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~:: To Cross Dark Lines (Chapter I)::~

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The clouds gathered over the city that morning, giving the tall buildings a gloomy countenance. Adara waited patiently to be buzzed into the high rise building where her cousin Sheken lived with the man she was about to marry, should they survive the coming ordeal. A sleepy Marcus answered the intercom. "Come on up, Adara, I'll unlock the door."

She stepped into the elevator as the doors closed with a quiet whoosh and rode slowly up to the seventeenth floor. She gently rapped on the door and it swung open at her touch. "Come on in, we are going to jump in the shower!" She heard Sheken yell. "We'll be out in a few minutes. There are muffins in the breadbox and milk in the fridge if you are hungry."

"Thanks," she called back, moving quietly to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of milk. She contemplated a muffin but the butterflies in her stomach immediately protested that notion.

She turned around and took a seat at the kitchen table. A small book lay there, obviously on loan from Sheken's brother Zakai, since it was an arcane text teaching some basic spells of protection. Adara opened the book and began to leaf through the yellowed parchment.

She was halfway through the book when Sheken emerged from the bathroom in a robe. Her flame red locks clung damply to her horns and to the sides of her face. She blushed deeply. "Sorry it took so long," she apologized.

Adara gave her a soft smile. Too young to fully understand the dynamic between males and females, she had nonetheless been exposed to enough to have a general idea of the principles. It was one of the things that made her mother cringe about Aunt Vu, who often tended to be a bit more explicit around the child then her parents believed she should be. "It's okay," she murmured.

Marcus followed a few moments later, shirtless and in a pair of dark pants. His face was strained with a brooding look as he nodded to Adara. "Good morning," he said with a half-smile.

"Don't worry, Marcus," Adara said gently. "I have a feeling we will have some back-up."

"Back-up?" he queried.

"Her mom is an angel, you know," Sheken said with a grin. "Her own guardian angel."

Adara had dressed in her only real 'hero' costume. Most of the time she wore her school uniform or simple casual clothes that would not distinguish her from any other normal girl her age. Today she had on an outfit that Serge had designed to complement her father's outfit. It was a two-tone leather suit with matching boots. Along with the beautiful filmy cape that had been a gift from her father, she looked like a true little heroine.

Marcus returned to their bedroom pulled on a dark hooded shirt, and tucked his katana in the hidden saya sown into the back, just beneath a small cape that he slung over his shoulder. When he returned to the kitchen, even his face was dark occluded by a mask that left only his dark eyes peering from beneath the hood of his cloak. Sheken finished a cup of tea and a small bowl of cereal and nodded to him. "Keep Adara company while I get dressed," she smiled.

Adara was still leafing through the pages of the ancient tome. Marcus studied her for a moment. She seemed so serious for her age, almost like a small adult hidden inside the body of a young girl. Today, he thought to himself, that was probably going to be a good thing.

He sat down at the table. She looked up into his eyes and for a brief moment felt a great pain course through her.

"How's the book?" he asked, trying to make conversation.

"Very interesting," she replied. "This is a bit more advanced than what I am learning at school."

He nodded and shifted in his chair. "There is something I am curious about..." he began.

Adara cocked her head to one side. "Yes?"

"Your mother is also like her sister, right? Half demon and half human?"

"Actually," Adara began, "Sheken's mother is half and half. Mom's mother was actually part demon herself."

A look of shock reflected in his eyes as he pulled his mask down over his chin. "Really? I wondered why everyone in the family seems to have horns, but you."

She gave him a small smile. "My father is ...well... human. From another dimension, but human. At least his DNA is. Then before they umm... made me... he became a Warshade. Actually before he even met Mom. I don't know why but I was born just like a normal human baby. But I guess there was some kind of an affect from him using his Nictus powers that gave me the ability to control negative energy. But I get the ability to alter kinetic energy from the demon side. I guess no one knows why I did not grow horns."

"Some of my other brothers don't have horns," Sheken said as she emerged from their room fully dressed in her armor. "I think it depends on some recessive gene. If the other parent does not have a dominant gene to prevent the horns, then they grow. Of the two of us, I have them, and my twin brother doesn't. Neither do two of my half-brothers, but then Zakai does. Go figure."

"You and Appolion have the same father, right?"

"Yeah. The archangel known as Bloodwynd. The two next older brothers belong to Miles Church. You may have heard of him. He goes by Golden Ace?"

Marcus shook his head.

"Though mom won't say, everyone believes Zakai, of course, belongs to Keres, if you couldn't tell," she laughed. "Except for the horns, he looks like he crawled right out of Keres'... ow!" Marcus elbowed her and nodded towards Adara.

Sheken blushed. "Sorry."

Adara gave her cousin a knowing smile. Having been raised around her Aunt Vu's family, she was used to such coarse conversation and colorful phrases.

"Did you eat breakfast, Adara?" Sheken asked in a blatant attempt to change the subject.

"Sort of," Adara answered, evasively.

Sheken gave her a small scowl. "You should at least eat a little bit of something. It is going to be a long journey and who knows how long it will be before we get another chance to eat."

Adara nodded. Her stomach lurched as if to protest the thought of a meal, but she silently willed it to calm down and took the bowl of cereal that Sheken offered her. The three sat quietly for a while. The only sound breaking their reverie was the gentle crunch of Adara munching on the crisp squares of toasted grain. Finally, Sheken poured herself a cup of day-old coffee and heated it in the microwave as she stared blankly at the appliance as the mug spun slowly around.

To Chapter II