"Rika, Rika? Slow down! Slooooow dooown!" A tiny, eeny-weeny little hunter named Chaz, still in his pyjamas, held on for dear life as he rose horseback (Actually, catback) on his neko wife as they were chased by a ravenous, drooling hellhound.

Actually, that's a little exaggerated. Yes, it was ravenous, yes, it was drooling, but hellhound? Nah, I don't think so.

"Arf!" Barked Rocky the dog, eager to hunt down the kitty cat that looked ever so much like pink shortcake, at least to the food-crazed pooch. Rika was in no position to negotiate with both her husband and the dog at the same time, so she chose the former, particularly because Chaz was able to think without her mind trailing off into thoughts of tuna, wherever that came from.

"I can't slow down!" She declared, turning into the main street of the town, hoping that exposure to the open would give her a better menu of options to choose from. Rocky licked his chops as he pursued her through the streets, mind a jumble of doggy thoughts.

"Then fight! Yeah, let's fight!" Chaz opened his hand, leaning to the side as he snatched a pointy twig from a bush that Rika had rushed past. "Fight!" He repeated, waving the twig around. It wasn't Elsydeon, but it'll do.

Rika put on the brakes, skidding to halt. "Alright," She said, flexing her kitty claws, "But I doubt you could do much, Chaz."

"Lemme try, anyway." He protested, holding the twig out like a knight would hold a lance on a mounted steed.

"Grr." Yapped Rocky, tongue hanging out. Chaz sighed, Alys had never mentioned anything like this during training.

Everything went tense, neither side dared to make a move. A tumbleweed blew past, setting the scene. Once could almost expect western themed music to come on at any second. Chaz's eyes were hard, he was trying to guess how to best pre-empt the dog's first move.

Unexpectedly, Rocky attacked first, throwing himself muzzle-first at Rika, who hissed like a… cat and scratched at the air before him. Rocky did not fall into the space that she expected him to, instead the dog was lifted up by the scruff of the neck by somebody that neither of them had noticed.

"Okay boy," Said Kyra, shaking the dog lightly, "Don't be a bad dog, scat!" He dropped the animal and feinted a kick at the retreating mutt. The esper dusted off his hands and turned to the tiny hunter and musk cat.

"Uhm…" Said Chaz, squinting at Kyra, "Rune? Did you cut your hair?"

"No!" Exclaimed Kyra, "I'm not Rune," He scratched the back of his head, "Chaz, why are you so small?"

"Kyra?" The pieces of the puzzle finally connected themselves in Chaz's brain and the shock made him fall off Rika. "Why are you-"

"I don't know." Kyra admitted, "Why are you-"

"We don't know either. Meow." Rika confessed, picking up Chaz by the back of his carbon suit.

"That's you Rika? Woah, what have I missed?" Kyra crossed his arms, thinking. "Strange stuff's been happening, hmm? I wonder if the same things happened to the other guys? Light knows that it got us four."

"Four?"

"Raja's around here somewhere, poor guy. He's been arguing with himself for the past half-hour," Kyra looked forlorn, "I have a headache."

"You can come to our house and take a few aspirin, if you want, um… Kieran." Rika offered, Chaz and Kyra sweatdropped.

"Kieran?" Chaz sniggered, dangling limply from Rika's grip.

Kyra was trying to look impassive. "I prefer my old name, thank you." He growled.

"Did somebody say drink?!" One of the Rajas declared. Nobody had, but he figured that if he brought up the subject, the chances of getting some would increase.

"I want drink!" Demanded the other Raja, grinning stupidly.

Chaz and Rika fought back a scream, Chaz pointing one finger at the two-headed dezolisian. It probably would not seem too freaky to anybody not with empathy on Chaz's point, but a smartass two-headed dezolisian proclaiming his need for drink in the same day when you find yourself three inches tall and married to a musk cat is a bit much, even for the wielder of Elsydeon.

"Hullo!" Greeted the Rajas in perfect sync with each other.

It would be pointless to point out that something was not right.

"I… need a drink, a stiff drink." Chaz moaned, dropping the twig still held in his hand.

"Make that two." Kyra (or Kieran, depending on which gender you wish to associate him/her with) added.

"Or three." Rika was unhappy with the fact that she may have to spend the rest of her life drinking out of a dish.

"Four!" Said Raja I, Raja II glared at Raja I, "I mean, five."

"Okay, let's go home. Meow." The four protectors were about to start their epic journey to the Ashley house across the two blocks they would have to trek, when they heard a noise.

"Do you hear that?" Kyra asked.

Rika's pointy ears twitched, " It sounds like an engine stalling at high-speed."

"You being the expert." Said Chaz.

"We don't hear nuthin'! I want drink!"

Suddenly, yet not altogether unexpectedly from the third-person point of view, the Landale whooshed overhead in a veritable boom of noise, smoke pouring from the back part of the flying machine. A fast shadow passed over the town of Aiedo, before the metal bird found it's final resting place right on top of the town's bakery, thankfully empty due to the owner's recent mid-life crisis and his exodus to sightsee at Termi for a few weeks. But, the building was still well-stocked with ingredients.

It was a terrible impact. There was pink icing everywhere.

The reason that the four protectors were drawn to this spot had nothing to do with the sugar lying all over the place. Really. They were really concerned for the people within.

… Don't look at me like that.

There was a lot of smoke and rubble everywhere, adding a weird contrast to the pink sugar snow. Kyra had picked up both Chaz and Rika, and the Rajas were trailing behind him. The esper coughed on the foul air and fanned it away, watching the entry hatch to the Landale. If you listened really carefully, you could hear a one-sided argument on the inside of the ship, it only being one-sided because the first side was unable to get their point across. Then it appeared that the hatch was stuck, as banging began to be heard.

"I guess I better let them out." Kyra smiled, preparing a Nafoi technique to bust the door open.

He did not have to. The hatch was finally wrenched open, and a disgruntled Wren-type android fell down the stairs and landed flat on his face, wincing as something invisible yet heavy landed on him. It was a little too late for Kyra, however, because he had already unleashed the Nafoi technique straight at them, managing to set Wren on fire.

"!!" Wren ran around beating out flames for about a minute, sugar is flammable and he was covered in it. Demi, invisible in the background, laughed like she never had before. It was almost worth trashing the ship for such a hilarious scene.

"…" Complained a charred android, shooting a pained look at Kyra.

"Sorry." Apologised Kyra.

The Rajas were joining in with Demi on the laughing part, knocking their heads together in a giggling fit.

Chaz and Rika didn't know what to think.

"Oh…kay." Stammered Kyra. "And what dire fate has befallen you two?"

"……" Explained Wren.

"Look what you did!" Scolded Demi, through with her humour, "I told you not to touch the steering wheel!" She kicked the side of the Landale, "You broke it."

Wren looked guilty.

"This is getting excessively weird." Rika observed in Kyra's arms.

Demi finally noticed the four protectors standing in the rubble, although they did not notice her. "Greetings, everybody. Oh dear, it was worse than Hahn said it was."

Chaz brought a hand to his face in an exasperated manner. "Hahn too, Demi? Um… wherever you are."

Demi nodded, but the motion was lost on the people who could not see her. "Indeed. He mentioned that he was cursed, and with Gryz at the time. As for myself and Master Wren, I'm invisible and he's mute."

".." Said Wren, backing up Demi's explanation.

"That would be everyone, except for Rune." Rika mused, restraining herself from making the stereotypical 'meow' at the end of her sentence.

"The reverent Lutz, I bet he'd know what's going on!" Kyra announced.

"But what about drink?" Raja II asked sullenly, the promise of drink fading from his meagre existence.

"Yes," Agreed Chaz, he was not a drinker by nature, but by then crawling into a whiskey bottle seemed to be a good way to escape from his disturbing reality. Oh, if only he had known that it was drinking that had STARTED the mess in the first place. "Drink is good."

"I need to lie down." Kyra whimpered, his headache increasing by a few notches.

"……?" Asked Wren, which was an expressed desire to borrow a towel to get all the sugar out of his system.

It was decided, they all staggered back to Chaz's house, their mission:

Regroup and rethink.

xxx

The pimply teenage pizza delivery guy searched for a doorbell on the jewel-encrusted Silence Tower. Loosing his grip on the three pizza boxes and cheese dippers he held in his inventory, he rapped on the big shiny metal door, cutting his knuckles on the pointy-ness of it's surface. "Hello?" his uneven pubescent voice asked hesitantly.

The Profound Darkness opened the door in a pair of pink stripy pyjamas, it looked like they did decide to have a slumber party after all. "Ah, it's here," The Darkness boomed, "Finally."

"Well um, it was kinda hard to get here," The delivery guy admitted, handing the pizzas and cheese dippers over to the ultimate incarnation of evil, "That'll be 380 Meseta, please." The Profound Darkness checked it's pockets and procured a small bag of money, tossing it into the hands of the delivery guy. "Tip?" The teenager asked expectantly.

"Get a haircut, ya hippie." The Darkness slammed the heavy door in the guy's face, leaving him alone in the scary wilderness of Rykros, filled with Biomonsters with many claws and giant axes. Chances are he wouldn't live long enough to receive his minimum wage. Oh well, society's loss.

The Darkness wandered back to the central part of the Silence Tower where the Great Light and Pierre were watching the Naura Bakery Landale impact and laughing.

"Food's here." It set the pizza down next to Pierre and the Great Light and took a slice.

"Did you get my cheese dippers?" Pierre asked hopefully.

"Yes." Replied the Darkness, pushing the box over to Pierre. Pierre proceeded to get cheese all over himself and anybody else who got too close.

"Is it almost time for phase five?" The cheese-covered spirit questioned.

"Not quite," Answered the Great Light, a little too excited right now to eat anything. "But soon."

The Profound Darkness watched the android on the screen run around on fire. "These individuals seem familiar…" He mused. The Great Light and Pierre sweatdropped, aware that they were the Darkness's mortal enemies.

"Hmph… Must just be me…" He ate another slice of pizza to deaden the sensation of familiarity.

xxx

Rune was on the mend, his hangover was showing signs of defeat and a clean set of clothes plus a warm cup of coffee made his life worth living once more. The Lutz ran a comb through his light blue hair, a little tangled from his stay in the tree last night and begun to wonder what he might be able to do to occupy his time today. Or he could sleep, yeah, that was a good idea.

But then again, he did have some training to work through, but a stabbing pain through his brain seemed to come back if he even thought about conjuring anything at the moment. He sipped his coffee, smelling the nice aroma that wafted from the liquid. Rune could have sworn that he had heard a huge commotion a few minutes ago, but dismissed it as simply the sound of blood thumping through his headache.

Although he wanted to know why the air smelt like shortcake.

Rune pulled his gloves on and tied his hair back into a loose ponytail. He picked up his lovely nourishing coffee and walked back to his room for a few warm up exercises.

Maybe a little physical exertion would diminish his feeling of mental blockage.

xxx

Light, this is embarrassing…

Hahn could not have gone any redder than he was already.

Thank gods Gryz is here.

Gryz had pulled his hood back over his face, still embarrassed by the fact that he resembled a giant plucked chicken. This would be the most difficult part of their journey, reach the Ashley house without anybody seeing Hahn.

Mission Impossible.

Hahn was standing behind Gryz, the bulk of the motavian blocking out anybody who tried to perv on the poor scholar. They walked slowly around the perimeter of the town, meaning to go through the graveyard past the jail and Hunter Guild. It was market day in Aiedo, so everybody would be in the front part of town. It was a good thing that Gryz had remembered.

"I hope nothing bad has happened to Chaz and Rika." Said Gryz, he didn't think they could have been dealt a worse fate than himself, but it could happen.

"Me too." Hahn wished it wasn't so windy outside. "Uh, Gryz? Thanks, you're a real friend."

"Getting you to put your clothes back on, now that's a favour to all Algo." Gryz stepped over a tombstone carefully, meaning no disrespect.

"Indeed, spring chicken."

They went past the jail, empty because everybody was nice in Aiedo, no nasty bastards ever came anymore, mostly because they knew that Chaz Ashley was in town.

They were almost in the clear.

xxx

Raja was very impressed at the extensive collection of alcohol that Chaz and Rika had stocked in their house. Originally, it all belonged to Alys, no, she didn't drink much, but she always entertained guests that did. Sadly, there was none of that ol' Jut brew that he was so fond of, but he picked a bottle that most resembled it, and poured himself a drink.

Kyra had taken two aspirin and was lying on the comfortable couch, waiting for his headache to go away. Chaz had a small thimble filled with whiskey on the rocks, it was they smallest container they could find for him, and he was sitting on the mantelpiece swinging his legs on the edge. Rika was curled up next to Chaz, purring.

Wren had been able to get most of the sugar out of his armour and hair, although he still smelt like burnt shortcake, and leant against the wall with a drink in his hand, not intending to do anything with it, but fulfilling his duty as Raja II's cup holder. Demi was standing in the corner, invisible.

"Raja," Said Chaz as Raja I emptied his second glass, "That's not drink, it's liquid drain cleaner."

Raja I shrugged, "It's still goooood stuff!" He hiccoughed.

"Don't worry, dezolisians have cast-iron stomachs." Kyra reassured Chaz, one hand clutched protectively at his head. In retrospect, both espers, Rune and Kyra having a bad headache was more than just a simple hangover and from Raja's ranting, they were more in tune with nature, and sensed the magic cast on them more than the others. Too bad they didn't put two-and-two together, huh?

The Rajas stumbled over to the coffee table, going to set their drink down, but accidentally brushed past Demi and stubbed their toe on her. Quite painful.

"Argh!" They both cried, hopping up and down on one foot, pain plastered all over their faces.

"My apologies," Said Demi, trying to straighten the dezolisian who was bent over in pain. "Being invisible can be quite a burden." There was a knock at the door. "I'll get it!" Demi proclaimed, letting go off Raja who then fell to the floor. She scurried off to the entrance to the household and flung the door wide open, letting whoever it was in.

Gryz stepped in purposefully with a strong stride, Hahn hiding behind him. However, he didn't know Demi was in front of him and they collided, both falling over and everybody in the room getting an eyeful of Hahn.

"Oh, crud." Hahn darted for cover, hiding behind the nice flowers.

"Crud is right." Moaned Gryz, his hood having slipped off so everybody could see the poor motavian.

"… Welcome to the freak show." Said Chaz.

"You'll fit right in." Rika added, trying not to giggle at Hahn.

"This isn't funny," He protested, then saw exactly what had happened to the other protectors and began to chortle himself. He opened one eye in the midst of laughing, "Hey, don't look!"

"Gad, I'm a klutz…" Gryz got off the big heavy metal thing that he was currently crushing. Demi was happy for Gryz's departure.

Rika was thinking in the background about an idea that had currently passed through her mind. Going through all the possibilities, she climbed to her feet and said;

"That's it, Demi, you're being too much of a roadblock, come over here, I have an idea."

The android obediently made her way over to Rika, the cat padding into the kitchen, pouncing onto the kitchen bench. "If you have a remedy, I'm ready to hear it." Rika crouched, and put a paw on her head, testing to see exactly where the invisible person was. Satisfied, she pushed a pot filled with a certain condiment to the edge of the bench with difficulty, mostly because she didn't have human hands anymore and had to use her head. The pot toppled and fell, right on top of Demi, sending a cloud of flour all over everything in the kitchen.

The musk cat had a small coughing fit from all the dusty substance in the air, but as the cloud cleared, Demi was finally visible, a whitish flour-covered outline, almost like a ghost.

Demi looked at her hands. "This is much better! Many thanks, Rika."

"Don't mention it." She replied.

Gryz noticed that Kyra was staring at him. "What?" He said, irritated.

"Fall into a vat of wax?" Kyra asked naughtily.

"No! Shut up, Rune."

"Ack! I'm NOT Rune!" Kyra cried, "I'm far to beautiful to be him."

"You know, that's not something a guy should say about himself." Chaz instructed.

"I know, but I'm not a… Oh wait, yes I am. Damn." Kyra gave up on protesting, and resumed looking dejected.

"Hey," Raja II yelled, "The mechanical doll's trying to say something." He directed everyone's attention to Wren who was trying to do just that.

"…" He unsuccessfully tried to get his point across. He knew he had failed when he received the multitude of clueless looks from everyone else. So… it looked like he had to do it.

Wren really hated charades.

Firstly, he pointed to the pennant of Termi, starting off the game.

"Flag?" Chaz asked.

He shook his head.

"Picture?"

Nope.

"Termi?"

No!

"Sign?"

"!" Wren nodded vigorously, and started on the second word. He pointed to his mouth, hoping that the protectors weren't as stupid as he thought they were.

"Sign mouth?"

"Sign face?"

"Sign language, dummies." Kyra announced, like it was obvious information. Kyra was the only one that understood. "Anybody here know sign language?"

Everybody looked at each other, shrugging.

"I do!" Proclaimed Hahn happily from his hiding place. "Go ahead, I'll translate."

Wren made some elaborate hand movements that seemed like gibberish to anybody else.

Hahn looked like he was concentrating deeply. "Okay… I think I got it." They all listened to what Hahn had to say.

"Um… Evil singing lab rats, New Jersey rugrats, hello brown cows, bureaucrats."

Last time Wren checked, he wasn't a beatnik. He concluded that Hahn was indeed an idiot. Chaz couldn't keep a straight face for very long, nor could anybody else in the room. "Hehehehe… Exactly… how much sign language… do you know, Hahn?" Chaz questioned between sniggers.

"A bit."

"How much… is a bit?"

"About thirty words." Hahn looked sheepish.

Wren hated to be made a laughing stock.