Disclaimer-Sup guys, I do not own the Summon Night series. if I did, this would be a game by now.

A Recurring Nightmare

Chapter 16: Virgil's Grand Good-Bye!

Virgil sat bored in the room he was given, the same one from his first night in Wystern. It had since been altered to accommodate the situation he had gotten himself into. Iron bars and door had been installed, almost cutting the small room in half. As if taunting him, his sword was hung by it's sheath just out of reach, passed the bars. Four shackles were also anchored into the interior section that held the small cot sized bed. Though each shackle held a different limb, they were more for appearances than functionality. They were long and allowed for roam throughout the entire room. If needed, he could even outstretch his arms past the bars.

This room had occupied Virgil since after the excursion to Vance and havoc in Wystern a more than one month ago. Ureksa had told him it would only be temporary, but he was getting a little restless. Thinking back, he remembered Ureksa describing it would be a way to appease the masses while he worked to settle things out for him. Surprisingly, Virgil was quite cooperative. Perhaps a little solitude and time to one's self was just what he needed to sort things out for himself.

Things weren't all bad. He was usually given two or three full meals a day and often got visitors. Pratty showed up almost everyday and so did Razzy. They'd stand outside the bars and have an almost normal conversation. If either got too rowdy, a guard from outside would pop in to check things out, but left them undisturbed. Sanary had visited twice and Ureksa along with Cleru came once a week. Though in their case, it was more like scheduled check-ins.

On one occasion, Varil even came. He however was far less informal than the others. Addressing him as criminal, prisoner or enemy of Wystern and other like things. Not once did he ever call Virgil by name. In the end, Virgil was left exhausted and frustrated.

This is where Virgil sat. His back to the door as he held his head up with one hand. It was mid-morning and Virgil wasn't planning on anything to happen for a while. This was only what he expected. When a knocking came to his door, he soon discovered he would be very wrong.

_O _o_ O_

As Ureksa walked into Rondeau's chamber he was greeted with a smile. A cup of tea in front of him and an identical one on the opposite side of the table he was seated. "Good morning. You wanted to see me, Ureksa?"

Nodding, Ureksa took a seat. "Yes. It was about the agreement we'd discussed upon." He stated, wasting no time and cutting straight to the chase.

Not needing to say anymore, Rondeau grew a happy smile. "Hm. Yes. I've given that some thought already. The people are no doubt troubled by the recent events. I will order an announcement and we can have the preparations for a ceremony done within the week. Your title and rank will be reinstated!"

Expressionless, Ureksa stared down at the drink Rondeau had made for him. "That's what I wanted to discuss. I'd like to withdraw from our arrangement."

Thoroughly confused, Rondeau mustered a laugh. "Ureksa, whatever do you mean?"

Solemnly, Ureksa brought his head up to face him. His eyes worn. "I thought I needed to be a craftlord to protect what mattered to me. Yet during Vance and Wystern's crisis. I fought fiercely with tooth and nail to defend them with my life. As did both the other craftlords and craftknights."

Nodding, Rondeau tried reasoning with him. "That's correct. And with the privileges bestowed back to you-"

Ureksa cut him off adamantly. "I won't need it to protect what matters to me."

Quiet at first, Rondeau gazed into his tea cup. He smiled sadly. "And here I thought you might be the one to succeed me." Ureksa's eyes widened as Rondeau continued. "Did you know, I'm terrible at boiling tea?" He brought up suddenly. "No matter how much time I put into it, it always becomes bitter in the end. I used to just put up with it. Yet only recently, I've begun adding sugar to it." Picking up a sugar cube, he dropped it into his cup. "With a little sweetness, the tea changes into something completely different."

Picking up another cube of sugar, Rondeau began to reach over for Ureksa's cup. Grabbing the cup, Ureksa pulled it away before bringing it up to face. "Sorry. I've already become accustomed to the taste." Flashing a small smile in understanding to what he was trying to say and took a sip.

_O _o_ O_

Tilting his head back to see behind him, Virgil saw the red haired craftknight enter into his chamber. Once recognizing her, Virgil leaned forward again then spun around to be face to face before addressing her. "Well, what's the occasion?" Still sitting, he looked up at her as he asked.

She gave him a quick look over through the bars as she held her arms. "My, you've certainly become used to things." She remained quiet after this and Virgil shrugged, waiting for her to continue. "I had just thought that you would like to know that they're tearing down the arena tomorrow."

Arching an eyebrow, Virgil kept staring up at her. "Uh... good to know." A small awkward silence grew as Virgil thought about it more. "Why would you tell me th- oh, hold on. Is something happening today?" His voice growing in excitement.

Sanary glanced away for a second before answering. "Nothing that concerns you."

Smirking, Virgil jumped up into a stand and walked closer to the bars. "Okay, now I'm curious. What's goin' on?"

Sighing, Sanary turned away. "I had a feeling this would happen." Virgil's smirk only growing wider as she explained. "Today is... I'm having a duel with my older sister. Ours will be the last match before they demolish and renovate it."

His smirk disappearing as he looked almost disappointed. "Tch. That all?"

Letting out a light groan, Sanary stared him down through the bars. "What exactly were you expecting?"

He fanned her off, going back on topic. "Never mind that. So, why are you making such a big fuss over this? She's your sister. I'm sure you've sparred before, right?"

Hesitant at first, she slowly shook her head. She looked up and started gazing through Virgil's only window on his back wall. "I've been a craftknight for a while now. Yet..." Virgil watched her once she trailed off. "I was the one who asked for this. When I did, she seemed almost offended. My sister's a craftlord. She told me that if she were to lose, she'd resign and give her position to me." The air more melancholy, Sanary let out a sigh at the end.

Noticing this, Virgil bellowed an over the top groan. "Alright, I guess I have no choice." She blinked, staring at him quizzically as he went on. "I guess you came here for pointers on fighting against an older opponent, huh? 'Kay, first, since your sis is taller than you, you'll want to focus upward slashes or low starting downward ones. You'll have the advantage since she probably isn't used to fighting shorter opponents."

Hearing his preaching in a haughty tone, Sanary held one hand up, gesturing for him to stop. "N-No. That isn't why I came here." Slight annoyance in her voice.

Smirking again, he stopped halfway through his next piece of advice and leaned casually on the bars. "Then why are you here?" He asked, the curiosity back in his voice.

She sighed again. This time dropping her head slightly in defeat. "I didn't want to run into my sister before our match this afternoon. I was so nervous this morning I even woke up in a cold sweat." As she admitted this, she brought a hand up to her face and brushed her bangs away.

The last bit of information perked his attention as he quickly glanced up at her hair. Virgil noticing how her hair seemed held together differently than before. "That all?" He held one hand through the bars and called her forward with his index finger. "C'mere. I'll show you a good luck trick."

Sanary held a skeptical look and even retracted herself a bit. Upon his constant motioning for her however, she caved again and walked forward so that they were each inches away from the bars. Once close enough, Virgil all of a sudden lunged forward into a very awkward and firm embrace. One hand held her back while the other cupped behind of her head.

Surprised to say the least, Sanary blushed and began to struggle. When Virgil failed to let her go, she kicked him in his gut. His grasp weakened, she pushed him away and he tumbled backwards, landing clumsily on his back.

Still flustered, she stepped away from the bars and looked away to hide her blush. "Wh-What do you think you're doing?" She shouted, gaining the guards attention from outside.

The door opened behind her and a guard stepped inside. Seeing Virgil on the floor, he turned around and left, closing the door behind him.

"You'll do fine." Virgil finally said, breaking the ever growing uncomfortable silence between them. Rather than addressing her properly, he stayed on the floor. He moved his hands under his head and used the pillow as he looked up at the ceiling. "You don't have anything to worry about. You beat me in Vance, didn't you?"

Calming down, Sanary turned around and began heading for the door. As she did, a smile grew to fit her lips. "You almost say that like it's some impressive feet." With the sound of the door opening and closing, Virgil knew he was alone again.

He laid there for a while, relaxing in the silence. After a few moments, he pulled his left hand out from under his head and held it over his face. Carefully unclenching it revealed a small hairpin. "You weren't lying. You did wake up in a sweat this morning. So much so that you couldn't hold your hair down normally." Smirking, he looked over to the shackles that held each of his limbs and eyed the small keyhole. "Thanks Sanary, you'll be more helpful to me than you'll ever know."

After boasting to himself, Virgil closed his hand back up and shut his eyes. "Good luck."

_O _o_ O_

Footsteps entered Rondeau's chamber to reveal Varil's presence. Upon notice, he promptly greeted them respectfully. After, Rondeau offered him a seat but he refused and remained standing. Ureksa saw this and readied himself to leave, not wanting to hold up any of his superior's engagements.

"Why was it you called for me Rondeau? Do you need something from me?" As he asked, Varil held a serious composure while awaiting a response.

Smiling gently, Rondeau held his hands above the table, holding his tea cup. "As I'm sure you know Varil, Wystern has seven craftlords. Seven righteous defenders of this fair city-state. As of the moment however, we have but only four." After a nod of acknowledgment, he continued. "It is because of this, that I would like to offer you Tyram's former position of crystal. Would you be interested?"

Taking his first few steps in leaving, Ureksa shook his head. No doubt thinking how rudely Varil would protest. Making a fuss about how insulted he would be at Rondeau's handout.

Just as Ureksa entered the entrance hallway, Varil gave his answer. "Sounds good to me." He announced without the slightest hint of detest or even joy. Ureksa almost stumbling in shock before continuing to leave and letting them be.

Smiling widely, Rondeau clasped his hands together and let out a hearty laugh. "Splendid! I had a hunch that you would be a fine replacement for Tyram. He took another sip of his tea before continuing to smile brightly. "I can only imagine the look on Libody's face when he hears the news. His son will instead of taking over the guild, become one of Wystern's most diligent and respected knights. How proud he'll be."

Somewhat troubled by Rondeau's words, he hid it and stepped closer. "Yes, that's fine. Before we continue, I'd like to discuss something concerning the tournament a few months ago..."

_O _o_ O_

Biting the corner of his lower lip, Virgil painstakingly attempted picking the lock for the shackle on his left ankle. So focused on precise and miniscule hand movements, he failed to hear the door open or people walking in.

"My, that's awfully bold of you." A young and unfamiliar woman's voice spoke which broke his concentration, flinging the pilfered hairpin across his cell in surprise. Looking up, he saw Pratty playfully looking down at him. An unidentified brunette at her side.

Laughing sarcasticly at his own reaction, Virgil stood up. "Yeah, well, let's keep this little encounter between us." As he spoke, he looked around the room for the hairpin. Once spotting it across the room, he started walking over to it. Pratty nodded. Walking with him from across the bars as he retrieved the key to his liberation.

Once gaining Virgil's attention again, Pratty introduced her guest. "This is a friend of mine. Natsumi." She gave a small wave and wore an uneasy smile, understandably off put by meeting someone for the first time with a set of iron bars between them.

After awkwardly doing similar, Virgil shifted gazes back to the young craftknight. "So, was this by your request or her's? Though, I highly doubt meeting a convict isn't too high up there."

Pratty huffed but Natsumi let out a small laugh. Perhaps Virgil's carefree demeanor easing her into the situation. "I'm not from Wystern. After meeting up with Pratty by chance at Kagro Volcano. I'd promised I would come and visit. After hearing about the recent trouble here, I figured it finally gave me an excuse to come. Also to lend a hand of course."

Virgil seemed to start one of his off hand comments when Pratty spoke up, unintentionally cutting him off. "I guess that's one good thing to come from all of this. But repairs are going well. Virgil's even been allowed to help out."

Nodding, Natsumi agreed. "Yes, I know. I remember you mentioning it when you were talking about him earlier."

Sitting down again, Virgil was about to get back to lock picking when what Natsumi just said stuck out to him. "When you were talking about him? What do you mean? What did she say about me?"

Natsumi thought back. Once docking in Wystern she happened to run into Pratty almost immediately. At which point, she was filled in on the recent exploits and how the whole mess in Wystern got started. "Well, she told me about her mission in Vance, what happened there, and then what happened here. In between, she told me all about you."

Virgil seemed irked by this as he slowly turned back to Pratty. She in return was holding her hands up defensively. "I didn't tell her everything! Promise!"

The grilling would've escalated, however, Virgil had subconsciously been playing with the lock. A light click was heard before the shackle unlatched around his ankle and fell over onto the floor with a low klang. Everyone noticing, Virgil clenched one hand in front of him in celebration while the girls laughed.

The moment passing, Virgil looked back up at them confused. "Hey, I can understand Pratty being okay with this. The two of us are fr-" Stopping himself, Virgil paused before starting again. "...She was never really for this in the first place. Why are you okay with this?"

Both girls exchanged a quick glance before Natsumi turned back with a smile. "Well, everything she told me about you was good. So, I suppose I can turn a blind eye just this once."

Virgil sighed and just shook his head before starting to pick the lock on his other ankle. As he did, Pratty laughed, but then her eyes widened, remembering something. "Oh, that's right! If you don't want to be locked up anymore, why don't you just accept Ureksa's proposal?"

he stared blankly at her until the ultimatum given to him on the ship came back to him. The option of either being locked up, or working for Wystern. He was quiet for a moment before smirking. "You want me to work for this place?" When Pratty eagerly nodded, Virgil tried his best to fight back some snickers. "I dunno. I already picked one of the locks. It isn't like me to quit once I've started something."

When Pratty pouted this time, he didn't even try to hold back his laughs. "Okay, tell ya what, you got a coin? I'll flip it. Heads, I break out and make my escape. Tails, I still break out, but I march up to Upper Wystern and tell that old man I wanna work for him." Pratty nodded in acceptance but Natsumi couldn't help but laugh at it's absurdity. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a small coin and quickly tossed it through the bars. His smirk still present, Virgil caught the coin and slid it over his thumb. Looking up, he saw that both of the girls were staring in deep curiosity at the coin that would decide the outcome of his life. Faking a deep breath to raise the tension, Virgil flicked the coin spinning into the air. All eyes on it as it flew up, reached it's apex, then sunk down. Catching it with his left hand Virgil held it shut to avoid revealing it.

_O _o_ O_

Still sitting on his floor, Virgil had just tried his luck on the second ankle lock. With the girls leaving a few minutes ago, he figured it would be best to hurry his escape. Seconds spent the other ankle shackle and a click was heard. It dropped to the floor and left Virgil gawking. "Huh? Well, hope the rest are that easy."

Right as he was about to move on to one of the wrist shackles, the chamber door flung open. Being pushed open with such force, it hit against the wall attaching it's hinges and slammed shut behind the guest that entered. Looking up, Virgil was ready to swing himself around to hide the released cuffs. Noticing who his visitor was, he let out a relieved breath and relaxed. "Hey Razzy."

"Big Bro!" She called out. Grabbing the bars, she looked at him and leaned in. From his perspective it seemed her head was inches away from squeezing between them. "What're ya doin'?"

A wry smirk on his face, Virgil leaned in as well. Raising his right hand, he pushed Razzy's head away with his middle and index finger. Making sure her head didn't actually squeeze through like he imagined. "Me? Nothing. Just breakin' out. Don't tell anyone, okay? Why? What're you up to?" He joked, blazing through the details while mimicking her typical rapid manner of speech.

The little craftknight pouted at first but then grew annoyed. Narrowing her eyes a bit as she stared down Virgil, who was while sitting down, at eye level. "Big Bro, you said when you first got locked up that you wanted to take responsibility for stuff. Were you lying?"

Chuckling at first, he became more somber. "I wasn't lying. It's just, I think I've found a better way to make up for things." He would've went on but he saw Razzy had already perked up.

She wore a wide smile that stretched across her entire face. "Okay!"

In disbelief, Virgil's mouth became agape momentarily. "J-Just like that? I was gonna go on, but hey, if that satisfies you."

As he shrugged, Razzy nodded. "Alright! In case I don't see you later, so long Big Bro!" I gotta go. My uncle Bron needed my help with something." She gave a strong wave and just as she entered, burst through the door. The force of the door being pulled open also caused it to bounce back shut behind her.

As soon as she left, Virgil could hear the guards outside shouting and chasing after her. He thought back to how she seemed to be in a rush, even for her standards. He was allowed visitors, but only after a check-in with the guards outside. The probability that she sneaked in while the guards were distracted, skyrocketed in his head.

"Finally decided to getcha' 'self outta this place, eh?" A man's voice spoke up behind. Entering from the back of the room.

Recognizing the snarky tone, Virgil grimaced, slowly turning his head around. On his bed sat Cedric. He was looking through the window while his black portal remained present underneath it. "Why am I so popular today? Wait! That thing reaches all the way here from Vance? And, uh, why isn't it disappearing?"

Cedric arched an eyebrow. "Of course it can reach from here to Vance. How do you think the twins and I left here the first time, or arrived for that matter?" This explanation caused Virgil to look away slightly, the thought never crossing his mind. "As for why it's not fading away, I can keep it open as long as I need to."

This seemed to get a rise out of Virgil. He stood up and faced him fully. "That can't be right. Back in Vance the thing would shut after a few seconds."

Cedric shrugged, still looking out the window. "I was trying to inconvenience you, remember?" He spoke callously.

Virgil gritted his teeth, but then his eyes widened. "That's right Cedric. You really inconvenienced me before." Seeming confused, Cedric turned away from the window. "You hurled me off Upper Wystern you jerk!" Cracking the long whip-like a chain, it was flung around the stray. Wrapping the other end around his hand, Virgil pulled back, dragging Cedric with it. Once close enough, Virgil acted quick and tightened the other chain around Cedric's throat. "Do you have any idea what it feels like being violently thrown from the highest part of a city to it's lowest?" Rather than answering, he started to squirm.

Admits of being strangled, Cedric noticed the chain which held his neck was also linked to his attacker's wrist. Pulling down on it, he threw Virgil over his shoulder and onto the floor. "How the heck do ya expect me to answer if you're chocking me?" He shouted back, his shadow overlooking Virgil who was now laying on his back and glaring up at him. Instead of answering, Virgil pulled at on of his chains again. Finding it's way behind the older stray, a quick tug pulled against the back of his ankles and dropped him roughly to the floor as well.

Both laid on their backs looking up at the ceiling. A few moments passed and neither said a word. Perhaps the only way to avoid bickering was simply not to talk. This would eventually be proven false as Cedric spoke up. "You remind me of 'em. My first master." Virgil remained silent at Cedric's random confession. Still laying there, unsure of what to say, he began picking the lock to his left wrist as the stray went on. "My first master wasn't that bad. He was born sickly. Because of that though, he never took anything for granted. I wasn't always good with spells. He made my claws for me so I could fight. He passed away soon after and I was adapted by a second knight. Let's just say, I didn't get all these scars from Azrakal."

Uncertain of what to say, Virgil started mumbling insults at the lock. Eventually earning a cheap laugh out of Cedric. "Well, as much as I enjoy these encounters..." His wording getting a smirk out of the other. "...I did come here for a reason."

"You want the rings back?" Virgil asked, still giving a majority of his focus and patience to the shackle.

The first to sit up, Cedric shook his head. He looked away almost a little ashamed for some reason. "No. You can consider those a gift." He sighed, standing up and dusting himself off. "I came here to warn you of the changing world." Virgil frowned, now looking up at him skeptically. When Cedric stared back seriously, Virgil went back to the lock.

"When Azrakal was defeated..." Cedric began, crossing his arms and closing his eyes. "...his presence disappeared from the world. Though a fiend and a cruel being, his power suppressed many strong summon creatures. Now that he's gone, things are going to get a lot more hectic."

Groaning, Virgil stopped playing with the lock for a moment and huffed. "Of course, after all, nothing's ever easy." Picking at the lock again, glancing up, he saw Cedric staring down at him. "What? I get it, strong strays are gonna start popping up. It'll be good for business. I do hunt you guys, remember?"

When Cedric didn't roll his eyes or called him out on his wording, but instead kept his serious expression, Virgil gave him his attention. "When we came to this city, he made me transport us all here. It wasn't just him, the girls, and I. Reath came as well." Virgil unlocked the shackle just as this news had been dropped on him.

The shackle and chain connected to his left wrist dropped onto his chest. Not expecting either, he coughed and lightly winced. Discarding it off his chest, he rolled over and looked up at the stray. "You mean Reath was here? H-He was alive?" He shouted up in disbelief.

Cedric nodded. "Well, yes. Emphasis on was. He's dead now." Shocked, Virgil awaited Cedric to elaborate. "I found him laying near the docks the morning I left with the girls. At first I'd thought a craftknight must've taken care of him. I was wrong. He had a deep claw mark on his chest, and his ring was gone." As he finished, he started rubbing the side of his head. Contemplating what would become of this ordeal.

Shaking his head with a relived smirk, Virgil sat in a more relaxed position. "That all? That guy must've bit off more than he could chew. And you know just how hard those rings are to use. This isn't anything to worry about." Shrugging his shoulders, he looked like he was about to lay back down.

"You're wrong." Looking back up, he found Cedric held a serious look in his sage green eyes. "I recognized the claw markings. It was a powerful summon creature named Rei. I'd thought I'd seen the last of him, but it seems I was wrong about that too." Taking a few steps toward the portal, Cedric crossed his arms. "I forgot about him. He used to be in that cave with us. He kept to himself a lot. Almost never spoke. He was probably 'bout your age. The day he arrived, he said one thing only: I will kill the false god." He gulped. "Tired of waiting around, I presume, he left. 'Said he'd be back. It was the day you came two years ago. You two may have even passed each other at the entrance."

Taking Cedric's story into account, Virgil held his chin. A few seconds later, he frowned and scratched the back of his head. "I don't get it. If he wanted to kill Azrakal so bad, why didn't he? What was he waiting for?" Becoming annoyed by his skepticism, Cedric turned back around.

"It wasn't that he wanted to wait, but that he had to. The door was sealed and locked with a blessed chain." Glancing down at the picked shackles, he quickly looked back up. "You picked the lock as I recall. Speaking of which, why are you so talented at this anyway?"

Letting out a nervous chuckle, Virgil turned away. "Me? Oh, you mean Ean? I dunno how he was so good at picking locks. I never met the guy." Cedric sighed and rolled his eyes. "Although if I had to guess..." Virgil started, primarily to appease the vexed stray. "...it was probably 'cause of his craft master. I bet he wanted all his apprentices to have a diverse understanding of crafting and smithing. Back then I was- I mean, I bet he was the best with locks in the whole guild."

Huffing at Virgil's seemingly mix-and-matched explanation, Cedric rubbed his forehead. Turning around again, he shrugged his arms. "Yeah, I guess we're gonna have to go with that." Looking over his shoulder, he saw Virgil looking down at the last lock with a depressed look on his face. Keeping his back to him, Cedric coughed to get his attention. "Y'know, if it's that bothersome, you could just let me break that chain for ya." To make his point, he drew one of his claws at the end.

Smiling softly to himself, Virgil shook his head. "That's alright. If I don't do it myself it's no fun at all."

"Cedric!""Cedric!" Two voices in unison called out from the portal. Both men stiffening at this.

Gulping, Virgil held the last chain up. "'Changed my mind. Cut me loose."

Shaking his head, and sheathing his claw, Cedric backed up. "Sorry, but you ain't the target this time."

Just then, two familiar sisters came vaulting arms first through the portal. Cedric held both his arms up in defense but was still tackled down to the ground.

Looking down at him smugly, Virgil smirked. "Cedric, I don't think now is the time or place for this." He joked. The girls looked up at him and smiling. Virgil braced himself as he expected them to exclaim his name and jump onto him. Yet, they didn't. They just smiled warmly at him. He smiled back, a bit surprised and relieved. "Well uh, so, what have you two been up to?" As the girls readied to answer, Cedric laid motionless underneath them. He knew full well that trying to get up was typically useless.

"We've been helping Cedric in Sanctum!" Kate shouted excitably. "Yeah! Cedric's been trying to rebuild it to like before, where all stray can call a home!" Krystal finished.

Virgil arched an eyebrow. "Sanctum?"

The girls had moved closer when they gushed earlier. Doing so eventually set Cedric free as he sat up then into a stand. "It's what we used to call the cave. Besides, it's nothing special, yet."

Both girls turned back almost angrily. Their angered expression however more closely resembled a childish pout. They were each ready to disagree when Krystal's eyes all of a sudden widened. "Oh! Cedric...!" Hearing the urgency in her sister's voice, Kate did the same. "That's right! Some more strays showed up and we need your help!" Both jumping up, they rushed forward and each grabbed one of Cedric's arms. Urging him to hurry along, they dragged him toward the portal. His protest falling on deaf ears as the three disappeared into the black vortex. The gateway vanishing along with them, left the vacant wall staring back.

Alone again, Virgil started laughing at what had transpired in front of him. Quieting down, he was left with a wide but shrinking smile. "Geez. I've been replaced."

Looking down at his right hand, he began spinning the rings around his fingers with his thumb. "You're a sly one, Cedric." Thinking back to their talk about Reath, Cedric's words echoed in his head. His ring was gone. "If you had taken the rings back, that place might be targeted. And you played it off like a gift." Clenching his hand, his smirk came back to life. "A powerful stray named Rei. Someone my age who wanted to take on Azrakal himself. Now he's tracking down what's left of 'em in the form of these god-enchanted and dangerous rings. And here I thought things wouldn't be nearly as interesting anymore." Lightly chuckling to himself, Virgil gazed out through his window. "Now that Cedric, is one hell of a gift."

_O _o_ O_

Sitting in the center of his cell, Virgil looked down at the last shackle on his right wrist. In his other hand, he held Sanary's hairpin. It was bent at odd angles and was on it's last legs. One mistake too many and he could kiss his freedom goodbye.

Just as he was about to begin, the door to his room was opened. For a moment, he panicked. He'd realized he hadn't hid the shackles in such a way to avoid suspicion. Instead, they were all scattered across the cell as they were when the others had left a few minutes ago.

A man entered whose presence caused Virgil to tremble slightly. To calm himself, he bit the corners of his lip. The guards closed the door behind him without looking inside, leaving the two alone. He remained quiet as he looked over the cell and all of Virgil's handiwork. "Well, well, finally built up the nerve to try and escape have you?"

Clenching his teeth, Virgil locked eyes with him fiercely. "Ureksa!"

The older man held a calm expression as he eyed Virgil. "What did you expect to do? Even if you got out of your shackles, then what? I'll have you know I was set in charge of your security detailing."

Giving the defiant smirk he'd grown far too used to giving him, Virgil shrugged. "Beats me. Let's just say your security has more than a few holes in it." He egged on, small beads of sweat dripping down the side of his face.

Ignoring his boasts, Ureksa turned and walked over to Faith. He put his hands in his cloak as he examined it. "You mean for instance, how both guards are stationed outside your hold?" Virgil's eyes widened as he sat up straight. "Or do you mean how this sword is four and one-half feet from your cell bars, rather than five?"

Shocked, Virgil held a blank expression. "Ureksa, a-are you letting me escape?"

"What's it called?" The veteran craftknight asked. Once again disregarding Virgil.

Still somewhat tense, and now becoming ticked off, he withdrew himself slightly. "What are you...?"

"The spell..." Ureksa clarified, cutting Virgil off. "...the one from Vance. I know what it does, but not it's name."

With Ureksa still focused on the sword, Virgil scowled to himself. "I still can't believe you figured that out without seeing it." When Ureksa remained quiet, it only made Virgil feel more obligated to tell. "It doesn't have a name. I learned it by accident almost a year ago. It wasn't one of Faith's so I don't call it anything. It's not easy to do in battle either, I don't use it that much. Reath had me in a bind so I had no choice."

Finally looking away from the sword, Ureksa stared down at the young swordsman. "So that sword can do more than just replicate the moves of your fallen friend. Hm, I see. Then think of a name now."

Gritting his teeth, Virgil angrily looked up at the older man. "Why the hell are you so focused on this?" He shouted.

Slowly turning for the door, Ureksa took a step toward it. "I suppose I'll just tell the guards what you're doing then."

Slamming one hand against the floor, Virgil jumped up and fiercely grabbed the bars. He kicked them a few times to get his notice. "Fine! Stop being so unreasonable!"

Turning back around, Ureksa held an almost unnoticeably faint smirk. "I can only assume the reason you never thought up a name was because you hated that it was your own creation. You made yourself believe that using that sword for anything else but her spells wouldn't be anything short of a disgrace. Honestly now, how long will you let your past cripple you?" His faint smile seeming short lived as it disappeared halfway through his explanation. "I cannot believe I had to act so unruly to make you understand this."

Grimacing, Virgil frowned. "Don't blame me for your shortcomings. You could've just said that from the start, y'know!"

Things becoming silent again, Virgil began feeling forced to do as he was asked before. Sighting, he rolled his eyes. "Right, so, that spell..." He laid his forehead on the bars and looked downward in thought. "It's sort of like an explosion. I first did it when trying to heal form a distance..." Raising his head, Virgil grew a small and almost proud smirk. "Got it! Hellfire Purification."

Monotone in response, Ureksa looked away. "Well, it's childish and eccentric. I suppose at the very least, it suits you."

Aggravated once more, he kicked the bars again. "What's that supposed to mean?" He shouted back.

Turning to face him, Ureksa ignored his complains again. Locking eyes. "Virgil, I never met your father. Nonetheless, I'd like you to know that if I were your father, I'd be exceptionally proud of you." He admitted straight-faced to Virgil's shock.

Completely caught off guard, Virgil let go of the bars and staggered back. Flustered and unable to face him for the moment, he heavily looked away. "Wh-Where'd the h-hell'd that come from? L-Like I give a damn about that sort of thing!" Turning back he saw that Ureksa was about to leave.

He ran up to the bars again and grabbed them, calling out to him. "Wait! If I do this, you'll still have all my things. I need the bestinitries. And what about my money? I won't be able to charter a ferry or anything. I'd have to start over from scratch, again!"

Without stopping from Virgil's plea, Ureksa opened the door. "Do it right this time." He said, closing the door behind him and leaving Virgil back alone.

Sighing at first, Virgil pulled out Sanary's hairpin and started staring at it intently. "Right." Bringing it up to his mouth, he bit the end of it and bent it at a sharp angle. After spitting to get the taste out of his mouth, he carefully inserted it into the last keyhole.

Feeling around for the tumblers, Virgil examined every interior inch with the pin. Gently pressing a tumbler in the center, he felt the first hitting against it. Easing up on the center, the first did the same. Sliding the pin along deeper inside the lock, he found the back most tumbler. With a delicate push, it made an almost inaudible click.

His cell door opened up and Cleru and Sugar entered with bright smiles. "Good morning." He greeted, turning around, he shut the door. "Hey, was Ureksa in here earlier? I thought I saw him before. That can't be right though because he's supposed to check on you at the end of the week not-" Cleru stopped when he and Sugar turned and realized what Virgil was doing.

He ran up to the bars and leaned closer. Worked up all of a sudden, he started shouting in a whisper. "Virgil! What are you doing? You're gonna get in a lot of trouble for this!" Worry written all over his face.

"I've decided I'm gonna travel the world again, but this time, I'm gonna make it count. I'll help out with everything I can to make up for all the trouble Ean and Ethan caused." He announced, wearing a straight expression and speaking without doubt.

Still disapproving, Cleru continued shouting in his hushed tone. "Virgil, even if you say that, I can't just let you break out of here!"

Virgil smirked. "Is that so? Are you gonna stop me?" With one quick flick of his wrist, he turned the hairpin and the final shackle dislodged from around his wrist . Dropping to the floor, it echoed in a loud metallic klanging. He started massaging his free wrist as he set his sights on his sword. "Hellfire..."

Grabbing the bars tighter, Cleru leaned even closer. Now no longer trying to hide his voice. "Virgil you can't! I'll sto-" The sword was glowing brighter and brighter, a small hum building as well. Sugar noticed this and immediately tackled her master to the ground to the opposite side of the room.

Grinning widely, Virgil narrowed his eyes. "...Purification!" In one split moment, the sword's sheathe disintegrated in a growing white inferno. A fiery ball grew and exploded, breaking in the bars on that side of the room and blowing the door right off it's hinges.

_O _o_ O_

Walking down the long curved corridor to Virgil's cell, the soon to be sworn-in craftlord kept a straight gaze. Walking with his hands in his pockets, Varil let out a low sigh all of a sudden. "Why would Pratty insist I visit him?"

A boom echoing in the distance, the floor shook slightly. Stopping, Varil arched an eyebrow. "Hm? That came from-" His eyes widened. "He wouldn't!" Balling a fist, he pulled out his spear. "Of course he would!" He shouted in realization and growing aggravation. Making haste down the hall, he sprinted for Virgil's hold. As he approached, he started to hear a second set of footsteps seeming to get closer. Unable to clearly differ them from his own due to the echo, he just kept running.

Both rounding the corner at the same time, Varil and Virgil became face to face. Taking everything in at an instant, Varil plunged his spear forward. Virgil winced and ducked, tripping as he did, not expecting Varil. The two brushed shoulders and locked eyes for a brief moment. Virgil fell past him but caught himself and spun around, Varil doing the same.

"I must be cursed. Running into you so soon!" Virgil complained spinning back around and running down the hallway where Varil had entered. Narrowing his eyes, Varil went after, immediately giving chase.

The suspense of their chase already heavy from the start, Virgil bolted through the Central Tower. His sense of direction thrown to the wind, he would run down which ever path was closest at a fork. Going up or down whatever staircase he found himself vaulting up or jumping down. Varil keeping a steady pace, mere feet behind.

Eventually wandering into the interior of Upper Wystern, he glanced into the offices to find dozens of guards, and due to all his commotion, they were all staring back at him. Some recognizing him, jumped up and chased after him as well. Those who didn't, followed once seeing the reaction he had on the others. A now two dozen guard brigade became in pursuit after him, Varil leading the charge.

Though not what he wanted, Virgil started heading downstairs. Coming down several flights led him to the base entrance of Lower Wystern. Quickly, he weighed his options. The arena was a dead end, and also occupied if he recalled. Having this many after him in the public quarter would just make things harder for him. Risking it, he took the one path he was unfamiliar with, a room of smithing furnaces.

Panicked at first, Virgil saw that there was another doorway on the opposite side of the room. Once seeing the horde pursuing the young swordsman, the door guard being unarmed, stepped aside letting all of them through into the labyrinth.

His heart racing, both from the tension of capture and the heated chase. This only made things worse as he struggled to take in the new environment all around him, this what looked like a destroyed layer of Wystern. Weak and feeble strays backing off from the impending charge of people.

Following the linear path, Virgil eventually made it to the platform in front of a large glass window. Reaching the center of the platform, he looked around for where to go next. Spotting a door to his left, he took a step closer. Right there, the guards caught up. They moved to the door as well and one even sealed it shut. Turning around, Virgil saw that Varil covered the small stairs he took onto the platform. The remaining guards covering the last side, boxing him in.

Varil panted lightly as he stepped onto the observatory stand, Virgil in a similar state. "Game over." Varil commented, getting into stance in case Virgil were to try anything.

Virgil giving a weak smile, backed up toward the glass. "Varil, I ever tell you I'm a terrible swimmer?"

Narrowing his gaze, Varil inched closer. "What difference would it make?"

Growing a wry smirk, Virgil removed his sword from his shoulder and held it in front of him. "Just thought you'd like to know..." All of a sudden, he spun around. "...how I'd rather leave my life to the tides than you!" Slashing his sword, he launched a holy slash against at the glass.

The shockwave hit and shattered the glass in in it's entirety. Vast amounts of water gushing in. Taking a knee, Virgil stabbed his sword into the ground, holding his position as the water flooded over him.

Forced to retreat, Varil jumped back. The guards not as lucky, were swept back and a few even collided against Varil, knocking him down with them. Struggling back up, he looked around for Virgil, but he was already gone.

_O _o_ O_

Virgil was now flailing in the ocean right outside the newly formed hole from the Undersea Observatory. Having crawled through the gushing window, he was already low on air. Rays of sunlight dancing on the water's surface ahead of him, he flung his arms, sloppily drifting toward it.

Breaking through to the surface, Virgil gasped for air. Luckily, the main path was right in front of him. He grabbed onto the side and lopped onto the path. Gaining several strange looks from passer-bys.

Drenched and exhausted, he took a step closer toward the main doors. They flew open to reveal an angered Varil, his lower half soaking wet. Scowling, Virgil glanced over at the side door. "You're too damn persistent!" And ran for it.

Instantly giving chase after him again, Varil gritted his teeth. "You're the last person I wanna hear that from!"

Both sprinting up the coiling staircase, Virgil brushed against the wall a few times. Seeing how close they were, Varil attempted clipping him in the leg. Dodging it, Virgil jumped away, almost tripping up the stairs as he did.

Bursting through the side door to Middle Wystern, Virgil stumbled into a roll then ran for the main entrance. As he did, he found the remnants of the guards fumbling up the central staircase from Lower Wystern. Hurrying for the doorway opposite to the entrance, he managed to get in before the guards.

"Now I'll lose you in those offices!" His eyes widened entering inside. Rather than the cluttered and busy office area he had glanced into several times, he found himself in the barren and spacious ceremonial hall. Stopping in the center, he worriedly turned around.

Varil entered and took a few steps forward, the guards pouring in behind him. "That may have worked..." Varil started, spinning his spear in his hand. "...If this were actually the offices." With the guards and Varil closing in, Virgil gulped, stepping back. "You're done. No easy way out this time."

A single nervous sweat dripping down the side of his face, Virgil showed a weary smirk. "No easy way out." Lifting his sword off his shoulder, he stabbed faith into the ground and took a few steps back. "Hellfire..."

_O _o_ O_

Sanary and her sister Kouren stood on opposite sides of the ruined arena. Sanary stood rigidly stiff, her sister serious yet relaxed. Determinately staring her younger sibling down, Sanary was having trouble doing the same.

Between the two stood Sakuro, his typical easygoing expression on his face. "Now why would anyone want to waste such a lovely morning in a way like this?" Shaking his head he let out a sigh.

Furrowing her brow with her signature gesture, she twirled her hair around one of her fingers. "Oh hush up Sakuro."

Hunching over slightly, he turned toward Sanary but still gazed over at Kouren. "That part of you hasn't changed since when we were kids I see." His smile showing unnoticeably small signs of strain. "Well if we're all ready-"

"Halt!" Kouren called out, holding her arms and narrowing her gaze. "Sanary, do you know why I'm taking this so seriously?" Opening her mouth, Sanary couldn't find her voice and looked away. "Progression. Being a craftlord means to be one of Wystern's seven strongest knights. If you are stronger than me, then I have no right to stay and hold Wystern back."

Her gaze never wavered. In fact, it had only grown more passionate as she went on. It had been a long time since Sanary had seen her sister like this. Slowly, she nodded her head in understanding.

Looking between the two, Sakuro's smile seemed to grow more genuine. "Well, I now commence the start to the title match for Craftlord of Ruby!" Unsheathing his sword, he slashed the air and held it toward the ceiling. Both sisters reaching for their weapons.

An explosion from the ceiling above shook even the arena. The ceiling rumbled as debris and chunks of steel fell at the center. The sisters backed up and looked above. Sakuro did the same but almost fell backward off the arena.

Sanary along with the others watched in disarray. Just as the first large pieces of rubble touched down, she saw a broadsword descending as well, now almost halfway down. Recognizing it immediately, it's owner dove through the newly formed scar in the ceiling, face first. Plummeting, he outstretched his left arm, reaching for the sword. As they grew closer to each other, as well as the ground, the others continued to watch. Falling faster and faster, Virgil caught his sword by the handle at the most, half a dozen feet from the floor. It instantly glowed and so did his right hand. Right before landing face first, two angelic wings sprouted that spread wide, creating a parachute effect that caught him, lifted him upright, and allowed him to land easily on one knee.

With the last of the rubble falling around him, Virgil characteristicly smirked to himself. Standing up, his wings disappeared. Smug in the success of his latest stunt, he dusted his pants off and looked up. As soon as he did, his eyes widened and his mouth became agape, lunging forward, he dived and rolled forward toward Sanary.

Just then, Varil came striking down, spear first. His trident plunging into the ground, Varil fell onto one knee. Small amounts of dust blowing away from his crushing landing. Rising upright, he plucked his spear from the ground and spun it in his hand elegantly, showing no signs of injury.

As Virgil watched him, looking up at him from the floor, he gulped. Before Varil could take a step closer, Virgil scampered up and away, dashing for the entrance-way to the arena behind Sanary. As he ran past, the two caught a quick glance. As before, Varil continued his pursuit after.

Stepping aside, Sanary let both easily run past. Listening, she could hear their frantic footsteps even after they faded from view. Turning back around, she noticed Sakuro still intrigued by what had happened to the ceiling. Her sister slowly walking toward her. "How troublesome." Ignoring Sanary as she passed by her like the other two did. "We'll have to postpone this."

For some reason, the more her sister spoke, the more it stung her in a foreign acrimony. "Where are the guards?" Kouren spoke as though the current affair was mundane and should have been resolved by the others. "They're worthless, the lot of them." The callous words exiting her sister's mouth gave rise to a familiar anger inside.

Right when Kouren was about to step out of the arena, Sanary dug her nails into the inside of her palms. "Are you surrendering then, sister?" Her hands shaking in anger.

Looking over her shoulder, the older sister held a confused yet somewhat annoyed expression. "Perhaps you didn't hear me. I said we're postponing the duel. Are you questioning my-"

Still looking away, Sanary sunk her head. "The match was declared earlier. If you walk away now I win by default!" She shouted, clenching the center of her blouse over her heart.

Narrowing her eyes, Kouren grabbed hold of her sword handle slung on the side of her battle dress. "I was wrong. You aren't ready yet. You're far too immature to be a craftlord." She unsheathed her saber. It was a long and thin black blade. The handle, curved and designed to look like a snake. "I don't know what's gotten into you bu-"

Cutting her sister off again, Sanary started turning around. "I used to hate men." Turning to her sister revealed tears flowing down the sides of her face. She drew one of her daggers and got into stance, which turned out to be a reflection of her sister's. "I hated what he did to you. Cleru and Pratty's father. When he died, you weren't the passionate and cool craftknight you used to be. You turned into... into... into this!"

Provoked, Kouren stepped closer. "I grew up!" She shouted, running forward and slashing at her younger sister. No compassion in her words or her actions.

Catching the slash with her dagger, the two became engaged in a blade lock. Kouren slowly pushing her toward the center of the arena. "Still..." Sanary began again, the tears still flowing. "I told myself they were responsible. That they were useless. Unnecessary. But they..." The image of Cleru smiling warmly at her during one of their frequent chats at the Undersea Observatory popped into her head. After, a quick memory of Virgil when they fought in Vance. When she offered to bandage him, she was surprised at how many cuts and bruises he had, almost none from her. "Cleru always fought for others!" Sanary started holding her sister off. She rose her head up and stared at her sister, eye to eye. "And Virgil, he's always fighting, even now. I blamed men for everything, but that was wrong. In truth I..." Whimpering lightly, Sanary grinded her teeth for a moment. "...I hated you!"

Completely shocked, Kouren eased up subconsciously and was pushed away by her younger sibling. Drawing her second dagger with her free hand, Sanary ran back in and started slashing away at her sister, who blocked and parried each of them. "I respected you! I Idolized you! But, you're not that person anymore! You're not my sister, you're heartless! You're-"

Having heard enough, the older sister raised he sword and performed a faint. When Sanary went to block the attack that never came, Kouren altered her stance and struck again, knocking her away. "Right now, I am your opponent. Nothing more." A steely gaze shooting back.

_O _o_ O_

Virgil just bolted out of the hallway leading to the arena. He had planned earlier on ending things at Upper Wystern. However, seeing how bad things were looking, the thought of making a mad dash for the docks was starting to look like a healthy alternative. His hopes were shot through when a pack of soaking wet guards stood firm blocking the main entrance. He remembered how only a handful of guards made it upstairs, thees were likely trying to fix things on the under level.

Forced to change plans Virgil skidded to a halt in front of the guards and high tailed it for the staircase. A few steps up, he looked back to see the some guards now chasing him again, Varil ahead of them. Turning to focus ahead, he found the guards that helped trap him in the Ceremonial Hall were rushing down the stairs to cut him off, nearly a dozen of them.

When Virgil saw how unprepared the guards ahead were, not expecting their target to meet them halfway. He decided to use their lack of formation to his advantage. Running straight in between them, a guard up front lunged for him. Virgil ducked it, causing the guard to almost trip. Now in the middle, a guard in font of him was pushed by the others in their unorganized frenzy. Literally rolling toward him, Virgil jumped up and ran off his back, getting behind him as he continued tumbling away from him. With only one guard left in his direct path, the swordsman tripped him and spun him staggering down behind him. Clearing the pack, he sprinted toward the top of the staircase.

Varil watched as Virgil one by one proceeded to disgrace the guards. With both forces about to collide against each other, he was forced to do the same to escape. He ducked under the spinning first guard, cleared the rolling guard in a vault using his spear, and as he approached the last guard in the middle, he caught him before throwing him aside to follow after Virgil. Reaching the top, the two found neither truly gained or lost any real distance on the other.

As soon as he made it to Middle Wystern, Virgil made a rush for the next staircase. Checking over his shoulder, he found Varil, and the guards fumbling over each other atop the stairs. Reaching the central stairs to Upper Wystern, Virgil huffed every few steps. His endurance, reaching it's limits. "Almost... there... just... a little... further!"

_O _o_ O_

Having just tossed the coin into the air, Virgil was watching as the girls looked in undistributed curiosity. Both Pratty and Natsumi leaning over to get a good view once Virgil unclenched his hand. Attempting to keep a straight face proved less than successful the more he examined the girls immovable gaze. A cheeky grin widening by the second.

The apex of suspense far over, Pratty looked and pouted as she saw Virgil silently snickering. Childishly fuming, she grabbed the bars and leaned even closer. "C'mon already! Open your hand up!"

His grin becoming a more casual smile as he continued to mock her playfully. "Hm? Why?"

Pratty practically started steaming but Natsumi only let out a small laugh behind her. "Why? So we can find out what your gonna do!" She continued to plead.

Still unswayed, Virgil kept up his cool composure. "Huh? But that would be pointless." This only seemed to confuse Pratty but Natsumi slowly grew a knowing smile as she realized.

"Now I get it." She said to herself, standing up straight as Pratty remained hunched down. When Pratty stared up at her, she explained for Virgil. "He's already decided what he's going to do."

Smiling at Natsumi's response, Virgil nodded his head. "Bingo." He held his hand with the coin through the bars. Pratty, reaching for it, held her palm open. He dropped the coin and folded her hand so that she was now concealing it.

After, he spun around and leaned his back against the bars. "Now, get outta here! I got an escape to plan." He announced, just short of alerting the guards outside. Examining it, he held one of his shackles overhead.

About to ask what his choice was or even open her hand to see what his choice would have been, Pratty opened her mouth. The tone of the room weighed in suddenly and Pratty remained quiet. Virgil's answer feeling obvious, she nodded to herself and turned to leave. "Alright. So long!" giving a cheerful goodbye, she stepped closer to the door and Natsumi did similarly.

Just as Pratty grabbed the door handle, Virgil sunk his head. "I'm sorry." She let go of the handle and turned around. Virgil's back still to them. "That day everything went wrong, we got into a fight and I yelled at you. I never apologized for that. I said we weren't friends but..." There was a long pause before Virgil finished. "I'd be lucky if someone like you even wanted to be my friend."

Pratty's kind expression never faded. Even though Virgil wasn't looking, she shook her head. "It's fine. Because, we are friends." Though they couldn't see it, Virgil grew a small soft smile at Pratty's words.

As they went to leave, Pratty gave a big and unnoticed wave. "So long!" She repeated, opening the door and holding it open for Natsumi.

Sighing, he gave a small wave over his shoulder. "Thanks for the name."

_O _o_ O_

Finally making it back up to Upper Wystern, he exited through the main doors. A strong gust of wind greeting him. He let out a pleased chuckle, quickly making his way to the center of the main platform jutting out from the Central Tower.

Varil exited and slowly marched forward. Virgil turned around, greatly huffing to catch his breath. Varil was doing essentially the same, but hid it better.

Before anything could be said, the guards finally caught up and flooded out the main door. They split their force, each taking a side left and right of Varil, boxing Virgil in without escape.

Relaxing his stance, Varil took a step closer. "Why today? What makes today so special?" As he asked, he stepped closer again and moved to Virgil's left.

Smirking, Virgil took a step to the right. "Why today? Why not? It's a lovely day for a stroll." He joked defiantly. The two now circling one another. The guard bracing themselves in case Virgil were to try something.

Also smirking, Varil shook his head. "You truly are an incorrigible fool."

Virgil shrugged. "Hmph. Make me look tiny if it makes you feel tall. No skin of my nose." Stopping, Varil did the same. He took his sword off his shoulder and pointed it forward. "One last dance before I leave?"

The prince spun his spear one last time before getting into stance. "You might be a talented escape artist, but this is beyond you."

Virgil began zealously bouncing back and fourth on his feet. "Think you can take me on?"

Varil narrowed his eyes. "Ureksa handled it pretty well. I'll just copy his moves."

The two shared an identical grin as the moments inched passed. Virgil tightening his grip on his sword, Varil lunged ahead. "As if I'll let you take the first strike!" Caught off guard, Virgil raised his sword to block, reinforcing by holding his right hand against it near the tip. When the other noticed this, he shifted his grip closer to the spear head and moved closer for more power. "You can't block like that with a double-edge sword!"

The weapons connected and Virgil was pushed back an inch but showed no signs of pain or injury, his sword clean of any blood. Varil was in disbelief. Looking closer, his eyes widened. "Y-You protected your fingers with those rings?"

Virgil grinned wider. "Yep. Thanks for getting in close!" Slashing, he hit the trident away. With Varil momentarily defenseless, Varil stabbed his sword into the ground and tackled him. They fell over and rolled a few times. Virgil got on top and pulled his right hand back, giving him a quick jab to the head to quiet him down. As Varil held his now throbbing face, Virgil noticed something sticking out of his coat.

As the guards approached to apprehend him, Virgil reached inside and pulled out his knife from Vance. "I knew you took it!" Kicking Virgil off, he grabbed his spear, holding the side of his head with the other hand.

Backing up, Virgil held a wry smirk. He sheathed the knife back on his arm and pulled out his sword. Looking behind him, he saw he was on the edge, Middle Wystern seeming a mile away. "Hey Varil..." While more annoyed, Varil arched an eyebrow. Virgil turned to showcase a wide grin. "...I ever tell you I really hate heights?"

His eyes widening, Varil sprinted forward, Virgil waving as he fell backwards off the edge. The guards all looked shocked but Varil dove off without any hesitation.

_O _o_ O_

Panting heavily, Sanary's body shaking, raised her swords up against her sister. The Craftlord of Ruby already in position without a hair out of place. Sanary's vision was blurring, swaying lightly back and forth. Each of her daggers painted with scratches and cracks of all sizes.

Sanary gave her elder sister one last weak glare before her eyes shut close. Fainting, she fell forward awkwardly onto her stomach.

Sakuro took a step closer in worry but stopped when Kouren walked in front of him. With the same expression on her face, she knelt down next to her unconscious younger sister. She rolled her over and laid her head on her lap. Delicately, brushing her sister's hair away from he face. Gently caressing her cheek to wipe away the drying tears.

Walking over and looking down at the two, Sakuro wore a kind smile. "I see that part of you hasn't change since we were kids either."

Still focused on Sanary, Kouren never looked away. "Oh hush up Sakuro."

_O _o_ O_

Both men were plummeting off the edge of Upper Wystern. The wind screeching past them. As they dropped, Varil outstretched an arm, determined to catch Virgil no matter the cost. Slowly and stubbornly, he inched closer and closer.

Almost halfway down to the middle level, Virgil turned around in mid-air. A confident smirk danced across his lips before giving a small wave with his right hand again. Varil stared confused, until he noticed the rings, but it was too late. Virgil's sword and the rings lit up. Right before Varil could reach him, Virgil spun back around and his wings grew, spreading wide. Pulling up quickly, he soared up into the air, gliding away as Varil continued to fall.

Grabbing at air as Virgil drifted away with the wind, Varil turned back to the fast approaching body of water beneath him. Out of other options, he got into a diver's form and braced himself, closing his eyes.

Crash-landing into the water, a large spout appeared where he landed before subsiding. Countless ripples decreasing in size one after another formed from the center. Just as the water seemed to return to normal, Varil broke through the surface. Taking a deep gasp of air, he swam over to the close by road and pulled himself onto it.

"Varil!" Turning to the Central Tower, he saw a familiar silver haired craftknight running over to him. He shook his head once, flinging the water from the tips of his hair. He questioned wringing out his coat but realized it's futility, being completely drenched. To avoid being looked down upon even further, he stood up and waited to meet her.

Pratty ran up to him and quickly looked him over. "Varil, are you okay? I saw you falling and..." She trailed off. Further inspecting him, she inched closer.

Varil couldn't help but turn away from the embarrassment in his current state. "I'm fine. Nothing broken, just a little sore." Unsure, Pratty squeezed one of his arms to judge any pain. Rolling his eyes, Varil pulled his arm away. "Stop that. I said I'm fine." He began straightening out his clothes in a vain attempt to make himself more presentable.

Relieved by her friend's safety, she smiled. "I ran into Ureksa earlier..." She brought up, changing the subject for him. "...I heard you're going to be a craftlord soon. Congratulations!"

Watching her gentle expression soothed his pain and made him smile back at her. "Yeah, well..." He folded his arms. "What about you? It's no fun if I get too far ahead of you." He teased her, faking a false sense of superiority in spite of the situation.

Pouting, she frowned her brows. "Hey! I'll get there. Just you wait!" When Varil chucked lightly, she remembered something. "Say Varil, what does this mean for the Gold Guild? I thought you wanted to fix things yourself."

Sighing to himself, he looked away again. "Right, that same problem."

Seeing his change in mood, Pratty brought her hands up. Swinging them back and forth as she quickly shook her head. "No, no! That is, um... I'm sure you'll think of something."

Turning back he smiled again. "I already have. I'll fix everything once I take over the guild."

Blinking at him, Pratty tilted her head. "So, you won't become a craftlord?"

The same confident expression on his face, he shook his head. "That's not it at all." Slowly, Pratty smiled wider in understanding. "That's right. I'll just do both."

She laughed in excitement. "Is that even allowed?"

Despite his uncertainty, Varil kept up his bravado. He shrugged. "I'll be the first." Scratching the side of his face, he glanced away. "Still, It will be hard in the beginning. I might need some help those first few nights."

Blushing, Pratty clasped her hands together and nodded. "Right!"

_O _o_ O_

Slowly gliding through the air toward the docks, Virgil's heart beat furiously. Taking deep breaths, he looked straight ahead. Knowing he'd lose his nerve if he stared down too long. Only looking down briefly to keep on course. Anyone looking up would have mistaken the high soaring swordsman for a bird.

Seeing a large boat leaving the docks, Virgil altered his course towards it. As he drifted closer he saw a lot of people gathered on the bow. Realizing it to be a ferry, he knew he made the right choice and flew closer.

While the stern, the area behind the cabin, was vacant, he didn't want to be to careless. He flew close to the water before leveling out and drifting to the vessel. Hovering over the back, his sword and rings died down. His wings disappearing, he fell onto the ship and landed safely without any trouble.

Looking to his left and right, he awaited someone to come. When no one came running 'round the corner, Virgil smiled to himself. He walked over to the back wall of the cabin and leaned against it. Slouching, he slid down into a sitting position. Taking a deep breath, he let out a long sigh. "I really did it." He announced, watching the further fleeting Wystern.

"I know. I'm surprised too." Tightening his grip on his sword again, he turned to his right to find Natsumi peaking around the corner with a playful smile. "Wow, that sure is a scary face."

Relaxing a bit, he loosened his grip and sunk his shoulders. Leaning back against the wall, he closed his eyes. "I've had a long day. What are you doing here anyway? Didn't you just arrive at Wystern?"

Natsumi giggled, walking around the corner and sitting beside him. "There was a mix up with the ships schedules. This was the last one for a week. It's a shame." She brought her knees up and held them against her chest. "Long day, huh? Why don't you tell me about it?" She asked cheerfully.

His eyes still closed, he arched an eyebrow. "all of it?"

Natsumi shrugged. "Sure. Why not? It's a long way to Vance after all."

Lifting his hand up, he slowly dragged it down his face. "Of course this ship's going to Vance."

The young summoner tilted her head in confusion. She reached over and lightly tugged his shirt to gain his attention. "What's wrong with Vance?"

He became irritated when he turned to her. "I thought Pratty told you."

Natsumi rubbed the back of her head. "Well..." She let out a small nervous laughter. "...Pratty told me a little, but skipped over a lot of things."

Groaning, Virgil sunk his head. "So before when you said 'tell me about it', you really meant, start from the beginning." When she gave a fast definitive nod, he rolled his eyes. "Forget it. Why should I?"

Natsumi leaned a little closer and kept her cheerful expression as she said what came next. "Why not? We will be traveling together from now on."

His relaxed eyes shot open as he turned to face her completely. "What? No, no no. I travel alone."

Her look became much more bored. "That's no fun though."

Virgil remained firm. "No way!" A tint of anger in his voice.

Turning away slightly, Natsumi grew a sly smirk. "Okay. I guess you don't have to start traveling with me. Just like I don't have to tell everyone on board we're harboring a stowaway criminal."

Becoming speechless, Virgil's jaw dropped. As he struggled to find the words, his stomach growled. Remembering he hadn't eaten anything yet today, it growled again.

Laughing, Natsumi moved her bag in front of her. Opening it up, she pulled out two wrapped bowls. "My brother and I love curry, so I bought us a couple bowls." She held one in front of him but then jolted back and held it awkwardly over her head. "You can have it, but only if you say yes."

He eyed her for a bit. The longer he waited, the more her grip began slipping. Opening his mouth, his stomach cut him off with another loud growl. He sunk his head in defeat. "...Fine."

Natsumi practically jumped up in joy. She almost dropped the bowl but caught it and herself in time. She handed it to him along with a fork and spoon.

Virgil watched her as she started eating her bowl. He stared into his. "So, your brother lives in Vance. Wouldn't it be cold by then?"

Finished scarfing down a big chunk, she let out a satisfied sigh. "Hm? No, there isn't a ferry that goes from our town to Wystern. So I'd have to hop around a bit before getting back. That's why I haven't visited Pratty until now."

Virgil held his head up with one hand, resting his bowl on his lap. "So it'd definitely be cold by then."

Natsumi stared at him. Tilting her head up she started thinking about it. "Can't you reheat curry?"

Shrugging, he finally began digging into his meal. "Beash mee." He mumbled with a mouth full. He swallowed loudly. "I can't cook."

She stared at him surprised. "What? Really? Darn. My brother would know, he's a great cook." A little disheartened, she took another bite. Just as she swallowed, her eyes widened. Almost choking, she coughed and cleared her throat. "That's it! We'll bring him with us!"

Virgil laughed at her revelation. As he did, he spit out a little food in front of him. "Just like that, huh? And so our band of two becomes a party of three." He laughed again to himself.

Excitedly, she clenched a hand in front of her and nodded. "Yup! The more the merrier, right?" A delighted grin on her face.

Watching he, Virgil couldn't help but grow a similar anxious smile. "Alright. If you're that pumped about it I might as well put a little faith in ya." He let out a small sigh. "Now, where to begin?" Natsumi stared at him. Still stuffing her face as Virgil scratched his chin. "I guess it started when I was first summoned to Wystern." He sprouted a warm smile as he watched the now distant city in the horizon. "No, that's not right. It all started when I met this really nosy girl with short messy silver hair and a beat up red jacket..."


Author Notes:

This is it guys. Thanks for all the support. Especially those who've been with me from the beginning, it's definitely been an unforgettable journey. I feel like I should say something important, wrap things up in a cool and memorable fashion. Sadly, nothing comes to mind. I can list a few wishes though. I hope that I was able to make some of your jaws drop a little. I hope I made some of you have small or hysterical laughing fits from some of my corny jokes or skits. I hope I made some of you fight back a stupid grin at some of my works. And finally, I hope you all had as much fun as I did.

I do have plans still to make a prequel chapter focusing on Ean's short guild life. And one post-chapter taking place a few months after this. But those may not be here for a long, long time. Or at all. Stay Hopeful!

Lastly, to give credit where credit is due. Some of you may have noticed a new cover image. The Virgil illustration handled by a friend of mine, PuroWag. Check out my deviant art page for a high-res version.

As Always, Read, Review, and Enjoy!