Even in the fate of death

love will not fade.

It may separate, and

it may steal a moment,

but love will live on,

as strong as ever.

So please do not forget.

Parting may come,

and tears may be shed,

but what truly matters,

above all the heavens

and above all the hells,

is that love lives on.

A scream pierced the air. Sabestet raised a lustrous, argent sword and shoved it at a man consumed in shadows. "I should tear your eyes and feed them to Ammit!" His wraith-like eyes were ablaze with a furious hatred that emanated from the depths of his soul.

A high-pitched cackle rose from the face blackened by shadows. "Oh but even Ammit would agree with my poor soul. You stole what was rightfully mine!"

"You slaughtered thousands and for what?! A throne?! You're worse than Set himself!" Sabestet took a step forward; his features contorted by his uncontainable rage.

Then a woman with striking black hair and piercing eyes appeared to materialize from behind him, with two young girls following her daring steps. Another younger boy walked boldly in front of the woman, and his eyes shined ardently over at the man consumed in shadows. "You are a monster," she accused angrily when the man's blood eyes flashed in her direction.

"Oh really, my dear?" The man stepped forward and she let out a gasp. "Don't we look so much alike though? We are mirrors of each other!" The man laughed and a splash of silver flashed from his hand. "That wretched man is my selfish and impudent brother!"

"YOU are no brother of his!" The woman shrieked, her eyes flashing with a brilliant green.

"Well, not really." The man grinned with an all too uncanny smile. "Once I destroy him that is."

"Mereruka!" Sabestet shouted at the man, his arm trembling like an earthquake. "Don't you dare speak to her with that tone!"

Mereruka maniacally laughed and stepped forward; a sword snaking eagerly into view, scraping eerily along the tiled floor as Mereruka languidly dragged it across with a monotone speed. "Oh how I will love sending your blasphemous soul to be weighed." He chuckled, "Will it be light as a feather?" At this, the stone chamber flashed with a brilliant absorbing light; everyone became momentarily blinded by the rays, and as the rays almost immediately began to melt away, a milky darkness stole over the entire length of the chamber. Heavily, like a thick curtain drawing across a window, a gray daunting haze curled around their ankles and slunk skywards, plaguing the room in fog. "How dare you." Sabestet hissed, his blinded eyes feverishly scanning the deep, penetrating fog

Laughter tauntingly echoed through the smog. "Is it to your distaste?"

"Damn you!" The woman barked as her vision was aggravatingly obscured.

"Oh but I'm already damned, Serqet," he cooed. A sudden flicker of Mereruka's argentous blade gleamed through the air and a great clanging vibrated off the walls. "Sharpen your blade, brother!"

At his word, Mereruka's sword shot forward from the great expansive mixture of tenebrous darkness and smog, and with a second's reaction, Sabestet's sword sprang into life, clashing against the fiend blade with a devilish clang. A gasp from somewhere echoed across the darkness, and distracted, Sabestet's blade was shoved against him as Mereruka forcefully advanced. Stumbling to catch his balance, Sabestet growled when Mereruka's face materialized in the fog as he quickly shortened the distance with quick, precise advances. "Fiend!" Sabestet grunted, as Mereruka's face leered in front of his, their swords interlocked at a standstill. "Oh, really?" whispered Mereruka. "Prove your power to me!" Mereruka pounced atop him, and Sabestet tumbled back; a simple retreat and parry began unhurriedly between them as Mereruka toyed with his out of practice, dulled brother. A weird and stifling silence hushed throughout the place, and the only sound that boastingly spoke were the sinister pings and pangs of the swords and the quick, rhythmic sound of their feet. Serqet and the children remained hidden within the arresting darkness.

"You can never win, brother. This agitates me to play folly like this. Should I end it now?" Mereruka's voice mocked, and with an all too sudden flick of his wrist, he brought his sword careening upward underneath Sabestet's, tearing the sharp tip of his sword through the very left side Sabestet's torso. Sabestet fell back and seethed with pain as a spray of blood splattered onto the abyss of the floor.

Only momentarily did this wound Sabestet. "Don't act as though you have the upper hand." Sabestet leapt forward and a great fire took form in the palm of his opposite hand. "You have always been a fool!" The fire shot forth at Mereruka, and cursing, Mereruka retreated back into the darkness, allowing the fire to expand across the entire chamber, illuminating the golden, towering walls. Sabestet whipped the fire to the floor, spreading it around to lighten the area. Serqet came into view, and through the fire's light appeared, like a devilish omen, a thousand snakes and fiendish scorpions covering every inch of the ground surrounding her children. The sinful creatures glared menacingly at Mereruka and spat out hisses as the fire illuminated their glossy, sinister eyes. "Don't underestimate me!" Sabestet screamed.

"Oh?" Mereruka grinned, holding his sword at arm's length. "You are slow and out of practice!" His laughter snarled through the air, and Mereruka vanished from sight. Sabestet shouted in rage and gripped his sword tightly, trying desperately to see through the dimming fire's light. "MERERUKA!" he screamed.

"Ah, brother, brother . . . temper, temper." His voice issued out like a whisper in the wind, and then he all too suddenly reappeared behind Serqet, his hand pressing a crude dagger to her throat. No shock escaped from her lips, but her eyes widened slightly, and her children, except for the boy, shrieked in protest. "Ah, Serqet, this is a change. You're really weak, using all your energy to put silly protection around your poor, defenseless children. You left yourself utterly vulnerable."

"Leave her alone!" Sabestet's face flared with hatred and anger. His grip grew tighter on the hilt of his sword and he crouched lower, ready to attack at any sign of movement from Mereruka.

"Or what will you do?" Mereruka grinned. "If I do this would you spring?" Mereruka pressed his lips to Serqet's neck. "Would you?" His tongue lashed out and slimed up her neck like a revolting slug, and a shiver spiraled throughout Serqet's frame. At this movement, Sabestet's eyes darkened and fire sprang up from the ground and rushed toward Mereruka. Laughter burst from Mereruka's lips, and the fire surged upwards and caged Mereruka within its fiery depths. Serqet instinctively flinched away and her eyes glowed dangerously. However, a howling roar of continuous laughter burst from the flames, and they, along with Mereruka, instantly vanished from sight.

"Come out, Mereruka!" Sabestet screamed in rage, once again his eyes rapidly searching.

"Sabestet!" Mereruka's voice joyously sang out. "Are you done jesting?"

A quietness stole over the place and everything remained icy still, but when suddenly the air seemed to move, Serqet let out a shriek, "Sabestet, move!"

Before Sabestet could even comprehend the words, he felt a piercing pain. Looking down he saw a spray of blood and the silver sword stemming from the pit of his stomach.

Month: Maias (May)

Date: dies Verenis 20th (Friday)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3:15 p.m.

Prosper felt his eyes opening slowly. What the he-? Had he been dreaming? He shook his head and glanced lazily out the window. The warm sunlight from outside was beaming in brightly and was the direct cause of him slumbering on his desk. In addition, the dull, sonorous voice of the teacher basically threw sleep powder into his eyes. His head nodded again and he stared down at the ratty textbook on his desk. Math, math, math . . . What good was math? He preferred his combat classes to any old boring lecture on how to write a formula for a hyperbola. Especially on a hot stifling day such as this, math was just not the thing to be learning. Oh God, he wanted to jump in a nice, ice-cold pool. He decided right then that he would give up an arm just to go swimming. Although, he did not know how good swimming would be without an arm. With a heavy sigh, his eyes drifted shut again, and his pencil fell from his hand.

"Prosper!" The teacher shouted suddenly, and Prosper bolted from his stupor, falling off the edge of his chair and landing with a soft thud on the floor. Laughter consumed the classroom.

He stood up quickly as his friend Alice nearby stifled down a fit of giggles. "Yes, ma'am?" His butt was killing him now as he stood there trying to appear as if he had been attentive.

"What's the formula of a parabola?" The teacher glared out from behind her spectacles, daring him to be wrong.

Prosper's mouth dropped open, and his eyes shifted around the room looking for a life jacket to save himself. "Um . . . Um," he knew Alice was going to be laughing hysterically later, "I mean, that's a very long, technical question there. You see, a parabola is, you know . . ." Prosper's hands made a motion in front of him as if trying to express a parabola, and then he sighed, adverting his eyes to the ground, "I don't remember."

The teacher let out an exasperated groan, "Sit down then. We had this last week. Does anyone know the formula?"

Alice's hand shot up next to Prosper as he took his seat, and feeling grumpy, he rested his head on his hand. The teacher pointed to Alice and she stood up, brushing off her plaid skirt. With a clearing of her throat, Alice gave the answer precisely and then beamed when the teacher smiled at her. As Alice sat down, the teacher looked gravely at Prosper, "Maybe you would do best to study with your friend, Prosper." As the teacher turned around to write on the board she spoke out again, "I wish to see you after class." Prosper moaned and hit his head on his desk in shame. Alice rolled her eyes and gave him a stern look. The sun did not appear so warm to him anymore.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3:50 p.m.

The bell chimed blissfully from overhead, and Prosper sat like a lump as everyone else in class talked with excitement. Alice shook her head and stopped in front of Prosper's desk, "I'll wait for you, Prop. But honestly, if you need any help I'm always here."

Prosper commenced to whine, "I don't need help. I have a good grade in this class. I need pep pills or something." He suddenly glared out the window, "Or someone fire a nuclear bomb at the sun. Either one works for me."

Alice raised an eyebrow, "I wonder about you sometimes. Why not just get more sleep and put down the cards and video games?"

Prosper looked appalled and made a disgusted face, "Never!"

Alice laughed, "Well, whatever. I'll wait outside . . . Go talk to Mrs. Crab before she blows a fuse." She waved her hand and walked out the classroom, her chin-length, curly black hair bouncing as she walked. She was one of Prosper's best friends, and what a friend she was, always rescuing him out of tight places with her brains and keen sense. However, no matter how bright she was, she could be extremely erratic when overly excited. She was extremely adorable, but he only liked her as a friend. She was short and maybe just as thin as a rail. Her hair cropped her face prettily, and her soft blue eyes were enigmatic and sharp as an owl. To him she often resembled a chipmunk, but not in a bad way, just mousy and tiny. She didn't have much for breasts though, but she always claimed she didn't care. Prosper didn't care either, but maybe that was because he didn't see her in that lovey-dovey way.

He felt an evil air-wave pass over him, and as he snapped out of his phasing, he saw the devilish spark of Mrs. Crab's eyes sending beams of despair his way. With less enthusiasm than a man heading for the electric chair, Prosper stood up and dragged his feet over to her desk where the sinister woman drummed her nails impatiently on the desk. He supposed she was not too terrible for a teacher. She was smart and kind, but when she was offended, her hair began to look like the snakes of Medusa. Or at least that's what he thought.

"Yes, Mrs. Crab?" Prosper said with a small grain of sandy hope clinging dearly for its life. Maybe she would give him a lollypop, and like those kindergarten teachers, tell him to make more of an effort. Oh, they were so kind!

"I'm disappointed in you." Mrs. Crab barked. The grain of sand clinging to the edge of the hourglass slammed to the bottom, smashing his hopes. "You used to do so wonderfully in my class." She looked disgruntled and Prosper sighed. "You had a low one in my class, but a one nonetheless. A grade of one in any class is a high honor." She pushed her glasses up on her nose, staring darkly at Prosper through her hawk like eyes. "But lately you have been lackluster. Falling asleep and dazing off into space!" She hissed out sharply, "Is there something the matter?"

"Oh no, I'm sorry." Prosper apologized with the sincerest amount of sadness, "I haven't been getting much sleep is all. It's really nothing." Moreover, that was the truth in all sense. He could not sleep well of late.

Mrs. Crab glared at him in suspicion, "Well, if that is all, I suggest you get more sleep. And the next time you fall asleep in my class you will be seeing me for a detention, understand?" Prosper nodded. "I know math may not be as exciting as let's say those bloody weaponry classes, but it still must be learned!" Prosper nodded again solemnly, and she waved her hand to motion for him to leave. Prosper's head dipped down in a bow, and he scurried out of the classroom.

Prosper tilted his head back as he left the room and let his aching neck crack. He was so unbelievably tired and his tedious classes were not helping. As a huge yawn escaped his lips, Alice's voice filled his mind, "Prosper, over here!"

Prosper turned and saw his friend leaning against a tall window, the sun illuminating her presence. He grinned, "Hey!"

They began to walk down the school hall together, Alice carrying a tower of books, "So, what did Mrs. Crab have to say?"

Prosper shrugged, "She just asked if anything was wrong."

"What did you tell her?" Alice asked as they bumped past a group of chatty girls.

"Ah, well, you know . . ." Prosper grinned brilliantly, "I just haven't been sleeping well."

"Really, why?" Alice asked; her voice was traced in worry.

"I have been having these-." Prosper stopped as Alice gasped suddenly.

She halted abruptly to the displeasure of the people behind her. They glared at her and hissed as they passed, but she did not seem to hear, and Prosper threw out a sorry in their direction. "Prop, I found something interesting in the paper." She knelt on the floor, sitting on her skirt and dirtying it. Prosper watched as the people walking by stared down at her furiously digging through her books like a lunatic.

"Alice . . . Um . . . Are you okay?" Prosper asked softly.

Alice nodded and then sprang up from the floor; her books tumbled from her hands. "I found it!" She waved a newspaper in the air, and Prosper sighed, bending over to scoop up her books as people glared on. Ignoring her books, Alice went on about the paper, "Prosper! You have to see this. There are thieves in the neighborhood." Her voice was animated and frantic about the news, for she happened to be a lover of all mysteries.

"What about thieves?" Prosper questioned as he stood up and tried to balance all of her books, "I don't understand how you carry all of these."

"Yes, yes, well . . . Never mind that. Look!" She shoved the paper in front of his face, and not catching himself in time, he plummeted to the ground off balance. The books flew into the air and fell atop his head painfully. He grumbled when Alice did not seem to notice or care. "Are you hearing this?" She chimed loudly so the whole world could hear.

"I heard," Prosper barked, feeling that his butt had been through enough abuse for one day. He rubbed the spot on his head where one of her textbooks had disliked and chosen to land upon.

"Well, then look!" She bent down, and he snatched the paper from her pushy hands.

He scanned the front page containing an article about the thieves. Alice, as smugly as possible, began to give an overview of the article: "They call them the Relic Thieves because they only steal extremely old, priceless relics."

"Didn't see that one coming." Prosper allowed the sarcasm to ooze from his mouth, "I mean the name didn't give it away at all."

Alice scowled but continued, "They've already been through four cities. Moving from the southwest to the northwest. Karelia, Votice, Benning, and Prance. Now they are here in Nagoya! Or at least it is rumored."

"Votice? That's a huge restrictive city. They weren't caught?" Prosper was intrigued suddenly.

"Not at all! That's what is so amazing!" Alice was hysteric by now with excitement. "It's so strange and baffling. They're like ghostly fiends. They move in and move out without a trace, slipping through every barrier set before them. Supposedly, in Benning, they set up a whole blockade of guards surrounding the city, and they never moved from their posts. A few days later, the thieves had struck in Prance. Truly amazing! They've stolen a lot of sacred artifacts. It's horrific, really."

Prosper bit his lip as he stared at the paper, "Well, how do authorities know they're here?"

"One of the items that would surely interest the thieves was in Prance for a few months, but it was moved to Nagoya when the thieves were in Benning. The police are almost positive that those thieves are here." Alice could have gone on for hours.

"Yes, but Nagoya?" Prosper laughed, "They wouldn't. It's a city with one of the three prestige academies, our school, if you are so absentminded. They wouldn't dare! They would be caught in an instant."

Their city of Nagoya is known for the Erudite Academy, which is one of Shallot's top schools for paladins, or fighters within the world of Shallot. Children are admitted early in their lives to fight for their country. They undergo trained and are sent through rigorous trials to become the best combatant soldiers. Paladins are trained in order to protect Shallot in case of war, or even simple emergencies throughout the world, such as profound murders or crimes. The Master, or head, of the Erudite Academy assists in the training of paladins and is the highest authority and strongest of all paladins. This is the whole ideal of their school, and it is an almost full-proof system for insuring the safety of Shallot.

However, the Erudite Academy is only one school for combatant training. Two other cities, and only two, around the world of Shallot, hold academies. There is the Augury Academy within Gothun, next to the Ferwell Mountain Barrier. Then there is the Nigh Academy in Vikeen, on Toron Island. These other academies function in the same way as the Erudite Academy, with a Master at the head of the school and students training to fight within Shallot. The only difference lies in the types of students admitted. The Augury Academy accepts only magicians, humans who can perform a certain magic ability; the Nigh Academy accepts half-humans that have animalistic qualities and were born from a beast and human. With these two academies and the paladin academy, Shallot's fighting ability is immensely strong, making it highly impractical for anything terrifically bad to happen within these three cities. Anything or anyone disturbing the peace would be caught faster and with more ease than if they were in a different city.

"Yes, they would, but I suppose you're right," Alice sighed heavily, "They will probably get caught easily by coming here. So much for my fun." She appeared forlorn as she sat on the floor, letting people walk around her.

"Hey, midgets!"

Prosper's head shot up as he heard another one of his friend's mocking voice fly through the air, and he immediately saw his friend's flaming, bright red hair appear first in his line of vision. His friend, Zeik, smirked wickedly, his jester green eyes filled with mockery. Kendra, Zeik's girlfriend, followed him and stopped right behind Prosper, and as he glanced up, he found his head leaning up against her strong leg. Her dark green hair fell down to her waist and formed a slight cape around Prosper's face. Her light pink lips smiled and her sharp green eyes shined mirthfully down on him "What's with the unusual sitting spot?" Zeik scoffed, resting his slender but firm arm on Kendra's shoulder as she reared with laughter. Prosper glowered up at Zeik's tall, sinewy self, and Kendra smiled down at him with a toothy grin.

Alice's face lit up as she saw the two of them, "Kendra, Zeik!" She sprang up from her spot and Prosper, once again shoveling up her books, stood up rather slowly as he tried to balance the books better this time. Although the instant he felt proud for managing to stand up, Zeik patted him roughly on the back and the books, to Prosper's utter disbelieve, toppled from his death grip. Prosper's mouth fell open, and he felt ready to cry in helplessness as he stared down at the abused books. These were his marvelous friends: Zeik, Kendra, and Alice. Each was in a league of their own. Zeik was the oldest at the age of seventeen and Kendra was sixteen. Alice and Prosper were the youngest at fifteen. They made quite a quad. Zeik and Kendra added brilliantly to Alice's brainy and spastic self. Kendra was tomboyish and full of spunk. Zeik, on the other hand, was their handsome comic relief boy and had a way of making every lady swoon. In other words, he was quite the nonchalant pervert.

"How's it going there?" Zeik asked brightly, but seemed confused when Prosper only stared down at the dropped books.

"I'm cursed." Prosper muttered, kicking one of the books.

Alice giggled and picked up all of her books in one giant sweep, "Don't worry about it."

Prosper glared at the books and Kendra wrapped her arms around him, resting her chin on his shoulder, "Don't look so glum, Prop. You should be happy. No more classes for today."

Prosper sighed and Alice filled them in, "He got yelled at by Mrs. Crab."

Zeik stepped back and his rugged face filled with fear, "That witch? She never liked me and was always yelling at me for something." He scoffed and kicked the wall angrily, "Evil old bat!"

Kendra unwrapped her arms and grimaced, "She wasn't so bad, Zeik." She turned to Prosper, "I thought you were doing well in her class?"

Prosper murmured, "I am but-."

"He's been falling asleep in class!" Alice butted in with disapproval.

Zeik turned on Prosper and crossed his arms, "He hasn't been staying up late at all."

Prosper's eyebrows lowered, "I told her I haven't been sleeping well."

"Why is that?" Kendra asked, cramming a piece of bubble gum into her mouth.

"I don't know; I just haven't been sleeping well." Prosper answered grumpily.

Zeik suddenly grinned slyly, "Got any girls on your mind?"

"What?" Prosper fell backwards in surprise and his face turned red, "No, it's not like that!"

Alice screamed with delight, "Your face is so red!"

Prosper waved his arms out in front of him and began backing away, "No . . . I swear. I just haven't-."

Kendra grinned devilishly and cracked her knuckles, "Should we beat it out of him?"

Zeik stretched his arms out, "We should at least give him a head start. How about five seconds?"

Alice sighed, "Don't, Zeik. Be nice." Prosper stepped back, his eyes wide.

Kendra cleared her throat, "One!"

"You wouldn't," Prosper hissed.

"Oh, we would." Zeik snickered, "Two!"

Prosper spun around and raced down the hall. Kendra shrugged, "Well, two is enough. That jack rabbit is a speed demon." Kendra and Zeik dashed after Prosper, and Alice just shook her head as she watched them tear around a corner and disappear.