Umi smiled rather softly letting it reach her eyes before a yawn over took her. If her calculations were correct she had been up about twenty four hours due to the difference between Japan's time and Cephiro's. When night wrapped it's ebony cloak around Earth Daylight had just brightened the sky on Cephiro. Had it truely only been a day from when she last sat at her Father's table. She could only hope time stalled on Earth while they were away once more.

"Ascot... I know there are a lot of things going on but remember you have friends. For the good of the people, for our friends, and for ourselves we fight. From what I gather... you might be worried about one of us choosing a side?" She let her gaze pass his eyes down to his 'armor'. She never got over the fact that Cephirean armor usualy consisted of small shoulder peices and thick faberic. "I know this is personal but... why did you decide to become a champion of one of the warring factions?" She wanted to assure him that she wouldnt fight against him again, she didnt want to and with a defiante face she made her mind not to.

Ascot chewed on his lip a moment, the virecent hue of his eyes glinting brightly in the moment against the white lights of the kitchen. Friends?

His face darkened as he ruminated the notion. He did not want to sit and think of whether he was being selfish or.. stubborn when thinking of it, but he was satisfied concluding that... friends was a very strong term. Conflicting emotions soured his expression very briefly, tearing seams within him; friends a strong term? what was he talking about! Was he trying to be hard to deal with? Or was he finally refusing to be the naive boy he was always, never of any use, only needing to have been told a little something here and there and he would obliviously fade away into the background where he would not be any trouble to anybody.

He bit down, not wanting to comment.

He knew who his friends WERE.. A pain inside of him tightened and he nearly grimaced, his throat becoming dry. He could summon whomever he wanted with nary more than five words, simple commands, but over time he had grown close and befriended, loved many as his family. He looked up at Umi then, looking her over, searching her manner for just how far her knowledge extended. He didn't think she knew, not really knew, of the epidemic striking sporadically, almost suspiciously all throughout the countries and warring factions of Cephiro. If it followed a pattern or penchant, no one was certain. Ascot was horrified and very helpless as he had witnessed the illness severing life after life of his seijyuu.

He had never thought to investigate other, homeless seijyuu deaths however.. he would have to do that.

He snapped out of his reverie and flushed, frowning hard and almost cold as he digested the question of 'why' he had chosen to become the champion of the Northern Separation of Cephiro.

"Why?" he echoed, working to soften his features, "It wasn't my choice. I don't want to be involved in any of this. I think it is stupid that they fight anyway, choosing 'champions' to lead their charges... win dictatorship. I think the lot of it is barbaric!" He brought his hands up to his upper arms and held them there loosely, his eyes falling halfmast and he looked to the side, slightly irked with a largely bored but conflicted light to his eyes.

Ascot sighed and looked back at her, feeling somewhat apologetic.

"Ne Umi. I apologize if I am being angry to you or.. ne. It is just stressful here I guess so! It is getting to me. I have too much time on my hands that I feel I should be doing something with." he crooked his mouth and bent his head, letting his hair fall about his face. "You look tired... I think maybe you should sleep now? I can bring you something to eat if you want that. It is no problem. I should not be going off on you about controlled problems that are stagnant while you must be going through such shocking things." He tipped his chin and looked down at the young woman, lithe and petite compared to himself. "Maybe it will be nicer for us in the morning ne."


Evenings over Cephiro could distort and transform the most benign of images. Streets that projected a friendly countenance by day, enticing one and all to come walk its stretch, loomed dark and repelling by night. Apart from its grim outside appearance, it was the fear of marauders and the occasional monster after sundown that added to the city denizens reluctance to be abroad at night.

On one of the outlying towns, perhaps the most backward of the capital city that surrounded the Crystal Palace, a gloomy silence hung over the wooden and stone structures that composed it. Even the inns and eateries, gay and inviting while there was daylight, loomed as black forbidding mountains of the night.

In the various homes and residences of this backward town, families and friends conversed amongst each other in low tones. Children, being put to bed at their own reluctance, kept themselves awake by chatting quietly. House servants, off duty for the time being, passed the time in consuming their own dinners and gossiping. All their eyes were wary and slightly fearful, roving from corner to ceiling to corner again. Watchmen of Cephiro's military, whose job it was to roam these streets and keep them safe, laid hands on their swords, making ready to voice a challenge to mischief makers.

None in this benighted sector of the capital could exactly voice their feelings about this evening. The one thought that imposed upon their minds was that somewhere, unseen but definitely not unfelt presence had entered their midst. Chrome darkness played its fingers everywhere, a darkness Cephiro had not known since the crumbling of the Pillar. People who had to go out to accomplish some errand or other fairly ran, not wanting to get caught outside by whatever loomed beyond.

The most commanding feature of this town was a large but aging old keep on a hill. This was the home of the town's governor, one Baron Drakov, a prominent nobleman who had been a member of the Advisory Council. Rumor circulated that he had last journeyed to Fahren and had so far not returned. No one but servants still awaiting their master lived there now. That did not stop some in the immediate neighborhood from dubbing the old keep as haunted.

This particular night, huge shadows bathed Drakov's keep in gloomy evil blackness. Passers by picked up their pace when in the vicinity, fearing they would be swallowed up and never released should they venture too close.

Few lights were alive at the windows of this dusty building. At one of them, a pair of sharp burning eyes peered beyond the feeble lamp towards the landscape beyond, outshining the lamp's own luminosity. The light revealed a fixed stony visage, albeit a handsome one. Dark haired and sharp featured, the man's expression was solid and barely changing, as it were a mask superimposed on a face beneath. A slight hawkishness was on that countenance. Revealed too by the light of the lamp was a pale supple hand that bore an arresting girasol, or fire opal, mounted on a ring on the middle finger.

There was a step behind this man's seated form, and a voice whispered. "Your bed is ready, Master Drakov." A second long silence, then the Baron Drakov stretched out languidly and nodded slowly, running a hand over his eyes. "Thank you. I will not need you further for tonight, Veste. You may retire."

"Thank you Master. And once more, welcome home."

The servant shuffled out of the little room, and the Baron Drakov rose and headed for a large pair of stairs that led to an upstairs room. Entering the slightly dusty bedroom of the Baron, this man, the Baron Drakov himself to all outside appearances, sat at the edge of the large bed and clapsed his hands before his body. The strange gem on the ring caught the moonlight and cast rapidly shifting light across the walls.

A tiny book was on the table beside the bed. On the first page was a single word.


A new agent, a first on this world, had been gained this night. A step had been taken in the right direction. The being named Ragyn planned while all slumbered peacefully. So plotted another. The clouds of battle gathered. The Magic Knights and their allies would find help from where they least expected it. From the same place would Ragyn find his doom, long sealed when he had assaulted the innocent.

An uncanny vivid laugh shuddered from the man's lips, a laugh that no servant in the keep had heard Drakov utter and would have frightened them had they been present to hear it. The sibilant mirth awakened ghoulish echoes among the walls and was carried onto the night wind. A passing watchmen froze in his tracks, swearing by the Creator that the eerie mockery had originated from the ancient keep. He recalled all the stories he had ever heard about it, and with a paleness to his face, rushed to his next post though it was a full thirty minutes before the changing of the guard.

Neira hadn't realized that her feet had begun to move of their own volition. Out of the room and through the corridors. The breeze from the windows should have stopped her. So should of the drafty hallways and the utter stillness of the hallway. But she was caught up in trying to listen to Skyhawk speak -- and think of a way to help him home -- that she didn't realize she'd been following him. (OOC: *glomps maverick*) Before long, she found herself in the middle of the living quarters, reserved only for guests.

She blinked sleepily when they finally stopped. She was in the back of the group, uncertain as to how she should act. She had not been invited, at least, not verbally. Thankfully no one pushed her away as the door opened and the others began to enter the room. She merely nodded in greeting to Chad as she entered the room, offering him a gentle but nervous smile. She kept to the doorway, listening -- as she was always good at -- to the conversation at hand.

Mackey walked into the room and took her place against a wall, a few feet to Neira's right, looking about the place with an analytical eye. One could almost physically feel the anticipation and nervousness that permeated the area as if it were a tangible object, stretched sinews and tightened coils connecting the blonde woman and the one called Skyhawk and his brother and the little girl and everyone else in the room. Hyper-taught wires and strings that could be cut with a sharp enough wit, loosened with a mere smile, or made to snap all by themselves if tightened too far. Sometimes they could be sticky and one could get entangled in them much the same way a fly could get caught in a web and eventually eaten alive by the resident spider, but sometimes- when plucked in the right way and with the right instruments- they resonated beautifully, like the music of a finely- tuned guitar.

The woman leaned against the wall and thrust her hands into her pockets, her sledgehammer leaning against the wall within close reach of her right hand. She returned Chad's smile and settled back, her air quiet and relaxed as she calmly- if unintentionally- caused her presence in the room to become slightly less noticable and her person even more easily passed over. Now simply playing the role of the spectator in this likely quite cheery little scene within the vast, dark, deeply disturbing play that is life, she smiled slightly and made an attempt to bury even deeper her cynicism and most of her darker thoughts. This, she realised, might turn out to be the beginning of a very important act and it would be a good idea if she shut her brain up for just a few moments and took all of it in.

Nova, realizing that almost everyone had left the room, decided to leave as well and look for Hikaru. She walked through the many hallways searching until she came to what appeared to be a garden. In the garden, she saw Hikaru talking to Lantis. She smiled and started to go out to see them until she noticed one of the many carvings that had been engraved into the palace walls. The scene depicted in this carving was very familiar to Nova: it was of Nova attacking the Magic Knights and the children in the residential area. It also showed Fuu protecting the children from Nova's attack with her Guardian Wind spell. This scene brought forth many more memories into Nova's mind: when she had destroyed Hikaru's sword, then when she had tried to bring Hikaru into the darkness by entering her heart, when she had tried to kill Eagle, and...finally...when she had helped to capture Lantis, severely wounding him in the process. After this last vision, she looked out at Hikaru and Lantis, tears beginning to fall from her eyes. "What am I thinking? I don't deserve to be loved by Hikaru...not after all I've done..." She then ran back the other way, tears falling down her face.

After running quite a distance away from the garden, she suddenly stopped, as if she realized she really had nowhere to run to. Nova sighed and then sat down on the floor, resting her arms on her knees and burying her face in her arms, crying even harder then before, knowing in her heart that she deserved forgiveness from no one.

Chad sighed heavily, the presense of everyone in the room making things more or less comfortable. Mackey and Neira were smiling and seemed to have things on their mind also. Chad still remained friendly and glanced at his brother and nodded. Skyhawk nodded back and looked at Emeraude. "At loss for words, mother?"


Naomi squirmed her hand out of Emeraudes hand before sitting down while hugging her leg. Resting against Emeraude's leg as she blinked sleepily.