1000arms; (c) red company & atlus games
fic by jill sodina_at_bozby@angelfire.com http://www.angelfire.com/wa2/bozyby/
revised 5/1/1: mispellings
originally posted: 4/29/1

"Without"

It's been a week since the final battle... to think that the world almost ended. To that that I had almost lost you...

Swords and women have lost their meaning. What is this feeling? Why do I stammer now when we meet? Why does your smile seems so bright when you look at me, and painful when its directed to someone else.

I can't help but wonder...

* * *
Blinded by the camera flash, it was easy to lose sight of the situation. Meis, for one, usually didn't mind taking pictures, with beautiful girls no less. But for some reason, he tried to get as close to Sodina as he could. The two of them were in the back row, behind their other friends who knelt in the grass. Somehow, he had managed to squeeze his way in between her and Soushi. There was a bit of a struggle between him and the samurai, but before Marion's photographer robot hit the shutters, he had won fairly with a quick dodge of the flying elbows.

"Yay, let's take another!" Nelsha chimed, arms waving the air, "It's going to be a while before we all are together again. Nelsha wants to treasure the moment!!"

"Heh, I agree with the squirt," Wyna chuckled, dusting her bare legs from the grass, "We might not see each other for a long while. Kant is a nice town, but I really can't stay. My family's waiting for me in Langoud."

Muza nodded, a bit saddened at hearing her, "I too... I got to go back to Fort Treve and resume my post. I'm gonna miss y'all." He secretly added to himself, 'Especially you...'

Kyleen caught that forlorn look in his face and gave his an elbow in the ribs, "(Hey, why don't ya tell her already?? Hm?? Now's your only chance!)"

"(Waaaah!! No way!!)"

"What are you two whispering about??" Wyna asked, getting suspicious. They nervously backed away as she started waving her hammer at them, demanding answers. Of course she had no idea about the truth nor Muza's feelings. Completely oblivious, she had decided they were insulting her wardrobe, or lack there of.

While this carried on, Nelsha and the others had settled on a blanket, drinking tea and eating sandwiches. Soushi had removed his katana and rested on his shoulder, looking quite solemn. "I have to return to my homeland, Wano, and try to rebuild it. For the honor of my ancestors... but first I have to go to Boyby to pick up my sister and Sensei."

"Really?" Sodina said, as she cheerfully poured him a cup of tea, "I'm heading back to Boyzby as well. After all, I have to look after the house and Jyabil's grave. And it is my home..."

Meis lifted his head, crumbs falling of his mouth. He hadn't realized that she was leaving as well. He figured, they were together for so long, that maybe perhaps it would stay that way. And now that he had settled back in Kant and took over his father's job of governing, he thought that she would also settle here and call this 'home'.

Sodina continued to pour everyone a cup of the fragrant jasmine tea that Kyoka had sent them. "It was really nice staying here for a while, and I've had a lot of fun, but even this cannot last. We all have to go our separate ways eventually."

'No...' he thought, completely losing his appetite. He stared towards her as she chatted with their friends so casually. 'Why...' She was acting as if she was actually happy to be going. 'Why... why won't you look at me now?'

"(Yo, pal!)" Muza uttered from his elbow, "(What's the matter? You look so glum.)"

"(It's nothing.)" Meis insisted, going to pick up his sandwich, "But... But I was thinking we should all have a party before you guys leave, at my house."

They all stopped at stared at him. Kyleen slyly chuckled, "Heh, seems Meis is using this event to pick up girls again. Ohohohoho!!"

Everyone sighed and shook their heads, "There he goes again..."
* * *
'They've got it all wrong.' Meis thought, walking through the long stairway in his mansion, 'I've changed...' Scenes from the final battle flashed into his mind. The one moment when his sword became surging with light when all hope was gone. 'You've changed me...'

"ITAI!!" called someone. He had bumped into one of the maids when he had turned the corner. She was a cute, blond girl with a skimpy black dress and apron, as that was the maid uniform created by his father. Meis had caught her before she fell and helped he regain her balance. "Aa... oh!! Master Triumph!!" she cried, blushing.

"Sorry, I should have been looking where I was going." he replied, bowing his head, "Huh? Are you new here?"

"Yes, I was hired yesterday. My name is Elle. I can't believe I was able to actually talk to you, Master... oh, you are as cool as everyone says you are!" Elle exclaimed, "I-I always wanted to meet you face to face! It's been my dream since I moved to Kant!"

"R-Really?" he stammered, "I didn't know that I was that popular..."

"You are a hero! Everyone in the country is talking about what you've done! And now you are the governor of Kant and the lesser villages in this region, that's incredible! You're also the best spirit blacksmith there is!"

"You mean, the 'only' spirit blacksmith." He sighed. Instantly he thought about the others who had passed away. His master, Jyabil... Schmidt. Sodina was really broken up when Schmidt died. He wondered if she blamed him. She wondered if Schmidt had died peacefully, had realized that the path of darkness wasn't meant to be taken alone, as was the path of light. Jyabil had died in his good deeds, and his sister almost followed him.

As Meis thought about this, the other girls had come up from behind at the top of the stairs, suspecting the usual. "My, my are we interrupting something??" Wyna asked, eying them over, "A bit bold, right here in the middle of the day..."

"OH!" Meis realized he still had his arms around her and quickly let go, turning towards their upset faces, "Don't misunderstand. She's new here; I was just helping her..."

"Showing her around??" Kyleen chuckled, "Giving her the usual 'warm welcome'??"

Sodina crossed arms. "Meis, honestly! How can you be so careless with women?"

"I..." he stammered, a bit on the spot, "I wasn't... I was just..."

"Look at him, Meis is acting like he's so nervous, that we won't suspect him. But even Nelsha has caught onto his game." the dress-master chimed, "We all know he's such a hit with the ladies!"

"He is absolutely!!" Elle cried, "But who can blame him, he's sooo HOT!"

The girls just stared at her, mouths wide open. Within seconds they all facefaulted onto the floor, exasperated looks on their faces. Meis sighed at them, "You all got it wrong. Oh, nevermind... why do I even bother?" He then turned and went down the stairs, disappearing around another corner.

Elle frowned a little. "The master seems a bit upset..."

"Meis was acting strange..." Sodina agreed.

Kyleen replied, "He's probably trying to win our sympathy. At any rate, let him be. We've got to pack and get our things ready before the farewell party."

"Yeah," Wyna said, "I've got a boat to catch in the morning. Kyleen, you're coming with me right?"

"Yes, and Sodina, you're taking the airship with Soushi, right?"

Sodina nodded, her glaze moving outside the window and becoming lost in the clouds. "The airship..."

* * *
Meis stood in front of a mirror, glaring at himself. 'Look what your fooling around has done... no one will take you serious anymore. How in the world are you going to tell her your feelings and ask her to stay with you, when she still thinks you're a carefree playboy.'

A bit angry at himself, he knocked the papers off the desk and fell into a chair. He was in the study, a place where he usually hadn't gone in his youth. He was mostly outside in the fields, chasing women, as he was instructed to. But as the years passed and maturity slowly arises, even he didn't recognize himself.

'My father is still acting like a teenager, and I'm the one stuck with responsibility. But I won't be like him - the man who walked out on my mom. I want to have someone... one person. And that person... is leaving... tomorrow...'

It was then he saw the pile of books written by his ancestors. He decided to actually read them, hoping the answer to his problems would be hidden in their words. The more recent works, by his father and grandfather, were mostly about 'had to chase women'. There was nothing about 'how to keep women'.

Working backwards, he eventually found a worthy volume about monogamous relationships. Written by his great great great great grandfather, Meis read about the roots of his family and the struggles they encountered when trying to keep together.

He examined every page, reading more than he had in a long while. He briefly thought about the time he spent in the Mycetonian library, reading up on the history of the Light and Dark clans. But it was needed, the fate of the world was at state. And now, the fate of losing perhaps the greatest love was at state.

"'You must prove to her your loyalty'... Huh? Easier said than done. When I open my mouth, she expects something perverted, and even if I don't say anything, she translated it as perverted anyway. I'm at a lost." He sighed, dropping his head down onto the heavy book. Suddenly his eye caught hold of the next line. "'If all else fails, tell her the truth'... the truth... how simple that sounds. But even the truth couldn't be believed... there really isn't anything I can do is there?"

The chime of the clock brought to his attention what time it was. He must've spent hours in the study, reading, because it was already dark outside. "OH! The party!!" he gasped, getting up. He stopped in front of the mirror, tearing the goggles off his head. He also took off cloak and smithy tools. Slipping on a dinner jacket, he looked at himself again one last time. 'It's now or never...'
* * *
The party was already in progress by the time he got there. The dining table was stacked with food and Muza was already having his fill. Soushi was chatting away with the maids as usual, Nelsha and Kyleen singing a duet on the karaoke stage. Wyna and Sodina were chatting by the windows. Everyone had dressed up as well; Soushi wore a lavender hakama and gi, Nelsha a frilly pink dress with ruffles, Kyleen a skimpy yellow dress with long sleeves, and Wyna wore a tight, sleeveless red dress. Sodina had caught his eye. She wore a long white flowing dress with short sleeves. She looked like an angel...

"MEIS!!" exclaimed a loud voice. He turned around. Low and behold it was his dreadful father, Phil. "Looking smooth, Son. Got an eye on a lady tonight? Which one?? So I'll be sure not to chase her, and put in a good word for ya."

"Father..." Meis grumbled, "You've been gone for over 5 months and left your townspeople to be harassed and controlled by the Acolytes. Your irresponsibility could have cost someone's life..."

"Ya win some, ya lose some." Phil replied, "Aa! What do you think about the new maid I brought home the other day?? Ain't she the cutest???"

"You mean Elle?"

"You are already on a first name basis?! How sly as to move so fast!" Phil chimed, putting his arm around him, "I'm so proud of you, Son! You really are following in my footsteps!"

Meis pried away from him. 'That's the last thing I want.' he thought, moving as far away from that man as possible. He strained to see where Sodina had gone. He could see that Wyna was now chatting with Muza, who had gone frozen as usual. 'Where is she?!' he wondered, scanning the room. She was nowhere to be scene. 'What if she left the party already? Did I lose my chance?!'

It was then that he realized that the doors to the back yard were open. He steered over there and peered outside. Lanterns lit the way to through the garden which Sodina had planted since she had been staying here. Amongst the colored lights he saw an angel.

"S...Sodina..." he stammered, walking towards her, "What are you doing out here?"

She turned around and smiled. "I was just thinking about the many things that I have experienced during this journey I took with you... and now that I'm going home..."

"No, stay here." he blurted out. Her eyes slightly widened. He could feel his cheeks flushing, as hers were. His heartbeat was loud in his ear and he barely could hear himself think. "I-I... I don't want you to go."

"Meis..." Sodina uttered, lifting her hand to his cheek, "I'm sorry... I have to..."

"No, don't..." he replied, searching for the words, "Because I... I..." The words still couldn't come out, even as he stared into her warm eyes. "I can't say it."

Sodina smiled faintly. "It's better you don't." she said, "We've been through too much together, you really don't want things to change. I understand completely. But you don't need to force yourself into anything, for my sake. I'll be leaving tomorrow on the airship with Soushi. I hope you will come see me off..."

He just stared at her, a bit surprised. 'She doesn't believe I'm capable of true feelings... she thinks I'm trying to pull a catch-line or some sort of sneaky plan? Is this all really hopeless?' He then lowered his face to the ground, fists curling, "I won't be seeing you off, Sodina."

"What? Meis...?"

"I WON'T!!" he exclaimed and ran back into the house. He didn't bother to turn and look at her face. Nor did he watch the tears fall. He kept running. 'How can I... see the one I love leave...?'

* * *
"What's wrong, with you?!" Muza exclaimed.

It was the next morning and Meis was in the study, sitting in the armchair. His eyes red with bag as he hadn't slept at all. He had been in that spot since last night in the party. No one knew where he was and Muza had to look for him.

"C'mon, Meis! Everyone's already left. I said goodbye to Wyna and Kyleen before they when for the pier. And Sodina and Soushi have gone to the airship station. Aren't you going to say goodbye?"

"W... What is... the point?" Meis replied, still gazing into space. "I'm just some player who doesn't a damn about other people's feelings but my own."

"Meis?!" his best friend gasped. There was something strange in his voice and he was sure it wasn't his really self. "Snap out of it! We all know you're not like that! You're a nice guy who helps out others out without question. You saved us all from evil because of your bravery. You brought us together!!"

"And now we're all moving apart..." was the solemn answer.

"Because!" Muza replied, leaning into his face, "Things change, people change. Nothing can stay the same always. You of all people know this. And because of the changing times, we've all got to move forward and adapt. But it doesn't mean we forget about each; even if we are apart we're all still connected through our feelings!!"

Meis now sat up, his brow a bit darkened. "And what if these feelings are believed to fake? What is the point of having feelings at all?! Why did I even bother with it!? I just want to go back to the way I was, but I can't now!!"

"Because you love her..." Muza gasped, "You love her, don't you Meis?? You honestly love her!!"

Meis turned away, leaning against the glass of the window. "What's the point? Because..." Suddenly the familiar airship whizzed though the blue skies. He simply closed his eyes. 'Without her...'

* * *
Pretty soon, it was time for Muza to go. Meis said his farewells rather relaxed, considering Muza and him were best friends from the beginning and often visited each other at habit. Meis then decided to go on with his duties, going to check his schedule for the day.

'Hm... a meeting with the mayor of Sharon. A couple of swords to forge...seems like the usual...' He then went into his room and changed his clothes, into something more casual, then went down the stairs. He could see his father flirting with a group of maids before he himself would set off. How Meis wished he too were going on a journey, one that would take him far away, with his friends at his side.

'I've got to keep moving... I've got to adapt... I've got to get over this...' he told himself as he headed for the smithy. Stepping into the cool and dark room, he saw the pile of swords collected from Fort Treve. As soon as he finished this, he could visit his old friend, and perhaps make a stop to Boyzby.

"Sodina..." he sighed, staring to the floor. He missed her already. Her smile. Her kindness. Her voice. 'Huh?' It was as if he could hear her voice. Lifting his head, he turned around. 'Am I dreaming?'

"I couldn't," she uttered, stepping out of the shadows. In the light, she lifted her head and looked at him, eyes watery.

In her mind, flashed the distant memory of their first date at the Boyzby airship field. Their smiles; their hands briefly brushing against each other. It was that moment on, she knew...

"I couldn't leave... I need to be near you, Meis, always..."

"Sodina..." he gasped, gazing at her as she moved towards him. She then leaned her forehead on his shoulder, her hands clinging to his shirt. "Me too... I didn't want to see you go, because... because I couldn't bear the thought... the thought..." She lifted her face and stared into his eyes, the obvious intense look as he slid his arms around her, "I didn't want to lose you. Because I love you, Sodina."

"I...I love you too, Meis." she replied, tearfully, "Don't let me go, Meis."

He tightened his hold and buried his face into her hair. "I won't... I won't ever let you go..."

FIN