Chapter 11: Jinnai Residence

During the ride, Afura and Nanami were grilled by Nanami's parents about what Katuhiko had done in El-Hazard. Well for the first five minutes anyway. After that it was too clear their son was evil. It was still hard for them to accept. Nanami anticipated having this conversation again several times in the near future. Then the subject was switched to Hiashi. They were curious about how he had changed and about his choice of a wife. Nanami was surprised that Afura defended Hiashi's actions and behavior. She said in no uncertain terms about what a good priest and husband he turned out to be. What Nanami found more surprising was how Afura credited him with improving Shayla's behavior. From what Afura was telling them, Nanami thought the Wind Priestess felt the two were almost made for each other. "I always thought you were jealous of him since Shayla doesn't go on many shopping trips with you anymore." she commented.

"I was." Afura admitted, "But I decided to start trying to include him as family. Regardless of how I feel, it does not change the fact Hiashi is a good man and one I'd trust with my life."

"Family?" Mrs.Jinnai asked.

"Shayla, myself, and many of the acolytes at our temples grew up together at the Academy. There are those who know one another better than their own parents. We may argue often amongst ourselves, even have rivalries, but one of the first things we learned is that every student is part of our new family. It's a tradition stemming from the fact a sizeable number of students are orphans."

"So is he the first man to be admitted ever?" Mr.Jinnai asked. He wasn't paying much attention to Makoto's story by the time he got to what happened after he rescued Ifurita. At the time his thoughts were still on his son and how impossible it all sounded.

"The first for so long he might as well be. Even though the gender barrier is technically gone, there have been no male applicants for the Academy and frankly I don't think there ever will be. I'm sure some people will be disappointed, but the tradition has gone on too long to be broken."

"But your not one of them." Mrs.Jinnai said.

There was a pause. "No I'm not. Hiashi is an exception. He recovered the Lamp of Rock after a long and hard ordeal. It was a feat which would be difficult to equal. He earned the right to join us. The next male will have to prove himself just as much; and the next one; and the next until males are finally accepted. Frankly it's an impossible task."

"Too many people who can't accept changing gender roles eh?" Nanami added sarcastically. She was miffed that her father was more concerned about that stupid brother of hers than her own successful business. In the time since the Eye of God blinked, Nanami had been working her fingers to the bone to maker her restaurant the famous place it was today. And there was her father ignoring it. Worse, he almost seemed to belittle her efforts by his neglect. She immediately turned the conversation to her own business. This time mentioning the advice her parents gave her, even if it was actually as useful as magnets to a computer. It got their attention at least and for a while they beamed with pride.

Then she asked about her friends on Earth. She forgot that it was only a week since she vanished. Nanami remembered her classmates, friends, teachers and everyone else who was part of her life on Earth. She missed them. She forgot how much they meant to her. Her best friend, Ryoko would just flip over the gift Nanami got her. She looked so forward to giving it to her. Live on Earth, work in El-Hazard. That would be perfect! She talked about her plans, inviting her parents over to see her place. Makoto's wishes to restrict portal use was brushed aside. She asked her father if import tariffs could be applied to extra-dimensional goods. It started a good discussion about economics between father and daughter. He remembered which of his children would be the most successful and how much he loved her.

It would have lasted longer except Kaluul saw something in an alley they were passing by. She said it looked like a Bugrom. Afura led the newer Priestess while Nanami and her parents stayed with the car. "What do we do if it comes here?" her mother asked terrified out of her wits.

"Run to Afura." Nanami answered. She had been through her share of fights, but without any combat abilities her usual tactic was to run to someone who did for protection. The Bugrom are really here! She hoped Makoto was wrong but then she saw it. It was a huge red one, knocking trash cans about in pure rage.

"Is it me or is that bug disappearing and reappearing?" Kaluul asked in a confused tone.

Sure enough it was flickering in and out of existence like a ghost. Sometimes it's claw passed through an object, others it bashed it. Then it noticed the Priestesses and knew them to be the enemy. It charged giving a chirping battle cry. Afura's Badger's Slash had the bad timing of being where the Bugrom was when the Bugrom wasn't. Kaluul was luckier with her streaming water attack. The Bugrom soldier reappeared in the middle of the airborne creek and cried in pain. It was pure chance it did not materialize within a solid object yet. Afura noted that and concluded it only just appeared on Earth.

The magic from El Hazard appeared to end the Bugrom's shifting. It recovered just in time to receive a Badger's Slash. It's cry of pain faded out of existence matching the Bugrom itself. This time it did not reappear.

"Is it dead?" Nanami asked being the only one in her family with the courage to leave the car.

"I believe so. It's like when Miz killed that member of the Phantom Tribe. Just vanished leaving no trace." Afura replied.

"Well that's just great. How are we going to prove their existence if they vanish the second we kill them?"

"Well I'm glad they do. Makoto wants to keep as much of this secret as possible. I'd think that if there's no evidence left behind, people will be less likely to believe." Kaluul said.

The shock over the battle ended when they got home. Afura and Kaluul were showed to the guest room. Nanami took the opportunity to teach them about Shininobe and how to act there. Her mother managed to find some of her old uniforms for the two Priestesses. The fit was, needless to say, less than perfect. But it was better than nothing. Kaluul whispered to Afura about how the Academy had less rules than Japanese schools.

Nanami soon reverted from the official rules to gossiping. She claimed her job selling boxed lunches got her the scoop on all the juicy rumors and such. Kaluul was drafted into helping Nanami with making and selling the lunches tomorrow. Afura managed to escape that fate. Nanami was about to suggest it when Afura gave her a hard cold stare that said, "Don't. Even. Think about it."

After the Lamp of Rock was recovered and Kazusa destroyed, Afura took a leave of absence to spiritually recover from the ordeal. Part of it was spent working as a waitress at Nanami's restaurant. It was meant to be a week where she could forget what had happened and take a break from being a Priestess. It did not work out. Afura was still a bit of a snob and let the occasional sarcastic remark about the customer's choice of food slip. If the job wasn't temporary, Afura would have been the first person Nanami would have to fire. She was just not meant to be working at a job where the customer came first.

Kaluul was different. While secure in her powers and skills, she was a bit submissive around others. Nanami guessed her less-than-average height contributed to that. When she first came to Floristica she had lunch at Nanami's Lunch Box but didn't have enough for the bill. She had assumed that being the next High Priestess, she wouldn't have to pay. It would have been the correct assumption except she never mentioned she was the next High Priestess. Nanami had her working for two days before Kaluul got the nerve to mention the work was delaying the ceremony. Nanami was sad to lose her. Her politeness gained a few new customers, the kind that came often and were generous with the tips. Nanami hoped to cash in on Kaluul again.

Afura gradually lost interest with Nanami's gossiping. She heard it all before. It was fun for a while, more so since none of it effected her. But now it might, even though she was not sure how. A few days, a week on the outside and they would be back home. "Whichever home it winds up being." she realized. "How many would want to stay here?" was her next thought.

Afura mentally went through each of the Earthers and tried to figure out which ones would choose to stay. Nothing was definite. Fujisawa might want to get back to his old job. He was of the opinion that children had more possibilities on Earth. At the least, health care was better. All that was weighed against his wife's wishes, a secure job, the respect he has earned, and how he was reinventing himself. Nanami had her business in Floristica, but if her gossip was any indication, she missed being a student. Makoto had Ifurita. Which could go either way. He might want to stay so they could have a fresh start away from her past. Or return to help in the subtitle changes in the demon Afura's sharp eyes noticed. Hiashi she was most concerned about. Only because of Shayla though. Afura was pretty sure he would return to El-Hazard. He was the only Earther who traveled across worlds willingly. However he fled Earth to escape his father, who he later learned was dead. Would he try to restart his life? Then Afura remembered Hiashi's love of sci-fi. If he went back, there would be no more new books, movies, TV, magazines, and so on for him to read. His hobby, no, a major part of his personality, would have to stay behind. Afura asked herself a simple question, "Would I give up my library and research for love?" She couldn't, wouldn't answer it and suddenly there was doubt.

Chapter 12: City Park

Hiashi and Shayla moved quickly to his house. It was getting late and it looked like rain. Riho found them after running away to chase a rat. It got away, but it was the chase the armored cat loved. The wind was stronger and the sky was filling with dark clouds. "Wouldn't it have been smarter to go through the shopping district?" Shayla asked over the wind.

"This way is shorter." he said as he tried and failed to shield her from the wind.

"Look!" Shayla called and pointed to a shadow between some trees.

It was a Bugrom. It was facing away from them and moved in and out of existence as it flailed its arms in frustration. "Let's waste it!" Shayla said activating her Lamp. She would have used it but this was just one Bug and wasn't worth the trouble or unwanted attention. It was only done in case of an emergency. Besides, it's been too long since she had a good melee. Her husband would only block her attacks when they sparred. He wouldn't even throw an easily deflectable punch. Last thing he wanted was to become the wife and child beater his father was, but Shayla thought he was carrying that resistance too far. Talk about a total resisting temptation! She didn't want him to hurt her either, but at least she knew when something was meant in play or training; both giving and receiving.

She jumped to do a flying kick. Riho transformed around her. The Bug noticed her and turned around at the last second. "All the better, I want it to see this coming." she thought. Suddenly Shayla was plucked out of the air by a living statue of a general who immediately brought her to 'safety'. "Hey!! What the hell do you think you're doing?" she yelled.

The companion statue, the general's horse, crashed down on the Bugrom. It became insubstantial and the stone hooves fell to the ground. It lasted for a second then the Bugrom became solid again. With four stone legs sharing the space it existed in, the Bugrom suffered a massive shock to the system and vanished in a cloud of smoke.

"That was mine." Shayla grumbled to her husband.

The horse trotted over and Hiashi examined its legs. Shayla was let down and stomped over, "What were you thinking interrupting my attack like that? We're suppose to be a team and work together. If you'd get off your high horse and actually spar with me, this could have been avoided!"

"Speaking of horses. Take a look at this one's legs." Hiashi said. The lower half of each leg was damaged and cracked. It looked like a minor miracle the horse was able to stand at all. If it weren't for Hiashi's magic, it probably wouldn't have.

"Yeah, so? Rock crumbles."

"These parts were in the Bugrom when it rematerialized. If that could do this to stone, think of what would have happened to you!"

"Yeah. Well. You still should have warned me. Shit! Duck!!" Shayla said noticing that Bugrom wasn't alone and its friend was about to clobber her spouse from behind. She pulled him out of the way with one hand while giving the second bug a face full of flame with the other. The first second of the attack went through, but then it became solid. The attacked missed and instead shattered the damaged horse. Shayla used a technique Hiashi taught her to focus her fire like a spear or laser which broke through the shell and the second Bugrom turned into a memory.

"We'd better get out of here." she said. Hiashi was accidently rammed into the general and got the wind knocked out of him, otherwise he would have agreed. She picked him up and retreated to the shade of the trees.

Hiashi wheezed and waved his right hand at the remains. The horse reformed itself and the general mounted it. Together they returned to their spot. Most of the cracks were still visible, but there was nothing he could do in his condition. Getting the wind knocked out of you isn't exactly the type of injury his healing power could fix. Cuts, bruises, fractures yes, but here all that could be done was a second's rest and a few deep breaths.

"Well that was easy. All we have to do is wait for them to solif -- sulit -- get real inside another object and problem solved." Shayla said to cheer him up.

"And if they do that when they're passing through a person or building support?"

"... You know, for a guy who likes made-up stuff you sure got your head stuck in reality."

"If it weren't for that made-up stuff, I wouldn't have thought to stop you and I would have been short one wife. Someone has to keep you from getting yourself killed." Hiashi smirked.

"I was doing just fine before you came around. But thanks. Don't think this means I'm going to let up on sparring. I'm still the best teacher for you."

"Let's not start that again."

"I. Trust. You."

"And I want to make sure I'm worthy of that trust."

"What good is trust if you don't test it?"

"Why test unless there's a chance for failure?"

"Fine. You loose control and I'll beat the shit out of you. That should keep whatever demons you're scared of releasing in check." then Shayla muttered, "I don't believe I just threatened my own husband."

Hiashi stopped and considered it. "Hey, time out. I didn't mean that. I was just frustrated." Shayla said in alarm.

"No. That's a good idea. I know you won't take it too far." then he started walking out of the park.

"You don't really think I'd --"

"Before Makoto saved Ifurita, how many times did you throw your flame at him?"

"Well ... errrr --"

"And he's still alive right? And he's still your friend."

"But I don't get in bed with him every night."

"Have we ever carried an argument there? No. We've always cleared the air before that. What happened to that trust you mentioned?"

"Well I can't believe I just got a license to actually hurt you. That scares me."

"That's how I feel every time you try to get me to spar with you. This way the playing field is leveled."

"You realize now I'm going to do my best to provoke you." she glowered with hunched shoulders.

"I've blocked or dodged almost everything you've thrown at me so far. I don't expect that to change."

"HA! I'll make you eat those words." Shayla said rising to the bait then batting it aside. Then she threw an arm around Hiashi's neck and hugged him in a semi-headlock. "I'm so looking forward to an honest fight with you." she taunted as they walked out onto the street.

Chapter 13: Hiashi's house

They heard the phone ringing when they were about to open the door. Hiashi wasn't looking forward to returning, but the phone brought him inside before the memories could return. Shayla heard bits of the conversation, "Afura too? Just one? Wow. Mr.Fujisawa hurt his hand juggling a pair? Like a burn and a bruise the doctor said. Well he is tougher. We got two of them in the park. Uh yeah, vanished too. Yeah, that's what I figured. Tomorrow morning then. Bye."


"The others encountered some Bugrom too. Mr.Fujisawa hurt his hand when one phazed in around it. Told you so. They appear to be random encounters. In any case, looking for them is more trouble than its worth. Most will self-destruct without our help."

"At least until more of them start appearing."

"Now who's got their head stuck in reality?" Hiashi joked. Then he looked around. The house hasn't changed since he left a lifetime ago. Lights were still on. Father's beer from that morning was warm, flat, and smelled worse than Shayla's morning breath after a night at the bars. The belt was still on the floor.

"This place is a pig sty. How could you live here?"

"As little as possible. When I wasn't at the library or school, I was in my room." he answered then remembered, "I need to take down that poster or she'll torch the place. Hey wait, that's not such a bad idea."

"Isn't this house your's now? I mean as the sole heir."

"Yeah, passed down from father to son for centuries. Never moving unless it was to make room for the next generation. I'm a land owner now. Whoppie." Hiashi sounded less than thrilled.

"Well maybe we should start by cleaning up YOUR house." Shayla suggested.

Neither of them were homemakers. Fortunately there wasn't much to do apart from throwing trash away and vacuuming. Hiashi's mother cleaned the morning she killed. Shayla needed to use the bathroom and Hiashi went to one of the back rooms to dispose of the garbage. The reality that he owned the house and its possessions now was slowly sinking in. He took great satisfaction in throwing most of his fathers things away. Still, he couldn't get the feeling Father was looking over him, glowering. He wouldn't be surprised if the ghost of his father was right then taking ineffective swings at him from the spirit plane. "Forget it. I'm free of you." he said out loud.

"Priest Hiashi Shayla! Get yourself in here!" he heard Shayla yell. "She found it." he thought. His first instinct was to run, but that was both stupid and futile.

"Yes dear?" he said when he entered his room. His tone was that of a false hope that she didn't find it.

She didn't speak. Just point at the poster on the wall. Even though his father was a sadistic bastard, he did pretty much let Hiashi have his privacy in his room and let him decorate it to his tastes, within the limits of Father's twisted reason that is. It was pretty spartan. Most noticeable was his desk and a bookshelf. Both had school books and English sci-fi novels. Father never looked closely. Saying that they were for school was enough. Plus there were the few childhood toys that survived Father's rampages. But to placate him, Hiashi had to try to make his room more like "normal, under-class, unsophisticated" teenager's, what in American would be called "white trash". The poster of his wife's attention for instance. It was a near life size poster of a very attractive naked woman with arms and legs strategically positioned to keep it legal. She had the expected smile and look. In other words, a poster almost every other teenage boy has in his room. Or at least one of many.

"You want me to take it down?"

"Burn it." Shayla said in a low monotone voice. Her body language clearly stated that she'd do it herself with gusto if he didn't. Riho sat at her feet trying to match her expression.

"Now Shayla, don't you think you're overreacting? It's just a picture I got at a store before I knew you." he said as he started to take it down.

"Don't care. Burn it."

"Would it help if I said, Father made me get it?"

"Yeah right. At the least you were willing. If not you shouldn't mind. Burn it."

"You know. This photo brightened more than a few dreary days for me." he said in a final attempt to save the poster.

"I know. That's why I want you to burn it."

"Burn it." Riho echoed.

He held it up and took one last look. His eyes went back and forth between the two-dimensional picture and his three-dimensional wife. "Well, might as well make the best of it and score some points." he said to himself and surrendered to the inevitable.

He crumpled the poster as best he could into a ball, tossed it up, and incinerated it with a fraction of the power contained in his headband's fire jewel. "Even when you're mad, you're prettier than her." he said.

"That should satisfy her anger." he thought.

He was right. In an instant Shayla was happy again, the poster forgotten. She then went on to nose around his personal belongings. He let her. He came to El-Hazard with only the clothes on his back. Even most of those became too worn or torn to wear by now. So most of 'his' stuff was actually 'hers'. She had provided nearly all of the material possessions in their life, from the fire shrine where they lived to paying for the clothes he wore. For that Shayla now felt justified in what she was doing now and Hiashi couldn't bring himself to stop her. Fortunately, not much of it held her interest for long. He did have to correct her on the difference between a doll and an action figure. She didn't buy it.

Hiashi went to the bookshelf and let his fingers run across the spines. Each title brought back memories of reading the book. When he read, he imagined himself as a character. Sometimes following the story, more often dreaming up fanciful 'what ifs' about how he would have done things right. Which books would he keep and bring back to El-Hazard? Each one was special. How could he give any of them up? Suddenly he heard the light switch flick and the room was filled with darkness. "Shayla, that's the light switch. Turn them back on." he said a little annoyed.

But they stayed off. He was about to ask her again when she hugged him from behind. Putting her lips to his ear she whispered, "You've been working too hard, and neglecting your duties as a husband. What do you say we get out these bed rolls of your's and ..."

The last part was whispered so softly and was so private only he could hear it. He turned red when she spoke. She could feel the surge of heat. Shayla laughed to herself and hugged him harder. He blushed easily and she learned he had a shade of red for almost every situation from "minor embarrassment" to "nearly uncontrolled rage". This one was one of her favorites, "I can't believe you said that. Let's do it!"

He turned around and was about to kiss her when he unexpectedly stopped and let go. Shayla was too surprised to do anything as he left the room. When he was out the door she found her voice, "Hey! What do you think you're doing?!" These past few days brought them both long hours they've had no time to be alone without being too tired to do anything. Now Shayla was getting frustrated. He didn't answer. Instead he went closer to the front door.

Car headlights pulled into the drive way. Then another set. A third and forth. "Great. Visitors. He must have sensed them coming. Just my luck they ruin the mood." Shayla thought. She decided to hang back in the room until she found out who dared to interrupt them.

There was a knock the second before Hiashi reached the door. He was greeted by a mass of people who said his name and hugged him. Hiashi could barely understand their voiced sympathies due to the sheer number of people who let themselves inside. His relatives, from both sides of his family, came to help. But how did they know he was back? "Aunt, how did you know I was here?" he asked the stocky woman currently giving him a bear hug and crying a fountain of tears.

"Your principal called us and said you've been found. We all came as soon as we could. Of course we had to wait for 'them'." she said the last word sarcastically gesturing to the group of people who were his mother's family.

"Well if you told us instead of wasting time trying to hide it, we would have been here sooner." another woman said. Another aunt. His mother's sister. Both groups of relatives were small even though Hiashi's extended family was larger than most. He wasn't surprised. It wasn't because they didn't care. Well it might have been that. But mostly because of distance.

Most of his father's relatives moved away the first chance they got. Being the eldest, he got to stay in Shininobe. On his mother's side, well Mother came here as a runaway. That was about all Hiashi knew. The details of his parent's meeting were never learned. What he did know, he kept to himself. Not even his wife knew. He strongly suspected she was suffering from low self-esteem and was desperate for some stability when she met Father. Hiashi was under no illusions his parents had a loveless marriage of convenience. The only thing that surprised him was how he managed to turn out as well as he did. He knew how, teachers, the family of his friends, his mother's love, advice columns, and the drive NOT to be like his father. Makoto's parents, however, were a big positive influence when he was young. They showed him how a family should act. It was a pity they drifted apart when Father discovered his son was friends with someone 'above his station'.

Over a dozen people forced their way inside the small traditional house. They were weeping over the tragedy and offering their homes to him. Some offered to move in to keep the 'ancestral homestead' in use. In a matter of seconds, an argument broke out between the two families. Hiashi was never asked his opinions or wishes. They didn't even ask him where he was or if he was OK. Shayla watched from the doorway, crouched down to stay out of sight. She watched as her husband's face turned redder and redder with anger and frustration. She wanted to intervene but couldn't. This was his family – her family through marriage and she had no idea how to do it. Also this is about the maddest she has ever seen Hiashi and she wanted to see how he would act. It may seem a little sadistic to let him stand there like that, but he's been worried about what would happen if he lost his temper. She never saw him do it before and she wanted to see it for herself. Shayla was confident he wouldn't do anything violent, but this way she could point to this whenever he doubted himself in the future.

Then one of his father's sister-in-laws noticed her and walked over. "Are you a friend of Hiashi's?" she asked tuning out the debate.

"Yes." Shayla said embarrassed as she stood. For a second she considered telling her she was his wife, but that would be too much. Plus she was distracted since she was concentrating on the argument.

The woman noticed the armband on Shayla's left arm and commented Hiashi had a matching one, "What are they?"

"Oh," Shayla said absently, "they're contraception bands."

Even though they were married, they were still part of the Elemental Church. Which meant they would have to answer the call whenever it happened. Pregnancy would put a priestess too much at risk. So in the old days both husband and wife wore the black arm bands. The chemical it contained was natural, had no long term side effects and were effective for only a short time after being removed. It has also been used by couples outside the Church who were not ready to become parents for ages. Even though only one was necessary, but often both wore it as a symbol of unity.

"Contraception?!" the woman shouted. The debate stopped instantly. "Hiashi! Have you been having ... that with this ... this gajin?"

"Gajin?!" Shayla thought. She knew the word, foreigner, barbarian; she's been insulted before but that was near the top. Only Bugrom grumbling at her was worse, but not by much.

"What do you expect with the stupid father that he had?" someone from his mother's side of the family commented.

The argument was back on, more heated than before with blame being tossed around like lottery balls. Father's drinking and poor job. Mother's lack of respect for tradition. Everything except Father's violence was given as an excuse for Hiashi's "deviance". Shayla heard a few reference to her, derogatory terms about her looks, apparent intelligence, even skin color. She was tempted to just turn on her Lamp, but unfortunately they were family and she couldn't just incinerate them and be done with it. Shocked as she was, she noticed Hiashi twitching. This was it. He was going to justify his fears or prove Shayla right.

"Enough!!" he shouted. They only quieted down slightly. "I said enough!! I'm sick of this! My father was a monster! He was cruel, violent, and self-centered. He never amounted to anything and did what he could to try to force me to be less. My mother and I suffered for years until we finally had the courage to leave. But he killed her. Ran her down like she was nothing. You knew what he was like," he said pointing at his paternal relatives, "but you did nothing! You were still scared of him weren't you!? You never saw fit to warn anyone!

"And you!" now pointing at the other side of the room, "Never did you come down to visit us. You never bothered to check in on your sister or nephew. It was too inconvenient to travel 60 kilometers even though we asked. You might have noticed what he was doing. I think you knew but didn't care. Neither of you cared about me or my mother. You're only here now to use me as a pawn. Don't act so shocked. I know how high real estate values are around here. Get custody of me, sell the house, kick me out after a year when I become a legal adult. I knew what you wanted the instant you came through my door.

"The day we were going to leave this was the day he murdered her. Then he tried to kill me. I was literally driven off the face of the Earth. I found a portal to another world and I dived into it. I didn't care if it opened up in the tenth level of Hell and do you know why? Because even though I blame you! And you!" he gestured to the two families, "I blame myself the most. I blame myself for not speaking up earlier. For letting this go on in silence like it did. The only one who doesn't deserve blame is her." he spoke softer as he pointed to his wife, "She's the only one here who truly loves me and cares about me. I met her in the world where I landed, El-Hazard. In the first hour I was there, she's helped me more than the rest of you did combined for over 15 years! She supported me emotionally when my world was turned upside-down and inside out. Even after I knew Father was dead, I could still feel the pain of what he did and my wife has been with me every step of the way. Time between this world and that is twisted. I've been there 9 long happy months and I intend to keep it that way. I admit, she's not perfect. She has an appetite that would close any all-you-can-eat buffet, snores like a freight train, and her shopping habits are a major factor in the local economy. But that love of life is one of the reasons why I love her and I plan on staying with her for as long as I live.

"I'm only here on business. Once that's done I'm going back there happily and hopefully forever. Then you can squabble over the property all you want. But until I leave -- get out!"

From the back of the room, Shayla smiled. It wasn't because Hiashi was kicking these so-called relatives out for insulting her. It was because he was doing it without resorting to violence, threats, or swearing. He was mad. Who wouldn't be? The maddest Shayla has ever seen him. Yet never did he act as if he was going to strike them or even activate his Lamp. His voice, though angry, hadn't crossed over to rage but had stayed even and stern. Best of all, he wasn't watching himself. He wasn't intentionally controlling his emotions. When he and Shayla argued, he always tried to end it quickly, even when he was right. She knew it was because he feared losing control over himself. Now 15 years of frustration, pain, and anger were being freely released and without even a hint of him turning into his Father. Shayla was proud of him. He was cured. While the pain would never leave, the cycle of violence from parent to child ended with him. There would be no fear; he would never pass it onto his own children. Now all that lie ahead was tho make him realize that.

A few acted insulted, like what they were doing was some grand charity and left without a word. Most of the rest hesitated, as if realizing what they had done, but left anyway. Only three stayed, one paternal relative, two maternal. Hiashi looked like he was unsure whether or not to repeat his demand when Shayla walked up and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Let them stay." she said. He didn't notice, but they were the only ones who said nothing during the whole exchange.

"Hiashi, you may not remember me. Takao Nose. I married your aunt 3 years ago."

"Yes. Father wouldn't let us go to her wedding. Or funeral. I'm sorry about what happened." Hiashi said. His aunt was killed when a cult leader released poison gas into the subway.

"So am I. I can't speak for the rest of us, but I never knew what was happening here. She never talked much about you or your parents. If I had any idea, I would have rushed over and done something to help you. That's easy to say now though isn't it? Actually the only reason why I was asked here was to estimate how much the house was worth 'for tax purposes'. They didn't really keep in contact with me after she died and my own family are on the other side of the country so I jumped at the chance. I was going to offer you my place, but since it looks like you already have a home, I'd be willing to sell this house for you and donate the profit to a charity."

Hiashi was stunned. This man wasn't even a blood relative yet he was willing to open up his home for him. Of course he learned that bloodlines do not a family make nine months ago.

The two from his mother's side were cousins. Siblings, one in college the other about to. Both came of their own accord (without their parents) and both were never told about the horrors their aunt and cousin suffered through. They expressed similar feelings as his uncle. The same offer could not be made because the cousin already in college was a woman and lived in a women-only dorm. But both wanted to help and all of them wanted to get acquainted with this abandoned member of the family.

Take-out was ordered and the five of them sat in the living room as Hiashi and Shayla told them what happened in El-Hazard. A few things were skimmed over or left out (like Shayla's first attempt to kiss him). Hiashi told most of it with Shayla explaining her actions when necessary. By the time they were done, the food was eaten and the visitors were trying to absorb these events. Shoko (his older cousin) said, "And you want to go back to that weird place?" in disbelief.

"Yes he does!" Shayla said quickly before Hiashi could answer, "How can you call El-Hazard weird? Your world has these glowing screens and talking boxes but no magic whatsoever. And these cars, I get the creeps just looking at them. They smell awful and they're noisy."

Shoko was a bit taken back. She didn't think about how Japan would look to someone from another world. It might seem a little weird, but Shininobe is pretty a normal town. Weird is not a word associated to it very often. "Like it's normal to have a doomsday weapon floating around."

"Don't you? I remember being told about something called Intercontential Ballistic Missles. They don't float, but there's more of them."

Shoko and Shayla stared at each other for a moment thinking the same thought, "She wants to take Hiashi away from me."

Hiashi asked Takao about himself, what he did, hobbies, work, and the like. He learned Takao and Shoko were in the same town, but family differences prevented the two from meeting. Shoko and her brother were next. Without shared family experiences, bonding with them was difficult, but not impossible. There was a genuine desire to make up for lost time. Meanwhile Shayla felt left out. No one was speaking to her, at least not directly. She tried to figure out why each of them were doing that.

With Hiashi, this was probably the first positive experience with his extended family. Being an orphan herself, she could see herself doing the same thing in his place. Plus, there were times when the situation was reversed. Not everyone in the Elemental Church was eager to accept men. More than once Shayla's old friends casually mentioned their opinion that Hiashi was the exception, and not the rule, when they knew he was in earshot. He said nothing about it. Shayla never brought it up, instead she changed the subject with her friends and gossiped for hours. Hiashi never joined in even if he was in the same room. He accepted the fact Shayla had her own cliche of friends and didn't want to intrude. This was the same case, but in a way, Takao and the rest were part of her family too. Weren't they?

Takao had a different reason. He was part of the family the same way Shayla was, by marriage. He also understood Hiashi would be leaving and this was his only chance to learn about his nephew. When Shayla saw his eyes, she knew Takao had no ill will for her.

But Shoko had. She deliberately kept Shayla out of the conversation. She talked about her college and the social activities there including its sci-fi club. Shoko was also careful to point out the number of single women there who she was willing to introduce to Hiashi. Shayla couldn't figure out why Shoko didn't like her. Well the feeling was mutual.

Shoko's brother was worse. He spoke only when spoken to and spent the rest of the time ogling Shayla. He was two years younger than Hiashi and looked like he never dated because no one in their right mind would want to date him. He made Shayla very uncomfortable.

To Shayla's relief, the hour was getting late. Shoko mentioned a hotel, but a quick phone call confirmed the rest of her family already checked out. Takao offered to drive them home. Shoko was reluctant, but didn't really have a choice. Not without the money for a room. She almost asked to stay there for the night, but that would mean spending more time around 'her' and she didn't care for it. She promised to come back tomorrow with more money and friends and have some fun. Hugs were exchanged. Shayla broke away from Shoko's brother when he almost grabbed her rear.

After they left, Shayla tried to be in a good mood. "So...what did you think?" Hiashi asked nervously.
"I like your uncle, but your cousins...." she answered, drifting off because she didn't want to hurt him.
"I know. You handled yourself perfectly, Shayla, when he tried to ... you know. Better than me."
"What are you talking about?"
"When I lost it earlier."
"Were you right? Did they act concerned about you for the money?"

"Yeah, Father boasted about it more than once. About how this old house is worth millions yen. Neighborhood has been getting better with a 'higher class' of people. He talked about moving to some place more suited to his position in life. I wasn't too surprised when he was deciding whether or not to move, half the family offered advice. Course they ignored me and Mom. We weren't the ones with the money."

"If you ask me, I think you let them off easy."

"I haven't seen you that upset before. I would have at least formed a fireball to show them how pissed I was. But you controlled yourself. You weren't even aware of it. You told them what you really thought and how you felt. No threats. No violence. No insults. Think about it. The ones that it didn't apply to stayed. I'm proud of you."

"Tha–thank you. I love you. I'm lucky you're in my life."

Shayla put a finger on his nose, "Damn straight." she said. Then kissed him. Which led to another ... and another ... and ....

A few hours later they were sleeping in the bed rolls. Well Hiashi slept anyway. Shayla faked it long enough for him to drift off. He always did that; making sure she was asleep before allowing himself to. Except for nights like this. She tried tossing and turning, but nothing was comfortable. Still slumbering, Hiashi tried to cuddle. He did that most nights too and always after sex. He was never aware of this habit. Shayla wanted to keep it her little secret. She savored his embrace and the floor wasn't that hard anymore. She remembered a dream she had almost a year ago. It was a month before she found Hiashi.

She was watching Makoto when he was in the Eye of God. He had fallen asleep and Shayla was too tired to drag him out. She sat in the hallway and fell asleep. She dreamed she was in a black room totally alone. There wasn't anything else there except her. She turned and found herself. Her future self by at least 10 years. She was looking up and shaking her fist saying, "Damn you Hi--" she paused noticing her younger self, "Husband! This is the last time I go to the Eye with you!"

Shayla was speechless. All she could to was stare at her future self and point at her stomach. She was pregnant. "Yep." her future self said, "We're going to be a mother. This is our third one."

"Thi-third? With who?"
"With the man I married of course. We not the type to let anyone else in our bed are we?"
"<snort> Of course not. Makoto?" younger Shayla asked hopefully. Older Shayla thought for a moment, "You know. People aren't suppose to know much about their future. But I'll say this. He's intelligent, caring, and the best husband, lover, and father we could hope for." she grinned slyly, "And he's from Earth. Oh, you will have to fight for him. But I think you already know that."

Intelligent? Caring? Earth? It HAD to be Makoto! Future Shayla smirked and faded away, back to her time. Shayla woke up. The dream, like so many others, were forgotten except for a few fuzzy details. When she gloated to Nanami, she filled in the blanks with her own wishes and assumptions. It wasn't until her wedding night did she remember the whole dream and realize who she was told about.

She turned over and looked at him. A smile spread across her lips. "My husband" she thought, "Those words are so different, so special. It's not like my dress or my Lamp or even my friends. He won't wear out like a dress. I don't have to give him to the next Priestess like my Lamp. He's more than just a friend.

"What are you? Are you a possession? <heh> No more than I'm your possession. What are we to each other? Lovers? Mates? Friends? You've grown too important to me since we've met. We've disagreed, we argued, but we're still together, closer than ever before."

"I won't give you up without a fight. I want you with me forever." she whispered not realizing it.

Hiashi stirred a little. With half-open eyes he muttered, "Again?" in response to an assumed, unspoken request. His tone was both tired and hopeful.

"Well..." she thought evilly, "I wasn't going to ask, but if you insist." Shayla didn't answer verbally, but with a kiss and proceeded to enjoy one of the perks of marriage.

Chapter 14: Mizuhara Residence

It was approaching midnight by the time Makoto and his family were ready to sleep. Everyone was a little uncomfortable at first adjusting to either the new setting or another body in the house. Makoto's parents were relieved to have their son back. But in a way they had lost him again, perhaps in the best way. Ifurita was treated like their daughter. Sentiment she appreciated and returned. She spent most of the evening with Makoto's mother. Neither mentioned the impending Bugrom invasion. Instead they talked of common things and even the family secrets traditionally only given to Mizuharan wives. When the evening was over and Ifurita prepared for bed, she was saddened that her stay would be so short. Makoto had given her so much before and even more now. Part of her refused to give it up.

As the water sprayed out of the spout, Ifurita felt like there was something wrong inside her. Her stomach hurt. Worse than the time Nanami experimented with seafood, inland spices, and pizza. The pain was unfamiliar, completely different than any battle she had fought. The demon god bent over from both the fear and the pain. Her eyes went wide when she noticed a trickle of blood trickle down the inside of her legs. "Makoto!" she called out with her mind.

"Ifurita! What's wrong?!" he called back.

"Mom! Get Mom!" she moaned both mentally and physically. As much as Makoto loved her, he was still a man. He couldn't help her with this.

"What's wrong with me?" she thought to herself, only herself, as Mrs.Mizuhara came into the bathroom.

Ifurita learned that what happened was normal and natural. For humans anyway. She was relieved for that comfort. It meant she was leaving her demon history behind. It even opened the possibility she could bear children. Did coming to Earth trigger these changes? Her brief time on Earth out of her sleep chamber - that was when it began. Her internal diagnostic was wrong, or at least misinformed. Maybe losing her mass destruction powers weren't the result of the destruction of the control circuit, but the first step in her transformation from demon to human. Contact with Makoto, then being on Earth, triggered this process and now was continuing it. She couldn't return to El-Hazard now, not if she were to get what she wanted, to spend the rest of her life with him. It was a wish she kept from him because before now, she was sure it could never be realized and telling him would only add to the burden he carried in his research to help her. He wanted Ifurita to remain strong and in perfect working order forever never realizing it was not what she wanted.

Makoto took the news of Ifurita's first period as any man would, not so much as disinterest but uncomfortable hearing nothing more than the basic facts. He knew what it meant though. He confessed that he was transforming as well. "I don't know exactly when it started. At first I thought it was just an extension of my own powers. That's why I didn't really notice it for a while. By then the changes in Ifurita were more visible and that took priority."

"How do you think you're changing, Son?" his father asked.

"Well for starters I can do this." Makoto said letting his arm drop to the side of the chair near an electrical outlet. Blue sparks of electricity leaped out and into his palm for a few seconds as his family stared. He lifted his hand and let the arcs dance on his fingers before it dissipated. "I figure it's a combination of Ifurita's defensive/offensive adaptation ability and my own power. I'm 'calling' the electricity to my hand then amplifying and controlling it."

Ifurita nodded in agreement. Nearly all her own attacks were learned in the same way. "If I concentrate hard enough, I can float too. With practice I might be able to fly one day."

"But you want to learn why you've been changing in the first place?" his mother concluded.

"I didn't want to be seen as a freak. What if I was turning into a Demon? What if Ifurita and I are just changing places?"

"Or what if you two just meet somewhere in between?" his father suggested. "Son, they say the more time a couple spends together, they may start to share some personality traits. Take Hiashi and Mr.Fujisawa. Do you think they have changed since they got married."

Makoto admitted his father had a point. Mr.Fujisawa was becoming more responsible, and Hiashi more outgoing. Two traits he credited to their wives. With his and Ifurita's link to each other, was this just how her program was adapting? The control circuit; what if he didn't destroy it? What if he absorbed it into his own psyche? Could he be directing Ifurita's transformation subconsciously and did this go both ways? With Ifurita weakened as she was before returning to El-Hazard, it could be their final form would be closer to human than demon. "It would explain why Ifurita's changes where more noticeable, she has further to go." Makoto thought.

Two people, together for life, connected in a way that went beyond emotional. Many scientific principles are based on balance; action/reaction, equalizing pressure, even animal populations. If this happened here, he and Ifurita could be together as equals, two of a kind, not just one human, one demon. He and Ifurita smiled to themselves at the thought. It would mean so much for them. They could enjoy their lives without worrying about the hows, whys, and whens of their transformation. But was it right?

One created human, the other machine. Was it right to change who and what they were? The obvious answer was 'oh yeah'. The process had already started. Returning to El-Hazard would slow it down adding decades to Ifurita's life. There was the tools needed to study and understand this transformation. On Earth, it was only a matter of days, even hours, before it was complete and in all likelihood, irreversible. Would others accept him? Would his family? His family on either world. Makoto wasn't sure at first. But one look from his parents told him he would always be their son regardless. "Let's hope so Dad. I think that would be best for everyone. I think it's time for sleep. Something big is going to happen tomorrow. I can feel it."

Chapter 15: Shininome High School

In the early hours before school Gyronai stirred from her slumber. She followed the Earthers back to their world a few minutes after they did. She spent part of the night learning the layout of the area and watching Fujisawa make his rounds. After all it was always better to learn from a native, even a native she hated. This human married the murderer of her sister. Gyronai hated Mizstal and it extended to those she loved. But at the same time, Gyronai never considered revenge. She thought about it, relished in the thought, but never seriously. Her sister was an assassin, one of the best. Being discovered and killed is one of the risks. Simply put it was just business. Mizstal was justified in her actions, but that didn't stop Gyronai from wishing her and hers ill.

She leaned against a vending machine and ate one of the candy bars. It was a simple machine, easy enough for her own magic to trick. Of course the bar of nearly pure sugar hardly made the effort worth it. "Why can't these things distribute something with a bit more substance?" she thought tossing the wrapper in a pile made by the students.

She looked to the shadows. He was coming. This Earther was interesting. He found her soon after she began exploring the school. Knew who she was despite her illusions. At first she was frightened by him. A power like that is what killed her sister. But there was something else. It didn't matter to him who she was. It was as if he was part Shadow. They were immune to their own racial ability. Out of the black shadow next to the vending machine, a human hand reached out. Gyronai was tempted to reach out and help, but decided not to. It wasn't out of indifference or malice, but for the human's own benefit. If he didn't learn how to walk between shadows on his own, how would he learn? Call it what you will, natural selection, rite of passage, regardless this first time he would be on his own.

After a few seconds of pulling and grunting a few swear words, Cyber emerged from the darkness. "Did you get them?" Gyronai asked.

No words of praise. No nothing except a 'request' for the items he 'borrowed' from a local store. He grunted his dissatisfaction at her nonchalant attitude and tossed her a sandwich. "They didn't have beef." he commented as she unwrapped her veggie sandwich. Actually he did, but it was for himself and not a teacher who was short on giving out compliments.

The blue woman took a hungry bite out of the plastic wrapped meal. It was bland and tasted like it was made yesterday. She guessed that the delivery transport had not arrived yet or her pupil grabbed old food. She saw him and wondered if he cared. She took another bite. The bread was getting mushy from the pulpy vegetables. "You couldn't have stolen something fresher?" she asked annoyed.

"Maybe you should have went yourself. You send me, you'll take what I got." Cyber returned. Gyronai felt a flash of anger. Who was this whelp to talk back to her? She nearly killed other students for less. Then Cyber pulled a bottle from his coat and tossed it to her.

It was sake, expensive sake at that. Tempting. But no. "Not bad. But this is no time for drinking."

"What does it take to impress you?" Cyber asked more annoyed than anything. He was using a power he didn't have barely twelve hours ago. He almost felt himself get lost in the darkness between shadow and all this woman was doing was complaining.

Gyronai was silent. He did impress her. He learned how to use his Power quickly. It had taken her longer to learn to do what he did in a matter of hours. More than one Phantom got lost when first trying to shadow teleport. The unluckiest was lost forever. Yet this Earther managed to do it with minimal assistance from her. She was right to trust her instincts about this one. "You stole some minor items from a minor store using magic. Would YOU be impressed?" she asked rhetorically.

Cyber didn't believe in rhetorical questions. "Hell yeah. Magic is awesome. I bet I can sneak a camera into the girl's shower now!"

Gyronai sighed. She had such high hopes for him during her brief stay. "Don't you thin this gift is a bit too important to waste on juvenile pranks?"

"Pranks nothin'. The lowerclassman will pay 20,000 yen for a good photo."

Gyronai looked harshly at him. He was planning to exploit her gender and worse, talking about it right in front of her! Cyber backtracked, "Ummm of course I was going to hold out for 40,000 yen." The glare continued. "Even then I wouldn't sell." An eyebrow was raised. "And I would just take one. After they left. Just to test my skills."

When Gyronai's expression returned to normal, Cyber relaxed. She still had it. Any pupil she taught would wither under her gaze. "Did you see any Bugrom last night?" he asked carefully.

"A few. Killed one. Some others destroyed themselves teleporting into solid objects. I wish you could have seen it. It would have been an excellent object lesson for you." She said with a slight smile. She liked him. Their first encounter was surprising enough. She was exploring the dark alleys around the school and noticed him smoking a cigarette. A couple of nearly brainless oafs were around harassing women. After a minute of listing to their crude remarks Cyber told them to get lost. When they refused, he gave them a sound thrashing. She sensed he did it because they annoyed him and not out of concern about the passers-by.

Somehow he saw her despite her disguise. His eyes opened wide in surprise, but the rest of him was ready for confrontation. Her clothing betrayed her origins from El-Hazard. Her training told her to kill him. Not only because he penetrated her illusion, but because her sister was killed when Nanami discovered she had a power like his. But what made her stop? It was something she couldn't identify. A connection, a kingship.

"So." he commented looking at her and her clothes, "I take it you're a Phantom from El-Hazard. What are you doing here?"

Gyronai wasn't sure what surprised her more, the fact he was immune to her illusions or the fact he knew where she was from. She didn't respond verbally, but just a nod. "I asked you a question. What are you doing here?"

"Why do you want to know?" she asked putting a hand on the hilt of her dagger. Her tone was threatening without sounding threatening.

Cyber drew his switch blade. "Cause Makoto says you people sent those monsters here."

"That was caused by a few demented fools who wanted to destroy the world."

"Is that the official story?" Cyber said. The official story only meant there was more to it than what people were willing to admit.

"They wanted revenge, but that's a sucker's game."

Cyber smiled, "There are only two groups of people who say that. Those that have abandoned thought about revenge, and those who were victims of it."

"My sister was killed by the wench your teacher married."

Cyber put his knife away. Gyronai followed suit. "As long as he's still alive, I'll believe you." he said.

They introduced themselves. Cyber's ability to see through Phantom illusions was confirmed, but Gyronai suspected there was something more. She took his hand and shadow-teleported to the school so he could see for himself his teacher was spared her vengeance. They stayed out of site as he made a hurried phone call than leave quickly. The act of moving between shadows was new to Cyber, yet strangely familiar. Like knowing how to ride a motorcycle after being taken for a ride on one only once. She had to guide him, but Cyber was able to return them to the alley using his own power.

It was tiring. Cyber returned home, but promised to return in a few hours. Well before the sun rose, he came back. She didn't know how long he was there waiting for her to wake up. Something about how he sat made her think he was leering at her body while she slept. The idea was both flattering and insulting. She told him more about how to move between shadows and the dangers that lie within. Though Gyronai doubted the Shadow Eater would be found on Earth. He progressed much faster than she thought was possible, especially for an Earther. His graduation was to obtain breakfast for her using his new ability. After he left she sighed. Normally such a test would involve a more serious theft or assassination. But there were other priorities that took priority, a decent meal being one of them.

Now as she ate, she wondered how this young Earther was able to do such a thing in the first place. Cyber was thinking the same thing, but for much longer. It had haunted his thoughts from the first time he saw that attractive blue woman. It had to be the rune. The others were too panic-stricken to notice, but Cyber felt something happening to him, to all of them, when they were suspended above the floor by that white light. But why? From how Makoto told his story, you'd think it was all part of some plan. So if it was true then, then why not now?

It was something he didn't want to do, but Cyber had to go to the other members of the sci-fi club and reveal his suspicions to them. "How do you propose to proceed?" he asked when she finished eating.

"Who says we have to do anything? Why should we care about the Bugrom arriving?"

"I thought you killed some of them."

"They annoyed me."

"If you don't care, then why did you come to Earth?"

"I was under orders to find out about the distress call the Eye sent all people not native to El-Hazard. Now that I know what it is, I must determine what it means for my people. At this point I don't think it will have any effect."

"Does this mean you'll be leaving?" Cyber asked. He tried, but he couldn't keep the disappointment and sadness out of his voice.

Gyronai smiled a little, "Well I wouldn't mind seeing how this little drama turned out."

"Then back to the land of magic carpets and genies for more plotting and killing." Cyber said sarcastically.

"It is my job. And it's much better than this world. Do you think I can show my true self here?"

Cyber rolled his eyes, "Like you can do it there. At least here any reaction would be out of irrational fear and not ancient prejudice."

Gyronai didn't argue the point. But this world was too strange, too big, too noisy. She had no one here of her own kind. But that wasn't a bad thing. Since Galen, things had been getting worse for the Shadow Tribe. There were forced deeper underground by a self-imposed exile. She suspected it was done out of fear of retaliation for Galen's actions. But during her recon missions on the surface, many people didn't seem to know or care. Even the Royal Family recognized Galen's actions were reflective of but a few individuals, none but two knew the full extent of the plan; and they were both dead. None of that mattered to the elders who were convinced the world was out to get them. Gyronai tried her best to end the paranoia of her superiors, but was unsuccessful. She asked to go to the Palace when her people received the vision because of her experience. She wanted to blame them for her Tribe's troubles but could not, not deep down. She was disgusted with how her tribe acted. Maybe if they tried, really tried, they would be accepted by El-Hazard society. Instead they played into the stereotypes.

"Stereotype", the word made her laugh. She was the stereotype, perpetuating the myths about her people by hiring out as a spy, thief, and assassin. She had half a mind to just leave it behind and start a new life. What better place to start than here. At the least she could continue her profession for a while without suspicion. That is until the competition noticed her. Her illusions could fool any Earther technology. That, combined with her skill, would make her the best in this world. It was a tempting title, but not without its price. People would want to know how an unknown woman could do so much alone. People who weren't fussy about how they treated rivals.

Even if she started small, and stayed small she wouldn't be happy. Where was the challenge in stealing a small amount of money from a small store? She was better than that. Gyronai gave herself a week before breaking down and going after larger prizes. Even if it wasn't necessary, the challenge itself was an undeniable call which she heard every night. She looked back at Cyber, at this point the only reason why she considered staying. He would suffer the same curse. Maybe he would handle it better since he wasn't professional enough to savor the job itself even more than what was stolen. She knew what happened to people like that. They became lazy and careless and wound up getting killed one way or another. Even with casual use of his ability, power like that would corrupt anyone. So what? It wasn't her concern right? It was a line she told herself many times when training her students. Generally it was enough to convince her. Generally.

"How soon does school start?" she asked.

"Officially, not for another few hours. Unofficially, it's just starting to open up. The janitors are getting everything ready for the early morning judo practice and you got the parents with early jobs dropping their kids off. How soon before the Bugrom start appearing?"

"What makes you think I know? Does it matter? Do you want to protect those who ostracized you?"

"What better way to rub their noses in it. Nothing's better than having someone who doesn't like you owe you something."

"For a human, you think much like a Phantom." Gyronai said with a smile.

"Really? I'd like to meet more of them. It'd be nice to have some real peers for a change." Cyber said getting ready to leave. There were bugs to hunt.