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Mistakes Unlearned Bear Repeating [Final Fantasy XIV]

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"Git off!" He bellowed while waving at the two Miqo'te. "Git off me ship an' never come back! Yer not welcome back on me ship ever again!" The captain was backed up by the shouts of a few other men on the ship. One man cowered, however. His hand was bandaged, but blood still stained through the gauze and his arm was put in a sling while he bore a black eye and a lump on the opposite side of his head. He was the only one who didn't appear as exuberant about the women leaving, but he also looked as though he were about to keel over at any given moment.

Rae sighed and shrugged. "If your boys would have just kept-"


Rae's ears rose and she grabbed Marishi's hand, tugging her along as they ran off the gangplank and onto the dock. Waiting for them was a rather surprised-looking Elezen man and Lalafell woman. They glanced at the loathsome crew and captain, then back at their two guests. Once the two Miqo'te women were off the ship, the grew pulled up the gangplank and began working to get the ship settled and actually ready to dock. They would have thrown the two off if they weren't formal guests to the Sharlayan scholars. Rae sighed and shook her head, her red pony tail whipping back and forth lazily and the braid in her hair flipped to the back, which she adjusted by pulling back up over her shoulder. She wore typical Sharlayan attire. A collared, grey jacket, a deep, purple tunic with Sharlayan tools equipped to the belt that rest over top it. She wore tall, black stockings and dark-hued boots that reached to her knee. From her ears dangled crescent moon earrings and hanging low off her neck was a pendant bearing the Red Mage soul crystal that her master gave her.

All in all, Rae looked rather sharply dressed to be meeting with her old acquaintances. Marishi had protested Rae's efforts in to looking as finely as she did, but she did not sacrifice mobility nor power for her appearance. The garments she wore from Sharlaya enhanced her spell power and allowed her more mana to prolong her well running dry. The wonderful thing about the clothes was that they were augmented to allow her to channel storage of mana as well, so should she need more, she could draw upon it from the very clothes she wore. At her hip rest her prized possession, her Dreadwyrm Rapier. Crafted from the scale and tissue of Bahamut himself, Rae took extra care to tend to it every day. No matter how often she used it, however, it never seemed to dull.

"Making friends I see, Miss Rae," quipped the Lalafell with a broad smile. There was a hint of contempt behind the smile, but Rae chose to ignore it.

"Ah, indeed," Rae answered, feigning ignorance to the disguised emotion. "Our dearest friend Stumpy up there, the one sporting the black eye and broken arm, thought it'd be a right gaff to pay us a visit in the night! Marishi showed him how we felt about that." Rae waved at the ship with her back still turned to it, but she could still feel eyes on them. They'd have to find a new way back to Eorzea since the only ship that sailed there now had them on their blacklist.

The Elezen smiled and chuckled, no hidden emotions seemed to permeate off him. He seemed genuinely entertained by their adventure. "This Isle has suffered without your eccentric personality, Rae," he commented. Rae only smiled at the Elezen. "Well, shall we be off? Matiseau is waiting."

Rae's heart leapt and she paused a second. "How.... how is he doing? He didn't answer my last letter." She asked, hesitantly.

The Lalafell scoffed. "He's fine enough. You'll see for yourself when you arrive at the settlement. It's not far from here."

It was clear Rae was disconcerted from that answer, but she shouldered her satchel and walked onward. The Elezen turned to Marishi and bowed to her while the Lalafell followed behind Rae. "T'is a pleasure to meet you, Marishi. I apologize that you experienced some problems on the ride here with the crew we have appointed to ferry you and your wife here. I hope the rest of those you encounter are not as hostile towards you. May I carry anything for you, Miss Marishi?" He seemed better-mannered than the Lalafell woman that was present to help escort them to the settlement. "Ah, and, if you could, tell me of Ishgard. How is my homeland? I heard it was coated with ice. Has there been any signs of the weather waning?" Rae and the Lalafell walked ahead, Rae paused to wait for Marishi, but the Lalafell nudged her leg, coaxing her to move onward. They had arrived at night, and with night came monsters, and the less time they dawdled, the less chance said monsters had a chance to arrange an ambush on them.

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“Stumpy was his name? Hm. I should very much have liked to match his name with his body. Rae should have just let me kill him. The one thing you don’t ever do is enter the chambers of a female, in the dark, uninvited. Ever.” Marishi’s smile faded and her ruby red eye flared with anger and her other, perpetually black did nothing. “I’ve killed men for less transgressions than that.”

Marishi walked along, calf high pointed boots made of soft brown leather, her legs covered by skin conforming tights of velveteen. She wore the common Far East tekko as hand guards with the fingers left free for maximum mobility. He Osode was unlike most had seen. It was of Far Eastern origin, that much was clear, but no artisan of this age could produce such fine outfittings. It was a simple white and red with gold trim accents. It didn’t taper at the small of the back as Osodes do but cut into small lengths of cloth down to her upper thigh. There was a motif on the back of the Osode, though unless learned in Far East Kami and mythology, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish it. The motif was of Phoenix. The Kami of everlasting life. To die is nothing to Phoenix for it will rise again from its ashes and begin anew. This is where the term “Phoenix Down” originated. On her head, she wore a circlet, but odd in making. It had an ornament that looked like a wing attached to its side fully spread. One of Rae and Marishi’s forays into the earth using a Ragnarok class flight vehicle to access the now vacant chambers of Bahamut earned her this prize. The wing said to be made of the great Wyvern Twintania herself. On her left hip rested two swords of Far East make and origin. Only highly trained individuals were permitted to carry these weapons and those individuals were recognized as Samurai. Her longsword was of beautiful design. Acquired from the now-defunct Primal, Alexander she had found this weapon. Or her. She could never tell the difference. The main core of the Sharlayn built mammoth removed to ensure it would not drain the Hinterlands dry of Aether. Her short sword worn right below was of fine make and was a present by her master when she completed her Samurai training. It’s sheath in black lacquer and the grip wound in pure white linen as to match the Gordian Katana. Finally, on her back, she wore a Tanto. A small knife to be used as a last line of defense, or, if it came down to it, ritualistic suicide. Marishi never put stock in the ethos of the Samurai. They are far too unbending for the world. They will break if they do not change. Marishi thought to herself.

She made a slight start when she heard the man ask her if he could assist her. She looked at the retainer. “No, thank you. I think I’ll manage …... Yes, I come from the areas surrounding Ishgard. I was never a citizen of the See itself but was under its protection. Many many moons ago. Much has changed in our homeland. The climate change caused by Dalamud has locked the city and all of Coerthas in a perpetual winter. Never to stop. The snow grows day by day. You may be pleased to hear that your Dragonsong War is over. Nidhogg being slain. The Archbishop and his Heavensward are also now gone. Though that’s a longer discussion than we have time for. Come, show me this supposed cured Isle of Val.”

The Isle of Val. Once residing west of Eorzea it was championed as the home of the students of Baliseon and home of the Scions. Some years ago, Marishi was told there was some kind of accident. They didn’t know if it was due to Garlean meddling or something else, but the entire island vanished. Without a trace. Like it never existed. Rae had learned through Marishi through an intermediary that an Island had been found where nothing but water should have been off the coast of Hingashi. It matched the characteristics of the missing Island.

Rae reached out to her Scholarly friends and contacts to secure them passage to this Isle of Val, renamed Eureka.

“Tell me,” Marishi walked along the side of the Elezen retainer. “They say this island is now haunted. That it has claimed many lives. That the Aetheric balance is extremely misaligned and prone to swinging every way it can. They say the island is full of voidscent and horrors of that plane.”

They were nearing the camp now, Marishi’s boots clamping on the wooden slats. “They say the city has initiated a self-protecting ward. From what? From whom? All I see here are trees that have seen far too much wind and some forest.”

“Ahem, erm. Ah. You see, mm.” The retainer stammered. Caught off guard by the sharp intellect of Marishi. “You need not answer, you a more than like not a liberty to discuss these things with those, not of the Circle of Knowing. Heed me, though I am not formally trained as a Scholar of Sharlaya, you’d do well to not think of me as a savage from Eorzea who can barely write. I’m far older than you will ever know my Elezen friend. And much of those years were spent in The Vault in your kinsmen great library. One should not underestimate others because they are not of a certain stock or breed.” Marishi kindly rebuked the retainer. She didn’t attack him but educate him that there is always more than what it seems, especially with people.

“Ah, we have arrived!” The Lalafell announced as they came upon hastily thrown together shacks and smithies. “Looks like these builds are to topple over on top of each other at any moment,” Marishi said to herself. “Yes, we are here. Now, if you’d so kind as to explain WHY we are here and what we are supposed to be doing to the un-enlightened savages not part of The Circle of Knowing, it would be appreciated.” There was venom in her words this time. She knew that Lalafell held a position in Sharlaya. The retainer, he wouldn’t know better. The Lalafell, inexcusable.

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The Lalafell eyed Marishi sharply, frowning deeply and planting her small fists on her hips. "Well! Aren't you a nosy one! You are here under the request of Master Matiseau. That is all you need o know for now!"

The Elezen sighed and shook his head. "To be perfectly honest with you, Miss Marishi, we haven't any idea to the answers of your questions. Master Matiseau knew that this place was a hazard to anyone, but he had firm belief that you and Rae would be able to discern the secrets of this land. He had heard much of your adventures from Rae and, when it was discovered this land--known to the Hingans as Eureka--could possibly be the land in which our beloved brethren ventured to, he sent word to your wife to request your assistance. This isle has yet claimed a few others of our scholar brothers' lives and it could claim a few more if we were careless about it. However, Matiseau wishes to explain the rest to you in person. The details of this mission are unknown to the rest of us, sadly." The Elezen bowed. It would appear the retainer had a bit of information to share, which was good, as the small one seemed to be keeping tight-lipped about such information.

It wasn't long before they were guided to the more stable-looking building. Inside were a quarter dozen scholars bent over a table and one was seated with his back turned to them. One by one, the scholars lifted their heads and looked to Marishi and Rae as they entered. Lastly, the one facing away turned. He was handsome. Dark features, thoughtful eyes, smooth face, broad shoulders and a strong figure. He wore a plain tunic that covered his arms and pants with brown, leather boots that reached mid-calf. He dressed plainly despite being obviously the one in charge. He reached over, fetching a deep-red wooden cane and turned to face them more directly, which allowed them to see his full features.

On the left side of his face grew a large, bumpy scar that distorted his handsome features, nearly encasing his eye in the uneven flesh. It was a dark red hue. On the same side, his hand was of the same condition. It still worked, holding the cane he used to walk with. His leg barely moved, which explained his need for a cane. Rae's ears dropped as did her shoulders upon seeing the man. Though she frowned, he smiled with the good side of his face. "My dearest friend, Rae," he said, coming to a stop and holding out his arms. Rae rushed to him and threw her arms around him, nearly knocking him over if she didn't keep their balance. "Careful, careful." He murmured uneasily, but still he smiled.

"Oh Matiseau! I'm so sorry!" She whispered into his shoulder, causing him to chuckle.

"After all this time, you still apologize? It wasn't your fault, Rae." He cooed to her, patting her head like an owner would his cat. He lifted his gaze to Marishi and smiled, then pulled away from Rae to limp over to her and extended his good hand. "Marishi, I presume? I am Matiseau, lead of this project here on Eureka. It's an honour to finally meet you. Rae has told me much of you. It's only fitting the Flower of Sharlaya would fall for such a beautiful woman." From behind him, Rae scoffed, causing him to smile more, his scarred face reacting slightly now, his burnt lips almost turning up in a smile.

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“Spare me your flatteries. They’re wasted upon me. I can see why you summoned us here already. You want us to brave whatever in Gods earth is out there. Right? For someone who is held in such high regard, I would think you more … capable.” Marishi said eyes staring at his withered leg and face. “Rae holds you in very high regard, which is the only reason we still stand here. If you were anyone else, we would be gone. Oh, and please. Spare me your lecture about knowledge and the pursuit of truth. I'm older than every living man here. I have seen your 'miracles'." Marishi looked at the group. She had accomplished her goal. She wasn’t being arrogant and confrontational. She was laying the groundwork of what and what not to expect from Marishi and Rae. They would take a malm if given an ilm.

“Brave adventurers, pah. There are few who know who we are and fewer who have any history of our deeds. You’ve been speaking to the Sekiseigumi though. I bet the Sensei had many good things to say of me.” This irritated Marishi. He was making a show of it all. They were but two wanders with no home, bouncing hamlet to hamlet scraping by. That any bard would be singing any deeds performed by them would be insane. “Now that we have introductions out of the way, pray, tell us as to why you have requested our aid, Master.” Marishi put both hands on her knees and bowed per Far East custom. This was a show of obedience and of respect. “We have traveled here from Mor Dhona and the journey is long and fraught with peril. I would know what your intentions would be of us.” Marishi inquired.

She scanned over the group again. No one said anything. No one spoke. Each looking nervously at each other. “So,” Marishi sighed, “There is an aethereal imbalance here of a catastrophic level. I can feel it. I can see it in the skies and on the bent trees. But there is something else.” Marishi’s ears perked up and she let the focus in her eyes go. Her right eye suffered irreparable damage to it during an assault. Her pupil was constantly in a dilated state. She could still see, just not as well with her right eye and in bright lights, could become a blind spot for her. But the damage also came with a keener sense of the aether around her as her body compensated for the loss of vision. “Something insidious. Maleficent. You opened a door you shouldn’t have.” Marishi’s eyes snapped back into focus. “Am I correct?” She asked. “So, Master, I ask again, why have you summoned us to this Isle of Val? What happened to cause the Aether to writhe and heave?” Marishi asked the cripple standing in front her, not saying a word.

Edited by Marishi Ten

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His one eyebrow shot up at Marishi's words. It wasn't like he was never questioned, but it did seem interesting to him that she was so eager to do so. "Some would think it was obvious why I didn't attempt this venture on my own. An accident in the past left me quite crippled, Miss Ten. For me to venture around this island to collect the information that we require would take me weeks, if not months, to do alone. Not to mention I gave up the art of Astrology in favour of studying more about the general history of the world and the study of Aether. Rae's ability to attune with Bahamut's aether is sparked a curiosity within me. Many before her were unable to do as she did and survive. I wish to learn why so that we might be able to garner more successful attempts in the future," his eyes set upon Rae as he spoke and she furrowed her brows. She knew why they were here now. "The aethereal imbalance is of no secret. Anyone alive could feel it upon entering this isle. A general unease settles upon the soul when you set foot here. I've felt it the whole while. I've sent word to my colleagues in Sharlaya, but they believe this island is doomed. The facade we are here for the answer of truths is something said to placate my superiors. What we will attempt is... has never been done before, but I firmly believe it is possible. I apologize to you for the smoke and mirrors, but now I wish to speak plainly with you.

"This isle most certainly is that where our brothers and sisters, the Students of Baldesion, studied and died. I fear some of their tormented souls may be trapped here, but that is nothing we can help with. I'm here to learn and cure what I can, and what I can cure is this incredible imbalance." He glanced back to Marishi and knelt down, getting on his good knee first, then on his bad knee. Rae's ears rose and she attempted to stop him, but it was too late. He then placed both hands on his legs and bowed his head to her. "You are correct in your assessment of this land, Marishi. I knew I could not hide the truth from you when you arrived, but I implore to your benevolent side. I need yours and Rae's assistance to discover just what happened on this island, and perhaps put a stop to this perversion of the aether here. Rae has a miraculous way of taming aether, bending it to her will, and you have the strength and wit and knowledge of more things than some in this room have. I beseech you, Marishi, at least listen to my plan with an open mind."

Rae cleared her throat and chuckled nervously, then spoke up. "H-hey, what about me? Don't I get a say?" She asked. Rae worried Marishi wouldn't answer without her decision as well. "I mean... if it means saving this island and possibly-"

"Rae, I wouldn't dare ask you to do something without listening to the plan first, at least," Matiseau said, remaining still and continually bowing. Sweat was forming on his scarless side. It was clear he was in discomfort by remaining in this position. "I would that your wife allow this, as she is not the one with a bleeding heart, nor compromised with a tangled mess of a history with me."

Frowning and slumping her shoulders, Rae sighed and shook her head. He was right. She was biased in this situation. Marishi was always the level-headed one when it came to situations like these. She looked to her wife and smiled lopsidedly. "I suppose it doesn't hurt to hear him out." She said.

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“A Cure. To the imbalance. You may be smart, boy, but you are unwise. There are other forces at play here. Not your trapped kin. Not the land that screams. When the wind howls through the rocks, it is the Lifestream making the wailing noise. There is something … intelligent … out there. I am not trained in any kind of Aetherology or what not so I don’t even know if what I’m feeling is true. Beasts of all kinds prowl the lands. Beasts not native to this island.” Marishi said.

“On your feet, boy. We can’t well have you translate data for us if you keel over.” A brief smile crossed Marishi’s lips. “Sunray, this is up to you. I’ll not leave your side. If you want to stay, we’ll stay. Leave, and we leave. It seems they have plans for you regardless.” Marishi wearily said. They didn’t care about Marishi. They were pandering to Rae though Marishi. It matters not. Rae will accept because those are her kin. Her mentors. I would do the same. Where the Sun rises, the Moon follows. Marishi thought to herself.

“My apologies for my … curtness. Being harassed aboard jostling boat that doesn’t sit well with me did little to aid my humor. Do you have a map of this place? Anything charted out?” Marishi walked to the command table looking for information. Marishi turned her head, looked at Rae and winked.

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A breath of relief escaped Matiseau's lips and he used his cane to get up. One of the other scholars rushed to his side, helping him stand to his feet and escorted him to the chair, muttering something of 'You don't need to grovel to their ilk.', but the burned man waved off the comment. Once seated, he rested his back against the chair's and breathed another sigh. "I thank you for your consideration, Rae, Marishi. Come, take a seat at the table and I'l show you what I was planning."

Some of the scholars respectfully moved back, giving disdainful looks to Rae. She left quite the impression when she was there learning to be an Astrologian, it would seem. "The intelligence you may sense I presume would be the entities that now inhabit this land. They were not here once upon a time," Matiseau explained, discomfort tainted his tone. Rae took a seat across from him, examining the map spread across the table. It was the outline of Eureka with pins in a few spots. They outlined trails between areas that were circled with black ink. "Or it could be what we fear most: An Eikon. While Eikons suck the land dry of its aether, some of us think there is one that is feeding off the immense unequal distribution of aether throughout this isle. There is no evidence to support this, however. Our readings have marked unusual readings. The only thing that seems certain on Eureka is that there will always be an influx of aether at one side of the island or the other. When that happens, the monsters there seem to react and another creature spawns there. One that was not there before. We managed to witness such a thing occur near a group of Cactaur not too far from this cabin. A larger version of a Cactaur appeared almost out of nowhere after a sudden burst of aether summoned it there. It was immensely powerful and forced us to retreat to this house. We had anticipated on making our way to the Laboratory that should be located at the far northern part of this map, however, situation barring, we returned here.

"To focus on the map, these pins indicate points of interest. The aether typically condenses in these specified areas it would seem. Our tools have measured as best as they could, however, some of them are a little off. They appear to be targeting areas close to the center of the island. That, however, is not our focus now. Our focus is getting a clear way to the Laboratory. I believe there are tools there and journals that our predecessors kept that will better help us understand what happened on this island." Matiseau went on to explain while pointing at the map with his cane. Rae leaned over to the table and rested her chin on the ball of her hand while she examined the map carefully. It seemed only partially finished in comparison to what she saw on the ship.

"Where's the rest of it?" Rae asked, not looking away from the map.

"We couldn't find a map of the completed island. We're working off what scraps were left in this abandoned building," Matiseau explained, frowning. "These points need to be investigated. I'd love to go with you to do so, however, I would only prove a hindrance to you two. Instead, I'd ask that you took this linkpearl with you so that we could communicate. It would appear as though linkpearls still operate on this island, which is a relief. Now, here is what my plan is to help quell the imbalancing of the aether." Matiseau waved at one of the scholars, who turned around and fetched a glass casing from the table behind them and placed it on the table before them. It looked to be a capsule of some sort. Wires dangled from the bottom of it while metal claws reached up the stout, glass encasing and touched at the tip where the metal penetrated through the glass at the top. Inside was a black stone. Shapeless, and unimpressive.

Rae leaned closer to examine the contents of the capsule, and Matiseau allowed her to by holding it towards her. "This is an anti-crystal," he stated, causing Rae to look up at him. "It absorbs aether, but does not emit it. Wherever it goes, it does not return." Rae's brows furrowed and she stared hard at Matiseau, who held her gaze as well.

"It has to go somewhere, Matiseau. Aether just can't stop existing." She murmured.

"Wherever it goes, it does not return here," he retorted. "I believe placing these capsules at these marked locations--or near enough--will help absorb some of the influx of aether that randomly spawns there. The capsules have been programmed with Allagan-themed technology to only be triggered when aether reaches a certain threshold. Once hit, the capsule will activate the latent effect of this anti-crystal, absorbing the aether that flows through the area. Once the levels are normalized, the capsule seals off the anti-crystal and waits until it happens again. These cords here will connect each one to the power source at the dock."

Rae sat back in her chair, brows furrowed and her gaze distanced while staring at the map before them. She seemed lost in thought. Any other mission she'd gladly take on, but aether was a touchy subject. She knew all-too-well the horribly damaging effects it could have and she did not wish to expose herself nor her wife to such perils.

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“I’m sorry. What? An Eikon? You think an Eikon is here, causing this and you want us to stop it? This is insanity … No … I see your plan now. You want Rae to engage it due to her being saturated with an Elder Primal you think she would be shielded from being tempered?” Marishi began to unravel the plan before it was spoken of. Bastards. They’re using Rae as a test subject. They don’t think she can contribute intellectually, they just want her so as to test if she’ll be tempered or not. Thought Marishi.

She looked over at her wife and squeezed her hand. “You seem to have picked the right pair for the job it seems Scholar. For there is another before you that has been tainted by an Eikon and is not a thrall.” Marishi scanned the room for a reaction. Some were dubious, others suspicious. It was clear they didn’t believe her. “Your mobile city you built in the Hinterlands. By Idyllshire. You recall this citadel, yes? Turns out, the Goblins in the area attempted to seize control of your transport of knowledge. They woke what was sleeping there. Or, they wished they woke something that was sleeping there. What did you call that citadel? I just had it. Don’t you hate when that happens? Ah, there is it. You called it Alexander.” Marishi called for a glass of water before going on. She had their attention now. “Luckily for you, well for all of us, they couldn’t gain full control of the thing and were routed out of there by whoever routed them out,” Marishi said. “It didn’t sink back into the river though. It stands, to this day. And if you know where to look, you’ll find your way inside. And that’s what I did. A story for another time, but you should know that I met Alexander that day. We spoke of many things that don’t matter here.” She stood up and pulled her katana from her sash, sheath and all. “This may look familiar to you. The intricacies. This was given to me by the primal Alexander. It is his ‘Gordius Blade’.” She laid the weapon down on the table where all came in close for a view. “So you see Master, you wouldn’t be sending me to my death against this Eikon. Or at least not immediately. I am protected by another.”

She took her katana and placed it back in her sash slowly and calmly, though to be touched by a demigod will typically cause fear and anger in people until they’re driven off or killed. “Aether has to go somewhere. It isn’t created or destroyed. That crystal may be acting as a battery of sorts. That would be my guess. As for these holes sucking in the Aether, those holes have to have an exit to the other end. My doubts if that other end is pleasant.” Marishi said. She didn’t know much about it all, but she knew enough to sound knowledgeable. And that was enough to get them to talk more freely about what was happening. Though she’d have to ask Rae later what the Hells they were saying.

 “These black marks. I assume they’re a waypoint, yeah? We can cut a path north of here.” Marishi placed her nail on one point near where they are. “If we assume this map is correct, and we have no idea if it is, there's a gap between the mountains and tree line that takes you to a large meadow. One of your black marks is near there. But, I am not the leader and I defer to your good judgment. It’s getting dark. I don’t think you’ve planned to venture those wilds in the dark. I assume we are to be roomed and boarded? We can pick up where we left off and start at first light. Those Scholars that are to attend, be ready at first light. No, that doesn’t mean waking up at first light. No, that doesn’t mean eating your buttered toast at first light. It means, your pack is in order. Don’t bother with books. Take food and water. Write notes or whatever bizarre thing you Sharlayn’s do, I don’t know.”

She rose to her feet with a stretch letting her hands reach over her head. She made a high pitched squeak as she stretched. “Are you ready my Sun? Where will we be staying?” Marishi said.

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Matiseau frowned deeply as Marishi went on to explain how she was not quite a thrall of Alexander, but had been in his presence. "It would seem as though two opposing Eikons have decided to make home in the bodies of two lovers. How strange," he murmured, more to himself than to the others. "Alexander was no accomplishment of mine. Being a child born of two scholars, you'll find that your options for a future are quite... linear. Once you're a scholar on Sharlaya, you must go through Hells and high water to get off the island, and even then, you must swear countless oaths. We scholars are quite covetous of our knowledge, as it could prove catastrophically dangerous when put in the wrong hands. That Rae was permitted off the island without jumping through such hoops just goes to show how quickly our superiors were to want to wipe their hands of her... but that is beside the point. Alexander is not a product of my design, and I must stress to you the same concerns I have with mortals contacting Eikons that I shared with Rae when she told me of her connection with Bahamut-"

Rae interjected rather quickly, waving her hand to Matiseau. "That won't be necessary, Matiseau. What wisdom you imparted with me I shared with Marishi already long ago when she told me the truth of her." She glanced to her wife and smiled and sat back down, taking her hand in her own again. "Rather, tell us about the Eikon."

"There is no Eikon," the scholar sighed, shaking his head. "I only mentioned it because someone will surely whisper it into your ear and cause you doubt. There is no evidence of an Eikon on this island. The surest proof being the aether itself. If it truly did exist here, then the aether would be draining, not fluctuating." Matiseau shot a glare towards on the taller scholars, who shrank away and cleared his throat. "These black marks are indeed way points. They are, in fact, settlements. Over here is a cabin, up a ways from there is another cabin, through this way leads to a waterfall, through there is a cave, and upward from there is the Laboratory that we need to get to. We are here. While it is a faster route to head this direction, we are unfortunately met with the misfortune that the bridge that connected the lower portion of the island to the upper part was destroyed in strong winds. A large tree was knocked down as well, however, enemies infest the area, and this path has no marked fluctuations of aether, either. Our plan is to find these areas that are marked with pins and place our anti-crystals there."

Rae stood up with Marishi, frowning while staring at the container and the anti-crystal. Matiseau noted her frown and chuckled. "I know you have some hesitancy towards these crystals, but I have been testing them for years now. Any aether poured into them has not manifested itself anywhere that has been recorded. And, should they prove to be fueling some sinister creation or being, the crystals can be easily shattered. This glass container also serves as a container for explosions. Should they need to be destroyed..." Matiseau waved for one of the scholars to bring him a small device. Once in his hand, he made sure the crystal was within view and pressed the button. The resulting explosion was muffled and the whole of the capsule turned black and smoky. "It will be destroyed and the damage contained." He smiled to them both, quite pleased with his invention. Rae's brows raised, also impressed with his contraption. "So you see? You have nothing to worry about. There is a fail safe should this creation turn to be counter-intuitive."

"You've put a lot of thought into this, Matiseau," Rae said, smiling to him. "I feel much more comfortable taking on this job, err... favour, I guess. Since we aren't getting paid."

Matiseau chuckled again while standing up with them, taking his cane to help him walk. "I wouldn't ask you to come this way without payment of some sort. I have arranged for several platinum pieces to be paid to you each once this is over. You'll have saved this land if we are successful, and I have no intention of taking all the credit. Now, we'll be heading back to the docks. We've built a place for us to stay and you two shall be given the best we have. A bed, a personal room, a warm bath, and food. I'll see to it that your caravan is ready by dawn tomorrow. I wouldn't want to wait a moment later, anyways." With that, Matiseau began to limp out the door, two scholars beside him. The group walked back to the docks, arriving just as the sun completely vanished from behind the horizon. 

The port settlement was still busy with people rushing around, hurrying this way and that with scrolls. Marishi and Rae were led up a flight of stairs and into a building that looked as though it were still under construction, but a few doors were opened, revealing rooms with a bed or two. They were shown to their room and instructed where the bath was, to which they both had the opportunity to use it before their food was delivered to their room. It wasn't anything extravagant, but it filled the belly and tasted good. Once done, Rae laid on the bed and sighed while staring up at the ceiling. Their room seemed to be the most complete out of the others, which she was grateful for. A single window was in their small room and it allowed a shaft of moonlight to shine in through its window pane. It illuminated the otherwise dark room. Rae had changed to her plain shift as part of getting ready for bed. "I've never seen an anti-crystal before," Rae said to Marishi, her thoughts drifting back to her friend's invention. "I have a bad feeling about it, though. He seems to think it just gets absorbed, but it can't do that. No inanimate thing can just absorb the aether and deconstruct it. I'd like to know where it's truly going."

Rae turned her head to her wife and smiled warmly, stretching out her arm across the other side of the bed and waving for Marishi to come to her. "Come to me, my Lune. I wish to bask in your comforting presence." She beckoned, giggling softly to her beloved.

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“He is a fool if he thinks his ‘fail-safe’ will work. There was next to no aether in that thing when he detonated it. What happens when it fills up to catastrophic levels. That explosion will work, I have no doubt. Taking a good chunk of the land and us along with it.” Marishi said. She didn’t like this. Something wasn’t right. Their tales made sense, but something about them made them sound off key. “They are your kin. If you say we can trust them, then I say we can trust them. Come, let us get what sleep we can this night with the blowing winds and shifting Aether.” Marishi took Rae into her arms, matched her posture on the bed and wrapped her tail around Rae’s hips. They slept.

An hour before first light Marishi rose and dressed for the day. She did not dress in fashion, but for battle. She placed her Tanto on her back, her Wakizashi, blade up in the sash on her left hip and above that the Gordian Katana. “Grace us with your presence, for I am nearly spent light of the land.” She purred at Rae. “Quickly, dress and eat. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a long day.” Marishi sighed. They got to play chaperone to men who knew nothing of the world. They knew it through books and sheets. They have not been in the climates where the wilds will snatch and lay claim if unaware.

“He said ‘caravan’. Please tell me he’s not coming. Please tell me that we won’t have to protect ourselves along with witless bookworms. Please don’t tell me on top of all of that, we have to care for some hideous cripple whose words taste of oil and sound of half-truths.” Marishi walked to the door and placed her hand on the knob. Rae was dressed and ready. “Please tell me this isn’t what we signed up for.” As Marishi opened the door for Rae to step outside. Marishi followed leaving most of their traveling equipment behind.

As Rae walked out the door, the Sun broke the horizon and began its rise. Quickly, heavy clouds snuffed the light to a gray and dull irradiance. In the center of the commons was a sorry state of assembly. People milling around, not sure what to do, some trying to calm the Chocobo’s who were alerted by so much going on. There was a caravan being pulled by two Chocobo’s in the middle. “Of course it would be like this,” Marishi said laughing at her own sarcasm. “Let’s cow this wayward herd of … whatever you would call this half cooked troupe.” Marishi walked downstairs with Rae and started yelling at the Scholars directions and orders. Marishi half watched Rae approach the caravan proper.

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Rae stretched while sucking in deeply. The bed wasn't exactly their own back in the Lavender Beds, but it was certainly comfier than the cot they were given on the ship. Flopping down to the mattress heavily, Rae groaned while pushing off the bed, her hair a tangled mess. Usually she'd wash it to comb out the tangles, but she didn't have the luxury of time that morning. They were on a mission. Using her fingers as a comb, Rae crawled out of the bed and yawned. She multi-tasked by walking to the table where their food was placed and grabbed a small roll with butter on it and bit into it, letting the rest hang from her mouth while she pulled her hair up into a ponytail. The room was chilled as there was no fireplace nearby to warm it, so as Rae removed her shift, she shivered as the cold air touched her bare skin, thus spurring her forward to quickly get her warm clothes on. All the while she would take bites from the roll until it was completely devoured and she was fully dressed.

Marishi was out of the room before her, which was fine. It allowed her to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts. She couldn't believe that Martiseau was not the leader of a prestigious expedition. It felt like just yesterday the two of them were playing pranks on their teachers. How times has changed each other. Turning around, Rae exited the room and walked with Marishi to the group of people gathered together. They looked in dire need of some one to tell them what to do, and what better person than for Marishi to do so.  As her wife began barking out orders, Rae walked towards the caravan that kept Matiseau and knocked on the door. It opened to reveal a rather cramped interior with books, papers, quills, and a makeshift desk in between it all. "Ah! Rae, you're here! We can get going then!" He said cheerfully. "I must apologize for the carriage. It's the fastest way for me to get from place to place. I'd offer you a Chocobo to ride, but they will be burdened with the capsules. They will go with you farther into the island whereas the rest of the team and I shall wait at the Cabin, which is our first destination." Matiseau went on to explain, rummaging through his paper so attempt to find the map.

"Mati," Rae murmured, frowning slightly, her brows furrowed together. "I worry about the anti-crystals. If they absorb the aether... well, it's like a sponge. If you soak up the water from a leak and press it out, you'll have the same mess, but all at once. If these capsules explode with quick succession, that's a lot of aether that's being released back-"

Matiseau raised his hand and shook his head. "No, Rae, you misunderstood my explanation. The anti-crystals absorb the aether, yes, but it doesn't contain it. I haven't studied it enough to fully understand it, but I believe it simply deconstructs it, as this aether has not resurfaced elsewhere."

Rae stared helplessly at her friend as he eagerly went on to repeat what he said before. This did little to quell her worries, as there were too many questions of what exactly happens to the aether. "Nothing can deconstruct aether, Mati... but, this is important. Hopefully we won't have to use your fail safe. Let us go." With that, Rae closed the door to the carriage and walked up to Marishi, who had finished seeing to everyone getting organized. She smiled pleasantly to her while walking up close. "Well, my Silver Lune. You've done an excellent job getting everyone ready. Are you ready to go? It seems we'll be walking. Easier for us to dispatch the monsters that way, I suppose." She thought to share her worries of the plan with Marishi, but she felt that anything she thought, Marishi had already thought of as well.

With that, the caravan was off. The Chocobos obediently followed one another while a few scholars kept track of them. The carriage groaned and creaked with every bump along the road. The first obstacle was the beach. Rae frowned as she glanced behind her and noticed the carriage struggling to move across the grainy road they took. Up shore was no better, as it was rocky and bumpy. The wooden wheel would surely break if they took that path. Surrounding them were large crabs and amphibians that looked more fish than anything else and the teeth they sported were long enough to be used as daggers. As they ventured forward, more volatile monsters appeared, but kept a distance from them.

"Stop!" Matiseau called out, causing everyone to come to a sudden stop. "We need to place a capsule here! The aether is fluctuating already. Rae, Marishi, could I ask you to watch how it's done so you know how to do it when you're on your own?" Rae nodded and followed the scholar who rushed over and placed the container down on the ground. He made sure it was laid flat onto the ground, then unlatched the metal bindings that rose up to the center of the dome. He then pressed a red button on the panel that acted as the base of the capsule and the small rods suddenly snapped down, stabbing into the ground. The sudden movement caused Rae to jump and gasp a little, to which Matiseau laughed as he watched from the window of his carriage. "My apologies, Rae. I didn't mean for it to startle you! I should have told you it would do that."

Rae laughed and waved her hand dismissively. "It's alright. I always have been a little jumpy around Allagan technology." She explained. Even if it wasn't actually Allagan technology, it was fashioned after it and she innately hated the thing. As they waited, the pressure around the area felt lighter. The scholars all threw on their spectacles that viewed the aether and began taking notes. "I wonder what it looks like." Rae murmured to Marishi while she watched the scholars furiously take their notes. They seemed elated with whatever they were looking at. As the scholars began taking notes, some of the local monsters suddenly found an interest with their caravan, turning to face it, and even drawing nearer. The scholars were so preoccupied with their writing that they didn't notice the enormous leeches drawing nearer. Rae pulled out her weapon and conjured up a blast of fire through her magicite and sent it blasting into the side of one leech in an attack that should have killed it, but the leech seemed only injured, and not even grievously so.

"Uh oh." Rae said, using her latent ability to instantly summon a blast of thunder towards the leech, which finally killed the beast. "They can take a beating." She murmured. The scholars were still unaware of the approaching monsters. At least four of them now drew nearer to the caravan from their right flank.

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“Have you ever seen an Aurora Borealis? It’s like that, only sucked into a funnel to become a bomb.” Marishi said calmly walking up to the advancing beastkin. As she came within striking distance of a particularly large and aggressive crab, she moved her katana horizontal to the ground and pulled with a sweeping motion. In the Far East, sword fights are hardly fights. Their Katana’s being so delicate that they would shatter if blade crossed blade in brute force. Battles were fought with how quickly and deftly one could unsheathe their weapon and cleave their opponent. Marishi was an expert in this style and had dispatched more than one soul using it.

Her weapon bit deep and the crab staggered back silently howling. “That cleave would have taken down a wild boar ...” Marishi said amazed that it still lived. “I’m not about to become fish food to a few mindless crustaceans.” Marishi pulled out her Wakizashi from her sash and held it in her left hand. Her katana in her right. She dashed at the crab, but instead of slicing the carapace, she went for it’s left legs. She had to put force into her slashes as there was resistance in the flesh where there should be none. The crab, morally wounded and immobile, Marishi no longer considered it a threat. It would die within moments of blood loss or shock.

Rae had done excellent at dispatching the leeches. Several shriveled from heat and lightning. That left the oversized Pugil that was moving full speed towards Rae’s unprotected flank. Marishi threw her Wakizashi into the sand grip up and dashed as fast as she could to intercept the attack. She caught the fish as it at opened its maw to devour Rae. Her katana parallel to its jaw. The force of its movement caused Marishi to slam into Rae and stagger her back. Marishi dug her heels in the sand and pushed back with all her strength. “Come on you, oversized urchin. Give … it up already.” Marishi said through clenched teeth. She slightly gave way and, at that moment, freed her Katana where she angled the blade down. With a yelp of strength, she removed the entire lower jaw of the Pugil where it then lay on its side, quivering.

As Marishi was turning to give the all clear, she heard the recently slain Pugil try to slide itself forward towards the group. “What in the Hells?” Marishi said stepping to the side to let it try to slither to what it found irresistible. Marishi stabbed down on the fish piercing both sides pinning it to the ground, finally killing the abomination. Marishi left her Katana impaled through the Pugil and walked over to retrieve her Wakizashi. She cleaned the gore off the blade and sheathed the short sword. Walking back to the Pugil, she grabbed her Katana and like her Wakizashi cleaned the bits of bone and tissue that clung to it and put it away.

Marishi didn’t say a word as she walked past the Scholars. She strode quickly and with purpose. Her face flat and expressionless. She walked to the carriage door, and with her still blood-stained hands pulled the Scholar out of the Carriage and threw him to the ground. “She stepped on his hand causing obvious discomfort and calmly said. “Explain this. Make sense of those things. Explain this as if your life depended on it.” Marishi knew this would greatly upset Rae, but Marishi wasn’t going to be duped into becoming a meal for the untold amounts of monstrosities on the island. “I’ve a feeling that those were the weak ones. Explain it. Now.”

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Rae was briefly shocked once Marishi knocked into her, but she braced herself and helped stop the charge of the Pugil. As Marishi cut its life short, Rae heaved a sigh of relief. These monsters could take a beating, and that was mildly concerning. Before she could react, the Pugil was up again and coming at the Scholars, but Marishi disposed of it easily enough. "What in the Hells is going on with these beasts?!" Rae gasped. The other monsters watched as their kin were slaughtered and wisely kept a distance.

Before Rae could stop her, Marishi had thrown Matiseau on the ground and stomped on his hand, causing him to gasp and cry out. He couldn't react fast enough to her movements. He squirmed and looked to Rae pleadingly for her to intervene, but she furrowed her brows and frowned. She looked torn between telling her wife to let him go, but also being concerned. If these monsters were going to be a problem from here on out, they'd need to know everything. "I-I-I don't know exactly why they're so strong," Matiseau stammered once he realized he wouldn't be saved from Rae. "Perhaps being exposed to the fluctuating levels of aether for so long has caused them to become more... durable and powerful. I didn't anticipate them to be so powerful. A group of us dispatched them easily enough earlier when we went north-northwest from the docks. H-had I known you would have been sorely contested..."

Rae's left ear flicked at the suggestion that they were anything but mildly inconvenienced. "Matiseau, make no mistake. We aren't angry because we exerted a strenuous amount of effort into killing such lowly creatures. We are angry because the full scope of the situation was not told to us before we agreed to do this mission. In any place on Eorzea, those leeches would have shrivelled under the heat of my fire with one spell alone. They barely hindered their assault upon our team." She explained calmly. There were too many unknown things about this expedition. Rae was quickly losing faith with it.

It appeared as if Matiseau sensed Rae's disheartened disposition and scrambled to find words to put her mind at ease. "I-I didn't--we had to find--to go soon so we needed-" he grimaced, realizing his mind was a mess. Having his hand crushed helped little. He took a moment to collect his thoughts and breathed deeply, his forehead pressed against the sand. "I didn't mean to insult you. I only thought that... when I said that we weren't able to fight the monsters we had engaged earlier, I thought it would have been interpreted by you as that the fiends here are not easily taken down and you'd be doing everything you could to fight them."

"We can't very well expend our energies on the first set of monsters that cross our path," Rae answered, crossing her arms and frowning deeply. "So what you're saying is these creatures are stronger because of the aether. So they feed on it?"

"Presumably so-"

"What DO you know about this place, Matiseau?!" Rae barked. Matiseau cowered and the other scholars flinched at her elevated voice.

There was a quiet moment before he answered. "I know that what happened on this island was horrible. I know that the Laboratory holds information on what exactly happened here, so we can work on reversing it and making this island safe to walk on again. We need this place so we can continue our studies. We're so close to a breakthrough..."

"What about the concentrated aether flow that spawns stronger monsters?" Rae asked tersely.

"Th-they are unpredictable on when they spawn, but there are set areas of where they happen," He answered earnestly. "With our goggles, however, we can see when that happens and we can warn you to stay away from them. Truthfully, only those monsters that spawn from the concentrated aether are a real threat to the likes of you and Marishi. We will be with you until the Cabin, at which point we will arm you both with these goggles and you can finish the trek towards the Laboratory."

Rae mulled over the answer while tapping her chin. "What do you think, Marishi? The only issue we had with the monsters was that we expected them to die. I wasn't overly exerted. Plus, I worry. If the aether here is unstable, what if it creates a ripple towards Othard? I'm not too fond of the rest of the world getting affected by this problem." She looked to her partner, awaiting her to weigh in on the situation.

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“He’s lying. I say we kill him and catch the next boat out of here.” Marishi knelt down and pulled out her tanto. Slowly. The ringing of steel obviously heard. She kneeled down so that her words would only be heard by him “Know when I say this that it is in full earnestly: You let us walk into something like that again, I’ll kill you. You awoke something in the dark. They can’t see it. They can’t feel it. But I can. A gift from one who killed me. Whatever it is that brought out of whatever hole it slept, your research better damn better be sure to procure a way to stop that … thing.” Marishi looked up and towards the northeast. There was a disturbance so great it could actively be seen malms away if one had the equipment or gift to see it.

“No more half-truths or ‘I don’t know’. I could even leave you here to fend for yourself. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about being eaten though. You’ve been cooked too long.”

Marishi stood up, sheathed her tanto and before moving her foot she ground her heel into the Scholars hand. She walked to the frightened and cowed Sharlayn’s. I sincerely hope you got the data you needed. Since it won’t be happening again. Put that crystal in the caravan. I’m sure our esteemed colleague would love a chance to inspect it.”

Marishi strode to Rae and spoke quietly “I’m sorry Sunlight. I know you respect and love him very much. I didn’t want to put you into that position. But I can’t let anyone put you in harm’s way.” Marishi paused for several moments, fighting with herself on what she was to say next. She chose her words carefully “That man has an … distasteful quality about him and his flock. I can’t see the path in front of us. It is hidden. Be careful who you listen to and who you trust.”

Marishi didn’t like the Scholar. She didn’t like his appearance, she didn’t like his verbiage, she didn’t like how he limped along. Jealousy. Thought Marishi. She resented him for having grown up with him. For having shared secrets with him. She hated how his words seemed to affect Rae so. Marishi let out a small “hmph” and turned to the caravan.

“I suggest we take an alternate route. This way is impassible in our current situation. Might I suggest the way you ventured the first time?” Marishi said with a nasty tone in her voice. “Of course, I defer to the great knowledge of the leader of this expedition. Either way, we’ve wasted too much daylight as it is. Decide and start moving.”

Edited by Marishi Ten

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Rae could only imagine what Marishi was saying to him. Her frown continued even after Marishi had removed her foot from his hand. Sometimes her methods of getting the point across was too much at times. As Marishi spoke to her, she gave her a sad, yet disappointed stare. "I'm not the one who should be apologized to." She shot back at her, then walked over to Matiseau and helped him up.

"Just like when we were kids," he grunted, getting to his feet and holding his freshly injured hand with his burned hand for a brief moment before dropping both hands at his side. He scowled at Marishi. Her words cut deeper than her boot, it seemed. "Perhaps I should have gotten stronger before attempting this. I thought this was the easiest way about things." He said, turning back to Rae and bowing to her slightly.

She chuckled as she watched him limp back into his carriage. "Oh, Mati. You know I'll always be around to pick you up when you get pushed into the mud." She teased. Seeing his smile back at her put her heart at ease. At least she could turn the mood around. "So I guess we head back to that broken settlement?"

Matiseau shook his head. "No, we can't go that way. That's the longest possible way and we still need to drop these off at these key locations along this path," Matiseau explained while pointing at the map. "I think there's a path here we can take; however, I worry that it isn't the safest route with regards to the creatures that inhabit that particular route. I mean, we can take it, but the foes there are stronger than those on either side of the path. If you two are confident with your skills against such enemies, we can take that route and cut through to the cabin." He explained.

Rae sighed and shrugged. "It would be nice if we just could cut through the northern path, but I suppose if we must go that route, we shall." Rae then walked back to Marishi's side and watched as the carriage was turned around and they began to retrace their steps. She glanced back at the capsule placed on the ground. She could feel aether being pulled towards it, but the unease that happened before slowly vanished with the aether being drawn in to the stone.

The group made their way back to the port settlement and began their trek through the grassy, mountain-surrounded pathway. There were ravenous wolves that prowled about, but they never dared get closer to the caravan. Rae kept a watchful eye on them. "I suppose if we wish to kill these beasts quicker we should probably try to take down the same one together," Rae said to Marshi, watching a pair of Black Wolves that watched their group walk passed them. None of them seemed to wish to engage them, despite keeping a watchful eye on them. "When was the time you saw aether, my Lune?" Rae asked, turning her head to look at Marishi.

After several hours, the group came to a large opening where the earth was layered into misaligned tiers. Rae looked out into the center. It seemed to her that there should be something there, and yet, nothing was. She thought to ask what it was, but Matiseau spoke up. "We need to place a capsule here." He stated. Two scholars reacted immediately, fetching a capsule and rushing it to the designated point. The same process as before was repeated. The latches were made lax and the button pressed. Instantly, the legs snapped and plunged into the ground. "Be alert; I have a feeling the locales will be interested in what we're doing." He called out, looking out the other side of his carriage as a few Leopards raised their heads. Rae moved around the other side of the carriage and readied a spell. She wouldn't make the same mistake of underestimating the endurance of her enemies. 

"Aether is ebbing," called out one scholar whose goggles were pulled down. Two of the scholars had their summoning books out and were ready to fight, which Rae felt to be a relief. It seemed Marishi's scolding and display made them all take this a little bit more seriously, which she was grateful for. The first leopard attacked.

The creature prowled about until it was at a flank it thought was unguarded and began to run towards them. Rae caught a glimpse of the beast charging and called out to the group. "Foe at three o'clock!" Rae shouted and sent a blast of wind towards it, sending it backwards. The scholars went about casting their magic, festering the creature with two potent diseases that slowly sucked its life away and made it lethargic. Two other leopards charged and the scholars engaged one while Rae conjured stones and sent them shooting to the leopard, which only seemed mildly annoyed at the attack as it continued to dart towards the Chocobos carrying the capsules.

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