|The Servant: The Sorceress Cycle
Author: Piccolo Sky PM
The untold story of Bahamut. As the group begins their long, freezing trek to obtain the last available Guardian Force, they encounter a most unexpected obstacle...Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 46 - Words: 810,977 - Reviews: 69 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 05-16-13 - Published: 04-01-12 - id: 7980071
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm out of town this Sunday, so I'm posting this now. It's a bit on the short side, mostly because there's a lot in the following chapters and I'm trying to keep it around 10 pages per chapter.
Three Days Later
Dael opened the door to her personal chambers. A moment later, she stepped inside and let it close behind her. As she did, she looked up and began to speak before even fully entering the room.
"I took the liberty of buying some new clothes for you."
However, she had barely managed to walk a little way into the room when she stopped. The small cot was still made and folded, the separate set of toiletries had been picked up and arranged, the existing stock clothes from the Academy were already folded up and put aside, leaving nothing there except for an open space on one side of the room where he had moved in. The only person who was present was Carbuncle, sitting on a cushion on the floor, and typing away at Dael's laptop with his paws. He paused, however, when Dael came in, and looked up to her. After casting a glance to the plastic bag Dael had, he looked up to her.
"You shouldn't have, although I don't think they're my size."
Dael frowned in response as she unceremoniously dumped the back on her own bed. She sighed and put her hands on her sides. "Alright, where is he now?"
"Where else has he been for the past two days?" Carbuncle answered with a shrug. "If he's not eating, he's studying all the public resources in the library. If he's not doing that, he's working out in the athletic center. If he's not doing that, he's sleeping." He looked to the cot. "And unless he likes sleeping like a taco and he's in there somewhere, my guess is he's out studying, eating, or working out."
The young officer gave a sigh as she moved into the room. "If it wasn't for the fact that his stuff was in the room, I wouldn't even know he lived here. He goes to bed after I do and he's up before me every day. The only time I really see him is if we happen to be in the library, athletic center, or commissary at the same time."
Carbuncle cracked a smile and let out a light chuckle to that as he kept typing. "And you claimed you weren't lonely…"
"That has nothing to do with it." Dael retorted. She reached the Guardian Force and slapped the lid down on the laptop, causing him to jerk his paws back. She soon began to take it up.
"Hey! I was playing Furious Chocobos!" Carbuncle frowned.
"I've got to check my messages. New orders are a bit more important than games." Dael responded as she took it over to her bed and sat on top of the mattress with it. She opened it up again once there and began to type, logging out of the game so she could get to her email account.
Carbuncle gave her a look. "If I lose my high score, I'm leaving a present in your shoes."
Dael ignored that comment. "I'm afraid he's going to wander where he isn't wanted. Then it'll be my head on the chopping block because he's my ward…at least in the legal sense of the word."
"That kid is more mature than you give him credit for." Carbuncle answered, crossing his paws and laying his head down on top of them. "More mature than half the clowns running around in this base, at any rate. And sometimes I think more mature than you."
Dael snorted as she kept typing. "Yeah, maturity really counts for a lot in this world when you're a delusional basket case."
"Heh…you'd be surprised. How else do you think the clown that shoved me into a cylinder a few hundred years back came to power?" Carbuncle responded. "Besides…I wouldn't call him that. Humans are so quick to put people into either the realm of crazy or sane. There are many subtle levels in between. I'd label him as…hmm…eccentric. Personally, I think you need to be a little crazy to survive in this world. If you aren't, you'll go nuts."
The young woman sighed. "You do realize those last two statements made no sense, right?"
"What doesn't make sense is that it took your government until yesterday to put out a statement condemning Sybenia." Carbuncle grumbled in response. "Talk is the cheapest thing there is, and it's so expensive in this government that no one can even agree what to say."
"…I'd rather not get into another governmental debate with you right now." Dael responded, a hint of cold in her voice. It passed readily, however, as she continued to move around on the laptop. "Crazy people aren't really liked in this country, whether you label them eccentric or not."
"Oh, he's not that crazy." Carbuncle answered with a shrug. "Guys like him could live long, full lives without ever having to worry about much. It's not like his claim is terribly outrageous."
Dael looked up from her work and over to Carbuncle. "Claiming yourself to be a Guardian Force isn't outrageous? He might as well claim he's a moogle."
"Except if he said he was a moogle all he'd have to do would be to look in a mirror to prove himself wrong. This claim? Not so much."
The young officer crooked her brow. "What do you mean?"
Carbuncle shifted his weight a bit on his cushion. "It's not a very widely-known fact, not to the Order of Hyne or any other human organization at any rate, that the way espers came back into the world as Guardian Forces wasn't simply by chanting some mumbo jumbo or even being physically born. You remember those essences from that mission, right?"
"Well, how they worked is once you drink them, whether you're a human or any other animal, the spirit of the esper passes into you. As far as where the other spirit goes…" He sighed a bit. "Well, I don't really know. It doesn't vanish at any rate, so I'm guessing it goes back into the Lifestream or whatever. Anyway…the fact of the matter is, once in that body, until the esper has managed to gain enough of the same element the essence was, they're stuck like that. Only when we gain enough do we become like this."
The young officer hesitated on hearing that. She had no idea about any of that. In fact, now that she heard it, she was rather surprised. She actually blinked a few times, forgetting about her laptop momentarily.
"…You're not honestly saying that the kid might really, actually, be Bahamut, are you?"
Carbuncle immediately shook his head. "Oh, that's not possible. Don't worry about that part." He responded. "The only way he could have been is if one of the essences were used, and all of them are still under lock and key. Besides, even if he was, I would have recognized his spirit in a heartbeat. It may have been thousands of years since I just got a 'whiff' of him, but you don't forget a spirit like that. This kid has got strength and nobility in his…but Bahamut's? Sorry. Then there's the plain and simple truth that even if those other requirements were met, he's still stuck in that body. That makes no sense."
Dael relaxed slightly on hearing these things, but registered some puzzlement here. "I don't follow."
"Everyone knows Bahamut's element was solar energy." He responded. "We're surrounded by sunlight. He would have been fully charged up within a day and reverted back into his original form." The Guardian Force shook his head. "Sorry…he's a great method actor, but he's not 'the' Bahamut."
The young woman paused a moment, saying nothing. "I see." She finally stated after a moment, then turned back to her laptop.
Carbuncle turned a head at that. "Huh…you almost sound disappointed."
"I'm not. It might have helped his case if he was, however." Dael answered as she moved the touchpad.
In truth, she didn't know why…but she did almost seem to feel just a hint of disappointment inside her. If someone was to ask why, she couldn't say. It was just a strange feeling that passed through her without any real reason to it. At any rate, she ignored such feelings. They weren't that important. What was going on in the world was, and so was her next mission. At long last, she managed to open her account.
Soon afterward, she saw a fresh unread mail at the top of her list.
NEW ORDERS – REPORT IMMEDIATELY.
Dael quickly clicked on the box and read the details. There wasn't much, other than the authorization codes, her designation, and the location where to be and when. She soon saw that it wasn't another personal mission, once more a request to go to the colonel's office. The young woman couldn't help but tense up a bit at that. She had only had one of those missions before now, and after how disastrous it had gone before… However, she managed to solidify herself and stay calm. Soon after, she closed out the email, logged out, and shut the laptop. She turned to Carbuncle.
"Duty calls." She announced. "Seems my hiatus is over. They're calling me out on another mission."
"Hopefully doing something besides a drill…" Carbuncle answered as he stood up from the cushion and gave a shake to his fur.
Seeing this, Dael paused a moment, but then sighed and rolled her eyes. "I suppose it's pointless to even ask, but could you stay behind this time? At least to tell Bahamut where I went."
"Bah." Carbuncle said, waving a paw at the notion. "He may have only been here a couple days, but I see you two already have quite the roommate system worked out. He doesn't intrude on what you do, you don't intrude on what he does."
"That relationship may have to change…" Dael sighed as she moved over to the mirror. Luckily, she was already exercised, washed, and dressed in her uniform for the day. Moving up to it, she just made sure everything was in place. "It's only going to last so long as he behaves."
"Ah, give him a bit more credit." Carbuncle answered as he plodded over to her. "At least he's smart enough to know that everyone would think he was crazy if he went around doing whatever. Still, you should probably worry more about how you're going to keep your promise to him. You did say you'd get him access to the private files of Esthar's Hawks."
Dael groaned. "Even I don't have access to those. How am I supposed to get him access?"
The Guardian Force shrugged. "Beats me. Maybe you should have thought of that before you made the deal."
The young officer sighed and turned away from the mirror, making for the door. "Why couldn't he have just been one of those kids you can bribe with ice cream…?" She muttered as she exited through it.
Carbuncle quickly dashed after her and went through before the door could shut on him. "You could always try and bribe me with ice cream…" He called out as he did so.
Ten minutes later, Dael was standing in the office once again. It was a bit less nerve-wracking this time, and she was starting to finally get used to the fact that Carbuncle was going to be going with her everywhere. Still, there remained the fact that Dael was in the room alone this time. At least last time there were people to deflect Regalis' attention away from any one person. Well, Carbuncle was there, but from his normal position on the chair he wasn't terribly helpful. The colonel was his usual self. A bit surprising. Considering how on edge everyone was in the fort nowadays, and the constant empty nature of it being a constant reminder of what was going on in the world, he seemed to be rather composed and controlled. It was something good, Dael reasoned. Seeing the one in command stress out would stress out everyone else. And although she hadn't been receiving many orders from him for that long, she was adjusting better to his gaze being on her.
"Thank you for coming so quickly, Levinson." The colonel began once she was standing before her and Carbuncle had "taken his seat". "This particular assignment isn't an urgent one. It won't commence until 0600 tomorrow. Nevertheless, I appreciate you arriving promptly just the same. Although you may not be departing immediately, it doesn't change the fact that this is another mission of extreme importance."
After saying this, however, he leaned back a bit. His face grew darker.
"As a matter of fact, this is, without a doubt, the most important mission of your young career, and, with any luck, the most important mission you will ever receive, and one of pivotal importance to the future of the Western Continent, and possibly the world itself."
The colonel was grim and serious here, taking a harder line than Dael had ever seen from him. During the last mission briefing, he hadn't seemed to be this intently focused. Not only that, but the words he was saying were dripping with weight. The colonel wasn't one to joke around or exagerate. Because of all of this…Dael had to fight not to shake all over. She suddenly felt a rather heavy weight seeming to be set on her shoulders. She hadn't even heard what the mission was yet, but the way the colonel spoke about it filled her with anxiety. In spite of herself, she felt sweat beginning to form on her brow. She had expected something of a milder mission after everything that had happened last time, and even if it was something more severe she had been prepared to 'gear up' for it. Yet the way the colonel spoke…all of her preparations seemed to shatter and crumble like a castle of sand. What in the world was she being sent out on?
Regalis inhaled a bit, and then spoke in a somewhat more measured and calm voice.
"As you know, the legislature is currently still deadlocked on the best way to respond to Sybenia." He began. "However, at the moment, our diplomatic relations have not been completely severed, even if they're as close to it as possible. We're still allowed to talk with each other even with the embassies closed. Although we haven't been getting very far, communication has not be cut off. Because of that, in spite of the situation in the Senate, we have been able to work out some mild negotiations.
"One of the negotiations we managed to reach last night is that Rozan Heirarch consented to at least hear out a neutral party who would be allowed to work out a solution on not only Esthar's behalf but the world at large's. It may not be as much as we hoped, but at the moment, it's the last, true, concrete chance for a peaceful solution to the current crisis. At the bare minimum, Rozan Heirarch has agreed that no further military action will be taken so long as negotiations are ongoing. Even if this yields nothing, it gives us a few days. This is of great importance to everyone regardless of what the outcome is."
The colonel leaned forward again.
"Grand Chancellor Barbarossa has already chosen the person to act as the neutral party. The request was sent out last night, and this morning the answer came through in the affirmative to act as a mediator. The individual who will be going in will be none other than the head of the Order of Hyne, Lady Mianyl the Wind."
Dael felt a reaction to that, although she managed to keep this one in check. Sorceress Mianyl hadn't become the head of the Order of Hyne just based on descendents or birthright alone. She was considered both the most powerful of the Sorceresses as well as the most respected and revered. She was said to be an expert diplomat, able to work the impossible when all other negotiations had failed. Dael could believe it after encountering Veriguno. Between the power a Sorceress possessed as well as her commanding aura, it wouldn't be hard for one of them to persuade anyone, she imagined. And this one was nothing like Veriguno. Sorceress Mianyl was considered by most to be one of the most influential people currently alive. Amazing, considering the fact she was currently younger than a rookie in Esthar's Hawks. Sixteen, Dael believed, was the last estimate on her age.
However, in spite of all this, there was a rather strong point against sending her.
"Sir, I wouldn't dispute the decision of the Grand Chancellor," Dael spoke up. "But why send a member of the Order of Hyne? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but all of the media reports and our own research have indicated that Rozan Heirarch and his father had little regard or respect for magic users. They were either driven out or violently subjugated in their own country."
"The point is well taken, lt. commander." Regalis responded. "Nevertheless, it would be somewhat naïve for the Grand Chancellor to believe there is a 'perfect choice' out there for this important task. We certainly won't be asking anyone from the Lamb Archipelago, especially following the last operation that we conducted there. Anyone from Garrado is already in the line of fire. And as for Leuco…" He paused here momentarily. "…I'm not at liberty to discuss matters in Leuco at the moment, but suffice to say we don't have much of a presence there either. The Order of Hyne, in particular the Sorceresses, have long been respected and acknowledged as promoters of peace, common welfare, and possessing a lack of partiality, whether Sybenia respects that or not. Sybenia will likely be hostile to anyone who curtails their ambitions, but Lady Mianyl has sufficient other qualities that we believe will negate any ill response. Furthermore, they've agreed to allow her as a diplomat.
"That said, we naturally do not want to send her in alone. Even if we cannot speak on our own behalf, we believe it is important that we establish a presence of Esthar along with her to show that we respect her decisions and choices. Furthermore, it is customary under these circumstances to send an accompanying bodyguard detail, especially since she will be protecting our interests as well as that of Garrado and the rest of the world. The message was relayed to Lady Mianyl and she said she would be delighted to have an escort to accompany her own escort of the Children of Hyne. On that note, the Grand Chancellor has ordered us to send a hand-picked crew of officers to act as her personal escort and bodyguard. We are limited in how many we can choose. Other than Lady Mianyl herself, Sybenia has said it will allow only eight other persons. She has filled four of those positions and left the remainder to us.
"And that, as they say, brings us to the heart of the matter, lt. commander. I would like you to be a member of the escort service."
Dael was stunned, almost recoiling when it finally came out. Regalis wasn't kidding. This was going to be, without a doubt, the biggest diplomatic mission that had occurred on Gaia in decades. To be honest, she was rather overwhelmed. The last mission was just being sent in to sign of piece of paper, more or less. The mission at Lamb wouldn't have been anything severe if it had gone bad. But this? This was in a whole other league. Sybenia was the most hostile nation on Gaia. And she was being asked to go there as one of only four out of all the other members of Esthar's Hawks in International Affairs, in to the middle of this hostile zone, to negotiate for the fate of the Western Continent where, if things went ill, they could all be facing the brunt of Sybenia's entire military force or, if things went well, they would be securing the future of millions. No matter which way it went, this was something that was going to go in the history books. And they wanted her to be a part of it? The woman had to struggle not to have her knees knock.
It took a good ten seconds before Dael was able to find her voice.
"S-Sir…" She began, hating that her voice was stammering, but she couldn't help it. This was an assignment that every cadet dreamed of going on. This would decide the fate of not only Esthar but practically everywhere. That sort of burden wasn't to be shouldered lightly. "I'm…deeply honored that you would consider me for this assignment. However, I believe I'm still wanted by the Hounds of Sybenia. I'm not sure that they would take kindly to me being there."
The colonel nodded. "Your concern is understandable, Levinson. However, there is no need for alarm. As you well know, everyone in this situation is subject to diplomatic immunity and an attack on any one member of either party is to be viewed as an assassination attempt and an act of war." He gave a grim snort at that. "While it may seem Rozan Heirarch would jump at such a chance, he wouldn't need to have gone about setting up these negotiations to provoke a war with Esthar. Furthermore, unlike his previous dealings and deployments of the Hounds, this matter is going to be public. It is unlikely he is willing to blow the secrecy of his organization and make himself clearly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity just yet."
Regalis let out an exhale. "That said, I would be lying if I said that this mission was free from danger to yourself or anyone else I'll be sending." He continued. "Are you requesting to be dismissed from it as a result?"
That part almost made Dael more nervous than getting the mission in the first place.
"No sir. Not at all." She answered almost too readily. "I'm just…confused, is all, sir. As I said, I am deeply honored, but I thought that this sort of mission would be relegated simply to captains or commanders."
The colonel nodded. "Normally, you'd be right, lt. commander. As for the other three members I am sending, they would be Captain Sloane, Captain Meade, and Captain Welles. I understand how you'd feel somewhat out of sorts in their midst. However, as I said, I'm sending the best on this mission and, frankly, you're one of them. The power you've received from Carbuncle easily makes you one of the most effective members of Esthar's Hawks. You might even be the best one day. I have a feeling your contributions to this mission would be of immense importance. However, that isn't the only reason I am sending you on this mission. You've been personally requested by Lady Mianyl herself."
Now Dael really was surprised. "…Sir?"
"Following your previous mission, it's more than likely that it's now common knowledge that you are the only member of Esthar's Hawks junctioned to a Guardian Force." Regalis continued. "I have no firsthand knowledge myself, but I am under the impression that Lady Mianyl has taken an express interest in you and wishes to meet you personally."
The young officer was rather overwhelmed. She still recalled her meeting with Veriguno. It was overwhelming, to say the least, especially considering the fact it was punctuated at the end with her giving a demonstration of her tremendous power. However, even before that happened, she remembered how simply encountering her had nearly been enough to make her pass out. And Mianyl was supposed to be far stronger than that. But even if she was nothing more than a regular person, this was still incredible. Sorceress Mianyl was an international celebrity, met by acclaim, praise, and affection by people both inside and outside the Order of Hyne no matter where she went on Gaia. Despite being a military member, Dael couldn't help but feel rather humbled and overwhelmed that she was singling her out. This was an honor that few members of Esthar's Hawks would ever be privileged enough to have, and she was getting it with only a couple months of experience under her belt.
Despite the fact that this was such a burden of responsibility, and that it made Dael nervous just thinking about it, she swallowed at last and looked up and at attention.
"I won't fail, sir."
"I'm sure you won't, lt. commander." The colonel responded. "The transport that will be bearing Lady Mianyl and her escort is a ship that will be making its way to Sybenia via the Lamb Archipelago. They have been contacted to act as witnesses for the ship passing over into Sybenia waters…should the worst occur. You need to be at the South Gate at 0500 hours tomorrow morning. You'll catch a shuttle to the rails, ride them to the port, meet up with the Order of Hyne members of the escort along with Lady Mianyl, and then you shall depart. It should take a few days to travel to Sybenia and a few days back, to say nothing of how long the negotiations will last. As a result, it would probably be wise of you to pack for a lengthy trip."
Dael nodded in response. "Yes sir."
Dael simply stood at attention in response. She nearly replied in the negative, but before she could…a small green paw raised from the seated portion of the floor.
Regalis blinked a moment, then folded his hands in front of him and leaned forward. "…Yes, Carbuncle?"
The Guardian Force perked his head up until he could see the colonel over the desk. "I'm guessing there aren't any objections to me tagging along, is there?"
The colonel actually gave a slight smile. "Of course not. I'm certain Lady Mianyl would be delighted to have a Guardian Force along for the mission, and I'm sure you'd be a help should the worst arise."
Carbuncle seemed to grin. "Always nice to hear from a human who can appreciate my gr-"
"I have no further questions, sir." Dael quickly cut off, not wanting decorum broken yet again, even if she was easier about it this time than before. "With your permission, I would like to return to my quarters to prepare. I have to both pack as well as explain the situation to my ward."
"Of course." Regalis answered with a nod. "You are dismissed."
Dael immediately gave a salute, and then turned to depart. Carbuncle soon got up and went after her, falling in at her side. However, he soon looked up at her indignantly as she led him to the door.
"What's the big idea?" He called to her at full volume. "Every time a human is about to show me some respect where respect is due, you have to butt in…"
Soon, Dael was at the door. She quickly opened it up and nearly kicked the Guardian Force out of it, earning a "yelp" from him. Quickly moving out after him, she shut the door behind them just as Carbuncle began to let out another stream of swearing…
"What was the big idea kicking me back there anyway?"
"You never know how to be quiet! That was an official military briefing!"
"Ugh…you're so dense! Didn't you see the colonel didn't mind?"
"I minded!" Dael answered as she angrily threw another set of underwear on her bed.
Dael and Carbuncle were again back in the former's quarters. Never one to waste time as far as her duty was concerned, Dael was getting right to work packing despite the fact that it was several hours until nightfall and even more to "lights out". Her old bag having been lost during the last mission, Dael had received another standard issue one of larger size and was loading it up with her things for the trip. She had already resupplied on shells as well. She felt somewhat guilty about it this time, considering how much money she had blown through on the previous mission. Luckily, however, it turned out it wasn't nearly as much as she thought. The moment the banking systems saw that a sum of 10,000,000 gil was attempting to be withdrawn at a casino in Leuco, the account was immediately frozen. The only real expense that ended up being used was the one for the previous Mage Bullets. Not surprisingly, despite the fact that the colonel told her not to worry about it, that there wasn't a price on an operative's life, she was denied the request to have another Flare Shell for this mission. However, to be honest, she thought it wouldn't matter. Lady Mianyl didn't even have her own Sorceress Knight at present, and even that seemed superfluous. Considering what she had seen Veriguno do, she probably only needed the armed escort for show. The common knowledge in Esthar was that the armed escort was necessary for protection, but Dael now knew a lot better from experience.
"You need to mellow out." Carbuncle retorted from his cushion. "Why not head off base to a bar or something sometime? Have a few beers…"
Dael froze in the middle of pulling out another pair of socks. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me." The Guardian Force answered. "You could stand to loosen up a bit. Maybe if you got some liquor in you, you wouldn't be such a stuffed shirt…"
"I'm not going out drinking to 'loosen up'!" Dael retorted. "That's what exercise is for!"
"Pft…whatever." Carbuncle answered. "When you drive me up the wall too much, that's what I do."
Dael had just resumed beginning to put more clothes up, when she froze again. She once more looked to Carbuncle, twice as incredulous as before.
"Now what?" The Guardian Force griped.
"You go out drinking? In Esthar?" Dael had to struggle not to sound totally flabbergasted.
"Well, it's not like I can drink here." Carbuncle griped. "You don't even have an officer's lounge… Your damn base is dry."
Dael stared at him wide-eyed. "…In bars?"
Carbuncle's small black button eyes rolled. He soon spoke the way a parent does to a small child in a sarcastic tone. "Yes, Dael. Bars are locales where people serve liquor to the public at large. You don't expect me to believe you were that out of touch with reality, did you?"
Dael was still stunned. "But…you're…you're a…"
Carbuncle's eyes narrowed. "…A what?" He nearly snapped back.
The young officer struggled for a moment to pick the right words. "I mean…you're…well…not human. I didn't think they'd…serve…"
The Guardian Force sighed. "Well, in short, it's not easy to get service. But if you hop on the counter and start yelling at the barkeep, it does tend to get some attention…"
That didn't help much. That only gave Dael a multitude of other questions. However, before she could venture any more of them, the door to the room opened. The two immediately looked to it, although they both already knew the only other person with access to the room.
Sure enough, Bahamut soon walked in through the door. His stock gym uniform from the Academy was already soaked with sweat, as was his brow and hair. He wore a towel around his neck to soak up some of it. He moved rather stiffly and sorely as he came in, but he was like that every day, so Dael wasn't too worried. He was panting quite a bit too. As soon as he was in, he closed the door behind him and immediately pulled one end of the towel to wipe off his brow. After that, he looked up and into the room. He soon noted the materials lying on the bed and what Dael was doing. After staring a moment, he looked up to her.
"…I take it you're getting deployed again?"
Dael paused momentarily, but then gave a shrug. "A new mission. This one's rather important."
"Really?" Bahamut answered. "What's happening in it?"
"It's classified." Dael readily responded. "We can't let civilians know about it."
"She's escorting Sorceress Mianyl to negotiate for peace in Sybenia." Carbuncle readily answered.
Dael snapped her head to Carbuncle and glared furiously at him. Bahamut, on his part, raised his eyebrows a bit.
"…That is rather important." He admitted calmly, but showed nothing else. If anything, there was almost an air of slight disinterest about him. He moved further into the room until he could get to the wash stand, where he took up a glass and began to get some water. While his back was still to Dael, he began to speak again. "At any rate, since you're being sent out, I guess I'm staying here. With Carbuncle?"
Dael looked back over to Bahamut. "You can if you-"
"Sorry, kid." Carbuncle answered again, cutting Dael off. "I'm going with. Can't rely on this one to know her right foot from her left."
The young officer gave Carbuncle another look. She almost wanted to order him to stay out of spite, especially after what he just did. However, that thought only made her uncomfortable, she realized. She wasn't sure why. Carbuncle's power was effective against magic, meaning Sybenia would be the last place it would be effective considering the fact that they didn't use magic. However…something told her she'd be more at ease and on task if Carbuncle came. Maybe it would help her break the ice with some of the Order of Hyne members? So far, she had only met three, and there was a one in three chance that they were like Taraketh and would drive her up the wall. At any rate, even if she didn't know for certain, despite her annoyance, she felt she wanted him along.
"So I'll be here by myself." Bahamut responded as he got his glass of water and downed it in a few gulps. He turned back to her. "With no access to records or anything else."
Dael sighed in response to that. "I told you that it wouldn't be simple to gain access to those, but you're definitely not going to be able to access them without clearance."
Bahamut merely gave a shrug. "That's alright."
The young officer actually hesitated on hearing that. Her brow turned to some puzzlement. "Pardon?"
"True, I'd rather know sooner than later…especially lately, as bad as the world is getting." Bahamut responded as he refilled his glass. "But in my current condition, I'm hardly in good shape to do anything. I could barely handle the mutants running around the outskirts of Leuco. This body is malnourished and weak. Since I've arrived, I can already feel that I'm much stronger just from getting three meals a day, health services, and a chance to train. I could use a little more time." He turned to her soon afterward. "Still, don't think I forgot our bargain. I fully intend to collect from you as well as the Order of Hyne member. I'm only consenting to play the part of your 'ward' until I get what I want. When you get back, I intend for you to put some real effort into getting me access to those records."
Dael had to suppress a frown. It was as if she was practically being ordered around by the twelve year old. "I've told you before, I only have access to some. Only the higher ups like Colonel Regalis would have access to everything."
"Then I guess we'll have to do some illegal searching, won't we?" Bahamut answered as he began to drink another glass of water.
Dael went wide-eyed. "You expect me to jeopardize my career by breaking the law just because you want to do some research?"
Bahamut gave her a dark look for a moment as he pulled the glass away. "This is a bit more important than 'some research'. As far as your career is concerned, you should have thought about this before making me the deal in Leuco. All I can tell you is that you better start thinking of a better way to get access than through illegal methods if that doesn't bode well with you."
Dael really did give Bahamut a frown this time, but the boy turned away and put his glass back on the sink before toweling off some more. While his maturity level could be nice at points, Dael also noted that it could be downright annoying. He was in no position to order her around. A few words from her could get him packed off to the state asylum. And yet…she realized she couldn't do that. Aside from the fact he wasn't really dangerous, the fact of the matter was she had made a deal and if she backed out of it, she wouldn't be able to call herself an honorable person. She had too much regard for character from her years in the military to do such a thing, even to a child. She nearly tried to ignore it and turn back to her work, deciding to brood about this later.
However, before she got the chance, a tone came from her laptop.
Carbuncle perked his head up. "Hmm? A new email? Huh…wonder from who."
Dael paused momentarily, but then decided to go ahead and check it. It did break up the rather awkward moment, after all. She soon went over to her laptop, currently on the desk to get it out of the way, and opened it up. She began to access the account soon after. As for Bahamut, he went over to his own section of the room and began to go about getting a fresh change of clothes and some toiletries. For all his maturity, Bahamut did have one aspect that placed him firmly in the camp of "a kid"…he initially refused to take a shower after he was done exercising. Dael put a stop to that on the first day. Bahamut's only response was that he "wasn't used to bathing so frequently". Dael said he had to learn.
It took only moments to get to the message, and Dael soon opened it. Seeing that she was doing so without saying anything, Carbuncle looked to her.
"So who's it from? Is it Quaren?"
"You know, you don't have to intrude on every aspect of my personal life."
"What personal life?" Carbuncle grumbled. "You know three whole people on an informal basis, and two of them are in this room."
Dael suppressed another sigh. She held for a moment. "…Yes, it's Quaren."
"Neat." Carbuncle answered, leaning a bit more forward. "What does he say?"
"Maybe if you'd stop pestering me long enough to read the email, I could tell you." Dael retorted.
The Guardian Force grumbled in response, but held his tongue. As for Bahamut, he continued to get ready for the shower, but looked to Dael as he did so, seeming to be a bit intrigued as well. Dael spent a minute or two reading over the email. What she found was rather surprising. She showed it as her eyes widened.
"I don't believe it… Did he know something like this was going to happen?"
"Huh? What?" Carbuncle answered.
"Quaren emailed me, but the message is from Cryder." Dael responded.
"Cryder? That pirate you were running around with in Leuco?"
Carbuncle frowned a bit. "Why didn't he just email you directly?"
"Because I didn't feel like sharing my email with him while we were stuck at sea. Quaren did before I could stop him." Dael responded.
The green creature gave a chuckle in response. "Anyway, what's he got to say to you? He isn't wanting Bahamut to track down more treasure so he can pay another debt, is he?"
"No." Dael responded. "He's just letting me know something… He's going on a mission for Esthar's Hawks."
Carbuncle raised his head a bit more at that. "Really?"
Dael sighed a bit at the message. "Quaren really shouldn't be relaying this on an email account, even if it is the Fort's secure line…but apparently there's some sort of Class III mission that's going to take place in Leuco. They want Cryder as a consultant since he's familiar with the region." She frowned a bit more. "He agreed, on the condition they give him 5,000,000 gil and full amnesty."
"Heh. Did you expect anything different?" Carbuncle responded. "He is a pirate."
The young officer frowned at the screen. "I don't like this. He tricked us once before, regardless of his reasons and what he said. If this was anywhere else in the world besides the Southern Continent I might say go for it, but this is right back in Leuco, where the Black Corsairs operate out of. And we don't really know what he's capable of."
"It'll be alright." Bahamut interjected.
Both Carbuncle and Dael looked over to him on hearing that. However, Bahamut simply continued to get ready. "How can you be so sure?" Carbuncle asked.
"I haven't been alive for thousands of years without being able to read people to a degree." The boy simply answered, still getting ready.
The Guardian Force rolled his eyes. "Gee, that fills me with confidence…"
"Again, I'm well aware neither of you believe me about being Bahamut. I can understand you, Dael…but not you so much, Carbuncle. I thought you would have recognized my energy signature at least."
The green creature gave a snicker. Dael quickly gave him a look to shut him up, however. For one reason or another, Dael didn't see any reason to give the boy concrete evidence that he wasn't who he said he was. Perhaps because there didn't seem to be any harm in letting him live out this delusion. The truth would be far more painful, and had obviously scarred him enough to be in his current state. Perhaps it was a twinge of pity.
"But regardless of what you believe, I think we can trust him." Bahamut responded. "He wouldn't be the first rogue in history who ended up having a good side. Is he the most trustworthy of people? Probably not. But you can depend on him this much. It did occur to you that he easily could have sold us all into slavery or handed us over to friends of his when we were being smuggled to Esthar, didn't it? And he's telling the truth on several accounts…after that storm, there's no way he knows where his crew is, be they live or dead, and he's without a ship. Black Corsairs aren't the charitable types to give out 'loners' and he isn't going to be buying a new one or stealing one all by himself. Plus there's the story you gave me about him. He had nothing to gain by keeping you all alive on that raft out there. The bottom line…so long as he's still making more of a profit by benefiting Esthar's Hawks than he would be by going alone, you can depend on him."
Dael exhaled. She turned back to her laptop and shut it up. "Even so…I'm hoping that those Class III units keep an eye on him. He's also made it clear he has no love for the military. The moment that distaste for military types shifts from Sybenia to Esthar, those people will be in trouble, especially since he's a geomancer and we're not exactly sure all he's capable of."
Carbuncle let out a snort. "I wouldn't worry about seeing Sybenia in a more favorable light. They're only getting crazier. I haven't seen genocidal psychos like this since the Emperor of Palamecia, and you better pray it doesn't get that bad."
"Indeed." Bahamut threw in. "I almost thought I'd have to step in on that one more than once. It wasn't easy 'letting humanity go' for the first time…"
Carbuncle slapped a paw to his forehead and shook it on hearing that.
"Well, at any rate, it's not my concern at the moment." Dael responded, finally turned back to her packing. "I've got to finish this up and get in one more training session before I start resting up for tomorrow. This is entirely official business of the highest priority and I've got to make sure I do it right. It's bad enough I'm going to be one lt. commander in the midst of three captains. That's going to get people to focus on me as is, especially Order of Hyne members since I was singled out for this mission. The least I can do is try and be the most presentable." She turned to Bahamut soon after. "You will be the only one here, so can I count on you to obey regulations while living here alone?"
"I already told you I'd spend the time training and regaining what strength I possess." Bahamut responded. "You don't need to concern yourself with me."
Dael paused a bit longer, but then nodded.
"Right. In that case, try to turn in early tonight too. I don't need to be woken up late tonight while I'm trying to rest up for tomorrow."
To be continued...