Author's Note: Okay, well, I had a dream regarding the ToA cast once... once... when I was very sleep-deprived. But anyhow... my mind crafted an OC, one who was almost as much of an enigma as Jade. So, this story was born, a tale of two convoluted souls. The story will feature the other characters and follow the ToA plot for the most part, the focus sometimes drifting because that's just how my mind works.

We begin in the desert before the party reaches Chesedonia, while on their way to Azeriuth... I hope you enjoy...

"When will we reach the oasis? It's so hot out here…" Though Tear Grants was rarely one to offer complaint, regarding any issue, this was certainly not an independent or unique thought.

The sheer heat of the desert seemed to be something that each member of Luke's peace-brigade had entirely underestimated. Anise was dragging her feet by now, eyes refusing to be cast upward to meet those of her party members. Natalia had grown unusually sluggish, and had somehow moved from the front of the group to the rear, taking cover from the sunlight behind a quivering Guy. He, though usually terrified at the prospect of having a woman so close to him, was not in any position for complaint – he would do what he could to help the others.

Tear was murmuring quietly to herself, though Luke occasionally listened in and made some snide remark. She would combat this with quarrel of her own, which would in turn be answered, until the exhaustion of fighting in the extreme heat drove them both into silence once more. These snippets of arguments greatly amused the man travelling furthest ahead in the party: one Jade Curtiss. Seemingly undisturbed by the heat, the Malkuth colonel found himself internally struggling to keep a steady pace onward and toward the promised oasis.

"Colonel, I'm tired. Can't we stop for a break?" Anise had grown slower still, now trailing a good twenty feet or so behind Natalia. The princess of course had wanted to voice her concerns regarding the young Fon Master Guardian's pace, but was not in such spirits as to disrupt the Colonel's unending concentration. Jade looked over his shoulder, but did not stop walking.

"Anise, there will be time to rest once we reach the oasis. This is not a suitable place to stop. We could be attacked by thieves or monsters while off-guard, and we are apt to pass out from dehydration…" No one really bothered to listen to anymore of the military man's speech, but they all knew well that he was correct, and continued onward. Luke eventually found himself matching the elder's speed, and stayed just behind him in hopes of avoiding the sun's direct rays.

"It seems like we've been walking forever. Are we going in the right direction?" Natalia poked Guy curiously, obviously forgetting about his condition, which caused him to rocket forward and as far away from her as he could manage.

"I-I d-don't know, really," he answered, shaking sand from pale blonde hair. His eyes fluttered shut for a brief moment in hopes of clearing away some of the similar residue, but he found himself without much luck. "Tear's in control of the map and directional fonstone."

"We're going the right way," Tear answered plainly, trudging past Guy with a slightly aggravated look plastered upon her face. "I'm sure of it. This route is just taking a bit longer than expected. I didn't anticipate the sandstorms being so strong out here."

"Fantastic planning," Luke spat, glancing over his shoulder before quickening to Jade's side. The colonel ignored the 'youthful', idle chit-chat, and silently moved to loosen the collar of his standard-issue military jacket. Guy caught the movement, and inwardly chuckled, before falling back and allowing Natalia to take her place in the shade once more. However exhausted, the six emissaries of peace managed to continue onward, until-

"Oh, look, look! Buildings! That must be the oasis!" Anise's shouts alerted the calmer members of the party to the nearing of their destination; truth be told, each of them brightened considerably, despite the considerable distance remaining between them and the small town. Luke seemed especially happy, smiling for the first time since perhaps his parting of ways with Van.

"Oh, thank goodness," Natalia whispered, subtly quickening her step to match that of Guy. The servant, in turn, bid her a warm smile, and looked up from the dusty earth. The particles of sand flying into his eyes proved to be worth the sight of civilization after so long, and he too drew a quiet sigh of relief. As the small group advanced on the oasis, Jade was perhaps the only one to notice Luke's sudden look of despair. He lagged quite obviously now, allowing even Anise to pass him. This upset the colonel ever so slightly, but he did his best to look unfazed and sauntered onward toward the village.

It did not take long for the enigmatic man's fears to be confirmed.

"Wh-what…?! A-ahhhhh, it-it hurts! God damnit!" There is was, the red-haired royal sinking to his knees as the familiar, excruciating pain overtook his head. Pale fingers locked with the crimson strands as the look of conflict came over Luke's face. "D-damnit, not again!"

Hmm… so you can hear me after all… it's almost disappointing.

"Stop it! Urrggh, what do you w-want?!"

Come to the Zao Ruins. We're holding the Fon Master here. If you don't come, it could be the end of his life.

"Damnit! Get out of my head!"

Hmm… suit yourself, dreck. Just remember what I said.

As suddenly as it had begun, the pain of Luke's headache subsided, and left him only with the words of the God-General, Asch the Bloody. His hands left the sides of his head, fingers dragging through the long tangles as he stood up ever so slowly. The others seemed worried, all except for Jade and Tear, one of whom was wearing the stern look of a solider, the other a seemingly amused grin. Luke resented the older man, and placed hands on his hips as he spoke.

"You're damn annoying, you know that?" The colonel simply rolled his eyes, and beckoned for the youth to tell them about the incident which had just occurred. "All right, all right," Luke caved. "Asch just contacted me. He said that we should go to the Zao Ruins, whatever those are, because that's where they're holding Ion."

"Fon Master Ion?!" Anise yelped, terror gracing her features. "We have to go after him! Luke, promise me we'll go!"

"Why should I? I'm the ambassador, and I say we need to continue on to Azeriuth."

"But Master! What'll happen to Ion?!" Mieu asked, equally as panicked as Anise. The small, blue cheagle bounced around the ambassador's feet, sadness looming in large grey eyes.

"I don't care. I'm not out here looking for Ion," the redhead replied calmly.

"But he's within our grasp," Tear reasoned. "We should save him while we're out here in this desert. It will not only be useful to bring the Fon Master along, but Anise has a duty to protect him, as does the colonel. If they leave, and trust me, I'm sure the others would accompany them, you'd be on your own."

"God damnit, you make things difficult." The royal inwardly groaned, tossing his head back as he squinted at the sun in contemplation. "All right. We make a quick stop at the oasis to rest, and then we go after Ion in those Zao Ruins or whatever. Where are they anyway?"

"We can probably ask somewhere where they are once we reach the town," Guy offered, nodding in the small settlement's direction.

"All right, then let's go."

Luke started off toward the oasis again, muttering to himself the entire way. The others were following closely in his stride, all except for a certain Malkuth solider. Jade trailed at a snail's pace behind the party, listening intently to the winds and the voices of the thieves – those who so freely drifted across the desert. He found them curious, almost, a fraction of an inch away from his interest. But specifically, the colonel was listening intently for something he'd heard once before while wandering these parts. To his dismay, he heard it not – the cry of a monster he'd encountered here, unable to defeat. Of course, he'd been young at the time…

Younger, at the time. He was not old by any definition of the word.

But he'd been almost longing to hear the beast's cry… perhaps it simply had died of natural causes, considering the climate here.

No, no matter how much I instate logic… ah, to hell with it…

I hope to have another chapter posted soon. Hope you enjoyed it! R&R, but only if you want to. Hehe. ^.^