Umi shook her head at Megor's impatience. "Do you want to see battle so fast without knowing really what we are up against and with whom?" She lowered her blue eyes to the floor gazing aptly at the tiling before lifting them back up again. "I never want to rush into a fight again?I promised myself last time that I wouldn't." She cleared her voice and turned away looking back Megor, past Ascot, and past everyone to the very end of the room where the doors of the front foryer stood.

"I guess we could go?" She turned back to Ascot who had stood rather quietly for a while watching the whole scenario play out in front of him. "If everyone is ready?" The road before them seemed endless, really, but perhaps there was something out there that they could really accomplish. No, not could but would. A single pale fist made contact with another hand, Umi clasped them together tightly. "We can work together to bring this to a resolution, I'm sure." Mumbling to herself it sounded so confident, but was it really that clear in her mind?


Win-ko stretched across three or four Earth city blocks in any direction. Each house bustled with the life of a new day, and the ever work of summer chores. The sweet smell of a flower fragrance scented the warm breeze promising the late bloom of field flowers or green meadows with saccharine honey-suckles. The town, like any Cephirean town, lulled itself through the day with play, work, and relaxation.

No one minded that a stranger had entered the town. No one threatened or ran away from the unknown man instead people offered shelter for the night or even a hot meal for the day. It was rather odd that Clef had felt anything at all from this humble village. Could a evil presence really lurk behind the stone walls of the elders house? If any dangerous event had taken place here it no longer existed if it ever did. The sun glinted on towards noon, lunchtime.

From the archway of a nearby house a women stopped sweeping to admire children playing. The distant sounds of play echoed in the mid-day air. For a moment a scent of hot meat or decay wafted through the air and then once more was replaced by the odor of the summer sun.

"Are you looking for something dear?" The women in simple dress paused before the young man. He seemed familiar to her though she could not place him in the village before. There had not been a stranger to the village for well over a year, no that wasn?t right was it? But in her mind, though she tried, she could not remember the stranger that had passed the same route not more than two days ago. A vague imprint of red eyes lingered in the corner and farthest regions of her mind.

"Excuse me sir, but are you looking for someone?" The middle aged women smiled faintly again. If anything the boy appeared startled at his surroundings. "This is the town of Win-ko? if you are lost you can go to the village Elder. He can help you."

Skyhawk and Chad looked at each other and back at the woman. Chad stepped up and started to speak, thinking now that everything would be just fine, but Skyhawk's hand held him back. Kyle smiled and stepped in front of his brother. "Actually, we would like to meet the elder, if you would not mind. Where is he at the moment?" Kyle asked checking his surroundings again. It seemed peaceful, but he believed there to be a catch. Chad shook his head, knowing his brother's apparant paranoia. "Jeez, Kyle...We can relax a little, you know. This town seems to be just fine." He whispered. Kyle shot a look at him. "This is just what they might want it to be. To "seem" peaceful. Let's just investigate a little more." He said smiling again.


Megor cracked his knuckles. "I live to fight. It's all I know or have ever known. What else are we to do? We have to stop this war if you want peace. We have to fight. We have to use force if you ever want to see this land peaceful again."

Her eyes closed for a moment. Once more a call to fight, to be the aggressor, to put one's heart out on their sleeve only to lose it in the end. Umi let her bangs shadow her eyes not willing to let the sorrow show to either of her companions. "I think that this fight will be won by the show of one's inner strength Megor." Sapphire eyes glittered with intense assuredness. "Ascot do you think one of your friends could help us on our long travel?" Umi kept her eyes on the two until the determined glint faded to leave her gaze soft.


Celica rubbed a hand, just beginning to show the signs of age, across his forehead. His new office, although cramped among the many books, had already proven the position fruitful in a wealth of information. Information perhaps his new master could use against the darker presence he fought. He was unaware of what or who but it had been clear that they would work, no, he would work as an 'agent' for the people and not only the one of the darkest shadows.

The system of communications seemed a bit redundant but if anything it reminded him of ancient lore on battle techniques where 'agents' spied on each other. The Lord of Darkest Shadows, as Celica had begun to call Lamont in his mind, might be interested in this tidbit of information if only as afternoon conversation. Mayhap on another day, another time, and with more time to spare would he entertain his Lord.

A message had come earlier that morning announcing the Lord of Darkest Shadows had assumed another identity to 'spy' and protect others he feared in danger. Along the details the Lord had mentioned he, Celica, was to send a pigeon, or one of the other birds Celica had been given a few days ago by the Lord himself for messages, if Celica found any information or lore on a third race that had once dwelled along side the Cephireans and Sprites.

Trembling over a far older book that that of the age of Cephiro's greatest Yil, the Madoushi Kurefu, Celica's tired eyes finally spotted the few words he sought for, however it was his misfortune that the book he looked over had a far older version which belonged to another Yil, the Yil Rashara. Rashara had been a old friend during the times when he was courting his wife?

Celica closed his eyes to pause. That past was a but a long happy memory torn apart by the savage claws of monsters made by man himself. For his wife and child he would live, by the light of knowledge and love he survived, and for future generations he continued now. A pen, then a quill with ink was hastily thrown on his crowded desk. Papers, scrolls, and volumes of text scattered in his rush. It was important that the Lord receive a message instructing him to go out where Yil Rashara lived to retrieve the ancient History known as "Tragica Pillar." Scribbling in a mix of code his master had left him he roughly wrote down vital information.

'Dear Lord,
I have reviewed texts I believe to be of use to you plus locations. The first text with the most potent information comes from a text not within my reach. It is the text known as the "Tragica Pillar" which currently resides with the Yil Rashara who lives in the town of Leiyo in the Eastern region. If the legends and written suggestions are to be believed this book should contain the history of the first Pillar including that of a third and powerful race which disappeared from Cephiro. I will be in contact once more with more texts and locations as I come across them.
Your Agent.'

With stiff hands the piece of parchment was folded into a neat square then tied around a gray pigeon's leg. "I do not know where you will go my friend but be true. My master has assured me you will find him but?" Celica shook his head. "Alright, I will not doubt you just be swift. I have a feeling that this will not be good for someone."

With a heavy feeling in his heart he opened up the small stained glass window on the wall opposite his desk. The bird gave one good beat of it's wings before taking off into the warm air of summer.


Clef cleared his throat and now focused a globe of energy on a grey-veined marble pedestal askew from the chamber. Gently, he smoothed the larger power into smaller mounds, until they materialized onto the column's surface. He shuffled to the stand and examined one of the newly formed communicator crystals. Rubbing his thumb across the polished amythyst teardrop, he tested the button in the center, gold with streaking gold ivy leaves which wrapped around the droplet crystal larger than his childlike fist. He shifted towards where the others were and caught their attention by holding the shiny objects towards them. "These are crystals that channel one's voice," he announced calmly. "Each group will take one with them, and if you touch the center, you will be able to speak with me." He cast a sad smile, passing them out to the groups. "I wish you all luck. Please inform me if you find out anything." He motioned to the griffin. "Fuu, please take Tetya with your group." The griffin laid down, folding its wings as if to invite one to climb on. It swaked happily. He nodded slightly, encouraging the groups to head on.

Kyoko, having heard the voice of Clef calling out before she and the others could exit, joined her parents in turning around to acknowledge him. A wide smile spread across the young woman's face as she took on an aura of child-like joy, rushing over to Tetya and softly stroking the top of the creature's head. She'd always been fond of Clef's magical creatures; ever since she had been a little girl. She laughed slightly when the griffin-like creature yet again squaked at her attention.

With one last affectionate pat, Kyoko did as Clef requested and took one of the crystals, holding it firmly between her palms. Then, stepping beside Tetya and stroking the top of the beast's head, she looked at her companions.

"Fuu-san, Ferio-san, should we perhaps head off now?"


Traversing the azure boundless scape of Cephiro's skyline was a pigeon that only moments ago had been in Celica's office. It flew on a course below the clouds, below the Floating Islands that littered the air like pearls on a necklace. It was a small gray feathered creature, no larger than the average man's palm. By all rights, the powerful wind should have tossed and rendered the little bird helpless in its toils. Yet it rode that wind dauntlessly and with natural prowess, a true denizen of the skies.

After intervals of gliding and flapping, another never ending sea revealed itself. This one however was below rather than above. A sea of verdant impenetrable woodland that betrayed nothing of what lay beneath its foliage to the outside world. The trees in this region of Cephiro were noticeably taller and possessed many more branches than any of its brethren in the world.

The pigeon maintained its vector for a few more seconds, then bowed its beak and coasted steadily downwards, swallowed by the canopy of treetops. It was as if the bird had gone deaf, for when it glided down past the upper branches, an eerie deafening quiet dominated the forest within. Not so much as the buzz of insects or the merrymaking of pixies were to be heard. The air carried a frigid lonely chill. Weak rays of sunlight from beyond the moss and vine infested branches above just barely penetrated the canopy, rendering these woods a realm of shadows.

Flapping its wings agitatedly, the gray bird settled down on the large stump of a broken tree and cooed nervously. To the citizens of Cephiro, these forbidding woodlands were known as the Obsidian Forest. Even at high noon, the forest was as dark as pitch, hence the name. Rumors were that the woods were haunted. Tales were told in the towns and villages, particularly the remote ones in close proximity, of travellers and hunters stopping within the woods and never returning, nothing left of them but their possessions. Search parties sent to look for the missing never returned themselves. The rare few who did, so went the stories, had lost their minds and sanity, babbling incoherently for the rest of their days of demons and monsters only they had seen. In older times, the Obsidian Forest was the site of many a bloodfeud between dueling Dals and rival Yils. The stories abounded that the ghosts of all who had died within these cursed woods haunted it regularly. In these days of politcal and social conflict on Cephiro, no faction in its right mind dared choose the Obsidian Forest for any territorial or military engagement plans.

Had they known the presence of its most recent inhabitant, they would have kept clear all the more.

The very darkness of the tree next to the pigeon spread itself forward. Two black gloved hands reached out slowly carefully. The poor pigeon cooed in fright and attempted to fly, but the right hand rested on the frightened bird's back and stroked its feathers reassuringly. The left hand retrieved an envelope tied around the bird's leg. A thin beam of sunlight touched the flaming sparkling gem of a ring on the left hand's middle finger, casting various shades of light about the chrome hued trees.

Minutes later, a blue overhead light clicked on in a black stone and ivy walled room. There was something resembling a subterranean crypt in this ebony realm that light neglected. The same two hands that had calmed the pigeon and claimed its package lay on top of a polished oak table. The right vanished and returned with the envelope, then the left tore the top open and withdrew the coded message within, written in a vivid blue ink. Glowing eyes that bore an eerie seductive power swept through the lore master's brief report, committing every detail to memory. After a few more seconds, each and every letter of the message faded one by one, till the sheet was blank.

Such would be the dilemma of outsiders who intercepted these messages not intended for them. Not only was the code in itself extraordinarily difficult to decipher, but it would fade away shortly after contact with the air. All under his sway communicated in this manner.

There was a pause from the being outside the circle of light, digesting the report. It seemed to coincide with an issue he had been pondering. There was the crink of folded paper, and a new sheet filled with more writing placed itself on the tabletop. From his foray into the Crystal Palace and under the guise of the travelling nobleman, he had gathered names, places, and objectives that would need his observation.

Topping the list was the following entry.

"1. Hikaru Shidou, Mackey Muchitsujo, Nova. Town of Leiyo. Meet Yil Rashara. Retrieve Tragica Pillar. Girls disguised. Town of scum."

Combining thoughts of Celica's report and his own observations, the being in black scribbled an addition and encircled it.

"-Danger most imminent. First priority."

His course was set. Intervention in the others would follow, for most who had been sent out this morning were walking into traps. A low grim laugh whispered through the blackness. Not even he could be everywhere at once, but the more that could be done for intervention, the better.

The right hand opened a desk beneath and emerged with a fat fountain pen. On the same sheet of paper he had perused, a reply to his agent was being inscribed in the same sapphire ink that the previous message had been written in.

"Report received. Excellent work. Be on standby for upcoming data in the near future. Continue research and maintain contact." The paper was deftly folded and placed in a black envelope, then it vanished into the darkness beyond. The pen and the list disappeared from the tabletop as well, and the blue light overhead died out with a click.

From one corner of the room came the rumbling and sliding of a stone wall. Then silence as deafening as the woods outside ruled the Sanctum. A shadow had departed.


Parked outside the eatery of the small village near the Obsidian Forest, Jethro sat in the driver's seat of the carriage, bone of a small steer leg on a plate beside him as well as breadcrumbs, remnants of his breakfast. His arms were folded and his eyes were getting heavy. Master Drakov certainly had the strangest appointments and location visits nowadays. He'd already been advised to eat and rest but to keep close to the carriage, anticipating a long but temporary appointment with possible hasty departure.

It got him to wondering what the Baron's business in such desolate parts could be. His master had always been eccentric in his wants and wishes, but it seemed that since his return to Fahren they had magnified fivefold. As he had thought the previous night and earlier this morning, it was like he served a different master now.

Ah well, the privileges he enjoyed in working for Drakov had increased in proportion to his master's change in schedule. His wife and child could probably go for a better home in a few more months. Maybe he'd even get his wife some of those pretty dressed imported from Chizeta...

Through the sky above flitted a gray pigeon, and Jethro raised his eyes and squinted.

Funny. On the way to this village, he thought he'd seen the very same bird en route to the Obsidian Forest.

A faint whine from far above of what sounded like rolling thunder made it to his ears and he winced unconsciously at the noise. He looked skyward again but saw nothing, fancying it was some huge monster bird. It reminded him of the very noise that many in Cephiro's capital cities and the Floating Islands had heard and prayed for deliverance from last night.

He shrugged. Funny how that noise had manifested itself last night. The very night of Baron Drakov's arrival, as if heralding it.

Hououji Fuu smootly nodded in under standing to Clef's words, and Kyoko's. "Hai, " She walked toward the amazing beast Tetya, setting an affectionate hand on it's beak, " Are you ready, Tetya-san?" She recieved only acknologing eye's as a responce, they seemed reassuring, "Very well then, " she moved her eyes to Kyoko and then Ferio, "On to Swornova."

The three girls found themselves standing outside the palace walking towards the east. All three were disguised in nondescript grey cloaks and their faces obscured under hoods except for Mackey. She didn't feel as much of a need to wear a hood at least for the moment because she wasn't really connected with the Magic Knights and nobody would recognize her face, anyway. Each had their various weapons, the communicator which Hikaru carried, and Mokona who bounced alongside the group and answered the occaisional question of Mackey's in his own Special little way. ("Are you Mokona?" "Pu!" "What's a pu? ...I didn't just step in one, did I...?" "Pupu!!!" "Why is that mountain over there floating, I wonder? Is that some sort of trick of the light or something?" "Puuu... pupupuuupu!") Eventually Mackey learned not to ask stupid questions of insane marshmallow bunny-rabbits, but not before Mokona earned the nickname from her of The Uncarved Block.

After a while the travellers came upon the forest marking their entrance into the easternmost region of Cephiro. Almost as if they had crossed over some sort of line, the land there was somehow different. There was nothing obviously wrong, but all the forest seemed to have this eerie feeling about it. It was almost deadly quiet and even the faintest rustle in the brush caused the girls almost to jump. Mackey found herself looking about her often for some sign of a pair of eyes that might be watching the three of them, but she shrugged it off as the paranoia that develops when you spend a few years as a fugitive. The number of shadows that seemed to be lurking about didn't help, either.

Presently they came to the village of Leiyo. It was not a small village, but it was quiet and quaint, even for Cephiro. Surrounding the town was a tall stone wall which appeared to have been built only in the past few months or so. At the entrance stood a single armed guard. The guard just looked like some random guy with a sword and some muscles who could intimidate anyone who tried to pass by uninvited. In other words, he had a sword but he probably wasn't very good with it. The wall for its part looked pretty sturdy but was only ten feet tall and was overhung in some places by branches of trees so if all else failed there was always the option of climbing right over. "Better try and get in through the gate first," Mackey thought out loud, "Climbing over a wall in broad daylight is stupid and I don't wanna wait until night." She turned to the others and nodded towards the guard. "Shall we?"


The old woman squinted at Chad then Kyle for a moment. "Hum... The elder's home is right over there past the fountain." Her green eyes followed where her finger pointed to a small white washed building just to the left of the town square where a foutain bubbled. "Im sure he can help yah in anything you need." She heaved a sigh and began to sweep the pathway to her home. "Come back if you need something for your journey. I'll pack you some supplies boys."


"Lets go then..." Umi lifted a strand of long hair away from her face. Walking forward she approached the table where Clef had summoned the crystals, or gems to communicate with. "Thank you Madoushi Clef." Her blue eyes meet his before turning back to her own group with the communicator. "Ascot shall we?"

On first sight Hikaru knew that this Leiyo wasn't any where as homey as any of the other towns she's been in Cephiro. Since only a single guard guarded the gate it wouldn't be hard to get past. Hikaru glanced at Mackey under her cloak and nodded.

"Would you like to do it Mackey? or maybe you Nova?" she asked smiling.

Kyle started to open his mouth to refuse the woman's offer of supplies, but his mouth was covered by Chad's hand. "Thanks, miss! We really appreciate it!" He said happily. He glanced over at the house she pointed to and cheefully nodded. "Alright! Let's go, bro!" He said taking off towards the house. Kyle followed him slightly aggitated. "You don't know if we can trust these people or not, brother! What are you doing, accepting items like that?! They could well be tampered with!" Chad grumbles and looked over. "Just chill out, will you?! She's an old lady, what's she going to do, bomb our bags?! Come on! Really!" He said shaking his head, looking back at the house. Both men stopped in front of the door. The landscape was incredible outside of the town. Chad just sighed and knocked on the door awaiting an answer. When it was answered at last, the two boys smiled their best smile, which was pretty emotionless for Kyle, and usual for Chad. "Hi! We're here to talk with you about the town if you don't mind and have the time!" Chad said cheerfully.

Megor followed Umi and Ascotto. He would let them lead, and he would merely follow. This was odd, working with people. He had never done such a thing before. His entire life he remained alone. He didn't know what to do or say. So the only thing left for him was silence. He crossed his arms and prepared for anything as they prepared to leave.


Tetya stooped low and flattened his auburn downy wings as a stairwell for the group to climb on. Waggling his head, he cooed contentedly. After he was certain that his crew were on board, he arched his back and extended his wings, rising and stamping towards a large picture window, his birdlike talons clicking on the stonework antechamber’s floor. In his wake, loose tiles glinted in the sunlight from a circular window directly overhead.

“Umi…” Clef whispered as his gaze trailed her stride back to her comrades. His lavender brow formed a worry line across his forehead as his stare grazed the ground, then jerked to notice Tetya’s advances on the handsome picture window. “Not again, you don’t…” he scolded his griffin as he aimed his staff at the stained glass and concentrated his energy there. Swiftly, the glass disappeared just as Tetya crouched on his haunches and launched into the sky with the now alarmed group clinging to his back. With a spirited squawk, the group was gone. The glass reappeared after they were out of sight, while Clef wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead.

Meanwhile, Mokona issued a loud “PU!” and bounced towards the gate, his perpetual smile spreading as he sprung into the guard’s arms. “Pu Pu Pu!!!” the rabbit eared fluffball gushed.

"Hey, yeah, sure, but- HEY!" Mackey exclaimed in response to Hikaru's question and Mokona's sudden outburst. She had been going to say, 'Hey, yeah, sure, but let's not waste any time standing here' but obviously Mokona had other ideas. "Crazy gaddamn bunny..." She (and also Hikaru and Nova. Or not. I'm easy.) ran after him and towards the guard, who was trying his very best to look intimidating. He was not succeeding in Mackey's eyes. Then again, nor would a gigantic man-eating spider that posessed the power to turn inanimate objects into vampiric zombies that bore the likeness of Regis Philbin and were also accountants. "Hello," Mackey said as she smiled politely at the guard. As of yet she had no plan. It would be bad to make a scene, but she didn't want to have to pretend that she was a little kid or something, either.

"Is this your pet, kid?" The guard said, gesturing at the insane marshmallow in his arms. Mokona puued contentedly and Mackey pondered for a split second before answering. "Yeah." The guard had called her a kid so she decided to play it up, pitching her voice a little higher. So much for keeping her self-respect. "Oh, so what's a cute little girl like you doing here? Where are your mommy and daddy?" Mackey's exact thoughts in response to the guard's unbelievable ignorance are not reproduced here due to obscene language. She restrained herself from expressing them, however, and even managed to keep her cute little facade for a little while longer. "Um... I'm with my sisters. We came because we've heard that the child labour laws here are less strict here and we need to find work because that that insane marshmallow right there just ate us out of house and home and our parents are sick so we have to get jobs or the scary men will take away the farm."

Pocketing the communicator crystal and thanking Clef, Ferio quickly joined Kyoko and Fuu in climbing onto Tetya's back. Shortly after, with some fortunate intervention from Madoushi Clef before the griffin could head straight through the stained glass window that had been closing off the way to the outside, the group found themselves soaring through the skies. The Crystal Palace grew smaller and smaller behind them, until it finally vanished from sight.

Keeping a tight enough grasp to prevent himself from falling off, Ferio turned his head to watch the scenery speed past below them. though he had travelled around before, it had mostly been on the ground, so seeing things from above was certainly interesting. Vast stretches of green signifying forest and fields, rivers and streams of glittering blue, the checkered pattern of farm pastures and the irregular, colourful shapes of towns offered a fascinating view from up here.

The feeling of cool air rushing by was wonderfully refreshing. It was a welcome change from having been indoors for such a long time. Of course, Ferio was by no means confined to staying inside the palace despite his duties, nor did he do so, but he supposed that after all that time he had spent outdoors, before he'd known of his heritage, he had simply grown accustomed to the freedom of having no walls surrounding him.

The flight to Sornowa went by considerably fast, Tetya's powerful wings steadily slicing through the air. It had been a long journey nonetheless, and they'd made a brief stop about halfway to allow the griffin to rest, before continuing onward.

The sun was setting, the last hues of red and gold starting to fade away, and the sky had begun to grow dark as they landed on the floating island. Sliding off Tetya's back and giving the majestic beast a grateful pat, Ferio paused to help the two girls down.

He glanced around then smiled at Fuu and Kyoko. "Are you two all set? Let's go find Zenith."

Fuu allowed Ferio to help her down onto solid, well floating, ground again. She looked down at the wrinkled apperance of her uniform, a replica of her own. Crinkling her nose a bit she quickly smoothed it down and brushed the strau hair from her eyes. The wind knight glanced briefly over the land, or rather, the sky. "This is the true sunset of Cephiro, " She thought contently to herself. Ferio's voice then sprung into her head, asking if she was ready to find Zenith. She nodded, "Yes, but do you think we should tell Modoushi Clef of our arrival?"

Ascot sighed, not having said much of anything during the whole of their briefing by the Guru. His dark eyes flashed as he brought them over the light hands of Umi, holding the royal merchandise of the Palace by Clef, and past, over the expanse of the room, steadily surveying, an apathetic air about his body. Ascot turned and lifted his chin, the interior lighting illuminating the pale pallor of his features, and he dropped his eyes to the ground.

Ascot swallowed, touching the soft pads of his fingertips to the centre of his palms each in turn, ".. Umi-san, Megor-san, maybe you have already planned for preparation, but still I say in case you have not that it is in order." Ascot dropped his head, dark locks falling over his eyes. "We will not be travelling with Mokona and my magic does not work for lodging or food... I've ventured briefly over the area we're to go and it is remote. A.. thick fog settles over the island early in the evening."

Ascot relaxed his hands by his sides, pausing a moment as he closed his eyes slowly, feeling dark and lush lashes press against his cheeks and then lift away, a surrepticiously narrow gaze of his eyes catching the distinguishing colours of the two near him: how will this turn? are we doing this for... ? ? ??

The boy sighed, looking back at them, a steady and informal light to his astonishingly virecent eyes, contrasting as strikingly as ever against the fair skin of his face.

"It won't be good if we don't plan to cope with the conditions.. Of course, I can see to utilizing what healthy seijyuu I have as aid on our mission, demo.. you know it, you know it.." he finished, drawling and end to his speaking. "We can afford to leave later and arrive to the channel, making crossing tomorrow morning.."


Zazu held his breath, folding his arms tightly about his waist as he dropped his gaze to the floor, looking past anything apparent, a deftly alert and contemplative air about his manner. His memory sifted back to the briefing, and for an instant, he fell back into the comfortable suit of strategic thinking which was required of him as an official of the Higher Order of Autozam, scanning through memories set aside for times of confusion, possible connections, answers, plug-ins, why did this not make sense...

His face darkened and his chewed his lip, ignoring the empty scratching in his stomach the stretched a feeling of unwell throughout his body, to the extent of his whole; when one's country is at the mercy of an insane epidemic, and you could be a keypoint in making things well again, can you be justified in wallowing in your own circumstance while you could be making a vital contribution? Softly, he exhaled. Why had he only now heard of.. this revolutionist?

Of course, it was only just a rumor. Hearing these things however deeply disturbed the boy mechanic, and in times as these were, did nothing to help his already long-shot nerves. It was bad enough things were in constant emergence and panic back in a society of assurance and reliance on technology that had never before failed, but to hear of suspicious activity directly concerning your people that you had no clue over... He was only glad he was part of those responsible for the investigation. Zazu bit down for a moment, recalling again if he'd ever heard anything regarding these issues..

His brow knotted for only a moment before relenting, a look of submission and genuine youth gently swallowing his demeanor. He would have answers soon.

He stood up from the wall and scanned the room for the travelling companions he'd been assigned to work with, not allowing himself to dwell on it that he'd rather deal with things Autozam on his own, for perhaps something in the deep of him was in something like relief he was in fact in the hands of others... He was so tired.

Zazu sweatdropped a moment, satisfied in that he could remember their names, but their faces.. Who could he look for? By now, he knew quite a few people of the Palace, but it was just his luck to be assigned to the few that he didn't know.. Mahogany eyes searched helplessly, and for what? He had no idea! Zazu held the corners of his lips from a habit he'd picked up from Geo, and looked out over those that remained of the congregation Clef had called. Perhaps if he haboured a manner that displayed the most confusion, a partner of his would make the connection..?

He sweatdropped again; pathetic.. Zazu coughed nervously in light of his unfortunate circumstance.


"R...reall...y?" His suddenly wide-eyed gaze sunk to the fluffy and carelessly happy rabbit creature that had just leaped into his arms, cold sweat slithering off his forehead like a nest of disgruntled vipers. The man's arms spread wide, and with a plop, Mokona dropped to the ground and continued to 'pu', rebounding about the guard's feet at which he took half a backstep. Easier to see was the guard's wide eyes and paled skin than the tremors that now wavered up his body. The three disguised girls could have sworn his battered chain- mail armor was rattling.

Here on Cephiro, a world where not all was what it appeared, it was folly to underestimate even the most innocent looking seijyu by its appearance. Any native hunter of the world could tell anyone that. And in a world where there were more, it seemed, seijyu than humans, to condone that folly would mean doom.

This knowledge coupled with Mackey's story firmly solidified the guard's opinion of Mokona from then on.

He jabbed his spear over his shoulder to the town behind him, giving Mokona a wide berth as the cheerful white block already began to bounce and hop beyond the gates. "Get in, but promise me you gonna keep that little critter in a cage or somethin." When Hikaru, Nova, and Mackey stepped through and were about to move beyond the guard, he suddenly cleared his throat.

"Y'three ain't from around here, are ye? Y'sure look like wide-eyed farm girls t'me. Take my advice: don't make trouble in Leiyo. Scum run this town. There's a gov'ment detachment assigned here to keep the peace, 'cludin me, but it's corrupt and none o' the lowlives livin' in this town would care if someone tried to stop 'em anyway. You cross 'em, there'll be no one to come to yer rescue." He spat through his teeth resignedly.

"I seen plenty o' killins in this hellhole, each bloodier than the last. I don't want three more bodies that were once three visitin' girls added to the local graveyard. Watch yer backs."

The guard turned back to his post and folded his arms, as if having long acknowledged the worthlessness of trying to keep the peace here. He was a good man drowning in a tide of malice all around him.

When the three girls' attention turned to the town before them, Guru Clef and the guard's warning seemed to ring in their ears.

The buildings and houses all about them were crumbling and poorly maintained, scored with four years worth of misplaced sword cuts and erring arrows. There was the smell of rot and liquor in the air. As they walked, one house they passed had the voices of a furious man and nagging woman in argument wafting out of the windows, barely masking the cry of a hungered child within. All about them, various ragged and homeless families slept, or tried to sleep on the open street with thin blankets wrapped about their grime stained bodies. Near them lay the occasional wasted slave to addictive but lethal opiates brought in from Autozam. Small packs of wild seijyu lurked by, dog or cat-like, scouring for scraps in the bowls of the destitute and the trash barrels. The most appaling sight was that some of the bodies prone on the ground were no longer among the living, decaying wounds from swords or knives in them, and these were what some of the seijyu were feasting on.

Much healthier groups of people were scattered about and walked the streets. These were the painfully true citizens of Leiyo, the individuals who actually ran the village. They were clad in everything from ordinary tunics to more elaborate robes that made them -appear- richer than they were. The looks in their eyes varied from dumb but determined to sly and smooth-talking. The line between groups of people seemed distinctly divided, as if marking where one gang of cutthroats ended and another began. When these groups passed each other on occasion they tended to grasp prominently displayed weaponry out of caution and as a warning. Makeshift tables where gambling sessions were proceeding dotted the area as well, a scuffle was ongoing at one of them owing to supposed cheating. In one far corner, within an alleyway, a duel of battleaxes between two massive muscle-bound men was in progress. The crowd gathered about the two was a raucous drunken lot, goading both players on and loudly placing their bets.

Many pairs of eyes trained on Hikaru, Nova, and Mackey as they walked on. Some of the sleazier lowlives nearer to the three girls let out appreciative catcalls and offers which Hikaru, in her innocence, probably (and hopefully) did not understand. Even through the cloaks which hid their faces well, it was apparent through their figures that they were women, and attractive ones at that.

Several steps further into this man-made hell, they at last came upon the tavern Amethia.

Quatre glanced around, rather dismayed that he had lost sight of Arista when everyone had begun moving through the room to assemble into their groups. A frown creasing his brow, he slowly turned in a circle, hoping to glimpse the familiar sight of the Autozamian girl once more. Perhaps she had gone off to find the two remaining members of their team? Zazu and Leilandra, was it...?

Raking a hand through his hair in a gesture of slight anxiety, although missions such as this were far from being something new to him, Quatre smiled to himself a little ruefully. He really wasn't being very helpful like this.

His gaze fell on the slim figure of a strangely-garbed youth, who appeared to be close to his age, standing near one of the walls and casting helplessly searching looks about him. Even if this wasn't one of his teammates, it wouldn't do any harm to head over to him and see if he needed any help in finding his group too, would it? With that decision, Quatre crossed the room, walking towards the dark-haired boy. He smiled upon reaching him, proffering a hand in greeting. "Hello! I'm sorry for suddenly approaching you just like that, but I noticed that you seem to be waiting for your mission group too, right?" He hesitated for a moment before adding, "I'm Quatre, by the way. You're not by any chance Leilandra or Zazu, are you? Please forgive my ignorance and my bluntness... I'm hoping to find the rest of my team members, but I've only met one prior to this meeting. Arista-san? Maybe you know her?" He stepped back, watching the other boy expectantly and somewhat worriedly. Being too assertive wasn't such a good thing... He hoped that the youth didn't find his behaviour rude and demanding.


Ferio nodded in assent to Fuu's suggestion. "Yeah, you're right." He ran a hand through his hair, a slight grin tugging at his lips as he tightened his ponytail. Clef probably would want them to notify him of their arrival. "Fuu, what would we do without you?" He winked at her. Though speaking in a joking manner, he was actually being half- serious. The Wind Knight always seemed to think things through so well, and that was definitely something to appreciate about her company. Among a great deal of other things, but bringing them up would probably elicit a blush from her, as well as potentially annoying or upsetting her if she thought he was joking around. The former was certainly not unwelcome, he thought it was rather becoming when Fuu blushed, but the latter was not something he intended to do at all.

Ferio gave himself an inward kick. Now was really not the time to be dwelling on matters completely unrelated to what they had been sent here for. As Cephiro's prince he had to carry out his duties responsibly, for the people. This mission was what he should be focusing on right now, in order to be of some assistance.

Pulling out the communicator gem, Ferio placed it in the palm of his hand, holding it out so that both Fuu and Kyoko could access it as well. He smiled at the two girls. "Would either of you like to do the honors?"

Megor nodded at Ascotto's comments. "I'm ready. I'll hunt and kill food when it is necessary. I've lived in the desert my entire life, so I can find food even when it's scarce. And as for a place to sleep when needed, I don't sleep much. The two of you can camp wherever, and I'll stay guard." The young man crossed his arms under the cloak. "And as for the fog you speak of.." Megor paused for a moment and grinned almost an evil smile. "There are things that dwell in mist, fog, and darkness that even creatures of this world will learn to fear." He turned his back to Ascotto and Umi and awaited further instruction.