Well, last chapter was certainly met with a lot of love. I got a favorite author alert, two reviews, a follower and a favorite story alert. You know... I just love you people, and I'm glad that I can write something you enjoy reading. ^ ^

I've decided that since my birthday is the 28th, I would work hard for this week to get out a new chapter as fast as possible. And though it's not my birthday yet, here is my gift for you guys. Thanks for being awesome, and I hope you love the new chapter. ^ ^

I do not own Tales of Symphonia. That right belongs solely to Namco-Bandai. I do, however, own the OC's that I bring into the story.

Chapter 8 - Assassin

Two hours later, everyone was getting ready to make the trek back to the Triet oasis. Lloyd was still in a pretty bad mood over having to wait for Colette to get better. Couldn't they have gotten her to a doctor? Or, better yet, why hadn't the Professor thought of trying to heal her? It just... made him mad that he'd had to wait. But he wasn't too upset, he had gotten a chance to talk more with Lara and her friend Eva. It was clear they had known each other since childhood, and true to Lara's claim, they acted like sisters. It made him happy to see, especially considering Eva was a half-elf.

He hated the Desians, but Eva, she wasn't anything like them. She was kind and sweet, and enjoyed helping others instead of hurting them. She didn't judge anyone based on race or appearance. He found that she was easy to like, a lot like Colette, even. Although Colette was always smiling and making everyone else happy, Eva did have moments where she would look sad or remember something that was painful to her. She must not have had an easy life, even with Lara for a friend. He thought about all of that as everyone got ready.

"So, we're heading back to the oasis." Raine said, and when Lara looked like she was going to protest, the Professor raised a hand to stop her. "We need to go there to replenish our water supply. Without it we won't make it any farther." She said.

He noticed Lara bit her lip, he recognized it as being a nervous habit. She was probably just really worried about the Desians. They had gone to the oasis to look for them, but that had been late last night. It was almost mid-day now, so they should have cleared out of the oasis by now.

"Is everyone ready?" Kratos asked, looking around at everyone.

Lloyd smiled widely and nodded. "Yeah, I'm ready." He answered easily.

Colette was back on her feet, looking a whole lot better than before. She wasn't pale and sweaty anymore and had a smile on her face. "I'm all set." She answered happily.

Genis yawned a little but nodded his head in response. While Lara and Eva both nodded without saying anything.

"Alright. We're going." Kratos said and began heading up the stairs.

Lloyd knew those stairs led out into the sun's intense heat, but he still wanted to be out of this underground tunnel. Despite the heat, it would be good to be back in fresh air. He followed the older man up the stairs and stretched when he felt the wind blow around him outside. The sun was hotter than this morning, but he couldn't complain right now. It felt good to be outside.

He looked back and saw the others coming up the stairs and walked out of the way for them. Colette nearly tripped on the top step and tumbled backwards, but Lara steadied her by putting a hand on her back. He sighed in relief at that, he didn't want his best friend to get hurt again. It was bad enough when she tripped over nothing at all, but put stairs in front of her and she was usually a wreck.

As soon as everyone was outside, they started walking back towards the oasis. Noishe ran over and whined at him and Lloyd smiled, patting the dog's head. Noishe didn't always like other people, and usually stayed away when they were walking, but he'd return sometimes. Lloyd guessed the dog was keeping an eye on them, and he was good for monster detection sometimes too. He would always run away when monsters got too close. Noishe walked away from him and found a place to walk between Lara and Eva. Lloyd looked back at his dog and wondered about that, the animal hardly knew either girl, but seemed really comfortable around them. He shrugged and decided it was better not to worry about it.

Walking, his foot started to sink in the sand a bit and he jumped back, managing to pull his boot free. He'd almost completely forgotten about the loose, shifty sand. This was going to be a pain, walking back to the oasis. He thought about asking Noishe for a ride, but didn't think the dog would appreciate it. Noishe had given him and his friends rides before, but that was back in Iselia, and it was hot out here. Yeah, he would save asking his pet for a ride until later. Genis was the one who would need the rides the most anyway.

About an hour later, maybe more, he wasn't a good judge of time or distances, but he could see the oasis up ahead. "I can't wait to sleep in a proper bed." He said.

Raine looked over at him. "What makes you think we'll be staying at the oasis for the night?" She asked.

Lloyd stared at her, confused. Why wouldn't they be staying at the oasis? Colette still needed to recover her strength a bit, right? "Well, I thought... Colette should recover more." He said.

Raine frowned for a moment and then nodded. "Of course. Then we'll stay at the Inn. I still have the rooms rented of course. Genis, Lloyd, you can share a room with Kratos." She said.

"Yeah, okay." Lloyd replied, he didn't really want to, but it sounded like the Professor had rented only two rooms. So the girls would be in one room and the guys would be in the other. Kratos was... annoying, but he wasn't a bad guy, and he was a decent fighter. Lloyd didn't want to admit that Kratos was so much stronger than him, even though he knew it was true. The guy had clearly been fighting for a lot longer than himself.

Genis looked upset with the new information, but didn't bother arguing with his sister. Lloyd wondered what Colette, Lara and Eva thought about staying in a room together. If him and Genis hadn't left Iselia and come here it probably would have just been Raine, Lara and Colette. But Lara had been caught by the Desians, so what if they hadn't gone to rescue him? Would that have left Lara captured? He shuddered to think of what might have happened.

"I have enough to rent an extra room." Lara spoke up from behind him.

Lloyd turned to look at her and noticed Raine was frowning slightly. "Where did you get gald?" She asked. He was a little curious about that as well.

"Well, when we fought those monsters last night. One of them dropped it after it died." She explained.

Raine looked skeptical. "Where would a monster have gotten gald?"

Lara shrugged. "I don't know, and I don't really care. It gives us the option of having an extra room. I can rent it for myself and Eva." She said.

Raine sighed. "Yes, I suppose. The room will be less cramped that way." She agreed. "Alright, you pay for your own room then."

Lara nodded and smiled. "Will do." She replied happily and kept walking.

"Well, I'm still looking forward to that bed." Lloyd said.

"Yeah, me too." Genis said and started running for the entrance to the oasis.

"Genis, don't run! You'll fall and hurt yourself!" Raine called out after him, walking faster to keep up with the younger elf.

"I will not!" Genis called back and fell over.

It was mean, but Lloyd couldn't help but laugh. He tried to cover his mouth and stop the fit, but it was funny. Genis glared at him while Raine knelt over the boy and fussed over the scrape on his knee.

"I told you." She said fiercely, though her expression was soft with worry.

"What sisterly love." Lara said, watching the scene.

"Yeah, but she's always looking out for Genis." Lloyd responded with shrug.

Lara laughed. "Still, it's nice to see." She said and walked by him.

After Genis was taken care of, they walked into the oasis and headed to the Inn. True to her word, Lara walked over to the receptionist and rented another room for Eva and herself. They had a few hours to kill before sunset, so Raine split up their money and told them to go walk around. Lloyd left the Inn with Genis and Colette and they headed for the marketplace. Down there, Lloyd noticed the house with the broken wall again and frowned.

"Hey, Colette... did you...?" He started to ask when the girl by the house looked over at them.

"Oh, Chosen One. I want to thank you." The girl said. "Ever since you fell through my wall, I've made a lot of money with the tourists." She said with a wide grin on her face.

Colette laughed nervously. "Oh, well I'm happy to help." She said.

The girl nodded at her response and then looked at the nearest tourists, waving them over with a smile. Lloyd thought it was ridiculous to charge people just to look at a human shaped hole in a wall. Honestly, it could have been made by any person in the world, but by claiming it as the Chosen's shape she could make money off of it. It didn't seem right, even if Colette had broken the wall.

"Hey, you!" A voice called out from nearby.

Lloyd turned and noticed a bulky guy at a nearby stall. His skin was deeply tanned from the sun and he had burn marks all over, probably from working a forge. Lloyd was curious now and walked over. "Did you call me?" He asked.

"Yeah, I was noticing those swords of yours." The man replied. "May I have a look at them?"

Lloyd gripped the hilts of his swords, unsure. Lara had given them to him in exchange for buying her new clothes and the bow she was currently using. "Umm, yeah, I guess." He said, handing them over. He watched the guy carefully.

The man drew the blades and examined them closely. "These are exceptional." He said, testing a swing. "Looks like Dwarven craftsmanship." He added after more examination. "I can't say you'll find any weapons better than those, save for fine Dwarven blades." The man said, handing the weapons back to him.

Lloyd was surprised by that, where had Lara gotten dwarven swords? His dad, Dirk, was a dwarf, but he didn't recall him ever making swords like these. Was there another dwarf somewhere in the world? It was something to hope for. "Thanks." He said to the guy.

"I asked you over here for another reason." The main said. "I wanted to talk to you about customizing."

"Customizing? What's that?" Colette asked, walking over.

The man smiled at her. "It's about creating more powerful weapons, young lady. If you have certain items known as ingredients, you can use them to customize your gear. Mostly that means your weapons, and make them stronger." He said. "If you find any ingredients, come see me again and I'll customize your weapons, free of charge."

"Wow, that's awfully nice of you." Colette smiled. "We'll come back if we find anything, right Lloyd?" She asked.

He nodded absently, still thinking over what the man had said about the swords. "Colette, where do you want to go?" He heard Genis ask.

"Hmm, I dunno. We saw the prophet the last time we were here. She told us about the ruins." Colette said. "I wonder if she does other readings."

"Like what kind of readings?" Genis asked, frowning.

"Like... about your future... or like... soul mates or something." Colette answered, sounding unsure. "Lloyd, what do you want to do?" She asked.

Lloyd looked over at his friends and frowned for a moment. "Um..." He scratched the back of his head. "This prophet sounds cool." He said.

Colette smiled brightly. "Alright, let's go there." She said and led the way.

They now had some money to spend, but... she didn't want to go out and spend it. Even Lara wanted to stay indoors right now, and she couldn't blame her. Both of them had been through a lot. Eva was worried the villagers might realize she was back here and come after her, so she wanted to stay out of sight as much as possible. The only consolation right now was that the receptionist didn't know who she was. It was the only thing she could be thankful of at the moment though.

Lara was laying back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, probably lost in thought over their escape and the fire seal. Eva was still in shock that everything had happened, and so quickly. She was also a little worried about running into the renegades here. What if Yuan himself came looking for them? What if he managed to capture her, or even Lara? It was a risky gamble to come back here, but they did need to replenish their water supply. Without enough water, they wouldn't reach the Ossa trail.

Of course, no one was supposed to know exactly where they were going to next. Kratos obviously knew what direction to go in, and herself and Lara knew because of the game, but... she sighed. All this knowledge of the world and what was supposed to happen, and yet neither of them could talk about it. She supposed subtle hints would help and if they started going down the wrong path, they could help to steer the group in the right direction.

As she was lost in thought, she felt her stomach rumble and frowned. They had eaten at the ruins, but that felt like ages ago, especially after hiking through the desert.

"You're hungry too, huh?" Lara asked from the other bed.

Eva glanced over at her best friend and smiled. "Yeah, I guess. I don't want to leave the Inn though."

"They should have a kitchen." Lara answered. "I'll go find something to eat, okay?"

Eva nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. As long as she didn't have to leave the room. She wasn't sure why she felt so paranoid about the oasis, but the way the people had reacted to her last time. It wasn't easy to get that encounter out of her head. "Yeah, thanks Lara." Eva said.

Lara just smiled and headed for the door. "Don't go anywhere while I'm gone, okay?" She said jokingly and left the room.

Eva laughed to herself and let herself fall back on the bed. There was nothing wrong with taking a nap right now, was there? Surely there wasn't, so she might as well rest until Lara came back with food. She closed her eyes and let herself drift to sleep.

She closed the door behind her softly and looked around. Their room was on the lower level of the Inn, and there were a few doors to other rooms. Lara bit her lip and approached the receptionist. "Excuse me, but is there a kitchen here?" She asked.

The girl looked up from the desk and frowned, her brows furrowed in thought. "Yes, I believe so. Take that door there and down the hall. It should be the last door on your right." She told her.

"Thanks." Lara said, smiling at the girl. She walked over to the new door and heard the door to the outside open. Being a curious creature, she couldn't help but turn to see who had just walked in the door. She knew Kratos and Raine had gone out to the dock to get more water for the canteens. So it was just Eva and herself in the Inn right now. She felt a knot twist in the pit of her stomach when she saw who had walked in. Whoever he was, he was a renegade. The uniform was pretty obvious.

The renegade walked towards the desk and then glanced in her direction. Lara tensed, waiting to see what he would do, though she knew her gut instinct was telling her to run. Her brain just hadn't caught the message yet. As soon as the renegade turned towards her, however, she darted through the nearest door and down the hall. She heard running footsteps and a slammed door behind her. She took the last door on her right and closed the door, barring it in place. Lucky the door even had a bar.

After that she turned and looked around, searching for an exit. There was one window at the far corner of the room. It was too far, and a little too high up. She would need something to stand on if she was ever going to get out of here without being caught. Lara grabbed a wooden table and dragged it to the corner, it screeched as it moved across the floor. She could hear the renegade ramming into the door, trying to break it down. She had to act fast. "Dammit! Why is this table so heavy?" She wondered aloud as she finally got it pushed into the corner under the window. Her skin was covered in sweat and she cursed inwardly as she struggled to climb on top of the table.

Lara moved over to the window and with a bit of effort, managed to open it far enough that she could squeeze through it. She reached up to the ledge and tried to find a foothold to pull herself up. At that moment, the door finally broke down and smashed inward. Startled, her foot slipped and she had to try again. She ground her teeth together with the effort and was almost high enough to push through the window when a hand grabbed her ankle.

She let out a shocked gasp as she was pulled down from the sill and fell onto the table... hard. Another hand grabbed her arm and pinned her in place and Lara opened her mouth to scream, but a hand covered her mouth. She tried to kick, but she was in an awkward position and only ended up hurting her leg on the edge of the table. She struggled to break free of the renegade's grip, but he was a lot stronger than her.

"You're not getting away this time." A familiar voice said from beneath the mask.

Lara instantly stopped struggling and her eyes widened in shocked horror. Yuan? He was dressed as an ordinary renegade... it was no wonder why she couldn't get away from him. She stared at the helmet and after a moment realized she recognized the lower half of his face. That made her blush and she tried to look away, but he... he was holding her in place. She did the one thing she could think of that would allow her to move her head... and possibly let her scream...

So easy... He thought to himself. He hadn't actually expected to run into her on his trip to the oasis. He hadn't really expected to run into their group at all, but he figured he would give it a try. The Inn was the first place to look, and so he'd gone there, but he hadn't believed he would find her so soon. So easy. But there she stood, of course as soon as he started walking towards her, she ran.

It was a natural reaction, he was dressed as a common renegade, and she probably thought he was a desian. Either way, the chase would be fun. She was faster than he'd realized, but then, he hadn't really seen her run full out before. Except for when she ran into him at the base, but she had turned a corner then and he hadn't actually seen her coming. She got through the last door and closed it, even barring the door from the inside.

"Now that's not fair." He said softly to himself. He raised his hand and summoned the Swallow, his dual blade and hacked at the door. It would have to give eventually, and he would catch her.

'Ssskkrrrrrrrrtttt!' Yuan frowned, that sounded like... moving furniture. "Oh hell no." He said allowed and renewed his attack against the door. He wasn't going to just let her get away, not this time.

Finally the door gave way beneath his assault and fell open. Yuan walked into the room to see her trying to climb out the window on the far side of the room. She slipped slightly, which meant she had to start over. He ran over and grabbed onto her ankle, pulling her away from the window. She hit the table and he pinned her down, covering her mouth as she opened it to scream. He felt pretty victorious at this point, now that he had her, but she was struggling to get away.

"You're not getting away this time." He said to her and immediately she stopped struggling, her eyes widening with shock. He was both glad and surprised that she recognized his voice so easily. He was feeling pretty confident about capturing her until she... licked, his hand.

"Ugh!" He couldn't help but cry out in disgust as he pulled his hand away to wipe it on his pants.

She opened her mouth to scream again, this time drawing in breath and he knew he had to stop her. He reacted without thinking, not the best idea for him, but at least he reacted fast enough to stop her from screaming...

Yes! She thought with excitement as her idea worked. Yuan pulled his hand off her mouth to wipe the saliva off. He wouldn't likely fall for that trick again, but at least she had a chance to scream now. Lara opened her mouth to scream, drawing in breath in preparation when... when he... he...

She was genuinely shocked, horrified, and happy all in one moment. She felt... there was a strange feeling floating around in her stomach. It... was like butterflies, but they were fluttering around and it made her feel giddy.

Yuan was... kissing her. He'd... he had kissed her. Sure it was to keep her from screaming, but... she couldn't find any reason to complain. She still wanted to escape, but... but this feeling. Something was coming alive inside of her. Though she gave no command to her body, she leaned into the kiss and lifted her arms to wrap them around his neck. But before she could get a hold of him, he reacted again and pulled away from her.

Lara lay on the table, dazed and confused by what had just happened. Yuan was standing away from the table, the helmet slanted on his head. She sat up slowly and stared at him, trying to understand what had caused him to pull away. Sure it was probably wrong on so many levels, but... it had felt so... right. Slowly her head started working again.

"What the HELL?!" She yelled at him, still sitting on the table.

He jumped slightly and then reached up to pull the helmet off. His expression was calm, controlled, as he looked at her. Lara bit her lip and waited for a response, but it didn't look like he was going to answer. She looked away from him, frowning, her thoughts were in turmoil and the butterflies in her stomach were frantic.

She heard footsteps and looked up as he approached her again, his eyes narrowed. Lara felt a knot twist in her stomach and she tried to swallow the lump growing in her throat. "Ah!" She gasped as he gripped her arm tightly and pulled her off the table.

"Come quietly." He said simply, but she felt the implied words, Or else.

Kratos and Raine wouldn't be back yet, and she didn't know when Lloyd and his friends would be back. Lara turned her head away from him and nodded once, closing her eyes. He pulled her along and even though he wasn't forcing her to be quiet, she didn't feel the need to scream anymore. She hardly felt anything at all. Her brain felt fried enough as it was just from his kiss. As he led her out of the oasis, she lifted a hand and touched her lips, there was a lingering feeling she couldn't get rid of. Her lip trembled and she noticed a slight glow on the sand.

Shocked, she looked behind her and saw that he had pulled his wings out. They were a startling violet in color, not like in the game. There wasn't any pink tint to them at all. He swept her feet off the ground and took to the air. Instinctively she wrapped her arms around his neck just in case and buried her head between her arms and his chest. She didn't want to chance looking down. Neither of them said anything until he landed at the base and put his helmet back on. Wordlessly, he led her inside and back to the room beyond his office.

She was a little surprised that he wasn't going to keep her locked up in the prison area, but she bit her lip and just sat down on the bed, staring at the wall until he left her alone and locked the door behind him. Alone, she finally felt the need to break down and cry. Lara buried her face in the nearest pillow and let the tears come. Why did she have to have such bad luck? Just what had she done in her previous life to deserve it?

After an hour or two, it was hard to tell without a clock or window to tell time by, she drifted off to sleep.

He left her to her own devices for now and simply locked the door. When he sat down at his desk, however, he searched through his recent memories. She hadn't been all that shocked when he'd pulled out his wings to fly to the base. Surely anyone else from the Chosen's group, aside from Kratos and possibly Eva, would have been... well, their reactions would have been stronger than that. He felt sure of it now, Lara and Eva already knew who he was and exactly what he was. The only consolation he felt was that Kratos didn't already know that he was the leader of the Renegades.

He doubted Eva would tell Kratos about that, but then he couldn't be sure of what the girl would do. She was unpredictable, despite her personality, he couldn't begin to imagine what she might be capable of. Lara seemed a bit more predictable, she was smart and skilled, but also reckless and stubborn. She easily shared traits from Kratos and her mother, Anna, as was as traits he could link to her brother, Lloyd. Catching her had been a bit too easy, but that wasn't something to complain about, especially now that she was in his custody. Kratos might not know the girl was his daughter, but he had proof, and once Kratos saw it... well, it might be possible to bargain with Kratos.

Yuan sighed. He would feel better about this if he had Lloyd as well, but that would have to wait until later. At least, he should be able to keep Lara here until he managed to capture her brother. He grabbed the folder and looked at her blood test results again. She seemed to know already, but probably wasn't one hundred percent certain of her bloodline. Yuan thought about telling her and frowned. He punched in the code on the keyboard and the monitor rose out of the desk and turned on. Lara was lying on the bed, asleep. He turned off the feed again and decided he would tell her, but after she was awake... and calm.

"It's getting late." Raine said with a sigh.

Kratos looked over at her and nodded before heading back to the Inn. They had finished filling the canteens a while ago, and then gone to buy more supplies. Food and gels and other items that might be useful. Currently he was concerned about Lara. That girl had gotten into trouble the last time, who was to say it wouldn't happen again? He looked at the white haired half-elf.

"You head back to the Inn. There's something I need to do alone." He said to her.

Raine just stared at him for a long moment before she nodded and walked away towards the Inn.

The prophet had predicted that Lara would get into trouble the last time, perhaps she would be able to see it happening again. He hoped so. It was hard to believe in a gift like that, but she had been right the first time. Considering that, he wasn't as much of a skeptic as he had been before.

He heard laughter as he got closer to the tent and recognized the individual voices. Kratos frowned for a moment and stood there, just listening to his son's voice. He sighed and a moment later Lloyd came out of the tent with Genis and Colette, all of them smiling. Lloyd noticed him and stopped.

"Oh, Kratos. What are you doing here?" Lloyd asked.

Kratos looked at the boy. "I'm looking for something I dropped earlier." He lied.

"Oh, well I hope you find it." Lloyd said and left with the other two.

Kratos waited until they were gone before going into the tent. The robust woman was there, and she smiled as she looked up at him. "I knew you would return." She said mysteriously. "I sense you still have your doubts, though."

"Last time you predicted one of our companions would get into trouble." He said to her.

The woman looked at his face and then turned her gaze to the crystal ball in front of her. "Yes. Lara. From your first visit I sensed that she had a knack for seeking out trouble. I was wrong about that." Kratos relaxed a little but what she said next unsettled him. "It is not so much that she goes looking for trouble, but rather trouble comes looking for her." The woman said. "Visions are not always exact, but... I see trouble has found her again. When you return to your companions, you will find her missing." She pulled her gaze away from the crystal ball. "I am sorry."

Kratos felt a tightness in his chest, but kept his expression calm and nodded to the woman. "Thank you for you time." He said and left the tent. If Lara was in trouble again, it had to be the renegades. She had been right to be worried about returning to the oasis.

When he walked into the Inn, he noticed everyone was sitting in the main room. Lloyd looked unhappy, as did Colette and Genis. Raine looked troubled and Eva... he noticed the girl looked outright distraught. There was no sign of Lara, apart from the ivory bow and quiver clutched tightly in Eva's hands. Lara didn't even have her weapon with her, and that only worried him more. He walked over, trying to detach himself. "Where is Lara?" He asked, but when no one said anything he sighed. "She's missing, isn't she?" He asked.

"It would appear that way." Raine said. "Eva, why don't you tell him?"

Eva looked up from the bow, her eyes were red from crying. Her lips quivered for a moment before she took a deep breath to calm herself. "Lara and I were hungry, but I didn't want to leave the room. So she said she would go looking for the kitchen. Later, when Raine came back, she woke me up to ask where she was and... and..." She froze, unable to talk anymore.

Raine sighed and pat the girl on the back. "I spoke with the receptionist. She said Lara asked for the kitchen and she gave her directions. Shortly after that, a Desian came in and chased Lara down the back hallway. The kitchen door was broken off it's hinges, and there is a table by the corner window. Either Lara got away, or she was captured." She finished.

Kratos frowned, the situation didn't sound very good.

Lloyd slammed a fist on the table they were sitting at. "Professor, can't we go looking for her?" He asked.

Raine shook her head. "I told you no, Lloyd. We don't have the time." She answered.

"But she could be out there! Or worse, she could be captured! We can't just let the Desians have her!" The boy shouted.

"And we have a journey to finish!" Raine yelled back, standing from her seat she slammed her hand on the table. "I am sorry about Lara, but she understood the risks of this journey. We don't have any time to waste. Besides, the sooner we finish this journey, the sooner we can turn around and rescue her."

"But-!" Raine cut him off with a gesture and Lloyd sat down, defeated.

"She's right. We don't have time to waste to go save her." Kratos said.

Lloyd turned and glared at him for a moment, but the expression died when Kratos glared back at him. Even Lloyd had to realize that the regeneration of the world had to come first. It was unfortunate that Lara was missing and probably captured by Yuan... again, but it was something they would have to deal with this time.

"It's late and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Lloyd, Genis, you should get some sleep. Eva, why don't you stay with Colette and me?" Raine suggested.

Eva nodded absently, though Kratos was sure she was barely listening. Lara's absence clearly bothered her more than anyone else. He wondered about that, just how close were the two girls? And exactly where did they come from? Neither of them had mentioned a name for the 'village' they grew up in. But now really wasn't the time to worry over trivial details. He ushered Lloyd and Genis ahead of him to the room they would be sharing.

"Sleep well." He said to the girls before heading up the stairs and closing the door. He let the two boys take the beds and just sat on a chair, trying to think over what had happened. When he couldn't make sense of it he quietly left the room and headed for the kitchen.

The door was not only broken off the hinges but had telltale marks in the wood. From either a sword or axe, or even something larger. He thought of Yuan's weapon and sighed before stepping into the room. The wooden table was still by the corner where the window was. The scraped floor was clear indication that it had been dragged over to get to the window. Lara was certainly resourceful, and the window was opened wide enough that she might have been able to slip through.

He walked over to the corner and examined it carefully, certain that maybe she had escaped, until he noticed the paint chips on the edge of the table. She had tried to climb up to the sill, but slipped, scraping the paint. It was then that he noticed the small stain of blood on the edge of the table. She had fallen, or been pulled down and struggled while laying on the table, cutting her leg on the edge. It was then he noticed the footprints in the dust. Two pairs came into the room and two pairs walked out of the room. He frowned, knowing that with this evidence, Lara was definitely taken.

This was not a good sign, but... at least Lloyd was safe. He didn't like having to put one of them over the other, but he knew that Yuan was not likely to kill Lara unless it could further his goals. So, although she wasn't exactly safe, she would be safe enough. He sighed and walked back to the main area to go outside. Noishe was sleeping over in the stable, but woke up as he approached.

He didn't have anything to talk about, but it was comforting just to be around the protozoan. He just... needed time to think. He heard footsteps approaching from behind him and drew his sword, turning in a flash. When he saw Lloyd he stopped his arm just in time for the blade to stop at the boy's neck.

"Woah!" Lloyd cried out, his muscles tensed.

Kratos sighed and sheathed his sword. "You shouldn't walk up behind me." He said and turned back to look at Noishe, though he kept an eye on Lloyd who walked over to the stable as well.

"Sorry, I saw you come out here and I was curious." Lloyd said. "Is something wrong?"

"No, Lloyd. I just had trouble sleeping." He answered. The boy was quiet for a while, just standing next to him.

"Kratos, there's something I want to ask you." Lloyd seemed hesitant.

"What is it?" He asked, raising a brow slightly.

"Well... you're um... you're a really good swordsman and I was wondering... if you would... train me." Lloyd spoke slowly, to make sure he got the words out right.

It wasn't easy for the boy to admit there was someone stronger than him. Kratos sighed and turned to look at the sky. "What reason do you have to ask me?"

"Well, I want to get stronger." He answered easily.

"Yes, but why? For what reason do you want to get stronger?" Kratos asked this time. He would be more than happy to train his son and help him grow stronger, but he wanted to make sure Lloyd had a good reason to learn. Strength without heart only led to... well, it had led to the current system. Mithos had been the first and last person he'd trained.. at least formally.

"It's... to protect Colette." Lloyd finally answered. "I want to become strong enough that I can protect her, no matter what happens."

Kratos mulled that thought over for a while and eventually smiled. "Alright, then I'll teach you." He said.

"R-really?" Lloyd asked, looking excited.

"Yes. But understand that this training won't be easy. If you give up, even just once, I won't continue to teach you." Kratos said.

"Yeah, of course. I won't ever give up." Lloyd grinned.

"Good, now go get some sleep. Your training starts before dawn." Kratos told him.

Lloyd frowned, but nodded. "Alright. You try to get some sleep too." He said and walked back to the Inn.

Kratos sighed when he was gone and put a hand to his head. "Just what am I getting myself into?" He wondered aloud. Noishe whined at him and he smiled, patting the creature on the head. "You'll at least keep an eye on Lloyd for me, right?" He asked. The protozoan nudged his hand and whined again as if to agree and he nodded as well, heading back to the Inn. It was going to be a long night, and tomorrow was going to be an even longer day.

She was ready for this mission, she had to be. The fate of her world and everyone living in it... that weight rested on her shoulders. She couldn't fail. The Chosen of Sylvarant... had to die. For the sake of her homeland, she was prepared for the risks. And so, when the task had been brought before her, she had accepted.

Sheena followed the strange half-elf back to their base on a small frozen island off the coast of Flanoir. Apparently, she was going to have to travel to the other world through a dimensional distortion, whatever the heck that was supposed to mean. It was too complicated for her to understand, but she had a task to follow. So she wasn't going to complain about it.

"Our intelligence is that the Chosen has released the first seal." The renegade told her. "Which means she will be travelling to the Ossa Trail. Head there through the mountain path and head them off."

Sheena just nodded her head once and took a deep breath. This wasn't going to be pleasant, but it was necessary, she thought. The half-elf pointed out the strange vehicle in the center of the room. It looked like some kind of metal bird. "The Rheaird will most likely fail in the other world, but it should get you to the mountain pass without much difficulty." He said.

"Enough explaining. I have a job to do, remember?" She said, starting to get annoyed. She approached the metal bird, which was apparently called a Rheaird and stepped onto it, grabbing hold of the controls. "Time to go."

She felt the flying machine power up and held on tight as it launched through a tunnel into the air outside. It was a bit cold for her tastes, but she experimented with the flight controls until she knew what she was doing and turned to look at the base. She could see the... distortion thing over it and took one deep breath. "This is for Tethe'alla." She said to assure herself that everything would be alright. She gunned the controls and flew into the distortion.

A few things happened to her. First she felt fine and wondered why she'd been worried about this, but then... she felt a tingling in her body. It felt like her molecules were being rearranged, or separated. Sheena grit her teeth and tried to focus on keeping herself together. Suddenly, she felt completely solid, but something slid over her skin, like a veil of some sort. Everything around her was nothing but a black void, but there was a strange smoky feeling to the air around her. It almost felt like she was swimming through water, and then she hit another veil. It was thicker than the first and she had the vague impression that she was passing through some kind of thick gelatin. Finally, she broke free and she saw sunlight, and felt the heat of the sun on her skin.

She looked below and saw the desert and smiled. She was in Sylvarant. The engine of the Rheaird shuddered and she knew she only had so much time to pilot the damned thing before it crashed on her. She headed for the mountains nearby. As soon as she started losing altitude, she worried about what would happen if she crashed. She could easily die if she didn't do something about it.

But that wouldn't happen. She was a ninja, trained in the ancient secretive ways of her people. That and she still had a few guardians left over from her deck of cards, and those would surely keep her from hitting the ground too hard. At almost the last second she grabbed the guardian card and jumped from the Rheaird. It crashed into the side of the mountain and Sheena focused her energy on the card. She held it aloft in the air and made a few hand signs before releasing the guardian. It caught her before she could crash into the ground herself and let her down gently on a cliff overlooking the path below.

Sheena sighed and slumped back against the rock and smiled, feeling grateful that her reflexes hadn't failed her. A split-second had separated her life or death moment, and she had acted fast enough. She needed a little time to rest, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out a wrapper. "A snack will help." She muttered to herself and ripped open the wrapper. She ate slowly to savor the taste, but she didn't want to relax too much. The Chosen would come this way, and she would need to be ready at a moment's notice.

"This is the Ossa Trail." A deep masculine voice said from down below.

Sheena paused and peered over the edge of the cliff to see a group of people. A teenage boy with chocolate brown hair wearing a thick red jacket and gloves with baggy dark colored pants and red boots. What a strange outfit. She mused to herself and looked over the others. The one who had spoken was probably the taller, older male with short auburn hair. He wore a purple outfit and carried himself like a soldier. She would have to be careful around him.

The youngest member of the group was a boy with white hair dressed in blue. He resembled an elf and could probably use magic as well. Then she noticed the white-haired woman and guessed the two were related. The woman carried a staff and wore an orange overcoat with baggy black pants a white tunic and white shoes. She looked a bit more experienced and had a calm expression. Another one to be wary of, she thought and noticed two more girls. One had long light green hair and green eyes, ears slightly pointed, so probably an elf or half-elf. She was wearing a green outfit to match her hair, almost. The girl was carrying a staff and had an ivory bow strapped over her shoulder, but it didn't look like she was going to be using it as a weapon. Could the bow be for another companion? She wondered.

There was only one other girl with them, with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She wore a white and blue outfit that resembled a priestess of some kind. Then, Sheena noticed the ruby red gem on the girl's chest. Her eyes narrowed immediately, this must be the Chosen's group. The blonde stepped forward of everyone else and Sheena smiled to herself. This was going to be easy.

"Wow, it's really steep." The blonde said.

Sheena decided she would at least show herself. She gathered herself and jumped down the cliff, landing neatly on her feet at the bottom. She straightened herself to look at the group, keeping a straight face as she addressed them. "Is the Chosen of Mana among you?" She asked, pretending like she didn't already know.

The blonde smiled and stepped forward. "Oh, yes. That would be me." She said happily.

Sheena smirked and pulled out her cards. "Nothing personal, but you need to die!" She yelled out and sprinted at the girl.

The blonde's eyes widened in shock and she took a step backward. Apparently she wasn't too steady on her feet and fell backwards. This would be the easiest assassination ever. But the girl's arms flailed slightly and hit... a lever.

Suddenly the ground opened up in front of her and Sheena tried to stop herself, but she had too much momentum. Without warning, she slid to a stop only to fall into the hole in the ground. "Ahh!" She cried out, trying to grab the ledge, but the grass hanging over it was too slick and slipped through her fingers. For the second time, she found herself free falling, maybe to her death.

"Oh no." She heard the blonde's voice drift through the opening of the hole.

"I hope she's okay." She heard a guy say.

She didn't hear anything else and suddenly she landed on the ground. Her legs buckled beneath her and she fell face first into the dirt. It was hard to stay awake, and she was in pain, but she couldn't give in. There was too much at stake here. Sheena pulled a gel out of her pocket and popped it into her mouth. The effect was immediate enough and the pain dulled to a slight ache in her bones. She got to her feet and used the nearby wall to steady herself.

First, she needed to find a way out of this underground tunnel. Then she could focus on trying to kill the Chosen.

Even after a full night's sleep, neither Raine nor Kratos had changed their minds about not rescuing Lara. Lloyd was clearly still upset over that decision. But she noticed a difference in his composure. Eva judged that he'd spoken to Kratos last night, partly because when she woke this morning, she had found the two of them coming back to the Inn. She sighed, knowing that they had probably been training outside before everyone woke up, but she was a light sleeper, usually.

After they came back, they woke up Genis and she woke up Raine and Colette and the group had set out early to head for the Ossa Trail. Eva had looked back a couple of times, tempted to go off on her own to find and rescue Lara, but apparently Kratos was watching her. The moment she had tried to turn back around, Kratos had been there to grab her arm and stop her.

"You can't rescue her alone." He said firmly. "If you go back there, they'll only capture you as well and then where will you be?" He asked.

He was absolutely right of course, she couldn't go back to look for her friend. She would only get herself into trouble as well, and that wasn't the kind of thing she did. But... her friend was there. Eva was too worried to think rationally, but she was also scared of what might happen. And so, against her own feelings, she had followed the others through the desert to the Ossa Trail. And, as if on cue, Sheena appeared and tried to attack. Thankfully this place was a lot like the game and Colette opened the shaft on accident, thus saving her life.

"I hope she's okay." Lloyd said, frowning as he looked into the hole.

"Only you would be worried about someone who'd just tried to kill Colette." Genis said, sounding annoyed.

"She wore such strange clothing." Raine mused, not paying attention to the others.

"Is something wrong?" Kratos asked her.

Raine looked up, surprised, and shook her head. "No, of course not." She answered.

"It'll take about two hours to get through the mountain pass. We should get moving." Kratos said.

Eva bit her lip, wondering if she should say something, but knew it would be better if she kept quiet. The others started moving and Eva followed along silently, walking by the opening. Without warning, her foot slipped and, similar to something Colette might do, she fell into the hole. She'd never been too graceful, but she hadn't usually tripped this much or this often before. Maybe it was because she wasn't used to this body yet? She was a bit taller than normal, so it might have affected her center of balance.

"OW!" Eva felt pain everywhere after landing on something bony, which she suspected to be Sheena. With a grunt, she struggled but managed to crawl off of the other girl. "What the hell was that for?!" Sheena yelled at her.

Eva sighed deeply and arched her back, stretching and popping the kink she felt there. "Sorry." She said to the other girl. "I just fell, I didn't mean to land on top of you." She added. Then... "Why were you just standing there?"

Sheena's face went red and she looked away. "I was... trying to steady myself." She answered honestly.

"Oh. Sorry." Eva answered and closed her eyes, focusing on her mana. She took a deep breath and focused on her own pain for now. "First Aid." She said and felt the mana leave her and work on her wounds. When she felt well enough, she got to her feet and grimaced slightly, there was still some pain in her back, but she was at least better than before.

Sheena was staring at her. "You can heal?" She asked, slightly startled.

Eva looked at her and nodded slowly. "Yes. Stand still." She told her and concentrated on the magic again. "First Aid."

"Wai-!" Sheena began to protest but was cut off. A moment later her stance relaxed and she frowned at her. "I didn't ask for your help." She said angrily.

Eva sighed. "No, but I felt like helping anyway. Besides, if either of us are going to get out of here, we need to be at top strength." She said.

Sheena frowned and nodded. "Alright. We work together for now, but as soon as we're out of here, you and I are enemies. Got it?"

Eva couldn't help but laugh a little and smiled. "Sure, enemies." She said, trying to stifle more laughter.

Sheena just frowned at her some more and sighed, beginning to lead the way. "Come on, let's get out of this damn tunnel already." She said.

Eva watched her go and smiled, knowing that Sheena was just trying to put on a brave face. "Alright." Eva replied and followed her, letting her take point instead of trying to lead herself. For all she knew this tunnel could be a labyrinth in real life.

"There goes another one." Raine sighed, staring at the hole.

Genis was also a bit upset by the loss of Eva in their group. Not only because she was a healer, but because she was also a half-elf, she was kin. Colette was sad too he could tell, but Lloyd and Kratos were both just staring at the hole blankly. He frowned, wondering why neither of them seemed nearly as worried as he felt.

"There should be a tunnel exit on the other side of the pass." Kratos said after a moment. "We can regroup with Eva there."

His sister frowned at the comment and nodded. "Alright, let's get moving then." She said.

Genis was eager to get moving, himself. Climbing the steep trail wasn't going to be easy, but if they caught up to Eva then it would be alright. He didn't want to lose another member of their group. He realized he was counting Lara as a loss now, even though there was a chance she could still be alive, but that chance was slim. The Desians were likely to kill her for her exsphere.

Eva was probably hoping that Lara would be alright, but he didn't have high hopes for her. But he would miss her, she was a good person. After all, her best friend was Eva, a half-elf, and she knew that but didn't care. Genis sighed and followed the others quietly, letting his thoughts wander over the past couple days. It had been hectic so far, and it wasn't likely to become any less so. Still, this journey was important and he was glad he could be here to help support Colette.

It was hard to believe that this journey would result in her becoming an angel, but she had wings now. Somehow it felt like the world was turning upside down and anything could be possible. Even something completely impossible seemed like it could be possible. Genis pondered these thoughts and more as they walked, until shouts pulled him from his wanderings. They were fighting monsters now.

Genis grabbed his kendama and started... well, others would call it playing, but for him it helped his concentration. It was his natural stance for casting. He focused on the mana inside him and figured out what spell he wanted to use. "Wind Blade!" He called out, casting the spell. The monster in question dropped in one hit from the spell and he smiled. "Found your weakness." He couldn't help but say. He started focusing on the same spell, targeting the other monster of the same type. Lloyd and Kratos were busy fighting the larger monster and Colette was standing back helping Raine fight another monster.

"Wind Blade!" He called out again, dropping the other monster with ease.

"Sonic Thrust!" He heard both Lloyd and Kratos call out. They each thrust their blades into the monsters' side and then jumped back, each of them glowing with power. "Cross Thrust!" They cried out in unison and charged forward. They cut across the beast in the shape of an X and it immediately burst into mana. It was pretty cool to watch.

"Take this, Photon!" Raine called out and the monster she was fighting dropped as it was hit with a burst of light. "Humph, never mess with a researcher." She said.

The monsters were all gone. Genis let out a sigh and approached the others. "Where did they come from?" He asked.

Kratos motioned his head towards a nearby cave. "I would assume from there." He said. "Either way, the others know not to approach us." He continued to move on.

Genis frowned but followed along silently again, but avoided getting lost in his thoughts this time. Almost an hour later they reached the top of the pass and he could see the trail down to the other side. "We're almost there." He could feel excitement brimming inside of him, they were close to meeting with Eva.

Though the girl was a little annoying at first, she had to admit that her healing magic was helpful. The monsters down here were a lot tougher than she would have expected and without aide from the caster, she would have used up her meager supply of gels by now. "Pyre Seal!" She shouted, attaching a card to the monster in front of her. She jumped back and performed a couple of hand signs and the card exploded when she released her mana. Effectively, it killed off the last two monsters for now.

"These monsters are tough." She said, her breathing already labored from all the fighting.

"I know. But we can't let them beat us." The girl said. "By the way, I'm Eva."

"I'm not interested in your name!" Sheena argued, though she was glad to have a name to put with the face. It would help her remember the girl later. "All I'm interested in is getting out of here so I can complete my mission." She huffed out. She wasn't going to admit that she kind of liked the girl, she was decent and kind, and had clearly seen her share of hardships.

"Your mission to assassinate the Chosen?" Eva asked, sounding confused.

Sheena tensed for a moment, but relaxed when she looked at her. The girl looked genuine in her confusion and she sighed. "My mission is none of your concern." She answered hotly.

Eva sighed. "It is when you are trying to kill my friend." She answered and moved ahead of her. "I won't question your motives, but when we get out of here, you can rest assured that I will do everything within my power to protect Colette."

Sheena smiled at that. "That's what I was hoping you'd say." She replied, doing what she could to sound tough. To be honest, she didn't want to fight the Chosen's companions, she just wanted to finish her mission so she could go home. As long as she succeeded, her world would be saved, at least for a while until they found another Chosen for this world.

Eva sighed again and stopped walking a few feet ahead. She was staring down the nearby path, her eyes growing wide with fear. "What's the matter?" Sheena asked, annoyed that she'd stopped.

"I sense a terribly evil presence down that way. It's powerful, we should avoid this path." Eva said, her lip was trembling with fear.

Sheena frowned, but looked down the tunnel. She could just barely make out a lumbering shape, it looked like a giant skeleton. "Then let's avoid it, shall we? Find the safest path, if you will." She suggested.

Eva nodded and looked down the other tunnels. "This way is safest. There are fewer monsters this way." She said, pointing the way.

Sheena smiled. "Alright, let's get a move on." She walked by the younger girl and led the way.

She was right about the lack of monsters this way. She mused to herself as they walked in silence. Every now and then Eva would point them down another path, sometimes with a sense of urgency. Sheena began to suspect that whatever that powerful monster was, it was following them. So she didn't hesitate to follow the path Eva directed her towards. Eventually they hit what seemed like a dead end and Sheena growled in frustration.

"You were trying to do this, weren't you?" She asked the girl.

Eva sighed. "Of course not, the exit is here. We need to break down the wall, and preferably soon." She said, glancing behind herself.

Sheena tapped her foot for a moment and grabbed one of her cards. "You better be right about this." She said and placed it on the wall. "Step back." She told her and she jumped back herself, performing the hand signs as she did. "Pyre Seal!" She called out and the card exploded.

At first it looked like nothing had happened and Sheena was about to turn on the girl when the rock groaned. That's right, the rock wall actually groaned. Barely a second after that it crumbled and fell outwards, revealing a large opening out into the sunlight. Sheena stared at the path in awe and then smiled. "Wow, I guess you were right. Sorry for lashing out at you." She said, feeling relieved that they were finally getting out of here.

Eva shook her head with a smile. "It's alright. But we should get out of here and fast." She said with a sense of urgency again.

Sheena looked back and saw the hulking silhouette of the skeleton in the darkness again. "Yeah, can't argue with that." She said and without another word, they both ran out into the sunlight. It felt good to have the sun warming her skin again and she smiled, forgetting where she was at the moment.

"Eva!" She heard voices call out. Sheena opened her eyes, shocked a little and turned her head, seeing the Chosen's group running down the hill. Eva ran past her and joined up with them, a smile on her face.

"I'm glad you're okay." The white-haired boy said, hugging Eva randomly. The blonde Chosen did the same as well, a big smile on her face.

But Sheena noticed the brown-haired boy watching her. "You helped her get out of that tunnel." He said simply.

Sheena frowned. "It was in both our best interests to get out of there alive." She said angrily. "I didn't do it for you." She pulled out a card and summoned her second guardian. "Now, I believe we made a promise. We're enemies again, and whether you believe it or not, I will kill the Chosen. Now stand aside or die!" She said to them all.

This had grown troublesome, and there was nothing else to describe the situation. As the dark-haired assassin prepared to fight, Kratos drew his sword and ran forward. The girl was surprised by his speed and jumped behind her guardian, which he dispatched with ease. He had seen Mizuho techniques in action before, including these so-called guardians. A single card fell to the ground, split into halves of it's former self. After that he turned his sword on the girl.

She flipped backwards away from the tip of his sword, and pulled out more cards. Using her own mana, she set them around herself to focus on a new technique, but he wasn't going to let her finish. Kratos focused his power. "Lightning!" He called out, quickly casting the spell. It charged around her, destroying her cards and sending her flying to the ground. He ran forward and thrust his sword to finish her when...

"Kratos!" Lloyd called out.

He paused, the tip of his blade resting against the girl's throat. Mentally he cursed himself for listening to his son's voice and letting it give him pause. He turned his gaze to his son, a dark look on his face.

"What is it, Lloyd?" He asked, trying to pretend he didn't know what the boy was most likely going to say next.

"She helped Eva, why don't we let her live?" He asked.

"She's trying to kill the Chosen." Kratos countered.

Lloyd frowned. "Yeah, but she must have her reasons. Can't we just let her go?" He asked.

Kratos took a deep breath and sighed, but sheathed his sword anyway. He walked by Lloyd and frowned at his son. "You're too soft." He said simply and moved to stand by Colette. If the girl made to attack again, he wouldn't hesitate to kill her this time.

Lloyd stepped towards the girl and offered her a hand. "Hey, how about we start over? I'm-" He began but the girl swat his hand away.

"I'm not interested in your name!" The girl spat as she flipped back onto her feet. "I won't forget this!" She said. Suddenly she lifted her arm and threw it towards the ground. Smoke exploded around her and Kratos knew the girl was using it as a means to escape. The Mizuho ninja clan was skilled in the art of deception and illusion.

Finally the smoke cleared, but left Lloyd coughing a little. "Wha-? Where did she go?" He asked, looking around for her.

"Away, I would assume. If she knows better, she won't come looking for us." Kratos answered with a sigh. "Let's move, there's a fishing village not far from here."

Lloyd looked upset, but nodded and followed. It was about time they got away from the mountain pass. He let the others move ahead for a bit and glanced back at the opening in the rock wall. A hulking shadowy figure stood just beyond the lit entrance, it's aura resonated with evil. Though he knew it was no threat to himself, Kratos couldn't help but shudder at it's presence. It was a good thing there were ancient seals keeping it locked within the mountain, otherwise it would have revealed itself. And he didn't believe their current group had the strength to take on that evil presence. He turned away from the mountain and moved on.

And that... my dear readers... is that. Took me all of three or four days, but... I think it was WORTH IT! *does a little happy dance* I hope you really like this chapter, and I mean that. I can't believe how fluidly the words flowed from my head to the computer. It was absolutely amazing.

Anyway, I definitely won't be updating the next chapter as quickly as I got this new one out here. But I will try to work on chapter nine and get it up and running as soon as possible. It all depends on the ideas I get and how easy it is to write. I hope I don't have as much difficulty with it as I had for chapter seven anyway.

So... you know the drill. Please read, review and enjoy. Preferably in that order.

Oh, and keep an eye out for the next chapter.