"Our character is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity that we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be."

George Santayana

The Meeting

It was a typical day of summer at the Yuuki Park as children laughed and adults conversed amongst themselves. The sun was bright and the sky was clear thanks to the breeze that seemed to dance along with the merry youth. All except for one, a little boy watching from afar as a group of his peers played around a small pond. The orphanage he belonged to had decided on having a birthday party at the local park for one of the older orphans. The boy, only five at the time, sighed to himself with despair weighing in his heart. He wanted so much to be like the other children, happy and friends with one another. Unfortunately, he was different. To be a black orphan in Koga, Japan wasn't a regular occurrence. The fact that his eyes were a mysterious dark, yet startling red amber didn't help much either, and the intricate tattoo of a large red, orange, and yellow phoenix with spread wings on his back only furthered his teasing. He had attempted many times to be friends with the Japanese orphans, even some Chinese and Korean, but he was still pushed away because of his differences and what they called 'Freak eyes'. Even though they were adamant about their dislike for him he still tried to make friends, but his attempts only seemed to make things worse.

"Hey Phoenix." The boy looked up and found one of the kids waving for him to join them around the pond. Phoenix stood up excitedly, happy that they had called him by his last name. Actually, any other name besides the usual 'Freak eyes' was well received. Running over to the other children he smiled at them happily, waiting for their request.

"You know, Phoenix." One of the older kids began to say as he walked up to him. "We know how hard you've tried to be one of us. So we want to give you a chance." The children around the boy began to chuckle and giggle, but they were quickly silenced by a glance from the older boy. He put his hand on Phoenix's shoulder and pointed at a table filled with adults just a short ways away. "All you have to do is go over to the grown-ups and spill tea all over Mamma Mitsu."

Phoenix looked over at the adult table and spotted Mamma Mitsu chatting lively with the other caretakers of the orphanage. Mamma Mitsu was a wonderful woman. At the old age of 61, she was still out and about as if she were in her twenties. Phoenix thought hard of what the older child had asked. Mamma Mitsu had been the only one that treated him with any kindness at all. Even some of the other adults had shown some prejudice towards him. But Mamma Mitsu had acted towards him by which of the name she had been given, she acted like his mother.

His answer was simple. "No." Phoenix said as he shouldered off the boy's hand.

"What?" He asked, not believing that the boy had denied him.

Phoenix glared at him and clenched his fists at his sides. "I said no!"

The older boy stepped back, completely surprised by the boy's forwardness. Seeing that the other children were looking at him expectantly, he quickly gained back his ground as a smirk appeared on his face. "If you don't, then you'll never be one of us. You'll always be 'Freak eyes'. You'll never be, Orion Phoenix." The older boy trailed off, saying Orion's last name with a mocking whine.

Orion looked around and watched as the other kids began to laugh and point at him. Receiving a shove to his chest, Orion soon found himself soaking wet and sitting in the shallow pond. This caused the children to only laughed harder at Orion's now wet expense. Feeling tears arise and flood his vision, Orion bowed his head as a swarm of emotions flowed through not only his mind, but also his body. Anger had surfaced, sadness, depression, fear, rage, but what rose the most was power. The unknown strength swamped the child's senses, overwhelming him, causing the boy's tears to stream down his face at a faster pace. The children stopped laughing as Orion suddenly cringed and yelled out in pain. Now on his knees, the young boy whimpered in agony as the power slowly started to burn.

Stepping away from Orion, the other children began to scream and yell in fear and accusation. "I told you he was a freak. Look at him, he's a freak!" The older boy exclaimed as he ran off to tell the adults. But the adults didn't need to be informed for they had heard his screams along with any other occupant of the park. Soon surrounded by his caretakers, they all tried their best to comfort Orion in his time of pain. Yet, even though many tried, they couldn't even touch the poor boy for his body had become as hot as cast iron. The closest adults began to sweat as a sudden wave of immense heat began to flow from the boy's body. Finally, someone called the hospital when the heat had caused everyone to be at least ten yards from Orion.

The torment became too much for the boy as the fire within began to push, pulsating against his skin, seeming to try and find a way out. The level of anguish was finally too much for the him as Orion went limp before slowly levitating into the air. His head facing the sky, Orion's arms and legs dangled as his torso arched back painfully. The crowd around Orion could only watch in fright at the unnatural sight before them.


Everyone looked around as they heard the voice of a child, not sure if it was truly spoken into their minds as it had appeared. A single woman screamed loudly as Orion's entire body seemed to catch flame. Witnesses could only stare in disbelief as his form was clearly seen inside of the blaze, surprisingly unharmed.


This time, no other words were needed. The people scattered in a frightened panic as the fire around Orion began to slowly grow. Letting out a tormented cry that should never be heard from a child, flames erupted from Orion's body and swept across the park grounds, swallowing everything in its path. A holocaust had begun, and only a select and lucky few would survive.

Orchid jolted up into a sitting position, gasping through a cold sweat. She'd had the dream again, which was truly more of a nightmare than anything. The young teen breathed deeply in an attempt to calm her racing heart. The dream had always seemed so real. The people, their screams, the blood, and the heat of the flames had all been too realistic for her now demolished comfort. Getting out of bed, Orchid looked over at her wall clock which read 5:26 A.M. and rubbed her face with her hands. The dream had reoccurrd constantly for months now, causing her endless nights of sleep when it came. She had hidden her weariness well from her friends and those who had come close to noticing, but it was taking its toll. Orchid made her way to her bathroom knowing that sleep wasn't going to come again. Once there she looked into the mirror and stared at her reflection, noting momentarily how much she'd changed since her childhood. It still startled her, the types of changes time could bring. No longer the ugly duckling she had once been called countless times in the past, she was now a 16 year old whose beauty very few in the world would dare deny. Yet, her genuine modesty and past life of humbling troubles seemed to cloud the self-recognition of her beauty. Chinese by decent, her skin was pale and smooth to both touch and sight, and her body had filled out generously throughout the years. Her silky, white hair reached just above her thighs and had a picturesque feel about it, giving her the exotic appearance as if she had only just recently stepped out of the ocean. Astounding, crystalline blue eyes seemed to sparkle vividly against her pale demeanor. With the addition the white night dress that cascaded around her and flowed about her feet, the picture of an angel could easily be seen.

After a rejuvenating shower, Orchid made her way towards the kitchen to make herself breakfast and get ready for the day. Today was a big day. Today was the day when everything would finally start falling into place for what her and her friends were preparing for. She and six others had been gathered into the Koga, Japan for an almost unbelievable reason. They had come together as strangers, some as enemies, but soon learned to live amongst each other as friends. Their caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Chang, an elderly couple in their 50's, and a cloaked being whom they had yet to learn the identity of, were the ones who had picked each of them up individually and taken them back to their new home. There they were told the importance of their gathering. Their world and the future of their world were in danger. In the future, after the third world war, the nuclear waste changed the planet completely, making it into a world that once could only be found in books of fantasy. Dragons, elves, dwarves, mystical creatures, and most of all magic existed in the future because of the third world war. From this, a powerful woman heavily endowed with magic named Xyra Malefycas had begun to advance around the world conquering every village, town and city that she came upon. The teens didn't believe what they were being told at first, but once they had been shown their own powers, which were to be used to fight for their world, they could do nothing but believe. The only objective left was for them to find the last member of their group, from there the circle of eight would finally be complete. Then they would begin their final year of training and prepare for Xyra's arrival. Their future selves had stopped her in their time, only now, she had found a way into the past in hope of stopping them first.

When she finished making a quick breakfast, Orchid sat down in the large dining room and ate as she thought to herself. She still couldn't believe that they were finally going to find the last member of their team. Well, actually, she was supposed to find the last of the circle. The cloaked figure had talked to her separately from the others, telling her that she alone would find him. Mr. Chang had informed them that the person's name was Orion Phoenix, but that's all he knew. It was helpful, but how was she going to find him if she didn't even know what he looked like? Sighing to herself, Orchid picked up her plate and made her way into the kitchen. Today felt like it was going to be a long day.

Orion Phoenix walked around the busy streets of Koga in quiet contemplation. It had been a long walk to civilization, one he hadn't wanted to take, but the children of the orphanage he attended to needed the food desperately, and there was no way he was going to let them starve. The five-year-old boy had grown considerably since the day he had lost everything. The fat he had once had as a child had chiseled and hardened into a muscle toned body not many teenagers had at age of 16. His black hair had sprouted in a surprising fashion, now shoulder length and rough, proving the guesses of others to be correct about him being of more than one race. Wearing only some baggy, black pants, a ragged, long sleeved gray shirt, and a large bag strapped around his back, 'rugged' would be a mild description for the teen. A number of long scars had also been accumulated throughout his growing years, but there was one part of him that hadn't changed. His eyes, holding a darkness that outweighed the coldest of nights, still intimidated people and put fear into them just by glance. Unfortunately, his voice and facial expressions were just as cold. Having faced hardships many would never experience in their entire lives, he now lived both a peaceful life despite his dangerous past, with only the orphanage to call home. The only place that made him feel wanted.

Walking along the sidewalk, Orion looked about the city in speculative wonder. Having lived in small towns and villages, and in the forest at a remote monastery for a good portion of his life, the connection he had with nature was far greater than that of humans, thus making the city a completely different world. Going into a fruit store, Orion picked through the wares for the best finds at an affordable price. He then paid the woman at the stall before giving her a small bow in respect, all the while ignoring the stares and side comments of the other people located in the store. The woman bowed back and smiled, but Orion could see the tension in her motions. Leaving the store, Orion began to walk towards a clothing store to buy a few items for the kids, but stopped when he heard the yell of a woman shortly followed by one of a man. Looking into the streets, Orion saw a child waddle unknowingly into them as a speeding car came towards her. Dropping his bags, Orion ran into the street, swiftly picked up the child and jumped to the other side saving the little girl from a terrible fate. Returned to her parents the child's mother and father held the girl tightly as they scolded her through tears of relief. Orion almost smiled at the sight, silently wishing that he had parents to love him the same way.

Feeling a group's presence from behind, Orion turned around to find a quadruplet of guys dressed in suits standing there. They were all Japanese, and all of them didn't look very happy. The biggest one stepped out and pointed over to his car, which was practically totaled because he had swerved right into a telephone pole after Orion ran out in front of him. "You messed up my car, kid." The man said, his fury evident in the shaking of his pointed finger.

Orion merely looked at the man, not responding to what he said. Even though he didn't come often, Orion had a reputation in this city and for these men to talk to him the way they did was not a normal occurrence. Either they didn't know who he was, or they were really stupid.

"Hope you dress like that for kicks." The man said as folded his arms over his chest imposingly. "You've got some money to cough up."

"You almost killed the child. It was your own fault for going so fast." Orion said monotonously, mentally preparing himself for any surprises. "I'm not paying for anything."

"Oh, so you're a tough guy, eh? Well, I guess that me and my boys are just gonna have to teach you some manners then aren't we?" The guy said as he cracked his knuckles. His lackeys began to laugh as they slowly advanced towards Orion, copying their leader's actions. By now a small crowd had developed to watch the fight.

Orion flexed his muscles till they strained before relaxing again and stood there, waiting for them to attack. He didn't have to wait long as the biggest guy threw a heavy swing at the side of his head. Taking a shuffle step back, Orion turned and did a spin kick catching the man dead in his jaw, breaking it, and knocking him out in an instant. The other three shared hesitant looks with each other before attacking Orion at one time. Using almost inhuman speed and strength Orion uppercut the first one, dodged a punch and grabbed the second attackers arm, quickly dislocated his shoulder, and broke the knee of the third with a well-placed kick in three swift moves.

A police officer came into view just as Orion beat the last guy and got out of his car. "What's going on here?" The man asked as he looked at Orion, his hand resting on the butt of his gun. He barely spared a glance at the men on the floor screaming and yelling obscenities in pain, seeing Orion as the true threat from his past actions.

"That little bastard beat us up for no reason. We just wanted him to pay for totaling our car." The guy who'd been uppercut managed to gurgle out. The punch had loosened up a lot of his teeth and knocked out a few, causing his mouth to bleed profusely.

"Is this true?" The policeman asked the watching people.

The people were about to disagree, until they saw one of the men pointing a gun from his side at the little girl Orion had saved earlier. The policeman couldn't see it because of the way the man was lying down. So instead, the people remained silent in fear for the child's life.

"Well?" The policeman urged, getting impatient. "What happened?"

"He was only defending himself, sir." A gentle and yet vibrant female voice replied.

Orion turned and looked at the owner of the voice to only end up starring in surprise. The girl was beautiful, easily the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. Granted he hadn't come into contact with many girls around his age, but he knew beauty when he saw it. She was definitely beautiful. Her pale skin, shinning blue eyes, and strange white hair captivated Orion as if by a spell.

"And...who are you?" The policeman asked the sight of her having the same effect upon him. "Were you here the whole time?"

"Yes sir I was, and I'm this man's girlfriend if you must know." The girl replied, grabbing Orion's right hand with her left. She gazed into his eyes and smiled at him, trying to send him a silent message. Orion received that message loud and clear. He knew when to take a hint.

"So what happened?" The policeman asked, his impatience returning once again. "These people aren't helping." The girl retold the whole story exactly how it happened, leaving the police officer in a stunned silence at what he was being told. He then glared at the men on the floor. "You're all coming with me, get up!"

Fear and anger flashed in the man's eyes that held the gun and he stood up quickly pointing his weapon at the child. The girl with white hair quickly stood in front of the child while the parent's put their bodies over the little girl, prepared to lose their lives if it meant hers would be saved. Everyone else was shocked into immobilization at the drastic turn of events, even the police officer, who also was too afraid to move. "I'm not going to jail!" The man yelled desperately. "I refuse to go to jail!" The man then turned towards Orion and pointed the gun at him. The people behind Orion scattered out of the way as the gunman's hand shook with emotion. "It's your fault. It's all because of you. If you hadn't saved the damn kid, I wouldn't be here right now."

"You might be right." Orion said, his voice not wavering in the slightest. "But I'm sure her father would've probably found you sooner or later anyway. The result would be the same, if not worse."

The man looked at Orion, surprised at his boldness due to the situation. But the man let out a maniacal laugh, before glaring at Orion once again. "I see what you're doing. You're trying to act all tough in front of your little girlfriend over there. Well," The man edged off as he pointed the gun at the beautiful teen. "How about if your girlfriend wasn't here?"

Watching as the man began to slowly pull the trigger, pure rage flooded through Orion's senses and before anyone could say otherwise, he acted. It only took Orion three quick steps before he was at the gangster's right side. The man had tried to bring his gun back around to aim at Orion, but the boy had been too fast. Orion caught the man's wrist and with strange ease snapped it upwards, breaking it thoroughly. The man screamed, managing to fire a single shot into the air, if not by reflex then from pain. The onlookers still around immediately dropped to the ground and screaming themselves, while the officer and the girl dropped to a knee, both seemingly were wanting to act, but unable to do so. With the fire of rage still burning through his veins Orion used his left arm to bring his flattened hand hard into the man's elbow, breaking it also. The man's screams stopped and became chokes of shock as he stared unblinkingly at his newly reformed arm. The pain was only dulled now thanks to the damage the second break had done to his sensory nerves, both a blessing and curse, but the sight of his mangled arm destroyed his state of mind. The gun then dropped to the ground as the man no longer had full control over his hand. Orion finished him off by tripping him with his left leg and slamming him back first mercilessly to the ground. Whipping a large knife from the backside of his pants, Orion held it dangerously close to the gangster's neck with finality.

The policeman decisively pulled out his gun as he watched a line of blood come from the man's neck and trickle upon the silvery blade. "Listen, you don't want to do this. If you kill him, I'm going to have to take you in and you could spend the rest of your life in prison. Is that what you want?"

Orion didn't hear him; it seemed as if he wasn't focused on anything at all. His eyes had darkened and his facial expression had turned to stone, not showing a single ounce of emotion. As he put more pressure on the knife, Orion felt cool hands encompass both sides of his face. Visibly shaken out of his temperament, Orion found himself looking straight into two blue orbs. The girls face could be no less than three inches from his own, which only followed to disturb Orion even more.

"Don't do it. He'll get what's coming to him. There's a lot you still need to do." The girl said as she looked steadily into his eyes. Staring for a moment in return, Orion blindly sheathed his knife and began to walk away with the girl in close pursuit with his once discarded bags. Coming back to his senses, the policeman called an ambulance and tended to the gangsters on the floor. He looked up to call the couple back to the scene, but they were already gone from view, leaving the police officer wondering who both of them had been.

Orion took his things from Orchid and checked the food before turning around and fixing a glare in the girl's direction. "What do you want?" He asked warily. It wasn't often that a girl was brave enough to talk to him. Much less do what she had just done.

"I want you to come with me." The girl said plainly as she straightened her dress.

"Why?" Orion asked in wonder.

"I was supposed to find you." The girl replied, just as plainly as before.

Orion was clearly startled. "You were looking for me? Who are you?"

"I'm Orchid Avalon. As for why I was looking for you, it's because you're the last of our circle and are dearly needed to save the future of our planet." She told him with all seriousness.

Orion stopped walking and stared at her for a moment, expecting her to say something along the lines of 'Just kidding, what I really meant to say was...', but it didn't seem like that was going to happen. The girl just stared back at him obviously waiting for him to say something as well. "You're serious?"

The girl smiled and walked past him, continuing in the direction he'd been going earlier. "Walk with me. There's a lot we need to talk about."

"So, I'm going to save the planet?" Orion asked as he followed Orchid. They had been walking for a while now, about an hour, and Orion still had no idea as to where they were going. During that time, Orchid had told him all that he needed to know about the dilemma facing future and his place in solving it.

Orchid smiled at Orion as she swallowed a piece of the apple he had given her. "No, you, me, and six of my friends are going to save the future. But, in a year's time. Until then, we'll be going to school and improving our abilities through combat and magical training." Orion went silent as he pondered over the information he'd been told.

Orchid finished off the apple and set it next to an ant pile as they continued their walk. Turning her attention once again towards Orion, she couldn't help but to watch in amusement as he pondered in thought. "What's on your mind?"

Orion blinked out of his thoughts and looked at Orchid. After contemplating on what to say, Orion just shrugged. "A lot of things. I was thinking about what you said, about what I'm going to do, the orphanage, and-" He paused, wondering if he should say the last part. "I was thinking about you."

Orchid blushed lightly and looked forward again, not being able to stop the small smile from appearing on her face. She then stopped and held her hand out towards an expensive hotel. "We're here."

"You live here?" Orion asked as he stared up at the large building.

Orchid laughed, causing Orion to feel embarrassed. "Only for the next two days. Now that we've found you, we can head back to our real home."

"Where's that?" Orion asked as he followed her in.

"Hong Kong, China, my homeland and the place where I grew up." Orchid looked over to Orion and smiled. "And hopefully, you're new home."

Orchid stopped at the only door on the top floor and stood in front of it as she faced Orion. "You shouldn't be nervous. They're really nice people. The guys will give you a warm welcome, I'm sure. Well, Tokuichi can be sort of a trickster and Drake is a little picky when it comes to me talking to other guys, but it's really just a brotherly protective thing. As for the girls…" Orchid looked Orion over before laughing. "I'm sure that they'll be happy."

Orion looked down at himself and then behind him. "Why would they be happy about what I look like?" Orion asked, innocently confused. "I'm not exactly clean."

"Yes well," Orchid said as she rang the doorbell. "I wonder the same thing when they all say that I attract a lot of attention. I guess it's my hair because there's no way I'm as beautiful as they claim me to be."

"You're right." Orion said bluntly.

Orchid tilted her chin up at his words. She didn't get that answer very often. What surprised her the most was that it made her smile. "Are you trying to say I'm ugly, Mr. Phoenix?"

"No." Orion said simply as thundering footsteps were heard and the locks on the door were being unhinged. "I meant that you are more than beautiful. I can tell."

Orchid tinted a rosy red as the door opened. Standing at the door to greet the two were three girls. The one on the left, the shortest, wasn't actually standing, but was in an expensive looking wheelchair. Appearing to be from Japanese decent, her hair was black and thin, and just above shoulder length, somewhat framing her face. Wearing a buttoned up white shirt, a long black skirt, and glasses she had a sophisticated look to her. Her gray, green eyes held a wisdom that told of years beyond her age and the posture her slim figure held only cemented his analysis.

The girl in the middle was the second tallest and seemed to have an Irish or Scottish background. Her tanned skin was decorated with freckles, and her body was average at sight. Her hair though, was anything but average. The girls reddish orange curls reminded Orion of a well lit fire as they bounced playfully around her shoulders and her ice blue eyes. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans with a baggy, long sleeved, yellow shirt that read 'O'Reilly'. When she smiled, Orion automatically felt like he had to smile back, which he allowed himself to do...on the inside.

The last girl was the tallest out of the three, and had all the physical characteristics of a Native American. Her raven black hair was thick with volume and strength, reaching to the depths of her lower back, and was braided into a single ponytail. Her skin resembled a caramel candy he'd had a while back and was toned really well, showing off feminine muscular detail. Wearing some black, jean shorts and a plain blue tank top, she had a menacing aura about her. Yet, as cold as her hazel eyes made her seem, Orion felt that there was more to this girl than meets the eye.

Orchid cleared her throat, tired of watching her friends stare Orion down. "How long do you guys want us to stand out here?"

With a blush, except for the Native American girl, the three stepped back and allowed Orchid and Orion to enter. Orion shook the hands of each girl and got their names. The Japanese girl was Na Xue Lin, the Irish-looking girl was Ena Grania, and the Native American girl was Niabi Abedabun.

"So Mr. Phoenix," Ena began, her Irish heritage waving blatantly through her accent, as they all got comfortable in the living room. Orchid and Orion sat on the mini couch, while the other three sat on the three-seated couch. They were waiting for the others to get back from shopping. "Where have ya been living for the last couple of years? We've been searching for ya for quite some time."

"I've been in many places. I don't stay in one place for too long." Orion replied as his hand instinctively brushed over his knife, hidden in the waistband of the back of his pants. Orchid noticed the movement, but decided to leave it be.

"Do ya like to travel?" Ena asked intently. "I love seeing the world."

"Yes, I like to travel. But, that's not the reason I move constantly." Orion said grimly. Though his face was passive, his words were heavy with hidden meaning.

Ena was going to ask another question, but she received a discrete tap on the arm from Na Xue who gave her a stern look. "Don't pry." She said in a whisper.

Ena pouted her lip and folded her arms as she sat back into the couch, clearly wanting to ask more. Orchid sent Na Xue a thankful look before she turned her attention towards Orion. "The other thing I meant to speak to you about is what may happen if fail. We may all die in this fight, as is the consequence in any war that is fought through violence. I can't offer you a promise of success if you decide to join us, but what we can off you is a home and a family."

"I don't want a family." Orion replied with a frown. "I don't want a home, I don't want anything. All I want is-"

"Yeah, well, this isn't about you." Niabi interrupted as she stood up angrily. "This is about our future, everyone's future. Not you, not your pathetic wants or needs, but the lives of billions of people. So stop being a pain in the ass and face up to your responsibilities."

Orion sent Niabi a blood-freezing glare before gathering his things and walking out the door. Orchid and the others in turn glared at Niabi who just shrugged in defiance. "We don't need him anyway."

Na Xue couldn't believe what she was hearing. "We don't need him? Niabi, think! He's probably going to end up being the strongest out of us all. You jumped to conclusions and didn't even let him finish his sentence." Na Xue let out a sigh as she shook her head. "You're too brash for your own good."

"Indeed she is, Na Xue." Ena agreed. "Don't ya think so, Orchid?" Ena looked around finding that Orchid was nowhere in sight. "Orchid?"

Niabi nodded towards the door. "She went after Mr. I'm Independent."

Na Xue gave Niabi a sly look. "You know he's cute, Niabi."

Niabi scoffed. "Cute, he looks like a black Tarzan."

"Niabi!" Na Xue exclaimed. "Must you be so racial?"

"Oh please." Niabi said as she rolled her eyes. "He's black and he looks like Tarzan, what kind of description were you looking for?"

"An agreement would have been nice." Na Xue replied with a smile.

"Yeah well, I'm not exactly nice, now am I?" Niabi half asked.

"Nope, ya sure aren't Niabi." Ena said before going quiet for a moment. "But he is quite cute, perhaps the right word would be...hot?"

Na Xue laughed while a small smile appeared on Niabi's face. "Ena?"

"Yes, Niabi?"

"Shut up."


Orion didn't even bother to respond. If Niabi was one of the people he was going to have to deal with on this crazy escapade then he sure as hell wasn't going to participate. There were already enough people who didn't like him; he didn't need to add more to the list.

"Orion, please stop."

Orion stopped walking and turned around. Orchid ran up to him and leaned on him as she tried to catch her breath. Orion wanted nothing more than to shrug her off of him, but went against the notion. "I'm not going back."

Orchid caught her breath and looked at Orion with a blank expression. "You don't think this is real do you?"

"Honestly?" Orion asked her as he thought about it for a quick second. "No, not really."

Orchid took Orion's face into her hand and guided him to look her in the eyes. "Orion, look at me and tell me I look like I'm lying. Why would I make something like 'saving the world' up?"

Orion stood there and looked into her eyes. For some reason he knew she wasn't lying, but he didn't feel like listening to his conscience at the moment. "I don't even know you."

"Get to know me." Orchid said strongly. "Don't let my friends drive you away. This is something much more important than a petty squabble with a stranger." Orchid sighed and let go of Orion's face, but they held each other's eyes anyway. "If you don't trust anyone in the group, trust me. Be a friend to me."

"A friend?" Orchid asked as he cocked his head cutely to the side.

Orchid laughed lightly. "Yes, a friend."

"With me?" Orion asked

Orchid gave him a gentle look. "Orion, you're not unbearable."

He shrugged. "I wouldn't know. People seem to try their best to avoid and ignore me."

"Well, you are intimidating; I'll give them that. It's also because they don't understand you." Orchid told him simply.

"So this Orchid Avalon understands me?" Orion asked, with hidden amusement.

Orchid shook her head as she grabbed his hand and began dragging him back towards the hotel. "Orchid Avalon understands a lot."

Orion smirked as he let her lead him. "Speaking of yourself in third person?"

"Be quiet, you started it." Orchid replied simply, but not without humor.

Orion suddenly stopped, causing Orchid to jerk haltingly at the sudden movement. "I can't go yet." Orion told her in a distant voice

Orchid looked at Orion questionably. "What's wrong?" She asked, concern laced within her words.

Orion took off into a run. "I have to go back to the orphanage. I almost forgot about the food, the children, Miss Huian, and my daughter." Orion said, speeding up with his last words.

Orchid stood still for a moment before running after Orion in a somewhat stupefied state. He has a daughter? Orchid thought to herself, completely astounded by the thought. He looked no older the age of 18. Realizing that she couldn't think and keep up with Orion at the same time, she focused on running.

Orion felt a smile tug at his lips as he reached the orphanage. Even though it was eight o'clock and dusk was nearly lost to darkness, his daughter was outside practicing her martial arts with a blindfold on. Orion slowed down and began to sneak around her as she continued the form he'd just recently taught her. Getting right behind her, Orion placed a firm hand onto her left shoulder. Instinctively, the girl shrugged off his hand and began to fight him. Dodging her blows with ease, Orion watched with amusement as she tried her best to hit him. Letting out a strong shout, the girl swung her right leg in an arc at Orion's ribs.

Orion smirked as he caught her foot and pulled off her blindfold. "Is it me or are you getting slow?" He asked as let go of her.

His daughter let out an annoyed grunt and folded her arms. "I was blindfolded."

"That's no excuse." Orion replied as he folded his arms identically to hers.

"I hesitated cuz I was blindfolded." She replied hotly.

Orion nodded at her reply, somewhat satisfied with her answer. "Are you getting an attitude with me, young lady?"

The girl bowed her head. "No sir, it was because Chen wouldn't leave me alone today."

"Really?" Orion asked as he sat down on the porch and motioned to the spot beside him. "Tell me about it?"

Orchid watched from a distance as they talked about her eventful day. The girl looked to be around the age of six. Quite pretty for her age, Orchid knew she would be an eye catcher when she grew up. Definitely Chinese, she had a tan to her skin. Her large violet eyes seemed to tell you everything that she was feeling, though they were partly covered by her long black wavy, hair. A little skinny, she was wearing a red tank top, and a pair of baggy light blue jeans that had holes at the knees. Starting to feel left out, Orchid began to walk timidly over to the two.

Orion noticed Orchid advancing, but still listened to his daughter. The conversation had just gotten interesting. "So you're telling me that he tried to propose to you?" Orion asked, though not that surprised. He had known of Chen's crush on his daughter for some time now.

"Yeah, can you believe it? He's always picking on me and pulling my hair, and then he just pops out with 'Will you marry, my precious flower?' The girl put her face in her hands. "I was gonna smack'm."

Orion chuckled a bit, though he couldn't help but feel a little bit of parental protectiveness kick in. "I'm glad you didn't. You did well under the circumstances."

His daughter peeked at him through her hands as she giggled. "You're just happy cuz I'm your daughter."

Orion shrugged as he stood up. "You're too smart for a five year old."

"I know." His daughter said giddily as she stood up with him. "But I'm almost six, my birthdays in a couple of months." She then noticed that there was a lady that was standing no more than ten feet away from them. Inching closer to her dad, she wrapped her hands around one of his. "Who's that daddy?"

Orion led his daughter over to Orchid, who looked just as apprehensive about the meeting as his daughter did. "Lily, this is Orchid Avalon. Orchid, this is my daughter, Lily." He said, ruffling his daughter's hair.

Orchid smiled at Lily, instantly feeling less shy about the meeting. "Hello Lily, it's nice to meet you." Orchid said as she held out her hand.

Lily looked at Orchid's hand for a few minutes before shaking it enthusiastically, her eyes widening with excitement. "Nice to meetcha. Wow, you're pretty, are you a supermodel? My daddy said that I could be a supermodel when I grow up. But I don't wanna; it's too girly for me. You gonna marry my daddy and be my momma?" Lily asked innocently.

Orion and Orchid stood there in an embarrassed and blushing silence. Orchid knelt down and smiled at the girl. "We'll just have to wait and see, Lily. I'm sure your father wouldn't mind."

If possible, Lily's eyes got larger with happiness. She looked at her father who just shrugged with uncertainty. Lily practically skipped into the house as she hummed to herself. No doubt that she was about to tell the other kids that she was going to have a mother soon. When Lily was gone, Orchid stood up to find Orion staring at her. "What?"

"You practically told her you were going to marry me and be her mother." Orion said with an edge to his voice. He couldn't believe she would just go along with something like that without thinking of the consequences.

Orchid gave him an even look. "I know what I said Orion. Whether you choose to believe it or not, I am quite ready to take the responsibilities of a mother. I've had plenty of experience, believe me, even if I don't have children of my own. Now, if you don't mind, you have some explaining to do to your daughter, Miss Huian, and the rest of the orphanage. The sooner you explain the sooner we can leave."

Orion just looked at her unbelievingly as he opened the door for her. The orphanage wasn't all that big. It was actually kind of small, and was only a one-story house, just long and wide with length. Tattered and gray on the outside, the inside wasn't much of a difference. Though it was clean on the inside, it definitely hadn't received anything new for quite some time. The orphanage was pretty much a collage of gray, black, dirty white, and a grayish blue.

"I know it's not much." Orion remarked as she looked around the orphanage. "But it's all they have. I've done my best to improve it, but I can only do so much. It's hard enough just keeping the place open and feeding them." Orion nodded towards the hallway as he led her towards Miss Huian's room. "It's one of the reason's I don't want to leave. If I leave, I don't know how she's going to keep things going without me."

Orchid was surprised at the way Orion spoke those words. It was the first time his voice wasn't completely monotone. She could tell that he was worried about the children and Miss Huian. "I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. Lang will help out once they hear of the situation."

Orion said nothing as he knocked on a door at the end of the long hallway. Orchid was looking at the many pictures of the children on the walls as a mature, female voice asked who it was in Japanese. "It's Orion, Miss Huian." Orion replied in kind, sounding as if he'd been in Japan his whole life.

A short, Japanese woman around the age of 40 had opened the door with a toothy smile. She was kind of chubby, and wrinkles of age were starting to show. Wearing a modern yellow dress with decorative imprints of children's hands all over it, she wore her hair in a loose ponytail, and gave off the impression of a true and loving mother. "Where have you been young man?" She asked in a motherly, yet stern tone.

Orion held his bag up. "I got the stuff that you asked for, but as for me being late...I ran into a few things."

A worried look came over the old woman's face. "You didn't fight again did you?"

"Not really." Orion replied. "I just defended myself."

"What'd you do this time? Oh, never mind, I don't want to know. Just go and tuck the children in and-Oh!" Miss Huian squeaked as she realized that they weren't alone. "A young girl? Why Orion, don't tell me that you've had a girlfriend and never told me?"

"Then I won't, because she's not my girlfriend. She's actually come to take me away from you." Orion told her brusquely.

Orchid sent Orion a glare and made a mental note to talk to him about his lack of tact later. "Miss Huian, it's true that we are in need of Orion's assistance, but you must understand that from what I've seen and heard so far, I wouldn't ask anything of him had it been under other circumstances. I can see how important he is to you and the children."

"What exactly do you need our Orion for?" Miss Huian asked as she led them to the living room.

"Well, it's a long story." Orchid told her as she sat down on the couch next to Orion. Miss Huian took a seat in the rocking chair just off to their right.

While Orchid, Orion, and Miss Huian talked. Lily had awakened her best friend Akita to show off her mother-to-be. They peeked around the corner, careful to not be noticed. "See, didn't I tell you she was beautiful."

The pig tailed, Japanese girl in her pajamas nodded somewhat sleepily. "Yeah, where did your dad find her?"

"I dunno, she just came back with him and I asked her if she said she'd be mommy. She said maybe, but I'm sure that she will be." Lily said confidently.

"She seems nice. Congru…conger…congratudations, Lily. You're going to have the most beautiful mommy in the world." Atika told her with a sleepy smile.

"Yeah." Lily said dreamily as she mentally pictured herself, her father, and her soon-to-be mother walking around like a family. "I'm finally going to have a family."

The next day, Orion and Lily spent much of the morning saying goodbye to each and every person that attended the orphanage. After the talk, Orion had awakened Lily to tell her that he was going to be gone for a while and that she needed to stay. Refusing to let him leave without her, Orion gave in and said that she could come too. With that said Orchid had to call Mr. Lang and had him talk to Miss Huian. They conversed for a while and soon came to an agreement that Mr. Lang would help remake and support the orphanage until Orion was able to return. After Lily had a very tearful goodbye with her best friend, Atika, they climbed into a taxi and made their way towards the airport.

"What happened to the Hotel?" Orion asked as he tried his best to stop Lily from crying.

"The others have already made their way there. We'd have been late if we would have stayed any longer." Turning her attention towards Lily, Orchid gathered the little girl's hands in her own. "Don't worry, Lily. It won't be that bad. Plus, during the holidays I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. Lang would be glad to have your friends over."

Lily sniffed hard, which didn't sound too healthy. "Really?" She asked, looking a little better.

"Really." Orchid said as she wrapped her arms around Lily and gave her a hug.

Lily hugged her in return as she giggled. "I'm glad you're my mommy."

Orchid was silent for a moment before she replied. "So am I, Lily."

Orion fought down a smile as he watched the airport get closer. "We're here." After putting their luggage onto a cart and paying for the ride, Orchid picked up Lily as Orion pushed the cart while they headed towards their parting gate.

"I can't wait to hear what the others will say about this." Orchid said.

Orion looked at her, not liking the tone of voice she was taking. "What are you talking about?"

"Me having a daughter in less than 24 hours." Orchid said grimly.

"No one is demanding this from you. We can do fine without you." Orion told her harshly.

Lily's eyes began to tear up. "You don't wanna be my momma?"

Orchid panicked at the sight of Lily's tears. "No Lily, of course I want to be your mother. Your father just misunderstood me." She said hurriedly, but sincerely. She then turned towards Orion and gave him a look as she spoke to him in a low, whisper. "Don't do that."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Orchid was surprised when she felt her chest build up with anger. It had been so long since she'd gotten angry; there was a firm belief among her family that it was troublesome emotion. An emotion that only caused more problems for one's self and those they cared about. Even then, it was strange to her, she'd only known him for two days and he was already starting to get on her bad list; a list that she never had. "You're pushing it, dear."

Lily squealed. "You're married already?" She asked excitedly. She didn't receive an answer, though.

Orion gritted his teeth as he turned all of his focus on the cart. Satisfied with his reaction, Orchid took the lead and found the gate quickly. There in front of them stood three people who, when they had spotted Orchid, smiled in relief. It was Ena, Niabi, and some boy around the same age. From Orion's point of view he was white, and from the way he held himself it looked like he was from some rich, English family. Wearing an expensive looking blue suit, black leather shoes, and a gold and silver watch only confirmed Orion's guesses.

Fixing the silver framed sunglasses on his face, and smoothly putting his blond hair behind his ears; the boy walked over to Orchid and put his right arm around her shoulders. "We were worried that you wouldn't make it."

"Since when am I ever late, Drake?" Orchid asked him with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm sorry, Orchid, I don't know what I was thinking." Drake smiled, showing off his brilliantly white, straight teeth. Drake looked down at Lily, and gave her the same dazzling smile. "And who is this lovely, little girl?"

Lily wrinkled her nose as she looked at him with disgust. "I don't like you." She said bluntly.

Drake was visibly taken back by her words while the others managed to hide their smiles. No one had ever resisted his charms. Old women, young women, teenagers, and young girls had always succumbed to his beautiful smile. Yet, this little girl didn't. That wasn't right. "Why don't you like me, little girl?"

"Cuz you're hanging all over my mommy. Now let go, or my dad'll whoop ya." Lily exclaimed as she shook her right fist in front of his face menacingly.

Drake looked at the girl with a glare, before looking at the guy behind Orchid, who wore a proud smile on his face. It was then that Lily's words hit him with full force. "You're married and you have a daughter?!"

Orchid blushed as she walked towards the plane. "I'll tell you about it when we get settled in."

Orion looked around as he examined everyone. He had been introduced to the remaining people, which included Mr. and Mrs. Lang, Tokuichi Initaka, Alona Ramirez, and Drake Ellwood. Mr. and Mrs. Lang seemed to be a homely couple, one that based their marriage off of friendship and strong foundations instead of instantaneous love. Both of them were elegantly dressed with Mr. Lang in a suit and Mrs. Lang in a feminine business top and a modest skirt. They looked to be in their late 40's and held a presence that seemed to exude power and respect. Orion would give them just that, especially with everything they'd agreed to do for the orphanage.

As for the other two, a single word popped into Orion's mind when he shook hands with Tokuichi; lazy. The teen practically oozed the word out of his very being. He looked Japanese, though there were other traits of his face that seemed to say otherwise. Under his skull cap, his black hair rolled out in an untidy fashion, poking in every direction. Tokuichi's eyes which were basically half-shut, almost as if opening them all the way was a chore, barely allowed Orion to see the chocolate brown that resided inside of them. From his fat laced shoes to his baggy jean shorts, the cap off to Orion's observations was the black t-shirt that read 'Sorry wasn't listening' in large white letters plastered on the front Attached to his arm was the last member of the circle he'd met. Alona was about the same height as Orchid, if not a bit taller. Her dark brown hair was straightened, stretching to reach just past her shoulders. Strangely, Orion found himself stuck on Alona's eyes just for a second as he looked into them. The color was nothing spectacular, they were brown, but it was the fact that they were the brightest shade he'd ever seen that made him pause; and when a ray of sun reflected of off them for a moment, Orion could have sworn they'd turned yellow. She was wearing a white, fitting t-shirt and low, hip hugging jeans, showing off a lot of her mocha skin and curves confidently. In the end, for some reason, Alona seemed to be the one he might end up relating to the most.

Once on the plane, they all headed towards first class and sat in the central rows. Since there were only four seats across, and so many people were seated in first class, they all had to sit in different rows. Mr. and Mrs. Lang were in the first row. Orion, Lily, Orchid, and Na Xue were in the second. Drake, Tokuichi, and Alona were in the third row. Lastly, Ena and Niabi were in the fourth row, but they weren't complaining since there were two, 'entertaining' guys sitting next to them. After a couple of hours, everyone was practically asleep except for Na Xue and Orion. Lily had long fallen asleep on Orchid's lap, and Orchid herself had her head resting on Orion's shoulder as she slept peacefully.

"So do you believe that all of this is real?" Na Xue asked as she took off her headphones. A movie had just ended and the one they were turning on wasn't catching her interest.

"Don't know." Orion replied in truth. "But, too much is happening for all of this to be some type of lie."

Na Xue smiled in return. "Good. Taken a liking to our beautiful Orchid have you?" She asked as a secondary thought.

Orion shook his head at the assumption. "I've only just met her."

"You don't find her attractive?" Na Xue asked in surprise.

"Beautiful yes, but I do my best not to judge by appearances alone." Orion said as he relaxed a bit more and closed his eyes.

"That's good." Na Xue replied as she pulled a guitar from under her seat. She stroked a few chords and adjusted the tuning pegs in an attempt to get the tones right.

"Nice guitar."

Na Xue jumped and turned to find Orion looking at her. She smiled shyly as she nodded. "My mother gave it to me in her will. She said that she wanted me to have her most treasured item, other than me that is." Nice was a light description for Na Xue's most treasured gift. The body was a dull white, having been made from a willow tree. Carved pictures of doves flying were all over the guitar. Outlined in silver, the doves were made of ivory, and the eyes were composed of small rubies. On the back of the guitar was a large dove that was seen from a frontal view. Holding a wilting rose in its beak, its wings were spread completely open and a blue sapphire tear was coming out of its left eye. Letting out a saddened breath, Na Xue strung a few more chords. "It's all I have left that's hers."

"Do you play?" Orion asked.

Na Xue gave him a look. "What do you think?" Orion just raised an eyebrow. He'd seen the way she was strumming the chords. If she did play, it wasn't very often. Na Xue looked away as a blush of embarrassment came to her face. "Ok, so I don't play very well. I've just never had a talent for it. I usually just sang while my mother played."

"May I?" Orion asked her.

Na Xue instinctively hugged the guitar to her body. "Do you know what you're doing?" She asked worriedly.

Orion gave her a small, but comforting smile. "I won't hurt your mother's guitar. I'd be honored if you'd let me play."

Na Xue's grip on her mother's guitar eased before she carefully handed it to Orion. Orion took the guitar from her with just as much care, if not more. Plucking a few chords, Orion looked at Na Xue. "Any requests?" Orion asked with an impish smirk.

"An expert are we?" Na Xue asked playfully. "Do you know the theme song of Romeo and Juliet? My mom used to play it for me all the time."

Orion suppressed a grin as he instantly began to play the romantic and peaceful melody. If Na Xue had any doubts of Orion's guitar playing skills they had just been erased. His fingers moved artfully across the strings. Despite the fact that he was merely going through single chords, the fluidity of his fingers was amazing. Captured by the beauty of the song, it wasn't long before Na Xue found herself humming to the wonderful tune. After a while, the people around them stopped what they were doing and paid attention to the duet. Even the ones that were asleep had awaked to the sound of music, and stayed that way just to listen.

A row back, Drake was fuming at how Na Xue was getting along so well with Orion. He had asked her if he could play the guitar many times, even touch it, and she'd said no to him every time. They'd known each other for more than two years, and this guy just comes along and earns her trust in just over two hours. What the hell? "I hate that guy." Drake muttered angrily, more to himself than to anyone else.

Tokuichi smiled as he stroked Alona's arm. "You're just jealous. Besides, it's not like he's hitting on her."

"How would you know?" Drake spat angrily.

Alona looked at Drake with an annoyed expression. "Drake, be quiet, you're ruining the music."

Drake just sat back into his seat and brooded silently. "Whatever."

Sooner than the listeners wanted, the song had come to an end. Getting a light applause from their audience, Orion nodded his thanks while Na Xue just sat there, a light blush tinting her cheeks. Orchid looked over at Na Xue and put her right hand on her friends forearm. "Are you ok, Na Xue?"

Na Xue nodded as she wiped her eyes. "I'm fine."

Orion reached over Orchid and Lily, and handed Na Xue her guitar back. "I'm always here." He told her simply. Orchid and Lily didn't quite get the message, but Na Xue read it without problem as she smiled in appreciation.

"Na Xue?"

Na Xue looked down at Lily. "Yes?"

"Since Orchid's my momma, and you and Orchid look like sisters, does that mean you're gonna be my auntie?" Lily asked with childlike innocence.

Na Xue was greatly surprised by Lily's words and looked at Orchid for some kind of explanation. Orchid just smiled and gave her a look that said 'she did the same thing to me'. The young teen stammered when she spoke. "W-well, if you want me to Lily. I'd be more than happy to be your aunt."

"Really? Cool." Lily said as she hopped out of Orchid's lap and into Na Xue's, giving her newfound aunt a hug.

Orion fought down another smiled. He knew that Lily did it in order to cheer Na Xue up. Orchid and the others had laughed whole-heartedly at the little girl's antics. While looking at his daughter with a fond expression, Orion couldn't help feeling that this was going to be a new beginning for the both of them.