Chapter 1: The Eye of God
Shayla-Shayla hung back to the doorway to the room. It was one of the many control rooms inside the Eye of God. She looked at him with a glum expression. Since the defeat of the Bugrom, Makoto had been working day and night to get 'her' back. She hoped the council would say 'enough' and forbid Makoto from working, studying, and investigating this most holy object. But her hopes were in vain. Most felt either Makoto deserved the chance to return to his own world after saving El-Hazard or feared what the Demon God would do there. Those few members opposed to Makoto's plan were quickly shouted down by Fatora and more quietly, by Rune. After weeks of watching him, her crush on him diminished as he made progress. Success was close, she could see it in his eyes. She tried to get him to stop, to forget Ifurita and come to her, but he was too wrapped up in his work and naive to notice.
Makoto wasn't the only one learning how the Eye of God worked. Shayla-Shayla was also learning. It was part of her plan to get close to him. She asked questions, took an interest in his project. She understood enough to sabotage his hopes. It was a stupid idea. He'd know instantly. You didn't need special powers to figure out why it didn't work. She also learned something else. Makoto's progress was moving way too quickly. All the complexities and capabilities of the Eye of God would have made singling out a single task nearly impossible. But that's just what was happening. When they first started, Makoto made a comment about the history of science on his world. "Research was never a straight line from start to finish. There are always tangents, accidents, and unexpected discoveries appearing. By the time we're done we will understand much more about the Eye of God than simply crossing dimensions."
To an extent he was wrong, this research project moved smoothly and on schedule. Shayla-Shayla took the job of watching Makoto, to make sure he delved into forbidden knowledge. Actually everything about the Eye was forbidden. But she was expected to try to keep Makoto on a straightest course possible. She half expected to be pulling him away from screens, interfaces, and devices ten times a day, but it didn't happen. Makoto's searches for knowledge were always short, the files in question practically leaping to the screens. The first day they discovered part of the nature of the flow of time between worlds. Makoto quoted someone called Einstein in saying: Time was relative. As little or as much time as Makoto wanted would pass on Earth. He even said he could go back in time so he wouldn't have to do his homework the night before he came to El-Hazard. After that discovery, Makoto was much more laid back. He had all the time he wanted to retrieve his love. Of course he didn't take advantage of it. From dawn til dusk and often way after that, he would study the Eye with a blend of casualness and urgency. It was Shayla-Shayla making the random discoveries, an interesting device here, a bit of trivia there. She was the one in danger of learning forbidden knowledge. Makoto's tangents were hardly serious. The Eye's influence over time and space was part of how it granted people's special abilities. Makoto did not investigate further, but Shayla-Shayla did. She discovered the Eye had erred, granting the wrong abilities. She was shown failed attempts leading to time paradoxes. If Ifurita was not freed and sent into the Eye, she could not have sent the Earthers here in the first place. The Eye would simply erase that timeline and try again. The Eye seemed to learn from its mistakes. Makoto's power was constant, but the others had different powers. It was interesting, watching how each Earther developed their current abilities, though not always pleasant. To watch Fujisawa impale himself on a rock while running at unheard of speeds while drunk was not enjoyable. Nor was Nanami's growth when Shayla-Shayla saw herself get crushed under her big feet.
But those days were over. Shayla-Shayla knew they were close. As if the Eye wanted them to be finished so they'll leave. Makoto said the two words Shayla-Shayla was both waiting and dreading to hear. "It's ready." he said.
"'Furita return? Makoto be happy?" Ura asked as she stirred from her nap.
"So, how soon will 'she' be returning?"
"I'm sorry. Do you want me to get the others?"
"No, the dimensional static isn't clear yet."
Ura made herself comfortable in Makoto's lap. He scratched her as he explained, "When Ifurita sent us to El-Hazard, she not only sent us through space, but through time. Doing so caused a kind of a temporal backlash around the ruins. It will take a day on Earth for it to subside."
"But you said when she sent you here, her energy was weak. Are you sure she'll last a day?" Shayla said with more concern than she thought she had.
"Don't worry. I've used the Eye of God to transmit her enough power to keep her alive. I also activated her flight and invisibility powers to keep her hidden until I can retrieve her."
"You've activated her powers without asking?" Shayla accused in a tone which surprised both of them.
Makoto looked embarrassed, "It's not like that! It was necessary. I told her what I was going to do but she fell unconscious after sending me here. I had no choice."
Shayla lost her hard look and sighed, "I suppose she trusts you enough. It's not as if you'll do something like that maliciously. So we gotta wait a day, huh?" She stretched, "Good, I need to stretch my legs."
"Haven't you learned anything here?" Makoto said with a smile, "Time passes at different rates. With this, I can control the flow of time between our two worlds. I'll allow enough for me to finish the calculations on working the portal. It shouldn't take long."
"So you're not going to give Fujisawa or Nanami the change to go home?"
"We already talked about it. Sensei is not going even if he had the chance. And Nanami...she really didn't say why. But she wanted to stay. I just don't think she wants to leave her brother behind."
"Yeah, no way that bug-loving brother of hers will leave." she muttered. But she knew the real reason. Nanami still had her eyes on Makoto, just like her. But unlike her, Nanami wasn't even trying. She just stayed in her restaurant. Trying to sound cheerful she said, "Speaking of which, hows about I go down for some grub before going back? Hate to interrupt the reunion by a growling stomach."
Shayla's reminder made Makoto realize how long it's been since he last ate. "Yes, please. Nanami knows what I'll want."
Shayla turned to leave when Makoto said, "Thank you, Shayla."
It was times like this when she knew just why she fell for him. She felt the pain in her heart by knowing they'd never be together. She stewed in this thought as she flew down to Floristica to "Nanami's Lunch Box". The lunch crowd was dying down. Most of the people there were eating. The waitresses there looked like they were ready for a break. Nanami saw her right away, "The usual?" she asked.
"Yeah and make one for Makoto too."
"That's easy enough... So how's it going?" she asked as she led the fire priestess into the kitchen.
"He says he's ready. It looks like he'll succeed."
"Yeah right. You don't like any more than I do. Listen, you have the chance to go home. Why aren't you taking it? And don't give me any of that crap about your brother. I know you'd love to be as far away from him as possible."
"Well there's the Phantom Tribe. You need my powers to spot them."
"If that were true, you'd be a permanent figure in the Royal Court. They've all retreated to their caverns. We leave them alone and they'll do the same for us. Or weren't you here when their new leader sent that message?"
"So what's to go back to?"
"Huh? What do you mean? Your family, your friends, your life."
Nanami gave no answer. Just stood there chopping the vegetables. Shayla went to her 'I dare you to disagree with me' stance and said, "I'm waiting for an answer."
Nanami stayed silent. "Humph, I thought so. It's Makoto. Well face it lunch chic, we lost. We lost to a wind-up doll stuck in your home world in another time. There's nothing neither of us can do but accept it."
Nanami cut the final piece of carrot with a hard chop, "Oh like you've been, spending every waking moment helping him. You haven't accepted defeat, you've totally surrendered!"
"At least I helped him instead of running away. Maybe if you spent some time with him, you just might understand how he feels!" Shayla countered, her headband jewel flaring.
"I was with him since childhood!"
"Well that might have been good if he was a child. But he's a man now. He's grown up." Shayla paused to calm down "Look Nanami, from what I understand of what he's doing, the portal to your world can only occur twice. The first time brought you here, the next is going back for Ifurita. If you pass up this chance, you won't get another. Think fast and think hard, little lady. You're life is going to change forever soon, so you'd better be sure you're on the right path." With that she grabbed the boxes and left.
There was one last place to go. She knew what he'd say, but if Makoto wasn't going to tell him she would. Carefully she knocked on Fugisawa's door. He wasn't a sensei any more. That title was dropped after the Bugrom were defeated. With his marriage to Miz, he already made the decision to stay. His new title was Royal Champion. He'd use his powers on heroic quests for Roshtaria with his wife and generally be a hero.
Miz answered the door. She stayed basically the same. Except she was now a lot happier since she stopped complaining about her age. "Oh Shayla. Well this is a surprise. Have they chosen a new chief water priestess yet?"
The School of Water was never very popular and few of the trainees wanted to go all the way to Great Priestess. The theocracy allowed her to keep her powers despite her resignation "for years of loyal service". The Elemental Council only did that if they felt the former high priestess might be brought out of retirement. "Nope, none of the trainees showed your determination and loyalty."
"I did set a rather high standard didn't I? So if that's not it, then why did you drop by?"
"Your husband. He needs to be told something."
"It's about Makoto isn't it? I'll get him. Oh my champion....!" She called out into the house.
"Oh it's you Shayla. What can I do for you?" Fuji said a moment later. He was much happier than when he first arrived here. Shayla's favorite drinking buddy cut back when he realized just how good he felt when all the toxins were out of his system. Gone too were his almost trademark sweats. He was a hero and he dressed the part. He now resembled Londs in terms of clothing. Except Fujisawa didn't wear a hat and he had this wide sash with compartments. He called it his utility belt.
"Makoto's ready. I already know your answer, but I have to ask. This is your only change to go home. Do you want to go?"
"Shayla, I am home. Back on earth I was a disgrace of a teacher, an alcoholic and a nicotine freak. Here I've found so much more." he hugged his wife as he spoke, "Now I'm respected and it's respect I have earned. Like it or not Shayla, I'm here to stay."
"Yeah, I kinda figured that. But I do think Makoto will want you there, if only for moral support."
Fujisawa looked at his wife. She nodded and said, "Let's go."
Shayla wasn't surprised when Nanami didn't show up. But the Royal Court's appearance did. "Princess Rune, Princess Fatora, what brings you here?"
Rune looked at the ground for a moment before answering her armor cat, Atto sat at her feet and returned the gaze. "The Council of Nations is growing nervous about Makoto being in the Eye of God. They have decided to indulge his search for Ifurita for one more week. After that he is to be forbidden to set foot on the holy artifact unless there's an emergency. Just like the rest of us."
"Well looks like the Council got ahead of themselves. Makoto's found her and is going back for her right after lunch." Shayla said with fake happiness.
"Ohhh Shayla, that's great." Alliele wooed. She started towards Shayla, but Fatora stopped her with a withering look. Alliele shrunk back looking ashamed, almost fearful. Fatora's new cat, Riho, had arrived some days earlier. Everyone hoped the normal bonding process between master and pet to go quickly, like Ura and Makoto, but it was not. Riho also shrunk back with Alliele but with a look of fear and defiance. Shayla noticed it, but didn't pay it any mind. Fatora hadn't been the same since her imprisonment by the Phantom Tribe. She was always a little bitch, but now she was far worse. Shayla figured Alliele wouldn't let things go too far out of hand. Right?
"Yeah, great. Let's go."
Makoto was dressed in the white ceremonial robes of scholars. They made him look older, more mature. Ura followed him as he moved from council to council checking every knob and display with his power. "Wah Shayla! Don't sneak up on my like that!"
"So how would you like you like me to sneak up on you?" Shayla quipped.
"Ahem, Makoto Mizuhara, the people of El-Hazard are grateful for saving our world when it was at great personal cost to you. We have been willing to accommodate you to retrieve your love by investigating the Eye of God. However this is El-Hazard's most holy, forbidden, and dangerous relics. Once you have brought back the Demon God, you will be barred from again setting foot here save for the most grave of emergencies. Do you understand?" Rune Venus proclaimed.
"Yes Princess Rune. Everything is ready. Save my lunch Shayla, I'm too nervous to eat. Sensei, thank you for everything. I'll be back in a moment."
"Wait, Kid. If you have a second, would you mind explaining what's going on?" Fujisawa asked.
"When Ifurita first sent us here, a link between our worlds was created. By also sending us through time, that link was stretched like a rubber band. But it was unstable, meant only for a brief period of transportation. In a few days, the link would disintegrate causing massive feedback in the Eye of God with unknown results. By going back to Earth and then returning the link is still broken, but in a more controlled result. Until I leave the portal area, the link stays stable. I'll be able to bring her back safely."
"Well I understood everything up to the rubber band part."
"Think about it like this. Earth and El-Hazard are hooked together by a link generated by the Eye of God. As time passes on Earth, the link is pulled harder until it will eventually break. The energy released could possibly create massive feedback in both El-Hazard and Earth. But if I return to Earth and rescue Ifurita, I can safely unhook Earth from the Eye of God, protecting both places. The link needed time to stabilize on Earth. Even though several months have passed here, only a day has passed on Earth. Now the link is at its lowest energy. I can do my job with minimal risk."
"Well let's get to it."
Makoto smiled at everyone and expressed his thanks. With a thought and his power, a green glowing circle appeared at his feet and he slowly sank in.
Chapter 2: Earth
At school Hiashi was a pushed to the front through the crowd of students. It was time for Jinnai's impeachment hearing and Makoto was nowhere to be found. As he sat and prepared a written statement, he glanced at Jinnai's table. There sat the president of the baseball, soccer, and judo club, but Jinnai was strangely missing. "Is the prosecution ready?" the principal asked.
Hiashi was one of those people who always looked like they try to look decent, but for some reason never could. He had one of those tall thin frames which makes any set clothes look like the tailor was off by an inch. His hair was easily tangled. He could comb it at the start of a class and by then end it would look like he slept on it wrong. More often than not, he looked defeated and depressed as if he got half a night's worth of sleep. Yet despite all that was still friendly and helpful towards the other students. Those in the science fiction club, which knew him best, thought of Hiashi as a survivor, someone who went to hell and back and would do it again if necessary. "Sir, our star witnesses is missing. I am, however, prepared to present our other evidence." He responded nervously.
"Last month during the school council elections, Mr.Katuhiko Jinnai made several illegal deals with the people at the defendant's table. All are presidents of different clubs at Shinonome High. The agreement exchanged votes for increased funding. Makoto Mizuhara uncovered this scandal. These accusations have been confirmed by Nanami Jinnai and her camera crew. Additionally I am ready to provide audits of Jinni making good on his promise. Funding of the clubs which supported him have had their budget increased at the cost of those who opposed him."
"Has your missing witnesses left any written statement?"
"Yes, we have hardcopies of their statements made yesterday, hours before their disappearance."
The principle and the other members of the tribunal whispered amongst themselves. "Mr.Hiashi, we have already reviewed the evidence earlier today. In light of current events you case has been proved beyond all doubt." the principal said while standing.
"Which events?" Hiashi asked confused.
"A security camera recorded President Jinnai chasing Mizuhara with a rope. Unfortunately, an aftershock damaged the camera before it could see what happened. We believe Jinnai either kidnapped or murdered Mizuhara. Also we believe Nanami witnessed the event and suffered the same fate. However we have no physical evidence. Jinnai is presently wanted by the police for questioning. His actions have brought shame on our school. His title of president is hereby revoked he is now expelled. Katuhiko Jinnai is no longer a student at Shinonome High School!"
The student body cheered at this turn of events. Hiashi motioned for everyone to quiet down. The principal continued. "Mr.Hirogima, you and the other club presidents are also impeached. Since you were not the mastermind of this fiasco, you will not be expelled. But this will go on your permanent records and you are barred for any school sports. Now we have the current problem of finding a replacement president. Mr.Hiashi, you are the one who began this investigation. You have shown leadership and the other skills necessary for the position. Until the next election, you are the new student council president."
Again everyone cheered, louder this time. Several of his friends patted him on the back in congratulations. He managed not to reveal just how much those friendly slaps hurt. Hiashi found himself hoisted onto the shoulders of his club members and carried from the room. Hiashi felt like he was on top of the world. Only two things worried him, the fate of both Jinnais and Makoto, and Father.
It didn't take long for the thrill of being president to wear off. His first day as president kept him after school past sunset. First was all the papers and forms to fill out, then he had to work on repairing the damage Jinnai's term caused. Briefly he wondered how Jinnai dealt with it, but then he remembered Jinnai had stooges to take care of such menial tasks. It's not like he wanted the position. But ever since he refused to support Jinnai in the election, the science fiction club had no end of financial problems. The first draft of the annual budget cut his club's funding by over 75%. In the first week after Jinnai's election they were regulated to a dingy basement room. The TV and VCR for their weekly movie went mysteriously missing. Members were threatening to quit. A check with the computer and foreign language clubs revealed similar problems. Then Makoto came to him with what he heard. Hiashi only did what he thought was right, everyone else just flocked around him. Maybe they knew better. Maybe he did have leadership potential. "Of course it's more likely Makoto was pulled into an alternate universe." he thought to himself when a teacher and two police officers brought him the news.
His mother had just died. There was a hit and run auto accident on the other side of town. The police were investigating. They asked him if he knew why she was there? Hiashi said he didn't know, but it was a lie. It was to get away from Father. He had been getting worse lately, when the test scores put Hiashi in the 93 percentile. Father kept tearing up the fliers the universities were mailing before Hiashi could read them. Mother said she was going to leave him. When she was established in another town, Hiashi would join her. It didn't seem like much of a plan, but it was better than nothing. Now...now he didn't know what to do. The principal insisted he go home early to grieve, but he didn't want to.
He was commended for his diligence, but was told his father was here to pick him up. They rode in uncomfortable silence. Hiashi could see the anger in his father's eyes and smell the alcohol on his breath. Without another word they went into their small house. Mother had left early this morning and already Father had made a mess of things. Hiashi removed his suit coat when his father softly said, "You knew she was leaving me didn't you?"
"Don't lie to me you little shit!" his father said and grabbed him by his shirt. Hiashi inherited some of his father's looks and height but none of his father's strength. He also inherited a rare variation of lactose intolerance. Concentrations of lactic acid, which normally causes fatigue or even cramps at higher concentrations, were dangerous to his health particularly to his muscles. His body was unable to break down and dispose of it as well as it should. He could eat almost like everyone else since by the time the lactose reached his muscles, it was somewhat diluted to tolerable levels. However prolonged physical activity exhausted him quickly and had even caused bruises where his muscles damaged themselves from their own byproducts. When the doctor first told his family, he joked that contrary to the proverb, hard work could kill him, one normal week of blue collar labor and his body would self destruct. The doctor commented tongue in cheek that he would have no choice but to become an academic or a businessman and make lots of money.
This got his father upset. He was a laborer and felt his son should be too. But Hiashi's condition made it impossible for him to have the same kind of physically-demanding job as his father. All his life, Father berated him for it. Repeatedly he would try to make his son a 'real man', by making him work for hours then punishing him when he collapsed. At first it was just insults, saying he was lazy, but when biology kept winning, his father turned to force. As the years passed, Father got worse. The fact his son was going to be better than him made him jealous. He was used to solving problems with violence, so he used it. When it too failed to make his son more like him, his jealousy turned to anger. Soon Hiashi became the target for anything which made his father mad.
Mother tried to stop him once, but then he turned on her talking about the role of 'traditional' wives. Science fiction was Hiashi's haven, a means of escaping his dark reality. In a sad way, Father's actions helped Hiashi. Too scared to go home, he spent time in the library reading and studying. He first learned what he could about his condition. When he realized it wasn't his fault and accepted who he is, he went into other subjects. His grades steadily improved until he was in the top 10% of his class. He was happier at school. Reading American books and watching American movies taught him fluent English without an accent, science fiction's influence gave him the creativity in writing and an appreciation for the real sciences. He would have left for a private boarding school years ago if he wasn't afraid of what would happen to Mother. But now she wasn't here. There was no one to protect. Hiashi's anger, pain, and frustration were released in an explosion. He regretted what he would say the instant the first word left his mouth. He knew what would happen, but it would have been easier to stop a typhoon.
"Yes she was leaving you! And so was I. You're a pathetic excuse for a husband, a father, a HUMAN! You hit me because I can't have your bulk. Well I don't want it! Your genes aren't a blessing, they're a curse! Unlike you, I think. I dream. I picture a world without you every day. Do you hear me, every day! I earn good grades, the other students like me. Today I became the student council president. And you never noticed. You never cared! You were too busy stuffing your face with noodles and cheap sake. I'm not putting up with your crap any more!" he rebelled struggling to get out of his father's grip. When he finished his piece, he succeeded in freeing himself. Not looking back he grabbed his coat and turned toward the door.
"You...fucking...ingrate!" Father said, grabbing Hiashi by the neck he violently turned him around and delivered a painful jab into his stomach. As his son gasped for air, he continued, "I gave you life, I tried raised you to be a real man. But you went and buried your nose in books like some goddamn lazy scholarly wimp. I work the steel mills. My father spent his life in a factory, making guns for our military. My grandfather was a blacksmith as was his father and his grandfather. I don't care what some doctor says, your blood is that of a laborer and you're going to get that through your dreamin head no matter what. You're gonna stop acting like you're smart and realize your rank. Starting tomorrow you're coming to the steel mill with me every day until you realize your fate of being just what a worthless grunt worker. The low class scum you were meant to be!"
Hiashi gasped for breath. The smart thing would be to agree, to keep Father from hitting him again, but he had gone too far to stop now. "...never...I'm better than that."
Father slapped him across the fact so hard, Hiashi fell over on his back, jacket flying across the room and landing near the door. "You snotty punk. You're never going to be better than your father. I'm gonna havta teach you just like your whore of a mother."
Hiashi started to pick himself up. He could see out the window into the night. A car passed by the house, its headlights reflected off Father's dented car. He hadn't noticed it before since the car was always in bad shape, but now he could see a new dent, a larger one as if he hit something bigger than a squirrel or dog. It wasn't so big as to be a horse or cow that left... "Mother! You killed her! You bastard, you ran over your own wife!" Hiashi accused as he tried to stand up.
The crack of Father's belt across his back was almost as painful as the blow itself. This wasn't the first time Father used the belt. It had happened too many times before. But Hiashi felt this time would be far worse unless he did something. He collapsed on the floor again. "I didn't mean to kill her, but she had to learn who was in charge! <CRACK> No woman leaves me! <CRACK> And no son is going to leave me either! <CRACK> <CRACK>"
Hiashi lost track of the blows, they were becoming one long, continuous strike. Unconsciousness was creeping into his body. "No," he thought, "If I black out now, he'll kill me." With a heroic surge of will, Hiashi rolled over and caught the next blow with his arm. The belt painfully wrapped around his forearm several times. He managed to pull it away from his surprised father. "You give that back and take your punishment like a man you asshole!"
With a scream of such ferocity which surprised even him, Hiashi whipped the belt at his father. The buckle raked across his face drawing blood. Father howled in pain as he fell down in pain and shock. Hiashi saw his chance and ran out the door, dropping the hated belt and grabbing his jacket. He ran into the night, to the only place he felt safe, Shinonome High.
He didn't get two blocks before he heard Father's voice, screaming for him to return and swearing like crazy. He kept running. Then there was the familiar sound of a rusting motor starting. Hiashi turned to the alleys, staying out of the lights, running on adrenaline on an erratic path to the school.
What seemed like hours later, he stumbled into the school's west wing. The quake damage was evident. No one was around. Stumbling past the police tape, fatigue caught up with him and he fell to the floor of a classroom now exposed to the elements. Soon his muscles would fail him. He could almost feel some bruises starting to form in his legs from all that running. He tried to stay conscious, straining his ears for that motor which signified the coming of his killer. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically drained, he fell asleep as his mind cried out in defiance.
He needn't have worried. Father never thought to look at the school. If his condition kept him from doing an honest day's work, it would keep him from a school that was two miles away. Besides, he never liked school so why should his son? It was that sort of logic which driven him to violence and he never realized it. After a few hours of cruising the neighborhood, he gave up and went to a bar in the bad part of town. There, after more than a few drinks, he thought he saw Hiashi defiantly walk in. Drunkenness blurred his vision beyond belief. The only way the man resembled Hiashi was the color of his jacket. He started verbally assaulting his "son". "Hiashi" shouted right back using those big intellectual words the sake kept him from hearing. He had enough and threw his fist back to teach that punk a lesson. There was a pain in his gut then...nothing.
The other man turned over the body of the drunkard with the toe of his shoe. "Who was this fucker?" he asked.
"Just some scum, Wakashira." a tattooed man said with head bowed, his hands cleaning the red dagger.
"You did not need to interfere, he was no threat."
"He showed you disrespect, Wakashira and was about to attack. I did my duty."
The man smiled, "So you have, you are very loyal. Barkeep! Dispose of the body. No one will miss this one."
Hiashi heard a car engine and was awake instantly. The pain from the previous night was still with him and his muscles ached. He almost fainted again. Painfully he pulled himself up. It was almost dawn. The engine was louder, it HAD to be Father's. Without knowing where he was going, he left the room. The sound was growing faint but he could still hear it. But it wasn't an engine, Father's or anyone else's. A painful irony was that the quake dislocated a water pipe. The engine was actually the gurgling of water as it flowed from the pipe to the floor. He continued to move from room to room, the sound of the engine everywhere. When he stumbled past the tennis courts he saw something. A green disk and two figures, locked in an embrace sinking into it. Hiashi knew what it was instantly, a portal to another world. He read enough books and saw enough movies to recognize it. Seeing it as a means of escape, he threw himself at it, diving in a second after Makoto and Ifurita vanished. Portals like this were temporary. Father would never reach him, or so he hoped.
As he fell through, he saw planets, galaxies, stars, the pure wonder of it took his mind off the pain. At least he felt free of Father's terror. Where he wound up, he didn't care? This was the start of a new life. It might last a day, or a century but it would be his.
Chapter 3: El-Hazard
Makoto and Ifurita rose through the portal an instant after Makoto left alone. Everyone was a bit taken by the suddenness. Fujisawa was the first to recover, giving Makoto a friendly slap on the back in congratulations. The princesses were happy Makoto succeeded, but nervous about having the dreaded Demon God with them. "So Ifurita, how are you feeling? Need a wind up?" Fujisawa asked.
"Much better, but weak. Being lost in time and space for one hundred centuries has left my power drained. Even with a full winding by Makoto, I don't think I'll be as powerful as I was when I was reactivated." she answered.
Fatora let out a sigh of relief. The Council of Nations would be pleased to hear Ifurita is no longer a great threat to El-Hazard. Rune took on a more somber expression and said, "Ifurita, the people of El-Hazard are grateful to you in your part to save this world and that you have a will of your own. But as such, you will be responsible for your own actions. Do you understand?"
Ifurita nodded as Rune continued, "Until we can determine the extent of your damage and determine your current power level, I am afraid you will be restricted to the palace. What's more the sanctity of the Eye of God must be reinstated. If you and Makoto are finished here, then I ask that everyone leave."
Makoto and Ifurita were the last ones to leave. "Makoto, as we were coming back, I felt something strange. It wasn't you or us or ... I don't know." Ifurita said.
"I felt it too. But it doesn't matter. It was probably nothing."
Hiashi was asleep in a glen. Sunshine, filtered through the canopy of trees, danced over his eyelids. A brook babbled softly near by. As he returned to consciousness, he could smell the scent of the wildflowers around him. Pushing himself up into a sitting position, he looked at his surroundings. "Beautiful." he murmured.
Slowly he crawled to the brook. Muscles cried out in exhaustion with each movement. After drinking his fill, he collapsed onto his back and let sleep take him.
At the palace, there was a small party celebrating Ifurita's return. The Council of Nations was invited to meet the new Demon God and hopefully alleviate some of their fears. Makoto just gave her a winding and she felt more energetic than she ever felt before. Merry music played in the background for everyone to dance to. Fujisawa took the opportunity to show off some steps he learned in the Alps and was currently holding center stage as everyone clapped in time to the music. One councilman noted Ifurita's expression and nudged his friend, "She hardly seems like the demon god of legend. Look at her, so full of spirit. If she has any of her infamous power left, I'm sure she'd use it to defend El-Hazard."
"I know, I see her and I cannot picture her wielding such terrible force."
But not everyone was happy. Shayla-Shayla leaned against a hallway in the shadow of the ballroom. That was it, her last hope of winning Makoto was gone. She knew it would happen long enough. Ever since she saw the determination in Makoto's face when he first started his quest. She knew he would succeed, but at the same time she silently hoped otherwise. Now Shayla-Shayla would have to settle for being Makoto's friend. That wasn't a bad thing, of course, but after she wanted to be more.... Still she felt happy for him. She wanted to be his friend. The regret she felt had diminishing dramatically after Ifurita returned. It was as if she realized her and Makoto were never meant to be. But still there was some emptiness and heartache. Love does that, even in the best of break ups.
"Priestess Shayla-Shayla!" Londs yelled as he ran down the hall, "There has been a Bugrom siting in the eastern forest."
Great! Something to take her mind off things. "I'll get right on it."
"Umm, shouldn't we also tell the Royal Champion?"
"Nahh let him enjoy himself. This sounds minor anyway."
"Hey don't you listen? I said I'll take care of it!"
"Yes ma'am, but I have my duties."
"Well if I'm not back in two hours, go ahead, tell him. Why spoil his fun? Besides, if he leaves now, the Council will know something's up."
"But he should still be told."
"Look at him. I think he's drunk." Shayla-Shayla said gesturing to Fujisawa. Actually the former teacher was completely sober. Even with the wide range of alcoholic drinks at the tables, he restricted himself to juice. But at the moment he was doing a polka with his wife, a dance no one in El-Hazard had seen before. The band was doing a poor job of playing one so the result was easily misunderstood as being drunk.
Londs made a face at seeing Fujisawa move around like that and figured either he finally cut loose after being alcohol free for so a few days, or Fatora ordered him to drink so the guests will be entertained by his drunken behavior. "Very well Priestess."
Shayla-Shayla ran down the hall as Londs took her place watching the party. Fujisawa's actions didn't seem so haphazard now that he took a longer look. He ordered a guard to keep a look out for trouble. Shayla needed someone to take her frustration out on, but just in case she bit off more than she can handle, a good captain of the guards had a back up.
Over Floristica she raced, her butterfly-like fire wings propelled her at an astounding speed. Finding the Bugrom in the eastern forest was no easy task. Fortunately Makoto stumbled across this neat gadget early on when he was examining the Eye of God. It was a tracking device. Just give it a sample and it would find the biggest source of it. Right now it had a piece of Makoto's school uniform. It had dyes and fibers completely foreign to El-Hazard. Makoto long ago abandoned the uniform preferring a more scholarly wardrobe. But Jinnai, hah! As long as he was student council president, there was no way he would take it off. Last time they tangled it looked worn. She wondered just how much longer he'd wear that thing. Wait, there, a blip. Coming up below her. It wasn't moving, probably a trap. She moved up slowly using the sun to hide. There, that familiar shade of blue. It was a Shinonome High uniform all right. She was too high to make out the details or any Bugrom hiding in the trees around the glen. But one good fireball ought to bring them out. Jinnai was not one to use himself as bait. Shayla-Shayla chuckled to herself, "This is going to be easy." then shouted, "Die Jinnai!" as she lobbed a large red and blue fireball straight down.
Hiashi stuck his hand in the stream and watched the water flow over it. His body still needed time to recover, but he was getting restless. While the glen was beautiful, it was about time to go. He spent the past hour relaxing and formulating a plan of action. The simplest thing to do was to follow the stream. It was bound to flow into a river and a river means a city. After that, he wasn't sure. Hire on a caravan or a mercenary like he did in those role playing games. But there was the language barrier. Well, if he could master English, the local tongue shouldn't be that hard. He'd probably have to sell his school jacket and some other things for pocket money. His mind drifted to school. He wondered what everyone thought happened. They might blame Jinnai for his disappearance. After all, he took Jinnai's old job and led the charge to his impeachment. Hopefully they'll blame Father and find out what he did to Mother. There would be some justice at last. He said a short prayer to his mother, telling her he was all right and that he was able to escape. But then the prayer was interrupted by a woman yelling "Die Jinnai!" from ... above?
He looked up to see a giant fireball headed straight at him. His mind cried out, "Mind to body, MOVE!" as the body was frozen with surprise. The call made it through at the last instant as he leaped out of the way. He could feel the heat of the attack and hear steam from the flash heated brook. Looking up he yelled, "What are you doing? What the hell did I do?"
Shayla-Shayla looked down. Damn bastard jumped out of the way at the last second. Now it looked like he was ordering his minions to attack her. But he stayed in the open. Well if he wanted to make himself a target, Shayla-Shayla was not about to complain. "Well I wonder how the bugs will react when I grab their mighty leader." she commented diving down.
Great, now his attacker was going to get up close and personal. Hiashi couldn't see the details lost in the sun and those weird fire wings. He was frightened. Was he fated to have people attack him for no reason everywhere he went? Options were few. The forest looked thick, no way he'd be able to run through that. His opponent had the home court advantage. Well, it's been a good life...no it hasn't. Most of his life was spent ashamed. Ashamed of what his father did to him. Ashamed of how he looked. Ashamed of his condition and what it had done to him. Ashamed of having to hide his pain from anyone who wanted to be his friend. Ashamed of how he was kept down by his shame. No more. If he was going to get killed, he was going to go down fighting. Anger and frustration built inside him. He didn't risk life and limb by defying Father just to get barbecued by some flying stranger.
The fire wings burst from his body. Orbiting and flowing around him in the same manner as the fire priestess. Hiashi looked at himself and thought, "This changes everything." He crouched down and leapt up at his attacker doing the Flaming Dragon punch from Street Fighter. "Finally," he thought, "all those tokens at the arcade are going to pay off."
At one hundred feet, "Jinnai" produced the fire aura like her. But how? Fifty feet, Shayla-Shayla found herself on the defensive as "Jinnai" came straight at her in a counter attack. It was sloppy and obviously done out of anger, easily dodged. As he flew past, Shayla-Shayla got a good look at him. This was obviously not Jinnai. His face was more rounded and his hair shorter and probably hasn't been combed in days. In fact, the only way he looked like Jinnai was the fact they had the same uniform. "Oops, I think I made a mistake." Shayla-Shayla said to herself.
Hiashi cursed himself for missing, but was determined to get the upper hand. He turned around immediately and shouted "Multi-fireballs!" and began throwing smaller fireballs like baseballs as fast as he could. He wasn't sure how he could do it. Forming the fireballs was almost instinctual. Now he could see his attacker was a young woman about his age. Hiashi was not one to discriminate against age or gender though. Shayla-Shayla concentrated on avoiding the fireballs. She rarely went up against another fire-using opponent, and only once against one using her own powers. "Great," she thought, "an Earther with Ifurita's powers." She reasoned he was probably upset with her about the initial fireball. But that was only a misunderstanding. If only she could make him listen.
The fire priestess charged, reinforcing her fire shield to absorb Hiashi's attacks. Her plan was to stop just short of hitting him, then get him to understand. But right before she was ready to stop, he dived to her right and vanished out of her line of sight. Shayla-Shayla looked around. Up, down turning around in all sorts of directions, but she couldn't see the stranger. "Shit! Don't tell me he can turn invisible too!" she muttered.
She was about to pull out the tracker and scan for Hiashi's uniform when she noticed the Bugrom in the distance. They had been attracted by the fighting. Looks like the Earther will have to wait. Maybe he would have calmed down by the time she found him again. She flew down at the lone Bugrom, unaware Hiashi was hiding behind her facing away.
He had used his fire aura to join with hers, linking them together. Streams of energy flowed from Shayla-Shayla's gems to corresponding points on Hiashi's body. Unless she turned her head or noticed how her fire streams were arched, he'd stay safely hidden right behind her. Hiashi smiled at his own cleverness, taking some comfort in his spur of the moment strategy. He didn't care for having his back to her, but anything else would give him away. Part of him wanted to continue the fight, but he noticed she hadn't done any obvious counter attacks after the first one. His rational side insisted this might have been a case of mistaken identity or some other misunderstanding. Staying hidden and observing her would reveal her true intent. All he had to do was stay quiet. But a yelp of surprised almost escaped his lips when she dove.
The Bugrom saw her and ran away. Shayla-Shayla followed. Her short fight with Hiashi and frustration at losing him got her angry and acting irrationally. The Bugrom led her into a larger clearing where a dozen of his kind lay in wait. Jinnai stood in the center laughing triumphantly. Shayla-Shayla looked around and said, "So if it isn't the big bug himself. So what brings you to the decent people of El-Hazard?"
"My dear Shayla-Shayla, still have a temper don't you. I came here looking for something but when I heard you, I saw a wonderful opportunity to eliminate one of the heroic priestess--huh? Hiashi? What are you doing here?!"
"The gig is up." Hiashi though as he broke his fire link and dropped down to the ground, turning in mid-air. "Jinnai. Everyone was wondering what happened to you."
"What! You were hiding behind me the whole time? Why you---" Shayla-Shayla said, her fire gems glowing brighter.
Hiashi was barely got two words of his apology out when Jinnai ordered, "Now! Get her!"
Several Bugrom, hiding in the bushes, revealed themselves and shot at her with their pistols. But instead of their usual ammunition, they shot out some green goop which covered her. Shayla-Shayla felt her fire aura flicker out and her strength leaving her. Unable to stay airborne, she fell on top of Hiashi who made a failed effort to catch her. "So now, what brings you here?" Jinnai asked as Hiashi got up.
Hiashi kept the barely conscious Shayla-Shayla upright by supporting her on his shoulder, "Oh you know me, I saw a portal in the tennis court, couldn't resist jumping through it."
"I see. Well as school president, I order you to join me in my conquest of El-Hazard." Jinnai demanded followed by more laughter.
"You're not president any more, Jinnai. You've been impeached."
"Huh? Me? Impeached? By who?"
"Actually, by me. You should have never pulled funding for the science fiction club you little despot. While you've been here playing King of the Ant People, I was telling the whole school what you did. Not only that, you're wanted by the police for the disappearance of Makoto and your sister. I've been elected president in your place. As my first official act as student council president, I am informing you that you are now expelled by order of the principal! Take off that uniform, ex-president Jinnai."
"I-I-Impeached? E-E-Expelled? The pride of Shinonome? By you? Errrrrrrrr! I'll have your head for this!" the vein in his forehead throbbed like it was ready to burst, "Kill them my legions!"
"Okkkkkay maybe this was the wrong time to tell him. But you gotta admit, it felt good." Hiashi thought as he turned on his fire aura. Nothing happened. Beside him, Shayla-Shayla moaned slightly. The Bugrom, hesitating in fear of the fire, recovered when it didn't come. Jinnai said, "You fools, the goop worked. As long as she's covered in it, she doesn't have her powers. And if she doesn't have them, then he can't seem to use them either. Get them!!"
Hiashi knew a cue to leave when he saw one. While Jinnai was berating his followers, he took advantage of the distraction and ran off. Once they were out of sight of the Bugrom, he said, "I think there's a stream nearby. We can use that to wash this stuff off."
"OK. ... so you know him?" Shayla-Shayla asked weakly.
"Yeah, but he seems to be just as power hungry here as on my world. Hey, we're in luck."
The stream's course took it close to the clearing. Shayla-Shayla half fell into the water in the rush. Hiashi tried to help wipe the goop off her. "Hey watch the hands!" she shouted after a moment.
"Sorry sorry. Is that enough?"
She took a few deep breaths. "Yeah, whatever that is, its effect doesn't last long once it's gone. Just in time too. We've got company. Look out!" she warned seeing Gommo charge out of the forest.
Shayla-Shayla pulled on the cord to activate her powers, but was a second too late. The Bugrom, Margaret was coming in the other direction ready to sucker punch Shayla. Hiashi tried to warn her, but knew he would be too late. Instead he threw himself at her, knocking her down just as Margaret attack. It punched Hiashi in the back, a scar on its fist healed badly giving it a sharp edge which ripped his jacket along his spine. Shayla sent both Bugrom flying with a fire blast. Looking down, she could see a trickle of blood on the unconscious Hiashi's back. "Shit! Let's go." Using her fire aura, she managed to cradle the larger Hiashi in her arms and took off for home.
Jinnai watched them leave. Frustrated he began yelling at his Bugrom, "How could you let them escape? Now they're going to tell everyone about us being here. Now get started. That treasure is bound to be around here somewhere!"
Hiashi barely regained consciousness as Shayla-Shayla flew him to the castle. The instant his eyes began to flutter open, the priestess's fire wings began emerging from his body as well. "Looks like Jinnai was right for once." she whispered.
But then he fainted again, the pain too much for his exhausted body to handle. His fire wings evaporated. Shayla began thinking. She attacked him without provocation, yet he still risked his life for her like Makoto did. Only this time there wasn't an Ura to protect him. Not a lot of people did nice things for her. Usually her temper kept others away. She didn't mind, she could take care of herself. But seeing Miz and Fujisawa, Makoto and Ifurita got her thinking. "Woah! Almost flew right past the castle. Gotta keep my mind on flying." she said screeching to a halt.
Chapter 4: Palace of Roshtaria
She spied Londs near the ballroom's outside entrance and called out, "Hey! Londs! Get the healers, Fujisawa, Makoto, ah you know who to get!"
"My word, is that--"
"Not Jinnai, another Earther. And he's wounded! Hurry!" Shayla-Shayla shouted flying into one of the guest rooms. Floristica had no official at the palace. Injured guards stayed in the city. Dignitaries and other important people were given guest quarters as they healed. She set him gently down on his side and rummaged around for a towel or anything she could use to clean the wound. Hiashi moaned slightly. Shayla-Shayla remembered about is apparent power and turned off her Lamp of Fire. She couldn't risk his throwing fire in his semi-conscious state Hiashi rolled over on his back before Shayla-Shayla could find what she needed. Instead she rushed to his side and tried to coax him awake. Damn, where were those healers?! She is a priestess, not a doctor. The he muttered, "Shinonome Health Group, member number 4394F1995, insurance agent Jannius Hiriko."
"Hey there, don't go delirious on me. Start talking sense."
"Where am I?"
"Floristica, capital of Roshtaria. You're in one of the palace's guest rooms."
"You ... flew me here didn't you? After that giant ant..."
"Yea, you saved my life. Twice. And I attacked you. I'm sorry."
"You mistook me for Jinnai."
Shayla laughed with a hint of embarrassment, "Well you had on the same uniform. No one else wears that material. Even Makoto gave his up weeks ago."
Hiashi snapped back to full consciousness and instantly regretted it, "Makoto's here too? How?"
She was about to answer when the door burst open. Fujisawa charged in and gasped, "Hiashi?! It is you! I had no idea. What happened?" He was followed by Makoto, Miz, both princesses, Ifurita, Londs, and a trio of healers.
"Some Bugrom punched him in the back. That big one which you slammed that big rock on its arm. The scar cut him real bad."
The healers pushed their way through and turned Hiashi over. "The wound looks minor." one said, "But we'll have to remove the jacket to be sure."
"Leave it to me." Fujisawa said as he prepared to finish ripping the jacket in two.
Just then Hiashi remembered something, "No." he tried to say, but was too tired to make himself heard.
<RIIIIIIIPPPPPPPP> Fujisawa easily tore the damaged jacket, dress shirt, and t-shirt in two and pushed them aside so the healers could apply their craft. Then everybody gasped in shock. All over Hiashi's back were small scars and welts, large bruises of various colors, even a few old circular burns. It make the cut from Margaret's scar seem almost insignificant. Hiashi could do nothing but try to hold back his tears of shame. Fujisawa recovered and said in an even tone, "HE did this didn't he?"
"Yes, Sensei" came the barely audible response.
"Champion, we must tend to these injuries." the lead healer said nudging Fujisawa out of the way.
"All right, everybody out. Give the poor kid some privacy." Fujisawa said making shooing motions with his arms. He was the last one to leave. Before passing through the doors, he looked back at his former student and softly said, "I'm sorry." Both to Hiashi and himself.
After he closed the doors, Miz asked, "What happened to him? That was no Bugrom attack. Fuji, tell us."
"Miz, go to the house and collect all the booze. Use your powers to make sure you get it all. Then dump it down the nearest sewer."
"Fuji! What are you talking about?"
"Please, Miz." Fujisawa finished as he left the group.
"Makoto?" Miz asked.
"Sorry. I'm just as surprised as you. Maybe Nanami knows."
"I'll stay here." Shayla-Shayla volunteered.
Minutes later, Fujisawa was pounding a fallen tower to rubble. While Ifurita was under Jinnai's control, she knocked over several of the castle towers. It had taken a while but recently construction teams began to clear the destroyed walls. "Why!!!" he shouted accenting his question with a shattering punch to a large brick. "Please God, send me back to Earth for a day! An hour! Five minutes! Just give me the chance to wring that bastard's neck!!"
Fujisawa continued his unanswered pleas while taking out his frustration and anguish on the destroyed tower. Miz stood away watching him with tears in her eyes. Never had she seen him this upset. Never had he even hinted at wanting to go back to Earth before now. What would have this effect on the strongest man in El-Hazard? When Fujisawa finally sat down in exhaustion, she ran to him. He was muttering, "I should have known. Should have done something. It wasn't his allergy."
"Fuji, what happened. Please tell me." she said gently rocking him.
"I remember it so well now. On Earth several months before I came to El-Hazard..."
Fujisawa entered the bar after a long day of classes. This wasn't his usual pub, but he was thrown out of his favorite one last night for starting a fight. Like it was his fault that other guy spilled his beer. After a couple of cold ones, he thought he saw Hiashi. "Hiashi," he said, "you shouldn't be here."
The man stood up. Fujisawa knew instantly he made a mistake, "I'm not that little bookworm, I'm his father."
"Sorry, my mistake. Care to join me? First round's on me, friend." the teacher offered to keep the peace.
Actually he bought the first several rounds. There was something about his body language which intimidated Fujisawa. "That kid's nothing but trouble. He has no respect for tradition."
"Come on, with so many possibilities out there, who can blame today's youth for taking new kinds of jobs. This isn't the Middle Ages. I should know. I teach history."
"Is that what your father did?"
"Well errr. Yeah, he was a teacher." Fujisawa lied. OK so Dad was a thief, a poacher, but he did teach him stealth and some karate, so technically he wasn't lying.
"So that's what you should be. We were meant to stay in our social ranks. Been that way for thousands of years and things were fine. Now kids got these stupid ideas in their heads and look at society now. Sons defying their fathers, yakusa running wild, foreigners invading our country!"
Fujisawa knew it was only a half truth. The problems of today paled with the attitudes and crimes from the past. How social standing was rigorously enforced, people were frequently killed for showing even a hint of disrespect for their lord. But the other man's attitude and fearsome build kept him from speaking.
"Kids these days have to be kept in line and I'm going to make sure mine do what is expected of him. Thanks for the drinks." he finished a long pull of beer and left.
"I asked Hiashi about his father the next day. He didn't say anything. I went to the principal, but he couldn't do anything on the word of a drunken teacher. We knew he bruised easily so it made it that much harder to get the principal to think something was wrong. I kept trying, sure something was up. But he transferred to the Western History classes at the end of the semester and has avoided me ever since. Soon I forgot about it, hoping another teacher will notice. No such luck." Fujisawa finished putting his head in his hands.
"Oh Masamichi. I'm so sorry. You did what you could."
"You're wrong and you know it. I could have done more. Much more. Even if it meant having to give up my teaching career, I should have tried harder." He hugged her close. A side effect of his super strength was his sub-conscious taking control of his powers. This allowed him to juggle giant boulders and still give a big hug to his wife without having her vital organs shoot out her ears.
Above them, hiding near a window near Hiashi's room, Shayla-Shayla watched and heard every word. Hearing Hiashi's story made her angry. She knew he didn't dive through the portal out of curiosity, but to escape his father. She wanted to take it out on him as much as Fujisawa did. But she knew it was probably impossible. Unless he also came to El-Hazard. She thought about it for a moment, struggling to recall everything she learned about the Eye of God. Makoto liked to leave a bit of room to spare in his calculations. He gave enough energy to the portal for himself, Ifurita, the some more for the unexpected. Now considering how much energy was left in the link, there should be just enough to safely send one more person here. If Hiashi's father did try to follow him through the portal, he would be lost in time and space forever. A decent punishment, though far from the one Shayla-Shayla preferred. Of course, that assumed he even had the chance to enter the portal in the first place, which was very unlikely. She went to tell Hiashi the news. But he was asleep when she entered the room through the window. Afura was there studying him. "Hey Afura, what are you doing here? I thought you were headed back to Mt.Mooldun."
"I was until I heard about him. Does he have any special powers?"
"We don't know for sure yet. But I think he can duplicate any active abilities around him. When I ... mistook him for Jinnai, he wound up throwing fireballs at me and copying my wings perfectly. And when Jinnai hit me with that goop, he couldn't use any of my powers until we washed it off."
"Goop?" Afura asked in her 'why didn't you mention this before' tone.
"Oh right, almost forgot. The Bugrom have this new weapon. This crud drained me of my strength and powers until wiped off. We'll have to be careful from now on."
"Hummm you say he couldn't do anything unless you could too?"
"That's what I figure. He's pretty smart though. Figuring out how to use his powers so quickly."
"You're probably right. One of Londs's scouts reported the same thing. I also felt something at the shrine a while ago, a type of duplicity. Like the kind we feel during meditation and another uses her elemental powers. Except then, there were two." Afura moved closer to Hiashi's side looking cross.
"Hey what are you doing?" Shayla-Shayla demanded.
Afura Mann raised her arm and prepared to attack the helpless student. "You know the rules. No man may use the powers of the priestesses."
Shayla-Shayla got between Afura and Hiashi, "You didn't try blasting Ifurita at the party, even though she could use our powers too."
"<SIGH> Ifurita is a woman, or however close she can be to one. The laws of the Priestesshood are quite clear. 'Any man caught using the sacred powers of the Priestesses shall be put to death.' It's been that way ever since the Lamp of Rock was lost."
"That's a misinterpretation of the law written eons ago and you know it! Back then it refereed to anyone outside the Sisterhood and it was meant to protect our secrets, not to murder innocent people! Besides we don't even know if he can really do that."
"How he got his powers doesn't matter. You admit yourself that you saw him use your elemental flame. I don't see why you are protecting him."
"Maybe because I'm obeying the spirit of the law. At least he deserves a fair trial." Shayla-Shayla's headband flared a bright glowing flame. "Can you stand there and tell me our predecessors knew that one day another-worlder will drop into El-Hazard and be granted the ability to use our elemental powers instinctively? We trained for years, learned forbidden knowledge, given unique devices to channel our powers. THAT is what the law was meant to protect. To keep spies away, not men who have the talent for elemental magic. How can you stand there and try to justify murder, Afura?"
"Enough! You're neglecting your sacred duty!" Afura finished by creating a sudden gust of wind, sending Shayla-Shayla out the window. She prepared to execute Hiashi briefly wondering why he hasn't awakened yet. The healers used special plants with healing properties in balms and salves they used on Hiashi. But these plants also had large doses of lactose instead of sugar. Worse, they were applied directly to the skin to sooth the muscles first. No one else knew it, but he was close to death's door even without Afura's summary judgment.
Afura took a moment to prepare her blast. She rarely used it because it was so draining. A small cyclone formed between her outstretched hands. In the vortex a white-blue sphere of energy grew. When she was about to release it, Fujisawa broke down the door. "Stop!" he yelled putting his foot down, literally.
The room shook causing Afura to miss, her power blast blew Hiashi's sheet off as it arced to the ceiling. Afura got a good look at his condition. The healers found more of his father's attacks and also wrapped his arms and legs in medicated bandages. For an instant, Afura felt pity for him. But that emotion was washed away by something foreign. The energy in the cyclone circled up and came straight down into Hiashi's chest. It dissipated throughout his body doing no damage. Wisps of white smoke floated away from his body. His eyes fluttered open just as Shayla-Shayla rocketed inside.
"He-he wasn't hurt." Afura gasped.
"Just what do you think you're doing?" Fujisawa asked grabbing Afura by the shoulder.
"She was going to murder him." Shayla-Shayla answered.
"He was using the sacred powers of the priestess." Afura stated as if that justified her actions.
Miz spoke up, "Afura, that law was meant to keep outsiders from learning our secrets."
"The law is the law and it must be obeyed!" Afura dictated.
"Well I don't know what law you're talking about, but if it demands cold blooded murder, then it should be examined. Afura, I expected better than that from you." Fujisawa said.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on?" Hiashi said sitting up.
"You were using the powers of the Great Priestesses. That is an offense punishable by death." Afura said casually.
"Wait, that law hasn't been enforced for thousands of years, if it ever was. Come to think of it, all the laws of the Sisterhood were reexamined a century ago. Who knows, maybe that law has been rewritten or even nullified. We must journey to the holy library and find out. All of us." Miz said, finger on her chin trying to remember.
"Death?" Hiashi said shocked, "You mean you were trying to kill me?!"
"I was doing my scared duty. It was nothing personal."
"Hey wait a minute." Fujisawa interrupted, "Why weren't you hurt by Afura's blast?"
"We think he has the power to use any active elemental magic, including that of the Priesthood. He might also be able to draw and absorb it into his body for healing." said Shayla-Shayla.
"Boy Shayla, that sounded smarter than anything I've heard you say before. What happened?" Afura said sarcastically.
"What do you mean by powers?" Hiashi asked Shayla-Shayla.
"So far everyone from Earth who came to El-Hazard gained some sort of ability. Fujisawa got super-strength, Jinnai can communicate with the Bugrom, Makoto can use the devices of the ancient El-Hazardians, and Nanami can see through illusions." she explained.
"And I have a power which may be illegal. Just when things were starting to look up. Well how soon do we leave? I hate this uncertainty."
"Just a minute young man. You're still injured. You're in no shape for travel." Fujisawa said.
"I feel fine. Just a little hungry that's all." Hiashi insisted. His stomach seconded the motion.
"Just how long has it been since you last ate?" Shayla-Shayla asked.
Hiashi thought back, he had to skip lunch and dinner yesterday due to all the paperwork his new position required. Breakfast was forgotten for years since it meant he had to spend more time at home. So his most recent meal was an instant ramen package almost two nights ago. "Long enough." he said blushing.
"Well if the executioner can wait for the trial, maybe we can get something to eat." Shayla-Shayla said throwing a look at Afura.
"Very well. Go ahead."
Afura sat by herself on the roof of a tower looking over the city. Why was she in such a hurry to kill someone in his sleep? The law was just an excuse, a way to justify and coax her into acting. But the way her friends defended him, questioned the law...threw everything into doubt. She would never admit it, but Shayla-Shayla was right. Regardless of the letter of the law, Hiashi was a unique case and didn't break the law's spirit. There were still the dreams. She's been having them every night for the past week. The Lamp of Rock being stolen by a man. Seeing it being hidden in some anonymous cavern. Someone in a blue coat finding it and causing great destruction. At first she thought it was Jinnai, but with Hiashi and his powers she wasn't sure. He seemed like a good person. He was a friend to some of the people she trusted without question. So why? She thought hard about the last part of the dream. Was the finder of the Lamp causing the damage or was it coincidence?
Before her a ghostly image of a man appeared. His face was old, eyes blazing with evil. The expression on his face was stern anger. "You must kill him! Has he not broken the scared law?"
"I do not know. The law might have been changed." Afura said as if in a trance.
"It doesn't matter. He is a threat to my plans. Obey me or your friends shall suffer as well." the image said and silently vanished.
Afura snapped to attention. There was that weird feeling again. She's been having it more and more these past few days. "What is going on? Am I losing my mind?" she said to herself. Something inside told her to kill Hiashi, but another part wanted to find the truth before acting. She put her face in her hands and tried to sort everything out.
Chapter 5: Floristica
Down at the Lunch Box, Nanami was holding a private welcoming party for Hiashi. She pestered him for details about the trial and the results. Fujisawa earlier and in private told her, Makoto, and Ifurita what Hiashi's father did to him. Nanami, tactfully, avoided the subject. "So how did that dumb brother of mine act when you told him he was expelled?"
"He got so pissed I thought that vein in his forehead would explode. 'Errr I'll have your head for this!'" Hiashi said doing an excellent impersonation of Jinnai. "Having his own private army has done wonders for his ego." Without a complete school uniform he was given an El-Hazard shirt to wear. It had several shades of red and blue with stars on the shoulders. It felt unusual to be wearing it. The shirt was baggy, hanging loosely over his taller frame. He wondered who it was made for as he tried it on. Still it was the best shirt out of the bunch. After wearing suits and ties for so long, it was almost second nature. More than once he tried to adjust a tie which was not there.
"He's gotten worse, if you can believe that. Lousy kid." Fujisawa commented.
"I still can't believe Afura tried to kill you. I never expected she would be capable of it." Makoto said.
"Yeah, what's up with Afura? She hasn't even been in here for a week." Nanami said sadly, "Is something wrong with her?"
"Don't know. Hopefully we'll find out at this library." Shayla-Shayla answered.
"How far is it?" Hiashi asked.
"If we take the air boats and leave first thing in the morning, we'll be there by noon." Miz answered.
"So who all is going?" Nanami asked, "So I know how many to cook for. I know Hiashi and the Priestesses are going. Who else?"
"You couldn't keep me away." Fujisawa said.
"I'm going too." was Makoto's response.
"Any friend of Makoto is a friend of mine." finished Ifurita.
"Wait, what about what Rune said? I thought you weren't allowed outside the castle." Shayla-Shayla asked.
"We already found out. The damage of 10,000 years was recorded in my circuits. Makoto simply retrieved the file."
"So what have you lost?"
"My mass destruction powers were lost when I became an individual. I believe it was a fail-save mechanism. The centuries in the void have damaged my spring. It has forced my life support to draw power from more human sources, food and water. Also I do not last long in battle. My powers drain my spring very quickly. But rest assured I will do everything in my power to defend El-Hazard and my friends." Ifurita said.
"Thanks everyone, this means a lot to me." Hiashi said.
"Don't worry, pal. We'll beat this." Shayla-Shayla encouraged, slapping him on his still-tender back.
Hiashi's eyes grew big from the stinging as he dropped his tea cup.
Later Hiashi was being given a tour of the palace. Fuji thought it would brighten his dark mood and give him some feeling of attachment and hope he can soon call El-Hazard home. As they passed by Fatora's wing Hiashi heard her yell, "Riho, PROTECT! I said PROTECT you worthless animal!"
"Come one, Riho. Protect Fatora." Alliele prompted.
"What's going on in there?" Hiashi asked.
"That's Princess Fatora's chambers. Her and her lover, Alliele, are trying to train her new armor cat. It doesn't sound like they're having much success." Fuji explained.
Hiashi peaked around the doorway to watch. Riho was held by the scruff of his neck by Fatora. "Damn you, PROTECT! Don't you know anything?! You, what are you doing here? Oh, you're that new Earther. Perhaps you can help me with this stupid so-called armor cat?" she said half-handing, half-throwing Riho to Hiashi.
"Maybe you should try being nice to him for a change. Animals usually respect kindness. See?" he started scratching Riho's head who responded appropriately.
The cat relaxed visibly and began making itself comfortable. Hiashi smiled politely demonstrating his point. Fatora got mad. Riho never did that with her, never demonstrated that kind of friendliness to her. Now here was this stranger who got further than she did almost instantly. She was a princess, destined to rule. This is not allowable! That fact got her made enough to want to throw something. Not one to hold back, she did.
Riho transformed, wrapped around Hiashi in time to protect him from the vase. Hiashi was stunned just as much by Riho's actions as by Fatora's. "Wha--what was that for?"
"Get OUT of here!" Fatora shouted.
Hiashi started to back out when Fatora demanded Riho get off him and come back. Riho looked back and forth between Hiashi and Fatora before finally sticking his tongue out at Fatora, looking away then finally tried pulling Hiashi out of the room. Fatora started swearing at the both of them. Alliele tried to calm her down. Then Fatora started yelling at her. Her tone sounded all too familiar to Hiashi. He started to turn around when Fuji yanked him back into the hall. "I don't think that was such a good idea. Fatora's been going through a rough time lately. She just got back from a long tour of the northern provinces. I see you got Riho. That's the third armor cat she lost since Ura."
"I wonder how many more it will take. Well Riho, are you hungry?"
"Hungry, hungry. 'Tora no feed." he answered transforming back.
"I'm sure she didn't mean to. It was probably her way of training." Fuji said as they walked down to the kitchen.
Hiashi however, was unsure. Years ago he had a cat. Well not really had. More like took care of a stray outside his home. He fed it scraps and played with it until Father found out. "Boys shouldn't play with cats!" he yelled as he slapped his son around. Then he made Hiashi watch as he demonstrated his point by throwing the cat's out into the street. The memory was horrible; he relived it each time a cat looked at him with those big, playful eyes.
He watched Riho eat hungrily in his quarters and began thinking. In his short time in El-Hazard, he had learned a few things about himself. He didn't like all of it. Some things needed to be changed. One thing stuck out in his mind. He gave Riho a good scratch on the head and said, "There's something I got to do. Stay here until I get back."
Late that night, there was a knock at Shayla's door. It was Hiashi. "<yawn> What are you still doing up?"
Hiashi spent the last few hours wandering around the palace, trying to decide what to say to her. He hadn't realized the time until he saw Shayla. "I got a lot of rest today. I'm not very tired. Listen, I wanted to apologize for earlier."
"Apologize? Apologize for what for crying out loud?"
"For attacking you. I acted out of anger. And I'm sorry."
"Hey, I threw a fireball at you. You had the right to be mad."
"But I didn't have the right to take it out on you!"
"Listen, I attacked you. You got mad and defended yourself. Why the hell are you apologizing to me? If anything, you should be demanding an apology from me."
"I must keep my anger in control. I will not become my Father."
She began to understand his concern, "You know what he did was wrong. You have to trust yourself and know when you're justified to be mad."
"No. I must keep myself in check. Father's been hurting me for as long as I can remember. Unless I constantly watch myself, I will resort to the only tactics I've known: his."
Shayla began to wonder how much she could help him. She was never one to bottle up her anger, choosing to express it whenever it came. That's why she was perfectly suited to the job of fire priestess. But she never hurt anyone who didn't truly deserve it. Even when she first saw the real Makoto at the hot springs and he accidentally groped her, all she did was give him a good scare. On the other hand, maybe she was the perfect teacher. Putting her hand on his shoulder she said, "You have to learn to release your anger, but in a way so no one gets hurt. People know when I get mad, but I haven't burn down any buildings because of it. At least not too many."
"How comforting." he said unconvinced.
"Ahh don't be such a party pooper. Get in here." She said as she pulled him inside. She slammed the door and turned him towards it. "Now don't peek. Got it?"
"Got it." Hiashi said, closing his eyes tight. He trusted Shayla for some reason, but he wasn't going to risk getting her mad.
He heard some rummaging for a moment before Shayla said, "OK, let's go."
He turned around to see Shayla dressed in her uniform activating her powers. The fire shield wings formed around her. "Go ahead." she coaxed.
"But this is the same thing Afura said would get me executed."
"Each priestess is given jurisdiction over her element. Right now, I'm making you a provisional member. That means you have to do what I say. Now get those wings up."
Hiashi closed his eyes and began to visualize the wings. He didn't realize it at first, but a second later, he was floating under his own power. "Way to go Hiashi!" Shayla-Shayla said as she clapped, "Now I'm going to teach you a few things about elemental magic. Follow me!" as she flew out the window.
She waited outside a moment until Hiashi shot out. "Need to work on speed control!" she coached.
The first lesson lasted only an hour. Shayla-Shayla was dead on her feet by the time she called it a night. Hiashi had made outstanding progress. He seemed to have a special knack for flying. While far from an expert flier, he was no longer a novice. With a bit more practice, he would almost be as good as Shayla-Shayla. Hiashi said it had a lot to do with something called video games. They both laughed as Shayla leaned against Hiashi's shoulder as they returned to the castle. Hiashi was surprised that the workout didn't tire him as much as it should have. But he reasoned that flying involved the use of his powers and not muscles. So he was in a way free of one aspect of his condition. As long as his powers did the work for him, he could be active longer before getting tired. Below Makoto and Ifurita had been watching them.
"He's full of surprises." Makoto said.
"Not all of them pleasant it would seem."
"How did he endure that kind of pain?"
"You learn to accept it. Locking away the pain inside you, keeping it buried. You create all sorts of excuses to explain why it was happening. It was easier for me, being lost in the void. I went willingly and I knew that it would end. All I had to do was endure. Hiashi had to endure also, but he did not know for how long. That takes strength. Like me, he has been given a second life in El-Hazard. I will not let that life go to waste because of some stupid old law."
Makoto took her hand and said, "I promise you, you will never be alone again." They closed the window both for their privacy and Hiashi's.Section 2: (Parts 6-10)