Sorry it took so long to update. I'm not even sure if anyone still follows my work anymore, but I intent to finish this story off. Again, thank you for your patience.

.o.o.o.

BLUE SUB- GAIDEN

Part 20: Eden

.o.o.o.

Dianna and Cray quickly navigated the trodden path through the lush green overgrowth. She pushed aside the greenery as she surveyed the area. "Yes, I'm sure of it- whoever took her came this way."

Cray looked at the large leaves around and vines hanging down. He placed his hand on the surface of a nearby tree and focused on it intently- beginning to feel a bit off. The red fox grimaced slightly from pangs of remembrance. "Dianna… there's something about this… something I can't quite remember." He said with a degree of difficulty as he turned to face her. Light rained down randomly about them, but the brim of her hat kept it off her face.

The green-skinned woman paused and turned around to look at him. "What are you saying? Are you starting to remember something?" She asked as she walked over to his side. "At last, it would seem your past is catching up with you." She spoke. "Cray?!" She exclaimed slightly, placing a hand on his shoulder to snap him out of his daze. He turned to look at her.

He looked at her with a mix of fondness and confusion. "It's not clear to me yet… but I've had a strange feeling about this place since we arrived… we have to keep going." He replied in a very restrained manner. "What's important now is that we find Janise."

.o.o.o.

Janise sat on the dusty floor of the small hut, across from the fox hybrid at the other end of the room. He looked a little older than Cray, with gray/brown fur and long hair. He was a little taller as well. The gray fox stared intently at her, as if expecting her to suddenly transform into some sort of mythical beast. "Damnit, if you've got something to say than say it." She exclaimed suddenly. "Can't you speak?!"

The door swung open and another hybrid, wearing a gray cloak, entered the room. Janise looked over at this one- he was older with graying reddish fur and white hair. He regarded her for a moment. "You're presence has created quite a commotion in our little village- we've never had a human here before… so it shouldn't be surprising that you were met with a degree of hostility."

Janise rose up to her feet. The younger fox was about to stand up, but the older one gestured to him and sat back down on the wooden bench he had been sitting on. "Certainly from a purely sociological standpoint… it's understandable." She replied. "Myself and the other two people I'm here with… we're no threat to you."

He nodded. "Yes… I'm sure that's true." He replied. "I am Solaran- the Elder of this village." He spoke, motioning at himself. He then gestured towards the other fox. "His name is Gilvend- a sentinel. And as such, he has taken a vow of silence as an act of devotion." He explained.

The young woman nodded politely. "Well… my name is Janise, and I'm here with two other people." She began. "One of them is a beast folk like you- named Cray. And the other is…" She paused. "Well, I suppose Dianna is also a hybrid as well." She continued after a moment. "She might be able to explain what I mean- she can tell it better."

Solaran turned away narrowed his eyes. "Young lady, you may be able to guess that we don't get much interaction with your kind." Her remarked. "All we want is to live in peace- yet wars are waged around us… races clash for survival." He mused. "This world does not lend itself well to a passive ideology."

The brunet nodded. "You're right, I guess the world is a pretty grim place when you think about it." She began. "I'd be lying if I claimed to have any sort of understanding of the bigger picture… but I do know one thing- the war ended and humans and hybrids are still around." She added, looking at Solaran as he turned to face her again. "We came here looking for the truth… for answers."

The fox hybrid regarded her words and thought for a moment. "Well, Janise, I hope that our truth is the truth that your friends seek." He said, offering a surprisingly friendly expression.

.o.o.o.

Dianna looked down at the ground. "This soil looks more recently trodden upon... We must be getting close to wherever the abductors came from." She reasoned. She stuck her hands in her trouser pockets and turned to look over at Cray. She noticed that he seemed to be lost in thought again. "Cray, sweetie- what's bothering you?" She asked him.

He looked over at her. "I've been thinking about everything that's happened to us and I've come to a conclusion..." He explained. The fiery-haired woman turned around and listened to him intently. He took her hand in his and held it while he searched for his words.

"Dianna, once we get Janise back and we've sorted things out... well," He paused, trying to focus on the nervous expression on the green woman's face. "...I decided that I want to stay with you." He finished, looking at her intently. Suddenly, to Dianna, he seemed to strong and confident- like he'd finally found his place... "Dianna, I can't be the person I was... he's 'gone'. But the person I've become..." He paused for a moment.

"Dianna, I love you."

Dianna looked at him for a moment and covered her mouth with her free hand. She stepped back and whiped tears out of her eyes. "Oh Cray... I don't know what to say... I... we..." She stuttered.

It was strange- she was hearing the very words she had hoped for, yet she was unable to form a suitable reply. Perhaps sensing his confusion, she replied. "Oh Cray... just now, you've made me so happy." She said as more tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked. "B-but we have to get Janise back before we start planning our future."

"I love you, Cray."

She placed her hands on his shoulders and leaned forward to kiss him- her hat pushing back as she moved in. Cray placed his hands on her waste and leaned into the kiss- his blond locks brushing against her bright reddish-pink ones.

.o.o.o.

Dianna looked around the village from her vantage point in the center, next to Cray. She frowned and smoothed out her gray coat, folding up her hat and putting into her hip pocket. "Please, come out- we mean you no harm." She called out, cupping her hands around her mouth as she spoke.

Cray glanced around the area, unsure of his surroundings. He took a step back, only to bump into something and turned around quickly. He jumped back at the sudden appearance of the other hybrid. "Dianna, look!" He exclaimed to her. She turned around and exchanged a look with the stranger as well.

The old fox nodded to the two of them. "Yes, I expect you'll be looking for that girl, aren't you?" He asked coolly. "I hope you aren't too disappointed at the lack of a reception, but most of the adults are out tending to their duties." He went on to explain. "The hunting party encountered the girl and brought her back here... she said you'd come." He added in a friendly tone.

Gradually, other hybrids- all foxes of various colors and age- became visible. While none of them seemed hostile, there was still a clear look of apprehension on their faces. The young ones seemed to stay close to their mothers, though it was clear that the universal sense of child-like curiosity urged them to come and check out the strangers.

Dianna slowly put herself at ease before the aging fox hybrid. She motioned for Cray to do the same before responding. "Yes, I'm sorry if we've disrupted anything important, but we were only looking around." She offered. "You must understand that we meant no disrespect by coming here." She continued.

"She's right, we were only exploring." Cray added. "I lost my memory... I'm not sure how exactly, but Dianna has been helping me try to find out where I came from." He continued with a degree of forced civility on his part. "Please tell me what ever you can." He asked. "There's so much missing... do you know me?" He asked in an imploring tone, taking a step towards the older hybrid. The larger gray fox seemed to be about to step in, but Solaran gestured to him and he backed off.

"Certainly," The old hybrid replied knowingly. "I'd never forget someone like you- the chances of a 'red' being born are uncommon enough, let alone one with blond hair and blue eyes." He added, resting his hands behind his back. "Yes my friend, you are Cray... or rather you were at some point." He continued in a cryptic tone. "Though, something is different- perhaps you've evolved." He reasoned, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "But that's just a theory..."

The two of them were silent for a moment as Cray considered what had just been said. It was true that he could never be the person that he once was, and it was also true that he had become a new person as result. And of course, there was the sense of finality that came from reaching the end of a long journey. But somehow, he had a feeling that the resolution of everything he had gone through was too simple... or perhaps his need for closure wanted a more compelling end to the journey... something more meaningful somehow.

A voice called out through the crowd and Janise rushed over to Dianna, hugging her tightly. She looked up at the green-skinned woman and smiled. "You're here; I just knew you guys would make it." She remarked happily. Dianna surprised herself with how comfortable she'd become with the girl… at some point, she must had gotten used to having the company as well as the tactile contact that came along with it.

Dianna smiled back at her shook her head. "Honestly, we I take my eyes off you for a moment and you disappear- you're just like Alice." She remarked jokingly, ruffling the smaller girl's hair in a motherly gesture that seemed to come almost reflexively.

The girl blushed faintly, realizing she'd run over to the older woman like a daughter to their mother. Being close to her just seemed so easy now- as if they were all family... though for Janise, perhaps the two of them were the closest thing to family for her. Janise looked over at Cray, who seemed to be deep in thought. "Yes, through the Rabbit Hole and into Wonderland, eh?" She remarked with a smile.

Solaran looked over at Cray with a serious expression. "I supposed now, the only question remaining- for you at least- is what will you do?"

(- End of Part 20 -)

.o.o.o.

The next chapter will be the last one for this particular story. Depending on how things pan out, I'll try and get started on Restless Tides next, that is if anyone still wants me to continue.

Later,

-Bojack727