Reality and Fiction (Joint-Written Fanfiction) (Chapter Sixteen is up!)

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This is a half fanfiction, half W&W member based story me and Starsight are working together on to write (thus, joint written, written by two people)

You can request to show up in the story, but you don't have to, because chances are you'll show up anyway XD You can, however, request for your character NOT to show up in the story.

If you want your favorite characters in the story, please request here: http://wandsandworlds.com/community/node/6520
However, since we haven't read every book and watched every show in the universe, please don't get mad if we can't/don't add your favorite character x.x

Anyway, here it is. I hope you like it! ^_^

***

Chapter One

POV: Lilacheart

I rested quietly on the couch. I had just been chased around the block by Rabbitfoot for dissing Danny Phantom. AGAIN. I probably should've learned by now. But I thought of doing this as a substitute for how boring P.E. is at the town middle school. We lived in a small community, Wands and Worlds County. It was a great place. The governor, Sheila, was the best. She was like the mother of the town. That didn't make the schools any better, though. I was glad I'd finished my math already; I would mess up every problem if I tried working on it now.

"I should try to get Foxwhisper to do that as a substitute for P.E.," I said to myself and laughed. Foxwhisper. She had bad knees, so she usually sat out of P.E. Maybe she could get her daily workout by being chased around town. I laughed at the thought. I would LOVE that. I'd never chased anyone around the block before, only been chased. And if I enjoyed it so much, who knows? Maybe she would, too.

"I wish it were Friday. We are going over to Cloudwind's house that day," my sister, Soundstorm, said as she came down the stairs.

I smiled. "Thursday isn't so bad," I pointed out. "It's just one more day. What time is it?" I hadn't paid attention to the time while running.

"4:03," Soundstorm said.

"I told Starsight that I would bring her my copy of Tsubasa Chronicles 16 at 4:15," I said, standing up.

"How come? Doesn't she have her own?" Soundstorm asked.

"She lent it to Rabbitfoot, who lost it," I muttered. I ran up the stairs to my room and grabbed my copy. I put on a jacket. It was cold outside. I glanced at the small roll of bandages in the pocket. I had badly scraped the back of my wrist, and was given some bandages to wear on it about three weeks ago. The huge cut was gone now, though. I ran back down the stairs, not bothering to take out the bandages. What was the point? After all, you never know when that type of thing would come in handy. If I'd had it at hand at the time I'd scraped my wrist, I probably wouldn't have had to see all the blood.

"I'm going out, now, Soundy!" I called over my shoulder as I stepped outside. Soundy was my nickname for her. Just as mine was Lilac.

"With who?" she called back, failing to restrain her laughter.

"Oh, shut up," I snapped playfully, shutting the door.

I darted down the sidewalk. Dang it! I thought. I'm going to be late! I sharply cut the corner, and stopped when I noticed something from the corner of my eye. A small red scratch in the air.

"Hmm?" I muttered to no one in particular. I turned around and walked towards it. As I took a step forward, the thing grew larger. I yelped and jumped backwards. What...was this...?

The scratch suddenly threw three figures onto the ground. I did all I could not to scream like a weenie, but it still came out as a startled yelp. The scratch closed, and I started to shiver when I noticed that two of them were injured. I couldn't find the third one anymore. I noted that they were both men, and the third had looked to be like a snowball, or something.

I grabbed one of their shoulders and rolled him onto his back. My eyes widened in surprise. HUGE surprise.

This person looked like...Syaoran?

But he was a book character! Wow, I was obsessed, wasn't I, to compare a random stranger dumped on the road to Syaoran.

But maybe it wasn't just me...I rolled the second man onto his back, and he looked like Fai. He even wore an eye patch over his left eye, like Fai. This was just INSANE! I shook Syaoran by the shoulder, hoping he would wake up. I had to be just stupidly obsessed. Neither of them was real. That...just wasn't possible.

After a minute, the one who looked like Syaoran groaned. His eyes opened very slowly.

"Hello..." I whispered.

"Wha...? Who are you?" the boy asked. Then, without warning, he sat upright. "Sakura-chan! Fai-san! Kurogane-san! Mokona!"

My mouth dropped open. This...this couldn't be happening...! Maybe it was all a giant prank.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"My name's Syaoran," he said bluntly.

"You're KIDDING," I gasped, just gaping in absolute shock. "That's...just...what...it's not...ugh..." I couldn't find a way to put it, so I just stared.

"Your mouth's hanging open," Syaoran said, sounding almost amused.

"Right..." I said, then added, "You can't be real!"

Syaoran cocked his head. "Um...is there something I'm missing here?" he asked.

"...You are a book character!" I finally yelled. I was glad that the school, which I had just walked by, was empty, so at least no one else thought I looked like a nut. I held the sixteenth book, which I had been carrying, in front of him.

"...We have a book...?" Syaoran gaped. "Since when?" He appeared to be more shocked then I was, if that was possible.

I couldn't speak, unless I wanted to stammer like an idiot again.

Syaoran attempted to get up, but winced. He looked at his arm, which was scratched and bloody.

"Here," I said, pulling out the bandages.

"Why the heck were you carrying those around?" he asked skeptically.

"I scraped my arm three weeks ago. Haven't had the attention span to take them out." I held the bandages out towards him. He reluctantly took them.

"Where are the others?" he asked quietly as he wrapped them around his arm.

"Fai's over there. I think I saw a snowball fall down beside you," I replied.

"Snowball...? You mean Mokona?"

"Oh my foo!" I squeaked, doing everything I could not to seem over-obsessed. "Mokona's real?!"

"Yeeeeeaaahhh..." Syaoran said as if I was stupid. He then turned to look at Fai. He used the remainder of the bandages on Fai's injured leg.

"Do you need a place to stay?" I offered. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Soundstorm would NOT complain, we had three guest rooms, and...

What were they doing here, anyway?

"We couldn't—" Syaoran began.

"It's OK, we have two guest rooms, me and my sister," I said quickly, not including the third guest room because it probably wasn't necessary.

"What about your parents?" Syaoran asked.

"Parents?" I asked curiously.

"Never mind," Syaoran muttered. At this point Fai began to wake up. Syaoran instantly attempted to stand up, but he just fell over.

"Here, let me help," I offered quietly. Maybe it was stupid, but I felt like I was talking to someone famous. He looked reluctant, but didn't object. I helped him to his feet.

"Fai-san?" he asked. So, I wasn't wrong after all. This was Fai.

Mokona jumped from the bush. "Fai's awake!" It said cheerfully.

"Whoa..." I just stared, completely overwhelmed. This was too cool.

"Syaoran-kun?" Fai said, dizzily shaking his head. "Where—"

"I have no clue, ask her," Syaoran said, gesturing to me. I forced a smile, waved shyly, made a weird 'meep' noise, then took a step backward.

"I'm Lilacheart," I whispered. "This is Wands and Worlds County."

"By the way..." Syaoran started. "Any reason you aren't using honorifics...?"

"We don't use them here," I said. "We just call each other by name."

"That's weird," Syaoran commented.

"Well, I think that honorifics are weird," I admitted. Syaoran looked like her really had nothing to add.

"Fai—" I had to think for a moment, then I added '-san' "—I offered Syaoran-kun some shelter at my house. Would you like to stay there?"

Fai thought for a moment, then said "I can't think of anywhere else we have to go at this point."

I glanced over at Mokona, who had a weird look on its face. "Are you okay?"

"Mokona's cold!" it whimpered.

I laughed. "It is cold out today." I noticed the weird clothing that Syaoran and Fai were wearing. It was obviously clothes meant for warmer weather.

I slowly put my hand on the ground. Mokona looked a little doubtful, but I smiled. "It's okay," I said. It hopped onto my hand and I put it in my pocket. Mokona smiled and fell asleep.

"Cute..." I said, trying not to seem really shallow. I rested my hand on its head. Syaoran seemed to relax a small amount as I helped Fai to his feet. Fai glanced at the book in my hand.

"What's—" Fai began.

"Apparently, we have our own book," Syaoran commented, still sounding surprised and a little sceptical.

"Manga, actually, and it's a series of about 24 or so."

Syaoran's eyes widened. Fai looked equally surprised.

"Right!" I said, remembering Starsight. "I was bringing this to Starry's house..."

"Starry...?" Fai asked.

"Oh! Right, Fai, Starry's your biggest fan!" I said, laughing so hard that I cried. Fai looked fairly embarrassed by this.

"I'll have to have Starry come over to see me instead," I decided. I helped the both of them walk to my house then rang the doorbell.

"Is pressing that button going to do anything?" Syaoran asked.

"It just lets my sister know I'm here."

"How?" Syaoran asked curiously.

"I'll explain later," I said quickly as the door opened.

Soundstorm smiled. "Lilac!" she said. "I thought you were—" She then stopped abruptly.

"Oh. My. Fooing. God," Soundstorm said slowly. "That...who...what...I...this...they..." Her eyes went wide.

I nodded. "Yes," I said. Inside, I was echoing the exact same surprise. I could hardly believe this myself.

"That's...that's not possible...!" she finally said. "Those are just people dressed up, right...?!"

"Mokona can prove otherwise!" Mokona said, popping out of my pocket.

"Cute!" Soundstorm said cheerfully, smiling. I nearly laughed. I hadn't seen her smile like that in a long, long time.

"This is my twin sister, Soundstorm." I said to Syaoran and Fai.

"I'm Syaoran," Syaoran said.

"I'm Fai D. Fluorite," Fai added. "You can call me Fai."

Soundstorm grinned ear to ear, then she noticed the bandages and looked worried. "Are they injured?" she asked.

"A little bit," I said.

"Well, best let them sit down, then," she said, moving out of the way to let us inside. I helped the two to the couch and gave Mokona to Soundstorm.

"Mokona will prove we aren't fake now!" Mokona said cheerfully. It inhaled an apple, then spit out an orange, then projected a picture of Yûko.

Both my and Soundstorm's mouths dropped open.

Yûko didn't notice us, and Mokona dropped the image before she could speak. "Ncha Cannon!" Mokona squeaked, then it blasted a gigantic beam and knocked down the door. Fai whistled and a barrier formed around him. Then it dropped because he couldn't hold it up for long in his condition.

"Now do you think we're fake?" Syaoran commented. He was on his side, looking about ready to dose off.

"Not at all," I said, but secretly, I still thought this was all a dream. "Soundy, I need to call Starry."

"So she can ask Fai on a date?" Soundstorm whispered.

I sniggered briefly. "No, I didn't actually get to give her the book, but yes, I might tell her about Fai, too," I admitted. "She is completely obsessed with him! I have to tell her about this."

Soundstorm nodded. "She'll probably think you're insane, though."

"She always think I'm insane," I commented, picking up the phone and dialling her number.

It rang once, then twice. I tapped my foot impatiently. There was a click.

"Hello, this is Icemoon," a voice said. Icemoon was Starsight's sister.

"It's Lilacheart. I need to talk to Starsight."

"Hold on a moment," Icemoon said. She covered the speaker end with her hand, but I still heard her call, "Starry! Your friend Lilacheart's on the phone!"

Her footsteps were quite loud as she ran to the phone and snatched it from her sister's hand, saying a short thank you to Icemoon.

"Be polite to your sister!" Soundstorm shouted with a laugh. We both knew that this was really ironic. Starsight laughed, then properly thanked her sister. I knew she must've been in a hurry.

"Why are you calling me?" Starsight asked. "You said you'd bring that book to my house thirty minutes ago!" She sounded frustrated.

"I'm sorry..." I whispered. "Are you angry at me?"

"No, I'm angry at Rabbitfoot for LOSING my favourite book in the series!"

I put the phone on speaker. Fai, Mokona, and Syaoran HAD to hear this.

"Still working on your fanfic, Shattered Soul, right?" I asked. Syaoran, Fai, and Mokona were listening intently now.

"Yeah, but that's not why I need that manga. I wanted to go over and do some editing to that freewrite I did where Clone Syaoran nearly killed Fai."

Fai flinched. "Wh...what...?" he whispered, sounding completely startled.

"Shh," I hissed.

"Who are you talking to?" Starsight asked.

"Soundy," I lied. "Anyway, can you please come over to my house and pick up the book?"

"Why?"

I bit my lip. "I found some injured people on the street on the way over."

"Oh my foo..." Starsight said. "Who?"

I had NO idea what to tell her next. "Starry...how to put this..." I whispered.

"Just spit it out," she said half-playfully.

"Syaoran and Fai are at my house."

Silence.

"You're KIDDING," Starsight said at last. She sounded amused.

"I'm not," I whispered.

"No, seriously, who was it?"

"I'd be happy to put Mokona on the phone for you as evidence," I said, now weirdly frustrated. A bashing sound came from the other end; it sounded like Starsight had banged her head against the phone.

"They aren't real, Lilac!"

"That's exactly what I would've said thirty minutes ago! It's not a prank because I saw Mokona's Ncha Cannon and its ability to talk to Yûko. It swallowed an apple then spit out an orange. Fai showed me some magic. It's real, and I'd be happy to put Fai on the phone for you!"

More silence.

"I need to see this for myself," Starsight said. However, she didn't sound annoyed. She sounded absolutely excited. There was a click, and then the dial tone came on, letting me know she had hung up. I started to dial another number.

"What are you doing now?" Fai asked, sounding a bit worried.

"Calling Magicyop so he can find someone who can repair my door."

Mokona laughed, whistled innocently, and backed around the corner and out of sight.

***

Chapter Two

POV: Starsight

I couldn't really believe it when I hung up the phone on Lilacheart. It sounded so far-fetched that Syaoran, Fai, and Mokona could have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. They were book characters! At the same time though, I couldn't help feeling slightly ecstatic, which was quickly overtaken by a highly unusual 'fangirlyness' fit. Fai was real?!

"I'm going out!" I called to my sister as I grabbed my coat. "Don't freak out again!"

I quickly shut the door before she could retort back with something worse. She tended to freak out sometimes when left home alone, though it didn't always happen.

I pulled my scarf out of my coat sleeve and wound it around my neck. It was getting colder lately; soon it would be winter. Shivering, I yanked out my gloves and pulled them on as I walked down the street. It was a good ten minute walk to Lilacheart and Soundstorm's house, and I didn't exactly want to show up with blue fingers. That would be embarrassing, not to mention life-threatening.

I turned right and slipped into a little catwalk, ending up in the Town Park. I took one of the winding gravel paths, kicking up leaves as I hurried along. I wondered briefly if I should call my friend Rabbitfoot, but I quickly dismissed that idea. Poor Lilacheart and I were teased enough by her over Syaoran and Fai. If she found out they were real...Well, let's just say I'd probably have to lock myself in my room for a month.

Something caught my eye through the trees, and I turned my head curiously. It looked like a red scratch was hanging in the air, growing larger by the second. I stepped off the path and made my way into the underbrush, staring curiously at it. It suddenly widened, and a figure burst out of it. I barely had time to dive under a holly bush (cursing myself for picking the worst foliage) before the figure straightened up and looked around.

It was Ashura.

Okay, I know what you're thinking right now. You're a nutcase! Seeing people who don't exist?! Come on, stop pulling our leg!

I swear, it's all true.

I shoved myself further under the holly bush, mentally whacking myself with Syaoran's frying pan as my coat caught on the sharp leaves. I didn't want him to see me. Logically I knew that this couldn't be Ashura; he didn't exist. But something told me that this was real. I wasn't sure I trusted my conscience anymore, but I felt it was better to not be seen.

The man who looked like Ashura looked around for a very long time, so long that I could feel my leg beginning to cramp. After what seemed like an age he turned around and disappeared into the trees.

I dragged myself to my feet, muttering colourful complaints under my breath as the holly leaves poked at me again. I brushed leaves off my coat and glanced in the direction that man had gone. He couldn't really be Ashura, could he? Feeling confused, I went back to the path and continued to Soundstorm and Lilacheart's house. I startled myself when I found that I was beginning to believe her tale.

It took me another five minutes to reach their house. I was shocked to see that the entire front door had been blown off and was now sitting in the middle of the street. Picking my way around the rubble on the front porch, I stepped up to the door and knocked lightly on the frame. "Hello?" I called.

Soundstorm's head poked out from the living room. "Oh, hi!" she said, coming towards me and gesturing that I come inside.

"What the foo happened here?" I asked, stepping over the ruined doorframe.

"Mokona," Soundstorm said simply.

I gave her 'the look'. "Okay, now this is getting just a little weird."

"Believe me, it'll get worse," Soundstorm laughed, leading me through the kitchen and on to the living room. I followed her, then completely stopped in my tracks.

There were three people sitting on the massive couch. One of them, obviously, was Lilacheart. The others were people whom I had never met, but knew so well. Syaoran and Fai.

I swear, I probably stood there for a full minute (if not more) just staring at them. Something poked me in the arm, and I jumped in surprise and whipped around. Soundstorm was staring at me with a slightly amused look on her face. Mokona—yes, Mokona—was sitting on her shoulder.

"You all right, Starry?" she asked, sounding like she was trying to hold back a full-blown laughing fit.

"Um, yeah," I responded lamely. Recovering myself I retorted, "I'll be much happier if you can keep from bursting into laughter."

She gave a short chuckle and sat down in one of the chairs. I sank into the other. "How...what...when did this happen?"

"Just now," Lilacheart responded. "I was on my way to your house to drop off that book, when the three of them literally dropped out of the sky."

"Come again?"

Lilacheart sighed. "I don't get it any more than you do."

"Riiiggghhhtt..." I muttered, trying to ignore the impulse to keep shooting glances at Fai. "Um, slightly random question, but did you see something like a red scratch in the air?"

Lilacheart looked shocked. "Yeah, I did. They came out of the scratch."

"Can I talk to you for a moment?" I said suddenly, rising.

"Okay..." she said, looking a little skeptical. I beckoned to Soundy too; she passed Mokona over to Syaoran before following me outside.

I paused in the hallway, when I was sure I was out of earshot of the others, and turned back to Lilacheart and Soundstorm. "If what you said was true, then something really bad could happen soon."

"How bad?" Lilacheart asked.

"I'm talking about as bad as Ashura being here."

Absolute silence. I could practically see the wheels turning in their heads. Since we were all going by when the books were published in English, none of us knew anything past book 18. At least, I couldn't be bothered to read more online. Soundstorm and Lilacheart, however, read a few too many online spoilers for my liking.

"Do you think we should tell them?" Soundstorm asked tentatively.

I shook my head. "I'm not sure, but probably not yet. I mean, we don't know anything really, except that they likely hate each other."

"This could end badly," Lilacheart muttered.

"You think?" Soundstorm and I said at the same time. I shook my head, then went back to the living room, the two of them right behind me. I went back to the chair and sank into it again, putting my head in my hands.

"Anything wrong?" Fai asked softly.

I flinched—it still seemed so weird that he was actually real—and shook my head. "No, nothing. Do you have somewhere to stay for the night?"

"Lilacheart-san offered us to stay over here," Syaoran said.

"Just call me Lilac," Lilacheart said, sounding a little stressed.

"Well, there's room over at my place too if you want to stay there," I suggested. "Icemoon—she's my sister—is going out of town for a while, to visit some of her friends. Otherwise I can predict she would freak out to having strangers stay over."

"Well, we're not exactly strangers, are we?" Fai asked, amusement in his tone.

"I guess not," I whispered, blushing. Behind him, I could see Soundstorm breaking down in silent laughter. It was all I could do to not run to the kitchen and find a frying pan to whack her over the head with.

"There're frying pans in the kitchen if you want them," Lilacheart chuckled, reading my mind.

"Yeah, but none of them are Syaoran's," I muttered, forgetting for a moment that he was sitting on the couch across from me.

"What?" Syaoran asked, looking completely perplexed. The look on his face caused Lilacheart to start sniggering uncontrollably.

"Erm, nothing!" I said quickly. The whole frying pan joke had originated from Lilacheart's own fanfic, The Final Feather, and had mostly been my fault. Trying to find a change in subject, I blurted, "Well, I do have room if you want to stay at my house."

"Thanks for the offer, Starry-chan, I think we'll probably be fine here with Lilac-chan and Soundy-chan," Fai said. I couldn't help it; I blushed again and looked down at my feet. I was certain that Soundstorm was on the floor now in an attempt to hold in her laughter.

As I looked down I happened to catch a glance of my watch. "Ack!" I squeaked, leaping to my feet. "I've got to get home! Icemoon will starve!"

"And that's a problem why?" Soundstorm choked out, using the couch to drag herself back upright. Syaoran twisted around to give her a look, but Soundstorm either didn't notice or didn't care.

"She'll be ticked and find a way to get back at me, that's why," I said. Last time my sister had gotten ticked off at me she had come up with a really elaborate plot to get back at me. To be short, it involved vegetable oil, the entire school, and a fair few chickens. No details, please.

"You'll be at school tomorrow, right?" Lilacheart asked.

I nodded. There was really only one building that served as both an elementary and a high school, so I would likely see them tomorrow.

"See you later!" I called, waving back at them (and attempting to not make eye contact with Fai) as I jumped over the debris left from Mokona's Ncha Cannon at their front door and raced down the street.

***

Chapter Three

POV: Lilacheart

"Lilac!" Soundstorm yelled. "We're going to be late!"

"You really should get going," Syaoran said, sounding anxious. Mokona had made a mess of his guest room, and I had been cleaning it up all morning. The racket it had made had kept me and Soundstorm up all night, too.

"It's okay," I said, sweeping a pile broken glass into a dustpan. "I'll need to cancel that play day with Cloudy, though."

"There's no need to cancel anything just because we're here!" Syaoran exclaimed.

"No, it really is okay," I said quickly. I was remembering Ashura; I didn't feel it was safe for them—or for the house, for that matter—to just leave them alone. Soundstorm was trying to pretend she didn't care, but it was obvious how much she cared for Mokona. She had even jumped to its defense when Syaoran yelled at it.

"Lilac!"

I sighed. "I've got to go," I said, dumping the glass in the garbage. "Please try to keep Mokona out of trouble."

"We should be fine, just keep it away from your chocolate drawer," Fai said with a laugh. I sniggered, then moved the chocolate to my bedroom before catching up with Soundstorm by the newly-repaired front door.

"Okay, let's go."

It was only about a five minute walk to school. We were about halfway there when someone called our names from behind us. I turned to see Cloudwind racing towards us. Soundstorm and I paused to let her catch up.

"Hello!" she greeted, grinning happily as usual. "What's up?"

"Nothing really," I said. "Magicyop had to get someone from outside of Wands and Worlds County to fix our door when it collapsed yesterday."

"Your house is fairly old," Cloudwind said, laughing.

"One year," Soundstorm sighed. "It's not that old."

"You seem tired," Cloudwind noted, changing the subject.

It was true. The reason Mokona had messed up the room and kept me and Soundstorm awake all night was because it decided a guest's house was the perfect place to go drinking ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES.

"I didn't sleep well last night," I sighed.

"I'm sorry," Cloudwind said empathetically.

"It's nothing," I said as we walked into the school grounds. I spotted Starsight on the high school side of the campus. She was talking to Rabbitfoot, as usual.

"We'll be right back," I said, abandoning Cloudwind and darting over to her with Soundstorm by my side.

Starsight caught sight of us and nodded. "Hold on one sec, Fun-Bun." 'Fun-Bun' was her nickname for Rabbitfoot. No one else used it, and I had no idea where it had come from. Starsight walked over to us.

"You haven't seen Ashura again, have you?" I asked.

"No, but I was wondering..." Starsight began. She paused, then said, "Should we tell the other Wandies?" The Wandies was the most common name used for the members of the County.

"I would, if they would think we're sane," Soundstorm said with a groan. I nodded agreement.

"But they probably won't," Starsight sighed. "So we'll just have to keep it quiet then, unless Ashura shows up," she concluded.

I nodded. Somehow, I had a feeling that if red scratches were forming all over the place and dumping book characters from the sky, it wouldn't need to be kept a secret for much longer.

The bell rang. "Time to get going," I sighed, suddenly filled with anxiety. If a vampire mage, his worst enemy, a bunny with 108 powers, and a boy with an evil clone and magic powers were dropping from the sky, what else could happen...?

The classes before lunch were so boring I don't even remember what happened. The only things I could remember hearing were, "2+2 does NOT equal 9," from my math teacher, "Lilac, you aren't a zombie," from my science teacher, and something about polar bears from my English teacher. I think P.E. had something to do with taking notes, but I'm not quite sure because I fell asleep.

It's a wonder how I get A's.

The bell rang for lunch, which jolted me awake from P.E. I forced down a yawn as I collected my books and met up with my sister. "What a nice nap," I commented to her as we went outside.

"You fell asleep?!" Soundstorm exclaimed.

"Yes," I said.

"...Yeah, me too," she admitted. We grabbed our lunches from our bags and looked around the lunch area.

"I think I want to sit with Squirrely today," Soundstorm said.

"I might sit with Foxwhisper," I said, chuckling as I remembered my idea about chasing her around town. Soundstorm and I split up; I watched her as she walked over to Squirrelflame, who was talking to Jadepool. I walked over to Foxwhisper, who was talking with Swiftstep, and sat down quietly next to them.

"Oh, hello!" Foxwhisper greeted happily.

"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" I asked nervously.

"No, we were talking about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon," Foxwhisper said.

"Somehow, I really should've expected that," I laughed. Foxwhisper really loved that game; we were constantly discussing it during class. I wasn't sure Swiftstep had the game, but she had appeared to be listening quite intently.

"You look exhausted," Foxwhisper commented when she noticed the dark rings under my eyes.

"No, I had a nice nap in P.E.," I giggled.

Foxwhisper laughed. "I sometimes wish that my knees weren't so bad. Today wasn't one of those days."

"Actually, I had an idea!" I said, laughing. "You know how Rabbitfoot is constantly chasing me around town...?"

"Everyone does, Lilac. I should really get some popcorn and watch sometime," Foxwhisper sniggered.

"I was thinking I could chase you around town to make up for P.E.," I said with a snort of laughter. Foxwhisper choked on what she was eating, laughing so hard she could barely breathe. Swiftstep lightly patted her on the back until she was breathing again.

"I can run pretty fast when I want to. Have fun chasing me," Foxwhisper laughed. I started to laugh too, when I noticed something in the corner of my eye.

A red scratch in the air. And a painfully high distance off the ground, too.

"Oh no," I mouthed. I dropped what I was holding and sprinted towards the scratches, signalling frantically to Soundstorm. She caught my eye, then saw the scratches. She darted across the lunch area to Starsight and tapped her shoulder, pointing upwards. The both of them instantly darted after me.

We were attracting some fairly weird looks from our classmates. Suddenly, the scratch became very large, and that's when everyone started to freak out. Two figures tumbled from the scratches; I dived forward to catch the creature who tumbled out of the scratch, while Soundstorm caught the second person. The scratches closed and the crowd closed in around us, everyone trying to figure out what was going on. I didn't notice a thing.

"Oh my God..." I whispered. I was staring at the creature I had caught: a white wolf. But it wasn't just a white wolf. I could tell by the red markings and the instrument it wore on its back. I knew this character from anywhere.

"Spirit!" I yelled. "Come here! Right now!"

Spirithunter pushed her way through the crowd. "What's going on?" she asked. Then she froze. I was suddenly worried that just the sight of the wolf in my arms would kill her from shock.

"Spirit? Meet Amaterasu."

Spirithunter fainted.

"...I should've expected that," I muttered.

The wolf cocked her head at me. You can put me down, now, she said. I flinched, then nodded and let her go. She walked over to Spirithunter and licked her face. I couldn't help but laugh. A sun goddess reincarnated as a wolf was licking my friend's face. Spirithunter was the biggest fan of the Ōkami video games I knew...

Wait a minute. Amaterasu was from a video game. Not a book. So, this wasn't just restricted to books, then.

"Wow, this is really embarrassing," Soundstorm whispered. I glanced over at her and realized what she meant: she had caught a boy about her age. She put him down almost instantly. He got to his feet.

"Where am I...?" he asked slowly.

Realization sparked in my mind. I knew who this boy was, too.

"DANNY PHANTOM!" Rabbitfoot squealed.

"Fenton," the boy corrected. Rabbitfoot glomped him, knocking him to the ground. Starsight burst into laughter.

"But none of these people are real!" Kitten-Chan cried. She was holding her head in her hands and muttering, "I must be dreaming..." I would've agreed with her yesterday, but now...

"They are real," I confirmed. "I met three others on the street yesterday. They're currently at my house."

"I'm confused!" Foxwhisper wailed.

"So am I," I muttered, shaking my head. "I have no idea why this is happening. First Syaoran, Fai, and Mokona, now Amaterasu and Danny—"

"FAI?!" Cloudwind screeched, completely spazzing out.

"Now's not the time for spa—oh, never mind," Starsight said, standing up straight. I heard her mutter something about 'anti-spaz pills'. "I want to know what's going on," she admitted. There were many nods of agreement.

"I think we should call Sheila." Wolf's small voice came from the back of the crowd.

"I don't know if that's a good idea..." I muttered, trying to think it through.

"Sheila's a very reasonable governor," Soundstorm said. "I bet she'll know what to do."

"Has she ever seen book characters drop from the sky?"

"And video game and TV," Rabbitfoot added.

"What is going on here?!" Danny yelled, completely lost.

"No one knows," I admitted.

"Where am I?" Danny asked.

"Wands and Worlds County," everyone said in unison.

"I can go get a phone, yes?" Sevenclaws offered. We all nodded and he darted to the nearest office.

It took him about five minutes to get back to the group. In that time Spirithunter had woken up, fainted, and woken up again. After a long silence she slowly asked, "Can I see your Celestial Brush...?" She winced, obviously thinking, I'm talking to a wolf...

However, Amaterasu just gave a wolfish smile and turned towards the sun. She unloaded something from her back: a brush. Everyone stared in awe. She closed her eyes and drew a crescent shape in the sky. Suddenly, the sun fell and the moon rose. Spirithunter stared, looking overjoyed, in awe, and completely shocked all at the same time. Amaterasu drew a circle this time, and the sun rose again.

Spirithunter put her hand on the wolf's head. "You're amazing," she breathed.

The wolf smiled and wagged her tail. I'm Amaterasu. You're Spirithunter, correct? Her voice wasn't actual speech, more like a voice you could hear on the wind.

Spirithunter nodded, her face glowing. I felt really happy for her at that moment. I couldn't imagine the joy that was flooding through Spirithunter right now. Or maybe I could. I was so happy yesterday when I met Syaoran, I just hadn't been as open about it. Not with my sister around, because, let's face it, she's not afraid to create a shipping with me in it.

But no one would ever tease Spirithunter for this. It was, without a doubt, amazing. The best part was, it eliminated any doubt that I had about this all being fake in my mind. It was real. That also added more stress, because that meant Ashura was real, too.

Rabbitfoot had just started to speak when we all heard footsteps. The entire group turned around; Sheila and Magicyop were walking towards the mob of students.

"Hello, Sheila! Hello, Magicyop!" everyone greeted, filled with excitement. We had just seen it become night and day again, all in less than three minutes. If that can't make you excited, nothing can.

"You said that a bunch of book characters have fallen from the sky?" Sheila asked, sounding more than a bit confused.

Amaterasu stepped forward this time. She glanced at a rock, then slashed down with a single Power Slash. The rock split right in two. Spirithunter beamed, looking like she was trying hard to stop herself from squealing.

"Cool..." I heard a few scattered voices whisper.

Sheila looked surprised. "Amaterasu, is it?" she asked.

The goddess nodded. Magicyop just stared.

"Oh, by the way, Magicyop, thanks for getting those people to repair our door yesterday," I said.

He gave me a withering look. "Dare I ask what knocked it down?"

"Mokona's Ncha Cannon."

"You told me it collapsed," Cloudwind said.

"And I'm a hairy gorilla," I said sarcastically, smiling to let her know I was joking.

"You're a hairy gorilla?!" Soundstorm cried in fake surprise. "What have you done with my sister?!"

"Oh, shut up," I said, nudging her playfully.

Sheila looked thoughtful. "How many of these characters have shown up?"

"Syaoran, Fai, Mokona, Danny Fenton-slash-Phantom, and Amaterasu," I counted.

"Wait, how do you know—" Danny began.

"You have your own TV show," Rabbitfoot said happily.

"I WHAT?!" Danny shrieked.

"She'll explain later," Sheila interrupted. "What I mean is has anyone evil shown up?"

A long silence followed her words. Then, "Ashura," Starsight said softly.

Not a lot of people knew who he was, but those who did tensed. Sheila looked concerned, seeing as we'd specifically said he was evil. After a few long moments she seemed to come to a decision.

"I'm dismissing school early today. Everyone go home, have a good weekend, and maybe things will have settled down by Monday."

No one needed to be told twice. Everyone picked up their belongings (some picked up their lunches) and headed for the exits. Amaterasu trotted after Spirithunter, much to her delight, I was sure. Rabbitfoot, who was trying (and failing) not to be a spaz, offered Danny to stay at her house. He hesitantly accepted and they both left.

I caught up with Starsight by the exit. "Do you want to come over to my house?" I offered. "If Mokona decided to drink again, I might need help cleaning up."

Starsight laughed. "Sorry, I need to help Icemoon pack. She's leaving today, and as usual she's left all her packing to the last minute."

"That's okay," I said. "Tell her I hope she has fun."

Starsight nodded and ran off, waving over her shoulder as she raced down the street.

Cloudwind darted over to me. "Are you going to come over today?" she asked.

"Right..." I said, remembering. "We have guests to look after. I'm really sorry, but Soundy and I might need to reschedule."

"I could help you look after the guests!" Cloudwind offered.

"That's okay," I said.

"But I want to!" Cloudwind insisted. "I like helping out!"

"You just want to meet Syaoran and Fai, don't you?" I asked sarcastically.

"...Yeah, so what?"

I laughed. "I can take care of the guests by myself, thanks. Besides, they didn't even know they had a book and were totally freaked out when I knew who they were. It would probably scare them more if you had a hyper attack right in front of them. Besides, if I need help, I've got Soundy."

At these words, Soundstorm conveniently walked over to me. "I've got my bag," she said. "Let's go."

"You have a good weekend," I said to Cloudwind, then turned around and walked home.

*

"We're home!" I called, dumping my bag in the foyer. "Mokona didn't cause too much mayhem, did it?"

"Mokona's not THAT bad," Soundstorm said.

"You weren't the one who had to clean up broken glass shards or check for holes in the walls," I sighed.

Mokona leapt around the corner. "Heya, Lilac! Sorry about last night," it squeaked, not exactly sounding all that sorry. "Heya, Soundstorm!"

Soundstorm laughed and bent down, picking it up. She then walked over to the couch and collapsed on it while Mokona hopped to the guest rooms to get Syaoran and Fai.

Syaoran came in the living room first. He had recovered from his injuries well, and didn't need help walking around anymore. "You're home early. You told me you'd be out for about three more hours."

"They cancelled school due to dangerous situations," I admitted.

"Is everything okay?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, I just meant that there's someone dangerous out there," I said.

"Who?" Syaoran asked.

Right at that moment Fai walked in. I bit my lip. This was going to be hard.

"I...um..." I muttered. Then I grumbled, "Good timing, Fai," under my breath, but he didn't hear me.

"Didn't you stammer the same way when Starry-chan asked about our existence?" Fai said.

I smiled, thinking it was kind of cute that he still remembered the conversation, and Starsight's name. Or maybe that was just me and my habit to easily forget people's names kicking in.

"Ashura," I finally managed to say. "School was cancelled because Starry saw Ashura on the way over here yesterday."

Fai froze, a look of pure fear on his face. I didn't know what to add, so I stayed silent.

"...That really was a good time for Fai to come in here, wasn't it?" Syaoran asked sarcastically, but a glance at him showed that he was also worried.

Syaoran suddenly looked up. "What's that?" he asked, pointing to something in the hallway.

I turned around to look. Another one of those red scratches. Only this one looked a bit more ominous. I could hear something in it, and it didn't sound good.

I stared at the hallway, worried. Syaoran shot a glance at Mokona; it nodded and a sword flew from its mouth. Syaoran caught it easily while Mokona jumped into his shirt.

Suddenly, the giant portal technically exploded, and what forced its way through?

Two dozen Erasers.

Erasers are wolf-humans. Humans who can turn into wolves. And they're DANGEROUS. It would be easy for one of them to kill a human. Let alone 24 Erasers to kill four humans.

"What the—?!" Syaoran said, sounding surprised. There was no time for an explanation; the Erasers noticed us instantly and charged. Syaoran stepped in front of me, seeing as I'd never fought before, and slashed his sword across the nearest Eraser's muzzle. It screeched and sunk its teeth into Syaoran's shoulder. He winced and lashed out, kicking it in the neck. Fai tripped it over and nailed it into a wall. It flew backwards, ripping large wounds into Syaoran's shoulder as it flew past. Soundstorm was shivering, and I was trying to hold back a loud scream.

"Here!" Syaoran yelled over the cries of the Erasers, which he was still trying to protect me from. He handed me his sword.

"How do I use this?!" I shouted, absolutely terrified.

"I can't help you there, now's not really a good time for lessons!" he shouted back. "I can't hold these things off for long!"

I unsheathed the sword, biting my lip. There was no way I could use this...

I felt claws rip across my shoulder and I screamed, instinctively swinging the sword around and slicing at the attacking Eraser. It howled in pain and staggered backwards.

"You've got the basic idea," Syaoran muttered sarcastically, whipping around and nailing an Eraser in the eye with his foot.

I felt myself get dizzy as I saw the blood dripping down the sword. I glanced at my shoulder and shivered. It was soaked with blood. I couldn't really move it well. I was so afraid I was crying now.

I brought the sword fearfully on the hand of an Eraser as slashed at my neck. The sound of the sword colliding with its claws was deafening, even despite the roaring and barking of the Erasers. I swung around and attempted to dig the sword into its knee, but I found that I couldn't do it. I just couldn't bear to hurt it.

"They aren't afraid to hurt you, Lilacheart-san!" Syaoran reminded me as he nailed it in the chest, sending it staggering backwards.

Soundstorm had been lucky enough to stay out of the battle so far, but now an Eraser was speeding towards her. Before I could make a move to help her out I saw Fai come in and nail the creature in the back of the head with a well-placed kick, which sent the Eraser staggering away, howling. He handed a small weapon to Soundstorm. It was a sharp kitchen knife. Soundstorm was shaking.

"You don't actually expect me to use this, do you...?" she whispered. Neither of us could do anything really violent, despite what we wrote.

"It's your choice," Fai murmured before he ran back into the battle. I noted that the way he fought was more like a variety of defensive techniques, not really attacks.

Soundstorm and I worked together to fight off some of the attacking creatures, but we didn't have the courage to badly wound, let alone kill any of them. After a while the Erasers finally had enclosed us all into a tight group. About half of them looked like they had broken limbs, several others had various cuts, and the final group was uninjured. They had been standing back while we exerted our energy. Smart plan.

Syaoran, Fai, Soundstorm and I were all covered in blood and scratches; I had been trying to hide the fact I was so scared I was crying. All twenty-four Erasers jumped, and I felt claws rip into my stomach, shoulders, legs—just about everywhere as I tried my best not to injure the people who were standing back to back with me and defend myself at the same time.

Then, something caught my eye: the phone.

"Syaoran!" I gasped out. I handed him the sword and pointed to the phone. Syaoran didn't know how a phone worked, but he knew what it was for.

"Who can you call that would help?!" he shouted, looking completely exhausted as he used the sword a lot less carefully then I did, fatally injuring and killing the first Eraser of the battle. My legs were shaking unsteadily.

"I don't know!" I yelled.

He didn't really seem to care about my less-than-satisfying answer; instead he raised his sword. "Raitei Shôrai!" he cried. Raitei Shôrai was a lighting spell.

The lightning nailed all of the Erasers in my path, knocking them out of the way. I darted over to the phone, picked it up, and dialled the first number that popped up on the list. Starsight's.

The phone rang, and I narrowly ducked an Eraser's claws as it slashed at my face. Syaoran was holding off the Erasers coming at me, but it didn't look like he could hold out for much longer. Fai was badly injured, and Soundstorm was fairing about as well as I was, except she had a weapon.

"Hello?" said a voice after what felt like forever.

"Starry!" I yelled over the racket. "Help!" I didn't really know what else to say. I figured that the sound of the Erasers would be clear enough for her to know that something was wrong.

"Lilac, what the heck is going on over there?!" she yelled. She used a slightly more colourful word then 'heck', but you get the drift.

Before I could answer her, I heard Soundstorm scream, "Lilac, look out!"

An Eraser appeared out of nowhere, bringing its claws down on my wrist. I screamed, and the phone flew out of my hand. It nailed the wall and smashed, the pieces skittering across the floor.

An Eraser scrabbling across the floor sunk its teeth into my knee, and I crumpled to the ground. I found myself unable to get up as the pain enfolded me.

That's it, I thought as my eyes fell shut. We're doomed.

***

Chapter Four

POV: Starsight

My house was one of the farthest away from the school, but even so it wasn't a long walk. I knew a few shortcuts. I kept looking at the sidewalk as I walked home from school, thinking hard about yesterday and today. There were book characters appearing around town, and with absolutely no explanation. I did a mental count in my head: Syaoran, Fai, Mokona, Danny Phantom, Amaterasu, and Ashura. I shivered; if characters like Ashura could appear in the County, I didn't want to know who could pop up next.

Little did I know I was about to find out.

I turned up my street, walking faster as I neared my house. About a week ago I had placed an order online for volume 19 of Tsubasa; it was due today. I couldn't wait to snuggle up under a blanket and read it. I turned up the driveway, put my foot on the first step, and stopped dead in my tracks.

Two things. The first was that there was a small brown package on the step, the perfect size for a manga book. That was the good thing.

The bad thing? The package was open and empty, and there was someone sitting on the step reading it. The last person I ever expected to see. I nearly dropped my bag out of pure shock, but I remembered just in time that I would probably break my laptop if I did that. Instead I tried to speak, but all that came out was a small 'meep'.

Kurogane tilted his head up at me and fixed me with a critical eye. "You live here?"

I nodded mutely. Kurogane was a ninja. An easily offended, irritable, slightly scary ninja. Not exactly the type of person you would want to have on your bad side.

He shut the book and held it up to me. "Any explanation for this?"

"...A very long one," I managed. "Come inside; I have to call Lilac about this."

Kurogane gave me a skeptical look but he rose and followed me up the steps to the front door. I pulled my key out of my pocket and unlocked the door, sighing in relief as the warmth rushed over me. I shut the door behind Kurogane and shrugged off my coat. "Icemoon!" I called.

No answer. I sighed. She had probably already finished packing and left. Typical. I had only been five minutes late to cook dinner last night.

I bounded up the steps and into the kitchen, Kurogane slowly following behind. I made my way over to the fridge and pulled out the juice jug. "Uh, do you want anything?" I asked, catching my manners.

Kurogane shook his head. "I'm fine," he said.

I had just gotten a glass and was about to pour myself a drink when the phone rang. Out of pure habit I almost asked Kurogane to pick it up, but I caught myself just in time. Abandoning the drink I made my way around the counter and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Starry!" Lilacheart's voice was high-pitched with fear. "Help!"

A loud crash echoed somewhere on her end, and a blood-curdling howl sent shivers down my spine.

"Lilac, what the—" and here the momentary thought of how bad my language was getting in a PG-rated story flashed through my mind "—is going on over there?!"

There was a scream, followed shortly by a crash that sounded like plastic shattering. Then the line went dead.

For a moment I just stood there, shocked, unable to move. Then I slammed the phone down in the cradle. "We have to get over there now!"

"Why?" Kurogane asked, giving me another skeptical look as I practically leapt down the steps and grabbed my coat.

"They're in trouble! We have to help them!" I cried, yanking on my shoes.

"It's not my problem," he growled, crossing his arms.

"You want it to be your problem?! Syaoran and Fai are over there!"

He was out the door before I could blink. Syaoran and Fai were his traveling companions; no wonder he was in such a hurry. Feeling momentarily perplexed I darted out after him and slammed the door shut, not bothering to lock it. I would regret that later. I raced down the steps, catching up with Kurogane on the street.

"Which way?" he demanded.

"Wait a second!" I gasped. "We can't go over there without reinforcements!"

"I don't need reinforcements!" the ninja snarled.

"We have no clue what's attacking them over there! We need to have some backup!"

I darted down the street, not giving him a chance to argue. Only I knew where Soundstorm and Lilacheart's house was; he would need me to get there. I raced past the catwalk, silently promising them that I would be there soon. I turned up a driveway and raced to the front door, banging loudly with the knocker.

"Where's this?" Kurogane asked, catching up with me on the top step.

"My friend's house," I responded shortly, practically slamming the knocker on the door. "Fun-Bun, get down here and open this door now or I swear I'll have Kurogane knock it down!"

A voice shouted from within, "Okay, I'm coming, keep your hair on!" Moments later the door swung open, revealing my friend Rabbitfoot with a half-shocked, half annoyed, half-amused look on her face. Wait, that was too many halves.

She took us in for a moment then simply stated, "You weren't kidding."

I ignored her remark. "Something really bad is happening at Soundy and Lilac's!"

Almost instantly she leapt into action, racing across the foyer to grab her coat from the closet. "Like what?"

"I have no idea! Lilac called screaming for help, but I think the phone broke before she could tell me what was wrong."

"What's going on?" a voice asked. I glanced across the hall to see Danny Fenton standing in the doorway.

"Something really bad's up at our friend's house," Rabbitfoot explained quickly, putting on her shoes.

"Let me come; I'll help," Danny offered.

Rabbitfoot looked about to object, so I cut her off. "That'd be great, thanks," I said quickly. To Rabbitfoot, "We're going to need all the help we can get."

Danny 'went ghost' right then and there; I figured Rabbitfoot had already told him all about his TV show and much else besides. Rabbitfoot leapt to her feet, yanking on a pair of gloves. "I'm ready."

"Then let's move!" I said, whipping around and racing outside. I didn't wait for the others to catch up; there wasn't enough time. I skidded down the catwalk, leading the way along the twisted paths through the park. I had wasted precious time getting Rabbitfoot to help us, but I was hoping that the extra power would help in the long run.

It felt like we had been running forever when we finally reached Lilacheart and Soundstorm's house. I yanked at the doorknob, and was surprised when the door simply swung open. I darted inside, the others on my heels. Harsh screeches and the sickening sound of something stabbing into flesh came from the living room; I skidded inside and froze in shock.

At least two dozen Erasers were crammed into the living room, all of them on a hunt for blood. I could just make out Soundstorm across the room; Syaoran was next to her, trying to fend off the Erasers from attacking her. I couldn't see Fai anywhere, but I quickly spotted Lilacheart in the middle of the living room, knocked out. An Eraser was lunging at her, no doubt ready for the kill.

I darted forward, unsure of what I could actually do to help her. But before I could take another step something crashed into me from behind, knocking me to the floor. I wanted to scream at Rabbitfoot, that Lilacheart was practically dying right in front of us, when what I could only describe as a plasma beam lanced over our heads, hitting the Eraser head on. It howled in pain as it was thrown backwards and slammed into the far wall. Danny Phantom flew over us, practically flinging himself at the Erasers and knocking them away. Kurogane stormed past, plunging into the fray as he hacked left and right at the Erasers.

I crawled across the floor towards Lilacheart, keeping my head down. The breath hissed through my teeth as I reached her and saw her injuries. Her shoulder had been laid open, no doubt by an Eraser's claws, with similar marks on her stomach. A long diagonal scratch traced a path across her face, narrowly missing her eye. Her leg was in bad shape, looking like she had a twisted ankle as well as a nasty bite from one of the Erasers.

I grabbed her uninjured shoulder and shook her. "Lilac? Are you okay?"

No response, but I could see that she was breathing. I sighed in relief. She wasn't dead...at least not yet.

A howl from one of the Erasers came from the thick of the fight, and something skidded across the floor towards me, sliding to a halt next to my knee. It was a small kitchen knife. Slowly I picked it up, shaking when I saw there was blood on the blade.

"Watch out!"

My head snapped up, just in time to see an Eraser lunging at me. I screamed and threw my hands up, instinctively holding the knife blade out. A sickening crunch and a harsh wheeze came from the Eraser, and I dared to look up. The knife had pierced its throat, thick blood pouring from the fatal wound and streaming down my arm. The Eraser slipped off the blade and hit the ground, its blood pooling across the floor and soaking into my jeans.

I couldn't move, couldn't look away. I was shaking, tears spilling down my face. I had just killed another sentient being. Killed!

Paralyzed with shock, I didn't even notice as an Eraser lunged at me, closing its jaws on my left arm. Pain lanced up my arm as the Eraser's teeth met, shattering the bone. I screamed again, my right arm acting on pure reflex as it stabbed the knife blade into the Eraser's shoulder. It flinched, but refused to relinquish its hold, clawing at my face with its hands as it dragged me to my feet. I held up the knife, sobbing, trying to yank my broken arm out of the Eraser's grip.

Suddenly a bark sounded above the battle, drowning out all sounds of the fight. The Eraser holding me froze stiff, its jaws going slack and releasing my arm. I staggered backwards, dim recognition pulsing beneath the pain. I knew that bark.

I twisted around to look behind me. There in the doorway stood a large black and tan mongrel dog, its eyes blazing and its collar shifting and melting with millions of symbols. The Disreputable Dog—or the Dog for short—from the Abhorsen trilogy.

At the Dog's bark every single Eraser in the room froze where they stood, each of them wearing an identical look of shock. I could see the others now; Soundstorm and Syaoran were on the other side of the room. Soundstorm looked in no better condition than Lilacheart, only she was still conscious, while Syaoran was covered with scratches all over. Fai was also covered in various cuts and scratches, and was slowly limping across the room towards me.

The Dog barked again, and the Erasers jerked forward, stepping towards her as if in a trance. Slowly, they made their way around the Dog, down the hallway, and outside, as if they were ants on some silent command.

I realized I was trembling, my eyes fixed on the floor. I was still holding the knife; instantly I let it go, dropping it to the floor with a clatter. My arm was in so much pain, shattered and broken...kinda like my story. I began to sway, my thoughts running together. Shattered...soul...

My knees suddenly gave way, and I collapsed. Someone caught me before I hit the floor, lifting me up again. "She's going into shock!" I thought I heard someone say. I couldn't be sure anymore. The world was dissolving now...shattered...broken...

*

I don't know when I first woke up. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, seeing things around me that I couldn't be sure were real or not. A myriad of faces, swirling symbols, a cool blue light. Maybe I was dreaming. Maybe everything was a dream.

Eventually I woke up fully—by fully I meant that I could actually make out my surroundings. My head was still throbbing, but my thoughts were clear. I moaned softly and opened my eyes.

The first thing I saw was that there were two people standing on either side of the bed; Fai and Rabbitfoot. Inwardly I groaned. I was going to be teased until the end of my days about this.

Fai was the first to notice that I was awake. "Hello, Starry-chan," he said with a small smile. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, but mortified," I muttered, dropping my gaze. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Rabbitfoot breaking down in a giggle fit. Not again.

There was a soft knock on the door, and two people walked in. No, make that a girl and a dog. I gulped when I recognized them. Characters seemed to be appearing faster than ever now.

Emily Fletcher came around the side of the bed, placing her hand on the covers next to my shoulder. "Are you feeling any better? Does it still hurt?" Emily was a mage, from the Avalon books. The healer, to be exact. She had been chosen to help find Avalon, the home of magic. I wondered how she had gotten here.

"A little, but not so much now," I responded. The pain wasn't as sharp anymore, more like a dull ache in the back of my mind.

Emily let out a soft sigh. "I'm glad," she whispered. "You had gone into such a state of shock that it was harder for me to heal you. I wasn't able to fully fix your arm."

I glanced down again, noticing for the first time that my left arm was wrapped in bandages.

"Those are just a precaution," a voice said, and the Disreputable Dog reared up and planted her paws on the bed. Her tail whacked Rabbitfoot in the leg, who managed to choke down her laughter. At least, for now.

I struggled to sit up, wincing as I put pressure on my injured arm. "How are Lilac and Soundy?"

"They're both fine," Rabbitfoot said. "Emily's healed them to the best of her ability as well. Well, everyone for that matter."

I nodded gratefully. "Thanks," I said to Emily.

She just gave me a small smile. "Everyone else already explained to me what's going on." She shook her head. "I find it so hard to believe it all."

"Believe me, I do too," I muttered, slumping back again.

Fai murmured in assent. "Get some sleep, Starry-chan. It's getting late now; we can get through all of this tomorrow."

I nodded and pulled the blankets over my head, trying not to blush again. Why did Rabbitfoot have to be there?

I listened as the four of them trooped out before I pulled the covers off my head with a sigh. It was hot under the blankets. I rolled over onto my right side, pulling my injured arm in close to my body. I felt exhausted, despite the fact that I had probably been sleeping for the past few hours. Not that it had been a restful sleep anyways. I sighed and closed my eyes.

***

Chapter Five

POV: Lilacheart

I could hardly breathe. The pain was...painful. Wow, that sounds stupid. But I mean EXCRUCIATINGLY painful. Even while unconscious, the howls of Erasers and the sound of swords colliding with claws rang in my ears. I don't know how long it lasted. But after what felt like forever, the sounds began to die away, slowly. And then all was silent.

My eyes opened slightly. Fai was standing over my bed. It was dark. I knew I only had the energy to wake myself up because I was worried about everyone. But that's about it. I coughed out some blood, and attempted to curl up into a ball, because it was cold. But pain wracked my body, and I found it impossible.

"Lilac-chan..." Fai said. Worry flooded his eyes.

"Is...Soundy...Syaoran..." I had no idea if Starsight had come, so I didn't add her.

"They're all—" Fai began, but then I heard the door fling open.

"Fai-san, please tell me she'll be okay..." Syaoran's voice said. He sounded worried. I wondered why. He didn't know me that well. But the feeling was brief, because at that moment I felt the entire pain of my wounds flood me all at once, and a spasm shook my entire body. I opened my mouth to cry out, but that only hurt more.

"Lilacheart-san!" Syaoran yelled, instantly darting past Fai and stopping by my bed side. My entire body jerked again and I felt blood leak from my wounds.

"You allowed me into your home, gave me food and shelter, and I can't even protect you when you need my help..." Syaoran muttered guiltily. I felt everything beginning to fade, but I tried to keep my grip on reality for just a second.

"Soundy's okay, right?" I coughed. Soundstorm was my sister. I had to be sure she was going to make it, even if I didn't.

Syaoran hesitated. "Yes, she'll be fine," he said encouragingly.

"Please, look after her..." I whispered.

"I will," Syaoran said quietly. I allowed my eyes to fall shut. I felt him grasp my hand.

"Thank you..." I whispered, then everything faded to black.

*

A blue light. It's all I remembered seeing. And it didn't last long before my world went black again.

I don't know when it happened, but at last I felt myself wake up.

"Lilac!" a voice cried. I hadn't heard anyone sound so happy before. I cocked my head as much as I could without the pain becoming unbearable. It sounded like...I had just said my own name?

"You're okay!"

Oh right. I had a twin. Then I realized what that meant.

"You're okay, too, then," I said as happily as I could, forcing my eyes open the rest of the way. Soundstorm was leaning on Fai, who was helping her walk. She was in horrible condition, but she looked better than when I'd last seen her.

"She insisted I take her to see you as soon as she could get up," Fai said.

"I thought you were going to die..." Soundstorm whispered. "Don't you ever scare me like that again!"

"I thought I really was going to die," I admitted quietly.

"You were," Fai stated.

Before I could ask any questions, I heard a knock on the door. "Come in," Fai called. A girl with red hair who looked familiar opened the door. I couldn't put my finger on who it was, but I was pretty sure I knew her...

"We owe you, Emily," Soundstorm said.

Emily Fletcher, the Healer of Avalon? When the heck had she gotten here? I decided not to dwell on it, just being grateful that she had.

"Where's Syaoran?" I asked. I remembered that he had taken my hand just before I had fainted and I felt myself go red in the face. DEEP red.

"You guys didn't kiss, did you?" Soundstorm giggled.

"No!" I snapped. "Shut up before I kill you!" This was my usual response to her jokes, and when I said it, she actually managed to jump up and down happily.

"She's got her temper back! She's going to be okay!" Soundstorm squeaked. Emily laughed.

"It still hurts really badly..." I whimpered.

"That's normal," Emily said. "I'm not really that good at healing, but I tried my be—"

"You underestimate yourself," Fai said. "You're a great healer. You saved three lives."

"Three?" I asked.

"Starry-chan's in your third guest room."

I jolted upright, groaned, then fell back against the bed. "I didn't mean to nearly kill her!" I wailed. She wouldn't have come if I hadn't called her for help.

"Relax; she brought reinforcements. Like Rabbit-chan, Danny-kun and Kuro-mii!" Fai said.

"Kurogane...?!" I muttered, startled. Then I sniggered because he had called Kurogane by one of those funny high school girl nicknames.

"Yeah. By the way, you'll need a new couch and a paint job, there're blood stains in the room." I shuddered, despite myself. I would never get used to blood.

"And Kuro-puu got rid of the dead Erasers."

"IT'S KUROGANE!" I heard from the other room. I managed a weak laugh.

Then Syaoran darted into the room, Mokona on his shoulder. Mokona jumped onto Soundstorm's shoulder and began to sing.

"I'm so glad you're okay!" he said sounding absolutely relieved. He looked a lot better himself. Being a better fighter then me, Soundstorm, and Starsight, he'd avoided many lethal wounds.

"Emily did a great job," I commented.

He nodded.

"Also, are you sure Sakura won't get jealous?" I joked.

My words caused him to frown. "I looked all over town. I can't find her anywhere," he said quietly.

"One problem at a time, Syaoran-kun," Fai said.

"Okay, then. I thought you stopped calling Kurogane-san nicknames?"

Fai smiled. "I figured it would make these ladies feel a bit happier."

Soundstorm laughed. As for me, I thought, We're not ladies, we're hyperactive spaz kids...

"It worked," I mouthed to Soundstorm. She nodded. I rolled out of bed and sat up with a wince. "How long have I been out?"

"You, Starsight-san and Soundstorm-san have all been out through yesterday and the day before," Syaoran said.

"So today's Sunday, then," I said.

"I guess so," Syaoran said with a shrug.

I attempted to get up.

"What are you doing?" Emily asked.

"I need to talk to Sheila. The Dog only got the Erasers out of our house, which means—"

"They could be anywhere by now," Soundstorm finished darkly. Fai frowned. Syaoran sighed. Emily's grip tightened on the door.

"So I need to talk to Sheila. I think we all should." I staggered to my feet, took a few steps across the room, and fell forward. Syaoran quickly darted forward and caught me. I felt my face turn red, and Soundstorm's face turned red for a completely different reason: silent laughter.

"Don't you dare comment, Soundy," I hissed through clenched teeth. She shook her head, hysterical tears running down her face.

"Thanks," I muttered to Syaoran. He nodded, probably not getting why Soundstorm was laughing. Syaoran and Fai helped me get to the living room. They were right; it was a total mess.

"We can't call Sheila, since the phone broke. So..." I sighed. "We'll need to walk."

"Is that even possible?" I heard a gruff voice say. I flinched.

"Don't worry, he doesn't bite," Fai said with a small smile. Kurogane didn't comment.

"I don't think so...we would need to get some support," I admitted.

"We could help," Syaoran offered.

"And as weird as this might sound..." Emily started quietly. "You might want to change into something a little less bloody."

"I'm not sure if that would be easy," I sighed, a bit embarrassed by how weird that sounded. The look on my face probably told them not to add any more. "We'll just have to hope no one of the County is out and about." I turned around to go get Starsight. Fai went with me.

Rabbitfoot was by her bedside, having a casual conversation with her. The Dog was lying on the floor in a corner, listening.

"Lilac, you're okay!" Rabbitfoot exclaimed with a sigh of relief.

"I'm never going to hear the end of the whole 'Syaoran's real' thing from you, am I?" I asked.

"Nope," Rabbitfoot laughed. I sighed, yet could help but smirk a little.

"Starry, we're going to go to Sheila's house. She needs to know about the Erasers."

Starsight immediately sat up. "I'll come," she said, rolling out of bed and slowly walking over to me and Fai. Fai helped us both walk back. "What do we say if someone sees us?" she asked suddenly.

"We'll make that up as we go along," I said. "Is Kurogane coming?"

"What's with the lack of honorifics here?" he grunted.

"I don't know," Syaoran admitted.

"We don't use them here," I said. "Come on, we don't have forever." I slowly turned around and made my way up the stairs before stopping and leaning against the wall. Kurogane, Syaoran, Emily and Fai all helped Soundstorm and Starsight, though I knew if I could do it myself, they probably could, too.

Syaoran helped me walk, Fai helped Starsight, and Emily helped Soundstorm. Kurogane followed from behind, bringing up the rear. The Dog stayed at the house with Rabbitfoot, and Mokona decided to travel in Syaoran's pocket.

"Freeloader," I said jokingly. To my surprise Kurogane nodded. I laughed.

Everything was relatively uneventful as we walked down the roads, and past the school. It was when we reached the park when we ran into a bit of trouble.

Sevenclaws, Icetail, Squirrelflame, and Ivyflower were all there. And the last thing I wanted was to was worry them. I exchanged a glance with Starsight, who shrugged.

"There's no point in stopping now," she admitted. "Sheila's house isn't that far from here, and I'd hate to bother everyone for noth—"

"You aren't bothering us," Emily said with a smile.

"You might be bothering Kurogane, but that's about it," Fai joked. So he'd reverted back to calling Kurogane by his real name. But still insulting him.

"Oh, shut up," Kurogane grunted.

"I'll take that as a yes," I muttered under my breath.

"What did you say?" Kurogane hissed.

"Nothing, nothing...come on, let's go," I said quickly. Did I actually think a giant mob of book characters and three residents of the county who were covered in blood and scars could actually get through a town park with four people in it unnoticed? No. But might as well try.

It was Squirrelflame who noticed us first. She tapped Ivyflower's shoulder and pointed at us. I pretended not to notice, but I could sense Starsight's tension next to me. The entire group stood up and walked towards us. However, as soon as blood was visible on our clothing, they all broke into a sprint.

"Lilac! Soundy! Starry!" Squirrelflame yelled. We all stopped and turned to face them. I suddenly felt really self-conscious about the slash that ran down my face. They all looked completely shocked.

"What happened?!" Ivyflower gasped, startled.

"We had a bad encounter. We're going to tell Sheila," I said shortly.

"What is THAT?!" Soundstorm exclaimed, pointing towards a massive grey thing in the near distance.

"...I'll be right back," Sevenclaws said. He ran across the field and brought the grey thing over to us.

Turns out that it was a giant rat.

"What...where...?!" I asked, bewildered. I was actually trying to divert the attention off of us.

"I named it Fluffy, yes?" Sevenclaws laughed.

"My name's Ripred!" The rat insisted.

"Ripred from the Underland?" I asked. The Underland Chronicles, of all places...

"Yeah," Ripred confirmed, looking a little suspicious. "How did you know?"

"Lucky guess," I lied. Ripred was a giant rat who was born with the ability to kill. Like Kurogane, I didn't want to anger him.

"Are you guys all okay?" Icetail asked, switching topics.

"Those scratches look really nasty, even on my standards," Ripred said.

"Yeah, we're fine." I wasn't ready to let anyone know that we had nearly died.

"Who be all of these people?" Sevenclaws asked, raising an eyebrow at the people who were helping us walk.

"Syaoran."

"Fai D. Fluorite. You can call me Fai."

"Kurogane."

"Emily Fletcher."

"Mokona!" Mokona squeaked, poking its head out of Syaoran's pocket.

"Cute!" Squirrelflame squealed, petting its head.

"Mokona's got many girlfriends!" Mokona laughed. I smiled.

"We've got to get going," Soundstorm said.

"Are you sure you're okay? We could report to Sheila for you," Icetail offered.

"It's okay," Starsight said. "We'll be fine."

The four Wandies still looked worried. "There's something you aren't telling us, huh?" Squirrelflame ventured.

"We'll explain everything later," I promised. I started to walk steadily down the path, leaving the four of them behind. Syaoran took a step back to see if I could go forward on my own. I was a little too slow for Kurogane, and when I noticed the look on his face, I decided that I should let Syaoran continue to help me.

Finally, we stopped at the biggest house in the county. "This is Sheila's place," I said quietly.

Soundstorm pressed the doorbell. I wondered if we should punch it twenty times, which the two of us did quite a bit. It was our way to let others know it was us in particular at the door. I decided against it.

The door slowly creaked open, revealing Magicyop in the doorway. His mouth fell open. "W-What...?!" he yelped. I realized how bad we must all look, despite the healing.

"We need to talk to Sheila," Starsight said when neither me nor Soundstorm said anything.

"Can you explain what happened first?" Magicyop asked in a pained voice, gesturing to our wounds.

"That's actually what we're here to see Sheila for," Starsight admitted. "Also, before you ask, this is Kurogane, Syaoran, Fai—" She face-palmed. "Sorry, this is Kurogane-san, Syaoran-kun, Fai-san, and Emily Fletcher."

"You mentioned Syaoran and Fai as the book characters that fell out onto the sidewalk, right?"

"Not exactly," I said. I was surprised that I sounded a bit angry. I felt that the way Magicyop talked about them wasn't really a polite way to mention living people. Of course, we were surprised that they were living at all, but still.

"Let's just drop the topic, okay?" I sighed. "Can you please get Sheila?"

Magicyop nodded and ran back into the house. He came back moments later with Sheila, who looked horrified. After all, she felt she was responsible for our safety.

"Sheila, apparently, the characters from books don't just appear outside. A swarm of dangerous wolf humans called Erasers landed in our HOUSE." I decided to tell her the worst of the damages. "If Emily Fletcher hadn't showed up, we probably would've died," I finished in a quiet voice.

Sheila looked really upset now.

"I'm really sorry—" I began.

"It's not your fault," she sighed. "What did you do when they appeared?"

"Syaoran gave me a sword, but I couldn't bring myself to use it. I'm such a wimp," I muttered. No one really had anything to say about it. I wondered if they all thought the same thing about their reactions.

Sheila looked thoughtful for a moment. Then she said, "Kurogane, Syaoran, Fai, Emily, I want you all to come inside. I need to talk to you. Starry, Lilac, Soundy, please come in and rest. It looks like you had a hard time just getting here."

I didn't agree with her aloud.

Apparently, Kurogane finally got tired of us being so slow. One by one, he roughly picked Soundstorm, Starsight, and me up and half put us, half dropped us down on the couch. Which hurt, but was actually quite fun.

"Wow, that was an unusual act of kindness," Syaoran said bluntly.

"Shut up, kid," Kurogane snarled.

"That's more like it," Syaoran laughed. Moments later he was running for his life as Kurogane chased him down the hallway. Starsight, Soundstorm, and I all laughed.

It felt good to be resting my feet. I realized that just walking here had hurt a lot. It had probably taken about half an hour for us to make a ten minute trip down the street. No wonder Kurogane had been so impatient. After Syaoran's reaction, I'm sure he would go out of his way to be more...violent...next time. I tried not to think about it as I allowed my eyes to fall shut.

*

I felt someone shake my uninjured shoulder gently. I wasn't a heavy sleeper, so that woke me up almost instantly. Emily stood over me. "Good morning," she said.

"What time is it?" I asked, rubbing my eyes.

"Sheila let you sleep through the night."

I shot upright, startled. "What?!"

"Don't worry about it," Emily chuckled, moving around me to wake up Soundstorm and Starsight.

"Where's—" I began.

"They were talking to Sheila all day yesterday; everyone's sleeping in guest rooms," Emily replied. She shook her head in an almost dazed manner. "I amazed at how many guest rooms there are at each house."

"New members of the community often need to wait to have a house built for them, so usually they stay over at another member's house while it's being built."

Emily shrugged. "That's pretty cool," she said as Soundstorm and Starsight slowly woke up. Soundstorm's reaction was just as surprised as mine, and Starsight thanked Emily, muttering something about meaning to thank Sheila later too. Emily dropped a pile of clean clothes next to us. "You can wear these today. You have to go to school."

I was shocked. Did Sheila actually expect us to go to school?

Seeing my look, Emily added, "Sheila has an important announcement to make, but you don't need to do any work today."

I nodded and slowly stood up. My legs felt stiff, especially my injured one. I made my way up the stairs and into the bathroom, where I changed into the new clothes: a pair of jeans and a plain lilac-coloured T-shirt. It felt good to have new clothes, seeing as my old clothes were stiff with dry blood and ragged with gashes. I noticed for the first time the bandages I wore; on my knee, my shoulder, and my stomach.

I limped back down the stairs, feeling a little bit better. I sank back down on the couch. One by one, Starsight and Soundstorm came back wearing new clothing as well.

"It's probably going to take us hours to get to school," I sighed.

"And I certainly don't want Kurogane to take us there," Starsight added with a grin. We all laughed.

"Sheila's one of the few people who can actually drive and has a car, so maybe we can ask her for a ride?" Soundy suggested.

Suddenly, Rabbitfoot made her way out of a guest room, closely followed by the Dog.

"What are you doing here?" I asked in surprise. She had stayed behind at our house.

"I was worried. You guys didn't come back," Rabbitfoot admitted. "I came to see if you'd made it here all right, and saw that you had all fallen asleep on the sofa. Sheila let me stay here overnight too. She seems fairly stressed out."

"That's understandable," Starsight said dryly.

At that moment Sheila appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Did you sleep well?" she asked.

I nodded with a shy smile. Everyone else did, too. Syaoran, Fai, Mokona, and Kurogane came out of their respective guest rooms right behind her.

"Good morning, Sheila-san," Syaoran said, nodding politely. Fai looked like he was trying not to laugh at him for being way too serious as usual. Kurogane just grunted.

"Did you sleep well, Sheila?" Emily asked.

Sheila smiled. "Good morning, Syaoran. I slept very well, thank you, Emily." She then turned to look at us. "I can drive you to school today, if you need me to."

"Thank you," we said in unison.

Sheila nodded and turned to look at Syaoran, Kurogane, and Fai. "I would drive you guys too, but there's not enough room in my car for everyone."

"It's all right, we can walk," Fai offered.

Sheila shook her head. "It might still be dangerous, what with a few dozen Erasers running around. Tell you what, I'll phone Cmoon and see if she's available to drive some of you." She walked over to the phone and swiftly dialled a number. Crescentmoon was one of the few adults in Wands and Worlds County aside from Sheila. As such, she also happened to have a driver's license.

While Sheila was on the phone I shot a glance at Syaoran. "Make sure you don't take her car apart," I sniggered.

"What made you think I was going to?!" Syaoran complained indignantly. Starsight laughed.

"Thank you," Sheila said before putting down the phone. She paced over to a desk in the corner of the room and opened up an announcement system that was built into her laptop.

"What are you doing?" Starsight asked.

"Making an announcement," Sheila said bluntly as she plugged a microphone into her computer. Then she spoke.

"Attention. Please bring all fictional characters to school with you, human or not. Leave your bags and binders at home. Thank you."

Sheila leaned forward and unplugged the mic, stowing it away in a drawer in the desk.

"What's she thinking?" I whispered to Soundstorm, but she just shrugged.

"Come on, we should probably get going now," Sheila said, opening the door. "Cmoon will be over here shortly."

I stood up and groaned when there was a loud pop in my leg. I allowed myself to crumple back down. I don't know how I'd gotten up the stairs before, but I doubted I could do it again. Starsight winced at the sound.

"That sounded like it hurt," Soundstorm said.

I remembered the Erasers jaws and how they'd made their way through my knee. I winced at the memory. No wonder my leg hurt.

"If I have the same results, I think I'll pass on getting up," Starsight muttered.

"Here, let me help," Fai said, taking a step forward.

"No, thanks, Fai, I'm okay, really!" Starsight stammered, aware that Rabbitfoot was staring at her. He ignored her completely and gently picked her up. Rabbitfoot keeled over in silent laughter. Starsight turned bright red, but Fai didn't even notice.

I struggled up to my feet one more time and this time Syaoran came to help me out. Rabbitfoot did laugh this time. Hard. Now it was my turn to go bright red.

Emily helped Soundstorm up. My sister had no reason to be embarrassed, but she did turn to glare at Rabbitfoot. "Stick us together in a shipping, and you die."

Rabbitfoot got the message so continued to laugh at me and Starsight. Oh joy.

"At least you didn't get badly injured," I snarled, more aggressively than I had intended. This caused Rabbitfoot to hold back her laughter. Only a little bit, though.

"I don't really get why she's laughing," Syaoran admitted as he helped me walk out the door, his hand on my shoulder.

"Lucky you," I growled.

*

Sheila and Crescentmoon made it a lot faster for us to all get to school. It was good that she'd offered, or else I probably would've collapsed in the middle of the road. I hated being such a burden.
Syaoran, Starsight, Fai, Kurogane, Mokona, the Dog and I all piled into Sheila's van, while Soundstorm, Rabbitfoot, and Emily fit themselves into Crescentmoon's car. Syaoran found it hard not to play with the buttons in the car, seeing as he'd never been in one before. Fai stared out the window, watching with interest as the environment flew by. Kurogane seemed not to care. Starsight fell asleep on the way there, Mokona snoozing in her lap. I talked quietly with the Dog, mostly about how stupidly useless I felt.

I tried to seem a little less helpless as we made our way through the school gates. That plan didn't work. I crashed right into the wall as Greyeyes walked by and muttered a curse just loud enough to be heard. Greyeyes swung around. I noticed she was wearing rollerblades. She was one of the few people who liked to skate to school. It was cool, but I didn't have the skill to do this. "Are you all right?" she asked.

I nodded. I hated getting asked this now. "Just injured," I admitted, deciding not to lie. I noticed at her feet was this little pink...thing...in a cap.

"Oh...my...God..." I whispered.

"Is that KIRBY?!" Soundstorm cried, laughing hysterically.

Greyeyes laughed. "Yes. It's been with me since Saturday. It's so cute; I love its company." She looked thoughtful, then added, "It does eat a lot, though."

We both laughed as behind us the others climbed out of the car with Sheila right behind them.

"Good morning, Riskay," Sheila said. Gesturing to the others, she began the introductions. "This is Syaoran, Fai, and Kurogane, from Tsubasa; Emily, from Avalon; and the Disreputable Dog, from the Abhorsen Trilogy."

Riskay was Greyeyes' nickname. No one knows why, but she insisted upon it rather than the usual 'Grey', which was the standard that went with the rest of the Wandies.

"What happened to you all?" Greyeyes asked, when she noticed we were all leaning against the car.

"Do you know what Erasers are?" I asked.

Greyeyes froze. "Yeah, I saw a giant mob of them running through the forest," she whispered after a long pause.

"Oh no..." Sheila whispered.

"By the way, where's Magicyop?" I asked. I had only just remembered that he hadn't gotten a ride with us.

"He went to school ahead of me. He said he wanted to walk," Sheila said, her voice quivering. "With the new threat of Erasers running around town...I hope he made it okay...I shouldn't have—"

"He's fine!" a voice called, and we all turned to see Ashtail making her way to the front gate, Magicyop right behind her. Sheila let out a sigh of relief.

"The Erasers appeared in my house," I concluded to Greyeyes.

"That would explain the scratch on your face," she said in a worried tone. With a glance at Starsight and Soundstorm she added, "And why your arm is hanging limp, and your neck."

"We don't need to run through a list," I muttered. "I'll just say there's more wounds than that." I lowered my hand so that Kirby could grab it. I couldn't bend over and pet it, so might as well just let it come to me. It didn't mind. It grabbed my hand with a curious look on its face. I raised it up to eye level and pet its head. It squeaked happily and I laughed. I almost wished Sakura was there. I knew she would love the creature.

...Okay, wait, why the heck was I suddenly thinking about Sakura?

Then I noticed the look of worry on Syaoran's face. That's probably what had made me think of that. "Here," I said, handing Kirby to Syaoran with a smile, much to his surprise. It let out such a cute little squeak that it made him smile, despite whatever was on his mind. We took turns petting it until Greyeyes picked it up and took out a piece of cake, which Kirby immediately inhaled. Everyone laughed.

"Come on you guys, I have to make an announcement," Sheila said. "Everyone, come on in." We all walked through the gate together.

"See you guys later!" Greyeyes called, skating over to Quailfeather, a cheerful, smiling Kirby on her shoulder. Kirby waved goodbye. I laughed, holding back the urge to make some type of girly comment on its cuteness.

I sat down on a bench to listen to Sheila. Starsight, Soundstorm, and Rabbitfoot sat down next to me. I turned to look at Starsight. "Sorry for nearly getting you killed," I whispered. That had been bothering me ever since I'd woke up.

"Don't be!" Starsight insisted. "If I hadn't come, you would've died. I'm sorry I didn't arrive earlier!"

I guess that made me feel a bit better.

Just then Danny Phantom landed next to Rabbitfoot. "Sorry I'm late," he said, sounding harried.

"You're always late for school," Rabbitfoot teased.

"I am?" Danny asked, turning back into his human self.

"Attention, all members of the Wands and Worlds School," Sheila said over a megaphone. All conversations stopped as everyone turned around to look at her. "I would like to announce that all of your normal school activities have been dropped."

"No one's complaining!" Lakestorm yelled. Everyone laughed.

"Instead..." Sheila continued, suppressing her own laughter of amusement, "we're replacing regular school subjects with lessons on how to battle."

This caused a HUGE explosion of talking. I just stared in surprise. I hadn't expected this.

Lowering her megaphone, Sheila said, "Lilac, Starry, Soundy, please come over here. I hate to call you guys out, but people really need to see what we might be up against."

I sighed, feeling a little embarrassed. We all helped each other get to the front of the crowd. Everyone fell silent. People stared in surprise. I was really glad that I had changed out of my bloody, torn up shirt.

"And this is after we were healed," I said rather dryly.

This simple statement caused another explosion of talking.

"The good news is, we're about one step in front, having taken a beating and learned a bit through experience," Soundstorm muttered.

"I could've done without this 'experience' of which you speak," I complained.

"Everyone, please, find someone who you think you can learn from. I'm sure that they're willing to help. If they aren't, please send them to me. They'll be sorry." Sheila sniggered briefly, causing everyone else to laugh as well.

"Nice..." said a voice I recognized as Dawnstripe's.

"Anyway, Starry, Soundy, Lilac, you can sit out if you want, and I recommend it. You'll need time to recover."

I sighed as I turned back to the bench to sit down again. "I hate feeling so...worthless..." I muttered. Then I swung around as something caught my eye. "Incoming!" I yelled, pointing. There was a red scratch forming in the sky.

Rabbitfoot, who was the closest to it, made a dive for it. Good timing, too. The person fell down right as she was under the scratch. He landed right into her arms, which made me snigger for some weird reason. I recognized him pretty quickly. Watanuki, from xxxHOLiC. He had the ability to see and attract spirits.

Rabbitfoot looked down at him in surprise, shocked at what she was seeing. Let's face it, people falling out of the sky wasn't something you got used to any time soon. Watanuki obviously didn't notice how close Rabbitfoot's face was to his, because when he lifted his head...

They accidently kissed.

Starsight, Soundstorm and I all burst into hysterical laughter. Rabbitfoot let out a shriek and instantly dropped him; Watanuki gave an identical yell as he scrambled backwards along the ground.

"Fake out make out!" I yelled.

"No, that was real," Soundstorm said, gasping for breath.

"This is going to be a great day!" Starsight laughed.

***

Chapter Six

POV: Starsight

I held the long staff out in front of me, at a forty-five degree angle to the ground. Planting my feet shoulder's width apart, I tensed, trying to ignore the lingering pain in my arm.

The staff came down at me, aiming straight for my head. I lifted my own staff, blocking the strike. The blow jarred my arm but I ignored it, shoving the staff away and lashing out at my opponent's side. He easily side-stepped the move and copied it; I tilted the end of the staff down to block it again. I took a step back and whipped my staff out, aiming for his leg. My opponent easily leapt over it, then with a move like lightning he flicked his wrist, tapping his staff lightly against my left shoulder. I grunted with pain and dropped my staff, beaten.

With a smile Fai bent over and picked up the staff, handing it back to me. "You're getting a lot better," he said. "I'm impressed at how much you've improved despite your injury."

"Thanks," I muttered, accepting the staff while trying not to blush too much. Thankfully, Rabbitfoot was off training on the other side of the gym, far enough away to not notice.

It had been about three days since Sheila's announcement. We had all been paired with various fictional (but we know they're not exactly fictional anymore) characters to train with. No, I hadn't been paired with Fai just because...well, yeah. I just liked his style, how it was more defensive than offensive. It appealed to me somehow.

"Why don't you go sit down and rest for a bit?" Fai suggested. "You look exhausted."

"I'm fine," I replied, shaking my head.

"No you're not. Go rest for a bit; there's plenty of time to train later."

Unable to keep arguing I just walked over to the bleachers ranged on one side of the room and sank down upon it. In truth, I was actually glad that he had insisted; my entire body ached so much I was surprised I could move around. I admit it, I had ignored Sheila's advice to rest for a few days until I was better to start training. We just didn't have enough time to spare, and, like Lilacheart, I hated feeling so useless around the others.

I tilted my head back briefly, gazing out the high windows at the blue-gray sky before casting a glance around the gymnasium. It looked so different from the old gym that I knew, especially with all the fictional characters scattered about the place. Not to mention the sounds of battle.

On the far side of the room I spotted Sevenclaws, working with his Absol. Inwardly I smiled. Two days ago an Absol had literally dropped into his backyard. After we had worked out that it wasn't an enemy the Absol had consented to work with Sevenclaws as its master. I could tell that Sevenclaws was just ecstatic about it. Maybe it was from playing the Pokémon games too much, but he was so adept at working with it already.

Close by Spirithunter was practicing with Amaterasu, predictably enough. The goddess had lent Spirithunter her Celestial Brush to practice with, who was getting better by the day. Like Sevenclaws I was pretty sure her skill came from playing the game so much, but there really wasn't any comparison to doing it in real life.

In one corner I could see Sheila teaching some form of martial arts. I wasn't knowledgeable on all the forms, so I didn't know exactly what she was teaching. There were several other people ranged in a half circle around her, all copying her movements. I made a mental note to go see if I could learn something from her later.

Within earshot I could hear Lostpaw was training with Kurogane. I turned my head slightly so I could see them. Kurogane was holding Sôhi out in front of him in a battle-ready stance, while Lostpaw stood next to him with her arms crossed. It didn't look like they were getting along very well.

"Okay, are you paying attention?" Kurogane asked. "First you have to crouch, then—"

"Or maybe I can just hit you with a chair!" Lostpaw retorted, sounding rather exasperated.

No, they weren't really getting along at all.

Across the room I spotted Magicyop weaving his way through the training area, carrying a clipboard which he was scanning relentlessly. He sat down on the bleachers next to me with a sigh; I cast him a curious look. "How's it coming?"

"Painful," he muttered. "I've been trying to keep a tab on every character that's shown up so far, as well as organize training schedules, check what the County's defences are like, and squash in some training for myself." He put the clipboard down and rubbed his temples. "It's enough to give anyone a headache."

"I sympathize," I said, hoping I didn't sound sarcastic.

Rabbitfoot suddenly appeared next to me, collapsing on the bleachers with a sigh. "This battle training stuff is a lot harder than it looks," she complained.

"Tell me about it," I muttered, deciding not to remind her that I was the one with a semi-broken arm. She had a point though; depending on who was paired with who, a lot of people were being worked hard. Still, everyone recognized the urgency, and gave it their all. We would just have to hope that it would be enough.

Magicyop stood. "I'm off; I have to talk to Sheila about defensive strategies." He walked off across the gymnasium, heading to where Sheila was breaking up the martial arts training.

Rabbitfoot leaned back against the next-highest row of bleachers with a sigh. "How's your training been coming?"

"Pretty good," I replied. "It's hard with my arm and all, but I'm managing."

"You're training with Fai, right?" she asked suddenly.

I tried not to flinch. "Yeah...what's your point?"

Without warning she sat up and waved her hand in the air. "Fai!" she called. I gave a start and whipped around. Fai was on the other side of the gym, but at Rabbitfoot's shout he turned around, looking slightly confused, and started to make his way over. If practically half the people in the gym hadn't also turned to look, I probably would have tackled Rabbitfoot to the ground.

"Anything wrong?" Fai asked when he stopped in front of us.

"No, nothing at all," Rabbitfoot replied brightly. "Just thought you'd like to come sit with us." She instantly scooted over to the side, leaving a large space between the two of us. I realized what she was doing and shot her a glare; by having him sit between us I couldn't lunge and attack her. Clever.

Fai still looked puzzled, but he sat down anyways. I felt the heat rise in my face for two reasons, embarrassment and fury. It was hard to tell which one was stronger.

"Oh, hang on a sec, I want to go talk to Sheila about something," Rabbitfoot said suddenly. I leaned forward to glance at her, and I caught that gleam in her eye. Oh no. The little liar was so—

"I'll be back soon!" she said in a fake bright voice with an undertone of laughter. Before I could protest she charged off across the gym towards Sheila, leaving us alone on the bleachers.

"She's rather active," Fai commented, watching her race off.

"You have no idea," I muttered under my breath.

"So," he said, leaning back against the bleachers like Rabbitfoot had, "how's your arm doing? Are you sure it's okay to be pushing yourself like this?"

"I-It's fine," I stammered. "It really doesn't hurt that much, just a little bit every now and then—"

"Maybe you should have Emily take a look at it," Fai said, the slightest note of worry in his tone. "I could have a look now if you—"

Before I knew what I was doing I leapt to my feet. "Good idea!" I cried, my voice a little more high-pitched than I had intended it to be. "I'll go talk to Emily, then I'll go home and rest for the day." Without pausing I whipped around and practically sprinted across the gym, trying to force down my emotions. I darted out the doors and skidded around the corner, coming to a halt in the hallways. I took several long deep breaths, trying to calm the pounding of my heart.

"So, how'd it go?"

I swear, I leapt about a foot in the air when she said that. "Fun-Bun! What did you do that for?!"

She shrugged, grinning like a maniac. "It's what I live for."

"Oh, don't I know," I growled at her, trying to resist the urge to give her a good solid punch on the arm. "I'm going to go home for the rest of the day, get some rest."

"You mean home home, right?" Rabbitfoot asked. I had been staying over at Soundstorm and Lilacheart's house since Sheila's announcement, since they lived a lot closer to the school than I did. I hadn't even gone back to my house for sleepover stuff; the twins had lent everything to me.

I nodded. "It's about time I get back there. Icemoon's still going to be away for a while, so someone has to watch the house."

"All right then," Rabbitfoot said as we walked down the hall together. I paused by my locker, dialled in the combination, and pulled the door open. It was cold out there; I would need my coat. Shutting my locker again I sprinted down the hall to catch up to Rabbitfoot, who was waiting by the front doors.

She gave me a grin, with that same glint in her eye again. "What happened to going to see Emily before you left?"

"...You were NOT listening in on us!" I nearly shrieked.

She shrugged again, looking like she was struggling not to laugh. "You can't blame me; it's what I do."

"I can so blame you!" I hissed at her.

Before either of us could say another word footsteps echoed down the hall, coming around the corner. I glanced around just in time to see Watanuki turn the corner. He stopped almost instantly in his tracks, his face beginning to turn red.

I shot Rabbitfoot a very amused grin. "Well, I'd best get going; leave you two alone," I said, pushing the door open and climbing down the steps. Behind me, before the door slammed shut, I heard her make an odd sort of choking noise, almost like she couldn't decide whether to snarl or laugh.

A loud bark echoed across the campus, and I turned to see the Disreputable Dog bounding towards me, her ears flying. She skidded to a halt next to me and abruptly sat down. "Where are you headed?" she woofed.

"I'm headed back to my house," I answered. "It's about time I get back there; I've left it for three days."

The Dog gave an odd sort of shake and cocked her head up at me. "Do you mind if I come with you?"

"No, not at all," I replied, feeling just a little surprised. I wondered why she didn't want to stay here at the school and help the others. I didn't question her though, just started down the street with the Dog trotting at my heels. 
I pulled my gloves out of my pocket as I walked, yanking them on my hands. The sky above was heavy with clouds; not surprisingly, small white flakes soon began to fall. About time we had snow actually; so far in the County it had just been unimaginably cold. I grinned as the Dog bounded ahead, tongue lolling, looking like she was trying to catch every flake that fell from the sky. I wished I could feel as care-free.

I turned the corner, and my house came into sight a little further down the street. I picked up the pace, eager to get inside to the warmth. Climbing the front steps I fished around in my pocket and pulled out the lanyard on which hung my house key. I never understood why my sister never carried her house key with her; it was like she purposely forgot all the time. Tossing the thought away I stuck the key in the door and turned it.

"That's odd..." I muttered out loud.

"Anything wrong?" the Dog asked, catching up to me on the top stair.

"It's just..." The key had turned really easily, almost too easily. "I think I forgot to lock the door when I went to Soundstorm and Lilacheart's during the attack."

The Dog let out an odd sort of snort and shook herself. "Let's be careful then."

I nodded, glad that the Dog was here now. Feeling a little apprehensive, I turned the door handle and stepped inside.

The house was quiet, with no one in sight. Just as it should be. I kicked off my shoes and shut the door behind me before hanging up my coat. The Dog circled around me, seeming a little agitated. I almost told her off for making me feel uneasy, but I kept silent. I climbed the stairs into the house, turning right into the living room.

I was about halfway into the room when I realized that I wasn't alone.

There was a woman sitting on the couch. A woman with skin as pale as the snow falling outside. A woman with white-blonde hair shot through with silver. A woman with glowing green animal eyes. A woman who had plotted to take over an entire world and failed.

The Dark Sorceress.

Curse me for not locking the door.

She looked up at me and grinned, showing pointed teeth. At my side the Dog growled, her hackles rising. I could have sworn she was growing larger too.

"Hmm," the Dark Sorceress said. "Not what I was expecting, but you'll do."

Without warning something grabbed me from behind, something with a large clawed hand covered in fur. So that's where the Erasers had gone. Several more Erasers also pounced on the Dog, trying to wrestle her to the floor. Unlike me though she was a worthy opponent, bucking and heaving and snapping her jaws in an attempt to throw the Erasers off her.

The Eraser holding me twisted my left arm behind my back; bright spots danced in front of my eyes and I practically screamed in pain. The Eraser slapped a paw over my mouth, cutting off my cry. "Keep moving, dog, and I'll kill her."

With a furious growl the Dog lay still, pinned by about five Erasers all sitting on top of her. Poor Dog.

The Dark Sorceress rose and stalked towards us. "You won't be killing her because we still need her," she snapped at the Eraser holding me.

I couldn't see it, but I could feel its fury. Mainly through my arm, which he bent back a little more at the Sorceress's words. Tears of pain sprang to my eyes, but I couldn't exactly say anything. Probably a good thing at this point.

"We could easily kill them both right now," the Eraser growled, its voice containing just a hint of a whine.

"No," the Sorceress hissed. "I need them both alive in order to lure out the Healer."

The Healer? So they knew that Emily was here? How much more did they know? And somehow I needed to figure out a way to get away from them, so I could warn the others. As if it weren't bad enough that we already had Ashura and a pack of Erasers running around without having the Sorceress here too. We needed some kind of distraction or something to get away.

Perfect timing.

Without warning the living room window shattered inwards, the drapes being ripped apart as something huge hurtled inside, bowling over the Erasers that had pinned down the Dog. The Eraser holding me let out a shout and threw me aside, whirling to face this new threat. I practically flew across the room, crashing hard into the wall unit. Several DVDs and our collection of Wii games clattered down on top of me; I was surprised the rest of the wall unit didn't fall over as well.

I struggled to try and sit up, but the pain in my arm—foo it, the pain in my entire body stopped me. Something warm seemed to be flowing down my arm; it took me several seconds to realize that I was bleeding, and badly. I blinked, trying to make out the scene before me. I couldn't see much more than dark shapes whirling in front of me; the only one I recognized was the Dog, her collar shining bright with Charter magic. I tried one more time to move before I just gave up and fainted.

***

Chapter Seven

POV: ?????

I watched the whole scene through the window. What was that woman thinking, attacking a girl and her dog like that? And that second dog—or was it a wolf?—for that matter; without a second thought it had smashed directly through the window and joined the fray. I had to assume there was more to this story than I knew so far. After all, I'd only been here for a day. I didn't know anyone here...or why I was here, for that matter. All I knew was that my apprentice and our horses had come as well.

I turned around, walking away from the window. This wasn't my business to take care of. It was the business of the people who lived here. We'd have to go get them, then.

As I made my way to the girl's backyard, where I had left my apprentice and the horses, I noticed my apprentice was reading a book on his horse's back. "What are you doing, Will?" I asked, sighing in exasperation.

"...Since when have we had a book?" Will asked.

I stared at him, not really sure how to respond to that. He handed me the book, and I read the name on the spine: The Ruins of Gorlan. I raised an eyebrow.

"We can learn more about it later," I decided, shaking my head. "Right now, we've got other places to be."

"Like where?" Will asked. I wondered if I should leave him hanging. It was kind of fun to do that. I sighed again and shook my head, deciding against it, for now.

"Remember that building labelled 'school' we saw earlier? As far as I'm concerned, it's the only building with people in it at the moment, not including this one. We need to talk to the people there."

"Why?" Will asked.

I rolled my eyes, not responding. We didn't have a lot of time. I got onto Abelard, my horse. Will realized I wasn't going to answer his question and sighed. We both took off.

It didn't take long for us to reach the building. I swiftly dismounted, tying Abelard's reigns to a metal bar. "We need to hurry," I said, pushing open a door. Will tied his horse, Tug, next to Abelard, and we darted inside.

There was a long row of metal cases stacked on top of each other, with locks keeping them shut. I ran down the hall and stopped at a door. Before I could open it, though, it opened itself. Two girls—apparently twins—a red haired girl, and a boy made their way through. They stopped and looked up at me.

"I have an important message for everyone here," I said.

"You're Halt, aren't you?!" said the boy, his eyes widening in excitement.

"...I think you're right, Echoheart!" said the twin with the longer hair.

"Isn't he the one who throws people into moats?" the short haired twin asked, and she and her sister laughed. I took a minute to examine their condition. They both had various healing but still disgusting and painful-looking wounds. The long haired girl had a large set of scratches running down her face. There was a large set of similar scratches running down the short haired girl's leg. I shook my head. I would ask later.

"What's the message?" the red-haired girl asked.

"It's about one of the citizens and her dog," I replied.

"...Starry," they all said, exchanging worried looks.

"She's under attack by a woman with animal eyes and wolf people."

The reaction was huge. The twins' eyes widened and they both whipped around and ran across the room. The short haired girl yelled "SHEILA!" while the long haired girl screamed "FAI!" The red haired girl looked shocked and scared. "That woman...could she be the Dark Sorceress...?"

"She mentioned 'the Healer'."

"That's her..." The girl's voice shook.

"We'll help you, Emily," said the boy, Echoheart I presumed. He looked at my apprentice, who was standing just behind me. "You're Will, right?"

Will seemed startled. "Y-Yes..."

"Your book is awesome!" he said, giving a slightly forced smile. In the room behind him, the oldest woman was organizing the fighters in the room. I noticed the long haired twin was standing next to a brown haired boy with a sword and a blonde haired man who I guessed was Fai, by the way he was freaking out. There was also a girl next to a spiky black-haired boy who looked about ready to run from the room at full speed. Everyone was talking about battle.

"Could you please teach me archery?" Echoheart asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

"...Maybe," I said briskly, as the entire group started heading in this direction.

"We're going to help Starry. Are you coming?" said the short haired twin as she passed.

"Yes," I said, nodding, and taking off down the hallway.

*

POV: Lostpaw

I had never been to Starsight's house before. I was surprised to know that she only lived two minutes away from my house, on foot. She lived a good distance from school, though; the run felt like forever. Everyone was running, no one was slowing down. Fai was freaking out beside me. Lilacheart and Soundstorm, despite their injuries, were trying their best to pull ahead of everyone. I think it was because the two had been arguing with Sheila, Kurogane, and Syaoran over whether or not they could fight in this battle, and that they wanted to prove themselves. I thought it was kind of funny to see Syaoran rejecting the idea of them fighting. Or, more or less, it was funny to see Lilacheart hesitate before she argued. He was her favourite character from her favourite series; it must've been pretty hard for her to fight his opinion.

Rabbitfoot was leading the entire pack at an all-out sprint. She was, after all, Starsight's best friend. She must be scared to death. Danny Phantom was keeping up with her.

Dawnstripe and Icetail were running side by side, talking about something. I wasn't sure what they were talking about, but it was obviously pretty important to them. I heard the words 'forest' and 'maybe' used several times. Sheila and Magicyop were keeping a good pace, speaking quickly to each other between breaths. Kirby was riding on Absol. I wasn't sure it understood what was going on; it seemed worried only because everyone else was. Sevenclaws was running in perfect time with his Absol, which didn't surprise me in the slightest. Jayfeather and Echoheart were running beside Halt and Will, which was actually quite amazing, seeing as the two were on horses.

Overall, everyone was freaking out. I knew that everyone would always be like this, no matter whose life was on the line. Though I hoped that, after this, no one else's life was ever on the line again.

I wish.

As for me? I was running next to Kurogane. He was, after all, my instructor. I was kind of nervous. After all, was I really good enough with a sword to use it in a real battle? I certainly didn't think so.

After what seemed like an eternity Starsight's house finally came into view. We all stopped at the door for a 10 second discussion; after all, we couldn't just run in there without a real plan. Well, we could, but it wouldn't be smartest thing we'd ever done. Kurogane kneeled down beside me and started whispering last minute strategies that I had yet to perfect into my ear, but I wasn't actually listening to him.

"I can help!" I heard Emily arguing with Sheila.

"If the Dark Sorceress was trying to lure you here using Starry, you shouldn't take the bait," Sheila said, sounding unnaturally calm. But then again, she couldn't exactly freak out without sending everyone into hysterics.

"I won't just sit here and do nothing!" Lilacheart argued with Syaoran. "Please! Starry's my friend, and I've been doing enough sitting on the sidelines!"

"...Fine," Syaoran sighed. "You and Soundstorm-san can get Starsight-san out of there, and bring her to Emily-san, who can heal her. I'm sure she'll need it."

Icestar was taking out her bow and arrow. She was, after all, a good archer. Nearby Rabbitfoot and Rubystripe were talking about Alchemy. Something to do with FullMetal Alchemist.

"I bet you that Roy Mustang will appear in the county sometime soon," Rubystripe said.

"I wish! But I doubt it. If he does, I'll propose to him," Rabbitfoot laughed. The two were obviously trying to lighten some of the tension they felt. That we all felt.

"You're on!" Rubystripe said.

I sniggered.

"Are you even listening to me?!" Kurogane demanded.

"Yes," I lied.

"Then what did I just say?"

Sheila saved me here. "Open the door, let's get in there!" she yelled.

Fai flung the door open, and everyone charged inside, weapons at ready. I stopped both Rabbitfoot and Soundstorm at the door.

"Soundy, you can take my sword," I said quickly, handing the blade to her. "You might need to defend yourself when you get Starry."

"Won't you need it?" Soundstorm asked, seeming worried.

"Rabbit, where's Starry's room?"

Rabbitfoot looked confused. "Up these stairs, take a left," she said.

"Thanks." And before either of them could ask me anything more, I took off up the stairs.

The words I had said during training earlier today rung in my head: "Or maybe I can just hit you with a chair!"

Who would've thought I was serious?

As I entered her room, the first thing I saw was a chair. I'll need to apologize to Starry for likely breaking this thing later, I thought, picking it up with a light grunt of effort. How did I manage to get back down the narrow hallway with a chair over my head? I'll leave you to figure it out. But it took ten seconds.

I stared at the scene laid out before me. The battle was a giant mess. The Dog was missing lots of fur, but otherwise, she seemed okay. Lots of Erasers were taking on the members of the county. It hadn't even been that long, and lots of us had received several wounds. So had the Erasers. Blood and claw marks stained the walls and furniture. A window which took up half of one wall was broken, and cold air blasted in through it. I didn't look for Starsight. It would be hard to find her in this mess anyway.

Enough staring! I snapped at myself, charging into the battle. A lot of heads turned to look of me. Of course this would happen; I was an angry teenage girl holding a chair over my head! I would've laughed at the thought if the situation hadn't been serious.

"Take this, Kurogane!" I yelled, bringing the chair down on the head of the nearest Eraser. The noise was loud, and the sound of something breaking was very disturbing. But all the while, I was pleased with myself. I didn't look for Kurogane. I could imagine the look on his face. While the thought amused me, I knew I'd be in trouble with him for this later.

*

POV: Lilacheart

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but seeing Lostpaw run into the room with a chair made me laugh so hard I nearly cried. It was just PERFECT; she had traded her sword to Soundstorm for a chair! It took me a minute to get over it, and then I remembered I was supposed to be looking around for Starsight.

"Sorry, Soundy," I said quickly.

"No, that was actually amusing," Soundstorm said, laughing behind her hand.

We scanned the area as well as we could while the battle raged around us, but we both saw Starsight at around the same time. She had smashed into a wall unit on the other side of the room, and was surrounded by various DVD boxes.

I dashed into the battle, weaving in and out of the fighters, receiving a couple of grazes here and there, no matter how careful I tried to be. Soundstorm was right behind me, holding off the Erasers with the sword Lostpaw had given her.

An Eraser suddenly charged towards Starsight. I swung around to alert Soundstorm, but she was busy holding off a different Eraser. I completely panicked, and did the first thing that came to mind: I grabbed Will's bow and arrows off his back. It wasn't the greatest thing I'd ever done, and I later I would completely regret it, but I was kind of freaking out at the moment. I pulled out an arrow and tried my best to nock it. I had absolutely no idea how to use it, which made me feel even worse. Will yelled at me in protest, but he hadn't actually been using it, so he just continued to fight with his knives.

I pulled the string back, and the arrow seemed to go along with it. Suddenly, a voice yelled from behind me, "Pull the string back further, and aim a bit higher!"

I had no idea who said it, but I listened, and let go. The arrow flew well enough, but the string snapped back and painfully whipped my wrist. "I deserved that," I muttered, but I looked around for the Eraser I'd been aiming for. I found it, all right: it was dead, the arrow coming out of its chest.

"Holy crud, did you do that?!" Soundstorm asked, the Eraser she'd been fighting driven off by Amaterasu. The sun god was fighting as well as she could without blowing anything up, injuring any of the Wands and Worlds County members, or gorily tearing the Erasers in half, because that was the last thing we needed.

I looked around to see if I could find the person who'd given me the helpful orders, and I saw Icestar, giving me an approving look. "You got lucky," she said.

"Heck yeah," I responded. "Thanks." I thought for a moment, then asked slowly, "Could you teach me how to use the bow and arrow properly at some point?"

She gave me a small grin before sending an arrow through an Eraser's shoulder. "If Syaoran will allow it."

"What's that supposed to mean?!" I cried indignantly. She just laughed and disappeared into the fray. Unfortunately, I knew exactly what she had meant.

"Everyone knows that you like Syaoran," Soundstorm said, a cheeky grin on her face. I handed Will back his bow and arrow and looked around. The Erasers were getting their butts kicked, which was good to know. I briefly wondered where the Dark Sorceress had gone, but I quickly dismissed the thought.

"He's my favourite book character," I said.

"I mean the other type of like."

"I don't get it," I lied, running towards Starsight.

"You've been bitten by the love bug!"

"Have not!" I yelped. Soundstorm laughed, but she quickly was cut off when we saw Starsight.

Her arm was covered in blood, a small puddle building by her fingers. But that wasn't what freaked us out: it was her skin. It had turned so pale she was nearly white. She wasn't wearing her jacket; obviously she hadn't been expecting the Erasers or the Dark Sorceress to be waiting inside her house. The window had been smashed open, and it was snowing outside, which accounted for the frigid temperature in the room. I shuddered. I didn't even know skin could be that color.

We couldn't go back and get her jacket, so I resorted to taking off my jacket and putting it around her. Soundstorm did the same. Starsight was several years older than we were, so our jackets didn't exactly fit, but it was the best we could do for now.

The two of us picked her up, and the Dog, seeing this, began to shudder slightly. At first I wondered what in the world she was doing, until her collar glowed brighter and several symbols shifted off it and down her snout, quivering at the tip of her nose. She let out a loud bark, and the symbols exploded forth, erupting in white fire that drove the Erasers back, howling.

We darted through the cleared path and headed down the steps towards the door, where Emily was waiting outside. I grabbed Starsight's jacket on the way out. We stopped on the front steps outside, carefully putting her down. Emily looked terrified. "Is she okay?" she asked.

I realized that I hadn't checked for pulse or anything of the sort. But she was breathing, so that was good, at least. "Sort of," I concluded.

"You might want to put your jackets back on," Emily suggested.

"She's needs it more," I said with a shake of my head. Soundstorm put Starsight's jacket on her. Emily didn't object to either of these two actions. She held out her healing crystal, closing her eyes. I sat silently on the steps, Soundstorm and I both hoping everything would be okay.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps. I looked up to see a man clad in a dark blue cloak that looked like he had just stepped out of the ranks of the military. And...white gloves?

"Do you ladies know what's going on around here?" he asked.

"You...you're Roy Mustang, aren't you?" I asked, surprised.

He seemed slightly startled I knew him, but shook it off and nodded.

"Rabbit's so in for it now," Soundstorm muttered.

"What do you mean?"

"...I'll tell you later."

"What's going on is Starsight is dying on her walkway while the county members fight for their lives inside," Emily whispered, sounding miserable.

"...Are you saying you can't heal her?!" I asked, terror gripping me.

"I'm trying!" she said frantically.

"Can you help everyone inside?" I asked, looking up at Roy. "I know you don't even know us, but please...we need all the help we can get."

Roy seemed to consider for a moment before running past us without another word inside.

"That answers that," Soundstorm said. We both walked over to Emily; I knelt down and put my hand on the Healer's shoulder. "You can do it. Just relax, all right?" Fortunately she didn't know the irony of my words; I was ready to freak out myself.

But what I said seemed to reassure Emily. She took a few deep breaths, then closed her eyes again. This time, her crystal glowed bright, and a healing light spread over Starsight. Her arm stopped bleeding and her skin seemed to regain some color, which was good since I was worried she was about to literally turn white. And she was still wearing our jackets as well as her own...

"I'm freezing," I complained quietly to Soundstorm, realizing I was shivering violently.

"Me, too, but we'll live," she whispered back, and I nodded in agreement. My attention was brought back to Starsight when she groaned and opened her eyes.

"You're awake!" I exclaimed, the fear ebbing away to be replaced by relief.

"Are you oka—Sorry, standard question," Soundstorm said.

"Are you?" Starsight asked, slowly shifting position.

We both cocked our heads.

"Aren't you cold?" she prompted, noticing that she was wearing our jackets.

"Definitely, but at least you're okay. Everyone's in your house fighting the Erasers."

Starsight attempted to jolt upright, but she groaned and fell back down. "Are they okay? You two? Sheila? Fun-Bun? Fai? Everyone?"

"Yeah, I'm sure they'll all be okay," I said, half lying. "Oh, and Lostpaw's fighting with your chair."

There was a short silence, then Starsight laughed. "I'm not even going to ask." Her expression suddenly became solemn, and she fell silent.

"Are you feeling better, at least?" I asked.

"Well...I had this strange dream..." she muttered.

I cocked my head curiously.

"A creature flew up to me, asked me a few questions, then said it liked me and...entered my heart."

"Sounds kind of like a...holy—!"

I said a bad word there, but the sound of something breaking inside drowned it out.

"I'm sure Magic can get someone to fix that for you," Soundstorm said quickly.

"That sounds like a Kudan," I finished.

This time Starsight swore. I'll leave you to figure out the word.

"You have a Kudan!" I said, stopping my voice from rising to a squeak. Native to the Tsubasa manga, Kudan were creatures that helped you fight and protect others. They came in all shapes, sizes, and forms. In the manga, Syaoran's had been a flame wolf, Kurogane's had been a water dragon, and Fai's had been a bird.

A big grin spread across Starsight's face. "That is too cool..." she whispered, her voice in awe.

From inside her house there was another explosion.

"...Well, it might be cooler if my house wasn't blowing up."

She was about to stand up, but Emily stopped her. "You're in no condition to fight. Lilac, Soundy, you can go check it out. And take your jackets with you before you freeze to death. I'll take Starry over to your place."

We both nodded, and Starsight gave us our jackets back, which we took without much hesitation this time.

"Thanks," Starsight said, smiling.

"Thank Halt. He's the reason you're alive right now."

"From The Ranger's Apprentice?"

"Yeah!" Soundstorm and I both said.

"...I just had my life saved by a book character. Holy foo, that is both awesome and scary."

We both laughed, glad that Starsight was okay.

"We'll catch up with you later, okay?" I said, then we swung around and ran inside.

Starsight was wrong when she said her house was blowing up.

Only her living room was a bloody mess full of broken windows and furniture. All of the Erasers were dead on the ground. The members of the County were covered in various cuts and bruises that were probably not as painful as they looked, but weren't as injured as I thought they'd be. Probably because our odds had been so much better against the Erasers. I noticed that Lostpaw was sitting on the chair she had been fighting with and I laughed, hard.

"Is everyone all right?" I asked, guilt sweeping over me as soon as I recovered from the laughing fit. I had been so useless.

"We're all okay. How about you two?" Jadepool asked.

"We didn't do anything."

"Yes, you did! You got Starry out of there!" Squirrelflame insisted.

"Speaking of Starry-chan—" Fai began.

"Is she okay?!" Rabbitfoot asked, her eyes full of fear.

"She'll be all right. Anyone know what happened to the window?"

"That would be me," a gruff voice responded on the far side of the room, and a large dog wove past the county members and into the center of the room. It had a wolfish-looking appearance, and seemed slightly familiar.

"Who...?" Soundstorm began.

The canine gave a friendly growl and shook his head. "Balto."

"I knew you seemed familiar!" Hawkstorm exclaimed.

I nodded in agreement, seeing it now. "Did anyone notice when Roy Mustang came in?" I asked.

"I did," Rubystripe said, a huge grin on her face.

"We can talk about that bet later, okay?" Rabbitfoot said quickly. "What happened to—?"

"Starry got a Kudan!" Soundstorm said, smiling. Most of them said, "A what?" Several people just looked dumbfounded. With the exception of Syaoran and Fai, who both smiled, and Kurogane, who had a 'been there, done that' look on his face.

"Oh my god, LUCKY..." Cloudwind muttered.

"Well, she nearly died. Nothing lucky about that," I responded.

"True," she said, then she hugged Fai.

"...Who are you...?" Fai asked tentatively.

"That's Cloudwind. Not sure if you've met her yet."

"...Ah." He looked a little freaked out. Then again, it's weird being recognized and adored when you didn't even know you were famous.

"...Kurogane? You're...you're not too mad at me about fighting with a chair, are you...?" Lostpaw asked slowly.

The ninja was silent for a moment, then he sighed loudly. "It was probably for the better," he admitted irritably. "You weren't ready."

Lostpaw let out an audible sigh of relief.

"Cloudy? Let go of Fai," Soundstorm said, proceeding to drag her away while she struggled.

I walked over to Syaoran. "Are you sure you're okay?" I asked.

"I promise you, I'm fine, Lilac-san," he assured me.

"We should all go home for the day," Sheila announced. Everyone nodded, thankful that we didn't have to go back to school after the ordeal.

"Wait!" Soundstorm exclaimed suddenly. Everyone turned to look at her.

"Where's the Dark Sorceress?"

There was a long silence as it sunk in. She was still on the loose, along with Ashura. Kurogane swore loudly.

"There are children in the room, Kurogane," Fai said. That got a couple of laughs out of everyone.

"All of you be careful on your way home, alright?" Sheila said, her tone serious. We all nodded.

"Kurogane should escort everyone home!" Soundstorm said, and everyone laughed.

"Very funny," he growled dryly.

"You should go home with Losty," I suggested, "since she's the one you're training."

He gave a slight nod.

"...I'm not going to get a lecture, am I?" Lostpaw asked.

"You are," he reassured her.

"...Yay," she muttered sarcastically. The two walked out the door arguing about something. With a glance around at the rest of us Balto followed them out. There was a long silence, then we all broke out giggling.

Fai turned to look at me. "Syaoran-kun, you go home with the twins. We need someone with better fighting skills to go with them, because of the evil people out there and all." Syaoran nodded.

"What about—" I began.

"I'll take care of everyone else," he said. "Tell Starry I hope she feels better soon."

I smiled. "Okay." I glanced over at Sevenclaws. "How was your Absol?" I asked. Even before he had one, he was always telling us to 'remember the Absol.'

"It was good, but it would be made better if I had 12 more, yes?" he said with a smirk on his face. We all laughed, but I doubted that he was kidding.

I glanced at Amaterasu and smiled. She flicked her ears, wagged her tail, and rubbed her head against Spirithunter's leg. I had a feeling she was talking to her, which was confirmed when Spirithunter nodded and whispered, "Thank you."

I glanced at Halt and Will, who were standing next to their horses, Abelard and Tug, respectively. "You might need a place to stay," I said. My house was full with the Tsubasa cast, so I couldn't offer them to stay with me.

"They can stay at my place," Echoheart offered. "My yard is big enough for a couple of horses, too."

I glanced at Halt. He nodded. "Thank you," he said, though I got the feeling he was a little reluctant to accept the help.

"Sheila...?" I asked. She looked at me.

"I want to start fighting soon. I'm done resting, and I feel useless when everyone fights without me. I don't mind who I practice with..."

"Preferably Syaoran," Soundstorm teased.

"HEY!" I protested, pretending this wasn't true. (Which it was, by the way.) "I actually want to learn archery..."

She nodded. "It's a Friday, so you can start on Monday, after two more days of rest. Is that okay?"

I smiled and nodded. "It is. Thank you." I walked over to Kirby and pet its head. "We need to get Kirby a sword," I laughed, remembering its sword ability. It didn't seem to get what I was talking about, because it jumped up and down and made silly little noises. I laughed again, then turned around. "I'm going to go home," I said, trying to stifle a yawn. "See you later, everyone."

"See you Lilac! See you, Soundy!" said a bunch of scattered voices. I followed Syaoran out the door, Soundstorm behind me.

"I wonder who—or what—will drop in next?" Soundstorm asked me.

"...I'm not sure..." Syaoran responded before I could say anything. "But I have a bad feeling about it."

I looked up at him, cocking my head. "Why?"

He stayed silent for a moment, then sighed. "No reason. Come on, let's get going."

*

Saturday. I was on my computer, listening to music. I was also on wandsandworlds.com/community, our website. It was fun talking to the county members in the chatroom when we were too lazy to go across the street. This time I was talking to Runningflame and Coalfang. Runningflame had been a resident of the county until a little while ago. He'd moved, but most people here still remembered him and tried to keep in touch.

An IM suddenly popped up on my screen.

Runningflame: 'There is no WAY book characters dropped into the county. There's just no logical way!'
Coalfang: you and your logic, runningflame, lol.
Lilacheart: xD

After all, Coalfang had a point. Runningflame was always thinking things had to be logical. While I was sure there was a (semi) logical reason behind some of this, I didn't know what it was. I didn't really care, either.

Lilacheart: I can get Syaoran onto my computer, if you want me to. I'm...just not sure if he knows how to use the keyboard.
Runningflame: ...I'd have to see it for myself.
Lilacheart: Then come back for a visit sometime!
Coalfang: yah, everyone here misses you, runningflame.
Lilacheart: Except the people who don't know you, lol.

The door creaked open. I forgot to pause my music as I turned around, but I didn't really think anything of it. Syaoran walked into the room. "What are you doing?" he asked.

I shrugged carelessly. "Talking to Runningflame, a member who left the county some time ago, and Coalfang, the older member who was fighting alongside Moonglow in the last battle. Moonglow's the one in the black clothes, by the way."

He nodded. "I remember her."

"Hard to forget. I'm also browsing the community website and listening to music."

Syaoran fell quiet, listening to the song. His eyes narrowed slightly, and he cocked his head. "It sounds...familiar," he admitted. "What's it called?"

"Hmm? Oh, it's called Kizuna."

"Who sings it?"

I stopped short. I now knew why it sounded so familiar.

"That would be...you?" I said. Syaoran's Japanese voice actor, Miyu Irino, had sung this song. He fell quiet for a moment, his eyes widening. When he next spoke, he sounded freaked out.

"When did that happen?!"

The song ended on that note, and moved to the next one. Zankou.

"If it makes you feel any better, Kurogane sung this song."

There was a long silence as the song progressed. Syaoran suddenly sniggered, then doubled over laughing. I laughed with him. It was just too funny.

"Who's dying over there?" Kurogane snapped from outside my room, down the hall.

"I am in no way responsible!" Soundstorm yelled back.

I fell out of my chair laughing. Syaoran was on the floor; I was pretty sure he was crying from laughter. Fai walked into the room to see this.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

We were both laughing far too hard to respond. Soundstorm walked into the room and, after a moment, asked, "...Is that Zankou playing?"

I managed to nod, and she burst into laughter too.

"...I'm not following this," Fai said.

Then Kurogane walked into the room. I pointed at him and laughed even harder. I couldn't even breathe by this point. I wiped a tear away from my face and laughed some more. Soundstorm was laughing because I was laughing, I was laughing because Syaoran was laughing, and Syaoran was laughing because he just learned that Kurogane's voice actor sung. It was just too great.

"SINGING NINJA!" I screamed, and we all laughed harder. Kurogane's eyes narrowed. "Second thought, I don't want to know," he said, then he turned around and walked away.

Starsight walked into the room, looking confused and amused at the same time. "Why does Kurogane looked extremely ticked?" Then she heard the song and began to laugh. How she heard the song over our hysterical laughter was a mystery to me. Fai glanced at her and sighed.

"Kurogane sings this song!" Starsight yelped, laughing really hard.

"KUROGANE SINGS!" Syaoran yelled, trying to catch his breath, and failing miserably. Fai didn't find this as funny as we did, but he did laugh a little bit. After a minute, he shook his head, looking way past amused. "Don't tell him or he'll kill you all."

Somehow we all managed to nod through our hysterics to show that we'd heard. He left us, and we all laughed long after the song was over.

It was just one of those moments, I guess. But still, after the events of the day before, I was glad we were all able to laugh like that.

*

"I'm going out for a walk, okay?" I said later that day, going down the stairs.

"Be careful, okay, Lilac-chan?" Fai called, and I nodded.

"I should be back in either ten minutes or an hour, depending on whether or not Foxwhisper wants to chase me around the street," I replied with a slight laugh. I closed the door and locked it behind me. Starsight had gone home about two hours after the whole laughter attack, but not before she told me the Dark Sorceress had entered her house because the door was unlocked. Even though Soundstorm, Syaoran, Kurogane, and Fai were at my house, I didn't want to take any chances. Emily and the Dog had gone with Starsight.

I walked silently down the road, heading towards the park. It was a quiet, uneventful walk. I passed a large tree and stepped into an empty field. I was about to sit down, when I noticed a set of footprints in the snow.

My eyes followed the path the footprints had taken. They started coming the same direction I had come, then they turned around sharply and continued behind the tree I'd passed before stopping.

I cocked my head. "Hello?" I called.

There was no response. I took a cautious step forward. The branches rustled. I stopped, suddenly scared. I took a deep breath tried to calm down. There was no point in freaking out over nothing. "Who's there?" I asked.

Suddenly a figure leapt out of the bushes. I didn't even wait to see who it was, I just turned around and ran as fast as I could. I heard the sound of quick footsteps across the ground; whoever it was they were chasing me.

"Kennen, if that's you, please stop!" I yelled. Kennen had a habit of trying to scare the heck out of people.

There was no response, just the sound of an unsheathing sword. I sped up, in a full scale panic. Something sharp slashed across my back. I cried out, swinging around and kicking whoever was behind me in the stomach. Then I felt a sharp pain in my neck and everything went black.

***

Chapter Eight

POV: Sheila

I waited, my fingers poised above the keyboard, as the Wands and Worlds chatroom loaded.

You have joined room: member_chat
Welcome! Remember not to give out any personal information, such as address or telephone number! For your protection, all activity in this chat room is logged.
Coalfang: hihi
Thunder: it still hurts
Squirrelflame: SHEILA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Foxwhisper:
Hi!
Thunder: hi
SheilaRuth: Hey everyone.
Squirrelflame: *hugs fgjdsklaruioewuq90ucmkljwofiudsioajklcjlsaje tight*
SheilaRuth: Are you all right, Thunder? Everyone?
Coalfang:
im good
Foxwhisper: All fine over here.
Squirrelflame: We're all okay, Sheila.
Thunder: just sore from yesterday
SheilaRuth: Did any of you get injured?
Foxwhisper:
Nope.
Squirrelflame: Only a small scratch, it's all good.
Coalfang:
a little, but im fine.
Thunder: my leg hurts, but not to bad
SheilaRuth: Did you put some ice on it?
Thunder: yeah
SheilaRuth: That's good. Any sign of swelling?
Thunder: no
Squirrelflame: I was over at Thunder's earlier. She's fine, we all are. Don't worry so much.
SheilaRuth: I worry for all of you. Especially after what happened yesterday.
Foxwhisper:
Yesterday just happened. We're all going to be more careful.
Squirrelflame: Like how I've bolted my door shut and stuck a chair under it, lol. xD
Thunder: lol!
SheilaRuth: Glad to know you're going to the extreme, Squirrel, lol.
Squirrelflame: Proud of it. xD

Footsteps thumped on the stairs behind me, and I turned to see my son, Magicyop, carrying a large stack of papers in his arms. I signed off in the chatroom and shut my laptop as he reached the table and dumped them everywhere, scattering paper on the floor.

"I found the stuff you wanted," he huffed, ducking beneath the table to pick up the fallen papers.

"That's great," I said, bending over to help him. "Including the most recent town map?"

He held it up as he re-emerged from beneath the table. "I marked out some spots on this map too," he stated, unfolding it and spreading it out on the table. I glanced over it; it was a rather small map, which reflected the size of the county. The school was off in one corner, surrounded by the suburbs where most of the Wandies lived. The main town park was situated in the center of the suburbs; beyond that was most green area, with a small lake and a creek that wound all over the town as a pale blue line.

Magicyop pointed to a house near the town park, not too far from the school. "This is our house here," he said, tracing a path past all the houses and across the forest with his finger. He indicated a spot circled in pink highlighter and added, "In this area there are some new high rise apartment buildings going up. You know, for the temporary members who don't live here permanently."

I nodded. There were plenty of people who only stayed in Wands and Worlds County for a short amount of time before leaving, particularly when an author stopped by for a while. These apartment buildings were set aside for them.

"A few of them are finished, but there's still a bunch of construction going on. Probably best to stay away from there for now."

"They're building in the winter?" I asked.

Magicyop inclined his head slightly. "Not right now, but there's still diggers and whatnot around there."

"Mm," I agreed. "It won't be safe with all that machinery around."

"Unless we want to use it as a trap?"

I shook my head. "It's dangerous even for us to lay a trap. We'll just have to avoid it."

"All right," Magicyop said, turning back to the map. "The lake's over here; I highlighted it in green. There's a lot of rocks and coves around there. Maybe we could set a trap around there or something?"

"It's a possibility," I began.

The doorbell chimed, and I turned to go answer it. "You got the older map too, right?"

"Yeah, took me ages to dig that one up," came his faint reply as I opened the door.

Soundstorm, Starsight, Rabbitfoot, the Dog, Fai, and Syaoran barrelled inside, all of them looking scared to death. Syaoran was pacing restlessly, the Dog was growling softly, and Soundstorm looked close to tears.

"What's going on?" I asked, bewildered.

"Lilac's missing!" Rabbitfoot burst out.

"Wha?!" Magicyop yelped, startled, as he raced into the front foyer.

"She's been gone for over an hour," Fai said, putting a hand on Soundstorm's shoulder and steering her towards the living room.

"I tracked her as far as the park, but there's a fresh layer of snow falling," the Dog growled. "No tracks, no scent."

"Did she say where she was going?" I asked, herding the others into the living room after Soundstorm and Fai.

Starsight sat down on the couch next to Soundstorm and gave her a half hug. "You said she was just going out for a walk, right?" she asked with a glance at Fai.

He nodded in confirmation. "She mentioned ten minutes to an hour, 'depending of Foxwhisper would chase her around the block or not'."

"I was just talking to Foxy in the chatroom," I said quietly.

Soundstorm went pale.

"We can't keep sitting around here, we need to be out there looking for her!" Syaoran burst out.

"We've already searched the entire neighbourhood!" Rabbitfoot exclaimed. "Where else can we look for her?"

"Magic, do you still have that map?" I called, struggling to keep my voice calm.

He nodded and darted into the dining room to fetch it.

"She could have taken a route outside the main part of the county," Starsight agreed. "Though why she would do that I can't imagine."

"There's not much outside the suburbs," Magicyop said, racing back into the room with the map and spreading it out on the coffee table. "It's mostly forested area, with the lake over here."

"We'll need to start somewhere," I said, leaning over the map. "Let's head to the town park and follow the creek; that'll be a good place to begin."

There were various murmurs of agreement from the entire group at my suggestion. I turned to go down the hall to get my coat. "Magic, stay here in case Lilac happens to come back."

He nodded in approval as the rest of the group followed me out. The seven of us were out the door in record time, racing towards the town park. The Dog took the lead, snuffling along the ground as she tried to pick up a scent. Syaoran and Soundstorm were close behind here, with Starsight and Fai on their heels. Rabbitfoot and I brought up the rear.

"Lilac!" Soundstorm shouted into the forest.

"Lilacheart-san?!" Syaoran echoed.

"This is hopeless," Rabbitfoot muttered beside me. "What if she can't hear us?"

"We'll just have to keep looking," I said. "We'll find her eventually."

Rabbitfoot fell silent.

The search continued like this for nearly half an hour, following the creek banks. At one point the Dog crossed a fallen log to check the other bank as we raced along. Soon I realized our path was getting rather close to the construction site Magicyop had pointed out earlier. I prayed that we didn't have to get much closer, and that Lilacheart wasn't anywhere near there.

Without warning Soundstorm came to a sudden stop. "Where is she?!" she wailed.

"It's all right, Soundy," I soothed. "She can't be too far off."

"Lilac!" Starsight called.

"Here."

For a moment we all froze. Then Soundstorm gave a delighted cry of relief and whipped around, catching her sister in a huge hug. Lilacheart staggered back a pace, then after a moment tentatively hugged her back.

"Lilacheart-san!" Syaoran gasped, sounding relieved. "Where have you been?"

Lilacheart looked a little flushed, as if she were embarrassed to have caused so much trouble. "I just got a little side-tracked is all," she muttered monotonously.

"Where to?" the Dog woofed as she clambered onto the bank, shaking water from her paws where they had broken through the ice.

I gave a small shake of my head. "What matters is that you're safe," I said. "Let's all go home and take a break for the rest of the weekend. I'm sure we all need it."

There was a murmur of assent from everyone, and slowly we all turned to leave. I caught sight of Fai near the back of the group; he hadn't moved and was staring after Lilacheart with a curious expression on his face. As I watched his eye narrowed, and he reached up to rub his left temple, as if something were bothering him.

"Anything wrong?" I asked, approaching him.

Fai started, then gave a small smile and shook his head. "It's nothing," he said, moving after the rest of the group.

I glanced around and spotted Starsight, who gave me a doubtful look. I suspected that she didn't believe him.

"Let's not worry about it for now," I said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Go home and get some rest; this is something we can deal with on Monday."

She still looked doubtful, but she gave me a nod and together we turned and followed the rest of the group.

*

POV: ?????

It was working. Everything was going according to plan. I had spent a long time working towards this moment. The moment where they would take me in as one of their own.

I had arrived under the guise of another, successfully fooling my adversaries. No one knew I was here. No one knew that I was tracking them, learning their movements for the moment I would strike. I knew their habits, their daily patterns of life, enough so that I could easily fit in among them. Especially one in particular. It was easy to take that one out. Slowly, I would destroy them all from the inside, until none of them knew what was happening. Until everything broke down into chaos.

I need to fear no one; I had the ultimate weapons at my disposal. But I had to be wary when using them. Especially of the magic users. They—one in particular—would sense my magic patterns, and know that it did not come from the right source. That this pattern only belonged to one person. If that happened, I would have no cover. If that happened, an all-out war would being. But it was not to happen yet.

One was down. And I already had my sights set on my second target...

*

Starsight: Do it.
Rabbitfoot: No.
Rubystripe:
Do it!
Rabbitfoot: No.
Starsight: You made a bet!
Rabbitfoot: You weren't there. o_o
Starsight: Ruby told me all about it, of course.}83
Rabbitfoot: T_T
Rubystripe:
You have to do it. You already lost the bet.
Starsight: Or won it, depending on your POV.XP
Rabbitfoot: O_O -smacks-
Starsight: *fleez*
Rubystripe:
You will do it tomorrow.
Rabbitfoot: No way.
Starsight: Fun-Bun, just face it. If you don't do it, you know we're just going to give you a bouquet of flowers and shove you in his face.
Rabbitfoot: You wouldn't. o_o
Rubystripe:
We've already decided on roses. Red and orange, because it works perfectly.
Starsight: I'm sure Lilac and Soundy would love to be in on it too. ;3
Rabbitfoot: ...I hate you so much right now. T_T
Starsight: I love you too.

*

POV: Starsight

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"What do you mean, 'well what'? You are going to do it, right?"

"...What if I don't?"

"You know what Plan B is."

"I hope for all our sakes that we don't have to implement it."

I sniggered softly as Rabbitfoot blushed slightly. She, Rubystripe, Soundstorm, Lilacheart and I were standing in the hallway of Rubystripe's house, waiting for whenever Roy Mustang would decide to wake up at this early morning hour. Let me say right now, it had been a tough task getting Rabbitfoot over to Rubystripe's house. Lilacheart, Soundstorm and I had to literally drag her out the door, and with Danny's help too. Fortunately he had helped us rather willingly, albeit with a rather bewildered expression on his face the entire time.

"I'm not doing it," Rabbitfoot said, taking a step backwards.

"Oh yes you are," Soundstorm responded, giving her a shove forwards again.

"Ow, watch it," she protested with a wince. "That's the shoulder I hurt the other day."

"Sorry," Soundstorm apologized. Not many Wandies had escaped without injury at the battle at my house the other day. I felt guilty for everything that had happened because I couldn't have just handled it on my own.

"What's that look for?" Rabbitfoot asked apprehensively. "Oh no. You are not giving me the guilty face. This had better not be about that battle again or I really will do it."

It took all my willpower just to hold a relatively straight face. "Hate to break it to you, but that's exactly what I was thinking."

Rabbitfoot went pale and muttered a curse under her breath. "Me and my big mouth."

Footsteps suddenly echoed down the hall, and Rabbitfoot gave a giant start.

"Don't forget your flowers!" Rubystripe hissed, suddenly producing a bouquet of roses from behind her back and shoving them into Rabbitfoot's hands.

She gave us all a pathetic pleading look. "Don't make me do it, I'll go all fluffy bunny pill bug if I do."

"All the better if you do it in front of him," I laughed, then gave her a huge shove around the corner and into the hall.

Rabbitfoot let out a squeak, whether of terror or embarrassment I didn't know, and literally crashed right into Roy. He took a step back in surprise, then gave her a nod. "Hello."

Rabbitfoot's face turned bright red. Around the corner, it took everything we had for the rest of us to not burst into insane laughter.

"Do it!" Soundstorm hissed with a hysterical giggle.

Rabbitfoot gulped audibly. "R—Roy..."

He watched her curiously.

"Will...will...will you..."

Spit it out already! I thought, not trusting myself to say it out loud.

"Willumarryme?"

The look on both their faces was just priceless. Rabbitfoot was a brighter shade of red than the roses, while Roy's was blank with the weirdest expression of shocked I'd ever seen. Several long moments passed, then Roy smiled mischievously and plucked a rose from Rabbitfoot's bouquet.

"I'll think about it."

Rabbitfoot let out a low moan; I swear she would have curled up in a little trembling ball right then and there if she could have. Roy stepped around her and continued down the hall. "Ladies," he said, tossing the rose to Rubystripe before continuing on out of sight. Rubystripe caught the rose, her face red from laughter or embarrassment I couldn't tell.

"That was officially the worst moment of my life," Rabbitfoot moaned.

"That was officially the highlight of mine," I responded, then we all burst into hysterical laughter.

Ah, good times.

*

Later that day found me back at my own house, on the computer with the Dog snoozing by my feet. Lilacheart and Soundstorm weren't on, and I figured that Rabbitfoot was hiding from me, so I was making some updates to my adoptables website instead. I was rather surprised that the Dog had consented to let me use her back as a footstool; it was nice to feel her furry body slowly rising and falling beneath my feet. It made me wish I had a pet of my own. Emily wasn't around; she had left shortly after I had come back from Rubystripe's house, saying she wanted to make rounds on the members and check that they were all okay.

The sound of the doorbell echoed throughout the house, and I saved my work and carefully took my feet off the Dog's back. I didn't want to disturb her rest. I headed through the living room towards the door; I still hadn't finished cleaning it up yet. There was still a lot of splintered furniture around and most of my belongings and whatnot. It served as a painful reminder of the battle, and how careful we all had to be.

I hopped down the short flight of steps and unlocked the front door. Lilacheart stood on the front steps, her expression unusually solemn.

"Hey," I greeted. "Is something wrong?"

"We need to talk," she replied.

I blinked. "Okay then. Come on in."

Lilacheart shook her head. "We can't talk here, we need to be somewhere more private."

"...You mean the Dog? I can ask her to leave us alone for a while."

Lilacheart shook her head again, this time a little more forcefully. "No. There's another place that's better."

"Okay then..." I said skeptically. "Let me just get my shoes and coat." I took my shoes off the rack and slipped into them before pulling on my coat. "I'm going out! I'm not going alone, Lilac's coming with me!" I called to the Dog.

A sleepy grunt was her only reply.

I stepped out the door after Lilacheart, making sure to lock my door this time. When I turned around again, Lilacheart was already halfway down the street. I had to run to catch up.

"Where are we going?" I huffed.

"You'll see," she responded.

We spent a good five minutes just walking. I was bursting with curiosity as to where Lilacheart wanted to go, but the pace she set left me little room to speak. Plus when I did find the breath to ask, she just responded with, "You'll see."

Something kept bugging me in the back of my mind, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It was almost like the route we were taking was somewhat familiar. It didn't actually hit me until the school building came into sight. Lilacheart climbed the front steps, but I hesitated at the bottom.

"Lilac, it's Sunday," I said. "The school will be clo—"

She pulled on the door, which swung open easily. My mouth probably fell open in shock, but I was too busy being shocked to notice. Lilacheart turned around to look at me. "Coming?"

"Uh, sure," I muttered, climbing the steps after her and into the school. It seemed like such a different place on the weekend; the only light came from windows set along one side of the hall. Lilacheart lead the way again, her footsteps ringing purposefully out along the floor. I stepped lighter, for I felt the need for silence in this deserted place.

Lilacheart finally stopped by the gym doors and pulled them open. I hesitated for just a second before I followed her inside, the door shutting with an ominous bang behind me. I paused just inside, staring around at the rays of reddish sunlight streamed in through the window. The sun was beginning to set.

"Lilac, wait!" I said, racing across the gym to catch up with her. I was right behind her when suddenly I heard a desperate banging sound. I jumped, startled, and whipped around.

Soundstorm was there, just on the other side of the gym doors. I could hear the handle rattling, refusing to open as it was locked. But...we had just come inside, and it wasn't locked...

She looked like she was screaming something, but I could barely hear her through the locked doors. "What?" I called, beginning to make my way back over to the doors.

"Get away from her!" came her faint scream.

I stopped, my heart pounding. It was like something was falling into place, something that made everything suddenly make sense...

I whipped around, fear gripping me. No longer was Lilac standing behind me. Now it was a boy, a boy who was a mirror image of Syaoran. But I knew straight away, as I gazed into his one blue eye, that this wasn't Syaoran.

It was his clone.

In one smooth motion he drew his sword. Hien crackled with magic energy, and flames licked along the blade. I took a step back, every instinct screaming at me to run but frozen in place.

Without warning he lunged at me. I leapt backwards, trying to avoid the sword, but I wasn't fast enough. The blade cut into my side, opening a long but shallow wound. I didn't have the breath to scream, all that came out was a gasp of pain as I fell to my knees, pressing my hand against the wound. I could vaguely hear something heavy slamming against the gym doors, as if someone were trying to bash it open. Be faster! I thought as I looked up again, tears of pain glazing my vision.

I could see Shaoran standing over me, blade raised for the final blow. I shut my eyes and braced myself, ready for Hien to cut in again as he let the sword fall.

The blow never came. Instead, the harsh sound of metal grating against ice hit me, ringing in my eardrums. My eyes flew open in shock. What literally looked like a shield of ice arced over my head, blocking Hien's blow. Hovering between me and the ice shield was a thin, snake-like creature, with fur as white as snow and wings like icicles, complete with a tail blade of blue ice. Instantly I knew what this creature was. My Kudan.

Shaoran looked furious as he wrenched the blade backwards, slicing out for a second blow. I threw my arm out instinctively, and the Kudan created a second shield of ice in the sword's path. The harsh sound rang out again, the flames on Hien's blade licking at the ice. The ice held strong, not even melting in the face of the fire.

I scrambled to my feet and took a step back, wincing at the wound in my side. The Kudan flew after me, hovering close. Its tail blade whipped out into several sections, like a fan of icicles. It lashed its tail, sending spears of ice at Shaoran. Hien cut through the air, and a torrent of fire erupted from the sword, melting the icicles into harmless drops of water. The Kudan threw up another shield, blocking the worst of the flames.

When it had cleared Shaoran was no longer in sight. The gym doors were open at last, and several people were running towards me. I couldn't see who; I simply collapsed where I was. The sword wound felt like it was burning at me, far more painfully than a regular wound.

"Starry!" a voice shouted, and I felt a crowd of people surround me. There was a hand on my shoulder, but I didn't lift my head. Really, I was just trying not to scream with pain.

A thought hit me. "Where did he go?" I asked through clenched teeth.

"He left by the doors on the other side," I heard Fai answer.

I tried to look up, my head swimming with pain. "Soundy..."

"Here," she said, kneeling down in front of me.

"Soundy, go after him. Someone needs to track him. He'll lead us to Lilac!"

Uncertainty flashed across her face. "But what about—?"

"Just go!" I hissed. "I'll be fine, you need to worry about your sister!"

Soundstorm got to her feet, but didn't move.

"GO!" I shouted.

She hesitated for a moment longer before turning and racing for the exit. I heard a second pair of footsteps follow her out, and I inwardly let out a sigh of relief. She wouldn't be alone in tracking Shaoran.

I tried to get to my feet again, but the pain made me so dizzy I could barely keep upright. The hand on my shoulder tightened. "Starry-chan, rest for a moment. You're badly hurt."

I shook my head stubbornly. "There's no time, we have to go after him! This could be our only chance to find Lilac again!"

"You won't do any good to anyone if you're this badly hurt."

"It'll be worse if something happens to Lilac!" I protested, shoving his hand aside and trying to get to my feet again.

I heard a small chirruping sound in my ear, and I turned my head to see my Kudan. It blinked at me with dark eyes, then ducked its head down and softly nuzzled the wound. A wonderful cooling sensation spread into it, numbing the pain until it was only a dull ache at the back of my mind.

I reached out my hand and gratefully stroked the creature's head. "Thanks," I whispered.

It let out a soft squeak, then suddenly shrank into a small ball of glowing blue light that melted into my chest. I could still feel it, a cold shard of comfort deep inside me.

I pushed myself to my feet. "Come on, we need to get going," I said.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Fai asked worriedly.

"I'm fine," I responded, moving as fast as I could towards the exit. I could see the rest of the group now; Syaoran, the Dog, and Rabbitfoot were there too. The four of them raced out with me, all anxious to catch up to Soundstorm.

I stepped outside to dark clouds a bright sunset, the slanting beams of light coloured orange and gold. It was one of my favourite weather moments, a storm directly overhead with the sun low enough to illuminate the world beneath. But right now, all I could think about was how a storm could mess up the clear prints I saw in the snow. Three sets raced away from the school, heading towards the edge of the suburbs.

"I'm going for reinforcements," the Dog barked from behind me, and I turned in time to see her racing off, ears flying as her paws kicked up snow behind her.

I took off after the trail, the others right behind me. It didn't take long for us to catch up to Soundstorm; she had paused on the very edge of the suburbs. Kurogane was nearby, kneeling down next to the prints in the snow to study them.

"It's definitely that kid," he growled, standing up. "He's heading straight in one direction, and fast."

"We have to pick up the pace too," I said, pushing on past him after the footprints. Already the wind was beginning to kick up and the snow was falling, smudging the edges of Shaoran's prints. Soon they would disappear entirely.

Soundstorm and I took the lead, the others following close behind. I began to get a feeling of déjà vu as we continued to follow the fading footprints through the building blizzard, but it wasn't until the creek came into sight that I realized we were following the exact same trail we had been yesterday. Where we had met up with Shaoran under Lilacheart's appearance.

Where had he gotten the ability to impersonate someone else? No one had seen him arrive in the county, which meant that he had to have come under the guise of someone else. Who hadn't we seen so far?

...Oh. "Of two evils we just had to get the greater one," I muttered under my breath, remembering how I had seen Ashura on the day this had all begun. He must have stolen Ashura's appearance on that first day, fooling me and everyone else in the county.

I pushed the thought away for now. I could dwell on the past later; right now, the present needed attending to.

A large fence suddenly loomed in front of me, and I skidded to a stop. There was a large sign pasted to the side of the fence: "Construction, keep out!"

"He went in there?" Soundstorm asked, the tremble in her voice barely noticeable.

"Most likely," Fai responded.

I glanced at the ground, looking for footprints. But by now the wind and snow had erased them. "We'll have to go inside then, and check it out," I muttered.

"Is there even a way to get in there?" Rabbitfoot asked.

"This way!" came Syaoran's shout. We all turned to see him waving at us a good ways down the fence, where there was a hole just big enough to slide through. I sprinted over to him and ducked inside, casting a wary glance around once on the other side of the fence.

There were huge steel beams piled everywhere, machinery standing silent and covered in snow. The place had a desolate feel, like a graveyard. I suppressed a shudder as I stood aside for the others to squeeze through.

"This way," I whispered, leading the way through the construction site. I stepped carefully, scared of falling into a hidden hole or something I couldn't see under the blanket of snow. The rest of the group likewise moved just as slow, though I knew we were all impatient to catch up to Shaoran. To find Lilacheart.

I rounded a large crane—and stopped in my tracks. Shaoran was there waiting for us, Hien held loosely by his side. Flames danced around the blade; I could feel the heat from where I was standing.

But that wasn't what worried me. What worried me were the scratches forming in mid air in a semi-circle around him, and the creatures that were stepping out of them. Seven-foot-tall aliens covered in deadly-looking blades. Formerly peaceful herbivores, now an entire race taken over and enslaved to do the bidding of their parasite.

Hork-Bajir.

I heard someone swear behind me and the sound of a sword being drawn. Kurogane, no doubt. And I almost surprised myself when I found that I agreed. Syaoran stepped up beside me, his sword drawn and his gaze trained furiously on his clone. I felt a cold splint shift in my chest, and my Kudan materialized beside me, shivering in anticipation.

Without warning Shaoran charged. Syaoran stepped in front of me and raised his sword to take the blow. The sound of clashing metal rang out in the cold air, suddenly unfreezing everyone from their positions. The Hork-Bajir roared and charged at us as Syaoran shoved Hien away and whirled to the side, his clone leaping after him. I threw my arms up in an X in front of me; my Kudan took the signal and threw up a shield of ice. The first Hork-Bajir's blades screeched against the ice, shaving off tiny chips but not punching through.

The rest of the aliens stampeded past as my opponent wrenched his blade free and drew back for another blow. I heard Kurogane shout something and felt a crackle of magic energy whip through the air behind me before I had to duck in order to avoid the Hork-Bajir's swipe. It took a step back and whipped its tail at me; my Kudan created a second shield of ice in its path. I made a slashing motion with my hand, and my Kudan shot a barrage of icicles at the Hork-Bajir. It roared in pain as the icicles tore into it, but its skin was tough; the attack did little damage.

My Kudan let out a high-pitched shriek, and a jagged beam of pale blue light exploded from its mouth, striking the Hork-Bajir on its right arm. In an instant its arm had frozen in a solid block of ice. I blinked; the attack reminded me of an Ice Beam from Pokémon. The Hork-Bajir roared again in pain and fury, lashing out at me with its unfrozen left arm. I took a step back to avoid the attack, my Kudan jabbing at it with its tail to try and stop its advance.

"Get down!" a voice shouted from behind me. I dropped to the ground, and for a split second I wondered if that was even aimed at me. Apparently it was though; milliseconds later a jagged burst of light lanced over my head, striking the Hork-Bajir squarely in the center of its chest and sending it flying backwards into a bulldozer, nearly crushing the machine. I scrambled to my feet and whipped around; Kurogane had a rather satisfied look on his face. I opened my mouth to call out a 'thank you', but he was already whirling away back into the battle.

I paused a moment to regain myself and have a look around. We weren't doing all that great—actually, I thought with a jolt, I think we're losing. Kurogane and Fai were fighting the Hork-Bajir; I had lost sight of Rabbitfoot and Soundstorm entirely. Syaoran's duel with his clone had moved across the compound, leaving a path of destruction behind them. As I watched Shaoran made a slashing motion with Hien, sending a wave of fire at Syaoran. He raised his sword in front of him, two fingers against the flat of the blade, and shouted, "Raitei Shôrai!" A blast of lightning ripped through the air, meeting the fire head-on. The two powers slammed into the side of the apartment building, blowing a huge chunk off it.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted another Hork-Bajir charging at me, and I whipped around to face it. My Kudan shot a jagged freezing beam, but the Hork-Bajir ducked it and kept on coming. I crossed my arms for a shield, which barely went up before the Hork-Bajir crashed into me. I staggered backwards several paces—

Then let out a shriek as my foot slipped into empty space. I wind milled my arms, trying to regain my balance as the Hork-Bajir fell past me into the sudden pit that had opened up. I could feel a pressure against my back; my Kudan was trying to shove me back up to safety. But it was too light, there was no way it could hold my weight.

Without warning teeth fastened in my coat sleeve, dragging me upright and away from the hole. I stumbled forwards, gasping, and turned to look at my savoir.

The Dog gave herself a shake, scattering snowflakes off her ruff. "I brought reinforcements," she woofed.

"Thanks," I managed to gasp, struggling back to my feet. Sheila, Spirithunter, Amaterasu, Sevenclaws, his Absol, Icestar, and Cloudwind had joined in the battle, all of them working to drive the Hork-Bajir back. And apparently it was working; one of the Hork-Bajir suddenly shouted something in another language, and every single one of them stepped back, disengaging from combat. There was a brief pause, then as one they turned and bounded off.

I gave a mental sigh of relief, suddenly realizing I was swaying slightly with exhaustion. Whatever spell my Kudan had put on my sword wound earlier was beginning to wear off; I could feel a small trickle of blood leaking down my side. I ignored it, limping back over to the others. "That couldn't have been a better time for all of you to arrive," I called once I was within earshot.

Icestar gave me a little grin. "You guys looked like you could've used the help," she responded, slinging her bow over her shoulder again.

I glanced around at them, then did a double-take on Cloudwind. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Oh, this?" she asked, shouldering what could only be the keyblade from Kingdom Hearts. "Yep. I found it in the back of my closet—don't ask."

"I won't," I said, slightly amused. "How did you all get here so fast?"

"Everyone here happened to be over at my house," Sheila replied. "The Dog came to get us, and we all came here as fast as we could."

"A good thing you did," came Rabbitfoot's voice as she and Soundstorm came into sight, both of them covered in various scratches from the Hork-Bajir. "Any longer and we probably wouldn't have made it."

"Sorry I didn't get back sooner," the Dog woofed.

Fai shook his head. "What matters is that you made it here and those creatures are gone."

"So is my clone."

We all turned to see Syaoran walking back towards us, sheathing his sword with a grim look on his face. "What do you mean?"

"He managed to get away from me when I was attacked by one of those creatures," he replied monotonously. "I lost sight of him. I have no idea where he could have gone."

"There's not much place to go, yes?" Sevenclaws said.

I nodded in agreement. "I didn't see him follow after the Hork-Bajir, so he must've..."

As one we all turned towards the apartment building. Had he run inside it and was hiding in there? Maybe we could go after him and—

Without warning someone behind me screamed. I jerked my head back with a wince and stared up at the top of the building. The dark clouds were clearing, and the setting sun blocked much of my vision, but I could just barely see the outline of a person falling, falling from the roof of the impossibly high building. Panic hit me, hard, as Soundstorm's scream confirmed my fear.

"LILAC!"

***

Chapter Nine

POV: Lilacheart

Heh...er...um...I so owe you all an explanation right now, don't I?

Well...um...I guess I'll have to pick up from where I got knocked out in the park. I remember waking up in a lot of pain. My vision was clouded by bright light for a while, so I just laid down on my back until the pain began to ebb away and the light started to fade. That's when I finally opened my eyes and sat up.

The first thing I remembered was what I'd told Fai, that I'd only be out for ten minutes to an hour. I didn't know how long I'd been semi-conscious, so the first thing I did was look towards the sun, which was starting to set. My eyes narrowed. I had definitely been out for more than an hour. I wondered if they were all worried about me.

I glanced around to try and work out where I was. All I could see was a snow-covered floor stretched out in front of me, and the sky. I stood up, cringing. My neck hurt, but it wasn't as bad as it had been earlier. I stepped carefully, a sinking feeling in my gut, as I walked forward. This feeling was confirmed when I stopped at the edge of the white terrace and I found myself looking down.

"...Oh God," I whispered, terrified. I took a quick step back. I was on the top of a building. What the heck was I doing on top of a stinking building? I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. When you're on top of a building, might as well take in the view before you run screaming like a ninny, right?

I stepped back onto the ledge and looked around. The roof I was on towered above all the others. Below that was a construction site. I knew it was dangerous to be here. Who had attacked me back at the park?

I gathered up my courage and looked down again. I wasn't usually altophobic, but this...looking down from here was like a nightmare come true. I couldn't see much, except a couple of specks running from the construction site waaayyy down there and a few more standing around below.

My head started to spin and I backed off. I was getting down from here.

As I turned around, I noticed that someone else was standing on the roof, sealing the exit. It looked a bit like...Syaoran?

I walked towards him, mainly to get away from the ledge. I saw the sword in his hand, the one crackling with flame, and instantly knew that I was in trouble. The sword was Hien. And that sword belonged to Shaoran.

First instinct: I swore and looked around for something, anything, to fight with. There was nothing here to use. "Were you the one who knocked me out at the park?" I asked, my voice quivering despite my desperate attempt not to sound afraid. Shaoran had destroyed dimensions to get what he wanted. Taking me out would be far too easy for him.

Speaking of that, why hadn't he just done it earlier...?

Unless, of course, he had needed me alive, and now he had no further use for me. And let me tell you, I had never been more terrified in my whole life than I was right then.

He gave a slight nod as he turned around. "Not like it matters," he said. He pointed his sword at me. "You no longer serve any purpose for me."

I backed away, frantically looking for an escape route. There was nowhere to run. He was faster then I was, and he had just used magic to seal the only exit. "Why?" I asked.

He remained completely silent. Of course I wasn't going to get a straight answer. That's nigh impossible to get these days. He slowly walked towards me, as if he wanted me to panic and try to run.

I had two options right now. Option one was I could die by his hands. I had nothing to protect myself, no Kudan, no weapon, no magic...

And then there was option two. I'm sure we all know what that is.

Tears started rolling down my face. There was no way to say goodbye to my friends, no matter what path I chose. Did they even know I was here?

Shaoran gave a small smile, one that frightened me to the core. I knew how pathetic this must be. But my life was probably about to end anyway.

"This sucks," I said, trying hard to calm my breathing. "Death by sword or death by impact. I'd rather have fun until I hit the ground." Not like I could actually have fun, but I figured the wording would irritate him.

He raised an eyebrow, then shot a large wave of fire at me. It was now or never. I spun around and took off as fast as I could towards the ledge. I closed my eyes as it loomed closer. I felt the heat of the flame behind me. I couldn't open my eyes as I reached the ledge and leapt.

The flame skimmed just over my head and I started to fall. My heart pounded in my chest, and I tried not to scream. I kept my eyes shut, trying to think of something other than, Good going, genius, you're about to die.

My breathing was abnormal; the panic was growing in me. My eyes opened slightly, just because I wanted to see the world one last time.

And then I saw a bird.

Yes. I jump off a building, I'm about to die, and then I see a bird. It's weird what you notice, huh?

Suddenly, something glowed powerfully on my palm.

At the same time, I heard a faint scream. Very faint. So faint I might've just been imagining it.

"LILAC!"

How far below down, or how far away, did it come from? I couldn't identify the voice through the wind rushing past my ears.

I sensed some sort of silver-golden light swirling around my back. It seemed to be forming and building something. The light glowed on my palm, but at that exact moment I couldn't figure out what it was. My mind was kind of fogged up. Like Percy Jackson, as I fell, I wasn't having some sort of revelation. I was just trying to get past insulting, frightened thoughts and the word "AUUUUGH!" Kind of anti-climatic, I know.

But as the light glowed on my palm and swirled around my back, my mind seemed to clear up. And I had a thought that, I guess, fit the situation a lot more: I can't die yet.

The light on my back solidified into a lightweight, yet powerful and strong material. And that's when the thought struck me: +Anima! That bird...wings?!

The thoughts, though incomplete, gave me a surge of hope, and I unfurled the long wings that had appeared on my back. I felt myself swerve upwards and arc upright. At the same time, I felt my foot knock against something and I shivered violently, opening my eyes and trying to see past the scared tears. What I saw was the snow-covered ground; I'd been less than a second away from death.

I flapped the wings up and down until I had gained enough altitude, then I shot out of the construction site until I finally landed on a lone hill not too far away. There I simply broke down, shivering and crying. That had been terrifying. I had thought for sure, I had known for sure, that I was going to die. But I hadn't...

I heard the sound of footsteps behind me, and I turned around. Syaoran.

"I'm sorry, but this is from the county," he said, then he slapped me across the face. I stared at him, wanting to thank him and yell at him for that at the same time. Then he knelt down in front of me and hugged me.

"Who's this from?" I asked, sounding like I was whimpering.

"Me. If they want to hug you, they can do it themselves."

And with that, my mind started to scream, Oh my GOD, he actually CARES about me! HE ACTUALLY CARES! But I was too shaken up, so I just hugged him back.

There was the sound of more footsteps, and Soundstorm suddenly barrelled me over. I sat upright to look at her. She was crying. So were Starsight, Rabbitfoot, and Cloudwind. Sheila looked distraught. Kurogane didn't seem to care, though I guessed better. Fai had a weary look on his face. Spirithunter looked terrified; Amaterasu was trying to comfort her. Sevenclaws and his Absol were just staring in amazement, and Sevenclaws also seemed a little frightened. Icestar was shivering. I don't think any of us had ever thought someone would nearly die because of this. I was shivering, terrified, distraught, and crying all at the same time.

"You idiot!" Soundstorm yelled, hugging me and crying into my shoulder. "You stupid idiot!" And I cried into her shoulder as well, glad to be alive.

The others caught me in a group hug. Usually, I would've complained about claustrophobia, but not this time. Amaterasu licked my face, and I put my hand in her fur.

"That light...that was +Anima, wasn't it?" Soundstorm whispered into my ear.

I bit my lip and nodded. "Yeah," I said shakily, lightly unfurling the wings from my back.

"Why in the world did you jump?!" Sheila cried. "I never thought you were suicidal! If you were in that much distress, you could've called for us or something—"

"I didn't want to, I had no other choice!" I wailed. "It was by fire and sword or by impact!"

Everyone fell silent, and I had a feeling that they knew exactly what I was talking about.

"...I let the clone escape. You wouldn't have had to go through that if I had been paying more attention. I'm sorry, Lilacheart-san..."

I shook my head. "Don't say that," I murmured. "It's not your fault."

There was a long silence, then I shakily got to my feet. "Can...can we please go home?" I asked quietly.

Sheila nodded. "I'm sure the clone isn't on the roof anymore, and no one's going to go up and check. We don't need to go through that again."

Everyone nodded agreement.

"Everyone, go home with a partner. It's not safe to go anywhere on your own, with Erasers, the clone, and those aliens on the loose."

"Hork-Bajir," Starsight said. Everyone looked at her. "They're called Hork-Bajir. They're from Animorphs."

"Doesn't that m—" I began, but I cut myself off. I was about to mention the alien parasites that controlled them, the Yeerks, and bring up the possibility they might be here now too. But I couldn't. My mind was overloading, and the last thing I needed to do was suggest a new enemy. I had spoken too quietly to be heard, so no one pressed on the situation.

"Kurogane, you take the twins home, OK?" Fai said.

I didn't object. He was the best fighter, and if we ran into the clone again, then I would want him by my side. Technically because I knew the clone would be in every nightmare I had for the rest of my life. Him and tall buildings to fall off. If I hadn't had altophobia before, I did now.

Kurogane grunted carelessly and walked off. I slowly followed, shaking so violently that it made it hard to walk. Soundstorm didn't leave my side. "I'm never letting you go out on your own again," she whispered. "I'm serious, you're about as lucky as someone who comes down with cancer. Or...as lucky as you make Syaoran in roleplays. Or..."

"As lucky as someone who falls of a building," I said shakily, faking a smile.

"Oh, God, I'm so glad you're alive!" she cried, hugging me.

I couldn't bring myself to smile because I was still terrified.

"Look on the bright side," I said. "At least I don't need to change my underwear when I get home."

Soundstorm gave a light laugh. The wings on my back disappeared, and I saw Soundstorm staring at the bright orbs of light that floated into my palm. I glanced at it and saw the +Anima symbol.

"...I'll show you the wings later, okay?" I promised, and she nodded.

"...And so says the famous Arisato, 'I wanna sleep'," I said as we finally returned home. I crashed into the door and fell backwards onto the front steps, exhausted. Semi-conscious isn't exactly sleeping, and being completely terrified does drain you. Kurogane had to carry me through the door. I promise you, he wasn't happy about that. He put me on my bed, where I murmured a soft, "Thank you."

As he walked out the door, he sighed and said, "If it makes you feel better, you've got guts. It takes a lot of courage to jump off a building, even if there's someone who plans to kill you on the other side." Then he shut the door.

"...Whoop de doo," I muttered, which unintentionally sounded sarcastic because I was just plain tired. I glanced at the time. It wasn't late, the sun had just fallen. It was only about...6:30? But I was so exhausted that I just fell asleep anyway.

*

"Aw, man! I missed Rabbitfoot's proposal?"

It was the next day at school. When I had woken up, Fai told me that I had been out for about a day. I had wanted to come to school so I could catch up with everything I had missed. After all, Cloudwind had gotten a keyblade, and I was curious about that, plus the clone had shown up without any of us knowing. Of course, we all knew now. Not the point, though.

"Yeah, the clone watched it in your place. Apparently, he took on your form and pretended to be you," Starsight said.

"That sucks," I muttered.

"Yeah, you should've seen the look on Rabbit's face!" Rubystripe laughed hysterically.

I laughed too, and even Rabbitfoot laughed at herself. Then I glanced at Cloudwind. "Where did you find that?" I asked, nodding to the keyblade.

"The back of my closet!" she said enthusiastically. "It's called the Oathbreaker. It's not the normal keyblade, you can probably tell. It first appeared when—"

"That's okay, I don't need all the details," I laughed. "Maybe Sora will appear sometime."

"Ooh, I hope so! Or Zexion, that'd be cool too! Or—"

"Cloudy, you're rambling again," I said.

"Well, it's a change from AFI," Soundstorm laughed.

"Maybe Davey Havok will fall through the roof," Rubystripe joked.

"But he's not fictional!" Thunder pointed out. She liked AFI too, so she would know.

"...Your +Anima. Can I see it?" Starsight asked tentatively. I guess she knew I was still a bit jumpy. I had refused to go anywhere near an even remotely high place today.

I held out my palm and showed her the symbol. It glowed and the wings shot out of my back. Everyone stared, just as we'd all stared at the keyblade when Cloudwind had brought it in.

"...That is so cool!" Starsight said.

"You have the Kudan, I have the wings, Cloudy has the keyblade, Ruby is being taught by the flame alchemist, and...Rabbit has the husband," I laughed. Everyone else joined in.

The end-of-lunch bell rang. Time to get back to fighting classes. I had asked Icestar to teach me archery before Starsight had told me about Rabbitfoot's proposal, and she had agreed.

As I headed into the gym, Silentstorm suddenly screeched to a stop in front of us. She was breathing heavily.

"Is something wrong?" I asked, cocking my head in worry.

"H-Have any of you seen Icetail and Dawnstripe?" she asked, sounding worried. "I can't find them anywhere!"

My eyes widened. Sheila, who was walking by at that moment, turned to look at us. "What's up?" she asked, noticing Silentstorm's face.

"I can't find Icetail and Dawnstripe. Please, can I go look for them?!" she asked desperately.

Sheila nodded. "Take someone with you," she added.

Silentstorm gave a brisk nod and darted over to Quailfeather. She quickly explained the situation, and Quailfeather gave a short nod before running out of the school grounds.

"Was it just me, or did that seem a little...off?" Thunder asked.

I breathed out a sigh of relief. "I thought it was just me and my paranoia again," I admitted.

"I noticed nothing wrong...she was just worried, right?" Rubystripe asked.

Sheila shrugged. "After your whole situation, Lilac..." she began, and I shuddered lightly, flapping my wings experimentally.

"Anyway, let's just hope they're all okay and resume training. There's nothing else to do. Come on," she said, and we all made our way into the gym.

*

POV: Icetail

I stood by the creek that ran into the forest. Dawnstripe was pacing nervously back and forth, as if worried that maybe the clone that we'd heard about when we were at school today might appear.

"It wasn't a good idea to leave school without protection," Dawnstripe said nervously.

"We have each other. That and a sword," I assured her, though I was quite nervous myself. We had arranged to meet Quailfeather and Silentstorm here. I was beginning to wonder when they'd show up. I shifted from foot to foot when I spotted them running towards us.

"They're here!" I said, raising my arm and waving. The two of them saw me and sped up. When they finally stopped, they looked out of breath.

"We told Sheila you'd gone missing and we asked to look for you," Silentstorm said.

"I feel kinda guilty..." Quailfeather admitted. She had echoed my thoughts, but still...

"Sheila would never let us explore the forest," I rationed. "Think of it this way: what if we find the Warrior cats and surprise the entire county by bringing them to school? Surely they'll be able to understand we mean no harm. Lilac and Starry told me that Mokona could translate languages, so maybe we'll be able to speak cat, too!" The thought excited me. The Warrior cats! We'd been talking about this for a while, the four of us. Perhaps we could actually find the Clans living in the county forest. I wanted to surprise everyone by finding them.

The others nodded, and Quailfeather stepped forward. "Let's get going, we don't have all day."

"We have two hours," Silentstorm reminded her. "It should be plenty of time."

We all walked into the forest, weaving around trees, crossing over rivers, and doing our best to find any sign of what might be the ThunderClan camp. I glanced over at a marshy area and put a hand over my nose. "ShadowClan might live over there," I suggested bluntly, signalling with my head.

"Well, ThunderClan did always say they smelled bad," Quailfeather agreed.

"If we went there, we'd be shredded to pieces," Dawnstripe said. "We should look for ThunderClan first."

"Or maybe WindClan," Silentstorm suggested. "Losty's favourite character is Onestar, after all."

"...Or maybe we're just looking around for nothing," I sighed dejectedly.

And with that, Dawnstripe slapped me.

"Thanks, I needed that. Come on, let's keep moving."

We finally stopped when we saw two cats walking down a path. One was a brown tabby, with a white chest and white paws. She had watchful amber eyes, and her steps were light. Beside her was a grey tabby, with sightless blue eyes.

Oh. My. God.

"Leafpool and Jayfeather...!" I breathed.

The two cats stopped in their tracks.

"Who said that?" Jayfeather asked curiously, but also sounding a bit suspicious.

"T-T-Twolegs...!" Leafpool sounded scared and amazed.

I could hear Quailfeather suppressing a fangirl scream from behind me. I was feeling about ready to squeal myself. Instead, I took a deep breath and got to my knees, so I was more their height.

"We won't hurt you," I assured them calmly.

"You speak cat...?!" Leafpool gasped.

I shrugged and nodded lightly. "Yeah, you could say that. We don't want to hurt you. To be honest, we actually love your society. It's amazing."

The two cats stared at me in plain shock. The others behind me kneeled down to the cat's height, too.

"Leafpool, you're such an awesome medicine cat! You do such a great job for your clan!" Quailfeather said, a grin on her face. I wasn't sure if she'd hated Leafpool before. If she had, it had been quickly replaced by amazement that she was real.

"Jayfeather, you're grouchy and you're blind, and we like that about you!" Dawnstripe said cheerfully.

Jayfeather hissed, but by the look in his sightless eyes, her words seemed to have amused him somehow.

"How do you know about our society, Twolegs?" Leafpool asked quietly.

"You have stories written about you," I said.

She cocked her head curiously. "Like the ones of ancient StarClan?"

I nodded, since I couldn't say books. After all, the cats didn't know what books were, let alone read them.

"Twolegs have stories about the Clans..." Leafpool said in a wondrous tone.

"The Twolegs of this town admire the Clans. Some of us even would rather be cats," I laughed.

Leafpool smiled. Jayfeather swished his tail, still a bit untrusting. "So you're here. What do you want?" he asked irritably.

We all looked at each other, and in that one second silently agreed we should just tell the truth.

"We wanted to meet your Clan," Quailfeather said.

Leafpool's eyes widened. Jayfeather hissed, the fur along his back rising.

"We promise we'll do no damage," Dawnstripe assured them. "We just wanted to meet the Clan cats. We would talk to some other Clans, but they'd tear our eyes out."

"No kidding," Jayfeather muttered.

"Is it okay...?" Silentstorm asked softly.

There was a long silence. "I don't want Firestar to get angry," Leafpool admitted quietly.

We all nodded. "We can talk to him if he does," I laughed, and Leafpool purred slightly.

"When did you all learn to speak cat?" Jayfeather muttered. "Or is my mentor just pulling my tail?"

I slowly reached out my hand and lightly tapped Jayfeather's leg. He jumped, unsure of what to do. He shot me a irritated glare.

"Hold up your paw," I clarified. He reluctantly did so, and I lightly closed my fingers around his paw.

"Twoleg paws," Jayfeather confirmed in a monotone voice.

"Leafpool's not pulling your tail. We're just a bunch of Twoleg kits with a rabbit creature who translates our words."

"What?" Leafpool asked, dumbfounded.

"We'll have to explain that later!" Dawnstripe giggled.

Leafpool and Jayfeather exchanged a long glance. Finally, Leafpool sighed. "I see you mean no harm...come on, follow me." She turned around and walked off, bickering with her apprentice on the way through the trees.

All four of us stared wondrously at each other. We all wanted to scream in delight, but at the same time, we didn't want to scare the prey. We dropped our swords before racing after the cats. Taking those in would leave a bad impression.

When we stepped into the temporary camp, we received a lot of looks.

"What the—?!" an old she-cat, who might've been Mousefur, rasped in surprise.

"Twolegs!" said another old tom, who had scratch marks around his eyes. I assumed it was Longtail.

"What is the meaning of this?!" growled a senior gray tom.

"Graystripe!" I exclaimed without thinking.

His mouth dropped open. "How do you know my name?!" he yelped.

"We Twolegs have stories about the Clans," I told him.

"Passed down from our ancient ancestors," added Quailfeather. Okay, so it was a lie, but it would be much less confusing if we put it in that light.

"That's just unheard of!" cried a ginger she-cat.

"Squirrelflight?" Dawnstripe asked.

"Wh—" Squirrelflight stopped. "...Great StarClan."

"Can we please speak to Firestar?" Silentstorm put in quietly.

"Who are all of you?!" cried a gray she-cat as she emerged through a bramble thicket, three kits following her and staring at us with wide, curious eyes. With the way Graystripe looked at her, I guessed that she was Millie.

"We come from...WandClan," I suggested, starting to feel a little shy with all the glares we were receiving. Then I took a deep breath and tried to reassure them we didn't mean any harm. "We've heard so much about you. We wanted to see if we could find you ourselves. It's so amazing to actually meet all of you!"

"Twolegs speaking cat, huh?" growled another voice.

"Firestar!" Leafpool meowed as the flame-coloured cat stepped out of his den. We all stared, then Dawnstripe suddenly burst out, "It's an honour to meet you!"

Firestar seemed just as incredulous as all of the other Clan cats.

"Since when do Twolegs speak cat?" he asked doubtfully. "Who are all of you?"

"It's just the people of our county," Silentstorm said. "We...we all speak cat. Our ancestors have passed on stories about the Clans, and we came to the forest to see if we could find you."

"My name is Icetail," I said. "These are my friends, Dawnstripe, Quailfeather, and Silentstorm. We just go by Icey, Dawn, Quaily, and Silent, if it's easier for you."

There was a long silence. "You even have warrior names...?" said a dark brown tabby tom, his amber eyes widening.

"We gave ourselves names based on your society, Brambleclaw," Quailfeather explained.

"...You really know all of us, don't you?" Brambleclaw breathed in amazement.

"Out of the way!" a cat hissed as he made his way through the bushes.

"I bet you we're about to run into one of those cats that nobody likes," Quailfeather whispered to me.

"Like who?" I asked.

Moments later Berrynose came into sight.

"Oh, like him," I said.

"Stupid Twolegs. Just go home!" Berrynose snapped.

It took all my self control not to say "Get a life, Nerrynose," based off a typo from the Quotebook we had on our community website. Instead, I just said, "Wands and Worlds County, where we come from, likes ThunderClan, Berrynose. That should make you happy."

Berrynose suddenly leapt at me, obviously not believing what I had said. Suddenly a golden cat leapt out of the shadows and bowled him over, knocking him away.

"Lionblaze," I said, identifying him as he shot me a satisfied glance.

"That...was...SO COOL!" Quailfeather squeed.

There was a bit of scattered laughter.

"We aren't here to capture you, or take you to the Cutter, or anything like that," I reassured them. "Actually...we were hoping some of you might..." I fell silent. I couldn't say it. It felt wrong for some reason.

After a moment Silentstorm spoke up. "We wanted you to come and meet the rest of the County. Not all of you, but some of the cats here we've all grown to love hearing stories about."

There was some unsure muttering, and even a few hisses. Suddenly, light shimmered beside us.

"It's okay!"

We all stared at the cat who had appeared next to us. She was slender, silver, and had large, emotional eyes.

"S...StarClan...?" all four of us asked in awe.

The silver she-cat nodded before turning back to the Clan. "These humans are all okay. You can go with them without fear, for they'll protect you." Her voice was light, and she seemed to trust us.

"Which cat is this?" I quietly asked Quailfeather.

She shook her head. "I don't know this time."

Jayfeather stepped forward. "If she says it's fine, then I'll follow you," he announced. Firestar nodded and quickly rounded up a few more cats: Leafpool, Brambleclaw, Graystripe, Lionblaze, Hollyleaf, Squirrelflight, Cinderheart, Cloudtail, and himself along with Jayfeather. The silver cat also insisted on coming along.

"Thanks, all of you," the four of us said at the same time.

The group nodded. The silver StarClan she-cat was smiling, ecstatic.

"Ready to surprise everyone?" I asked Dawnstripe with a nervous smile.

She nodded. "This has been a great day," she said, her voice filled with excitement. "I'm so happy, I don't even know where to begin."

I just nodded, completely understanding, and we all began to head back.

*

POV: Goldenslash
(...My brother's going to kill me xD)

I pushed my way through the school gates with a glance around. I hadn't been to Wands and Worlds County for a long while. I lived right outside of it, and mainly just talked to my little sisters, Lilacheart and Soundstorm, over IM. Hooray for the Internet.

However, when I had received an Email from Soundstorm telling me Lilacheart had FALLEN OFF A BUILDING, I had to go see if she was okay. And everyone else for that matter. Besides, I needed to see what this whole 'there are book characters in our town' thing was all about.

I walked into the school to find it strangely empty. There was only one guy walking around school campus, but that was it. I walked over to him. "Hey," I called.

He turned to look at me. He was tall, had black hair, and red eyes. Most people would find him scary. I just kind of found his attitude annoying. "What?" he snapped.

"Where is everyone?" I asked.

"Why?"

I snorted, irritated, and rolled my eyes. "Because my sister fell off a building. I was told she was at school, so I wanted to see how she is."

The man narrowed his eyes. "Those two never told me they had a brother."

"...Did they have to?"

"...We've been having a hard time trusting others around here," the man admitted slowly.

"Okay," I responded. "Does it have something to do with 'falling book characters'?"

"Something like that."

A boy with brown hair walked over to the man. "Relax, Kurogane-san, Lilacheart-san and Soundstorm-san told me that their brother was coming. Goldenslash, right?" he asked.

I nodded in confirmation.

"My name's Syaoran," the boy said, smiling slightly.

"...Soundy said you were Lilac's boyfriend?"

Syaoran choked on air.

"WHAT?!"

The man, Kurogane, started laughing behind his hand.

"I'M GONNA KICK YOUR—!!!!!" I heard Lilacheart yell from somewhere, but thankfully her final word was cut off by the sound of clashing metal. I also heard Soundstorm laughing and her footsteps fleeing for her life. And the sound of things falling off shelves and smashing to the floor.

Good times.

"I'm not, trust me," Syaoran said, sounding both a bit ticked and weary.

"Soundy just likes to make fun of Lilac, don't worry," I assured him, laughing quietly. "How is Lilac?"

"Have you heard of +Anima?" Syaoran asked.

I cocked my head. "Wasn't it a manga series? Um...if not, I've never heard of it."

"Me neither, but apparently, Lilacheart-san received one. Not to mention about thirty minutes before you got here, a boy named Cooro with a +Anima dropped through the roof. She's been showing him around."

What was +Anima? I guess I'd have to ask her myself.

Turns out, I didn't need to. When I found Lilacheart, she was talking to another kid, who I assumed was Cooro. Both of them had a set of wings on their backs, hers tawny and his black. They were both eating apples.

Most people would freak out, scream, or report themselves to the mental clinic. Me? I thought, Holy crud! and, Cool! at the same time as I walked over to her.

"Hey," I called.

Lilacheart whipped around, quickly tucking in her wings.

"Heya! When did you get here?"

"Into town? Five minutes ago, or something. Um...when did you get wings?"

Lilacheart shrugged. "+Anima. It's an animal trait you get when you're usually about to die."

Subtle.

"Is the boy Cooro?" I asked.

"Yup!" Cooro said, standing up and holding out his hand. "Nice to meet you!"

I shook his hand, unsure of what else to do.

"Where's Soundy?" I asked.

"You'll have to talk to her later. I locked her in the janitor's closet," Lilacheart said, cackling quietly.

I gave her this really weird look, then remembered the whole 'Syaoran is Lilac's boyfriend' thing and said, "She probably knows she deserved that, huh?"

"Yup."

I nodded. "I thought Syaoran was a book character you really liked."

Lilacheart gave a slow nod. "He is."

"Then how is he—" I began, then stopped. "...So you weren't kidding then? There really are characters from Tsubasa, +Anima, and those books you like dropping into the county?"

Lilacheart nodded. "Yes. Cooro, Syaoran, Kurogane, Fai, Mokona, Amaterasu, Emily...and some more I'm too lazy to remember or name...they're here. I'm not sure how or why..."

Suddenly a loud cry of surprise echoed across the campus. Lilacheart and Cooro shot upright, both of them wearing identical looks of shock and puzzlement.

"I'll go unlock Soundy from the janitor's closet, you go and see what's up!" I said, turning and running into the school. I'd been here once or twice, so I knew where the only closet in the school was.

I found the door and swung it open. Soundstorm stumbled out, looking like she had just laughed so hard she had injured something. "I so deserved that," she giggled.

"Something's going on at the front of the schoo—" Before I could finish Soundstorm yelled, "Oh, not him again!" and darted off.

Maybe I didn't want to know who 'him' was. But I guess my curiosity got the better of me because I ran after her...and screeched to a halt in front of four girls and about 10 cats.

"Warriors!" I heard a girl I knew as Lakestorm whisper next to me.

"Oh my GOD, Jadey, it's Fie-Fie!" said a girl Soundstorm had told me was Squirrelflame, AKA 'Not a squirrel, THE squirrel.' The two squeed.

I noticed the cats looked a little bit out of their element. I remembered my sisters telling me about this series called "Warriors" once, but I'd never actually read it. So while everyone freaked out and cautiously approached their favourite cats, I sat down on a bench. I didn't know these cats. Though I did like cats in general.

I noticed a silver cat break away from the group and slowly walk over to me. "Is something wrong?" she asked me lightly.

I was surprised I understood her and nearly said, 'Holy crud, a talking cat!' But fortunately I didn't.

"No, I just don't read the books you guys are in," I responded with a shrug.

"To the other cats, say that your ancestors told you stories. They'll understand it better than having to explain the publishing process," the silver she-cat purred with a laugh.

I smiled and nodded. "Who are you?" I asked.

I suddenly noticed that everyone had fallen silent and were staring at the silver cat. "We've all been wondering about that, actually," a girl I vaguely remembered as Quailfeather admitted.

"My name is Brightspirit," the cat said, cocking her head and swishing her tail.

"Emmy Grace Cherry!" a majority of the members cried in unison.

Brightspirit, or Emmy, stared in surprise, her eyes wide. "Y...You all remember me...?" She suddenly smiled and purred happily. "I thought I'd been long forgotten."

"Definitely not!" a girl I thought was named Hazelleaf objected. "How are your parents?"

Brightspirit seemed overjoyed, though I noticed that the other cats just looked confused. "They're great," she said.

Everyone smiled. Soundstorm was talking to a gray cat with ice blue eyes and a ginger cat who seemed a bit hyper. Their friend, who I was constantly reminded she went by the name 'Cloudwind', was talking to a white cat. Squirrelflame, Jadepool, and an older member whose name, I think, was Coalfang, were talking to a flaming ginger cat, who seemed to be in charge. Sheila was talking about what sounded like 'the warrior code' to a black cat, who responded which much enthusiasm. A member whose name was something like 'Thrushwing' (I really needed to get to know these guys better) was talking to a powerful looking golden-coloured cat about strength of some sort. I heard her call him 'Lionblaze', and guessed that that was probably his name. A dark brown tabby was sitting next to a gray cat, both of whom were talking to the boy who called himself a six year old, flaming butted toad. I think his name had something to do with yogurt, but I couldn't remember. There was also a cat whose name was Cinderheart, as far as I heard, who at one point came over to take Brightspirit back into the crowd.

I sat around for about ten minutes before Brightspirit came back. She leapt onto the bench I was sitting on, curling her tail neatly over her paws. "Emmy...how come everyone here knows you?"

"About a year ago there was a meeting held in this town when my family and I were killed in a tornado," she explained. "We were accepted into StarClan when these guys all gave us warrior names. We're very thankful."

I smiled. "I really do need to come here more."

"By the way, you might want to stand up and move," she suggested suddenly.

I cocked my head, confused. Brightspirit jumped off my lap, signalling for me to follow. I stood up and walked towards her.

That's when a gouge opened up in the sky and dropped a DRAGON onto the bench I had just been sitting on.

You can probably imagine I swore, completely startled.

Everyone started freaking out. I mean, duh, a dragon drops out of the sky. Not exactly normal. The cats all took a step back. "Does this happen a lot here?" the flame coloured cat asked tensely.

"...As a matter of fact, it's never happened until now," the governor, Sheila, admitted.

"I was worried you were going to say it happened all the time," the brown tabby she-cat admitted.

"What happened?" the gray tabby asked, confirming my guess that he might be blind.

"...Shardas!" Sheila and Soundstorm gasped.

*

POV: Lilacheart

"Shardas from Dragon Slippers...?" I asked.

"Oh my GOD, a dragon!" someone screamed, sounding completely ecstatic.

I glanced at Sheila, who gave me a nod. I walked slowly towards the dragon, noticing that she was coming too out of the corner of my eye. Of course, it was thanks to her I'd read Dragon Slippers, so of course she knew who Shardas was and wanted to see him.

Both of us stopped in front of him. "Sh—Shardas...?" Sheila whispered quietly.

He slowly opened an eye, narrowing it almost immediately. "Humans—!" He sounded worried as he tried to struggle upright. Which was rather hard since he was a huge dragon.

"Don't worry!" I assured him nervously, unfolding my wings. Maybe letting him know we were all weirdos around here would make him feel better. He noticed my wings, which I think Starsight had told me were osprey wings, and blinked. "We're all secret keeping with the scattered mutant or +Anima weirdo around here. Don't worry about it, or fly away, because if you do, you'll probably get in trouble," I said, backtracking quickly.

"...I wasn't going to word it like that, but that works too, Lilac," Sheila commented.

Everyone came over to look at Shardas. "You've got admirers," Sheila laughed.

"Who...are all of you?" he asked, managing to get upright to look at all of us.

"It would take a while for us all to name ourselves off. You'll slowly figure out who we are. Until then..." Sheila said, and she turned to look at us. We all knew the drill.

"Welcome to Wands and Worlds County, Shardas!" we all greeted happily.

"How many of you are mutants and...'plus animals'?"

"+Anima," I corrected.

Mokona popped its head out of Syaoran's sleeve. Kirby looked up and waved. Cooro was eating an apple while staring at Shardas' shiny scales. I shrugged.

Emily raised her hand. "I'm not a mutant, but I use magic," she said.

"Like alchemy?" Shardas asked.

"That's Roy," Rubystripe said, and Roy Mustang raised his hand.

"I heal," Emily clarified, and Shardas nodded.

"I use magic as well," Syaoran chipped in, raising his hand. Fai also raised his hand.

"I'm learning alchemy," Rubystripe added, raising her hand.

"Keyblade," Cloudwind stated, holding up her hand and the keyblade.

"We're all learning to become skilled fighters, because we all know something bad's going to happen some point soon," Forestpelt said with a laugh.

As if to confirm her words, I suddenly noticed a shadow of a woman appear around the corner. Everyone swung around, obviously catching this, too.

Without warning a large bolt of light smashed down on all of us. There were a couple of confused, startled yelps, and I felt myself hit the ground before blacking out.

It didn't feel like it took a long time for me to come around this time. I rolled over, flapping my wings lightly, making sure they were there, which they were. Then I turned around and looked up at Syaoran, who was staring at me with a look of shock and...something else on his face. Was it amusement?

I didn't get to my feet yet. I just looked up at him and slowly asked, "What happened...?"

He swallowed and muttered, "...Lilacheart-san?"

I cocked my head. "Who else?"

He covered his mouth, and it took me a moment to realize he was laughing. "What's so funny?!" I snapped.

"...Lilac-chan...you need to see your reflection," Syaoran said.

"Lilac-chan...?" I asked, confused.

"Well, looking like that, you'll need a pet name," he laughed.

"A pet na—What...?!" I asked, bewildered, as I looked down at my paws.

Wait, paws?!

I shot upright and noticed that Syaoran was about five times taller than me. "Oh God..." I muttered, turning around to look at the other Wandies. Like me they were slowly getting upright, all in the exact same state as I was.

I looked at Leafpool, who was now my height. Who was now the same species as I was. All I could say was:

"This doesn't happen every day either."

***

Chapter Ten

POV: Rabbitfoot

Okay, fine. I'll admit, a lot of weird things have happened in the county lately. The least of which being fictional characters dropping from the sky. Dragons maybe being one step up from that.

But all of us turning into freaking CATS?!

Someone had jacked the weirdness meter.

I chased myself in a circle, trying to see if I had also sprouted a tail. Hey, the situation couldn't get much stupider. "What the heck just happened?!"

I whirled around again, catching sight of myself in the side of a nearby metallic garbage can. I. Was. A. Cat. I stared at my reflection, as if it might change back into a human if I stared hard enough. The image of a cream-coloured cat stared back at me, green eyes wide. This couldn't be happening.

I swung away from my reflection, looking for the others. There wasn't a single Wandie left in sight. No, okay, that was a lie. Where moments before there had been the members of Wands and Worlds County, now the school grounds were just filled with cats.

I repeat: What the heck is going on?!

"Fun-Bun, is that you?" I heard someone ask, and I recognized Starsight's voice. I turned around to look for her, and nearly burst out laughing despite our situation. A white and silver cat was perched on Fai's shoulder; no doubt that was Starsight. She shot me a furious look, one that clearly said, 'comment-and-I-will-rip-you-to-shreds-right-here-and-now.' "I'm not blind, you know."

"Unfortunately," I chuckled. Her cat persona, as I figured we Wandies had all turned into, was blind. I would have wondered as to why Starsight herself hadn't been rendered blind, but I was too busy trying to figure out what was going on—not to mention trying not to laugh.

A loud caterwaul suddenly rang out over the school grounds, and I turned around to look. I spotted a black cat perched on Shardas' back; obviously she was the one who had called for attention. My first thought was that the cat was Hollyleaf, who had been the only black cat to come in the ThunderClan patrol, but the cat's eyes were a bright golden yellow, not leaf green. Slowly, everyone fell silent and looked up at her.

"Guys, we all need to stay calm," the cat called, and I recognized Sheila's voice. "I know this is probably frightening beyond description—"

"Eh, I don't mind so much," chimed a light gray tabby near the back in Wildtail's voice.

Laughter rippled through the crowd, which, after a moment, sounded like a mass of purring cats. After another moment, we all realized that that's exactly what it was.

That shut everybody up.

"Does anyone know exactly how this could have happened?" Sheila asked.

An uneasy silence descended on the grounds. Then I heard Lilacheart speak. "I saw what looked like a woman right before that light hit."

Several Wandies nodded/mewed in agreement. Well, there were more nods than mews. I glanced around in the direction of her voice, quickly spotting two cats, one black with a lilac tucked behind her ear, the other gray with a single bluish stripe running down her back from nose to tail. For being twins, Lilacheart and Soundstorm were rather easy to tell apart as cats.

"Did anyone manage to see who it was?"

"Not from down here," a voice croaked, and I swung around in surprise. At first I couldn't see who had spoken, then I saw a toad—yes, a toad—hop up onto what remained of the bench next to Shardas. I nearly laughed out loud again; was that Magicyop?! It made sense, though; I don't think he even had a cat persona. He constantly tried to pass himself off as a toad online.

"I have a guess..." Starsight whispered quietly.

"Like what?" I asked, glancing up at her again.

She fidgeted slightly, waving her tail. "I'm not sure if I'm right or not...and I really hope I'm wrong..."

"What is it, Starry-chan?" Fai questioned softly.

Starsight took a deep breath. "My guess was that that was the Dark Sorceress."

I froze. I didn't really know anything about the Dark Sorceress (I hadn't read the Avalon series), but I'd heard far more than enough, not to mention fought in a battle against her the other day. This could be bad.

Before I even got a chance to reply a loud howl suddenly echoed across the school grounds. Everyone froze, all of us simultaneously looking for the source of the sound. There was a long pause, then without warning an entire pack of Erasers leapt at us, howling for blood.

I felt the fur on my back rise as adrenaline flooded my veins. Where had they come from?! Hadn't all the remaining Erasers been killed at the battle at Starsight's house the other day?

An Eraser suddenly charged at the three of us, snarling as it bared inch-long fangs. Fai leapt in front of it, blasting it with a jolt of magic. I bunched my muscles and sprang at the Eraser, claws unsheathed. Well, I couldn't exactly just stand by and hide or something. The others were all fighting too, even though as cats we couldn't do much damage against wolf-people.

I sank my claws into the Eraser's leg, feeling blood well up from the wound. Above my head Starsight let out a yowl as she launched herself straight at the Eraser's head. Her Kudan suddenly materialized beside her, joining in the attack. I nearly fell over in shock, except my claws were in too deep.

The Eraser howled with pain as we attacked, clawing furiously in an attempt to reach one of us. The Kudan hovered just out of reach, lashing out at its head with its tail blade. I scrambled up the Eraser's back, ducking out of the way of its flailing claws. Only Starsight wasn't fast enough; the Eraser managed to grab her by the scruff and yank her off its face. She let out a furious yowl, her paws flailing as she tried to land a blow somewhere. I sank my teeth into the Eraser's neck, trying not to gag at the taste of its fur. It gave a snarl of fury, violently throwing Starsight aside and whirling around in an attempt to throw me off. I saw her slam into the side of the garbage can I had been using to check my reflection earlier before the world around me dissolved into a blur of colour. I clung on desperately, afraid to let go and be sent flying through the air like Starsight had. Claws grazed the fur on my back, but the Eraser couldn't reach me.

Suddenly a clawed hand did reach me, grabbing me roughly by the scruff and yanking me off. I think I actually broke a claw, for I felt a sharp pain in my paw, but I ignored it as I tried to swing around and gain a hold. Darkness surrounded me as I was stuffed into some kind of sack, and I let out an indignant yowl. Then I shut up, half-shocked half-fuming over the fact that I had just yowled.

Whatever sack I was in swung wildly, and I almost felt sick to my stomach. I curled up at the bottom of the bag, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. From what I could gather, the Erasers had launched an attack against us, though if it had been a lucky guess that they had picked the time we had all been transformed into cats or not I didn't know. Wait a—I let out a low groan. I did know. The Erasers were working with the Dark Sorceress; of course they had known the right time to attack. They must've been planning it all along.

The sack I was in bounced roughly against something, and I gave a hiss of annoyance. I didn't have a single clue as to where I was being taken, but I could feel in my gut that it was nowhere good. I realized that the sounds of battle were much fainter than they were before, and I guessed that we were leaving the school grounds. I shifted around, opening my eyes wide in an attempt to gather as much light as possibly. It kind of felt like I was bouncing against something; probably an Eraser's back. I sank my claws angrily into the side of the sack, trying to rip it open. My claws pricked something on the other side of the burlap, and someone swore loudly and delivered a vicious punch to the side of my bag. The air left my lungs in an undignified oof, and the sack spun wildly. Wisely I decided not to try that again.

I settled back at the bottom of the bag, deciding to just wait it out. Yes, me, the most impatient person in the world, decided to wait. Guess how much that killed my soul.

I was just trying to decide whether I should try to get out again or curl up and die when I noticed something. I'm not sure how I was able to tell, but suddenly I was just aware that there were walls around us. Had we gone inside a building?

One of the Erasers snarled something close by, but I wasn't paying attention and hence missed it entirely. Claws clicked against stone floor, and I wrinkled my nose as the smell of something nasty washed over me. The sewers?

"We have one of them," a voice growled. I pinpointed it to be whoever was carrying me.

"Excellent," a second voice hissed, and a chill ran down my spine. "Show me."

The top of the sack opened, and light flooded in. Even though it was dim wherever we the light still partially blinded me after such complete darkness, making me blink in confusion. A claw grabbed me by the scruff and hauled me out, casting the sack aside. I let out two furious yowls, one as an act of defiance and the second for the fact that I had just yowled again. I quickly looked around, spying large curving tunnel walls and a canal of filthy water sliding past on the narrow ledge we were standing on. Definitely the sewers.

A woman with alabaster skin leaned forward and peered closely at me; I shuddered as I saw her animal eyes. No doubt this was the Dark Sorceress. I lashed out at that perfect pretty face of hers, claws fully unsheathed. She pulled back, just out of reach. "Naughty pussy cat," she taunted. She took a couple steps back and spread her arms, shaking back the long sleeves of her cloak. "Hold it still."

I nearly burst out angrily at her for calling me an 'it', but I had barely opened my mouth before one of the Erasers clapped a paw over my muzzle. I growled uneasily as she raised her arms, poisonous-looking sparks dripping from her fingers.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Everyone froze. The Dark Sorceress looked livid, while the Erasers glanced about nervously, searching for the source of the voice. A spark suddenly lit in the tunnel behind the Dark Sorceress, and a girl dressed completely in black stepped into view, flanked by two wolves. The larger wolf was a blend of silver and white, while the other was jet-black with banded white paws and laughing green eyes. The source of the light came from a jewel on the girl's wrist, which was blazing with a golden light.

"The Warrior!" the Dark Sorceress spat. "So it's you."

"Let the cat go," the girl demanded.

"And why would I do that?" the Dark Sorceress said smoothly, giving the girl a savage grin, "after I went through so much trouble to turn them all into cats to harvest their magical energy?"

The girl looked surprised for a moment, then she scoffed loudly. "Just how stupid are you?" she laughed. "There's no magical energy whatsoever in that cat!"

Yeah, if you want magic I suggest you kidnap someone else, I thought furiously. The Dark Sorceress stared at me, her eyes wide with disbelief. "...If that is so...then I'll just kill it."

That was the final straw for me. I shoved the stunned Eraser's paw away from my mouth and shouted, "I'm not an it, I'm a girl! Get that through your head already!"

Yes. I had completely ignored the death threat and gone straight to sorting out my gender. Did you expect something else?

However strange it may seem, I think that outburst was one of the factors that saved my life. The girl and the Dark Sorceress were wearing identical looks of shock, and the Erasers were no exception. Seizing the moment, the silver wolf suddenly sprang across the canal, leaping straight towards the Eraser holding me. It bowled it over, knocking me out of its grip. I clamped my jaws shut on yet another embarrassing yowl as I flew through the air, landing headfirst in the sewer water.

Several things wrong with this situation. The obvious one: I'm a cat. I've just been dunked in a river. A river of sewer water, no less. There is also the widely known fact that cats aren't exactly Michael Phelps. They don't swim.

I struggled in the murky water, unable to tell up from down. Inside my brain I was cursing anything I could think of, the Dark Sorceress for turning us all into cats, the wolf for making the Eraser throw me in the sewer, that stupid rose Roy had pulled out of my bouquet. Wait, you didn't hear me say that.

Teeth suddenly fastened in my scruff, and I felt myself being tugged through the water. My head broke the surface and I gasped for air, shaking filthy water out of my eyes. I craned my head back as far as I could, realizing that the black wolf had dived in to get me.

"Dreamer!" a voice shouted, and the wolf pricked up his ears. He turned and struck out for the bank—or at least, the narrow concrete path running beside the canal that passed for a bank. He hefted himself out of the water, dropping me on the ledge before shaking himself dry. I hissed in protest as water droplets splashed all over me. I didn't need to be any wetter than I already was, thank you very much.

The girl was racing down the tunnel towards us, the silver wolf by her side. She skidded to a stop and bent down. "Are you okay?" she asked me.

"Fine, if you consider beaten, bruised, and nearly drowned to be 'okay'. Can we go home now?"

The girl actually chuckled, despite this entire sticky mess we were in. "Do you want me to carry you? We'll probably have to go through the water again."

I was going to protest and say I could walk just fine on my own, but at the mention of water I thought twice. "Fine," I grumbled, leaping up onto her shoulder and digging my claws into her jacket for a secure hold. "Just don't dunk me in the water again."

"I won't," she promised. She shot a glance at the silver wolf. "Storm, can you cloak us?"

The wolf nodded and began to dissolve into mist. I tried to keep my mouth from dropping open in shock. Seconds later the silver wolf was gone; in her place hung a shimmering mist. The mist settled over us, hovering in the tunnel.

The girl signalled to Dreamer, and silently they began to creep along the tunnel, the mist sliding after us. Footsteps echoed down the tunnel, not our own. I flinched as the Dark Sorceress suddenly loomed out of the gloom on the other side of the canal, the Erasers right behind her.

"Search for them," she hissed. "There's only one way for them to go. Those mistwolves, they'll be covering them, hiding them from sight."

Mistwolves... I shot a glance at the girl, who gave a short nod. So this mist that Storm had dissolved into made us invisible. Clever.

We crept down the tunnel, following the canal upstream. I kept shooting glances behind us, watching the Erasers stalk after us without knowing where we were. One slip-up and they would find us for sure.

Speaking of slip-ups.

Dreamer suddenly let out a yelp as one of his paws slipped off the edge, scrabbling to regain his balance and not fall into the canal for a second dunking.

"There!" one of the Erasers shouted, and in a heartbeat the entire pack was after us. The girl muttered something angrily under her breath, breaking out into a sprint with Dreamer hard on her heels. Storm rematerialized next to us, quickly matching pace. I dug my claws in deeper, risking a glance behind me at our pursuers. I let out a shocked yelp as I realized that the Dark Sorceress was literally right behind us.

"Duck!" I shouted as she lashed out at us with deadly-long claws. The girl ducked, and that's when I figured out that I had chosen the wrong spot to cling to. The Dark Sorceress' claws slashed into my shoulder, leaving a long but shallow wound. I gasped with pain, my claws suddenly loosening until I thought I was going to fall off.

The girl spun around, golden fire whipping out from the stone on her wrist. The Dark Sorceress retreated several paces, grinning maliciously. Her troop of Erasers suddenly appeared behind her, racing towards us. The girl whipped the fire into a shield, warding off their attack. Storm and Dreamer leapt forward together, lashing out at the Erasers with sharp fangs.

My grip on her shoulder suddenly wasn't enough, and I slipped and landed hard on the concrete floor. It felt like my shoulder was on fire, spreading throughout my body. I tried to struggle to my feet; at the very least I could get out of her way and try to run.

Without warning, I heard the distinct sound of someone snapping their fingers. The next second a wave of fire jolted over our heads, striking the lead Eraser straight on and reducing it to a pile of ash. I jerkily craned my head around, already knowing who I would see.

Roy Mustang was racing towards us on the other side of the tunnel, his fingers poised to let loose another torrent of flame. "Is everyone all right?" he called.

"Fine as we'll ever be," the girl grunted, taking several steps back and signalling to the two wolves. Storm and Dreamer retreated, but the Erasers didn't follow. They were nervously eyeing Roy's gloves; they had already seen how much damage they could do and probably didn't fancy taking him on.

"Surrender!" Roy shouted, raising his hand. "Surrender or I'll do to you like I did your comrade!"

Apparently this was it for the Erasers. They all turned tail and fled, pushing and shoving each other to try and escape Roy's gloves. In moments the tunnel was empty except for the five of us. Roy looked rather pleased with himself as he splashed across the canal—which apparently was much shallower than it seemed. He stepped up onto the ledge, then kneeled down and picked me up. Inwardly I groaned, praying that he wouldn't recognize me as the girl who had proposed to him yesterday. Probably the only time I had ever been grateful to be a cat.

"Let's get out of here," he said, standing up straight again. "You aren't injured, are you, Miss...?"

"Chardáy," the girl supplied. "Adriane Chardáy. And no, I'm fine."

Roy gave a brief nod. "Roy Mustang," he said as an introduction. "We should start moving; the faster we get back the faster we can treat her."

'Her' being me, I take it, I thought, but I didn't speak out loud. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth I might start screaming with pain and be unable to stop. I settled for being grateful that at least he hadn't called me an 'it'.

I'm not sure how long we had been walking, since I was concentrating on staying conscious. That blasted Dark Sorceress' claws must've been tipped with poison or something; I could feel it slowly seeping through my body, freezing my limbs.

Speaking of freezing, a blast of cold air suddenly slapped me across the face, and I realized that we were outside. I struggled to open my eyes and look around to try and find out where we were, but I couldn't move. It was all I could do to let out a low moan.

"We can't wait until we get back," Roy said suddenly. "She'll die before we get there. Was that poison or something?"

"It wasn't poison." Adriane's voice shook ever so slightly. "She's infected with the Black Fire."

Black Fire? For a moment there I almost thought I'd prefer the poison.

"Is there anything to be done?"

"I'm not Emily," Adriane protested, and I guessed that she and the two wolves were also from the Avalon series. "I can't heal..." Her voice trailed off.

Roy gave her an inquiring glance. "What is it?"

"Once Emily and I were caught in a twister...It switched our powers, making me the Healer and her the Warrior. We switched back eventually, but I still have a trace of Emily's magic inside the wolf stone."

"Will it be enough?"

"We'll just have to hope," Adriane muttered. I felt her place a hand on my fur, and I tried to focus my sight on her. The jewel on her wrist, presumably the wolf stone, was pulsing softly. Instead of the golden fire from earlier, this light was a faint healing blue. Like Emily's jewel.

Slowly at first, then faster and more confidently I felt the fire leaving my body, shrivelling away in the presence of the healing light. I gave one paw an experimental twitch and sat up.

"How're you feeling?" Adriane asked quietly.

I flicked my tail back and forth, stretched, then leapt up into a slightly more dignified place on Roy's shoulder. Oh forget it, nothing about my life is dignified anymore. "Fine enough," I responded. "At least I'm not dying from the inside anymore or anything."

Adriane gave a small smile. "I'm glad. I don't think I ever asked your name though..."

"Rabbitfoot, but you can just call me Rabbit," I answered. "Nearly everyone else in the county does. Oh, speaking of the county, Emily's here with us too. She got here several days ago."

"That's great to hear," Adriane said with a smile. "I assume you already know my name, but these two here are Stormbringer and Dreamer. I'm bonded to both of them."

I gave the wolves a nod, which Stormbringer copied while Dreamer answered with a puppyish yip. Right then I almost wished that the Dark Sorceress had turned me into a dog instead, for more reasons than one. "We should start back, before the others get worried about us."

Roy nodded shortly and began to lead the way down the street, with me clinging to his shoulder and Adriane and the two wolves following closely behind. I knew where we were, not too far from the school, so it wasn't that far of a walk. We were just rounding the corner onto the school's street when something black swooped overhead. I ducked instinctively, but whatever it was only shouted, "Rabbit!"

Tentatively I raised my head, catching sight of a black cat with tawny wings hovering overhead. I recognized her instantly from the flower behind her ear. "Hey, Lilac."

"Are you okay?" she asked worriedly. "We saw the Erasers taking you away, but they were too fast to follow, plus they kept holding us back, and—"

"Whoa, calm down," I said. "I'm just fine, quit worrying so much."

Lilacheart paused to take a breath, then she caught sight of Adriane. Her eyes went wide. "Adriane?!"

The Warrior flinched. "How do you know...?"

"It's a long story, trust me, I sighed. "Emily can explain everything later; right now we need to get back."

"I'll fly on ahead, let them all know you're okay," Lilacheart offered, winging away in the direction she had come. We followed her shadow until the school came into sight. A black cat was standing by the gates.

"I'm so glad you're all right," Sheila said, her words betraying her anxiety. "Are you injured?"

"Was earlier, but Adriane managed to help me."

Adriane gave a shake of her head. "I only got rid of the Black Fire. Those scratches are still there."

I twisted my head around to inspect my shoulder. She was right; I could still see the scratches the Dark Sorceress had given me, a tiny bit of blood still oozing from them. The cold winter air had numbed it to the point that I hadn't immediately noticed it.

Sheila flicked her tail. "Come on, let's all go inside. Emily, Leafpool, and Jayfeather have already set up a healing station of sorts. One of them will be able to help you."

I nodded, leaping off Roy's shoulder to the ground with a wince. There was no way I'd make an entrance like that, no matter how badly my shoulder was hurt. Sheila led the way inside the school, padding down to the chemistry room. I stopped, staring around at the classroom. Instead of the usual bottles of chemicals one might regularly find in the chemistry room, everyone was gathered around—and on—the counters where Emily, Leafpool, and Jayfeather stood. Emily was using her jewel to help heal several people, while Leafpool and Jayfeather were running back and forth with cobwebs and other herbs carried in their jaws. I was just about to wonder where they had managed to get all those herbs from when there was a sudden cry of delight and a silver and white shape bowled me over.

"Fun-Bun!" Starsight cried. "You're okay!"

"Oof!" I complained. "I won't be if you continue to squash me to death!"

She jumped off me and let me have enough space to climb to my feet. She looked rather battered from the battle, but otherwise okay. Sitting back on her hind legs she wrapped her forepaws around me in a hug. "I'm so glad you're all right."

I let out a little cough. "I'm fine enough," I muttered. "Sheila suggested I get someone to look at my shoulder though."

"Come on, then," Starsight said, getting to all four paws. She padded over to the counter and leapt up onto it with a single bound, flicking her tail as a gesture for me to follow. Glancing around, I spotted a chair standing next to the counter, and used that to scramble up. A lot of the Wandies were up there too, pressing cobwebs against their own wounds and checking up on each other. I swear, it was literally like a medical station.

"Leafpool?" Starsight called as she padded down the counter towards the tabby she-cat.

Leafpool looked up from the poultice she was making. "What is it, Starsight?"

"Do you have any more cobwebs? Fun-Bun injured her shoulder."

"Hey, it wasn't my fault," I hissed at her. "Adriane didn't duck far enough."

Leafpool flicked an ear. "Yes, there are some cobwebs stored over there. You sure do have a lot of cobwebs in this Twoleg nest of yours."

Starsight chuckled as she padded over to the pile and wound some cobwebs around her paw. "Honestly, I'm not surprised the school's full of them. If that makes any sense at all."

I sat down where I was, wincing as Starsight pressed the cobwebs against my shoulder to stem the bleeding. "I don't think it's too bad. The scratches are really shallow."

"It was worse earlier," I grunted. "Apparently I had something called 'Black Fire' in me."

Starsight flinched. "You got poisoned with the Black Fire?"

"Yeah, but it's all fine now. Adriane managed to get it out."

"You should still double-check with Emily..." Her voice trailed off.

I cocked my head. "What is it?"

Starsight sighed softly. "Come on," she said, rising and padding away down the counter. Curious, I followed her. She paused next to a thick group of cats. I craned my head to see around them, then flinched back.

A black and brown cat was lying motionless on the countertop, sharp tooth marks clearly visible on its back despite the fact that its fur was matted with blood. Involuntarily I sucked in a breath, trying not to do something stupid like faint at the sight of the cat's wounds. Emily's hand was resting on the cat's side, her jewel pulsing with a cool blue light. Stormbringer and Dreamer flanked the Healer on either side, pressing close.

"What happened?" I whispered.

"One of the Erasers bit her," growled a light gray tabby on my left in Thunder's voice. "It mauled her pretty bad..." Her claws scraped along the black countertop, leaving little white marks.

I turned back to Emily and the injured cat, hoping that she'd be all right. The blue glow was slowly removing the wounds, but it seemed to be taking so long. Or maybe that was my famed impatience again.

After what seemed like an age Emily let out a sigh and opened her eyes. "She'll live," she said wearily.

I realized that I had been holding my breath, and gently let it out. The other Wandies murmured gratefully to Emily as the group began to disperse.

I leaned towards the Siamese sitting on my right. "This is probably a stupid question," I whispered, "but who's that cat?"

The Siamese swished her tail, replying in a voice that was clearly Brightsky's. "You mean the one who was injured? Icestar, of course."

"Icestar?" I wrinkled my nose. "I thought she would be white with blue eyes."

At this Icestar's eyes suddenly snapped open, glaring at me with a sharp amber gaze. "Call me white with blue eyes again, and I swear I will shoot you," she snarled, struggling up to her paws.

I gave her a cheeky grin, or at least as close to a grin as I could make as a cat, which probably looked rather threatening. "How're you feeling?"

"Pretty okay," she responded, experimentally arching her back. "That darned Eraser probably would've snapped my spine in two if Soundy hadn't managed to distract it. How about you? Any major injuries?"

"Just a few scratches," I answered, deciding not to mention the Black Fire. I growled softly and muttered, "I hate being a cat. I feel too useless."

"I know what you mean," Icestar grunted. "I would've much preferred it if I had been turned into a wolf. At least then I could've given that Eraser a piece of my mind."

Still sitting nearby, Starsight cleared her throat. We both turned to look curiously at her. "There...there might be a way for us to transform back," she said slowly.

If I had been paying attention to myself I think I might've noticed that my mouth dropped open. "How?!"

She swished her tail across the countertop. "Sheila told me to wait behind since apparently she thought I was more injured than I am, so while she was sending out search parties for you I talked about it with Fai. He said he might be able to change us all back."

I leapt to my paws. "Seriously?!" I swung my head around, looking for the magician. There he was, standing by the counter next to ours. "Fai!"

He turned, looking a little puzzled, and came over to us. "What is it?"

"Starry says you can change us back, right?" I asked excitedly.

Fai looked somewhat taken aback. "Well, yes, I could probably weave a spell—"

I spun away again, scanning the room. "Where's Sheila?"

"Over there," Starsight said, signalling to the far corner where she was talking with Firestar. The ginger tom seemed slightly uncomfortable to be inside a building, but that was nothing compared to the rest of the patrol. The ThunderClan cats were incredibly jumpy, as if they expected an attack any second. I guessed that the only reason Leafpool and Jayfeather weren't as twitchy was because they were keeping themselves busy looking after the Wandies.

"I'll go get her," Icestar said, leaping to the floor. I instantly followed her; with a grumble I heard Starsight hit the linoleum behind us and take off in hot pursuit.

"Sheila!" Icestar called, skidding to a stop in front of her. Firestar gave Sheila a respectful nod before gathering his patrol with a wave of his tail and leading the way out. I dug my paws into the smooth floor, barely avoiding crashing into Icestar.

"What is it?" Sheila asked, curiously glancing between us.

"Starry says that Fai can turn us back into humans again!" I exclaimed breathlessly, leaping forward suddenly as Starsight crashed into me from behind.

Sheila let out a low gasp. "Why didn't you tell me about this sooner?" she asked of Starsight.

"I was going to, but there hasn't been time!" she gasped. "Everyone's been busy worrying about these two." She gave a slight flick of her ears, no doubt meaning me and Icestar.

Sheila raced back to the counter where Fai was waiting, the rest of us hard on her heels. Sheila took the counter in one bound, while the rest of us used the chair again to scramble up. "Fai, I've heard that you may be able to reverse our transformation. Do you think you can do it?"

Fai gave a hesitant nod. "It would take a lot of energy, and I don't think I could do everyone at once."

"I wouldn't expect you to," Sheila purred. "There's over a hundred Wandies here who were transformed. Are you good to try it now?"

"I think so."

Sheila turned and let out a loud caterwaul to attract everyone's attention. The multiple conversations slowly died away as everyone turned to look up at her.

"We think we've found a way to reverse the spell the Dark Sorceress placed on us," Sheila announced. "It might be possible for Fai to create a counter-spell that will turn us back into humans."

An outbreak of excited murmuring spread throughout the room. "When can we try it out?" I heard Mistsong call, and I spotted a black she-cat on the other side of the room, her blue eyes filled with hope and excitement.

Sheila exchanged a quick glance with Fai, who nodded. "Right now, if we're all ready."

I leapt to my paws. "I volunteer to be first!" I said. I couldn't wait to be rid of this cat body I was stuck in.

Sheila hesitated for a moment before giving me a nod of approval. Fai gave his wrist a little shake before raising his arms. "This is going to take a lot of energy, so—"

"Storm and Dreamer can help," Adriane offered, and the two wolves nodded in agreement. "They can both lend you the strength of a mistwolf."

Fai gave them a grateful nod. "That will help a lot, thanks," he said as the two wolves stepped up on either side. "Ready, Rabbit-chan?"

"Yep," I said, "but don't ever call me '-chan' again. Say...I dunno, '-kun' or something, anything but the '-chan'."

He chuckled. If you say so," he said, as pale blue magic as soft and thick as snow began piling up in his cupped hands. For a moment he let it build, then blew it out over me. It settled in my fur, sparkling like snowflakes in the sunlight.

Suddenly I shot up, and I quickly slid off the counter to the floor to avoid whacking my head against the ceiling. The fur was shrivelling away (to reveal the clothes I had been wearing earlier, to my great relief), my paws turned into hands and feet, the whiskers shot in again. I could see the others were staring at me, in shock and awe.

Moments later the transformation was complete. I was human again. I breathed out in a sigh of relief as I took a long stretch. "Man, it's great to be back."

I heard a slight snorting sound, and I glanced towards Starsight. She had one paw up in front of her muzzle, and I got the feeling she was laughing at me. "What?"

"Y...you..." She snorted again and crouched down, putting both paws over her muzzle in an attempt to hold in her laughter.

"What?!" I demanded.

"You've still got a tail!" Icestar burst out, and nearly everyone dissolved in a fit of the giggles.

"...Say WHAT?!" I yelped, whirling around. Sure enough, I still had a long cat tail poking out from beneath my shirt. I moaned and shot a glare at Fai.

"S-Sorry," he apologized, looking like he was trying not to laugh himself. "Let me try the spell again."

He cupped his hands a second time and repeated the spell. This time I felt the tail get sucked back into my spine, to my infinite relief. I shakily walked back to the counter and leaned against it with a sigh as Icestar leapt down to be next.

"It's hard to decide which was better, that or your proposal," Starsight laughed.

"Ugh, believe me, this one was far worse."

*

POV: Starsight

I hefted the pile of books into my arms with a grunt and turned down the next aisle. It had been several days since Fai had managed to change the last of us back into humans again; I had been among the last to be 'de-spelled'. I had to admit though, I would have loved it if Rabbitfoot had kept that tail.

Kidding. Maybe.

I checked the number on the spine of the first book: 761.39. It was a non-fiction book, one about the Romantic era. I myself had checked it out a few weeks ago for a Music project. I didn't exactly have a job at the county library; I just liked to help out a lot. We had a rather modest collection of books, though one probably wouldn't guess it at first glance. The library always seemed so much bigger than it was. It might have been the massive windows that stretched from one side of the building to the other, or it might have been the wide aisle down the middle that housed several tables to work at and was lined with towering bookshelves on either side. I didn't know for sure, but I did know that it was one of my favourite places in the entire county.

I turned down the next aisle, scanning the shelves until I found the 760's. I replaced the book on the shelf, suddenly noticing that I was bobbing my head to Brightdown again. I always kept my iPod on a low volume so I could hear the world around me, but I still pulled it out of my pocket to notch the volume down a bit more. Humming under my breath, I shuffled the books around in my arms to check the number on the next spine.

"What are you doing?"

The question was so unexpected (I had thought I was alone in the library right now) that I let out a yelp and dropped a couple of the books I was carrying. Whipping around I realized that Fai was standing behind me, and probably had been for a while. He wasn't alone; behind him I spotted Watanuki, the Dog, Halt, and Jayfeather. Watanuki and Halt were browsing among the books; I could see that Watanuki was struggling to read them, which was understandable seeing as he had lived in Japan for all his life. The Dog was trotting over to us, and I spotted Jayfeather walking tentatively along an unused shelf. Goes to show you that we really don't have that many books here.

"Uh, I'm re-shelving some books," I stammered, trying to shuffle the books I still held around again so I could retrieve the ones I had dropped.

"Here, I'll get them," Fai offered, bending down to pick up the fallen books. "Do you need some help in finishing?"

"Um, sure" I accepted. "The numbers on the spine show you where to...Wait, can you read them?"

"Not really," he said with a light chuckle.

"Oh, oops," I muttered, feeling my face go red. I had forgotten for a moment that he was from a completely different dimension, and a fictional one at that. It was only thanks to Mokona that we could all understand each other at all. "I'll just point out to you where they go, then."

We continued down the aisle, the Dog trotting behind us. Jayfeather followed more slowly, leaping back down to the floor at one point so he wouldn't accidentally walk off the end of the shelf. The pile of books seemed to shrink a lot faster with Fai's help. Soon we had finished with the non-fiction books, and I began to wave my way through the shelves towards the fiction section.

Predictably, the fiction section was the largest section in the library, taking up nearly twice the shelf space of all the other books, etc. in the library combined. Every kind of genre one could imagine sat on the shelves; romance, action, horror. Though personally I tended to steer clear of the horror shelf.

I headed over to the manga books, tipping my stack on a nearby table before pulling my iPod out of my pocket to turn it off. The Dog crawled beneath the table, curling up beneath it for a nap. I picked up the first three books, one FullMetal Alchemist, one +Anima, and one Tsubasa. The FullMetal Alchemist and +Anima volumes were easy enough to replace, but the Tsubasa collection was located on a higher shelf. I stretched up to reach it, wondering why on earth they had been shelved so high. Pain shot through my right side, and I dropped my arm with a wince, instinctively pressing my hand against the spot. The sword wound that Shaoran had given me was still painful, even though I had constantly tried to ignore it.

"Here, let me," Fai offered, taking the book from my hand and reaching up to place it on the shelf. He hesitated for a moment, then brought the book down again and began to flip through it. I craned my head to check the volume number: book 17.

"So this is how you know all about us, hmm?" he asked, his voice almost sounding sad.

"Yes," I responded, wincing slightly as I realized the significance of that book. It wasn't the best book for him to have picked to flip through, not by a long shot.

I walked back over to the table, looking down at the next book that needed shelving. Only about five books remained; the one sitting on top was Long Shadows. I don't know why, but I flipped the book open, scanned down the page, and began to read aloud.

"He settled himself on the edge of the pool and stretched forward to lap the water. Around him he could hear the other medicine cats doing the same, then making themselves comfortable to sleep and receive the dreams StarClan would send them. Jayfeather curled up, too, closing his eyes and wrapping his tail over his nose.

"He woke, blinking in the unaccustomed light, half prepared to find himself on the bleak mountaintop where he encountered Rock. Instead, he found himself in the lush forest clearing where Brightspirit had come to speak to him. A warm breeze, full of the green scents of growing herbs, caressed his pelt; his anxieties melted away like ice in newleaf.

"At first Jayfeather thought he was alone, but as the breeze stirred the leaves he saw two cats crouched on a branch at the other side of the clearing; Shiningheart and Braveheart were looking down at him with gleaming eyes. At the same moment the bracken underneath their tree parted, and Brightspirit stepped into the open.

"The beautiful silver tabby padded across the clearing until she could touch noses with him; her sweet scent mingled with the smell of herbs."

I paused and looked up. The others had gathered closer while I had been reading; even Halt and Watanuki had come back. Fai had sat down in a chair at my table, chin in his hands, while Jayfeather was sitting on the tabletop next to him. Even the Dog had pricked up her ears.

There was a long silence, then Jayfeather swished his tail. "You really do know all about us," he whispered.

I nodded. "Mm," I said, closing Long Shadows and gathering the rest of the books in my arms. "For every person who arrives in the county, there'll be a Wandie who knows them. All the tales are kept here, on these shelves."

I turned and started towards the rest of the fiction collection re-shelve the rest of the books. Halt stood aside to let me pass, but not a single one of them followed. I didn't know if I should be glad that they weren't there staring at their own books or not. I let out a sigh and went back to work.

*

Someone shook me roughly by the shoulder. "Hey, wake up."

"Huh?" I muttered, sleepily raising my head and trying to force my eyes open. I had only paused for a few seconds to put my head down, but I must've fallen asleep. It was kind of understandable though; I had been losing more and more sleep since fiction characters had first started arriving in the county.

Kurogane stood over me, looking like he was just about to shake me again. "Do you know what time it is?" he demanded.

I sat up straight, lifting my head from the short stack of books I had been using as a pillow. "Uh, no?" I yawned.

"Past sunset. You should be back at your house instead of sleeping the night away in here."

"Sorry," I apologized, getting to my feet. I glanced at the pile of books I hadn't finished shelving. I'll finish them tomorrow, I decided. I led the way to the front of the library, grabbing my coat from behind the front desk on my way out. Kurogane had gone on ahead, and was waiting for me by the door with his arms crossed.

"Come on," he said, pulling open the heavy library door.

"One second," I said, fishing the library key out of my pocket. We stepped outside, and I locked the door tight behind me. Pacing to the left of the doors I opened the mailbox, dropping the key inside with a clatter. The key was always kept here in the mailbox, if any Wandies needed to get inside. Sheila kept the other copy.

"Let's go," Kurogane said, starting down the steps. "Your friends asked me to walk you home."

I nodded, following him down the steps. The winter night was bitterly cold, and I couldn't help but shiver. I glanced back at the library again as we trudged through the snow. The building loomed dark, almost forbidding. I shuddered involuntarily, whether from the cold night air or not I couldn't tell you. It was true what I had said earlier, about the characters who were falling into the county every day. I just hoped that we wouldn't play host to a new villain next.

*

POV: Spirithunter

"Come on, let's go out for a walk," I said. "It's a great day out, if you ignore the cold."

Amaterasu lifted her head from where she was lying by the door. This county here is warmer than Kamui, she stated. I wouldn't mind the cold.

I nodded. I seemed to be the only one who could understand her. I don't know how I was able to, since Amaterasu shouldn't be able to talk, but it was definitely useful. Perhaps it was Mokona's doing again.

I went over to the closet and grabbed my coat, shrugging it on. "Any suggestions on where to go?"

Amaterasu yawned slightly and got to her feet. I thought you knew.

"No, I didn't have a place in mind." I paused for a moment, thinking. "Why don't we go down by the lake? I want to practice using Waterspout more, and on something other than a sink filled with water. The lake would be a good place to start."

The sun goddess barked in answer. I pushed the door open, taking care to lock it behind me, then followed Amaterasu in a northeast-ish direction. My house was closer to the edge of the county, so it didn't take long to reach the forest. The lake, however, was a bit of a longer walk. It took us a while to get there—I didn't bother keeping track of the time. The trees parted in front of us, and stones crunched under my feet as we emerged on the rocky bank of the lake.

It wasn't a large lake; I could easily see the opposite shore from where I was standing. A lot of the Wandies came down here in the summer to swim in its cool waters. Right now, however, the lake would be freezing cold; the thin layer of ice that stretched across it was a dead giveaway.

I pulled out the brush Amaterasu had lent me. Raising it, I carefully drew a small infinity symbol just above the surface of the ice. The brush stroke erupted into a blazing Inferno, easily melting away a large patch of ice nearly ten feet in diameter. Steam rose off the water from the heat of the flames as the Fireburst vanished. Time to practice.

I pointed the brush at the water, drawing a long curving line that arced into the air. The water followed my movements, dancing like a snake. Like Nuregami, really. Nuregami was one of the 13 brush gods, and master of the Waterspout technique that I was using now.

I hesitated for a moment, letting the water fall back into the lake. There wasn't a power spring here, but I wanted to know if I could create a fountain that could be ridden. Placing the tip of the brush on the water again, I drew a line straight up into the air. Slowly, a platform of water rose upwards, supported by a thick column of rushing water.

Amaterasu, who was sitting down by the bank, nodded approvingly. Try a Deluge, she challenged.

I let the platform drop back into the lake before pulling up my hood and raising the brush again. This time I drew two vertical lines in the air, one beside the other. A torrent of rain appeared out of nowhere, causing a downpour that lasted for several seconds. The rain ended, and I was glad that I had had the foresight to shelter myself before using Deluge. The snow around me was pockmarked with little holes from the raindrops.

Good job, Amaterasu said approvingly. You are skilled enough with the Celestial Brush for me to almost call you equal.

I admit, I felt so proud when she said that. I had been compared to a god! There really isn't much that can top that.

Without warning Amaterasu rose to her paws, her nose to the wind. Her entire body had gone rigid, and from the depths of her throat rumbled a low growl.

"Ammy...?" I asked slowly, glancing around and half-expecting a pack of Erasers to leap from the forest.

The sun goddess suddenly took off, racing across the pebbled beach. "Ammy, wait!" I called, stumbling to catch up to her. She was so fleet that I almost instantly lost sight of her, but fortunately I could follow the trail of flowers that had sprung up beneath her paws as she ran.

I finally managed to catch up to her, gasping for breath. Amaterasu was hunkered down behind a tumble of boulders, peering out over the top at something on the other side.

"Am...my...what...?" I panted, doubling over with my hands on my knees as I tried to regain my breath.

She didn't reply; instead she just flicked her ears as an invitation to join her. I took several deep breaths to stop my head from spinning before I clambered up onto the rocks beside her. I peeked out over the top—and had to stifle a gasp.

Seven-foot-tall reptilian creatures covered the area like ants around their nest, each of them with deadly-looking blades growing naturally all over their bodies. Hork-Bajir, I remembered Starsight had called them. They were running back and forth around a gigantic sludge-like pool, which was actually just a cove in the lake. The Hork-Bajir had submerged a barrier at the mouth of the cove, which kept the sludge-like contents of the cove from mixing with the lake water. Tucked among the rocks on the far side I spied something silver, only slightly smaller than Amaterasu. Not silver—it was closer to chrome, and even from all the way over here I could sense the electrical power it gave off.

"This can't be good," I whispered, ducking down a bit lower as one of the Hork-Bajir marched past carrying a large box in its arms. "What are they doing?"

Amaterasu shook her head, as much at a loss as I was. I stared at the lead-coloured water, wondering what on earth they were up to. Then, without warning, my heart stopped.

There was a ripple on the surface of the sludgy water, a ripple where moments before I had spied something small and slimy flicking to the surface before diving again.

My head was spinning, and I realized I had forgotten to breathe. Shakily I sucked in a breath. "Ammy, we have to go. Now. We have to warn the other Wandies about these Hork-Bajir."

The sun goddess nodded and leapt down to the ground, signalling for me to follow. I took another deep breath and started to shimmy down the rocks to the waiting wolf. I was barely a foot from the bottom when my foot slipped on a slick stone, and I literally fell on top of Amaterasu. This wouldn't have been a problem at all, had I not let out an involuntary yelp of surprise and Amaterasu hadn't grunted heavily beneath my weight.

One of the Hork-Bajir shouted something on the other side of the rock pile, and I could already see the forehead blades of one of them peeking over. Move! Amaterasu shouted, helping to shove me to my feet before taking off across the rocky beach. I raced after her, trying to keep my balance on the rocks.

A shout of alarm went up behind us, but I didn't risk looking back. Amaterasu dropped back so she ran by my side, occasionally casting a glance over her shoulder. They're catching up, she remarked grimly.

I hardly heard her; the blood was pounding in my ears and my lungs ached for air. I couldn't keep up a chase like this for much longer. Skidding to a stop I turned around, trying to regain my breath.

What are you doing?! Amaterasu demanded, halting and turning back to face me. We have to keep moving!

"I'm...not going...to be able to...keep running," I panted. "There's only...one option: stand and...fight."

Even though she was a wolf, I could clearly see that the sun goddess didn't agree with me one bit. But she didn't get a chance to argue with me further. The Hork-Bajir were catching up, and would be on us in seconds. With a growl Amaterasu suddenly pulled out a slip of blue paper, shoving it into my hands. A Vengeance slip. Use it, she growled before leaping past me, the Tundra Beads lashing out from around her neck so she could strike them before they got close enough to attack.

I clenched my fist around the exorcism slip, and it exploded in swirling white symbols that surrounded me, a magical barrier that would protect me from harm, if only for a while. My head shot up as I heard the Hork-Bajir howled in pain, some of them stumbling back from the force of the sun goddess' attack. Their charge broke off, and Amaterasu immediately switched weapons, exchanging the rosary for a glaive, Thunder Edge. She leapt among them, dealing massive damage while forcing them back.

She couldn't hold them all back though. I used the Celestial Brush to attack from afar, mainly using Power Slash to slice at them. I won't go into details. Pointing the brush at Thunder Edge, I drew a line from the weapon towards several of the Hork-Bajir who had broken through Amaterasu's guard and were rushing at me. A bolt of lightning emanated from the glaive, shocking the Hork-Bajir with thousands of volts of electricity.

Two more were coming at me from the left; way too fast. Instinctively I ducked, but I needn't have worried. As soon as the first Hork-Bajir's blades struck the shield a fountain of white sparks erupted from the swirling symbols, and the Vengeance slip forced it back again. Swiftly I yanked the brush through the air, drawing two horizontal lines. Thick purple mist materialized out of nowhere, and the Hork-Bajir's movements slowed to a crawl. I dodged to the side, drawing a snowflake pattern on top of the two of them. Instantly they were encased in ice, their frozen, shocked expressions almost making me laugh.

I paused for a moment, glancing at how Amaterasu was fairing as the mist faded away around us and time sped up again. Apparently when I used the Celestial Brush it drew upon her power, or so she had told me when I had first started. The sun goddess didn't seem fazed yet, but I figured I should try to hold off on more powerful attacks for the time being.

One of the Hork-Bajir lunged at her from the side, and I gave a shout of alarm. Amaterasu crouched down, tucked the glaive away, and pulled up her mirror in one smooth motion. There was a burst of green light as the alien froze, then the sun goddess sprang into the air, dragging the Hork-Bajir after her before slamming it into the ground, trails of fire spinning around her. I took aim and slashed at the fallen Hork-Bajir, ending it.

I suddenly realized that the white symbols were disappearing around me, melting into thin air. Amaterasu leapt back to my side as the Vengeance slip wore off completely, leaving me vulnerable to attack. This isn't good, she growled, pulling out the Tundra Beads again. Several of them left while I was fighting; they'll be back with reinforcements.

No sooner had she said it than about twenty Hork-Bajir suddenly erupted from the forest, completely encircling us. I took several steps back, reaching out until I felt the comfort of Amaterasu's fur beneath my hand. They had us surrounded, pinned against the lake. I glanced out over the water, wondering if we could use it to escape. But the water was frozen over; I couldn't simply draw lily pads to escape on. If I tried to make the ice thicker, they would just follow us. We were stuck.

At my side Amaterasu let out a low growl. I won't let them get us, she snarled, fur bristling. I'll distract them, then you make a break for it. Run back to the county, gather some of our own reinforcements.

"No!" I hissed back. "There's too many of them, even for you to take on! There's more of these Hork-Bajir here than a whole whack of demons from a Devil Gate Challenge! I'd never make it."

There must be a way! Amaterasu snapped, eyeing the Hork-Bajir as they slowly advanced, tightening the circle. Many of them were eyeing the sun goddess warily; no doubt they weren't too keen on taking the sun goddess on. Even so, I could tell that they realized they had us cornered.

Or maybe not quite.

An idea flashed into my mind, and I raised the brush. "How much ink do you have left?" I whispered.

Not much, but I can use an Inkfinity Pot.

"Use it now." In a swift motion I drew one, two, three Cherry Bombs, just outside the circle of Hork-Bajir. Not a single one of them noticed; they seemed to think I had meant to attack them and failed. One of them shouted a command, and half of them leapt towards us.

Amaterasu darted out in front, lashing out with her rosary to buy me more time. I glanced frantically at the bombs; why weren't they going off?! That's when my heart stopped with horror. I had drawn them too far apart; they weren't activating because they weren't close enough. I had to make them go off! I couldn't Power Slash them, that would only make them disappear. But there had to be something!

A flicker of an old conversation flashed into the back of my mind. Someone had asked me once how to set Cherry Bombs off early. After experimenting in the game I had found a way. But what had I done?

Then I remembered. "Inferno!" I breathed. Amaterasu wasn't using Solar Flare, so I would have to manage on my own. Hurriedly I raised the brush again, drawing a wobbly infinity symbol in mid-air. For a heartbeat I thought I hadn't drawn it properly—then the symbol exploded in a raging Fireburst, sending a massive wave of heat over the entire battle area.

Three explosions went off, so loud that I was momentarily deafened. Around me the Hork-Bajir were screaming in pain, and then the shock wave of the Cherry Bombs travelled over us. I was blown backwards; inwardly I cursed myself. I wasn't a god, I couldn't stand up to celestial power like that!

I caught a flash of white in the corner of my eye as a furry body broke my fall. Then my head cracked against the stones and I blacked out.

***

Chapter Eleven

POV: Lilacheart

"You stand shoulder width apart. That's the basic stance," Icestar was saying.

We were out in the backyard, in front of her deer target. I had asked Icestar to teach me a bit more about archery after that battle when I'd needed the skill and had made a lucky shot. (An EXTREMELY LUCKY shot, as Icestar had reminded me constantly.) It was nice of her to take time out of her day to come to my place and teach me. I knew I'd have to pay her back somehow, and soon, or it would get on my conscience.

But until then, the least I could do was listen. I stood shoulder width apart, analyzing the bow in my hands. Icestar, obviously, had lent it to me. She had her own personal choice of bow in her hand.

"Okay, since you're right handed, that's the hand facing away from the target."

I adjusted my position slightly, nodding. I analyzed the arm guard I was wearing. Getting whipped with the bow string hadn't been pleasant, and this arm guard was to prevent that. I remembered reading about it in the Ranger's Apprentice. As I thought about it, I realized it was sort of strange that everything I knew about archery was from the Ranger's Apprentice.

A new piece of equipment that I hadn't considered was the archer's glove, which Icestar provided for me. It was so the string didn't sink into your three fingers (index, ring, and middle) too much, she had said. Considering that I always seemed to grip things too tightly, injured myself when the opportunity came, and overall messed up a lot, it seemed like a good thing to have.

"Your thumb goes over your pinkie," she continued. I nodded, doing so. She helped me nock the arrow, and then adjusted my fingers on the bow as she explained. "The middle and ring finger go under the arrow and the pointer finger over. Hold the bow and the string."

I stared at the bow in my hand, nodding at the nocked arrow and the bow pointing at the deer target.

"Pull back with your drawing arm, extend your bow arm, and just let the string go. It'll hit the target, or miss, if your aim is bad—"

"Which mine probably is."

"Probably."

Icestar was always honest. Personally, I liked that, and got a bit of amusement from it, too.

"After that, you just load your arrow again and repeat."

"Okay." I drew back and released. As the arrow flew, I lowered the bow. It fell under the target. Icestar retrieved it for me.

"Don't lower your bow next time," she said. "It throws off your aim."

I noted that and muttered, "O-Oh, I'm sorry."

She shook her head. "Eh, I was the one who forgot to mention it. Anyway, ground rules, no pointing this bow at anything you don't plan on shooting. That's just dangerous. In battle, just do as I taught you and you should do just fine. Don't expect to make any more extremely lucky shots, though."

"Can I fly with the bow and arrow, too? Do the ground rules count in the air?"

She obviously tried to look unamused, but a small twitch in the corner of her mouth gave her away. "Yes, they do," she said, a forceful tone to her voice.

I nodded. "I know, I was kidding."

"That's it, for now. If there's anything else in particular, let me know, I'll help you out." She gave a light shrug.

"Can you do my homework?"

"Not a chance. Besides, we don't have homework."

I smiled and laughed slightly.

"I need to head off," she said.

I cocked my head. "Where to?"

"...To Rabbit's. I need my revenge."

I blinked. "Do you need help getting there?"

"How can you help?" she asked uncertainly.

I shrugged, and said, "I can fly."

She shook her head. "I doubt you have the strength."

"Actually, if you grabbed hold of my wrist, it would be up to you." All I'd have to do is pop my shoulder back into place later. "Besides, it's easier then walking, and it'll probably be more of a surprise if you either fall through the roof or don't have to walk by the window and get seen."

She laughed slightly, then said, "If it helps me sneak up on her, I'll take it." She picked up her bow.

"Do you want the one you lent me back?" I asked.

She shook her head. "Keep it, for now, but I'll take it back when you no longer need it."

I held out my hand, and she grabbed my wrist. "This is so going to dislocate my shoulder," I complained, but before she could decide against it, I beat my wings as hard as I could, into the sky. The moment I was airborne, I could see Cooro flying up as well.

"Need help?" he offered.

"Please. I'll give you an apple for your troubles."

"Done!" He held out his wrist to Icestar, and when she took it, we flew her to Rabbitfoot's.

"Quiet down here, Cooro. We're helping Icestar sneak up on Rabbit."

He nodded.

"Where do you want us to put you?"

"In her backyard," she said, a cheeky grin on her face. I giggled. Cooro didn't get it, but he helped me place her gently in her yard.

"Why do you still have your bow and arrows?" I asked.

The grin on her face made me worry.

"Just don't kill her, alright?" I took flight, Cooro right behind me.

"For the life of her, I hope Rabbit can run fast," I whispered to Cooro.

"Yeah, me too."

We landed by Sheila's house. We had decided to keep Cooro with someone mature, like Sheila, or otherwise he would get into a lot of trouble. I winced and rubbed my shoulder. It was definitely out of place. I knocked on the door with my opposite hand. Sheila opened it and smiled. "Cooro told me he was going out for a walk."

"I flew because I saw Lilac flying, too!" he said enthusiastically.

"Why—" Sheila began.

"Surprise attack."

"Icestar?"

"Icestar."

"Come on inside, you two," she invited.

I reluctantly shook my head. "I've got to head back, otherwise Mokona might blow something up, whether or not it's with Fai, Kurogane, or Syaoran's help..."

Sheila got the note. "Before you go..." She grabbed my shoulder and my arm, and forced them together. With a pop, it snapped back into place. I nearly cried out, then sighed with relief. "Thanks, Sheila."

She smiled. "No problem. Hope your house is okay."

I laughed, then added quickly as I unfolded my wings and turned to go, "Cooro needs an apple. I told him he could have one of he helped me out."

"I keep a store of them now," she assured me. I smiled and took flight.

Slowly, I landed back by my front door. Taking the key out of my pocket, I put it in the lock and opened it. Soundstorm was out talking to Wolf, Squirrelflame, and Rubystripe. I had a feeling it had something to do with Rabbitfoot's marriage.

First a proposal, and now an assassination attempt via Icestar. Poor Rabbitfoot.

Slowly, I pushed the door open. "I'm home!" I called. As the words left my mouth, I noticed that there were papers scattered all over the floor. It looked a bit like a tornado had come through the room.

"...I should just walk away right now," I muttered. I walked inside and shut the door behind me. "Syaoran?" I called. Too late, I remembered I should've called him Syaoran-kun.

"Lilacheart-san, welcome back. How did the lesson go?" he asked, looking up from the papers he was reading. I noticed he looked fairly embarrassed. He was sitting on the sofa nearby.

"It went fine. What happened here?"

"Mokona found your binder, then fell down the stairs. I'm sorry. I was going to clean them up, but I started reading them. It's strange, a lot of these papers seem like something out of a science fiction book. Are they papers from your English homework?"

I gently took the paper he was reading out of his fingers. I read through it, and as I did so, my eyes narrowed. "...This...this is my homework, all right...but this is my science homework. This stuff isn't fictional, it's real, Syaoran-kun."

"You remembered the honorific this time," he said with a light smirk.

I nodded, smiling a little. "Still, I'm surprised you thought this was fake..."

"Well, it seems a little far-fetched."

"While I agree with you, book characters falling from the sky seemed a bit far-fetched until it happened. Particularly Amaterasu, though. I mean, she's a goddess."

He looked thoughtful, then nodded lightly. "I guess." Slowly, he frowned. I noticed he seemed a little worried. "Does having me in your house bother you?"

"No, no, no!" I said, shaking my head violently. "I don't think it's truly sunk in that you're actually Syaoran yet, but I enjoy having you around!"

He gave a light smile.

I continued, "Having all these characters around...it's just amazing. I'm sure everyone in the county would agree with me."

Finally, he nodded, though he seemed confused. "Why wouldn't it have sunk in yet?"

"Well, I mean, we've made so many jokes around book characters! I mean, you guys have merchandise based off of you! You have voice actors! Cloudy has pretended to marry Fai to Starry! Fai's voice actor calls him Kurger-burger! Cloudy has even tried marrying ME to YOU!"

"...Wow, that's a bit disturbing," Syaoran said, suppressing his laughter.

I laughed nervously.

"I have a wife?" came an amused voice from around the corner.

"...You were eavesdropping, Fai?" I asked under my breath, turning to look at him. I saw a livid Kurogane next to him, too.

"WHO calls me WHAT?!" he shouted.

Syaoran hurriedly pushed me towards the door. "Run!"

"Why, this is my house—" I began.

Kurogane unsheathed his sword and charged at me. I squeaked and sprinted out the door.

I don't know how far I ran; I was half frightened, half extremely amused. I didn't fly, because I doubted Kurogane was literally going to try and kill me. I also had the feeling that if he wanted to catch up with me, he would've. However, I managed to stay a good deal ahead of him, so I decided that he wasn't trying.

The running finally stopped when we made it to the park. Only because someone leapt out of the bushes and smashed right into Kurogane.

"What the he—" he began, as he realized he had a teenager clinging to his neck.

I burst out laughing. "Thunder, what are you doing?!" I asked.

"Glomping Kurogane, what else?!" she responded, giggling.

I was doubled over in tears by this point.

"And why would you be doing that?" he asked in a warning tone.

"Because you're just awesome," she said.

"Ninja's don't like receiving tackle hugs," I said as I tried to breathe.

"But that's not my problem, is it?" she asked playfully.

"Oh, it is now," he hissed.

She let go and ran for her life, only to get knocked over by Mistsong. "Kurogane's mine!" she yelled.

"Stop it, you two, I'm about to pee myself!" I yelled, falling to my knees, and wiping tears away from my eyes.

"Someone has no dignity," Kurogane grumbled, shooting an accusing glare at me.

Thunder took out her meat hook and the two chased each other down the road.

"...Um...Kurogane—" I began.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he sighed, sheathing his sword and following them.

Slowly, I managed to catch my breath. I straightened myself out and stretched my muscles. I turned around...and got pushed out of the way by a frantic Rabbitfoot. Icestar was behind her, an arrow nocked in her bow.

"Isn't that a bit dangerous?" I asked, but she ignored me they ran into the park and disappeared around a tree.

Syaoran and Soundstorm appeared from around two separate corners. Syaoran looked a bit irked, while Soundstorm looked just plain amused.

"Has anyone noticed there are a lot of random spazzes running around town today?"

"...Are you calling me a spaz?" I asked.

"...Yes."

"...Yeah, I've noticed to."

A loud scream filled the air. I recognized it as Rabbitfoot's. There was a long silence, then hysterical laughter echoed throughout the park.

"...She's fine," I decided, turning to look at Syaoran. "Is something wrong?"

"...I was on your computer, reading through your roleplay transcripts."

"...There's a reason those are in a locked file. How did you—"

"Mokona."

"...Ah."

"Anyway, I know when you thought I was fictional, you liked to beat the heck out of me, but you have got to stop making Fei-Wang Reed my FATHER. That's something I'd have nightmares about!"

"...Who is your father?" I asked.

He opened his mouth to respond, but as he did, I noticed about four shapes walking towards us.

"...Actually, hold on." I dashed off, leaving Soundstorm and Syaoran to talk to one another.

As I came closer, I recognized there was a wolf limping beside the four figures, and two of them were carrying an unconscious girl.

"Spirit! Ammy!" I yelled, running as fast as I could. I was completely frantic. What had happened?!

*

POV: ?????

I carried the limp girl in my arms, the brown-blonde haired girl, Kayla Reed, beside me, helping me out. I hadn't known her long. I had only known the ones surrounding me for about...three hours.

I'll backtrack here.

*

We had all been dumped by the river, though I'm unsure as to how this had happened. I had been the first to wake up. Surrounding me were three others. One was a brown-haired girl wearing a furry winter coat. Instantly I wished I was wearing one, too. Wherever we were, it was freezing. There was a girl with blonde-brown hair, wearing dusty, muddy clothing. Her hair was matted; it looked like she hadn't been in a house for a long time. I felt bad for her, and I wondered what had happened. There was also a young boy, just a kid, about twelve. He was wearing a cap and tightly gripping a strange device I couldn't identify.

I stood up, dusted myself off, and tried to remember what had happened. I recalled that I had been looking for my friends, fallen asleep...and woken up here. I shook my head. I guess I'd have to put that aside for now, as much as I didn't want to.

I took a step forward, walking towards the boy. I wasn't sure if any of them were hurt, but if I wasn't, chances were they weren't either. Still, better safe than sorry. And if anyone was hurt, I would want to check on the youngest one first. I was also curious that maybe they knew what was going on.

Gently, I grabbed his shoulder and lightly shook him back and forth. A small, light green ball slid out of his opposite hand, and I grabbed it for him. He groaned, rolled over, and sat up. He didn't appear to be injured, maybe just a little tired and confused, like I was. He looked around, and his eyes widened. He blinked. "...What?" he finally whispered.

"Hey," I greeted quietly.

Only then did he seem to notice me. He turned around. "...Where am I?" he said nervously.

"...I don't know," I admitted. Then I added, "You dropped this." I held out the small ball he had dropped.

He looked up at me, then tentatively took the ball.

"What is that?" I asked, glancing at the device.

"...It's my racquet. I play tennis," he muttered.

I didn't get it. "Tennis?"

"...You don't know what tennis is?" This seemed to surprise him.

"N-No, but you don't have to explain, I just want to work things out."

He nodded agreement. "Who are these people?" He was looking at the other two who were 'unconscious,' only now I had the feeling they were only sleeping. Which was good, because I had been worried they were all hurt.

"I'm not sure, but I'll see if I can wake them up." I turned around and walked over to the girl with the matted hair. As I walked towards her, her eyes shot open.

She blinked, then looked around.

"What's going on?"

"I don't know."

She looked at me.

"What's your name?" I asked.

She didn't answer. Instead, she grabbed my arm and turned it over, looking at my wrist. I waited their patiently, unsure of what she was interested in. "...You don't have a barcode," she finally said.

"...A what?" I asked.

"A barcode," she repeated.

"I...I'm sorry, but I don't know what that is." I was sure I sounded idiotic.

"Lucky you," was all she said before sitting up.

I turned around, unsure of what else to say to her. I walked over to the other girl, but she was already awake. "Good morning," she said, before I could say anything.

I blinked, then asked, "Do you know where we are?"

She shook her head. "No, but I've been here for three days." Her eyes clouded with worry. "I hope Aang and Sokka are alright..."

"Are those your friends? I'm looking for my friends, too," I murmured.

"I hope you find them," she said.

I offered her my hand, and she took it. I pulled her up to her feet. "My name's Katara," she said. "Who are all of these people?"

"...I don't know them, but they're just about as clueless as me."

"So I'm not alone in this whole mess, then," Katara sighed.

I shook my head. "No."

"What's your name?" Katara asked.

I opened my mouth to answer, but before I could, there was a large explosion. I swung around. We all did. "What was that?!" the 'barcode' girl asked.

"I don't know," Katara answered nervously.

I ran towards the sound of the noise, the other three behind me. I'm not sure what we were expecting, but it certainly wasn't what we found. There were about twenty green, bladed creatures that I had never seen before, surrounding a girl and a white wolf. The white wolf had red patterns on its fur, and was carrying a weapon. The girl was unconscious beside it, and the white wolf was bristling angrily. There were also about 10 injured green creatures around the twenty others. I bit my lip.

"What are those?" the kid asked.

I shook my head.

"They look like trouble," the barcode girl admitted.

I nodded. The girl and the white wolf were being herded away by the green creatures.

"...I think we should help them out," Katara finally said, and it didn't sound like she could be swayed.

"Then we need a plan," I said. My mind was involuntarily building one. I was a bit worried, though, because the plans I came up with often got me killed.

No. Seriously.

"Do you have any ideas?" the barcode girl asked.

"I'm not sure," I muttered. "Do any of you know how to fight?" I hated asking this. My friends were all great fighters, one was even a user of magic. I didn't fight.

"Yes," Katara said, nodding. "I'm a waterbender."

"I'm psychic," the barcode girl offered.

"...Nope," the kid said. "All I can do is hit a ball with a racquet."

"...That might actually be good enough," I said, smiling a little bit. Then I added, "Katara, what's a waterbender?"

"It means what it says." With that, she stood up , looked around cautiously, to be sure the creatures were gone, then headed to a small patch of snow. I was surprised when it suddenly whipped into the air.

I smiled, at the same time thinking, I probably should've known that.

A tree branch snapped, and I turned around. It whipped into the blonde girl's hand.

"Perfect!" I said, smiling. "I think this is what we can do."

I walked over to Katara, the other two following. "What's your name?" I asked, glancing at the boy.

"Um...Ryoma," he said.

I nodded. "Ryoma-kun, you can smash that ball of yours in front of the creatures. Katara-san and—"

"Kayla."

"Katara-san and Kayla-san, you can come around the opposite direction and attack them by surprise."

They nodded.

"What about you?" Ryoma asked.

I bit my lip. I'd never fought. Usually, if I tried, someone would hold me back and say that I could help just by being there and supporting.

"...I'm not really good at anything."

"Actually, your plan was pretty good," Katara put in. "It makes sense."

"I can't waterbend," I said, rolling my eyes.

"I can teach you later, unless you're a firebender, or earthbender."

I wasn't sure what to say to that, so I shrugged. "Maybe." Then I turned towards the direction the creatures had taken the girl and ran. Katara and Kayla went around, following my plan to come in from the opposite direction. I hoped that they would at least know when to come in, because I hadn't mentioned anything like that.

We stopped at a small pool-type area. It was surrounded by the green reptile creatures, and there were little slugs jumping out of the water. Neither Ryoma nor I knew what to say to that. I noticed they were trying to shove the wolf's head into the water.

"You ready?" I finally asked.

He nervously nodded. "What happens if they go after me?" He sounded scared. I felt bad for him. He was only twelve.

"Then I'll help you," I promised. "I'm not much of a fighter, but I'll buy you time. We're not planning on fighting these things, we just have to the girl and the wolf out."

"Why, do you know them?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Not really, it was Katara-san's idea. Besides, it just...seems like the right thing to do."

"...Agreed," Ryoma finally said. He stepped out, threw the ball into the air, and whacked it, as hard as he could. I liked the sound it made, for some strange reason.

The ball hit one of the creatures in the back of the head. I burst out laughing. It wasn't the best idea, but it did get everyone's attention. They all turned around, even letting go of the wolf, and ran towards us.

A water whip smashed one of the creatures in the back, causing it to trip over. Kayla threw the large, broken off tree branch at the creature standing closest to the unconscious girl before darting towards her and picking her up. Another creature ran towards her, only to get hit in the head with a tennis ball again.

"Nice aim," I commented. Ryoma smirked.

Katara smashed another creature out of the way with a water whip. Another one of them sneaked up behind her.

"Look out!" I yelled.

As it brought its blade down towards her head, it split down the middle and fell to the ground. I nearly lost my lunch, until I noticed the wolf we had rescued holding a paint brush, wagging its tail.

"I don't think this day gets any stranger," I heard Ryoma say.

"Nope!" Kayla agreed. Katara, seeming a bit shaken, darted towards us, about fifty of those creatures on her heels.

A small bomb was dropped in front of us. I had no idea where it came from.

Let's get out of here! I heard a voice say in my head. I glanced down at the wolf, who was looking up at me. I cocked my head, and it nodded. We darted off as the bomb exploded.

Ryoma turned around. "Made made dane!" he yelled, before following us.

I didn't know what that meant, but I could probably ask him later.

I don't know how we got away, but the wolf seemed to know what it was doing and where it was going, so we all just followed it. We finally stopped by a forest, where we sat down to rest.

Thank you, the wolf said.

I smiled and rested a hand on her head. Or at least, she sounded like she was a girl, anyway. "Do you know where we are?" I asked her.

You're in Wands and Worlds County. You're not the first to get dropped here. Far from it.

"Were you just dropped in here unexpectedly?" I asked.

"Who are you talking to?" Ryoma asked.

"The wolf," I responded.

He blinked, then shrugged. "I'm not surprised anymore."

Yes, I was. The girl over there is a resident here. I know the way back to town, but we should rest first. She shot a look at the girl Kayla had put down.

I nodded. I was exhausted, so I wasn't going to complain.

Also, someone might recognize you back in town. Apparently, we all have books written about all of us.

"...No, I don't," I said uncertainly.

Yes you do, the wolf said. Suddenly she sneezed.

"Someone's talking about you," I giggled.

It's not funny, she whimpered.

We stopped talking after that, just resting for a little while. After about ten to thirty minutes, the wolf stood up. If we're missing for too long, they'll start to worry. Come on, we should get going.

*

The town was in sight, now, though it was dark and cloudy. There were kids running around, enjoying themselves. I silently wondered if my friends were here, if the small group I was with weren't the only ones just dropped here.

I stopped walking when I saw a girl with brown hair, a long T-shirt, jeans, and covered in recovering wounds running towards us. As soon as she cried out, "Spirit! Ammy!" I knew the girl Kayla and I were carrying was her friend, and so was the wolf. Kayla and I put the girl down and allowed her to rest against the wolf.

"Your name is Ammy?" I asked her.

Amaterasu. They call me Ammy.

I nodded. The girl skidded to a stop, kicking up snow.

"S-Sorry...holy foo." She stared at all of us. But mostly me. Her face lit up, and she seemed so enthusiastic, it was almost cute, though I couldn't understand it. "I know all of you!" she cried.

I glanced at Amaterasu, who was looking at me in a 'What did I tell you?' sort of way.

"Katara from Avatar, Kayla Reed from the Barcode Tattoo, Ryoma Echizen from The Prince of Tennis..." Her gaze stopped on me. She didn't even say my name, she just spun around and yelled, "Syaoran!"

My eyes widened and I grabbed her shoulder. "Syaoran-kun's here?!" I could feel myself getting excited.

She looked over her shoulder and nodded, a huge grin on her face. "Yeah, he is! So are Kurogane-san, Fai-san, and Mokona! Sorry if I forget honorifics, we don't usually use them in the county."

I was so excited that I wanted to run towards the town. Katara smiled. "Are those your friends?" she asked. I nodded quickly.

The girl regained her composure and turned to look at us. "It's nice to meet you, Sakura-san," she said to me, nodding in greeting. "Is Spirithunter alright?"

I glanced at Amaterasu, who nodded.

The girl got to her knees and scratched Amaterasu behind the ears before standing up. "Let me get Kurogane-san, Fai-san, Syaoran-kun, and Emily."

She ran in the other direction, about ten times faster than she had come.

*

POV: Syaoran

"Soundstorm-san, I'm not in love with Lilacheart-san, why did you tell your brother that?" I asked as I watched Lilacheart run towards the people in the distance.

"It's fun to tease her," she said, giggling. "And it's just teasing. We all know you love Sakura."

"A-Ah...!" I whimpered, taking a step back. She laughed hysterically at my embarrassment.

I looked up as I heard Lilacheart yell, "Syaoran!" I took a step forward, unsure of whether or not to go and see what was wrong. I began to walk slowly towards them, only to have Lilacheart come dashing back and nearly crash into me.

"Get Fai-san! If you see them, get Emily and Kurogane-san, too! And Mokona!" She darted off without another word.

I glanced at the figures in the distance, then turned around and headed towards her house. What was she so excited about?

It wasn't that far, just about three minutes. I pushed the door open. "Kurogane-san? Fai-san?"

"Kurogane is still out," Fai said, walking towards me. "Is something wrong, Syaoran-kun?"

"Lilacheart-san wanted me to get you. I think something important happened, but I'm not sure what. Bring Mokona."

He blinked, a bit uncertain, and then nodded. "Mokona's in my pocket, sleeping."

I noticed Mokona's eyes opening, and it cocked its head.

"She mentioned Emily-san, too, so I'm not sure if it's good. Mokona, Lilacheart-san wanted something."

Mokona nodded. So did Fai, and we both made our way back down the street. We found Kurogane trying to pull Thunder and Mistsong off of him.

"Did we miss something?" Fai asked, laughing behind his hand.

"I think Kurogane-san has a fanclub," I sniggered.

"Continue laughing and you die," Kurogane grunted.

"Lilacheart-san wanted to talk to you, Kurogane-san."

"Do we have to fight her for Kurogane, too?" Thunder asked.

"Everyone knows she likes Syaoran," Mistsong said.

"I'm right here," I sighed.

Kurogane pulled the two of them off him and stood up. "Okay, let's go."

Suddenly Lilacheart came running back with Emily behind her. "Can you tell us what's going on?" I asked, a bit worried. "Did someone get hurt?"

"Spirithunter and Amaterasu. Ammy says they're fine, but it's better safe than sorry." She seemed excited.

"That's not a good thing."

"I'm still trying to work out how to break the good news to you."

Fai smiled. "Lilac-chan, you like to make Syaoran happy, don't you?"

"Yeah!" she said, excitedly hopping up and down slightly. "He's the coolest!"

I felt myself turning red in the face. "I-I'm only human..."

She just laughed. Finally, she took a deep breath. "One of the newcomers was Sakura. I know you guys have been worried about her, but she's fine."

"Sakura!" Everything I was worried about disappeared. I sprinted forward, followed by Kurogane, Fai, and Lilacheart, and Emily.

As I came closer, I knew Lilacheart was definitely right: Sakura was here. It wasn't that I had doubted it, but...It was so good to see her again.

"Syaoran-kun!" She ran into me and caught me in a giant hug. I wasn't embarrassed. (Not until about five minutes later, that is.)

"I was so worried about you!" I whispered to her.

She nodded. "I was looking everywhere for you guys. How did you get here?"

"I don't know. We've all been at Lilacheart-san's house."

"...Do we actually have books written about us?"

"Yeah, actually, it's kind of weird."

Lilacheart heard this and laughed.

Thunder and Mistsong stopped behind Lilacheart. "There goes that shipping," Mistsong said, sounding dejected.

"Hey!" Lilacheart yelped. "Don't make me sic a POed Icestar on you!"

"...What would happen if Trihorn showed up?" Thunder asked.

"We're all gonna die!" Soundstorm yelled.

"What are they talking about?" Sakura asked curiously.

"Who knows?" I responded.

Finally we stepped back, and Sakura hugged Kurogane and Fai. Mokona glomped Sakura. "Sakura!" it squeaked happily. I turned to look at the others who had come with Sakura; the three of them were just staring. Two were smiling, while the other, who was just a kid, was looking a bit confused.

"Your friend Sakura is a pretty good strategist," said the long, brown-haired girl in the winter jacket.

"...Did she nearly get herself killed again?" I asked nervously.

She shook her head. "Your friend, Spirithunter? I'd say the plan saved her from those green creatures back there."

"...Green creatures?" I glanced over at Soundstorm and Lilacheart, who exchanged a glance.

"Hork-Bajir," they said nervously.

"There was also a pool—"

The girl was cut off when Lilacheart swore suddenly. "This is bad."

"Why?" I asked, unsure.

"A Yeerk pool. Did either Ammy or Spirit get their heads anywhere near it?"

"They were trying to put the wolf's head in, but it kept biting off their fingers."

She looked for something to say, but finally just settled for, "Owned."

"Who are all of you?" I asked.

"Katara."

"Kayla."

"..."

"Ryoma-san," Sakura supplied. "By the way, Syaoran-kun, what's tennis?"

I shrugged. "I think it's...um...I actually have no idea."

"Tennis is a game where you hit a ball back and forth with a racquet," Lilacheart said.

"Say 'what she said'," Soundstorm whispered.

"Stop being a bad influence on Syaoran!" Lilacheart whimpered.

I laughed uncertainly.

"It's a twin thing," the two said at the same time.

As the two went and introduced themselves to the newcomers, and told them where they were, I decided to explain some of the situation to Sakura.

"This is Wands and Worlds County. Apparently, characters from alternate worlds are considered fictional here, and we're written about as if we don't actually exist."

"That's strange," Sakura said. I had to agree with her there.

"Problem is that there are also the...er...not so good people here as well."

"...Like the clone?" she asked uncertainly.

I nodded. "Yes, he tried to kill Lilacheart-san."

Her eyes widened in complete shock. "Then how is she—"

"She grew wings. It has something to do with completely different world logic, or something like that. +Anima."

"That's...weird, and interesting," Sakura admitted. "I'm glad that no one here has been worse than just hurt."

I nodded in agreement.

Suddenly, Mokona went boink in my palm. Kurogane and Fai noticed this and walked over to us. "What's up with Mokona?" Fai asked.

"I don't—" I began.

A symbol suddenly appeared beneath our feet. "Mokona, what's going on?! " Sakura shouted.

The Wandies all turned around.

"Where are they going!?" Thunder asked nervously.

Lilacheart looked at me. "I don't know," I mouthed, a bit nervous.

Mokona leapt into the air and spread its wings. A light surrounded the four of us, swirling until we were obscured from sight. We were all too familiar with this: Mokona was going to switch worlds.

The real question was why?

It inhaled us all, and everything went dark. That's when something unusual happened. A spark of lightning suddenly flashed in my dark vision.

And then there was a loud crash. Pain flooded through me, and I cried out. I could hear Sakura, Fai, Mokona, and Kurogane, too. I could feel lightning surrounding me, electrocuting me, over and over again. I tried to breathe; this technically failed.

When the pain stopped, I could feel myself falling. I couldn't open my eyes, and I couldn't work out what had just happened. The fall stopped abruptly, but it didn't hurt, and it certainly didn't feel like I had hit the ground. I struggled to open one of my eyes and saw Lilacheart, her wings unfurled.

"Does that always happen when you try to change worlds?" she asked uncertainly.

I shook my head lightly, looking around, trying to figure out where everyone else was. There was a small water platform underneath Sakura that was slowly lowering her to the ground. Fai was falling slowly, but I wasn't sure why. I couldn't see Kurogane or Mokona.

Lilacheart landed on the ground lightly, and that's when I spotted Kurogane and Mokona. Mistsong and Thunder had both caught Kurogane, though they had been sort of squashed flat in the process. Ryoma had caught Mokona. I was sure that if he was used to hitting and catching what Lilacheart had called a 'tennis ball', catching something bigger than that would be easy, and Mokona was clearly bigger then a tennis ball.

The whole thing, apparently, was not only witnessed by those at the scene, because it seemed like half the county was here, now. Sheila, Magicyop, Riskay, Whisperheart, Ivyflower, Squirrelflame, Jadepool, Lakestorm, Dawnstripe, Icestar, Icetail, Rabbitfoot, Moonglow, Coalfang, Cloudwind, Starsight, Silentstorm, Rubystripe, Crescentmoon, Forestpelt, Foxwhisper, Kennen, Goldenslash, Sevenclaws, Copperrose, Lostpaw, Sparrowheart, Sunstreak, Quailfeather, Minou, and the two hundred and fifty one other members who will likely be complaining that I forgot them.

Kayla slowly lowered Fai to the ground, and Katara brought Sakura down gently and leaned her against a tree. "What just happened?!" a girl named Brambleflower cried.

Everyone was talking all at once.

"What happened?" Lilacheart asked me.

"I don't know. Mokona tried to change worlds, and then everything hurt." I probably sounded drunk, but I was a bit out of it.

"Why did you guy try to leave?"

"...We didn't try, Mokona just did."

She nodded, and walked over to Ryoma, still carrying me.

"Mokona?" she asked.

"Mokona felt like it was being called," it whimpered. "Mokona...felt like it had to go..." It burst into tears. "Mokona's sorry!"

Lilacheart grabbed my wrist and placed my hand on its head. "It's fine, Mokona," I muttered. "Just...who was—"

"Yûko."

I sighed, and my eyes fell shut. "If it was Yûko, why didn't she call you via the black Mokona?"

"...It hasn't been possible these past few days. Mokona's tried, it can't communicate with Black Mokona."

"I think we're all closed off to the outside world," Minou sighed, who was right behind us, slowly shaking his head.

"I certainly don't want to be the one to find out if that's true," Coalfang muttered.

"What the heck is that?!" yelled Foxwhisper. This completely diverted our attention from the world changing dilemma. We all turned around to see what she was talking about. I felt Lilacheart tensed. I found that I couldn't force my eyes open. "What's going on?" I asked her.

"...How many Hork-Bajir is it when it looks like there's a green tidal wave in the distance?" Her voice cracked twice in that sentence.

As I managed to force my eyes open a crack, I realized a 'green tidal wave' was an understatement. It looked someone had planted grass in the snow. The dark clouds looked even more ominous, and it almost looked like it was night. However, I knew it was only late afternoon. I tried to get up, but a spark appeared on my arm and jolted though my body. I groaned and didn't try that again.

"Do you think those Hork-Bajir could've chosen a worse time?" Sunstreak asked when she saw this.

"We could all be injured," Lilacheart suggested.

"True."

"...I need a chair," Lostpaw said slowly. There was a ripple of nervous laughter.

"Do we all have our weapons on hand?" Sheila asked.

There were some yes's and some no's.

"Lilac, Katara, Kayla, Thunder, Misty, Ryoma. You guys should get Syaoran, Sakura, Fai, Kurogane, and Mokona out of here. I don't think they're in any condition to fight."

I heard Kurogane grunt in disagreement, and I had a feeling he was trying to sit up.

"Kurogane!" Sheila snapped.

"I'm not sitting out!" he hissed.

"Yes, you are!" Sheila insisted. "You're not fighting in your condition!"

"Says who?"

"Says me."

"And who said I have to listen to you?!"

"We did!" I actually laughed when I realized that every single Wandie had said this in unison.

There was no way for Kurogane to argue with that.

"Actually, Thunder, Misty, you stay here. Cmoon, it would be easier for you to evacuate Kurogane. You can all come back to battle when they're safe."

"We can take them to my house," Lilacheart said. "Losty, we'll bring back a chair."

"Bring your bow and arrow with you, Lilac," Icestar said. "This would be good practice."

"I will."

"And no one from the Tsubasa group is fighting this battle."

I was reluctant to agree with that, but the Wandies had made it pretty clear with Kurogane that what Sheila says, goes.

"Come on, I'll get you out of here," Lilacheart whispered to me. I didn't respond. I heard the sound of Sheila and Magicyop giving battle commands as I was taken away from the scene.

***

Chapter Twelve

POV: Mokona
(I had a hard time deciding whether to write this part in first person or third person (like how Mokona always refers to itself), but after talking it over with Lilac, I decided to do first person. I hope it turned out okay. ^^)

I felt absolutely horrible as Lilacheart, Crescentmoon, Katara, and Kayla helped the others towards the twins' house. I buried my head in Ryoma's arms, trying not to whimper. Even though I couldn't have resisted Yûko's call, I still felt responsible for injuring the others. Well, I had been hurt too; whatever shock that had been had passed through me to the others. I probably wasn't in much better condition.

It felt like forever before we finally reached Lilacheart and Soundstorm's house, but at last it came into sight. Lilacheart, still supporting Syaoran, led the way up the steps, fished her key out of her pocket, and unlocked the door. The entire group trooped inside, Ryoma trailing after them and shutting the door.

Lilacheart helped Syaoran to the couch before saying, "I'll go get the stuff we need," and racing down the hall. Crescentmoon, Katara, and Kayla helped the others sit down as well, and Ryoma passed me to Sakura.

"You all heard Sheila," Crescentmoon said, sounding stern. "Stay here, don't try to come to the battle."

Predictably, I could hear Kurogane muttering furiously under his breath. There was a long silence, then at last Syaoran let out a weary sigh. "All right, we won't," he relented.

At that moment Lilacheart came racing back down the hall again, a bow and quiver of arrows slung over one shoulder while she struggled to carry a chair. Looking like she was trying to bite back a smile, Crescentmoon took the chair from her. "Just stay here, all right? We'll do our best."

And with that the five of them trooped out, the door closing shut behind them. There was a brief silence.

"'Their best' isn't gonna be enough," Kurogane grumbled.

I giggled. "Kurogane is such a worrywart."

"What did you say, you white pork bun?!" he snarled.

I giggled again and ducked into Sakura's arms. "Nothing!"

*

POV: Sevenclaws

I tried to be patient as Sheila strode among the Wandies, giving out advice and comfort where it was needed as she split the entire county into two groups. I placed a hand in my Absol's ruff, taking comfort from it. It uttered a low growl of acknowledgement; I could feel it trembling as it anticipated the coming battle.

I glanced out at the wave of oncoming Hork-Bajir and narrowed my eyes. "They sure be taking their time," I muttered. Absol rumbled in agreement.

I turned around suddenly and began to weave my way back through the crowd of Wandies, Absol trotting at my heels. I wanted to check on Spirithunter, to see if she had woken up yet.

I found her near the back of the group, still leaning against the tree where Kayla and Sakura had left her. She was awake now though—or at least, her eyes were open. She was staring blankly around us, as if she couldn't see anyone. I kneeled down in front of her. "Hunter-foot?"

No response. I grabbed her shoulder and shook her lightly. "Hey!"

She started violently, then her gaze locked onto me. "Seven," she muttered, trying to sit up. She winced suddenly and brought a hand to her forehead. "What happened?"

I shrugged. "Sakura, Katara, Kayla, and Ryoma be the ones who brought you back."

Spirithunter drew up her legs, cradling her head in her hands. "I remember going down to the lake to train with the Celestial Brush...the Hork-Bajir attacking us...and then waking up here." She winced again and muttered, "I have a splitting headache."

"Seven?" someone called behind me. I turned around to see Sheila walking towards us. She seemed about to speak when she suddenly noticed that Spirithunter was awake, and kneeled down next to me. "How're you feeling?"

"Fine enough," Spirithunter muttered dryly. "What's happening?"

"There's maybe a hundred or more Hork-Bajir coming towards us," Sheila reported grimly.

For a split second I could have sworn Spirithunter looked furious. No, I must have mistake it for the determined look she gave Sheila. "Let me fight in this battle. We're going to need all the help we can get."

Sheila hesitated for a long moment. "You sure you can fight in this battle?"

Spirithunter nodded vigorously. Sheila hesitated again before relenting. "All right, fine. You'll be in the defending group back here. Seven, I'm putting you in the attacking group up front. Roy's insisting on leading, so go meet up with him."

"Rodger that," I responded. Sheila rose to her feet again and disappeared back into the crowd of Wandies. I offered Spirithunter my hand and helped her to her feet. "You be lucky Sheila-san's letting you fight, you know."

"Why's that?" she asked resting one hand against the tree to keep her balance.

"Mokona tried to switch dimensions earlier. The Tsubasa group, they be electrocuted."

Spirithunter's eyes went wide.

"Sheila sent them to KuZ and Zound's house to rest. You be lucky she didn't do the same to you."

Spirithunter nodded, looking thoughtful. "You'd better get going before Roy tries to look for you."

I could not help but chuckle at the thought. "Luck be with you. RTA," I said, weaving my way back through the crowd to the front again. I found Roy near the head, already with a large group of people cluster nearby. I spotted Lostpaw, Rubystripe, Coalfang, Thunder, Cloudwind, and Kennen in the group, along with Danny, Ripred, Adriane, Stormbringer, and Dreamer. There was another girl there too, someone I didn't recognize right away, though I had seen her around the county before. A large golden eagle was perched on her shoulder; as I approached it cocked its head towards me and let out a harsh screech. Absol barked in return, and the eagle roused its feathers before settling again.

"Hello," I said once I was within earshot.

The girl turned around, and I recognized her as Heartwing. "Hey, Seven," she greeted. "Sheila put you up front too?"

I nodded. "You be ready to fight in this battle?"

Heartwing hesitated. "I hope so," she muttered. "I haven't really had any battle experience..."

The eagle shifted on her shoulder.

"Oh, right! I'm sorry, I forgot. A few days ago, this eagle came to me. Apparently he's my daemon. His name's Gyrino."

"Greetings, Gyrino," I said. The daemon dipped his head in return.

"Hey!" a voice called from behind me, and I turned to see Crescentmoon and Soundstorm running over to us. Soundstorm was carrying a sword in one hand, holding the sheathed blade just under the hilt for easy access. Crescentmoon was carrying a chair, and I noticed a pair of pistols dangling from a belt around her waist.

"Here," Crescentmoon said, handing the chair to Lostpaw. "We brought a chair back for you."

"Thanks," she laughed, accepting the chair and testing its weight.

"Where'd ya get those?" Kennen asked, nodding to the pistols.

"I ordered them when all these troubles started," she answered, sounding a bit reluctant. "I figured I might as well have some kind of weapon if we were going to get into messes like this."

"Well said," Kennen grunted, and I noticed his own hand gripping his AK-47.

"Are we all here?" Roy called out across the group. "We're moving out soon."

"Wait up!" someone shouted, and I spotted Rabbitfoot running over to us. She skidded to a stop in front of Roy and doubled over, trying to catch her breath. "I'm...with...you guys...too," she panted.

"Are you prepared to fight?" Roy queried.

"Yeah," she responded, straightening up again.

"What be your weapon, Foot?" I asked. She didn't seem to be carrying any weapon of sorts.

"This!" she exclaimed, pulling sometime out of her pocket and laying it on her palm to show me. It looked like a small purple pin, dusted with white snowflakes and sporting a black plus-sign in the center surrounded by a gold and orange outline.

"...What be it?"

"It's a type of pin with telepathic powers," she said. "Or at least, that's what Lilac was able to tell me before Sheila sent me over here."

"The World Ends With You!" Soundstorm exclaimed suddenly, and we all turned to look at her in confusion. "That's what it's from. You hold it and think about it, then you can move stuff with your mind."

"Cool!" Rabbitfoot commented, studying the pin thoughtfully.

"Is everyone ready?" Roy called again.

This time he was answered by a round of various yeses, some more enthusiastic than others, but a strong answer nonetheless.

"Good. We're going to go straight in and attack them while those...Hork-Bajir, I believe they're called...are simply standing around without attacking." He produced a pair of gloves out of his pocket and pulled them on. "Attack!"

Perhaps this was rather cheesy, but our entire group gave a single shout and suddenly rushed at the Hork-Bajir. I was in the middle, Absol running next to me, when I realized something seemed off.

"Why they not be attacking?" I muttered to Soundstorm. "They be the ones who lead this invasion after all..."

"I don't—"

A scream echoed from behind us, and I skidded to a stop, whipping around. What looked like a mound of grass was leaping out at the defending group, blades flashing in the weakening light.

Wait a—grass didn't have blades. Well, not quite like that.

"They tricked us!" Adriane shouted, spinning around with golden fire whipping from the stone on her wrist. "Some of them must've circled around while we were getting organized!"

Kennen swore loudly. Roy looked furious for a moment, but then he was back in charge. "We'll have to trust the others to handle it on their own! Continue the attack!"

Our group faltered slightly, still shocked at the sudden turn of events, but I pushed my way out to the front, trying to return their resolve. Rabbitfoot raced beside me, my Absol in between us as we rushed the Hork-Bajir head on. "Night Slash!" I commanded.

The crest on Absol's head glowed darkly, then it launched forward and slashed at the nearest Hork-Bajir, a sharp dark line trailing after it. It roared with pain as it was thrown backwards, bowling over several of its fellows in the process. Rabbitfoot reached out and gestured to a garbage can sitting on the side of the street. It trembled and rose into the air. She flung her arm to the side, and the garbage can hurtled into the Hork-Bajir, knocking several more down in the process.

"Nice!" I shouted at her while I ducked a Hork-Bajir's blade.

"Thanks!" she called back, using the pin to throw a Hork-Bajir into the air.

I wove through the battle, my Absol and I attacking the aliens and trying our best to force them back. At one point I found myself back-to-back with Coalfang. He was using a dagger against the Hork-Bajir, easily ducking their blades while lashing out with his own. I have to say, for us Wandies to have such little battle experience in general, he was rather good.

"Psycho Cut!" I shouted. Absol's crest began to glow brightly, then it tossed its head in the air and slashed downwards. The glow launched from its crest and slammed into three Hork-Bajir at once, throwing them backwards until they skidded across the ground, bowling over several of their fellows.

Apparently we were beginning to get on their nerves. Many of the Hork-Bajir drew weapons, small, hand-held things that looked like pistols.

"Dracon beams!" someone shouted from behind me. "Duck!"

I didn't pause to think; I hit the ground flat on my stomach. Bright beams of red light lanced from the muzzle of the gun—Dracon beam, whatever you want to call it—and shot directly above my head. One of the beams got so close that it burnt a hole the size of a quarter in a corner of my jacket. Any slower and the hole would have gone through me.

"Shadow Claw!" I cried, scrambling to my feet again.

Absol's claws pulsed with dark energy, and it launched itself at the nearest Hork-Bajir, giving it a quick slash across the chest. It flailed and fell backwards, its weapon skidding across the ground towards me. I picked it up; it was too large to hold comfortably, but it wasn't unusable.

One of the Hork-Bajir lunged at me, it's blades flashing. I swung around and instinctively fired the weapon. The Dracon beam shot a hole clean through its shoulder, and it went down, howling.

"...Perhaps this battle be less hopeless than it seems," I muttered, gripping the weapon and plunging back into the fray.

*

POV: Fai

I sat on the couch, Sakura and Mokona next to me, watching as Kurogane paced restlessly back and forth. I couldn't help but compare him with some kind of caged animal—which, when I thought about it, was practically what Kurogane was.

"There's no use getting all agitated about it," I pointed out. "Sheila-san told us we shouldn't go join them; Syaoran-kun gave her his word we wouldn't."

"Not directly," he snapped back. "He didn't give it to her directly. Clearly she's underestimating us though; we've gotten through worse than this before!"

"We have," I agreed quietly. I couldn't help but remember our time in Tokyo, when our group had been split and broken. It had been far more physically—and emotionally—painful than this.

But I couldn't resist. "The party at the Cat's Eye was so much more difficult, wasn't it?"

"That was only bad for Kurogane-san, Fai-san," Syaoran laughed. Mokona also broke out giggling; Kurogane shot both of them a glare.

Syaoran suddenly fell silent, glancing over my shoulder at the window behind me. My first reaction was to twist around, but a clear view outside was blocked by curtains; only a little bit of light and shadows filtered through. "You're worried about Lilac-chan, aren't you?"

He flushed slightly, and it took all I had to keep a straight face. "W-Well, not just her...aren't you worried about Starsight-san too?"

So much for a straight face. "Of course I am," I replied, struggling to match my expression with my words. "I'm worried about all of them. I think that Kurogane's right in that they might not be able to handle it alone." I shifted slightly, then winced as a bright blue spark raced up my arm. Apparently we still had a bit of an electric current running through our bodies.

"Even if we shouldn't be fighting that doesn't mean we can't," Kurogane grunted, continuing to pace back and forth. I noticed another blue spark flash across his back, but he ignored it. "Like I said, we've pulled through worse than this. They need all the help they can get, so why won't they accept it?!"

"I don't—"

A chime rang through the house; from my short time here I recognized it as the doorbell. We all exchanged a brief glance, Syaoran looking confused, Sakura looking scared, Kurogane's expression as unreadable as always. Mokona ducked into Sakura's pocket, and I rose to my feet. "I'll get it," I said, moving towards the door. Kurogane followed right behind me; Syaoran spoke quietly before leaving Sakura and trailing after us. I hesitated, my hand on the handle, before I turned it and pulled the door open.

Well, half-open.

The door suddenly blew off its hinges, barely missing me as it was thrown clear across the room. Three green, bladed, reptilian creatures stepped into the house, their heads scraping the ceiling. Hork-Bajir, I remembered they were called. One of them gave a shout and levelled what looked like a gun at me. I leapt to the side, barely escaping the bright red beam that shot out of it, burning a hole in the floor. Metal flashed through the air, and the Hork-Bajir roared in pain as the gun it was holding and half its arm skidded away across the floor. Another quick slash from Sôhi finished it. The other two paused, as if trying to analyze the situation.

"Too slow!" Kurogane snarled, lashing out with his sword again. The two Hork-Bajir seemed too shocked to respond, seeing as they both went down without a fight.

"What was THAT?!" Syaoran exclaimed.

"Hork-Bajir, apparently," I answered, striding over to the door and glancing out to the street.

Kurogane hadn't been kidding when he said the others would be in trouble.

There was a battle literally raging on the street directly in front of us. I recognized Sevenclaws, wielding one of those gun-like things and with his Absol at his side, fighting with Coalfang, who was using a dagger as a weapon. A little farther up the street, Icestar and Cloudwind were working as a team to keep the Hork-Bajir at bay, one firing arrow after arrow, the other striking out with what looked like a giant key. Past that, Ripred was stomping down the street, leaving huge cracks in the road as he lashed out with sharp teeth. Actually, from what I could see, it looked like this entire battle was happening all over the county.

"If you were the kind of guy who would say 'I told you so'," I said slowly to Kurogane, "now would definitely be the time you would rub it in our faces, wouldn't it?"

He didn't respond, but I already knew what he meant.

"We've got to help them," Syaoran gasped. "I don't care if Sheila-san told us to stay put, we have to go help them."

I smiled at him. "She didn't tell us to stay put, technically. She just told us not to follow them into the battle."

Just a future note for you: Whenever Kurogane smiles, you know that everything is about to go to...well...heck. "She said nothing about the battle coming to us, now, did she?" he said, darting past us and into the street. He charged at the Hork-Bajir surrounding Sevenclaws and Coalfang, quickly taking out half of them before they even noticed he was there.

I glanced at Syaoran. "You're going too?"

"Of course I am," he responded, clapping his hands together and swiftly drawing his sword out of his palm with magic. He turned around, and I noticed that Sakura was standing behind us. "Please stay here, it's dangerous out there," Syaoran said.

For a moment Sakura looked like she wanted to object, then she gave a short nod. "Be careful, all of you."

"We'll be fine, Sakura-chan," I promised, then Syaoran and I raced outside into the battle. A knot of Hork-Bajir stormed at us from the right; Syaoran leapt at them, his blade whirling. I ducked and dodged their blades, using martial arts rather than magic as a form of attack. It didn't take us long to finish them off, despite the fact that we were still weak from being electrocuted.

"Where to now?" I asked Syaoran.

"I want to get through this battle, see if I can find Lilacheart-san and Soundstorm-san," he answered.

I bit back a grin. "Good luck then. I'm off to find Starry-chan, see if she needs help."

"All right. Good luck to you too."

He darted off down one street, while I took another. Though the county was a small place, I felt that it was going to take a while for us to find Lilacheart, Soundstorm, and Starsight. But it didn't matter, I decided. We'd find them.

*

POV: Wolf

First instinct: Run.

Second instinct: Don't run, you idiot, you'll either be run through with a blade or shot with some kind of red laser beam if you move.

...Wait, maybe I should back up a bit and explain a few things.

The last thing I remember before waking up in the county's town hall (where we usually held our meetings) was sitting at my computer, working on a new animation I was trying out. I remembered a sharp pain in the back of my head, but that was about it.

Well, until I woke up surrounded by a bunch of reptilian aliens, that is.

Even though I had tried to ask them what the heck was going on, not a single one of them would answer me. They kept speaking to each other in a different language, something I couldn't identify let alone understand. Every now and then they used a word in English though. 'Battle', 'invasion', and 'flame' I could understand.

There was a sudden bang at the other end of the Hall, and the Hork-Bajir froze. At first I thought it was a Wandie about to walk in on this scene, and for a second, as the double doors swung open, I felt a little hope as I recognized Syaoran's silhouette. Then it fell again, as I realized the sword he carried was bathed in fire. This was his clone, the one who had attacked Lilacheart at the construction site the other day.

The doors swung shut behind him as Shaoran strode down the middle aisle, which was lined with benches on either side. We were standing at the front, on the stage, me and my guard of Hork-Bajir. The largest one stepped forward as Shaoran climbed the steps onto the stage. "As you instructed, phyorhaj, we have captured one of these so-called Wandies."

And for a moment there I thought they couldn't speak English at all.

"Good," Shaoran said shortly. "Soon the others will realize they're missing a comrade, and will come in search for her. Our plan to eliminate them all will soon come into effect."

"Eliminate?" I repeated without thinking.

Shaoran turned to glare at me, and I tried not to flinch at his mismatched gaze, one amber eye, one blue. "Yes, eliminate. I will let nothing stand in the way of my goal of collecting the feathers."

"Wh...Wait a sec. The feathers?"

He gave me 'the look'. "You are one of these Wandies, correct? You read about our stories, you know our lives. I search for Princess Sakura's feathers, and I can sense that there's one in this country."

For a second I couldn't think. Then my brain began running wild, like a squirrel on Red Bull. The whole plot behind Tsubasa was that Sakura's memories had been crystallized into feathers and scattered throughout countless dimensions. Had one of her feathers really landed in Wands and Worlds County?

Shaoran nodded to the largest Hork-Bajir again. "Stay here on guard. The rest of you, we're waiting outside for the ambush."

"Phyorhaj, shouldn't we...secure the human so she doesn't resist?" the Hork-Bajir inquired. Somehow, I got the awful feeling that it meant kill.

Shaoran hesitated, and I saw something flicker briefly in his eyes. But it was gone before I could identify it. "No," he said shortly, turning away. "Leave her alive. It won't draw them in otherwise." With that he climbed down the steps again and swept back down the aisle, the other Hork-Bajir following him. The door closed behind them with an ominous bang, and then there was silence.

"...So what're you doing running around with him?" I said, wondering why in the world I was trying to strike up a conversation with an alien from a book who could kill me before I could even blink.

"I am not 'running around with him', as you put it," it snapped. "He offers power, and has the ability to lead us. Without that, we cannot operate to our best."

"Oh, so what, you'd have like a dominance fight or something?"

No answer.

I decided to ask something else. "What does phyorhaj mean anyways?"

"It's a word of our own language, literally meaning 'flame blade'."

"Oh, so it's like a term of respect or something? I don't get how you can respect him, though."

The Hork-Bajir suddenly let out a furious growl. "You ask too many questions," it snarled. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it swing its fist directly at my head, then stars danced in front of my eyes and I blacked out.

*

POV: Starsight

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who was surprised when the Hork-Bajir suddenly leaped at us from behind. Judging from the screams and shouts I heard up and down the line, that is. Instinctively I threw up a wide shield behind me, which protected me, Lilacheart, Magicyop, Minou, and Icestar from the initial attack. I couldn't make the shield much larger without the risk of it cracking. Fortunately everyone managed to either block or avoid the Hork-Bajir's attack, throwing back counterattacks of their own. I slashed my hand through the air, and my Kudan shot a barrage of icicles at the Hork-Bajir. I had been practicing since the last battle, so this turned out to be a little stronger than my first fight at the construction site. I won't go into details of the wounds they caused.

I spun around and raced down the hill into the street, trying to gain some room. Lilacheart ran next to me, spreading her wings and taking to the air. I skidded around and shot another barrage of icicles at the Hork-Bajir, which felled several of them, but didn't stop the mass in general.

This was where I started to realize that, while my Kudan was excellent in battle, the way I had been working with it so far wasn't really suited for hand-to-hand combat. I couldn't keep running away all the time in order to gain enough room to fire; I needed to have some kind of weapon that would work at close ranges too.

Almost as if it had read my mind, my Kudan soared down in front of me, let out a high trill, then began to melt, moulding itself into a long and straight shape. After a few heartbeats I realized that it had become a sword. I grasped the hilt, looking the blade up and down. The design reminded me of Syaoran's sword, except the blade was a sheer white ice tipped with blue at the end. The hilt was made of blue ice too, with a crest design that reminded me of my Kudan's wings. I couldn't help but remember how Kurogane's Kudan had also transformed into a sword, in order to match its strength with his.

A loud roar shook me out of my thoughts, and my head whipped up to realize that the Hork-Bajir was practically right on top of me. I yelped and flung the sword up, blocking its blade as it swung straight down at my head. The screech was as harsh as the ice shields I used, but I tried to ignore it as I shoved its arm aside and struck out at its shoulder. It twisted so that its shoulder blade blocked my sword, then flashed out with its other arm straight for my right side, the one that had been injured by Shaoran.

I need a shield! I thought desperately. Suddenly, a shield of ice appeared directly in the path of its claws, blocking the blow. I pulled my sword away and stumbled back a few paces. "So I can still create shields even without my Kudan physically beside me...in a sense," I muttered. "Cool."

The Hork-Bajir, probably furious now, lunged at me again, blades flashing. I didn't let myself think, just blocked blow after blow with sword and shields. It was so fast I couldn't find a single opening; it was all I could do to keep defending.

"Starry, get down!" someone shouted behind me. I ducked, throwing a shield of ice above my head, as a sharp line of ink drew across the Hork-Bajir's chest, slashing it in two easily. I scrambled to my feet again, glancing around to see Spirithunter standing a little ways behind me. "You okay?" she asked.

"Fine, thanks!" I called to her as we both turned back into the battle. I couldn't really keep track of everything that went on; it was mostly a whirlwind of blades and ice. I saw a few people here and there; Cloudwind fighting with her keyblade, Danny shooting plasma beams and overshadowing some of the Hork-Bajir so they fought their fellows, Kayla using any kind of objects within reach to throw telepathically at the Hork-Bajir. Sometimes even another Hork-Bajir.

When I finally had the chance to look around, I realized that we were getting rather close to Sheila's house. Not that this really helped much, but it made me wonder how the battle suddenly got so spread out when we had started at the park. It was like the battle was taking over the entire county...

I felt the attack just before it hit, and flung myself to the side. I wasn't fast enough though; the Hork-Bajir's blade cut deep into my left shoulder. I bit back a scream of pain and sliced at its leg. It whipped its tail up to block my blow, aiming another swing at my own leg this time. I stumbled backwards, barely avoiding the strike and completely losing my balance.

A lash of magic blasted over my head, catching the Hork-Bajir full on and throwing it backwards at such a velocity it tore up some of the pavement. I managed to regain my balance and turned around to see Fai racing towards me. "Are you all right?" he called once he was within earshot.

"I'm okay," I said, pressing slightly on the wound to slow the blood flow. There wasn't time to worry about it; five more Hork-Bajir were barrelling towards us down the street. Was there just no end to this?

A roar split the air, much heavier and deeper than the Hork-Bajir's. They skidded to a stop out of pure confusion—then something huge and gold dropped out of the sky, lashing out at the Hork-Bajir and knocking them all over in one swipe. Shardas landed heavily on the ground, sending huge cracks across the pavement, and roared loudly. The Hork-Bajir practically scrambled over each other in order to escape; I almost laughed.

Someone slipped down from his back, and my first reaction was surprise to see that it was Sheila. She was carrying a Dracon beam; I guessed that she had gotten it off one of the defeated Hork-Bajir. "Are you guys okay?" she asked.

"We're fine," I lied, letting the sword melt back into my Kudan and pressing my hand against my shoulder. There wasn't time to find Emily for a healing or anything.

Sheila didn't look convinced, but she didn't press me any further. "Shardas was kind enough to let me ride him over the town. The situation's pretty bad; there's little skirmishes happening all over the suburbs."

I tried not to gulp at the news.

"On the bright side, we're holding off pretty well," she continued. "I've done a Wandie count, though, and we're missing someone. I didn't see Wolf anywhere while I was above the battle."

"Sh-She could be inside one of the houses or something..." I muttered, but I had a feeling that this wasn't the case.

Sheila shook her head, whether in disagreement or at a loss I couldn't tell. "Can I ask you guys to look for her on the ground? I'm going to stick to the air, help out in the battle where I can."

"Sure, we can do that," I said. Sheila gave a grateful nod before she turned and climbed back onto Shardas' back again. The massive dragon gave us a nod before he opened his wings and took to the skies again.

"Have you noticed any kind of patterns at all?" Fai asked me suddenly.

"Eh? Patterns?"

He nodded. "While I was searching for you, it seemed to me that these Hork-Bajir are trying to push everyone in one direction. I think we're pretty close to said location that we're being forced to."

I paused for a moment, but not too long to think about it. "We'll have to worry about it later, I guess. Right now we need to find Wolf."

We took off down the street, picking a path that seemed to have the least amount of Hork-Bajir. At one point I spotted Adriane and waved her over. Stormbringer stayed behind to fight with Ryoma and Moony, while Dreamer bounded over with the Warrior. "What's up?" Adriane asked. "How're you guys doing?"

"Okay for now," I responded. "Listen, one of the other Wandies has gone missing. Wolf. We're going to look for her, and it'd be great if we could have your help."

Adriane nodded. "Dreamer and I'll come," she said. "Do you have any idea where to look first?"

I thought for a moment. "Let's check the town hall. It's a good place to hide, so I wouldn't be surprised if she's there."

Fai gave a short nod. "Lead the way."

I started down a catwalk, a little shortcut between two streets. It beat having to take the long way around to get there, anyways. Especially since the town hall was just on the other side of the street once we emerged from the catwalk. I checked both ways before I darted across the street and up the steps. Not to check for cars, but to check for Hork-Bajir. I couldn't see any; I guessed that the battle hadn't quite stretched this far yet.

The door was slightly ajar, leaving just enough room to squeeze inside. I slipped in through the doors, took one look up at the stage at the front, and dived behind the closest row of benches. We'd found Wolf all right. Problem was, we had also found a Hork-Bajir.

Fai, Adriane, and Dreamer crouched down next to me; I shifted over a little so there was more room. Since the Hork-Bajir hadn't shouted or anything, I guessed that it hadn't seen us. "What's it doing here?"

Dreamer slunk to the edge of the bench on his belly and peeked around the corner. Big green monster, he woofed in my mind. The girl is...silent. Sleeping?

"Unconscious, I bet," I whispered softly. I hope. "We're going to have to distract that Hork-Bajir so one of us can get Wolf out of there."

"Leave that to me," Adriane whispered back. She crawled over to Dreamer, and the two of them began to slink up the aisle towards the stage.

They only got about halfway there before the Hork-Bajir suddenly swung around, levelling a Dracon beam in their general direction. "Come out!" it growled in a guttural voice. "I know you're there!"

"Good, it's getting cramped down here," Adriane shot back, leaping to her feet and spinning a shield of golden fire from the stone on her wrist. The Hork-Bajir fired, but the Dracon beam just bounced harmlessly off the shield. Adriane shot out a long snake of golden fire, grabbing the weapon and ripping it out of the Hork-Bajir's hands. Dreamer caught it in his jaws and crunched down, shattering the weapon. With a snarl the Hork-Bajir leaped from the stage, blades flashing.

"Now!" I hissed, and we raced up the aisle, dodged the fight, and leapt onto the stage. I dropped down next to Wolf, quickly checking for a pulse. "She's okay," I sighed. "Just unconscious." I shook her shoulder. "Wolf?"

No response. I exchanged a glance with Fai before I shook her again, a little harder this time. "Wolf?"

She groaned slightly, let out a little cough, and opened her eyes. "Starry?" she muttered weakly.

"Yeah, it's me. Are you okay?"

"Well, I've got a huge lump on the side of my head, which I think adds to the one I got earlier, but other than that I'm good," she said dryly, slowly sitting up. "What's going on?"

There was a loud crash from behind me, but for the moment I didn't worry about it. "Apparently the Hork-Bajir have launched an attack against the county. There're fights going on all over the place out there, and I think they're coming here soon too."

Wolf's eyes went wide. My first thought was that the news was startling—which, when I thought about it, it probably was. Then I realized there was a completely different reason for her shocked look.

Something sharp pressed against my back, between my shoulder blades. One guess what that was. "Stand," the Hork-Bajir ordered gruffly.

Not wanting to get run through with a blade, I slowly stumbled to my feet. The Hork-Bajir grabbed my arm and dragged me back a few paces, switching its wrist-blade to my throat. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Adriane, who was slowly struggling to pull herself out of a mess of shattered benches. Dreamer was nowhere in sight.

"What do you want?" Fai asked evenly, helping Wolf to her feet.

"To destroy you," the Hork-Bajir answered coldly. "As phyorhaj wishes."

"He means the clone. Shaoran," Wolf translated quietly.

Oh great. Now the Hork-Bajir were teaming up with Shaoran in order to wipe us all out? It didn't make sense though. What did he have to gain from this?

It was as if Fai had read my mind. "What's his aim for doing this? What can he gain from destroying the county?"

"His aim is one object. A powerful energy source, apparently. A feather."

We all froze. One of Sakura's feathers was in the county?!

"Starry knows where it is," Wolf said suddenly.

"Eh?!" I hissed at her. "What?!"

She shot me a look, one of those 'just trust me' kind of looks. "She can tell him where it is."

The Hork-Bajir hesitated for a moment. Then its grip on my arm tightened painfully. "Or I could get it from you right here and now," it snarled.

Good going, Wolf, I thought. I had no idea what this business was about with Sakura's feather, but when I obviously couldn't give it an answer, I was going to have a rather short life span.

Then an idea popped into my head. I had done some flash-freezing before, as I liked to call it, but could I freeze an entire Hork-Bajir? There was only one way to find out.

"What would you do if I told you?" I said, trying to keep my voice calm as I slowly reached out backwards with my hand.

"I might keep you alive for a while, wait and see what phyorhaj has to say about this. Or I could kill you all on the spot right n—"

My hand met reptilian skin, and I poured as much energy as I could into the attack. Instantly the Hork-Bajir froze solid, a thick layer of ice completely covering its body. I sighed, nearly stumbling from the amount of energy it had taken.

"Are you okay, Starry-chan?" Fai asked.

"Fine, if you ignore the fact that I still have a frozen Hork-Bajir blade pressed against my throat," I said dryly.

"I'm sorry, it's my fault," Adriane muttered, climbing up onto the stage. "I wasn't fast enough; it hit me before I could react."

"It's okay, we can do apologies later. Right now do you think you could...er..."

"Leave it to me," she said as a whip of golden fire trailed from her wolf stone. She slashed at the iced-over Hork-Bajir statue, quickly cutting me free. I stumbled forward, but Fai and Wolf caught me before I could hit the ground. I clambered down off the stage and collapsed on one of the benches. "What happened to Dreamer?"

"I sent him for reinforcements. I think he went to search for Sheila."

I groaned and dropped my head in my hands. "The Hork-Bajir said he wanted to destroy us. I don't think he meant just us five in particular. It might be making their job easier if all the Wandies are grouped together in one spot."

The three of them exchanged worried glances, but before they could say anything the doors suddenly blasted open. Lilacheart and Soundstorm raced inside, closely followed by Syaoran, Spirithunter, Amaterasu, Icestar, Kurogane, Kennen, Danny, Heartwing, the Dog, Sevenclaws, Absol, and Rabbitfoot. Not to mention about twenty Hork-Bajir.

I leapt to my feet, ignoring the slight dizziness. Kurogane and Kennen were the first to turn around and try to keep the oncoming Hork-Bajir at bay, but there were just too many of them. The four of us raced back into the battle, my Kudan rematerializing into a sword again. I still wasn't skilled with it, but I managed enough to not get myself too badly injured.

"You're gonna need some serious training," Kurogane grunted when we passed each other at one point.

"Tell me something I don't know," I replied, fending off another blow.

"Duck."

I didn't ask; experience had taught me to just listen. I hit the floor, just as a Hork-Bajir's claws swung inches above my head. Kurogane quickly finished it off as I climbed to my feet. "That makes...twice now?"

He just rolled his eyes and turned back to the battle.

I don't know how long it took, but at last all the Hork-Bajir that had followed them inside had either retreated or were dead on the ground. I dropped to my knees, letting my Kudan melt away again as I tried to regain my breath. Then I realized that the air was beginning to smell funny. It wasn't as clean as it had been before; now it smelled like...smoke?

Without warning the doorframe at the end of the room burst into flames. Several people screamed, though I couldn't identify who. I scrambled to my feet, my heart skipping a beat as I realized who was standing there. Shaoran.

"Get out of the way, kid," Kurogane snarled, levelling Sôhi at him.

He didn't answer, just raised Hien and leapt at him. The two swords clashed together, creating a din that was swallowed by the roar of the fire.

"Everyone get out!" someone shouted, and I squinted through the smoke to see Sheila standing by the doorway. Spirithunter was the first one out, followed by a white wolf. No, wait...that was Amaterasu. I guessed that Spirithunter had drawn too much of her ink, since she had lost her godly look.

I struggled to get around the side of the room to the door, since Kurogane and Syaoran's battle was taking up most of the space. I could see people darting out the doorway into the open air, though just barely. The flames were spreading up the roof, weakening the support structures and threatening a collapse.

And collapse it did. Without any warning at all there was a giant crack, and about half the roof tumbled down, blocking the exit. I skidded to a stop, coughing and generally in shock. Shaoran, Kurogane, Kennen, the Dog, Wolf, Fai, and I were all still trapped inside.

"We're trapped!" Wolf shouted from behind me.

My vision was beginning to blur, from the smoke or from inhaling it I couldn't tell. "There's got to be another way out!" I coughed.

"A door in the back! You guys go for it, I'll hold 'im off!" Kennen shouted, gesturing wildly to a door to the right of the stage. He had traded his gun earlier for two Dracon beams; armed with this he lunged at Shaoran, sending shots from both hand-held weapons and forcing him back. The Dog leapt after him, her form becoming demon-like as she snapped at the clone, forcing him to retreat further.

Fai grabbed Kurogane's shoulder and practically dragged him after us; I could tell that he still wanted to fight, but now wasn't the time. Wolf pulled open the door, revealing a small storage room that had yet to be set alight. I stumbled across the room to the other side, shoving open the second door and tumbling into the snow outside. I pulled myself to my feet, leaping out of the way of the others. "Over there!" I said, pointing off to the street where I could see a large group of people standing well back of the flames. We raced over to them, and I felt relieved when I recognized several Wandies in the group, and no Hork-Bajir.

Sheila looked relieved when we ran up. "I was worried when part of the building collapsed. Are you all okay? What about Kennen and the Dog?"

I don't like to admit it, but I had forgotten about them in the confusion to get outside. "I don't know, Kennen told us to go for the back door while he and the Dog were holding back Shaoran..." I muttered, turning back to the town hall. Nearly the entire building was on fire now, which lit up the street as the sky grew darker with the setting sun. The entire group was silent, with only a few whisperings here and there. We all waited, waited for any sign of someone coming out.

After what seemed like an eternity I saw a lone figure walking out towards us. I ran forward, quickly recognizing the Dog as she limped towards the group. I dropped down in front of her and gave her a quick hug. Then I pulled back and looked at her. "What about...?"

The Dog looked at me sadly, then slowly shook her head.

I looked back at the burning building, tears blurring my vision, as behind me someone began to scream.

***

Chapter Thirteen

POV: Lilacheart

"KENNEN!" I yelled. Someone screamed in despair. I don't know who, because by that point, I'd tuned everything out. You'd think it would've occurred to me by now that in our situation, someone could die. And it had occurred to me, though only once, as I'd jumped off a building, only I'd had my life saved by +Anima. This was different. Much different.

"Kennen!" I screamed again. I realized I was shivering and that there were tears running down my face. I hadn't known the guy as well as some of those around me. We were all yelling, freaking out, crying, or finding consolation in our friends. Sheila wasn't saying anything, just staring at the building. Starsight was staring at the Dog. I turned around, thinking some less then appropriate and understatement words. For some reason, it felt horrible to just stand there.

"I-I'm gonna go home," I whispered, before turning around and darting off. I just couldn't stare at the flaming wreckage where my friend had died anymore.

I heard the sound of footsteps behind me and picked up pace.

"Lilacheart-san!" I heard Syaoran call. I forced myself to jog to a slow stop. I glanced at him over my shoulder, completely miserable and in no mood to talk. He seemed to understand, placing a light hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry," he muttered. I knew there was nothing else he could say, either.

Wow, I feel like a whiny baby.

He didn't seem to care. Unsure of what to do next, I hugged him and placed my head on his shoulder. Wow, was I glad no one was watching. "I really should've considered...that someone might've died..."

"It's not like it's your fault," Syaoran reassured me. "You didn't set the building on fire. You aren't the reason those you thought didn't exist are here."

"What is the reason?" I asked.

"Fai told me a feather was involved."

"But it can't just be that, though! They're not that powerful, are they?" I was remembering Ôto as I spoke. Virtual reality to reality. Maybe they were...?

"...I don't know anymore."

I swore quietly. "Kennen..."

He gently patted my back. "It's okay—Well, no it's not, but..."

I laughed dryly. Syaoran: Not exactly good at comforting people. But hey, he tried.

I looked up at him and stepped back. "Why'd you follow me?"

I knew he wanted to make a sarcastic remark, but he restrained himself. "It's not safe going out on your own."

Right. I should probably know that by now. That's probably what his remark would've been if the county wasn't grieving, too.

"So...what are we going to do? Obviously, this isn't up to me."

I nodded. "Or me," I reminded him. "It's up to Sheila."

He sighed. "I guess we should go fill in Sakura-chan and Mokona, who are still at your house—" He cut short as a spark jumped off of his shoulder.

"Hey, weren't you supposed to stay at my house?" I asked.

"...You're going to have to replace your front door again."

"..."

"...Yeah."

"...Do you guys just not like my front door?" I tried to sound as teasing as I could through my misery.

"Well, it was a Hork-Bajir that did it."

I gave a brief nod. "I assume we should..." My voice shook and I nearly slapped myself. Dang it. "I assume the members of the county should hold a funeral. Or something, at least."

"...He seemed like the kind of guy who would want to go down fighting," he suggested after a long period of silence as we walked home.

"Oh yeah," I said, nodding my head. "I regret not knowing him more than I did."

We finally stopped at my house. Syaoran grabbed the door frame. "Sakura-chan, we're back," he called.

"Welcome home," Sakura greeted, sounding relieved as she appeared around the corner. "How was it...?" Her tone darkened slightly when she saw the tears in my eyes.

"Kennen...was caught in a flaming building...and..." I sat down and swore.

"Having Kurogane-san in the house hasn't had positive effects on her, has it?" Sakura asked.

Syaoran shook his head as she put a hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispered, getting back on subject.

I sighed loudly. "It's okay—well, no it's not, says Syaoran-kun," I laughed dully.

Sakura glanced at Syaoran.

"...I'm not really good at the whole consolation thing," he muttered regretfully.

"Just having you all here is enough," I assured them. "Thanks for walking with me home. I probably should've known better then to just run off. I'm so useless."

"So this is what happened to your self-esteem," Mokona said as it leapt towards me. Again, I laughed, a laugh a little less forced this time. It was hard to be depressed with these guys around. And at the same time, I was. Wow, I clearly have some psychological issues that need dealing with. (See that in the sky? That's the last remaining shred of my self-esteem! Watch it fly! Wheeeee!)

"...Yup, pretty much," I said.

"I'm sure Sheila-san will give you all details on what you have to do tomorrow. You're all going to need recovery time."

"Depends if the other Shaoran-kun will give us time for it," I murmured. "He used to be such a good kid, too..."

The two exchanged glances. "I keep forgetting how much you know," Syaoran sighed with a shake of his head.

My cell phone rang suddenly. I picked it up and checked the caller ID. Sheila. I flipped it open. "Hey," I muttered.

"I'm calling everyone, Lilacheart. I just wanted to be sure you're okay."

"Syaoran-kun walked me home—...Oh God, that sounds like a romance joke."

Sheila let out a forced laugh. "Well, okay. Is Soundstorm at your house?"

"What happened to the door?" came a sigh from the doorway.

"...Yes," I said.

"Okay, good. You all get a good rest. I'll let you know what we're doing tomorrow. Also, be sure that the Tsubasa cast don't use your shower."

I took a moment to think through that one. ...Oh, right, the electric shock. Why does that feel like it was days ago? "Alright. Bye."

I hung up. "Get a good rest and don't use the shower unless you want to go over your pain from earlier today all over again."

Sakura's shoulder sparked, and she yelped. "...Well, we've got that message firmly planted in our heads now."

I gave a slight nod. "Are you all okay?"

"Yes. You?"

"As okay as I'll get for the moment." I stood up. "Thanks for the help today. Considering today's happenings, I'm assuming you won't get into trouble."

"I wish I would. You get a good sleep."

I nodded politely and headed up the stairs. Mokona hopped after me as Syaoran explained to Soundstorm what happened in the doorway. Fai and Kurogane had arrived and were taking out the dead Hork-Bajir.

I sat down on my bed; Mokona hopped up beside me. "...Everyone's sad," it whimpered. "So much sadness, hate, pain..."

Mokona started to cry. I wiped away its tears. "We're sorry." I forced myself to smile as I lay down on my bed.

"At least it can't get any worse," I said to it as my eyes fell shut.

...I just HAD to say it, didn't I? That's the last time I ever try to push my luck.

*

POV: Shaoran

I watched as the members of Wands and Worlds County gathered around the clearing. I didn't particularly understand, or care, why anyone would consider mourning their fallen comrade. Dead is dead. And he, like all of them, had been in my way.

A lady, who I'd come to know was their leader, eventually stood in the front of the group and started to make a speech. There were lots of tears, and crying, and I heard the members of the group whispering to one another. Again, I didn't particularly understand, or care. These people were all in my way.

And they were all going to pay dearly for it.

I felt energy surge around my eye. The one that I had taken from the magician. It'd come in handy on multiple occasions. I summoned Hien. This forest was going up in smoke. I'd make sure that nothing inside got out.

I drove my sword into the ground. Fire started crackling around the edge of the blade.

"Guys...?" I heard a voice quietly speak. I didn't care who it was. The flames started, and the magic I had spiralled towards the flames and sent it blasting in their direction. There were shocked yelps of surprise.

The flames spread much more rapidly than I could actually control. I focused my hold on a small portion of the flames, and I knew what to do with it. And that would do.

"Shaoran-kun," I heard one of the people say. It was that magician. He had turned to face me. The flames from my sword flared and started to swirl around the group. Some of the members tried to run, and I saw one girl unfurl wings.

...That girl. How had she survived?

It didn't matter. Not now.

Commanding the flames, I forced them to spiral around the whole group, cutting off any upward escape by creating a sort of flaming roof. I think some of them tried to talk to me, and to each other, but most of it was just frenzied yelling. After these pests were gone, there'd be nothing standing in my way.

"Starry!" someone cried desperately, somehow breaking through the noise everyone else was emitting. "Your Kudan!"

Kudan. That word was familiar. I shoved the thought aside. I didn't need to remember that...

"Right—argh!"

I smiled. I guessed 'Starry' was on the outside of a circle, whoever she was, and anyone on the outside would be seriously burned by this point. (These members weren't stupid. I'm sure at this point, anyone would know the smartest thing to do was huddle close together, stay as small as possible, and try to avoid the flames that were closing in.)

Out of nowhere, large spikes of ice shot in all directions. "Everyone, run!" a boy yelled. Why did I feel like he was supposed to be a toad?

Without using any effort, I sealed the holes shut. I saw two charred figures escape the flames, but they were the only ones who did. I felt my body tense against my will. One of those girls was Sakura. The other was the one who'd fallen from the skyscraper.

I attempted to throw a second fireball at them. But something wouldn't allow me. Sakura...I couldn't...hurt Sakura...

I tried to shove these emotions away. The only reason I wouldn't want to kill her is because Fei-Wang Reed needed her body. Nothing more than that.

The two darted towards me. I pulled my sword out of the ground and pointed it in their direction.

"Sakura-san, stay in front!" the winged girl yelled. "He's much more likely to try to run through me than you!"

"Are you sure?!"

"I watched Shunraiki, of course I'm sure!"

"You watched what now?!"

"Never mind!"

The two stopped in front of me. Sakura's eyes were locked on mine. There seemed to be some sort of desperateness in her gaze. The desperate look was mirrored and even amplified by the girl who stood behind her.

"Why are you doing this?!" the winged girl yelled at me.

"You are all in my way. I will get all of the feathers, no matter what," I said. Of all the things that were in my mind, I guess that was the only thing I was certain about.

"We don't know where it is!" Sakura yelled in protest.

"Just because you don't know where it is, doesn't mean you're not in my way," I reasoned. The key components I needed to find the feather, they were all inadvertently protecting. It didn't matter if they didn't know it. I would get them out of my way.

"Shaoran-kun, please, let them go!" Sakura yelled, her fists clenching uselessly at her sides.

I was glad that none of them had considered bringing weapons to a funeral. Except maybe Kurogane. That wouldn't be surprising—

Stop thinking about the group already! They're also in the way...

I guess my thoughts must've been expressed on my face, because the winged girl ran forward and punched me in the face while I was off guard. Immediately I retaliated, driving Hien through her right wing. Her eyes widened and she let out a scream before she nailed me against a burning tree, keeping a firm grip on my shoulders. Her breathing was ragged, probably from the smoke. She had also been badly burned. I noticed that my breathing was also coming out in short pants.

"Shaoran-kun, I know you're in there somewhere. Your soul. When Sakura's near you, it shows," she whispered.

Shut up! Make her shut up! I snapped my eyes shut, trying to tune out her words.

"Sakura trusts you! I trust you! You're trying to kill us all and I still trust that you have a shard of your soul left in there somewhere! Please! You can't kill my family! You can't kill your family!"

My family. I didn't have a—

Sakura. Kurogane. Mokona. Fai. Syaoran.

Oh my God...What was I doing?!

I had to stop this...I couldn't sto—

I wanted to cry. I wanted to run. Mentally, I was pleading, Somebody tell me what to do!

I suddenly small pressure against my cheek.

"Pactio!" cried a voice from WHO knows where.

I was barely aware that the girl had kissed me. And at the same time, that was the final straw that broke me from this heartless curse I was under. And only then, I could feel it was just for a second. The words echoed relentlessly in my mind.

I will collect all of the feathers, no matter what!

My whole body shaking, I brought down the flames that I controlled. I couldn't bring down the rest of the fire. I didn't know if I could make myself even if it was possible.

"You don't have long," I heard Sakura say, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Run. Get out of here." She forced a smile. "Thank you." The last words were said by both girls.

Tears flooded into my eyes. I could feel my whole consciousness flooding out. Despite the flames, the world was growing cold.

"...Next time, you won't be so lucky," I said, my voice cracking.

I really was weak, wasn't I? I pulled my sword out of the girl's wing. Magic swirling around me, I disappeared.

*

POV: Lilacheart

...Holy crud in a bucket, I had just kissed a heartless sociopathic clone who had tried to kill me and my family.

OH. MY. GOD. I was never, ever, for the rest of my life, going to hear the end of that.

I stood there in shock, staring at the spot where Shaoran had disappeared. My wing burned much more then my burns did. Weird.

I glanced back at the rest of the Wandies. Not a lot of them were conscious. Sheila, Magicyop, Fruit Salad, Adderfang, Thunder, Starsight (but only barely), Halt, Will, Ripred, Icestar, Moonglow, Squirrelflame, somehow Kirby, Kurogane, Fai (who was supporting Starsight), Watanuki, and...the two people who I'd hoped the most were unconscious, Cloudwind and Rabbitfoot.

Why was I hoping that they weren't conscious? You can probably guess why from their insane giggling. They were the last people I ever wanted seeing THAT. I bet Rabbitfoot had just been waiting for this sort of opportunity, so everyone would stop focusing on her proposal to Roy Mustang and her kiss with Watanuki. And Cloudwind was always trying to use the Internet to marry me to Syaoran, anyway. And even though this wasn't the right Syaoran she was always trying to marry me to, I was sure this alternative didn't bother her.

"...I am never going to live this down," I said to them.

"No, you're not," Starsight said. Despite herself, even she was laughing.

"We're not a part of that kid's family," Kurogane retorted.

"Kurogane-san, he doesn't have a family, and from what I can tell, you were as close as it got."

The people who were conscious were trying to awaken some of the others, because we obviously couldn't carry them all. The cats were all in a panic. The forest was burning, darn it, of course they were in a panic! If no one could leave the county, and no one could get in, (so we assumed), HOW were we going to call a fire department?! Could Fai put this fire out? Emily, who was a water mage? She was healing, so no...

Starsight tapped my shoulder, snapping me out of my thoughts. I glanced at her. "That voice I heard. Did I imagine it?"

"...'Pactio'?" I asked. "No, you weren't—" I did a face palm. "Is the world out to get me today?"

Laughing, Starsight ran towards a set of bushes that had yet to burst into flames. The other members were evacuating.

"Are you sure you didn't get a bit carried away there?" Sakura asked.

"You weren't going to do it," I muttered. "...Were you?"

"No, because I didn't really have the guts. Apparently you did."

"Don't worry, Shaoran-kun's yours."

She smiled slightly. "Thanks for the reassurance." She turned around and ran towards Kurogane, who was carrying Syaoran out of there. Him, along with a lot of the members (mainly the ones who'd been in the outer protective circle) had third degree burns.

...Syaoran having the heck beaten out of him wasn't all that fun in reality. (In a fanfiction and in a roleplay, however, this was a completely different story.)

"Let go of me!" yelled a voice.

I swung around, spotting Starsight limping back over to me. I glanced at the figure in her hand. "...Reminds me of Mousey," I said.

"Mousey?" Starsight asked.

"Yeah, Cloudy's ferret."

"This is an ermine," Starsight said...at the same time as the ermine.

"...I know this character, don't I?" I asked, staring at the card in its paws.

"Character?!" the ermine snapped. "Why I—"

"Be quiet, Kamomile," Starsight cut in. Kamomile, or just Kamo, fell silent. I guess he was shocked that we knew his name.

"Isn't this the perverted ermine from Negima...?" I asked.

"That's the one. And he's got something for you! I'll take that." She plucked the card out of his paws and handed it to me. I laughed at her mock enthusiasm. Or, maybe it wasn't mock.

The card had a picture of me holding a sword on it. It looked a lot like Hien. "This is a Pactio card, isn't it?" I asked, flipping it over in my hands.

"Yup!" Starsight said enthusiastically, and then, suppressing her laughter, she added, "A magic card created when you kiss someone!"

I thought about that one for a moment. "...This is so going into the bottom drawer of my dresser, where no one will ever find it. Not even me." That drawer was a complete mess. Just take my word for it. It was like a black hole; if you put something in there, it never comes out. I really think we'll lose Mokona in there someday.

"...Why are you having a conversation in a burning forest?!" Kamo suddenly yelled at us.

We both looked up; we had fallen far behind. I stood beside Starsight, using my wing to shield her from the flames as we both darted through the trees. As we ran, I spotted Daisy and Ferncloud. Everyone hated these guys, I recalled. But seeing them run through the trees, kits in tow, trying to stay calm while their kits clearly weren't...

I scooped up Ferncloud, and Starsight picked up her kits. They yowled in shock. I guess we should've told them we were here. "Twolegs!" Ferncloud hissed, lashing out at my face with her claws.

"Watch it, dam—" I began.

"We've met Twolegs like these ones before, Ferncloud!" Daisy called.

"We're all gonna die!" came Fruit Salad's yell from up front.

"What's happening this time?!" one of the kits wailed.

"Nothing, I think she's just always wanted to say that," I muttered. "Can somebody help us?!" I called ahead.

Eventually, I saw one of the members fall back. Spottedshadow. "Can you carry Daisy and her kits?" I asked. Daisy looked annoyed by the request, but she didn't complain.

"Sure," she said, picking up Daisy's kits. "She could probably run faster than we could without the kits—" she began.

"Don't even suggest Daisy would leave her kits or she'll kill you," I said.

"Good point." With that, she picked up Daisy in her free hand and broke into full speed, with us chasing after them.

*

It was later that evening. The sun was setting. Amaterasu, Katara, and Fai, from what I knew, were busy trying to put out the fire, while Sheila had sent everyone else home to rest. I was on the couch, listening to my iPod. Soundstorm was writing a story. Not sure which one. Probably Guardians of a Fugitive. I'd have to steal her notebook and read it sometime.

At that moment, Kurogane came down the hallway. We both looked up.

"Can someone go check the chimney?" he snapped. "It's annoying the heck out of me."

I stood up. "I'll do it," I muttered, unfurling my wings.

"...Did you talk to the Healer?" he asked, glancing at my wing.

"She's dealing with the burns of the other members. I'll talk to her later." After an extremely stern gaze, I sighed and added, "I promise."

He grunted, knowing he'd just have to take that as an answer. I glanced at my sister. "Soundy, could you make something to eat while I check out what's wrong with the chimney?"

"I can do that," she said with a brief nod.

I smiled. "Thanks. Be back in a moment." With that, I left the room and headed for the door. As soon as I was outside, I noted it wasn't too cold around here anymore, with the heat and all, and the smoke blowing overhead and messing up the air quality. Good thing it wasn't too windy today. Even if it had been, having Amaterasu around here was pretty good.

...Huh. Why hadn't she done anything when the fire was burning us all? Had she not been there? I couldn't remember seeing her. I'd have to talk to Spirithunter later.

I clicked my iPod off. Twisting around, I placed the iPod in the pocket of my jacket; the headphones hung out slightly. I shut the door behind me and spread my wings. That would actually be pretty useless, with a hole in them, I realized.

Suddenly, I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around. "...Emily?"

"...Kurogane called me. Using your cell phone."

"WHO TAUGHT KUROGANE HOW TO USE A CELL PHONE?!" I yelled, much louder then I had intended. I could hear hysterical laughter from the next door neighbour. My next door neighbour, might I add, is Sunstreak. Well, it hadn't always been Sunstreak. Originally, my neighbour was Aerobar. But she disappeared one day, a long time ago. Time moves on, I guess. The community still missed her, though. But I digress.

Emily laughed as well. "I'll heal your wing here, okay? I was actually heading towards the forest to see how Ammy, Katara and Fai were doing."

I nodded. "The forest is that way—" I began.

"Then Kurogane called and told me you were injured, and I figured I'd stop by."

"You weren't too far away, were you? When did he call?"

"About five minutes ago."

"...That Kurogane," I sighed, shaking my head.

She placed the healing crystal on my wing, and I could feel the healing vibrations run through it. I stood there for a moment, until she nodded. "Done."

"You're an amazing healer," I commented, stretching my wing.

She blushed. "Not really—"

"You and I both need to go shopping for self-esteem. Rabbitfoot and Soundstorm should join us."

She laughed. "Okay, I'd better get go—"

There was a huge crashing sound from the chimney.

"...That's what Kurogane's complaining about, I guess," I remarked.

She nodded, smiling. "I can see why. Well, good luck."

"Thanks, you too," I said, spreading my wings and flapping them experimentally. I gave a nod. Good. With that, I took off to the roof. I landed quietly and wondered how to work this out. I looked down the chimney, almost expecting something to attack my face, but instead, I heard yelling.

"OW! Knock it off already!"

"Hey, this isn't my fault!"

"Get your foot out of my—"

A horn honked, and I swung around. Crescentmoon was glancing out the window of her car.

"Did you drive by for the sole purpose of censoring a swear word?" I asked.

"...No, I wanted to get your attention, what are you doing on the roof?"

"There are fictional characters in my chimney, I think," I said.

"Like Santa?"

I sniggered. "Doesn't sound like it. They're bickering. One's male, one's female, and they sound familiar."

"Well, good luck," she said.

I nodded. "You too, whatever you're doing."

She nodded back, rolled up the window, and drove off.

"I'm onto you, author," I grumbled, glancing at the fourth wall. With that, I folded my wings tight to my body and stepped onto the chimney. Slowly, carefully, I used my feet and my arms to crawl down without getting stuck. Finally, I found the two.

"Get your foot out of my face!" the boy yelled.

"Get your foot out of my—" the girl started.

Then it clicked in my head. I did know these two!

"Shiki? Neku?" I asked.

The two stopped and glanced up at me. "Do we know you? Shiki asked.

"Probably not," I admitted.

"Then how do you know us?" She sounded skeptical.

"The World Ends With You," I answered, giving them a smile.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't care!" Neku snapped. "Can you get us out of here?! It's painful, it's claustrophobic, and I'm more then slightly worried about my foot!"

There was a long silence. Then I burst out laughing.

"It's not funny!" the two complained.

Yes. Yes it was. But I wasn't going to argue at the moment. "How did you get yourself into this?" I asked.

"...We don't know." The two spoke simultaneously, and I had to stop myself from laughing again.

"Okay, how do I do this...?" Slowly, I reached my hand down. "Anyone who can move their hand, grab mine. I'll pull you up, then come back down for the other one."

There was the sound of the two trying to move. I laughed. Then I felt like a jerk. And then I laughed again.

"Stop laughing!" Neku snapped, and then someone grabbed my hand.

"I'm sorry, but you two have no idea how funny you look."

Shiki sighed. "I guess it can't be helped."

I pulled upwards. Neku grunted. I guess it was his hand that had grabbed mine. I pulled upwards again. "That hurts!" he retorted.

"Hang in there, okay?" I said. "You and Shiki can probably stay at Sevenclaws' house."

"Sevenclaws?" he asked, sounding uncertain.

"A member of the county. Though you might prefer Sunstreak's, since she's lives right next door and you won't have to walk as much," I told him, giving one more sharp tug. He let out a painful grunt, but I could feel him come lose. I didn't exactly see how this moved him below, but by Shiki's words of, "...This is really awkward," I had a feeling he probably wished he was back in the chimney, lodged in his old place.

I crawled up very slowly, until Neku managed to stretch his muscles and crawl back up on his own. After that, I went back down and grabbed Shiki, helping her up, too. I flew the two back to the ground.

"You two wait here," I murmured, before walking down the sidewalk and knocking on Sunstreak's door. She pushed it open.

"Hi, Lilac," she said. "Did Kurogane, by chance, learn to use your cell phone?"

"Yup. Could you take Shiki and Neku into your house?"

"...Who are they?"

"Characters I found in my chimney. I'm not sure if they're up for much walking."

"...Sure." She shrugged slightly. "I don't see why not."

"Shiki! Neku!" I called over my shoulder, waving them forward. The two stood up and walked towards me. "Sunstreak, meet Shiki and Neku. Shiki, Neku, meet Sunstreak."

They all politely waved.

"Come on in," Sunstreak said, signalling for them to follow. The two exchanged glances.

"It's okay, come on!"

Uncertainly, the two followed her inside.

I smiled slightly. "Have a good day," I said to Sunstreak.

She nodded. "You too. It's so weird...everything's gotten much darker lately. Literally, if you consider the smoke. But...Kennen..."

I nodded. "Yeah..." I sighed. "I guess it will get better. Who knows what could happen, with fictional characters here and all..."

She shrugged. "Who knows?"

I turned around and waved goodbye, which she returned before shutting the door.

"Who knows," I echoed to myself. "Who knows."

I pushed the door open, grabbed my headphones, and sat down on the couch beside Soundstorm, who was eating a small snack from a bowl. What snack? You'll know in a minute. At the time, we had no idea how eating this snack would end in complete and total irony.

Well, we learned once a figure appeared around the doorway. We had no idea who he was, but we were sort of tired and a bit out of it, so I just figured he lived here. Wow, I must've been drunk or something.

"Hey," he said.

"Hello," I muttered.

"...What are you doing?" he asked.

"Eating bean sprouts," Soundstorm muttered.

There was a long silence.

"..."

With that, the kid turned around and ran out the door. There was a slam.

"What was that about?" I asked.

"No idea," Soundstorm responded.

There was another long silence, then we both looked at each other.

"W-Wait, who WAS that?" I asked.

Soundstorm jumped to her feet.

"Allen!" she yelled, and with that, she was out the door.

*

POV: Soundstorm
(Note: This chapter was co-written by Soundstorm)

"Allen!" I called again as I darted after him. "ALLEN!"

The boy stopped and turned around. "Hello," he said, blinking. "How do you know my name? And more importantly, why aren't you eating your bean sprouts? They're good for you."

I laughed, all the while thinking, Cool, it's Allen! in a somehow weirdly calm manner. Well, at least no one had to worry about Akuma anymore. For me, now it was just Hinamizawa syndrome. If that shows up, we're all going to die! Why am I smiling?

"Forgive me for being rude, but who are you?" he asked.

I looked back up at him and smiled. "My name's Soundstorm. My twin sister, who was with me back there, was Lilacheart, though she's probably still in the house being sure Mokona doesn't blow anything up. Is that Timcanpy on your head?" I didn't know why I was so talkative all of a sudden.

"...Yes, that's Timcanpy," he said, smiling. He took it off of his head. "You can pet it if you want."

So I did.

"Can I teach to say squee?" I asked suddenly.

"...Huh?"

"Can I teach Timcanpy to say squee? I once called it a squeeing orb before I read D.Gray-Man, and was wondering if I could teach it the word squee."

"...Um...sure...but what's D.Gray-Man?" Allen asked.

"It's your manga series."

"...Okay, I'll accept that, but why the heck is it called D.Gray-Man?"

"...No one really knows."

Allen blinked, taking in the answer. "...So...I have a book series...and it has a title that I don't even understand." He left the statement hanging, almost like a question.

"Yup, pretty much," I answered after a second's thought.

"Weird." He shrugged, then asked, "Where am I?"

"You're in Wands and Worlds County," I said. Without another word, I turned around and motioned for him to follow me as I headed towards Whisperheart's house.

He followed me down the road, seeming a bit uncertain, but not exactly worried. "Where are we going?" he asked.

"We're heading to a friend's house. Everyone's friendly here, and it's not exactly the first time that a manga character has fallen out of nowhere...though admittedly, it's funny you came in while we were eating bean sprouts."

He smiled at me. "I guess that is sort of ironic. But I prefer you don't call me that."

"Right, Kanda calls you that...StarClan forbid he come here," I muttered, wondering how the Warrior cats were doing. Last I recalled, Sheila had taken them all in after the fire. She and Skywing.

"...Is StarClan from my supposed manga?" he asked. "I've never heard of it." When I mentioned Kanda, I noticed his gaze hardened slightly. Then he shrugged. "So, who's this friend of yours? Does she read...D.Gray-Man?" He seemed to be pretty open to the whole book concept. Or maybe he was humouring me.

"No, no, StarClan is something completely different, as for my friend—" I paused. On second thought, maybe taking Allen to Whisperheart's house would be very bad for his health. Well, a little late now.

"Yeah, she reads the manga," I answered.

He smiled. "Cool." I assumed he probably had no idea that heading to Whisperheart's house was detrimental. I wondered if I should tell him or not, but at that point, we'd stopped at the doorstep. I left the question unasked.

Slowly, I knocked on the door. "Whisper, there's...er...someone here to meet you!" I then looked over at Allen. "Beware the glomp," I warned.

"The wha...?" Allen began.

The door creaked open, and his sentence was cut off when Whisperheart cried, "ALLEN!" and glomped him. Unprepared, Allen fell over. I laughed quietly while feeling slightly bad for Allen.

Key word, slightly.

"When did he land here?!" Whisperheart asked, looking excitedly back up at me.

I laughed. Then I felt like a jerk. Then I laughed some more. Didn't Lilacheart already say this earlier?

"Just a few minutes ago, as far as I know," I answered, helping her and the more then slightly dazed Allen to his feet.

She nodded, seeming sort of hyper now. "That's so cool! Why'd you bring him here? Can he stay at my place?"

Allen glanced between Whisperheart and me, seeming slightly lost. Timcanpy was clinging to his head. "Who are—" he began.

"Whisperheart!" she said cheerfully.

He nodded. "Nice to meet both of you."

"Hey!" a voice called, and I turned to see Spirithunter walking towards us. Oddly, she was alone. What was she doing out?

"Oh, hey Spirit!" I greeted. "You need something?"

"Nah, just out for a walk," she responded, stopping in front of us. She cast a glance at Allen, shook her head, and looked back at me. "This might sound odd...but have you seen the toad hopping around asking if we recognize him?"

Allen cocked his head. "I did. After that, I went into a house looking for something sane. Instead, I found a winged girl on the couch with her sister eating bean sprouts. Both of them were armed. It was sort of weird."

"If that's the weirdest thing you've ever seen, you're in for quite a shock," I admitted, laughing sheepishly.

"No, I've seen some pretty weird things, but a talking toad sort of came as a surprise."

I smirked, then glanced back towards Spirithunter. "Talking toad...you're referring to someone who's not Magicyop, right?" I asked. I knew Magicyop wasn't REALLY a talking toad, but still, the title often associated with his name.

"Well..." Spirithunter looked like she was trying (and failing) to find some way to put this. "What if I told you it actually was Magicyop...?"

"Then I'd be forced to ask the question of whether or not his butt was on fire," I responded before I could stop myself. I then noticed that everyone was staring at me. Particularly Allen, to whom the statement made the least sense. "Er...I mean..." I began, looking for a way to clarify my statement. Then I gave up. How DO you clarify that statement?! "You know what? Forget I said anything."

Spirithunter laughed. "I'm sort of sad to say I'm not joking. No, his butt was not on fire. He says that he found a blue box, of sorts, that lets him transform into a toad, or whatever. Do you know anything about it?"

A thought came to mind. "I might...have you heard of Animorphs?"

"Um...I think it was mentioned when those aliens, Hork-something, first showed up..."

"It could be the morphing cube, then. Maybe you should ask Lilac or Starry, they seem to have the most grasp on the situation, whilst I hide behind both of them as to be a lazy bum so I don't have to do anything."

Meanwhile, back at the house...
"I don't know why...but I think I'll slap Soundy when she comes back home," Lilacheart decided.

"The morphing cube..." Spirithunter muttered. She then shook her head again. "Want to go for a walk? It's fairly nice out this evening, despite the cold and the smoke, obviously."

"Sure," I said, nodding. "Whisper, Allen can stay with you. Try not to hurt him by glomping him, 'kay?"

"Okay! You have fun!" Whisperheart said, hugging Allen. Allen gave a nervous grin and waved politely. "See you later."

I mouthed the words, 'I am so sorry' and gave a hopeful smile in return. "Bye."

"See you guys," Spirithunter said with a wave before walking off down the street, obviously meaning for me to follow. I followed, glancing over my shoulder at Allen a few times. Poor guy...

We walked in silence for a while. Spirithunter chose a path that went to the park, eventually winding around until we were walking beside the river. "You know how the clone, Shaoran, mentioned Sakura's feather the other day?" she asked suddenly.

I nodded. "It's probably why we all nearly died earlier today. What of it?"

"I've kind of been wondering about, like, where it might be. Mokona hasn't been acting strange or anything lately, has it?"

I thought it through for a moment. Finally, I shook my head. "Not that I've noticed, no..."

"If Mokona hasn't been reacting, then it's got to be hidden somehow, right? But where, and how would it be hidden?"

"Beats me."

Spirithunter shrugged. "Do you remember anything from the books that might help?"

"I'm not really a hardcore Tsubasa fan, but I can ask Lilac or Starry if you'd like..."

Without warning I felt a large jab in my side. I wind milled my arms, trying to catch my balance, then fell headfirst into the river.

Now, you may have been expecting me to thrash around or wonder what the heck had just happened, but instead I was thinking, Hm, the land looks pretty from underwater. Okay. I'm not that smart. Sue me.

Something suddenly wrapped around my ankle, yanking me deeper into the water. THAT was when I was wondering what the heck this was. I twisted around and tried to get a look at it. It looked like a long, serpentine creature, with long red ears and a horn...Wait, a Milotic?! So I guess we had more than just the Absol when it came to Pokémon, now...this discussion would be so much easier if said Pokémon wasn't trying to kill me.

The Milotic dragged me deeper, starting to coil its body around me. I tried to twist out of the creature's grasp, but guess how badly that failed. (Or, even better, don't.) Everything began to fade black as I ran out of air, and I made the mistake of inhaling. So now I was blacking out, and had a lungful of water.

Delightful.

Abruptly, I felt a slight but sharp pain in my ribs. It was a little different from the pain I was already experiencing from the lack of air. A strange, gentle sensation rippled through my sides, and everything began to come back into focus. I could see how the Milotic seemed to hesitate, but it was only for a second. After that, it tightened its grip slightly.

I found that I no longer felt the urge to inhale large quantities of water, which was a little confusing, since just a second before, I had been about to black out. I kicked my legs, but found I didn't have legs anymore; I had a fish tail.

My first thought was, What the foo?! Then my second was, Ooh, shiny. Then it was just, What the foo? again. My legs had turned into a fish tail, for StarClan's sake!

At this point, the Milotic seemed really confused. Join the club, Milotic. Well, I'm just judging this from the way it was loosening its grip. My Attention Deficit "Ooh, Shiny" Disorder (ADOSD?) didn't stop me from taking advantage of the moment and try to get away from it while it was confused. Just because I could breathe now, for whatever the reason, I wasn't pushing my luck. I kicked out with whatever coordination I had in my legs (repeat: none) and felt myself slip loose. It attempted to regain its grip, but by this point, I was out of grasping range, and swimming away as fast as I could. My mind was on +Anima, mainly Husky. I guess I was a lot like Husky right now, with a fish tail. Only difference was I was a girl. He just looked like one.

The Milotic charged after me, clearly not intending to let me escape. Would this thing not let up?! Why was it so persistent? I hadn't done anything to it! And where had Spirithunter gone all of a sudden? How had I fallen in here? Why was this happening to the county? Where was the feather? (Who am I? Where am I? Who took my wallet?)

The Milotic cried out behind me, and a sharp jolt rippled through the water. A Water Pulse. I ignored it to the best of my abilities, and gathered my remaining energy for one last push towards the shore.

I hit the surface and somehow ended up flying out of the water, graceful...beautiful...free in the air...

And then I hit the ground and just looked plain stupid.

Spirithunter didn't seem to notice, however. "Soundy!" she shouted. "Are you alright?!"

"Uh-Uh huh..." I managed to say, trying not to feel embarrassed. "What happened again?"

"You just collapsed," she murmured, an uneasy tone in her voice. "...By the way, your feet—"

"I know," I snapped. Then I caught my bad mood. (Yes. I nearly died, and now I'm, no, not scared, but in a bad mood. It makes just as much sense as finding things pretty when I'm drowning.) "Sorry. We're going to have to talk to Sheila. Something tried to kill me down there."

"R-Really?!" She seemed shocked. But...something inside my gut wasn't buying this.

I could swear that I had been pushed.

But why? That made no sense at all...

Unless...

"Hey, Soundy, there's something in your shoulder."

"Wha...?" I glanced at my shoulder. Spirithunter was right. There was blood welling over and open wound on my shoulder. Inside the wound, was...a glass shard.

And the only sentence I could think to say was, "What the—" followed by a profanity word of your choice.

I gripped the edge of the shard and eased it out with a wince. "I knew I was prone to getting cuts when I swam, but this is ridiculous," I said to myself. Lilacheart and I always seemed to cut ourselves when we were swimming. But...just...a glass shard? What was this even doing in the river? And how does it run through my shoulder without me knowing it? Heck, I couldn't even feel it in my hands now!

"...It's special," I murmured quietly.

"Huh?"

I'd almost forgotten about Spirithunter. Wow, was my attention span short. I sort of ignored her, turning to glance at the sky.

"It's getting dark. We should head home." I pushed myself upright, and flopped my tail for a second or two before it disappeared. Then I stood up. "I'd like to walk home alone," I muttered.

"That's not safe," Spirithunter cautioned.

Somehow, I felt walking with her wasn't safe, either. "I'll take my chances. See you tomorrow, Spirit."

I turned around and walked away. Quietly, almost mirroring what I'd done earlier with Allen, I glanced over my shoulder and muttered, "I'm so sorry..." but this time, my reason was different.

By the time I was back at the street, it was already dark. But that didn't stop me from seeing the little critter walking down the road. He looked a lot like a cat, holding a disk-sized ring, and he was walking on two legs. I didn't even hesitate to walk over to him. "It's dangerous to be walking out here, Klonoa."

Klonoa looked up at me. "Do I know you?" he whimpered.

"No, but I know you, and that's all that matters." I yawned loudly before signalling he follow me. "We need to head indoors before Shaoran appears and tries to murder us."

Klonoa glanced around before following me. I opened the door and sat down on the couch. I was so tired...

"So, who are you?" Klonoa asked.

"My name is Soundstorm. For more details, you can talk to my sister. Goodnight."

*

POV: Syaoran

"Lilacheart-san?" I said, knocking on the door frame to her room.

"Yes?" came Lilacheart's sleepy response.

"...Your sister's on the couch. There's a cat resting its head on her shoulder."

"...Come again?" she asked, and I heard her forcing herself out of bed. She pushed the door open, rubbing her eyes. I wasn't sure if she seemed to remember that she was in her PJs. She didn't seem embarrassed, so I figured I shouldn't be either.

"Your sister is on the couch with an anthropomorphic cat sitting beside her."

"...Awww, how cute," she laughed, before walking passed me.

I wasn't really kidding. Who was that black cat kid anyway? With a shrug, I went a few paces down the hall and gently knocked on Sakura's door. "You awake?" I called quietly, as to not wake her up if she wasn't.

"I've been awake for an hour," came Sakura's response.

I pushed the door open and walked over to her. "How are you?" I asked. I'd been concerned over her burn wounds, but Emily had healed them really well. I'd refused to be healed until Sakura was.

"I'm good. You?" she asked.

"I'm fine."

Whatever conversation we were about to have was cut off with a loud yelp.

"What's going on?" Sakura asked.

"We should probably check it out," I decided. We both walked out to the living room and saw Soundstorm staring incredulously up at Lilacheart.

"You slapped me," Soundstorm finally said.

"...I don't know, I sort of thought you deserved it."

"...Why?"

"...Instinct. And your self-esteem."

"...Oh. Yeah. I guess I did deserve that, huh?" she muttered, more to herself.

"Am I missing something?" I slowly queried.

"It's a twin thing," the two answered.

"Who's the cat?" I asked, deciding it would make much more sense if I switched subjects.

"Klonoa. Some cute little cat kid," Soundstorm immediately responded. I nodded to prove my semi-existent understanding.

"Soundstorm-san, what's that in your hand?" Sakura asked, walking towards the twins and grabbing Soundstorm's left wrist. In her hand was a glass shard. It was covered in blood.

"This? Oh, I found it when I nearly drowned yesterday."

There was a long silence.

"You have so much explaining to do, it's not even funny," Lilacheart finally informed her.

"...I know, it's hilarious." Her tone was sarcastic. "Long story short, there's a Milotic in the river and I'm a +Anima."

"...I'm never letting you out of my sight again," Lilacheart decided, gently taking the glass out of her hand. "This looks familiar..."

I stayed quiet while she thought. Her sister seemed to be analyzing it as well. I didn't understand. It was just glass...

Who am I kidding? This is Wands and Worlds County. It could be anything. When Yûko said that we'd see worlds that defied all logic, this is probably what she'd been talking about.

"...This," Lilacheart half-gasped in an amazed tone, "is the glass I scraped my wrist on three weeks ago."

"I-It is? I thought you left that in your room!" Soundstorm said. "On your dresser—"

"It disappeared." She turned to look at me. "Remember when I gave you bandages when we first met, Syaoran-kun?" she asked. I nodded; it felt like years ago, but I could recall what she was talking about. "Well, the bandages I had were because I scraped my wrist against this piece of glass."

"How do you scrape your wrist against glass?" I wondered.

"It involved basketball, a mop, tennis shoes, and my science teacher. Ironically, no broken windows. This glass was just...there. I don't know why. I suppose there's a reason..."

"Syaoran!" Mokona called from the top of the stairs before promptly...falling down them.

"Way to go," Lilacheart laughed before going to help the poor creature.

"Are you okay?" I asked, walking over to it. "What is it?"

"Mokona just felt a really strong power!"

Sakura, Kurogane, Fai, Lilacheart, and Soundstorm were all surrounding us now. Kurogane and Fai, I'll add, had followed Mokona down the stairs, needless to say, without falling. "Where from?" I asked.

"There!" It pointed towards the shard in Lilacheart's hand.

"Soundy found it," she said, quickly handing the glass back to her sister.

"I don't want to the credit," she whimpered, passing the glass back to her sister. The two continued to pass it back and forth for several seconds before Kurogane finally snapped, "Stop it before you accidently kill one another! That thing's sharp, you know!"

Seriously, living with these twins was often more entertaining then what was on TV.

"Here." I took the glass from both of them before kneeling down to Mokona's height. Everyone, including me, watched in interest as Mokona took the shard.

"It's from a mirror," it murmured.

"Isn't that usually considered bad luck?" I asked.

"Considering that I was drowning when I found it..."

"Soundy, I seriously wonder if you have more doom magnetism then Himawari," Lilacheart laughed.

"Says the woman who fell off a building," Soundstorm shot back, but the two were smiling, so I couldn't help but laugh, especially since Sakura did.

Watanuki. It'd been a while since I'd spoken to him, even though we were in the same place. I wondered how he was. Or how Yûko was doing without him. Would that be her first complaint?

"Didn't Himawari-chan doom the people around her, and not herself?" I asked.

"DOES IT REALLY MATTER?!" Kurogane roared, causing Sakura to jump, me to flinch...but it just made everyone else laugh harder.

I glanced over at the cat kid, who looked so lost that I actually felt bad for it. I waved it over towards us. "My name's Syaoran," I said as it came into hearing distance.

It smiled and nodded. "I'm Klonoa."

"Nice to meet you."

The cat grin it gave almost reminded me of Mokona.

Wait, a cat and a rabbit/manjû bun. Was that safe?

There was no time to worry about that now. "What's so powerful about a mirror shard?" I asked Mokona, who focused intently on it. Suddenly, it started squeaking and jumping up and down.

"It's on the tip of my tongue—!" it repeated a couple of times, before saying, "It's an amplifier!"

"An amplifier...?" Fai asked. "Care to explain?" He seemed intrigued.

It turned the shard around a couple of times in its paws before glancing around. "Can someone hold this?"

We all exchanged glances, then I knelt in front of it and took the shard.

"Hold out the point," it requested. I listened to it, and held the point directly to it, unsure of what it was going to do. Gently, it tapped the jewel against the sharp edge of the mirror.

"Mekyû!" it cried, its eyes shooting open in 'boink' mode. With that, a beam of light shot out of the jewel on its forehead and projected an image...

"Y-Yûko!" Lilacheart cried in surprise. I glanced at her, and she immediately went red in the face. "Yûko-san," she corrected herself. I gave her a sympathetic smile. It's not easy getting used to someone else's culture.

Yûko turned to face us. "Mokona. It's been a while. Have you been having a hard time getting into contact? The other Mokona and I tried to get into touch with you the other day."

"That had some painful results," Fai recalled. We all nodded. Well, except Klonoa. Poor thing.

"...Lilacheart and Soundstorm. Those are your names, correct? Mokona mentioned you the last time we talked."

"H-Huh? Y-Yeah, that's it."

"Many others live in your county, correct?"

"Yes." The two both nodded, and I even found myself nodding. I had a hard time keeping track of the members, let alone trying to name off some for Sakura.

"Can you get them all together?"

"Last time we all tried to get together..." Lilacheart began. She glared at all of us, just daring us to speak. Had something happened after I'd fallen unconscious from the smoke fumes...?

"The clone tried to kill us," she finished slowly.

Yûko nodded. "This is different," she assured the two. "I need to talk to the entire county."

"...Are we finally going to get an explanation?" Lilacheart whispered.

"...Yes, I think I can safely say you will."

"Woohoo!" the twins cheered. I smiled, at the same time agreeing with them. It was about time we got some answers.

Klonoa glanced questioningly at Soundstorm, who nodded. "Go right ahead."

"Wahoo!" he cheered. Soundstorm laughed. I guess Klonoa was known for saying that, or something...?

"We'll get back to you soon, okay, Yûko-san?" Lilacheart said.

Yûko gave a short nod. I pulled the glass shard away from Mokona, and the image faded out.

"Soundy? Call Sheila," Lilacheart said.

"Okay. By the way..." She grinned. "It was me who taught Kurogane to use the cell phone." Then she disappeared around the corner.

"...Why didn't I expect that?" Lilacheart asked Kurogane. He refused to answer.

*

POV: ?????

There wasn't much noise amongst all of us. Most of us were resting. Maybe everyone was asleep now. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get myself to sleep. I was too worried.

I noticed a figure approach me from my right. I turned my head to see him behind me.

"You can't sleep either, huh?" he asked me.

I shook my head. "No," I sighed. I looked down at the ground. It, too, like everything around us, was just a black expanse of nothing.

I felt a pang of fear grip my heart. "Are you sure she's okay?" I asked him, suddenly feeling frantic. "We haven't been able to find her...everyone else is here except her!"

"I'm sure she's okay. Maybe she managed to escape. Someone will find us, and I bet she'll be with them. Stop worrying."

I let out a long sigh. "I suppose..." I looked up. "Until then...we need to make sure this world stays bright."

I saw him give a small nod out of the corner of my eye. "Yes. Until its rightful owner reclaims it. Until then...we wait."

***

Chapter Fourteen

POV: Spottedfire

I knocked on the door, vaguely wondering what was so important for Sheila to have sent a message asking for everyone to gather at her house. The Skitty in my arms cocked its head up at me and mewed softly. I had found it sleeping at the foot of my bed this morning, with no clue of where it had come from. Sheila had asked us to bring fictional characters too, so I figured I might as well bring it along.

The door opened to reveal Sheila with a large toad sitting on her shoulder. She looked a little bit harried. "Hello, Spotty," she greeted. "Everyone else is in the living room if you want to go ahead and join them."

"Okay," I said, following her as she led the way into the house. I turned the corner—then stopped dead in my tracks. The living room was literally stuffed, with Wandies and fictional characters all over the place. I stepped carefully through the crowd, nearly tripping over a large dog—wolf?—on my way to the couch. Starsight and Rabbitfoot were already sitting there, squished in with a couple fictional characters on either side. "Any room left?" I asked.

"Sure, there's plenty of room left!" Rabbitfoot said, elbowing Starsight over and squishing to the other side to make room between them. Starsight let out a slight yelp as she was shoved against the man she was sitting beside; Fai, I think his name was. She blushed bright red, and he gave her an almost apologetic smile as I sat down next to her.

"Aww, you got a Pokémon?" Rabbitfoot asked, reaching over to pet the Skitty. It purred, pushing its head against Rabbitfoot's hand.

"Yeah, I found it sleeping at the foot of my bed this morning," I replied.

"It's so cute," Starsight said, giving the Skitty a scratch behind its ears.

I noticed for the first time that her hands were both thinly wrapped with bandages. "What happened to your hands...?"

"Ah, it's nothing," she said, quickly dropping her hands into her lap. "It's just what's left of the burns I go the other day...you know..."

"Didn't Emily-chan heal those?" Fai asked.

"Yeah, most of it. I told her that she should save some of her energy for the others..."

"You should've gotten them fully healed," he said, a hint of worry in his voice.

"It's nothing, really! It doesn't hurt that much, and it'll heal on its own anyways. Emily has about a hundred other Wandies to worry about—"

Their conversation was cut off when a white creature resembling a rabbit bounded over to us, leaping up into Starsight's lap. It was carrying what looked like a shard of glass in its paws. "Can Mokona sit here?" it asked.

"Sure, that's fine," Starsight said with a small smile.

Something glimmered in the corner of my eye, and I turned my head to see the ghostly outline of a silver cat perched on Fai's shoulder. "Do you mind if I watch from here?"

"Not at all," Fai responded.

I glanced about the room, taking a quick count of who was there. Most of the group was made of Wandies, all crammed together closer than sardines in a can. I wasn't surprised that I could hear several people talking about claustrophobia. There were several fictional characters scattered here and there too, though admittedly I didn't recognize many. Just in sight near the stairs I spotted a small knot of ThunderClan cats; Firestar, Brambleclaw, Squirrelflight, Sandstorm, Leafpool, Jayfeather, Lionblaze, Graystripe, Dustpelt, and Hollyleaf. They all looked incredibly jumpy to be in an enclosed space packed to bursting point with Twolegs. I both pitied and admired them for having the courage and patience to put up with it.

"'Scuse me, coming through," a voice said, and I turned my head to see a boy walking through the crowd towards us. And when I said through, I meant literally. He was walking through the people in the room as if they weren't there; I saw several people shiver after he passed through them, as if hit by a sudden cold wind. "Gosh, it's packed in here, isn't it?" he said, sitting down between Rabbitfoot and the bespectacled boy on her other side, where there was absolutely no room whatsoever.

Rabbitfoot shuddered and shifted over in my direction as far as she could go. Which was pretty much nowhere. "Jeez, Danny, you have no idea how weird that felt."

"Well, hey, at least I'm saving some space," he said, shifting position so he was sitting on the back of the couch instead.

"You could've picked a better spot," Rabbitfoot muttered at him. She glanced over at the boy who had originally been sitting there. "This is probably your fault, Watanuki," she said in a slightly teasing tone. "You're the spirit attractor after all."

The boy, Watanuki, went red in the face, and seemed to be about to reply when Sheila's voice echoed above the noise. "Are we all here?"

"Still waiting for a few more Wandies!" Ashtail replied.

"But just a few, right?" Sheila asked. "We might as well get started then."

Something brushed against my shoulder, and I twisted around to see Lilacheart leaning over the back of the couch. "Starry, you've got Mokona?"

"Yeah," she responded.

"Okay then. You're going to have to hold the shard against its forehead in order to amplify its power enough to reach Yûko."

Starsight gave her a nod in return. Mokona handed her the glass shard, which she took and turned around so the point was facing Mokona. The little white creature reached forward and tapped its jewel against the shard. "Mekyû!" it cried, its eyes opening so wide that I jumped. The jewel shimmered, and a beam of light emitted from it, projecting an image on the far wall. Everyone fell silent as the image cleared to reveal a woman with long black hair, surveying us with scarlet eyes.

"Yûko-san!" Watanuki cried, sounding strangely overjoyed.

"Ah, Watanuki, I was wondering where you'd gone off to," the woman, Yûko, said with the air of one not surprised. "I have already compiled a list of chores that need to be done when you return." She lifted a rather thick scroll into view.

Watanuki groaned audibly and thumped his head against the back of the couch.

"Yûko...san," Sheila greeted.

"Just call me Yûko if you'd prefer," she replied with a slight smile. "You are Sheila, leader of Wands and Worlds County, correct?"

"Yes, if you'd like to put it that way. We're actually waiting for a few more Wandies to get here, but we figured we might as well get started anyway."

No sooner had she said that than the front door banged open. There was the sound of rapid footsteps down the hall, and milliseconds later Sevenclaws skidded into view. "Yûko-sama♥!" he cried.

"Seven, I am not even going to ask how you managed to put a heart into that," Starsight stated.

"It be extreme skill, LTOL-san," Sevenclaws responded.

Starsight groaned and thumped her head against the back of the couch.

"We're just about to start, so find a place where you're comfortable," Sheila interjected, nodding to Kitten-Chan, Adderfang, and Thunder, who had followed Sevenclaws inside. The four of them managed to squish themselves into the crowd—how I'll never know. Once everyone was settled again, Sheila turned back to Yûko. "Lilac and Soundy said you'd be able to give us an explanation of the...events that have happened here."

Yûko nodded. "There have been many different people and creatures that you assume to be fictional appearing in your town, correct?"

"That's right," Sheila said with a nod that was instinctively mirrored by most of the people in the room.

"Three separate powers are behind the cause of these events. Three powers that some of you know well." She cast her gaze about the room, hesitating slightly on Syaoran and Fai, two girls wearing gleaming jewels at their wrists, and the group of ThunderClan cats gathered by the stairs.

"...What are these powers?" Sheila asked slowly.

"There are three in total," Yûko said, turning to look at Syaoran and Fai again. "Sakura's feather is one."

I could practically feel their surprise as I noticed them exchanging a quick glance out of the corner of my eye.

The Time-Space Witch turned to the two girls she had lingered on earlier. "A power crystal of Avalon is another."

The red-haired girl gasped, while I saw the raven-haired girl's hand tighten slightly in the ruff of the silvery-white wolf that stood beside her.

"And the near entirety of StarClan is the final power."

Yowls of shock echoed by the staircase as the news sank into the ThunderClan cats. I heard a sharp inhalation of breath, and turned my head slightly to see the ghostly silver cat on Fai's shoulder tensing. Yûko glanced at her. "I say the near entirety because you managed to escape, correct, Brightspirit?"

The cat, Brightspirit, nodded slowly. All eyes in the room were now on her. "It was nearly a moon ago now...it began back by the lake in the Clan's real territory. We're not sure what it was, but some power managed to completely overshadow us, taking us captive. I managed to escape at the last moment, though when I did it was in different skies than before, even though the Clans were still there." She glanced over at Sheila. "It was these skies, the ones in the county."

Starsight and I exchanged a look of surprise. If what Brightspirit had said was true, that would mean that the Warrior cats had been in Wands and Worlds County a full week before Syaoran, Fai, and Mokona's initial arrival.

A patch of ginger moved in the corner of my eye, and I turned my head to see Firestar weaving through the crowd until he could leap up onto the arm of the couch next to Watanuki. "That would explain why StarClan has been so silent this past moon," he said quietly with a glance at Leafpool and Jayfeather. Brightspirit gave him a nod of confirmation.

"Where are they now?" Sheila asked Yûko.

"Currently all three powers are residing in a dimension parallel to yours," the Time-Space Witch responded. She glanced at Mokona. "The barrier is interfering with some of your powers, which is why contact has not been possible without this mirror shard."

"Mirror shard?" Lilacheart echoed.

Yûko gave a short nod. "It originates from a video game I believe some of you are familiar with."

"Wait, not Kirby and the Amazing Mirror?!" Rabbitfoot asked suddenly.

Her only response to Rabbitfoot's statement was a slight smile. "Dimension travel will not be possible for you, Mokona, until the powers have been neutralized. You will have to use the mirror shard instead to traverse between the two dimensions."

"Use the mirror shard? How would we do that?"

Yûko glanced about the room again. "Are any of you familiar with the book The Subtle Knife?"

There were a few yeses from several of the Wandies.

"The shard will work much in the same way as the knife. You will need to hold out the shard, feel for the correct dimension, and cut through to it."

"I volunteer!" Rabbitfoot said, throwing her hand up in the air to a few giggles from several Wandies. After a moment, however, her face fell slightly. "I wouldn't have to cut off my fingers, would I?"

Yûko shook her head. "This mirror shard is not the subtle knife. Many of the latter's requirements do not apply. In addition, the barrier becomes a boon in your case. It will block other paths, so there is only one way to cut, into the dimension where the three powers are being held."

Rabbitfoot nodded quickly. "Can I try it now?" she asked eagerly.

"Not right now, if the shard breaks contact with Mokona's jewel we'll lose the transmission," Starsight muttered back at her.

"It's all right, I've told you what I can for now," Yûko interjected. "If you need to contact me again, touch the shard to Mokona's jewel and a connection will be established instantly." She gave us all a nod. "I wish you all the best of luck."

"Thanks!" several people called out to her as Starsight removed the shard and the image of Yûko flickered and faded out.

Rabbitfoot held out her hand, and Starsight passed her the mirror shard. "Are you really going to try it now?"

Rabbitfoot shrugged slightly as she took the shard. Before she did anything, though, she cast a glance over at Sheila. She looked hesitant, but at last she sighed. "Be careful. Start small to begin with."

"Okay," Rabbitfoot answered, raising the shard in front of her. The room fell silent as she closed her eyes and held the shard out in the air. Several long seconds passed, then she slowly moved the shard down, as if cutting something.

Cutting something indeed.

As she moved the mirror shard, I saw a slit appear in mid-air, a slit through which I could see nothing but darkness. It widened as she drew the shard downwards, until it was about a foot long. It looked almost exactly like the red scratches that had been dumping fictional characters all over the county, except for the fact that it was pure black instead of red.

Whispers broke out across the room as the scratch hung there for a few moments before sealing itself up again. Sheila took a step forward. "I think that we'll definitely be using that later," she said over the noise. "But for now, I don't want anyone trying to use the shard to go through into the alternate dimension Yûko mentioned. For now, we'll keep to what we've been doing so far. Everyone, go back home and rest for a bit. Training will start again at three, at the school."

There were many nods and murmurings of various yeses as the Wandies and others got up to leave. I stood, gathering the Skitty into my arms again.

"Where're you headed?" Starsight asked me as she stood beside me.

"Probably just back home, like Sheila said," I answered. "I've got to figure out some living arrangements for this Skitty here."

She smiled. "Have fun with that then," she said. "Meet you back at the school later?"

"Sure," I agreed, weaving my way through the crowd and heading out the door.

*

POV: Rabbitfoot

A black void.

...Yeah, that's pretty much how I would describe it.

I knew I was dreaming, but it was a little strange to actually be aware of that fact. Wherever this place was, it kinda reminded me of the dimension I had cut to with the mirror shard earlier that day. I slowly turned in a circle, squinting and trying to see farther. Nothing.

...Okay, I lied. I suddenly could feel a presence somewhere out there, and getting closer. I wasn't really afraid though; it didn't feel threatening. I guess I was nervous, like meeting someone that I hadn't seen in a really long time.

I felt whoever it was stop behind me, and I turned. A little man stood there, so old and wrinkled yet still seeming to be filled with life. He wore a dark purple robe like something out of Medieval Times, and he was so short I was looking down on him. Like, half my height short. ...Short.

HELLO, RABBITFOOT.

I stared at him. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

He chuckled, and that chuckle seemed to fill me like a hot air balloon. NO, WE HAVEN'T MET. MY NAME IS THE ELLIMIST.

"Ah. Okay."

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE ONE OF SEVERAL WHO HAVE OBTAINED THE POWER OF THE BLUE BOX, CORRECT?

"Um, yeah. Wait, are you connected to Animorphs then?"

The Ellimist smiled. ES. TO PUT IT IN YOUR TERMS, I AM A CHARACTER FROM THE ANIMORPHS BOOK SERIES.

"...That explains a few things."

He chuckled again, and I suddenly felt the air stir next to me. I glanced down, then nearly leapt back in fright.

Sitting next to me was a cheetah. It cocked its head up at me, a low rumble coming from its throat. It took me a moment to realize that it was purring.

I BELIEVE IT MAY BE A BIT DIFFICULT TO SECURE SATISFACTORY MORPHS IN YOUR SITUATION. I'M OFFERING MY HELP TO ALL OF YOU.

I hesitated for a moment. Starsight had explained the basics of acquiring a morph: you have to make physical contact with whatever you want to acquire, then focus on it. And even though it was a dream, I was still standing next to a freaking cheetah!

Screwing up my courage or whatever you want to call it, I slowly reached out to touch the cheetah's head. It didn't flinch or try to attack me or anything, which I took as a good sign. I took a deep breath, then closed my eyes and focused on the cheetah. I felt it become limp and relaxed beneath my touch; the acquiring trance, apparently it was called.

I opened my eyes to see the ceiling of my room again. Slowly, I sat up, glancing around to make sure. Yep, this was my room alright.

TWO HOURS IN MORPH. DON'T FORGET.

"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled, flopping back on the bed and pulling the covers over me again.

*

POV: Kurogane

I took a step forward, pushing back her sword and striking out with a light thrust at her shoulder. Starsight blocked the blow with an ice shield and struck out again. I parried her blow, our swords clanging together as we both tried to push the other back. After a moment I shoved her sword aside, swinging Sôhi forward and stopping millimeters from her throat. She froze, lowering her sword arm as her Kudan melted away.

"Better," I grunted, also lowering my sword and taking a step back. "You've definitely improved these past few days."

"It's almost hard to tell, I keep losing all the time to the ninja master," she joked. She rubbed the back of her neck and added, "Three days of training in a row like this is a bit hard, though."

"You can't get there the easy way," I responded. "There're no shortcuts to strength."

She gave me a wry smile. "Yeah, guess I can't really complain to you about that, can I?" She held out her hand, and her Kudan rematerialized as a sword once more in her palm. "Can we try it again?"

I gave her a short nod, and we began the training again. After the battle against the clone and those Hork-Bajir, Starsight had requested that I teach her the basics of sword fighting. Honestly, I was rather glad I had switched students with Fai; how was I supposed to teach someone to fight with a chair anyways?

I ended the round again by knocking the sword out of her hand entirely; it morphed back into her Kudan's regular form in mid-air and soared back down to her, chirruping. I sheathed my sword. "Go take a break. We'll meet back here in fifteen minutes."

She nodded, crossed to the gym doors, and pushed them open, her Kudan hovering after her. I stood off to one side of the room, crossing my arms over my chest. The gym was full yet again with Wandies and all manners of other people, all of them training for battle. I spotted Fai and Lostpaw across the room, training in 'the art of fighting with a chair'. Hey, I didn't come up with the name.

In another corner, Sevenclaws and Spottedfire were practicing battle each other with their Pokémon. Personally I didn't like that style of battling, commanding something else to do the fighting for you, but they both seemed to have gotten the hang of it. As I watched Sevenclaws' Absol lunged forward and lashed out with its claws, dark ghostly power trailing in the air behind it. Spottedfire's Skitty seemed unfazed by it, ramming the Absol in the side and causing it to stumble backwards a few paces.

In the center of the gym I could see a rather fierce mock battle taking place between a large cougar and a silver-white wolf. Minou and Wolf, I remembered. They had both used whatever power was in that blue box Magicyop had found, which let them turn into animals. Wolf was a perfect copy of Stormbringer, while Minou had some help from a guy called the Ellimist in gaining the ability to become a cougar. They seemed pretty evenly matched, even in just a mock battle.

Nearby, Lilacheart and Icestar were practicing their archery skills, with Halt watching over them. Icestar seemed to be playing both teacher and student, helping Lilacheart where she needed it while also receiving tips from Halt. Perhaps it was because of their different bow designs that Halt didn't just teach them both directly.

I was debating about whether or not I should go find Starsight to continue her training when the gym doors suddenly flew open, and Soundstorm stumbled inside. The sword she was carrying clattered to the ground, and she fell to her knees, gripping a long wound in her shoulder that still dripped blood. A claw wound, I could tell.

"Soundy!" Lilacheart yelped, dropping her bow and racing to her sister's side. The entire room had fallen silent now, nearly everyone staring in shock at Soundstorm.

She staggered to her feet, leaning against Lilacheart for support. She tried to speak, stumbled over her words, then coughed and shouted, "We're under attack!"

Cries of shock broke out across the room. "By whom?" someone shouted over the noise, and I spotted Roy, who had been teaching Rubystripe how to use alchemy only moments ago.

"It's the Sc—"

Without warning the door exploded inward, sending Lilacheart and Soundstorm flying across the room since they had been standing so close to it. Smoke and dust filled the air, reducing everyone to mere shadowy silhouettes. Shouts of panic echoed throughout the room as everyone tried to find each other and figure out what was happening. The dust began to settle, and someone stepped through the ruined doorway into the room. He was wearing a long white coat, and carried a small gun at his side. I drew my sword, levelling it at him. "Who are you?" I demanded.

He took his time, scanning leisurely about the room as the last of the dust and smoke settled and the Wandies and others picked themselves up after the explosion. At last he looked at me and smiled. "I am one member of a wonderful organization called the School."

A tide of Erasers surged through the door behind him, snarling as they threw themselves on us. Three Erasers charged me at once; I swiftly took down the first and blocked the blow of the second. The third one attacked me from the side, but I easily ducked its swipe and shoved it backwards. "Hikôgeki!" I snapped and electricity crackled from my sword, slamming into the two Erasers and knocking them unconscious.

There was a loud snap, and a torrent of fire roared past me, incinerating a group of Erasers on my right. I turned, realizing that Roy had been the one to launch that attack. I fought my way towards him, cutting through the Erasers until we were fighting side by side. "Cutting it a bit close back there, huh?" I grunted.

"Saving you from a nasty attack, actually," he responded, sending small jolts of fire out at individual Erasers that attacked us.

"I could've handled it just fine on my own!" I snapped.

"Duck."

Annoyed, I tucked and darted around him as he launched another blast of fire past me at a new group of Erasers. I lashed out with Sôhi, slicing into an Eraser that had lunged at him from behind. "Now we're even!"

We fought together for a while, hacking our way through the wave of Erasers that continued to pour through the ruined doorway. Everyone was fighting now; I caught glimpses of Rabbitfoot using her pin to send Erasers flying, Cloudwind smashing through them with her keyblade, Lostpaw swinging her chair. It was like a never-ending flow of Erasers pouring in through the door, and after a while Roy shouted at me, "We're not winning this battle!"

"We're not losing yet!" I responded, shoving a rather persistent Eraser back again.

"We can only hold out for so long," he reminded me, more fire blazing from his gloves into the crowd of Erasers.

<Hey! Everyone who can hear me!>

I nearly stopped out of pure shock at hearing a voice inside my head, but there were several attacking Erasers that needed attending to.

<Sorry, sorry, don't panic. It's me, Magic. Anyone and everyone who can, get to the janitor's closet!>

Roy and I exchanged incredulous looks. "Why do you think he wants us to meet there?"

"Beats me," I grunted in response.

<I haven't got time to explain now, but it'll make sense when you get—gah!>

His voice abruptly cut off. We glanced at each other, then lunged towards the doorway and out into the hall. We cleared a path through the Erasers that were still trying to get in through the door, making room for several Wandies to dart out past us. I glanced back once, catching sight of Lilacheart soaring down towards us, her wings outstretched. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the guy in the coat raise his gun. There was a bang, and Lilacheart cried out, her wings folding as she slammed into the ground. I heard a shout, and Syaoran appeared out of the crowd, charging at the man as he swung his sword. He turned, levelled the gun, and fired again; I spotted something bright blue sticking out of Syaoran's shoulder as he fell to his knees, his sword clattering to the ground.

"Kid!" I shouted, trying to force my way back into the gym. But the tide of Erasers was thicker than ever, preventing me from going back. I swore furiously under my breath, then whipped around and raced after Roy and the others. I'd just have to trust him to get out of it on his own.

It seemed like the Erasers were no longer following us, since the hallway was deserted. Roy was leading the group, Rabbitfoot, Sevenclaws, his Absol, Cloudwind, Lostpaw, Balto, and Cooro making the middle, while Halt and I brought up the rear. We skidded around the corner, the open janitor's closet coming into sight just down the hall. Sheila was standing in front of it; she gestured frantically for us to come as we skidded to a stop in front of her.

"Why'd...Magic...call us...here?" Lostpaw panted, setting her chair down and collapsing in it.

"Do any of you remember when Magic and I were looking for maps of the county a little while back?" Sheila asked.

Nearly everyone looked confused (myself included), but Rabbitfoot nodded. "Yeah, I remember that."

"One of the maps we found was a very old one, from before the county really got started and running. It shows a large system of underground tunnels spanning all over Wands and Worlds County."

Everyone exchanged glances of surprise. "Is this the entrance to them?" Cloudwind asked.

Sheila nodded. "One of them. Nearly everyone else has already gone inside, to a cavern a little ways along. I want the rest of you to follow them, and stay there until I join you."

"I'll stay back here, to help keep those Erasers from getting this far," I said, gripping my sword.

"No. I need you to go with the others into the tunnels, then wait in the cavern."

"Why should I?! I'm better off staying here!"

"I'm telling you to go! I don't want more people to worry about here!"

I didn't reply, mainly because, in the short time that I'd known her since arriving in Wands and Worlds County, I had never heard Sheila snap like that. Instead, I turned and followed the others as they trooped into the closet. There was a large hole in the floor at the back of the closet, through which protruded a hard metal ladder. Half the group had already gone down it while I had been arguing with Sheila; as I entered the cramped space Sevenclaws' Absol leapt down through the hole, with its master close behind. I guessed that the entrance wasn't very deep.

I followed them down, finding the group clustered near the ladder in the darkness of the tunnel. Cooro was carrying a flashlight; its beam bobbed erratically about the tunnel, giving me a headache.

"Are we all here?" Roy asked.

One by one the others answered, confirming that our group was all in the tunnel. Roy took the flashlight from Cooro, steadying the beam (much to my relief) before leading the way down the tunnel. Our footsteps echoed back and forth to us down the long tunnel, each one sounding different. I didn't keep track of time, but it didn't take too long for the tunnel to suddenly open out into a massive cavern.

Like Sheila had said, nearly all the Wandies and others who had been at the school barely an hour ago were clustered together in the cavern. The glow of flashlights pointed upwards spread across the ceiling, illuminating the cavern with a dull glow. Someone had set up some kind of platform-like structure to make more room for everyone. I was slightly surprised to find that, despite the number of people present, it was nearly silent. There were a few whispers here and there, but for the most part I couldn't hear anything.

We split up, distributing ourselves into the crowd. I wove through the mass of people until I found Fai and Sakura. She glanced up at me, her eyes betraying her fear. "Where's Syaoran-kun?"

I shook my head. "I lost him in that mess of a battle up there."

Sakura fell silent, the worry clear on her face. Fai hugged her gently, looking just as worried though plainly trying to hide it.

The silence fell thick again over the cavern, all of us waiting anxiously for Sheila's arrival. At one point we all looked up expectantly at the sound of footsteps, but it was only Soundstorm, Danny, Sunstreak, Will, and Amaterasu. They were all injured in one way or another; I saw Emily push her way through the crowd so she could heal them.

After what seemed like an eternity, Sheila finally returned. Everyone glanced at her, the shock and fear echoed on every face.

"We didn't all get out," Sheila said flatly. "Some of us got left behind."

Sakura let out a gasp beside me as a storm of muttering filled the room. "Who are those still missing?" Roy called above the noise.

"Icey, Allen, Lilac, Syaoran, Spirit, Firestar, Jayfeather, Starry, Katara..." Her voice choked slightly as she uttered a final name: "Magic."

The mutterings intensified, increasing to the point of hysteria. <We're going after them, right?> I heard Minou ask via thought-speak.

"Well, of course you are, aren't you?"

The reaction was instantaneous. Everyone reached for their weapons, stiffening in readiness to battle. The crowd parted slightly, and I spotted the Dark Sorceress standing at the mouth of one of the tunnels that led out of the cavern. Two identical wolves materialized out of thin air behind her, blocking her escape route. Wolf and Stormbringer. It was impossible to tell them apart.

Sheila made her way to the front of the crowd until she was standing in front of the Dark Sorceress. "What are you doing here?" she asked, the hostility barely contained in her voice.

The Dark Sorceress raised her hands in a calming gesture. "Peace. I come here with information for you, and to request to join your side."

Whispers swept throughout the cavern, but Sheila silenced them with a gesture. "Why do you want to join us? And what kind of information?"

The Dark Sorceress snorted. "These Erasers...they gladly agreed to work for me, to help me with my desires. But as soon as their old masters arrived, they turned on me, even tried to make me a prisoner of them. I have nowhere else to go now...as for the information, I can tell you exactly where in the building each of your captured friends is being held."

There was a long silence as Sheila seemed to consider the offer. "Including...Magic...?"

The Dark Sorceress stared at her blankly. "The toad," Sheila clarified.

"The toad too."

Sheila hesitated a moment longer, then turned and waved Roy over. "Tell what you know to Roy. Halt, Minou, Brambleclaw, Whisper, Adriane, Storm, Thunder. Get ready, we're going in."

A flurry of activity started as everyone began talking at once and those Sheila had named hurried to the tunnel that led back to the janitor's closet. Sheila wove through the crowd towards me. "Kurogane, I want you to watch the Dark Sorceress. Even though her information seems to be legit, I don't trust her."

"Neither do I," I grunted back. "She won't be going anywhere."

Sheila nodded shortly. "Good," she said, before disappearing back into the crowd.

*

POV: Allen Walker

Slowly, I came back to my senses. The bruise on the side of my head where one of the Erasers had whacked me pretty hard was throbbing, sort of making it a bit hard to see. Eventually my vision cleared, enough to show me that I was in a dark room that rather resembled a classroom. Some kind of weird glove was wrapped around my left arm, and my right was handcuffed to the teacher's desk at the front of the room.

"Oh great," I mumbled, glancing around. The room was empty, aside from the student's desks and chairs...and a clear box sitting on the nearest desk. Inside the box was what appeared to be a large toad. It looked at me and blinked slowly. <How're you feeling?>

Somehow I managed to remember that this wasn't a real toad but just Magicyop in morph. "Okay, I think."

<That's good...> Magicyop muttered in reply. He sighed. <If I don't get out of here soon I'm going to end up stuck like this...>

"What do you mean?"

<Oh, right, I don't think anyone's explained the morphing process to you or anything yet. Well...there's a two hour time limit. If I don't morph back in fifteen minutes, I'm gonna be stuck as a toad forever.>

"...That can't be good," I replied. I glanced down at my left arm, trying to focus on it and invoke my Innocence. Nothing. "I'm not sure what this glove thing is, but it's preventing me from using my Innocence. I can't break out without it."

<Do you think you could reach this container, at least? If I can get out and demorph it'd be easy to free you.>

"I'll try," I responded. Straining against the handcuff, I reached for the desk with my left arm, trying to at least knock the container to the floor. It was too far away; I couldn't quite reach it. I stuck my foot out instead, but though I could brush the leg of the desk, I still couldn't reach. "I hate being short," I muttered.

<Eh?>

"Nothing, never mind about it," I said quickly. I tried to pull on the desk I was handcuffed to instead, but it refused to budge. "Is this desk bolted to the floor or something...?!"

Without warning I heard something that sounded like an explosion from outside in the hallway. I jumped in surprise, and the container Magicyop was trapped in slid slightly on the desk, though it refused to fall to the floor and break. I craned my neck, trying to see out the small window set in the door. At least I had an excuse this time for not being able to see; I was sitting on the floor.

A dark shape appeared outside the window, and I heard the door handle rattle. But the room must've been locked, since the door didn't budge. There was a short pause, then the door suddenly burst inwards, blowing clean off its hinges and missing me by inches. I barely had time to recover from the shock of the sudden explosion when what looked like a golden eagle zoomed inside and smacked into me. "Wh-What?!"

<Allen!> the eagle squeed in what I recognized as Whisperheart's voice.

"Get off him, Whisper, you'll choke him to death," a voice laughed, and a girl holding what looked like a meat hook picked her way over the debris inside. The eagle made an odd harrumphing sound and flapped up to perch on my shoulder. Several more people followed the girl inside; two men, one dressed in a military uniform, the other wearing a long cloak, a girl dressed all in black, a silver white wolf, and a woman who I recognized as Sheila.

...Wow, I had a lot more names to learn.

<M-Mom!> Magicyop yelped.

"Magic," Sheila said. She quickly crossed the room, grabbed the box he was trapped in, and quickly popped the lid open. Magicyop hopped out, already beginning to demorph before he hit the floor. "How much time did you have left?"

"Minutes," Magicyop replied as he emerged from morph. "We're lucky you guys came when you did."

Sheila stepped forward, gave him a quick hug, then turned back to the rest of the group. "Thunder, Roy, see what you can do to free Allen, then we're getting out of here."

"We're not going to free the others?" the man in the military uniform—Roy, I assumed—queried.

Sheila looked pained as she shook her head. "We can't stay any longer, it'll put Minou and Brambleclaw in more danger. They've already taken care of the Eraser guards so far; any longer and they may not get out unscathed."

Roy gave a short nod before he and Thunder kneeled down next to me and began to work on the handcuffs that attached me to the desk. I was a little reluctant to let Thunder try to pry it apart with her meat hook, but I was even more reluctant to let Roy use his fire to burn it off (especially after witnessing the destruction of the classroom door). Eventually between the two of them they managed to get the handcuffs off, as well as the glove that encased my left hand. I staggered to my feet, Whisperheart still perched on my shoulder. I glanced down at my left arm, then focused on invoking my Innocence. My arm expanded until it nearly dragged along the ground, transforming into something silver and claw-like. I wasn't sure how effective it would be, since it was meant to be a tool for hunting Akuma—demons, essentially—but this world was so messed up that maybe the use of my Innocence had changed too.

<So cool!> Whisperheart squealed, making me turn slightly red in embarrassment.

"Are we all ready?" Sheila asked, heading to the door. "Minou and Brambleclaw said they'll meet up with us on the way back."

We left the room in single file, Sheila taking the lead while the man in the cloak—Halt, I believe—brought up the rear. I was kind of surprised that we didn't meet any of those Erasers on our way through the school's hallways, though I guessed that meant that Minou and Brambleclaw were doing their job properly in holding them off.

We managed to make pretty good progress towards the janitor's closet (I remembered that from Magicyop's message earlier) before the sound of footsteps rang out on the linoleum behind us. We all swung around, readying our various weapons, but it turned out to not be Erasers. A large cougar and a much smaller dark tabby cat skidded around the corner and raced towards us, sliding to a halt just in front of us. Both of them seemed rather out of breath.

"Minou, Brambleclaw," Sheila greeted. "Are you both okay?"

<Yeah, we managed to draw all the guards away and take care of them,> Minou responded breathlessly. <One of them tried to call for reinforcements, but Brambleclaw managed to distract him long enough for me to get to him. I don't know if said reinforcements are actually coming or not.>

"Let's be ready for them if they do," Sheila said, gesturing for the rest of us to follow as she continued to lead the way down the hall. I winced slightly as Whisperheart dug her talons into my shoulder in readiness, but I didn't say anything.

We had just rounded the final corner when a loud shout went up, and suddenly a whole pack of Erasers were sprinting down the hall towards us. Whisperheart lifted from my shoulder with a screech, struggling to fly in the cramped space. One of the Erasers lunged at me; I lashed out at it with my left arm, gouging several deep scratches in its shoulder. It snarled with pain, swiftly striking back. I blocked the blow, shoving its claws back. Its next strike grazed my right arm; I bit back any reaction to the pain and countered with a final blow to its chest, ending it.

"Allen!" a voice shouted, and I spun around to see Sheila beckoning me towards the janitor's closet. I raced over to her. "I want you to get inside and start making your way towards the others. The rest of us can handle this battle."

I wanted to protest, to insist that I could keep fighting, but instead I just nodded and followed Sheila's orders. I entered the closet to find a large hole in the floor, accessible by a metal ladder. I peered inside; it was nearly pitch black, broken only by a flashlight beam that cut through the shadows. I glanced back once before stepping onto the ladder and beginning to climb down. I hadn't known her for very long, but already it felt like something was different with Sheila.

*

POV: Icestar

Carefully, my arms beginning to feel the strain from the repeated effort, I took aim, levelling my bow at the target placed on the opposite end of the gym. I closed one eye, checking my aim once more before letting the arrow fly. It struck just under the target, barely clipping the circular board. I let out a sigh, dropping my arms to my sides to rest for even only a brief second. For a long time now I had been forced to fire arrow after arrow at a small target on the other side of the gym. I don't know exactly what these School people wanted with me—I was just a normal girl who was fairly good at archery. From what I knew, though, it couldn't be good.

One of the School scientists was standing near the doors off to my left; he glanced up from his clipboard and gave me a look that clearly said, "Keep shooting." I took a deep breath, raising my bow again. I had been going at this for probably hours, though it felt longer. I didn't know anymore; I had lost track. But I did know one thing.

I couldn't take this any longer!

Swinging around, I nocked an arrow in my bow, aimed at the scientist, and fired. He barely had time to dodge; the arrow struck the white brick wall behind him and splintered. My aim had been off too, I hadn't had time to properly focus on my target.

The man pulled out a small black box—a walkie-talkie. "Test Subject 379 is loose!" he shouted into it. "Repeat: Test Subject 379 is loose! Requesting—"

I fired a second arrow. He flinched out of the way, but this time my aim was dead on. The arrow struck the walkie-talkie, shattering it. I nocked a third arrow, ignoring my muscles' screams of protest as I drew it back. "Don't move."

He smiled coldly at me. "I have no need to."

Without warning the doors burst open, and about twenty Erasers flooded into the room. I swung around, changed my aim, and fired. One Eraser went down. I drew a second arrow and shot it into the crowd before they were on me. My bow was wrenched from my hands, sent skittering across the floor. Claws tore into me, forcing me to the ground. The healing wound on my back from two weeks ago tore open, and I had to force myself not to scream with pain. Hands pressed down on my back, arms, legs, pinning me to the floor. I struggled, trying to break loose—

Something hard and cold snapped shut around my neck.

At once the Erasers that were pinning me down let go. I would've scrambled to my feet that instant, but I wasn't prepared for what came next. I heard a harsh crackle, then a huge jolt of electricity leapt from whatever was around my neck and into my body. This time I couldn't hold back the scream of pain as my body convulsed violently. Instinctively I tried to curl up, but my body no longer responded to my commands.

Without warning the jolt cut out. I lay there, flat on my back, panting for air. I tried to lift a hand to feel for whatever they had put around my neck, but I still couldn't move.

A shadow fell across me, and the scientist I had attacked earlier crouched down next to me, staring at me with an expressionless gaze. "Let this be a lesson to you. We do not tolerate rebellion. Next time, you may not escape with your life."

I couldn't answer, I was still paralyzed from the shock. If only I could've answered, I would've given him quite a talking to.

He stood again. "Give her another dose, just to cement the idea permanently."

Cement the idea? No, they were just playing now. Enjoying the torture.

I heard a second crackle of electricity, and steeled myself for the blow.

*

POV: ?????

Get out! Leave me alone!

<It's useless to beg like that. You should know yourself.>

I can try.

<It's hopeless. I have full control. You may as well not be alive.>

Except that I'm still living. Get out!

<If I felt like it, I could kill you. You are completely mine. Stop these pathetic rebellions.>

If I don't fight you, will you leave my friends alone?

A harsh, humourless laugh. <That's the whole point of having you. If I gave up on pursuing your so-called friends, there wouldn't be any reason to keep you alive, now, would there?>

My heart sank faster than a stone through water. Maybe there was no hope left.

The door opened, and I raised my head. "Come."

I attacked him one last time. Let me go!

He barely had to do a thing, easily crushing my will. <When the entire county is dead.>

If I could've, I would've sobbed with hopelessness as I was forced to my feet and walked to the door.

*

POV: Starsight

I curled up in the bottom of my cage, trying fruitlessly to get some sleep. The collar rubbed uncomfortably against my neck, but I tried my best to ignore it. I heard a rustle from the cage next to me, and guessed that Lilacheart was likewise trying to rest. The day after we had been captured, Lilacheart and I had launched an escape attempt. Needless to say, it had failed miserably. As punishment, we had both been fitted with these metallic collars that shocked us whenever the scientists wanted. We had also been moved to cages far apart from the others. But at least they hadn't separated us yet. I don't think I would've remained even remotely sane if I were on my own.

I heard a click in the lock, and I glanced up to see a pair of scientists wheeling a cart into the room. An assortment of vials and other scientific equipment stood on the cart, clinking together ominously as the cart rattled to a stop next to us. Without meaning to, I realized I was already beginning to tremble slightly. A new round of torture was about to begin.

One of the scientists knelt down next to my cage to peer in at me. I glared back, trying not to let my fear show. "Hand me a dose of that new stimulant that was just developed."

His partner took a vial from a stand on the cart, then picked up a needle and jabbed it into the vial, withdrawing a clear liquid. Instinctively I flinched back. I hated needles...all the more so that I didn't know what was in it.

There was a sudden loud crash from the cage next to me, and I guessed that Lilacheart had thrown herself against the bars, trying to stop them. "Leave her alone!"

"Lilac, cut it out!" I snapped. "Don't make it any worse!"

But it was already too late. There was a harsh crackle, then Lilacheart screamed with pain as the collar delivered a large jolt of electricity to her body. I cringed, sympathy for her and intense hatred towards the School clashing together at once.

I swung back towards the scientist, ready to snap at him for hurting Lilacheart, when I saw that he was already sticking the needle into the cage. Instantly my body tensed up, and I shut my eyes as if it would make everything go away. I felt a jab in my arm, and I gasped with pain as whatever toxin they were injecting into me began to flood my veins.

"That's it for now," the scientist said, removing the needle and standing up. "It should be a while before it begins to take effect. We'll come back in a few hours to take notes."

The two scientists left, the cart rattling as it was pushed out the door. They pulled the door shut, locking it behind them. Silence fell thick in the room again. It could've been only a few seconds or several minutes until Lilacheart broke it. "You okay, Starry?" I could hear the strain in her voice. After-effect of the shock, I guessed.

"Y-Yeah," I muttered. "I'm f-fine." If you didn't guess already, this was an outright lie. It suddenly felt extremely cold in the room, and at the same time it felt like I was overheating. I moaned and rolled over as best I could in the confined space, my head pounding with the beginnings of a headache.

"Try to rest, okay?" Lilacheart said, sounding worried.

"Yeah...uh-huh...okay..." I mumbled, closing my eyes. It kinda felt like I was developing RLS but for my entire body; I didn't want to lie still. I lost track of time, just trying to cling to...something. I couldn't think clearly anymore; my thoughts were muddled, jumbled together incoherently. Eventually, I managed to force myself into a fitful, restless sleep.

*

I woke again to the sound of the lock clicking and the door creaking open. This time, I didn't bother raising my head. It was probably those scientists coming back again to conduct tests. I curled myself tighter in an attempt to fall asleep again, when I realized that I couldn't feel my left arm. I shrugged the thought away; I had probably slept on it funny. Wasn't hard to do in this cramped cage.

Voices reached me through the haze that floated over my brain. I latched onto them, using them to remain conscious even though the words held no meaning to me.

"Can you do these locks too?"

"They're more complicated than the door...but yes, I should be able to."

"We'll work on this one."

"Can you slash it open?"

"No, we'd risk hurting Lilac."

"I can use magic too on this one."

"I really wouldn't recommend it in your condition..."

"I can try to bite it off, though that's likely going to hurt..."

"If you can. Don't hurt yourself too much."

There was a soft click, and the sound of creaky metal hinges grated in my ear. Someone grabbed me, gently pulling me out of the cage and setting me down. I heard another click, this one louder, more jarring, accompanied by a short, irritated growl. My curiosity finally getting the better of me, I shifted my head slightly with a moan and forced my eyes open.

I was lying on the floor of the classroom, three people bent over me. ...Er, make that two people and a wolf; Amaterasu's nose was practically in my face. Weakly I lifted a hand and tried to nudge her aside. She huffed, blowing a puff of warm air in my face before withdrawing. I noticed for the first time that the other two were Fai and Spirithunter. Shutting my eyes again, I gathered whatever strength I had left and attempted to sit upright.

"Careful," Fai cautioned, grabbing my shoulder and supporting me. "If you're gone through anything like the others told us, you're going to need a good deal of rest."

"What...how did you...?"

"It's a bit of a long story," came Soundstorm's voice, and I looked past Fai to see her kneeling next to Lilacheart, who looked about the same as I felt. "To cut it short, the Dark Sorceress gave us info on where you all were. Sorry we took so long, we had to find you all over again when you were moved."

"The Dark Sorceress...?!" Lilacheart exclaimed.

Soundstorm nodded. "Like I said, long story. Let's get back to the others first, then we'll tell you. Promise." She suddenly flung her arms around her sister in a hug, which Lilacheart returned.

"Hold on a sec, let me get these off you," Spirithunter said, crouching down in front of me. She touched the collar around my throat; I felt a small panel spring open. There were several soft beeps, then with a click the collar snapped open, and Spirithunter pulled it off. I rubbed my neck, grateful that it was gone. "How'd you do it?"

She shrugged. "I saw some of the scientists adjusting them, and just guessed from there."

I nodded, too tired to question her further about it. She went over to Lilacheart, and I caught sight of a wolf standing nearby. It's pelt was jet black, and it was opening and closing its jaws repeatedly, as if stretching them. It passed its tongue over its lips, then realized I was staring at it. Instantly it snarled slightly, the fur along its back bristling. It glared at me with golden eyes, and I felt a sudden jolt as I spotted a fleck of emerald green deep inside one of them.

"Fell," I whispered.

Fell tensed, then slowly made his fur lie flat. With effort, it seemed. "So you know me too," he growled.

"We'll have to do proper introductions later, right now we should go before we're found," a new voice said, and I turned slightly to see Syaoran. I remembered that I had seen him among the other captured before Lilacheart and I had been isolated. He looked in no better condition than Lilacheart or me, but he seemed okay enough as he offered his hand to Lilacheart. She took it with a nod of thanks, letting him pull her to her feet.

I staggered upright myself, instinctively gripping Fai's arm for support. "Are you all right?" he asked me.

I paused, thinking that one over. "I still can't feel my arm...they injected something into it a while ago..." It felt like my arm wasn't even there, just a deadweight. I could move it slightly when I experimented, but for the most part it was totally numb and useless.

Fai looked worried, but he just shook his head. "We'll have to ask Emily-chan about it later, right now we need to leave. Come on."

The entire group trooped out into the hall, Spirithunter checking first to make sure it was all clear. We went through the school in silence, always checking before turning corners and constantly glancing behind us. "Is there anyone else left?" Lilacheart whispered after several minutes of tense silence.

Soundstorm shook her head. "The four of you are the last," she whispered back. "We've already gotten everyone else out."

The four—...Oh yeah. Spirithunter had been one of the captured too. I glanced at her; compared to me, Lilacheart, and Syaoran, she seemed relatively uninjured. I guessed that she had probably been smart enough to keep silent rather than rebelling like the rest of us.

I couldn't help but feel slightly surprised when we reached the janitor's closet without running into a single scientist or Eraser. Fai held the door open, checking up and down the hall as the rest of us slipped inside. Spirithunter went to the back of the room, knelt down next to a metal disc like a manhole set in the floor, then grasped two bars set in it and yanked it off. A dark hole yawned open in the floor; looking into it I could see a metal ladder leading down to the ground below.

Soundstorm grabbed a flashlight off a nearby shelf and switched it on. "I'll go down first, we can wait until everyone's in before going on," she suggested. Everyone nodded, and she carefully lowered herself into the hole and began to climb down the ladder. One by one we followed her, until all eight of us were clustered at the base of the ladder. Spirithunter was the last one down; she pulled the cover back into place before jumping down to join us.

"The cavern where we're staying for now is down this way," Soundstorm said, shifting the flashlight over the walls and pointing it down the tunnel. She led the way, with Lilacheart and me close behind. The others trailed after us, our footsteps echoing off the dirt and stone walls.

"How far is it?" Syaoran asked, sounding weary.

"Not too far," Soundstorm answered. She paused, then added, "Well, it's a bit of a walk, but we'll get there eventually."

"Or not."

Something black streaked in the corner of my eye, and I glanced up in time to see a line of ink glow brightly against the ceiling before turning into a Power Slash. "Look out!" I shouted, leaping backwards as the tunnel roof suddenly caved inwards. Dust and bits of flying rock filled the air; I raised my arms above my head to protect myself from the debris.

At last the dust settled, and I dared to raise my head. The entire tunnel had caved in, completely blocking off our path. I could hear the others picking themselves up behind me, coughing from inhaling the dust and just general soft exclamations of shock. Spirithunter was standing directly in front of the cave in, still looking completely uninjured. She turned back to us, and I flinched slightly when I saw her expression. She was smiling.

"None of you are going a single step further," she said. "You're not going to meet up with your friends again."

"S-Spirit!" I gasped. "What are you talking about?"

She snapped her head around and glared at me. "I can't get any clearer. Your journey ends here. This is where I'm going to kill you all."

A snarl echoed off the tunnel walls, and Amaterasu stepped up beside me. That's not Spirithunter, she growled. You're that parasite, aren't you?

"Wai—wh-what?!" I exclaimed. "Parasite?!"

Amaterasu gave a short nod. That time when we went to train on our own...we were captured, taken to that place you call a Yeerk pool. I thought I saw something sliding into her ear near that pool, but at the time I didn't think it mattered.

Spirithunter smiled coldly. "Correct, wolf," she said in a voice that was Spirithunter's, but at the same time clearly not. "Your mistake is going to cost you now, with the lives of these so-called Wandies here."

She lifted the Celestial Brush and swiftly slashed it through the air. I snapped my arm up, barely managing to create an ice shield before the Power Slash formed. The shield was sliced in two, and I felt a stinging pain cut across my cheek, but the worst of the blow had been blocked. My Kudan materialized in mid-air beside me, swiftly transforming into a sword. I grabbed it, stepping into the defensive stance that Kurogane had taught me. I cast my eyes around the area; the tunnel was so narrow that there wasn't room for any of the others to fight alongside me. I was on my own.

Spirithunter whipped the brush through the air, drawing two vertical lines side by side. Without warning a torrent of rain washed into the tunnels, each drop burning as it struck my skin. I moulded an ice shield above my head, deflecting the raindrops until the rain had passed. Pulling the ice shield down in front of me, I lunged towards her, pulling back my sword to try and strike a superficial blow. She leapt backwards, this time drawing two horizontal lines. Thick purple mist filled the air, and my body instantly began moving at a snail's pace. She was slowing down time.

A growl came from behind me, and Amaterasu suddenly thrust her way up front. Being a goddess and originally the one who knew the technique, she was the only one aside from Spirithunter who was unaffected. Spirithunter took several paces back, drawing long, squiggly lines with the brush. Vines appeared out of thin air, lashing and striking out at Amaterasu. The sun goddess swapped out for Thunder Edge, using the glaive to cut down the vines.

She couldn't stop them all though. Several of them snaked past her, wrapping around me and tightly binding my arms to my sides. I skidded to a halt as time sped up again, struggling against the constricting vines. I could hear shouts and footsteps behind me; the others were trying to get into the battle.

I caught Spirithunter's eye again; she was grinning, raising the brush to carefully draw a symbol in the air, directly between her and me. My eyes widened in horror when I recognized what she was drawing. I snapped my head back to the others. "Get back!" I shouted frantically.

With a flourish Spirithunter finished drawing the symbol: a lightning bolt. The ink lit up with a flash, and a massive jolt of electricity leapt into my body. I screamed; this amount of power made the collars the School had forced us to wear seem like little static shocks. The vines burned off me from the power, but I barely noticed as a white light filled my vision.

The power suddenly cut out, leaving me swaying on my feet. I was surprised I was still alive, let alone standing. I fell to my knees, my Kudan disappearing within me once again, then collapsed on the ground.

Someone shouted my name, or maybe several people, I couldn't tell. My grip on reality was beginning to slip, a soft blackness enfolding itself over my vision. I only had one last thought before I blacked out: How do we win this battle against our own friend?

***

Chapter Fifteen

POV: Spirithunter

"Starry-chan!" Fai cried, and he ran full speed towards her. Lilacheart looked horrified and stood up to help, but Syaoran held her back. Soundstorm had been about to go get her, but Fai had beaten her to it. Since the hall was only narrow enough for one person, Fell had to hold Amaterasu back. The goddess looked like she wanted to...I couldn't tell what she wanted to do. Did she want to kill me? Did she want to save me?

"Ridiculous," the Yeerk sighed, scooping Starsight up off the floor by the collar. "Stop, mage. I'm not afraid to kill her."

Please, no! I begged. I'll do anything! Please, don't kill anyone!

I knew it was no good. This had been the plan, hadn't it? I was here to kill them all. No, no, no...

<Why do you even ask?> the Yeerk taunted, holding the brush to my friend's neck. "Try to attack me now. I dare you."

"You coward!" Syaoran yelled. I could see they were all desperate to do something. Anything. I felt the same, but what could I do? I'd tried so hard already...

The Yeerk spoke to me as he spoke to everyone else. "So, what method do you want me to use? I could kill her quickly with a Power Slash. Slowly with vines. I could electrocute her again, freeze her, burn her to death."

Fai, who had stopped, made a motion forward, and my arm moved, placing a drop of ink on Starsight's neck with the brush. He froze, trying to think of something that would get her out of danger.

<Do you have a preference?> the Yeerk asked me, a sneer in his voice.

I couldn't think. If I had control over my own body, I would be choking, perhaps in tears. Please... I whispered, mentally struggling. I couldn't lose anyone. Not like this. Not at my hands. I didn't want to be a murderer. How could I let myself do this?

"No."

I nearly gasped. Had I just spoken aloud? I realized my whole body was beginning to shake. The brush faltered. I tried to throw it out of my hand, but I didn't have that much control. I could feel the Yeerk pushing me back. I tried to make my consciousness surge forward.

"No!" I screamed, using all my might to fling Starsight away from me. She dropped to the ground. "No!!" I was desperate to fight the creature off. It was a surge of energy, and I took advantage of the few seconds. Still, the time was short. All I could do was drop her and stumble backwards. It was enough. Fai darted forward and picked Starsight up off the ground, quickly making his way back towards the small group he was with. I let out a choked breath. I'd meant to thank him, but my voice was slipping away from me.

"What a nuisance."

I felt my consciousness shoved back with minimal effort as my energy vanished. My limbs stopped shaking. I no longer had control. I felt exhausted.

"We'll rescue you, Spirit. Just hang in there," Soundstorm assured me.

"What an idealistic way of thinking." The Yeerk didn't approve, and I wasn't sure whether I believed her either. I had the Celestial Brush, and in their conditions, the only one who seemed to have the possibility of standing a chance was Amaterasu.

My arm drew a slash down Fai's back. Amaterasu noticed this and flung herself at him, smashing all three of them into the ground. The Power Slash caught her hind paw, but she hardly even seemed to notice as she spun around. I noticed something else out of the corner of my eye.

"Lilac!" Soundstorm gasped. Lilacheart had pulled out her bow and arrow and was pointing it right at me. The Yeerk wasn't afraid of it, and I hardly was, either.

"Are you really going to fire that arrow?" the Yeerk asked. "Do you even think it'll hit me?"

My voice made it sound like I had all the confidence in the world. I didn't care anymore. I wanted her to shoot. It would be much better if I died than if I killed all of them. However, her hand was shaking, and she looked like she was about to throw up. She had no idea what to do.

"Even if it would," the Yeerk continued, "could you really do it?" He wasn't even bothering to lift the brush. Lilacheart probably could shoot and hit if she were abrupt about it. But everyone knew with just one look at her, there was no way she'd be able to fire that arrow. She squeezed her eyes shut and murmured something, shakily lowering her weapon.

"Pathetic," the Yeerk sneered.

Lilacheart got to her feet and took a card out of her pocket. "I won't kill you, but I will stop you," she said.

"In your condition?" the Yeerk asked, almost bored.

Mentally I cringed. This was going to be quick, and I knew it.

"Ammy," she whispered. "Make this hallway a bit larger for us, please."

The goddess nodded at her. Yes.

Lilacheart took a breath, and I noticed something you don't see much before battle: She was blushing.

"A...Adeat!"

The card in her hand glowed for a brief moment, and the whole card shifted into a sword. And now Syaoran was blushing, too.

"Weren't you going to hide that in a drawer?" Soundstorm asked.

She didn't answer, instead turning to face me. "Ammy?"

Amaterasu crouched, growling in readiness.

The Yeerk snorted. "Alright, then. You're first."

I charged.

*

POV: Sheila

I restlessly paced the floor, glancing around. Where were they? They were taking a long time...maybe they'd been caught by the scientists during the rescue? Maybe we should go back for them. But what if we all got caught, too? I sighed aloud. This was all such a mess.

"Relax, Sheila..." Snuff whispered. "There's no use getting too worked up..."

"Do you want my chair?" Lostpaw asked, standing up and offering it to me.

I shook my head. "That's nice of you, but no thanks. I can't relax."

I felt a gentle tug at my pant leg, and I looked down. Kirby was looking nervously up at me. I sighed. "Everything's going to be alright, Kirby," I sighed.

It shook its head (its entire body?) and poked me.

"I think it's worried about you," Greyeyes pointed out.

I felt surprised. "We've got much more pressing matters to worry about right now." I smiled slightly. "But I appreciate your concern."

"Maybe we should look for them," Magicyop suggested. Kurogane was glancing around the area. Maybe he was worried, maybe he was angry. Probably both.

Kirby continued to pull at my pant leg until I finally looked down at it again. It let out a squeaky sound and proceeded to try and pull me down one of the underground corridors until I finally realized that it wanted to show me something. I began to follow it, and it eagerly took me around the corner. Around the corner were...drums. No, really, drums. When had these gotten here? I wondered.

"Sheila!" I heard Sevenclaws call.

I turned around. "Yes?"

"I'm going to send Absol searching. How's that, yes?"

"That sounds great. Thanks, Seven."

I turned back and looked at the drums. Kirby hopped onto one of them and began to jump on them, trying to find some sort of rhythm to fall into. It did this for about three minutes, before it began jumping on the red and blue one in a pattern. I'm not sure how to write it, but to try, it was a one beat, a one beat, a two beat, then a one beat. (- - -- - Clap the dashes, and it looks something like this.)

I blinked. One of them had to be shaken to make a noise, and the other was a deeper sound than the other two. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this, except...a new arrival. Soon. Maybe that's why the others were so far behind? Ugh...if that's what was holding them up for so long, I might have to talk to them. This was beginning to worry me sick. I was responsible for all of the Wandies of the county, and if anything were to happen to them...the loss of Kennen had been enough. I swallowed. It made me feel a little sick.

Kirby noticed the look on my face and, now able to reach my shoulder by standing on the drums, it patted my shoulder with a curious look on its face. I picked it up with a grin and put it on my shoulder, looking at the drums. I took the red and blue drums and began tapping out patterns that Kirby had been doing. Finally, I picked the red one up. I was surprised when it abruptly shrunk into a circle on my palm. Huh. I picked up the rest, and they all did the same. The blue became a square, the green a triangle, the yellow, an X. Maybe someone else could explain this to me.

Kirby grabbed my wrist and began cheerfully playing the drums on my palm. Huh. Weird day. I walked back into the room, and the sound of the drums filled the air. Everyone turned to stare at me.

"Um...Sheila?" Lakestorm began. "Why...?"

"I don't know, but I think we'll probably find out soon."

"You think so?" Allen muttered, shaking his head.

Believe me, find out we did, in the most astounding way possible. There was a loud growling sound down the hall, and above that, loud cheers, chirps, and yells. A bunch of the Wandies started to get to their feet, and I quickly took the lead, just in case it was dangerous. Absol suddenly burst into the room, with three spear wielding eyeballs on its back.

No. Seriously.

Kurogane yelled something profane, and a lot of the Wandies were preparing for battle. I raised a hand. "Not yet," I said calmly. A whole army of these things began to appear, including a few eyeballs on horseback, a few with axes, and a few with swords and shields. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this, either.

"Anyone recognize them?" I asked. No one spoke up, and I quietly crouched down in front of Absol and the three on its back. Absol looked about ready to kill everyone in the room. Sevenclaws went to his side in case he decided to try.

"Good evening," I said. "Who might you guys be?"

"We are the Patapon!" said the first one. It was clinging to Absol's ruff. "What is this thing? It's fast."

"Never mind that. You're a Patapon?"

"We're the Patapon tribe," it corrected.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"That's what we want to know!" a swords-creature demanded. "Who are you people?! Where are we?!"

"You're in Wands and Worlds County, and you aren't the first to arrive here without warning. Don't worry, we'll find a way to take you home. Just don't go pointing your weapons at the residents."

A Patapon holding a large, elaborate looking sign object and a Patapon in a feathered headdress approached me. I assumed they were the leaders.

"Are you missing a few residents?" the headdress Patapon asked.

My eyes widened. "Do you know anything?"

"They're fighting behind a closed-off cavern."

I blinked. "Wait. Fighting?"

"Yes. It sounded nasty."

I took a long breath. I couldn't panic, not now.

"Closed-off?" I questioned.

"Yes. A bunch of rocks have blocked off the exit path." The Patapon's...well, eye...was on my hand.

"Perhaps...we could be of assistance, Mighty One?"

"Mighty One?"

She took my palm. "Yes. These are the drums."

...Oh, so that's what those were for. Nice.

"What is your name?" she asked.

"How can there be two Mighty Ones?!" one of the Patapons cried.

"Perhaps she's an imposter!" one of them considered.

"Should we attack?"

I said nothing as they all debated what to do. Finally, a voice interrupted.

"You're in a different world. There are different mighty ones."

I turned around. Snuff had grabbed my shoulder and was smiling brightly at the Patapon. "Sheila happens to be our leader. You can trust her."

"Could she lead us into battle? Could she lead us across deserts, across hostile terrains? Into war?"

"If you asked her to."

"I think that's a bit of a stretch," I whispered.

"You do. We don't." His face grew serious. "You've helped us more than you could imagine."

I glanced at everyone. They were all watching me.

"Has this whole group unanimously decided that she is the Mighty One?" the female Patapon leader asked.

They all seemed a bit hesitant. "Their leader," I put in.

"Our leader," all of the Wandies agreed. Even a few of the fictional characters did. I felt a bit embarrassed, but I didn't let it show.

"Mighty One might be a bit of a stretch," I said, "but I'm the decision maker."

"Then we will follow you. Out of curiosity, where did you find those drums?"

"..." Somehow, 'Kirby found them lying in the hallway' didn't seem like the right response.

"Perhaps the Mighty One lent them to you?"

"Sure."

"Then lead us well."

"Sheila?" Snuff said.

"Yes?" I asked coolly.

"You're talking to a bunch of eyeballs, and they think you received palm drums from God. This is so awesome."

"Well, let's not jump to conclusions. Some of our own might be in grave danger." I turned around to face the Wandies. "Could some of you come with me?"

"I'll come," Lostpaw agreed, standing up and slinging her chair over her shoulder. She made sure not to hit anyone with it. Kurogane stood up without a word, and so did Snuff. He pulled a knife from his pocket. That's what he'd been using in battle.

"Might we have the honour of accompanying you?" the leader asked.

"Yes. Could you show us the way?"

She nodded and signalled for me to crouch down.

"To command the army, you need the drums."

I held out my palm.

"Pata pata pata pon," she said, pointing to the red drum three times and the blue one once.

I nodded, holding my palm out in front of me. I'd grown so used to strange things like this by now. "Please show us the way," I said.

I steadily tapped the drum beat I had been told to use, and with that, they took off at a steady army-like march. I had to repeat this a few times, but since I had Lostpaw's chair visible in the side of my vision, I could follow them and keep my focus on the drums until we reached a barricaded area. The panic set in nearly immediately when someone’s screamed on the other side. Someone laughed, and my breath caught in my throat.

"Spirithunter?! What's going on over there?!" I quickly took a few breaths, but it didn't help much.

"Pon pon pata pon," the leader said at my side. "We'll all take down the barrier if you tap that out."

I held up my hand. Under pressure, it was hard to keep a steady beat, but I did my best. I was surprised how much damage a walking, crowned eyeball army could do to a rock wall. As it nearly collapsed, I said, "Try to be quiet." They proceeded to alter their style, making the sound as quiet as possible. Finally, the rock wall gave way, and the sight was almost horrifying.

A bloodstained Spirithunter was in combat with Amaterasu, and strewn around the ground were the missing Wandies. Lilacheart had her back stuck against the jagged edge of a wall. She appeared conscious, but she couldn't pull her back away without causing significant amounts of pain. She had a sword that was just out of her reach. Syaoran was unconscious beneath a pile of rubble that had been clearly blown out of the walls of the cavern. Fell was unconscious on top of the rubble Syaoran was under. Presumably, he had been trying to dig him out before he'd suffocated. Soundstorm was defending her sister. Refusing to leave the spot where she was and attack with her sword, she had borrowed her sister's bow and arrow and was trying hit Spirithunter in the leg with it, however, her condition from being in the School made her aim a little inconsistent. Fai was holding an unconscious Starsight, and the two of them were being strangled by vines. He was doing his best to drive the vines back with his magic, mostly from Starsight, but the vines were coming towards his eye and his throat, which made him run the risk of hitting something important trying to free the both of them. The battle between Amaterasu and Spirithunter was intense, and they were both clearly quite lost in it. Amaterasu looked tired but determined, and Spirithunter...I wasn't sure. She looked...mad. And I don't quite know what sense of the word 'mad' I'm using, either. It just didn't seem like her we were watching.

"...Fetch Emily," I whispered, and Snuff nodded, taking off. I was trying to decide what to do, when Lostpaw gave up her patience and darted in.

"Wait!" I yelled. The battle between the two stopped. Spirithunter's eyes widened.

"When did—?!" she began, but before she could even finish the sentence, Lostpaw had hit her as hard as she could over the head with the back of the chair. She fell. Lostpaw had this 'what did I just do?!' look in her eyes. I couldn't think about that now. We were in risk of losing a few people here. My eyes stopped on Syaoran.

"Is there a drumbeat for 'unbury that kid'?" I asked the Patapon leader.

"...You're going to have to make one up."

Kurogane had already gotten straight to it, however. Amaterasu walked over to Spirithunter and evaluated the damage. Wordlessly, she took the Celestial Brush from her hand. She turned towards me, dipping her head in thanks, before momentarily trying to console Lostpaw and going to help Fai remove the vines. I glanced over at Lilacheart and Soundstorm.

"Just in time." Soundstorm was smiling in relief, right before she collapsed against the wall. Lilacheart nodded and tried once more to get the jutting stone out of her back. I silently hoped that it wasn't hitting anything important. The fact she was conscious was a good sign, though probably a bit uncomfortable. (A bit? Who am I kidding?)

"Kid!" Kurogane snapped, finally beginning to uncover the unconscious boy. One of the Patapon, then another, made their way over to the rubble, and began to pick them up. It made the job a lot faster. I wasn't quite sure who to help first, so I started with Fell. I picked up the wolf and brought him to the corner. Amaterasu, after freeing Fai and Starsight, went over to Spirithunter. I helped her. We dragged her to a wall, and Amaterasu used vines to bind her, though not suffocate her.

"What happened here?" I whispered.

"She's under the control of a Yeerk," Soundstorm filled in. "You know, from Animorphs. I guess it's been that way for a while."

"...Hm." I'd done a bit of research on the series ever since Magicyop had found the blue box. I couldn't cover my concern.

What should we do? Amaterasu asked softly. She sounded worried.

"We starve the Yeerk," Lilacheart whispered. "We keep her here for three days or so, feeding her regularly, and the Yeerk dies due to lack of Kadrona rays. It was in one of the books."

"Who knew that a book could be a manual on how to kill aliens?" Lostpaw remarked dryly. She was looking at her feet. "...Did I do the right thing?"

"Yes," I assured her. "As long as you didn't cave in her skull."

"I used the back of the chair. I don't think I did any damage that Emily can't heal." She walked over to Lilacheart. "So...how did you get into this mess?"

"Blew up a few walls and then got sent across the room."

"Bloody," she noted.

"Yeah."

That's about the time Emily got here. She didn't have much to say, instead going straight to work. She started with Spirithunter, after I gave her the okay, and she got to Starsight next. In the meantime, Lilacheart worked her way out of the stone wall.

"I think being a +Anima gives me more blood or something. I swear, this isn't natural." She laughed dryly through her tears. It must've hurt pretty bad, but Lostpaw and Soundstorm were helping her out. Emily seemed a bit tired, but went straight to her when she was done healing Starsight.

"I don't think I can heal suffocation." She was looking at Syaoran. "Other than that...how's he holding up?"

"Fine," Kurogane noted. I wasn't so sure about that. He appeared to struggling to breathe, and this was on top of what had already happened to him at the school.

"Oh my..."

I turned around. Kitten-Chan was staring at the whole mess, eyes wide. A bunch of other Wandies had gathered in the tunnel behind her. She turned around and looked at the others with her. "Well, let's not just stand here."

With that, they got to work. After we explained the Yeerk situation, Lakestorm, Coalfang, Akiak, and Forestpelt agreed to feed her down here while the Yeerk starved, and they helped Amaterasu adjust the vines. Squirrelflight, Goldenslash, and Thunder helped Lilacheart with Soundstorm and Lostpaw. Wolf, Mistsong, Whisperheart, and Snuff got to digging Syaoran out of the rock fall. When they were done with that, Wolf proceeded to carry some of the Patapon back to the other Wandies (despite the fact that they protested and carried weapons). Silentstorm and Spottedfire, despite height difference, helped Fai back to the cavern, and Crescentmoon carried Starsight. Sevenclaws brought Fell back with him, and Cloudwind was trying to help Emily as much as she could. Adriane also came into the room and stayed by her friend's side. There were a bunch of other Wandies doing cleanup, but it would take a long time to use all their names. Aside from that, there were probably still a few back at camp, presumably looking after those who'd been captured, like Magicyop and Icestar, and making sure that no other strange characters suddenly burst into the room riding on Absol's back. (Though I must hand it to the Patapon: Way to make an entrance.)

Minou analyzed the room. "It's good to see us all working together like this, you know? After everything that's happened."

I nodded wearily. "Yeah. It is." I looked at the floor. "We need to decide how we're going to deal with the School. We can't go back and train until they're out. I suppose that's what matters the most right now."

He sighed. "You have to deal with a lot of pressure with this, Sheila. I'm impressed. But you don't need to come up with the solution for everything on your own." He grinned at me. "We can help. We have supernatural people on our team! People who can fly, people who are ghosts, people who can talk to ghosts, people who can set things on fire by snapping their fingers, who happens to be married to one of our own..." He laughed and looked like he hoped that he wouldn't die for that later. "Face it, there are a lot of things we can do."

"...How do you still remember all that?" I asked.

Minou laughed. "How could we forget?" He stopped laughing, but continued to smile. "We'll help, so just relax, okay?"

Lilacheart had finally been pulled out of the wall and had finished being healed, and those helping her went to do other things, except Soundstorm, who was talking quietly to her sister while Emily healed her, too.

"I think all of those captured will need lots of rest," I said.

Minou nodded his agreement. "It's a good thing Kurogane wasn't captured. I can't imagine being the one telling him he has to sleep."

I smirked. "I wouldn't want to be in that position either, trust me."

He stepped forward. "I'm going to help take Soundstorm and Lilacheart back, okay?"

I nodded. "Alright."

When Emily was done healing the injured, Cloudwind and Adriane took her back. She looked exhausted. She was practically falling asleep while walking. As for Syaoran, he didn't look like he was about to wake up any time soon. Everyone else slowly began to clear out, and in the end, I was left in the room with Amaterasu and Spirithunter. "You're not leaving any time soon?" I asked her.

She's my apprentice. The goddess gave a wolf-like grin. I'll stay here until I see the parasite leave.

I smiled. "Keep that brush far away, alright?"

...Can I trust you to hold onto hers? She can have it back when the Yeerk is gone.

I took the brush that Amaterasu offered. "Definitely."

I heard a knock against the cave wall. I turned around and saw Shadowmoon and Leafpool. The girl was clutching a writing notebook. Presumably, she'd found time to write her Warriors fanfiction. Why not? We were surrounded by Warrior cats, what better time to ask for advice? Though I kind of wondered how it looked so clean, or how she'd carried it so far along with her weapon. Maybe she had brought a backpack with her.

"The others wanted me to be sure you were still here. Magicyop's worried about you."

I smiled. "I'll be there soon. I'm just waiting for Spirithunter to wake up. I'd like to give her...the real her...a few reassuring words before I leave, and I think Amaterasu's going to stay here until that thing is gone."

She nodded. "Alright."

I glanced at Leafpool. "How is Jayfeather? Firestar?" I shifted my gaze to Shadowmoon. "Katara?"

"Jayfeather's holding out, and Firestar's recovering very well."

"Katara's tired, but she'll get better."

"Alright. Thank you. Tell the others not to worry. I'll be there soon."

"Okay." She turned to leave the room when Spirithunter began to stir. She hesitated, as if deciding to stay, just in case.

"Hey," I called softly to Spirithunter.

She looked up. I passed the brush to Amaterasu, who quickly took it to Shadowmoon. She was further away from Spirithunter than I was. She seemed surprised for a moment, then she gripped the brush tightly, looking uneasy.

"She can't reach you," I promised. She seemed assured, nodding slightly.

Spirithunter seemed shocked and angry (angry being an understatement) when she opened her eyes and realized she couldn't move. "Let me go!" she snapped.

"When pigs fly," I grumbled.

"Don't jinx us now," Shadowmoon said quietly.

I smirked, then forced myself to relax. "Spirithunter," I said quietly. "Don't worry, you'll be free soon, okay?"

"Shut up!" the Yeerk snapped.

I didn't react. "It'll be a few days. Amaterasu will stay with you, alright? I can't imagine how scary it is, but it'll be over soon."

The Yeerk called me a few things that I don't care to repeat. I wanted to get mad at it, but what good would that do?

"I know you're in there. We'll talk to you soon, okay?"

She glowered at me, her eyes full of rage. I just smiled and stood up.

"U-Um...get well soon, okay?" Shadowmoon said quietly. "We're all waiting for you. No hard feelings, Fai assured me."

"Go to heck," she hissed.

...Censoring issues. You know what I mean. We're not moving this to Teen W&W for language, so might as well just let you know she used the more profane version. And threw in a few other words for good measure.

"You too, alien slug. Bye!" And she skipped off cheerfully, just to spite the Yeerk. Leafpool purred in amusement before quickly following her out.

"Do you need anything?" I asked Amaterasu.

She shook her head. I'm fine for now. Thank you. She settled down, just out of Spirithunter's reach. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know.

"Same with you." I gave respectful nod. "Don't take anything that Yeerk says to heart."

Why take to heart words that aren't hers? She seemed calm about it.

I stood up. "I'll be back, okay? I'm not sure when the Yeerk will try to escape, but let us know once it does."

The goddess nodded and rested her head on her paws, watching Spirithunter (who was still angry) with calm eyes and a rather peaceful wolf smile. I think she was keeping a level head for the Spirithunter that was still there.

"I saw some of the battle," I said. "Not much, but enough. You trained her well."

She gave a please swish of her tail. Thank the girl with the chair for me.

"Losty," I said, managing to laugh. I shook my head, a bit tired. "Maybe she'll let me borrow that thing to sit on, now."

I made my way quietly down the hall. I came back to the cavern into...an interesting sight. The Patapon had made a low fire and were cooking meat. I didn't even have time to wonder where they'd found the wood for that down here (maybe they had it with them at the time) before I got bombarded with greetings from the Wandies. I sat down next to Magicyop. I went over Spirithunter's situation with everyone and finished it with, "I think she'll recover in about three to four days." I looked over the county members, and saw some scattered nods from the people who'd read Animorphs.

"We need to decide what to do next with the School," I said.

"We've been talking while you were out," Minou said.

I nodded. "Have you come up with anything?"

"Nothing yet, but...none of the solutions are pretty."

Many of the Wandies seemed uncomfortable. I was pretty sure I knew what they meant.

"...The scientists probably won't leave, and we...well, I don't know how we can drive them out of the county..."

"We think they need to die."

Trust Kurogane to be the one to put that out there. There was silence for a while.

"...So be it," I sighed. "If there are no alternatives, then..." I waited for someone to suggest an alternative. Judging by the lack of responses, they'd already thought this one through. I didn't want any of these guys to have that kind of weight on their shoulders.

"...I say we make Kurogane do it," Wolf said, a blunt look on her face. "He looks like he wants to kill us all the time."

A ripple of laughter (and a few purrs, and a snort that shook the entire floor from Shardas) spread through the group. Kurogane went ahead and made a face that proved Wolf's point.

"Is there any chance we can just wait it out? Until we can send everyone home through a portal?" Frostberry sighed, looking upset.

"I doubt it. If they even find out there is a portal...well, it's probably best they don't find out they're in another world," Lilacheart muttered.

"So who does this?" Soundstorm asked. "Name anyone who might be willing to kill two to five dozen scientists."

"Maybe we should take out the Yeerk pool while we're at it." Lilacheart again. "I think we'd all be more comfortable blowing up slugs than people..."

"After what they did to Spirit? I think we all want to take them down. But what was this you said about blowing stuff up?"

She smirked dryly. "Um...during battle. I found something in the wall. Does anyone here play the Worms games? Well...I found a holy grenade."

"...A holy grenade?" Spottedfire asked.

"...It's about as weird as it sounds. It's white, jewel studded, has a cross on top, and when you throw it, a holy choir sings 'hallelujah' from it. And then it blows up. It's not activated, but perhaps we could use it for something."

It was hard for anyone to keep a straight face with that description.

"Ammy!" someone laughed. "Ammy's a goddess! Have her throw the holy grenade!"

There was more laughter. "As long as they don't find us, I don't think we need to resort to extreme measures such as...holy grenades." I found this hard to say without smiling. "That game sounds interesting, though."

"You should see the concrete donkey and the flying sheep."

I didn't ask.

"Regardless, I think we should all think it through a little more. If it does come to that, I don't want any of us to be there. There's also the matter of...not blowing up our own school."

"What about Danny?" Rabbitfoot suggested.

Danny looked up with a worried look on his face.

"He can turn our school intangible. Come on, what did you think I was going to say?" she asked dryly.

"Well, I wasn't sure. Have you seen the crazy stuff that goes on here? It could've been anything."

"He has a point," Rubystripe said, glancing between Rabbitfoot and Roy. She was silenced by a death glare. She turned her gaze to Syaoran and Lilacheart instead. Lilacheart reached for her sword.

"No hurting other Wandies," I told her.

"Stop staring at me, then," she whimpered. "Besides, it was the clone," she grumbled. Rubystripe laughed, and Cloudwind started giving her a hard time again, so we all got back to the main situation to spare her.

"First things first, the injured need to get better. Syaoran needs to wake up, the ones who were captured are probably exhausted, even despite healing. Everyone's probably exhausted, actually. We need to wait for Spirit to be released, and after that, we need to start devising a plan for everyone to get back home."

"But first, you need to sit." Lostpaw offered me her chair, and I nodded thankfully, sitting down. She sat down on the ground beside Cloudwind.

"Hey..." Cooro looked up from his feet. "We don't want to kill, but we want to use this singing bomb, right?"

"Well, we don't have to, but it is awesome," Coalfang laughed.

"Well...why don't we get them all into one room, and then gas them?"

"How do we get in?" Moonglow asked.

"...You just said Danny could make things intangible. And he's a ghost, right?"

"He can become invisible, too," Rabbitfoot agreed. Danny was paying close attention now.

"And if he doesn't want the bomb, we can give someone else the bomb. He can make that person invisible, and we can get their attention with this singing bomb, after secretly putting gas thingies in the room."

"Didn't know you could think like this, Cooro," Lilacheart said, approving. Everyone seemed to like this idea much better.

"But where do we get the gas?" I asked. "We can't expect all of our answers to drop from the sky."

"We can come up with something, right, guys?" Cooro asked, looking at the fictional characters. "I'm sure there's something we can all make."

"...Hey, I have an idea," Ryoma said, a smile crossing his face.

"I don't like the sound of that," Shiki whimpered.

"No one's going to get hurt?" Sakura whispered.

"Not physically."

There was a long silence. "We're dead," Adriane growled.

"I thought dead was what we were trying to avoid," Lakestorm pointed out softly.

"Well, we'll leave you guys to it," I said with a laugh.

Everyone stared at me.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Soundstorm finally asked, voicing everyone's opinion.

"No. When can you guys start working on it?"

"Well, we'll need supplies," Ryoma said, standing up. "And a container. And probably a separate room."

"Dear god, how bad is this?" Kayla asked.

"Well, it needs to knock people out. What do you think?"

"...Point taken."

"Danny can get supplies, just tell him what you need," I said.

Ryoma drew Danny aside, and the two of them began talking. Though I couldn't hear any of the needed ingredients, I saw Danny's eyes begin to grow wider.

"Is that safe?"

"I don't know."

"How do you know about this...?!"

"There was a guy who'd make us drink it on my team. I just figured it would work if we turned it into a gas and added a few things."

"...Dude, I'm so sorry."

A few more ingredients.

"You can find that in a supermarket?"

Dreamer wagged his tail. This could be fun! he said.

None of us were too sure. After a bit more discussion, Danny disappeared.

"There's another room down that way," I told all of them.

"...Honestly? The nastier you can make it, the better," Daisy suggested.

"Make them pay for what they did," Forestpelt laughed. We all seemed to agree with this.

"We'll do our best."

The Warrior cats began discussing ways to help, and the entire group started discussing 'ingredients' as they left.

"...Alright. If they ask for a guinea pig, who's going to be the brave tester?" Magicyop asked. There were no takers.

*

POV: ?????

I had been wandering through these tunnels for a few days now, and I still couldn't figure out where I'd ended up all of a sudden. At first, I thought I might've been kidnapped, but now I wasn't so sure. There was nobody waiting for me down here, and I hadn't been drugged, I'd just sort of...ended up here. It hadn't been the most pleasant thing to wake up to, and I was more concerned about my grandfather and my friends than I had been about myself, but after about a day of wandering and finding no one, I supposed I was the only one here. I was beginning to get exhausted, and I was starving as well as dehydrated. I couldn't rest, however, until I found food or water, or at least any sign of humanity.

How long were these tunnels? I had no idea where I was going, and I had a feeling if I kept mindlessly wandering any longer, it would begin to get dangerous. I could starve to death down here, and the longer I stayed in these tunnels, the higher the probability. It was a bit worrisome.

I took a breath and shouted, as loud as I could manage, "Is anyone down here?!" All I heard back was an echo. It was getting hard to keep down the panic. I didn't want to die here. I bumped into another wall. It was dark down here. I had run into a room full of bats and had nearly stepped on a snake, and there were also a few spiders. It was making navigating this place an unpleasant experience, if the fact I didn't know where I was hadn't already put this in that category.

I had no choice but to keep going, though. I let out a sigh and continued down the halls, and it was rather uneventful for a few hours. Eventually, I collapsed to my knees. I was so tired...

"Is anyone down here?!" I had been calling that every thirty minutes or so as I walked around, or every time I heard a sound. Mostly, the sounds came from insects and the like, but it was better to make sure, especially in life or death conditions like this.

"Is someone there?" I heard nearby. I looked up, trying to see who had spoken.

"Yes," I whispered.

"I knew I wasn't hearing things. I should take my headphones off more often." A spiky haired boy stepped out of the gloom and crouched down in front of me. "You alright?"

"I've been down here for a few days."

He seemed concerned. "I don't think any of us have thought of that...there could be others. Have you seen anyone?"

"No." I shook my head. "You're the first one I've found."

"Well, better underground than above ground at the moment, with those scientists running experiments all over the place. Can you stand?"

"Yes, I'm just a bit tired..."

"You look like you haven't eaten."

"I haven't."

"...That sucks." He waited for me to stand, awkwardly offering me his hand. I shook my head. I was fine.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Neku. You?"

"...My name is Naoto Shirogane," I whispered. "Um...thank you."

"No problem."

I followed the boy into a room where many others were gathered. They appeared to be making something. One of them looked up. "Hey, Neku was right!" she exclaimed. "Who's this?"

"She says her name is Naoto. These are...second thought, introductions later, or we'll be here a while. There are even more across the hall, they'll help you. Some of them might even know you."

I blinked. "Are my friends in there?"

"Well, no, but...they'll explain."

He went back to the mixture. What were they making? I hoped they weren't cooking, otherwise they were worse than my friends, and that is really saying a lot...

One man looked up at me. "Actually, while you're here, could you do us a favour?"

I turned around. "Sure, what is it?"

"Could you smell this for us?"

I blinked and walked over to it. After staring at it for a second, I quietly asked, "Are you trying to kill me?" It looked nauseating. "I hope you don't plan on serving this to your comrades...or eating it."

"No. It's got its own purposes, we just need to turn it into a gas."

"How do you—" I began, before accidentally squeaking, "Oh my God, is that a dragon?!"

"Shardas," a girl with short brown hair said. "He won't hurt you."

I stared at the group for a moment. I had finally found a group weirder than mine.

"I-If you say so..." I gasped.

"We promise!" a white rabbit squeaked. "Nice hat."

I was beginning to wonder if this liquid was emitting some sort of scent that was making me hallucinate.

"...And what is that thing...?"

"Absol."

"...Excuse me, I've got a headache." I gave myself a moment to breathe, and then tried to look around the room again. There were a few things that stuck out, minus the dragon and the...bladed wolf cat. Beyond that, there were a few wolves, a large group of cats, a pink kitten, two horses, a pink puff ball with legs, a huge rat, a few dogs, and a yellow winged sphere with a plus sign on its face with a tail standing on the shoulder of a feminine boy with white hair. He noticed me staring at him, pointed to the winged creature, and brightly said, "Timcanpy."

"...Right." This wasn't weird, this wasn't weird, this wasn't weird... I tried to pay attention to the humans instead. They were of all ages, men and women, and I figured that assuming they were normal was a bad idea. This was confirmed when one of the guys lit his hand on fire, and another kid pulled a feather out of his wing. I looked at the concoction they were making with growing unease. What was this meant to be?

"Would you try it for us? It's alright if you don't want to." This was requested to me by a female cat.

"First, answer me this."

They waited for a moment.

"Who are you people?!"

There was a ripple of laughter. "The ones outside can explain this to all of you," a girl with light brown hair promised me. I nodded uneasily.

"And can you promise me that this stuff won't poison me?" I asked.

"As long as you don't drink it, it shouldn't," a pink haired girl with a hat promised. She was probably Neku's friend, as they were standing together. It wasn't reassuring.

"..." I was about to smell something made by a bunch of strangers. No doubt they were asking me because they didn't want to do it. Was I really this desperate to get out of here?

"I'll try," I decided. I reached a cupped hand into the container, pulled out a handful, and brought it up under my nose. I took a breath...and...well...I think it was so bad that my brain blocked it out, but I remembered someone catching me as I fell backwards. The last thing I heard before I blacked out was a kid cheerfully saying, "Success!"

*

POV: Lilacheart

I heard footsteps down the hall, and looked up sleepily. Ugh, what a day...what was it now? Neku came in, the arm of an unconscious girl around his shoulder. I knew her.

"Naoto," I said quietly. Soundstorm looked up with wide, interested eyes. I knew that Naoto was her favourite character, so after a day such as this, it must've come as a pleasant surprise to her.

Well, except that she was unconscious. We'd probably need to ask about that.

"What happened here?" Sheila asked, sounding weary herself.

"We found her in the halls. By the way, we don't need a tester."

"...Oh, god, poor Naoto," Soundstorm muttered.

"So, who's taking her in?" Neku asked, cutting to the chase. "She needs food, too, she hasn't eaten in days. I can ask Danny to head out. Perhaps have him pick up stuff for everyone."

"I'm not here to be your invisible grocery shopper," the ghost in question sighed, coming up behind Neku.

"It's you, or we go on a mission and risk getting captured for food," Rabbitfoot pointed out.

He opened his mouth to argue, then seemed to think better of it and slowly groaned. "Alright, does anyone want anything in particular?"

No one spoke up. There probably were things in particular, but he'd had about a rough day as any of us.

"...As long as it's not broccoli, I think we're all okay," Rabbitfoot spoke for us.

He smirked dryly. "Alright. Then I'll be back." He turned intangible and disappeared.

"So, who'll take Naoto in...?"

"I'll do it," Sunstreak offered.

Neku shook his head. "Are you sure? I'd think that you'd have had a hard enough time with me and Shiki..."

"I'll do it, then," Spottedfire said with a slight smile. "I don't mind."

"Well, then. I'll leave it to you. But since she seems to know who this girl is, we'll have her sit there for now."

He placed Naoto down beside Soundstorm, and I smiled. She seemed pretty excited. That was good.

"Well, if you excuse me. I'm going to go and finish up preparations for this...and don't be surprised if half of us pass out in the process."

"Is it good enough?"

"Neku? Shiki's out cold," Kayla remarked.

A rather irked look crossed Neku's face. "It better be good enough. And whoever made Shiki another tester had better be ready to get it." He turned around and disappeared back down the hallway.

"See? They really do like each other," Sunstreak said pleasantly. "Who knew, right?"

Neku carried Shiki back into the room, placed her down on the floor beside Sheila, and left without another word.

"Well, I think this plan will work," Sheila said. "Let's just hope none of it gets in here."

"...Dear God," I heard one of the Wandies whisper in horror.

*

We spent the next thirty minutes apprehensively waiting for something to go horribly wrong. For once, it didn't. The group was back not too long later with containers that were filled with a dark green gas.

"Finished!" Cooro chirped. He sounded pretty peppy today.

"So, when do we put the plan into action? Who does it, other than Danny?"

"I might as well," Neku decided. "I haven’t done much yet. Might be nice to help."

"...I haven't done much either, so if there's anything I can do..." Will spoke quietly.

Hadn't done much? I thought. I don't think we'd heard the boy speak in at least 100 pages. Halt didn't say anything.

"Alright, so can we leave it to you three?" Sheila asked. "Anyone else who wants to help is willing to. When we knock out the scientists, we need a place to bring them, and they'll need food. We're not going to torture them like they did to us."

There were a few volunteers, and I considered offering too, but I figured I'd probably need some bed rest. I think everyone in my house needed to get some rest, actually. Everyone in the county.

"Okay, good. We should start working on this soon. For now, though, I think we'll all just have to camp out here. We'll wait for Danny to come back, and after that, we'll all get some rest. Every last one of us. And once we've done that, we can have the plan done the next day."

We all nodded. I don't think any of us were in the spirits to do this now. Even if we were, I was afraid one of the three might pass out on the job.

Danny did come back, though the determined boy actually made multiple trips. After we all ate, he was the first to crash. Naoto woke up sometime over the extended period, and Soundstorm went ahead to try and explain everything. She patiently put up with Naoto's complaints of all of this being completely illogical. After maybe the third time, she said, "I thought we'd abandoned logic when the dragon came in."

She spoke, we filled in a few gaps, and then Soundstorm was the second to crash. (Then again, this order of who fell asleep when doesn't include anyone who was already asleep or unconscious to begin with.) Syaoran didn't show any signs of waking up that night. He would occasionally cough out whatever was in his lungs, which was probably a good sign. I had him rest his head on my shoulder. (...Stop looking at me like that. My shoulder was more comfortable then the wall...) All the Wandies began to sleep, one by one. I'll admit to being the fifth to crash, right after Naoto and Absol.

Absol seemed to be in a pretty bad mood. Huh. I wonder why.

*

POV: Neku

There was something really strange about walking intangibly through the walls of a school building I was never supposed to see with two people I was never supposed to meet doing activities that were probably illegal that I never would've imagined doing, because I thought I'd already seen it all when I completed the Reapers' Game. No, I guess it can still get weirder...if waking up in a chimney hadn't already proved that point.

Danny's hand tightened around my wrist. "Come on, Neku, stop slowing down," he sighed. "If we break contact I can't keep you intangible anymore."

I looked up and picked up my pace. I hadn't realized that I was starting to fall behind.

So, the plan went something like this. Earlier, while everyone was still sleeping, Danny had set up the bombs inside a certain room of the building. He'd made sure this room only had one way in, so we could seal it on our way out. My job was to stick a holy hand grenade (whose idea was that...?!) into the center of an empty building and proceed to the door, where Danny would keep us invisible (I can't imagine how much energy that must take the guy) until all or most of the scientists came in to check the commotion. We'd gas them after that, and Will had offered to explore the rooms and take down any of the remaining scientists. One of the Wandies—I believe it was Lightstreak—had offered to come with Will, since she likely knew her way around her own school better than he did, but Sheila had deemed it too unsafe, since we were probably better for the job, Danny being able to turn invisible, me having pins, and Will having some pretty intense combat training that he said he wanted to use to help.

Still, I had to admit that I kind of admired Danny. Walking through walls was awesome.

"We're here," he said. He sounded exhausted. Sleep wasn't as effective when you were on a stone floor as opposed to a bed.

"Good, let's make this quick," I said, taking out a lightning pin for use in case of emergency. We stopped in the center of the room.

"Also, make sure to look around for any captive characters that might've arrived and been taken while we were underground," Danny told Will, who nodded. "And Neku? ...Don't blow yourself up."

Did he really have to tell me that? As if I haven't been...well, admittedly worrying that I might since I agreed to be the bomb holder? I swear, saying it aloud even makes me sound like an idiot. I agreed to carry a bomb! At least if I died, it was my own fault.

"You still there?"

"Huh? Yeah. I won't." I reached for the bomb in my pocket. Why was I in more danger of dying than the scientists? "Good room choice, by the way. The whole building won't catch on fire here."

"Yeah, I made sure. Come on, you were the one who said we'd make this quick."

"And it's still 'quick', I said that two minutes ago. You go get yourself into position, Will. I'll stay here and set up."

"What if a scientist comes in?"

"I'll handle it."

The two exchanged glances and decided that they could leave me to it. They took off as I went over Lilacheart's instructions in my head. Since it was a bomb from a video game, I figured it might work differently. Yeah, there was a pin, but once it was taken out, you still had to throw it, and then you had about five seconds to get away. The trap would go off as soon as we shut the door, and I would herd the scientists into the room if things got messy. And if I got captured in the process, well, someone would just have to save my butt, wouldn't they? I trusted them enough to come to our assistance if things went awry. Sure, this was a weird place, but the people were trustworthy.

"What are you doing in here...?" a voice asked.

I spun around, and before I even had time to think about it, I took out a pin and dropped a bunch of rocks on the guy's head from thin air. That did it. I felt satisfied. Felt almost as good as defeating the Noise. I wondered what to do with the guy, and settled for pretty much chucking him out a nearby window. We could get him later.

Danny came back alone not too long after. "Any complications?" he asked.

"There's an unconscious guy with a few bumps on his head hidden in a bush outside the window. Nothing I couldn't handle."

He didn't seem to have a remark to make to that, so he just settled for, "...Okay, good."

"Will the scientists be able to hear?"

"I looked around, and I'm pretty sure most, if not all. At the very least, we'll be able to cut this down to a number Will can handle. Also, I've rigged the hallways, too, and I'll turn intangible and leave the area."

He left that hanging for a minute.

"I'll be left in the hallways," I said.

He gave a half-hearted smile. "Yeah, I know. Can you handle it?"

Ugh. He waited until now to ask? I could handle it, yes, but only if he agreed to let me punch him when I woke up. And I told him that. Admittedly I was surprised when he did agree, but we didn't waste too much time talking after that. He stood over by the wall and turned intangible. "Well, let's got this going."

I nodded bluntly and removed a headphone from one ear. It would be best if I actually listened to what was going on around me. It could be important. I tentatively pulled the pin out and walked to the doorframe. I tossed the thing in a little faster than I should've, but heck, I didn't want it in my hands after the pin was out.

I guess I had nothing to worry about. Being from a video game, a counter literally appeared above it, warning when it was going to blow up. Useful. Danny grabbed my shoulder and turned me intangible while the bomb did its job.

"HALLELUJAH!"

The explosion was almost deafening. So much so that I put my headphones back over my ears to zone out as much of the noise as I could. Somehow, the fact that Danny was laughing really hard helped reduce the impact so much, but it still left my ears ringing. Then again, I was struggling to wipe the grin off my face, too. I had, somewhere in the back of my mind, thought that Lilacheart had been kidding when she said it sung like a holy choir. Nope.

A large group of scientists poured down the hall. Danny and I went invisible, just for a second. One of the scientists called for backup. I grinned. Good. We darted into the metal room, now slightly charred. They took the bait. Once in the room, Danny turned us invisible again, leaving the following scientists confused. We darted back out of the room, and I slammed the door shut. I heard the sound of the gas activating inside. I heard a few people choke, and someone called out a profanity before the knock out gas...well, did its job.

"We've got about two minutes before the gas in the hallway sets off."

"I'll fight the scientists until it activates if it comes to that," I assured him. "You should go, now."

"Got it." He disappeared as a bunch more scientists headed down the hall.

"Come and get me," I growled, taking out a pin. I noted one of the scientists holding a pair of electric collars. I had to be careful. Perhaps I could break the collars if he got too close. I held the pin up in front of me and did something that probably surprised them all: I shouted. Really loudly. A pair of speakers materialized behind me and a shockwave blasted out of them, stunning the oncoming people. I put that one back in my pocket to recharge. (That pin probably required less charging than my voice did after that, though. I was out of practice, wasn't I?)

The main problem here wasn't fighting. It was fighting without taking any lives in the process. I couldn't use a pin that sent ice spikes up through the ground because I could skewer someone, I couldn't drop too many rocks on anyone's head without risk of crushing their skull, and I realized lightning was probably just as risky. I couldn't set their school building on fire...why hadn't Danny warned me about this beforehand?! Maybe I could've prepared a strategy if he had!

I pulled out a whirlwind pin and sent a gust at the ones who had pulled themselves out of their paralysis. This sent them flying backwards into the ones who...well, hadn't.

When were those gas bombs going off? Those were the only two pins I had with me right now that I could actually use...them and a soda. (It was for healing.)

"Neku!"

Shiki leapt through the window and picked up her stuffed piggy, Mr. Mew. (I could almost hear Shiki yelling at me in my head, "It's a cat!") The stuffed animal threw itself at the scientists, clawing at them and knocking them to the ground. (Yes, that was Shiki's power: she fought with her stuffed animal.)

"What are you doing here?" I asked as I sent a second gust of wind at them.

"I realized I might've screwed up when I talked to Danny earlier, so I figured I might be able to help." She gave a dry smirk. "I told him that he probably shouldn't mention that you would get gassed or you might back out, and I realized that might've caused trouble."

"It won't now you're here." It might've otherwise, but hey, fighting had always been a partner thing in the Reapers' Game, and I wasn't ashamed to say that Shiki and I did great in combat together.

"I think the gas bombs might have glitches a little," I warned her. "It's been over two minutes."

"Then we'll just have to hold out until Danny can fix them, won't we?" she said.

I took out the voice pin again. "I guess so."

We had to hold up the defense line for about five minutes longer than had been intended. Four were spent because Danny realized there'd been a mistake and one more so he could reset it and get out without being knocked out himself. When the time came, I told Shiki she could get out before the gas went off, and I'd hold them off.

Her answer? "This is partly my fault. I'll take my share of the blame."

*

POV: Lilacheart

...And that was how we found Neku and Shiki unconscious on top of one another. Just another group of people who couldn't live it down. How come no one will ever let anything go around here? Geez...

The plan, sure enough, was a success, that little mishap aside. We managed to gather all of the scientists in the underground paths and seal them inside, with a few select people heading down to feed them. They were pretty harmless once their weapons were confiscated, and we had a week off while Sheila and the stronger grownups fixed our school. The big thing was to recover, so we said, but for all of us, I think the real big thing was to wait for Spirithunter. We were all eager to comfort her once she was free.

Everyone unconscious, including Syaoran, had woken up. Starsight and I had talked over the phone since we were both resting in bed for the most part. I usually got up to eat, but I was really tired for the about two days straight. However, of course, I wouldn't be allowed to stay in bed forever. Fate made sure of that. With an explosion, of course. I woke up late the third day to a familiar sound: our door blowing up.

"Can someone else get that?!" I called sleepily, not seeming to comprehend that for a moment. And then I realized our door had blown up and managed to sit up. My first thought was, Is Mokona up to something again? And I guess most of us were on the same boat, here, because I heard Kurogane walk by my room muttering about how he was going to kill that pork bun. I got out of bed to make sure that he...well...didn't.

Of course, this theory was put to rest when we saw Mokona standing on the couch arm, flailing its arms. "Mokona didn't do it!" it insisted desperately.

"Then who did?" Fai wondered.

I walked right passed him over to the door, where I saw...well, someone familiar.

"Oh my," Soundstorm said dully. "Is that who I think it is?"

"Yeah. That's Yorda."

This could cause a problem. In canon, Yorda was a quiet girl who couldn't speak in an understandable language. (Whether Mokona would fix this or not was up in the air, for now.) She could not fight for herself, and she literally had to be guided around by the main character, Ico, who held her hand throughout the entire game. While it was extremely cute, I wasn't sure we were going to be able to reproduce these results (unless Ico fell from the sky, which was unlikely).

Also, she could magically open sealed doors. Well, it explained the implosion.

"So, who's this?" Fai asked, coming up behind me.

"Her name's Yorda," I told him with a nod. "We're going to need to find her a guide. But...um...first I think we should let her in, don't you?"

She was staring at the pieces of the door in interest, as if she didn't realize that she'd done that herself.

"Come on in," Fai offered her. She tilted her head and opened her mouth, but I couldn't understand a word she said. This was the first time the translation system had failed so far in the county...

I gently waved her in, trying to use the same gesture I'd seen in the game. She seemed surprised that I knew it, but tentatively stepped inside, looking around. Syaoran came downstairs, rubbing his eyes.

"Did the door blow up again?" he asked, his voice still a bit scratchy.

"This seems to be a thing now, huh?" I said dryly. "Yeah. We'll get it fixed. For now, we'll need to find a place for her." I tilted my head. "I don't want to sound...um...'incorrect' here, but do want of you guys want to take her hand and show her around? I think it might come across the wrong way to her if I do it. In her own franchise, she was pretty helpless on her own...it is endearing, though."

The two exchanged glances. "Syaoran-kun should do it, since they're the same age," Fai suggested.

The idea seemed to fluster him a little bit. "I-I'm not sure that’s a good idea..."

"Well, we can't really explain this to her," I sighed. "The translation isn't working with her language."

"...That's weird." He seemed a little confused. Yorda was staring at us all with wide eyes. She tilted her head, blinking uncertainly. She looked around and abruptly wandered off to go look at something.

"Is there anything from her world we might have to worry about?" Fai asked as Syaoran ran to go get her.

I thought for a moment and then frowned. "There were these shadow guard creatures in Ico...that's the game's name. They opened these portals in the floor and tried to drag her through, back to the castle."

"Portals, huh...? What would happen if they appeared, and a Wandie fell through it?"

I swallowed hard. "I think they'd be stuck in the world of Ico, to be honest. The shadow guards are only after Yorda, though, so we should be okay for the most part. Besides, those portals aren't like holes, more like...fictionally portrayed quicksand. They suck you in, but you can get yourself out if you hold onto something."

I walked out after Syaoran. He still seemed uncomfortable. "Sakura won't hold it against you," I assured him.

He frowned, but I wasn't quite sure if I had his concerns right of if I was completely missing the point. "What's her name again?" he asked with a sigh.

"Yorda. If you wave your hand, she should come, and if you hold it, she should follow."

"...Alright. Do we even have room for her here?"

"No, I don't think so. We can call Sheila, and she can arrange a permanent place of residence for her."

"Can we make Kurogane-san do it?" There was a grin of amusement on his face.

I laughed. "She'd probably run from him."

He smirked and nodded. "Alright. Yorda-san."

She didn't recognize the '-san', I assumed, but she did know her name. She turned around, tilted her head, and went after him. She began checking his head.

"What's she looking for?" he asked, trying to look rather casual about it. His discomfort showed right through, however.

"Horns, I think. Ico had them."

He slowly nodded and gently grabbed her wrist. She looked at his hand for a moment and followed him in without any complaints. "Why do you think the translation doesn't work on with her?" he asked.

"We'll just have to talk to Mokona, I guess." I shrugged. "I'm not sure."

He sat down on the sofa, and she sat down with him as well. She looked around at the house, analyzing it. She seemed intrigued.

"Do we have a new guest?" I heard Sakura ask, coming in.

"Yeah. Can you please get the phone? I need to call Sheila."

"Sure."

Soundstorm came back down the stairs, laptop in hand.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Just checking something." She sat down on the other side of Yorda and went onto the internet. A few minutes later, she'd pulled up Ico's picture. When Yorda saw it, she looked almost...lonely. I felt a pang of guilt.

"I wish we could tell her that we'd get her home," I whispered.

"We'll find a way," Syaoran assured me. "For now, though, she looks tired. So do you, actually."

"I think I've spent enough time sleeping. I'm going to go around town and do a few things, okay?"

Sakura came back with the phone.

"Thanks." I took it and dialled Sheila. It rung once or twice before she picked up.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Sheila, this is Lilac. Another character's dropped in. Yorda from Ico. Mokona can't seem to translate her speech, and I don't think she can stay here."

Sheila sighed. "...She can stay with me and Magicyop, then. I don't want to have to call all the Wandies, nor do I want to make you go door to door or anything." She sounded completely and totally overloaded. I felt bad for her.

"Don't overdo it," I sighed. "Take a break if you have to."

Sheila sounded weary as she sighed. "I can't. We have too many things to fix..."

"Come on...I'm sure someone can help while you rest. I'm feeling better now, maybe I can—"

"No." She sighed. "You can still hurt yourself."

"What about Kurogane-san?"

"What are you volunteering me for?!" he snapped. He was in a bad mood today. I ignored him.

"I think he'd kill me for asking."

"What about Fai-san? I'm sure he'd agree with me and help."

"I—"

"I agree!" Magicyop called from the other end. There was a long pause before she sighed.

"Would you ask them for me? You can walk Yorda over here. Take them with you, and I'll let them know what I need to do today."

"I can do that," I said, feeling relieved. I really worried about Sheila, though perhaps not as much as she worried about us. "I'll see you in about...ten minutes? Maybe more?"

"Alright. I'll see you then."

I hung up and walked over to Yorda and Syaoran. "We found a place for her. Sheila and Magicyop will take her in. She was also wondering if Fai-san and Kurogane-san can help them out around town, since Fai recovered exceptionally fast."

Fai seemed pleased with himself. "Sure, we can help. Right?" He looked over at Kurogane.

"I've been bored anyway," he decided, standing up. He turned to face me. "...You know, you don't have to make your fear so obvious."

"He's not going to maim you," Syaoran laughed.

"It's kind of hard to remember that," I said quietly. "Please stop glaring."

He snorted and walked by without another word.

"Oh! Mokona!" I called. It looked up and hopped over to me. "Your translation isn't working on Yorda. Do you know why...?"

It seemed a little startled, and then sad. "I-It's not...?" Its ears drooped slightly, and it hopped over to Yorda. It seemed a bit determined.

"Her name is Yorda?" it asked me. I nodded. Yorda let out a cheerful squeak at the sight of Mokona and scooped it up off the ground.

"It's so cute..."

My eyes widened.

"See? It works!" Mokona said, now relieved. "Nice to meet ya!"

She looked a little shocked, and then looked in my direction.

"...Do you understand me, Yorda?" I asked cautiously. Her eyes grew a little wider, and she nodded very slowly.

"Y-Yes..."

"Perhaps Mokona needs to be in close proximity with Yorda-san for it to work?" Syaoran suggested.

I shrugged. "I-I don't know. Her language was something of an issue in the game, too."

"How do you know me?" she whispered.

Soundstorm began to cover the basics once more, the way we did with every new character. She seemed brighter than I think most people gave her credit for, as she didn't complain or ask how, or even debate how she could be fictional. She just seemed to figure 'hey, why not?' even when Soundstorm mentioned the dragon. I think she even made some stuff up to see if Yorda would protest. (Because I certainly didn't remember a yeti trying to eat Roy Mustang, nor did I remember any of the characters bringing 'sexy back', though I must admit I did laugh when she said it. Really hard.) She didn't complain even once.

"Any questions?" Soundstorm said when she was done.

"Yes. What was your door made of?"

"Wood. Anything else?"

"No, not really."

"..."

No one was quite sure what to say, except Soundstorm, who was laughing at every single one of us.

"...Okay, off to Sheila's house, then. You're going to stay with her."

"What if she needs Mokona to be understood?" Sakura asked.

"Mokona will go with her," it offered. "Perhaps it can help!" It sounded eager. It was going to be a little quieter without our signature pork bun around, but chances were that Yorda needed to be understood.

"Only if you want to," I said. Mokona nodded.

"I-It might be nice to have around." Yorda seemed to like Mokona. Mokona hopped enthusiastically onto her shoulder.

"Hey, Mokona? Step back for a second," I asked. It nodded. It whispered something into her ear and jumped off. When it did, Yorda spoke. Again, we didn't understand her. It hopped back onto her shoulder.

"Testing..." she said again.

"I guess that settles it, then," I said with a slight nod. "Alright. Let's head to Sheila's. Kurogane? Fai? You might want to come, too. Sheila wanted to see you."

"Alright, let's go then," Fai said. I took my bow and arrow from the corner and headed out. I wasn't sure we'd need it, and I was hoping we wouldn't, but nowadays, anything could happen.

I was right, too. Not far from our house was a huge mob. A shadow guard mob. They were after Yorda, no doubt. She gasped and stepped back.

"These are our enemies?" Kurogane asked dully. "What a pain."

"Are you sure we can do this?" Fai asked uneasily. "There are a lot..."

"I don't know, but we have to try. We'll be responsible if Yorda doesn't get back to where she's supposed to be." I took my bow and arrow before thinking for a moment. These creatures took about three swings of a sword to the face to knock them down. I couldn't shoot arrows that fast. Then again, some of these things flew themselves...I aimed and fired an arrow, right into the backs of one of the creatures. They all spun around.

"Yorda! Back inside," I said quickly. She nodded and ran back in, still clutching Mokona tightly. Kurogane and Fai took the lead, and I unfurled my wings, taking to the sky, analyzing the crowd. It was a large group, I noted. I hoped that we could handle it. Not only were there those shadow guardians, though...there were two Erasers. I recalled Sheila warning us earlier that they had been scattered around the county after we'd captured the scientists. Perhaps that was one of her jobs around town, I noted. Take out the stray Erasers. How many of those were there...?

The shadow creatures lunged at Fai and Kurogane. A few that could fly came after me, too, though their main priority was Yorda, so they would constantly dive for the windows, attempting to take her. Syaoran was inside to protect her if we missed a few, I reassured myself as I fired another arrow. I dived underneath one of them and drew another arrow. Rather than using the bow, I drove the point into the creature's back. It shrieked and dissipated, and I removed the arrow, nocking it into the bow and firing at one of the Erasers on the ground. I would take those out while Kurogane and Fai fought the guardians. They seemed to be having a pretty easy time. They must've been easy after what we'd already had to face. It would probably be easier if I were using a sword, or had claws, I noted.

I landed behind one of the Erasers and fired an arrow into its back. It let out a shrieking cry and turned around towards me. I noticed more shadow guardians emerging from portals behind Kurogane and Fai.

"Look out!" I yelled in warning. My lapse of concentration gave the Eraser the chance to elbow me into the wall. A startled choking sound escaped my throat as I hit the brick wall. It proceeded to try and smash my head through the window...but before it did, its eyes grew wide and collapsed. A girl with green eyes and very light brown hair tied back in pigtails pulled a scythe right out of the creature's back.

"You alright?" she asked quickly, turning to face the shadow guardians. They were rising from the ground at incredible speeds.

"Yes, but I think we could use a hand," I answered. I knew this character...what was her name?

"I think we can do that."

The voice had come from her scythe.

That was it, I thought. Soul and Maka, the weapon and meister pair from Soul Eater. Starsight would be pleased.

"Thank you. I'm going to go take out that last Eraser. In exchange for helping us, I can tell you exactly how you two got here."

"We've been wondering." She nodded her thanks and took off to go and help Kurogane and Fai.

I spun around to face the Eraser. "I'm so sick and tired of you creatures," I hissed, using my wings to hover slightly off the ground.

The Eraser laughed confidently and lunged. "I'm not about to fall at the hands of Cupid."

...What had it just called me? Cupid?

I didn't answer to it just yet. I leapt backwards from its claws and picked up a rock beside me, launching it at its eye. It caught it in its teeth and surged forward again, slashing its claws at my face. I had honestly gotten so used to Eraser attacks that I caught its wrist, though it did manage to scratch open my nose before I stopped it.

"I'm a winged archer," I snapped at it. "There’s a difference."

I turned a corner and snapped its shoulder out of its socket. This one wasn't as experienced at fighting as some of the others that I'd seen, I noted. It spun around and smashed a clawed fist into my stomach. It pressed its nose into my face. I probably should've been more concerned, but again, I was getting so used to this that my number one thought was that it needed a breath mint. And again, I was pretty sure I'd thought this before.

"Really? Like what?"

"...Adeat."

It snapped at my throat, but while it had taken its time to trash talk, I had pulled out my Pactio card. Wow. My first kiss had saved my life. Twice. It ran its muzzle right into my sword, and it pulled back, howling in pain. I whispered the spell that retracted the sword and took off into the sky while it was distracted, scooping my bow off the ground. I nocked an arrow and yelled, quite likely, the weirdest thing I'd ever decided to say in battle:

"I! WEAR! PANTS!"

And with that, I launched the arrow through its neck. Wow, weirdest last words to hear before you die ever. I landed beside Fai.

"We know you do," he said. His eyes showed that he was desperately trying to work out the context for my statement. Maka was standing back to back with Kurogane, and you know what? It looked awesome in quite likely the weirdest way possible. Kurogane was standing back to back with a little girl who owned a talking scythe.

...You know what? Despite everything trying to kill me, I absolutely love this county. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Maka leapt into the air and brought the scythe down, instantly bringing down at least five of the shadow guardians, while Kurogane unleashed one of his attacks and incinerated perhaps another five or so. I put my bow onto my back and held out my sword.

"Wasn't it worth it?" Fai asked.

"Sh-Shut up. ...Yes."

Before he could answer, I attacked the nearest shadow guardian. I heard Fai laughing behind me as he began to take out the surrounding ones with his magic. I heard a loud crashing inside the house. "Hoo boy," I muttered.

Mokona leapt to the shattered door. "One of those things is trying to push Syaoran out an upstairs window."

"Thanks for the warning. Would you open them for me? Make sure they don't get Yorda. Is she safe?" I asked all of this while still in combat. These things were so much easier to defeat than Hork-Bajir.

"How did he get all the way upstairs, though?" I asked.

"There was a strange creature in your back yard. It was this...giant tank."

"A tank chased him upstairs...?! ...Okay."

It hopped back inside, and a few minutes later, I saw a window open. I was amazed how casual we could be during dangerous situations nowadays.

For a moment, I thought about the tank. Seriously, that had to be the weirdest, most random thing I could possibly imagine. Until I thought a little harder. Naoto. Of course. Those tanks were a type of enemy from Persona. One of the shadows. (If Naoto from Persona 4 was in our world, did that mean there was possibly a Wandie that could leap through the television screen, just like in the game? Because that would be awesome.)

At that moment, there was a large bang. I unfurled my wings and caught Syaoran. He actually wasn't too badly hurt. He did seem a little irritated.

"A tank? Really?!" he asked.

"Just...take it easy. If it's white, I think it's weak to lightning."

Yes. I was such a nerd that I remembered that, out of hundreds of enemies, this particular one was probably weak to lightning. That was just sad. Syaoran, having obviously never played Persona 3 or 4, didn't know this, therefore didn't comment.

"I was worried I'd destroy something if I used Raitei Shôrai in the house."

"As long as it's not my computer, my iPod, or my sister, I won't complain. Speaking of which, where is Soundy?"

"She was looking after Yorda while I fought off the tank." He still seemed completely confused. "A tank?" he asked me again.

"...You were unconscious when Naoto joined the county, weren't you?" I realized. "It's a new type of enemy we have to look out for. There are a bunch of them. They're called shadows. They each have weaknesses. Just experiment."

He nodded. "Do you want to go back in through the window or the front door?"

"Door's probably safer."

I landed on the ground and walked back to the doorstep.

"Thanks." He walked back in, and an explosion sounded inside. I turned around to see Kurogane, Fai, Maka, and Soul taking out the remaining shadow guardians. I managed to take out one that was sneaking up on Maka before the battle was done.

"Phew. What a day," I sighed. "So, let's get going." I went to the door.

"It's safe, now, Yorda!" I called in. She quickly hurried outside, taking Mokona from the couch as she caught up.

"Who wants lunch?" I heard Soul ask, the scythe shifting into a human form.

Maka ignored him completely. "So, you said you'd tell us why we're here?"

I nodded and began to explain through the walk. I didn't remember that I was bleeding from the stomach until Maka pointed it out mid-explanation. I shrugged. "I'll ask Sheila for some bandages. I'm alive, right?" I smiled. "This has sort of happened a lot, so I'm used to it."

Kind of. My heart was still beating a little fast.

"Sounds rough."

"Well, we're slowly reaching a solution. One problem at a time." I managed to smile. "Perhaps Sheila would be willing to take you in too. Or maybe you can stay with Starry." I had a hard time remembering which characters were staying with whom.

We stopped at Sheila's doorstep and knocked. She opened the door...and quite nearly dropped the bottle of water in her hands. "What happened?!"

"A minor inconvenience," Kurogane said dully.

"It's her stomach, not yours," Fai pointed out.

"Can we please come in?" I asked with a sigh. "By the way, Maka and Soul need a home now, too."

"..."

"What are we, homeless puppies?!" Soul asked.

"Maka Chop." She pulled a book out of hammer space (beyond the fourth wall?) and hit him with it.

"...Come in, all of you. Nice book. Can I read it?"

"Sure."

Maka handed Sheila the book as they all walked inside. Kurogane growled at Soul to stop whining as they walked in, and Fai...well, he carried me, no matter how much I protested. I swear, he was just making fun of me now. He put me down on the couch while Sheila went to get first aid. Fai and Kurogane followed her as she began to explain what she needed done. I heard her mention the stray Erasers to Kurogane, who grinned one of those slasher smiles that freaked me out so much.

Maka sat down on the sofa across from me. "So, let me get this straight. We're fictional characters from a manga called Soul Eater, and there are people in your county who could say everything about us...?"

"Yes."

"...Does Soul ever become a Death Scythe?" she asked eagerly.

Before this story needs any more spoiler tags, Sheila came back downstairs with the first aid kit.

"Here you go. We should all clear out so she can apply the bandages."

They all left, and I wrapped the bandages around the stomach injury before lying down on the couch again. So much had been going on in this county lately...I couldn't even remember when this whole journey had begun...

Oh, right. My door had exploded. How could I forget?

Still, I wondered when they'd all be able to get home. I loved this county and I was enjoying my time, but living in constant danger got to be a bit...draining. It wasn't just that, though. I had problems taking the lives of the Erasers. It just...bothered me. It'd been giving me nightmares for a while now...

Well, I'd have a whole new appreciation for fiction after this, I swear.

A howl broke the silence. A loud, long howl.

We had been told what this meant.

The Yeerk was leaving Spirithunter's mind.

Sheila darted downstairs. "Was that...?!"

"Yeah. Come on!" I stood up. Despite my injuries, I made a dart for the nearest tunnel entrance, which happened to be in the linen closet of all places. Sheila was close behind; the fictional characters all stayed back (except Kirby, one Patapon, and Amaterasu, who had all been down there all three days).

We weren't the first ones down, and we certainly weren't the last. A rather large crowd had already started gathering by the time we got there. Sheila was allowed ahead, however, because she was...well, she was Sheila. As for me, I stayed back. Spirithunter was curled on the ground, holding her head and letting out the occasional painful cry.

"Just hang in there, Spirithunter!" someone assured her. "We're here for you!"

Sheila put a hand on her shoulder. Amaterasu was watching, tense and on edge. Brightsky was holding Kirby, who looked like it wanted to tackle-glomp poor Spirithunter. The Patapon was up in the front with Sheila. Everyone all over the room was yelling encouragement for her, and we were all the way until the Yeerk finally came into view. (And then a few people screamed. Well, it was kind of gross...) The Patapon proceeded to do what we wanted it to: It drove its spear through the Yeerk as it fell to the floor. It twitched once...then twice... then fell still.

Spirithunter shivered, then let out a choked out sob. She then proceeded to get tackle-glomp-squished by the entire county.

"Spirit!"

"We're glad to have you back!"

"We missed you!"

She was still crying, but the pain seemed to be wearing off. Amaterasu nuzzled her affectionately. She rested her head against the goddess' while we all cheered. Sheila seemed at peace, and she hugged Spirithunter, too.

"Thank you all for waiting..." she choked out.

"Always!" I said. There were loud cheers of agreement.

"Thank you," she repeated. Amaterasu wagged her tail and let out a happy squeak, something very uncommon for...you know, a goddess.

We were on our way to repairing our school. We were on our way to bringing everyone home. We were all safe.

For now, it seemed, there was peace.

***

Chapter Sixteen

POV: Rabbitfoot

Heck, when is there ever peace around here?

While on one side of the county most of the residents were celebrating Spirithunter's release, I was trooping down the tunnels on the other side with Icestar, trying not to get lost. Earlier that day Sheila had set a task for us, one that had apparently been forgotten by a lot of Wandies lately.

"It's this way, Rabbit," Icestar said, breaking through my thoughts.

"Really?" I said, glancing down at the roughly-drawn map of the tunnels Magicyop had given us. "I thought Magic said it was the third right."

No, it was the second," Icestar insisted, swinging the flashlight down the tunnel. "Let's get going."

"Fine," I relented, folding the map up again. "But if we get lost, I'm blaming you."

She led the way deeper into the tunnels, the flashlight beam bobbing slightly in the gloom. I had to admit, even though I knew where we were (according to the map, directly under the lake) and I wasn't alone, the tunnels were still incredibly creepy. There was also the slightly disturbing fact that someone else could be using these tunnels at the same time we were down here. We'd already found Naoto, which opened up the possibility that we could find someone (or something) else down here. Quite honestly, it wasn't a very pleasant thought.

We rounded a turn in the tunnel, and Icestar let out a "HA!" of triumph. "Told you it was the second right!"

The flashlight beam illuminated the tunnel, revealing a chink in the wall that was covered with a thin layer of glowing symbols. Lying next to it was none other than the Disreputable Dog, on guard duty. She lifted her head and yawned at us in greeting.

"Okay, I admit, you're right," I said to Icestar, tucking the map away while trying not to show my amusement. "It was the second right."

She grinned triumphantly at me, then walked over to the Dog. I rolled my eyes behind her back as I followed her. "Hey, Dog. Anything new?"

She rose to her paws, then stretched and gave another yawn before shaking her head. (All her yawning was beginning to remind me of how much sleep I'd lost over the last month.) "No change. She hasn't been making demands or anything. If it weren't for my Charter seal and my ears, I would've said she escaped quite some time ago."

Icestar and I exchanged a look. "Sheila sent us down here to talk to her," Icestar told the Dog. "Do you think you could drop the barrier for a bit?"

The Dog shook her head. "I don't trust her long enough to drop the barrier, but I can shrink it so you can enter the room."

She turned around, facing the chink in the wall stretched with a web of white symbols. A moment passed, then I suddenly noticed that her collar had started to glow. Or, more specifically, the symbols on her collar. They melted and shifted, spreading down across her body in a wave. Another moment passed, then the Dog let out a short, sharp bark. One of the symbols practically exploded from her nose, smacking into the barrier and creating a ripple effect like a pebble dropped in water. The result wasn't noticeable right away, but after a moment I realized the barrier was shrinking, the web of Charter marks pulling back into the chink. Icestar led the way in as the barrier gave room; I followed after her, leaving the Dog standing in the corridor.

A few moments later the barrier stopped shrinking, leaving a large ball of swirling symbols in the center of the room. It glowed with a white light, making it difficult to see beyond into the center, but I was still able to make her out.

The Dark Sorceress.

She glared at us through the barrier, her animal eyes flashing in the gloom. She was standing with her arms crossed, her pale skin and blond hair practically glowing in the light cast by the Dog's Charter marks. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Icestar tightening her grip on her bow, and I slipped my hand into my pocket to grip the telepathic pin, just in case.

"Well, well," the Dark Sorceress purred. "Look who's finally decided to show up. Two of that woman's little minions."

"Shut it, witch," Icestar snapped at her. "Call us minions again and I will personally shoot you through with one of my arrows."

The Dark Sorceress grinned wickedly. "Come, try it then."

Icestar moved for her quiver, but before she had even reached her hand up I grabbed her wrist. "Cool down," I hissed at her. "Obviously the Dark Sorceress is provoking you. Take a few breaths while I talk to her."

Icestar glared at me with a look worthy of Kurogane, but nodded and took a half-step back. I let go of her wrist, took a deep breath, then stepped forward up to the barrier. "Sheila sent us down here to talk to you," I announced.

The Dark Sorceress' eyes narrowed. "What about now? I gave you the information you needed to rescue your friends, and in exchange you locked me up down here with some canine for a guard."

"You did turn on your former allies," I pointed out. "What's to say you won't turn on us?"

She snarled. "The Erasers were the ones who turned on me, girl, in case you need reminding."

"Technicalities," Icestar growled from behind me. I ignored her.

"Let's get to the point," I said. "You're still sure you haven't got anything else for us, right?"

I heard the Dog punctuate my question with a low growl; beside me Icestar slowly drew an arrow.

The Dark Sorceress sighed in an almost theatrical way. "You've already used my information to free your friends and capture those people you call 'the School'. I have nothing else pertaining to any other enemies, such as those so-called Hork-Bajir. Perhaps you should ask your friend's little clone about that."

Icestar and I exchanged a glance. I really doubted that any of us would be sitting down for a chat with Shaoran any time soon.

"Okay...fine, you don't have any more info for us. Why'd you even come to us in the first place?"

The Dark Sorceress rolled her eyes. "I thought I already explained that to you. My allies deserted me, tried to take me as a prisoner even. Though I suppose I still am one in this situation."

"Hey, at least we treat you better than the School ever did," I protested.

She sighed. "I suppose what you say is true. At least you're intelligent enough to not attempt to shove me in a cage or leave me with no food or water while I come up with the best way to torture you to death."

"...I'll take that as a compliment," I muttered under my breath.

"I realized that I have no hope of facing all of you alone," the Dark Sorceress continued. "Besides, I cannot achieve my ultimate goal on my own either."

"Ultimate goal?" I echoed. "What kind of ultimate goal?"

I had fully expected her to just sneer at me and deny ever telling me, so I was surprised when she simply stated, "Why, to return to my own world, of course."

I shot a glance at Icestar, seeing my surprise reflected on her face.

"That's the main goal of everyone here, isn't it? Oh sure, they may seem to enjoy your company as much as you do, but did you really expect that they'll all want to remain here indefinitely? No. Every single 'character', as you call us, from the School to me, from the mistwolves to all those cats, from the first to arrive to the last, all of them still want to leave you and return home."

For several seconds I just stood there, unable to move an inch as confusing thoughts whirled through my head. Then all at once my limbs unfroze, and I whirled around. "C'mon, Icestar," I said. "We're done here."

She raised no objections as she followed me back out into the corridor. The Dog lifted her head from where she had been lying, cocking her head at us. I didn't make eye contact with her as I led the way back down the tunnels and towards the exit.

*

POV: Starsight

"So you didn't manage to get anything else out of her, huh?"

"Nope," Rabbitfoot replied. "She keeps claiming that all her info only relates to the School, and we've already got them locked up. Apparently if we want any info on the Hork-Bajir, we'd have to track down Shaoran and ask him ourselves."

I shuddered at the thought. "I don't think anyone needs to be doing that any time soon."

"Nah, just send Lilac out there, she'll do fine."

I snorted with laughter, despite myself. Glancing at the clock I stated, "I'd better go, it's getting late and I still have to cook dinner for six."

"Isn't that number a bit off?" Rabbitfoot queried.

"Oddly enough, no. Storm and Dreamer are apparently off hunting down something for themselves, and it was the Dog who requested spaghetti for dinner. I'm trying not to focus on how weird that is and instead be grateful that she picked something I can actually cook well."

Rabbitfoot laughed. "She probably deserves to pick after doing all that guard duty down there. Good luck with that; I shall be leaving you to it then."

"Yeah, thanks," I sniggered, slightly sarcastically. "See ya."

I hit the 'End' button on the phone and set it back in its cradle. It was the day after the Yeerk had finally been forced out of Spirithunter. While most of us had been with her for support, Sheila had sent Rabbitfoot and Icestar down into the tunnels to question the Dark Sorceress. She'd been locked up down there since the whole School fiasco, constantly under a guard. I guessed that Sheila still didn't trust her, despite her claims. Honestly, though, I had to agree.

I sighed, putting the thought out of my mind as I pulled the fold-out stool from the gap between the wall and the fridge. The largest pots were kept on top of the fridge, since they didn't really fit anywhere else. I pulled them down, setting one on the stove and the other in the sink. I filled it halfway with water, grunting as I lifted it out of the sink and set it on the stove next to the first pot. I turned the burner on, then crossed to the pantry and pulled open the door.

"What are you up to?"

I poked my head back around the door to see Maka standing in the doorway. "Getting dinner started," I replied. "Weirdly enough, the Dog wants spaghetti."

"Can I help?" she asked. "I mean, it's the least I can do in exchange for you letting us stay here."

I hesitated. "Well, I've never cooked dinner for six before, or at least, not for a while. I could use the help I guess."

Maka beamed, making her way around the counter to join me on the cooking side. I pulled out a new package of spaghetti, pushing the pantry door shut with my foot. "Here, this can go in the pot once it starts boiling."

"Got it," she said, opening up the package. I opened the fridge, pulling out an armful of tomatoes and set them on the counter before grabbing a cutting board and knife and getting to work.

I guess you could say I kinda got lost in the cooking after that, either that or I'm just too lazy to go into detail. I was just pulling some plates out of the cupboard when Soul walked in. "Something smells good," he commented.

"We've been making dinner," Maka told him. She took the stack of plates from me and handed them to him, saying, "You should help out too. At the very least you can set the table."

Soul groaned. "Why me?" he grumbled, but he took the plates anyway and started setting them out on the table.

I smiled to myself as I opened the drawer to gather some silverware. Typical Soul.

"Hey, there's only four chairs here," Soul pointed out. "Aren't there more people here?"

"I can deal with the floor," the Dog woofed as she trotted into the kitchen. "That still leaves five of you, though."

"There're some extra folding chairs in the dining room," I said. "Hang on, I'll go get one."

I left the kitchen through the other doorway into the overly disorganized dining room, pulling a folding chair out of the mess of plastic shopping bags. Re-entering the kitchen, I handed the extra chair to Soul, who nodded and set it up at an empty spot. Crossing back to the stove, I checked the sauce again, then shut the stove off.

At this point, Emily and Adriane had entered the room. "Whatever you're cooking in here is making me hungry," Adriane said.

"It's spaghetti for dinner," I replied, grabbing a couple hot dish pads and tossing them to her. "Could you set those on the table for the pots?"

She nodded. I hefted the sauce pot and brought it over to the table, Maka close behind with the spaghetti. "Anyone want something to drink? I've got water, milk, juice, there're probably a few cans of pop in the garage if anyone's interested..."

"A glass of milk would be fine for me," Emily said.

"I'm fine with water," Maka added, with Adriane and Soul both nodding in agreement.

"Got it," I said, going back to the fridge. "Feel free to dig in, by the way, you don't have to wait for me."

By the time I made it back to the table with the drinks, everyone had already served themselves. Even the Dog had a plate on the floor, courtesy of Soul. "Wow, you guys are fast," I joked.

"Just hungry," Soul responded as he took a bite of spaghetti. "Mmm, thish ish good!"

Maka elbowed him in the side and shot him a glare. "Putting someone's manners aside...it really is good, Starry. Where'd you learn to cook like this?"

"I'm not that good really," I replied, slightly flustered. "I just tend to pick up some good recipes here and there."

"Well, you find some pretty good recipes, then," the Dog woofed, slurping up a strand of spaghetti. And I don't even know if dogs can slurp.

...And this was my normal life now. To think that, just over a month ago, if someone had told me that fictional characters would be dropping into the county, I would've said they were crazy. Yet here they were, just as real as any Wandie was.

...But when would it end? Logically in the back of my mind I knew that everyone who had (and might still) arrived wouldn't be around forever, but for how much longer? Would it be another month until their departure, or would tomorrow be the day they found their way home?

"Don't worry about the dishes, we can handle them for you."

"Eh?" I said, Maka's voice suddenly snapping me back to the present.

"I said that we can take care of the dish-washing for you. You did most of the cooking anyway, so Soul and I can do the clean-up."

"Wait, why me?" Soul moaned as Maka passed him a stack of dirty dishes. "Why do I keep getting pulled into this?"

I smiled. "If you're okay handling it on your own then..."

"We'll be fine," Maka replied, shoving a still-reluctant Soul towards the sink.

Trying to stifle a giggle, I decided to leave them to it. Emily and Adriane followed me out. "I'm impressed with Maka," Emily admitted. "Her attitude makes me feel like I've been doing nothing to help."

"Don't think that way," I replied dismissively. "Maka's just really determined like that. You've done plenty to help us in other ways."

Adriane shook her head. "I still find it amazing how you can know so much about us when we've just met for the first time."

"It's the books, I tell you," I said with a grin. "Well, that and the movies, video games, TV shows..."

Emily giggled, but Adriane's expression did exactly the opposite. Her face went pale, which was in extreme contrast with her dark black outfit. "Uh, Starry? Is that what I think it is...?"

I slowly turned around, a feeling of dread settling in next to my full stomach of spaghetti. Sure enough, a large, blood-red scratch was hanging in mid-air in the middle of the living room. Geez, when was the last time we'd seen one of those?

"Uh, Maka? Soul?" I called. "I think the dishes can wait, we could use some help out here!"

I heard Soul yell, "Thank god!" then there was a flash of light and Maka skidded around the corner, scythe in hand. Her eyes widened when she saw the scratch. "What...is that...?"

"One of the scratches that have been the cause of this mess," I replied, closing my hand on the hilt of my Kudan's sword as it materialized by my side. "I take it you didn't see...?"

"No, we kinda just woke up here," Soul responded.

"Ah, that explains—"

Without warning the scratch more or less exploded and a mass of hulking, shadow-like creatures poured from the scratch. They were small, smaller than the Dog, seemingly made of viscous shadows with glinting yellow eyes.

Wait...were these Heartless?

The Dog let out a bark, and I shivered as I felt Kibeth's power roll through the air. Several of the Heartless stopped dead in their tracks, but there were too many for her to control. I swung my sword sideways through the air, sending a barrage of icicles into their midst. Screeches rent the air as several Heartless stumbled backwards with icicles protruding from their bodies. Maka plunged into the fray, swinging her scythe in a broad arc and slicing the entire front line in half. Adriane stepped up next to me, letting loose a whip of golden fire from her bracelet. The screams of the Heartless hurt my ears as they took our attacks...and shrugged them off as if they were nothing. Icicles clattered to the floor, the magic fire burnt out, the sliced Heartless regenerated. With renewed shrieks of triumph, the Heartless surged towards us again.

"Argh, that is it!" I shouted. "I just cleaned this place up, I refuse to let my living room get trashed again! Drive them outside!"

Yes. Despite the overwhelming threat of regenerating Heartless appearing before us, I was more worried about the condition of my living room. Hey, it'd taken probably a hundred pages to get that mess cleaned up!

Emily was first down the steps; she threw the front door open as Adriane and I burst out of it. A wave of Heartless followed, with Maka and the Dog bringing up the rear to chase out any stragglers. I heard Adriane shout in alarm, and I swung around to see another scratch opening in the middle of the street, this time with turban-wearing, scimitar-wielding Heartless charging out towards us.

"Great. Just what we need, a new kind of enemy," I muttered, turning to face the scimitar-Heartless. Bandit Heartless, I remembered they were called. One of them swung its sword at me; I blocked the blow with an ice shield and jabbed at its chest. My sword sunk in deep, catching the Heartless off-guard. I yanked my sword out again, leaping back out of reach. For a brief second I felt panic fill me as a green glow surrounded the wound in the Heartless' chest, healing it. Were these things invincible?

"What's with this?!" I heard Soul shout as Maka swung him through a Bandit Heartless only to have it regenerate again. "Is there any way to kill these things?!"

"There should be!" I shouted back, slicing off a Heartless' arm just to watch it grow back again. "I don't understand—"

A huge tremor rumbled through the ground, nearly throwing me off my feet. Stumbling slightly, I whipped around to see a gigantic Heartless step from the scratch, the weight of its body leaving huge cracks in the pavement. I recognized it as a "Large Body" Heartless, which was a name that suit it well. It looked like an overly obese gorilla, with a huge belly, legs as thick as tree trunks, and a tiny head perched on top. The Heartless let out a roar and swung a fist at me; I barely managed to jump back in time.

I heard the Dog's bark echo through the air behind me, focusing its power on the Large Body Heartless. It paused, clearly struggling to move forward. Maka darted in front of it, swinging her scythe hard.

"Wait!" I shouted, but I was too late. Soul's blade made contact, then bounced violently off, throwing Maka back several feet.

"It's impervious to attacks from the front!" I called, parrying another Bandit Heartless' sword. "Attack it from behind!"

"Might've helped if we knew that earlier," I heard Soul complain, but Maka ignored him, swiftly getting to her feet and darting behind the Large Body Heartless faster than it could turn. I saw her strike deep into its back before I was attacked by another wave of Shadow Heartless that flat-out refused to die.

Something white moved in the corner of my eye, and I shot a glance around to see thick tendrils of mist snaking towards us. Moments later the mist began to solidify, forming two wolves, one silver and one black, who hurtled themselves into the fray. Oh, and one human.

"You look like you could use a bit of help here," Icestar said, drawing two arrows at once and shooting them into two different Heartless.

"Help would be nice," I remarked as I sliced at the two stubborn Heartless she had shot. "How did you get here?"

"Met Storm and Dreamer on their way back here," she replied, nailing a Bandit Heartless between the eyes with a well-placed arrow. "They seemed to sense that something was wrong, so I offered to tag along. Storm thought it would be safer to arrive under the cover of mist. And what is with these things?!" she growled as the Heartless simply pulled out the arrow and advanced on us. "Can't they just die?!"

"They should be just dying," I muttered, blocking the Heartless' strike. "I don't get why—"

A green blur suddenly streaked past my field of vision, and I snapped my head around to see what looked like a glowing green lantern zoom past. It gave a squeaky cackle, and I suddenly noticed its eyes: they were the same glinting yellow as the other Heartless.

"There!" I shouted. "That Green Requiem—er, the lantern-like thing. I recognize it from Chain of Memories, it has healing powers, that's why we can't kill the Heartless!"

Maka leapt into the air, using the heads of a few Shadow Heartless for leverage. She swiped at the Green Requiem, but it quickly darted out of the way, continuing to cackle. Adriane shot a bolt of fire into the air; this time the Heartless didn't even bother to dodge as it simply absorbed the magic, its glow growing brighter.

"Magic can't harm it!" I called, throwing up an ice shield and wincing as a Shadow Heartless splattered against it. "It just absorbs it and gets stronger!"

"Then what are we supposed to do?" Icestar snapped.

"You'll have to be the one to hit it," I replied. "You're the only one with a non-magical ranged weapon who isn't busy in close combat."

A moment passed, then she grinned and drew an arrow. "Cover me while I take the shot," she said, nocking the arrow and lifting her bow to take aim.

"Got it," I answered, creating a barrier of ice between us and most of the Heartless. I glanced upwards; the Green Requiem was zipping back and forth at incredible speeds, generally acting like a moving target from your worst nightmare. I had no idea how Icestar was going to manage to hit it.

A Bandit Heartless charged at us from our side of the barrier; I stepped in front of Icestar to cut it off. It struck out at my left shoulder, the same place where a Hork-Bajir had wounded me during their invasion two weeks ago. I swung up my sword to block the blow, but I wasn't fast enough as the blade clipped my shoulder. With a jolt I realized my movements had been slowed; keeping that barrier up must've been taking more energy than I initially thought.

"Hurry!" I called to Icestar. "I can't keep this up much longer!"

"Don't rush me!" she retorted. "It's not easy to hit a moving target, you know!"

The Heartless drove its sword straight at me; I barely managed to get out of the way, earning another clip in the side. I parried its blade, pushing on it and forcing it back a step. The Heartless pulled back for another blow, leaving itself wide open. Seeing my chance, I slashed upward with all my might, slicing the Heartless clean in two.

"HA!" Icestar shouted, and I despite my situation I swung around to see the Green Requiem fall squealing from the air, an arrow protruding from its body. Before it even hit the ground it burst into pieces, fading out in a puff of smoke.

"Did you see that?!" Icestar crowed. "One hit, it only took one hit! And on a moving target, too!"

"Nice shot," I said with a grin, turning back to see the Heartless I had sliced disintegrate into nothing. "Now let's get rid of the rest of these things!"

The remainder of the battle was quick now that the Green Requiem was gone. A few minutes later the final Heartless, the Large Body, was taken down, distracted by Adriane at the front while Maka stabbed it from behind.

I let out a sigh of relief, sitting down on the curb as my Kudan melted into a ball of light and was absorbed into my chest again. "I feel like I'm getting too old for this," I muttered.
"If you are then we all are," Icestar said, sitting down next to me. "We should probably go tell Sheila about this."

"I could just call her..."

"Nah, I think it'd be better to walk over there. Besides, you could use some bandages for those wounds or something anyway."

Something about the look on her face seemed like she wasn't telling me everything, but I felt too tired to push the issue. "Fine," I agreed, getting to my feet again. "I guess we can head over."

*

Fifteen minutes later the nine of us were standing on Sheila's doorstep, waiting as Emily rang the bell. I was practically leaning against Adriane now due to exhaustion, whether it was from the walk or the recent battle or something else I couldn't tell.

I had been expecting Sheila or Magicyop to open the door, so I received a surprise when it was Fai who answered it. I blinked. "What are you doing here?"

"Sheila asked Kurogane and me to come over here to help out. He's 'downstairs' at the moment. But never mind that, what happened to you?"

"Had a run-in with a new enemy, these things called Heartless," Soul responded.

Fai looked concerned. "Come in then, you could all use a rest. I'll go find Sheila."

He disappeared inside, leaving us to let ourselves in. I shot a glare at Icestar. "You knew he was here, didn't you?"

Her only reply was a grin.

We trooped into the house, Maka pausing just long enough to shut the door behind us. I collapsed on the couch with a sigh, glad to be able to rest. Emily and Adriane sat on the opposite end of the couch, leaving Maka and Soul to pick a couple chairs. The Dog sprawled out on the floor with Dreamer, while Icestar and Stormbringer remained standing.

Sheila arrived moments later, with Magicyop, Fai, a couple Patapon, Mokona, and a girl I didn't recognize right behind her. Sheila looked harried and exhausted; I was instantly hit with a pang of guilt for having to pile yet another problem on her.

"Fai told me you were attacked," Sheila began.

"Yeah," I said, muttering a thanks to Magicyop as he set a first-aid kit on the table in front of me. I let Maka, Emily, and Adriane recount the story of the battle while I worked on bandaging my wounds with some help from Fai for my arm (much to my embarrassment).

The room was silent by the time they finished. I glanced over at Sheila; her expression was distant, like she wasn't really with us anymore. "...Sheila?"

No response. I shut the first-aid kit; the snap of the lid seemed to suddenly bring her out of her stupor. Another moment passed, then she suddenly turned around and disappeared into the kitchen. I exchanged a glance with Icestar, then got up from the couch and followed after her.

Sheila was standing at the counter in front of her laptop, typing away furiously. I glanced at Icestar again before tentatively saying, "Sheila? What...?"

"I'm sending an email to the entire county," Sheila said. "This can't go on any longer, us sitting around waiting for the next attack. Tomorrow we're going to start ending this." She looked up at us. "Starry, Icey, I want you and the others to stay over here tonight. It'll be squishy, but it's just for one night. There are extra guestrooms upstairs."

"O-Okay. Thank you, Sheila," I replied. Icestar nodded, then went back to the living room to inform the others. I just headed straight for the staircase, suddenly overcome with exhaustion and looking forward to a good night's rest.

I ran into a surprise of sorts at the top of the stairs; Spirithunter was sitting to one side, with Amaterasu lying next to her, one of her paws dangling from the top step. "Hey," I greeted quietly.

She nodded in response, running her hand repeatedly down Amaterasu's back in a seemingly unconscious motion.

"...How are you feeling? After...going through all that...?"

A long, drawn-out pause. Then she smiled up at me, though it was a smile that spoke well of all the pain and suffering she had gone through since the Yeerk had taken her over. "I'm doing okay. Anything's better than having an alien slug in your head, right?"

"Yeah," I said, trying to smile back and somehow not being able to use the muscles correctly. "Sheila said we could stay over for tonight, any idea which rooms are free?"

"Second door on the right's open," Spirithunter answered, gesturing down the hall with her other hand.

"Thanks," I replied, carefully stepping over Amaterasu to make my way down the hall. I shut the door behind me before flopping down on the bed. Maybe Sheila was right. Us Wandies were constantly getting pummelled; so far we'd never made the first attack. She'd mentioned something about 'ending this'. Did she mean to finally use the mirror shard and cut into that alternate dimension? If we got rid of the three powers that Yûko had mentioned, we might finally be able to set everything right in the county.

And yet, in the back of my mind, a little voice was nagging at me. If we got rid of the powers, we would also be getting rid of everyone who had come to the county. Not just enemies like the Erasers and the Hork-Bajir, but all the friends we had made too. Syaoran, Emily, Roy, Shiki, Allen, Fai, the Dog, ThunderClan, everyone. Would we really be ready when the time came to say goodbye?

Trying to shove the thoughts out of my brain, I rolled over and closed my eyes.

*

POV: Icestar

The next day dawned bright and cold. Well, it wasn't dawn anymore by the time everyone was gathered in the park, we're not active that crazy early in the morning. But that's beside the point.

Nearly everyone had gotten Sheila's email last night; those who hadn't picked up the news from the other Wandies anyway. I have to admit, we have a pretty connected inner network. Every single Wandie and character (the ones who were on our side, anyway) were gathered around the side of the large pond that sat near the center of the park. A light snow was falling, dusting the ground with a thin layer of white. A fragile coating of ice stretched across the pond, only broken near us where Shardas had punched a hole to the black water below. Here and there a slight chatter drifted through the air as those who were here talked amongst themselves, but for the most part it was silent.

Footsteps crunched on the snow behind me, and I turned around to see Coalfang walking up, followed by Lostpaw and Balto. "You're late, Oldfang," I said as soon as he was within earshot.

"Had some things to take care of first," he replied, giving me a sideways grin. "You wouldn't want to be attacked by a horde of Erasers again and get stabbed in the gut, would you?"

"I'd shoot dead any that tried," I growled.

Before Coalfang could come up with a decent response, a low rumble from Shardas rolled across the crowd, causing everyone to fall silent. I glanced over at the huge golden dragon, who was standing next to the break in the pond with Sheila.

"Alright!" she called, clapping her gloved hands together. "Thanks everyone for coming on such short notice. The reason I've asked you all to come here today is to finally start to put an end to everything that has been causing problems for us since this all began."

A fresh wave of whispers rippled through the crowd, which were silenced by another impartial growl from Shardas.

"Last night, Magic and I put together a plan so we can do this as efficiently as possible," Sheila continued. "We're going to split up into different groups, each with a different task. Magic?"

Magicyop coughed, holding up a clipboard. "First off, we're going to have one group that will use the mirror shard to cut into this parallel dimension, as Yûko described it, and try to bring back these powers that are causing these problems. The group will consist of Rabbit, Danny, Allen, Timcanpy, Icey, Maka, Soul, Firestar, Graystripe, Jayfeather, Cinderheart, Brightspirit, Seven, Absol, Kurogane...and the Dark Sorceress."

A storm of talking met his words; it took at least two growls from Shardas to make everyone calm down again.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Adriane called out. "The Dark Sorceress is powerful and unpredictable."

Sheila and Magicyop exchanged a glance so brief I almost missed it. "That's partially why we're sending such a large group. Any threats she may pose should be eliminated with so many people watching over her. I would send you, Adriane, or Emily to identify the power crystal, but I need both of you to remain here."

I nodded to myself. "Makes sense," I muttered. "We don't know what's in this parallel dimension after all. Kurogane can recognize Sakura's feather, while the ThunderClan cats can easily pick out StarClan. I'm still not sure sending the Dark Sorceress to find that power crystal is a smart idea, though."

"Sheila and Magic should have it all sorted out," Coalfang replied under his breath, but I could hear the doubtful note in his tone.

"In addition," Magicyop was continuing, "we'll have a small group waiting here to guard the cut between dimensions and keep in contact with the group who goes in. Storm, Watanuki, Fell, and Thunder will make up that group. Storm will use her mistwolf powers to cloak the area and hopefully keep it hidden from wandering enemies while Fell will use his Sight to act as a medium and keep the two groups in touch."

"Wait, hang on, how does that work?" Wolf asked. "Visions in water can't be controlled, and there aren't any birds going with you."

"Actually..." Allen interjected, looking part sheepish and part bewildered, "we tried it with Timcanpy earlier. Golems are commonly used as a communication tool where I come from, so I thought Tim might be able to host Fell's Sight."

The black wolf shook his head. "I can see as clearly through that creature as any normal bird's eyes. This is a strange world indeed."

Timcanpy punctuated that statement with a chirping noise that sounded oddly like gargling.

"The rest of us will split up into several groups to take on different jobs. Each group will take a walkie-talkie with them in order to keep in contact, including the group going into said alternate dimension."

"What's the point of having a group outside to stay in contact then?" Lostpaw queried.

"We don't know how well we'll be able to communicate between two different dimensions," Sheila answered. "Having two options will make this easier for us." She stooped down to a bag at her feet, pulling out several walkie-talkies and starting to hand them out. "Everyone, double-check to make sure your walkie-talkies are set to channel 6.49."

"Hoping for some luck today, eh?" Starsight commented, gaining a few laughs from the crowd.

I caught Sheila smiling slightly as she passed a walkie-talkie to me; I grinned back at her and gave a short nod. She nodded back before raising her voice for the whole crowd to hear. "Can the dimension group come forward, please? We should get this underway as soon as possible."

I followed Sheila back to the edge of the pond, instinctively readjusting my bow and quiver on my back. I caught sight of something moving on the edge of the forest, and glanced around to see better. Kurogane was just coming out from the trees, escorting none other than the Dark Sorceress with him. The entire group fell silent as they walked up, nearly every eye on the Dark Sorceress. She didn't make any sign of acknowledging anyone in the crowd, just stopping in front of Sheila and holding her gaze with an icy stare. "So we're going through with it?"

Sheila gave a short nod before turning back to the rest of the group. "Rabbit?"

Rabbitfoot stepped forward, rummaging around in her pocket for something. After a moment she gingerly pulled out the mirror shard, being careful to not cut herself on its sharp edges. She adjusted her grip and raised the shard, casting a glance at Sheila who nodded, giving her the go-ahead. Rabbitfoot paused to take a breath, then reached up and drew the shard downwards through the air.

A ribbon of pure darkness opened up after the shard, expanding into a gash big enough for a human to step through. Rabbitfoot stopped cutting and stepped back, leaving the gash hanging in the air, a doorway to a different dimension. For several moments we all just stood there, staring at the gash into the pitch-black dimension beyond.

"I'll go first," I volunteered, pocketing the walkie-talkie. I stepped up to the gash, stopping in front of it. I reached forward and tentatively tried to poke my hand through it. A ghostly silver ripple expanded across the gash, as if a vertical pool of water hung in front of it. I lowered my hand, took a breath, and plunged through the gap.

For a brief moment, time slowed down. My body movements slowed to a crawl, until it felt like I was trying to move through semi-frozen molasses. Milliseconds later I burst free, stumbling forward as I tried to regain my balance. I straightened up and looked around. It looked like a completely black void of nothing that stretched away from me in every direction. I couldn't even see a floor, but I could definitely feel a solid surface beneath my feet. I turned around to face the gash I had just come through. It was a complete flip from what I had seen from the other side; looking through it I could see the county park and a good number of people standing around the gash. The only difference was that on this side a semi-transparent veil of silver cloaked the entrance, rippling like water. It made it tricky to see through to the other side.

Sheila stepped up to the gash and waved at me. I waved back. She said something, but the words didn't reach me. There were no sounds in this dimension at all, I realized, trying to shake off the stifling feeling that came with the silence. I shook my head, cupping my hand around my ear to indicate that I couldn't hear. She held up her own walkie-talkie next and pointed at it. I took the hint and dug mine out of my pocket. She spoke into hers, but again no sound came through. I shook my head, then lifted my walkie-talkie to my mouth. "Testing...though I'm pretty darn sure these things aren't gonna work in here..."

Sheila shook her head again, confirming that neither walkie-talkie could receive anything. She glanced back over her shoulder, as if someone were talking to her, then motioned for me to move back. I took a few steps away from the gash, leaving plenty of room. Moments later Allen burst through, staggering from the gash as Timcanpy fluttered after him. He found his footing faster than I had, casting a quick glance around before commenting, "Well, this is different."

"You're telling me," I muttered.

A sudden crackling sound startled me. I turned towards Timcanpy, who was making odd sounds that reminded me of an old out-of-tune radio. After a moment the sound cleared and Fell's voice echoed from the golem. "Allen? Can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear," Allen replied. "Good to know we have at least one form of communication in here."

"Mm," Fell grunted. "Sheila says to stand away from the gash, the others are coming through."

"Got it," Allen answered. We stepped back from the gash, just as Sevenclaws and Absol leapt through it. Sevenclaws turned around, remarking, "This be far less fabulous than I was hoping it'd be."

"What were you expecting, dare I ask?" I muttered.

"Well, a welcoming committee would've been nice," he responded as he moved out of the way for Soul and Maka to come through. "Better yet, someone to tell us where these powers be."

"Or, even better, someone here to just give them to us," Soul grumbled. "Then we wouldn't have to go through all this dimension-hopping business."

Firestar was the next one through the gash, closely followed by Graystripe. The three remaining warrior cats jumped through together—followed by a flash of light so bright I was momentarily blinded. It took a few seconds of rubbing my eyes and furious blinking to be able to see again, but when I could make the others out I almost instantly noticed a change in the cats.

Brightspirit was the first thing I saw; her form had become much more solid as opposed to her pale, ghostly image from earlier. Starlight dusted her fur, sparkling in her pawsteps like tiny points of light. Beside her, Jayfeather was staring around at the dark dimension with a gaze that was far too focused for a blind cat. Cinderheart was more subtle; her demeanour had changed the most, though I also detected a glimmer of starlight in her pelt.

Timcanpy crackled again. "Sheila wants to know what's going on in there," Fell reported. "We all saw a flash of light on the other side of that gash."

Brightspirit gestured with a paw for Timcanpy to fly closer. "Cinderheart, Jayfeather, and I have changed a bit," she responded. "What would normally be experienced only in dreams has been granted to us in this dimension. I believe it's because we're entering a place that is guarded by StarClan."

"I can see," Jayfeather cut in, wonder edging his voice. "But only in here. On the other side of the gash—" he turned back to stare through it, "—it's as dark as ever."

"Then—" I began, turning to Cinderheart, but I cut myself off when the she-cat gave a tiny shake of her head. She flicked an ear slightly at Firestar and Graystripe, and I remembered that they weren't supposed to know that the gray she-cat was the reincarnation of Cinderpelt. Would that kind of knowledge be carried over when the Clans were returned to their own territories?

I turned as someone else came through the gash, instinctively tensing as I recognized the Dark Sorceress. I could practically feel the tension crackling through the air as she stepped forward, glaring at us as if challenging us to attack her. Kurogane stepped through after her, keeping one hand on the hilt of his sword as he herded her away from the gash. A low growl rumbled in Graystripe's throat as the gray tom backed out of her path, but the Dark Sorceress ignored him completely.

Rabbitfoot and Danny were the last ones through, each stumbling a bit on the re-entry. Rabbitfoot glanced around quickly before squinting off into the distance towards the non-existent horizon. "So, any suggestions to where we should head first in this clichéd dark void?"

Danny shrugged, a ghost of a grin on his face. "I dunno, I'm kinda devoid of any id—hic!"

He slapped a hand over his mouth. Everyone turned to stare at him. "What...?" Rabbitfoot started to say.

"Nothing!" he said quickly, his voice elevating almost to a squeak. "Absolutely noth—hic!"

Someone snorted, and I found myself starting to laugh too. Danny was quickly going red in the face. "It's nothing to—hic!—laugh abou—hic!"

"Wait, wait, wait a sec," Rabbitfoot gasped, choking back a bout of laughter. She grabbed Danny's wrist and pulled his hand back, just as he hiccupped again. This time, I noticed a slight wisp of blue smoke escape from his mouth. Apparently Danny had seen it too. "Why's my—hic!—ghost sense going off?"

Rabbitfoot shook her head, still looking like she was trying hard not to laugh. "I don't know...there aren't any ghosts in the area, are there?"

"Actually..." Brightspirit started, and we all turned to look at her. "This...'ghost sense' of yours...it detects if there's any ghosts nearby, right?"

Danny nodded, trying unsuccessfully to suppress yet another hiccup.

"Then I think I have an answer to that, assuming we're stretching the rules a bit here. StarClan is comprised of the spirits of thousands of the Clans' ancestors, and I'd say that the term 'spirit' is quite similar to 'ghost', wouldn't you?"

"So you're saying that Danny can sense where StarClan is?" I ventured.

Brightspirit nodded enthusiastically, trailing starlight with her movements. "And I'm willing to bet that wherever StarClan is, we'll find the power crystal and the feather with them! So I propose that Danny lead the way!"

Danny groaned audibly at that. "Why—hic!—me?"

"Oh, come on, it'll be faster than us wandering around in here forever," Rabbitfoot said, giving him a shove. "Lead on to wherever you feel worst!"

"Gee, somehow that—hic!—doesn't make me feel—hic!—better at all," the ghost boy grumbled, but he reluctantly took the lead into the strange dimension, the rest of us trailing behind him.

*

POV: Amaterasu

I crouched beneath the bush I had selected, trying to hunker down and hoping that my white fur was blending in with the snow around me. I stared out across the stony beach of the lakeshore, gazing at an angle to the water's edge to where the Hork-Bajir were still running around like a colony of ants. The sludgy, iron-coloured water of the barricaded cove was stirring slightly, those vile slugs called Yeerks occasionally visible whenever one broke the surface. A cluster of cages lined one side of the cove; several Hork-Bajir were inside them, yelling and crying and begging to be released. They were all merely slaves, just as Spirithunter had been. My stomach twisted and I had to suppress a low growl. I wanted to just drop a Cherry Bomb straight into the pool and wipe out those slugs, but I couldn't give away my position. I was supposed to be scouting, checking the area that would soon turn into another battleground.

I waited a few more minutes to make absolutely sure that there was no change, then carefully wiggled back out from under the bush and loped into the forest. It didn't take me long to reach the meeting point where Sheila and the rest of our attack force waited.

"How does it look?" Sheila asked as I skidded to a stop next to her.

As always, I replied. There doesn't seem to be any change since I was last there.

Instinctively I shot a glance over in Spirithunter's direction, but fortunately she wasn't paying attention to our conversation. She had insisted with Sheila on coming with our group. Did she want to take revenge on the Yeerks that had enslaved her? I didn't know.

Sheila nodded at my words. "Let's move in now, before they realize we're here," she stated, waving an arm to attract the attention of the rest of the group. We were the largest of the groups Sheila had sent to different places around the county, likely because the Hork-Bajir posed the biggest, most dangerous threat at that moment. It took a few minutes to get everyone organized, and then we were moving in a silent mass towards the lake. We had almost reached the lakeshore when Sheila turned back and waved towards the back of the line. I knew what that signal meant; Roy was going to take half the group and circle around to the other side of the cove in order to catch the Hork-Bajir in the middle. I glanced back, catching Spirithunter's eye and giving her a wolfish grin to reassure her. She gave me a small smile back, though it wasn't as strong as before. Moments later she and the rest of the group had disappeared into the trees.

We reached the edge of the trees and Sheila raised one hand, a silent signal that rippled through the group until everyone had stopped moving. I had to marvel at their ability to remain completely silent for such a large group. Sheila nodded at me, and I turned my head up to the sky. In one swift movement I traced a Crescent against the light gray clouds. It was as if time had suddenly sped up, the sky quickly creeping towards darkness even though it wasn't even noon. Several Hork-Bajir looked up worriedly, but a sharp word from another Hork-Bajir, presumably higher in rank, made them continue with their jobs once more.

A few minutes later it was early night; we had just skipped an entire day within a span of ten minutes. I stared out across the rocky shore at the Hork-Bajir's cove, grateful that I could see despite the darkness thanks to my wolf vision. I could sense Sheila's gaze on me, waiting for me to spot the signal. Taking the hint, I turned my head towards the sky again, studying the stars that were beginning to peek out from among the clouds. Spirithunter would send us the signal from there.

It took several minutes but at last I spotted movement in the corner of my eye. A new star had suddenly appeared, shining for a moment before it whisked off towards the horizon. That's the signal.

Sheila nodded. She stared out towards the cove for a moment before saying, "Wait a few minutes, then send her two stars."

I woofed softly in response. Two stars was the decided signal for Roy's group to attack first. Sheila must have decided that their position had given them an advantage.

I let several minutes pass in silence, broken only by small noises as the Wandies and others behind us shifted nervously in anticipation for the coming battle. I shot a glance at Sheila, who gave me a tiny nod. I drew two dots in the sky, dots that became stars that twinkled briefly before, like the first, darting towards the horizon.

A few heartbeats passed, then I spotted a lick of flame from the other side of the cove which quickly caught on a wooden crate of supplies and burst into an inferno. I howled and leapt forward, leading the charge to the cove. The Hork-Bajir seemed startled, freezing as they suddenly realized that they had been pinned by two waves of attack. I took advantage of the situation to rear up onto my hind paws, feeling Thunder Edge charge with power. A Hork-Bajir suddenly let out a battle cry, and the entire bank exploded into battle.

I lunged forward, releasing the charged attack on the aliens closest to me. One was fumbling for a weapon, a Dracon beam, I remembered. The other lashed out with its blades at me, but Thunder Edge was sharper. The lighting glaive cut through the Hork-Bajir's blades and through its body, crackling with electricity. Something seared against my back, and the smell of burnt fur reached my nose. I whipped around, swinging the glaive in a huge arc and slicing the tip through the Hork-Bajir's Dracon beam in one swift movement. I tucked the glaive on my back and rammed the Hork-Bajir with my head, knocking it back into the sludgy Yeerk pool. Weaving through the battle, I leapt up a tumble of rocks and swung around to view the battleground.

The Hork-Bajir had recovered quickly from the initial surprise attack and were fighting back in full force. Roy's initial fire nearly ringed the entire cove now, bathing the battlefield in a glowing orange light. I spotted Minou in cougar morph grappling with a Hork-Bajir on the far side of the pool, trading blows almost faster than my eyes could follow. Spottedfire was crouched nearby, trying carefully to aim shots with a Dracon beam while calling directions to the Skitty that had agreed to partner with her. For its size the Skitty certainly held its own, quickly driving off some of the Hork-Bajir that were attacking it and Spottedfire. Lostpaw was swinging her chair in rather devastating arcs, causing a lot more damage than one would normally expect with just a chair. A golden eagle skimmed back and forth over the battle—Whisperheart. She was striking wherever she could, mostly tearing at the Hork-Bajir's faces and eyes in an attempt to blind them.

I slithered down from the rock pile as a thick purple mist filled the air, presumably Spirithunter slowing down time for our side. I used the opportunity to dart through the battleground, finding myself standing side by side with Starsight as the Veil of Mist wore off again. We covered each other, defending against another wave of Hork-Bajir that attacked us from all sides.

"We're not winning this battle," Starsight said worriedly, deflecting a Dracon beam with a polished ice shield.

I growled in assent, driving two more Hork-Bajir back with the Tundra Beads. At this rate we may be forced to retre— I cut myself off as I suddenly began to cough. Without warning the wind had shifted direction, blowing the smoke from the fire and the flames themselves closer towards us. I swiftly drew a loop, summoning up a wind to drive back the flames, but it did just as much harm, buffeting the flames from the other side of the cove towards us instead. I changed tactics, drawing a line from the lake to the flames, dousing them with water. But even Waterspout couldn't do much for the rapidly spreading fire.

"We're cut off!" someone shouted in a panicked voice.

A growled shout came from one of the Hork-Bajir, and all of a sudden they doubled their attack, beginning to force our side closer and closer to the pool. I dared a glance over my shoulder and felt my stomach turn; the surface of the pool was beginning to froth as the Yeerks stirred, almost in anticipation of the mass of new hosts nearby.

Suddenly a huge column of water erupted from the lake, arcing high into the air. I hesitated in confusion; I hadn't drawn a Waterspout. Moments later a long, serpentine creature emerged from the water, landing gracefully next to the pool and letting out a long, piercing cry. Briefly the thought that Nuregami had come to aid us in our battle crossed my mind, then I realized that this creature wasn't white but a soft beige, with a long tail patterned in blue and red. "That's a Milotic!"

"Rain Dance!" a familiar voice shouted over the din of the battle. The Milotic began to move in a way that replicated dancing, and a heavy rain began to fall, swiftly dousing the flames that surrounded the battle field. I tore my gaze away to continue the battle, a concerned growl rising in my throat when I realized that the Hork-Bajir were still successfully pressing us backwards.

"Ice Beam!" the voice shouted again, and a cold chill swirled behind me. I glanced behind me—and nearly fell over in surprise. The entire surface of the Yeerk Pool had been frozen solid underneath a thick layer of ice. Standing in the middle of the frozen pool was Spirithunter, the Milotic coiled defensively next to her.

Moments later the battle began to spill across the ice, providing more room for the pinned in Wandies and allies. Grateful for the sudden supply of ice, I drew a line from the frozen pool to the Hork-Bajir, instantly freezing several Hork-Bajir in ice. I swapped my weapon again for Thunder Edge, using the electrified glaive with the torrential rain to deliver devastating blows to the Hork-Bajir's front lines.

"Water Pulse!" Spirithunter shouted, and a ball of water suddenly shot over my head, slamming into the Hork-Bajir in front of me and blowing them back at least ten feet. I drew a Veil of Mist in the air, which Spirithunter quickly doubled, allowing our side to make short work of the remaining Hork-Bajir. A few minutes later the cove was silent, the Hork-Bajir's army completely defeated.

I trotted across the surface of the pool, finally beginning to feel the first dregs of exhaustion set in. I suppose it was understandable; I had barely gotten any sleep these past few days. I cast a glance through the rain to the other side of the pool, where several of the Wandies were freeing the few Hork-Bajir that had been lucky enough to not be enslaved by the Yeerks during the battle. I hoped that they wouldn't pose any new threat to us.

I paused in the middle of the pool, where Spirithunter and the Milotic were facing each other. Spirithunter was carefully holding out one hand, palm facing the Milotic. I could see her almost trembling slightly. Slowly, the Milotic bowed its head until it was just touching Spirithunter's hand. Then it pulled back and slithered across the ice, slipping back into the water of the lake without a sound.

Spirithunter let out a sigh as I sat down beside her. "I never liked Milotic all that much," she muttered, barely audible above the patter of the rain. "The Yeerk made the pact with it though; I suppose it still feels like it owes me something."

I let out a comforting growl and licked her hand. She smiled at me before turning around at the sound of footsteps. Sheila was walking across the ice towards us, exhaustion reflected plainly on her face. "We're going to head back now," she announced to us, raising her voice in order to be heard. "There are five Hork-Bajir that weren't under control of a Yeerk; they've agreed to join us until they can return to their home. Ammy, can I ask you to take care of the remaining Yeerks here?"

I nodded. You can count on me.

"Let me help out too," Spirithunter offered.

Sheila shook her head. "Not this time, Spirit. You need to get some rest as well, you've probably had the least of it this past week." She put her arm around Spirithunter and led her out of the cove, the rest of the Wandies and characters slowly following behind them until they were lost in the rain.

I trotted off the surface of the pool, turning back to face the stretch of ice. How many Yeerks had survived being frozen? I suppose I'll find out, I thought grimly, gripping Thunder Edge as I drew a Fireburst on the icy pool.

*

POV: Watanuki

I sat on the low wall surrounding the pond, shivering slightly in the cold air. I was glad that I had been loaned a jacket, but it didn't do much against the wind. Thunder sat on the wall next to me, humming along slightly to her iPod and tapping her foot on the ground. Fell was lying along the wall a short distance away, his paws stretched out in front of him and his eyes shut tight. Stormbringer's mist hovered around us, stretched out to include the dimensional gash that hung nearby. I glanced into it for maybe the tenth time since the others had left us; still I could see nothing but blackness stretching beyond.

I sighed, pulling the jacket tighter around me and gripping the walkie-talkie Sheila had given me in one hand. She had left us with instructions to call when the others returned from the alternate dimension, whenever that might be. The other groups were also to call in once their respective tasks had been completed.

I sighed again, tilting my head back to look up at the sky. It was boring, really, sitting here with nothing to do. Sure, we had an important part, to keep the gash hidden from enemies, but it was quickly turning out to be a dull job with nothing to do but wait. It made me wish I had brought a book or something else to do.

It took me a few moments to realize that the sky seemed to be fast-forwarding, quickly turning to night in the space of a few minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Thunder pull out one of her earbuds and glance up at the sky. "That'll be Ammy's doing, for their battle," she stated.

I nodded absentmindedly. "What're you listening to?" I asked, with half a mind to try and start a conversation.

"AFI," she said, instantly brightening. "Have you heard them?"

"Can't say I have," I muttered.

"What?!" she exclaimed. "They're just..."

...Okay, I admit, I kinda started to tune her out right after that. I had no idea what she was talking about, anyway. Something large and wet hit my head, and I glanced up to see huge raindrops swiftly falling from the sky. Thunder pulled out an umbrella and opened it over the both of us, not missing a beat in her rant about some new CD or whatever. I stared down at the walkie-talkie again, wondering what the others were up to and how well their own missions were going.

"I'm hungry," Thunder said suddenly, breaking into my thoughts.

"So am I," I agreed. "I'll have to make something for everyone when we get back, I suppose."

"Kinda how you always cooked for Yûko, huh?"

"Yûko..." Suddenly I remembered the scroll, and it hit me just how much work I had waiting for me. "Argh, she's gonna want me to clean out the treasure room again, I just know it! I'll have to cook for her again, and monitor how much she drinks, she's probably getting daily hangovers by now, and—!"

Something wrong? Stormbringer's voice cut in, and I suddenly realized that somehow I had managed to fall off the wall and was now lying on the ground.

"...No. Not yet, anyway," I muttered glumly, getting up again and brushing slush off my clothes. I caught Thunder laughing behind her hand out of the corner of my eye, much to my annoyance.

If you say so, Stormbringer said in a monotone voice, which made me suspect she was probably laughing at me too. How in the world had I ever come to meet Thunder, a pair of wolves, and everyone else in this weirdo county?

...Oh, yeah. It took me several more seconds to realize that I was crouching on the ground again in sheer embarrassment. This time I could hear Thunder and Stormbringer sniggering at me.

The walkie-talkie crackled suddenly. "Thunder, Watanuki?"

I grabbed it. "Watanuki here," I answered, getting to my feet again.

"This is Sheila. We've just finished with our job by the lake. Have the others come back yet?"

I glanced at the gash, but it was as dark as ever. "No, they're still in there."

"No one's called from anywhere else yet?"

"No, not yet. Speaking of that, I wonder how they're all doing..."

*

POV: Syaoran

I hesitated in my run, stopping at a corner of the road while waiting for the others to catch up. My mind started to wander, back to the day I had first arrived in the county with Fai and Mokona. Those days seemed so different from now, where we were all in a fight for our lives...in more ways than one.

Lilacheart skidded to a stop beside me, panting slightly. "Slow down a bit, would you?" she gasped.

"Sorry, Lilacheart-san," I said apologetically as Soundstorm and Sakura finally caught up. "I'm just anxious to finish our job as quickly as possible."

She nodded, straightening up again. "You've got a point." She turned back to the others. "Anyone have any ideas where he might be?"

Soundstorm shook her head. "The county's a big place, and as far as we know he never set up a base anywhere."

"Um..." Sakura began, and we all turned to face her. "Have there been any places that might be important to Shaoran-kun? Some place that had an important event took place, maybe?"

Lilacheart crossed her arms, thinking. "I'm not sure...We've already been to the construction site where he attacked me, Thunder and the others are in the forest near where—"

"Hang on..." I said, cutting her off as a thought crossed my mind (apparently to her relief as well). "There's one place we haven't checked yet."

With that I whirled around and sprinted off down the street, ignoring the others' shouts for me to slow down. I glanced right and left and back again until I started feeling dizzy. Where was it...There! I turned into the catwalk, dashing down it and quickly emerging on the other side.

The burned out shell of the town hall sat on the opposite side of the street, with only the bottom half of its walls still standing. The roof had caved in completely, adding to the piles of rubble. And, sure enough, there was a figure standing in front of the ruined building. His back was to us, but at the sound of the others' footsteps behind me he turned around.

"Shaoran-kun..." came Sakura's whisper from behind me.

I took a step forward and clapped my hands, drawing my sword from the palm of my hand. "Sakura-san, Soundstorm-san, Lilacheart-san, please stay back. I'll take care of him."

Lilacheart started to say something, then cut herself off with a sigh. "No, I guess I don't want to face him again," she grumbled. Soundstorm sounded like she was desperately trying to choke off a laugh as I walked across the street towards my clone.

He turned to face me, Hien held solidly by his side. The sword seemed to glow as darkness suddenly began to fall around us as day swiftly became night. I stopped in front of him, casting a quick glance over his shoulder at the burnt rubble behind him. Somewhere under that wreckage, Kennen still lay. "Why are you attacking this county?"

"I will retrieve the feathers, no matter what," Shaoran stated simply.

I closed my eyes and let out a long breath. Obviously, there was no hope for reason. "Then I will stop you," I declared, swinging my sword in a short, sharp arc. The clang of steel on steel rang through the air as he blocked my strike. I leapt back, whirling my sword around as he lunged at me. I barely managed to deflect his blow as I stumbled backwards, giving up even more ground to his attacks. I lost track of our swords as the battle became a blur of instinctive reaction, parry, strike, block, thrust, duck—

I tripped over a stray beam of charred wood, losing my balance. Shaoran took the chance to aim a savage blow at my head, but before the blade could make contact an arrow suddenly whizzed between us, so close I could feel the wind from it. It distracted the clone just long enough for me to find my balance again and hurriedly touch my fingers to my sword. "Raitei Shôrai!" I shouted, and lighting burst from the blade, slamming into Shaoran with enough force to throw him backwards several feet. I charged after him, vaguely registering one of the twins yelling at the other for nearly hitting me. I struck out as fast as I could, forcing him onto the defensive.

Too late I noticed his eye glow blue with power, then flames suddenly sprang from Hien, washing over me in a torrent of heat. "Fûka—!" I tried to shout, but the fire was whipping up hot ash, making me choke. I staggered backwards, coughing as pain seared across my skin from the flames. I thought I caught the shouts of Sakura, Lilacheart, and Soundstorm, but with the fire roaring in my ears it was difficult to tell. Just as I was thinking that I was either going to burn to a crisp or choke to death on the ashes stirred up I felt something cool hit my skin. Moments later a torrential downpour spilled from the sky, swiftly dousing the flames. I staggered, hardly able to believe my luck, and spun around, looking for Shaoran.

He was standing nearby, wrenching an arrow from his shoulder and snapping it in two. A second broken shaft was sticking out of his leg, right above his knee. I lunged at him; he swung up his sword to block the blow, but I could already see that his movements were getting sluggish. So were mine; being surrounded by flames hadn't done much for my health. He shoved my blade away and took several steps backward. I touched my sword again, ready to release another lighting spell, but he had already turned and fled.

"Wait!" I shouted, slipping in the sticky mess of water and ash as I tried to race after him. It wasn't much of a race though; both of us were injured to the point that the best we could pull off was a fast walk. I followed him across the field behind the destroyed town hall, vaguely registering that the rain had begun to turn into snow. I had just reached the tree line to the forest when I realized that someone was calling my name. I stopped and turned around, squinting through the thickly falling snowflakes. A figure was running across the field towards me; as they got closer I realized it was Sakura. "What are you doing here?" I asked as she skidded to a halt in front of me, nearly losing her balance from the slick slush underneath the new coating of snow.

"Syaoran-kun, you have to leave him alone for now!"

"What? Why? And what happened to Lilacheart-san and Soundstorm-san?"

Sakura shook her head, dislodging several snowflakes that were beginning to collect in her hair. "It's...it's...Syaoran-kun, something terrible is happening!"

*

POV: Will

I crossed my knives, barely stopping the Heartless' sword in time. I leapt away as it drew back for another strike, cocking my wrist and sending my throwing knife spinning through its arm. The Heartless' sword clattered to the ground, yet its hand grew back almost instantly as it flicked its sword up with its boot and charged at me again. Cloudwind darted in front of me, deflecting the Heartless' blow with her keyblade. I took the chance to retreat up the steps and into the shelter of school's doorway, pausing next to Halt who was crouched in one corner, his aim with his bow wavering back and forth as he tried to track one of the three Green Requiems flitting back and forth over the battle. "Can't you hit it already?" I complained, wiping rain and sweat off my brow. "We're getting pummelled by these Heartless."

"If you think you're a better shot at this, be my guest," Halt growled at me, loosing his arrow. I caught him mutter a curse under his breath as the Requiem he was aiming at dodged the arrow. "I've never seen anything move so fast," he remarked darkly, drawing another arrow from his quiver and nocking it in the bow. He cast a glance at my hand and said, "What have you done with your throwing knife?"

"I threw it," I responded, slashing my saxe knife through an approaching Shadow Heartless, causing it to fall squealing back down the steps even as its wound healed itself. A bark from the Disreputable Dog echoed impossibly long over the battle; the Heartless' movements began to slow as her Charter magic held them, but the Green Requiems floating overhead eagerly sucked it up, quickly restoring mobility to the rest of their allies.

I hacked my way through the battle, trying to attack the Heartless before they could attack me. It was too cumbersome to try to use my bow at such close quarters, but it was difficult to use only the saxe knife in battle. A loud whistle cut through the sounds of the battle, and I leapt backwards as a bright blue barrier swirled into being between us and the Heartless. I retreated to the base of the steps where Fai was waiting, Cloudwind and the Dog right behind me. The mage cast a worried glance upwards to where the three Requiems had latched onto his barrier and were quickly draining it away. "This won't hold for long," he stated as we all took up defensive positions again. "We need some kind of strategy to hold them off while Halt-san shoots those green ones."

"We're still trusting Halt to hit them?" the Dog asked with a whimper that didn't really fit her current bestial fighting form.

"Halt's one of the best marksmen in the Rangers," I stated. "If anyone can hit them, he can."

"Is Icestar not as good? She shot the one we fought yesterday."

"She admitted herself that she was just luc—"

"Hey, guys, now isn't the time for this!" Cloudwind snapped as odd crackling sounds started emanating from where the Requiems were attacking the barrier.

"I agree; we can bicker about who's best later. Right now, we should deal with the problem at hand. Cloudy-chan, you know the most about these creatures, got any tips?"

"Well, for starters we should try to be faster at this," Cloudwind answered, readying her keyblade for the next wave of attack. "There's a lot of Heartless here, even for the Requiems. If we can destroy them before the Requiems can heal them we might have a better chance."

Fai nodded at her. "Let's keep that in mind. Oh, Will-kun, you dropped this," he added, handing me back my throwing knife.

"I didn't drop it, I threw it," I corrected him, taking back the knife with a nod of thanks. He seemed about to say something in reply when the barrier suddenly shattered—and a huge lump of snow fell on top of us. I spluttered, trying to brush the snow off me while simultaneously backing away from the Heartless that swarmed at us in a wave of black. Apparently it was now cold enough for the rain to transform into huge snowflakes that were quickly piling up on the ground. I staggered away from the Heartless, but they suddenly skidded to a stop, glancing around and chattering with each other. I shot a look at the others; they seemed just as confused as I was.

A deafening screech rang out over the crowd, causing all the Heartless to suddenly fall silent. They swiftly drew apart, revealing four Heartless standing at the far end of the yard, stark black against the white snow. They looked similar to the Shadow Heartless, but they were taller, about man-sized, more muscular, and overall nastier.

"NeoShadows...!" Cloudwind breathed.

"What?" I asked as the four Heartless slowly started walking towards us.

"They're one of the hardest common enemies to kill in the games," she responded tersely. "They often fight as a team in order to take their opponent down."

"There's four of us and four of them," the Dog woofed, her eyes glinting. "That's one of them for each of us."

"We should probably try working as a team against them," Fai suggested as the NeoShadows advanced. "Maybe we could throw them off—"

He cut himself off as the NeoShadows came to a halt in front of us, facing us in a line. The NeoShadow directly in front of me gave a wicked grin; I tensed, holding my knives at the ready.

The NeoShadows attacked us all at once, claws flashing in the low light. I could've sworn I saw a snowflake split along its claw as it slashed downward at me; I barely managed to block it in time with my saxe knife. I wasn't prepared for the sudden horizontal swipe it made, and had to grit my teeth against a cry of pain as its claws tore into my stomach. I leapt backwards, trying to ignore the pain as I readied myself for its next strike.

Something kicked me hard in the shoulder, sending me sprawling on the ground. Another NeoShadow leapt at me, bringing both claws down directly at my face. I crossed my knives in an X, managing to stop the blow just millimeters from my face. The NeoShadow grinned wickedly as it pressed down, forcing its claws even closer. Desperately, I kicked at it, managing to throw it off just enough for me to roll clear. A harsh clang rang in my ears as Cloudwind stepped between me and the Heartless, using her keyblade to defend against the NeoShadow's next blow. I scrambled to my feet, quickly taking up a position back-to-back with Cloudwind.

"Let's get rid of these things once and for all before they have a chance to run wild in the county," Cloudwind said determinedly, though I caught her grinning out of the corner of my eye.

"Agreed," I answered, casting a swift glance further into the snowstorm to see the rest of the Heartless standing in a ring around our battle. They were completely motionless, not even reacting as snow began to pile on their heads and shoulders. I couldn't see Halt anymore for the distance and falling snow.

Both NeoShadows attacked us at once; I tried to take a more offensive position and strike back with my knife instead of remaining on the defensive. I lost track of most of the battle through the shifting curtain of snow, only flashes of it registered to me: the Dog grappling with a NeoShadow as they rolled across the ground, Fai striking with magic and claws of his own, Cloudwind dealing massive amounts of damage with the keyblade that had been made to hurt Heartless. I was just stepping back from another close encounter, wincing from a fresh wound on my shoulder, when several things suddenly happened at once.

Squeals of pain cut through the chilly air, and every single Heartless halted in fear. I glanced up to see the three Green Requiems fall from the sky, all shot through with a single arrow. Moments before hitting the ground they burst apart into wisps of smoke, quickly disappearing in the drifting snow. I took the chance to throw my knife point blank at the NeoShadow's throat; it made a strange choking sound and staggered backwards, clutching at its throat.

A harsh, guttural roar came from the edge of the crowd of Heartless, and several Hork-Bajir suddenly bounded into view, slicing mercilessly at the Heartless with their blades. The Heartless screamed and scattered, running in a scared mass as they desperately tried to escape their attackers. I snatched my knife from the ground; the NeoShadow I had struck had exploded into smoke just like the Requiems had.

"Don't let them escape!" Cloudwind shouted, and I caught sight of her racing from the school grounds, hotly pursuing several fleeing Heartless. I threw my knife into the head of a Bandit Heartless, using my saxe knife to make short work of the Heartless I could easily reach. Four arrows whipped overhead in quick succession, swiftly striking down a group of Heartless that had managed to make it to the edge of the grounds.

The Heartless were almost completely defeated when I suddenly sensed something directly behind me. I whirled around, saxe knife out, and halted the blade millimeters from the throat of a Hork-Bajir that had come up behind me. Immediately the Hork-Bajir leaned back, throwing its hands up in a clear gesture of submission. "Wait! Wait! Maska not harm!"

"What?" I asked, too shocked to move.

"Maska Fettan not harm!" the Hork-Bajir repeated, bobbing its head quickly. "Maska help friends!"

"What's this about helping us?" Fai asked as he and the Dog walked up. The canine trotted forward to sniff experimentally at the Hork-Bajir; he bent down to pet her but the Dog backed away again, grumbling uneasily.

"Come to help!" another voice said, and a second Hork-Bajir came up behind Maska, followed by its fellows. I winced internally when I saw its face; a huge scar ran diagonally across its face, with one eye squeezed tightly shut due to it. "Fal Tagut, Maska Fettan, all freed by Sheila! Make friends, friends ask to help, so come to help!"

I exchanged a glance with Fai. "I'm thinking these Hork-Bajir were probably not infested with Yeerks and ended up joining our side," Fai guessed. "If so, then we've gained some pretty powerful allies."

I nodded in agreement, lowering my knife as Halt came up to our group. "So I'm guessing we're all on the same side now?" he asked, jerking his head at the Hork-Bajir.

"Yep," Fai confirmed. "That was some impressive shooting, by the way."

Halt grunted. "Those blasted things finally started slowing down once your battle with those larger Heartless distracted them. Took a while to get the right shot. But never mind that right now, aren't we still missing someone? Cloudwind left the grounds to chase down some extra Heartless; she should be back by now."

"I'll go look for her," I offered, sheathing my knives.

"Fal Tagut help too!" the scarred Hork-Bajir piped up.

"No, I don't think so," Halt said. "I need you and your friends to stay here, Fal. We've got to check these grounds to make sure there aren't any more Heartless in hiding around here. Even one of them could still pose a threat."

"I'll come," the Dog woofed, bounding over by my side as I ran out of the school grounds and into the street. The snow finally seemed to be letting up; I could see pretty far down the road. I jogged through the snow, calling out Cloudwind's name and hoping for a reply. The Dog barked every now and then, pricking her ears to try and hear past the smothering blanket of snow.

We had been walking for several minutes when I spotted a dark shape lying in the snow. I quickened my pace, then broke into a run when I recognized the shape as Cloudwind. "Cloudy!" I shouted, skidding to a halt next to her.

"Is she alright?" the Dog whined, nudging her hand with her nose.

I grabbed Cloudwind's wrist, feeling for a pulse. "I think she's okay...just unconscious."

The Dog growled uneasily, then trotted past me. I sat back on my heels, thinking hard. "But...what could cause this...?"

"Will!" the Dog barked, and moments later she skidded back into view. "You had better come and see this; we've got an even bigger problem on our hands."

*

POV: Danny

I led the way through the dark dimension, trying desperately to control my sudden hiccup problem. I didn't even know which way to go; I was really just wandering about, hoping we'd find something soon. Most of the group were trailing somewhere behind me, while only Brightspirit padded on ahead. She was cocking her head back and forth, her ears pricked as she searched for what we were looking for. I wonder how far we'll have to look, I thought, trying unsuccessfully to suppress another hiccup.

It felt like forever before I finally began to notice something; a soft glow on the horizon. Wait, was there even a horizon in this place? "Guys?" I called back over my shoulder. "I can—hic!—see something up a—hic!—head."

Rabbitfoot held up one hand, squinting into the distance. "I see it too...What do you guys think it is?"

"I think...I think that's StarClan!" Brightspirit said breathlessly, suddenly breaking into a run. The rest of us exchanged glances before racing off after her. The glow came closer, and to my despair I noticed that I was feeling increasingly worse as we neared it. We crested the top of a hill (were there even hills in this place?) and an amazing sight met my eyes.

Hundreds of cats were milling about in a shallow valley carved into the black landscape, each one glowing with starlight. There were cats of nearly every age there, from older-looking ones to tiny kittens. I guessed that this must be the "StarClan" we had been searching for. That didn't really explain why I still felt sick though; I had never been ill when I went into the Ghost Zone, which was absolutely filled with ghosts, so why now?

Brightspirit was still sprinting ahead of us down the slope; I spotted two cats emerge from the crowd and race up to meet her. "Emmy!"

"Mum! Dad!" she cried, practically bowling over the large tabby while the silver cat covered her with worried licks. I caught Rabbitfoot, Icestar, and Sevenclaws exchange smiles with each other as they made their way down the slope, the rest of us following. Brightspirit scrambled up to her paws again as we approached. "I think some of you already know who they are, but I'll do introductions anyway. These are my parents, Shiningheart and Braveheart."

"Or Dana and Jimmy, if you would prefer," the silver cat, Shiningheart, added, dipping her head. "Those were our names before we came to StarClan."

As everyone did their introductions, I noticed a group of cats break away from the larger crowd, padding up the slope towards us. A blue-gray cat lead the group, prowling up the slope with a lithe power, almost like a lion. She paused a short distance from our group, dipping her head to Brightspirit. "Brightspirit, welcome back," she purred. "Who have you brought with you?"

"Bluestar," Brightspirit greeted, dipping her head in return. "These are some of the people who live in the county that the Clans arrived in, along with a few more friends."

The cats exchanged mixed glances as Brightspirit quickly ran through everyone's names. When she had finished, Firestar stepped forward from the group. "Bluestar, it's good to see you again," he murmured.

"As it is good to see you," the she-cat replied. "StarClan has been closed off from all the Clans as of late, we have not had any contact until—"

She was cut off as Graystripe suddenly brushed past them, bounding over to a pair of silver she-cats standing a little ways behind Bluestar. "Silverstream! Feathertail!" he purred, touching noses with them.

Two more cats padded up from behind Bluestar, one a pretty tortoiseshell and the other a large white tom. "Spottedleaf, Whitestorm," Firestar breathed, twining his tail with the tortoiseshell, Spottedleaf.

"It's been a while, Firestar," Whitestorm mewed, dipping his head.

A final cat padded towards the group, her long coat a dark gray colour. Jayfeather stepped forward this time, dipping his head to her. "Hello, Yellowfang."

Yellowfang grunted her greeting. "Have the Clans been getting along since this mess happened?"

"More or less," he responded.

Bluestar coughed pointedly. "There will be time for reunions later," she stated, but there was still a twinkle of amusement in her eye. "As I was saying, we have not been able to contact the Clans or anyone outside this place until a short time before you arrived."

"Huh?" Icestar said, looking confused. "What are you talking about? Do you mean someone arrived before us?"

Bluestar nodded, then turned to two cats waiting behind her, a tortoiseshell with a bushy ginger tail, and a light gray tom. "Redtail, can you go fetch our...guest? Sootfur, please go find that and bring it here."

The two cats nodded and darted off. The three Wandies exchanged glances with each other. "What do you mean by 'guest'?" Sevenclaws queried.

"He's..." Bluestar shook her head. "I'm not sure how to describe it. We thought he was prey until he began to speak to us..."

At that moment Redtail returned, this time carrying a familiar white figure on his back. "Kamo?!"

"Yo," the ermine said, giving us a slight wave. "Took you guys long enough."

"How...how did you get here?" Rabbitfoot asked, sounding slightly stunned.

"Eh, I was poking around looking for something to do, and I found that shard thing in your room—"

"Wait, how did you get into my room?!"

"Your window was unlocked. Anyway, I found that shard thing, and I was playing around with it a bit when it suddenly opened up this hole in midair, which I fell into then got stuck here. That was this morning, before you woke up."

I think everyone exchanged glances yet again, but I was starting to lose track as I focused more on my own sickness problem. What was wrong with me?! Maybe I was reacting to something else in here...?

The crowd of cats still in the valley rippled slightly, then suddenly parted as Sootfur came padding back to us, pushing a clear crystal towards us. Something seemed to be suspended inside it; I squinted, trying to make it out. It was a feather, with some kind of crimson design traced on it.

"That's Sakura's feather!" Rabbitfoot exclaimed, bending down to pick the crystal up.

"And I think it's making me sick," I muttered, giving in and sitting down on the ground.

She gave me a weird look. "The feather shouldn't be causing those problems...unless it's this crystal's doing?" She held it up, turning it back and forth as she looked at it.

"Are you sure that's the right crystal?" the Dark Sorceress said suddenly, making me jump (I'd pretty much forgotten that she was here). "It looks different from the crystals of Avalon."

Rabbitfoot shrugged. "How should I know? I don't know what the crystals look like."

"Let me have a closer look at it," the Dark Sorceress suggested. "I should be able to tell if it's the right one."

We all looked at each other for a moment before Rabbitfoot shrugged. "I guess so," she said, holding it out to her. The Dark Sorceress carefully took the crystal from her, turning it over in her hands. After a few moments she closed her eyes and sighed.

"...Well? Is this the right crystal or not?"

"Yes..." she rasped. "This is the power crystal of Avalon."

We didn't get any warning as a huge pulse of dark energy exploded from her, throwing all of us back at least twenty feet. I skidded on my stomach, muttering "ow" repeatedly under my breath until I came to a halt. I quickly flipped over, trying to sit up again. The Dark Sorceress was radiating with a dark power, the crystal pulsing black in her hands.

"Fools!" she hissed, her animal-like eyes flashing. "How could you fall for such a simple trick?! The power crystal is now mine!"

"Not if we've got anything to say about it!" Maka shouted, leaping at her as Soul materialized as a scythe in her hands. Allen joined them, his arm morphing into a huge silver claw as he raced towards her. The Dark Sorceress simply held up a hand at them, and another energy pulse blasted at them, sending both of them flying.

"Hama Ryû-Ô-Jin!" Kurogane shouted, at the same moment as Sevenclaws cried, "Night Slash!" A huge wave of energy rushed at her, twined with a slice of pure shadow. The Dark Sorceress held the crystal out, creating a swirling barrier around herself that blocked the blows from both attacks, causing them to bounce harmlessly off.

"Is that the best you've got?" she sneered, holding up the crystal. "This is even more power than I imagined!"

"We're not done yet!" I gasped, struggling to my feet. "Going ghost!"

I morphed into my ghost form, just as the Dark Sorceress threw a ball of darkness at me. I threw up a plasma shield just in time; it absorbed the Dark Sorceress' attack before it shattered.

"Everyone get behind me!" I shouted, then I took a deep breath and unleashed my Ghostly Wail. Green waves of energy surged towards the Dark Sorceress, pounding against her barrier until it began to cave in from the force of it. Too soon I ran out of breath, and the Wail died out at the same moment as the Dark Sorceress' barrier finally failed.

"'Whooo'?" Kamo asked incredulously, randomly appearing on my shoulder. "You seriously couldn't come up with a better sound effect?"

"Hey, I don't get to choose my powers!" I complained. "At least I managed to cause some damage."

The Dark Sorceress looked none too happy that I had just destroyed her barrier. "Is that the most you can do?" she snarled. "It's practically nothing compared to the power of the crystal!"

"Then we'll just have to take it back!" Rabbitfoot said, pulling her pin out of her pocket.

The Dark Sorceress glared at her. "Annoying brats! I'll have to do something about you!"

She held the crystal up in the air, until it rose and began to float a few inches above her hands. I heard a sharp intake of breath from Sevenclaws. "The feather...it be turning black!"

The Dark Sorceress began to chant, reciting words in some other language that made no sense. Rabbitfoot held her pin out straight at her, her brow furrowed in concentration, then worry. "I can't lock onto the cryst—!"

Without any warning she collapsed, falling in a heap to the ground. "Rabbit! Hey!" I shouted, grabbing her shoulder. Two more thuds came from nearby, and I whirled around to see that Icestar and Sevenclaws had also collapsed. "What the—?!"

Something suddenly rose from their bodies; it looked like a small wisp of glowing smoke. The smoke hovered briefly before all three of them shot towards the Dark Sorceress and struck the crystal, disappearing inside of it.

"What the heck's going on?!" Soul shouted.

Kamo twisted around on my shoulder. "Holy—!"

A rushing sound overcame us, and hundreds of smoky wisps suddenly shot over our heads, each of them disappearing into the crystal. It glowed with a white light, becoming brighter and brighter until I had to shut my eyes against it. Then there was a sudden crashing sound, and everything was quiet.

Slowly, I opened my eyes. The Dark Sorceress had disappeared. Starlight glittered down in the valley as the cats of StarClan slowly began to pad back towards us, having fled during the Dark Sorceress' attack. I glanced around at our group; no one seemed any worse for wear, except for Rabbitfoot, Icestar, and Sevenclaws, who were still unconscious.

"What...just happened...?"

A crackling noise suddenly broke the silence, and Timcanpy popped out from where he had been hiding in Allen's pocket. "Hello?" came Fell's voice. "Are you there? We've got a problem."

"Yeah, tell me something I don't know," I grumbled.

"Thunder's just collapsed out here. And according to all the calls Watanuki's getting, so has every Wandie in the county."

***

~*CHAPTER SEVENTEEN COMING SOON*~

Soon means whenever we get off our lazy butts and post it. Sorry for the inconvenience. xP

Any questions that you want to ask the characters of the story, whether it be the fictional characters, the county members, or even yourself? Ask here! http://wandsandworlds.com/community/node/7497

-Lilacheart

Magicyop's job is to repair doors?

Echoheart/Apollopaw

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." -Tom Clancy

Good story though!

Echoheart/Apollopaw

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." -Tom Clancy

*dies laughing*

Everyone in the town is technically a kid/teen. They (or we XD) don't have jobs. Magicyop, being Sheila's son, is to find people who can do the job for the county outside of the county XD I'll explain that more in a future chapter.

I'm glad you liked it, though XD

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

omfoo
that's awesome!!!!!!!11
made me laugh hysterically at some points, yet an extremely interesting storyline...-place ::mellow face here-

And, BTW, i can run fast if i want to. have fun chasing me. >=D
~~~~~~~~~
~Foxfrost
THANKS FOR THE SIGGIE, AMBER!!!!!

http://dragcave.net/user/Foxwhisper

-Noko

Click a dragon, save a li- Yes, none be in my signature. But truly good people are happy to go to another webpage when it comes to saving a life, yes?

OMX... This be awezome. o_o I'd like to be in this, if possible...

Adopt a Felisaur!
xaoxarkadopts.webs.com

hoo hoo hoo
stygimoloch, humanoids! can't delete, impossible to beat!

Awesome. :D Can't wait to read more.

Photobucket

"Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content." -Paul Valery

XD! *waits for chap.2*

Iceclaw's picture

That's enough to make me laugh even in one of my worst moods! (laughes so hard water comes to eyes)

Photobucket

Photobucket

I can see Fai twitching like that. And making a n o___________________________________e... face

arcane den of written words. (my writing blog! you can read my writing there!)
Real women identify as women.

Can I show up in the story please? I think this is a really cool idea.

~ Ivyflower or November Sky

Please click my dragon eggs!
Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! | Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! | Adopt one today!

~ Ivy
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

Losty's picture

This is AWESOME! =D I have no idea about all the manga-ness that's going on in it, but it's STILL freakin' hilarious XD

//Losty//
Thanks, Ruby! ↓

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
And when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned...

- 'Such Great Heights' by The Postal Service

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

It won't always be manga-ness, I promise, Losty XD

I'm really glad everyone likes it! It makes me really happy to hear people are enjoying the story! ^_^

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

I love this story! may I please be in it?

Ash/Satoshi+May/Haruka=♥LOVE
♥Go Advanceshipping/SatoHaru/AAMayL/MayxAsh/SatoshixHaruka♥

"You mean more to me than you will ever know." -Leafpool, to Crowfeather. (Sunset pg. 12)

Formerly known as Hawkstorm

Losty's picture

Lol, cool, I'm glad - otherwise I'd be totally lost XP
Don't let me discourage you, though lol =)

Losty-CNN Fangirl
Thanks, Ruby! ↓

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
And when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned...

-The Postal Service

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

*dies laughing* I love it! Keep writing! :D


Thanks, Squirrely!

hahaha, thats awesome, i totally dont get it at all because when i think of the names fai and syaoran or whatever, i think of genghis khan, but whatever!!i wanna be in it!! unless u dont want me in it, in which case, whatever, it was worth asking!!

-Dawnstripe

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!!
-Dennis the Peasent in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

-Dawnstripe

Anyone who asks to be in the story will be in the story, Dawnstripe27. ^_^

Also, Syaoran and Fai are manga characters.

A bunch of Wands and Worlds Members are being added in chapter three, hopefully the characters you want will come in at chapters four and five+.

I'll post chapter two ASAP.

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Losty's picture

Oh, we can ask? If so, then... could I be in it, maybe? Only if you want =)

Losty-CNN Fangirl
Thanks, Ruby! ↓

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
And when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned...

-The Postal Service

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

The authors note of the story:

"You can request to show up in the story, but you don't have to, because chances are you'll show up anyway"

^^;

I'll add everyone who's asked, (and likely people who don't even know this story exists o0) so just be patient. ^_^

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Losty's picture

Yeah, I saw that, but didn't want to be the one who misinterpreted something... I do that a LOT XP

Losty-CNN Fangirl
Thanks, Ruby! ↓

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
And when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned...

-The Postal Service

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

Chapter Two has been posted. This chapter was written by Starry ^_^ I hope you like it!

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Don't forget the anti-spaz pills when you attempt to tell me Fai (Lover of all things cute and cuddley) is real *shot to death*

arcane den of written words. (my writing blog! you can read my writing there!)
Real women identify as women.

Remind me, since when is Fai the lover of all things cute and cuddly? o0

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

XD!!!!! *waits for chapter 3*

http://dragcave.ath.cx/user/62317 Please click my dragons!

~Icetail of SkyClan~

I don't exactly get the Fai/ other character thing because I've never read the manga stuff...

but...

O_o I would like to make an apperance. Unless you don't want me to. Then thats okay.

(Woot crazy, annoying, apologizing person coming through)

- Proud Citizen of AmeriCoke!
- Capital Steps on the Economy

~Icetail of SkyClan~


Thanks Squirrelly!!

If you want to see a character you recognize, there's a request link above chapter one. ^_^

I'll be sure you get an appearance, Icetail, don't worry ^^;

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Lilly: Since Silver called him that

arcane den of written words. (my writing blog! you can read my writing there!)
Real women identify as women.

o0 Whoever silver is.

Anyway, chapter three should be up soon.

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Lilly, you know who Silver is...

arcane den of written words. (my writing blog! you can read my writing there!)
Real women identify as women.

That's debatable. ^^'

Anyway, chapter three is up! I hope you like it! ^_^

Please don't get mad if you aren't in this chapter, if you want to show up, I'll be sure you show up soon. ^_^

Also, other W&W characters should get more important roles soon ^_^

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Click a dragon, save a li- Yes, none be in my signature. But truly good people are happy to go to another webpage when it comes to saving a life, yes?

Yay! I got the phone! XD
Anyhow, nice awezome chapter. I can't wait for more, yes?

Adopt a Felisaur!
xaoxarkadopts.webs.com

hoo hoo hoo
stygimoloch, humanoids! can't delete, impossible to beat!

*faints in real life*

That would be so amazing. X3 You have no idea how happy I felt while reading that. *otaku*

As for the Erasers... those will certainly provide for interesting antagonists. And Ashura. I'm interested in that.
BTW, do you guys have some sort of reason for this to happen? In the story, I mean. Has a reason even been considered? :P

Photobucket

"Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content." -Paul Valery

...XD I doubt it. *Shot*

Photobucket

Soundstorm

Losty's picture

This is EPIC. I LOVE IT! =D *dances* Such a great story!
Amaterasu ^^

Losty-CNN Fangirl
Thanks, Ruby! ↓

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
And when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned...

-The Postal Service

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

...Heh heh...um...Starry and I are working on a reason, Spirithunter... ^^' XD

I'm REALLY glad that you like it. It makes me happy. ^_^

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Good to know. On both accounts. ^^

By the way, there's only one Ôkami video game. :P

Photobucket

"Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content." -Paul Valery

Chapter Four is up! I hope you like it! ^_^

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Bring 'em back alive...

...*gets out Syaoran's frying pan and begins whacking self repeatedly*

I--*whack*--knew--*whack*--it--*whack*--was--*whack*--too--*whack*--GRAPHIC!!!!*epic whack*


It's not too graphic, Starry, stop beating yourself up XD

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

O_O Wow, that's really cool so far! =D

~ Ivyflower or November Sky

My website:
www.freewebs.com/ivyflower

Please click my dragon eggs!
Adopt one today! Adopt one today! | Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! | Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! | Adopt one today!

~ Ivy
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

The Disreputable Dog!!! 8D

Photobucket

"Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content." -Paul Valery

Chapter five is up.

The last couple of sentences are revenge for those shippings you keep sticking me and starry into, Rabbitfoot. XD

Also, you came up with the idea yourself. o0

Anyway, I hope you like the chapter! XD

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Click a dragon, save a li- Yes, none be in my signature. But truly good people are happy to go to another webpage when it comes to saving a life, yes?

Hyuk! This was an extremely awezome chapter. I literally laughed out loud during this- obviously during the Rabbitfoot x Watanuki scene, and, for some reason, Lakestorm's comment as well.

Fluffy/Ripred was also amusing as well. While I would prefer an Absol as a pet (XP), giant rats are interesting, exotic animals. I wonder if there be any rat shows... Perhaps it shall win a prize, yes? ._. No offense meant, Ripred. Don't bite me.

Adopt a Felisaur!
xaoxarkadopts.webs.com

hoo hoo hoo
stygimoloch, humanoids! can't delete, impossible to beat!

Bring 'em back alive...

Rabbitfoot: .
Rabbitfoot: .
Rabbitfoot: .
Rabbitfoot: XP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!BAHAHAHAHA!!!!! XD
Starsight: YOU FREAKING DESERVE IT!
Rabbitfoot: I FREAKING DO DESERVE IT!
Rabbitfoot: Bahaha...nothing better than laughing at you, Lilac, and myself all in one day. I feel fulfilled. x3
Starsight: XP!
Rabbitfoot: I just realized. My first kiss was with a fictional character! -dies of freakish laughter-
Starsight: XP!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Starsight: AND YOU STILL FREAKING DESERVE IT!!!!!!XP
Rabbitfoot: I STILL FREAKING DO!

Revenge is sweet...*high fives Lilac*>x3


Click a dragon, save a li- Yes, none be in my signature. But truly good people are happy to go to another webpage when it comes to saving a life, yes?

...That's disturbing, Starry. Too many capital letters. XP

Adopt a Felisaur!
xaoxarkadopts.webs.com

hoo hoo hoo
stygimoloch, humanoids! can't delete, impossible to beat!

Bring 'em back alive...

I copied our conversation word for word!XP I'm still laughing at it.*foocls*


*is laughing hysterically at both of your comments*

I'm sure Starry and I can get you an absol as well, if you want, Sevenclaws XD

-Lilacheart


Feed Me!

Click a dragon, save a li- Yes, none be in my signature. But truly good people are happy to go to another webpage when it comes to saving a life, yes?

Starry: That's what makes it so disturbing. ._.

Lilac: Yes, I would extremely like an Absol. They be quite awezome, you know, yes?
...Acctually, I'd like more than one Absol, but I suppose I'd be content with a lone one... But everyone knows Absols are especially awezome when there be 13 of them, correct? *shot repeatedly*

Adopt a Felisaur!
xaoxarkadopts.webs.com

hoo hoo hoo
stygimoloch, humanoids! can't delete, impossible to beat!

Bring 'em back alive...

*laughs evily*>XP


Losty's picture

I still don't know who more than half of these characters are, BUT this is still one of my favourite things on W&W lol! It's seriously awesome! =D

I can just imagine W&W battle training!
Instructor: Okay, first, you have to crouch, then -
Losty: Or maybe I can just hit you with a chair!
XD

Losty~
There's no time like the present to drink these draining seconds... - Savior by Rise Against

Thanks, Ruby!

---
We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us.
- Hamlet

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