Note from Author: As always, these characters do not belong to me, they belong to Namco Bandai. Of course as always if Namco Bandai is willing to give Asch, Guy or Jade to me, I would be happy to take them. But until then, all I can do is play around with them in my writings. This is a creation of my own overactive imagination and serious boredom, nothing more and nothing less.
Sorry for the extremely long wait here, hopefully this will be well worth the wait, especially for the Jade/Tear fans.
It should have been a great relief for Kiran to get out of Daath and actually go on a mission that had nothing to do with attempting to capture or kill his original, but it wasn't. He knew Luke's group was planning on going to Daath for his sake, to remove the curse slot. However, he didn't have the chance to tell Luke where exactly he was going before their argument. And now, he knew that even if he tried to talk to Luke, his original wouldn't answer him.
All in all, his life was definitely not going well.
At the very least, he knew this wouldn't be a boring assignment. He'd never been to Sheridan before, so getting to explore a new city would be interesting enough. Then there was the fact that he was to go and question the residents about the recent attempts at sabotage, which would give him a chance to interact with the craftsmen as he made it appear an investigation was actually being done, even though he knew full well Nepenthes wouldn't receive any punishment for this. His men who screwed up would.
Sync wasn't in the best of moods. It wasn't a surprise; he hated having to cover up for other people's stupid mistakes. Kiran, however, knew that before this was over, his superior's mood would get better. Nothing made Sync happier than having dirt on his fellow God-Generals, and he was bound to find some.
Since this mission was a relatively small one, only Sync, Kiran and two of Sync's men were going. The rest of Sync's division had either been sent off on missions with the other divisions or remained in Daath with duties to tend to there. The four of them traveled via the ferry that ran from Sheridan to Daath and had left soon after he and Luke had last spoken, the very next day in fact.
It only took a day of travel to arrive to Sheridan port from Daath. The sun was starting to set as they arrived, so they opted to stay the night at the port before heading to the city itself rather than risking traveling at night.
The city was bustling with activity as he imagined it would be when he arrived, being the City of Craftsmen. War definitely did not hinder affairs in the city of Sheridan. Much of their profits were made in the creation of landships and weaponry so like Chesedonia, they benefited from wars more than they did from peace.
Kiran hoped he would have some time to look around the city, he did find all the activity rather interesting and was curious to know what all the craftsmen were doing. But he did have a mission and he knew that Sync likely had everything that he had to accomplish planned out to the minute.
Before he ever got a chance to ask what his orders were, Sync spoke up. "Kiran, you're to go to the meeting hall. It is in the center of the city, only an idiot like Dist could miss it. I want you to speak with the head researchers and ask about the sabotage. Also, according to our information, they should know where the girl who got attacked lives. I want you to question her. Pay close attention to how she reacts to you."
He looked confused at the last part. He never had met this girl, why would she react at all to him besides in the normal way one reacts to a stranger? "Um, sir, is there anything in particular I should note about her reaction?"
"Just tell me how she reacts. My answer will come from that. Otherwise, just ask her about the attack on her and gather as many details as possible."
"Then you are dismissed. Meet in front of the inn in six hours. That should be plenty of time to question the girl and the researchers. If you have time left over, discretely ask the residents questions about anything they will talk about."
"Got it, sir," he said before leaving the area. Not a bad assignment at all, once he finished asking some questions, he could explore the city more and ask the residents questions. He had to wonder however, what was Sync's objective with this? He seemed curious about the attack and sabotage, but he also seemed curious about the goings on in the city itself.
Kiran had no problem finding the meeting hall, It had been exactly where Sync had said it would be. He walked inside and took a look around to see if he could find those researchers that he had been asked to speak with.
He saw three elderly people, two men and a woman sitting at the table looking at something that appeared to be a diagram. While they all looked up when he entered the room., the woman was the one walked over towards him. "May I help you?" She looked at him most curiously. Why she was doing that, he couldn't figure out. Was the older woman mistaking him for Luke?
"Oh, I didn't mean to interrupt. My name is Kiran. I'm here with the Oracle Knights investigating some sabotage that occurred recently. Perhaps you can help me by answering some questions?"
One of the two men frowned. "Those men are going to get punished, right? Can't excuse what they did to the Albiore, or to Noelle."
"Of course they will, sir. The Oracle Knights don't condone such behavior from their members."
"So what do you want to ask us?" The woman asked.
"Can you give me information about what these men did to the girl who was attacked along with anything else they did to anyone or anything in this city?"
"Oh, you better sit down then, boy. This is going to take awhile." The other man stated.
It took some time for the researchers to explain everything that had happened. Kiran was amazed at just the amount of things that had been done. Most were pretty minor actually, but they added up; it meant the perpetrators would be in serious trouble. It also meant that Nepenthes has a good idea of how the flying machine, the Albiore as they had called it, was built, considering what had gone missing.
And he didn't miss how the researchers spoke in glowing terms of those who had stopped it. He recognized right away who it was they spoke of, and now things were starting to make sense. He had some idea why Sync personally got sent here rather than just sending a few lower ranked knights to deal with the matter. Luke's group had been here, and they now have what Nepenthes had worked to get a hold of.
"So you want to go talk to Noelle now?" the older woman, whose name he found out to be Tamara asked him, interrupting his thoughts.
"Yes, if that wouldn't be a problem."
"Nah, she doesn't have anything else to do really. Poor girl, she's been so bored since her leg was broken. I bet she'd love the distraction and will keep you occupied for hours if you let her."
He couldn't help but smile. Noelle sounded like a nice girl and it was a shame she got hurt in all of this. "Can I ask where she lives?"
"I'll do better, I'll take you. It's about time for me to check on her anyhow."
"Thanks. That would be wonderful."
They walked towards the part of town where Noelle had been living by herself since Ginji had left with Luke and the others. They walked up to the door, but before opening it, Tamara stopped to ask Kiran something. "Ever since you walked in the meeting hall, I got some weird feeling I've seen you before. Have we met somewhere?"
"No, this is my first time in Sheridan."
"Hmm, I wonder…" she mused. Kiran knew she must be noticing the resemblance between him and Luke. It was hard to miss it if she had met Luke before, and it was likely he had been in Sheridan. This city was Kimlascan territory, after all. Of course Luke would have been here previously.
Now he understood. That's why Sync wanted him to especially note reactions to him. That would tell more than anything else if Luke had been here recently. Even if he already knew it was Van's sister and the Malkuth Colonel who had been the most involved here.
"Well, I won't keep you from your duties. Let me introduce you to Noelle. I'm sure she will be happy to tell you what happened."
The woman opened the door and Kiran followed her inside. They didn't have far to go before they found the young blonde girl lying in bed. It looked like someone had attempted to give her something to keep her busy. She had improvised a desk of sorts that she could use in bed and was working on a diagram. She looked up once they entered. "Aunt Tamara! I'm almost done with the copy of the diagram you requested. If you can wait a bit I'll have it done for you."
"Oh, don't worry about that. We don't need it until tomorrow. I brought someone who wants to speak with you about what happened. Kiran, this is Noelle. Noelle, this is Kiran, he's an Oracle Knight who was sent to investigate about your attack. Would you mind answering his questions?"
She looked at him with interest. "Sure. I don't mind. Why don't you two sit down?"
"Oh, I have to get back. I just wanted to make sure you were okay and that Kiran found this place okay." She looked over at the redhead. "You seem decent compared to the others, but nothing had better happen to her. Got it?"
"Of course. Nothing will happen to her in my presence, I swear to Yulia."
"Good. I'll be by around dinnertime, Noelle. Do you need anything before then?"
"Oh, no. I'm fine, Aunt Tamara. Don't worry about me."
The older woman left. Kiran found a chair and brought it near the bed so he could talk with the girl. "So, can you tell me what happened?"
"There's really not too much to tell. I thought I could help catch the saboteurs. Instead they got caught and I was attacked by two others who thought they could 'have some fun with me' as they put it. Besides my leg being broken while I struggled, nothing happened because someone stopped them in time."
"Someone? Who was this?"
"A Malkuth solider. He introduced himself as Colonel Jade Curtiss. He was later joined by an Oracle Knight."
"Yes, how did you know? Did Aunt Tamara tell you?"
"Not their names, but I know them."
"Really? They were very nice people. Such a cute couple too."
Kiran couldn't help but be shocked at her words. Was she speaking of the same people he knew? A couple? Things must have changed quite a bit with the group if that were true. "Cute? Are you sure you are speaking of Colonel Curtiss?"
He couldn't help but smile. "Cute" wasn't exactly a word he would use to describe Jade Curtiss. Yet somehow, this girl had definitely got that impression. "So you said they stopped your attackers in time, what did they save you from?"
"Those bastards. I don't know what their problem was. I told them I didn't want to."
"Want to what?"
"They shoved me to the ground, that's what caused my leg to get broken. They were trying to remove my clothes and I was trying to stop them as best as I could, but with the pain and there being two of them, well…"
"You don't need to explain if it hurts you."
"No, I said I would answer your questions. If I don't, they won't get punished, right?"
"They will, but knowing what they did would help determine what punishment they received."
"Well, I didn't know the Order had such pigs among them. The bastards wanted to force themselves on me."
He looked even more shocked than before. Did she mean that they tried to rape her? He didn't want to pry further, because this was definitely a very uncomfortable subject. "I'm sorry, Noelle."
"It's not your fault. Just because two Oracle Knights are pigs doesn't mean all of you are. And nothing happened besides my leg being broken, thanks to your friends."
"Um, well, we aren't really friends, we just traveled together for a short time."
"Still, it was very kind of them to come to my rescue. I'm grateful to them, had they not been there, well…"
"You don't need to think about that. I'm glad things turned out well and you didn't get too badly hurt. You're leg will be okay, right?"
"Oh yes. The doctor says I should be up and about in another week. Had it not been for Tear, it would have taken longer to heal."
"Still, if I have any say in it, those two will get the maximum punishment for what they did to you."
She smiled at him. "Thanks. I can call you Kiran, right? Or do you have a title I should refer to you by."
"Kiran is fine. My rank is a confusing matter anyhow."
"Why would that be? You seem to have a high rank, your uniform is different from the others."
"I really can't talk about. It's confidential to the Order."
"Oh, I'm sorry I asked then."
"Don't worry about it.
"Is there anything else you wanted to know? I don't know if there is much more I can tell that you probably don't already know."
"Not that I can think of. We know which of the men attacked you; we just didn't have the details of what they did. I should report back to my commander now." He told her as he stood up to leave.
"Wait, do you have to go back right away?" she pleaded.
He looked at the girl, she actually did look upset to see him leave. He remembered what Tamara had said, she was bored, and would keep him occupied for hours if he let her. He still had some time before he had to report in to Sync.
"I could stay a bit longer."
"Could you? I hate to be a bother, it's just that…"
"You're feeling bored with having to stay in bed with little to do?"
"Yeah. I mean Aunt Tamara, and Grandpa Iemon and Aston come by, but they are so busy that they can't stay long."
"I understand. Giving you a bit of my time is the least I can do to make up for what my fellow Oracle Knights did to you."
"You can? Thank you so much!" Noelle exclaimed looking very pleased.
Her smile was infectious. For the first time in days, Kiran found himself with a reason to be happy about something. It was amazing how just the simple act of making another person happy could also lift his own mood. He also liked how comfortable he felt around this girl. For the first time ever, he felt like just a normal teenager who was a member of the Oracle Knights. She didn't know anything about him, didn't treat him any differently because of his rank, or because he was a replica, or anything. She just treated him like a normal person around her age. To enjoy this fact alone, he would stay with her as long as he could. "So what do you want to talk about?"
"Could you maybe tell me about yourself? Why did you join the Oracle Knights? Do you like it? What's Daath like?"
He had to smile again at her barrage of questions. She definitely was a curious girl, but he really didn't like the direction her questions were going, even if they were just natural questions to ask. "Daath isn't that far away from here, haven't you been there before?"
She shook her head. "No. I haven't even been able to leave this town unless you count flying to Meggiora Highlands during test flights."
"I'm going to pilot the Albiore II once it's finished. My brother pilots the already finished Albiore. I'm excited because I'll get to see the world."
"That does sound really neat."
"Yeah, but you've probably been all over the place by now."
"Actually, no I haven't. This is actually my first time in Sheridan."
"Really? Don't you travel a lot by being an Oracle Knight?"
"We do have assignments in many places in the world, but this is the first time I've had one in Sheridan. I like it here so far though." He added quickly.
She smiled. "It's not a bad place, but it gets boring seeing the same stuff every day."
"I don't think so. I'd love to know what everyone was doing while I was walking around. That's just interesting to me, but maybe it's because I don't live here. You find Daath interesting, and I find it rather ordinary because I live there."
"Then it would be my hope to travel enough that no place becomes ordinary, right? Or at least I appreciate it more when I go home. Don't you look forward to going back to your home?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, aren't your originally from Baticul? I bet you miss it there."
He got really nervous once she asked that. How could she know about him? Oh wait, she must have seen Luke before and guessed they were related somehow. But even though Luke's mother claimed him as her own, he wasn't fully comfortable claiming that. He wasn't really from Baticul, but explaining why he wasn't opened up a discussion he didn't want to have with this girl. He wanted to continue with her thinking he was like everyone else.
His silence must have been long enough, she got a worried look on her face. "Kiran? what's wrong? Did I say something I shouldn't have? Or remind you of something you didn't want to think about?"
Now he was confused. What was she thinking about? "What do you mean by 'remind me of something'?"
"Well, you look exactly like one of the members of the royal family who came here a few times."
"Luke? Yeah, he's my twin brother."
"You must have been young when you left then". She looked sad at his confirmation. Was she disappointed maybe? Why would she be disappointed by him being Luke's twin? This was a time where he really wished he could talk to Luke about what he should do. He didn't know enough to answer these questions, and didn't have the advantage Luke had of being raised as a member of the royal family.
"Why do you think that?"
"No reason. You never answered my question, by the way. Why would a member of the royal family do something as dangerous as joining the Oracle Knights? It is dangerous right?"
"It can be, but not always. I really don't want to talk about that, ok?"
She nodded sadly. She looked so upset that he felt bad for doing this to her. He wished he could explain, but he couldn't. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I just feel bad for you. It must have been hard for you, so I can understand that you don't want to talk about it."
"Why would it be? I don't mind being an Oracle Knight."
"Was it your choice then?"
"Not at first, but I did choose to stay with them."
"That's what I thought, and that's why I feel so bad. At least I can stay with my family, you didn't have a choice and had to leave them to work like any other person does. You're royalty, you should be doing something besides being a common soldier, right?"
He smiled. "But I'm not exactly a common soldier, you already noted that much."
He interrupted before she could ask her question. "I really don't want to talk about my family and my reasons for joining the Oracle Knights."
She nodded. She couldn't help but notice his expression as he said that. She couldn't think of what it could be, sadness maybe? Or regret? Had something happened with his family that he had been forced to leave? Whatever it was, she preferred the smile he had right before he said that. It suited him, and it was nice to see she could make him smile, especially if there was so much sadness in his life.
She had to admit, he was most handsome, and really nice too. It wasn't the normal person who would take time once his assignment was done to speak with her further.
It was just a shame that he was from the royal family, and thus out of her reach. So she should just stop thinking about how handsome and sweet he was. It was just a silly thing to even consider and his being royalty and an Oracle Knight just had to be making her remember the fairy tales about the handsome knight who saved the damsel in distress and fell in love with her. Those were stories for children, she knew better than to think such fantasies would happen in reality. It wasn't like she would ever see him again after this day anyhow. But she doubted she would ever forget this day.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. You've been so nice to me, a complete stranger, thank you for that," she told him. "I shouldn't take up any more of your time, but could I ask one more thing?"
As much as he enjoyed talking to her, despite his having to change the subject a bit, he did have to go report in to Sync very soon. "What would that be?"
"Could you sign my cast?" she asked with an innocently sweet smile. "I just don't want to forget this."
He looked at her injured leg and for the first time noticed all the drawings and writing on it. There was barely an open place to write anything with how much was there. "I'd hate to ruin these wonderful drawings with my handwriting. I'm told it looks no better than cheagle scratchings."
She giggled a bit. "Cheagle scratchings? I doubt it could be that bad. Please?"
She looked so cute pleading with him for something so simple. He really hated the idea, since it would be expected that someone from the royal family would be able to write his own name decently. His upbringing was far from normal though. It was amazing he was even able to read and write enough to fill out reports.
Well, it was doubtful she'd figure everything out, even if she was a smart girl. "All right, but don't say I didn't warn you about my handwriting."
She handed him the pen she had been using to copy the diagrams earlier and he found a small area where he could write his name and his title in the Oracle Knights. He did try to make sure his own name was at least remotely legible, his title was less so. "It's not that bad," She told him once he finished.
"Thanks. But I really should be reporting back to my commander now. It was a pleasure meeting you."
"It was a pleasure meeting you too Kiran. Make sure those guys get punished for me, ok?"
"I will. Because no one should be permitted to hurt a girl as kind as you are."
She blushed a bit at his comment, which made him wonder if he said something wrong. She was still smiling, so he had to guess that he said something she liked hearing. She didn't say anything else, so he left her.
And he didn't know why, but he had a strange feeling that would not be the last time he saw her. Oddly it wasn't something he minded at all.
Jade walked into the room Luke was staying in and found the redhead sitting on the bed running a brush through his long hair. "Might I have a word with you?" He asked Luke.
Luke stopped brushing his hair and looked up at Jade. "Of course. Not like we have anything else to do for the moment until we leave for Daath. What's going on?"
The Malkuth Colonel sat down next to the young noble. "Well, Ion tells me that something is bothering you. Maybe you could explain what this may be."
He frowned. So Ion had told Jade about it. "I don't want to talk about it."
"How come I knew you would say that?" The Malkuth Colonel said with a shrug. "Then how about we discuss your actions in the Ruins instead?"
"What about them? I didn't break my promise."
"Perhaps not the literal wording, but you did break the intent behind them."
"And things worked out fine. I'm fine, no one got hurt besides Legretta, what's the problem?"
He could see Jade looking intently at him, but he couldn't identify the look in the man's eyes, was it disappointment, worry, or something else entirely? "The problem is that you could have hurt yourself. We don't know yet what is wrong with you. How do we know that you didn't just hinder your recovery even more?"
"I doubt that. I'm actually feeling really good now. I didn't pass out this time, did I?"
"No, but that could be for many reasons. Don't think I didn't notice you were clinging to Tokunaga for support."
Luke frowned. Of course Jade had been watching him carefully, then how had he taken the man by surprise so well? Or was he making it look like he was taken by surprise? "Then why did you let me do it?"
"I couldn't exactly stop you, could I?"
"Somehow, I doubt that. You were doing just fine even with Tear being unconscious." He grinned devilishly as he thought of a perfect way to divert this conversation. "Speaking of her, what are your intentions towards her?"
"Don't change the subject Luke. My intentions towards Tear aren't any of your business."
"She's scared, you know."
"I'm very aware of that, Luke. Now, back to you, perhaps you can tell me why you so quickly changed the subject when the others were discussing our last visit to the Ruins for your wife's sake?"
Seems his attempt to shift the topic didn't work well with a man like Jade who obviously wasn't going to discuss a personal matter. Well, two could play at that game. "I didn't. We needed to get moving."
"Interesting how the moment Kiran was mentioned you realized this. Could your replica have something to do with your sullen mood as of late?"
"He has nothing to do with it! I haven't even spoken with him, everyone should know that, we haven't seen him since he returned to Daath."
"Luke, don't think I already forgot that you two have a special connection with each other. Distance doesn't matter for you two. Your defensiveness says a lot more than your words do."
"Does it really matter to you how things are between us? Are we just some grand experiment to you? Don't think I don't know."
"You're Dr. Jade Balfour, aren't you? You invented fomicry, and that's why you know so much about it."
Jade remained impassive, if Luke's revelation affected him, he sure didn't show it. "I know nothing of the sort."
Luke decided to push him harder, basically to do what Jade did best, back him into a corner where he was forced to answer. "Jade, your name isn't exactly all that common. While I was recovering, I read a book about fomicry, and it mentioned the inventor was a man named Dr. Jade Balfour, and that he had invented it as a child. The chances of there being another man named Jade who knows as much about fomicry as you do is almost none."
"But not impossible. What does this even have to do with anything? If you and Kiran are a grand experiment, it would be one of Van or Dist's experiments. Dr. Balfour stopped practicing fomicry years ago."
"Then why do you even care about what happens? If you invented fomicry, it makes some sense. You don't want to see your invention used wrongly, that's why you forbade its use on living creatures before leaving the field, right? You knew it was wrong to create human beings to be used as tools. Am I right? Is that why you stay with us?"
He sighed. "You've got me then. Yes, I was once known as Dr. Jade Balfour."
Somehow, Luke wasn't surprised by the revelation, just that it came so easily. "So why did you stop your research then? Was it because of the reason I think it was?"
"I didn't think it was ethical to be creating living replicas. You and Kiran are a prime example of why it isn't a good idea."
"But yet it isn't so bad, well, if…" Luke suddenly stopped when he realized what he was about to reveal. He didn't want to talk about Kiran, not yet, and maybe not ever.
"If what? You are hiding something aren't you? You and Kiran have spoken recently haven't you?"
Luke remained silent a moment. What could it hurt to reveal that much? He didn't need to mention that they argued, though he had a feeling Jade would make whatever assumptions he wanted no matter how he was answered. "Fine, we spoke recently. Does that make you happy?"
"Luke, you shouldn't keep things from us. Ion was most concerned about you. What did Kiran say to get you so upset then?"
"He didn't say anything."
"Luke, don't lie to me. I know he has to do with it. Does it have to do with his actions in St. Binah?"
"No, he explained that."
"Then what happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it, okay?"
"Luke, if you are keeping something of importance to us, it is not okay. Our next stop is Daath, and you know how dangerous that is, correct?"
He knew Daath would be a useless trip, Kiran had mentioned that he was leaving soon, though he didn't say where or even when before they argued. At least if they went to Daath, they could get information, so it would be best that they go there for at least that much. Ion should be able to find out where Sync's division went to if they had already left. "I know the dangers Jade. I'm not a child. He didn't tell me anything that would help or hinder us." At least that much was the truth. Knowing Kiran would be leaving Daath without knowing where he would go wouldn't help at all.
"I hope for your sake that is the truth. You will be staying with Ginji while we are in Daath. The last thing we need is for you to be seen there."
"Damn it, Jade! I can take care of myself."
"It's not that. With the God-Generals having orders to kill you on sight if they can't drag you back to Van, we can't afford to have you there if we meet any."
"What about a disguise then? I can wear something that won't give me away. Or I could easily be mistaken for Kiran."
"Except he wouldn't be out of uniform while in Daath, and he wouldn't be seen with the rest of us."
"And what if the Oracle Knights end up finding the Albiore?"
"Ginji will have orders to depart from Daath for a time if anyone besides us approaches. He can return once they are gone."
He groaned, Jade sure had everything thought up, and as usual, had Luke backed into a corner. He wanted to go to Daath. He was sick of being excluded and only being able to help when only he was capable of doing something. "I'm sure you could think of a way to include me. Really, I'm sick of being treated like an invalid or a child."
"Luke, I do understand your feelings. But understand my position here. If I were to let something happen to you, imagine what would happen then."
"I doubt you would be blamed."
"I prefer not to take chances. I will have your promise that you will remain with Ginji in the Albiore."
"And if I don't?"
"I may have to consider leaving you somewhere safe for the duration. If you wife wishes to join you, she may."
"And where would that be?"
"I told you before, I hope you like the cold. Governor Osborne of Keterburg would look after you if I asked her to."
Luke thought that over for a moment. He recalled that Keterburg was Malkuth territory. It was far to the north, and the area received constant snow. It was also very isolated, though it was also a resort town. Now he was curious about Jade's connection to this woman he just mentioned. But then, Jade sure seemed to know people in high positions within Malkuth. "What makes you think I wouldn't just escape the Governor?"
Jade laughed ever so slightly. "My sister had to deal with me. I doubt she would find you all that troublesome."
Luke's eyebrows raised. Jade's sister? This was news to all of them. "You have a sister?"
"Is she younger or older than you?"
"Oh, the poor woman. I feel for her having to grow up with you."
"Which just shows she's prepared to handle one such as you. So you won't be able to leave and come find us later. So do I have your promise to remain with Ginji or will you continue to disregard your safety and force me to trouble my sister with looking after you?"
"Fine. I'll promise. Will we get to meet your sister someday? She sounds like an interesting person."
"Probably not. There should be no reason for us to have to go to Keterburg."
"Do you dislike it that much?"
"I merely have no reasons to go there. That is all. Anyway, we will be leaving tomorrow for Daath. If you want to spend some time with your wife, this would be a good time."
"Are you going to spend some time with Tear?"
"I said that is none of your business."
Having finished their conversation, Jade stood up and walked towards the door. "Jade, be careful with Tear. She's inexperienced compared to you. Don't hurt her."
"You need not worry about her. Hurting her is the last thing I would want to do."
Having had his say, Jade left the room leaving Luke alone with his thoughts on how he would deal with this new restriction. That and his concern for his friends. Was Tear getting in over her head with Jade? He knew Jade was a good person at heart, but both of them had a tendency to keep things to themselves.
Well, there was nothing he could do on that note unless one of them decided to open up to another. Tear already had to some degree, and probably would continue to seek advice from Natalia. At least there was a woman she could confide in.
How to deal with Jade's treatment of him was another matter completely. Though he already could see the loophole to his promise, he only promised to stay with Ginji. If he could talk Ginji into going into Daath for some reason, then he wouldn't be breaking his promise.
Now the question was, how to do that?
Jade had just finished up with his discussion with Luke. He had a feeling that even though the boy agreed to everything that like in the Zao Ruins, he would find some way around it. He sighed, him and Tear would try even Ion's patience.
They had a day to themselves before they had to leave for Daath. Everyone needed some rest, and while Chesedonia wasn't the most ideal place to do so, it was good to be on solid ground again and to be able to sleep in real beds, even if they had to be shared with others. If they stayed indoors, it wasn't too bad at all. The miasma wasn't as thick in the building as it was outside, but that was only a matter of time.
Jade knocked on the door to the girls' room. He knew Anise should be having dinner with Ion and Natalia, but he had asked Tear to stay until he arrived. Luke should have joined Ion and the others after their discussion. He was concerned that there was no answer. Had something happened to her?
He was about to try the door just so he could assure himself that she was okay when he saw a piece of paper wedged in the door. Looking closer, he could see it was addressed to him. He unfolded it and read it over. Once he saw the handwriting and signature, he was able to feel relief, it was from Tear. In her note she wrote that she wanted to get outside for a short time, that she felt a bit confined in the room. She also mentioned that she was ready for their long overdue talk if now was indeed the right time for such a thing.
Actually, part of the reason behind giving everyone a day of rest was the fact that not only did they need it, but he needed some time with Tear; Luke most likely could also use some time with Natalia. One day with no worries would do them all a world of good. Everyone had been concerned about one place or another that they couldn't even recall the last time they had even a bit of idle time besides resting or sleeping. They could wait one day to leave for Daath, and it was better that they did. A rested mind and body was better for going into enemy territory. He may not need the rest, but he was concerned enough about Luke and Tear especially to consider it needed for all of them.
Jade folded up Tear's note, placed it in his pocket and left to go find the melodist. She couldn't have gone too far. It wasn't at all surprising that he found the city almost completely devoid of people walking outside. Even the shopkeepers had moved their wares elsewhere. No one wanted to be out in the miasma for any longer than necessary.
It didn't take long to find Tear, he could see her from quite a distance away. She looked so lost in thought that he almost hated to interrupt her, but he wasn't going to wait longer on this if she was ready to discuss things. He did have some other things he wanted to ask her. If anyone among them had more knowledge about the miasma, she was the one.
She must have heard him approach--not a difficult thing with how silent it was--because she looked back all of a sudden. "Jade, I'm glad you got my note. I'm sorry for not staying."
"You weren't that hard to find."
"It's so dead now compared to before we left for the ruins."
"I'm sure everyone is indoors. We should get back to the inn also."
"I know." she said looking away from him. He could tell she didn't want to go back, not yet at least. That gave him an idea.
"How about we go have dinner somewhere besides where the others are?"
She looked at him with a slightly confused look on her face. "You mean like a date?"
"If you want to call it that, yes."
She smiled. "I'd be happy to."
Being the city of merchants, Chesedonia definitely had no shortage of places to eat. It didn't take them very long to find a place where they could go inside and enjoy a nice dinner for two. They could easily pretend nothing was wrong with the world for just a short time while they enjoyed each other's company, and had that long overdue discussion.
They found a place a short distance away from the inn just in case the others came looking. It was very crowded, but that was likely the case of any place that was indoors. Thankfully, the wait for a table wasn't too long. Tear remained silent most of the time they had been waiting, she had to be very nervous now, and he didn't blame her. It would merely take a little more care to get her talking.
That was the most important thing to him, she had to say she cared. He wouldn't do anything to her that she didn't want, no matter how fascinating he found the young melodist. If he were truthful, this was really as much of a first for him as it was for her. Oh, he had been with women before, and on many dates, but never with anyone he actually held an interest in as much as he did the woman who was sitting before him. No, he found most women actually quite dull to be with. But Tear was different, other than her shyness and innocence; she was very interesting to be around. The shyness and innocence would go away in time, once she got more used to being around him.
He waited until they had given their orders to the waitress to speak to her. "So, you said you were wanting to speak with me?"
She looked down and her voice shook a bit as she talked. "Yes. I had been thinking a lot in the past few days."
"You definitely have. I'm almost hurt that you were giving me the silent treatment."
"I'm sorry. I just needed some time."
"Of course you did."
"And, well..." she started to say. "Well, it's not easy to put my feelings into words."
"It never is, and it especially is difficult for one who has learned not to show feelings."
"Well, yes. I was taught that a soldier shouldn't show emotion ever."
"A lesson which you seem to be forgetting." He pointed out.
Tear blushed slightly at his reminder. "Yes. If I'm to protect everyone, I can't lose control if someone is threatened, no matter how much I care about that person. I wish I knew how you did it."
"You need to find a way that works for you to not let your emotions control you."
"That's why I'm afraid. If I put my feelings into words, what's to say that I won't make another mistake like before? Maybe it would be better to just pretend I don't care."
"Is that how you feel then? That it would be best to pretend that nothing ever happened between us?" He asked her, a slight look of concern showing on his face.
"No, I don't want that at all. It may be a mistake, but that isn't what I want. If I tried to forget, I would always be wondering what could have happened between us. Thinking about that won't be any better. I'd rather have the chance to be with you for however long it may last, whether it be a short time, or for the rest of our lives. Even if I make a mistake and let my feelings cloud my judgment, it's better than constantly wondering what could have been."
"Then nothing worries you besides that?"
"I wouldn't say that. But it's not enough for me to decide against being with you, well, if you want the same, I'm not so sure with all those cryptic remarks you made."
"I didn't want to pressure you into anything you did not want. A relationship between two people won't work unless both want the same thing."
"Then what do you want from me?"
"For a start, learning all those secrets you keep hidden that make you different from any other woman I have ever met. All of them, even those that only you can see."
"What do you mean by that? I'm trying to not keep anything from you."
He smirked at her. Her innocence in some ways was quite endearing, and in others somewhat annoying. "There are things we keep from everyone we meet, and I'm not just speaking of events of the past."
She looked to be thinking his words over when the waitress arrived with their meals. Both of them were quite glad to eat a hot meal that they had no part in cooking, and a rather delicious one at that. It was interesting to find that the miasma didn't seem to have any effects on the food, though that could in the short term. He knew that if they didn't do something soon, there would be a whole host of long term effects on this city, along with St. Binah and Engeve, perhaps a short change in subject would be good, and put her at ease more.
"Tear, I was wondering, since you grew up in the Qliphoth, are there perhaps any insights you can give about living here that would help us?"
"What do you mean?"
"Those in Yulia City would likely know the most about the miasma. Has a cause for it ever been figured out?
"No, we only know that it came after the Planet Storm was created. Much of the information on the technology there was lost many years ago. We wouldn't even be able to do major repairs on many of the devices in the city if they were to break."
"And you said that miasma was harmful only if breathed in over an extended period of time, correct?"
"Yes. Sadly, within a year if we don't find some way to raise the land again, most of these people will die from it."
Though he had a feeling something like that would be the case, it didn't mean he liked the idea. "You know we can't raise the land again."
"I had thought that. If there was a way, Grandfather would have mentioned it. Is there nothing else we can do then?"
"That's what we need to find out."
"But even Yulia couldn't get rid of the miasma. That's why the Outer Lands were created."
Her mention of Yulia brought a thought to mind. It might be a bit strange, and went against all that they had ever been taught. But at this point, did that matter anymore? The Score was already invalid now, Van had ensured that. "Or perhaps she didn't try hard enough."
"What do you mean?"
"She made the pact with Lorelei and was given the Score. The Score told of how to create the Outer Lands so the people would survive. Maybe there was another way. We will just have to find that."
"Can we? So much has been lost, I don't even know if we could find the solution."
"We can't give up before we even try."
"You're right. You have been thinking a lot about that, haven't you?"
"I am merely gathering information for now. It is a shame Yulia City doesn't have more. Perhaps Daath will have something. I will have to ask Ion about that."
"Oh, that's right! The restricted library!" Tear commented as she remembered something of use.
"Only those of sufficient rank in the Order or permission may access it. Supposedly there were some books deemed to be against the Score placed in there."
"That could hold some potential indeed. Ion should be able to provide us access to that."
"Yes. He can go whenever he pleases."
"Then there is something for the rest of us to do while Ion removes Kiran's curse slot."
"Are we going to try to get him out of Daath this time?"
"Very much so. He's already shown that he won't leave if it means trouble for us. And well, I'm not really into kidnapping." Jade said with a smirk.
She smiled, knowing full well he was actually joking. It was pleasing her to be getting better at reading him. "And we have enough problems with the God-Generals being after Luke as it is. It's a shame though; it would be useful to have Kiran around so that we don't have to depend on Luke so much in the passage rings."
The waitress arrived back and took their plates since both had finished their meals while talking. Jade paid for the meal so they could head back to the inn before the others became concerned about how long both of them had been gone.
They then left for the inn. Once they got to the door, Tear stopped right outside it. "What did you mean earlier?" she asked all of a sudden.
"By what exactly?"
"You said you wanted to know what made me different from other women you had met and that not all secrets we have are events of the past, what do you mean by that?"
"You are quite the innocent I see."
"Shall I show you then?"
She didn't get a chance to finish asking her question before he pulled her close to him so he could feel the softness of her body against his own. She was startled by this, but didn't appear to object, no in fact she appeared to like being held so close to him like this. Since she showed no objections so far, he bent down to kiss her. That was one thing he had been wanting to do since that night in Sheridan where she started showing her feelings towards him, but he was able to wait patiently and it had been worth the wait indeed.
It wasn't a long kiss, and when he let go of her she seemed almost disappointed that there hadn't been more.
"That was merely a small taste of what I meant. Now, shall we go inside before Anise and Ion come looking for us?"
Tear didn't say anything, she merely nodded and followed him inside.
Natalia was worried about Luke. She knew his conversation with the Malkuth Colonel was finished; she had heard him leave earlier to look for Tear was her best guess. Luke, however, had yet to join them as he promised he would She excused herself from the table she was sitting at with Anise and the Fon Master so she could find her husband and find out what exactly was keeping him.
He wasn't hard to find; he was exactly where she had thought he would be. He appeared to be deep in though about something. What had Jade said to him to cause this?
She sat down on the bed behind him. "What's wrong?" she asked her husband.
"Do you regret coming with us?"
She was shocked by the suddenness of such a question, but was able to recover quickly and answer. "No. I wish you hadn't left like that. I miss our daughter, but I don't regret my decision to come with you. You're safety is very important to not only your family, but to all of Kimlasca. Are you regretting leaving then?"
"I miss our daughter. I barely got a chance to know her, but if I hadn't gone, I would be scared for both of you constantly. But I hate the way I'm being treated by everyone. I didn't want to be a burden on anyone, but it seems that is all I am."
She put her arms around him to try and comfort him. She could tell just how upset he was just by doing that. He was so tense, and that was concerning her. It also wasn't like him to speak such negative thoughts aloud. "You aren't a burden at all. Look at how many lives you helped save. Could any of the rest of us have done that?"
"Did I save them? Or did I just instead condemn them to a slow and painful death of being poisoned by the miasma? And don't forget Akzeriuth. At least those people didn't suffer for long before they all died. And now thousands more will die all because of things I did. Sometimes I think the world would have been better off if I had died like the Score said I would. Now everything's all messed up and going wrong."
"How can you even think that? Is that why you tried to just give yourself up to Legretta?"
"Well, it seems that my existence is only causing the world misery. The Score is being driven off track because I lived. Now because of me, everyone is having their chance at prosperity taken away."
"I don't want to hear such words come from you ever again! You're not driving the Score off track, isn't that why you left in the first place? To stop him from making more lands fall?"
"And this time it was our own doing. We made the lands fall, not Van. We condemned all those people, not him."
"Only because if we didn't lower them first, they would have fallen later and everyone would then be dead, including us. Would you prefer that?"
"Would you prefer dying slowly over dying quickly with no suffering?"
"Of course not. Do you think I want anyone to die?"
"But yet as it stands, we have condemned almost the whole world to die. Those down here will slowly die because of the miasma. You know Kimlasca depends on Engeve for food. Our people will starve if we don't figure something out."
She let go of him and pushed him away from her. "And we won't figure anything out if you keep up with this attitude! This is a complete waste of time if you are going to just think like this. I can't believe you would do this to me. How could you even think you would be better off dead and leaving me all alone to raise your daughter? And leaving me alone to rule Kimlasca in the future. You're the one who taught me what I needed to know about our people. Now it seems you have forgotten everything."
"I don't want to hear anything else from you until you have come to your senses." She then stood up and left the room. It was a good thing she left when she did, it wouldn't do for him to have seen the tears that came from him talking like that. There were some things he said that did make sense, but even those bits of logic were wrong. They would do something and everyone would be saved, right?
The alternative that Luke suggested was just unbearable. And Luke's death to stop it was just as intolerable of a solution. They had to find a way to save everyone, they had to.
Natalia had closed the door behind her to the room she was staying in. She didn't expect to be alone for long--after all, Anise and Tear would be returning at any moment now--but she wanted some privacy. Just enough time to compose herself to face the others. Her and Luke's problems wasn't really the business of everyone else, and he wouldn't share such things with the rest of them.
She had no idea how long had passed when she heard the door open behind her. She quickly wiped at her eyes to get rid of the tears. It wouldn't do for any of them to see her crying over this.
She should have known better though, Tear or Anise both would be worried if they saw her like this. "What's wrong, Natalia?" she heard Tear ask from behind her.
Once she knew her eyes were dry again, she turned to look at the melodist. "Nothing is wrong." Just one look at Tear told her that it would be best to just not talk about it. Tear looked so happy, talking about this would only do to bring her down. It wouldn't help one bit because Luke himself had to get over his stubbornness.
Tear sat down beside the young Princess. "Your eyes are all red, have you been crying?"
"I got something in my eye, that's all. So did you and the Colonel have a nice talk?"
Tear blushed slightly and looked down towards her lap. "Yes, but that's not important. If you're upset, I'm willing to listen."
"There's nothing you can do anyhow. I don't know what Luke and the Colonel talked about, but it seemed to do something to Luke. If I can't get through to him, who can?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I'd rather forget he even said any of that. Can we talk about something else?"
"Would it maybe help if I talked to Luke? Or maybe Jade could talk to him again?"
"I doubt either of you could help."
"I'll be glad to at least try to talk to him. Maybe he'll open up with me more."
"It wasn't him being stubborn and untalkative. It was what he said. He was quite open about how he felt."
"What did he say that upset you so much?"
"He said that everything that had happened was his fault and that it would have been better if he had died in Akzeriuth. I'm afraid he going to do something really bad, and we are going to Daath next."
"So you're afraid that no matter what we do, he'll find a way to get himself captured?"
"Yes, and you know what they will do to him."
"Hmm..." Tear said looking to be deep in thought. "Well, maybe we need to find another way for him to be useful. Would that help?"
Natalia thought for a few moments on Tear's words and then smiled. "It might. I have an idea too for something he could do. With the battlefield falling into the Qliphoth, the armies may be willing to talk peace now."
"And you and Luke can go convince them? That sounds like a good idea. It would let him be useful for something that does need to be done."
"And it wouldn't be difficult to drop us off in Kaitzur on the way to Daath. Then there is no worry about leaving him so close to Daath. That is a wonderful idea, thanks Tear."
"Would Luke agree to it though?"
"I think so. I think he's so depressed because of all that has happened and he can't do anything to help. This way he can help in a way he is good at."
"Then let's go talk with Jade and see if we can even do this. Then we can make plans for what to do in Kaitzur."
As always reviews are greatly appreciated!
A/N: Thought I would give an update here as to the status of this fic. At this point in time I have over 100,000 words worth of this that needs to be edited and posted. The plot is actually done up to an equivalent of the first visit to Mt. Zaleho. I definitely haven't forgotten about this, I'm just drowning in stuff to be edited and at this time, I'm seriously considering just finishing it off and then editing and posting a chapter weekly. Though it sounds not fun now, I know how quickly the action is going to start picking up with the next chapter, and near the end it will especially be appreciated since there is loads of action and cliffhangers coming there if all goes as planned. I'd hope waiting a bit longer now where there isn't a huge cliffhanger is better than months when there is a cliffhanger.
I do apologize for that, but I do think in the long run it may be the best idea. Feel free to put a story alert on this so you can get notified when the next chapter does come out, I'm going to work like crazy in hopes to have this done before it's two years old.