The old man settled himself down on one of two chairs in the small domicile. “Strange things… and foul things have been happening since the Pillar died.” He closed his eyes coughing absently. “But it settled for awhile after the Knights came back but now… there are creatures who attack, people who are well upon waking are close to dying near lunch time. Illness befalls those who travel to close to the swamps nearby or even drink water from the stream in the local woods. But mostly…”

The old man stopped and looked over at Kyle and Chad. His eyes un-focusing for a moment before clearing again and returning to a semi-sane aspect. “But mostly we are attacked by creatures that are not from Cephiro but are made here…” He waved his hands weakly around. “Sometimes those who are attack and killed are buried when found but as soon as we place their bodies in the ground the next morning they arise…” He looked haunted as if pushing away a memory that only the ultimate horrors could hold.

“I have buried each one of my family and they have returned. Each time acting as if they were not dead…” Again the two smelled death in the air before it was replaced by the scent of flowers of spring or summer. The air chilled with the passing of the death scent before warming with the fire of the sun. “They still walk now… this town is a dead town and only a few are alive.” His eyes unfocused once more before returning back to normal.


Ascot drew in the air, hard and deep as he crooked mutedly red lips, set in his fair visage, as slight and dark brows drew together over momentarily closed eyes. He cast his eyes into the setting sun and shifted his arms up and around his chest, before exhaling, again.

”Ah”, he murmured then, “you mean as much that, Megor-san, you want to carry us?” he turned his chin and looked into him. His lips drew away from each other as he felt that an additional comment was due, and the small amount of breath pulled in insisting he speak on it further, but what else was there to say? Without being rude. Flaxen and slender hands gripped at the sleeves opposite each other, loosely keeping aloft and woven across his chest; Minutely the hold there was tightened, as perhaps another side to the youth suggested gingerly that a compromise was in order, that some sacrifices aren’t all so bad, that being lifted and flown over some great expanse can’t be so uncomfortable. He bit down and stifled all prompts in the deep of him, reminding himself that he was still the junior in the group, no matter how the circumstance may have appeared.

His eyes, a warmer, earthly-green in the light of the dozing sun, caught the steady, blue and seasoned gaze of what was formerly the unlikely legend. Her hair streamed about her shoulders, lying still in the held breath of the wind.

”If that is the case and the additionally safer, additionally efficient means as to arrive to where we should have been en route presently to now… And you ..” his eyes glinted the colours of the sky as he drew up his chin, “Aren’t in disagreement of this Umi san, then we should be on our way as soon as we can.” His tone was formal and educated as he prompted the other-worldly defender.

His mind mechanically filed over his previous words, and those of Megor and then those of Umi, connecting it all and recalling, reassuring himself he hadn’t spoken strangely, or out of place. Upon pulling over the suggestions and according commentary of Megor, Ascot bit into the side of his cheek and his hands presently released their holds, slipping down the sides of his arms until restationing across his midriff.

He really wasn’t all that skinny.


The dark-haired boy felt his eyes, sore and coloured as deep mahogany-red, glaze over as he took in the slight girl whom approached him; her demeanor was cooperative, but he could feel the conflicted, interior lining of her mind by her face and her words. He said nothing in response as her attention was drawn by the gentle openness of yet another new face, ‘Quatre’, whom he was to accompany in addition to the others.

Leilandra led them away as a group, proposing their means of transportation; he looked on as she paused at the exit, the resounding echoes of their footsteps against the marble flooring floating up and through the daunting stretch and height of the hall. Her voice was small and controlled and enjoyable.

The young man brought his hands together and tugged at a glove. The painfully white and boyish, exposed limb was lifted to his eyes and ground each fiercely in turn, dark brows knotting as they moistened in response.

”. . .” He sighed quietly and pulled the glove back over his hand, surveying the youthful, willing faces of those he followed. So far, he’d been pleased in that he was capable of following suit of the events leading until presently, as the Cephiran Madoushi seemed to be operating under similar protocol as compared to what he was accustomed to, hailing from the Autozamian country, but he was uneducated in all things magic; his past experiences with magic were due only to his connections to those of Eagle and Lantis, the Magic Knights, Debonair, and even then, he’d only been a witness. He possessed his own innate, Autozamian abilities, cousin to the former Crown Prince as he was; the energy of his mind, psychokinesis, was present albeit weak.

But that wasn’t magic.

There was a time in the past when, he recalled a genuine, enthusiastic curiosity and interest in Cephiro, in Magic, in the power of your heart and your belief. But that seemed so long ago now; he could have winced then, the boy, hesistant to establish certain similes. Had he truly broken whatever had kept him, maintained him as a child? He felt like his mind ran on entirely different fuel, carried out his tasks by means of entirely revised procedures, that happiness wasn’t something spontaneous, it was planned. He recalled the past and the air of it.. It wrapped and tied him, and felt almost as though recollections of some boy, some kid, someone he had known once, only not.. anymore. He sighed and nearly grumbled, tired and a bit disgruntled at that he’d allowed for himself to dive off as he had just then.

He needed to focus on the mission, on what was having to be the first steps of what would eventually lead to Geo’s recovery and the Autozams lapse back into relative balance. His mind was lagging and clouded and bitter, he supposed, because he was not feeling so well the circumstance of him did not bode so well He shoved his hands into his pockets and drew his brows up and together at the subtle pain through his body. Like a stubborn stain, set in fabric coloured ivory; you may convince yourself it isn’t there and enjoy a few moments of that relief, satisfaction, but to look straight into that which you know has lied to your eyes, reveals the discolouration that pains you.

He looked on and past Leilandra, to the doors they stood before, chewing softly on his bottom lip.

”If additional transportation is needed, I arrived to Cephiro by aerial craft from Autozam,” he looked first to the floor and then to the wall running alongside the right of the group, “I can comfortable accommodate one or two others if you need it..” he proposed, his voice boyish and quiet, suddenly feeling a bit obnoxious.

Leilandra looked down at the boy with a smile. "Thats quite alright sir. I have it all taken care of but if you would be as so kind as to hold my things while I summon it that would be wonderful." She liked this boy alot from the aura he gave off. Innocent, yet wild. "Reminds me of Kemi..." she thought to herself.

Kyle stood there for a moment thinking about this. He couldn't really quite grasp the concept of the dead returning to life, but then again. "You mean like zombies? They keep coming back over and over?" Chad asked startled. "We'll take care of it, sir! Don't worry. Kyle! Let's go to the swamp and deal with this!" Chad said grasping his sword and unsheathing it. Kyle looked over at Chad. "No, it's like they never died to begin with. Pay closer attention, brother. This man, himself, is indeed one of this "walking dead", correct? Sir, we'll get to the bottom of this immediatly and put you all back to your correct resting places. Where is this swamp you mention? And do you have any supplies or spells, perhaps, that we could use to keep the toxins out of our bodies?"


Emeraude, startled by what Rulya said, turned to look at her, as they had reached Clef's room. Slowly, Rulya and the princess helped the Yil sit himself down on a comfortable chair.

"Do not worry, you're not being rude," Emeraude said in her soft, calm voice. "It is only natural, after all, to wonder where one is." The golden haired maiden gave her a faint smile.

Her small hand unconsciously touched a strand of her long beautiful hair, brushing it out with her long delicate fingers. Her crystal blue eyes--that seemed to have once belonged to the ocean--turned to glance at Clef with a look that signaled that he must give the explanation to the unsettled Rulya.

The former pillar wished she could explain this as well as the Guru, who seemed very exhausted. She would have been able to if her mind was not on other matters. Lamont. She wondered what he was doing. There was also the matter of her sons and daughter. Emeraude tried to contain herself and be of help where she is needed, but worry leaves little room to concentrate on matters outside the object that caused it.


Arista followed Leilandra as asked of her to, noting the sigh that the young woman had made as she walked towards the exit. The violet- eyed maiden wondered what possibly was occupying Leilandra's mind, but quickly dismissed it, convincing herself of its unimportance, yet, unable to shake the strange feeling that this woman gave off, something Arista was unsure of. Perhaps the young woman was just thinking of the journey ahead of them.

The silver-haired young woman smiled faintly in a way very soft, yet, still friendly. At first slightly hesitant, responding to Leilandra's question, she managed to say, quite softly through the uncertainty that she felt, "I would like to help you with your summoning, if you would not mind..." The Autozamian princess flinched slightly, "But ah, I have never summoned anything before... not a creature. But only elements on nature."

Leala, standing next to Autozamian maiden, nudged Arista. She looked at the creature and smiled. Touching one of her long earrings, Arista knelt down on the floor to meet eye leave with her pet. She grinned, frantically searching her armor pockets, in which she took out a piece of foreign bread, giving it to Leala, who seemed a tad irked at the fact that Arista had forgotten to feed her.

As Arista stood back up, unexpectedly, the corners of her lips twitched, and an amused smile reflected Arista's thoughts, strange amusement lingering in her mind, her violet eyes flickering as a child's eyes would during a game. "So, does Leala get to come to our little field trip?"

Quatre smiled softly at Zazu's quiet offer in reply to Leilandra's words. The tone of the boy's voice made it apparent that he wanted to help too, but probably wasn't familiar with summoning and that sort of thing either. He regarded him for a moment longer, taking in the pallor of his skin and the drawn look in his eyes with concern. Was he feeling unwell?

He wanted to inquire about Zazu's wellbeing but chose to remain silent. It might appear impolite and interfering, considering that they didn't know each other, and asking 'Are you okay?' even seemed rather trite and affected.

His gaze wandered to Arista as she spoke. He watched her feed her pet Leala, giving a smile. "It won't be dangerous for her if she does get to come along, will it?"

Arista held back her laughter for fear that it would appear that she was mocking Quatre, and as her expressions changed with effort from her concealed laughter, she smiled still slight amusedly.

"Ah, my dear Quatre," she started off in a slightly teasing tone, the "dear" emphasized as if she was talking to an overly innocent person, "Leala seems gentle and harmless, but I assure you she a help one way or another."

Arista grinned at Quatre, friendly, of course, as her nature usually is, "Let's just say Leala is... full of strange talents."

Leilandra looked down at the pet for a bit, then smiled. "Yes, Leala can come. It won't be a problem." She removed her scarf and set it down to the side. "The only thing I need help with is for one person to hold this..." she held up a amber like orb the size of a base ball to Arista, placing it in her hands. "..another to hold this..." she pulled out another orb, same size, and then placed it in Zazu's hands. "...and last but not least.... this one." She held out a clear orb that within it danced many diferent colors. Slowly and carefully, she placed it in Quatres hands. It was a little smaller then the others, but it gave off a glow.

After the orbs had been handed out, Leilandra walked in front of them a bit. Then the woman turned on her heels, her hair swinging as she did so, facing them once more. She held her arms out and with her eyes closed softly, she began to chant. As the girl did so, the ground shook a bit and then, with a quick yet powerful thrust of her hands into the air, a light shot out from each orb, landing together in front of the summoner. A huge yellow griffin appeared amongst the light.

As the light calmed down, the griffin sat quietly, waiting for the team to get on his back. lelandra, now looking rather tired and pale, moved back and picked up her scarf. "If we are separated during the job we have been put to, just will yourself to be with the others and you will be teleported to one another..." she said, sounding as if she hadn't slept in months. Leilandra was feeling sick due to the fact she hadn't summoned in a long time. She tugged the green shall around her shoulders and smiled, telling them that it was safe to get on.

Quatre looked slightly confused, noticing the faint tone of amusement in Arista's voice. He blushed, feeling rather stupid. Had he said something inappropriate? However, he offered a genuine, friendly smile in reply to her words as well. "I'm glad Leala will be coming along then!"

He watched with curiosity when Leilandra began her summoning. The iridescent orb she had handed him sat lightly in the palms of his hands. He held it carefully, standing as still as he could so as not to disrupt the ritual. Holding his breath in anticipation, he watched the young woman as she chanted softly. His lips parted slightly in a gasp of surprise, eyes widening when the ground shook and beams of light emerged from each of the three orbs to collect in front of Leilandra. It was even more amazing to see the griffin that suddenly materialized in the light.

Once the summoning was over, the light vanished again. Quatre turned his attention to Leilandra as she came back and addressed them. He nodded gratefully at the information she gave them, but studied her with worry. The young woman looked and sounded completely exhausted.


Presea settled herself by Caldina as the sickness spell passed. It really couldn’t be anything like that, at least not to her knowledge. Her breathing regained the normal steady rhythm, in and out, slow and steady. Eyes beamed in the hall of the Castle as the day peaked and started to wane again in the never-ending cycle. Recently the days where growing colder. It was a mysterious thing since the Cephireans had never been accustomed to the change of seasons. It had always resembled a nice blend of summery spring but no longer.

She stood and gave Caldina a gentle smile. “Well… It seems that we are about to be the last ones out. I’ll collect the supplies and then we can head out! Do you need any weapons?” Her brows perked up as her right hand rested itself comfortably against her hip. Presea’s stance resembled that of the contrapasso stances of earlier Greek artist on Earth but that time period of Artistry was not known here as well. She shivered in a cool breeze as the front doors to the Palace opened and shut with the entrance of a few guards.

“Unpleasant weather huh?” As if on que a distant rumble of that light-from-the-sky things sounded. The magic knights had called it a ‘storm’ with ‘lightening’ and ‘thunder.’ She could only look at it and fear the darkness of the clouds. This was going to be one dreary trip.


The Elder of Win-ko appeared sullen for a moment. If there was anything to protect the toxins of the swamp than they would have used it for themselves but alas the last of the healing water had been drained upon the Pillar’s demise. His head shook. “No. There is nothing that I can offer that will stop any toxin’s received while in the swamp. All I can do is warn you of the creatures that you may encounter…”

The man stared past Chad and Kyle aware of the two brothers more accurately than perhaps they were aware of it. Yes, he knew them in a way… yes their eyes at times look just like his had when he had traveled around Cephiro. He shook the image of Zagato out of his head. “There are beast which do not die by sword but will parish by fire instead. Some beasts do not perish save on the end of a good sword. Escudo would help anyone… for weapons made of such can evolve with the wearer… but no.”

The old man lost his place for a moment, thinking back into the past. There were things that could aid them if only he could remember. His memory was dimming each day and all he dreamt about at night was to return to his rest. Yes, to rest with his family before that stranger had come along.

The air in the room suddenly grew pungent with the stentch of decay as the sun slowly changed its directions. The old man knew he had little time to tell them other things… for soon it would be the town of death and death only. “Go now and be fleet of foot. There is little that I can do or say. Find out what the white haired man is…” Yes that stranger had white hair… the one that had visited the village before, well he wasn’t sure what before but it was important. “I do not remember… go children before you are swallowed up by this dead town as well…”

The man sunk into himself looking like a corpse that had air-dried for more than a month. He had been the last to die in this village but even that had been how long ago? Perhaps it was only the dim memory that sustained these spirits during the day? Or perhaps it was something much darker and sinister.


Umi turned back to Megor and Ascot almost jumping at the thunder, which sounded behind the impressive Crystal Palace. A storm? Hadn’t they all vanished when Hikaru wished…? “Ascot what has the weather been like here?” She asked while looking him over. Could Megor really carry herself and Ascot all that long way and with a storm? She didn’t mind it was just that… it would probably be more comfortable for them all to do portions of using Ascot’s seiyu’s, walking, and then aid from Megor.

“I don’t mind Megor but are you sure you would be able to handle the both of us…” She didn’t want to say that herself or Ascot were big, they were not! But then again they were not so skinny as little children either. Her blue gazed followed Megor’s up towards the dark looming clouds gathering about the castle. “Whatever it is I think for now we should at least travel a bit and then rest in the next town over. From what I remember there is a small town only two hours walk from here. I’m sure we can find an inn there since we don’t have Mokona.”

Umi did not want to take liberties though, she already sounded like her brash younger self, selfishly taking control. Her eyes drifted away from Megor’s silent face and turned away, blocking her own emotional self from both the guys. She was once again unsure of herself. Always she had put on a brave face to stand against enemies but in reality she had always been second-guessing herself though no one else seemed to notice.

“Umm…” She cleared her throat letting her eyes harden once more a little sure of herself. She really wondered why people put their trust in her. Why did Ascot put his trust in her so much… “I think we should walk…” She started off again only faintly aware of Ascot and Megor trailing behind. Megor pretending to look interested in the foliage while in reality scouting for dangers and Ascot off on his own world… trapped inside himself.

She had a sudden crazy though, she wanted to know what he was thinking. She watched him slowly turn his eyes towards hers and then she blinked a little astonished that she had been caught watching him. She turned her head away quickly and tried to strike up conversation with the silent duo. “So what has the weather been like?”


A small light, at least a small object appearing much like a firefly or willow-wisp, fluttered by Kyoko and her parents. Though upon closer inspection by any of the three they would truly see a small person holding a lantern in the dusk hours. The soft butterfly like wings beating just enough to keep the small fairy creature adrift on the soft stormy breeze. It turned looking back and forth then shot forward only to be pushed back a little by a stronger gust of wind.

The sprite pouted against the wind and charged forward only to be once more knocked back. A storm was coming and for little sprites it was dangerous. Even Primera could not fight against the gust that blew across this floating land.

The poor thing gave one last effort and was rewarded by being blow not just a little back but back into Ferio, smashing into the ‘giants’ chest. The Little sprite, terrified by this sudden collision, held on firmly to his outer tunic. His eyes looking up into the Prince’s as he held his position there. “’cuse me but coulda you help out a little? Im trying to get to Zenith at the inn over there.” The tiny creature squeaked out while giving Kyoko and Fuu polite nods.


Rashara did not like the feel nor the atmosphere that Amethia had provided today however Jal Keiran had been as polite as possible. Upon seeing the three girls he had immediately reconsidered the good taste at asking Clef to send them there to meet him. Next time he would meet them outside the town gates or in a better city all together.

Strange, there was a tickling sensation as if someone was watching from the shadows though he could not hear nor had not seen anyone following them. “Girls… in case we get attacked I want you to run. Don’t worry about me…” He mumbled to them in a hushed whispered. His smiling eyes, which had beamed in mirth just moments ago, clouded over as he looked for hidden thieves and spies. Many people often wondered how just a kind man could exist in the filth of the town but to anyone that observed the Yil Rashara knew many things belied by his own outward appearance. In a way he had designed and molded himself that way, for it was one of the ways to survive now.

Mokona turned towards a darker and deeper shadow, an alley way. His eyes squinting as he glared at the figure. No one caught Mokona doing this, nor watching Mokona as he quickly bounded into Hikaru’s hands. Something was going to happen soon…


They were walking through the streets of Sornowa. It was growing dark, both with the night setting in and the dark clouds that had begun to cover the sky. A cool breeze had come up, gradually increasing into a stronger gale.

Ferio lifted his gaze upwards for a moment, studying the heavens with a slight frown. Hopefully the worsening weather wouldn't be detrimental to everyone's missions.

No sign of Zenith yet, but then, they didn't know where exactly they were supposed to be looking, either.

"Huh?" Ferio glanced down at the small sprite that had collided with him, a puzzled look in his eyes. Realizing what he had just heard, the prince stared at the little creature. "Did you say 'Zenith'?" He exchanged brief glances with Fuu and Kyoko. "Sure, we'll help you get there." He smiled at the sprite.


Mackey threw a subtle glance at Rashara without moving her head. Although brief and probably unnoticed it communicated without words her unwillingness to comply with his orders. To leave someone to die, which is what she believed the girls would be doing as she knew nothing of magic or mages, went against her principles. But the protest was silent and brief. Mackey blinked once and her eyes lowered, focused on her surroundings, places where thugs might hide and attack from, and possible escape routes. She grazed an alley - the very same one that Mokona had previously found so interesting - and did a double take, peering now into the darkness as if straining to see something. Perhaps she figured that a potential attacker might hide in a dark alley, or perhaps she somehow sensed that someone, friend or foe, was definitely taking cover there. Though the shadows were thicker and darker there than they had any right to be, they revealed nothing to the woman's eyes and it did not occur to her to scrutinize the darkness as if it itself might be alive and watching the little group. Reluctantly she gave up and moved to more obviously worthwhile endeavors such as watching the door and first-floor windows of the inn for any signs of movement within. Taking a two- handed grip on her sledgehammer she smiled at the sense of security and confidence it seemed to give her and reminded herself that no matter how many or how big they were, she could take 'em.

Still, she did not turn her back on that alley.

At the very interval that Mackey's eyes had moved to focus on the door and windows, a gust of wind swept from the the very alley she had been watching and sent cold fingers across their bodies. The breeze sent dead leaves and street debris trailing in its wake. Then came a sensation of foreboding, of spite and hatred, much like the burning rage that radiated from the visage of the haunted and obsessed vengeful. That feeling passed as easily and swiftly from their minds as passing wind always does.

Down in the smoky tavern, Jal Keiran forgot the babbling drug addict lying on the floor with four cigars crammed in his mouth, for other thugs passing to and from the bar laughed at him and made jokes. Wasted men like him were common in this bar. His eyes had followed the Yil Rashara and his charges out the door, now he warily watched the scum scattered all around the establishment. If his friend and the young ladies would leave already, they could escape scot-free and none of these thugs would ever know they were there.

Circumstances had an especially malignant twist today.

The music from the pixie band died away, as Keiran raised his head to hear the sudden grating voice of an old woman in a tattered brown robe. Even from where he stood behind the bar, he could smell the putrid stench rising from her flesh. He blinked, confused at how this crone had so swiftly appeared in their midst. Barely had he even begun to conjecture when his heart skipped a beat at the hag's words, hoarse yet powerfully (and strangely enough) carried around the room for all to hear.

"BE NOT DECEIVED! THE FIRE KNIGHT IS FLEEING!!! THE FIRE KNIGHT IS FLEEING!!!" A bony wrinkled hand with long fingernails pointed up the stairs and out the doorway Hikaru's team had left. "RUN HER AND THE FOOL WHO DARED HARBOR HER THROUGH, AND WE WILL NEVER SUFFER AGAIN!!!"

This accusation/command was met with mixed uproar. Some gangs regarded her incredulously and gripped their swords, others took a swig of their drinks and guffawed heartily at the very idea of one of the Magic Knights even being here, among cutthroats who'd sworn to kill anyone of the trio.

That changed when the same bald thug who had ordered a hard drink seated near Keiran looked once at the old woman, then bolted out of his seat with drawn broadswords in either hand. "'Ey the hag ain't kiddin, boys! I knows I saw red hair on one of dem dames! Let's go get 'em!"

"Creator's bones!"

"Ain't there some kinda mistake?"

"Hoy, if Grey Blades sez so, then it's true!!!"

Among the Cephironian underworld, reverence for this skinhead crook ran high. Grey Blades was one of the most feared, respected, and renowned of swordsmen in Leiyo. Those last words started the avalanche as shouts of assent mixed with the turning of tables and breaking of glass. The sparely clad women who had been clinging to the various gang leaders' arms and cooing at their every word screamed in alarm. The pixies who only moments before had been playing for their lives now flitted towards the nearest hiding place, piping blame on each other for even bothering to play here. Swords, knives, axes, and arrows gleamed in the dim light as their bloodthirsty owners began to charge in a frenzy towards the door leading outside.

No matter what gang, no matter what code, no matter the members, all conflicts were set aside and came under the sway of one cry.


Those words would very soon be carried out into the street, for the whole town to hear.

Like a pack of human rats crawling from their holes, every armed ruffian in the tavern charged en masse towards the doorway. Keiran slammed a hand on the bar and lifted himself over it, driving his foot into Grey Blades' face as he did so. Surprise played freely over the thug's face, before his head snapped back and he dropped to the floor, swords clattering from his grip.

The bronze skinned fistfighter planted himself squarely at the doorway, the only exit leading out of this hellhole. One thug lifted a curved knife and thrust with it, Keiran ducked beneath the wild cut and drove his fist into the man's gut. An elbow across the face and a thrust kick to the chest pitched the man backwards, lifeless with the lethal blows inflicted on him by a remarkable strength.

"Rashara, run the hell out of here!!!" shouted Keiran. He would buy the Fire Knight and his friend time to get out.

The uncertainty clutching at his heart though, made him even wonder if he would be alive to see them again.

Three rats screamed and lifted their axes, as Keiran stepped into the deadly dance...


On the floor above the street, other thugs had run towards the windows. These more sharp-eyed crooks bore longbows and crossbows, scanning the ground below. One of them yelled as he pointed downwards and loaded his crossbow. The sound of drawn rope and lightly bending wood rose in volume as these archer thugs took aim at the other windows...

The very moment Keiran's shout reached Rashara, Hikaru, Nova, and Mackey was when arrows began to rain down on them.

Hikaru let a cry fall out of her mouth holding Mokona close to her as the arrows began to fall around them.

"C- C'mon! We need to move!" she exclaimed to the others, giving them both glances filled with worry. "Rashara...please...join with us later. You must stay alive!" Hikaru started running, hoping that Nova and Mackey were close behind her. The farther she got from Rashara the more the guilt of leaving him behind settled in.

"Please...don't die..." she whispered in hopes the wind wound carry her message to him.


Sorra squawked shrilly as arrows fell in a menacing hail. Rashara's eyes bore fear for the Fire Knight and her companions' lives. He did not care that they were running without him. The Yil knew deep in his own heart that had their situations been reversed, the courageous young girl would unhesitatingly have done the same for him. She would have stayed to cover his escape and shouted at him to move on.

What he did care about was that now, there was a chance he would not be able to give to her what they had come for.

"Magic Knight, guard this with your life!!!" Rashara called out. Just before the distance between him and Hikaru became too great, he reared back a deceptively youthful arm and gave a mighty heave. A brown streak careened through the air, at one point nearly getting skewered by a stray arrow, and it landed on Mokona's head, revealing itself to be a simple yet ancient yellowed book. Thus the tome was safe in Hikaru's arms as she ran along.

Rashara lifted his staff and cried out. "Cresta!" The arrows targetting his head and heart spanged off a blue field that had materialized in an arc about his person. Above, the thugs cussed and hastily began another round. Rashara observed that not one of the scum in the tavern had reached the street, hinting that the Jal Keiran was fending them off very well. He would have gone to help his kickboxer friend had not his own problems proved a deterring factor.

Just a scant few seconds short of the next barrage of arrows, the shield came down as the Yil shouted a second time with raised staff. "Sandasu!" A crooked blast of bluish-white lightning from above streaked down and crashed into the first floor of the tavern, sending chunks of burnt and chipped wood into the air as well the blackened corpses of three of the bowmen. The others were thrown back from the shock and hit what was left of the intact walls and floor.

With the diversion, Rashara too began to run.


The chain wielder flew up and over to crash behind the bar, ramming his head into some beer barrels before laying still. Keiran had not even spared him a look before he parried a knife stab and delivered a hook punch to another thug's jaw. Though there were hordes of ruffians attempting to cut him down, and he'd killed eight so far, two things worked to his advantage. That they were small fry in terms of skill level and that even though there were many of them, they attacked him only in small numbers out of apprehension. His reputation preceded him, as did what he'd done to their eight compatriots.

A glint of steel flashed from a corner over to the side of the barroom brawl. A sly chuckle and a thin rush of released air. A second later, the Jal grunted and slapped his neck. One would have thought an insect had had the gall to bite him in the midst of a battle, but Keiran knew differently.

For even as he withdrew the dart from his neck, his world began to spin. Keiran groaned, felt his senses falter, time slowing down as he held on to the side of the bar for support. It was for naught.

The giant crashed to the floor, side of his face towards the horde, now grinning triumphantly. Even his hearing was failing him, but the gist of the jabbering he heard suggested that the ruffians go after the Fire Knight and her friends, who had already gotten a fair lead over them.

Fear gripped the Jal. Not over his life, but Rashara's and the Fire Knight's. He attempted to move, but not even his fingers would so much as lift. He had just become a recipient of the dreaded Zrakhle poison. Hunters on Cephiro favored this drug for the immobility and subsequent unconcsciousness it induced in its target. It was perfect for those who wanted their prey alive.

And yet that was not how they wanted him.

An order was given towards the back of the group. A mass stamping of boots and bare feet shook the floor as the throng of about fifty men charged past the Jal Keiran's immobile form and out the door, ululating a cry of death to the Magic Knights. At the very back of the yelling horde remained five thugs. They snickered with malice as they drew their spears, glad to gain fame for slaying the mighty Jal Keiran. They could always embellish their tale afterwards and brag about it.

"Da rings're sure gonna miss ya, champ."

Keiran saw them, hazy murky outlines in his own vision, bounding towards his prone form. Their spears would sink into him in only a few seconds. The Jal steeled himself sent a prayer to the Creator to protect the woman he loved and their 'children'.

Still lying on the floor by the bar were the smoking drug addicts, so gone with the opiate's effects on their minds that they had remained oblivious to the chaos around them. Keiran's eyes were on them now. How he envied them, free from the fear and the pain. It was this group of addicts that the five spearmen ran by.

Or almost ran by.

The next few seconds remained with Keiran for the rest of his life.

Right before the fighter's eyes, one of the addicts, the very one who had four cigars crammed in his mouth, raised his legs and rose to his feet with a sharpness of reflex that just could not have been possible in one so wasted. The rise had been like a spring, for with legs extended, the addict's boots smashed squarely into the side of the first spearman's face. Taken by surprise, the thug fell beneath the sudden blow.

Keiran could have dropped his jaw right then.

Time seemed to slow down as the leader's spear, falling from his hand, was snatched from the air by a gray clad arm, and with an opening twirl, swiveled to face the other four, who were understandably bewildered at this sudden twist of events.

That addict, the butt of all the jokes in the tavern, spun the spear in lethal arcs, stabbing with surgical precision. Shouts of challenge turned to mangled screams of agony as the spear blade found fatal targets. The scent of blood grew a notch higher.

Light from the lamp in the ceiling above shone down on the fight. The Jal's heart skipped several beats at what his eyes showed him. At the feet of the addict, spread across the floor of the tavern and engulfing the four men's silhouettes, was a colossal blot of weaving blackness. A monstrous shadow that was of such size and moved with such spectral fluidity that no trick of the light could have created such a being.

The men's screams ceased with a wet slash, and the spear clattered to the floor. It left an eerie deafening silence in the ravaged barroom. The gray-clad addict, if he was one, turned and glanced at the Jal Keiran, then upwards to the exit out of Amethia.

The addict's face was shrouded, but Keiran caught a chilling glare of burning emerald from beneath his hood. The shadow on the floor that belonged to the addict twisted and glided past the Jal and towards the exit.

The last thing he heard before he blacked out sent a shiver into his heart. Lifting the silence of the ruined bar was a shattering laugh of ghoulish mockery. It gave life to sighing echoes along the walls, and slowly receded into the distance before silence reigned again.

Chad and Kyle closed their eyes, paying their respects to the old man silently. "White haired man? Is that...?" Chad asked looking to Kyle. Kyle thought for a moment. "Yes, it is. But he sent me here. Why would he send me here to take care of something he probably caused? I don't understand it, but I must assist, without much question. I think this is where we most likely take our seperate ways, brother." Kyle said with a smile. "The next time we meet, we'll surely be enemies. Prepare your sword for our next encounter." "WAIT!" Chad shouted as he tried to stop his fleeing brother. Too late, he had already gone to the swamp area. "Darn it! Well, I guess I had better get going myself!" Chad said shooting off towards the swamp.

Megor gazed at the skies as he walked, taking note of the weather. His cloak blew to the side as he let his eyes wander to his sister and to Ascotto. "This weather isn't going too well, is it? We'd best find a place and fast. Where's the nearest place, Umi? You are more familiar with the towns and inhabitants than I am."