Chapter 10

The next day dawned slowly over the inn, creating streaks of yellow against the ever-brightening indigo landscape. Ming crept up to the highest point of the roof to watch the sunrise. When the sun peaked over the edge of the mountain, the cat scampered nimbly down to a window. He jumped in, and found all three girls asleep.

Kyra appeared to be the most tired of the three. She slept very quietly on her stomach with her legs outstretched, an arm drooping down the side of the cot. The dimmed lighting made her eyelashes seem longer and illuminated her pale, worn face. For a moment, the feline felt sympathetic towards the poor girl. She probably wasn't used to the harsh pace he had forced on them since escaping from the other world. As he walked past her, he noticed however, that her lips were still curled into a faint smile.

Shannon lay peacefully on her back, and stirred faintly when she heard his light steps approach. Meiling was lying on her side, facing away from him. Ming crept closer to Shannon and waited for her to open her eyes. "Ming…" she acknowledged, glancing down at him and at the two other sleeping girls.

Ming nodded. "It's a little after sunrise. We must hurry and leave now."

He thought he saw her hesitate for a moment. In truth, he felt very guilty for pushing the girls to their limits like this. But he also knew that if he didn't get them to the Lady safely, the consequences would be far worse than fatigue and lowered spirits. Shannon, however, stood immediately and stretched. She held a determined look on her face as she mentally prepared herself for another day of traveling.

Ming crept over to Meiling now. He took a deep breath, and then nudged her firmly. "Meiling! Wake up! It's time to leave!"

He felt her muscles tense, but she didn't answer. He tried again. "Meiling, I know you're awake already. But we must hurry if we're to-"

"-see the Lady! Yes, I know already, damnit!" she suddenly snapped, springing up from her bed.

Ming sighed. Well, at least she was awake and ready to go. Last of all, he woke Kyra. "Hmm? Mum? I want to sleep some more. It's not time for school yet."

Ming felt a pang of guilt sweep over him. He didn't know for sure if she would ever see her mother or her world again. He nudged her a second time. "No, Kyra," he said gently. "It's me, Ming. Open your eyes quickly. We must hasten…"

Her eyes flew open immediately. Something like disappointment and sadness crept into them. "Oh. That's right. I'll be up…"

Kyra gathered herself up slowly, smoothing out the wrinkles in her clothes. She had never felt so faint. Even though she had tired from swimming often, she had never endured what she had endured since the battle back at the park and up to now. Every tendon and joint ached. It was a struggle just to stand, open her eyes, and keep herself from falling.

"Let's get going!" Ming said, scanning the room nervously for any careless signs they might have left themselves. He needed to make sure that no one could pick up clues from this room.

Shannon and Kyra, who was still slightly groggy, made their way toward the wooden door as Meiling huffed at the feline before following after the other two.

"Wait! Where are you going?" Ming hissed after them.

Kyra gave their guide a befuddled look. "You told us to get going…"

Looking exasperated, he replied. "Not that way. You'll be seen if we go through the front door."

"So?" Meiling said irritated. "What do you expect us to do? Go through the window?"

Four figures raced through the forest, where light was starting to seep through, brightening the dark emerald leaves into translucent green.

"I can't believe that you gave out fake money! How could you! You cost us another hour of sleep!"

Ming inwardly sighed, but did not respond to Meiling. Kyra watched in wonder at the duo. She would laugh at the situation if it wasn't so serious. Shannon, who was quiet since the beginning, chose to speak up then.

"Does he know where we are?"

The group slowed in pace.

Ming glanced over his shoulder to see the girls looking at him expectantly. "Who?"

Unwavering dark eyes met his blue ones. "The one behind the attacks. The one who sent that man after us in the park."

The feline paused.


A knock sounded at the heavy double doors, echoing in the nearly empty room with a sound of uncertainty. Someone had returned to him.

"Enter," he said smoothly.

The door opened slowly, and a man cloaked in silver stepped warily forward. He appeared to be bruised all over his body, and his forehead was grazed with a fresh cut. The man lowered his head and bowed deeply.

Ashkar stood, striding towards him. "So what have you to say for yourself, Leithien? Did you fail to do what I asked?"

He trembled slightly. "The Magheirs' powers far exceeded what I had anticipated, my lord. Even without the talismans, they could sense my every move, my very presence…I could not even harm them…"

Leithien's words softened in volume, trailing off. Ashkar looked at him thoughtfully, speaking more to himself than to the assassin. "If you cannot defeat them when they are at their weakest, how can you expect to kill them when they are stronger? Perhaps your death will not be from my hands but maybe theirs…?"

Leithien said nothing.

Ashkar smiled. It did not reach the dark king's cold eyes. Leithian avoided his master's masked yet calculating gaze, but could feel it burning on his skin. He fidgeted nervously, swallowing hard.

"I will allow you one more chance, Leithien." He said softly. The man before him stilled, listening carefully. " I've sent out scouts already. I want you to work with them, find the three, and kill them. Do you understand me?"

The assassin nodded feebly, turned, and left through the door.

Ashkar made his way emotionlessly to the balcony, where he observed the land below. After a few moments, he recognized a shadow running into the forest, ready to carry out his orders. He smiled.

Slowly, one by one, the group entered into the light mist of the cavern. The musical melody of trickling water enveloped the girls as they stared in awe at the constantly changing patterns on the rocky walls: white dancing lines, the reflections of water. The atmosphere was lukewarm and pleasant and relaxed the travelers' tense muscles. Curiosity replaced the apprehension that was gathered up within them. Before the teenagers even realized it, the slightly lit pathway ended into a small arena-like area. Glancing around, the girls noticed six other doorways, equally spaced throughout the dome that also reached into this place.

"All seven pathways lead to here," Ming said, noticing their inquiring looks.

Kyra looked up, trying to see the top but saw only glittering darkness. Thin stray lights of blue bounced up and down upon the rocks. "Where do the other paths start from?"

Ming's eyes zoned in elsewhere. "Not important. Well… we are here."

In front of them was a large circular pool of cerulean, unlike any blue that they have seen. The surface appeared soft, its waves gently rising like a silk scarf blown in the cool breeze. White light emanated from the pool though greeted their eyes without harm. Stones guarded the edges of the pool, glimmering silver every time a blue ray hit it.

"Jump in."

Meiling started, looking incredulously at their guide. "Excuse me?"

The feline stared unblinkingly back at them. "Jump in." And with that said, he disappeared into pool. The girls gasped, unable to see the cat disappear into the depths. The pool was left looking untouched or disturbed.

Kyra stepped up to the place where Ming had disappeared and stared down into it. She glanced at Meiling, who shrugged and said, "After you."

She nodded, and sighed inwardly. If they had followed a talking white cat this long, they might as well continue to do so. She took a deep breath, and jumped in. For a moment, she felt a cool sensation tickling her skin, hardly like liquid at all. She felt disoriented, as if she was floating in space…

And then she was standing on solid ground, in front of a raised stone platform. She looked around her. Ming was standing to her side, his tail swishing back and forth. A moment later, Shannon and Meiling appeared next to her. The feline nodded towards them. "It's a safeguard against any enemies," he explained. "Only you three are allowed to pass through into this place. Now, shall we continue?"

He made his way in front of them and jumped onto the circular platform. In the center stood a small pedestal. He motioned for the girls to close closer. "Hold onto it, and hold on tightly," he warned.

His words proved true as soon as the three had all laid hands on the stone. They felt the circular platform beneath them shift violently, shuddering. Suddenly a crack sounded and the whole platform, excluding a small area around the pedestal where they stood, was violently thrown upward into the darkness where white stars seemed to smile down upon the group.

"Off! Off!" Ming cried, hurrying off the area and back onto where they had started. The girls leapt off, just as what seemed like cobalt ribbons of water shoot up from all sides of the pedestal. A soft spray of liquid played in the air, glimmering like small jewels. A strong wind blew pass them, playfully lifting at the girls' strands and clothing and abruptly the whole room seemed to glow blue, sparkling white here and there. The breeze of dazzling gems in the air swirled powerfully around the fountains and pedestal, and finally struck at the dais with a blast of cool air. The girls fell upon their knees, feeling the burst of dew against their faces and raised arms.

The bright light subsided into a soothing glow from the pedestal, and a harmonious voice spoke up quietly to the girls with a gentle tone that echoed in their minds. "I'm relieved that you have finally arrived, safe and sound."

The teenagers looked up, surprised of what they saw. They had all wondered what the Goddess of Peace would look like. In their dreams, the Goddess of Peace seemed to be veiled, her appearance subdued and slightly hazy. But now that they were finally here, the trio saw clearly of the guardian of Gaia. Before them stood a beautiful woman in a flowing robe upon the dais, as if frozen in time, wrapped around in an aura of elegance. She had a soft look on her face that held a peaceful and calming expression. Long, wavy hair cascaded down her back and several strands of lone bangs fell over her wide eyes. He eyes captured her guests in fascination for her eyes reflected back at them like mirrors; the aspect was not frightening but rather intriguing. Her mouth was turned up in a warm smile and her arms reached out in welcome. Wisdom and knowledge radiated from her yet there was a sense of sorrow that came with it. The goddess's skin was smooth and clear, which held a strange silver tint…

Kyra gasped, the same moment of which Meiling cried out in disbelief.

"You're a statue!"

Even Shannon seemed taken back by the revelation. How could it be that the Goddess of Peace, who entered into their dreams and sought them out to save Gaia, be a statue?

The goddess's sweet laughter washed over them and they fell back into a tranquil trance.

"I am. I have been stuck here for centuries but have still been able to wander in spirit, and communicate to others when night falls and all is at rest. Ah… I can sense the questions racing through your mind," The divinity said softly with a smile in her voice. "I am sorry that I could not explain more on the situation before having you transported into this world. What a frustrating trip it must have been for you with the lack of answers. I assume that you still remember what I have told you in your dreams…?"

The girls nodded vaguely, enchanted by the overwhelming kindness and sympathy that seem to pour out of the Goddess of Peace. Ming sank down, curling up into a ball, his ears twitching a bit as the goddess continued on.

"Gaia is composed of many nations However, the foremost concern shall be on the three main countries: Daisk, Azuria and Kioske. The royal family of Daisk has been massacred, and through intimidation and brutal force, Ashkar has gained control. The people are quite divided in opinions but the fact remains that none will, or can, stop him. No one knows what he is up to but I can assure you that he is not up to good. It is in his blood that he yearns for power. Kylin, the first who started this curse upon Gaia of darkness falling every 777 years… his dream was to dictate over Gaia and Earth. This dream still runs true in his family. If nothing is done, Ashkar will fulfill his family's wish. It has been several months since the takeover of Daisk but this road that Gaia seems to be heading to lays only chaos. This is why I have summoned you.

"During this period, the magheirs are called upon and it is their duty to keep Gaia from slipping into the darkness by being guardians of light. Magheirs are well respected though after centuries come to pass, the prophecy becomes somewhat of a myth or a forgotten story to the people; it is the destructive flaw of mankind. Only few know of the coming doom upon Gaia. The royalties of Gaia do keep records of these times of need, but I assume that the documents gather dust over time. However, things will fall into place and the three of you shall find your positions among the nations. This is your destiny."

The girls digested the goddess's words though did not understand. They could not help wondering if it was all a dream—the entire situation seemed so surreal. How were they supposed to save Gaia when they had no means of doing so?

"You have forgotten about what I have said about Gaia." The Goddess of Peace broke through their thoughts. "This is a world of magic and there is magic in you. It is in your blood. Remember, you have descended from the ancient race whose specialty is magic. Your first mission is to prepare for the final battle against Ashkar for the deliverance of Gaia. Learn all you can about your enemy and his ways in order to formulate counter attacks. Beware, he is clever and can sense when there is rebellion against him. Gather your talismans for they will give you your powers. Seven talismans for each of you must be recovered. You must equip yourself carefully for the final battle.

"Secondly, you are needed to win against Ashkar in the final battle. Everything leads up to that moment and it is no exaggeration when I say Gaia rests in your hands. Not only that, Earth will also be on stake. The fate that lies for the two worlds depends on the outcome of the battle. There is much to be done."

Review Replies

QuestionableChains: Thanks for the comment I need to take some time to read and update myself with your work again. I really like your writing D The poems are great! Haha procrastination xD Can you believe we're seniors already? Craziness. I'm still in denial, I don't know about you. Hope your summer was very fun-filled! When's school for you? Take care!

SpawnMeister666: HAHAHA Your review just cracked me up. That's a real bummer that your stuff is gone now ( Get your comp fixed soon! How has your writing been? You had a rabbit muse right? Mine's a penguin. Ehrm, back to the point, I've been MIA but do miss your work. Your writings are great sighs so sorry Spawny because of what's going to happen next. I hoped it wasn't so but it is. Once again, I'm apologizing ahead of time for the agony you're about to go through. groans can't believe we came so far yet... heaves another sigh

EyriNyx: Yes, it was an unfortunate loss. I was really sad about it too tear The Leithian story you will find out later. It would've been in the next chapter or so but... sighs So eventually you will find out xD And yes, that was a fish head. Hey, who was your sci teacher in 10th grade? I had Nelson. Did you watch the science video? This is where the inspiration came from. There was a clipping about a fish and the sea cucumber and it was so gross. The narrator was like 'The sea cucumber and (insert fish name i forgot) share an intimate relationship. When danger draws near, the inserts it's tail into the sea cucumber's anus where it finds much protection.' I'm not lying! It was so gross, the whole class was in ruckus after that xD

A/N: You know what irks me? Chapter 9 and this chapter (10) was written in a matter of hours by sky77 and I (aqua-angel) the day, I repeat, the day right after chapter 8 was posted. Yes, that's right. Chapter 9 and 10 was written and done the day after chapter 8 was posted. That's what annoys me: the fact that we finished so quickly but didn't really "edit" unil more than one year after. Gah! The irony of it all...