Hey all. Finally back with another chapter! Yay! Well, I'm not gonna keep you for long, since this is, I think, a pretty good chapter. Sorry in advanced for the mean and evil cliffy…sigh…You'll see. By the way, since fiction press is now deciding to be somewhat awesome (though I hate how they changed the format to resemble fan fiction shivers from the memory of the old, crappy story days) I don't need to do review replies anymore, because you can reply directly to reviewers now (who are fiction press authors, of course). Well, hope ya like the chapter! Erm…Maybe not the end…


"Oh, come on Steph. It's nothing to get this worked up over." I called back to her as she finally stopped running after me, bent over in a pant. Head snapping up she glared at me, pink in the face.

"But you tricked me! You're evil!" Steph protested. Then her head fell as she sighed. "Ohhh...you were supposed to kiss him…and now you messed it all up…I wanted to see you kissss him…" she wined out.

I shook my head with a chuckle. "I don't think I'll ever get your logic Steph…I mean, calling me evil when it was you who wanted me to kiss someone. You're just crazy." I smirked, happy to actually be having some fun with Steph again. It seemed like it had been a lifetime ago since I last had, and I didn't realize just how much I missed it…

Straightening up, Steph crossed her arms and humphed. "No wonder you've never had a boyfriend." She muttered, rolling her eyes. Then she stared at me with a mischievous look. "And at this rate you never will. If you think about it, I was actually helping you!"

I groaned, suddenly not missing our jeering matches so much anymore. "I'm not interested in having a boyfriend at the moment, Steph. You know that." I sighed out as I looked around, aggravated she was bringing up the subject again, "Now, where are we?"

"How should I know?" Steph retorted, "I was too busy chasing you!"

It was my turn to roll my eyes as Steph walked up beside me. "And I was too busy running away." I answered dully back. I sighed again. "Great Steph. Congratulations on getting us lost." I groaned.

"I didn't get us lost! If you had just done what I said-"

"I did! You're the one who started chasing me anyway! If you hadn't lost track over where we were going-"

"Hey! Why did I have to be the one to pay attention?! You were in the front!"

"Yeah, running the hell away from you!"

"Heheheh…you two are funnier than an old married couple."

I whipped around to see Kage sitting up in a tree watching us amusedly. I peered over at Steph with a smirk. "Finally." I announced, "A sane person's in our midst!"

Steph laughed and narrowed her eyes knowingly at me. "So you mean to say you're not sane?" she grinned as I froze and blushed, realizing my mistake. Kage just laughed.

"Well, if you're saying I'm the sane one here, I feel sorry for you two. You must be really messed." He said as he jumped out of the tree and landed in a crouch. After standing he looked between Steph and me for a moment, me noticing Steph freeze up and look a little surprised as Kage watched her. He sighed and closed his eyes, pointing behind himself with his thumb.

"Camp's that way. I'll be back in a bit, but I suggest you guy's go." He smirked with a chuckle, "Nathan's still not totally awake yet." Steph nodded, still looking a little odd, and started back. She looked back at me with a questionable glance as I stood my ground.

"I'll catch up." I told her, "You go ahead."

"Oh…okay…see ya then." Steph said quietly and with one last glance at us she went ahead and disappeared behind the trees.

I approached Kage, who opened his eyes, looking somewhat depressed as he stared at the ground. Standing in front of him now, I glanced back at where Steph had just been, and then looked at Kage with a raised brow. "Something happen between the two of you?" I inquired curiously, "She looked a little freaked out when you looked at her…" Kage's eyes flickered onto my own questioning ones, and then looked awkwardly away.

"No…nothing happened…" he assured unconvincingly, still staring away with a dejected look.

"You really expect me to believe that? Kage?" I said as I examined his body language, hands now on my hips. Eyes on my own again I stared him down. He was the first to blink.

Kage sighed and turned away. "Nothing happened, I mean it. It's just…not everyone's like you, you know." Kage said, sentence becoming hardly more then a murmur by the end.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" I retorted, feeling slightly angry and confused.

Kage smiled wistfully as a weak chuckle escaped him. "You really are naïve, aren't you?" He whispered as he stared ahead in the distance.

"Hey! I'm not naïve!" I countered, my anger growing. I walked around right in front of him. "What's with you?" I asked harshly.

Kage shook his head, sad smile still on his face. "You idiot, don't you get it?" he said, "Nothing happened, she just scared of me."

I blinked, confusing taking over this time. "Scared of you?" I repeated, bewildered, "But why?"

Kage slapped his face, and then looked at me through his fingers. "Don't you think me being a vampire might maybe, just maybe, unnerve some people?" he asked with a raised brow.

"But…but Steph knows I'm friends with you!" I argued back in her defense, "And I'm not dead or hurt or anything! What would she have to be scared of you for?"

Silently and swiftly, Kage grabbed my arm and raised it in front of me, so I was forced to see all the white marks made from my knife when I cut myself to feed Kage. I stared at it, then up at Kage.

"Don't think no one has noticed." He started. "And that's not the only reason either. Don't think that just the thought of me having to drink blood doesn't scare the wits out of some people. My pale skin and fangs don't help too much either, and I don't think anyone here is really used to red eyes. Your Sensei is rather ignorant about it like you, but your friend is afraid. For the whole walk here, she kept nervously glancing over at me, but I understand you not noticing 'cause you were sick. She just scared of me, like most people are scared of vampires. That's what happened."

Kage let go of my arm and watched me sternly. I stared at my arm sadly, touching the old white wounds. I couldn't believe that that's what Steph could be thinking…Kage wasn't a bad guy, he had just been through a lot. He would attack someone like Steph would stop nagging me about getting a boyfriend. So far that insanity problem he had mentioned hadn't shown itself; there was nothing really wrong with him. So what if he had to drink blood to live, that wasn't his fault. It was Xenreous who had condemned him to that, I just knew it…even if Kage hadn't told me how it happened. I would have to have a chat with Steph about this later…

I wanted to change the mood; Kage seemed awfully preoccupied about this. It didn't take me long to think of something.

"Anyway…What are you doing out here? What is it that you said would make you have to go for a bit?" I asked him. He looked up at me for a moment with those heavy eyes before smiling a bit.

"Well, I thought I'd get us all some breakfast, so I'm going out hunting." He said, stretching and looking slightly more content now that we were off the subject of him. "Catch a rabbit or two, I'll drink their blood and you guys get the meat." He breathed in the cool morning air, then folded his arms behind his head.

I blinked. "You can live off animal blood?" I asked incredulously.

"Hmm? Well…yeah, but its not as filling as human blood…gets cold so damned fast too…But you're probably still a bit sick, and we all need our strength for when we reach the temple. Wouldn't surprise me if we find Helio's soldiers out their, so I figured it'd be best if I sucked it up and just had a bit of animal blood today." Kage explained to me.

I looked away in thought, still a little unsure. "But I thought you didn't absolutely need blood every day." I voiced, "I mean when we were at the Kenton's…you didn't drink for days. If you can wait a bit, I'm sure I'll be okay enough-" But I was cut off by a laugh from Kage.

"You don't actually think I didn't drink for a week, do you?" He chuckled, "There's no way I could go without for that long. I could probably last two or three days at the very most…No, let's just say…the Kenton's house will be oddly free of rats for awhile…"

I shivered and stuck out my tongue. "Eww…you ate rats? That's gross!" I exclaimed, disgusted. How could someone, even a normal person, live off of rats!

Kage looked away with a faint blush. "Better then living off humans, I think." he replied silently.

"Well…so long as you don't catch us any rats to eat, I think we'll be fine." I answered, trying not to make him feel bad again. I held my stomach as I notice I felt kind of hungry, "But I wouldn't mind some breakfast soon…"

Kage smirked. "Right, I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying." Walking past me he chuckled, ruffling my hair as I swatted his hands away with a "Hey!" He just stuck his tongue out at me before running into the forest, my angry threats following him. Turning when I knew he couldn't hear me anymore, I went back into the camp where for the next half-an-hour Steph and I tried to prod Sensei into a fully awake state. That's when Kage came back with his promised rabbit meat, which while cooking I noticed how quiet and anxious Steph seemed with Kage back. Finally, after the meat, and with some milk and bread provided from Sensei's bag (surprising me by how much that small thing could carry) we were off towards the Temple of the Moon once again.

The remaining journey to the temple was pretty quiet, full of some small talk here and there, and a short stop for some food and rest, but otherwise silent. In what seemed like almost no time compared to the day before we reached the forest's exit and entered the open meadow that held Nadalia's most sacred place of worship, The Temple of the Moon, glowing in the sunlight as it stood grandly before us. I couldn't help but let out an apprehensive gasp.

I felt so honoured. The Holy Meadow we were currently standing in was usually forbidden to outsiders and the youth; reserved only for the eldest of the nation to help them find enlightenment before rejoining Taylina in the starry sky at their death. Just being in the presence of this glorious monument was enough for me to be thankful I had received this great privilege, this huge honour. I was both an outsider and underage; I was extremely lucky to be standing there…

As I had mentioned to the Elders I had seen paintings depicting the temple, but nothing stood close to the wonder of the real thing. The step pyramid of Nadalia was similar to the one in Araylia, though I thought it much more elegant. It was composed of a polished marble, glowing in the light reflected from its flawless surface, top of each block rimmed in a deep blue lining. On the marble nearest to the bottom the language of the ancients was carved perfectly, telling of Taylina's many works and legends. Above the entranceway lay a figure of the goddess, pouring non-existent water before the opening. Her eyes were shining tsuki stone's, watching the four of us stare at her wonderful temple.

"Wow…" I breathed as I walked slowly forward toward the temple, before everyone else, who were still immobile in awe.

"You said it…" I heard Steph agree from behind, voice also filled with wonderment.

Finally reaching the temple, as the rest just started walking up, I brushed my hand against some of the exquisitely carved, delicate writing. My reflection in the marble mimicked my movements, but was unfortunate not to be able to stare at this marvel as I could. It copied my calm smile as I felt a contentment run through me that I hadn't felt in a long while. No wonder this was a place to find enlightenment; just one look at the structure and any hardened soul would find peace.

I looked around when I noticed everyone (except Kage's) reflections right behind me. "It's better then I could have ever imagined." I remarked breathlessly. Sensei returned my smile, as the others still gaped at the temple.

"Yes, this is Nadalia's most praised ancient masterpiece. No other of even our more recent creations have ever come close to our ancient's handiwork." Sensei explained as he also pressed his fingers to the structure, "This beauty just could not be surpassed…"

I suddenly sighed in disappointment, recalling we were on a mission. "Well, unfortunately, staring at the Temple all day isn't gonna get us that item." I reminded the rest, and turned to glance back at Sensei, "We need to open the door and get moving."

Sensei nodded, and we all approached the doorway. I looked down on the ground to see, etched in stone before the entrance, the words, 'With the gleam of my crystal, children of mine own may open my wonder.' I frowned a bit as the passage reminded me I that I wasn't actually Nadalian, and therefore unable to do a simple task I believed at one time I could.

Trying to cast that thought aside quickly, I instead watched as Sensei untied the oval tsuki stone from around his neck and approach a sapphire pad similar to the ruby one on the Temple of the Sun. Like at that temple, a flash of light (this time a deep blue) also appeared before the entrance when he pressed his stone against it, and finally lowered to signal we were allowed to enter. Looking at each other quickly for assurance, we all walked inside.

Immediately I knew the Elders really meant it when they said not one had entered inside the Temple for as long as Nadalian history had been recorded. The interior was crawling with drab vines and weeds, and there were large cracks along the walls and in the pillars. The place was decorated with spider webs and intruding tree roots came through some splits in the floors and walls. Dirt and grime cover the marble, causing its magnificent reflective shine to disappear. Talk about don't judge a book by its cover…

"This place could use a little tiding up…It's almost as bad as my room." Steph retorted boredly after glancing around, kicking off a spider climbing up her shoe. At Steph's words a thought struck me and I suddenly became slightly worried.

"I only hope the passageways we need to go through to get to the top haven't caved in…" I voiced unsurely, glancing at some small piles of rocks that had fallen from the crumbling roof.

"Don't worry, even if there have been cave-ins, I should be able to just blast them away. My fire magic is strong enough for me to be able to make a few small explosions…" Kage said with an encouraging glace from beside me. I stared ahead, recalling when he blasted away the platform that Xenreous had appeared on when he was pissed, but I wasn't totally convinced.

"But what if the explosions' shockwaves cause more cave-ins? Then we could get stuck…" I continued, still skeptical.

Kage gave a small groaned. "Oh, stop being such a pessimist. We're here aren't we? We'll find a way to get that item somehow, don't worry so much. That's all you've been doing since we got here."

I looked up at Kage and blinked. Then I gave a mischievous smile and shrug. "Guess I learn from the best, huh?" I asked him.

"Hey! I'm not that bad!" He replied defiantly, but I could tell by his small smile and slightly over emphasized body movements he was kidding around, trying to make me laugh. He succeeded in uncovering a giggle. He reached out his hand to try and mess up my hair again but this time I jumped away and ran forward. I turned around and stuck my tongue out.

"Gonna have to be faster then that!" I smiled determinedly.

"Is that a challenge?" He grinned, arms crossed as he raised a brow. A moment of silence…and then, quick as lightning, he started chasing after me. I laughed and ran away from him, but by the time we reached the hall he caught up with me, tackled me to the ground and started tickling me. I laughed so hard while trying to choke out I gave up, feeling deep down that he was somewhat like Sensei, and knew just what it took to make me feel happy…


Steph's POV

I watched, slightly shocked as the two of them, Sarah and the vampire, ran ahead laughing and playing around in such a serious time. It reminded me of before, when her and I always found something to be happy about, even in the hard times…even if it got us in a bit of trouble…

It was something only friends could do, I realized. I looked over unsurely at Sensei Nathan, and he gave me a smile, before walking ahead to join Sarah and…Kage. I sighed as I looked down, feeling kind of bad…Maybe, just maybe, it was as Sensei Nathan had explained to me the night before, when Kage was gone and Sarah was sleeping. Perhaps it didn't matter what you were, even if you were a demon…Perhaps even then you could still have a good heart…


Sarah's POV

After Kage and I, red in the face and panting, stopped trying to tickle each other to death, we all started on our way through the temple. The growth and rubble hardly deterred us, to my relief, and Kage never did have to blow our way through anything. Climbing over a few large roots and tripping through some rubble were the worst of our obstacles, we didn't even get lost like before. This temple's layout was very similar to the Temple of the Sun, which got me excited, as I felt more and more confident we would be rewarded with our goal of a powerful item.

Especially when we finally reached the smallest room at the top, opposite end containing a large doorway, the only one in the place. I felt like jumping up and cheering, our task was almost completed, and it didn't seem to all be for naught! The presence of this room had to mean there was a prize waiting for us beyond it, and this was its last defense. Now we were only one riddle away from helping conquer Helio!

I heard a groan come from Kage. "Not another damned riddle again…" he pouted, staring at the door in defeat.

"We got the last one." I reminded him, while walking up to the door with the others. Then I smirked again, and added, "Stop being such a pessimist." Kage looked away and humphed.

Sensei looked at the door. "I don't think this is a riddle…" He said a moment later. Kage perked up slightly and I looked at the door to see what was written on it.

"'Those with great strength may claim the prize they desire. Successfully prove your power, and be rewarded with my own.'" I read out loud. "Huh," I frowned, "This is different from the other Temple…"

I bent my head down. So we had to prove our strength…But how? Hit the door with a weapon; break it down or something? That seemed dumb, as well as impossible, since the door was undoubtedly magically sealed shut. I looked up at everyone with uncertainly. Sensei had his hand on his chin and looked deep in thought at the floor. Kage was staring at the door, whispering the passage to himself with a puzzled look. Steph however, had her hands folded in front of her and looked impatient.

"None of you guys notice the circle thing under the words?" She finally huffed out in annoyance, walking up to the door. We all gapped at her, none of having looked below the saying and seen it, and being surprised it was Steph, out of all of us, who had. She sighed and stopped before it. "Honestly, you guys all think too much. This probably helps in opening the door." She muttered, looking around the around the cyan gem for a switch or something.

"Well, good thing you're here then, Steph. Guess we needed someone who doesn't think…" I stated automatically, all of us still unmoving in our shock.

"I think we need to press it." Steph continued muttering to herself, probably not hearing, or ignoring me. She placed her hand on the gem and pushed it. It slid in the door slightly and stopped with a thud.

We all waited.

Suddenly, a loud creaking noise came from above. We all jumped, and I instinctively grabbed for my bo. Looking up, I felt astonished when I saw the roof was slowly opening to reveal darkness…

My head snapped back to Steph, who was gaping at the ceiling. "What did you do!?" I hissed at her. She jumped and looked at me, face fixed in surprise.

"Me?" Steph exclaimed in anger, "You guys were just standing there staring dumbly at the door! I actually did something that was supposed to be useful and now-" But Sensei interrupted.

"Hush. Now's not the time for this." he spoke silently, lance armed and standing in an attack position as he stared at the roof, ready and serious. I glance at Kage and also noticed he had Ivory ready, teeth clenched as he pointed his gun at the darkness where the ceiling had once been…I watched the inky blackness unsurely, gripping tightly to the weapon by my side for comfort.

Then I heard it. The silent rushing hiss of something falling…

It hit the ground quickly, causing me to jump back in surprise and hastily raise my bo in front of me. Suddenly the thing bounced, looking slightly comedic, and I stared at it with a baffled look on my face. In the moment it seemed to stop in mid-air I got a half decent look at the thing that had fallen from the roof.

It was a large sphere, about the size of a small cannon ball, and a creamy light blue. It had a soft green circle in the center, and by its look and since it bounced it seemed stretchy. Staring at it as it hit the ground once more with a weird splat, I was oddly reminded of an eyeball…

But that wasn't all that fell. Soon, we were all being doused with a lump of water that had followed the blue eyeball thing, falling right on top of it. Looking up from crouching to try to avoid getting splashed I stared at the ball on the floor for a moment…And it moved…spun and lurched…My eyes widened.

I looked down. The water that had splashed at my feet was moving…running toward the centre of the room…

I gurgle of a roar followed. My head snapping up I gasped as I saw the eye, animated in a water blob about as big as a shed. The eye spun rapidly around a few times, then the monster roared again, fixing its eye on us. Two globs formed arms as it dragged itself quickly towards us.

We all scattered as the water beast splashed where we had just stood, everyone but Steph, who frantically started reaching for her bow, raising their weapon. The beast screeched again, noticing it hadn't flattened anyone, and its eye spun around again to find its prey. Seeing all of us spread apart and getting confused, it went for Sensei, who was closest to it.

Kage raised his gun and fired, and at the same time Steph finished loading an arrow in her bow and let go. Bother projectiles hit the creature, but we watched in amazement as they slowed to a stop in the water. The beast screamed a roar, seemed to suck in and become smaller, then, looking as if it was letting out a large breath it released the arrow and bullet full speed back to there owners. Kage jumped out of the way in time, and though Steph's arrow skimmed her side she didn't get badly hurt since the arrow was shot at her backwards. The creature was strong but didn't seem too smart.

Sensei ran up the rest of the way to the beast and started slashing away at it, me running up to aid him. All he managed to do was distort the water to form a cut for a moment, before the beast would fill it up again with more water. I attempting at slicing the beast myself, but had to jump away as it formed its arms again and swung at Sensei and I. Panting as I landed beside Sensei the beast stopped its attack for a moment and roared again.

"H-how are we supposed to beat it…?" I asked, gasping in breath as I watched it howl, "None of our weapons work…"

"I'm not sure." Sensei replied shortly, abruptly hopping away as the beast tried to hit us again. Suddenly getting a thought, I powered my bo with light, thinking maybe magic could harm it. Unfortunately I stood still a moment too long, and the beast manage to get me. Hollering with surprise as it grabbed my leg and hung my upside-down I let go of my bo, pointlessly trying to grab it in the air. I heard my name being called by everyone as the water creature dangled me above itself and pushed me into its animated water body.

I floated a moment in shock before I realized I couldn't breath. I grabbed up to my throat in panic as the beast tried to quicken my suffocation by attempting to force liquid into my mouth and lungs. I closed my mouth tight and pushed precious air out of my nose so it couldn't attack my lungs. But losing air and struggling against the beast was causing me to choke faster. I needed air.

Suddenly, quickly, adrenaline powered my heart for a moment as I grabbed for my knife and attempted to slash the beast's eye. The water slowed my movements but somehow I managed a small, seemingly insignificant scratch on it. However the beast cried and spit me out, cowering back in pain and fear, looking down at the few wisps of blood I managed to draw floating in its body. I plopped, soaking on the stone floor, coughing out water and gasping for breath.

Sensei and Steph ran up to the creature to keep it busy, since, infuriated, it started up its attack again. Kage ran up beside me, kneeling and hitting my back to help me cough out more water. Through my gasping and shivering I heard Kage speak.

"Are you alright?" he asked urgently, watching me with wide, concerned eyes.

"Y-yeah…I'll be…o-okay." I managed to choke out between my pants and coughs.

Kage's hand, still on my back, moved to grip my shoulder and pulling me up he helped me to my feet. Breathing starting to slow down a little bit, I looked up at Sensei and Steph hopelessly fighting the beast.

"We…can't beat… like this…" I panted, "It's too powerful…we can't reach…the eye…to-to harm it…"

"There's gotta be some way to get at it…" Kage replied, "Better then being swallowed anyway…" He bent his head in thought, as I started standing on my own rather then lean on him.

I looked at the knife in my hand, water of the beast having washed the little blood I had drawn off. Then I looked up toward the monster, seeing Kage, noticing that I could support my own weight, run off and help the others. I stood, breathing almost normally now, thinking hard…

Steph was running, trying not to be speared by her own arrows… We needed to reach that eye somehow… Sensei was hit by one of the arms and flew back, landing with a thud. We had to get rid of the water around it, that's what it boiled down to…

…boiled?

Boiled!!!

"Kage!!!" I called out to him, and after swerving away from the other slashing arm he looked up.

"Use your fire magic on it! Evaporate the water!" I explained, and saw his eyes light up with understanding. He jumped back from the beast as Steph and Sensei ran beside him, so they wouldn't get burned. Falling to his knees he hit the ground with his hands. With a scream like nothing before, the beast was enveloped in flames.

Slowly, steam could be made out just above the flames. After awhile, Kage ceased the flow of his magic, slumping down and leaning on shaky arms. The eye swiveled in mid air a moment, and then plopped to the floor, lurching around as if in panic. Sensei wasted no time in running up. He raised his lance above it, the eye seeming to squeak insignificantly in protest, and finally brought it down on the thing. With a slight popping sound the eye split in two, covering the floor in a small wet puddle of blood.

I ran up to everyone, seeing them all panting. Sensei turned around and smiled at me, sweat coating his face. "Good call." He told me.

"Thanks." I smiled slightly. Seeing Steph in the corner of my eyes, I turned to see her staring unsurely at Kage. I looked at him too.

He was still on his knees, a little shaky and sweaty, but that made sense since he had just used a lot of energy behind that fire attack. Then I notice he was staring at the pool of blood the eye was creating, and knew why Steph looked scared.

I knelt beside him and questioned, "Kage, you alright?"

His head snapped up and he stared at me a moment. In front of my body, so I blocked it from the other two, I raised the knife still in my hand slightly, silently asking him if he needed a drink.

Kage smiled and shook his head a bit, falling backwards into a sitting position. He put his hand inside the front of his coat and searched around. Pulling his hand out I heard him slightly mutter, "Was saving this for something like this happening…." He pulled out a small bottle of blood from Wythen.

Unscrewing the lid, he raised the bottle to me and smiled. "To you, for the great idea." He said, then threw his head back and gulped down the liquid. I smiled back.

"Thanks…again." I replied, cheeks probably a bit pink from all the compliments.

Chucking the now empty bottle away, Kage stood up and held his head. "Couldn't of thought of something that took a little less energy though now, could ya?"

I stood as well. "Well sorry if my brain wasn't working right. It was still oxygen deprived. Surprising I could even think at all." I said, still smiling.

"But you usually can't anyway." Kage countered, grin growing. We looked at each other a moment, then both laughed lightly. While staring at him I felt good inside, even right after almost being choked to death.

"Hey, look at the door." Steph said suddenly, and pulled out of my stupor I turned and look at the door where she was pointing.

The door was opened, and once again I felt excitement fill me. We were just a few steps away from our goal. While standing and watching the door my excitement slowly turned to shivering. I was still soaked, and the room, I now noticed, was pretty cool. A few dry coughs followed and I sniffled.

Kage approached. "Here," he started, "We don't need you catching another cold…" He stood in front of me and place his hands on my shoulders. Suddenly I felt nicely warm breeze envelop me and in a moment I was dry. Slightly astonished, I examined my now warm, water-free clothes. I looked up at Kage.

"Thanks." I sighed contently, feeling much better now rather in drenched and dripping clothes.

"Your welcome. And now, why don't you say we go get our reward?" he smirked, nodding at the door. I grinned and nodded, and after re-sheathing my knife and getting my bo from Steph, who had picked it up for me, I ran ahead to the open doorway, exhilaration and anticipation growing. As I reached the swirling stairs I heard everyone else's footsteps join my own.

Around and around, up and up we went, my heart beating faster with every step. I couldn't help but smile, I just knew we'd find it…

And with a blast of warm air, we reached the outside and top of the temple. Turning my head, I stopped and stared in awe as everyone filed out behind me. Noticing I looked amazed they look and turning to see what I was staring at.

There was an alter about three yards away, and resting on an ancient royal blue pillow it shone. A rod, just like the one attached to my belt. About two-and-a-half feet long, it had a deep blue hilt and, and instead of a depiction of the sun like Raypedeous' rod had; this one was topped with a silver disk of a crescent moon. This must be the Rod of Taylina.

Sensei gave me a slight push from behind and I turn to see him nod toward the alter. "It seems your theory was right." He smiled calmly at me, eyes fill with joy and pride towards me, "It should be you who takes it and presents it to the council."

I looked at the other two. Both Kage and Steph nodded in agreement. I grinned and blushed again. Turning, I approached the alter and stared at the rod once more. Carefully, I grasped the hilt and lifted it off the pillow, which disappeared once I had the short staff.

Before my eyes, this rod became a deep blue and silver bo, just like the other did when I had grasped it. It also seemed to radiate a strange calmness into me, causing the small unsureness I had been traveling with all the way here to disappear completely. Sighing contently, I slipped the Rod beside the other one in my belt.

I smiled as I looked at everyone, who also seemed to all be relieved. "Well, we got what we hoped we would." I started happily, "Now let's hurry back to the camp, so we can use this to stop Helio's attack." Everyone agreed, and we started our way back down the temple, hearts all much lighter and more confident then before.


We reached the entrance hall, and Steph and I continuing a conversation about the rods and their magic we started halfway down the temple.

"So, they can let anyone use magic then?"

"Yup," I replied cheerily as we walked around ruble and tree trunks to the outside, "Nadalian's should also be able to use a great deal of magic, even though no person can use any magic here without their stone. I figure if one of the Elder's were to use the rod in battle, along with the item we found here; which as we now know is another rod, then Helio will stand no chance. These generals have no real followers anyway, the people are mostly all forced into it. If we destroy Helio his army will most likely give up." We finally reached the outside, the sun having retreated behind some clouds so that it was nicely cool, but a little dark. I hardly took notice and continued chatting with Steph.

"If that doesn't happen though and they still resist, at least with Helio out of the way we should-" but that's about as far as I got before an arrow flew past and skimmed my shoulder.

I jumped at the slight sharp pain, and when I noticed what caused it took out my bo and looked wildly around for the culprit, along with everyone else. To my right, where Kage stood, I heard a gunshot, then a thud. Kage seemed to have found our assailant, and shot him off the layer of the temple where he had been hiding on. The body of the Araylian soldier had fallen off the layer and made the sickening thud we had heard. He didn't move. I was about to approach the soldier to see if he was still alive, but a voice from ahead stopped me.

"I heard my name. You know, I don't like it when people talk about me behind my back. Especially when its filthy rebel scum like you…" Helio smirked, hands on his hips as he regained that look in his eye I remember from my dream, the wild animal like look of a cat cornering a mouse…

I glared at him, anger and hate filling my being as I remember the dream, his eagerness, no, his lust to kill the Nadalians…my people…

Now he was flanked by two soldiers on each side, the sheathes of two thin swords dangling from his belt. He was definitely prepared, both in arms and mind. His face said he was enjoying this job Xenreous assigned him, and I could see in his determined eyes that lust of killing, and knew at once it could never be fully satisfied…These eyes showed his insanity, worst then animalistic, as I knew that no animal looked so pleased to search and kill its prey…

I was shaking with rage at these thoughts. Not even with Tarinous or Xenreous had I felt so much hate. He who threaten and took pleasure from killing Nadalian's would have to answer to me.

"What do you want?" I hissed at him, clenching my teeth, memories of the pain he and his entourage had caused the Nadalian's and myself slowly overwhelming my mind. "Looking for a one-way trip to hell? Because I can give it to you here and now!!!" I screamed, going to run forward, but many arms shooting out from behind and holding me back. I let go of my bo, trying to fight everyone off of me. I'd kill him with my bare hands if I must!

"Ho oh! Got a feisty one here, don't we?" Helio laughed, narrowing his hawk like orange-red eyes at me with amusement. "Don't worry doll, I like my women to fight back…" he grinned as a hunger flashed through his eyes, making me feel disgusted.

Then he looked at the rest of our group, and cackled once again. "Ah, and Kage! We meet again at last!" he chattered to him causally, but had a hint of sarcasm in the back of his voice, as well as a sickening smile plastered on his face. Then he heaved a fake sigh, and shrugged, closing his eyes. "Though I must admit, I didn't expect you to turn traitorous so soon…thought the boss could squeeze a few more years of service out of you…Miss the free-reign killing yet?", he opened and eye and peered at him with that cruel grin, "But of course, I'm positive you miss the screaming and begging by now…you always seemed to love it so much as a kid…" I heard Kage growl from behind.

While peering at Kage I noticed Helio's gaze turn down to my hip. He opened both eyes and let out a chuckle, and lowered his hands. "So I was right, you did get the old geezer's rod, and anther one too…" he spoke out softly. He locked eyes with me. "Perhaps, if you hand them over, I won't torture you before I kill you…" he smiled, outstretching one of his hands, palm open and waiting.

I grabbed the rods and held them tight. "You'll have to pry them out of my cold dead hands!" I spat.

"Is that so?" Helio asked dully, but still smirking. He turned his palm to face us and I felt a sudden serge of power around me. Figuring he was going to try and use his magic to grab the rods, I held them close and turned slightly away from him. That's when I noticed they weren't being tugged away, and looked back around at the fire general with confusion.

Then I saw what he had drawn toward him, what were floating above his outstretched palm. I paled, as my fear almost outran my understanding.

Sensei and Steph…their tsuki stones floated above his hand.

"Perhaps you don't mind dying to protect those rods, but what of you friends?" he asked coolly, almost spitting out the last word as if it were a swear. "As you panicked face is telling me, you know what will happen if I set fire to these." He raised his hand so I could see them better. He chuckled softly, his eyes never leaving my terrified face and mine never leave the two stones drifting around in a slow circle above his hand, "You never should have invited Nadalian's to come with you kid. Their just too damned easy to torture, to kill…" His maniacal smirk was back, reflected in his wide, mad eyes. But I didn't notice. All I could do was stare at the stones, frozen in shock.

I suddenly regained feeling in my body. "NO!" I yelled, going to run up and give him the rods. There was just no other option. I couldn't- I couldn't let him kill…like I had carelessly let so many others die by his hand…

But I was stopped. Someone had grabbed my arm. I turned to see it was a solemn faced Sensei. I felt shocked. He shook his head.

"You can't give them to him." He said softly, and I gaped at him, unable to comprehend, unable to let go of my panicked shock. Sensei smiled weakly. He slowly got on one knee in front of me and held my shaking, pale hand. "Giving them to him would condemn Nadalia to death." He explained calmly, in the same way he used to try and explain something to me when I was upset as a child, "I cannot let him kill my country."

"But-" I breathed out, panting in growing fear for the longer he had the stones, "But-But-".My eyes filled with tears.

Sensei bent his head so I couldn't see his face. "I am willing," he started slowly, "To make sacrifices for my people."

He didn't know what he was saying. That had to be it. Helio was using magic to confuse him. There's no way Sensei would…My father…would…

I looked slowly over at Steph. I saw she was staring at her tsuki stone in Helio's hand. She looked petrified. I looked back to Helio.

"Well?" Helio asked, raising his other hand, as if to snap his fingers.

I couldn't. I just couldn't. I pulled out of Sensei's grip and walked forward shakily. I stopped a few yards away from the fire general, wide-eyed and pale, eyes wet with fearful tears.

"I throw them to you and you throw me the stones. Deal?" I questioned in a high, quivering voice.

"Sounds good to me." He replied causally.

I looked at the rods in my hands, then back at him. Closing my eyes, knowing the consequences, I blindly threw the rods forward. Opening my eyes ashamedly, I looked dully at towards him, waiting…

He snapped.

There was fire in his hand.

Two screams from behind.

I turned.

They were both lying…unmoving….

Dead.


……