~Chapter Forty-Seven: Did You Say Lapis Lazuli?~

Ash's Point of View

My eyes opened slowly as the bright morning light spilled in my room. I yawned and looked down at Kiyo who was still curled against my chest. I smiled to myself and rubbed her back gently. I didn't want to wake her by moving, but I needed to get dressed and talk to some people before breakfast.

I looked around the room while waiting for Kiyo to wake. Everything was just as it had been the night before. The book I had been reading was still sitting on my glass coffee table and my coat was hanging over the back of the black leather couch. All my closest and bathroom doors were still closed. Kiyo's shoes were still beside my bedroom door. The jeans and blouse she had been wearing the day before were still neatly folded in my recliner. Before I could continue my sweep of the room, Kiyo stirred.

"Mmm…what time is it?" she mumbled sleepily as she rolled over so her face was hidden in the pillow. Her hair was tousled and tangled. I smiled at how cute she was when she first woke up in the morning.

"It is almost eight-thirty," I answered her as I leaned over and kissed the back of her neck. I heard her sigh, and then she rolled back over to face me.

"It's too early to be alive," she complained. Kiyo was not a morning person to say the least. She had never been. I chuckled.

"I would love to agree with you, my dear, but I have things I need to get done before breakfast, which starts at nine-thirty," I reminded her gently. She made a face, but reluctantly sat up. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and yawned.

"I'm just glad breakfast isn't so formal," she said. Kiyo didn't hate the formal dinner, but sometimes I found her snuggled in her bed, eating pizza and fries, while watching television. I would join her, of course.

"Me too, love. I don't think I could even handle eating so formally in the morning," I said as I caressed her beautiful face. She smiled at me and kissed me gently on the lips.

"Good morning," she said while leaning against me. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her head.

"Good morning to you as well," I said, and then I got out of the bed and stretched. Kiyo flopped back down in the bed before kicking her legs over the side, and sitting on the edge of the bed.

"So, what's on the agenda for today?" she asked, while yawning again and stretching her arms over her head.

"Well, I need to speak with Edge before breakfast about some security things, and then we'll have breakfast. You can spend some time with your friends before they head off to training or whatever their plans are for the day. If I'm not mistaken, I think Yoru was meeting up with Tsu and Cheshire in the Sanctuary to find out some things and see how things are going for her friends and the people who don't support Elliot. You have some fittings today and a class with Yomi and Lady Fonda about what it really means to be a Queen's Right Hand." Kiyo rolled her eyes at that. "Then, I thought maybe you and I could have lunch in the gardens and spend some time together before we have to go to meetings with the inner circle, etcetera. After that, the day is yours," I said as I turned on the television to the news, just to see what the press was saying about the war and my kingdom.

"Sounds like it has the potential to be a good day except for the class with Lady Fonda," she said, as she came to sit by me on the couch.

"Indeed. I was thinking about tacos for lunch. Sound good to you?" I asked her. She beamed at me.

"You just read my mind," she said as she kissed my cheek again. Kiyo loved her Mexican food. I laughed again.

"Good. I'll tell the cooks. I'm going to get in the shower and then head on out, okay? You take your time though," I said as I rose from the couch and started for the bathroom.

"I want to finish watching this, and then I'm going to head back to my room to change and shower," she said, turning around to face me, smiling. God, her smile could make a blind man see the sun.

"Or you could always shower with me," I countered, smiling playfully at her. She blushed, but returned the smile.

"Nice try, hot shot. But not today," she said, while turning back to the news. I laughed and went to take my shower.

Once, I had finished drying off, I entered my closet from a door in my bathroom. I chose a pair of dark slacks to wear with a navy blue polo top. I would change when it came time for the meeting.

I left my closet and entered the main part of my bedroom. Kiyo was gone, but Tornado was resting on my made bed, which meant she would be coming back tonight. I smiled to myself and touched the silver chain I never took off. It had been a gift from Kiyo in the first life we ever met. It meant almost more to me than she herself did. Almost. Engraved on one of the links was a little heart. I remembered when she gave it to me like it was yesterday.

I quickly shook off the oncoming memory. I grabbed my watch and cell phone off my nightstand before I left the room.

The castle was already buzzing. Maids and butlers were on the move and many of the castle's residents were up and moving as well. Fear passed me in the hallway. "It's going to be a long day. There was already an attack on the small village of Redina. I sent a small band of soldiers and General Bak to check it out," she said as she passed me. I nodded, choosing not to comment with so many people around.

The attacks were coming more frequently and closer to the castle. Redina was only about one hundred fifty miles north of Zephyr. I shook my head to some servants who bowed when I came by and asked if I needed anything. I dismissed them with a polite smile and the shake of my head.

I passed the dining the hall and took a left turn. I then found myself standing in front of the first door on the right of the hallway. The door was locked by a code and a swab for DNA. I entered the pass code and a swab appeared in a hole in the wall next to the door. I stuck the swab in my mouth and then put it back in the hole. It was sucked up, and a minute later, the door opened. I stepped inside and the shut the door behind me.

Edge was already waiting for me at the long table at one end of the room. Almost the whole rest of the room was covered with large televisions and computers. This was the strategy and security room. Three of the televisions were turned on the news. The others all had surveillance cameras on them. There was surveillance of the castle, Zephyr, some parts of the Sanctuary, and the list went on.

"Ash," Edge said, bowing slightly. "I have some bad news," he continued, as he sat back in his chair. I took a seat at the table as well.

"What is it?" I asked, trying to remain cool and collected. Even though, Edge was one of my closest friends, I still needed to keep my emotions in check as best I could. I needed to set an example.

"The attacks are becoming more frequent and closer. The latest one happened early this morning in Redina," he said, while turning to one of the computers.

"I know. Fear told me on my way here," I said, nodding. Edge had pulled up a digital map of the Paranormal World. It was updated every five minutes, so all the information was accurate. It was sort of like a better, more advanced version of Google Maps as Kiyo once compared it to. "Elliot wants the war to become more physical and bring it closer to my kingdom, rather than his. He wants to put me at a disadvantage, so he has a better chance to attack me one and one," I said, becoming more nervous about what Edge was about to tell me. He nodded.

"Yes, but I don't think that's what the meaning behind these attacks are. I looked back over all the recent attacks and the reports from news media and other eyewitnesses. Their attacking smaller towns and cities instead of major ones, and the way the sites are burned and ravaged show that the soldiers are looking for something," he said, turning to look me in the eye. I felt my fangs protrude slightly and I'm sure my face revealed my anger and worry. They were looking for Kiyo and her friends.

"That's not all, Ash. At some of these attacks, residue of Darkness was found. It was like they were using Darkness as a fire. It was like they were trying to smoke someone out. Something that has also occurred at all these recent attacks, all the young girls with dark hair were tied up in a line. Anyone who tried to help them was killed instantly. All the girls were killed." He stopped and asked if he should continue. A nod was all I could manage. "The last thing that I found was that Elliot himself was present at all of these attacks," he finished gravely.

"He's looking for her. He thinks I'm hiding her somewhere," I said, emotionless. Edge nodded.

"The next place he'll look is Zephyr," I whispered.

"Yes sir," Edge said, placing a hand on my shoulder.

"When have you predicted he'll attack?" I asked, while I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose.

"Next weekend, sometime in the night," he said. I rose and walked towards the door.

"We need to send them somewhere before that. Somewhere Elliot wouldn't expect. But none of us could go. That would be too suspicious," I said, pacing in front of the door.

"I agree, but who do you trust enough to send them with?" Edge asked, focusing on the computer screen again. The only people, who I could send them with who would keep them safe, would be Avalanche. I gritted my teeth at the thought, but it was the only way. Elliot doesn't know that we've reconnected with Justuo yet, so he wouldn't be looking for him. He could take Mpopyya to the Feywood."

"Avalanche will take them to the Feywood," I said. Edge nodded.

"It's the only way, my brother," he said.

"We must not tell them why they are going. I'll tell them they are getting their rooms re-decorated or something," I said, opening the door. "Have the rest of the Inner Circle meet after breakfast," I said, while opening the door and composing my face.

"Of course, my king," Edge said. Then I closed the door.

Kairi's Point of View

"Yoru, we really need to train some more. Avi kicked our asses," I whined as we walked down the paved walkway of East Zephyr. It was more like cobblestone due to the middle aged theme. The sun overhead was hot and sweltering despite it only being spring. My hair was tied back, and my forehead was slightly moist from perspiration.

"I think we did pretty well despite the little surprise – surprises, really – Kimiko and Akira," she said nonchalantly. I nodded, remembering the spar between Akira and Edge. Yoru had told me later that he was a Werewolf. I had remembered Kimi not enjoying being close to him, even if it was subconscious.

Suddenly, a drunken man about six feet tall, stumbled out of The Tavern, knocking into me, which threw me into Yoru. She growled in an automatic response before helping me balance. The man, bearded and burley with thick arms of muscle, turned his beady eyes to us. "Watch it, miss. A little lady like yourself shouldn't be near The Tavern at this time, especially by yourself." His voice was slurred with alcohol, and he seemed to grunt instead of speak. He reeked of the intoxication.

"Actually, she wasn't alone, sir, we are together," Yoru said, anger and disgust clearly on her face.

"I don't like your spunk, girl," the man snapped. His breath was hot and nasty when it hit my face,

"Use a mint," I added. "Your breath is horrid."

"Some cologne wouldn't hurt much, either," Yoru said.

Several onlookers had gathered during our arguing. The man glared at us before speaking. "You're just a couple of smart asses, aren't you? You're coming with me, girlies."

"Bull shit!" I said, stepping back and keeping Yoru behind me. The man grabbed me by the front of my shirt. Yoru was about to dart into action when the man tossed me back onto her! We tumbled to the cobblestone ground with a painful thump. Disoriented, I twisted and turned to get off of Yoru

"Kairi, get up!" she said, offering a hand once she was upright. Pulling me to my feet, she faced the large man. We took up defensive stances as he stumbled forward. We had quite a few viewers now, even some that were poking their heads out of winders and doors, I noted.

With a quick nod, we split ways. Yoru went left, and I dodged right. He stumbled in confusion before turning towards me. I felt trapped due to the lack of space; The Tavern was to my right. He came after me, and my only chance was to roll to my left. When I landed, I turned just in time to see the burly man stumbling to the right too much and knocking a bottle of rum from a girl's hand who had been watching the brawl. He straightened and looked at her.

"Watch where you're going, miss," he said as he swayed on his feet. He glanced at the ground where the broken bottle of rum lay, spilling and seeping into the cobblestone. Yoru and I exchanged glances before looking back to the girl. "It's a shame you wasted such a costly bottle of rum!" he grunted. The girl, who could be no more than twenty years old, if that, glared with such icy malice that I'm surprised the drunken man didn't drop dead. I felt her emotions swirling, swelling around me. With as much emotional control I could muster, I fended off her onslaught of emotions.

And then the temperature began to drop. Drastically. I shivered, only seconds ago being hot and sweaty. I glanced to Yoru, making sure I wasn't the only one feeling this effect. Maybe it was a part of the whole emotional thing that I had been experiencing lately. But glancing around, I saw that the watching crowd, which had grown, and Yoru, both, were visibly shaken by the change.

My eyes darted back to the clearly Elven girl. She had the pointed ears that most of them had, and her hair was choppy and black, only reaching just below her ears. Her arms were faintly tattooed in a swirling pattern that stretched to her hands. She wore a simple cloak that brushed her knees. The hood was down, and the cloak was open, revealing a dark top with no sleeves. Her pants were the same color, and were simple, leading down to her darkly colored boots.

And before my eyes, ice began to spread across the cobblestone from under those boots. My mouth dropped in surprise. Her cold glare burned like the now frigid air on my bare skin. "You messed with the wrong Elf," she snarled.

"Look, lady," but the man was cut off. The Elf girl punched him hard, so hard that the man fell onto his back, completely disoriented. Cheers erupted from the crowd and the girl seemed annoyed by this. Her gray eyes fell on Yoru and me before she closed the distance between us. Yoru joined me by my side as the mystery girl and cold weather chill approached us.

"You both okay?" she asked. Her tone was cool, bur far from pissed. The air was warming up again, too. As that cool chill receded, I noticed her anger that surrounded her faded back towards her. It was almost a visible entity.

"Yea," Yoru replied for us. I couldn't hold the question in that was bubbling to my lips.

"Do you control ice?" I asked before I could stop myself. This acquired a small, humorless smile and a grim reply.

"Nope. Affinity for winter weather," she said wryly. She stopped, seeming to have surprised herself by answering. I pursed my lips. She didn't seem very open. I would let Yoru do the rest of the talking. She was always smarter than me with words anyway.

"Thanks for the help…uh..?" Yoru paused, without a name to add to the Elf girl.

"Lapazuli. And sure." Her words were prompt. Then, like that, she began to retreat back to The Tavern. Lapazuli…? Like Lapis Lazuli, the stone? Yoru and I exchanged glanced for a long while before silently agreeing to help Lapazuli out, as payment for her lost bottle of rum.

We entered The Tavern, and found it dimly lit. The small of alcohol and grunge was heavy in my nostrils. A bar sat near the front of the place, wrapping halfway around the connected wall to the left. Men and women alike were scattered throughout the room, chatting loudly or complaining about their days. I saw Lapazuli making her way to a dark corner of the bar.

"You sure this is a good idea?" I asked as I watched a large, gruff guy walk by us. "These people could kill us."

"It isn't anything we haven't been through before," Yoru said, shrugging.

"Good point," I said. We walked through the dark place, making our way to Lapazuli, weaving through tables and people alike. When we got closer to Lapazuli, I noticed a slight movement around her neck. Only until we were right beside her, did I notice it was a snake wrapped around her neck.

My eyes bugged out, and I knew Yoru was a bit timid due to this fact as well. And if Yoru was timid, then the snake must have been poisonous. Yoru cleared her throat and spoke. "Hello again," she said, sounding polite. She was using the voice she used to use when she would call the house phone of a friend and their parent would pick up.

"You followed me," Lapazuli stated. It wasn't phrased as a question, but I answered it anyway.

"Yea, we wanted to pay for a new bottle of Rum since you helped us," I said offering a smile. I wasn't sure if she was annoyed or not, but her words were clear.

"I don't need your money." It was simple, distant, but not cold and sharp as when she was talking to drunken man.

"We insist, Lapazuli," Yoru said, but she cut off immediately.

"Don't use my full name," Lapazuli said, sounding annoyed now. "Azi. If you're going to call me anything."

"Azi," Yoru corrected herself. "We would have been in big trouble if you hadn't came in and saved…" I cut her off this time. She was putting us down!

"Hey, we aren't completely…" Yoru's elbow jutted into my elbow backwards into my stomach with a sharp pain. "Ow!"

"Kairi, shut up. We would've been doomed if you hadn't shown up. So please allow us to buy you some more rum." I held my tongue, despite my urge to say we weren't weak. "Kairi, go buy the most expensive bottle," Yoru said, handing me a handful of golden coins.

"Gotcha," I said turning away. I walked towards the bartender, slightly worried he'd ask my age. Once there, I asked for the finest of their rum and gave him the coins, telling him he could keep an extra tip. I'd give the rest to Azi; Ash had plenty to spare.

I returned to find Yoru and Azi talking about the snake coiled around her neck. "His name Azorroth," she was saying. "He talks, right, Azorroth?"

"Of course," the thing hissed. I shuddered, not in fear, but at the strangeness of the other worlds. It's sad that I'd been living here for so long, and I didn't even know all of the possibilities.

"Well, it wouldn't be the first time we've seen talking animals," Yoru said. I handed her the rum as Azi raised an eyebrow but didn't ask. "Here, I hope it makes up for your lost bottle." Yoru offered the bottle to her, and she hesitantly took it.

"Take this, too," I said, offering the five golden coins. Her eyes widened for only a split second; it's probably because gold pieces are hard to come by.

"I'm not taking your money," Azi said immediately. All of the little bit of social opening she had shown was gone now. "The both of you are tougher than you say. You could have easily taken that man down. I'm not taking it."

"Please do," Yoru said.

"No. I'll be in dept and all that lovely shit. No. You're lucky I'm taking the rum. We're even now," Azi said. With a quick flick of my wrist, I tossed the gold pieces into a pocket in her bags sitting near her. She glanced down in surprise before looking up in accusation. "Hey!"

I grabbed Yoru's arm and pulled her back towards the exit at a fast sprint. "It was nice meeting you, Azi!"

"Damn it, you! Wait!" I heard her call before we stumbled out of the tavern. Yoru and I laughed as we sprinted in the darkening dusk of evening, back towards the castle.

Azi's Point of View

I watched them go, a frown on my face, my fists clenched in anger. Damn them, now I'm in dept! I thought to myself, furious. I took the coins from the pocket they'd landed in. They shined in the dim lighting.

"No need to cry over spilt milk," Azorroth hissed. "If they insist on giving you money, take it."

"I don't take hand outs," I muttered before grabbing my bags to head for my room in the back of the tavern. The bar keeper nodded as I did. Once in my room, I locked the door behind me. Azorroth slithered off of my shoulders and onto the bed where I tossed my bags. Night was claiming the world outside. I lit a lantern to keep the room illuminated. I then sat on the bed with the bed with the new bottle of run in hand. I put my bags on the ground beside the bed. Then, I thought back to the two girls from today.

Two girls, younger than me, that were obviously rich, came by. Got into a fist fight with a drunken man. He spilled my rum, so I fought back. No damage down right? But those damn girls, so insistent. And the one, Kairi, had pink hair! Was that even natural?! Why had they slipped me that money? I suppressed a groan.

Tomorrow, I'd go on the hunt for some more money. I wanted a good horse anyway. Maybe I'd run into those girls. If I did, I was going to shove their gold back into their pockets and hope to not see the pair again. With this comforting thought, I was consumed by deep sleep.

Running. I am running. As fast as I can, I try to get to his side. Fire is engulfing the forest. Mother and Father are already dead. But he isn't. Not yet. A tree falls in my path, embers, flames, and charred wood raining down on me.

I gasp in surprise, falling backwards to get out of harm's way. I quickly right myself and peer over the flaming tree. He's right near several of the Vampires that are raiding our clan. I run forward, leaping over the tree and just barely landing. I stumbled, mid-stride, and lost my footing.

I hit the ground. I urge myself to stand again, and only adrenaline allows me to. When I'm on my feet, I take off running again. The Vampires hear me coming, but don't pay me much mind. I pull out my bow, notch an arrow, and let it fly. It rips into one of the male's flesh. They turn their attention away from my struggling brother. He catches sight of me and begins to struggle more.

"Azi, no!" he sputters. One of the Vampire Blood Whores slaps him and tells him to shut up. This fuels my anger. The other Vampires have begun to move towards me. I show no fear despite my young age. I allow another arrow to slice the air and gorge into another of the Vampires. He falls, dead. "Azi, please run!" my brother manages, but that dumb parasite grabs his throat, squeezing with what I guess is unbearable force.

"Stop!" I scream, sending an arrow towards her. It slams into her shoulder, and she hisses in anger. With her nails, she drags long cuts across his face and bare chest.

"Azi!" he yells in agony. "Run!"

"Fenris!" My screams are loud, so loud they hurt my eardrums.

I woke to my own screams, sweat soaking me, lungs empty and aching, breath raspy and fast like my racing heart. "Damn it," I whispered. Azorroth raised his head, not surprised by my outburst.

"Dreams aren't reality," he said.

"Speak for yourself," I muttered. I didn't bother trying to sleep again. Instead, I left the tavern in the early morning dew. Cool air soothed my fevered skin and helped chase away the nightmare. The humid, chilly air, which was cooler than yesterday's heat wave, brought calming breath to my raw lungs.

The sun was still sleeping. In a few minutes, it would begin to peek over the horizon and warm the town of Zephyr and its cobblestone streets. The people would be irritable and feverish today due to the warmer weather that was beginning to thrive; the perfect conditions for pick-pocketing.

I went to an alley, slid into the shadows, and crouched into a comfortable position. I refused to doze off. I watched as people began to fill the streets; it was a Sunday so there'd be plenty of costumers for merchants and venders to set up and sell to. The sun began to scorch the stony streets of Zephyr. Soon, the streets were filled and flowing with crowds.

I stepped into the river of people, some being travelers from distant places. Species with cat ears and tails with Sanctian faces passed me, and I couldn't help thinking how strange they looked. I started my pick-pocketing. Most didn't notice. I usually went for Sanctians due to their oblivious nature. Never did I look for a Vampire's pocket to swipe. So when I found myself swiping a good twelve gold pieces from a Vampire with red and black hair, I was almost ashamed of myself. Vampires and Vampyres (which honestly were no different in my eyes except for the whole daylight thing) were not an ally of mine. The worst part of this unnatural encounter was that he was standing in broad daylight, not even flinching. I shivered, remembering only one other that I knew who could do that.

His name had been Trace. Trace Saviore. He was the leader that invaded mu village. I hated him with a passion, and I didn't even know him.

When I rounded the corner, I gasped when I ran right into somebody. I stepped back and muttered, "Sorry," before my eyes fell on the face of the man I'd run into. The Vampire I had just pick-pocketed was standing right there. My eyes widened as he spoke.

"You don't happen to be the Elf that just took my money, are you?" His eyes had faded to a bloody red.

"Oh shit," I breathed.

"Oh shit is right." He spoke with his lips revealing his fangs, as if it were an intimidating factor. Quite honestly, Vampires didn't scare me. They unsettle me and brought repressed memories to the surface of my mind. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and jerked me forward. The temperature around me sank immediately. He threw fire into the air around us as a reaction. Several on-lookers stared in amazement as he continued to pull me.

"Ice tricks don't work on me." He dragged me forward, and I found it impossible to break from his grasp.

"Where are you taking me?" I spat.

"The castle," he said simply.

"Why?" I asked critically.

"I'm in the king's inner circle. So you've stolen from a royal," he replied with a smirk in his voice. "And that punishable by law." I ground my teeth to keep from yelling at him. He pulled me swiftly towards the huge, towering walls that surrounded the even large castle. Once in those walls, who knew if I'd come out. That's why dread consumed me when I was dragged into the castle itself and the doors shut behind me. I didn't let it show. He pulled me through the halls of grand furnishing and décor.

The next thing I knew, I was being led into the throne room. But I became confused when I saw who was waiting there. The girls from yesterday – Kairi and Yoru – both stood there before a young girl with dark blue hair. Kairi looked up and smiled at the sight of us – or maybe at the sight of the guy dragging me.

"Skye!" she said with a smile. Her eyes flickered to me, then, and that smile faltered. "Azi?" she asked.

"Yea. Hi," I said bitterly.

"Skye, what did you do?" Kairi said with accusation in her voice.

Kairi's Point of View

"She stole from me," Skye said, looking a little taken aback that I knew Azi.

"She's my from," I said simply. I saw her scoff at that, but said nothing.

"Kairi, please don't be difficult," Skye complained. I raised an eyebrow, and was about to reply.

"Ash isn't here right now," Kiyo chimed in, loving to oppose Skye in any way.

"Then she can stay in the dungeon for now," Skye said bitterly. He turned away with Azi close behind him. I exchanged glances with Yoru before taking off after him.

"Skylar!" I shouted after him. "Skylar Eden Fateless!" He didn't stop for anything.

"Did I hear Skye's name?!" Mizu called from a hallway near us. I ignored her, and continued to follow Skye towards the dungeon. I began to run to keep up with him.

"Sorry, Kairi," he muttered before going into the heavily guarded dungeon. The door closed behind him before I could slip in. And guess who happened to be guarding at this particular time? Raj. Raj!

I gave him a sickly sweet smile while my eyes glared at him. Night Rider was with him. What were they these days? The Double Duo? "Let me down there, please," I asked with a forced kind-voice.

"No can do, little Fatewin," Raj said with a triumphant smile. "How're your sore muscles?"

"Ah, I see," I said with no reply to question. I let the fake smile fade from my mouth. A hand on my shoulder kept me from punching him in the jaw; which from the way he handled that so well two days before, you would have thought I would have known better.

"That's okay. We'll speak with Ash." Yoru's voice came from behind me. She pulled me back towards the throne room. Mizu came scrambling down the hall.

"Where's Skye? I heard you yelling at him," she said, keeping up with Yoru's brisk pace that was pulling me along with it.

"Skye put out from in the dungeon for 'stealing from him'," Yoru sighed. "Truthfully, she needs the money more than us."

"Honestly," I muttered.

"I can talk to him!" Mizu declared. "I can get anything I want out of him." Her devious smile had my mind instantly in the gutter. The thought of Mizu and my brother doing intimate things made me shudder.

"Don't say it like that, Mizu," I said pinching the bridge of my nose. I could feel the atmosphere getting a little lighter, though.

"I'm sure that you and Li-," Mizu began, but I quickly cut her off.

"Lancer and I haven't thought of anything of the sorts!" My death glare reminded her that she needed to be very careful of what she said about my "relationship" and, that she needed to think before she spoke.

"Right," Mizu replied, playing along. "I'm sure you and Lancer haven't thought of dirty things."

"How did we get on this topic?" Yoru asked abruptly. I half expected her to twitch like an anime girl caught in a perverted conversation.

"Good question," I added, feeling the same way.

"I'll find Skye, kay?" Mizu said, bubbly and normal again instead of Hentai and flirty.

"Gotcha. We'll find Ash," I said. She practically ran down the hall in the direction we had come.

"Mizu will be Mizu," Yoru said. We'd come to a stop.

"Got that right," I agreed. "Let's go. Azi's probably freaking out."

Azi's Point of View

I counted the seconds until another minute. When sixty seconds came, I scratched a tally mark into the stone wall of the cell. It had been two hours. I was beginning to panic in this tiny cell. In my head, I mentally slapped myself for the small piece of me that had believed the two girls would come and rescue me from the stony hell.

I focused on the time, and tried to concentrate on breathing deeply. The one-hundred and twenty-five tallies grew by one more. Then, I heard the sound of salvation. The creak of the heavy, iron door that closed me off from the outside world caught my attention. Light poured into the grey-stone dungeon like magic.

I hoped it was Kairi so I could grab her by that pink hair of her's and shake her really hard. It was her stupid Vampire brother that did this anyway!

"It seems the king has found it plausible to pardon you." It was that strange man with red and purple hair. He was one of the guards in front of the iron door. I didn't say anything. He unlocked the barred door, releasing some of the claustrophobia that I had been feeling. He escorted me out into the brightly lit hallway.

These lights were also like magic. There was no flame, but an orb of light instead. The halls looked nothing like the dank dungeon below, but were instead carpeted and strangely warm. It had a homely feeling. The walls were also strangely bland and comforting. I was escorted back towards the throne room, but I wasn't forced this time. I also took in all the portraits and paintings, lights and doors.

Some doors had little labels, almost like name tags. I didn't have enough time to read them. I was ushered into the throne room where an impatient Kairi and Yoru waited. A dark haired man sat next to the petite girl with dark blue hair. Skylar stood in the back ground of this scene. Three other girls were there, too.

A girl with long golden hair fidgeted as if she were full of energy. The other two, who were talking quietly among themselves, grew quiet as I entered. One had an aqua color to their hair. The other could've passed for Skylar's sister due to her dark black and crimson red tips.

"My Lord, this is the Elven girl," the man with weird hair knelt down. I watched him with a precarious eye before glancing up to see Kairi looking a bit bewildered. She kept pointing down. Yoru had glanced down.

Bow! Kairi mouthed. That's the king. She pointed towards the man in the throne as subtly as she could without seeming too obvious. My eyes widened before I knelt on one knee.

"I'm sorry, your grace," I said quickly. I didn't want to die. I wanted to keep my head so I could enjoy another bottle of rich rum before my life came to an end.

"That's quite alright. Please, stand. You as well, Raj," the king with dark hair said. Kairi made a face when Raj's name was mentioned. "Skye tells me you stole from him, but with how he acted it would seem you had stolen his life." He paused to chuckle. "Twelve gold pieces is all? Please, dear," he paused again. "Well, I don't know your name."

"Uh…just call me Azi," I said quickly.

"Her is Lapazuli," Kairi added hastily. I tossed a cold glare at her.

"Yes, Lapazuli Nightlock," I said tightly.

"Azi, you said you prefer?" I nodded. "Well, from what Kairi and Yoru tell me, you could use a few spar gold pieces. What kind of king would let his people go without?" I wasn't sure what to say in response to his kindness. So instead, I let him continue. "Feel free to leave and go as you please. There's no need to be bashful."

"Um, thanks," I said lamely. I wasn't sure what else to say. I'd heard of the king's kindness, but never experienced it firsthand. I watched Kairi and Yoru slap each other's hands before approaching me. I wasn't sure what to say.

"Come and meet the rest of Mpopyya!" Kairi said, grabbing my arm. I was rather reluctant to do this, but in the presence of the king, I was rather reluctant to disobey her.

"Muh Pop Yuh?" I asked.

"Yea, like Mpopyya upside the head!" the girl with long brown hair said, meeting Kairi halfway. "My name's Kiyomi. Or Yomi for short."

"I'm Mizuki! But please call me Mizu," the girl with bright blue hair said as she and the Skye-Twin girl followed in Yomi's wake.

"And I'm Yami," the girl with black and red hair said.

"And that's Kiyo," Kairi commented as she pointed at the girl on the throne who was standing to take her place among the other girls.

"She's the queen," Mizu said matter-of-factly.

"Stop that," Kiyo said, seeming to be embarrassed at Mizu's praise.

"Don't be modest, Kiyo," the king said with a warm smile in her direction.

I wanted out of there. There were too many people, and I didn't like the claustrophobic feeling the castle and its walls gave me. "Maybe you could come back for dinner or something," Yoru was saying.

"Maybe," I said after a long pause. "But I have to go now."

"Aw, so soon?" Kairi asked. I didn't even know her, and she wanted me to stay? Was this child a joke? I didn't speak my thoughts.

"Yes," I replied simply. I turned to leave.

"Bye, it was nice meeting you!" Yomi called as I walked away. I stopped, unsure of what to say to these positive girls and their king.

"Yea, maybe I guess so," I said after awhile.

Kairi's Point of View

"I don't think your new friend liked us," Kiyo was saying on the way to dinner that evening.

"She doesn't like people in general…," Yoru said.

"I wonder why…," I wondered aloud. Hmm, Lapazuli Nightlock seemed to have more to her than what was on the outside. Of course, everyone was like that.

Later that evening, Kiyo came to my room. It was rather late, and I had expected her to have gone to bed way earlier. It wasn't like her to stay up late, especially lately. She had been going through a lot of queenly things like listening to people from her kingdom and helping with political issues. Ash was teaching her the ropes of learning to rule a kingdom.

Kiyo's hair was messy with restlessness. I sensed weariness flowing from her in the air; in her presence was distinct uneasiness. She closed my door and crossed the room before sitting down on the end of my bed, keeping her mouth closed and eyes droopy. Her silence was thoughtful before I broke it.

"Couldn't sleep?" I asked lightly.

"I have good reason," she said a few moments later. I raised a curious eyebrow but whispers filled my mind.

Past lives haunt you even in your present life, Kairi, Trace said before Kiyo even took a breath to explain what was wrong.

"I've been thinking a lot lately, Kairi," she said. Her loose pajama pants were an indicator that she hadn't been sleeping with Ash tonight. I felt a glum feeling at this. Was she thinking about her and Justuo's past? I pursed my lips to keep from asking the questions that bubbled in my mind. "What are past lives? Do they define who we are? Or what we're to become?"

I thought about that for a second. "Past lives…Well it seems to me that our present life is always in the shadow of our past lives," I replied slowly.

"But shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't our present life be a light to shine the shadows of mystery from our past? We should learn from the past," Kiyo pointed out.

I nodded slowly. A tingly sensation filled my mind and spread down my neck and spine. I gasped aloud before I felt his control over me. When I spoke, it was not my own will or words.

"But how can you learn from something you have no clue about, dear?" Trace asked through my mouth. Kiyo sensed a change about me, then. She pursed her lips like I had done before she swallowed.

"Hello, Trace," she said after a moment.

"Ah, boku no Kiyo." I wasn't in control now. My limbs were held in place with his will. It was like I was in a dark room. There were two views at which I could see; one I could tell was through my own eyes. The other one, which seemed farther away, wasn't my room or even a place that I knew. But he knew where this place was. And with his knowledge, I stepped (not quite literally stepped) towards the picture that was farther away.

I found myself smiling, and I found myself tingling. I looked down, and it was like I had fallen into someone else's body. My hands were rough and callused. My hair was short, so very short that it just tickled the back of my neck. My body was tight with muscle, and the best part about it all was that it only took me a split second to realize all of this.

My vision was sharp and acute. My sense of smell caught every molecule that was breathed into my lungs. My hearing caught the smallest of noises, even something as soft as dust flecks landing on a shelf nearby. I blinked, and moved, much too fast and with much too much force behind my movement.

I glanced around the room, and saw the reflection of "me" inside. My mouth dropped open. Trace was staring back at me.

Or rather, Trace's body was staring back at me. I was myself. I lifted my arm sloppily, moved my fingers, and twitched my bare foot. I was in control of him!

"Trace?" a voice that was unmistakable spoke. I slowly turned my head back to the door. Lightning stood in the doorway. I stood quickly, stumbling as I did, and crossed the room faster than what I thought was possible. It was strange to be so tall. Lightning stepped back, eyes reddening. I wrapped my arms around his waist, forgetting about Trace's body.

"Lightning…," I whispered.

"Get the fuck off me," he whispered fiercely.

"Wait, what?" I breathed, letting go of him. He pushed me back.

"Stop. What the hell are you doing?" he asked.

"Lightning, it's me," I said slowly. "Kairi?" I hadn't seen him since we were both practically dead! Surprisingly…that had only been five days ago…

His face went blank, almost forced. "What kind of game are you playing, Sensei?"

"Oh!" I was in Trace's body. I couldn't help but smile, and quickly shake my head. "No, no, I really am Kairi. You see, I share this mind connection with Trace, and he possessed me while I was with Kiyo. I think, I accidently swapped bodies with him or something." I paused for a moment of thought. "I'm not sure how it works, honestly."

"Kairi, is that really you?" His eyes lightened, fading back to blue slowly. His voice was unsure. "You can't possibly be here."

"But I am!" I said, hugging him. He flinched when I hugged him. It was strange. We were the same height. I couldn't tuck my head under his chin.

"Love, this is really awkward," he said after a moment.

"I'm sorry, Lightning," I said, blushing slightly, which must've been a trip to see on Trace's face. I smiled mischievously at the possibilities I could do. I dismissed them, of course, and sat down on his bed instead. Lightning joined me. Weirdly enough, I still snuggled closer to him, despite the awkwardness of Trace's body.

In his arms, though, there was something very off about him. He was rigid, as if barely in control of his own body. I didn't think anything of it. I couldn't bring myself to ask. I just enjoyed his company, his touch, even if it wasn't against my skin. It was…a strange experience, indeed.

Trace's Point of View

Kairi's body was light and weak. Each touch against her skin was intensified. Her sight was poor, almost dim in comparison to my usual vision. Her smell was pretty terrible, too. But I could smell Kiyo. He scent was fresh in my nostrils. She hadn't been here long, so it was fresh in the air around Kairi.

An explosion of emotions barreled through her. I was taken aback at how many feelings were surrounding her. Several of Mpopyya's members were housed near, including Yomi and Yoru. I could feel their essence. She had connections to Yomi, Kiyo, and her servant, so a lot of these flooding emotions could be emitting from them. But there was more. So much more.

Kiyo distracted me from pondering this strange phenomenon. "What have you come for?" she asked.

"I've come to talk of the past," I replied evenly.

"Why are you acting so formal?" she asked, squinting as if she were having trouble seeing me.

"Why not act formal?" I replied with question. "You don't know me any better."

"Well…," she paused for a moment, as if wondering how she did know that it wasn't in my nature to be formal. "You just aren't supposed to be formal. You're supposed to be cocky."

"But how do you know?" I asked with a smirk. It was my first show of cockiness to her. Her dark blue black hair framed her face in messy tangles that were cute on her. Her eyes were shadowed with dark bags underneath. "And why haven't you been sleeping very well?"

"I've been busy lately," she replied. She had ignored the first question.

"Busy with what? And don't think I've forgotten the first question I asked," I said slyly.

"Queen Stuff," she said evasively. Very evasive. "I just imagined you as a cocky, arrogant ass hole." Ouch. Not really. She had called me such names before.

"Do you know why you imagined me that way?" Kiyo shook her head. "Due to your past lives with me, you have a subconscious image of me that is automatically summoned at the thought or mention of me. You don't even know it happens. You past lives influence a lot."

"I didn't know that," she said after a moment. "What kind of things happened between us?" It was an off question. I wasn't sure how to reply. So I let the first thing that came to mind flow into a sentence.

"Kiss, hold hands, sex, and other normal things that couples do, silly Kiyo." It was a light tone that I had used. She was blushing like crazy; I only smiled.

"You and I…!?" she began, but couldn't finish. She was flustered. It was adorable.

"Yep," I said in a lazy, flirtatious voice. It sounded strange coming from Kairi's mouth instead of mine. Kiyo was quiet for a long time.

"Do you…you know, still love me?" she finally asked. Ah, but I knew this question was bound to spring up.

"Completely and whole-heartedly," I replied with ease. "I love you, Kiyo Everdusk."

Kiyo said absolutely nothing. I was almost worried that she had decided that was too much. But she spoke after an eternity seemed to have passed. "Well that's a lot to take in."

"Well, they were past lives," I said.

"But you are in love with me," she pointed out.

"I was and still am, but details can be spared," I winked.

Her blush spread, and she looked down at Kairi's pink bedspread as she played with a loose string in her comforter.

"Um…Trace," she seemed to be saying my name as if it was a question. Like she wasn't sure she could call me that. "I find it very awkward when you wink at me while your possessing Kairi," Kiyo said. Her gaze was still fixed on the string she spun between her fingers. I laughed a genuine laugh. That was probably the first time I laughed in long time.

"I can understand that, my dear. Very well, I will return someday in my actually body, so it won't be so awkward for you," I said as a smirk slid across Kairi's face. I thought I almost saw a smile break across her face. I wondered what really was keeping her from sleeping at night.

"Someday…I don't want the details to be spared. Okay?" Kiyo said, as she finally glanced up at me or should I say Kairi.

"Of course, my lady," I said with a sly smile. With that Kiyo rose from the bed and walked towards the door; however, before she left she turned to look back at me and smiled. Then she was gone.

My mind's eye showed an awkward Kairi in my body, leaning into Lightning's embrace. Way to make me look gay, Kairi, I thought as I loosened my control on Kairi's body. I felt myself slip back into my own, forcing Kairi out.

With a strong shove, I pushed Lightning away. "Get the hell away from me, kohai." Kairi, disoriented, landed in her body with a jolt. She shivered and her body went limp on her bed.

What the…? She had said it out loud, but I heard it as a thought. Lightning gave me a glum look before picking himself off the floor.

Kiyo's Point of View

I was just talking to Trace, Elliot's second in command, Trace. He said he was in love with me. Could it all be a trick to get me to trust him, so it would be easier to kill me? Or did he actually…love me? Did that mean I loved him? I don't think I do. These were all questions my mind threw at me as I walked down the dimly light corridor from Kairi's room. I walked past my room, and continued down the long hallway. I passed a guard or two, and they simply nodded at me, assuming I had a reason to be up this late. I took a left down the next corridor, and walked to the door at the end of the hallway. I didn't bother knocking as I turned the door knob. As entered the room, he sat up in his bed as if he was never asleep, though I knew he was. He had sensed me outside his door, and he had awoken.

"Kiyo," he whispered. "What's wrong, my love?" his voice was gravely from sleep, and he wore no shirt. His body gleamed in the moonlight streaming from his balcony.

I walked to the end of his bed, and snuggled under the covers until I reached the pillows. I turned and hid my face in his shoulder.

"I had that dream again," I mumbled against his smooth skin. His scent overwhelmed me in a comforting way. His sheets were soft against my skin. His body warmth soothed my chilled body. I felt his arms wrap around me, and his face pressed against my hair.

"It's just a dream, sweet heart. I promise you, everything is okay. You're safe. I've got you," he whispered gently into my ear as he kissed my head. I yawned, extremely tired. I knew I would be able to sleep now.

"Think we can sleep in tomorrow?" I said in between yawns. I felt his chuckle ripple throughout his chest.

"Of course, my dear," he said as he snuggled closer to me, sensing I was about to fall asleep.

"I love you so much," I said as my eyes slipped closed.

"I love you, too, Kiyo," Ash said, as he began to hum a sweet melody into my ear as I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep for the first time in a week.

15