Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Final Fantasy characters in this story.

Author's notes: I seriously love you guys. XD

Despite being a little late, your reviews have made the last chapter of Shattered Mind the most popular one of any of its predecessors. It really took some control not to just jump back into writing Shattered Mind, but I had to get some work done on my novel since it had gone untouched for some time. Still, that teaser was a lot of fun, wasn't it? XD

Also, one thing about the "F U Suzie's"… I expected to get 2 or 3 of them, but no, I got a ton more. You guys really came through in your support, which really meant a lot to me. Thank you. ^^

Ah, but pressing on, we have a new book to go for. Trevor's been wandering around Gaia for more than three years now (a little over a month and a half in his time) and he practically feels like a member of this world. At least, he does to me. XD And now, he's back in Alexandria and goes from 'amazing magic swordsman' to 'class-ditching delinquent'. Maybe Zidane's a bad influence. XD

And in one final note, I decided to do something special again for this chapter. Since Shattered Mind's been going on for more than three years and the story and characters are gaining more depth than I thought they would when I first started writing the story, I've decided to open a facebook page for everyone to enjoy. If I can manage it correctly, you'll get to see weekly interactions between Trevor and his friends from high school and get to see some of his past unfold. Additionally, you can interact with him to an extent, ask questions, leave crap on his wall, and all that fun stuff. I'll try to acknowledge everyone who posts something, but the big deal will be every other Saturday, in which I'll post a little skit or scene from Trevor's life in high school. The original idea was that I was going to just write a small scene at the beginning of each chapter, but this seems a little more interactive. It should be a lot of fun. XD

The link is in my profile.

But if anyone invites me to Farmville I will go on a murderous rampage. o.o

Chapter 1- New Reign, New Problems…

XXXXXXXX

It was good to be back in Alexandria.

Vivi took a deep breath as he wandered down the main street in the village. He reminisced about his first time here as he walked. It was because of that nice man, Marco, that he was able to find a ride all the way from Treno. He had no idea that he would be swept up into the adventure that he had when the Prima Vista took off with the princess on board.

Vivi sighed. It had been two weeks ever since he and the others had taken off from the Outer Continent. Brahne had received a wonderful funeral, though Dagger and Zidane were the only ones from their group to go. Trevor offered to hit the bar with the young mage, where he explained that Zidane was only attending the funeral because he wanted to be around Dagger. Vivi didn't understand it, but Trevor always seemed right whenever it came to anything.

Now, Dagger spent all her time in the castle while the rest of their friends were sheltered in the Theatre that Ruby, one of the actresses from Tantalus, had created here in Alexandria. It was cramped, and Vivi spent the night with a frilly hat as a blanket, but it was free, which suited everyone just fine.

Vivi was confused why Trevor stayed with them though, when he had a nice dormitory at Alexandria University to sleep in. Trevor always seemed to freeze up when he was asked, then he would just say that the dormitory was boring.

Vivi didn't really mind any of it though. The days were getting warmer and everyone was acting more festive. With all the colorful balloons and streamers hung over town, you almost couldn't tell that there was a funeral for the queen a few days ago.

"Excuse me!" came an older woman's cry. It snapped Vivi out of his thoughts and he searched around for the voice.

There was an older hippo-woman waving at him from the side of the street. "Young man," she said again. "Can you come here for a moment?"

It sounded to Vivi like she needed a hand with something. He was in a good mood, so he decided to help her.

"Thank you young man," the Hippo-lady said. "You seem to be about the same age as my son, Hippaul here. You see, he's gotten so out of shape since he spends all day inside with his Tetra Master cards. He's gotten so doughy lately."

"Mooom, stop it!" Hippaul complained. "You're embarrassing me."

"Quiet dear," the Hippo-lady said. She turned back to Vivi. "So anyway, I was wondering if you would be willing to exercise with my son and help get him back into shape. It's not without its rewards."

"Um, no thanks," Vivi said. "I mean, I'm sorry, but I'm meeting a friend soon."

"Aww, are you sure dear?" the Hippo-lady asked. "Well, alright. We'll be here if you change your mind."

Vivi bowed out politely, but hurried along quickly before they could reel him in again. What weird people, he thought.

The next plaza was practically crawling with activity. Store clerks were announcing sales from their front windows. A group of kids ran by Vivi, chasing after one kid with a ball. A man was busy nailing a schedule of shows beside the large ticket booth in the center of the plaza.

"Everyone's so lively today," Vivi said.

"Hey mister!" a little girl shouted. Vivi turned and saw a small girl, no older than 8, running up to him. "We're trying to play jump rope and see who can get the highest count. Wanna try it?"

"Um, no thanks," Vivi said. "I need to meet a friend."

The truth was, the last time he had tried to jump rope, Vivi didn't know what he was doing and the rope caught on his feet. He lost his balance and fell straight onto his nose. He wasn't about to try jumping rope again anytime soon.

Vivi was glad when he finally reached the inn. He left the noise and excitement behind and breathed a sigh of relief. He looked around, but didn't see anyone around except for the innkeeper and a woman complaining about her room.

"What do you mean you gave away my room?" the woman shouted. "I had reservations!"

"I'm sorry ma'am," the innkeeper said. "But you were a day late. And a man came in who was very insistent that he get his own room."

"What? Show me where this guy is! I'll kick the crap outta him!"

"I reeaaally don't think that's a good idea ma'am. He said he was a traveling swordsman. He looked pretty strong."

Vivi snapped to attention at once. "Excuse me," he said, walking up to the innkeeper. "That sounds like my friend. Can you tell me his room?"

"Huh?" the innkeeper said. "Uh, yeah, sure. Up the stairs and down the hall to the right. He's in the first door to the left."

"That's where he is, huh?" the woman asked. "Good. Now I can take care of that arrogant bastard!"

"Ma'am, I really don't want any trouble."

Vivi simply rolled his eyes as he walked up the stairs towards Trevor's room.

XXXXXXXX

"Not bad," Kaiten said. "You're catching on, albeit slowly."

Kaiten had pulled me into my subconscious again. It made for the perfect battleground and training area since we could manipulate the scenery without causing any brain damage that a few beers couldn't match.

Kaiten was wearing his Terran armor again. He looked like he really belonged in the metallic-blue plate armor. It clinked with every motion, but he moved as fluidly as if he were in a t-shirt and jeans. The weight did nothing to slow him down.

I wasn't allowed to have anything. I just wore my t-shirt and jeans. The one advantage that I did have was that I could conjure up Crimson and Azure once again. I had missed the blades ever since I lost them within the Iifa Tree.

"It's not my fault," I breathed. Even within my mind, Kaiten still managed to tire me out. "I just don't have any good music. Or scenery. Couldn't you have pulled up a dojo like they did in The Matrix?"

Kaiten raised an eyebrow. "The what now?"

"You spend all this time in my head with nothing to do, and you don't even watch some of the movies I've seen? You could have the ultimate surround sound since the memory books would probably project everything around you!"

"I prefer to read about what's going to happen in the upcoming storyline," Kaiten said simply. "That way we can have a better idea of what to prepare for."

I just shook my head. "If anyone ever needed to get laid more than you, I don't want to meet them."

Kaiten rolled his eyes at me for the umpteenth time. "Whatever. Prepare yourself." He readied his pair of katanas.

"Hang on," I said. "We need music if we're gonna continue."

I found my memory book of music and flipped through the heavy metal section. There I quickly found a song that I hadn't heard in the longest time.

"Here we go," I said. I dropped the book on the ground and Celldweller's "One Good Reason" started resonating through the air. Heavy guitar riffs broke into the air, pumping me up for combat. I felt like I could take on an army now.

"Perfect," I grinned. My arms twitched for only a second before energy shot through them and into my swords. I readied myself with both blades in Demon Saber mode. "Ready!" I called out.

Kaiten nodded. He took off into the air and charged up his swords, like he had been doing for the last few hours of practice. Dark energy capped his swords as he let loose a barrage against me. "Arc Storm!"

Several crescents of chi blasted their way passed me and exploded against the ground. The few that did make it to me were quickly dealt with. I slashed into them, cutting them in half with my Demon Sabers. The energy dissipated into nothingness, leaving me safe for another few seconds.

The explosions didn't kick up any smoke, but they were instead able to distract me well enough. I looked up and didn't see Kaiten where he was. I only noticed the presence behind me at the last second.

Kaiten had flown behind me while I was busy blocking. He had a pair of Explosions capping his swords. I had only a fraction of a second to duck before he crashed them together. A Whirlwind blasted through the air where I had just been standing.

I twisted and jumped to my feet again, ready to counterattack. Kaiten rushed me, but I cut off his route by swiping at his legs and chest. He jumped over me like I was a bump in the road and swung again. This time, he hit.

I flew through the air and bounced off my shoulder before I landed in a heap. My side hurt and I was bleeding. I sighed at my carelessness and just healed myself. Training inside my mind held all sorts of advantages.

"If I had used an Arc, or Explosion, you'd be dead," Kaiten scolded me. He kicked the memory book on the ground closed, cutting off the music.

"Give me a break!" I shouted. "We both know the only way I can beat you is if I cheat."

I imagined the Dagger of Time in my hand to prove my point.

"Things are going to get a lot harder," Kaiten lectured. He sheathed his katanas and offered me a hand up. "You can't cheat that way in real combat, so I have to beat some real experience into you."

I grunted as I took his hand. "Any chance we can just try training dummies for a while?"

"Trevor?" Vivi's voice echoed heavily. It sounded like I was standing in an empty convention hall.

"Wow," I said. "Is that what everyone sounds like in here?"

"Yup," Kaiten said. "It can get annoying, so I try to ignore it. It gives me a good excuse to check intel, or distract myself however I can."

"Trevor? Wake up," Vivi called again.

"I'll answer him," Kaiten said. "Keep training here. Use some… training dummies, or whatever, if they'll help."

Kaiten vanished before I could answer. I just looked around, alone in the vast emptiness that was my subconscious. Normally, when Kaiten took over, I was pulled back and watched the world passing by my eyes. This was the first time I was actually left by myself in the white room.

I decided to take a look around.

XXXXXXXX

"Trevor?" Vivi tried once more.

"Mmf, hey," Kaiten said. He pushed himself up from the bed and cracked his neck.

"Are we going to the castle now?" Vivi asked. "We haven't seen Dagger for a few days."

"Yeah, yeah," Kaiten said, standing up and giving a fake yawn. "I just need to make a quick stop first."

"A stop? Are you getting something?"

"I need to pick up some new swords for myself. I can't keep walking around with a pair of weapons without any damn crossguards."

Kaiten lazily pushed himself out the door ahead of Vivi. The young mage followed close behind.

"I think we need to do something to help Zidane though," Vivi said, concerned. "I don't think he's left the pub since yesterday."

"I haven't seen him in a day or two," Kaiten said. "Maybe he just wants to drink his sorrows away."

"What does he have to be sad about?"

"The guy wouldn't shut up about Dagger on the boat ride home. That's my guess."

"Then, we should bring him with us to visit Dagger!" Vivi said excitedly.

"Maybe. Let's just hope—"

"You!"

Kaiten looked down the stairway and saw an elderly woman staring at him angrily.

"Can I help you?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"You stole my room!" the woman yelled. "Give it back!"

"Ma'am, please don't raise a fuss!" the innkeeper begged.

"You can have it," Kaiten said, disinterested. "I just needed somewhere private to take a nap."

"And you think you can just inconvenience anyone else, just like that?" The woman pulled out her purse and swung it angrily. "Your mother should've given you more spankings as a kid."

The woman charged up the stairs, intent on beating Kaiten with her purse, but the Terran lieutenant had very little patience for it. He caught the purse straps in one hand, then leaned into the railing. His leg snapped out and landed against the woman's cheek. She spun as she fell down the stairs, rolling once. She landed on her shoulder and moaned in pain as Kaiten walked over her. He reached into a pouch and pulled out some Gil.

"On second thought, I'll need the room for another night," he said. He handed the innkeeper the money and walked outside. Vivi was right behind him.

"Why don't you go find our thieving friend?" Kaiten asked Vivi. "I'm going to pick up my swords."

"Okay," Vivi smiled. "I'll meet you back here."

"Sure thing," Kaiten said, brushing him off with a wave.

Vivi ran down the street into the inner city, leaving Kaiten alone in the plaza. He walked into the smithy across the parading plaza from the inn.

"Hello?" he called out into the dark, dingy room.

"Yeah, yeah. One sec," came a voice. Seconds later, a gruff, old man with the body of an ox walked through a door to the back. He cracked his back, producing several pops, then walked up to the counter and coughed. "What c'n I do fer ya?" he asked.

"I'm here to pick up a pair of short swords," Kaiten said. "I left them here two days ago. They ready?"

"Yeah, th' magic sword guy," the blacksmith asked. "I d'no why ye'd wanna synth a magic sword with mythril, but hell if I care."

"Magic or not, the old swords' shapes weren't any good for combat or adventuring. And mythril is a good metal to bind them with."

"I said I don't care," the blacksmith said. He disappeared through the back door for a minute, then came out carrying a new pair. He placed them on the counter and pulled out a cash box.

"That'll be sixteen hun'red Gil," the blacksmith said.

Kaiten pulled more money out of his pouch and set them on the counter, grabbing the new short swords.

He had the Exploda smelted to refine its shape, using a mythril sword as a bonding agent. The new swords were longer than any Trevor had owned before and the blades had a distinct orange tint. A thin fuller was carved out of the middle of the blade to reduce the weight of the blades. Their quality was top notch.

"You'll be hard pressed t' find anythin' better'n those two," the blacksmith said.

"Certainly seems that way," Kaiten said, though he knew Crimson and Azure were far better swords.

He simply ignored it though and sheathed both of the new short swords into his sheaths, but he noticed a problem. His new swords were several inches too long for the sheaths.

"Damn," Kaiten swore. "Hey, any idea where I can get some new sheaths? These are a bit short."

"Hell if I know," the blacksmith answered. "Try askin' some leatherworker. I just make the swords."

Kaiten rolled his eyes at how little help the blacksmith was, but didn't let it get to him. He left with a wave. Besides, if anyone tried pointing out that the short swords were sticking out of the sheaths, then a quick blow to the head with the flat of a blade would shut them up pretty quickly.

"Trevor!" Vivi yelled over the crowd in the plaza. Kaiten looked over and saw the little mage waving with Zidane right behind him. They both pushed through people on the street and made their way to the indifferent Terran.

"Hey guys," he said. "Shall we?"

Vivi nodded and quickly took the lead. The three of them walked towards the docks so they could visit the castle.

XXXXXXXX

"I feel slimy," my four-year old self said.

My mother just smiled. "You need sunblock so you don't get a sun burn sweetie." My kid-self just struggled against the slimy sunscreen.

Of all the things I could have done within my mind, of all the training I could have done, I just had to find the memory book of my mother. Right now, we were taking a family trip to the beach. Mom and I had walked onto the sand and set ourselves up while my father was off getting ice cream for everyone. Mom had offered to share hers with me. That probably meant she would let me have most of hers.

There were a few people walking around along the shore. I had found a spot chosen by another couple. I was sitting under their umbrella, sitting through the woman, like a ghost. I just watched one of the few family moments that I ever got to experience in my life.

I wanted so badly to just walk over and join them. To pretend, even for a few minutes, that I belonged with them. I wanted, more than anything, to just hug my mother.

But it was only a memory. Only an illusion.

I kept my distance.

"Ice cream!" my younger self shouted when he saw my father coming back with a melting bowl of chocolate with sprinkles. He practically jumped when my father handed the bowl to my mother.

"Thanks dear," mom smiled. She leaned in to give him a kiss. My younger self didn't really notice. He was busy smearing ice cream all over his face.

"Trevor?"

Kaiten was calling me, but I didn't really care. I watched as my younger self started walking along the beach, looking for seashells.

"Trevor!"

"What?" I asked impatiently.

"We reached the castle. I thought you'd want to be the one to meet and greet with everyone."

I sighed as my mother talked about getting a cramp if my younger self swam in the ocean. "Fine," I said. "Switch places. I need a change of scenery."

XXXXXXXX

I could feel myself being pulled backwards. The world of my subconscious faded and the intricate stone building of Alexandria Castle came into view. An enormous sword split the sky, breaking out through the center of the castle.

We were on the moat, in a small rowboat. An Alexandrian soldier was steering the boat in the back. It felt weird being this close to one without attacking one of them.

Zidane and Vivi were looking off at the castle as we approached the dock. Freya and Amarant had joined us as well, most likely at the other side of the moat. Freya was sitting quietly, almost like she was meditating. Amarant was looking away from the castle, like he didn't care what we were doing.

We came up to the dock after another minute. The soldier gave the boat one last push and it bumped against the wooden dock. A pair of soldiers threw ropes onto some short posts on the boat, tying it down so we could safely get off. We stepped off, one by one, and stood before the enormous castle door. It rose twenty feet above us.

"You know," I said. "I've never really here before. It's kinda weird."

I was true. When I dropped into Gaia, I fell straight into the water during the play. It felt like it happened so long ago. Years ago, even.

"What about the night of the play?" Zidane asked. "You'd have to have come this way if you left from the university."

I froze up nervously and looked at Zidane blankly for a moment. "I… I meant like this. Being invited in to see the queen, you know?"

"Oh. Yeah, that makes sense," Zidane decided.

Suddenly, there was a scream. The castle doors creaked open and Steiner marched out, carrying Eiko by the wings on her back.

"Aaahhh! Leggo!" she screamed.

Steiner gladly complied by dropping Eiko flat on her ass.

"Ouch!" she complained. "This is no way to treat a lady!"

Steiner only frowned. "Quit screaming, or I'll throw you into the dungeon!"

"GAAAHHH!"

"What happened, Eiko?" Zidane asked.

"Zidane!" she cried out. She ran behind his legs and gave them a hug. "Oh, it was horrible! He called me a liar and a loudmouth and a brat!"

Amarant scoffed. "…He's right."

Eiko glared at the bandit. "What did you just say! Do you want to repeat that!"

"Man, I hate kids..."

It had been a while since I had seen Steiner. Despite his sullen demeanor, it was good to see that he was still in one piece.

"Hey Steiner," I said. "How've you been?"

"Hmph," Steiner said grumpily. "After you left, everything went downhill. Queen Brahne arrested Beatrix and myself and I had to sit in a prison cell again."

"Yeah, I'll bet that was comfy," I grinned. "No questions for me? I'm sure you were wondering what happened to the rest of us once we got out of the castle."

"The princess told us of everything that happened while you were away." His frown quickly morphed into a look of disdain. "How dare you leave the princess behind in that filthy, gargant-filled tunnel!"

"Huh?" I soon remembered what he was talking about. "You mean when the gargant ran off in Gargant Roo? I hardly had any control over that."

"Silence!" he scolded. "What are you all even doing here! This is a royal castle! You do not belong here!"

Steiner's attitude changed immediately when he saw Vivi standing right there in front of him. "Hello, Master Steiner," Vivi said.

"Master Vivi!" Steiner said with a smile. "A pleasure to see you again."

"We came here to see Dagger."

"The princess?" Steiner rested his head on his hand in thought for a moment. "Hmm… If that is Master Vivi's wish, I shall arrange a meeting. Follow me, but DON'T touch anything!" He pointed at Zidane, as if emphasizing his point. He took the first few steps into the castle as the rest of us followed.

Alexandria Castle was everything I expected it to be. It was almost a shame that I had never been in here before. Where Lindblum Grand Castle loved the color red, Alexandria Castle used plenty of white. There was a long, red carpet along a polished white floor. Large white pillars lined the front hall, as well as portraits of former rulers. Everything seemed ordered, pristine, and clean. The largest painting was of Brahne, placed on the far side of the hall. It was easily four times bigger than the other portraits. Probably to get all of her massive gut inside the frame. Aside from that one brazen flaw, the whole castle seemed to beat Lindblum's Grand Castle in aesthetics.

Steiner led us down the front hall and up some stairs to the Knights of Pluto guardhouse. Two of the knights were sitting in the room down the hall and didn't seem to give us a second glance. It made me feel so much better knowing Dagger was under the protection of a pair of negligent guards.

"You all wait right there!" Steiner ordered. There was a staircase leading upstairs to a balcony, connecting the royal chambers and the front hall. Steiner ran up the stairs and looked down at us from above. "Princess, we are ready."

A door on the right side of the balcony opened up, revealing General Beatrix. She walked out, looking as sullen as ever. Behind her, Dagger walked out, but instead of her regular orange jumpsuit, she was wearing a regal white dress, complete with blue frills and matching gloves and a tiara. It looked very regal and very expensive.

Garnet looked over us from the balcony like she hadn't seen us for months. "Thank you for coming, everyone."

Everyone was in awe, including myself. Dagger never really seemed like royalty to me before. Now I felt obligated to watch what I said. Swearing would probably get me exiled or something.

"She looks beautiful," Eiko whispered to herself. She bit her lip and glanced back to gauge Zidane's reaction.

"Wow… You look beautiful!" Vivi said.

"Very nice," I added.

"Splendid!" Freya said.

Dagger gave us all a sad smile for each compliment. She tried to look happy, but I could see her looking at Zidane, waiting for him to say anything.

Freya noticed Dagger doing it as well. "Zidane? Have you nothing to say?"

Zidane remained silent. He looked to Freya, then up at Dagger, then bashfully admitted, "…No."

Dagger couldn't hide her emotions very long after that. She looked down and frowned.

"Princess, we must go now," Steiner said dutily.

Dagger gave one last glace to Zidane. "…Alright."

Suddenly, Eiko yelled, "Dagger, wait!"

She ran up the stairs and began rapidly talking with Dagger.

Meanwhile, Vivi seemed concerned for our silent friend. "Why didn't you say anything to her, Zidane?" he asked.

Zidane struggled to find an answer. He finally replied, "I don't know… I tried."

"And?" Freya asked.

Dagger walked off, leaving the balcony clear. Steiner and Beatrix left with her.

Zidane walked to the wall and slumped down against it. "I couldn't say anything! I had a whole speech ready for her. But it would have been a lie! How could I lie to her! 'Good luck, Dagger! I'll be watching you from afar. Come find me if you need someone to talk to.' It's a big fat lie! That's not how I feel at all! That's not…"

Zidane stopped talking and sighed. Freya placed her hand on his shoulder and tried to console him. "Come on," she said. "We should get you out of here. Trevor, give me a hand, will you?"

"Sure," I said. I took Zidane by the other side and helped Freya get him to his feet.

"I'm fine," Zidane insisted. He shrugged us off and started to walk on his own.

"So what now?" I asked. "Dagger's stuck here being queen, and our days of merriment and adventure are over."

"We'll find something to do," Freya said. "Burmecia will need to be rebuilt. I should make my way there before too long."

"Sounds tough. Think you'll need me to give you a hand with anything?"

"Don't you have school?"

"Hey, I've missed this much of it. Why not just skip the rest of the semester?"

The truth was, even if I could attend Alexandria University, there was no way I was going to waste my time learning archaic basics in another world. Especially not when I could travel the world and use one-of-a-kind superpowers.

"Let's just head to the pub," Zidane said. "I think I need a drink."

The guards took little notice as we left. We got a few odd glances, but nothing dangerous. I recalled the fight in Lindblum briefly. Some of the Alexandrians called me a demon. Some of them seemed to stare at me exclusively. I just brushed it off as paranoia. It became so unsettling that when I saw a group of three soldiers that didn't notice me, I became instantly intrigued.

"So then, he turns around and tries to stab me," one soldier said.

"What did you do?" another asked.

"I ran him through, obviously. Dumb bastard fell at my feet."

A third soldier, who stood a head taller than the other two, cackled maniacally. "Just another dumb muskrat, huh?"

I stopped. It was a ridiculous insult, but one I had heard before.

Fire flashed through my mind. Buildings lay in ruins and blood thickly coated the streets. What little I could hear over the screams and explosions didn't make me feel any safer.

I was at the top of a staircase, looking down into a plaza. A collapsed building provided little cover against the battles raging throughout the city. Lindblum was a complete mess.

And there, at the bottom of the stairs, was Dante, crawling towards me. He reached out for me, begging for help.

"Trevor…!" he called out. His short brown hair was slicked with his own blood. There was a large, open wound on his side from when his bullet pouch exploded.

"Dante, hang on!" I yelled. I wanted to run, but my feet didn't budge. For some reason, I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.

Then, the worst happened. A tall shadow stood over Dante. I only watched in horror as an Alexandrian soldier reached down and grabbed Dante by the back of his shirt.

"Pesky muskrat," the soldier said, just before she sunk her entire blade into Dante's gut.

"No!" I shouted. I instantly fell to my knees, earning me odd looks from my friends. Some of the castle soldiers were looking as well. I felt like an idiot.

"Trevor?" Freya asked. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," I said. "I'm fine." It was a lie. I stared hard at the Alexandrian that had killed my friend. I was very far from fine.

I stood again. "Hey, you guys go on," I said. "I'll meet you at the pub."

"Are you sure?" Vivi asked. "You look tense."

"I just remembered something I have to do. Go on. I'll catch up."

"If you say so," Freya said. She and the others walked off, leaving me alone in the grand hall with the three soldiers chatting next to the wall. I snarled a little as I made my way to them.

The soldiers were still talking, as if they were totally innocent. "Yeah, it sucks that we'll have to give back the land we won in the war. Alexandria would have been rich what with everything we could do with Lindblum."

"Ugh, don't mention Lindblum," the tall soldier complained. "I hated that place. Too much screaming. It was pathetic."

I had heard enough. "Hey, you!" I said, pointing to the tall soldier. She just raised her eyebrow at me.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"You fought in Lindblum when Brahne attacked it, didn't you?"

"I don't think that's any of your—"

"Just answer the fucking question!"

The soldiers all looked at me like I was some deranged madman. They exchanged a glance before the tallest one answered.

"Yeah, I did. What's it to you?"

"And did you kill a man with a gun?"

"What the hell is a gun?"

I grit my teeth to keep myself in check. I didn't have the patience for this right now. "It's like a cannon, but handheld."

"Oh, that thing? Yeah, someone was attacking us with something like that. I just sent some black mages after him until one nailed him with a fireball."

A second soldier turned to her tall friend. "But you stabbed the guy too, didn't you?"

"Oh yeah," she said. "I guess I did." She turned back to me. "Why do you care? Did you know him or something?"

I nearly lost it. Memories of the disaster of Lindblum swam through my mind. Every fire, every death, every goddamned soldier getting in my way. I felt a tear roll down my cheek as I tried so desperately to contain my rage.

"Trevor?" Kaiten called out urgently. "What's going on? Your entire subconscious is shaking. It's like a damn earthquake in here!"

I fell to one knee, short of breath. I gripped my face tightly. My fingernails dug deep, cutting into the skin. A small trickle of blood dripped down my cheek. I desperately tried to control myself and keep my anger in check, but I felt a twinge of fear while I did.

I hadn't felt like this since high school.

"If you're asking if I felt pity," the Alexandrian soldier asked. "Then no. Anyone I crush isn't worth my time. Your friend was just a waste of flesh."

My fingernails immediately clenched into a fist, scratching my face like a wild animal. I could feel the slick of blood crawling down my face and inside my nails. "You bitch," I snarled.

I snapped. Suddenly, faster than I could register, I grabbed the wretched soldier by the throat and pinned her against the wall. I held her in place with more strength than I thought I had while she clawed at my arm, desperate for me to let go. It was futile though. I had already made my decision.

"You killed Dante!" I shouted. I pulled out a short sword and positioned it to impale her.