Chapter 10: Preparations

In wars, both secret and public, there are soldiers and these soldiers must train to increase their abilities and to ensure their abilities remain sharp. The sect of the St-Evans religion called the Templars fought their war against demons in secret, taking orphans and children with special powers and training them to destroy beings far more and less than human.

The training hall, a secret facility in the Evrai country, was created in order to train new recruits as well as housing the thousands of Templars who were part of the sect. The main hall was an area of the facility that had many combat training devices; many students trained there daily, groups of students were put through their routines until they all moved in near perfect synchronicity as a group; all under the watchful eyes and careful instruction of their masters and the masters were in turn watched by the High Templar, Ishan.

He watched them from the control room above, through the glass he analyzed everything: who would be appropriate for which assignments, who would be better as a teacher than a field agent and other such considerations. A slight hum and vibration in his left breast pocket interrupted his thoughts and he reached into the pocket to retrieve his cell phone and flipped it open.

"Ishan here." He answered. As he listened, his expression grew anxious, almost fearful. His tone did the same as he replied, hints of anger slipped into his voice as well. "How is she? …. Are you sure? …. Listen to me, don't let her into Maia's room. …. I don't care how you do it… Then have someone in the room with them, don't leave them alone together… Yes I know who she is; do you know who I am? …. I don't care, make up an excuse as long as she is not left alone with Maia. Do. I. Make. Myself. Clear?"

He flipped the phone closed and let out a deep breath. His grip on the phone increased, as though he would break it. He put it back into his pocket and the n left the room.

He had called for all available Templars, trainees and teachers to the auditorium: a room where events concerning the entire population of the Training Hall could be addressed. The hall at this time was packed to capacity, the people murmured in confusion, for Ishan would never call a general assembly unless it was important and when it was important it was usually bad news. He stood before the audience and he did not look happy in the least; the general mood of the audience seemed to fall.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Ishan began. "About a day ago, one of our own was critically wounded in battle: Maia Roudan."

The audience exploded with outrage, shock and surprise, demands of who was the offender. Ishan motioned for quiet and the hall silenced almost immediately.

"She was wounded fighting one of our greatest foes, the harbinger of destruction: the Dragon. She was in critical condition, but is now recovering in a hospital. This event should not discourage us! Ours is a divine mission, to protect the world, to hunt down the monsters who would harm it; falling in battle is, unfortunately, a likely occurrence in our line of work. We must not let these occurrences get us down, God is on our side and He gives us strength. Because our cause is just, because our faith is strong, we will ultimately TRIUMPH!"

The room erupted in applause and cheers; the Templars, both trainees and veterans took heart at his words. They would redouble their efforts; they would not let an abomination such as the Dragon to defeat them.

"In order to put an end to the Dragon once and for all, I will be taking a squad of our elite Templars with me to end the menace of the Dragon. All of you, take heed of this; through our strength we will triumph, return to your training and know that the world is in good hands." Ishan finished his speech.

The very air seemed charged with energy as they left, eager to continue their training. Joshua, however, had not said a word, had not been jubilant like the others throughout the announcement. He approached Ishan, a disapproving expression on his face.

"Master, why did you send Maia? You know I'm stronger than she is; the Dragon is not something we should mess around with. I'm the best Templar here and you know it. So why, why send her? She was hurt; it should have been me!" Joshua said furiously.

"There is a very good reason why I didn't send you. The Dragon is in Windia." Ishan stated bluntly.

Joshua looked at Ishan in horror as the significance dawned on him.

"That's right, the Dragon is staying with Nina. Now do you see why you would not have been a good choice for this mission?"

"No I don't. Isn't that an even better reason to send me? Nina is in danger every second she remains in the company of that… that abomination!"

"You would have been overly emotional, distracted, unfocused. You would have been more concerned with protecting her than you would have in defeating him. He would have killed you in that state. Our orders are to take him alive this time."

"What? But, sir…"

"I have my orders, as do you."

"Sir, please, take me with you. I swear, I wont be a burden to the mission. I will get the job done."

Ihsan hesitated; he looked at Joshua long and hard, thinking of what he should do.

"Are you sure about this?" He asked finally.

"As sure as I ever could be."

"Alright then. We'll be leaving in a couple of hours, so get ready."

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The number of revelers had been on the decrease for a while and finally business had returned to normal levels for most nightclubs and social hotspots around the city. Kit, Lastic and Rick's club was closed for the day. It gave them a chance to clean up after the attack on Ryu the other night and to take a break from managing the club; it had become too much of a good thing, all that business. The club also made a good place to gather and discuss Ryu's present situation and how they could help him.

"This… this is silly. Think about it, if they are after him now, wont they be expecting him to go the airport? I mean it's kinda obvious that he would start traveling, isn't it?" Nina said with a kind of nervous tone.

"Maybe, but what can we do? Ryu seems pretty adamant about going." Lastic said, his arms folded across his chest.

"Well, its not like we could afford a ticket for him anyways and we'd never get his sword passed the metal detectors. Maybe it would be better for him to saty here. He could fend off the monsters." Nina interjected, she sounded almost desperate.

"Time is running out. I cannot afford to be defensive. Your help is appreciated, but I cannot stay here; it would endanger your lives." Ryu said in a monotone.

"Look, Nina, I don't want my place to become a battlefield. The best we can do is to help Ryu to get where he's going." Kit said.

"But…" Nina tried again.

"I've hacked into the Windia National Airport mainframe and booked him a flight. Now he doesn't have to worry about paying for the trip." Rin said as she finished printing a document.

"What? I'm all for helping him, but that's going to get us into serious legal trouble!" Lenn admonished Rin.

"I wont get caught." Rin replied calmly, adjusting her glasses.

Nina glared at Rin out of the corner of her eyes, almost saying 'you're not helping'.

"He still won't get that sword through." Nina repeated.

"Not a problem actually. I'm going to be one of the security guards working there on the day of the flight. Rin made sure she booked his flight the day I was going to be there." Rick said.

"But…" Nina tried again.

"Nina…" Ryu said, suddenly standing right in front of her. "You have been a great help to me and my mission. However, you should never have gotten involved. I was remiss in keeping my presence a secret and that has endangered your life. It is for the best that I leave."

-SOL Kit-

Nina looked so depressed. I know it had to be said, but… maybe it was a little harsh to put it that way? I'm not sure if Ryu was right, maybe things would have been worse if we hadn't gotten involved, maybe they would have been better. I can't say now anymore than I could say then.

-End SOL-

"Okay… Ryu needs to get things ready and doesn't have to leave for a few days." Lastic said. "Nina and I will see him off. I don't think anything will happen and if something does, I'm not sure if we'll be able to help, but I want Nina to take one of Kit's guns, just in case. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, all right." Nina agreed reluctantly.

Lastic sighed deeply, he had a bad feeling about this, but it did seem to be the best course of action. He could only hope that his feelings were nothing to be worried about.

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The girl shivered in fear, as did many in that dark and dingy room. It was quite spacious and very cold. There were many children all huddled in a semi-circle and before each of them was a small mat with various things, things each of them had stolen. They didn't have a choice, if they didn't steal, the master would beat them or worse. Some of the older children had larger items and even pieces of electronic equipment, but many had stolen wallets, cell phones and other smaller things. The girl had not been able to steal anything; she simply wasn't good at it. She had nothing on the little mat before her and the master would be mad at her, she was going to be punished.

A large man walked in, a greedy, malevolent pig of a man; that was the master. He started examining the stolen goods at the far end of the room, far away from the girl. She shuddered nervously, she was afraid; she didn't want to be punished. She heard a slight rustling and looked next to her; a young boy about her age was moving half of the things he had stolen over to her mat. He looked up at her and winked at her, smiling. That boy had been her friend for a while now, she was grateful that he was there for her, no one else was.

"Hrmph… What's this?" The master growled coming up to her mat. "Trying ta pull a fast one on me?"

He grabbed the girl and lifted her off the ground. She cried out in pain and the boy tried to help her.

"She didn't do anything wrong!" The boy shouted.

"This little mouse turd didn't steal anything, I saw you put your stuff on her mat. So you're gonna be punished too. Maybe I oughta sell the brat, she's a full Worren, should fetch me a pretty penny. Definitely a hell of a lot more than she's getting me now… huh?"

They all looked up as a shadow streamed through a skylight above. A figure was above them and crashed through the glass, a large sword in his hand. As he landed he slashed at the master, making a great bloody gash in his back. The master screamed in agony and tossed the girl away, the boy caught her and they both tumbled to the ground.

"Putrid filth." The swordsman snarled. "Using children for your own twisted ends. In the name of the Templars of St-Evans, I will gladly cut your soul from your body, sending it to the deepest pit of hell."

"Templar? HA! Do you know who I am you little shit?" The master laughed.

"Yeah, a dead man." The swordsman replied, skewering the master through the throat.

With the master dead, the children were free. The swordsman turned to the children and looked at them with a worried expression.

"Are you okay?" He asked.

"Maia, are you okay?" Someone called out to her.

Maia awoke and opened her eyes groggily. It had been all a dream. No, not a dream: a memory of when she was little. She looked around and saw that she was in a hospital; she remembered, the Dragon had severed her arm. She looked over to her right arm and saw that it was in a device from her elbow down. She couldn't feel her arm, but knew that the machine was helping to reattach it. They must have gotten her here before the arm could no longer be reattached.

"Hey…" A voice called her from her reverie.

She looked to her side to see Joshua sitting there, looking at her, smiling gently. He had always been there for her, since they were little, from the moment he'd tried to help her by giving her half of the things he stole in order to save her from being punished. Then, the swordsman, Ishan, had saved them all. She was grateful to them both, she owed them everything and now… she'd let them down.

"Hey." She said wearily.

"How are you doing?" He asked.

"I've been better." She smiled.

Joshua was about to say something further when loud voices from outside the room interrupted them. The voices were loud, but not loud enough to be properly understood. Maia recognized one as Master Ishan, the other, she didn't recognize. Were they arguing about her? Was there something wrong? Was it about her failure? The voices quieted and Ishan entered the room; he did not look happy.

"What's going on?" Maia asked Joshua nervously.

"Dunno." He shrugged.

"Master Ishan? I… I'm sorry… I failed you." Maia said.

Tears came to her eyes; Ishan was the man who saved her, who had taken her in, practically raised her and she was repaying him with failure. Ishan's face softened, a gentle smile came to his lips.

"You didn't fail, you did the best you could. If anyone is to blame, it's me for not training you well enough." Ishan replied

"No master…" Maia began.

"Now stop that. There's no sense in casting blame here. We just came to see how you were doing, not lay any guilt trips." Joshua interjected.

"Right." Ishan chuckled. "Now get some rest. I expect you to return to your duties once you're healed."

Maia nodded and closed her eyes; she was rather tired. Joshua and Ishan walked out.

"Master, what was that about, that argument outside the room? Who were you arguing with?" Joshua asked.

"I was arguing with the High Priestess. We had a… difference of opinion on Maia's treatment. Nothing to worry about. Now, yo utold me you knew where the Dragon was headed?"

"Yes, a short while ago, a hack attempt into the National Airport. A flight was booked. We believe it was Him."

"Are you sure?"

"… Yes."

"Fine, don't tell me how you know. We'll take him down just before he beards his flight."

"But… in public?"

"We no longer have the option of stealth… we don't have any more time. We can't waste resources on stealth, especially not with the Dragon, not any longer."


Music: 'Rena Landford of Arlia Village' (Ocremix, Star Ocean: A second story)

Author Notes: Sorry it took me so long to get this done. I've been running around with a lot of other writing projects. It seems people like my writing so much that they'll give me stuff in exchange for my writing something for them. Enjoy the chapter and as always, comments are appreciated.