A/N: Please read 'Harry Potter and the Collided Worlds' by Sokai (story id 2502930). This is a public service announcement to propagate awareness of a vastly under-reviewed fic. From here on, you will be exposed to subliminal messages that will hypnotize you into doing just that…

(Read 'Harry Potter and the Collided Worlds' by Sokai, story id 2502930)

W-I-T-C-H: Duelist Knights and the Crown of Light!

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter 2: Plodding Along

Disclaimer: I don't own W.I.T.C.H.or anything else anyone might recognize. Please don't sue me.

(Read 'Harry Potter and the Collided Worlds' by Sokai, story id 2502930)

The sun still had a short way to go to the horizon before Zethos finally called for a halt. Irma and Hay Lin's mount nearly fell over in relief at the ordered stop, the former looking stiff as a board, the latter almost dead on it's feet. Luckily for them, assistance was offered. Jooni quickly dismounted to help his new partner in an-as-yet-not-formalized-alliance-against-Zethos, and Eugee moved to tend to Hay Lin's poor Laking Manok, giving it's rider a half-hearted look, to which she only giggled apologetically, moving to assist.

"About time we stopped," Cornelia grumbled as she stretched, discreetly massaging her numb rear, which had been deadened by all the bouncing. Spring suspension, apparently, was not on the list of technological achievements this world could boast about. Next to her, Elyon did the same, audibly wishing they used her carriage instead, but otherwise making no other complaint. Cornelia was glad to know her time as a princess hadn't reduced Elyon into a whiny brat.

Big turnoff, brat-hood…

Next to their wagon, Caleb was slowly helping down a pale-looking Taranee, who was swaying slightly as she set foot on the ground and looking ready to tip over any minute. "Take a minute to relax Taranee," Caleb said as he guided the dark-skinned girl to a tree and helped her sit down. "First time riding something can be a little unsettling. Best you rest a minute."

Leaving Taranee to her own devices as she tried not to throw up, Caleb then went to help Will, whose ride was steadfastly refusing to bend down so she could get off.

"Ugh," Irma groaned where she was lying down on the grass, eyes closed and seemingly not carrying if she got trampled. "I never want to ride those things for as long as I live."

"You're going to have to," Jooni said as he took care of Irma's Manok for her. "They're the only things we've got to ride, remember?"

"Don't remind me," Irma said, an arm over her eyes, as if trying to block out horrific visions of future riding.

Cornelia frowned down at the brown-haired girl. "Irma, get up! You're going to ruin your clothes!"

Irma managed to open one eye and glare at the blonde balefully. The effect was slightly marred by the fact she was on the ground and looking half-asleep. "That's what you're worried about? I'm half-dead over here!"

Cornelia rolled her eyes, adjusting her skirt. Clef had provided all of them with some inconspicuous traveling clothes to wear, since what they had– in either their normal or Guardian forms– weren't exactly something that would allow them to go unnoticed. They were essentially on a secret mission, after all. While the blouses and skirts weren't anything spectacular– they were kind of plain actually, which was the point– Cornelia had immediately become protective of them, giving dirty looks to any of the girls who would cause them to become anything other than pristine.

A bit of those dirty looks were transferred to Zethos as he not-so-gently poked Irma with the toe of his boot. "Get up," he said brusquely. "This is not a picnic; I will not allow layabouts under my command."

"Your command?" Irma challenged, glaring at him, but he was already moving towards the wagon and the covered supplies at the back. The look Irma was directing at the back of his head should have caused it to explode.

Jooni was also glaring at Zethos as he moved to pull Irma to her feet. "Jerk," he muttered as she got up. "Please tell me you've got some idea of how to make him suffer."

Irma grinned. "'Make suffer' is my middle name."

"Finally, she admits to it," Cornelia said dryly as she and Elyon passed by, trying to walk off their numbness.

Irma sent a rude gesture at Cornelia's back, and the blonde returned the tongue in kind. "Come on," the Water Guardian said, tugging at Jooni's elbow. "Let's talk suffering."

Jooni raised an eyebrow. "While we're doing that, let me show you how to take care of a Manok."

Irma pouted at him as they passed by Eugee and Hay Lin, the former trying to teach the latter to do the same and having difficulty because the Air Guardian's steed seemed terrified of her. "Awww! Do I have to?"

Jooni grinned. "Look at it this way: we'll have more time to plot if we're both done fast."

"Ooh, I like it. Show me the chickens!"

"What?"

"Never mind, I'll explain later."

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Zethos stared at the back of the wagon with an intensity usually found in bright, swirly, gaseous celestial bodies that burned in the sky. He stared intently at the canvas covering, which seemed a bit bigger than when they had used it to cover the supplies. Quite a bit, actually. Even as he watched, the canvas moved, a little here, a little there, almost unnoticeable if it hadn't been happening right before his very eyes.

For a moment, he closed said eyes, very much tempted to sigh, groan, scream, tear his hair out, go on a rampage… but no, that would mean losing control, and if there was one thing he prided himself on, it was his control. Weaklings lost control. Children lost control. Zethos Cabyo did not lose control.

He could get annoyed, however. Since the beginning of this little fiasco– and even before, actually– annoyance seemed to have become a common state for him.

Raising a fist, he brought it up to a suspicious looking and suspiciously moving lump and rapped on it sharply with his knuckles. He was rewarded by a thump and a loud exclamation of "OW!"

Zethos firmly stamped down the urge to close his eyes again as everyone in their motley group looked up in surprise at the cry. He knew that voice. Grabbing the edge of the canvas, he pulled it back sharply.

"Hello, Damagi," he said coldly, glaring down his nose at the blonde in front of him currently rubbing the top of her sore head. "Scipbrud, Hardyner and you had better not have destroyed our supplies."

Looking to the side, he gave the recently Cyclops-ized Duelist who had been helping the hyperactive Air Guardian a baleful look. "I believe they're with you?"

"Mana?" he said in astonishment, his remaining eye going wide in surprise. "Rebeka? Anzuh? What are you three doing here?"

The three had the grace to blush. "Hey, Eugee," they said.

Behind him, Hay Lin blinked. "Hey, I remember you! You're the girls from the hallway!"

Mana blinked, then pointed at Hay Lin. "Hey, you're the girl that busted me!"

"No, I think you have us all beat in that category," Rebeka said dryly.

Mana ignored her. "You look… different, somehow. I could have sworn you were taller."

Hay Lin made an exaggerated bow. "Hay Lin, Guardian of Air, at your service. We met when I was in my work clothes. Um, I think Eugee just asked you a question. What are you girls doing here?"

The three chuckled nervously. "Um, taking a vacation for our health?"

"Stupid place for a vacation, "Jooni said dryly as he and Irma came up to the wagon.

Irma nodded in agreement. "I'd fire my travel agent if I were you."

The three girls blinked. "What's a travel agent?"

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In short order, camp was ready. Zethos, deciding to take charge, had sent Irma and Cornelia to go get firewood. The girls, very much resenting his bossy attitude (after all, they already didn't like it much when Will told them what to do, and they liked her), bullied Taranee into producing a magical flame for them. Needless to say, Zethos wasn't happy. The girls didn't care.

Cassidy, being too small to do any of the heavy lifting needed, was relegated to watch over the wagon– meaning she just sat there and looked pretty. Useless, that is.

Hay Lin, in a burst of enthusiasm and well meaning, volunteered to prepare the food. It took an hour before anyone realized she had absolutely no idea what she was doing. Eugee finally volunteered to help. The three stowaway girls promptly volunteered to help him help her. This resulted in the food being delayed for another two hours as everyone tried to suggest what to eat and beginning their own preparations despite what everyone else was saying.

Caleb tried his best to be diplomatic, resolving the food situation by having the three draw straws for who would cook (Hay Lin had long since dropped out of the running, and Eugee had gone to do something less dangerous). He had the girls take care of their mounts, making sure that they had actually been listening to what Jooni was saying about rubbing them down (and kept Irma from killing her– deliberately). The only he didn't try to boss around was Elyon.

Elyon, for her part, did her best to be helpful and otherwise stay out of the way. Of the girls, she was the most level-headed, probably a product of being a rather young royal figure with a lot of responsibilities. To her, this was a vacation, despite the need to get her crown back.

When camp had finally been set and everyone was just waiting for dinner (Rebeka, Anzuh and Mana were all still trying to have their way, despite the drawing), Elyon approached Caleb and asked him a very unusual question.

"Caleb," she began. "How much time have you been spending with Cornelia?"

Caleb blinked, momentarily at a loss. "Why do you ask, your majesty?"

Said majesty rolled her eyes. "Call me Elyon," she said, in a tone stating she'd said as much many times before. "I think you should hang out with her more. It has been a while since you two have spent any amount of time together– come to think of it, I don't think the two of you have managed to be together for more than fifteen minutes. So why not take advantage of the situation and make up for lost time?"

Caleb suddenly found himself being hustled in Cornelia's general direction by a rather pushy princess.

Cornelia looked up from where she was talking to Hay Lin to find Caleb standing over them, looking unsure as to what he was doing. Hay Lin took one look at them and smiled knowingly.

"I'll let you two be alone," she said, moving off to be somewhere else.

Caleb watched her moving away anxiously before turning his gaze back to Cornelia. "Um, hey…"

Interrogation began after dinner, when Irma was done blasting the dishes with water to clean them.

"So, what are you girls doing here?" Eugee asked them.

The three blushed. "Um, well you see…" Anzuh said, stuttering.

"We heard you were going somewhere and decided to go with you," Rebeka said simply, looking at Eugee directly without the slightest bit of remorse. "After all, how else are we supposed to take care of you?"

"Take care of him?" Will said, while Eugee was looking rather uncomfortable. Jooni was smiling widely and snickering. Next to him, Irma was giving him questioning looks. He snickered some more and started whispering in her ear. Slowly, her eyes grew wide.

"Well, yeah," Rebeka said, turning her gaze towards the redhead. "Our boyfriend here can't do a thing without us. Isn't that right, darling?"

Eugee blushed as the W.I.T.C.H. girls, Elyon, Caleb and Cassidy all stared at him. "No comment," he muttered.

Irma kept looking between Jooni, whose snickers were steadily getting louder, to Eugee, to the three girls (one of whom was blushing, one was beaming, and one was looking very shameless), and back again. "You're kidding me… don't tell me it's normal to have more than one girlfriend here!"

All the other girls twitched. Cassidy was muttering something about things not being like this in her day.

"There's nothing against it," Mana chimed, suddenly hugging Eugee leaning her cheek against his shoulder. "And that's all that matters!"

"Indeed," Rebeka said, glomping on to Eugee's opposite arm.

All the other girls turned to look at Anzuh, who was still looking uncomfortable. At their looks, she suddenly glared them, although red still stained her cheeks. "What?" she spat out.

"How…" Taranee began, then trailed off. "On second thought, I don't think I want to know."

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Later that night…

"Hey, Irma, what's a travel agent?"

"… shut up and go to sleep, Joon!"

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Over the next few days, the group eventually settled into a rhythm. Because of the shortage of Manok's, some had to ride in the wagon. Irma immediately volunteered, not wanting to have to deal with 'the blasted things' anymore. Taranee did as well, never really getting over her motion sickness. Hay Lin was ordered on to the wagon when after two days, her Manok wouldn't even let her get within ten feet of it. The three party crashers were willing to ride in their stead.

Said party crashers were an interesting lot. All of them, apparently, were apprentice Salamangkero, to one degree or another. Anzuh, while definitely not the oldest of them– that dubious honor belonged to Mana– was the most level-headed and down to earth, and had something of a temper as well. Rebeka was the youngest of them, and was supposedly a prodigy. She had a bit of an attitude, however. The only person she was consistently nice with was Eugee. Mana, while no means ditzy, was very carefree, and the most easygoing of the three. She and Anzuh got along fairly well with the girls. Caleb avoided her like the plague, feeling very… disturbed… by her rather considerable assets. Cornelia kept needing to remind herself not to stare.

No one was sure how it happened. Everyone– except possibly Eugee– resented him to one degree or another. He made no move to endear himself to anyone. Heck, he tended to aggravate people by being within ten feet of them! Even Caleb found himself rubbed the wrong way, and as an Ex- Whisperer and later a rebel, he had a very thick skin. Yet somehow, Zethos managed to claim the position of the group's unofficial leader.

Jooni and Irma didn't like it when they finally realized. The two kept plotting together whenever they could, the blond riding next to the wagon so the two could whisper together. Everyone kept eyeing them nervously, but for the moment, the two stuck to plotting. No one wanted to know what the usually overly-serious and uptight Zethos would do if he was pranked.

The rhythm broke on the third day…

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Things were going smoothly enough. Irma and Jooni were, as usual, planning Zethos' downfall. He was somewhere up front, not deigning to speak with mere Guardians, princesses, colleagues and colleagues girlfriends. Cornelia, complaining her hands were getting rough from all the driving, had switched with Taranee, who now had to listen to the blonde and Will plotting ways to get back at the Keeper of the Dark Heart for various indignities. Hay Lin was napping against Elyon, who was trying no to fall off the wagon because of Hay Lin's weight on her. Cassidy was at the back sitting on the supplies, since she was the only one light enough to do so, while Eugee was surrounded on three sides. His remaining eye was darting nervously between the three as they argued over who was cooking what that night.

Caleb, riding next to the wagon, was adjusting the thing Keeper had given him for the fifth time that day when Zethos suddenly paused up from, head tilted to one side as he listened. Frowning, Caleb tried to listen for anything over the sounds of the food argument and the various people whispering not-so-quietly. Something not quite like vertigo was spinning around his noggin…

In the wagon, Will suddenly clutched her head.

"Will, what's wrong?" Cornelia asked, concerned. Taranee looked over her shoulder while Elyon shook Hay Lin awake.

"There's… something out there…" Will gasped, fighting the dizziness. It had (eventually) dawned on her that the 'weird feeling in the head' she occasionally had was her detecting some kind of weird magic or otherworldly presence (in the 'not of this world Earth' kind of sense). Well, actually, it was Keeper telling her so a couple of days ago when she brought up her old headaches, but it was kind of the same thing.

Eugee frowned, his single eye narrowing. "I feel it too… magic…"

His girlfriends nodded in agreement.

Suddenly there was a roar. It disturbingly familiar roar.

Irma suddenly had a vision of a decapitated corpse and fought the urge to throw up. "What are those things doing here?" she cried, before she suddenly found her mouth being covered by various hands.

"Are you crazy?" Cornelia hissed, something very much like panic in her voice. "You want them to hear you?"

"Sorry," Will mumbled out from under the hand.

A cry suddenly rent the air.

The guys all looked at the girls.

They all shrugged. "Wasn't us," Cassidy said.

Another cry.

Zethos was almost gone by the time the others realized what it meant. Jooni, Eugee and Caleb all scrambled to catch up, reaching for their swords as the girls transformed behind them.

It was those things from that night. Black as coal, they were four-legged and definitely a predator, with a sharp, tearing beak and bony spikes growing out of their backs. Their blank eyes were absolutely merciless, whiffs of flame, small sparks or green mist emanating from their mouths.

Their 'leader' was already tearing into them when the other three boys arrived. His Manok was tearing into them with beak and talon while he slashed at them with a seemingly practiced skill, his blade seeking and severing their necks in an almost mechanical, effortless fashion. Caleb and Jooni immediately charged into the fray, while Eugee stayed a little behind, his sword hanging limp in his hands as his eye narrowed in concentration.

"Dark Crush!" Eugee cried, surprising Caleb as a purple ball of energy streaked between him and the blond Duelist, striking one of the predators before them. He hadn't known the Duelist could do magic.

Belatedly, the Meridianite reached into his own magic, remembering the power Keeper had returned to him. He felt heat inside him, gathering into his fingertips…

Fire burst into being in front of him, eliciting a shocked cry from Jooni and a sharp, "Watch where you're throwing that!" from Zethos as Caleb let the power burst free. He reared back his Manok in surprise, not expecting that to happen. A predator jumped through the flames.

"Look out!" someone cried, and a burst of greenish energy struck the predator, knocking out of the air and into the flames. Earth, he identified. Cornelia.

"Nice try, Caleb," Cassidy say, "but let us show you how it's done. Katon: Karyuu Endan!"

A streak of fire suddenly dove into the massed predators, followed by several concentrated beams as the Guardians struck with their magics, not wishing to be caught like they had been that night.

"Be careful!" Zethos roared. "There's someone here!"

Only then did Caleb realized the Duelist seemed to be standing over something on the ground and doing his best to keep predators, fire and errant Guardian magic away from there. Caleb suddenly remembered the screams from before… with redoubled energy, Caleb continued hacking at the dark things, doing his best to pull back the flames and any loose bolts of energy. Eugee was still sending his magic into the fray, and he'd been joined by his three girlfriends. Between them all, they managed to blast, slash or burn the monsters away. Zethos never moved from his spot.

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"Wa hoo!" Irma said as the last of the predators were taken care of. "All right! We so kick ass!"

Mana looked at Hay Lin up and down. "Ah, now I recognize you."

"It's the hair, isn't it?" Hay Lin said cheekily.

Behind them, Elyon was driving the wagon, an annoyed look on her face. She jumped down as soon as she was sure the Manok wouldn't move anymore and stomped over to the Guardians. "Don't do that!" she said. "What if something had attacked me while you guys were gone?"

"Then you'd fry them with your magic," Will said reasonably.

Elyon paused. "Oh. Right."

"Hardyner!" Zethos cried, kneeling on the ground with his mount a little off to the side. "Make yourself useful and get over here!"

Lying on the ground was a pale-haired woman, dressed in worn traveling clothes less fine than theirs, a cut practically gushing blood on her temple…

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"Thanks for the book Yûko," Keeper said, storing his purchase in the Dark Heart. "See you around if I ever need something hard to find."

"Bye, Harry-kun," Yûko said, wangling her fingers at him. "Don't be a stranger!"

Off to the side, Maru and Moro were crying. "We'll miss you, Harry-nisan!"

Watanuki pouted. How come he never got a teary sendoff whenever he was sent on a life-threatening errand? "Where are you going anyway?" he asked.

The Keeper of the Dark Heart gave a smile reminiscent of Yûko when she was being properly mysterious and not so 'nut job'-y. "I was thinking of visiting a relative of mine. It's been a while since I've seen Raven…"

(Read 'Harry Potter and the Collided Worlds' by Sokai, story id 2502930)

- To be continued...

(Read 'Harry Potter and the Collided Worlds' by Sokai, story id 2502930)

A/N: Please support Sokai-sama. If you don't, she might stop updating and I'll never find out if Harry and Hotaru ever get together! Review her, review her, review her!

Oh, and me too.

If W.I.T.C.H. fans have absolutely no idea about how all this happened, check out the story that came before this, Harry Potter: Keeper of the Dark Heart. If nothing else, I'd like to believe it was the first Filipino effort at an HP/W.I.T.C.H. fic. Mabuhay ang Pinoy!

And for those Keeper fans who are wondering where he is, or is going, he will now be residing in his brother's story, Harry Potter: Raven. This is set before Raven 9.

Pleae check out my other fics (and the reasons it took so long to update this): Card Captor Harry: Season One, Card Captor Harry: Hong Kong, Uzumaki Harry, and Larxene and the Millennium Ring. Leave lots of nice reviews, 'kay?

What else… OH! Did you know that in the comics, Caleb and Cornelia have broken up and are now 'just friends'? And Caleb seems to be developing feelings for Elyon…

Hmm, it looks like I won't be able to work on this as much as I thought… I hate real life…

Please review, C&C welcome.

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.