Shooting Star

"Why is it that I ALWAYS seem to end up alone when ever we manage to get split up in this place?!?!" Riou cursed out loud and he continued to run down the long corridors of Highland's capital L'Renoullie. He had been running for quiet some time and his side was beginning to ache and his chest burned. But to stop now meant certain capture with the Highland guards in hot pursuit. And no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't seem to shake them. In fact, their angry shouts and footsteps seemed to be getting louder!

"This is not good, not good at all Riou." He knew he was in a very dangerous situation, darting around blindly in a maze like palace, possible death waiting behind every turn. "Not to mention that you're alone, and you're about to pass out from sheer exhaustion." He mused. The odds were defiantly against him. "Maybe I'll run into Jowy if I keep going on like this." Amazingly, that thought registered as a good thing than a bad. After all, isn't Jowy his enemy? If he were to fall into Jowy's hands, who's to say that the King of Highland wouldn't have him imprisoned, or worse, executed? Despite that Riou believed that Jowy would never do such things to him, the possibilities were still there. Who was to say he was the same Jowy anyway? Riou shook his head. No, he can't think like that. He won't. Jowy was still his best friend, nothing would change that. Nothing.

"Great Riou, now that you have that issue settled, what about the current situation?" He asked himself. Indeed, it hadn't gotten any better. "Maybe there's a window around here..?"

And what? Jump out? Yeah right Riou, You're probably twenty stories high.

Riou began to argue with himself. But he was right, that was a no go.

"Well this place is so huge anyway! I could just duck into one of these rooms and hide till I can figure something else out!" He said finally. He knew the dangers of his plan but could think of nothing else unless he planned to run onto eternity. And even then, sooner or later he'd be caught. At least with this plan he could rest his weary limbs and think of a better plan that wouldn't guarantee his capture. But where would he hide?

"Just need a room, ANY room would be fine!" He thought. The pursuit unit behind him seemed to have grown, at least he thought so, they were certainly louder. "And here you are making a HUGE commotion and you expect that they wouldn't?!" He scolded himself as his gaze darted around frantically looking for a room to hide in. "C'mon, C'mon!" He thought angrily as he met with another locked door. Suddenly something caught the corner of his eye. It was red, the tail of a gown elegantly sliding into a room. So what if it was a ladies room? Minor details, the most important thing was that it was a room, an open room.

"Go! Go! GO!!!" His mind screamed and his body put forth the last of it's energy. His hand caught the door as it was beginning to close and he forced his way in and closed the door as gently as he was able. Having this sudden intruder in her room caused the lady inside to cry out in surprise. Without getting a good look at her face he quickly spun behind her and clamped a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

"Pl..Please be, be quiet." He gasped, trying to catch his breath. His head was spinning and suddenly he was fully aware of his body. It throbbed and ached all over, just merely breathing pained him. The woman struggled and her hands immediately tried to tear away the hand over her mouth. Most likely so she could scream for help.

"Please! Don't try to fight! I'm not here to hurt you!" Riou tried to placate the lady. "I'm not going to hurt you, ma'am honest. Please don't scream." Perhaps he was finally getting through to her, or perhaps it was his boyish plea, what ever it was, the lady stopped struggling, though she kept her hands over his. Riou fell silent as he began to listen, he could hear angry shouts and pounding footsteps behind the door.

Do they know he's close by? Do they know where he was? Were they going to leave?

Fear and anxiety flooded his already tired mind. And he and the lady stood there silent. Waiting.

To his relief, the noise and voices began to fade. And rather quickly, it sounded as if they had given chase.

Could it be? Had they found one of his lost stars? No... Even in his condition, he wanted to run out there and see, wanted to assist his star, was ready to fight. He clenched his teeth, suppressing the urge to follow his heart. "You can't do things like that Riou, Shu told you not to, and leaders can't do that. You're too important and too valuable. That's why they're here. To risk their lives for you." Riou shut his eyes, forcing the tears back. "God I hate myself.I hate myself." He whispered. When he was able to regain his composure, his attention returned to the woman he held. She was still tense and he could feel that. But he couldn't hold her like this forever.

"Okay, listen." He said softly into her ear so she wouldn't be frightened. "I'm going to remove my hand from your mouth. But only if you promise not to scream. Like I said before, I'm not here to hurt you, but I'll do what I have to, to keep you quiet. Do you understand me?" He felt her nod her head softly in agreement. Riou let out a sigh as he prepared to see how cooperative she would be. Finally, he let go and stepped back. The lady gasped an air full of breath, and for a second Riou thought she was getting ready to scream. But instead, she kept her back to him, and seemed as if she were also trying to regain her composure as well. Finally after a few moments she turned to him and he found himself staring into a pair of familiar emerald eyes.

"Queen Jillia!" Riou said unbelievingly. And the princess herself seemed to reflect his shock as well. The last time they had met was at the Highland camp that he and Jowy were trying to infiltrate.

"Lord Riou? What ever are you doing here? Are you the intruders that infiltrated our castle?"

Riou managed to smile sheepishly. "Ah.. Yeah, I guess so. I'm sorry for scaring you like that. I was trying to escape the guards."

"I see." Came the reply. "Well I guess then it was good timing on my part."

Riou could only blink in surprise. "Errrr, not to sound ungrateful or anything, but, you're the Queen of Highland aren't you?"

Jillia tilted her head to one side, the emerald eyes capturing his hazel. "Of course, but I really don't have anything against you. Besides, there would be no point in turning you in, if that's what you're hinting at."

The Queen was pretty sharp. But something else caused Riou to raise a brow in suspicion. "And why's that?" The Queen walked past him to sit comfterbaly in a cushioned chair that was placed in the middle of the well furnished room. As he made his way over, she motioned for him to sit before she continued.

"That is because my lord, his majesty King Jowy, wouldn't allow it."

"W-what?" Was Riou's dumbfounded response. He had suspected all this time, but to have it confirmed by the Queen.

"I'm sure you knew that what ever ties you have with Jowy runs deep. My lord would see to it that harm never comes to you. You must be very special to him."

Riou looked away unable to meet her eyes. "No, he only thinks that we're still friends. He was my friend once, a long time ago." And somewhere in his mind, he actually believed it. But his heart reprimanded him greatly.

But his words did not fool the Queen. "That's a lie. You don't believe that. I don't believe you do. If he were in the same situation, you'd do everything in your power to help him too, even if it meant returning him to Highland safely."

At this the rebel leader lowered his head into his hands feeling suddenly tired. "It's terrible isn't it? We are so screwed up! We are playing a game here where people's lives are being lost. And we can't even play the game right."

"That is because my lord, your love for each other plays by no rules." Riou's head shot up in an instant, eyes wide. He had never thought of their relationship like, like that. But she was right. And she knew it too. The Queen of Highland gave the Rebel leader a sad smile.

"I find it quite amazing that despite how he feels for you, he would have enough room for me in his heart as well. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself, and only desperately wish for the love that he has only for you."

"N-now wait a minute! Riou stood defiantly. "That's not true. I know our, our, relationship is strong, but Jowy really loves you too. Don't doubt it."

Jillia covered her mouth to hide the delicate smile. "Lord Riou, forgive me, but I have never had the pleasure of seeing such a feared Rebel Leader flustered before."

Once again, Riou was dumbstruck and at a loss for words. "Queen Jillia, I mean it!"

"It's fine Lord Riou. I've actually suspected that Lord Jowy was only using me anyway."

One surprise after another, Riou thought he wouldn't be able to take much more of this. He was tired of being shocked speechless. The Queen noticed his surprised a continued.

"It's true. I'm sure he doesn't think I've noticed, but I do. He only married me to gain the title as King. But still, despite that I still love him. Though I must admit it does cause me such pain to think that he could never love me in return." Jillia lowered her head to prevent Riou from seeing tears emerge and fall from her eyes. And Riou sat there silently, letting everything sink in before he stood up and walked over to where the Queen sat. Riou gently took hold of both her hands and pulled her feet, where he took her up into his embrace. Certainly he knew that he was probably being quite vulgar and violating some Highland rule out there. But he didn't see any sin in his deed. Yes true, though they may be Highland Queen and Enemy Rebel leader, they were still humans. He could feel Jillia tense for the moment, but then she began to relax, melting in his warm embrace. And he sensed that something in her had longed for this for a while now. The two stood there, oblivious to the facts that forbid enemies to show such kindness, the titles they bore, to the rules of war, and held each other like human beings they were.

"Queen Jillia," He said softly into her ear, "I know you're hurting inside, and the truth is, so am I. But you may think he doesn't even realize that he's holding your world in his hands. But I'm sure he does. He just tries to protect you from himself. You just need to show him that you'll accept him for that entire he is. That is the means to get past his barriers." Just then Jillia pushed herself back to stare up into his eyes, her cheeks stained with tears.

"You are always so certain Lord Riou. Would I be so foolish to believe you?"

Riou smiled warmly at the Queen in his arms and wiped away the glistening tears upon her face. "Hey, I've grown up with the guy, so of course I would know. What he probably thinks is that you could never understand where he's come from. Well at least that's what I would think if I were in his position."

"But of course I know where he is from; he comes from the house of Atreides. They are a very well known and wealthy aristocratic family. But he doesn't act like all the wealthy suitors I've come to know."

The rebel leader laughed and finally released her. He walked to the window, cautious not to be seen from the outside. He could see the entire city from this window, and the horizon in the distance that seemed to stretch out into eternity. Some where, his castle was standing, exactly opposite from here. The mere thought reminded him that he was still in enemy territory. It seems that Queen Jillia's emotional cry had made him forget that, made him forget everything.

Perhaps that's because finally, some one understands his heart.

He turned from the window. "That is why you'll never understand him Queen Jillia. Jowy's world is not the same as yours. Perhaps it was at one time. And sometimes I think he really didn't belong there. So he came to mine."

"And that's where he found a home." Jillia said quietly. And Riou knew just by looking into her eyes, that she understood finally. "Please, Lord Riou, show me his world, the world you speak of. I wish to understand. I fear that merely speaking of his past will never be enough. I must see for my own eyes. I want to understand."

The brown haired youth furrowed a brow in concern. "I'm sorry Queen Jillia, but I don't think I can do that for you. Under different circumstances, I would gladly help you, for Jowy's happiness is one of the most precious things I treasure."

"Lord Riou, it is not only for Jowy that I ask of you this, but it's also for me. I desire more than anything in the world to be closer to my King. This is a selfish request, I know."

She just didn't want to be alone anymore. Riou knew it perfectly well. And yet, the risks were too great, to show her what she wished to see. The boy backed up from her shaking his head. "I...I can't. Not only is it complicated, but it's also dangerous."

"That is why you will be there to protect me." Jillia swiftly replied stepping forward as Riou slowly backed away. Was he afraid? Afraid of giving in?

"After all, that rune on your hand has protected a great many already. If the rumors are as true as they say, then I have the utmost confidence in it." She went on. Riou knew the dangers if he gave in. But what would he gain should he grant her, her request? And in his heart, he knew.

She would be able to do something that you could not do, to stay beside Jowy, and comfort him, and mostly.To make him happy.

Whispers from his heart collided with the harsh voices in his mind.

"Riou, don't do this, you already have too much grief in your life."

"Riou, you can no longer be there for Jowy, but she can.."

"If Highland finds out that their Queen was 'kidnapped' imagine the mess."

"True the risks are great, but the rewards are equally great."

"You don't need this..."

"It could be fun."

"It could be dangerous."

"But you're not doing it for yourself."

"Why do it then?"

"You know very well, you hold Jowy's world in your hands as well."

"Why do you still cradle such dreams?"

"You're still his best friend, no matter what. You love him.."

The last whisper seemed to end it all, and the voices in his mind could not retaliate. As the voices faded, Riou opened his hazels eyes, and looked to Jillia and gave her his decision.

"All right, I'll help you. Perhaps the understanding will open your mind just as love has opened your heart."

And Jillia was overcome with such relief and delight that she was startled quite suddenly, when the knock sounded at the door. Instantly Riou shot her a panicked look. And she gave him a reassuring glance as she made her way to the door. She leaned up against it, and then answered.

"Yes? Who is at the door?"

A voice came from the other side and answered; "General Seed and General Culgan, Your Highness. Please forgive our interruption, but his Majesty, King Jowy requests your presence at his side. The enemy rebels who have snuck into the palace have finally been caught. The King merely wishes to see that you are safe. We are here to escort you."

Jillia did not, or rather could not phrase the correct response, and she turned to Riou then. Riou, as she had guessed, had a deep troubled look upon his face.

"Guess this is your rendezvous with destiny Jillia, are you sure you want to go through with this?" He asked softly. And without a second's thought the Queen gave a short nod. Riou sighed and said as so not to be heard by the two outside the door, "Then, it's time to get to work."

King Jowy sat upon his throne in the main throne room of the Highland palace, before him was his guards were posted, ready to receive the enemy infiltrators. To his left hand side was his strategist, Leon Silverburg.

"You seem a bit, tense, and my king." The comment caused Jowy to turn his head slightly to regard the strategist.

"Catching enemy rebels this close to home does that to you, I suppose." He replied coolly. "What worries me is that they were able to infiltrate our palace so easily, implies that they have agents working here."

"That is why; we will make an example of these intruders." Was the strategist's simple reply.

It was then that Jowy felt a sudden jolt that caused his right arm to visibly twitch. Instinctively he with drew his arm and looked to see that the Black Sword Rune was pulsing faintly upon his right hand.

"That's odd, why is my rune reacting this way?" Jowy wondered. The Sword has never done anything like this before, and it was resonating with... excitment? He did not understand, and with in a few moments the sensation was over, leaving only the sword to pulse weakly.

Jowy shifted uncomfterbally in his elegant throne. "I am against public executions, let alone, capital punishment." He said returning to the earlier subject. Leon seemed a little displeased with the young King's opinion, but did not return a response as the huge doors ahead opened. Two guards were seen opening the door to allow Jillia walk in. The Queen walked to the center of the room, flanked on either side by the Generals Culgan and Seed. Behind her, was another guard, her personal escort? Upon reaching the center, she curtsied formally, while the generals and guard kneeled. The king nodded briefly acknowledging her presence, and she proceeded to take her place beside him, Seed and Culgan posted themselves beside their King and Queen, the Queen's guard stood beside the Queen a little behind Seed. Once settled Jowy made a short gesture with his hand. Leon stepped forward then and ordered in a loud voice;

"Bring in the prisoners."

A bit of shuffling was heard in the room before, and after a minuet or two, a group appeared, nearly obscured by their captors, shackled and chained and surrounded on all sides by Highland guards. Following the group closely was a small group of archers, their crossbows ever at the ready and promising death to the fool hardy hero that would think to oppose his captors.

"Bow heathen rebels, for you are in the presence of the King of Highland, his majesty Lord Jowy." Seed ordered.

The group did not comply as quickly as the red haired general would have liked, and upon his disgust, the guards roughly delt with their impudence, quick blows to the stomach easily brought the group with their knees. Jowy winced at the sight not because it looked as painful, or in pity, but because these people had once called him a friend. Their hateful and accusing gazes pierced his cold heart. He stood then.

"How dare you desecrate the most inner sanctum of highland with your presence? You were all were foolish enough to think that you could match the power of Highland, now you are caught and will be delt with accordingly." Acute pitiless words that did not betray a single emotion, he was even disgusted by how heartless his own voice sounded. But this had to be done. And as he looked upon the motley lot, one stood out against them all. Unlike the others, the boy was considerably the youngest; his head was lowered, as if refusing to meet Jowy's eyes. The green bandanna stood a great contrast to the red and yellow tunic the boy wore.

So similar.And the boy King was struck by hope and fear.

"Riou?" He had not even realized that the name had escaped his lips. Leon stood beside the King and said softly,

"My King, that is not Lord Riou unfortunately.But it is still some one of great importance."

Jowy raised a brow as he looked to his strategist questioningly.

"That boy before you is non other than the rebel leader who fought in the Gate Rune Wars and founded the Toran Republic. That is Lord Tir Mcdohl. The real president of the Toran Republic." There was a bit of mirth in the old man's voice.

The boy seemed to hear his name and he looked up for the first time, his eyes clearly seen now. Jowy was taken a back, as he stared into eerily similar eyes and in that instant he was snared. Some features of the boy were different, but then his eyes.He couldn't shake the feeling nor did he deny it. They were the same. It was as if Riou himself were staring at him through a different face. A dark hazel gaze full of strength, that could win the trust of millions, that burned with life like a living flame, and that held such conviction stared back at him, allowing itself to not be read, to betray no emotions that hid behind. There was only one small difference, and that was that the eyes lacked a certain, kindness. Or rather, it had once held the quality but over time and circumstances, they lost that beautiful gentleness. His breath caught in his throat as he realized that he might be staring into the future.

He might of stared on into the former leader's gaze had it not been for Leon's voice pulling him back to reality and breaking the strange trance between the two.

"This is quite a disturbing matter my lord. The fact that the Leader of the Toran Republic is fighting along side the city-states means that.."

"I know what it means." Jowy cut in sharply. He knew what was going through the old strategist mind, knew, because only HE would think of such a thought. The more he would watch Leon, the more he began to hate his ways.

Leon turned to the small group ignoring the slight anger in the king's voice. He was only a boy, and sometimes he would act like such. He paid it no mind. Speaking of which.

"Tir Mcdohl." He said grandly, as if to let the entire castle know. "This is quite the surprise, who would of guessed that the president of the Toran Republic would be helping their old enemies?"

The boy looked up with clear repulsion, the first sign of emotion, but he did not speak, and remained silent.

"Tell me, why is it that you have joined the city-states? What have they promised you?"

Still silence. And the strategist laughed.

"It is clear that you are not as foolish as I had thought. But you are still a child to some degree. Do you even realize the position you have placed all of Toran Republic because of your involvement? And after the blood shed it had to go through to gain peace, you throw it away to play this silly war game again, like some little boy."

Right then Tir surged forward a snarl escaping his lips, but the guards were quick to restrain him, and the boy were subdued once more. Few noticed the faint light on his right hand glove flashing.

"You should talk!" He spat. He had more to say but a swift kick from the guards caused him to be silent.

Jowy walked forward then, angered by the display. "THAT"S ENOUGH!" He shouted. His voice echoing off the high walls. "Sir Leon, Stand down at once!" He ordered. "Guards, lock these rebels in iron until I determine upon their punishment."

This order was greeted with bewildered looks that crossed the enormous room. It even seemed to baffle the strategist, who leaned in and spoke as quietly as he could muster.

"My Lord, with all due respect, but it was expected that you would have these infidels executed." To which the young king replied,

"As I have said before, I am against capital punishment."

"But wouldn't the kingdom find such a hesitation a.weakness?" Jowy turned upon the strategist sharply, his hard blue eyes flashing dangerously.

"Remember your place Sir Leon, and do not question my judgment again is that understood?"

The strategist furrowed a brow in disparagement but bowed slightly. "Of course my Lord." He said with a bit of bitterness in his voice. The boy king gave a curt nod to the red haired general, Seed, who turned toward the guards.

"Take them to the dungeons!" He ordered, but was suddenly cut off by Leon who spoke out suddenly.

"Separate the boy from the others! I want double guards posted at his cell!"

Jowy looked to Leon unsettled and then angry. "What is the reason behind your actions?"

Leon gave a haughty sniff before turning away. "It would be wise for you to not underestimate the boy because of his looks. He was after all the former leader of the liberation army. He should be carefully watched."

Jowy was silent for a moment before he looked to Seed and gave his approval and the last order was given.

"Lock the boy away in an isolated cell. Double the guards on watch. Go!"

As it was ordered, it was carried out. The guards unceremoniously dragged the small motley lot out of their presence. Jowy did not raise his eyes to watch and turned away. It was then he remembered His Queen. She had sat there quietly watching. He took his seat in the throne next to her. With out looking, he asked softly.

"Are you alright my lady?"

He was expecting a short reply but instead she surprised him with; "What will you do with them?"

It was then he turned his head to her, and she continued.

"Enemy rebels are to be executed, you know that. So if you will not execute them, then what will you do with them?"

Jowy hadn't expected Jillia to take such interest, but was determined not to be caught off beat. "That is.not business of yours." He replied stiffly. Jillia didn't reply right away, and Jowy thought that the subject was dropped. But she spoke up a little while later,

"They are your friends, aren't they?" But this small question was met with silence. Instead the king stood and began to leave, both Seed and Culgan stepping in place to follow.

Jillia stood also not to be deterred. "I'll take that as a 'yes'." The king kept walking silent. Jillia took one glance to her guard then back to the king. "You thought 'he' would be there didn't you?"

She didn't mention who 'he' was, but it was enough to get the reaction she'd expected. The king stopped in mid step. And slowly he turned his head, but not so much that he could see her.

"Queen Jillia, I do not know of whom you speak. Please, return to your room immediately it is still unsafe. And with that, he left. And the Queen stood there alone. After a while, a soft smile crossed her small face. She turned slightly to her only guard.

"Is it not as I have said?" She asked. The guard, whose face and eyes were conceled beneath the helmet did not reply but looked to where the king had disappeared.

**** end of part 1