Disclaimer: Soul Nomad and the World Eaters is the property of Nippon Ichi Software. Rating is for violence, profanity and non-explicit adult themes.
Author's Note: Here's a slew of oneshots from different points of view, in different lengths, in different genres. They aren't in chronological order. Each chapter is a separate story.
1. Keeping Up Appearances
Ruvina was a small town two miles left of Nowhere. Lance wasn't exactly sure where he was, but he knew enough to be certain that he was on his way west to Orviska, flesh-pot capital of the world. He also knew he was ahead of Dirk in this game, Dirk with that affected romantic drawl thing that drove the girls gaga. Well, Dirk could gaga his way to hell and back, Lance would still come out ahead.
He planned on spending fewer than twenty four hours in Ruvina; he'd been there two and half, having spent the last fifteen minutes watching the red-headed chick with the sword. This might be doable. Might. Chicks with swords always felt like they had something dumb to prove.
The more he watched her, the more he convinced himself it would be doable. It would have to be; she was the only decent female he'd seen, including that psycho green-haired Sepp who had nearly killed him when he'd cut in line in front of her at the hotpod booth. The redhead didn't seem to be with anyone in particular. She'd been sitting alone on the edge of the fountain for more than five minutes, elbows on thighs, watching the meager crowd. She didn't have the greatest body, but she didn't mind showing off what she had. She probably carried around that freakish claymore thing because she felt alone and unprotected. That always helped.
Lance decided to go Sensitive. Stepping into the shadows between two shops, he tucked the two daggers he fought with inside his long worn coat. Digging in his haversack, he withdrew a ribbon, with which he tied back his long black hair. Finally, he produced his mother's battered copy of Sonnets of Soul Searching, tucking it under his arm so that it looked sufficiently casual, but also so that people could see the writing. Then he stepped out into the full light of day.
"Excuse me," he said, pitching his voice to a slightly reedier tone. She looked up, and he was startled to see she had red eyes, but he went on. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
She didn't smile; nor was she hostile. "Go ahead."
Lance perched next to her, allowing eight inches of space between them, already rehearsing what he'd tell Dirk: Ruvina was easy; met this red-eyed broad with a black sword. Ah, no, nothing scares me. She acted tough but those eyes were lonely. He turned away from her, very carefully opening his book, letting it fall to page eighteen. He lowered his eyes, peeking through his eyelashes to see what she was doing. She seemed lost in thought, her eyes not quite focused on anything in the town square. After a moment, she frowned and shrugged at nothing in particular, then seemed calm again. Nervous. Undoubtedly the pheromones were kicking in.
Lance smiled down at his book, letting the silence build for fifteen seconds. Then he heaved a deep sigh. "Beautiful." Of course he sensed her turn to him, but he didn't look up just yet. "Just...brilliant." Then he lifted his eyes to hers, eyes brimming with overwhelming literary appreciation. "Are you by chance familiar with the works of-" he couldn't remember who wrote the book "-the greatest genius of any age? The composer of Sonnets of Soul Searching?"
The redhead missed a beat, but again, there was nothing nasty in her tone. "No."
He spread his lips in that smile that Melodia in Raide had said was fascinating. "Well, just indulge me for a moment." He cleared his throat, giving the sonnet the briefest glance before launching into it.
O wake thou nestling glimmer
Thy baptismal moon hath come.
Beneath its silver shimmer
Thy chrysalis comes undone.
Dance to my arms-
"The hell sorta tripe is this? Is that poetry or is your brain leaking syrup and rose petals?"
Lance whipped around, looking for the man who had interrupted him, heart thumping like a baby bunny in his chest. Dammit, it was always bad when boyfriends showed up.
But, twist his body and neck around however he might, he could find no evidence of a third party having butted in. Lance turned to see if the redhead were startled. She wasn't looking at him; her lips were pressed tight together, and she drummed her fingers against her knee.
"Well," Lance said, injecting smoothness into his voice, "I'm sure you see the... basic idea of what I mean."
She nodded, lips still tense. Maybe she was resisting the impulse to cover him with burning kisses. Nah. Not yet.
He gestured - Yelena in Astec had said he had nice hands - and said, "My name is Lance. I'm a scholar from Nascosto, on a pilgrimage to the Sage Fasullo's tomb. Outside of Orviska." He then sat back and waited for any number of questions. He'd had a lot of time to fabricate his story, and he could rattle off the hypothetical location, industry and local government of Nascosto, as well as the areas of study, lore and instruction Sage Fasullo would have contributed to, had he ever existed. Not that girls usually asked; all that was in case parents entered the equation.
The redhead swallowed. "My name's Revya."
Lance widened his eyes for a moment, as though in surprise. "That's a beautiful name. I've never heard it before." He glanced up at the sky for a moment. "It's like - like sunlight..."
"What's the name of your pathology?" said the same male voice as before. As Lance turned around, he heard Revya clear her throat, hard. Still seeing no intruder, Lance rubbed his forehead. True enough, he hadn't been getting a lot of sleep lately. And that sounded like something Dirk would say, on a smart day. Was he having audible hallucinations of his rival?
"So," he said, his voice falling back into its rehearsed smoothness, "you look like you're traveling." He nodded at the black claymore, which she wore ostentatiously on her back. "Very impressive. It's good to see a woman capable of protecting herself."
Revya shrugged, her curled fingers pressed against her mouth. Probably that close to biting her nails with embarrassment. Maybe he should've kept the swords out, tousled his hair, removed his shirt and gone for Heroic Fighter mode instead of Sensitive. Girls were great when they got all weak and trembly.
No, no, melting her battle-hardened exterior with his sympathy and insight was the way to go. She was traveling, probably tired. She was alone, no one to talk to. She'd probably been secretly hoping for an encounter like this. Besides, Lance had been able to seduce that swordfighter back in Olna Village, and she'd been a hardcore Sepp. So far, that had been the only time Lance had worried about losing his bet to Dirk: Who could sleep with a girl in each village from Telis Town to Orviska? All along Lance had stayed ahead, and he wasn't going to let that change.
She wasn't talking. Lance shuffled around for a comment about feelings. "Do you like traveling? Do you get lonely?"
Revya lowered her hand, and a smile flickered over her lips. "No. I'm...not as alone as I used to be."
Lance had to think a moment to flip that to his advantage. "I'm glad to hear that. Loneliness is a terrible thing." He raised his hand to the sky. "We are not meant to be alone."
She shrugged. "Sure, all right."
"Revya." He tucked Sonnets back into his jacket and leaned forward, creasing his forehead just enough to look intense. "I - forgive me - I know this will sound odd. Do you believe that people are pulled together by invisible strings of destiny?"
Her red eyes went slightly blank for a moment, then glanced to the side, very much in the manner of one who has no idea what to say.
"I know it sounds daft." Lance pressed his fingers to his forehead, closing his eyes. "Damn, I can never express these things in words. I just thought - when I saw you - It was as though - as though I wasn't on my pilgrimage anymore. As though I'd come to Ruvina just to meet you." He opened his eyes, and sure enough, he was looking straight into hers. "But that's impossible. Isn't it? We've never met, have we?"
Revya sat up straight. Inwardly, Lance smiled. He knew the body language. She was trying to reestablish formality and control. But she kept giving herself away, her eyelashes fluttering down, her eyes not looking at him. She seemed distracted, probably locked in a mental argument, chastising herself for the sudden outpouring of tender sentiment rising within her like a...like a...a bubble-bath.
"Revya..." He pitched his voice to a throaty whisper, leveling his eyes with hers. "...I think we must have met in our past lives...Perhaps we were friends, or perhaps...something else... Revya, I beg of you, please say something."
Revya swallowed again and spoke, also in a hushed whisper: "I think you were a cow turd in your past life."
Lance jumped to his feet, whirling around to face that same male intruder while backing incredulously away from Revya. She, for her part, had covered her face with her hand.
"Where?" Lance demanded in his real voice. "Where the hell is he? Did you-" He didn't finish the statement. He had not, he had not seen Revya's lips move as that male voice spoke. She did not have a masculine voice. He had not been about to proposition a cute cross-dresser. He glanced at her clothes again. No way was she a cross-dresser. He swung around, still searching for the intruder. Obviously, Revya had been about to speak, had been forming her words just as that eaves-dropper horned in.
"Whoo! Great air-time! But it's gonna take more than that to impress me."
Lance clenched his fists, debating whether he should call the man out - perhaps challenge him to a duel - that would help his cause with Revya - or just leave and try for that semi-cute woman he'd seen at the bakery. She had three kids, but still, she didn't look too bad. Or would the intruder just follow him there too? Oh hell, had Dirk caught up with him? Was he trying to ruin his, Lance's, perfect score?
Just then, the ground shook. Lance nearly fell over. Revya stood and grasped the fountain ledge with one hand, stabilizing herself. It was over in a moment. As the dust cleared, he was aware of her muttering, "Another one."
"Um. Yeah. Earthquake." Everyone else in the square was picking themselves up. Maybe now the intruder would have finally left. "It's - it's terrible, isn't it?" He scavenged for something poetic. "Like - like the earth's crying."
Revya paused in the act of finger-combing the dust out of her hair. "Just a bit."
Encouraged, Lance stepped closer to her, reaching to bury his fingers in her hair. "Allow me-"
"Er - no-"
"-can't get it out by yourself-"
"-I'd rather you didn-"
"Buzz off!" shouted two voices at once. Revya's and the intruder's.
Lance was likely to develop whiplash if he didn't stop craning his neck around, searching fruitlessly for that interfering no-goodnik. When he turned back, he saw that Revya's eyes were wide with surprise. She touched one hand to the base of her throat, then, for some reason, looked down at her navel.
Instinctively, Lance was still trying to spin things in his favor. "Did you hurt yourself? Do you need help?"
"No." She didn't look up, almost as though she weren't really aware of him. "I just didn't know we could talk at the same time."
"It probably takes extreme circumstances. Shit-face there is pretty bad," replied the intruder's voice.
Lance fell back several steps, nearly falling back onto his rear. He had distinctly seen her lips move. "You're - what the hell?"
"Look, kid," the voice - Revya - the voice? - continued, "if you're desperate to get laid, that's your own sorry problem, but you are not doing it while I'm here. I have no desire to be part of some little threesome-"
"Don't worry, Gig, I'm not," Revya interrupted - if she were interrupting. "Your virtue's safe with me."
"Virtue?" the intruder's voice expostulated. "This has nothing to do with virtue! I just don't want to-"
Revya looked up, noticing Lance's horrified expression. "We've blown the cover again."
"Ah hell," said the other voice. Lance watched in fascination as the voice issued from Revya's lips, though her expression didn't alter to match what she was saying. "I don't see why you're so hung up on pretenses. When was the last time I got us into trouble?"
Lance's voice came abruptly, like a quack. "What is-"
Revya hesitated a moment, then shrugged. "It's whatever you make of it." She turned to go.
"You're schizophrenic," Lance squawked, backing away. "Y-you have two personalities!"
"This is your fault, you know." Revya grimaced down at her navel.
"You're talking to your stomach!" Lance wheezed. "You've got some weird schizophrenic pregnancy thing going on!"
"My fault?" the schizophrenic imaginary unborn baby asked. "I told you straight off to cream him. Why'd you let him read you poetry?"
She didn't look too upset by her delusion, merely resigned. "You know I'm not here to make trouble."
The aggressive side of her personality was persistent. "Dammit, kid, you never do what I want to do! C'mon, you want to rearrange this one. You know it. I know it. I can read your mind."
Revya crossed her arms. "You can't read my mind."
"How would you know?"
"Because I can't read yours. It only makes sen-"
"Holy crap!" Lance wailed. "You're a passive-aggressive split-personality freak with a pregnancy fetish and they're letting you walk free with a sword?" He whipped around, facing the now rather large crowd of onlookers. "Aren't there any soldiers here? Is there a prison?"
At the word "prison", Revya looked up, her gaze sweeping the crescent of gawkers. When she spoke, it was in her normal voice. No - what was Lance thinking? The crazy thing probably didn't have a normal voice.
Revya held up a warding hand. "No trouble here. Er - I'll be going."
The crowd parted to let her pass, much as Lance wanted them to restrain her. He didn't feel safe being in the same world where people like that were allowed to run loose.