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Chapter One

It had been a few months since the battle with the Profound Darkness. Things had returned to normal. All except that Rika was now a hunter. Hunters may not have been needed to kill monsters but they still were needed to find lost or kidnapped people or finding murderers. Now and then an occasional monster was spotted but nothing serious. Rika and Chaz were out on a job. A young woman with long brown hair and green eyes robbed a store in Aiedo. There were rumors that she headed towards Piata. That was were they were headed.

" Do you think we will find her?" Rika asked. Chaz gazed around.

" We might. Who knows?" Chaz said. He stopped a moment and stared. Rika looked at him.

" What?" she asked.

" Look over there! Aren't those..." Chaz said as he pointed.

" Zio's soldiers! Isn't he dead? What are they doing?" Rika said as she stared.

" They look as though they are in a hurry," Chaz said. He looked at Rika.

" We should go. Before they see us," Rika suggested. Chaz was surprised.

" Why run from a battle? Let's charge them!" Chaz said.

" We can't. There are about twelve of them and two of us! I don't like those odds," Rika said. Chaz shrugged.

" Fine. Let's go to Piata." Chaz said, disappointed.

Fiaco and the other soldiers were heading towards Aiedo to get drunk. They didn't feel like heading back to Zio's new hideout just yet.

" All that way for nothing. A sacrifice! How are we gonna get a sacrifice? I'm not going to kill myself!" a soldier said as he fingered his sword. The others mumbled in agreement.

" The best thing to do is get someone who can't defend themselves," Fiaco said.

" Perhaps a kid?" another soldier asked.

" Nahh.... Corrosion or whatever his name is, won't like getting a puny sacrifice like that," Fiaco said as he kicked a rock.

" I have it! We'll give him one of those students at Piata! They're weak little sheep! Always hiring a Hunter to handle their problems!" a soldier in the back said. Fiaco stopped in his tracks.

" What a great idea! We won't have to get our hands very dirty and Corrosion gets a decent sacrifice!" he said. He turned toward Piata. " Let's go!" he said.

" We're here!" Rika said as she skipped towards the gates leading to Piata. " I wonder were Hahn is.." she said. Chaz smiled as he entered Piata. As he walked towards the school, past the dormitories, he looked around for the thief. Chaz and Rika entered the Principal's office and asked him about the thief. After a while, they left the office feeling rather disappointed. Suddenly, as Chaz walked towards the stairs, he bumped into a man carrying a load of papers. The man and Chaz fell to the ground, papers scattering everywhere.

" Ohh! Excuse me.." the person said as he bent to pick up some papers he dropped. Chaz gasped.

" Hahn?!" he asked. The person turned quickly and gasped.

" Chaz! Rika!" Hahn said as he grabbed Chaz's hand. He shook it so hard it was a miracle it didn't fall off. " What brings you here?" Hahn asked as he picked up his papers. Chaz bent down to help him.

" Thief. They say she headed down here. You seen her?" Chaz said as he handed Hahn a sketch of the girl.

" I'm not sure. She does look familiar," Hahn said as he gazed at the sketch. " Ya know, now that you mention it, I think I have seen her. Down by dorm three. She was arguing with a guy over what the best way to get to Tonoe is," he said as he reached to grab his final papers. Standing up, he handed Chaz the sketch back. " I could help you! I'm going to be available as soon as I give these papers to the principal!" Hahn said, his eyes sparkling. Chaz shrugged.

" Come if you wish! We could use the help," he said. Rika clapped her hands in joy. Suddenly, a scream echoed through the school. Chaz, Hahn, and Rika dashed out and gasped. Some of Zio's soldiers were dashing through the dorms. They had taken out the guards and were charging everyone. One of the soldiers ran after a girl. Hahn grabbed a rock and threw it with deadly aim. The rock slammed right through the soldier's head. He dropped dead.

" Grab him!" Fiaco screamed as he pointed his sword to Hahn. The soldiers dashed towards Hahn. Chaz grabbed his sword and charged the soldiers. Three of the soldiers leaped at Chaz. Two more soldiers grabbed Rika. The other five leaped at Hahn. They punched him and kicked him. Hahn struggled and kicked out at his attackers. Chaz leaped at Hahn's attackers while struggling to stop his own. Hahn managed to leap out of their grasp. People were running indoors to escape the soldiers. One man grabbed Hahn and shoved him hard out of the way. Hahn slammed roughly against a wall. He slid down the wall like a broken doll. " Hahn!" Rika yelled as she tried to get to Hahn's side. Chaz fought ferociously against the soldiers who were trying to get him down. One grabbed his leg while another put Chaz in a head lock. Another began punching Chaz in the stomach. Fiaco ran over to Hahn and felt his neck. Hahn moaned.

" He's still alive! Let's go! We got what we came for!" Fiaco yelled as he grabbed Hahn. Hauling him over his shoulder, Fiaco ran to the gate. The other soldiers ran after Fiaco. Chaz gasped for breath as he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth. Rika knelt by him.

" They kidnapped Hahn!" she gasped. Chaz struggled to his feet.

" We've got to go after them!" he said. Rika grabbed his sword and handed it to him. Chaz dashed towards the gate, followed by Rika. Just as Chaz reached the gate, a foot stuck out in front of him and tripped him. " What the...." Chaz cried as he hit the dirt. As he spat out soil, Rika stared.

" Chaz! It's the thief!" Rika cried. It was. Standing over Chaz was a tall woman with long brown hair and green eyes. She wore gold chest plate, gloves, and boots with three knives sticking out of them. She had a gold and leather skirt, a leather belt with a gold buckle, and a blue bandanna. Her armor was covered with blue gems. In her hand were two gold plated slashers decorated with blue gems. A sword was attached to her belt. She smiled at Chaz, who leaped to his feet.

" The name's Dazzle, the world's greatest thief," the woman said as she bowed. " Saw you guys putting up a fight over there with those soldiers. You got your tails beat bad. I think you need some help! Mind if I tag along? Oh! By the way..." the woman turned to Rika " Nice horns!" the woman said. Rika's face twisted with rage.

" They are ears not horns! EARS!!" Rika screamed. Chaz wiped his brow. Dazzle gazed at Chaz, smiling winningly. " Make your choice, those guys are getting away!" Dazzle said.

" Okay! Let's hurry!" Chaz said. Dazzle grabbed Chaz by the collar. Together, Rika, Chaz, and Dazzle dashed after the fleeing soldiers.

" Hurry up! Those two creeps are chasing us! They also have help!" Fiaco yelled as he ran. " Geez! This guy's heavier than he looks!" Fiaco gasped.

" What do we do?" a soldier asked.

" We can take 'em!" another snarled.

" Here's what we do. Some of you go attack them. But I still need four of you to stay with me to help me with this thing. We'll go and camp for a few days at Tonoe. Then, when the heat's died down a bit, we'll head for Kadary and go to the boss. He'll tell us what to do next." Fiaco said. The others nodded in agreement. Fiaco turned sharply and dashed through a mountain pass. Four other soldiers followed him. The others turned and dashed at Chaz, Dazzle, and Rika.

" Look out!" Dazzle screamed as she threw her slashers. They soared and slashed one soldier to pieces. Chaz drew his sword and slew another soldier as it charged Rika. Rika slashed and ripped as Dazzle used her slashers as daggers. Soon, there was only two soldiers left. Dazzle threw her slashes then grabbed her sword and leaped at them. The slashers slashed them badly and Dazzle's sword finished them off. Dazzle grabbed her slashers then motioned towards the route Fiaco took. " They are heading for Tonoe!" she said.

" We must save Hahn!" Rika said as she followed Dazzle. After a few hours they arrived at the cave to Tonoe. Dazzle knelt on the ground. After a few minutes, she stood up.

" They went through! They are at Tonoe!" she said, pointing to some thinly disguised tracks. Chaz nodded. The group entered the cave. After a few paces, a bio-monster leaped at them. It was a sand newt. Dazzle leaped back and threw her slashers. Chaz slashed and Rika ripped. Rika's claw cracked as she dug them into the newt's skull. The newt fell dead.

" We probably killed the last of it's kind," Chaz sighed.

" Are you kidding? I've seen lots more than this! Didn't you know that the monsters are starting to reproduce more? They're growing like weeds over at Termi!" Dazzle said, absently. Chaz stared in horror. Rika shuttered. They tramped through the cave, meeting a lot more monsters than Chaz had expected to find. Finally, they exited the cave. Before them was Tonoe. Dazzle, Chaz, and Rika entered Tonoe. Chaz gazed around him, ignoring the suspicious glares he got from the Motavians.

" Chaz!" a Motavian yelled as he ran towards them.

" Gryz!" Rika gasped.

" What are you doing here?" Gryz asked.

" Hahn's been kidnapped by some of Zio's soldiers," Chaz explained.

" What?!" Gryz asked as his face hardened. " We killed him!"

" Well, he's back and his soldiers have Hahn!" Chaz said.

" Who's that?" Gryz said as he pointed to Dazzle.

" I am Dazzle! Greatest thief in the world!" Dazzle said as she bowed to Gryz. Chaz tried to hide a snicker.

" Come! We must speak to Grandfather Dorin!" Gryz said as he half dragged Chaz to a big tent. After a few minutes of explanation, Grandfather Dorin seemed less than pleased.

" What do you think they want with Hahn?" Rika asked.

" I do not know but it doesn't sound good." Grandfather Dorin said as he scratched his chin. " Go sleep in the inn. I'll have guards by the cave entrance. They won't leave!" Grandfather Dorin said. He then walked out of the tent quickly. Chaz looked at Gryz, then Rika. They both shrugged. Dazzle stretched.

" Let's go hit the sack. I'm tired." she said as she walked out of the tent. The others followed. When they arrived at the inn, Dazzle pulled out some meseta and paid for a night. She motioned to their room. Dazzle jumped on a bed and reclined. Chaz walked over to his bed and sat. Rika smelled some of the flowers which decorated the room. Gryz removed his axe and sharpened it. Chaz leaned back and was asleep quickly. Dazzle kicked off her boots and gazed at Rika. Rika walked over to the table that was in the room. She sat down and took out her chipped claw.

" Gotta get this thing fixed." she said as she fingered her cracked claw. Dazzle sat up.

" Here, kid." Dazzle said as she threw a bag of meseta over to Rika. Rika grabbed the bag and looked inside.

" Whoa! Look at all the meseta! How did you get so much?" Rika exclaimed. She eyed Dazzle suspiciously.

" Well, I earned it all by hunting down beasties and an occasional 'job'. Don't you worry one bit!" Dazzle said as she winked at Rika. " I didn't steal from someone who couldn't afford it. I steal from the rich only! Won't catch ME stealing from poor people. They can't afford good security systems. No fun at all," she added as she reclined again. " Go get something nice," she said as she closed her eyes. Rika shrugged and walked out the door. Later, when she returned, Dazzle and Chaz were snoring. It sounded like a symphony of snores. Gryz was in a chair with some cloth in his ears. On the table in front of him was some mugs full of cocoa and a plate with some shortcake on it. He looked up and motioned to Rika. She walked over to him. Gryz pulled the cloth out of his ears.

" Lovely music, is it not?" Gryz asked, winking. Rika giggled.

" If I didn't know any better, I'd say they're snoring in time with each other!" Rika laughed. She sat down and picked up a mug. She drank some of the cocoa and stared out the window. " Do you think Hahn's okay?" she asked after a few moment's silence.

" Hahn can take care of himself. Don't worry. We'll find him and pay Zio back! He'll wish he had stayed dead," Gryz said as he picked up a mug and drank deeply. Rika smiled a little wider. She gazed at Chaz, who snored even louder. Gryz frowned slightly. He set down his mug and walked over to his bed. He grabbed a pillow and motioned to Rika for silence. Rika watched, interested. Suddenly, Gryz brought his pillow down hard on Chaz. Chaz leaped up and glared at Gryz. Gryz laughed hysterically. He was instantly slammed by a pillow. Gryz grabbed the pillow and threw it. Chaz ducked and the pillow crashed against Dazzle. Soon, it was an all out pillow fight. Rika grabbed her pillow and slammed Chaz, who then grabbed her by the leg and tripped her so she fell on Dazzle. Their laughter echoed through the town.

At the soldier's camp west of Tonoe, Fiaco talked with Gabi, one of the remaining soldiers.

" The way I see it, we have four options. We give ourselves up, we disguise ourselves, or we go crashing through those guards." Fiaco said.

" That was only three. What's the fourth?" Gabi said.

" We grab one of their kind and threaten to kill it if they don't let us pass." Fiaco said. Gabi nodded. Another soldier walked up.

" Why don't we just explain to them why we want the kid. I'm sure when they find out about our problem, they'll let us go through!" he said.

" Now why didn't I think of that? IDIOT! Do you really think they'll let us kidnap then sacrifice someone?" Fiaco snarled.

" Go check on the captive, Dolic! Moron," Gabi snapped. Dolic walked off to a tent that was well hidden behind some trees. Inside, Hahn had regained consciousness and had been tied up. He was still rather dizzy. Dolic approached him.

" How are we this morning?" he asked. Hahn glared at him.

" What are you going to do with me?" Hahn snarled.

" You'll find out." Dolic said as he walked out of the tent. Hahn narrowed his eyes. Outside, Dolic walked up to Fiaco and Gabi.

" People! Come here! All of you!" Fiaco yelled. The other two soldiers walked over. Fiaco looked at them all.

" We've come to a decision," Gabi announced. Fiaco nodded.

" Here's our plan..."

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