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Child Of Darkness

Chapter Eighteen

Chaz, Demi, Hahn, and Raja, through many a trial, neared Garuberk's apex and the end of their journey. Garuberk offered many obstacles to them, and they had conquered every last one. It seemed that the tower was now just throwing pathetic little obstacles at them. If it were a Palman, Chaz could have sworn that it was doing it half-heartedly, not really concerned if they made it or not. This puzzled the Hunter because he was not used to being led on a wild goose chase, which this seemed like it was turning out to be.

No one talked and they had long since abandoned all their caution. Although it resisted them at first, Garuberk appeared to have given up. If it wanted to, it could have sent legions of creatures to destroy them at a moment's notice. Instead, it allowed them safe passage, not living up to its previous reputation.

At long last, Chaz led his companions into the towers topmost room, a place where he, Wren, Rika, and Kyra battled a manifestation of Dark Force. Under his direction, they all prepared their weapons just in case they were met with opposition. Fortunately, much to Chaz's disapproval, there was nothing. "So, what now?" asked Hahn.

"I don't know," the Hunter told him. "We seemed to have come to a dead end. It makes no sense, though. Why would Garuberk suddenly reappear and have absolutely nothing to do with what's happening on Dezoris?" Chaz was silent for a few seconds, lost in his thoughts. "You don't suppose that we were intentionally led here for a reason?"

"You mean like Garuberk was meant to be a decoy?" Raja offered.

"But why?" Demi asked. "What is there to gain? Who or what are we being kept from?"

"You don't suppose -- that we're being kept from our friends?"

Chaz pondered Raja's question and decided that what he said made sense. Garuberk was nothing but a decoy, created to divide their numbers in half. The question on his mind was why did they need to be separated and for whose purpose. An endless web of possibilities flashed before his eyes as he struggled to make sense of what was happening. Garuberk shook beneath his feet, seeming to laugh at what it thought should have been a simple answer for him.

Then it struck him, not a physical phenomenon, but a possibility from within his mind. He heard a voice that was familiar to him, one he recognized as Rika's. Chaz had always believe that he and his wife shared some kind of psychic link to each other, but he never had a chance to test that theory.

Now he was sure.

A pain so intense hit him like a ton of bricks and he fell to his knees. Whatever was happening to Rika at that moment was strong enough to reach across almost half of an entire planet. The pain subsided, but then he was filled with an incredible sadness, one that threatened to rip his heart from his chest. Chaz began to weep, though he did not know why. Demi and the others watched him in curiosity, unsure of whether or not they should try to help him or to let him deal with it himself. He heard a voice speak clearly in his mind, even though it sounded a thousand miles away.

"There is a voice you cannot hear, which says I must not stay. There is a hand, you cannot see, which beckons me away . . . ."


* * * * *

Kyra, Wren, and Gryz watched in horror as Lian proceeded with his strange ritual. Rika lay motionless on the altar, her face the very mask of terror, but unable to protect herself from whatever sinister plan Lian had in store for her. Gryz and Wren attempted to break through the barrier with sheer brute force, but nothing could penetrate Lian's magic. Kyra banged on it with her fist, but it was a valiant attempt at futileness. Light shone out from underneath Rika's body and she was gripped with intense pain she had never experienced before in her short life. Kyra saw her mouth open wide in a scream, but no sound came out.

A sound drew Kyra's attention to the door and she expected to see more renegade Espers rushing in on them, but she was pleasantly surprised, and disconcerted at the same time, to see Chaz, Raja, Demi, and Hahn run inside. Apparently, Chaz had sensed that something was wrong and used Hinas to get him and his friends out of Garuberk, then used his Ryuka Technique to teleport them directly to Esper Mansion. The Hunter paused, took a moment to study his surroundings, then saw what confirmed his greatest fear -- Rika, in the clutches of Darkness. Lian raped her body with his dark sorcery, searching for something, prepared to take her life if to obtain that which he desired.

Chaz ran toward his wife, not seeing or wanting to see the magical barrier between them. Just before he struck it, however, Kyra reached out her arms and restrained him. "Chaz!" she called to him, though he struggled in her grasp, "Chaz, stop! There's nothing we can do! Wren, Gryz -- we all tried, but whatever magic Lian is using is more powerful than all of us combined!"

Chaz shook his head in disbelief. His wife was going to die right before his eyes and he was helpless to stop it. If there was one thing he feared in his life it was that somehow he would not be there for Rika when she needed him most, and now was that time. Both he and Kyra saw Rika's arms move, reach out toward them. Lian's paralysis spell was wearing off, but it was not magic that bound her now, but a paralyzing fear. "Help me! Help me! Help me!" she breathed over and over again, her pleas barely louder than a whisper. Chaz did not need to hear it, though. He could have very easily became paralyzed out of fear of what was happening to her, out of seeing her mask of fear.

The Hunter heard Demi's weapon fire, but he did not know why. "Rika!!" she screamed, "No!!" She fired at the barrier again, hoping her Sonic Buster would shatter it, but to no avail. Wren joined her, firing his Photon Eraser in conjunction with her. Even the combination of both weapons was not enough. "Chaz!" she called to him, "help me!" Demi's shoulders opened up, revealing the array of sound-intensifying crystals. Chaz quickly moved in front of her and, using Airslash, swept from left to right just as Phonomezer fired. When Silent Wave struck the barrier, it shook, but did little more.

"You see, Chaz," it was Kyra again, "we can't get to her."

"Like hell we can't," Hahn spoke, his hands clenched, trembling. "Chaz, ready your sword." Chaz nodded and understood just what Hahn was planning to do. He stood in front of the barrier and raised his sword. Hahn raised his hands and began to bring them back down slowly, his entire body glowing in a strange orange-colored light. A long time ago, Hahn learned that he could use his body as focal point for Astral energy. Through training, he perfected the use of his Astral Skill, and its power was truly awesome.

Chaz moved to the tune of Rayblade's dance, the sword gathering in light as he moved at what seemed to be the speed of light. Just as he did, Hahn's entire body discharged all of its collected Astral energy into it. As a result of their efforts, Paradin Blow struck at Lian's magical barrier, an attack which spanned across two dimensions. The strength of Paradin Blow was unparalleled and nothing, whether biological or mechanical, could withstand it. Lian's barrier sliced open wide, but before anyone could move inside of it, the magic healed itself and they were cut off from her.

All seven of them placed their hands on the barrier, pounding, hoping that it would help but as the same time knowing that it would not. Tears poured from Chaz's eyes and his heart was gripped with an incredible sorrow. He began to sink to his knees, his energy waning. Lost in their concern for Rika, no one noticed, but he knew that he could not do anything for her even if he wanted to. The last time he felt like this was when Alys was dying after being struck by the Black Energy Wave. He felt helpless back then, as he felt now. She died and he could do nothing to save her. Rika was dying, and he once again faced the reality that he could do nothing.

Then it happened -- Lian's ceremony neared completion. Chaz returned to his feet, a fear building inside him. The Esper raised his hands and spoke a few words in a language none of them had ever heard. Black flames burst from his hands and he brought them down onto Rika's abdominal region. Pressing them firmly against her, the black flames allowed entry into her body. The Numan screamed, and the scream was not a muffled one. It rang throughout all of Esper Mansion, touching whoever heard it with fear. It was an ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, scream and Chaz thought that his might join it. Demi covered her auditory units to block out the sound, but nothing she did could.

Lian moved his hands around as if he was searching for something, eventually coming to a stop. Rika lifted her head to see exactly what he was doing to her, fighting against the pain. The Esper smiled evilly and chanted a few more words of that language he was speaking, a language that conjured dark images in Rika's mind. Suddenly, she felt something within her body begin to grow, mature, become more complete. Her body convulsed and she felt like she would explode. Then, the pain stopped and she lifted her head again. Lian began to retract his hands from her abdomen, and she saw . . . feet.

Chaz's eyes opened wide in terror as Lian began to pull something out of his wife's abdomen. He thought he was seeing things when the feet first emerged, but Demi could have told him otherwise because she knew the truth. Soon, feet became legs, and legs were attached to a whole body. Everyone in the room heard the baby's cry the moment its head was removed from Rika's body. The Numan saw the baby, a little girl, and smiled. She trembled, then lay still, an arm falling to the side of the altar.

The Hunter stared in fascinated horror at what just occurred before his eyes. His wife lay seemingly lifeless on the altar, but in Lian's hand he held another life form, a child removed from her body. When he saw the happy expression on Rika's face as it turned toward him under no will of his own, he went livid. Lian laughed, and he held the child up like he was offering a sacrifice to a god. Bringing her back down, he looked at her for a few moments while she cried, then threw her upward, and she disappeared.

Chaz pounded against the barrier, each strike becoming louder, more intense. Kyra sensed a change in the energy within the room, determined that it was turning in Chaz's favor. His entire body was flushed in anger and his eyes burned in an unnatural fire she had never seen before. A deep rumbling became audible, and the Esper Leader knew what was happening. "Chaz!" she screamed, "no! Not in anger, Chaz! NO!!" But the Hunter did not hear her, did not want to hear her. The longer he saw his wife laying there lifelessly on the table, the more angry he became. His gaze turned toward Lian who laughed and sneered without remorse.

In the meanwhile, Kyra herded her friends away from Chaz into a corner of the room furthest from him. "Raja, Wren, Demi!" she spoke hurriedly to them, "we must protect ourselves. Quickly, now, before anything happens!" Kyra cast Warla, its magical strength reinforced by Raja's Blessing. Wren and Demi simultaneously set up Energy Barriers, and all of them huddled together.

At that moment, Chaz's anger exploded. Anger directed and focused could be used effectively as a weapon, but blind anger clouded by other emotions struck out at everything, hurting even those one cared about most. Such was Chaz's case now. Wielding the awesome power of Megid, all of Chaz's pent up anger exploded, manifesting itself as bursts of dynamic energy. Kyra, Wren, and the others were not completely immune, despite their precautionary defenses, and it appeared that their actions were in vain. Lian's magical barrier shattered under the stress, and Megid sought out its target, completely passing over Rika's body. The Esper laughed as if his passing meant little to the entire scheme of things. Megid's explosions tore apart his body, completing incinerating it in the process. There was no way he possibly could have resisted it and even if he did, he would have died soon after.

Megid eventually subsided, but it left singe marks on every wall inside the Council chamber. Kyra and the others still huddled behind their protection, their bodies wracked with every kind of pain imaginable. Chaz's body hurt as well, a result of overexertion, but he still managed to walk over to Rika and lift her into his arms. He slid gently to the floor, cradling her, rocking her as a mother might rock her child to sleep. Placing an ear on her chest, the Hunter listened for a heartbeat and heard a faint one. Using Gires he tried to heal her, but she was not responding. "Rika," he whispered in her ear, "please, hold on. I can't live without you."

Hearing voices, Kyra aroused her friends and used Medice to heal the wounds sustained from Chaz's misuse of Megid. Demi and Wren used Recover to heal their wounds, which was anything from holes burned in their bodies to rupture of small circuitry. When they were through, all six of them joined Chaz, their hearts laden with sadness. "Chaz," Kyra said softly, "Chaz, all of us, we --"

"Get away!" the Hunter struck out at her. "I trusted you! You were supposed to protect her!"

"Chaz! What happened to Rika was not our fault, it was not her fault. Chaz, I know what you're feeling, though I can't pretend to know how it feels. There is so much anger inside of you right now that you're willing to lash out at anybody, even us, your friends. But the anger is not at us -- no, I know you better than that. Chaz, the anger you're feeling is at yourself because you believe that you could have done something had you been here. No one could have done anything short of using Megid like you did, but you nearly destroyed us." Chaz looked up at her, his eyes full of tears, apologetic. "Rika was our friend, too, you know, and as much as we would like to mourn her passing, none of us can afford to. There is something that requires our full attention, for even now Darkness grows stronger. Chaz, as much as you believe Rika needed you then, we need you now. We cannot succeed without you. Rika died while saving all of us."

"She's not dead," the Hunter said solemnly. Hearing his words, Raja rushed up to her, placing a hand upon her head. He concentrated and called upon all of his mystical powers to heal his friend, to breathe life into her body once again. Shimmering spheroids hovered around her body as he used Miracle, but soon they faded, unable or unwilling to enter her. "Raja, what's happening?"

"I --" the Archbishop stuttered, "I can't heal her."

"What do you mean you 'can't heal her?'"

"If her body as well as her soul was injured, my Miracle Skill would have healed both. But there's something more profound about her injuries that I cannot heal, something that is beyond even my power. Whatever that Esper did to her, he took away her soul as well. I sensed it when I first touched her, but I wanted to try, anyway. While her body still breathes, her soul has become a prisoner of Darkness."

"There's nothing you can do?"

"No, Chaz, there's not." Raja wiped a tear from his eye and turned away from him. All of his life, the Archbishop was able to heal the sick, to take away their pain. As much as he wanted to, he could neither heal Rika, nor take away Chaz's pain.

"Chaz," Demi approached him timidly, "I think there's something you should know." The Hunter looked at her, tears still flowing, not wanting to hear any more bad news, but at the same time knowing it was inevitable. "Remember back in Garuberk when I pulled you aside to tell you something, but we were interrupted?" Chaz nodded. "Well, when we were back in Aiedo, Rika and I went to the tavern to talk --"

"Demi!" Wren roared, "that is enough! You cannot tell him of such things now. His wounds are deep enough already!"

"He has a right to know, Wren!" Chaz touched the android's hand, urging her to continue. "Well, that night, there was a brawl in the tavern and Rika was injured. Luckily, Wren stepped in at the right time and her injuries were kept minimal. I used my Medic Power to heal her, but Chaz, I found out something else. Chaz," Demi's eyes sought out his, wanting him to realize the seriousness of what she was about to tell him, "Rika was with child."

Time stopped for the Hunter and it seemed that his heart could not beat fast enough to keep the blood flowing within his body. He felt like air was cut off from his lungs and at any moment he would asphyxiate. Light-headed, he began to fall backward, but Hahn was there to catch him. "Rika," he breathed, "was with child . . . and she didn't tell me?"

"I don't think even she knew," Demi told him. "When I healed her, I felt its presence within her body, but after being struck in our fight at the tavern, I knew that it had been aborted. I don't know what Lian did, but that child should have never been."

"That child -- my daughter," he pondered. "Our daughter," the Hunter said, looking fondly upon his wife's face. Despite the circumstances of her demise, she still looked at peace. "Did you hear that, Rika? We have a daughter. I love you, Rika. I love you."

"I love you too, Rika," Gryz said, his Motavian face wrought with pain and sadness. "You were the best, one of the only souls who ever treated me like a person instead of just a Motavian. You were the best, and you were -- are my friend. I will never forget the compassion you brought into my life. I was cold and callous toward Palmans before I met you, but you opened my eyes with that compassion, and for that, I thank you. May your next life bring you more peace than this one." Gryz turned away and buried his face in his hands. Raja lay a comforting hand upon his shoulder.

"Her compassion," the Archbishop spoke, "her wit, her humor -- all were a part of the Rika I came to know and love. She even laughed at my jokes, even though I am now realizing how truly tasteless they are. She always had a way of cheering me up when I was feeling down and I will miss that part of her. Good-bye, my friend. May Tak'khan watch over you for all of eternity."

"Rika!" Demi cried. "Rika . . . . Ever since I first met you, I knew that you had the potential to become a great friend, and you always lived up to that potential. You were blind, if somewhat naive, in your judgement of people, whether they were Palman, Motavian, Dezorian, or android. You taught me a lesson, that each of us has something to contribute to a greater good, no matter the color of his skin of the shape of his face. We all learned something from you and despite the fact you were the youngest among us, you were one of the wisest. I'm sorry I can't keep my promise to you now, to watch over you and your children as they grow older. I love you, Rika. You were like the sister I never had. Be at rest, my friend. The pain is over."

"Rika was like a little sister to me, as well," said Hahn, his sobs becoming more and more apparent. "She always encouraged me to follow my heart, especially in matters of love." The Scholar's thoughts went immediately to that of his fiancee. "I will heed your advice, now, Rika. When all of this is over and through with, I will return to Krup and marry Saya. I used to be afraid of what love could do to me, perhaps make me weak. But now -- now I see that love does not weaken, but strengthens those fortunate enough to experience it. The love I feel for you, for all of you," he said matter-of-factly, encompassing everyone in the room, "is one I know I will cherish til the day I die. I used to be shy about friendships, unsure of people's intentions. You've given me trust, Rika. Now, I don't know what I would do without my friends. Farewell, Rika, you will always hold a special place in my heart." Hahn moved to join his Motavian companion in their sorrows. Placing an arm across his broad shoulders, he pulled him close, finding solace in their shared grief instead of having to face it alone.

"Our friends are what makes us strong," Kyra spoke, kneeling next to Chaz, taking one of Rika's chill hands into hers. She squeezed tightly, trying to fight back the tears, but was unsuccessful. "All of my life I have felt that I was without purpose. It took me awhile, but now I have found it, thanks to you. I may not be a very good leader, but I know now that I can be a great friend." Kyra's head lowered, hiding her face from view. "You were my friend, Rika!" she cried, her emotions vehement. "Chaz was right, I should have taken more responsibility to protect you! You were under my command and I should have taken more precaution! I've failed my people as their Leader and now I've failed you and Chaz as your friend!"

"No," Chaz said softly, still weeping, "you have not. I was wrong in trying to blame you for what happened because it was not your fault. You were right when you said that I blame myself for it. When we were married three years ago, I vowed that I would always be there to protect her, and she vowed it to me as well. Now, I feel that I have betrayed that vow and I must live with it. A long time ago, we made another vow to each other, that if one of us should die untimely, the other would have to go on living. I intend to keep that vow."

"Oh, Chaz!" Kyra cried and wrapped her arms around his neck. The Hunter did the same.

"Kyra, you're like a big sister to me and I love you. Always remember that. No matter what happens, you will always be my big sister." Kyra cried, her sobs interrupted by chokes of breath. Chaz knew that both blamed themselves for what happened to Rika and no matter what they said to each other, it would always remain the same.

"She was loved by all of us," Wren said, his voice ominous, yet compassionate. "Rika taught us the most important lesson of all by treating all of us like a member of her family. Our strength lies not in our numbers, but in our compassion for one another. We are a family, every single one of us, and our members span across two worlds and four different species. Family is a state of mind. Just because we are not bound together by blood does not mean that we are not bound by our hearts, whether biological or mechanical." Demi was surprised to hear Wren speak in such a way, although it did not displease her. "Chaz, Kyra -- you do not have to face this alone. In the words of a wise friend of mine who helped me during my crisis," Wren's eyes focused on Chaz, "'Find solace in us, your friends, for we are your brothers and sisters . . . .' We are your family." The android turned his attention toward Rika.

"Rika, when Seed and I began teaching you, I was on Zelan, but that did not keep me from thinking of you like my daughter. You were always so enthusiastic, so eager to learn, but we failed to teach you of such mortal misgivings as lies and betrayal. Luckily, you were intelligent and figured them out for yourself, even though I had secretly wished that you would never have to. You were my favorite pupil. You were my only pupil, but that really does not matter. What matters is that you taught me as well, helped teach me the value of friendship, and for that I will forever be in your debt." Demi jumped, not accustomed to hearing such emotion in Wren's voice. If she did not know better, she could have sworn that he was weeping. "Rika, I -- I feel like something is missing inside of me, like someone failed to replace one of my parts. If I had a soul I am sure it would have surely been torn away from my body. I will not forget you, Rika. Until the day I cease to function, you will always be in my thoughts!"

Suddenly, Wren turned and bolted toward the door. He was unaccustomed to having to deal with emotions such as the ones he was feeling then and preferred to not lash out at his friends, his family. Not bothering to open the doors leading out of the chamber, the big android merely ripped them from their hinges and exited swiftly. "I -- I'll go get him," Demi announced and ran after Wren.

Within a few moments, she returned with him, leading him by the hand, back into the presence of their friends. His face was soft, filled with more sorrow than anyone, except Chaz, had ever seen. Demi brought him back and he stared at the floor.

"Thank you, everyone," Chaz said, still sobbing. "I know that Rika would have wanted to be with all of you at this time. She and I could not have asked for better company, nor would we want anyone else. She . . . I -- we always wanted to let you know that we love all of you."

Chaz felt movement in his arms and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Everyone else saw it as well. Rika moved! Feeling his heart sink, the Hunter lifted his wife up closer to his face and began calling to her. Their friends gathered around, dropping to their knees to be closer to them. Rika's eyes fluttered open and she looked around slowly, meeting each of their eyes. There was something different about them, they noticed. The Numan's eyes were always so bright and vibrant, always so full of life, but now they were dull and lacked even the slightest bit of luster. She reached up and caressed her husbands face, her touch, chill. Chaz took her hand and held it tightly. "I love you, Rika!" he cried, tears streaming from his eyes, unadulterated. She smiled sadly.

"Chaz . . . ." Rika said, but it sounded like she was speaking from beyond the grave. "Our daughter . . . ."

"I'll find her, Rika, I promise!" The Numan tried to sit up and regain some of her dignity, but the effort was futile if somewhat pathetic.

"Remember . . ." Rika spoke again, her voice fading rapidly, "put your sword away . . . ."

"I -- I will! Please don't leave me!"

Rika pursed her lips and blew him a kiss. A single tear squeezed out of one eye and slowly ran down the side of her face, coming to a stop at Chaz's hand. He stared at her in horrid fascination for what seemed like an eternity. If he could have stopped time he surely would have done it. At that moment, the Hunter would have happily died as surely as his soul was dying. Rika smiled that sad smile one more time for him.

Then, with one final inspiration, her warm, friendly lavender eyes closed forever.

Chaz gasped and he thought he might choke on his tears. "Rika! Please!" he pleaded, gently shaking his wife's body. "Don't leave me! Rika? Rika? RIKA!!!!" Chaz wailed and lamented and would have moved the most callous of beings to tears. He called out her name again and again, but his plaintive cry merely echoed and re-echoed.

Seven souls, five organic, two mechanical, huddled around their fallen friend. Touching, holding, they shared one another's grief, tried to lessen the pain. It helped six of them somewhat, but not Chaz. He held Rika's body close to him, rocking her, not willing to accept that his wife died in his arms. Night was settling in, but no one moved to do anything about it. The torches on the walls had burned out and they sat in darkness, taking comfort in the fact that no one could see them, not really caring if someone did.

* * * * *

Chaz's cry was heard was heard across the planets, travelling on both the spiritual and magical level. The remaining Espers heard it instantly and it was a pain they could not shut out of their minds. The Dezorians in their religion heard it, coming across as a sorrow so profound, they prayed to Tak'khan to ease their minds. The cry sent ripples into everything, including the graves of those who had previously battled Darkness. The restless spirits called out to another for assistance, their collective pleas reaching across barriers that were set up to prevent such an intrusion.

A thousand miles away from Esper Mansion, there exists a place hidden by magic, a place shrouded by a fog so thick, no magic can enter, or escape. Within this area known only as Myst Vale, there exist a race of beings like no other, a race of intelligent creatures called Musk Cats. Totally independent of their neighbors, they were sheltered and protected by an ancient Musk Cat with wings affectionately referred to as the "Old Man," for he was rumored to be a couple thousand years old.

"The spirits call out to you," the Old Man said to his companion. No other Musk Cats were around; he ordered them away so that he could have some time alone with their "guest."

"Yes, Myau," his guest said as he entered the room. "I have heard them as well, but I have yet to understand why they summon me. Am I needed somewhere?" The Old Man said nothing, preferring to wait until his guest was seated near him. No need for rumors to be spread throughout the Vale. His fellow Musk Cats were loyal, but sometimes their curiosity got the best of them. "Do you know why they call?" The Old Man shook his head negatively, but it was not because he did not know.

"You have lived amongst the Musk Cats for two and a half years now, Rune Walsh, and you have been oblivious to what's been happening in the outside world. You were instructed to come here immediately after your battle with Darkness because this place would hide your presence from your people and the rest of the planet. LaRoof told you to do so because it foresaw a time in the near future when Darkness would return and you would once again be needed by the Great Light." Myau swayed his plumy tail, deep in thought. "That time is now. There has been a great tragedy and your services as Lutz is required again. Had you went into hibernation, you would not be able to help now. That is why you were instructed to come here."

"It was my belief," Rune said, "that my purpose in coming here was to see whether or not my Esper comrades could function without Lutz leading them, not that I was ever around long enough to be of much influence on their lives. I had come to believe that all I stood for was an ideal just like a constitution of some sort. I had no real power over them. They followed my orders because that's what they were taught to do all their lives."

"Yes, that is what you were told. The Great Light needs no reason to do what it sees fit for the greater good. We do not question its orders, but obey them as they are given."

"So, what am I required to do?"

"Go to Esper Mansion. The rest will be clear from there."

"Thank you, Myau. I will go at once."

"And remember, Rune -- a child shall be your downfall. A child shall be your salvation."

Rune Walsh turned and walked out of the room thinking about Myau's words. He was still puzzled by the Old Man's abruptness, but decided that it was urgent enough to not be questioned. He enjoyed living with the Musk Cats, knowing one day that he would have to leave them. Never did he imagine that it would be so soon. Still, it would be nice to return to Esper Mansion and see how it changed in his absence. Did his people elect a new leader, or were they waiting for his return? The only way of knowing for sure was to see for himself. He could not wait to see Kyra again, and wondered what she had been up to in the past three years.

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