Part Three


//
Open your heart be aware of the
Cosmic pulse
Search for a new dimension out there
Behold it all

Gravitational waves affecting our lives
Holding us tied to this home
Neutralize them with your thoughts and depart
//




**********

    Aiko ran her hands through her hair. "There has to be some way this problem can be solved." She looked around at her fellow Ambassadors. They were both ignoring her. She sighed internally. She'd known Niko wouldn't care, but she'd hoped the other would at least _look_ interested. Sainan- was that his name?- had been Ambassador for only a few months now. While he was better than any of the others that had been assigned to the Nadai empire, probably the best thing that had happened to that empire, she wasn't sure just how important he held its well-being to be. He took care of its problems but only because the Lady Cadaring wanted him to. The others hadn't even tried.

    "I'm sorry, Aiko dear. Were you talking?" Niko turned away from the window, smiling brightly.

    Aiko closed her eyes and counted to ten. "I said," she repeated, managing to keep her voice from sounding too strained, "that there is a stirring in the Power balance. We really should look into it."

    "Don't bother." That was from Sainan, the first time he'd spoken in the several hours they'd been together today.

    Aiko opened her mouth to ask why he felt that way but Niko slipped in front of her, grinning from ear to ear in that cursed smile of his. "All I want to know, darling," he said, reaching out to pat her cheek, "is if it will affect the Major Conclave in five months' time."

    She swat his hand away, irritated. "No, I do not believe so."

    "I am satisfied."

    "Stars forbid we ever leave you unsatisfied," she murmured.

    He laughed and turned away, turning his attention on Sainan. He leaned forward, linking his arms behind his back. "Have you ever been to a Major Conclave before?"

    Sainan shifted, uneasy with the older Mage's attention. "That was always for my father to tend to, which I believe you know. I have not been Ambassador during one."

    "Do you know how to dance?" Niko asked brightly. Without warning he took the other man's hands and dragged him away from his spot on the wall, twirling them in circles around the room.

    "Let go of me!" Sainan gasped out, jerking away as if he'd been stung. He retreated, his hands balled into fists and held up against his chest, his eyes wide. Niko beamed. Sainan whirled around, uttering the words, "My Lady wants me," over his shoulder before vanishing from the room as fast as he could go.

    Aiko leaned against the wall. "I think you confuse him."

    "I know," Niko said.

    "I think he likes you."

    "I know." And Niko's voice rippled with laughter.

**********

    Aya was woken up long before he wanted to be for the second day in a row by the sound of a startled cry. His eyes opened slowly and he briefly considered the satisfaction that would come from killing whoever had woken him up. His eyes first focused on Omi, who was sitting beside him with some wet cloths, then Ken, who had just entered the room and was staring.

    "Aya, what happened to you?" Ken demanded, coming forward. Aya took in his surroundings. He'd been too tired and sore after the mission to go upstairs to his room, so he'd chosen to camp out in the den. "Are you all right?"

    "I'm fine." Aya sat up, hiding a wince as he felt his muscles protest the move. Apparently he was not going to get any rest here.

    "Aya-kun, you shouldn't be moving around," Omi told him gently. You're bruised everywhere." The boy made gestures with his fingers at his own body to show Aya where some of them were- his cheek bone one one side, his collar bone, his shoulder…Aya looked down at himself. Someone- presumably Omi- had removed his trenchcoat to leave him in just the sleeveless black shirt he'd chosen to wear last night. His arms were dotted with bruises from where he'd banged them on the way down the stairs, and his shoulder was screaming at him. He slowly lifted his arm and rotated it gingerly to test its mobility.

    It would be fine, he decided, and slid off the couch. "Where are you going?" Ken asked when Aya started towards the door. "Omi's right. If you're hurt you should stay where you are."

    "I'm fine," Aya repeated flatly, disappearing from the room.

    Ken looked to Omi for help. Omi gave a delicate shrug. "This was assigned as his day off when we did schedules. He's probably going to his sister. And," he mused, "the funeral he said he'd go to."

    Ken shifted. "But we don't know what happened, or how late he was out last night."

    "He came back at midnight," Omi answered. "I heard him, but I didn't bother him then because I knew he'd be tired."

    Ken tilted his head to the side. "What were you doing up at midnight? You said you'd be going to bed soon."

    Omi smiled faintly, rising and moving to head into the shop. "I was going over my notes again because I couldn't sleep." He stretched and yawned, then adjusted his apron. He was on morning duty in the shop. Ken stopped him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. Omi looked up questioningly.

    "You need to get some sleep, Omi," Ken told him. "You're starting to get circles under your eyes."

    "Daijoubu, Ken-kun." Omi smiled. "I'll try and take a nap later, if we're not too busy with other things."

    "All right." Ken released him with a smile in return. "So what's the plan for the day?"

    "Yohji-kun and I are working this morning and from here I'm heading to the library to see if I can find anything. You have the morning off to do whatever you like- I don't think there's much else we can do on the mission until I find out more on this. This afternoon Aya-kun is going to the funeral and you have the shop with Yohji-kun. That's it."

    "Sounds good to me. I think I'm going to go out riding today. It's such a nice day out." Ken smiled appreciatively.

    "Have fun, Ken-kun, and wear your helmet."

    "Nag, nag, nag!"

    "Who was the one just fussing at me and Aya-kun to sleep?" Omi retorted playfully.

    "Oi, chibi, you coming?" Yohji called from the shop. "I'm about to open the door."

    "Hai, Yohji-kun!"

*

    Omi sighed, leaning against a table, and looked up at the ceiling of the library as if searching for inspiration. The only thing he'd managed to find so far on binary stars was the same information he'd found on the internet. He rubbed his forehead. Why was the cult referring to them as twin stars, though? Nothing had come up except Sanrio products…

    …And that astrology page.

    What had it said? Omi opened his eyes again. The message had referred to a Star Cathedral. He wasn't sure that was what they needed, but at this point he would follow any leads, until he knew for sure what 'twin stars' was referring to. He made his way towards the search computers, waiting for one to be free, and gazed around. It was a large library, and old, too. Parts of it were new, as many years ago some people had set fire to it. One corner and all the books in it had been completely ruined, so that had had to be rebuilt. They had tried to keep the same colors and architectural style, but it was obvious which part had been added on.

    A computer was freed, and Omi slipped into the chair. The search string for Star Cathedral came up with five choices- three were fiction, one was a poem, and the fifth was a reference book. Omi jotted down the call number for the fifth and closed the search box.

    He made his way to the reference section and began to rummage around. Supposedly the article on the Star Cathedral was in a book on ancient cities. He found the book quickly and sat down with his back against the rack. He flipped to the index, running his forefinger down the page as he searched the S's for his topic. There. Page 977. He turned there quickly and propped the book on his knees to read.

    It was a short article, but proved to be enough.

    "The Star Cathedral was considered as a choice to be one of the architectural wonders of the world, but missed the position because a great portion of the building had been destroyed and deteriorated over time. Built at the base of a mountain in Japan, the Star Cathedral is a link to past civilizations that most dismiss as just fantasy. Legends from the area say this Cathedral was originally named Morco'na'ni, a temple for a religion who called themselves the Star Mages to worship their stars. A war broke out as another race named the Myrr tried to take over the temple to make it a house for their goddess. The Myrr were successful, and the war ended with only a few Star Mages still breathing. These two were known as the twin stars. They were later captured and executed there, and the name was changed from Morco'na'ni Cathedral to Star Cathedral in memory of the slaughter of the race. The Cathedral was ruined in a later war, and now only parts of the grand stage remain. The city Higo-sen has been built near its remains. For more information, seek the book called Worship of the Stars."

    Omi slowly closed the book. Twin stars. The cults weren't seeking to raise space objects, but people from an ancient race! He stood and put the book back where it was, heading back to the computer to find the book the article had referred to. Finding the call number, he set off in search.

    He wandered in and out of the historical section, holding the scrap of paper in one hand. ~I don't see it!~ He paused, frowning.

    "Is there any way I can help you?"

    Omi turned to see a young woman with a librarian's patch standing at the end of the aisle. He smiled gratefully. "I'm looking for this book, but I can't seem to find it."

    She came to look at the paper. They searched the entire aisle front and back, but she had no more luck than he had. She frowned thoughtfully then beckoned to him. "Let's see if it was moved to another section, all right?"

    "Thank you." He followed her to the front desk, where an old woman whose tag read "Head Librarian" sat reading. "Maka-san, will you run a scan on a book for us?" the young librarian asked.

    Maka set aside her book. "Name?" she asked, peering over her spectacles at him.

    "Worship of the Stars."

    "Old call number?" she asked, typing in the title. The young librarian handed over the paper Omi had scribbled on. The old woman squinted at it, tapping it in key by key, then leaned back as the search started.

    While they waited the young librarian turned an interested gaze on Omi. "You into astrology?"

    "It was mentioned in an astronomy lesson at school," Omi lied easily, smiling at her. "It sounds pretty interesting, and I was trying to see what all was out there."

    "There are some other good books in here on it," she offered, "if you're interested. We can get them after you find this book."

    ~No need to look suspicious.~ "Thanks. That'd be great."

    "Ah ha." Maka leaned forward in her chair to read the computer screen. "Sorry, kid. That book was destroyed when the library was burned. Anything else you want me to look up?"

    Omi squashed his disappointment, shaking his head. "No, but thank you." He turned to the young girl. "I'm ready."

    She smiled prettily. "This way." She started away. He followed silently.

    ~The book is destroyed. Now what?~ He paid attention as the girl stopped by a rack and began lifting down books and explaining what they were. For her to be so well informed she must be part of one of the religions, he mused. "Are you into all this?" he asked.

    She grinned, eyes dancing. "You could say that." She lifted her necklace on her finger to show him. It was a silver chain with what looked to be charms of the constellations on it. "My group is into mainly the zodiac. So," she gestured at the books, "interested in any of them?"

    He scanned the titles with an air of someone who was studying them for something he liked. He selected a few and nodded. "Aa. Arigato."

    "No problem. Maka-san will check those out for you. I'll put these away."

    "Thanks a lot!" he called cheerfully as he headed for the counter. Maka had to set her book aside again to scan his books, and he thanked her once more for her help before leaving.

    Omi sat in a small store that was half gas station and half ice cream shop, the books to his side, letting his mind run over what he'd found on the Star Cathedral. It was ruined. But what had it said about a city being built near it? ~Higo-sen,~ he recalled, and stood to go to the map rack. He pulled one out and opened it, searching for the key that gave the coordinates of each city. Higo-sen was not hard to find. From the distance between it and where he was, he guessed that the trip would last a couple hours. He folded the map neatly and set it back where it belonged, going back to his chair to collect his books. Stepping outside of the store, he pulled out his cell phone and tried calling one of the others.

    Ken answered with a bright "Moshi moshi!"

    "Ken-kun, I think I've found something on this mess."

    "Oh, really?"

    "Aa, but I'm going to have to take a trip out of town. Will you tell the others for me? I'll call you again when I get there, all right?"

    "No problem, Omi. Take care!"

    "I will, Ken-kun." Omi hung up and headed out of the store. One trip to a fallen cathedral, coming up. He hoped he had enough money for a train ticket…

*

    Mass grief.

    If Aya could pick one phrase to describe what being inside the church during the funeral was, that was what he would pick. There were only roughly twenty people, and there was no sign of tears on any face, but Aya felt like he was being crushed by their silent sorrow. Now he remembered why he didn’t like funerals.

    He also kept in mind why he’d come in the first place. He needed to see the families, see if there was any way he could get information out of any of the grieving as to why the boy had been a victim. His violet eyes followed the reverend as the aging man stepped forward off the altar and began his journey towards the doors of the church. The pallbearers lifted the casket and began to carry it out. Aya turned to watch them-

    -and froze.

    Standing in a pew in a spot exactly opposite Aya was that boy in beige. The boy met his gaze and smiled faintly and he mouthed a few words and made a gesture with his hand as if pushing something away. Aya’s view of the boy was limited in the next few moments as the rest of the mourners began to file out behind the casket, but Aya’s mind repeated the silent message over and over.

    ‘Watch where you tread.’

    When the crowd was gone, so was the boy. He had left with the rest. Aya hurried after them. The sunlight was harsh after the dim interior of the church and he raised a hand to shield his eyes, casting his eyes around in search of the boy. That boy had been the one to push him last night. He was sure of it.

    The boy was nowhere in sight.

*

    “This is really, really boring.”

    “Not again,” Ken groaned, rubbing his temples. Yohji had done nothing but complain for the past hour. The shop was dull; there had been no customers for a while. Yohji had taken five smoke breaks and had threatened to just leave before Ken managed to make him stay. Now it seemed Yohji was ready to try to escape again.

    “I mean, there’s no need for two of us if the shop is dead. Besides, I’ve been here all day.”

    “You chose to work this afternoon because you wanted tomorrow off completely. That was your choice. So stick with it, will you? And stop whining. It gets annoying after awhile.”

    “God, I need another smoke.” Yohji sighed and started towards the door. As he reached it, though, it was pushed open by a woman.

    Yohji froze in his tracks, doing a slow scan of the new arrival from head to toe. She had auburn hair that hung in wisps around her face, with sunglasses pushed up on her forehead. Her skin was colored dark brown from sunning and she wore clothes that accented her shapely body: a white tube top that started below the arms and ended above the belly button, and tight black pants that rode low on her hips and went to the floor. She had sparkles in her hair and on her shoulders and wore light yellow eyeshadow. Her lips were the same color, with a darker shade of yellow, almost orange, as lipliner. She was drop dead gorgeous, and Ken found himself staring. Obviously pleased with what he saw, Yohji flashed her with a killer smile.

    “Good afternoon, beautiful lady. Is there anything I can help you with?”

    She gave him a small smile, a secretive smile, a smile that said “I know you want me and I’m enjoying it”. “Let’s see…Do you have what it takes to help me?”

    “I have everything.” He produced a tiger lily in a smooth motion, handing it to her. “It all depends on what the lady wants.”

    “I see. You’re exactly like they told me you were, Kudou Yohji.” She twirled the flower between her fingers, giving him a head-to-toe examination like he’d given her when she entered. Ken could practically see the victory lights going off in Yohji’s head and he sighed, going back to his arrangements. “How about a bouquet of these,” she lifted the flower, “and some company tonight? I’m looking for some drinks and some dancing. You up to it?”

    “You’ve come to the right place.” Yohji’s back was to Ken, but Ken had a feeling that his smile had turned just a little bit sultrier. He rolled his eyes. Yohji was a lost cause. “Bouquet and date, on the house.”

    “Eight o’ clock, then, at the Two Frog club.” She reached up, tracing his lips with a finger. Then her gaze slid to Ken. “What about you, honey? I’ve got a sister looking for a date.” When Ken only stared at her, she lifted her shoulder in a gesture towards him and asked Yohji, “He old enough to get in?”

    “He’s nineteen.”

    “Ah, perfect. Come with us.”

    “Uh, I don’t go clubbing. That’s Yohji’s department.”

    “Get out and live a little, why don’t you? It’ll be fun. Trust me.” Her smile widened. As if she sensed Yohji was about to suggest giving up on Ken, she glanced up at him with a teasing smile. “I don’t go if my sister doesn’t go.”

    Yohji looked over at Ken. “I’ll work all your shifts for a month.”

    ~He’s impossible,~ Ken thought. ~Well, it can’t be that bad, can it?~ Besides, Yohji's offer was too tempting.

    “All right. I’ll come.”

Part 4