Author's Notes: The dojo here is going to look different than what was in Suikoden 2… I figured that without Nanami, Riou would do some redecorating. Or is it undecorating:) This is gonna be one loooong chapter. For some reason, I went into so much detail concerning Riou's memories, not necessarily showing Luc in great detail, but because I wanted to include a lot of the other characters as well.

By the way! Thanks for those who responded regarding my computer crashing, I was able to recover some stuff, so it's not that bad.

Disclaimer: Suikoden is not mine.

Who Is the Mysterious Magician Luc?

Chapter 8: And So Looking Back

Kidd watched in puzzlement as Shuuichi unlaced his shiny black leather boots. "Shuuichi?.."

"The martial arts are a disciplined way of life. Uncle Riou believes cleanliness is an important aspect of such a life." Shuuichi explained. He smirked. "I think Mama invented that one and told him that."

Kidd looked down at the straw mat in front of the dojo's sliding doors and saw Master Riou's own shoes. "I see." He took off his canvas sneakers, placing them neatly beside the triplets' wooden sandals, which had been carelessly kicked off.

Riou disappeared behind another sliding door within the house and triplets were playing in what was presumably the practice area. It was a wide room, decorated only by simple paintings hanging on the wall and there was a rack of weapons and a stack of practice mats. It probably doubled as a living room—in an area on the other side of the room was a low wooden table surrounded by cushions for sitting on. Aside from that, the room was all wood floors.

"Whee!" Chidori shrieked in glee as she slid across the smooth wooden floor of the dojo in her socks.

"Watch out!" Chiyama whizzed by, sitting on a square cushion, and slammed into Chidori.

"Ack!" The blue-clad triplet yelped as she fell unto her sister. Then she laughed again.

Even the usually quiet Chiharu was having fun in their childish little game of slipping all over the dojo floor. "Chiharu!" Chiyama and Chidori squealed at her. Her triplets crashed unto her as well and all three fell on the floor, laughing.

Master Riou reappeared, carrying a tray with a teapot and several cups. "You three be careful now," he chided gently.

"I'm sorry about them, Uncle." Shuuichi helped up his sisters on their feet again. The triplets' brown bobs were disheveled and their silken kimonos crumpled. "Now look what you have done."

"Sorry!" The three girls chimed together, although Kidd noted, they did not look sorry at all.

"It's okay, see…" Chidori straightened the more obvious runaway locks of hair around her head.

"It isn't," Shuuichi said firmly. He was trying to retie Chidori's obi, which had come undone. It was turning out to be harder a task than he expected. "This is ridiculous. You will have to wait for Mama to fix that."

"Let me help you with that, Master Riou." Kidd was no good with obi-tying either; he would be of better use setting the table for tea.

"Thank you Kidd," Riou said. He set the teapot, sugar and cream on the table, and then went through the sliding door again. Kidd placed a little plate, a cup and a teaspoon in front of each cushion around the table.

"Ooh, sweets!" Chiyama cried ecstatically as Riou came back with another tray. The triplets scrambled unto the cushions.

Shuuichi shook his head. "The three of them can be such trouble," he told Kidd.

Kidd only smiled. It was obvious the eldest Atreides adored the little girls.

Riou poured the tea for them. Chiyama and her sisters were happily munching on the buns Riou bought. Kidd took one. They looked like ordinary bread buns. He tore one in half; there was a dark red filling. He finally took a bite and was pleasantly surprised to find out they were indeed sweets.

"They are sweet bean buns," Riou explained, noticing Kidd's behavior.

Kidd blushed a little at being so obvious. "They are good."

"Tell me about yourself," Riou said to Kidd. "You say you are conducting an investigation, and it involves me. It's only fair that I know who you are and what your investigation pertains to before I answer your questions, don't you think?"

"Ah… of course." Kidd nodded. There was definitely something about Master Riou, something that lent his words with such a compelling quality that you just had to agree with him. It really was no wonder that he was able to lead an army at such a young age. More than anything, a leader had to have such magnetism. Any doubts he had about this Master Riou's authenticity were alleviated by this man's almost substantial brilliance…

"I am Kidd—at least, that's what I go by. I'd tell you my real name, but… that is not of the informer's way," he grinned.

Riou returned it. "I understand. I had a friend who was an informer once… go on…"

"I'm eleven years old," Kidd said. (1) "But I'm learning how to get around… ever since I have been recruited by the Budehuc Army, I got the opportunity to live my lifelong dream of being a detective."

"The Budehuc Army…" Riou tapped his chin thoughtfully.

"We are based in Budehuc Castle… And led by Master Hugo, Master Geddoe, Master Thomas and of course, the Lady Chris."

"So I have heard," Riou said. "Was it not yet another Gathering?"

"Well…" Kidd hesitated; this was the part where he was expected to say something about the magician Luc. "It was. We sought to defeat the Destroyer—" He caught himself. "I mean, we gathered to defeat the he who wanted the True Runes destroyed, the True Wind Rune Bearer, the magician Luc."

"Luc…" The former Alliance Army leader frowned slightly. "I have heard such rumors from Shuuichi…" The eldest Atreides child nodded.

"News from Harmonia reaches L'Renouille quickly, and when Shuuichi informed us about the recent war, my sister and I had hoped that it was not Luc… our Luc who had turned 'villain'…" The quotation marks around the last word were audible. "But of course, we knew that all our hope was for nothing."

Kidd waited a few minutes for Riou to speak again. When Riou remained silent, Kidd took that as his cue to speak. "I am conducting an investigation about him, the magician Luc. After the war… it became apparent that there was more to Luc than the 'Destroyer' we of Budehuc had known. I have taken it upon myself to let people know who he was, more than what he was."

"If you have spoken the truth, then it would seem that you mean well," Riou said. "But why would you go through such an investigation for somebody whom you only knew as an enemy?"

"Well…" Kidd sighed. "I understand why you wouldn't be convinced. I—I know that it's only natural that you wouldn't trust me, or even that you would hate me… for being one of the people who fought against your friend. But… it was Miss Viki…"

"Viki?" Riou repeated curiously. "What does Viki have to do about this?"

"It was Miss Viki who made me realize that there was more to him." Kidd explained. "Miss Viki… she's not the brightest…" He and Riou exchanged wry smiles. "But she's very honest. And she told me that Luc was a good person."

"She would say that…" Riou murmured thoughtfully.

"And then I encountered more of his friends," Kidd continued excitedly. "It started out as a professional matter at first, but now it has a personal meaning to me. I find that I am looking forward to know more about the magician Luc and how people remembered him—how their relationships with that one person could be so different and yet they all refer to the same person…"

"I see…"

"Now, are you convinced?"

"………"

Kidd tried staring back at Riou who was appraising him. As he became increasingly uncomfortable, he turned to Shuuichi for help. The blond boy only shrugged.

Chiyama was glancing alternately at Kidd and Riou. Finally, she settled on Riou. "Uncle Riou!"

Riou startled and tore his gaze away from Kidd to address his niece. "What is it, Chiyama?"

"You have to help him, Uncle!" Chiyama insisted.

One corner of Riou's mouth quirked. "And why is that?"

"Cos…" Chiyama faltered. "Umm… Cos I said so!"

Riou laughed heartily at his niece's statement. Shuuichi boxed Chiyama's right ear. "Idiot."

"Ouch!" Chiyama placed a hand over her smarting ear. "That hurt!"

"Well you deserved it."

"Hmp!" She crossed her arms and lifted her chin haughtily.

Kidd's eyes danced with amusement. "Hey, Chiyama…"

"Yes?" She blinked up at him with big blue eyes.

"Thanks." He could not help but grin. The butter yellow triplet grinned back.

"It seems that I must help you." Riou was composed once more, although there was still a hint of mirth in his voice. "After all, my niece just commanded it." The girl blushed, although she was probably not quite sure about what was so funny. "Chiyama may be young, but I know she's a good judge of people. If she likes you, then you must be a good person. And if she says you are worthy of help, then you must be."

"Thank you," Kidd said to Riou. "Thanks again," he said to Chiyama, with even more gratitude now.

"So Uncle Riou, will you tell us the story now?" Chidori asked.

"I will. I know that this is the first time you will hear many of the details, so listen carefully." Riou was talking to Shuuichi especially. "These will not answer all of your questions, but… you will have to ask your parents to fill in the gaps for you."

"Nanami and I had fled Muse after the Highland Army occupied it," Riou said. "They managed it quite easily for Mayor Annabelle had died. It was… Jowy's assignment to precipitate her death."

"For Papa was part of the Highland Army…" Shuuichi said. "Uncle Riou… how come you weren't a part of the Highland Army during that time? And why would you and Mama be running away from the Highland Army? You're Highlanders as well! Why did you betray Highland?" His tone was almost accusatory.

"That's because…" Riou paused. "There was an incident…" He sighed. "Shuuichi, suffice it to say that I had my reasons to leave the Army and that your father had his reasons to stay. Your mother… she is my sister so we had to stay together…"

It was painfully evident that this did not satisfy Shuuichi, however, Riou was talking again. "We fled to Coronet, sailed to Kuskus until we finally reached South Window. Me, Nanami and our companions were commissioned by the Mayor of South Window to rid the ghost fortress town of North Window of a menacing vampire. However, we couldn't return to South Window for the Highland Army had occupied it. Instead, we gathered all the refugees into the safety of North Window Castle to fight. Because of our brilliant strategist, Mister Shu, we won the battle. After that was when Lady Leknaat sent her pupil to us…" (2)


The air before them glittered and there formed into a ball of light. Riou could feel Nanami stiffening beside him. Similarly, Flik, Viktor and the others held their breaths. It was a sign that an extremely magical presence was to grace them. From the ball of light, a feminine figure emerged. Apple blinked as if in recognition, yet Shu had a puzzled frown. "Lady Leknaat…" Riou finally realized. Their visitor was the mysterious Gatekeeper. "This is the 'Gathering' Riou and you are the Leader." Leknaat said in her ethereally soft yet clear voice. "It is your task to gather the 108 Stars of Destiny. They will support you in your quest."

She waved her hand and a tablet carved out of stone materialized. "This is the Stone Tablet of Promise—the record of your allies as you recruit them. I give it to you now, that you may use it to guide you as you seek out those who will be your allies."

Riou was just nodding his thanks when another iridescent ball of light appeared—a green light this time. It faded and standing before them was a blond teenaged boy garbed in green robes of a strange thick cloth. He had a bored expression about his intensely green eyes.

"I am the magician Luc," he declared in a calm voice. "I am Lady Leknaat's disciple and she has sent me to be of help to you."

The young magician's entrance had considerably driven away the awestruck look in the faces of Riou's other companions. Flik had on a dubious look and Viktor was definitely glaring at Luc suspiciously. Nanami however, had gasped, held her breath and gaped at the new arrival.

"Fare well, young Riou." Leknaat said as she waved her hand once more and pinprick lights glittered around her. "Luc, do your best to help… be good…" Another luminous ball took her away.

The apprentice harrumphed at the mistress' reproachful tone. He fixed a glaringly green glance at Riou, who soon grew uncomfortable. It was as if the magician was assessing his worth…

Just when Riou's eyes started to tear at trying to return Luc's defiant stare unblinkingly, the magician shifted his attention. Flik and Viktor still regarded him suspiciously.

"I see you're still alive," Luc remarked scathingly to the duo.

'Mister Bear's' face did scrunch up and he resembled more the bear that he really was. "And just what do you mean by THAT!"

Luc shrugged. "You know what they say about weeds? You can kick it, stamp on it, pull it out and throw it away, but you can't kill it—"

Viktor's bear-like growl was frightening. Even the cool 'Blue Lightning' was brewing into a thunderhead.

"—But in the end, they're just a couple of weeds." Luc smirked.

"Why you—" Viktor pounced on him but Flik pulled him back by the belt.

"Viktor, you can't hit a kid!" Flik chided.

"That's right," Luc shook his head disapprovingly. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Flik clenched his jaw, yet remained under control, pulling his partner away by the collar. Viktor snarled, "That guy!" as he was dragged out of the Great Hall.

Luc turned to the other people in the room. Riou heard nearly everyone, including Nanami, take an instinctive step back. Apple's mouth was set in a grim line. Shu was unfazed.

"Rude, isn't he?" Shu muttered to Apple.

"Yes, but he is extremely talented." Apple murmured back.

"Really?"

Zamza scowled, sizing up the boy that could be his potential rival. Luc was not even looking at him—he looked at the circus troupe this time. Bolgan looked as clueless as ever. Rina only had her usual heavy-lidded, come-hither stare on her face. Eilie looked remote, but she was probably the only young girl in the room who was not impressed.

Nanami, of course, was still staring. Riou was starting to find it quite embarrassing. Millie and her freakish groundhog, unlike everyone else, had ventured closer, peering from behind Nanami to peek at the magician. Riou noted with surprise that she had let go of Kinnison's hand. She had refused to part with the older boy ever since he had pulled her out of the mercenary fort when Luca attacked it, clinging unto him like an overly possessive baby sister. The blue-clad somewhat-sorceress never felt safe when the archer was not around, and now she had voluntarily released her vise-like grip on him, all to get a better view of this magician. Riou supposed that really said something about Luc. That, and the fact that Nanami stared at him as if he was better than pre-sliced bread, if somebody took the time to invent it…

"Eep!" Bonaparte squealed when he plopped on the floor after Millie dropped him. Luc's gaze caught her unaware. Harsh agate orbs were countered by blurry brown eyes.

Luc blinked. He trained his gaze to the next person. Nanami took another sharp intake of breath and her eyes widened. "Whaaat!" She demanded.

Luc raised an eyebrow at her and rolled his eyes disinterestedly. "Hmph." He turned to leave.

"What the heck are you 'hmphing' at me for!" Nanami yelled.

Luc glanced at her over his shoulder. His lips curved into what would be his trademark smirk. "Idiot," he said, drawing out the first syllable. He walked away.

"JERK!" Nanami cried, whipping out her three-piece rod. Riou locked his arms under each of her shoulders to hold her back.

"So mean…" Riou heard Millie murmur, almost as if she were amazed. Kinnison, who was frowning slightly after the good-looking but bad-mannered mage, absently patted her head.

"Let's hope he can cast spells as well as he can cut down people, eh?" Riou suggested cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood.

"He can do that and much more," Apple said. She was massaging her temples. "I'm just not sure if putting up with him is worth it."

Riou gulped. He hoped Lady Leknaat knew what she was doing…


"Needless to say, that first meeting didn't go as pleasantly as anyone would have hoped for," Riou said. "His teacher, Lady Leknaat, had required him to help the Alliance Army. It was not of his free will, and it certainly showed."

"Miss Apple has mentioned that to me as well," Kidd said. "How he never really cared about the Alliance Army, and served mostly in a half-baked way until the moment he encountered Master Sasarai…"

"Yes…" Riou nodded. "I never really quite understood that…"

"They're brothers," Kidd supplied.

"Oh?" Riou looked intrigued.

"As I understand, Master Sasarai was favored over Master Luc… we all know what that leads to when it involves the politics of the 'Holy Kingdom'…" Kidd had a wry grin.

"Hmm…" Riou did not pursue the matter; though it was obvious it stirred his curiosity. "That time Sasarai helped Luca Blight… the only time Luc showed any zeal was when we were fighting his brother. He was fighting for his personal cause…"

Kidd nodded, only because it seemed like a suitable time to nod.

"I must say that I… Well, I didn't really like him," Riou admitted. "He was… interesting, I suppose, seeing as how he was a True Rune Bearer … but then I had an element of a True Rune myself, and knew there was nothing fantastic about it. And girls found him interesting for the most part, although that wouldn't really help him win the favor of other boys, now would it?" A corner of Riou's mouth quirked.

"Certainly not." Kidd agreed, a slight smile on his face as well.

"He wasn't dedicated to the great cause of the Alliance Army," Riou continued. "And much as I'd like to say I was irked because I had been so dedicated, that would be a lie. I wasn't really devoted to the Army, at least not at first. I had merely been running, trying to survive in the time of war, fighting because I had to live. I didn't like having such a responsibility; I didn't like having to fight with my best friend, Jowy. I led the Army because I had no other choice, because it was expected of me.

"I would look at him and see the very same indifference I had initially felt. See that while he could be apathetic, I couldn't. He had his teacher counting on him, just one person. Thousands depended on me, and I couldn't very well let them down. Oh no—I couldn't afford apathy.

"The worst part of it all was that he, of all people, felt that he had the right to reproach me…" (3)


Riou was having an out-of-body experience, his soul zooming out of his body such that he could see everyone and everything. Flik and Viktor were arguing about the validity of Leon Silverburg's message. Klaus was giving an assessment of their impending defeat. Apple was wringing her hands anxiously. Nanami was unusually quiet. Luc was standing slightly outside of the group, looking miffed as if he were the lone wise man in a sea of idiots. The Great Hall was in chaos as everybody talked… talked about what Riou should do… as if Riou was not in the room to hear them…

"Do not pressure Lord Riou," Shu reproached the captains. And then he turned to Riou and spoke. "Leon Silverburg sent us the message that there will be a night raid by Luca Blight, giving us a chance to attack and defeat him. We can either believe this tip, or we can disregard it as a trap. The choice is in your hands, Lord Riou. Please consider all factors and decide…"

Don't pressure him, he says… A chill traveled from Riou's neck down to his extremities, leaving goosebumps in its wake. What does he think he's doing to me?

"I-I-I… I will think about it…" Riou stammered and rushed out of the Great Hall.

He hardly heard Shu calling behind him, "Please decide quickly, Lord Riou!"

Riou ran until he reached the laundry area in the castle side cliffs. Freshly laundered clothes and linen hung on the clotheslines but no one else was in sight. No one, except for a girl in an orange karate uniform.

"Riou, are you okay?"

Riou absently thought that Wakaba would not be asking such a question if he did seem alright to her, but he simply smiled slightly at her. "It's nothing. But I would like to be alone."

Wakaba looked like she wanted to say something, but she nodded in assent and left. One of the glass and wrought iron doors creaked and closed behind her.

A few minutes later, one of the doors creaked open and closed again. Simply from the footfall pattern of the arrival, Riou knew it was Nanami. She stood behind him, silent.

Then a pair of the doors swung open, creaking with considerably more force than when Wakaba or Nanami passed. The footfall was confident and somewhat confrontational…

"Leave." Riou heard Nanami hiss. "Now."

"I have something to say," said a cold voice—a voice he recognized as Luc's.

"He doesn't need to hear it!" Nanami retorted. There was a scuffing of feet against the ground and the doors were pushed open and banged shut. Nanami had pushed out the bothersome boy to prevent him from bothering Riou.

It took some time before a set of glass-and-wrought-iron double doors creaked open. Even the normally irrepressible Nanami did not prevail upon the magician.

"Riou." Luc said by way of greeting.

"What?" Riou grumbled. He winced at his tone—he hardly ever used such a hostile tone of voice.

"Stop acting like a child."

What! Riou swiveled on his heels and summoned his fiercest face to glower at Luc. "What are you talking about!"

"Running away like a scared little boy who cannot make decisions without an adult's supervision," Luc spoke, each syllable sounded deliberately. "Such behavior is not becoming of a true leader."

"You—" Riou pointed a shaking finger at Luc. "You don't have the right to tell me that. You have no idea, you have no clue—the weight of part of a True Rune is upon my hand—how can you ever know!"

"Oh, how can I forget…" Luc slapped his blond brow and shook his head mockingly. "Poor little Riou is burdened by the Bright Shield Rune. How can the oh-so unsympathetic Luc expect to understand—oh, maybe because he has on his hand the True Wind Rune—ALL OF IT!"

"Well…" Riou's cheeks heated. How he could have forgotten there was a True Rune Bearer in their midst? "Well… you wanted that Rune, didn't you? You made your choice!"

"And you didn't?" Luc raised his eyebrows dubiously. "As I recall, Lady Leknaat asked you if you wanted the power to end this war. You took the Rune upon yourself."

Riou conceded. "So I did—"

"Besides, what makes you so sure I wanted my own True Rune?"

Riou blinked. He had not considered that. He had always assumed that a magician as arrogant and self-possessed as Luc would want a True Rune. "B-but… But still, I wanted this Rune to end the war as you said. But it's not happening. I'm still fighting the war!"

"You idiot," Luc scoffed. "If True Runes could do such things just like that—" He snapped his fingers. "Then whole worlds would have been destroyed and created every time some fool gets a True Rune on his hands. You are going to have to prove yourself a worthy bearer, before the Rune will manifest its greatest powers. Do your duty, and it will perform as desired."

Riou swallowed a howl of frustration. The magician is scolding me—this can't be! "That's easy for you to say," Riou tried again. "You're not in my position. You have no idea how it's like to be a leader… to have thousands of lives depend upon you… the fate of an entire nation. So don't you go telling me off!"

"You are correct," Luc agreed. "I have no idea what it is like to have a responsibility of such magnitude. But I am admonishing you, boy Leader, precisely because the Fates of tens of thousands—and more—depend upon you. You cannot be weak-willed, you cannot be fickle, you cannot be indecisive. You are in this position of Power, do not fail those who depend upon you!"

"You're one to talk!" Riou yelled. "I have only a part of a True Rune, but you have a whole True Rune. The only time you ever used it was driving away your High Priest look-alike." Luc flinched, but Riou was too far in his fury that he could not care less about whatever feelings the other boy had. "Don't think I haven't noticed you scrimping out on us! You could do so much more, but you can only spare us low-class magic. If you're so concerned about these people then YOU should give it your all!"

Luc pulled himself straighter, and frowned haughtily at Riou. "This is not my war."

"Ha!" Riou exclaimed smugly. "My point exactly. You don't care about this war, so you don't have the right to go telling me what to do!" He stalked off, deliberately crashing his shoulder with that of Luc's, shoving the mage out of the way.

"You are the Leader, Riou." Luc said. "This your Gathering. You might not think it is fair that you will have to work more than everybody else, care more than everybody else, but that is the way it is to be. It's your responsibility, your role, your Fate—and trying to escape that will not help end this war!"

A few choice comebacks sprang unto Riou's mind, all of them in crude language, and he turned back to say them to the crude-mannered mage. "Listen here—" But the amused sneer upon Luc's face nailed his words in his throat.

"But then, what can anyone expect… really…" Luc was shaking his head. "You are just a little boy who cannot even handle his overbearing sister." Riou choked at that.

Luc took one, two, three … three strides that took him right in front of Riou. The older boy looked down at Riou. "You are a pathetic excuse for the Leader of a Gathering. You will never match up to Tir. Never."

Luc swished past him, his robes fluttering in the chill wind that suddenly blew. The breeze blew Riou's hair over his eyes, obscuring them as he blinked back the moisture pooling in them. The unspoken juvenile comebacks seemed to have formed a lump in his throat, causing a bitter taste to infuse his mouth. Who Tir was, Riou did not know then. But something in the mage's words made Riou feel that he should be living up to this Tir…


"I know he never really believed in me…" Riou murmured. "I could never match up to Master Tir. But I tried my best…"

"Uncle…" Shuuichi ventured. "If it weren't for you, Dunan wouldn't exist as we know it. You did well."

"Well…" Riou sighed. "I did well. While Tir—he did great. As I said, I never could match up to Master Tir."

"But Master Riou," Kidd spoke. "Master Riou, you had to fight your best friend for the Gathering. Surely that counts for something!"

"Are you aware that Tir had to fight his own father?"

"Oh, right…" Kidd's shoulders drooped. Master Riou shouldn't be feeling down about something that happened fifteen years ago!

"But I do know that I tried my best." Riou reiterated. "I tried my best. That was what he was after anyway…" (4)


"The king is not here," Luc observed.

Riou's eyes scanned the throne room. Indeed, the king was nowhere to be found. All that trouble… all for nothing it would seem, for the last battle would not take place. He did not know whether to be disappointed or relieved…

Then L'Renouille's floor lurched forward and shook, as if there was an earthquake. "Watch out!" Lorelai warned.

"Whoa!" The rocking nearly threw Riou on his hands and feet. He regained his balance just in time, but then another body collided unto him and sent him sprawling anyway. "Ow…"

"Ouch!" Millie cried. "Bonaparte!"

"Eep!" Bonaparte squeaked as he flew out of Millie's arms and bounced on the floor.

"So sorry…" Millie said. Riou was certain that the apology was directed to the groundhog instead of him. She squirmed to get back on her feet, and Riou stifled a groan as her elbows dug into his ribs.

"………" Luc's hand enclosed her wrist and he pulled her up.

"Thanks," she said.

"Master Riou…" Tomo gently helped him up.

"Thank you."

"This place is falling apart. We must leave immediately." Clive stated.

"Yes," Riou nodded. "Let's go!" He dashed off.

"Yes!" Tomo ran after him.

"Bonaparte!" Millie cried. "Bona—oh!" She exclaimed when Luc grabbed her wrist again and pulled her after Tomo.

"He's here," Luc said. Indeed, one freckly yellow bug-eyed groundhog was tucked safely under his arm.

"Thanks—"

"Please resume all conversation at a more appropriate time," Lorelai had both of them by the backs of their clothes and shoved them forward slightly, hastening them.

"Hurry!" Clive urged, an uncharacteristic note of panic in his voice. They hurried down two flights of stairs, ran down another corridor, took a right and then a left.

"Riou, you are going the wrong way!" Lorelai cried.

Riou heard her. "Back, go back!" He shouted at Tomo, despite the fact that she could hear him perfectly well for she was beside him. He clasped her hand they ran back the way they came from. Luc had taken the cue and was ushering girl and pet up the corridor.

"The passage is collapsing back there, there's no backtracking!" Clive yelled.

"Oh crap…" Riou cursed under his breath. He racked his brain, trying to remember something from the sketched layout of L'Renouille he had tried to memorize. "Down the corridor, the second left passage!" He pulled Tomo with him and ran.

"What, back again!" Millie panted, but the incredulity was clear in her voice.

"What are you doing?" Luc demanded, running after Riou, still dragging the other girl along.

"It meets with the main passage we are supposed to follow!" Riou shouted for his other companions. "Trust me!"

"Damn, I'm not dying here!" Lorelai swore.

"Neither am I," Clive muttered.

The walls shook even more violently and clouds of dust appeared where wall met ceiling. Telltale cracks appeared on the plaster above them…

"It's going to cave!" Clive roared. "Stick to the wall!"

Huge chunks of the ceiling fell on the floor and the party threw themselves out of their way. Smaller bits rained on them and Riou pushed Tomo flat against a wall and shielded her from the rubble. Clive shoved Lorelai with him under his cloak. Luc pulled Millie close to him and what seemed like a wave of air pulsed out from him, scattering the debris harmlessly about them.

"Unghh…" Tomo covered her nose to avoid inhaling the dust, but to no effect. She coughed, and everybody else hacked coughs as well.

"Nothing can—koff, koff—be done," Clive drew his cloak tighter about himself and pushed forward. Lorelai wrapped her own cloak about her head like a veil and ran as well. Everybody else followed.

Luc waved his hand and the dust cleared out, sparing them from the coughing and allowing them to see clearly again.

"Sorcery can be quite useful," Tomo remarked. Riou was inclined to agree, but could not say so for he was out of breath.

The floor gave another especially strong lurch and threw them all off balance. Riou lost his grip on Tomo's hand as he slammed unto a wall. She lost her grip not only on Riou's hand, but also her spear—it clattered across the floor behind them.

"Fujin!" Tomo cried, running back to retrieve the weapon.

"Tomo!" Riou yelled.

"Tomo!" Millie shrieked.

"No!" Luc called out.

"Cave in!" Clive hollered.

"Tomo!" Riou was about to lunge for the girl, but a hand pulled him by the back of his shirt. "Let go!"

"Don't be foolish!" Luc berated.

Tomo's eyes widened and she threw herself out of the way of the debris. That was the last Riou saw before the chunks of ceiling and the floor above covered the passage behind them.

"Dammit!" Riou bellowed.

Luc let go of Millie's hand and clutched his staff tightly with both hands. A slight breeze blew as he summoned the Wind's power…

"Stop!" Lorelai called out. "You will probably cause another cave in and make things worse."

"Unggh!" Luc shut his eyes tightly and a pained grimace crossed his face. "But Tomo…"

Millie had both hands covering her face as she sobbed. "Tomo…"

"Don't cry…" Riou patted her shoulder comfortingly. Then he hopped nimbly, towards the top of the rubble.

"Riou!" Lorelai cried.

"I'll follow, don't worry, and I'll have Tomo with me—watch out!" Riou shouted as he tipped a large hunk of rock from the top of the pile and it rolled to the bottom. His comrades jumped out of the way. "Come on—go!"

"… Alright," Luc nodded in assent. Grabbing the sobbing Millie's hand, he ran, Clive and Lorelai close behind him.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was really just a few minutes), Riou stumbled out of the collapsed fortress, half-carrying a limping Tomo. His teammates gasped both in relief and alarm when the two of them slumped just in front of the fortress' entrance.

Luc extended his arms over the injured girl and a magical wind wrapped around her, and her wounds healed right before their eyes. Riou sighed with relief when he saw her breathe easier.

Luc turned to him next, and the magical wind fluttered around him in gentle breezes. Riou felt the fatigue evaporate from his body and his injuries tingled before healing in an instant. "Thank you," he murmured.

"You saved Tomo!" Millie sniffed.

Luc nodded. "Good job."

A wave of warmth washed over Riou and he smiled. "Thanks…"


"I was never as good as Tir. But I tried my best, and in the end, he acknowledged that much." Riou smiled, resignedly, but also peacefully.

"Uncle—" Shuuichi began.

Kidd opened his mouth to say something at the same time. "Master Riou—"

The sound of wood scraping against wood interrupted them and caused everyone to look up.

Standing in front of the open sliding door were Jowy and Nanami.

"Shuuichi!'

"Mama!—" His voice caught at the anguish in his mother's face.

Behind the distressed Nanami and Jowy whose face was unreadable were Ryuuya, his arms folded and his face smug, and Yanagi, who was wringing her hands.

"What are you doing here?" Jowy asked quietly. "And what have you been telling them, Riou?"

Mikltov: Yes, it's two years. Killing me is not a good idea, because you'll never get more updates if you do! I'm sorry for nearly giving you a heart attack (I am puzzled how that can happen though). And yeah, I will continue, this is such a fun story to write. Well, I've made it a point never to tell who may be coming up in the next chapters. Prepare for surprising (and not-so surprising) events. Thanks for the help! I've forgotten about that site, I got a lot of stuff there before.

The Apology: Shuuichi's a cool kid. The greater detail present clearly shows how my writing style has changed in the course of two years. Also, Jowy and Nanami are such interesting characters that they deserve to make big appearances, and with their family too. This Riou chapter must be a bit different from what you expected as I gave more flashbacks rather than rationalizations.

GreatLight432: YOOOOOO! XD I missed talking to you too! University stuff has really been taking a toll on me. I hope to catch you on AIM soon—I want to hear your thoughts on Shuuichi's secret sword. XP Anyway, my Suikoden writing problems have more or less cleared, so I'll be able to update more regularly. Continue reading!

Freindofall: I screen against unregistered users as a precaution against flamers who don't even have the guts to leave their online name for all to see and people who will flood me with reviews to get me to write faster. Also readers who don't even have a account can't be that into the fandom culture, they are less likely to appreciate a fanfiction for what it is, and give me constructive criticism/praise. Getting many reviews is nice, but I want quality reviews not quantity reviews. I'm not particular about chapter length, my only aim is to get everything I have to show into the chapter, whether it turns out long or short, and this one did turn out longer than the others. I know it's not easy on the eyes, but bear with me.

Suzume the Wanderer: I'm happy that you're happy! I wanted to release a fanart of Jowy and Nanami with their children at the same time as this chapter, but I didn't finish it yet. Maybe I'll still release it next time, although the next chapters will be covering other characters. Hmm… yeah, I like being able to create my own detailed universe, it should be the goal of every writer. By the way, thanks for offering to scan Shinsyo pages, I'd like to ask for scans of… well, the characters I usually use in my fics. Heheh. (Your e-mail doesn't appear properly!)

Chaltruvind: Thanks. And yeah, I like Nanami, which is one of the reasons she appears in two chapters showing her living a happy life with Jowy—which she really deserves. Sasarai will not appear in this fanfic, although he'll be appearing in a fanfic planned after this one is finished, as one of the major characters too. As for Viktor and Wakaba… we'll see. :smiles:

Mavelus666: Thanks. If you have read any of my other fanfics, you will notice that I make Luc interact with a certain set of characters… they're the ones that you should really expect, because they will definitely make big appearances. Hint: sveral have already appeared; Futch, Hix, Tengaar, Meg, Nanami and Riou. Expect some more to appear… and there might be some unexpected ones too.

Salacassera: Thanks, please read on!

RobertDogwood: Thanks a lot! Yeah, losing writing really, really sucks!

Millie's Lover: Oh, "-chan" is a Japanese suffix used for younger people, or close friends. Well, yeah, I like Millie, I think she's great, and the other underrated characters too. I think Luc and Millie are very compatible, if Suikoden 2 were made into a full-length anime series, I'm sure they'd be a probable ship—cute in that opposites attract kind of way, and besides, Millie's rather mysterious herself (it annoys me that people think she has no depth to her just because she's cute). Well, she has an affinity with only the destructive runes and has the best affinity with the Blue Gate Rune—that tidbit alone presents a lot of possibilities. I just think that if they were both characterized in situations, it's very likely that they would interact in interesting ways.

(1) I don't know how old he is. sigh Does such official information exist?
(2) The Luc Recruitment Event has been changed somewhat. Duh.
(3) And of course the Ambush Luca Blight Decision Event has been changed as well…
(4) It's a FANFIC. Stuff has been changed!

Author's Notes: Longest chapter so far, I believe. The reason for that is because I didn't want to hold back from including the as many characters from the previous games as I could. Notice that the preview lines for Chapter 6 are here? Because, as I said, everything didn't fit in the last chapter. And since I love Jowy, Nanami and Riou and the Atreides kids in my mind! so much, I decided to have one more chapter about them. Sorry for those who want to see Kidd leave Kyaro already, but I promise, the next chapter will definitely be shorter than this one. Actually, I think the rest of the chapters will be shorter than this one. The last memory was unnecessarily long, I know, but it's been a while since I've had the opportunity to write a scene with Clive and Lorelai! (On the off-chance that you'd want to see more of that angle, check out my other fic, "The Falena Story".)