow. The man's eyes...were pure evil.

This eerie phantom of the night took a couple of slow strides to the doctor then held out a black gloved hand. It had a scarlet ring on it. In the distance, sirens were growing louder. Probably alerted by the gunfire. Matsuo realized they had to move. He took the offered hand and it swiftly pulled him out of the alleyway. Behind them, the once-feeling-invincible Karasu was babbling and sniggering something about confessing. He had been reduced to some mindless idiot.

Matsuo was ushered into the back of waiting taxi. Up front, the driver raised his cap and cheerily greeted him. "Komban wa!" The door slammed behind him and Matsuo shrank from the other corner. The windows were tinted and there wasn't much light in these streets. He could not see his rescuer. Noting but a pair of emerald eyes glowing like live coals in the dark. The engine roared as they sped into the night.

"Your name?" the voice asked. Not a question. It was a command to speak.

"Takeda Matsuo."

"Why were those men after you?" Another command.

Matsuo just felt the words flow. "Months back, my father had died in bad debt and I had just become a doctor to follow in his footsteps. Those yakuza men had had me manufacture a new brand of cocaine for them, easy to mass produce in the form of a tablet. I thought it was all right at first...but recently someone died of an overdose of that drug. I couldn't take it anymore, so I left them, getting rid of the formula. They set me up for the murder of another person and promised they'd plant evidence to exonerate me if I gave the formula back to them."

There was silence from the other side of the car. An eerie silence. Not seeming to pay any heed, the driver up front whistled and turned the car down another street.

"Your life," the voice finally said. "Belongs to me now. You are still free to destroy it though. Shall we return you to your previous occupation?" It did no take Matsuo more than a second to decide. He wagged his head emphatically. "Iye. I will never travel down that path again. I want to help people now, not hurt them. But what will you do with my life?"

"I will improve it. I will make it useful. I will help you redeem yourself from what you've done. A slot has been made avilable for you at the Harada Clinic. You can pursue your real dream there. You will have lodgings at a good residence area and your bills will be paid. You will also have everything you need." A pause. "You will have a new life, in short. A life of excitement, a life of honor. Yet a life of danger, for I have lost lives as well as saved them." There seemed to be a shift in the seat, as if the cloaked stranger had folded his arms, yet the eyes never wavered. "Shut your eyes for one minute, Takeda. Think about this. And if you accept, then promise me your absolute obedience. I do not demand strength or skill though those WILL be quite useful to me."

Matsuo closed his eyes, and it seemed to him his future had brightened before him. There was but one choice to make.

"Hai, I accept."

The sillhouette seemed to nod. "Then remember, absolute obedience. That's all I want. You will know when you are needed."

Aruptly, the taxi had stopped in from the Imperial Townhomes, one of the newest residence areas in the city with excellent housing and shelter. Half in a daze, Matsuo stumbled out and the taxi driver followed him out, grinning. "Welcome to the club." His hand came up from his pocket and he placed a blazing ruby ring into the doctor's hand. "Do not EVER take this off. Thi lil doohickey will glow when the boss needs you."

The taxi driver turned to go, but Matsuo stopped him with an arm. "Hold on: who are you?" The driver grinned and tossed a thumb back to the cab. "Someone who oews him his life." His own right hand came up with a similar ring and he winked. "Someone just like you."

The taxi sped off into the night, leaving the doctor's mind with the mysterious events of the night. There were tow things that seemed to echo in his mind. The first was the stranger's reminder about obedience.

The secdond that eerie mocking laugh tha he felt would haunt him for weeks to come.


The taxi drove silently down the brillinatly lit Tokyo streets. Lamont Cranston removed the hat, cloak, and scarf, leaving him in the overcoat. He smiled to himself as he noted how one more agent had been added to his network. The American reached below his seat and pulled a fresh pressed tuxedo. The party being held in his honor and hosted by Mr. Ryuuzaki wasn't until a few hours. Might as well past time in something productive.

"Boss, where to?"

"The Sanctum." came the reply.

Lamont was staring out the window at those people in the city still up after the sun fell. As the taxi drove along, sometghing peaked in the back of the Shadow's mind, and instinctively he looked up out the window. His now grey eyes widened at the sight. He wondered if he himself wasn't being clouded. Like the fabled Fata Morgana, an image was engraved in the night sky. It seemed like a door to another dimension. Lamont pressed closer to the glass. What the...?

The image was that of a blue sky, with giant odd but well-formed pieces of crystal littering it. Flying through the sky were strange beings tat one would see only in a nightmare. Below was an emerald sea of forested hills. He watched in fascination as a pillar of water leaped off the side of a mountain, only to crash into the form of a river below.

It was a beautiful land, whatever it was.

Lamont was transfixed. But when next he blinked, the strange mirage had vanished.

"Boss, what's up?"

Lamont reluctantly settled back, eyes still on the sky. "Nothing. Just keep driving, Jubei."

What had that been all about?

" A party and a sleepover?! I am so there Umi!" Hikaru exclaimed happily. She then looked out the balcony of Tokyo Tower. Pointing, she said " That was there we were first taken to Cephiro. I miss it so much, just seeing Clef and the others would be great. You know...just to see if they're all alright." She looked at the girls who had put their comforting arms around her shoulders. Hikaru knew they missed it as well. Trying to get her hopes up, with a smile Hikaru asked, " do I look?"

"You look five years older!" Umi punched Hikaru's shoulder lightly. Her smile was ginuine. "Lets go to my house. We're supposed to be arriving in a fancy sports car. My dad promised." She laughed and pulled her friends towards the elevator. "Maybe we can try out some makeup on you Hikaru!" Umi beamed and pressed the ground floor button.

Umi tilted her head for a moment as something passed through the air. A current. It felt almost like Cephiro was calling again and then as quickly as it had come it passed. It couldn't have been. When they left they had never returned. Four years on Earth and how many in Cephiro. She absently thought of Madoushi Clef and... Ascot. Her cheeks reddened and she quickly turned her face away from the other two.

"So a night of party and relaxation! This will be great!" Umi bounded through the doors of the elevator as they clicked open. A feminine voice announced the ground floor and the establishments such as the gift shop and game room. She swivled letting her skirt bellow around her. "I feel like..." She stopped in the middle of a sentence crashing into both Hikaru and Fuu as they stepped off the elevator. The ground shook and this time it wasn't Cephiro calling them back. It wasn't an earthquak. It was something much more deadly, and explosion. The entire foundation of the Tokyo Tower shook violently threatening to give as the main observation deck exploded. They had been there just mere seconds ago. The metal frame of Tokyo Tower groaned as the settlement rested ontop of the concrete foundation. The lower half of Tokyo tower had been meraculiously saved by a thick over head floor of concrete but it still threatened to give under the weight of melted metal.

"Fuu?! Hikaru?!" Umi lifted her head looking up and around the place. Frantic people ran towards the outer exits. "Are you alright?" Umi picked herself up from the two. Sirens bellowed off into the distance. As much as she thanked her stars and ancestors that the concrete had provided safe covering she didn't believe her luck would hold. "We have to get out of here before this place crumbles in on itself!" The bottom floor was almost deserted now. A police officer appeared at the opening and she waved. "Come on lets go." It had to have been a pretty big explosion to cause so much damage. Umi ran over fallen debrais. It didn't make sense. Who wanted to attack the Tokyo Tower and for what reason? At the moment in time Japan had no major enemies. China? No. America? No. Who would have want to cause so much distruction? And it struck her. People had been up there.

Lamont Cranston was still thinking about the mirage as the taxi neared the alleyway that was the entrance to his Sanctum. He had heard of doorways to another world before, and indeed when he meditated he sometimes felt he could actually see them.

But today was the first time one of these visions had been so REAL. So concrete. And he'd seen it with his own eyes, not within his mind. Perhaps it had something to do with his sixth sense, for Jubei apparently hadn't seen it and he was a very alert driver.

The taxi pulled over to the side, in front of a nondescript office building. It housed a number of Japanese communications companies, from phones to Internet. If they only knew what was hidden right beneath them.

Jubei's eyes were looking longingly at the McDonald's across the street, so Lamont chuckled and nodded. "Go on and eat Jubei, I might take awhile dressing up." The old driver tossed him a quick salute. The American could have sworn his mouth was watering. "Yes sir!" he saidm, then sped off across the street.

Lamont, who so long ago was feared as the Butcher of Lhasa, walked into the alley beside the building. He pulled a trash dumpster away from the wall, then felt for the lowest brick and slid it up like a panel. A number pad displayed itself and he input the correct code. He was wearing gloves, so if by some off chance anyone discovered it, they wouldn't be able to find the fingerprints.

And three steps away from him along the wall, an entire section slid to the side. A final glane to make sure none were watching, then he silently descended the steps. Another press of a button, and the wall slid closed.

The room around him a mixture of a radio booth, an Internet service provider's office, a small library, and even a little bar. Lamont opened the fridge and drained half a glass of water. Then he opened his coat and took off the shoulder holsters housing his Glock pistols. Times had certainly changed. Before he had favored the 1911 Colt .45 models, but within a few decades had been rendered obsolete.

Some things still remained though.

He reached around his belt and withdrew a golden Chinese scimitar. Around the handle was a face, apparently in slumber. The eyes opened, reptilian, and it hissed. Lamont patted the handle. "Easy, Ying-ko. It's just me." The sentient dagger that had once belonged to his master, had been claimed by Shiwan Khan, and now belonged to him rumbled a low purr as its eyes shut again.

Thank goodness the yakuza he had fought weren't too good. He hadn't even had to use either weapon.

Lamont quickly dressed himself into the warm fresh pressed tuxedo. It would quite a glitzy evening tonight. He was already typing a command into the master computer as he adjusted his bowtie. A few seconds later, the screen displayed an image of a twenty-something man who was similarly seated at a computer. "Shadow-sama." he greeted solemnly. "Nice to see you back in Nippon."

"I've had fun so far, thank you Eiji. Kindly report." The Shadow's communications master nodded and shuffled some papers before him. "Well...I regert to inform you that Kobayashi Ryo has died, Shadow-sama."

Lamont blinked, surprise evident on his face. "WHAT?!" The Math teacher at one of the most popular private schools in Japan was one of his most trusted agents, as well as a good friend. He was supposed to visit him in a few days time before he left Japan.

"Just a few weeks ago, sir. Apparently he died of a heat stroke."

The Shadow frowned. "A heat stroke. Yet it is springtime?"

"I regret to say that certainly seems to be the case. Frankly sir I am suspicious."

"So am I.", said Lamont. His eyes travelled down to the keyboard. What had happened? He was convinced it was no heat stroke, certainly not on a spring day. Foul play HAD to be at the bottom of this.

Question was: WHO and WHY?

It was at that moment that intense pain intruded into his mind. Lamont held his hands up and gripped his forehead, but the pai would not go away. Dozens of screams were stomping all over his mind like a wild herd of elephants.

"Sir?" Eiji was about to inquire more, when a beep was heard and he glanced off-screen and tapped a button. "Sir...this just in from our agent in the 27th precint." Eiji's eyes were twisted in astonishment and horror. "NANI?!" He looked up. "Sir...!"

Lamont's eyes came back up. He felt like his heart had been nailed and his mind stabbed. "The Tokyo Tower has been bombed. People have died." He rammed a few commands into his own keyboard, and half the screen was replaced by a video feed of the Tokyo skyline. He had dozens of cameras all over the city. He zoomed in onthe Tokyo Tower, one of the major centers of tourism and entertainment in the city. It also housed a few radio and TV channels.

Smoke was rising from the Tower, and several of the glass had exploded into the streets below. Even now, Lamont could hear the people's screams for help. Fury bult up in his heart. This seemed like a terrorist act...

Yet his eyes focused on something on the upper right corner of the screen. It looked from here like a bird of some kind, but it was too big to simply be a bird. It was huge with flapping wings, more like a bat. Lamont attempted to zoom in some more, but the camera had already reached its limit.

"DAMN!" He bounced a fist off the panel. Eiji looked up. "Sir...several fire and medical units are on the way. It is nothing to worry about."

Yet innocent lives had been lost. By whatever monster had done this.

Something showed ...

The area was surrounded by a dark void, as if there was not even a speck of light in the whole place. It was also very empty, with nothing or no one inside it.

Suddenly, a soft pink light started to glow, but it just looked like an ordinary light, at first. Shortly, though, the light began to take shape. Once the light faded, a young girl could be seen standing alone. It was Nova, the girl born from Hikaru's heart full of pain and regret. Nova opened her eyes and looked around. "What's going on? Why was I born again? And where am I now?" Then she grabbed her chest suddenly and said, "This pain...this pain in my heart. Is it also...Hikaru's pain?" Then she looked up and started looking around. "I feel pain all around this place. Could this be...inside Hikaru's heart? But...what happened, Hikaru? What happened to make you feel this much pain? I wish you could tell me. But I can tell you're not in Cephiro now. That's why I only exist in your heart." Then, she sat down, huddling herself on the ground, as if scared of what might be happening.


Leaning his chin on his hands, Ferio sat in his chair, eyes closed. The young prince wasn't asleep, however, only deeply absorbed in his thoughts. A considerable number of people from the central, floating islands area had chosen him as a candidate to be their leader...That was a huge responsibility...

Could he cope? Would he do a good job?

The emerald-haired youth knew that he had changed a little over the past few years, was hopefully mature enough to take on a task like that. Nonetheless...

A familiar voice suddenly snapped him out of his thoughts. Opening his eyes, Ferio stood and turned around. He saw Clef standing there, looking somewhat troubled. "Yeah? Is everything okay?" he inquired.

Clef hesitated for a moment. *Was* everything ok? He cleared his throat and looked back up to the boy managing to give him a weak smile. "Ferio, I'm sorry if I broke your concentration. But I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on being a canidate for a leader." He paused a moment wondering if he should have put this discussion off for another time, but the sooner was probably better.

"A leader...Doesn't that remind you of almost of...a Pillar? I might be just seeing things in an extreme veiw of what the worst could happen, but it doesn't seem like it's impossible that the system could happen again either." He stopped and shook his head. "Forgive me I was just thinking outloud. I'm sure you've thought about this matter as well though, and I've come to discuss it with you. If your tired or would rather think on your own now though, then it'd be fine to talk about this later when I can gather the others as well."

Shaking his head, Ferio replied, "No...I'm not busy right now. Besides, I was hoping to talk about all this anyway, so I have no problems with discussing it at this point in time."

It was clear to see that the whole matter was bothering Clef quite a bit...And Ferio himself definitely agreed that bringing it up was a good idea. Concerns had to be dealt with so they wouldn't develop into some huge, unsolvable problems.

The green-haired youth thought for a moment, then spoke up once more. "I was worried about the same thing too, apart from wondering if it's the right choice to accept becoming a candidate for the position...What if the whole thing does turn into another Pillar system? You're right; it's not impossible at all..."

Trailing off, Ferio ran a hand through his hair, sighing. After a pause, he continued, "How could we be sure of the people's intentions and wishes? I know that neither you or I would want the system to somehow be reintroduced...Not after everything that's happened..."