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AUTHORESS NOTES: Agh!! I'm soooo sorry for delaying this chapter! Ya see, school's started again and well...you get the idea. I've basically had very little time to type up anything whatsoever nevertheless write on my fics. So please forgive me! Hopefully, I'll get done with the fifth chapter soon and post it up!

 

Since it's been a while, I'll clue you guys back in what had happened the past three chapters:

It's five years after the third Sorceress war and the defeat of Sorceress Ultimecia. Alex has decided to be a permanent member of the Organization run by Atamos while Sakura is running a semi-normal life in Esthar. Alex has changed his name to Shion Triest for confidentiality reasons since he is now a wanted criminal by the Estharian government for his actions during Esthar's civil war four years ago. Esthar's now back in piece, but he and the others discover that time is being recompressed for some odd reason and they have to find out. Going back into the past five years before, the gang stays out in Winhill to keep an eye on Alex's parents before something happens to them.

CHARACTERS:

Alexander (Alex) Leonhart a.k.a. Shion Triest ~ The youngest of the Leonhart family who is now a 1/2 sorcerer and is in possession of Griever. [17]

Sakura Wolfe ~ One of Alex's best friends since she and her family arrived from Deling City. A tomboy at heart and a card captor (catching creatures and turning them back into cards to protect the Triple Triad game) [14]

Kirean Wolfe ~ Sakura's older brother and a gunblade specialist. He is also good friends with Alex, but played no part in the third Sorceress war five years ago. [17]

Kenji ~ Alex's older sister's (Phoenix) knight. He has been under a dramatic personality change: from being cheerful and easygoing to silent and straightforward. His background is currently unknown, but he has a connection with Griever's realm. [23]

Lilian (Lily) Almasy ~ Seifer and Quistis' only daughter. She too was once a tomboy at heart but has finally decided that she was a woman now and not the little girl she was before. However, she still is very hot tempered.[23]

Sion ~ A mysterious young boy who just recently joined the Organization. Thinks of Alex and Kirean as older brothers. [10]

Yukie Strife ~ The only daughter of a very wealthy Estharian family who has undergone the process of becoming a summoner through a family curse. Just recently joined the Organization with Alex being her knight. [17]

 

Where Ayame-chan has last left you: Alex and the others are just settling in Winhill when Laguna and Lily's family make a visit to the small village. So, yeah, on with the show!

Chapter Four ~ A New Threat

"Shit," Lily cursed to herself and quickly stood up. She watched as her father picked her other self up in a giggling fit of laughter. Maybe they won't see me...

I highly doubt that, Lily, replied a voice in her head.

Shut up, Ifrit. You're not helping me, Lily mentally snapped back as she briskly walked back towards her home. Her hand was right at the front door when Rinoa called out her name.

"Hey, Lily, do you want to join lunch with us?" Rinoa asked.

Hesitantly, Lily turned around with a smile plastered on her face. "Uh...no thank you, Mrs. Leonhart. I would love to, but Sion's late with lunch for the girls and I want to make sure that he didn't get lost..."

Thanks, Alex, she thought, her eyes slightly glancing up at the roof.

Don't mention it, Alex mentally replied and then quickly sped off before he was noticed.

Taking a deep breath, she forced her eyes to glance at her family from the past and Laguna. "...Are they your friends?" Hyne, I'm so good at this...

Rinoa gasped, remembering her manners. "Oh, I'm sorry! I forgot to introduce everybody..."

She gestured her free hand towards Laguna. "Lily, this is my father-in-law, Laguna Loire. And over there are my friends Quistis and Seifer Almasy and their daughter Lily. Everyone, this is Lilian Angelus. She just moved in yesterday."

"Nice to meet ya," Lily greeted them enthusiastically, glad that training in false personalities was paying off. "You can just call me Lily."

She risked a glance at each person, her eyes meeting Quistis'. So she's Mom... The others replied their greetings, although she could tell that her younger self was looking at her a bit curiously. Desperate to get out of her situation, she waved at them.

"Well, I have to get food and find Sion before Sakura and Yukie starve..."

Rinoa nodded in understanding, unaware of the underlying meaning of Lily's words. "All right. We'll see you later, right?"

Lily nodded, waved once more, and entered the house. As soon as she shut the door, she heaved out a sigh of relief. Oh thank you HYNE...She then composed herself together and looked around the living room.

"Sion, get your ass out here before I pummel you through the roof," she threatened at the empty room.

The boy meekly peeked his head out of the kitchen with a nervous smile on his face.

"Uh, hi, Lily," he greeted in a small voice.

"Don't 'hi, Lily' me," she growled, walking towards him. "Where in Hyne's name have you been? Sakura and Yukie have been waiting for an hour and a half for you."

Sion looked at her with wide eyes. "How do you know that?"

"Alex told me," she simply replied as she entered the kitchen. "What are you doing in here?"

She noticed a chicobo sitting in an awkward position on the dining table. A small, makeshift case was wrapped around its tiny leg and a large gash was on one of its wings. It chirped in pain.

"What happened to it?" Lily asked softly as she walked to the table.

"I dunno," Sion replied as he went to the sink to wash off the blood on a washcloth. "When I was coming home with the food, I heard some chirping along the road and found the chicobo lying there. That's why I didn't bring Sakura and Yukie the food yet."

"But mother chocobos are extremely protective of their offspring," Lily said as she gently petted the chicobo's head to soothe its pain.

"Yeah, they are, I know. I found the mother a ways off the road. She was dead."

Sion wrung out the last of the water out the towel, the blood gone. He then took out a couple of greens from his pocket and broke them into smaller pieces, setting them on the towel.

"You should've seen the corpse, Lily. No monster around here could've done whatever that mother chocobo fought against."

"I can tell from this little one's wounds," she replied as she took a closer look at the chicobo's gas. "It doesn't look like it could be done by a monster nearby. It's done by something that doesn't exist here yet."

In her head, Ifrit nodded in agreement.

<the next day>

"Curaga!" Sakura shouted.

A soft green light surrounded the tiny chocobo's body, healing its wounds. Then the light disappeared, leaving the chicobo wailing for food. Sakura smiled in satisfaction, gently caressing the chicobo's head.

"Hey, don't worry, it's okay," she comforted it. "I'll get you something to eat."

She rummaged through the kitchen for any food that seemed edible enough for a chocobo to eat. The greens that Sion had given it the day before were already gone by nightfall, so Sakura had to think of something to mix up. The chicobo watched its care taker curiously as Kereberos sauntered into the kitchen.

"Ah, good morning kitchen!" she announced, but slowed her pace as she saw her guardianee rummaging through the kitchen. "Hey, Sakura, what are you doing up so early?"

"Sion and Yukie went to go look for some more greens for the chicobo to eat and woke me up to see that I could take care of it while they were gone," Sakura replied as she took out a carton of milk from the refrigerator. "Hey, do you know where the basil leaves are?"

"You'd have to ask Yukie or Lily that," the creature replied. "They run the kitchen."

Sakura plopped in front of the refrigerator, pondering. "Hmm...you're right about that. Oh, hey, there they are!"

She grabbed the bag of basil and expertly tossed it into the sink. She headed towards the sink and poured out the basil without closing the refrigerator door. The chicobo chirped in notification and Kereberos went to shut it.

"Wow, you're a smart chicobo!" Kereberos exclaimed, getting a happy response from the chick. "Hey, you can train this bird to really help you!"

"K-chan, be quiet for a minute, will you?" Sakura asked politely. "I'm trying to remember something."

"Sure thing!"

The creature hovered nearby in silence, listening to Sakura speak out her thoughts.

"Now what did Dad tell me again? After washing and cutting the leaves..."

"Have you heard from your father recently, Sakura?" Kereberos asked, agitated by the silence.

"Nope and don't care," was her curt reply, setting the pot full of basil on the stove.

Beady black eyes sparkling at the topic, Kereberos hovered next to her as she poured the milk and turned on the stove.

"You and Kirean haven't seen him in a long time, right?"

"Yeah."

"Haven't you two ever visited him since you both moved out?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"K-chan," Sakura replied annoyingly as she stirred the contents, "why are you so interested in me 'n' Kirean not seeing Dad?"

"Well, he seemed like a nice man, from what I remember you telling me a couple of years back," Kereberos said amiably, ignoring Sakura's tone of voice. "And you two never seemed to mention him after that since you guys moved out four years ago. I've only seen him twice."

Sakura abruptly shut off the stove, letting the milky green liquid cool. She turned towards her guardian with a frown on her face.

"From what Dad told us in his letter a couple of months ago, he's in Deling City completing a mission that the government assigned him to do. And he may seem nice on the outside, but he's too busy with his job to give a damn about us," she answered irritably. "Happy now?"

Kereberos decided not to respond and flew over to the chicobo to keep it company. She sometimes forgot how her guardianee had changed the past two years. The happy-go-lucky, stubborn little girl she had known hid inside the rough tomboy that was now Sakura Wolfe. Inwardly, she sighed.

The silence between them was interrupted by the opening of the kitchen back door. Squall and Kenji entered with a bundle of blankets in each of their hands.

"Oh, good morning, Kenji, Mr. Leonhart," Sakura greeted.

Despite what he had seen while he and Kenji were searching through the town, Squall managed to put on a weary smile. " 'Morning, Sakura."

"What are those bundles?" she asked.

As an answer, a chicobo each popped their heads out of the opening, chirping in mourning. The two men set the bundles on the table where the other chicobo sat. The four chicobos chirped happily at the injured one and ran to it.

"We found them all scattered about along the road where Sion told us where he found the mother," Kenji replied. "These guys were fast enough to hide. I guess our little one's reunited with its siblings."

"There was another dead chocobo nearby my home, too," Squall added. "I'm not sure if she had chicobos or not."

"I see..." Sakura murmured and then realized that Kereberos was not in the room. She probably saw them coming. Oh well.

"Where's everyone?" Kenji asked.

"Sion and Yukie went out to find some more greens. Lily and Kirean are still sleeping," Sakura replied, detecting the hidden meaning in his words. Mentioning her brother also meant Alex's whereabouts. Hope he doesn't come downstairs...

<outside the kitchen>

Alex was already awake. He had been the earliest to wake up but remained in bed until he heard talking downstairs. Curious to see who their guest was, he got changed into some new clothes and quietly went downstairs, hiding behind the wall. All the voices sounded familiar to him. That's Sakura, Kenji, and...DAD?!? He risked a peek into the kitchen, quickly turning back before Squall could see him.

Oh man...

Don't worry about your father, Griever replied. He won't see you if you cast the spell.

Yeah, but that don't mean that he can sense me, Alex thought. You probably didn't see it with my eyes, but he's got two rings on his left hand.

Griever remained silent as if he was contemplation on an idea. Alex, however, didn't bother to wait on his elder's answer and silently exited the home through the side door.

<somewhere along Winhill's borders>

Two figures hovered above the gentle rolling hills of Winhill, amused to see that their precious pets were doing their job. One of the figures uttered a low, sinister cackle; blood red, pupiless eyes were gleaming in delight.

"Kakaka...humans caring for harmless, pathetic little creatures," the figure said, it's voice masculine. "Isn't it amusing, sister?"

The other figure beside him chuckled in reply.

"Yes, it is," it replied in a soft, enticing voice. "Who would have thought that lions and dragons have weak spots for innocent chicobos?"

"It shouldn't be long now before the young lion shows his face to the pride," the first figure noted.

"You know that he senses us," the second pointed out.

"Yes, but he knows that he can't do anything to us now, my dear sister," the first smiled. "He intends to remain hidden from view as well."

"I wonder how can he accomplish both," his sister pondered.

"He can't. Not when our precious shadows attack them."

<some road>

Alex breathed out a sigh of relief as soon as he reached the outskirts of the secluded town. He collapsed on the cool grass, letting himself enjoy the beauty of nature for once in his life.

"Whew, too close," he said to himself.

"What was too close?" asked a familiar voice.

Alex opened his eye and stared into deep pools of aqua-amber. "Yukie?"

He slowly sat up as the young summoner stood up, smiling. Sion stood beside her with a big grin on his face. Both were holding baskets filled with mimet greens.

"Yukie? And Sion? What are you two doing here?" Alex asked.

"We were about to ask you the same question," Sion said.

"We went to go get some more greens for the chicobo," Yukie added to answer his question.

Sion laughed as he patted the basket in his hands. "Yeah, and we found a place that had a whole bunch of them! That chicobo will grow up in no time!"

Alex chuckled and with one single action was standing. He brushed back his hair with one hand, a smile on his face. "Well, then hope that it's enough for our new guests."

Yukie and Sion looked at him in confusion. "What do you mean?"

He pointed back at their home a distance behind him. "Squall and Kenji found four more orphans and another dead chocobo mother. That's why I had to leave the house."

"But you an' Kirean were snoring like babies," Sion said.

"What, we kept you awake all night or something?" Alex asked innocently with a sly smile on his face.

"You sure did! Man, if it wasn't for the creaking floorboards, I would've been sleeping peacefully downstairs," Sion replied, submitting to a yawn. "Now I know why Kenji sleeps downstairs. I've been awake since four!"

"Guess you didn't realize that there was less noise," Alex said. "I've been up since three."

"What kept you up?" Yukie inquired.

Alex blinked a couple of times in surprise, wondering how she always seemed to know that he was hiding something from them. He began to think of a good answer.

"Um..."

Then something caught his attention from the corner of his good eye. He had first thought it was the wind tricking him, creating the strange shapes alone the tall grass. Yet when he saw the thing move vertically into a three dimensional object, he knew that it wasn't the wind. It was them.

Yukie and Sion immediately recognized Alex's piercing gaze, his eye color shifting from ice blue to amber and back again, and turned to see what he was looking at. What they saw was a black...thing blending itself into the sky and long grass before it disappeared.

"...What was that?" Yukie asked a couple of minutes later.

"Our enemy's little pawns," Alex answered, his enhanced eyesight continuing to follow the strange creature's trail. "They're feline shadows."

"Our enemy? They know we're here?!?" Sion asked incredulously.

"I sensed them this morning," Alex began to explain, closing his eye. "There's a lot of those shadows around, but they're being held back by their masters."

"Do you think that these shadows killed those chocobos?" Yukie asked softly, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"....They could be."

"Then we have to tell the others!" Sion exclaimed.

Alex shook his head. "We can't do anything right now. Not when Seifer and the others are here."

"But---"

"He's right, Sion," Yukie interrupted, turning to the boy. "We can't do anything about them right now unless you want to endanger now only Alex's but Lily's existence as well."

Sion remained silent for a moment and then reluctantly nodded. He didn't think it was right to keep the enemy a secret from the others, but he knew that Yukie had a point. "Okay....so...what do we do now, then?"

"Wait," Alex said, "and see what these two are really up to."

<Alex's time ~ Esthar>

Sakura Leonhart cheerfully hummed to herself as she prepared lunch for the remaining inhabitants of the home. She smiled absentmindedly as she thought about her little girl who was taking her morning nap. The girl was in every way an exact mirror image of herself with the exception of her eyes. Sakura's daughter had her father's eyes and every time she stared into those crimson eyes, she was constantly reminded of her punishment.

She shook her head away from those thoughts and began to methodically cut the onion into smaller pieces when she noticed that her cutting hand was transparent. She immediately dropped the knife, staring at her hand in horror.

 

Gene Starwind stepped out of the bathroom, wearing a terry cloth bathrobe and briskly drying his auburn hair with a towel. He and Sakura's daughter had been playing outside in the sandbox which quickly turned him into a walking sand man. When she saw the sight of them tossing buckets of sand at one another, Sakura immediately dragged the two back inside. She first gave her daughter a bath, despite the protests of the girl, and then ordered Gene to take a shower which he gratefully complied to.

He smiled to himself as he made his way to the kitchen, glad that the other surviving Leonhart was beginning to act more like herself. Seeing Sakura in so much agony when she had first found out that she was pregnant was something that Gene didn't want to see again. He hated Sakura being hurt especially after what she had gone through five years before.

"Hey, Sakura, what are you cook---" Gene was about to say, but stopped in mid sentence at what he saw.

Before his own eyes, Sakura Leonhart had faded for a mere second before returning to normal, staring at her hand in shock.

"....Sakura?" he called out softly.

She glanced up at the call of her name, staring at Gene with wide, horrified eyes.

<Winhill ~ Leonhart home: five years ago>

Seifer Almasy stared out of the living room window, bored as hell. Quistis, recognizing this with a keen eye, sat down next to him. She put her hand over his, squeezing it gently.

"What's wrong, dear?" she asked with a smile on her face. "Bored?"

"Hn," was his reply. "You can say that."

"What are you looking at?" she asked again.

"The grass," he replied. "It's so damn tall that it's beginning to bug me."

"Ah," Quistis said knowingly as she rested her head on his shoulder. "It's always like that."

"I know hun, but something about it bugs me. I don't remember the grass being THAT tall."

He turned to his wife, wrapping his arm around her slim waist. "How's the Pyro doing?"

"Well, she stopped throwing up and is sleeping right now. Her fever's gone down, too. I think the train ride got to her."

Seifer chuckled, shaking his head. "I'm still trying to figure out where she gets her motion sickness from. It ain't from me, that's for sure."

"To come to think of it, I remember being like her when I moved from my foster home to Garden," Quistis murmured thoughtfully. "But I got over it after we began training for SeeD. So maybe she gets it from me."

Seifer grinned, looking back out the window. "Oh, so then your genes are to blame."

Quistis lifted her head in a mocking frown and lightly hit her husband on the shoulder. "Hey, that's mean..."

Seifer chuckled in amusement until he noticed the fields outside beginning to move in the opposite direction of the wind. Quistis, recognizing the look in his eyes, stared at him worriedly.

"...Seifer?" she asked.

He didn't hear her, though, and stood up. "Where's my gunblade, Quisty?"

Quistis observed her husband stride through the living room. "It's upstairs in our room...but why do you need it?"

Seifer paused for a minute at the stairway, turning back to his wife. "I want to find out what those freakin' things outside are."

<?? ~ Raine's bar>

"What?!? You mean they know we're here??" Sakura Wolfe exclaimed.

Yukie winced at her friend's outcry, putting a finger on her own lips. "Sshh, don't be so loud. Do you want everyone to hear?"

Even though Alex had warned her to not tell anybody about the feline shadows lurking around, Yukie always ignored his instructions unless it was necessary. However, she was beginning to regret ignoring her knight's instructions at Sakura's outburst.

Sakura clamped her mouth shut and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. I forgot."

Yukie sighed, shaking her head. Now she was REALLY regretting ignoring her warning. However, she was forgivable person. "It's okay."

"So what are we going to do?" Sakura asked. "Just wait for them to attack?"

"That's pretty much what Alex had in mind," Yukie replied, brushing back a stray strand of hair. "Although he did say to me and Sion that he was going to check out to see if his mom, dad, and sisters are okay."

Sakura pouted in disappointment, wanting to rid of her good bartender facade and kick some butt. "Well, I guess..."

"Listen, Sakura, don't tell Lily or Kenji about this, okay?" Yukie pleaded. "They haven't acted yet, so it's no use warning them when they haven't done anything."

Sakura nodded as reluctantly as Sion did and groaned to herself when her name was called out from the restaurant.

<outskirts of Winhill>

A howling scream echoed in the fields as Alex calmly watched the creature's writing form cease to move. Dark vials of liquid spilled out of its body, staining the earth. Taking one last look at the feline shadow to make sure that it was dead, Alex put away his gun and released the grip of his gunblade; it blended back into its surroundings.

"That was tougher than I though," he murmured to himself.

In his mind, Griever growled in agreement. They are not your typical shadows. These are not the creatures found in Centra.

"They've been made," Alex nodded in agreement. "They've been made by those two, whoever they are."

Steam rose from the corpse's body as it sunk back down to the earth. Alex gazed back at it again, prepared to attack, but Griever reassured him. Cats are only known to have nine lives. The creature's dead.

"You should've told me that sooner, old man," Alex muttered as he again put away his weapons. His sensitive ears, though, heard the sounds of footsteps running through the tall grass.

He swiftly turned around, prepared for another assault, but the grip on his gun relaxed as he saw his mother dragging his sisters along. Alex stood still, frantically thinking of a way out, but decided at the last moment that vanishing from sight now would make no difference especially when his sisters were there.

Brushing away the thought of physical similarities to his father, Alex calmly asked Rinoa, "Is there something wrong, ma'am?"

Rinoa stopped before him, carrying baby Sakura in her arms and paused to get some fresh air. She then looked at him; her mind was registering how similar the young man before her looked like her husband, but she didn't let the thought sink in.

"Oh thank Hyne you're here! I thought that I'd have to go to Dollet and find someone! These...these things have been attacking my home and we can't even see them! Can you help us, sir?" she rapidly explained.

"Yeah, yeah, pwease Mr. Shion?" Luna and Phoenix asked him, using the name he had given them.

"Uh...I...." Alex began to say, but his senses was warning him that there was something nearby. At the last second, he saw two red eyes gleaming against the sunlight. "Look out!"

He pushed Rinoa and his sisters out of the way just before the shadow's claws could reach them. Instead of slashing through its intended target, its claws tore through Alex's trenchcoat, barely nicking his shoulder.

"Damn," he cursed to himself as he rolled into a crouching position in front of his mother and three sisters. His right hand was poised to grab his gun.

Rinoa sat there, speechless, as she and her daughters watched the young man before them battle the invisible creature with crisp, concise movements that seemed inhumanly possible. And within two minutes the creature was dead, revealing itself to be a black shadow. She covered the twins' ears and eyes so that they wouldn't see nor hear the awful creature meet its death. Sakura, now wide awake, wailed from being awaken from her sleep. Alex walked over to the feline shadow's body and calmly fired his Exeter once more before the creature ceased to move. He saw Rinoa flinch as he fired and slowly walked over to her, hooking his gun back in the holster.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked softly.

Rinoa looked up at him, able to get a closer look at his face. Slowly, she began to put her memory puzzle pieces together. "I...know you from somewhere..."

Alex, surprised, blinked a few times before turning back to look at the feline shadow's body. "We'd better go back home."

"Why?" Luna asked, finally peeking her head out. "The monster person's not dead yet?"

Alex smiled sadly at them. "Sorry, Luna, but cats have nine lives."

"I dun like cats," Phoenix murmured.

He gently helped Rinoa and the others up and again looked back at the shadow. He could see that it was beginning to move again. "I'll take you back to where Lily lives and then go back home to see if I can help the others."

He quickly led them away from the site, leading them back to town and letting Rinoa alone with her thoughts. As Luna and Phoenix skipped alongside Alex, she began to remember about a young boy who disappeared back to the future five years ago. The young boy withstood everything: the loss of his two elder sisters, the return of his dearest sister, the defeat of Ultimecia, the loss of usage in his left eye. That young boy walked before her now. He was no longer a boy. Her son before her was now a young man; Alexander Leonhart.

 

AUTHORESS NOTES: Da! Hoped you enjoyed it! R&R!