Author's Note: This story grew from a dream I had. I have a couple of chapters drafted and plan to write a lot more. The main character belongs to me; pretty much everything else belongs to Konami. I've stayed as true to the story of Suikoden 2 as possible, minor alterations to scenes down the line, but nothing that affects the overall plot. Story and chapter titles are generally song lyrics or names that inspired the content. Also, this is my first fic. So be nice? ^.^

Chapter One: Hello, Goodbye

"Thanks!" Ariel called over her shoulder as she skipped down the steps of Millian's Armour Emporium.

I think that's everything, she thought, digging a hand into her skirt pocket to find the list. After checking everything off, she shouldered her bag and began the walk back to the rune shop on the other side of the city.

The weather had been hot in Muse lately, but a refreshing breeze now blew through the bustling streets. Ariel breathed it in, glad for the time out in the open air. Working in her family's shop didn't offer a lot of sunshine, so she seized the opportunity to get out when she could. People greeted her with warm smiles as she passed. Muse born and bred, she was a familiar face to the locals, though, the number of strangers in the city was growing by the day. People were flooding in from the eastern villages and rumours of an attack by the Highland Army were circulating throughout Muse. Ariel didn't understand, as the citizens had been celebrating a peace treaty that had just been signed between Highland and the City State of Jowston.

She was puzzling over this when out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed a dark figure rushing towards her. Before she could avoid it, they collided, and she was knocked to the ground.

"Ow!" she winced, looking down at her grazed elbow.

"Watch where you're going!" she called out to the black robed man dashing down the road.

He showed no signs of slowing down. He didn't even turn his head.

"Hey, are you alright?"

Ariel looked up to see a brawny man holding out his hand. She took it, and he hauled her to her feet with ease.

"Thank you, sir," she smiled.

"No problem," he grinned, running a hand through his tousled black hair.

"Here you are."

Ariel turned to see a second man standing on her other side. He was dressed head to toe in shades of blue and black. His messy light brown hair was managed with an indigo bandana, keeping it from obscuring his handsome features.

You can stop staring now, Ariel's inner voice advised her.

"Pardon?" she asked finally.

"Your bag," he replied, "you um, dropped it?"

"Oh right. Thank you," she said, giving herself a mental kick as she saw her bag being held out to her.

She took it with an embarrassed smile, which to her relief, he returned.

Wincing again, turning her arm to examine the damage to her elbow. It was bleeding slightly, but wasn't serious.

"Do you have far to walk?" the man in blue asked.

Ariel shook her head and gestured toward one of the side streets.

"Just to the Rune Shop down there."

"Man, people need to watch where they're going," the bigger man said.

"It's Muse," Ariel replied with a shrug, "it's always busy like this, especially lately..."

"Yeah, and it's about to get worse," he said quietly.

His face tightened as he turned to his companion.

"Anyway, we gotta go. Can't keep those official types waiting, you know."

"You're right," the one in blue said, turning to Ariel, "take care on your trip home."

"I will, thank you."

With a quick nod they both turned and headed up the road toward the city hall. Ariel watched them go, wondering what business they had with 'official types'.

"Hey, did that guy in the cloak look familiar to you?" asked the black haired man.

"I didn't see him, sorry," replied the man in blue.

"Yeah, I bet you didn't..." he snorted.

"What's that supposed to mean?" the man in blue asked, but his companion just laughed.

Their squabbling faded into the background noise of Muse City, and Ariel headed down the side street towards her family's shop. She didn't like the way things were going at the moment, with refugees coming into the city, rumours flying about the Highland Army and people selling their valuables for armour. The sombre look on that stranger's face as he thought about the future stuck in Ariel's mind. Her shared look and smile with a handsome stranger did nothing to lift her sinking spirits.