Part Thirteen

Oh yeah, we meet again
It's like we never left
Time in between was just a dream
Did we leave this place?
This crazy fog surrounds me
You wrap your legs around me
All I can do to try and breathe
Let me breathe so that I
So we can go together!


    When was the last time he had stepped onto the stage of Morco'na'ni? Niko followed Ara'miza silently as she descended the elaborate stairs towards its surface. The benches wrapping around the inside walls of the ceremonial chamber of the temple did not hold the Star Mages that had regularly come to praise the stars on the holidays, however, but was filled with scattered bunches of Myrr. They were on their feet as they saw the small procession, hissing and spitting as they waved their fists in threats. Some were jeering, expressions triumphantly smug enough that he felt a stir of violent desire twisting within his chest.

    Once there had been enough of them that they would have easily filled half of the seats, just as there had once been that many Mages. He let his eyes sweep the antagonistic faces, allowing himself a surge of dark satisfaction that he had taken out so many of their numbers. They had not been able to heighten their weakened line in the two hundred and twelve years since they had sealed his soul with their Lock. That was a sure sign that the breed was in serious decline.

    As to the Star Mages…Time would tell how many of them would be able to be reborn to produce more. The line would continue on, if a bit falteringly. It might be thousands of years until their stars were ready to dip into the mortal world and bless the ground with their marks once again.

    He stepped onto the stage, instantly feeling the warm thrum of its power searing through him. There was a desperate urgency to its call. So many of the stars' children had been ruthlessly murdered upon its surface. The heavens cried in grief, pleading for their few remaining mages to seek revenge for the blood spilt during rituals. A stab of pained anger made him grimace. So many years of his life had been sucked away by the Myrrs' lock. What was life if one could not think or feel to understand and react to what was going on? He had merely existed for the past two hundred and twelve years, mind sheltered and censored. So many things had happened that he had allowed to happen because he had not cared. Carefree and reckless, he had done nothing more when he heard about the execution of the White Star Clan than shrug and laugh, shoving it aside for other entertainment. He had felt no grief or remorse for the loss of so many kin, for the loss of the rest of his people. That was when he should have acted.

    Ah, but what could he have done? What could he have done when his powers were trapped within his lock and blade?

    His eyes strayed to the bladed staff Ara'miza was carrying. He had allowed Sainan to take it, against his common sense and the wishes of his Empress. The woman was deadset against this, was against his entire relationship with Sainan. When he had presented her with the news that he was going to Ara'miza to allow himself executed, she had been stunned and devastated. She had not ordered him to remain, however. She had the power to keep him from going, yet had let him go. She understood, in her own sad way, that he had to go. She herself had lost her heart to another, and after watching and caring for Niko for so long, could not not make herself order him against what his soul commanded him to do.

    He had thought perhaps that his heart would be racing. That was a reaction he'd seen in those he had terrorized throughout his life- he had seen their wide, frightened eyes, he had heard their hearts pounding a rapid staccato within them. His heartbeat, however, was as steady as it always was.

    Yes, he feared Ara'miza. He feared what she had been able to do those many years ago. He feared her because she held the one who made his soul and life complete within her grasp. He feared her because he knew what was coming.

    And yet, there was a surreal sense of calm to this whole ceremony. Ara'miza would not harm Sainan as long as he would submit himself to his blade. If he would take the threat he was and carry it to the heavens, there would be no reason for her to harm the young hybrid. Sainan would live out the remainder of his star's life here, sheltered within her realm and palace.

    And if his star was ever strong enough to regenerate itself in him…What would Sainan be like? Born to twin stars, they fed from the same power. If Niko could be reborn, Sainan would still be alive. What would the boy be like, those hundreds or thousands of years later?

    Would he remember Niko?

    Ara'miza finally stopped and turned. Niko continued forward, lips curved into a smirk that mocked the Myrr goddess. Gone was the smile she had forced upon him; gone was the iron grip she had held on his soul. She could kill him if she wished. He would die with his heart freed from her control.

    His heart belonged to Sainan now.

    ~Sainan…I never told you I loved you.~


    Schuldich gazed out at the ceremony that was taking place in silence, raking his fingers through Farfarello's short, bristly hair. The three women had clothed Omi and Nagi in outfits that appeared to be nothing more than overlapping white gauze and had redressed themselves in flowing gowns. The two children were laying side by side in the exact middle of the stage. The three women were to one side, their arms extended over their heads, palms touching to connect them. A funnel of wind and flickering light surrounded them, pulling at their dresses in a teasing plea to play.

    He could feel the power coming from them, the same way he could feel the power of this stage rumbling against him. It was not a _feel_ so much as a _presence_ that burned in an impatient push to be acknowledged and recognized.


    He watched their mouths move as they chanted quietly, words sucked away by the wind that surrounded them. He could not even pick them up from telepathy; the moment he had stepped on the stage, his gift had been silenced. His mind was his own for now. So many times in his youth he had wondered what it would be like to have quiet, to only hear his own thoughts. The feel of having his mind to his own was both exhilirating and frightening in its own way, in a way he did not like to admit to himself. For these few hours, he was the same as everyone else. He was a normal man.

    A bitter sort of laugh caught in his throat.

    Growing up, all he had wanted was to be normal. He had had no use for his gift like he did once he aligned himself with Estet, so had looked upon it as a curse. His family, on the other hand, had accepted his gift in their quiet way. Sometimes, sitting within Rosenkreuz's walls, he had wondered why it had never bothered them. It had never occurred to him while he was at home to wonder why they had taken his telepathy without a single doubt or bat of an eye.

    Words hung in his mind, words spoken by Birman-Mie. "You two, feared by many to be freaks of nature, are merely magic's way of clinging to life and generating itself over and over."

    What he had called a curse growing up was nothing more than something that had been running in his family for many generations. There were more out there; there had to be. After hearing what Birman-Mie had to say on the crumbling of the old world and the purpose behind Estet, so many things were clear. It explained why his parents weren't bothered by his gift. It explained why they first introduced him to Estet and turned him in that direction- they wanted him to fall in with the rest of those that had descended from the ancient civilizations. He had not understood then why they had turned him over to such bastards. He could hear his hateful words to them ringing in his ears, hear the nasty things he'd said as the men of Rosenkreuz took him away.

    For the first time in his life, he was not a freak, like he had been to his peers in his hometown. He was not just another body with a power like he had been to Estet. He was someone with a passed down gift.

    He felt as if the world was swirling around him. All of the caked bitterness that had built within him growing up- all of the pain and anger that had twisted him to make him who he was- felt as if it was crumbling underneath him. For a moment, he did not feel like Schuldich, telepath of Schwarz. He did not feel like the Mastermind. He felt as if he was fifteen year old Hans, watching his life spin out of control beyond his reach.

    His fingers tightened in Farfarello's hair and the man slid one pale eye to study him. Schuldich did not return the gaze. He kept his eyes forward as if too busy watching the ceremony to notice that he was being examined.

    Farfarello did not like being ignored and reached up to twirl his fingers through a lock of Schuldich's hair, pulling. "You have an empty mind," the Irishman said. It seemed the man had picked up on the absence of the mental bond between them. Or perhaps he had been sending thoughts to Schuldich, only to have them hang unanswered.

    "Ja," he answered. There were downsides to having his mind to himself, obviously. Hearing only his thoughts allowed them to spiral away from him, allowed them to run down paths he had not touched in years. He wanted to close himself to them, wanted to shield himself from the things he did not want to remember. He had had no trouble forgetting them when the world had been whispering in his ear. He had not felt such an uncomfortable gnawing at his soul as he felt now, the gnawing of a fifteen year boy grieving the things he had lost because he had not understood.

    Farfarello tugged sharply, and Schuldich's thoughts were scattered briefly by the pain. He tossed his partner an acid look as he reached up to free his hair from the long, pale fingers. "Nein."

    Farfarello took advantage of Schuldich's turned face to lean forward and bite the German's cheek, letting his teeth scrape the skin. "Having an empty mind does not mean you have to fill it."

    Schuldich paused with his hand raised to shove Farfarello away, a slight frown creasing his brow and tugging at the corner of his mouth. His jade eyes searched Farfarello's amber gaze. The man allowed the scrutiny for a few moments before turning his attention back on the ceremony.

    Since when did the unbalanced one make the most sense?

    Schuldich exhaled softly, forcefully shoving his thoughts aside. There would be time later to think this over. For now, the ceremony would control their immediate future.


    The night sky greeted him when he woke. Without the lights of a city nearby, the stars littered the sky like spilt glitter. There was a tremor going through him, a prickling sensation that rippled across his skin to make his fingers tingle. A cool breeze washed across him, tugging at his clothes as he stared upwards. His mind was fuzzy and he felt detached from his body. Was this what it felt like to be dead?

    "Nnn…" Someone stirred beside him.

    Who…? A white glow surrounded them as he looked to see who was stretched out next to him. Two eyes slid open to lock with his gaze, burning dark blue. A stab of alarm pierced his chest in an icy blow. Sainan! What was he doing here? He wasn't supposed to be…

    The thoughts faltered as the other boy gasped quietly and sat up, recoiling slightly as if in fear. "Alive?" he whispered, the word falling softly through the air. There was a flicker in his gaze, then recognition dawned on him. "Omi."

    Was that his name? Yes, it was.

    Heat washed across his skin in a crackling brush that he tried to flench away from. He was suddenly aware of a slow murmur of female voices, a chant. He tilted his head in that direction. Three women were standing around a glowing ball of white, hands clasped as if in prayer. Their faces were tilted upwards as they stared at the heavens. A hand touched his shoulder and he glanced back to see Nagi staring upwards as well. Omi looked up to see what had caught their attention and his breath caught in his throat.

    It seemed the sky was full of falling stars. The air shimmered as sparkles of white drifted downwards like snow. As the bits grew close enough, they began to swirl around and fall in a funnel shape that led into the ball between the three chanters.

    ~It's beautiful…~

    Some sparkles missed the funnel and continued on their slow rain to fall around them. Omi closed his eyes as he felt some fall upon his face, each one landing with a wave of heat that rolled through his veins to make him shiver. He could not bear to have his eyes shut for long, however, and opened them once more to gaze in wonder at the sight.

    He moved to push himself to a standing position, wincing as he did so. There was an almost lethargic pull to his body, uncomfortable if painless. He felt dizzy as he unsteady rose on his feet and closed his eyes briefly as the world spun before him, lips thinning. At last everything slowed and balanced around him. When he opened his eyes, Nagi was standing beside him, a queasy look on his face that let Omi know the boy was experiencing the same vertigo.

    The chanting paused and the three women turned their heads towards them. "You might not want to move around, my Lords," one spoke up, gentle voice lilting easily through the air. "Your mortal shells are not strong enough to support the energy flowing through here."

    "What is going on?" Omi asked, looking down when he felt the breeze blow across him again, feeling the way it tugged at unfamiliar clothes. He lightly touched the soft material, watching it ripple in the light wind to give it a sparkling effect. When had he changed? He did not remember doing so. A glance at Nagi showed the boy was dressed in an identical outfit. He paused a moment, gaze trailing the way it hung on the other boy.

    ~I told you you looked good in white.~

    He tore his eyes away again, confused by the thought and bothered by the amused affection that had rippled through it. Where had that come from?

    One woman stepped towards them, mouth curved in a reassuring smile. Omi looked back to her, eyes searching her face. He had the distinct impression he had seen her somewhere. "My Lord, it is an honor to be here," she told him, words soft but filled with a delighted sense of accomplishment. She knelt before him, lowering her hand and placing her hands on the stage by her feet. "We three are the remaining of your kin. We have been searching for you for many years. Blood has been spilt to get you here, to be able to do this."

    "To do this?" he asked falteringly, looking from her bowed head to the other two. They had their heads bowed as well, obscuring their faces. One of them looked familiar, but the light cast strange shadows against her, making it hard for him to tell who she was. Beyond them he thought he saw something moving, as if there were more people out there. Distantly he thought he heard someone calling his name. His attention was called back to the woman when she spoke.

    "I understand that you are confused now, my Lord, but there is only a few moments left before everything is returned to the way it is supposed to be." She looked back up to him, a brilliant smile glowing on her face, her eyes dancing with so great a joy that he felt his heart stirring, anxiously wishing to share in her happiness. He could see tears glittering at the corners of her eyes and felt a moment of distressing confusion, that he did not recognize her and did not know why she was so happy. He glanced to his right again, at Nagi, but the boy's mouth was turned downwards in a faint frown as he also struggled for comprehension. They both gazed back at the woman, waiting for an explanation.

    "There is just one more rite," the woman assured him, "and then your souls will be returned how they should be. I, Fuumi, the High Protector of the Blade, swear it." With her solemn words, she reached up, tracing the symbol that hung around her neck.

    "Our souls?" Omi repeated. There was a sickening sense of realization twisting in his stomach as understanding tickled at the edge of his mind. He reached for it, only to have his fingers fall short. He shifted backwards, uneasiness seeping through him as he looked back at the other two women and the sparkles falling around them. His bare feet scuffed against an indention, an engraved symbol.

    The Star Cathedral…

    Morco'na'ni, the fallen temple of the Star Mages.

    There was an added flavor of panic to his mind as he searched Fuumi's face franctically. He heard Nagi's sharp inhale as the boy's fingers closed tightly on his upper arm. Words, faltering and soft, escaped him. "You are- why are-" His tongue failed him. He swallowed tightly as everything fell into place, eyes locking on the shining jewelry that graced her throat. All too easily, he could place it with some of the decorations he had hung around the shop so mindlessly. The eager anticipation of such an important holiday danced in the back of his mind, mocking him. The past nights of troubled sleep floated in his thoughts. He tried again to speak. "We're not- we're not-"

    "We aren't them!" Nagi said for him vehemently. There was a sharpness in his tone; he had figured out what was going on as well.

    Fuumi rose gracefully, extending her hand towards Nagi. Omi put his arms out at his sides, retreating and driving Nagi back out of her reach. She offered them a smile. "It is understandable that you are reacting this way. The stars chose to place you in mortal bodies away from the rest of the Clan. No one could reeducate you; no one could draw up your true souls to bring you back to the minds you belonged."

    She turned away from them, moving back to the others. "Do not worry. The end is almost here."

    "No…" The word fell from his lips softly, unconsciously. Omi felt the world turning upside down around him as his breath tore icily into his lungs. He and Nagi? The reborn Star Mages? The two that the cults had fought over these past days? No. It couldn't be. He was just him- just Omi!

    Fuumi extended her hands to her companions, ready to begin the last step that lay between the existance of Omi and Nagi- and the existance of Niko and Sainan. Omi tried to move forward, tried to stop her, but his body failed him. The heavy tug at his limbs brought him to the ground after just a few steps, the breath sucked from his lungs at the contact. Fire burned upwards from the stage, racing through his veins. He pushed at the ground, panic lending him enough strength to get to his hands and knees despite the way the air seemed to be crushing downwards on him. He tilted his head back, looking towards the women again, words struggling to free themselves from him as the chanting resumed.

    ~Onegai, iie!!~

    Nagi's voice cut through the air harshly. "Dame!" He extended one hand, and for a moment Omi thought he was going to use his gift to stop the women. Nothing happened, however. "Gone," Nagi choked, twisting his hand to stare at his palm in wild confusion, and Omi realized with a flare of terror that the boy's gift was gone. They locked eyes, fear clear on both faces, and Omi reached out for Nagi. The boy reached back, fingers sliding against Omi's before their hands locked together.

    It was the last thing Omi remembered before white exploded around them, searing through his entire being.

Note: Schuldich's name is made up. I just picked a name out of a hat.

Part 14