Chapter Five ~ The Kirika Clan

She was dreaming…endlessly dreaming…

Rydia wandered through the forest of her home smiling for no apparent reason. Maybe it was because it was peaceful. Or maybe it was because it was a place that she new so well. The creatures were used to her presence, her songs that she would absentmindedly sing to herself about the climactic battle thousands of years before - in a world much different from her own - and how the evil was sealed away to never return.

Then she plunged into the epitome of darkness; a darkness that she had never known before.

Hands reached out towards her, and Rydia tried to fend them off.

"Get away from me!" she screamed.

Someone cackled in the darkness. Foolish girl, you can never escape.

She backed away from the hands until they could reach for her no more. The voice hissed as an invisible barrier broke them apart.

Ssss…so close, so close, it said.

"…who are you?" Rydia whispered, holding fast to her necklace.

That sneaky Schala for putting that spell on you.

"Schala? Who's Schala?"

The hands began to fade from her view. Rydia tried to reach for them in vain, desperate for answers that had been left unsolved for years.

"Hey, what a sec! Answer me!" she shouted at the darkness. "Who's Schala?"


Then she fell even further away from her dream.



Both Kentarou and Sakana stopped in their tracks upon hearing her voice. After entering into the Rift Viola had created, they entered into the Petrified Forest - a forest that was well-known among any traveler to be one of the most peaceful. The creatures inhabiting the area did not dare create a disturbance in their territory for fear of retaliation by their masters --- the Kirika Clan.

Sakana immediately flew back to Kentarou who had begun to lag behind again because of their load.

"Rydia, are you okay?" she frantically asked the young sorceress.

"Neko-chan…" Kentarou murmured soft enough for only her to hear. Rydia didn't respond to their calls and only frowned.


Her lips moved without sound. Sakana and Kentarou looked at one another in confusion before focusing their attention back to Rydia.

"Looks like she's having a bad dream…" Kentarou commented.

Sakana frowned with concern before placing a hand on the sorceress's forehead. "That's odd…how can she be talking?"


"Faerie blood tends to make mortals fall into a sleep without nightmares," she explained to him. "Unless it's dark fae blood."

"But you're not dark fae."

Sakana shook her head. "No, I'm not…" A pause before she let her hand fall. "She doesn't have a fever, that's good."

They continued walking, Sakana going as slowly as she could by Kentarou's side, when she remembered something.


The bandit glanced at her before looking back down to watch his step. Though Petrified Forest was quiet, the dirt path proved to be more of a danger to him with Rydia on his back. He shifted Rydia a bit, but she still did not stir. He wondered to himself if the sorceress was always like this.

"What is it, Sakana?"

"Where exactly are we going?" she asked.

They both stopped again as he turned his entire body from side to side to look at their surroundings. The mist in the forest was getting thicker, and for the first time in the hours they had spent wandering in the forest he had realized that it was getting close to nightfall.

"There's a village nearby," he told her in a low voice. The secondary instinct he had developed over the years living with Blank's group had taught the bandit swordsman to be wary of the dark. "Once we reach there we can -"

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see something rustle in the bushes. Sakana, too, noticed this and quickly fell into a defensive posture - hovering protectively over Kentarou and Rydia.

That's just great…at a time like this, he thought grimly. He was in no position to defend himself, and he definitely wasn't going to leave Rydia out of his sight. For the first time as well, he realized that during their journey to Mt. Collaseaus, both Sakana and he had depended on Rydia for their attack and defense due to her extended knowledge and range of magic. Or rather, she always volunteered her abilities to be put to use.

The rustling of the bushes revealed creatures that were neither human nor feline, yet they possessed features of both. They had surrounded the trio at an unbelievable pace with their weapons drawn and ready to attack at any moment.

"What now?" Sakana murmured.

Kentarou didn't answer her question right away, vainly trying to decipher the strange tongue the felines were speaking. "I think we stepped into their territory."

"…what's going on?" a very family voice mumbled, catching the two by surprise.

"Hey, neko-chan, you're awake?" Kentarou managed to say before the blade of a machete closed in dangerously at his throat.

"Kentarou!" Sakana reacted but stopped short from reaching him as the other felines quickly blocked her path.

Unaware of their situation, Rydia blinked the remnants of sleep before she realized that she was on Kentarou's back. What…happened?The language of the felines caught her ears as well as the group that surrounded them. She knew what they were saying, and her eyes widened at their words. I have to do something.

"Kentarou, put me down," she ordered him.

A bit afraid to reply with a machete at his throat, Kentarou's eyes hesitantly glanced back at the sorceress.

She knew what he was thinking. "It's all right. They're just being a bit protective - they won't do anything unless you provoke them."

"Do you know what they're saying, Rydia?" Sakana asked incredulously.

"They're the Kirika, guardians of this forest," Rydia replied before looking back at Kentarou. "Kentarou, trust me."

He slowly, and a bit reluctantly, dropped her. Even though Sakana's cloak covered her body, Rydia couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable in her torn clothing and instinctively wrapped her arms around her. She then took a bold step forward just enough for the felines to acknowledge her presence.

"Who is your leader?" she asked in the very same tongue they were speaking, which surprised both sides.

The Kirika looked at one another, unsure how to respond to the green-haired one. Rydia let the confusion linger for a moment before she addressed them again.

"I know you can understand me," she told them. "Who is your leader? I know Hiruka is no longer of this world, so someone must have taken her place."

Some of the felines began to relax as something in their memory resurfaced at the sound of her voice. The one who had drawn her machete at Kentarou's throat took the courage to lower her weapon to stare intently at the sorceress. She was probably the one who stood out the most amongst the crowd of felines. Almost every inch of her tanned muscular body not wrapped by the thin wrap of furs she wore were adorned with battle scars. Like the other felines, her ears were very much like Sakana's though with softer, more rounded edges. Her long waves of hair were a vibrant shade of red and her emerald eyes just added to the effect of making her stand out even more. They were piercing daggers of death towards Kentarou earlier, but now they held a sense of softness that one could only hold when they run into an old friend.

After what seemed to be agonizing hours of tension and misunderstanding, Kentarou and Sakana heard the feline roll out a word they could understand: "…Koneko ?"

Koneko? They mentally repeated.

Rydia turned her attention towards the feline, trying to make a match to the face in her memory. A wave of uneasiness washed through the Kirika, asking one another and the feline as to whom "Koneko" was. To Rydia, however, it was a name she was quite familiar with.

Then, as if something had triggered lost memories, she knew who this battle-worn feline was.

"…Kaika, you've changed."

<Michika Village ~ some hours later>

Kentarou watched over the scenery before him, trying to place back the past few events that had recently occurred earlier. It was nightfall, but not too far ahead for the village was still quite vibrant after dark.

And for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, he had some time to himself - even if he was under a close eye by the Kirika.

Rydia had explained to them after the matter of intrusion had resolved that she and Odin used to visit the Kirika village quite often. She had first entered the village when she had caught a ravenous fever as a young child and was near death when her master took her there. The Kirika were quite famous for not only their warriors and tendency to capture men as their slaves but as great medical healers as well. The variety of herbs and healing spells were beyond any magic school could supply and it was how Rydia learned the majority of her healing spells quickly. She and Odin went to the village so often that they were given surnames: Koneko and Tamashi.

"Though, it's been two years since I've been back here," were Rydia's cheerful words.

She doesn't look it, but the sorceress seems to know a lot more than I do. And she's younger than me, he mused. Damn, that's kinda irritating.

Yet what was irritating him at the moment was not the fact that her assistance and persuasion kept him from getting snapped by the felines and become chained like many of the other captured men in the village, but for the fact that the man who accompanied Kaika earlier as her "pet" looked vaguely familiar.


The sound of her voice snapped him out of lingering thoughts of the past and back to the reality of the present. He had barely turned around only to feel her smack something onto his back. Hard.

"Ow, hey! What was that for?" he yelled at her more out of surprise than anger.

Rydia just grinned, which wasn't something that he had expected for her to do. After their endless "arguments", Kentarou made a note to himself that the sorceress was incredibly unpredictable when it concerned her temper. He wasn't sure if seeing her happy and bouncing about was a good thing either.

"This," she explained, tapping onto the item she slapped onto his jacket, "will keep you out of trouble when you wander around here. The villagers will know who you are and won't do anything to you unless you, yourself, do something stupid to provoke them."

"Okay…" he replied, proceeding to take off his jacket to see what was on it. Like I'll try to get in trouble. "And why does this make me stand out?"

"You saw them, didn't you? All of the men here in this village are their slaves. They can't leave unless the Kirika who owns them allows it."

The thought of him wrapped up in chains like some of the men he had seen so far scared Kentarou. There would be no way in hell would he be someone's lap dog.

Another image of him on a leash with Rydia as his owner deemed a little bit better.

Oy, what the hell am I thinking? he chided.

"Okay, I get your point," he agreed while trying to decipher the strange character on his jacket. He didn't notice Rydia's eyes stray from his face down to the well-built arms and to the dragon tattoo engraved on his right shoulder.

Where did he get that tattoo from, I wonder? she thought.

"What does this say, anyway?" he asked.

"Um…" she paused to remember. "Little demon, I think."

Kentarou froze at the name. Long forgotten memories of that horrid nickname he was called when he was a kid came flooding back. Only one person still continued to call him that even after the trend died much to his dismay. It couldn't be…

Unaware of the raging thoughts bursting in the bandit swordsman's mind, Rydia stared at Kentarou with a tint of confusion.

"Kentarou…are you okay?"

"Neko-chan…" he addressed her with all the control he could muster. It wasn't her fault, no, it was far from it. But if the spunky little sorceress found out… "Who gave you this?"

Still confused, Rydia shrugged. She was in too good of a mood to let his annoyance spoil it. "It was Kaika's servant, you know, the guy we met earlier."

She arched a curious eyebrow. "Is it the name?"

"N-no…not really," No, he couldn't explain this to her of all people. She would call him "mano-chan**" for life in revenge for naming her "neko-chan".

"I can ask Kaika if she can get a different symbol -"

"No, I'll do it myself," he cut her off as he began to walk away. "Where's that guy?"

"Um…I think he's in the wine cellar, why?" She watched his laid back form fade into the darkness.

"Just want to make sure about something…"

She watched him turn a corner before all was left was her and the moon that saw them together.

…That was weird…she thought as she looked up at the moon. Its beauty and serenity felt quite out of place in such a village as this. I wonder why he got so riled up just about the name. A misplaced smile fell on her lips. But it kind of suits him in a way.

"Um…Rydia?" Sakana's voice called behind her. The sorceress turned around, her new clothing given by the locals suiting her "graceful" presence in the moonlight. Sakana stared at her friend for a minute, wondering why she was beginning to look like the woman spoken about in legends of old, but quickly shook the thought aside. Maybe it was because it had been an extremely long day and a half.

"What is it, Sakana?" Rydia asked with a cheerful smile.

The smile led Sakana back to the thought of how much of the child-like innocence her friend still held. Why Rydia, of all people, stuck with this burden placed upon her when the star fell?

"Um…I have a favor to ask you…"

<Michika Village ~ Wine Cellar>

With each step that he took that led him closer to the wine cellar of Kaika's home, the frustrated anger he held with so much conviction when Rydia had said those "forbidden" words was slowly beginning to turn to doubt and fear. Doubt for the fact that it couldn't be him. His best friend was dead. He died seven years ago. But the fear melding in with his doubt was for the possibility that it could be him. Who else would know how to tick him off with those two little words plastered onto him as a kid?

Unless it's some goddamn cruel joke and my mind's playing tricks on me…he bitterly thought.

"Hey, are you just goin' to stand there or are you goin' to go get some sake, mano-chan?" said a voice behind him.

The muscles on his back stiffened at the sound of the "forbidden" name echoing back in the language of his village long ago. He knew that voice. That suave, conniving, persuading voice tremoring ten times deeper than years past. The voice which made all women swoon to the ground and got itself in trouble one too many times.

Yet his mind kept on repeating that it couldn't be him. He was dead; he'd been dead for seven years.


Kentarou turned around to face the man he had cast suspicion on hours earlier accompanying Kaika in the village. He was around the same age as Kentarou with hair just a tad shade lighter than the bandit's dark brown, tied back in a ponytail similar to Kentarou' s but not as intricate. Unlike Kentarou, however, his darker garments contrasted the bandit's white jacket and pants. Strapped loosely around his waist was a kodaichi - a sword that fell just short of a katana's full length yet it was just as deadly. A crimson scarf was wrapped about his neck to cover his face, but Kentarou could see quite well that he was smiling back at him with those wolf-like emerald eyes of his.

"S'been a while, Kentarou," Shion said to him. "From the looks of it, you've been doin' well."

First the mixture of surprise and doubt had overwhelmed the poor bandit. Now, the anger was slowly beginning to take over. Anger filled with questions.

"So you've been here all this time?!?" Kentarou growled through clenched teeth. His fists were curled so tightly that they were shaking. "And as a slave? That's hardly the Shion I knew."

"I'm not a slave," Shion calmly told him with an even gaze. Then he sighed, "Hell, who would want to be one in this place? You've seen some of those guys. Let themselves get pushed around by a bunch of felines. Some have been so brutalized that there ain't a single ounce of pride in 'em anymore."

"Then why didn't you at least give some sign, then?" Kentarou's voice ebbed to a husky murmur. "Hell, we looked everywhere for survivors…but all there was…"

"…were bits and pieces of whatever was left of that caravan," Shion finished for him. A wave of anguish masked over his eyes, taking Kentarou by surprise.

A tint of silence hovered over the men before Shion decided to break it by sliding open the door to the wine cellar.

"For women, they make some pretty damn good sake," he told Kentarou. "Want some?"

Kentarou stared at his friend for a moment before shrugging his shoulders in compliance. For all the past seven years trying to cut back down on the alcohol intake, he couldn't care less now. It was just ironic:

The world was small after all.

<Michika Village ~ Rydia's room>

"Huh? You want me to take the spell off?" Rydia asked in disbelief.

Sakana had a feeling that the sorceress did not remember her conversation with Kentarou on Mt. Collaseaus, but she still felt nervous anyway for some odd reason.

"Well…I thought about it a lot on our way here and while you were still sleeping," she tried to explain, nervously twisting her hands in her lap. "And…disguising myself as a mortal just feels…awkward."

Rydia folded her arms, figuring out what to do. Sakana thought that her friend's silence meant that there was something wrong.

"Um…if you can't, then it's no bother…" she managed to say.

Rydia smiled. "Oh, it's not that, Sakana."

She curled out of her Indian style position and pulled her knees up to her chest where she rested her chin.

"If I uncast the spell, everybody's going to think that I'm crazy because they won't be able to see you," she said, voicing out her thoughts to the sky faerie. "Nevertheless Kentarou, who knows that you exist."

"…I can just imagine him freak out at the sound of my voice and not knowing where I am," Sakana chuckled.

Rydia burst out laughing at the mere image. "Yeah, he would."

"But…I'm not saying to just literally take off the spell…"

"You want me to tweak it a bit so everyone can see what I see." Sakana blinked in surprise.

How…how did she know that? She had felt no mind probing like Viola did to communicate information with Mind magic. So then…

[Mortal, yes, but her aura has something else, too…not fae, but magical…] Viola's words repeated in her head.

"Um…yeah…" What is she?

Rydia looked up in thought, oblivious to what was either coincidence or her unknown "ability".

"Hmm…well, there is a more powerful version of the spell. But I'm not sure if it'll work."

"What do you mean?" Sakana arched a suspicious eyebrow.

"Well, I don't know the side effects of it," Rydia explained with a sheepish smile. "I've never tried it on anyone before nor have I read what effects could be endured. Let's just say that I don't want to turn you into a chicken or something like that."

"Mind magic can do that?"

"Well, yeah…especially if it hasn't been tested yet," Rydia laughed. "My first lesson on that was when I was trying out 'Manipulation' on Master Odin and accidentally turned him into a toad instead. It took me a few hours to get him back to normal. He was so mad…"

Sakana paused at the story and began to doubt if this was the right thing to do. Though she had extreme confidence in Rydia's unbelievable talent in magic, she certainly didn't want to be turned into a toad.

But then again…she didn't want another uncomfortable moment with a certain sword-wielding bandit.

"Just try it, Rydia."

The sorceress stared at her curiously as if she was making sure that Sakana was determined in her decision. True, it had been ages since her magic wouldn't turn out the way it should have been, and the Manipulation spell incident was actually the first and only time her magic truly went haywire. Odin did always tell her that she was a natural genius in sorcery.

"Well…all right," she replied after much thought.

Rydia straightened out her legs and held a hand up towards Sakana, whispering the archaic words of the spell. Sakana sat there, watching her, trying to decipher the words spilling out of Rydia's lips to no avail. It was no language she could recognize, not was it one - she thought - that any scholar, historian, or any wise creature witnessing the progress of the world for hundreds of years could understand. Another barrage of curiosity swept through Sakana's mind, wondering what Rydia's heritage really was.

Then the muscles of her body stiffened as she felt the spell surround her, coursing through her veins like wildfire. It disappeared just as quickly as she sensed it, but Sakana was overwhelmed by just that mere millisecond of energy. She looked down at herself just to make sure that Rydia's experimentation didn't have any flaws. So far, no features or scales.

"Take a look at yourself in the mirror," Rydia told her. "I can't really tell if it worked or not since I can already see you."

Sakana complied, still trying to figure out the source of the spell. She knew very little about the range and types of magic other than Sky for she was a sky faerie. However, the experience with Viola for so long in her younger days as a faerie-in-training gave her a little bit of insight towards the concept of Mind magic.

"Rydia, what was that spell?" Sakana asked her as she looked at herself in the mirror. Whatever the spell was, it had proved to show her true nature as fae, not human. She touched her cheek just to make sure.

"Invisible," the sorceress simply replied as she curled back to an Indian style position. "It's the third level of Disguise, but I figured that it would have the opposite effect on you since you already remain invisible to many people not having Fae sight."

"The third level*?" Sakana was astonished. Could just one battle such as Lady Siren's test raise her magical affinity so significantly? If not, then…

"Rydia, why didn't you cast this on me when we met?"

Rydia looked down at her hands, tracing over the symbols of the elements she had learned over the years. Her lips curled into a small, distant smile - her eyes held a cloud of sadness.

"I didn't have the power before," she whispered. Otherwise…Master Odin would have never been killed.



AUTHORESS NOTES: Well, the fifth chapter has finally arrived! So, it's kinda boring…(there has to be some boring chapters in here ^^), but no worries! More character depth and travel, as well as the introduction of some new enemies, will be coming in the next few chapters! Plus…the truth behind Rydia's journey ^^.


*mano-chan, Kentarou's "horrible" childhood nickname, was just something that I came up with. The term will be explained in a later chapter about Kentarou's past

** There are four levels to each kind of magic spell, with the exception of Holy magic and DarFire magic (they have only two). Level three is the second highest on the tier, and it's one of the highest most magic users can go unless they have a natural affinity with magic. Very few except for specialists, higher beings (such as demons and angels), and the summoners from the Village of Summoners (to be explained in Chapter 9) have mastered to the fourth level. So...that's why Sakana was so surprised that Rydia had mastered level three at such a young age as herself (remember, Rydia is only 16).