Author's Note: Because I added an extra chapter (9.5), all following chapters are pushed ahead. This is chapter 10.
Story: Moving on... Without You.
Chapter Synopsis: Our heroes search for the Farseer tribe across the plains of Gran Pulse. Will they be able to see what is right in front of them or will they be preoccupied with what lies beyond their reach?
Chapter 10*: Farsightedness
Farsighted – (adjective): able to see distant objects better than objects at close range.
Hunting was second nature to Noel. He could follow tracks in the crystal sand, easily identifying evidence of shelter and excrement to lead him to his prey. With his keen eyes he could detect movement of the smallest creature kilometers away. The scent of fur and blood on the wind was captured by his strong sense of smell. At the end of days, his hunting skills had kept an entire tribe alive. He only hoped his talents were sharp enough to save the Farseers of this era from the evil intentions of the Academy.
Of course, Noel had never stalked another hunter before; someone who knew what he would be looking for and covering their tracks. So, as he and Serah wandered the plains of Gran Pulse, he was unsure if he'd been following the Farseer's trail or not. They kept to the edge of the tree line at night, but traversed vast fields during the day, searching for any sign of human life. Recently he'd found bloodstains on the yellowing grass with no body to show for it, a sure sign of another predator in the area. That had been two days ago. Since then, there was nothing.
All they had for supplies were the survival packs from the Soloch ruins mission, their weapons and the clothes on their backs. Unfortunately for Serah, autumn was progressing and every day was colder than the last. The jean shorts she had chosen to wear did little to keep the chill of the wind off her legs. She tried not to complain about it, but Noel saw the way she shivered. When the cold snap didn't relent, he took the blanket from their survival pack, ripped it into two long pieces and fastened them around her legs. The effect looked like riding chaps that a biker would wear. Though they were a far cry from a real pair of pants, Serah wore them gratefully.
Their diet consisted mainly of meat, though Noel was able to identify some edible plants as well. In many ways they had become the same as the Farseers, following the herds, living in the wilderness. It was a strange kind of symmetry – the Farseers hunted the lobos, they were hunting the Farseers and they, in turn were being hunted by the Academy.
Of course, they'd had no indication that they were being followed. No airships appeared overhead thus far.
Ardea followed the information from the shopkeeper in Nautilus, which led her to believe that Serah and Noel were going to travel far. Why else would they need a World Map?
They monitored the skies for flying creatures with human passengers, but the radar from Nautilus, and surrounding cities did not indicate any unusual activity. Next she consulted the migrational patterns of the herds – the behemoths should be passing just north of Nautilus heading east towards the Archylte Steppe. They could head that way and cut them off. Land there, and wait.
Bero Vulcan had allowed a few extra ships to be sent as backup, but it would take them at least another day to fly all the way out from Academia. Thus, for the moment, they were unfortunately on their own. Not only that, but everything they did was closely monitored by their leader. Ardea would have assembled every member of PIRT for this hunt, but she knew that if she contacted anyone from the Academy, she might arouse Vulcan's suspicion, and he might decide to hurt Val as retaliation. There was no way for their party of three to search the entire surface of Pulse, but time was running out.
Ardea calculated how far Serah and Noel could have travelled. No visible flight 6 hours after the transaction at the gift shop in Nautilus, a max flight speed of 80 km/hr on Deathgaze times 6 hours means that they could have only traveled 480 km (or 300 miles) in any direction. It was unlikely that they would backtrack south towards Academia, so the radius was halved. On foot, in 24 hours minus 5 hours rest at a max speed of 5 km/hr means the radius was now 575 km (or 350 miles). As time wore on, the area of possible occupancy increased steadily. If they didn't pick a direction, soon it would be impossible to find their prey.
Making the best decision she could, based half on intuition, she instructed Flint to head north-east and prayed that she was right. If they didn't find them after a few days, they'd head towards the Archylte Steppe.
Vulcan had only given her two weeks. She prayed that Val would last that long.
Sometimes Serah felt like she was being watched. However, she was aware that her fears of becoming a test subject could be manifesting themselves in such a way, and she ignored the feeling as best she could. In instances when she felt panic slip into her mind like an icy scalpel, she'd reach for Noel's hand. His warmth always reassured her.
It had been two weeks since the mission, the betrayal and the beginning of their search. Serah and Noel had a new kind of relationship. Having been initially spooked about having feelings for Noel, Serah had tried to keep her distance as much as possible. But, as they travelled, their simple conversations slowly eroded the walls she'd tried to build between them. It became more comfortable as they opened up to one another. Noel learned about Serah's parents and Lightning. She recounted how her sister - who's name was Claire, Noel learned with interest - had supported her, provided for her and the intense gratitude that she held for her older sister. In return, Serah became familiar with the customs and traditions of the Farseer tribe of 700 AF. She had seen with her own eyes the desolate landscape that Noel had called home, but it was something else to hear of the feast days and festivals they enjoyed while his tribe was still large enough to do so.
The more she learned about him, the more she understood his need to connect with everyone. Noel was so easy to get along with, but that was because it was a joy for him to meet someone new, an experience he never had growing up. He was always told that his tribe was the last to roam the planet, but he always fought against that theory. He wanted to explore, to find others like them. Now, after having met so many new people – on their journey through time and afterwards – Noel was satisfied, but at the same time, it only solidified the loneliness of his past existence.
Searching for the Farseers meant something more for Noel. It wasn't just to warn them. He felt that if he could just find them, it would be like a homecoming. He figured he'd be able to connect with them in a way that he couldn't with people who had lived on Cocoon. As they searched, his mind was clouded by the prospect of finding a place where he'd belong. And there was always the fierce hope that Yeul would be there.
Noel was confused about his feelings for the young Seeress. He loved Yeul, but did he love her as a friend, or as something more? It was difficult to untangle his conflicting emotions while Serah stood by his side. Feeling slightly guilty, he tried to brush off the longing he felt for the blue-haired girl. But as much as he tried, he couldn't give up the hope that she might be somewhere in this time, waiting for him to find her.
It took five days for Sergeant Evans and Ash Kenwood to return from the Soloch mission. Since their airship had been stolen by Flint, Ardea and Blaze, they'd had to walk. Between the high-rise metropolis of Academia and the ruins in the valley, there exists a dry desert of red earth. Though it is a beautiful sight from the flight deck of an airship, it is a harsh reality for anyone having to travel by foot. Evans knew this, and didn't even attempt it. The communication device at his belt didn't do a damn thing to help them; for some reason it could not contact anyone from the Academy. Not only that, but the researchers that had been living near the ruins had vanished altogether by the time Evans returned from the shrine. Whether they'd left with the others, or if they were just hiding, Evans couldn't say one way or the other.
However, the map on his tablet computer had indicated a small village not too far away from the ruins, called Kighs, where he hoped they might find a pilot. The next morning they gathered up provisions from the portable outpost and headed north.
"What do you think about all of this?" Evans had asked the teenager while they were walking.
"Well, to be honest, it kinda stinks," Ash replied in his offbeat sort of way. He let his new friend Caterpie slide up onto his shoulder before he elaborated. "I mean, that Ardea chick was way crazy, so it wasn't a surprise that she'd attack someone. But I didn't think that the others, Flint and Blaze were up to anything, so I guess I'm mad that they tricked everyone. I'm especially mad that we have to walk the rest of the way …"
Evans was intrigued by Ash's assessment of the biologist. Way crazy, huh? Maybe it was because he hadn't spent enough time talking to her, or maybe she was deliberately normal in front of him, but he'd never felt that she'd done anything that he would classify as crazy.
He reflected on the short mission while they continued their trek across the valley floor. Lush vegetation such as ferns and shrubs covered the ground, but what looked like a beautiful flower would often be a stalker-type creature that would spring up and attack them when they least expected it. Thankfully, Ash had an array of creatures that followed his command, and Evans had his Wolverine-157 pistol if he needed to defend himself.
Deep in thought, he remembered the first meeting of the Soloch ruins mission. Ardea had conducted herself in a very intelligent manner fitting a biologist of the Academy. She was outspoken, yes, she'd even corrected the Director. On the way to the ruins he'd been in the cockpit, so he hadn't been able to talk to her. He did remember Serah looking a little scared and relieved that they would be landing. Had it been something Ardea had said? In fact, it seemed that every time Evans had talked to Serah she'd been a little spooked. He continued to ponder the situation all the way to the village.
The village of Kighs was very small and consisted of a few buildings lining a main street. Houses dotted the landscape, far enough apart that they were probably family farms. Most buildings were made of metal and shone in the fading sunlight. They stopped at the first house they saw. It was a small one room cottage, built of blue steel. The low-pitched roof was multi-faceted like a diamond, consisting of solar panels joined at different angles. The place looked custom built in the most modern designs - in other words, very expensive. If anyone would have an airship, it would be the residents of this house.
Evans slid his finger down the holo-surface of the door, activating the entry signal. A pleasant chiming sound was heard. Immediately, a face was projected before them of a middle aged woman with light brown hair, smiling green eyes and a pale yellow shawl draped about her shoulders.
"Yes, hello?" the image greeted them.
"Hi," replied Evans, flashing her a charming smile. "My name is George Evans, and this is my associate Ash Kenwood," he said, indicating the young man to his right. "We were travelling and seem to have gotten a bit lost. Is there an airbus that flies to Academia – or maybe someone who owns an airship in this village?" he asked, as friendly as possible.
The woman looked them over thoughtfully before answering. "Sorry, I'm afraid this town isn't very populated, so we don't have many airbuses flying though. There is one that comes every weekend heading to Nautilus," she recalled, and then checked the side of her screen, away from the camera. "It will be coming tomorrow at noon. From Nautilus I'm sure you could find some transportation to Academia."
Evans nodded as he followed her explanation. If the only airbus wouldn't arrive until tomorrow, they'd need somewhere to stay for the night. He asked her if there was an Inn somewhere in the village.
"Oh, if you need somewhere to stay for tonight, you are welcome to stay here," the woman offered brightly. "It is a bit lonely living here by myself."
Though he was thankful, he insisted that they didn't want to be a burden. In the end, the kind woman wouldn't take no for an answer. She unlocked the door from her position with a click of a button, and the holo-screen they had been talking through hinged forward and allowed them entry to the small cottage.
Farsighted - (adjective): wise, as in foreseeing future developments.
This morning, the bitingly cold wind ruffled Serah's hair. Shivering, she snuggled closer to Noel's chest, hiding her face beneath his arms. Without a blanket or extra clothing, their only source of warmth at night was fire and each other. These days, Serah would press herself against Noel with such force that he often complained that she was trying to wear him like a coat. So, as she tried to hide herself from the wind, Noel rolled over, taking his protective arm with him.
"N-Noel," Serah's teeth chattered as she complained, "g-get back over here!"
Noel's face relaxed in a lazy grin. "No. I'm not a blanket."
The lithe hunter got up and stretched his arms over his head, his muscles bunching and stretching as he tried to wake himself up. Looking down tenderly at his companion, her small form shaking like the leaves on the trees, he wanted to give up this futile search and bring her somewhere warm. This was a poorly-planned mission, one they were not ready for. If they only had some more supplies and some warmer clothes… he thought sadly.
The woman gave him an evil eye, but attempted to fall back asleep. Laying in the fetal position, legs tight against her chest, she hugged herself and closed her eyes.
"C'mon, sleepy-head, it's time to get up," Noel said, offering her a hand up. When she refused, he reached down and removed one of her leg coverings.
Her eyes snapped open then and she pounced on him with a fury he hadn't expected. The brunette chuckled as he relinquished the piece of cloth. "Now that's more like it."
"Shut up," Serah replied with a pout. Refastening her make-shift pants, she ignored the man before her.
Hidden eyes watched them wake up, laughing silently. These were the hunters the Elder had warned us about? They couldn't even sense his presence, and he was only inches away from them, cloaked in the shadows of the forest. Farsighted fools. The lurking stranger poised his dart gun on his lips, almost wishing they would detect him before it came to this. But, soon they'd be heading out again, meaning he had to take his chance now. Aiming slightly to the left of the male to account for the wind; he blew a dart directly into his neck.
"Noel!" Serah shouted fearfully as she looked up in time to see him fall to his knees. A small feather-tipped arrow was protruding from his neck. Her eyes searched the area wildly hoping to catch movement from their assailant. She kept Noel's prone form at her back in order to protect him.
"Who's out there? Come on, show yourself!" Serah yelled at the trees after a few seconds of silence. A glint of reflected sunlight caught her eye directly in front of her, but as she moved to attack, a dart struck her neck as well and her vision began to blur. Through hazy eyes she could see the grass and a pair of bare feet – she must have fallen down. But she could only accept her fate as the sleep set in.
When she awoke, she felt a peculiar calmness wash over her. Flickering candlelight danced along with shadows on the walls of what she imagined was a tent of some sort. A thick, spicy scent settled over her like a cloud. Her body was completely relaxed. Though she knew they had been attacked and somehow transported here, no anxiety overwhelmed her. In fact, it took her a few minutes before she even thought to look around for Noel. As she sat up, she found that she was not alone. An older bald man sat on a cushion a few paces ahead of her, his head bowed as if in prayer. His clothes reminded her of Noel's garments, a dark blue sash crossed his chest and flowing pants completed his outfit. Beside her, Noel stirred from his slumber and sat up, rubbing his head.
"Ah, awake, are we? Welcome, Serah and Noel," said the deep voice of the man in front of them. He opened his eyes then and swept his hands out in front of him in what could be called a welcoming gesture.
Serah managed a small "Hello." Noel said nothing at all.
"I am Orion, the Elder of this tribe. We have observed you for some time, and have determined that you mean us no harm. So, please, why do you seek the Farseers?
Finally rousing from his stupor, Noel asked "Why do I feel so calm?"
"Our darts have that effect," Orion chuckled. "We are quite wary of outsiders, so we often use the darts before bringing anyone into our village. That way, if they turn out to be hostile, they'll have no idea where we are."
As her thoughts began to clear, Serah realized that they had finally found the Farseers. Well... really they had been found by them, but what did it matter who found who? Because it had been Noel's quest from the beginning, Serah left the talking up to him.
Taking a deep breath, Noel began, "Thank you for bringing us here. As you must already know, we've been searching for your tribe for some time," he gave the elder, Orion, serious eye contact. "Our purpose in finding you was to deliver a warning."
Noel looked around expectantly, "Well, the warning is for the Seeress. Is it possible to see her? To see Yeul?" he asked with a strange urgency that surprised the elder.
He replied simply, "There is no Seeress at this time. The last Yeul died fifteen years ago."
Despite knowing that this could be a possibility, Noel had refused to believe it. He figured that if he could find the Farseers he'd be sure to find her again. Now reality brought his hopes crashing down around him. Silent anguish filled him as he realized that he could never fulfill his promise to Yeul; to see her again. The last time he'd seen her, when she'd died in his arms, was the last time he'd ever see his Yeul.
Knowing this would be a hard truth for Noel to hear, Serah placed an arm around his shoulders.
"We wanted to warn the Seeress about the intentions of the Academy -" Serah continued when Noel didn't say any more. "Uh, do you know who the Academy is?" she asked sheepishly.
"Of course, Serah, we are the Farseers, after all. Through the Oracle Drive, we are able to use the visions of past Seeresses to better understand the current world and what will come in the future."
Slightly embarrassed, she continued, "Well, a group within the Academy believes that the powers of the Seeress could be harnessed for their own purposes, and to do that, they plan to exploit your tribe and the Seeress herself. They are very dangerous."
Hm, the elder nodded in response. The three of them sat in silence for a moment, the flames of the candles continuing to flicker around them. It seemed that the Elder was thinking, or rather deciding on what to say in answer to their warning. Maybe he was trying to assess the truth in her words. For whatever reason, they sat like this for a very long time.
Finally, Orion opened his mouth. "You endured much hardship to deliver this warning. I know because my hunters have been following you since you arrived on our plains. But what I can't fathom is why. Our tribe is known far and wide for the ability to see the future. So why did you think you needed to warn us of this danger?"
It was all too apparent that neither of the outsiders had even considered that the Farseers had already been aware of the Academy threat.
Sighing, Orion said "The Academy soldiers have been trying to find our tribe for months now." This information brought a gasp from Serah. "Yes, and all that time we have managed to avoid being found. They tried to track us with the herds. They've sent hundreds of men and women with guns to try to force us out of hiding. In the end, it did them no good. The point I am trying to make is that we are capable of taking care of ourselves, and we won't be found unless we want to be."
This was not the outcome Noel had expected. Nothing was playing out as it had in his mind. He'd been so preoccupied with the hope of redeeming himself as a Guardian – by protecting the Seeress of this era – he hadn't thought that these people didn't need his help at all. Now he sat in front Orion feeling no connection with the man. These were supposed to be his people, but they regarded him as an outsider. The reunion was hollow without Yeul.
It was Noel's only chance to make that connection, so he tried. "Elder, I am from the Farseer tribe in the distant future. My friend has been blessed with the Eyes of Etro. Is it possible that we may stay with you until we decide how to deal with the dangers that lie in wait for us?"
"Oh-ho, the Eyes of Etro, you say?" said Orion with piqued interest. "So you were the ones that needed the warning more than we did?" he laughed heartily at the situation. What strange visitors they were indeed.
When he regained his composure, he accepted. "You may stay with us for as long as you need. But know this," he warned, "When you are ready to leave, we will need to use our darts on you once more, so you do not lead the Academy scum back to us. Are we in agreement?"
"Yes." - "Of course," the visitors replied in unison.
"Then it is settled. Niva!" he called. A middle-aged woman appeared in the opening of the tent. She bowed her head toward Orion. "Please take these two and outfit them properly for the weather." Then he again turned his attention to the man and woman in front of him. "You will eat well here, as my personal guests. Now follow Niva, and she will ensure that your stay with us is a comfortable one." With those words, Orion turned his back on them and bowed his head again.
Serah and Noel took it as a cue to leave. They made to follow Niva outside, but before they could leave the tent, the woman shoved them back. "At least say thank you!" she urged them with a scolding tone.
Worried they'd been ungrateful, Serah quickly turned and bowed her head deeply to the elder. "Thank you so much, Orion!" Niva smacked her head lightly. Confused, Serah looked over at the woman who then mouthed "Elder". Apparently it was offensive to call the Elder by his first name, though he'd made no indication of it the whole time they'd conversed with him. Either way, Serah felt she was making a poor impression on this woman, so she tried again. "Thank you, Elder."
Niva seemed satisfied with this and allowed her to exit the tent. Noel gave a nonchalant smirk and said a quick "Thanks."
Though it hadn't gone exactly as expected, the young hunter was glad that they weren't rejected outright from the tribe. They needed time to decide how they were going to deal with Ardea, the Academy and the dangers ahead. Even more importantly, they needed to figure out how they were going to live in this new world without Hope. A future with Serah was all that mattered to him, as to where they lived, it didn't matter in the slightest.