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by Violet

Author's note: I'm sorry if I've taken a while in writing this. Our PC crashed, then school started so I've been quite busy these days. Anyway, this part is longer than the others, so perhaps that makes up for it, ne? It has come to my attention that there's a fic out there that has Celestia, one of my original characters, in it, with the same opening sequence in part 3... you know, when Cha Cha has a nightmare and Celestia wakes her up and then argues with Zadion long distance? Yes, that little scene was included in another fic without even consulting me. *sigh* The writer-thief also included several of my scenes... favorites of mine at that. That's why I've been quite depressed these past few days. And why my fic writing has been proceeding, albeit at a limping pace. Nothing like competition to encourage one to shape up and start doing stuff. If you like this part, please e-mail me, dear readers... writers live on comments about their work. One last note: There's a little disclaimer and copyright section at the bottom of the fic; you may have noticed it if you, as I do, scroll up and down a fic before really reading it. This is to prevent misunderstandings like the one that has been making me miserable for the past few days. This writer thanks Ky, Villa, and Tasha, for all the support and encouragement you've given her. (((hugs))) to you all.

Part Four: Lord of All Dragons

The Lord of all Dragons.

He came surging out of the dark woods, with his enormous limbs writhing and his snakelike neck golden in the flames. His great eyes glowed with a fiery light of their own as they regarded the people who drew back in fear as he approached.

It was the kind of scenario that was the stuff of nightmares, a situation one only dreams about and then wakes up from. But for the six people in the forbidden forest, it was all too real. Try as they might, they could not banish the fear they saw in the form of the dragon.

Riiya and Shiine resolutely stepped in front of Cha Cha even as Dorothy clutched desperately at her husband's arm, whose face showed the long gone shadow of fear and doubt. Only Celestia, her face pale, stood strong even as her breath caught in her throat as she looked up at the great dragon nearing them.

The Dragon Lord reared up several meters from them, causing them to draw back yet again as his very nearness seared them with heat. There was a malicious cast to his reptilian lips as, surprisingly, he spoke.

"Ah, the legendary Celestia. How I have longed for the day of our meeting again." A few tendrils of flame played around his lips and snout. "Say farewell to these mortals, for your death is at hand."

Celestia drew herself up, and her hand unconsciously went to the silver hilt of the sword she carried. "That remains to be seen, foul one." Her voice was strong, belying the faint hint of fear in her violet eyes. Cha Cha, who stood closest to the sorceress, saw a slight widening of the violet eyes. So Celestia was afraid of the dragon, if only slightly, and that fact worried Cha Cha very much.

The reptilian lips curved slightly in a mocking smile, and the dragon stepped even closer, forcing them to retreat. Riiya, Shiine, and Cha Cha were rooted to the spot in fear, certain that they would die very soon.

Quite suddenly, a billow of fire burst from the dragon's mouth, only to splash harmlessly agaionst a shimmering shield. Cha Cha turned quickly, relieved, and saw Seravi and Dorothy, chanting in a strange language and holding their hands out in front of them. The spell was draining their magic, however, so the two magicians stopped chanting and let the shield gradually fade away even as the Dragon Lord laughed.

"Think you that this simple shield will stop me?" he roared. "I am invincible!"

"What does he mean?" Dorothy whispered, her voice trembling.

Seravi's green eyes narrowed. "In a way, he is... invincible. He's... he's immune to magic."

Tears glistened in Dorothy's eyes. "Then... then... we are doomed."

Then... then... we are doomed.

Dorothy's words rung like a death knell in Celestia's mind, and she felt as if an icy fist had wrapped itself around her heart. We are doomed. She had known that from the moment she received the summons. Without her power, they were defenseless against the Dragon Lord.

Stop it! a voice in her head cried out, bringing with it memories of the first torturous year when she had begun to use her powers, when her teacher had instructed her. She could still recall her teacher's words, uttered several centuries ago. While there is still life, there is hope, her teacher had told her. And in that hope lies the balance between life and death Yours is the power to choose, my student. Shall you choose life... or death?

Life, she had promised, with all her youthful idealism and innocence. Life, to shine light and beauty and truth through the darkness of reality.

But now...she had turned my back on life, refusing it and accepting the doom that hung over her. Celestia closed her eyes momentarily and let peace wash over her. As long as I live... I will choose life. And I will fight for it until the end of days.

Now, here, I will continue to fight... so that the others may live.

Her perfect face took on an expression of grim resolve as she drew her sword and started to sing.

Cha Cha watched in awed fascination as Celestia unsheathed her sword. It made a steely hiss that seemed very loud in the silence that followed the Dragon Lord's mocking proclamation. "I am invincible!" Even now the Dragon Lord was watching them, savoring their fear and drawing power from it.

Celestia held the silver blade before her and started to sing as the blade glowed with an unearthly light. Cha Cha felt a tingle race up and down her spine. The song was not an ordinary melody, but filled with awesome power, through which the tone of fire and ice, water and air was blent. It called to the hidden depths of one's heart and drew the power from one's spirit. And as the song reached a crescendo the sword was not of metal anymore, but of lightning, and the air around it crackled with pure white fire.

Cha Cha heard Seravi cry out in amazement and concern. "Celestia... not starsong..." But his words were drowned out by the sorceress' song, rising and falling in hope and despair. The golden-haired girl gasped. From what Seravi had once told her, starsong was the most dangerous of powers, because it drained the life force of the caster. But Celestia did not seem to care.

The sorceress' violet eyes flashed, and suddenly she was running towards the dragon with the lightning sword dancing in front of her, warding of the billows of dragonfire that threatened to envelop her. Cha Cha gasped.

What is she doing?

Shiine's heart constricted in his chest as Celestia started her suicidal run towards the dragon. She is sacrificing herself, he realized. For us. But without her... we can't go on.

His lips struggled to form words, to warn her away, but he seemed to be caught in stasis, as if the only movement permitted him was the dilation of his frightened eyes.


He suddenly realized what they had been subconsciously thinking ever since their quest began. Celestia, the Daughter of Light and Queen of Immortals, a being gifted with the awesome power of the stars, had been a reassuring presence, a shield, against all their doubts and fears. And so they had been lulled into a false sense of security, as if her very presence guaranteed their victory and their lives. As if she was invincible, forgetting that she was but an ordinary person with the strictures imposed on her.

No... not an ordinary person. She couldn't be, even without her powers. No sane person would even attempt to go up against that dragon. A realization suddenly struck him. It's because of her strength and hope... her ability to fight against impossible odds, to keep light alive in darkness..

And they call me the boy of hope.

Yet he could not shake the feeling of dread that had chilled him ever since he had seen the dragon. Surprisingly, he did not feel anger or hurt that he might die tonight, in this forgotten field draped with shadows, but only a regret that he could not banish from his heart.

Perhaps tonight Hope would meet its match.

"Celestia... not starsong..."

Celestia flinched slightly at those words. What she was doing was near suicidal... but what choice did she have? Questions raced through her mind as she neared the searing heat of the Dragon Lord, who even now was laughing, directing billows of flame toward her, bolts of fire she deflected with lightning of the starsong, starsong that fed on her own energy. Now she could feel the force of life as it surged through her veins, thrumming through her body with strength that slowly weakened as it was drained by her song.

The words of Light, those she had engraved on her heart so long ago, flashed incongruously through her mind.

Life over Death.

Was she truly choosing life but endangering herself like that? Or was it the desire to die, to attack the Dragon Lord in hopes that her life would end?

Hope over Despair.

Was her suicidal attack borne of a belief that there was yet hope of survival, or desperation of knowing that they were all sure to die?

Victory over Defeat.

Was she doing this in view of final victory... or in fear of defeat? 

Sacrifice, duty, selflessness, courage, strength... the essence of the Light.

Celestia let strength flow around her as she neared the dragon, agilely dodging the bolts of fire directed at her as she ran around the Dragon Lord's huge bulk and towards his tail. A few stray flickers singed her slightly, but she ignored the pain and burned a wound in the dragon's sensitive tail with lightning, disappearing into the tall, high grass as the Dragon Lord screamed in pain and turned to regard what was left of his once whiplike, scaly tail.

Perhaps we still have hope... but I need more time, more time!

Her thoughts vanished in a burst of flame as dragonfire ignited the grass around her.

Seravi looked at the burning grass in disbelief. Celestia... Tears stung his green eyes, but he dashed them away. This was not the time for tears.

Looking at the frightened faces of the children, he made a decision. "Riiya, Cha Cha, Shiine, stay here." He forged a shimmering shield around them. "Don't go beyond the shield, understand?" He turned, as if to go, with Dorothy following, when Cha Cha's voice called him back.

"But... but.... Miss Celestia... what... what about... her... and where... where are you going?" The incoherent words tumbled out of Cha Cha's lips, betraying the fear she felt.

Dorothy placed a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder. "Don't worry, Cha Cha. Just stay here, and you'll be safe."

The three children could only nod. Then, as Seravi and Dorothy walked beyond the safety of the shield, the children could see the magicians' forms wavering like smoke.

A second later they were gone.

Dorothy drew Seravi to one side as soon as the invisibility spell had taken effect, as soon as they had reached a small grassy knoll some distance from where the Dragon Lord lit the grass around him with fire and where the children huddled close to the edge of the dark forest. "What are you doing?" she hissed.

"We have to do something, Dorothy. We aren't going to last long if we don't have any definite plan." Seravi's face was grave as he looked at the dragon. "We have to think of something."

"Like what? He," Dorothy said, indicating the dragon, "is immune to magic."

"I know." His brow furrowed in thought. "But if we can make him use one of the forbidden spells, then... he'll destroy himself. It's the only way for us to survive."

"And it's what Celestia would have done?"

Seravi turned his face away. "Yes."

Riiya would have cried, if he could.

All his life, he had seldom known fear. He was a stranger to it. During the few times fear had gripped him with its clammy hand he had not stepped back nor retreated... he had not lost the courage and steadfastness that so characterized him, the insane bravery that let him stand up to the most fearsome monsters. Even during their encounter with Daimarou, he had always had a spark of courage burning inside him.

Now, however, that spark seemed to be extinguished by the fearsome sight of the invincible dragon lighting the grass around him with flame. Celestia's being swallowed up by fire, Seravi and Dorothy's sudden disappearance, awoke the fear that had been in him ever since he had seen the Lord of all Dragons.

For now they were alone, a shimmering shield the only thing that stood before them and searing dragonfire. And he wanted badly to run away from this burning field, away into the shadows and comforting darkness of the forest.

Where are Seravi and Dorothy? Where are they?

The Lord of all Dragons laughed evilly as he watched Celestia being engulfed by dragonfire. His eyes glinted with malicious amusement as he imagined what she had felt during those last burning moments before she had been utterly consumed by the dragonfire.

Who would have known it would have come to this? He, of all the creatures of Darkness, had been the one to finally destroy the legendary Daughter of Light. After countless centuries during which others more powerful than he had sought to crush and destroy the legacy of the Light, it was he who had finally extinguished the one hope and light of the cosmos.

Surely he would be honored greatly by Lord Zadion, made second in command over all the universes, given great power to destroy and wreak havoc over all creation. Honored because of the death of the Light and the one person who could stop their victory. Who would have thought it would be so easy? Just one burst of dragonfire and the Daughter of Light had been destroyed.

She had made no move to defend herself, no attempt at all to call the awesome power that lay at her fingertips to blind him with scintillating light and fire. Instead, she had relied on feint-and-parry, on insignificant blows with a sword of lightning forged by a very small fraction of her strength. Instead of shielding against his attacks, she had run, twisted, and dove to the ground to avoid his fire.

Celestia had been... almost... afraid. Afraid to use her power. As the realization struck him, the Dragon Lord laughed, seeing the last few moments of Celestia in a different, more terrible light.

So, Queen Celestia, how is it to feel the searing heat of fire surround you before it utterly consumes your very essence? How is it to know that you are powerless before an evil you are too weak to fight? At last, Daughter of Light, I have my revenge for the crackling light that almost consumed me so many years ago, when I was but a fledgling and you were but a child trying your might!

Now, your Divine Majesty, watch closely as I destroy your friends... slowly and with a great amount of pain.

"Are you sure you can do this, Dorothy?" There was worry in Seravi's voice, and sorrow too. Sorrow that they had been forced to do what they had to.

"Yes." She paused for a while. "Take up the spell if I make a mistake." You won't have to do anything, Seravi, but watch me and continue the spell if I fail.

Seravi nodded, his eyes still grave and somber as Dorothy began to cast the spell of calling the Ice Orb. It was one of the most powerful spells and tended to drain the energy of the caster to the point of complete exhaustion, but the two magicians were desperate, feeling that they had to do what they could to prevent the Dragon Lord's advance. Seravi sighed in regret. What they were doing was crazy, but it was the only way. And he would have to play a more difficult role later, if Dorothy cast her spell successfully.

Seravi. It was just a whisper of sound brushing his senses, but it was enough.

Who's there? he replied, tensing himself for an attack.

Yet another small rippling whisper of sound, a short crystal moment of laughter. She who was consumed by dragonfire. Astonished hope dawned in Seravi's heart as the shadow of tears in his eyes vanished. Oh, Seravi, the voice in his mind sighed, after more than twenty years, do you really know me as little as that? Did you really believe I would die... and give up the Light... so easily? Do you have so little faith in me?

"Celestia?!?" Seravi was so startled that he spoke aloud, causing Dorothy to, for a second, stare at him in disbelief even as she started casting her spell in hopes it would anger the Dragon Lord enough for him to use a forbidden spell. I have so much faith in you, my teacher, but still I cannot disbelieve what my eyes tell me. You'd say that the heart is wiser than the eyes, and that what is says is truer than what you see, but only you have perfected that... how to listen with your heart, how to feel the essence in something. Over the years that sense has been eroded and awakened only now...

"Celestia?" Dorothy echoed. "But..." You're dead, she wanted to add, but couldn't, not as relief and hope surged in her heart.

I'm not dead, Dorothy. But the Dragon Lord thinks I am, and that gives us some more time.

Silence hung in the air, heavy with doubt and disbelief. Celestia somehow felt that, for the irritation in her mind-voice was apparent.

I'm alive, alright? Get back to casting your spell, Dorothy. And Seravi, stop worrying about the children. I'll take care of them. Seravi heard a melodic -- but clearly exasperated -- sigh that sounded like a summer breeze blowing amongst the trees. You can help Dorothy cast her spell. The calling of the Ice Orb is quite difficult.

Then the voice was gone.

Indeed, the calling of the Ice Orb was difficult, perhaps even more than what the tone in Celestia's voice implied.

Beads of sweat stood out on Dorothy's forehead as she wove her fingers in the intricate gestures of the spell, her lips moving soundlessly as she intoned the endless words of the incantation. Seravi moved to help her, gesturing at the same time as her, but she warned him away with the look in her gray eyes. She had gone too far with the spell for anyone, even the greatest magician in the world, to join her in casting. Seravi's doing so would most likely disrupt the delicate balance she maintained between the summoning into the spirit world and her fragile hold on reality.

Icy sparkles of silver swirled around her moving hands as she continued the spell. For an agonizingly long moment her concentration failed her and the pinpoints of silver stopped around her hands as if to form icy shackles around them, but with a torrent of whispered words she started the swirling motion again even as the power of the spell grew.

I can't make a mistake now. Seravi can do this... but he has to conserve his strength for later.

She could see Seravi watching the movement of her hands intently as she continued in the even more complex gestures of the forming of the Ice Orb. Her fingers shook slightly as the coldness of the nearly-completed spell cut into her like a knife.

"Seravi..." Dorothy murmured almost unconsciously, almost unaware she was forming the words, "the children... get them away from near the dragon. I'm almost about to release the spell."

Seravi nodded, then flew on his broom towards the children as Dorothy completed the weaving of the spell.

Celestia shook herself free of the soil that covered her and raised her head. The Dragon Lord's eyes had narrowed dangerously in the intoxication that had been brought about by his seeming victory over her. Celestia smiled grimly, then touched a slight hand to the white rock that, with the slight covering of soil over her, had hid her from the sight of the dragon's yellow eyes.

The dragon is powerful, but he is also stupid. And this shall cloud his thinking even more, for I think... I shall irritate him much with this. She started to sing again, very softly, feeling her life-force leaving her. You may be immune to magic, Foul One, but surely you can feel the power of starsong.

The rock she was touching began to shimmer for a second, then the shimmering vanished, just enough to catch the attention of the dragon, who turned his snakelike head towards the rock with malevolent curiosity.

The sorceress removed her hand from the rock and, leaping to her feet in one fluid motion, began to run to the edge of the dark forest, hiding behind a tree to watch the result of her handiwork. The dragon, focused on the strange rock, did not notice the small white-robed figure that fled to the safety of the forest.

The rock started to glow as if by the removal of her hand Celestia had also removed from it the restraint that held it in place. In a blinding flash of light and with a great tearing sound, the rock exploded, showering the dragon with white-hot fragments that expanded into great spears of rock as they pierced the air.

The Lord of All Dragons roared in anger as the blazing rocks struck him, writhing in pain even as his fiery breath lit random fires in the grass around him. Celestia sank to her knees, trembling. She had not expected the power released to go out of her so abruptly, so suddenly, and she suddenly felt drained of whatever energy she had left to keep her standing. Darkness nibbled at the edges of her vision. I have only enough strength for one last strike... Celestia rose slowly to her feet, holding onto the trunk of a tree for support. And strike I shall.

Summoning strength from an unknown part of herself, she stepped out into the open and into the Dragon Lord's line of sight.

Cha Cha, Riiya, and Shiine huddled in the protection of the shield with Seravi standing tall behind them, a reassuring, much-needed presence to help them fight the fear that threatened to swallow them like some unknown specter from a nightmare. Seravi, as soon as he arrived, had comforted them with the thought that Celestia was not dead, and thus kindled a small spark of hope in them. However, doubt still lingered.

Where is Celestia? each thought, alternately doubtful and hopeful, in his or her own fashion.

As if in answer to their unspoken question, a white-robed figure slowly stepped into the open, stopping in the very front of the dragon.

"Miss Celestia!" Cha Cha shrieked. She, unthinking, attempted to rush towards the sorceress and out of the shield's bounds, thinking of imminent danger and almost stumbling in her haste. Riiya, instinctively and swiftly for once, caught her and half-dragged, half-carried her to the safety of the shield.

"I'm sorry, Cha Cha," he said, looking at the golden-haired girl with apology and regret in his eyes. "But we have to stay here..."

"And we don't want you getting hurt," Shiine continued.

Cha Cha smiled slightly at them, though tears glistened in her eyes. "I understand."

Seravi stood watching them with undeniable pride in his eyes. It was only then that he fully saw the strength in Cha Cha. Now, he no longer doubted the true essence of the warrior princess in her soul, a precious diamond of courage and hope and love forged in the fiery furnace of much testing and hardship. The three children were precious jewels, each a priceless life to be defended from the Dragon Lord.

The green-haired magician, eyes as hard as emeralds, watched the small figure in front of the massive dragon. His mind told him that Dorothy had completed her spell and would be able to release it soon. He just hoped it wouldn't be too late, even as he started a spell of his own in readiness for what would happen next.

His green eyes narrowed as his fingers wove their intricate pattern. It is time.

Dorothy felt her knees tremble beneath her as she poured all her power into the spell she was holding so delicately it seemed to be able to fly out of her hands with but one breath of wind. She closed her eyes and let herself flow into the spell, interweaving her very essence with it and feeling its power increase.

It is time.


Release the orb, Dorothy. It won't affect the dragon himself, but it will stop him from harming Celestia.

She opened her eyes and saw the dark-haired sorceress twisting and turning to avoid the billows of dragonfire the enraged Dragon Lord let loose upon seeing Celestia, whom he thought dead. The Dragon Lord's scaly hide had been lacerated by what looked like rocks, but Celestia was failing fast as the energy the starsong had taken left her body.

She mustn't die now

Dorothy's hands shook as she slowly removed the restraints from the spell. "Rise!" she cried, holding out her hands and raising them above her head. "By ice and by wind, by cold and by winter..." The small icy sphere between her hands swirled, growing larger and bringing with it intense chill. "Fly!"

The Ice Orb, now as brilliant as the sun and with blinding pinpoints of light following in its wake, shot towards the Dragon Lord like a comet piercing the curtain of night with its fire. Dorothy collapsed on the ground, shivering as the Dragon Lord turned, temporarily forgetting his prey.

Dorothy! Get out of there! Dorothy scrambled to her feet in acknowledgement, her golden hair flying as the spell took effect.

A sudden blast of glacial wind hit her as she ran towards her husband and the protection of the shield he had called into existence. She felt herself falling, totally drained, then felt a strong arm catch her and lay her down on the ground gently.

She looked at Seravi through dazed eyes. "The spell?"

"Watch." The three children had already clustered at the edge of the shield, as Cha Cha reinforced the shield and Shiine surrounded the shield with a ring of fire. The children's faces were uncharacteristically serious as they performed their magic, with Riiya pointing out the weak spots in the shield to Cha Cha.

"What about you, Seravi... your spell?"

Seavi's face was strained, as if it cost much effort to talk. "Finished." He paused. "The Ice Orb is taking effect now."

Dorothy felt cold wind blowing around them, which gradually died down as Cha Cha strengthened the shield with creased brow and Shiine revived the high flames. The Ice Orb hung over the Dragon Lord, who desperately bathed it in fire even as the sphere of light grew, erecting a perfect sphere of enchanted ice around him. Dorothy could clearly see the frustration in his reptilian eyes.

The Lord of All Dragons tried to melt the ice with fire, but even his fiery breath proved no match for the icy shield that had so suddenly appeared around him. His scales began to glow red as his anger filled the area around him with searing heat. Celestia was looking up at him, standing strong and unafraid in the face of his anger.

His mental shout of rage shook them. Nooo! She cannot escape!

I already have, Celestia replied coolly.

I am not defeated yet, Daughter of Light! This is but magic and will not stand against my fury!

With a chill Dorothy realized that he had begun a forbidden spell.

Cha Cha felt as if she was in a hot desert and a snow-covered plain at the same time. She glanced around worriedly at the other's pained faces, as if a great hand had tossed them in a furnace and an ice chest at the same time.

"What's wrong, teacher Seravi?" she whispered softly.

"The Dragon Lord has begun a forbidden spell," Seravi responded tightly. "Help Dorothy stand, then get as far away from here as you can. Quickly!"

"But what about..."

"Now, Cha Cha!" Cha Cha was taken aback, surprised until she saw the seriousness in his eyes, and she nodded. After a few moments she and the others were fleeing the plain and running towards the forest, leaving Seravi alone.

Celestia! Get away from there!

I can't leave now, Seravi. The Dragon Lord may sense my retreat and cease the spell.

Do you want to get killed?

Better one than many. The dragon is enraged now; he's so angry he is not thinking clearly and thus has begun that self-destructive spell. He doesn't care if he destroys himself... he just wants me to die. But if I move away now, if I take just one step backward, his head might clear and his eyes see what he has done... and then he'll stop the spellcasting. But if I push him, if I taunt him, until he reaches the point of no return, he won't be able to stop the spell even if he wanted to.

But you can't die! Seravi's mind-voice was anguished even as he felt the power of the spell he had cast earlier building inside him.

Look... I might still have time to escape if he releases it slowly. I don't think he would be so fool-hardy as to release it in one burst.

Seravi did not reply.

But still... It was some time before Seravi found that she was crying. If I die, never, ever give up, dearest student... and always remember me.

Forever, my teacher.

The Lord of All Dragons released the spell with a vast roar moments later, fueling it with his blazing rage and scorching anger. Great waves of forbidden fire, most powerful of all fires of magic and against which almost none could prevail, billowed from the dragon and consumed the reptilian body, leaving nothing as the fire spread outward, high and terrible, flaming irresistibly towards Seravi.

Seravi raised his arms, and a shield appeared, a great wall of pure force that he poured all his power into. He shouted a few words in a strange language, words to release the pent-up power that surged within him, and the wall grew longer, higher, a shimmering barrier against the unstoppable fires of dragon's fury and forbidden spell.

If I don't stop this... the fires will continue on, spreading.... they are unstoppable, and may consume the whole land until the combined magics of a hundred races finally bars it from consuming the whole world.

Green eyes narrowed, arms raised in a gesture of defiance and power, Seravi stood behind the barrier he had created, putting all his power and life-force into the shield. Behind him he could feel the presences of Cha Cha, Riiya, Shiine, and his Dorothy, and it was with these people in mind that he held the barrier in place with the sheer force of his mind.

Then the searing fury of the forbidden fire struck his shield, and Seravi could feel the intense heat pushing against the barrier. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, feeling the clash of powers and fire and anger between the wavering barrier and the raging fire.

There is no way Celestia, weakened as she is, could have survived that.

Tears stung his closed eyes as he fought back. The fires beat at his shield, and he felt that the fires would surely consume him as the force of his very life was drained by the will it took to keep the fire back with his shield.

We're going to die...

But even as he was on the verge of letting the fire burst through the barrier, he could see the faces of those who loved him clearly in his mind, telling him to keep on fighting. And last he saw Celestia, her face stern.

What are you doing? Stand fast! The whole cosmos is depending on you, Seravi... what are you the Master of Ancient Magic for?

Tears streaming down his eyes, summoning strength from deep inside him, Seravi beat the fire back with a supreme effort of his will.

And suddenly the fire was gone.

Seravi opened his eyes. Dorothy was running towards him with relief clearly written across her face, falling into his arms with tears in her eyes. Despite the distance between them, she had clearly seen the anguish in his face as he fought to kept the shield up... and the sorrow now in his eyes.

"Celestia?" she asked.

"I... I don't know."

"She... isn't... can't be... dead..."

"Dead..." It was such a difficult word to say when he identified it with Celestia, and he choked on the word. But Cha Cha's happy cry interrupted his thoughts, shattering the cloud of melancholy forming around him.

"Miss Celestia!"

Seravi leaned on Dorothy for support. It was indeed her.

Celestia was walking towards them with a dazzling smile on her face, her dark hair flowing in the wind and her violet eyes triumphant. She was leaning on a similarly-dressed person, who was robed in gray and had pure white hair but walked with the sprightly step of youth.

"Catch me if I faint," Dorothy murmured. "How did you survive that?"

"The Guardian was kind enought to protect me," Celestia replied. She sank tiredly onto the ground. "He made a shield around me... though not as large as yours, Seravi," she added with a twinkle in her eye.

"Thank you." Seravi looked at the stranger. "And thank you, sir, for saving Celestia."

"It was nothing. You had passed the first hurdle, and the Daughter of Light was not fated to die yet."

"Fated to die?" Shiine repeated, joining them and looking at Celestia with awe in his eyes.

"There is a time to everything, Magician-Knight, and Queen Celestia was not fated to die now, for you have earned the right to quest for the Gem."

"I'll say," Riiya muttered, rubbing at a bruise on his elbow. "Who are you anyway? And how do you know so much about us?"

Celestia sensed the belligerent tone in his voice and smiled. "He is one of the five Guardians of the Gem of the Stars, Riiya; perhaps it would be better for you if you showed a little respect." Riiya bowed, awkwardly, at the emphasis Celestia placed on "respect", certainly not one to argue with someone who had survived certain death twice in one day.

The Guardian continued his discourse smoothly, as if he had not noticed Riiya's snide remark. "This was but to determine whether you were fit to search for the Gem. Many have sought it, but only they who are worthy may search for it."

"So it was a test for our readiness to know the path to the Gem... since we've passed it everything's finished?" Seravi's eyes were somber. "And you're here to tell us where the Gem is."

The Guardian smiled grimly. "No. The real tests have yet to begin."

Chapter 5: The Wolf and the Knight... coming soon

Copyright and disclaimer: Akazukin Cha Cha and its characters are not mine; they're copyright Ahayana Min, Shueisha, TV Tokyo, NAS. This fanfiction is for entertainment purposes only, ok? This fanfiction is copyright MiaViolet aka Violet and its ideas, dialogue, and characters, including but not limited to Celestia, Amethyst, Zadion, etc., are copyright MiaViolet aka Violet. Please do not use any ideas, dialogue, or characters without express written permission from MiaViolet. If you reproduce this fanfiction you must include this copyright/disclaimer and the author's note at the beginning, and you must e-mail MiaViolet for her permission. Thank you.
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