The Light and the Darkness

Chapter 2: Guardians Reunite?

Originally written by Senshi of Valis and 5hadow Lady

Based on Requiem for a Dream by Sokai

Note (from Sokai): MAN, it's been a seriously long while since I've written and posted anything on here! Seems like once you get married, everything just starts to go. LoL j/k But, ANYWAY! As we all know (or should, maybe, those who may have seen it on here by now after all these years), 'The Light and the Darkness' was originally started and posted by Senshi of Valis, which she'd apparently began writing with her friend, 5hadow Lady. However, well before this time and it had been posted, Mel (Senshi of Valis) had been extremely awesome enough to share with me the whole of said story, including play by play outlines for each chapter intended to be featured, in addition to the overall plot.

And I, of course, was super thrilled, not just because this was (at the time, at least), one of the first spinoff sequels for my 'Requiem for a Dream' story, but because the plot was something I'd found rather intriguing and a pretty good tie-in to what I had created within the 'original timeline,' etc.

It's just sad, however, the story and its original storytellers have since seemed to vanish within the last four years, and thus the rest of you never got the chance to see it all play out. But after recently finding the sent outline and such on my computer the other day, I'd decided to finish it for Mel, as it's a story which definitely deserves to be seen, in my opinion. =)

And so, please remember that this entire spinoff sequel is not MY idea at all, but instead that of Senshi of Valis and apparently 5hadow Lady, as well; I am merely the vehicle for its eventual production. So, yeah, everything read from here on out is all theirs. LoL

Also, if anyone wants to read the first two chapters to this story, you'll have to check out Senshi of Valis's profile and find it there, as I'M only posting the follow-ups and onward.

So! Without further adieu, I present to you all, their spinoff tale (to MY original tale, so no, it isn't theft, since I'd given them permission to do all this in the first place LoL)!

"Well, I'm about to turn the corner now, Hay Lin. . . . Yeah . . . yeah, I'll be there in a few minutes. All right, see you then," a rather fatigued Cornelia Hale spoke in parting over her cell phone to her tentatively returned petite friend, before hurriedly hanging up the moment she'd caught sight of a passing police car on her left.

The last thing the seventeen-year-old blonde needed was a ticket fine for using her cell phone while driving, and adding it to the fairly long list of finances she wasn't able to pay for on her meager, newfound college student salary.

But, at the very least, Cornelia didn't have to worry about car payments, as that was something her fairly doting father, Harold, adamantly insisted upon taking care of, upon having purchased and then surprised his eldest daughter with the fancy, white colored BMW as a high school graduation present the previous year . . . which, Cornelia secretly believed, had been a generous gesture primarily done as a way to rebuild the slightly faltered relationship between the two of them, than it had been a way to congratulate her upon her academic success.

Regardless, she wasn't about to complain against a bit of financial relief, no matter the true intent behind it.

After all, between occasionally running errands for her mother, Elizabeth Landon, managing as many shifts as possible at the daycare center where she currently worked, while also trying to keep her grades up by pulling all nighters, and somehow able to spend as much time as possible with the rest of her family (especially her baby sister, ten-year-old Lillian, with whom she'd used to possess a greatly strained relationship, however now were well on their way to becoming closer than they ever had before) and friends, new and old alike, Cornelia was practically a walking zombie.

College life was proving to be pretty brutal, to say the least.

Still, no matter how much more difficult it would perhaps become later on down the road, Cornelia was nonetheless blessed for the opportunity to experience it in the first place, as nothing else thrown her way could ever compare to the eternally life-altering turmoil she had miraculously endured just a few years before. . . .

The two year anniversary had recently just passed that September, in fact, making it, like the previous September before it, a rather trying month to journey through for not just Cornelia, but for Hay Lin, as well, alongside their mutual companions, Taranee Cook and Irma Lair.

They were the former Guardians of the Veil, and the sole survivors and truth bearers to the overwhelmingly catastrophic and near-fatal devastation to their planet of Earth. . . .

It was sometimes hard to believe, for them each, that it was already two years since their greatest battle as Candracar's magically endowed warriors, as the event was still so fresh within their minds.

The never-ending struggle.

The searing, unbearable pain.

The terrible, and unforgettable loss. . . .

It was the cost which had quite possibly hurt the most for the girls, out of everything they had experienced during that frightening, fateful night.

They had lost their once dearest friend and greatest ally, Will Vandom, and with her, the remainder of their innocence in addition to a part of their souls. . . .

The caring, sometimes sensitive redhead had been the girls' leader, and the glue which had always held the five of them together, both as Guardians, as well as best friends . . . up until the time when Cornelia had moved away into downtown Heatherfield with her mother, following an amicable divorce between her parents, that is.

This was something Cornelia secretly carried within her to this very day, an occasional, curious flurry of 'what ifs' and guilt appropriately attached. What if she could have somehow prevented the befalling of her parents' marriage, and thus never having had to move away from her friends at all? And then, in turn, their bond would have never become severed, and, when the time had inevitably come, they each would have quite possibly been strong enough to properly defend themselves, and save Will's life. . . .

But then, on the other hand, if Mom and Dad hadn't divorced and I hadn't ended up moving with her, I never would have met . . . her, the slender, lengthy blonde tenderly thought to herself, after rounding the last corner that would lead her the rest of the way to Hay Lin's four-year-old, and family owned Chinese restaurant, the Silver Dragon.

Despite unanimously agreeing that repairing their rocky friendship, after everything they'd gone through, was greatly important, for Will, if not for themselves, and making slow, but fairly decent progress ever since, there was still one thing all of them refused to discuss in full or be avidly open about.

Or rather, one person, of whom Cornelia admittedly yearned to talk with her returned friends about, however quietly complied in respect to their unspoken wishes.

After all, it was because of this one individual that they'd nearly lost their lives, and that Will had inevitably lost her own . . . as well as the reason that the Earth was still slowly, but surely rejuvenating itself from the brink of sheer destruction, and the four of them were nonetheless feeling almost perpetually drained years later (which, in all honesty, was the primary reason Cornelia, at least, was always feeling ragged, despite her overwhelming responsibilities), as a result.

Sitara Vandom . . . or, as Cornelia had originally known her to be known as when the pair had first met, 'Amandella Ember,' who had later turned out to be none other than Will's long lost twin sister. . . .

In spite of everything the blonde had gone through, admittedly all in thanks to the mysterious and magically forceful girl, there was nonetheless not a day which had gone by since that time when Cornelia didn't wish that she, too, were still alive.

That she could somehow be able to turn back the hands of time and save her, save both sisters, and make it so none of it had ever happened. . . .

Cornelia could vaguely once recall the Oracle of Candracar (the omnipotent being who had bestowed the original quintet with their powers over the elements in the first place years ago) fleetingly informing each of them during one of their only visits to the celestial plane of existence, of how a Guardian's desires are especially fervent, to the point of quite possibly becoming a reality.

But then, if that were so, I would have been able to fully heal this planet, bring back both Sitara and Will, and so much more by now, Cornelia silently lamented with a sorrowful sigh, feeling a light headache coming on just as she turned into the Silver Dragon's fairly packed parking lot.

After lazily pulling her car keys from the ignition, and collecting her purse from off of the front passenger seat next to her, Cornelia slowly climbed out of the warm vehicle and regrettably stepped into the uninviting embrace of the frigid winter atmosphere.

The winters since that fateful time had honestly felt a lot colder than the norm, parallel to the even more stifling and unbearable summers, and this returned wintry season didn't seem as though it would be any different within intensity than its predecessors.

But it wasn't the severity of the weather around that time of year, nor the coupled, natural seasonal depression which always seemed to bring the remaining quartet of former Guardians down, as a result.


It was because, much like the month of September, the current month of January was very emotionally debilitating, as well, for, in a matter of days, it would have been Will's eighteenth birthday. . . .

"Both Will's, and Sitara's. . . ." Cornelia forlornly murmured to herself before trailing off into a gentle whisper, wrapping her unprotected hands around herself for warmth as well as self comfort.

As she made her way across the parking lot, with her returned long and sunlit hair freely whipping about within the chilled air, the blue eyed teenager began to force herself to cheer up as best that she could, before entering the evidently crowded restaurant to meet her friends.

The memories of their shared ordeal, however admittedly as well as thankfully faint within some areas was difficult enough to live with; they didn't need a visual reminder of their loss and pain from the eldest girl, as well.

And so, pulling the double wooden and window framed doors to the Lin family's establishment open, Cornelia exhaled sharply, before ineptly plastering a smile upon her fair countenance.

It had been with great timing that she had done so, as Hay Lin had just then passed by the entrance, a slightly dirty apron wrapped around her naturally svelte waist, coupled by an overall disheveled demeanor about her.

Cornelia would have been a bit more concerned by this, had it not been a weekend, which was usually when the raven haired girl would help out around her parents' restaurant (among her own busy college schedule), such as bussing a few tables or helping with the cooking within the kitchen.

However, that was how the talented Art major would always look during such times, which was a small price to pay for the admitted happiness it brought to her to be able to spend time with her family and lead a relatively normal life again.

The smile upon Cornelia's face instantly became much more genuine the moment her light blue eyes locked with Hay Lin's deep brown, and watched her generously return the gesture.

"Oh, Cornelia, you're here! That's great! Taranee's been here for a little while now, and Irma just came in about five minutes before you did," the smallest as well as youngest of the quartet of friends ushered forth as she approached Cornelia, blindly wiping her apparently soiled hands upon the hem of her apron. "Do you know how much I still can't believe how far those two have come? I mean, before they could barely be in the same room with one another without wanting to verbally - Or even physically -rip each other's throats out! But, now look! You can leave them alone together in one place, and come back to find them still in one piece! Anyway! Just head on to the back and I'll be there shortly, okay?"

Cornelia merely gave a simple nod and another broad smile in response, before watching the former Air Guardian head toward the busy kitchen, after carefully maneuvering around a couple of fellow staff members who had just then exited from the silvery double doors.

Giving a thoughtful sigh, the blonde tucked a lone strand of her long hair behind her right, chilled ear, before beginning her familiar trek toward the back of the restaurant, where she and her returned comrades routinely met every weekend for lunch.

Cornelia began to feel more and more wistful, as her mind wandered toward the individual changes the lot of them had made within the last few years.

Formerly near suicidal, and battling severe bouts of depression as well as borderline anorexia, Hay Lin has since been becoming more like the originally jovial and optimistic young woman her friends had always known her to be with each passing day . . . even if majority of the time the great torment of her formerly private hell could still be captured within the girl's once resiliently alight brown eyes.

Of them all, Cornelia admittedly felt the most attached to Hay Lin now, as the girl's once strongly and emotionally unhinged self would greatly remind her of Sitara, and of how profoundly unglued she, too, had been. In fact, the two young women had been the blonde's primary motivation for wanting to major within Clinical Psychology, so that perhaps future individuals could be spared the affecting trauma that the pair had had to endure. . . .

And so that I can do for all of my future patients what I wasn't able to do for Sitara as her friend. . . . Cornelia thought with yet another exhale, as she continued to walk through the decently packed Chinese restaurant. But at least I'm trying to make up for that by rebuilding my relationships with each of the girls. And at least Hay Lin, herself, is trying, as well, what with her eating much more and actually smiling again from time to time. It's just too bad that the same amount of effort cannot be said for everyone. . . .

As though on cue, in the same moment that Cornelia's train of thought had reached the once Water and Fire Guardians, their familiar faces could then be seen within the approaching distance.

As per usual, during each weekend luncheon together, both Taranee and Irma sat within absolute silence, straight across from one another at the group's familiar booth, and making an active point to look at anything else within the restaurant but each other.

While such a sight might have concerned any other onlooker, both Cornelia and Hay Lin knew better, as Irma and Taranee's shattered friendship was the most delicate to reform.

Still, the two had quite honestly made great strides over the years, regardless, no longer resorting to name calling, or perfectly placed lowbrow comments for the sole purpose of hurting the other.

Perhaps their improved courtesy toward one another had less to do with their dual brush with death, as it might have between Cornelia and Hay Lin, and more so to do with Irma's long overdue decision to put her life back together.

No longer abusing various substances or her own body, as well, the slender brunette, with the help and support of her stepmother, Anna, had willingly checked herself into a rehabilitation center the previous year as an inpatient.

Now, however, through her strongly evident perseverance and personal efforts to get better, Irma had just recently become an outpatient, still attending her regular meetings, with Family Therapy, as once fleetingly admitted by her, being the most beneficial.

After all, it wasn't a secret to anyone involved of how Irma's former life of disarray had been primarily brought on through the tragic loss of her father, Thomas.

However, after everything the aqua eyed girl had gone through and survived, both magical as well as social, it seemed to be (in Cornelia's observational opinion, anyhow) all the more important for her to fully recover, if for no one else but his sake.

Seeing the tallest girl approaching their table, Irma was the first to immediately shift her attention onto Cornelia, and gave her, as she always would each weekend, a faint smile and brief nod of her now pixie cut styled head.

Taranee, on the other hand, barely offered a wave once she, too, had caught sight of the familiar girl. Cornelia did not ever take much offense to this, as she was by now used to the other raven locked girl's obvious choice in exuding the least amount of emotion, positive or negative.

But it wasn't to say that the vast intellectual and Mathematics major hadn't changed at all from the former, self-imposed coarse sixteen-year-old she'd used to be. Unlike how she was now, Taranee had merely acted so aloof and uncaring to a great majority around her during that time as a sheer defense mechanism, wishing only to dissuade or deflect any sort of ongoing notion that she was just as much of a pushover or as timid as she had always been growing up.

And while, technically, she was the least likely (even by comparison to Irma, and the great strides she had made through the help of her therapy sessions during rehab) to readily open up about anything on her mind or within her personal, single life (as she had long since broken up with her steady boyfriend for many years, Nigel Ashcroft, fleetingly divulging that it had been primarily due to wanting to focus upon her schooling for now), Taranee had become far more supportive, understanding, and generally a bit more like her old self since that time.

Cornelia would sometimes wonder if the ebony haired teenager's choice in wanting to slowly, but surely reconnect with her old friends wasn't primarily out of guilt and shame over her past mistreatment and neglect of them.

She would also occasionally wonder if Taranee's desire to take her bonding with everyone again at an even pace did not have to do with her no longer having the opportunity to do so with Will, as well. . . .

Maybe losing her best friend before she'd gotten the chance to has made Taranee a bit afraid to get super close to the rest of us again . . . just in case any one of us. . . . Cornelia silently trailed off just in time, not wishing to carry on with the morbid and once all too real prospect.

Without realizing, she gave a slight shiver as a result, before taking a seat next to Taranee.

". . . . Has it gotten even colder outside, Cornelia?" the naturally chocolate eyed young woman softly ventured next to her within inquiry, lightly tugging at her loosely braided, shoulder length hair.

Nearly jumping from her place, Cornelia strained a faint smile, before swiftly nodding within response.

"U-Uh, yeah. Yeah, I guess so, Taranee," she lied within reply, slowly peeling off her white colored winter coat and scarf and let it sloppily rest behind her. "But then, you know how the weather is now. . . . Speaking of, how have you been holding up, Irma?"

Irma, apparently not having expected the loose conversation to be turned onto her so abruptly, if at all, looked up from her simple glass of spring water in surprise (a beverage she partook in more than anything else nowadays, as perhaps the fear of becoming addicted to caffeinated drinks, even, was too great for her), and raised a slim eyebrow to further reflect this.

Pausing for a moment, she lightly cleared her throat, and then shrugged momentarily before speaking.

". . . . Well, I can't really say if it's getting worse or better, to be honest. I mean, yeah, I guess I do still feel pretty wasted during this time of year especially - If you'll excuse the substance reference - from time to time, but then, in my case, it could always just mainly be due to all of the detox I've had to go through. Either way, though, at least I'm more properly dressed for the occasion," the brunette ventured in light jest and gently clinging to the thick black turtle neck and warm jeans as she did so, making a knowing callback to the far more revealing and promiscuous clothing she'd used to wear before having gotten some help.

Even though the memories of her past misguided choices were still a rather sensitive subject for her (even with all of the overwhelming support given to her from her family, the rehabilitation center, and the girls), Irma seemed to personally prefer tactfully implementing her naturally comedic side into various conversation on occasion, perhaps as both a coping mechanism as well as a way to readily acknowledge the reality of it all.

Regardless of the true reason, Cornelia, Taranee, and Hay Lin, especially, would always make it a point to humor the girl at any time this was done. And so, without fail, the once Earth and Fire Guardians let out a brief chuckle, however faint, before Taranee surprisingly took over the reins of the ongoing and slightly awkward discussion.

"Maybe, Irma . . . but at least you're trying, and that's what's most important," she unexpectedly complimented the now visibly taken aback brunette, whose naturally tanned cheeks curiously grew a bit dark as a result. "And plus, with everything that's been going on, you've also somehow managed to fit in going back to school again, as well. How are those classes over at Elpis Community College going? What major are you again, I'm sorry?"

Cornelia softly smiled to herself as she silently listened to the two formerly avid enemies gradually open up to one another a bit more (if only for the time being, at least), and Irma willingly divulged details of her recently recommenced academic career as an English major.

She was about to offer up a comment or two, herself, when the momentarily forgotten Hay Lin suddenly appeared from behind.

"Sorry for the delay, you guys! But you know how the weekends at this place can be," she offered in apology, smiling lightly at her trio of companions as she took off her dirtied apron before taking the remaining seat next to Irma.

The small ponytail of the petite young woman's pulled back hair gently tickled at her smooth neck as she did so, which caused Cornelia's own simper to widen once more in reminiscence.

It, at times, seemed like only yesterday when Hay Lin had greeted her with undeniably green tinted hair when the pair had met up again years before, that seeing her now, walking about and carrying on with her locks' natural hue of black would admittedly still catch Cornelia off guard.

At least her choice in having medium length hair has stayed the same, though, the blue eyed girl silently gave as an afterthought, before properly welcoming the younger girl to the table.

"Yeah, we all understand, Hay Lin. We were just waiting for you before hitting the buffet," Cornelia said casually, folding her slender, gradually unthawing hands together and onto the smooth table surface. "We only just started in on our weekly catching up conversation, actually, so you didn't miss much."

Hay Lin nodded in understanding, while neatly folding her apron and placed it onto her lap.

"Oh, well that's good, then. And speaking of, Cornelia, I don't know if I'd ever gotten the chance to say it before in all this time, but . . . I'm really glad that you and your mom moved back uptown in order for you to be closer to the rest of your family, after . . . you know, everything that'd happened," she delicately announced, carefully searching each of her friend's faces as though to be certain that she hadn't just risked a great deal by openly bringing up the girls' tragedy.

It wasn't a topic any one of them frequently attempted to bring up within steady conversation each time they were all together, after all, and understandably so, even in spite of all mutual progress made and decision to heal together as one.

Perhaps it had been because Hay Lin, the most sensitive of the group by default, had been the one to bring it up, for not a one of the erstwhile Guardians of the Veil even gave a flinch in reflection.

Each girl merely sat and listened within understanding, before Cornelia, the one the comment had been directed toward in the first place, appropriately spoke up.

"Yeah . . . I know, Hay Lin . . . and I'm glad, too," she said with a crooked smile, hesitating a moment, before reaching across the table to lightly rest a cool hand upon one of Hay Lin's own. "Besides, just think of how much gas money I've saved in order to see all of you regularly . . . and to get to eat your family's kickass chicken and broccoli platter whenever I want now, as well."

At this, the entire table grew silent for only a few short moments, before thankfully erupting into a chorus of appreciated, genuine laughter . . . an occurrence which was honestly few and far in between for the quartet, however was always unanimously appreciated, nonetheless.

After several more moments had passed, and being the first one to calm down, Taranee quietly asked, ". . . . Do you think she could have been as happy as we are after everything . . . or, at least, are attempting to be, too?"

Cornelia was the first to let out a deep sigh upon hearing this, knowing full well to whom the still emotionally injured girl was referring, and that she would have been the most likely of the four to have done so, especially given the current month.

Opening her mouth to respond accordingly, Cornelia was surprised to find that Irma, of all people, had beaten her to it.

". . . . I'd like to think so, yes, Taranee," the brunette began timidly, keeping her turquoise colored eyes downcast for a moment, before slowly raising them to meet with Taranee's own, which were surprisingly beginning to tear up. ". . . . If there's anything losing my dad, and then going through my A.A. and general rehabilitation process has taught me, it is to find hope and forgiveness again . . . not in just myself and the things I had done, but also within him. For so long I've still been so angry with him for leaving me so soon, you know? But, now . . . now I've finally been able to let go of the pain, and am able to begin properly moving on with my life. I'll always miss him, and the loss will always stay with me, but . . . at least now I'm able to focus on the fact that he's no longer in any sort of pain, himself, and has moved on to a better place. And I'm sure the same can be said about Will. . . ."

Rendered positively mute for what felt like an eon, at best, Taranee (who, for the first time in a long time, at last let the tears of her ongoing anguish freely fall in front of her comrades) felt her own cheeks grow flush with mixed embarrassment and appreciation at Irma's surprisingly insightful and kind words, before she found her voice again.

". . . . I-I don't know what to say to that, Irma . . . except . . . thank you," she responded with a soft sniffle, reaching up to wipe away a stray teardrop from her smooth, caramel skin. "Most of the time I try to assure myself of this, as well . . . but I guess it just always gets harder around this time of year. . . . All of us could have been here together, talking like this, while perhaps possibly planning a potential surprise birthday party for her . . . you know? About the only sort of consolation I can sometimes give myself is that, however Will had managed to . . . to defeat that sister of hers before . . . before succumbing, herself, it'd hopefully had been just as painful. . . ."

Cornelia, who was just about to extend her left hand over the raven haired young woman's back to rub within soothing comfort, promptly stopped herself at this and instantly sucked in her breath.

She knew she should have been used to such comments by now, as none of them, not even through Irma's newfound forgiveness trek, Hay Lin's naturally default kindness, or Taranee's desire to be more understanding again, had ever once seen eye to eye with her about Sitara during the extremely rare instances she had first tried to talk about her in the beginning.

However, it was admittedly becoming more and more difficult to hold her tongue out of respect for her friends' feelings as she'd always chosen to, and all the more challenging to mask her own from them.

Cornelia momentarily wondered if there wasn't something within the air which had curiously caused her to conduct her ruminations about the deceased, troubled girl earlier on in the day until now, because the next thing she realized, she'd found herself abruptly speaking out against her companion's unappreciated choice of words at long last.

"Now, that isn't really fair to say, Taranee," she began a bit weakly in defense, fleetingly regretting having done so at all the moment she'd caught sight of each girl's indignant, and honestly hurt expressions. However, oddly feeling that now was as good a time as any for all of them to finally discuss their fractured viewpoints upon Will's estranged twin to its full extent, the blonde, with faint confidence, pressed on. "Well, yeah . . . I mean, none of us can vividly recall what had truly happened that night play by play anymore, right? Not everything, anyway . . . including what became of both Sitara and Will. . . . So, who's to say that she had anything to do with Will's death, or that either of them is dead in the first place?"

Irma was the first to react to the eldest girl's newfound claims, and while a light frown of blatant disapproval was etched upon her tanned visage, her following response hadn't been one of complete dismissal, at least.

". . . . But it's been two years, now, Cornelia. Don't you think that if either twin were still alive, we would have heard something about it by now? Or, not to mention the fact that if Sitara, especially, were still alive, we probably wouldn't be?" she lightly reasoned, repeatedly tapping her right index finger against the tip of her plastic straw.

Before Cornelia could offer up any sort of rebuttal, Hay Lin, giving off a visibly strong shiver, nodded in agreement to her gradually returning best friend's words before offering up a few unionizing words of her own.

"I agree with Irma, Cornelia. . . . That is, it wasn't just us who'd nearly died on that night, but the entire planet, itself," she started, her saffron hued face beginning to scrunch up within obvious discomfort over the current matter. "Those . . . those powers of Sitara's were that phenomenal and unstable that it nearly obliterated the whole of existence. And with the four of us having a direct link to the elements of nature, we'd ended up suffering the most because of it . . . although I'm sure Will must have suffered the greatest of us all, having had the whole of our powers at once. . . . But, still . . . the planet has greatly healed since then - For the most part, at least, and along with it, the four of us, if not entirely. That couldn't be at all possible if Sitara were still around . . . because she'd surely want to finish what . . . what she'd started. . . ."

". . . . A-And we all know that if . . . Will had been allowed to survive, after all, she'd have been back within our lives by now," Taranee chimed in with a soft exhale and concluding air, peering sadly at the conflicted blonde next to her. "Please, Cornelia . . . each of us already knows how much you cared for Will's sister . . . but what we don't know is why. She murdered her family! And she'd turned on you, too, when all you wanted to do was help! Tell me you don't remember that, at least?"

Feeling yet another headache beginning to formulate, this one rather large and already knifing away at her temples, Cornelia promptly raised her left middle finger and thumb against each and rubbed vigorously.

"Taranee, you please, all right? Yes, I can recall that fact, sadly . . . but I also knew Sitara a lot better than any of you had . . . even more than Will, herself, had," she spoke lowly, her voice having lost its previous vigor as her fatigue from earlier seemed to regrettably find its way back to her. "And even though that time I had gotten to know her was brief, I . . . I. . . . Ugh, just look, all right? I'm not trying to say that I'm excusing the things she had done or had tried to do . . . but I have taken Irma's route and have long since forgiven her for her actions. And whether or not she - Or Will - is still alive by some miracle, I'm sure she would appreciate that. . . . So, let's just . . . agree to disagree upon this, all right?"

Even though she had been the one to bring up the overall conversation in the first place, with the intention of finally reaching a much more amicable resolve upon the matter, Cornelia now only desired to simply end the discussion.

It was clear to her now that no matter what was said or how she personally felt about it, she was always going to be outnumbered by her fellow companions.

If only they had gotten the opportunity to know you before everything had happened, Sitara. Maybe that could have made a huge difference . . . for all of us, Cornelia thought sullenly for a moment, as she watched her trio of friends each slowly nod in concurrence upon her previous words.

Although she still looked a bit shaken up and bothered by their former topic, Hay Lin managed to flash each girl surrounding her a small, but authentic smile before rising from her seat.

". . . . Well, what say we go get something to eat then, huh? A nice, warm meal and company with friends will do us all some good, I think," she said with light hope shining forth within her otherwise misty brown eyes.

With yet another unanimous nod, the remaining young women each slid from out of their shared booth and uneasily began to make their way toward the buffet area of the Chinese restaurant.

Cornelia, trailing behind as she became more and more lost within her thoughts all over again, stopped a moment to gaze outside one of the establishment's heat clouded windows.

". . . . I hope that wherever you've ended up in the end . . . you've found peace, Sitara," she solemnly whispered to herself, before resuming her walk toward her surviving friends to partake within another shared and bittersweet meal together.

- End of Chapter 2

(A.N. I'm fairly pleased with the overall execution of this chapter. That is, I feel I'd managed to convey and cover just about everything both Senshi of Valis and 5hadow Lady had intended to reveal within this chapter. At least, I hope I have. LoL I'M just mainly excited that their story is finally able to be shared with you all after so long. AND, I'd just realized, literally four years to the day that the story had first been published. It's a sign. LoL

Anyway! I hope all you Sitara fans enjoyed it, and even newcomers . . . although you should probably go check out my Requiem for a Dream story to understand this chapter a bit more, seeing as I'd purposefully didn't SUPER super cover every little detail of reasons why the girls are as they are now, etc.

And if the whole of you are confused as to why they're even alive and Will, instead, ISN'T, no worries, because Senshi of Valis and 5hadow Lady had all of that covered, too. I'm just reporting it. LoL)