Umi turned back to Megor and Ascot after watching the Baron Drakov walked away quietly. She still couldn't shake the feeling that those eyes resembled someone else. Even the later trick of light which frosted them an eerily green troubled her. What if it wasn't a trick of the light?

"Ryu...Ryuuzaki?" Umi just realized Megor had said his family name which happened to be the same as hers. "Perhaps we are distant relatives." She bowed politely unsure of what to do. If she had been a Tanaka then it would have been common place to run into complete strangers with the same name for it was so well...common unlike her own sirname. It also made her wonder if Ascotto had a family name or anyone else.

Sapphire eyes glimmered for a moment. "Ascot...?" He had seemed distant lately since the other night. Even though she had drawn him out of his shell a little... had he retreated? What could he possibly be thinking?

Megor cringed. "No, we're not related, I'm sure. Fate would not be so cruel to you as to relate your blood with mine. Those who have been relative to me in the past, have found their homes in graves." He said quietly. His eyes moved to the side away from hers. She was indeed the only one left, would he tell her or not? It wasn't important at the moment. He looked back to Umi and grinned. "So when do we go and take care of this business? The sooner, the better."

Hours had passed, and Chad was tiring more and more. Win-Ko was not close. Not by a longshot. He would have to find a type of transportation, but what? He glanced around and about, searching for something that could perhaps get him to Win-ko faster than this. "Crap! This isn't going well. I have to get there before Kyle does!" He said under his breath. A small beam shot past his temple, grazing some of his hair. It pierced through several trees, not seeming to stop. Chad held his breath for a moment, not turning around. "So you've decided to cut me off early, huh?" Chad said quietly. His brother was not too far behind him, his pierced cannon aimed at his Cephirean sibling.

"Right." Kyle stepped from behind a tree, a slight smile, as usual, on his face. "I see you are on your way to Win-Ko as well as I am. I am going to ask you once. Join Ragyn and myself. Listen to my reason before you go off being heroic. Who is the villain here, brother? Who is it that is the true cause of chaos?" Chad took a step back. "Ragyn is of course! What's gotten into you?" Kyle shook his head. "That's your story? Why exactly are you following them? What makes you say they're telling the truth? You know, It takes a lot of them to gang up one on man. Much like the Cephireans did on his people a long time ago. Brother, I'm asking you this: What makes a man truly evil? What is it that makes you so positive that it isn't the people you are helping that is causing the true chaos?" Chad held his breath for a moment. He thought about it slowly. There were quite a lot of people out to stop Ragyn. But there yet was only one of him. Was it true? Were the Cephireans, was Clef...Out to get the last one of his kind? To be the superior race? Chad let out a sigh, releasing all of his pent up breath at once. "I guess you could be right. Let me talk to Ragyn and let me find out for myself! I don't want to fight on the wrong side if you are telling me the truth! But....Can you tell me this? What's going on in Win-Ko?"

Kyle thought for a moment. "I don't know, I haven't reached there yet. I thought I'd stop and talk to you first. We should both put aside our differences for now and investigate the matter. I'll take you to Ragyn afterwards. You can question his actions and his matters then. In all honesty, I have questions myself. But let me asure you this: It's not Ragyn's doing that's causing the odd power outputs in Win-Ko. Let's get going for now. Deal?" Kyle placed his hand out smiling warmly. "Let's not bicker and argue about people we know nothing about. Let's get the facts first. Then we can choose our final sides. If fate brings us to fight, then so be it. But for now, I want us as a team."

Chad took Kyle's hand shaking it, smiling warmly himself. "I'd be honored to fight alongside my own brother! I'm grateful to have someone like you as a partner! Now let's find out what's up with Win- Ko!" The two started off dashing through the area immediatly, their fight postponed.....for now.

Fuu had been greated by the girl Kyoko and was indeed ready to start. "Shall we see Clef-san? I need to get my armor and my sword, just in case." Her eyes grazed the crowed room, looking for the Mage. "Don't we need Primera-san as well?"

Ferio looked astonished as Leilandra explained that she had walked all the way from her remote hometown to the Crystal Palace. Such a long way...? That was quite impressive. He smiled, accepting the flower she offered him, quite touched by the kind gesture. "Thank you... Good luck and happiness?" His smile widened as he admired the rare blossom in his hands, before looking at Leilandra once more. "In that case, I hope you still have one for yourself, too."

Clef had begun to address the subject of missions, and gradually the entire room grew silent, all eyes and ears focused on the Madoushi.

Ferio listened attentively as Clef assigned the missions to various groups, giving a slight nod of his head every now and again when it came to the mission he would be working on, alongside Fuu and Kyoko. Although he realized that it truly was for the best that this mission kept within the lands counted as allies, he couldn't help feeling bad about the fact that others had to go on missions where they would risk their lives, while he was out of harm's way. Nonetheless, if this was the most suitable way for him to help, then he would do it.

Everyone was moving into their groups now, and Ferio stood to do the same, smiling at Leilandra in farewell and wishing her luck on her mission. He began to head into Fuu's direction. At that moment, he saw the blonde-haired girl he'd seen talking to Clef prior to the meeting approaching him. His guess that she must be Kyoko was confirmed when she introduced herself. Ferio bowed as well, then smiled at the girl as he shook her proffered hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Kyoko."

By now they had joined Fuu, and the prince nodded in agreement to the Wind Knight's suggestion. "Good idea. Guru Clef was talking to Baron Drakov a few moments ago, right?"

Quatre bit his lip, a thoughtful expression on his face as he listened to the missions being given out. The situation seemed much more complicated than he had first imagined. He was faintly surprised to hear Clef utter his name for the fifth mission. Almost instantly a grateful smile lit up his features. He was honored that they would trust him, who wasn't even from their world and had no association whatsoever with them, to accompany the other three in this particular group and help with the matters at hand.

'I'll do my best to help in any way I can...' he vowed silently, hands clenching with determination.

As the occupants of the room began to move apart once more, Quatre decided to stay near Arista, unsure of who the other two members of their group were.

Kyoko glanced over her shoulder, once her hand had left Ferio's, her green eyes settled on Clef. She smiled softly before turning her gaze back to the younger versions of her parents.

"I'm afraid we may have to wait. He seems to be busy with Dracov-san. I think it might be best if we left them be for the time being, though I agree with you Fuu-san. I also need some form of weapon. I brought little to nothing with me on my trip here."

The young woman sighed slightly, the only way that the action could even be noticed being the obvious quick rise and fall of her chest. Despite the fact that Clef seemed to have guessed her secret, she still felt that she should speak to him whenever time permitted it. He was the only person she could trust with her identity and she would need his help when it came to masking it, especially from her parents.

Her own personal matters could wait. There were more important things, such as the mission she had been assigned to. It was her duty to help in any possible way. That was exactly what Clef, from her time, had sent her back for. And she would not fail him. A feeling of unease came to Kyoko as she became aware of the various voices and bodies around her, a nervous bead of sweat trickling down the side of her head.

"Fuu-san, Ferio-san, I hope you won't find me to be rude or anything of the sort, but do you suppose, if it is not too much of a burden, that we could perhaps...uhm..." She flashed the two of them a weary smile. "...could we continue talking in a less....populate room?"

Clef lowered his eyes from Emeruald-hime's and pondered Baron Drakov's estranged or rather off pattern. His mind patterns or rather traces of personality were a little too clear and distinct as if he had never left the world of Cephiro. Wouldn't there be change in his attitude, yet the Baron had always been... eccentric.

"Emerualdo," Clef sighed. "I am sorry to have failed you and Sol Zagato in the past." He looked up at her with just the faint trace of sadness in his blue eyes. "I should be going for many of the destinations are long and may require transport. Mokona should be able to help someone. I will more than likely send him with Hikaru though."

He bowed his head politely once more and turned away from the Baron. However as his footsteps took him further away his mind cleared of some confusion. He would undoubtedly keep a closer watch on his friend. "Hikaru... Nova... Mackey... I suggest that in your travels you have Mokona assist you. If you do not mind." Clef's lip twitched into a upturn expression. "He will also enable you to disguise yourselves for he virtually carries anything a Knight or otherwise would desire."

It wasn't long before Kyle and Chad had reached another part of Cephiro rather unknown to them. This time, even though they were near Win-Ko at last, they seemed to be a little off track. Chad glanced about the surrounding area attempting to find an explanation for this dilemma. "Kyle...I hate to say this, but we're lost."

Skyhawk glanced about himself, his shades picking up several signs of life around them. "I hate to agree with you at a time like this, but you might be right." He said with a disappointed look. He had never been lost before so how is it that his sense of direction deceived them both this time? Kyle's shades soon reflected Chad's own puzzled look as he shot a look to his brother. "I've never been lost in my entire life. We have the directions, so what happened?" Chad looked at the map he had picked up on the way out. "It says we should be right here!" He said pointing to a spot on the map near Win-Ko. "But instead, it looks like we're here!" He pointed to an entire different region on the map, much further away from Win-Ko. "What could have happened?! This isn't right!" The two were lost, but from a mysterious force that was well aware of their presence. One that was determined to grab hold of one of the brothers for it's own purposes. It wasn't long before the winds picked up around them, blowing their hair to the side. The winds felt almost chaotic as soon, their feelings turned from confusion to worry.

"Are you feeling that, Kyle?" Chad asked looking at his brother. Kyle nodded slowly. "Yes, indeed. I think we're about to have company." The two took fighting stances awaiting the arrival of what could possibly be a powerful new enemy. But fate would have it different, as instead, an elderly man walked from behind a tree, chuckling. The winds calmed down and the mirage of them being in a complete different area of Cephiro faded away. Kyle gasped as he watched the surroundings return to what it was supposed to be like on the map. "An illusion?! What a dirty trick!" Chad shouted at the old man angrily. "Who are you?!" The old man chuckled again, softly, this time, instead of mischeivously. "It is good to see that two young men are brave enough to investigate the strange force of Win-Ko, but I'm afraid that one of you does not have what it takes to make it out alive." He said still smiling. He scratched his long, white beard, looking directly at Chad. Kyle smiled, slightly relieved that he alone had the skill to complete this mission. "Chad, Stay back, then. Let me handle this one, alright? I don't want you to get hurt if it's not necessary." He said quickly. "Make sure this old man doesn't try anything else funny, alright?" Kyle said turning his back to Chad and the old man. "I'll see you again when my mission is complete! Don't wander off too far alright?" With that said, Kyle dashed off as fast as possible, much faster than what Chad could, leaving his brother in the dust. Chad's face turned red with anger as he glared at the "superior brother" dashing away. "He's got SOME nerve, talking to me like a kid or something!!" Chad shouted angrily. He glared at the old man. "And what makes you think I don't have what it takes to help him out, huh?!"

The old man chuckled yet again, his laugh irritating Chad more and more. "Young man, You don't have what it takes, because you are still a novice. With the little experience that you've had, you've not got what it takes to destroy the enemies that lie ahead. Your brother has spent his entire life killing and taking lives. He is used to this, and even with his great power, he, too, might not have the ability alone. Allow me to make you an offer that you might not want to pass up. I have an island, you understand. An island that has no idea what time is. In other words, I can train you for 2 years, and when we returned, your brother would not have made it two steps further yet. It knows no time at all, kiddo! So how about it? Would you like to gain a little experience so you can move ahead, with the strength you need? I can even help you unlock that potential you got in there! There are demons and angels in that heart of yours that you don't even realize! Heh heh!" The old man cackled with glee. Chad stared at the man, confused as ever. An island that would literally have no time to it at all? He could train for years and not only not age, but also come back before his brother even made it to Win-Ko? The idea was great! Chad smiled and nodded. "Alright, you win. Let's get going. Where is this island?" Chad asked kindly. "I guess I could use more experience in my journey." The old man grinned at this comment. "Son, you won't only have experience, you'll have great power to boot! I don't think after my training, anything that your brother could do before, you couldn't match or surpass! Don't tell anyone about this island unless you can trust them very well though! Got it?" He said glaring. Chad nodded. "Got it. Let's get going! By the way, my name's Chad! What's yours?" The old man smiled slightly. "My name's not a matter at the moment. I'm just a man wanting to protect Cephiro from the threats that are rising up now." The two vanished away to the man's island, where Chad's extra training would begin.

At the castle, Megor growled in anticipation. "Come ON, already!! When do we leave here?!" He asked cracking his knuckles. "I'm sick of standing around and watching the others prepare! What are we waiting for, christmas?!" He had been waiting a long time, his every muscle tense. He couldn't stand to be around his sister and not tell her who he was, it was almost literally killing him every moment. He glared at Clef, who had paired them up. 'Nice idea, pairing us up. You obviously know something, don't you?' he thought to himself not taking his eyes off of the master mage. He then shot a glance to the Bal. 'Ascot, huh? This will be more interesting than I thought. Umi, myself and Ascot. This is going to be some picnic day.' Megor thought crossing his arms. "Hurry it UP, will you?!"

As the crowd began to disperse, Neira stood and looked for her other two traveling companions. She was vaguely familiar with Presea. Although she knew of the woman â€" what she looked like and such…" she did not know her well. Still she should be easy enough to pick out of the thinning mass of people still left inside the Great Hall. Caldina should’ve been very easy to pick out. She just simply stood out in a crowd, at least in Neira’s mind. She admired the young woman for her talent.

Turning in place, she glanced towards the back of the room, wondering where either Presea or Caldina could be. Finally, she spotted Caldina. Noting her location, the young Fahrenian girl joined the river of people exiting the Great Hall and made her way over.

//Good morning,// she addressed Caldina with a smile on her lips. //I hope you’ve slept well, Caldina-san. I trust it will take us some time to prepare for our trip.//

Fuu's attention faced the question of the young Kyoko, she glanced around the room, "Yes, perhaps we could take this time to find our fishy-friend." She smiled, Fuyla was a wonderful beast.

Skyhawk at last had finally made it to Win-ko. What had been so strange about the place? He stopped at the entrance, almost to a sudden halt. He was there, alright. The mission was most likely going to be a long one.


Chad stepped out of his training area at last, almost with a glow about him. His desert clothes were shredded, his entire body drenched in sweat. He turned his blue eyes to the old man that had helped him out and gave a smile. "Thank you. I appreciate you giving me this opportunity to grow stronger. It really helped out." He said shaking the elder's hand. The old man cackled with glee. "My, you've grown that much stronger and it's only been what seems to be minutes in Cephiro! Hah hah haaaaaaaah!" The elderly one danced around a bit happy that he indeed had got to train someone in his lifetime. "I want you to take this with you!" The old man handed him a sword. "This sword has been handed down generation after generation. It was given to my son, but he was not able to keep it because soon after it was given to him, he was killed." The old man sighed sadly. "Do you realize that you are carrying our honor now, young man?" He asked gently. Chad gazed at the blade. "Yeah. I'll do my best to keep the family honor going, sir. But you're trusting me with something this important, and you barely know me!" he replied looking back up at the elder. The old man chuckled. "Do you remember what we talked about while you were being trained?" Chad nodded in reply. "Yeah." The boy remembered it all too well. The training, the ruthless training, but then, a question that had never been asked, not towards him, anyway, came from almost nowhere. The old man had asked what he thought of being a high priest for Cephiro one day. That he had the potential, and the heart to become a priest of the light. Chad had stopped training for a moment, leaving an opening for the old man's attack. Once he regained focuse the conversation continued. The questions of a high priest, the questions of a "light of hope" for Cephiro. He had remembered it more than all to well. It would probably stay with him forever. Chad blinked and started to question the old man now, but was silenced with a grunt by the elder. "Don't give something so important such a quick answer, son. Give it time. Don't do something you aren't willing to put your heart into. Give it time. Now go! You have work to do, don't you? Get to Win-ko and show your brother how it's done!" The old man shouted cackling again. "Good luck, boy!" He shouted as Chad dashed away thanking him. "I'll not let you down!" Chad shouted back at the elder. He looked straight ahead now, towards Win-ko. He knew his destination would probably be a dangerous one. He was determined now to put an end to this war, one way or another! And now, he was strong enough to hold his own!

Once Chad was out of sight, the old man smiled warmer than he had ever smiled before. Small sparkles started slowly emitting from his skin, as his solid form started to turn transparant. He had gotten his wish from the otherworld. He had got to meet, and even train, one of his grandchildren. The old man vanished, returning to the otherworld to tell his son that his sword was in good hands.

"My dear Princess, it has been far too long. I see that beauty has not seen fit to leave you, even though it has only been four years." Drakov's left hand grasped Emeraude's fingers and with a grace and strength that belied his genteel exterior, raised her hand and saluted it to his lips in a veritable gentleman's gesture.

The blazing gem on the Baron's left middle finger shimmered and spread its sparkling light, eneveloping their entwined hands in a faint scarlet glow. Lowering the Princess' hand out of the respectful kiss, that light accentuated and added a ruby tinge to the nobleman's keen gaze.

A smile bloomed on his lips.

Emeraude alone could have known the meaning of that smile. For though the man who stood before her looked and spoke like her old admirer, the ring served its purpose as a reminder of his true nature.

His voice lowered as the chatter of multiple voices clamoring for the attention of their group members rose. "I had heard that you were...gone. Joyful I am then to learn you have returned somehow, as well as to see you here in Cephiro's darkest hour yet. I too have been reported dead. With that notion broken, I will do all in my power to halt this savage conflict."

He paused a moment, glancing towards the Guru Clef. "I must leave for the time being, Princess." He bowed low, holding the Princess' gaze before striding to where the Guru now sat.

"Guru Clef, I must take my leave for the time being, inspect some other businesses and trades I left unsettled in my absence. It has been a pleasure visiting you this morning despite what is happening. I promise I will help resolve this maelstrom."

His hand swept out and took in the youngsters gathered about the room. Worry and courage and hope were written all over their faces, as visible as a flock of ravens amidst a clear blue sky. So young, quick, strong and full of promise. For the barest of moments, the Baron felt his years of exactly a century and a decade, notwithstanding his young body. A body that had stood the test of time as the result of a gift from the people who had instructed him to be what he was now. That combined with his own abilities and technology.

Refreshing it was to see the will to fight on in a younger generation.

"Clef, these children fight to save this world. We must pray that the Creator watch over them...or even perhaps that they will find help where they would never imagine." Again the smile as Drakov bowed a second time. The crimson cape swirled as he spun, noiselessly and without ceremony treading towards the large double door.

Clef's eyes had lowered in this instant and they enlarged to sapphire icebergs as they spied what lay on the floor. A sharp giant ebony silhouette that spread its folds across the red carpetted floor, obscuring it such that the carpet may have been naturally black. The Guru gripped his staff white knuckled, glancing left and right, up and down, searching for the owner of this mammoth shadow.

They rested on someone's retreating back.

But it was only the Baron Drakov.


Mackey had been standing behind Hikaru when she was introduced to the Baron so that the shorter woman was obscured and less noticable. Not that she really cared or was making an effort not to be seen, but she found herself somehow slightly relieved that Drakov hadn't seemed to take much notice of her. She wasn't even quite sure why, but she found herself both strangely fascinated and also slightly nervous of him in the way that a pyrophobe would be fascinated and afraid of a lit candle. If the baron's parting words had left any meaning on her, however, they stirred no outward response.

The crowd was beginning to mingle and thin out as she heard Clef's final words over the commotion in the room. "Mokona...?" Mackey wondered quietly to herself who this Mokona was and why had he not been mentioned before as she glanced around trying to see if she could find amidst the hurrying and unfamiliar faces someone who looked like they might belong to such a name. She soon noted that she seemed to be the only person in the dark here and settled down. She'd find out soon enough, anyway. In the meantime she tapped on Hikaru's shoulder to bug her once more. "Pardon, but I think it would be a good idea to go with Zazu and Quatre and Arista and all those people," She said, not wanting to appear impolite in front of a stranger... or at least not one that she would have to spend a good deal of time with... "Their destination isn't far from ours and if they're both such dangerous missions one group of seven people would have a better chance of succeeding than two groups of three and four."

In an instant Chad appeared next to Kyle as he was running. Kyle suddenly stopped abruptly and stared at his enhanced brother. "What the hell happened to you?!" He said blinking a few times. Chad gave a confident smile. "Why don't you let me handle this? You might not be experienced enough. I don't want you getting hurt, brother." Kyle frowned at this comment. "Good one. Now....Since you are strong enough, probably even more than enough, let's get to business." The two nodded and looked at the town ahead of them, the town known as Win-Ko.

Ferio gave a light, friendly grin and a nod of his head, seeing Kyoko's obvious discomfort at being in such a crowded room. "Sure, let's go somewhere else to get ready. We can go look for Primera or Fyula, as Fuu has suggested, then return to talk to Guru Clef once he's not busy anymore. And then, we'll head off, I guess."

He watched the two young women at his side, yet again marveling at the similarity of appearance, especially when it came to facial features, between them. It was intriguing... but as much as he wanted to comment, he decided against asking any questions. Kyoko seemed to be wearing the same kinds of unusual Earth clothes that he'd seen Fuu in before, but it didn't appear as if the two girls had ever met prior to this, so maybe the resemblance was purely coincidental.

Fuu nodded, causing her hair to bounce lightly. "Shall we?" She began her slightly limping pace tward the exit.

Presea looked around the room, first left, then right. She spotted her bronze-skinned companion alongside her other company. She smiled, "At least it's not going to be too hard to find them." She began to walk in the direction of the young women, "Caldina, How are you?"

Clef was mute with what lay before him. In all his years, the studies of the ways of magic and conjuring, philosophy and nature, he had been always able to sense the forces between everything alive, intricate electricities that wove around each being and this being was no exception. "Drakov..." he meditated to himself, "...this is no evil force, though..." He turned back to the group, his friends, milling around the palace antechamber. The Baron's extraordinary aura had to wait...for now. There were far greater things, evil things, to be dealt with presently. He shook his small head, his hair of twilight shifting over his childlike face. "Mokona. Please go with Hikaru and her group." He watched nonchalantly as the tiny white puffball flopped over to the crimson knight. "Pu!" Leaning back slightly for balance, he tipped his monsterous staff forward, the turquoise head beaming more and more the harder he willed it to. "Creature Summon!" he shouted with his light voice, and pictured a prescence in the center of the chamber that shone for a moment before wielding a large griffin-like creature, perhaps the size of six men on top of one another, with reddish-brown fur covering its figure. He smiled inwardly at his success, and stepped forward towards the griffin, his white robes dragging the ground. "You go with Fuu. They will need you to get where they are going." Clef then looked off after the group exiting the room, and a bead of frustrated sweat glistened on his temple. "...This is so disorganized..."he shook his head.