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 Shifted Bonds

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Aviaris_Sevanthis
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PostSubject: Shifted Bonds   2012-01-09, 3:04 pm

(A little story that probably would actually fit nicely into the Tales of Catheria thread timeline. Least I think so...)

Prier and Alouette generally got along rather well. They generally also were rather hit-and-miss when it came to what they believed. Often, Prier would see things one way, Alouette would see them another way. This almost never led to arguments anymore, as with the reveal of Poitreene's true nature, Alouette generally agreed with Prier on the more ideological issues. After all, they no longer were divided as a skeptical believer and a devout one. They both equally believed in their friends and family, over any false goddess.

However, there was now a question that neither had a real view on. Neither could managed to figure out an answer, and eventually, they both came to the conclusion that the best bet, was to simply ask someone who was involved. Unfortunately, it turned out that their first three choices, chosen for their closeness to the situation without being directly involved, thus having an outside perspective, were as clueless as Prier and Alouette. Sheena had simply shrugged, Presea had cocked her head to the side in confused thought, and Zelos... nevermind Zelos.

Still, the three long-time companions of the subjects of their inquiry were also quite curious. This is how Prier, Alouette, Sheena, Presea, and Zelos all ended up cornering Lloyd as he worked on a new project; a more advanced 'key crest' for Astella, that would, theoretically, give her even more control. This work was interrupted by his friends, however, who all made themselves comfortable, watching him... which wierded him out a great deal. Finally though, he cleared his throat. "Um... what is it, guys?" His answer came in two parts. First, Alouette explained how they had gotten to their predicament.

"Lloyd, by now, you've explained the full story of things that happened in your home world. What happened, why, how you all felt... however, there is something that has confused us, I'm afraid. We asked SHeena and the others about it, but they had as much insight on the subject as we did. We were hoping you could shed a bit of light on the subject. We'd hoped not to bother you with this, but..." Here, Prier jumped in.

"We really want to know, and we figure if anyone knows, it's you and Raine. She's busy at the moment and... well, you're generally more open about your feelings and what's on your mind, right? So, point is, we want to know what the deal is with you and Raine." Everyone else nodded, and Lloyd was a bit exasperated to see Culotte and Eclair show up to listen... even Croix was there, hanging back a bit!

"...I.. what? I'm not sure what you mean... but... uh, this is really weird..." Here, Presea spoke up.

"Prier and Alouette both came to us with a question that is actually something I believe we have all wondered about. That being, the change in your relationship with Raine." Her words, however, only seemed to confuse Lloyd, so Alouette spoke up once more.

"In your stories of the things that happened in Aselia, you were very thorough. You made sure we actually understood the group dynamic at the time; how everyone got along and interacted."

"Like how much of a perverted idiot Zelos was," Prier chimed in. Alouette threw her a disapproving look for the interruption, while the 'pervert' in question pouted.

"Ah, my Fiery Rose, you wound me with your words..." He was ignored, and Alouette continued.

"As I was saying, you were quite detailed, something we are thankful for. It made us feel more like part of the group, hearing the stories as if we were actually there. The point is, there is a certain aspect regarding yourself and Raine, that is making us wonder. Namely, in all your accounts of your journeys together, you and Raine had become good friends, but... well, when she arrived here in Paprika, your relationship seemed far closer than your stories indicated."

"Huh, kind of noticed that myself," came Croix's two cents. "From what I heard, you and Raine's relationship was more like that of a teacher and her favorite student. But when I actually see you two together, you're both alot closer more... affectionate, I guess?"

"..." Realization started to dawn on Lloyd's face, and his expression soon indicated he was thinking back on something. "Yeah... so, I guess you all want to know why me and Professor Sage are the way we are?" At the interested nods, he sighed. "Well, okay I guess. It's a long story... you remember when Raine disappeared that one time, to go to the Otherworldly Gate?" At the confirming nods, he continued. "Well, we never told you guys that she actually did it again, only, this time there were no clues on where she went. She just left Iselia. Anyway, it's... a day I honestly can't forget even if I wanted to..."

~~~~~~~~~~
FLASHBACK
~~~~~~~~~~

It had started out as a normal day. Well, as normal as could be managed for Lloyd. He had been so tired that morning that he had walked in the opposite direction of the stairs and ran smack dab into the wall. "How smooth," he groaned.

Though Lloyd was muddled in the early hours of the day, before his brain kicked into gear and/or he had coffee, the young swordsman had a few titles to credit to his name that weren't all that shabby. Having been one of the saviors of the twin worlds, and caretaker of the great tree, Lloyd felt that he actually had a purpose in life. Well, most of the time. Right now he was wondering groggily if it was worth all the effort to drag himself down the stairs for breakfast.

In the end, the smell of Dirk's cooking won out. Lloyd ended up practically falling down the stairs, but the important part was that he had made it to the food. Not until the messy haired brunet had wolfed down all he could eat and had a mug of strong coffee, did he notice the very worried half-elf and former Chosen standing by the sink, talking with Dirk.

"HeyGenisandColette!" he mumbled, slightly incoherent, "Whatsupwithyouguys?" Genis raised an eyebrow, then walked over and helpfully hit his friend over the head.

Lloyd blinked, then appreciatively said, "Thanks, Genis."

"No problem, sleepy head," Genis responded. The worry lines on Colette's forehead deepened.

"Stop chatting! We need to figure out how to find the Professor!" Lloyd stood up sharply, looking alarmed.

"Where's Professor Sage?"

Genis set a restraining hand on the older boy's shoulder, "My sister's gone missing. I woke up this morning and she wasn't there, but I don't think we should panic just yet. There is probably a reasonable explanation, and she'll turn up soon. Don't get yourself worked up."

Lloyd frowned at his silver haired friend uncomprehendingly for a moment, "But she also could be in danger! Did she leave a note? Anything?" Genis shook his head, looking slightly downcast. Lloyd slammed his fist down on the table in momentary frustration, "We have to do something, damnit!"

Colette had started pacing, muttering to herself worriedly, while Genis began frantically writing down everything he could remember about Raine's behavior in the last twenty four hours incase it was something psychological. Lloyd interrupted him only once to ask if Raine's rheaird was gone, the response returning affirmative.

Dirk watched this display of borderline panic in the teenagers for a few more moments before intervening, "You know, Lloyd, if you find the need to make yourself useful, I suggest going out and looking for her." Lloyd paused, turning to look at his adoptive father.

"But she could be anywhere!" Colette stopped her pacing and faced Lloyd, hands on her hips, as her worry made her a bit more... aggressive, than usual.

"What would you have us do then, Lloyd? Wait around here until we get all old and wrinkly and your hairline starts to recede?"

Genis giggled at Colette's choice of words, but more because of Lloyd's expression. The young swordsman was blushing furiously out of embarrassment and slight irritation, "Fine then, this is completely wild, but I guess it's worth what it's worth. Genis can start in Tethe'alla, I'll look in Sylvaraunt, and Colette can wait here incase Raine comes back while we're gone." Genis shrugged, looking at Colette, but she seemed fine with the arrangements, so he nodded.

After agreeing to meet up again that evening to see if anyone had found Raine, Lloyd boarded his rheaird and began flying south. He wasn't really sure where to start, truthfully, but a sudden image of the ocean suddenly came to the top of his head, and it occurred to him that while he was out searching for Raine, he could also check out how the rebuilding of Palmacosta was coming along. It had started slowly at first, with the terrible state Sylvarant had been in, but now the worlds were righted and a new tree was growing in the old one's place, so people had begun the laborious project. Still, Lloyd had faith that it would eventually be a functioning city again. Lloyd and Co. had, after all, helped rebuild the city of Luin, which turned into a much livelier city than it was before.

Lloyd altered his course slightly to the east and soon arrived at his destination. About half the city was functional now, though not 'ironed-and-pressed' quite yet, so Lloyd began walking idly along, keeping an eye out for the Professor. He wondered briefly if he should ask someone if they'd seen her, and decided to pop into the nearest store, the one that at one point had sold Palmacosta's famous Palma Potion. He guessed, as an afterthought, that most of the supplies had been destroyed with the city, so the shop owner probably wouldn't have any customers quite yet.

A bell tinkled in the background as Lloyd entered, softly shutting the door behind him. There was no one in here today except for the shopkeeper Lavena, a plump, middle-aged woman who was leaning on the counter, absorbed in her reading. The first time Lloyd had visited here was back in the beginning of the journey of world regeneration…how silly it seemed now. The fake Chosen's group had demanded a replacement for the Palma Potion Colette had accidentally broken, and he had looked here first, but there was none available at the time. Though, he wasn't exactly sure Lavena would have been so keen on selling it to minors, anyway. The presence of that woman was rather…severe…in a different way than Raine was…Raine! He needed to find her!

"Umm…excuse me?" Lloyd asked tentatively. Lavena looked up from her reading.

"Yes? May I help you?" Lloyd nodded.

"Yes, I was wondering if you'd seen a friend of mine in the area today? Her name is Raine Sage and she's kind of tall, with short silver hair…"

"Oh, Raine? You know her?" Lavena set aside her book, with her full attention focused on Lloyd, surprising him.

"Well, yes, of course," Lloyd stumbled uncertainly, "She's been my schoolteacher for as long as I can remember, and she just left this morning without telling anyone and I'm trying to figure out where she could be…" He trailed off, at the look on Lavena's face. She looked kind of sad…distant…as if she was recalling a memory from years gone past…

"So that's how she ended up…" she murmured to herself.

"Excuse me?" Lloyd asked, breaking into her thoughts. Lavena's eyes refocused.

"I'm sorry, child, but I haven't seen Raine Sage for twelve years. Not since…the woman you speak of…was eleven…"

Lloyd's eyes widened, "You mean you knew her…when she first came to Sylvarant?" The people of both worlds were still getting used to the fact that there had actually been a whole other world existing parallel to them this whole time, but Lavena did not seem to take as long to digest this as many had. Perhaps it was her encounter with Raine…and he was curious to know more.

Lavena nodded, sighing deeply. "She was a young slip of a girl, that Raine, when she first came to Palmacosta with her baby brother. She was clothed very simply…with no money…no family… I think it was the last part that I felt for her the most though. My daughter, Morgana, was a year older than her at the time, but she never really had the same spirit, the same flame Raine did. I suppose that comes of having my husband die when my daughter was very small, but…this story is about Raine, not my family…I took her and Genis in, you see…and Raine and Morgana became quite good friends, as I do recall…

"In the beginning, Raine would never leave her brother alone. She insisted on being his one and absolute caretaker, but I could see that it was wearing her out. A child should not have to carry the burdens she did, and even less the ones that came after… I do not know what magical pursuits Raine has followed now, but when she was staying with us, she began to practice healing arts with a small wooden staff that supposedly was given to her by her mother…Goddess knows what ever happened to her parents. I remember how delighted she was when she was first able to heal the scrapes Morgana got from playing outside all day long…it was the first time Raine ever asked me if I could look after the baby for a while and she go outside to play with Morgana. I was delighted that she was finally interested in starting to live life as a normal child, but I never could have dreamed…

"At one time, before the destruction of our city, Palmacosta had a lighthouse. It was once a very useful tool to our port, but after a time it became kind of…queer. There was this…feeling around it, kind of like a gloomy aura. I regret that I hadn't watched the girls more closely that afternoon…I think I will always regret it…"


Lavena was beginning to look weary. "You don't have to tell me the rest of the story right now, Lavena," said Lloyd; "We can take a break, if you want." Lavena nodded.

"I'll go make us some…tea?" Lloyd just shook his head.

"No, you sit, I'll go make it." Lavena nodded her thanks and leaned back, wiping her forehead with her sleeve. She hadn't thought back to the incident in a very long time…

Lloyd came back with some tea for the both of them and watched Lavena take a few sips before gently urging her back into speech. "You see, that day Raine and Morgana were out running everywhere – playing everything, causing general mayhem, though I don't think anybody minded – and Raine was, I expect, feeling lighthearted and easy as she had not experienced in a long while. This I think…well, it sort of intoxicated her. Raine was more bold that day than I had ever known her to be in her short stay, and she…she suggested to Morgana that they go and explore the lighthouse…try to find out what was going on there. Ahh…Morgana…she went along with Raine's scheme quite happily, not knowing…

"From what I'd heard from the man who worked guarding the lighthouse, something had been doubly strange that day about the place, but he hadn't thought much into it when he agreed to give the girls a bit of a tour as a special treat. Apparently he left them alone up in the top room where the core mechanism is rigged up while he went to go get some snacks, leaving them looking around curiously, not like to do any real harm. How wrong he was…"


She paused, squinting into the depths of her cup of tea, "Lloyd, have you heard of the Dark Book of Necronomicon?" Lloyd's eyes widened and he nodded.

"When we collected the Devils Arms weapons, a man named Abyssion used that book to revive the Dark Lord Nebilim. Come to think of it…Raine was the one who identified what it was for us." Lavena nodded sadly.

"I do not know how that evil book came to be in our city's lighthouse, but I believe that the girls came upon it and Raine…such an insatiably curious girl…possibly opened it…unleashing the horrors within…such an innocent girl…"

Lloyd's eyes widened in horror, "Wh…what happened?" Lavena was gripping her teacup very hard, her whole body shaking.

"I do not know what evil came from that book, but everyone in the city saw the sudden dark pulse from our pillar which had once given light, and…and…I only found out later, but…" she shuddered, "Whatever came out of that book killed my daughter. Raine herself barely made it out of there, but she did not speak for days afterwards, so deep were the psychological scars."

Lloyd then realized why this was affecting Lavena so much and reached over to give her shoulder a reassuring squeeze, "It must have been hard for you. And her as well." Lavena took deep gulp of air and nodded.

"The last, and only time she ever spoke to me after that, was when Raine said goodbye. She couldn't bear to stay in Palmacosta, where she was an outsider, and was only causing harm. I think she felt guilty for my daughters death, and I never really got the chance to tell her that it wasn't her fault…" A tear rolled down the brown haired woman's cheek. Suddenly a memory flashed through Lloyd's mind, sharp and fresh as if it had only just happened. The group had been in Palmacosta, intending to question Dorr, the Governor General, but after questioning a strange demon disguised as his daughter had shown itself and killed him. Lloyd and the others had fought off the demon, but later Lloyd had heard Raine say, "I can not save even a single life?" Now he knew. Oh, how Raine must have suffered...

"Raine didn't deserve any of the things that happened her, but I do hope that she somehow found peace in your village, young Lloyd." Lloyd slowly stood up, letting out the breath that he hadn't realized he was holding.

"Thank you for telling me your story, Lavena. It means a great deal to me to know a little bit more about my friend's past." Lavena nodded and stood up as well, wiping her eyes and then scooping up the teacups. She smiled faintly at him.

"In a way, it's a bit relieving. I haven't been able to, or rather have not been able to bring myself to talk about this since the incident, and it is almost as if a weight has been lifted from my chest. Do come by again sometime, and bring Raine too when you find her. I should like to see her again…very much so…" Lloyd moved towards the door, pausing at the threshold.

"Goodbye, Lavena. I intend to take you up on your offer once I've found Raine, and that is a promise."

Lloyd walked out into the morning sunlight, deaf to the hustle and bustle of the city as he stared up at the clouds. The swordsman stood there for quite some time, memories flashing through his mind. The man standing in front of the lighthouse, not letting anyone in because they'd been getting sick…the day that they had encountered the dark book of Necronomicon and it's wielder…but mostly, Raine's face, with that look of pain on it that went farther down than he had ever realized. It strengthened his resolve to find his teacher, and to tell her that it wasn't her fault…that she mustn't blame herself… "Well, on to Izoold, I guess," he murmured to himself, and set off towards the docks, running his hands through his hair feeling mentally exhausted.


~To Be Continued Below~

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"There is no such thing as 'Coincidence'. Only 'Inevitability'." ~ Yuuko Ichihara

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PostSubject: Re: Shifted Bonds   2012-01-09, 7:13 pm

Alouette bit her lip a bit, lowering her gaze in thought, while Prier just had a pained look on her face, mirrored by many of the others. "Raine... to think she was going through that when she was just a child..." Everyone nodded at Alouette's words, and Prier looked up, blinking.

"Wait... that must be why she reacts the way she does to Homard. He nearly killed a little girl by being an impulsive idiot, maybe she thinks she was the same back then?"

"...Maybe." Lloyd seemed to be thinking on it, but Croix spoke up.

"Please, Lloyd, continue. I'd like to know what happened after that. I get the feeling the thing in Palmacosta was just the tip of the iceberg."

"Ah... right, sorry. Anyway, I decided to check Izoold next, and..."

~~~~~~~~~~
FLASHBACK
~~~~~~~~~~

Lloyd felt that it would be too much to fly his rheaird, with his mind still reeling from what he had just learned, so he hauled it over to the docks where he intended to pay passage on a sailboat. The young swordsman was lucky enough to find a man who was willing to take him immediately.

"So, what takes you to Izoold?" asked the sailor, who introduced himself as Davin. The craft began to move across the waves away from Palmacosta and towards Lloyd's next destination. Lloyd looked down at the water for a few moments before answering.

"I'm looking for a friend of mine. Raine Sage. You wouldn't happen to have seen her around here, would you? She is a tall, silver haired half-elf with violet eyes, and…"

"Sage…hmmm…that name sounds familiar…" Davin muttered, scratching his chin. "Ahh yes, young Miss Sage. Though I'm afraid I haven't seen her in many years, and I doubt you've been looking for her that long?" His face was focused questioningly on Lloyd. Lloyd shook his head.

"Only since this morning…but many years…it wouldn't have been twelve years, would it?" Davin's eyes widened.

"Why yes, it would!" Lloyd felt slightly exasperated for a moment, wondering how much he didn't know about Raine, when all of the strangers seemed to know all about her, but he couldn't help half-smiling.

"What was she like…back when you knew her, I mean."

Davin shrugged, "A bit uptight, edgy, I'd say. But then, I wasn't the most sensitive of young sailors, if you know what I mean. I was all about enjoying yourself and having fun, and whatever happened to your friend, I don't think she was quite ready for a trip aboard any of my ships," he appeared slightly embarrassed, "You see…I was having a good day. It was late morning and things had been going rather well for me. I was in high spirits, and I didn't see why I shouldn't spread my joy around to the crew and passengers. Well, that was a mistake, but there's no worrying about it now. Your Raine now, she came on board looking like a dark cloud just waiting to pour all over the brightness my day had so far. It looked peculiar to me; a little eleven-year-old girl with her baby brother clasped protectively in her arms and no other family in sight. Still, I thought I might as well go over and see if I could cheer her up."

Davin sighed, staring reflectively down into the ocean depths. "She was standing at the side of the boat, leaning slightly over, presumably showing her little brother the fish that were swimming nearby, and I teasingly walked over and picked her up, holding her out, above the water. Raine promptly dropped, Genis, was it, in shock. Her nerves were probably at their end, a mistake of mine not to notice. She screamed and started flailing, causing me, in turn, to drop her. I called out the alarm, though the other people on the ship had heard the scream and come running. Another sailor dove over the side and quickly fished the baby out, but when I dove in after Raine, she was panicking, half drowning in the process, and I had to, err…slap her a bit to get her out of it. I swam back to the ship and helped her onboard, where the other people were clustered around, concerned, asking if anyone knew where her parents were. Raine explained quietly that she didn't have any parents, and grabbed Genis and ran off to her cabin, leaving a bewildered looking group in her wake. She looked close to tears…"

Another vivid memory came to Lloyd, as he stood there frozen, for a brief moment. The day the Chosen's group, still on the quest of World Regeneration, had had to retrieve the Spiritua Statue from one of the Houses of Salvation to give to Koton from the Thoda Geyser. However, with the state of Sylvarant, they had had to ride across to the geyser in washtubs. Raine had wanted to stay behind, but Genis tried to drag her over to the tubs anyway, causing her to scream and recoil in panic. It had shocked everyone at the time, but Lloyd could see now, and it pained him to do so, why Raine was so afraid of water. Then he kind of paused, bemused. Had Davin really said Your Raine? His?

A short while later, the ship came into port, and Lloyd descended the gangway into the small village of Izoold. He didn't visit this place much; probably because it was so small and out of the way that you didn't really notice it, but also partially because when the group had first passed through here the people of the village hadn't appealed to Lloyd very much. Lyla was a young red haired girl who had been hung up over some weird pirate dude named Aifread, and she had been a real pain to the gang while they were here. He hoped that he wouldn't have to deal with her this time around.

"If wishes were fishes…" Lloyd cursed, as he looked up to see just the girl he had been hoping to avoid marching toward him. She looked angry, and he couldn't figure out why…unless it was because he'd never delivered that letter? Lloyd sweat dropped. Until now he had completely forgotten about it.

"I should have known!" Lyla exploded, once in range, "I should have known that I would bestow upon you a great favor and you'd never pay me back! Honestly! It was just a letter! Just one friggin' letter! And don't tell me that you couldn't deliver it to Aifread because Luin was destroyed, because IT WAS REBUILT WITH YOUR HELP!" Lloyd gulped, trying his best not to run for his life. It was painfully similar to being yelled at by Raine, only those times it had only been yelling. He had to be a man and stick it out. Lyla was practically charging at him now. Or not…

"I…I'm sorry?" Lloyd asked timidly, before Lyla smacked him across the face, "Ouch…" At this point, the fisherman's son, Max, who had fallen for Lyla, but had never had the feelings returned, popper up to see what was going on.

"What's going on?" he asked curiously. Even Lloyd thought he sounded a bit…slow. Lyla even paused from her tirade to give him a weird look. Lloyd took the opportunity to make his escape in the fraction of a second that she was distracted, and quickly hid in the nearest building, which inconveniently happened to be her house…

"May I help you?" asked Lyla's grandmother in her slow, creaky way. Lloyd paused for a moment to catch his breath.

"I'm sorry…I'm looking for my friend Raine Sage. She's kind of tall with short, silver hair and violet-ish eyes. You wouldn't happen to have seen her?" The old woman's forehead scrunched up as she thought, rocking back and forth slightly in her chair. Finally, she replied.

"No, I don't think I have. Ask my granddaughter, Lyla though, she used to have a baby sitter named Raine. I don't know if they kept in contact, though." Lloyd thanked Lyla's grandmother and walked back outside, relieved that Lyla and Max were nowhere in site, and debating with himself at the same time whether he should try talking to the temper oriented woman. Deciding that it would be safer to go on with out consulting Lyla, Lloyd hurried towards the main road, hoping to reach Triet before lunchtime.

However, it seemed that this day, Lloyd had absolutely no luck. The sounds of Lyla chewing someone else's head off soon reached his ears as he rounded a bend, passing by the Katz stand. "Now, tell me why again you didn't ask permission before borrowing my salad bowl for your pot luck supper?" The other woman, the one this was directed to was looking flustered.

"But your grandmother said," she began, quickly cut off by Lyla.

"I don't care what my grandmother said, that bowl was mine, and you had no right to take it without asking!" The woman fiddled with her apron strings.

"But surely you must understand! I was having company for dinner; the in-laws of all people!" Lyla took a deep breath before continuing to yell.

"I wouldn't understand because I never see the man I love, let alone meet his parents!"

Lloyd let out a deep sigh, and decided to intercede. Well, for the sake of the innocent bystander, not Lyla. He did not have a high opinion of her. Sure, Raine got mad sometimes, but only when she was provoked. Lyla seemed to look for reasons to yell at people. "Ummm, excuse me," he began. Lyla frowned, rounding on him with a set expression.

"Don't you interfere now! You'll get your turn when I'm done with her!" But the woman had already run off.

Furious and frustrated, Lyla glared at Lloyd, but he spoke up before she could become vocal again, "Look, I'm sorry, really, but I'm kind of on an urgent mission right now. This morning, my friend Raine Sage disappeared without leaving a note. She's done it before, but I'm worried about her and I'm wondering if you have any idea where she is." Lyla's face was momentarily caught between two emotions. At first, she almost softened, but then she frowned again.

"You're in her fan club, aren't you?" Lloyd looked take aback.

"What? No…I…" Lyla's hands were on her hips in an instant.

"ARE YOU STALKING MY FORMER CARETAKER!?" she practically shrieked, attracting the eyes of many people nearby. Sure, they were used to Lyla's outbursts, but it was more of what she said, not how she said it.

Lloyd reddened at the feel of all of the people watching him, some of them starting to whisper about lecherous young men, all of them starting to sound hostile. "No! It's not like that! Raine and I are friends! I'm really worried about her!" he croaked, suddenly finding his throat dry. However, it was obvious by the louder muttering that no one really believed him.

"He was with a different girl the last time I saw him…" said one man to another.

"What a pervert!" one woman exclaimed. Lloyd swallowed. Lyla began advancing; it was like being charged down by Raine, only, there was only a feeling of doom, not the half amusement he sometimes felt when he saw his friend furious.

Deciding that Lyla wasn't going to be very much help to him, Lloyd took off, with her and a ragged mob of townspeople at his heals. Not knowing how to clear up the situation, and wishing at the same time that Raine were there to sort things out, Lloyd ran out in the middle of the road, heading in the direction of the mountains, the townsfolk in hot pursuit. He could just barely see the Ossa Trail looming up in the distance, and struggled to make it there, a semi-desperate plan forming in his mind.

It almost panned out. Lloyd did not stop running once he reached the trail, his feet slamming madly against the turf as he dove for the lever that opened the trapdoor down into the tunnels. Of course, he hadn't taken into account that once you had landed in the tunnel, you couldn't re-close the door, and that, when dealing with someone as crazy as Lyla, he probably should have considered this, because two seconds later she came tumbling down after him, looking dirty, irritated, and still fuming.

Lloyd sighed and turned around, ready to explain, ready to argue, complain, debate, anything, but Lyla, having taken stock of her surroundings, was now looking less sure of herself. In fact, he would have said that she looked frightened, and rather flighty, "Umm…Lyla, are you ok?" The red headed girl jerked her head around.

"I'm just fine," she snapped, but he had a feeling that she wasn't.

"You aren't afraid of the dark…are you?"

"No!"

"Monsters?"

"N…not really…"

He folded his arms in the fashion that Raine sometimes did when she was giving someone a lecture, and gave her a stern look, "Follow me, I've been down here before. I know the way out, anyway." Lyla snorted, but as he began moving forwards, Lloyd could hear her following quietly behind. She was very jumpy, and kept suppressing surprised squeaks every time she came across a rock, or a pebble, or saw even a hint of a shadow on the wall in the dim light.

To try to distract her from her fears, which was rather considerate of him considering that she had been part of a mob chasing him down for his hide just minutes ago, Lloyd began to talk to Lyla, "So, Raine was your caretaker? When was this?" Lyla stumbled, gripping the wall for support as she unsteadily made her way, trying to act as if she wasn't bothered by this at all.

"Umm…well…that was when I was around seven, so it could have been eleven or twelve years. Raine babysat me a great deal while Mom traveled with Grandma and Granddad looking for a doctor to help granddad with his illness. She was eleven then, and I looked up to her…a little bit, but then later realized that she was pretty mature for the age that she was. She kind of acted odd sometimes, though."

"So, how long was she your caretaker for?" asked Lloyd as they rounded a bend in the tunnel. Lyla paused to think.

"I dunno, maybe six or seven months? My family was gone for a while, so she was allowed to stay in our house for a while. Sometimes she was too busy to play with me, though. Her baby brother was taking up most of her time, consequently making me not like him very much."

Lloyd smiled in the darkness. Lyla sounded childish and less confident, yet more honest now. She wasn't a total tightwad… "I think we're almost to the cave exit," he offered reassuringly, and his proclamation turned out to be right on the mark. Upon reaching sunlight and the earth, as she knew it, Lyla snapped back into the angry, tad-too-self-confident girl that she was, just in time to meet some of the faster jogger villagers. Lloyd decided to move on before the rest of Izoold came along and decided to continue pursuing him, but he did not miss the small, thankful smile Lyla quickly shot his way before turning and re-joining the group.

Well, it looked like he was Triet bound. Lloyd sincerely hoped that Raine would show up soon, he was having a fine time chasing her over Sylvarant.


~To Be Continued Below~

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PostSubject: Re: Shifted Bonds   2012-01-09, 8:30 pm

"...That Lyla girl sounds really annoying..." Prier couldn't imagine anyone being so rude and combative all the time, for no good reason. Croix, however, had another issue.

"That sailor really thought it was a good idea to come up behind a young girl he doesn't know, and hold her over the side of a ship? I'd be surprised if she wasn't traumatized after that, the idiot..." He palmed his face, while Prier nodded and Alouette remained silent, just waiting, as were the others, all wanting to hear what happened next. Lloyd found it odd; it was like he was an adult telling a story to a bunch of kids. Either way, best to continue on...

~~~~~~~~~~
FLASHBACK
~~~~~~~~~~

Lloyd was staring unfocusedly at a tree root, as he had been for the past…oh, ten minutes? It had just occurred to him that he had forgotten something, but he couldn't recall what it was. Oh yeah…the rheaird. Groaning, Lloyd kicked at the root as if it was to blame. The root did not move, and now Lloyd's toe was throbbing unpleasantly. Great.

It was hot and dry and dusty out here, right on the borderline of the desert. Lloyd found himself wishing for rain. Raine and rain were both things he definitely needed right now. Neither seemed to be in sight. Lloyd let out a long, self-suffering sigh and began his hike through the sand dunes.

After a long time, or, so it felt, Lloyd reached the entrance to Triet. Making a beeline for the local Inn, he helped himself to a glass of water before going out into the streets in search of a bit of silver hair, or someone with an outfit even remotely similar to Raine's. What had she been wearing lately? That Maiden costume from Asgard…that was it. Perhaps if she weren't here, he would swing by there.

There was no sign of Raine anywhere in the small desert town, but one lady suggested going to the fortuneteller to inquire. She usually knew a thing or two about what was going on, especially if it was related to other people's lives. Lloyd thought she was rather obscure, however. He had once gone to her and she had offered to tell him a free friendship fortune. Lloyd was embarrassed about asking about a particular person, and so the fortuneteller had told him, "She watches over you, sometimes stern and sometimes gentle. She treats you coldly to hide the fact that she is really kind at heart. There is much that you can learn from her. You should grow up ASAP for her sake." Lloyd had thought often about whom the fortuneteller might have meant, and he thought he knew whom she was talking about, but he wondered if she really knew what was in people's hearts and minds.

Besides, just because Raine had saved him from Mithos didn't mean she liked him or anything.

Still, Lloyd was tiring and he was willing to try any outlet available right now. Walking into the fortuneteller's tent, he quietly slipped inside, despite his misgivings. "Uh…fortuneteller?" The young woman behind the table raised an eyebrow.

"My name is Sissel." Lloyd paused.

"Ok…Sissel. Um…have you seen…in your uh…crystal ball, where…er…Raine Sage is?"

Sissel blinked, "Raine? Hey, she was my mentor! I mean, of course I can look for her in my crystal ball. Why? Is she lost or somethin'?" Lloyd debated telling her what had transpired. She wasn't like Lyla, though rather dotty, but what did she mean by mentor? He didn't want another "stalker" scenario. Still, Lloyd wasn't one to overanalyze, so he threw his fates to the winds and replied,

"I'm afraid my friend left this morning without leaving a note or telling anyone where she was going. So far, no one has seen her and her brother and our other friends have had no luck in locating her." Sissel nodded.

"Ah…I see…if you two are friends then I'm going to have to tell you the truth."

Lloyd blinked, "The truth?" Sissel put on a wry smile.

"I can't see anything in that crystal ball in front of you. I don't have magic powers or any of the sort."

"…"

"I'm a fraud, ok? So, you can't count on me to help find her."

"But what about the friendship fortunes? Were they lies as well?"

Sissel's expression softened slightly. "Oh no, I do have some talent. I watch, I observe people; find out all about them, just like Raine taught me. To listen more than to speak. Though, I was never entirely listening, so I might have missed one or two of the better lessons." Lloyd was looking completely confused.

"But in Triet, when we were looking for the Chosen's group…"

"Yeah, Raine told me."

"Ahhh…"

An earlier memory of when the journey had just begun. Lloyd and Genis had been in Triet, looking for Colette, Kratos, and Raine and had stopped by the fortuneteller's tent to see if she knew anything. Sissel had said then that one of the Chosen's companions had mentioned where they were going; it must have been Raine.

"Well, if you can't help me, then I can't stay. I've got to go look for her…"

Sissel nodded, and Lloyd pushed open the tent flap and as he walked out, she whispered, "She really does like you, you know. It's not exactly a secret…"

Lloyd headed for the exit to Triet, brushing sand off his clothing. It was hot and dry out here; not the most pleasant. Still…wait, there was a little girl walking beside him. Why was there a little girl walking beside him? She must have been around the age of five, with long loose brown hair and large curious blue eyes.

"Er…hello," Lloyd strung the words together with effort, a little unnerved by the small child. He loved kids, but when they just snuck up on him, it was startling. The girl just grinned cheerfully up at him.

"Hi there, Mister!" Lloyd smiled slightly; her cheerfulness was infectious despite his uneasiness at the child's sudden appearance.

"And what are you up to today?" he asked, seeing that she seemed to be latched onto him.

"Oh, well, I decided to talk to you! I'm Borgny, but Sister calls me Bo. What's your name?" Lloyd walked to a nearby shade to sit down. Bo sat down next to him, resting her small head against his knee.

"My name is Lloyd. I'm from Iselia." Bo's eyes widened.

"Really? I heard about a person named Lloyd who was one of the people who saved the world! And he was from Iselia too! Do you know him?" Lloyd couldn't help smiling.

"Well, I'm the only Lloyd from Iselia…" Bo's eyes widened even more.

"WOW! You're one of the heroes that Sister keeps talking about. You were talking to her earlier, I think. She works as a fortuneteller. Isn't that cool?" Lloyd nodded absently. Bo looked concerned. "What's wrong, Mister Lloyd? Are you ok?" Lloyd shook his head, stifling a sigh.

"A friend of mine is…lost, and I can't find her. I'm really worried and I wish I could know for sure that she was ok." Bo wrapped her arms around Lloyd's leg and stared up at him with her big blue eyes and grinned.

"Do you love the girl who you lost?" Lloyd jumped, startled. Bo ignored his reaction, and clucked her tongue expectantly.

"I, um…" She is only a kid, anyway… "Yeah, I'm worried about her. She's a dear friend of mine."

Bo nodded knowingly, "Then if you love her, you will find her. I know because I got lost in the sand dunes one day while I was out playing and Sister came out after a few hours to find me and she carried me all the way home. She yelled at me, and I was sad at first, but she said it was because she loved me and she was worried. And I think that if you care enough, you will find her, because love is awful powerful."

Lloyd turned his face away, his throat feeling constricted and tight at the small girl's words, "I won't give up looking, Bo. Your words are very encouraging, and if you want, once I find my friend, I'll bring her back so that you can meet her." Bo uncurled herself from around Lloyd's leg and looked up at him solemnly.

"That would be really great, Mister Lloyd. I'm sure it'll work out. You just have to have faith and stick to your heart."

Lloyd slowly stood up and bent over to give Bo a gentle pat on the head. "I think that you could give your sister a run for her money someday." Bo shook her head vigorously.

"I don't think so. When I get older I'm going to be leaving Triet and going to Flanoir. I don't know about you, but I hate the weather here." Lloyd threw back his head and laughed, wondering if he'd been anything like Bo when he was little.

Leaving Triet and continuing walking was not the most fun thing to do, but it did not take as long to get from Triet to Iselia, as it had to get to Triet from Izoold. Walking back into Dirk's house, Lloyd asked if there had been any news. Colette shook her head, "Genis stopped by an hour ago, but he has had no luck whatsoever."

Lloyd slumped into a chair and let out a long sigh. "Where could she have gone?" Dirk looked over from preparing lunch.

"Don't get frustrated, Lloyd, she'll show up. Raine has a good head on her shoulders; she can take care of herself." Lloyd frowned at the table.

"Yeah…I guess you're right, but I'm still worried." Dirk set out the food for the three of them and sat down, though Colette kept jumping up to peep out the window, so her chair wasn't really occupied.

"I remember when Raine and Genis first came to Iselia."

That got Lloyd's attention. "You do? I don't, really. My memories from when I was five aren't exactly the clearest." Dirk chuckled.

"We went down to Iselia to go grocery shopping. I was in the items store and you wandered over to Colette's house with Noishe in tow."

Lloyd smiled faintly. "That was the day of the accident, wasn't it?" Dirk's grin widened.

"Yes, you and that 'dog' of yours were quite the bonded pair. But when you and Colette and Noishe got together, total chaos was like to happen. And it did. I was walking out of the store, and I happened to notice a young slip of a girl with unusual silver hair standing at the entrance to the village, talking to the guards. She looked tired and dirty, and her feet were bare, but she only seemed to worry for the young boy in her arms. I heard her tell the guards a bit of her predicament; they were orphans that needed a home. I was going to go over and speak to them, when suddenly…"

Colette started to giggle, as Lloyd finished Dirk's sentence. "I came tearing through the streets on Noishe's back with Colette in tow, screaming bloody murder. We had fashioned cardboard swords and were pretending to do battle against old neighbor Lang. Was that really the day the Sage's came?" Dirk nodded, his laugher booming around the room.

"Oh, you should have seen young Raine's face! She was absolutely stunned! I think you gave her a first impression that really stuck, son." Lloyd laughed, slightly red.

Colette came back to her seat, looking slightly distracted. "Still no sign of Raine. So, where do you think you'll look next, Lloyd?" Lloyd frowned.

"Well, I've been thinking. The places I've visited so far have been homes of people who knew Raine when she first came to Sylvarant. I want to know; where did she travel later on in life? I think that would give me ideas of where to look next."

Dirk chewed his salad thoughtfully. "I'd try Hima or Asgard, son. Raine is an archaeological maniac. I'm sure that during her travels in her seventeenth year that she would have gone to at least one of them." Lloyd cocked his head to one side.

"She went traveling? I can't really remember…Raine didn't start teaching until she was eighteen, so before that I didn't really see her much." Dirk nodded.

"When Raine turn seventeen she went away for a little over a year to study, then returned to teach. In that time she had the former schoolteacher, old Odell watch after Genis. She brought back many artifacts with her."

"I think I'll go to…Asgard. It seems like the more likely place, knowing our Professor." Dirk nodded in approval, but Colette was looking slightly bemused.

"Lloyd, where is your rheaird?" Lloyd looked embarrassed.

"I forgot it in Izoold." Dirk rolled his eyes and began to clear the dishes away.

"Well, you can borrow mine and then retrieve yours later. Finding Raine is the most important thing right now." Colette generously offered. Lloyd thanked her and set off for Asgard…


~To Be Continued Below~

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PostSubject: Re: Shifted Bonds   2012-01-09, 9:25 pm

"It seems Astella isn't the only little kid that seems drawn toward you, Lloyd. Aren't you adorable?" Prier's teasing tone made Lloyd blush, while Culotte blinked.

"Did the fortuneteller... um, Sissel, did she really say that about your fortune?" Lloyd paused, then nodded.

"Ah, yeah... why?" Culotte paused, then just shook his head.

"It's nothing. What happened next?" Lloyd seemed confused, then shrugged. Culotte, on the other hand, filed things away for later....

~~~~~~~~~~
FLASHBACK
~~~~~~~~~~

The afternoon sun shone down on Lloyd as he flew towards the city of ruins, Asgard. The young swordsman had searched all morning for his missing friend, Raine Sage, but had had no luck whatsoever. He was not ready to give up without a fight, but he was getting frustrated all the same.

Raine hadn't left a note the last time she disappeared, either. It had been back before Mithos' defeat, when the group had been at Altessa's. The Otherworldly Gate had been mentioned, and Raine had behaved very oddly. Then, the next morning she was gone. The group had found her fairly easily that time though…this time she was really gone.

Landing Colette's rheaird just outside the archaeological dig town, Lloyd proceeded to walk on in. At first he had no idea where to start, but by wandering, at least he was covering ground. Of course, wandering without looking where you are going eventually leads to crashing into someone, and that Lloyd managed to do quickly and efficiently, if that was at all a good thing.

"Excuse me."

"Sorry."

Lloyd blinked, then looked hard at the woman, "Do I know you?"

The woman raised an eyebrow, "Only if you're actually Lloyd Irving and not a fake. My name is Aisha, I'm Linar's sister...the one who Raine took the place of for the acolyte dance?" Recollection dawned in Lloyd's mind.

"Oh, sorry, you just look…different…" Aisha smiled, amused.

"Well, yes, my hair is…"

"Shorter?" Lloyd offered, slightly apprehensive. In truth, Aisha's hair was not just shorter, but a whole different color. Originally, it was blue. Now it was…

"Red. I know, I get that a great deal," Aisha chuckled. "Do you think it makes me look like Harley? We were playing a game where each had to pretend to be the other for a week. So I tried a few things to make me more Harley-ish. He looks ridiculous with blue hair, though, if you think I look weird."

Lloyd grinned. "It sounds like you all have been having plenty of fun. You wouldn't happen to have seen Raine around, would you?" Aisha shook her head.

"Sorry, no. Why?" Lloyd let out a long sigh.

"She's missing. Do you know of anyone in the town who knows her as well? I mean, back before the demon, say, five years ago?"

Aisha frowned, and looked thoughtfully at the ground. "My friend Awen might be able to help you. Her father runs the Cool Breeze Inn, and he certainly knew her, if Awen doesn't remember. Linar and I didn't live in Asgard back then…you see. Or you could ask the traveling zoologist, Nova. He used to live here as well, for quite some time."

"I'll talk to Awen and her father first, since they are here, if that would be all right," decided Lloyd. Aisha led him over to the building, introduced him to the Innkeeper, and took her leave. Lloyd explained to the man that he was a friend of Raine's, and was researching her past while trying to locate her, since she had gone missing. The man stroked his chin, smiling, but also looking slightly grim.

"I knew her. She was part of quite the incident five years ago…people talked, but what with the tourism, half the population is different, so few remember…"

~~ Five Years Before ~~

His hair spilled over his shoulders like fall leaves tumbling through the air in the autumn. It was a dark, purplish blue, like the end of a sunset on those quiet evenings that they had spent together, walking, talking, or just…being. He was tall, willowy, graceful. Something that she hadn't managed to achieve in her eighteen years of life.

People thought it was strange that they were together. After all, Yukio Kane was ten years older than Raine Sage. But in the half-elven woman's mind, age was meaningless if you really cared about someone. Yukio was a half elf like her, a smart, intelligent individual like her, and yet he seemed to be on a plane she couldn't quite reach. At first she had thrived on the challenge, the new learning opportunities that awaited her by being in his presence, at first she had relished in the meeting of the minds.

Now his beauty was cold, like a light puff of winter frost in the face. Raine had thought she had been in love…but, he had not been very warm as of late. The doors to his mind were shut, and his heart was swept from her view.

Walking towards their room's balcony at the Inn, Raine looked silently across the silent city of Asgard, in it's deep blue night; most of the residents slumbering away in their beds, safe, warm, happy. Yukio was leaning on the railing; his long hair being tossed around in the breeze, and it appeared that he had not bothered to put a jacket on. Normally, Raine would have scolded him, but there had been friction between them as of late, and she wanted to mend the rift, not widen it.

When she strode over to her love, Raine hardly made a sound, fearing that she might disrupt the peaceful stillness. Well, almost peaceful. She stood next to Yukio, noting that he did glance her way in acknowledgement, but nothing more. Curling her arms around his left arm, she rested her head against his shoulder, elbow length silver hair draped over his upper body like a curtain. He made no move other than his first glance that showed he knew she there at all.

Raine bit her lip, summoning up her will to ask him what was on his mind. "There has been something bothering you of late."

"Yes."

"Will you tell me?"

"Perhaps." She turned to face him fully, her violet eyes looking at him searchingly. The corners of Yukio's mouth went down slightly, and he moved his head to the side, looking back into her eyes. The way he looked at her disconcerted Raine; it was a possessive kind of look. She knew he didn't really think that she was his property; they had made that clear in the beginning of their relationship, that both were independent in their own right, besides the relationship in its own, but Yukio had been distant lately and it worried her.

"Raine."

She shivered when he said her name; his voice was so self-assured, careful, thoughtful, controlled. Sure, Yukio wasn't exactly spontaneous, but having a down to earth relationship was exactly what Raine needed. Or thought she needed.

"Yes?"

He seemingly absentminded, organized her hair behind her ears so that it wouldn't get in her face, so that they could look at each other without doubt or obstruction.

"You heard about the half-elf uprising in the North, yes?"

"They are Desians, Yukio…"

"I know that. But honestly, Raine, did you hear how the humans treated them? It's no wonder they created those ranches. We are neither accepted by those with elvish or human blood; why must we uphold the laws of either?"

"What the Desians are doing is wrong. We've talked about this before, and I've told you my views on this. Not all humans are bad. And neither are elves…though there are hardly any in these parts anymore…"

"You are young, but surely you have felt the effects of persecution?" Yukio did not look concerned, but more like he was seeking different answers from her than Raine had already given. She scowled.

"Not everyone on this earth will get along, Yukio. There are even humans who argue with one another."

"It is human blood that is weak, then."

"If that is so, than what are we? My father was a human, and so was your mother!"

"I take after my father, and you take after your mother. But that is beside the point. Open your eyes, Raine, or you'll trip and fall in this game of life that you're walking around blind in."

Raine removed herself from his arm, crossing her own over her chest. "What right have you to say that? Why do you care, anyway? We can live just fine here, with or without those who cannot accept us. I care not what people say. I have as much a right to life as any of them."

"You lie. Their hateful words hurt you. Don't you ever want to get them back for what they have done?"

"Hate solves nothing."

"Love does not solve everything either."

"It solves more than hate does."

Yukio glared out across the landscape. "Not always…But it is late. You are young, and there is time. Go to sleep, Raine Sage, and awake restored and with a more open attitude to the things I have said." He did not look back at her, so Raine quietly returned indoors.

The next morning Raine woke to find that Yukio had left sometime during the night. This was normal for him; to go off on long walks in solitude, but she sometimes wished he would take her along. He was the only person to talk to in this desolate city. Though she'd never admit it, people didn't look at them the same…as back in Iselia. Before Yukio…no, it wasn't Yukio. They were cold because of what she and Yukio were. Half-elves. Like the Desians.

'Open your eyes, Raine, or you'll trip and fall in this game of life that you're walking around blind in.'

"She's so young..."

"It's the elvish blood in them that makes the females so susceptive to give in to males at that age…whores, the lot of them."

"Filthy halfbreed…"

'We are neither accepted by those with elvish or human blood; why must we uphold the laws of either?'

"Yukio."

"Raine."

"Was your walk productive?"

"Yes, in part. I trust the breakfast provided was adequate?"

"I have eaten well."

"Good. Those who oppose us will eventually fail..." His fists clenched slightly, but he was not an emotional one; Yukio. Raine looked down at her feet and said in a bare, submissive whisper,

"Yes…"

Yukio gave her a half smile, but his smiles were never warm. It had not bothered her...until now. "Good girl. I thought you'd see reason eventually." As he walked ahead of her, Raine let out a long sigh.

'You are young, but surely you have felt the effects of persecution?'

Afternoon came, and evening, and then another morning dawned. A dull kind of ache settled in the pit of Raine's stomach. There was nothing for them here. Perhaps she could convince Yukio to come to Iselia with her. There were better people there, people who would prove to him that not all humans were bad. But that afternoon when Raine breached the subject, Yukio refused.

"No, my place is here. So is yours. We can change this place, Raine. It doesn't have to be the humans'."

"It belongs to everyone."

"I know what you heard this morning. I know what they say every morning. Raine, you can't take this sitting down."

"My home is in Iselia. I do not care about what people say here."

"But it is here that we are, not Iselia."

"We could go to Iselia…"

"No, Raine."

"If you would just give me a chance to show you…"

"I will not go."

"Then let me leave."

"Raine, do not be foolish. There is reason in my words, and there is anger in your heart. Let it out, be free, let loose your emotions."

"No. We do not have the right to govern life and death. I do not agree with the Desian way, and I would think that you would not either, Yukio."

"You are a fool, then."

It stung. Not because she was in love with him, because whatever this was wasn't love. It did not sting because he was her only comfort in this desolate, lonely land. It stung her pride, it stung her because no one here gave her the one thing she thirsted for; respect. With a surge of outward confidence that she did not feel in her heart, Raine lifted her hand to slap him.

Yukio caught it, and reprimanded her sharply. "Go home to your weak inferior friend, dearest Raine. Go home and see how long it lasts before they turn on you there as well. And then you will have to see my way. In the end you will see that your hope is nothing but a dream."

Abandoning all pretenses, Raine fled, face in her hands to hide the tears, but her shame was still there for all to see.

Five years later, Raine was on the journey of regeneration with her companions, and Lloyd opted to take a detour to the Asgard Ranch, led by Kvar, to rescue those captured from the ruined Luin. Though Raine had not seen Yukio since that day, the day before she cut her hair to cut him away from her life, she had never expected to find him there.

In the ranch. It was just one of the guards that had spotted them; just another short skirmish, but for Raine it was the closing of a war. Seeing the long purple hair tied back in a braid, the glinting silver eyes…it was enough. It seemed he recognized her too, though he did not give her a warm welcome.

"Still following dreams, girl?"

The others were preoccupied in fighting the other desians; no one noticed that Raine was talking to anyone with any significance; there was no one there who knew or cared, except for Raine herself.

"Following a dream is better than living a nightmare."

"Is that what I'm doing?"

"What Desians do is cruel and harmful. To sacrifice lives just to boost their own power is selfish and wrong."

"No it isn't. They were selfish and discriminatory, and in return I take their lives. That is nothing more than equivalent exchange, with a tad bit of revenge on the side. I see not the wrong in my actions. I am only fighting back against an opposing force. Light, dark, good evil, it is all separate poles, is it not?"

"No."

"I thought that someday you would see my way, Raine, but I simply cannot save you…" He lifted his sword, but Raine already had her staff in front of her.

"You do not have the right to the power over life and death, Yukio," Raine began her spell, "But I do." At eighteen she was young, flighty and scared. Now, the mistreated woman's hardened heart refused any more abuse. For once, Raine was fighting back against the darkness that plagued her.

"Ray!"

And thus the resurrector and the destroyer became one, and the darkness faded away…


~To Be Continued Below~

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PostSubject: Re: Shifted Bonds   2012-01-09, 11:11 pm

Everyone was silent for a long moment after Lloyd told them of what had happened to Raine in Asgard. The old man had been well informed, to a point that Lloyd had originally found suspicious. However, he had been more concerned with this, yet another piece of Raine's past that must weigh heavily on her. Prier sat there with clenched fists, wishing she could have gotten a chance to beat this 'Yukio' guy half to death.

Croix was of a similar mind, leaning against the wall, seemingly silently brooding. Sheena was actually reacting in much the same way as Prier, Presea quietly fuming, and Zelos clicking his tongue in distaste. Eclair and Culotte were in the back, and Eclair looked like she might cry, while Culotte sported a mild glare, but was again thinking over things. Alouette had a hand over her eyes, but whether she was crying or not, nobody was sure. After a long moment, Lloyd felt it was time to finish the story.

~~~~~~~~~~
FLASHBACK
~~~~~~~~~~

Lloyd stood some feet away from the entrance to Asgard, leaning against the side of the hill, silent. He had left there oh, hours ago, and had been standing in the same position since, thinking. Moving his head slowly to throw off the stiffness, the brown haired swordsman stared unseeingly into the distance.

The sun was lower in the sky, as the afternoon rolled on, nothing stirring. Lloyd let out a long sigh and tried to re-form his thoughts again. Awen's father had told him of many things, fragmented yes, but still enough. It had been hard for Lloyd to imagine Raine as anything but the firm, organized, motivated, down-to-earth woman that she was…but now, now things were beginning to change.

"Seems like I hardly knew her at all…" he murmured to himself, starting to walk over to Colette's rheaird, not really caring where he went next. He felt tired and worn down from all this searching.

The young swordsman boarded the rheaird, idly flying in the direction of Luin. The wind whistled through his hair, cooling his face, but not quite able to sooth his heavy heart. Raine should not have had to deal with any of that alone…and now that she was stubbornly not showing up, he felt a stronger and stronger need to find her. To tell her…that it wasn't her fault…

Luin was in sight now. Lloyd carefully descended, leaving his rheaird just outside the city entrance, and walked on in. The city had always been a beautiful place, but when it was rebuilt, it was even more of a wonder. Lloyd roamed around, looking through the crowds to see if his teacher was at all among the masses. Ever since Palmacosta was destroyed, this had been quite a big city. Though, Palmacosta was slowly returning to what it had once been…

Pausing, Lloyd smiled as he noticed Raine's statue a few feet away. There was one of Sheena and himself somewhere else in this city, but he had always liked Raine's the best. She had her staff raised in the air and looked like she was casting a spell. Probably 'Ray'. Whenever she cast that, all the surrounding darkness vanished and there was only light.

"She was here this morning," an old man standing beside Lloyd who he had not noticed before commented. "That Raine Sage did so much to help our city, along with all the other heroes. Such a wonderful, wonderful woman…" The man started to move away before Lloyd's brain kicked into gear.

"Hey…wait!" he called, scrambling after the speaker. "She was here? Did she say where she was going? Please, she's been missing and I've spent all day trying to find her!"

The old man chuckled, amused by Lloyd's disheveled appearance and anxious expression. "Calm down, sonny, your girlfriend is just fine. She said she was headed to Lake Umacy. It's a mighty good place to think, I say. Quiet and peaceful like."

Lloyd blushed furiously. "She's not my…I mean, thanks for telling me! It means so much, mister!" He dashed off as fast as he could to get on the rheaird, shaking so badly it took a few tries to get the machine started up.

Flying the short distance over to the lake, Lloyd paid much more attention to where he was going then he had before, now bent on his mission, and filled with new energy. He was probably the most awake he'd been all day. Surely Raine would be there, and then his search would be over…surely. She had to…

The point of destination was in view now. Lloyd could see the dimming sunlight reflecting off the waters. Coming down just outside the forest borderline, the swordsman in red walked carefully through the trees, his boots making crunching noises as they made contact with the dead leaves that were littered all over the place.

The trees thinned slowly, and Lloyd arrived at the lake. It was indeed a peaceful place. A perfect place to think, it was no wonder Raine would come here. In fact, he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. Still…where was she? He looked in to the left, then the right, scanning the area carefully. At first he thought that maybe she was actually long gone and that he had been too late, but then Lloyd glanced back at the first spot and his eyes widened in surprise.

Raine was lying against a tree trunk in the shadows, her eyes half-closed, and one hand loosely grasping her staff, which was positioned across her lap. She looked tired, weary. Lloyd bit his lip, wondering how to approach her. He paced his walk as softly as he could so as not to disturb her.

"Professor Sage?" Lloyd spoke gently as she looked up to the approaching figure.

Raine straightened and tried to gather herself together, her voice only coming out half-heartedly sharp and commanding. "Lloyd! What are you doing here?"

Lloyd smiled, almost pityingly, "Ra…Professor Sage, you left this morning without leaving a note. I came to look for you!" His lungs didn't seem to work right over the formalities. Lloyd took a deep breath and exhaled.

"Oh, I did?" Raine's response came back faintly, as though her mind wasn't really there. Lloyd bent over and touched her shoulder lightly, making her jump.

"It's odd how many people in these parts know you," he said, trying to sound cheerful, a familiar twinkle in his eye. Raine smiled slightly.

"Well, I seem to be creating mess after mess without cleaning anything up. They've probably got wanted posters up for me by now." Her tone was lighter, probably supposed to be amused, but that moment was not like Raine Sage. She was hiding something…they both had facades, really.

"I…they told me…many things…" Lloyd muttered, slumping down beside his friend. The lines in Raine's forehead lengthened.

"Oh…oh, I see…" she would not look at him. "Listen, you don't have to worry about me, I'll be home in a little while."

Lloyd frowned and shook his head. "If there is something bothering you, you should tell someone, Pro…fessor…" Raine sighed, her weakness apparent now. She set down her staff and looked out across the lake.

"It wasn't your fault," Lloyd began when she didn't reply immediately. "Morgana's death…Yukio…everyone…Raine, you shouldn't blame yourself!" He sharply inhaled, realizing his slip up on addressing her. Raine didn't' seem to notice. Instead, she clenched her fists, looking down at the ground. Tears sprung into her eyes, though barely visible.

"No Lloyd, it is. I can't seem to do anything right! I've failed my mother, my brother, and so many other people, the only people who had faith in me. Even now I can't…" she began desperately, so quick now to put herself down. Lloyd instinctively pulled her into his arms.

"No, you're wrong. All the people I've spoken to only spoke in favor of you. You have done so much good. And…I have faith in you…" He said the last part softly, sadly, as if afraid that whatever he had to say meant little to her. Both of them were silent for a time, and then Lloyd spoke again.

"I guess we're both lost, aren't we? I never asked Kratos…before he left…where I was born. You know…I was going to build a boat…and we were going to sail around the world together. No fighting, no quests, just being together. Father and son. So many things that I intended to do…"

Raine shook her head against his chest, then pulled slightly out of his embrace to look up at him, the sure look in her eyes returning. "Once again you're not entirely correct, Lloyd."

Lloyd looked puzzled. "Huh? How?"

Raine smiled faintly. "Because I'm not lost anymore. You found me." She moved to stand up, brushing herself off, and bending over to retrieve her staff. Lloyd stood up hesitantly.

"I think we found each other," he said slowly. Raine looked up, and, in a not-so-thoroughly-calculated decision, moved close, and for a moment, Lloyd thought she was going to kiss him... and then seemed to change direction, pressing her lips lightly to his forehead. Lloyd froze, surprised.

"Wha…huh?" he asked bemusedly.

Raine laughed and began dragging him back through the trees towards the spot where the rheairds would be. Lloyd was still a bit clueless, but he did care. And that was enough...to be cared for…

~~~~~

"I was afraid to open my heart to anyone, you know." Raine lay with her head against Lloyd's chest, looking up at the stars. Her house, as the others in Iselia, were still being renovated, and Dirk had invited the Sage siblings to stay for a night. The previous night they had stayed at Colette's, but even here, the former blonde Chosen still seemed to be very present. After explaining most of the story to everyone, Lloyd and Raine had gone off onto the balcony to talk.


Lloyd smiled, half-asleep, but warm and happy and relaxed now. "I know…it was hard for you…" Raine wrapped her arms around Lloyd's middle.

"I'm going to try once more to hope. You have no idea how much you've helped me…all of us. The lives you've touched, the things you've been able to change. Well, I never dreamed it possible." She responded sleepily.

Lloyd shifted slightly to hug her back, "Raine."

"Yes?" Raine's voice was getting fainter as she drifted towards sleep.

"Oh, nothing, I just like saying your name. It beats 'Professor Sage' and 'Professor' by a mile," he responded, grinning in the moonlight.

"If I had enough strength, I'd hit you over the head, but…too tired…" she mumbled, managing to give him a partial glare.

"Goodnight Raine. Sweet dreams," Lloyd spoke softly, running one hand through Raine's silver hair. She had already fallen asleep, he could tell, by her slow and steady breathing. Summoning up his last bit of energy and courage, Lloyd bent over to give her a goodnight kiss on the cheek. Raine smiled in her sleep.

'Goodnight Lloyd…you mean more to me than you know…'

~~~~~~

As Lloyd finished, Prier spoke up a bit uncertainly. "Lloyd... that sounds like you two started... dating." Was it true? Were Lloyd and Raine actually together? ...Why did that... hurt?

"What? No! No, we're just friends! Or, well, I guess I could say she's like a sister now... she means alot to me, more than I thought she could, but... not in that way. Me and Professor Sage? Wierd."

"Hm... Lloyd, according to your story, you were calling her Raine toward the end there, and liked doing so. Why do you call her Professor Sage now?" Alouette's question made the young swordsman laugh.

"Ah, that. Well, it really disturbed Genis when I called her 'Raine', and people seemed to start talking about things, so I got back into the habit of calling her 'Professor.' That's about it, really. Anyway, that's how me and Raine got so close. We sorta... bonded, I guess. I'm still surprised she opened up so much though... it's nice. It's hard to say in front of her, but she really is like my older sister now."

Everyone conversed on all of this a bit more... except Culotte. He excused himself, saying he wanted to go do a bit of studying. In truth, he tracked down Raine. The half-elf woman in question was relaxing in the library, reading calmly through a book on archaeological digs in Paprika. As Culotte approached, she looked up, and gave a faint smile. "Hello, Culotte. Can I help you with- ....Cu...lotte?"

Culotte had immediately hugged her when he got to her, holding her tight. She blinked, then gently patted his back. "Is everything alright, Culotte? Did something happen?"

"...You have feelings for Lloyd, don't you?" His words made Raine tense up for a moment, before she relaxed, sighing heavily.

"...I can't say I'm surprised that you figured it out. I believed you might. Of everyone, I thought you, Croix, or Alouette would realize. I'd hoped that I had covered it well though."

"....Why?"

"Why what, Culotte?" He still hadn't let her go. She hadn't pegged him as the type to hug like this.

"Why... why are you helping Prier and Alouette with their feelings for him? How can you stand it, when you care for him that way?" Raine sighed, and gently placed a hand on Culotte's head.

"...Romantic feelings are complicated at times, Culotte. Yes, it's true that I... have grown to care for Lloyd far more than a teacher ever should... but that is not how he see's me. He needs to understand his own feelings, not get confused by his teacher confessing to him. I'll admit, I hoped he'd come to see me the way I saw him, but it's fine. He's happy, and he's developing feelings for Prier and Alouette now. I'm content to watch from afar for now. Eventually, I'm sure I'll meet someone else. If not..." She trailed off, and Culotte felt like hugging her tighter.

"Tragedy of long life..." Culotte blinked, and pulled back, confused.

"What are you talking about?" Raine met his gaze, and gently pried Culotte off of her, closed her book, and stood.

"I'm a half-elf, Culotte. I will not live as long as a full-blood elf, but I will still live for a very long time... far longer than any human." She smiled, gently ruffling Culotte's hair as she passed him. "Tragedy of long life. I was destined to lose Lloyd anyway, as well as everyone else. It will hurt less this way." She slipped out of the room, and Culotte stared after her, reaching out helplessly, but unable to speak.

....No. He refused to accept that. No friend of his was going to suffer like that. He dove into his studies. Magic could do many wonderous things, and Raine herself had told him not long ago that he had a real gift for it. Why not put that talent to use, trying to find a way to help Raine? It would be difficult, but... well, nothing great is ever accomplished without hard work, and nobody could deny that Culotte was the perfect man for the job.

One way or another, Raine would be happy.

~~~~~~

Raine took several steady breath's, supressing the pain in her chest. Talking about these things wasn't easy for her. She prefered to bury her pain. Culotte's intentions were noble... and sweet. She didn't know how to explain to him that she'd be fine. It would take time, but she honestly would be happy so long as Lloyd was happy, her brother was happy... so long as her loved one's were happy, and near, so would she. She may not have the kind of love she wanted, but for a woman who had been left behind by her mother and shunned by the rest of the world, the love of her friends was more than enough.

Raine Sage was hurting, but it would be foolish to believe it would keep her down. She was not the scared, vulnerable girl she'd once been. She was stronger now. And whatever strength and courage she lacked... well, she'd take a bit of Lloyd's, Prier's... Culotte's. Life wasn't perfect. But it was good, and she wouldn't trade it for anything.

She smiled again, genuinely, and made her way down the hall. She was going to go and ask Lloyd to help her compile some data she'd written down, spend some time with him. Just because she supported Prier and Alouette, it didn't mean she couldn't be near Lloyd and enjoy his company. Which made her think back on the past, and the bond they shared, and how it had shifted over the years...

"...Things are going to be just fine..."

~Fin~

_________________
"There is no such thing as 'Coincidence'. Only 'Inevitability'." ~ Yuuko Ichihara

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