Chapter 7

"You have failed."

Kossori avoided eye-contact with Tallas. He was ashamed for his poor performance, and it wasn't winning him any favor from Tallas. All thanks to that traitor, Daleth, he thought.

Tallas strode in front of the young mage. "So Daleth has decided to turn tables, has she? Well, that does put me at a disadvantage. However, just one little setback cannot discourage me. Daleth has made this decision at her own volition. So be it." Tallas laughed menacingly, which sent shivers down Kossori's spine. "We will see whose side prevails!" He exited the room, leaving the mage alone.

Kossori stood up at his place. "Those dragons are plotting something; something that Tallas has not yet discovered. I intend to find out exactly what it is. Hmm," he mused, "if each of the dragons returned to their lairs, and all simultaneously, then there has to be a reason. Of course!!" Kossori laughed as he realized what the dragons had been doing. "So they plan to get a new Dragonmaster-why else would they go to their lairs? Hah! So they got the armor! Big deal. They can't possibly have a Dragonmaster without the main item, and if the history books are true to their word, then the Sword of Althena would be nowhere other than the Blue Star!!"

*****

Ayin gazed down as Nall soared above the dry, dusty terrain known as the Salyan Desert. Rykea sat behind her. "Wow," he gasped, as they rose higher above the clouds.

"So this is the Salyan Desert. Hiro lived here once, isn't that correct?" Ayin asked Nall.

"Yes, Hiro came from this region. Ruby also lived here with him."

Ruby flew up beside Nall. "You're talking about me again behind my back, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not. I'm just telling Ayin how you used to live out here with Hiro."

Ruby rolled her eyes. "Oh, sure! There's always some excuse; then later I hear from Denyx all the nice things you said about me."

Nall turned and glared at Denyx, who blinked, clearly unaware as to what they were talking about. Ayin and Rykea laughed as the two dragons bickered on and on.

Tsadde watched them from Seren's back, just a few feet away from the others. "Do they always fight?" he asked her, quite amused with Ruby and Nall's little argument.

Seren chuckled. "Ah, yes. They always do this whenever they get together. Ruby is quite the sophist, but you haven't heard anything yet. You should see her and Nall during our gatherings. They could go on and on."

Tsadde laughed, then stopped abruptly as he saw a tall peak of a tower emerge above the clouds before them. "Is that the Star Tower?"

Seren nodded.

"I hope it's as easy to retrieve the sword as it was to find this place," Tsadde said under his breath. They flew in for a landing.

*****

-The Star Tower-

It was quite simple to reach the top floor of the Star Tower since there were no monsters. The party entered the Warp Room; a large, glowing crystal hovered a few feet off the ground before them. "Whoa, that is one big crystal," Tsadde exclaimed.

Nall nodded. "Okay, let's go."

They had not gone but a few steps when a maniacal laughter rang out. "Hahahahahahahahaha!! Fools!! Did you not think that I would put two and two together?!?! Well you're wrong! You may have obtained the Dragon Armor, but you will not get your hands on Althena's Sword!!!!"

"Kossori!" Daleth exclaimed.

The mage stepped out of the shadows. "Hello, traitor ," he sneered, and pointed his staff at the group. "Shadow Serpentine!!"

A black twisting energy beam was launched towards them. Rykea created a shield to counter the blast.

"So, if it isn't Rykea. What brings the Premier of Vane to an antiquated place like this?" Kossori asked in an ominous tone.

Rykea gripped his staff tighter. "The question is not mine to answer, but yours."

Kossori glowered at him. "None of your concern, former Premier. SHADOW VOLLEY!!!"

The party scattered in an attempt to evade the barrage of power blasts. Ayin noticed that there weren't many places to take cover. Rykea formed another shield around Ayin and himself. Kossori laughed again as he sent another wave of bolts at them.

"THUNDER THRUST!!"

Kossori fell back. "That old technique is no match for my power! Shadow Vex!!"

Ayin winced as the blow collided with the shield. "Ugh, with another blast like that, this shield will collapse!" she shouted above the discord.

Rykea nodded. "I know, but I can't make another one with this one still up! Watch out!" Rykea braced himself in front of Ayin as Kossori launched his Shadow Vex once again. The shield shattered and the blow struck Rykea, propelling him into Ayin.

"Ahh! Rykea! Are you all right?" she asked, her voice filled with urgency.

Rykea groaned. "Ow, Kossori's gotten much better since the last time I saw him. Not enough to take me out, though!!" He raised his staff. "PYRE TEMPEST!!!"

Kossori was caught off guard. The blast knocked him backwards, and right into the transmission crystal. "Aw-no!!" Rykea cried out as Kossori was transported. He pounded his fist on the floor.

"Hurry!" Ayin said, helping Rykea to his feet. "We have to get the Sword of Althena before he does!" The two raced towards the crystal.

Nall motioned to the others. "Come on! After them!!" Upon touching the crystal, they were enveloped in a flash of light.

*****

-The Blue Star-

A chilling breeze blew through Ayin's hair. She shivered. Beside her, Rykea shook his head to clear it. "I-is this it? Is this the Blue Star?" Ayin asked him.

Rykea shrugged. "It would appear so. Look, that must be Lunar," he said, pointing to the large spherical body in the dark sky.

Ayin gazed in awe as she took in the surroundings.

"We'd better find Kossori. I don't know if that blast knocked him out or just knocked him period," Rykea said.

They found themselves in an open-domed room with a large crystal very much like the one in the Star Tower. Upon circling the crystal, they found Kossori, apparently unconscious. "Well, at least we won't have to worry about him right now," said Ayin, sounding a bit relieved.

Just then, Nall and the others appeared. "Ayin, Rykea! Are you guys okay?" Tsadde exclaimed upon their arrival.

Ayin nodded. She glanced around the room once again. "So," she started, "where's the sword?"

Nall crossed his arms and stared up at the open dome. "Hmm, good question."

"YOU MEAN YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE THE SWORD IS?!?! AFTER WE TRAVELED THIS FAR!?!?!??" Ruby exclaimed, immediately going into hysterics.

Nall clenched his fists. "I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ALL I CAN TAKE FROM YOU-", he began, but he didn't get a chance to finish. Seren had found something inscribed on the wall of the dome.

"Look here! It's some sort of note...left by Hiro himself!"

That caught Ruby's attention. She was at Seren's side in a flash. "Hiro! Ah, what does it say?!"

Nall strolled over to where his two comrades stood.

"It says 'To he who seeks the Legendary Sword of Althena. Hoping that Lunar would never again have need for a Dragonmaster, I have been careful to stow the sword away within the boundaries of the Blue Star. Despite this, dear Lucia insisted that I should leave instructions for finding it, should the need for it arise. However, these directions shall not be given to just anyone. Should you desire to retrieve these instructions, you must first pass the test. Being it that Lucia came up with the test, it should be fairly easy for a future Dragonmaster to pass with flying colors. Good luck.'"

Ruby cocked her head to the side. "So we gotta pass a test to get to the sword? Sheesh, Hiro sure knows how to make things hard."

Ayin examined the inscription. "Where is this test? The message doesn't even say that much!" She pounded her fist on the wall. A shimmer of light flickered from an unseen source, as a holographic recording appeared, apparently triggered on by Ayin's actions.

"Whoa, that reminds me of the time we saw that flashback recording in those old ruins when we met Ghaleon," Ruby said softly, more to herself than to the others. The image cleared, and a life-sized projection of Lucia stood before them.

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