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Outsane

The Inherent Problems with Time Travel

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She didn't have to see the body of her wife fall still to know she had passed on. The feeling of her soul rent into two could be felt. Perhaps it was better, though, to describe it as one half slipping off into the void of her soul that had formed the moment her wife's body was taken over by Alexander and used as a conduit to her murder. The hole began to swallow everything. As the man watched as the light disappeared from Rae's eyes, he let her drop to the ground. She lay there, eyes half-open, lips parted, almost like a doll as his hulking form loomed over her. Before he could do more, a sharp pain struck at the side of his neck. Claws dug their way past his collar and through his flesh. Beneath him, the wide awake Rae growled as her blood-shot eyes glared at him. A golden ring formed around her iris while dark veins encircled her scleroses.  A transformation beset her as the same dark veins snaked up her arms and across her temples.

Ripping her hand down from his neck, blood spattered across her chest and down her arm. The man pushed himself up, clutching at his neck now gushing hot blood. His hands could not staunch the flow as it spilled down his chest and stomach from between his fingers. He never stood to his feet, but simply fell backwards and remained holding onto his throat as the life slowly drained from him through his neck. Scrambling to her feet, Rae turned upon the remaining men, who scattered, each darting out of the pub. The world was quiet around Rae save it be the crackle of the fire and the distant crying of a child. She could sense Alexander drawing near. There was an innate hatred towards the being. It wasn't just her own hatred, but that of Bahamut, who seemed to be taking over her consciousness and body. There was an irony in the situation that she noted. Both she and her wife attuned to Primals, yet neither were Tempered, and both Primals so desperately despised each other, yet she and Marishi loved each other. Perhaps this was where it was meant to come to? The world grew still around her. The flow of blood stopped, the fire's crackle silenced, the breath of wind hushed. A dark frame stood in the doorway, the familiar, yet tainted scent of her wife filled her nostrils. Before Alexander could react, Rae moved first.

She sprinted from her spot, claws ready. Jumping at her wife's possessed body, Rae managed to tackle Alexander-Marishi, the two of them rolling outside of the pub. There were no witnesses, as Alexander stopped time for their battle. Rae did her best to keep Marishi from grabbing at her weapon, batting at her hands and trying to dig her nails into whatever flesh was visible. The two grappled for moments, rolling one on top of the other, bumping into a partially dilapidated column before Marishi was finally able to kick Rae off herself. Both clambered to their feet and Rae darted forward. This time, Alexander-Marishi was able to react in time, pulling up her Gordian Katana as Rae charged. The weapon caught her shoulder, digging into it and causing a scream of pain from Rae. The two held still a moment, anger and hatred bearing down on Rae's face while Marishi's was expressionless. The two stared each other in the eye before Marishi went to move, trying to lop off Rae's arm; however, Rae caught the blade, her fingers and palm bleeding as she held onto it, stopping the movement. A frustrated expression crossed Alexander-Marishi's face for a moment before Rae yanked the blade from her shoulder and pulled Marishi closer, who in turn parried away from a frantic swipe of the claw, but not a kick at her legs that caused her to trip.

Rae took the opportunity to lunge at Marishi. As she did, her skin began to itch. She felt her joints pulled. Her breath escape her lungs. Her mind throbbed. Slowly, Marishi turned around, weapon ready to impale Rae through the gut, but before she could make contact, Rae vanished.

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Bahamut's wrath took over. It blinded her thoughts, her senses. Everything was a blur and all that mattered was death. Death to whoever stood in her way. Death to whoever crossed her path. Death to Alexander. She must kill Alexander. It was his fault! All of this could have been avoided had he stayed out of it. No, it could have been avoided had he but lifted a finger! The Allagans, the Ishgardians, the Eorzeans. They're all at fault! The cries of my children and kin echo in my ears. Their blood fills my nostrils. Their sorrow fuels my wrath. Man's tithe for me allowing them to live this long will be their blood. I am insatiable. I am rage. I am fear!

Man stood before me, and they fell. I could smell the familiar scent of the woman cloaking Alexander. My eyes took in the scenery of a foreign land I did not recognize. Others bore down upon me, wielding weapons like that woman. I struck out against them, causing them to kneel. I followed the scent, the stench of that woman. She would bring to me Alexander. Though his smell was nowhere, I could sense him. The woman was near, coming to me. I could hear her breath. I could smell it. Her hair, so sweet, so delicate, yet she was formidable and a threat... and she would come to house Alexander.

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My skin, it itches. My joints ache, my eyes burn, my heart stops, but my anger never subsides. New smells assault my senses. New sights confound my mind. I am once again in a forested area. Is this my home? No. Myrcedia does not wreak of Man. I am the place that Man calls the Black Shroud. It is confusing to navigate. No matter, my body knows fire. My body is fire. My lungs well up, my chest extends. The sound of my scream rings in my ears, but it feels hollow. No flames spew forth, no trees catch fire. Has my fire been extinguished as well? What all has been taken from me?!

I never breathed fire.

How can this be? I do not breathe fire, yet I watched the world burn beneath me as I burst forth from Dalamud!

I was ever in Dalamd

I WAS! You cannot lie to me that for countless years I was held captive, trapped by the very Men that killed me!

I never died.

I did! A thousand deaths did I die! When every child of mine was killed or injured and captured. When my very sister was laid low by Man. When my Father gave himself to protect the lands of Man! I died! I died with them! I died with my fellow dragon!

I am not a Dragon.

NO... No... you are not.

I am a Miqo'te.

Yes. You are. This is your body. I am a guest.

I am R-

RAGE! A shadowy figure appears before me! The stench of Alexander fills the air. The metal Primal hides beneath flesh and death to escape my fury. If only you had gone back! You, a powerful and conscious entity! You could stop the massacre! You could stop the invasion! You could stop the suffering! But you chose not to. You chose passivity! I fly at my enemy, my claws meet his arm and abdomen, he bites my arm with his fang, but I have him, and I will not let go! My claws sink into his flesh, but no blood is drawn. In frustration, I roar and raise my arm to cut his neck, but I am driven out of time. Into a tunnel of flashing colours and passing moments. Sound fills my ears to the point of deafening. Again, I am another place, another time.  My hunt continues.

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Stop.

Why?

I don't want her to die.

Then she should not have involved herself!

She couldn't help it! She didn't know it would come to this!

That's her fault for not knowing.

NOOOOOOOO!

Warmth covers my hands. My skin itches, my body hurts, my limbs are tired, my head throbs. I'm pulled away from another time. How much longer must this continue? Are these my dreams again? Am I still in Dalamud? Again, I see the woman. She wears a dress of white trimmed in red. She looks terrified. As she should, for I bear down upon her. Something in my mind desperately pulls at me to stop, but I do not hear it. My mouth gushes with hot liquid as I spill molten lava from my throat. Or is it her's? A hole in her neck gushes blood. The scent fills my nose and mouth. She did not stand a chance. My rage suddenly is replaced with sorrow. Loss. Hopelessness. 

What have I done?

The itch returns. My joints ache once more. My breath stops. I slip from consciousness.

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Cold.

She was met with a blinding whiteness that hurt her eyes. Her head spun, her body ached, her eyes could not see. Surrounding her were spatters of blood that stained the snow red. It was winter. Her body ached. She could barely remember anything that happened. Gazing over herself, Rae saw the blood staining her clothes. She remembered killing the man in Rhalgr's Reach, but there was more blood than just his. Her whole body was covered in it. Licking her lips revealed to her more blood on her mouth. Rae grimaced, then took a handful of snow and wiped her face with it, though she could feel it still covering her. As she moved to sit up, a pain shot through both her arms and her side. Rae cried out and clutched at her shoulder where a gaping hole was seen through her jacket. Looking at her sleeve, she noticed a cut as well with fresh blood pouring from it. Her side that ached held a cut as well, though she did not remember where she got it. Her hands were also covered in blood, and she remembered. Suddenly she remembered the scene where she begged for Marishi's life, but she did not care.

Unfathomable sorrow washed over her. Rae held her hands over her face and wept. Hot tears streamed down her face and chilled as they hit the snow beneath her. Her existence became misery and regret. As she cried, footfalls came towards her. She brought her hands down and gazed up at the man standing above her, his face obscured by the bright sun behind him, but concern filled his voice.

"What in the Twelve happened to you?" He asked.

Rae dropped her hands, her mouth opened to speak, but no sound came. The vision around her grew dark, and she passed out.

It was some time before Rae came to. She was warm, laying on a bed, and the sound of a fire crackling filled her ears. The scent of boiled vegetables and searing meat filled her nostrils as well as various herbs and spices. She felt weak, but alive. Rae glanced around the room she was in. Stone pillars encased wood panels. Windows were closed and curtains pulled on each side of the house. There were two rooms to the small home. One was hidden behind a door, and the second was the room she laid in. She was close to the hearth that cooked the meal, which made her mouth water. Turning her head, she spotted the sleeping figure of a male Miqo'te, dozed off in a rocking chair by the fire. It was he who brought her here, she was certain. His dark hair was greying, his face bore small wrinkles of age, he looked to be about 40, perhaps. He reminded her a bit of her own father. Rae smiled and closed her eyes, turning her head and relaxing onto the pillow. The thought brought her comfort, what little it afforded was enough to rest her body. Footsteps came from outside, causing Rae to sit up and wince. Though she was now bandaged and she felt a salve on her wounds, they still were sore. She looked to the door, watching to see who came through.

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“Oh! You’re awake! Thank the Gods. We were worried that you wouldn’t wake up. How are you feeling? Can you sit up? What happened to you?” The dying light of day streamed through the open door and silhouetted the figure standing in the frame, masking any distinguishing features. The voice was decidedly female. Care and worry chiming through the husky and low voice.

 

“Where are my manners? I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to barrage you with questions and you must be cold what with me leaving the door open wide.” The figure turned, closing the flimsy and thin wooden door showing her extended stomach. The small, thin frame heavy with child. The room was plunged into darkness with the closing of the door, the woman’s features impossible to see.

 

The woman set the small items in her hands down on the nightstand beside Rae and quietly pulled up a simple chair next to her bed. “You were hurt terribly. I’ve never seen any wounds quite like yours. Not even on soldiers who came back from the Autumn War.” Her voice twinged with sadness. “Your garb is unlike anything I’ve seen either. From whence do you hail? What tribe do you belong? Can you understand me?” The woman chuckled lightly. “Perhaps you would care for light?”

 

The woman rose slowly up and waddled slightly to the dim fire burning in the fireplace, taking a small piece of wood, igniting it and lighting the small candle on the nightstand as she sat back down with a small grunt. “I’m sorry. I don’t get around as well as I used to.” The light illuminating her face and frame. Her appearance so familiar, yet strange. Her eyes the color of blood, full of compassion and care.

 

The woman slowly extended out her hand and rested it on Rae’s forehead, checking for signs of fever as she spoke. “There’s no telling how long you were out there. It’s easy to get sick this time of year. The snow is uncommonly heavy this year on top of that. You are a Seeker of The Sun, like us.” She said quietly motioning her hand to the sleeping figure in the other bed. “Is this your first time seeing snow? Are you from the K Tribe?” The woman appeared to be in her 30’s with faint lines appearing around her mouth and eyes. Clear she smiled and laughed. Her skin was pale and she was thin, even heavy with child. Her hair dark with the top portion pulled back and clasped back with a familiar silver brooch. She was pretty if frail.

 

“Give her a moment, Mariah. The poor thing looks like she has been through quite a bit. Poor thing looks like a doe in shock and with the wounds she received, I don’t blame her. Right lucky she is that I came across her when I did. The scouts from the city would have left her to die.” A deep and baritone voice called softly behind the woman. The man having risen from his slumber to stand behind her, gazing curiously at Rae, his grey eyes flickering in the small light.

 

“Oh! I’m sorry! How rude of me.” Mariah said, face flushing with embarrassment, her gaze falling to her slender hands in her lap. “I didn’t mean to pry or cause further strain. Perhaps we can start over?” her voice filled with apology. “My name is Mariah. This is my husband, Jonathan. He found you collapsed near a logging trail in the forest, hurt badly. He brought you to our home where he tended your wounds. That was three days ago. We mean you no harm. What is your name? What happened to you?” Her low voice melodic with the small noises of the room as she stared with excitement and curiosity at Rae.

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Tell me about her.

 

Who?

 

Our Mother.

 

I don’t remember anything about her.

 

How long will you continue to delude yourself?

 

Why do you want to know about someone who no longer matters?

 

It is important to remember where we come from, is it not? Tell me about her.

 

She was a frail and sickly woman who spent the last of her life struggling to bring me into the world. A gullible fool who believed that the world could be a just and fine place.

 

You blame yourself for her passing?

 

I am the cause of it, yes. If she never had me, she could have lived a long and full life. The world could have been a better place. She placed her bets on the wrong horse. I killed her. She was my first casualty, though she wouldn’t be my last. When she died, my father died too. Not in body, but in spirit. He was my second. My own selfishness to be brought into a world I’d come to despise killed them both. I could see it in his eyes when he’d look at me. That look of sadness. Of contempt. It’s little wonder why he would give me away to the church. I bring nothing but pain and misery. To those that are deserving of neither.

 

What kind of person was she?

 

I don’t know. I never met her. She died in childbirth.

 

You have heard stories about her from our father. What kind of person was she?

 

What do you care? Why must we have these conversations? Why are you so focused upon forcing me to remember things I don’t want to remember?

 

What kind of person was she?

 

She was kind and loving. She believed that there was good in everyone. A misguided thought from a bygone age. I never understood how someone who was witness to the brutality of war could believe there was good in anything. She was part of a tribe of Sun Seekers in The Fringes when the Autumn War began. Most of that tribe did not answer the call to arms when Ala Mhigo annexed the region. Some fought against Ala Mhigo, for little more than death. Gridania has never had much love for Miquot’e, though they were more than happy to send them to the front lines to shield their own. She had some skill in in nursing wounds and volunteered to aid the wounded and dying.

 

After the war, she met my father and relocated to the highlands of Coerthas where they thought they would be removed from the pall of death. She rarely complained and never held contempt for others. Her ultimate doom was that she cared. She cared about life, love, happiness, and peace. I’m told she was insatiably curious about everything and looked at things with wonder and excitement. She always had a smile on her face.

 

What did she look like?

 

I was told that I had her eyes. You wouldn’t know it now, but once, long ago. She was very beautiful. She would grace a room and just her being there, it all felt more vibrant and alive. She was small, even for our kind and always bordered on sickly thin and frail. She was always pale and prone to sickness herself. Small colds would force her to her bed for days. Cuts and wounds would flow and flow without stopping. Her hair was black and always well kept. Never a strand out of place. She wore her hair as I once wore my own.

 

Why?

 

To pay respects, maybe. She was very antiquated with her style and her dress. Even in those days. The clasp I had in my own hair once belonged to her. And her mother before her. The only heirloom I’ve ever had.

 

Thinking about it makes me realize how old I truly am.

 

And?

 

I’ve lived far too long. Far past what I should have. I’ve seen 90 years, but I’ll never look beyond 30. I feel old and worn. Like I’ve been stretched too thin and frayed. Memories bring me pain knowing that they will never come again. I don’t want to remember the past and live in the present.

 

What do you want?

 

To dream of better days and never awake. To forget the awful monster I’ve become and the heinous things I’ve done. The things I’m doing. What I’ve yet to do.

 

We shepherd them so they may never know the pain of what is to be. It is the kindness we proffer the world.

 

And you say that I’m a terrible liar.

 

You refuse to accept the truth. There is no hope for them. They will burn, they will suffer, they will fail. Is it not better for them to never experience war, famine, disease, death? It cannot be defied, yet some would in vain. It is they who must be found and stopped. You understand, yet you shield her. You hide her from me. You wish to stop fighting, yet you continue, for nothing. You fight for nothing.

 

Who am I? I am no one. I am nothing.

 

Soon, you will be.

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Rae turned to the woman, surprised by the sudden onslaught of questions. There wasn't a chance to speak before the next question was brought up, followed by another, and another and another. It wasn't until the man interrupted the questioning woman that Rae's expression softened and relaxed. She laid back in the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. She finally answered some of the woman's questions. "I am a descendent of members of the K tribe. My parents defected after my mother and father fell in love," she answered, smiling a pleasant smile to Mariah. "I must thank you for taking me in and tending to my wounds. It's not often such kindness from strangers is afforded to another stranger. If there's any way I can repay you, I would like to do it." Rae stated, turning to Jonathan and Mariah, looking into their eyes and speaking with sincerity.

At the last question, Rae paused, a confused look on her face. She gazed down at her bandaged body and arm, then to her hands. She couldn't recall clearly what had happened. As her brows furrowed and she thought upon it more, flashes of memories struck at her mind like lightning. The blood, the bodies, the stinging pain of Marishi's blade finding its mark on her arm, which she used to block it from cutting into her side, the hot, flowing blood of her wife's body as it lay there, gored open by her own claws...

The sudden image brought a whimper from her throat and she clutched her hands and held them to her chest, her body drawing in upon itself. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to stop existing. She wanted Alexander to find her and remove her from that instant, from all instants. She wanted to undo that memory, but for whatever reason, she was forced to know, to remember, to experience. After laying there a moment, her body relaxed. It didn't matter. None of it mattered. Marishi could die, she could live, she could meet her, she could not meet her. It didn't matter, it all didn't matter. She could reach over and gouge into the woman's belly, she could behead the man and throw their bodies into the river, but none of it mattered. She would meet Alexander, and for whatever reason, she would be thrust back into the river of time and spit back out in another moment in which she could either save her wife, or kill her. It didn't matter.

"Something horrible," she finally answered at length. Her eyes raised to Mariah's, where she gazed into them a moment, feeling like she was gazing in to Marishi's eyes once more. Finally tearing her eyes away, Rae laid flat on the bed once more. "Something horrible happened to me, and something wonderful. Something inconsequential, something important. Many things have happened. I don't even know how long it has been. My sense of time is warped. I've been asleep for three days? Perhaps those have been the only normal three days for me for years."

Rae glanced back to Mariah and frowned, seeing the expression on her face. She was speaking in riddles almost, and like an insane person. Jonathan's expression resembled that of his wife's, but it didn't matter to Rae. She could just skip back, skip to a time when they never met. This wasn't their last first impression of each other. "I'm sorry. I've become jaded. After all that's happened to me, I feel myself slipping away. There was a time... there was a time..." Her sentence trailed off as her expression softened once more and her eyes stared at the ceiling.

'There was a time I would have liked to have met you, to greet the parents who brought my wife into this world. There was a time when I would have been overjoyed to have this moment. There was a time...' She thought to herself sadly.

"What tribe are you two from? I'm afraid with me being raised apart from the tribes and their cultures, I don't know many of the tribes and how to tell the differences between them all." Rae said, turning her head to face Mariah. She forced a smile to her, wishing to change the subject to take her mind off the existential crisis she was storming through.

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“I would strike that your wounds are more than physical.” Mariah said sadly, though the sweet smile she held never left her lips. “The wound on your arm will heal, though it will leave your skin marred. I’m sorry. Only you can allow the wounds in your heart to heal. But never mind my silly mothering over you, though it’s good practice!” She added with a small laugh.

 

“Was your father in the war? You mentioned he defected. Did he defect to Ala Mhigo?” Jonathan asked. His expression going dark and a small scowl forming above his brow. “You know how the tribes are Jonathan and I think we’ve pressed her enough for answers.” Mariah replied to her husband. “And we received very little in exchange.” He stated shortly. “Who’s to say that whatever assaulted her doesn’t come for us. You forget that it’s not just us anymore.” It was Mariah’s turn to flash a familiar glace at her husband. “Oh, hush. You are far too protective of us. Besides, she doesn’t seem like one to invite catastrophe to her new friends.” She looked back at Rae and winked before turning the same scowl back at Jonathan. “I’ll prepare a meal before bed.”

 

Mariah stood up and patted Rae on the head with a smile on her face and compassion in her eyes, her whole being at peace. She moved to the small fireplace and began to prepare the light meal of stew and loaf of bread. A basic recipe, with care and love sprinkled in like spices. Jonathan grunted and went about setting up the small table in the middle of the room. The home was small, but well cared for and maintained. The sparse silverware old, worn, but polished and clean.

 

As she made the meal, Mariah made small talk with Rae attempting to keep her company and keep the wounded Miquot’e awake. Never allowing the conversation to lull into silence. She told stories of her own adventures of youth and budding loves. She moved with grace and purpose, small grunts and sighs escaping her lips from her encumbered body. She wore a simple dress that was clearly altered to fit her frame. Mariah smiled slightly as she noticed Rae looking at her.

 

“I altered it myself. I have some skill with a needle.” She said with a slight blush on her face as she handed Rae a worn wooden bowl and silver spoon. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not much.” Shame rippled across her features at their lack of possessions and offerings. “Not that we’ve ever wanted much.” Her voice dropped to a low tone as she shot a glance at her husband. “We’re simple in the way of life. My husband is an amazing carpenter, but since he’s not among even the residents of the Broom, no one commissions him. He’s had to take work cutting lumber instead of shaping it. And what with Ishgard closing it’s doors and the recent dragon sightings …” Mariah shook her head. “There has been talk of Dragoon’s being assembled to protect the city and it’s hamlets, but we’re remote even then, and they would be loathe to help displaced Miquot’e. They wouldn’t even grant us asylum.” She sighed once more to clear the dark thoughts and began to eat her own bowl, all the while sitting next to Rae, keeping her company.

 

Once dinner had been eaten and their meager items had been washed and clean with cold, crisp water in a small basin, Mariah excused herself to prepare for bed. Jonathan had already retired for the evening and was sound asleep, softly snoring. “I hope I’m not imposing upon you.” Mariah said quietly to Rae, dressed in a long nightgown, her hair pulled into a loose bun. “It’s not everyday that we have company, and not one so mysterious as yourself. It’s odd that you travel alone. I would suspect you to have many suitors across Eorzea. You must have a husband waiting for you somewhere, yes? He must be worried sick about you. Jonathan rarely lets me out of his sight some days. Constantly worried that I’ll fall or take ill.” She absently smoothed back her tucked hair as she spoke. “I’ve never been in the best of health and I’m not the heartiest of our people. A wound like yours would have killed me.” Her hand moved to clasp over her abdomen as tears welled in her eyes. “I hope she’s not like me. I hope she’s strong like her father. I hope we can give her everything she needs and wants. I don’t even know her name, but I know I love her. It was love that made her. I hope I can always be there for her when she needs me. I just want her to be healthy and strong. I wonder if she will take after her father?” Mariah wiped the tears from her eyes and struggled to stand up, her hand against the small of her back. “Goodnight, Rae. I hope you sleep well. Please, if you’re in pain or need anything, let us know. Perhaps you can come with me to the markets tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it?” Her eyes were bright and hopeful. Love for her husband, her guest, her child blanketing the home and wrapping over, comforting sleep and driving away the darkness of mind and of night.

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"My parents were not in the war. They defected from their tribe and fled to the Black Shroud. My father challenged the Nuhn and lost, the Nuhn knew about the love my father and mother had, and was going to bed her that same day to add more salt to the wound, so the two ran away with only the clothing on their back." Rae explained with a weak smile. "My father grew stronger on his own. When my mother was pregnant, he dreamt of a boy, a son to help around the house. When I was born, he couldn't have loved me more regardless." At the statement of unease from Jonathan, Rae's expression grew grim. Alexander was ever a threat and he has proven he would stop at nothing to stop Rae. She was a danger to all around her, and yet... Alexander was not near. Had he given up chase? Perhaps in her blind rage she had hurt him? Sudden flashbacks of her wife's blood staining her hands ripped through her mind and forced a visible cringe and shift of discomfort. The thought was more than she could bear.

"You are right to doubt me and what dangers or safety I bring," Rae answered to Jonathan's doubt. "I won't lie to you and say that which caused these wounds won't harm you, but I can tell you that I can sense when it is near, but I do not sense it at all. For a time, I think I am safe. Worry not, however. Should I even think I sense it even once, I will leave promptly. I won't risk your lives for mine." At that, Rae rested as Mariah prepared the meal. Had she the strength, she would offer her own assistance. She missed cooking for some one. To her, it was probably only a few days, but lifetimes have passed. Many, many lifetimes.

As the meal was ready to eat, Rae took slow, careful bites of her meal, not wanting to shock her body after having it surely starve for who knew how long. The whole time she felt no hunger nor thirst and wondered if it was the adrenaline or a byproduct of being forced through time line to time line. Was time stopped for her body? She couldn't remember the last meal she ate. She recalled her teeth sinking in to pale, soft flesh-

Her thoughts were torn by Mariah speaking, telling stories to her. They came as an avalanche. They never seemed to have an end and, while Mariah spoke, Rae peacefully ate the meal and focused on the tales. If she focused on them, she couldn't think about the past. If she couldn't think about the past, then she would be happier. As Mariah wrapped up her stories, Rae smiled a small smile to her. "No, you aren't imposing. I like listening to your stories. They're good to listen to," Rae explained, chuckling lightly. At the mention of a husband, Rae's ears rose slightly and her eyes glanced down to her ring on her finger. "A husband? No. Most men I found... lacking. I promised my father I'd marry some one I loved and who would take care of me and I'd take care of them. I found myself a wife instead. She was truly a sight to behold. Her skin soft and pale, her hair smooth, soft, and dark. Her smile could stop a thrashing coeurl, and her eyes as dark as the ripest of currants. She was all and more I ever wanted..." A sad, wistful smile formed on her lips and she reached over with her right hand, touching the ring on her finger.

As Mariah bade her good night, Rae returned her the gratitude, then rolled over in the bed and slept.

A day passed before Rae was able to get out of bed without assistance. The bloodloss had taken a physical toll on her, but gradually, she was able to get up and walk. As she was able to walk, she helped around the house. She tidied, she helped prepare meals, she did any house work that needed to be done so Mariah could have a rest. Jonathan seemed to approve, as he no longer glowered at her from where he would sit. The first meal she prepared was a hesitant one. It wasn't the same as Mariah had made, but it still tasted delicious. Both Miqo'te enjoyed the different recipe, and Rae taught it to the pregnant Miqo'te.

She was careful not to speak her full name around the two. When asked, Rae had answered "K'Rae." Had she been born in the tribe of her parents, that would have been her name. One morning, the sun was out and the chilly air nipped at them, but the warmth of the sun was enough to keep them from needing to bundle up. Rae was outside helping skin a buck Jonathan had brought down. "How far along are you, Mariah?" Rae asked absently, wanting to hear her tell stories more.

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“It won’t be long now.” Mariah gazed down with a smile and gently stroked her stomach. She wore the same simple dress she had the days before with a simple white apron over it. “We have been trying for so long now, but what with the war, the move, the brigands, and my frailty, it didn’t look like we would be able to have a child. Then the Gods granted our prayer and delivered our little one to us.” She patted her belly gently and shook her head, a smile still on her lips, her sanguine eyes shining brightly. “I hope that I never fail her or lead her astray. I hope that I’m there every step of the way. Guiding her, listening to her, helping and defending her. I’m so excited to teach her all the wonderous things that there are to learn in the world.”

 

Mariah wiped her hands on her apron and wiped her brow with the back of her hand. She picked up a wicker basket nearby and walked over to Rae, her hand extended to assist her new friend to her feet. “Would you mind coming with me to the market nearby? Jonathan doesn’t like when I travel alone. There are unsavory men that have turned to robbery and assault in wake of the war.” Mariah was no longer smiling, but held a look of sadness and pity. “We’ve fared better than most have with the return of Nidhogg, but his horde has leveled entire villages and forced many from their homes. They turn to stealing and killing as the only way to feed themselves and their family as the Holy See can’t be lowered to open their coffers for those in need. They won’t even open their gates for us.” A tinge of anger was in her voice as she spoke of Ishgard and the growing xenophobia. Her face lightened up immediately after. “Would you accompany me as my loyal shieldmaiden?” She asked with a chuckle.

 

The two arrived in the markets of the nearby hamlet. The Sun was high in the sky and shining brightly, reflecting off the snow that lay on the ground. Small fires burned and furnaces roared with blacksmiths offering forging and repairs while grocers lined their winter produce neatly on their counters to entice the weary and famished. Mariah noticed Rae’s look of confusion. “There used to be many more people that would trade here,” she said. “until the dragons began their siege of the city. Many are afraid to congregate in large masses and more met their end that very way.” Mariah walked over to a stall that had bolts of cloth and yarn on display and began speaking to the grizzled Elezen, haggling over price.

 

The makeshift battlements of the settlement were lines with the Order of The Rose. A noble family of Ishgard charged as the protectorates of the cities surrounding lands. The knights were adorned in chainmail from head to toe and armed with spears gleaming in the sunlight. Among their ranks could be seen armored figures, clad in mirror armor the shade of purple. The armor pointed and sharp, their visors covering their face. On their backs they wore long lances with a pair of wings on the shaft. They were all tall and thin, commanding an air of respect from the other knights. They wore no family crest of insignia. They spoke with no one and their eyes never left the sky.

 

“Dragoons.” Mariah said to Rae with an assortment of cloth in her basket. “The elite dragon killers from Ishgard. Their sole purpose is the slaying of the dragon kin. They are a rare sight. I wonder why they’re here.” She had noticed Rae transfixed upon, unsure if Rae knew the order and their function. “Well, I have what I need. Care to walk me back?” She said cheerfully.

 

They trod through the snow on a well-worn path that saw little use. As they chatted happily, shadows skimmed slowly across the ground, circling lazily above the tree line of scraggly pine trees. As the two broke the tree line into a small glade, the shadows became larger and the guttural screams of several Wyvern’s and a small dragon tore through the air, causing Mariah to drop her basket in fear. “Oh no …” She whispered in terror as the dragons slammed onto the ground, fangs shimmering in the light, bloodlust in their eyes.

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Rae had met dragons aplenty. Part of her feared them, but of the few she had met in recent years were gentle, although confident. They were slowly gaining the trust of Man once more, which was a feat that none would think possible. The other part, the part that was rising at that exact moment, feared them. As she heard the basket hit the snow, Rae slowly reached towards her rapiers, eyes never wavering from that of the Wyverns'. There were 4 grown Wyverns and one smaller dragonet. It seemed to Rae that the dragonet was only there as back up. While it wasn't formidable, it was annoying to deal with and could distract those who were unaware of what the priority should be. Rae kept her hands hovering close to the grip of her rapiers and licked her lips before speaking. "I do not wish to fight any of you, please. Let us pass. We are not Ishgardians, and two women were hardly a threat to dragons." She could sense the bewildered look from Mariah as Rae attempted to converse with the dragons. In her time, perhaps they would listen, but it was clear to Rae that these were tempered by the fury of their master, Nidhogg. "I know you can understand me. I do not wish to bring harm to any of you and ask you wish the same to both of us." It was a futile effort, as she knew in this day and age the Rage of Nidhogg was in full swing and none could parley with the dragons who were of his brood.

Before another word was said, on Wyvern struck out. Its head snaked out, long neck stretched and jaws wide as it sought to clamp up Rae in its fanged jaws. Before it could get close, however, Rae had drawn Sanguinaire and swung up, drawing a line through the scalekin's vulnerable eye. Hot blood spattered onto the snow, causing it to melt and stain. As the Wyvern howled in pain, the others sprung into action. One lunged at Mariah while the other two jumped at Rae. Their coordination was not flawless, giving Rae a chance to parry the two that lunged at her and attack the one going for Mariah. She quickly thrust Sanguinaire into the dragon's jaw, locking it into place and forcing it off the course of Mariah and into a tree nearby. As the Wyvern began to thrash, Rae planted her foot onto the dragon's snout and kicked off, prying free her weapon. As she stepped back, another snaking head darted at her, which she dodged narrowly by arching her back and stumbling forward, directly into a swinging tail.

As the tail struck, the wing was knocked out of Rae's lungs and she flew backwards. She rolled twice in the snow, but kept a tight grip on her weapon. The ground rumbled with the multiple dragons descending upon her, ready to tear her body limb from limb. A cry from Mariah echoed in the air, which caused Rae to spring to action. She jumped to her feet and quickly cast a spell of wind, blasting it through the four dragons, knocking them every which way. Some into trees, others into the snow. Rae took no time to launch another blast of magic, sending rocks hurdling towards the faces of the dragons, hoping to disorientate, if not knock them out. They screeched in agony and recoiled, but they would not back off so easily. A wing swung out, forcing a gust of wind to blast at Rae, who dug her rapier into the ground to keep her from falling back. As she braced herself, the dragonet dove down, nipping at her ears and face. Reaching over, Rae grabbed her Dreadwyrm Rapier and drew it out, swinging at the dragonet viciously.

With a shriek, the dragonet withdrew into the trees and the other dragons stopped, their gaze transfixed upon Rae's blade. She paused, following their eyes to her weapon, then a flash of realization struck her. Her weapon was made from the scale of Bahamut and must be steeped with his essence as well. She held the weapon out to the dragons, who all followed it like a cat to a string. "You know what this is, don't you? You can smell Him on it. Stay away from us, lest you incur His wrath. He still yet lives, and there will come a day He will make that known, but you won't live to see that day if you keep this up," Rae spoke slowly, clearly, and walked towards the dragons. They began to step backwards, eyes wide, pupils dilated, almost as if they were hypnotized. "Go back to whatever nest you came from, and never bother us again!" Rae hissed, slashing her Rapier at them when she was close enough. The scalekin scattered and flapped hard, trying to get away from Rae's weapon. As the dragons' shadows became small freckles in the blue sky, Rae heaved a sigh and slumped against a tree, then slid down it and closed her eyes. Her hands trembled, as did her knees. They got lucky that time. If Rae hadn't been there, Mariah surely would have died. She silently pondered what sort of ramifications time would have to her interfering this way, but she decided not to go far down that path.

"Are you alright, Mariah?" Rae asked, opening her eyes and turning to the woman.

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Mariah stood trembling, pale, frightened as Rae spoke with the dragons. Not understanding what was spoken even though they spoke the common tongue. As Rae parried blows and dispatched their tormentors, her eyes, once a deep hue or red had drained of color and appeared a sickly shade of pink.

 

She could do nothing but watch in stark terror, fear pervading her senses with the thoughts that she would never make it to her home, see her husband, create the gift for her friend, or bring the child she so loved into the world. The air was crisp, but Mariah began to sweat and hyperventilate. Her body trembled. It was all she could do to not scream and cry hysterically.

 

The blood of the dragon sprayed onto the ground and splashed droplets onto her petticoats and face. As Rae drove the rest of the brood off and slumped to the ground, Mariah began to cough and choke uncontrollably.

 

She was able to force out hoarse words as Rae’s voice pierced her terror. “I’m … fine … I think …” She took two small steps towards Rae, concerned for her even with her throat constricting. “Are … You …. “was all she could force out as her legs gave way and fell to the ground. “Not … now” she whispered as she fought against the black fog that threatened to overtake her mind and reason. Mariah’s skin was a deathly shade of white, beads of sweat on her forehead from the overexertion and fear. She fell into a broken fever dream, her frail body feebly fighting to repair the strain placed upon it.

 

 

Mariah dreamt. She dreamt of sparkling spires scraping the heavens, she dreamt of magnificent cathedrals with kaleidoscope stained glass windows, she dreamt of gleaming stone and brilliant gilded metals. The steps were paved in blood. Never to dry. The trails of blood stretched into the cathedral through the black of the doors. A dark welcoming. She could not help herself but walk in. She was being guided.

 

As she walked in the doors, she found herself in a vast chamber. Steam and gears pushing and pulling. Pistons firing in their brass housing. The center held a large pulsating blue core that blinded with its brilliance. The light was overpowering, but through the pulses, she could see a slender and small figure, almost conversing with the orb. The blue orb suddenly faded, leaving the room in black as a voice resounded in all around her, pounding her ears, causing her to clutch her head. “WHY ARE …. YOU …. HERE?” Mariah sunk to her knees and shut her eyes.

 

As quickly as she was in the metal and gilded halls, as quickly as she was upon a field of battle. The sky bathed in a sickly red matching the pools of blood and mangled bodies on the ground. Men and women trampled and contorted in the throes of death and war. The smell of decay filled her senses, causing her to feel the urge to wretch. The sky was falling down above men slaughtering eachother. Mariah recognized the colors and insignia of the combatants. Gridania, Ul’Dah, Limsa Lominsa locked in battle with Garlemald. In the midst of the horrors she spotted the same slender figure, clothed in white and weaving barriers around her comrades. As the figure turned, her eyes locked with Mariah’s. They were Mariah’s eyes that looked back at her. Confused, Mariah blinked and the world shifted like oil upon water. No longer was the woman in white standing and staring at her. Another figure in black loomed over her, a long-curved sword in her hand as the woman in white lay on the ground, her robes stained brown from the muck and her own blood. The eyes that stared at Mariah were like her own, but not her own. The world began to dim as she heard a voice, cold and metallic “You should not be here …”

 

 

“She is very sick. She has always been prone to illness. Did any of them lay talons on her? I’ll kill them all if they so much as scratched her. As for you, you would rather indulge in your bloodlust than to help my wife and baby?! She went to the markets for YOU! She wanted to make you a cloak to protect you against the cold! And this is how she’s repayed!?”

 

 

Mariah drifted in and out fitful fever dreams. She found herself on a stone pier, the sea rolling and splashing, spraying cool water into the air. She turned and was overcome with wonder at the sight she beheld. She was in a city. One that easily rivaled Ishgard in size, but one that was completely alien to her. Red and black lacquer adorned the wood of the homes and stalls. The arches of the wood perfect and blending seamless with the buildings. The windows circular with thin wood creating reliefs of birds, serpents, and woodland animals. People were traveling to and fro between stalls and buildings, each wearing long robes that were intricate in design and vibrant colors. As Mariah walked the streets, she couldn’t help but feel she was being guided to a specific place. She was meant to see something. As the realization dawned upon her, the thoughts interrupted by her foot crunching on fine white stone. She was in a pavilion where there were men sparring with curved wooden sticks. Their blows and parries calculated and elegant. In the midst of the sparring stood the same small outline of the woman she had seen twice before. She was kneeling down with her own wooden sword on the ground with a man twice her own size dominating over her. As Mariah stepped closer, she could see the woman had been battered and beaten, blood flowing from her nose and the look of pain and anger on her face. She looked so familiar, yet she knew she never knew her. The man was laughing and jeering to his comrades, mocking the woman on the ground. In a flash, she rose up, gripping the wooden sword in her hands, bearing down upon the man who struck her down. It was then she caught the glimpse of her eyes. They were Mariah’s eyes. They arrested her and brought feelings of fear, pity, and love for the woman.

 

She found herself in a city, though unlike the last. The Sun was bright in the sky that reflected off the tan sandstone and mosaic of the pavement. It was unbearably hot with throngs of people going about their business. In the crowd she spotted the same woman. Always the same woman. The woman with her eyes passing the large boardwalk. She abruptly stopped and look transfixed as if she was struck harder than the wooden sword ever could. As Mariah turned to look at what had caused the woman to stop and stare in wonder, her eyes widened at the sight. It was another woman. One with emerald green eyes that Mariah recognized.

 

Before she could piece together what she had witnessed, she found herself inside a building with familiar design and items. The building was certainly of Ala Mhigo décor with shelves of glass vials and metal instruments on the tables and walls. In the middle of the room, there were makeshift tents and beds. The sounds of soft moaning could be heard from them. All save one. One bed was surrounded by a flurry of men and women. White cloth being fetched and stained cloth being taken away. The color of red and brown. A high-pitched scream of pain resounded from the bed as the people hovering around it held down the person upon it. As Mariah drew close, her heart sunk and tears welled in her eyes as she witnessed. The same slender woman was upon the bed, though it was difficult to determine. Her face was swollen and bloody. Her arm hung in an unnatural position. The words she tried to utter came out as broken and incoherent. Her eyes were shut tight in pain and suffering. Doctors and nurses were attempting to ease her pain and see to her wounds while muttering that she wouldn’t last the hour with the level of abuse she had suffered. As Mariah reached out her hand to stroke her face, another sound rang out that ripped through the air. The sound wasn’t human. It sounded more like an animal, pain echoing though. Rage and shame mixed together. Mariah looked up to the sound. The woman with emerald eyes and red hair. She could barely recognize her with the mask of fear and pain on her face. She was struggling to pass the men holding her away from the bed. Her eyes red with tears, her voice hoarse with screaming. Mariah looked back down at the woman on the bed. Her eyes were open. Her eyes, but not her eyes. One red, the other black.

 

 

“… We’ve done all we can. All we can do now is wait and pray. I know you’ve never been a religious man Jonathan, but The Fury is with her and your child.” The aged voice of man called out softly. “Thank you, Deacon. Thank you for coming all the way here from The Vault. I can’t pay you …” Jonathan’s voice broke. “We’ll figure something out, my boy. For now, you and your friend watch over your wife. Her fever has broken and she will rest for some time yet. Pray to The Fury. The rest is in her hands.” The Deacon called out. The soft hand of a woman softly held Mariah’s own as fell back to slumber.

 

 

Mariah found herself in a familiar room. Gilded metal of brass and silver adorned the floor with cogs turning and clicking into position. The walls were made of crystalline glass. Where once was a bright blue orb, now sat a chair with the same brass and silver gilding. In the room were three figures, locked in combat. Two she recognized, the third was hidden in fog and steam. The emerald eyed woman and the one with red and black eyes battled against the mist, though the mist was focused on the dark-haired woman and ignored the red head. The mist shrouded figured overpowered the dark-haired girl and pierced her flesh with it’s sword, causing her body to stiffen and then limp. Mariah let out a scream of panic as she watched the mist dispatch the girl. The woman looked at Mariah as the light left her disfigured eyes. Mariah couldn’t look away. They were her eyes.

 

The world shifted again and Mariah found herself in the land that mirrored Ala Mhigo. The night moon was bright in the sky, bathing the land in blue light. There, she saw the red eyed woman and the emerald green locked into combat. The emerald woman looked disfigured, purple veins flowing from her eyes that had changed to a golden hue. She was vicious in her movements. Her sword violently attempting to land a blow on her opponent. The dark-haired girl moving with precision, like a ticking clock. The dark-haired woman landed a blow that sliced into the red heads arm, nearly severing it from her body. She never felt the pain. She slid the blade deeper into her own body and like a feral animal, she bit into her opponents’ neck, blood erupting from the wound and the girl’s mouth. Mariah could take no more of the nightmare and began to scream. She screamed at the hate, the pain, the violence, the death, the broken, the wounded. She clenched her eyes and kept screaming.

 

 

Mariah’s eyes slowly opened to a view of her small home, the fear and horror beginning to recede from her mind. She felt the hand in her own and turned to Rae, seated in a small chair next to her. “… I know you.” She whispered. “I saw you. I saw you and the other woman. I watched you kill her. I watched her die over and over again. Why would she be forced to such a fate? What did she do to you? Why does she have the same …”? Her voice trailed off holding back tears. “You can’t let her go, can you? I don’t know who you are, but I KNOW you, somehow. Tell me about her.” Jonathan placed a cool towel on Mariah’s forehead and brushed her cheek gently with his hand. “You were dreaming. It’s okay, it’s over now. You don’t have to worry. You were just having a nightmare. Please, don’t exert yourself. You’re still weak. Everything will be okay.” He said to her gently, like they were the only two people in the world. She was his life, his purpose. There was nothing in the world he wouldn’t do for his wife. “What about the baby? Is she okay?” Mariah said, fear creeping back into her voice. “Shh. Yes, the baby is fine. But you’re still recovering. We thought we lost you for a moment there.” Tears welled in his eyes as he smiled. “Try to rest. I love you.”

 

Mariah sat weakly up in her bed and turned to Rae. “Who was she to you? Who is she to me? Why did you kill her?”

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It seemed no matter what she did, no matter where she went, misery would follow. Rae had done all she could to keep Mariah from succumbing to her sickness. Most of the time, Jonathan would bark at her to stay away, despite her having some knowledge with medicine thanks to her specialty with alchemy. All she could do was stand by most times, and when Jonathan was away, she would move to Mariah's side. She shouldn't have gone with Mariah, or maybe she should have. Maybe that was where she was destined to die and she had prevented it? Had she destroyed this timeline now with her meddling there? When would she encounter Alexander again and somehow be forced to jump timelines? Where was Marishi from this timeline? By now she should have...

She began to think. If she hadn't met Marishi yet, but all other times she appeared near her, why not this time? Why was this timeline different? Maybe... maybe it wasn't that different at all. Rae recalled what Marishi told her of her history. She was born to an impoverish family. A husband and wife in the beautiful lands of Coerthas where the winters we cold, but the spring and summer were lovely. Her parents' names were never mentioned, but she knew her mother was weak and sickly upon Marishi's birth, and it was at that moment that her sickly mother finally died. Her throat tightened. Was Mariah Marishi's mother?

Rae was sleepless most nights upon this realization, and her desire to ensure Mariah was able to deliver her baby grew exponentially with each passing hour. She constantly checked upon Mariah, though at a distance as her husband sat at her bed side, sleeping lightly, and would grumble threateningly to her if she drew too close. Over time, he gradually grew more willing to let Rae near her, though he kept a watchful eye over them both. One night, Jonathan sat up and groaned while stretching his back. "I can sit watch, Jonathan. You need to rest," Rae offered softly. His head had jerked towards her before he agreed to her statement, but instead of going to bed, he went to change her small rag from her forehead while Rae sat in the chair. As he left, it was then that Mariah finally awoke. Rae's ears perked up and she sat up straight in her chair. "Mariah, you're awake. Jonathan! She's back!" She called out, but not too loud. Her heart raced with excitement, maybe things wouldn't turn out so bad after all!

As the questions poured in, however, the excitement left Rae's eyes. Replacing it was a certain misery, a sorrow without end, an unfathomable depression. Rae barely noticed Jonathan return and speak softly to his wife, soothingly. She stared emptily at the quilt on the bed for a moment before taking a deep breath. "I... I believe I know you as well, Mariah. Not directly, but indirectly through the stories of a woman who misses her mother, who grew up with her father who loved her, but with a stern love. A father who worked harder than any man in the world could have to ensure his daughter, the last of his household would go on to live a life without want... alone.

"The woman you saw was--is my wife. She still yet lives, despite... despite what I have done. That is thanks to a primal which housed itself within her body. Far worse than a tempering, she has been possessed. I... don't know how to how to explain it, as I don't know fully myself, but I have somehow been trapped in a... disrupted timeline. Or I am being pulled from timeline to timeline. I'm not sure. The day you found me, there were no tracks in the snow because I appeared there... I succumbed to my rage and... I don't remember. I don't want to remember." Rae's gaze dropped to her hands. She felt the burning heat on her fingertips again, she saw the blood, she felt the stains seep deeper than her skin and bones and taint her soul.  Tears formed and poured down Rae's face as she wrapped her hands around her, hugging herself. Her shoulders trembled slightly as she silently sobbed, but as she breathed in through her mouth, she took a sharp, gasping breath. "That woman is your daughter, Marishi. She and I met long after... after..." She couldn't bring herself to say the words, to tell them that they both will die. Mariah, from being so weak and frail would die from delivery, and Jonathan, a strong, caring man who loves nothing more than his family, would succumb to a sickness not diagnosed. She knew all of how they would die, but couldn't bring herself to warn them. "I love her. With all my heart and soul. With every fibre of my being, I love Marishi. She's lead a hard life and blamed herself for things that were well beyond her control. Many thought her rude, cruel, and full of hate because she was not a woman who was conventional. She went from student, to healer, to samurai, to seamstress, to adventurer. I was at her side through those adventures as her partner and wife. All I've wanted was to make her happy, to give her the best life I could give her, to get her back and to love her eternally again... it would seem the Twelve have other designs for us..." Rae's gaze lifted to them both and she saw their expressions, the fear in their eyes, the concern, the anger. She knew they wouldn't believe her, there was no way to believe such a story. They didn't know of Alexander, of tempering, of time travel. She barely did as well!

"I will leave. But please, call for a physician to come to the house immediately; do not wait. Mariah, you must not deliver Marishi alone. You must have a healer present. Maybe... maybe this timeline will be different for Marishi. Just maybe she'll have the happy life I so desperately want her to have finally..." Rae spoke wistfully while standing up. The room was silent as Jonathan and Mariah stared, bewildered at Rae's revelation to them. With that, she turned and walked to her weapons, sheathing them at her side and walked outside. As she stepped through the door, she saw a figure in the distance. Marishi. "Lock your door and do not come outside, no matter what you hear." Rae called out behind her before shutting the door tightly and stepping forward to Marishi, drawing her Rapier and staring her down.  She was determined to end it here. She would die in this timeline one way or another. Whether Alexander killed her, or she lived the rest of her days here. There was no more running, no more skipping time. It was over.

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