Part Eight

Contact is already established.
We are here.

Meet the children of the stars
See the truth, we are one
We have so much to learn
From each other


    Breeze washed over the top of the hill, bringing with it small flower petals. A pale hand reached up, its overly long sleeve slipping down. Fingers snatched a single petal out of the air. Niko gazed at his catch for several moments before lowering his hand to offer it to Sainan.

    Sainan gave an amused shake of his head, offering the odd gift. "I'm touched, Niko," he drawled.

    Niko grinned, stretching before propping his arms under his head. His eyes traced the clouds in the sky and he yawned. "So…" he said when his yawn was over. "You called me here for a reason. What's on your mind?"

    Sainan hesitated, fingering the petal between his thumb and index finger. "I found someone," he told Niko softly. "Someone who can tell me where I'm from and what I am."

    Niko blinked, surprised, and turned to face him. "Oh?"

    "Yes." A smile curved Sainan's lips as he met Niko's gaze. "She offered to teach me, if I go to her."

    "And does this woman have a name?"

    "Aa. Her name is Ara'miza."

    Niko went rigid. Sainan blinked. His lover sat up slowly, eyes locked with Sainan's. "Say again?" he asked, voice deadly soft.

    Sainan was confused. He'd never seen Niko react that way before…"I said her name is Ara'miza." When Niko still said nothing, Sainan continued. "I am to go to her tomorrow. She told me where her school is. There, she'll be able to tell me all about where I came from…" He trailed off when he saw the way all of the blood had drained from Niko's face. "Niko? What's wrong?" He reached out, cupping the older Mage's face in a palm.

    "Don't, Sainan…" Niko whispered, clasping his hands over Sainan's. It seemed like his hands were made of ice, so cold suddenly…"Don't go near her!"

    "It's my decision, Niko…" Sainan stopped again.

    The look in Niko's eyes was a look he'd never seen there before. It was an emotions Niko was most definitely not supposed to have.

    The look in his eyes was cold blooded terror.


    "You don't look so well, young sir." Nagi looked up at the merchant over his freshly bought drink. "The circles under your eyes are a rather interesting shade."

    Nagi lowered the cup, swallowing the mouthful of harsh liquid these city people dared to call coffee. "I'm fine. I just haven't been sleeping well." He didn't like this woman inquiring about his health. This was his second day at Higo-sen, his second day wandering the markets, and he hadn't found much anything of use. The people were mostly close-lipped about their Cathedral.

    The Cathedral…

    He'd gone to see it yesterday afternoon. It had stolen his breath away. It had been a long time since he'd seen or heard something that would knock him over and embed itself into his mind. Those ruins…They had been so beautiful. So tragic, too…He'd found an odd lump in his throat when he'd seen it. Then there had been the briefest sensation of flailing terror that had sent him retreating back into the cart. He was thankful the others of his team weren't here to see him react in such a way.

    At the same time, he wished they'd been there, to see the stage.

    "Nightmares?" the woman asked. She gave a nod before he could answer. "Lots of people in this city are affected these days."

    ~Not nightmares…Just dreams I can't remember.~

    "Why?" he asked, braving another sip of his drink.

    "So what are you?" the woman asked, countering his question with one of her own. She eyed him. "Are you one of those tourists? We don't get many, you know, because they aren't welcome here." Her words were a warning.

    "Iie." He dropped his styrofoam cup into the nearby garbage can. "My mother moved here last week, following one of the new jobs in new Higo-sen. We ended up in one of those boarding houses, though, in this part."

    "Ahhh." She gave a slight nod of her head. "I lived in one of those houses for a long time. They still have roaches in them?"

    "Lots." He shuddered for effect.

    She ruffled his hair sympathetically. "Well, son, don't mind those nightmares of yours. They'll be gone in just a few days."

    "But what causes them?" he asked.

    She grinned toothily at him. "It's just nature coming back full circle again. You should run along before your mother wonders where you are," she added kindly.

    He wanted to question her further, but it was clear she was done talking. He nodded. "Arigato."

    His mind was in a jumble as he headed out of the market place. It was lunch time now. He wanted to sit down some place and put together all he'd managed to find out between his two days- which wasn't much. He sighed, turning off the market street.

    Someone was waiting for him. Someone with bright blue eyes and wheat blond hair.


    "Good afternoon," the older boy greeted.

    Nagi eyed him coolly. ~Why didn't Crawford warn me that Weiß was going to be here?~

    "Don't be alarmed," Omi continued. "I'm the only one here. The other three are back at home."

    "Why would I be alarmed, Weiß? I alone could kill all four of you." There. A simple fact, but a threat as well.

    Omi identified the threat and inclined his head slightly. "I'm not here to fight. I saw you here yesterday. I was wondering if you came to do research on the cults and the Cathedral."


    "Weiß is against the cults."

    "As is Schwarz." ~That was to be expected,~ Nagi mused. ~Innocents are being murdered, so Weiß staggers in on their white horses to save the day and uphold justice. How predictable they can be.~

    "I was just going to lunch. Can I buy you some?"

    The offer made Nagi wary. "Why?"

    "I was thinking we could put together what we've found so far. Weiß and Schwarz are both against the cults, and I'm sure you've realized by now how hard it is to get any decent information on them or the Cathedral. We could benefit from each other. I might have found something you haven't, you might have found something I haven't. In the long run, we're helping ourselves and our respective groups."

    "You trust me too much for your own good." Omi smiled at Nagi's words. "Why?"

    Omi paused, thinking his answer over. He studied Nagi thoughtfully. "Maybe…" he said, "because I see myself in you. We are both young people who had their lives stolen from them. We are pawns for larger organizations that kill. We have no chance for a real life. I regret that. I regret that neither of us will get that choice."

    Nagi was silent for several moments, studying Omi's face. That was true. Slowly he extended his hand. "Fine, then. Temporary truce between us until the death of the cults."

    Omi grinned, a relieved expression, and reached out to squeeze Nagi's hand in a sealing of the truce. "You don't look so good." Omi reached out, lightly brushing the underside of Nagi's eyes, where sleep circles had formed.

    Nagi drew back from the odd touch. No one touched him without some reason. Schuldich did it when he wanted to irritate him. Crawford, the few times he did it, usually just put a hand on his shoulder to indicate him during introductions. He had once struck Nagi, but that was the only other time Crawford had initiated contact. Where did this Weiß brat come up with a reason to touch him?

    As he gazed thoughtfully at Omi, searching for a reason behind the contact, he noticed how pale the boy was. Omi had rings under his eyes as well. "You have room to talk," he murmured.

    Omi laughed. "Aa. So…Where do you feel like eating?"


    A short distance away, out of hearing range, Aya rested in the shadows between two buildings. His eyes were on the two teenagers. Neither looked overly surprised to see each other there…He wished he could hear what they were saying. Had they planned this meeting?

    He watched as they clasped hands, an uneasy feeling stirring in his stomach. What were they doing?…

    His cell phone rang.

    Aya ducked further back in the shadows and pulled out his cell phone. "Moshi moshi."

    "We might have found something." It was Yohji's voice. "There was a symbol in the building where yesterday's murders were committed. Ken claims the same symbol was on Fuumi's necklace."


    Ah. The girl Ken had gone clubbing with. Aya forced away a stab of jealousy. "And?"

    "We weren't able to get to her apartment last night. It was too late. We got hold of Manx this morning, though, and she and Birman said the earliest they could come watch the shop would be noon. They'll be here any minute, and Ken and I'll go confront the girls."


    "So, find anything?"

    Aya's eyes drifted to the two boys. They were heading away, side by side. "Schwarz might be in on this."

    "Damn them." Yohji sighed. "Ah? Manx is here. We'll call you later." There was a click as the older man hung up.

    Aya flipped his phone closed, stepping out of the shadows when the two teens had moved out of sight. He set off in the direction they'd gone. ~Omi…What are you doing?~

    ~Are you friend or foe?~


    Yohji knocked on the door to the sisters' apartment, then glanced over at Ken. The boy had brought his bugnuks in case of trouble and on Yohji's urging. They were tucked under his jacket. Yohji's watch was on, ready to be used. He was hoping that this was all a fluke, that there was an explanation for why Ririka's sister had that symbol around her neck. Ririka was a very pretty girl and a wonderful partner in bed. He didn't want to lose the gorgeous creature. He knocked again.

    "Door's unlocked!" came Ririka's cheerful voice. "Come on in!"

    He opened the door and entered, Ken right behind him. Ken shut the door as they started through the apartment. "Ririka?" Yohji called. "Where are you?"

    "We knew that symbol would get your attention." The voice that answered was husky. Both swirled around to see Fuumi in a doorway. She was dressed in a long burgundy silk gown. It was translucent and glittery, catching light and morphing the colors. Her necklace was untucked and hanging loose on top of the dress. The same symbol was drawn on her forehead.

    "What is going on?" Ken asked. "Fuumi, who _are_ you?"

    "We are of the Cult of the Stars." It was another voice. The two men spun to see Ririka in a doorway opposite Fuumi's. She was wearing the same outfit. Her forehead held a different symbol than Fuumi's.

    "Where is the child?" A third voice- a man's. The two turned to see a tall man standing in the middle of the hall behind him. He had the same outfit as the girls', but his was of a thicker cotton material. "Where is the one who made the designs?"

    "What do you want with him?" Yohji demanded, pulling out his wire.

    "It is possible that this Omi child is one of the two we are looking for," Fuumi answered, sliding from her spot with a feline grace. Yohji wondered if the lighting was bad in there for there seemed to be a glow around her. "We thought it was you, but you proved our guess to be wrong. It is possible he is a resurrected twin star. We will need to take him off your hands to test him."

    "What is _that_ supposed to mean?" Ken asked, dipping his hands inside his jacket and pulling them out with his gloves on. He clenched his hands into fists and the blades extended.

    "The twin stars were killed when their mother stars were just reaching their prime. The excess power caused them to be reborn, but as humans with no memories. In two days it will be the end of our holiday, and time for us to wake them."

    Yohji glanced at Ken, wondering if the boy was following this. He could remember snatches of Aya's conversation that Ken had relayed to him, words about some powerful races. Yohji hadn't understood most of it. Ken seemed to get what the girls were talking about, though, for his face had turned a few shades paler.

    "The power those two hold will awaken the full extent of our own gifts," Ririka said, giving her sister a half-apologetic look for breaking in. Yohji got the sudden distinct impression that Fuumi was in charge of these people. His eyes fell on her necklace again. Was that a sign of rank? "The total power will be more than this aged, weakened world can take. As the cult of Myrr is wiped out by the glorious twins, the cult of the Stars will follow until the twins are the only ones awake."

    "You'll sacrifice yourselves for two people that died thousands of years ago?" Ken asked, incredulous.

    "We will sacrifice ourselves for the twins," Fuumi affirmed.

    "You're all insane," Yohji growled, tightening his wire.

    "Maybe. It will be an honor to die at their hands."

    "Omi's not like that!" Ken retorted.

    Fuumi smiled slowly, a satisfied expression. "'Omi' is merely a shell. Once the twin stars are awake, any memories the boy has of this life will be erased."

    "Omi's not who you're looking for."

    Fuumi sneered. "There is plenty of proof. The symbols hanging around your shop are the symbols that were engraved into the Morco'na'ni Cathedral. They are symbols for summoning the stars, and are used to decorate our homes during the day EimHew of Lichna. Then, the child made a traditional Star food." She extended her hand, palm side up, revealing one of the juicy treats Ken loved. "He is one of ours."

    "Tell us where he is," the man ordered.

    "Over my dead body," Ken spat.

    "That can be arranged." Fuumi smiled widely. "However, your deaths will not be convenient at this time and place. You will be sacrifices for the heavens on the glorious day of the awakening." She dropped the snack to the ground. "Tell us where your friend is, and we will spare your lives."

    "See if you can take them," came Yohji's taunt. ~Three people against two…Two of them are women, and they're unarmed. This will be easy.~

    "You leave us no choice, then." Fuumi stepped forward.

    Yohji unleashed his wire. It shot towards Fuumi. He couldn't make himself aim it at Ririka. The woman raised a hand and caught the wire midair. Yohji blinked in surprise when it did not slice her. He tugged fiercely, trying to rip what he could as the wire came loose. She released it before it could bite into her. He saw Ken going towards the man, bugnuks flashing. That left Ririka unguarded.

    Yohji lunged for Fuumi, drawing his wire in to tighten it. She stood calmly, watching him come. Just before he could reach her, she lit up white. The glow slammed into him, sending him backwards. It was as effective as Nagi's telekinetic gift. He heard Ken's cry of pain. Before he could twist to see where the younger boy was, they crashed into each other midflight. It seemed Ken had been bounced away as well.

    ~Damn…She has a gift!~

    The two assassins dropped towards the ground and scrambled to land on their feet. Yohji felt Ken grab him for balance. The three were watching them. Finally Fuumi smiled and brought her hands up as if praying. The other two followed the movement. Steadied, Ken and Yohji leapt for them again.

    Agony exploded across Yohji's senses as he crashed into something invisible. He heard his own yell of pain, and Ken's as the boy met the same fate. He stumbled backwards, sagging towards the ground. Now the air rippled around him, and he could make out a triangle of shimmering power keeping him and Ken away from the three. His muscles felt as if someone had ripped a knife along them, and it was pure pain to get to his feet.

    He cast his wire out to see if it would go through the wall. It hit the sides and bounced off. Ken lashed out with his bugnuks, only to have them rebound. "Shit! Yohji, now what?"

    "We did warn you," Fuumi said quietly, sounding amused. The three moved in, causing the wall to shrink. Yohji and Ken went back to back, trying to avoid touching it. His eyes landed on Ririka, who blew him a kiss.

    ~Filthy slut…~ he growled mentally.

    "Yohji!" Ken sounded frantic.

    There was nowhere else for them to back up to. The walls pressed in on them, making contact with their flesh. Again came that searing white hot pain that blanked out everything else. Yohji heard someone scream- was it him or Ken? His last coherent thought before the pain sucked him to oblivion was that Aya was going to kill him for letting Ken get captured.

Part 9