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Mistakes Unlearned Bear Repeating [Final Fantasy XIV]

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There was a taste of rust on Marishi’s tongue. Old blood. The last thing she could remember was her body being shattered and thrown from a shattered airship. Slowly she opened her eyes to the sight of a ceiling supported by wooden joists. There was a smell of moisture and old books. Her breathing was easy and not haggard as she had thought it would have been. She twitched her left arm to make sure she could still feel it as well as her toes. She hadn’t broken her back or neck rendering her paralyzed. She looked over the rest of her body.

She wore no top. In its place bandage wrappings around her left arm and breast. The wrappings continued over her right breast to offer some modicum of modesty. She was under a blanket. She wore no boots or bottoms. Nothing but her underwear which did little to leave the rest of her up to the imagination. She blushed slightly. Someone must have taken her clothes off. All of them. To treat her.

She was in an infirmary of some kind judging by the scalpels and forceps on the table close to her along with a tray of blood-stained gauze. There was no one occupying the bed to her left. She turned to the right. There was someone in that one. Marishi’s face had gone grey when she realized Rae was also being treated in the infirmary. She had color to her cheeks, more so than Marishi and her breathing was even and sound. She was sleeping. Her leg was wrapped in a plaster cast.

A small Taru sat at her bedside the definition of worry and anxiety over Rae. She watched her closely and did not take her eyes from her. It appeared Rae had made friends. Hopefully, it wasn’t the same kind of friendship that rooted with Jakoh. The Taru didn’t notice Marishi was awake and so she kept quiet staring at the ceiling.

The trample of feet could be heard approaching in the distance. It became louder and clear there were three distinct footfalls. Marishi closed her eyes and feigned sleep to hear what they might say. “You’ve done well Peri. But you extend your strength past its limits. Please, rest in your quarters. I will keep Rae company.” The voice was soft-spoken, with authority, but not unkind. “But if she wakes up and she needs something, I should be there.” The tiny voice of Peri spoke. “When she awakes, I will send for you right away. Do not worry. She is in good hands.” The male said. Headmaster. Marishi deduced. “Yes sir, I will rest a while. Please, inform me right away when she wakes.” Peri pleaded. Her footsteps could be heard leaving the room.

“I want you to look at these two. I want you to look hard. This is what happens when comrades on the battlefield do not support each other. Your negligence and malice have caused your classmate to be hospitalized and her wife in critical condition.” The headmaster spoke harshly. “Sir, I highly doubt that even if we did participate, the outcome would be different. I do not think – “The was young. Full of arrogance and defiance. His accent was different than Peri and the Headmaster. The boy must be highborn. “That’s right. You didn’t think. You acted out in hatred against a girl that doesn’t deserve it. Your action of inaction almost cost these two their lives. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” The headmaster was stern. He wasn’t scolding them, he was defining the art of warfare. “Why should we be forced to help them? They aren’t even from our world Headmaster! It’s bad enough to suffer one under our esteemed roof, but now we have two. The other one seems quick to anger and action. Look at the callouses on her hands. She has wielded her sword against who knows how many! Headmaster, I vote for the immediate expulsion and eviction of both Rae and her ‘lover’.” A female voice. Young and much the same as the male. Whining and demanding. “There are no sessions being held, you have no grounds to make that request. Besides that, you would need the approval of two thirds the class body. Why war here when you can have all you want just outside the gates?” The Headmaster sounded as if he were at a loss. “Because she and her devil concubine spread lies and weaken our schools and houses from within. Would that I could duel her again.” The male voice said coldly.

Marishi had heard enough of these two slander Rae. She opened her eyes and immediately sat up, staring at the make Elvaan. Her voice was low but her tone was sharp. “You’d do well to keep your forked tongue behind your head, whelp. Lest you wish to be parted with it. I have heard you slander Rae three times since you’ve been here. Believe me when I say, boy. There won’t be a fourth.” All three turned in Marishi’s direction. Her face was pale and unmoving. Her eyes unflinching. “And you would do well to not trouble yourself with the affairs of your betters, whore. Look at you. Weak as a mewling. Even that dolt Peri could best you in combat. I know! Why don’t you take yourself and that sad excuse for a mage and go back to whence you came? You don’t belong here. You infect us with your mere presence. I wonder if your disfigurement was genetic? Too much breeding in the family tree?” The girl said with hate in her voice. Marishi silently chuckled. “You’re going to have to do better than that if your aim is to upset me. Where I come from, my kind are used to service carnal desires and little else. We are cajoled, mocked, insulted, stoned, and beaten. Who are you? A little elf girl coming to the defense of her over-entitled spoiled brother. I respect you standing behind kin, but this isn’t the fight you want to have.” Marishi said flatly.

“That’s enough. All of you.” Said the Headmaster sternly. “I will tolerate no more outbursts. From anyone. That includes you, Miss. I’m well aware I hold no authority over you. But if you continue to fan these flames, I’ll have Rae expelled. Understand?” Marishi looked at him a moment and said, “I’ll comply. If the rules are broken outside of my own control, however, I will react accordingly.” The two Elvaan looked at each other with alarmed glances. They expected Marishi to fall in line with the code of conduct, without thinking that their code meant nothing to her. “You tread thin ice Miss. You seem to be recovering apace and my course properly taught. I request to convene with Rae at her earliest convenience. Alone.” The Headmaster said. The siblings turned on their heel and quickly exited. The Headmaster behind. “A moment, Headmaster,” Marishi said. “You’ve not had your fill of vitriolic words yet? You would lash out at me as well?” He asked. Marishi thought for a moment. This one wasn’t a fool. He could read the writing in between the words. “No, I have no quarrel with you. Or any of you for that matter. I’d speak to you about the siblings that dog your frock like slavering animals.” The Headmaster was silent. A moment passed between the two. “You stated you were to speak. Have you changed your mind, or do you enjoy wasting my time?” He said. “I don’t know what hold they have on you, but it’s clear you favor them heavily. It’s not from the fondness you have fostered I imagine. You are a storied professor and me pointing out to you is likely redundant, but there will come a day where you will have to take a stand. Will you stand for what you believe in, or will you meekly dance to the puppets strings? Something to think on at the least. Thank you for your time Headmaster. Oh, one more thing, if I may. My clothing seems to have gone amiss. I’d like greatly to be able to wear something again.” Marishi said. The faint traces of a smile could be seen on the Headmasters lips. “Your garb was rather frayed and soiled from your foray. Our seamstress is finishing her sewing and cleaning now. You should be able to dress within the bell.” He turned on his heel and left.

True to his word, Marishi had her clothing back. She was still stiff on her left side, but she was on the mend. As she was putting on her boot, she tasted old blood again. She began to cough slightly to clear her throat. She spit out blood. She finished dressing and walked over to Rae, gently stroking her cheek with the back of her hand. “The sky calls out its Sun again. It’s time to bless the land with radiance.” She cooed as Rae’s eyes opened.

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Rae stirred at the sensation of something brushing her cheek. They had given her sleeping aids to help with her ankle. She had dislocated it, but nothing was broken, they said. Setting it back in place was the worst of it, but with time it would heal and she'd be without a cast. As her eyes opened and focused, she saw Marishi hovering over her. A small, sleepy smile crossed her face as she gazed up to her wife. "You're awake before me again," she mused, then suddenly reached up, locking her hands behind Marishi's neck and pulling her down onto the bed with her. Rae's legs wrapped around Marishi as did her tail as she completely wrapped herself around her wife, burying her face into the crook of her neck. She clung onto her as if she feared letting go would cause her to slip away into nothing. Tears flowed freely as she embraced her wife, drinking in her scent and warmth. Oh, how she missed this! Rae gasped and sucked in her breath sharply a few times before she pulled away, looking into Marishi's eyes, her own red from her tears. "What happened to you? Why didn't you answer me when I tried talking to you? What have you learned? Oh, Marishi. I've missed you so much! I thought of you every minute of the day and dreamt of you every night! I slept under the moon and wept so many nights. I never want to be apart from you!" Rae blurted out her questions rapidly, not giving Marishi a chance to answer any of them before she hugged her tightly again and pressing her lips firmly onto hers, kissing her with all the passion she had pent up from spending so long apart. 

"Rae!" Peri cried out. Rae turned her head just as the small Tarutaru ran over to them both and jumped onto the bed, throwing her arms around them both as best she could. "Oh, Rae! You're awake! And your wife, too! I'm so glad. Ohh I'm so gla-ha-ha-ad!" Peri sobbed as she hugged the two of them, great tears streaming down her face as she hugged onto them both tightly. Rae couldn't help but smile and chuckle as her small friend cried harder than she had.

"We're fine, we're fine, Peri, please, let go of our necks or we might not be so fine." Rae teased, to which the small Taru did immediately, gasping and dropping back down to the ground. "Marishi, this is my friend, Peri. Peri, this is my wife, Marishi."

Peri stared in awe of Marishi, eyes wide and cheeks coloured red. "I've heard so much about you, Lady Marishi," Peri said, her voice reverent as she addressed Marishi. "I'm so glad I got to meet you! Rae spoke so highly of you, and she wasn't lying when she said you were the most beautiful woman she's ever seen."

This caused Rae to laugh and wave to Peri. "Don't give away all my secrets, Peri!" She laughed, to which Peri chuckled as well and covered her mouth. Rae turned back to Marishi, gazing up at her with affection and tenderly caressing her cheek with her fingers before leaning up for another kiss before she unhooked her legs from around her's and let her tail relax against the bed, allowing Marishi to get up finally. She sat up and went to stand up, but grimaced at the pain from her ankle. Peri immediately darted off and fetched a crutch for Rae and handed it over to her, allowing her to get up. She kept her injured ankle off the ground and walked with the aid of the crutch. This would prove annoying to her, but necessary. She'd need it for about a week before she could walk on her ankle without fear of pain.

"Everyone is talking about how amazing the fight was yesterday," Peri exclaimed once Rae was moving around. "They saw Marishi falling, and the dragon, and the airship! Oh! The captain is fine, too. Thankfully he was in the cargo and most of it was securely placed so he didn't endure too much damage. Pretty smart of him to hide there... But! They saw all of that and they were so excited they caused Bahamut to crash into the mountain and you! Rae! You flew!! You flew to save your wife! Are all Red Mages able to do-" Rae had to cover Peri's mouth as she laughed nervously, her cheeks blushing brightly.

"It was nothing fantastic, Peri.. Please. You are so dramatic about everything." Rae said. Peri then laughed along with her and shook her head. "I'm starved. Let's go get something to eat. What time is it, Peri?"

"1500 hours. Everyone is on break today because of yesterday so everyone's wandering around. The storm is over, too. You should go see everyone! They're waiting to see if you're doing better!" Peri explained excitedly. Rae only laughed and shook her head.

"I think I want a while along with my wife. The rest of the school can learn of our recovery from you, Peri. If you wouldn't mind?" Rae asked, to which the Tarutaru nodded and quickly scampered off to inform the school while Rae took Marishi's hand and pulled her to follow along. It was difficult to walk together while holding hands, so she settled with just being beside Marishi.

As they walked, the two began to catch up to pace with what happened in each other's life, but they were cut off when the headmaster approached them. Rae bowed her head to him and smiled, and he returned the smile in turn. "I am glad to see you up and about so quickly, both of you. Rae, how are you feeling? Is your ankle healing well?" She nodded her head in response to his question, and he let out a sigh of relief. "I am glad for this. Now, I've come here on official business. As headmaster, I had the opportunity to witness your growth. You came here uncertain, alone, timid. Slowly you blossomed into one of the strongest, most capable Red Mages I have ever seen. You endured much here. Much judgement, much ridicule, much unfair treatment. What's worse is you drew your weapon on a teacher within school grounds. You split the students and caused them to spite their teachers and some of their own. You've left quite an imprint on this school." Rae's ears drooped. She had been quite irrational with some of her decisions. She never meant to cause a revolution among the students towards Iphen and Fucie, but it happened, and it could not be undone.

"I've received several requests from both teachers and some parents calling for your expulsion," he went on to say. Rae's ears raised slightly and she snorted, a lopsided smile on her face. "Of course, your actions in helping save the school from certain doom at the hands of the Elder Dragon Bahamut, as well as saving another person's life while putting your own at risk, are all admirable and worthy of earning a pardon from the headmaster of this academy. So, Miss Ten. I wish to condone your actions from yesterday and forgive you of them. You acted in the best interest of the school and those within it. You did nothing wrong in my opinion."

A warm smile crossed Rae's features as the Tarutaru spoke, and he smiled to her as well. "Thank you, Headmaster." Rae said, bowing her head to him in deep gratitude. "But what of the parents? And Iphen and Fucie? Will they honour your decision?" Rae stood up straight and gazed down at him.

"I received two resignation letters this afternoon on my desk as well as a notice that funding has been withdrawn," he answered her honestly. As Rae started to protest, he raised his hand to her. "I have also reached out to the surrounding towns and students have contacted their parents. We will be receiving supplies at the middle of next week thanks to the kind and generous donations of those who are able to spare anything. I have also already appointed two staff members to replace the two I have lost, so not much has been lost this day." Rae let out a laugh again and ran her fingers through her hair. She really did leave quite the imprint upon this school.

"You have a week, Miss Rae, before you graduate." The headmaster added. "Miss Marishi, you are permitted to stay here. Typically only students my be within these halls, but an exception shall be made for you. Please try not to start fights with the students." He implored, then turned around and walked back to his office.

Rae let out a sigh of relief, then turned to Marishi. "Well, it seems trouble always chases us, doesn't it? At least I'm not expelled. Perhaps I'll finally graduate from a school!" Rae then laughed. It was strange for a grown woman to be so concerned about being expelled, but knowing she was going to be rid of those irksome siblings and that terrible Rolev put an extra skip in her step. Or at least it seemed so.

The following week continued on in a droll. The classes were finished as the students were to be tested only; however, given their exemplary skills during the fight with Bahamut, those who were present for the showdown were exempt from taking the final tests. Those who did not show up, however, were forced to take the tests under the new direction of their teachers, a Hume named Allaen and the Tarutaru named Perinana. They were stern teachers and let no stutter nor hesitation slide by without a strict lesson on how it would greatly impact them in the battlefield. On graduation day, the students lined up and were given their new robes. One by one, each student received a medal for their accomplishment and a set of magic-enhanced robes that would strengthen any spell they cast. Moreover, the clothing was made flexible and allowed the wearer to move freely. As a parting gift for Rae, she was given a rapier. The students applauded her as she was given the generous gift from them all. She had taught them so much from her world, and the least they could do was gift her with a rapier to allow her to properly put her new talents and skills to good use. Rolev, however, scowled the whole time. The Hume was reluctant to let go of his grudge, and now that he could no longer get away with anything he wanted, he spited Rae even more.

"Our school is better off having granted you permission to be here, Rae. You as well, Marishi. Though you only stayed a short while with us, you have given us all a lasting impression that we shall not soon forget." The Headmaster said, winking to Marishi and smiling broadly to the whole student body. "Today, I look upon the new wave of Red Mages. Go forth and teach what you have learned. Practice what you teach. Fight for what's right!" Everyone raised their hands and cheered, joy filling the room as they finally finished their schooling and were now considered full-fledged Red Mages. 

The students returned to their rooms, packing their things while Marishi and Rae made their way outside, having packed their things already. She wished she could stay longer, but they needed to leave back to San d'Oria. An airship was ready to take them a small walk from the entrance to the Safehold. They had made their way towards the airship when Rae froze, her hair standing on end. She then spun around just in time for a large shadow to blot out the sky and a gust of wind to blast past them, knocking Rae off her feet. She scrambled to her feet just in time for Bahamut to land between them and their airship. Turning to run back to the school, they were blocked by Bahamut's tail striking down, crushing the plateau they were on. "Rrrrrrrraaaaaaaaeeeeeeee," he growled, lowering his head. His breath was hot and smelled of sulphur. Rae drew her rapiers, her Dreadwyrm rapier held before her while the other held behind her as she prepared to strike. A low rumble rose from his throat as she assumed fighting stance. "To think you were so near this whole time and I did not sense you. You do well to mask your aether, mortal. And you. You lead me straight to her, despite trying your best to save her from me. A pity indeed that now I have you both. It seems your efforts were for naught."

Rae held her ground as he addressed Marishi. She would not strike until she learned what Bahamut's intentions were. "Why have you come here? What is it that you want?" Rae asked, her voice an authoritative bark. Both eyes were on her in that moment, and for a second, she felt her body stop, but she regained control. She wouldn't allow this Bahamut to frighten her.

"Insolent," he growled to her. "I hold your life on a string and you have the audacity to ask me questions. You are in my domain. This realm of Tavnazia is mine. You have trespassed here and brought... that with you. I demand to know who you are and why you have come here." He snorted, sending hot air to burn her skin. Rae closed her eyes as he did, squeezing them shut and grimacing. She could sense him. Slowly, she opened her eyes again and glared back at him, keeping her weapons drawn.

"I am Rae, as you know," she answered back. "I am here to learn how to dual-wield rapiers and to learn the magic of Red Mage from the land of Vana'diel so I may return to Hydaelyn and use my skills to defeat Pandemonium." Rae gripped her weapons tighter as Bahamut moved closer, sniffing the rapier she held before her.

Another low rumble emanated from his belly and he curled his lips into a snarl. "I can smell it. This Dreadwyrm from your home. It smells of me, but it is not me. Who is this Bahamut from Hydaelyn?"

Rae was stumped. How could she answer this question? It seemed too open-ended. "He's... he's an Elder Primal. He destroyed nearly all of Hydaelyn after being contained for countless years-"

Bahamut growled louder and snapped his jaws, his eyes focusing hard on Rae, causing her to stop talking. "You interacted with him. I saw it in Marishi's memories. You've told her as such. I want to know what happened."

"... I attuned to his aether and took a part of him unto myself."

"So then he is only aether?"

"Now he is. Before he was corporeal."

"And why do I not sense this aether within you?"

Rae paused a moment, which caused Bahamut to slam his tail down, urging her to speak. "Before I came here, some one I knew ripped it from me and a witch gave it a physical form." She explained hesitantly.

Bahamut stared down at her, mulling over the information he was given. "I wish to see the moment you attuned to him." He said. Rae looked up at him, a brow piqued. Before she could react, she felt a presence pushing upon her mind. Rae cried out and clutched her head, falling to her knees as she did and her weapons clattered to the ground on either side o fher. "Stop fighting me or I will break your mind and leave you a husk of what you are!" He commanded, his voice adding more pressure to Rae's mind. She had to slowly force herself to allow him through, allowing her mind to not be overwhelmed. She could feel him drudge up her memories, she relieved each one. From her time on Eureka to her wedding to her meeting Marishi to her leaving the island. He dug deeper than necessary, finding her time on Sharlaya interesting before withdrawing until he found the memory he was searching for.

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She was alone. Her master had gone to secure them a place to sleep while they would assist with cleaning the battlefield and disposing of the soldiers that remained hiding. Rae felt a calling to her. She sat alone beside a destroyed Magitek Armour. There was none on the battlefield save herself and the dead, but she felt a pull on her aether, on her consciousness. Getting to her feet, she walked the direction the call came. She stepped over bodies, sometimes having to take entirely different routes to find a way to her destination. As she drew nearer, she felt herself lose control of her body. She no longer cared for the dead and stepped on them indiscriminately. There was a spire in the middle of the battlefield covered in orange aetheric crystals. Rae climbed the spire with confidence, not questioning where her foot stepped, not wondering where her hand reached. Soon, she was atop the spire. Electricity shot off the ends of the crystals, creating a dangerous atmosphere to all those who entered the encased flat of the spire.

She could see practically everything. The whole battlefield was laid out before her, but all that mattered was in front of her. A purple wisp hovered amid the aether-charged crystals. It beckoned to her bidding her come nearer. As she did, the wisps began to flicker her way. Rae reached out to touch the faint tendrils. Once they connected, a flurry of emotions and sensations assaulted her. Rage. Sadness. Emptiness. Loneliness. Acceptance. Greeting. Pain. Sadness. Regret. Rage. Rage. RAGE!

She grew dizzy and staggered backwards a bit, but caught herself. The aether wisp still remained, the tendrils reaching out to her desperately. She knew this was Bahamut now. She knew she had to get away, but the feel of the aether was... familiar to her, almost. She knew better than to try to attune to the aether of an Elder Primal, especially one that had just almost destroyed the world, but she couldn't help but feel as if she needed to do this. It was safe to do this, since Bahamut was calling to her himself... but why was it safe? Why should she feel comforted by the call of a Primal? Was she a thrall already now? Perhaps it was too late for her. She had already made contact. She should throw herself off the ledge and end it. But... why was she considering her options? Shouldn't thralls be simply obedient? Rae stared at the aether as it slowly drew back within itself. Sucking in deeply, Rae moved back and reached out to the aether once more, connecting her fingertips with the faint tendrils.

She had to accept it as her own. She pushed her aether against it, then it pushed back and she pulled back. She continued the motion, their aether rocking back and forth. Her head spun and her body convulsed, but she focused on the aether's flow. Back and forth. Ebb and flow. Rae and Bahamut. Soon, the aether settled within her. It felt like it was too much, but after a moment, her body grew accustomed to the overbearing presence of Bahamut's aether. She laid there, still, staring at the sky. The crystals light changed from orange to blue, the electricity stopped. All was quiet.

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"So it is as Marishi saw," Bahamut stated, withdrawing his presesnce from Rae's mind. She gasped, releasing the breath she did not know she was holding, and dropped to the ground, pressing her face to the grass below her. "Your star's Bahamut was mindless, but there was emotion to him. I know you sensed it as well, Rae. Your world is different than this world. It is sad, marred with irreparable damage, but it is still beautiful. It would be a pity that it should be destroyed by that creature... Pandemonium. And that witch... It would be a greater pity should they come here and wreak their havoc. I cannot allow this to happen. You are to return home, but you shall take a part of me with you. While you cannot attune to my aether, I shall do the next best thing." With that, Bahamut reached out to Rae's weapons. His large claw touched her new rapier, gifted by the school. As he did, the weapon began to glow a faint purple light.

Rae, who was still recovering from the interaction, was panting and staring at the sword as it took on the assisted aether from Vana'diel's Bahamut. Once it was done, Bahamut withdrew his claw. "Save your star from this Pandemonium. I will lend you my strength to do so." And with that, Bahamut pushed off the ground, his wings unfurled and carried him off over the mountains.

The world was silent and still for a brief moment before Rae grabbed the swords and sat back, breathing deeply still and her eyes closed. "What the hells is wrong with Bahamut? Is there a world that exists where he isn't an arsehole?" She asked breathlessly, though as mile crossed her face as she said it.

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“it’s not finished. He’s not finished. We’re not finished. He knows. He knows how to do it. We must stop him!” Marishi said looking up at the sky. She was but a spectator to the events that unfolded, but him burrowing into Rae’s mind gave Marishi insight into his. She couldn’t fathom or understand most of the emotions that he could range. She couldn’t see his past, present, or future, save a moment in time. He had laid siege to a city. There, in their arrogance, mortals contacted something Marishi couldn’t understand. It was not a man. Almost a mockery of one. The city itself was beautiful, the trees perfectly groomed, the city center perfectly maintained. A grand castle sitting on its north end. They had done something there. Something reprehensible. Something horrifying. Bahamut was of Vanadiel. Born of the earth, owing an allegiance not to a god, but to the planet itself. He was the planets custodian. Its shield and spear. Anything that threated Vanadiel would be burnt to cinders.

As Bahamut kept worming inside Rae’s head, Marishi was met with a myriad of images, thoughts, memories, emotions. The emotions and thoughts were too far beyond her to understand, but she watched the memories. Through subterfuge, Bahamut had gained access to this city. The Celestial Capital of Al’Taieu. Their sins were beyond redemption. They had reached out to a God. One that even the Lord of The Skies feared. The memory shifted to a meeting with a child of all things. A child of man. A pact had been struck. Bahamut watched from the outside of the city as the land in the northern seas was smote down to the bottom of the sea, only to have its defense mechanisms activate and withdraw into an inaccessible paradox.

Marishi tried to control the wave of memories emanating from the Wyrm. She didn’t have much more time left. She focused on the child. He was unlike any of the races on the planet she had seen or heard about. Even the so-called ‘ancients’. He was within the city when it sank. He was also the one who opened back up access to it. This boy was special. Incredibly so. He was a traverser of worlds and universes. He could pass through the physical plane and at his choosing, emerge in the infinite paths and streams that were created. Marishi began developing a plan when the memories stopped and she lurched forward breathing heavily.

She watched Bahamut ascend to the skies and became desperate. This was hers and Rae’s only chance to go back home. Marishi yelled to the withdrawing Bahamut “What of Al’Tiaeu?! What of the crystal within a city and the city within the crystal?!” Bahamut stopped and the whole world stood motionless. “Hmph. So, you realized that the mental link works both ways. I applaud you. What of that cursed place? Either way, it’s inaccessible to mortals such as yourselves.” Marishi was losing his interest she quickly searched her mind for something, anything, that would strike a chord with him. “Selh’teus can though, can he not?” This stopped Bahamut and turned his full attention on Marishi.

“You say that name as if you know who he really is. Yes, he can traverse multiple planes of existence. But he is unlike you mortals.” Bahamut stated. “I want the chance to measure that quality for myself. I refuse to accept our fate and be stuck here while our own world burns. Even if we go back just to be added to the pyre! If our world falls, how long would it take for them to find their way here? Your own planet is threatened by proxy! So, help us, I beg you! Open the way to Al’Tiaeu so that we might find a way to return!” Marishi defiantly said.

He stared at her for long moments. His eyes boring holes into her. Measuring her will and resolution. They were different, and the Samurai had escaped his clutches even with victory assured. The mage houses great latent power yet untapped. Bahamut suddenly spoke. “It is done. Your path is open. Take your ship to the northern sea. There will be a beacon. It will be something of a shock for you to shift planes. Or so I was told by a mortal once. Enough. I have tarried in the affairs of man overlong.” He slowly spun and set for his aery in the ravine.

“Are you alight Solar? I’m sorry, I saw a fragment that I didn’t fully understand. I know you don’t understand. I still don’t. But you have to trust me. This is going to be our only way back. Back to what? Nothing, most like. Our world has likely already fallen. But I will find that man and I will kill him. I should have killed him when I had the chance. The woman … She was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I fear her far more than I fear that Primal. Somehow, I know that she could bring it to heel quite easily. So what do you say? We toil to forge our way back to a world that hates us and our kind? That has victimized and brutalized both you and me? Do we fight to save something that is hardly worth our pity or compassion to save?” Marishi asked Rae holding her hand out to her.

“Good girl. Come, our pilot needs new instruction.” Marishi smiled at Rae. She took her hand and ran over to the airship. It was in an idle state, but the engines still fully powered. Marishi and Rae boarded. On the flight deck, Marishi called out to the Captain “Change of destination Captain! We head for the Northern Seas near Quifm Island! How fast can you get us there?!” The Captain replied “Within the hour! It’s your money! I’ll take you where ever you want to go!” The airship lifted from the ground and slowly spun in the northern direction. They passed over the ruined city of Tavnazia. Once a bastion of religion and hope now gutted and empty save the dead that will find no rest.

They were quickly over the sea and, true to his word, a Red light shot up from the seabed. The weather was choppy and several gusts of wind hit the ship in multiple directions. “There’s nothing there where I can land! I won’t be able to keep her stationary with this wind! You’ll be able to get a pretty view of it though!” Called out the Captain. Marishi turned to Rae. “I’m so happy to have you back, Rae and I am so proud of what you have become.” Tears were in her eyes being carried away by the wind. “Your strength is palpable and I dare say you have more skill with the blade than even I. Next, to you, I am weak and frail. You have become what you were meant to be. Gods, I love you. If anything should happen … I … “Her words began to fail her as the thought of defeat was too much to bear and she could feel the bitter tears trying to reach up to sap her of her courage. “I will find you in the next life.” She finished. She kissed her wife and hand in hand stood on the deck waiting for the airship to reach the beacon.

“This is as close as I can get her! Look at your red glowy thing as I have to pull her about!” The pilot shouted. “Trust in me, my Sun. You must have belief. Faith. Trust in this Altana that watches over this world. Pray, and follow me.” Marishi said to Rae. “Thank you, Captain, for your services! They will no longer be needed! Return to Sand’Oria with all haste and inform Lord Francmage of all that has transpired here! Tell him that we will meet again!” Marishi yelled. She let go of Rae’s hand, backed up 3 paces and sprinted to the opposite side of the deck. “What are you doing girl?!” The pilot screeched. Marishi vaulted over the wooden railing, clearing the airship and began her free fall. Wind whipping at her garb the rush in her ears. She could barely keep her eyes open even a slit. She fell for what felt like an eternity. The sea was below to greet her. “Please work. Please.” She whispered as she met with the water.

Marishi hit what felt like liquid, but if she had struck the sea, she’d be dead. She was descending in nothing but black. Suddenly, the world shifted. What was down now was up and she felt herself ascending to a luminescent light. The last thought before her mind shut down from the shock was of Rae. Praying that she was safe. Marishi touched down on what looked and felt like water. The water she could walk upon. Her boots touched lightly on the water and stopped an inch deep. Marishi passed out.

The sky was a crystalline hue of pink and green. There was light, even if there was no Sun. The landscape was familiar, yet foreign. White dirt contrasting with blue iridescent rock and all-around water. The red beacon pulsed softly and before that beacon lay the fabled Garden of Ru’Hmet that surrounds the Celestial Palace. The Grand Palace of Hu’Xzoi. Untouched and undisturbed for eons.

Marishi had reached the forbidden land of Al’Tiaeu.

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It didn't take long before Rae recovered from having Bahamut probe her mind. As the airship took off, she felt her mind clear finally. She stared out at the land flying past them with remarkable speed. With the amount of times they were on an airship in this world, one would think her awe and wonder of flying would die off. She felt as though the world were brighter somehow. Even before when they first arrived to this land. Rae gave Marishi's hand a squeeze and she turned to her, smiling happily. As they flew over the ocean, the winds began blowing in a strange pattern. It was like invisible hands pushed and pulled at the ship, fighting for possession for it. Rae stared at the flash of red light that shot up from the ocean and blinked rapidly. Marishi gave her little information, so she was left at a loss as to what it was. Perhaps Marishi didn't fully understand it, either. Rae turned to Marishi as she spoke and her brow arched curiously as she spoke. It was as if she thought they were going to die. As her wife kissed her, Rae returned the affection and caught her wife's wrist. "Of course I trust you, my Lune. Where do you think we are going?" She asked, but before an answer came, Marishi slipped out of Rae's grasp and darted for the port, then jumped off the edge. "MARISHI!" She called out, and watched her descend.

Rae gulped and steeled her nerves. The captain was calling out to her as well, but she was set on the decision. She placed her hands on the handles of her rapiers and ran towards the edge of the ship and jumped off as well. As she jumped, her hat drifted off her head, so she reached up and grabbed it with her left hand and pushed it back onto her head while her other hand held tightly on to her new rapier. She watched as she fell towards the water. She knew how to survive jumping into water from great heights, but this might be just too high to survive. As she neared the water, Rae squeezed her eyes shut and called out to this land's goddess. "Altana guide us!" and immediately was submerged into the mysterious abyss that swallowed the two of them. She felt her body pass through a void not unlike what she and Marishi came through. Her body felt like lead. it dropped down faster and farther into the nothingness until suddenly there was a light. Rae opened her eyes as her boots touched water. She could hear waves lap against the shore and pillars that stuck out from the water. Rae fell backwards, but caught herself with her hands so she didn't completely submerge in the water. Her head was spinning it felt like. The world was revolving like on a merry-go-round. Beside her she heard a splash and saw Marishi collapse. Rae crawled towards her quickly and pulled her up and she gazed down beneath them. They should not be standing on this water, and yet it was supporting them.

Rae stayed sitting and pulled Marishi close to her, resting her back against her chest so she wouldn't slip beneath the tide, if it were possible. Her mind still spun, so she pressed her forehead against Marishi's shoulder and closed her eyes until the spinning stopped. "Marishi," Rae cooed, finally opening her eyes and looking to her. "Marishi, wake up. We've made it, wherever that is." Rae said while glancing around. The land was mysterious and beautiful. Rae thought she would be afraid, but the calming appearance of it all soothed her soul. As Marishi stirred, Rae looked to her, smiling softly. "We made it." She stated simply, then got to her feet and helped Marishi to hers. They walked towards the bridge that connected the water they stood upon to land. The smooth, white stone looked as if it had been kept up with, so Rae assumed there was intelligent life teeming in this strange area. "Are we still on Vana'diel? Or did we get transported to another world?" Rae looked about with wonder as she spoke. It seemed like they were in a dream world than reality.

Once on the stone pathway, Rae felt a little better about their footing. Splashes not far from where they were drew her attention. Strange, iridescent beings leapt up from the water and dove back in, but vanished from sight when they were submerged. Rae gulped at the sight, drawing the conclusion that they would be invisible predators to them if they were to be on the water for any period of time. "What are we doing here, Marishi?" Rae asked, then playfully slapped her wife's arm. "And thank you for telling me your brilliant plan to jump off the airship! You scared me half to death with that talk of finding me on the other side and then taking that leap of faith." She sounded stern, but a smile was on her face. She didn't seem too worried. With Marishi at her side, she felt as though they could do anything and get through anything. If not, then at least they'd be together.

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She was only gone a few moments. The shock of their travel caused her mind to reel. To protect itself and her body, it shut off. Marishi was not smiling.

She stood to her feet and noticed that she walked on the water. She didn’t swim or submerge. The feeling was nauseating. Being 12 feet above the ground walking on clear water you could see to the bottom of. She took view of her surroundings. The canopy of the sky was crystalline green and pink. It never moved position. It never rotated. There was no Sun, yet there was light. It seemed as though there were some things native to this place. Dancing and diving under the water floor at will. Wisps of memories long forgotten repeating their last thoughts over and over.

There was nowhere to go. Save one direction. The ramp leading up to a massive building. Marishi answered Rae’s question. “I don’t know. I don’t know where we are. I saw a vision of it from Bahamut. This place and what looked like a child that would rent open the reality he was in and traverse to another. Bahamut saw him here. Wherever ‘here’ is.” She said. She began to assimilate to her surroundings better and she was clear headed again. “I don’t know what time it is. I don’t know which way is north. Maybe we’re not on the same planet anymore. This place seems vast, but there is only one focal point. In there.”

Marishi and Rae began walking toward the long ramp Rae teasing Marishi. “I’m sorry. It all happened so fast, it was the only thing I could think of. I wonder … I wonder if faith is why we still live. I’ve always believed the Gods to be fairy tales made up by man to explain what they couldn’t. Halone never came to my aid when I begged her. Perhaps Vanadiel is blessed to have a God watch over them. To guide them. Hmph. Or maybe it’s all double speak.” Marishi tore her mind off existential arguments as they reached a crystalline gate dark purple, but transparent. “Well, how quaint. Another locked door.” Marishi said sarcastically. “It’s not natural, it’s manmade. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” She reached out her fingertips and touched the gate.

She jumped back when the gate reacted by flashing a bright pink, then fading. Marishi caught her breath and looked at Rae in alarm. “I don’t know anything about this place or what its purpose is, or was. I have no idea what to expect. We may be the first visitors to this place in a very long time.” She was talking almost to herself. She was scared. She wasn’t as scared when she first arrived on Vanadiel as she was right now. The whole place was completely alien to her. She felt the urge to turn around and run the other way. She closed her eyes and stilled her mind. It had been in overload since she saw fragments of Bahamuts memories. She needed a moment to still her shaken soul. She breathed deeply and exhaled. It was cold in their surrounds and could see their breath, though it wasn’t so cold as intolerable. She breathed in again slowly and slowly released. She was still, unmoving. He eyes flashed open with a clear mind, retaking it from the jostle. “Let’s go. The ramp leads to that structure. If I were to live here, odds of me being in there would be high.” Marishi began to walk steadily and straight. Immediate path clear.

There was no second gate. A large arch led them inside the building. Plants of all shapes, colors, and species lined the upper portion of the walls. Everything gave off a pearlescent glow causing the already harsh bright lights to be amplified. There were doors, but they were sealed with the same rock the building was. They began to move forward. Arches lined the ceilings in bending and intricate patterns. Everything perfectly symmetrical. A small translucent console jutted out of the right wall. Marishi moved to it. Responding to her movement, the console flickered to life and began talking “Welcome to the lush and bountiful land of Al’Taieu. We hope your stay is comfortable and accommodating.” Marishi softly snorted. “Advanced races and their terminals. Even when we’re on a different planet, we find these things. The more things change, the more they stay the same.” She said to Rae. “I wonder if this thing has a map, or directions or something.” Marishi began to inspect the translucent interface panel but was greeted by the console answering her question. “You are currently in The Garden of Re’Hmet where most of our residential and market districts are located. Located to your left on the far wall is a transportation unit that guides visitors to The Grand Palace of Hu’Xzoi. Access is restricted in states of lockdowns.” The screen showed a map of the area along with the palace as the central spire. Enclosed around it was The Garden.

“I wonder who locked the area down and why?” Marishi mused to herself. “I did.” A human voice from behind them said. Marishi and Rae flipped around in surprise with Marishi placing her hand on her Katana and began to brandish it. “As for why, well, an army of Dragons invaded our capital.” It was the boy she saw in Bahamut’s memory. He was pale, nearly white with black eyes and short silver hair. He didn’t seem concerned that he was facing two grown battle-hardened veterans. “Of course, that was … 1,000 years ago? 1,500? I lose track. Welcome to Al’Tieau. The celestial capital of the Zilart nation. My name is Selh’teus. How did you get here? Put your weapons away. I have no malcontent for either of you.” Marishi sheathed her sword but kept her hand on the grip. “Faith.” Said Marishi. The child half smiled, amused by the answer. “Yours is a kind I’ve not met before. You are not of Vanadiel. You hail from somewhere else.” He almost was talking to himself. “Where is this place? What is this place?” Marishi asked. “I told you, this is the ‘beloved’ Celestial Capital of a long extinct people. Brought to heel by their own avarice and arrogance. Contacting the Twilight God was their own undoing. As for its citizens, you’ve already seen them outside. ‘Ascended’ versions of their idea of perfection. I assume you to mean if you are still on Vanadiel. You are. Physically you are located at the bottom of a crater inside its manufactured mothercrystal that sits in the basement of this very tower. He answered.

“What? That … makes no sense. We are inside a crystal that houses a city whose very crystal is in the basement? That’s not possible.” Marishi said. “A paradox, no? You may choose to believe what you may. The Palace is sealed off and will not be opened. The sins in that tower must never be unsealed. Surely you weren’t sightseeing, so why are you here, interlopers?” The boy asked. Marishi attempted to put feelings into words. To make sense of something she herself didn’t understand. “For you. I think. I saw you, in a vision from the Wyrmking. You were able to slip between worlds with ease. You’re right. We are not from this star. Through chance were we pulled from our homes and arrived here. We are looking for a way back.” The boy made a slight scowl. “You’re not lying. At least what you say you believe to be true. For the sake of time and effort, I would know your mind.” Marishi looked at Rae hesitantly. “I will verify what you have said. We will then discuss your return. Not before.” The boy added. “Hah. The Devil’s Choice. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. I agree.” Marishi said. She thought back to Bahamut and his essence nearly rendering her catatonic. The boy closed his eyes. Marishi could feel his presence in her mind, but it wasn’t forceful like the Wyrm. He took care to only view the incidents at Eureka and Vanadiel. He was gone almost as fast as he was entering. “Incredible. To endure all of that and still be alive at all is nothing short of incredible. The pathetic man is of no consequence, the witch though, he’s is a power I’ve never seen. Yours is a fool’s errand though. If you went back, she would turn you to cinders.” Marishi stared at him. “We would die as one of our people to defend our home then. It’s a burden I accept gladly.” She was resolute and her voice steady. It rang like a clarion call in the empty halls. “Yes, you would. You would die for honor and valor. Though, I cannot help you. I have never been to your ‘Hydelean’ in my travels. I do not know the way, nor would you survive the transition.”

Tears welled in Marishi’s eyes at his reply. Anger and despair spilled over like a sickness. She yelled at him “Then it’s all been for naught?! Fire and brimstone, light and dark, life and death! It means nothing?! The offenses we have had to endure! Wasted! It’s all for nothing!” She sunk to her knees and began sobbing. This was their best chance and like sand on the beach, washed away. The boy watched her, without pity, without disdain, without compassion. He watched her silently. When there were no more tears left in her, he quietly said, “I cannot help you, no. I am sorry. Were it within my power, I would.” He spoke the next words slowly, hesitantly. “But there is one that can. Your hope is not lost, even if your crusade is.” Marishi looked at him “What hope could there possibly be? The worlds conspire against us.” She said through a swollen stuffy nose. He moved closer to Marishi and Rae. The first time they had seen him move at all. He knelt down to be even with Marishi’s eyes. “You hold much sorrow in your heart Marishi Ten. But you are not done. You still have work that needs doing. No, you are not done yet. Your hope lies close to where you started. In the La Thine Plateau, there is a small path that leads to a bowl in the mountains. There are pillars arranged in a circle in this meadow. You will have need of this,” He took her limp hand and placed a small blood red gem in it and closed her fingers around it “There you passage may be allowed. Though, you go back to your own graves. You cannot hope to stand against the beast and its master. Now rise. Take heart. Your path is before you.” He stood with Marishi and looked at Rae. “Rae Ten. Though you remain quiet, I have noticed you and the strength you wield. You haven’t realized your true potential. You don’t even know it’s there to tap. I cannot see a way for you to overcome your enemy, but if anyone had the potential to stand against her, it would be you.” He stepped back several paces and said “I would wish you luck, but I don’t think that will be enough. Perhaps your ‘faith’ will see you through. I will have to make a trip one day to your Star. May the Goddess watch over you and usher in the dawn.” Pillars of light formed around Rae and Marishi. Their bodies teleported away from the once great capital. Selh’teus stared at where they were standing for a moment, lost in thought before saying to himself, “Hmph. You both may yet defy fate. My thoughts and essence be with you both in the coming days.” He summoned a tear in the fabric of reality and stepped through it. The portal closed leaving the beautiful garden to be never seen again by mortal eyes.

Darkness enveloped the Elvaan city of Sand’Oria. Francmage received the report that both Marishi and Rae jumped from the airship into the sea. He refused to believe they were dead. “They will return, they will come back to us.” He spoke quietly his mantra over and over. The hour was late and he sat at his desk. He stood up, placed his jacket and hat on and quietly closed the door as not to wake his wife. He stared up at the stars and thought of his friends. Wondering where they were. Wishing for their good health. He tore his gaze from the sky by a small particle of light. “I must be tired. Staring at the stars isn’t likely to help.” He reasoned to himself. More particles began to materialize, one by one dancing in unison at two points on the ground. Francmage stood back alarmed, ready to summon the guard. The particles formed in full, the visage of Rae Ten and her wife, Marishi Ten began to take shape. For a moment he thought they had died and were coming to haunt him for his actions. The particles massed in full and the light faded leaving two females standing in front of a prostrated and repentant Elvaan.

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Rae's ears rose to attention at the mention of probing Marishi's mind again. She has had plenty of people within her head lately. She doesn't need another. Before she could object, Rae could see the discomfort on Marishi's face as he began searching through. She grabbed her hand in support for her. She wished she could do more to assist her wife, but this was the best she could offer now. Once it was done, Rae kept a hold of her wife's hand and listened intently to the boy. As he confessed his inability to help them, Rae's heart dropped into despair, but Marishi took it harder, much harder than she thought she would have. Rae dropped down with Marishi, wrapping an arm around her and holding her close. "It'll be alright, Marishi," Rae whispered. "There has to be a way back to Hydaelyn. We'll find a way. I know we will." Her hands squeezed Marishi's shoulder and arm as she held her. She felt the dismal weight of the situation, too. Part of her decried the futility of it, while the other half accepted it.

It was then that the boy lowered down and gave them hope. A possible way to return home. Rae breathed a soft sigh of relief. There was hope still. She prepared to stand up, but stopped when the boy addressed her. Rae stared at him and blinked rapidly. She had hidden potential yet untapped? Maybe before. After her aether was severed from Bahamut's she felt anything but powerful with a hidden well of it somewhere within her. If she had it, she would have used it by now, surely. She wished to voice her disagreement, but she felt it was unnecessary. She bowed her head, thanking him for the insight, and stood up with Marishi. She watched as he formed a portal and stepped away, but her ears strained to hear his words, her brows furrowed. Before she could ask what he meant, he was gone. Next, Marishi and Rae began to disappear. The world that surrounded them grew dim and entirely vanished, only to be replaced by the dark sky above them and a cobblestone street with houses on either side of them. Rae had squeezed her eyes shut by that time, expecting that same nauseating sensation to wash over her as it had before, but this time it did not come. "Huh," she murmured, her eyes fluttering open. "Maybe we're yet getting used to this... interspace travel?" Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of praying. Rae turned and spotted Francmage, bent over and whispering prayers for their souls.

The situation caused Rae to laugh, but excitement filled her. They were back in a relatively familiar place. It was San d'Oria! "Francmage!" Rae exclaimed. As he sat up and stared, Rae ran to him, causing her hat to fall off, and threw her arms around him, hugging him and laughing happily. "Oh, Francmage! It's so good to see a familiar face again! Why are you praying for our souls?! We're here! We're alive! Marishi! It's Francmage! We're in San d'Oria! We're home again!" Rae's eyes widened as she said those words, then laughed again. "Well, home on Vana'diel, I guess." Rae chuckled and turned back to Francmage, letting him go. He was white as a ghost, but his cheeks were a bright pink.

Somewhere along the street, a sleepy, but angry voice called out. "Can you keep it quiet out there?! Some of us intend to sleep while the night is still out!" Rae gasped and covered her mouth, but a smile was upon her countenance. Francmage suggested they take their discussion back to the inn they had stayed before, to which the two followed quickly along, filling him in along the way. Once they reached the inn, they found a table near the fire and continued on their story. Francmage was pleased with Marishi's experience. The friendships she forged would surely help in the future, and the skills she taught and learned would be a benefit to all. As Rae recounted her trials, Francmage's expression took a turn. His eyes darkened and his lips turned upside down to a frown. "To think my own kin would treat you so. They must have been envious of your clear superiority." He murmured solemnly.

"What matters most if you both have returned unharmed. I am intrigued, however, by this boy you've met. This Selh’teus... I've heard that name before, but it was long ago. It dances on the tip of my memory, always out of my grasp. On the morrow, I shall investigate this name. For now, perhaps it is best if we shall retire. I've been awake since dawn fretting over the fate of you two, but now you are alive and well, I feel I can sleep finally," Francmage said, relief changing his features to a softer appearance. "I'll arrange a room for you two. I'm sure there's one left." With that, he stood up and started towards the counter, but paused and turned back to them both.

"You know, I worried I sent you two to your deaths. I can't express how relieved I am to see you both again. There truly is something fantastical about you." He added, then smiled to them broadly and marched to the counter.

Rae sighed and glanced to Marishi, her hand reaching over and grabbing hers. "I think we've had enough adventure to last us a while. But we're not yet done. We must get to La Thine Plateau. Maybe then we'll be able to find our way home..." She let the sentence fall off there. To talk about what would happen back where they came from was a topic she did not wish to address. Rae brought up Marishi's hand to her lips and she pressed her knuckles to her lips. Just then, Francmage returned with keys for them both.

"I have secured a room for you both. I suggest you two get your sleep. I have a feeling you'll endure much more yet. Tomorrow, I shall brief you on what I have learned, but for now, sleep." With that, Francmage left them and returned home to his wife. Rae stood up and walked with Marishi to their room. She had barely taken off her clothes and changed into her sleepwear before she felt the heaviness of fatigue settle over her. She'd bathe tomorrow, but for tonight, she crawled into the bed and looked to Marishi, smiling and holding out her arms for her.

"Come join me, my Midnight Moon," Rae purred, quite sleepily. "We shall sleep and be renewed for tomorrow." She bade her to come join her at her side and slip off into slumber.

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Marishi watched as Rae threw her arms around Francmage. Her eyes narrowed. Upon hearing Rae state they were home caused her to snort with disapproval. She held her tongue though. She recounted the experiences she had been apart of in Norg. “Allies, perhaps. The Tenshodo owes loyalty to no one. The Far East have their own problems. So, I wouldn’t be overexcited.”

She was tired. So tired. It felt like a week since she had last slept. She heard Rae call her to bed. “I will join you anon. Sleep.” Marishi said softly. She waited until her breath became slow and even proving her truly asleep and quietly left the small bedroom and moved to a table with two chairs. She sat back in one and leaned herself back against the window sill. She could see outside while her body could be somewhat comfortable.

She was exhausted, but something wasn’t right. She couldn’t name it. It was like the smell of rain before a storm, or the fleeing of animals when impending destruction is near. It was a feeling. She fell asleep in that chair with a bad taste in her mouth.

Marishi awoke as the Sun crested into the window. No dreams. She must have truly been worn out. She tipped the chair into its correct position and moved to the bedroom. Good. Rae was still asleep. Marishi didn’t want to answer questions as to why she was absent. She walked into the washroom, drew water into a tub. The water was hot. The piping tapped into geothermal springs around the city. She undressed and slid into the tub. She sighed in relaxation. She was filthy and the feeling of clean water washing away unpleasant memories from the past few days was soothing. She emptied the tub and drew more water. Marishi rubbed her shoulder with her hand. She must not have realized how tense she had been. But she could relax. She cleaned with a bar of tallow, a linen cloth and a piece of pumice. She washed her hair and face.

She let the water drain out of the tub as she stood up. Her ribs were slightly sore and there was slight discomfort, but nothing she couldn’t brush off. Her long legs stepped out of the tub and dried herself off with a towel. She took another and wrapped her hair up into it so it would dry. She took a third and used it as a midriff robe. She opened the door silently. Rae was still asleep.

Marishi slid the dresser open and went to grab her whit kimono and brown tights. She stopped. She didn’t feel like wearing white today. She pulled out her dark green kimono, dyed so deep it looked black with a hint of deep green tones when the sunlight touched it. She grabbed her spare black Velveteen Tights and underwear and went back into the bathroom. She dressed and picked up her soiled clothing from the floor. She looked at her Osode. White trimmed with gold. Stitched and mended from the all those that wanted to harm her. She frowned at it. Ugly. White stains so easily. I’ll talk with the local seamstress and have her repair it and dye it. She took the towel off her head and smoothed her hair to her normal style.

She set her chainmail she wore under the Osode on a small stool and walked out of the room. She glanced at Rae. She smiled. How peaceful and beautiful she looked. She slid on her boots and left the hostel and started her way to the weaver’s stalls. She felt off. Off balance, or sluggish. The feeling couldn’t be described. She was just, not herself. Irritated by the feeling she headed to the stalls and spoke with their head tailor who agreed to remend the jacket and to dye it. “Red. Almost black.” She said. He grunted and started about his work.

It would be awhile before her Osode was restored. She walked back towards the Inn and opened the door to her room. In the chair she slept in the night before sat Francmage. In the other chair sat Rae, happily eating breakfast.

“I’m sorry Marishi, you just missed breakfast. I called at your door, but there was no answer. I was able to grab the last plate and bang hard enough to arouse Rae!” He said. Marishi closed the door and moved slowly in, not saying anything. Not looking at either Francmage or Rae. She leaned against a pillar and finally said, “That’s alright. I’ll make sure to grab lunch. So … “She said to Francmage. “Ah! I was just catching up with Rae regarding my mundane exploits.” He looked up at Marishi expecting her to ask the goings on he had over the past few months. Marishi’s face remained unmoving. “So, you said you have information? I don’t presume you have any information on the child. I doubt you’ll find any.” She spoked slowly. “We can still reach out. There has to be someone who knows something about him. I’ll track it down.” He said cheerfully.

“Your report, Francmage. Please.” She snapped at him. Francmages and Rae’s smile left their lips. “Right. Not a lot on interdimensional travel save for some information from Windurst. Never have I met such an insufferable, egotistical, and rhyming Taru in my life. She won’t be of help to us. She said something cries and my demise and warped away.” He said. “Is that it? Four months and a rhyming mage from Windurst?” She was near scoffing at what little he had done. “Information doesn’t come readily, nor does it come cheap. I did receive a report this morning that an Envoy from Khazam is set to arrive officially offering her aid. Her ship should have landed actually. You must have made quite the impression during your visit. They’re sending the best information gatherer they have. Girl named Jakoh.”

Marishi’s already fair complexion paled. She looked at Rae who was looking at her quizzically. “I take it you’ve met the girl? She seems quite the lively type from the report. She’ll be checked in here. Easier that way.” Francmage said in high spirits. “No-Yes, yes she is known to me. If she is the best they have, we’re better off without her. She’s too young. Send her back.” Marishi said with a constriction in her voice and throat. The last thing she needed was this. Still, she’s persistent, I’ll give her that. She thought. “That won’t be possible, I’m afraid. To send her back would cause diplomatic strain between our nation and the Mitthran tribes. She is here to stay. I’ll take all the help we can get! Four is better than three.” He winked at Rae.

There came a soft tap on the door. She stared at Francmage a moment with no expression. Inside she was livid. She turned around and opened the door.

“MARISHI!!!” screeched a small and lithe girl as she wrapped her hands around Marishi’s neck. “Yes, yes it’s good to see you too – stop it, how are you so small and still so strong? Let go.” Marishi was staggered back by the sudden lunge. She had to unclamp her hands around her neck. Marishi turned her to face the two seated at the table. “Introductions are in order, I suppose. Francmage, Rae, this is Jakoh – Jakoh the man is Francmage. A noble of the highest regard in the city,” She would talk him up to ensure that her light fingers didn’t find a way into his pocket. “The woman’s name is Rae. My companion. I’ve spoken of her before to you.”

Jakoh was excited and wide eyed at this new adventure she got to go on. “It’s nice to meet you Fronkmage! It’s nice to finally meet you, Rae! Marishi spoke about you back on the island.” Jakoh bowed.

There was an uncomfortable silence that settled over the room. Each awkwardly waiting for someone else to speak.

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