Fate, Friends & Feelings (part 2 of the Bound trilogy) - by Shade-Duelist

disclaimer: for those of you who still find the time to read this: I do not own Lufia 2, nor do I own its characters. But I do own myself and my ideas – that includes this story, so please ask before using it elsewhere!

The Winter festival had passed like a dream following the news Guy and Jessy had announced: everyone was cheerful, which could only aid the festivities. Three days of singing, dancing, playing and snowball fights later, Dekar and Tia were back in Bound Kingdom – Tia now becoming acquainted with the third weapon she'd learn to handle by Dekar's teachings.

"Today you'll stop being rookies and you'll start becoming true warriors!", Dekar bellowed as they stood in their training attire before him, though he winked at Tia before continuing. "Today is the first day of your lives as highly trained soldiers – and with none other than Bound army's weapon of choice: the axe! Go ahead, pick it up and feel its weight.", he then said, and both Tia and prince Alex tentatively picked up the axe lying in front of them – Dekar had spuriously selected it for them the evening before.

"Dekar, how come it's as light as it is?", the prince asked, amazed at the lack of weight in his axe.

"Well, prince Alex, its weight doesn't determine its lethal nature. It weighs less because I've studied your style, and light-weight weapons with a great impact suit you better than heavy weapons. Besides, your strong point is your strength – the less strength you're using merely holding up the axe or swinging it, the more strength you can pour in wounding your enemies. Tia's axe, on the other hand, is larger and heavier, but that's because she has a great agility – she doesn't have to rely on strength to wound her enemies, she can swiftly find and exploit their weak points with a weaker swing. Although that 'weaker' doesn't mean her swings aren't strong and very lethal...", he said with a smile.

"Wow, thanks...", Tia said as she softly swung the axe in front of her, trying to get used to the added weight of the new weapon in her hands.

"Now, by the end of this month, you'll be able to use that axe you hold now even better than the soldiers can. Maybe almost as good as I can...", he added as he brushed back his unruly mane with his hand, his self-assuredness getting the better of him.

"Care to demonstrate your skills, Dekar?", Tia asked with raised eyebrow. Dekar chuckled and nodded, calling one of the mages that stood to the side, watching their training sessions as always.

"Sure thing, Tia! Yassu, care to come over here?" The mage nodded and walked briskly over to his friend – Dekar whispered something in his ear, and the mage's eyes grew wide in shock. Dekar chuckled and then said something else, and now the mage's laughter roared across the otherwise-empty training grounds. He retreated into the shadows and started casting a long and winding spell – and suddenly the training grounds seemed to have become a wide sea, from which a gargantuan squid appeared. Tia immediately knew it was a Kraken, the most fearsome beast that lived in the ocean depths, and she was baffled that Dekar could handle it.

And handle it the Bound champion did: after a few quick jumps, each time severing a lashing tentacle, he performed a magnificent leap into the air, using the momentum of his fall to add more power to his blow, nearly cleaving the fifty-foot-high beast in half. It dissipated in smoke, leaving Dekar to grin confidently at his two pupils.

"Like I said, maybe you two will be able to achieve something like that. But not if you don't start practising right now!" The latter part was shouted out, and the two trainees needed no more than that.

At the end of that evening, Tia felt sore and exhausted. She'd had no problems wielding the axe at first, but quickly tired after an hour and had had to use all of her strength to keep up her exercises. Dekar had noticed that, but he hadn't given in and had not told her to stop: Tia knew she'd benefit from that the next day, but now all of her muscles were complaining from the strain she'd put them through, not to mention the dull pain in her right shoulder...

"Tia?" A knock on her door preceded Dekar's entrance, which he made with some difficulty owing to the fact that he carried two armfuls of bags. Also, to Tia's utter surprise, he had brought someone with him, a young woman of about her own age with bright orange hair and round brown eyes. "Okay, Lanya, this is Tia – a very good friend of mine. Tia, meet Lanya, the woman you'll come to hate in about ten minutes and love in the hour following that." Seeing the blatant surprise on her face, Dekar chuckled and elaborated: "She's a skilled masseuse and exercise master – she's going to help your muscles prepare for tomorrow. But first..."

"First things first!", Lanya said firmly as she looked at Tia with a scrutinizing gaze while grabbing one or two of the bags and taking out a few compresses. "Tia, milady, I'm going to have to ask you to sit up with your chest against the back of this chair. Hold it firmly with your left arm – Dekar, hold her down." The last four words were said through clenched teeth, and within seconds Dekar pressed against Tia closely, pinning her down on the chair but leaving her right arm exposed.

"W-what's the- WAAAAAAAAAAH!" A startled cry of pain escaped Tia as the young woman in front of her pushed on her shoulder gently while firmly pulling her arm back – something snapped back into its place and suddenly heat seemed to rush across her shoulder. "Hey, that hurt!!", she yelled.

"I'm sorry, but it had to happen, Tia. Right now, the royal doctor is doing the same with prince Alex, who will probably be screaming the whole castle awake..." He sighed. "A dislocated shoulder is something everyone gets when they've practiced for such a long time with an axe when they haven't held one before. Heck, even I had to have my shoulder set – though not by a gentle young lady like Lanya..."

"Now I'll begin with the better part, milady Tia. If you'd kindly direct me to your living room couch or your bedroom, then I can make sure the pain of a dislocated shoulder will become a far-off memory. ...Don't worry, it will only happen once. The muscles will have strengthened now, they won't give way that easily anymore... Dekar and his rash methods!", the woman cursed as Tia had walked over to her living room, to the sofa, and Dekar came behind her carrying all the bags and cases of the young masseuse.

"Hey, they work, don't they?", he said after putting down the bags, shrugging.

"Yeah, well, I suppose I'd be out of work if you didn't use your methods...", Lanya said with a smile. "By the way, Dekar, you owe me three hundred gold pieces for this house call.", she added, making Dekar blink in surprise. Tia giggled as she saw her friend was dumbfounded.

"Oh, but I'll pay for it if he won't...", she started, but Dekar cut her off immediately, though with a broad smile.

"Not to worry, not to worry, here's your three hundred. And there's another hundred for a tip, make sure Tia here will want to see you again tomorrow evening." Now it was Lanya's turn to blink in surprise – Dekar, though being charming, never had given her a tip before.

"Wow, never thought I'd see the day when the almighty Dekar would finally fall for a woman's charms...", she said with a wink to Tia.

"Hey, I resent that!", Dekar shouted, suddenly blushing, "J-just get on with it, okay?" Then, his voice and colour softening a bit again, he turned to Tia. "Tia, if she doesn't make you feel like a jelly, kick her in the shins, okay? I'll head on home, to enjoy my night's rest... and to avoid the upcoming bare female body...", he added when Lanya glared at him.

"Okay. Sleep tight, okay?", Tia said, winking at the woman that now rushed her blue-haired friend out the door so Tia could enjoy her relaxation moment in peace.

"So...", Lanya said when Tia had taken off her house clothes and lay down on the sofa, "Are you two going out, by any chance?"

"Uh, n-no...", Tia said, frowning a bit. "What makes you believe that?"

"Well, for starters, Dekar has never addressed any woman with her first name, only 'miss' or 'milady'. And then he blushed when I mentioned him falling for a woman's charms..."

"He could've thought you meant your own charms...", Tia said with a lazy smile as the other woman firmly pushed down onto her back, making sure all tension left her muscles.

"Hah! Dekar and I are distant relatives – plus I'm butt-ugly to him, meaning I'm not his type of girl – so he's immune to my charms... Let's face it, it must be you...", she concluded with a sly grin.

"Impossible, Dekar and I are friends – no less, but no more.", Tia said firmly. "Besides, he's told me several times that I remind him of his younger sister. ...Not exactly how you picture a girl you love, is it?", she finished. Lanya remained silent for a while, massaging Tia's back while pondering on what she had said.

"You might be right...", she finally conceded, but not before adding: "But I tell you, there's a woman in his life, I can tell!"