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Chapter Thirty-Two

The sun rose in to the sky, it's beams of light glittering off the snow. All was silent, for no one was awake just yet. No one except for seven tiny figures upon the landscape of the snowy plains. Rune, Dazzle, Hahn, Farsight, Daystar, Wren, and Chaz. Wren loaded the BLACK ROSE with all sorts of supplies while the others talked quietly.

" If we leave now, we will be able to catch Rykros right before it leaves Algo. This is our only chance," Rune mumbled as he rubbed his chin. Daystar nodded.

" We can quickly search the temple, then leave and make it back before anything bad happens," Hahn said.

".... let us chose who goes," Farsight said. His voice caused all those present to nearly leap out of their skin. He hadn't spoken in so long that it startled them.

" Choose...?" Dazzle asked, after recovering herself. " I thought we were all going?" Farsight filed his claws on a metal pole. " Aren't we?"

" That would be unwise," Farsight said as he glanced at his claws. " Two ought to go. So the others can go to the Esper Mansion and prepare for the invasion that is bound to occur," he said. He sounded so melancholy that it caused Daystar to stare at him, silently. Rune nodded.

" I agree," he said. " I'll volunteer,"

" No," Farsight snapped, his eyes flaring. Rune backed up a bit, Farsight's outburst startling him. "... no. You will be needed at the Esper Mansion. You ARE the leader and it is your duty to be there," Farsight added, sounding less frightening. " I think Chaz and I should go. Chaz, for it is his sword, and I, for I have no use elsewhere," he said. Chaz blinked.

".... Three go," Daystar said. Farsight turned to look at her.

" Have more faith in the companion of Trrrosta, Daystar. Two," he said. Daystar's eyes flared.

" I SAID THREE," she snapped, her wings spreading and her eyes shining gold. Farsight instantly cowed. " And you will address me as PRINCESS Daystar," she added, her eyes piercing his soul. Farsight turned his head and nodded.

" Three, your majesty... how foolish of me to argue...," he whispered. Daystar eyed him.

" I'll go," Hahn said. Everyone glanced at him. " I have had no real value to this journey. I want a chance to prove I have some use. Please let me go....," he pleaded.

" Give him a chance," Chaz added. He smiled at Hahn, who smiled back. Rune nodded.

" Allright... but the three of you take care," Rune said. Daystar continued to watch Farsight, who kept his head bowed.

" Let us hurry... before Rykros is out of orbit," he mumbled. Chaz and Hahn nodded. Rune, Dazzle, Wren, and Daystar stepped back as the trio boarded the BLACK ROSE. Just as the door closed, Daystar could have sworn that Farsight sent her a murderous look. She decided to question him about it when he returned. She turned and sighed heavily. Then, she crunched through the snow back in to the Temple. Dazzle watched as the BLACK ROSE disappeared from view. She could hear Wren move and stomp through the snow, leaving her and Rune alone. Just as Dazzle was about to turn and leave, she felt Rune grab her arm. She tensed and waited, silently. Rune glanced at her. He rubbed the back of his neck.

" Uhh... wanna go for a walk?" he asked. Dazzle just glared at him. Rune forced a grin. Dazzle uttered a mumble and walked ahead of Rune, briskly. Rune sighed and followed her. The two crunched through the deep snow. Everything was silent and peaceful. The trees, under a deep coat of snow, shimmered in the slowly rising sun. As they walked, Rune continued to watch Dazzle's every move. Surely she wasn't that mad at him? He HAD saved her. What reason did she have to give him the silent treatment. Yes, it was a dirty way to get a kiss but she had agreed to it. He would have saved her anyway, whether a kiss was in the deal or not. Perhaps Dazzle didn't think that? He sighed again. Dazzle cast Rune a glare. Selfish pig. His only real goal was to get that shard Lord Odd Eye had. She was just a side option. How dare he treat her like that! She found him attractive and, deep down, she liked him. Though 'like' seemed such a dull word compared to the true feeling. But the very idea that she was just a prize infuriated her. She desperately wanted to hit him in his smug little face. Rune flinched. He couldn't read her thoughts but he could feel the hatred beneath the glare. The two approached a frozen pond. The ice was as smooth as glass. It was a gorgeous sight to see the sunrise reflected off of it's smooth surface. Rune and Dazzle stopped at the edge. Rune cleared his throat. He had to talk to her while they were alone. It was now or never. " What's up, Dazzie? Why are you giving me the silent treatment?" he asked. Dazzle whirled towards him, her eyes flaring. Rune couldn't help but think how beautiful she looked when she was mad.

" You have some NERVE, Rune Walsh! How dare you treat me as some prize! I am SICK of people treating me as a THING they can take or give when they feel like it!" she hissed. " Ever since I was a little girl.... I've been nothing more than a THING. Edwin thought of me as a THING he can use to get popularity and power. Lord Odd Eye thought of me as a THING that he could force to marry him. YOU think of me as a THING for a one night's stand!" Dazzle snarled. Rune felt a lump in his throat.

" I don't think of you as that," Rune whispered. Dazzle's eyes flashed.

" Then what DO you think of me as?" she demanded. Rune looked up and their eyes locked.

" As one HELLO of a gorgeous lady," he replied. Dazzle's eyes opened wide in surprise. " A gal I think is the prettiest I've ever seen and ever will see," he added. Dazzle seemed dumbfounded. The anger disappeared in her beautiful green eyes. She looked slightly nervous.

"... you really mean that?" she asked. Rune nodded, though a little voice in his head screeched out at him. He was a Lutz! He had no time for this! Give it up before it's too late! But, something deep within his heart told him to MAKE time. He liked THAT advice a lot more. He stepped towards Dazzle, expecting her to back up. She didn't. She stared up in to his eyes, blinking.

" I mean every word of it and more...," he said. A tender grin spread across his face. He wrapped his arms around Dazzle, who made no protest to such an action. " Lady, you MUST be the greatest thief in the world. You stole my heart and there ain't no way I can get it back," he said. Dazzle grinned.

" That has to be the most cheesiest line I've ever heard," she said.

" Cheesy? Sure. But, I can't help it. I always did like actions more than words," Rune replied. He leaned over and kissed Dazzle. Dazzle made no movement to stop him. In fact, she wrapped her arms around his neck. The two remained like that for who knows how long. The sun rose high in to the sky but neither noticed. All they knew was each other. And that as good enough for them. Finally... Rune released her. And then, Dazzle knee-ed him in the groin.

" Pervert," she said, grinning mischievously. Through his pain, Rune grinned evilly at Dazzle and made a grab for her.

" Come here, you!" he wheezed, grinning. Dazzle laughed and ran for the Temple. Behind her, Rune did his best to run after her. Though every few steps he wobbled a bit.

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" SIR!" Fenrir barked, peering over the reinforced walls of Termi. " The enemy is on the march! They'll arrive in about an hour!"

" Very good, Fenrir. Keep an eye on them," King Bahumat said. He leaped down from the 'hospital' roof and peered inside. Edwin shivered in his hospital bed, rambling on. Nan was tending to his wounds, her eyes clouded with emotional pain. King Bahumat sighed. He turned back outside and ran towards the barracks, where the Defenders were preparing. " ATTENTION!" he barked. All the Ancient Espers leaped to their feet, saluting their king. The Palmans and Motavians stared at Bahum. " The enemy is on the move. They will be here nigh one hour. Prepare yourself because, this time, there will be no one to save us should we fail," he said. The Ancient Espers nodded, then ran to prepare. Fenrir peered over the walls at the approaching army. It had increased drastically. He sighed wearily. He had a bad feeling about the upcoming fight. Deep in his bones, he felt it. He shook his fuzzy head and sat down on his haunches. He vaguely wondered if the others were fairing well.

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" Do you think they're at Rykros yet?" Rika asked, nervously, as she glanced out the window.

" Nope. Not yet. They have, at the most, three hours," Rune said as he sipped his tea. Dazzle sat next to him, munching on shortcake.

" It takes time to travel. It could have taken a lot more time if it had been any other ship," Daystar explained. " The BLACK ROSE has better engines. It was made for combat and obviously needs to get where it's going a lot faster."

" Do you think they'll be allright?" Rika asked, worried. Daystar said nothing. Rika blinked. " D-Daystar?" she asked. Everyone turned to stare at Daystar, who remained silent. After a few minutes, she looked up.

" I think they'll be fine," she said, quietly.

" Oh, good," Rika sighed with relief.

" Why did it take you so long to answer...?" Dazzle asked, an eyebrow raised. Daystar did not reply.

" It's nearly noon," Strider said. " Let's pack up and get ready to head towards the Esper Mansion," he added.

" Why?" Rune asked, an eyebrow raised.

" It's Levit's next target," Strider said.

" How do you know that...?" Rune asked, suspiciously.

" It is obviously the most logical action if they had desires to win this war," Wren replied, interrupting. " It is of the utmost importance that we defend such a strong point of Esper power,"

" What he said," Strider added. Rune rolled his eyes.

" Whatever," he mumbled. " Fine. We'll go to the Esper Mansion. I don't want them destroying my telepathy ball,"

" Don't you mean the Lutz's?" Dazzle asked, slyly. Rune smirked and kissed her on the cheek.

" I AM da Lutz, baby," he said with a grin.

" Well, you better turn OFF the lutz or ya might lose it," Dazzle teased as she tapped her slasher on the table. Rune chuckled. He certainly had picked a feisty one. He just wasn't sure how the Espers would react.....

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Snow hissed angrily as it whirled about in the air, smiting and so cold it cut. It wisped about everything, even a rather large Mansion nestled in a valley among the mountains. The Mansion was quiet, at peace, while the snow attacked it like a jealous entity.

" Lovely weather, isn't it...," a voice harshly whispered. Five forms appeared in the windy snow. Wrapped in parkas of thick Snow Mole fur, trimmed with Red Mole hide, the figures peered down at the Mansion. Among them was King Levit. King Levit sneered, oblivious to the snow as it bit at him. He glanced at the four others, who looked at him expectantly. They were also Ancient Espers. One was a priest dressed in the long black robe with red trim that characterized Corrosion. Another was a priest dressed in long white robes with blue trim, a priest of Lifespark. The other three were warriors. Levit raised his head and laughed, insanely. " What a glorious slaughter this will be," he grinned.

" Sire," the Lifespark priest began. " Shall we prepare for attack now or shall we wait out this storm?"

" Storm?" Levit asked, surprised. " What storm?"

" Sire, we are in the middle of a terrible snowstorm," The Corrosion priest said, his voice like nails upon glass. Levit wrinkled his nose. The five stared in surprise. How could their king be totally oblivious to the biting wind?

" I feel no storm. But if you suggest it, then aye. Let us camp under cover and wait out the storm. Then.... come the break..... we burn the Mansion and everyone in it to the ground," he said with a smirk. " A regular Esper Barbecue!"

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" Is this REALLY where you kept it?" Hahn asked, his eyes wide, as he glanced around the room. It was a gigantic library, full of shelves and shelves of books. There seemed no end to the supply. Chaz glanced about as well, his eyes searching for the shard. Farsight, however, distanced himself from the two and stood in the shadows, silent and brooding. His eyes flashed now and then, but he said nothing.

I am quite sure, a voice whispered, seemingly from all directions.

" Le Roof, where exactly are you keeping it?" Chaz asked.

........

" Le Roof?" Hahn asked, looking up.

...... check between those books to your right, Le Roof rumbled. He seemed slightly embarrassed. Hahn blinked.

" What would it be doing there?" he asked.

......

".... Okaaay," Hahn sighed. He walked over to the shelves and peered at the books. Glittering among the books, propping up many volumes of text, was the shard.

" YOU USED AN ELSYDEON SHARD AS A BOOK HOLDER!?" Chaz yelped, falling over.

..... I didn't know what ELSE to do with it...., Le Roof responded, slightly pouty.

" Nevermind, Chaz...," Hahn chuckled. " We have the shard and that's really all that matters,"

" Yah, I guess so...," Chaz sighed as he rubbed his head. " So let's go... thanks for your help, Le Roof," he called.

Any time,

Chaz and Hahn grinned and dashed towards the exit to the library, their moods seriously brightened.

" We have all four shards now!" Chaz whooped. He and Hahn rushed out to the world of Rykros. The ground was made entirely of crystal, each bit reflecting the colors of the rainbow. Even the building they had just left was made of crystal. Before them, not even a hundred yards, was THE BLACK ROSE. It waited, patiently, for them to return. " We can finally fix the Elsydeon!" Chaz grinned.

" Things are finally starting to look up," Hahn agreed. A shadow slipped up, behind them. Neither noticed, laughing, while a pair of red glowing eyes appeared as the shadow took form. The glow disappeared while a glint shone bright. A dagger glistened in the reflection of the crystal earth, poised to plunge through Chaz's back and in to his heart. Chaz laughed and tucked the shard in his shirt. Hahn grinned at him. He caught the sight of a metallic glimmer. His eyes widened as he whirled. " CHAZ!!!" he cried as he flung his body in to Chaz's own, sending him sprawling. Just as Chaz fell to the side, Hahn felt a searing pain in his side. He collapsed to the ground, where he groaned and reached to his side. He glanced at his hand. It was covered in blood. His side had been gashed open. Hahn glared up, for the source. He gasped in pure shock. Glaring down at him, holding a bloody dagger, was Farsight. Farsight sneered down at Hahn.

" Indeed... things are looking up, Hahn.... for me...," Farsight hissed, his eyes narrowed. Hahn scrambled back, his face distorted due to pain.

" Farsight-! WHY?!" Chaz cried as he drew his sword.

" It matters not WHY.... it only matters HOW!!!" Farsight shouted as he lunged at Chaz, the dagger practically glowing. Chaz blocked with his sword, panicked, and scrambled back. Hahn grunted in pain and slowly rose to his feet. He felt the blood ooze from his wound, coating his clothing and running down his leg to his boots. He winced, then glanced at Chaz and Farsight. Farsight lunged again, desperately trying to slice Chaz's throat with each lunge. Chaz leaped side to side, avoiding as best he could.

" Farsight, STOP!" Chaz cried. Farsight laughed, jeeringly.

" Oh, young one.... you asked for this," he said.

" WHAT?! Are you INSANE?!" Chaz cried.

" Yes, to a small extent," Farsight replied, his eyes dancing with glee. " You and your SILLY hero games.... BAH!!! You're just like HIM,"

" Him?" Chaz asked, incredulous, as he leaped away.

" HIM.... HE also thought he had any right to take the world's burden upon his shoulders. Mr. Hero.... heh.... no credit to those who HELPED him.... none at all.... I killed HIM too," Farsight smirked. " I had every right,"

" Y... you've lost it...," Hahn whispered, his eyes wide. " Y-you killed someone because he was a HERO and you were jealous!? And you wish to do it again!?"

" Oh, how much you've missed," Farsight sighed.

" What else is there!?" Hahn demanded. Farsight merely scowled at him, then glared at Chaz and lunged. Chaz scrambled back yet again. However, his foot caught upon a crystalline growth and he tumbled to the hard, sharp ground. His sword fell out of his hands, landing on the ground with a clang. Chaz gasped as the crystal scraped his skin. He shook his head, then looked up and gasped in horror. Farsight stood over him, his arm poised to bury the dagger in to Chaz's head.

" You die now, Ashley... just as all would-be heroes SHOULD!" he howled as he lunged. Chaz cried out in horror. He closed his eyes, bracing himself. He felt a splatter of blood and a howl of pain. Chaz gasped and his eyes flashed open. Blood oozed all over his face, dripping to his shirt. Farsight stood over him, rigid and eyes staring out in shock and pain. Blood oozed from his beak, trickling down. Chaz, to his horror, could see his sword tip sticking out of Farsight's chest. Behind him, Hahn held the hilt, though it was useless as the sword as buried up to that very hilt in to Farsight. Hahn trembled, his eyes narrowed.

" You jealous monster.... you took an innocent life solely because of he was a hero, and you were not... and you tried to do it again!" Hahn snapped, anger evident. " I cannot forgive you for what you did and what you tried to do," he hissed. With a furious yell, he twisted the blade. Farsight shrieked out in pain, then fell over. Blood oozed upon the ground, forming a thick puddle. His eyes clouded as he twitched. Intense pain flowed through him. He tried to get up but his body had gone beyond his control. Hahn panted, the anger subsiding, while Chaz's anger rose like a volcano. " I don't... know what we ever did to deserve your hatred...," Hahn whispered. " But it was not worth it, Farsight...,"

" You killed someone... who was he? Your friend?" Chaz asked, his voice hating.

A friend....? Yes.... he had been my friend.... my... best.... and ONLY... friend... and I had killed him.

" You SLIME...,"

I'm a slime.... ... but he had.....

" Jealousy doesn't excuse murder!!!"

Murder....?

" You... TRICKED US!!"

I had tricked him, too.... .....

" Chaz... calm down...,"

Their voices are so soft....

" You deserve Death's embrace...."

I'm dying...? Is this what Trrrosta felt when I.... betrayed him? .... he will hate me when I see him..... I would not blame him....

I AM a monster.....

Farsight coughed up blood as the puddle of blood continued to grow. His eyes were completely foggy and sight was near impossible. He could make out two forms, though they were blurry....

What...? A third?

A white shadow of a figure, though pale blue was apparent. A lion... with a mane of pale gold... who stood upright and wore pale gold armor. Chaz and Hahn were oblivious to it.

" T... T... Trrrosta....?" Farsight hissed, his voice choked. The lion shadow looked down at Farsight, silent. His eyes were sad and pitying. Farsight's body shook with pain. The lion approached and extending a paw towards Farsight, silent. Farsight's eyes opened wide as the lion reached to him. Farsight's talons reached up, slowly and shakily. His hand grasped the lion's. His entire form turned a soft gold and white, transparent as the lion. The lion helped Farsight up, out of his body, which lay upon the ground in twitching agony. Farsight stood, hand in hand, with the lion. Farsight glanced at his body, then at the lion. The lion smiled. Farsight opened his mouth to speak but the lion shook his head. Farsight smiled, softly. Then, he and the lion disappeared like smoke.

And then, Farsight's heart stopped.

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