Conflictions of the Mind
-Chapter Fourteen-
Where Is The Love?

If ever the river could whisper your name
Would the choices you make still be the same
Like a flower that dies from angry rain
Why do we hurt ourselves?
They had first traveled to the far north, beyond the continent.. and encountered a strange village on an island composed entirely of Katz. However, finding nothing amiss, though acquiring a few new supplies, they had swooped around, heading towards the south instead. Flying over the dry, arid desert.. Presea found it unlike anything she had ever experienced.

The only time she had ever seen so much sand before was from their stop at Altamira just a few days ago. Thinking of it was enough to make her wince when she remembered Alicia's tomb at the top of the company building. These days it usually didn't leave her mind for longer than a few minutes at a time.. yet remembering the harsh reality would always cause a strange sensation in her chest.. a feeling she couldn't quite grasp, though logically understood it was connected with grief.

The last time she had spoken to her sister, after all, was after the girl had turned ten years of age. She seemed barely older than that in the form that the exsphere revealed.. yet her death was probably over ten years ago. It was hard to wrap their minds around the facts given to them.. though Presea knew when their task of uniting the worlds was over.. there would be more time to.. go over things, and to understand them.. and to leave the past completely behind.

She looked down at the dry sands stretched out below.. it seemed like death.

Death perhaps was too strong a word to describe the desert.. though their flight south had been filled with tension. The young woman who she had been sharing the Rheaird with provided her with some conversation, at least; though Presea felt envious of her, and unable to reply at some moments.

Envious at how Chocolat was able to find it in her heart to forgive Lloyd for what he had done to her family.. and yet here she was barely able to look Regal Bryant in the face when.. what he had done was truly noble.

Perhaps it was that her heart was weak. Feelings and emotions were still new to her, and she had many things on her mind already.. not to mention the weapons were becoming louder once more.. it was as if the closer they drew in to the desert, to the city that lay below.. the more they chattered, filling up her mind with dark thoughts.. thoughts that she knew that she would have to push away if she would ever allow her companions to be more than.. acquaintances. In some ways, she had accepted them.. and believed that they accepted her.. yet, it was hard, with those voices, begging her to join in their emptiness.


She had a feeling that they would find the next weapon soon.. perhaps then, the devil arms would give her a rest. Either that, or they would get worse.

They usually quieted down, though.. she would have to be optimistic.

"Is.. something wrong?"

A little startled, as she had been distracted before, Presea took a moment to formulate a reply to the brunette. "Oh. I have never seen a desert before."

"I see.."

Presea knew that she didn't really understand. "It's.. much different than seeing the frozen wasteland of Flanior.. though this too, is a wasteland.." She stopped speaking, trying to focus once more on controlling the vehicle.


"..I'm sorry." Her teal-blue gaze was on the Oasis ahead; Lloyd, in the lead, had already begun his descent. "It is.. a land of ice. It.. does not reside in this world."

"..A land of ice..?"


Silence passed; and for a few moments it was silence, pure and blissful.. until she heard those voices again, the voices of the underworld, begging her to join them.. but no, she had nearly landed now, her feet scraping the sand, slowing the vehicle to a stop. "It is safe to dismount."

"Thank you." Chocolat fanned herself with her hands after sliding off of the Rheaird. "..I hope we won't be here for too long. It is rather hot.."

"The temperature is warmer near the ground." Presea replied quietly, closing her eyes briefly before walking over to join her friends.

Their stop in Triet was supposed to be brief, so the majority of the group remained near the outskirts of the city.

Genis felt that it was ridiciously hot.

Finding nothing better to do, as he still wasn't keen on speaking to anyone, Genis took a seat on the dusty ground and waited patiently for those who had went out to scout to return, just hoping that it would be quick enough. Colette told them that she would try to fan them with her angel wings.. though Genis pointed out that they were hardly solid and would do nothing but tire her out.

He would have preferred to cast one of his ice or water spells, though after what had happened in the forest, he knew that casting anything was out of the question. Lest he get accused of using mana up for frivolous purposes, or worse, that he'd use up whatever energy he had and faint.. which would only succeed in getting Raine even more on his case than she had been..

Even now, he could sense her. Staring at the back of his head, no doubt, though he wasn't going to turn around. He had barely said three words to her since the previous night; he wasn't about to start speaking now.

"Hey, I'm back." He heard Lloyd call, and the mage glanced up from his handcuffs to look at him.

"So what's happened here, then?" Colette asked.

"Well, they said that the Triet Ruins possibly suffered some damages.." Lloyd frowned a little. "Some people were on an expedition there, it seems.."

"The ruins?" This had caught Raine's attention. Instead of turning around, Genis merely imagined the look on her face. And shook his head.

"I also heard that there is a giant monster worm around here terrorizing people.." Lloyd continued quickly. "..So.. any ideas before we go to Izoold?"

Colette looked taken aback. "We can't just leave it like that! We have to do something, Lloyd!"

"It'll take too much time.." Zelos pointed out. "We don't have much of that to spare, you know.. and besides, I'm sure Chocolat really wants to get home.." He glanced over at the girl in question, likely hoping that she'd agree with him.

Chocolat shook her head. "No, I'm fine, really. It's not everyday that one gets to ride around on.. what did you call these things again? Rheairds? ..I mean, it's an amazing experience. And the more people you get to help the better, right?"

Zelos frowned slightly. "..I guess.. but either one of these things could prove to be dangerous. Okay, a giant monster worm? Give me a break!"

Genis put his hands up to his face and shook his head. "Why don't we just split up? That way we can get out of this place a lot quicker. It's way too hot to even be worrying about it."

Colette smiled at him. "That's good thinking, Genis!"

"Either way could be dangerous for Genis.." Raine said quickly. This time Genis turned around to properly focus his glare at her. "Don't you look at me like that! I've heard about what happened in the forest, you know.."

"Raine!" There. He had said her name. Looking at her now he could see that her face had gone very white, and her lips were pressed into a thin line.

"It'll probably only take two of us to head over to the ruins and look things over. One, if necessary, while someone stays here with Chocolat and Genis.. and then the remaining ones can run over to fight that worm.." Raine folded her arms across her chest. Genis knew very well that she wanted to be the one to head over to the ruins.. if they had been destroyed, she would try to carry away something from the wreckage.. he knew her too well.

"I'm going to fight, then." Lloyd said after an awkward silence. "And.. I figure that Sheena and Zelos can come as well. Right? Which leaves.."

"Colette should stay here," Zelos said suddenly. "It'll probably be better that way.."

Lloyd nodded. "I agree with that.. so.. Presea? Will you come with us?"

"..What?" Presea seemed rather distracted for a moment, and Genis frowned a little. "Yes, of course."

Colette glanced down at Genis. "It's okay. I really wanted to help fight, but.. I can keep you company, right?"

"Yeah.." Genis nodded, though was still a little confused by Zelos' being the one to insist on Colette staying. As for Lloyd, he understood perfectly why his best friend would say something like that. Not that he really minded or anything.

Lloyd's gaze moved over to Raine. "You're not going to the ruins by yourself.. so Regal can go with you.. and we should be set."

"C'mon, let's go." Sheena's tone was still annoyed as she strode out of the city, clutching the canteen that Zelos had given her.

The others quickly left as well, leaving only the three of them. Genis remained sitting on the ground, not feeling too inclined to return to his feet. Colette sighed a little, watching Lloyd's group take flight, before wandering back over to him and Chocolat.

"Aren't we a fun little trio?" Genis tried to make a joke, and failed, the words coming out a bit flat.

Colette gave him a stern look. "Genis.. you need to stop being so mean to Professor Raine. You made her cry, you know.. and she's the Professor.. you know that she's not supposed to.."

Chocolat blinked a little. "I'll go for a little walk, if you two want to have a private conversation.. I can go pick up a souvenir for Mom. She's never been here before."

Colette nodded. "That sounds like a good idea. Just be careful, okay? ..It still can be dangerous around here.." She waited until the girl had wandered to one of the street vendors before turning back around to look at Genis, her hands already formed into fists.

"Look. We've talked about this." Genis muttered. "We both have a problem, right? Mine isn't as serious as yours, though I don't know why you don't want to get to Altessa's right away.."

"It's because we don't know for sure if he can do this or not." Colette lowered her gaze. "And I've already decided that making sure that the people of Sylvarant are okay is the important matter here. It's not like you're doing any better."

"I'm worried about you too. And it's not like you to suddenly be pessimistic."

Colette stared at him. "Just because it's 'not like me', doesn't mean that I.. I'm being realistic, Genis, okay? Right now I want to make sure that Sylvarant is safe.. because, that was my job. I am not walking away from my responsibility as a Chosen just because most of us have come to the conclusion that it's not.. I mean.." her voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't want to die either, but someone told me that it's important to smile. And.. so I am, smiling. We can't worry about me right now."

Genis lowered his gaze. "I think you've been talking to my sister for too long. But.. okay. I trust you, Colette.. just as long as we get to Altessa's eventually..." He really missed Mithos. His friends had become like strangers to him, and he couldn't stand it.

He clenched his hands into fists and tried to pull the cuffs apart by sheer force... to no avail. Not like he hadn't tried many times before.. his strength was pitiful. He imagined Mithos laughing at him. He laughed at himself.

Now it was Colette's turn to stare. "Um.. Genis? ..If you made a joke, I.. don't think I quite understood it."

The silver-haired mage stopped laughing, lifting up his head to look back up at her, blinking. "What? ..No, there was no joke. I was being serious about what I said.." he held up his wrists. "This is why I was laughing."

"..I don't see what's funny about it." Colette tilted her head to the side. "I mean.. they're not like Regal's at all, are they?"

"Nope." Genis sighed. "His just prevent him from using his hands in combat. Mine.. well, I know I'm definitely stronger in some ways.. and yet, weak in others.. and until I can reclaim that balance... I don't know. They don't want me to fight... but.. I can fight, see? And I want to, because I am not useless!" He nearly shouted, and he forced himself to moderate his tone.

"..Didn't Regal say that it took a lot of energy out of you?"

Genis made a face. "He doesn't know! He's not the one that this is happening to, okay? So don't bring him up, or try to compare us.. because it's different!"

He had shouted that time, and Colette winced, and he felt bad.. but.. she just needed to stop talking about them. "I.. er.. sorry.."

Colette shook her head. "No, I'm sorry.. but now do you see my point? How one thing happens and suddenly, you aren't really allowed to make your own decisions anymore? This is why I only told you and... well, I'm not going to tell you who else I told.. but no one can know, okay? Especially Lloyd.. and... Promise me.. I know you really, really want to see Mithos.. but we have to do this first. Is that okay?"

Genis closed his eyes. "Okay... I guess.. but if something changes, you have to tell them, you know? Or.. I'll feel horrible, that I knew this about you and didn't do anything to help.."

Colette tightened her hands into fists. "It's my decision, Genis. It's not taking too much away from my ability to fight.. unlike you.. and we don't know how to fix your problem.. and we think that mine is fixable.. so in a way, I'm lucky.. so we can work through this. Now all you have to do for me is smile."

"..But I don't feel like smiling." Because he was angry, and if he was going to make his point, he would have to stay angry.

"Do you think it's easy for me to do it all the time?" Colette smiled sadly, studying him with her blue eyes. "Really.. it's not that easy.. yet I can still do it.. I can still feel good about myself and what I'm doing.. and if I don't, I.. fake it, you know? So maybe.. everyone will start believing that.. you're okay.. if you smile too."

Genis stared at her. "You are a regular con artist."

Colette giggled this time, and he knew it was genuine, but something about it made him want to smile too. She had it worse off than he did, and yet she could.. easily fool people into thinking that she was really all right.. and somehow, being in on her secret.. knowing that and still being able to smile.. knowing that he probably wouldn't get relieved of these handcuffs any time soon..

He'd have to try, at least.

The Triet Ruins were barely a minute away from the Oasis, Rheaird-wise. Raine knew that their business here wasn't going to take very long; it was just something she had to see for herself, first.

Had it just been at the beginning of their journey that they had come here? The first seal of the Chosen.. she couldn't help but shudder a bit as she and Regal moved forwards to stand at what had once been the entrance. Now none would be able to enter there; perhaps it was a good thing, a sure sign that the Chosen's journey would never pass this way again..

"Hm. If I knew then what I know now.." Raine murmured, taking a few slow, measured steps forwards. The ruins had collapsed onto themselves. Where the rocks were one smooth, they were now cracked and broken... where the path had once been.. there was nothing.

"Did you say something?"

She shook her head, her eyes returning to the wreck... and then they widened considerably, as she took a step back, feeling tightness in her chest. "...How.. horrible."

Mixed in with the rubble, she could see the splattered bodies of what had once been part of a small tourist group.. a mangled display of limbs that nearly made her turn around and expel whatever food was left in her stomach. Her resolve not to be seen as weak was what prevented her from doing so... Raine lowered her head, though lifted her staff resolutely.

"...I do not believe that anything can be done for them." Regal's voice was quiet in the eerie silence.

"You are correct." Raine replied softly. "Once again, my healing arts are useless."

Yes, and because of your meddling, your precious ruins are gone too. Isn't that what's bothering you the most?

She winced, staring into her hands. "No."

"Are you all right?" Regal's voice had taken a concerned tone.

"What?" She glanced over at him. "Oh. There is... nothing we can do here." She forced herself to turn away. This was not their task... to clean up the remains. People from the city of Triet would have to come here to do that themselves.

He nodded, slowly. "Very well. We'd best head back to the Oasis, then."

"You're right." Raine tightened her grip on her staff. "We can only hope that this is the worst of it all. A few... careless deaths on our heads."

The Duke raised an eyebrow at her. "I.. admire your ability to speak of the dead with such remove."


She wasn't sure that she had heard him correctly. Unless he was... yes, obviously he did not admire it at all; perhaps that was contempt in his voice? No.. he was speaking normally. And normally.. such a remark wouldn't take her as off guard as this one did. It was a rather twisted remark to say to her, even if it was true to a fault; she did have a way of distancing herself from things.. even now, perhaps she was admitting that the voice had been right; perhaps she did care more that the ruins were destroyed rather than..

"No." Raine muttered to herself, mounting her Rheaird. "That isn't true."

"I'm sorry."

She was surprised that he had given a response. Perhaps he had thought she was speaking to him. Better to let it stay that way. "That isn't what I meant." She glanced over in his direction.

Regal inclined his head in a nod. "My apologies. I did not mean for it to be harsh."

"It's fine." She replied, testily. "We'd best get back.."

"I meant that you have a clear mind, and know when to be focused."

Yeah, right.

She blinked at him, almost unsure if she had heard him correctly that time. She forced a slight chuckle. "I see.. well, don't complement me too much. Although... would you mind heading to Triet alone? I'm sure the others are still battling, though I would prefer it if there were someone to look after Genis and the rest.."

You're just hoping that you can make yourself more useful. She winced. That tingling feeling had spread all the way up her arm by now. It was obnoxious, really, how it felt like millions of little pinpricks striking in different areas at alternate times.

Regal frowned a little, but nodded once more. "Be careful."

"Don't tell them anything. About what we found here. Just let the citizens know." Regardless of what she was feeling, her tone of voice remained clear and steady, as if nothing was bothering her at all.


Raine waited until she was sure that he had taken off for the Oasis city before choosing her own course. A most unsettling experience.. her fingers closed tightly around the handlebars. With any luck, that would be the worst... there were still other cities to visit.. perhaps it would be better if they went back to Tethe'alla.. if everything they stumbled upon here was beyond their assistance.

She sighed, her gaze scanning the desert below for signs of Lloyd, mostly trying to avert her gaze from the sun.. she wasn't exactly sure when bright lights started to bother her during this journey; perhaps she had stared too long at the aftereffects of a photon spell.. she frowned; that couldn't be right either. She hated it when things didn't make sense; she usually was on top of things like this..

"When did it change? When I saw the Otherworldly Gate, and realized exactly how much of my life has been a sham?" Raine mused aloud, then shook her head. She simply.. couldn't waste time trying to find a solution to this mess when there were bigger problems at hand.. problems on a much larger scale.

And do you really believe that Lloyd's plan will work? He is an idealist. Not everyone can be changed. Nor everything.

"That's not true. He's changed me." She muttered, wincing at the pain in her chest. "He will save this world.. and we're all willing to take the risks."

Are you so sure?

Yes, she snapped back mentally. She had spotted them at last; she could still see them fighting a.. monstrous thing. They were struggling, however... she could see that Lloyd still had most of his strength up, though Presea looked tired, leaning on her axe more than swinging it.

Zelos was concentrating on healing; leaving him pretty much unable to fight offensively, save to give it a few whacks with his sword. Without warning, the monster burrowed underground.. Raine narrowed her eyes, swooping in close and leaping off of the vehicle.

"Professor!" Lloyd looked relieved to see her. "We need your help!"

Warmth filled her. It felt good to be needed. They take you for granted, and you know it.

'Stop it,' Raine snapped back mentally. She needed to concentrate. "Zelos, quickly, toss me a magic lens!"

"Bet you love me now, huh?" He threw the item over to her, and she caught it, just as the monster burst up from the ground again.

"I got it!"

"Damn.." She heard Sheena moan, and to her shock, realized that the young woman had been hit from the sheer force of the sand worm pushing up through the ground, and her body had landed hard some yards away.

"You're not going to get away with this!" Sand was flying everywhere; at least Raine didn't have to worry about being blinded by sunlight. "Zelos, quickly, check on Sheena. It figures that this thing's weakness is water."

Lloyd slammed his sword into the worm's side. "Beast! Omega Tempest!"

Raine took a step back, stumbling a little, though tightened her grip on her staff, holding it up horizontally. "Root of all creation... grant us a breath of life!" She could hear Sheena speaking again, just faintly. Zelos had gotten over there in time. She waved the staff around in a fluid movement, letting the mana flow freely.


"Thank you." Presea was able to stand normally again, though she took a step backwards to equip the aquamarine onto her weapon. Raine smiled briefly in approval, though she had to survey the scene once more. The worm had dived again.. giving them less than a half-minute to do anything.

Lloyd glanced over. "You ready?"

She lifted her staff in response. "Light!"

The sandworm appeared again, once again knocking Sheena off of her feet. "Annoying.." The summoner muttered, scrambling to her feet.

Zelos circled around the far side of the beast, sticking his sword into the beast. "Super lightening blade!"

Presea lunged towards the worm, swinging her axe around. "Deadly destruction!"

They didn't have time to wait for Sheena to gather herself. Raine knew full well that it took a while for the summoning to take place. "Photon!"

"I call upon the maiden of the mist.."

The monster shook off the attack, barely seeming phased. Raine winced a little, feeling once more the strange tightening in her chest. 'Probably just grief about what happened at the ruins.' she told herself. She didn't have time for this!

Lloyd attacked with sword rain once more.. so her exsphere harmonized with Zelos, this time.

"Plasma blade!"

Their combined attack sliced cleanly through the sandworm, leaving both sides lolling around aimlessly in a macabre fashion.

"That should help my research." Raine made a face, though she narrowed her eyes as something seemed to glint from the inside of the carcass. "What is that?"

"Come! Undine!" Sheena called out suddenly, and the summon spirit appeared. Even though the beast was dead, it still flopped around, likely believing itself to still be alive.

"Spread!" Undine called out, and water poured upwards as if springing from a fountain, or an underground spring. The two halves of worm were washed away, and they were splashed with droplets of cool, pure water.

While Raine usually hated it when this particular spirit was summoned, she had to admit, at least to herself, that feeling the brief spray of water was refreshing, considering the heat in the desert, and the battle only made the heat worse.

"Thanks." Sheena thanked the Summon Spirit, and after a few words, Undine departed.

Now that the water had gone, Raine took a few steps forwards to where the sandworm had been flopping around. There clearly was something there, now half-buried in the sand.. she knelt down to remove it, though drew her hand back sharply.

You don't really want to handle that, do you?

"Shut up." She muttered, reaching in and this time, her fingers closed around the handle of a sword.. frowning, she pulled it out.

"Professor? What are you doing?" Raine turned her head to glance at Lloyd, who had just stepped behind her, followed by the other three. Presea still seemed to be a little weary.

"I.. found this." The sword was heavy, though she managed to lift it enough to show the others. Zelos took it from her, frowning as he studied it.

Sheena stared at it. "Why would a weapon..?"

"It might be a Devil's arm." Presea said quietly.

Raine got to her feet. "Lloyd, do you have the Nebilim or the key handy?"

Zelos moved over to their packs. "I do believe the key is reacting. Gruesome looking thing, isn't it?"

"Yes." Presea was frowning. "Shouldn't we go back?"

Sheena nodded. "We're all done here. It's a good thing you showed up, Raine."

Raine gave her a half-smile. "It probably would have been better had I set out with you originally. What's done is done, I suppose.. and we don't really have much time to be hanging around." So saying, she moved towards her Rheaird.

Chocolat took a bite out of the sandwich that Colette handed over to her. "You are.. the only person I know that uses fruits to make a sandwich."

Colette blinked at her, confusion present in her blue eyes. "Is that a bad thing?"

"Not really.. it's just different." Chocolat grinned, taking another bite. "It's sweet, at least, though with all this trouble, it might have been easier just to make a fruit salad."

"It is a fruit salad. Fruit salad on toast." Colette pointed out. "Though put together in a sandwich so that it'll.. bring more of an interesting flavor?"

Genis watched the girls chatter, an amused expression on his face. Just listening to Colette trying to logic out putting fruits together with bread.. in a sandwich no less.. well, he preferred his own. Grudgingly, he had made one for Regal as well, perhaps in an unconscious action to improve relations, though he still knew that he would always dislike him.

They were entirely too similar, which is what bothered him the most; if he allowed himself to open up to him, there was undoubtedly a lot that he would learn.

He didn't want to, though. It was a lot easier to go on hating him, especially the more the man seemed to insinuate himself into his life and Presea's.

Genis had no right to hate him for killing Presea's sister.. when he had done the same thing. He had told Regal that. Yet for Presea.. if Presea couldn't forgive him, then didn't it make more sense for Genis to go on hating him?

And then there was Chocolat. Perhaps.. this would have been better if Chocolat hated both him and Lloyd. Originally, she hadn't even known that he had anything to do with it at all. Now... now they had talked, and she understood him; they had shared a bond with Marble... they had both been.. her grandchildren..

Yet he refused. Was he.. stupid?

He shook his head. No. He was a hypocrite. That's all there was to it... he was becoming no better than any other half-elf in his position. If it had anything to do with being a half-elf at all. Perhaps it was the human in him that made him this way. He hadn't really thought of it that much.

Here he had friends.. and he was pushing them away. He had his sister.. but she was pushing him away... so he pushed back. He felt rather.. bratty. Because here he was, sitting pretty with those ridicilous handcuffs bound to his wrists... while they all still worked together as a group.. he'd have to figure out how to get back to being himself. Maybe it wasn't just him that was different; it was these handcuffs.

He was still rather stubborn though; it was probably up to him to take the first step again, but he didn't want to. It was likely he had inherited this stubborn streak from his sister, somehow; he knew she could be very, very stubborn.. but like this? She was far more sensible.. while he let his thoughts get to him.. torture him... did he in some way enjoy this punishment?

He glanced up from his sandwich, watching as the five Rheairds streaked in from overhead, probably landing just outside the city.

"Lets go." Regal said calmly, packing up the supplies. Colette nodded, and reached a hand down to help Genis to his feet.

He gave her a half-smile. It was the best he could do under the circumstances.

Izoold was a small fishing village just outside the Ossa Trail. While it had taken days to walk in the past.. flying certainly took a lot less time than walking, to be sure; it was verging on late afternoon now, a few more clouds building up in the sky.. but at least once they passed the mountains the air was refreshingly cooler.

"The area around here seems okay.." They had landed on the outskirts, and Lloyd was studying the area. "I'll just go in and.."

He stopped speaking suddenly, as the sounds of rising shouts came from within the village.

"What is that all about?" Sheena frowned. "This place is usually peaceful, isn't it?"

Some of the citizens came running up to the village entrance. "There is a monster loose in the village!"

The mother was dragging a little child away by the hand. "Mommy, the hunters have it under control, don't they?"

"Well, we won't be around when it is killed."

Lloyd tried to stop them. "What do you mean?" However, they went right past him.

Raine sighed. "If they have it under control.."

Lloyd shook his head. "I doubt it... the monsters are too strong for normal people to handle out here."

"Right. Lets go!" Colette said cheerily.

Shaking her head, Raine followed them into the village. Many doors were slamming shut, though as soon as they had rounded a corner, they could clearly see what was wrong.


Raine slapped herself mentally; she had almost forgotten about that poor woman.

Lloyd ran down the beach, waving his arms and shouting, trying to get the attention of the men who had her cornered. "Wait up!"

"We've finally caught this monster, and we will be the ones to get rid of it." The man aimed an arrow at her, ready to let it slip free. His companions had already tried to lasso the miserable creature; they probably didn't realize that she was once a human..

"No!" Colette shouted; her wings had come out, so she flew down the beach. "Don't kill her!"

The archer turned his head, looking confused. "Chosen one?"

"She's not a monster. We can save her. Just leave it to us!" She pleaded. Raine quickly ran down to the beach as well, finding herself to be a little out of breath.

Do you really think that you can save her?

"Stand back everyone." Raine ignored the voice; this was something that she could do, and she couldn't afford to be distracted.

"She said, stand back!" Lloyd shouted at the hunters, while others in the group tried to distract any spectators.

She needed enough silence to gather her bearings. There wasn't enough time to do this, though at least it wasn't as complicated as bringing someone back from the near-brink of death. She had a multitude of weapons still, from their various spoils.. yet she decided upon the Holy Staff. She only hoped that Clara would stay still enough for her to use it.

Raine moved slowly towards the monster, slowly because she didn't want Clara to be provoked in any way while she concentrated. She dropped to one knee, and lifted the holy staff up in the air, both hands gripped around it, closing her eyes tightly as she channeled the mana to help her. "..Resurrection!"

Pure light came, and blinded her for a moment. It felt as if time had slowed down to a snail's crawl... and she still couldn't see..

Though she knew that everyone else could see, clearly.. the form of the monster disappearing.. no, shrinking.. or perhaps she was imagining it, and the spell hadn't worked at all.

Raine opened her eyes once more, blinking the blindness away.

There was a woman standing there now. She appeared fairly young, though was likely closer to Regal in age.. pale skin, though there were welts on her arms where the ropes had hit her.. otherwise, she seemed whole, an unsteady hand pushed a lock of blonde hair out of her dark blue eyes as she stared at them.

"Clara?" Colette asked, moving forwards. "..Are you okay?"

Clara put a hand to her forehead, and was unable to speak for a few minutes.

Raine remained on the ground, feeling entirely drained.

"..I feel as if I've just been woken up from a long and terrible nightmare.." Clara spoke finally, as she stared at the companions. "..I've.. seen you all before.. some of you, at least.." Her gaze went back to Colette. "..And you, you're the Chosen one, aren't you?" She paused for a long moment, her gaze going to the faces in turn. "You.. told them not to hurt me..."

Colette blinked, and shook her head slightly. "..Well, it wasn't just me, not really.. see, it was Lloyd who did that.. and, the one you should really be grateful to is Professor Sage.. she's the one that healed you.. I'm not much of a Chosen, really.."

"Not that being a Chosen has any meaning anymore." Zelos remarked quietly.

Clara nodded slowly, and turned to face the healer, who had by now gotten to her feet. She was a little dizzy, though she managed to keep herself upright by leaning somewhat on the staff. Hoping, of course, that it wasn't too obvious.

"..I see.. I'm in your debt."

There was pain again; Raine tried her best to ignore it. "I'm glad that we could help.. what will you do now?"

Clara put both hands to her head, looking down at her feet for a moment. "..When I was released from the cage.. my husband.. I know I heard some things, but..." she lifted her head, her eyes slightly watery. "..I have a feeling.. he's gone, isn't he?"

Raine lowered her gaze. She remembered how low she had felt that day.. when she learned exactly how limited she was with her healing arts.. being able to save Clara made up for that, but only a little. It was ironic, really, though; she hadn't really wanted to save him in the first place.

It was Lloyd who spoke next. "..Yes. I'm sorry.. things got a bit ugly back there.. and we.. tried to save him.."

Clara nodded. "..I understand."

Raine lifted her head, pushing her hair out of her eyes. 'She's taking this better than I expected.'

Lloyd was staring at Clara. "You do?"

"Yes.." Clara looked down as well. "..I had a feeling he would die.. or be killed.. because of his father.." She glanced up.

"Well, you don't have to worry about the Desians anymore.. we took care of them, and are striving to make the world whole again.." Sheena spoke softly.

Lloyd nodded. "..I'm sure that the knowledge doesn't ease the pain of your loss.. but we have to make things right.."

Clara smiled faintly. "..Thank you. Knowing that will make things better in the long run... but.. I have my life back. For that I am eternally grateful." she sighed, deeply. "..I do miss Palmacosta.. don't know how we can get there from here.."

"We'll take you." Lloyd said quickly. "We're already going there, to see if everything is stable, and besides, Chocolat needs to go home as well."


The girl in question stepped out from behind Sheena. "I.. recognize you.. I think."

Clara studied her, frowning a little. "You're Marble's granddaughter.. Cacao's daughter then.. the last thing I remember before.. the incident, was the Governor-General sending out an army... and hearing about the casualties.. watching him die.."

Chocolat lowered her gaze. "Yes.. that was when my dad died, and they came and took Grandma away.."

Raine cleared her throat. "There is a lot.. of catching up to be done, I'm sure. But Palmacosta is just across the ocean.." It was a wonder she didn't wince at that phrase, but it was far, far easier to cross the ocean via the air than in a boat. "So you two will probably feel more comfortable there."

Lloyd nodded. "That's a great idea. I'm sure that Neil will be happy to see both of you, as well as your mom, Chocolat." He looked at Raine. "Will you let Clara ride with you, then?"

Raine nodded. She wasn't sure that this was a good idea, considering her condition.. not that she would admit that she had a condition; it would have seemed a little strange if she refused.

Plus, you have your image to consider.

'Stop it.'

The headaches she was used to.. her arm being occasionally numb? She could deal with that, certainly. The chest pains were entirely new; she knew that she hadn't felt pain like that before, even up until the day before. The pain hadn't stopped since she healed Clara.

They were walking outside the city now. Raine waited for Clara to join her on the Rheaird, while Chocolat rode with Sheena this time. They were both silent for some time, Raine mostly fighting an internal struggle; Clara was likely being introspective.

The one thing that they hadn't mentioned was what had happened to her daughter, Killia. Perhaps Clara still assumed her to be alive.. in which case, after getting her life back.. she'd just be returning to the surety of heartbreak. At least if they returned to the city first, telling her would be.. out of their hands.

"Miss Sage?" She asked, tentatively.

"Please, call me Raine."

Clara was quiet for a moment. "That name seems.. rather familiar to me as well."

"I didn't realize it was popular." They were still over the ocean, the sun poised above the horizon. The ocean was red. So ominous, she thought, repressing the urge to shudder. She hated the water.

"I don't believe that it is.." Clara replied. "It seems so strange.. being able to speak again.. being able to recall things.."

Raine nodded. "As I've said.. I'm just glad that I was able to help you."

"Five years of my life.. gone." The woman murmured. "Were you ever in Palmacosta before? ..I mean, before five years ago."

She's nosy, isn't she?

'Be quiet.' Raine considered. Had this woman possibly known her when she was here? Especially if her memory was serving her correctly.. "Hm.. briefly. I was very young at the time.. about ten years ago, if not more."

"Hmmm." Clara seemed to consider this for a few moments, as she fell quiet, perhaps into thought.

Raine glanced ahead. Lloyd was in the lead, as usual, and for once, she was keeping up with the group, flying only a little behind Presea. Genis and Colette were flanked with one another near the back, and Regal was back there as well to keep an eye on them.

"I think I remember... Marble was the one that found you, wasn't she?"

"I'm sorry..?" Raine was a little taken off guard.

"..I was with her. She and her daughter wanted to take you and.. there was a baby... into their home, with Chocolat.. it was a scandal of sorts.." She sighed heavily. "Dorr was so against it.. and I remember feeling so guilty, because there was nothing that I could have done.."

She's lying, of course. Because she knows that you are a half-elf; what human would feel sorry about that? They probably kicked you out of town and left you to die again.

'That's not true!' She snapped back mentally. It was another missing piece. She hadn't remembered that part before.. and yet.. it made sense.

"...I must have blocked it out of my memory." Raine replied, her voice shaking slightly.

"It's probably better that way.." Clara sighed once more. "Dorr wanted everyone to forget about it. He was a good man.. but.. he cared too much for what people thought of him rather than... well.. he's gone now, I really shouldn't talk about him that way. He was my husband.. I loved him, even with his faults.."

"..You don't have to apologize for him. It's easily understandable, what he must have thought.. he wanted to impress his father; it seems that children do a lot to... try and look better in the eyes of their parents.."

Except for you, of course, you miserable failure.

'I said, shut up!' She had almost slipped and said that out loud, but caught her response just in time. Yes Raine, one-way ticket on the road to insanity. Her head was buzzing; Palmacosta was probably just minutes away by now.

"His father was a good man, though... he was very idealistic. He would have let you stay, had Dorr not talked him out of it.." Clara wrapped her arms around her shoulders. "I truly hope that nothing bad has come of it."

"Hm. I don't believe that everything happens for a reason.. unless its scientific, of course.. though don't worry about the past.."


'What the hell is that supposed to mean?' Her head was literally pounding now; at least this was the familiar pain. She didn't get an answer.

"Are you all right?" Clara's voice again.

"I should be asking you that." Raine replied softly. "We're almost there, though."

The city was visible now; they would arrive within a few moments. Squinting down below, however, caused Raine to frown once more; something seemed wrong. Perhaps it was the height, or the fact that it was getting dark.. something foreboding about it.

"I hope nothing's wrong." Lloyd called out. So he had noticed it, too. "We're going in for a landing."

Slowly, the Rheairds descended from the sky. Raine's was the fifth to land on the outskirts, and as soon as she had touched the ground, that pain in her chest decided to start up again. 'Great.'

Chocolat was already running towards the entrance of the city. Yet, as Raine watched, her footsteps slowed down, until she was standing at the entrance. The girl's body went suddenly rigid, and then.. she began backing away.

"Mom? ...N-no... No!"

She fell to her knees.

Regal was the last to land, and he too joined the group in their collective silence.

"This can't be..." Colette whispered, grabbing on to Chocolat's arm.

Clara took a few shaky steps forwards. "W-what..?"

Raine moved as well, her eyes widening when she saw what lay spread before them, pressing her hand to her chest. "Oh no... it's worse.."

From her vantage point.. the only buildings that had survived the earthquake were barely standing.. rubble completely littered the road.. and of course, there were the bodies.

It was worse.

Even when Luin had completely been destroyed.. it had not been this bad.

The ocean seemed to be pouring in from all sides, the water gushing, frothing wildly where it could seep in.. though most of it was blocked by the rubble from the crumbled buildings. The city's pride and hard work had eventually come to this.

'And it wasn't the Desians who did this. It was us.' She thought, bitterly, staring at the water.. and she hated the water, and hated the realization that this place, could have been her home.. if it weren't for Dorr.. though none of that really mattered now, because..

Chocolat was on the ground now, crying; the other girls had gone to rally around her, including Clara, while she, Raine, simply stood there, staring. She had to be outwardly impassive.. it was what made her the Professor to them, after all..

She had to be the strong one. She had to figure out their next step before any of them got really caught up in this..

What she really wanted was to go to Genis, and hug him.. maybe even share with him what she had just learned..

For what, to cause more heartbreak? The little nagging voice returned. Please don't tell me that you didn't know this was coming.

Even as she stood there, staring, she could see a dark figure moving around in the wreckage.. there was a person, alive in there... walking through the wreckage.. or perhaps it was a shadow, her mind playing tricks on her.

Lloyd and Sheena stepped inside the village.

Maybe she hadn't been mistaken.

Edited: My formatting and edits keep getting eaten. My apologies if there are any errors.