Chapter Twelve: In the Land of the Summoners...

She was late.

It typically didn't bother Rydia too much when Aiko and Moogle returned after dusk. She knew very well that there weren't that many people who knew of this place, if at all, and she also knew that the girl did live alone by herself for two years after her grandparents died.

Yet this was a little bit too late. Even though Feuille Pinnacle was never a place to actually turn into night, Rydia could tell that it was way past the normal time for them to return. She wondered to herself if the girl and pet mog somehow ran into some trouble on their way back or maybe they encountered some company.

Rydia shook her head and sighed as she stared at the path that led into the once beautiful village of summoners. The dirt road reminded her too much of the road that she had to take soon and a small part of herself was afraid. If she gained too much power, they would find her, but if she didn't progress in her magic, she wouldn't be that hard to be taken to wherever those creatures wanted to take her.

"…Kupo?"

Rydia looked down at the mog that tugged on the hem of her skirt and then at the rest of the mogs that huddled around her. She smiled, patting the mog's head and looked at the rest.

"I'm sure they'll be back soon," she told them. "If they needed help, Moogle would have at least called, right?"

They all nodded in agreement and joined Rydia in her watch of the entrance.


They couldn't help but stare at her.

She was just a little girl with a flute, but she seemed to be able to translate the mog's language quite quickly as the two argued with one another. She was capable of driving away their unknown intruders and she didn't seem at all fazed by the looks they were giving her.

She wore extremely baggy clothes, had violet hair tied up in pigtails and dark blue eyes, but what struck everyone the most unusual was how much she looked similar to Rydia. Of course, everything was much smaller, fit for a five or six year old.

"Um…" Sakana finally managed to say, which automatically stopped the girl and the mog from their current argument. "Thank you very much for helping us. Were you the one who played that music?"

The girl's eyes brightened in delight. "Oh you heard that? That was really good, huh?"

The girl then muttered to herself in a language that the group couldn't understand, except for Kentarou. His eyes widened slightly - she was speaking in an old dialect of Melbane.

Did she just say…Rydia? he wondered.

The mog next to her prodded her shoulder, taking the young girl back to reality and into the current situation at hand. "Oh! I'm sorry. It's a good thing that I came to you in time; that was a really quick spell those bad people cast." She gave them a polite bow, although it looked odd for her to do it because of her small stature and overly loose clothing. "My name is Aiko. And this is my best friend, Moogle."

"Moogle, huh?" Shion commented. "That sounds like a long version of 'mog'."

"But that's his name! Every one of my mogs' names start with 'M'. They said that it's because it's easier for them to remember everyone's names," Aiko explained to them, Moogle nodding in agreement next to her.

"Hey," Kentarou veered the conversation back on subject. To him, Aiko obviously hadn't been acquainted with people too much based on the accent he heard in her voice. "Do you live around here?"

Without hesitation, she nodded. "Yep! We live in the village beyond here with Moogle's family and Auntie Rydia."

"Auntie Rydia?!?" came the response from the other three.

Aiko stared at them curiously, putting her arms behind her back. "Do you know Auntie Rydia?"


[Feuille Pinnacle, one hour later]

Rydia took another look through her weaponry before tucking them inside her robes for easy access.

"Okay, you guys," she announced to the mogs that had been watching her equip her daggers. "Stay here and keep watch. I'll go look for Moogle and Aiko. If I do find them and see I need some help, I'll send a Flare spell in the sky, okay?"

They all nodded and marched together behind her when they noticed the familiar silhouettes of the creatures in question enter the ruined gates of the village. The mogs chirped cheerfully behind her and Rydia herself smiled in relief that they were all right.

However, the smile faded as she recognized the three figures following behind them, their eyes looking around curiously. Then he turned to the front.

Amber met blue and green. Surprise met disbelief. Hope greeted anxiety.

Her niece noticed her stunned expression as they came closer and she looked at Rydia curiously as if she felt that she had done something wrong.

"…Auntie Rydia?"


"So we finally find her and now where'd she go?" Phoenix asked out loud, not paying too much attention to the rundown yet clean dining area and the lopsided chair she sat on. She was looking out the window, watching the familiar pattern of Kentarou's jacket grow smaller and smaller as he walked further forward on the path. Sakana left before him, which was why the amber-eyed bandit decided to find her.

Phoenix didn't know very much about the relationship between Rydia and Kentarou, and she felt it was wise to stay out of it. However, seeing the green-haired sorceress' shocked expression and how she just merely turned around and walked away without so much of a word bothered her. Phoenix only knew Rydia during the short one day stay she made at Kamikaze, but the slightly older woman couldn't help but see her old self in the sorceress. And it spooked her a little bit.

Hell, even the place they were at spooked her. She wasn't a magic user whatsoever, but there was just something about the village that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. The place felt…haunted. It also felt overwhelmed with sadness. There weren't any signs of death other than rundown, abandoned stone buildings, but Phoenix couldn't help but wonder how anybody nonetheless a six year old girl, a family of creepy…white "things" called mogs, and later on a sorceress seeking shelter and escape could live here.

A chair scratched against the floor and propped itself next to her.Phoenix immediately knew who it was without turning around. It was always Shion.

"I guess it's a shock to her for us to even find her," his deep voice resonated close to her. "Hell, I'm even surprised that we found her - especially in a place that was thought to have disappeared."

Phoenix turned around to face the man, learning quickly that it was nearly impossible to ignore him. Shion always managed to find a way to get her to talk, and she found it easier to give into his attempts of conversation and possible flirting rather than listening to the remarks that followed if she did attempt to ignore him.

She knew exactly what he was trying to do, but she couldn't help but allow him the effort of figuring out her past. At least, with the way that she was now, it was easy to handle the game that they played.

"So what piece of information would you like to enlighten me on, Mister Know-it-all?"

He gave her that entrancing smile of his, one that was capable of making many women swoon but didn't affect her at all. She knew those eyes of his; it was one of the main reasons she cut her hair in what felt like decades ago when it had only been just a few years.

It was why she had the scar on her face now and why she didn't want it to fade.

"Would you like to know why this place is always in sunset no matter what the time?" he asked her.

"We have night and day!" Aiko announced behind them, surprising both since they had not noticed that the girl returned from her venture around the village with her mogs. Moogle was in her arms like a stuffed doll. "In the mornings, it's a little brighter and twilight exists here every six months."

Phoenix stared at the girl, her body subconsciously shifting away from the mog. She didn't know why she was afraid of the creature - perhaps it was because it looked too much like a stuffed animal for it to be a living creature with an entire language and society of its own that was separate from the other races.

"Thank you, little missy," Shion said to Aiko with the same charming smile he gave to Phoenix earlier, recovering from his previous bewilderment. "I completely forgot that you live here. How long have you been here?"

Aiko stared at him as if he was asking her a rhetorical question. "I've been here every since Momma had me." She patted Moogle on the head. "And Moogle, too. We were born on the same day - at least that's what Grandpa said before he died."

The other two human inhabitants looked at each other and then back at Aiko.

"You mean…you've been here all alone?" Phoenix couldn't help but ask. She couldn't imagine a girl her age live as a hermit and still act so cheerful.

"I'm not alone!" Aiko immediately corrected her. "I have Moogle and the other mogs with me."

Shion, the more skillful one when it came to children, ventured further. "Well, haven't you ever wanted to go outside the village, Aiko? Like, you know, to a place where there might be people who could take care of you."

Aiko and Moogle shook their heads at the same time. "Uh-uh. We can't leave."

"Why's that?"

Aiko looked at the mog for a moment before it nodded its head for her to go on. "…It's because I promised Grandpa that we'd protect the temple for him."


They found her.

For some odd reason, Rydia was both happy and saddened at the fact that her traveling companions were able to find her. It just meant that things would be harder to hide, and she didn't want that. She didn't want to burden them with the mysteries that surrounded her past, the reasons why she was being pursued, and the power that lied within her still yet to awaken. It was her mistake in the first place to ask for help - this was something that she needed to do on her own.

It just wasn't about her master's death anymore. It wasn't about saving her guardian angel, whoever might they be. The mission that fell on her shoulders was far more complicated than any of that. It involved an old legend, long thought to be believed as myth, and an old grudge by a person who continued to slumber in its prison in Morcadia. Sakana said to her that they wanted to help, that this needed everybody's cooperation and attention, but Rydia herself wasn't sure. To be honest, even through this long month stay at her mother's home, she was afraid. She was afraid of finding out what the future held for them.

She took out the heirloom from the folds of her robes and stared down at its mysterious color as she had done many times before. Yet before she could look back at the reflection that stared back at her, she felt her boat move back from its current position in the water. The sorceress turned around to find him pulling her back by the rope that she tied on a post on the dock, his amber eyes holding an odd look of determination on his face.

Inwardly, she began to panic.

"Hey, what are you doing?" she shouted.

"What does it look like I'm doing, neko-chan?" Kentarou replied in a loud voice because of the distance that stood in between them that was getting smaller by each pull of the rope he made. "Stay that far away from the dock with just this rope and the wind like this, you'll never know when your boat's gonna tip."

Rydia bit her lip, contemplating on what to do. He did have a point, she was too far out, but she didn't want to talk to him out of all people right now. She was afraid that if she did, her mind would flutter just like it always did when she thought back to that time. When he had said something to her that wasn't like the Kentarou that she knew at all yet it was something that he would do oddly enough; she just didn't think that it would be her.

But, trapped in the boat with only the water of the lake surrounding her, she had no choice but to talk to him.

Her heart pounded loudly in her ears, and she wondered to herself if it was the unbalance of the small waves hitting the boat making her nervous or that her heart was telling her something else that she couldn't quite understand.

He hopped onto the boat as soon as he pulled it close enough to the dock for him to jump over but far enough for Rydia to not be able to jump out. They both steadied themselves as the boat rocked a little until Kentarou sat down.

"Whew, that was a little close," he said with a light laugh.

"And who said that the boat was going to tip over for going out too far, huh?" Rydia replied with a frown.

"Hey, you're forgetting that I'm much heavier than you, neko-chan," he began to search around the floor of the boat. "Can't be light like you or else I'd look like a stick."

"I'm not a stick."

"Didn't say that you were."

Rydia noticed his search and a small feeling of panic crept up to her. She watched him pick up the oar and although it was obvious what he was doing, she still asked anyway.

"Wha…what are you doing?"

"What does it look like to you?" Kentarou replied as he untied the last knot of rope that held the boat fast to the dock. "I just want to talk to you where you just won't walk away. You've been avoiding us like we're the plague or something."

You've been avoiding me, was his unvoiced response.

Rydia stared down at her hands in silence as he rowed the small boat further and further away from shore. They did not say a word to each other; Kentarou focused onto the rhythmic repetitions of rowing the oar from one side to the other and Rydia was lost in her thoughts as she listened to the beat of her heart. It wasn't until they reached somewhere near the middle of the lake did Kentarou set down the oar and speak.

"That night when you left…" he paused, struggling to find the right words. "Left us with so many questions. What actually happened to you? Why were you hiding so much from us? Who was that creature that attacked you? Why did you leave?"

She looked up as he continued to speak, watching his face as his eyes were focused to an area in the water.

"I haven't said much to anybody about it, but my guess is that it has something to do with that old legend between Heaven and Hell, right?"

He looked back and met her eyes, measuring her reaction.

"…Why…why do you think that?" she asked him. For a reason that she couldn't quite place, her cheeks felt hot.

He chuckled. "Well because old things tend to have a lot of unfinished business, that's why. The root of the problem to almost every story comes to the reasons left behind in the past."

Silence lingered between them again for a moment before he spoke up again, causing her heart to beat faster.

"Rydia."

This was the second time he called her by her name. Not "missy", not "hey you", not "neko-chan", but her name. The way he said her name caused her to look back up again, back into those golden eyes. He spoke it so differently from the others. It was as if the Melbane blood in him told him to speak it like how a Melbane would without even realizing it.

She wondered why she never noticed his accent before. Perhaps it was because he spoke the common tongue so fluidly that it was difficult to notice. She then wondered why she was thinking of odd, trivial things at a time like this.

"You can trust us, Rydia," he continued, unaware of the thoughts in her head. "You can trust…me. Don't burden this all on your own. Whether you think of it or not, we decided to come with you even if all of our reasons are different. If you can at least tell us, if anything, of what you're going through then you can at least know that you're not alone. We're already too involved in this whether you like it or not - and whoever's after you won't let us be even if you do leave again."

Rydia examined the seriousness of his words, in his eyes. She looked away from his intense gaze and down at her hands again, carefully forming her response. She knew that it was impossible to not get someone involved since she could not avoid people even if she tried. Little Aiko was a very good example of that.

But what he said of trust…could she really trust others? Such little contact with the outside world other than short trips around the world, occasional visits to Lilandre, and stragglers or visitors to the temple made Rydia extremely socially inept with people - even those she had known for a long time. Of course, it was hard to tell on the outside since Rydia liked to project the image that she was an extremely nice and friendly person, which she really was. It was something that she developed as second nature over the years since Master Odin was not an extremely social person himself; someone had to go and look for anybody to help out in the woods surrounding the temple and tend to them as guests.

"…Would you…" she finally managed to say, "…would you still stay even if it might cost you your life? Even if you knew that I might lose control of myself one day?"

She wondered to herself why she was revealing to him this information but she continued anyway.

"My magic…it's not what it used to be," she continued. "I can fell that something's not right. Ever since I left that time…I knew that something was wrong. I wanted to find the place where my mother lived to not only figure out why these beings are after me but why my magic feels as if it's about to go haywire." She finally looked at him, struggling to keep the mask of confidence in her voice and on her face. "You want to know why that creature was after me? Back then, I didn't know why but I think that now, staying here in this village, I think it's because of what I'm capable of doing. It's like…they know how powerful I can get when I don't even know myself."

She looked away from him again, ignoring the tears streaming down her cheeks.

"They're willing to use anything to get me to the level that they want me to be whether it means that the people around me, the people I care about, will be killed in order to do so."

"That's why I left," she whispered. "To protect everyone from myself."

Silence lingered between them again with only the waves of the lake hitting against their boat from the wind. She honestly did not want to see his reaction, even when she looked up earlier. The sorceress berated herself for breaking down like that since it was Kentarou she was speaking to after all. He might just think of her as a little kid from her outburst, but she wanted someone to listen to her fears. Aiko was too young to understand and she only knew the girl for a little over a month. The mogs would listen to her but she did not know their tongue well enough to be able to understand them fluently. Plus, the white creatures were so talkative amongst one another that a secret was easily revealed.

She could feel movement in the boat, but Rydia didn't actually acknowledge it until his arms wrapped around her body and pulled her closer to him. She was surprised at first and her face burned hot.

"You idiot," Kentarou murmured in her ear. "Don't push this all onto yourself. Like I said before: it doesn't matter what situation you're in - we joined because we wanted to."

He let a pause linger so that his words would sink in before continuing on. "And if you ever find yourself in danger-by others or by your powers…I'll protect you."

Her eyes widened, although he could not see her, he felt her move her head against his shoulder.

"I'll protect you, I swear you that," he repeated. "I'll protect you by whatever means necessary."

"So…don't feel as if you have to figure this out all on your own."

She heard the sincerity of his words and wondered to herself why. Why was he being so kind, so serious, so unlike the Kentarou she had gotten to know the first time they met? Something happened in between Michika and now, and Rydia didn't know what it was. All she could do was allow herself to bury her head into his shoulder and cry, unaware that someone was watching them.


She went almost everywhere in the abandoned village except for the mountain that loomed over them with no trace of finding her friend. It was hard to trace her aura in this place. Though the village of summoners was long abandoned, it still teemed with life - life of the magic that remained. Sakana felt as if the summoners who had inhabited the village wanted to leave their homeland like this as if to protect something that still remained here untouched.

Sakana could hear the cries of this village, her ears so attuned to the magic that was instilled in her since birth. It wrenched her heart to hear them. They cried, pleaded for help, pleaded for anyone to listen to their story. The sky faerie tied her best not to listen because it went against the rules of her Clan, but it pained her to just hear the murmurs.

Feuille Pinnacle, the village of summoners, would perhaps forever be haunted by the unknown events that took place here - separated from the outside world.

Her sensitive ears heard the trembles of familiar voices, her mind just realizing that she arrived at the lake. She caught sight of Rydia in a boat with Kentarou and unconsciously decided to hid from their view. She did not want to intrude and eavesdrop on their conversation, but she did find it a little odd for Kentarou to find Rydia before her. But then again, the bandit had changed over the course they had been traveling together and was beginning to show sides of himself that he had kept hidden and under wraps from the eyes of anyone who suspected of his heritage.

If she were the enemy, Kentarou would have been an extremely dangerous opponent to handle.

"You want to know why that creature was after me? Back then, I didn't know why but I think that now, staying here in this village, I think it's because of what I'm capable of doing. It's like…they know how powerful I can get when I don't even know myself."

Sakana could hear the pain in Rydia's voice, and it reminded her of the murmurs and cries in the air around them. It tore her heart again to hear it, especially from someone that she knew.

Rydia…you shouldn't do that to yourself.

She heard the sorceress continue to say something else, but her distance from the boat and the cries from the village caused the sky faerie to not hear her actual words.

But when she saw Kentarou wrap his arms around the sorceress' small frame and pull her closer to him, something inside Sakana died a little. She had always known the strange feelings that she had for Kentarou would never grow into the kind of love she had heard in many tales of old. Fae and humans were never to mingle with one another, and if they did the one who possessed fae blood would always be in pain. Yet something kept on telling Sakana it might work out okay; perhaps it was those two voices who told her so. Kentarou was extremely kind, passionate, uninterested in what creature you were as long as you respectful to him and he would return the favor. He was like that to everyone except for Rydia, and now Sakana realized why.

The sky faerie let a small, sad smile creep to her lips as she turned around and began to walk away, happy for her two friends who were oblivious to her presence.


[Elsewhere…]

He sat in the darkness of his chambers, concentrating on the only light in the room which was in his hands. His cerulean blue eyes watched the blue flame flicker in his hands, hands that had been stained in blood since his arrival here.

You can find her without my help if you broke your soul contract.

What did she mean by those words? His former partner and friend seemed to know more about the girl they were set on capturing than she had first let on. The former angel disregarded that thought as nonsense since Schala was the girl's guardian. But the more he thought about it, the more his mind was beginning to make some sense of it.

However, the reason why he made the soul contract with Orion was to erase the pain that caused him to forsake his loyalty to Hyne. Yet in the midst of that pain…was joy.

The joy of…

His senses felt Ryuuho's presence even before the man politely announced himself from behind the door.

"Raiden."

It was soft, his voice, but the former angel could tell that this was a command. Though the two were seen by the other members of their "alliance" as equals, the half vampire, half human was the one who was in charge. Raiden did not mind that as long as he got his revenge.

He also knew that Ryuuho was merely a link to their main corroborator, their master the demon God Orion.

"Does this matter have to deal with the girl?" Raiden asked, gazing into the fire in his hands.

"Our newly captured prisoner has escaped," Ryuuho replied. "I want you to retrieve the twins so that they can pursue him." A pause. "The barrier to Feuille Pinnacle is impenetrable to them and our prey lies inside."

Raiden pondered the information for a moment. "You would rather have me capture her because I can enter the village."

"Survivors still exist there."

His muscles stiffened at the words, the eyes wide with disbelief. The memories of entering the village of summoners in rage flashed before him. Their looks of fear, their screams, their pitiful battles for life against him … all for the life of the one he could not save - a bond that should have never happened but did. Raiden closed his eyes, blocking out the memory and the pain beginning to creep to his head.

"…I understand."

From behind the door, Ryuuho couldn't help but smile. His plans were going exactly as planned.

"However, I do not want you to capture her just yet," he added. "There is still the temple that the summoners had regarded so highly of."

"And within lies an ancient creature that possesses a power equal to Hyne," Raiden finished.

"So you know about the temple's secret."

A flash of a woman crossed his mind, her emerald eyes smiling back at him as her pale green hair fell to frame her face. Raiden flinched slightly as the familiar pain increased, but he managed to mask the pain from the much younger creature.

"Yes, but I have never been able to go inside," he opened his eyes again as the pain subsided. "They require a summoner of pure blood to activate the ruins and unseal the creature. Supposedly it was sealed because it went against its master and had attempted to destroy the village."

Hmm…so she would do no good despite the power she has managed to attain, Ryuuho thought, his eyes narrowed.

"Use one of the natives there to unseal the creature," he said, though it was more of a command than a request.

Raiden paused for a moment, hesitating though he had no other choice. "Understood."

As Ryuuho turned away from the door, Raiden also added, "May I ask why you released the fae?"

The half-vampire twitched another hint of a smile. "In order to get what is necessary, sometimes letting one piece go will lead you to what you want."

And with that, the flame in Raiden's hand burned out.


[Feuille Pinnacle]

"Temple? There's a temple here?"

Aiko nodded and then hopped over Shion and Phoenix to sit on the windowsill, her legs dangling over on the other side. She pointed to the mountain that loomed over the village a ways from where they were.

"It's inside over there," she said. "The temple's extremely important to us."

Shion observed the geographic structure, noting its tan and red colors, and spotted the outline of a ridge that he assumed to be the entrance. He couldn't help but think that the area was just as hidden as the rest of the village itself.

"What's inside there?" It was an innocent question out of mere curiosity, but Shion also wanted to see the reasons why the village itself was isolated from the rest of the world.

Aiko shook her head. "I don't know. Grandpa never told me."


[Outside]

Jade watched her sister pace back and forth, sharing her younger half's frustration but not in her reactions. Jax was the more impulsive one of the two. Jade knew this, yet she made no attempt to stop her younger twin's tantrum.

"That little brat," Jax growled as she stopped in the middle of the path she walked on and turned back around, heading towards her sister. "I will rip her to shreds once I find her."

"If we can get through this barrier, you mean," Jade pointed out from her position against a tree. "The renowned summoners kept up their reputation by sealing this place away from the world and beyond."

Her twin sister let out a light, sinister chuckle at her words. "Are they really powerful as they are told to be sister? That girl didn't seem too bright."

Jade merely gave her a cool stare. "Do not disregard the stories or their strength, sister. You might never know when you will be killed."

Jax met her stare with that of one who contemplated over her elder's words and stubbornly refused to heed them at the same time. Out of the beings that they had encountered, all the two could listen to were those they knew to be considerably more powerful than themselves and each other - even if Jade refused to listen to Jax most of the time and the latter sometimes defied her. It was in these moments of agreement, though, that Jax usually obeyed her more level-headed sister.

The twins did not encounter any summoners as they had been wiped out when the two were mere toddlers, but Jade secretly feared their power after observing the sorceress' battles from the eyes of their hideout below. The green-haired sorceress may not have been skilled in the beginning, but she possessed an extraordinary ability to learn quickly from her mistakes. Whatever was in her blood was that of no ordinary mortal she encountered in her short span of life so far.

Their attention was diverted when they sensed an aura forming nearby. Bracing themselves for an attack, the twins were a little surprised to see Raiden step out of the portal that opened in the rift.

"What are you doing here?" Jax demanded.

Although they knew that the former angel was much more powerful than them and had lived centuries longer, the twins could not help but be suspicious of the angel-turned-demon. Yet their leader, Ryuuho, respected him and they could do nothing but display their dislike for the creature.

It made them even angrier when Raiden feigned indifference towards them as he did with everyone else.

"Ryuuho has ordered for you two return," Raiden said to them. "Your father has managed to escape."

"What??" Jax exclaimed. "How can he escape with the maze that he was set in? And especially if you and Ryuuho are there regardless of Zai-"

"Jax," Jade cut in to stop her from saying anymore. Although the creature before them rarely showed any emotion, if any at all, she did not want to test his patience. The demon lived for centuries and with that came power and wisdom beyond from what they accomplished in their much shorter lifetime.

And if Ryuuho ordered for them to return and complete other tasks, then there was always a reason behind it.

"You can penetrate this barrier," she stated, her golden eyes gauging his. "And only we can hunt down our father effectively, is that correct?"

"There are mechanisms inside the village that only those who have lived in it can operate," Raiden answered indirectly.

The two stared each other down before Jade relented and turned away.

"Very well," she replied and gave a quick glance to her younger half who looked like she was about to protest. "Jax, let us go."

With one quick snap of her fingers, a tear in the rift opened. Before she disappeared to the other side with her sister, Jade gave one last look at the demon and left. To her, there would be another time for them to grab their opportunity of power.


[At the lake]

A sudden chill ran through her body, jolting her out of her current state of warmth and comfort in his arms. He felt her shiver although she tried to hard it.

"Rydia?"

She forced herself to pull away, looking around them. They were still in the boat and in the middle of the lake. It hadn't changed until she felt it.

"Did you feel that?" she asked.

He too looked around until he sensed what he thought she felt. They sky rippled in waves above them as if something disturbed its peace. The wind had picked up, whispering foreign words of danger to their ears.

And then…it came: the dark, powerful aura. It wasn't even trying to mask it this time like at Rydia's former home - it was using its power to penetrate through the barrier that sealed the village from the rest of the world for the past twenty years.

And as soon as it came, it stopped. A short silence lingered among them before Rydia spoke up.

"I'm worried about Aiko."

It didn't take much to prompt Kentarou to grab the oars and row back to shore. "And I want to know that the hell that aura was."


He knew that most of them sensed his presence, and he intended for it to be that way. The girl was definitely here, and he could tell that she had become more refined in her abilities by sensing the change in her aura. However, he was not here for her now. What he was after was what had been ingrained in his mind since Ryuuho said them.

Survivors still exist in the village.

Those words were enough for him cast all the pain and memories aside and complete the task that made him one step closer to his ultimate goal.


The fluffy white creature in her arms suddenly stirred frantically in her arms and hopped out of her lap.

"Kupo! Kupo-po-po!" it said to her in a panic.

"What's wrong with your friend?" Shion asked the girl and sensed Phoenix next to him inch closer towards the wall.

Aiko got off the window sill and observed the mog's frantic gestures and high pitched noises before her eyes went wide.

"Moogle says that we have to go hide!" she translated as she tugged on the man's sleeve. "Something really powerful managed to get in here!"

The immediate thought that came to Shion's mind was the two shadows that had attacked them not so long ago. As soon as he stood up, though, Aiko let go and rushed outside with Moogle. Something inside of him panicked. After all, she was just a little girl.

"Hey, wait a second, Aiko!"

"I'll get her," Phoenix finally said and took the much shorter route to get outside the home via the open window.

"Oi, Phoe--!" Shion attempted to stop her but she, too, was gone.

With no other choice left, Shion too left the house. It did not take long for him to find them, but the girl and mog were clearly much faster than the two adults combined.

"It's over this way!" he heard Aiko say as she and Moogle turned a corner in the maze of homes.

Something definitely did not feel right. Shion did not have much experience in magic, but the gut instinct inside him felt something that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. When he finally reached the corner, he nearly ran into Phoenix who had stopped. Like the woman, he had to shield his eyes from the wind that suddenly picked up in the old plaza of the village where a fountain once stood.

He couldn't quite figure out what was going on because the dust that swirled around them clouded his vision, but he heard a yelp not far from him yet he could do nothing.

When the wind died down, Shion and Phoenix opened their eyes to greet the source of the wind's sudden burst of energy. Shion wondered to himself it the woman next to him could feel the demon's aura literally emanating out in waves because, even with his small pack of knowledge in magic, he could still sense it. The creature hovered slightly above the ground by the nature of his angular wings. His hair was a dark red, its eyes a soft blue hue. Yet what struck out the most to Shion was that the creature before them looked very human, the clothes that covered it fit loosely on its body to show just enough scars that told the rogue that this human-like creature had gone through many a battle - most likely some that sent it to the brink of death.

The creature before them wasn't like the Kirika, the fae, or any other demi-human existing in the world. He could easily meld with humans as long as his wings were hidden from view.

And right now, the human-like being held an unconscious Aiko and Moogle in one arm.

"Aiko!"

The sound of Rydia's voice seemed to break everyone in the vicinity from their stupor. The creature turned around to face the approaching sorceress and Kentarou. Sakana was also arriving diagonally across from the two. As if in response to their approach, the human-like creature beat his wings once to hover even higher above ground. They all covered their eyes from the dust that flew up from the action.

"Let them go!" Rydia shouted as soon as the wind died down. "They have nothing to do with this!" The being merely stared at her as she continued on. "You want me, don't you? Then you can have me as long as you let Aiko and Moogle go!"

"Let him go!" she cried out, the tears streaming down her cheeks as she was being held back by the men around them. "You want me to come back, don't you? I was the one who committed this act, so he has nothing to do with this! As long as you release him, you can have me!"

Raiden blinked once as the memory came back to him as well as the pain that accompanied such a sharp memory. The image of the woman with soft light green hair passed over the sorceress' form before it faded away. Inside the demon, slight hesitation settled in.

Who was that woman?

"If you want the girl returned," he said as he summoned the wind that hid his presence to capture the child in his arms, driving the pain away, "then climb up to Mt. Zuni and approach the temple sacred to your kind."

A look of determination stirred in her mismatched eyes. A look that was very similar to…

But before the demon could contemplate it any longer, the spell finished and he greeted the darkness of his memories.