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Ihrie felt strange ever since hers and the others' battle with Rugudorull, in which they had all destroyed him. The land of Raybard was thankful to all the heroes, but life had been tough.
It had been years ago in which she and Fam had parted ways, Fam moving about the countryside as a more accomplished Ruin Explorer than Ihrie herself had been. Fam's name was known the world over as a selfless heroine.
When she'd first heard that name in a town, she also caught a snippet of conversation about herself. Curious, she had listened, to a conversation she could remember to this very day.
'Did you know Fam used to travel with this ugly butch bitch named Ihrie?' 'Oh yeah, violent too.' 'How could anyone treat someone as selfless as Fam like that?'
When she had gotten to the inn for a night, she had spent time doing something she hadn't in a long time. She'd cried. She'd cried so hard it had hurt to her very soul.
It had been nights later she'd just about killed herself. She was back in Raybard, finding it proper that the land she helped to save be the place her life ended.
She could still remember that day as well.
Butch. Bitch. Tomboy. Ugly. Violent...
And the new ones, slutty and unlovely...
Was that how she would be remembered? As some... THING... while the rest were great people? She wasn't even seen as the lowest commoner, but a mere THING people found delight in degrading.
What made her heart ache more, was all the rumors.
Lyle would marry Fam.
Lyle would marry Rasha.
The rest of the talk about the group of heroes spoke of Miguel, Galuff, Gil... Heck, all of them were seen in a positive light...
But not her.
And it had hurt... To know no one cared whether she lived or died.
Hell, she didn't even know if any of the other heroes even remembered her. No one had bothered to invite her to the previous year's harvest festival. And she had been living in Gatell to the south. That is, before people chased her away again...
It was hard to be Ihrie, especially since most thought less of you, and the rest wanted you dead. Raybard brought good memories of the others, but it also brought the most pain to the forefront.
After all, who would want a bitch like her...
Especially not Lyle...
That was the main problem. Ever since hers and Lyle's talk on that ship way back when, she'd been in love with the man. And... no one saw it. No one cared. And it hurt so much more...
She was just some kind of plaything for other people's amusement. She felt like a puppet, with everyone from Raybard to the farthest civilizations pulling the strings. And when she would cease being amusing, someone would cut the strings to let her die.
She could still feel the scars from that day, two from where she had slit her wrists, and the rest from where near every cut and slice she'd taken on her escape from the kingdom. When people had caught wind she was in Raybard, people had been amazingly... violent.
She had been taken in by one of the kindest old man to treat her wounds when she had collapsed, bleeding, outside his property. He had not cared who she was, all he cared about was that she would be alright.
He'd been killed when they found out he was sheltering her.
And thus, she'd been captured by the people of Raybard, the very people she fought for, to restore their kingdom.
And thus where she'd been since. While everyone else had good lives, she was rotting away in the Raybard dungeons.
Her body had noticably thinned from malnutrition, and her magical abilities had much since proven to be useless with the limiter device around her neck. But that wasn't what was the hardest thing about living in a dungeon.
No, it was the weekly torture sessions, which led to the many, many scars all across her body.
And... no one came to help her at any time. She was sure news of her capture had spread since that day. And no one came to help, despite she knew the other heroes would come for the festivals.
She was merely forgotten. No one cared. No one she knew, no one she didn't know...
And anyone that did care...
Maybe it was for the best she suffered for eternity, if only so no one else got hurt or killed because of her. After all, it wasn't like she had much time left, she was practically starving most of the time from the gruel they called food.
So, as she sat huddled in her cell for another day, her clothing long since destroyed, she was surprised to hear one voice she hadn't heard in years.
Sure enough, it was Fam, the Wiggan she had travelled with for such a long time... Until Fam had left Ihrie. Ihrie wanted so much to beg and plead for Fam to get her out of here, but she knew better. Why would Fam degrade her high status to help a lowly girl like her?
"Oh, dear god, what have they done to you?" Fam asked to herself, before nodding to the guards of the cell. One guard opened the cell door, the Wiggan heading inside the cell.
Only, Ihrie reacted in a strange way. She huddled up away from Fam, shaking like a leaf.
And this tore at Fam's heart. What had happened to Ihrie to cause this kind of reaction to a friend? All those scars all over her, the redness and how frail Ihrie was now...
She looked like she was on the brink of death, and Ihrie had been living like this?
Fam slowly got down on her knees next to Ihrie, and Ihrie looked at her. At the full grown woman before her, and felt another pang of envy.
Fam now had a figure any woman would die for, while she was now a mangled thing... No one would want her now... Not like anyone would have wanted her before...
Fam, slowly, gathered up the frail girl before her into a gentle hug, unsure of what to say to the girl she had left to her own devices all those years ago, and...
She could only blame herself for what had happened. The girl was dying, and it was all Fam's fault.
She was further surprised by Ihrie trying to pull away, almost violently, but... her hits held no power, no force, and Fam felt terrible. Ihrie was in terrible shape, and it seemed Ihrie held her in contempt.
"I am so sorry, Ihrie... If I hadn't left you, this might not have happened to you... You wouldn't be in so much pain now..." She said, as she used a little more strength to keep Ihrie still.
And Ihrie eventually stopped flailing, and instead clutched at Fam like someone would to a piece of floating wood in the sea. And Ihrie was crying... And it made Fam feel all the worse.
Gently, so as not to hurt the frail woman, she wrapped her in a blanket and lift her up, amazed at how light the girl was now. She couldn't weigh more than seventy-eight pounds! And... On a girl Ihrie's height, that was very bad.
'She's so thin, and cut up... It's like they were trying to kill her...' Growling, Fam turned to the guards. "I want to know who was in charge of her, who was supposed to be feeding and caring for her! Now, find them! Make yourselves scarce, now!"
The guards took one look at the enraged Wiggan, and, as one, took off. Fam merely sighed, looking down at the dying girl, before regarding her sadly.
The girl was still clutching to her, and seemed content to not let go. And Fam could not blame her, as she had apparently left Ihrie to rot here for years.
As she finally brought Ihrie out of the dungeon, still wrapped in the warm blanket, Fam was glad of one thing.
At least Ihrie was still alive. If Ihrie had died in there, she would have never forgiven herself. She could still remember some guards PROUDLY proclaiming, to her, that her tormentor, Ihrie, had been firmly held in a cell for at least two years. Fam had been interestingly mad and... unforgiving.
"I see you found her..." Came another guilty voice, making Ihrie look up.
Lyle, Miguel, Rasha... they were all there, and Ihrie was both vastly happy and vastly angry with them. They'd left her there, practically to die alone, for YEARS. And NOW, after she had suffered, they wanted to help her?
The dirty, bruised girl could be forgiven for glaring and looking away. She had been especially unforgiving in her glare at Lyle, who was the most likely to have known she was in the dungeons of his own kingdom.
It didn't matter that she still loved him...
The past few years, all the torture and pain, weighed too heavily to merely forgive them.
It hurt. It hurt to realize she held all of them at fault. It wasn't the type of hurt as if they'd put her away, but the hurt that they betrayed her trust. For so long, she'd believed they'd come to save her. But as days turned to weeks and weeks to months, with no rescue in sight, she'd just broken. Her spirit had been torn to ribbons, more so than her flesh.
The next week went by quickly. Ihrie was free and Lyle had made it quite clear that, given Ihrie's wrongful arrest and torture, she was not to be harmed in any way. Failure to comply came with grave consequences.
Ihrie was cared for, but the others despaired since she wasn't helping. She ate little, her stomach accustomed to small amounts of food. Any more made her sick. She also cowered slightly when any of the others got close to her. Even Fam was met with unease.
Many could think only a few things. What in the name of the Ultimate Power had been done to Ihrie?
She also looked like she was constantly in pain. She wouldn't see a doctor, and the wounds were too old for Rasha or Fam to heal. And Ihrie, first time she used her magic, had wound up passing out from the strength of the spirits she conjured.
In short, Ihrie was as weak as an untrained, starved, and beaten child.
Then there were the times she would merely collapse. She would be walking with one of the others and merely collapse. And it tore at even Galuff's heart how much suffering the girl had been through.
And there didn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Ihrie tried to become healthy again, she tried. But as the weeks went by, and Ihrie's health deteriorated further, her weight going down, her health problems occuring quicker and more often...
The others were forced to a conclusion.
Ihrie was really going to die.
And... Nothing could be humanly done to save her.
But, Lyle set out one week, under the pretense of getting a better doctor. Ihrie thought he merely couldn't stand the guilt.
And the rest were forced with caring for Ihrie themselves. Servants refused to help with the King gone, maids and doctors would not come help when called...
Despite Ihrie had suffered, people still hated her. It had taken all the willpower Fam had to not hunt down and kill these people. They would let an innocent girl die... Based on a little misunderstanding.
Finally, it came to the worst low they could all see. Ihrie couldn't even get up one day, lacking the strength to even move. Her face had thinned a bit, as had the rest of her. She could barely eat or drink without getting sick.
Fam had to deal with it. It would be any day now. And... Ihrie was beyond help.
Her mentor, friend of years, partner... Was going to die at the mere age of twenty. And... it was all her fault for not stopping the rumors. For not coming to Ihrie's rescue. For leaving her in the first place and leaving Ihrie almost helpless against all those people.
It was one thing to die and be forgotten.
It was another to die and be remembered as a monster.
And, on her death bed, everyone around her waiting for her final moments, her breath weak and raspy, Ihrie remembered her life for the first time in a long time...
And shed a tear.
So many things left unsaid, so many things left undone... And she would never be able to reveal them. Her inner-most feelings and beliefs would go to the grave with her.
And she was sure hell would be most welcoming for her...
The door opened, Ihrie's eyes started to close.
But by the time Lyle came, with the three treasures of the Ultimate Power in order to restore her...
Ihrie had already passed on.
And no power in the world could bring her back.
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The burial was terrible. The heroes did not trust anyone in the kingdoms to know her burial spot. They had set her body ablaze, the heroes all in account to see the goodbye of a beloved friend that they had let down. A friend they had betrayed.
A friend they had killed. Perhaps not themselves, but their own ignorance took Ihrie's life from her.
And there would be no forgiveness amongst them.
As they all beheld the remains of Ihrie turning to ash, the heroes being the only ones to see her off to the afterlife, they only wished she would know happiness in death, as impossible as it had been in life.
And, as the pot containing her ashes were buried, and a tombstone erected, it read a few lines that caused Fam to cry.
'Here lies a Ruin Explorer
May God give her the happiness
That was denied in life'
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And, in heaven, Ihrie merely watched her ashes put to rest, her physical form restored. And another tear ran down her cheek, as she, in the white dress God provided, enshrouded her face behind her white wings.
Finally... But only in death... Did she realize some people cared.
And as a hand lay on her shoulder, she turned. HE was there, and HE held her silently as she cried. There was no reason to cry, she knew... But it still hurt so much.
It hurt to think... How much she would miss them all.
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