Chapter One~ Saving Stones

"I can't believe her. I mean, it's picture day, and she still looks like she crawled from the gutter."

"Hey, maybe she wants to protest the poor 'ikkle fishies dying because of pollution, so she shows us just how disgusting the sewers are."

"You said it!"

Emiko Ishitono ignored the titters from the group of popular girls. She looked how she always did at school; a deep green baggy T-shirt and tight black jeans. She wasn't depressed, she wasn't apt to writing morbid poetry. She just liked dark colors.

But still, she sighed as she rounded the hallway in Sarazaki High, it would be nice to be considered normal for once.

Slinging the backpack off of her shoulder, Emiko dug around until she found a certain folder. She took from it a sheet of paper, which she pinned to the school's main bulletin board. Regarding it in satisfaction, she returned the folder to the backpack, and the backpack to her shoulder, and left the building. The paper stated:

Keep your slime away from our gutters!

Beneath that was a picture of a popular student at the school picking her nose. A second picture showed her flicking her findings away, and ironically, right towards a sewer.


"Got a problem with me?" Cherumi Janoki slammed a sophomore against the pale green lockers in Pei-Tai High school. Her long black hair was streaked this week with blue, and she wore a tight-fitting top that read "If you don't like the way I drive, get off the sidewalk."

"N-no." The kid stammered.

"Then why'd you call me ankle-biter?"

"Because that's w-what we call freshmen." The guy tried to sound brave, but Cherumi shoved him harder against the locker, making him wince.

"Not anymore. Shove off." She relinquished her hold on the guy, and stalked out of school before the first morning bell rang.

School's stupid. She fumed silently to herself as she made her way to Yoyogi Park. I don't belong there.


Ankara Hill held her books closer to her body, wincing as a baseball flew past her head in the wide gray hallways of Nakomi Highschool. She tried to slip into her homeroom unnoticed, but to no avail.

"Hey, Hill-Billy!" A tough-looking boy strode up and knocked the books from her arms. "What did I tell you about wearing black? That's my color!"

Ankara didn't retrieve her books, but glared back at him. "I'll wear what I wanna wear!"

"Not if it's ripped!" The guy sneered, and before she could run, grabbed the front of her shirt and tore it apart, revealing her bra beneath it.

Ankara stood, horrified, as he melted back into the crowd, who all started sniggering at her, some laughing openly. She felt tears welling in her eyes, and she pushed through the crowd of students and out the large double doors.

Don't give them the satisfaction. Don't let them see you cry. Ankara tried her best not to let the tears fall, but instead ran blindly towards the cool green of the nearby park.


"Jaque, stop here." Emowyen Sanatoga told the chauffeur irritably. He ignored her, and to her horror, drove her right up to the steps of Genmaki High. She tried vainly to get to the door first, but Jaque was there, pulling it smoothly open for her. She scowled.

"I thought I told you to stop a block away."

He bowed. "But miss, your father wouldn't want you to be attacked a block away from your learning structure. I have strict instructions to escort you to the doors."

"What Father don't know can't hurt him." Emowyen griped. "Can't you disobey just once? And you know perfectly well I can protect myself."

"No, miss. And I cannot risk you being overwhelmed. Now, I wouldn't want you late for your homeroom class, miss."

With a murderous glare, Emowyen stepped out, clutching her book bag so Jaque couldn't take that from her as well. He walked her up the stairs, and held open the door for her. She purposely opened the next door over, and stalked inside amid hearty giggles from her surrounding classmates.

She stopped just inside the door, and opened it a crack. Watching Jaque drive away, she counted softly to five, then slipped back outside.

All I want is a day without security guards watching over me, the stupid precious millionaire’s daughter. I'll suffer the consequences later.



Cherumi sat in a bench under a tree in the park, watching a girl with amusement. The girl was dressed all in green, wearing a short kimono that went to about three inches above her knees. She wore light green knee socks with mega-lift green geta. On her head was a tall hat with pictures of trees winding their way up the hat. She wore green lipstick, and green sparkles were all over her person. A green Japanese umbrella completed her ensemble. Her red hair was a shock after seeing all that green. In her hand was a stack of paper, all bearing the words:

Be Forest Friendly! Call our Prime Minister

and tell him to stop big name industries from

killing our forests!

Not many people paid her any attention, even though the outfit was clearly intended to attract it. But with all the cosplay going around, Cherumi wasn't surprised she was being ignored.

Emiko, after having changed into her outfit and arriving at the park, wasn't having much luck. No one would take her papers; she really didn't mind. She used it as an excuse to be out of school, because her mother, an alcoholic, said she was benefiting the community handing out leaflets and wasn't doing the world any good in school. She'd be here for another twenty minutes and then leave for home.

It wasn't like Emiko wasn't concerned about environmental issues; she just didn't think she could do much about them when the forests were three hundred miles away and she was in the middle of Tokyo.

Emowyen strolled around the park, her bookbag slung forgotten on her shoulder. Her blonde hair (highlighted with orange) floated in a pleasant breeze. People ignored her for once, and she reveled in it.

She caught sight of some strange girl in green being watched like a dinner show by a grunge-looking girl on a park bench. She meandered closer to them, and soon seated herself on the grunge-girl's park bench. Ignoring the other girl's murderous glare, Emowyen watched as the green girl tried in vain to give a paper to a strict-looking woman in a business suit.

Ankara fled into the trees and green grass of the park, unable to stop the tears now. Her fingers closed around a pocketknife in her jean's backpocket, and stumbling into the near empty square, she brought it out. Placing herself in the direct middle of the park's center in full view of the other three people in it,, she flicked the knife open.

"I want to die!" Ankara screamed, then drew the blade across her wrist.

A number of things happened then.

First, Ankara fell to her knees in pain, then second, Emowyen lept up and disappeared. Within seconds, she reappeared thirty feet away at Ankara's side, holding the wrist of the hand that held the blade, stopping her from harming herself anymore.

Third, Ankara screamed, and Emoyen fell over, knocked compleatly unconcious. People within hearing distance winced in pain, a searing headache taking them for the rest of the day.

Fourth, Cherumi lept up after Emoywyen, and made a slashing motion in front of herself. A gold-yellow something shot out from noware, and it cut the knife in half. Chermuni ran after it and knocked the remainder of the pocket knife out of Ankara's weakening grip.

And fifth, Emiko ran over as fast as her geta would alow her, and she knelt at Ankara's side. Taking Ankara's bloodied wrist, Emiko laid a hand over the wound, then took it away. Aside from the already spilt blood, Ankara's wrist was completly devoid of any wound, or any telltale scar or mark.

The three concious girls stood, and backed away from each other. Emiko knelt at Emowyen's side and place a hand on her forehead. Emowyen's eyes flew open and she stood, also backing away.

Then, all four turned and walked away.


* * * *


Emiko, now out of the green costume and back at home, stared out of her bedroom window pensivly. The sounds of her mother throwing up in the bathroom across the apartment's small hallway floated into her room, and she kicked the door shut.

Those girls in the park...were like me.

Emiko had long considered herself a freak. She had been compelled to learn karate and the art of kung-foo ever since she remembered. She saved her allowence year after year to put herself through all the extensive lessons, finally learning how to handle wepons, then, completing the entire course by the time she was ten.

She also had an uncanny sense of smell. She could smell people's emotions, and stuff only animals could smell. She could tell who a person was with her eyes closed by their scents. Sometimes, she was overwhelmed with different scents all together, and passed out. Her mother thought it was from the fumes of alcohol, but she was only sort of right. The smells of trash for three blocks around, the stench of the gutters, the reek of the occasional roadkill skunk, and the ever-present smell of human sweat were mostly the problem.

And then, there was Abnormality. The thing she had always kept a secret. Never once in her life had she gotten sick. No broken bones, not even a cold. Not just because she was over-immune to illness and not just because she was careful. But because she could get sick. If she broke a bone, then moment she touched the broken limb, a surge went through her body and the bone healed.

Once, she had seen a dog get run over by a hit and run driver. He was hurt badly, and Emiko had run out to comfort it. After being touched once, the dog trotted happily away, to the confusion of the five other witnesses, who in the end figured the dog haden't gotten hit.

Emiko brought her mind back to the present, and fingered the small moonstone ring she always wore.

Tomorrow I'll go back to the park. And I'll get some answers.


Emowyen snuck back into school just as the bell rang so she could leave with everyone else. Not even complaining as Jaque opened the door for her, she got inside and Jaque shut the door. As the limo pulled away from the curb, Emowyen thought about the other three girls in the park.

The one girl who screamed... Emowyen figured the waves in the girl's voice had knocked Emowyen out. The grungy girl had to of done something, and Emowyen had deducted by the half of a knife lying on the ground that the girl could somehow cut through metal. And the girl in green had somehow stopped the bleeding and had woken her up. She could probably heal people.

The fact that these girls all had extra ordinary powers didn't alarm her, but only slightly surprised her. She herself, had an oddity, a gift. She could, in a crude manner of speaking, teleport herself to anyware she wished. Several times she would wake up in a different country, having teleported herself there while she was dreaming.

She had also felt too smart for her own good. Things simply occured to her, and she ofton thought she remembered learning it before. But, she had once tried and talk about it with her parents, who stared at Emowyen in confusion, then asked why her teachers were teaching third graders bio-chemistry and calculus.

And then was the fighting skills. She had always known how to kick, punch, whatever. And it wasn't because of her strange knowledge accumulation. No, the only thing she ever asked from her wealthy parents was karate lessons. And her father had hired a professional master of karate to teach her everything he knew, which was quite a lot. By her sixth grade year, Emowyen knew his every secret, and was well practiced with a katana and num-chucks.

Tomorrow morning I'll sneak back to the park. Perhaps I'll be enlightened about these other girls like me.

Satisfied with her conclusion, Emowyen settled back into the comfortable seat, and fiddled with the moonstone bracelet she had recevied at birth. It was a comfort to her, and most of the times it seemed like her only friend.


Ankara had returned to the park bench, to sit and think. There, thirty feet away was a smear of blood on the ground. Her blood. She could hardly see it now in the dying light.

After the other three girls had left, Ankara had stolen back to this solitary park bench and, disreagurding her torn shirt, had sat in deep thought. She sat there now, rubbing her left wrist pensivly, some more of the dried blood flaking off.

Ankara hadn't always been shy, antisocial, and quiet. She had once been the most popular girl in the fifth grade. Everybody liked her, the teachers loved her, her parents paid attention to her, and life had been perfect. She was a good singer for her young age, and excelled in her tai kwon doe classes.

Then, falling off of the swingset one day, she had bit down too hard and cracked her back molars. The dentists wanted to try a different sort of filling on her teeth. She remembered them giving her a toothbrush as she left the office. And then, she started to see things.

She could see the sun through dense clouds, a bird clearly a mile up, and a bug crawling along a dark allyway two blocks away. She never told anyone, for fear they'd lock her up. But all the same, that wasn't the thing that changed her life.

One day, she was being chased by a boy with a spider. She had screamed when he had thrown it at her, and the boy had fallen over into a coma that lasted for four months. Nobody could prove it was her who had made him comatose, but everyone suspected. Suddenly, Ankara had gone from the most popular to the most hated person in her school.

She had moved, and her parents, who never knew about the strange connection with Ankara's scream and the comatose boy, continued on as though nothing was wrong. They both got raises and promotions, and soon seemed to never be home. Ankara just became more and more withdrawn, only speaking if spoken to, and only getting angry if over-provoked.

But she had tested her theory about her voice and its powers. She screamed when a squirrel was crossing her backyard, and the thing was thrown a few feet away, then flopped over dead. And upon further investigation, Ankara found if she raised the pitch of her voice, she could crack through solid objects, including cement and brick. And she was terrified.

But these other girls...all normal-looking enough (except for the freak in the cosplay clothes, but basically they were normal) and they seemed to be extraordinary as well. The orange and blonde girl had suddenly appeared out of thin air at her side. And the tough girl had sent out some sort of energy force that cut her knife in half. And the green girl had completely healed her...

Suddenly, the streetlights flickered to life, and Ankara looked at her watch in alarm. It was 9:25.

"I should probably get home.." Ankara mumbled to herself, suddenly aware of the chill that penetrated her clothes and made her exposed skin prickle.

But I'll be back... I need to know if I'm not alone.


Cherumi kicked a garbage can over as she meandered her way home. Heavy metal music boomed from every house, and she bent over and picked up an empty soda can. This she chucked with all her might at her next-door nieghbor's sitting room window.

"Beat it, Janoki!"

"Make me!" She yelled back, but she continued her walk anyways. Another garbage can was set out on the street corner, and she performed a flawless jump kick. The garbage can rolled away, its side dented in deep.

Opening the screen door in the entrance to her own house, Cherumi pulled out a key and opened the main wooden door.

She pounded downstairs, not paying attention to her elder brother's music blaring from behind his closed door. She knew he wasn't home, and the music was just a ruse to make the social service people think he was. Her brother was her caretaker, and not a particularly good one. One more than one occasion they had scrambled cleaning the small two-bedroom house, just barely finishing as the social service agent knocked on the door.

They had worked out a deal: he had control of the upstairs, and she got the downstairs. She used to think she got a raw deal, seeing as the upstairs had their only TV and a small addition, but in the end she came out most fortunate; her shower had warmer water, and the cement walls of the basement were soundproof.

Her "room" was the entire downstairs, and it was filled with Cherumi-like stuff. A large stereo in one corner, a matress on the floor in another, and her prized possesion; the full-length punching bag hanging from the ceiling.

Flipping on her stereo to some punky-pop-ish music, she started her routine workout. Kicking and punching the punching bag, she found she could think much better than just sitting around.

Cherumi wondered about the girl who had slit her wrist. Why would anyone want to do that? How bad could someone's life get? She knew her own was really sucky; no parents, social service people always threatening to take her away, a strange gift, you know, the works.

She smiled and whacked the bag so hard it swung a good foot. Cherumi liked to joke about serious situations, it always made them not as bad.

Yeah, she had a gift. She could summon a sort of golden force field thing that she liked to refer to as her Slash. Simple. Not confusing. She had no idea to how she could do her Slash, but it had saved her butt on many an occasion. Once, she had been chased by a gang who jumped people, and usually left them in the Emergency room. Completely cornered and helpless, Cherumi had tried to fend them off with a few of her self-defense moves. There was too many of them. So, in a last-ditch attempt to stop them, she had waved her hands in front of her. The force of her Slash bowled all of them over, the ones in front slightly burned. And that was only one example.

Aside from her Slash, she had a sort of sixth sense about what would happen. She never had stepped in a pile of slush on accident, she had never gotten pooped on by a bird, and she always knew what days to skip off school for pop quizes.

But these other girls, they also were special. One could appear and disapear at will, the suicidal one could knock people out with her voice, (Cherumi rubbed her head, which was still throbbing a painful reminder of her scream) and the cosplay environmentalist could heal people. Freaky.

After her workout, Cherumi slipped into her pajamas. Before going to bed, she examined her pride and joy in the mirror; a white stone bellybutten piercing.

We'll the morning.


Chapter Two

* * * *


"Oh Emikoooo!" Emiko turned halfway around, considering whether to run, hide, or to be caught sneaking out of school. But it was only Ken, her one true friend. He was a complete photography nut, and never went anyware without a camera hanging around his neck. With blue-black hair and piercing black eyes, Ken could be considered handsome, but he perfered to wear horn-rimmed glasses and extreamly unfashionable clothing.

"Ken, can you not see I'm busy ditching?" Emiko threw him a look of mock exasperation and pushed open the wide double door, Ken trailing after her.

"Well, yeah, but I have something to show you." Ken pulled out a newspaper clipping, and read aloud as they walked down the steps towards the park. "Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Tsunaka Sugi claims she saw an attempted suicide in Yoyogi Park. But the truth in this statement is doubtful. There was no evidence of any deaths, or even signs of an attempted suicide. Seeing as Sugi is nearing the age of eighty-nine, we believe she might of been hallucinating."

Emiko tensed. "So why'd you, uh, wanna show me that?" Her mind was racing. The the very same park...what if the lady saw her and the others...? And what if Ken suspected her..?

"Just to show you how newspaper journalism has deteriorated over the years. First, they start putting in false horoscopes, and now this! No background info, no investigation. It dosn't even say if there was police intervention! I mean...." He prattled on in typical Ken fashion, not noticing the relief on Emiko's face.

"-and I've been saying for years that soon we'll be reading supermarket tabloid material in our country's newspapers each Sunday morning! Here's the proof. Don't you agree?"

"Uh, wha-sure. Yeah. Totally. Ken, why are you ditching? Don't you have, I dunno, school?" Emiko really liked Ken's company at any other time, but she also knew just how he'd react to finding out about her, and possibly the other three. He'd have an article written up and sent to the paper within hours, complete with "exclusive photos." She shuddered.

"So? You always skiv off."

"I'm benifiting the community by handing out leaflets, educating our city's people about their dangerous ways." Emiko sounded like she was reciting.

"Right. What's the cause today?" Ken asked. Emiko inhaled deeply, and caught the smell of Ken's suspicioun on the air. She'd have to think fast. Unzipping her bag, she saw a yellow scarf that was stuck at the bottem of the bag since last winter that she hadn't bothered to remove. She pulled this out.

"You're protesting scarves?" Ken's voice was skeptical.

"Do you not see this is made out of wool?" Emiko improvised.


"You uneducated riffraff! Be ashamed of your cluelessness! This wool was probably shorn off of a sheep raised and cared for by child laborers!" Emiko swelled in theatrical rage at her friend, who, sensing a long speech about child rights, backed away.

"Okay, I'm heading back. See you after school, maybe? I need to run to the minimall to get my film developed."

"Sure. How about..ah..six-thirty? I'll meet you there and we can get pizza or something." Emiko was relieved.

"Okay. Good luck with the scarf!" Ken strolled back up the steps. Stuffing the scarf back into her bag, Emiko jogged to the park.

It was devoid of human life, usual for the mid-morning time. Emiko crossed to the park bench and plopped herself down and closed her eyes, forgetting all senses but the sense of smell. Three blocks away, two people, males, by the smell of stark sweat and active hormones, were dealing drugs that smelled of tobacco. A cat was almost ready to give birth another few blocks in the oppisite direction. And someone was making coffee in the office compound next to the park.

Emiko opened her eyes as a bird sang above her. The park was peaceful and green, refreshing and calming.

"Perfect place for a jam session." Emiko announced out loud. Her version of a jam session was putting on headphones and practicing her karate moves. Digging into her backpack, she pulled out her portable mini-boom box, and cranked it up loud. Putting on music with a good beat, she shut her eyes and began. She really didn't care that she was in the middle of a public park; who would truely care?

She began slowly, and then sped up. It was almost like a dance as she moved quicker and quicker, eyes closed, blood pumping in time to the heavy beat. So into her dance Emiko was that she didn't notice another person coming up.

Emowyen watched Emiko "jamming" with amusement. Even though the girl looked rather foolish, leaping, kicking, punching and dodging invisible opponents, Emowyen had to be impressed with the girl's style. She moved quickly, and surely.

Emowyen felt her entire body straining, wanting to join in, wanting to join the deadly dance. The heavy beat of the music was compelling, and the next time Emiko gave a kick, Emowyen moved in and blocked it, then returned with a spin-kick of her own. Soon, they were spinning around, fighting with flawless style and perfection, dancing so that any karate master in the world would be envious. Emowyen's bracelet caught the morning light and flashed brightly, along with Emiko's ring, so that their movements seemed almost surreal and magical.

Emiko was so enthralled in her jam session, she didn't notice the opponent she faced was now real. All her movements were focused, yet mindless.

That was how Ankara found them. She sat on the bench, watching them noiselessly, sharp eyes noting every detail of Emiko's face, every movement of Emowyen's fighting style. Within moments she had both whirling fighters memorized down to the last strand of hair.

Ankara couldn't explain the feeling she had then. A feeling of real belonging. When she was still regular Ankara, without any particular gifts, she would have said she belonged with her classmates, teachers, and loving parents. But not how she felt she belonged here. Something was still missing, but this feeling was more whole than any other in her life. She stood, and walked over to the whirling girls. And she joined in the deadly dance, knowing where to move, knowing how to turn, belonging to herself, to the other two.

Cherumi felt a pull suddenly in her stomach, five blocks away from the park. Pushing off with one foot, she rode the skateboard down the deserted sidewalk, and rubbed her belly butten pensivly. It only grew stronger, like she was missing something and needed to join in or she would miss out, be uncomplete. She abandonded the skateboard and started to run, blindly.

Emiko, Emowyen and Ankara still wern't totally aware of one another. They didn't hardly feel a skip in their dance as Cherumi joined in. The flashes of sunlight grew faster, and then stopped suddenly.

They stood looking at one another.

"Hi." Ankara said lamely, more for the sake of breaking the silence than to really say something of importance. The effect was instantaneous and contagious. Emiko giggled, then Emowyen smothered a chuckle, then Cherumi chortled. Finally Ankara broke out laughing, and the floodgates were broken, leaving all four girls barely breathing for the laughter.

When the giggles finally subsided, all four were sprawled on the grass, breathing deeply and masaging their stomachs after the belly laughing.

"So," Cherumi said looking at the other three, "I s'pose you are all here for the same reason as me."

"If you mean we all want to know why the other three have similar oddities as herself, then I do believe you're correct. I for one, am extreamly curious." Emowyen said.

"Anyone for pizza?" Emiko inquired. The other three looked at her strangely.

"It's only eleven-thirty." Ankara said in confusion.

"Pizza-time." Emiko grinned. "Come on, don't tell me you guys haven't had pizza for every meal at least once." She looked imploringly around at the other three, who all shook their heads. "All right, that's freaky. Let me introduce you to the wonders of junk food for breakfast!"

"First, why don't you introduce yourself." Emowyen said dryly.

"Okay. I'm Emiko Ishitono, at your service." Emiko gave a theatrical bow. "Sarazaki High's resident environmentalist, or just Sarazaki High's resident mentalist, depends on what you call crazy."

Cherumi grinned and stood as well, dropping a curtsey that looked quite strange with her ripped green jeans and black skin-tight belly shirt. "Cherumi Janoki at the service of you and your family's, Pei-Tai Highschool's resident punk. Hands down or otherwise broken, slammed into a locker, or given a swirly."

Emowyen gave a wide smile and dropped a proper curtsey. She was well trained in manners, to her absolute revlusion. "I am Emowyen Sanatoga, currently of Genmaki High, and, well, I look like the resident rich and snobby kid."

Ankara, not to be outdone, kept on her knees and touched her forehead to the grassy ground. "I am Ankara Hill, daughter of Rokai Hill, Nakomi Highschool's resident freak and goth poet. Who gratefully accepts the offer to be introduced to junk food, despite the early nature of the morning."

Emiko gave a low whistle. "I guess I'm just outclassed here!" She joked. "But it would be my honor to escort ye all to Pizza World!"

They all laughed, all aware that they were more at ease with these complete strangers than with people they had known all their lives. They belonged now, somehow.

Once seated in the sparsely populated Pizza World, they ordered a large pepperoni, with greenn peppers on half, and a round of waters. Then, once they had gone though a slice apiece, their talk turned to the real matter at hand.

"All my life, I could just, you know, teleport." Emowyen shrugged, sauce smeared over her fingers. She sucked it off, gleefull that no one repremanded her for being rude at the table. "I first figured it out around four or five, when I was suddenly on the counter next to the cookie jar."

They all laughed, and reached for more pizza. Emiko didn't wait to swallow before starting her story. Emowyen was overjoyed in a really twisted way as bits of cheese spattered the table.

"Well, I firs' 'ealed mysef arou'..ah.." Emiko paused a moment to swallow. "Around third grade, I should think, when I first broke my arm trying to fly." The others gave her quizzical looks. "Hey! I was, like, eight!"

"Exactly." Cherumi grinned, and she ducked a pepperoni Emiko chucked at her. "And me, I'm not quite sure what my thing is all about, but I call it my Slash. I can cut through solid objects, set things on fire, the whole meal deal. It's wicked."

"Hmm, wicked, eh? I can scream and knock out a roomfull of people. If they're close enough, I can put 'em in comas. And, I can crack through metal and stone if I raise the pitch of my voice." Ankara wiped her chin with the greasy napkin before taking another huge, sloppy bite that required the napkin again.

"And we can all fight..and we all ironically and coincidentally met in the same park on the same day, all with feelings of not belonging and varying degrees of unhappiness..." Emowyen stared at her plate thoughtfully.

Cherumi looked at her quizzically. "So?"

"There must be a connection! Of some sort, I believe..I'm just not sure what." Emowyen looked up and was surprised to see three confused expressions on the other girl's faces. "What?"

"When you've finished, Einstein, would you explain to us?" Ankara said, a trace of amusement in her voice.

"What?" Emowyen was throughly confused for a moment, then it clicked. "Oh, sorry! I haven't exactly mentioned all of my oddities."

"Go on." Emiko prompted her.

"Things occur to me. Out of the blue. I knew ecconomics when I was in first grade...and it's just as unexplainable as all of this." Emowyen gestured at the other three.

"Well, I kinda know what you mean. I sort of....get gut feelings about things. Like, in a few minutes, the hot pizza dude is going to come over and ask us if we were satisfied and take our plates. He'll drop one." Cherumi looked at the other faces for signs of mistrust or fear, and relaxed when she saw none.

"That's better. Just relax." Emiko told her comfortingly. "You smell better when you arn't all worried."


"I have quite an accute sense of smell. I can tell certain emotions, due to the scent you give off. I'll always know who you are now, because I've got your scent memorized." Emiko explained.

"Okey-dokey..." Cherumi gave a little laugh. "And here was me thinking I put on perfume without noticing this morning."

Ankara shifted slightly, stirring her water with her straw. "I can relate, Emiko. I have very sharp sight. I can see every grain of dust on the table pretty clearly right now, and I'd never mistake someone I've met for someone else because every detail of their faces, body language, hair, everything, memorized. And sort of off topic, but I absolutly love your belly butten piercing, Cherumi."

Cherumi shifted so the other two could see it as well. "Thanks," she said proudly. "I got it when I was in fourth grade, when I first claimed my title of punk. That's a rare moonstone in there."

"Moonstone?" Emowyen said interrestedly. "I have a simular chunk of moonstone on my birth bracelet. I've always worn it."

"No way. You kid me." Emiko said. "I've always had this old ring, my mom gave it to me. And believe it or not, it's made of moonstone as well."

Ankara felt slightly left out. To all of her knowledge, she had never had any moonstone anything. But the word was familar...

"Guys, I got us figured out." Emowyen said slowly. "I think...wait...just give me a half hour in the library, just to be sure!"

"Excuse me, ladies, but are you all satisfied with your pizza?" They all looked up, and saw the cute pizza waiter looking down at them.

"Uh...yeah." Cherumi said, a bit of a smile on her face.

"May I take your plates?"

"Sure...but be careful." Emiko giggled. The pizza dude looked nonplussed, and took the plates and walked away. The four all waited for a crash, but none came. Cherumi shrugged.

"What can I say, I'm not always a hundred percent ri-"

She was interrupted by a clatter and the sounds of faint swearing in the back room, and all four burst into laughter.

"All right, library time." Emiko announced. She dropped money onto the table, refusing the other's offers to chip in. "I was introducing you to breakfast junk food, so this time, my treat. Next time...don't consider yourselves off the hook!"

They caught the bus over to the big city library, were Emowyen raced into the stacks, with promises of only being a half hour.

"She'll take at least an hour." Cherumi whispered to Emiko and Ankara with a smile. "So pick out an interresting book and start in."

Emiko went straight to the comic books, the manga, grabbed a pile, sat herself down, and stuck her nose in. Cherumi and Ankara followed her example.

True to Cherumi's prediction, Emowyen imerged an hour later, holding a dusty volume reverently in her hands. Emiko, Cherumi, and Ankara were all on their six or fifth manga volumes, and looked up expectantly as Emowyen approached.

"It's all here." Emowyen sat down, book over her knees. "The book's all about ancient lore and crap, but we're mentioned."

"Us specificly?" Ankara asked, surprised.

"Naw. Just what I assume relates to us. Here, listen: 'In times of great need, four warriors were born again and again to rise and prevent the Apocalypse from being released upon the world. The four warriors were extraordinary humans, and oft believed to be of demon breed or blood. Given streangths due to each's nature, no matter the odds, each warrior would find the others with a span of two decades, or havoc would indeed be loosed. Each warrior was given a talismen, more oft than not unknowingly, that bound each and all together.Their task was to prevent evil from triumphing.' Kinda nifty, eh?"

"But what's all the stuff about 'preventing Apocalypse' and all?" Cherumi asked.

"Uh.." Emowyen flipped a few pages back, then ran a finger down the faded text. "Here's something..about the last four warriors. They were called Tohemo, Tyoko, Sazukin, and Yashi. All males...hrm.."

"And..?" Emiko prompted.

" says around three hundred years ago, they were united in Edo (present day Tokyo) and saved the Stone of idea what that's something... the Stone was said to be of great power, and if it was in the hands of evil, it could wipe out the planet... and only when evil strong enough to take the Stone was born into the world, the four would arise to battle it...but wait..the Stone isn't whole anymore. Tohemo and Yashi were escaping with it while Sazukin and Tyoko fought off the evil to give them time...Tohemo was shot in the back and he dropped the Stone, it broke into pieces, and Yashi only gathered them up just in time... here, then the four escaped and bound the enchantment of the Stone upon themselves..." Emowyen turned the page expectantly, and started to read silently down the next.

":Well?" Cherumi nearly squealed. "What happened?"

"The enchantment was a shield against evil's prying eyes, and then the four hid the pieces according to their own wills, not even telling one another where they were hidden. And the only way to break the enchantment is-oh no! The page is ripped!" Emowyen flipped it over, as though she expected to find the missing portion hiding behind the next page.

"So, that's what we have to do? Prevent crime and evil?" Cherumi said, looking slightly disapointed that the rest of the information was missing, but looking positivly delighted at the prospect of being crimefighters.

"Sounds like it," Ankara agreed.

Emiko and Emowyen still looked doubtful. "But what about the whole Stone thingy?" Emiko asked.

"Well, it's hidden, and the enchantment is activated, and the page is missing that says how to break it!" Ankara declared.

"I guess.." Emowyen said slowly, a smile etching across her face. But then it faded. "But we can't just parade around in broad daylight, going around kicking bad people's butts."

Emiko grinned. "I can just see us all, going 'Excuse me, Mr. Robber, I'm an ancient warrior, even though I look like I'm barely fifteen. Now I gonna kick yo butt!"

"No that wouldn't work." Ankara agreed. "We'd go by night, and we'd need disguises..."

Emiko looked positivly thrilled at this. "Exellent! It's not like a gift or anything, but I find I have quite the hand for sewing and stuff like that. We'll have kick-butt costumes by next weekend!"

"Now this is just getting cooler by the second!" Cherumi squealed. "Costumes!"

"This is really sweet." Emowyen couldn't help but grin with excitment as well. "Well, what are we waiting for? We have costumes to design!"


Chapter Three


* * * *


Emiko dragged herself home around eight, two full plastic bags in her arms, containing the differnet fabrics she planned to use on the costumes. She wasn't joking when she said she could sew; most of her cosplay clothing were made utterly from scratch. The costumes she had designed with her friend's help would be easy as pie, and still uber-neato, as she put it.

After locking the apartment door, Emiko set the bags down on the table and crossed the kitchen to the phone, whose red messege light was blinking. She pushed the play butten, and switched on a light.

"Hey, Emiko. It's Ken. Thanks for bailing on me. Really, it's no biggie. I just sat on the bus bench for an hour and a half waiting for you. It was enlightening. Well, I wasted all my time already, so sayanara."

Emiko stared at the phone in shock. Ken! She had totally forgotten! She grabbed the phone and dialed his number. Ken's mother picked up on the second ring.


"Mrs. Sukuoi? Is Ken home?"

"Yes, Emiko, dear. But I'm afraid he's not in the best of moods with you right now." There was the noise of footsteps, then Ken answered.


"Ken, before you say anything, I just want to apologize-"

Ken slammed the phone down, and Emiko heard the dial tone. She stubbornly pressed redial and waited.

"What now?" Ken's voice was angry.

"And I want to explain why I didn't come-"

The dial tone sounded again. She hit redial a third time.

"Don't you get it that I don't want to talk to you?!" Ken positivly yelled into the phone.

"Yeah, but because you're my friend I'll keep re-calling all night!"

There was a pause. Then, "Some friend you are. You didn't even call my cell to cancel."

"I know, but I was sort of distracted." Emiko figited nervously. She'd tell him a white lie, then ask the others if she could possibly let Ken in on the truth.

"With what?"

"Uh..the cops think my protesting got too violent." Judging from the small chuckle she heard from Ken, Emiko figured he was about ready to forgive her. She hated lying to him, but...

"What did you do?"

"I made a little girl cry because I was yelling that she ought to go and make her own wool instead of having some half straved kid do it for her. Unfortunatly for me, a cop was listening in as well. Good crowd though, today. Before the cop got there."

"Sounds like you. Thanks, and I'm sorry for being jerky. I got to go, though. Call me tomorrow?"

"Won't we see each other in school?" Emiko asked, puzzled.

"On a Saturday? I hope not." She almost heard Ken shudder over the phone.

"Oh. Right."

"Bye then."



Cherumi and Ankara walked down the narrow street towards Cherumi's house.

"You sure your parents won't mind?" Cherumi asked Ankara, who laughed.

"Like they'll even get home tonight? Naw, I could be gone for a week and they wouldn't suspect anything."

Cherumi was having Ankara over for the evening, so they could work on a small part of their costumes. Even though Emiko was the handiest with the needle and thread, Ankara was excellent at beading and embroidering, and she and Cherumi were going to decorate the four pairs of tall leather boots they had bought that day. Emowyen had wanted to come, but she had to reluctantly return to school just before the end of the day, so she wouldn't be missed. And Emiko said she needed her sewing machine and at least two days, and had wished them good luck with the boots.

Cherumi opened the door, and was surprised to see her brother at home, bending over the kitchen table.

"Hey, Sougarou. Whatchya doin'?"

"Homework. I hate math." Sougarou hardly looked up as she and Ankara entered. A large workbook was opened to a point someware in the middle, and several sheets of notes lay all around the table.

"Well, I'm proud. I have a friend over tonight, but we'll stock up on food now."

"Okay." Sougarou didn't even acknowledge Ankara's presence, he was so intent on the equation. Lately, Sougarou had been working very hard on the easy collage courses he was taking, determined to get a better job soon, once he had a degree of some sort. The social service people were approving of this new change in attitide as well.

Ankara followed Cherumi downstairs, and smiled when she had a good look around. Even though they had only known each other for less than a day, Ankara knew these surroundings were by far and wide totally Cherumi's. She felt as though she already knew all three others as though they had known each other from birth.

"Okay, what, Madam Seamstress?" Cherumi looked at the two pairs of boots she held, and the other two Ankara held rather doubtfully. Never in her life had she attempted sewing.

"Well, first we seperate the colors of thread we have, and estimate how many spools we need. Let's start with Emowyen's boots."

Cherumi set down a pair of white boots on the ping-pong table against the left hand wall. All the boots had been purchased at a second-hand store, and all were more pleather than true leather. Emiko had gotten quite excited when Emowyen had discovered them beneath a pair of men's trousers.

"Because they're not true leather, it'll be easier to applique the patterns we all want onto them. And look! We won't need the red ones, but there's the perfect Ankara color! What a gorgous blue! Try 'em on! And here's an assortment of black ones, Cherumi, lets you and me pick a pair and find ones that fit...what about some white ones..?" Emiko had nearly swelled up and burst with excitement, and Emowyen, after some more digging, and found a pair of white plether boots that were in extreamly good shape coming from a second-hand store.

The owner of the second-hand store had known Emiko pretty well, because of her frequent visits to the store to buy material for new cosplay outfits. When he saw the amount of things they were intent on buying, he gave them a discount.

"All right, Emowyen wanted blue and, blue thread.." Ankara seperated the spools of thread over into a pile by the white boots. "Now.. your boots..."

Cherumi handed her a pair of black boots. Ankara shifted the numerous spools around until she found an electric yellow color.

"And you wanted yellow and gold... and Emiko wanted black and boots, red thread... and I wanted black and thread... okay, we're ready to begin!"


~Three Weeks Later~


"Tokyo's under attack, but this time, it isn't the bad guys. No, the crime rate has actually been cut into half by four good Samaratins. One eyewittness account tells us that four females dressed in today's popular fad of costume play outfits do their best to rid Tokyo of any and all criminals, drug dealers, child abusers, and whatnot. Their reward? Here's Satinko Garuki with more."

Emowyen watched the news lazily while reading her favriote manga, not really paying attention. But when the reports started following the activity of her and her friends, Emowyen listened raptly. The screen switched to a perky reporter standing next to a woman whom Emowyen recognised.

"The bag lady." Emowyen breathed. Just two nights ago, Emowyen, Cherumi, Emiko and Ankara had discovered three gang members hasseling an old bag lady. Three kicks later, all three gang members were knocked unconcious and tied to a street lampost.

"How can I thank you?" The old woman had cried.

"Just by forgetting you saw us," Came Cherumi's reply. That was what they requested of everyone they helped, but word was still getting out.

"So, Ms. Tabanaski, what happened exactly? Give a word for the record." The perky reporter lady shoved the mike into the bag lady's face, who grinned and repeated the entire sceane, doing her best to describe each one of them in extensive detail.

"There were four of 'em. The one who spoke to me was a shortish girl of around thirteen fourteen years, and she had black hair, and her uniform was all black and yellow, very tight and superhero-ish." As the woman paused for breath, Emowyen thought, That would be Cherumi. "Then, there was a girl with longer black hair, also short, with a strange short dress of blue and black coloring, and then a girl with bright red, well, dark red I should say, hair who wore an ancient samurai-ish thing that was long and red, with black underneath. And lastly was a high tech looking girl with blonde hair and a space-looking dress of blue and orange."

By then the reporter was looking less perky and more like she wanted to shove the jabbering old lady away from the camera to shut her up.

"There you have it, Yuri. Four fighters who all have one goal in mind; to rid the world of wrong-doers, and stay anonymous while doing so. Back to you."

Emowyen switched off the television, feeling sick. She had never really believed all they were supposed to do was fight modern-day crime, but perhaps find the bits of Stone or something more important. But now, they were labled as superhero wanna-be people, and were on television. Perfect for the nameless evil. All he had to do was watch the news and pronto! he had perfect descriptions of them.

Her phone rang, and she picked it up. "Hello?"

"This so totally uber sucks!" Emiko's voice wailed. "Just so not what we need now!"

"Tell me about it." Emowyen said half heartedly. "I have half a mind to go and teach that bag lady a lesson."

"Not just her! Are you still watching?!"

"No. Should I be?"

"Nearly everyone in the last three weeks wants a piece of the spotlight! Everyone's going to give their story!" Emiko sounded almost ill. "Oh, hang on a second, someone's on the bell."

"Eh? On the bell?"

"Someone's at the door. Just a sec. Here, you call Cherumi and Ankara. They don't watch the news."

"'Kay. I'll call you four-way in about five minutes."

"Okies. Sayanara."

Just as Emowyen was dialing Cherumi's number, her doorbell gave a sweet ring, its expensive musical tones echoing about the house. She could hear Jaque's voice answering it, then letting someone inside.

"A visitor for you, Miss Emowyen!"

Emowyen trudged downstairs, her mind heavy with what she had heard on the news. She didn't even see the punch before it hit her broadside the head.

Everything went dark.


Ankara stopped reading the manga she held in her hands as her home's doorbell rang. She stood up and walked over to the door. Pulling it open, she came face to face with a heavy-set man and another, skinny and tall.

"Good evening, Miss Ankara." The skinny man said smoothly. "May we have a word?"

"Sure..." Ankara let the door open wider, eyeing the two men with suspicion.

"Good girl. Now hand it over." The heavy-set man blocked the door, while the skinny one stood in front of her.

"Hand what over?" Ankara tried her best to keep her voice steady.

"The last fragment of the Stone of Eraech, stupid girl! Where are you hiding it?!"

The Stone? How do they know about it? What does he mean, where is it hidden? How should I know? The last warriors hid them...

"Answer me!" The skinny man screeched. "We have the other three pieces, your silly little friends didn't see an attack coming! Well, except the punk, but we subdoed her quickly..."

"You're lying." Ankara said automatically, but her brain wheeled. Were her friends okay? What did he mean, he had the other pieces?

"Stop stalling!" The skinny man whacked her across the face before she could react. She tasted blood, and felt something hard loose in her mouth, most likely a tooth. She spat it out, gaging on the taste of her own blood. The skinny man drew in his breath, and snatched the little white thing gleaming on the floor.

Ankara probed in her mouth with her tounge. No teeth were missing, except the filling on her molar....

The filling was moonstone! The other's moonstone jewelery was all bits of the Stone of Ereach!

"Give it back!" Ankara shouted, and lept up to deliver a jump-kick to the man's hand. She was stopped in midair by the fat man grabbing her leg and throwing her down.

The skinny man drew out three other chunks that Ankara recognised as the gems from Emiko's ring, Emowyen's bracelet, and Cherumi's bellybutten piercing. They were all fitting together, and only a small piece was missing. The man inserted Ankara's moonstone into the hole, and a dazzeling light blinded all three of them.

"At last!" Ankara dimly heard the man shouting. "It is mine, the spell is broken- what's this? No!"

Then all went black.


An hour and a half later, Emowyen, Ankara, Emiko and Cherumi were all at the park, just before dark in their crimefighting costumes.

"It just occured to me when I woke up." Emowyen told them grimly. "The enchantment, and how it could be broken. It's still working out in my head, but I'll tell you what I have..."

"Go on!" Cherumi prompted.

"The last warriors placed the enchantment on the Stone, so if it was ever found and rejoined together, than the uniter of the Stone would be given all of it's power, enought to rule the world. But, there were so many complications and what ifs that the warriors placed a second enchantment on it. Once the Uniter claimed the Stone, the current warriors would have but one chance to stop him or her. But I haven't figured that out ye-"

Emowyen's last words were broken of by a rush of air and color. The girls' hair whipped about as in a high wind, their clothing as well. The earth beneath them cracked, and they plummeted down. Then, the wind stoped, the earth was solid, and there was naught but a gentle night's air. All was quiet.




Chapter Four

Cherumi felt as though she were sliding down an invisable tunnel at great rates of speed. She couldn't see anything, or hear anything either. All she was aware of was herself.

Then, an ancient and cracking voice started to chant, odd bits of sayings, faster and faster, until it seemed more like a thousand voices speaking instead of one. One voice rose above the rest.

"Final four, pure and whole, stay the way that you were born, love is forbidden, hate is unexsistant, fear is death, hope is life, destroy and then you shall return!" With every word the voice grew stronger, until it drowned out all other voices. When it finished speaking, Cherumi stopped falling, and promptly blacked out.


Emiko opened an eye. A large tree was above her, sunlight streaming through its pale green leaves, filtering down in a surreal green light. She sat up. The last thing she remembered was the words in the tunnel.

"Where the hell am I?" She mumbled. She stood up, and looked around her. Trees, undergrowth, birds, and nothing. No sign of the others.

"Ankara?" She called, testing the air for their familar scents, and finding none. "Cherumi? Emowyen, where are you?!"

She sniffed again, catching the scent of human. She followed it, kicking though bushes and wishing her costume didn't have shorts as branches scraped past her. Not bothering to heal herself, she came to the edge of a small village. People's voices murmered futher on, mixed with the baying of dogs, squacking geese, and the low of a cow.

"Perhaps they'll know where the others are." Emiko muttered to herself, for the comfort of a familar voice, even if it was only her own.

The first thing she saw was a small house, the door notched open. She cautiously slid it open the rest of the way, and steped inside, returning the door to its original position.

"Hello?" Emiko called softly. "Anyone home?"

Not hearing an answer, but definatly smelling a human inside, Emiko ventured further, and gasped. Lying asleep on a futon was a handsome boy of at least sixteen years. He was naked to the waist, and a bandage was wrapped around his right shoulder. Dark blue-black hair grew in great quanity on his head, some resting in his handsome face. The corners of his lips were upturned, as though they were used to smiling. He was powerfully built with muscles, and his breathing was slightly labored.

"Wow.." Emiko said softly, walking over to kneel by his side. She looked at the bandage on his shoulder, and to her dismay saw a slight seep of blood coming through the clean white linen. She slid slightly closer as to reach his shoulder, and streatched her hands out to heal him.

Then, completely without warning, an arm encircled her back and she was forced down on top of him. She gave a little yelp of surprise and shut her eyes briefly, then opened them up to find herself inches away from his handsome face. His uninjured arm still held her, but he slept on.

He's still sleeping! Perhaps he's dreaming about...uh oh.... Emiko gave a nervous gulp as the arm tightened.

Suddenly, his eyes flew open, revealing deep puppy-dog brown eyes.

"My utmost apologies!" Emiko squeaked as he let go of her. "I really wasn't trying to-"

Then the boy laughed, a clear, rich laugh. "It's me who ought to apologize. Pray tell, what exactly did I do?"

Emiko was utterly confused, but answered all the same. "Nothing really, just sort of, wrapped your arm around my waist..."

The boy sighed. "I expect it's all for the best, but usually I go all the way when I dream..something is dreadfully wrong with me I expect, if I don't even dream properly anymore.."

Emiko wasn't sure what to say to this extraordainary announcement, so she cleared her throat and hastily changed the subject. "I know a little about wounds and healing, and perhaps I can help your shoulder." Emiko didn't let on she had powers; then she'd never find the others.

"Thank you, but it's really nothing.." The boy sat up, slowly, a grimance crossing his handsome face.

"Right." Emiko started to loosen the bandage, but he caught her hand.

"It isn't something for such a gentle girl as yourself to witness." He said quite firmly.

"Listen, buddy, I don't know who you're callin' gentle, but I'll tell you that you're hurt, and you need attention." Emiko used her other hand to undo the rest of the bandage, and gasped.

"I warned you." The boy said with a sigh.

His wound was actually in the back of his shoulder, but had on all the way though. It was a bloody mess and she could see an arrowhead stuck behind some of his muscles. The smell was almost overpowering, but she forced herelf to stick her hand right into the center of his wound. He cried out in pain, but Emiko was already drawing her hand away, the skin completely knit together and smooth. She used the bandages to wipe away the acess blood, then stood, the arrowhead in her hand.

"I told you I could help." Emiko tried her best to keep the smugness out of her voice as the boy flexed his shoulder in wonder.

"Yashi said I'd never be able to move this arm again." He sounded amazed. The name Yashi struck a cord in Emiko's memory banks, but she couldn't place it.

"Well, he was wrong. Sorry to heal and run, but I have to find my friends." Emiko started towards the sliding door again.

"Wait! Don't go out there!" The boy lunged forewords and picked her up, hurling them both off to one side as the entire wall exploded.

"Holy crap!" Emiko yelled, hanging onto her rescuer's neck. "What the hell is going on here?!"

"There is an enchantment on this building that tells the villagers when I wake up. If someone tries to leave, then the door explodes." The boy said grimly. "You idiot! Why didn't you stop when I told you to?!"

"Well, obviously, if I knew that the wall was gonna try to kill me, I wouldn't have tried to leave!" Emiko said irritably.

"Well, at least you provided me with a means to escape. But now the entire village knows I'm leaving. Run. Perhaps I'll see you again, then you can pay me my debt."

"What debt?!" Emiko shrieked as an arrow whistled past her head

"The debt you owe me for saving your life." The boy said calmly.

"I think I already paid that by healing your shoulder!" Emiko dodged another arrow and started to run after the boy, who was moving swiftly and surely, weaving around the oncoming arrows.

"That wasn't life-threatening, and don't you know who I am? I would have been able to heal better over time."

"No, I don't know who you are, where I am or how I got here!" Emiko dived back into the woodlands after him as he made a path deep into the heart of the wood. The arrows grew less and less, then stopped all together.

"They'll cut us off at the bridge, I expect." The boy said softly. "But that's the only way back. You arn't safe with me, girl, exspecially if you don't know who I am."

"Do you think I care?" Emiko said firecely. "I can take care of myself, thanks."

"So it wasn't nessecary for me to get you away from the door, hmm?"

"Well, as long as there's no more magic involved, I am perfectly capable of protecting myse-what's wrong?" Emiko cut herself off, having smelt an abrupt change in the boy. He was tensed, ready for action, slightly nervous.

"We near the bridge," came the reply, "and I strongly advise you to get away from me."

"Fine." Emiko snapped. She turned around and stalked off into the woods, the boy looking after her.

"She's got guts, that one." He said with a sigh, then stole off in the oppisite direction.


Ankara was lost. She had woken in a cave, directly behind a waterfall. She had searched the cave, and was thinking that if she had chanced upon it in a different time and under different circumstances it would be really cozy and peacefull, the never ending song of the little waterfall gentle and calming.

"Tyoko? Tohemo, Sazukin?" A male voice made her jump and prepare to scream, kick or punch at her advisary.

"Who's there?" Her voice sounded brave, quite contrary to what she felt inside.

"My name is Yashi, but how did you chance upon this secret cave?" Yashi, if that was truely his name, was backlit and she could not see his features.

"I don't know. I sort of woke up here...and all I remember is a tunnel..and a strange voice." Ankara didn't know why she felt compelled to answer the strange boy, but words spilt from her mouth like the water over the falls behind him.

"I know of no tunnel," Yashi said, not coming any closer. "But you arn't wet, so you couldn't have come in from the cave's mouth... a mystery it is, but may I escort you back to someware?" He plainly wanted her out of the cave.

"Yes, if I knew where I was going." Ankara felt slightly foolish, but she was truthfull.

"There is a town close by.."

"No big cities?"

"Not for several hundred miles, miss. But I'm sure you'll find that Edo is a lovely little town." Yashi took a halting step forewords.

"Edo?! Oh no!" Ankara remembered, that day in the library, when Emowyen was reading from the ancient lore-book. She had said Edo, the present day Tokyo. So if Tokyo was Edo, then she was in the past!

"What is it?" Yashi asked.

"I just want to find my friends, Yashi."

"This reminds me, I don't know your name." Yashi took another slow step foreword.

"My name's Ankara Hill."

"My pleasure, Ankara. I will help you find your friends and chaperone."

"Eh? Chaperone?" Ankara was throughly confused.

"You have one, right?"


"Then I will protect you until we find these friends of yours. Are they your suitors, or your elder brothers?" Yashi was now five feet away, and Ankara was starting to see some of his features, like the black hair that fell tousled almost to his shoulders, and the piercing light of his blue eyes.

" They're all girls as well. And you needen't protect me, Yashi, I can take care of myself." Ankara was starting to feel uncomfortable under the stare of those blue eyes.

"All right...then, shall we?" He held out a hand.

"I saw one go in that cave over yonder!" A rough, gravelly voice shouted from outside the cave.

"They've come. Quick, try to hide yourself when they enter." Yashi faced the cave mouth, and a hand soon gripped the floor, and heaved, pulling up the torso of an evil-looking ruffian man. Yashi eased into a fighting stance in anticipation of the man's attacks. But they never came.

Ankara brushed past him, muttering, "Cover your ears." She made her way to the cave mouth, where the man was now standing. She opened her moth and gave a piercing shriek, causing the man to drop unconcious over the ledge. Looking down, Ankara was smugly glad to see other men's unconcious forms floating in the water. She turned around and groaned. Yashi had failed to cover his ears, and was laying facedown on the cave floor.

She dragged him towards the cave ledge so she could get a proper look at him, and where she could watch out for more enemies. She sat down next to him, and rested his head on her lap, eyes taking in every detail.

His hair was damp still from passing under the waterfall to enter, but it was still as black as ebony. His eyes, now half-closed, were the color of a bright morning sky, the palest and brightest of blues. His skin was flawless and his features strong. Very gently, and almost without realizing her actions, Ankara stroked the boy's hair away from his closing eyes.

She found herself thinking that, like the cave, at a different time and under different circumstances, she would have loved to meet the handsome Yashi. And even now, she felt some strange sort of hope welling inside her as she pillowed the unconcious boy's head in her lap.


"LET ME GO!" Cherumi yelled, twisted and squrimed, but the four men who held her down were at least twice her weight. She struggled to no avail.

Cherumi had fallen from the speaking tunnel in midair, and then fell, crashing though the roof of a house. When she had come to, she was being held down by four large men.

"Don't you let her go, Sekoui, Genmo, Ko, Wai. She's strange-lookin' and dangerous." The fat housewife kept clucking to whom Cherumi guessed were her four sons, all of which had inherited their mother's vaccent eyes and double chin.

"We know, Ma. But what if she summons some wicked little friend o' hers?" The biggest and stupidest-looking man spoke up.

"Ko, you ought to know that only those wretched four boys can do that, summon each other. And asides, the great Lord Sazukou has banned them from living on his lands, he's rounding them up as we speak. And good riddance to them! Such nice, normal boys before they met one another."

The moment she was finished speaking, the door to the farmhouse slammed open with such force that the doorhandle made a crack in the old stone wall.

"Why don't you let her go, hmm?" The speaker was a tall boy with hard grey eyes, like the sky of a stormy sea. He had a head of dark brown hair, and his features were finely chisled. Hands stuck nonchelantly in the pockets of his hakama, the boy carried an air of self-sureness.

The four farmer men stood up, letting her go, placidly following orders, as they would their entire lives, hardly a single thought to themselves.

Cherumi stood, rubbing her sore wrists. "You'll regret letting me go, you idiotic fools! But even more will you regret not letting me go when I said so!" She was so pissed off at the farmers, she didn't even notice the looks of fear on their faces wasn't because of her threats. No, they were all staring at a spot above her head.

Cherumi turned to leave, and almost ran into the guy's feet. Which were at her eye level.

"Leaving, now are we?" His tone was indolent. He was floating in midair, a smile etching across his features.

"You're one of the warriors." She stared up at him, eyes wide.

"You'd better believe it, girl." He grinned wider and floated to the ground.

"Man!" She complained loudly once he'd touched down. "Some ancient warriors get all the luck! Why couldn't I have the ability to fly?!"

"What are you talking about?" The boy's smile had vanished.

"I'm talking about you being able to fly, and all I get to do is this!" Cherumi made the familar slashing motion in front of her body with her arm. The bolt of golden light arched out, taking the surprised boy in the chest. He was far enough away to only be knocked unconcious, but that was enough for Cherumi. She wanted to have a chat with him anyway.

Leaving the farmers speechless with terror, Cherumi grabbed ahold of one of the guy's arms. Slinging this over her shoulder, she hoisted him up, with effort. His head lolled over onto her neck, his forehead brushing her cheek.

"You're lucky you're an absolute bishie." Cherumi muttered to his unconcious form, "If you were any less attractive I'd of left you there with the farmer boys so they could deal with you. But oof! are you heavy!"


Emowyen felt the warm sunlight on her closed eyelids, and her regular sence of smell catching the hint of wildflowers. She sighed, and shifted deeper into the sweet smelling grasses.

"Milady?" A deep and pleasing voice washed over her ears. She reluctantly opened her eyes, and caught her breath. Staring down at her was a boy with sandy blonde hair framing a fair face. Being backlit by the sun, his hair shone like liquid gold. Eyes as blue as the sky behind him, and deep dimples gave him a boyish charm. He smiled as she opened her eyes, lighting up her world with his beautifully white teeth.

"Are you all right?" He sounded earnest, although she detected a note of haste in his voice.

"I'm perfect, now." The words tumbled from her mouth before she could stop them. She blushed deeply, making him smile wider, and gentler. As she stared into those forget-me-not blue eyes, the voice from the tunnel sounded in her ears. Final four, pure and whole, stay the way that you were born, love is forbidden.....

"Damn." She sighed, and sat up. Why were the good things always not allowed?!

"Something wrong?" The concern in his voice made her want to swear more.

"No. Nothing you can fix. But thank you for waking me." Emowyen stood, and he took her hand to help her rise. She sighed again.

"May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?" His tone was that of a shy child, not that of the young man he was. It made her want to hug him.

"Yes. My name is Emowyen. May I know your name?"

"They call me Tyoko."

"Tyoko? The fourth fighter? A Protector of the Stone of Era-" Emowyen's surprised exclaimation died on her lips as he grabbed ahold of her arm, twisted it behind her back and a dagger was brought to her throat in a matter of seconds.

"You know dangerous things, lady. I advise you forget what you have almost mentioned at once." His voice was still rich and smooth, but now low and deadly.

"Tyoko, I understand your reason to suspect me of foul play, but I assure you, your name is one which I have long known of. I am a person from the future, and my three other friends and I have come due to an enchantment, if I guess rightly." Emowyen said this as fast as she could, feeling the dagger tighten to her throat. Then as she finished, he let go of her arm and slid the dagger back into its hidden sheath beneath his sleeve of his gi.

"Honeyed tounge, hmm?" Emowyen saw the look of fear in his eyes, and she gave a humorless laugh. "You needn't be afraid of me, Tyoko. In fact, right now I think pretty much all the crap has been scared out of me."

"I-I'm not sure I understand your meaning, lady."

"That's okay. But do explain to me what exactly was the enchantment all about?" Emowyen regaurded the handsome boy thoughtfully.

"Well, there was so little time to cast the enchantment, I'm afraid it might have gone slightly awry. The original enchantment was to bring the stolen Stone back to one of us Four. But instead, the enchantment seems to have brought you four back. And I'm not sure if that means the Stone has been united and stolen, but I guess so." Tyoko stared off at the horizon pensivly.

"I believe it has been." Emowyen looked down. Now what? What can we do to prevent someone unknown from stealing the Stone from us in three hundred years?

"This isn't the place to stand and talk." Tyoko said. "Come, I'll take you to our meeting-place; perhaps more riddles will be solved there."



Chapter Five

Emiko plunged through the underbrush, completely and utterly lost. All of her senses tried to hear the approach of an enemy, to the smell of blood and sweat, to see a telltale wiggle of a bush. But the racket she created herself was enough to encumber her sense of sound, and with the occasional breeze running between the tree trunks caused her eyesight many false alarms. In the end it was only her extra-sensitive nose that saved her.

The smell of stark sweat came to her nose. Knowing she had put on libral amounts of deoderant before she had left home, Emiko knew it had to be an attacker. She spun around and kicked high, catching a man in the side of the face and knocking him down. His companion, after seeing his friend go down, flung his trident at Emiko when she was off-gaurd.

Seeing the three-pronged wepon fly at her, Emiko had little time to move. It pinned her to a tree, her neck safely in between two of the prongs, but it held her hostage and at this man's mercy.

As he advanced, grinning wickedly and drawing a dagger, a final thought issued in Emiko's mind: I'm going to die, by this dude's hand. That sucks.

He put the dagger to her throat, breathed his putrid breath in her face, and then raised it for the final plunge. Emiko felt the tears running down her face, the icy cold clutch of fear at her heart. Then, the ruffian gave a little sigh, and dropped the dagger. Then he fell forewords onto Emiko.

She looked up to see the boy she had awoken earlier, hand still outstreatched. The ruffian had a short katana buried deep in the middle of the back, apparently thrown by him.

He strode forewords and threw the ruffian off to one side, then wrenched the trident out from its hold deep in the tree, and held his arms out to catch Emiko.

She struggled not to cry as he encircled her in his stong arms. The shock was still fresh and she was breathing quickly and unevenly.

"It's all right to cry, you know. Crying isn't something to be ashamed of."

As he held her there, Emiko knew that if any other boy back home, even Ken, (especially Ken) tried to hug her like this, it would be awkward and not at all comforting. But in this complete stranger's hold, she felt the cares lifted from her shoulders, and she let the tears flow. From the middle of her icey shock and numb relief came a two thoughts; How warm he is! and Damn! Now I owe him twice the amount of debt!

"That's twice you've saved my life," she said softly, "and I still don't know your name."

He lifted her chin with a finger so their eyes met. "Call me Tohemo. What may I call you?" He said this with equal softness.


"Can you walk?"

"Yes." Emiko tried a step, but the ground wheeled beneath her and she stumbled against him for support. "Sort of."

He smiled at her, then lifted her gently, carrying her as though she was a bride. Not bothering to retrive his katana, he carried her away from the woods and out into an open field, full of gently swaying wildflowers.

Halfway across the field Tohemo paused, and looked down at her with a grin. "You're right, I have saved you twice now." She scowled half-heartedly at him, and he laughed. "I'll claim my reward now."

As Emiko opened her mouth to protest that she had nothing to repay him with right then, he bent over her and brushed his lips against her forehead.

She felt her cheeks flare with a sudden hotness, and she was certain if he set her down just then, she'd topple over in a dead faint.

Love is forbidden.....Well, too late for that... With that last thought in her head, the combination of exhaust, the sun beating down on her face, and the comfortableness of Tohemo's arms sent Emiko into a peacefull slumber.


Ankara was resting her head against the hard stone of the cave wall, her fingers still playing idly in Yashi's dried hair, waiting for him to wake up. She freverently hoped that she hadn't sent him into a coma. If he was still asleep after another hour she'd leave and try to find Emiko so she could heal him.

Her thoughts were far away when he stirred in her lap, flipping onto his side, a hand flying up to his aching head.

"Ouch." He groaned, and she was immeadiatly attentive. "So that's what you ment by cover your ears."

"I warned you," Ankara whispered, knowing that anything louder than that would send him reeling in pain.

"Be you goddess or demon, may I please know how you managed such an effective attack?"

Ankara blushed when he called her goddess, and she itched to stroke his fair cheek.

"I'm no goddess or demon; I'm a warrior, sent back in time, I guess, to prevent that horrible skinny man from taking the Stone."

"Of Ereach?!" He sat up quickly, a grave mistake, for the fresh waves of pain this movement caused nearly sent him back into unconciousness. He swayed, and fell back down, his head coming to rest on her chest. He blushed deeply and tried to sit up, but she held him back.

"Don't move, you fool." Her voice was gentle as she held him to her. "Yes, of Ereach. I'm not sure what we can accomplish here, three hundred years away, but I guess we must try."

He didn't speak, and for a moment they just sat there, two black haired figures, one resting his head upon his fair lady's breast as though in fatigue. She rested a hand on his head, the other on his shoulder.

If only we were both normal. I would have given in and kissed him by now.


Cherumi was very tired of dragging the dude she had knocked unconcious. She came to a wide field, and sat him down. She threw her aching body down next to his unconcious one. In an instant, his hand was at her throat, and he was using his weight to keep both of her tired arms down. Instead of being alarmed by this sudden attack, Cherumi could only think, Oh my good Lord. He's on top of me.

"Why did you attack me? Answer me!" The pressure on her throat was released a little, apparently so she could talk.

Okay, now there's a good question. Why exactly did I attack him? Not so I could drag him across contry, that's for certain. So he could sit on me? Nada. Um, so think, Cherumi, what would a girl do to distract a boy? Oh no. No way. I don't even know this dude, but what choice do I have?

With that final thought, Cherumi said very softly, "What are you doing on top of me?"

"Keeping you from attacking me. Again."

"I'm sorry for doing that, but please realize that a girl has to take care of herself around here. And when a big, strong guy comes along, she dosen't know what to think." She kept her voice low and seductive.

"Well, usually, 'around here' girls don't just crash through farm house roofs." His was clearly getting frusterated. Cherumi decided that seductivity was getting her noware. Maybe being direct would be better.

"Well I'm not from 'around here.' Is it customary to sit on the person you converse with?" She was starting to lose feeling in her left leg.

He got up, but still held onto both of her wrists. "Why can you do that...thing?"

"Because somehow, I'm an ancient warrior of some sort that really isn't as ancient as she is futuristic. My three friends and I fell into this crazy place when our Stone pieces were stolen."

"Stolen?! By whom? How did you get here? Where are these friends of yours?"

"Yes, I don't know, I don't know, and I don't know, believe it or not. And I promise I won't attack you."

"I guessed you wouldn't."

"Then why are you still holding onto my wrists?" Cherumi could feel a flush creeping into her cheeks, but she forced herself to keep calm.

He hastily let go, then stuck them into the wide sleeves of his dark blue gi. "It must be the glitch in the enchantment those fools Yashi and Tyoko cast. Fools!"

The names were familar, so Cherumi pursued in this vein. "So if you arn't Tyoko or Yashi, then you must be Tahemo or Sazukin...right?"

"I am Sazukin. And, I apologize for making you carry me for the last half-hour I've been awake for. May I know your name?" He grinned sheepishly. Cherumi wondered why he hadn't attacked her the moment he had awoken, she wouldn't have been expecting it then...unless he enjoyed being close to h-no. That couldn't be it. It just...couldn't.

"Cherumi Janoki. Nice to meet you, and I shoulda known you were awake..but yeah. Where are the other three of your compainions?"

"We were going to meet at our secret place. The entire countryside's crawling with people who would like nothing but to see all four of us locked up, so we must be cautious until we get the-where are you going?" For Cherumi had spotted another boy coming out of the woods, carrying a prone figure she recognised....

"Oh no.. no, it's not real..." Cherumi stared at Emiko, a hand dangling lifeless, swaying with the boy's movements. Emiko's eyes were closed, and Cherumi couldn't see if she was breathing or not.

"Elohowa! Tahemo! Hiyowa!" Sazukin waved wildly at the boy, who nodded at him and started towards them. Cherumi ran up to meet them, staring down at Emiko.

"She isn't-dead, is she?"

The boy, apparently Tohemo, laughed softly. "Nearly was about ten minutes ago. No, she's fine, just sleeping.You must be one of her friends, am I right?"

Cherumi nodded, weak with relief. Sazukin stared at Emiko impationtly. "We can go faster if you let her feet do the walking. Wake her up." Sazukin reached out to shake Emiko's shoulder.

"No, let her be," Tahemo said hurriedly. "She just barely escaped being slain by one of my pursuers. I owe her this sleep."

"Oh, now it's you oweing me? Now that's different." Emiko's wry voice statled the other three. "Tahemo's just being modest. He didn't mention that I would be dead if he hadn't delt with the yastda going after my lifeblood."

"Somehow, I never thought I'd hear the words "Tahemo" and "modest" in the same sentance." Sazukin teased. Tahemo didn't seem to hear him as he set Emiko down gently. He kept one hand securingly on her back, as she swayed slightly then stood firm.

"Sazukin? Tahemo?" Another male voice made the four of them turn.

"Emowyen!" Cherumi cried out. For it was Tyoko and Emowyen crossing the field.

"Cherumi! Emiko! That's lucky! I thought we'd have to spend days looking all over Edo for you!"

"Edo!?" Emiko and Cherumi yelled at the same time. Both of them noticed the use of "we" but niether said anything. They were still trying to get over the fact they were nearly three hundred years in the past.

"Yeah...Edo. I'm assuming these are also warriors of our past?"

"Yep." Emiko looked behind her at Tohemo, who regaurded her expressionlessly.

"And I also assume they were on their way to some sort of secret meeting place only the four of them knew about?" Emowyen asked, and both Sazukin and Tohemo nodded.

"We haven't time to waste...though I must ask how you're still alive and free, Tohemo. I thought the village soldiers captured and wounded you when the Stone was divided a week ago." Tyoko was looking at the apparently unhurt Tohemo in surprise.

"They did. They set a temporary enchantment of sleep on me, so all this last...week, I suppose, I've been asleep. Until Milady Emiko woke me up inside. And healed me."

"And nearly got blown to bits by the friggen' enchanted door." Emiko put in.

"I see." Tyoko looked amused as Tohemo gave Emiko a warm look. Tohemo was always the more distant of our little group, especially with girls. Perhaps Emiko is to him as Emowyen is becoming to me.

"Like you said, speed is of the essence now." Sazukin said, looking at Cherumi. "If you will, hold on, I'll fly us."

"I can use my mind to move things, and I could use it to fly as well, if you would also not mind holding on to me." Tohemo said to Emiko, who, in Emowyen and Cherumi's opinion, couldn't have looked any happier than if Tohemo was informing her she had won the lottery.

"Hello!" Emowyen gave a small laugh. "I have a far easier and faster way. Just describe this place, and I'll teleport us there."

"O-Okay..." Sazukin gave Emowyen a startled glance. "It's a small cave behind a waterfall on the West side of Edo... and it's really green around it...and there is probably Yashi, a black-haired guy waiting impationtly at the cave entrance-arg!" Sazukin gave a small yell as the world dissolved around them, then, with a great shifting of colors, a cave wall appeared in front of them, and they all fell out of the air to the cave floor a foot below, causing Yashi and Ankara to jump, and Yashi jerk away from his position "on" Ankara.

"Oh...hello, everyone." Ankara managed a feeble laugh, showing her disapointment at their arrival.

"Should we leave you two alone?" Emiko said slyly.

"What a ladies' man you've become, Yashi!" Tyoko said, fighting back a smile.

"He didn't cover his ears when I screamed," Ankara explained.

"Ouch." Emiko winced for Yashi's prediciment, and crossed the floor quickly to kneel at Yashi's side. As Emiko held Yashi's forehead in gentle hands, Ankara fought down the strange urge to smack Emiko across the face, and Tohemo fought the desire to run over and kick Yashi over the edge of the cave.

"That's much better...but, in a strange way, I enjoyed the feeling of pounding pain." Yashi managed a smile at Ankara, who could have lit a match from the heat now in her face.

"Okay, stop the flirting and let's get down to business." Tohemo said impationtly. "Like how we're going to prevent the Stone from being captured in their time." Ankara and Yashi glared daggers at him. He didn't pay any attention.

"Easy." Emowyen said, with the air of explaining to a small todler that one plus one equals two. "We must destroy the Stone. If it dosen't exist in three hundred years, it can't be stolen."

"Oh. Okay." Tohemo looked slightly put out. Emiko looked slightly murderous towards Emowyen..

"So....where is it?" Emowyen asked.

"It's already been hidden." Sazukin's face was heavy. "And now we must travel to the hiding places."

"We should leave at once, for now teleportation won't work, although I must say that's the best mode of travel I've ever experienced." Tyoko said, looking sideways at Emowyen, who flushed. "If we land someware dangerous, it could mean the end of all of us."

"This is great!" Emiko squealed. Even Tohemo looked at her oddly at this. How could traveling hundreds of miles in dangerous conditions be great?

"We're going on a Quest!" Emiko said grandly, with the born word grace of a quality BS-er. "A Quest Perilous, with no thoughts of our own safety, the wondrous eight warriors of both old and new strike out to rid the world of a nameless menace!"

Emowyen, Ankara and Cherumi couldn't contain their giggles. Tyoko, Sazukin and Yashi tried vainly to keep straight faces. Tohemo smiled, though not in amusement at the extraordianry statement, but with the growing fondness he was starting to feel for the irripressable girl.

"Well, after that was so...aptly put," Tyoko said, his voice breaking slightly in the effort to keep his laughter contained, "we must, er, 'strike out' on our epic Quest Perilous!"


Chapter Six


* * *


Emowyen and Tyoko were walking together in a magical field, butterflies of amazing colors flying out of the way as they strolled along. Tyoko suddenly stopped and faced Emowyen, hunger apparent on his handsome face. Emowyen took ahold of his gi, pulling him to her, and they leaned in towards each other, lips reaching...hoping...then, his gi was wrenched from her fingers and Cherumi's cross voice woke her up fully.

"Get your own blanket, and let mine alone!" Cherumi had yanked the blanket from Emowyen's hands, who had apparently grabbed it thinking it was the gi in her dream.

"Sorry, Cher." Emowyen whispered, heat coming to her face as she tucked her own blanket tighter around her. She sighed and rolled over.

After a week of walking, hiding, running, and sleeping between roots of trees, the group of the Fellowship (As Emiko had dubbed it, with Ankara informing her drily that she read too much Tolkin) had made their way out of Edo and the surrounding countryside to another small town called Yokohama, where the warriors wern't known by sight and could sleep in the roadside inns instead of out in the wilderness.They usually booked two rooms, one for the girls and one for the guys, tonight being no exception.

Yashi had hidden his piece of the Stone in the forest around Yokohama, so they were that much closer to their goal. Emowyen was ashamed to be thinking this, but she wished she could forget the stupid "Quest Perilous" and concentrate on the confusing feelings she was developing for Tyoko. Sure, in the past (or was it in the future?) Emowyen had had crushes on several boys, but never before had her crush been as strong as this one.

She knew such feelings were forbidden by some celestial being of all-knowing who had chanted to them in the tunnel. But she couldn't help it; every waking moment (and apparently, every sleeping moment) was filled with thoughts of tender, sweet, calm, smart Tyoko.

So wrapped up in her feelings, Emowyen didn't notice that she wasn't the only person awake. Emiko lay unsleeping on her futon, the coveted one closest to the sliding door seperating the guys from them.

She stared at the door, breathing deeply the soothing scents of sleeping people. Then, the smell of a body in distress coming from the other room. She rose silently from her futon, and slid back the door only a crack.

Tohemo was writheing under his blanket, sweat glistening over his fair face, his lips mouthing soundlessly, forming words Emiko couldn't make out in the dim light of the sickle moon. If she could have made out the words, she would have recognised the chant in the tunnel, apparently visiting Tohemo in his slumber. Tyoko, Sazukin, and Yashi all slept on, peacefully, no chanting entering their dreams.

Wishing desperatly to comfort the man who held her heart, Emiko miserably slid back the door and returned to her thin futon.

Future four, pure and whole, stay the way that you were born, love is forbidden, hate is unexsistant, fear is death, hope is life, destroy and they shall return!


* * *


Early that next morning, they left the inn quickly after paying for the night's stay. Yashi now took the lead and brought them away from the road. Soon, random boulders appeared in between the dense forest, and soon there was a break in the trees was a huge stone pile, with a small cave opening hiden behind ferns. Cherumi gave a glad cry and bounded forewords, but stopped short.

"What is it?" Sazukin asked worriedly, sounding more concerned than his tough guy image would have liked.

"Yashi, maybe you'd like to explain the enchantment on this place." Cherumi faced Yashi, whose expression was blank for a moment, then he started.

"I keep forgetting your uncanny sence of...what is." He said ruefully. "But good thing you stopped, only the enchanter of the spell put on that cave could get in through that entrance. And because I am not the enchanter, we're going to have to get in another way."

"Fingers in your ears!" Ankara sang. They all hastily shoved their fingers as deep into their ears as possible, but still they heard the shrill, shattering scream and all recived headaches Emiko was able to heal quickly.

Where the pile of great stones had been, there was now a flat plain with several hundreds of feet covered in gray dust, all that was left of the rocks. Several of the trees circling the rocks were now just chunks of wood and tattered leaves. In the center of the destruction was a small glimmering white chunk of moonstone, which Yashi hurried towards and stowed safetly away in his hakama pocket.

"Onaward, stout Fellowship!" Emiko cried theatrically. Amid the laughter, the group moved off towards the next Stone piece, cunningly hidden by Sazukin.


* * *


They had come to the seashore, the gentle waves lapping gently up to the sandy beachs, their footsteps making imprints on the sand only to be smoothed away by the rising tide. Sea birds called and swooped over the water, looking for their meals in the red light of the sunset.

Sazukin seemed to be waiting for something as their Fellowship waited on the pleasent sandy beach.

"Not time yet," he'd keep saying, "not now."

So they waited by a large stone outcropping, succombing to tepmtation and pulling off their geta and boots to splash in the surf.

Just as the sun was about to sink into the expanse of waters, Sazukin bounded up to where a lone pinnicle of rock towered above the beach. Taking from his sleeve pocket a small mirror, Sazukin stuck it in a small crack in the stone then bade the others to watch over the waters.

Just as the sun's last rays disapeared, a final beam of light struck the mirror and its gleam was reflected on a small spot on the dark water, about a hundred feet out.

"Don't lose that spot!" Sazukin shouted, and lept into the water.

"SAZUKIN! WATCH OUT FOR THE-" Cherumi screamed, her gift of sixth sence warning her of danger, but it was too late. As Sazukin's steady strokes carried him to the spot where the light hit, and an enormous tenticle rose out of the water, and slapped down close to his head. Sazukin flew out of the water in alarm as the once-calm surface began to writhe with eight long tenticles. Nevertheless, Sazukin's efforts didn't carry him far enough away, and a tenticle was wrapped firmly around his ankle, yanking him down and submerging him completly.

"SAZUKIN!" Cried the seven voices from onshore. All watching immeadiatly ran for the water, Tohemo catching Emiko's arm as she shot off towards the surf.

"You stay here." Tohemo's voice was hard. "We can't afford to let you get hurt!"

Emiko didn't know whether to be pleased he was concerned for her or to be insulted. All thoughts were driven from her head, however, as Tohemo stripped off his gi and hakama down to the under-leggings before plunging under.

"Uh...guys..." Ankara's voice was timid. Emiko looked at her. "I can't swim."

"You stay here then and be ready when we get Sazukin out, okay?" Emiko had made up her mind. Swim team had been one of the activities her mother had paid for before she became an alcoholic, and Emiko loved the water. Besides, if anyone got hurt down there...

Emiko shoved this thought out of her mind and took off the heavy red leggings and top so she stood shivering in a black tank top and black biking shorts. The other six had stripped down as well and were already on their way out, Cherumi leading them with frantic strokes.

Emiko started off surely, and soon caught up to the group. Taking a deep breath, she submerged and a horrible scene met her eyes.

Sazukin was battling madly with a gigantic occtupus, the water making their actions slow and graceful. But also the water was draining away Sazukin's life, bubble by bubble that escaped his mouth.

From Emiko's left a golden arc of Cherumi's energy shot out, slicing the occtupus neatly in half, almost immeadiatly clouding the waters with blood. Emiko couldn't help it. She gasped, water filling her mouth and lungs. Only by the power of healing did Emiko escape. The magic went to work on the water-logged lungs, changing the wetness into pure air.

I can breath under water! Emiko thought joyfully. Swiming through the blood, she could see Cherumi already dragging the senseless Sazukin towards the surface, the others already above water. She could see their legs treading water.

But in a dying fit, the occtupus flung out another tenticle, and something flew from its grasp. A small, shimmering white something that Emiko caught and swam towards the surface with.

Nobody spoke until they got back to shore, and Sazukin was coughing up great spouts of seawater. Emiko gave him the Stone piece and then looked wistfully towards the sea. If only she could go out there, and see the wonders of the coral reefs and schools of wonderful fish!

"I cannot believe your selfishness." Tohemo's voice was low, but everyone heard it. Emiko looked at him, stunned.


"Your selfishness! What if you had died underwater, and then people were injured? How would we heal them without you?" Tohemo's voice was full of a hidden pain at hurting Emiko like this, but no one heard it. All they heard was anger.

"Tohemo, that's not all she's good for." Ankara said angrily. "She can fight, and she can swim. And apparently, breath under water! Who would be better for a thing like this?"

"And now it's over, and Tyoko's Stone is only a day or two's march." Emowyen said softly. "So let's just get going. Nobody did get hurt, and Emiko's still alive."

Tohemo lowered his head, shrugged, and pulled on his gi. "And I am grateful for that." He muttered.


Chapter Seven


* * *


Yashi seemed rather jumpy over the next few weeks, and Ankara couldn't tell why. He ofton tried to talk to her, but then somebody else would interrupt and Yashi would remain silent.

After Tyoko had slain a wild boar to get his Stone piece from its stomach, they had only Tohemo's piece left to recover. Several times they were attacked on the road, and only then did the two groups of old and new warriors appreaciate the other's talents at hand fighting. Now, on the thirtyth day of their Quest, their Fellowship had come to a small abandoned farm, where their was a general vote to stay a day and rest.

Yashi drew Ankara off to the side while Tyoko, Emowyen, Cherumi and Emiko went outside, and Sazukin and Tohemo went out to see if they could catch any fish in the nearby stream.

"What is it, Yashi?" Ankara asked, streatching out in the comfortable shade in the doorway of the old house.

"Well, you see, Ankara, I've made a lot of money from being a farm hand and all, and while I send most of it to my family, I keep a little for myself. And it's adding up, and now I have enough to buy a house and some land of my own, and I'd like to..." Here he went on mumbling, and Ankara couldn't catch his words.

"Why are you telling me this?" Ankara asked lazily. She was surprised as Yashi took one of her hands and stared into her eyes, his own icy blue orbs full of love, love so strong it scared her.

"Because I would be honored beyond honor if you lived in that house."

Ankara was so shell-shocked all she could say was, "Huh?"

"As my wife... if you will it." Yashi suddenly looked afraid and doubtful. "I mean, it was only an idea, I mea-"

Ankara cut him off with a kiss, the first one in both of their lives, and by far the sweetest. Yashi looked delieriously happy as they broke apart. He leaned over and whispered into her ear softly, "I'll make you the happiest bride in the land once the mess with the Stone is over."

Ankara couldn't wait.


Tohemo and Sazukin came out of the woods laden with three heafty trout. They stopped in the shade of a tree, watching Emowyen and Tyoko sitting back to back in the sunlight, talking to one another, fingers interlaced, and Emiko laying on her stomach, coaxing a nervous chipmonk towards her with a small piece of apple in her outstreatched hand, and Cherumi looking for rocks to throw up in the air and split with her Slash.

Sazukin sighed, and Tohemo looked at him. Sazukin's stormy gray eyes rested on Cherumi as her lithe body moved to throw a stone high, then Slash it into bits.

"If I didn't have a price on my head I would take her." Sazukin murmered. "I would take her in an instant."

Tohemo nearly dropped the two fish he held. "You would what?!"

Sazukin sighed again. "I would take her. Marry her. Make her the happiest girl in the world. Love every inch of her. More than I already do."

Tohemo did drop the fish at that. "You're a fool, Sazu."

"A fool for love.." Sazukin didn't look at all preturbed. "Right again, Toe."

"Nobody but me understands what the chant was about!" Tohemo thundered. "That the closer we get to these girls, the less we'll want to finish the Quest! Which we must do at all costs!"

Sazukin did look at him at that outburst. "What do you mean?"

"You know. Destroy and they shall return. Go away. Never to be seen again. Love only makes us want them to stay, but they can't. You ought to know this well!" Tohemo looked at Sazukin's nonplussed face.

"Tohemo, I don't know what you're blathering on about, but I think you're a hypocrite. Everyone can see how you watch Emiko, even though you're hard on her. It's obvious, and it's easier not to fight those feelings. You're a big boy now, Toe, and I think you'll like it if you only gave it a try. Who knows, perhaps if you get out of the loner mindset you could get Emiko to start liking you, even after you were so horrible to her." Sazukin hefted his fish up and took off to the old house.

Tohemo stayed a moment longer, watching Emiko running a forefinger down the chipmonk's back as it nibbled on the offered apple, and then Tohemo knew what he must do.


* * *


"You're WHAT?!" Tyoko and the others stared incredulously at Tohemo, whose features were grim.

"I'm going to retrive my Stone piece alone. It's safer not to travel in big numbers where I put it, and then I can go faster if I'm only looking after myself."

Emowyen looked mildly insulted. "Like you always have to save us whenever danger shows it's face? Get real, Tohemo." At this, Emiko looked away, embarressed.

"Tohemo, you need someone watching your back. You always get so focused on what's ahead you forget the dangers behind you. Let us help you." Yashi said firmly.

"If you want, follow me. But you won't be coming with me, and if I see anyone after me, I'll bash them."

"Fine. Wouldn't want to upset His Royalness." Cherumi said churlishly, and the others were inclined to agree. So Tohemo packed up his things and was halfway across the medow when Emiko called his name.

"Tohemo, wait."

The sound of her voice was enough to make his heart start beating wildly. He turned, keeping his face set. Emiko stood, closing the door behind her. The light from the fire inside made her features glow, and Tohemo wished desperatly to just set aside this Quest and let himself fall in love, even if Emiko hated him. She was probably just doing this to justify him saving her life before.


"Please don't go alone. Please." Emiko's voice was soft and pleading. Not at all the hard voice of someone just trying to pay off a debt.

"I made up my mind."

Emiko took a step forewords, then another, and another, until they were five feet apart.

"I know you have. But I beg you to change it."

"Why would you care?" Tohemo said roughly, and he turned away and started walking.

"You fool! Can't you see I'm falling in love with you?!" Emiko clapped her hands over her mouth after the words tumbled out. She watched Tohemo, his back still to her.

Tohemo had frozen in place when she said that. He screwed up his face against the howl of pain that threatened to spill out, for he knew, from the chant in his dreams, that this love he coveted so much was forbidden. He spoke, softly.

"I'm afraid I can't return your feelings."

Emiko crumpled to the ground once his figure had vanished into the night, tears pouring unchecked down her face. She sat there for a moment, then stood, wiped her face and eyes, then turned back inside.

"So? He going to wait for us?" Six eager faces looked to her.

"No, but it's our job to find out how to destroy these Stones, and end our Quest." Emiko said lightly. "So let's get to work."

Only her three friends, Emowyen, Cherumi, and Ankara saw the pain in her eyes. And the utter hopelessness.


Chapter Eight


* * *


Tohemo returned from where he had hidden his Stone piece, refreshed and ready to face Emiko. No, he'd never be able to look her in the eye now. He had rendered her heart useless.

He did feel better however. The hiding place he had chosen was his hometown, where he could return to gaurd it to the end of his days. There was also his family.

"Tohemo! Everyone, get in here! Our Tohemo's home!" His father had boomed, and all twelve of Tohemo's siblings, five boys and seven girls, came clamoring in from the large field his father owned. Smothering him with hugs and embraces, Tohemo's family had welcomed him gladly. He told them of their travelings, but convientently left out the part about Emiko.

"And I decided that I'd like a little down time with my family, so I came up here myself." Tohemo had finished.

"Well, I'm glad your back, Toe, even if it's naught but a day." His mother had said fondly. "But we all do wish you could stay for good, perhaps take on a field of your own, get a wife, start a family as noisy and loving as this."

Tohemo had mumbled a response to this, and finally, it was only him and his favriote sibling, his younger brother Tyaka. He told Tyaka everything, and the twelve year old listened raptly.

"-And then I left her." Tohemo finished. Tyaka regaurded him unblinkingly.

"And then you left her." Tyaka said thoughtfully. "Left her when she had done everything but offer her heart to you on a silver platter, left her to cry over you for naught. Left her to continue being alone, even though she was a smart, loving, pretty girl. Real smart of you, you damned fool."

And he left Tohemo to his private thoughts.


While back in the abandoned farmstead, the seven of them were getting on quite well. Ankara and Yashi were always off alone together, and lately Cherumi and Sazukin would do mock battles against one another until they were both exhasuted. Then they would fall down together in a jumbled pile.

Emowyen was having another dream the third night after Tohemo left. She and Tyoko were laying together beneath a willow tree, Emowyen snug and safe with her head on Tyoko's strong shoulder. She buried her fingers in his gi, and this time it wasn't pulled away. This time, it shook her.

"Emowyen." Tyoko's voice fully woke her up, and she let go of her deathgrip on the blanket she was currently choking.


"Accompany me on a stroll, would you?"

Emowyen lept up, and they stole off into the night. Presently, Tyoko faced her and took ahold of her shoulders. Pulling her into him, her gently pressed his lips on hers.

When they broke apart, Tyoko looked slightly abashed. "I'm sorry, I should of asked."

"Don't be sorry. And don't talk. Just kiss me again!"

He obliged.


Emiko smiled whenever she saw one of the three pairs sneaking off in what they thought was a manner no one would notice. Emiko had a fair guess of what they were doing and why all of her friends had happy, glowing smiles on their faces all the time. Emiko tried to be happy for them, but she found it hard to be happy about anything anymore.

Of course, they had all asked her what Tohemo had said. She repeated over and over that he had mearly given her instruction to figure out a way to destroy the Stone pieces once he returned. The boys had been satisfied with that. Her friends had seen though the lie and had questioned her on what really happened.

"What happened was all for the best, and I-I'm glad of it," was all they got out of her. To stop the questions, Emiko purpously mumbled in her sleep when she knew someone was up. She would repeat Ken's name over and over, disgusted at the thought of kissing him, even though she loved him dearly as a friend.

Then Tohemo came back.

Emiko purpously gave him a huge smile when he showed them the last Stone, but she was unusually withdrawn after that.

Ankara was extreamly worried about her friend, perhaps more so because Ankara couldn't imagine life without Yashi, to whom she was already secretly betrothed. And, Ankara knew that if Emiko loved anything it was food, and even her enthusiasm at meals had diminished. So Ankara decided to talk to Tohemo.

She watched him walk off in the pretense of wanting to go fishing. She followed him, and when they were out of earshot of the others, she yanked him around by the shoulder.

"What, the hell, did you do to Emiko?" Ankara got right to the point.

"Yeah, we all wanna know." Behind her was Cherumi and Emowyen, who apparently had the same idea as Ankara.

"Well, that's my business, isn't it?" Tohemo used his power of force to lift himself across the wide bubbling brook.

Emowyen was about to go after him by using teleportation when they all felt a peculiar force pulling them back towards the farmhouse, including Tohemo. It pulled them along as though they were on rollerblades, moving silently over the ground without hardly making a ripple in the long waves of grass.

Coming within sight of the farmhouse, they saw an ancient old person, indistinguishable as a man or a woman, pulling on what seemed to be invisible ropes, hauling them in, cackling all the while. Cherumi felt as though she ought to fight this old being, before it hurt any of her friends, and God forbidding it touched Sazukin, but something stayed her hand.

Once they were reeled in, they saw that Emiko, Yashi, Sazukin and Tyoko were standing outside next to the old being as well.

"All here, all here!" It cackled, Its voice raspy and recognisable as the chanting voice in the tunnel, and the voice in Tohemo's dream. "So you actually figured my little riddle out, eh, eh?"

"It wasn't exactly hard." Emowyen said politely.

"Eh, I figured without your brains, my apology! He heh, probably would have gone smoother it would, it would ifn I had just told you what to do, he heh, probably! But in my years, I've learned that pretty words with no meaning are clearer than just plain instruction, eh, eh?" It cackled again.

"What do you mean, no meaning?" Tohemo's voice was sharp.

It peered at Tohemo, and an ugly, toothless smile filled Its face. "The honerable one, eh?" It said calculatingly. "Honerable, in mind, body, eh? Not the brightest, mayhap, but an honerable, loyal one...loyal?, what did you think, boy?"

"Uh, Great One, I think some of us are confused about your...instructions." Tyoko said quite politely.

"Oh deary me, I seem to have forgotten! To give my silly old rhyme to all of my boys! And oh! What happiness could have been spared...oh well. Now, for this pretty little toy you've gathered!" It made a motion with Its hand and the pieces of Stone flew from their master's keeps. It fit together, and the white light shone briefly.

"Final four, have done their chore, stayed the way they were born, love foresaken, hate forgotten, fear no more and hope undone! Destroy and leave to undying joy!" It chanted, and then crushed the imperishable Stone in Its hand. The light went out, and the Stone crumbled to dust.

Emowyen felt a tug, and as she vanished into the tunnel, she caught a last sight of Tyoko's anguished face.



Chapter Nine

* * *


Ankara was thrown out of the tunnel into her entrance hallway.

"No! NO! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING! MY LIFE'S WORK GONE LIKE DUST!" The skinny man was on his knees in front of her, his hands clutching at the dust that trickled out.

Ankara knew how to take care of him. She opened her mouth and screamed, as loudly as she could. Perhaps she could bring the ceiling down and end the pain she felt in leaving Yashi.

"Stop screaming, you stupid girl!" The skinny man screeched, spit flying from his mouth. He lept up, and ran out of the half open door.

Nothing happened...when I screamed... Ankara thought wildly, rubbing her eyes. Everything wasn't as clear... I can't see like before! My powers are gone with the Stone!

With that thought she ran outside, and down the street towards the park.


"It's all gone." Emowyen said dully. Emiko nodded, her face impassive. Cherumi was swinging her arms in front of her body, but no Slash issued from her fingertips. She nearly hit a girl in a cosplay costume.

"Hey, watch it!" The girl shouted. "And those costumes suck!"

It was a Sunday morning, so all the cosplay people were out strutting their stuff. Just like the day when they left, nearly a month and a half ago. For once, the normal clothes the four wore stood out amid all the wierd outfits, like a rockstar person with bright orange hair, a girl with a sort of blue flowey dress, and a group of four boys going old Japasnese with hakama and gi.

"I-I just wanna be alone, for awhile." Ankara said hollowly. "I'll call you later."

They all drifted away, and when they had disapeared in the crowd, Ankara fell to her knees. Once the mess with the Stone is over, I'll make you the happiest bride ever, Yashi had told her.

"Yashi!" She sobbed, then broke down completly.


Emowyen ran blindly, and finally tripped and fell on a cosplay person's dress train. Hands bleeding and people looking around to see if she was all right, Emowyen screamed in pain, not because of the cut, but because of the pain in her heart.

"Tyoko, Tyoko..." Emowyen put her head down on the cement and cried.

"Are you all right?" He sounded earnest, although she detected a note of haste in his voice.

"I'm perfect, now." The words tumbled from her mouth before she could stop them. She blushed deeply, making him smile wider, and gentler.

"If only you were"


Cherumi meandered mindlessly to a bench, were she sat down listlessly.

"I am Sazukin. And, I apologize for making you carry me for the last half-hour I've been awake for. May I know your name?" He grinned sheepishly. Cherumi wondered why he hadn't attacked her the moment he had awoken, she wouldn't have been expecting it then...unless he enjoyed being close to her-no. That couldn't be it. It just...couldn't.

The memory was dear to her, but it forced the tears out and down her face. Hating the feeling of hopelessness, Cherumi stood up, and kicked the bench, making one of the legs crack. It didn't help the brake in her heart at all.


"Emiko! What luck!" Ken's over-cheery voice reached her ears. She plastered on a fake smile, something she was getting good at.

"Hey Ken! Haven't seen you for forever!"

"You saw me yesterday...oh! A joke! Well then...never mind." Ken gave a short laugh, then yanked out an envelope of newly developed photos. "I got some great shots yesterday, and I wanna show 'em to you quick before I go hunting in today's crowd."

Emiko's smile slipped a little, and like a good friend, Ken noticed. "What's up?"

"Have you ever loved someone so much, that you still love them even if you can't?"

The look on Ken's face was nonplussed, so she sighed and looked down.

"Yes, I have, Emiko."

Emiko's head snapped up, and she whirled around. For it wasn't Ken who spoke, but it was Tohemo, standing behind her, still in his dark red gi and faded white hakama.

"Tohemo..." Emiko breathed.

He smiled and nodded, then tentatively wrapped his arms around her waist, completly ignoring Ken's questions of who he was and what he was doing wrapping his arms around a girl Ken was sure that Tohemo had never met before.

"I'm s-so sorry for hurting you," Tohemo whispered, "but I thought I had to, and now I see I was being a fool. I-I know that now."

Emiko tried to make out a mock frown, but she couldn't stop smiling. "Then I guess you owe me."

"I guess I do."

"I'll take my reward now." Emiko whispered, and with everyone around them watching, Emiko and Tohemo kissed each other, blissfully unaware that that was happening a lot all around the park.

It was walking. It pulled Its ragged cloak closer around It, a smile marking Its face. "Final four, have done their chore, stayed the way they were born, love foresaken, hate forgotten, fear no more and hope undone! Destroy and leave to undying joy... Ha heh, perhaps I've done well for once, eh, eh?"

The End of Chapter One