Umi trembled once out of the debrais. "Oh god." Her hair ruffled in the breeze sending it into her face. The light near the opening, near the area they had been rescued from, what was that. Had she imagined a brief glance of Nova as she scurried to get out of the shaking place.

"Hikaru... did you see that? Was that who I think it was?" She whispered into her friend's ear while she watched the police officer who had rescued them take down Fuu's statement. "I thought I felt something weird when we went down the elevator... do you think Cephiro was trying to call us back before the tower was bombed?" She shivered in the warm air. Spring this year felt so cool.

A man, a young man, stood in the middle of the air. Far off in the distance he could see the distruction one of his creatures had caused. His lips curled up in a smile. No, the Knights would not be called back for awhile. Not if he could help it. They would have too much to deal with in their world. A teacher's death, a car accident, and perhaps...

He laughed into the wind. His long white hair trailed down his back tied in a red ribbon which matched his keen albino eyes. In the darken night his eyes pulled in the remaining light and reflected back a demonish red. "And Nova... Emeruade... welcome back to life." He vanished as heat lightening zipped across the sky alluminating the spot he had been just moments ago.

Ascot heaved in his breath, his eyes roving over the ground, a despondant air to his usually optimistic demeanor. Things had gotten so much more complicated, and so much harder to deal with. What, with the separation of Cephiro, and the restless inhabitants waging war on each other, Ascot wasn't sure who to side with.

Someone might automatically side with the North, Ascot ruminated to himself, picking himself up off of the crystalline pillar he leaned against and stepping into the light of the hall. For a split second, he stole a glance back at the shadowy side of the hulking, thick, crystalline pillar that supported the interior of the Palace. He remembered... back... when the Magic Knights first came back to Cephiro... he'd been so immature. And their predicaments then... were... urgent, and, for the most part, with obvious solutions... as much as he hated himself for it, he wished time would... push back a little. Just so he didn't have to recognize this petty and warring world he lived in NOW. He almost rolled his eyes.

The people of the North had chosen him as a possible leader for them. He wasn't sure WHAT to feel in regards to that... sure, he was happy he was wanted, and sure, he was happy he was favoured, but was all of this really necessary? He couldn't see any logic in any of it. The youth blinked slowly, straightening his pace.

And even curiouser still, steadily, the young spirit summoner's seijyuu had all been falling ill. As the days went by, Ascot found himseld doubting their survival more and more, and it almost made him angry, for he was almost sure this was the work of a Someone.

But biting back the anger he only too often surrendered to, Ascot drew a hand up to the great, regal door he'd made his way to. Knocking twice, he was sure that the Prince Ferio was residing on the other side...

Zazu-Torque, the chief mechanic of the NSX of Autozam, gazed up through the tinted panes of the windshield. The sixteen year old squeezed his eyes shut, opened them, and focused on the operation of the transporter ship he'd flown from Autozam early this morning. He was tired... too tired to be doing this, at any rate.

These past few months had been hectic, and communications with Cephiro had thinned over all of it. The supposed, 'land of the will', had been up in arms for over a time, now, and for some reason, Autozamian officials thought that it was their business to interfere into the welfare of Cephiro.

Zazu caught himself, entering Cephiran airspace. He knew he was bitter... and he did care about Cephiro, and Cephiro's inhabitants... over their ordeals together, Zazu had made friends there. They had all met him when he was only just a boy, and even though he was still... a boy... he knew it was wrong of him to think so lowly of them and theirs.

His mahogany brown eyes went over the controls, and the viewing panels quickly, taking all of the information from the land into his consideration... He would be landing soon. Systematically, without having to think about it, Zazu Torque pulled back on the grips his held, reducing his speed, just right, as the boy had had much experience over his years in the federation.

A few people in Autozam had been mysteriously falling ill over the months... and from what he'd read in reports from Cephiro, the same occurrence had been happening there, too. These sorts of mysterious, inexplicable happenings just didn't happen in Autozam... he was almost sure that it had to do with Cephiro. Maybe that's why he agreed to go to Cephiro to take reports and lend his aid... his own best friend had fallen ill, and was currently enduring one of the worst cases of this mysterious illness. Zazu swallowed hard, and tightened his grip on the controls. The image of an unconscious Geo Metro flashed across his mind; sunken eyes, sickly complexion, laboured breathing... tubing.. lack... He'd never admitted it openly, but Zazu knew his companion was dying.

He could only hope for the best... maybe he could help to stop it in Cephiro... come back.. back to a well Geo. Even if Geo didn't value Zazu as much as Zazu valued Geo, it would mean the beginning of the world to the boy if he was just to see his friend up and in his usual, cheery, joking atmosphere.

Sighing heavily, Zazu made no effort to put up a happy front across his youthful, though evidentally worked and tired features as he brought the ship down atop the designated landing pad.

"Don't worry hun; I'll be back tonight... I just gotta go run some errands, all right...?"

"Ne... Caldina-sempai..."

One of the little children, a girl with wide, frightened eyes, stepped up and suddenly embraced the dancer, hugging her bronze, bare legs tightly.

"Ahohohoo.." Caldina forced a smile. "Hey hey now! Keep ya chin up! y'all gotta be strong if y'all wanna be anybody worth anything!" She smiled, hugging the girl to her tightly once, and then guiding her back to standing with her friends.

The tall, ice-blue eyed charmer smiled, and bowed to the children, taking her leave as she turned sharply on her heel. The ornamental drapery she hung about her arms snapped pleasantly in the breeze as she did, and, bringing up a hand in salute to the goodbyes she heard as she walked, she smiled. The children always brought her to smile... but as the tension grew thicker between the isles, one couldn't ignore the fact that even the children of the day were going not without a toll unto them. It made her unbelievable sad... she didn't want to recognize anger... because whatever could she be angry at? Surely, this couldn't be the planned work of... anyone..

This was only the petty values and beliefs of the close minded people of Cephiro... right? Her own adopted younger brother was growing increasingly distant from her through all of this. The people of the North almost always occupied his time, and even sadder still, the young man's closest companions were steadily losing life as each heavy and dark day pushed through and past them.

She found her thoughts going back in time... back... back to when the Magic Knights were among them... everything seemed to be all right from the last time they left Cephiro... But she couldn't ignore it. When the Knights had left, it had almost felt as though a piece of Cephiro had left aswell. The Knights were their friends... those three girls had almost always brought everyone up in spirits. But was it too much to wish them back to Cephiro? Caldina only hoped that those three young, mysterious girls were leading happier lives than what Cephiro had brought upon itself...

Fuu clenched her fist tightly, trying to keep her mind off of the twinge of pain she felt in her shoulder. The officer looked at her and shook her shoulder, her bad one, of coarse, trying to get her to snap out of her dream like state. Fuu grimaced in pain as his hand left her shoulder, tears of pain streaming down her face and letting out occasional small whimpers of agony.

"Miss? Miss? Do you hear me," The Officer asked hurriedly. Fuu led her left hand up to grip at her right shoulder.

"Y-yes I'm sorry I didn't mean to . . .," Fuu stammered.

"I won't question you anymore right now, you just go over there and have a paramedic take a look at your arm, okay?"

She nodded gently, little flakes of plaster dropping from her curly hair with every step she took. She saw Hikaru and Umi out of the side of her eye, whispering about something, most likely what they saw, what they had all seen. The Medic went to work quickly, poking and prodding and asking her to tell him when it hurt, which didn't take to long at all.

"Houiji-kun? I do believe you have a dislocated shoulder, and a good chance of a hairline break in your collarbone. I'm going to have to take you back to the Hospital for treatment."

"Alright, but I have to tell my friends where I'm going, I'll be back in just a moment." Fuu stood up but fell back down immediately.

"I think there might be something wrong with my ankle too, apparently."

"Well, I can't have you walking over to get your friends then, you can call them from the Hospital," The Medic said.

"Hold on one moment please, sir." Fuu leaned as far as she could out of the car and bellowed out to her friends.

"Hikaru-san, Umi-san! I have to go to the hospital, it's nothing serious, don't worry!"

Fuu laid back down on the gurney and hoped they had heard her; it was hard to yell when someone was pulling on you waist and commanding you to lie down. Fuu bit her lip as the Medic inserted an IV line into her arm.

"Mr-?"

"Sakiboro," He added.

"Alright, Sakiboro-san, I'm curious about how I didn't notice my foot was injured until a couple of minutes ago, it really does hurt, how could I have missed it?"

"Adrenalin," He grumbled. After that the rest of the ride was in silence. Fuu rolled her head over to look out the window of the van, pondering the days events.

`It-It's impossible! How could have that happened, we aren't in Cephiro anymore.' Fuu's eyes shot open. She was thinking of Cephiro and when she though of Cephiro she thought of Fuu suddenly burst into tears and sobbed loudly into her good hand. Mr. Sakiboro, thinking they were tears of pain, turned up the flow of her IV, hoping to make her fall asleep. Within five minutes she was in a deep sleep and was wheeled into the Emergency center and was taken in for x-rays.

Umi frowned and waved as the ambulance raced off. "I hope shes alright." She looked around the area. "My father might be worried. I dont think there is anything seriously wrong with Fuu... but.. maybe she might call my house." She took Hikaru's hand in her own. "Why don't we go to my house. I still need to make a guest appearance at the party and maybe we can go to the hospital afterwards..." She sighed. If it had been Nova she spotted that might mean terrible things ahead. But what bothered her most was the nagging feeling that Cephiro was calling. That it had called but the bomb did something. It interrupted the call.

Umi dropped the blanket that had been placed around her shoulders and heaved another sigh. "I hope Fuu is alright." She patted Hikaru's head. "Lets go to my house and get ready. We're supposed to be picked up at seven and I know hospital visiting hours end at nine so we have plenty enough time to visit the party then see to Fuu."

Very softly as she pulled Hikaru towards a taxi she whispered a prayer under her breath. "Please let everyone be safe. Cephiro... please look after your subjects. Lantis, Ferio, Clef..." She took in a breath. "Ascot... Caldina, Lafarga, Zazu, Eagle, Geo, even that annoying mokona." She looked up at the stars. "Please let all my love ones be safe..."

Clef lowered his head to dwell on everything they were talking about a little more and Ferio's similar analysis. His mind came across Ascot and his being chosen for a candidate right as he heard the knock on the door to the room. With a small nod forward of his staff the door swiftly opened to accept him in.

"Ascot, we were just thinking about calling you here." Clef greeted and with a stroke upwards created a chair for him to sit in. "Are you here to discuss the happenings in Cephiro as well? We're also expecting Zazu from Autozam as it seems not only Cephiro is being affected by this occurance. Maybe Caldina will also make it here on her own."

As he had a feeling that Zazu made it to Cephiro a small ball mouse-owl like creature fluttered in and landing on his shoulder emitting a few squeaks. "It appears that our ambassador from Autozam is here," Clef explained as the ball flew away.

Hikaru sat silently as the taxi pulled away from the now ruined Tokyo Tower. "This is all my fault," she said silently to herself, "I know it was Nova that I saw...wasen't it?" Tears started to well up in her eyes and she hugged Umi as they streamed down her face. " Why is this happening!" she yelled, "Why? I know I felt it...someone had planned this! Cephiro was calling us back! They need us and someone knows that they do...they're trying to stop us..." Umi hugged her tighter trying to calm her friend's sobbing. " Something isn't right..." Hikaru trialed off, fighting the urge to cry much longer.

Still inside Hikaru's heart, Nova could feel that it was filled with even more pain and grabbed her chest again. "Hikaru...why can't you tell me what's going on? My heart hurts...just like yours...why can't you answer me?!" Nova felt as if she was going to burst into tears just like Hikaru had. "I want...to see Hikaru...to talk to her...there must be some way..."

"No it isn't your fault Hikaru. Please don't blame yourself." She opened up the door trying to keep one arm around Hikaru when they pulled up to her house. "Whatever you do don't blame yourself please!!!" She pulled out some money and tossed it at the driver not worrying about change as she moved herself and Hikaru towards the gates.

She punched in the six digit code and watched them swing open. "Hikaru I want you to have a good time. Okay?" She quickly walked through the gates and to her house opening the door. "We'll have fun for Fuu too. And we'll visit her." Umi glanced to the hallway clock. "Dang it! Do you think you can get ready in about ten minutes? They should be arriving to pick us up any time..." Umi let go of Hikaru and motioned her to follow her up to her room. "I think I have a few things in your size. How about a sunday dress?" She tossed out a long blue with white designs chinese dress for herself that had slits up the side and a red dress with yellow designs for Hikaru. "I dont think red suits me very well... so if you want it you can keep it." She ran a brush through her hair quickly while thinking about Fuu. "Could she be hurt badly and we just dont know?" Umi shrugged off her cloths and manuvered into the dress.

"Wouldn't it be funny if we were called back in these dresses? I think Lantis wouldn't mind!" She teased absently zipping up the back. "But I dont think Clef would think I was a lady just yet. Im still too much the child... but Ascot..." She laughed trying to trick her friend into some conversation. Her head jerked up when a car outside beeped. "They dont have the code. You get dressed while I go tell them to wait. ALright?" Umi scurried off leaving Hikaru to dress alone.

A young beautiful maiden dressed in a tight stunning golden gown looked grimly at the sky, her perfect features filled with confusion. 'Where am I?' she asked herself, looking at the stars. ' More importantly, why am i here?'

Emeraude sighed and entered the building. She had no idea where she was, why she was dressed so elegantly and who she was. "My name is Emeraude...but that is all I know...."

Arista Celeste Vision looked calmly out her elegant ship. A couple years had gone by since her brother had passed. She sighed. It seemed as if it were only yesterday that Eagle and herself were laughing together in the garden he had grown for her in the modern world of Autozam.

"So at last, I will see this...Cephiro..." she whispered softly, her grey-violet eyes still staring out at the stars. "I shall be honest with you, dearest brother..." she spoke to no one in particular, "It pains me to see this land and I do not know what i shall see..."

She stood up, her silver hair cascading past her shoulder to her back loosely as the lights made her golden streaks glow. "Well...Zazu shall be surprised to see me...after all, he had not been given a warning of my arrival." Arista laughed bitterly. "And he has not seen me since I left home after Eagle died."

Lamont was hunched forward before the computer, hands cupped in his chin. The screen showed him four different angles of the Tokyo Tower. What was once the symbol of the new Japan was now a shattered image of collapsed tiles, broken glass, and lifeless bodies.

Even now, Lamont shuddered as his psychic sense allowed him to hear the screams of the dying and the helpless. Years back as the Butcher of Lhasa, he would have revelled in such pain and suffering. Now it just plain sickened him.

Yet behind the wall of cries and screams was something else. An amused laugh that tugged at the edge of his mind and set his teeth in edge. Lamont attempted to reach out further with his sixth sense, but abruptly the presence vanished.

Lamont could not shake the feeling something not of this world was behind all this. The image he had seen in the sky, the winged abomination whose image he had captured flying away from the Tokyo Tower, and that dark presence just now. Could the death of his old friend even be connected to this?

Deep within the shadows of his soul, a dark mocking laugh answered the alien presence. "I will come for you, stranger. And when I do, you will find a Shadow even darker than you."

Lamont glanced at his watch. The party for him was starting in forty five minutes. Best he shouldn't keep the people attending it waiting for him. He had not seen Mr. Ryuuzaki in at least ten years. It would be nice to catch up with an old business associate. He hoped the contract signed between their two philanthropist companies could benefit the less fortunate in America, Japan, and around the world.

Minutes later, he was above ground. Jubei came running across the street towards Lamont and the taxi. The taxi driver's face was pale and his eyes seemed on the verge of tears. Lamont touched his mind, and felt the man's sorrow and why. "Boss! The Tokyo Tower...!"

"...just got bombed I know." A painfully long pause, then he sighed and patted the taxi driver's shoulder. "I am truly sorry about your cousin." Jubei's cousin Sato had a job in the Tokyo Tower's Mos Burgers fast food restaurant. The floor the explosion had happened happened to contain it.

"He was the only family I had..." Jubei sniffed. The two had been like brothers

Lamont squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "I feel your pain. If you wish to grieve, it's all right with me. I'll find a ride to the hotel myself an you may take a leave as long as you like. Leave it to me to avenge your cousin and everyone else." Jubei's head came up, brushed the tears roughly away. "Iye, Lamont-sama. I still owe you my life. And I am going to help in this."

Another pause. Then Lamont smiled and clapped him warmly. "I appreciate your loyalty. Let's go. We'll have time to track this maniac later." Within minutes, the taxi had thrummed to life and was rolling down the streets. "To the Hotel Nippon."

He glanced into the rear view mirror, flashed a bright smile and adjusted his tie one last time as the taxi stopped before the hotel nearly as tall as a skyscraper.

Emeraude shivered, her golden hair flowing to her waist. "It's so cold..." she whispered, once again by the tall bush near the entrance. The thin fabric of her elegant dress did not help her. The night was young and chilly. Emeraude shivered even more when suddenly, she noticed a tall man approaching her. The maiden observed him. He stood tall, a grim expression on his face. Before she could turn away and hide, it was too late. He had seen her looking at him, her deep crystal blue eyes meeting his...

"Soon," Arista murmured. "I'll be there. Watch out Cephiro, you're about to meet Eagle's younger sister!" She grinned, feeling a bit guilty at her excitement. She could not help the fact that she was up for adventure. Although she heard about the news about a sudden spread of sickness in Autozam, Arista turned to go to Cephiro instead. She felt bad for feeling such excitement upon the adventure. "So, brother, i will see the land that was of the will...the one you were buried in."

Arista Celeste smiled, a twinkle in her grey-violet eyes. A dangerous twinkle. "It shall be interesting to see Zazu again," she laughed at the thought of her friend. "That silly boy."

'It wont be long now until I land,' Arista thought. She reached for her flute and filled the room with harmony, the sound of serenity and peace, playing endlessly as she closed her eyes.

Umi dragged Hikaru out of the house once she was finished dressing. "Hikaru you look wonderful! Come on! Im sure Kiyouba isn't going to wait on us much longer!" She laughed and opened up the gate once more. The 'sports' car turned out to be one of those black cars that drive very important people around. Umi laughed as she got in. "I almost feel like a President."

She settled in on the seat and buckled up. "Alright Mr.Kiyouba we're ready. Take us to Hotel Nippon." She gave him a wave. "I've always wanted to do that." She secretly confided in Hikaru who was busy looking out the window. The girl with so much spark seemed so distant. "Hikaru it isn't your fault. Believe me. Nothing is. It is fate. We can not choose which path our ancestors set before us but they are there to guide us. Please take comfort in that." She sighed and leaned back into her seat. The leather cushins creaking under her weight.

The car bumped along across highways and small roads untill it stopped abruptly parking in the back of Hotel Nippon. She had spent the time in brief silence then a little conversation with Hikaru. Umi felt empty without Fuu there. She hoped that she was alright but what could she do? "We'll take Fuu back some cakes. How about that Hikaru?" She smiled trying to make Hikaru lighten up a little.

Her gait was a little awkward as she crossed the pebbly road in heels. "Darn... dang..." Umi muttered as Hikaru and her crossed the side street to get to the main entrance. In her hurry she went past a strange man and a very familiar girl. "Hikaru. Come on." She laughed and pulled the other girl into the building.

Umi looked for her father and found him by the food table picking at a finger sandwhich. "Don't play with your food father." She let go of Hikaru's arm and hugged him.

"Umi. Thank goodness you were not at Tokyo Tower. I thought that you were going there with your friends." His face suddenly looked relaxed. Umi almost felt bad that she had really been then. Quickly she hushed Hikaru who had opened her mouth to eplain what had happened. "Yes. We decided not to go there. Lucky huh?" She inserted and then released Hikaru. Her eyes swept the floor. "Dad... Im going to go play around with the Karaoke room." She bowed out and left Mr.Ryuuzaki with a baffled Hikaru.

'I couldn't hurt him again. Mother's illness is putting him through a lot...' She moved into the song room where buisness men and women let go relaxing with friends and ... the popular japanese past time.. karaoke. She had a certain song in mind that a friend had translated into Japanese for her. One by the popular Sting. Roughly translated it was something like "A thousand years."

She quietly waited her turn sitting on a bench and applauding the others but her mind, her mind was else where. She wasn't on Earth anymore but in Cephiro with impossibly blue skys and lush green grass. Umi felt a sharp pain in her heart and lightly placed a hand there. Tears threated for a moment as she stood up and walked to the selector. She passed up Buck-Tick, one of her favorites, and H.O.T. and went to the english selections. "There..." She hit a button and took a breath as the words came up on screen.

In her ears her footsteps resounded on the wood of the floor. Her hand trembled as she took the microphone from the stand. Umi inhaled and pressed the start button. Mr.Ryuuzaki wondered into the room patiently waiting for her to start. "Umi..." He sighed and stirred his drink.

The music crept in slowly building up before the vocals entered. She wasn't reading from the screen but from her memory. The visual she received wasn't the Earth but Cephiro and the floating islands. Their fall and then the journy. Clef and all the people of the other world. And then her voice rang out clear with a slight resonance. "A thousand years, a thousand more, a thousand times a million doors to eternity, I may have lived a thousand lives, a thousand times... An endless turning stairway climbs, to a tower of souls." Umi closed her eyes tightly thinking of Emeruald and her sacrifice, of all the fights and people. Her heart longed to be in Cephiro in a time where the Knights were not needed.

"...I could shed another million tears, a million breaths, A million names but only one truth to face." She ran through the lyrics with her heart breaking. They were supposed to be in Cephiro right now. Damnit. What kept them there? She was sure of it. "... The single haunted memory of your face..." The chorus drummed in echoing her and her eyes opened meeting her father's. She loved him dearly, and her mother. The world she lived in was falling apart and she wished to be in Cephiro, safe. How selfish was that?

The last chorus thundered in. "I still love you... I still want you. A thousand times the mysteries unfold themselves like galaxies in my hand. On and On the mysteries unwind themselves, Eternities still unsaid...'till you love me." She dropped the microphone and stumbled off the stage.

Emeraude turned her attention away from the strange tall man and looked at thedoors the two girls entered in. Strange. She felt as if she'd known themsomehow...somewhere. 'But where,' she thought, questioning herself. 'She turnedher attention back to the young man. "Who are you...?"

*** The sound of her landing ship startled Arista from her flute and music. She didnot make a movement to leave the ship. All she did was stare out the window.She smiled faintly, looking at the beauty of the scenery that she saw. A sunsetmelting into the deep blue see turning to a crimson shade...floating mountainsunlike anything she has ever seen and a volcano.

"Cephiro...land of the will," she mumbled to herself. "The view is beautifulbut i feel as if its not the best that its been..."

She closed her eyes and held her red lips to her flute, once again, playingharmony. Arista made no motion to get out of her machine, she simply stayed.She did not know why she decided to stay in her ship, usually she'd jump at thechance for something new and something uncharted.

Ascot rose his head to meet the deep blue eyes of the Guru, and regarded him silently a moment. The green eyed youth turned his head as he stepped further into the room, meeting the Prince's regal gaze. Everything was business, nowadays, Ascot thought bitterly. No one was friends anymore... And what was worse, was that he was just as bad as any of them. He had his regrets and his worries inside of him, but on the outside, he acted just as silently hostile as the rest of them. His being a candidate... changed a lot.. as much as he loathed admitting it... He only wished for things to get better.

worry and austerity darkened the fair skinned face of He, and he considered the inevitable appearance of the Autozam representative. He knew him... Zazu Torque. He was on of those who often accompanied the... late Eagle Vision. The young boy had often ventured to Cephiro since then, and had formed many friendships among the people... but ever since this outbreak in illness and warring had commenced, Ascot couldn't help but observe the undoubtedly bitterness sour the optimistic nature of the young mechanic. He sighed.

"I suppose you could say that. Ne... Clef-sempai.. my seijyuu are dying, and I fear for the people, as they will undoubtedly be next. I fear for myself and my friends. Coming here... to the central isle... isn't something I can keep doing. It appears that even the people here recognize me as someone nominated to govern over the north... they look at me as though I am some threat to them and theirs! What is happening, Clef? Will there be war?" Ascot paused, his expression darker, "I though that we'd all had enough of fighting through the ordeal concerning who was to rule over Cephiro... why would they begin it again?"

Ascot sighed, biting back the anger that had knotted in his throat. He couldn't afford to be that immature, bumbling child he was during the time of the Magic Knights. That time was horrendous... but as he looked back on it... it seemed only a fairy tale that those three, young, beautiful girls had ventured to their pathetic land and saved it.

After having exited the ship, and gathered his things about him, the bright eyed, and pale faced youth whom had been given the name Zazu Torque entered the great and imposing Palace through the tall, porcelain arches that stood as a gate through to the palace beyond. He was halted by two men, clad in blue and grey armour... Lafarga's men... Sideglancing at the both of the, the boy held up a small card, presenting it to the both of them. They examined it closely... Zazu grew annoyed. He hated dealing with the newbies.

"My name is Zazu Torque, and I am a representative from the neighbouring Autozamian empire. I come on a business call to discuss matters with your Guru and your Prince. Allow me to pass."

His mahogany brown eyes bore into the two men, and, not before giving each other wary glances, they stepped aside, seemingly considering the amount of damage a boy terrorist could inflict.

Not pay them any mind, however, Zazu swiftly strode past them, navigating the hallways with relative ease, as he'd seen them all before... Though a peculiar sound halted his way. The distant sound... of a flute... such a familiar song, he thought, his features softening. The notes flew lightly through the air; such a soft, flowing song... it made him sad. It reminded him of.. something...

Bah, he thought, catching himself. Here I am, representing all of Autozam, and I'm standing in the middle of their palace, bumbling about some strange... Cephiran... song. I need to improve vastly...

"Damn you Zazu.." the boy mumbled, resuming his course.

It hadn't taken long, but he'd found his way to the viewing room. The great, huge, intricately crafted doors loomed over him, and he straightened his hat, setting his gaze determined. Knocking swiftly three times, he awaited a response...

***

Arista Celeste opened her eyes. 'It is time,' she told herself, willing her body to stand and exit her ship. She held her flute in her hand and smiled a faint smile. She inhaled Cephiro and its air. "What a beautiful land..." Arista looked to distance. "One of the most I've seen..."

She played her sweet music as the wind embraced her. Arista closed her eyes and let the breeze play with her beautiful hair. "Yes...I am looking for the palace of this world..." she spoke softly. The wind twirled about her, directng her face to her desired destination. "Many thanks..." she whispered before leaving.

She hopped on a small winged animal, a cross between a bear and cat, that she took with her from another world. "Come, my pet," she said to the adorable animal. "Let us travel to that place..."

Arista flew off, as she continued to pay her beloved flute, feeling closer to what she had lost. "It's not too far..." she whispered, feeling an odd excitement at what's ahead of her.

*

Lamont Cranston paused in the foyer of the hotel as Jubei drove off to the next block to wait. A final tug at his sleeves, then he took up his briefcase and made his way inside. As he did, a presence manifested itself on his sixth sense. Large, powerful, but not evil.

And it felt like it wasn't of this earth.

He turned almost casually, his eyes having met those of a beautiful blond woman. From her the presence was emanating. The golden dress she wore seemed to accentuate her stunning sleek figure. A pair of perfect blue eyes seemed to bore into his. This woman...she seemed confused...lost. Lamont reached out with his sixth sense, attempted to probe her mind.

And found...

Nothing. Almost nothing. Like looking at a blank wall. All he could see was the name Emeraude. And glimmers of faces and places. In one, he thought he had seen a vague outline of...

The mirage in the sky?!!!

One more strange thing for today.

The American noted that the doorman had denied her entrance. He smiled courteously, moved a little past the beautiful woman. "Excuse me, this lady is attending the party for Lamont Cranston Jr. inside."

"I am sorry sir, but the Madame needs to show her invitation as proof."

"And that won't be neccessary." His smile widened as his hand took her in. "She is with me."

"And who are YOU?" the doorman demanded somewhat pompously.

The smile knew no bounds. "Lamont Cranston Jr." It was then the Italian looking dooman's jaw dropped to about twice its normal length. He glanced at something behind his counter, very likely a picture of the man for whom the party was being held. "Um...yyyy...ssss...yes sir. Step right in, sir. We've been awaiting your arrival. And please accept my apologies."

That charming smile clung to his lips. "It's nothing. You were doing your job after all." He stepped through the door and the woman followed. Then Lamont gallantly held an arm out to her. "Join me?"

Emeraude looked at the handsome tall man. She let go of the breath she did not know she was holding. There was something strange about him...but instead of asking, Emeraude smiled at him. "I would love to..." he said, taking his arm.

Once inside, she looked into his eyes once more, burning the deepest of blue within them. "You..." she whispered quietly. "You know my name, I know it..."

She pulled him to a dark corner to talk quietly, as people passed them oblivious to the fact that they were there. From her lips, an unexpected strange smile emerged. "Thank you for that beautiful image in the sky...I saw it...Do you doubt that I saw your image?"

Slowly, she studied that image that had been only in the man's mind. Emeraude closed her eyes and softly said, "Cephiro..." Soon, she came to open her eyes again, revealing her blinding eyes. "I also thank you for letting me in to join you..." She studied the man for a moment, finally trusting him, she said, "Up until i saw that image, i knew nothing...but of course, you must have known that."

"May I introduce myself? I am Emeraude of Cephiro," she said calmly, her eyes once again meeting his. "For now, that is all i can remember. Cephiro...yet not all. But in time, I'm sure my past will come back to me." She faced him, a faint polite smile on her face. "I sense you to be a powerful man, no doubt, but please, promise me one thing..."

"You must promise me that you shall not search my memory without my permisson," she curtsied at him respectfully. "Instead of searching your thoughts, may I request a name from you, dear sir?"

*

Astonished barely described how Lamont felt as the lady took his offered arm and paused beyond the hotel's door. She could read his mind as well as he had hers? She had actually seen the airborne image of that strange alien world?

Emeraude of Cephiro...this woman was defintely not from Earth...and Lamont just intuitively knew this Cephiro WAS the mirage that clung to his mind.

For awhile, the urge to ask her "Tell me about this Cephiro? What is it?" was on his lips, but stopped as he realized she herself knew little. Yet the way she carried herself hinted at some kind of nobility. Maybe she was of royalty?

Lamont felt his heart go out to this mysterious but beautiful blond woman who was desperately trying to remember what she was and where she was from. He nodded and smiled his promise at her request. No use playing along here and pretending he was ordinary. "Lamont Cranston," he bowed. "The 'Jr.' you heard awhie ago is but a mask, but don't tell anyone that." he chuckled. He'd lived through the decades via cryogenic technology and mind techniques. So no one would be suspicious, he had assumed the identity of Lamont Cranston's son.

Lamont felt this woman knew he was more than what he seemed. He wondered if she could see his dark side...and hoped she didn't.

He led her up a flight of stairs going towards the ballroom where the party would be, crowded with other well-dressed men and women. The Shadow could not help but notice how heads and whispers were turned in their direction. He had to admit they did make quite a pair. As they went up, Lamont explained to her about his company and how it was going to sign a mutual contract of partnership with a large Japanese corporation.

They stopped before a large pair of double doors, and Lamont turned to Emeraude. "Just relax and have a good evening, my lady. I will be near if you need something." The two ushers before them recognized him and slowly pushed the doors open.

As they entered the massive doors, Emeraude noticed the stares and whisperings of people around her. She knew that it was opinions and thoughts of them. Judgements and compliments as well as other thoughts. She did not mind it. Strangely, she felt used to it. Emeraude felt as if where she came from, Cephiro, she got the same attention. 'Why?' she wondered. Cephiro was truly a beautiful land, far more beautiful than any that ever existed. She vaguely remembered it to be a land where the heart controls all, where the will was necessary to survive. She looked at the man who had offered her his arm, as well as more.

The golden haired girl knew that he trusted her with facts that he hid from his public. In other words, he wore a mask to the world. 'He wants to know more,' Emeraude sensed.

As he told her he'd be near her and to have some fun, she smiled at him. "My good sir," she started, softly, her lips smiling strangely. Perhaps from the excitement, perhaps from the fact that she KNEW what he wanted. "We shall have to speak again in private...I know you yearn for more...information..."

"And I also feel as if you feel sympathy upon me...I thank you for it but it is unnecessary," Emeraude said audible enough, looking ahead of her as they walked. "I know that you know that something unforgettable is about to happen soon, and it shall involve many, including you and me."

Emeraude remained silent for a moment. Then she noticed two girls who seemed young compared to most of the people surrounding them. One had flaming red hair and another had flowing pale blue hair.

'Those are the girls who passed me at the door earlier,' Emeraude observed. 'I feel as if i have known them before. Surely from Cephiro.'

And with her last thought, a reallization hit her. 'Knights from another world...knights whose purpose is to kill one person, the pillar...' Emeraude thought, her blue eyes filled with determation to remember whatever it was that she felt familiar. 'The pillar was...me'

She frowned. 'Why would they want to kill me? Why did they have to kill the pillar?' Emeraude remained quietly, looking at her partner. 'Surely, he does not know of what i am thinking...I had asked him to promise not to read my thoughts unless with her permission...'

'But then, i sense his deeper feelings, i sense what he thinks, what he needs...' she mused. 'not even trying. However, he can control what he knows, he can set boundaries for himself, unlike myself.'

"Yes," she finally said after her long silence. "Yes, Mr. Lamont Craston, I shall try to enjoy myself and I know you shall make sure of it..."

A storm was brewing outside the window of a young man known to few as Chad Geric. The rain was pouring like mad that night as the youth tossed and turned in his bed. The dreams were taking place once more. The visions of a land of prosperity and beauty being torn apart by two lovers that seemed so very familiar. The couple looked at each other with great sadness as they placed two babies in a capsule and sent them through the dimensional rip directly to Earth. The two capsules split courses and thus,the two infants took two separate ways. One landed in a park and was found by Chad's parents,Esther Geric and Dr.Thomas W. Geric! And the other..Was seen on a ship filled with secret agents of some sort. The ship had the strangest symbol on it's wing. The symbol was of a black lotus flower. The next part of the dream was even worse. Three girls from Earth were summoned to fight this sad couple. The battle was horrible and turned out for the worse! The woman begged the girls to kill her,and through much regret,the three young women did just that! Now the vision switched yet again. It showed the baby that was found by the "Black Lotus" people growing up and turning out to be a white haired young man wearing shades and a uniform. The other baby...Was the most confusing. The baby was seen growing up into Chad himself!! The thunder crashed once more louder than ever and Chad sat up covered in sweat!! The young man was breathing heavily and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "The same dream..............Again." He said to himself looking at his hands. "What does this mean? Why do I keep having the same dream? Am I really.......That child?" Chad said laying back down staring at the ceiling.

Elsewhere,metal doors opened to reveal a young man with long,white hair. He was walking next to a taller,and older man with a beard and a sophisticated look about him. "I believe we've located him. The man known as the Shadow,Kyle. Are you willing to track him down?" The man asked the white haired youth. "If necessary,yes,I'll take the mission." The youth responded. "Do you want me to eliminate him,General?" Kyle asked. "Negative. No such actions will be necessary. If he's who we think he is,all we need you to do is apprehend him and bring him here. We need to ask him some questions. Then we'll talk about the elimination procedure if that's what has to be done. Until then,he'll more than likely investigate recent happenings at this school." The General said pointing to a map. The map on the computer zoomed in on the whereabouts and gave a pictorial description about the school. "There,we need you to gather information on the students. "In any of them have seen the culprit behind this bombing then perhaps we could question this person and even get them on our side! Besides,maybe you could find that brother of yours down there and get him to join us as well!!" The General said chuckling a little. "I would much rather him not join the ranks of Black Lotus,but if this is truly necessary,then I do want to meet him at last. I want to see what kind of a brother he'll turn out to be. And....I'll make sure that this culprit is located...I'm pretty sure it would have to have been the Shadow. He is the only one that has such elusive abilities. I highly doubt that anyone else in Japan has this capability." The General's face showed a bit of concern as he looked down at the youth he had raised to be a spy and a soldier for the elusive Black Lotus organizations. If anyone would have a chance finding The Shadow,it could be Kyle!

Back on Earth,Chad walked to his school silently when suddenly,he noticed that a group of teenagers were surrounding another young man. The young man wore a pair of shades and had his hands in his pockets like there was nothing wrong. Then Chad noticed his hair. Long,lower back length hair...and it was white! It was the person Chad had seen in his dream! But it looked as if 5 guys were going to make sure Chad couldn't meet this young man! Chad ran over next to the white haired youth and stood next to him. "What's going on?" Chad asked him.

"Nothing I cannot handle. Go on to class,my friend. I've got this covered." Kyle said with a slight smile. "I don't think so. These odds are not fair!" Chad said taking a martial artist like stance. "Of course not....For them." Kyle said still with his hands in his pockets. One bully lunged at Kyle sending a punch at him,but the white haired teen moved easily to the side and sent a blow from his foot into the bully's stomach. The large boy fell down holding his stomach coughing like mad. Kyle still had his hands in his pockets and looked at the others. "Care to be next?" he said still smiling. His shades reflected the uneasy expressions of each of the bullies. One of them turned to Chad and went at him with quick speed!! Chad jumped into the air and placed a hand on the bully's head and pushed off landing behind him. He placed his right hand on the ground and pushed off of the grass,extending his left leg out to send a springing kick into the boy's face! The smaller bully fell to the ground holding his nose complaining about it being broken. Chad stood up and took his stance again. "I don't like to hurt people,but you are giving me no choice! No get out of here!" Chad shouted. The remaining 3 picked up their fallen comrades and scurried out of the place!! Chad turned to his newfound white haired friend and spoke calmly. "I hated that. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. Thanks for the assist. Would you mind showing me around the school?" Kyle asked the young man. "No problem. Let's go. My name's Chad,what's yours?" "Kyle..It's a pleasure to meet you. You seem really familiar. Have we met elsewhere?" Kyle said adjusting his shades. "Maybe so..Destiny has a funny way of doing things." Chad said closing his eyes as he walked. He stopped and looked at the sign in shock as it read "CLOSED" He clenched his fist gritted his teeth in anger. "They're using that bombing at the other school as a freaking EXCUSE for not coming to work!! That's sick!" Chad said angrily. Kyle patted him on the shoulder and smiled. "Forget about it. We get a day off,eh? Let's go to the hospital and see how everyone from that other school is doing? Maybe we could cheer someone up?" he said. Chad smiled sadly. "Yeah. Let's go check on those people." And with that,the two newfound friends/brothers walked off towards the hospital that Fuu,Umi,and Hikaru were taken to. The light reflected off of Kyle's shades as he walked. The two made it to the hospital at last and went inside. Kyle and Chad walked to the Cafeteria in the hospital and sat down. "Surely there are bound to be some of the students that will come throught he cafeteria to get something to eat. Then,we'll ask them what happened,so we can find out more on the situation at hand." Kyle said smiling still. Chad blinked a few times. "Don't you think we're being a little too nosy? This isn't really any of our business,but I do want to make sure these people are alright,so I'll wait here with you." Chad said tilting his head down. He felt a really strong sense of trust within his newfound friend. Was he really related to him somehow? Or was his dreams merely a dream? Maybe after they had found out some more about the events happening at the school,he could ask him more. Kyle's thoughts were a little different. Surely enough,if the Shadow was on the side of the light,then he would come to the hospital eventually to question the students. If he was indeed the one that bombed the school,then he would probably come here next to finish his work. Only time would tell,and when The Shadow would arrive,that would be Kyle's turn to strike! However,he would have to wait until Chad was clearly out of the area before he could do such a thing. He would have to come up with a plan sooner or later,or else all would be given away

***

Arista quickly stopped playing her flute. In the distance, she saw a beautiful tower. "Must be the palace," she mumbled to her pet. "Isn't that right, Leala?"

The cute animal responded happily. They headed for it, the wind playing with Arista's silver hair, the breeze seeming to support her. "Leala, my pet," she said to her ride. "Do you see that?" Arista pointed to a parked ship that did not seem to belong to Cephiro. Leala nodded to her, telling her that she saw it.

"Must be from Autozam," she pondered. "Other than Zazu, who else had come on the journey here? Had Geo come?" Arista raised her eyebrows. "I would not be surprised if he hadn't. I had heard of his...condition."

Flying towards the entrance, she landed softly. However, the doorway that will lead her to answer was guarded by two tall, well-built men. Arista grinned. "Well, aren't they cute," she laughed, her flirtous nature kicking in. The violet-eyed girl collected herself and masked her face with a face that said, "I have business here."

Eagle's sister winked at her pet, Leala. "Come with me?" she grinned. "Or would you rather laugh over here watching me trying to be extremely serious?"

Her pet started licking her hand, telling her the decision's result was to come with her. "Alright," the beautiful maiden said. "Let's go.."

"Who goes there?" one guard asked her.

"I am Arista Celeste Vision, sister of Eagle Vision..." She introduced herself calmly, her poise movement adding to her noticable determation. "I have come to speak to the one who manages this palace and land, also the representative from my homeland, Autozam..."