Part Eleven

Life is like a shooting star
It don't matter who you are
If you only run for cover, it's just a waste
Of time
We are lost 'til we are found
This phoenix rises up from the ground
And all these wars are over

    Nagi reached out to touch one of the symbols, tracing his fingers through it. "I wonder what they mean," he said, glancing over at Omi. They were exhausted from the three and a half hour hike, and had sprawled out on the stage to rest. Nagi had had to use his gift to get them the nine feet into the air to step onto the marble slab.

    Omi rolled onto his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows. He studied the carvings thoughtfully. "I don't know...Considering they're symbols, though, I don't think they're an alphabet. Perhaps each one means a word or phrase." The boy gave an almost sheepish grin and chuckled.

    "What's funny?" Nagi asked.

    "I just have the strangest feeling that I should know what they mean."

    Nagi glanced down at the one he was tracing his finger through. "Aa," he agreed. He felt it too- the strange prickle in his mind that told him he should know what this stage was trying to say. He wondered why he was being so open to Omi. Something about him...There was something about him now that hadn't been there before, something that made him feel relaxed and comfortable in the boy's presence. He'd never felt this way before this mission had come up.

    "It's like the stage is trying to tell us something." Omi slowly picked himself to his feet. He offered Nagi a hand. Nagi accepted it and stood.

    Something caught Nagi's ear and he paused, lifting a hand to tell Omi to be quiet. The boy obeyed, and Nagi strained his ears to hear the sound again. There it was again- soft hoots. "Do you hear that?" he whispered.

    Omi listened. A smile curved his lips. "It's beautiful...I wonder what it is."

    "I think..." Nagi looked around. "I think it's the wind, coming across these symbols."

    Omi glanced to his sides. "It sounds like music!" he said, delighted. He spun in a circle. "Ahhh...I feel so free here, as if it's not a part of the real world. It's like there's all the time in the universe to finish this mission, and we have as long as we want to enjoy ourselves!"

    Nagi felt it too- that strange pull at his soul that seemed to be calling freedom to him. It was something that pushed at his barriers, that washed over him soothingly. Omi was spinning still, dancing back and forth. Nagi found himself watching the boy, tracing his face and his figure.

    There was something he was supposed to be doing right now. He could feel it pushing at the back of his mind, trying to come forward. Something important he was supposed to be doing...

    It sounded like music...

    The prettiest music Nagi had ever heard...

    Omi bounced over to him, reaching out and snagging Nagi's arms. "Dance with me!" he invited cheerfully, tugging Nagi forward.

    Nagi felt a laugh bubbling up inside of him and let it free as he and Omi spun in circles. When was the last time he had felt so light and happy? When was the last time he had felt so free? This stage was magical. It was sacred...It was calling him.

    This stage is where we belong...

    I agree. Let's stay here forever, naaaa?

    We can't do that.

    They were both laughing now, pulling each other in circles at a dizzying pace, dancing over the top of the marble slabs. Nagi had never felt such youthful abandon before. It was like this stage had wiped away everything terrible that had ever happened to him. They closed their eyes, letting the unknown factor of where they were going add to their excitement. Nagi could hear the music and Omi's laughter...and a voice. Omi's voice? Maybe. It was a voice that struck such a chord of harmony, delight, and desire in him that he could feel his heart leap with each word.

    Why can't we?

    We have duties to perform.

    Don't you ever have fun? You're too serious!

    And you smile too much.

    Hah! Perhaps. But would you rather see me all frowny like you?

    I'd rather see your real smile.

    Around and around, their feet carried them. Nothing mattered except the exhilirating liberty and the sheer joy of being alive. Nothing mattered except that they were here together, on this stage.

    There was something he was supposed to be doing right now.

    He didn't care. He didn't want to remember.

    It was something to do with the stage.

    The stage was beautiful. He never wanted to leave it.

    The stage had to be destroyed.

    Why would he ever want to destroy the stage? It was the most sacred building they had ever owned. It had taken three hundred years to build, or so the legends said. He still remembered the way it had knocked him breathless when he'd first seen it. That was before he'd been taken to the school.

    The second time he'd gone to the stage had been to try and stop an execution. Whose?...He couldn't remember.

    Abruptly the wind died, stopping the music effectively. Nagi had the sudden sensation of drowning, of being yanked away from something deadly important. He struggled to get back to it, but was swallowed up by darkness.

    The last thing he remembered was crumpling against the stage and feeling a hand slip from his.


    Fuumi vaulted onto the stage. The initial thrum that rushed through her was pure pleasure. She shivered and hugged herself, a smile curling her lips. Morco'na'ni...It had been so long since she'd touched this stage. When was the last time? Thousands and thousands of years ago...Before she'd been slaughtered on its surface by the Myrr, at Ara'miza's hands.

    The stage was the most holy place for the Star Mages. It resonated with pure star energy. The higher the power a Mage could hold, the more it affected them. She felt a rush of giddiness and forced it down. Not now...She couldn't allow herself to be swept away. That was how the White Star Clan had been murdered. They'd been celebrating upon its surface, losing themselves to the power offered, and had been caught unawares. Free and detached from their bodies, they had not been able to defend themselves.

    The Black Stars had been killed previous to that, most of them at Sainan's hands.

    She glanced around, trying to force her mind to stay where it was. Her eyes landed on two crumpled bodies, and she raced towards them. Her sister followed close beside her, and they reached the two forms at the same time. Fuumi crouched beside them, reaching out to roll one over so she could look at him. The one she'd touched had wheat colored hair. He was asleep or unconscious. Considering he hadn't woken when he'd been moved, she had a feeling he was deeply under.

    She lightly caressed his face. "Are you he?" she whispered to him. She lifted a finger to open one of his eyes. The eye underneath was a beautiful light blue, and she inhaled sharply in delight. She knew that color. It had always fascinated her in her first life.


    "Mummy...They're being mean to him again." Riza tugged at her mother's hand. The woman followed her small pointing finger to where the orphan child was being taunted.

    "Look away, dear, and ignore it."

    "But _why_, Mummy?" Riza asked, her eyes locked on the sight. The little child was just standing there, gazing at those who had surrounded him. She knew the boys that were picking on him. They were in her class with the Adept. She didn't like any of them. They were all spoiled and such bullies.

    "Because he is different."

    "Because he has blue eyes?" Riza pressed.

    "There is an old warning. Light blue eyes are a sign of danger. He is the first to be born with that color eyes in countless years. He will bring trouble to anyone close to him. Look away, Riza."

    Riza hesitated, torn between obeying her mother and helping the boy who was just a little older than her. He noticed her attention, and his eyes met hers. They were a breathtaking color. Riza thought they were pretty. She didn't know why the Elders were so scared of him. They were scared enough to take away his star, and cut his hair. They couldn't change his eyes, could they? She hoped not. They were beautiful.

    Her mother squeezed her hand. Riza finally broke his gaze and turned her eyes forward again.


    Ririka had rolled the other over. He had dark brown hair, a perfect clash to the first boy's. Ririka lifted a lid, showing dark blue eyes. She released his skin and looked up at Fuumi, breathless delight on her face. "It's the Dark One, Fuumi!" she whispered excitedly.

    "Both twin stars...Finally returned to us." Fuumi smiled and slid her hands under the first one's form. She lifted him easily and stood. "Bring him. At midnight, they will be awakened. Then the Myrr will die."

    Ririka bared her teeth in a wicked grin. "And Myrr are not reborn."

    Fuumi smirked, eyes turning on the low sun. ~Soon...~

    "Fuumi, do you want us to start setting up?" Touma asked, coming up alongside the girls.

    "No." Fuumi turned away. Touma and Ririka exchanged surprised looks. "Move everyone off the stage. The Myrr will arrive in a little bit. We must be ready for them."

    Touma bowed and moved away. Fuumi pinned her older sister with a hard look. "Oneesan. Go find Mie for me. I wish to talk to her _now_."

    Ririka nodded, stood, and headed away. Fuumi snapped her fingers at the nearest Star. "You there. Come and get the Lord Sainan." He nodded and came over, gently lifting the young boy. He followed her as she strode towards the far side of the stage, being careful not to jolt the boy too badly. Perhaps in their human forms, the two boys had not been prepared for the flood of star energy that would have filled them entirely. That would explain the extended unconsciousness.

    The rest of the Stars had fallen in a short distance behind the two, led by Touma. Two men dropped off the side and reached up to catch the twin Stars. Briefly Fuumi regretted that Stars did not have the telekinesis power their archenemies the Myrr had. She pushed that away, kneeling to drop the reborn Niko. He was caught and gently carried away. Sainan was dropped to the second one, and he was brought after Niko.

    Fuumi stood off to the side as the remaining Stars dropped lightly to the ground until only she, Ririka, and Mie were on top. Fuumi turned to Mie, eyes hard. "You should have known they were here."

    "I was never told where he'd gone. I was only told that he was out of town," the older woman answered, raking a hand through her hair. "It's not my fault."

    "And the other one?" Fuumi demanded.

    Mie paused, then gave a shake of her head. "That one came as a total surprise."

    "I do not like surprises, Mie, and I do not like when my scouts can not give me correct information. Do you understand that?"

    Mie's eyes narrowed slightly. "It's not my fault," she repeated flatly. "You try working with people like I do. They're always breathing down my neck. I can't do much."

    Fuumi gave Mie a cold smile. "If you are not good enough for the position you have I will find you something simpler to do. Is that clear?" Mie gave a slow nod. "Get out of my sight." The woman turned and lightly dropped off the side. Fuumi watched her disappear into the surrounding foliage before turning to Ririka. "We shouldn't have put her there."

    Ririka gave a helpless shrug. "You put her there to keep an eye on her."

    "She's useless. Remind me to ask Niko to destroy her star and insure she's not reborn." With that, Fuumi whirled away and jumped off the stage. Ririka sighed quietly to herself before following.


    Ken grunted as Yohji was dropped onto the stage close enough to him that the older man's elbow hit his abdomen. Farfarello was deposited to Ken's side. The Irishman had woken up fifteen minutes ago and was not a happy person. His first action on waking had been to calmly test his bonds. He'd managed to loosen them three times, only to have them were adjusted and tightened each time. Finally the Myrr had found a way that he couldn't seem to loosen. Farfarello was intelligent enough to realize this. Now he lay impassively, his single eye blank, as if he had lost himself in his thoughts.

    Ken was willing to bet that Farfarello was alert despite his outward appearance. The other man was most likely waiting for his next chance to wiggle loose.

    Ken briefly considered trying to get out of his own bonds by following Farfarello's examples. He quickly brushed them away, as once Farfarello had gotten loose by dislocating his arm, another time he had gotten out by twisting his body into a position that would hurt any normal person that tried it, and another time he had dislocated his leg.


    "A'betar...Where are the Stars?" one of the girls asked, casting wary glances around.

    "We used their cars to get here. They finished on foot. They probably haven't gotten here yet." He flicked his fingers in dismissal. "There are only a few hours left before the awakening. I want four scouts, one on each side of the stage. Everyone else, begin setting up."

    The Myrr were quick to obey. As they scattered themselves across the surface, A'betar turned back to his captives. He lowered himself to a crouch in front of Ken, reaching out to take hold of the boy's shirt. Ken wiggled, trying to get free from the grasp, but was pulled into a sitting position. A'betar studied his face silently, running a finger slowly across Ken's cheek. Ken cringed away from the touch.

    "How can such an innocent looking form contain such a cold hearted murderer?" he wondered aloud, tapping Ken's nose thoughtfully. "It is for the fates to decide, I guess." His eyes turned skyward. "It grows late. You only have a few hours of life left." He released Ken, letting him fall roughly back to the ground. "Enjoy them while you can."

    The man stood and turned to go. Before he had taken even one step, chaos broke out as explosions swept across the stage. Ripples of heat and white light shout outwards in all direction, crackling and booming loud enough to make the entire stage shake. Some Myrr screamed. Ken twisted, trying to see where the attack was coming from. There were people pouring onto the stage from all sides- the Stars. The harsh smell of fire and death carried through the air easily.

    He dropped his head back to the ground, closing his eyes.

    ~Aya, I want to wake up now.~

    The battle lasted for what felt like years. At one point he was spattered by something that he seriously hoped wasn't bodily fluids. He could smell burned flesh, so strong that he felt nauseous. He didn't know which side was winning or which was losing. All he knew was that the two cults were trying to kill each other, and if he ever got free, that meant Weiß would only have to kill one.

    Someone fell on his legs. Ken's eyes opened automatically, and he was faced with A'betar's bleeding face. The Myrr leader's beige robes were ripped and singed, and one side was darkly covered with blood.

    "I will not let them have you..." he whispered. He sounded like he was trying to speak with his mouth full of liquid. Every move was slow and jilted as he tried to pull himself closer. Finally he was able to touch Ken's face with a hand. Ken tried to pull away but found himself unable to.

    Pain exploded in his face. It was as if A'betar had taken a match to his veins to light his blood on fire. He felt his back leave the ground as he arched off of the stage and screamed into the gag. He was dimly aware of Yohji's muffled yell of protest. His entire body was focused on this agony that was sweeping through him.

    Abruptly, it stopped. Ken fell back against the stage with a thud. Someone had grabbed hold of A'betar's hair, and now there was a gaping wound in the man's throat that was bleeding profusely. Ken's eyes trailed up his savior's body as he fought back the dark hands of unconsciousness.

    "I don't think so, you filthy Myrr," the woman growled softly, her mouth by the dying man’s ear. He was gasping for breath with a sick, wet sound, eyes wide in surprise.

    ~I know you,~ Ken wanted to say, eyes locking onto the woman's face. It was Birman. He felt a hot rush of relief and let his eyes slowly close. Birman. They were safe. It was over.

    There was a thud beside him and a last gurgling gasp as everything faded around Ken, followed by Birman’s voice and words too clear to miss.

    "He is for Lord Niko to kill."

Part 12