"Woah! There's little furry round guys everywhere!"
Ah, Norma, it's times like this that I can always count on you to diffuse a potentially highly strung group of people who are all being thrown for a loop. Or at least, I appreciated her airheadedness. Of course, she was the most typical of the females in the game, and did have a soft spot for fuzzy otters. Really though, who was I kidding we all had a soft spot for those guys. Actually seeing so many of them surrounding me in multicolored shirts and accessories that all resembled scallops in some way or another was making me a little too grinny myself. Really you just had to be there.
Of course my state of mind was easily the most locked down. Will and Harriet, the little girl hiding behind Senel, were both staring at each other. Will in utter shock, Harriet with extreme wariness. Norma was getting otter overload but otherwise seemed fine. Senel had his eyes moving from Harriet to Will to Chloe, who was looking daggers at him, to Jay and then back to Harriet. Finally, Jay was looking thoroughly put out that he was no longer the center of attention and his ultimate surprise had fizzled out quite spectacularly. Nothing like leading a small group of people across a bay, through the crags, then a lake, only to be greeted with a reaction along the lines of, "Hey, it's a bunch of Oresoren."
"Hey! Alliance Marine!" Jay took a step forward, eying Senel threateningly. "What are you doing with Poppo?"
"What do you mean what am I doing with him?" snapped Senel, relieved to have a target for his attention outside of the awkward mess he was in the middle of. "Does it look like I'm doing anything with him?"
"Hi, guys!" said Poppo cheerfully, at which the other Oresoren greeted him similarly. What a cheery bunch.
"Poppo! You're back," came a voice from closer to the cave entrance. We all turned to see Pippo and Quppo coming over to join us. "Oh, hello everyone!" he continued, when he noticed that we were there as well. "Did you come to visit our village?"
"Yo, it's good to see you again," said Quppo.
"Hi Pippo, Quppo," I said with a wave.
"Wait you actually know them?" said Jay to his friends, further confused. They nodded. "I see..." He turned to us all. "I'd appreciate an explanation but why don't we go somewhere more comfortable. My home is further in."
"That sounds good," I said, weaving around the milling Oresoren who were now chatting with the Scallop Brothers. "Plus, I've been wondering how the famous Jay the Unseen lived." I let my last words die down to a low mutter, only loud enough for Jay himself to hear them. He looked at me in a calculating way and I knew that I had somehow unnerved him. More than likely it was because no one had ever guessed who he was before. Usually people would probably dismiss the notion simply because of his age. He was seven years my minor after all. Just old enough to get his learner's permit back in New York. Though I doubt he'd be able to see over the steering wheel of any car.
Inwardly however I cursed at myself. I was becoming arrogant, I could tell. There was something about knowing so much about everyone and everything that was intoxicating in a way. Omnipotence was certainly corrupting and fun to boot. I had an immense amount of power in this world, through what I knew. If I felt like letting everything going to shit I could easily go to Vaclav and let him know that the Holy Sovereign of Rexalia was chilling in Musette's house. He'd likely jump at the opportunity to destroy another country. Or I could just head off to the Ferines and tell them all the ways that humanity could potentially stop them from destroying all land in the world, effectively reducing the chance of it being stopped to practically nothing. I could tell Chloe where the swordsman with the snake tattoo was and she would go haring off. I could go claim the Everlight for myself... one free wish certainly wouldn't go unappreciated in my book.
I was brought out of my thoughts by Harriet dashing by me into the cave, closely followed by Poppo. I grimaced at the awkward conversation I was going to be witnessing with the others in a few minutes. It was frustrating having to sit back so much, policing myself at all times to make sure I didn't do anything that would be to damaging to the flow of the game.
Not a game, I said to myself. This is not a game. This is real. To all of them and even to me, this is as real as it gets. Lyra...
"Shayne?" Chloe was looking at me in concern. I suppose I had been spacing out a little too much.
"What's up? Everything alright?" I asked, looking at the young knight. She shook her head.
"I'm the one who should be asking that," she replied. "You looked quite distant. Is something on your mind?" I wondered what to tell her, or if I should say anything at all.
"Lately I've been feeling like something has been on the tip of my mind, but I've got no idea what it could be." Chloe watched me curiously. I had to point out the steps so that she wouldn't fall down them. "Sometime... I wonder exactly how important the things I've forgotten are. There is weight in knowing something, but at the same time just as much in not knowing. How do I know which is better?"
"Are you afraid of what you might remember if your memory comes back?" asked the girl. She looked pensive, considering what could be better forgotten than known. She grimaced. Of course there were things that she wished she could forget for the rest of her life but never would. I shook my head.
"No, actually I'm more worried about how you all might react," I said honestly. That was really the crux of my issues. When my 'memories' came back, in other words when the truth of my purpose was revealed, would they be able to forgive me? Would Shirley be able to forgive me?
"You're not a bad person, Shayne," said Chloe resolutely. I couldn't help but smile at her words. Unable to give her head a rub like I wanted to because of her hat I settled for rubbing her back a bit.
"Same to you, Chloe. Thanks." Chloe ducked her head a bit, embarrassed, and fell back to walk next to Norma.
"Oh ho, there appears to have been an unexpected development on the boat while I was gone..." I caught the teasing teen say to Chloe who began protesting at once. Not eager to be near that conversation I moved up, ears a bit red at the thought.
It didn't take us too long to enter the main cavernous area that the village was situated in. There were a number of levels to it, the higher ones in the back where the residences resided, while the lower ones met with small docks and large pools of water. I could see a number of types of shops near the back in the more industrial section of the village. We all slowly came to a halt outside the small one room Inn that Harriet and Poppo were unsuccessfully hiding in. The Oresoren innkeeper was watching them in amusement. Jay and the other Oresoren were waiting for us by the stairs that led into the center of the village, though not so far away that they would be out of earshot.
"What's with the scary face, Teach?" asked Norma, eyebrows raised at the older man. I had to heavily resist burying my face in my hands. Norma could be incredibly blunt at the most untimely moments.
"There's nothing scary about it," came the expected reply, though not with the usual head knock. Instead he continued to stare
"Raynard, who is that young lady?" asked Chloe after a second. Will seemed to be battling with himself for a moment before responding.
"That's... my daughter."
"Oh your daughter," said Chloe with an understanding nod.
"Of course," said Senel. They looked at each other for a moment before turning to Will sharply.
"That's a little over the top, you guys..." said Norma.
"As much as I might wish otherwise, it's true." Harriet walked out from her hiding place and planted herself in the middle of the road. "I took my mom's last name, not his."
"So then how old are you?" asked Norma, curious.
"Nine," said Harriet. Will cleared his throat a bit.
"Harriet was born when I was nineteen," he said, still looking down at the girl who was determinedly avoiding his eyes.
"What!?" This time it was all three of them.
"Teach, you're only twenty-eight?" said Norma in shock. Chloe turned to her exasperated.
"That's what you're surprised about?" she said nonplussed.
"Well, I mean, I thought he was more of an old man, you know? But now he actually is someone's old man! I mean...seriously? You're really her old man?" I closed my eyes in resignation as Norma received a whack over the head for her Norma-ness. Not wanting to really keep watching I walked over to Jay.
"Enjoying yourself?" I asked him.
"Probably about as much as you are," he said, looking from me to the tense father-daughter conversation. "I was wondering-"
"How I knew who you are?" I posed.
"And for how long," he added, arms crossed.
"Ah, well you were pretty suspicious to me on the docks," I said. "I mean it's difficult to have such updated information on someone you're targeting without being close by and on the road it was just us. Once we got to the docks it was a little too convenient. I'm sure Will and Chloe thought so too but it was a calculated risk and we can take care of ourselves. Plus, we're dealing with Jay the Unseen so who knew what to expect."
"Understandable," said Jay.
"But there was something else that made me think it was you," I added. Jay looked at me curiously. "Nothing from now. All that's happened really could lead us to think that you work for the real Jay, which is what the others likely think. But that day I sold you the dagger, as soon as you left and I turned my head you were gone. I mean long gone. Unseen really is an apt moniker." Jay laughed lightly.
"My you are quite sharp," he said, hands in his pockets. I wondered if one of them was fingering the dagger. "Clearly you didn't lose your wit. How goes the memory recovery?"
"Sometimes I think I'm getting things but pretty much nothing," I said easily. "Mainly it's just feelings about stuff. Like I miss something or whatever."
"Well I hope that you don't regret remembering your past. There is no person without some darkness in their past," he added.
"Very true," I agreed. "You have to be-"
"I HATE YOU!" Harriet's furious voice echoed in the surrounding area as she tore away from Will and ran past me and Jay, heading into the village.
"Poppo, if you would," said Jay quickly. Poppo quickly took off after the girl.
"Harriet!" shouted Senel, taking a few steps in my direction. "Will you have to go after her!"
"That's not my place," said a dejected Will. "After all I've done... and all I haven't."
"Let's talk at our home," said Pippo, ever the bright and slightly less than average intelligent otter. Of course I knew he was just trying to be kind.
"It's in the back of the village," added Quppo. "You can't miss it. We'll wait for you there, alright?" He and Pippo walked off.
"Just follow the main road to the upper level and go to the house in the far back," Jay said to me. "We'll get to business there." I nodded.
"Right, just give us a bit. We'll be there soon." Jay nodded and made to catch up with his friends. "Guys..." I jerked my head down the steps. Fortunately the three kids got by message and walked ahead, leaving me with Will.
"You must think pretty badly of me," he said after a minute. I smirked slightly and punched him not so softly on his shoulder. Of course this was Will we were talking about so while Norma would have been really angry, complaining, and sporting a big bruise, Will just blinked at me in surprise.
"Like hell I do you idiot," I said wryly. "You think I know anything about your situation? Plus I think I know you well enough to not judge you on things I hear or see once. Now let's got before the kids get themselves in trouble without us there to stop them." Will grinned and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Right, thanks Shayne."
"I had a feeling you might be Jay but I appreciate the confirmation," said Will dryly, not particularly happy that they had been played.
"I hope you can forgive me, it's not often I reveal my identity to others so I like to do it with a bit of fun," he said with a shrug.
We were all sitting in a large circle on the very adorable rug of an Oresoren smiley face that took up the majority of the circular main room of the Scallop's home. The circumference of the room was mainly filled with bookshelves and work tables, as well as two bunk beds and the only staircase that must lead to Jay's room upstairs. Interestingly enough there was no bathroom or kitchen. When I asked Jay about this he explained first that the bathroom was located around the back of the house, and second that as a village the Oresoren didn't endeavor to build kitchens in every home and instead built one large cafeteria like building where everyone ate all their meals. It saved them a lot of time and resources, and also allowed those who loved cooking to make it their profession. The dining area was open all the time as well with a rotating staff. As the Oresoren were craftsmen at heart, building things everywhere, they often ate with their workmates before heading off to their daily activities. The Scallops had kindly brought us all dinner from the dining area to eat in their home while we talked.
"Anyway, according to the request I received, you wanted to know Vaclav's whereabouts and objectives, correct?"
"Tell me if Shirley's alright," said Senel at once. Jay just regarded him blankly.
"That wasn't part of the original request..." he said dryly.
"Keep quiet, Coolidge," snapped Chloe. They had been arguing on and off all the way to the house and tension between the two was at an all time high.
"Then stop trying to rush things along without me!" he shot back angrily.
"Both of you enough!" said Will loudly, as Chloe opened her mouth to retort. They settled for glaring at each other while Norma held back a laugh.
"Normally I only provide one piece of information at a time," said Jay slowly, "but I'll allow an exception this time because you helped out these three." He reached to his side and grabbed a large map of the Legacy, spreading it out before us before putting a small red stone on a particular point. "Vaclav's main force is currently camped in this area. For reference, in case you are having trouble reading this map, we are here," he added, placing a black stone.
"Decently close then," I mused. "At least it's not like he's on the other side of the ship."
"Is Shirley with him?"
"If Shirley is the name of the girl he recently captured then no," said Jay, shaking his head. He placed another stone in another spot, not exactly between the other two, but certainly closer. "She is currently with this detachment of the force which is being led by the Terrors. They have been moving a lot to regroup with the main force but are currently camped for the night."
"Excellent then this is our chance to get her," said Senel, practically about to run off. I put a hand on his shoulder.
"Easy there, Senel," I said quickly. "We're talking about a large group of soldiers. There's only a couple of us. We're not about to run in there without a really damn good plan. Remember what I said when it was just you, me, and Will?" Senel made an annoyed face but settled back on the rug properly. Yeah, having him attack them alone would be fantastically game ending. "So what is the main force doing anyway?" I asked Jay. "Just hanging around?"
"Well, it would appear that they've entered the Ruins of Frozen Light."
"What?!" shouted Norma.
"You've heard of them, Norma?" asked Will, knowing that, despite appearances, Norma actually had a lot of useful information about the Legacy or anything else when it came to the Terises era.
"Well, they're famous among treasure hunters as some of the toughest ruins to crack!" she said in a hushed voice, as if trying to describe the mystery of the place merely with her voice.
"Indeed," agreed Jay. "The Ruins of Frozen Light have seals not only on the outside of the ruins but on the inside as well. With all the strong security, it's been rumored that some great secret of the Legacy rests inside."
"From what I've heard, no one's ever made it to the deepest part of the ruins," continued Norma. "I can't even imagine what it would take to get there. Or what's been hidden all these years." Jay cleared his throat, bring their attention back to him so he could deliver his point.
"With Shirley's power, Vaclav will surely uncover the secrets of the ruins," he said. "I'm almost certain that's what he's trying to do."
"So just what exactly is he trying to uncover?" asked Will. "What is so important that he would leave the fighting on the mainland to lead a special division of soldiers to obtain?" Jay frowned and rubbed his chin in thought.
"I would guess that this is connected to the war that the Crusand Empire is waging. The Crusand Empire is Vaclav's homeland, after all. Perhaps... Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if the ruins contained a weapon capable of turning the tide of a war. It seems most reasonable that Vaclav has obtained some kind of information about that place and what it holds. Why else would he be pouring so much resources into its exploration?"
"But what can we do!" said Chloe fiercely. Mention of the war had put her on edge again as it always did. "Vaclav has a large force at his disposal! Numbers of trained soldiers against those in this room? Nay, half that," she amended, looking around at us all.
"We don't need to fight an army," said Senel immediately. "It comes back to the same thing every time. Just get Shirley out of their hands and they're powerless."
"You would say that wouldn't you," snapped Chloe.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"When are you going to realize that this conflict is bigger than just you and your sister!" Senel blinked, completely taken aback by the fierceness of Chloe's voice. Scratch that, we all were. Not wanting this to get even more out of hand than it already was I quickly stood up and walked over to Chloe, grabbing her hand and pulling her to the door.
"Come on, we're going for a walk."
"Shayne, what are you doing, let me go! I'm not done with him," she said angrily, still glaring at Senel. No, she wasn't finished with him by a long shot.
"Nope, time for a walk with Shayne," I said blithely. "Will don't plan anything definitive without us. Be back soon." The rest of the group watched bemused as I pulled a still half sitting Chloe through the door, letting it close behind us.
"Shayne, unhand me at once!" said Chloe, now thankfully on her feet as I don't think I'd be able to escape her ire if I dragged her across the cobblestone and dirt ground. It was not clean by any stretch of the word.
"You need to cool down a bit," I said, hand still unrelenting. I shifted my fingers to interlace with hers, making it much more comfortable.
"H-hey, what are you doing!" she said, face going a bit red.
"Never held hands with a boy before?" I teased with a grin. She only grew redder. At least she wasn't trying to escape anymore.
"No of course not," she said, looking away. "I never had time for something like that..." I glanced at her face and only saw bitterness.
"Let's leave this for a bit later, I need to talk to you about what just happened." Chloe looked at me in confusion. "With Senel." Confusion turned to anger immediately.
"Coolidge is a selfish boy who doesn't care about the consequences of his actions on others," said Chloe brutally. "It's clear that he's only had to make decisions that only affect him or Shirley, never anyone else.
"I don't know exactly how accurate that is but what if it's true?" I said. "He's just trying to save Shirley in any way he can. That's all he knows right now. You can't blame him for not understanding having greater responsibilities among others. I take it you do though, from your outburst." My last words seemed to deflate her greatly. She looked at me for a long time in silence before speaking.
"When I was a very young girl both of my parents were murdered by a man," she intoned blankly. "I was the only child of the Lord Valens, and because of that I was forced to take up the mantel of the House of Valens. Since I was younger than Harriet I've been responsible for the lives and well being of everyone employed by House Valens. Until you've gone through what I have you don't have the right to say you know what it means to understand how little it takes to destroy something, and how much it takes to prevent it." There was a heavy silence following her words.
"You're a strong girl, Chloe," I said, looking out over the village. We had reached the end of the upper levels, which were surrounded by a low wall (let's not forget it was for otters, not humans). "Considering what I know of you I'd say you turned out for the better, despite your situation." Chloe finally cracked a small smile.
"It's just like you to say something like that," she said, shaking her head. "Anyway, once I turned fifteen I placed a trusted retainer in charge of the general running of the house and left in pursuit of the man who made my life such hell. It's been nearly two years and I've tracked him to the Legacy."
"The man with the snake tattoo..." I said.
"Yes that's right, you did hear me ask about him didn't you," she said with a nod. "I know living for revenge isn't something that brings happiness in the end. I'm not disillusioned by any of that. But I want closure, and this is the only thing I've been able to think of since it happened."
"Well I hope you find your closure," I said honestly, squeezing her hand a bit. She glanced down at it, having forgotten that our hands were still interlocked.
"You enjoy teasing me don't you?" she shot at me, her mouth a thin line, though with a ghost of a smile behind it.
"Yeah, a bit, sorry," I said, withdrawing my hand from hers. "You feeling a bit better?"
"Honestly, no," she said. "But I'm not flying off the handle like I was earlier though. Thank you for pulling me out of there, I was out of line."
"It's alright, you usually have a good reason for going crazy," I said with a shrug. She raised her eyebrows.
"Well there was that one time you started slicing at me assuming I was a bandit kidnapper." Chloe's face grew a bit red.
"Hey it was only the one time." I was laughing though. We started heading back to the Scallop's place. "I was wondering... what you might have remembered, if anything," she said after walking a little distance.
"I remembered a girl's face," I said, deciding on the spot to be a little more open with the young knight. She had honestly opened up to me after a short amount of time, considering what it actually took her to tell Senel not even half as much.
"Oh? A lover?" she teased. I glanced at Chloe to see her enjoying herself. I suppose she must have been happy to be on the teasing side for once as opposed to the teased.
"Dunno," I said with a shrug. "She's beautiful, so I guess I can only hope so."
"Well what does she look like?" I closed my eyes a second. It was easy to visualize Lyra in front of me, wearing that pretty white dress she had worn the second time I saw her.
"A young woman about your height," I started, comparing her to Chloe for a reference. "Cream colored skin that's just as soft. Bright blue eyes like the sky, a cute button of a nose and equally small smile. She's got a round face and overall nice figure. Best of all though is she's got long flowing golden hair. It's like silk. Wrap that all together with the bubbly smile she's wearing and you've got the girl that's in my head." Chloe was staring at me, expression unreadable. "Other than that, I don't know anything about her. How old my mental image of her is, her relation to me, and..." I hesitated because the next thing was very real and I did not like entertaining the thought. "And whether or not she's still alive."
"What about her name?" she asked.
"Lyra," I said without thinking. Fucking hell, really Shayne? I cleared my throat. "I think so anyway. I'm glad that I'm getting at least something back out of my head. A pretty girl is surely better than nothing right?" I posed.
"Personally I'd rather have a handsome guy," said Chloe with a grin.
"Well as tempting as it sounds I'll stick to the pretty girls in my head," I said dryly, causing her to laugh. "Seriously though," I added, "do you think we could keep this under wraps? I'd rather not put things out into the open until I've confirmed them."
"Of course," she said at once. We had arrived back at the house. I knocked twice and the door was answered almost immediately by Will.
"Great I was hoping you'd get back soon," he said. "All cooled off?" Chloe nodded, looked slightly abashed at her earlier behavior. "Don't let it bother you Chloe, we're talking about the war with your homeland. I would expect for you to be a bit high strung."
"Thank you, Raynard," thanked the girl.
"You've also given Senel a lot to think over so don't think your words fell on deaf ears," he added, though this time much more softly. He opened the door wider and let us in fully.
"Well, now that we're all here, we can begin the strategy session to regain Shirley and disrupt Vaclav's operation," said Jay as soon as we sat down. "Though I agree that removing Shirley from Vaclav's control won't help the war effort on the mainland, it really is imperative that we do not allow him to gain control of anything that could potentially turn the war in Crusand's favor, especially if it may lead to other conquests following Gadoria. Agreed?"
"What got you on board?" I asked. It wasn't as if Jay was originally going to go this far. We'd only asked for info on Vaclav's whereabouts and objectives after all.
"Pippo and the others wanted to help you because you are their friends," he began. "However I cannot allow them to get caught up in such a dangerous thing so I will be helping in their stead. Even if I weren't going to try to help you I assumed that you would want this information anyway which is why I've been keeping extra close tabs on Vaclav and his force's movements."
"Prudent of you," I said approvingly. Jay shrugged.
"In any case, in order to retrieve Shirley with any amount of ease we will be ambushing the detachment before they are able to rendezvous with the main force. The only place that we can use within reason will be here."
"That's where the Waterways is located," said Will, scratching his chin.
"Yes we will be using them to our advantage. In essence the main plan will be a two pronged distraction with a grab and go. I'll obviously go into more detail when we're there but that can wait. For now it would be best for everyone to get as much sleep as they can. We will have to move quickly to head off the detachment. Fortunately because there are so few of us it will take virtually no time at all to set up the ambush itself." Jay piked up the small stones and rolled up the map. "I'm heading upstairs now. I'll wake you all when it's time to get up." He immediately made his way upstairs only to return a few seconds later. "Never mind I'll sleep down here as well."
"Harriet's up there right?" said Will. "It's alright you can tell her to come down."
"She's sleeping and I'd rather not deal with the fallout of waking her up," he said. I hid a grin. Jay's track record in confrontations with the girl was pretty pathetic after all. "Pippo's keeping an eye on her."
"Ah, thanks for that," said Will with a small nod. "Norma are you-" I turned to find what Will had discovered: Norma was out cold on the lower bunk of one of the Scallop's beds, her legs hanging off the end. "Well never mind," he amended, turning back to the rest of us. "Being able to rest in safety while traveling is usually pretty rare so let's take advantage. Senel I know that you're having a hard time being patient, but just hang in there alright?"
"I'll be fine, Will," he said. He went over to the bed Norma occupied and hopped up to the top bunk, settling in as best he could.
"What are you two going to do?" asked Chloe, looking at myself and Will. We glanced at each other. There was no way either of us were going to be sleeping on those beds. In any case there was only one more empty one.
"Well the rug is pretty soft," I mused. I walked over and took a pillow from Norma's bed. It wasn't like she was using it, sleeping like a wacky starfish. "Here Will," I said, tossing it to him.
"What about you?"
"You can use this," said Chloe, grabbing the blanket from her small bed. She rolled it up into a bulky pillow.
"Thanks, Chloe," I said, taking it from her. "Here's to hoping everything works out in the end, yeah?" Will glanced at the ceiling while Chloe eyed her sword, leaning against the wall.
A/N: And there we go. Nothing much to say here except to remind you all that Shayne is quite a bit older (and taller) than the majority of the group and so they are bound to act differently with him than as if he were their age. They would automatically place him in the same category as Will, though with the distinction that Will is older and has more authority. The SI fics I've read all have MCs who are the same age of the group, which is usually teens. I find that Shayne being in his twenties really adds something to it that wouldn't be there otherwise. It's less about romancing the group than bonding with them. Not to mention I wasn't about to write Shayne as a teen. Thank god I'm not that old anymore...
Anyway, till next time. Keep reading for fun and drop a review if you feel the urge. I do like getting them. =)