DISCLAIMER: I don't own this stuff. But if you, as a peer, want to use someone I created, you gotta ask first, mmkay?

The character I roughly base this story on is a Lv. 38 Assassin, named "TheDan" in Scania. Feel free to contact me, I'm usually not doing anything terribly important online and I'd love to see some peers or fans in-game!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It had been a week and a half since that day. The day I got my Steelies, the day I met Allie and talked with Conlan. By now I was worried. I haven't caught wind of my archer friend or his significant other; nor had I seen anything about Hideval.

Allie and I had trained a huge amount, selling whatever we found. Between the two of us and charity from my friend, The Just Owner (who showed up for all of two minutes on his way to El Nath), we had managed to earn a total of six million mesos.

That was last Sunday.

"I bought my knives from him," I said, twirling a Steely around my fingers. "So we know he has at least seven mil."

"You're forgetting interest," Allie said grumpily, slumping onto the table. "If it's actually the Maffiya, we can be sure there's plenty of that."

"Even still, I'm sure we can trust Hideval to have scrounged up some currency on his own."

We were sitting in a rented room in El Nath... The trip down had taken at least an hour, but we needed to be here to sell the most of our goods.

"Fair point... That's what, uh...-"

"At the very least, thirteen million for Hideval," I said, the numbers fixating theselves in my mind. "Assuming, of course, we can find him by tomorrow."

Allie stood up and disappeared under the table. "I'm going back to the Free Market," she said, standing up again, but with her crossbow. "He had purple hair, right? If all else fails, I'll just ask around."

"I'll go as well," I offered, pushing my chair back. "He may have gone into hiding, and you haven't seen-"

"We had the security cameras checked, remember?" Allie quipped. "At the Orbis market. I know exactly what he looks like. Don't worry so much, and get us some food for my return." She checked her quiver and left the room satisfied.

I sighed again, but didn't make any move to follow her. Allie had changed with her newfound power and abilities, especially in my presence.

Yesterday, in the free market, she had slapped a guy because he was making very racist comments, and not even to us. The day before, when we were getting her job upgrade in Henesys, she explained how she'd argued with another archer during the examination. I mean, he started it, but I'm glad she at least defended herself.

But she hasn't gone through some miraculous conversion, mind you. If I'm not in the room or near her, she's not nearly as confident.

Simple explanation for that: Allie's comfortable around her friends. Though I'm sure Conlan would tell me I'm in denial about something. It's not like I haven't considered the possibility of something forming between the two of us, me and Allie. But anything like that would bring up more problems than would be worth it.

Whatever...

I started making a quick meal, just some macaroni with prepackaged sauce. Nothing special. I put the water on to boil and threw on a leather jacket over my new Green Knucklevest.

Through our training together, I'd gone up three experience levels. Allie, though, was now Level 32. We used some of our charity money to buy her new equipment, since it hardly dented the account.

"Six million mesos in a few days," I muttered, stirring the pasta into the pot. "If only it was like this every day."

Sighing, I set the wooden spoon next to the stove and slumped onto the couch. Lazily I took my Meba and slipped it over my hand, flexing my fingers to get that familiar feel. I expertly tossed a Steely straight up and watched it fall back into my waiting palm.

As it fell, I suddenly had a dizzy feeling. Suddenly smells spurted up that didn't exist. My fingers seemed to stretch out like inflating balloons, and the Steely began to inflate as well, even as it fell into my hand

Even though I hardly thought about the knife, my eyes instantly pointed out every imperfection in the projectile.

That angle is off by sixteen point three-six of a degree. The ribbon is off-center, thirteen degrees to my left. It has a chip that gives it a slight serration on the underside, causing a three point two-five estimated degree malfunction downward in a throw. The tip is sharpened perfectly, meaning there is a eighty-five point six-fourish percent chance of hitting my mark, assuming the target is bigger than one point five centimeters diameter...

My eyes slid out of focus and I threw the thing as hard as I could in disgust. It stuck with a 'thunk' in the opposite wall, but I wasn't paying attention. I had fallen off of the couch and onto the cold floor, clutching my head.

I knew I was the vision of 'weakling in huge amounts of pain'. I was very aware of that. But I didn't give a damn, right then.

I don't know how long I laid like that. I knew it couldn't have been a terrible length of time, since I got up to stir the pasta and it hadn't yet boiled over. I was supporting myself on the stove counter, afraid I'd collapse again.

That's the third time that's happened to me. I saw literally every detail of the Steely and if I stayed like that I would have began to see my claw, and then my entire body, and then my surroundings, and then... I don't know.

The first time that had happened, in a row of hunting with Allie by the Junior Grupins, I wasn't able to stop the visions. I did see everything, and if it wasn't for the kitten-like creature ramming into my back, I may have stayed like that until... Until...

Until I see what I'm fated to.

I mentally slapped myself. That voice... No, it was merely instinct. My prime intellect was merely creating a voice for me... And it was spinning out of control. The instinctual voice wasn't important. Right now, I needed to concentrate. It was easiest that way, I had discovered.

I couldn't help but look at my hand. Even though I knew it was only a hallucination, the recurring vicions of my claw hand perverting the laws of physics continued to haunt me. Every time I... I saw that stuff, my hand had elongated before my eyes.

In fact, now that I thouhgt about it, everything had changed for a few seconds. The Steely's ribbon wasn't red before I caught it, and the knife itself must have been the size of a small sword. I'm sure if I had looked at the walls or couch as well, everything would have been different... Changed in some sort of way.

Why?

I realized that I couldn't just drop the subject, so I embraced it. I tossed my Meba onto the couch and sighed, leaning onto the stove as I stirred the noodles.

Examine every symptom... There was that terrible smell. The nautiousness, and obvously those hallucinations.

...That's it. hallucinations. I'm hallucinating. The mind can send out faulty information to the nose and concoius mind as well as the eyes. Everything's a hallucination. Does that mean I'm going crazy or something? What is this, schizophrenia...?

Even as I thought that, I remembered the Voice telling me that I needed to 'See what I'm fated to'.

I squeezed my eyes shut, stirring blindly. When had all of this started...?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Five days after the day I met Allie.

"A claw scroll!" I shouted in bliss, stuffing the parchment into my pack.

"That's what, one point two million?" Allie called back, constantly firing arrows at the Junior Grupins.

"Just about," I said, throwing several Lucky Sevens to help Allie. We finished the last of the kittens visible, and I walked throuhg the pile of corpses. Anything of value I immediately noticed, and without hesitation would toss up into my pack.

"So that's about two million we've gained today?" she asked, already aiming and firing at another monster.

"Less," I growled, throwing a few tobis at the same cat. "Maybe one and two-thirds."

Allie nodded. "Still not terrible."

We continued training in silence, killing the Grupins and picking up their dropped materials and money. They had many things of value on or inside of them, and oftentimes the creatures would steal money from a defeated Monster Control Agent.

We sustained hits, dodging the Junior Grupins to the best of our ability. After a few minutes of the painful training, we met on the single safe platform.

"I'm fresh out of mana," I said, sitting. Unlike Allie, I didn't need to check my Personal ID to know how well I was doing. "Do you want to stay here for a bit?"

She agreed and we discussed strageties. We were both snipers, as I saw it, and we had very similar abilities. Though, were I went for speed, Allie went for power. I suppose that was a pretty major difference between us, but that was about it.

"I'm good," I said, standing and stretching quickly. "But I think I'll use my Steelies this time... You ready to get going?"

"Yup, let's go," Allie said with a smirk, cocking her crossbow.

We both stepped off of the platform, and the second I threw my first Steely, which hurtled forward toward the exposed throat of a Junior Grupin, a smell erupted.

It reminded me of rotten eggs and decomposing humans. I closed my eyes and I could see the maggots, fighting for possesion of the putrid meat, crawling over each other an a frenzied attempt. I nearly vomited right then, but with gasping breaths I could keep it in.

When I opened my eyes there was a Junior Grupin... Extended to twice its size. I caught my breath and bombarded the thing with Lucky Sevens, most of which missed. I watched my Steelies fly, and they seemed to elongate as well. As the knives hit the beast, the blue (hadn't they been red?) ribbons seemed to stick to my hand, though I felt nothing physically there. The smell was overwhelming. I couldn't think straight.

With a cry I fell forward. Something had hit me from behind.

"Dan! Dan, what are you... Dan!"

Though I could hear her voice, it seemed as though Allie was worlds away. When I opened my eyes I saw two things: One was a timid, raven-haired girl in Archer's clothing. She was looking down unto my with a worried look. Beyond her was nothing but the sky, and several scenes ran through it like some kind of movie clip.

A small girl, carrying a clich├ęd teddy bear, watching in fear as her mother and father argued. Her father finally lost it and smashed a glass on the floor. As the girl and her mother stared, the father stormed out the door. After a minute of confused silence, a little boy walked in the back door. He was older than the girl, but not by much. He saw the broken glass and his family, and he fell over where he stood.

Several people sitting at a long table in a darkened room. Most of their faces were covered in hoods or similar headwear. One man sat exposed, at the head of the table. He had neat-cut teal hair, his eyes were closed behind his glasses. He was touching his fingertips of both hands, resting both elbows on the table. He was listening to the conversation, saying nothing. Finally he grinned, and several people at the table stiffened. Quite suddenly, he was crouching on top of the table, holding a strange dagger. Almost immediately he was on the other side of the room, and two people were bleeding. One was dead, the other wailing in pain.

Conlan of Henesys, the dark-skinned archer, walking with Lyo of Ellinia. Conlan had just finished saying something, motioning a slap. She was laughing, and then she had fallen over, a bronze arrow sticking out of her upper spine. Conlan turned with his bow pulled, oaths escaping his tight lips. He saw nobody but let loose a Bomb Arrow, frowning further as he heard a shout of pain. He let loose two more, and the screaming ceased. He breathed for the first time, and dropped his bow, turning to Lyo on his knees. His whole body shuddering, he put two fingers to her neck. With a gasp he tried a different area on her neck, a deep growl emminating from within his throat. He looked up and screamed to the sky, hammering the dirt with his fists.

Dan of Kerning, seven years ago, was talking to the Dark Lord himself, both casually. Dan had his hands in either pocket, while the elite ninja had his arms crossed. The Dark Lord said something that caused Dan to freeze, and they looked at each other. Suprised, Dan smiled and laughed. His voice cracked, and the Dark Lord put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

A brown-haired man known as The Tiger had a humongous spear over his shoulder. His eyes sparkled with knowledge unknown to most. He was carrying a strange rock in his left hand, which he placed on a pedastal. Calmly, he turned and walked away from the pedastal, readying his spear. With a deafening noise, The Tiger was already attacking some kind of gigantic golem which had appeared from the rock...

Hideval was in a deep, deep forest, far from any civilization. He was clutching his staff, eyes darting about. A twig cracked in the distance and he disappeared from view, hiding in the foliage of a Maple tree.

"All is connected."

Dan would not remember a single one of the visions, though they will return in his dreams.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"All is connected," I muttered quietly, the only thing I could remember. I knew that I had visions when I had passed out, but that line was the only thing I could remember at all. None of this made any sense. Maybe I was going insane.

The door unlocked open and I was on my feet, holding a Kumbi in each hand. In a combat situation, they'd be better than nothing.

"He wasn't there," Allie said sadly, closing the door before too much snow could blow in. I relaxed and put the Kumbies back into my pack.

"..You okay?" she asked, noting the stars. "Did it happen again?"

"Yeah," I muttered, nodding to the Steely embedded in the wall. "But it was no big deal. I was able to control it for the most part, this time. I was only out for a few minutes."

Allie nodded, but she was biting her bottom lip. She obviously wasn't saying something.

I sighed. "Just tell me," I said. "And be blunt, it's easier that way."

"He's dead."

I nearly fell. "What?"

"Hideval. He's dead, a friend of his says he saw the corpse."

No way...

"Wh- Who told you that?" I asked, trying to stay calm. "Who's this friend of his?"

Allie sat down, holding her stomach in both arms. "He called himself Renon Esper, and he was a Mage of Ellinia. He looked pretty professional. White Guiltain, Dark Starlight, Arc Staff, even an Esther sheild. He sounded pretty honest, too."

"He also sounds pretty rich," I grumbled. "Where is he now?"

"He was in Aqua Road but he said he'd meet us here later today," Allie answered calmly. "Says he has to finish a quest anyway, and he wanted to talk to us in person."

"Fair enough," I muttered, straining the pasta. Allie told me to sit down, she said I'd overcooked the noodles and had stirred too much.

"Leave it to a man to screw up such a simple thing," in her own words.

I had no argument so I watched the snow fall outside the window as I sat at the table.

Dead... Why? What good what that have done to the Maffiya? Sure, it'd make an example, but is a human life worth all that money?

I suppose it would be if the human life was worthless anyway... These people have terrible foresight. Mix that with a need of control and a lack of intelligence and this is what you get.

Dammit, Hideval...