Chapter 19

A Party of Fire and Ice

Sanada Hinata was falling. Everything spiraled around her as gravity claimed her body while her heart throbbed with indescribable fear. Broken pieces of glass glinted around her, looking like drawn feathers from a shot bird. As she fell, Hinata realized that this must be her fate; she was destined to die there. For one split-second, all sorts of memories rushed through her mind, but it stopped on one particular memory, where a boy once promised to protect her against all that might try to harm her.


Hinata could hear his voice right now, so loud and clear. Did her thoughts somehow reached him?


Hinata's body slammed on something warm and two strong arms clasped her waist. The force pushed her mind back to reality and she realized that she was no longer falling, but surging up towards the broken window she fell from.

"Hinata!" yelled Mashiro Ryuu. "Are you all right?"

"Ryuu…" Hinata whispered his name and pushed her head towards his chest, her whole body shivering in the cold water she was bathed in. "I thought I was going to die…"

"You're not going to die, not as long as you're under my watch," Ryuu told her and Hinata found herself reassured by his words. This person who was holding her, the Ryuu she trusted, how long has it been since he last became this reliable?

The warmth in Ryuu's body spread through Hinata, dissipating the cold with the fires that spurted all around his body. Ryuu was covered from head to toe in flames, an ability that he possessed as Hinata's Wand. A spurt of flames roared among his feet, acting like a pair of jet boots, which propelled him upwards. Ryuu and Hinata reached the window and jumped towards it, stepping on the wet and glass-filled floor.

Ryuu helped Hinata stand. "What happened here?" he asked her. "Who did this to you?"

"It's…" said Hinata, remembering the last few minutes with a sick stomach. "It's Sayuri…"

Ryuu's face looked blank. "Sa-sayuri?" he repeated, as if he heard the name wrong.

"It's Sayuri…" replied Hinata. Ryuu shook his head to which Hinata quickly added, "And no, I'm not mistaken. She attacked me…" She processed her thoughts and remembered something else. "It looked like she was not herself; it seemed like she was being controlled…"

"Controlled?" asked Ryuu with a puzzled look.

Hinata opened her mouth to answer when Ryuu suddenly moved in front of her and extended his right hand. Flames spurted from his hand, colliding with a group of sharp icicles that were aimed towards them. The union of fire and ice ended with an onslaught of mist, which quickly surrounded the whole place. In front of them, the unmistakable shadow of a man could be seen beneath the fog.

"Who's there?" yelled Ryuu, still in front of Hinata. His arms ignited with crimson flames.

There was no answer, but the sound of footsteps could be heard. Hinata and Ryuu watched as the shadow in the mist moved closer towards them. Hinata saw her Wand's whole body tense, awaiting any sudden attack. Soon, somebody would emerge from the fog…

A pair of black boots stepped out of the mist and stopped in front of them.

"Well, if it isn't the Dragon and her mistress. Fancy meeting a Sacred Wand here."

"Soraaaa! Sora! Answer me!" Agami Hikaru shouted into his phone, his palm becoming red with the tight grip he had on the gadget. However, the pain he felt on his palm didn't matter, as well as the fact that people had been giving him funny looks over his absurd yelling in the phone. What mattered was that Sora was in danger and he was too late to save her again. Again

Beside him, Higara Keisuke and the brothers Konta Tsubasa and Konta Shou wore worried expressions. "What happened, Hikaru?" asked Keisuke.

"Sora…" said Hikaru. "She's in danger…"

"In danger?" asked Shou. "But how? The place is supposed to be heavily guarded."

"I don't know how!" yelled Hikaru, his whole body shaking in anger. "What I know is that she's in danger! And that I'm going to look for her!"

Without another word, Hikaru stomped off and hurriedly ran out of the room, bumping into a dozen people on the way. His rushed exit created some commotion in the crowd, most of whom were wondering where a guest was going when the party was about to start.

"Shouldn't we follow him?" asked Keisuke with a scratch on the head.

Shou watched Hikaru's departure with a frown. "There's something off in this situation."

"What d'you mean, little bro?" queried Tsubasa.

"I'm not sure," replied Shou, shaking his head. "But Mashiro-san rushing out all of a sudden… And now Hikaru…"

"It is weird," stated Keisuke. "Basing upon their reactions, it looked like Sayuri-chan and Sora-chan were in a bad situation or something…"

Shou nodded. "I hope not. But just in case, somebody should warn Azimura-san." He looked at Keisuke. "I'll leave that to you."

"Me?" asked Keisuke, pointing a finger at himself. "You know, Shou-kun, if a fight breaks out… No offense, but I'm pretty sure I can fight better than you."

"That's true," said Shou, not even blinking an eye at Keisuke's comment. "But I have a Wand with me. Considering we don't know what we're up against, a Wizard with a Wand will have better chances, don't you agree?"

Keisuke crossed his arms in doubt, looking at Shou, who had a serious glint in his eyes and then at Tsubasa, who grinned and gave him a thumb up. "Fine…" he relented, sighing. "I'll go find Shiori-san and tell her the situation."

"Okay, we're counting on you," said Shou. "Come on, Tsubasa, let's look for the others."

"Alright! See yah later, Kei-kun." Tsubasa tapped Keisuke's back before following Shou, who already had a head start towards the nearest door.

Keisuke watched Shou and Tsubasa leave. "Huh…" he whispered with a smirk. "This is an interesting turn of events..."

Hinata was stunned. A blue-haired man stood before her and Ryuu, wearing simple blue-colored tights, a pair of black boots, a white scarf tied on his neck and an intricate blue mask over his face, which only gave space for his eyes. His blue-colored eyes had a cold look in it and although he seemed to be only a few years older, there was something on the way he stood that was menacing. But this person was not the reason for Hinata's shock…

It was the fact that he knew so much about Ryuu… How did he know that Ryuu was…

"Who are you?" asked Ryuu, interrupting Hinata's train of thoughts.

The man's eyes flashed and Hinata could imagine the smirk that was hidden in the mask. "You can call me Aquarius," he said in an amused tone.

"Are you the one who harmed Hinata?"

"Harmed Hinata-chan?" repeated Aquarius with a slight chuckle. "Didn't you hear her, Dragon-kun? It wasn't me who attacked her and pushed her out of the window with a deluge of water…"

Ryuu's hands shook. "So it was Sayuri?"

"I don't think so," said Hinata suddenly. She looked at Aquarius straight in the eye and said, "No one was here when Sayuri sent me through the window with her powers." Her eyes narrowed. "What did you do to Sayuri?"

Aquarius clapped his hand thrice. "Bravo, Hinata-chan. So perceptive, I like that about you. But really, what did I do to poor Sayuri-chan to make her behave like that?"

There was a scorching sound as Ryuu's whole body burned with flames. "What the hell did you do to her?" he demanded.

"And where is she now?" asked Hinata, looking around her.

"Who knows?" replied Aquarius, shrugging his arms. "But I bet you can find her, as well as answer Dragon-kun's question." His tone became increasingly snide as he continued. "You're a practitioner of Psychic Magic, aren't you?"

Hinata's eyes widened as the answer flashed in front of her. "No… It couldn't be…"

"What's wrong?" asked Ryuu. "Have you found Sayuri?"

Aquarius answered for him. "Not that, but the other question. She found the answer to your question, Dragon-kun."

"No…" said Hinata, shaking her head. "Don't tell me…" She looked at the spiteful expression in Aquarius' eyes and knew there couldn't be any other explanation. "Mind Control?"

Hikaru rushed through the nearest stairway, his hurried footsteps echoing in the eerily quiet mansion. He reached the second floor, but the darkness and silence gave no hint as to Sora's location.

"Sora…" he whispered. "Where are you?"

Hikaru carefully treaded his way through the empty hallway, his eyes scanning the surroundings for any sign of disturbance. The lights were on and gave a brilliant hue on the walls and floor, but he could feel something dark permeating all over the place.

Hikaru opened his right palm and summoned a rapier formed from glinting golden light. He clasped the sword tightly, just in case he needed to fight. And knowing that Sora had somehow tangled herself in some trouble in a span of few minutes, he had no doubt that he'll have to rely on his skills once again.

What was it with Sora? The girl could attract dangerous situations as fast as a lamp could draw out moths. And Hikaru would always be too late to arrive in the scene. It started with the incident that forced him to turn her into a Wand to avoid death and then her friends' kidnapping. Hikaru's grip in his sword tightened as he remembered the helplessness he felt when he saw the large pillar of light in the sky, caused by Sora when she protected Sayuri, Hanako and Kasumi from the rampaging Warlock brat.

It was the same feeling of helplessness that Hikaru was experiencing of the moment. People didn't usually matter to him, but Sora… Somehow, in the short time they were together, Hikaru felt like a portion of the emptiness in his soul had been filled up.

And you can't change my mind! I'll protect those you love, too!

He could hear Sora's voice so clearly when she said those words a few days ago. Protect those he loves, eh? Maybe she should start with protecting herself. His heart throbbed painfully at the thought.

The silver cross pendant in his necklace bounced and landed on his chest with a soft thud. Hikaru touched the cross, reminding him that he can never be happy. As long as this necklace was strapped around his neck, he had a duty to fulfill. And Sora will never be able to change that…

As he walked, a slight movement in the shadows caught Hikaru's eye. Stepping carefully to avoid making any sound, he moved towards a slightly opened door.

Hinata's whole body shivered as she voiced out the only sensible reason that explained the whole situation. "Mind Control?"

Aquarius' eyes flashed. "Bravo! I knew you'd get it."

"But that's impossible! Nobody can completely control another person's mind!"

"I'm an exception to the rule," said Aquarius simply.

Hinata was shocked to silence, while Ryuu smirked. "Exception to the rule, eh?" He laughed, surprising both Aquarius and Hinata. "Who cares if you can control minds? I'm not letting you get away with what you want."

"Ryuu…" whispered Hinata, looking up at him. Ryuu gave her a confident smile and somehow, his reassuring presence melted all the doubts and fears that had taken root in her heart and mind after Sayuri attacked her. "You're right…"

Hinata pointed at Aquarius, her eyes narrowing into her usual piercing stare. "I'm not going to say this twice! Release Sayuri from your spell at once!"

Aquarius laughed. He laughed so hard that he had to put a hand on his stomach. After a while, he stopped laughing and then seeing Hinata and Ryuu's serious looks, stood up straight. "Well…" he finally said. "I have some time for some games. Let's see what you've got."

Aquarius clicked his fingers. Not a moment after that, water started pouring out from the ceiling, walls and floor, spiraling around him like a bizarre mishmash of liquefied hoops. He then clicked his fingers on both hands and the water hoops froze into thick ropes of ice. With a swipe of his hand, the frozen ropes moved and lashed out towards Hinata and Ryuu.

Ryuu jumped up to meet the ropes. Flames spurted all over his body and with one punch, broke all the ice into millions of pieces. Behind him, Hinata pulled her gun and sent out three toy arrows. The arrows burst into flames in midair, passed harmlessly through Ryuu and headed towards Aquarius.

Aquarius folded his arms on his chest. The remaining ropes of ice mimicked his action and covered his whole body, creating a mummy made by ice. The flaming arrows made contact with the ice, but it did no visible damage.

"What?" asked a surprised Ryuu. "Why didn't your attack do any damage?"

Hinata's eyes narrowed. "The area around him… It has a really low temperature that it weakened the fire."

The frozen ropes removed themselves from Aquarius, moving realistically like tentacles. On the center of it, the masked man stood, looking like the conductor of an orchestra - a deadly orchestra of ice.

"What's wrong?" asked Aquarius in an amused tone. "Getting too cold for comfort?"

Ryuu gritted his teeth. "Let's see if you can stop this!" His right arm burned with bigger and brighter flames. With a shout, he charged towards Aquarius, his right arm posed to strike a deadly punch.

Following the movement of his hands, Aquarius' whips of ice combined to form larger versions. One of the larger ropes slammed towards Ryuu, but the Wand blocked the attack with his left arm. With a yell, Ryuu punched the huge rope with his right arm, shattering the ice all over the place.

But before Ryuu could do anything, another huge whip of ice headed towards him.

"You're done!" shouted Aquarius, swiping an arm. To his great shock, the Wand grinned.

Behind Ryuu, Hinata was holding her gun. But instead of a toy arrow inside the gun, it was a huge sphere of fire that replaced it. Aquarius realized that Ryuu was only giving him a distraction, while his Wizard tried to accumulate enough power to unleash a bigger attack.

"Take thiiiiiis!" yelled Hinata as she pulled the trigger. The sphere sped out like a gigantic bullet. Ryuu sidestepped to allow the huge ball to collide with the giant whip of ice. The impact created a resounding boom and a huge amount of mist flowed out and covered the whole place.

Aquarius covered his eyes as the fog spread out. A loud yell forced him to look and saw Ryuu charging with a full-on punch. Aquarius tried to block his attack with his arms, but the sheer force of the impact sent him flying backwards.

Ryuu stood there watching as Aquarius' body landed a few feet away from him. With a smirk and a swipe of his arm, the flames that had covered his body faded. "I guess a frail Wizard like him is no match for a powerful Wand like me."

Hinata stepped from behind to join him. "Still, I'd like to know how he knew so much about us," she said, looking at Aquarius' unmoving figure. "And also, what he wants from the Azimuras."

"Don't worry," said Ryuu, putting his arms behind his head. "You can ask him. That punch may put him out, but it didn't kill him."

"Quite right," said a voice. "You'll have to do a better job if you want to kill me, Dragon-kun."

"What the hell?" yelled Ryuu as he saw Aquarius sit, looking at his arms. A part of his sleeves were burned and his mask had a little crack near his left eye. But as he stood up and brushed the dust of his clothes, it was obvious that he was fine.

"He withstood my attack?" asked Ryuu, an incredulous expression in his face.

Aquarius surveyed both Wizard and Wand with amused eyes. "I have to say, the two of you have quite a combination." Ryuu covered his body with flames once more while Hinata aimed her gun at him. "The way you two seamlessly combine your attacks… It's almost perfect…"

"Almost perfect?" repeated Hinata.

"A Wizard…" said Aquarius, extending his right hand. "And a Wand…" He did the same with his left. "Two heads are better than one, they say…" Pools of water erupted from all angles, spiraling around him so fiercely that it seemed like he was surrounded by a multitude of cerulean-colored blades. "But if you can't combine your powers as one…" Aquarius' eyes glowed silver. "You have no chance of defeating me!"

With one quick motion, Aquarius sent one of the spiraling chains of water towards Ryuu. It froze in mid-attack and the Wand attempted to stop it with another of his fiery punches. But before his fist made contact, the ice suddenly melted into water. Ryuu's punch passed harmlessly through the water, which quickly surrounded him.

With a click of Aquarius' fingers, the water froze, trapping Ryuu's chest, hips and legs in a casing of hard ice. Realizing his mistake, Ryuu ignited flames all over his body, attempting to melt all the ice out.

"No, you're not!" said Aquarius, after seeing Ryuu's efforts. He swiped a hand and sent three more frozen ropes towards Ryuu, but three well-aimed burning arrows destroyed it before it even closed the distance.

"Don't you dare forget about me!" yelled Hinata, standing behind Ryuu. She pulled the trigger of her gun thrice, sending blazing arrows at Aquarius. The masked man used three of his larger frozen ropes to flick the arrows out of his way.

Hinata grunted; her attacks were easily dispatched like that. If she wanted to defeat Aquarius, she had to attack carefully and cleverly. Plus, she needed to cover for Ryuu, who was having a hard time melting all the ice out of his body.

"Ah, don't worry, Hinata-chan," said Aquarius. "I don't think I'll ever forget you."

Hinata clasped her gun tightly, but before she could shoot anything, several frozen tentacles headed towards her. She jumped out of the way from one then rolled to avoid another. She quickly moved after rolling, where one of tentacles slammed directly on the spot where she was a moment ago. Hinata stood up, but more of the icy tentacles headed towards her.

To Aquarius' and Ryuu's surprise, Hinata did not move but prepared to fire.

"Hinata!" yelled Ryuu, doubling his efforts to free himself. Several parts of the ice cracked under the pressure, but it still held him stubbornly.

Hinata did not blink an eye as the icy ropes headed towards her. She pulled the trigger three times, sending three large fiery arrows toward the moving ice. However, the three arrows seemed little against the powerful pillars of ice.

Before the arrows made contact, Hinata reached out her right arm and opened her palm. "Partition Magic!" she yelled, as a red Magic Circle flashed, her palm on the center. "Arrows, divide!"

Under Hinata's command, the three large arrows separated into a multitude of smaller bolts, which rained down on the iced chains, putting a stop to its advent. Mist erupted from the impact, which covered the pillars from sight.

The fog didn't last long, as the gigantic tentacles of ice emerged from it. Hinata's firestorm had temporarily stopped it, but as the pillars were still unharmed, it began to slither towards its target. But before it even crossed the distance, the attacking pillars were destroyed under the punches and kicks of a burning Wand.

Ryuu landed on the floor, his whole body on fire. He was just in time to protect Hinata.

"Hmmm…" said Aquarius, watching the proceedings the whole time. "So Hinata-chan used her Partition Magic to buy you some time? How annoying."

Hinata had sweat all over her face, but she had a victorious grin. "We'll take all the time we need," she said. "After all the racket we've been doing up here, it'd be a miracle if nobody noticed."

"Yup, that's right," agreed Ryuu. "I'm pretty sure Shiori-senpai and the rest are rushing towards here. And I doubt you'll survive against all those Wizards when they arrive."

"If they arrive," corrected Aquarius, looking smugger instead of being worried or scared. "Unfortunately for you, it seems they won't be coming any time soon."

"What…" asked Hinata. "What do you mean by that?"

"Do you really want to know the answer?" Aquarius stepped forward, the frozen tentacles behind him writhing violently, like it was in pain or something. Hinata stepped backward, while Ryuu reached out his arms in a protective stance in front of her.

"Come, Hinata-chan," said Aquarius in a sly tone. His right eye glowed in an eerie golden light. "Come and see what's on my mind…"

Hinata suddenly shook and she put her hands on her head. "Arrrghhhhh!" she cried.

"Hinata!" called a worried Ryuu. He put his hands all over her, asking, "Hinata? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Hinata kept her hands on her head and she breathed deeply. "Ryuu…"

"Hinata! What is it? Does your head hurt?"

"Ryuu…" whispered Hinata in gasps. "Stay away…"

"Eh?" said Ryuu in surprise. But before he could do anything, Hinata shakily moved her arms and aimed her gun at his head. He stepped away, raising his arms. "Hinata, what's wrong?"

"I…" gasped Hinata, her whole body shaking violently. Only her right arm, which was holding the gun, looked fine. "I'm sorry, Ryuu-kun…"

Hinata pulled the trigger on her gun.

"What was that?" asked Shou suddenly. Tsubasa stopped on his tracks, looking all over the dark hallway they were currently in.

"You heard something, little bro?" asked Tsubasa.

Shou lapsed in silence for a moment, closing his eyes in concentration. Surprisingly, Tsubasa did not utter another word and waited patiently for him to speak up.

"The wind…" said Shou. "It cries of something ominous…"

"Ominous?" repeated Tsubasa, scratching his head.

"The mansion…" Shou took his eyeglasses from his pocket and wore it over his eyes. "The whole mansion is too silent, it's as if…"

"As if?" prompted Tsubasa.

"As if there is some force preventing the resonance of sound…" concluded Shou. He faced his brother. "Let's find the nearest window."

Inside a room near the ballroom, the sounds of the party could be heard. Azimura Shiori sat in front of a dresser, reading the pieces of paper that she prepared for that evening. Shiori wore the elegant purple gown Sora had chosen for her, as well as the same rose pin she had picked. She wondered about Sora and the rest, but she knew they will be fine as long as they stay on the mansion.

More importantly, she had a mission and she needed to fulfill it.

The door to the room opened and Megane Yuuta entered. The young butler was well-dressed for the occasion in a black tuxedo, but he still had the nervous look in his face. "Shiori-sama, we are almost ready."

"Have my parents arrived?" she asked.

"Your mother is already in the ballroom," replied Yuuta. "Unfortunately, your father expressed his greatest regrets for his absence in tonight's occasion."

Shiori sighed. "Well, it can't be helped that Father is not here," she said, going back to reading the papers.

"There is one more thing…" said Yuuta.

Shiori turned to him. "And that is?"

"Ummm…" Yuuta coughed, bidding some time before saying it. Shiori raised an eyebrow, so he hurriedly continued.

"Agami Hiro-dono has arrived…"

To be continued

Author's Note: And so we met Aquarius, the person this arc is named for! Who is this mysterious villain and just what is he after? What happened to Hinata and Ryuu? And what of Sora's fate? Will Hikaru be able to save her? What will happen now that Hikaru's father is there? (He's Agami Hiro, in case you've forgotten) You'll have to find out in the next chapter.

Sorry for the reaaaaallllly late updates. I should be sued or something… Anyway, only three or four more chapters and this arc will be done. Please be patient while I continue the updates, I've been really uninspired for quite some time. Hopefully this will pass…

For now, please leave a review! Thanks! xD