Chapter 41

From Beyond

Three days after the conference with the world leaders, Lucy and Kohta sat on the observation deck of the Chimera with Mayu, Nana, Yuka, and Myra getting some fresh air while the giant submarine cruised on the surface at fifteen knots. Puffy white cumulus clouds hung in the sky, casting the occasional shadow on Lucy and her family as they enjoyed the sunshine and clean air. Yet off to their east lay an ominous cloudbank that shimmered in the warm ocean air. Mayu, Nana, and Myra chatted amiably while Yuka lay asleep on her long deck chair. Kohta also lay stretched out on a long deck chair, snoring softly…the warmth of the sun and the gurgling of the water as it moved past the Chimera having lulled him to sleep.

Lucy, on the other hand, sat on her camping chair with her feet propped up on a deck rail. She looked sullenly out at the endless ocean around her, feeling isolated and a bit depressed. She and Kohta had won the battle against Calidor and saved the planet from extinction, but not everyone proved willing to let her, Kohta, and her people live in peace. A number of nations still blamed her for the cataclysm that shook the world to its foundations. Furthermore, preliminary casualty counts came in for the calamity: almost one billion people dead between the diclonius attacks, the mass insanity released by Calidor into the human populations, and the governments of the world resorting to nuclear and chemical weapons to destroy the marauding diclonius and the humans who fell to Calidor's poisonous insanity. Whole cities and regions became dead zones…uninhabitable for the next ten thousand years from nuclear and chemical contamination. The islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and the western portions of Kyushu, comprising the majority of the Japanese mainland were radioactive dead zones, burned to ashes and incapable of supporting life because of the lethal levels of radiation. Only Hokkaido and the outer islands, including Okinawa and the other Ryukyu Islands remained relatively unscathed. Then to add insult to injury, Lucy found out that the mega-tsunami that nearly sank the Chimera when the Island of the Collective phased into another dimension killed twenty million people alone when it hit the populated areas around the Pacific rim. The disaster reports from around the world coupled with the news that close to a third of the world still hated Lucy and her kind because of what happened soured her mood greatly. It drove her out onto the observation deck in hopes to forget about the third of the world still hating her because of Calidor's actions.

The cloudbank to the east drew Lucy's attention and she watched it closely. A sour place formed in the pit of her stomach. Mayu noticed Lucy's sullen demeanor and attention on the cloudbank. "What's wrong, Lucy?" Mayu asked innocently. "I can see something is bothering you."

Lucy shook her head soberly. "I don't know, Mayu. Something doesn't feel right."

"Care to elaborate?" Myra asked, jumping into the conversation. "Maybe talking about it will help."

"I don't think it will," Lucy replied. "Whatever it is, there's nothing I can do about it; that much I can tell you."

"Does it have anything to do with that cloud out there?" Mayu asked.

Lucy nodded. "That cloud doesn't look right. It reminds me of the Fury cloud we saw right after the Institute blew. But I don't think it is the Fury. It can't be. Kohta and I destroyed it by killing Calidor."

Nana looked out at the cloud hanging low on the horizon. "It's not moving like the other clouds," she commented. A sharp chill raced down her spine. "Ohhh…something bad is going on there. I can feel it. We're not going there, are we?"

"No," Lucy stated. "The ship is moving north and that cloud is staying to the east of us. But it's strange that it's not moving or behaving like the other clouds."

"What's not acting like the other clouds?" Kohta asked, having just awakened.

"That cloud there," Mayu answered, pointing to the east. "That cloud is acting very strangely."

Kohta looked closely at it and his face fell. "What is that?" he asked. "It doesn't look like any cloud I've ever seen before." The Chimera suddenly shifted course, heading toward the cloud. "What the hell?" Kohta cursed.

"Lucy, Kohta," Fargo called out as he stepped on the observation deck. "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we have received a distress call from a ship two hundred and fifty kilometers to the east of us and we're going to investigate. You should come inside because the beacon came from inside that storm."

"Is that really a storm?" Lucy asked.

"What do you mean?" Fargo asked.

"Just look and you'll see what I mean," Lucy ordered, stabbing her finger at the eerie cloudbank. It shimmered violently, boiling and churning yet it did not move in relation to the other clouds. Occasional lightning lit up its structure, making it look like a nebula in space.

"Oh my word," Fargo breathed. "That is truly bizarre. But our instruments show a borderline category five typhoon there. We'll approach with caution and underwater just to be safe. Now if you will care to wake Miss Yuka, we should all go below."

"Okay, Captain," Lucy said softly. "But be very careful. Something is not right with that storm. I can feel it and so can Kohta and Nana."

"I know better than to not pay attention to your feelings, Lucy," Fargo declared. "We'll take all precautions. But if there's a ship in trouble in there, we have an obligation under maritime law to answer the distress call and help if we can."

"That'll be fine," Lucy said as Kohta roused Yuka from her slumber.

"What'd you wake me up for, Kohta?" Yuka growled. "For once in a long time, I was having the most pleasant dream."

"We have to go inside, Yuka," Kohta said as he helped her up. "There's a ship in trouble in that storm there and we need to go help."

"Oh," Yuka replied softly. "Then let's get inside then and go help them." Moments later, everyone vacated the observation deck and the Chimera sank into the Pacific.

Two hundred and fifty kilometers away near the center of the typhoon, a tanker named the Hildebrandt carrying 200,000 gallons of crude floundered in 25-meter swells driven by 235 km/h winds. The distress beacon continued to call out for help as captain and two other men desperately worked to keep the ship from going down in the monstrous storm. They braved the lashing wind and water on the bridge despite every window being blown out. The captain wiped his goggles with his left hand as he stood with his right hand lashed to the wheel. A rope wrapped his waist and tied on to the bulkhead in two different locations opposite of each other to keep him stable in the hellish wind. The other two men likewise were tied down to their stations: one at the sonar/radar station and the other at the engineer's station. The wind howled so loud they couldn't speak to one another, only communicate through gestures.

Suddenly, a thirty-meter swell loomed in front of the ship. The captain's face went ashen and stony. He pointed to the engineer and waved his hand in a circle…the signal for full throttle. The engineer pushed the engines to full power as the captain turned the ship into the monster wave. Half way up the wave, a brilliant light flashed over the entire ship as a ball of blue flame appeared on the main deck in front of the bridge roughly half way to the bow of the ship. Lightning crackled from the ball of light, striking the structure of the ship in numerous places. "What the hell?" the captain mouthed silently in the deafening storm as the ball of blue fire expanded to ten meters in diameter. The feeling of falling into a hole filled the captain's senses as the ship began to list on the wave, sliding back down the front of it as it broke on the ship. Before the captain or his bridge crew could blink, the wave slammed down on the deck of the ship, drowning the ball of blue fire. The moment the seawater hit the blazing phenomenon, a bone-rattling explosion ensued that blew a hole in the wave as it vaporized the water out thirty meters from the ship in all directions along with the front third of the ship. The explosion itself sent out a shockwave that blew the waves away from the ship as a massive fireball rose into the stormy skies. Fire blazed out of control as burning crude spilled into the sea from two ruptured containment tanks on the front of the ship. The third tank near the ship's superstructure and bridge on the stern buckled, but didn't breech. The heat flash from the blast charred half of the captain's face and body as he turned away from the explosion, dodging the debris by shielding himself with the wheel and console in front of him. Miraculously, he survived the explosion; however, his first mate at the radar control wasn't as lucky. A flying piece of debris, a six-foot long piece of rebar two inches in diameter from the tank's supports impaled the first mate through the chest, killing him instantly. The engineer ducked behind the control panel, dodging the worst of the fire and debris, though he received substantial burns from the explosion. He looked up at the captain, seeing the captain's goggles melted onto half of his face as he clawed his way to his feet.

Without warning, the winds subsided and the sky cleared as the crippled tanker drifted into the eye of the storm. The engineer quickly untied himself and went to the captain, who slumped over the wheel. "Captain, are you okay?" he asked. The engineer grimaced when he saw the terrible burns on the captain's right side.

"It doesn't matter now, Jared," the captain moaned, spitting out blood. "That explosion did us in. The ship's going down now. There's nothing to stop it now."

"What was that?" Jared asked.

"I have no idea," the captain answered as Jared slowly pulled the goggles off his face. "In all my years at sea, I've never seen such a storm come up without warning, nor have I ever seen the likes of the electromagnetic phenomena we just seen. It's like the planet just decided to burn us out of spite."

Jared glanced out over the burning deck of the ship as it slowly sank into the oily, flaming sea. A motionless form lay on the nearest tank hatch, seemingly unaffected by the blast. "What on earth is that?" he asked, dumbfounded that he saw a body out on the deck after the blast and fire that still raged on the front half of the ship. "How can there be anyone out there after that? There wasn't supposed to be anyone on deck anyway because of the storm."

The captain turned his good eye to the deck, seeing the motionless form there. "Jared, go see who that was. I know every person on this ship and that doesn't look like one of us."

"Will you be okay, captain?" Jared asked.

"I'll be okay long enough for you to go see who that was," the captain answered with wheeze of pain. "Also, check on the crew below and tell them to abandon ship right now."

"Aye captain," Jared stated with a snap salute. "I'll be right back."

The captain waved Jared away and slumped on the wheel, looking out at the deck where the mysterious intruder lay. He also looked at the black clouds swirling around the eyewall of the typhoon with grim resolution. "At this point, even if someone heard our distress call, it would be impossible for them to reach us. But I can't let my crew give up hope. As long as they abandon ship, there's still a slim chance they'll survive. Otherwise, they don't have a chance." He groaned as his pain mounted and his strength fled. "Oh God…please don't let my crew die…not like this," he wheezed as his knees buckled. "Not like this…" His last breath hissed through his burned lips as he dangled from the wheel of his ship. His last sight was Jared reaching the mysterious figure on the tank hatch.

Jared cautiously approached the figure, immediately noticing it was a naked man approximately 25 years old with long maroon hair that reached to his waist. "What the fuck?" Jared cursed upon seeing that the nude man wasn't dead, but unconscious. Moreover, the man didn't seemed to burned by the fires at all. Deeming it safe to approach the stranger, Jared moved in for a closer look. Kneeling down and rolling the man over, Jared gasped in astonishment. The man had two cat-ear horns sticking out of his skull and a great number of scars. "Oh my god…it's, it's one of those diclonius fellows. But how did he get here?" The smoke and heat from the oil fires snapped Jared out of his shock. Taking pity on the young diclonius, Jared scooped him up and headed toward the bridge of the ship as the bow sank below the water. "I don't know who you are, but I can't just leave you here to die." Five minutes later, he reached the bridge and found the captain dead at the wheel. "God damn it!" he cursed. Sitting the diclonius man down on the floor, Jared went to the captain and took his dog tags. "You loved the sea, my friend. May she take you to her bosom and give you peace. Farewell." Jared picked up the unconscious diclonius and headed toward the lifeboats on the stern of the ship.

After preparing the lifeboat and putting the mysterious diclonius on board, he rushed into the bowels of the ship searching for his crewmates. Two minutes later, he returned alone with grim resolve and launched the lifeboat, moving it away from the sinking tanker and the fire. Once three hundred meters away, he stopped the boat and watched with pain-stricken grief as the tanker exploded again before slipping into the deep. A huge column of smoke rose in the eye of the typhoon as bubbles of seawater boiled, reaching up to claim the doomed ship. Jared looked at the diclonius man and grabbed a blanket from the supplies, putting it around him. A pessimistic sigh escaped his lips as he looked at the eyewall of the typhoon slowly approaching his position. "Well my friend," he muttered. "Looks like I saved you from the ship only for you to die in the storm with me. Isn't that some fucking dumb luck or what? Well at least I won't die alone."

The diclonius man suddenly moaned and stirred, getting Jared's attention. His eyes flickered and slowly opened. "No need to worry," the diclonius man whispered. "You aren't dead yet. Help is at hand."

"Who are you?" Jared asked. "And how did you get on the Hildebrandt?"

"I'm not sure," the diclonius replied softly.

"You don't know who you are?" Jared asked.

"Not really," the diclonius replied. "Everything is in a fog right now. The last thing I remember is seeing a dragon followed by a bright light."

"A dragon?" Jared replied incredulously. "Man, you really are messed up. But who am I to condemn. We're literally in the same boat now. When that eyewall reached us, the typhoon will tear this boat and us to bits."

A knowing smile crossed the diclonius' face. "You should not be so pessimistic, my friend. Fate has not cast us away just yet."

"That's easy for you to say," Jared retorted. "You haven't seen a category-four typhoon arise in a matter of hours out of nowhere and destroy your ship and friends as I have."

The diclonius looked deep into Jared's eyes, making him uncomfortable. "You really cared for your friends, didn't you?"

"Of course I did," Jared snapped. "They were my family. Don't you have friends you care about?"

"I did, long ago," the diclonius stated. "Moreover, there was this one special girl that I would do anything for, but it was not to be."

In the calm of the eye, a low-pitched rumble echoed over the sea, making Jared jumpy. "What's on earth is that noise?" Jared asked.

The diclonius listened for a few moments. Then his eyes grew wide and a smile crept across his face. "That's the sound of our salvation. Watch closely. Our saviors approach."

The sea around the lifeboat began churning as if something were rising beneath it. Jared was about to go crazy with fear when the conning tower of the Chimera breeched the surface just twenty meters away. "Oh my god," Jared breathed as he watched the Chimera's conning tower soar into the sky. Then the lifeboat jerked and lifted out of the water as the aircraft carrier size of the Chimera became evident to Jared. He looked at the diclonius and asked, "How did you know?"

"Our answer approaches," the diclonius murmured, noticing a hatch at the base of the conning tower opening. Seconds later, four figures appeared in the opening. "Ahoy in the lifeboat," the leader called out. "Are you all that's left of the Hildebrandt?"

Jared looked toward the group as they came to him. His eyes bugged out as he saw two diclonius: a man and a woman, and two human men with them. "Who are you?" Jared asked, feeling like he'd fallen into a nightmare.

"Please do not be frightened, son," the leader stated calmly. "My name is Fargo and this is my ship, the Chimera. As you no doubt notice, I am a diclonius, like the fellow there with you in your boat. Here next to me is our Queen, Lucy, and her husband Kohta. And standing next to Kohta is Dr. Quang Li, one of our ship's finest doctors. We picked up your ship's distress call and came as quickly as we could. What happened to your ship, son?"

"Don't call him son," Lucy corrected. "He doesn't like that."

"My apologies," Fargo replied. "What is your name, sailor?"

"Jared," Jared answered numbly. "I am/was the chief engineer on the Hildebrandt before the storm sank her. The burning oil over there is testament to her grave and the grave of some of my closest friends. I and this strange fellow here are all that's left."

"You're injured," Dr. Quang observed with some concern. "Please, come with us so we may treat your burns before they become infected."

Kohta looked around at the storm as the typhoon's eyewall loomed around them, closing in. "Captain, we need to get these guys on board now before this storm tries to take a chunk out of us too. This is no ordinary storm."

"I agree," Fargo stated. Offering his hand to Jared, he said, "Jared, please come with us before this storm decides to finish you and your friend off. You are welcome onboard the Chimera, as is your friend."

Jared, seeing no other option, took Fargo's hand. "Thank you," he said as Fargo helped him out of the lifeboat. "But what about him; I don't know who he is and neither does he. He appeared on the deck of the ship just after the explosion that crippled us."

Fargo raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? In that case, he is welcome on my ship too. I'll not leave any soul to die in this storm if I can help it. Kohta, help the young man."

"Aye Captain," Kohta replied, sprinting over to the young diclonius still sitting in the bow of the lifeboat. He and the young man locked eyes for a moment and something stirred in both of them.

"I know you," the young diclonius stated. "Somehow, I know you."

"So do I," Kohta admitted. "It's strange. I've seen you somewhere before but I can't put my finger on where." He held out his hand to the strange diclonius, asking, "Do you trust me to help you?"

"Yes," the diclonius replied slowly, noticing Lucy watching him with the intensity of a predator. "I do. I don't want to die."

"Then come with me," Kohta declared, "Take my hand and I will help you."

The strange diclonius took Kohta's hand. Kohta gasped in astonishment as a flood of impossible visions filled his mind…blurry images that seemed to swirl and melt together until one image solidified…that of Rayden. Kohta groaned, pushing past the visions. He pulled the diclonius man up, picking him up with two vectors.

Lucy immediately noticed Kohta's reaction and called out, "What's wrong, Kohta? Something has you rattled."

"I'm okay," Kohta growled. "Let's just get these guys inside before this storm returns. We can sort this out in the Chimera."

"That's a good idea," Fargo stated. "This calm is rapidly coming to an end. We need to get underwater before the winds pick up again." With that, everyone went inside and Fargo sealed the door. Minutes later after the Chimera submerged, the eyewall of the typhoon passed their position, and the storm erased all evidence of the Hildebrandt's existence.

Once the Chimera was underway, moving at a depth of 150 meters, Fargo went to the infirmary to get some answers about the doomed tanker. When he arrived, Kohta and Lucy were watching Dr. Ravenclaw treat the strange diclonius as Dr. Quang treated Jared. As Quang soothed Jared's burns with ointments and a good dose of morphine, Jared looked at the diclonius around him in a stupor. "You guys really aren't that bad, are you?" Jared asked. "I mean, you don't really go around just killing people because they're human, do you?"

"Not anymore," Lucy stated coolly. "Our kind used to act like that, but we've fixed that problem just recently."

"You're their leader?" Jared asked Lucy.

"I guess you could say that," Lucy stated. "I am their Queen and they do what I say."

"Did you tell them to stop killing people like me?" Jared asked stupidly as Quang bandaged his burns.

"Yes," Lucy stated. "But not everyone likes that decision. I decided that we will live in peace with those who want to live in peace with us, but we're not going to take any shit anymore from anyone."

Jared nodded, feeling oddly secure in Lucy's presence. "I can understand that," he stated. "That's one of the reasons I became a sailor, so I could get away from those shits who just don't care who they hurt. On the open sea, the crew of the Hildebrandt was my family and I trusted them with my life. We had to do that in order to survive. On the open sea, we had no ties to anyone and could live in peace."

"I hear you, brother," Kohta murmured. "That's what Lucy and I want for our people…just to live in peace with everyone."

"Don't you fear us?" Lucy asked.

"Well, yeah," Jared admitted. "But I don't know you well enough to really answer that question. What can you do?"

A wry grin crossed Lucy's lips as she gently picked up Jared with her vectors. His eyes got wide as he felt her vectors contact his skin. They were pleasantly warm, like the arms of a mother. His flesh tingled where she held him. "I don't need to use my hands to pick things up, you included," she declared, holding him two feet off the bed. "I can read your mind, or kill you with a thought. But killing is not something I relish. I've had a belly full of it and just want to be left alone."

"How are you doing this?" Jared breathed in fearful fascination. "How can you make me float like this?"

Lucy gently laid him back on the bed and made her invisible vectors translucent so Jared could see them. A gasp escaped Jared's lips as he saw five translucent arms and hands floating around him, all connected to Lucy. "You see these arms?" she asked. Jared nodded dumbly. "These are my vectors and they can do anything I wish, from picking up stuff to slicing or crushing them into pieces. Watch this." She grabbed an empty steel coffee cup from across the infirmary with her vector, bringing it to her. It floated in front of her and Jared, held in a translucent hand. "Now watch closely," she instructed Jared, who watched like a student waiting for a master's instruction. Lucy closed her vector fist effortlessly, crushing the steel coffee cup into a solid ball one inch across. Jared's mouth wagged open in astonishment as Lucy took the ball in hand from her vectors, after which she made them vanish. Holding the crushed cup up between her thumb and forefinger, she said, "This is nothing. I can demolish anything I want with these vectors, but I can also fix things with these hands of mine. Something I learned just recently is how to use these vectors to heal, rather than kill. Furthermore, these vectors have no range limit. I can literally reach anyone I want on this miserable planet with them, if I want to. Now, do you fear me?"

"Yes," Jared stated. "I fear your power, but I don't fear you. As strange as it sounds, when you had me floating in the air, I could feel you and your energy. I was warm and almost loving in a way. I don't know how to explain it. But from what I felt, I could sense that you didn't want to hurt me. I actually felt safe. You are not an evil person. If you were, you would have let me die in the storm."

"True," Lucy admitted. "But I could be pulling the wool over your eyes just to get you to lower your guard."

Jared shook his head solemnly. "No," he said slowly. "I've always been a very good judge of people and my instincts have, to date, never failed me. But there is one way I can be sure." He held out his hand to her. "Shake my hand, Lucy…Queen of the Diclonius. I can tell through your handshake what kind of person you are."

"Can you?" Lucy asked, intrigued by Jared's boast. "Let's see if you can read me then." She took his hand and shook it firmly, staring him in the eye, not blinking.

Jared stared back fearlessly as he shook Lucy's hand. A wry grin crossed his lips. "You are very distrustful of people, possibly because of past treatment by those close to you. In the past, you have been doubtful and insecure, not sure of your place in this world, but that has changed recently. You're a confident, secure woman now who knows who and what she is and what she needs to do to get what she wants. But you still remain distrustful of people because of what you've endured and will not tolerate any shit from anyone. Did I get it right?"

Lucy let go of his hand and shook her head, chuckling softly. "My word, you really do have a gift, don't you?" she chimed. "It's close enough for now. I can see with that gift how you resorted to a life at sea. You have a way of looking through people's disguises and they don't like that at all."

"No," Jared agreed, "they don't."

"But you're still afraid of me," Lucy noticed.

"Of course I am," Jared replied. "Only a fool or idiot who didn't know you would not be. I see you as I would see a big cat…a tiger or lion maybe: a beautiful creature to be approached cautiously and respected at all time. I don't ever plan on giving you a reason to be hostile towards me."

"Smart man," Lucy crowed. "I like you. You're honest and straight-forward with your talk. I think we can get along, don't you, Kohta?"

"Yep," Kohta agreed. "He's a kind of an outcast like us."

"So he is," Lucy stated. She looked at Jared, seeing the tension in his features despite the morphine. She smiled softly at him. "Relax, Jared…you're among friends here. What you don't know is that there are almost as many humans on this ship as there are diclonius. We've worked together for a long time and have become a family of sorts, like you and your crewmates on the tanker."

When Jared saw the smile, and everyone else smiling, he relaxed some. "This is going to be an adjustment. All we ever heard over our communications is how the diclonius were monsters trying to exterminate the world. I should've known the sons of bitches were lying to us."

"It's okay," Fargo said. "Don't give it a second thought. Now do you have anywhere you want us to let you off? Do you have any family who will be worried about your absence?"

Jared shook his head. "No sir. My wife died about five years ago without warning or reason. One day she took sick and three days later, she was dead. No one in the hospitals knew what it was, or if they did, they weren't telling me. Then to add insult to injury, her parents took her body and didn't allow me to even say goodbye to her. They blamed me for her death."

"That sounds familiar; doesn't it Kohta?" Lucy commented.

"It certainly does, Lucy," Kohta stated. "It wouldn't surprise me if the governments weren't responsible for the illness that kill Jared's wife. Did you have any kids, Jared?"

"No," Jared answered solemnly. "We wanted kids, and tried repeatedly to have a child, but it just didn't happen. In retrospect, I'm relieved that we didn't have children, seeing everything that's happened in the last six months."

"What did you do after your wife died?" Fargo asked, leaning against the counter.

"When I figured out that I wasn't being told the truth about her death," Jared replied, "I signed on as the chief engineer for the Hildebrandt and didn't look back."

"A marvelous, tragic tale," the strange diclonius called out from his bed a few feet away, "…a tale that even now stirs the fog in my brain."

"Don't make fun of his sorrow," Lucy warned sternly. "I'm not going to have it."

"It was not my intention to make fun of his pain," the strange diclonius answered. "It merely reminds me of my own painful past. I just wanted to thank him for sharing."

"How does my pain help you?" Jared asked. "I don't even know what your name is."

"It helps me by shaking lose old memories of past lives long forgotten," the diclonius man replied. "The memories in my head are like bubbles in a cascade. They rise for a few moments and then vanish from my head. It's infuriating. The only thing I can clearly remember is seeing a dragon, and then a bright light." He pointed at Kohta, adding, "Your face keeps appearing and disappearing like a ghost in my mind. The moment I try to latch on to it, it vanishes like smoke in the wind." His face twisted with anger as he slapped his head with his hands. "I can't even remember my own name. How do you think I could forget something like that? Please, can't you help me?"

Kohta looked at the man and then to Lucy, who stared at the diclonius. "Lucy, when I picked him up outside, I was assaulted by a flood of strange, even bizarre images that seemed strangely familiar. It took me so by surprise that for a moment I couldn't move. Then one image seem to solidify in my mind."

"What image was that?" Fargo asked, very attentive to Kohta's words.

"I saw Rayden," Kohta declared. "I don't know how, but I think this man and Rayden are connected somehow."

Lucy rose and deliberately moved to the diclonius' bed. She hovered over him with an intense, almost predatory look on her face. "You are unknown to me," Lucy declared. "But I intend to find out who you are."

The diclonius looked up at her with fear welling up in his soul. "I swear to you, my Queen…I don't know who I am. Please help me find out who I am. Do whatever you must. I can't live with this empty hole in my mind. It's a torment that I can't bear."

"Hold still," Lucy said stonily, grabbing him by the head with her hands unexpectedly and pulling him to within an inch of her face. A flood of vectors swarmed out of Lucy and into the mystery diclonius, searching his mind intensely. He gasped; his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. After a few moments, she called out, "Kohta, come and assist me." Kohta stepped up and grabbed the diclonius's left hand with his right hand while touching the man on the side of the head with his other hand. Then he set his vectors in motion, following Lucy's vectors into the man's mind.

Fargo, Jared, Ravenclaw, Quang, and the nurses watched with baited breath as Lucy and Kohta searched the diclonius' mind with their vectors. After a few moments, Kohta called out, "Fargo, go get Yuka and bring her here right now. She's the key to this."

"Yes, Master Kohta," Fargo answered, leaving on a mission to retrieve Yuka.

"Who are you?" Lucy asked the diclonius. "Where is your identity? Where is your piece?"

"I don't know, milady," the diclonius sobbed, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Keep going. I know something must be there. Please, keep digging."

A few moments later, Kohta asked, "Do you see it, Lucy?"

"I do," she replied. "But we cannot open it. We don't have the key."

"But maybe Yuka does," Kohta stated. "We must let nature take its course here. We've removed most of the obstacles in his mind. But we cannot breech the vault without the key. Let's give him some space to breathe."

"Okay," Lucy replied, pulling her vectors back as Kohta pulled his out of the man. Lucy let go of the diclonius' head and sat next to him, cradling him in her lap. "Are you all right?" she asked the diclonius.

With a glazed look in his eyes, he said, "I think so. Things are starting to take shape now. But I can't put them together yet."

Kohta patted the man on the shoulder. "We're here to help you do that."

"Maybe Miss Yuka can help here," Fargo called out. "Miss Yuka, Lucy and Kohta need you to help them with this man. He doesn't remember who he is and Kohta believes you may be able to jump-start his memory."

Yuka hobbled into the infirmary behind Fargo, leaning heavily on a cane. Suko Arakawa, Aiko, and Myra followed close behind Yuka. Yuka watched the floor as she moved by Fargo, going to the bed where Lucy held the unknown diclonius man.

"Do you know this girl?" Lucy asked the diclonius.

He looked at her with a blank expression at first. Then as Yuka came closer, his eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open. "By the hands of Fate, I know this girl. I know her face but I can't remember who she is. Please tell me, who is this precious angel?"

Yuka heard the man's statement and immediately recognized Rayden's voice. She looked up at the young man and gasped. She then shut her eyes and shook her head. "No…No, it can't be him! It can't be! He's been dead 1700 years!"

"Please, my precious angel," the diclonius man pleaded. "You know who I am. Tell me who I am. Save me from this oblivion of nonexistence!"

Kohta walked over to Yuka and put his arm around her. "Yuka, listen to me," he said softly. "Lucy and I have tried to penetrate this man's mind to determine his identity. But it's locked beyond our reach. We do not have the key, but you do. We saw your face clearly in the jumble of his memories. You have the key to free this man. Yuka, I suspect that this is Rayden reborn from the Nexus, but I cannot be 100% sure. You had extensive mental contact with Rayden while in Calidor's castle. You and he had and still have a bond that cannot be broken by hate or even death. Look at him, Yuka and take a chance. This is your chance to have that which you want. Is this Rayden?"

Yuka looked up at the young diclonius and locked eyes with him. Tears welled up in her eyes. "Take me to him," she ordered Kohta. Kohta helped Yuka walk to the young diclonius lying in Lucy's lap. When Yuka stood in front of him, she stared into his eyes and face, looking for something, anything that would make her believe he was Rayden. Fear filled the young diclonius' face, yet Yuka noticed a glimmer in his eyes that reminded her of Rayden. Hesitantly reaching out and taking the man's hand, Yuka asked in a whisper, "Rayden, is that really you?" The moment she touched the man's hand, a shock and chill raced up her arm and down her spine, causing her to let go and collapse with a cry. Kohta caught her. At the same time, the diclonius man shrieked in pain, his back arching. Lucy controlled him as he writhed in mental and physical pain for a few moments before calming down.

"Yuka, what happened?" Kohta asked intensely as he set her on her feet. "Are you all right?"

Yuka shook her head with her eyes closed. "Whoa…what a jolt!" she cried. When she opened her eyes and saw the man writhing in Lucy's grasp, she instantly knew who it was. "Oh my god," she breathed, looking at Kohta with astonishment. "It's Rayden. I know it! It may not be his old body, but it's him. I'm sure of it. But how?"

"I have no idea," Kohta replied as the diclonius calmed down in Lucy's grasp.

When the man calmed down, Yuka rushed to him, grabbing his hand. "Rayden, Rayden, can you hear me? Wake up, Rayden," she called urgently.

The diclonius moaned and shook his head. His eyelids fluttered and then opened. His first sight was Yuka with a look of extreme concern staring back at him. "Yuka…, my precious angel," he moaned softly. "Is that you or am I still dreaming?"

"Yes Rayden," Yuka sobbed joyously. "It's me."

"By the gods and Dragons of Heaven and Earth," the diclonius swore, "…IT WORKED! I made it!"

"Who are you?" Lucy demanded, holding on to him so he couldn't escape.

He looked up into Lucy's face and smiled Rayden's trademark smile. "You know who I am, my Queen. I am Rayden Seiyuchin, son of Mamoru and Yuki Seiyuchin, brother to Izanami Usagi Seiyuchin, and I owe you and Master Kohta my very existence as an immortal soul. Here, connect with me and my piece of the Collective granted to me by Izanami, Ai, Yuan Zhi, and the Dragon Emperor, Ryu-Wo-Chin now that it is free." He held out his hand to Lucy, who took it in hers. She released a vector out of her hand and into Rayden, connecting and confirming Rayden's existence as a true diclonius and father of their race.

Lucy smiled warmly at Rayden as she let go of his hand. "Very well done, my friend…very well done indeed. What deal did you made with the Dragon Emperor for you to make it back here?"

"The deal, my Queen," Rayden stated, "…was that if I found the right door, I could return to this dimension. But the price was my power and memories…my very identity. I had to surrender all the power I gained as the father of our kind and start over from scratch like any other diclonius coming into this plane would. But I wouldn't have to start as an infant. I return to the age I was when I died. That was twenty years old. Furthermore, I would not remember who I was until I touched the one who cared for me the most in this world." He looked at Yuka. "Your love drew me back to your world and save me. It has given me a second chance to live the life I was supposed to have lived. I've loved you from the moment I saw you, Yuka. You are the only reason I exist in this dimension."

"But there's more to this deal than you're saying," Lucy intruded. "What is it? Something is still not right. I can feel it."

"You're very perceptive, Lucy," Rayden replied. "There is more. The price I paid is steeper than you realize. Yuka was to be the key to unlocking the memories of my identity. But, after that happens, I am going to lose all memory of my past life, including the knowledge I acquired while alive and imprisoned by Calidor. The only thing I am allowed to remember is who my parents are, that Izanami is my twin sister, and my contact with Yuka while prisoner of Calidor. Beyond that, everything else is to be ripped from my mind forever so that I may start over and learn to be a diclonius the way I was supposed to have. Even my memories of the Nexus are fast vanishing as I speak. There was one other thing that the dragon said before I was allowed to come through. It had something to do with keeping the balance of the multiverse or something like that. Apparently, my dark twin had to come through too in order to keep the balance of good and evil in the universe straight. He didn't tell me who this dark twin was, nor did I see this person or thing, or whatever it was. Oh no…it's fading away and I can't stop it." His face contorted with confusion. "What on earth was I talking about, my Queen?"

Lucy patted him on the shoulder as Rayden lay in her lap. "Don't worry about it. You've said more than enough. Now let's make sure of what you do remember. What is your name?"

"I am Rayden Seiyuchin," Rayden stated. "My sister is Izanami Seiyuchin and she died with my parents Mamoru and Yuki Seiyuchin when I was a child. I am a diclonius who still has doubts about why I'm here, but I do know that Fate has allowed me to find my only true love again, Yuka, along with my Queen and her King. I am here to serve you and your king, Lucy, as I am here to serve my true love Yuka, and to make sure she is happy and that nothing ever happens to her, ever. That's pretty much all I know now."

"He's been left with nothing but the barest basics that will allow him to function in our world, Lucy," Kohta stated. "And even some of that is erroneous; though it is easily remedied. I guess it's for the best since he has to earn his place once again in the Collective by living the way he was meant to."

"True," Lucy stated, laying Rayden back on his bed. "His education as one of us begins now." Turning to Rayden, she said, "You've done something no one has ever done before, Rayden, and paid a great price for it. Your love for Yuka has transcended time and space, and brought you back to her. Don't take this chance for granted. You will not get another."

"I understand," Rayden stated. "I trust that you will teach me what I need to know, my Queen, so that I may be a fit servant for you and Yuka."

"Lesson one," Kohta declared, "You are no one's servant. You are diclonius, the father of your race and you will not to submit to anyone, unless you choose to submit yourself. You are your own man with free will and the power to exercise it."

"I see," Rayden stated.

"But," Lucy intruded, "you are still part of the larger diclonius organism. We diclonius are a hive mind and I am the Queen. I am the only one you really need to obey. My will is law in our diclonius Collective and world. And I have declared that we will not attack our human brothers and sisters maliciously without cause. Killing them just because they are humans will no longer be tolerated. But you do have the authority to protect yourself with lethal force when you are confronted with lethal force. I have said that we will live in peace with those humans, like Yuka for instance, who have decided to live in peace with us. Those are really the only stipulations I have for you. Do you think that is reasonable? All we ever wanted was to be left alone and live in peace."

"Absolutely," Rayden stated as Yuka sat down next to him, holding his hand. "I have no problems with the rules you set down, my Queen. I am my own person and have a right to do as I please as long as it doesn't violate your orders, right?"

"Right," Lucy stated. "Sounds like you understand your place in our world now. We'll educate you about your past when the time is right. But right now, relax and recover your strength. I'm sure Yuka will be more than happy to help you. Am I right?"

"Yes," Yuka murmured softly, tears streaming from her eyes. "I didn't think it possible, but here he is. This is a miracle I didn't believe could ever happen. I'm not going to let him get away."

"I know you won't," Kohta said with a smile. "Now you know the joy I have with Lucy."

"I do, Kohta," Yuka declared, rising from her seat. She limped to Kohta and embraced him fondly. "Better yet, I now understand why you stood with Lucy no matter what. Forgive me for being such a pain?"

"Of course I do," Kohta answered, joy bubbling in his heart for the first time in a long time. "You are my Gemini, and that will never change. We will always be blood and family."

"That we will," Yuka stated.

Mayu moved in and put her arm around both Kohta and Yuka, standing between them. "I love you guys. Thank you for saving me."

Nana jumped in and put her arm around Kohta, saying, "So do I; you have given me a family I wouldn't trade for anything in the whole universe. The world tried to kill us and we beat the world. What does that say about our family?" She looked Kohta in the eye with the greatest love he'd ever seen in any one person apart from Lucy. "Kohta," Nana said softly, her voice choked with emotion, "you have done something I've never seen done. You kept your promise to keep us safe, no matter how bad things got. You repeatedly put your life in danger to save us. But more than that, you became one of us to do it. You sacrificed your human part to save us. I am proud…very proud to call you my father and Lucy my mother. Both of you have saved our family from extinction." Nana reached out with her left hand to Lucy. "Come and be part of our family, Lucy."

This display of raw emotion on Nana's part shocked Lucy and she hesitantly came to Nana. Her impulse was to withdraw, but Lucy allowed Nyu's feelings of love to guide her. Nana turned to Lucy and embraced her as not just a sister, but as a daughter. "I've always known you were a good person deep down, Lucy. Now you have proven it. We love you and I love you."

Lucy's heart pounded as her skin flushed. The feeling of being wanted and accepted thrilled her, even if it came from a silpelit like Nana. She put her arms around Nana and whispered, "I love you too. And thank you, Nana, for having faith in me when no one else did. It didn't go unnoticed."

"That's what I'm here for," Nana chimed pleasantly as she backed away from Lucy. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm so happy that we are now a family again."

"Amen to that," Mayu crowed, "And may I point out that our family is fixing to add a new member."

"That's correct," Kohta stated, looking over at Rayden. "You have a place with us, Rayden. I'm sure Yuka won't have it any other way. She is rather stubborn that way, you know."

Yuka punched Kohta in the arm. "Kohta…that's not very nice."

"But he's right," Rayden agreed. "Your stubbornness is what allowed you to survive and touch my heart in the darkness. Fate truly cast you as my guardian angel destined to save me from that darkness."

Yuka sat down next to Rayden and held his hand. "I guess you're right. It may have been my stubbornness that helped me keep my humanity in Calidor's prison."

"Shh," Kohta hissed. "There's no need to open up those wounds again. Don't speak of your torments at the hand of that demon again, not unless you want to."

Yuka nodded. "True…I'm still haunted by it though."

"And you probably will be for the rest of your life," Fargo stated, having watched the entire drama unfold from the background with Suko, Aiko, and Myra. "But don't let that bother you. I'm sure this fine young man will help you deal with it."

"I'm sure he will," Yuka said with a warm smile.

"You people sure are strange," Jared commented. "But strange in a good way."

"You could say that," Kohta answered. "I dare say there isn't a family like ours anywhere else on this miserable planet."

"True," Jared answered. "But what are you going to do now? There are still apparently a great number of people who still hate your guts and want you dead."

"That is a good question," Aiko called out, walking up slowly leaning on Suko's arm. "I may have been out of commission for the biggest portion of this shit, but from what I've seen so far since I woke up, there's apparently anywhere from a third to half of the human population that is left that still believe the diclonius are responsible for this catastrophe and want us dead. Is there truly any place on this planet that is truly safe from reprisals of these idiots?"

"I don't rightly know," Kohta stated. "But we can't allow them to dictate our lives."

"Right now, the safest place is right here," Fargo declared. "We have the ability to move and not be spotted with this ship. But unfortunately, we can't stay on board this ship forever. We need a safe place to harbor, a sanctuary…somewhere the people of the world don't know about or even care about. We need another Island of the Collective."

"I wish I could help," Rayden called out. "But apparently my memories of past deeds not connected directly to Yuka are fading away into the oblivion of forgetfulness."

"Don't worry about it," Lucy murmured calmly. "I don't know where this safe have is right now, but I think I might know who does."

"You think the Dragon Emperor may know something?" Fargo asked.

"Maybe," Lucy stated. "But we also have Izanami, Ai, and Yuan Zhi who may have ideas. But let's not bother ourselves with that right now. Something is seriously wrong. I can feel it at a distance. Whatever it is has a distinctively familiar feel to it too. Before Rayden's memories of the deal with the Dragon Emperor faded away, he said that part of the deal was having his dark twin come through at the same time he did in order to keep the balance of the multiverse straight. I believe I'm feeling that presence right now."

Kohta suddenly gasped as he felt it too. "Oh boy…I'm feeling it now too. And it does feel very familiar and it's gaining strength."

"Is it a diclonius?" Myra asked.

"I don't think so," Lucy stated cautiously. "I feels vaguely diclonius, but at the same time, it feels human too. The last time I felt that kind of evil twinge, Bandoh was close by."

Kohta' eyes grew wide. "It can't be," he moaned in dismay. "God…anyone, anything but him; he promised to leave us alone forever."

"Evil seldom honors promises," Fargo noted. "Can you positively identify it as Bandoh, Lucy?"

"Not at the moment," Lucy growled. "There is some kind of terrible interference scrambling the signal I'm getting."

"Maybe it's another storm?" Mayu suggested. "Since Rayden appeared in the middle of a huge storm, maybe there's another storm marking where this other guy is appearing?"

"That is a distinct possibility," Fargo declared, walking to the intercom. Pushing the button, he called out, "Bridge, this is Fargo."

"What is it, Captain?" Karosuma called back through the radio.

"I need someone to check the satellites and see if there's another weird storm like the one we just went into somewhere else on the planet, Miss Karosuma," Fargo ordered.

Chris came on the speaker. "Sir, you should know that the storm raging over our heads is falling apart as I speak. It's like someone turned off the key to the storm's engine. It's down to a low category 1 storm and dropping like a rock."

Everyone looked at each other with astonishment. "You don't say," Fargo answered Chris. "That's really strange."

"But not as strange as this," Chris returned. "As this storm has diminished, another storm exploded over Kyushu with its eye is right over Tsukumi. Sir, I don't think this is a coincidence. Something really strange is happening here and no one knows what it is."

"How big is the storm?" Fargo asked.

"Borderline Category 4 and rising rapidly," Chris stated. "It formed six hours ago and exploded in the last three, jumping from a Category 1 to a Category 4 in that time. The pressure in this thing is dropping like a stone in Kyushu and the satellite shots show a storm over 1000 kilometers across with continuous lightning and plasma discharges flashing through the storm, apparently feeding it."

"Is the storm moving?" Lucy called out.

"That's the really strange part," Chris answered. "This storm is sitting still, spinning like a top. From the satellite shots, it looks like a black hole with the eye completely black."

A voice called out over the speaker, "Chris, the storm just jumped to a solid Category 5."

"I'll be right up, Chris," Fargo stated into the intercom. "Fargo out." Turning to Lucy and those in the infirmary, he said, "I must go to the bridge to see about this; if you will excuse me."

"I'm coming," Lucy stated.

"Me too," Kohta agreed. "Mayu, Nana…stay here with Yuka and Rayden."

"Sure," Mayu and Nana chimed in unison as Lucy and Kohta followed Fargo to the bridge.

Minutes later, Fargo, Lucy, and Kohta watched the satellite feed over Kyushu in Fargo's ready room. Ron sat at the computer, making sure the feed was coming through all right. "Well, I guess we can be thankful that portion of Japan was deserted before the storm appeared," Kohta commented.

"Maybe, maybe not," Fargo growled. "That portion of Japan didn't get the brunt of the nuclear attacks. There may be some survivors hiding out in the hills. But with this storm, anyone in there will most likely be killed."

"Look at that," Lucy murmured in awe as the storm swirled like a whirlpool of clouds draining into a hole. "It looks like the center is drawing everything to it. Captain, is there some way we can track gravitational fields? I think this may be a dimensional rift like the one the Island of the Collective sat in."

"You think there may be some kind of gravitational flux from a dimensional contact?" Fargo asked.

"Maybe," Lucy replied.

"Ron," Fargo called out.

"I'm already on it," Ron stated. "There is a program that uses variations in sea level combined with electromagnetic field measurements to determine gravitational anomalies. Let me see if I can pull it up." His fingers danced across the keyboard for a few moments, and then a grid superimposed itself on the satellite feed. It showed minor fluxuations in the gravitational flux around Japan, except for the center of the storm, which showed a deep gravity-well just off shore of Tsukumi.

"My god," Kohta breathed. "What is going on there?"

"I don't know," Lucy replied. "But I think we are about to find out."

No more than she had spoke, a coronal burst of light flashed from the center of the storm, pulsing out in all directions, blinding the satellites. Lucy and Kohta flinched as a flash of searing pain raced up their spines and smashed into their brains. Lucy cried out in pain, collapsing to the floor unconscious. Kohta's eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out cold. Fargo and Ron felt a tingling sensation when the coronal burst went off, but it didn't affect them seriously. They rushed to Lucy and Kohta's assistance and tried to revive them.

At the same moment on Kyushu, a thirty-meter ball of blue fire similar what destroyed the Hildebrandt appeared at the shrine of the Stone Buddhas, burning every shred of organic material to ashes yet leaving the Stone Buddhas scorched, but otherwise unscathed when the fireball exploded in a small mushroom cloud. As the smoke cleared in the driving rain, a naked male figure stirred at the feet of the statues, apparently completely unhurt by the fire. A groan rose from the misshapen creature that appeared to be a patchwork Frankenstein composite of human, diclonius, and machine. Lightning flashed, followed by an earthshaking peal of thunder that further roused the creature from its unconscious state. His eyes flickered and slowly opened as he rolled on his side. A gasp escaped his lips as his lungs filled with air. After a coughing fit, he groaned, feeling his body. Then his sight fell on the scorched Stone Buddhas, being lit by fires all around him from the demolished shrine. "Hmmm," the creature moaned, "this looks vaguely familiar." With a maximum amount of effort, the creature pushed himself to a sitting position as he looked at the statues.

His shattered memory started to coalesce. A seriously wounded young boy sat in front of the Buddhas calling him Bandoh. After a few moments, the creature noticed the rock overhang that sheltered the statues, so he crawled to it to get out of the driving rain. Leaning against the rock wall, more memories of the boy rose. The name Kohta became a name attached to the boy's face. A particularly vivid memory burst forth into the creature's consciousness. The boy was standing on a deserted beach, pushing his head to the barrel of a .50 caliber pistol being held by the creature. The name Bandoh echoed from the boy's lips as he dared the creature to kill him.

That memory dissolved into another memory of the same boy training the .50 caliber pistol on the creature inside a kitchen. The gun discharged and the creature screamed in mortal agony as the bullet blew him apart. Darkness swallowed the memory as the creature gasped for breath, holding his belly. "What's this?" he snarled as another memory exploded into his consciousness. He was without arms or legs in a metal cell as a malevolent fog swallowed his body and mind, followed by a searing flash that tore his body apart one atom at a time. As that horrendous memory faded to black, he uttered a terrible scream that echoed across the deserted countryside despite the storm. The image of a maroon-haired diclonius girl with a cold, calculating look on her face danced before his eyes. His ire rose at the ghostly image fading in and out of his mind. A name suddenly latched on to the image of the girl: Lucy. Yet, his ire and hate for the girl mixed with confusion because he couldn't remember who she was. "What's happening to me?" he moaned as his senses became more attuned to the world around him.

A voice rumbled from the nearest Stone Buddha. "Bandoh," it called, "…Bandoh."

"Whose there?" the creature answered, filled with a mix of anger and fear.

The Stone Buddha abruptly swiveled on its base, facing the creature. "Bandoh," the Buddha called out with glowing eyes.

The creature saw the statue move and speak to him. "Wha…what are you?"

"It doesn't matter," the Buddha stated calmly. "But what is important is who you are and why you have been given this last chance."

"What are you talking about?" the creature hissed.

"You don't remember who you are," the Buddha stated, "…or how you came to be at my feet. That is why I speak to you now. Do you know who you are?"

A pang of deep fear raced through the creature as he tried to remember who he was. "No," he mumbled. "My memory is shattered and I can only remember pieces and fragments. The image of this boy and a maroon-haired girl with horns keep appearing in my mind along with a name that this boy keeps saying."

"And what name is that?" the Buddha asked.

"He keeps calling me Bandoh," the creature stated. "But I don't really know who I am. One memory that keeps arising is this kid shooting me dead, apparently with my own gun."

"You remember events of your past, Bandoh," the Buddha stated. "The boy Kohta keeps calling you Bandoh in your memories because that is who you are. Your name is Bandoh and your fate has been intertwined with that of the Diclonius Queen and her King because of the darkness that drove you to your destruction."

"What do you mean?" the creature asked pointedly. "How is my fate connected with this diclonius Queen and her king?"

"Bandoh," the Buddha answered calmly. "You have been killed twice in the war between the human and diclonius worlds: once by the boy in your memories because you hunted him and his diclonius wife, and second by the demon Calidor when you helped the boy and his friends save the girl Mayu from the demon's hand at the Institute in what used to be Kamakura. The gods have granted you and one other the unique opportunity to return to the plane of the living for one last chance to redeem your immortal souls. The other one is the father of the diclonius race, Rayden. You have been given this chance because of your search for redemption after your first resurrection. This is your chance, Bandoh. The Eternal Council has allowed the Dragon Emperor to send you both back to the plane of the living through the Nexus of all Realities to prove you both."

The creature's memories stirred at the mention of Mayu and her face floated into his memories. "Mayu," he murmured, straining at his shattered consciousness to find the answers he desperately wanted. Suddenly, the swirl of fragmentary memories started snapping together and the name Bandoh rose to the top of his mind. "Bandoh…," he whispered. "My name is Bandoh." When he spoke those words, his identity solidified and he knew who he was. "Yes, I am Bandoh!" he shouted. A gasp escaped his lips as he cried out, "I remember! Mayu; wait, is she still alive?"

"Yes," the Buddha replied. "She is, as is the boy Kohta, the diclonius Queen Lucy, and the rest of their family. They still live, though eternally scarred by the darkness of the Chaos Lord they banished to the Dark Dimensions."

A relieved look crossed Bandoh's face. "I'm glad Mayu is still alive," he said. "She didn't deserve to get caught up in that shit." A thought suddenly formed in Bandoh's fractured mind and he spoke it. "Wait; if I was dead and now I'm alive, what's the catch for me being allowed to come back? I know there's a fucking catch here somewhere."

"The 'catch' as you put it is this," the Buddha stated. "You've been stripped of your diclonius power and must start from scratch like every diclonius must when they enter this plane of existence. The power you had because of your creation as a hybrid diclonius/human cyborg in the Lazarus labs is gone. Furthermore, memories of your time while dead and about the Nexus has been stripped from you forever. You will be allowed to keep your memories while you still lived so that you may follow through on your path to redemption or damnation. This is the only chance you have to make amends for what you did. Don't waste it."

"I don't plan to," Bandoh said with a wry smile creeping across his lips. "But why did this Rayden get the same chance I did?"

"You got your chance because of him," the Buddha said. "In order to transverse the Nexus and reenter this dimension, he had to agree to let his dark twin return in order to maintain the balance between Light and Darkness in the universe. You are his dark twin. That is why you are here. Now go and redeem yourself, Bandoh. Find the peace you searched for cleaning the beaches of Kamakura." The glowing eyes of the Stone Buddha statue faded away, leaving Bandoh to ponder his new state.

Bandoh's memories slowly pieced together as he stood up. Remembering Kohta and Lucy, a wicked smile crossed his lips as he leaned on the rock wall beside the Buddha that had supernaturally spoken to him. "I don't know what the fuck is going on here, but I know one thing. Bandoh is back and this time, no one is going to stop me: not that stupid shit Kohta, or his bitch queen Lucy." A sigh escaped his lips. "But I'd just as soon not see those fuckers ever again. I did promise them. Besides, there's a whole world out there just waiting for me. It's time for me to make my own destiny." With that, Bandoh walked out into the waning storm to make his own destiny.

Back on the Chimera in the infirmary, Lucy and Kohta came to with a moan. Kohta's eyes flickered and opened, seeing Dr. Quang hovering over him as he laid on a bed hooked up to monitoring equipment. "Are you all right, son?" Quang asked, shining a light into Kohta's eyes, checking his pupil dilation.

"Get that light out of my eyes, doctor," Kohta growled, waving his hand to shoo away the light. When Quang removed the light, Kohta sighed. "Thanks doc. Does anyone know what the hell just happened? I feel like my head tried to explode."

"Not a clue," Quang replied.

On the bed next to him lay Lucy with Ravenclaw hovering over her, checking her vitals. "We were hit by a dimensional shockwave, Kohta," Lucy called out weakly. "You were right to think that there was a dimensional contact happening. The contact apparently happened when we saw the flash. The energy from the dimensional contact knocked the shit out of us because of our connection to the Collective."

"Was it the dark twin Rayden spoke of?" Fargo asked from the foot of Lucy's bed, having been there the whole time they were unconscious.

"Yes," Lucy moaned as she rubbed her right temple. "And it's as I feared. Rayden's dark twin is Bandoh. He's back."

Kohta closed his eyes and swore softly. "That's all we need now for that unstable son of a bitch to be living again. What if he decides to come after us again?"

"Then he's going back to hell," Lucy said icily. "But I don't think he's stupid enough to do something like that. Furthermore, when I finally locked in on him, I discovered he apparently has many of the same restrictions on him that Rayden has. His diclonius power is minimal, just like Rayden, so it will take him a long time to climb back up to the power level he was when we fought Calidor at the Institute."

"But he should be watched," Kohta insisted. "We can't trust his intentions. As you put it yourself, the darkness in Bandoh was blacker than that of Calidor."

"Believe me, he will be monitored," Lucy stated. "I'm not going to let a loose cannon like him fuck everything up for us and everyone else. I'll kill him myself if he crosses the line I laid down."

"That puts my mind at ease," Kohta replied with a sigh. "We need to disappear to someplace no one will ever find us."

"I have some thoughts on that," Lucy stated as Ravenclaw helped her sit up. "But first, there's a place we must go. Captain, set course for the northern part of Hokkaido. I mean to walk the ground Rayden and Izanami walked 1700 years ago to bring closure for them."

"I thought you might want to do that eventually, milady," Fargo stated. "We'll head that way at once." With that, Fargo left the infirmary on a mission. Minutes later the Chimera shifted course to the northwest, heading for Hokkaido Island and a rendezvous with the ancient land of the diclonius origin.

"When did you decide that you wanted to walk where Izanami and Rayden walked?" Kohta asked as he lay on his bed.

"The moment I found out that Rayden had returned to us," Lucy stated. "He has to walk the ground there for closure so he can release the guilt of what he did."

"Sounds good to me," Kohta stated. "Who knows? Maybe we will find our sanctuary there?"

"We shall see," Lucy stated coolly. "We shall see."

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A/N: Almost done. Rayden returns to the land of the living, drawn by his love for Yuka, but he is stripped of his diclonius power and must earn his place in the Collective as all diclonius must. However, he isn't the only one who returns from beyond the gates of death. As part of the deal to let Rayden traverse the Nexus in search of Yuka, he must allow his dark twin Bandoh to return as well to keep the balance of Light and Darkness in the universe in equilibrium. When Lucy and Kohta find out about Bandoh's return to the world of the living, they are not amused, vowing to keep an eye on him in case he reneges on his promise to keep away from them. Will Bandoh honor his word and find his destiny separate from Lucy and Kohta, or will he succumb to his own dark heart? Also, with Lucy determined to walk the diclonius ancient source in Hokkaido to bring closure to Rayden and Izanami, what will she find there? Will she find a place where Rayden can find closure for his sins, or will it just be a wild goose chase? Furthermore, will they find the new Island of the Collective sanctuary for the diclonius in Hokkaido, as Kohta hopes, or will their search for the Shangri-La once again elude them. Read on to find out. As always, reviews are welcome. Be honest, but kind.

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