Chapter Thirty-four

He's Not Worth Crying Over

The rain was finally letting up. Shame Ethan wasn't.

"'Lifemates?' With a dragon? Absurd," the red head scoffed for the nearly tenth time since she'd told him not even ten minutes ago.

Nina held her arms out to balance herself and him while sliding down the side of a sand dune. Winds set some of the stars free from their cloudy prisons. "You didn't have this much of a problem when I was betrothed to Vahn, a human," she said through her teeth, finally giving into his prompts.

Of course a retort resided on the tip of his tongue. "You interbreeding with him would have strengthened Wyndian/human relations. You're a princess, that's sometimes what they're for. This travesty does nothing but cause a chance for you and that barbarian to create another monster. I've heard things about the sort of dragon he is, and you're prepared to possibly bring another one of them into this world? I'd advise you to stay with your own kind."

He was jealous. That was the root of it. Ethan wanted what he couldn't have and now that fad was her. She drove a fang into the side of her lip. Regardless his words had struck a chord. Both her and Ryu assumed the act of lovemaking would've given the Kaiser an ample outlet to appear and voice his opinion on the matter and as such prepared themselves for it, but due to Nina and Deis' recent evocations, he'd laid dormant even during their most climactic moments. She wasn't expecting his next debut to be pretty.

She nearly tripped when the memories associated with those thoughts flashed back to her. Ethan laughed, well it was more a snobbish loud exhale of air through his nose. "Where do you get off caring about staying with your own kind anyhow? Your loins have a rampant reputation for having no filter," she spat acidly.

"Well I don't get off everywhere if that's what you're implying. There's nothing wrong with having fun when you know how to handle your business. Didn't you have fun with him last night, Nina? Sure sounded like you did. Well I like to have fun with lots of different types of people, but lifemates? This is you committing yourself to a mindless savage. It's wrong."

She wanted him in the infirmary as far away from her as soon as possible. Her burning face scrunched into a scowl. Moonlight danced across scales still protecting her skin. Ethan couldn't move his hands to direct any spells he happened to chant underneath his breath, but she didn't think anyone associated so closely with the AG would allow themselves such a handicap. That bothersome gravity spell he'd cast earlier worried her. Wind and water were her forte and now fire because of Ryu; earth on the other hand... Ryu's soul poured its distaste for her old friend into her words. "A mindless savage wouldn't have been able to make me feel the way I did last night, didn't you say you heard I was having fun?"

"Cute," he muttered, not amused.

"Yeah, even I can be that way sometimes Ethan. Just like it looks like you can be a total prick." She dropped down to three legs. It was faster this way, and it forced his broken feet to drag against the ground.

"What...because I said you shouldn't breed with a godsdamn monster? Ow! Ow Nina please stand up!"

Reluctantly she complied. He groaned against her back. "I'm in love with Ryu, alright? It's sort of hard not to get to know a person when their soul is inside of you, and it just so happens when I did, I learned I adored that person very much." She leaped from the top of a dune through the first glimmering magical barrier surrounding the outskirts of Coursair designed to ward out monsters roaming the deserts. "Nothing else is any business of yours."

Soldiers gawked at her height and speed. She started towards the second barrier, taking another giant leap into star studded sky. "But I love you."

She stumbled upon landing. He laughed that noise at her again. "It seems I still affect you, are you sure you're ready to commit yourself to him?"

"You're so godsdamn jealous you're just spouting out anything to hurt me, Ethan," snapped Nina, glad she was facing away from him. "Never would I have thought you of all people to be so vindictive. Then again, I believed Chasta to be my friend. I guess I was a terrible judge of character before this world taught me better."

Chasta. Someone Ethan hadn't thought about in awhile. Last he'd heard she was in Synesta.

They breezed through the second barrier into the city. Ethan watched sand become concrete below his swinging mangled wrists. Nina took to the sky before she reached the crowds to perch on the edge of a near building's rooftop. Straining her neck, she checked for a clear route of clothing lines and other buildings to the hospital all the way on the other side of the city. It was too dangerous to fly with all the fireworks exploding about. "Jealous, huh?" said Ethan into her back.

"You don't really want me either which is what infuriates me about your logic. You may think you do, but if you had me, you'd treat me like any other one of your playthings. What could I possibly do to satisfy someone like yourself? Nothing and you know it. You'd take one evening getting rid of all your steam and you'd be done, stop this little act of yours like you're my one true love waiting to sweep me off my feet," she growled. Now that she was back within city limits, the invisible rope of energy connecting her to Ryu strengthened. She wanted nothing more than to get back to her dragon.

"You can't tell me what I want. What if I am in love with you?"

Nina sighed. "If you are, which you aren't, you're in love with what the Kaiser's created, which is not really me. Ryu and I are working to return our souls to their rightful owners. I don't want all of this power, I want to...," she stopped. It was going to be awfully lonely without Ryu's soul when they finally did accomplish this. She shook her head, now was not the time. "I'm...not going to be the same after this is over. Ryu accepts me for who I am no matter what, just like I do him. You don't. End of story. I'm done talking to you, in fact, I'm done ever looking you in the eye again-!"

Her body seized when she felt him nuzzling into her wings. "He can feel this, can't he?" He purred with a little nip, "I wonder how you'll explain it-"

She threw him over her shoulder to the ground and stopped an onyx fist a hair's breadth from the tip of his nose. His hair whooshed wildly back from dark green saucers. "Don't. You. Ever. Fucking. Touch. Me. Again," she snarled almost incomprehensibly. Amber flashed red and suddenly a puddle of shame leaked out from underneath Ethan's trembling legs. He'd probably have been embarrassed about it had her dragonfear allowed him to be. Nina burrowed her fingertips into his chest plate like Ryu had it's predecessor and carried him so the dripping bastard had no possible way to harass her. Not that it mattered anymore, she'd frightened everything out of him. His pale face lolled blankly to the side.

Now that he was gone, the tears wouldn't stop.

He's not worth crying over.

"I know...and that's what's so hard about this...," she choked.

For as long as I take breath, it will always be in your best interest.

"I...know..."

The minutes she stood listening to fireworks and her own gasping breaths did nothing to vanquish the storm swirling inside. There was no shaking the domineering image of him looking down on her like he did out there in the desert and she didn't know if she ever would be able to. Not him. Not Ethan Von Buren, her godsdamn friend...

I really loathe this man who can make you a wreck so easily.

"As do I, Ryu," murmured the Wyndian, collecting herself and taking off down a clothesline.


Ryu fought to focus on Merybel standing on the headboard of his hotel bed yelling...something...it was so damn fuzzy, just like his eyesight. He raised his arm to rub his eyes. Couldn't. She was too far away from him to. Damn.

The bed smelled like her. Everything did, including him. Using his own weight, he rolled himself onto her pillow to breathe in every bit of the Wyndian he could. With her inexperience he knew she'd inevitably take a few hits, still when they came it frightened him more than he'd prepared for. Though Ladon had turned his back on him long ago, Ryu still pleaded the deity for his good fortune.

Rest assured I will try my damnedest to come back to you, my love.

He'd treated her soul like trash. No longer.

But you realize you never did. I am aware of what lies beneath the surface, no matter how hard you try to bury it. It is the nature of our bond.

Merybel was shaking his shoulders. Pale yellow orbs rolled back. His body felt both heavy and light at the same time, as though he were sinking in water. Nina's soul wrapped her arms around him, pulled him deeper, deeper into a darkness his faerie friend's voice could not reach. Would it really be so horrible for him to linger here with her? He turned around in her arms, took her parting lips into his own.

"MASTER RYU!"

Ryu's limbs spasmed. His eyes shot open. Merybel was standing beside him on the bed screaming into his ear. "I hear you!" he cried bolting up, a little disappointed she'd woke him from his daze.

Pink eyes leaking tears widened along with a smile. "Master Ryu, you can move! That means the dummy made it, right?!"

Ryu took note of everything. His arms and legs were okay, so was his torso, his head... "I think so. I don't feel like anything-" he stopped.

Merybel turned her head on its side at his darkening expression. "Master, what's wrong?" His eyes flashed crimson and the rage in his suddenly intense aura slammed against her. She had to grip the bed to not fall off. "M-Master?!"

Bronzed fists clenched. "H-he...he fucking...godsdamnit!" Ryu sneered. The dragon was new to this whole relationship business, but it was clear to even him what had happened there. That bastard knew the properties of their curse and like the ass he was, exploited it. Trying to bait him into a rage against Nina no doubt... "No...the only rage I have is for you, you son of a-!"

Knock, knock, knock, knock!

"Sissy lemme in! Sissy I wanna see you! Efan said you were he~re! Sissyyyy!"

Knock, knock, knock, knock!

"Sweetie, stop yelling!"

"But Sissy's in there, right?! Sissy open up!"

Knock, knock, knock, knock!

Ryu's anger dispersed, Nina's soul's elation took over any other emotion. Sissy?, Isabella? Nina's sister! He looked to Merybel incredulously. "That's...I suppose her return does mean victory. Quick, can you let them in, Mery? I can't feel my legs quite yet."

The faerie nodded, darting to the door.


Kittah sat in the infirmary waiting room staring at her paws.

They didn't look any different. Sure they did when she looked like that, but was that really that strong?

Red rimmed bright blues went from her innate silver weapons to a magazine on the table beside her featuring a blonde haired human girl in a pink tutu dress singing her heart out. Staff members threw frightened glances her way as they walked about whispering to each other below the threshold they apparently assumed she could hear.

"Is that really Ironsides Bloodclaw lying in there?"

"All tha bums in tha street say it ain't took 'er but three ta fo' hits. She a monsta jus' like 'im."

"Who'da thunk that guy'd end up havin' kids. They say he got a son too. They all prob'ly monstas."

"Worent prob be payin' a pretty price fo' all o' them soon enuff."

"Must be nice ta be close personal friends wit tha Shade Queen, eh?"

She didn't know what was going to happen when her father awoke. She'd let so many people see what wasn't supposed to be. Now Worent would know where he was...and of she and Gray's existence. Would they have to live in that damn hotel their entire lives because of her?!

Lesley had gone into the ground and Kittah'd snapped. There was no helping it, she'd heard the shaman's neck break upon impact. No defenses were put up. Probably never intended to raise a finger against her father.

She didn't love Lesley, not like he obviously did her, but she'd be lying to herself if she didn't admit something was there. Ever since he'd saved her and she'd gotten a glimpse of him, she'd dreamed about him off and on. After awhile it was like that was all he was, a dream. Now he was real, right here proposing feelings to her she didn't understand how to take or reciprocate. Bare silver feet rubbed anxiously against checkered flooring. Blue swiveled to a clock set a little too high on the wall adjacent from her. She'd been up all night and day with hardly a wink of sleep-

"Kittah?"

The woren looked up and immediately stood. "Nina! Ah..." She looked over at the man Nina was using for a glove.

Nina's head cocked at her. "Your clothes...?"

"...Me? Yer clothes an'...who be that guy...?" Kittah pointed to Ethan.

"I..."Nina looked to him. "It's a long story. Let me admit this fool and we'll talk."


Kittah aimed to go to the cafeteria, but once she heard Nina's sister was supposed to be in her room waiting for her, she agreed to follow her friend back to the hotel. There was nothing else that could be done for either of her patients tonight she'd been told, they'd have to play it by ear in the morning. She was tired of how they all walked on eggshells around her anyhow. The cat wrapped Ryu's jacket around herself and trailed after Nina outside.

They stopped at the first clothing store they passed and bought new outfits. "Come again? Your father's in the infirmary because you turned into Weretiger on him?"

"Yea an' I be feelin' somethin' awful."

"Well, now you know how Ryu and I feel."

"I be knowin' it befo'. It ain't tha first time me beast hurt someone. Yuistel been in peace fo' so long, ain't no reason for me to learn how ta control nothin' if'n all I be doin' is cookin' n' cleanin' fo' me Ma."

"Lesley's a shaman, a special one at that. He'll be alright. As for your father...he's part of the AG. I'm sure he's been through worse."

"I sho' hope so," she dashed behind Nina down a clothesline, turning when a beautiful glittering vine of green fireworks spread across the sky near the entrance of the city. She decided to change the subject before the Wyndian's train of thought could switch to how she felt about Lesley's confessions. "What 'bout ya, what happened wit that bro o' ya's? That was yer ol' friend right? Tha' soldiah boy?" Nina relayed the cliff notes. Kittah's nose crinkled. "Ryu's soul be right. He ain't worth it."

"I know," said Nina, silently flipping over a chain link fence and ducking through a line of hanging dresses. Kittah knocked them clumsily out of her way. "Doesn't make it any easier. "

They passed a party of kids lounging on the long roof of an apartment building watching the fireworks who all gasped in unison at Nina's graceful maneuvers through their belongings. Kittah hopped after, snatching an unopened drink from a cooler in the middle of their circle. A tall kid with blonde dreadlocks caught a handful of zenny and an award winning smile.

"By the way, I...ah...afta everythin' I tried ta come see ya last night...," said Kittah moments later when she caught back up with Nina, popping the top off of her bottle of soda against a pipe jutting out of a roof. "but ya was...ah...busy."

Nina's ears burned. Yellow and orange flowers burst overhead. "Y-Yeah... Ryu and I, um, aren't fighting anymore."

Kittah took a long, refreshing gulp, "I figua'd as much."

They leaped from a line full of brightly colored boxers to the roof of the hotel and went in through a heavy door leading to its westernmost stairway. Nina's heart pounded harder with every concrete step she took. How the hell was she supposed to explain to her sister that Ethan was no longer a friend?

"What ya gon do wit ya sista afta ya leave here? Ya cain't be thinkin' of takin' 'her wit ya."

The same thing Pheobe said. "I don't know yet. I'm still getting over the fact she's alive and I'm about to be face to face with her."

"Ya kno' Shyloh been takin' care o' some orphans 'round here in tha hotel. Tha north side be their housin'. I told ya Deis be a lot mo' than she seems. I could ask Shy ta look afta 'er when I cain't. There's a school an' everythin'."

Nina stopped in the middle of a flight. "When you can't?" She turned to Kittah.

The Woren smiled. "I be damned if'n I'm gon be able ta walk out this city afta Irnsides wakes up n' sees wat I did an' who all saw me do it. I'd be happy ta keep 'er entatained here 'till ya'll git back. Ain't like I gon have that much goin' on an' ya'll fo' sho dun need anythin' holdin' ya back."

"You'd...protect my sister? She's probably the second most wanted thing in the world besides me."

"So? Ya think I give a damn 'bout any o' that?"

"Kittah..."

"It ain't nothin' but a deed fo' a friend."

Kittah was almost knocked down the stairs from the bear hug she received. A/C in vents over them rattled. Nina sobbed loudly into her friend's new dress, nearly ripping the back of it apart in her grip. "Thank you, Kittah! Thank you so much...! You have no idea what your kindness means to me!"

Silver paws gripped her shoulders in return. They said loud and clear, she sure as hell did.


"Wow that looks just like her! How you do that?!"

"I...uh..."

"Master Ryu, wow I didn't know you were an artist?!"

"Ah...neither did I?"

Nina and Kittah walked in to see Ryu scratching his head while Merybel and Isabella gawked over a piece of paper in the middle of their circle on the giant area rug on the floor. The Wyndian's eyes filled when her little sister's head snapped up. "Sissy!" she cried running and jumping into her arms.

"Whoa there! Izzy what've I told you about doing that without warning?" Nina sobbed through a smile, rubbing her already wet puffy face onto her sister's confused one.

"Why you crying so much, Sissy? I'm okay! All those bad guys at home didn't get me! Efan saved me!" Isabella cried throwing her arms out, big innocent brown eyes wide.

Great, Ethan. She had to steer her another way. She wiped her eyes on Ryu's jacket sleeve. "You're right, Izzy, you're alright so I shouldn't be crying. What are you doing here with Ryu and Merybel?"

The little pink haired girl pulled her sister close. "Sissy, you never tell me you know a dragon and a faerie," she whispered comically loud.

Nina smiled. "I've only met them in my recent travels."

"And...and...the dragon...is he your boyfriend?"

Ryu's ears pricked. He pretended not to be paying attention. Nina found it cute. "Why, did he say he was?"

Isabella cut her eyes suspiciously at the dragon. "Efan said he was your boyfriend,that you didn't love Loodia anymore, you did him now."

She could see almost every muscle in Ryu's body tense. Alright, she was going to have to talk about Ethan now. She motioned for Kittah to close the door. The woman Phoebe who brought Isabella was nowhere to be found. She did say she was too old for all of this. Too bad, she was hoping she could thank her in person.

Nina sat her sister down on the edge of the dining room table. "Listen Isabella, I'm going to talk to you like you're a big girl now, okay?" Wyndians weren't like humans, they could comprehend things at younger ages, it was worth a try. She was almost seven after all. Isabella's eyes widened, her hands went into her lap and she straightened importantly. "Ethan is not our friend anymore and he was never sissy's boyfriend. Ludia was mean to me, very mean, and the dragon, Ryu is his name, saved me. You know how Wyndia has treated you, how you can't show anyone your wings?" Isabella nodded slowly. "You and I both are in a lot of danger, and Ethan is part of it. He saved you, yes, but he did it for bad reasons. He tried to use you to do bad things to Sissy. I know it's hard to believe, but he did. He is not a nice man and if you see him I want you to run as far away from him as you can, I mean it."

Isabella's eyes were saucers. "Efan...is like all the mean people at home?"

"Yes. I'm sorry to have to tell you that."

Her sister took off her 'wing mittens'. "The black got bigger, Sissy," she said quietly.

Nina shook her head. "You don't have to worry about that anymore Izzie, blemishes sometimes do that, like when some people get older their hair darkens. Sissy has what everyone is afraid of so there's no chance of you ever getting it. Cast it completely from your mind."

"But your wings are white? Everyone said they were black!"

"Cosmetic magic. I'll get someone to do the same for you."

"R-really?!"

"Now listen again, Izzie. Ethan will try to talk pretty words to you, but you're a smart girl, you don't believe anything he says especially if he says Sissy is going along with it. This is Sissy's real boyfriend," she said pointing at Ryu scribbling on a new piece of paper. The tip of his pencil went through it.

"Ah geez, now Master has to start over, good job, dummy!" Mery muttered.

Ryu laughed, "No, it's alright, it's at the top where nothing is."

"What are you talking about, what are you doing, Ryu?"

She and Kittah walked over to the dragon sitting cross-legged on the floor. He sheepishly showed them what he was scribbling. They both gasped. "Y-you did this?!" Nina cried. It was a remarkably detailed for how quick it was, sketch of her holding Isabella.

"I guess these hands are able to do something other than fighting," he said proudly through an ear to ear grin, "I have Isabella to thank for that knowledge."

She giggled from her perch. "I like the way your boyfriend talks, Sissy, and he has pretty eyes!"

Ryu's cheeks darkened. Nina laughed, "He is pretty handsome is he not? Alright Isabella lets get you showered and into bed. My friend Kittah here is going to take you to school tomorrow!"

Isabella's face lit up. "School? With other kids?!"

Nina nodded. "You've always wanted to, right?"

"They won't be mean to me?!"

"If'n they kno' wat's up they won't!" declared Kittah, standing tall crossing her arms.

Nina's sister looked at her starry eyed. She'd been so wrapped up in seeing 'Sissy' again, she'd failed to notice her. "You know a kitty girl too, Sissy?!"

"Yep, and that kitty girl is who's taking you to class! Come on, off you go." She looked to Merybel. "Can you?" the faerie nodded, tailing the little Wyndian.

Kittah said an awkward goodbye to Nina and her dragon when Mery and Isabella disappeared into the bathroom, promising she'd be back in the morning to escort the little girl. Nina hugged her again before she left and then it was just her and Ryu and the sound of the shower running.

He held up Isabella's sketchpad as he stood. It was a quick doodle of she and him embracing. Nina blushed harder than her likeness was. "Of all things, I never believed the Destroyer of Worlds would be able to create anything so tender." The sketch pad went to the ground. His arms went around her.

"Welcome home, Sha'lei," he said, voice wavering, kissing from her mouth to her forehead and resting his chin on the top of her head as he squeezed the life from her. Fat tears dotted his shirt. She felt them plop onto her hair.

Yes. With Ryu, she was home.


A/N:

Sven: Thank you, you've been with me for awhile now! I hope I can continue to captivate you!

Yukie: No problem! Thank you again for joining! I'm actually really happy for late joiners, that means you've read it as a whole and still love it :) It's an awesome compliment in itself! I'm not so sure about a sequel hehe, I wanted to put a lot of love into this, and then try something of my own, which I'm in the planning processes of now! I will be sure to let everyone know when any of it becomes concrete. Thanks again for your inspiring words!

Fay: To the right people Ryu can be a sweetie :) Now Nina is one of those people! I'm going to try to do more art spoilers for sure, they're fun, just didn't end up with any for this chapter (sorry!) I'm glad you like Ethan, I'm happy the general consensus is love/hate, and he's not done yet! Yay I love you guys having fangirl moments over Ryu I've worked so damn hard to make him "real".

Miss Eloise: Hahaha whatchoo talkin' 'bout me thinkin' Ryu's hot an' all... lol I made sure early on to let you guys know Ethan was that kind of dude! He's like that kid you had a crush on in elementary school, that ended up a druggie/delinquent in high school after you'd lost touch through the years. Still hot, but dangerous to deal with, b/c that's not the same guy you used to play Nintendo with. Thank you, I toyed with Ryu/Nina's love scene a loooong time trying to figure how how to execute it. I think I did alright according to you guys! Btw you're right, I fangirl over Ryu too :)

A: hahaha Ethan's a damn punk isn't he? Thank you, I'm glad it was awkward enough, I really was nervous about it.

Nina W.: Thank you, I love writing fighting scenes and I wanted one where Nina had to do the whole fight herself, no Ryu, no Merybel, no one to save her if she failed. It infuriates me how dependent and powerless most of the Nina's in the Breath of Fire series are, I wanted one who was forced to learn how to stand on her own. Besides, Ryu can't be trusted within 100 feet of Ethan. No way no how :)

Ryu-fan264: We will be seeing a lot more of Ironsides now, don't worry. Thank you so much! Haha as for Nina's body, if you're referring to Ethan saying, "That body is extraordinary," "I want it now more than ever," was supposed to be referring to his admiration of its physical abilities as that impresses him more than anything, but yea she still looks pretty nice :)

Jen Im: Nina is very close to Ryu's soul now. I'm sure he'll be eager to open up to her more about his past soon :) Thanks!

Sara-jl: Thank you! I decided for now, someone was going to be nice to them :) The AG aren't necessarily bad...just when they have a job they have a job and that's all there is to it. Ryu is a mixture of a lot of things I love in a character. Someone who doesn't ramble on when fighting, but quick to make a smart remark while he's kicking your ass. Someone hard, but moral enough to realize his own hardness. Someone who's incredibly good looking but doesn't flaunt, nor expect anything because of it. Someone uninhibited by social standards, who's actions reflect only what he feels. (Unless he's in love, then everything gets out of whack lol). He's just so damn fun to play with.

Naraku sol: Yes last chapter was a very big eye opener for Nina with Ethan. I feel like I keep teasing you guys with Ironsides snippets hehe :) Thank you I was pretty happy with how that picture of Ethan turned out!

Aloo-Delilah: Hahaha...I'm seriously loving all this Ryu love. Nina brings out what no one else sees in him. Yep, I tried to hint that he could feel things like that before when Vahn was assaulting Nina in earlier chapters. Ryu was just not one to dwell about it at the time ^^ Yes I wanted to try my hand at more than one love story. Kittah/Lesely for ever! Thank you so much!

Azelra: Thank you, those are awesome compliments and I know right, I'm not one for overly strong female leads, but damn girl you gotta stand up for yourself when someone's coming after you!

Enigma-star: Awww you're too sweet! IT'S NOT SAD! It made me smile! :) Hahaha thank you so much, Ryu is a pretty scary dude when he doesn't like you, Ethan better watch out! He's just 2 days stuck in the room, but a week in the city! I'm going to have a lot of fun with their vacation :) Thanks again, you guys make me realize I should be proud. I just really love Breath of Fire, and wanted to share that love with the world!

Angelalex242: His hands were tied, we still are awaiting the Kaiser's opinion on their actions :)

Guest "Woah what's tha keiser gunna react like": We will soon find out!

Guest "Sha'lei that's so beautiful in its meaning.": LOL you made me really laugh out loud with that, thanks :) Ryu IS pretty sexy, huh?

Guest "Blumin heck! You gotta update this!": You got it, bro!

I can't express how happy I am at those of you always taking your time to let me know how you feel and to give encouraging words. I love you all so much! :)