Summary: One shot. Kyril and Hero 4 (Lazlo) have a conversation in Merseto.

Author's Note: I finished Suikoden Tactics. It was a relatively easy game, except for the frequency of restarts since some body has to have the unwholesome habit of dying, like Snowe since he starts off as level 1.

Also, Kyril's voice actor was so horrid to the point of hurting my heart just to listen to him. But after hearing to it for a while, it kinda grew on me. Just like Hero4's official name, Lazlo. I thought Lazlo was a stupid name, but after thinking about it for a while, it wasn't so stupid anymore, just silly.

I had the same opinion about Hugo too. Anyways.

So, this can be a bit OOC, actually, it is OOC.

Camping Out

Camping out.

No matter how many times they camped out during their years in the Islands, camping still was not one of Kyril's favorite activities. It would be hot over the night and uncomfortably chilly in the morning. Various bugs would attempt to annoy him, like ants. Those little red things had a habit of crawling into his pants and biting him. Mosquitoes, the vilest creation of the Sword and Shield known to man, always found some uncovered patch of skin from which to suck their blood. And then of course in the summer, when it rained, he got to sleep in mud and smack some more little flying creepy crawlies.

Granted that he never complained about it, since hardship was one of the facts of life. "Whining," as his father used to say when chiding him as a child, "would never get them anywhere."

So he sat near the campfire, watching the flames as he had done so many times in the past. Fire is a useful phenomenon. For one thing, it keeps the bugs away. Most people would rather sweat than itch. Fire also provided light for Andarc's journaling activities. Since they traveled through the day, they left the little things like accounting to nighttime. The flames also were their only way to cook food. People tend to become grumpy if their stomachs were not attended to. Lastly, a fire was always the best thing to stare into at night when nothing and everything was on the mind.

There were others near the fire. Mostly the people were close to him on a more personal level like Seneca and Andarc. Mizuki and Akaghi chattered quietly amongst themselves. Rene and Rita, the two most annoying little kids ever, were quietly playing a game underneath a tree. Some others loitered around, like Eugene and Axel doing whatever they do before bed. Otherwise, people went to town to utilize whatever entertainment Merseto could offer.

Pirates like Kika, Hervy, Sigurd, Nelleo and Dario were off to the town, drinking what would probably be lethal amounts of alcohol, at least for Dario. Kika, Sigurd and Hervy would sit at the bar, watching random people admire their handsome pirate queen or fighting over which of the two pirate boys was cuter. Nelleo would probably sulk in the corner since Dario forbid the boy a drop of drink. Even inebriated, Dario insisted that Nelleo should drink only milk until Nelleo became a man.

The people of Obel, like Millary and Flare, took Tristahan, Carrie and Jermey to check out the Merseto City Hall. They were with Kyril to help him, but also to assess the political situation of the Kooluk Empire. It could be said that fighting for Kyril was nothing more than a convenience for them.

Corselia often went with the Obel people much for the same reason. She was concerned for her country, and wondered what the people truly thought of their emperor.

There were many others whom Kyril had no idea where they went. Everyone just agreed to come back to the campsite two hours after sunrise. The system was in place so no one was obligated to be with the mud and bugs like they would be out in the wilderness. For Kyril, it saved him the expense of paying 120 potch or more for each person at an inn. It was strange how everyone considered that it was his responsibility to pay for the inn if he was staying at one also. Oddly enough, no one was ever left behind either. Some did come back late like Dario since he usually had some degree of a hangover in the morning. Some would disappear for a day or two, like Miss Jeane. Some would mysteriously catch up with them without Kyril noticing until a fight ensued, like Lazlo.

When Kyril first heard of Lazlo's accomplishments, Kyril was impressed. Lazlo was the leader of the Island Liberation War, the wielder of one of the twenty-seven True Runes. They say that he could reduce anything to ashes if he stared at it hard enough. As if that was not enough, the Razril Daily even printed Lazlo's near perfect semester achievement results back from the days when he was a knight. Former Commander Glen's comments about his "inhumanly talented" pupil and some of the Kooluk's vehement spiteful descriptions of Lazlo fueled the people's imagination. Kyril quite literally expected that this Lazlo person was going to be a huge, buff-looking seven foot tall man in his thirties; the hero would ride into the middle of the battle on some mythical horned flaming animal and flay all their enemies in one single gesture...

...And not the ordinary eighteen years old boy who offered them crab meat for dinner. Hell, Lazlo looked like a mama's boy with his baby blue eyes and sandy hair that fell into his eyes at times. And when Lazlo smiled, he could convince a starved shark not to bite him. He was also very domestic to the point of making Kyril wonder if Lazlo was even male. Lazlo set up everyday home comforts when Kyril and his party came to Deserted Island. A hearty meal was served, hammocks were tied, and blankets distributed. The sea breeze kept the bugs out and people genuinely had a good time on Deserted Island. Kyril was quite convinced at the time that this person was just another one of King Lino's extensive network of eccentric agents, not some leader of a rebel army.

"You're back!" Kyril heard Rita chirp. "Wanna play Rita-pon with me? Rene sucks."

"Hey!" cried Rene indignantly. "I do not suck!"

"Yes you do!" retorted Rita. "Come on Mr. Lazlo. Play a game with me," she said in a wheedling voice.

"No thank you," Lazlo said.

"But why?" Rita fussed in her must-have-it-her-way little girl whine.

"Because I value my sanity," said Lazlo. "But do you want some Merseto steak skewers? I brought some back from town."

"Oh yes!" the two little girls cried together.

"Here. You should heat it up by the fire."

"Okay!"

Few seconds later, two munchkins flew past Kyril and stick their skewers into the flame. Rene's steak caught on fire, but she pulled it out quick enough to avoid burning the whole thing through. Rita was much more skilled, simmering her steak with no signs of having burned it. The skewer of steak, carrots and green bell peppers was just perfect for her.

Lazlo continued to make his rounds, offering food to everyone who stayed at the camp. People were hungry, as no one bothered to make dinner yet. Usually, meals were Seneca's unofficial job. She would make something that was gruel-like in consistency and had a tolerable taste. It was probably one of the reasons that people went to town when they were near it. Town food was definitely better.

Mizuki took one skewer and Akaghi took nine. Eugene and Axel took some and ate theirs as is. Andarc and Seneca both took two, munching on it carefully first as if suspicious of the food quality. Lazlo did just join them recently, and they were somewhat wary of new people. After the first bite, all caution was lost and both happily breathed in their skewer.

"Do you want some?" asked Lazlo, showing off the scrumptious looking meats and tender vegetables to Kyril.

Kyril just looked at it, not sure how to respond.

"You should try one," said Rita, smacking her lips. "It's really good."

"Okay," Kyril agreed.

Lazlo handed over a skewer, one that looked more meatier and fuller than most.

Kyril accepted the skewer, still uncertain of Lazlo's spacey look. That was one of the stranger things about Lazlo. He seemed a little dazed more than half of the time when there was not a fight.

Kyril examined the skewer. It did not seem too gross. He took a small cautious bite and nibbled on it. A smile slowly formed on his face. Rita did not lie at all. The skewer was really good.

Then something strange happened. Lazlo walked past Kyril and came face to face with Yohn.

Yohn, a strange creature who normally shied away from all strangers, did not attempt to hide behind someone or something like she usually did. She looked at him straight in the eyes, her left ear flickering from time to time. Lazlo stared back all the same, smiling faintly. They were like that for a minute or two, as if speaking but not audibly talking at the same time. Finally, Lazlo broke away, nodding.

"Thank you," said Lazlo, turning to the fire. "He is most gracious for your kindness." He plopped down on a smooth rock, pushing his hands toward the source of the heat.

"Well, I think I'll go turn in," said Rita, yawning. Sleeping on a tummy full of warm food was one of the best sensations in the world.

"Me too," said Rene.

"I'll keep watch," said Lazlo pleasantly like he usually did.

"I'll take the other half of the watch if you want," offered Kyril between mouthfuls.

Lazlo tilted his head at Kyril speculatively. "Sure."

Eventually, one by one, everyone went to sleep. Andarc and Seneca shared one of the cleaner blankets and laid half-propped against each other. Mizuki disappeared somewhere. Akahgi settled down on some blankets, drooling already. The others were out there somewhere, but Kyril had complete confidence that they would come back by the time the group left. Kyril attempted to sleep, but was somehow unable to truly fall into deep sleep, even laying against Yohn's baby soft fur.

After a few hours of trying. He sat up and noticed that Lazlo was still awake.

"Can't sleep?" asked Lazlo in a soft whisper, trying not to wake people. He looked like he had not moved from his rock.

"No," grumbled Kyril. Another thing he hated about camping out. Anyone would think that he had gotten used to it by now, but it was still hard to sleep outside.

"Do you need a real bed? The inns in Merseto aren't too badly infested with fleas," suggested Lazlo.

Sarcasam. That was one of the very few hints that Lazlo gave so that people didn't think of him as a consummate innocent. The other sign he gave was in a fight. In the heat of battle, Lazlo always wore a serious face.

"Eh. It's probably too late to get a room anyways," said Kyril. "Besides, I don't have the funds, not with all of you sharpening your swords with my potch."

Lazlo chuckled. "Yeah. I ran into that very same trouble three years back. Adrienne is one demanding mistress when it comes to money."

"Adrienne?"

"She used to be the weapons smith for the army. You might have met her since her shop is in Obel now. She's a young woman with a nerve-gritting screechy voice. She has the smirk of a succubus, especially when she hands you the bill."

"Oh yeah..." Kyril's look was thoughtful. He did remember Adrienne since she was the only female smith he had ever encountered. But what was most memorable about her was her voice. Kyril thought could feel himself shudder each time she exuberantly said. "Okay!"

They were silent for a while. Everyone around them was sleeping. Even Yohn was soundly napping against a tree. Lazlo stared into the fire while Kyril watched Lazlo from the corner of his eyes. It was still difficult to see Lazlo leading an army into battle. Lazlo was like himself. They were both barely adults with very little ties in the world. Except that Lazlo had purile presentiment when not in battle. And if in battle, Lazlo was older than the oldest man on Nay Island. The two extremes puzzled Kyril greatly.

"I want to say sorry," said Lazlo suddenly. "For what had happened to your father."

"Huh?" Kyril's heart skipped a beat.

"Steele did not mean to utilize the evil eye that way. I don't think he intended much more than to make his poor village prosper by selling magical weapons."

"What?" Somehow, Kyril had little understanding of how Lazlo came up with that information or why Lazlo was telling him about it.

"Steele was not insane in the beginning. He used to be a tuna fisherman, with..." Lazlo's fingers tapped lightly, his eyes still looking into the fire. "...a wife and six children. It's sad what had happened to him. His own family was turned into monsters by the eye. After that, he was easily consumed by the madness." He paused for a moment to allow Kyril take in the information. "Steele is sorry about his actions and wants you to forgive him."

Kyril just stared at Lazlo. "How did you know that?"

"I just do," said Lazlo with a shrug. "I can't really explain it without confusing myself."

Another awkward silence spanned between them. Kyril felt uncomfortable. The whole thing that night on the ship was an entire mess of contrasting images and sharp pain. He was too emotionally distraught to notice he was in the direct line of that terrible strange rune.

"Does it have something to do with that Rune?" asked Kyril, more as a statement than a question.

"This old thing?" said Lazlo, tapping the back of his left hand. The fingerless gloves covered the mark of the Rune. "I guess so. It would probably explain all those strange daydreams I get."

"Daydreams? What kind of daydreams?"

"Most are random chatters between people. Sometimes I get to see the people and places, though not as often." Lazlo looked at Kyril thoughtfully. "You know much about the Rune of Punishment, other than how it nearly killed you three years ago?"

Kyril shook his head, trying to respond only to the question. He did not like how Lazlo mentioned death as if it were sunday morning news. "I only know what was in the papers during the war and all that panic back in Scarlet Moon when some madman ran loose with it. They keep on saying that it was the Liberation Army's ultimate weapon or something."

Lazlo snorted. "Ultimate weapon if you discount how the Rune had destroyed each of its previous bearers in some fantastic or pathetic fashion."

"So it is cursed," said Kyril.

Lazlo nodded. "This is probably one of the most cursed Runes known. I guess I have to consider myself lucky that I am not dead yet. The past bearers lived two years at most before the Rune consumed them. I am on year three and I feel perfectly fine."

"Oh."

"So, do you forgive Steele?"

Kyril considered it for a little bit. "I guess so. I mean, I can't really hate him when a True Rune made him that way. My goal is the Rune Cannons. I cannot allow any more people turning into monsters."

"That all I need to know," said Lazlo with a rare smile.

"You...are not what I expected," admitted Kyril suddenly. "I thought you would be someone older, really serious without any sense of humor. But you are my age...it's refreshing."

"I will consider that a compliment," said Lazlo, finally yawning. He stood up, adjusted his sword belt and smoothed his hair. "Well. it's your turn to take watch. I will be back when you need me."

"Huh? Where are you going?"

"Probably to Collanbal. I feel like committing some highway robbery."

Kyril blanched. "You want to do what!"

"Highway robbery," Lazlo clarified. "You do want me to sharpen my sword with my own potch, right?" he sounded completely serious.

"But by theft?"

Lazlo only laughed and quite literally, disappeared into thin air.

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"I thank you, Arbiter of Forgiveness Most High," the words of an ugly man with dark ash-like skin, a large nose and wild eyes drifted into Lazlo's ears. "They both have forgiven me. Now I may retire."

Lazlo was laying on one of the makeshift hammocks in Collanbal, eyes wide but his mind elsewhere. "May you find peace wherever your wayward spirit travels, Steele."

"You are most kind, Arbiter. You are truly the child fate has waited for."

Lazlo smiled. "I am grateful for your words, though you are wrong. Fate is much more flexable than you think."

The disembodied voice was mute for a moment, as if unsure how to respond to that. "Will you speak the words to release me?" the thing finally said.

"I hereby release you Steele, of the bindings. The Rune of Punishment surrenders you."

For a few seconds, Lazlo's entire body glowed. A ball that glowed green and red formed above the young man. The ball of light grew in brilliancy until it suddenly shot off into the heavens.

Lazlo sighed. He felt strangely empty though that was only one of the thousands of unforunate souls that resided within the Rune of Punishment. Each one of them were at one time a bearer to the Rune. Steele was one of the many gentle and meek bearer who could not take the Rune's mental raking. If the Rune had never selected him, Steele could still be living. Lazlo was glad what had transpired and felt particularly satisfied that he had free another soul. He whispered a prayer for the departed spirit.

"May the Sword and Shield guild you to the way everlasting. You are finally absolved."

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Endnote: No idea where that came from...