A/N: So... Any questions? I'm hoping everybody knows what's going on in this story. If not, then I'm screwed.
RESPONSES TO ANNONYMOUS REVIEWERS.
Martha: You simply MUST play Suikoden! At least the first two! They're for the first PlayStation, but you can always find one of them at a used game store for pretty cheap if you don't have one already, and certain models of PS3 will play the game, I believe, though I'm not 100% sure, since I prefer old-school systems. I INSIST that you play it someday! Hahaha.
Durarara lover: Thank you so much!
Seria cluce: Thank you! I will do my best!
AlmaFoleen: Thank you very much for reading!
Buran: Thank you for reading, and sorry for my poor update timings!
"You're telling me that this kid is a doctor?"
So far, Erika was hardly impressed with the fort she was a prisoner in. Her night had been rather stressing after she ate her supper, which consisted of some sort of slop that resembled porridge, in her cell. She may be a little stuck up due to be living quite well with her adoptive parents, and expected a bit more than she should, but when it came to baths, she appreciated a decent place that she could bathe in peace without the fear of men walking in on her, or peeking on her. Yes, she did get permission to bathe, but there was only one area there designated for that, and it was an outdoor, drum can bath that was hidden behind the Mercenary Fort. Her only assurance that nobody would peek was that Flik and Viktor gave 'strict orders' to their soldiers to not go back there until she was done. She stood for an hour, bathing awkwardly in a rusty drum can, looking all around her like a paranoid idiot, checking for peepers.
Now she was being told that the doctors she was promised was actually a little boy that stood no taller than her waist, and she was about 5'5''. He was as pale as pale could be, making his raven black hair, kept in a bun under an orange cloth, contrast with his skin and warm brown eyes. The clothing he wore made her raise a brow, reminding her of some form of Chinese clothing, consisting mostly of yellow and red, with some sort of white apron over his chest. The red shorts and dark blue socks nearly made her think he was a girl, until he was introduced by Viktor as Tuta.
"Apprentice." The boy corrected, a smile never leaving his face.
She plopped back on the crates, "And why did you say I need a doctor's apprentice?"
"Because we found you floating in a river. Shut up already and let the kid check you out." The gruff mercenary leader grunted.
She rolled off the edge, landing neatly on her feet, sighing lightly, "Let's get this over with; Pohl has chores for me to do."
The boy took her wrist, placing his fingers on her pulse, "Her heartbeat is fast." then he dragged a finger across the length of her forearm, before moving it to her forehead, "Skin is dry, and she has a slight fever." He looked to Viktor, "Has she been irritable or confused?"
The man nodded, "Both, actually. Crankiest brat I've ever met. She doesn't even know anything about the City-State or Highland."
"That's because they're not real." Erika said in a sing-song voice, "And even if they were, I told you that I have amnesia, so I wouldn't remember!"
Tuta let her go, and dug in a black doctor's case on the ground next to him, "She's dehydrated. It's getting close to serious, but I have some medicine that'll fix her up by tonight. Be sure she drinks plenty of water and she'll recover nicely." He handed her a vial full of a bright green liquid, "Drink this, please." As she raised it to her lips, he began to speak to Viktor again, "Do you need anything else?"
Before he could answer, there was a horrible retching sound, followed by a coarse, "Eeeeew."
Once she was deemed well enough after nearly throwing up the horribly bitter medicine, Erika was all too eager to escape her cell to complete chores. It was a gradual process, but she was slowly beginning to accept this dream, taking it in full stride without much more complaint. She might as well do something, rather than sit around in her cell waiting to wake up from her fainting spell. Once she awoke, she would have to rush home to adoptive parents, and this dream would be completely forgotten by the next day. Why fight it?
"Two pairs of boots, three flints, and two bags of flour."
Erika stared at Pohl, crossing her arms and raising a brow at him, "What a mix. Throwing flaming boots at somebody today?"
Not to mention she was actually feeling more friendly towards the few people she did know; at least enough to run around and do seemingly pointless errands for them.
He laughed at her jibe, and gestured to the right of where they stood in the hall near her cell, "Afraid not. You can find everything over there. The flour is upstairs though."
She shrugged giving him a small wave as she leisurely strolled along to complete her new chore for the day. Rubbing her arms, passing by the heated stall of the blacksmith, and decided that she should get the flints last out of fear that she would drop them and burn everything to the ground.
Or the fact the soldiers waiting for theirs swords to be sharpened glared at her like she was the spawn of Satan was a little too tense for her liking. Either way, that was the last goal on her list.
So naturally, she walked faster than usual while giving them all the evil eye before stopping next to the door-less room next to the stairs that led up out of the lower levels, and peered inside. There was many wooden crates stacked neatly in columns, with a variety of labels and box conditions. Some were brand new, looking clean and untouched, while others looked as though they had been sitting there for a few hundred years, complete with mold. She made a face at the damp smell that hit her nose, but kept her complaints to herself; it could be worse. Or so she told herself.
"What do you want?" A brusque voice snapped from behind her, making her jump, and whirl around, "Stop creeping around the entrance to my store room!"
It was a woman that addressed her moodily, pushing past her to stand in the center of the room. She was short, and portly, wearing a simple pink dress with a yellow apron that seemed to belong in the Medieval Era, and a green cap hid some of her reddish-brown hair. She was simple looking, but she looked ready to clobber Erika if she tried anything funny. The younger adult stuck her hands in her pockets to make sure she didn't accidentally touch something she wasn't supposed to.
"Um, Pohl wanted me to get two pairs of boots." Erika shifted slightly, moving away from the doorway and stepped inside the room cautiously.
The woman looked at her with critical brown eyes, before nodding to her flip-flop clad feet, "I'll make that three. Sandles ain't got a place in this fort."
She looked down at her feet and wiggled her toes, "Thank you?"
"Get over here, let's see if we got anything that'll fit you." The woman waved her over, gesturing for her to sit on some crates, "The name's Barbara, I'm the Storage Keeper around here."
"I'm Erika Mayflower," She hopped onto the designated crate, leaning back comfortably, "The prisoner around here."
Barbara paused in her rummaging, "The spy Viktor brought in? You're just a kid."
"I'm nineteen." Was the grumbled response, "And I'm not a spy. I don't even know where I'm at."
"A couple miles west from Ryube Village."
"The City-States, of course!" Erika nearly groaned out loud as she was handed a pair of leather boots and a pair of coarse, woolen socks that ended just below her knees, "Did you hit your head or something?"
Erika simply shrugged as she pulled the items on, "Possibly. They fit a little snug, but it'll loosen up once I wear them awhile."
"Good, good." The woman gave her a leery look, "How can you not know for sure if you hit your head?"
She laughed a little, wondering how many times she would have to explain that she was memory-less, "I have amnesia. Could have been a head trauma, or something happened and my mind went berserk trying to suppress it, I guess? I'm not a doctor, so I have no idea."
"I suppose that makes sense." Barbara placed her hands on her hips, "You don't look much like a spy, anyways. Where you in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
A flash of the dead boy she had seen flashed through her mind, along with remnants of that smoke filled night, and she instantly tried to force the memory back, "You have no idea." She felt uncomfortable, sitting there under her gaze, so she quickly spoke again, "Thank you, by the way."
She waved it off, sitting two more pairs of boots beside her, "Just don't cause any trouble."
"I'll try not to."
"And don't let Viktor bully you!" She waved a finger at her, "He actually has a soft spot for kids."
Erika laughed for real this time, finding this hard to believe, "But I'm not a child!"
The woman placed a hand on her shoulder, "I don't know where you really came from, or what your background is, but as long as you have eyes like yours, you'll always be a kid inside."
"I'll take that as a complement." She stood, "I better go get the rest of Pohl's stuff, before he thinks I tried to run off or something."
Barbara nodded in agreement, ushering her out as she gathered up the boots, quickly leaving the room with a bounce in her step. So far, she had met only a few people the she deemed decent enough, and two were women; loud and bossy women mind you. She mused over her encounter as she trudged up the steps into the upper level her eyes falling on a large set of double, wooden doors, her eyes lighting up like the Fourth of July, but she quickly told herself no, shaking her head with a sigh.
"Stop that, you'll never be let out if you make a run for it every chance..." She mumbled to herself, and stood on her tiptoes to examine the room, wondering where she could find flour up here.
"That's the way to think!" She nearly shrieked and barely stopped herself from throwing the boots at the one who hard startled her, "You'll be let loose sooner if you cooperate, so keep being a good girl while we figure out what to do with you."
Viktor grinned down at her from the stairs above her that she assumed must lead to his room in the upper levels, and she couldn't help but glare at him, but it didn't bear as much hostility as her previous ones, "You scared the crap out of me."
He laughed, walking down to meet her in the center of the room, "Yes, well, you'll live through a lot worse." Slinging an arm around her shoulder, he her back where they had ate the day before, "I need you to do something for me."
"Hey, I'm already doing chores for Pohl, what more do I gotta do for you? Free labor only goes so far, you know." She retorted, eying his arm around her shoulder warily.
"Hey, I'm feeding you and paid for your medicine, which wasn't exactly cheap. Cut me some slack."
She rolled her eyes, "Yes, thank you for paying for that awful medicine that nearly made me hurl. Appreciate it."
"Hey, you're better now. Less bratty, at least."
"Erika… Thanks for being a brat."
Groaning, her knees began to wobble as a spinning sensation hit her like a truck, bile rising in her throat. The world began to move too fast, circling her body as it descended towards the ground, but it was all quickly changing before her fluttering eyes. She was fading from consciousness, but she could distinctly see that Viktor barely managed to catch her before she slammed down. She could see that Leona moved from behind the bar, running towards them with Flik close behind. She could feel herself convulsing lightly, a cold sweat breaking across her skin as Tuta barreled through the quickly gathering throng of people.
Erika was aware of all of this, but her mind was not there to respond. She was flying through the vast space of her mind. It was as though somebody was showing her a million movies at once, and all of them were moving at a blinding speed, flashing by her in the tones of sepia. She caught many images of what she was certain to be herself, at varying ages and appearances. Most of the time she was with a girl, who was similar in looks to her, a boy that looked like a younger Jowy, or a teenage boy that looked vaguely like-
"I am sorry. You cannot remember everything. Your mind simply cannot bear the burden just yet. But soon, Sweet Child of Destiny. Soon."
Erika couldn't bear the pain as most of those memories were ripped from her mind, along with the image of somebody very close to her aching heart.
A blinding light sent Erika flying backwards, her train of thought escaping her as she hit the dirt hard, her body automatically rolling to the side as she coughed painfully. She wanted to just lay there on the dirty ground, wallowing in the ungodly pain in her chest; did something kick her? Her eyes wandered around her, moving in slow motion as she took in the sight of a beat up building, surrounded by an expanse of trees and meadows. The building was simple, with wide, bamboo doors that looked like it belonged in an oriental country, and if she thought about it, it looked similar to dojos she had seen in books. There were staffs leaning against it's stone walls, along with wooden practice swords and pales full of water, confirming her thoughts.
"Get up, Erika! You're not finished yet!"
Oh, did that voice sound familiar, but she didn't want to obey, but her body began to move on it's own, shoving itself to its feet – wait. Why was she holding two wooden tonfas? The arm-length weapons were clenched tightly in her hands by their handles, so that they could spin smoothly next to her forearms without striking herself, and tipped with sharp bits of metal, but they had been wrapped with cloths to prevent serious injuries to her sparring partner. How did she know this information? She never held a set of tonfas before in her life! Yet her she was, her body moving on its own accord, the weapons held in her hands as if they were merely an extension of her arms.
"Nice kick, Jowy."
Her mouth formed the words, and her voice spoke them in her clear, crisp accent. An accent she had thought faded. That was quickly forgot as she laid eyes on Jowy, the boy who had saved her life. Why was he here? What was going on? Confusion seemed to be her best friend, as it never left her as she ran forward, the tonfas swinging swiftly as she slammed them down against his blue quarter staff and her leg sot forward, forcing him back. How was she doing this? She couldn't fight! But she didn't didn't relent, her attacks raining down on Jowy without mercy, and she could tell he was having difficulty blocking. But how! How did she know!?
"Yeah! Go Erika! Keep your feet steady Jowy!"
Erika wanted to turn her head to see where the more feminine voice than the first one she heard was coming from, but her head would obey. Nothing would. She couldn't control her body!
She jumped back, blocking an attack and struck the back of his knees, "I got you!"
He fell, but there was a smile on his face as he laughed the fall off, bringing himself back up slowly as he dusted himself off, preparing to say something, but noticed something behind her and waved, "Oh, you're back early-"
She was flung towards the sky, landing once more on the hard ground, but this time, it was cobblestone, and her nose had cracked against it, breaking with a painful crack, just as a foot collided with her ribcage. What was going on? Where was she? What was happening to her? She could only catching a glimpse of a figure looming above her through the blood pouring from her nose. Her head was tilted back and to the side in an odd position, allowing it to flow into her eyes, the substance burning her pale brown eyes and she wanted to scream and wipe it away. No sound escaped her throat, and her hands crossed over her chest protectively instead. Was that a wiser choice? Her arms absorbed most of the blows, protecting her vitals as best as they could.
"How does it feel to be down in the dirt? I bet it's a perfect place for a scumbag like you."
"The stupid bitch can't even answer! A coward just like her father!"
"Coward's daughter! Coward's daughter!"
She didn't answer. She couldn't have answered even if she could come up with the words. She felt too weak. Everything ached, alerting her to the fact that they must have been beating on her for quite some time, but despite the heaviness in her bones, and the burning fire in her muscles, her body began to move, shuffling onto her stomach. Her arms reached out, grasping cobblestones, and pulled her forward, her blood quickly pooling in the crevices and mortar. How did she find the strength to move? She wanted to do nothing more than to curl up in herself protectively!
"Look at her crawl like the snake she is!"
Reaching a wall, she had began to pull herself to her feet, but a foot stomped down on her arm, and with a groan, she was down on her back once more. She blearily stared up at her attacker, who was nothing more than a black silhouette, and she felt calm. Her fear should have been peaked, her terror making her scream and fight for her life, but she did nothing, and gazed upwards. It was as if she knew something was coming. That maybe, somebody was coming.
And she was right.
"What do you little creeps think you're doing?!"
"Shit! It's Nanami! Scram!"
Her attackers had scattered, and she could feel herself laughing lightly despite her pain. She knew this person could always be accounted for, even as she saw a girl with chin length brown hair sprint after her attackers as though she was fueled by her anger. After a few moments, the girl returned, kneeling in front of her, pinching Erika's bleeding nose for her to stop the bleeding. The girl's brown eyes was full of kindness as she gave her a tired, yet relieved look. That girl would always be there for her, no matter what.
Just for her.
The first thing Erika recalled was a horrible screeching sound that made her want to claw out her eyes to use as earplugs. The second thing she recalled was the fact that she both needed her eyes and they probably wouldn't work well as earplugs before she bled out. The first thing she realized was that she was the source of that horribly grating sound and that it was absolute murder on her throat and vocals cords, so it was better to shut up now before she actually busted somebody's eardrum.
"Oh, thank God. I thought I was the one dying." Viktor's rough voice sounded awfully close, scaring her into screaming again, jerking up at the same time, making him flail about to cover his ears, "Would you stop that?!"
She clamped her mouth shut, smothering the sound, but her heart was still pounding a thousand miles an hour. Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, wondering where she was, or what had just happened. Was she still being kicked while she was down? Was she being rushed to someplace where she would get medical attention? Where those simply more memories, brought on by this dream world? Where they even real memories?
Feeling her nose gingerly, and sighing when she felt it was perfectly straight, "I don't know what's real anymore..." She could feel the tears well up in her eyes, and she drew her knees up to her chest, burying her face in her arms, "I just don't know..."
Viktor coughed awkwardly, obviously not used to seeing tears, and a hand touched her shoulder, making her flinch, but she looked up regardless, seeing Flik with a gentle look on his face, "Listen, I don't know what you've been through, nor do I think I could ever imagine what its like to not remember anything, but I can assure you that this is real. You, me, the Bear-"
She smiled at the two, and allowed Flik to wipe away the tears on her cheeks, then squeeze her shoulder in a form of offering comfort, "Trust me. We're all really here, and this isn't a dream."
So many people were being unlawfully kind to her. Offering her to trust them with her life, and she knew that she could. These people, all of them, were worthy of her trust. It was something that touched her heart in a way she never knew possible. It was an odd sensation, but it warmed her to the core, and she could only nod her head, accepting this fact, for fear of making some weird noise that sounded like a dying cat.
"Thank you." She whispered, and he backed away, giving her space, and she stretched out her legs, stunned as she noted that she was sitting on an unusually soft surface.
Looking around, she saw that she was laying on a bed, much to her surprise, and seeing her look of confusion, Viktor spoke up, "We moved you to Flik's room. I would have let you in my room, but it's, well..."
"A disaster?" Flik offered from his spot next to a window, as he leaned on a tidy bookshelf.
"Yeah, pretty much. Thanks, Blue Lightning, for being so subtle."
Erika laughed, the sound foreign on her lips, but it felt right. She was feeling comfortable now. No longer was she in an unknown area with enemies all around her. She was in a safe haven, where she could recover from her memory loss, surrounded by the comfort of friends and allies. There wasn't a way in Hell she wanted to leave her comfort-zone in this unusual world.
"By the way, Erika..." Viktor cleared his throat, eying her with a grin, "You know how Pohl wanted you to go get flour at our general store?"
She had to think for a moment to gather her thoughts, but nodded in acknowledgment, "Yeah, and I needed to grab some flints for him too."
"Well we're fresh out of flour around here, and I was thinking a little fresh air might do you good." He stated, placing a knapsack on the bed, "This here has everything a new adventurer will need in the big world. There's sleeping furs, some first-aid, some breads and cheese and dried meats, a flint stone for starting fires, and lots and lots of medicines for when you get your ass kicked."
Staring at him blankly, she could only form one word.
A/N: Any guesses on the romantic interest in this story? Let me know in the reviews (if you feel generous enough)!
For the You Set Me Free fans who happen to read this too; I'm working on it! I want it to be freaking AWESOME so I'm taking longer with it than I should. Don't sue or kill me!