A smile on his lips, Ferio walked alongside Kyoko, quickly crossing the few meters between them and Fuu. What had just taken place had certainly come as a surprise, but this new, unexpected knowledge had left him with a rather happy feeling. It was nice to imagine that someday in the future, he and Fuu would have so close a bond, and be able to share it with such an amazing daughter.

He grinned slightly at his thoughts, giving a shake of his head. Now wasn't exactly the time to get lost in sentimental daydreams, even if they weren't really 'dreams'.

Upon reaching Fuu, Ferio noticed that Kyoko seemed to be up to something and he watched the girl carefully. He blinked in surprise, managing to keep from laughing as Kyoko spoke to Fuu in a genuinely concerned yet firm manner, and then instructed him to pick the Wind Knight up.

"You heard what Doctor Kyoko said, Fuu," he added in a solemn tone of voice, trying to keep a straight face. "I'm afraid I'll have to do as she tells me."

Gently putting his arms around Fuu, he lifted her up, allowing himself a grin at Kyoko. He had to admit, he was a little worried because he didn't want to intrude on Fuu's personal space or make her uncomfortable, but he found this rather nice, too...

Ferio smiled. "Well, I guess we should find Zenith now."

Fuu turned back toward Kyoko, the young woman's straightforward, matter-of-fact voice laid out medical sympathy. She quickly TOLD Fuu that she wasn't able to carry herself and that Ferio was just the person to make up for any physical ability the girls lacked.

"But, but..." Her cheeks began to flush.

Before she could protest any further she was lifted from the ground. Her face was red now, crimson. 'Oh no… I, I can't think like this' She tilted her head downward, trying to hide her flushed face with her mess of blonde bangs.

Ferio cheerfully suggested that they find Zenith. 'Yes' the answer popped into her head, but she could only nod meekly in response.

* * * * *

Kyoko bit her bottom lip as she watched Fuu’s face take on an expression of embarrassment, feeling rather ashamed of herself for having to have plotted against her mother in such a way. She knew that, even if her mother loved her father now as much as she did back home, this particular moment was most likely making her less then comfortable. She truthfully did not have any right to meddle in her parents’ personal affairs and thus felt extremely guilty. The culpability lessened, however, when she thought of all the moments she had seen her parents together. They were always so happy and so obviously in love. She could easily lose count of the many times she had seen them walking with their fingers entwined or smiling at each other in silence while she sat across from them, sketching the peaceful image of them together. In light of everything happening now and the hardships that they would have to face, didn’t they deserve some semblance of happiness?

“I know not what consequences might lye with my helping them become closer, but I will do all that I have to do to help the two of them find the happiness that they do not have now.”

Allowing a soft smile to appear where a regretful expression had lain only moments before, Kyoko reached out her hand and placed it upon one of Fuu’s, offering as much comfort as she possibly could. She gently squeezed the hand held in her own, her smile only growing as she looked in to the eyes that so matched her own.

“Don’t worry, Fuu-san. You needn’t be uncomfortable. We know you must be displeased with our having made a decision without your consent, but it is for the best. We only wish for you to be safe and comfortable. Please just relax. We shall find Zenith-san soon.”

After a moment, she pulled her hand back and allowed Fuu to try and relax as much as she possibly could. She glanced at Ferio for a moment, taking note of the slight grin he had cast in her direction, resisting the urge to giggle at the fact that he looked rather happy to have been plotted ‘against.’ She made a reminder to herself to have a talk with him when they returned to the castle. Maybe she could give him some advice. Realizing that she was once again falling in to a rather sneaky line of thought, Kyoko blushed deeply and broke eye contact with her father, feeling quite embarrassed at her devious ideas and possibly un-wanted meddling. Scolding herself for being so disobedient, for what seemed like at least the third or fourth time that day, she allowed her thoughts to travel to the task at hand.

“Do you suppose that Zenith-san is expecting us? I might think that he could have received some word from Clef-san of our arrival, but it might not be possible, being as it would be on such short notice. I hope we do not disturb him if our arrival is unexpected.”

Kyoko paused and realized that she must sound rather ignorant for asking questions for which the answers were rather obvious. Feeling rather dumb and fearing that she appeared simple minded, the young woman hung her head slightly, her cheeks darkening further as she bit her bottom lip again.

“Some help I am going to be…” she whispered to herself, fingers toying with the hem of her skirt in a rather Fuu-ish manner.


Emerauld nodded her head at Clef worried for the sake of his health and well being. She was back in the land of her birth and death for only a short time when already things began to crumble. Was the peaceful land of Cephiro doomed to forever repeat the endless cycle of fighting for the right of life and well being? Her eyes glimmered with the knowledge and the weight of unshed tears.

"Ryula right?" She smiled pleasantly at the girl. "I believe we should do our best to aide those in need around the castle." She clasped her hands together tightly, for old habits died hard, and gave a silent prayer to all the innocents who would suffer before this terrible battle ended. Though the skies were still pure as ever the hearts of the Cephirean people mirrored the Cephirean land of a broken Pillar.

She turned back to Clef. "Are you alright Madoushi Kurefu?" She let the worry echo into her voice while motioning Ryula to help her with Clef if he needed assistance to rest in his room. After spending that much energy for spell castings and weavings she was surprised that he had not yet passed out. And somewhere deep inside her heart she felt the stirrings of confusion between loss, love, darkness, and perhaps a new hope of life.


Dark eyes gleamed from deep with in the tavern surveying the surroundings in mild distaste. Leiyo was not a town to enjoy nor should it be frequented by anyone other than lowlifes and the likes. The thugs jostled each other in boisterous play while idly the Jil watched from heavy lids the crowd. He was never far from his weapon in case things got out of hand and often they did.

Robes rustled and adjusted to suit the wearer's fancy, accommodating to allow a side glance at three new comers to the joint. They would have been over looked if not for the animal that rested in the arms of one of the travelers. It gave pause to the shadowy figure in the back, spying. So all the rumors where true, how...positively saccharine. A faint glimmer of a wicked grin spread and dissipated on the lips of the figure.

Three little girls all alone, though not for long. The Yil Rashara, normally out of place in the town though a sight often beheld in Leiyo even in the unsavory tavern of Amethia, greeted warmly and softly exchanged a word with the Jil. It was almost enough for a person to gag. With eyes-only did the figure give a nod to some thugs in the back. Almost as if giving a unanswered question an answer, a go ahead.

One of the thugs walked up to the bar ordering a hard drink from the Jil setting up the line of action that would soon take place. Taking that as a cue, the figure slithered out of the tavern anticipating word on the Fire Knight's last day on Earth. It would be good news for the Master in any case.

Yil Rashara smiled at Mackey and nodded. "I agree. Madoushi Clef can handle himself, I'm pretty sure of that." He inclined his head one last time to the Jil as he moved off to serve a customer. "I have what Clef wanted me to give to you..." He pointed down at the book he was carrying.

"Though Clef told me you would not be able to translate it. If you would but follow me I’m sure I could arrange translations pretty fast though here is not the place to discuss..." He sighed and waved his hand about the place as if emphasizing his point, "Anything really. Especially not for the likes of any of you."

As if in after thought he patted Sorra for a good luck measure. "Undoubtedly..." His voice lowered a little as he leaned into the group a little more meeting Hikaru, Nova, and Mackey's eyes. "We have been watched this whole time. Even under disguise we do not fit in." He straightened back up waiting on the Jil. He wanted to make sure the Jil didn’t let anyone follow them...


The hour grew late in vivid colors mainly bright oranges and hues of sunset reds when Megor, Ascot and Umi traveled to the outside gates of the city. With one furtive glance back Umi collected her thoughts which were still in disarray from the most recent events. Clef had been so fatigued when they left. She felt a twinge of guilt at not helping him.

It had sprung into her mind often enough about her last encounter with Clef after the fight with Debonair. Had he thanked her for not saying it? Her hands clinched a little. Emeraude had been in a position in which love was not an option could it also be thus wise for Clef in the manner of speaking that Cephiro came first above all other things?

She watched the sunset apprehensively with saddened eyes. 'Hikaru, Fuu where ever you are I wish you well...' Umi held her hands up to her chest lightly touching the bottom of her chin as she gave a silent prayer to them. This was a land that was controlled by will. The will determined everything and so Umi had to muster enough strength to be as willful as ever.

Deep forest green eyes had turned for a moment to her then back over the landscape, yet Umi noted in that one glance so much confusion in the Bal Ascot that she had never known before. In the time that the Knights were away what had weighed so heavily on his soul to make him so... well... grown up in mind and spirit. He and Caldina had made it known that he l...

"Okay!" Her hands repositioned to her hips as if to strike a pose from an American comic book, the superhero type. "We need to at least get a little distance covered before night fall then we can camp out via the supplies." Offhandedly she wished, a little selfishly, that mokona was with him. In the first visit she had grown accustomed to the hotel room he dished out every night. "Ascot can you guide us to the Island of Feralin Dormai? And Megor how were you planning on getting us there besides walking?"

Umi bent down picking up one of the supply bags before righting herself back up. She furtively glanced over at the one called Megor. While in the void he had... changed. There was no other way to describe his sudden appearance of a black cloak and armor. He was from Earth but... there was more to him than meet the eye.

Riveted though she was by the current mood her foot and her step was light upon the ground. Though her heart was a little darkened. "Dou shiyou mo nai kurai no... Kanashi-sugiru negai tashika ni... Kono yo ni aru koto wo shitta... Namida to kokoro-goto.." She sung lightly and trotted off only to stop a few steps away and look pointedly at the men she was with. "Well?" Her lips turned upward in a smile awaiting the next adventure in her life and this time she was ready for anything that came.

Chad and Skyhawk glanced at each other then back at the old man. "The odd things that have been happening here. Let us handle them. It seems that there is a presence of evil about this place." Skyhawk said as he kept his eyes fixated on the man. Chad nodded in agreement. The boys awaited the man to tell them everything they needed to know to handle the situation. Skyhawk sighed. He hated to be so front about the matters, but too much time had passed. He had to figure this out. And...What exactly was his partner Ragyn doing at that moment?

Megor shot a look over at Umi. "I have the will, and the power to fly. If you would like, I could show you. But that could take some time. And time at this moment is precious. We have been lagging about long enough. We should get moving as soon as possible. Ragyn isn't going to stand around and wait for us to play catch. Let's go take care of this mission. I want to hurry and end this foolishness. However..." Megor stopped. "I can hold the both of you if you each grab one of my arms. Ascot, you weigh very little, as I'm presuming you do, Umi. I can probably fly us there in a decently short amount of time. But if I do, I'm certain we will be sensed by Ragyn and even intervened with. Or perhaps even the villages would begin to talk. It's up to you. It makes no difference to me, either way." He said crossing his arms.


Mackey politely returned the Yil's smile, but only as a brief flicker of warmth across a pair of cold glass eyes. It was small and subtle and it quickly disappeared, but it was real as little else about her seemed to be. Suddenly realizing what she had let escape she recoiled and her eyes reverted to their usual lifeless state, her manner businesslike. Rashara was too disarming; the former assassin wouldn't admit it even to herself but she was scared of him. He acted and showed emotion freely, as if he had nothing at all to fear. His honesty from the moment she saw him took her by surprise as he slowly and probably without meaning to pick away at her defenses. It must be absolutely terrifying to live inside the head of someone so consumed with fear and sadness, like a bad dream you can't wake up from. The pain drives you to build a wall around yourself; when no other materials are readily available nightmares served as bricks and blood and tears as mortar. It looks strong enough from the outside, but in reality the slightest touch can bring it tumbling down. You're no longer in quite so much pain, but now you're obsessed with keeping it that way, with staying clear of anything that might threaten this false security you've found. This in itself is painful, but not as much so, you think. After all, dreams always seem to crumble when they meet reality, but nightmares live on. No wonder a world like Cephiro, built on frail hopes and dreams, is slowly dying...

Mackey nodded at the mage's last words. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, at least not for a bar full of thugs, but she was suspicious just on general principal. "Yes, and if someone were going to make a move, now would be the time to do it, while we're outnumbered and still in an enclosed area where we can't escape easily..." Under her cloak her right hand tightened its grip on the sledgehammer at her side. This could be fun....


It had been a few weeks after Debonair's defeat and Cephiro's restoration when he had brought up the subject of a makeshift orphanage. "These kids have no one to stand up for them any more, Saris. No one to look up to. I know how it is to lose family, no one should ever have to go through that kind of turmoil like I did."

The lovely young woman grasped the strong brown hand that belonged to the Jal Keiran. "Like we both did."

"Yes." conceded the sleek-muscled fighter, smiling wanly. He'd forgotten how much they shared in common despite their background differences. Keiran had been raised and trained to fight from birth, an heir to the tradition of a millenia old and reclusive warrior class of Cephiro. She had been an heiress from a wealthy family, daughter of a Western Lord and Lady. One would think a toughened rugged kickboxer of the mountain forests and a prim well-mannered maiden of nobility would never see eye-to-eye, much less come to a mutual understanding.

But on Cephiro, as everywhere else, opposites can and do become friends. And fall in love.

"I want to take care of them, Saris. All twenty of them. I'll build a home for them when things here at the Palace quiet down. I'll raise them the best I can, like they were my own kids. But I'll need to get myself involved in some line of work if they are never to want for anything."

"Know that whatever endeavour you chose, love, I'll know it's for the best...and I'll see you through it. Mine will be the duty of watching them in your absence." Her lips tenderly brushed his palm as it was lifted to her face. She'd cast her lot in with him. Saris could easily have refused, broken all contact with him and gone to find any living relatives to resume her life of wealth and privilege.

But she loved him, and those children too.

"Thank you." came the gentle whisper.


It turned out the line of work he had chosen was one of the most dangerous a man could wilingly choose on Cephiro, next to being a monster hunter. In lieu with his upbringing and training as a Jal since infancy, he'd decided to do what he did best.

Fighting of any form, unless in self-defense, had expressly been prohibited by the new government. Yet, if one knew where to look and had the right connections, one could witness and even participate in illegal fighting bouts, held anywhere the government hounds could not see or hear. There was just something in the primal nature of man-to- man combat that both repelled yet fascinated. Something in the clash of bone, sinew, and steel kept the witness coming back. A fairly large number, especially those of Cephiro's more unsightly backwater towns in the South and East where cutthroats convened, attended and enjoyed these clandestine battles.

The rules were few, simple, and generalized in all accounts. No magic, no strikes to the groin or throat, no intentional deaths. Bar those, the illegal tournaments were free-for-all. There was no limit on height for the contestants and any weapon was permitted.

And the Jal Keiran was known and held in respect and fear for his raw strength, skill, and the analytical mind that could think coldly even when taking blows.

And he had never been beaten.

Women had thrown themselves at his feet or otherwise. Men had wanted to be his friend for the reputation they would acquire. Others had genuinely wanted to learn from him. He had refused them all. He fought for the people he loved, for their future. That was more than enough for him.

Now in this time of civil strife, the Jal Keiran had deigned to sideline as a bartender in Leiyo due to the absence of opponents. Fighters who could have been found in the rings had been drummed up for employment by the various warring sides and factions. At the rate Cephiro's current situation was progressing, Keiran felt he would soon bid the arena good-bye and fully welcome the bartender's life.

Yet a part of him dreaded the loss of fighting. He'd been born in it, raised in it, lived for it, and kept coming back for more. It was a part of him, and he a part of it. The thrill of battle had been awakened in his heart, and once conscious, it would never sleep. Only the Creator knew what plans he had in store for him.

Wiping a tankard, Keiran started as from somewhere in the fabric jungle of cloaks, hoods, and tunics came a flare of twin orbs of verdant coal. The eyes of some spectral demon, lairing and watching amidst the human scum that plagued this tavern.

His grasp tightened on his street club. It was only for show really, his real weapon lay in his bare hands. He made ready to stride across the bar and confront the hidden menace.

From the opposite direction where he believed he had seen the diabolic optics, from the table of opiate addicts shambled a bedgraggled grey cloaked bearded man with rheumy eyes. A burned out cigar was on the extreme left of his mouth, a total of three unlighted ones occupied the rest. This guy was -SCREWED-.

"L---l---i-gh---t, pl--ea---se..." whimpered the stooped addict. Keiran silently popped the three sticks and held them against the overhead kerosene lamp. With shaking arthritic hands did the addict reaccept the cigars, then dropped heavily down on a stool. In his drugged state of mind, his rear fell into the empty space between stools and he crashed to the ground. Lying prone, he could only mumble gibberish and some foolish question about the "blue being sky".

Damn addicts. At least they were better on the floor where they couldn't cause trouble.

The moment he turned and noted the exit of a slender cloaked figure was the exact moment he was approached, a smirking thug with a chain, asking for a hard beverage. "I'll have a Seijyu's Delight, double." he demanded. Keiran shrugged, but not without a hint of wonder. "Your call, bud. That stuff'll kill a giant."

Something clicked in the back of his head as he poured the drink.

That figure that had exited...the Fire Knight and Yil Rashara...those emerald eyes...

Keiran's frame stiffened as his field of vision swept left and right, scanning for danger. If anyone was out to molest his friend or the Fire Knight and her companions, they would break their bones on his knuckles.

Rulya helped the princess. She felt a little awkward. The people seemed nice enough, but sadly she still had no bloody clue were she was. However, she just smiled and helped the blond girl with the short man. She Was a bit shaken, but just shrugged it off. "I don't mean to be rude.." she asked in he normal a lot voice. "But could either of you explain to me were I am. I punched a monster that was attacking this woman and poof, I'm here." She hoped she didn't sound to forward, but she reeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to know how to get home from this place.


Leila, still sitting there, waited for her group to be on its way. She stood up and slowly aproched the shorter one who was called "Zazu". "Excuse me." she said softly, pulling her white shall around her shoulders. She looked down at the boy softly. "I believe we should head out. We do not want to keep Clef waiting."


They had finally set foot inside the city.

Hearing Kyoko's question, and seeing that she somehow seemed to be quite distressed; Ferio glanced at her and offered a reassuring smile. "Don't worry... I hope we won't be disturbing Zenith when we find her, either, but I'm sure that she'll have received some sort of message informing her of our arrival."

He threw a curious look at their surroundings. Where would they be able to find Zenith?

Quatre smiled, seeing that a girl was approaching Zazu, Arista and him. He assumed that she was their final group member for the mission. Leilandra, was that her name?

He had been marvelling at the weapons and armour that Madoushi Clef had recently bestowed upon the remaining people who still needed to head out. The ones he had been presented with reminded him a lot of Sandrock.

Were they all set to go? The majority of the other groups had left some time ago. Quatre hoped that they were all faring well on their missions...

Leilandra smiled at Quatre with a soft smile. "Quatre is it not? I believe the fastest way for us to get to Lupina would be by spirit beast. The other teams that have left are far ahead, and we should get done as soon as we can." She turned, but then looked back ove rher shoulder. "If you could all follow me please, I have a beast that should be big enough for all of us to ride on." Her brown eyes sized up each person and it was true. They would fit, but it might be a bit cramped.

As she began to walk for the exit, she shighed. It felt somewhat wrong to be helping someone from Autozamian. She owed her friends on Metalaltoid, and considering the war between the two plants, it somehow wighed her down. However, the two from Autozamian probly didn't know of the war. On their planet it was veary low key, and even some of the members of the royal family didn't know it exsisted. When she got to the doors, she turned and smile donce more. "Would anyone care to help me with my summoning?"

Nodding in agreement to Leilandra's words, Quatre followed the young woman alongside Arista and Zazu. Using a spirit beast as a means of transport... Well, that was certainly something he had never thought he would experience. He smiled softly.

This was such a strange place. Beautiful, but so different from the colonies, and Earth too. He hoped that he'd be of some use to his team members in spite of that. At least, from the sounds of it, it seemed that their mission in Lupina had to do with technological matters, and that was something he was used to. It was also a relief to know that they were to avoid battles.

He wouldn't have to kill anyone.

Glancing up, Quatre smiled at Leilandra as she addressed them again. He looked mildly curious. Summoning? "I'm not sure if there's anything I can do, since I'm not familiar with all this, but if I can help you in any way, please tell me what to do."

Nova watched as Mackey walked off and then looked over at Hikaru, wondering if she would say the same thing, despite her feelings. It was easy for her to sense Hikaru's emotions, but very difficult to predict what she will actually do.

Hikaru caught Nova looking at her and smiled a little. Of cource this place was making her unseasy but that in no way means they would be leaving until they got what they came for. All the others were risking their safety as well and Hikaru hoped and prayed that they were all doing okay.

"Mackey's right...we are needed here. We must do our job." Hikaru took Nova's hand and pulled her with her and followed Mackey and Rashara out; Mackey's question mirroring her own thoughts.