Author's note: I goofed in part 3 and said there were four bears, but there's only three. So I'm reposting the part of chapter three that was screwy and then continuing from there. Also, sorry for the large amount of space in-between paragraphs. It's too hard to fix though and I'm lazy.. so deal with it! :p

"Bears," He said in a hushed voice, "Three of them."

"Are you sure?"

"I think I would know," Chihiko retorted, but not without some sadness in his tone, "Two of them seem quite large, and then there's a medium sized one, and then a very small one. They're not shadows though."

"How do you know? Do you know what they look like?" Drift asked.

Chihiko thought for a moment, "Well, no. But what if they want to help us?"

"It is possible, though if such creatures roam freely in the night without fear of the shadows… it makes me wonder." Drift seemed worried and suddenly less of the wise, all knowing type that Chihiko had seen earlier.

"Well I say we risk it," Chihiko said, "And after all you have nothing to fear. I don't think bears usually eat pillows for dinner."

Drift smiled dimly, "Okay. Then let's go…"

"On the count of three?" Chihiko asked.




Before Drift had finished a large mass of black fur hurtled over the rocks and skidded past them. Then another large form crept over from the other side and focused its moonlit eyes upon the two. Finally the smallest of the pack came squeezing through a crack in the boulders, snorting as he came to an abrupt stop.

The bears had surrounded them.

Chihiko's gaze shifted slowly from the largest of the pack, his midnight black coat merging with the very black of night, to the mid-sized bear, a dark brown hue with sandy spots speckled throughout, and finally to the smallest one, the lightest colored of all. They had all assumed defensive positions and their teeth were bared just slightly and it seemed the idea of a growl hung idly by in their throats.

"Please," Drift said shakily, "We don't mean any harm."

The largest of the bears jerked forward and pressed his snout into Drifts soft form and the pillow began to tremble violently. Chihiko felt his stomach tighten with fear, but despite it he reached out and yanked Drift away from the bear's inquisitive nose and pulled him close.

The bear did not react, but eyed the pair curiously. Chihiko waited with baited breath for one of the beasts to do something, but nothing happened and he felt that intense anxiety fall slack in his gut. Hoping to turn this situation around he stood up, placing Drift behind him, and took a slow step towards the trio.

"We've come from far away on a very important mission. We're only passing through this land and we mean no harm…"

"You can never tell where evil lurks these days," A deep, frightening voice said, but when Chihiko looked expectantly at the largest bear he saw no signs of movement.

"Even you, the picture of innocence, could be one of the shadows, " The same voice said again and Chihiko was amazed as he saw that it was coming from the small bear of the pack, "And we cannot take any chances," The bear finished.

"Y-You know about the shadows?" Chihiko asked.

Now the biggest bear walked closer and in a high, nasally voice said, "Yes. They are the reason why we are so uneasy day and night. We are never at peace. No, no, no… never ever.. ever ever… never ever…"

"Enough Hans!" The medium bear snapped in a voice that was very motherly and soothing even though it was raised in excitement, "I'm sorry. He rambles." She said and Chihiko was sure he saw her grin.

"That's why we've come. I'm going to kill them." Chihiko said boldly, "And you have good reason to be afraid of me…"

He felt something tugging at his leg rapidly and when he looked down he saw Drift poking out from behind his foot scowling and he realized that what he had said had been stupid.

"Why should we be afraid little one?" The motherly bear asked with a bit of laughter trailing on the end, "I'm sure anything you could do Kako here could do far worse back!"

"Kako…" Chihiko played with the word on his tongue and felt a chill course through his body. His eyes became hollow as he shifted from the Stairway Mountains back to his beach where he lay safe with Mako, curled like one of the bear's cubs at his side.

"Yes, that is my name. Does it mean something to you?"

Chihiko was jolted back to his senses and he gave a quick look around as if to make sure he really wasn't back home. All he saw were three bears staring quizzically at him.

"No," He replied at long last, "Well, yes. I once had a friend with a very similar name. That's all."

"That friend wouldn't have been named Mako, hmn?" Kako asked in a way that was more like a statement than a question.

"How… how did you know?" Chihiko lifted his brows in amazement and felt he was standing on the threshold of something wonderful. His curiosity was overwhelming him and he hardly noticed Drift latched onto his leg anymore and his full attention was upon Kako.

"Mako is mine and Sierra's brother." Kako said.

"And my cousin!" Hans added.

"You look shocked boy," Sierra sad very softly, "Come. Let us take you back to our cave and we'll tell you everything you want to know."

Chihiko felt himself nod, but everything he did was very vague to him. Mako had never mentioned any family. Come to think of it, he had never even told Chihiko where he had come from. Chihiko had never wondered about so many things and wanted to ask so many questions until now. He saw the bears turn around and he felt Drift on his shoulder and he felt his feet moving him forward but everything he did was mechanical, his mind far removed from his body. But somehow in no time at all he found himself standing in the opening to a very large cave depressed into the mountain's side. Though Chihiko did not think it possible, the cave was even darker than the bleak night blanketing the world.

"Don't be afraid," Kako told Chihiko soothingly as if sensing his anxiety, "Put your hand on my back and follow close."

Chihiko did as he was told, gripping a large bit of Kako's fur tightly with his hand and walking closely by the bear, taking short, cautious steps. They moved so far into the cavern that not even a sliver of pale moonlight could be seen or the twinkling of a distant star and the air grew stale and dank. Chihiko felt himself growing extremely claustrophobic, and he nearly made a mad dash backwards to flee the place, but he bit his lip and warded off his uneasiness.

Finally they stopped, but Chihiko did not relinquish his grip on Kako. In fact, he shifted even closer.

"This is home," Sierra said from somewhere ahead, "It's not exactly too inviting, but it keeps us alive and safe."

"Can't be drawing too much attention," Hans added grimly, "We can only make a fire long enough to cook our food. And then mostly we eat it... raw" He added morosely.

"Sit down," Kako said to Chihiko as he pulled away from him and joined his partners on the other side of the crude, semi-circular room. Now, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could vaguely make out their large, arched forms.

Feeling about Chihiko found a large, flat rock that he sat on. Drift hopped off his shoulder and flanked himself to Chihiko's side.

"Now, I promised you some answers to questions," Kako said gently, "So ask anything you want."

Chihiko made direct eye contact with Kako, "Before I ask anything… I didn't tell you before, but… Mako… Mako is dead."

Sierra gasped, but she was the only one to react directly to the news. Hans also seemed very surprised, but Kako on the other hand had not changed at all.

"I suspected as much. We were twins you know," He said, a smile crossing his face as old memories flooded his thoughts, "I had a sort of connection with him and it seemed to fade these last few days. I feared the worst."

"Mako can't be gone!" Hans roared, "He was the strongest one of us all.. well at least AS strong as you, Kako!"

"But he still was not invincible." Sierra said very weakly, her head turned to the ground in mourning, "Oh God. What is this world coming to."

"Me and Mako lived on an island far from here. I don't know how he came there… but we were the best of friends." Chihiko said, trying not to stumble and fall over his own words and break down into another pathetic round of tears.

"Mako left us to try and find and kill the shadows. We tried to convince him to stay, but he slipped away in the night. There wasn't anyone who could detour his will." Kako stated boldly in a voice that reminded Chihiko so much of his late friend that his emotions seemed dangerously close to erupting.

"The shadows killed him." Chihiko said very blankly, though he didn't dare tell them that perhaps it was he himself that had killed Mako.

"Shadows." Kako mulled over the word, "Have you ever wondered what they are exactly? No one has ever seen one… yet we fear them so greatly."

"We know they are murderous and vile," Sierra added.

"But what ARE they?" Kako continued, "Are they shifty, alien beings.. or simply a darkness inside of us. Inside everyone." He stared directly into Chihiko's eyes, "Inside of you."

"No!" Drift spoke up for the first time since meeting with the trio, "Nonsense. Chihiko, we have to go."

"Why little fluffy one… what's the urgency?" Kako asked, moving closer.

"Chihiko has a mission and that is to destroy the shadows. He can't have silly questions like that making him rethink his objective." Drift said nastily.

"Drift, stop," Chihiko put a hand on him, "There IS something inside me Kako! I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid…"

"Shut up!" Drift snapped in a tone that scared Chihiko.

"What's gotten into you?" Chihiko looked at his friend aghast, "You're out of line."

"Chihiko, we have to go. Now!" Drift hopped off the rock but only to be instantly confronted by Sierra, her lips peeled back to reveal every one of her jagged canines.

"The boy goes nowhere. I'll sooner tear you into little shreds than let you poison his mind." She said.

Drift whipped around to Chihiko, "This is getting out of hand—Chihiko—the shadows! We have to stop them now! Time is running out."

"But Drift. I want to ask Kako and his friends so many questions."

"No time." Drift hurdled himself into the air and threw himself onto Chihiko's face. He wrapped himself around tightly so as to cut off all means for the boy to breathe and before any of the bears could react, Chihiko slumped backwards.

"Sleep Chihiko… sleep…. Sleep…." Drifts voice was haunting, "Kill. Kill. Kill."

"No wake up!" Another voice called. Kako probably. But it was too distant and too late to pull Chihiko back.

Chihiko opened his eyes to find himself draped across the bottom of a flight of aged, wooden stairs. He immediately began to panic.

"Drift! Kako!" He called out frantically.

"Stop it! Just stop that you little bastard. You want freedom? Then stop fighting this."

Chihiko whirled around and saw the dark boy again, "What do you want. Leave me alone!"

"I can't Chihiko. You know this would all be a lot easier if you didn't have to insist on living in that STUPID little world of yours. But luckily I can work with any circumstances. What would you do without me!" The boy threw his head back in a fit of maniacal laughter.

Chihiko clutched his head in between his hands, "I want to go back! Let me go back!"

"You're such a baby." The dark boy grinned and snapped his fingers, "Ciao."

"We're here Chihiko. At the top." Drift's voice roused Chihiko yet again. He was standing at the entrance to another large cavern and it was dark and a breeze was gliding over his bare skin.

"Drift…" Chihiko felt utterly confused. First he had been in the cave with Kako, Sierra, and Hans… then with that boy… and now here, at the top of Stairway Mountain. Then he remembered what had happened before he had been knocked unconscious. By Drift.

"Well get in there. What are you waiting for." Drifts tone was not friendly anymore.

"Who are you…?" Chihiko looked down at the pillow with disgust, "I was so close to answers and you refused to let me have any. Now you've somehow brought me here… and you want me to kill the shadows. And what if I refuse."

Drift was silent.

"Say something! What will YOU do if I don't kill the shadows. I could just walk away. After all, I don't do favors for people I don't trust."

"You're pathetic," Drift hissed, "You refuse to do the one thing that would grant you peace and happiness and freedom. And this little world of yours—it's SO delightful. So creative. I'm ALMOST impressed." He snarled, "But just asking you to kill them wasn't enough. You're so stubborn. I've had to get rid of all your chances to escape your destiny… because I'm not about to let YOU ruin OUR freedom!"

Chihiko was speechless, "What… are…. What are you talking about?" He took a step backwards.

Drift seemed to suddenly regain his composure, "I'm sorry. I let my emotions get the best of me. But please Chihiko, just go. Right in there you can get rid of the one thing that plagues us both! I helped you get here—now it's in your hands."

"Fine," Chihiko said, "If it will make all this go away then I will."

Drift smiled widely, "Yes! Good." He moved out of the way, allowing Chihiko clear passage into the tunnel ahead of them, "Go."

Chihiko walked forward, stopping for a second to look back inquisitively at Drift. He no longer trusted his small companion, and he was only doing this for himself—after all, maybe Mako would come back once the shadows were gone. He wouldn't know until the deed was done. So he plunged into the dark passageway, pushing all his doubts to the back of his mind.

This was the first time he had been all alone on this dark mountain. He was afraid, but determined.

"Come on you stupid shadows. It's time for you to stop making life a living hell." Chihiko whispered to himself. His hands were balled into fists at his side and his will was forged from steel. Now he could see the end of the tunnel—a large, dark door that blocked his way. He had no idea what awaited him on the other side—some monstrous beast perhaps? Or maybe actual shadows that would be too quick for him and his petty attempts to destroy them. He wouldn't know until he opened it. So, with both hands on the large handle, he pushed his entire body weight up against the door and it groaned deeply as it moved to open.

Chihiko blinked a few times and squinted into the room. There was no fire breathing dragon or mysterious phantoms swirling around. Just a bed. The shadows were asleep.

Slowly and silently he moved forward, like a ghost that haunted this forbidden place. His small feet padded over the cold surface beneath him until he was positioned at the very edge of the bed, his eyes level with the sleeping shadows. He was so close that he could hear their heavy breathing, one right after the other. This was it.

Chihiko reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. How had that come to be there? For some reason though its existence didn't surprise or startle him and he merely gripped it tightly and began to raise it into the air. With both hands wrapped around its handle, Chihiko brought it up above his head and held it there. With one fatal swing he could deal a deathly blow to the shadow nearest to him, but for the other one hw would have to move quickly. There was no room for mistakes.

"Goodbye," Chihiko let the dagger come down and sink into the form nearest him. Overcome with hatred and rage he lifted it up again and brought it back down over and over again, and a muffled cry escaped but fell silent almost as quickly as it had begun. Chihiko climbed up onto the bed and scrambled over his first victim to the second. This one began to move, but his knife met it before it had sat up completely and it fell back. This time the scream was louder for the shadow was still alive and thrashing about wildly, but Chihiko threw all his weight into it and stabbed it repeatedly until it too lay motionless.

The room was deathly quiet and Chihiko was kneeling amongst two corpses now. That's when he noticed all the blood. Blood on the bodies. Blood on his knife. Blood on his hands.

"Oh.. God…" The sight of the dark substance sickened Chihiko and he thought he might throwup as a sick feeling grew in his stomach. He clamped a hand over his mouth without thinking and smeared a trail of blood on his face. He felt its stickiness on his skin and let out a howl of terror.

"It's done Chihiko," Drift was standing in the doorway, "They're gone. You're free! We're free!"

Chihiko's eyes were bloodshot and he was rocking back and forth, far from happy.

"Come on you baby," Drift laughed, "Those good-for-nothings kept us locked up. They didn't understand us. This was the only way to get out!" The small, white pillow began to stretch upwards as if being molded by some invisible force. His shape twisted and changed and his milky whiteness faded to black. Now in Drift's place stood the dark boy.

"You…" Chihiko hurled the knife through the air at the boy but it passed right through him, "How did you.. who are…"

"Shh," The boy held a finger to his lips, "Being locked in your room so long you retreated into that little fantasy of yours. You left me out Chihiko. I had to get in somehow and guide you to freedom."

As the boy talked the room seemed to also change and Chihiko recognized it. This was his parent's room. He recognized that tacky, floral wallpaper instantly.

"So you see, now we're free to go. To find a new place where people understand us Chihiko. Where they're not AFRAID." The boy continued.

The truth was suddenly crashing down on Chihiko from ever direction and suffocating him. He could barely breathe, and he kept his eyes focused on the walls. He didn't want to look down.

"Come on. Just look at the glorious artwork we've created Chihiko!"

Chihiko looked directly at the dark boy. It was a shadow of himself—it was Chihiko, but not the sweet, caring boy. It was a disturbed figure with a troubling aura always hovering around him.

"Not going to take a look?" The shadow Chihiko continued goading him, "It's beautiful Chihiko. You can live in reality now! No more talking to stupid stuffed animals… and pillows. For God's sake. I was almost ashamed to share a mind with you." He laughed, "Come on. LOOK."

Suddenly light burst into the room as the bedroom door was flung open. The shadow Chihiko was instantly gone as a woman glided into the room. She stopped short and let out a piercing scream.

"You possessed boy!" She flung herself forward and began wildly beating at Chihiko. He drew his arms up to guard against her blows and in the insanity of it all he began to sob uncontrollably.

"I didn't mean to! I didn't want to… it was a trick!"

"Demon boy! Out! Get out!" The housemaid shouted, brimming with rage and fear, "How could you do this… oh God. Oh God. Master! Mistress!"

Chihiko backed away from the bed his dead parents lay in. Killed with his very own little hands, which still remained stained with their blood. The same blood that coursed through his veins now.

The maid turned away from the bed to him and ran at him again, "You best run far away form here now… this house is no home for you anymore."

Chihiko stood there, frozen.

"Out! Go to the night—where you belong!"

Never before had he been so terrified as he was then, and he turned and bolted from the room. Outside he was in the hallway and he ran to the stairs where he nearly tripped over three stuffed bears and a small, white pillow. He looked down at them. The last remnants of his fantasy. He picked up the pillow and continued on, down the stairs and to the front door. He paused again and looked back towards his room. No time for that.

It was bitter cold outside and snow was falling. Christmas was only three days away. With the pillow clutched close to his breast he stumbled out into the white land, smearing the innocence with his bloodied hands. He continued to run until he had reached the outskirts of the woods. Looking back he could lights blazing in his parent's room and shadows moving quickly to and fro behind the curtains. Perhaps the other servants would come after him as soon as they found out. He had to keep moving.

He tried best he could to cover up his tiny footprints in the snow as he walked without knowing where he was going through the dense brush. When he thought he had gone far enough, Chihiko collapsed in the snow.

"We're free now Chihiko. You should be happy." His shadow self had appeared again.

"I'll kill myself." Chihiko said, "And you along with me. I hate you… and I hate who I am BECAUSE of you!"

"Chihiko, Chihiko… calm down. You need me." The shadow said, "Without me you would still be in your locked room playing make believe and letting your parents treat you like a monster. They… No one understands us! This isn't some illness with a cure Chihiko. In fact it's not an illness at all. It's a gift!"

"No. This is all wrong," Chihiko clawed at his face with his red fingers, "I didn't kill the shadows. The shadows are in me. YOU are the shadow. And I can't escape."

"I'm your voice of reason Chihiko. Your Conscious. We're a team!"

"I miss Mako."

"You stupid shit. He wasn't real!"

"Get out of my head!"

"I can't."

"It's so cold."

"Then let's start a fire. We could BURN the house down while we're at it."

"I want my island."

"Your island was a prison. This is freedom. We can do anything we want to now Chihiko. No more fantasies. No more lies. I promise."

"I'm going to sleep."

"No Chihiko. You can't. Not now. Not when we're so close!"

"I'm not moving."

"Chihiko stop this! Chihiko… don't… fall… asleep…."

"This is the only peace I'll know."

"Don't…..fall… asleep….."

As Chihiko's consciousness slipped away, he felt himself lifted up and transported far away from that house of the dead and the dying to a place where a warm, summer breeze lived on forever and the ocean's tide never ceased to greet the shore with its refreshing waters. An endless summer greeted Chihiko as he stood barefoot in the warm sand.

"Mako!" He flung out his arms and ran to the bear.

"Oh Chihiko, how I missed you. My boy!" The bear laughed happily as Chihiko wrapped his arms around him. He growled with approval.

"I want to stay here forever Mako," Chihiko said with his head nestled into the bear's fur.

"You're not going anywhere. Stay Chihiko. Sleep. I know you're tired."

"Yes. I am very tired." Chihiko found himself falling to the ground and leaning against Mako for support, "Will you wake me up in a little bit?"

"Yes Chihiko. But for now just rest."

"Goodnight Mako."

"Goodnight Chihiko. Goodnight."