The wanderer's Path chapter 1: the day after

Based on El Hazard OVA's tv2.

Version 1.0.0


This is my first attempt to write a fanfiction based of anything and I cannot promise I will ever be able to finish it. El hazard belongs to Pioneer as do most of the characters included in this fanfiction. I want to apologize in advance for borrowing (m)any ideas from other people who write El hazard fanfiction and whose skill I can never hope to achieve. Also you have to know that English is not my native language. If I used my native language it would be Greek to you. Literally. So I really need a second opinion (and a third, and a fourth..) as well as any C&C you can spare.

The following takes part before the end of OVA 1 and just after the 13nth episode of Alternative world. People on the Net argue about Ura's gender but if you look carefully the OVA 1's episode number 4, just after Ifurita blasts Ura, it is obvious it is male. I will use the names from the subtitled Japanese version so, for example, Groucho's name will be Katsuo.

Due to problems with uploading, some symbols, italics are for thought, bolds for emphasis and #bolds# for "machine language"

"Though I was determined to prevail and reunite with
her, sometimes the only think that kept me sane were
my dreams"

Mizuhara Makoto, Lab journals

At first there was darkness.
Then he started to regain a grip on reality.
He first registered the fact that he was asleep. He also knew that he was about to awaken. His last dream was about her, but it was no nightmare. Thankfully. He sensed the soft bed beneath him, luring him to sleep some more. After he remembered that beds can't talk even in El hazard, the sense of hearing kicked in. He heard the familiar sounds of songbirds and some faraway voices from the palace stuff. The palace rumor mill was already awake, no doubt, retelling princess Fatora's antics in the springs of Arliman two days ago. It took his temporary impaired brain half a minute to complete the thought. Then he made a decision. He would open his eyes. The light assaulted him brutally and it took him five more minutes to be able to see perfectly. After that he only made a colossal effort to climb down all fifty centimeters from his bed to the floor…

It was just a typical Makoto morning awakening.

At least nobody came to wake me, he thought. It was not uncommon for Nanami to drop by in early morning with a breakfast box for him; usually at 70 percent its normal price. Not that such a treat was unwelcome. Nanami's cooking was the best he could hope for, only rivaled by the formal palace ceremonies, reserved for special occasions: saving the world, saving the universe, a princess's birthday, a return from an alien dimension, that sort of things. Neither was there a financial problem. Though Nanami's prices were a bit steep, all his needs were covered by the palace. Rune Venus has insisted on that, repeatedly reminding to everyone what the three Earthlings, the three Muldoon great priestesses, and the one former great priestess have done for them. It was she who proposed to the priestesses to stay at the palace for as long as they liked. "It is not that we lack the rooms" she had said.

No. The real reason that he didn't want Nanami to wake him was that he just wasn't a morning person. When the mind is foggy, one can say and agree to really funny things. Just as the day before Qwaoor's inauguration ceremony. And of course, more often than not, when Nanami came by his house so did Shayla. The implications of the constant bickering of two of his best friends while he was at such a state of mind were grave indeed…

He was lying on the comfy bed fully awake and contemplated, hardly registering the usual background chattering. The last night was not as bad as he had thought. Far from it. Especially when pleasure was also a way to fulfill his ambitions. At first he was repelled by the idea. Then he had accepted it as a necessary evil. But it was good after all. He was still having trouble to accept weather his travel to Cretaria was a real one or some sort of delusion, perhaps due to an outlandish trap his destined rival had set to prevent him from stealing his new breakthrough weapons from his laboratory. The mere thought of his rival developing new ways to undermine his rightful station as the ruler of all El hazard got him reeled and out of the bed. A new masterful plan has started developing in his unique mind.

"Good morning, Katsuhiko", a familiar voice in a not so familiar tone said.
"It wasn't so bad after all, was it?"
"Good morning Diva", he answered, quite a bit startled by her informal greeting and the following remark.
It seems she understood the reason of his astonishment and added "Of course we will maintain the formalities in front off our children and warriors, but I think we can be a little more comfortable when we are alone."

He regarded her for a second, wearing an unreadable expression on his face. Then he did something really unusual for him, something that even caught Diva off guard. He smiled for a brief second, then caught himself, regained his usual composure and answered "Yes, I deem it appropriate and acceptable.". Then he added, talking mostly to himself "From today a new era starts for El hazard and the mighty Bugrom Empire. Those who stand against us shall fall behind us. This time I will draw the long stick, I will open the right door, I will select the best path and you Mizuhara shall feel my divine wrath as you beg for mercy.

MOUA HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha…..".

Behind him, Diva smiled to herself and sighed. I was afraid for him, but he seems to be alright.

She was briefly distracted from the task at hand, as she thought about the last half month. Well the last half month for her. Mercifully, in this world, she only went away for a second. She would think of it as a blissful occasion, a chance to be relieved from her duties and from the daily stress of her station. Yes, she would, if only she hadn't met him.

She resumed her work, reading the financial reports from two disputing alliance countries, preparing herself for the impending meeting that would take place in the afternoon. There were always disagreements between alliance members. It was inevitable that so many countries could not coexist in perfect harmony, but unlike other times, the only thing that prevented open threats within the alliance was her presence. That was highly unusual considering that they have recently avoided two apocalypses. The obvious one, the berserk Eye of god, and the less known but far more lethal, the Trigger of distraction.

Unlike her, most nobility would not wake up until late morning. That allowed her to be better prepared and briefed about the subjects most likely to be encountered at the meeting than most of the participants.

She had talked to few people about the sudden trip to Cretaria, namely only Schtalubaugh and of course Londs. But it was just a brief speculation, made whole by the stories of the others. She said nothing about how she passed her time at that faraway land. She said nothing about Chabil…

But Rune Venus was rational above everything else. She knew there was almost no chance to see him again. She secretly prayed that to be true, though she dreamed otherwise. What would I do if I was ever to meet him again? she thought. Would I desert my people and my duty to be with him?.

She quickly recovered from her doubts. Her most harsh judge, herself, criticized her immediately. These people trust their live to you, to make them rebuild and prosper. Do not think of him anymore; Do not betray their trust.

Having fully regained her inner composure, she turned to one of her servants "Sent a message to Lord Mizuhara. Tell him that I would like to speak with him in private after the alliance meeting today, which he is of course free to attend, if he is available."

As the servant bowed and hurried away, she thought Yes, dealing with my duties makes the pain go away. Almost…

She rubbed her bruised ribs that still hurt her. She wouldn't have thought he was so heavy, and miraculously he was hurt far less than her and her love. But as she tried to wake up she also felt a little guilty about Qwaoor. Only a little.

Finally she decided to speak "Lady Fatora?" she said, with more than a little of a yawn.

"Muuunh" ,a voice from her side replied, obviously somewhere between reality and a really twisted dream, just the norm for her.

"Lady Fatora, are you awake?", she asked again.

"Muuunh. Alielle, is that you?"

"Yes Lady Fatora. Why? Where there any other people in here last night?"

"I don't think so, though I hope otherwise", she replayed, obviously more awake now. "Say, Alielle, what time is it?"

"It is mid to late morning, Lady Fatora".

As soon as she registered the answer her eyes open wide. She turned and regarded her. "By the gods Alielle. Where in the world do you find the energy? Yesterday we passed the day on a royal cruiser that crossed the desert of Bleached Bones itself, trying to approach Nanami, Shayla and Qwaoor and the first two nearly killed us a couple of times". She stopped for a while and then continued more softly "And as I recall last night was pretty adventurous too".

They both grinned at the remark.

"So what did you want that couldn't wait until afternoon?" she asked after a while.

"Well, your attendance is required today." Said Alielle.

"Whatever it is I will use my royal privilege and avoid it" she concluded with a deep yawn.

"Unfortunately, Lady Fatora, you can't. It is a formal alliance meeting and you know your sister is persistent when it comes to such things."

"Damn it. I have completely forgotten that nuisance. I should have stayed at Arliman. Rune will never let me miss something like that."

"She is so stressed. Maybe we should find her a boyfriend.." Fatora looked at her with mock anger "..or girlfriend." she quickly added.

After a while Fatora answered "Nah, not Rune. I am perfectly sure she will end up with some alliance prince really full of himself. I have seen the selection. They were trying to engage me with some of them." A funny thought crossed her mind "After trying to approach me most of them are now sterile anyway" she added.

"I think your sister is not one to ever meet love at first sight."

"Of course not. She is not like us.." she said and moved to kiss her.

"I was also sorry about Qwaoor."

"Well it was unfortunate, we where out of luck and I can't even find a charge to execute Makoto" , she said half seriously, half joking, while favoring her bruises.

"Well, yes but that was not what I meant. I think we maybe overdid it a little…"

"I am shocked. You should stop talking to Makoto. You have started growing a conscience."

"Well maybe, but still…"

"Now girl I am going to ask you a question and I want you to answer me truthfully. If you had a chance would you do it again?"

"Of course I would!" answered Alielle immediately.

"That's my girl." Said Fatora and kissed her again.

"You know, Lady Fatora, we do have some time before you start preparing for the meeting…."

The light was as pale as it should be. It almost dispelled the darkness without annoying him. But even a direct gaze at the sun would annoy and pain him less than the situation he was in for the last month. He was sitting at a simple chair looking at nowhere in particular and thinking what he should do. He could absently register the low humming of the complex machinery that filled the background, like whispering from a grave. The machinery's purpose though was to leave a grave empty, though phantom tribals did not leave a corpse. Suddenly, Nahato focused his eyes on the person lying on the nearby bed. The doctors said that Galus has avoided death really narrow. Even now, four full weeks after an exhausted, angered and very determined Nahato phased in one of their guarded caves near the Stairway to the sky, ordered some very surprised guard to call the doctors and almost immediately collapsed. Though almost half of the phantom tribe could produce illusions, only a small number could phase through obstacles and the only ones who could actually teleport were less than twenty. He and Galus were the best and that was why Galus had became their leader and he the second in command. However he could only teleport while holding Galus for only a short distance each time. Doing that more than a hundred times was too much for him.

And now, two weeks after he had completely recovered, his master , Galus, has finally given a tangible sign of life.

Galus opened his eyes and regarded Nahato. "Have we prevailed or have we failed?" he asked with a hollow voice.

Nahato didn't have to answer, for his visage and stance spoke volumes.

"Nahato, do not lose hope. We will try again and we will succeed.", he managed to say with more than a little effort. Then he prompt Nahato to tell him what he knew.

"So the madman found the Trigger of destruction and nearly destroyed everything", he mused after a while.

"He would have done what we wanted if it was not for those wretched earthlings", said Nahato with more than a little hate in his voice.

"No, Nahato. For that we have to thank them."

Nahato regarded his mentor with more than a little surprise.

"You see", continued Galus, "What we dream to do is empty this world from every other sentient being. Then we will be free to make it a mirror of the Homeland that was denied to our ancestors and ourselves by this world's people. And when we find the way to return to the Homeland we will offer this world to our God and our people to redeem our necessary crimes." He paused for a little to catch his breath. The effort to talk was great but he continued anyway, lest he died before he could advice his spiritual child. "For killing for the Homeland is still a crime at the Homeland, where everybody lives peacefully and freely till the last of their days, when they ascent and become one with our God,". He stopped again and reached with difficulty to a glass of water placed on a table near his bed.

Nahato now had a mixed expression of awe, anticipation and concern on his face.
"But think what the madman would have done. The Trigger would have destroyed first the whole planet, then the dimension and most importantly the Homeland. The Earthlings saved all of those."
"But they have caused our plans to fail and they almost killed you master." Nahato dared utter.

The response shocked him. "The Earthlings are at a similar predicament with us and they too strive to fulfill their goals and dreams. You should respect at least that. So I would never try to specifically assassinate them anyway. They would die one way or the other with the success of our plan. But my life is useless when compared to the Homeland, and they saved the Homeland. I would like at least to keep them alive so that they can return where they belong. That is our duty."
Nahato vainly tried to find a gap at his mentors logic "What if they try to stop our plans again and what about the Roshtarians who helped them destroy the Trigger?"

Galus answer was harsh and hinted that it would close the subject. "If they interfere we will capture them but not hurt them." He paused for a while. "As for the Roshtarians, they shall all perish. They brought us here."

A really heavy silence followed…

She opened her eyes and prepared to come out of bed, her head heavy but almost fully awake. Then she thought of something.

She closed her eyes and concentrated, searching for patterns of her chosen element.

The room was huge even by palace standards. She spotted the heat pattern of one of her two other roommates. She checked with her eyes and saw her, sitting on the bed, her feet crossed, her eyes closed, meditating. She sighed and resumed her search, reaching for the heat, reading the temperature, finding what she looked for.

"Parnasse, I know you are under my bed and you know what will happen if you don't get your butt out of there and out of the room now." she exclaimed furiously.

"But sister Shayla" he started meekly "I seem to have lost my dhar somewhere in this room and-" he said, referring to the small orb that he and his sister always wore on their foreheads.

"NOW" she repeated more forcefully and sparks danced around her, without touching the bed.

Parnasse was out of the room in an instant, possibly going for a new El hazard running record.

"Miss Shayla, you shouldn't be so harsh to him, he did nothing wrong." A voice came for the second occupant of the room.

"Oh, was he around when you woke up?" Shayla asked sarcastically.

"Yes, he was looking for his dhar under my bed too. You know, in Dorusland wearing a dhar is a very important custom. I felt really sorry that he had lost it"

"And he found it as soon as I found him? Because, as he sprinted out of here, he was sure wearing it"

"Yes, isn't that wonderful?" she replied, a tone of sincere happiness in her voice.

"Spare me, Qwaoor. How can you be so naïve?"

"What do you mean, miss Shayla?" Qwaoor asked, seeming a bit confused.

Shayla just finished dressing and silently went out of the room.

Qwaoor resumed her meditation. I shall prey for sister Shayla to find happiness , she thought and, of course, she meant it.

So many people , she thought.
So many people in my place.
So many customers with money.

She smiled to herself, stopped a bit to check on her employees and resumed her cooking.
I am glad to be here now, but I should have brought him something to eat. If only the new waitress wasn't sick earlier this morning.. I hope Shayla didn't took advantage of my inability to… , she stopped thinking about that when said Shayla stumbled in the restaurant and headed towards the counter.

Well, I might as well try to be civil , both of them thought.

" Good morning, Shayla "

"Hi, Nanami. I'm glad to see you here" and not where I was afraid you were.

"A great priestess coming in my humble establishment is surely good advertising" she said cheerfully. As long as it remains intact.
"Well, what could I bring you?" something poisonous maybe? Nah, she won't even feel it.
"I could go for some strong coffee and an A breakfast set." As long as you don't rip my pockets.
"Drinking heavily again?"
"Trying to forget about a certain legion of white Bugrom and a certain pair of royal lesbians I guess. Say, anybody else came here?"
"Well, Afura did, but couldn't stay for long. She was invited to the Fujisawas for breakfast. What about Qwaoor? "
"Nothing unusual. After being ogled by a certain male Alielle version, without noticing of course, she will be meditating for the best part of the morning."
"She seems to take her duties seriously…" said Nanami and looked at Shayla intently.
"What the hell does that supposed to mean?" she exclaimed savagely, civil behavior temporary forgotten.
"I have learnt to do those things too, but they are in no way compulsory. Just because she does everything by the book, it doesn't mean…"

They both stopped talking as the object of their speculation walked through the door sharing smiles with everyone who would greet her.
"Good morning miss Nanami, hello again miss Shayla, isn't it a perfect spring day. Everyone should be happy at a day like that."
Shayla and Nanami looked at each other and tried hard not to start laughing wildly.
"Hello Qwaoor. And what would you like today? "
"A C breakfast set will be fine, please."

After Shayla and Qwaoor went through half their breakfast, with the first complaining the coffee was not strong enough and the second complimenting the food's quality for the third time in a row, Qwaoor spoke again.
"I wonder where master Makoto is this fine day. It is strange that he does not come here every day. You think something concerns him?"
Both Nanami and Shayla abruptly stopped talking and turned to regard her.
"Did I say something wrong?" she asked innocently.

She was saved by a royal messenger who cleared his throat to make his presence known.
"Excuse me, but would you happen to know where Lord Makoto is? Her majesty Rune Venus has ordered me to give him a message but he was not at his house."
After a brief silence, Nanami took the initiative "I know where he is. Would you like me to give him the message? " The perfect opportunity to meet him there, she thought.

The messenger was stunned at first, having trouble to believe that a hero of the Bugrom war would do such a menial task as delivering a message. But suddenly he smelled the air inside the restaurant and remembered about what he have heard about Lady Nanami's recipes and about the fact that he has not eaten breakfast yet.

Nanami sensed that and offered "Since you are not a regular customer I would offer you a D breakfast set at half the price if you were not busy.."
He resisted for the better half of a second and then took the offer. Perfect, Nanami thought, I get to meet Makoto, I get a new customer and I do away with those ingredients while they are still almost fresh.

"How do you know where Makoto is?" asked Shayla, more than a little annoyed.
"Well I am not sure, but there is one place he usually hangs out these days."
"Of course" , said Sayla with a tone of recognition, "The library"
Nanami nodded and gave some directions to her employees.
"Miss Shayla, why does master Makoto spent his time at the library? Is he looking for something in particular?" asked Qwaoor.
Both Nanami and Shayla looked at her incredulously.
"You mean you don't know?" gasped Nanami.
"Don't expect from us to tell you" added Shayla, as she hurried after Nanami.
Qwaoor thought about it for a while and then followed the pair.

Unfortunately cooking is not one of her strong points she lamented.

The food was by no means repulsive but compared to what she has been used to since Nanami opened her restaurant it was poor indeed.
"So do you like the food?" asked a female voice from the opposite side of the table.
"It is really good. A perfect way to start one's day."
"What about you dear?" the voice asked again referring to the man sitting at her side.
"It is unusual, um, I mean unusually good…" and then added under a furious glance "for the food one would find in Roshtaria"
She laughed. "No need to be shy both of you. I will bring you some more" said as she headed for the kitchen.
Fujisawa and Afura exchanged similar glances of resignation and sighed in unison. Dealing with Miz under such terms was several orders of magnitude more difficult than dealing with Bugrom or demon gods…

After a short interval of silence which was only interrupted by the sound of furious forkwork, Miz asked "So how are the other two great priestesses?"
"Well, Shayla is drinking again every night and half of the time she seems preoccupied"
For a moment, Afura noticed a expression of desire on Fujisawa's face just as he heard the word "drinking". It was promptly dismissed before Miz managed to notice it.
"As for Qwaoor, she is pretty normal in her own naïve way, but also seems a bit distracted."
Fujisawa, seeing where the conversation led, added "The same goes for Nanami. She does work really hard in her restaurant, but she is not really herself."
"It' s Makoto, isn't it." said Miz, stating the obvious.
The other two just nodded.
"How can he not realize it? Could he really be so dense?"
"Well, I have been knowing him for a long time, being his teacher, and I am pretty sure he has figured it out from the very start."
"So, why doesn't he make a move? He has three beautiful girls to choose from. I understand that he doesn't want to hurt any of them, but this can't go forever."
Afura and Fujisawa exchanged knowing glances.
"Miz" started Fujisawa "He has already chosen. Why do you think he spends most of his days cooped up in a library or looking for old artifacts at the market?
Miz thought about it for a while and then the revelation kicked in.
"He wants to bring her back. But.."
"You where not there when they said goodbye Miz. We were." said Afura.
"But then at least Nanami must have realized it."
"Both Nanami and Shayla know about it. They just don't want to believe it." Said Fujisawa
"Or they vainly hope he will change his mind." added Afura.
"Oh well. Anybody has the right to dream. But what about Qwaoor?"
"She only knows what now is the stuff of legend about the Bugrom war heroes. Not the best of information source I should add. Some people believe Makoto is a mighty sorcerer or messiah. I have heard such talk even inside the Holy order."
"Well, as soon as I decide to take my station inside the elder priestesses Council, I will dispel such ridiculous notions."
"You are too young to be considered an elder dear. So anyway, should we talk to Qwaoor about Makoto and Ifurita? "
"Don't look at me" said Afura.
"I don't think I can either." Said Miz and looked at her husband.
He thought about it for a while and then dismissed it "It's a No then" he concluded.
The three of them sighed.

"Afura, I wanted to ask you a personal question but I am not sure how you will take it"
"Miz, after what he have passed you know you can ask me about anything."
"So how came you never fell for Makoto?"
The question caught Afura off guard. He stared at Miz for a long time, but after a while her frown became a smile. "Well, he surly is quite a prize…" she started.
"And the only one who could outwit you in a conversation I think"
"Yes, I agree to that. But the first time we met, he didn't make a good impression at all "
All three laughed at that. "Poor Shayla" said Fujisawa. "Poor Makoto you mean. He almost got himself fried." Said Miz.
"And when I did started to appreciate him, Shayla and Nanami were already on him. I grew up with Shayla and she is almost like a sister to me. And of course there is Ifurita. So I have to be happy that I can be his friend.
"So you did feel something about him" speculated Miz, not fully satisfied with the answer.
"As you said before Miz, anybody has the right to dream."

Ifurita was standing at the peak of a mountain staring at the vast expanses of wasteland that continued as far as her superior eyes could see.
She wasn't really looking though.
She was thinking.

What should I do now?
What am I supposed to do now?

She hadn't let her thoughts overwhelm her for the last month.
She had work to do. Serious work that demanded the attention of her demon god half.
The task was difficult. The damage was serious. It was a bliss. But even a demon god could distract herself for that much.
As soon as she restored the illusion field and initiated the recovery of the secret groove, she started thinking about what have happened, how her life with Yuba has ended so prematurely.

Should I hunt down that despicable human, Jinnai? Should I become his nemesis, as it would be fitting? She thought about it and quickly dismissed the thought. Yuba would never want that. Her own survival was not at stake. Her energy levels were near capacity and that boy, Makoto, had offered to recharge her any time she would ask for it. Mizuhara Makoto. He reminded her so much of Yuba. She had glimpsed at his memories the one time they had linked. She knew how much he loved her sister. Sister, she mused. What a strange thing to say about a demon god like me that I have never met. Her logs indicated just who that Ifurita was. She was created while I was sealed for the first time. The second most powerful of all our sisters. When I was unsealed they had already buried her at the Island of Memnox, which was later became known as the forbidden island. Who knows what other things would await there..
She entertained the notion to go there but dismissed it quickly. Not yet. And not alone. There were some places that were dangerous even for demon gods and other places that were dangerous only for demon gods.

She had told Makoto that she wanted to stay at the forest groove, both because of the memory of Yuba and because there was still hidden technology that could be exploited by people like Jinnai. But she understood now that she could not stay here forever. Before Yuba, I would have done that. But now I am free. I have to remind that to myself. I cannot have his gift wasted.

She thought about what Makoto had said to her. "You will always be welcome among as. We can always accept you as a friend." Then her resolve almost faltered. She felt the need to talk to somebody. To be with somebody. No, she decided, I could go there and learn to live with them and become their friend. I could possibly even help Makoto to bring her back. But I can't do that. I can't go to them before her. I had my chance to live as a human. When she comes back –and I know he can do it – and if see accepts me, I might try to live with them. But not now. Not yet.

Suddenly her Voices, former masters and now advisors, alerted her #activity confirmed at sector 551A# . The place where the Trigger of destruction have crashed. She had a good idea who that was and resisted the urge to just go there and kill him.

The Trigger cannot be assembled by the pieces. Half of it was organic, like myself. And now it has no brain; Kalia is dead. But there are some things that can be salvaged. If he becomes dangerous for El hazard again I will kill him. I just hope not to meet him before that time..

And then she had an idea. I can't live with them yet, but that doesn't mean I can't help him fulfill his dream; and her dream. I know many things about the Eye of god. And I now know what to do.
She flew at high speed towards her home.
She finally had something useful to do.

The library of Roshtaria was a large building by its on right. But being integrated in the Floristica palace complex meant that it seemed pretty mundane. Until you walked in. The building was a twenty stories high spire. The last ten were dedicated to research, or at least used to. For now there weren't enough researchers to even remotely fill the first floor. Though most of the palace had been reconstructed after the holy wars, this building have survived as a reminder of what was lost due to the wars. Most of the equipment in the last ten floors was now either destroyed or had its purpose forgotten.

And the ten first floors were full of knowledge. Books, scrolls and even remains of the old El hazard computers, though none of them was functional anymore. At the first floor there were three main doors. One that led to the rest of the palace, one that led to the royal academy and one that was connected to Dr. Schtalubaugh's small laboratory.

When he had first told Makoto and Fujisawa he had searched all of the library he was of course lying, showing them only his own library, which was fairly big but nothing compared to the real thing and wanting, under Rune Venus's order, to keep them in El hazard so that Makoto could pose as princess Fatora. It would take somebody many years just to read the titles of all those pieces on knowledge. Not that there were many willing to do that. People regarded ancient knowledge a cursed thing, something better avoided. Few, mostly students of the royal academy ever came here. And of course Makoto.

They looked around helplessly. The floors were huge by any standards and there were bookcases not only on the walls but in the middle of the circular chamber as well. It would take them five full minutes to run around each floor. One could certainly get lost and starve in here.

And worst of all, for at least six thousand years nobody has bothered to sort the books into categories.
It would take them long to find him, but Nanami remembered where he was last time.

We might as well start looking him from there she thought.

Afura Mann was considered by many a great scholar. It was know that she maintained a large library at Muldoon temple, her formal residence, and that she had strive to reinforce the Wind shrine's library as well. But it was a fact she was young. She had acquired her station inside the Holy order fairly recently, mere weeks before Shayla who was also a year older than her. And of course, though she had heard about the royal library, she had spend her life cooped up at the Holy order's seminary.

The first time she visited the library was just after the Bugrom war, when everybody was allowed a brief opportunity to relax. Her first thought was Gods, I'm in Heaven.
After that she developed a habit of walking randomly inside the library, picking whatever book she found interesting.

And then she saw him. Makoto was sitting on a simple wooden chair in front of an ornament table crammed with great books, opened scrolls and weird small artifacts of all shapes and sizes.
" Good morning Makoto" she greeted him.
Though he seemed really absorbed in what he did, he responded immediately.
"Good morning Afura" he regarded her for a while "Say, are you busy right now? I could use some help here"
"Well I still hadn't found anything interesting so I might as well help you out. But remember; I might be able to unseal the Eye but I know few things about it."
"I really wanted to ask you about the Lamp of wind" he said, indicating the golden bracelet adorned with a large green orb.

As she raised a brow, he quickly added "I know that the Holy order will want to keep some secrets but I can accept any piece of information you can offer"
She smiled and said "Of course there are some things that should be kept secret, but you have to know that even though I hold the Lamp of wind I don't know much about it."
She paused for a while collecting her thoughts.

"First of all you must know this is not the only Lamp of wind, just the most powerful in the order's disposal. There are many lesser Lamps with varying power and shape and the legends talk of power unimaginable for these days. The lesser Lamps are given to simple wind priestesses that are not really capable of open battle and, apart from spiritual guidance, they use their powers to help with everyday problems in all alliance countries and even outside the alliance."

"Is that true for the other two elements as well? And how many Lamps are there?"
"It is exactly the same for the other two elements. I estimate that now there are about a hundred lesser Lamps for each element"
"What about the other elements?"

Afura was stunned by his question. Her eyes widened and regarded him uneasily.
"Are there any references to other elemental Lamps in these books?" she asked, more than a little frustrated.
"Abundant. And it also says that the same amount of Lamps was constructed for each element."

She slowly started regaining her composure. Then she chuckled. "This library is better than I could ever imagine if one can search randomly and find about so important secrets. And that is indeed one of the most well kept secret of the Holy order. You must keep it a secret Makoto. In all El hazard there are less than twenty people who know that. Not even Rune Venus knows and that must stay as it is. Yes there are other elemental Lamps. I am not sure how many. I positively know about the rock, light, nature and spirit Lamps"

It was Makoto's turn to be stunned. "But why is that a secret? And why wouldn't they use those elements? Not even when the Bugrom threat was so close?"

Afura sighed. "There are many reasons, some of them valid, others just plain tradition trash. The three elements that are now well known are considered the three least destructive. Should a fire priestess go berserk, a water priestess can stop her. But the rock Lamp can control the ground itself, the light Lamp can create far better illusions than the phantom tribe, the nature Lamp can manipulate all life forces and the spirit lamp can see the very soul of people."

"I can see your point" Makoto managed to say "fire, water and wind seem rather harmless in comparison, no offense meant."

Afura smiled again "None taken. But there are a few priestesses of those elements. They did help during the Bugrom war, but in subtle ways and surely not decisively. You know that the Holy order is a small country by its own right, that does not belong to the alliance, and the secret of those Lamps is considered a trump card. The holy order is not above the common political paranoia you know. But why are you so interested in the Lamps"

"I am not completely sure about it but it is implied that the Lamps are somehow connected to the eye of God. I know they were being build both before and after it but something changed when the Eye became whole. How do you use the Lamp's power?"

"That is considered a minor secret, but you will find it anyway so I will tell you. Those who are selected to become priestesses posses some natural affinity towards their element. With training we manage to control the elements even without the use of Lamps. But without the lamp we tire quickly and we are not so powerful. The Lamps have two effects: They amplify and focus our power and can produce or absorb large quantities of the element they control."

She could see Makoto was intrigued. Her last phrase has sparked a light in his eyes."could I.." he stammered. She knew what he wanted.
"It is forbidden to give the Lamp to another" she started. His face fall "but you can touch it while I wear it" she continued.
"It sounds funny but since now I have never touched an elemental Lamp." he said.

She raised her hand towards him and he placed his hand on the green orb.
The lines indicating he was greatly using his power appeared on his hand. She was stunned for a second but then thought The Lamps are also ancient artifacts. What did you expect?

He closed his eyes and lost touch with reality. For a few seconds nothing happened.
Perhaps there was no reason to worry.
Then she felt a slight breeze.
She looked at her Lamp and she saw it had started glowing.
The magnitude of the wind started raising. Some scrolls started to move.
She tried to remove his hand but he was holding the Lamp with inhuman power.

He can use the Lamp. He is the first man who can do that since the time of legends. It took me three years to achieve such results from a lesser Lamp. It took him five seconds. I have to stop him. He could kill us both.

She didn't know what would happen if two people used the Lamp at the same time. But some books have already started to fly around them and her Lamp was now like a small sun.
She closed her eyes and reached for her Lamp. It was much more difficult than usual. She concentrated harder and..

She found herself floating in the air inside a bubble of calmness. It was good she did. Outside the bubble she could see with her bare eyes air streams of unimaginable power. Anything outside the bubble would be ripped into nothingness in an instant. There were no landmarks that she could see and the horizon far away in any direction was a perfect green. Then she looked at herself. A shining golden cord connected her body with a small black dot, almost invisible, placed at the center of the bubble. It was the same feeling as when she unsealed the Eye of god. But both times it was only her astral projection.

She followed with her eyes the second cord that came out from the dot and then she saw him. She instinctively knew he was Makoto but she could not believe it. His image was enchanting. "Ma..Makoto. Where are we?" she managed to stutter. Then she realized that they were trading thoughts instead of words. She felt naked and ashamed but also awed. Makoto smiled and his answer reached her "This is the elemental plain of wind. You are beautiful too, but we have to leave now." He pointed towards the dot, then concentrated…

She realized that she must had lost her senses.
She opened her eyes and looked at a very concerned face. His face.
He was relieved to see she was alright "I'm sorry. I forgot how disorientating a spiritual link can be the first time. And at that plain it was two times worse.
"Makoto I…I could read your thoughts and you mine, I.."
Makoto covered her mouth "I know. All of us have secrets and dreams that we keep hidden. For a good reason. You don't have to say anything. I should be the one to apologize."
She quickly regained her composure and thought what she had seen rationally. Then she smiled.
"I will not regret that experience, though we should not try it again, lest you find another suitor"
He smiled wearily at that.
"I always suspected you were just playing dense around Nanami, Shayla and Qwaoor. But you should never try that with the other two priestesses."
He considered it for a while "They would kidnap me for sure"
After five full minutes when they finally stopped laughing, Afura became serious again.
"I know that you have linked with Ifurita four times in total. Was it anything like that?"

He thought about it some time, then answered "The background was a bit more interesting but the experience was ten times greater than that. In the Plain of wind we just saw the astral projection of the other and only some of our thoughts were shared. When I linked with Ifurita, we were inside each other's mind. We could see anything."

Afura just stood there for several minutes watching him. When she finally spoke, her words were just a whisper "Ten times greater…Sweet mother of pearl Makoto. How do you keep your sanity intact, while you have lost her?"
Makoto just sighed and looked away.

He was changing.
He knew he was changing.
The fact that he could tell was the proof.
He asked his brothers and sisters about it but they could not understand what he meant.
It was like his mind was opening. He could grasp the bigger picture now. The change was slow, but he could now feel it. And it felt good. It felt good to be smarter, to detach from the Mind.

He realized he was lost in thought. It had never happened before. He could now understand more of his master's plans. He wondered why did that happen. He was almost six hundred years old, but the change started less than six months ago.

Then it occurred to him. It was the master.
Of all his brothers and sisters he was the one closer to the master.
He was learning from him and he was grateful.
He smiled.
Well, not exactly smiled, just the Bugrom equivalent.

Katsuo was really happy for himself. Mostly freed from the Hive Mind, he could take the initiative easier.
The master must have seen it too. Of course he has. He had appointed him responsible for checking the soldiers that moved the pieces of that new big weapon. He was to stop them from either carrying too little weight back to the hive or carrying enough to squash them, should they trip. The master said that soldiers were not to be considered dispensable anymore. For the first time he knew exactly what that meant.

He was walking inside the library.
Makoto told him to do whatever he liked while he was working.
As long as he didn't destroy the books.
So he did what all of his ancestors could do.
Ura started looking for mice.
Well, not exactly mice, just the El hazard equivalent.
Then he heard voices.
"Look at those books. They have little dust. We must be near"
"I have never seen such titles miss Nanami. Dimensional vortexes, The Nanostrings, The flow of time. Why would master Makoto read these books?
"Shut up Qwaoor. Just search for gaps in the rows of books that have no dust."
"I found one miss Shayla. It was between the History of the Holy order volume 1 and volume 3. He must have been reading volume 2."

Shayla and Nanami looked at her incredulously.
"Why would he want to read something like that?" said Shayla
"Somebody else must have picked it" said Nanami"
"But the Holy order is a very interesting subject"
Both Nanami and Shayla said "Shut up, Qwaoor"
Then Shayla tried to say something else.
But stopped before she could start.
Nanami looked at both priestesses.

They both had the same look on their faces.
Then she felt it.
A strong wind.
Both Shayla and Qwaoor sprinted towards the source of wind power. Nanami just followed them.
They abruptly stopped. At the same time when the wind had stopped.
"Will you explain to me what all that meant?
Qwaoor nodded to Shayla.

"Me and Qwaoor both sensed the same thing. An enormous amount of wind power."
"Could it be Afura?"
"No, miss Nanami. Miss Afura is really strong, but she could never use such power."
"So what should we do now?" asked Shayla
"We have lost the trail of both master Makoto and the wind power"
Nanami tried to say something but instead she reached down, behind one of the bookcases.
"I think we found a guide." Said while holding Ura in one hand
The three girls smiled at the same time.
Ura gulped. "Makoto kill me now".

"The council is causing problems master and our people are disorientated."
"The council. They are fouls. When I became king of our people I diminished the power of the council. What problems do they cause?"
"They publicly announce that you have erred master. They also will not recognize me as your representative. They might attempt to seize the throne."
"What impudence. I will have to get out of this bed much quicker than I thought."
"No master Galus. You should heed the doctor's advice. You were wounded viciously. You cannot survive without those" he indicated the machinery.
"You are right Nahato. That last failure was mainly because I wouldn't listen to my scientists' advice. We shouldn't have dismissed their warnings. In another month, they could have learned more about the Eye to be able to fully control it. I will always listen carefully to our scientists from now on."
Nahato could only nod.

"But the problem remains. Maybe we should just kill all the council members before they kill us"
"I don't think this is prudent, master. The council still has the support of a great portion of our people, and its origins are from the Homeland itself. Some of our people would even surrender to our enemies without the council's hold."
"That would really be a disaster. Losing them would be bad enough. We can't spare many people. But if they surrender and offer their skills to the alliance, they would be able to track down our spies. I see our people are weak without me."
"We will have to endure the council's rule for now, at least until I have reasonably recovered. I will not let petty politics to cause our people to lose the path we must walk. The path to the Homeland."

A soft tap was heard on the door. A nurse came in and bowed.
"Master Nahato, I'm really sorry to intrude but our King should rest now."
"Go now Nahato. Try to satisfy those fouls. And come back tomorrow. I need to learn more"
"Yes my master"

"So Katsuo is doing a wonderful job after all. He learns fast." For a Bugrom
The messenger bug nodded.
"Could he estimate how long it will take us?"
gruble, chitter, gruble
Jinnai's person fell. "Well, with our current numbers it is to be expected"
He turned to the person sitting on the throne beside him.
"So it will take you a week to lay the eggs, Queen Diva"
"Correct lord Jinnai. And then a week for them to hatch and two weeks for our soldiers to reach full growth."
"Outstanding. This time they won't even get a chance."
He dismissed the messenger and, after becoming sure nobody other was within earshot, he turned to her again.
"Diva, I wanted to ask you. You said you could lay a batch of eggs every week. Wouldn't that strain you to much? I mean, I wouldn't want to leave the mighty Bugrom empire without a ruler and…I mean, we could never win against the alliance…"

He barely avoided the slip but Diva was able to figure out what he was about to say.
Could it be that the ruthless, egomaniac and valuable Jinnai cares about me and tries to hide it? Perhaps it is time to teach him our history. If he is to continues to pose as the messenger of god, he should learn some more things about our people, before somebody else besides me figures the truth.

She contained her smile and thoughts with a poker face that would fool any, but the most perceptive of gamblers. "Do not worry about me Katsuhiko. I used to do that for many decades without pause a long time ago. Then I was compelled but now I will do it gladly. By the way, I know that as a messenger of god you surely know the story and our Dream, but I just feel the need to tell it again to somebody. Would you forgive my simplemindedness and pretend not to know about it?"

The blood left his face for a second but he quickly regained his composure. " Though I know the story better than anyone alive, I would listen to it again, so that I might see if it has remained intact and untainted throughout the centuries" That was close but I lucked out. Perhaps god truly is by my side.

"So, the story starts approximately six thousand years ago…"
He feigned indifference, but he was really curious about what Diva had to say.
What he heard really took him by surprise…

"So, sister, is there a specific reason you insist that we prepare in the same room?"
"Oh, yes there are two very specific reasons why we should do that. First of all, since you, as usual, care not about preparing for the occasion, I should give you some directions about what to say and , most importantly, what not to say."
"Oh, stop grumbling sis. We both know that you are better than me at this and that you like what you do."

Her sister looked at her sternly, but then smiled "Alright, what you said might be true, but I have cared for you since that day and I would like to see you a little more responsible. Especially after what has happened to us recently."
"I assure you that I will seriously consider the request of my big sister…" and promptly dismiss it, of course
"..but what was the second reason?"

She smiled uncharacteristically. "As you know, the female servants that prepare us were not personally handpicked by you, as the ones in your quarters. For a reason I cannot and do not want to imagine, they collectively threatened to resign from their posts, unless I am with you while they prepare you for the alliance meeting."
"Ungrateful peasants", whispered Fatora.

"So sister, have you requested the presence of the three great Muldoon priestesses as well" , she asked with a hint of hope.
"They are, of course, free to attend if they wish, but the only one I invited was Makoto. I fear his presence will be needed, though I loath myself for using him again."
"Great; the alliance's jerks and the wonder boy. It will be a hell of a party."

She run through the great halls at high speed, frantically avoiding busy servants, honored guests and alliance leaders, desperately looking for someone. All of those people were much taller than her. So, as she took a sharp turn, she failed to notice him. The result was painful for both siblings.
"Stupid Alielle, watch where you're going, you nearly killed me."
She held her head to stop the world from spinning and answered.
"We don't have time Parnasse. We have to find princess Fatora now. She should be preparing already. I fear she might be trying to avoid the meeting."
"She is already at it, Alielle. I was there just a minute ago."
"Then I should hurry all the more. There are some really pretty girls at there."
He hold her as she was about to start running again.
"Don't bother. I wanted to do the same thing as you, but princess Rune insisted I leave the room."
She regarded him and both their faces fell. "She is at the same room as princess Rune? Poor princess Fatora. That was the only good thing about that meeting."

"Say, sister?"
"Do you think I could hook up with princess Rune as you did with princess Fatora?"
She hit him on the head "Don't be stupid. Why would she choose somebody as you?"
"Why, is there anyone better than me?"
"Of course there is. For example… master Makoto. That would be a perfect match. They have much in common, the wedding would hold political power because of his growing legend and he would make a perfect king."
"He is too young for her." He commented.
She hit him again "He is surely older than you, you stupid."
"But it's not fair. He has so many beautiful girls to choose from. And the legend says he is a mighty sorcerer with great power and…"
The third hit stopped him.
" I remind you that I was part of that legend you speak about and I know more about him than you ever will. He is no great sorcerer, he would laugh hard at it. And also he has already chosen his girlfriend."
"He has? Who?"
"Ifurita, of course. Really, how slow can some people be"
Parnasse gasped. "The fearsome demon god?"
"You really know nothing, do you?"
"Well I was at the monastery that time, doing chores. That was what I heard."
"Lucky you. So many girls around."
"Nah, they had already figured me out. Anyway, shouldn't we tell sisters Nanami, Shayla and Qwaoor?"
"The first two already know. They were in it too and if you value your health you will tell them nothing. And telling Qwaoor would change nothing."
"Is he such a great guy? I should learn some things from him."
"You could surely use that. And yes he is a great guy."
"Alielle not you too."
She just smiled. And hit him again.

After a while she spoke again.
"So have you learned anything new?"
"Yes, I found many things but I'm not sure if they will help me."
"If nothing else I would like to know more about my Lamp."
"Well, I own you at least that. As you well know it is impossible to create something from nothing."
She interrupted him. "How about our universe?"
"There are many theories about that in both our worlds. It may has been an exception, maybe there was something else before that or maybe it was just god. What I really meant was that we can't create something from nothing. So the Lamps maintain a link to their respective plains."
"You mean, every time I use my Lamp, I open a doorway to the elemental Plain of wind we saw?"
"Well not exactly. The link, which is also called a wormhole, is always hooked up on your Lamp. What you do is widen it enough so that energy and matter can pass through it."
"Wouldn't that cause undesired effects? Like making the wormhole too wide or sucking everything around me, including myself, in it?"
"I guess there are safety measurements that only allow certain forms of matter and energy to pass through the portal."
"So how came our astral projections went through it? It has certainly never happened to me before."
"You forget about my ability. I can partly control ancient artifact and your Lamp is surely one."

"I believe it was constructed more recently than you imagine. You might not have found it yet, but some Lamps were constructed only a couple of thousand years before instead of ten thousand."
"Nothing tells us my power has anything to do with age. I have never tried to drive a cruiser for example, but I believe I could control it without learning how to do so, though they are fairly new."
"Their design is ancient though."
"Just like the Lamp?"
"Anyway, it would take large amounts of power to create such links. How could something so small do something like that?"
"Haven't you figured it out yet? All the links are maintained by the eye of God"
"When I touched the Lamp I could see the link. It was much like an astral projection cord."
"But the Eye was sealed for millennia. And while we were at Cretaria I could use my powers just as well, even though Cretaria's Eye was in pieces."
"The Eye can manipulate space, time and dimensions, so they hold no power on It. For all we know you should be able to use your Lamp on Earth too. And it didn't really mattered that the It was sealed or disassembled. You don't believe that it hovers like that due to natural causes, do you? As long as It levitates, there are systems that are still active. Fortunately for El hazard I should add. If it were to fall we would be as good as dead."

"The Eye might ignore time but the creators of the first Lamps could not. They shouldn't be able to link them to the Eye if they couldn't know it existed."
"You have already given an answer to that."
"I have?"
"You said that the Lamps have two effects. And I told you this book says that, after the Eye was build, they modified the Lamps. Before the Eye, the Lamps could only control and amplify their users power. But I know that without the Lamp, you cannot summon a gust of wind from nothing. That feature was added after the eye of God."

"Can you prove it?"

"I believe I can. We know Ifurita was sealed before the Eye was completed. When she fought Shayla, she could use her battle aura because she had seen it before. And her aura only requires manipulation of fire, just as you do when you fly. The second time they fought, Shayla hurled two super hot plasma spheres at her, which were obviously summoned from the elemental Plain of fire, very similarly to your sonic slash, or however you wish to call it. If Ifurita knew how to do that we would be dead now. But that was what she used, at a greater scale than Shayla ever could, when we escaped the Bugrom fortress. She had just learned how to do it."

"We were risking our lives and you had already linked with her. Did you really had the presence of mind to make scientific speculations?"

Afura felt devastated, vainly trying to conceal her awe. She played her trump card.
"So how could Ifurita open a link to the elemental Plain of fire?"
"What makes you believe she couldn't copy a link towards the Eye? She was surely able to learn how to send me here."
Afura covered her face with her hands and collapsed on the table. "I yield. You have won. Have mercy. I believe you."

He could only smile wearily.
After a while she added.
"You really have an answer for everything, don't you?"
"Of course not. There are infinite things I don't know."
"I see. I have to admit it. Miz was right about you. You are the only person who can outwit me in a conversation. Nobody has ever managed that before."
"Just wait until you meet Ifurita"
"You are doing that again."
"Doing what?"

"Stop it. You are driving me crazy."
"What do you mean?"
Her scream of mental pain was heard in all ten floors of the library.

Shayla, Nanami and Qwaoor froze on their tracks.
Shayla looked terrified. "The gates of hell have opened", she gasped.
Qwaoor was close to tears. "Somboby has suffered a horrible death, miss Shayla."
They both turned and looked at Nanami.
There was concern on her face, as well as a hint of recognition.
"I know that scream. I have heard it before."
"Last time, the person who did that was my shit brother."
"It is the scream of a human who tries his best to prove Makoto wrong, when he is obviously right. Makoto loves that kind of thing and would always raise to the challenge. If he forgets himself, he can really drive a person mad."
Shayla settled a bit. "That was a female voice. Who do we know that would try something like that?"
Nanami was thoughtful "It must have been a smart person to even attempt something like that."
"Somebody who really hates to lose." added Shayla.
They looked at each other and uttered only two words "Shit, Afura".
Then Nanami urged Ura to hurry.
"Will miss Afura be alright, miss Nanami?" asked Qwaoor.
"I really hope so Qwaoor. I really hope so."
As they ran, Qwaoor prayed.

They were definitely illusions.
No one could look so imposing or awe inspiring.
And there were ten of them.

The room's floor was a huge circle, adorned with thousands of ornate drawings. There were ten pillars, half protruding from the wall, their distance fixed, each depicting a different scene of their history. At the base of each pillar there was a stonework throne, adorned with multicolored glowing orbs; on each throne an omnipotent king.

The images they have chosen are so much alike he thought, as he regarded each of them.

He was standing at the exact center of the room, right in the middle of another pillar made of light, the only light source in the chamber apart from the glowing orbs.
As he turned to regard the images behind him, absently remembering to assume a properly awed expression to hide his boredom, his face stopped at the single least imposing figure.
He was the only one of the counselors who has not bothered to hide his true face behind a bravado of light tricks.

Nahato knew of the man. He was a living legend among the tribe. He had never seen him before but Galus have talked about him, perhaps the only member of the council who truly respected, as well as loathing.
Lord Zenthar was a true mystery for the tribe. Nobody knew how old he was. Phantom tribals had a vastly variable life span. Some of them lived as long as the other humans did. Others, like Galus who was 130 years old, could stay active for as long as five hundred years. But lord Zenthar was truly ancient even by those standards.
He was part of the council before Galus was born and before any of the other councilors could recall. Nahato had tried to find any information about him and had failed utterly. Even their always accurate data logs told him less than he already knew.
A little more than a century ago, when lord Galus had recenly become king, he had resigned from his station, a first in phantom tribe society.
For the past century little was heard about him.
Then suddenly, after a councilor have perished at the top of the Stairway to the sky, he assumed his station again. Nobody dared to challenge him.
Nahato knew that Galus was afraid of him. He had a good reason to. Though lord Zenthar has not yet spoken against him, it was common knowledge he was a pacifist and there were several tribesmen who would support him.

An amplified voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Nahato of uncertain lineage, honored member of the Phantom tribe of exiles. We requested your presence and you have satisfied us."
Like I could have done otherwise. He really hated to be reminded of the fact that he was an orphan, being abandoned by birth. Fortunately the heads of the tribe were chosen through criteria of ability instead of lineage.

"Perhaps we shall trust you as an envoy to our wounded king, so that he might explain his actions."
"Though if we suspect you lie, your life shall be forfeit."
"We bare no ill will towards you."
"We of course respect the edicts of the king of shadows."
"But we have the burden of our people's wellbeing to consider."
"The motives of our king where hidden from us till the very end."
"And the failure that followed the crash of his plans."
"We need to judge those plans"
"And to see their accordance to our people's benefit."

They are talking synchronized. They must have spend at least a day preparing for that little collective speech.

Nahato was not really afraid of them, just frustrated and angered. He was afraid of one person though, although he would never accept it. Lord Zenthar was the only councilor that hasn't yet uttered a word.

The fools were too afraid of him to invite him into their cute act.

It is wise to be afraid of what you cannot comprehend. Especially if your life is at stake.
"You shall now answer our questions."
"Until we say so."

The inquiry lasted for many hours. Nahato tried and succeded to hide the most fine parts of the operations that could condemn him and his master. They really knew nothing about the master's plans.
He knew that it was almost over and allowed himself to drop his guard a little. Big mistake.

Suddenly all the room went silent. He tuned and saw the reason. Lord Zenthar who had said nothing before that time, was now standing, informally but effectively stating his intention to speak.

"Nahato" no titles, no preludes. Highly unusual.
"Now that it seems my fellow councilors have learned what they may, I would like to ask you a single simple question about the plans of Galus."

Nahato was dumbfound. No king Galus, just Galus. No hefty titles, just personal reference, totally ignoring the rest of the council, mocking even his own station. And nobody will dare talk against him, though he just obviously broke half the council's formal rules. Just who is this man?

Lord Zenthar continued.
"On your opinion, would Galus' plan benefit our people, had it been successful?"

Nahato found himself severely overmatched. That was the last question he could ever expect from the councilors. Lord Galus had told him what were the potential questions that the other councilors might ask. All of them were on the spot. Except this one. Bypassing the council rules was highly unusual but asking him, an envoy, his personal opinion about something like that was truly unheard of. And he didn't just required a yes or no answer. He wanted him to explain what he believed. His sight drifted to the grandiose images of the other councilors. With little effort his eyes pierced the cheap façade and he saw the faces under the masks. Mirrors of his own stunned expression. He heard again what his master have told him this morning "For killing for the Homeland is still a crime at the Homeland ". He looked at Lord Zenthar again. And saw something else really unsettling.

Lord Zenthar did not try to hide his emotions.
He was smiling.
A serene smile that lacked malice.
Nahato felt very sick.

They found them into a very peculiar position.
She was leaning on the table, her face hidden, apparently sobbing.
He was tapping his hand on her back in a flimsy attempt to console her. A weird mix of concern and amusement was etched on his face.
Nanami, Shayla and Qwaoor stood there for a moment, trying to find something to say.
The silence was broken by the most unlikely of spectators.
"Afura, alright?" asked Ura as he walked by his master.
Makoto looked at him, then at the girls. And sighed. "Maybe I overdid it a little, but she asked for it."
"Makoto you are so mean" said Nanami.
"Will she be alright, master Makoto?" asked Qwaoor, her concern obvious.
"It will take her a few days, but Afura has endured much more than that."

"Well nothing exiting has happened to you since Cretaria, bookworm. You might as well thank Makoto for making your life more interesting."
Afura turned and looked her.
Shayla could see that she was not only sobbing. He was laughing at the same time.
"You will never learn how true you are Sparky" she managed to say.
Shayla regarded her one more time and turned to Makoto.
"Could you teach me how to do that. It is really interesting."

Makoto changed the subject quickly. It wouldn't do for Shayla to learn about the link.
"So why were all three of you looking for me?"
Nanami spoke this time. "While you were busy busting poor Afura's mind, we were looking for your sorry butt all over this bookmaze for the last two hours. It seems that Rune has sent you a message but forgot how difficult you are to spot. That poor messenger could never have reached you within the year."

Makoto took the message and read the invitation. Then he went to the table and started to hastily pack his notes.
Nanami, Shayla and Qwaoor read the message after him.
"Makoto, would you think we can attend too?" asked Nanami.
"It would be great" said Shayla.
"An honor to accompany you, master Makoto" added Qwaoor.
"Well, I don't think Rune would object, but it is not such a good idea"
"Why not?"
"Well think about it. Fatora will be there too." all horny after what I proposed to those poor servants. She would kill me if she knew.
"And, of course Alielle and Parnasse will wait just outside."

Nanami and Shayla looked at each other. And their expression was the same.
"It would be wonderful to see them again, right?" answered Qwaoor.
"Qwaoor, I just remembered I have a certain serious work to do at the restaurant and I really need your help. Come"
"And somebody has to take care of Afura" added Shayla.

"Well I have to get ready. I am really late. Qwaoor, please do help Nanami, Ura help them find their way out of here. I wouldn't want them to starve trying to find it themselves. Shayla, when Afura is better she can help you find the way out too. See ya" A he sprinted towards the exist as fast as he could.

"He really has great leadership skills, when he wants to." Commented Shayla.
"Indeed" said Nanami"
"Master Makoto is really wonderful isn't he?"
Shayla and Nanami raised a brow, looked at each other and turned to regard Afura.
She ignored them.

"We all have serious work to do" she said as she left, pulling Qwaoor with her and urging Ura to lead.
Shayla looked at the table and gasped. She read the title of the first book on the table.
The History of the Holy order, volume 2.

I almost made a fool of myself in front of Qwaoor

"So, bookworm, what did Makoto do to you."
It was obvious that Afura still wasn't herself, but Shayla never expected the answer.
"Shayla, I know you love him, I do too. But he is too dangerous for you. And for me too. He could destroy a person with happiness. I have seen that. Stay away from him. It is Her he must have. Only She has a chance."
Shayla stared at her friend for a long time . Then she spoke.
"The only two reasons you are still alive, bookworm, is because you obviously have no idea what you are saying and because, if I roasted you here and something happened to the books, Makoto would roast me himself."
"Sparky, the world is so big, infinite, and we are so small, naked."
"Afura, truly. Are you high on something?"

"We cannot spare so much." he shouted.
"Of course you can. Our sources said so."
"Well you sources are wrong."
"They are accurate enough."
"Are you trying to tell me that your spies have infiltrated my country?"
"You were the one who have proposed to make peace with the Phantom tribe. Perhaps you have recruited them as well."
"How could you insult me and my country like that."
"Perhaps you knew what was going on. Your country suffered no significant damage from the Eye or the Bugrom."
"So we must pay for all your damages?"
The bantering continued on such basis and soon other leaders joined the fray.

At least they remain almost civil , she thought.
She could then have immediately walked in the room. Under her gaze they would surely stop shouting.
She heard a deep sigh from behind her. She turned and saw him. Complete with formal dressing.
"Makoto, I am relieved you came."
"The message found me only half an hour ago, lady Rune but I managed. And a good thing I did, I'm afraid"
"I hate myself for using you again Makoto. I want to consider myself your friend, but I am horrible at it."
He promptly dismissed her worries.
"You do what you must, lady Rune, and I really wish to help my second home at such trying times."
"You don't have to cheer me up Makoto"
"Of course not. I don't have anything to gain. Shall we?"

The voices were louder now. But promptly stopped as the two princesses walked in the room. Some leaders were about to start again, Princesses or no princesses. But they stopped before they could start, for a third figure came into the room and went to sit next to Londs an Dr. Schtalubaugh.
Rune was inwardly amused when she caught up with the whispers.
"The great sorcerer" "The demon tamer" "The Bugrom war hero" "…stronger than the Eye…"

I was right this time. Now we can speak rationally.
She looked at her sister that was barely managing to contain her laughter.
She closed her eyes for a second and then started.

"As you all know we have survived the trials of our enemies and have prevailed. Many things were lost and now, after the celebration, it is time for us to start rebuilding. I understand there are quarrels between us, but this is natural, as we have never faced such crisis. I want to believe that this meeting will resolve most of the matters at hand. So without further delay I want to hear the reasons of dissident."

The trip to Cretaria must have benefited her, but she also looks sterner, I wonder.. Makoto left it at that and concentrated in what the leaders said. Most of them glanced at him at least twice.

"How could you manage to answer such a question" he demanded.
"As best as I could master, but not good enough. The other counselors were struck dump and wouldn't say anything. I..I have failed you master."

Galus looked at him and said. "Don't worry about it. The fact that we are still alive means the council has not yet decided. You did a far better job than I thought you could, but that old fossil is impossible to be tricked like the other fouls. He has changed little from the old times. He almost had me thrown out of station again a century ago."

"But why did he quit then. And why is he back again? Have you found a way to blackmail him, master?"

Galus managed to smile at the notion. "It would take me the rest of my life to find a way to effectively blackmail him. He had me so badly cornered then that, even when he disappeared, I barely managed to keep the throne. And I don't pretend to know what he thinks. Though I should know better than most. Before I become king and before I forsook him, I had been his best student. But I thought him a fool and left."

Nahato stood there for a long time, staring at him, his face blank, not having anything to say.
"Don't think about it now. The day is almost over and you have done a great job. You have completely fooled those stupid ones, and almost kept your wits against your master's teacher. I'm really proud for you. Now…come closer..."

Rune Venus could be a formidable political opponent.
She could resolve most political crisis before the breach in the alliance became too wide.
And the trip to Cretaria, though it had hurt her, it had also given her reserves of power.

But after four hours of constant debates with hardly any pause, a rude remark from a leader caused anything she had achieved till then to crumble like a tower of cards. It left the alliance closer to civil war that it was for the past few centuries. The countries that were mostly damaged during the Bugrom war demanded a highly extravagant amount of all kinds of help. Better prices for their merchants, free food for their people, cheap building materials and so many other things. The countries who were mostly undamaged naturally denied to pay such a heavy toll and then, out of spite, denied to offer anything.

She started to despair. She had temporary lost the trump card of Roshtaria that held the alliance intact since its creation. Even the least intelligent leader in this room understood that the Eye of god could not and would not be deployed again any time soon. The scientists could not even begin to figure out how to restore the Stairway to the sky after the Phantom tribe's sabotage and with both the Phantom tribe and the Bugrom regarded dead and buried, the ancient loathing that lied dormant between the allied nations, has started to arise.

She thought that she could still save face by calling it a night. A one day pause could work wonders to calm down these leaders and make them think rationally. She thought of asking Makoto to say something, but she couldn't. Without his presence here today it would have been impossible to avoid open conflict, but even his influence was starting to wane, as they started to consider him more like a part of the background.

But she couldn't formally ask him to say something, and her maintaining the formality might as well be the last safety measure that hold this meeting together.

Well, I will abolish this meeting before something worse can-.
She froze as she noticed movement by her side.
Oh, no. Not that. Anything but that.

It had already happened before once.
It had been a disaster, turning a perfectly normal meeting to a shouting contest.
Now it would start a war.
Princess Fatora had never attended her diplomacy lessons.
And now she was standing, exercising her royal privilege to disrupt any conversation and speak her mind.

"Shut up all of you. We are here to solve the problem not to satisfy your appetites. You can't call yourselves leaders by shouting like that."

Already four mistakes. She insulted them, their manners, their station and made herself a fool with three sentences. Gods, make her stop now.

The leaders were stunned for only a second.
Then they all started shouting together.
She heard them talk about war, canceling the alliance and they were ready to start brawling.
Fatora started to say something else, but she was simply overwhelmed and was forced to sit down.

This is it. Only a miracle can save us now.
Then she heard a loud voice.
Louder than any other voice in the room.
At first she couldn't recognize it.
But it was simply because she had never heard him shouting like that.

"Enough "
Everybody turned to regard the source of that unfamiliar voice.
They all froze as they saw the usually timid Makoto standing up, his face a mask of anger, his eyes glazed, his body glowing weirdly.
They said nothing but Rune could sense their fear. The voice was louder than any man should have been able to produce, carrying a bizarre echo. And the otherworldly glow grew stronger.
They now saw neither the timid boy who had impersonated princess Fatora nor the passive spectator he had become the last hours.
They now saw the mighty, invincible sorcerer of legend, the tamer of horrors untold, the one who offered to save the princess, infiltrated the enemy's fortress and came back without a scratch, bringing with him both the princess and the legendary demon god.
After a period of silence he spoke again, his voice quieter but not less inhuman to their ears.

"I have heard enough. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. This might not be my world, but I have come to accept it as my own. I just can't stand all of you being ready to destroy what all your ancestor built millennia ago and for a good reason. Half of you demand things that would bring the whole alliance to its knees, letting ambition rule over common sense, just as the leader of the Bugrom did. And the other half want to give nothing to those who suffered. Even though without them resisting, your kingdoms would be demolished. Without considering the refugees who will flood to your countries. You will prove that you care about nothing else than yourselves, exactly as the Phantom tribe leaders did, if you refuse to help. And do not consider your enemies defeated. The Bugrom general is still alive and in charge. And we have never seen the Phantom tribe king dying. I pledge myself to serve the kingdom of Roshtaria and the alliance. Even though the Stairway to the sky is temporary unusable, I will personally oversee its restoration, at the leave of her Majesty Rune Venus. And if by ill luck we have need of the Eye again, I have the power to personally unseal It and control It without the Stairway."

He bowed deeply towards Rune, his mystical aura disappeared and he sat down defiantly.
Rune wanted to say something but all she could do was keep herself straight.

An hour later the meeting ended. The act that was signed by all alliance members was ten times better than what she and her advisors could ever hope for. Two countries that where reluctant, where simply overwhelmed by all the others and complied. The alliance came out from this most difficult occasion stronger than ever.

All thanks to a stranger, who covered the sand castle with pure steel.
A stranger who has saved this world thrice.

Rune could finally relax, if only a little.

They entered the room at the same time, each returning from a different direction, and found the food served.

"Good evening miss Shayla. Have you been training again?"
"Yes Qwaoor, blowing rocks as usual. It is so quiet around here that our skills might start weakening if we do nothing."
"You are right, miss Shayla. After I finished helping miss Nanami, I tried to joggle some knives and it was difficult at first."

Shayla knew that all priestesses were taught some basic combat and agility skills, apart from control of their chosen element. Knife joggling was Shayla's favorite, but the thought of Qwaoor doing something like that just seemed wrong to her.
"How many can you juggle?" she asked challengingly.
"Oh not so many. A year ago I could do it easily with twelve, but I now only managed ten."
The only thing Shayla could do was try not to gasp. She had been holding the joggling record in her class. Nine knives maximum, the same as Afura.

She quickly changed subject.
"How is Afura?"
"She seems to be better, miss Shayla. She has already eaten and is now sleeping."
"Any ideas what happened to her?"
"Wasn't she frustrated by master Makoto?"
"I am sure something else happened. She was really not herself. And how do you explain the massive wind power we felt. And if what you said about the book he was reading was correct, he must have learned things about the Lamps"
"Well he could have used miss Afura's Lamp"
"Do you really believe that Qwaoor? Men cannot use the Lamps and even if he could it would take him much time."
"What about master Makoto's ability miss Shayla?"
"What about it?"
"Can't he control ancient artifacts?"
"Yes… he can"
"Isn't that what our Lamps truly are?"
"Afura would never give him her Lamp."
"But he would only have to touch it."
"That does not explain why she was such a wreck afterwards."
"Maybe they used it at the same time?"
Shayla stopped and regarded Qwaoor. "Qwaoor you are a genius."
"Not at all miss Shayla. Master Makoto and miss Afura are the geniuses here."
"Oh shut up Qwaoor I want to think."
"Sorry, miss Shayla, goodnight."

Almost everyone left the council chamber in good spirits, happy for having made the best choice for their countries.
Rune nodded to Londs, Dr. Schtalubaugh and her servants to leave the room. Princess Fatora sprinted outside, before anyone could tell her anything.

When Rune and Makoto were alone, she spoke.
"You have saved this world for a third time Makoto. You are really a hero."
He seemed himself again, timid and easygoing.
"I was so scared I could hardly talk. And it wasn't really much. I just caught princess Fatora's slip."
Rune's face hardened. "She and I are going to have a conversation today"
"Please lady Rune, it wasn't her fault. Don't punish her."
"Only because you ask it Makoto and only because you saved the day."

Great, thought Fatora, who was eavesdropping from behind the door. Now I own the wonder boy another favor

"And Makoto. I have asked you to simply call me Rune when not in a formal meeting. I now demand it or I will start calling you great sorcerer Makoto."
He smiled at that "Alright Rune, point taken."
"But how did you do that special effect? I was really afraid at first."
He chuckled and produced a tiny device from his pocket.
"We have something like that on Earth too. It is a voice amplifier I found some time ago. And the light was just me using my power on it. I normally suppress the light, but it seemed fitting."
She took the device and looked at it with awe. "Simply incredible"
"Just a minor trick. Couldn't even say if it would work."
"What you told them was even better. How could you find all those arguments and diligently banish every reason they had not to cooperate? I couldn't do it myself."
"You should thank Mr Fujisawa for that. He taught me all I know about Earthen history. El hazard is in a different dimension but the politics and power games are similar.
"What you said about the Eye is very dangerous for you, though you cunningly promised them nothing. But can you really control it?"
"I believe I can, but it could be risky. But I have really researched about the Eye lately."

"Makoto, this is a personal question, but do you really love Ifurita so much, as some rumors say?"
He smiled and closed his eyes wearily. "She is now alone and lost. The only thing I now want is to bring her back and spent the rest of my life with her."
"I know how it feels to not be able to reach the one you love. And I know you can make it."

He eyed her concerned. "Rune, if you don't want to talk about it I won't press you, but, did something happened while you were in Cretaria?"
It was to much for one day, even for her.
The proud and mighty leader revealed her true self.
She collapsed sobbing on him and told him everything.

He heard her carefully and then talked.
"Rune, you should have told somebody earlier. Do not forsaken that part of yourself. And do not lose hope. I might be able to bring him here as well. Or sent you there."
"But my kingdom? My people?" she asked desperately.
"When I was in Cretaria I had to make a very… painful decision. That entity that had sent us there said he could sent me back to my world, to where Ifurita was waiting. If I would chose that, all you, my friends and all Cretaria would be destroyed. I want to believe I made the right decision. But it only postponed our reunion. If I had to choose between her and any number of universes I would still choose her."

It took her a while to register the gravity of his words.
"Thank you Makoto. For everything. Though I don't know how to even start repaying you."
He smiled, stood up, bowed and left the chamber saying "No need. I only do what anyone would."

Almost immediately Londs and Dr. Schtalubaugh entered.
"He really saved us there. I don't want to imagine what would have happened without him." said Londs.
Rune nodded.
Then the Doctor started hesitantly "It is not my place to say it but I think he would make a wonderful king"
Rune laughed at the notion. "If I were six years younger I would certainly think about it."
"What about princess Fatora? Just think of a bunch of little Fatoras and Makotos running in the palace."
All three of them lost it.

You are dead doc. Just wait till I catch you thought Fatora fuming.

After a while Rune regained her composure. "I would still try it but the competition is really harsh and he has already chosen. I just wish we could do something more to help him"

Same here, I don't like to own so much to a man.

Then, as they approached the door, Fatora hid behind the curtains.
When Alielle learns about Rune's farmboy she will surely flip.

Everybody left the room. When he was sure that nobody would return, Lord Zenthar became visible.
They are remarkable. They remind me so much of the Homeland. That young lad was the one named Makoto. Smart guy. And powerfully driven. He could help me with what I must do. But I have to find a way to approach him. That imbecile Galus has turned us from mystery shadows to vicious enemies in their eyes.

He sighed, closed his eyes and easily teleported outside Floristica.

That was a really big day, thought Makoto as he returned back home.

He stopped while crossing the garden and stared at the Eye.

I believe I have done some progress today. Poor Afura.

"Master Makoto!!"
"Hi Alielle. Is there a problem?"
"No it is just that princess Fatora wanted to-."
"Enough Alielle. Hi there Makoto. I wanted to…"
"She just wants to-"
"Shut up Alielle. I wanted to thank you for saving me."
Alielle jabbed her.
"Ok ok , all five times. Or was it six? Anyway if there is anything within my power I can do, just ask."
He was about to just thank her, but then he thought something.
"I believe you can both help me with something" he said smiling.
Fatora turned to a very surprised Alielle.
"You told me it would cost me nothing"
"Just hear what I thought. I believe it will benefit you too" He chuckled and explained his idea.
After a while Fatora's and Alielle's faces where beaming.
"That would be a favor for me rather than you. When do we start?" said Fatora.
"A perfect plan, master Makoto. Shall we start now?" asked Alielle.
"No, but tomorrow will be fine. If we do that an hour every day, we will be both ready in a month."
"You know something. You are not so bad after all. For a guy."

If the girls find out, I'm gonna die, thought Makoto as he entered his house.

Well it was a bit long for a prologue but I guess it's okay. It is just the alpha version and there must be many mistakes I have missed. Some of the character's parts were a bit short, but I tried to promote those that were a bit swallow in the anime, like Rune and Afura.

It is really difficult to write anything about the first Ifurita on Earth (for reasons see the Earth chap 1 funfiction. Simply unreachable) , so I have to stick with the second one (for now).

Continuing this piece of s…(omething) depends on many things, such as your answers, the way I will sleep tonight, my free time, the voices in my head, etc.

The title is crappy but I couldn't think of anything better.