Sari: Voila. Knock yourselves out.
He was standing in a forest, the thick canopy dappling the silvery light that the moon cast down onto the earth. But even if there had been less leaves overhead, the moon would not have shone much brighter because clouds obscured the sky.
Kratos knew he was dreaming, but he made no effort to wake. He knew this forest very well; it was Ymir forest, the place of mystic trees and flowers that surrounded the elf village, like a natural barrier. He slowly crouched down beside the water's edge and jumped onto a huge, fleshy lily pad that supported his weight with ease. Suddenly, Kratos saw something splash out the corner of his eye. He spun around instinctively, a hand on his sword, just ready to unsheathe it. However, nothing was there but a small fish swimming placidly, a small berry-like fruit balanced on its nose.
Kratos watched in mild interest as the fruit-bearing fish swam its way over to Kratos' lily pad, where it stopped. Then, it raised its head above the water and let the fruit roll right into Kratos' lap.
"I am Bubbles. This fruit is Crystafungitis, or Intoxicofo," the fish said in a voice that sounded unnervingly familiar to Kratos, gesturing towards the fruit. But this was all very confusing, because the voice belonged to someone that Kratos knew was dead.
Suddenly, the fish was no longer a fish, and the fruit was no longer a fruit. The fish had sprouted huge, ethereal looking wings, it's shining scales molding together into pale skin, and it's gills receding into nothingness. Before Kratos hovered Mithos Yggdrasil, his white boots barely brushing the surface of the water. And rolling about on Kratos' lap where the fruit had been was an exsphere, but it wasn't any normal exsphere. It had no key crest, and it was rainbow colored…
"I had a very bizarre dream," Kratos mumbled to himself at the breakfast table. No one seemed to notice except for little Zelos. He cocked his head, but did not look very pleased.
"Me too," he replied. "But mine was scary. B-Bubbles was in it!" He looked under his plate though making sure the horrible Bubbles was not skulking behind their fried eggs. Kratos suddenly dropped his fork. Bubbles!
"So did mine," he told his grandson in an undertone. "I was in a forest, and a fish told me his name was Bubbles." Zelos nodded so vigorously that Kratos feared the small child would get a crick in his neck.
"Uh-huh!" he squeaked. "Me too! And then… h-he turned into a man and tried to unleash his ball of INTOXICOFO ON ME!" The poor child was getting hysterical. Kratos attempted to calm him by stuffing his mouth with toast. It seemed to work, at least for the moment.
"Wow," he said. "That's what happened to me too!" Could he possibly be sharing weird dreams with this delusional three-year-old?
"Zelos, how long have you been having these dreams?" he asked casually.
"Uh… ever since the day before you got on our boat. My sister Raine readed a story in her book to me the day before about a mean old man named… uh… I can't remember. And he had evil guys that make everyone die with Intoxicofo and Crystafungitis. Raine called them angels, but I think she meant rainbow… I mean, what's an angel anyway? And then… uh… oh yeah! I couldn't remember the guy's name, so I checked Raine's book and the word kinda looked like the word 'Bubbles'… so I thinked his name is Bubbles. So then I started having funny dreams about the fish-man, Bubbles, and his rainbow balls of Intoxicofo–" Kratos held up a finger to silence him, looking at the child in astonishment. Never in his four thousand years had he ever met a child as insane as this one. But yet again, how could Zelos have such an intricate dream about exspheres and Mithos Yggdrasil with just some brief summary from his sister? And how, in Martel's name, could he, Kratos, have the same dream?
"Zelos…" Kratos began. "Have you ever had dreams about –er– other things that you've never seen before, kind of like this one?" He didn't want the child to become overexcited again. Zelos shrugged.
"I don't know. I've had dreams about a lot of stuff… I don't know whether they is real or not," Zelos replied nonchalantly, and then launched into one of his dreams where he, Zelos, was the king of Meltokio, was married to the most beautiful woman in the world (who, when he described her, sounded unnervingly like the older Sheena) and was slaying dragons left and right in the coliseum. Shaking his head with wonder, fright and amusement, Kratos excused himself from the table, leaving the possible insane, psychic child to rant on about things that could someday happen or already had.
What a strange world I live in, Kratos mused.
Zepphie opened her eyes, but did not immediately recognize her surroundings. The shades were pulled, but she could still tell she was lying on the floor in a sleeping bag. But Zepphie was used to lying on the floor, seeing that before Yuan had taken her in, she was lying in the streets of Meltokio with a garbage can for a pillow.
Slowly, she raised herself to a sitting position and looked around. There were posters of men with long hair and electric guitars that all had gothic clothing on. Beside her, elevated just enough that she couldn't determine who was sleeping in it, was a bed. She tried to lift her head a bit so she could see who was in it, but they had rolled to the complete other side, so her attempts were fruitless.
Suddenly, a cat padded over the dark wood floor and hissed in her face before jumping onto the bed. Zepphie was used to sharing the alleyways with the cats, and paid it no attention, though she eyed its claws, ready to duck under the sleeping bag if it pounced on her.
She got to her feet and stretched. So she was stuck on a boat for a week with Yuan, the slightly eccentric war veteran that saved her from being beaten to death by some rough guards when she attempted to steel some kirima from a vendor. Great.
Zepphie had grown up pretty much on her own, and had taught herself pretty much everything that she knew. And one of the key things for survival on the streets, Zepphie soon figured out, was being able to assess people accurately within the first few seconds of meeting them.
From what she had seen so far, there were the owners of the boat: Lloyd and Colette, who were married and the parents of all the insane, lunatic children running about. Colette was a klutz and acted clueless, but was not really as stupid as she looked. Lloyd, on the other hand, was stupider than he looked.
Zelos and Sheena, the engaged, were always bickering because of Zelos' little habit of reading playboys. Sheena acted annoyed all the time, but she still loved him, Zepphie could tell. Zelos, on the other hand, acted like a complete womanizer while really on the inside he was intelligent (or so she suspected, deep down inside all of that permed, red hair).
Presea never talked. She most likely had a traumatic past, Zepphie inferred. There was that book-smart kid though, Genis, who was absolutely nuts over her, though Zepphie didn't know exactly why, other than the fact he thought she was cute.
Raine, the professor, was completely engrossed in ancient texts most of the time. It was clear that reading and learning new things was her way to escape from hard things that maybe had happened to her in the past.
And then there was Kratos, that supposedly four thousand year old man who had fought along side Yuan. He was quiet, reserved, and slightly afraid of small children and chicken soup, which he found ten times more horrible than even the deadliest monsters of the Kharlan war.
That was what Zepphie could make of the adults. As for the children… they all looked the same and acted the same except for one… the older one. Kratos was his name. The night before, he had even invited her to sit next to her on the deck. He was quiet, and acted surly and sour most of the time. She suspected that he hadn't had many friends in the past, and felt awkward when around other teens. Well, that was something they had in common. He didn't know how to react to being around kids his age, while she didn't know how to treat people who were nice to her. And they were both stuck on the boat against their own will together; that counted as something.
Zepphie didn't bother changing out of her beat pair of shorts and her ragged old t-shirt. They were her only pair of clothes, after all. Instead, she silently crept up to the side of the bed where the sheets were all mounded together (because there was a person underneath) and peeled them back, peering in curiously. Kratos the teenager was snoring slightly, his reddish brown hair tousled.
Suddenly, she heard the small pattering of feet as one of the demonic children ran across the floor outside the room. Zepphie peaked around the doorframe to see a sandy-haired kid with a sheet tied around his neck running around.
"Hi!" squeaked baby Zelos, the sheet streaming out behind him. "I'm celebrating because Gampy told me that Bubbles is dead!" He went galloping off to the other end of the boat to spread the news, and Zepphie stood in the doorway, perplexed.
"Zelos, leave me be," Kratos groaned in bed, apparently still half asleep and thinking that the three-year-old was pestering him to wake. "Go bother someone else…" Zepphie thought about how funny it would be if she chucked a shoe at him and scared him senseless, but she decided not to. He seemed different from some of those derelict kids she'd met in the Meltokio slums. They had all moped and raged on about how they were poor and deserved better, and their whining had bothered Zepphie after a while. At least this one here just minded his own and made the best of it all…
"WHAT?" Kratos had opened his eyes to see a strange girl looking at him. He calmed himself, remembering who she was.
He mumbled under his breath about something, jumping out of bed. He sleeps in his clothes too… Zepphie couldn't help but notice.
The two teens stared awkwardly at each other for a moment, both wishing that the other would look away. Finally, Kratos awkwardly said, "D'ya wanna go fishing?" Zepphie opened her mouth to spit out a rude reply, but then reminded herself to be nice. Besides, she actually found herself wanting to try it.
"I guess," she grumbled, still trying to look disgruntled. Kratos smiled despite himself and they both walked out from under the deck and into the sun.
The two didn't say much during the first few minutes of just sitting on the railing, their feet dangling off the edge, but in a few minutes time Zepphie found herself holding the fishing rod as Kratos happily showed her how to cast. She was surprised to find herself having some fun.
"I can't believe you've never gone fishing or been on a boat," Kratos remarked as Zepphie cast the line. She shrugged; she didn't like it when people had to teach her how to do things. She was very independent, and hadn't learned how to work with others very well. Most of the time when Yuan tried to reason with her, they'd end up shouting.
"Well, I can't believe you've never stolen anything or gotten into a fist-fight," she retorted, but her voice wasn't as harsh as she usually liked it. Something about this kid made her feel a bit more relaxed. He shrugged. The sun was setting, streaking the sky with molten gold and pink.
"Well, we only go to ports once and a while, so there's no time to steal stuff, or any need, really," Kratos thought aloud. "And I can't fight my siblings because they're so pathetic. I practice fighting with my dad though, but that's with swords. And my Mom would probably die of shame if she figured out I'd been fighting or stealing; she's too obsessed with peace for her own good." Zepphie eyed his belt, but he didn't wear the sword around with him. Instead he had a small dagger that she guessed was used for gutting the fish he caught.
After dinner, the two went back to fishing, though they didn't catch much than a scup that both agreed was too small to bother keeping. Right when they were about to give up and head in for the night, Zepphie was nearly pulled off the railing with a hard tug on the line. Kratos awkwardly caught her before she went careening into the water below.
"PULL!" he exclaimed as she reeled it in frantically. Finally, a huge, silver finned fish jumped out of the water, its scales sparkling like genuine diamonds. Too stunned to move, they both stared at the wonderful catch for nearly half a minute. By then, it had nearly wiggled its way off the hook.
"Quick! Deck!" Kratos shouted, indicating where she should flop it down. She roughly lowered the fish onto the deck where Kratos de-hooked its mouth and watched it flop up and down. Suddenly both the two teens looked at each other. It was such a beautiful fish…
"Call me crazy," Kratos muttered, "but it's almost too good to keep." Zepphie, who had always thought that when you're given food, always take it, surprised herself by agreeing with him. The strange feeling of pity welled up inside her. What was wrong with her?
"You take the tail," Kratos said. "And we'll throw him back over." Silently, the two young people heaved the fish over the side of the boat and watched it swim away. Both of them looked at each other.
"That was probably the stupidest thing I've done in a long time," Zepphie snorted, and then, to her astonishment, she started laughing, laughing like she hadn't laughed in months. And Kratos was laughing too.
Farther over on the deck where his day glow pink sun chair lay, the older Kratos regarded the two with a smile. There they were: a reddish-brown haired boy, slightly guarded and reserved, and a tough, independent brown-haired girl. It was funny how familiar that scene looked to the older Kratos as he thought about another certain brown-haired woman he had loved and laughed… and lost.
Sari: Ack, she wrote a... long... one... crap. YOUR EXPECTATIONS ARE NOT UP! NO THEY ARE NOT! –wanders off singing "your expectations are not up, oh no they're so not up"-