Part Nine

Awakening from our ignorant sleep
We see so much more
Understanding the pointless things
Which we used to worry for
Please hurry
I'm waiting for you
And don't look back
There's nothing left for us


    Niko hurried after his young lover. Sainan had stood abruptly and started down the hill when Niko had tried again to dissuade him. He knew Sainan wanted so desperately to understand his origins, but Ara'miza?? Cursing his long skirts that slowed him, Niko lifted the ends of the robes and broke into a run. "Sainan! _Sainan_!!"

    Sainan whirled around to face him, eyes angry and hurt. "What do you want?"

    Niko dropped his robe, reaching out to cup Sainan's face in his hands. "Don't go. Please don't go to her. Stay here with me."

    "This is my choice!" Sainan snapped. "You don't understand what it's like to not know where you came from!"

    "Who ever said that?" Niko countered, fear making his voice sharp. "I will never know who my parents were. They refused to lay claim to me. I was raised on my own within the Star Clan. You don't see me fussing about that, do you?"

    "You're not a half-breed!" Sainan yelled savagely. Niko retreated a step, eyes widening slightly, hurt by the tone. "Either _you_ tell me who I am, or I'll go to her. You pick."

    Niko was silent. His eyes pleaded for Sainan to understand.

    The Black Star turned away. "Fine then," he said, voice gruff. "I'm going."


    "You just don't want me to go because you're scared!" Sainan sneered.

    A hand clamped down on his upper arm, twisting him around. Niko gripped him by both shoulders with a painfully tight hold. "Stars damn me, of course I'm scared," the White Star whispered harshly. "I'm terrified of her. The Myrr hate us Stars, Sainan. You're walking into their territory."

    "You're stronger than they are. Why should you be scared?"

    "My star is not fully developed. In time I will be stronger, but the Myrr might have ruined all chances for it. Blast it Sainan, don't you get it? Ara'miza is the one who gave me this lock! She is the one that forced it upon me and twisted my emotions away." He droppped a hand to grab the amulet around his neck. Sainan's eyes fell on the bulky necklace. It was a piece of jewelry he'd never seen his lover without, a black gold circle with a white star engraved into it.

    He raised his eyes slowly to meet Niko's, searching his lover's gaze. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I can't stay. I have to know." Niko's hand loosened on him, defeat etched on his face. The White Star stepped back. "I'll be back, I promise. I'll return as soon as I've learned what I need to. Will you wait for me?"

    "I would wait for you for an eternity." Niko gave him a sad smile, then reached up to brush his face. "I will not be waiting here, however. Where you go, I will follow, until the end of time. Go to her if that is what you wish. I will be behind you."


    Omi sat up, yawned, and stretched. For a moment, he wondered where he was, since he was not on the hotel room's bed. Then his memory returned to him. He and Nagi had come to this room yesterday to finish comparing notes. After a long evening, Omi had given Nagi the bed and had taken the couch.

    He rubbed his eyes. He was so tired…He knew he'd slept, but it had been fitful and he didn't feel like he'd gotten any rest. It was probably his fault, for putting off sleep so long. Neither he nor Nagi had wanted to fall asleep, so when they'd finished exchanging information, they'd found other excuses to stay up, other things to talk or debate about. It had been fun, Omi mused, a smile curling his lips.

    It had never crossed his mind that Nagi might attack and kill him in his sleep.

    "You awake?"

    Omi looked up at Nagi's voice. The young boy had obviously been rummaging around in the kitchen, for he was holding a small box of granola bars Omi had picked up at the train station. They'd munched on them last night while talking, but there were enough left to make a small breakfast. "Good morning," Omi greeted. "Sleep well?"

    "As well as you did," came the other boy's response. Nagi joined him on the couch and fished out a bar. He passed the box to Omi, who accepted it eagerly. For a moment the only sound was that of tearing plastic and chewing. When Omi swallowed, he spoke.

    "Tomorrow is the day the two clans will try to raise their leaders. We've spent most of a week looking for information, and haven't found much. How are we supposed to stop them?" Nagi thought for a moment, then shrugged. "I should call the others and see what they've managed to accomplish." He leaned over the side of the couch and fished around for his phone.

    Nagi waited as he dialled. He tried Aya's number first, but it just rang. Next he tried Yohji and Ken, but no one answered. He sighed and dropped the phone. "No answer from any of them. Aya's probably busy working and forgot to get his phone. Yohji's off the clock, I bet, and Ken's most likely playing soccer."

    ~Why can't you guys be there when I need you?~

    "Let me see if I can get Schuldich. He set out a thread between us in case I need anything. I'll tell him what we know and see what he's managed to figure out."

    Omi nodded, and Nagi looked away. Omi waited patiently, watching the half-glazed look in the younger boys' eyes. The talk went on for some time before Nagi sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he turned to Omi with an odd look on his face.

    "Schwarz has managed to track the Cult of the Stars. They are heading to Higo-sen by car as we speak. The interesting news is that your team mates Balinese and Siberian are captives of them."

    Omi choked on his gasp. "What?" he managed to get out. ~Oh no. Oh no…~

    "Schwarz will come soon to wipe them out. They are going to wait until all of the cult is gathered in one spot again instead of spread out, to make sure they get everyone." Nagi ran his fingers through his hair. "Both cults will probably be coming to the stage. From the stories, we know that the Star Mages used the Cathedral for their rituals, then was taken over by the Myrr. Since that is where the twin stars and Ara'miza were slaughtered, that should be where they will be resurrected."

    ~Focus on the mission, Omi,~ Omi told himself. ~Yohji and Ken will be safe for now. They can handle themselves. We must take out these cults.~

    "That makes sense," he said slowly.

    "Let's go to it, then. I want another look at the stage on foot. Perhaps there is a way to destroy it."

    "With your gift, you mean?" Omi asked. Nagi gave a shrug. "Let me go get some drinks. It's going to be a long hike." He scrambled off the couch.


    Against his original decision, Aya found himself on a train home. He was driven by the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Ken and Yohji hadn't answered his calls, and he'd been trying since yesterday afternoon. Something was definitely up with them. Also, he wanted to visit Aya-chan. She'd moved her hand almost a week ago. He wanted desperately to see if anything else about her had changed. He'd planned out the train schedule so he knew he could get home, have a few hours there to spend with Aya-chan and his other team mates, and get back to Higo-sen mid-afternoon.

    He'd tried to drink something to see if that would help, but it didn't dispel the queasy feeling in his gut that told him something was _not_ _right_. Ken should have answered. Yohji should have answered. If anything had happened to Ken, Aya would kill Yohji very slowly.

    He'd tried to contact Manx once, before getting on the train, but her line had been busy.

    He was getting really really agitated.

    Luckily for him, he was almost home. He brushed his bangs out of his hair when the train slowed and came to a stop, ending a trip that seemed to have lasted years. He was among the first off the train. He moved forward to get out of the initial exiting flow, then paused to get his bearings. Which direction?…

    He turned to the right and bumped into someone who had materialized from the crowd. Someone wearing a blue vest, bandages, and a collar. Someone with a head of raggedy white hair and one eye.


    Aya bounced backwards instinctly and slammed into someone else. Hands steadied his shoulders. "Welcome home, Abyssinian," a nasal voice purred in his ear. Aya tugged away and whirled around. Schuldich was giving him a lazy smirk. Crawford stepped out of the crowd behind the German. "How nice to see you here."

    "What do you want?" Aya demanded.

    "Following the call our little Prodigy made with Bombay, Weiß and Schwarz are on a stilted truce for the time being. Isn't that nice?" Schuldich's smirk widened.

    Farfarello brushed past Aya. Aya had to fight not to cringe away from the feeling of that…that _thing_ rubbing up against him. The Irishman took a spot on Schuldich's other side, close beside him. Schuldich propped an arm on the younger assassin's shoulder.

    "I agreed to no truce," Aya said flatly.

    "What a shame, because we know something you probably want to."

    Aya had to speak through clenched teeth. "Oh?" That all-knowing overconfident smirk was annoying.

    "You're not going to get any favors from us with an attitude like that, kätzchen." Schuldich reached out with his free hand and lightly pat Aya's cheek. Aya turned his face away, eyes narrowing. "You either acknowledge the truce or ignore it, but you make your decision now. Either we're on the same side, or opposite sides."

    ~That was what Omi was doing?~ Aya wondered. ~Making a truce?~

    "Is it so hard to believe?" Schuldich asked.

    "Stay away from my mind," Aya bit out savagely.

    "Territorial, isn't he?" Schuldich asked Farfarello.

    Aya's eyes went to Crawford, who was waiting patiently for an answer. His gaze was elsewhere. Aya turned his attention back on Schuldich. "Fine, then. A truce- but _only_ until the cults are taken out."

    "Knew you'd see it our way." Schuldich laughed. The sound grated on Aya's ears painfully. "First thing you should know is that it's just you and us. Your little playmates are on their way to Higo-sen as captives of the Stars."

    A faint stab of alarm lanced up Aya, though his face betrayed nothing. Ken was a captive? Yohji, too? Aya was going to seriously kill Yohji…

    Schuldich raised an eyebrow knowingly. /Oh ho…I detect more than friendly concern here./

    ~Stay OUT,~ Aya snapped. "That leaves the Cult of the Myrr," he said aloud.

    "Aa. We stopped over here to pick you up." It was Crawford speaking this time. "We were wondering at first where we would find them. Now I know." He met Aya's gaze briefly before turning his attention back where it'd been. Curious, Farfarello and Schuldich looked that direction.

    Aya glanced that way. A small t.v. was hanging nearby on the news channel. Over the noise, it was impossible to hear the newscaster. When the camera zoomed in on what was behind her, though, Aya's heart stopped in his chest.

    The camera was focused on the Magicbus Hospital, and scanned several stories up. Aya counted the windows, and the one the camera stopped on was Aya-chan's room. He'd been there enough that he could place her window easily. The window was shattered, and there were people scrambling down the side of the building from the roof to enter her room.

    Aya took off, forgetting all about Schwarz.


    A cop reached out, snagging Aya around his waist as the red haired man tried to pelt past. Aya beat at the man's arm, not caring what he was doing, just _needing_ to get to his sister's room. Suddenly the man released him and stepped back, a glazed expression on his face.

    /Tsk tsk…/ came Schuldich's voice. /Beating a cop can get you into some big trouble./

    Aya ignored him and continued into the hospital, feet taking him up the stairs four at a time. He pushed the glass doors open. No elevators were there, and besides, they'd go too slow. He slammed open the door to the stairwell, darting through without stopping. Panic and fear gave him speed.

    ~My sister my sister what do they want with Aya-chan???~

    He burst onto the floor, pushing past surprised cops. "STOP!" one yelled. "Get back here!"

    He ignored them.

    There was a glow in the hall, an unnatural glow. No cops were beyond it. Aya wondered why as he moved into it.

    Everything altered.

    It was strange…He felt a dizzying rush of fiery energy. Something powerful was here. Something, or _somethings_. It was hard to breathe in the face of such power. He didn't slow, though. He made it to the doorway of his sister's room. The door was off its hinges, and he slipped in. There, he froze to take in the strange sight, gasping to get air back in his starved lungs. He was suddenly aware of how exhausted his muscles were from the race here. He staggered a few more steps into the room, legs feeling as if they were ready to give out under him.

    All movement in the room stopped when the people noticed his presence. Everyone there was dressed in beige clothes. Aya spotted the asshole boy from the funeral and murder site. The boy was kneeling beside the bed Aya-chan rested in. All eyes were on Aya, and he had the distinct impression he was being challenged by something powerful.

    He took a step forward, clenching his hands into fists warningly. "Get away from my sister." They turned their backs on him and lifted Aya-chan. The sight of their filthy hands touching his precious sister's body made pure anger wash through him. He lunged forward. "GET AWAY FROM HER!!"

    He immediately struck something hard and unyielding. Grunting with pain, he staggered back. Schuldich and Crawford entered the room, coming up beside him. Crawford reached out and calmly touched the invisible barrier, testing it.

    The boy in beige approached it, stopping on the other side. Behind him, the others were loading Aya-chan onto a long board and carrying her towards the window. The boy bowed. "You have our most sincere thanks for watching over this person. For your aid, we will allow you and your companions to live and remain unharmed." With that, he turned away. Aya-chan was wisked out.

    Aya struck the barrier with both fists, feeling helpless and full of despair. "Stop!! Give her back!!" The boy ignored him, though, and vanished out the window. The barrier gave. Aya stumbled, regained his balance, and raced to the window, leaning out. All of them were gone.

    ~Damn it. DAMN IT!!~ First Ken, then Aya-chan! Who would be next?

    Breathing hard with contained rage, it took Aya a while to notice that Schuldich was laughing softly. When he heard the sound, he whirled on the German, grabbing the front of his shirt in a death grip. "What is so funny, Schwarz?" he asked, voice icy cold and a promise of a painful death.

    Schuldich let a slow smirk play across his lips. "Oh, but don't you know? I ran a scan of their minds when they were leaving. Do you have any clue as to why they're interested in your sister?"

    Aya gave a slow shake of his head, dread grabbing his heart. He and Crawford both watched Schuldich intently. The German placed his hands over Aya's, leaning close until their foreheads touched.

    "Your sister is Ara'miza."

Part 10