For those who thought that after nearly 10 months, I wasn't going to update ever again, well guess what? I haven't lost any of my passion for this story. I haven't even gotten started yet! You better get ready! I'm back!

*sighs after having calmed down* I know, I know. I have a lot of explaining to do. But I'm not gonna hold you guys up. However, unlike a certain video game company in regards to a long-awaited video game's out of the blue cancellation, I'll be more than willing to explain what has happened behind the scenes that have kept me away for so long. I'll provide the goods first, and all of the details afterwards. But for now, enjoy!

Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form do I claim ownership to Outlaw Star or other franchises that take place in the Towards Star universe.

(Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

Memories are a peculiar thing. Records of information and past experiences, they are often used for storing pieces of knowledge for future use. Memories also enable individuals to recall significant events that have occurred to them. There are countless different types of memories. There are positive memories that are looked at with joy or provide someone with a source of motivation. On the other hand, some are of painful experiences or recollections of horrifying information that do nothing but haunt a person's soul. It is undeniable that what has occurred in the past plays a role in the development of any living creature. However, despite how large a role memories play, they are not all the only things that make a person who they are.

(Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

"Today's the day, huh?" said Gene while stifling a yawn on his way to breakfast.

"According to my calculations, at our current speed, we should be arriving at our destination in less than five hours, so yes," confirmed Gilliam, who was following Gene via his rail. When the pair were approaching Jim's door, they noticed that Hanmyo was also coming towards them.

"Hey, squirt," said Gene. "Whatcha up to?"

"Oh, good morning, Gene," Hanmyo returned the greeting. "I was about to wake up Jim. It's nice that he's finally getting some rest, but it's not good for him to oversleep, either."

"He's usually a light sleeper, so even after everything that's happened, I don't think you should have too much trouble getting him out of bed."

"I guess, but I have something special in mind just in case," Hanmyo smiled before opening the door and entering Jim's room. Curious, Gene stood by the doorway and watched to see what the young girl had in mind.

Standing next to his bed, Hanmyo leaned over and said playfully, "It's time to wake up, sleepyhead!"

"Ugh…" Jim groaned, opening his eyes slightly. However, Hanmyo wasn't satisfied and decided to try something else. After listening to the sound of the boy genius giggling hysterically for a minute or so, Gene went on his merry way with a smirk glued to his face.

"Even I never knew Jim was so ticklish," chuckled Gene.

Chapter 3: Shattered Seals

It had been about 11 days since the Outlaw Star had departed from Symka 5 with Hanmyo in tow. Until three days ago, Jim had not left the infirmary except to bathe and use the toilet. Everyone had been insistent that Jim continue to rest and to let them take care of things, much to the boy's shock. Gene focused mostly on piloting and keeping watch for any potential dangers, but he also occasionally looked through some of the data that Fred had sent Jim. Suzuka spent a majority of her time meditating in her room, but whenever she did visit Jim, the assassin gave the bedridden genius tea she had brewed personally. Aisha also spent a good amount of time in her bedroom working out on the fitness equipment that she installed herself, but made it a point to come and visit Jim regularly and play video games with him to help pass the time. Meanwhile, Melfina had asked Gilliam if he could search various databases and find any recipes that could help with exhaustion. Once she had some, the raven-haired bio-android prepared all of Jim's meals. The child computer prodigy felt embarrassed by all of this, but in reality, he truly appreciated what everyone was doing for him.

As for Hanmyo, the young purple-haired girl never left Jim's side. Well…except for whenever he went to the bathroom. Hanmyo quietly kept Jim company, talking to him when he was awake and watching over him while he slept. She also never bothered going to back to her room to sleep, drifting off in a chair next to the bed each evening instead. One time, she unconsciously pulled herself onto the bed and snuggled up next to the blonde boy. Gene happened to walk by on his way to bed and upon noticing what had happened, the red head decided to carry Hanmyo back to her own room…though not before taking a picture to show everyone else later.

It was also during this time that a surprising talent of the Outlaw Star's newest crew member was brought everyone's attention. On the third day after Jim had been made to rest, Melfina had walked in with his lunch and noticed that Hanmyo was in the middle of sewing while sitting next to a sleeping Jim. The purple-haired girl explained that she first decided to start sewing after realizing that she didn't have any spare clothes, and surprisingly, she was very good at it. Hanmyo shocked everyone even further the following day when she revealed that, not only had she produced several sets of spare clothing, but had even made herself a pink nurse's outfit. Each crew member had their own reaction to this. Jim spent the entire day unable to face Hanmyo, occasionally resorting to hiding his head under his pillow or covers. Gilliam and Suzuka politely complimented how it looked on her, while Jim's own reaction caused Gene and Aisha to laugh so hard that the two had to support each other in order to keep standing. Melfina enthusiastically praised the young girl, even asking Hanmyo if one could be made for her. Upon hearing the raven-haired bio-android's request, Gene began to visualize how Melfina would look in a nurse's uniform. In a matter of seconds, he promptly excused himself and proceeded to walk rather stiffly out of the room, twitching the entire time. Once he had reached the hallway, the red-haired outlaw was able to take about five more steps before his imagination got the better of him and knocked him out.

While Hanmyo's newfound talent was by no means unwelcome (Once he had calmed down, Jim realized that they could now save a lot of money of repairing and replacing damaged clothing from now on), Hanmyo was unable to explain how she knew she could sew despite her amnesia. The implications raised several questions: had the girl known how to sew in the past? If so, was her body simply remembering the motion she used to go through? And if she hadn't known how to sew in the past, how did she become a natural at it so quickly? Was Hanmyo a genius like Jim? For the most part, these questions would simply raise everyone's curiosity a little, but the unspoken mysteries this issue brought up bothered Gene and Suzuka to no end. In the meantime, all they could do was hope that Hanmyo's past would not come back to harm everyone later, the young amnesiac girl included.

(Scene change)

"So this is it, huh?" said Gene from the pilot's seat. The Outlaw Star was gradually approaching a small, dusty red planet. While they were still too far away to see the surface of this unknown world, the coordinates Fred Lo had provided them confirmed that this was their destination.

"Honestly, I was expecting something more impressive," sighed a disappointed Aisha.

"Aisha, don't forget that nobody truly knows what the Galactic Leyline is, so what it is or even what it looks like is unclear. It may not even be half the size of this world," said Suzuka.

"True," nodded Aisha. "Still, given that the Empire believes there to mountains of treasure hidden there, can you really blame me for assuming that its appearance would be magnificent as well?"

"Not really, but by that logic, isn't it possible that a normal looking, yet out of the way place would be the ideal location to hide such an enormous treasure?" added Jim.

"You know what? I didn't think of that!" Aisha said, realization hitting her.

"Hopefully, we won't have to keep pondering what the Leyline is once we check this place out," said Gene.

"Tell me about it. It's so frustrating that the only thing we know for sure about the Leyline itself is its name. But don't forget Gene, this place has a supposedly strong connection to the Galactic Leyline, so we're bound to find out something promising," reassured Jim.

"You got that right, partner. Here's to finally getting some answers," said Gene with confidence. Internally, however, he was worried. 'If we do learn something, I just hope that this time, it's something worth telling Mel. What MacDougall told me can't be the entire story. It just can't!'

"I apologize for interrupting, but shouldn't we be looking a landing spot? The planet is less than a minute away." asked Hanmyo. Gene and Jim briefly froze with embarrassment before sharing in a bout of nervous laughter. It didn't happen very often, but sometimes the two forgot just how fast their ship was.

"How about the same place as the survey team? The area down there is level enough, so it shouldn't give us any trouble at all," Jim said simply, his tone indicating a quick recovery.

"Okay. Prepare for landing," replied Gene.

(Scene change)

Luckily, the landing itself had gone without a hitch. The only problem? They were two kilometers away from their final destination, and getting to the ruins themselves required an hour long hike. Fortunately, they were able to kill time with conversation.

At point during the trip, Jim, who was leading the way, decided to ask the purple-haired newcomer about something. "Hey, Hanmyo?" he asked the girl walking right alongside him.

"Yes, Jim?"

"I meant to ask you this a while ago, but do you know what happened to the flowers I got you?"

"Sorry Jim. I don't know. I think I vaguely remember tucking them into my clothes on my way out of the park, but that's literally the last thing I can recall." Hanmyo replied sadly.

"Sorry, I was just curious is all," Jim apologized. "I mean, when we brought you to the hospital, according to the doctors, you didn't have any belongings on you at the time, so I was just wondering if you had left them somewhere."

"Actually, I think I still have them with me," Hanmyo said, much to Jim's bafflement. "I know it sounds weird, but whenever I close my eyes and picture that bouquet, a bright, warm feeling accompanies it." Jim's face began to get very hot, and it didn't help when Hanmyo asked him, rather simply, "Jim, do you have any ideas as to why that might be?"

"Well…I…err…" Jim stuttered, at a complete loss of words and began stumbling around.

At this point Suzuka decided to chime in with her own interpretation. "Perhaps it's not the flowers themselves that are causing you to feel that way, Hanmyo. Have you considered that maybe it's just Jim's act of giving them to you that you remember so fondly?" the bokudo-wielding assassin said.

Hanmyo thought it over for a moment before responding with a bright smile and eyes shimmering with respect, "Wow, Suzuka! That feeling's there as well, and much stronger, too! I feel a lot better now, so thank you!" Hanmyo felt content with her conclusion, her answer causing Jim to blush madly, but now Suzuka began to glance curiously at the young girl.

Throughout this entire exchange, Melfina just looked on and smiled at the two youngest members of the team. 'Jim looks so happy. I know he always tries to be cheerful around me, but it seems Hanmyo just manages to ensure he stays that way. I really admire her. Neither of us remember very much about ourselves, but unlike me, she doesn't seem to dwell on it nearly as much. Meanwhile, despite all of the good things in the life I have, my past is all I can ever think about. But Hanmyo…she's content with the present, and is enjoying every moment of it. She's so much stronger than I am.'

Ironically, Hanmyo was in turn thinking about Melfina's take on pursuing the mysteries of her origin at the same time. 'Being with everyone, I'm as happy as I was when Jim gave me flowers, but those memories…there's something wrong. Why is it that I can only remember our first meeting and our date, but not even the time in between? Who was I before I met him, why can't I remember, but most of all…do I want to know? Would the answers take me away from Jim? I'm scared. My past terrifies me, but Melfina…she wants to know about herself more than anything, and she isn't frightened by what awaits her down the path. She's so much stronger than I am.'

(Scene change)

"Awesome!" Gene whistled, effectively summing up the reactions of everyone else. The architecture of ruins did not look as though they came from any era in time, past or future. Additionally, the buildings seemed as though they had been too meticulously designed and built to have possibly been the work of any of the known races: not Terran, Ctarl-Ctarl, Silgrian, Corbonite, Sith, Lorgan, nor Nyen. And even after several millennia had passed, both the exteriors and interiors of nearly all of the structures on the site showed few signs of having been significantly weathered, decaying, or collapsing.

"You're telling me," agreed Jim. "The shape these ruins are in is unreal, and the trek getting here was such a pain that it almost seems as though the terrain had been purposely carved to be hard to traverse in order to protect this place."

"Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case," responded the red-haired captain.

"And if the ruins are this impressive now, imagine how they looked when this world was still inhabited," commented Suzuka.

"I wonder how long ago that would have been?" asked Melfina. The group had gone inside the entrance hall of a large temple-like ruin located at in the center of the site.

"Well, after a lot of investigating, the survey team concluded that all of this was probably first built around 10,000 years ago," answered Jim.

"Wow, that's pretty old," commented Aisha.

"But then why did the survey team leave? These ruins are pretty much like an all-you-can-eat buffet for any archeologist," said Hanmyo, using an expression she had picked up from Aisha.

"Apparently, their funds ran out before they could really get anywhere with their research, so they had to call it quits," said Gene. "Funny thing is, while that's the main reason they had to stop, I think they also mention that the Kei Pirates may have had something to do with it as well." Gene looked towards Jim, who nodded his head in confirmation.

"The Kei Pirates?" inquired Suzuka.

"Yeah, not only may the pirates have been responsible for their funds suddenly vanishing, the survey team's supply lines had been sabotaged, too," said Jim.

"A place that's potentially connected to the Galactic Leyline and the Kei pirates are involved? Rather suspicious bedfellows, indeed," Suzuka replied.

"Hey, this is pretty interesting and all, but just how is this all related to the Leyline?" asked Aisha. During the conversation, the group's resident Ctarl-Ctarl had climbed on a giant dragon statue in order to inspect.

"Well, that is exactly what we came here to find out," said Gene. "But hey, Jim? Any idea what the deal is with that giant statue?"

"You mean that thing in the middle?" Double-checking on his hand-held computer, Jim responded, "The survey team referred to it as the Dragon Sphinx, and the line that leads up to it is the Way of the Dragon."

"So the Way of the Dragon is the Leyline," confirmed Gene.

"But…if the Way of the Dragon is the Galactic Leyline, then what is the Dragon Sphinx? The Leyline leads right to it," asked Hanmyo.

"Maybe the Leyline really is a gateway after all. But to what?" muttered Gene.

"An entire world made of dragonite? Or perhaps something worth that much?" Aisha suggested.

"I hope you're right, Aisha," said Gene. But internally, he felt something was off about that guess. Shaking himself of his concern, Gene decided to get things going again. "Anyway, let's go check out the survey team's barracks and see if there's anything they left behind we can use."

"You mean like a bathroom?" asked Aisha.

"Not what I was thinking of in particular, but I admit it would be nice if they left one behind in case we need to use it later," said Gene, confirming one of the most crucial guidelines for traveling, as well as one of the most commonly neglected and least forgiving: when exploring unfamiliar territory, always make note of the places that are set aside as or can function as restrooms. You WILL be thankful you did so. "Still, the only other thing of interest we managed to find in the database was that the survey team checked out the entry chamber of that pyramid nearby, so I was hoping to find something more to work with before we went there."

"I see," nodded Aisha.

(Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

Sadly, the survey team's barracks didn't have anything that could help answer the crew's questions further. However, they did find a working toilet, much to the silent delight of everyone present. So after everyone had taken care of whatever business they had, the 6-man troupe went to check out the pyramid. Despite the large size of the structure, the entry chamber was rather tiny in comparison, and felt even smaller due to the fact that it was the only accessible room inside. Currently they were looking over a distinct rectangular outline in the center of the floor.

"Look here," Jim pointed to the inside of the rectangle, which was a completely different color than the rest of the ground. "They mention that there might have been something here originally."

"What do you suppose used to be there, Jim?" asked Hanmyo.

"That's just the thing, Hanmyo. They never did find out," explained Jim. "'Leyline' was oringally a term used by the space pirates. It comes from Feng Shui, meaning a path that chi collects. They're energy lines. They spoke of it as the Dragon's cosmic breath."

"That's all very interesting, but it doesn't really tell us anything," Suzuka commented.

"Look, I don't even understand it. If I did, I wouldn't be wasting my time right now," Jim admitted bitterly, not accustomed to being unable to figure things out. "What they're saying is controlling the Leyline means controlling everything."

While Jim had been speaking, Melfina had found herself inexplicably drawn to the wall behind the blonde-haired boy. Turning his head, his tone full of confusion and concern, he asked, "What is it, Mel?"

"I feel something coming from here…" Melfina responded, feeling along the wall with her fingertips.

"You do? Well, what are you feeling?" Gene asked her.

"I'm not sure. It's just…" Suddenly, a glowing circle appeared on the wall directly in front of the bio-android's face, causing her to gasp. Accompanied by an odd humming sound, the circle quickly expanded into a large ring, with an intricate dragon-like symbol appearing inside. Shaped like an S, the top half consisted of the dragon's head, a long neck covered in spikes, and a small claw, with the mouth and claw both pointing directly at a small circle to the left. The bottom half also featured a circle, this one situated between the dragon's spine and its tail. Before the crew could look at it at length, the symbol faded away as quickly as it had appeared.

"Hey! What was that?" yelled Aisha.

"Mel!" Gene added, his voice betraying genuine concern.

"I'm not really sure what it was. Now I don't feel anything. Not anymore," Melfina answered, clasping her hands in front of her chest and shaking her head side to side. Everyone was concerned, but the bio-android wasn't the only one who was the worse for wear. No one noticed that another member of the crew's eyes had gone wide and their face had turned a deathly pale.

(Scene change)

Returning to the survey team's barracks, the crew felt that they'd had enough mysteries and weirdness for one day and decided to call it a night and sleep on site rather than return to the ship. Aisha and Hanmyo had immediately hit the sack, while Suzuka was brewing some tea for the group. Gene and Jim were helping get the camp site set up. Melfina, however, was mysteriously absent.

"Where's Melfina?" Jim asked.

"She said she wanted to be alone for a while," Suzuka answered.

"I wonder what's wrong?" Like a son worried about his mother's happiness, Jim's concern was as obvious as can be.

"Let it go Jim. If she wants to be alone, then just let her be alone," Gene, on the other hand, didn't seem to care at all.

"Gene, how come you don't care about Melfina? You're always so cold to her," Having had enough, Jim decided to finally confront his partner.

"No I'm not. Not really."

"Yes, you are! You've been acting weird ever since we left to look for the Leyline!"

"What do you mean?" Gene asked.

"It's like you're avoiding her or something," Jim explained.

"So? I always do."

"Not like this!"

"Of course I do. Where are you going?" Furious, Jim stormed off, leaving the barracks.

"I wanna be by myself," the blonde boy responded, without turning. Before Jim was completely out of sight, however, Hanmyo opened her eyes and looked to see which way he was leaving. Getting out from her sleeping bag, the purple-haired girl quickly, but silently chased after him, almost like a cat.

Once the two children had left, Suzuka decided to break the silence. "I know you didn't ask, but to be honest, I agree with Jim," she spoke bluntly, confusing and somewhat annoying the red-headed captain. "Is he wrong?"

"No, but…I don't really wanna say I'm sorry. And even if I did, what good would it do, anyway?" Gene responded.

"What are you sorry for?" the assassin inquired.

"Well, I made a promise to Melfina," answered Gene. "But now I'm not sure I can keep it cause I'm not making any progress with it at all. At least, not the sort of progress I'd been hoping for."

"Oh? A promise?" Suzuka asked with a curious, almost teasing tone.

"I told her that I would find out anything I could about her," Gene sighed. "And I was so sure that I'd have come up with an answer by now, but I haven't found out a thing."

"Now that isn't true and you know it. You came all the way to a place like this to investigate it, right?" Suzuka was determined to get Gene out of his funk and make him realize that it wasn't all for nothing. Meanwhile, Aisha had begun to stir. Her eyes squinted tight, the Ctarl-Ctarl briefly scanned the immediate area and then rose.

"What's the matter, Aisha?" asked Suzuka.

"I think I'm gonna go find Jim and Hanmyo," Aisha answered. After she was out of earshot, Gene took another deep sigh.

"From what McDougal told me, Melfina was originally created as part of a navigation system that was designed specifically to reach the Galactic Leyline. But you tell me: is that the sort of answer you'd want to hear?" Gene looked Suzuka right in the eyes, which told of understanding of his indecision, but whether it was from sympathy or empathy remained unknown. "Of course not! Who'd want to hear that? I can't tell her. I just can't."

(Scene change)

After taking his leave, Jim had returned to the steps under the Dragon Sphinx, scowling and hugging his knees. He almost didn't notice the soft, cool arms that suddenly wrapped around him from behind.

"Hanmyo, I-"

"Hush now," the girl interrupted him. "You were there to comfort me before, so please…don't stop me from trying to do the same for you now," Hanmyo asked of him. Neither were aware of the person listening to them from the shadows, wearing a wide, genuine smile.

"You really did find someone special, little brother," Aisha said softly. "A complicated grown-up like me probably wouldn't have been able to help you nearly as much. If anyone can teach him to live his life not worrying, it's her."

(Scene change)

"Even with taking what MacDougal said with a grain of salt, I held onto the hope we'd learn more about her when we reached the Galactic Leyline. But now I have no idea what's gonna happen when we get there. I don't even know if it has anything to do with Mel or the answers she's looking for," Gene admitted bitterly.

"…You have no choice but to go there now," Suzuka said with conviction that caught Gene off guard.

"Yeah, but as it stands, we can't get there," Gene said sadly. "I guess I…have been kinda cold to her. I just can't be sure if I can actually keep my promise. I don't know what to do."

"You act so tough on the outside," Suzuka, the pieces falling into place.

"I wish I was a little tougher on the inside," With this statement, Gene got up from his place on the floor and left to look for Melfina. Suzuka watched him leave. The more time the bokudo master spent with everyone and the more she learned about them, the more intrigued she became. Gene, the outlaw who gave off such a confident front, but his arrogance was really so that he and his friends could continue to move forward. Jim, the computer prodigy who wished to be like Gene but felt too weighed down by responsibility to think he could afford to. Melfina, the kind, pure-hearted bio-android who wanted the answers to her past, yet wished to stay with her friends regardless of what the future would bring. Aisha, a Ctarl-Ctarl who originally began following Gene and his friends in order to regain her people's acceptance, but the gradual acceptance of her new peers was beginning to overtake that desire. Hanmyo, who was the newest and most cheerful member of the bunch, but possibly the one most terrified by the uncertainties of her personal history. And then there was her, an Ultra Class A assassin that regularly acted as a confidant for a man who was fully aware he was her next target.

"What interesting people we all are…" said Suzuka with an odd smile on her face.

(Scene change)

Jim and Hanmyo were sitting next to one another on the stairs now, but feeling tired, Jim had unconsciously decided to rest his head on Hanmyo's shoulder, much to the young girl's embarrassment. Aisha was busy trying to stifle her laughter, but a sound clicking noise got her attention. Immediately charging out towards the kids, she grabbed them and leapt away from their spot on the steps. A second later, a projectile exploded where they had just been previously. Suddenly, a sinister man wearing a red coat and carrying a rocket launcher stepped forth from his hiding spot.

Meanwhile, Gene found himself on the outskirts of the ruins, glaring down a cliff at a familiar young man with long blue-hair who was attempting to coax Melfina to leave everyone and come with him, leaving her friends behind. Enraged, Gene raced down towards the pair, the man running way, only to return inside what appeared to be a gigantic, black mechanized suit loaded with weaponry. At the same time, Suzuka was reaching for her wooden sword just as she heard the low growling of panthers. Temporarily distracted by the distant sound of gunfire, Suzuka quickly recovered just in time to parry the strike of a robotic feline weapon. The group's three key fighters were all thinking the along the same lines.

"Why did the MacDougal Brothers have to attack us here and now?"

After yelling at Jim and Hanmyo to head back to the ship, Aisha left to find Suzuka with Ron MacDougal in hot pursuit. Once Aisha had found her, the two silently agreed to swap opponents, with the assassin fending off the older MacDougal Brother while the Ctarl-Ctarl officer fighting against the robot panthers. It turned out to be a good thing that the two kids had been made to leave, for the fight was not going smoothly. The panthers appeared to have been upgraded since the last time they had fought, for Aisha found herself pinned against a wall. Suzuka was also struggling against Ron, the man blocking every single one of her strikes with his monk staff-like caster gun, forcing her to consider having to resort to a secret technique.

Gene was able to hold off Harry at first, but the bipolar younger MacDougal Brother eventually succeeded in cornering him and Melfina. Using a hand-held cannon as well as the turrets on the suits' shoulders, the blue-haired man was able to break through Gene's light shield and send him flying back.

"Gene!" Melfina cried out.

Following her outburst, something occurred back in the pyramid. The symbol from earlier appeared once more, only this time a strange voice began to echo through the chamber.

"The maiden…The maiden is in danger…Protect her…Protect her…"

Suddenly, the ground began to shake violently. A single earthquake was shaking the surface of the entire planet. Even Jim and Hanmyo, who were almost back at the ship, felt the ground beneath them collapsing, seemingly without any warning. Fortunately, the two only fell a few meters before landing upon a ledge below them, but the impact combined with the constant shaking had badly unsettled Hanmyo, who couldn't stop shivering in fright. Refusing to let her stay that way, Jim started carrying Hanmyo piggyback the rest of the way, determined to get her back on the ship and find some way to aid her. Back on the outskirts of the ruins, Harry was again trying to urge Melfina to go with him, but the shaking caused the suit he was in to stumble backwards and fall. To add even more humiliation and pain, Gene was back on his feet and standing right above Harry. Firing his own caster gun at point blank range at the center of the suit, Gene grabbed Melfina and ran back towards the ship. After checking in with Jim via his com-link, Gene also contacted Suzuka and Aisha, telling them to head back the ship as well. With the panthers crushed by the rubble and Ron freaking and trying to contact Harry, no longer paying either of them any attention, the duo had no reason to object.

(Scene change)

With Gilliam hurrying them to do so before the ship toppled over, everyone else began to get back on board the Outlaw Star. Before Gene or Melfina grabbed the pulley that would take them back up, however, the red-headed captain had something important to say to Mel.

"Listen, Melfina. If you don't want to, you don't have to come with us. I would never force you to do anything. Once we're in space, you can do whatever you want," Gene said with a sense of maturity that was somewhat surprising. After a brief silence, Melfina gave him her answer.

"Take me with you, please," she pleaded. "I want to go with you. I want to go with everyone. Please, Gene." With that statement and the beautiful and smiling face that spoke it, Gene's heart just melted.

"Sure I'll take you along. I'll take you with me anytime. Come on."

"Thanks."

Jim and Aisha had been watching the entire time, each with a small smile on their face. Aisha playfully ruffled Jim's hair and stood up to leave, but not before saying, "Come on, Jim. Now let's return you to your girlfriend." To this, Jim could only blush as bashfully as ever.

(Scene change)

Soon after takeoff, the crew scanned the planet one last time and realized that the earthquake had reduced nearly all of the ruins to rubble, so Gene promised to start looking for a new lead, to which Melfina happily cheered to. Hanmyo had asked what had become of their attackers, but no one had a definite answer. Ron had disappeared during the mayhem, probably to search for his brother. As for Harry, after Gene shot him, more rubble had fallen on top of him. But despite all that, the crew had the feeling they had yet to see the last of the MacDougal Brothers.

Sadly, their problems were still far from over. Soon after arriving at a station so that they could rest and resupply, Hanmyo announced that she wasn't feeling well and retired to her room to get some rest. Not a minute had passed from when she left before Gilliam announced that they had received a live transmission directly from the station, the caller being Professor Gwen Kahn. Why did the eccentric researcher keep following them, how did he keep finding him, and what could he possibly wish to discuss with everyone?

(To be continued)

Preview: Professor Gwen Kahn…this man is surprisingly helpful despite his methods of persuasion, but that makes him someone to be even more wary of. This mission he's given you, Gene…what will you do? When Melfina is in danger, will you crumble under the pressure while the sun sets on your dreams and future? Or will the tension push you beyond your limits and cause you to soar high above the stars? Despite the stressful atmosphere that has taken up residence here, no one has lost their faith in you, so go on ahead, Gene! Go on and prove yourself!

Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: Pushed to the Edge! You better get ready!

(Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

Trying to write from Suzuka's perspective is tricky, but interesting. I run into the same situation with Aisha, actually. And while I have yet to try writing Hilda, when I imagine myself trying to do so…oh boy. But all in all, it's a fun challenge. If any of you think there's something I could do to characterize them better, though, feel free to specify on how I could improve.

I've been away from The Flower of Fate for far too long. Not my fault, though. Someone put college, or more specifically homework, in my way. On a regular basis, I would find that either none of my creative juices were circulating in my body, or that I was so mentally exhausted from homework, class work, tests, projects, and studying, that I would find that even picking out something to watch on the computer required too much thinking. Unfortunately, the only solutions I see to this situation which may occur during future school years are either my professors making me work on fan fiction instead of regular homework assignments, learning Multi Shadow Clone Jutsu, obtaining the powers of Billy Numerous, or getting a pet dragon that would burn all of my work. If the last one happens, I'm prepared to the point that I already have a name picked out: Trogdor the Burninator. (I'll be the first to admit that I make a LARGE number of references to different things because of the odd connections my brain makes, always hoping to see how many people can actually pick up on it.)

But in all seriousness, I wasn't able to get a whole lot done during the 8 months of school. I managed to write about 15% during the fall semester, a page during the Holiday break, and a single paragraph during the spring term. Basically, I managed to write little more than a quarter of this chapter during my freshman year. But after spending nearly 3 weeks recovering from my second semester finals, my brain once again returned to my head and I was ready to resume writing. What you've read here are the fruits of my efforts.

I also have some pieces of good news, some relevant to writing and some relevant to Outlaw Star. Not only did I meet people face to face who knew of Outlaw Star, had seen it, and/or even remembered it from Toonami without me being responsible (in less than a year, the number of these individuals went from zero to being able to count them on two hands and not just one), but even though I haven't been writing a whole lot for this story, I wasn't kidding when I said last time that it would always be near the front of my mind. I thought about this story in depth about several times every other week or so, perhaps more often than that. As a result, I've got a lot more planned out for both various details and the story as a whole than I had before. And after having to write several papers, some of which I did absolutely phenomenal on, it's safe to say that my skill and confidence in writing has sky-rocketed, so expect to see even higher quality writing.

And while I haven't written much for this story in a while, this has been an awesome year for Outlaw Star and me. I incorporated Outlaw Star into several assignments for a certain class, including papers, and all of those assignments ended up being either in the high 90s or perfect scores. I met so many people who were familiar with Outlaw Star, several other new Outlaw Star fan fiction popped up on the site, including some more stories with Hanmyo in them, and even some stories which I had a very small role in them coming to be. I even had a mini-marathon of Outlaw Star in the evening of my birthday, which was an awesome way to end off the day. I finally managed to get two of my closest friends to watch Outlaw Star, with one of them getting mad at me for not having made them watch it sooner and the other having a similar reaction, and to my absolute shock and pleasure…TOONAMI HAS RETURNED! That's right, folks. You better get ready, because every Saturday night at midnight, the anime block that introduced yours truly to Outlaw Star airs on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Consequently, I'm feeling quite inspired to write a lot. I'm still going to take my usual few days off from writing after I post this, but since I think I'll have a much easier time writing the next chapter than I did this one, I don't think there should be a problem with me writing another chapter, maybe even two, before I go back to school at the very end of August.

But lately, the authors of some of the stories I'm subscribed to have been complaining about the site removing stories without warning. I admit I don't really know or understand all of the criteria they're using to make these judgment calls. Heck, I'm really not all that informed on the issue and the details, so I may have the wrong impression. But still, seriously? This is the second time I can recall the site doing something like this, and quite frankly, these sudden bursts of murdering stories without giving authors a chance to improve/fix their stories or even put in their own two cents about the issue is rude, pointless, rash, and not at all bright. I could easily use far worse phrases to describe their actions, but while they may be just as accurate descriptions, if not more so, I don't quite feel like becoming blood-boiling mad and going on a vicious rant at the moment. What I will say is this: I'm well aware fan fiction in general doesn't have the best reputation in various parts of the internet, not to mention in the real world. But so many people write fan fiction not because they want to do something such as promote a particular pairing or exclaim to others how much they wish that they themselves could be with their favorite character(s). They write because they find it to be a good way to express themselves. They do it because it can help them develop and improve their writing style. But more than anything, there are countless fan fiction writers who write for the most important reason of them all: because they find it fun. A website that forgets that principle has no right to call itself a mecca of fan fiction. That's how all of my stories originally came to be. I had an idea that I thought would be fun and interesting to write about, and so I did. And while I admit I could do a better job with most of my other stories as of now, I am not ashamed of them. The things I learned from writing them in the first place have proved to be invaluable as well. They serve as reminders of the progress I've made, and of the ideas I wish to come back to and improve upon. Even now, I continue to get more and more ideas for each of them, and once I've finished up here, I intend to return to them. So to those responsible for running and managing the website I've effectively been addicted to for over three years now (it'll be four sometime this summer), please do not be morons and scare away so many of your users. I still have my other stories saved on my computer, but even to lose any of the comments and critiques I've received on them over the years would be just as painful.

But that's enough of that. I'm prepared for the worst case scenario, so to all of my readers, fear not. This story will continue to exist on the internet on websites such as Deviantart along with my others if this particular website decides shut any of my stories down. But until that time comes, if it does at all, continue to read and review here. So once again, thank you Inuyatta and randompandattack for your wonderful stories that helped to inspire this. Thank you Shadow of the Forgotten for not only helping me edit and proofread my story, but for being letting me send Outlaw Star story ideas and requests your way that I don't feel I can handle myself. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed, subscribed, read, and added Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate to their favorites. I may have an undying passion for this story, but it is all of you who help keep it blazing like an inferno. I hope to see all of you again soon, so take care!

Oh, one last thing! If you're an Outlaw Star fan, a website I'd recommend that you all check out is Outlaw .