Emeraude looked around the dark room he had led her to. It was so dark, yet, there was more to it than she could ever describe. She looked at Lamont, who was grinning at her. The Princess could not help but laugh. It was such a silly, yet, charming grin. Also, she realized she had not eaten at all...

"Yes," she responded, quite amused, forgetting her worries for an instant. "I have not eaten since last night." Her golden hair shined in the little light there was, her ocean-like eyes somewhat laughing. She gestured to the instant noodles. "But...what is that?"

The ex-Butcher of Lhasa made sure Emeraude was settled comfortably, then he carefully poured hot water into the noodle cup. His eyes twinkled amusedly. "I believe foods like soup and stew exist in your world. Think of these noodles in the same light, only quicker to prepare. Delicious too." He closed the lid on the cup, waited three minutes, and brought it over to her.

Lamont took his place in the chair across her from the Sanctum's fireplace, providing her a fork and spoon. "Enjoy, Princess. But be careful, it's hot." he said as he grinned again and poured himself a small soda glass. He sat back and gazed steadily at her as she prepared to eat, light from the hearth making the girasol ring on his hand glow crimson.

Watching her so close by now, something about Emeraude's face, her eyes, indeed her whole being seemed to catch the meager light and make the dark room as bright as dawn. Gentle warmth seemed to radiate about her and permeate the air. This was a reflection, Lamont felt sure, of the Princess' inner beauty.

He realized he was staring as their eyes met for a split second, and he glanced away again, smiling to hide his light embarrassment. He wondered if she could read his thoughts.

Caldina blinked, her attention momentarily pulled from the boy and into the zone in which houses, for the most part, simple confusion. Was that an offering of help she heard?

Her heard turned with an inquisitive motion, her hair bouncing lightly around her face, brushing against her cheeks in airy wisps of candied, soft pink. She saw… a young man… though his garb was of the most curious. Her glossed lips quirked, glinting in the soft shafts that shot through the protective canopy of the forest. This unusual young boy dressed also curiously, in, as she looked now, apprehensively, some sort of dark, close-fitting outfit... and now this young man dressed as he was? Maybe they knew each other.

She was about to say that it was fine, and that she really didn't need protection… because, really, she didn't… the boy she held was surprisingly lightweight, and being the girl she was, she could carry him easily and move as she did always. But this young man... something about him. If she obliged, he would keep near her, bring him to the palace…

"Why… why thank you… sir. I would really appreciate that, if yah didn't really mind…" an apprehensive smile tugged at the corners of those slender, immaculate lips.

The wind sang through the trees then, in the silence, and though the boy's composure was of the most tranquil, the most casual, Caldina couldn't help but feel a protective tension creeping up into herself of the injured boy she held then. She awaited his reaction.

Emeraude felt herself color and quickly turned away. "So...soup, is this?" She began to say looking at her meal, steam rising above it. The Princess brought some to her lips and slowly devoured it. "This is delicious," she finally said after some silence, "I do believe I will enjoy this."

"But, Lamont, while we're here, tell me something about yourself and anything you need tell me about my home problems."

Skyhawk smiled lightly. "Not a problem." And with that he glanced around a bit and then back to Caldina and Quatre. "So...Which way are we headed?"

The mysterious dark-skinned warrior hailing from the desert came closer and closer to the castle. His objective was still unclear to the public, yet as clear as crystal to his own mind. He had to meet Umi Ryuuzaki. He had to re-unite with the only family he had ever even heard existed. His torn cloak blew wildly in the winds as he hovered towards the next town and as time flew by, the towns seemed to pass him like minutes. It wasn't before long, when at last, he had reached the doors to the castle. Of course, he knew this would not be easy at all, but was he going to force himself in? Would it really be that important just to meet a person that he's never even really seen before? His thoughts rang out silently, as he pondered this issue. His decision was simple. Get in the castle.

One of the guards walked over to the cloaked man and placed his hand on his shoulder. "Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt, but do you have a meeting with someone he.....AAAAGH!!" The guard shrieked with pain and jumped back holding his now-broken hand. He had made the one mistake few have made in the world. He had gone out of the way to place his hand on the young man. Even though these methods were extreme, the cloaked youth known only as "Megor" followed the attack closely with a spin-kick to the guard's ribs, making him stagger back and fall to one knee. The guard angrily rose to charge at Megor,yet was surprised to see the mysterious traveler raise his hand and place it on the elder guard's face. Megor's mouth opened to reveal his intentions to the guard. "Listen closely. I will not share much with you, yet I will share with you the hideous result of my destructive power, if you do not let me in this castle. I have someone that I have desired to see my entire life. Her name is Umi Ryuuzaki,and I believe me and her are of close.....relation." His words were dark as ever, as his speech rang through the injured guard's ear. He rose to his feet and staggered into the castle quickly! "I..I have to find Prince Ferio immediately! I have to contact him about this intruder!!" The guard said dashing through the castle looking for the prince. The agitated Megor flung the castle doors open and helped himself in.

The one time war ace watched the Princess eat, slowly and carefully, satisfied she was enjoying it. Lamont put the tips of his fingers together, an ocean of shadows surrounding the two amidst an island of light cast by the beautiful woman. He happened to glance at the girasol ring on his left hand. Looking at it reminded him of his days, so long ago, with Czar Nicholas II's personal spy group...yet like his memories as the Butcher of Lhasa, they were tinged with guilt.

What could he tell her?

"Princess... there are a few things about me that I believe it would be best you did not know. I don't wish to scare you, I want you to feel safe." He leaned back, eyes reflecting the light she cast. "Here's some things I feel I can share with you. One, I told you that Lamont Cranston Junior is but a facade. It actually goes deeper than that." He felt she didn't know he wasn't even actually Lamont Cranston. But he HAD just given her a hint...

"Two, I am a little over a hundred years old. I have been wrestling with the darkness in men's hearts for decades now." He gestured at the room around them. On one wall hung a palm sized silver disk with the emblem of a grinning demon. "Symbol of a an assassin's group once hired to kill me. Ten years ago." On another wall was a small wooden board inlaid with Chinese symbols and drawn circles that seemed to be emanating negative energy. "A twisted geomancer's weapon. He tried to level Tokyo by manipulating negative energy. Thirty years ago." He nodded. "Symbols of my past exploits. I've been fighting for a long time.

"And three..." He hesitated at this. If he told her, he felt he would be giving away a part of his life. But it didn't matter now. "...perhaps you wonder if I love, have ever loved? Been married even? No I have not been married, but I have loved... once. I have a son by her..." He fell silent at this, unable to continue. Margo Lane. She had passed away ten years ago. Lamont would never forget her.

Emeraude tilted her head slightly, her crystal eyes focused on the man beside her. She looked at him with a gentle touch, as if comforting him silently. Her soft voice soon followed, "Lamont. It's okay...I understand."

The princess looked away for a moment, her small delicate hand touching the end of her golden hair, hoping he would not see the haunted, painful expression in her own eyes.

"I never thought that it was a possibility you couldnt love, you are man with a gentle, kind side...however, I do sense that you also have a dark side," Emeraude looked down, her hands now at her lap, still trying to hide the pain in the depths of her. "I fell in love once...and maybe if i were incapable of love, Cephiro would have been best off. In the end, he had died for the stubborn wish to be with me."

The golden-haired maiden finally looked up. One could only flinch seeing that sad melody playing in her very eyes. "I...well," she paused thinking. Would it be wise to say she, too, had children that no one knew of? Emeraude shrugged the thought off and say something entirely different.

"...I had been the pillar, the heart, of my land for so long. It was almost as if I were a slave for it, but I did not mind, really. I loved the land. But it was my wish to be killed, and ironic how here you are, trying hard not be killed."

The radiant maiden smiled, with a tint of amusement. "But there's something you need know...I'm still older than you, my dear Lamont, and by much."

A log snapped as Lamont grinned. "Yes Princess, I had an inkling of that when I first met you..." Emeraude had to have been around at least three times as long as he had. "But it's funny, because age doesn't show on your outside appearance." Then again, the same applied to himself. Emeraude seemed to realize this too, because they laughed at the same moment.

He wiped at a mirthful tear across his eye, focused on her words, summing himself up. She too had loved once...the Sol Zagato as he remembered from Hikaru's mind. He understood the problem of the Pillar. Was it right to love and be happy while people dependent on you for THEIR happiness suffer, or was it right to deny oneself the ability to love just so others could be happy?

Emeraude and Zagato had made a choice in the end, but it resulted in chaos for Cephiro. Hikaru Shidou had set it right, but even now trouble was setting foot on that land.

He could feel the hurt waving off her. "Emeraude..." he said gently, wanting to hold her hand, hoping she would take solace in it. "Don't feel that way. It's not right to deny yourself the ability to love and be loved. You and Zagato followed your hearts in the end, even at the cost of Cephiro's stability. You did the right thing." Lamont was firm in that belief, even though despite the new collective Pillar system on Cephiro, there was trouble brewing.

"In fact...I would have done the same...had I had a choice like that." he finished.

Lamont leaned back and took another sip, remebering her previous words about himself. "Thank you Emeraude...your own inner beauty is as intense as your outer. You yourself are kind and gentle, much more than you say I am." He sighed and crossed his arms. "I felt that you could see my dark side. Don't we all have Shadows within? Mine just seems to be more...prominent. I use my darkness to fight darkness.

"And I must live. I must not die. There are only so few people in this world capable or willing to fight the evil in men's hearts. I am one of them. To rid the world of a darkness of its own creation... will be the work of a lifetime. A long one."


Umi pulled away from Ascot and turned to where guards had brought in a young man. What a minute, she thought absently. That young man had been talking to her at the hospital before she banished. She walked over to the guards her long marine hair billowing in the wind created by her swift movement towards the boy.

"It's alright. I know him. What..." Was it impossible to beleive that he had been pulled to Cephiro by the same force that had taken her here? No, she felt otherwise. Something that was rather strange. "Thank you... guards." She gave them a short bow and raised an eyebrow. She could hear the sounds of people scampering around behind her. Reassociating themselves and a little confustion over the reappearance of Nova. She herself still didn't trust Nova to a great extent but she would leave the situation be. Nova seemed... friendly and strangely content since she appeared.

"I... what are you doing here?" Umi asked the young man, Chad. Yes, he had said his name was Chad. She cleared her throat. In the corner of her vision she saw Clef enter the room and her heart plummeted a little. Ascot, Clef... how where they doing?

Ascot stepped back, watching as Umi regarded this young man with.. familiarity.. who was he? He pursed his lips and quietly exhaled. The cold air from the outside as the doors had opened seemed to swirl evenly with the warm air of the palace and.. chill the clothes he wore.

So much was.. happening at once. What did it all mean? And why today..? Cephiro had a tendency to be.. strange.. but.. everything at once? Ascot's breath was caught in his throat as he warily eyed the pink haired girl.. Nova.. Ascot stood back, eyeing Umi as she spoke with this boy.. who was he?

As the guards let go of Chad, the young man straightened his position and cracked his neck to both sides. "I'm not really sure why I'm here....My brother and I got pulled into this land by a strange portal-like vacuum. I was wondering why you were here as well. What is exactly going on here? This land seems to be a lot different than Earth, and to add things, this land is the land that I have been dreaming of! Is this..............Cephiro?"

Elsewhere, Megor made his way further into the castle glancing around from side to side as he walked though the halls. His shredded brown cloak flowing along as he walked. His dark eyes then suddenly spotted a door open with guards leaving. He stepped to the side and hid himself well from them. They passed him as if he were not there, for the dark warrior was well-cloaked in the shadows. He stepped out and cracked his knuckles. "It seems as if something is going on at the moment. Perhaps I should not have come at this particular moment. I'll let things settle before I return once more. This obviously is not the time to stress the girl that is to be my "sister" with such things as this. Farewell, for now, sister. Wherever in this castle that you may be." And with that, the black-haired one walked out once more, leaving the guards be and heading towards the desert once more for a new thought in mind. "This world runs on the pillar system,from what I've grown to understand. The pillar has to devote their entire life to praying for this horrid land. Cephiro is like a leech, draining off of some innocent's mind. I will not let it continue any longer. I will not let Cephiro make people fight for it's own viewing! I'll destroy this "Pillar System" One way or another. Once and for all,peace will restore to this land." And with his thought in mind, he walked away from the castle, and meant to return home.

Umi blinked. "Dreaming..?" That was right. He had come to the hospital to tell her and the others about his dreams. It seemed like ages ago. She almost laughed inwardly. "Yes, this is Cephiro. Your brother?" Her gaze swpt the area. The guards hadn't brought anyone else in.

Ragyn fingered a strand of his hair that had escaped it's trap, a tight low ponytail. He grinned at it, almost sneering. The girl's sister was getting ready for bed worried about her sister's condition in the hospital. He watched her from outside across the street waiting for the lights to turn out. Kuu so much like her little sister. He felt a slight agitation at the Knight's families. So many suffered and they had lived perfectly normal, contented, and verily happy lives or at least had untill he came into it. He had hoped to destroy Fuu's life by the death of her sister or at least something to that affect. However, the Knights were summoned to Cephiro so he had come up with a much better plan. Kidnap the girl and bring her to the Wind Knight after all if you couldnt get them to come to you ... you can just as easily go to them. The light clicked off in Kuu's room enveloping the front yard in darkness. A flicker of heat lightening and the strange albino man was gone only to appear on the roof above Kuu's room.


"The hour draws near, Emeraude." said Lamont as he glanced at the clock. Forty minutes till midnight. Ragyn would strike about now. Best not to keep him waiting. Lamont stood and walked towards a far closet, flung its doors open as the sight of gleaming black and silver metal and the smell of gunpowder touched his nostrils. Guns as old as a hundred years to as new as yesterday were neatly lined up on the inside. His hands came up and grasped the handles of two SIG- P228s. Though somewhat weak in range accuracy, this pistol was favored by FBI and Secret Service agents for its incredible stopping power up close. And in the Hououji home, Lamont could expect corridor combat.

Now he needed one secondary weapon. His eyes passed over the Colt M- 14 carbine, the MAC-10 submachine gun, the Steyr Tactical Machine Pistol...


Minutes later, Jubei was expertly and swiftly maneuvering the taxi through a labyrinthine route down Tokyo's streets. It was late in the night, hence the lack of traffic. Good thing. Every second counted.

"I must stop Ragyn. I know not what he wants with Hououji's sister, and I intend to find that out." said Lamont as he turned to her. There was a faint beep from the taxi's radio up front and Jubei looked up. "Officer Wataru reporting in, Kage-sama."

Lamont noticed Emeraude's eyes widen as his voice changed. From his light gentle easygoing tone, to a hard eerie whisper that carried a hint of menace with it. "Report." said Lamont in his strange new voice. "Kage-sama, the Hououji residence is mostly asleep. The light from Hououji Kuu's room is off. No one is about except a night watchman on the grounds. I have not seen anything else, Kage-sama."

Lamont nodded slowly. Officer Wataru was one of Tokyo's legion of motorcycle police. He had saved his life sometime ago during a chase with yakuza thugs. "Acknowledged. You may leave your post. I am on route."

The taxi abruptly passed through one of the road's dark tunnels, leading to the suburbs. This late in the night, accidents could happen with so little light. Emeraude thought she had heard the rustling of cloth. She also felt...strangely uneasy. She looked up at the space beside her where Lamont was supposed to be. The Princess was taken aback at the sight of burning emerald eyes gazing at her from the darkness of the seat.

And when the taxi exited the tunnel into the light, no more was Lamont Cranston. A figure clad in a black cloak and coat, with a black slouch hat that shaded his face and a scarlet scarf over his mouth was beside her now. With the hat turned down, all she could make out were the burning eyes.

So this was Lamont's Shadow. Yet she felt no fear.

The Shadow spoke in the same frightening whisper Lamont had used only seconds ago. "Princess, you must stay with Jubei. Ragynn is near, I can feel it. There is no telling what he could do to you. Be careful." Jubei slowly braked the taxi as it entered one of Tokyo's rich suburbs, reaching a full stop across the street from the Hououji residence, under a cluster of large trees. He had chosen a place with no light at all so they could stay here and watch.

"I will return." said the ghostly voice. Emeraude heard the door open and turned to look. Faint light from across the street shone down where the Shadow had been seated.

But no one was there.


The night watchman on the Hououji grounds flashed a small pocket light around the grass and trees. The darkness seemed to shift and flee the light as he played it about. A darkness that seemed alive.

He had guarded this house for five years now. Things had been quiet, with the occasional attempted thievery or drunken stragglers. He didn't think anything would happen tonight.

As he turned to inspect one side of the house, a black mass seemed to detach itself from across the street and merge with the darkness of the front yard. It glided slowly towards one of the windows, and a white hand extended and picked the lock. The catch had been raised and closed before the night watchman returned to that spot.

There was movement in the Hououji home.

The black mass glided silently across the living room, but froze as footsteps were heard coming down the stairs. The black mass became one with the darkness by a cabinet. A woman in maid's outfit reached the bottom, as a man wearing chef's clothes opened the kitchen door nearby and addressed her. "Oi, Fujiko. Hear anything? Thought I heard some noise on the roof."

"Ne it's nothing. Just those rats again. The mistress is asleep, and so will I be. I'm tired. Good night." The maid went for a side door and as if her mirror image, the chef closed the kitchen door, bathing the dining/living room in sable once more.

The sillhouette near the cabinet remained still for ten seconds, then twisted fantastically and seemed to float up the stairs. A strange whispered unaccountable laugh quivered up those stairs and through the second floor.