I don't own anything except the Takahari family, their Dragoon Spirits, and Kenji Okamura

* * *

It was six years after the destruction of the Moon That Never Sets that my combat career reached world-saving heights once more. During those years, my life certainly hadn't been too peaceful; when one is in charge of the king's "Knights of Shadows", one has a lot of work to do, from stopping assassination attempts, to executing assassinations, subduing insurrections, and all-around wet-work. Not to mention friends and relatives of those I killed in my official job coming after me personally. That had happened a few times over the years, and none of them had so much as scratched me.

And, of course, there was the original mission of my old, now-extinct ninja clan: hunting vampires. I had exterminated what we believed to be the last vampire of Earth other than Dracula himself, but before his death, Count Draco von Schneider had spread the plague to Endiness. The clan that I now led, the Oukoku Fukei, or Kingdom's Guardians, had its work cut out for it. And I, Sensei Ian Takahari, had the worst of it, being one of only four fully-trained ninja on the planet.

* * *

I was going over documents in what passed for my office (even a ninja is never free of paperwork) when one of my gakusei, or students, stepped in and bowed. "There's a visitor for you, Sensei."

I glanced up. "Who is it?"

The poor kid was practically bursting with excitement. "It's King Albert! Wearing his wings!"

Albert? And he flew? Must be important, if it couldn't wait for my report next week. I stood. "Okay, sotsu," I said, following the tradition of master calling an apprentice "my son", "you can go. Please inform Sensei Kenji that he will be needed to conduct this morning's exercises."

As I headed for the courtyard of what was once the Shrine of Shirley and was now the only existing dojo of the Oukoku Fukei ninja, I reflected on the fact that it still felt weird to be the head of a ninja clan. I was originally the heir to the leadership of the Kyuuketsuki Ryoushi, succeeding my father, but that was to be many years in the future. Now, with the clan's destruction, it had become necessary for me to lead the new clan. It had seemed sheer folly, six years ago, to attempt to resurrect the Kyuuketsuki Ryoushi when only four members remained. And so, as the Hitoshirezu Buke had become the Kyuuketsuki Ryoushi centuries ago, now the Kyuuketsuki Ryoushi became in turn the Oukoku Fukei. And as the oldest of the leading family, it came to me to be the clan head.

I found King Albert, Dragoon of the Jade Dragon, waiting in the courtyard, still in Dragoon form. "Your Majesty," I said in a grave tone. Then I grinned. "Seriously, Albert, what brings you here?"

"Ian, good to see you. I hoped you were around." He clasped my forearm in greeting. "And still the same as six years ago."

I snorted. "Of course I'm still the same. I don't age, remember?" That was a fact few knew; six years ago, shortly before Melbu Frahma's final defeat, I had come into possession of a Wingly artifact that stopped aging. Another effect, one that only two people besides myself knew about, was to prevent death. Fatal injuries healed too fast for them to actually be fatal. "So what brings you here? Something that couldn't wait for my report in Bale next week?"

"Perhaps we should discuss this in your office?"

I shrugged. "Let's go, then."

* * *

After we'd settled into the comfortable arm chairs in the private meeting room off my office, I looked at Albert. "So what's this sensitive matter you needed to discuss?"

He leaned back. "Remember the explosion caused by the Moon That Never Sets when it was destroyed six years back?"

I lit a pipe, a habit I'd acquired since becoming immune to pesky little problems like lung cancer. "Hard to forget. Rose and I nearly died there, you know. What about it?"

"A scouting party I sent there three months ago reported that there's a dimensional distortion at the site of the explosion. It leads to another world."

I raised an eyebrow. "Another one? Sure it's not Earth? Your people wouldn't necessarily know the difference."

Albert shook his head. "It's not. My scouts were there long enough to learn the natives call it Spira. They also found that the population was scared stiff of something called 'Sin'."

"'Sin', huh? And I suppose you want my ninja to investigate?" Fairly standard procedure; I had several promising apprentices who could do the job.

"Not exactly," he said, grimacing. "You see, members of the Court in Bale apparently found the chronicle you left in the Indels Library."

"'The Story of the Diamond Dragoon'? Why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to like the consequences of this, Albert?" I had never really believed anyone would read the thing; I just left it in case the events were forgotten someday and someone managed to stumble across it. I had never counted on it being found during this generation.

"Well, it seems they copied it and the entire Court has read it now. Before, you were just the foreigner who led my special troops; now, the government has found that you too are a Dragoon and were involved in the Second Dragon Campaign. They all but demanded that you be the one sent when the scouts returned. 'Only the best' and all that."

"Obutsu," I muttered. "This is exactly why I stuck that benighted book in the least-frequented section of the library. I prefer to work anonymously."

"Out of the question this time, my friend. I did manage to get them to refrain from releasing it to the public, so at least you won't be swamped with tourists." Albert glanced around. "That reminds me, where's Karen? I'd have thought she'd be up and about by now. Always full of energy."

I grinned. "She's out your way, Albert. Some kind of shopping trip in Bale, with Meru."

He smiled back. "And visiting Lavitz, no doubt?"

"Naturally." I glanced at the clock on the wall; I'd imported batteries from Earth, two years ago. "She's due back tomorrow. We should be ready to leave a day or two after that."

"'We'?"

I nodded. "Of course. You didn't think I'd go alone, did you? It'll be four of us: myself, Ryan, Karen, and of course Rose. That's another reason it'll take a few days, in fact. Rose is in Seles right now, visiting Dart and Shana. And Zieg's grave." After I was forced to kill him by Melbu Frahma, Dart and Shana had taken Zieg's body with them and buried him in the Seles cemetery. The last time I'd actually been there was for their wedding the year before; it wasn't too often that I could get away for sightseeing.

"Well, anything you need, just send for from Bale."

"One thing, Albert. Did your scouting party happen to pick up the shards of Arashi-Jisan? I was only able to recover the hilt that day."

Albert nodded. "Yes, they did. I'll have them sent here as soon as I get back to Bale."

"Thanks. I've gone six years without a ninja blade. It's time Arashi-Jisan was reforged."

* * *

Albert had to leave shortly after that; whereas I had people I could turn to for day-to-day affairs, Albert was the king. He couldn't just go off to personally lead a battle or take a vacation. If this matter hadn't been so important, he'd have called me to the capitol, not come to the Shrine.

After he left, I headed for the watchtower near the entrance, where my brother Ryan was overseeing the two-student lookout. The watch was more than just an exercise; there were those that distrusted and disliked the newest branch of King Albert's military, and some of them tried to do something about it. None who had attempted it had survived, of course.

Ryan turned as I entered the tower. "Thought you might be looking for me soon, Ian. What was Albert doing here? Isn't your next report next week?"

"He's got a mission for us, Brother. Us, specifically. The various nobles back in Bale practically demanded I be sent, and I'm not about to go on this one alone."

"Why you, niisan?"

I grimaced. "Remember that book I wrote after we kicked Melbu Frahma's hippu? Seems someone found it a few hundred years early."

Ryan laughed. "I told you that thing would come back to haunt you. Even you didn't seem too enthused about it. 'That benighted book'. Wasn't that what you called it back then? When do we leave, anyway?"

"It'll be a couple days yet. We have to wait for Karen and Rose to get back."

He grinned. "Of course, you'd never go anywhere without Rose now, eh?"

I glared at him. "Ryan. Shut up."

* * *

The next day, Karen returned, bringing with her the shards of Arashi-Jisan. Albert had apparently thought it more convenient to simply send them with her.

Meru was with her when I reached the gate. "Meru! What are you doing here? I thought you'd have headed back to the Forest."

She grinned. "When Karen told me what was up, I decided to tag along and see you off. By the way, Lloyd sent you this." Meru tossed me the Dragon Buster, the weapon Rose and I had used to kill Melbu.

I held it up. "I thought this was destroyed. It wasn't anywhere around where we ended up."

"It's a Wingly magic weapon," she replied. "Objects made using Wingly magic tend to survive almost anything."

"I guess. So how's Miranda doing these days?" I asked, referring to one of the White-Silver Dragoons we had traveled with during what later became known as the Second Dragon Campaign.

"About the same as always. Berating the people rebuilding the Crystal Palace, and the knights, and anyone else who gets too close."

"Well, thanks for the delivery, Meru. But if you want to see us off, you'll have to stay a couple days. We need to wait for Rose to get back from Seles, and I need the time to reforge Arashi-Jisan. You know the way to the guest quarters, right?"

She mock-glared. "Do you really think I've forgotten? I am a Wingly, you know. Far superior to you humans."

I waved a hand. "Ahh, whatever. C'mon, Karen, we've got things to do."

* * *

The next couple of days were rather hectic, what with arranging schedules so that one sensei could do the job of four, preparing supplies, and of course reforging my blade.

After three days of preparations, we were finally ready for the journey. We took the Tiberoan Queen Fury to the coast nearest the Divine Lake, as the place where the Divine Tree once stood was now called, and then flew to the crater rim.

"I never thought I'd see this place again…" I murmured. "Where my story nearly ended…"

Rose laid a hand on my shoulder. "And where our new story begins."

"Yes…" Ryan looked down on the place where he had nearly lost a brother. "Maybe this time it won't be as critical…"

"Don't hold your breath, Ryan." Karen said. "We seem to attract world-saving quests."

I gazed at the swirling portal before us. At least this time I go prepared. I wore a long, black coat with a hole in the back for my sword, Raiden-Ken, to protrude from. Migi-no-te I had left behind, in a place of honor at the dojo.

I had a single pistol in a shoulder holster under my coat, and hypodermics filled with a vampire-killing serum Ryan had developed were strapped to my left arm, near the shoulder. On my left leg were several silver stakes, and I wore modern body armor on my chest and back. This time, I was leaving nothing to chance, including the possibility of encountering vampires in this "Spira".

"Let's go." I said at last, and we stepped through the portal into another world…

* * *

Author's note: And so begins the Second Story of the Diamond Dragoon. Read it and let me know what you think.

Not much that I didn't translate in the chapter itself: "Obutsu" means "garbage", "hippu" is "backside", and "Raiden-Ken" translates as "thunder and lightning blade". If you've read the first story, you'll understand the other references. ~Solid Shark