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Chapter Twenty-Nine

" General Nan!"

Nan flinched as she heard that name, as if it caused her pain. She turned to the Hunter who had spoken it.

" Call me Nan. Just Nan," she said. The Hunter nodded.

" Gen.... umm... er.... Nan! You are needed at the hospital. We are short on medical supplies!" he said. Nan's eyes opened wide.

" What happened to them all? We had so many!" she cried.

" The supplies have mysteriously disappeared!" the Hunter said. Nan narrowed her eyes.

" Disappeared? More like stolen!" she growled. " Come with me! We must get to the bottom of this!" she said as she raced to the 'hospital'. The Hunter followed her. " Of all the nerve... stealing hospital supplies!" she growled.

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" This is, by far, the most brilliant idea I've ever had! Loot the town while the others fight to save it!" Edwin sneered as he threw some jewelry in to his bag. He slung it over his shoulder and leaped out a window of a house. He smile d, viciously. Edwin had visited almost every house. Including the hospital, where he had swiped some pretty expensive medical supplies. He looked about him and watched as the people toiled to fight off the army of abominations, as he had come to call them . Filthy abominations. He spat, venomously, at the ground at the thought of them. What disgusted him even more was that there were two of those monsters in the town, running around free. Edwin didn't trust either of them. They were just waiting for the ri ght time to turn traitor and allow the army inside the town. Well, HE wasn't going to wait around for that to happen! " Let those fools trust them and run around risking their lives. I'm not stupid!" he growled. He hauled his ! loot down the streets, away from where the battle was actually taking place. He heard the screams of pain and death but it didn't bother him a bit. He was seen as a criminal and scum bag in every citizens' eyes ever since Dazzle turned him in a few years ago during that fateful robbery. " Backstabbing &*#^@! How could she turn on me like that? After all I did for her! I treated her like my own daughter! I even prearranged her future for her! All I had to do was wait until she came of age! Did she thank me? NO ! She turned on me! I was her GUARDIAN, for crying out loud! I had every right! She was MY property to do as I wished! She RUINED me!! Not only my life here in Termi but whatever chance I had of getting in good with his majesty! I coulda been RICH! I coul da had POWER!" he hissed. Not that anyone in the stinking town cared. He'd get them all back. SOMEHOW. Suddenly, an idea dawned on him. Edwin smiled, evilly. " Come night, I'm slipping out of this place AND leaving the back do! or open!"

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" We're heeeeere!" Strider roared as he lead them in to a large, well lit, cavern. Scattered around were windows and doors carved in to the walls, homes of the creatures who dwelt there. There was a huge wooden table in the middle of the giant cavern. Everyone gazed around, awed. Strider's large tiger ears pricked up as he heard his voice echo through out the cavern. He chuckled. " Come, my friends. I am sure they know we are here!" he laughed.

" Indeed we do, friend Strider!" a pink Ancient Esper rabbit wearing a blue tunic laughed as she walked out of one of the houses, carrying a tray. She placed the tray on to the table and motioned to the other Ancient Espers, who peeked ou t their doors. The Ancient Espers came out of their homes carrying all sorts of food and drinks and placed them on the table. They completely covered it with the dinner they had prepared.

" Friend Ari, you have prepared a feast for a million tigers!" Strider laughed. Ari giggled and shook her head.

" Friend Strider, when it comes to your appetite, I AM feeding a million tigers!" Ari said as she winked. Strider laughed. Ari turned to the escapees. " My goodness! Look at you! Nothing but skin and bones!" she exclaimed, horrified. " Yo u poor souls!! Come! Eat! Eat your fill!" she said as she motioned to the table. The escapees were hesitant but the aroma of the food was so inviting that they soon were dashing to the table. Ari smiled brightly as she watched the tortured souls eat as if they would never eat again. Chaz watched as well, very silent. He had been like that ever since Daystar had told him of his parents' fate. Daystar sighed and turned to Wren, who she had also told her story to.

" You are his friend.... can you comfort him? I would but I doubt he wants to have anything to do with me at the moment...," she whispered. Wren blinked. Daystar bit her lower lip. " I don't like seeing him like this...," she admitted. Sh e turned to look at the silent Chaz. " I often long for the days when he was a baby and I could hold him in my arms. I hate myself for giving him to those foster parents.... but he was better off with them than with me... I knew nothing of Ancient Esper c hildren, to say nothing of Palman children... but I still..," she whispered, tears streaming down her eyes. She turned and ran down the hall. Ari saw her run by.

" Princess Daystar? Where are you...?" she began. Daystar made no reply. She continued to run until she was out of sight. Ari blinked and turned to Strider, who shook his head. Sighing heavily, Ari returned to feeding the hungry escapees. Wren glanced at Chaz, who remained emotionless. Farsight, who stood by Strider, glanced at Chaz as well. Then, he flapped his golden wings and went to join the escapees in feasting. Wren walked over to Chaz.

" Chaz Ashley... are you okay?" he asked. Chaz jumped and looked up at him, as if he had just waken from a trance.

" Y-yeah.... yeah, Wren, I am okay. A bit stunned..," Chaz answered, his voice slightly shaking. Wren tilted his head slightly.

" Are you angry at Princess Daystar for what she did?" he asked. Chaz blinked.

" No... no, I'm not.... she saved me... And I'm thankful for that," Chaz said. Wren blinked.

" Princess Daystar believes you are angry with her. Why would she think this? It is highly illogical," Wren asked. " Did you think anything about being angered at her for any reason? She is an Ancient Esper and has the ability to see othe r's every thought if she wishes to...," Chaz looked at his feet.

" Well, I guess I am slightly upset that she didn't save my mom or dad and that she just dumped me with total strangers...," Chaz admitted. Wren sat down next to Chaz.

" What could she have done to accomplish the rescue of your family?" Wren asked. " And do you think you would have been better off raised in their society?" he added. Chaz looked up at him. " She could not have saved your father because s he was in a different area of the ship at the time of his death. Your mother died due to birth problems. She had lost too much blood. There was nothing someone who wasn't a doctor could have done," Wren said. Chaz nodded. " She could not raise you herself because of how her society worked. You would not have been happy in a society raised around war and combat. Have you not seen how the Ancient Esper society hates the other races? Yes, those on Motavia do feel differently but there are still those who are not fond of the other races. You would not have been happy. Nor would you have ever had the chance to meet any of us, including your late mentor Alys Brangwin. Or Rika. You would have been a totally different person," Wren sa! id. Chaz pondered Wren's words. He looked at the floor, silent. After a few minutes, he slowly nodded.

" You're right, Wren. As usual," Chaz said, smiling. Chaz stood up and looked around. Wren blinked.

" Where are you of to, Chaz Ashley?" he asked.

" To talk with Daystar," Chaz answered. He ran off in the direction the Ancient Esper had gone. He found her sitting on a small white crystal bridge over an underwater river. She looked at her reflection, obviously lost in her thoughts. C haz walked up to her, quietly. She still didn't notice him. " Daystar?" Chaz asked. Daystar jerked, surprised. She looked over at him, surprised.

" Chaz?" she asked, stunned. " You're talking to me?" Chaz smiled.

" Yes, I am. And I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for what you did, Daystar... thank you... I would have been dead without your help... I was being a bit selfish... and I'm sorry..," he said. Daystar smiled. She hugged Chaz, who hugge d her back. Sighing heavily, Daystar looked at Chaz.

" You hungry?" she asked. Chaz nodded. " Then let's go get something to eat," she said. Smiling, they both walked off towards the feast.

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Dazzle sat in a chair in the cavern assigned to her, brushing her hair. She looked in the mirror, irritated. The cavern she had been given was high on the cliff, the only exit a tunnel that was sealed. She growled, angrily, to herself. There was no way for her to leave without anyone knowing. Suddenly, she heard movement from behind her. She whirled, surprised, and instinctively reached for her slasher.

" No need, pretty lady," Rune said, his voice cold and angry. Dazzle relaxed and glared at him.

" What are YOU doing here? How did you get up here?" she growled, furious. Rune narrowed his eyes.

" I'm the Lutz. I have my ways," he answered, bluntly. Dazzle cast her eyes to the door leading to the tunnel at the far back of the cavern. It was slightly ajar. Dazzle gritted her teeth and turned to glare at Rune.

" So you used your hocus pocus to get by the guards. BIG DEAL. What are you doing here?" she snapped. Rune sat down on her bed and looked at her.

" I heard some rather strange news," he began coolly. Then, his eyes flashed with anger. " Why didn't you tell us you were getting MARRIED to that fat SLOB?" Rune asked. Dazzle flinched. She remained silent. " Why? Dazzle, why are you m arrying HIM? What is it you see in him?" Rune demanded. Dazzle refused to answer. " Why were you flirting with me when....," Rune began. Dazzle snapped to life.

" EXCUSE ME? What are you talking about? I was never flirting with you!" she growled. Rune narrowed his eyes. Dazzle hissed and turned her back to him.

" Why are you marrying him?" Rune asked again. " I thought you had higher standards than that! Or are fat slobbering toads high on your list of choice hubbies?" Rune sneered. Dazzle whirled around and slapped him across the face with in credible force. Rune stiffened and stared at her.

" I have no say in this matter, thank you!" she hissed. Rune grabbed her wrist.

" What do you mean by that?" he asked, anger in his voice. " You have every choice!" Dazzle tried to make him let go of her wrist but he refused to soften his hold.

" No, I don't! I LOST my choice the moment I came here to save your friends!" Dazzle growled. " If I had stayed away, I wouldn't be IN this position!!" Dazzle added. Rune squeezed her wrist even tighter.

" I don't understand," he said, his voice cold. Dazzle sneered.

" You're supposed to be the all knowing Lutz! Can't you figure it out? Ever heard of PREARRANGED marriages?" Dazzle hissed. Rune released her instantly.

" You mean to say that this marriage was arranged without your consent?" Rune asked, horrified. Dazzle stared at him, confused. She nodded. Then, she narrowed her eyes at Rune.

" Why should you care?" Dazzle asked. Rune bit his lower lip.

" Well... I... uhh....," he stuttered. Dazzle snorted and abruptly turned away.

" Doesn't matter why, does it? Nothing you can do...," she growled. She sat down in her chair and sighed. " I'd do anything to get out of marrying that maggot!" she said. Rune's eyes lit up.

" ANYTHING?" he asked. Dazzle looked at him, suspicious. " You'd do anything?" Rune pressed. Dazzle nodded, slowly. Rune leaped to his feet. " I got a deal for you! I'll get you out of marrying King Of The Slobs if.... you give me a kis s," Rune said. Dazzle stared, shocked.

" SAY WHAT?" she cried, horrified. Rune looked at her, mischievously.

" You said ANYTHING if I got you out... so give me a kiss!" he said, smiling. Dazzle narrowed her eyes, enraged. Then, a small wicked smile spread across her face.

" A kiss? You want a kiss? What KIND of a kiss?" she asked, her voice strangely sweet. Rune stared at her in alarm. She stood up and walked over to him. Rune stepped back a pace, unsure of what Dazzle was doing. Dazzle reached up and ge ntly tickled the side of his neck. Rune's eyes bugged out. " A small kiss.... just a light one on the lips... or a full kiss?" she asked. Rune blinked. He tried to ignore Dazzle's tickles but found it hard. " You want to kiss me, Rune Walsh?" Dazzle whisp ered. Rune nodded, leaning closer to her. Dazzle turned away quickly. " Not until we are out of here safe and sound," she said. She then pushed Rune out the door to her room and locked it. Rune stood outside the door, disappointed. He glanced at the door.

" Well, Rune... how do you get her out of here?" he grumbled. As he walked down the stairway, he thought. When he stepped outside in to the cold snow, he saw two thieves dragging a bio monster carcass to what appeared to be a big pit in the ground. Rune watched, curious. Suddenly, he felt a chill run through him. He heard footsteps and whirled around. There, stood Lord Odd Eye. Rune froze. Lord Odd Eye looked at him, calculating. It made Rune nervous.

" Are you enjoying yourself, Esper? What do you think?" Lord Odd Eye asked, his voice calm.

" It's a very interesting place," Rune said, trying to be as polite as he could. Lord Odd Eye smiled.

" You haven't seen anything yet, Esper!" he said. Placing a grubby hand on Rune's shoulder, he lead him over to the big pit. " Look down!" he said. Rune did so. He gasped at what he saw. In the pit were huge bio-monsters. They looked al most like wolves. But they had spikes sticking out of their head and back. They growled menacingly. The thieves carrying the carcass threw it in to the pit. The creatures screamed with hunger and tore at the carcass. Rune watched, horrified, as the beasts ripped the corpse apart. Lord Odd Eye chuckled. " My pets. Beautiful, aren't they?" he said. Rune couldn't answer. It was disgusting how the creatures devoured the flesh. " Tomorrow, we feast. And, for entertainment, my dear pets will have a bit of sport with a few of my captives," Lord Odd Eye said, sounding very pleased. Rune stiffened. " Now isn't THAT going to be interesting?" Lord Odd Eye asked, as he winked. Then, he turned and walked away. Rune stared at the creatures.! The n, he had an idea.

Yakkara.... can you hear me? he called. [an error occurred while processing this directive]