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Thread: Final Fantasy Chronicles of Exigo: The Fall of Spira

  1. #31

    “Val I think your skills will be more useful to Joseph's group and Mishka and Cyan you two should go with Gideon's group. Kyra you are with my group. If we're lucky then the paths should join together at the other side, stand around and you'll get killed.”

    “And what if they don't? What if it's a dead end?”

    “I can't believe I'm going to fucking suggest this, but if it's a dead end I either suggest blasting through it, or calling out to the unsent girl, I have a feeling she's watching us.”

    “That's your plan?!”

    “Do you have any other fucking ideas?!”

    “Mummy, you're so clever.” said a voice the little girl once again appeared before them. “But do I really have to help the boys if they get stuck? They stink.” Kyra bent down to the girl's level.

    “Well that's why they need help, because you are so much more clever then they are.”

    “Oooh okay, by the way you have to move now” the space they were on was beginning the shake as if it was about to move and with that Nikki threw a lot of chocobo feathers in the air casting haste on everyone and ran for it.

    The few Albheds, Joseph and I dashed towards the left path and began running. Some platforms began to rise as we pass through them, while some are spinning downwards, slamming against the platform. After some time, all of us managed through the deadly path as we stopped right in front of an entrance to a small cavern.

    Joseph stepped his right foot forward, intending to enter the cavern. I held him by his shoulder, "An evil energy is emitting from within."

    "But this is the only exit," he turned around and pointed towards the back, "The path we took to get here is gone."

    I turned around, just to find that some of the platforms has lowered itself, and it is impossible to reach a further platform unless we could fly.

    "When we stepped on the platforms, it must have triggered something. This cloister is deadlier than I thought."

    "Let's go. We have no time to waste."

    Joseph took the lead and walked into the cavern. I followed right behind him, while the others followed behind me. We treaded cautiously. Joseph has his hand on his sword, seemingly ready to unsheathe it anytime soon. As we enter the large inside area of the cavern, we realise it is a dead end -- the cavern has no other exits other than the one we took to enter.

    "A dead end," Joseph said, "Lets search..."


    A scream stopped Joseph's words. We all looked behind, but nothing seems wrong.

    "What happened?" I asked.

    "I'm not sure... there was a scream, but I don't see anything else."
    "No wait! Someone is missing! There were 10 of us when we came into the room! Now there's only 9?"


    A loud bellow strike through the cavern, the walls and floor began to shake and tremble. Joseph unsheathed his sword and thrust it into the ground to hold still. He reach out his hand to me and I grabbed his arm in order to stabilize myself. An Albhed fell down and rolled towards a wall nearby. As they are reaching the wall, it suddenly opened up and swallowed the Albhed whole.


    Another loud sound is heard, in which immediately after, the wall opened up again, and the Albhed was thrown out and slammed onto the ground.

    "T'was deesgusteeng!"

    The wall began to move as a 9feet tall figure broke apart from the wall while shaking dirt off his limbs. He has a small head but a huge stomach, where a slit can be seen. The monster seems to be made of rock, with rather bulky and short limbs, but a long body.

    "Hungar! Why were you so impatient?!"

    Another voice is heard from behind us. We turn around to find a 7ft tall winged monster hovering behind us. It has a black helmet over its head, with a slender body and thin, long limbs and fingers. He has dark leather skin, with a pair of black wings on its back.

    "Levi! T'was too tempteeng! I was hungar...eeeeee...."

    The stone giant looked down on the floor in guilt.

    "Are they fiends? They are... rather peculiar." I asked Joseph.
    "I do not know. But they are definitely not here to help!"

    He brandished his sword and deflected something in front of him.

    "Oh!" the winged Levi said, "Good reflex you have there."

    Upon close inspection, I see a few really long and thin needles between its fingers.

    "Those struck by these needles will experience excrutiating pain, and dissolve into puddles of water! I love waters!" It explained, and then twisted its face, which I assume is a smile.

    "The stone golem seems more susceptible to spells than the winged one. You take that one, I'll try to take down the golem."

    Joseph gave a nod as I leaped to the side of the giant. I fired a few bullets on it, hoping to take it on by surprise. The giant turned and the slit on its stomach opened up, swallowing the bullets. Immediately after, it swings its bulky arm at me. I sidestepped and raised my left gun at it. A red magic circle appeared as I said, "Hodan!". A red missle-shaped energy emerged from the circle and flew towards the giant. As it made contact, it exploded, throwing the giant onto the floor, causing the cavern to tremble somemore. As the smoke dissipates, it threw another swing at me. I leaped backwards, missing the punch by milimetres. The gust from the swing still pushed me further behind, causing me to slam into the wall.

    The giant began running towards me, and the slit on its stomach began to stretch open, revealing the teeth hidden inside.

    "Fire has no effect on it," I thought, "Stone..... maybe water."

    I raised both my guns at the charging giant and a large blue magic circle appeared in front of me.

    "Charge-cast: Suihou!"

    A large liquid rock emerged from the center of the magic circle and launch itself towards the giant. As it made contact, the momentum also threw the giant back while the rock dispersed into a large body of water, enveloping the giant. As the giant was about to reach the wall, the body of water began to spiral in front of the giant, causing extra force as it slams into the wall behind.

    Immediately after, I ran up to the giant and pointed both guns at its head. I pulled the trigger and see as the magic bullets pierce through its small head, shattering it into pieces. The giant's body then began to melt into the ground, and slowly disappear out of sight.

    I sat on the ground, tired from the fight.

    "There is no time to lose. Joseph may still be fighting against that winged monster."

    I stood up and turned behind.

    ***To be continued

    New Spell:

    Suihou 水砲Water Cannon, Water series -aga spell


    Thought I never regretted becoming a samurai, there were times when I did regret that decision. Right now was one of those moments. The flying fiend Levi was keeping itself out of reach of my sword while throwing down those needles. I’ve either deflected or avoided the needles but the battle was going nowhere.

    “Just give up. You will tire out and you will die a painful death. The pain will only last a minute or two before you melt and become water. Isn’t that exciting?” Levi taunted, throwing more needles at me. I dodged the majority before deflecting the last couple. I jumped up, hoping my speed will carry me to within striking distance of Levi, but it just flapped its wings and gained altitude, causing me to miss. I dodged aside the moment I landed, avoiding more needles.

    Levi threw another wave of needles not just at me, but towards the Al Bhed as well. I blocked them as well as the Al Bhed, but one was not as lucky as it struck him in the chest. He dropped and started screaming in pain. Levi landed in front of him, extending an arm and touching his face.

    “What an exquisite face you make when you’re in pain. I’ll rem…” it said before flapping its wings and taking off again, my sword missing my mere inches.

    “That was so rude! Now die samurai,” it said, tossing out a large amount of needles. I deflected them with my sword. The last couple struck my lower left leg. I dropped my sword and cried out in pain. I could hear the footsteps of Levi as it approached.

    “Now didn’t I say that you will die here? But you’re probably the strongest I’ve faced in quite a while so…” it began as it stepped right in front of me. At that moment, I grabbed my sword and decapitated it, causing its head to fall to the ground before the rest of it faded into pyreflies. The Al Bhed and Val ran up to me, fearing the worst.

    “We need to get you to the hospital immediately! Whatever was in that needle needs to be cured right now!” one Al Bhed said, grabbing my arm. I quickly grabbed him back, stopping him.

    “I’m fine. The needle didn’t actually hit me. Sometimes deception is a powerful thing,” I explained, lifting the leg of my pants, showing that the needle was actually in the greave. I carefully pulled out the needle and tossed it to the ground. The other Al Bhed that was struck has dissolved into water, leaving just his clothes and other possessions behind. I did a quick prayer before searching for an exit.

    Part of the wall collapsed to reveal a passageway. We continued on, keeping vigilant of our surroundings. The passage opened up to a cliff. I looked around to see the only way forward was a narrow strip of rock alongside the wall of the Cloister. We had to walk single file so Val took the lead while I was around the middle. After 15 minutes of walking, some good news came from Val.

    “Hey, there’s another open platform ahead of us,” he reported. Just when I thought that some good came, I heard a noise behind us. The group looked back to see that the rocks started collapsing into the darkness below. My heart seemed to pause for a second.

    “RUN!” shouted the Al Bhed at the end. We all ran as quickly as we could towards the platform. The rocks were collapsing at an accelerated pace, catching up towards us.

    Val and most of the other Al Bhed made it to the platform, just leaving me and another Al Bhed on the collapsing cliff. Just then, the haste spell provided by the chocobo feather suddenly stopped on the person in front of me. Since the rock underneath my feet was starting to collapse, I grabbed him by the arm and stuck my sword into the stone wall. The rest of the walkway fell into the darkness, leaving me and the Al Bhed I saved dangling.

    “Joseph! Are you alright?” I heard Val ask.

    “Yeah, just fine. I’m only dangling here holding onto a full grown man without any way to you. Yep, just fine indeed, ” I sarcastically replied. I looked around to see if there was any way out of this mess. Seeing none, there was probably only one way to get out.

    “Val, I’m gonna toss this guy to you and then swing myself to you guys. Be ready to catch us,” I said. I started to rock back and forth, creating momentum. The Al Bhed I held on to also swung in rhythm, creating more momentum. With one last swing, I tossed the man towards the platform. He managed to catch the edge and the others pulled him up to safety.

    Just when I began to do my swing, a noise from above made us all look up. The sight made my heart drop quite quickly. I could see large platforms falling towards the group. I pulled my sword out just as a platform fell in front of me. I used the split second to kick off it and dodge another platform that was aimed right at where I was. Using all my senses, I managed to get on top of a platform and started to jump to the platform which the others were on. Just when I did, the haste spell ran out on me. That caused me to miss the timing on my jump, causing me to miss my target and instead send me plunging towards the darkness of the Cloister.


    Upon entering the Via Infinito, Kyra noticed a difference right away. From the events that had happened mere moments before, to that very moment. There was a complete change in tempo it seemed. There was also a different scent in the air. None too pleasing; by any means. The smell of death was more evident than the last time they had been there. It seemed to have taken a darker turn while they were gone.

    The girl was on them moments after the group entered. She explained how the Via Infinito has changed while they were gone, and there were treasures to look for. That wasn’t before the little girl started to act strange after losing a pyrefly. Kyra watched as Nikki shot some arrows to keep her away, but her efforts were useless. Kyra was powerless to do anything. She noticed the pain Nikki was going through, it was far more evident in her then what she had felt from here last ‘possession’. As far as she remembered, she felt an emotional distress, but nothing like what Nikki was feeling.

    “No Nikki. Please leave her alone, you're hurting her.”. Kyra cried. She hated seeing Nikki in so much pain.

    “Kick her out Nikki, you can do this, you did it before!” the twins cried.

    “But I'm trying to help her, Mummy has forgotten stuff, if I help mummy she'll help me!” the girl cried desperately while rummaging through Nikki’s memories. “Oh poopie wrong one”. It seemed she didn’t have much control of her abilities, thus the memory from Macalania appeared.

    Kyra still felt helpless to watch. It was hard enough to hear the story from Nikki herself. To actually see these events take place was a whole other nightmare.

    “No anything... but this one.” Nikki croaked through the pain. Kyra took a step forward, finally regaining movement in her legs, but she was stopped. Joseph put a hand on her shoulder.

    “Let Nikki handle it. There’s no telling what could happen if you interfere” Paine whispered.

    Kyra nodded in compliance as she helplessly watched Nikki endure probably one of the most painful memories in her life. It seemed to have finished pre-maturely as the girl was suddenly pushed out of Nikki’s body. In the girl’s frustration, she left an Elder Drake in her wake.

    Kyra immediately saw the urgency of the situation, but needed to check if Nikki was okay to fight first.

    “Are you okay?” She asked. Nikki just gave a nod signaling she was alright. That was enough for Kyra really.

    She prepared herself quickly to fight this feisty dragon. She made her way behind the dragon. She had faced enough of these to know what they were capable of. The world she had faced it on didn’t make much difference.

    Watch for the tail!” A female voice called out from somewhere. Kyra chose to ignore it and continued to attack from her current position. The Elder Drake began to shift its weight from side to side, preparing for an attack. It reared backward and smashed into the walls. Kyra knew what was coming next, but realized it too late, taking the full force of this attack to her body. She let out a cry as she was hit. As the beast released her from a trapped position, she fell to her knees. Fortunately, she felt a cure spell shortly after, which dulled the pain slightly. She also heard Nikki try to distract the beast using swears and shooting arrows at it so she could get away before it had a chance to hit her again.

    She’s Cute.” The voice piped up again with a slightly sarcastic tone. Kyra was slightly confused. She didn’t have the time to deal with this, but she had an idea of who it was she heard this voice the last time she was here.

    Kyra caught a glimpse of what Val as he was firing his guns, sending a bullet infused with magic rifling toward the fiend. She knew what was coming next.

    “Get Behind it” Paine yelled.

    Nikki questioned why as Kyra pushed her out of the way. No time for Questions, Nikki. She thought. She knew she’d realize what was to come when she’s see it for herself.

    After the blast was finished, Mishka advised the group to move again before the dragon decided to go back its earlier tactic of smashing walls. It wasn’t long before the twins revealed a plan they had after the dragon unleashed its Pyroplexy attack. They had found a way to hold the dragon in one place. This made it easier to attack, but there was still something wrong. The monster was abnormally strong. Their attacks were barely making a dent.

    Kyra, Stop ignoring me!” Kyra’s eyes squinted as she realized what was going on in her head. Whether it really was just a mere memory, or the voice actually had a mind of its own, she didn’t know. She stopped attacking and listened to what the voice had to say. “You know how to deal with this. You’ve seen this monster before. You’re an analyst. Go do what you do best.” The voice called out.

    Kyra nodded. She knew what she had to do. “Alright, I think I can do this.” She said before running for the fiend once again. Nikki yelled at her not to go, but Kyra already had a plan. She ran up to the immobilized fiend and stabbed it in the eye. It roared pain as it lifted his head in an attempt to escape. She swiftly plucked her sword out and swung horizontally, slicing its jaw. She lifted her arms above her head, and delivered an overhead stab infused with magic. Ice was her poison of choice. She knew full well what the result of that was going to be. The beast roared again and flames began to erupt from its mouth. She leaped from her spot to get away from the flames. She held her blade to her side until she reached the peak of her jump. She readied her blade and held it more like a firearm rather than a sword. When the flames reached a certain point, she clicked her trigger sending vibrations down the blade. With that, she was able to catch the flame, and manipulate the flames around the blade. As she descended, she spun which created a wheel of fire. When the new weapon reached its full length and momentum, it sliced through the fiend’s skull.

    Kyra landed on her feet, but started to topple. Her legs were exhausted. Luckily, Nikki was there for support. “Do me a favour and don’t do that again” She said. Kyra gave a small smile and a slight chuckle. She regained strength in her legs and wanted to say something, but she noticed something was happening to the fiend she thought was supposed to be finished. It sprouted another head from its body. What the hell?! She thought.

    “It oversouled!” Mishka gasped.

    Nikki started firing again and moved back. Kyra readied her blade, but didn’t know is she had enough in her to be able to do another attack like that. "Damn it, the Via Infinito is really going to kill me."

    Na ah, don’t think like that. The voice appeared in her head.

    "...Right." Kyra thought as a response. With what was happening, that was far from believable.

    Just then, a bright light careened into the fiend and caused it to explode into pyreflies, signalling its death. Everyone turned around to see who had done it, and it was none other than the Legendary Nooj. The one that Nikki was trying to ensure stayed on the surface. Kyra noticed Nikki was about ready to explode with anger.

    “I'm unsure as to the necessity of my presence at this juncture.” He said, limping past Nikki to Paine, “I wouldn't want to give the impression that I just wanted to die.”

    Nikki clenched her fist at this remark and was about to move. Kyra put her hand on her shoulder and said, "Woah Nikki, hold on," She paused. "I don't think he's here to die. Did you see what he did just now? We could use someone like him on our team.”

    Kyra let those words sink in but Nikki was still contemplating. "That isn’t going to work, Kyra. Try flirting." The voice came back.

    "Damnit Aiko, do I really need to do that here?" She thought. The voice in her head giggled, and then disappeared again.

    Kyra stepped in front of her and smiled, "Hey! Weren't you worried about me just a moment ago? Why are you so worried about Nooj all of the sudden?"

    “That, I, err..” Kyra watched her cheeks fill with embarrassment as she rubbed her forehead. The leader quickly regained composure and made her way in front of the group. “We're moving on!” and jumped down to the next cloister. Everyone followed after.

    Kyra was immediately shocked at the site of Cloister 41. This cloister was completely different from the rest of them. There were multiple paths, platforms that moved in different directions. There was no possible way they could get through this as a whole group. It also became clear the Yuki and Yuubou weren’t able to teleport the whole group including the Albhed. Nikki quickly got together a plan. The girl came out and stated Nikki’s cleverness before warning them that they needed to move again, and fast. Nikki threw a bunch of Chocobo feathers and everyone dispersed just as the platform began to crumble away.

    Kyra followed Nikki on the path they were on. They needed to move fast. Each step was only temporary as each platform began to crumble with any amount of weight put onto it. The fact the most of the platforms were moving made it difficult. The Albhed that were with them had a hard time keeping up, but none of them had fallen yet as far as Kyra saw. They eventually made it to a somewhat stable platform.

    “How many do we have with us?”

    “Ten.” One of the Albhed said.

    “Good, that’s plenty. Keep moving.”

    “Hey’s Kyra right?” a familiar albhed asked.

    “Yes that’s me, we don’t have time to chat though.”

    “I know. Rey asked me to give you this.” It was a letter with an albhed potion.

    Kyra sighed. "I can’t deal with this now."] She accepted the letter and put it in her pocket. ”Let’s keep moving.” The others nodded.

    “Would you guys stop fucking chatting and move it!”

    The rest of the albhed made some whispers. Kyra wasn’t in the mood. Having Rey on her mind was the last thing she wanted.

    Kyra noticed that the air started to feel colder. Perhaps the Via Infinito was reacting to the current situation, she did know. Suddenly, there was a familiar roar just ahead of them. An Elder Drake was emerging from the darkness and was heading straight toward them. The dragon started to barrel its way towards them making the ground shake as it did so.

    “Shit, go back!” Nikki yelled.

    The group ran in the opposite direction, but there was a dead end where they came from and the ground was starting to give way again. Kyra noticed an opening in the wall that she believed wasn’t there before. She grabbed Nikki’s hand and dove into the opening in the wall. Most of the albhed followed, but two of them didn’t catch her movements and disappeared into the darkness. The massive fiend had made its way to the opening, but noticed they weren’t there and stopped just in front of them. Since they were somewhat hidden, they weren't seen just yet.

    “Don’t bloody move.” She whispered harshly. She waited for it to pass them completely before she gave a signal to move again. The large beast noticed the group again and gave chase.

    “If it keeps fucking chasing us like this, it’s going to take us all fucking down!” she bluntly stated.

    I know, hold on. I have an idea.” She said as she turned to face the fiend. “Hit the ground!”

    The albhed looked confused, but did as she said.

    Nikki attacked the ground with an Ultima Arrow, but something was wrong. The floor cracked, but because the powerful attack was at such close range, the bow didn’t release all of the power into the arrow and backfired, sending Nikki back. Kyra was helpless to do anything.



    Kyra stopped her attacks and rushed to her side. Nikki had already passed out from the explosion, but she was still breathing. The beast was still barrelling towards them. Kyra rested Nikki upright against the wall and resumed what she was doing. She used the cracks that Nikki created to her advantage and struck her blade on them. She clicked her trigger and sent a thunder attack down her blade. “SHOCKWAVE!” she yelled. The attack sent a wave of electricity down the hall and struck the fiend itself. Before it had a chance to release a counter attack the ground gave way sending the massive fiend to the depths of this cloister. She sheathed her blade and ran in the opposite direction, picking up Nikki on her way.

    The ground started to catch up to them as they were running away. The eight remaining albhed ran ahead of Kyra. As they kept going, they noticed that the hall was about to end, and there was no way out. There was another familiar roar behind Kyra as she reached the final platform before the dead end. A red claw had reached itself onto the platform. The dragon that fell wasn’t gone yet from the looks of it. The Albhed let out multiple shots from their weapons, but this monster had some unfinished business. It reached its head high enough the platform and unleashed a pryoplexy attack directly at them. Kyra couldn’t do anything due to an unconscious Nikki in her arms. She backed herself onto the wall behind, but the floor gave way sending all of them including the dragon to the darkness.

    The fall was short, but nothing short of painful. Every muscle in her body ached. She noticed that Nikki was no longer in her arms. She immediately got to her feet and looked for her. She wasn’t far away, but she was in danger of being crushed by a falling piece of debris. Before Kyra could even think, her instinct took over and she was able to move Nikki to a less dangerous spot. However, the stress on her body was too much for Kyra, and she fell unconscious on top of Nikki.

    New Ability: SHOCKWAVE-Thunder based. Kyra pulls her trigger sending vibrations down the blade and sends a thunder attack along with it. If she can hit the ground hard enough, it sends a wave. Really effective with combined with water. Straight Forward Attack.


    Her heart raced as she jumped from one platform to the next, the platforms behind would either shoot to the ceiling, crumble away or come down from above ready to squash them to death, as well as haste, the timing had to be right for any platform that moved. Nikki felt she had been running for a while, she glanced back, while she was running to see the others were keeping up, especially Kyra.

    Seeing a stable platform ahead, it looked like it wasn't moving and that it wouldn't crumble, she jumped from one platform to another focusing on that one platform ahead, but she saw one platform move in front of it, it was coming down from above, they had to move fast if they wanted to get there, otherwise the way would be blocked.

    Yes it's a puzzle, you need to get from one side to the other without falling,” the little girl's voice again flowed in her head.

    Not now,” thought Nikki while leaping and running, she then did one last leap and landed on the stable platform, she bent over to catch her breath and looked around to see every had made it too before the other platform had come down and blocked their way.

    “How many do we have with us?”


    “Good we keep moving” It seemed like the voice in Nikki's head was keeping quiet again, which she was glad for she didn't need any distractions she looked ahead to see which way next that they should go.

    “Hey Kyra... It's Kyra right?”

    “Yes that's me, we don't have time to chat though.”

    Too right we don't we've got to fucking move.” thought Nikki, she was feeling stressed and urgently looked at the path ahead and began planning the best way to approach it. They were moving a lot, these ones didn't crumble.

    “I know, Rey asked me to give you this.” Nikki turned to see the albhed appeared to hand over some kind of letter which Kyra quickly accepted Nikki, Nikki rose an eyebrow at this.

    Who the fuck is Rey?” she thought.

    “Let's keep moving.” Nikki finally lost her patience with the albhed who seemed to treating this like a trip.

    “Would you guys stop fucking chatting and move it!” she noticed the others has been chatting a lot. She turned around and noticed the path ahead of them had stopped moving and the platforms had all aligned to make a corridor. She felt the air around them get colder and her face paled when she heard a roar. An Elder Drake was ahead of them slowly coming towards them, it snarled, it's weight was making the floor beneath it get unsteady cracks were appear, and the worse thing? That was the only path leading to the exit.Oh for fucks sake the Via Infinito is fucking with us now!” she thought. “Shit go back!” she turned around but then realised that the pathway was blocked. SHIT!” she could feel the floor beneath her begin to crumble. Suddenly she felt Kyra grasp her hand and pull her, to what looked like a small crack in the wall.Where the fuck did that come from?” she thought. It was a small space she was behind Kyra and noticed she was very close to Kyra. Her heart skipped a beat.Fuck it, not now.” she willed these feelings to go away since it could distract her. Nikki watched quietly as she heard the fiend come closer and closer, but surely it could not get close to them because the platform that lead to the opening had gone.

    There was a sound of moving stone echoing from the depths, and Nikki saw it a platform has risen from the depth and now the fiend just sniffing right outside the opening. Oh you've got to be fucking kidding me.”

    “Don't bloody move.” Nikki looked back behind them to see there were only eight of them now.

    “Shit.” Kyra was the only one who could see the fiend clearly Nikki gathered, because Nikki could only see it when it was at the front of the opening. She then gave the signal for the group to move on.

    See there's no monster, I checked.” The path was left free but the platforms that once stopped moving for the fiend, began moving again making them run again, Nikki could hear the footsteps of the fiend pound behind them. They wouldn't be able to last long like this.

    “If it keeps fucking chasing us like this, it's going to take us all fucking down!”

    Monsters aren't real!” Nikki had no idea what this very young girl's voice was talking about, but it wasn't helping matters.

    “I know, hold on. I have an idea.” Nikki saw that she had stopped running and so stopped with her as did the others. She face the fiend along with Kyra. “Hit the ground!”

    This needs to be done quickly and powerfully,” with little option Nikki drew her arrow. I just fucking hope I can control it this time.” The arrow glowed a black aura as it powered up, the bow glowed as well transferring the energy from Nikki to the arrow. Nikki concentrated hard on the energy will it to flow inside the arrow, but there was no time left the fiend was about to lunge. “Ultima arrow!” Nikki quickly let go of the arrow and quickly noticed that the tip of it hadn't sparked a green flame. That, can't be good.” she thought but to her amazement as soon as the arrow struck the ground the spell consumed it and cracked the floor, but to her horror she noticed the bow was still glowing a black aura, the spell hadn't finished, and the bow unleashed it's own small Ultima spell throwing her back. She felt incredible burning from the spell, it was if her soul was on fire.


    “Fuuuuuuck!” and with that she felt herself hit the wall and blacked out.

    Are you okay?”

    “It's that voice again,” she decided to respond this time since she had the time now. “I don't know, I need to get back there, that fucking bitch of a fiend. Who are you? What's going on?”

    “I don't know, what am I going to do with you?” There was a pause before the voice said again. “There all better.”

    “What the fuck you just ignored everything I fucking said! Now tell me who are you?!” she was getting pissed off now she hoped that she would be revived soon.

    “If it makes you feel better I know where the maid stashes the cookies.” Nikki decided to not to respond then to this, after all how could she, the voice continued to speak. “I watched her, I don't think she knew I was there, I know they are your favourite.” Nikki then knew this voice wasn't talking to her.

    The voice then seemed to fade and the first thing she could feel was a body lying on top of her, groaned, her body ached but at least she was fucking alive. She felt the body on top of her move and Nikki opened her eyes to meet her eyes with Kyra's. It took a moment for it to sink in but Nikki's cheeks began to heat up she could feel Kyra's heartbeat. What seemed out of shock for Kyra she quickly stood up and apologised.

    “Ah! I'm sorry I didn't mean to collapse on you.” Nikki just scolded the part of her that wanted Kyra to stay there for a little while longer. She rubbed her forehead and stood up.

    “It's fine.”

    “Aww don't worry Kyra, we think Nikki liked it.”

    “Shut up!” Nikki quickly responded.

    “That was a very quick response.” said Mishka teasingly. Nikki just turned to glare at her, but she was glad they had made it.

    “Mishka, really I don't think now is the best time.” said Cyan.

    “I'm sorry, I can't help it.” Nikki looked around them the twins group and Mishka's group were here so that just left... Her thoughts were quickly interrupted by Val jumping down from above along with the rest of the albehd, but there was very few albehd with him.

    “Where is Joseph?” asked Nikki Val looked worse for wear the twins immediately went over to the group and broke a mega potion on the ground to heal them. Val was trying to catch his breath.

    “He... Dammit he fell I should have done something!”

    WHAT?!” thought Nikki.

    “No...” gasped Kyra, Mishka stepped forward.

    “Tell us everything.”

    Val then explained to the group what had happened, Nikki picked up on a few words such as the “fiends made of stone”, but by this time Nikki wasn't really listening she was franticly trying to calm her mind from blaming herself, and trying to figure out where he ended up.

    He better not have bloody well died.”

    “No one could have survive a fall like that, could they?” the twins asked. No one seemed to dare answer. It seemed unlikely that he did survive who knew how far the depths went down, Nikki didn't even know if the depths did just go down to the next cloister or whether they were just a bottomless pit.

    “I found him!” sang a familiar voice, a swirl of pyreflies came before the group and revealed the little girl and beside her a fiend, a dingo. The fiend just growled at them. “Sush doggie” she said to the fiend she then patted it as if it were a pet dog. The fiend then surprisingly stopped growling and laid down.

    What the fuck?” thought Nikki, the fact it was wagging it's tail was also disturbing.

    “What do you mean?” asked Mishka, Nikki took her eyes off the fiend and looked to the girl.

    “Silly, the stupid boy landed on one of my pets that mummy and sissy were playing with earlier.” The girl then suddenly gasped and turned around to the dingo who was now standing looking at the girl. “No, you can't eat them! I wont have anyone to play with otherwise. Bad doggie!” The fiend them seemed to whine and lay down again which sent shivers down Nikki's spine, such a thing was unnatural, it took all of Nikki's strength not to strike the fiend. But she knew if she did this would probably anger the girl.

    Great now she's calling them pets and not friends.”

    “Where is he now? Is he okay?” asked Cyan.

    “Yep, he only went down one, he's alive but my pet was angry.”

    “Tell me, can you hear what the fiends say to you?” said the Meyvin. The girl pouted at him, the dingo suddenly growled at him, and she suddenly poked out her tongue and blew a raspberry.

    “I don't like boys so why are you here? I don't know you.” She paused and suddenly tilted her head to one side. “But... I don't like boys” She paused again as if she was listening to something. “I can? Well okay if it's for mummy and sissies.” The fiend next to her stopped growling.

    Okay who the fuck was she talking to?” thought Nikki.

    “Yes I can hear them they are very hungry a lot, I give them lots of food but they just keep getting hungry. They don't like you.” Cyan stepped forward.

    “Who were you talking to?” the girl tilted her head to one side again. And then suddenly smiled and giggled.

    “It's a secret.” she suddenly dispersed into pyreflies and reappears next to Kyra. “I hope you like the voice I made for you sissy, I used your memories and magic and boom she can talk to you. But it's not forever she'll only last a short while...” the little girl then seemed to smile more menacing this time a more menacing voice took over. “Goodbye!” Kyra gasped at the sudden change in voice. She then dispersed into pryeflies and so did the dingo.

    “What happened?” questioned the twins.

    “She gets more insane as we go down.” said Gideon.

    “Let's quickly get to Joseph.” said Nikki and with that she dropped to Cloister 42.



    Once all of us had reached Cloister 42, we ensured ourselves a safe route through. This cloister was covered in thick fog, which made it near impossible to see the ground beneath our feet. Several Al Bhed sent relay machinas into the dense cloud and began capturing sonar data from them, mapping out a route. It was from that data that we discovered mapping out the landscape was completely unnecessary. We were on a filled platform, the only hole being the entrance to the next cloister, which was further down a twisting hall we'd encounter later. As for enemies, well, their relays hadn't been attacked, which most of us took to be a good sign.

    “I don't like it.” Gideon said, taking the first steps into the fog.

    “What don't you like about it? If all we have to worry about is this fog, this could be the easiest one. Down here, you don't second guess a straightforward cloister.” Paine replied, walking further.

    “What I meant was that this fog has to be here for a reason.” The warrior clarified, catching up.

    If it weren't for the fact Joseph could be down here injured, I think more of us would agree to his withdrawal. However, we had a teammate to find and, after these latest encounters with the girl, the sooner we found him the better. Deep into the central room, the fog was so thick we began losing sight of one another, something we all knew was a danger. The furthest along slowed themselves and we began keeping our eyes open for assailants from all sides. Though the relays hadn't triggered anything, fiends weren't drawn to dead machines anyway. A group of the living, on the other hand...

    “Large group of pyreflies ahead!” The twins shouted, sending a dazzling firework spell into the same direction.

    The spell lit up the incoming fiend for us, its lustrous armour glimmering off of the sparkles. It was coated in the blue tinted metallic plates and stood on its hind legs, though it was clear it typically remained on all its haunches. Its head was black as pitch, the details upon it made clear only by its glowing mouth littered with rows of teeth. The faint glow lit up the wing-like ears it had, which I could only guess allowed it to locate us as it didn't have any eyes.

    “Watch out!” I shouted, pushing the Meyvn out of the way as the creature swiped down with its claw, falling back on all fours.

    “Defensive positions!” He ordered, though that only pissed Nikki off.

    “We figured that out already! Just don't get in my fucking way!” She growled, firing a Triple Foul group of arrows at it.

    “Looks like it isn't weak to any elements.” Kyra said, pulling out her sword.

    “Hayahou!” Val proclaimed, firing several rounds at us. As I had done before with the bullet, the rounds were the equivalent of a White Mage's Haste. “Any ideas from the veterans?”

    “Never seen one of these things before. Don't know how to operate against it.” Paine admitted.

    “Never mind! Can we just fucking attack it already?!” Nikki ordered, firing a few more arrows.

    Cyan and I decided it would be best to surround it and took some Al Bhed with us. It tried to strike us down with its forward haunches, but the Haste effect let us dodge it with ease. When we were behind it, it tried to turn, but the Al Bhed began firing grapples at it, pinning its rear haunches to the ground. In the meantime, Cyan and I began slicing into its underbelly, where the back and front portions of its thick armour met. Using the hooked portion of Blurry Moon, I managed to pry the sections open just enough for Yuki to cast Blizzara into it, which caused the creature to writhe in pain.

    “Looks like it has a weakness!” I announced, nodding to Kyra.

    “We'll keep it busy. Go for it!” Nikki said, running toward the creature's mouth to get its attention.

    As it growled at her, she fired an ice arrow into its mouth, angering it enough for it to turn in her direction, leaving the exposed area on its side in line with Kyra. She charged at it, holding her sword like a gun again like before. Cold began to swirl around the weapon until she reached the fiend and stabbed into it, freezing it from the inside. The creature wailed in pain as its body began breaking apart and the glow from its mouth began to die. However, just before it did, another creature erupted from it, much smaller and of a humanoid shape. Hovering in the air, it illuminated itself, its entire body bathed in flame. Before any of us could react, it unleashed a bright spark, igniting the fog and sending us into a tunnel just as the first area collapsed, killing the fiend.

    “Well, that attack was pointless.” Paine said, getting to her feet and dusting herself.

    “There's still some fog left. It almost looks as if part of it moved into the tunnels with us before it could catch fire.” I noted, pondering its odd behaviour.

    “Be glad it did. Doesn't look like we'd be alive if that fiend lit it all up.”

    “I suppose.”

    “Hey, isn't that...?” One of the Al Bhed began to say before falling unconsciously onto the ground.

    As he did, we noticed that the other Al Bhed had fallen asleep, as well, and so had the twins. Cyan rushed to one of them to check on his vitals, but it seemed they had simply been rendered unconscious. Further along towards the exit, Kyra discovered what that Al Bhed had been pointing us to. Although he was walking rather oddly, even in the dark and blurry fog, the rest of us could identify it to be Joseph. Val quickly rushed to his side to help keep him on his feet, but Joseph began clinging to him uncharacteristically close and even had a smile about him that was unlikely.

    “Hey there, Valley ol' boy! What's the news?” He haphazardly asked, patting our confused teammate on the cheek.

    “Joseph? Are you feeling okay?” Kyra asked him, checking his vitals.

    “Sure, I'm okay! ... Why are there three of you?” He replied, nearly toppling over onto Kyra as he asked his next question while pointing at her.

    “Is he... drunk?” Cyan asked.

    “I think we crossed that line several drinks earlier.” Paine said, walking to them.

    “Is this from the fog?”

    “Oopsie, I let out too much.” The little girl said, appearing in front of Nikki, “That stupid boy was going to get eaten all up so I thought I should calm the lizzy down.”

    We turned to the dingo fiend beside her and it too was definitely pacified on this level. However, we had been down here, too, breathing in the fog in great quantities given the battle we had just had. Was it going to affect us, as well?

    “Well it worked now get rid of this fog!” Nikki shouted at her.

    “Sorry mummy, I don't know how! But the stupid boy has been sucking it all up and its a lot less now. Maybe you and sissies can suck up the rest and it will be gone if you do! Okay then, have fun playing. The grumpy secrets want me to go now. They get very cross if I don't listen.” And with that she was gone.

    “That can't be good.” Val stated.

    “Val, you're nostrils are big.” Joseph interjected, causing the rest of us to place our hands over our faces.

    “I think we should be on the next cloister before we end up like that, don't you?” Paine said, walking off.

    That was until, “1 2 ready and go!!

    Turning back to the twins that had woken up, we found them arranged in front of the Al Bhed in three expanding rows. All of a sudden, there was music all around and they began to lead in an abrupt dance performance while the rest of us watched with mouths dropped agape.

    “Hmmm...” Kyra voiced, that being the only verbal reaction any of us could make.

    It wasn't too difficult seeing the twins jumping and bobbing to the music, but a few of the gruffer Al Bhed males behind them made for quite a spectacle, especially the parts where they all courtesied. Although, I had to admit, it was an upbeat tune for such a dungeon and made the atmosphere about it much lighter and more welcoming.

    Once they were done, Val and Joseph both applauded, Joseph even whistling while Val called for an encore. Paine was frowning as expected, but Nooj looked about three shades to the wind, barely keeping to his feet as he tried shaking the effects. Nikki tried hard to keep from breathing in any more of the fog, as if holding her hand over her mouth was going to do her any good. Silly.

    “Paine, you're silly.” I struggled to get out the words, my vision seeming to be distorted, “I told you something was up about the fog.”

    Stumbling forward, I found myself really close to her all of a sudden, which surprised me. My eyes focused really close to her and I confirmed to myself that, yes, this really was Paine. Why was she that close?! I immediately pushed her, but that made her lose her balance and fall down. Was she hurt?

    Looking down and trying to keep my head from weighing the rest of me down, I noticed she was sitting on the ground with her hands holding her up from behind. It was a good look for her. She usually wasn't in such a compromising position. It was a kinda hot. I realised I had walked right up to her and now my feet were on either side of her waist. Slowly, I knelt onto the ground, my legs brushing up against her sides as I did.

    “Hey there, cutie, did you fall down?” I asked, pressing my hands next to her shoulders to keep myself up. It was hard.

    Really hard... Really really hard... And that's when I found myself lying on top of her. Her earring tasted funny.

    “No sleepovers! She's mine!” We suddenly heard Cyan say right before she tackled me further along on the floor.

    “Cyan?” I started to mumble.

    “Yes Mishka?”

    “My navel's getting all itchy from Paine's breathing.”

    “Then get.. off.” She said underneath me, which only tickled me more.

    “Again... hmmm...” Kyra said.

    “Alright, enough of this shit! We're going! Everybody up! I said GET THE FUCK UP SO WE CAN GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Nikki roared, picking Cyan up off of me as Kyra helped me to my feet.

    Nooj got the dancers to congo their way to the next cloister, each of them sort of toppling over into the hole when they reached. Paine was with him. With him...

    “Nooo! Mine!!” I squealed, kicking at Kyra.

    “You can play with her once we get to the next cloister..”

    “No she can't!” Paine grumbled, jumping down.

    It took a while for the effects to lift, but once they did, I shuddered at my earlier behaviour. Well, most of it. It was hardly comparable to how drunk I was when I was leading the Fangtastic! Ronso have quite a high tolerance for...

    “Cyan?” I asked, noticing her next to me.

    “Yes Mishka?”

    “Don't ever let me drink anymore.”

    “Got it. Likewise.”

    “I don't know about that.” I replied, a mischievous grin appearing on my features.

    “Back to normal, I see.”

    “We're not to speak of this again, right?” Joseph spoke up, rubbing his forehead.

    “Definitely not... and my nostrils aren't that big.” Val replied, causing Joseph to let out a low groan.

    “Something I don't get. Why weren't you affected, Paine?”

    “Who says I wasn't?”

    “You were the one under me.” I replied, hinting at what I thought her drunken behaviour should have been.

    “If I had to guess, the fog just makes us all feel content.” Paine suggested.

    “That was content?”

    “You've never relaxed with the Crimson Squad.” Paine explained.

    “So contentment turns me into that?” Joseph groaned, “I suppose it'll be grouchy for me then.”

    “I'm going to guess the longer you stay, the worse off you are. Who knows how long you were there, stumbling about.” Paine suggested to him.

    “So that was contentment...”

    “Well, hope the lot of you are good for rage because we've got company.” Nikki called over, her bow raised against several tonberries headed our way.


    Posted in response to a spam post by a user named Odin whose account was hacked. xD

    Note: Underlined text is original text from Odin's post.

    As soon as Nikki got our attention, we were back on our feet. The tonberries were pouring from all sides, this new cloister a flat hall with open sides for the fiends to appear. Their numbers were thankfully not endless, but given the sheer amount already present, we were in trouble. Our best chance would be to cut a path through the hall and find the entrance to the next cloister. It seemed simple enough; the hall was fairly straightforward and it was wide enough to navigate. The trouble was having everyone run past the tonberries we pushed through before they could recover. One easy jab from any of their knives and we'd lose another member. The fiends never seemed imposing, but they were hard to manage and powerful enemies.

    “Val, think you can scatter them to the sides?” Joseph asked, pointing out that the walls were still open.

    “No, I don't really have anything meant to push back the enemy, just to defeat them where they stand.” He replied, looking through his bullets to make sure.

    “What if the twins used their telekinesis?”He then suggested.

    “Too many. We wouldn't be able to control where they might go.”

    “Which means they could just as easily end up closer.” Paine said, having thought of that move, as well, her Garment Grid in hand.

    “Anybody want to actually come up with an idea?” Nikki growled, her bow still drawn, though she was unsure just what she was going to do with the arrow poised to strike.

    “Guess that means we fight.” Cyan proposed, going to Nikki's side with her broadsword at the ready.

    I slowly took hold of Blurry Moon, but I knew we'd lose many rushing into battle like this. We all did, but it would seem we had no choice. Walking beside Cyan and followed closely by Paine, Kyra, and Joseph, we began to approach the tonberries.

    "Step aside, lesser folk. I am here to save your terminable lives."

    Immediately, all eyes went straight up to where the sound came from. Down from the earlier cloister, a short man dropped before us, half-staggering as he assumed a sort of lopsided swagger as it were. At first, none of us knew what to make of it. It was clear he had been heavily impacted by the fog on the previous cloister, but apparently his contentment led him to believe he was our only salvation.

    It was then I figured out the identity of our would-be saviour, having neared for closer inspection, “Oh no...”

    I had encountered this one some time ago, at a local pub one night. He was drunk just as he was now and making a nuisance of himself, convinced he could take on all the other men in attendance. Once they trounced him, I chose to step forward and take him from their clutches, having dealt with the silly notion men had about proving their might while with Teraan and the other ronso. This ended up costing me, though, because the idiot was passed out the entire time and once he had awakened and the others left him alone, he figured he must have... rescued me... his princess... He was unconscious for another few hours after that remark, but he never got over it or forgot me.

    “Who is this fool?”Joseph asked, shifting his eyes back and forth from the advancing fiends.

    With a sigh and a shrug, I answered, “My... hero...”

    “I don't want to impose, but your hero's about to become sushi.” Nooj pointed out, noticing that the moron was stumbling towards one of them.

    “Hey...” Blast, what the hell was his name?“Lo! Oh Mage of Grandieur, that will save our mortal souls. Thank you for your Yevon sent arrival.” To ensure he'd buy into my words, I knelt at his feet and pulled him back behind Nikki.

    “That is enough, Mishka.” The fuck? How did he know my name? “You may be wondering how I, your master, know your lowly name.”

    “I'll show you lowly...” I grumbled under my breath, balling up a fist.

    “That is because I know all! All there is, that was, that ever could be! Also, the bar wench told me after your presence threw me into another stupour that night.”

    “That night?”

    That's what they were taking from that?!

    “Hmmm...” Kyra added.

    “Stop saying that!”

    “Mishka, your lover's at it again.” Paine commented, pointing out the fool that was back at his spot, facing the tonberries.

    Despite our compromised position, all I could think about was having to pull him back again and could only press my hand to my forehead. That was, until it came. Dropping down from above, an Elder Drake arrived, its jaw moving in one swift motion and tearing the drunk in two right in front of us.

    As the top half of his body fell, we could hear him blindly speaking what would be his last words, “Your praise comes as no surprise and I know you ladies are smitten, but I live for my princess... I... Joossttt... Einbee... bah... will triumph... The worst... is yet to come...”

    “It's back!” Kyra shouted, getting her weapon into a defensive stance.

    “Now they follow us? Damn, just how much has this place changed?” Nikki grumbled, rolling from its fire breath.

    Ironically, as his arrival was followed shortly by the Elder Drake's and as its arrival had unintentionally crushed most of the tonberries in its wake, he actually had been our salvation. Of course, his clicking of the fingers while mumbling something about warping time with reality with his lips hadn't helped. It was the type of thinking the Elder Drake advantaged because the poor drunkard was turning into an unsent. In this stage, his pyreflies were still weak from death and hadn't reorganised into his unsent form, which were now being taken in by the Elder Drake along with all of the tonberries it had crushed. The surge of pyreflies pushed it past Oversouling to a new evolution in its fiend nature. The wings on its head shrunk into horns, but two new ones sprouted from its back. Its bright red scales darkened and thickened into skin that appeared almost like molten rock, the softer red tissue hiding underneath layers of rigid black scales.

    The lot of us looked at Nikki, waiting for her to curse what she had just asked, but Paine would point out that the hall was much too small for it to properly move, let alone fly. With that, we ran through the hall, the now scattered tonberries easy to dodge. Luckily, the end of the hall was the entrance to the next cloister and we jumped through with ease.

    It was a long fall to Cloister 44. We even had time to hear the dragon clawing its way through. Once we landed, we found ourselves in a very bad place. The entire cloister was bathed in fire, our only ground being a few rocky ledges that hadn't yet been dissolved by the flames. The cloister had no walls and the ceiling was quite high, which meant that once the dragon found its way to us, it would have full advantage of the terrain. What was worse, several creatures of fire much like the one that had appeared on Cloister 42 were coming onto the ledges. One final dilemma was posed for us, as well. As Nooj would alert us, the exit to the next cloister had been placed on the ceiling several ledges away and encased in crystal.

    Turning to Nikki, I said, “You had to ask, didn't you?”

    “Shut it.” She spat as the bellow of the dragon above grew louder.


  2. #32

    The battle was getting worse and worse by the moment. One of the Al Bhed told me about the weakness of the blue armored fiends. Since the only way to hurt it was to first destroy the armor, I’ve been hitting the ones I could see with Armor Break. While this allowed the others to do damage to them, it was burning through my magic.

    The roar of the Elder Wyrm shook the entire Cloister. It shockwave actually sent all of us including the fiends onto the ground. I turned to see its head through the portal. It took a moment to gather its breath. Our group dove to the side, mere seconds before it breathed out, and fire engulfing the area we were just now. Some of the fiends were caught by its attack, burning and becoming pyreflies. We got up just as the fiend began squeezing its way through, seemingly absorbing the pyreflies as it emerged from the portal.

    “Oh this is not good,” I said, raising my sword.

    “Shut up and attack it already!” Nikki cured, raising her bow. I dashed in with Kyra and Cyan at my side. I hit the scales, but my sword just glanced off. The others also hit the scales with no result. I stood back and held my sword up high, charging an Armor Break. The spell went into the scales and dissipated, not taking effect.

    “Physical hits are doing nothing to it!” I shouted, jumping back to avoid a swipe from the claws

    “Damnit! Val! Yuuki! Paine! Hit it with spells!” Nikki ordered. A barrage of spells hit the fiend but only served to anger it further. The Elder Wyrm let out another roar, actually sending Mishka flying back due to the pressure wave. She landed right on one of the blue armored fiends. I quickly rushed to her, hitting the fiend with an Armor Break before killing it.

    “Joseph! Mishka! Look out!” I heard. I turned to see the Elder Wyrm bearing down on us, about to use its fire attack. Having no time to dodge, I planted my sword in front of me, the bladed side facing the fiend and me bracing the sword. With this, Mishka should be able to survive the attack while I’ll be seriously burned but alive. Just before the attack came, I felt someone casting something on me and Mishka. I turned to see Yuubou had thrown something at us. That was all I could see before fire engulfed us.

    The blade split the fire down the middle, leaving a small void behind us. I didn’t feel any of the flames burning me, as though I was immune to the attack for some reason. The flames let up, allowing me and Mishka to retreat back to the others. She also seems fine despite the attack just now.

    “Yuubou! What was that just now?” I asked.

    “Tetra Elemental. One of the few we have left” the twins said. Well that explains why that attack left us unharmed.

    The Elder Wyrm suddenly turned, its tail came whipping at us. Most of the group dodged it but a couple of Al-Bhed were caught by the attack, sending them over the edge and down into the fire below. There was no time to mourn them as the fiend turned around again, swiping its claws.

    The tide of battle was against us. Most of us can’t damage the fiend due to its very hard scales and the few people who could were rapidly running out of magic. I ran in front of Val as another claw swipe came at him. I blocked the swipe but it in turn launched me back a few feet. That’s when I noticed Nikki staying in place, bow up and ready and concentrating really hard. She was waiting for the right moment to launch an arrow but to where? Every physical hit so far has been a complete waste of time.

    Nikki released the arrow and I watched it fly through the air. The arrow went straight into the Elder Wyrm’s eye. The fiend roared in pain, almost deafening to hear.

    Of course! Not all parts on it are armored! Why the hell didn’t I realize that sooner?’ I thought, covering my ears. The Elder Wyrm now looked very angry. It moved forward, attacking everything that moves including the blue armored fiends. It looked at Nikki with its good eye before breathing in, about to use its fire attack again. She waited till it released its attack before dodging. The attack missed by mere inches.

    Sighing in relief, I turned to think of a way to deal with this fiend. I realized that there may be only one way to do so. I ran to Val who was getting up from dodging a previous attack. I shoved a Turbo Ether into his hands.

    “I hope you have a very strong Thunder spell in reserve. This may be our only chance to defeat this thing,” I said before dashing off.

    The Elder Wyrm was still concentrating on Nikki. I moved in to block a claw swipe at her. While I was helping Nikki fend off the fiend, Val prepared his spell. A large yellow sunburst symbol appeared under his feet. With that, a man wearing a royal crown and having a large horn on his forehead appeared, dressed in full body armor and wielding a large spear. As the figure starts spinning his spear, Val began spinning his guns.

    Meanwhile, Nikki and I dodged and defended against the Elder Wyrm. It seems fed up and began inhaling, charging for its fire attack again. With that, I grabbed Nikki by her collar and threw her to the side, safe from harm.

    “Joseph! What the fuck are you doing?!” she screamed as she flew through the air. I looked back to see the fiend about to attack. I ran at it, seemingly in a suicide charge.

    One thing I noticed about the fiend was that whenever it used its flame attack, it would always lower its head till it was just a few feet of the ground just as it released it. I would use this to my advantage right now. Just as the Elder Wyrm released its attack, I jumped high into the air. The flames just missed my boots and I landed on the fiend’s head. I took my sword and rammed it straight into the undamaged eye. The fiend roared in pain and began to wildly thrash its head around, trying to get me off of it. I hung on for dear life.

    “VAL!!!!!” I yelled. He knew exactly what to do. He stopped spinning his guns and aimed them at the fiend.

    “RAITEI – ZANMABAKURAI!!!!!” and pulled both triggers. I channeled a Mental Break through my sword which this time took effect before letting go.

    The figure behind Val slammed its spear into the ground. Small sunburst symbols appeared under the Elder Wyrm before small bolts of lightning began to rain down on it. While some missed, most of these small bolts hit my sword which in turn went straight into the Elder Wyrm, paralyzing and damaging it. With a final large sunburst appearing under the fiend, a large bolt of lightning went straight into the fiend. This final bolt killed the Elder Wyrm, leaving it in a crater while it slowly faded into pyreflies.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the final demise of the fiend. When I let go of the sword, the fiend had flung me right near the edge of the platform. I landed and skidded right off the edge, grabbing the ledge at the last possible moment. I managed to hang on while some small rocks fell into the flames below. I began to raise myself with my arms to get back onto the platform. But suddenly the ledge I grabbed on to weakened and broke. For a second I thought I was going to die in this place. A moment later, I felt 2 sets of hands grabbing me and stooping my fall. I looked up to see that Kyra and Nikki grabbing my hands, saving me.

    “Hold on Joseph, we’ll get you back up,” Kyra said, straining to hold on.

    “Don’t think for a second that I’m gonna let an idiot like you die down here. A LITTLE HELP HERE WOULD BE FUCKING FANTASTIC RIGHT AROUND NOW!!!!” Nikki yelled, getting people to come help me up. With me on solid ground, I took a moment to look at the scene of the downed fiend before I felt my stomach churn. I turn back to the ledge and threw up.

    “Who would’ve thought that mister big, tough samurai would have a weak stomach?” Mishka teased. Some of the others laughed a bit, now that the tension was released.

    “Oh shut up you. I’d like to see you do that without throwing up. Geez, that was much worse than trying to tame a wild chocobo,” I muttered, getting back to my feet. One of the Al-Bhed game me a bottle of water. I drank it down, washing the taste out of my mouth. I thanked him before going into the crater and retrieving my sword. It looked a bit battered, but it was still in good shape. We spent the next few minutes checking injuries and helping the injured.

    “Good shot Val,” I said.

    “Well you did say to use my strongest,” he replied.

    With injuries sorted out, I looked up to see that the crystal on the exit had shattered, letting us leave this place. With a few jumps and close calls, we got to it and advanced deeper into the Via Infinito.


    Cloister 45 thankfully looked quite normal, a few platforms moved that you had to wait for, then jump and be carried to the ledge but nothing above or below, which relieved Nikki since this was the first time in a while they didn't have to fucking run for their lives. But still, something played on her mind as they quietly walked through the cloister, she mentally counted all the team again just to make sure.

    “What's wrong?”


    “Nikki I've seen you count at least everyone three times now, something is bothering you.” Said Kyra hands on her hips smiling. Nikki stopped walking and turned to her.

    “I don't know, but I have this feeling that someone is...”

    “Missing? I've had that feeling too for a while now.” answered Kyra for her. Nikki nodded.

    “Umm... We've had the same feelings too, like someone that was meant to be with us isn't here.” Sad the twins they were less hyper they looked quite sad about it.

    “Now that you mention it...”

    “You too Joseph?” He just nodded. Nikki turned to the rest of the group.

    “Have you all had this feeling?”

    “Seems so,” said Paine

    “Should we ask the girl?” questioned Cyan voicing her opinion out loud. Nikki didn't feel that would be such a good idea, she was unpredictable at the best of times. Had they really forgotten someone? Or could it be the Via Infinito playing tricks on them.

    “It could be a trick” suggested the Meyvin, Nikki frowned. No one seemed to answer so he carried on. “We still don't know that much about the Via Infinito but we've been told they can make you hallucinate.”

    “Are you suggesting that the Via Infinito is making us feel like there is someone else?” said Paine crossing her arms.

    “Yes” Nikki shivered at that thought, she didn't like to think that it could get inside her head.

    Did you forget something?” the girl inside Nikki's head seemed to have surfaced again. Nikki still couldn't work out who or what she was. She had heard earlier that the unsent girl had done something to Kyra earlier, naming “her” as a present but one that would fade away. Nikki wondered did Kyra hear the voice too? Her eyes went over to Kyra who seemed to be engrossed in the conversation.

    “...should move on” Snapping out of her thoughts Nikki noticed that they were all now looking at her, it unnerved her.

    “WHAT?!” she snapped. She then felt a tug at her skirt and turned and saw the little girl beside her tugging at her skirt trying to get her attention.

    “Mummy...” she quivered, “the secrets did something bad.” Nikki bent down to her. She heard her talk about
    these “secrets” before. The dingo seemed to whimper beside her, the fiend's behaviour still unnerved her.

    “What happened?”

    “Well, you see, I locked the broken toy in his room so he could never come out because it goes on and on forever. But then the secrets told me to give him a toy because he would get bored and then I don't remember. What did I do mummy? Did I do something bad?” The girl was now getting high pitched and hysterical the pryeflies buzzed angrily around her the dingo burst into pyreflies and turned into a bigger version of itself, and it growled, the girl was too busy crying to notice. Nikki knew that if she didn't calm down she could go berserk again. Kyra felt her bent down beside her.

    “It's okay, you've done nothing wrong, I'm sure.” Sobbing the girl looked up. She gave a little sniff.

    “Really?” She seemed to look round looking for reassurance.

    “Yes, you've been a good girl to come and tell us.” she heard Mishka say from behind. Although Nikki wasn't quite sure what the girl was telling them. The little girl gave a smile and the pryeflies seemed to slow to a gentle hum. She turned to the fiend and giggled.

    “Mr doggie, you've gotton very big” The fiend just wagged it's tail in response.

    “Can you tell us the room you put Auron in?” asked Cyan as Nikki stood up.

    “Oh don't worry sissy, he can't get out.” the girl said while petting the fiend beside her. “When he gets to the end, he goes back to the start and he goes like that forever.”

    “What was the toy you put in there?”

    “I don't know sissy the secrets made me go to sleep.”

    This is getting us nowhere”thought Nikki. The girl then suddenly looked from the fiend to the group. She then tilted her head to the side in confusion.

    “Where's the other smelly boy?”

    “AHH she knows who is missing!” cried out the twins suddenly, but as soon as they did they suddenly covered their mouths, but thankfully it didn't seem to bother the girl, but Nikki slapped her forehead in irritation and groaned. Suddenly she felt her feet sink into the floor.

    “Nikki!” cried out Kyra,

    “Don't come any closer!” yelled Nikki fearful if she did she would sink too. She saw Joseph grab her arm before she did.

    “AHHH!” Nikki turned to see the two twins sinking. And soon after one by one everyone began to sink regardless of where they were standing.

    “Oh no no no no, I told you too much, the secrets are angry.”

    “Don't struggle!” Nikki yelled at the twins. The twins were trying to wiggle their way out but were sinking faster because of it.

    “You struggle you'll go faster.” Paine added. The twins just nodded.

    “Yuki can you use your magic to teleport us out?”

    “Everyone's too spaced out!” cried out the twins.

    “Toy, toy, toy I need a toy, hmmm.” The girl seemed to sit down a ponder for a moment.

    Fucking great we're sinking and our only hope is her.”

    “Sweetie if you could hurry up just a little bit, we would all be grateful.” said Cyan, the floor was now at Nikki's waist.

    “Okay sissy” she said smiling, she closed her eyes and a glyph appeared before the girl as she began to summon something, the pryeflies began to come together, and it seemed to be taking quite a while. The floor was at Nikki's neck, the pryeflies came together to finally form an image of a person.

    RIKKU?!” thought Nikki but it was too late Nikki held her breathe as she slipped down and was falling, and had enough time to hear an “Oopsie” before she fell onto a hard floor from quite a way, she rolled as she landed, both the twins landed on top of her, as well as Mishka.

    “Oh we're sorry Nikki, are you al right?” asked the twins as she felt them quickly get off.

    “Fucking get off.” said Nikki to Mishka.

    “I'm sorry I can't hear you.” Nikki was on her stomach so she really couldn't see her expression, she imagine she was grinning at this point. She felt the weight of Mishka get of her though and Nikki sat up to see that Cyan had grabbed her by the arm and dragged her off.

    “This isn't the time Mishka, you can tease her when we get back on the surface” Joseph interrupted.

    “So anyone have any idea where we are now? And why we all saw Rikku up there?”

    “Most likely Rikku was just a copy she made,” commented Paine.

    “We're at Cloister 46!” said the twins happily. Suddenly the little girl came from above.

    “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” she cried happily as her and the fiend landed slowly and softly on their feet. She suddenly stood stiff, “Oh no! No no no, we're in his room” she suddenly burst into pryeflies and floated away and right on cue Auron rounded the corner, along with someone in full armour with a helmet.

    “What the fuck?!” said Nikki.

    “Hey it's Gideon! We remember now!” said the twins cheerfully.

    “Does he never give up?” said Val she saw him get ready for battle.

    “Nice to see you all again.” said the one called Gideon who Nikki had never seen in her life. First impression, was that he was an idiot.

    “Introductions later, for now we run.” with that everyone ran with Auron following close behind she knew that they couldn't take him on not after last time, but he would soon catch up with them if they didn't think of something.

    “Nikki! The ceiling!” called out Joseph as they rounded a corner Nikki glanced up to see parts of the ceiling looked weak, she knew exactly what he was thinking then.

    “Okay everyone at this next corner stop turn around, and attack the ceiling a foot in front of us.”

    “What would...” began Kyra “Oh wait I see now!” With that as soon as everyone rounded the corner they stopped, turned and focused their attacks on the ceiling, Nikki fired triple arrows one after another at the ceiling and just as Auron approached the ceiling cracked and tumbled down in front of them. Nikki dove out of the way and when the dust settled she looked to see if everyone was okay.

    “Thank you Joseph.”

    “No problem.” Nikki turned to see a rock by them cut in half and Kyra underneath Joseph who had seemed to have protected her. Nikki clenched her fist and then relaxed it again, Joseph saved her, so why was she feeling angry at Joseph. She told herself she was being an idiot and looked around at everyone else who was getting up.

    “Gideon, Gideon, did you miss us, did ya?” said the twins quickly.

    “Well lets just say I'm relieved to see you all again.”

    “Oh, now it's coming back to me.” Said Val. “You see I was trying to figure out who you were.”

    “You forgot who I was?”

    “We're sorry but all of us forgot who you were.” said the twins. “But we remember now right Nikki?” Nikki walked over to them.

    “I don't know who the fuck he is.”

    “AHHHH oh no!”

    “Relax, she's joking.” said Paine who came over to join them. Nikki smirked at the twins dumb folded expressions. In the short space of time all her memories had been returned to her about Gideon. She couldn't really believe how they had all forgotten him.

    “Ah, so she can crack a joke now and again.” said Mishka.

    “Gideon do you know where the exit is?” asked Nikki. Gideon shook his head.

    “I feel like I've been going in circles for a long time”

    “The girl said it was never ending, do you think she meant this whole floor?”

    “And that wall we just made is not going to hold forever.” said Joseph.

    Fuck...” thought Nikki. “There must be a way out.”

    “Over here!” called Cyan Nikki turned and walked toward Cyan who had opened a stray treasure chest a blue butterfly fluttered above it.

    “A butterfly?” questioned Kyra.

    “Hey it's a blue one! That's lucky.” said the twins as Yuki caught it in her hands, but as soon as she did the wall in front of the chest lowered down and revealed a maze with the exit up ahead.

    “Well that wasn't there before.”

    “I think we just found our way out”

    Thank fucking Yevon.” thought Nikki as they walked toward the maze filled with fiends, Nikki drew her bow ready for battle.


    Usually, a Cloister should be a simple maze with some strong monsters blocking your path down. This was YuRiPa encountered when they first came down here. Unfortunately, this is not what we encountered right now.

    The entrance that we entered this maze suddenly closed, forcing us to complete this maze to get to the next Cloister. However, there were many monsters in our way in this maze. Yuki let go of the butterfly as we all readied our weapons. The butterfly would guide us to the exit but the fights ahead would not be easy. I muttered my Hayate spell, casting it on the people around me. More Haste spells were casted to make sure that we can keep up. We ran just as the blue butterfly turn around the corner.

    Around the corner were Spirits, Lacertas and Tindalos. Most of the time, we would fight our way through such a horde but since we had no time, I bashed them aside with my sword. Kyra and that Gideon fellow did the exact same while Nikki and Val shot the more annoying ones. The others also did what was needed to clear a path. Usually any person can catch up with a butterfly simply by walking but it much harder to do so when combating fiends.

    This went on for the next half an hour or so. We would catch up to the butterfly just as we needed to fight through another pack of fiends before catching up to it. We almost lost several people and the butterfly at several points throughout the maze.

    That would be the first and last time I try kicking a Humbaba in the head to get away,’ I thought, running to catch up with the others. We rounded the corner and continued chasing the blue butterfly, we slowed our pace down a bit since there were no fiends. After several more twist and turns, someone voiced what all of us probably had on our minds.

    “Where are all the fiends? There were so many not that long ago,” I heard the armored one say. He was right in that it was so strange that there were suddenly no fiends in this area.

    “That may mean that we are close to the exit. Keep an eye out for anything,” Mishka said. The butterfly turned a corner and when we rounded that corner, Nikki said exactly what everyone though.

    “Holy fucking shit.”

    The area suddenly opened up into the circular chamber but that was not what made Nikki swear. It was the fact that this chamber was filled with blue butterflies, hundreds of them. It would have looked beautiful in any other circumstances but this was not one of them. I watched as Cyan grabbed one of the butterflies in front of her. The butterfly simply faded into pyreflies.

    “So that girl must have been behind this,” she said, looking up at the massed butterflies.

    “But what now? It is not as if we can try to find the real one in this mass. We might kill it by accident and we have no way out,” Val replied.

    Parts of the wall suddenly slid open to reveal several passageways. There were eight in total including where we entered. I watched as several butterflies flew though different passageways.

    “That’s impossible. The blue butterfly should only go towards the exit, not in any random direction,” the twins said. That was true.

    “That girl must think of this as a game or something,” Kyra muttered. I decided to do something and stepped out.

    “Can you guys be quiet? Let me try something,” I said. I walked into the middle of the chamber and stood there with my eyes closed.

    “What are you trying to do Joseph?” Kyra asked. I ignored her and concentrated.

    I concentrated on my other senses. The world and my group seem to fade away into nothingness in my mind. The air seems to stop dead while I concentrated. This was one of the exercises that my sensei would do. He would just concentrate on how the air would flow. This allowed him to feel the difference in the woods, which would guide him out. I never really understood it until this moment. The air should be dead in this maze but I could feel the air move in one direction. I opened my eyes and looked around. The butterflies were almost all gone. I moved into one passageway and headed down it. The others were almost surprised at this. They gave chase and Nikki grabbed my shoulder.

    “Where the fuck are you going Joseph? We’re not sure that this is the way out,” she exclaimed.

    “This is the way out. The airflow was dead in the other passageways except this one. I can feel the air moving down this way which should mean that this is the way out,” I explained, heading further down the passageway. The others seem to trust my instinct and went along with it. After another few minutes, we emerged out of the maze and the next Cloister portal was in front of us.

    “See?” I said. Nikki growled a bit but decided not to press the matter. I shrugged and our group headed towards the next portal. Just then, something giant and black landed right in front of us. It turned out to be a giant spider. It was pure black and with what seems a lot of spikes on its body.

    “God damn stupid Cloister! Why the fuck can’t it just leave us alone!?” Nikki cursed as we readied our weapons again.


    “Can you guys be quiet? Let me try something,” And then Nikki watched as he walked into the middle and closed his eyes.

    What the fuck is he doing?” that was Nikki’s first reaction she didn’t see how closing his eyes was going to achieve anything.

    “What are you trying to do Joseph?” he ignored her, Nikki was getting impatient this was taking too long and time was of the essence, she could feel her anger rising until she saw Joseph suddenly open his eyes and then take off down a passage.

    WHAT THE FUCK!” and Nikki along with everyone else ran after him, when Nikki did catch up to him, she grabbed his shoulder forcing him to turn around. “Where the fuck are you going Joseph? We’re not sure that this is the way out,”

    “This is the way out. The airflow was dead in the other passageways except this one. I can feel the air moving down this way which should mean that this is the way out,” he seemed to look pretty certain about what he was saying so for now she trusted and walked along ith him, and true to his word they emerged out of the maze with the portal right in front of them. “See?” Nikki just growled she still didn’t like show offs.

    They then walked towards the portal but suddenly a black spider like fiend jumped down infront of them, with spikes on it’s back. Oh for fucks sake wonderful” and right on cue the voice entered back into her head reacting to the surroundings.

    Don’t be silly spiders can’t hurt you”

    “God damn stupid Cloister! Why the fuck can’t it just leave us alone!?” She heard a whimper beside her.

    “Oh no...” She turned to see Kyra slightly backing away.


    “I hate spiders, I hate everything about them thier hairy body the fact that they’ve got those thing legs and there’s eight of them.” she whispered

    “Ah don’t worry we’ll cut off it’s legs it’s only one spider” The twins spoke too soon, just then alot of mini spiders came out of nowhere.

    Fuck” thought Nikki as she began shooting at them with her arrows.

    “AH get away!” Nikki turned to see Kyra furiously slashing at them and making quick work of them even using her stongest spells to tackle them even though she didn’t need to.

    “Gideon!” cried out the twins Nikki turns to see Gideon being caught in the a web Nikki shot an arrow at the web cutting it free but the big spider just fired more webs at him, most of them Gideon had dodged but the spider seemed to be ruthless, the more Nikki tried to distract it the more the spider seemed to ignore her and go for Gideon, even the rest of the team were now upon it, since Kyra seemed to be handling the little spiders pretty well and ere distracting all of them with her force. Another web was fired at Gideon catching him by the throat. Just as Nikki heart was caught in her mouth at the prospect of failing a comrade, he as enveloped into a bright wwhite and suddenly disappeared.

    “What the fuck, where did he go?!” she yelled.

    “Nikki watch out” yelled out Val but it as too late a web had caught Nikki’s arm and had wrap it around her.

    “Fuck” was all she said before the spider seemed to grin and flinged her high into the air and making her crash again down on the floor. Nikki fel incredible pain in her back and pretty sure that her shoulder was now twisted.

    “You let her go you ugly freak!!!” Nikki left the tension of the web cut off as she was cut free, she looked up to see Kyra charging in hacking at the spider before jumping back and pulling the trigger letting out a fireball that plunged straight into it. She only stopped when a small spider leaped on her which made her jump and cry out. “Get off me!” she then resumed to cut down any little spiders that came near her.

    The main spider however was still not down and ignoring the pain in her shoulher she picked up her bow which was on the floor and aimed a triple arrow for it’s eyes, it’s gave a deafening screech which left Nikki’s eyes ringing as it as blinded it seemed to be stumbling and Nikki yelled out “Now attack together!” Everyone, minus Kyra who hadn’t seemed to have heard as she was so focused on killing every last little spider, attacked the main spider, the Albehd unleashed a barrage of bullets, and Nikki focused on her arrows making sure many hit as quickly as possible. Finally the spider succumbed to Val’s finishing blow and it dissolved into pryeflies.

    “AHHH” heard Nikki from Kyra, she turned to see Kyra chase after a lone small spider which was trying to scuttle away from her she the brought down her gunblade on it and it let out a squek of pain before dissolving into Pryeflies. Nikki kne that Gideon was still missing but she went over to Kyra and put a hand on her shoulder, Kyra was heavily breathing.

    “Are you okay?”

    “I hate spiders, some even jumped on me, it gave me the shivers.” She was slightly shaking and so Nikki did the only thing she thought she could do to comfort her. She told Kyra to look at her and wrapped her arms around her into a hug.

    “It’s okay it’s over now.” Nikki gently said, she Nikki saw over Kyra’s shoulder a bright white light, and as it faded it revealed Gideon with hat seemed to be like a new weapon, he looked pretty out of breath and a bit beat up. Nikki suddenly let go of Kyra and strode over to Gideon. “Where the fuck- Ah” Nikki stopped in her place and grabbed at her shoulder and winced in pain.

    “Careful that fiend flung you about ten feet into the air.” Said Paine as she handed her a potion Nikki nodded her thanks and drunk at the potion. Nikki heard the other here he got the weapon and here he had gone to, he explained he was taken to a secret floor which hid a weapon, the unsent girl had explained to him that long ago arriors had left it here in a great battle and that he was free to claim it but before he could ask anything more the girl disappeared.

    Then the group moved onto the portal and found themselve at the start of Cloister 47, suddenly the pryeflies from the walls of the cloister gathered and flung themselves screaming into Nikki, she feel to her knees in pain grabbing at her head. “Ahhh!!”

    “Nikki, no what’s going on, it’s not her is it?”

    “No the little girl doesn’t appear to be here.” Then as quickly as they went in they drifted out and then proceeded to form to figures infront of them one made everyone gasp it was a younger version of Nikki, her as a 14 year old, in a full black outfit with her bo and arrow loaded, glaring at the group. Next to her an older girl appeared in a long black dress with long plack hair that reached her ankles, fear reached into the pit of Nikki’s stomach as she recognised her as Sanika, but as a 17 year old.

    “How lovely more targets for you little Nikki.” Said Sanika.

    “Run!” shouted out the little girl who had appeared behind the figures that had appeared the giant dingo next to her whimpered.

    “Oh come on there’s two of them and loads of us how powerful could they be.” The 14 year old Nikki smirked as loaded her arrow so quickly that everyone barely doged the attack which then turned into a hige fireballs as it exploded on impact on the floor.“Okay point taken.” Said Val. The little girl quickly used her magic to push aside the new creations as she yelled out to them.

    “Follow me!” she then jumped on the giant dingo. “Go doggie!” Not taking no as an answer Nikki yelled at them.
    “Get your asses moving she’s Sanika!” She then ran after the girl and the whole group followed her, but not before she heard the taunt of the 17 year old Sanika.

    “You may run but you can’t hide from me, I’m still coming, I’m always coming you can’t save your friend once you are on the surface!”

    Shut up” Nikki thought as they rounded a corner and up onto a ledge, noone sadi a ord as they hid and waiting til Nikki and Sanika ran past and hen they were sure they ere safe Cyan spoke.

    “Did you make these?” The little girl shook her head as the dingo next to her wagged it’s tail.

    “I didn’t make these toys, the secrets want them I think... I think” the girl sobbed. “The screamers made them.”


    Blast!”I growled, pounding the console unexpectedly hard.

    It had been unintentional and, as a result, garnered me less faith than I had even had before. Many of the guado were staring, having since been informed of my true disposition by Keema. She hadn't betrayed me to them, but she knew I would weaken the longer I remained so close to the Farplane and had me disengage the illusions that made me Iazek Guado. We were now all poised at finding Rin's criminal purposes for staying in the Farplane Glen, mining the machina remains of the hideous Vegnagun at the Farplane's core, and bringing in not taking away more machina.

    However, my presence, despite its altruism, was still ill-received by the other guado. There were the orthodox believers that could not be swayed the moment they discovered what I truly was. Though following the directive to keep watch over Rin's activities, they simultaneously watched over mine, as well. The consensus among them was that I was still unsent, a being existing only for its own selfish ends that drives its unendingly term on this living surface. My outburst had no doubt cost me and furthered their disfavour.

    Hey, what the hell was that?” Hunter whispered, having approached when my actions paused operations.

    What indeed. I had been in control. I had kept my abilities hidden and hidden well. The guado here made no notice. It was only Keema that had sensed my lifeless essence. None of them, not one of the others had suspected, but now this. Down in the Via Infinito, Mishka Guado had finally sensed my pyreflies within her. She told the others about me. What was worse, I had nearly lost all connection to them. If it hadn't been for the fact that they were my pyreflies, I would have no bridge to them, at all. What had happened to me?

    I'm sorry. It was an unnecessary and juvenile overreaction.” I explained to Hunter, though his concern kept, “The scan failed and it wouldn't reboot correctly.”

    Hunter placed a hand on my shoulder, “What's really going on?”

    As the others returned to their duties, I excused myself, telling him I was feeling ill and needed rest. He surmised that our other operations had been less than successful as of late, which brought on my frustrations. Though, it was true, I had been daunted by our lack of progress with Rin, this latest turn of events was equally, if not more, disturbing.

    Later, I would find my way to Keema to discuss her exact meaning about my becoming weaker the longer I remained near the Farplane. It was something I had already known, but I hadn't expected it to have affected me in this manner. What was I if not my unsent capabilities? My mission required it of me regardless of its abominable nature.

    Your pyreflies are being drawn into the Farplane. It is this unknowable force that draws them to create life and return once that life has been extinguished.” She explained.

    You mean to say the Farplane itself berates my presence?” I asked, oddly upset by this news.

    Yes. You must understand the unsent is an anomaly by nature. When a person dies, the pyreflies that had dwelled within should be released back to the Farplane to begin life anew. However, it is your own will, whatever haunts you, that forces them to stay. This bond is a curse on them. It enslaves them to a single entity and prevents the Farplane from allowing them to move on.”

    You mean to say... I've enslaved these pyreflies of mine?” I uttered, shocked that I had always known this, yet continued on this quest nonetheless.

    My apologies. I didn't mean to say it so harshly.”

    But that is the truth of it, isn't it? I'm a creature that counteracts the proper way of thing. I am a poison to these, my own pyreflies.

    You have yet a mission you have chosen to endure.” She eased.

    You are right. I do have a mission yet.I proclaimed, reinvigorated by those words, “I must double my efforts then!”

    I grabbed her by both her shoulders, confidence seeping from my being that I hoped she might find some, as well, “Keema, I know my existence is a monstrosity, but it is a necessary evil for now. Once we've stopped Rin's plot, I will be able to rest and free these pyreflies from their plight.”

    Keema only nodded to me, her eyes widened by surprise. At least, I hoped they were of surprise. With renewed vigor, I felt we could accomplish our goal and stop Rin and his scheming. I would not take this in vain. My blight on this Spira cannot be unless it be for the greater good. I have, through determination and piety, become like unto my enemy, but I will make it a worthy sacrifice. Praise be to Yevon.

  3. #33

    I looked around the corner, trying to see if the young Nikki and Sanika were around. Seeing no one there, I turned to Nikki who was silent during the exchange.

    “Come on, we need to go now,” I said, placing a hand on her shoulder. I frowned a bit because I could feel Nikki trembling a bit. But after a moment, it passed.

    “Yeah. Let’s go before they catch us again,” she replied, shrugging my hand off before moving. I moved ahead a bit to make sure the path was clear. I signaled the others to follow me. We moved deeper into the Cloister, ever watchful for the young Nikki and Sanika. However, the halls seem deserted. That put me on edge even further.

    “Maybe they moved in deeper into the Via Infinito,” Mishka said, with a bit of a hopeful tone. I knew that this would not be the case. A sudden scraping sound made us turn around. Behind us was the young Nikki, with an arrow nocked and bow drawn. The arrow was covered in flame. The fact that it took a moment for her to aim gave the group time to move. I grabbed those close to me and pulled them down. A moment later, the young Nikki released her arrow, becoming a massive fireball, which flew straight as us. Most of us were able to get out of the way in time, but the flames caught several of the Al-Bhed.

    “RUN!!!” shouted Nikki. Deciding that doing that was probably the best choice, we all literally picked ourselves up before sprinting down the hall as fast as we could. The young Nikki had the advantage of the narrow corridor so it was unwise to fight right then. Our group ran through the corridors until we came across an open cavern. The exit to the cloister was at the other end, but the pyreflies made a barrier in front of it.

    “Damnit, now what?” I asked, turning to Nikki. However, something has happened to her. She was sitting on the ground, having brought her knees to her chest and was also shaking quite violently. I knelt next to her, quite concerned about her.

    “I can’t….. I just can’t…. We can’t beat them no matter what….” she muttered, shaking in fear. I growled, knowing that having a breakdown at this moment is an extremely bad idea. I turned to the others.

    “We’re going to have to take them out if we want to continue. Mishka, Gideon, and Yuki. I want you along with half the Al-Bhed to take on Sanika. Do whatever it takes to kill her. Cyan, Val, Yuubou and I along with the rest of group will take on Nikki. Kyra, see if you can help Nikki here. The sooner she gets over this, the better chance we have,” I ordered. Kyra was about to argue but seeing Nikki in her current state, she thought otherwise. I left her to move Nikki to a safer place while we readied ourselves for the fight.

    “Stopped running haven’t you? Good, now you don’t need to die tired,” Sanika said, entering the cavern with young Nikki. I held my hand up, signaling the others to not attack just yet. I waited until they entered the area before lowering my hand, signaling the group to attack. We rushed our targets.

    I reached young Nikki just a bit faster than the others, taking the opportunity to attack her. She blocked with her bow before grabbing an arrow and stabbed me in the gut with it. My armor took the hit without any issues, so I pushed her bow aside before trying to slash her. She jumped backwards before nocking an arrow and firing. I blocked it just as the others started attacking her.

    It was strange really; the way this young Nikki fights is very similar to the real Nikki only that the younger version was much more aggressive. She never stopped moving, already changing directions while nocking and firing arrows at the group. Occasionally, she would use techniques to try to kill but the others would evade just in time. Cyan and I would try to stop her movements but she would either fire more arrows and spells or evade at the last moment. I took a moment to assess the other group who were fighting Sanika. I could see that the fight was not going well for them. They had already last some of the Al-Bhed to her attacks. I would have sent others to help but we were just able to contain the young Nikki with what we had. I saw that Kyra has no luck with Nikki either.

    “Cyan, can you hold her off without me?” I asked.

    “I’ll try but I can’t promise anything,” she replied. I nodded and sprinted off towards Nikki. I stopped next of Nikki and Kyra.

    “Kyra, move,” I ordered. Kyra did not argue and moved to one side. I roughly grabbed the front of Nikki’s top and pulled her to her feet. Yevon, forgive me,’ I thought before saying one thing to Nikki.

    “Nikki. Grit your teeth,” was all I said before punching her on the side of her face. She seemed shocked and dazed at what I did.

    “Joseph!!! What that necessary?!?!” Kyra yelled.

    “Yes it was. Now listen up Nikki, you said to me that you fear losing someone down here. Now that will become a reality if you don’t stop your little breakdown episode. You fear this Sanika. It’s fine to fear her. My sensei told me that only an amateur would think about not being afraid. A skilled fighter knows the feeling of fear and does it anyways. Besides, you’re not alone in this fight. So snap out of your world and fight already,” I said in the calmest voice I could muster in the situation. The fire in Nikki’s eyes that was not there a moment ago began to reappear. She growled and suddenly drew her arm back and punched me back. I grunted a bit, feeling that pain in my head before turning back to Nikki.

    “Now that’s the Nikki I know. You feeling any better?”

    “Shut your fucking mouth Joseph. I now have a splitting headache and my jaw hurts like hell,” she cursed. But a small smile appeared on her lips. “But you know what? That’s fine. I almost forgot one important thing in life now.”

    “Good. Now can you and Kyra handle your younger self? I need to go support the people fighting Sanika,” I asked. She nodded.

    “But of course. That is me they’re fighting. But you better not get killed fighting Sanika because there’s still more for punching me that hard,” Nikki replied. With that sorted out, I ran to Sanika. She seemed to give Mishka and Gideon some problems. Since they were trying to keep close, Sanika was trying to keep her distance while using Psycho Bomb and Mazer Eye attacks to keep harassing the Al-Bhed. I charged straight in, using Hayate to increase my approach speed. I managed to get close enough to attack, but she blocked my attack with ease.

    “You’re finally here. Good I was getting bored,” Sanika taunted. I ignored the remark and attacked alongside Gideon and Mishka. However, it seems that she was able to read our movements. She evaded our attacks with ease. I looked to find Al-Bhed firing their guns, only for the bullets to bounce off a shield.

    Great, Physical Guard. That means she knows Magic Guard as well. So how do we kill her?’ I thought, rushing in to defend the Al-Bhed from a Mazer Eye attack. I then noticed something odd. Sanika was quite powerful, powerful enough to take us on without needing help. She had the skills to defeat us but she isn’t doing that, almost like she’s playing with us. All of a sudden, it made sense why.

    Of course. It was that simple. Ok, now the hard bit,’ I thought, going in and channeling an Armor Break. Sanika had just landed on the ground. I used that moment to clash with her shield. The shield shattered and I used that moment to punch her in the face with my free fist. That apparently made her very angry.

    “Ok that’s it! Now I’m going to kill you, you damn swine!!!” Sanika roared, suddenly disappearing. She teleported to another location before teleporting again. I swung behind me, not hitting her. I could feel that she was building up to finish me. I closed my eyes and calmed my breathing, holding my sword loosely at my side.

    “Accepting death now are we? Well then, at least you’re not as stupid as the others trying to fight in inevitable!” I heard. Sanika’s voice seems to be resonating throughout the cavern. I could suddenly feel the winds changing directions and the very faint sounds of something behind me, approaching at high speeds. Within a second, I reversed my grip on my sword and thrust it behind me. A second later, I could feel and hear someone impacting my sword which ran through them. I turned to see that Sanika had impaled herself on my sword, arms held high ready to kill me.

    “Arrogance is the downfall of any warrior. Remember that,” I said, pulling my sword out. As Sanika fell to the floor, I suddenly saw a large number of arrows impacting the floor around Sanika. The Thunderga spell in those arrows released, shoving all of us back. I got back up to see that the young Nikki was cradling Sanika, begging her to not leave.

    “You must survive young one,” I heard Sanika say in a motherly voice. “You are the stronger one and I will not let them take you from this world.”

    With that, Sanika used the last of her magic and teleported the young Nikki. Just then, the others caught up with Sanika. As she faded to pyreflies, she gave one last warning.

    “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,” Sanika said, before fading completely.



    “Running. Running. Running is a good plan. Everybody just keep running!”

    “I think we heard you the first time.” I said, coming alongside our leader.

    “If you did, you wouldn't be fucking making jokes at a time like this!”

    “This is unlike you, Nikki. Are these manifestations really so dangerous?” Cyan asked, having caught up to both of us.

    “Yes, dangerous! Very...”

    “...dangerous! Eek!” The twins shouted out, having narrowly dodged one of the younger Nikki's bolts.

    The others had been keeping pace, but as they were behind us, the little girl's two new creations were targeting them. Joseph and Kyra were handling things, but we were all rather tired after so many frustrating cloisters. We couldn't run forever.

    “Hey, little one. Want sissy to teach you something?” I said, moving towards Cyan to get her attention.

    “Hmm? Teach me something? Ooh, is it fun?” She asked as her fiend steed galloped along.

    “Yes, it is! We want to play a game!” Cyan told her, having understood where I was going with this.

    “Ooh, I do love games!”

    “Thought you might. Thi-”

    “Have you two completely lost it? That's Sanika back there and you're talking about a fucking game?!”

    I cleared my throat before continuing, “As I was saying, this is a very important lesson for when you play. It's called cheating.”

    “But I was taught that cheating is bad. Sissy is teaching me a bad thing.” She whined, the fiend she was riding on growing again with her being upset.

    “No, this is the good kind of cheating. It's all in fun, really it is!” Cyan explained, hopefully getting through to her.

    “Mm, okay! What do we do?”

    “You know how they're chasing us? What game do you suppose they mean to play?”

    She thought for a minute, then said, “Ooh, they want to play tag!”

    “Right, and we mustn't let them catch us!”

    “Yes yes, but they are so fast! We're not going to make it!”

    “That's where cheating comes in.” I explained to the girl, simultaneously motioning Nikki and Cyan to the exit down to Cloister 48, “If we just run like this, they're sure to catch us so we need to trick them.”

    Nikki finally caught on, seeing the exit a few more steps ahead. She turned her attention to the others who were close to us, though the younger Nikki and Sanika were catching up.

    Turning to the little girl, she said, “All of us are going to jump down into this exit. All you need to do is make sure those two go somewhere else when they jump.”

    “Ooh, we're going to be naughty! Alright, mummy, I hope we win!”

    “I hope so, too.” Nikki mumbled as we fell back into the same cloister.

    After we made sure they were nowhere in sight, everybody took a sigh of relief. Nikki was still shaken, but holding steady. However, none of us could feel safe and we knew we had to keep going.

    “Come on, we need to go now,” Joseph said to Nikki, patting her shoulder.

    “Yeah. Let’s go before they catch us again,”

    It was what everybody was thinking in the backs of their minds. Sanika had been the major threat. Nikki was terrified of her, but for the rest of us, I felt we couldn't shake how sinister this younger version of Nikki was. Was this how she used to be?

    Taking a cautious peek at the next turn, I chanced a guess and suggested that, “Maybe they moved in deeper into the Via Infinito,”

    No such luck. Seconds after I made that statement, we heard the echoes of an arrow tip streaking across the stone floor of the cloister. In the distance, that fake Nikki, eyes completely mad, lifted a blazing arrow at us. The last bolt she fired had barely allowed us time to dodge.

    “RUN!!!” Nikki screamed, taking off in the opposite direction.

    The lot of us took off behind her, hoping to use the twisting cloister to our advantage again. However, the little girl wasn't with us. We couldn't run for long. Still, getting to the next cloister would give us some time to think. As we rounded another corner, I saw the exit to the next cloister. Unfortunately, it appeared to be blocked. There was a wall of pyreflies before it, dense streams of the creatures so much so that we knew we couldn't pass. It seemed we had no choice but to fight. Joseph took command immediately and separated us into groups, one to face Sanika, one to face the other Nikki, and then he left Kyra to care for our Nikki who had all but given up once she saw the wall.

    “Stopped running haven’t you? Good, now you don’t need to die tired,” Sanika mused, stalking towards us with her companion just a few steps behind her.

    I readied Blurry Moon, though I had my doubts our band of three would do much against the telepath. I could smell the psi exuding from her form as they warped the path of the pyreflies near her. Gripping my sword tight, I extended my left foot to make a lunge, but Joseph would stop me, raising his hand so that we would go together. Looking to Gideon, Yuki, and the others, I nodded to them and watched closely for Joseph.

    As soon as his hand dropped, Gideon and I led the Al Bhed against her. We knew well enough that none of us were going to do a thing to her, but if we were lucky, we could distract her for Yuki to use her own psychic capabilities. No such luck. Sanika was very clever. She teleported the moment we got close and dispatched an unprepared Yuki in one fell swoop. With our team disoriented and our hope of defeating her gone, the Al Bhed all but scattered. Some used their Alchemist cannons to try mixing various chemicals into artillery. Others threw fragment grenades. Still others thought it best to fight her physically. None of these strategies were helping. Sanika simply grasped the grenades in her telekinesis and sent them into the barrels of the Alchemists, effectively stopping their concoctions from being fired while simultaneously detonating the devices. With those Al Bhed unarmed and anything thrown at her remade her own arsenal, they began to panic further. Gideon and I lost all control of the situation and even had to fend some of them off just to hold a position. Coupled with Sanika's reckless whimsy with her abilities, barely any of our Al Bhed survived and Gideon found himself immobilised by her Time Trip. I tried to make the best of the situation and sprung in to strike her with Blurry Moon's own abilities. Unfortunately, she was too swift and saw my attack coming. With a thought, she clutched my neck and I found myself struggling just to breath, never mind opposing her.

    Time Trip wore off as Gideon overcame its paralysis and he would come to my aid, attempting to slice Sanika down her length. This move forced her to teleport, which freed me from her touch. Suddenly, Joseph shot out from his end, hoping to strike her with his incredible speed, but this attack along with the following shots fired by his Al Bhed were easily blocked by her telepathic shields.

    “You’re finally here. Good I was getting bored,” Sanika purred, taking her attention to Joseph.

    I nodded to him, alerting him to our strategic position and the three of us launched separate attacks together. I struck down with Blurry Moon's Deathstrike. Gideon lunged high for her throat and Joseph swooped low to swipe at her middle. Even with this, all it took was for her to channel her energies and catch our weapons before they could make contact. Exhausted, I found myself trembling similar to Nikki previously. Gideon tried to continue the fight, but another Time Trip froze him in his step. Instead, the bout fell on Joseph alone. Somehow, though the battle had caused our spirits to wane, his only burned brighter. His strikes grew stronger and pressed against her telepathic barriers. Eventually, with one powerful blow, he would penetrate them, allowing for an embarrassing punch to Sanika's jaw.

    The simple stunt was all it took to unsteady her. She became furious at the humiliating bruise and her attacks turned sloppy. Finally, after mouthing off to feign her waning confidence, she would accidentally drive herself into his sword, causing her own demise.

    “Arrogance is the downfall of any warrior. Remember that,”

    Not a moment after, bolts of electrically charged arrows struck all about the dying illusion's body, the resulting sparks making it difficult to see. The younger Nikki had come to protect Sanika, but she was too late. With a few words shared between them, Sanika teleported the girl away.

    With her purpose seemingly fulfilled, she turned her attention to us and spat a warning with her final breaths, “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,”

    As the pyreflies cleared from her fading form, I took to Cyan for support in returning to my feet. The twins reunited and Val would prompt us to proceed into the next cloister, the wall of pyreflies having cleared.

    Once we all landed safely, the twins pointed out the Cloister 48 was rather straightforward. There was a hall that led to a platform surrounded by metal plates that prevented us from getting to the next cloister. Several platforms poked out from the walls, which we were to use to find a trigger that would move the plates and reveal the exit. With the rest of us exhausted from the previous cloisters and dealing with Nikki and Sanika, the twins took it upon themselves to find the trigger and allow the remainder of us to conserve our energy. Instead of needing to go up themselves, the twins could use their telekinesis and float up to the top, where the trigger was.

    “It's never that easy, though, is it?” Joseph grumbled.

    “Nope.” Kyra added, taking hold of her gunblade, “But right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.”

    Activating the trigger did release the plates and open the way to Cloister 49, however, it also released a Mutanjelly flan-type fiend on us. It was the worst time for the fiend to attack, though, as we had all been frustrated with the cloisters as of late. Kyra seemed to still be upset over the spider fiend while there felt to be tension between Nikki and Joseph standing on either side of her. Truth be told, I knew Cyan was still troubled by my not wanting to deal with Tromell, but I just wanted something to let loose on. Having my confidence returned to me after my time with Cyan and figuring out what had been the matter with me, that an unsent was hitching a ride inside, I wanted to relax. Nothing had been as difficult as I had thought it to be. Taking hold of Blurry Moon, I got into position.

    The fiend's attacks, despite its size, were pitiful. Most of it amounted to popping bits of itself at us, each glob of jelly creating a weaker flan that was easily taken care of. With Blurry Moon, I defeated them with a single stroke. Cyan, Gideon, Joseph, and Kyra were all set on targeting them. We left targeting the main fiend to the spellcasters and element users. Nikki poked through the fiend with her arrows, the resulting indents being used to send Val's bullets deeper inside it to cause more damage. The twins also went to work, using their magic to keep the Mutanjelly from doing much else. Paine had changed to Alchemist in order to keep their mana high and Nooj provided her with cover fire. Before long, the fiend dissolved and we were free to pass into the next cloister.

    Cloister 49 was tricky. There was no floor to the whole cloister, you see. All we had to walk on were moving beams of metal. We also knew that dropping down wasn't going to lead to any exit as below us appeared a river of black, which seemed to burn the lowest of the beams. What was worse, Lizalfo fiends were traveling the beams ahead, making their way to us.


    “Couldn't have said it better.” I groaned, unsure of our next move.

    “That could help.” Kyra said, pointing to a console on a static platform on the right side of the cloister.

    “If we can get to it.” Paine added, noting how many Lizalfos were also making their way to it.

    “Don't worry about the fiends. We can cover all of you over here. Just get to the controls.” Nooj ordered, making Nikki visibly grit her teeth.

    It was the best plan we had, so despite Nikki's disdain over having Nooj with us, we agreed to the Meyvn's plan and set off. Getting from beam to beam was difficult enough, but with the fiends occupying several we could have made use of, the cloister became worse. Even with the cover fire from Nooj, Val, and the twins, it still didn't stop all the fiends and we found ourselves attacking them just to snag a good beam. However, eventually, we all made it. The console was actually the key. One set of controls opened the bottom of the cloister, emptying the river to reveal the exit. Another set changed the way the beams worked, even stopping them all together. Once we set the beams into a good alignment, the others dropped down to the bottom of the cloister and began making their way to the exit. Once Paine locked the console, we, too, made our way down to Cloister 50.

    “Does this look like Cloister 50 to anyone?” Kyra asked, once we landed.



    “Now would have been a better time to use your swear.”

    “Fuck...” Cyan mumbled in her place.

    What was before us wasn't the Cloister 50 we expected it should have been. Instead, we were looking at the same lava pit that had been Cloister 44. The area appeared exactly right and even bolstered the same crystallised portal to the next cloister on its ceiling and the same elemental fiends.

    “It still has to be Cloister 50. I read reports that cloisters only appeared in random series of repeating patterns.” Joseph suggested, arming him with his sword to prepare for the fiends attack.

    “I hope you're right.” Kyra said, her voice sounding unsure.

    As we all took on the fiends, I was happy to note that, despite its similarity to Cloister 44, one key difference was the Elder Wyrm that we had had to defeat to shatter the crystal in that cloister was not present for this one. Once we had defeated the fiends again, the crystal shattered and we were free to jump to the next cloister. Cloister 51 was strangely just as Cloister 45 had been, a simple track of moving platforms that would take us further along. What was even stranger, Gideon was missing again. Cloister 45 had been the same cloister where we had first realised he had been taken to Sir Auron's winding tunnel. This time, however, the girl would not appear and we would not sink down to find him. We would only find the exit and drop down to 52, which eerily shared a layout with Cloister 46, the maze. Kyra was visibly upset by this as it was this maze that we encountered the spider fiend she hated. The fiend was not present this time, nor were there any other fiends, but Kyra kept brushing at her arms as though the spiders were there. Nikki and Joseph advised us to move quickly and get to the next cloister, seeing as how we already knew our way from our previous visit. The butterflies were also no longer present, but having remembered which doorway we had taken, Joseph led us back to the same area and we reached Cloister 53 easily.

    “This doesn't feel right.” Cyan voiced our shared discomfort.

    “We only have the one option to keep moving.” Nooj said.

    “It still doesn't make sense.”

    This cloister was just as Cloister 47 had been, the long passage that we had used to escape from the younger Nikki and Sanika. After that, 54 and 55 were exactly as 48 and 49 had been and after that...


    “We're back here again.”

    By this time, we knew we hadn't been traveling down further. This was not Cloister 56. It was still Cloister 44. We had been traveling in a loop, though none of us were sure why. Joseph had said that cloisters could repeat, but nothing like this. Following this cloister, we were again on the simple Cloister 45. Then to 46, and 47, and on and on until we were back, not surprisingly, in the lava pit.

    “Joseph, I think you picked the wrong path. That's where all this started to go wrong.” Nikki suddenly said.

    “What's that supposed to mean?” Joseph asked of her, walking right up to her.

    “It has to be. We were fine until you pulled that stunt and got us lost in this trap!”

    “Nikki, what's got into you?” Kyra asked with concern.

    Nikki brushed her off, walking a few steps before launching an arrow straight into the heart of one of the approaching fiends, “Nevermind! We have to keep moving. I'm sure of it.”

    Leading us back to the maze, she took us to where the room of butterflies had been and pointed out the doorway we had used before. As there were ten of us and six remaining doors, Nikki thought the best solution was to separate us and take every route. Nooj provided us with communicators and off we went. Cyan came with me to the farthest path, the twins stayed together, Nikki marched off on her own and Joseph took off for another, which left Kyra pondering what to do, what with both of them in poor spirits. With a little prodding from Val, she decided to leave it for now, as nothing she could do would help the situation at present. They both took a fifth passage, which left Nooj and Paine to take the sixth.

    “Do you think Nikki's correct? Did we choose the wrong doorway?” Cyan asked me as we headed off.

    “I think Nikki's furious.”

    “That's a calamitous emotion to have for a leader.”

    “She's only human. I suppose this place brings calamitous emotions into play.”

    “It does seem so.” Cyan said with a sigh.

    In the distance, we could see where the path we were on was leading and it wasn't good. Once we were out, I took to leaning against the wall while Cyan began investigating the other doorways, using her communicator to enquire where the others were. However, moments later, we both knew, as did the others. We were back in the same room with the passages, only we had exited out of adjacent doorways to the ones we had entered. Joseph took this opportunity to shoot a look at Nikki who simply growled another swear before taking us back to the same doorway we had originally used.

    Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw movement and turned toward it to find nothing, “Did you see that?” I asked Cyan.

    “Did you see something, Mishka?”

    “No, I suppose I didn't.”

    The next cloisters followed the same pattern and round and round we went. We would stop once in a while on the quieter cloisters; Nikki knew we needed rest even if we were lost. However, none of us really could rest until we found a way out of the loop. The twins began suggesting theories that we were caught by Via Infinito just like Rikku and that was why we couldn't find her. It was the type of thinking that had us all on edge, but Nooj would find a way to keep the calm going.

    “Thinking we're trapped won't do anything except leave us that way. We've been going around these cloisters over and over again. That means that's all we have to work with. I'd say we've got to be more keen on our observations from now on.”

    “Nooj is right. If we're not getting anywhere by doing the same thing, we've obviously been doing something wrong. I did notice one thing already.” Paine added, getting everyone's attention, “The escape portals are all gone. The first time we came down here, some of the cloisters had exit portals back to the surface. Now, those are all missing from these cloisters. What does that tell you?”

    “We're trapped. What else should it tell us?” Val said, holstering his gun.

    “Thinking a bit more outside the box here.” Paine retorted.

    “You're saying we did choose the wrong door?” Nikki asked, irritating Joseph in the process.

    “No, there's more to it.”

    Nooj decided to offer another suggestion, “Maybe the right way was the trap. You told me Via Infinito is a labyrinth, right? Baralai told me Via Infinito's original purpose was to keep Yevon's secrets. I suppose if you want a secret kept, you set it into a maze with no right way out.”

    “Impossible. The Gullwings successfully investigated the whole of this labyrinth.”

    “The Gullwings didn't dig deep enough. They were only after Trema and the sphere he still had on his person.”

    “You suggest we've come upon a deeper secret?” Joseph said, inserting himself into the conversation.

    “That or, at least, it thinks we have.”

    “You say that like you believe this place is alive.” I had heard the scary stories a thousand times.

    “Your people believe it is.”

    “Don't buy into all the local legends.”

    “It's still the best idea I've heard. We'll go with it. Besides, Mishka, your friend Keema believes it, too.” Nikki noted, moving to scan every corner of the present cloister.

    “Mishka.” Cyan said, coming up to me and placing her hand on my back.

    I did already know it was alive by this point. There were so many happenings that made me a believer, but what could we have possibly seen that would make Via Infinito want us trapped down here? That's when I remembered all that I had seen down here. The quiet screamers, the Blurry Moon that suddenly found me, my odd new abilities, and something down here was still whispering to me. It was just that, at the time, I didn't want to hear it.

    While we investigated, I decided it was time to hear those whispers, but what happened instead was that I heard something else. There was something down here with us. Not to alert it to the fact that I was looking for it now, I let the others continue searching Cloister 45. As for me, I stalked about, hoping my ears were drawing me closer to the thing that was making those sounds and perhaps...

    “Mishka, I think we might have found something! The twins said, surprising me.

    “You did? Where?” Paine immediately asked, having them lead her.

    The disruption lost me my prey. I couldn't hear the sounds anymore and, after Paine identified what the twins found to be the broken rim of a sphere embedded against the lower corner of a wall, we decided to move on. The next cloister would take us the longest to search and Kyra began acting irritable. Joseph tried soothing her by telling her the spider fiend had gone and each time we came to this maze, it hadn't been there. However, Kyra was still worried and kept placing her hand over her arm where the smaller spider had touched. Eventually, by the time we arrived once again in the room with multiple doorways, Nikki set her mind as ease, tapping the spot on her arm with the tip of an arrow she said was an “anti-spider” arrow.

    There it was again. “Did someone hear that?”

    However, it was different this time. Before, it had sounded like a light tapping, as if someone was knocking on the ground with a finger. This time, I could have almost believed it was laughter, as if something was snickering in the dark.

    On the next cloister, I heard it even more distinctly. Something was there. While the others continued the task of searching the walls, I found myself wandering off into the narrow hall. After a few turns, I couldn't even hear the others anymore, but I was beginning to hear the snickering clearer. Finally, slowing my pace and staying close to one of the walls, I managed to peek to the next turn and see what had been following us. There, just a short distance away from me, was a monkey, just sitting by itself laughing. Before I even knew it, it stuck its finger out at me and snickered more. It knew I was tracking it. It wanted me to.

    “Alright, you got me. Now what do you want?”

    It didn't answer me. Instead, it simply picked up a pebble off the ground and threw it right at my forehead, pointing and laughing some more. I figured it deemed me harmless so I began taking steps towards it. Perhaps, the way out was to catch it. However, as soon as I stood directly in front of it, the small creature took off and I was forced to chase after it.

    With such a narrow hall, I could do nothing but go with it, stopping me from making any attempts at catching the thing. It kept going and I hoped I'd catch it before it jumped down into the next cloister, but as it would turn out, the monkey had taken me to somewhere new. Instead of the exit at the end of the hall, I found a door. Just a simple wooden door that you could find in any home on the surface, but this door had most certainly not been there before. On the other side of it, I could hear something and, with the monkey staying put for the moment, I chose to investigate.

    I could barely make out what I was hearing, but it was a repeating message. After a bit, I started mouthing the words to myself, though it turned out to be only a nursery rhyme. Looking down at the monkey, I saw that it was staying put.

    “Is this where I should go?” I asked it.

    Unexpectedly, the small creature began nodding in an enthusiastic manner, happy chirps letting me know I had guessed its meaning correctly. Slowly, and with one hand holding the hilt of Blurry Moon, I opened the door and entered. I found myself back in the room the “bongo bongo” creature had sent me to last, the one where Gideon's mother had said the unsent were trapped in. This time, there was no one to greet me. The room felt colder than last time and, as I would notice, one of the empty pictures had filled up. Before I had a chance to look at it closer, I heard a

    “Sissy sissy! You're here!” The little girl shouted, happily bouncing on what I could only assume was her bed.

    The room I was in had to be her room. It was littered with dolls and toys, even that same table she had used to “serve tea” to myself and Cyan before. Walking over to her, I could hear her mumbling to herself about the monsters not being scary, that she was not scared of them, and that that had been what her sister had told her to do.

    “What's the matter?” I asked her, sitting next to her.

    “It's the monsters, sissy! The monsters are hiding in the dark!”

    “Where are there monsters?” I said, going along with whatever she was on about this time, “How rude of them to scare you like this.”

    “There.” She said, pointing to her closet with a shakey finger, “The monsters, there are so many of them now.”

    I stood and went over to the closet, opening the door despite her plea, but nothing came out at me. With that, I turned and showed her the empty closet, “There aren't any monsters here. You see? Only shadows and shadows can't harm you.”

    “No, the monsters are hiding there. They come out only when it's dark.”

    I took a great big sigh. My friends were all caught in a loop by Via Infinito and she was on about childhood monsters in this fake room in this fake house that she had lured me into twice now. Without a second thought, I walked over to the wall and switched off the light she had on. Strangely, it seemed to have dimmed the faux natural light entering the room from the draped window. Once I had shown her that it was indeed dark in her closet, I threw it open as wide as it could go and, as anyone could see, no monsters.

    “See? No monsters, not even when it's dark.” I told her, even stepping inside the closet to prove to her there wasn't a thing in there.

    “But... it isn't dark.”

    Those words pierced through me and I honestly felt there was truth to her words. Even standing in the dark closet and knowing full well there couldn't have been a thing inside, my heartbeats quickened and I was put unease. Memories of that cloister surged back to the surface, those unvoiced shrieks of pain and despair that had permeated my entire being seemed to be gripping me tighter, though I knew nothing was there. In a start, I turned around to face the closet and found nothing, but my fear wouldn't alleviate.

    “Will you stay with me tonight, sissy?” I heard the little girl ask of me.

    Her innocent words evoked my courage and I realised how silly I was behaving. Swallowing my fright, I walked over to her and sat back down next to her as I had been earlier. I extended my arm and allowed her to tug it behind her shoulders, her tiny form cuddling close to my side as she let go of a shiver. We stayed like that for quite some time, the little girl never wanting to let me to stray even an inch. What had her so terrified? I found myself wanting to know, wanting to because I wanted to protect her from all the awful things.

    “Sissy, why are they trying so hard?” She asked me suddenly.


    “All of our other friends. They keep winding it, but do they want Jack to come out of the box?”

    I guessed that she meant the others and how we were all still lost in the loop, “We need to see the Jack. If we don't, we'll have to keep winding until it comes out. We will have to wind it for a long time.”

    I hoped words like that might set her in the right direction to unveil some secret to getting us out of the loop, but she only said, “Maybe Jack ought to stay inside. Maybe the others really want it to stay inside.”

    “What makes you say that?”

    “Because they're still winding and it won't come out. It won't come out and they just keep winding.”

    “What else is there to do?”


    “If we stopped, then wouldn't the Jack stay in the box for sure?”

    “If they stopped, they could find another way to open the box.”

    “You think we can?”

    “You would have if you really wanted him to come out by now. But you don't want him to come out. When he comes out, it's fast. Too fast. Maybe they won't like the surprise. Sissy, please stay. I'm scared of the monsters. They speak of you. They say that you protect me. Sissy, will you...”

    “...stay still! It's bad enough you'd got us all back down here again. I won't have you walking right up to Sir Auron in this state!” Cyan shouted, holding me by the waist on the same side the little girl had been hugging.


    “Finally! You're back with me, but you've really gotten us into a fix. How did you manage to find the sinkholes anyway?” She grumbled, letting me go.

    My eyes scanned the area before realising that we were back in the same tunnel the little girl had trapped Sir Auron in. Looking to find the others, I found Nikki and Kyra kneeling by the same treasure chest that had first led us out of here and into the maze of Cloister 46. I wasn't quite sure what came over me next, but I felt I needed to stop them and dove for the chest just before they could open it.

    “Mishka, have you lost your fucking mind? What are you doing?” Nikki roared, grabbing for my hand so that I would release the butterfly from the chest.

    “I'm getting us out of here! ... I hope...”
    With that said, I took hold of Blurry Moon and slammed the hooked tip into the wall where I remembered the butterfly had opened the way to the maze. As luck would have it, that part of the wall was actually a weak spot. Using the hook, I pulled down and crumbled the rock, effectively creating a path out of the tunnel. In another surprise, doing so bypassed the maze completely and we found ourselves back on Cloister 44, finally a change to what had been going on before.

    Winding and winding, the level going around. Jack waits in the dark, he doesn't make a sound. Winding, still winding, won't they let him out? Once they see him, oh they see him, but why do they pout?”

    Those words echoed in my head and I took my eyes to all corners of the cloister. I saw my confused and worried friends and the fiends steadily drawing nearer. I recalled the words the little girl had said to me in her room, that perhaps we were trapped in the loop at our own behest, because we didn't really want to continue down this dungeon and I knew it to be true. It was fear. It was fear that this place thrived on. It was fear that it wanted us to have, but we were stronger than it had considered. And I used to break the box to get my Jack to come out.

    “Mishka, whatever you're going to do, do it.” Nikki said to me, drawing her bow at the fiends and firing her triple arrow.

    I nodded to her and kicked open the treasure chest. The blue butterfly flew out into the scorched environment, its wings glistening against the flames. As they fluttered, I felt the temperature drop and, within moments, the whole of the cloister froze into sheets of ice. The butterfly slowly glazed over, as well, and when it shattered on the ground that used to be a pool of molten ash, so did the cloister, until we found ourselves in a dimly lit space. One by one, glyphs began to alight and we could see that we had been taken to a new cloister.

    “Are we...” Cyan whispered.

    “Cloister 50. We're here.” Paine finished her sentence for her.

    “And we're not alone.” Nooj added, pointing to a figure standing in the distance.

    The figure was of a man and he was adorned in armour. He had only recently reclaimed his identity, having hidden it away under a mask and metal plating. However, as we would find, it isn't easy to lose masks.


    Upon entering the 50th cloister, Gideon felt a sharp shiver go up and down his spine, for, which he couldn't identify the reason, although something told him that either the unsent girl had something to do with it, or the Farplane style environment was getting to him.

    Looking around, he saw Nikki, Joseph and the rest of the team walking up to him. Letting his mind wander, he found himself thinking about his deceased parents....more importantly, his mother, who was the first to be lost to Via Infinito. He had never forgiven her for working within Via Infinito nor his father, for failing to search properly, and ultimately dying upon exiting the dungeon after fleeing, mortally wounded from a fight with a Tonberry King, which had wiped out the search team.

    Just as he brought himself back to “reality”, he saw that everyone had converged on him with weapons drawn. “What's up? I'm not being kicked out again an I?” He asked.

    “You’ve been a very naughty boy, naughty naughty.” came a child-like voice from behind him. Then on turning around, he found himself face-to-face with the unsent girl, then she walked straight into him, causing pyreflies to both surround him, and come out of him. Within his mind, he could hear the girl talking to him, “It’ll be fun to play with you.”

    As the girl entered his mind, he felt pain as though 10,000 needles were being thrust directly into his head. “Get out of me.” he heard himself say, although he found himself helpless to what she was doing. “Oooh. I like this memory. I'm going to watch it.” he heard her say, as she brought up a particular painful memory. “No! Not that one. Anything but that one.” he pleaded. “You can't stop me from watching it. It should be more entertaining that you are.” she said.

    “That’s right little one keep going unleash his rage” an older female voice said.

    “This is fun!” the little girl said giggling

    The area changed to Bikanel Island: “Mother, can me and Gideon take on that weird plant thing? I can show you how good I have got with fire spells.” asked Kane. “Ok dear, but remember to call us if the fight gets too much for the both of you.” replied Mother. At first the battle went well, the Sandragora was taking a lot of punishment from both Kane's spells, and Gideon's slashes, with Gideon healing his brother as and when needed. Unfortunately, just when they were in grasp of winning, the Sandragora put the confuse status on Kane and Gideon. Before long both lads were very low on health. Sadly, just as Gideon came to his senses, and the worried parents came to aid them, the Sandragora used a Seed Burst on Kane, killing him outright.

    After watching his body fall to the ground, Gideon's own anger erupted. Filled with revenge over his fallen brother, he leapt at the fiend, as though berserked, and literally tore it apart.

    Outside, the pyreflies that were swirling around him, started moving faster and faster. Within his mind, all Gideon could see, was that the team he was with, was replaced with Sandragora's, and in the middle, he could only see the limp body of Kane. “Get away from him.” he found himself saying, with an angry voice. Then getting up, shadows started appearing from behind him. As they took form, the team saw that each shadow was a copy of Gideon, and that they were being surrounded by each copy. “Get away from my brother now!” he shouted.

    “No no no this isn’t good, he’s turned scary!” the little girl said to the team. “Sleep little one,” Gideon couldn't hear the little girl anymore. “Now you are under my control” said the older female voice with a laugh. “DESTROY THEM!” As if a switch had been pressed, both Gideon and his copies entered berzerked status, and attacked the team. While the copies focussed on certain members of the team, Gideon went after the 2 largest “Sandragora's”, which happened to be Nikki and Joseph.

    With fire burning over his armour, Gideon released his poisonous wrist-blades and charged straight at Nikki, who was able to fire 2 triple arrows straight at him before he got too close, but these burned up by the fire before they hit the armour. It was only Joseph intervening with his sword that stopped Gideon skewering Nikki into the wall. Being knocked back, Gideon heard himself let out an in-human roar, as he slammed the wrist-blades into the floor, causing a fire quake to rip towards both of them. As they jumped apart, the fire quake exploded, where they had stood making a shock-wave that blew rocks and molten lava everywhere, narrowly missing the core members of the team, but hitting several members of the Al Bhed, killing them outright. Nikki shouted at Gideon “Stop attacking us moron. We aren't your enemies”.

    Charging yet again, Gideon set his sights on Nikki. When he was close enough, he jumped at her, with wrist-blades poised like fangs ready to strike..... Then with a “No naughty boy!” the little girl then tumbled out of him and fell down on her bum. She as she stood up and rubbed herself down she said “Owie!” A Behemoth appeared next to her and she climbed on it’s back and they dispersed together.

    Looking round at the dispersing clones, Gideon said, “I guess.... I never got over the death of my brother.” Then as he looked back at the team, he said “Fortunately, I found something else to protect and fight with.” Looking at him, Joseph asked, “What did you find?” Smiling, Gideon said “Well, simply put, all of you. And yes, Nikki...... even you. I have learnt, that my strength is the team. And as such, I have got stronger from being with all of you. I consider you as friends.

    With that, everyone dusted themselves down from the fight, grouped back together, and decided what to do next, and Gideon felt a lot stronger from the experience, though he didn't thank the girl for putting him through it.


    As the little girl possessed Gideon, Nikki got herself ready for battle, “Here we fucking go again” muttered Nikki under her breath. However as she did, the group also heard the older female menacing voice, they heard her a few times before but she seemed to be egging on the unsent girl on and who the fuck knew what she was.

    A painful memory of Gideon’s showed, one that showed how he had lost brother while training in Bikanel, Nikki was reminded of Kyra’s memory and how similar it was to this only in this one Gideon went into a fit of rage at the end of it.

    “Get away from him.” Shouted Gideon at the team, Nikki gripped her bow as the pryeflies spun angrily around. Shadows rose from the ground.

    No, it’s just a shadow, shadows can’t hurt you see.” The same younger voice entered her head at this point she had grown so used to it being there that she didn’t question it. The shadows then turned into copies of Gideon.

    “Get away from my brother now!”

    "Oh for fucks sake” thought Nikki.

    “No no no this isn’t good, he’s turned scary!” The little girl seemed to be panicking at this point.

    “Sleep little one. Now you are under my control, DESTROY THEM!” Nikki didn’t hear a reply from the unsent girl.

    Shit!” was all Nikki could think of in that moment because Gideon cam charging right at her his armor burned in fire which only seemed to strengthen his attacks, Nikki launched two triple arrows but they got burned before they hit, she had hoped to disarm him but that was a no joy. “Fuck” said Nikki as she saw her arrows burn to a crisp. Nikki flipped backwards narrowly missing Gideon’s poison wrist blade attack, that moment of distraction allowed Joseph to intervene. Gideon was knocked back but he let out a roar which sent shivers down Nikki’s spine. “Whatever the fuck is possessing him it’s far worse than just the unsent girl.” Nikki called to Joseph. They then both jumped out the way as a huge attack was sent their way releasing hot lava in a huge crack in the floor, Nikki barely missed it but she saw that some of the flying rocks had killed some of the Albehd. She noticed that Kyra was perfectly safe but the others were having a hard time with the clones, Kyra was facing five on her own and it didn’t look too good for the group. “Stop attacking us moron we aren’t your enemies!” That didn’t seem to do anything though and he seemed to be fixated on Nikki. Why the fuck is it always me!” thought Nikki as she waited for his next move, but it never came, the little girl had seemed to have woken up and suddenly shouted out.

    “No, naughty boy!” The little girl tumbled out of him and then landed awkwardly on the floor. “Owie!” she rubbed herself as a behemoth appeared. She then climbed on it and dispersed.

    How the fuck can unsent feel pain!”

    After the battle Nikki began to think on what exactly was happening to her, practically ignoring what Gideon was saying since it was only being egotistical, she had reacted badly to Joseph, she knew that but she was pissed off, really pissed off that she couldn’t quite remember the memory that was about the gang and Sanika, a memory that she had hoped to use her advantage. It wasn’t quite gone it was just blurry, she couldn’t remember details but she did know what had happened to her, she supposed she had told herself so many times and she had lived with it so long that those memories filled the gaps for her. It was only because of that and the fact that she dreamed about it that she knew exactly what had happened to her and how she dealt with it. However the actual memory of it was gone, every time she tried to remember she only hurt her head, it was much like when she tried to remember her parents or the first five years of her life, she couldn’t remember anything and had to live with that. She swore to herself she wouldn’t lose any other memories no matter how terrible they were. However it had happened again and that was the cause of her recent mood change.

    She tried to piece together what had happened in her head.

    Then the group moved onto the portal and found themselves at the start of Cloister 47, suddenly the pryeflies from the walls of the cloister gathered and flung themselves, screaming into Nikki, she fell to her knees in pain grabbing at her head. “Ahhh!!”“Nikki, no what’s going on, it’s not her is it?”“No the little girl doesn’t appear to be here.” Then as quickly as they went in they drifted out and then proceeded to form to figures in front of them one made everyone gasp it was a younger version of Nikki, her as a 14 year old, in a full black outfit with her bow and arrow loaded, glaring at the group. Next to her an older girl appeared in a long black dress with long black hair that reached her ankles, fear reached into the pit of Nikki’s stomach as she recognised her as Sanika, but as a 17 year old.

    Nikki remembered the pain but she also remembered the feeling of losing something, how she tried so hard to keep hold of something in her head but she grew more fearful as it faded until eventually it was gone and she was left in a nervous wreck., with little option left she had shouted at everyone to do as the little girl said. She supposed this was when she had lost that memory but why? And where did it go? These questions confused her, they only pissed her off more as they ran round and round her head to the point where she had lost her temper at Joseph, because not only was her head fucked up but they had gotten lost.

    Joseph, I think you picked the wrong path. That's where all this started to go wrong.” Nikki suddenly said.

    “What's that supposed to mean?” Joseph said with a hint of frustration.

    “It has to be. We were fine until you pulled that stunt and got us lost in this trap!”“Nikki, what's got into you?” Kyra said worriedly.

    Her mind was beginning to calm now she had begun to reflect and calm herself but now begun the next challenge but because of her lack of memory she begun to tremble a bit as she heard the words.

    “We think we all deserve a rest” exclaimed the twins, after all that had happened they had probably forgotten what was waiting for them on the surface. However even with Nikki lack of memory she could feel that familiar presence in her mind, letting her know that she was here and was waiting for them.

    “Sanika, she’s here, she’s waiting for us.” She started to shake as she remembered the double’s words and how she had reacted to her own double.

    Nikki was busy fighting her younger version of herself, the younger version only seemed to have eyes for her and was easily dodging everyone else attacks, but seemed to be fixated on Nikki only, every strike she pulled was intended for an instant kill. By this time Nikki herself was wearing down, with incredible speed the younger Nikki jumped and drew her arrow and was charging an Ultima arrow until suddenly she stopped her attack she instead brought down her leg on Nikki and kicked her in the stomach at full force pushing her away. Painfully Nikki grabbed at her stomach thinking “Bitch” she then heard her younger self cry out.

    “NO!” the first vocal words she had said since meeting the group, as Nikki shakily stood up she saw a cloud of electricity from where multiple thundaga arrows had been shot, and when it had cleared she could see her younger self crying cradling the double Sanika in her arms. “Please, please don’t leave me.”

    Sanika replied to her, “You must survive young one. You are the stronger one and I will not let them take you from this world.” Using the last of her power she then seemed to teleport the younger Nikki away. Before completely fading she looked right at Nikki and said “You think you have defeated me. What waits on the surface for you is much worse. You are all fools for not dying here,” Sanika said, before fading completely.

    But then she remembered Joseph’s words from before when she felt that she was in a pit of despair.

    Nikki was rocking back and forth, in a completely state of fear that there was nothing they could do defeat Sanika and what was more frightening was that she had lost the one memory that could have helped to defeat her.

    Suddenly she felt herself being pulled up and she heard the words
    “Nikki grit your teeth” she didn’t take any notice until a fist came flying at her jaw and she stumbled back a bit as she was in a state of shock, the fear slowly slid away as the pain went like a fire to her jaw and soon her voice came back to her as she thought.

    “Why the fuck do people keep fucking hitting me, it’s getting bloody tiring being hit all the time!”“Joseph!!! What that necessary?!?!” Kyra yelled.

    “Yes it was. Now listen up Nikki, you said to me that you fear losing someone down here. Now that will become a reality if you don’t stop your little breakdown episode. You fear this Sanika. It’s fine to fear her. My sensei told me that only an amateur would think about not being afraid. A skilled fighter knows the feeling of fear and does it anyways. Besides, you’re not alone in this fight. So snap out of your world and fight already,” Pissed at Joseph for punching her she then punched him back at which he just smiled and then replied. “Now that’s the Nikki I know. You feeling any better?” She then yelled at him.

    “Shut your fucking mouth Joseph. I now have a splitting headache and my jaw hurts like hell,”

    Nikki shook herself out of it she needed to be aware now more than ever, she wasn’t going to accomplish anything now by falling apart, the twins said a simple “Oh!” at the realisation of the next challenge. Nikki turned at the appearance of a bright white light and saw that Paine had already changed in the Psycher dressphere and she was now hovering which kinda unnerved Nikki a little bit.

    “We better not keep her waiting then.” Said Val, they were tired, exhausted but that didn’t mean that Nikki wasn’t going down without a fight, this could be their last battle.

    If it’s going to be the last battle it’s going to be a fucking fantastic one.” Nikki looked around at everyone, before turning to Kyra who had put a hand on her shoulder to reassure Nikki, with that they went through the portal that led to the surface.

    The surface was warm as Nikiki stepped out everyone was high on guard, it was quiet and peaceful, but Sanika didn’t seem to be there.

    “This is strange, wasn’t she meant to attack us by now” said Gideon after a few minutes of silence. Nikki was in a whirl of thoughts, she thought that she had felt her inside her head but now she felt nothing.

    The Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus came over to them. “We’ve evacuated all the children from the temple but there haven’t been any reports of anyone spotting Sanika heading this way” The Lady Yuna was also in her Psycher Dressphere. “I’ve tried to trace her magic but I can’t find it.” Nikki was relieved that all the children were out of harm’s way but was worried that Sanika hadn’t attacked yet.

    “Nikki is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” asked Kyra, Nikki held her head.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...” Suddenly Joseph let out a groan of pain and let out some choking noises, Nikki turned suddenly to see that he had been thrown against the wall and had made an indent with the impact. He was being held there off the ground and with an invisible force chocking him by the neck, with the sound of footsteps she saw Sanika walk towards them her right hand stretched out controlling the magic that was grasped at his neck. Her black hair was at the floor she was much older now she was 22 years old now and looked completely comfortable with her magic and more confident with it. She still wore that same long black dress with high heeled black shoes but her eyes now had changed colour to a light purple.

    Nikki could see that Yuki, Yuna and Paine were having great difficulty in trying to push her magic back, and a volley of shots came from the Albehd but a wave of her magic killed all of the Albehd that were left, Nikki shot triple artrow at her but they just bounced off her shield and she said simply without turning to her. “Little Nikki, I told you not to interfere.” Before pushing her so she skidded along the ground. She then turned her attention to Joseph. Ignoring the attacks being aimed at her, each attack was reflected back and it took all three of their psychic mages just to let Joseph breath but still being hung in the air. Nikki heard her say to him. “What a grievous crime you have committed against my father, you taunted him and his word is law, you also are the one responsible for stopping Nikki from coming home. For that I see no other punishment for you but death” she then seemed to take notice of the three mages that were letting him breathe. “I’m sorry but he has to die” she then sent another wave of her power to the mages knocking them off their feet, Sir Tidus ran at her but was flung like a doll at the wall. Nikki found the whole time that Sanika had already sapped all of her energy she hardly had any energy to stand but she did and she slowly tried to load her arrow. After Sanika seemed satisfied with taking care of the psychic mages she then started to choke Joseph again this time teleporting around so Nikki couldn’t target her.

    Time was running out Val managed to launch some sort of attack that Nikki hadn’t seen before it penetrated her shield, but she stopped the bullet with her hand and simply said “Clever boy” before launching it back at him, Nikki launched more arrows at her when she paused but she reflected them into a wall, she then suddenly turned her head straight at Nikki. “You don’t remember me like you should.”

    Fuck she noticed.” Thought Nikki, the good thing was though she suddenly released Joseph who fell to the floor gasping for breath, Nikki noticed that Kyra ran to him.

    “Joseph are you okay!?”

    She’s just concerned that’s all” thought Nikki even though her fist clenched a bit but this was no time to get jealous she knew this. Sanika waved a hand two people teleported either side of her both clad in black, one was a male and had his mouth covered intro a black material revealing only his blue eyes , one would think he was a ninja, but Nikki knew better even though he had the use of wrist blades he was in fact an experienced red mage, knowing both white and black magic spells. Sanika often called him “Uncle” she had been in the gang for a very long time. The other was a girl she was also clad in black, but her head was uncovered she had brown hair, brown eyes and hair was tied in a high ponytail, she carried a bow and also had a dagger strapped to her for close combat. She was younger and round about Nikki’s age.

    “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.”

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.”

    “Yes Uncle I know.” Sanika waved her arms powering up the two so that the battle was now even, even though the two were outnumbered. Sanika then teleported right in front of Nikki. “Now this may hurt.” Nikki cried out in pain as once again her head seemed to ache in an incredible pain bringing her to her knees. “There, there little Nikki it’s okay just a few more minutes.” She could hear the yells of her comrades. “Oh your memory is completely gone! Now where did it go?” Magic surrounded Nikki and beams of light suddenly shot from her into the entrance of the Via Infinito. “Come, release her stolen memory to me!” Pain leaving Nikki she shakily stood up.

    What the fuck does she mean stolen, I thought it was just lost?” she thought.

    “Yes stolen little Nikki please keep up.” Said Sanika. Nikki saw the magic then come out of the Via Infinito making a glyph on the floor suddenly the fourteen year old Nikki appeared looking confused about how she got there, but then spotting Nikki she was about to load an arrow until Sanika waved her arms and sent the fourteen year old flying into a wall. The fourteen year old shakily stood up with her bow and arrow.

    “Sanika I thought they killed you” Sanika silently just teleported towards her, Nikki herself however had a spell put on her so her feet or arms couldn’t move Sanika was keeping her back so that she couldn’t help her friends who seemed to get severely beaten but also the other two didn’t look in a too good of a shape either. Sanika just flung the young Nikki again next to the wall.

    “How interesting you are so much like her.”

    “Why...” croaked out the fourteen year old.

    “Why? What a silly question because you have stolen a memory , you are fake.” The fourteen year old Nikki shakily stood up.

    “No... She’s the fake one and I can see now that you are too!” She tried to attack her but Sanika stood her still.

    “Shame it’ll be so easy to destroy you but little Nikki needs her memories back so back you go.” She flung her back into the entrance of the Via Infinito where she disappeared. Nikki suddenly felt herself able to move again and Sanika teleported to the top of the temple. “Now this will be fun to watch.”

    “Sanika stop playing.” Said the red mage.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” She waved her hand to heal both of them to full health and Nikki charged back into battle thinking it will take a miracle to survive this.


    As more confusing events took place in this eerie place, Kyra was getting more and more anxious about getting to the surface. The thing that kept her from doing anything rash was the slightly small fact that Sanika was waiting for them. After their last run in, it was clear that she meant to kill Joseph. This thought alone scared Kyra.

    It was weird though. It really does seem that the Via Infinito can pull out one’s greatest fear. This place even pulled out a massive fucking spider. Kyra’s been afraid of spiders since she was little. The way the Via Infinito pointed out her weakness like that kind of scared her. It made the place all the more mysterious at the same time. What other fears did this team have? What more will this team need to fight down here?

    Gideon was standing in front of them now. The crew approached him with their weapons drawn. Soon after, he was possessed by the girl. She showed a painful memory of his. Was this girl really trying to help us? Or was she the one bringing out our greatest fears?” Kyra noticed the memory was pretty close to hers. She just couldn’t relate to the absolute rage that followed immediately after. The other voice came from the girl and showed its true intentions. Clones of Gideon, or in this case Kane, started to rise from the floor. They were all given berserk status. Kyra caught a glimpse of Gideon charging after Nikki and Joseph full of absolute rage. She would have gone to help, but she noticed two of the clones were charging toward her with a berserk status. Holy fuck...” she thought. She charged her magic and braced herself. They were strong, but still slow. She used this to her advantage and slashed one with a thunder infused blade. It didn’t make much of a dent, which worried her. Three other clones had made their way over to make things interesting. Change of Plan. What the hell is this guy’s weakness?” She thought as she avoided their attacks.

    Hey, since when do you swear so much?” Aiko noticed Kyra’s thoughts.

    Not now Aiko. I’m busy. “

    Kyra stayed on defence with these five clones. She figured using stronger attacks would be better in this case. She charged a Crystallum Nix attack and aimed for the closest clone’s arm. It froze just the arm and shattered the armour that surrounded it. She was shocked to see that the armour was just a hollow shell. She let her guard down and barely missed a swing from one of the clones behind her. Why are there so many?“. She worked out a water spell before doing a back flip to get away from the five clones. She charged her blade with a thunder spell and got herself ready for the Shockwave attack. The water caught the electricity and she successfully hit all five of them at once, making them disoriented. She did notice she made a huge crack in the floor and wondered if that was from her own attack or someone else’s. One of the clones made a seeming aimless swing and barely missed her head, cutting off a little bit of hair in the process. Fuck, that was close.”. She got fed up with fighting like this, so she jumped high in the air, and came down hard on one of the clone’s chest, shattering the armour entirely. That was when she heard the little girl’s voice say, “No, Naughty Boy” and she was able to get out of Gideon and disappeared on a behemoth. The rest of the clones disappeared shortly after.

    Kyra caught her breath and sheathed her Gunblade. She had a bone to pick with the voice in her head. She was also wondering why someone would say that they appreciate the team as friends, but just moments ago, he was attacking us with a blind rage. It made her think that whatever was controlling him was trying to tear the team apart. Kyra wasn’t sure about it, so she stopped thinking about it. Too much was on her mind at that moment. One thing in particular was Aiko. She gathered that this would be the final chance she would get to speak with this ‘gift’ whether it was real or not. Kyra looked over to Nikki with concern. It looked like she was trying to sort out her own thoughts before heading to the surface. Who knew what was going to happen up there. Maybe they could all die...It was another thought that Kyra didn’t want to think about.

    Hey, Aiko. You have no idea what I went through after your death. To be able to speak to you now is rather confusing to me. I started to swear heavily after your death. Got into some things that I’m not very proud of. Old habits die hard, you know?”

    I see, you did find those letters, right?

    I did. Only really recently though. It doesn’t matter what happened then. All I know is that this is where I belong, and she...” Kyra looked over at Nikki.

    Ooh, that look. I know that look. For all you know, I don’t even exist anymore, but I can still put two and two together. She needs you. You like her. This is what I was telling you about. It looks like I can’t spend much more time with you Kyra. Go get her...” before the sentence was finished, a single pyrefly left from Kyra and disappeared into the depths of the Via Infinito. A single tear fell from Kyra’s eye. She thought of saying a thank you, but it wouldn’t have been heard. Damn this place was confusing.

    Next on her mind was the situation she had between Nikki and Joseph. It was more than obvious that they both cared about her. She cared about the both of them as well. The comments they both made when they visited that spider room all those times made that clear. Kyra didn’t know why, but she felt something that wasn’t there. It could have been because the first time she was there, she went into a fight or flight mode and went on an all out spider killing rampage. Such an event can cause recurring thoughts and memories when they return to the place it happened. Joseph tried to soothe Kyra by pointing out the obvious, but that didn’t change what Kyra felt every time she entered that room. Nikki’s attempt to make Kyra feel better was a little more humorous. Although the ‘anti-spider’ arrow was probably the lamest thing on the face of Spira, it was the thought that counts. Kyra even got a smile out of it. The more Nikki changed, the more Kyra might actually start to develop strong feelings for the girl. That doesn’t mean that Kyra doesn’t care about Joseph. He is still a friend after all.

    Kyra snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the twins say “Oh!” In realization of what was waiting on the surface.

    Paine changed into her Psycher dressphere and hovered slightly off the ground.

    “We better not keep her waiting then.” Val said.

    Kyra made her way over to Nikki. She was nervous and Kyra could tell. Kyra was a little better at hiding her own fear, but if she had to admit it, she would say that she was fearful of these next events. Kyra put a hand on Nikki’s shoulder for reassurance. Everyone made their way to the portal shortly after.

    The temple was quiet. Almost too quiet. The anticipation in the room was almost deadly.

    “This is strange, wasn’t she meant to attack us by now?” Gideon asked breaking the silence.

    Yuna and Tidus had made their way over to the group. The children had been evacuated, but there was still no sight of Sanika anywhere.

    “Nikki, is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” Kyra asked, Nikki held her head.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...” Nikki said.

    Immediately after Nikki said that, choking noises could be heard from the direction Joseph was standing. In fact, it was Joseph. Before Kyra could react, he’d been thrown against the wall. Kyra looked to the other side of the room and found Sanika. She looked relatively the same as what they encountered in the Via Infinito, but she had a heck of a lot more confidence than before. The mages went in to try to defend Joseph, or at least let him breathe. Since Kyra’s magic was limited, she was a little helpless to their current situation. Sanika made a comment to Nikki after she shot a triple arrow, then sent her back. Kyra wanted to run to Nikki, but she couldn’t move. Why couldn’t she move?

    More attempts to make Sanika let Joseph go were made, but none were successful. Val even took a shot at her, but she caught it before any damage was made. The only thing that made her stop was the fact that Sanika seemed to notice something was wrong with Nikki’s memory. She dropped Joseph and set her focus to Nikki. The change in motive scared Kyra even more, but she went to check if Joseph was alright.

    “I’m...fine.” He said through gasps of air. Kyra handed him a potion. Two people who were dressed in black were teleported into the battle by Sanika. A male and a female both dressed in complete black. All you could really see was the male’s eyes and the female’s head was uncovered. The male had wrist blades and was proficient in white and black magic. The female was an archer. Kyra could easily take down either one of them.

    “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.” Sanika said.

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.”

    “Yes Uncle I know.” Sanika had powered both of them up in order to take on the crew. Kyra was beginning to detest the magic of this girl. She’s having too much fun with this. Sanika was now preoccupied with Nikki, and left the rest of them to fight. Joseph initiated the attack as always. He and Gideon made their way to the red mage. Kyra decided to take the chance and head for the archer. Val kept his distance and made a few hits to the archer while Kyra had her distracted. Yuki kept her distance as well. Yuubou stayed back and helped Joseph and Gideon. Paine, Yuna and Tidus changed into a warrior dressphere and stayed on the offensive against these two.

    Kyra only stopped once when she heard Nikki cry out in pain. She hated that sound. Whatever Sanika was doing to her, Kyra hated it. That was when the archer had made a swift punch to her jaw knocking her back into this battle. I really need to stop losing concentration.”. Kyra slashed the archer. Although Kyra was quick, the extra power had made the archer a little faster than her. She kept doing back flips and sneaking in a few powerful shots to those attacking her from afar. “This is going nowhere fast...” Kyra said thinking out loud.

    “How about you just give up so it makes my job easier, bitch.” The archer said.

    “Keep dreaming.” Kyra smirked. She kept charging, but she wouldn’t be able to keep this up for much longer. She was too quick.

    “Sanika, stop playing.” The red mage called out.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” She waved her hand to heal both of them to full health.

    Some familiar arrows had hit the gang archer in the arm. Looks like Nikki’s back, but these guys have been healed. Fuck, this is going to be a long battle.” Kyra thought as she pushed herself to keep going in this battle. How much longer did they need to fight like this?

  4. #34

    Even after a potion to help heal the wounds that Sanika gave me, it was still a little painful to breath. The red mage I was fighting was good. This person obviously had experience in dealing with people. I jumped back from the action a bit, looking up to where Sanika was perched. It was making me angry, seeing her gloat over our efforts to try to get to her.

    I sidestepped just as the red mage sent a fire spell at me. He compensated by using a water spell after another second. I ducked just in time to avoid it.

    “Sit still, samurai and die already,” he said, sending another spell at me. I dodged it before running at him.

    “In your dreams,” I said, trying to hit him with my sword. The sword was caught on his Protect spell.

    “Do you even think that you stand a chance here? Even if you defeat me, you still need to fight Sanika who you cannot defeat. You might as well just give us your head now along with Nikki and we’ll leave the others alone,” he said, hitting me with a Fira.

    I pushed through the fire spell, ignoring the burns it created to strike the red mage. He blocked with his wrist blades. Yuubou and Gideon closed in on either side to hit him, but another Protect spell blocked their attempts. I drew back and prepared an Armor Break. Just before I could swing down, my whole body suddenly froze up.

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest,” Sanika suddenly said, floating down from her perch. The red mage nodded once before turning his attention to Yuubou and Gideon. I suddenly went straight into a wall, my arms and legs were pinned to the wall due to Sanika’s telekinesis.

    “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” Sanika purred. Since the force holding me to the wall seems to be exerting on all my body, I could not do much except grunt. I suddenly felt pressure on my head, as if my head was in a vice. Having no training on how to repel a mental attack, all I can do was concentrate hard on staying conscious.

    “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why,” I could make out Sanika saying in the haze of pain that I was feeling. The pain suddenly stopped and I could see Sanika start laughing, as though she found something funny.

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!” she said, laughing. She calmed down from her laughing fit before looking at me critically.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,” Sanika purred. That got my blood boiling. I got so angry that I almost couldn’t think straight.

    “DON”T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!” I roared, willing my arm to swing. My arm came free from Sanika’s grip and swung down on her. Only her shield that she kept up was the reason she was not cut down immediately. Sanika instinctively teleported back to the top of the temple where she was safe, stunned that someone overcame her telepathy. I glared at Sanika who was on the roof. The look I gave her was made of pure anger and rage. Even the red mage and archer took one step back at the look I gave them.

    “I know that I’ve failed people in my past. I knew that back then that I didn’t have the strength or power to save them.” I said coldly. I switch the Gerbera Straight into my left hand and placed my right on the sheathed Tiger Pierce. “But now, I can make a difference. I will not sit ideally while you go harm people I love. If my life is what it would take to keep Kyra safe, so be it. But you will die in the process. I will make sure of it.”

    I pulled the sword I previously could not pull out of its sheath. The people close to me would’ve noticed that the moment the Tiger Pierce came free of its scabbard, it began to resonate with the Gerbera Straight. The two katanas I carry were originally part of a set of five. Each katana has a different unique ability to them. All the katanas would resonate with one another, strengthening them. Also, my style of swordplay was originally meant to be with dual wielding katanas. I’ve been using only one for the past few years for better precision, but I’ve always trained with two sword. There is nothing holding me back now.

    I took one step in Sanika’s direction before suddenly sprinting towards her, a Hayate spell increasing my speed. The red mage suddenly came in view, blocking the path I wanted to take.

    “You will not touch Sanika!” he yelled, firing a spell at me.

    “OUT OF MY WAY!” I yelled as I dodged the spell. I swung the Tiger Pierce at him. The katana slipped right though his Protect shield and into his wrist blade. The force of the swing sent him flying into the archer.

    “Look out Sanika! He’s much stronger than before!” The red mage yelled in panic. I reached the base of the temple and with two jumps reached the roof where Sanika was standing. I held both my swords behind me, charging a different spell into each one.

    “Sanika! PREPARE YOURSELF!” as I swung down. Sanika blocked both strikes with her shield. I was stunned that both did not work. I used both an Armor Break and Dark Buster but none of those worked. I was suddenly flung down into the ground. As I passed Sanika, I noticed that she was wearing a Ribbon, which made her immune to ailments. That made her virtually invulnerable.

    I slowly got up from the crater I made. As I did, the red mage charged at me. But he suddenly backed off as an arrow planted itself right in front of him. I turned to see Nikki and the others, ready to take them on. I also readied myself for both these two warriors and Sanika’s wrath.



    After Gideon had his little trip down forsaken memory lane, we agreed to take another rest above ground. For the first time, I found myself unwilling to abandon the mission, but understanding of the others' fatigue. I wasn't plagued by thoughts of the Slayer anymore. Cyan had seen to that and I felt like I was ready for anything. However...

    “Nikki is this what she normally does? Wait before she attacks?” Kyra asked as we waited for our enemy to arrive.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t remember...”

    That certainly took me by surprise. It had been Nikki that went completely nutters over Sanika's clone appearing. She had known and explained to us how dangerous the girl was, yet now she talks of not knowing Sanika's style? My first instinct told me to look back at my guado past, the fairy tales I'd been told about all that the pyreflies could accomplish. Could the fact that another version of Nikki had been formed from the little girl's interactions with our Nikki have caused this lapse in memory? It is believed by the guado that pyreflies aren't just the pieces that create life and all things, but that the individual pyreflies are actually separate memories, bits of a personality, that form together in order to build a being as a whole. Even with all I had seen about the Via Infinito, I just couldn't accept something so ludicrous, yet here she was, a Nikki that felt incomplete.

    To my left, we heard a muffled smash and Joseph groan in pain before gasping for air. The single action alerted us all to Sanika's presence and my wild theorising about Nikki's predicament was postponed. With a confident strut and draped in ebony, she stalked toward us, her violet eyes never leaving Nikki's form. However, despite such focus, I knew we could all feel her attention was not at all diverted from the rest of us. She was fully aware. We would never get close enough.

    The psychics of our group made attempts to counter her power, but it would prove less than futile. The defence only egged her on and soon, the entire field of battle was coated in an immense blanket of telepathy. Nikki decided on a more physical front, possibly hoping to battle her on better ground, but her own defences were impeccable.

    “Little Nikki, I told you not to interfere.” She would say before ramming her with an invisible wave of force, sending Nikki sprawling to the ground.

    After that, she turned her attention back to Joseph and the warriors of our group were forced to watch the battle happen before us. Yuki, Paine, and Yuna were all that could even pose a problem for her and she cast them off as though waving off a fly. It was then, Tidus couldn't stand by watching and lunged in recklessly. As expected, he was dispatched without a thought. It was why the rest of us hadn't made a move despite the danger she posed to Joseph. We were of no use dead. Thankfully, her attention span seemed lacking as she would turn her attention back to Nikki and release Joseph, who was immediately in the care of an arriving Kyra.

    “Are we just going to stand here all day?” Cyan grumbled, her grip on her broadsword tightening as she gritted her teeth.

    “I'm afraid we won't be of much use here. We can't even get close enough.” I replied, finding that my own teeth were clenched in frustration, “You saw what happened to Sir Tidus just now.”

    Yet as it would turn out, Sanika took to removing herself from battle to call others into play in her stead, “I’m afraid you two must take care of these weaklings, I have much more important matters to take care of.”

    “Do not take long Sanika, you know what your father said.” The blade-armed male advised, getting into position.

    “Yes Uncle I know.”

    With that, she went back for Nikki, which freed us to battle the other two. A recovering Joseph launched himself at the man Sanika had named “Uncle” so I nodded to Cyan and Tidus and engaged the girl.

    At mid-range, she utilised her bow to send bolts of elemental magic at us. After all we'd been through, this was a pathetic offence to be sure, even if I could smell the support Sanika had given her. Blurry Moon shattered the arrows with ease, gaining us enough momentum to have both Cyan and Tidus rush her, forcing her to fall back on her dagger. Cyan struck her hard, forcing her down on one knee before letting her go just in time to catch a stiff Spiral Cut from Tidus, which planted her into the ground.

    “Sanika stop playing.” Uncle scolded, having seen the tide of battle change.

    “Oh I’ll only play for a little while Uncle, you two can have fun while I’ll watch” Sanika mused, casting a telepathic version of Cure magic on them both.

    Even so, Uncle was having difficulties facing Joseph, who was being reinforced by Kyra, the twins, and Gideon. Despite the physical trauma that was evident in his step, Joseph was relentless in his attack and pushed Uncle to his limits.

    “Sit still, samurai and die already,” He growled.

    “In your dreams,”

    Back on our end, the girl had come into her own psychic powers, though they were far from comparable to Sanika's. With the addition of Val, her defeat was guaranteed. Cyan took to distracting her, keeping her from focusing on any one of us. I provided cover for the others with Blurry Moon, making use of its Deathstrike ability in an unorthodox way. I slammed the sword into the ground, the ability destabilising it and further hindering the girl's concentration while Val and Tidus shot and slashed away. She was again forced to use her dagger, but Val's potent magics rendered it useless and Tidus' combat experience in the battle against Sin made this bout a laughable contest.

    On the other end, Joseph had hit a ditch. Sanika had grown bored of monitoring the battle and returned to face him again. “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest,”

    “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?”

    With that, she did something and caused Joseph considerable amounts of pain and also provoked him into an odd glare, his eyes rapidly moving back and forth as if watching something rush past his eyes.

    “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why, Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” She suddenly cackled, the information she revealed more damaging than any of her previous actions, “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!”

    Both Cyan and I turned our attention to Kyra and Nikki, who were staring at the scene. Kyra seemed to be taken aback by this, but Nikki became distant. Taking my eyes to Cyan, we both agreed she must not have taken it lightly.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first?” She mused, turning her attention to us.

    I readied my Blurry Moon, but she wasn't finished, adding, “No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,”

    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...” Cyan stated, barring both from entering the fray.

    However, neither of them were who we should have worried about... “DON”T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!”

    'What an emotional response! Nikki, I'm sure you felt it, too.' The voice of Sanika echoed as she escaped back to higher ground.

    For a moment, I hadn't understood why I had heard it, but my attention would soon be drawn by the reverberations to the secluded corner of Bevelle's Temple where little Asuka's head peeked out, stunned by the fight.

    'Mishka Mishka! There's something you need to hear!'

    Her voice was disorienting and seemed to echo from all sides. The sounds of the battle were drowned by her and it couldn't have come at a worse time. The girl we had beaten just before was rising again. What was worse, she was amplified further by Sanika than she had been before. Now, her ploy was to split into several images, all placed at random about us, all with bows aimed and a different elemental arrow poised to strike.

    'Mishka, it's very important!'

    “Dammit, I can't be listening to this right now!” I grumbled, arming Blurry Moon and making the most of my other senses.

    I was just able to destroy the few bolts that were headed for me, but once all the arrows were released, the archer's various images shifted to different positions and armed themselves again. By this time, Joseph had gone on his mad rampage against Sanika, launching Uncle backwards with great force. He was ultimately defeated by Sanika, but it wasn't stopping him from charging in again.

    'Mishka! Listen to me!'

    With my senses useless to me, I quickly signaled the others, but Nikki already knew what needed to be done. Sending a Triple Arrow between Uncle and Joseph, she stopped the samurai's suicidal run and regrouped the sides. The archer's images faded and returned her to Uncle's side while Sanika loomed in the distance, healing them back to full health once more. As the others headed off to fight, I finally found myself with the opportunity to respond to the girl shouting at me in my mind.

    'How are you doing that?'

    'Doing what?'

    'Talking to me in my head!'

    'Oh, I can talk to anyone who is like us.'

    'Us? I'm no psychic.'

    'If you weren't, I couldn't talk to you like this.' She was being cute... at a time like this... 'Sorry, Mishka. We shouldn't talk about your mentalness now. I need to tell you something!'

    'You've been bloody going on about that for the past ten minutes! Say it already!'I spat, though I hadn't meant to be so upset, 'Sorry, it's just, now's not the best time to chat.'

    'Right! Mishka, the scarey lady is lying!'

    'Lying? How so?'I asked, though what I had really wanted to say was, 'You mean she's not really there and we're all hallucinating so we can all go run back down to Via Infinito now and have at the fiends that are much easier?'

    'She's not this mean. She's lying to make Nikki worried! Here, you should listen for yourself!'

    Not what I wanted. As the girl didn't know how to truly control her power, what she ended up doing was having Sanika's form emblazoned on my vision, her eyes glaring intensely at me, while her voice, much as Asuka's had previously, beamed out from all sides, 'How dare she deceive her like this. Father will not be pleased. I must cleanse her, make her see that she's been lied to. My poor dear sister. It will be alright now. I'm here and all will be set right again.'

    “Watch out!” Just as the vision cleared, I found myself underneath an overhead strike by Uncle, bearing down on me with his bladed arm.

    Blurry Moon lunged forth and caught it, suddenly evoking Slowstrike to allow me the opportunity to capitalise on his failed attack. Taking hold of the sword, I repositioned it for a horizontal slash, cutting enough into Uncle's middle to force him into retreat. However, directly behind him was the archer who timed her arrow perfectly so that just as he fled, the tip was upon me, far too close for me to deflect or destroy. Nikki's arrow came at me, as well, its angle sending it to my left just in time to split the other arrow down the center, its two halves harmlessly flying to either side of me.

    I took Asuka's words to heart and now knew Sanika's true plan. Though she had been assigned to murder Joseph, she had ulterior motives in recovering Nikki for the gang. Her move with Joseph had already worked, the normally composed samurai having been reduced to a raging savage, equipped with two blades that set him off balance even if it provided greater power. Meanwhile, Nikki seemed to have been conversely affected, fighting harder after hearing Sanika proclaim Joseph's love for Kyra rather than being weakened by it.

    Seeing how Joseph wasn't backing down no matter how dangerous his advances were, I moved towards Cyan and Gideon.

    “We have to stop him before he gets himself killed.”

    “Easier said than done.” Gideon said, pointing out how driven the samurai had become since Sanika's threat.

    “Looks like we need to try a different strategy.”

    “Just how sharp do you think those swords of his are?”

    Both Cyan and I answered, “Sharp.”


    With the two of them on Joseph, I concentrated on Sanika and also had an odd plan in mind. While Nikki fired a direct hit on the archer, forcing her away with Uncle, I crept up behind her and took the hook of Blurry Moon to her nape. Nikki was surprised, to be sure, but I would soon make her understand.

    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”

    “What do you think you're doing?” Sanika growled.

    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”

    'And you know I can do it.' I said to her in my mind, having sensed the reverberations of her prying her way inside.

    Blurry Moon charged for Deathstrike and Sanika began backing away, taking worried eyes to Uncle and the archer. The peek into Sanika's true motives by Asuka was working well. I needed only keep true to the bluff and hold until they folded. We were ill-equipped to face Sanika as we were. We needed time and, if she believed Nikki's own teammates could turn on her at a moment's notice, hopefully she'd reconsider her direct approach. I only had to keep steady. I couldn't afford any distractions. Sanika had her sensors all about me and the truth of matters has a way of seeping out unwantedly.


    The archer was so focused on Kyra that Nikki found it very easy to just suddenly charge into battle with a triple arrow on her, however she instead found herself just firing one arrow into her arm, something had told her that this girl looked familiar, there was something inside her that was telling her to not to full blown attack her. Easier said than done.” Thought Nikki

    However with Mishka, Cyan, Val, Kyra and Sir Tidus against her it seemed like she was overwhelmed,Sanika is making this way too easy, what is she planning?” Nikki didn’t have too long to find out though, because suddenly Sanika entered her mind.

    Now little Nikki let’s see how easy it is to wind up this Samurai, I am a little bored now.” Nikki watched as she suddenly teleported down, Nikki was about to charge in front of her but once again Sanika kept her frozen there.

    Fuck it Sanika what are you going to do?”

    Just watch.”

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest. Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” She suddenly threw Joseph against the wall and had him pinned there while she looked into his mind. “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why,”

    Sanika!!!” screamed Nikki in her head.

    Shhhh little Nikki, this is getting to be fun, now let’s really push some buttons”

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman!” she said, laughing.

    “What...” said Nikki in a whisper.

    Poor, poor little Nikki, don’t worry I shall punish him.” But by this time Nikki was in a whirl of thoughts was what Sanika was saying the truth, but how and why?

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,” Something inside of Nikki told her that she was lying but still that statement made Nikki even more aware, she gripped her bow, willing to die for Kyra if she had to, suddenly all that fear she had melted away, she wouldn’t let anyone hurt her.

    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...”


    What an emotional response! Nikki, I'm sure you felt it, too.” Nikki didn’t answer her. “Come, come dear Nikki do you think I meant what I said, of course I didn’t, but it’s okay now, you know the truth the girl doesn’t love you. Don’t you worry” Nikki stopped in her current thoughts at that.

    Is it true? Is there really no future, have I been fooling myself?” Sanika now didn’t answer her but that seemed to make Nikki even more determined to focus, a part of her was screaming at herself to not listen, and for now she pushed those doubts deep inside her, she found a strength inside her to face this head on. The archer that was defeated before sat up after being healed again by Sanika who had teleported high up, seemingly to ponder on something. The archer split into several images of herself, from afar Nikki could see she has surround Mishka and the others so Nikki decided firing arrows at the images to try and disperse them one by one. However Nikki was also aware that Joseph was charging for Sanika but she quickly threw him like a puppet to the side, he was about to charge into the battle again in a mad rage. Sanika was laughing in Nikki’s head saying how weak he was. Get out of my head.”

    Now, now little Nikki surely you don’t mean that.”

    Get out!” she yelled in her head.

    Sweetie, you poor thing, you’re so confused, don’t worry I’ll take you home after this, I’ll look after you.” Nikki ignored her and immediately fired a triple arrow at the ground between the red mage and Joseph, keeping him from making a stupid mistake. The archer returned all the rest of the images to herself and returned to the red mage’s side. Sanika once again healed both of them from the top of the temple, she was no longer in Nikki’s head which was a good sign. The archer’s attention turned to Nikki as she fired poison arrows at her. Nikki fired her own arrows blocking the poison ones. Kyra was now fighting the red mage aiding the twins, while at the same time trying to keep Joseph from doing anything stupid. Nikki was fighting with Val and Gideon while Cyan was with Mishka who was for some reason was in some sort of daze like someone was speaking to her. But Sanika was paying no attention her, actually Sanika looked quite bored she was swinging her legs and sighing.

    Shit she’s getting bored.” Nikki knew from when she talked about Sanika that when she got bored she would enter the battle herself. They were running out of time. An arrow struck Nikki in the arm and Nikki immediately used the last chocobo feather she had to cast haste on herself. She ignored the pain in her arm and pulled out the arrow, she hissed at the pain, and then ran at the archer dodging all the arrows being fired at her she nearly got close but Sanika pushed her back with her magic.

    Now, now Nikki I told you no.” This was getting ridiculous, Sanika wasn’t going to let her battle at all, all she wanted to do was to watch the others but not let Nikki protect her friends.

    “Watch out” all Nikki could do was watch helplessly until Sanika decided to turn her attention of something else as she watched Mishka block an attack from the red mage. However as she she manged to make the red mage flee Mishka was in grave danger of being killed by the archer who was close to her, Nikki fired her own arrow as the archer fired hers, the arrow splintered as they collided. Now that Sanika seemed to be not focusing on her Nikki fired a triple arrow at the archer, she dodged both of them but was hit by the third. She saw Gideon had now gone to attack Joseph probably trying to knock him out so he wouldn’t do anything else stupid.

    Suddenly Nikki felt someone grab her from behind and Mishka’s sword was lighting pressed to her neck.

    What the hell?”

    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”

    This is either very stupid or very smart.” She understood now by threatening herself, Sanika would be at odds on what to do, but would it be enough to break through her barrier.

    “What do you think you're doing?”

    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”

    “Mishka what the hell are you doing?!” From the corner of her eye she could see Kyra looking distraught but Paine was blocking her way. Sanika was looking worried, it seemed the plan was working, but then Sanika’s eyes sparked with anger.

    “You will not touch her slayer!” Nikki could feel her magic pounding onto the floor and a wave of it struck at the floor sending both of them flying Mishka’s sword flew into the opposite direction leaving her defenseless. Nikki sat up holding her head she looked around and saw that Joseph was now unconscious due to the fight between him and Gideon, the twins were now trying to revive him and Kyra came over to asking whether she was alright. Sanika kept advancing towards Mishka, holding her up with her magic much like she had done with Joseph.

    “Mishka!” cried out Cyan

    “How dare you touch her! You insignificant pest I should...” she paused and dropped Mishka who landed in a heap; Cyan went straight to Mishka who was now holding her head. But Nikki was more concerned with what had stopped Sanika, her eyes glanced around the room and fell upon Kyra, a pit suddenly entered Nikki . Nikki quickly stood in front of Kyra.

    “Don’t you dare!” Sanika however not listening to her threw her to the side and Nikki found her back burning in pain as she skidded across the ground.

    “How dare you! You lie to her, making out that you care for her, when you don’t. You little bitch I shall break you apart, you have broken her heart into tiny pieces so I shall break you into tiny pieces!” Nikki sat up to find Kyra slowly being lifted into the air.

    “But I-“ Sanika interrupted her.

    “Silence!” her voice boomed. Nikki quickly looked across the room to see that Joseph had been revived. They both ran at her from both sides, the only thought of protecting Kyra took control now but it wasn’t enough she threw both of them to the side.

    “Let’s see, how about your legs” A cracking sound was heard and Kyra screamed out in pain with tears running down her face, however Sanika seemed to laugh and was clearly enjoying it, Nikki stomach tightened, there was nothing she could do to distract her physically but...

    “Sanika stop this! If you truly care for me you’ll stop this right now!” However Sanika was as Nikki feared too far gone to be reached. And she began breaking Kyra’s finger’s one by one each scream and pain just made Nikki wallow more and more, not knowing what to do anymore.

    “Umm Sanika...” the archer seemed to have a conscious cause even she was trying to stop her.

    “Don’t interrupt her.” said the red mage.

    “But it’s the samurai we are after.”

    “Still don’t interrupt.”

    “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” cried out a young voice Nikki turned to see Asuka run into the middle of the room.

    “Asuka stay back!”cried out Nikkki in fear, Kyra screamed out again Sanika had now broken an arm. Asuka shook her head. And she cried.

    “Please stop it, please someone help her!” she cried out. At that Asuka glowed a purple aura, she seemed to be gathering power, the whole temple seemed to shake.

    “What the hell is happening?!”

    “I can feel it, she’s gathering power, Sanika’s power. Sanika’s power is covered all over the temple, she’s sort of sucking it up. I’ve gotta help!” With that beams of purple light shot out of Yuki and went into Asuka. Kyra was suddenly dropped and Sanika stood back from the girl. Immediately Nikki went over to her, she seemed to be in an awful lot of pain so Nikki gave her a hi potion for her wounds, it hurt Nikki to see her like this.

    “Oh how interesting” said Sanika

    A sound of a clock rang through the temple three times, the area around Kyra began to distort.

    “What the fuck is happening now?”

    “I’m getting help.” Asuka’s voice seem to bounce from all sides due to the massive amount of power she was wielding.

    “I recognize this, it’s time compression, I can hear him.”

    “Hear who?” asked Nikki as she helped her sit up. But it seemed Kyra didn’t have time to answer, three orbs came from within Kyra and headed to the sky.

    “Impossible!” she heard Yuna gasp. Hundreds of bats seem to appear from nowhere, they gathered together and merged into a huge ball, the squeaking was deafening and Sanika ordered Uncle and the archer to stay back.

    “Something powerful is arriving.” Sanika said. Something began to lower from the ball, at first it looked like an Aeon but Nikki had never seen an Aeon like this. The beast had a red body with wings that were black on the outside but red on the inside. It had yellow eyes, a black face with what looked like black horns sticking out from the sides. It had fierce teeth, black scales and long claws, the legs had a tint of purple and it had a long thin body.

    “Diablos” said Kyra. The creature that Kyra had now called Diablos unfolded its arms and wings and glared at Sanika.

    “Now this will be fun, it dares to threaten me.” She laughed, it seemed she could communicate to it by telepathy.

    “An Aeon?!” questioned Yuna.

    “No this is something different, it came from Kyra’s time and i have a feeling this wont last for long.” Replied Paine. Diablos then reached his arm up and pulses of energy began flowing into the ball above him, he then suddenly stuck him arm in and with a roar flung the ball towards Sanika flung up a barrier to protect herself and the ball exploded on impact. Diablos just growled.

    Then a lot of things happened at once the red mage ordered the archer to strike Asuka, the archer quickly aimed for Asuka who was too busy concentrating, Nikki was too slow to notice and was too late when she did because the archer had already fired, but with a burst of speed Asuka was suddenly pushed aside by someone in a white cloak, a white mage. Asuka opened her eyes, the area around Kyra turned to normal and Diablos turned back into bats and flew away in a squeak. The white mage seemed to be struck in the arm, as both her and Asuka sat up Nikki could see that in fact it was Raine who had saved her.

    “Are you okay?” asked Asuka.

    “I’m fine.” She said as she took out the arrow in her arm she then aimed a holy spell at the archer who quickly dodged it. Raine then looked up and glared at Sanika. However Nikki was now once again in a whirl of thoughts.

    What’s Raine doing here, why would she come here?”

    “You’re group ruins lives! I’ve seen countless of families, shaken by fear of owing money, young girls come back shaken to the core by what you do to them. What gives you the right to take lives Sanika? What gives you the right to take away family and friends?! “ Raine hand balled into a fist. “You took away my best friend and turned her into someone I do not recognize anymore!”

    “We don’t take them, they choose to come, where they are safe and have a roof, you were the one that abandoned little Nikki.” Answered Sanika calmly, all the battle seem to have stopped Uncle and the archer were at a distance and all focus seemed to have drifted to this conversation.

    “But that was after, when she came back, and I’m not proud of that, but still you ruin lives, you hurt those girls.”

    “You know what she says in the truth.” Nikki turned to see Hayleigh smiling at Sanika as if she was greeting an old friend. “I heard you didn’t even didn’t stop Nikki from escaping,, that’s because deep down somewhere you know the truth Sanika.”

    “Sanika don’t listen to them!” said the red mage.

    “Yes I shouldn’t listen to you, Father says that you abandoned me, you lie to me and you are meant to be my friend.”

    “But I am your friend Sanika, this is why I’m telling you, did you ever wonder where those girls get those scars from, why you fear even looking inside Nikki’s head for the truth , she never considered the gang a family, she was frightened scared and alone. Much like that archer next to you who I believe is Suki’s sister.” Then Nikki remembered this was Rika, Suki’s sister, the sister that Suki was so desperately waiting for her to come home.

    “This is very troubling,”

    “Sanika we have a job here!” said Uncle.

    “Quiet!” Sanika then teleported away, leaving the teleport open to the other two. A sound of the temple door opening and Suki came rushing in, seeing her sister enter the portal along with Uncle she cried out.

    Rika the archer paused and looked at her.

    “Rika.” Said Uncle forcefully, Rika then nodded and entered the portal along with Uncle the red mage, as the portal closed Suki broke down in tears crying out her sister’s name. Kai entered with his best friend Lian along with Lillia who rushed over to Asuka saying how worried she was about her. Nikki sat down in exhaustion not quite believing that they had survived the kids seemed to have gathered and were talking quietly to each other. Nikki’s heart pounded and Raine had now gone to tend to everyone’s wounds talking quietly to Joseph. Doubts began to fill Nikki’s mind now about the future between her and Kyra, what Sanika said had stung. Mishka and Cyan got up and began to leave, but not before Nikki commented that Mishka had the most “stupid fucking insane plan ever.” To which Mishka only grinned to annoy Nikki.

    Nikki got up the doubts getting to her she sadly walked away until Raine shouted over to her.

    “Don’t you dare run away! Not after I came here, not after it took all that courage to stand up against Sanika, you can’t run away from me, not now!”Surprised Nikki turned around Sanika looked a bit surprised at herself, she looked a bit embarrassed since she got the whole attention of the temple and she continued. “I mean... Please just sit down.” Hayleigh just smiled and walked over to them and put a hand on Nikki’s shoulder.

    “Perhaps a better idea would be if you Nikki go to Kyley’s, Tomoya rescued a girl who was part of the gang, we were hoping that you can talk to her. She seems very much scarred and is only fourteen.” She then turn to Raine.” Then you can catch up to Nikki later when you are done. Raine simply nodded and Nikki turned towards the temple doors past the kids. Lian was a cheeky fourteen year old but had more sense than Kai not to annoy Nikki, he had ginger short hair and freckles and was dressed in black trousers, blue shirt and had one ear pierced in a small silver stud, he had blue eyes. Nikki looked at Kai and saw something was troubling him.

    “What’s wrong?” Kai suddenly looked up and grinned.

    “Nothing sexy.” Nikki groaned and wacked him over the head.

    “Make sure he stays out of trouble.” She said to Lian.

    “Aye aye” he saluted, Nikki groaned again and walked out of the temple door.


    Kyra kept her concentration on the archer. She noticed that Nikki’s attention had gone to Sanika again. She was floating down and planning something.

    “I’ll play around with the samurai a bit Uncle. You deal with the other pest.” She said. Kyra was about ready to lose it when she heard what she said next. “Now before I kill you, how about letting me see what your thoughts are hmm?” Was this his time to die? No. Sanika was playing with him sifting through his thoughts. “Oh. Even though you want to live, it seems that you have an undertone of death seeking. That would not be surprising really, you samurais have always embraced death but you are determined to live. I wonder why.” After more sifting, she burst into laughter. Just what exactly was so funny?

    “Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!” she laughed. “Oh that would explain why you fight so hard doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that both you and Nikki could love the same woman?”

    Kyra was taken aback. Is this true? I get that he cared but is it love? What...the hell?” She felt a mix of sadness, shock, and fear. There could have been more emotions running through her, but she needed to keep her focus.

    “Well since Kyra is so precious to both you and Nikki, how about I kill her first? No, that would be too merciful. I know what to do. I will torture her slowly in front of both of you. I will watch as you two lose hope and faith. I want to see the look in your eyes the moment I kill her and before I kill you. That way I can break Nikki as well,”

    Wait! Kill me? Torture me?!” more fear poured into her body.

    “Nikki, Kyra, don't listen to her taunts. That's just what...” Cyan said.

    How do you fucking know that?. Kyra was shaking, but she had to keep her composure.

    “DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!” Joseph yelled as he gained strength. Joseph had gone into a mad dash for the red mage, and eventually Sanika. She knocked him back like he was nothing.

    Kyra was lost in confusion, but she needed to fight. With Joseph rendered useless, she attacked the red mage flanking the twins. She rushed him as did with the archer, but he was stronger and more experienced. The twins cast protect and haste on Kyra which helped, but barely. His black magic spells were powerful and he healed himself after each heavy blow Kyra delivered. The battle was again going in circles. Other attempts to bring down the red mage were made by Joseph, but none were at all successful. All of his anger was coming out making him too strong. He was making too many stupid mistakes. Kyra made some attempts to stop him mid rage. Nothing lasted long. He was too stubborn to stay down. The red mage made a dash for Mishka when he noticed she was in a daze about something. Did it have something to do with Sanika too? Kyra didn’t know what to think anymore.

    Gideon shortly went to deal with Joseph. Mishka took a different approach. She crept up behind Nikki while she was distracted. Kyra watched. Too confused to use a logical sense. Before she knew it, Mishka’s sword was at Nikki’s neck. Kyra panicked.

    “You're the cause of all this, aren't you Nikki? Sanika's only here because of you!”

    “What do you think you're doing?” Sanika growled.

    “Taking care of loose ends, it would seem. You continue this attack, I'll make heads roll.”

    Kyra ran towards them, but was stopped in mid stride by Paine. “Mishka what the hell are you doing?!” she cried. Paine put a rational sense to what was happened which calmed Kyra down slightly. At least someone still had their wits about themselves in this battle.

    “You will not touch her slayer!”

    Kyra could feel intense magic build before a shockwave hit the ground sending both Mishka and Nikki back in opposite direction of each other. Cyan ran to Mishka and Kyra ran to Nikki to see if she was okay.

    Sanika was still advancing toward Mishka. She picked her up just as she did with Joseph.

    “Mishka!” Cyan cried out.

    “How dare you touch her! You insignificant pest I should...” she paused and dropped Mishka who landed like a ragdoll toy. She began searching the room slowly. Making sure every corner was checked. What was she looking for? Her eyes stopped at Kyra. Time felt like it almost stopped. Fear had completely taken hold of Kyra now. She watched at Nikki quickly stood in front of her and put her arms out. She didn’t hear what was said. Nikki was sent across the temple in another flash though. There was no escape for Kyra. There was no escape from death.

    “How dare you! You lie to her, making out that you care for her, when you don’t. You little bitch I shall break you apart, you have broken her heart into tiny pieces so I shall break you into tiny pieces!” Kyra started to rise slowly from the ground like Sanika had done with Joseph and Mishka just moments before.

    “But I-“ The magic vice around her tightened. She couldn’t speak. It was as if Sanika was squeezing her entire body.

    “Silence!” her voice boomed. Kyra didn’t know what to think. Too much was going on. She could almost feel Sanika searching for a place on her body to break. She was stuck there in mid air being tortured and picked apart like an insect.

    “Let’s see, how about your legs.” With a quick snap, pain entered Kyra’s body immediately. It was overwhelmingly horrible. Kyra let out a scream. She could feel tears running down her face. She was helpless to her own situation. Defenseless. Vulnerable. Is this what death feels like?

    More pain entered her body as each finger was broken. Just as she thought a person couldn’t endure more pain; it grew with each crack of the bone. One after the other. She heard Nikki’s voice, but she couldn’t understand a word. The pain was overwhelming. She wouldn’t stop. Kyra heard others try to get her to stop. All she could feel was pain. She wanted to get this to stop. How could this stop?

    Kyra was suddenly dropped and she saw Sanika step back. Pain was still surging throughout Kyra’s body. Even breathing hurt. Every movement hurt more. Nikki gave her a hi potion, but it barely helped. She was at her wits end.

    She heard a clock ring three times and what she thought was someone calling her name, but it was faint. She heard it again. It was the voice of what sounded like a brusque elder man. She recognised it, but it was voice she hasn’t heard in a long time. The pain in her body was slowly decreasing as she felt the voice grow closer. “My lady, I am here.”

    Diablos?! How?”

    “What the fuck is happening now?”

    “I’m getting help.” Asuka’s voice seemed to bounce from all sides due to the massive amount of power she was wielding.

    “I recognize this, it’s time compression, I can hear him.” Kyra could finally speak again.

    “Hear who?” Nikki asked as she helped her sit up. But it seemed Kyra didn’t have time to answer, three orbs came from within Kyra and headed to the sky.

    I’m healed?” She thought as she stood.

    Yes M’Lady. I heard your cries for help. Allow me to defeat this sorceress for you.”

    Sorceresses don’t exist here. much worse. Do your best Sir.”

    Diablos’ entrance was dramatic as always. Hundreds of bats flew in from all sides and made a giant blob of black. When the blob reached its full mass, he lowered down to show himself.

    “Diablos.” Kyra said. After she said that, he stretched out his wings and roared.

    You dare harm my Kyra. I will smite you!” He snarled.

    “Now this will be fun, it dares to threaten me.” She laughed.

    Cocky. Filthy Human. He growled.

    He charged his Dark Messenger attack. He raised his arm and the large ball above him began to pulse. He reached his arm into the massive blob and threw it as Sanika with a roar. She immediately set up a protective barrier and just protected herself from the attack. The ball exploded on impact but she was left unharmed.

    IMPOSSIBLE! WHO ARE YOU?” he growled loudly.

    Sanika didn’t seem to reply.

    You’ve done well Diablos. You were always my best.

    Diablos Roared and dispersed when the time compression broke.

    Kyra noticed a lot had happened when she was concentrating. Someone in a white cloak had protected Asuka from getting hit by the archer’s arrow.

    “Are you okay?” asked Asuka.

    “I’m fine.” She said as she took out the arrow in her arm she then aimed a holy spell at the archer who quickly dodged it. Raine then looked up and glared at Sanika.

    Raine? How much did she see?”

    “Your group ruins lives! I’ve seen countless of families, shaken by fear of owing money, young girls come back shaken to the core by what you do to them. What gives you the right to take lives Sanika? What gives you the right to take away family and friends?!” Raine’s hand balled into a fist. “You took away my best friend and turned her into someone I do not recognize anymore!”

    “We don’t take them, they choose to come, where they are safe and have a roof, you were the one that abandoned little Nikki.” Answered Sanika calmly, all the battle seem to have stopped Uncle and the archer were at a distance and all focus seemed to have drifted to this conversation.

    “But that was after, when she came back, and I’m not proud of that, but still you ruin lives, you hurt those girls.”

    “You know what she says in the truth.” Kyra turned to see Hayleigh smiling at Sanika as if she was greeting an old friend. “I heard you didn’t even didn’t stop Nikki from escaping, that’s because deep down somewhere you know the truth Sanika.”

    “Sanika don’t listen to them!” The Red Mage called out.

    “Yes I shouldn’t listen to you, Father says that you abandoned me, you lie to me and you are meant to be my friend.”

    “But I am your friend Sanika, this is why I’m telling you, did you ever wonder where those girls get those scars from, why you fear even looking inside Nikki’s head for the truth, she never considered the gang a family, she was frightened scared and alone. Much like that archer next to you who I believe is Suki’s sister.”

    “This is very troubling,”

    “Sanika we have a job here!” said the red mage.

    “Quiet!” Sanika then teleported away, leaving the teleport open to the other two. A sound of the temple door opening and Suki came rushing in, seeing her sister enter the portal along with Uncle she cried out.


    Rika the archer paused and looked at her.

    “Rika.” The red mage said sternly. Rika nodded then proceeded through the portal. As the portal closed, Suki broke down in tears calling out her sister’s name. This hit a heart string for Kyra. It was sad to watch. The others entered into the temple as well. Lillia went to Asuka to see if she was okay.

    Kyra was concerned about her own body. She moved her fingers one by one, then her arms and legs. I’m fine? How was any of this even possible? How am I not dead? And time compression? Diablos... Why is any of this possible on Spira?!” Thoughts like these continued through Kyra’s mind. She noticed Nikki get up from where she was sitting. She was in deep thought. Kyra wanted to talk to her badly, but she was already starting to leave.

    Then she heard Raine shout, “Don’t you dare run away! Not after I came here, not after it took all that courage to stand up against Sanika, you can’t run away from me, not now!” Nikki stopped. Raine’s face was turning red as she noticed she’d gotten the attention of the whole temple. “I mean... Please just sit down.”

    Hayleigh went over to the both of them and explained a better idea. It looked as though another girl was rescued from that gang. Kyra watched as Nikki turned to leave stopping to talk to Kai shortly. He seemed troubled, but didn’t say anything to Nikki. Kyra wondered why that was. As soon as Nikki left, Kai she noticed his anger grew. He then spoke.

    “She’s a coward!” He burst out.

    “Shhh, Kai not so loud.” Suki said in an attempt to calm him. She uses her hands in a downward motion in an attempt to lower his volume.

    “I don’t care Kyra’s a coward she hasn’t decided who to go with so she’s stringing both of them along.” He blurted out again.

    Hold on! Who does he think he is…?” She thought. He wasn’t finished though. Far from it by the looks of it. She moved closer to the crowd that was now forming around him, but it didn’t look like he knew she was there.

    Asuka started to quiver with fright. “Please stop yelling...”

    Lillia was also trying to calm him down for Asuka’s sake, “Kai Asuka’s right here...”

    Kai was still on a rant however, “She going to hurt Nikki and break her, I won’t see Nikki broken again, if she doesn’t she’ll move far from Bevelle. She doesn’t care who she hurts just as long as she gets what she wants.” She could see he was getting emotional.

    And what do I want exactly?” She thought getting annoyed with the assumptions.

    “I don’t think it’s like that...” Suki said. She was right. Asuka’s cried became louder. She was focusing a lot on Kai’s aura, but it was Kyra’s only indicator as to just how angry Kai was. She felt for sympathy for him.

    “KAI!” Lillia yelled trying to get him to stop.

    Kyra heard Raine try to calm her down. “Oh dear Asuka, she can’t help but feel Kai’s aura at the moment and his emotions. Try to channel that energy into something else Asuka focus on Lillia here.” It seemed to work for the most part. Asuka stopped shaking.

    Kai piped up again, “And do you know what we call people like her, WHORE that’s what!” He’d done it.

    “ Kai no!” Lillia yelled.

    “WHORE that’s what!” he repeated.

    Kyra was shocked. It’s one thing to assume, another to call Kyra a whore. Fuck you, sympathy’s gone.” She started to make her way over to Kai, making her presence known, if it wasn’t already obvious. NO ONE calls Kyra a whore and gets away with it!

    Lian noticed Kyra’s anger. “He’s a dead man,” He was standing close to Kai.

    Kyra still hadn’t said a word out loud. There was too much anger and irritation for her to. Her face was turning a mild red because of it. As soon as she was within arm’s distance of Kai, she slapped him hard, being sure to leave an imprint.

    “Ouch” Lian said.

    Kai’s eyes widened as he brought his hand up to his cheek.

    “Kai, go home you’ve done enough!” Raine said.

    Kai walks out of the temple without a word. Lian looked back at Kyra as they both left. Suki approached Kyra and gave an apologetic look.

    “I'm so sorry, I don't know, I don't know what's gotten into him." She said.

    Asuka and Lillia approached Kyra as well. "Kai didn't mean it, he's just really really upset and angry" Asuka said.

    No kidding.” Kyra thought, still pissed about the situation. Sure he didn’t mean it, sure the girls apologised, but it didn’t take back what was said. If an apology needed to be made, it needed to come from him.

    "Yeah but what got him so angry? He doesn't normally get angry like that." Lillia said afterward.

    Suki responded with an “I don't know..."

    Hayleigh approached the group. “Girls, Can I speak to Kyra?” the girls nod and leave chatting amongst themselves as they left the temple. Kyra sighed.

    “Don’t blame Kai, he’s very angry at the moment he overheard me and Kyley talking about the girl and he put two and two together and realised that Nikki was raped in the gang. I’m not condoning what he said about you, but a kid shouldn’t have to deal with that sort of knowledge.”

    ”Right. I’m also guessing he heard what happened during the battle. He shouldn’t judge me like that! He doesn’t know my situation! Where I even came from, OR how I feel about Nikki.” She said letting her own anger out. A tear fell from her eyes.

    Hayliegh sighed. "I know and again I'm not condoning what he did, you see Kai was only 8 when Nikki disappeared. Nikki was gone for a good two years. You see Nikki back then was very much a different girl to what you see now. She had a little bit of an attitude, but she was very fun loving and adventurous. When Nikki came back Kai saw a very different girl. She was a quivering wreck." She took another breath before she continued “Now I wasn't there, but from what Kyley told me Kai was very much upset to see her like this, but he would never show it in front of her. So when no one else could get through to her, Kai started to tease her. By teasing her Kai can get her to forget about the past even if it is just for a moment. And by doing that Kai was helping her Nikki. I really don't think even Nikki realises knows how much Kai truly helped her." She paused for another breath. "I hope that helps you to understand a little bit more, this is why he reacted badly, he's angry and scared."

    "It does help a little, but he shouldn't judge people he doesn't even know." Kyra said. She was obviously still upset about the matter.

    "I know and he will come round, I just hope he doesn't do anything stupid." She said

    "Thanks Hayleigh, I'll be around Bevelle. I have other things I need to take care of." Her voice trailed.

    "Okay but please make sure you talk to both Nikki and Joseph, I noticed she was looking very withdrawn when she left. She's probably thinking some insecure thoughts again; I think hearing that Joseph loved you shook her up." Her attention was drawn to Raine who had just come out of a door. "Ah you're finished."

    Raine looked nervous and fiddled with hands.

    "You know just standing there won’t do anything," Hayliegh said

    "You think she'll be done?" Raine replied.

    Hayliegh just smiled at Raine "I'm sure she will be."

    "Right... Umm okay." Raine took a deep breath and confidently walked on.

    “See ya Kyra!” Hayleigh waved as they exited the temple.

    Kyra exited the temple after what seemed like an eternity. Just what had gotten into the people of Spira lately? Joseph went insane and went on a mad rampage in the temple rendering him unconscious, Kai had judged Kyra to the max, and Rey found Kyra and now wanted to speak to her. Nikki is who knows where... Wait, I do know where Nikki is. I have to talk to Rey first though. Unfortunately”. What else could happen today? Seriously? And just what was that stunt Mishka pulled to get Sanika’s attention? Sanika almost pulled Kyra apart...The people of Spira are bloody mad. Kyra sighed and reached for the note in her pocket again.

    Meet me back at the shop when you’re out. Hope this helps ~Rey

    She let her hand heat up as she let out a small fire spell to burn the paper. She sighed. She really didn’t like this guy at all. The events that took place a year ago ran through her mind and angered her. I can’t deal with this right now, but it looks like I’m going to have to.” On the walk over to the shop, she somehow regained her composure thinking about what happened a year ago.

    The walk felt like an hour, but she made it in five minutes. She didn’t want to go inside the shop however. She took a seat on the bench outside. She figured Rey would notice before long. She tried her best to not make eye contact with the shop, or Rey as he exited the shop in a rush.

    “How long were you waiting?” He asked as he took a seat beside her.

    “Not long.” She replied quickly and calmly. There was an awkward silence between the two. Kyra got fed up, stood up and spoke, “If there’s something you need to say, say it.”

    “Someone’s in a bad mood. What’s gotten into you?” He asked.

    “I almost died a few too many times today. Am I not allowed to be upset? Why did you come here anyway?” Kyra crossed her arms.

    “Oh, the mission. To the point then. I’ve missed you. I searched everywhere for you. When I heard you were in Bevelle, I couldn’t help but set up shop here. Besides, Cid’s men could use the help anyway...Right?” He seemed cocky.

    “Don’t go in the Via Infinito. I warn you. That place freaks me out.” She said sternly. She wished this conversation would end soon.

    “Oh, okay fine. There’s more too. Look, I want you back. Yui’s been getting on my nerves and-“ Kyra interrupted.

    “Yui? The girl you CHEATED on me with? You’re an idiot. A fool for even coming here.” She uncrossed her arms now getting really frustrated with him.

    “Now that’s not nice to say.”

    Kyra sighed. “You remember that one night in Besaid when you gloating with your friend about Yui?”

    “You heard that?” he asked his face was now getting red.

    “Of course I heard it! The whole bloody town heard it!” Kyra yelled. She took a breath and calmed down before saying, “Look, if you’re here to apologise, do it.” She was getting fed up.

    “I’m sorry Kyra. I want you back! She’s long gone. Believe me.”

    “No. Can’t happen.” She turned around so her back was facing him.


    “What’s it to you? I’m seeing someone.”


    Kyra face was turning mildly red, “It’s a girl.”

    “A GIRL?” Rey balled his fist. “You’d see a girl. Of course you would! You little bitch!” He raised his arm to hit Kyra. When Kyra noticed, it was too late for her to react. She saw a man around Nikki’s age came in front of him and stopped his arm before it made contact with Kyra. His sword was pointed at Rey’s neck.

    “Who in the..?” Rey said unsuccessfully fighting back.

    “Didn’t your mother raise you not to hit girls?” The man said. “Especially nice ones like her.”

    “Hmph.” Rey said easing off. The mysterious man backed off as well. He was wearing a black vest with the collar popped up, black elbow coverings with a metal plate on the outside of the both of them with black fingerless gloves. His hair was short, spiky and also black.

    Wait, does he know me? I recognise him. It’s”... “Rhyse?”

    “That’s me!” he said. “Are you alright?”

    “Sure...” Kyra replied. Was she really fine? Spira was going insane.

    “Just what is going on here?” a female albhed walked behind Rey.

    “Oh, uh, Hi Yui. When did you get here?”

    “Just now. Oh, is that Kyra? What’s she doing here?” she said in a disgusted tone.

    Rey just gawked.

    “Yes, it’s Kyra, and I’m done here. Rey, don’t EVER talk to me again.” She turned to Rhyse. “Can we go?”

    “After you!” he said cheerfully. He followed as Kyra turned around and walked away.

    After a pause that consisted of Kyra collecting her thoughts, she spoke. “Thanks for saving me. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t.”

    “No worries. What was that about anyway?”

    “Don’t even ask. It’s not important.” She said. He nodded not fully understanding. “How are you anyway?”

    "I'm good, just a little lost." He said.


    “Yeah you see I haven't been home in a year and I don't normally come this way. If I find the temple then I could find my place from there" He scratched his head.

    "Home? This is where you’re from then? I just left the temple not long ago. I don’t mind walking back that way."

    Ah would you like to come over to my place while you are at it, I haven't seen you in six months. It would be good to catch up"

    Kyra noticed Rhyse was looking happier than when she had last seen him. “Sure! I see you're happier now. It's good to see."

    "yeah I feel it too! Oh so it was this way!" he said finding his way again. "It'll be good to see my little bro and everyone again"

    Kyra nodded. The walk was short. It was odd to see him again though. The first time they met, it was Luca 6 months ago. They had a few conversations over coffee. Rhyse’s house was on the other side of the temple. It looked quite nice from what Kyra saw. Rhyse walked in.

    "And here we are... Hello!!! Anyone home? Raine? Sakura? No? A dog suddenly ran into the hallway and began to bark and wanted attention from both Kyra and Rhyse, “Oh hello there” Rhyse went to pet the dog but it went to Kyra instead. “She got a dog" he moaned.

    Kyra laughed. She kept petting the dog as Rhyse went over to the table to find a note left from Raine. "Shit... Sakura died not that long ago, I hope Raine is okay. I didn't know Sakura too well she only came over to see Raine but they were close."

    Kyra’s heart skipped a beat. He means that Sakura? They all know each other I guess. Raine, Sakura and Rhyse. I wonder if he knows Nikki too...”

    "Ah sorry Kyra forgot for a moment you were there, do you want a drink? I have pictures over there if you want to see what my ex looked like, and see my brother and the kids" He pointed to the side table by the couch.

    "Sure, water's fine"

    The dog followed him. "Please get this dog to stop following me" he moans. The dog just wagged its tail.

    Kyra went to the couch to sit down. She whistled for the dog to come here and got it to lay down in front of her. It seems to like girls. Obedient dog.” She smiled. She noticed the pictures on the table and looked at them. She saw a picture of what looked like a younger Rhyse and a female. He was kissing her on the cheek and she was smiling. He was also hugging her from behind. Both looked really comfortable with themselves. Is that Nikki? That can’t be Nikki. She looks so...comfortable...” She also noticed a boy that looked awfully close to Kai in another picture.

    "Hey, she looks familiar. This wouldn't happen to be Nikki, would it?"

    “Wait did I never mention that it was Nikki that I went out with? How do you know Nikki then? Is she okay? How is she? I mean does she mention me? Okay sorry, too many questions.” He brought over the water for Kyra while Rhyse was holding juice. “I don't know how you can drink water it's so bland.”

    "What's wrong with water?" She said. "No, I had no idea. I'm on a mission with her in the Via Infinito..." she paused. Kyra isn't sure what to say about Nikki. "She's...fine. It's been one hell of a confusing day for everyone."

    “Ah so I gather now wouldn't be the best time to go and say ‘hi’ to her, she gets pissed when she's confused.” He said. Kyra took mental note of that.

    "Right. And the boy, is he Kai?"

    “Yeah in the next photo that's my brother Kai, and...” He paused to notice something. He probably noticed Kyra change in behaviour. She was still a little upset over what happened earlier. “Okay what did he do this time? He's a good kid really.”

    "I know, I'm sure he can be. I think there's a misunderstanding. You see...hmm, how do I put this? I've taken quite the liking to Nikki. Something happened in the temple and someone else’s feelings came out. I'm guessing Kai found out about it somehow, he said some things and I may have slapped him....." she paused.

    “Woah woah woah slow down, rewind,” Rhyse looked down and noticed the dog had drooled into his drink. “You know me and you are not on a good start.” The dog looked up innocently and wagged its tail. Rhyse turned back to Kyra. “What do you mean you've taken a liking to Nikki?”

    "I like Nikki. Maybe a bit more than like, but there's something."

    "And how does Nikki feel about you?"

    "About the same last I knew. Something happened in the temple that might have confused her though. Someone else has feelings for me too. But, he's a little too late. I don't think Kai knows this either."

    “Wait... Nikki's gay? Well ... That explains a lot. So what exactly happened in the temple then I heard mumblings as we passed about Sanika”

    "It looks like Sanika wants Nikki back in the gang..."

    "Fuck... Haven't they ruined her life enough, after all she has been through?"

    "Mhm." She nodded. It seems he knows what happened then too.

    “So what did Kai do?”

    "He called me a coward and a whore..." She said with a noticeable sadness. She didn’t like having to repeat it.

    “... What why? I mean ok he heard another guy has feelings for you but what! This just seems so unlike him, I'm really sorry Kyra he's normally a smart kid.”

    "Hmm...Not your fault I guess. I wish I could talk to him"

    “He would only react this way i guess if he found out about something really shitty like i dunno...Oh shit.” He paused. “He always asked what if he...”

    "Hmm?". Kyra was getting confused with his thinking out loud.

    He stood up from the couch and headed toward the door. “I'm really sorry Kyra but I have to go, Nikki will probably make him a corpse if I don't find him before her”

    “Oh...Kay...”. She said still sitting on the couch.

    “...Uhh... Which way is his home again?” He opened the door and scratched his head.

    "Why don't I go with you?" She stood up.

    “Ah yes, just don't tell Nikki I had to be escorted by her girlfriend she would kill me for not remembering the way”

    Kyra laughed and exited the house with him. The conversation continued on the short walk to Kyley’s house. They arrived in no time at all.

    "Thanks and don't worry about Kai. By the way, before you go. You know that photo Nikki elbowed me afterwards for kissing her on the cheek?”

    Kyra nodded. Could he tell I was jealous?”

    “She told me she only agreed to cuddle for the camera. From talking to you I know that Nikki cares for you a lot after all you know her darkest secret, look after her."

    "You got it! Thanks Rhyse." She smiled

    "See ya around!" he waved and walked off to Kyley’s house.

    Kyra found the smile on her face didn’t last long. The events from today were slowly catching up to her. She found herself standing in front of Nikki’s house. She took a seat on the grass in front of the nicely build up garden that the kids had fixed up for her. Nikki...She’s been through so much. Too much. I can tell everyone cares about her in their own way. Even Sanika if I had to put that into perspective. But did I break her heart? Had I done something to hurt Nikki? If I did, I wouldn’t forgive myself. But Joseph...Why would Joseph like me too? He never said anything. I just always thought he cared...Was Sanika even telling the truth? I do like Nikki. I told her myself...didn’t I? Kyra sighed and stood up. Something was telling her to head around to the back garden. She followed her intuition and found that she wouldn’t be alone. She found Raine sitting against the fence reading a book and Nikki seemingly asleep in the hammock. She opened the gate and joined the two of them. She had to admit though, it felt awfully awkward.

    Raine gave her a smile. “You’re Kyra, is that right?” she asked softly.

    Kyra nodded. “You must be Raine.”

    “Yes. It’s okay. She’s sleeping. You can join us if you like.”

    “Thanks,” Kyra gave a small smile. She looked over to Nikki. “She looks so peaceful.”

    “You care about her a lot, don’t you?” Raine asked.

    Kyra took a seat on the grass not far from Raine. The awkwardness of the situation was washing away. “I do.”

    “Good.” She smiled. Raine continued to read the book she was holding.

    Kyra laid back and put her hands behind her head and relaxed. She looked to the sky and found herself thinking again. If there’s a decision to be made, I feel I’ve already made it. I feel bad for Joseph. I had no idea he felt that way.” She thought as she closed her eyes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way”.



    If the ordinary pedestrian looked at me, they probably would have assumed that there was something wrong with my mind. After all, the only thing I’ve been doing for the past hour was stare at my tea.

    After the events at the temple, I needed to get away from the others to sort out my emotions and thoughts. Bevelle was most often too noisy for me to have a quiet moment to think. But this teashop was a small place, tucked away from the noisy streets which gave me some solitude. I often come here for tea and snacks that this place does very well. However, today my mind was on other things.

    “I understand that you need somewhere to think in peace,” I heard a familiar voice say. I turned to see my sensei standing next to me. “But all you are doing right now is wasting some perfectly good tea,” he finished, sitting down on the other chair on my table. The server came along and took my sensei’s order. I sighed while taking a sip of my tea, grimacing at the fact that it has both gone cold and very bitter.

    The server returned with two cups of freshly brewed tea and some rice cakes. My sensei took a sip of tea and a rice cake. I was still in deep thoughts during all this.

    “So what happened? I know that something happened at the temple but I was not given any details on what transpired,” he said. I decided to tell him what happened from the lower Cloisters up to when Sanika retreated from the temple, leaving no detail out. By the time I’ve finished, the skies above have darkened quite significantly.

    “Hmm…… This is rather disturbing,” my sensei said after I’ve finished.

    “Yes it is. We threw everything at this psychic and we could not even scratch her,” I replied, thinking back to my fight.

    “That was not what I was talking about,” he said. I looked at him, confusion in my mind. “I meant you losing control of your emotions.”

    “Oh, that part,” I sighed, leaning back.

    “Joseph, do you remember the first time you came to me all those years ago? And after Sin took your brother away? I have always said that you should not lock your emotions away. I see that you still do that to this day. You should not do that. You have the skills and discipline to become a master samurai. Yet you still lack something. I guess you still do not have the answer to that yet do you?” my sensei said. I sighed, thinking back to that time. It was still a very painful memory to recall.

    “No. I do not have the answer or understand what I currently lack. I don’t think that I would ever find it in my life,” I sadly replied.

    “That is where you are wrong. The answer you seek is not as far as you think it is. It may be closer than you think,” my sensei said. He got up from his seat. “I must be going now. I need to catch the airship back to Luca.”

    “One final thing sensei,” I said. He stopped in his tracks.

    “What is it?”

    “I would ask that you use your contacts to try and find this Father that Sanika mentioned.” I said. My sensei had an extensive network of people who can help find anything or anyone.

    “Oh? Is this for revenge for what this Sanika did to you?”

    “No. This is for security for our mission. We cannot fight properly if we constantly have to worry about someone trying to kill us at the surface for one person.”

    “Hmmm….. I shall see what my people turn up with. Until then, I must be going. I will see you when you come back to Luca then,” and with that, he left to head back to the busy streets of Bevelle.

    I then left the teashop and went to Sugata’s place. The armor that I wore was quite banged up after all the events that went on. Even Sugata was amazed at the damage that I took.

    “Joseph, I know that the Via Infinito was dangerous but it seems to exceed even my best estimates on what it can do,” he said, looking at the damaged armor.

    “Part of the it was that most of the damage I took was not from the Via Infinito but from a powerful psychic,” I replied, explaining what happened after we exited the Via Infinito. Sugata was stunned by what I described.

    “Now that I could almost not believe. I didn’t think someone could possess so much power. Not since the days of Sin anyways,” he said.

    “Either way, this psychic will be back. I was hoping that this armor be not only repaired, but also have some enchantments placed into it. I need every advantage gained to fight her,” I said.

    “Indeed. Well the repairs shouldn’t take long but the enchantments would be harder to do in tamahagane. You know that tamahagane resists magic to a certain degree. It’s not impossible but will take considerable time. ”

    “I’m not certain when we need to go back in but I would say that you have at least until the day after tomorrow. I know it’s a tight schedule but please do your best.” Sugata nodded as he took the armor to his workshop.

    The sky was now black when I left the workshop. I decided to get something to eat and get some sleep. I stopped at a soba stall for something to eat before heading back to Nikki’s place. All seems calm when I entered the house. Everyone seems to be asleep or absent from the house. I walked up the stairs and found Kyra stepping out of Nikki’s room.

    “Hey Joseph,” Kyra greeted. I simply nodded before walking into my room. I knew that neither of us would get any sleep anytime soon without a discussion first. With a sigh, I went and grabbed a box from my bag. After that, I walked down to the living room. Kyra was sitting at the table, holding a mug in her hands. I sat down across from her, placing both swords and the box in front of me. I opened the box to reveal a cleaning kit for katanas. Inside contained a brass awl and hammer, blade oil, rice paper, a powder ball and an oiling cloth.

    Using the awl and hammer, I tapped out the pins holding the hilt to the blade. The hilt slid out along with the hand guards. I examined the blade of the Tiger Pierce closely, trying to see if any mold or dents clung to the blade. Satisfied that nothing was wrong with the blade, I took some rice paper and rubbed off the oil on the blade. Next came the powder ball, which I tapped every few inches along the blade. Using rice paper, I rubbed the powder into the blade, cleaning the surface of it. Oil was used after that to protect the blade. After making sure the coating was even, I reassembled the blade and slid it back into the scabbard.

    Kyra watched on as I cleaned my blade. She eventually breaks the silence that hangs over us.

    “You sure know how to take care of your swords,” she commented. I smiled a bit at that comment.

    “It was drilled into me from my sensei. He would always say that if we want the best care for our sword, we should do it ourselves. After all, if the blades are not in top condition, it would most likely kill us,” I replied, thinking back to those memories.

    Kyra smiled a bit as well. However, her eyes then took a serious note. I knew the question was coming.

    “Joseph, is what Sanika said true?”

    I stopped cleaning the blade for a moment, looking at Kyra. For a brief moment, I considered lying to her. However, doing that would damage the relationship and I knew that I couldn’t lie to her.

    “Yes it is true. I do love you Kyra,” I replied, going back to cleaning my blade.

    “But you never said a word. Why…” she began.

    “Did I never say anything?” I finished. She nodded. “Because I am a coward.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Simply put, I could not express myself well emotionally,” I said, rubbing the oil into the blade. “I guess you blame it on the trauma and horrors I’ve witnessed growing up.”

    “Go on,” she encouraged.

    “I don’t blame you that you don’t know it since you didn’t grow up on this planet but you do know the stories of Sin right?” I asked, sliding the sword back into its scabbard. Kyra nodded. “Well you would know that there was constant fear and despair of Sin. So much so that even children were taught the pain and suffering of losing a loved one.”

    I sighed, getting up and heading out the patio doors. Kyra close on my heels. I stood out on the lawn, bathed in moonlight. “When children understand that pain, they would do one of two things to protect their emotions. One way is that they would go on rampages of emotion, having a lot of highs and lows and ultimately covering up their real emotions under a façade which they can never break out of.”

    “And the other?”

    “The other way is that they lock their emotions in their hearts, never letting them out for any reason whatsoever unless under duress. You saw what happened when we let our emotions completely out, it is so powerful that the person could not control it, no matter how disciplined the person is. You probably haven’t sensed it but everyone in this house would most likely fall under one of the two categories,” I explained, gesturing towards the house.

    “But they don’t. You can’t say that they do. The others display emotions quite regularly,” Kyra argued.

    “That’s due to the bringing of another Calm,” I explained, turning to face Kyra. “The Calms always bring with it a sudden bonding of people before they return to the previous mental states when Sin comes around. The only difference this time around is that this is an Eternal Calm. People are not afraid to show their true selves anymore. Yet there are people like me who cannot break that chain.”

    I looked up to the moon, contemplating my memories. “After my parents got killed, I was an emotional wreak. If it wasn’t for my brother, I don’t know if I would’ve made it past age 10. After he died, I almost lost it. The only reason that I can continue now is by locking my heart. It wasn’t as bad as 2 years ago but it’s still bad,” I explained, looking at Kyra.

    Kyra didn’t say anything but even under the moonlight, her slightly damp eyes spoke volumes. I headed towards the patio doors, intending to go back inside. Kyra turned around just as I passed her.

    “Joseph, wait..” she began when I suddenly turned and captured her lips with mines. Kyra was shocked, but she didn’t pull away. After a moment or two, I pulled back.

    “Ummm… sorry Joseph. I’ll umm…,” Kyra sputtered, her face turning very red.

    “I don’t expect your heart to change but know that those are my true feelings to you,” I said before turning back to head inside.

    “One last thing Joseph,” Kyra said. I turned around. “This afternoon…. I never want to see you like that again. Usually there’s a method to your madness. Today thought…. was plain stupid. You rushed in without thinking at all. If Gideon wasn’t there to knock you out, you might have been killed. That’s a scary thought, you know?”

    “I cannot guarantee anything but I’ll try,” I responded.

    “I see. And the other thing Sanika said, is that true as well?” I chucked a bit.

    “Yes and no. I’m not seeking death to join my parents and brother but samurais always try to complete their objectives, even if our death is required. That is the curse for those who live by the katana.”

    “Right. So why do you choose to stay alive? For me? I mean, I could’ve died today and there isn’t anything you could’ve done. Doesn’t that affect you too?” Kyra asked. I thought for a moment before responding.

    “I am currently alive because I have yet to find an answer to something. Something that has eluded me for the past 4 years. If you had died, it would’ve affected me greatly. Nikki would’ve felt the same but I would not seek death. I still have an answer to find,”

    “I see. Well goodnight then.”

    “Night then Kyra,” and with that, I headed back inside to collect my swords and kit before heading upstairs to rest my body and mind.

  5. #35

    The moment I felt my instincts turn my attention to Kyra's troubled exclamation, I knew my plan had failed. Sanika took the second I wasn't poised against Nikki to use her psychic power, taking complete control of my body. Completely immobilised, Sanika began her games again, pulling off a bit of rah-rah to scatter Nikki and the others while she lifted me up into the air. By this point, I was busy considering the next steps in this battle; none of the scenarios I could assemble allowed for a great probability of our survival. Sanika then said something I wasn't paying attention to and I would regret that part when I then found myself plunging into the ground. It hadn't been the first time I was dropped onto the ground by a strong force, but Sanika wasn't nearly as kind as the little girl had been and my bones played me a lovely tune while my nerves told me what the significance of that tune was.

    “Mishka!” Cyan screamed.

    Her voice was rather muted with all the ringing and droning going on inside my head, but it was unexpectedly getting better. My bones were making new sounds and my ruptured blood vessels were sealing themselves up. At first, this alarmed me, but as my vision cleared, I realised Cyan had been frantically using potions and other remedies to heal my severe injuries.

    By the time I had my wits about me again and could stand, Sanika had stopped her attack and there were others with us, including Hayleigh and a frightened Asuka. Looking to my right, it also looked like Sanika had taken her anger out on Kyra, as well.

    “Your group ruins lives! I’ve seen countless of families, shaken by fear of owing money, young girls come back shaken to the core by what you do to them. What gives you the right to take lives Sanika? What gives you the right to take away family and friends?! You took away my best friend and turned her into someone I do not recognize anymore!” Someone blasted at the psychic, the passion behind her words flooding to the surface as her fist tightened.

    A conversation took place between them, which seemed to be affecting Sanika enough that her allies stepped in.

    “Sanika don’t listen to them!” Uncle exclaimed.

    “Yes I shouldn’t listen to you, Father says that you abandoned me, you lie to me and you are meant to be my friend.”

    However, as the conversation continued, Sanika's resolve faltered and she decided on an abrupt retreat just before someone else came running from the temple, naming the archer, Rika.

    “Don’t you dare run away! Not after I came here, not after it took all that courage to stand up against Sanika, you can’t run away from me, not now!” The same girl that had been arguing with Sanika shouted, now directing her words to Nikki.

    “Looks like we're in for some more drama, eh Cyan?” I snickered, finding my humour had healed up nicely.

    I looked to my left and my right, but she was nowhere to be found. In the distance, I saw that she was headed back into the temple, walking at a steady pace. I went to catch up with her just as Kai made his way out, making an odd statement.

    “She’s a coward!”

    Despite others trying to calm him, he continued, saying, “I don’t care Kyra’s a coward she hasn’t decided who to go with so she’s stringing both of them along.”

    He went on to yell about Kyra hurting Nikki by not making up her mind, which was peaking my interest, but Cyan was still making her way deeper and I was more concerned with her odd behaviour than his.

    “WHORE that’s what!” That stopped me.

    I watched on, and as I had been expecting, Kyra stomped over to the poor kid and placed a clear five-fingered splash of red upon his face. I looked over to see if Cyan had noticed, and sure enough, she had, though she continued on soon after.

    I jogged to make up the distance, before placing my hand on Cyan's shoulder, stopping her. “Did you see that? Wonder what's gotten into him.”

    Unfortunately, she only nodded before continuing back on her way. Of course, I'm not exactly one who appreciates being ignored. I followed her on her hasty journey, finding myself apparently returning to Via Infinito. Before she could get through the door to the portal chamber, I caught her arm and stopped her progression, my eyes asking for me and displaying my concern.

    “Can you hear it?” Cyan surprisingly asked.

    “Cyan?” I said, moving in front of her and looking into her eyes.

    “The voice. It's calling out.”

    In a bid to rouse her from this unusual trance, I mused, “Hey, I'm the looney with the voices in the back of my head, right? Don't go stealing my quirks now.”

    “Mishka...” She uttered completely deadpan, “It's calling out. It's calling for me.”

    “Via Infinito is calling you? Cyan, don't listen.” I told her, now frightened for her, “Do you hear me? Nothing good can come of it.”

    “It isn't the one calling. There's something else down there.”

    “What is it? Cyan, you're worrying me.”

    “I don't know, but I do know that I need to find it.”

    “Because it's calling for you?”

    Cyan nodded. Though I was still uneasy about the situation, I knew if this was Via Infinito's will, there was nothing I could do to help Cyan except to push on with her. All the tales, the legends, the stories I'd heard when I was little, all of them were turning out to be true. Now all I could only hope that the true Spira shared the philosophies those stories abide by and not the ominous warnings of childhood tales.

    The two of us entered the portal together with me equipping Blurry Moon while Cyan chose to remain in an exploratory position. At first, I remained concerned for her, considering we were reentering this dangerous place, but then it became quite clear the odd one was me. As we arrived on the cloister floor, I noticed we were not on Cloister 50 as we should have been. There were no fiends, no holes for them to spring up, and no convoluted labyrinths we would need to traverse. In fact, there were quite a number of oddities to this cloister, but one of the more obvious ones was...

    “Is it only me or are the walls a delightful shade of teal?” I said, placing my hand on the nearest one as I put Blurry Moon away.

    “It's calling for me.”

    “Yea, got that part. Cyan, where does it want you to go?”

    She simply pointed forward at a black door, decorated in all sorts of symbols and glyphs. Cyan began moving towards it and I followed closely behind her. The door slid up and revealed a rope bridge hanging over darkness leading to a path on the other side further into the darkness.

    “Well, this isn't a mistake.” I grumbled.

    Finally, Cyan turned to me, leaning against my shoulder, “I suppose I was being careless.”

    “Careless still is the one who followed you down here, isn't it?”

    “Much more, though being smart is overrated. All the fun's to be had by fools.” She mused, grinning, “Care to join this one on my errand?”

    I smiled back at her, “Wouldn't have it any other way.”


    As Nikki walked down to Kyley’s home she couldn’t stop thinking about Kyra and Joseph.

    Oh, this is hilarious! Who would have thought that you love the Kyra girl as well!”

    Nikki shook her head of those words, it made sense to her now, that’s why they appeared close at times, and it was why Nikki got easily jealous of Joseph. A lump got caught in her throat as she walked but she determinedly got rid of it and pushed it down by walking faster.

    I might as well start accepting it, if she’s happy, then I should be happy for her. I was just fooling myself, letting my imagination run away with me. I’m such a fool” She turned a corner leading her into the street where she lived. She took off her green gloves as she approached the wooden door of Kyley’s house the sun was quite low, and she shivered as a breeze blew. She knocked on the door and waited for someone to answer it.

    A moment passed and Kyley appeared at the door, “Oh Nikki dear, what a relief it is to see you” Nikki nodded at her.

    “I heard Tomoya rescued a girl.”

    “Oh yes of course come in, Xiang is in the kitchen, she hasn’t spoken a word to me since she arrived. She’s already been checked over by Raine but it’s bad news it seems she has been raped.” Said Kyley in a low voice to her as Nikki took off her boots. Nikki expected as much, she didn’t know of any girl who hadn’t been raped in the gang at some point, except for Sanika but that was only because everyone was too scared of her. Well that was what she guessed anyway her memory of her time in the gang was still fuzzy, again all this information came from previous conversations she remembered having, she didn’t actually remember the actual act of being raped. She didn’t know if that was a bad or good thing.

    Nikki walked towards the kitchen, she was about to enter it when something came flying at her, she put her arm up to defend herself and a a cold sharp pain came from her arm, she gritted her teeth as she realized that a knife was now embedded in her arm and the red blood was now dripping from the wound. She hissed in pain as she pulled it out.

    “Oh my goodness Nikki, are you okay?!” said Kyley rushing over to her and casting a small cure spell on her, Nikki looked up to see a young fourteen year old girl dressed in black but with her head uncovered, she had brown shoulder length hair with blonde highlights and it was tied into a plait. Crimson eyes darted from her to Kyley as she shook holding more knives in her hand. Nikki instantly knew what had to be done she suddenly rushed at her grabbing her hand telling her to let go of the knives.

    “Let me go traitor!”

    “Not before you let go of those knives!”

    “Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!” she said pounded on Nikki’s chest with her free arm, at the last “Let me go!” she then broke down in tears and let go of the knives which clattered to the floor, Nikki heard the door close which indicated to her that Kyley had left them alone. Nikki then let her arm go and held her as she cried whispering soothing words to her, she might not remember the actions of the gang but she clearly remembered the feelings she had when recovering at Kyley’s.

    One day, they will pay.” Thought Nikki, The girl then suddenly quietened down and backed away a little from Nikki.

    “No, I have to go back I don’t know what’s going on here.” She said with tears in her eyes. Nikki took a step forward and put her hands on her shoulders. Nikki knew the stages, first it was denial and then it was a time of grievance and then acceptance.

    ”You’ve been raped Xiang.”

    “No, no I haven’t they’re family I wanted that to happen. I wanted it.”

    “A real family wouldn’t hurt you like this.” She said gently.

    “What would you know?! You’re a traitor!” Xiang angrily told her. Nikki took a deep breath as she closed her eyes. The only way she could relate to this girl if she showed her the scars she had.

    “I want to show you something.” She turned around and lifted up her green top to reveal her back. She heard the girl gasp. On Nikki’s back her very thin scars of being whipped and two much thicker scars that lay either side from the middle.

    “How many-“ Nikki knew what question was coming.

    “I lost count” she remembered herself saying that years before, on the one hand she was glad she couldn’t remember but the other angry since it is the bad memories that make you stronger.

    “And those two big ones?”

    “The two big ones were placed on my skin by hot rods, and no one deserves that.” She lifted her top down and turned to face her. The girl was looking at the floor. Nikki knew by that something had sunk in, she pressed further. “I know you must have some similar scars, probably not as bad but they are there.” Xiang just simply nodded.

    “I’m going upstairs now.” She said and ran out of the kitchen and upstairs. Nikki silently went out of the kitchen nodded to Kyley and went out the door and headed to her house.

    Nikki set up targets in her front garden and put some distance between her and it. Practice was a great stress reliever to her, especially when she didn’t have time to go to the woods to fight the fiends. She raised her bow, the arrow got consumed by the water weaving itself around it she let go and hit a bulls eye, the water splashed against the target soaking it.

    “Nice shot” said a voice. Nikki turned and saw Raine looking a bit embarrassed and nervous, fidgeting with her hands. Nikki lowered her bow and walked over to the target to retrieve her arrow.

    “Thanks” she just said as she pulled the arrow out and put the target away to the side. When she turned back Raine’s white hood had fallen to reveal her face.

    “Oh Nikki I...” but she didn’t finish her sentence because Nikki saw her shoulders shake and tears run down her face. Nikki felt awkward, she hadn’t talked to this girl in years and now here she was crying. “I’m so sorry” Raine said as she put her hands up to her face. At that point Nikki’s heart dropped as she saw her cry she quickly went over and gave her a cuddle. “Sanika was right, I did abandon you, I left you to deal with everything on your own.” Said Raine in a small voice when Nikki pulled away from her when she found she had stopped shaking.

    “No, you’re wrong. I was the one that drove you away, I struck you with my arrows and I’ve never forgiven myself for that” Nikki made sure that she looked at Raine as she said this. Raine shook her head.

    “But that was an accident, it wasn’t your fault, I shouldn’t have surprised you like that.” Nikki eyes trailed down to where Raine’s stomach was, even though it was covered by a white robe she knew she must still have the scars of that day. Nikki remembered her horror as she watched her three arrows pierce her stomach, how Raine quickly collapsed and weakly asked her “Why?”

    “But I still hurt you.” Whispered Nikki.

    “Stop it!” Nikki’s eyes went up to her. “I don’t want you beating yourself up about it. I didn’t expect this, I mean... I thought you were angry at me.”

    “Why would I be angry with you?” Raine started to fidget with her hands.

    “Well... Because like I said I left you to deal with what the gang had done to you on your own, not only they had raped you but they had at one time tortured you. And I left you alone to recover from that.”

    “You should listen to your own advice.” There was a small silence at that as Nikki saw her thinking over the conversation. “I also thought that you were pissed off with me.”

    “I was sometimes because we hadn’t talked in so long I got angry at you for letting a friend of mine die, but that was wrong of me. I was very distressed at her loss and it was in fact because she died i decided to come over and reconcile. It just seemed meaningless.” Nikki guessed she might be talking about the Via Infinito but she had no idea that a friend of Raines’s had died in there.

    “What was your friend’s name?”


    Oh shit” thought Nikki. Sakura had died protecting the twins against the behemoths but not only that she also came back as a freaky unsent determined to kill Nikki and anyone that got in her way. Raine must have seen the look on Nikki’s face because she immediately responded.

    “No it’s okay, I know what happened, I know that Sakura in the end turned into a fiend and that in the end she was freed from that.” She continued. “I actually wanted to thank Kyra, I heard she did the last strike.”

    “Yeah, she would like that” said Nikki softly. She still couldn’t help but give a small smile when she thought of Kyra despite the fact Kyra probably didn’t return those feelings.

    “I just hope that Kyra is okay.”

    “Why what happened?”

    “Well before I tell you, you have to know that Kai has found out.”

    Kai? What does this have to do with Kai and what has he found out” thought Nikki Raine must have seen that Nikki looked a bit confused so she continued.

    “Kai was in the house when I was checking over Xiang, he overheard his mum and Hayleigh that Xiang got raped.” Nikki took a few moments to let this information sink in. Kai was a smart kid if he had overheard them then he could of easily put two and two together. Kai had always asked Nikki what had happened in the gang and whether they had done anything to her. But Nikki refused to talk about it with him, didn’t want him to know because she thought it was unfair to give him that sort of information to a kid so young.

    “He probably knows what has happened to me then.” Said Nikki Raine nodded.

    “But I don’t think he knows about your scars.”

    “So what does this have to do with Kyra then?”

    “Well...” Raine fiddled with her hands, she hadn’t changed really Nikki remembered that she would always fiddle with her hands if she was nervous. “After you left the temple Kai may have upset Kyra...”

    “What did he do?” Nikki narrowed her eyes, which probably wasn’t doing much to ease Raine’s nervousness. I’m going to string him by his ears.”

    “Well... Um... He called Kyra a whore.”

    There was a moment of silence. “I’m going to kill him, where is the little shit?” Nikki clenched her fist.

    “Um... Maybe you should calm down first.”

    “I’m perfectly calm.” Said Nikki as she kicked her front door open, she thought that Kyra might be inside so that she could apologize to her for his behavior. Little shit.” However Kyra wasn’t inside and as Nikki looked around she saw the twins in the kitchen playing Sphere Break. Nikki paced up and down the kitchen.

    “What happened?” asked the twins.

    “Um... I told her about Kai.”


    Nikki kept pacing thinking what Kyra must be thinking right about now and whether she is alright.

    “You know you haven’t changed, you always used to pace if you worried. I’m sure she is fine.” Nikki stopped pacing and looked up. “Let’s go in the back garden.” Nikki nodded and followed her out. Raine sat down on the grass while Nikki sat cross-legged in the hammock that hung outside in between two trees.

    “I can tell that you really care for her don’t you?”

    “Yeah, but that doesn’t really matter anymore now. I don’t think she really returns those feelings, and besides she’ll be happier with Joseph.”

    “Oh what makes you say that?” Nikki looked up to see that as Raine talked she was now fiddling with the grass.

    “Because, Joseph loves her and they are close.” Said Nikki sadly, it hurt to think about them together but it was just something that she had to get used to.

    “Oh Nikki, just because he loves her doesn’t mean she returns those feeling to him, and how you feel does matter. So, tell me how do you feel about her?”

    “What good will that do?”

    “Come on, I want to know, tell me about Kyra I’m just genuinely interested. What makes her different from Rhyse?” Nikki felt her cheeks heat up as she thought about Kyra. She didn’t know what to say what could she say about Kyra? Raine was smiling at her trying to encourage her to voice her feelings.

    “She’s constantly in my head, she makes me worry when she charges into battle, but also she makes me happy and I always seem to calm down quicker when she is around. I also seem to do stupid idiotic things as well when I’m around her.”

    “As in?”

    “I gave her an anti spider arrow.” Raine seemed to be smirking at that at which Nikki only glared at her to not to laugh, but Raine seemed to recompose herself well.

    “Oh Nikki, you really are in love.” Nikki felt her cheeks heat up again.

    “But how do I know I won’t hurt her”

    “You can’t know, but you have to let yourself get close to her. You can’t let your fears get in the way. If I know you, you’re probably still scared deep down of hurting her ad you are letting your fears of lust getting in the way. It’s alright to feel lust, it’s not wrong it goes hand in hand with love.”

    I hate it when people do that.” Thought Nikki but Raine was right, she certainly didn’t want it to be like Rhyse where she only ever felt lust and mistook it for love. She had told herself off when her thoughts drifted that way towards Kyra. But Nikki didn’t quite understand how lust and love could go hand in hand.

    “I know it’ll take you a while to learn about the two and understand how they go together. I’m not saying that you should jump on her I’m just saying that you shouldn’t hold yourself back from showing her affection.” Nikki’s cheeks again were now burning and Nikki laid down in the hammock.

    “So what should I do?” she asked in a whisper.

    “It’s stupid but it works, it’s advice that Sakura gave me, you need only 10 second of confidence, just 10 seconds to show someone how you feel. Just do what your heart tells you when you next see her.” Nikki could feel herself getting sleepy.

    “I’ll think about it” she then drifted off to sleep.

    Nikki wakes up to find that the sun has nearly set, she thinks about how beautiful Kyra looks with the red colour of the sun behind her as Kyra greets her with “Hi there” while her body is bent over the hammock from where she is standing. She also remembers Raine’s words about those 10 seconds of confidence. She sits up and swings her legs round, places both hands on the hammock, she pushes herself silently to meet Kyra’s lips with her own. Her own heart was beating very quickly, Kyra didn’t pull away so a range of emotions enters Nikki as she closes her eyes, excitement, happiness, a sense of hope for the future. However when Nikki pulled away she misjudged her balance on the hammock and fell back into the hammock, and then rolled backwards onto the grass.

    “Shit...” mumbled Nikki as she laid on the grass with a dull pain in her back of where she landed, she also felt a little bit embarrassed from falling off the hammock.

    “That was subtle”

    “I was obviously not meant to fall out of the thing” said Nikki still lying on the grass. When she turned her head she noticed that Kyra had moved on top of her and that she was very, very close to her. Nikki’s heart caught in her mouth as she blushed deeply at both the position and closeness.

    “Wanna try again?” Nikki just smiles as she silently uses her elbows to prop herself up so she can meet her lips once again.

    When Kyra pulled away Nikki sat up, so that she was still facing Kyra and still quite close to her. “I'm sorry... I let what Sanika said get to me, I thought you would have been happier with Joseph, but I just couldn't let you go without at least showing you how I feel.”

    "I'm still trying to piece together what happened...I didn't know Joseph felt that way...I'm just as confused as you are. I'm sorry if I broke your heart Nikki. Really, I don't want to be pulled apart like that again..." Nikki then suddenly felt guilty, she remember how Sanika pulled her apart in the temple breaking her bones one at a time, and there wasn’t a thing that Nikki could do to stop her.

    “It wasn't your fault it was mine, I won’t run away anymore, and I'm sorry I failed you when Sanika attacked you.” Nikki lowered her head, how could she look at her when she had failed her.

    “Hey, don't feel bad. She's unstoppable, powerful, a whole list that I can't even begin to explain. Thank God for Asuka though. I don't know where I'd be without her." Nikki lifts her head, she was also very grateful to Asuka, she wrapped her arms around Kyra as she realised how close she was to losing her.

    “I was just so worried, I even heard what Kai did.”

    “Hm.” Was all she said in response. There was a moment of silence while they hugged, Nikki had her arms arm Kyra shoulders and Kyra was gently running her hands up and down her back probably to reassure Nikki that everything was okay now. "I feel bad for slapping the guy, but it isn't right to assume something when he doesn't even know..." said Kyra as they both broke away from the hug. She continued. “Hayleigh explained a lot though. You mean a lot to him."

    “It's okay I would have done worse after all, and I know I do. Are you okay though really?” Nikki stroked Kyra’s arm tenderly up and down as she asked that last question, truth be told Nikki was quite nervous about doing things like this, but it seemed that Kyra didn’t object or mind so she carried on stroking her arm as Kyra talked. After all she didn’t really know what she was doing but Raine’s earlier advice seemed to have helped, even though half of her was still fearful she was doing the wrong thing.

    "I don't know really. I mean, I will be. I've just had a confusing day is all. Even Rey said he wanted me back. Rhyse took care of him for me though."

    Rhyse?” thought Nikki,Nah it can’t be the same idiot, but who’s Rey?” when Nikki did snap out of her thoughts she saw that Kyra was deep in her own thoughts, which seem to be troubling her. So Nikki leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, wanting to take her troubles away she then asked. “Do you want to talk about-“However a loud voice interrupted them which made Nikki stop stroking Kyra’s arm.

    “Nikki and Kyra are SO happy I can feel it it's THIS BIG!” said Asuka in a loud voice Nikki looked over the fence to see Asuka jumping up and down with her arm wide top illustrate what she was saying.

    Fuck it that girl can be a pain in the ass sometimes” thought Nikki, she then heard her back door slide open and Raine strode across the grass towards Asuka not before saying to Nikki and Kyra.

    “And there goes the peace” with a small smile she then called to Asuka. “Asuka sweetie when adults are talking quietly to each other you don't just interrupt” Asuka put her hands up to her mouth, as Raine reached the fence.

    “Oh, sorry Nikki and Kyra I'll be quiet next time”

    “Umm...” said Kyra.

    “Kai if you’re out here get your butt down so that I can kick it!” said an equally loud voice.

    For fucks sake!” thought Nikki, all she had wanted was some piece, but she would know that voice from anywhere, it was Rhyse, a guy that she had went out with as a teen, not that it was much of a relationship, it was one built on only lust and addiction. After the gang he was the first person to show what a guy should treat a girl like, and even though Nikki did not love him, he clearly loved her and she felt content and happy at being loved, she even fooled herself into thinking that she loved him. But when she was sixteen she realised that being content was not enough, not only was in unfair to her but it was also unfair to him because she could never return his feeling for her. However addiction to lust is a hard habit to break and when Nikki felt particularly vulnerable at times she would always find herself automatically going to Rhyse again, this happened every few months until a year ago where Rhyse left Bevelle not only for his sake but Nikki’s too so that she could get over the addiction. Because every time she did go to Rhyse she would always feel guilty afterwards. However despite they’re break up Nikki made Rhyse promise not to abandon Kai, who had become like a brother to him and had grown very attached to him.

    Nikki looked over the fence to see that the black spikey haired idiot looked well and happy, his blue eyes had that sparkle she hadn’t seen in a while and his clothing just seemed to reflect his normal cockiness. He was wearing black trousers, a black sleeveless zip up top with the collar popped up, black armbands with metal plates in them, and black fingerless gloves, a broadsword hung on his back, and he was wearing black boots. But most surprising of all was that he had a freaking tattoo on his left upper arm, which Nikki can only describe as a weird design of a black flame.

    “Way to ruin a moment Rhyse." Said Kyra breaking Nikki out of her thoughts, Nikki also stood when she saw Kyra do so. Something also clicked that it might not just be coincidence that he was here so she asked.

    “I'm taking a guess but it wasn't that idiot that you met?”

    "It was...what do you mean idiot? He's a nice guy."

    “... He’s an idiot.”

    “Well he is a little bit when he comes out in an equally loud voice, at least Asuka has the excuse that she is only seven.” Said Raine

    “Hey what is this? First of all, when did you turn gay? When did you suddenly appear in Nikki’s garden and what’s with the drooling dog at home?” exclaimed Rhyse as he pointed to Nikki and then Raine in turn. Kyra then burst out giggling, Nikki, however, slapped her forehead and just groaned at his stupidity. Raine gave a small smile.

    “Well I came over to reconcile, and I got the dog when Sakura died, it’s comforting.” She said in a whisper.

    “Ah, I’m sorry Raine, I didn’t think.” Nikki thought that Raine must have been really close to Sakura to be this upset. Nikki started to feel guilty again about Sakura.

    “No it’s okay, I’ll be okay.” She must have noticed Nikki looking guilty because then she said. “Don’t start beating yourself up about it Nikki, it was Sakura’s choice to go into the Via Infinito, she knew what she was getting into when she went in. That goes to you as well Kyra.”

    “Maybe when everything is over we should go to the Farplane to see her?” Nikki suggested to Kyra, turning to her.

    “Maybe…” said Kyra with a small smile.

    “Okay then as much as I like watching you two love birds get mushy, anyone seen Kai?” Nikki just chose to ignore Rhyse’s first comment while thinking it was being more an idiot that she had remembered.

    “Is he not at home?” asked Raine.

    “I didn’t hear him come in when I was talking to Xiang, and when you find him I’m going to pin his ass to a wall and then use him as fucking target practice.” Just thinking about what Kai did made Nikki angry.

    “Now that’s not necessary. All I want is an apology” said Kyra.

    Yeah but it will make me feel better,” thought Nikki.

    “Ah someone told you what happened?!” exclaimed Rhyse while he pointed at Nikki.

    “I’m sorry, I just thought that she had to know and how do you know what happened?” questioned Raine.

    “You’ve given him a death sentence, see she’s got that look that says “death” and I bumped into Kyra while taking down a guy that was going to hit he, she filled me in on what happened.” Said Rhyse.

    Wait what? Who was going to hit Kyra?” thought Nikki, the very idea that someone else would hurt Kyra made Nikki pissed off.

    “Hey I was going to tell you. Asuka interrupted.” Explained Kyra, she must have seen that Nikki looked a little lost.

    “Was it Rey?


    I’ll kill him too.” Thought Nikki

    “Yeah it was in a shop downtown.” Added Rhyse. “Anyway I’m going to go and find Kai, see ya guys later.” Said Rhyse he then went back into Kyley’s house. Nikki turned to Kyra.

    “Can I go to the shop and pin his ass to the wall?” Nikki saw that Raine was smiling to herself and she left them alone to go and quietly talk to Asuka over the fence.

    “No. He’s really not worth the trouble. He cheated on mw with a complete floosy. I ran away before he could come back. Then he had the audacity to come to Bevelle and ask for me back again, and got pissed when I said no. Why do men get pissed when I tell them I’m dating a girl anyway? Anyway the girl he’s with is in Bevelle too… I can’t go back there…” Nikki could see that the whole thing had her distressed. For Kyra’s sake she knew that going round and kicking the guys ass would probably only make things worse, her face softened.

    “Ok then”

    “But is he tries something again, I’ll give you permission to do whatever you want.”

    “Right” said Nikki smiling she took a step towards Kyra closing the distance between when she thought about kissing Kyra Asuka interrupted again.

    “Nikki feels so peaceful so quickly how did that happen? That never happens Raine, how did that happen?!”

    Dammit Asuka!” thought Nikki clearly not liking that she had been interrupted again.

    Raine laughs “Shhh you’re so loud”

    “Nikki, I’m special I’m moving in with Kyley, it’s going to be so much fun! I’m like you Nikki, you moved in with Kyley when you were a teenager.” Exclaimed Asuka bouncing on her feet again. Both Nikki and Kyra walked over to where she was.

    “What wrong with your room at the temple?”

    “The temple made some stupid mistake, while you guys were in the Via Infinito Asuka had a horrible dream after she looked into the Guado’s aura, Mishka is it?” asked Raine, Nikki just nodded. “Well she needed to be put back into her room so Lillia put her to bed. I came up to have a look, however she was distressed so I told all the children in the temple to not disturb Asuka. The end result was that a child went into her room and saw images that Asuka saw and made her petrified, the temple considered Asuka a risk and therefore used a spell that took away all of her magic. Of course with no magic Asuka got very poorly, Kyley heard and immediately too Asuka away and said that Asuka was now going to be in her care. I got some ethers to restore her magic and now, well you can see for yourself she’s quite happy and well.” Explained Raine, Nikki wasn’t surprised that Kyley would take Asuka in, Asuka had the same power as Sanika but she was much much weaker, even so Nikki figured Kyley must still have some guilt that she couldn’t help Sanika and now is desperate not to make the same mistakes with Asuka. Nikki didn’t know the details, she didn’t ask but she knew at one time Sanika was looked after by Kyley like any of the other kids that come here.

    “Yep, yep I’m all better and the great Asuka came and caught all the magic in a big net and saved Kyra tada and Kyra with her HUGE AEON hehe!” exclaimed Asuka while waving her arms around.

    “At least that’s a better name than what we call them…” said Kyra.

    “Are you okay Kyra? The mean lady hurt you a lot I was scared. And then an old man whispered to me that everything was okay AND BOOM AEON!”

    That girl has too much energy.” Thought Nikki.

    “I think so. Diablos healed everything it looks like. How did you do that anyway?”

    That’s what I would like to know.” Thought Nikki.

    “A girl helped me.”

    “We don’t really know quite what happened, psychic magic is quite a mystery but no one has heard of mages calling out to Aeons. Asuka told me that he was from your time, but really I don’t know how she did it. She keeps saying she heard a girl when she had lots of power. I guessing with her wish to help you Kyra, someone managed to reach out to Asuka but again I don’t know how.”

    “The girl was looking for Kyra, she said she lost her.”

    “What girl Asuka?” asked Nikki.

    “Her name was um… Oh she did tell me um… Elene? I think… Maybe…”

    “Ellone?!” exclaimed Kyra.

    “Oh yes Ellone! She was a nice girl, she said if I looked into your mind she’ll lend her power to bring help, but that the help was in your mind but you couldn’t use it because it was left behind, it’s very confusing.” Said Asuka.

    “Who’s Ellone?”
    asked Nikki.

    “The ‘Big Sis’ from the Orphanage I was from. I spent most of my life protecting her. At least until Aiko died. I guess Ellone did help me after all. I guess that also means I wont be going back to my world.”

    “I’m sorry you must miss your home.”

    “I can’t say I do. It’s been two years now. If I left now, I’d be leaving…you” Nikki felt her cheeks heating up again. she now wished that both her and Kyra were on their own again.

    “Silly Nikki, you’re Kyra’s home, cause I can feel that Kyra is very happy, and people are happy when they are home, and I told the nice lady when she asked, I told her that Kyra was happy and the lady was happy that Kyra was happy. She said I should tell you that everything is okay and that she’s glad that she’s finally found out that you are okay and happy. EVERYONE’S HAPPY!” shouted Asuka at the end excitedly.

    “Alright then have you unpacked everything?” asked Raine

    “Um… nope.” Raine then tells Asuka to go and unpack, Raine then heads to go back inside but not before telling Kyra that.

    “Oh by the way Kyra don’t let Nikki fall asleep in the hammock again, she’ll only fall out, like she always did when she was a child” she said with a smile. She then goes inside as Nikki feels her cheeks heat up again. Kyra laughs.

    “So, anything else you would like to know?”

    “Did Rey hurt you?” Nikki looked worriedly at her.

    “No. Don’t worry. As I said, Rhyse stopped him before he could do anything.” That made Nikki feel a little relieved. She was a bit grateful towards Rhyse for stepping in like that. “Speaking of Rhyse, we met in Luca six months ago. He’s a lot better now than he was then. He did give me a tour of Luca though. I didn’t see him again until that situation with Rey… He spoke quite highly of you.”

    He would.” Nikki thought. “I know, I’m guessing during that time he told you everything?” Kyra nodded.

    “Pretty much. He never mentioned your name then. He didn’t mention it was you until today.”

    Great,” thought Nikki. Not only was it embarrassing that Rhyse told her before she could but she also knew absolutely everything, her sexual relationship with Rhyse hasn’t been her proudest moment in her life. “He wrote a letter to Kai saying that he had met you and had felt better for it and wrote all about Luca, however all Kyley told me was that he talked to a girl and that he’s finding himself a little bit more. But even now I feel guilty that I lead him on. Back then I didn’t even know how I felt, but it was comforting to be with him. After all the shit, I was content to just be with Rhyse, but when I was sixteen I learned that being content wasn’t enough and it wasn’t fair to Rhyse either. But still I feel guilty for hurting him and I still do now.”

    “It’s the past now. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter, but you’re a better person for it. Hmm? I mean, look at you now.” There was no look of disappointment or disgust she only gave Nikki a soft smile.

    “Maybe…” said Nikki She then noticed it was getting cold and that the stars had come out, so she suggests that they go inside, and they hold hands as they go in. Raine is inside but says goodbye since she needs to get back to the dog but mentions she’ll be back in the morning before they head off into the Via Infinito. The twins have cooked some food and have left a pot of stew on the table for people to help themselves, and Val and Gideon are in the room having done with their business.

    “We suggest a game!” said the twins after dinner, Nikki is sat down on the sofas and chairs. Nikki herself is sat down on a sofa next to Kyra. Nikki groans at the twins suggestion.

    Val looks up. “Interesting what kind of game?”

    “Sphere Break! But with alcohol! Wanna play? Loser has to take a drink each time. We’ll take turns going one on one.” At that the twins seemed to pull out a bottle with a bright green coloured in it. Nikki did not think that this was a good idea, in fact that would have to torture her if they wanted her to play, she was determined to not get drunk.

    “Oh dear,” seemed like Kyra thought it was a bad idea as well.

    “Did you forget the last time you guys got “drunk”? No.”

    “The Via Infinito doesn’t count!”

    “Still no.”

    “I’m in.” Nikki looks over to Val thinking that he is mad to even agree to this and that he would be the last person that Nikki would expect to agree to such a thing. Val shrugs. “Something to do, besides I’m quite good a Sphere Break.”


    “Why not Nikki it could be fun” said Kyra.

    “No I’m doing this to save both of us.” Mumbled Nikki, she had the unfortunate ability to remember everything when she got drunk, she tends to know no boundaries when she does get drunk, hence why she doesn’t like to get drunk. In the Via Infinito however she had covered her mouth way before the others and got down low, so thankfully no one saw her drunk state, and it she wasn’t going to show it now.

    “What about you Gideon?”

    “I’ll pass thank you, however I would be interested to observe Nikki play.” The twins looks at the twins hopefully.

    “Stop looking at me like that.”

    “It seems like Nikki can’t handle her alcohol…”

    Better than you can, and you’re not even going to play.” “Fine I’ll play the stupid game.” Nikki had a feeling that she would regret this later on.

    “Yay, Raine said when you get drunk you turn into a puppy, we get to see puppy Nikki! We bet Kyra would like that, are you playing Kyra?”

    What the fuck?”

    “Is that so… I’m in then.”

    After three drinks and three losses at Sphere Break, Nikki was totally and utterly happy and relaxed, and quite content to be sitting on Kyra’s lap. Nikki was surprised at how quickly she had got drunk, it was probably due to her being tired as well.

    “Nikki is terrible at Sphere Break”

    ”Interesting Nikki only lost three games and yet she acts as if she has lost more.“ Nikki drapes her arms around Kyra’s neck and glares at Gideon.

    “I love you…” mumbles Nikki she feels that she is going to drop off but her mind can’t help but suggest to take Kyra to the bedroom which she smiles at.

    “She really does turn into a puppy!”

    “And you’re going to bed missy. Need me to carry you?” Nikki very much now liked the idea of Kyra coming with her.

    “I would like you to come with me to bed.”

    “Is that even a question?” Nikki just responds by just gently kissing her neck hoping to get to agree.

    “Yeah this was a terrible idea no one ever give Nikki alcohol ever again.”

    “But it’s funny” Nikki’s plan didn’t seem to be working so she stopping kissing her neck.

    “She’s so cute though” Nikki looked at her and just gave her a tired smile, she liked to be complimented. “Shall we?” asked Kyra. Nikki just smiled as they went upstairs.

    As the door closed Nikki sat down on the end of bed with Kyra and closed her eyes to passionately kiss her. When they broke apart Nikki leaned her head against her shoulder, she just felt so tired.

    “Nikki if you tired you should lie down”

    “Mm.” mumbled Nikki in reply and she lay down to go to sleep.

    When Nikki woke up she found that it was still night and that she was underneath the covers. As the memories rush at her from what she presumed to be only a few hours ago, she cursed at herself and felt her cheeks go red. Not only had she had embarrassed herself in front of Kyra but also in front of her friends. The twins especially would later probably use what they have seen as blackmail later. Nikki groaned as she sat up letting the covers fall. And this is why I don’t get drunk, what the fuck was I thinking.” She was glad when she noticed Kyra was not in the room. How could she show her face again. Her throat felt parched which is what she figured woke her up so she got up and heading downstairs to the kitchen.

    She got a glass from the cupboard and turned the tap on and filled her glass and turned off the tap, all the while keeping going over in her head what had happened. Even through her embarrassment she couldn’t but smile at herself, Kyra seemed to be alert and yet she didn’t reject Nikki at any point. Nikki was just glad that she chose to sleep. Nikki sipped at the water and felt the cool liquid run down her throat. The moonlight lit her house and it was quite peaceful as she walked out of the kitchen and into the lounge she noticed that the sliding door was open that lead to the garden, she went up to go and close but that’s when she froze in her tracks, there outside were Joseph and Kyra their lips interlocked. Nikki’s heart was thumping wildly.

    Push him away.” Thought Nikki, it was if she was trying to give her thoughts to Kyra trying to urge to just push him away. She knew that Joseph had feelings for her, but didn’t Kyra already make it clear that she was with Nikki, didn’t she kiss Nikki back?Why won’t she push him away?” thought Nikki. She saw the two of them slowly break apart mutually but she had already seen enough. Fucking hell!” thought Nikki she slammed her glass down on the table and turned to grab her bow and arrow, grab her boot and slam the front door shut.

    Outside Nikki put on her boots and then ran.I’m a fool, an idiot for ever thinking that she loved me.” This is what Nikki didn’t want to happen for her to let her emotions out for them to just be crushed, she would have been safer if she was just indifferent to them all and just stuck to that persona that she hid behind for so long. She slowed down and walked, thinking about all that could be and all that was lost and how very alone she felt right now.

    After a while of walking she realized she was outside the place where she always came to in the past if she was angry or upset, the house stood before her and she realized her legs took her here out of habit, a very old habit, but this time she would not fall down that path. She walked up to the house, and knocked on the door she would prove that she was in control.

    Raine answered the door in her white robe, she hadn’t gone to bed quite yet but she yawned as she answered.

    “Oh Nikki, what are you doing here at this late hour?” she said in surprise.

    “Is it alright if I stay the night?” she asked in a quiet voice.

    “Yes of course, but what has happened, I mean are you okay?” asked Raine as Nikki took off her boots and went inside, Nikki heard the click of the door, she managed to gulp back the tears keeping herself steady. “Come sit down.” Said Raine as she lead her into the lounge, Raine’s dog came up to Nikki sniffing her and wagging its tail. “Sit boy.” The dog obediently obeyed and Nikki sat down on the green sofa. “I’ll go and get us some hot drinks” said Raine just looked up at her and merely nodded and Raine went out of the room. The dog slowly came up to Nikki as if feeling her pain and laid at her feet. As Nikki stared silently into the distance she felt someone sit beside her. She looked up to see it was Rhyse, in just his black pants. Even after everything she still considered Rhyse to be a good friend, she knew she hadn’t come here for him but rather for the comfort that only friends could provide, from both Raine and Rhyse. He only needed to say a few words that set Nikki off.

    “Did Kyra hurt you?” That did it, all the hurt came at once to Nikki and she couldn’t hold it in anymore, she cried into her hands with her whole body shaking, and all Rhyse did was hold her to try and calm her down. She cried into his chest, and then Rhyse moved his hands up and down her back and then slowly he moved them to cup her face, but before he could even close the distance between them, Nikki felt rage engulf her she tightened her hand into a fist and gave his a swift punch. The dog jumped out of the way as Rhyse landed the floor and Nikki was stood up. She knew exactly what he was going to do, they were meant to be friends things couldn’t be like they were there was no future there.

    “What the hell are you doing?!” yelled Nikki breathing heavily.

    “Rhyse!?” said Raine as she came in with two hot drinks. “Oh Rhyse, why would you do that?” said Raine with disappointment in her voice, but Nikki was surprised to see him smirking. He got up to his feet.

    “I was just checking if you did really love Kyra and that you didn’t just come over here for me. It’s closure for me if anything else.”

    “Oh Rhyse,” sighed Raine

    “You’re an idiot”

    “Yeah, yeah” said Rhyse he then walked out the room Nikki sat down again and Raine sat down next to her. She passed her the tea.

    “Here, you know I’m proud of you, you pushed Rhyse away.”

    “I couldn’t do that to her, even if I had wanted to.” Said Nikki is a quiet voice.

    “So are you going to tell me what happened?” said Raine as she blew at her tea and took a sip. So Nikki told her everything that had happened everything from when Raine left to what Nikki saw.

    “Oh Nikki, maybe it’s not as bad as you think, maybe she was taken by surprise?”

    “Don’t make excuses for her she didn’t even push him away” she said quietly.

    “Okay I admit it looks bad but please just sleep on it before doing anything rash.” Nikki nodded Raine then wished her goodnight when noticing the time and when Raine went Nikki laid down on the sofa, the dog came back over to join and laid down beside her as she fell into a long sleep.



    “I did say it was a fool's errand.” Cyan shrugging, trying to appease me.

    “Yes, I guess you did warn me.” I groaned with a sigh.

    After we had reached the end of the bridge, we found out exactly why there was only darkness beneath us. There was only darkness. The bridge led to darkness. The cloister was darkness. If it hadn't been for us stepping on something holding our weight, I would've guessed there wasn't a floor. It almost felt as if we were traveling through our irrational childhood fears, except I was never afraid of the dark. How could I be? Guadosalam wasn't exactly the brightest of domiciles. So, I assumed if we were reliving past fears, it was Cyan's. It made sense for Via Infinito to do such a thing. It thrived on fear and desperation, the negative emotions that everyone shares. It made me question my path in life by haunting me with my Slayer days. It twisted that unsent girl into playing deadly games for her amusement and bringing our inadequacies to life. For this chasm to be making use of Cyan's deep-seated troubles, it was the only conclusion I could draw. However, there was no running from something as powerful and alluring as Via Infinito. If I wanted to help Cyan, I'd have to do for her what she'd done for me and that was to force me to face my demons.

    “Well, least it would appear we can still progress to new cloisters.” Cyan said, having located the way down.

    “Not sure yet whether to be glad for that or not.” I said, jumping down after her.

    Unfortunately, the next cloister was covered in darkness, too, and just as before, it was devoid of anything, even fiends. We began searching the emptiness for hidden routes, noting how we'd been fooled into a looped series of cloisters before by Via Infinito and the way out ended up being something completely implausible.

    I also began making use of my guado senses, for all the good it would do me. Despite my awareness of Iezak's pyreflies, they were still with me, and that meant any unnatural anomaly I might have been made aware of could just as easily be interference from them. There wasn't a way for me to expel those pyreflies unless Iezak wanted them out. All I had actually managed to accomplish was muffling his connection with them so he couldn't monitor our activity. Strangely, though my senses were still being dampened by them, I was starting to feel a new presence. It wasn't going to help us now, but I could definitely sense something else.

    The next few cloisters were identical. Empty floor, darkness coating all the walls, ceiling, and floor, and mild sensory deprivation. It was the sort of thing that could drive a person mad.

    “Mishka?” Cyan finally said, breaking the silence we only then realized had been present.

    Turning to her, I knew what she would say, having noticed it myself, “You're visible to me.”

    “What do you suppose it means?”

    “I'm not even sure I know what's going on, let alone chance a guess at what it could mean.”

    It wasn't as if there was light illuminating the two of us. We were simply visible to one another with no perceivable light allowing us to do so. I moved close to her, feeling if I could detect what was going on. However, there was no explanation for it beyond it being Via Infinito and the only thing I ended up detecting was the blush coming from her cheeks as I examined her.

    “So much for that.” I grumbled, turning from her.

    “Do you think it could get us out?”

    I turned to where she was looking, but couldn't find what she was talking about. She clarified that it looked like there was a crack of light in the darkness bathing the walls, but I couldn't see any such crack. Upon direct observation, she agreed that it may have been wishful thinking. As we proceeded onward, we continued to find ourselves in the same cloisters. What was worse, Cyan brought to my attention that we hadn't been able to find an exit portal in the last several cloisters. If we were caught in a looped series of cloisters, that would be the only easy way out.

    “I'm sorry, Mishka. I should've listened to your warning.” Cyan began saying soon after.

    “There was nothing you could have done. If Via Infinito was drawing you here, you wouldn't be able to resist no matter how much you wanted to.” I told her.

    “At the very least, I could have kept you from following me down here.”

    “Fool following the fool on her errand, remember? You had me since the voices started talking to you, too.”

    Though I tried, my humour wasn't going to be enough this time. Cyan was caught in something powerful and it had led us to this apparent trap. With no way out, it was making her despair and that was not a good emotion down here. We had to find an escape and Cyan needed to be the one to find it.

    “I failed you, too...”

    “I wonder if Blurry Moon could make an exit for us.” I said, ignoring her.


    “Maybe if I hit one of the walls hard enough, I can create some real cracks. If we can cause a breach in this dungeon, I'm sure the two of us can widen it enough to escape..”

    The next ten minutes were filled with my wild ranting and ridiculous suggestions. It got to the point I actually suggested we strip down and use our clothing to create totems and talismans to ward off the darkness. I was sure, somewhere in that maelstrom of bad ideas, the words “blame the writer” came out of my mouth.

    I was just about to start mad theory number thirty seven when, “I liked the totem and talisman idea best.”

    “But we'd be naked.”

    “If only I had a sphere. Oh well, I suppose I can settle for mental pictures. Did you have any specific totems in mind?” She mused, pretending to fiddle with one of the buckles on my outfit.

    Feigning modestly, I pulled away and threw my arms around myself with a high-pitched squeak. Cyan circled me, her eyes sizing me up while she kept her hands behind her back, as if stalking her prey. However, before these antics took up too much of our time, I noticed Cyan suddenly direct her attention behind me. This time, when I looked, I did see what she was looking at. In the distance, a faint glow emanated. We scrambled for it and found our salvation, an exit portal.

    “Thank you.”

    “For what? I feel cheated out of my brilliant plan.” I said, feigning disappointment.

    “Tell you what. When we're back on the surface, you can make as many talismans out of my clothes as you want.”

    “I wonder how much shirt it would take to make a traditional dream catcher.”

    “I'd say my pants would be better for that project.” She said, moving into the portal.

    “I'm not sure I have the right equipment for that.” I retorted, entering it myself.

    “You'd be surpri-”

    “Yea, I think we were both caught by surprise there.” I finished her sentence for her as we found ourselves still in the dungeon, though now in a less darkened cloister filled to the brim with fiends.

    Taking hold of Blurry Moon, I slew the first couple that advanced, giving Cyan time to equip her broadsword. Oddly, she didn't and when I went to see why, she showed me something even stranger. She couldn't. As she would demonstrate, when she moved her hand to the hilt of her weapon, her fingers passed right through. I tried to unsheathe it myself and the same thing occurred.

    “I guess you're sitting this one out.”

    “You can't take them all on your own.”

    Looking out into the cloister, I responded, “Doesn't look like I have a choice.”

    A small group of tindalos moved in and I squashed them with Deathstrike. Several variants of the winged eyeball fiends came next, but Blurry Moon was more than a match for them. Still, there were many more fiends approaching and I could already see the tonberries and drakes among the crowd. After a few minutes, the first tonberry reached me, its knife pressing hard against my sword. I managed to hit it and a few of the fiends next to it with a Slowstrike, keeping it at bay while I tended to more of the weaker fiends. That move, sadly, only gave it the opportunity to collect those other fiends, mutating into a Mega Tonberry. Pushing through the crowds of fiends, its enormous knife lunged forth and knocked me back to Cyan. Coeurls and a few types of flan took advantage of my loss of ground, forcing me to tend to them while the Mega Tonberry slowly made its way towards me again. Rather than face it head on, I rolled underneath its next lunge and lured it to an incoming Elder Wyrm. The knife thrust decapitated the wyrm cleanly as the intense flames pouring from its mouth incinerated the tonberry. If that had been all of them, I just proved I could beat them, but even taking a moment to rest after that was out of the question. Droves of other fiends poured in to replace them and the simple action of taking a breath allowed another Elder Drake to place three large gashes on my back, sending me hurtling into Cyan's arms. If the pain from the impact wasn't bad enough, the blood pooling out of the wound all but dissipated what fight I had left. Cyan, despite not having use of her weapon, was also uncharacteristically docile in this fight, taking to cradling me in her arms and waiting for the inevitable.

    An unexpected rain of missiles became our salvation as the resulting explosions defeated a large number of fiends. Beyond the fog of war, a familiar voice called out and Gippal revealed himself, his oversized gun smoking from the barrels.

    “Am I interrupting?” He chuckled.

    “She's badly injured. We have to leave here.”

    “Don't worry. The exit's right there. C'mon!”

    Cyan gave me to Gippal to carry and they made their way to another pit, taking us to a new cloister. As soon as we landed, Gippal blocked it off with more missiles so the fiends couldn't follow. The current cloister was vacant, but seemed to contain multiple areas, ours being a small circular room.

    “Now, why don't you tell me what it is you're doing coming down here by yourselves.”


    Progress had expedited with the added support from the guado. Utilising their mystical nature and their affinity for understanding their home's infrastructure, we developed several small scale rounds of sabotage designed to drastically expend the assets invested in Rin's excavations campaign. These slight “glitches” as Rin's official statements had begun calling them, were costing him and his investors millions in gil. Their advances in research had hardly compared. Apparently, Vegnagun's core systems were extensively damaged in its battles and, without having even a basic grasp of the sheer amount of abominable knowledge in its engineering, they sorely needed a well kept base of operations. Our tactics had erased data, damaged observation systems, corrupted notes on their small discoveries. In short, we were making them look like fools.

    How goes it, Keema?I asked, currently analysing the newest data on Guadosalam's structural weak points.

    Everything is as planned. I believe Rin's begun having difficulty obtaining the added funds necessary to continue this project.”

    Splendid.I said, turning to her and taking her hands in mine, “If we maintain these attacks, he should be removed from the Farplane within the next months.”

    There's something more.” Keema continued, a bit of worry in her voice.

    Iezak, our scouters reported that Rin's been in conference with a few officers of the Machine Faction.” Hunter clarified, handing me recorded images of Rin's delegates in Djose and Bevelle.

    You believe they might come to an agreement?

    Hunter sighed, “Gippal might not like Rin, but he's got just as much intention of improving Spira's technological and scientific education as any of us Al Bhed. If it comes down to it, he might think Rin's involvement in the Farplane is a necessary evil.”

    This concerned me. While I had no doubts about our team's ability to counter a merchant like Rin, if one of the factions of Spira's government entered, their manpower and resources were far more than a mere unsent could undermine, even with support from the guado and rogue Al Bhed.

    Keema, we have news.” Another guado interjected, holding a sphere in his hand.

    What is it?”

    We just returned from another meeting Rin arranged with the Machine Faction.”

    And?” Hunter's loss of patience was refreshing.

    They've agreed and confirmed with Gippal himself. He's coming to evaluate the project. If he approves, Rin will have the full support of the Machine Faction and any liaisons with the Youth League and New Yevon. The whole of Spira could fall under Rin's influence!”

    A evaluation, you say? This could prove fruitful.I began saying, my mind contemplating the sequence of events the faction's leader might undertake.

    Iezak?” Hunter asked when I found my eyes wandering to him.

    Hunter, I'm curious. If an Al Bhed investigation on the progress of any research endeavours were to take place, in what manner would it be organised?

    What manner? Well, Gippal and a few of the Machine Faction's top administrators would come and take broad tour. Rin or whoever he appoints would show our facilities to them and try to portray each of them in the best light possible. Once the tour completes, I'm thinking Gippal will have his entourage look over the research data and current standings of the project. If things check out okay, he'll most likely approve.”

    In other words, given our present countermeasures, this place would hardly be considered worthy of the Machine Faction's support.

    Not necessarily. Remember, what we're doing is few and far in between. Sure it's costing a lot to salvage and maintain, but normal field research hits these bumps all the time. It'll have to take failures on a large scale to do any real damage.” Hunter suggested, dampening our hopes.

    What if we were to accelerate our tactics? If all our sabotage were to take place together...”

    Then Rin'll figure out he's being played and we'll be arrested and detained and he'll have even more leverage for Gippal's support. He might even end up securing the militia forces of the Youth League to protect this project.”

    It can't end like this.” Keema said in a huff, “We've been trying so hard.”

    Calm yourself, m'lady. We are not yet finished.I said, thinking, “Hunter, what we've done thus far is too unnoticed, but a full scale sabotage would be worse; is that correct?”

    Yea, we're in trouble if Gippal approves, but it looks like we're out of options.”

    What if we create a few key issues during the tour?

    Wouldn't stop them from checking the systems and fortifying them one the Machine Faction steps in.”

    And if we were to alter the findings during the commotion?

    So then, not only would there be infrastructure issues, but also questions about legitimacy. That could work!”

    What must we do?”

    Well, if I'm understanding Iezak right, we'll need breaches in the most important parts of this base camp. That'll have to be the containment and observation sites. Both are likely to be heavily guarded, but that weird pyrefly thing you guys do bypassed security in observations last time. Security will be tighter, but if you guys can pull off the same stunt, I'm sure I could get my guys to distract the added muscle.”

    Understood. We'll do what is expected.”

    As for containment?

    That's gonna be the hard part. We don't exactly know how to breach shielded containment vessels and any hacking I do is going to be detected.” Hunter said, considering his options.

    Is there anything I could do?

    Not really. To be honest, you're the only regular human on the team. If I didn't mention this before, you kind of stick out like a sore thumb around here.” He informed me.

    Fortunately, that wasn't quite accurate. The next few days, Hunter began scouting for the best Al Bhed on our side to take for the mission. Keema, likewise, had begun training the guado to covertly access their pyrefly coercion. This ability of theirs was a more subtle version to my own, a way for them to make requests of the pyreflies to perform actions for them. As an unsent, my soul was all I needed to control the pyreflies. I needed make no such requests.

    A few days later, the three of us were in conference again. While they discussed the plans, I had decided to look in on the other adventure occurring on Spira. Mishka and her friends were back in the chasm, the wretched lair of dark pyreflies. They had happened upon a odd level, where shadow-like substances coated all things. These shadows were actually layers upon layers of corrupted pyreflies, hoarded by some ancient forsaken beast that I dared not to describe.

    Iezak, I think we're good.” Hunter spoke, alerting me back to the present.

    Suddenly, I could hear Mishka, though her voice was speaking in place of Keema's. “Iezak. Remember him? Swell fellow, that one.”

    What did he do?” Her friend asked of her, though her voice was coming from Hunter.

    Keema continued, “He's an unsent. What you thought you saw in the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth was real. He was planting his pyreflies inside me. They are still there; I can smell them.”

    Iezak? What's going on?” Hunter said, this time in his own voice.

    Curses! I've been discovered!

    In hindsight, that wasn't the best time to be voicing my frustrations, but it was difficult not to. As I had been focused on those pyreflies, I saw and heard what they experienced. Once Mishka had discovered me, those senses abruptly switched off. I was left blind and deaf, with the remainder of my pyreflies clawing at anything to regain their senses.

    Iezak, snap out of it!” I felt Hunter's hands gripping my shoulders.

    I could feel again. I was solid again. However, I no longer had direct access to those of my pyreflies I had instilled in Mishka. No, they were still there, embedded in her flesh, but now I had no thrall over her or them. They were prisoners inside a jail of her body. Slowly, I would come to my senses and have control enough to speak through the pyreflies that portrayed my once human mouth.

    Forgive me, Hunter. I haven't slept well in recent nights. I must have been afflicted by a sudden onset of fatigue.

    You have us worried for a second. Keema looked like you were gonna turn into a fiend. Look at her standing behind that rock. Hey Keema, he's fine. Just got a bit messed up from lack of sleep.” He told her, adding that, “We could all really use some shut eye. C'mon, the plans are all taken care of and our guys are all prepped. We'll be ready for Rin.”

    In the coming weeks, though our sabotage had continued to be successful, I began feeling a sense of dread. I could not explain it, but I felt a shiver in my pyreflies, as if they were frightened something would happen. Though, I did not want to admit it, I felt fright of my own accord, as well. On the day before Gippal was to arrive, I took this situation to Keema, in hopes that the guado would know enough about my physiology to tell me what I was feeling.

    You're weakening.” She easily stated.

    Weakened? What's that supposed to mean?

    The longer you remain here, Iezak. This is a place sheltering an opening to the Farplane itself. It fills us guado with a capacity for understanding it and the pyreflies that circulate this planetary system of Spira. You are an anomaly in that system, Iezak. I'm sorry, but this is why we are wary of unsents. The will of the Farplane will not allow you to remain as you are. You'll begin losing your constitution piece by piece. Worse still, should your mind be the first piece you lose, you'll devolve into a fiend. Then, we'll all be in danger.” She implored, “It may be time for you to move on. Hunter and I can handle Rin.”

    Though it had been my original purpose, to stop Rin and utilise kindred spirits to carry on this legacy so that I might shed this form unholy by Yevon's teachings, but fear stayed my hand. I couldn't agree to Keema's solution nor could I willingly leave for the Farplane, not until I could guarantee with my own eyes that Rin's demonic intentions had failed.

  6. #36

    Kyra could feel the wave of exhaustion start to hit. Her relaxed position wasn’t going to keep her awake for long. That was at least until Raine’s soft voice broke the silence.

    “Um... Kyra?” She said putting her book down.

    “Hmm?” She mumbled before opening her eyes. She was afraid if she kept them closed for much longer, she would pass out in mid conversation.

    “Sakura was a very good friend of mine, and I just wanted to say thank you...” She said fiddling with her hands. She looked nervous.

    Kyra sat up and said, “For?” She was confused. I’m being thanked for killing a friend?”.

    Kyra could see that Raine was struggling to keep the tears at bay. After a pause to keep her composure in check, she explained, “You see, I heard you did the final strike, and even though it was awful what had happened to her, you freed her and I'm sure she's now singing peacefully in the Farplane. So that's why I wanted to say thank you.”

    Kyra took a moment to let that sink in. It was an odd concept to Kyra that someone would need to be killed in order to be free. As soon as someone was gone, that was it. There was no Farplane where she came from. There was no way they could be seen again. Even hearing Aiko’s voice again in the Via Infinito confused her. Although it was done with the help of the little girl, these concepts were still new to her, and would take some time before she was used to it all. She spoke after gathering her thoughts again. "I'll be honest. I tried to reason with her, but she was deadset on having Nikki's head on a pike. I couldn't let that happen. It still felt horrible." She paused as the lump in her throat started to form. "She was my friend too, but I just had to protect Nikki...I'm sorry.” Kyra lowered her head as tears started to well up in her eyes.

    Raine shook her head. “You have no reason to be sorry. Sakura died protecting her friends, if she saw what she had become she would have wanted you to finish it. Becoming a fiend; one full of rage, but you freed her and now she is at peace.”

    Kyra thought again, Right, fiends used to be human too. This makes sense...” Kyra gave a small smile before a tear fell down her cheek. “You're probably right.”

    Raine continued, “When I found out; when I saw all of you come out except her, I was angry yes, but my anger was misplaced I was angry at Nikki, and then later when I heard she turned into a fiend and what she did my anger vanished all I felt was relief that her pain was over.”

    Kyra looked up at Raine, “If it’s put that way, I'm glad. I'm not used to people being set free by going to a Farplane. There was just our world and what some of us believed to be an 'after life'. This world takes some getting used to. She paused. “But, why be mad at Nikki? What did she do?”

    “She was the easiest person to direct my anger at, I hadn't talked to her in 5 years, I was angry that Sakura died, she had so much life left to live” Some tears started to fall from her eyes, but she continued, “And I blamed Nikki because... because... she let her down. I don't believe that now, of course I don't but Sakura's death made me realise that we couldn't go on and on without speaking. I had to come and as soon as I heard Sanika was heading for Nikki I couldn't help but run towards the temple.” She paused and a small smile started to form, she let out a slight chuckle, “Sakura always said she didn't know why I was so stubborn to not talk to Nikki.” Raine brought her knees up to her chest. Kyra figured this meant that she was finished.

    “We're all stubborn in a way. But it looks to me like things are good right? I mean, you're here.”

    “Yes it seems like we just need to learn to forgive ourselves about what had happened, she certainly though seems to care about you a lot.” Raine smiled.

    Kyra felt her cheeks heat up at that last comment. “Ah, yeah. Seems so. I care about her too. And seeing the two of you in the same place makes me smile. It’s nice to see.” She thought, wondering about Nikki and what Sanika said earlier. “Is she hurt? I mean, hearing about Joseph's feelings confused the lot of us.” She shuddered at the next thought, “And you saw what Sanika did...if that's what happens when Nikki is hurt, I never want to do it again.”

    “I won’t lie, she is a little but that is mostly caused by her jumping to conclusions and her own insecurities. She was always a little bit insecure but I think after what happened 5 years ago, she's never really gotten over it. Sometimes she just needs it made really clear right in her face, even if you have to tell her a hundred times that you love her.”

    More thoughts entered Kyra’s mind. Love? Do I love her? Everyone seems to be pushing me towards Nikki.” She noticed Raine was still looking at her. All Kyra could say was, “I see...” Her thoughts weren’t finished though. Does Raine see something I don’t? The last person I loved died right in front of me. It also took me years to realise I loved her. But Nikki...she’s...different. Hmm. I can’t forget about Joseph though. I thought I made up my mind already...”

    Nikki started to wake up in the hammock. Kyra pushed those thoughts away for the meantime. Raine noticed this and gave Kyra a reassuring smile before she headed inside. Kyra stood up as Raine closed the sliding door. She took a few steps toward Nikki and thought about kissing her just as she woke up. She was caught in the act though. Nikki was looking up at her with those pretty blue eyes of hers as Kyra was bent over the hammock. “Hi there.” Kyra greeted with a smile. The light of the setting sun caught Nikki’s features perfectly. She could tell that Nikki looked happy. It was a sight that Kyra could definitely get used to. Kyra watched as Nikki sat up and swung her legs around and pushed herself slightly to meet Kyra’s lips. Looks like Kyra got what she wanted anyway, but Nikki was the initiator. Nikki’s lips were so tender. All of Kyra’s worry was washed away during those moments. Kyra closed her eyes to let herself feel the emotions. Happiness was one, a sense of security, and a feeling of comfort beyond anything she’s ever felt. She could almost call this place home if she wanted to.

    When Nikki pulled back, it looked as though she had misjudged her balance and fell off the hammock and onto the grass. “Shit.” She heard Nikki mumble. Kyra chuckled, and took immediate advantage of this moment.

    “That was subtle.” Kyra said playfully.

    “I was obviously not meant to fall out of the thing.” She said, still flustered that she had fallen out of the hammock.

    When Nikki wasn’t looking, Kyra quickly manoeuvred herself on top of her. Her knees were on either side of Nikki’s hips, and her hands were placed by Nikki’s shoulders. When Nikki looked up again, they were face to face, and rather close.

    “Wanna try again?” She said with a smile and in that playful tone. She was quite enjoying this. Nikki just smiled as she silently uses her elbows to prop herself up so their lips meet once again. Every emotion from the first kiss was intensified. Kyra could definitely get used to this.

    When the kiss was finished, the conversations took place. Kyra didn’t have a problem talking to Nikki. Everything felt natural. She told her everything as it came to mind. Kyra enjoyed this side of Nikki. It wasn’t something that everyone gets to see all the time. The affectionate Nikki. Everyone knows how much she cares, but the Nikki that doesn’t swear every other word was hard to come by. Just as Kyra was about to talk about Rey, the peace was inturrupted as Asuka came in and noticed the atmosphere Kyra and Nikki had subconsciously created. Kyra silently thanked Asuka, but she knew she had to talk about it eventually.

    Rhyse came about shortly after Asuka. It was more clear signs that Spira was crazy. She couldn’t help but briefly think of her old life. This wasn’t too far off if she had to be honest about it. However, when Sakura was mentioned again, Kyra’s mood had changed slightly. It did explain the dog that Rhyse didn’t seem to get along with. Raine must have noticed Kyra’s slight sadness when she said “...That goes for you too, Kyra.” Kyra was responsible for Sakura’s second death, but Raine had a point. Sakura knew what she was getting into when she entered the Via Infinito with them. However, when Nikki suggested they see Sakura in the Farplane, Kyra couldn’t say much more than a “Maybe...” She wondered if it really would make her feel better about it.

    Rhyse made a love comment which was clearly ignored. Kai was the concern, but it looked as though he had gone missing after Kyra slapped him. This made Kyra feel worse for doing it, but being called a whore never goes unpunished in Kyra’s mind. All Kyra really wanted was an apology. Then Rey came into the conversation. Kyra honestly didn’t know what to say about Rey. She was too short tempered to let him explain what happened a year ago, and he was pretty short tempered himself. Even if he cheated on her a year ago, he wasn’t worth the trouble. Not to Kyra anyway. However, if he tried anything, Kyra gave full permission for Nikki to do whatever she wanted. That seemed to calm Nikki as she took a step to close the space between them. She was close enough for a kiss, but Asuka interrupted again noting that Nikki felt peaceful. Kyra silently cursed Asuka for ruining another possible intimate moment. The look on Nikki’s face clearly disliked the fact they were interrupted again.

    Raine laughed, “Shhh you’re so loud.”

    Asuka went on a ramble about how she was special for moving into Kyley’s house just as Nikki did when she was a teen.

    “What’s wrong with your room at the temple?” Nikki asked

    “The temple made some stupid mistake, while you guys were in the Via Infinito Asuka had a horrible dream after she looked into the Guado’s aura, Mishka is it?” asked Raine, Nikki nodded. “Well she needed to be put back into her room so Lillia put her to bed. I came up to have a look; however she was distressed so I told all the children in the temple to not disturb Asuka. The end result was that a child went into her room and saw images that Asuka saw and made her petrified, the temple considered Asuka a risk and therefore used a spell that took away all of her magic. Of course with no magic Asuka got very poorly, Kyley heard and immediately too Asuka away and said that Asuka was now going to be in her care. I got some ether’s to restore her magic and now, well you can see for yourself she’s quite happy and well.” Explained Raine.

    “Yep, yep I’m all better and the great Asuka came and caught all the magic in a big net and saved Kyra tada and Kyra with her HUGE AEON hehe!” exclaimed Asuka while waving her arms around.

    Aeons eh?” She thought. “At least that’s a better name than what we call them…” She hated calling them Guardian Forces.

    “Are you okay Kyra? The mean lady hurt you a lot I was scared. And then an old man whispered to me that everything was okay AND BOOM AEON!”

    “I think so. Diablos healed everything it looks like. How did you do that anyway?”

    “A girl helped me.”

    “We don’t really know quite what happened, psychic magic is quite a mystery but no one has heard of mages calling out to Aeons. Asuka told me that he was from your time, but really I don’t know how she did it. She keeps saying she heard a girl when she had lots of power. I guessing with her wish to help you Kyra, someone managed to reach out to Asuka but again I don’t know how.”

    A girl wanted to help me? That couldn’t be....”

    “The girl was looking for Kyra, she said she lost her.”

    “What girl Asuka?” asked Nikki.

    “Her name was um… Oh she did tell me um… Elene? I think… Maybe…”

    “Ellone?!” exclaimed Kyra.

    “Oh yes Ellone! She was a nice girl, she said if I looked into your mind she’ll lend her power to bring help, but that the help was in your mind but you couldn’t use it because it was left behind, it’s very confusing.” Said Asuka.

    Of course. She is powerful. Only someone with her power could pull something like that off. They did care...” she smiled to herself.

    “Who’s Ellone?” asked Nikki.

    “The ‘Big Sis’ from the Orphanage I was from. I spent most of my life protecting her. At least until Aiko died. I guess Ellone did help me after all. I guess that also means I won’t be going back to my world...” She drifted off.

    “I’m sorry you must miss your home.”

    Nope, I have more here than I do there.” She thought. “I can’t say I do. It’s been two years now. If I left now, I’d be leaving…you” Kyra could see Nikki start to blush. Kyra could feel her own cheeks heat up as well.

    “Silly Nikki, you’re Kyra’s home, cause I can feel that Kyra is very happy, and people are happy when they are home, and I told the nice lady when she asked, I told her that Kyra was happy and the lady was happy that Kyra was happy. She said I should tell you that everything is okay and that she’s glad that she’s finally found out that you are okay and happy. EVERYONE’S HAPPY!” shouted Asuka at the end excitedly.

    “Alright then have you unpacked everything?” Raine asked Asuka.

    “Um… nope.” Raine then tells Asuka to go and unpack, Raine then heads to go back inside but not before telling Kyra:

    “Oh by the way Kyra don’t let Nikki fall asleep in the hammock again, she’ll only fall out, like she always did when she was a child” she said with a smile. Kyra laughed. She then took a moment to regain composure.

    “So, anything else you would like to know?”

    “Did Rey hurt you?” Nikki said with a worried look.

    “No. Don’t worry. As I said, Rhyse stopped him before he could do anything.” There was a pause. She thought of how she met Rhyse and how much he had changed between then and now. “Speaking of Rhyse, we met in Luca six months ago. He’s a lot better now than he was then. He did give me a tour of Luca though. I didn’t see him again until that situation with Rey… He spoke quite highly of you.”

    “I know, I’m guessing during that time he told you everything?”

    Kyra nodded. “Pretty much. He never mentioned your name then. He didn’t mention it was you until today.”

    Nikki fell silent for a bit. Kyra could tell Nikki wasn’t proud of the relationship she had with Rhyse. Kyra understood fully how badly lust can affect a relationship and the people in it. Nikki eventually spoke, “He wrote a letter to Kai saying that he had met you and had felt better for it and wrote all about Luca, however all Kyley told me was that he talked to a girl and that he’s finding himself a little bit more. But even now I feel guilty that I lead him on. Back then I didn’t even know how I felt, but it was comforting to be with him. After all the shit, I was content to just be with Rhyse, but when I was sixteen I learned that being content wasn’t enough and it wasn’t fair to Rhyse either. But still I feel guilty for hurting him and I still do now.”

    Kyra smiled softly. She understood every word. “It’s the past now. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter, but you’re a better person for it. Hmm? I mean, look at you now.”


    Before Kyra could say anything, Nikki suggested they go inside because it was getting cold. Once inside, Kyra could smell that dinner had been cooked and Raine was getting ready to leave since she had to get back to the dog. She did mention that she would be back in the morning though. It turned out that the twins had made food for everyone and Val and Gideon had returned after finishing their errands.

    After dinner, the twins suggest a game of Sphere Break, but with alcohol.

    “Oh dear...” Kyra immediately thought it was a bad idea. Although her last drunken experience was in the Via Infinito, that wasn’t bad. The problem that Kyra has with alcohol is that she tends to not know what she is doing and can easily get caught off guard. She does well to keep her wits about herself though. At least she tries to.

    “Did you forget the last time you guys got ‘drunk’? No.”

    “The Via Infinito doesn’t count!”

    “Still no.”

    “I’m in.” Nikki gave Val a look. Val shrugged and added that it was something to do and that he was quite good at sphere break.

    He does have a point...


    “Why not Nikki it could be fun” said Kyra.

    “No I’m doing this to save both of us.” Mumbled Nikki.

    “What about you Gideon?”

    “I’ll pass thank you, however I would be interested to observe Nikki play.”

    The twins looked at Nikki hopefully. “Stop looking at me like that.”

    “It seems like Nikki can’t handle her alcohol…” he joked.

    “Fine I’ll play the stupid game.” She sighed

    “Yay, Raine said when you get drunk you turn into a puppy, we get to see puppy Nikki! We bet Kyra would like that, are you playing Kyra?” The twins bounced with excitement.

    “Is that so… I’m in then.” She said. This really could be fun.”

    After roughly two drinks since Kyra won a game, plus casual sips between turns, she could feel a buzz, but she wasn’t entirely drunk. Nikki on the other hand had become obviously relaxed and somehow made it onto Kyra lap after the first round.

    “Nikki is terrible at Sphere Break”

    ”Interesting Nikki only lost three games and yet she acts as if she has lost more.” Nikki draped her arms around Kyra’s neck and glared at Gideon before turning back to Kyra again.

    “I love you…” Nikki mumbled. She looked tired, but managed to stay awake. Kyra didn’t know what to say really. Did she really mean it? She was drunk after all.

    “She really does turn into a puppy!”

    “And you’re going to bed missy. Need me to carry you?” Kyra hoped that Nikki would get the subtle hint that she wanted to go to bed with her.

    “I would like you to come with me to bed.”

    “Is that even a question?” Nikki responded by kissing Kyra’s neck. She was definitely drunk, and Kyra kind of liked it.

    “Yeah this was a terrible idea no one ever give Nikki alcohol ever again.”

    “But it’s funny.” the twins giggled.

    “She’s so cute though” Kyra looked back at the smiling Nikki on her lap. It looked as though she was enjoying this too. “Shall we?” Kyra asked. Nikki smiled as the both of them went up the stairs.

    The two made their way to the bedroom and passionately kissed each other at the foot of the bed. When they broke apart, Nikki leaned her head against Kyra’s shoulder. She could tell she was tired. Who wouldn’t be after the day they both had. Kyra pushed her lustful intentions aside just and let her sober thoughts take over. “Nikki, if you’re tired, you should lie down.”

    “Mm.” mumbled Nikki in reply as she lay down and fell asleep on top of the sheets. Kyra smiled to herself.

    Out like a light. What a girl.” Kyra thought. She tucked the sleeping girl in and sat on the opposite side of the bed to ponder. Although she could still feel the buzz from the drinks she had, there was still no way she could sleep. She still needed to talk to Joseph, but he hasn’t been seen around all night. She would have loved to stay with Nikki and sleep the night away, but there was still an amount of uncertainty in her heart.

    She heard what she figured was someone entering the house. Kyra got up from the bed and made her way to the door. She slowly opened it and stepped out of the room. Joseph was making his way up the stairs as she was closing the door. “Hi there.” She said softly. Joseph just nodded as he walked passed. The last thing Kyra wanted was for Nikki to wake up. She pushed that thought away as she watched Joseph make his way to his room. Kyra walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. She got herself a mug and a tea bag from the cupboard and poured hot water into the mug and let the tea steep. She then went to the lounge and sat the table. Joseph hadn’t made his way down the stairs and wondered if a conversation would even take place. She also wondered why she left Nikki’s room in the first place. She was invited to sleep with her after all. Although, the night before was under different circumstances, and tonight she was drunk. If anything, she left because she didn’t want to do anything she’d regret.

    Joseph eventually came down the stairs with what looked like his two katanas and a cleaning kit. He sat across from Kyra and laid out his swords and the different tools needed to clean them. He was very methodological with his cleaning; making sure that every part was carefully cleaned then oiled. She remembered when she used to watch Akio when he cleaned his own katana. It seemed odd to her at first, but if these practices were passed down through the ages, it made sense as to why they’d be the same. It made her smile.

    “You sure know how to take care of your swords,” she said, breaking the silence.

    “It was drilled into me from my sensei. He would always say that if we want the best care for our sword, we should do it ourselves. After all, if the blades are not in top condition, it would most likely kill us,” he replied. Kyra could see a soft smile on his face. Kyra smiled a bit as well. However, her smile didn’t last long. There was a point to this conversation.

    “Joseph, is what Sanika said true?”

    Joseph stopped cleaning his swords and looked at Kyra. There was a brief pause before he said, “Yes it is true. I do love you Kyra,” he replied, going back to cleaning his blade.

    “But you never said a word. Why…” she began.

    “Did I never say anything?” he finished her sentence. Kyra nodded. “Because I am a coward.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Simply put, I could not express myself well emotionally,” he said, rubbing the oil into the blade. “I guess you blame it on the trauma and horrors I’ve witnessed growing up.”

    “Go on,” she encouraged.

    “I don’t blame you that you don’t know it since you didn’t grow up on this planet but you do know the stories of Sin right?” he asked, sliding the sword back into its scabbard. Kyra nodded. “Well you would know that there was constant fear and despair of Sin. So much so that even children were taught the pain and suffering of losing a loved one.”

    He sighed as he got up and headed to the patio doors. Kyra didn’t understand why he decided to take this conversation outside, but she followed close behind. The both of them stood outside as the moon lit both of their figures. It was a little calming. Joseph continued with his story. “When children understand that pain, they would do one of two things to protect their emotions. One way is that they would go on rampages of emotion, having a lot of highs and lows and ultimately covering up their real emotions under a façade which they can never break out of.”

    “And the other?”

    “The other way is that they lock their emotions in their hearts, never letting them out for any reason whatsoever unless under duress. You saw what happened when we let our emotions completely out, it is so powerful that the person could not control it, no matter how disciplined the person is. You probably haven’t sensed it but everyone in this house would most likely fall under one of the two categories,” he explained, gesturing towards the house.

    “But they don’t. You can’t say that they do. The others display emotions quite regularly,” Kyra argued.

    “That’s due to the bringing of another Calm,” he explained, turning to face Kyra. “The Calms always bring with it a sudden bonding of people before they return to the previous mental states when Sin comes around. The only difference this time around is that this is an Eternal Calm. People are not afraid to show their true selves anymore. Yet there are people like me who cannot break that chain.”

    Joseph looked up to the moon, “After my parents got killed, I was an emotional wreak. If it wasn’t for my brother, I don’t know if I would’ve made it past age 10. After he died, I almost lost it. The only reason that I can continue now is by locking my heart. It wasn’t as bad as 2 years ago but it’s still bad,” he explained, looking at Kyra.

    Kyra began to think as tears were starting to form in her eyes. They both have their sad stories. Joseph isn’t much different than the rest of us. Wait, he’s leaving. Don’t leave...” Her thoughts were trapped inside her head. Kyra turned around just as Joseph passed her. “Joseph, wait..” she began. Joseph slowly turned around and their lips met when Joseph turned around. Time felt like it stopped for Kyra. She couldn’t move or think. She was just there with Joseph’s lips interlocked with hers. After a moment or two, Kyra regained her senses and pulled back. Joseph did the same.

    “Ummm… sorry Joseph. I’ll umm…,” Kyra sputtered, her face turning very red.

    “I don’t expect your heart to change but know that those are my true feelings to you,” he said before turning back to head inside.

    Damn it. I haven’t said what I wanted to say! she cursed to herself.

    “One last thing Joseph,” Kyra said. Joseph turned around. “This afternoon…. I never want to see you like that again. Usually there’s a method to your madness. Today though…. was plain stupid. You rushed in without thinking at all. If Gideon wasn’t there to knock you out, you might have been killed. That’s a scary thought, you know?”

    “I cannot guarantee anything but I’ll try,” he responded.

    Cocky.” She thought.

    “I see. And the other thing Sanika said is that true as well?” he chucked a bit.

    “Yes and no. I’m not seeking death to join my parents and brother but samurais always try to complete their objectives, even if our death is required. That is the curse for those who live by the katana.”

    “Right. So why do you choose to stay alive? For me? I mean, I could’ve died today and there isn’t anything you could’ve done. Doesn’t that affect you too?” Kyra asked. Joseph took a long pause before responding.

    “I am currently alive because I have yet to find an answer to something. Something that has eluded me for the past 4 years. If you had died, it would’ve affected me greatly. Nikki would’ve felt the same but I would not seek death. I still have an answer to find,”

    Good. That’s the kind of answer I needed. As long as he’s living for himself, that’s all I need to know.”

    “I see. Well goodnight then.”

    “Night then Kyra,” he said before turning to go back in the house for the last time of the night.

    When Kyra entered the house again, she noticed something was off. There was a glass of water on the table that she didn’t remember being there from before. There was also water spilled around the glass as if it had been slammed down. She made her way up the stairs. She noticed that the door to Nikki’s room had been left open. I remember closing that.” She got to the doorway and noticed the bed was empty. Kyra’s eyes widened as she pieced everything together. Oh no...” Kyra’s heart had dropped to the floor. Nikki must have seen what had happened with Joseph a few moments ago. Kyra ran down the stairs and noticed that Nikki’s boots and bow were both gone. That sealed it. Fuck...she did see it.” Her heart sank even further. She had a pit in her stomach. What have I done?” Kyra grabbed her boots and stepped outside.

    She tried to see where Nikki went, but it was dark. She could be’s no use chasing after her. I’ve made myself look like a whore. Looks like Kai was right after all... Bloody hell. Why am I such a moron?” She thought. The more she thought about, the worse she felt.

    She decided it would be better to head back inside. At one point she thought of going to the calm lands, but she knew how bad the fiends were at night, so she decided against it. She was just coming up with stupid ideas to solve this problem. She found herself pacing now as she thought about Nikki and where she could be. Was she alright? Of course not, she’d been hurt. Nothing could be done about this situation at least until morning. Kyra felt exhausted, but she knew sleep was going to be scarce even if she tried. She stopped pacing and headed upstairs to the bathroom. Kyra caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. The tolls of the day were evident on her face. She looked beyond exhausted, but there was definitely no way she could sleep. So much was going through her head; she could barely pin down a single thought. She decided a shower might do her some good. If anything, it would help her relax and clear her mind a little.

    After she was finished, she headed down stairs to the lounge. She sat down in the middle of the sofa and picked apart her own brain. She had a decision to make, and it had to be made soon. Why did Joseph kiss me? Better yet, why did Nikki have to see it? It’s not like I was going to hide it from her, it would probably have the same effect on her anyway.” Kyra frowned at that thought. Knowing that Nikki would have been hurt either way wasn’t something Kyra liked. I should have pushed him away, but why didn’t I? Everything happened so fast. Maybe those drinks had something to do with it. How many did I have? Three? I don’t drink as often as I used to. That might have been a factor. Can I put it down to just that? I did like Joseph. He’s a nice guy. He’s saved me a couple times. Even put me to bed once. I get that he cared, but I didn’t think it was love. I guess I really am naive. Plus his story was sad. I wanted to hug him, but he was leaving. Why did he have to kiss me?!” She was yelling at herself inside her head. Once she realized this, she got up and put both of the glasses in the sink, grabbed herself a fresh glass and filled it with tap water. She took a few sips before thinking again. Nikki is something else entirely. There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on. That smile, the way she cared, that silly anti-spider arrow. She told me her darkest secrets, but I fucked up....Damn it, did I ever. What am I going to do now?” Tears started to fall. Kyra took a deep breath as she realized that tears don’t solve anything. She kept sipping the water she poured for herself. She made her way back to the lounge. And sat back down on the couch. I will stay here until Nikki gets back. I’ll explain everything.” she thought as she laid down on the couch. She had placed her glass of water on the side table. And somewhere between her thoughts, she was finally able to drift off to sleep.

    The next thing she knew, there was an uneven weight on her chest and a slimy wetness on her face. She opened her eyes to see Raine’s dog.

    “Ah, no! Bad boy!” Raine pulled the dog off of her. “I wanted to let her sleep.” Raine patted the dog who seemed rather pleased for waking Kyra.

    Asuka came running into the room giggling, “Naughty boy, waking up Kyra.” She turned to Raine, “Does he have a name?”

    “No, perhaps you could think of one for me.” Raine smiled at the inquisitive girl.

    “OK!” She said before running outside with the dog who happily barked after her.

    Kyra sat up and rubbed the dog slime off of her face. “It’s been a while since I’ve been woken up like that” she mumbled, still groggy from not getting much sleep.

    Raine started to fiddle with her hands. Kyra figured she was nervous about something. “Mmm” She paused to think it seemed. “Kyra, she’s hurt.”

    There was only one person that she could possibly mean, and it was Nikki. Kyra looked up at the nervous girl then looked back down to the floor. "I know. I've done something horrible" Tears started to fall once again. "I was caught off guard. By the time I realized what was going was already over.

    Kyra felt as Raine sat on the sofa beside her. A hug followed shortly after. "Oh dear what are we going to do with the both of you."

    "Where is she now?"

    After a pause, Raine let go of the hug. "Before I let you know I need to know something. Do you love Nikki, Kyra? Because if you still won’t admit it to yourself then you are just going to hurt Nikki even more." She said softly.

    "Right, that love word again. I know how I feel. Just freakin say it already!” She yelled at herself in her head again. She collected herself before speaking again. "I do. A lot more than I realize. I've fallen in love with Nikki and I don't know how to show it. Especially after......that." She paused to think. She looked up at Raine before speaking again. "Hurting her was the last thing I wanted. For all I know Sanika will come after me and try to kill me again...."

    “Don't you worry about Sanika, but I'll take you to Nikki she stayed at my house over night. I feel I have to warn you though, Nikki does look like she is crushed, and I think I would rather she'd punch something rather than looking like this.”

    She’s safe.” she sighed. “Hold on, isn’t Rhyse there too?”

    “Don't you worry, she didn't come for Rhyse” she said reassuringly.

    Kyra nodded. “Right, let me get ready.” Raine gave her a nod before she headed up the stairs to wash her face. She debated on talking to Joseph before heading over to see Nikki, but decided against it. Nikki was top priority for Kyra.

    Once the two got outside, Raine whistled for the dog and he immediately went to her side.

    “Aww, are you going now?” Asuka asked.

    “Yes, sorry Asuka he does need a walk, did you think of a name?”

    “Ummm yes I thought of Dex!” she exclaimed.

    “Alright Dex it is!” Raine said happily. Kyra didn’t add to the conversation. If anything, she was nervous of what was to come. Anything could happen.

    Goodbyes are said and the two start walking toward Raine’s house. After a long silence that consisted of what Kyra would say exactly, Raine started to give advice. “Don't look so worried. Just tell Nikki the truth about what happened, and tell her your feelings straight out.”

    “What if she doesn't forgive me?” She said quietly.

    “Well that's up to her, but after you have explained everything and she still doesn't look convinced. Maybe you should show her what it is like to be caught surprised."

    “If that's what it takes...”

    Raine nodded, "It's like the advice I gave to Nikki yesterday, you just need 10 seconds of confidence, it's the advice that Sakura gave me."

    Kyra gave a slight smile. "So that's what that was. I'll consider it then"

    They eventually made it to the house. Kyra’s heart was beating nervously. She really didn’t know what to expect. Rhyse was just exiting the house as they arrived. “Hey!” he said just before the dog pounded and tackled Rhyse to the ground. “OY! Get off!” The dog just licked his face.

    Raine laughed and whistled for the dog. He obediently went to her side. Really obedient dog..."

    Rhyse got up from the ground and dusted himself off. "You here to see Nikki?" He asked Kyra, who had been silently watching. She nodded, still not saying much.

    Rhyse continued, "There's something I need to tell you-"

    "Rhyse I don't think this is the right time." Raine interrupted.

    "This is the only time" he added.

    "What is it...?"

    "Hmmm ok but don't say I didn't warn you."

    "What could she mean?"

    "I went to kiss Nikki last night." Rhyse confessed. He was cocky too.

    It took a second for those words to sink in "You..."

    Raine spoke before Kyra could say more. "Don't worry, it didn't go anywhere he didn't have the chance Nikki punched him as soon as she realized what he was going to do."

    She tightened her fist but kept her anger in considering what she had done the night before. She was glad to hear Nikki punched him. She really wasn't there for him...”

    Kyra took a deep breath in, then let out a breath that seemed like a sigh. She was calming herself down. "Doesn't mean you're off the hook Rhyse. Try that again and you won't just have an angry Nikki to worry about."

    "I know and I won’t because I know that she loves you. And I guess I needed to see some sort of closure, to see that she really had moved on. However if you lose her or hurt her I can't promise I won’t keep away from her. I will always love her, and as long as she is happy I can be happy."

    Kyra smirked, "Looks like you've got yourself a rival Rhyse. I haven't felt this way about anyone since Aiko. I know last night was a mistake, and I feel horrible about it. I love her. I realize it now more than ever..."

    Rhyse smiled and turned to Raine, "Why the hell did she not realise that yesterday?"

    "He's really asking for it..."

    "I don't know, but you certainly got her riled up." Raine laughed.

    "Good luck, Kyra." Rhyse said before leaving.

    “Oh, um, Nikki’s in the lounge” Raine said softly, “She probably won’t answer the door if you knock.”

    “Right...Thanks” Kyra nodded.

    “Good luck Kyra” Raine smiled before leaving to walk the dog.

    The pit in Kyra's stomach returned again. This was either going to be really really easy, or really really hard. She walked up to the door and took a deep breath. She walked in to find a lost looking Nikki sitting with her knees up to her chest in the lounge. She was staring at a spot somewhere in front of her. Kyra felt even worse seeing her in such a state. "Nikki..."

    "Say what you need to say and then get out." She said bluntly while staring at the same spot.

    Kyra took off her boots and took a seat beside Nikki. After a few moments to gather what she wanted to say, she spoke. "Hun, I'm sorry. I made a stupid mistake. I didn't even know what was going on when it happened. All the confusion caught up with me and I couldn't move. But I want you to hear this before I go. I love you Nikki. More than anyone on Spira. Joseph doesn't even compare to how you make me feel." Her heart was beating wildly. She meant those words. Whether or not Nikki was going to accept this apology was up to her.

    Nikki turned to face her, "But... you didn't even push him away..." she said quietly

    "I was just so confused. He caught me off guard. Before I had a chance to think, it was over. I'm so sorry."

    Nikki didn't respond. She looked back to what she was staring at before. She didn't look too convinced either. Kyra was telling her the truth, and she would need to come up with something fast if Nikki decided to run.

    Kyra watched as Nikki seemed to be thinking things through. Then she suddenly said, "How the hell can you get surprised." she then got up and turned to leave.

    "Oh no you don't!"

    Kyra doesn't say a word. She grabs Nikki's arm as she stands. Their lips meet just as Nikki turns to face Kyra. Kyra's hands are on Nikki's shoulders waiting for Nikki to realize what just happened. Kyra was hoping for the best. The next move was on Nikki. When she felt Nikki relax and saw that she closed her eyes, Kyra closed hers and moved her hands from her shoulders to a soft embrace. Moments after, she felt Nikki lower and pulled Kyra with her and onto her lap. This was something she didn’t expect, but Kyra took it as forgiveness, and then some. Nikki was also running her fingers slowly through Kyra’s hair. Kyra felt happy. Any worry that Nikki was going to run away was gone. She was right here, kissing her back.

    When she pulled away, Kyra smiled. “Satisfied?”

    “I'm really sorry. I just thought that you were in love with Joseph, when I saw you didn't push him away... I just can't believe I've been such an idiot.” Nikki said before giving Kyra a hug. She was still stroking her hair.

    Kyra shook her head, “I'm the idiot here. You did nothing wrong. I shouldn't have let him kiss me in the first place I don't even know how it happened....”

    Nikki pulled back and looked into Kyra’s eyes, “It doesn't matter.” she then kissed her cheek. “ Oh, have you had breakfast?” she asked.

    “No, not yet” She said. I was too worried about you...”

    Nikki smiled “Me neither lets go get some breakfast.”

    Kyra nodded before they both made their way towards the door, put on their boots, and left Raine’s house.

    ~ A-M P ~


    “Now, why don't you tell me what it is you're doing coming down here by yourselves.” Gippal demanded, while Cyan used a few potions on my wounded back.

    “I'm sorry. I heard a-” Cyan started to say, but I had something I needed to get out first.

    “Maybe we should be the ones asking you that question.” I said, getting back to my feet.

    I walked straight to him, expecting an answer as my eyes stared into his. This new cloister we were in was quiet, but much more useful than the black ones we'd been lost in. However, none of these cloisters were normal. We didn't enter on Cloister 50 and we most certainly weren't anywhere beyond that. So, then, “Tell me how it's possible you're down here.”

    Gippal smiled at me, brushing his hair back with his right hand, “You really think changing the subj-”

    “Yea, I really do. How are you down here?”

    “Mishka.” Cyan scolded, coming between us.

    I only moved her aside, “None of these cloisters can exist. How are you here?”

    Gippal shook his head, but finally answered, “All I know is, the two of you were spotted coming down here alone. Sounded like a bad idea to me, so I decided to come find you and, wouldn't you know it, it was a bad idea.”

    “So we lucked out. Funny, I don't remember us having much luck down in this place.”

    “Too much time in Via Infinito has made you paranoid, it would seem.”

    “Or smart.”

    “Okay, enough. This is all my fault anyway, remember?”

    “Your fault?”

    “I was hearing a voice. It called me back down here, but when we arrived, it was changed.” Cyan explained, effectively ending my interrogation.

    It suddenly became Gippal's turn to talk. He enquired about the voices in Cyan's head, pretending that he knew what was happening. He also began considering the options. After all, if he had come down after us, he had encountered the same exit-less levels and should know the difficult situation. Though, at first, I kept my reservations about the unlikely event that he could have followed us, over time I began to accept that there was nothing amiss after all.

    With Gippal now leading, we found ourselves moving through the cloisters faster. The first one had led to a few central platforms with monitoring equipment and controls to reactivate the escapes. Unfortunately, the only ones we could successfully program to take us back to the surface appeared in cloisters we already passed, the ones that were supposed to have been in some of the black cloisters. As Gippal sealed the previous cloister off with his missiles, there was no way back up. Gippal figured there must be another cloister just like this one further down and we could use the control apparatus we find there to reactivate an exit portal.

    “Something still doesn't make sense.”


    “I don't know. Just a feeling.”

    “No, I mean the thing that doesn't make sense is why.” He clarified, “Isn't it? What's the point of this? Why is Via Infinito changing now? It's been under Bevelle forever. What's happened that's causing it to change like this?”

    I nodded to him, Blurry Moon held out before me. The current cloister we were on was another odd one. Rows of petrified fiends stood, their ranks stretching out all the way to the end. Gippal readied his weapon, aiming his missiles at the first row. Once he fired at them, they came to life, beginning to move forward while the remainder stayed frozen, lying in wait.

    However, even as they inched closer to us, my thoughts weren't on them. Despite the battle before us, Cyan still couldn't handle her sword and couldn't even touch the spare gun Gippal had brought with him. It was her mission; she was the one caught up in Via Infinito's schemes. The worst part about all this was that Cyan wasn't acting like herself. She seemed hesitant to fight and very distracted. It was making me uneasy. So uneasy that part of me even wanted to call the little girl to see if she might know, but that was obviously the suicidal choice. Who knew if she'd think it to be some game and cause us more trouble. Still, I knew something had to be done.

    “Mishka! Wake up!” Gippal said, his Grinder blade slicing through a cactuar.

    “A cactuar?”

    “Mishka, what on Spira are you thinking letting your guard down? That thing was about to hit you with 1000 needles!” He growled while firing more missiles at the fiends to keep them back.

    “Sorry. This is all just getting the better of me.”

    “Well, I can say this. I'm much happier with a confused you than a paranoid you. Just, try to be confused and focused at the same time.”

    Taking hold of Blurry Moon, I ran at my fastest speed, striking the closest fiends with the hooked tip of the blade. As it embedded itself into fiend after fiend, I stopped myself short and let the momentum hurl the fiends forward into a pile. Without a moment wasted, I launched the sword at the ground with a Deathstrike, shattering it and creating a fissure to the fallen fiends. Deathstrike's power ripped through, scattering their pyreflies deeper into Via Infinito.

    “That good enough for you?” I asked with a smirk.

    Before Gippal could answer, I noticed Cyan walking to the petrified fiends, making sure not to touch any of them as she passed through them. It came as a surprise to both myself and Gippal that none of them were animating by her presence, but she also wasn't slowing down.

    “Cyan, where are you going?”

    “The voice. It's calling me. I have to go this way.” She simply responded, continuing on and jumping down into the next cloister.

    “Did you hear anything?”

    “No.” Gippal said in a concerned tone, “We'd better catch up to her.”

    However, it was easier to say, much harder to do. While Cyan and I had no trouble squeezing through the rows, Gippal and his overcompensating arsenal was throwing up red flags every step of the way. An adamantoise helped us midway through the cloister, though. Once it awoke, it lunged for me. When I ducked out of its way, it landed on several of the stone fiends, crumbling them into rubble without rousing them. Once Gippal lured it away with more missile fire, it left a large clearing to maneuver and we began herding the larger fiends toward clearing a path to the next cloister. An Elder Drake's charge and one more blundering tumble by the adamantoise and we were free to run through.

    Slay... er...”

    “Did you say something?” I asked, having heard the discomforting name.

    “No, but a few choice words do come to mind down here.” Gippal answered, covering his nose.

    The new cloister was nothing more than a large room filled to capacity with mounds of corpses, rotting and putrefying the air. Each of the piles seemed haunted, as if their souls had been bound to them, making them restless. They seemed to be screaming out, trying to be freed from the death that captured them, but no one could answer as no one could hear. And though, despite not hearing them either, I couldn't help but imagine that they were and that they were screaming out the word... In the distance, I spotted Cyan, knelt down and gazing out at the bodies as if in a daze. Taking my mind away from the carcasses, I made my way to her.

    “Cyan...” I said, speaking softly as I placed a hand on her shoulder.

    “It stopped.” She calmly replied, placing her own hand over mine, “The voice isn't talking anymore.”

    “Just in time, too. Leaves more of your attention for these guys!” Gippal alerted, pointing out to us that the corpses were moving.

    They still irked me, though I had no idea who any of them were and couldn't discern any familiarity I might have had with any of them from their twisted and rotting faces. Their awkward wails of “murderer” helped ease me even less. What was the significance of all this? More importantly, how did this relate to Cyan?

    “Gippal, they are undead so potions should do well against them.” Cyan suggested, sounding more like the Cyan I'd come to know, and true to form, she then turned to me with a wink, “Now's not the time for contemplations, warrior princess.”

    “Who has time to think down here?” I mused, hooking one of the zombies with Blurry Moon.

    With the creature ensnared at the end of my blade, I launched him forward just right to catch Gippal's Grinder in his teeth. After he bisected it, Gippal moved right into firing missiles in my direction, signaling me to duck with a slight nod. The arsenal obliterated the swarm circling behind me, freeing me to move on to another group. I planted Blurry Moon into the ground and used it to throw a stiff kick into another one, sending her into Cyan's waiting fists. It seemed, though she still couldn't take her sword, at least her fight had been restored. Further along, I started to notice sparks of black magic escaping some of the undead's fingers. It meant there were deceased mages on the level, as well. I sped to them before too many spells came under way, slashing at the mages I could surmise with Silencestrike. However, all too soon, the Ultimas and Meteors began to hit, destabilising the cloister floor. Cyan was most at risk, having no weaponry to defend herself. Unfortunately, it was also then that Gippal ran out of missiles, forcing his gun into a melee only option. Our progress wasn't good enough to have ranged counterattacks removed from play. As more Ultimas further damaged the floor and with Cyan in danger of being overwhelmed, I took to helping the zombies, harshly slamming Blurry Moon into the ground with Deathstrikes. Gippal figured out my plan and began rampaging through the whole of the cloister, his Grinder blade poised downward. As soon as it was weak enough, we simply waited for one more Meteor and the lot of us were on our way down to the next cloister. All three of us were experienced enough in battle to leap through the rubble to safety. Cyan had even made use of some of the bodies. The plan seemed to have worked,except that the current level had been littered with tonberries. At the heart of the new cloister there also hovered a fairly large Black Elemental, except that I'd never seen one generating bolts of black electricity from its spines before. With no end to the opposing forces and no way through them to the next level, the three of us gathered together to hold out as long as we'd be able.

    “Cover your eyes!” Someone called out.

    Just then, a large sphere of bright light fell from above, striking the Black Elemental. The force of the attack was enough to compromise the fiend's integrity and the resulting overload cast the whole of the cloister into darkness. Amid the chaos, I felt a rough hand grab onto my wrist before tugging me in an arbitrary direction. Before I knew it, my feet had planted themselves on yet another cloister.

    “Good of you to show.” The sound of Gippal's voice some distance away alerted me to our next would-be saviours.

    Moving in that direction led me to Cyan, who had been looking for me, too. I put a reassuring hand on her arm to let her know that I was not injured. We made our way together to where I had heard Gippal's voice, somewhere still covered in dust and debris.

    “The situation's worse than we thought.” The same voice said, though now I could identify it.

    Nooj revealed himself from the fog of war, “Via Infinito is mutating. Into what, we aren't sure of yet, but it's started to pull those with knowledge of it back inside.”

    “Meyvn, Praetor, are you certain of this?” Cyan asked them.

    “It's how we came to this place.” Nooj answered her.

    “Wait, Via Infinito pulled you down here?” Gippal enquired.

    “Yes, it took us both from our chambers in the temple.” Baralai, the person from before, stated.

    “What's going on with it lately?”

    “Perhaps we should ask the only one here with any expertise dealing with the nature of this world.” Nooj suggested before all eyes turned to me.

    “I know about as much as you. This is highly irregular.” I told them, though I did have a few theories based on what I'd been taught.

    “Meyvn Nooj, how fast is Via Infinito spreading on the surface?”


    “Then that's all any of us need to know.” Cyan announced, finally able to unsheathe her broadsword.

    ~ A-M P ~

    Everything seems to be set.” Hunter reported, informing us of the finalised arrangements.

    The following morning, we would be hosting the long-awaited arrival of Machina Faction Leader, Gippal. The heathen Al Bhed was an acquaintance of Hunter's and a possible adversary to Rin. It was our desperate hope that these qualities of his person would come to aid us in ridding the Farplane of the scoundrel. However, we had several obstacles in our path. First and foremost, our unending campaigns to disrupt his operations had unnerved him. The seemingly fruitless efforts of his research endeavour were frustrating his teams. Rin was a heretic, but he was no fool. Though we had taken care to keep our operations untraced, he knew there were hands guiding misfortune. Several of our recent missions had resulted in abortions. The objectives themselves were met, but the targets had been decoys. Second, a few more orthodox guado had taken it upon themselves to voice their concerns about Rin's excavations outright, which caused a rift between the two sides. To that end, the guado were now being implicitly restricted from certain areas occupied by the endeavour. Finally, though this was more of a personal qualm, Keema had been constantly coercing me to remove myself and reminding me of what I was and what I could become.

    So long as we guado can disrupt power to the computers, it should be a successful mission?” Keema asked him.

    Not just that. You'll have to make it a bad enough power failure to interfere with data recording , which should cause corruption on the drives. If that happens, then it'll be good to go.”

    Worry not, we can do it. Then, we will have stopped Rin.”

    You are too anxious, m'lady.”
    I spoke to her softly, “That is all for your end, but Hunter's forces will still need to breach the core systems. Hunter, are you sure your team can effectively... 'hack' the existing research?”

    Without a doubt. But that's not the hard part, remember?” He said, holding up an inconspicuous device.

    The vibrating machina?” Keema identified.

    Seismic wave carriers.” Hunter corrected, “These things should be enough to crack the containment vessel on that new prototype of theirs.”

    You have doubts?”

    These devices are usually used to fracture bedrock to allow for easier excavations. Optimum magnitude is 3.4. But that casing looks damn sturdy. I really can't be sure these will be enough.”

    Keema took a few steps forward and placed her hand on his shoulder, “They will. They have to.”

    Hope so 'cause they're all we got.”

    The next day, Rin came down from on high and browsed the site. As Hunter predicted, he had chosen to give the tour to Gippal himself, to be able to monitor any occurrences firsthand. The leader of the Machine Faction arrived with an entourage of several of his own specialists, which would be analysing everything the demon had to show him. Gippal wanted to be scrupulous; Hunter had not lied about his wariness for the former lowly merchant.

    And here we have our Observations Wing. All of our findings, even to the minutest of details, have been recorded and thoroughly investigated here. Please, if you will, follow me to the central computer.” Rin implored, waving them into the highly secured area.

    Enough sugar-coating, Rin. Just get on with it. None of us have the patience to listen to chatter.” Gippal grunted, signaling his people to begin examining every byte of research data.

    Moments later, Hunter sauntered to me, throwing one of his arms around my shoulders, “What'd I miss?”

    They've begun their work. Have you finished yours?”

    And without a hitch, I might add. Yep, you're looking at a genius.” He gloated.

    Is that so? How can you be so sure of your work?”

    Just watch?”

    And of Keema? How did her guado fare?” I asked, causing his smile to widen.

    Why don't you ask her yourself?”

    In the distance, the reserved guado priestess approached, her eyes never leaving my form. Behind her, a few guado strolled in the opposite direction, still mingling with the pyreflies they'd been in communion with as part of our plan. By the time she arrived, we'd already begun hearing recriminations and wayward explanations over our labours.

    You must understand, these computers are monumentally outdated. Corruption of the research data is unavoidable, but in no way a justification against supporting our work.” Rin tried to explain.

    Rin, it isn't just the bad files. I'm looking at what can only be falsified information in these documents.” Gippal growled, “Do you really expect me to believe your prototype can garner 200eV of power from the Farplane in one hour when two weeks ago, it could barely touch two?”

    Of course not, sir, but this is more reason for the Machine Faction to offer financial support and equipment for my program. It is obvious that our recording devices and the lacklustre power we are able to supply to this dank cave is far from appropriate to handle such vital research. With the faction's aid, I promise you our movement towards a Spira filled with Machina Cities will not be mere fantasy.”

    Hunter chuckled as we heard Rin explain himself and the operation's failures. Apparently, he had added an additional zero to the 200eV reading. The original 20eV would have been much more believable and, as he would inform me, honestly a break-through in our technological advancements back to the society of the past, the one that had led to Sin.

    Alright, then what's this about discovering an active core of Vegnagun's? I was there, Rin. I can tell you, there's not a damn thing left on that monster that's intact. Besides, you don't seem to have this active core in your inventory logs.” Gippal continued to press.

    Inventory logs?” I asked, confused as to why there would be such a thing in the database.

    Yea, thought you guys wouldn't know about that. It isn't exactly a tech thing or a research thing.” Hunter explained, “It's an accounting thing. Every bit of broken machina we ever dug up needs to be catalogued before we can start picking it apart. It keeps things organised and you can then start a record for each one as you uncover stuff about it.”

    Good thinking then, for altering them.”

    Heh, was one of the first things I changed. You can't show reliable information if you can't even keep your books straight.” He said with a wink.

    I wonder, though, will it seem too outlandish a mistake to go unnoticed?” Keema enquired in worry.

    Not to worry, the part is real, just that it isn't active. The original record was about a damaged core. I just changed it to an undamaged core. We worked on it a month or so back, but it turned out to be useless. All the power drained out of the thing and it didn't really have any of the mechanisms that stored that power left in it. My guess is we only found the shell. The actual core's probably corroded somewhere on the machina's hull.”

    Gippal and his personnel passed us on their way out of the Observations Wing. They did not look satisfied, but Rin would not relent. He explained that all the “glitches” that were discovered were still reasons in favour of the Machine Faction's endorsement and not reasons to pull out.

    Enough. Let's just take a look at that prototype, unless the logs about its development were falsified, too.” Gippal grumbled, marching towards our next mission's directive.

    Once they arrived, Rin began engaging the machina's systems, bypassing the security to set it past its staged operating levels. It was a telling sign that he was growing desperate. The device rumbled to life, slowly pulling pyreflies from a samples container nearby. As the pyreflies passed through the primary filter, a tank of water at the heart of the device absorbed some of their glow and increased in temperature. The pyreflies were then sent through a coil, which was pressurised to force them to stream through at an accelerated rate, causing more separation between the main pyrefly body and its glowing end-trail. At the secondary filter, this was collected, raising the water's temperature again and causing it to boil. The resulting steam began pushing at the grooves of a connected turbine, which then started to charge a battery cell. Our mission had been to breach the containment vessel of the turbine. Under the increasing pressure of the steam, it was estimated that the vessel would be easiest to rupture with the smallest amount of external destabilisation. As soon as Rin had turned on the machina, Hunter's men activated the seismic charges. While the dimming pyreflies rounded back to the fourth of the five filters, they were bombarding the steel skin with increasingly powerful concussive forces.

    Not good.” Hunter suddenly said, walking away to contact his people.

    What is the matter?” I asked of him before he was out of earshot.

    See that shaking?” He replied, pointing at the containment vessel, which, while trembling under the continued presence of the charges, was not in any danger of rupturing, “The carriers are too weak. I've gotta get the guys to cut the power and retrieve those units or we'll be found out for sure.”

    As he left, Keema and I shared concerned looks. The machina was vibrating so much, even Gippal began to take notice. He and his personnel began asking questions about it, pondering why it would be shaking during operation. Soon after, they all began rounding the structure, surveying it for any oddities. Fortunately, Hunter's people had had the forethought to coat the whole side of the containment vessel that housed the seismic charges in added metallic skin, much flimsier than the actual machina, but similar enough to fool them into believing it was part of the device.

    Still, that wouldn't solve our problem, “Your prototype seems to be sputtering.”

    You must believe me, this is unusual behaviour. This machina has never shuddered in this way.” Rin explained, checking the monitors and console.

    Well, Nhadala's just informed me that you've also never raised the capacity to this extent before, either. My guess is its overloading. If we don't stabilise it soon, it could rupture and cause structural damage to this city.” Gippal stated, moving toward the controls.

    Wait, please, if you allow my team to decipher the data from this test, we may learn the cause of its performance issues.”

    Just then, a few of Rin's men moved by. Before Gippal could decide whether or not to stop the machina, they handed a sphere to Rin. The smile that would appear on his visage alarmed us. Rin played the recording for Gippal and his people, what apparently was a back-up copy of all the data we had corrupted. Rin had been ready for possible issues during the evaluation and now Gippal looked to be approving the restored information, though it should still feature several “glitches” from our previous missions. Of course, as Hunter had already explained before, all of those missions only affected progress and they would only improve Rin's efforts to attain the Machine Faction's funding and high grade equipment.

    It would appear that we have failed.” Keema solemnly whispered, beginning to turn away.

    As I watched her defeated form walking by, I felt the fury in me grow. Rin could not be allowed to succeed. The Age of Sin must not return for the sake of every living soul that walks upon this world.

    Good will not be undone this day.” I found myself saying, the pyreflies of Guadosalam groaning in my wake.

    I could hear Keema's surprised gasp, the pyreflies about her telling me of her concern. I knew what I was about to do was unnatural and would only push me further along this sinful path. However, it had to be done, a necessary evil. If Rin succeeded in getting Gippal to approve of this abominable scheme, all of Spira was in danger of another Sin.

    The pyreflies of Guadosalam roused from inactivity as I willed them towards Rin's monstrous creation. As they neared, I sent a group of them behind each of the people standing before the machine. This allowed me to blind them to the pyreflies I moved into it, through the metal skin and upon the seismic charges. The small devices were working to their fullest capacity, but it just wasn't strong enough to do anything to the reinforced steel hull. With Guadosalam's pyreflies, I noted that there were limiters on the charges that prevented them from exceeding their designed maximum output so they wouldn't overheat and become a potential hazard. That wasn't going to accomplish our mission. Using the pyreflies, I channeled them to mask the limiters, effectively disabling their function. With the seismic charges believing they hadn't reached a maximum magnitude, the tremours intensified. The stronger vibrations began having an effect on the containment vessel, but I found the devices were succumbing to another limiting factor. Overheating and overworking themselves, the charges were coming apart. I took hold of each one with the pyreflies and bound them together while using the energy they held to power the devices. The resulting force obliterated them, but I was able to enhance them to rupture the vessel. Electricity erupted from the turbine, further damaging the prototype. Additionally, boiling water began spilling from the cracks and mingling with the electricity, preventing anyone from getting near it and steam obstructed vision.

    Seeing as how my goal had been realised, it was the best opportunity I'd have to hide my activities. I pulled at the pyreflies, using them to disconnect the seismic charges from the machina. Then, I had them press down on the metal skin, flattening it to the machina, leaving a small pocket to conceal the charges.

    Rin, shut this thing down now!” Gippal demanded.

    The controls are drenched in water. If we...” Rin started to explain.

    However, Gippal's patience had been exhausted and he took a bladed weapon to the prototype, severing the lines responsible for straining the energy from the pyreflies. With these lines opened as makeshift vents, the remaining water drained from the device. His personnel then threw Ice Grenades to freeze it all, keeping the dangerous electricity from causing anyone harm. Rin's tour had ended in disaster and I was all but sure that the Machine Faction would not only deny them aid, they would shut it down.

    Unfortunately, that would not be the case as Gippal stormed to the conniving businessman. “Rin, after everything I just saw, give me one good reason why I shouldn't pull the plug on you.”

    Well, as you can clearly see, our data is promising. That alone should warrant your consideration. Furthermore, everything you have seen today should only show you how desperately we need the Machine Faction's support. We obviously don't have the resources to safely continue operations, but that is all we lack.” He cajoled.

    You know, having answers for everything doesn't mean they're right.” Gippal jabbed, “But, you may have a point. I can't let you endanger these people, but this research data is making a lot of sense... You have the full support of the Machine Faction.”

    Thank you, sir. I promise you...”

    But we're gonna be watching you. I'm sending over a detail of my best analysts. They're gonna be around to make sure this doesn't happen again. I'd watch myself, if I were you.” He added, making his exit.

    Rin seethed once the faction were out of sight, kicking the frozen machina. He went on to order his people to tighten security and begin disassembling the ruined prototype. Among them was Hunter, who held a suspicious gaze as he helped thaw the device. In the distance, Keema was offering a look of concern, as well. It wasn't what I had wanted. My panic had overcompensated for the failure of the charges and, in doing so, I'd caused Gippal to agree to helping Rin's destructive ends.

    What will we do now?” Keema would ask me later.

    I must make amends for what I have done.” I told her, though the pyreflies I sensed about her informed me that my words only unsettled her further.

    Attached Images Attached Images Final Fantasy Chronicles of Exigo: The Fall of Spira-nikki-png 

  7. #37

    “She's joking, isn't she?” I said, having processed what we'd just learned.

    “She sounded serious enough.” Gippal replied.

    I should start at the beginning. Cyan had grown confident again in her mission. Nooj and Baralai had been pulled down by Via Infinito, which was apparently mutating to such an extent that it could draw in the very land that housed it. Once we were out of that predicament, the three of Spira's current world leaders began discussing any possible means of countering it. At the most unlikely moment, we were visited by none other than the little girl herself. However, contrary to the popular anticipation, she came to us with a direct message and nothing more.

    Someone's been naughty.” She had said, appearing before us with a giggle.

    Is that right?” Cyan responded, going over to her.

    Oh yes, someone here is fibbing.”

    Who might that be?”

    Uh uh, that's cheating.”

    Oh, we wouldn't want that.” Gippal groaned, standing to my left with a bored look on his face.

    We should keep moving.” Nooj added, making his way to the next cloister.

    However, Cyan's patience was boundless as she pressed the little girl further, “No cheating, but in every game, there must be a way to decide an outcome.”

    Oh, okay! Then, um, you get to decide!” She replied with a giggle, “Sissy will decide who the traitor is!”

    She makes that sound so harmless.” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

    When sissy makes up her mind, everything will be sensible again. Good luck, sissy!”

    As quickly as she had come, she was gone. However, the lasting memory of her words were going to stay with me for the rest of the mission. A traitor? Here?

    She's joking, isn't she?” And that takes us back to the present.

    “That's ridiculous then. Which one of us could possibly be a traitor?” I voiced, following Nooj to where the next cloister was.

    “It's never so simple with her. She could just as easily mean there's someone here who might hold the key to solving this development.” Cyan suggested.

    “You think any of us can stop this place from pulling its tricks? If it could have been done, we'd have found Rikku by now.”

    “I believe we're at an impasse. I move that we continue on until further developments might truly decide whether or not to believe the little girl.” Baralai adviced, which was eventually decided the best course of action.

    On the next cloister, we found ourselves again bombarded by the strangest of enemies. Rather than the zombies we fought previously, these fiends were of all shapes and sizes, though the skinless variety, and seemingly drained of the blood that should have been pooling from such inconceivable wounds. Odder still was their ferocity, mismatched from their heavily damaged appearance. A skinned Ochu fiend bounded for me, its naked tentacles quite the spectacle. I readied Blurry Moon to take it down, but was interrupted by Cyan, who had taken to striking the fiend down first and using a few too many than should have been necessary, in my opinion.

    In the distance, I could see Gippal taking Grinder to the dry husk of an adamantoise's shell while Baralai's staff whirled about, cutting down several coeurls. All in all, this battle seemed to be the first manageable one, though the lashes were coming in harder as time went on. At the end of it, we were still forced to flee, Gippal and I using our weapons to create a cloud of debris to distract the mangled creatures while the remainder of us escaped.

    “Anybody remember back when fiends weren't so tough?” Gippal grunted, fanning himself in his exhaustion.

    “Yes, it was about the same time that they still wore skin.” I replied, leaning against a wall for support.

    “If Via Infinito's really trying to pull people down here, wonder what all this other flash is about.” Baralai added.

    “We'll let the 'traitor' tell us when we find her.”

    “Aha! A 'her'! So you admit I had nothing to do with this!” Gippal blurted.

    “As if anybody would peg you for a spy. Treachery requires more use of the upstairs brain.”

    “I'd resent that remark, but I'm too tired. Nooj, you're a leader. You decree that Mishka's up to no good for me.”

    “As I recall, the little girl appointed Cyan for that task.”

    “I suppose this isn't the best time to tell everyone that the voice is intensifying.”

    “What do you hear?”

    Cyan only shook her head and began wandering as if trying to locate the source of whatever it was that kept calling to her. I asked again if anyone else could hear anything, but it was only affecting Cyan. It was this alone that made me fear the little girl had been telling the truth about Cyan's purpose in this situation, but just what influence this voice would have on the outcome of her decision worried me. I had been plagued by voices, phantoms sent by Via Infinito, as well, and no good had come from them. It wasn't until I focused on Cyan's voice that I overcame them and grew stronger. However, Cyan had been keenly following the voice speaking to her and it had only been to her benefit, seemingly guiding her through these strange cloisters when we'd be lost if left to our own devices.

    She soon discovered the exit to the next cloister, an empty hall with murals displayed on either wall. Though none of the scenes they depicted interested me, the faint glimmers my eyes managed to trouble me with did not set me at ease. Most of them showed war and bloodshed, pyrrhic battles with no decisive victor. The final one just before the way to the following cloister depicted a lone creature standing over a hill of bones. It was an unsettling sight to be sure considering the opponents we'd been facing as of late.

    On the next cloister, I was the last to arrive. When I did, I saw the others once again engaged in battle, this time against humanoid opponents, skinless just as before, but even worse, they had no eyes in their black sockets and the muscles on their bodies exuded puss. Nooj had used another Lightfall attack on the group, but it wasn't enough. His sharpshooting eliminated the hordes far too slowly. Baralai's staff techniques weren't doing any better. Cyan still seemed slower than her usual pace. Of all of us, Gippal was having the most progress, his Grinder blade dealing the largest amounts of damage. I took to joining Baralai, who I deemed our weakest link and began feeding the sharp rings at the ends of his staff with anything I could hook with Blurry Moon. Eventually, he began to tire, so I moved closer and got him to Gippal to look after while I moved towards Nooj, picking off the ones getting too close for his munitions fire to maintain efficacy. Once he was out of bullets, I also brought him to Gippal before making my way to Cyan. Together, we began thinning out their ranks as she led us to the way down into the next cloister.

    As soon as my feet touched the ground, I found myself exploding forward, striking hard at whatever was defending the level. As it turned out, my momentum had actually thrown a Mutanjelly into the far wall, its body fragmenting into showers of smaller flan that then dissipated from the force of impact. The remainder of the fiends were mainly more zombies, though this time, they were accompanied by ghosts, as well. Nooj could only prepare for his Lightfall ability with his bullets exhausted, leaving our side a weary Gippal and Baralai on one end and Cyan and myself on the other. Cyan was also weakening due to the sheer amount to contend with so I took it upon myself to cause the most damage while allowing Cyan to lead us to the best routes to the succeeding cloisters.

    “Ruu puo!” Gippal sighed once we found ourselves on an clear cloister. (Hoo boy!)

    “My guns are useless.” Nooj informed us, “If we have more of that ahead of us, I won't be of much help.”

    “Do what you can. It's all that can be expected.”

    “You're one to talk.” Gippal interjected, “What happened to you back there? The rest of us were slowing down, you just kept going harder and harder.”

    “Did I?”

    “You were unstoppable. Methinks Gippal is jealous.” Cyan said with a slight chuckle.

    “I hadn't noticed. I was only hoping to find a cloister like this for everyone to rest.”

    “Guess I better step up my game. Can't be losing to a girl, now can I?”

    “So what was your excuse with Paine?” Baralai mused.

    “Dr. P? We've got an 'understanding'.”

    “Are you referring to the understanding where she beats you at everything and you whimper in defeat?” Nooj teased.

    “I let her win!”

    “That's not how I've heard it.”

    “They're coming.” Cyan said, ending our chatter.

    Within moments, the cloister was filled with more of the skinless ones. These were larger than the ones we'd been fighting previously, but I took them down all the same. However, the others weren't having as much luck. Gippal's fatigue caused him to lose his grip on his weapon, which would be knocked from his hand. Baralai also couldn't use his staff to its fullest potential and it was stopped by two creatures, locking the rings at both ends. Nooj was able to hurl one more Lightfall, but that would be it for them. Cyan took to defending them, but I could tell she wasn't going to last much longer. It was during this time, I realised how strange it was that I wasn't similarly affected by all the battles we'd encountered. To the contrary, I seemed to be strengthening as more fell at my feet. My strokes with Blurry Moon were smoother and cleaner. Their precision seemed only to improve the longer I remained in battle. However, by the time I made it to Cyan, the numbers had me beat. The others couldn't provide me with any sort of support, which meant I was facing them alone. Though I had been fighting harder and stronger, even my best slashes couldn't pass through ten of them without being caught.

    “There's too many.”

    “Everyone down!” Joseph's voice beckoned from afar.

    I did as instructed, ducking just in time for one of the samurai's powerful sword techniques.

    “Ugly beasts, aren't they?”

    “Joseph, Gideon, did you get caught in Via Infinito's wake, as well?”

    “Yea, and so were the others, but we've been separated.”

    “We must find them. Via Infinito's been excessively volatile recently.”

    So it seemed this simple mission that began just by Cyan hearing a voice calling out to her was becoming the main event we'd all been dreading. Via Infinito had made its move and now our friends were in grave danger.



    We traveled through a few more cloisters of bizarre fiends and eerie backdrops. All the while, I felt stronger during battle whereas the others were all weakening. Even having only just been brought down to Via Infinito, Joseph and Gideon were slowing, too. There were simply too many enemies to handle without expending all of a person's energy. What was worse, rather than be skinless and weaker because of it, a number of them had thickened carapaces of rotting hides.

    I took to one fiend composed entirely of an arrangement of various bones. Blurry Moon was able to cleave away bits from the creature, but that was hardly a finishing blow. Flipping the blade, I dodged its advances and took to another fiend to test its defences. I faded left as it tried clubbing me and climbed the length of its arm, jabbing the hooked tip of Blurry Moon into its neck. It groaned though undefeated and threw me back in response. Once I landed, I made note that its armour was thicker than Blurry Moon’s hook. No single strike would penetrate such protective layers.

    “Cyan, to your left!” Joseph alerted.

    I turned to see Cyan engaged against two zombies with one of the carapaced creatures drawing nearer. She didn’t have the leverage needed to counter its coming strike so I ran to aid her. However, I’d be met with a downward stab of sharp ribs fashioned as a fiend’s claw, stopping me from reaching her.

    Gideon reacted instead and subdued the zombie bounding for her, “I'm on it.”

    Astoundingly, he would strike the creature dead center, though an aura surrounded his edge, allowing it to go further until it struck the fiend’s heart, shattering it into a swarm of pyreflies.

    “Thank you.”

    “Think nothing of it.”

    I watched on with a sigh of relief. Though defeated, the skeletal fiend had occupied me too long to get to Cyan. I was grateful to Gideon for being at her side. Unfortunately, soon after, I would disarm a zombie from throttling Gippal. Nooj had used up all his Lightfalls and was the worst off of any of us, barely holding himself on his mechanical leg. I stayed with him, being the freshest of the lot. Gippal, Baralai, and Joseph made up the remaining group. The next few cloisters were safer in these groups. Cyan led us through the quickest path further into the dungeon, though her methods were making me uneasy. She claimed the voice was getting louder the further we got. By this point, I couldn't be sure if I should be letting her follow it. It was my original belief that there was no denying Via Infinito, but whatever it wanted of her, it was getting to be too dangerous. As much as I wanted to uncover the dungeon's motives, I wasn't willing to risk Cyan's safety for it.

    On the next cloister, we found ourselves in an underground cavern with a very high ceiling. Cyan began walking faster, mumbling something about the voice calling her to the tower. As we rounded that corner, we saw what she was on about. Across from a small stream over a few rocky ledges sat a large citadel, black walls and uninviting spines coating the roofs of each tower. Before we even had a minute to catch our breaths, Cyan was already on her way, telling us, in a very knowing tone of voice, that the others were inside.

    “How can you be sure?” I asked, catching her hand before she got too far away.

    “Can't you hear them? They're waiting for us.”

    “Cyan, who are you hearing in there?” I asked her, blatant worry shown in every syllable.

    “Them.” Gippal answered for her, “I can hear them, too.”

    My eyes darted to the Machine Faction's leader thinking he'd gone mad, but then Gideon and Joseph said they were hearing things, too. I, Baralai, and Nooj were still out of this loop they were in, but we all decided the only way out was further in. While Cyan led us inside the citadel, Gippal would end up taking the lead, arguing that he could hear the others coming from an auditorium in the left wing of the ground floor. Cyan had wanted to take us to the top of the main tower, but agreed to follow Gippal to the auditorium first as all of them were hearing the others.

    “Took you long enough.” Nikki grumbled the minute we entered the large area, “We've been waiting here for five bloody hours!”

    “Now now, tempers.” Kyra said to calm her.

    “Do you know what it is we might be doing down in this atrium? The twins asked us.

    “No, the only thing we know is that Cyan and Mishka were here before us. It seems this place has been talking to Cyan.” Joseph answered.

    “I'm sorry. I'm to blame for all this it would seem.”

    “Don't think like that. If this chasm wants us here, it wouldn't matter if you came of your own volition or not.” Paine told her, patting her on the shoulder.

    “Looks like a show's starting.” Gideon informed us, directing our attention to the rising curtain.

    Instinct told me to take hold of Blurry Moon, but instinct would be wrong this time. As the lights came on, a female warrior appeared on the stage, bathed in gentle white light. Her face was shielded by it, rendering it impossible to discern. Soon, she was surrounded by enemy soldiers, dawning armour of the same design as the citadel. The warrior was fierce. She bested each of her opponents and remained vigilant. It slowly became obvious that she was a soldier in a kingdom and, due to the endless wars that plagued the lands with violence and bloodshed, she would soon be the final soldier standing against an onslaught of enemy forces. Even so, she would not fall. At the end of every bout, she would look to the right of the stage where a silhouette appeared, that of another woman, slender and delicate, her forehead displaying the outline of what had to be a tiara. She was the princess of the land and the warrior was her protectorate.

    “I will keep you safe.” Cyan absent-mindedly said, her full attention on the play.

    There was another kingdom rising in the west, one that had been built up of the broken lands that had rivaled the warrior. Despite its united legions opposing the warrior, she still could not be stopped. Her devotion to the unseen princess of her kingdom empowered her with strength far greater than should be natural.

    “Prin... c-cess...”

    I turned my eyes to her for a second when a flash returned my attention to the stage. Light emanated from the warrior, banishing the shadowed veil of her enemies. This light continued to subdue the darkness encroaching all lands but the one kingdom.

    “She is the light...” I found myself muttering.

    However, as with all things, the light is a limited source of energy that brings life and hope to those under it. Darkness is not limited as such. Darkness is simply the absence of light, which her enemies knew was their advantage. On one large scale campaign, the beast of darkness reached out further than the field of battle, its tentacles of influence stretching beyond where the warrior could reach if she wanted to remain at the front. These shadows touched the silhouette of the unseen princess, mingled with them, and finally consumed them. Despite the warrior's best efforts, the princess was no more and, without her, the warrior's resolve weakened, dimming the light she bore. The shadows consumed everything, finally taking the warrior's kingdom.

    “In the end, that is all I am.” Cyan mouthed in time for the warrior's last stand.

    As I looked on, the warrior began a final desperate campaign. On the stage, she fought hard against the darkness, trying to rekindle the spark of hope she had once brought to the kingdom. Unfortunately, her strength was gone. She was no longer a warrior.

    “She's already lost.” I muttered to myself, looking at Cyan.

    In the final scene, the warrior had suffered fatal injuries, beaten down by the darkness. She knelt down in defeat, cradling a featureless body representative of the fallen princess who she had given her life to protect.

    “It was all for nothing...”

    “I wouldn't say nothing.” Val suddenly said to me.

    “How can you say that?”

    “Whatever this story is, it has to be what all this is revolving around. If we can come up with an explanation for it, we should be able to solve this event and get out of here.”

    “Easier said than done. What was all of that supposed to be?” Nikki growled.

    “Tragic love story?”

    “Or something more. Everything about it was vague. Who was the warrior? What kingdom did she represent? Who was that princess? Why couldn't we see her?”

    “I wasn't worthy enough to see her.” Cyan stated, approaching us.

    “Cyan?” She was shivering.

    “Oh Mishka, something bad is coming.”

    “What? What's coming?”

    “I don't know. I can't even be sure of what I'm saying, but...”

    “Something bad is coming.”

    She nodded. Via Infinito was on the move and only Cyan could detect it. Unfortunately, it made her raving with fear and anxiety. She was incoherent.

    “I don't think my light can withstand it.”

    “I take it you believe you're the princess then.” Nooj interpreted.

    “Where are Gideon and Joseph?” She said instead, prompting the lot of us to look for them.

    “Probably out looking for where their voices are leading them. Mine's screaming right now.” Gippal said.

    “Screaming? As in...”

    “They're desperate.” She answered before I could ask, “The demon in the shadows has revealed itself. We're not safe here.”



    The citadel had changed once we'd left the theatre, but somehow we still knew where to go. It seemed that while Joseph hadn't told anyone of his voice's guidance, Gideon had been muttering about it during the show. Val and the twins having overheard it, were now guiding us to him. If any of this is sounding a bit suspicious, that's precisely what I was thinking.


    “What is it, Mishka?”

    “Uh... nothing. I hope we find them soon.”

    As she smiled, I held back to allow her to move ahead. She was focused on the mission at hand, the same thing I should have been concentrating on, but I couldn't be sure we were even going in the right direction to start. This voice had to be Via Infinito's doing and yet we were using it to escape from it. There was a flaw in that plan, wasn't there?

    “You feel it, too, don't you? We're going the wrong way.” Paine suddenly whispered to me, placing her hand on my shoulder to pull closer.

    “Well, it certainly is looking like the right way, isn't it?”

    “Wrong ways always do.” She responded, “Eyes open at all times.”

    Val used two of his bullets to clear some debris from the lower level of the citadel as we continued. Paine took this time to look at me again, her eyes asking for an opinion. This brought my attention to what had just occurred. Debris was cleared. Why was there debris? There hadn't been before. Had a battle occurred? If so, why had none of us heard it? Any battle that could cause structural damage to the building had to have been loud enough to rouse us from the show. I began surveying the damage to the area, which was enough of a signal to Paine that I knew what she'd been pointing out.

    The twins began hovering around a small room they felt was where Gideon said he'd be headed and Val confirmed this, pushing open the door. Once we were all inside, I saw him tied to a horrific contraption by wicked, twisted hooks, pulling his body taught as his head neared a set of razor-edged gears. There was little room to maneuver, but I had to try. Pushing between the large gear Gideon was bound to, I unsheathed Blurry Moon and began moving the hooked end towards the two sharpened gears.

    The action caused me to brush up against Gideon, waking him and, when he saw my blade hanging over his head, promptly said, “Don't!”

    Of course, that was what I thought had alarmed him and so ignored it. However, he had been trying to warn me of the failsafe. Once Blurry Moon's hook tapped one of the gears, the whole mechanism shuddered, the gears I had had to squeeze between to get close to Gideon spun to life, their razor edges cutting into my back as they caused the large gear Gideon was on to click forward once, drawing his skull closer to the two gears I'd been trying to damage. At the same time, the ones that had cut me had also pulled me down to leave me in a larger space, though it only allowed a safe route away from Gideon and not one towards helping to free him.

    “The gears move each time someone struggles against them. I tried struggling out of these binds before and it's gotten me this close to those two up there.” Gideon informed us as I crawled back to the others.

    “Then maybe some magic can...”

    “No, I was told they work the same no matter what.”

    “You were told?” Nooj asked of him.

    “Yea, I saw our attacker. It took Joseph and sort of told me how this thing works. Still, I was so focused on trying to get out to help Joseph that I'm really close to out of options.”

    “Tell us how it works. We'll find a way to free you.” Nikki commanded.

    “If I got it right, you don't have time to get me out. Joseph's tied to one of these things, too, and my gears are linked to his. Just now when they moved, they moved his, too. I just hope he's alright. You guys have to find him.”

    “Where is he?”

    “I know.” Kyra suddenly said, surprising everyone.

    “Hold on a tick!” Nikki growled, “We're not finding Joseph until we free Gideon.”

    “If we find Joseph, maybe we can find their attacker and have him release them.”

    “Or we’ll be leaving Gideon to die. We’re not leaving until...”

    “Sorry, you don't have time to argue.” With that said, Gideon shook against the hooks binding him, signaling the gears to click once more, sending his skull into the razors.

    “Gideon!” Val screamed, voicing the shock we all shared, but could not express ourselves.

    Once I shook this off, I turned to back to the mission at hand and said, “Alright, now if we find their attacker, we may be able to get him to release Joseph. Kyra?”

    “U-uh, right. Okay...” She stammered, finding difficulty in switching gears, so to speak.

    “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Nikki shouted at me, lifting me by my collar..

    Kyra moved in to stop her, saying, “Nikki, she's right. We should have gone to find Joseph like he wanted. Now, we're too late to save him. Let's not be late saving Joseph.”

    “Are you fucking joking? Gideon was alive!” Nikki screamed, “How do you even know where...”

    “I'm hearing him.” Kyra explained, “He's warning me not to find him, but I can tell where he is.”

    “Warning you?” Cyan asked.

    “He keeps whispering to me not to find him.”

    Suffice it to say, this was unsettling me. Paine had been giving me a worried look during Kyra's explanation. However, something else was amiss and it wasn't as simple as these instances and the appearance of voices. There was more going on. We were being distracted.

    “Take us to him, Kyra.”



    As we exited the room, I made note of a few other oddities and kept my eyes on anything I thought could be the culprit. I was also watching for possible signs, which was rekindling that paranoid side I'd attacked Gippal with earlier. Unlike what he had advised before, I felt a paranoid me was better than remaining in the dark and following along in hope of finding the answer that way. Via Infinito was a place that thrived on negative emotions and it had been manipulating the lot of us through our confusion and fear.

    As we moved through the citadel, a few of us noticed that, just as Gideon had said, there were gears leading from his room and through the walls and ceiling, which had become visible due to the damage the citadel suffered by unknown circumstances. Some guessed that it was Gideon and Joseph's struggles against their captor, but that still didn't explain why we hadn't been able to hear the battle in the first place. Furthermore, I began tracing the mechanism, which seemed to extend to every part of the building. Though none of the others made any more of this, in my mind, I wondered if the whole of the citadel wasn't simply a singular device designed to be a deathtrap for us. It stood to reason that if Via Infinito was pulling us back inside, it could only mean it wanted those with knowledge of its existence and purpose eliminated to protect its activities from notice.

    We climbed a short flight of stairs to an open hallway, Kyra leading the way. She turned into an alcove in the middle of the hall where two pillars stood. This alcove opened into a large reception room with a high ceiling. At the far end, Kyra led us into yet another room. I would be the last to enter, thanks to my wariness of the citadel and its machinations. Nooj and Baralai, who were the last to not hear any voices, would be my only company apart from Val who had taken the time to look back at us, waving us to catch up. My eyes gazed one last time at the high ceiling, coated in shadow, before moving on. The room started with another short hallway and a second door that would lead to the actual room.

    You don't want to see.” Joseph's voice warned as I entered the room.

    At first, I turned my attention to the door frame, wondering if what I had heard was real. Could that have been the voice Kyra heard? Was this when these voices would start affecting me, as well? However, when I turned back to the room, I realised that Joseph's voice was something else entirely. There, harnessed in the same manner as Gideon had been, was Joseph's body. We were still too late. As with Gideon, Joseph's head was bound for two razor-edged gears. They had rendered most of his form a still-dripping pool of blood and crumbled bone. The gear system he had been bound to was a primary system that moved if struggled against like Gideon's, but was also connected to a secondary system, which was motivated by Gideon's own struggles. It was why the assailant had warned him against trying to free himself. Kyra had fallen to her knees, uttering bits of jumbled words in between sobs about deathseeking and what Joseph had also been whispering to her. Nikki was comforting her, though it was easily seen how mortified she was of the fate that seemed inevitable for us all. Likewise, I found my way to Cyan, who couldn't bear to look at Joseph's remains. She had taken to quietly choking back her tears in the distant corner of the room. Once I reached her, she would turn to me and ask me why she had to fail.

    “You didn't.” I simply said.

    “Don't try to make me feel better, Mishka! They both died because of me. I did this.”

    “Don't be absurd. Via Infinito did this. Via Infinito's been doing this to us since the day we started our search for Rikku.” I retorted, taking her by the shoulders.

    “Let me go!”

    “Cut that out!” Gippal shouted, walking towards the door to ask, “Where are Nooj, Baralai, and Valvaris?”

    Moments after he stepped out of the room and back into the reception hall, he stopped and felt his forehead. From what I could see he seemed to look at whatever he had felt on his head then turn his attention upward and stop. Once we were all out of the room, I turned to him when I heard Cyan gasp and moved to her. As with Gippal, she had her eyes turned to the ceiling. I hesitated to follow their gaze, but knew I'd have to eventually. Above us, slowly dripping blood from their dangling feet, the three of their bodies hung, each of them impaled upon the same hooks that had held Joseph and Gideon.

    But how? They had entered the room with us. I had been the last one to do so. If the assailant had taken them, why didn't it attack me?”I thought to myself, my hand gripping tightly to Blurry Moon's hilt.

    “Mishka, watch out!”

    I immediately unleashed Blurry Moon, turning to where I felt the attack's origin, and deflected... an arrow? In the distance, Nikki was poised with her bow as was Kyra with her sabre.

    “Have you both gone mad?! What do you think you're doing?!”

    “You're one to talk.” Nikki seethed, arming another arrow.

    “What are you on about?”

    “Look at them! Tell me what the fuck I'm on about!”

    “They're dead. The same one that attacked Gideon and Joseph...”

    “Don't you dare.” She hissed.

    Kyra was calmer and explained for her, though her eyes also swelled with rage, “They weren't killed by those hooks, Mishka. They were killed by arrows.”

    “That puts Nikki in more suspicion, doesn't it? If you hadn't noticed, I only use Blurry Moon.”

    My remark only angered her as she pointed to the bodies and spat, “Look at those arrows. They didn't come from Nikki's quiver, Mishka. What have you done?”

    I was confused, but turned my attention back to them. Upon closer inspection, I did finally see the arrows. They were small, not sized for a regular bow. However... I lifted the flap of the pouch on my leg that held my remaining crossbow bolts. I hadn't even considered them since Auron destroyed my crossbow, but as I counted, at least three of them had gone missing.

    “Getting it now, are we?” Nikki hissed.

    “How could you?”

    “... But I didn't...”

    “You murdered them, slayer. Now, it's on us to bring them justice.”

    “Wait!” Cyan screamed, running between us.

    “Cyan, you know what she's done!”

    “That can't be right! Mishka would never kill them and she was with us. She can't be the assailant.”

    “Or do you just not want to believe it? Think about it? Ever since she went down to Via Infinito on her own, there’s been something off about her. I’m willing to suggest the real Mishka never came back.”

    “What are you saying?” I growled, my own anger starting to show.

    “What was it you said when Cyan saved you? The silent voices? Tossing and turning in your sleep?”

    “Just nightmares.”

    “Or maybe it was Via Infinito talking to you this entire time.”

    Gippal, who'd been silent during this episode, finally walked in front of me, “We can't be sure of anything right now so just cool it. We can't fight each other and Via Infinito.”

    I had known all along this strange series of cloisters that had lured Cyan were only targeting her. I hadn't shared any specific details of my time in Via Infinito with anyone, not even Cyan. I had spoken of the “silent voices” to each of them, but nothing in regards to the nightmares I had had afterwards. I hadn't confided in anyone since that day. None of them were real. They were just constructs of Via Infinito. However, that still didn't enlighten me on their purpose. In my mind, the only way to know that was to complete Cyan's mission.

    Without hesitation, I took my blade to Gippal, slicing cleanly through his neck. As he fell and I calculated Nikki and Kyra's reaction time, I moved with the body, ducking in time with it before it hit the ground. At the very last second, I shifted, pushing with everything my legs would allow in the opposite direction. Having taken hold of two bolts, I flung them at their knees as I fell, the electricity pulsing through them disabling the two from launching their attacks. Without a moment to lose, I pushed back to my feet and sped to them, seeing the horrified look in Cyan's eyes as I passed. Until Kyra and Nikki were dead, I wouldn't have the time to explain the situation to her, but it pained me to see her so distraught.

    “Now I can be sure. Slayer.” Nikki grumbled, her eyes poisoning me with a glare I wouldn't soon forget..

    I found myself staying my hand as my mind screamed. I knew she wasn't real. I knew if I didn't kill her and Kyra that we'd die down here. However, I was finding that as I screamed at myself, so were others. My mind erupted in a flurry of commands of every emotion. One cackled with glee, deliriously content over the deaths it, too, believed I caused. Another was menacing, demanding more blood be spilled to sate it. There was a voice of sadness, of fear, of hatred, and others, too many to count. Shaking my head, I forced them into silence, taking hold of my sword.

    “If I have to, I will be a Slayer.” Then, I plunged the blade down upon her, ending that hideous look in her eyes.

    Moving then to Kyra, I deflected her sword as it came at me. She had hoped to take advantage of my slow kill on Nikki and roared forward when that failed, tackling me to the ground with seemingly renewed strength. Taking a few heavy strikes to the temples, my vision blurred as Kyra seized control in the fight. However, my arrow was still embedded in her knee, which was brushing against my side. Blindly, I reached for it and wrenched it to the side, causing her enough pain to get her off. As I rolled to recover, I found her bounding for me again, having taken hold of my sword. Now forced off one leg, I knew she didn't have the balance to fight effectively and simply let her lunge at me. She'd seen my usage of the hook-tipped blade and tried to catch me on it, but her movement was slow and awkward, which allowed me to catch her arms and pull the sword from her. My proximity allowed me to kiss her forehead, a naïve gesture in apology for what was to follow. Moving through the twisting motion I used to reclaim my weapon, I launched it in a horizontal slice, taking most of the girl's head, warm blood spraying from her ruptured vessels.

    I stared at myself, coated with the lives of my friends, and forced myself to face Cyan, “C-cyan...”

    I would find her whimpering on the floor nearby and rushed to her side, though I knew my blood soaked form would more than likely increase her distress. However, to my surprise, a tearful Cyan only shouted that the voices had been shrieking feverishly since I started the battle. She took hold of both my hands, squeezing them until they hurt, but I didn't stop her. Instead, I moved closer and nuzzled her, hoping it was what she needed. I pressed closer the harder she clutched my hands. In the end, I found myself so close to her that I could feel her pulse beating against my skin and, luckily, it was slowing. Finally, I realised her continuing grasp of my hands were brought on by her own fear and that the voices had most likely stopped screaming.

    “Cyan...” I cooed, pulling away to press my forehead to hers, “Listen to my voice now.”

    “You killed them. Mishka, you were the traitor.”

    “Do you really believe that?”

    “I'm not sure I can trust what I believe right now.”

    “Good. Then, trust in me. Listen to my voice.”

    She paused briefly, but in the end nodded, “Okay.”

    “Now, find whatever it is that's been talking to you.”

    “What do you intend to do?”

    I sent her a confused look, “I intend to free us from this dungeon. What else could my intention be?”

    She shook her head and smiled, standing up and pointing to the way back out into the balcony. She would lead us back to the two pillars and reveal a hidden staircase that replaced the alcove. We walked to the top, which only led to another narrower flight of stairs, and to yet another narrower flight of stairs.

    “We have to reach the top. That's where the voice has been telling me to go.”

    “Who is it, Cyan? How has it gotten you to follow it this far?”

    “Well, you're the one that's got me following it now.” She joked, but upon seeing my concern, would add that, “I feel something familiar when I hear it. I feel as if it needs me.”

    That was more than I needed to know it had to be Via Infinito's work. It had fooled Cyan into following it by manipulating her best characteristics just as it had done to me with my worst ones. Once we were at the top of the citadel, we found a large door that opened for us, leading to a well-adorned chambers, every inch decorated except for a square area at the center, which was completely empty but for a small wooden chair.

    “Let me chance a guess. There in the middle of all the white? That's where your voice is coming from?”

    She nodded, “Sitting in the chair.”

    “You can see it?!”

    I would get nothing more from her. Cyan slowly walked to the area as if in a trance. Seeing as she'd been taken by Via Infinito's vice, I marched forth and stabbed the chair. As soon as I did, blood flooded out and began climbing up the length of my blade as a deafening wail of pain and horror exploded from it. The sound was too intense. Dropping my sword, I fell to my knees, trying my best to block out the sound, but to no avail. Suddenly, I found Cyan tugging at me and looked to her. She'd been hearing the sound, too, but she was seeing something I wasn't and was using me to help her get close enough to the vacant area, now pooling with blood. As I looked on, she crawled over the blood, inching her way closer while trying to resist the intense shrieking. At last, when she was upon the chair, she reached out for something and began to pull. As whatever it was she had taken hold of came loose, the screams only grew louder, but finally she would retrieve what she had been pulling and they stopped. Taking a sigh of relief, I fell and rested awhile on my side, not even caring that the ground was still warm and damp with crimson. Focusing weary eyes on where Cyan had been, I would find her shivering as she stared at the thing she'd freed from the chair. From where I lay, I couldn't see it, but I hadn't the strength to stand let alone get to her to see it. Instead, I settled for asking her about it in as enthusiastic a voice as I could. She didn't respond. Taking a breath, I asked her again, trying to be louder, though I could hardly tell at this point. Still, she didn't respond and rather than shivering, she began rocking. I made attempts to push myself back up, but still couldn't so I asked her again. This time, she slowly turned to face me, a worried look in her eyes as she brought the item to me. Once she was near, I was able to discern that she had pulled a sword from the chair, a beautiful one with a strong edge and a flawless design. It also bore an inscription, possibly a name.

    I pointed at it, “Do you know what it says?”

    She nodded, “Velkomme Schwert.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “It's the Herald’s Sword.”

    “Herald? Herald to what?”

    As I said these words, the walls melted, giving way to a smooth landscape and distant trees. The wet floor I'd been laying on became dirt and grass and we were then bathed in light. As it filled me with warmth, I found my injuries disappearing and sat up to gaze at Cyan's worried eyes, moving to hug her close. She let go of the new weapon she'd obtained, leaving it to clatter against mine. The nightmare was over.

  8. #38
    Nikki didn’t know how much sleep she got, but she knew she hadn’t had much sleep by the time morning came and the sunlight streamed through the cracks in the curtains, as Nikki sat up on the sofa it took her a moment to work out where she was. The morning certainly didn’t improve her outlook from last night, all she kept seeing was Kyra’s and Joseph’s lips interlocked. She drew her legs up to chest trying to comfort herself, and stared into the corner of the room letting the thoughts whirl round, about the lies that were told to Nikki and how she should prepare herself when going back in.

    I knew I would get hurt, this is what happens when I let people in, well I’m not letting that happen again.”

    Suddenly Nikki shielded her eyes as the curtains were opened and the dog moved as Raine sat next to her handing her a mug.

    “Tea?” Raine was smiling warmly at her and Nikki gratefully took it nodding her thanks. Nikki was also grateful that Raine wasn’t asking anymore questions as they both sat there sipping their tea in silence. Raine then took their cups and put a reassuring hand on Nikki’s shoulder as she got up.“I’m going to pop out, just don’t do anything... Well just don’t do anything stay right here okay, I’ll be back soon.” Nikki looked up to see Raine worriedly looking at her.

    “Okay.” Said Nikki she then returned to staring at the space in the wall letting her feelings roll through and generally just making her feel even shittier. She heard Raine whistle for the dog and heard then both leave the house with the shut of the door.

    Nikki was regretting ever letting her feelings develop like she did, the hurt wasn’t worth it, she should have hidden herself away under her guise that she had created. It was so much easier that way she would only even need to talk to people if she had a true purpose, all other things didn’t matter. She told herself this but a small part of her told her that she had not been happier to fall behind that, she only told that part of herself to look at the facts and that the result of that was that she had been hurt.

    Sometime later she heard footsteps come down the stairs. “You know I would rather that you had punched someone and get it out of you.” Said Rhyse, Nikki didn’t turn to him nor did she answer him but at the sound of voices outside, Nikki heard Rhyse go outside the door and close it behind him. She heard mumblings and then “OY! Get off!” then the voices went quieter again, one of the voices Nikki knew belonged to Kyra.

    So she did bring her here.” She thought she didn’t know whether to go now out of the back door before she did anything or keep her promise to stay where she was, she decided that not running away was better at least she3 should hear her at least say that she was now with Joseph just so it was clear in her mind at least if it wasn’t already.

    When the voices stopped and after a moment of silence she heard the door quietly open. Nikki didn’t look up and instead decided to just stare at the same spot with her legs to her chest.


    "Say what you need to say and then get out." She said unemotionally. Nikki heard the sound of leather slipping off her feet and felt the sofa move as she sat next to her. There was a moment of tense silence Just say it already,” thought Nikki.Say that you are with him and leave me alone.” Then Kyra finally spoke.

    "Hun, I'm sorry. I made a stupid mistake. I didn't even know what was going on when it happened. All the confusion caught up with me and I couldn't move. But I want you to hear this before I go. I love you Nikki. More than anyone on Spira. Joseph doesn't even compare to how you make me feel." That made Nikki stop in her thoughts her heart leapt a bit but she refused to believe this because she remembered if it were true that she would have pushed Joseph away and she didn’t.

    "But... you didn't even push him away..." She refused to let herself cry over this, she would be stronger than this and in the end come out better for it.

    "I was just so confused. He caught me off guard. Before I had a chance to think, it was over. I'm so sorry." Nikki thought this over. Was she telling the truth? Or was she making excuses? Nikki tried, she tried to see her side but she just couldn’t she was too upset and angry that the words just came out.

    "How the hell can you get surprised?” she said, she had enough of this and enough of the excuses she then got up ending this conversation, she was about to leave she but her arm was then grabbed and as she turned around she was about to yell at her, but instead she found that she lips had been captured by Kyra’s. Nikki felt Kyra’s hands an her shoulders and for a moment Nikki stood there frozen and confused. She was confused because she had been so certain that it had been clear cut but here was Kyra showing her it was possible to be caught surprised. Her anger was quickly melting away as Kyra’s soft lips tempted her to kiss her back. I can’t lose her because of my stubbornness” she thought and slowly Nikki closed her eyes and kissed Kyra back with all the love that she could muster within herself. She felt Kyra’s hands lower so they were on Nikki’s arms, she loved how Kyra’s touch made her feel, she then sat back down on the sofa and pulled Kyra onto her lap as they kissed, it felt much more comfortable this way. She slowly ran her hands through Kyra’s hair as she kissed her, she liked the feel of her hair between her fingers she just couldn’t believe how much of an idiot she had been. Lustful intentions such as taking Kyra to bed came into her mind but she pushed them away she wasn’t scared of them now but she really liked taking things slow and was enjoying it and reminded herself of that so that her mind settled down.

    After a while they broke apart and with their faces still so close and with Kyra still on her lap she asked. “Satisfied?”

    “I'm really sorry. I just thought that you were in love with Joseph, when I saw you didn't push him away... I just can't believe I've been such an idiot.” She said while stroking Kyra’s hair she then embraced her in a hug.

    “I'm the idiot here. You did nothing wrong. I shouldn't have let him kiss me in the first place I don't even know how it happened....” Nikki pulled away and looked into Kyra’s beautiful blue eyes.

    “It doesn't matter.” Nikki kissed Kyra’s cheek. “Oh, have you had breakfast?”

    “No, not yet”

    “Me neither, let’s go get some breakfast.” Nikki smiled.

    The trip to the cafe was uneventful but at least Nikki wasn’t feeling stressed anymore and was fairly happy with herself that was until she saw the queue in the cafe when she got to the door. She groaned.

    “You are not the most patient person are you.” Teased Kyra with a playfulness in her voice.

    “I hate the noise that comes with a queue.” They then both went inside joined the queue.

    It looked long, and as Nikki predicted it was noisy. All she wanted was some peace and breakfast.Why the heck is there only one person at the till” she thought irritably, before she could think anymore on this though Kyra suddenly grabbed at her arm, Nikki turned to her.

    “We have to go.” She said with a pleading look in her eyes. Nikki looked over at the people sitting in the cafe but couldn’t work out what might have spooked her.

    “Alright then.” She said as they left swiftly. Nikki didn’t press to her what had spooked her but Kyra had definitely seen something or someone who she didn’t want to see.Rey...” realized Nikki as they walked. Kyra had though gotten closer to Nikki after that her arm was hooked around Nikki’s and their hands were clasped together.

    Soon they got back to Nikki’s street and Nikki let go of her hand as Kai suddenly came running past, Nikki only caught him shouting out “I must...” until he ran out of earshot down the street but he turned and ran back up the street again. He seemed to be running in a loop. As Nikki got nearer to Kyley’s house she heard a young girl shout out.

    “I can’t hear you Kai, louder!”

    “This is stupid!” he whined.

    “I said louder!”

    “I must not insult anyone in public!”shouted out Kai repeating himself as he continued running.

    “Hello Melai.” Said Nikki as she approached Kyley’s garden with Kyra. The 14 years old Albehd turned around at the sound of Nikki’s voice and gave a warm smile, with her long blonde hair and green swirling eyes. She was in her Blitzball uniform which consisted of a simple purple top black shorts and purple shoes. Melai was holding a clip board and her hair were tied into a high pony tail.

    “Hello Nikki.”

    “What’s going on?” Asked Kyra as they came into the garden. Nikki watched as Melai turned and saw a sense of recognition appear on her face.

    “Oh, you’re Kyra aren’t you? My name is Melai I am the captain of the Bevelle Stars, Kai is being punished for insulting you. He’s going to be put on the bench for the next three matches.”

    “Thanks. I appreciate your efforts, but is that necessary? I wouldn't want your team to lose over this.” Melai just smiled.

    “As a team we shouldn't be relying on one person anyway to win, we have many other that can take his place. Besides I have players that can be more consistent than Kai with their shots, Kai can be amazing when he's on the ball but if he misses by the inch he loses concentration.” She said with her hand on her hip.

    "Right, Thanks Melai."

    “That's okay, besides he's also been punished for disobeying me when I first came over.”

    "Oh?" Melai sighs, Nikki knew that Kai would have made a fuss and looked up when she heard the sound of feet landing on the grass. Suki had jumped down from the tree in the garden, she then walked over to them.

    “Melai is a new captain, the last one retired due to turning sixteen and had to move on.” Said Suki. It seemed that Suki had been listening in on the conversation, Nikki knew the boy that they were talking about he had seemed to be quite a good captain she knew the team had won quite a few matches and that he had been a fair captain. That fact alone put quite a lot of pressure onto Melai to do well.

    “It seems I haven't got the respect of the other guys yet in the team it's probably why Kai disobeyed he didn't believe I would go through with the punishments.” Added Melai.

    "Ah. Typical teenage boy." Replied Kyra. Nikki turned to Suki.

    “What were you doing in the tree?”

    “Ah well... I was trying to get Xiang to open up but she hasn't said a word, But at least she's outside that has to count for something right?” she said as she took off her green hat to scratch her head her robed had become a little ruffled from climbing the tree. Nikki looked up into the tree the girl’s crimsons eyes were glaring straight at Kyra, and she still had the black uniform from the gang on. Nikki focused her attention back on Suki.

    “Keep on trying, she'll talk eventually, just give her time.”

    As Kai came running past shouting out “I must not insult anyone in public!” Nikki went out of the gate and grabbed him by his shirt.

    “Apologise.” Said Nikki as she dragged him into the garden in front of Kyra.

    “Ow, okay, you didn’t need to be so rough” Nikki just glared at him.

    Little twerp.”

    “Look Kyra about yesterday, I am sorry about calling you a whore really. I was out of line.”

    "Yes you were. However, before I forgive you, I would like to know why I was called a whore, and why I should forgive you. "

    “I'm not aiming to be forgiven, I don't expect to be forgiven you are not a friend of mine and I hardly know you, but still that's not an excuse for what I have done.” It was rare sight to see Kai being mature, but when he was he could be quite a smart kid, Nikki was glad he wasn’t handling this like a joke.

    "So why did you call someone you hardly know a whore?" Kyra crosses her arms.

    "Because I found out something terrible and took it out on you, after I heard from the girls about what Sanika said about you, and I am sorry about that but that’s all I can give.”

    "Shouldn't you know not to believe a word Sanika says? I do love Nikki and confessed it to her myself. If you have any doubt about it, ask me myself. Don't go off declaring I'm a whore in front of a crowd" Kyra uncrosses her arms.

    “Right” said Kai Nikki saw that he was indeed sorry for what he did but she still wanted to know where he had gone last night.

    “And last night?”

    “Last night both Suki and Kai were brought home by Cyan and Mishka, they were found in a tricky spot with the gang.” Said Lillia walking over to them, she must have only caught the last part of the conversation; she waved to Melai in a silent greeting as she talked.

    What, why would they, and why would Suki follow Kai?” thought Nikki Lillia had her arms crossed in a motherly fashion, she was only sixteen but being the oldest of the orphans at the temple she acted like a mother figure to them.

    “I'm so sorry Nikki they said we were going to get my sister and I... and I...” Tears then slide down Suki’s cheeks as she cries, Suki had not seen her sister for years and probably seeing her at the temple had really shook her up. Lillia wrapped her arms around her to comfort her. Nikki goes over and bends down the smaller girl’s level.

    “It's okay I know how much you miss your sister but going on your own is not the way to do it.” Suki merely nods. Nikki hears another set of feet land on the ground and looks up to see Xiang striding over to Kai and pushing past Kyra as if she wasn’t even there.
    “Err...hi?” said Kai as he took a few steps backwards. Xiang gives a firm slap across his face, the sound echoes in the quiet neighborhood and Nikki saw Suki about to intervene until she stopped her by shaking her head at her.

    “You had no right I didn't ask you to go after them.” She then storms away back into the house by slamming the door.

    “Err...” said Melai, she looked completely confused on the whole situation. Melai wasn’t involved after all Nikki felt a little sympathy for her for witnessing that.

    “Well at least she talked.” Said Lillia breaking the silence.

    “Kai?” questioned Melai, he turns to her.


    “You haven’t finished running” she pointed out, Kai then moans and goes back to running up and down the street while shouting out the same sentence.

    Nikki and Kyra then walk to her house next door, while saying goodbye.

    "Were you like her when you left?" asked Kyra as they approached the door, they were still holding hands but Nikki felt much more comfortable now with being this close.

    “I left under different circumstances, I ran away with Lillia, she didn't see much due to me taking her away as soon as she arrived. Xiang on the other hand was rescued she hasn't fully excepted everything yet. So yes I was like her but much worse because of the realisation of what they had done to me. Xiang has yet to realise that.” Nikki did remember the aftermath of everything quite clearly, her breaking things in frustration, her yelling at everyone, but everyone had been so patient with her, she owed them a great debt it was why she never moved away from Bevelle.

    "Ah. I see."

    “And I haven't fully told you everything about it, but that's only because I need time.” She had yet to tell Kyra about the scars they had left on her for disobedience; scars that she knew had been inflicted but couldn’t remember the act of the torture done to her.

    "Take all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere." There was a pause and then she continued. "Just promise me something..."

    “What is it?” asked Nikki she saw that Kyra’s beautiful blue eyes held some worry in them.

    "Don't go back." She said in a quiet voice. “Unless it is to fight them and bring them down as a team.” Nikki moves towards her and simply just wraps her arms around her in a hug, she then moves her head to whisper in her ear to comfort her, to let her know that would never happen.

    “I would never do that I made a decision a long time ago to not go back" she then moves her head so her lips are gently placed on Kyra’s. As she pulls away with her eyes closed she whispers naturally without realizing that the words had come out. “This is why I love you.”

    “I love you too.” Said Kyra before pulling her into another kiss, the kiss was so soft and tender that Nikki knew that she could definitely be happy with this.

    A little while later as Nikki opens the door and leads Kyra in. and goes into the kitchen she sees Joseph her fist clenches and her anger rises at what he did as he turns around and starts to talk.

    “Ah Nikki-“ she interrupts him with an abrupt punch to the face. Her anger then calms very quickly.

    “Nikki!” exclaimed Kyra.

    “Feel better now?”

    “Much.” Said Nikki as she took some fruit and headed into the lounge.

    In the lounge Nikki overhears the twins telling everyone in the room the events of last night, as she enters the room she sees Mishka turn to look at her. Mishka suddenly smiles, but for some reason that smile made Nikki feel uneasy.Don’t you fucking dare.” she thinks. Mishka then charges at her.

    “NIKKI!” Mishka hugs Nikki very tightly.

    “GET OFF!” Nikki saw Kyra trying to suppress her giggles.

    “But drunk you sound so cute!” Nikki then saw Cyan come up behind Mishka.

    “Alright that’s enough, we don‘t want Nikki to kill you now.” Said Cyan as she dragged Mishka off her. Nikki then noticed that Cyan had obtained a new weapon. The blade was of an unusual design, it curved into a thinner shape near the hilt; small gold flames decorated the half of the blade near the hilt. A gold spiral wrapped around the black hilt with a gold flame coming out from the bottom, it was as if the hilt was acting like a candle. Near the blade on the hilt was another golden fire design poking out at all sides with a red jewel in the middle.

    Near heard the front door open and a cheery ”Hello!” was called, Nikki turned around to see Mayu with her black hair tied up into a side ponytail and her brown eyes having excitement in them as she dragged in a suitcase. Behind her were Paine, the Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus. “I bumped into these guys as I was heading here” said Mayu motioning with her head to the people behind her as she dropped the suitcase in the middle of the room. “Nikki your house is a pain to find, do you know how many twists and curves this city has?” She smoothed out her red crop top and shorts as she talked.

    “Sorry for the intrusion but we thought it was important to talk about the Via Infinito together.” Said the Lady Yuna. Nikki turned to her.

    “Not at all.”

    “What’s in the case?” asked Kyra.

    “Oh this?” Mayu gave the case a nudge with her foot. “This case has all the information that Joseph asked for, including data on the gang, and Sanika’s power.”

    “Does it include the location of the man that Sanika calls “father”?”

    “No unfortunately it’s not that easy. The gang were used by the temple for years to get rid of people they didn’t want around.” Said Mayu as she unzipped the case.

    “Another one of Yevon’s secrets then?” asked Paine. Mayu nodded her head as she pulled out a map of Bevelle and laid it on the large table behind her.

    “The gang have about fifty confirmed separate units around Bevelle. All are given one of four tasks to focus on; to get new recruits by any means necessary, to collect money, to get new contracts, or to train new recruits.” Nikki felt Kyra clasp her hand for support this was going to be a hard subject for Nikki to listen to.

    “New contracts?” questioned the Lady Yuna.

    “She means to offer people a loan that is too good to be true and then to rob them of everything they have when they can’t pay back the high interest rates.” Said Nikki bowing her head she wasn’t proud of her time in the gang and it was irritating that it was still fuzzy for her.

    “Don’t worry though Lady Yuna, ever since the eternal calm came people are fighting back, their hold over Bevelle has weakened since, we can confirm that since the eternal calm 10 units have been wiped out, we’ve rescued young girls and boys from being recruited. “ Mayu began circling on the map in a blue pen the locations of where these units were when they got infiltrated. She then got out a red pen and began circling more locations. “These in red are just some of the locations they have used.” She then got out a black marker and circled around half the map that is the downtown area. “However I haven’t circled anything here because of Sanika, we can’t get near here because of her magic it has a very wide radius most of our efforts can only be done in this half although we are pretty sure that Sanika’s magic can still reach us it is much weaker and she doesn’t tend to notice what is going on as much in this half. It’s why all our operations are done at night.

    “So how do they get recruits, who would want to join them?” asked Val.

    “By three ways either some want to join for the money and power, or children are taken in payment or they take orphans by leading them astray.”

    “But aren’t the orphans protected by the temple?” asked Paine.

    “They offer to grant you a wish, something you can’t do on your own, that’s how they get them.” Answered Nikki before Mayu could reply Kyra squeezed Nikki’s hand in support. Mayu gave a sympathetic look towards Nikki before continuing on she pulled out some photos from the suitcase.

    “This is the man known as “father” he’s actually called Katashi, he’s approximately 47 years old, his location is unknown mostly because he’s protected by Sanika. His background is that he was born into a wealthy family in Bevelle, he served the Maestors who stayed in Bevelled as well as Maestor Mika the whole gang is formed on the warped teachings of Yevon,” Nikki did remember talking about how much religious practice there was within the gang as she look at his picture, it was kinda blurred but you could see at least the man had dark skin, who had taken this picture had done so from far away. “Unfortunately we don’t have anything clearer to show you” said Mayu as she put more pictures on the table.” She picks up another picture and shows everyone. This is who Sanika calls “Uncle” he is Katashi’s younger brother and has the primary task of keeping Sanika in check. He’s called Daiki.” Nikki could see this was a much clearer picture Daiki also had dark skin but his face was unmasked with long black hair in a high ponytail and blue eyes.

    “And what about Sanika?” asked Paine.

    “Sanika is actually the person we have the most information about. She had pretty normal parents but was orphaned at the age of four, due to Sin killing her parents she was then taken into the care of the temple and then later Kyley next door looked after her. At the age of eight she was taken by the gang and so her morals of right and wrong have been warped since she was young. Since then her magic has been growing and with her around we still have hardly any chance of getting near the gang.”Nikki already knew most of this there were old photos next door of a young Sanika that she had seen with a young Hayleigh playing together.

    “So wait I’m a little confused then, what does this have to do with Nikki?” asked Val, Nikki knew that the question would come up sooner or later Sanika’s large interest in Nikki would have set off questions in their head. Mayu looked from Val to Nikki and sighed.

    “Well I did read the reports but would you rather tell them?” Nikki just nodded grateful to Mayu.

    “I was in the gang for two years from the age of twelve to fourteen, I was by Sanika’s side much like Rika is now, Sanika treated me like a younger sister, I did a lot of things that I was not proud of.” She said bowing her head. Kyra hugged her and just whispered.

    “It’s okay.” To her before letting go.

    “Oh...” said the twins in unison.

    “Well... That explains a lot.” Said Paine.

    “We monitor Sanika’s actions a lot, what you guys did was amazing you guys delayed her, made her question, and if she does question the morals that she has been taught then the gang falls apart.” Said Mayu.

    “So will we all be able to go back to the Via Infinito happily without the threat of Sanika?” asked Mishka.

    “Um... No not really.”

    “I didn’t think it was going to be that easy.”

    “You’ve delayed her but she will come back, the reports state that she is already been talked to and is being convinced that the things she was told were a lie.”

    “And we’ve still got Sir Auron , Niikki’s clone and the little girl in the Via Infinito waiting for us.” Said Paine stepping forward to the group.

    “Maybe we should set up a Comm link to Keema and then we can all talk about the Via Infinito back in the temple.” Suggested the Lady Yuna standing up from where she was sitting. Nikki nodded.

    “We’ll give you time to do that then see you guys in two hours back in the temple.” And with that she left with Kyra to get some air.


    The breaking of dawn woke me from my sleep. The events from the previous night still weighed on my mind. I decided to get up and go do something to take my mind off it. As I walked out of my room, I noticed the door to Nikki’s room open. A quick look showed that no one was inside. I continued my way out to find Kyra sleeping on the couch. The expression she had on her face seemed of slight panic and regret. Combined with the events last night, I felt some regret about what must have happened after I went to bed. I wanted to help Kyra but a part of me thought that this is something that both Nikki and Kyra needed to work out first, so I left Kyra sleeping and left the house.

    I walked out into Macalania Woods to a small, secluded clearing. With a small breath, I drew out my two katanas and began doing some sword practice with them. It has been a long time since I dual wielded swords and it showed. My movements seemed clumsy and stiff, not like when I only used one sword. However, I persisted and after a couple of hours the movements became smoother but still not like when I use only one sword. I sighed as I sheathed both swords and walked back to Bevelle.

    After a quick breakfast at a bakery, I headed down to the Sugata’s place to see the status of my armor. As expected, he was having difficulty with placing enchantments on it. Just as I was about to leave the workshop, he called out for me again.

    “Joseph, a person by the name Mayu was here earlier. She said to meet back at Nikki’s place because she has information regarding the person “Father”,” he said. With that, I went back to Nikki’s home for the meeting.

    As I walked in, I noticed that most of the group was already awake. Kyra was missing from the spot that she occupied just hours ago so I assume that she went to find Nikki. I went to the kitchen to make some tea. I had almost finished my tea when Nikki and Kyra walked in. I got up to apologize when I saw the fury and fire in Nikki’s eyes as she stormed at me. I clenched my jaw just as Nikki punched me as hard as she could.

    “Nikki!!” Kyra exclaimed. I held my balance and looked back at Nikki expecting another punch. Surprisingly, the fire in her eyes calmed.

    “Feel better now?” I asked as a little blood leaked out from the side of my mouth due to a cut inside my mouth.

    “Much,” Nikki replied, taking a fruit off the counter. I went to the bathroom to check the cut out. Seeing that it was nothing and that no teeth were knocked loose, I drank a potion and went back to the lounge. Mayu, Paine, Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus had walked into the house just as I exited the bathroom.

    “Sorry for the intrusion but we thought it was important to talk about the Via Infinito together.” Said the Lady Yuna.

    “Not at all.”

    “What’s in the case?” asked Kyra.

    “Oh, this?” Mayu gave the case a nudge with her foot. “This case has all the information that Joseph asked for, including data on the gang, and Sanika’s power.” That got me instantly curious about the information.

    “Does it include the location of the man that Sanika calls “Father”?” I asked cautiously.

    “No unfortunately it’s not that easy. The gang were used by the temple for years to get rid of people they didn’t want around,” said Mayu as she unzipped the case.

    “Another one of Yevon’s secrets then?” asked Paine. Mayu nodded her head as she pulled out a map of Bevelle and laid it on the large table behind her.

    I listened in to Mayu and Nikki while I read the file about Sanika. It was quite a lot to go through since there was so much on her. I also listened in on Nikki explaining the gangs dealings and her personal history with them. Eventually it was decided that we should meet at the temple in two hours to have a talk with Keema. I got up and stretched just as Gideon approached me.

    “Hey Joseph, mind if I ask a favor from you?” he asked.

    “Go ahead,” I replied.

    “I was hoping that you wouldn’t mind teaching me some of your swordsman skills specifically the Break spells.”

    “I don’t mind but why do you want to learn them? I’ve seen you fight enough to know that you’re doing fine with the skills you currently have.”

    “I feel that I’m just not doing enough as is. I’ve also noticed that you’re having a hard time keeping up with the demands to weaken the fiends. I figure it’ll help you as well,” he replied. I didn’t want to admit it but it was true, it was getting difficult to manage all of that in the Via Infinito especially since it’s getting harder as we go down.

    “Alright then,” I said, heading outside. Gideon followed me until we arrived at a dojo. This place is a branch of the main dojo so the owners and students know me. I walked to the backyard where some dummies were set up.

    “Here’s the deal with Break spells. They only provide the initial burst to penetrate the area you want. To fully weaken an opponent, it requires your own strength to complete it,” I explained. I tapped one of the dummies.

    “Now this dummy has an Auto Protect shield on it. Usually when you hit it,” I began, drawing my sword and stuck the dummy. A barrier stopped my strike before it hit the dummy. “This would happen.”

    “However, with an Armor Break spell,” I explained, my sword giving off a blue aura. I hit the barrier again, this time, the sword went in further but still stopped. “Notice that my katana has gone through but the spell is still up. In order to fully break the Protect spell, you’ll need to apply more strength till it breaks.” I finished, putting in strength until the Protect spell shattered.

    “Sounds complicated,” Gideon said, observing the exercise.

    “Not really, you just need to know how to do it correctly,” I said.

    The lesson went on two hour. During this time, Gideon learned the basics of the Armor Break spells and how to break the armor or Protect spell. I watched as Gideon tried against a dummy. He charged the Armor Break spell into his blade, which gave off a blue aura. He moved in to strike the dummy only to be blocked by the Protect spell. He struck the barrier and tried to push to break it his sword slowed down until it was partially sunk into the barrier but his sword rebound back.

    “Damnit. I thought I had it.”

    “Don’t worry about it. You’ve progressed further than most students do in such short time. I’m impressed you’ve made so much progress,” I replied, handing him a bottle of water.

    “Thanks. I’d practice more but it’s about time to go meet at the temple,” Gideon said, taking a drink of water.

    We walked out of the dojo and to the temple. It was not too far away and after a few minutes, we arrived at the temple. I noticed that both Kyra and Nikki were missing from the group. Lady Yuna walked up to us when she spotted up.

    “Have any of you seen Nikki or Kyra? They haven’t appeared yet,” she asked. I shook my head.

    “No we haven’t. We were doing some training. Nikki called for this meeting so it’s odd that she hasn’t shown up yet.”

    “If that’s the case, we should go look for them,” Val suggested. I agree with him but it would be hassle if she shows up and no one was around.

    “I’ll go look for them. It shouldn’t take me too long,” I said. Everyone else agreed and I left.

    The first place I looked was Nikki’s house, but no one was there and her neighbor Kyley confirmed that neither she nor Kyra have been home since the meeting two hours ago. I ran to the market area next, but again my search did not turn up either of them. I finally stopped at a park, thinking of my next area to search. Just then a scream ripped through the air.

    Wait! That sounds like Kyra!’ I thought and without a seconds hesitation, I ran towards the source of the scream. There I saw something unbelievable. Kyra was pinned to a tree by arrows which held her off the ground. Her shirt was dyed red from her blood. She seemed barely conscious at this point. I looked to see who did this to her and my blood boiled with rage.

    It was Nikki.

    I ran at Nikki as I drew my sword. She turned just as I reached her. I looked into her eyes to see something strange, her eye color was flashing from blue to purple and back again. I swung my sword as she blocked with her bow. The moment they contacted, I shifted my weight and kicked her hard in the stomach. This blow sent her almost ten feet across the pavement.

    I ran to check on Kyra. She was going in and out of conscious from the blood loss. I was about to begin pulling out the arrows when I heard a small shift behind me. I turned around while bringing my sword up. An arrow caught the blade, protecting me from harm. I saw the Nikki was up and drew an arrow from her quiver.

    “NIKKI!! IS THIS YOUR ANSWER?!?!? IS THIS WHAT YOU TRULY WANT?!?!?!?” I roared. She didn’t say anything as she fired another arrow. I deflected it with my blade. She began to fire more arrows in rapid succession at me. I deflected them with my blade. Nikki has me in a tough spot. It would be easier to evade the arrows but it would send them into Kyra so I had to stand my ground. Nikki began to fire double and triple arrows at me which forced me to draw my other sword to defend.

    “…… Joseph?” I heard Kyra say. I was shocked to see her regain consciousness. I couldn’t respond as I was busy deflecting arrows.

    “Stop…her…..She’s….not…..herself…..Something… .” I heard before she slipped back into unconsciousness. That made me think of her eye color flashing and suddenly it made sense. Something or someone has taken over her. Just then, I saw something off. Another arrow flew at me but it was covered in green flames. I swung at it and the moment my sword struck it, the area explodes. I caught the brunt of the blast and was thrown back. It was an Ultima spell but seems much more powerful. It hurts to move but I got my body to move and got back up. I ran to Kyra just as Nikki nocked an arrow. I managed to get my left arm in front of Kyra just as she fired. The arrow stuck my lower arm and went through the arm but got stuck there.

    I wasn’t in good shape. Aside from the arrow in my arm, I was also covered in scrapes and cuts. Blood from a cut on my forehead went into my right eye, blinding it. My right shoulder hurts from being sprained and my legs seem shaky. This was not looking good for us and I was basically praying for a miracle to occur.



    The walk to the cafe was albeit uneventful, but there was a feeling of content as the two walked. Kyra was throwing in comments here and there. She could tell that Nikki was happy. At least until she saw the line at the cafe. She heard an audible groan come from Nikki.

    “You are not the most patient person are you?” Kyra teased with a hint of playfulness in her voice.

    “I hate the noise that comes with a queue.” Nikki explained. Kyra gave a reassuring look before heading in to join the queue.

    Kyra found herself scanning the cafe for a place to sit. This place seemed busy and the fact that Nikki didn’t like crowds seemed to have slipped Kyra’s mind. She noticed a few albhed she had seen in the Via Infinito and nodded. She then noticed a face that looked all too familiar sitting by the window at the far end of the cafe. It was Rey.

    Shit” She thought as she grabbed Nikki’s arm. “We have to go.”

    “Alright then.” Nikki said. They left as swiftly as they could. Kyra was hoping not to make a scene. It was odd to Kyra that Nikki didn’t raise question, but she let out an inaudible thank you as they exited the cafe.

    It was a silent walk back to Nikki’s house. Not silent in Kyra’s head however. Thoughts of why he would be searching for her and how long it would be until they need to have a conversation were spiralling through her mind. Her thoughts halted when she heard Kai yelling out the same phrase over and over. “I must not insult anyone in public!”

    Too right.”

    “I can’t hear you Kai, louder!” Said a young female.

    “This is stupid!” he whined.

    “I said louder!”

    “I must not insult anyone in public!” Kai kept shouting as he continued running.

    “Hello Melai.” Nikki said as they approached Kyley’s garden. She turned to Nikki and smiled.

    “Hello Nikki.”

    “What’s going on?” Kyra asked.

    “Oh, you’re Kyra aren’t you? My name is Melai. I am the captain of the Bevelle Stars, Kai is being punished for insulting you. He’s going to be put on the bench for the next three matches.”

    “Thanks. I appreciate your efforts, but is that necessary? I wouldn't want your team to lose over this.”

    As these conversations took place, Kyra couldn’t help but feel she was being watched. She didn’t let it bother her though. Melai responded, “As a team we shouldn't be relying on one person anyway to win, we have many other that can take his place. Besides I have players that can be more consistent than Kai with their shots, Kai can be amazing when he's on the ball but if he misses by the inch he loses concentration.” She said with her hand on her hip. It made sense since she’s basically been told the same things about Kai, just in different situations.

    "Right, Thanks Melai."

    “That's okay, besides he's also being punished for disobeying me when I first came over.”

    "Oh?" She asked.

    Melai sighed.

    Suki came down from a tree and explained how Melai was new to the leadership position and how Kai would have been opposed to the change in team captain, as were the other boys. She was merely showing she could live up to the words she preached.

    "Ah. Typical teenage boy." Kyra added.

    The attention was switched over to Suki “What were you doing in the tree?” Nikki asked.

    She explained how she was trying to get Xiang to open up, but all Kyra could feel was a pair of eyes glaring at her. She looked up to see a pair of familiar looking crimson eyes. This must have been the girl from the gang Hayleigh mentioned back at the temple the day before. She was still in her black gang garb, but her head was uncovered showing her face. She was there when the team infiltrated the gang’s warehouse to save Nikki. Kyra remembered striking her down during the fight. Kyra’s attention was brought back to the present when Kai came around the corner shouting the same lines he was shouting before. Kyra shot a friendly smile up at the girl in the tree before turning her attention to the teenage boy who was being dragged over by Nikki.

    “Apologise.” she said harshly.

    “Ow, okay, you didn’t need to be so rough” He said fixing his shirt. “Look Kyra about yesterday, I am sorry about calling you a whore really. I was out of line.”

    "Yes you were. However, before I forgive you, I would like to know why I was called a whore, and why I should forgive you. "

    “I'm not aiming to be forgiven, I don't expect to be forgiven you are not a friend of mine and I hardly know you, but still that's not an excuse for what I have done.”

    "So, why did you call someone you hardly know a whore?" Kyra crosses her arms.

    "Because I found out something terrible and took it out on you, after I heard from the girls about what Sanika said about you, and I am sorry about that but that’s all I can give.”

    Kyra ignored the bit about not being able to say much more. She was more focused on the word Sanika. Just the name by itself was enough to make her blood boil. Were her lies really that believable? Kyra’s anger rose as she spoke, "Shouldn't you know not to believe a word Sanika says? I do love Nikki and confessed it to her myself. If you have any doubt about it, ask me myself. Don't go off declaring I'm a whore in front of a crowd!" Kyra uncrossed her arms.

    “Right.” Kai said quietly. He had an apologetic look on his face. Hopefully those words sunk in as well.

    “And last night?” Nikki said toward Suki. Kyra’s heart skipped a beat, but soon realized that Nikki wasn’t talking about what happened to them. Something else happened as well that involved Suki and Kai. They had gone out to find Suki’s sister, as Lillia explained as she walked over. Mishka and Cyan had apparently brought them home.

    “It's okay I know how much you miss your sister but going on your own is not the way to do it.” Nikki said to Suki. The teary girl nodded.

    Kyra could hear a pair of feet land on the ground behind her. Before she could react, she was pushed aside by Xiang. Kyra clenched her fist, but decided to hold herself back. There was no point in getting angry at the girl. Although she was shorter than Kyra, she was still taller than Kai and was glaring at him.

    “Err, hi” He said taking a few steps back. Xiang brought her hand up and gave a firm slap across the left side of his face. The sound was almost ear piercing. Suki tried to intervene, but Nikki held her back.

    “You had no right. I didn't ask you to go after them.” She said firmly. She then stormed toward the house and slammed the door.

    Everyone want quiet as the events sunk in. “Well at least she talked.” Lillia said to break the silence.

    “Kai?” questioned Melai, he turned to her.


    “You haven’t finished running” she pointed out, Kai groaned and continued running while saying the same sentence from before.

    Nikki and Kyra then walk to her house next door, while saying goodbye.

    The events from earlier raised a few questions on Kyra’s mind. She knows how Nikki is now, but was concerned for the girl who was rescued from the gang. She was also concerned about what Nikki must have gone through in the recovery stages. Kyra wanted to understand things if anything.

    "Were you like her when you left?" asked Kyra as they approached the door.

    “I left under different circumstances, I ran away with Lillia, she didn't see much due to me taking her away as soon as she arrived. Xiang on the other hand was rescued she hasn't fully accepted everything yet. So yes I was like her but much worse because of the realisation of what they had done to me. Xiang has yet to realise that.” She explained.

    "Ah. I see."

    “And I haven't fully told you everything about it, but that's only because I need time.”

    "Take all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere." She paused. "Just promise me something..." Kyra looked at Nikki in the eyes.

    “What is it?” Nikki asked.

    "Don't go back." She said in a quiet voice. “Unless it is to fight them and bring them down as a team.” Kyra’s emotions started to rise again. Nikki moved closer to Kyra and wrapped her arms around her. Kyra didn’t know what she would do if Nikki went back. That was another thought that made her angry as well.

    Nikki moved her head closer to Kyra ear and whispered “I would never do that I made a decision a long time ago to not go back" She said softly. She then moved her head back to meet Kyra’s lips. Shortly after, she pulled away and whispered, “This is why I love you.”

    She said it. And this time, she was sober. Kyra let out a smile as any anger that was there melted away. Nikki finally said those words. Kyra’s only option was to return the gesture.

    “I love you too.” She said as she pulled Nikki into another passionate kiss.

    Afterward, they made their way back to the house. The girls made their way to the kitchen to find Joseph finishing his tea. Joseph stood up as Nikki approached him.

    “Ah Nikki-” he said just as Nikki brought up her fist and punched Joseph as hard as she could.

    “Nikki!!!” exclaimed Kyra.

    “Feel better now?”

    “Much.” she said before taking some fruit and leaving the kitchen.

    Kyra wanted to say something, but they both left the kitchen so fast, Kyra hardly had time to react. Kyra sighed as she grabbed some fruit for herself and made her way to the lounge with Nikki.

    Soon after, Mayu, Paine, Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus had walked into the house.

    “Sorry for the intrusion but we thought it was important to talk about the Via Infinito together.” Said the Lady Yuna.

    “Not at all.”

    “What’s in the case?” Kyra asked.

    “Oh, this?” Mayu gave the case a nudge with her foot. “This case has all the information that Joseph asked for, including data on the gang, and Sanika’s power.”

    Kyra listened to all of the information Mayu had gathered on the gang. Kyra especially paid attention to what Nikki had to say as well. After everything was explained, it was decided that everyone would meet back at the temple in two hours. Kyra and Nikki left the house to get some air.

    As the two walked down the street, Kyra could feel someone watching her. Kyra ignored the feeling as an idea popped into her head. A smile appeared as the idea formed in her head.

    “So, Nikki...”


    “I need a new pair of clothes, any idea where to look?” She said with a smile.

    "There is the market but they tend to be over priced, but there is a small shop down this street on the left that have reasonable prices it's a family owned business” Nikki said.

    "The amount of gil doesn't matter. What would you recommend?"

    “The shop down the street, their clothes are of better quality and it's quite popular here in Bevelle.”

    "Got it! Lead the way!" Kyra exclaimed excitedly. It had been a while since she had been shopping.

    They eventually made it to a quaint looking shop with a nice window display of their feature clothes. Something caught Kyra eye immediately.

    “Welcome” the shop attendant said as they entered the shop. “May I help you?”

    "Hmm, yes. That outfit in the window. The one with the white top with the blue skirt, could I try it on?”

    “Yes of course, these items have been very popular with our customers they are just hmmm... ah” She went to where the outfit was on a nearby rail. “Over here, just pick out the size you’d like and the changing rooms are over there” She motioned to the back of the shop.

    Kyra did just that and went to change her outfit. Moments later, she came out to show Nikki.

    “What do you think?”

    "You look beautiful" Nikki said as she was noticeably blushing.

    Kyra squinted as she smiled. "So do you" she said playfully

    Kyra then changed the pace as she noticed a pair of black knee high boots with a bit of a heel just behind Nikki. She motioned to the store attendant "I'll take those too"

    “Yes of course, anything else?"

    “That's it for me. Did you need anything Nikki?”

    “No I already have everything I need.” Nikki said still blushing.

    Kyra smiled. "Right."

    Kyra paid the attendant and left the shop. They started to head toward a nearby park. Kyra could still feel that they were being followed. Kyra stopped and let go of Nikki’s hand.

    “Sorry Nikki, we’re being followed.”

    “Rey, I know you’re out there. Show yourself before I cast bio on you and you’re sick for a freakin week!” She normally wouldn’t threaten, but this guy annoyed her beyond her limits. Especially since she told him not to talk to her again. Whatever he had to say had better be worth it.

    She could hear footsteps behind her. Both Kyra and Nikki turned around to see a worse for wear looking Rey with an apologetic look on his face. “Yeah, don’t do that Kyra. I’m sorry for snooping, but I had to make sure you weren’t lying.” He said.

    “Lying? About seeing a girl?” She asked. She didn’t push the matter further. He had a lot more to be sorry for as far as she was concerned. Rey nodded.

    “Well, this is Nikki.” She motioned to the confused girl. “She’s the girl I’m seeing.” Kyra said taking her hand hoping she wouldn’t lunge at him and shove an arrow in every hole he had. “I’m not sure what more you want from me Rey-”

    “An explanation maybe?” Rey interrupted raising his voice. He calmed down before continuing, “You explain what happened that night and I’ll explain my end.”

    “Did you want me to stay?” Nikki asked.

    Kyra looked at her and nodded. “Please stay.” She said softly.

    “Alright then.”

    “I’ll start from the top. You remember when we were in Besaid, yes?”

    “Of course, that’s when you left.” He said in an annoyed tone. Kyra hoped he would calm down soon.

    Kyra nodded. “That entire week, I knew something was on your mind. I didn’t ask of course. I figured you would tell me. Little did I know, I’d hear about it from you speaking to one of your friends in front of the temple.” She paused for a breath to calm herself down. “Why else would you have brought Yui along? After everything we had talked about, Rey, after everything she did to you, you….”

    “Hold on Kyra, I don’t remember any boasting. My friend was blowing things out of proportion like he always does. He was making it seem like it was some ‘big’ achievement that I getting attention from Yui. She probably did all of that to make you jealous. I’m really sorry you had to witness that.” He said. “You still left without a word, making it damn near impossible to find you. Do you know everything I went through this past year? Had I known what happened, I would have apologised sooner…”

    Kyra sighed and brought her hand to her forehead. “I’m a moron.” She said softly. She took a moment to regain her composure. “I should be apologising. I should have stayed around to hear your explanation. I was too set on finding a way to go back home. I went through a lot in the past year myself. I wound up here by pure luck, but also found out that there is no way home for me. Some events happened in the Via Infinito…I belong in this world.”

    “Understandable I guess, but I thought you were afraid of commitment.”

    “I was, until I found out I can’t go back. Making a place for myself in this world became my next priority.”

    Kyra had noticed that Nikki had become unnaturally quiet. Nikki started to take a few steps back.

    “Hey, Nikki, everything okay?” Without a word, Nikki raised her bow and pointed it at Rey. “Woah Nikki, didn’t you hear? Things are okay. He’s actually a really cool guy when you get to know him.”

    Nikki didn’t respond then either. Kyra noticed there was something strange happening to her eyes. They were shifting between their natural blue colour to a purple colour. After Kyra finished her sentence, Nikki pointed her bow at Kyra and started to charge a spell. Kyra drew her Gunblade and took a defensive stance. “Rey, get out of here. I’ll take care of this.”

    Before Rey could say anything, Nikki released a Thundaga arrow which hit Kyra’s right forearm. Damn it, she’s strong. Nikki, why?” She was used to taking a hit, but this was intense. Kyra knew Nikki’s magic was strong, but not this strong. Something was definitely wrong.

    Kyra winced as she pulled the arrow from her arm. She regained her composure and debated on tackling her. Considering Kyra was just attacked, she would have considered it under other circumstances. But, this was Nikki…

    “Kyra, why are you hesitating? Fight back!” Rey yelled out.

    Kyra nodded and started running forward. Nikki caught on and charged another attack. Her eyes were still shifting between the two colours but before Kyra could make contact and with Nikki’s bow, she released an Ultima arrow sending her back against a nearby tree. The attack that immediately followed was one that Kyra had never seen before. She couldn’t see much due to the smoke that was caused by the Ultima arrow. Suddenly four dark arrows appeared through the smoke and pinned Kyra to the tree. Kyra felt something was missing from her left hand. She had lost her blade somewhere during the explosions.

    “Kyra!” she heard Rey call out.

    “Damn it Rey! Take my blade and get out of here! Don’t make me say it again!” Kyra demanded.

    Before she knew it, another Thundaga arrow had pierced her shoulder. Kyra let out a scream as the electricity passed through her body. More arrows flew at her without any indication of stopping. Blood was now pouring from her wounds. She wasn’t going to last much longer. Her vision had become blurred, but she had to keep herself awake. What seemed like ages later, she could feel someone in front of her, but all she could see was a blurry blue figure. She figured out who it was when she heard him yell. She gathered the rest of her strength to try to form words.

    “….Joseph?” she said as she fought against pending unconsciousness. “Stop…her….She’s…not…herself….Something….” she couldn’t say more. Her strength was up, but she hoped her message was clear enough. She then slipped into the inevitable darkness, hoping that she would make it back to get her revenge.



    As Nikki and Kyra walked down the street, Kyra had asked Nikki about any shops that had clothes, it was decided that the nearest one was the best so Nikki lead the way.

    Once Kyra had chosen what she wanted and tried it on she pulled back the curtain. Nikki caught her breath. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was in a white sleeveless job and a very short blue skirt which showed off her legs and her curves and her thighs, she then blushed at the thoughts that followed that.

    “What do you think?”

    “You look beautiful.” She managed to say without squeaking at least she still had her composure even though she was still blushing.

    “So do you.” She playfully said. Kyra then picked out some knee high black boots and when it came to paying she asked Nikki is she needed anything.

    “No I already have everything I need.” She quickly said.

    As they walked to the park Kyra suddenly stopped and let go of her hand. “Sorry Nikki, we’re being followed.”

    What?” thought Nikki

    “Rey, I know you’re out there. Show yourself before I cast bio on you and you’re sick for a freakin week!” Hearing footsteps behind her they both turned around to find a man comiing towards them, he had green eyes, ginger short spiked hair, fair complexion, standing at 5”10 which is taller than both Nikki and Kyra. He was a long sleeved black shirt with a red vest, black pants and shoes. Nikki just glared at him, she did not appreciate being followed.

    “Yeah, don’t do that Kyra. I’m sorry for snooping, but I had to make sure you weren’t lying.”

    “Lying? About seeing a girl?” The guy nodded. Nikki’s anger was rising, how dare he thing that Kyra would lie she felt like shoving an arrow up his ass. “Well, this is Nikki. She’s the girl I’m seeing.” Kyra took her hand and Nikki was reminded that putting an arrow in his ass wouldn’t help matters, her anger calmed. “I’m not sure what more you want from me Rey-”

    “An explanation maybe?” he interrupted raising his voice. But on the other hand it would make her feel better if she did put an arrow there. However, he did calm down and continued. “You explain what happened that night and I’ll explain my end.” Nikki turned to Kyra.

    “Did you want me to stay?” she asked tenderly. Kyra’s soft blue eyes looked at her and she nodded.

    “Please stay.” She replied softly.

    “Alright then.”

    Kyra then explained how she felt, how hurt she felt, when she saw Rey talking about Yui to a friend about cheating on Kyra, Rey then explained back to her that he hadn’t been boasting and that Kyra had misread the situation, that a friend was treating it as some kind of achievement.

    As they talked it was then that Nikki could feel her head feeling funny, it was a familiar feeling, as if she had gone through this before. Suddenly she felt the feeling of losing something, the feeling of something slipping away, Nikki then realized immediately what was happening and grew very fearful. She tried to take the advice of Mina the white mage and imagine walls around her memories so that Sanika couldn’t get at them, but it just seemed as though that she pushed through those easily. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t run, Sanika had her frozen there on the spot. The last time that this happened she had attacked Rhyse, if she didn’t get away she would surely attack Kyra. But if she only thought of Kyra and could only think of Kyra, then perhaps if she didn’t forget Kyra then things would be alright. She held onto that as hard as she could, kissing Kyra in the garden, handing her an anti spider arrow, her heart beating quickly anytime she was near and those blue eyes. It was all just slipping away. If her body wasn’t frozen she would have cried.

    Nikki blinked. Where the fuck am I?” she thought her memories were fuzzy, had she not just been with Sanika just now?Who the fuck are these people?”

    Ah, welcome back little Nikki.”

    What’s going on?”

    I’ve taken a few of your memories so you can see the light, that girl has lied and taken you away from us. I got rid of your memories temporarily, so that you would listen to the truth.”

    So... She’s a target?”

    Yes.” That was the only information that Nikki needed as she raised her arrow first at the guy, then the girl objected so she went straight for her target. “Oh and make sure she suffers as much as possible.” In her head she groaned she hated that sort of job, she preferred quick and easy jobs she would get nightmares from these kind of jobs, but it had to be done. The girl must have committed a very horrific crime, for Sanika to order such a job. Nikki started charging a Thundaga arrow spell.

    “Rey, get out of here. I’ll take care of this.” The girl got out her own weapon and took a defensive stance, it was such a strange weapon; it was a sword but also had a barrel for bullets near the handle on it.

    Sanika she can fight I need some power.”

    As you wish little Nikki.” She could feel Sanika’s power flowing into the spell she then released it. The arrow went through the air and went into her target’s arm sending electricity through her. The girl stumbled but managed to get up and pull out the arrow. Nikki was not pleased.

    Fuck it, she’s still standing I was hoping to do this one shot.”

    “Kyra, why are you hesitating? Fight back!” yelled out the male. She saw her target charge towards her.

    Too easy.” Thought Nikki. She began charging an Ultima arrow, the tip of the arrow was alight in a green flame and she released it, immediately after she loaded four arrows all at once they glowed in a dark aura,” Dark Aim” whispered Nikki and Dark Aim was released, the Ultima spell exploded and sent her target into the tree, the arrows after skewered her in different places and pinned her to the tree. For some reason she had subconsciously missed the target’s vital organs, She looked at her target in confusion. Why had that happened?” Why had she shifted her aim. She shook herself of those thoughts and continued.

    Just as Nikki was about to load the final arrow to eliminate her target, Sanika called to her. “Watch out!” She turned at the sound of someone rushing towards her; she was just in time to block the sword with her bow. She looked to see that her attacker was male who was wearing a blue coat, with black pants and blue short hair. His fierce brown eyes stared into her as he kicked her in the stomach which she then felt herself flying through the air and landed hard on the ground. She immediately felt pain from where she landed.

    Fan fucking fantastic now I have to deal with this guy” she thought as she stood up, she saw that male had gone over to her target and had his back to her. It was the perfect opportunity so she loaded her bow and aimed for the middle of his back. Unfortunately he blocked it seemingly with ease.

    “NIKKI!! IS THIS YOUR ANSWER?!?!? IS THIS WHAT YOU TRULY WANT?!?!?!?” Nikki felt Sanika’s power flow through her but it was kind of weak due to the distance between them. Nikki felt her speed increase and just sent arrow and arrow after the warrior.

    Such anger, wouldn’t you agree Nikki?”

    How the hell does he know my name?”

    Oh little Nikki, poor thing, he was the one that lied to you as well.” That made sense to her now, it would be why he was protecting her target. If she could get rid of these people, who took her from the gang, then she could go home. Her mind was set now. She fired double and triple arrows at the warrior who seemed to be doing his best at defending but she was gaining the upper hand. The warrior then seems distracted as the girl seemed to speak to him, Nikki didn’t know what she said since she was further away, so she charged up an Ultima arrow. The tip turned green and she let go, the warrior struck the arrow and it exploded sending the warrior sprawling on the ground away from her target. She then fired an arrow aiming for the girl’s heart, but once again the warrior blocked it using his arm but by now he looked weary and tired.

    Oh how I look forward to having you home again little Nikki,”

    Me too Sanika, I just need your help for a little while more.”

    Of course sweetie.” Nikki then felt more of Sanika’s power flow through her, Nikki grabbed an arrow and let it go, it then split into six smaller ones as it flew through the air all of them aiming for the warrior. Suddenly though three other arrows came from above and embedded themselves in the ground around the two people, and Nikki’s attack bounced off a protect spell. Arrows then had come flying at Nikki one after another; Nikki had to use all her energy just to protect herself.

    “As always your attacks are predictable Nikki.” She knew that voice, before she had joined the gang she had a few lessons in archery. She looked up to see her Sensei walking towards her. She had purple hair put into a bun, brown eyes, blue strapless top, with a blue skirt and white boots. She had two black arm bands on. “Ah so you do recognize me then, now you can tell Sanika we can do this the hard way, or the easy way”

    Sanika, I can’t attack my Sensei! There’s too many now to handle.”

    Just kill the girl that is all that matters.” Nikki looked up, it seemed while she had become distracted a few of her Sensei’s students had actually let the girl down from the tree and were slowly leading her away. The students didn’t even look that old they were maybe twelve or thirteen, they were nearly her age.

    But the kids are in the way!”

    You must!” Suddenly Nikki saw the warrior charge at her and she just did another triple arrow at him however this time her Sensei was here to help and she called to the warrior.

    “Left, right, left, keep the pressure on her!” indicating where Nikki had fired the arrows.

    Shit.” Thought Nikki. Teleport me Sanika.”

    I can’t I’m sorry I’m too far away!” she could hear the desperation in Sanika’s voice. She tried dodging but her shoulder got swiped by the sword she yelped out in pain and dropped her bow in surprise and held her shoulder, before she could pick it up though the sword was held at her neck. Her Sensei came over and grabbed her by the arm, it was useless to run away now.

    “It’s okay I’ve got her now you go and see to the girl.” The warrior then nods and goes ahead where the students had rested the girl, Her Sensei then picked up Nikki’s bow and pulled her over to the group the warrior had picked up the injured girl, the students look at Nikki with fear in their eyes. “Don’t worry she can’t hurt you, you’ve all done well class is cancelled this morning I want to see you all for the afternoon.”

    “Yes Sensei.” Said the students and they left. Nikki’s Sensei then spoke to the warrior. “There’s a white mage around the corner from here she’ll be able to help.” The warrior nodded as he walked ahead. “Come.” She said her grip around Nikki’s arm was tight, she had no idea on what to do and how to get back.

    When they got to the door Nikki’s Sensei knocked on the door. A short woman opened the door in a white robe, with hazel eyes, some black hair poking out of her hood she took one look at Nikki, then the Warrior, then the girl in his arms who was conscious but barely.

    “You better come in quickly lay her on the bed,” the warrior seemed to do as he was told, the white mage came over to Sensei with some cuffs and a key. “Use these on Nikki.” Nikki felt her hands being pulled behind her back and metal go around her wrists with a click, Sensei then dragged her to the corner of the room.

    “Sit.” Nikki did as she was told. She had no idea what was going to happen to her. But the pain in her shoulder was horrible, first impression of the warrior he was a prat. Nikki saw the curtain being pulled around the bed and noticed the white mage go out with some bloody clothes and then quickly come in again and behind the curtain.

    “So what happened to Nikki and how can she use attacks that she wasn’t able to use before?”

    "Three years ago a similar thing happened she attacked her boyfriend for no reason and tried her best to get back to the gang, her eyes back then turned blue to purple but not as rapidly. Turned out that she thought she was fourteen again she had no idea who her boyfriend was. Sanika had temporarily wiped her memories."

    What the fuck.” Thought Nikki, what her Sensei had just said sounded like a big pile of bullshit.

    "Are we to assume that that is what happened in the park?"

    “I think it would be safe to assume so yes.”

    “So what did Sanika do to Nikki?”

    "It's hard to say, Mina has always believed Sanika has a certain fondness for Nikki, and therefore has never broken her psycic link to Nikki, meaning she has always watched Nikki. Personally I believe that Sanika is just crazy and that there is no sensible reason to her actions.”

    “Is there a way to break the psycic link?”

    This is why Nikki was listening so intently to the conversation. If they were planning to harm Sanika then she wanted to know about it so that she could warn Sanika. They can’t break the link can they?”

    No don’t worry.”

    “It only breaks if she is away from Bevelle.” Said the white mage from behind the curtain.

    “And since she is here in Bevelle, the only way is to kill Sanika right? Talk about a tall task.” Nikki glared at the warrior, if he thought he was going to touch her he had another thing coming, Nikki stood up with the thought of making a run for it.

    “Don’t even think about it, sit back down” said Sensei she immediately sat down, perhaps she would try later.

    “There is another way Asuka has her own psycic link to Nikki, we can try and use her to block Sanika but I fear she is far too weak and young to do so.” Said the white mage.

    "Then our only option is to go confront Sanika. I'm not putting that girl at risk."

    “You’ll be lucky to even touch her.” Said Sensei.

    Nikki then noticed again the white mage go out of the room and bring in some clean clothes ”There all better now, nothing vital was pierced just keep those bandages on so that the spells can work quicker.” Said the White mage who then came out from behind the curtain

    Nikki heard a small “Thanks” why was she so interested in the girl behind the curtain? Her head was pounding now she was feeling dizzy. She suddenly felt funny it was fuzzy but she could hear that same girl screaming and Sanika breaking her bones. This fuzzy memory for some reason sent shivers done her spine, and Nikki brought her legs up to her body.

    Why is she looking at me like that?” thought Nikki as the girl finally came around the curtain.

    “It’s not her fault, don’t worry I’ll do all I can to bring her back.” Said the White Mage to the girl. She then came over to Nikki and bent down to her. “Hello Nikki how are you feeling today?”

    “Fuck off you are all nuts.”

    “Ah she speaks.” Said Sensei.

    “How rapidly have her eyes been changing colour?” asked the white mage while looking into Nikki’s eyes.

    “About every minute.” Replied the warrior.

    How do I get out of here Sanika?”

    I don’t know little Nikki, be patient, and don’t believe anything that they say.”

    “That’s much quicker than last time, why do you think that is?” asked Sensei.

    “Probably because Sanika has many more memories to wipe this time, it’s probably straining her too, so we can expect the spell to break soon but it could take a few hours.”

    “Last time it took a couple of days.” Nikki heard screaming again from the same fuzzy memory not only had Sanika made her scream but she did too, normally she had no problem blocking out the things that she needed to do, but this time it would not go away. If she could she would put her hands over her ears, she was now ignoring the conversation.

    It’s okay Nikki, I’m trying to help, but it’s really, really hard.” Said a child’s voice and how did this child know her name. She looked around but couldn’t see a child. Nikki was now shaking, the screaming and breaking bones was constantly replaying over and over again. Nikki noticed the white mage hurriedly sit on the floor in front of her and she put her hands on Nikki’s shoulders.

    “Nikki what is it? Are you alright?”

    “Screaming... Lots and lots of screaming and bones breaking. Why? Why am I so scared? Who is she?” Nikki was now shivering.

    “Any voices?”

    “A little girl’s” mumbled Nikki as she looked down at the floor anywhere but at the people’s faces. She felt herself being shaken.

    “Look at me Nikki.” Said the white mage Nikki felt her hands being released from the cuffs Nikki noticed her Sensei took them away. She then looked at the white mage. “The girl’s name is Asuka she has a psycic link with you, she trying to piece together your memory but can only work on ones that are similar to what you did in the park. You need to relax your mind and let her in because all she is doing is playing you the same memory."

    The bad lady took Kyra away from you, you have to remember her, please remember her you care for her so much.” The little girl sounded upset as she was telling her this. Nikki’s eyes widened and she was scared to ask but she had to know.

    Like Raine?”


    “Shut up! No that can’t be true! It just can’t I don’t hurt people who I care about like that!” she shouted out loud putting her hands to her ears. Tears came down her face and she was shaking so badly.

    “It’s okay Nikki she is fine,” She noticed that the white mage then stood up and went over to the over side of the room where the girl was, but Nikki couldn’t bare to look at her the pit was too deep. She heard footsteps approach and Nikki was so frightened that she slid back until she her back was against the wall, this had to be a dream or some sort of sick joke.

    “Hey it’s okay, It’s okay, see?” the girl held out her hand and Nikki slowly looked up the girl’s clothes were clean, the girl who she now presumed was Kyra the girl she had cared for but hurt. A shiver went down her spine. "Nikki, I know you're scared. I want you to take my hand." She slowly did take her hand but then noticed something, something dreadful.

    “She... Took more than a little... Sanika said... She said she only took a little so that I could come home, she said I was just getting rid of the people that kidnapped me... I’m not....” Nikki’s body shook ever more she began to really look at her own hands.”I’m not 14 am I?”

    “No, you are not.” Nikki took a deep breath if she was going to guess based on the girl in front of her she was a lot older but still she had to be brave and ask.

    “How... How old?”

    “You’re 19.”

    19?” she thought, that was a lot older than she expected all those memories just gone. She quickly withdrew her hand and curled up into a ball, tears just flowing down, her body shook as she cried.

    Why Sanika why did you do it? Please just give them back.”

    I would if I could but the spell it’s too strong now. I’m sorry little Nikki I thought you would be better off. I did it for you.”

    “It’s okay though, being older is better.” She felt Kyra come closer to her, and her heart beat quicker she didn’t understand it. But at least the memory of the screaming had stopped. “You can do more when you're older.”

    Nikki suddenly felt very tired, her legs lowered and she felt quite queasy, her head felt heavy and she leaned it against the wall, she felt the white mage suddenly shake her.

    “Hey, hey, hey don’t go to sleep, you go to sleep and you might not get those memories back.” That made Nikki sit up she certainly did not want to lose five years worth of memories forever again. She felt hand been taken in a warm grasp, and saw that Kyra was gently smiling at her, She then turned to the white mage.

    “What’s wrong with her?” she heard Kyra ask.

    “I would guess that Sanika is sapping Nikki’s energy now to keep the spell going, Sanika might not even be aware that the spell is going out of control.”

    Oh no Nikki your aura, it’s getting weaker. I don’t know what to do.” Exclaimed the girl Nikki knew now as Asuka, the little girl seemed to be pretty upset.

    Little Nikki what is happening? Your life force seems to be getting weaker.”

    The spell... It out of control they say.”

    "Is there anything you can do to help?" she heard the man ask.

    "it's a very strong spell so it is demanding a lot of power, I'm afraid an ether wouldn't do anything for Nikki it's not just simply taking her magic but it's slowly taking her life." Said the white mage, Nikki didn't look up but she knew the white mage was rushing around she then came over to her and handed her a potion which she drank, but she didn't feel any better. "No it hasn't done anything.”

    “Dammit!” she heard the man say.

    You hang on little Nikki, I will not let my power control me.”

    “Stay calm, she is still mentally fourteen and needs everyone to stay calm and focused. You lose your calm now and then you are just going to put her on edge.” She heard her Sensei say.


    “Mina are you quite sure that Sanika actually cares for Nikki?”

    “Yes, very much so Kimiko, She has probably already noticed that the energy levels are depleting and is trying to do something about it.”

    I’m going to cut the psycic link Nikki.” Nikki was scared when she said that but then remembered that Sanika had lied to her about her memories and that she would rather that Sanika did leave her alone. She was struggling to keep her eyes open, she couldn’t believe that Kyra was still sitting with her and still being very kind to after what she had done.

    “I trust your judgement then.”

    I’m so sorry Nikki.” Was the last thing that Nikki heard Sanika say before she felt herself been hit with a wave of memories all coming back to her all at once, memories of Rhyse, memories of the children at Kyley’s house, memories of her leaving the gang and memories of her friends now and most importantly memories of Kyra and how much she loved her and memories such as how she kissed her in the hammock and yet she had hurt her. She felt herself feel faint and she felt Sanika leave her mind she then felt her body fall but she felt Kyra catch her with an arm around her and her chest pressed against her back, however she did not lose consciousness.

    “Nikki!” exclaimed Kyra. Nikki heard a rush of footsteps.

    “Nikki? Can you hear me Nikki?” Said Mina Nikki managed now to open her eyes she could feel her energy return to her and she sat up, she saw Joseph was the other side of her and Mina was knelt down in front of her, Kyra still had an arm around her and her Sensei was standing behind Mina. “Ah how lovely to see no purple eyes, your colour has come back to your face too.”

    Nikki, Nikki, are you alright?”

    Yes Asuka I’m fine” She felt Asuka’s presence then leave her mind.

    “Have your memories returned?” asked Sensei.

    “Yeah. Sanika broke the spell by cutting the psycic link.” She couldn’t bare to look at Kyra or Joseph too ashamed at what she had done. She was so glad that Joseph had been there to save Kyra and so grateful to Sensei for finally stopping her.

    “I’m getting too old for this.” sighed Mina in relief as she stood up.

    “Right well, I’m glad that’s over with and I’m glad you are okay Nikki, I’ve got a class to prepare for, so I’ll be off.”

    “Yes of course.” Said Mina leading her to the door.

    “Sensei.” She stopped and turned to Nikki. “Thank you.”

    “Hmm... Just don’t go and getting into any more trouble I don’t want to lose one of my best students to the likes of Sanika.” Said Sensei she then left, Nikki couldn’t believe at what she had done, she felt so guilty that she could not stop herself, that she couldn’t look either of them in the eye.

    “Joseph can you wait outside?”

    “Sure” Nikki suddenly looked up.

    “Wait... I’m really sorry to both of you I did terrible things.”

    "Don't worry about it. Though I wish that you told us about that beforehand"

    “I’m sorry, I thought if she ever cast the spell again then I was prepared enough to stop her.”

    "So what now? We still have a mission to complete. are you up to the task?" She wasn’t sure how to answer she still felt very guilty and very shaken at what had happened she had nearly killed Kyra, how could she even fight when she can’t protect anyone, she lowered her head. "Either way, i think we go down there again in the morning. we'll leave whether you are with us or not. either way, you owe me a drink for all that which i will take when we're back from the next trip down." He then left the two alone.

    "Hey, cut it out before I send a thunder spell your way. No use in blaming yourself Nikki. No one here is blaming you." Nikki looked up with tears coming down her face. How could she had hurt such a beautiful person?

    “How can you say that after what I have done? I nearly killed you and I will never forgive myself for that. I made you scream in pain.” She saw Kyra tighten her fist.

    "No. It wasn't you. I know that wasn't you. I saw how hard you tried to fight it. It was Sanika who was behind your actions. I'd kill her myself if she wasn't so damn strong. You, I can forgive in a heartbeat. Sanika, I cannot.” She forgave her, for some reason she forgave her. She didn’t deserve Kyra but she was still here, still by her side and she loved her so much. “If I hear another word of you blaming yourself, You'll get a swift punch to the..." Nikki suddenly lent forward and interrupted her with a passionate kiss and wrapped her arms around her neck, it was so comforting and so forgiving and when they broke apart all that stress and hurt came out and she quietly cried into Kyra’s shoulder while being embraced in a hug. She felt Kyra stroke her hair for a while as she let the tears fall and then she stroked her back tenderly. Nikki then moved her head and kissed Kyra passionately again she then maneuvered herself so that she was now sitting on Kyra’s lap with her knees either side Kyra’s hips. She then put her hands through Kyra’s soft hair as she kissed her. She felt Kyra’s hands rub her back tenderly; however she was surprised when Kyra’s hands seemed to pause where her bra clip was underneath her clothes.

    I’ve got to stop otherwise this will go too far in someone else’s house” thought Nikki however she was beaten to it when Kyra pulled back and dropped her hands. Nikki blushed.

    "Woah Nikki. Hold your chocobos. Who's house are we in?" asked Kyra. How Nikki wished she did not have to move or do anything, or go back into the Via Infinito where more fighting awaited her, but people depended on her, they depended on the both of them.

    “Mina’s I think it would be best if we leave.” Said Nikki as she stood up and held out her hand to Kyra. Kyra looked very hot just looking up at her with her blue eyes in her new clothes, so much so that it took Nikki’s willpower to stay standing and not to climb onto her lap again and back into her arms.

    “Yeah, maybe.” Said Kyra as she took her hand and Nikki helped to pull her up. Kyra then to Nikki’s surprise lent her head in and pressed her soft lips against hers. Nikki closed her eyes and placed her hands on her hips as she kissed her back. They then pulled away from each other.

    “Thank you.” Said Nikki as they began to walk to the door with her hand in Kyra’s, Kyra just smiles at her, Nikki picks up her bow by the door as they leave the house.

    Kyra then mentioned to Nikki that she needed to go and pick up her weapon from Rey, and that she would meet both her and Joseph back at the temple, she then gives her a kiss on the cheek and then leaves. Nikki blushes a little but then see Joseph looking at her.

    “Don’t even comment.” Said Nikki as they both walked to the temple. Joseph didn’t say anything instead he just raised an eyebrow at her.

    “Don’t come to the temple, run away as far as you can!” Said the twins suddenly in Nikki’s head, she turned to Joseph it seemed like he had heard the same thing in his own head.

    “Did you hear the twins too?”

    “Yeah I did as well, that’s not a good sign.” Nikki quickly got out a chocobo feather and used it cast haste over the both of them, they then ran towards the temple.

    When they got in the temple Nikki notices something the temple was darker with a familiar eerie feel, it was the same feeling she had when entering the Via Infinito a few Pryeflies hummed about but there no fiends. Just her friends along with Lady Yuna, Paine, sir Tidus in the middle of the room seemingly not being able to move. And over the other side was Sanika, Rika, and Daiki.

    “Don’t you guys know the meaning of run?!” exclaimed the twins, apparently though they could still talk despite not being able to move.

    “Ah little Nikki how nice of you to join us, as you can see we’ve all been waiting.” Said Sanika getting up from where she had been sitting.

    This is a story about a evil witch.” It seemed that the same little girl’s voice had come back to Nikki’s mind. Nikki loaded her arrow and noticed that Joseph and already got out his sword, she pointed her arrow at Sanika.

    “What have you done to the temple?”

    “I haven’t done anything, it was like this when I got here, like I told them when that little guado asked me. Or...” She turned and teleported over to Mishka . “Should I call you Slayer? Hmmm?”

    “Sanika let them go!” exclaimed Nikki.

    “Oh I will all in due time, I mean why rush.” Said Sanika Nikki was about to charge but found that she couldn’t move, she saw that Joseph next to her couldn’t move either.

    That’s why they haven’t attacked then, Sanika has us frozen in place.” Thought Nikki.

    “But oh how ironic the warrior really wants to kill me. But really now what gives you the right to tell me what is wrong and right, all my father does is gives us a home and a job. The outside world however is cruel and throws out outcasts, my father saves them. Tell me warrior how would you like to die for threatening my father and killing my family in that warehouse?” said Sanika teleporting over to the warrior.

    "You say that the world is cruel and thrown you out as outcasts. that is something that I think no one can really prevent. yet your people bully and prey on the weak just to fatten your pockets and influence. you do not try to fight for a greater cause and here you are lecturing us about right and wrong! you are a hypocrite as well as naive. you can be sure that I will fight to the death not because I have to but because you are beyond saving" Rika stormed over to Joseph and loaded an arrow right near his head.

    “I will very gladly kill this dick just give me the word.”

    “Stand down Rika.” Said Diaki. She withdrew her arrow.

    “I pity you, you have been told lies, very well then I see you have made your choice you shall die for your crimes.” Said Sanika.

    "I almost pity you Sanika. you are willing to do anything for your father who uses people only for his ends. he doesn't care about anything aside from the result. your father is a fool if he thinks he can get away with what he's done but you are even bigger fools for blindly following him"

    There’s nothing I can do...” thought Nikki fearful for her comrades, fearful about the spell that Sanika was going to cast, Sanika raised her arm about to cast a spell that would surely kill Joseph.

    “STOP!” shouted out Kyra. Nikki saw Sanika give a smile.

    No...” thought Nikki. “Kyra run, get out of here!” called out Nikki she wasn’t able to turn around but she knew she was behind her. Sanika lowered her arm.
    "Not a chance."

    “Ah so the little bitch did arrive. How nice of you to come to the party but I’m afraid you are a little late.” With that she waved her arm and Nikki saw Kyra fly high over her head and straight into a wall.

    “Kyra!” yelled out Nikki, “Sanika I swear I will hunt you down and kill you if you lay a hand on her!” shouted out Nikki.

    “Poor little Nikki, do you not know why the spell went out of control? Father explained to me it was her magic, it was her who nearly killed you, because she does not belong in this world, her magic is different. She must be sent back and I need the knowledge on how. Sanika waved her hand again and Asuka appeared before Sanika in a bright light.

    “Uh oh...” said the twins.

    “Uh oh, would be an understatement” said Paine

    “That's a lie! Leave her alone!” yelled Kyra, she seemed to be the only one able to move but it seemed to be only for Sanika’s amusement because she threw Kyra into the other wall at the other side of the room only to land on a giant bubble?

    What the fuck?” said Nikki.

    “POP!” shouted out a familiar voice and the bubble popped only to turn into pryeflies then the little unsent girl appeared in the room. “That’s my new trick I got bored of flowers, I can now make BUBBLES!”” she cried out happily as pyreflies produced images of bubbles and became pryeflies again.

    “Sweetie that’s lovely, but there is a bad lady over there who has us all stuck.” Said Cyan Nikki noticed at this time Sanika was reading Asuka’s mind with some sort of spell Asuka appeared to be very frightened

    “Oh are we playing musical statues? I can be a statue look!” The girl stood on one foot trying to keep still but failing. Sanika waved her arm and a glyph appeared beneath Kyra

    No!” thought Nikki Asuka however managed to get away after Sanika has read her mind. “No we don’t have time for this we are not fucking playing a game!” The area around Kyra began to distort and warp. If they didn’t do something Kyra was going to be gone.

    “Oh okay!” exclaimed the girl she them emitted a wave of power and suddenly Nikki was able to move. She ran towards where Kyra was.

    “Kyra!” she yelled out. She heard the gongs sound.No I have to run faster.” She was nearly there, Kyra was desperately trying to stretch out her hand to her, she was nearly in her grasp but then... She was gone in a flash of light.What...” thought Nikki. She dropped her bow and the sound echoed in her ears she ignored the battle that erupted around her and just fell to her knees.

    “Did I actually do it? Oh Yevon I did didn’t I. I didn’t think it would work.” Said Sanika in excitement. One little voice in her head was saying that she should stand up, stand up and fight and take revenge for Kyra, but that was overwhelmed by the voice that told her that there was no point, she was gone. Tears fell. She couldn’t move she could only watch in a daze as Sanika powered up her companions and they engaged in battle with the others. Suddenly Sanika stumbled a little bit a purple light came from Sanika and went into the dark floor and disappeared.

    “Sanika what has happened?” asked Daiki

    “I’m... I’m not sure.”

    “Naughty lady needs to play fair too the secrets took your power to make you fair.” Said the unsent girl. Moving cloisters could be heard from deep within the Via Infinito as if they were making a path again, the sound grew louder and louder.

    “What’s coming?”

    “It’s not Sir Auron is it?"

    “Sissy, sissy, from the depth, what made you angry, with a naughty lady, and sissy gone, and a big ugly man to play with.” Sung the unsent girl. Suddenly Nikki could hear the floor moving she looked up to she that the floor had only been moving near the entrance of the via infinito the section that had moved has made a very high path for something to arrive the figure dropped down and charged at Sanika while shouting out.

    “FAKE!!!” in pure rage, and fired arrows at her penetrating her shield and nearly hitting her. Nikki’s clone had entered the battle however she no longer looked fourteen but she now looked fifthteen with her hair slightly longer. And her eyes held more rage than before.

    “The secrets gave Sissy some of your power, now it’s fair.”

  9. #39

    “Are we...?” Said Cyan, breaking me from the calm I'd settled into once the cloister faded away and gave way to the light.

    Pulling myself away from her, I looked about us and nodded, “I think we're in the Calm Lands.”

    “How long do you suppose we've been gone?”

    It was an interesting question. How long had it been? I'd lost track ever since the series of black cloisters, but if I had to guess, we'd been gone for days. However, the sun was shining upon us both and the cool breeze of midday brushed any worry from my mind. We'd survived another of Via Infinito's devices and Cyan had found a new weapon to further provide it with contention. Turning to her with a warm smile, I pulled her back into my embrace, nuzzling my face in her hair.

    “Oh snap, we about to get a free show peeps!”

    Both of us turned to see three people, clad in black, standing a short distance away with more on their way to Bevelle, by the looks of it. The one who had spoken was the only male of the three standing before us, a cocky grin plastered to his dimwitted face as he stood, one arm over his knee and the other at his waist. Even the other two looked at him with a sigh, though their butterfly swords drew my attention.

    “Dinka, you're such an idiot.” One of them said.

    “Hey, c'mon, not like you two ever give me nothing to look at.” Dinka blasted, equipping a large shuriken off his back, “Isn't that right, Leiku.”

    The third one, scratching the hooks of her butterfly swords shook her head, pointing one of the blades at us after, “I recognise the two of you and you're not going to interfere with us again.”

    Taking my eyes from her to Cyan then back, I stood as I felt Cyan's arm around my leg, “Did you hear that, Cyan? We're not to interfere this time. Isn't that upsetting.”

    “Terribly.” She answered before pushing against my leg to grab for our swords.

    Once she had, she rolled through her move and threw my sword to me in the process. As soon as she came out of the tumble, she was upon Dinka, her new Velkomme Schwert pressed to his temple.

    “You were saying?”

    To this, Leiku shook her head again, “Fool. We do not fear death as the boss has told us the death is only a word that strips us of our courage. We fight in spite of it.”

    “It's always fun to say things when you've never experienced it. Death is the least of your worries. Lucky for you, my friend doesn't let herself get that carried away. Why are you here?”

    “That's not any of your business!” Dinka growled, turning to the girl who had yet to speak, “Katika, do something!”

    “What is with this gang and K names?” I asked, “You might as well call yourselves that, the 'K' gang, the Cool Ks, or just...”

    I lunged for them, using the hook of my sword to catch the ones of their weapons. Once we were entangled, I pulled it to the side and kicked Katika away, using my free hand to take hold of one of her butterfly swords. Using the leverage I had, I pulled down, planting the other sword. Next, I pulled back and let go of the weapons, tripping Leiku and making sure she tumbled over the blades so that her legs just fell on either side of them. In her awkward position, she couldn't defend against my legs, which I wrapped around her neck and right arm, using my arms to pull at hers.

    “Wow that's hot.” Dinka commented as I pulled harder, rendering the girl unconscious.

    Following through, I rolled back to my feet just as Katika lunged for me. As her right hand swung out, I grabbed her arm and let her own weight push herself in front of me before locking in her other arm, taking both my hands to her head to press it down. I then kicked her knee, causing it to buckle and proceeded to bring her to the five sword apparatus. The point consisted of all four hooked tips of their weapons as well as the much sharper, much pointier tip of mine.

    “Care to tell me what it is you're doing here now?” I asked of her, though I had turned my eyes to Dinka, “A wound like this is hard to cover up. It leaves a nasty scar.”

    “Alright!” He screamed, though it would be Katika to respond, “We're just following two kids that started up trouble with us! Please let me go!”

    “Kids?” Cyan asked.

    Dinka grumbled, but explained, “Yea, two kids. One of them kept yelling about how we ruined her life. we didn't even know who he was getting at, but that twerp kept yelling and starting shit.”

    “Kai. What's he gotten himself into this time?”

    Pressing roughly against the girl's neck, I knocked her out, as well, and when I turned to Cyan, I noticed that she had done the same to Dinka, the red bruise on the side of his skull making it rather obvious what she did to him. Together we rushed into Bevelle, though the gang members were not anywhere along the path leading into the city. We hurried along, but then I heard Cyan shout a warning before passing my back, sword held out. From the point of it, an arrow snapped and I would turn to see none other than the archer, who I believe was named Rika, poised in the brush of a nearby tree.

    “Oh, it's you. Suppose this is a big mission then.” I said with a sigh.

    The archer pulled another arrow from her quiver, her brown eyes staring intently at my heart. As a ploy, I flipped my sword around and took my free fingers to making a heart with my other hand in a cute pose. As I hoped, this stalled Rika long enough for Cyan to rush towards her. Rika quickly refocused her target to her, but when the arrow came, Cyan stabbed it away, the move also allowing her to follow into an overhead swing, which severed the branch Rika stood on.

    The archer fell hard and, as she recovered, I leapt forward and smacked her with the broad side of my blade, rendering her unconscious. Cyan and I hurried into the city afterward. As soon as we were past the gate, we found them. Kai and Suki were at the center surrounded by several gang members each clothed in black. Kai had two wakizashis to protect himself, but Suki was merely clutching a potion and trembling beside him, her green school uniform flowing more from her shaking that the light breeze in the air.

    As Kai deflected a few play hits from those closest to him, I could tell the gang members were only toying with them until they got bored. Those two wouldn't be a match. As soon as I saw someone sneak up behind Kai, I put my fingers to my mouth and produced a shrill whistle, getting all of their attention.

    “Didn't you know black's out of style?”

    “Perhaps you should leave before we have to change you into an unfashionable shade of red.”

    The ones closest to us struck first, though their slow movements were nothing. Having only recently fought against an abundance of unfathomable fiends, I doubted any gang could pose a threat, particularly one that abducted children. I sliced through a few spears before taking Slowstrikes to their legs, leaving them to limp back into the fray. The next volley was similarly dispatched. On the other end, Cyan moved gracefully through their ranks, always striking first even when they were in a better position. The Velkomme Schwert deflected one sword before rounding into a second that pushed it into a staff while her sword tagged a fourth across the face so she could move into her position and trip the previous two and jab the first in his knee. Looking at their bewildered faces, I knew we needed only one more big move, which I was all too happy to provide. I tapped one of them on her halberd and, as she turned to me, I hooked her armour with my sword and dragged her along the ground. Stampeding toward a line of others, I dodged their attacks and pushed the girl into them, knocking them down and dragging them along, too. Once I had about five or so, I pulled hard and sent them all flying into a pile before me. Then, taking hold of my sword, I charged Deathstrike and smashed it into the ground, the resulting fissure streaking through their armour and shattering them. Now practically naked, they quickly got back to their feet and joined all the others in running past us.

    “Sexy.” I heard Kai say as he put away the wakizashis.

    “What were the two of you thinking?” Cyan scolded.

    “I wanted to pay them back for what they did!”

    “For what who did? The gang?”

    “They did things, bad things.” Kai replied, this time looking away.

    “What did they do to you?”

    “No, not me... Look, just forget it.”

    “And why were you following him?” Cyan asked of Suki.

    “He said we were going to find the gang. I thought... I thought maybe my sister would be with them.” Suki admitted, her tiny form almost on the verge of tears.

    “Well, that was a very dangerous idea. The gang isn't to be trifled with.”

    “Yes, I know. But was she? Was my sister with them? Did you see?”

    Cyan was about to answer her when I interrupted, “No, she wasn't so this plan of yours really didn't pay off. Next time, leave them to us and Nikki.”

    “But they...”

    “And I'm sure Nikki and Suki's sister appreciate your enthusiasm in bringing them to justice, but it wouldn't be worth it if anything were to happen to either of you.”

    Kai quieted after that, though something told me what I said wasn't what did it. Cyan was looking in the distance at where the gang had fled so I called to her and we took Kai and Suki back. However, some time during the trip, Kai ran ahead of me and put up both hands to stop us.

    “Mishka, I can't just leave it like this.”

    “What is it now?” I asked, a bit peeved at the kid.

    “Look, Suki doesn't know and I wanna leave her out of this. Can we just go talk?”

    Turning to Cyan, who returned my look with a smile and a shrug, I shook my head and sighed. Cyan told us she'd stay with Suki and Kai immediately led me away to a small alleyway. For a minute, I thought he was about to put the moves on me and, with his juvenile stature, I smiled to myself about it, but then he turned to me in a very serious and solemn manner and seemed to be struggling with the words. I knelt down and put my hand to his cheek, but that did nothing to ease him.

    Finally, taking a deep breath, he said, “There's a girl. She was in the gang just like Nikki.”

    Seeing that I was listening to him, he continued, “I heard them talking about it. About the gang. I heard them talking about doing things to the girl. Those things... I think they did it to Nikki, too.”

    I knew what had been troubling him in an instant, though it wasn't for someone his age to handle, “You care about Nikki. That's why what they talked about upset you, right? That's why you went after the gang?”

    He only nodded, his fists clenching at the thought.

    “Your heart's in the right, Kai, but you have to get your head there, too. What do you think Nikki would feel if something happened to you? To Suki? I know you hate the gang for what they did to her and to this other girl...”

    “Xiang. Her name's Xiang.”

    I corrected my sentence, “ Xiang, but seeking revenge isn't going to change that they did. You know about Sanika, right? The gang isn't powerless, especially when they're going against just two people, one of whom hadn't even fought before.”

    “I didn’t even want Suki to come along. She just kept following me for some reason.” He began ranting.

    Not the point and do you honestly think going after them alone would have been any better?”

    “I get it.”

    “I hope so. If you really want to help Nikki, you should let us know about what the gang's doing like you did before when they abducted Asuka.”

    “Then, can I ask Nikki to help Xiang?” He asked, showing that he obviously cared about this new girl.

    Smiling at him, I nicked him in the cheek before saying, “Leave her to me. I'll talk to her.”

    “Are you sure you can get through to her? I mean, Nikki knows what she's been through. You're hot and all, but I don't think she'll want to talk to you as much as I would.”

    His words caused me to giggle a bit, “Why don't you let me worry on that? C’mon, let's get back to Cyan and Suki.”

    I knew neither Kai nor Suki were in high spirits and, though both Cyan and I knew we should return them home, we also felt they could use a break from these recent events. We took them to a few places they would enjoy and let them have a few hours of normalcy before we brought them to Kyley's. By then, it was already late into the evening, but they were happy again and, as for Cyan and I, the memories of Via Infinito felt rather distant, though Cyan did still seem to be taking to her new sword oddly.

    After we brought Kai and Suki back to Kai's mother, we stayed for a delicious thank you dinner. Kyley wanted to know where her son went and Lillia, a girl I believe was with the other orphans Nikki looked after, wanted to know just what in blue heavens of Spira the boy was thinking pulling a moronic stunt as he did. Kai stuck his tongue out at her when she mentioned it, but that only got him a smack to the back of his head by Kyley and more scolding from both Lillia and Hayleigh. I tried to vouch for him, but I also didn't know if I should mention what he had overheard so I kept quiet. Cyan, meanwhile, was distant. She stared out, disinterested in the conversation, and continued tapping her finger on her new sword. I worried over her behaviour, but as it was late, I thought it best that we rest and talk about it the next day.

    Unfortunately, rest wasn’t an option for me. I couldn’t help but worry about Cyan and the ideas forming in my mind robbed me of any chance at sleep. Instead, I decided to go outside for a bit and clear my head. Once I was outside, I took in a deep breath of the night air, letting it relax me as much as it could. I had to admit, I wasn't feeling any remorse over the events in Via Infinito and I knew full well none of them were real. However, I could only imagine how Cyan must have viewed the episode.

    Innumerable scenarios filled my mind as I considered all the possibilities. The one I hoped for was that Cyan only needed time to remember what I'd told her of my past and that the people we'd encountered in Via Infinito weren't real. However, why had she strayed from me for the rest of the day?

    Thinking against the worst outcomes, I took to walking around the house. I told myself things would be better tomorrow and that we'd return to Via Infinito and, once we were there, Cyan would remember that nothing that horrible dungeon produced amounted to a beneficial experience. As I turned the next corner, I found her, my Cyan, staring out into the night as she sat on the stoop. At first, I hesitated on whether or not to join her. If she needed her space, I shouldn't disturb her. However, she helped me when the mere mention of Slayer caused me to flee. She allowed me to face my past. I couldn't run from her now.

    Slowly, I approached, carefully sliding into place beside her. She turned slightly to acknowledge my presence, but quickly turned away, her hands clutching the sword she'd planted into the dirt. I attempted to get her attention, but decided against it, taking to looking up at the stars instead. That move turned out to be a mistake and I quickly looked away. There was something about those stars tonight. I could tell there would be no conclusion on this night and started to leave when I felt Cyan shudder. Stopping, I turned to her only to see that she was almost cradling the sword now, seemingly deep in thought. I gazed at her and found that I couldn't bring myself to leave her side. No, I'd stay. I'd stay with her.

    Early the next day, I was woken by the first beams of morning sunlight. I found myself curled up on the same stoop from the night before. My head rested on Cyan's lap and Cyan's hair tickled my cheek. I looked up to find that she was still asleep, though there was a blanket wrapped around both of us. I hadn't remembered going to get one so I guessed that Cyan must have when I dozed off. My stirring soon woke her and I looked up at her eyes gazing down at me.

    “Good morning.” I cooed, brushing some of her silky blonde hair from her face.

    “Mmm, Mishka.” She replied lazily, closing her eyes and taking in a deep breath.

    After we got up, it became silent and uneasy again. Regardless, we made our way to Nikki's house, hoping our absence had gone unnoticed by the others. However, the moment I opened the door, Yuki leaped into me, tackling me to the ground with a hug. Yuubou hovered over us as Gideon and Val greeted us and Cyan went inside... stepping over us as she did so.

    Cyan...” I murmured, a bit hurt by her casual reprieve.

    “Mishka Mishka, where have you and Cyan been? The twins asked as Yuki continued to hug me.

    “You don't want to know.” I told them, lifting the girl off me and going inside.

    “You missed it! Nikki was drunk and cuddly!”

    For the rest of the day, they would enchant us with tales of Nikki's bemusing drunkenness. Interestingly, and something I'd keep in mind for the future, Nikki apparently sucks at Sphere Break. Not to say I had any better luck at the game, but there was amusement to be had with this information.

    “Then she grabbed Kyra and told her she loved her. She finally admitted it!”

    “And contrary to popular belief, I did not tear up at it!” Gideon clarified, though it obviously had the opposite effect.

    “Oh oh and Gideon cried!” The twins chimed loudly, jumping about the Paladin who took a palm to his sullen face.

    “So what happened next?” I asked, trying to be as cheerful as I could.

    “Kyra took her to bed.

    “Did she now?” I couldn't begin to describe the size of the grin on my face. I needed this amusing anecdote.

    Just then, we heard the sound of a stiff punch coming from the next room and who should walk in, but the star-crossed lovers themselves. As soon as they did, Nikki looked at me and an immediate“don’t you fucking dare” look appeared on her face.

    I couldn't resist. “NIKKI!” I chirped, dashing to her and giving her the tightest hug I could ever remember giving.

    “GET OFF!” She roared, her fingernails digging deeply into my arms.

    “But drunk you sounds so cute!” I said, squeezing tighter and rocking back and forth between each of my legs.

    I was just about ready to nibble on her ear and tickle her when Cyan rained on my parade. Stopping beside the two of us, she proceeded to take hold of my right ear and tugged, forcing me from my prey.

    “Alright that’s enough, we don‘t want Nikki to kill you now.” She then said, which was a very poor choice of words on her part.

    As soon as she did, I stopped fighting her and she stopped tugging. None of the others noticed this and they wouldn't have a chance to. A moment later, Mayu had arrived with Sir Tidus and Lady Yuna. They wanted to discuss the Via Infinito Mission and Mayu had brought with her information on Sanika at Joseph's request. Cyan had taken the distraction to remove herself from the area, leaving for the next room. I thought to go with her, but then, she could use time to herself after all that she'd seen and one of us should be present to learn about our enemies. Unfortunately, though I stayed, my mind really couldn't focus on all the information being presented. After Cyan's joke, I couldn't shake the thought of an angry Nikki drawing her bow at me and Kyra engaging me. And, when I thought about those things, I remembered what I'd done in response. I remember Gippal defending me only to have his head claimed by my sword. I knew it was all an illusion and that I had only done those things I did because it had been an illusion, but it still felt real at the time and now, just looking at my friends brought back those terrible images.

    “Oh...” The twins voiced, rousing me at last.

    “Well... That explains a lot.” Paine said, letting me know I'd missed rather important bits of data.

    Mayu then said that, “We monitor Sanika’s actions a lot, what you guys did was amazing you guys delayed her, made her question, and if she does question the morals that she has been taught then the gang falls apart.”, which made me think I'd figured out what I missed.

    “So will we all be able to go back to the Via Infinito happily without the threat of Sanika?”

    “Um... No not really.” Well, so much for that.

    “I didn’t think it was going to be that easy.” I responded, hoping to cover for my lack of attention.

    “You’ve delayed her but she will come back, the reports state that she is already been talked to and is being convinced that the things she was told were a lie.”

    “And we’ve still got Sir Auron , Niikki’s clone and the little girl in the Via Infinito waiting for us.” Paine added, detailing the exact difficulty of our mission that I had only recently said we could return to “happily”. Just epitomises the consequences of not paying attention, doesn't it?

    “Maybe we should set up a Comm link to Keema and then...” I stopped caring after that.

    My mind was still on Cyan. I hoped the revelation the Velkomme Schwert brought with it hadn't changed her. I had gone on the mission with Cyan to help her grow stronger as she had done for me when we visited Guadosalam, but instead I'd made her life more complicated. I'd shown her the former me that she'd only heard me speak of. I'd murdered our friends.

    I moved on to the dining room, sitting myself down upon the window and gazed out at the midday sky. The pristine heavens glared at me and I was reminded of all the reasons that made me the Slayer, reasons beyond what I had revealed to Cyan. I had honestly moved past that life, but what if there were lasting effects? My actions in Via Infinito didn't feel like anything unique to me, but Cyan's reaction to them proved otherwise. It was then that I felt smothered. Though I was showered in warm light, my soul burned in its rays. The walls were calling out to me, telling me of how much blood bathed my skin.

    “...he served the Maestors who stayed in Bevelled as well as Maestor Mika the whole gang is formed on the warped teachings of Yevon...” The words I'd ignored during the meeting suddenly came to me.

    It reminded me of the true extent of corruption present on Spira. Sanika and Nikki's gang leader had been an agent under the Maesters of Yevon. They were covert, the ones assigned to missions that would never lead to Via Purifico. I knew those types of mission all too well.

    As I heard the murmur of one of my friends coming from the other room, I felt considerably more claustrophobic. I had to get outside. Stumbling about, I eventually guided myself to the door and found Cyan there, training with that new sword.

    Not wanting to face her, I decided, instead, to speak on what I assumed happened the previous night. “Cyan, I wanted to thank you for getting the blanket. I felt warm all night.”

    “Oh, I thought you were the one that got it.” She said, tilting her head, “To be honest, I was hoping I'd be enough to keep you warm. I noticed you were staying with me the entire time.”

    “I just hope you didn't notice the bubbles I make with my saliva when I'm under.” I said with a blush, realising then that I'd fallen asleep before her.

    She smiled, “I did.”

    “I don't know why it happens. I mean Teraan thinks it's cute, but he's just a ronso. What does he...” I began to explain awkwardly, fumbling with the words.

    “I think it's cute, too.” She said, making the motion of lifting her thumb to my cheek to wipe away some saliva from the corner of my mouth, which she’d obviously done at some point then.

    I’m famished. We should probably get something to eat.” I quickly blurted, trying my best to hide my ever-growing embarrassment.

    For a while, we chatted with each other just like before, but somewhere in the middle of Bevelle's market square, I saw her looking at something and then her hand reached for her sword again. Once she did, her expression changed back to how it was after she made that joke about Nikki. She was distant again, though she did seem better than she was the first time.

    “Cyan, about what happened... I'm sorry. I just thought it was the best solution.”

    “What?” She asked, turning to me with concern.

    “I killed them.”

    “That wasn't real.”

    “It seems to be real enough for you.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You're so distant. I can only guess it has to do with me.” I said, moving away.

    “Mishka,” She cooed, taking hold of my hand, “I know what you did was the right thing. Those things weren't our friends. They weren't real. You made the right decision.”

    “Then, what's wrong?” I asked.

    To that, she unsheathed the Velkomme Schwert, “Why do you think I was given something like this?”

    “That? It's only a sword.”

    “The Harbinger's Sword. I feel as though something bad is coming. I worry that we may not be strong enough.”

    “Cyan, bad things are always coming. As long as we live, there's always going to be a bad thing in the future. The best way to deal with that is to understand there are good things there, too.”

    “No, that's not what I mean. That incident we were in, it made me reflect on myself. Remember what I told you? When I was younger, I thought I was strong. I thought I could handle anything and because I did, I lost my little sister. I don't want to let that happen again.”

    I took her hands in mine, “Then don't.”


    “I mean it. You're not the same person you were back then. You're smarter. You know your weaknesses and, more importantly, you know to find theirs.” I told her, “Is that the only thing bothering you because, if it was, that's a relief. I had though... Um, it doesn't matter.”

    Cyan smiled at me and removed her hand from the sword's hilt, but I could tell she still needed time. I thought having some time alone would be the most useful to her. I'd only be a distraction. After I left her, I was left to my own devices, as well. I didn't really know what to do with myself as we weren't going to return to Via Infinito until later. I found myself wandering aimlessly, lost to a clutter of recent events that needed to be dealt with.

    “NIKKI!! IS THIS YOUR ANSWER?!?!? IS THIS WHAT YOU TRULY WANT?!?!?!?” I heard Joseph growl.

    Taking hold of my sword, I rushed in the direction that I heard his voice. I hit a small grove of trees and decided I could use them as cover for an ambush. However, as I got closer, I noticed I wasn't the only one watching the battle. Just before the trees thinned, I found a young girl dressed in black, her blonde streaked hair swaying as she watched what I could only assume was Nikki and Joseph having a very physical argument. As I drew closer, though, I noticed Kyra telling him that Nikki wasn't herself and that's when I also noticed how much stronger her arrows were. Charging my blade with Slowstrike, I waited for an opportunity to stop Nikki.

    “Uh...” The girl nearby gasped when Nikki sent another Ultima arrow at Joseph.

    Against my better judgement, I disarmed myself and moved back. However this battle ended, there was another battle to be fought. Kai had told me about this girl. Though I hadn't seen her before, I knew it had to be this girl. She was Xiang, another victim of Nikki's former gang. I could tell from the way she watched the fight, as if a part of her was remembering. It was a look I shared.

    Some time later, an older woman with purple hair held in a bun arrived with a few others in training uniforms. They appeared to be disciples of the woman and freed Kyra from Nikki's arrows as she instructed. At the same time, the woman began coaching Joseph, leading him to taking his sword and pegging Nikki in the shoulder, which caused her to drop to her knees and release her bow. Once he had subdued Nikki, the woman gave her students a very long run-on sentence of a command, probably done out of concern over Nikki, but it did amuse the rascal in me that she did and the lot of them began moving her.

    As they took Nikki, Xiang began to move, too. As she did, so I followed. Despite it being the middle of the day, I found that Xiang had excelled at keeping hidden amongst the crowd. She had talent, but much like my own, those talents came at a troubling price. The woman walked with Nikki to a house around the corner from where we'd been with Joseph following close by, carrying Kyra. Xiang circled the house as if she detected something about it. She carefully felt something in the air as she did, possibly sensing if there was a barrier. It was a wise move considering the woman's students had mentioned a white mage. If the mage had cast a sensory spell or ward around her home, Xiang's espionage would be over. I was also vulnerable to that, but I needed to know what she saw if I was going to use it to my advantage. Stalking the girl, I found her picking her point as she cautiously crept up to one of the windows, delicately placing her hands on the sill. She lifted herself up and peered inside, making sure none of her moves made a sound. It was quite a stunt as she had to tilt her head just enough to be able to see without revealing too much of it that those inside could easily spot it from the room. I remembered using a similar move once, which ended badly when my legs gave way and I was discovered. Turning around, I noticed the inconspicuous roof of a store just across from where Xiang had positioned herself. It gave me a clear visual of it, but sound would be an issue.

    Smiling to myself, I reached into the pouch I kept my crossbow bolts and retrieved a small device from it, whispering, “Thank you, Paine.”

    The device was a miniaturised comsphere that she carried. I had only discovered its use after I'd... acquired it. The device couldn't provide very good picture quality, but the sound was fine. I attached it to one of my electricity bolts and threw it at the corner of the window before getting myself to the roof. The comsphere was linked to the other one I acquired and had fashioned into an earring. From my vantage point, I could clearly see Xiang still crouched outside and the woman with a bound Nikki inside, though she seemed to be with a shorter woman now.

    “So what did Sanika do to Nikki?” The comsphere let me know that Joseph was just beyond the view from the window.

    "It's hard to say, Mina has always believed Sanika has a certain fondness for Nikki, and therefore has never broken her psycic link to Nikki, meaning she has always watched Nikki. Personally I believe that Sanika is just crazy and that there is no sensible reason to her actions.”

    “Is there a way to break the psycic link?”

    It only breaks if she is away from Bevelle.” Someone said in reply.

    “And since she is here in Bevelle, the only way is to kill Sanika right? Talk about a tall task.” That's a suicidal task, Joseph. I rolled my eyes.

    The conversation was a bit like an intervention, which was boring for me. Sanika had affected Nikki with her psychic abilities and now the girl needed to fight off those effects again, having done so when she left the gang. Of course, though I knew Nikki could fight off such a naïve move by the psychic, the real prize from this experience was for Xiang. As I watched Nikki struggling with the reality of what Sanika had done to her, everything that the others were saying severely impacted Xiang. She was slowly having trouble maintaining her position, taking to kneeling before the window, her arms dangling from the sill to keep her steady.

    “Shut up! No that can’t be true! It just can’t I don’t hurt people who I care about like that!” Nikki screamed, covering her ears with her hands in a futile attempt to deny reality.

    “Hey it’s okay, It’s okay, see? Nikki, I know you're scared. I want you to take my hand.”

    “She... Took more than a little... Sanika said... She said she only took a little so that I could come home, she said I was just getting rid of the people that kidnapped me... I’m not....I’m not 14 am I?”

    The thought that Sanika had robbed Nikki of not only who she'd chosen to be, but also the very memories she'd made growing up hit Xiang hard. In that moment, I knew she knew what the truth was. Now, it'd just be a matter of getting her to admit that she knew. I left the roof as soon as I could tell Xiang was about ready to move. As I neared the house, she turned to me, tears evident in her eyes.

    “Caught a good show, did you?” I taunted her.

    As expected, she took off, wiping away the tears as she did so. Her moves were erratic given her tumultuous state of mind, but that only made it easier for me to follow her. Better, it allowed me to lead her to where I preferred her to go. The trip took some time and a few coercions. At a few points that I closed the gap between us, I made sure to make callous remarks about it. They only made her want to seek a safe place more, which she would choose Kyley's house. The room she'd been given was the only neutral area for her now, a place where neither Nikki's betrayal nor the now rocky faith she had in the gang would be. Kyley answered the door and Xiang fled inside as soon as she opened it. Before she could close it, I arrived, apologising for the girl's lack of manners.

    When I heard the door slam, I knew where her room was and let myself in. She grabbed me by my arms and pinned me against the door the minute I was inside. Huffing and grunting, she looked as though she was ready to both cry and rip my arms out of their sockets to beat me to death with. A mischievous smile found itself upon my features as I felt the girl's nails dig deep.

    “Why were you spying on me?” She demanded to know.

    “I wanted to know if you liked what you saw.” I replied.

    “It wasn't real!” She spat, “You're just trying to trick me! You're all trying to trick me!”

    “Of course we're tricking you. You're easy. You've always been easy, haven't you, Xiang?”

    “Liar! You're just with Nikki, that bitch! You're all in on this!”

    “If you really believed that, you'd have killed me by now.”

    “Don't think I won't!” She said, letting me go.

    “Oh, I know you would. I did.”

    “What?” She was taken aback by that.

    “What was it, my fourth victim? Stupid boy. He thought he'd talk some sense into me. He told me what I knew was a lie. It was actually the last thing he told me before I cut out his throat.”

    “What are you...”

    “A murderer? Yea, that was what my 'father' taught me. He told me the people he wanted me to kill were unclean. Heretics against Yevon or something like that.”

    “Were they?” I could tell she was honestly considering my words.

    “Who knows? Eventually, I stopped caring why I was killing them. There were just too many 'sinners' out there, it seemed. Why bother to ask if any of them were really guilty if they all were?”

    “All? I'm... I'm not guilty... I'm not guilty of anything!”

    “We're all guilty.”

    “You're all guilty! You and that act you pulled with that traitor!”

    “Nikki? Sweet girl. You know, she's nothing special. She hides her emotions and pretends like that protects her. You know what? It only helps weaken you. Bottling it all up? Pushing the memories that don't make sense back? All it takes is for somebody to know how to set them free and then you're mine.”

    With that, I bounded for her, slapping her hands away and grabbing her by the neck. I pulled myself right next to her, pressing the hilt of my sword to her gut with my other hand. She looked at me with widened eyes before pushing away, arming herself with a clock from the table nearby.

    “Stay back!”

    “Or you'll what? Aren't you comfortable with this? Isn't it only a game?”

    No, I didn't know if that was how “father” had treated her, but I could only guess it had been similar. When Xiang placed a shaking hand to her navel, I knew I had guessed right.

    “Yea, it's just teasing. What's wrong is what those people were doing to Nikki, forcing her to fight against our sister.”

    “Yes, all that talk of being among friends and asking if she's okay. How sickening. That only makes a person weak. Strength is dominance. The strong are always okay. That's what I told the third person I killed.”

    “I never killed people.”

    “You're still young, like I was when I ran him through with a pike. You reach a certain clarity.”

    “How many people... did you...”

    “Oh, I lost count years ago. My 'father' told me it was best not to think on them, their lives, the lives they could have had if I hadn't ended them.”

    She took in a few shallow breaths, placing a hand to her heart, “He sounds wise. Father told me to forget about some things, too. Some of the things that I saw that I shouldn't think about too much.”

    “They only interfere with what's important, don't they?”


    “I remember that one annoying, nagging ditz. She kept crying, begging me to let her go. I'd just killed her parents, you see, and she promised she'd disappear.” I said, moving to caress the air as to recreate the scene, “What do you think I should've done?”

    She hesitated, taking in more rapid breaths, “D-did you...”

    “Gutted her right where she cowered. She was just like them. Just like those people hovering around Nikki.”


    “You know, she's just like Nikki. Stupid girl pretending she's doing good, doing what's right.”

    “Father said we were doing good.”

    “Pfft, good? What's good? In the end, Xiang, you're going to understand there's no such thing.”

    “But didn't you kill people because...”

    “...because I thought I was punishing the wicked? Maybe at first, I did. It's always easier to think that way, but really, what's good? How do you define anything to be good?”

    “Nikki betrayed us. That was a bad thing.”

    “I used to think that. I used to think the people who my 'father' told me had betrayed us and the teachings of Yevon were bad people. Then, I thought back to that second kill. What did that kid do that was against the teachings? What did he do to betray us?”

    “What did he do?”

    “He was sitting. I had just come from murdering his mother and he was sitting at a table scribbling something on a piece of paper. My 'father' told me I did the right thing later on, that the boy was an atrocity and a menace.”

    “Maybe he was. Maybe he was writing heresy on that paper!”

    “No.” I calmly said, looking up at the ceiling, “If memory serves, he was drawing a doodle of his mother banishing Sin.”

    “Then, you did it to protect yourself! If his mother could banish Sin, she could banish you! And and he was her son so maybe he had that power, too!”

    “Xiang, why would my 'father' tell me to kill a woman who could end the Age of Sin that easily?”

    “BECAUSE!” She was starting to lose control of what she believed.

    “Because, in the end, the strong live; the weak die. We're strong and they're weak. That's why we kill them. ”

    “Don't say 'we'! I'm nothing like you! I'm not a murderer!” She growled, lifting the clock high.

    “But are you strong? Did your father tell you that much?” Her face went pale, “You're a strong girl, right? Those others out there in the world, they're not like you. Nikki and those deserters, they're not like you. You're strong.”


    “You're lovely. Glowing.”

    “Stop that...” She said.

    “Aren't you? Don't you think so?” I purred, both remembering what the grizzly one had said to me all those years ago and forcing Xiang to think back on her own experiences.

    As she backed away, I moved closer, “You feel soft, don't you? Will you let me see? Won't you let me feel?”

    “Get away from me you bastard!” She screamed, tackling me to the ground and pounding against my chest, “Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Stop!! Stop it! Leave me alone!! Go away! Please!!”

    Sitting up as she began to cry, I pulled her close and whispered in her ear, “Shh, there now. He's gone. He's nowhere near here.”

    “Please...” She sobbed, “Why did you do that to me? How could you do that...”

    Little by little, she calmed herself and soon she realised what she'd been doing and lifted herself off of me. She was embarrassed at first, having had such an episode, but as I looked at her, she recollected herself and understood.

    “Your father said those things to you, too?” She asked, grabbing one of her arms and looking away.


    “Did he mean it?”

    “What do you think?”

    She nodded slightly, “And killing all those people... Did you really do that?”

    I nodded and she gulped, sniffing back more tears. She looked at her hands then traced the floor up to my hands. “And... those people.”

    “They got in my 'father's' way.”

    “Was that all?”

    Again, I nodded. “Just like the people your father targeted, huh?”


    “Need some space? Don't worry, I wasn't going to stay that much longer.” I told her, standing up and dusting myself off.

    “No.” She corrected, “I wanted to ask you... am I stupid? For believing so long? Am I stupid?”

    I walked to her and picked her up, “You're brave, for accepting the truth. There are many people who would prefer that ideal world.”

    “You made me see it.”

    “No, I only forced you to face it. You're the one that saw what was wrong. I've got the bruises to prove it.” I said, rubbing my scapula.

    She blushed, “Sorry...”

    “I've had worse.”

    “I'll bet you have.” She mused, trying to smile.

    Are we interrupting?”

    I jumped at the twins' sudden words, but quickly grunted my displeasure, “Dammit twins...”

    “I didn't realise you named yours.”

    I was taken aback by that for sure, “What? No, its not... They're talking to me in my head.”

    Of course, once I realised what I had just said, I quickly corrected myself, “No, the twins, they're part of our group. They're telepathically talking to me.”


    Mishka Mishka! You have to come to the temple now. We're going back down!”

    “Oh! Alright, I'll be there soon!” I told them, turning back to Xiang after, “We're leaving for Via Infinito now. Are you going to be alright?”

    She nodded to me and assured me that she'd be just fine now. I left her room and bid Kyley farewell. The trip back to the temple didn't take long at all, but once I got there, I found I was the only one there. Furthermore, the portal leading down to Via Infinito was gone. It had been replaced by a dark cloud of twisted pyreflies.

    Mishka so glad you could make it.” It was Sanika.

    “That was a brilliant speech you gave our little sweet Xiang just now.” She stated, letting me know the extent of her power.

    “Did it do anything for you?” I asked, looking into her eyes.

    “Only that I noticed you didn't mention the part where you tried to kill Nikki, too.”

    I smiled. She hadn't read that part from my mind.

    “So, you're a murderer.” She continued, “And a traitor. My my the things you've done.”

    “Things you couldn't even begin to imagine.” I mused, flicking away a few strands of my hair, “So, are you the one to thank for this place's makeover?”

    “Are you talking about the pyreflies? They were like this when I arrived. Eerie. I think it will make the perfect burial place for your corpses.”

    This wasn't her doing? Then, that could only mean, “Sanika, we're all in danger! You have to get us out of h-”

    With a wave of her hand, I found my body frozen in place. I couldn't speak; I could barely move my eyes to see Sanika pacing. Just as she raised her hand to attack, Rika appeared, alerting her to others approaching the temple. With that, she moved behind me, telepathically telling me that the “other liars” were here.

    When Gideon arrived, he immediately came to free me only to be caught in Sanika's will also. Minutes later, Paine and Nooj arrived with Lady Yuna and Sir Tidus. Sanika froze Nooj and Sir Tidus, but Paine successfully spherechanged before Rika and Uncle revealed themselves, allowing Sanika to stop them, too, when they were distracted. Val was next, but he’d been busy fiddling with his guns to even notice the trap.

    “There's still six missing.” Uncle grumbled.

    “Patience Uncle.” Sanika said, “They'll be here soon.

    The twins would arrive next. When they saw us, they tried to flee, but Sanika was able to disable their teleporting, too. As they were locked in place, Cyan arrived and rushed Sanika with her sword. Sanika waved her hand to stop her, too, but Cyan kept going, landing short, but managing a kick to her middle. However, just as she began her next move, Sanika's power kicked in and she was held in mid-slash, struggling to move her arm to strike her. We were helpless and there was nothing we could do to warn Joseph, Nikki, and Kyra from falling into the trap. What was worse, the portal to Via Infinito was whispering. Its power had grown and we were all in danger.


    As soon as Sanika’s telekinetic grip released us, I rushed in to help Kyra but it was too late. She disappeared in a blinding flash of light. I watched as tears ran down Nikki’s face. I felt a huge flash of anger as Sanika began to support her companions. Just then, the Nikki clone from the Via Infinito appeared and began to attack Sanika.

    I rushed towards Sanika, wanting to lop her head off with my swords. However, Uncle blocked my path to her.

    “I will not let you pass,” he declared, clashing his wrist blades against my swords.

    “Get out of my way!!!” as I pushed against him. This standoff lasted a moment before it broke. I backed off just a bit before I pursued him. As I clashed with
    Uncle in a series of hit and run, I noticed that Nikki was the only one who wasn’t fighting. She was still in the same spot, crying over the loss of Kyra. I knew that she needed to get into the fight but I also understand her current state of mind. After all, losing someone close like that would be hard on anyone.

    Without another word, I looked at Cyan and Gideon who understood what needed to be done. They rushed in to take over the fight with Uncle while I ran to Nikki. Part of me wanted to do what I did back in the Via Infinito but my logical side told me that this will not work on her in this situation. I ran next to her, pausing for a moment before bending down and hugging her as gently as I could.

    “Nikki, we need you in this fight,” I said as gently as I could.

    “Jo…..Joseph…. She’s gone. She…..” she sobbed. “I never even told her……”

    “I know. I know,” I whispered. “I feel the same way. But I can’t let that show now. We’re in the middle of a fight and we need you right now. There is always time to mourn after.”

    What I said was true and Nikki probably knew it. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces the moment Kyra disappeared. I also wanted to cry and scream but Sanika and her crew were the reason this happened. This was not the time to lose my emotional control or my rational mind. So I locked my heart up and acted rationally. I needed Nikki to do that same right now. We needed her skills to even have a chance of winning.

    “Kyra wouldn’t want you to die here now. She would want you to fight. So hold it together till we defeat Sanika for all she has done to you and Kyra. At least you can avenge her for that,” I said softly. Nikki understood what to do. Her sobs died down and I could see her hand tightly clenched her bow.

    “Yeah. Let’s get Sanika. For Kyra,” she said.

    “For Kyra,” I replied. She got up and looked at Sanika who was in the middle of the battle. With a simple swing, I casted Hayate on the both of us. After a moment, we both sprinted into the battle.

    I headed towards Sanika who was busy with the Nikki clone but I was suddenly hit from the side. That caused me to lose my balance and fall to the ground. I got up to see Uncle prepare another spell. Just then Gideon came from the side to attack, forcing Uncle to defend himself.

    I got up and charged into the fight. Gideon was keeping pressure on Uncle but even then, he was able to stop my blades with his wrist blade. Cyan came in behind him but it was blocked by his Protect spell. Even being tripled teamed, Uncle was able to block our attacks and counterattack as well.

    Eventually, Gideon and Cyan were able to get both his writs blades blocked while I charged up an Armor Break. Before I could finish, he kicked me in the stomach. The pain caused me to lose concentration and I was winded for a moment. Uncle use the moment to throw both Cyan and Gideon aside. As he finished, I managed to get up and attack. Uncle didn’t have time to use a spell so he blocked my strike with his wrist blades. I used my strength to force them down and held them in a position where Uncle cannot back out.

    This situation was a stalemate for us. Neither I nor Uncle can free our blades because that would give the other to get a clean hit on the opponent. I was using my full strength just to keep Uncle from retaliating but it was fading fast. Gideon got up behind Uncle and struck down, his sword charged with an Armor Break. The Protect Spell sprung up to protect Uncle, catching Gideon’s sword in mid swing. Not losing his concentration, Gideon began applying more and more strength to the downwards swing. Eventually he broke through, getting a clean hit on Uncle.

    Uncle screamed in pain, losing strength in his arms to keep me at bay. I broke the lock and ran Uncle with both my sword while Gideon did the same from behind. Uncle’s scream was cut sort as he slumped down to the floor. I held my pose for a moment in case he got back up but he didn’t. I sank to the ground, exhausted. The previous fight with Nikki and now this meant that I haven’t recovered all my strength yet. Yet even though I was exhausted, I pushed myself up and headed towards Sanika.


    Kyra woke up in Joseph’s arms. She noticed that some of her strength had been restored, but she was still in a massive amount of pain.. She muttered a thank you to Joseph and buried her face into his chest. He was walking; taking her away from what just happened.

    What happened?” was one of her many thoughts. Through the pain, that’s all she could do. Her vision was still blurry, so she kept her eyes closed. How she didn’t die was a mystery. Nikki was an ace with an arrow. She thought for sure she would-

    “Kyra? Don’t doze off on me okay? You’ve lost a lot of blood.” A soft voice said. Somewhere between her thoughts she was placed in a bed. There was a lady working diligently to make sure Kyra stayed alive. She didn’t say anything, but let herself relax and let the mage do her magic.

    “So what happened to Nikki and how can she use attacks that she wasn’t able to use before?” Kyra heard Joseph say. Another woman replied.

    "Three years ago a similar thing happened she attacked her boyfriend for no reason and tried her best to get back to the gang, her eyes back then turned blue to purple but not as rapidly. Turned out that she thought she was fourteen again she had no idea who her boyfriend was. Sanika had temporarily wiped her memories."

    Rhyse...He went through this, too, but he still loved her? How? Why?”

    Kyra knew the answer to both of those questions. She was barely paying attention to the conversations going on around her. Knowing that Sanika was behind this was the only piece of information Kyra needed. It was enough to make her blood boil.

    “It only breaks if she is away from Bevelle.” The white mage responded to one of Joseph’s questions.

    But Kai doesn’t want her to leave. This is her home...

    “And since she is here in Bevelle, the only way is to kill Sanika right? Talk about a tall task.”

    “There is another way. Asuka has her own psychic link to Nikki, we can try and use her to block Sanika but I fear she is far too weak and young to do so.” The white mage explained.

    "Then our only option is to go confront Sanika. I'm not putting that girl at risk."

    “You’ll be lucky to even touch her.” the sensei responded.

    The room fell silent as far as Kyra could hear. It was full of unspoken thoughts of frustration.
    “There all better now, nothing vital was pierced just keep those bandages on so that the spells can work quicker.” The white mage broke the silence snapping Kyra out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes. She could see clearly again. She propped herself up to get a better look of the damage. Minimal...Not even that many bandages are really needed...

    “Thanks.” Kyra said softly. Her recent thoughts were still swirling through her mind. Her wounds might have been healed, but there was still uncertainty in the room. Kyra got up from the bed, got dressed in her new clothes again and moved to the other side of the curtain. She gave Nikki a look of concern as she saw the trouble she was going through. She didn’t like to see her this way.

    “It’s not her fault, don’t worry I’ll do all I can to bring her back.” she said softly. She walked over to where Nikki was sitting.

    “Hello Nikki how are you feeling today?”

    “Fuck off you are all nuts.”

    “Ah she speaks.” Her sensei mused.

    “How rapidly have her eyes been changing colour?” asked the white mage while looking into Nikki’s eyes.

    ”About every minute. Joseph responded.

    “That’s much quicker than last time why do you think that is?” asked Sensei.

    “Probably because Sanika has many more memories to wipe this time. It’s probably straining her too, so we can expect the spell to break soon, but it could take a few hours”

    “Last time it took a couple of days.”

    "She'll be back to her normal self then?"

    "Well as normal as she can be, this is going to crush her when her memories return." The white mage then noticed Nikki was shaking quite severely. “Nikki what is it? Are you alright?”

    “Screaming... Lots and lots of screaming and bones breaking. Why? Why am I so scared? Who is she?” Nikki was now shivering.

    “Any voices?”

    “A little girl’s” She mumbled as she looked down to the floor.

    “Look at me Nikki.” Mina said sternly. The sensei went in and removed the cuffs from Nikki’s wrists. She then looked at the white mage. “The girl’s name is Asuka she has a psychic link with you, she trying to piece together your memory but can only work on ones that are similar to what you did in the park. You need to relax your mind and let her in because all she is doing is playing you the same memory."

    “Shut up! No that can’t be true! It just can’t I don’t hurt people who I care about like that!” she shouted out loud putting her hands to her ears. Tears came down her face and she was shaking so badly.

    “It’s okay Nikki she is fine,” the white mage walked over to Kyra. "I know you probably don't want to but at the moment mentally she is 14 year old kid and very very frightened, if you could I need you to be strong for her and show her that you are ok and tell her so. There's nothing I can do to calm her and honestly I think she will probably piece together quickly that she is not 14 very soon."

    What do you mean I don’t want to?! Of course I want to help!! Kyra yelled in her mind. She simply nodded and made her way over to her shaking lover, although that memory was taken from her as well. Nikki slid back against the wall as Kyra approached. Seeing Nikki like this was tearing Kyra apart on the inside, but she couldn’t show that. Not now.

    "Hey, It's okay. I'm okay, See?" Kyra held out her hand to show her.
    "Nikki, I know you're scared. I want you to take my hand." She said calmly, hoping the girl would take up the offer.

    She slowly did take her hand but it seemed that Nikki was starting to realize something. Kyra’s strategy was working.

    “She... Took more than a little... Sanika said... She said she only took a little so that I could come home, she said I was just getting rid of the people that kidnapped me... I’m not....” Nikki’s body shook even more she began to really look at her own hands. ”I’m not 14 am I?”

    “No, you are not.” Kyra said as calmly as possible.

    “How... How old?”

    “You’re 19.”

    Nikki went silent as she quickly withdrew her hand and curled up into a ball. Who knew what was going through her mind at this time. Kyra knew that all she could be was supportive as she went through this mental trip. She took a spot next to Nikki and said whatever came to mind. "It's okay though. Being older is better." She paused to move in closer. “You can do more when you're older."

    Kyra could see that Nikki was suddenly getting very tired. Her legs dropped and her head rested against the wall. Her eyes were closed. The white mage rushed over and tried desperately to wake her up.

    “Hey, hey, hey don’t go to sleep, you go to sleep and you might not get those memories back.” Nikki quickly sat up as the realised this.

    Kyra took her hand and smiled at her to keep her calm. She then turned to the mage, “What’s wrong with her?” She asked.

    “I would guess that Sanika is sapping Nikki’s energy now to keep the spell going, Sanika might not even be aware that the spell is going out of control.”

    "Is there anything you can do to help?" she heard the man ask.

    "it's a very strong spell so it is demanding a lot of power, I'm afraid an ether wouldn't do anything for Nikki it's not just simply taking her magic but it's slowly taking her life."

    “Dammit!” he said voicing everyone elses thoughts.

    “Stay calm, she is still mentally fourteen and needs everyone to stay calm and focused. You lose your calm now and then you are just going to put her on edge.” She heard her Sensei say.


    “Mina are you quite sure that Sanika actually cares for Nikki?”

    “Yes, very much so Kimiko, She has probably already noticed that the energy levels are depleting and is trying to do something about it.”

    “I trust your judgement then.”

    Kyra was getting more and more worried that they might lose Nikki. Kyra wouldn’t know how to handle that. When Nikki started to fall, Kyra immediately caught her and held her tight to her chest.


    Mina responded quickly as well. “Nikki? Can you hear me Nikki?” Nikki sat up and looked around the room. “Ah how lovely to see no purple eyes, your colour has come back to your face too.”

    Kyra was relieved to hear that.

    “Have your memories returned?” asked Sensei.

    “Yeah. Sanika broke the spell by cutting the psychic link.”

    “I’m getting too old for this.” sighed Mina in relief as she stood up.

    “Right well, I’m glad that’s over with and I’m glad you are okay Nikki, I’ve got a class to prepare for, so I’ll be off.”

    “Yes of course.” Said Mina leading her to the door.

    “Sensei.” She stopped and turned to Nikki. “Thank you.”

    “Hmm... Just don’t go and getting into any more trouble I don’t want to lose one of my best students to the likes of Sanika.” Said Sensei she then left.

    Nikki went silent. Kyra knew what that meant. She was thinking pessimistic. She was blaming herself...Kyra needed to be alone with her.

    “Joseph can you wait outside?”


    “Wait... I’m really sorry to both of you I did terrible things.”

    "Don't worry about it. Though I wish that you told us about that beforehand"

    “I’m sorry, I thought if she ever cast the spell again then I was prepared enough to stop her.”

    "So what now? We still have a mission to complete. are you up to the task?" There was silence. Kyra was getting more and more angry with every moment of silence. Joseph broke the silence. "Either way, I think we go down there again in the morning. we'll leave whether you are with us or not. Either way, you owe me a drink for all that which i will take when we're back from the next trip down." He said trying to lighten Nikki’s mood, even if it was slightly. Kyra noticed she was crying as Joseph left. She was wallowing in self guilt. Nikki wasn’t responsible for her actions. She was being used!

    "Hey, cut it out before I send a thunder spell your way. No use in blaming yourself Nikki. No one here is blaming you!"

    “How can you say that after what I have done? I nearly killed you and I will never forgive myself for that. I made you scream in pain.” Nikki looked at her with teary eyes. They were beautiful and blue again. Just the sight of them made Kyra’s heart melt. She needed to knock Nikki out of this stupor. She hated seeing her this way.

    "No! It wasn't you. I know that wasn't you. I saw how hard you tried to fight it. It was Sanika who was behind your actions. I'd kill her myself if she wasn't so damn strong. You, I can forgive in a heartbeat. Sanika, I cannot.” Kyra hoped her words would sink in. “If I hear another word of you blaming yourself, You'll get a swift punch to the..."

    Nikki leaned over, and before Kyra could finish, a passionate kiss was planted on her lips. Nikki wrapped her arms around Kyra’s neck. All of Kyra’s anger melted away in an instant. Besides, Kyra probably couldn’t punch her lover if she tried. It was an act, and it worked. When the kiss broke, Nikki broke down in Kyra arms. Kyra held her as she poured out her emotions. It was the first time Nikki had let herself cry in front of Kyra. Kyra stroked her back for support. Nikki suddenly moved her head to give Kyra another passionate kiss. Nikki then maneuvered herself so she was sitting on Kyra’s lap with her knees on either side of Kyra’s hips. Kyra’s cheeks started to heat as her imagination started to wander. She started to rub Nikki’s back, but was in search of something. Something she had done countless times before. Something to ease the pressure that Nikki was going through. All she needed was a flick of the wris-

    "Woah Nikki. Hold your chocobos. Whose house are we in?" She stopped herself and dropped her hands. Damn it! Why did I stop? I never stop! It’s my favourite thing to do and I stopped! Kyra thought, questioning her actions.

    “Mina’s I think it would be best if we leave.” Kyra watched as Nikki stood.

    “Yeah, maybe.” She said, not really wanting to leave. Did they have to leave? Kyra took Nikki’s hand and stood. She couldn’t resist leaning in to meet her lips again. She wished this moment would last longer than it did.

    “Thank you.” Nikki said as they began to walk to the door. Walking hand in hand, Kyra just smiled at Nikki. She watched as Nikki scooped up her bow before leaving the white mage’s house.

    “Oh, I nearly forgot. Rey has my sword. Hopefully he took it back to the shop...” she told Nikki, but she was half thinking out loud. “I’ll meet the both of you back at the temple.” Kyra leaned in to kiss Nikki on the cheek before leaving the two.

    She walked to Rey’s shop. She was half expecting him to be there, and half expecting him not to be. Kyra wasn’t keeping track of time as those events happens moments prior. An hour or two might have passed and Rey could have been anywhere.

    “Kyra!” she heard a yell from the distance.

    Kyra looked to see Rey walking towards her, her blade was nowhere in sight.

    ”Rey, where’s my gunblade!?” Kyra demanded.

    “It’s back in my shop, Kyra.” he said calmly. “I’m not giving it back until you tell me what just happened?”

    Don’t come to the temple, run away as far as you can!”

    That...means there’s trouble.” Kyra thought. Kyra had a really bad feeling. She needed to get back.

    ”I really don’t have time to explain-”

    “What do you mean you don’t have time? You have all the time in the wor-”

    “Cut it out, Rey! I’m on an important mission. I have to get back to-”

    “Nikki? That bitch who almost killed you?

    "Yes, you’re absolutely right. She did almost kill me. 'Almost' would be the key word here. I am still alive, aren’t I? It’s not the first time that my life has been on the line, nor will it be the last. What happened in the park was something that you will probably never comprehend. If it weren’t for her, I would have been dead a few days ago. If it weren't for her, I would leave Bevelle as soon as I am finished with this mission. But, since I have met her, I have fallen for her. Those actions in the park were not hers, nor do they need to be explained to the likes of you! She does not deserved to be judged like that! I am sick of you trying to control me! I am sick of you trying to stand in my way when I need to do things for myself! Quit trying to squeeze your way into my life when I already told you to leave!"

    Kyra was furious. Her face was red with anger. Rey looked as though he was at a loss for words. Kyra had to get her blade back now before something disastrous happened in the temple. That’s the only thing that was going through her mind. When she turned to leave, Rey grabbed her arm harshly. Kyra turned around, but saw a flash of red near his boots.

    “Fire!” Kyra heard a voice that sounded like Lillia approach them.

    Rey screamed as his boots were singed. He let Kyra’s arm go as he attempted to stomp out his burning boots.. A water spell followed shortly after. Kyra saw Lillia calmly make her way over.

    "Are you alright Kyra?" she asks, ignoring Rey’s angry huffs.

    "Yeah, um. I think so. Thanks." she responded as she pieced together what just happened.

    "Good." Lillia said with a smile. She turned to Rey, "I don't know who you think you are but you are going to piss off a lot of people for hurting Kyra, you might want to be careful and watch what how you behave around here. A Lot of people respect Kyra for going into the Via Infinito to try and find the lady Rikku. Gossip can spread around here and where would that leave your shop?"

    Rey stood there just as speechless as he was when Rhyse confronted him yesterday. Pathetic.

    Kyra heard footsteps approach from the direction of she shop. She looked to see that it was Kai with a cocky look on his face. He was running towards them with Kyra’s gunblade in his hands.

    Kai quickly approached the group and said, “Look what I found hidden in the back, here you go m'lady!”

    Lillia made an audible groan as she slapped her forehead.

    Kyra was shocked, but she had barely any time to react. “I, um, Thanks Kai! I have to go!” she said through her confusion. She took her blade from Kai and cast haste on herself. She had to get to the temple as quickly as she could.

    When she arrived, she found the whole team was there, and Sanika had her arm outstretched ready to cast a spell on Joseph.

    “STOP!” Kyra yelled.

    “Kyra run, get out of here!” Nikki called out with her back facing Kyra. Something definitely wasn’t right.

    "Not a chance."

    Sanika lowered her arm. “Ah so the little bitch did arrive. How nice of you to come to the party but I’m afraid you are a little late.” Sanika waved her arm and sent Kyra flying across the room and into the wall.

    “Kyra!” yelled out Nikki, “Sanika I swear I will hunt you down and kill you if you lay a hand on her!”

    “Poor little Nikki, do you not know why the spell went out of control? Father explained to me it was her magic, it was her who nearly killed you, because she does not belong in this world, her magic is different. She must be sent back and I need the knowledge on how.” Sanika waved her hand again and Asuka appeared before Sanika with a bright flash of light.

    “Uh oh...” the twins voiced what others were thinking.

    “Uh oh, would be an understatement” Paine corrected.

    “That's a lie! Leave her alone!” Kyra yelled. I do belong here, right?” Kyra thought. In the midst of her thoughts, she was sent flying across the room again, but landed on something soft.

    “What the fuck?” Kyra heard Nikki say.

    “POP!” shouted out a familiar voice and the bubble popped only to turn into pyreflies then the little unsent girl appeared in the room. “That’s my new trick I got bored of flowers, I can now make BUBBLES!”” she cried out happily as pyreflies produced images of bubbles and became pyreflies again.

    “Sweetie that’s lovely, but there is a bad lady over there who has us all stuck.” Cyan said to the girl.

    “Oh are we playing musical statues? I can be a statue look!” The girl stood on one foot trying to keep still but failing. Sanika waved her arm and a glyph appeared beneath Kyra.

    Oh no...” Kyra heard mumbles coming from Nikki, but couldn’t hear what was actually being said. She was being held in place by Sanika

    “Kyra!” Nikki yelled out. She heard the gongs sound through her ears. It was deafening.

    Kyra held her arm out as far as she could reach, desperately trying to reach out to Nikki. She couldn’t move much. The magic around her was too strong. She couldn’t hear anything around her. Just as Nikki was about to grab her hand, she was engulfed in a bright light.


    The battle around Nikki was muffled around her; Nikki was angry and upset at herself for not taking revenge for Kyra, but all her strength had gone, all her will to fight had gone, every time she fought something hit back harder. She didn’t know whether Kyra has simply been transported back home or whether she was dead.I couldn’t protect her again, and now I will never see her again. What will I do without her?” She felt that she had fallen into a pit with no way out, with no light. She found it hard to breathe, she really felt the despair of the Via Infinito consume her as if reading her, she felt some kind of scan spell happen inside of her, but she did not care.

    After a while she felt that the tightness of the Via Infinito had suddenly ceased, she was able to breathe normally again but the pain of losing Kyra was still there, she looked up. Joseph was to the side of her a few feet away crouched down, she thought she saw herself as well but that image of her sat on the ground quickly vanished before she could get her head around it, she thought she had imagined it. She watched as Joseph seemed to talk quietly and then got up and rushed into battle again, the whole thing was kinda odd.

    Kyra...” thought Nikki she watched as her friends fought in the battle, she watched as Daiki fell being impaled from both sides from Joseph and Gideon, they both were joined the others against Rika who was winning, the others that had been worn down but she looked like she had lots more energy left in her, her dark arrow spells were being powered up by her anger, and she was more dangerous now that Daiki was dead. Nikki glanced over to where Sanika was, her clone was fighting against her while she saw Mishka trying to help it seemed that the clone only saw her as nuisance and didn’t care if Mishka got caught in her attacks as well.

    The witch can’t win silly, she’s a witch.” That same little girl’s voice spoke to her. She saw a light from the corner of her eye on her left and then a voice.

    “Activate mega-ultra, super-duper assault mode!” Nikki looked to see that Rikku was charging into battle in a blue suit on some sort of machina, the unsent girl was next to her however something was off there was no recognition from Rikku when the Lady Yuna yelled out her name in surprise, so Nikki came to the conclusion that this was not the real Rikku.

    Is she dead?” thought Nikki.Did she even make it back home?” The thoughts kept swirling around her in a loop consuming her. When she looked up again she noticed that Rika had been knocked out and Rikku had disappeared. There was only Sanika left however she was still able to hold her own despite being powered down. A wave of power came from her sprawling everyone to the ground, however the clone quickly got up and had managed to penetrate her shield and pierce her in the arm, Sanika then got slower her attacks getting weaker.

    I’m Sanika, don’t worry I’ll protect you and go and find help.”

    “Sanika, she always used to be such a sweet and helpful girl.”

    “I always saw Sanika as a younger sister, it’s not her fault that she turned out like this.”

    Nikki! Don’t let them kill her it’s not her fault! It’s the bad man’s fault!” yelled Asuka in her head Nikki looked up Sanika was sprawled to the ground with Joseph’s and Cyan’s swords crossed over her to stop her from moving and the clone was preparing for one last attack.

    Why the fuck am I sat here? Asuka’s right we would be as bad as they are if we did this.” Nikki suddenly stood up, she knew that Kyley and Hayleigh still cared for Sanika, she didn’t want them to be hurt by Sanika’s death. She loaded an arrow and let it go, it flew through the air and hit the clone’s arrow making it shatter.

    “The hell Nikki!!!!” yelled Joseph.

    “I’m not doing this for Sanika, I’m doing this for Kyley and Hayliegh who still care for Sanika. Killing Sanika would achieve nothing there’s already been enough bloodshed and hurt.”

    “Despite what she’s done to us?”

    “Get out of my way FAKE!” roared the clone in anger she was about to attack when the unsent girl moved between them.

    “Sissy should do as mummy says, and mummy says no.” She said with a burst of power she sent the clone flying to the entrance of the Via Infinito and in a flash of light the clone was gone. The girl giggled and then bursts into a pryeflies and headed back while singing again. Nikki turned back to Joseph.

    “It’s not just us but many other people as well, death would only be an easy way out for her.” Joseph was about to reply back to her when the pryeflies started humming louder then.

    “I don’t deserve to be protected little Nikki.” Pryeflies danced around Sanika and then they began to show a memory.

    Screams could be heard all around, buildings were on fire Sinspawn were everywhere and in the admist the chaos an 8 year old Sanika was running through Bevelle. Her black hair came to her shoulders her eyes were of a brown colour, she was wearing a summery dress with lime green and bright blue butterflies all over it. She was being pursued by Sinspawn, the girl was clearly getting tired from all the running, she was slowly slowing down and she was getting out of breath, and the Sinspawn were getting closer.

    The girl stopped and she turned around to meet them head on. “Leave me alone!” she yelled out, with a burst of her power the group of Sinspawn were thrown against the wall and died. Sanika looked shocked at first and looked at her hand there were stil glowing in a purple aura and then faded. She then continued running.

    When she rounded a corner she bumped into a five year old Nikki, who was wearing a black skirt and a light blue t shirt but no shoes, she had probably lost them while running. Hearing Sinspawn nearby she just took her hand and ran with the crying Nikki, but the Sinspawn had cornered them, again the girl used her power to kill them and ran with Nikki once again.

    Once they were safe she turned to the little girl she had just saved, who was still crying and muttering that her family was dead. Sanika could feel her grief, her magic was responding to Nikki’s emotions. She wanted to get rid of her pain. "Everything is going to be okay, you'll see.” She said and she hugged Nikki, Sanika glowed a purple aura and then it faded. Nikki grew more hysterical in her crying. “No I was meant to help” said Sanika worried as she let go of Nikki. “Why are you still crying?”

    “I don’t know something bad happened.” She replied with tears constantly falling down her face. Sanika paled she had accidently done something.

    “What’s your name?” Nikki looked up at her.

    “Ni... Ni... Nikki.” She said while still crying.

    “I’m Sanika, don’t worry I’ll protect you and go and find help.” Sanika was trying not to cry Nikki sat on the pile of rubble and Sanika ran to get help. She ran for quite a while until she saw a 13 year old Hayliegh who had shot down a Sinspawn with her bow and arrow. She was wearing a white sleeveless top with a blue hooded unzipped top over it and black shorts with black flip flops Sanika just cried when she got to her.

    “Hey, hey, hey there you are, you should be at Kyley’s, what’s wrong?”

    “I did something terrible, Hayliegh, I thought I could make Nikki’s pain go away but I didn’t I made it worse and she’s forgotten a lot of things.” She said while crying.

    “Who’s Nikki?” Sanika just points in the direction that she ran from. Hayliegh hugs her. “Don’t worry, it’s all going to be alright we’ll get her memory back. Now go back to Kyley’s she’s worried sick.” Sanika just nods and the memory ends

    Sanika, she was the one that took those memories away of my family, but how? She was only 8! Fucking hell!”

    “I had joined the gang to find a way to bring back your memories little Nikki, but it seems they had lied to me about helping me.” The temple guards then seemed to surround her.

    “Sanika, you are under arrest, You... are... um... to come with us.” Said one of the guards in a shaky voice.

    “I will hand myself in, but not now I have unfinished business to attend to, but then I will face any punishment that the temple holds for me. “

    “STOP!” shouts the guard but it’s too late Sanika teleports herself away. The guard picked up an unconscious Rika and takes her away. In the first time in ages. For the first time Nikki actually understood Sanika, she too had been a victim brought up on lies and believing she was doing the right thing but she couldn’t forgive her and don’t think she would ever forgive her. She still couldn’t get the image out of head of Kyra disappearing before her eyes.

    “What happened?” said Joseph looking at Nikki, she knew what he meant. He was referring to why she hadn’t got up and got revenge for Kyra and fought in the battle. Honestly she didn’t know, it was unlike her not to do so, but all of her fight had left her. She was about to reply when Paine stepped in.

    “You tell us, you were meant to go and talk to Nikki but when you went over you were a few feet away from her.” Said Paine

    “We saw two Nikkis!” exclaimed the twins.

    “Two? Another clone?” asked Val. The twins shook their head.

    “We don’t think so because after she got up and went into battle she disappeared and the real Nikki was still sat down.”

    “So why didn’t I see her?”

    “I’m guessing that it was the Via Infinito that blocked her from your view. There were a lot of pryeflies around her.” Said Paine

    I didn’t fucking notice that.” Thought Nikki but again she didn’t notice a lot of things she wondered why the Via Infinito would do that. “I also saw a flash of myself a foot away from me but thought I was imagining things since it was only there for a second.”

    The Meyvin Nooj then came over and then a discussion took place on whether Nikki should go back into the Via Infinito, all of them were defending her with Cyan and Paine voicing most of their thoughts but Mishka seemed distracted. Nikki actually agreed with the Meyvin after her performance up here she was not mentally strong enough to go back into the Via Infinito. She didn’t want to let the others down but she knew she would put them at greater risk if she went down, putting them all in danger. She would make stupid decisions and wouldn’t be aware of what was around. Heck she found it hard enough to follow the conversation without going back to think about Kyra. What she needed was rest for now a chance to get her bearings; she could always rejoin them later when she was ready.

    “No, he’s right I can’t go in I-“

    “Have to go in because I have a hunch that Kyra is in there.” Interrupted Mishka.

    What?” thought NikkiWas this true was Kyra really in there?”

    “A hunch huh?” asked Paine.


    “A hunch it is then.”

    “But how?” asked Nikki to Mishka,How could she possibly know this?” Asuka then interrupted everyone is her loud voice. She had forgotton that Asuka had been teleported to the temple by Sanika.

    “Awww what a cute monkey!” however nothing was in front of Asuka and she was crouched down smiling at the space in front of her.

    “Don’t play games Asuka.”

    “I’m not there’s a monkey here can’t you see it? It wants Mishka to follow. “ said Asuka pointing to the space infront of her.

    Was that Mishka’s hunch?” thought Nikki, she chose not to comment on the monkey. It was stupid she knew that but she didn't want to voice it, if she didn't voice it then maybe there was a chance. with new fight in her and against Nooj’s orders she asked Mishka to lead the way and the group went once again into the via Infinito, she didn’t know whether it was true that Kyra was in there, but she had to try and find her at least. She only glared at Nooj when once again he said for her to stay up here but she didn’t listen and walk right in with the others.

  10. #40

    The pyreflies infesting the portal into the Via Infinito gave off an angry howl. Even with my senses dampened by Iezak, that was obvious to me. They were spreading its influence; they were hunting for prey. And Sanika was giving it all the time it needed with this stunt of hers. I had been worried about myself before. I'd felt the Via Infinito's pull before. However, there were more choices now. Nearly all of us had kept something hidden, which had affected them traumatically. With Sanika moronically holding us in place, we were helpless to stop its prying eyes from seeing everything it wanted.

    “I haven’t done anything, it was like this when I got here, like I told them when that little guado asked me. Or...”

    The idiot teleported to me. “Should I call you Slayer? Hmmm?”

    If I could move, I would have throttled her for pulling such a stunt, but it was too late. By this point, the Via Infinito had what it sought. The priority now was to defeat Sanika and return to our mission. The sooner we accomplished it, the better. There had to be something we could do to weaken the telepath. No person could be so invulnerable. I believed we all knew that lesson when Lady Yuna defeated Sin. However, I didn't have any ideas and, without the ability to move, the best move was probably to wait. Perhaps events would unfold that could provide something better.

    And, as it happened, Joseph was the first sign of that something better. "You say that the world is cruel and thrown you out as outcasts. that is something that I think no one can really prevent. yet your people bully and prey on the weak just to fatten your pockets and influence. you do not try to fight for a greater cause and here you are lecturing us about right and wrong! you are a hypocrite as well as naive. you can be sure that I will fight to the death not because I have to but because you are beyond saving"

    Rika bounded for the samurai and pressed her arrow to his temple. She was furious, hoping for permission to kill, but being denied by Uncle.

    Sanika would respond after, saying, “I pity you, you have been told lies, very well then I see you have made your choice you shall die for your crimes.”

    "I almost pity you Sanika. you are willing to do anything for your father who uses people only for his ends. he doesn't care about anything aside from the result. your father is a fool if he thinks he can get away with what he's done but you are even bigger fools for blindly following him"

    Joseph's biting words were challenging her, but would they have the proper effect that would allow us the chance at stopping her? As she raised her hand toward him, I had to say no, but the pyreflies of the Via Infinito looming about us whispered to me otherwise.

    “STOP!” Ah, so that's what they've been waiting for.

    “Kyra run, get out of here!”

    "Not a chance."

    “Ah so the little bitch did arrive. How nice of you to come to the party but I’m afraid you are a little late.”

    Still, what could be the point of this? Sanika, in all her power, could simply freeze her, as well. Yet, Kyra seemed to be the only one the telepath didn't want to hold. Of the lot of us, only Kyra was earning a severe beating and the full range of Sanika's abilities.

    “Kyra! Sanika I swear I will hunt you down and kill you if you lay a hand on her!”

    “Poor little Nikki, do you not know why the spell went out of control?”

    'I suppose her fixation with Nikki should mean she's the one to defeat her.' I thought to myself, though how she would still escaped me.

    As she would explain, “Father explained to me it was her magic, it was her who nearly killed you, because she does not belong in this world, her magic is different. She must be sent back and I need the knowledge on how.”

    Once Sanika transported the young Asuka to our predicament, I gave up guessing on figuring anything out. It was now left in the capable and sadistic hands of the Via Infinito.

    “That's a lie! Leave her alone!”

    “What the fuck?”

    “POP! That’s my new trick I got bored of flowers, I can now make BUBBLES!” With that said, I honestly and truthfully gave up on taking an active part in this mess.

    “Sweetie that’s lovely, but there is a bad lady over there who has us all stuck.” Cyan said to her, half giving in, as well, and half making an attempt to motivate the little girl into saving us.

    “Oh are we playing musical statues? I can be a statue look!” So much for that...

    Just then, Sanika created a glyph underneath Kyra, having finally frozen her in place. As horrified by the scene as I was, I couldn't help feel that this was it. Nikki panicked and demanded the little girl's aid. Somehow, that unsent was able to negate Sanika's psychic spell and free Nikki. However, she'd still be too late in saving Kyra. As the remainder of us watched, still useless, Sanika's spell completed and enveloped Kyra in bright energy. Within moments, she was gone, spirited away as a stunned Nikki stood mere inches from where she had been, her hand still outstretched in the failed attempt to save her.
    The loss of Kyra struck every one of us hard. Nikki's was the most evident, Kyra's disappearance petrifying her in place. Though I didn't know what the others were experiencing, for me all sound in the world blurred and faded away. I no longer cared about the warped entrance to the Via Infinito. I no longer felt the anxiety of being unable to move. For me, the only sound that would reach me was the distant echo of Sanika's celebration.

    I turned to face the direction of her voice. My sword extended from my arm and I rushed forth in a burst of speed. Once I reached her, my sword swung down in time with Cyan's own as she'd arrived alongside me. Sanika barely managed to dodge our blades, having to use a telekinetic shield to evade completely. The others on her team finally reacted, coming to her aid as they began countermeasures to keep us at bay.

    “Sanika what has happened?” Uncle asked.

    Sanika was herself surprised that our mobility had been restored, “I’m... I’m not sure.”

    To that, the familiar voice of an angered unsent girl answered, “Naughty lady needs to play fair too the secrets took your power to make you fair.”

    The whole of the room dropped significantly in temperature and the shrill creaks of gears and platforms could be heard coming from beyond the warped passage into the Via Infinito.A strong presence was in there, we could all feel it, and it was approaching fast.

    “What’s coming?”

    “It’s not Sir Auron is it?"

    “Sissy, sissy, from the depth, what made you angry, with a naughty lady, and sissy gone, and a big ugly man to play with.” The little girl recited.

    As the creaking sounds grew louder, platforms rose up from the black, piecing themselves together to form a metal pathway extending from where we stood to the shadows where a being of pure rage made its arrival known.

    Calling upon unfathomable power, the clone of Nikki blasted through Sanika's telekinetic shield with an arrow, sending her sprawling to the ground as Uncle defended her against Joseph's violent strikes. As the little girl would explain, she had been imbued with some new strength that could counteract Sanika's telepathy. I was right. When Sanika murdered Kyra, she'd triggered the Via Infinito and now had a psychically resistant incarnation of Nikki's past opposing her.

    Joseph traded looks with Cyan and Gideon before going back to tend to Nikki and Cyan would lead Gideon in facing Uncle. They would be reinforced with the help of Paine and Lady Yuna. Meanwhile, Val and the twins took on Rika, with support from Sir Tidus and the Mevyn. As they occupied her defenders, that left Sanika open. I clenched the sword in my hand and moved into an attack position. As I did, the clone arrived beside me. For a moment, I thought I saw her look at me with an impossibly large gash of a Cheshire grin, but as we moved on Sanika, her stern expression made me reconsider. The clone would provide a somewhat reliable defence against the psychic, though on several occasions, her arrows were just as dangerous to me. I lunged for Sanika's arms, given that they seemed to be a focusing tool when channeling her mental waves of force, but despite opposition from both the clone's barrage of arrows and my sword, Sanika was proving very skilled in battle. My strikes and slices were met with more shields and she would even catch some of the arrows coming toward her. These could then be used against me as I ducked one aimed at my throat, preventing the horizontal slash I'd hoped to hit her with. Soon after, she managed to deflect another barrage of arrows, freeing her momentarily to send me slamming into the far wall. As I struck it, I could see Joseph speeding towards her, but he'd only be caught by Uncle. Seeing Sanika more engaged than before in trying to subdue the clone, I bounded for them, deflecting arrows as they came. With Sanika's back turned, I caught her with a flying kick, sending her tumbling forward as the clone aimed. The arrow was mere inches from hitting when Sanika stopped it, turning just in time to catch my overhead swing, as well. She snapped the arrow into splinters before sending them into me, but I was able to maneuver out of the way without being injured, trying for a sweep when I landed. Sanika simply hovered and I was forced to dodge an arrow from hitting my leg, leaving my back turned for Sanika to telekinetically press me into the ground.

    Suddenly, a scream pierced through the room and, as I recovered, I saw that Joseph and Gideon had run Uncle through with their swords. Once again, Joseph tried advancing to Sanika, but Rika began displaying a dramatic increase in power, keeping them all at bay. Val summoned the ice goddess, but in an amazing demonstration of how much Sanika had improved her, Rika fired a continuous stream of ten arrows into it, dispelling its magic. The twins weren't given the chance to perform any of their magic either as she would use her mirage tactic to create false images of her if they tried. Despite the number of attackers, Rika was matching every one. The others had no way of defeating her and aiding the clone and my battle against Sanika.

    That was until... “Activate mega-ultra, super-duper assault mode!”

    To everyone's surprise, Rikku, adorned in a blue flight suit and riding an armoured machina appeared, firing missiles and lasers at the archer. In an incredible display, Rika was overwhelmed and couldn't counter the sheer amount of artillery poised against her. Once the attack that Paine named Vajra struck her, Rika was brought down. However, just as suddenly as she'd appeared, this Rikku faded once Rika fell, leaving it clear that she'd been another of the little girl's apparitions.

    “That wasn't supposed to happen!” The girl whined, appearing behind me, “I was only thinking about sissy when she poofed here. How did that happen?”

    “What are you saying? That wasn't you?” I asked her.

    Before she could answer, Sanika struck the ground, creating a shockwave that sent dust into the air. I shielded my eyes, but once it had settled, the little girl was gone. The others were engaging Sanika together, but it still wasn't enough to defeat her. Instead, from what I could see, any melee attackers were unable to pierce her telekinetic shield and the range of her abilities caught or deflected any projectiles from harming her. Cyan and the clone Nikki were having the most progress, though the minor kicks and punches they landed only showed that more damaging attacks weren't able to hit.

    Finally, with Sanika focused on deflecting Joseph and Gideon's strikes, I chose to make my approach. Taking the tip of my hooked blade into the cracked surface of the ground, I slid it roughly and ran towards her back. As my speed increased, so did the resistance between the blade and the floor until the heat generated flooded into the sword. Sanika used her power to force Joseph's swords against Gideon's, throwing him off balance as she pushed psychic waves into his back, sending both of them into the side wall. At that second, I arrived, lifting my sword up for an Overload Overdrive. However, Sanika reacted too quickly even with her back turned. Her telekinesis stopped my weapon within an inch of reaching her and she slowly turned to me, her eyes glaring deep into my soul.

    I think I've had just about enough.” She growled within my mind.

    Try as I did, I couldn't free my sword from her and soon I'd find that I couldn't move at all. Sanika turned completely to face me, keeping the others away with a psychic barrier. She moved closer, lifting a hand to caress my cheek. It would have felt like a tender motion if it wasn't for the wild look in her eyes. They shot through me, through my own, and past all barriers.

    Now, what can we do about that?” She whispered.

    She was reaching. She was reaching deep. What was-

    This barrier was not like those before. It was meant to be more permanent, something that could give her time to accomplish something. I didn't care. She had committed crimes, done wretched deeds. Daiki and Rika had both been beaten. The authorities would have them, but Sanika was still active. More importantly, she had enclosed herself with Mishka on the other side. Whatever she was planning had to be stopped.

    When Sanika placed her hand on Mishka's face, I felt a pinch. Velkomme Schwert twitched in my fingers and I could feel her blade slowly slip through the barrier. Sanika's attack took effect first, however. The scream was abrupt and it was deafening. Mishka stiffened and dropped her sword before collapsing. In a burst of dread, my strength forced Velkomme Schwert through the psychic's barrier, though it remained intact, keeping me from her. My worry grew, but I would find that it was perhaps misplaced. Sanika's own visage showed pain. Fatigue perspired upon her temple and she winced, grabbing her head tightly before she doubled over. A few pyreflies circled her, moving across Mishka's fallen form, as well. Finally, the barrier began convulsing and Val shouted for us to keep our guards up.

    Sanika roared in agony and psychic waves crashed into each of us, sending us sprawling to the floor. The recovery was similar to an explosive and my mind was stuck in a daze. While I recovered, I did notice that the other Nikki was already on the attack and she even stabbed Sanika in the arm with one of her arrows. I looked beside them at the woman lying motionless on the ground and worry overcame any ailments from that psychic blast.

    I stood and charged straight for Sanika, finding myself accompanied by Joseph. The false Nikki was thrown up into the ceiling having only made two successful strikes, but Sanika's power was still strong and neither I nor Joseph could hit her. Moments later, the Lady Yuna and Paine appeared, having changed garments into what seemed like school uniforms and visors except that they were also hovering above the ground. They channeled their own psychic energies into Sanika, further weakening her and Joseph and I found our attacks were having greater success. Still bearing a pained expression on her face, Sanika had little use of her powers left and Lady Yuna and Paine countered everything she did muster. Without her greatest weapon to protect her, Joseph and I knocked her flat on her back and crossed swords at her throat.

    I grumbled down at her.

    "I'd do as the lady says, murderer."

    The false Nikki aimed an arrow to kill our captive, firing too soon for me to react. Fortunately, Nikki finally rose from her stupour and fired a counter shot to snap it to splinters.

    Joseph voiced his displeasure, “The hell Nikki!!!!”, but Nikki would explain her actions, even stopping the other Nikki from continuing her attack.

    “Get out of my way FAKE!”

    “Sissy should do as mummy says, and mummy says no.” In a demonstration of her own power, the little girl sent the false Nikki back into the depths of Via Infinito.

    “It’s not just us but many other people as well, death would only be an easy way out for her.” Nikki continued to explain.

    “I don’t deserve to be protected little Nikki.” Sanika would say.

    Pyreflies danced about the two and began creating a scene of destruction and death. A young Sanika ran through the rubble, chased by a swarm of Sinspawn. She eventually tired and yelled to the beasts to leave her be, her power felling each of them, blowing their bodies into walls. It appeared that this was the first time she learned of her abilities. It would also turn out to be the first time she met Nikki and the first crime she'd commit on her. As we all watched, the young Sanika stripped away Nikki's memories in an attempt to save her from the pain they caused.

    “I had joined the gang to find a way to bring back your memories little Nikki, but it seems they had lied to me about helping me.”
    My eyes wandered from them to Mishka who was stirring. The weight on my heart lifted and I quickly moved to her, kneeling at her side. She groaned and moved weakly, but she was okay. I found her hand and took it into mine, bringing it to my chest.




    Her voice roused me as my eyes readjusted. Sanika's attack hurt and my head was still groggy, but seeing Cyan was soothing. Even if I couldn't explain it, seeing her over me let me know that she had defeated Sanika somehow. We were safe.

    “It would be best if she remained on the surface.” Nooj's gruff voice resounded.
    Cyan helped me to my feet and we would rejoin the others who started discussing Nikki's mental state. Surprisingly, Cyan was one of the loudest voices along with Paine, arguing for Nikki.

    “Nikki is strong. She will overcome this tragedy.”

    “There's no point in leaving her up here. She shouldn't be alone right now.” Paine added.

    I, on the other hand, found myself hearing a noise. At my feet, I found a monkey tugging at my leg. It began pointing at the warped entrance to the Via Infinito, jumping up and down. I looked at it, the black, and couldn't understand what it was at first. Slowly, though, I started to sense what the monkey was trying to tell me.

    Nikki was, more surprisingly, the voice against her return to the dungeon, beginning to say that, “No, he’s right I can’t go in I-“

    “Have to go in because I have a hunch that Kyra is in there.” I chose to interrupt her.

    “A hunch huh?” Paine said to me, giving me a sideways glance.

    “Yeah.” I replied with a smile.
    She shrugged, “A hunch it is then.”

    “But how?” Nikki asked.

    Before I could answer, Asuka came up to me, petting the monkey still at my leg. The monkey was quite fond of her, hopping all about. The little one seemed to have taken to it, too.

    “Don’t play games Asuka.”

    “I’m not there’s a monkey here can’t you see it?” Yes, couldn't they? “It wants Mishka to follow. “

    'It wants me to follow? Into the Via Infinito? Could it be?'

    If this monkey knew not only that Kyra was in there, but could take us to her, it was a chance we couldn't let slip. Nikki made up her mind and ordered us back in, which brought smiles to most of our faces. Nooj was still peeved that we'd all but ignored him, but Paine was there to calm him down.

    Instead of the teleport that we normally used to reach the furthest cloister progressed, this time we were left to traverse the same bridge the clone Nikki had come. The monkey led the way, though its path was hardly steady. At times, I wondered if Asuka was right in suggesting this thing wanted something from me other than a banana.

    “Mishka, where are you going?”

    “If there really is some sort of a monkey here, can't you get it to walk straight?” Did they really not see it?

    At the end of the bridge, Cloister 50 came into view and that's when the monkey took off, eagerly running to the end where the entrance to Cloister 51 was. I ran to catch up with it, forcing a confused and frustrated group to follow behind me. Once I was on the next cloister, I saw that it was an empty area filled with moving blocks, hollowed on one random side. The monkey had already chosen one of the blocks to ride and it was moving away from the platform I was standing on. Running fast, I managed to catch the lower lip of the hollowed side of it as the monkey cheered my success. The others yelled at my recklessness, but found their own way. I climbed into the block and the monkey signaled that it wanted to move on to the next block. This one had a hollowed portion that faced ours and, as the monkey jumped on top of it, I simply hopped the gap. The next series wasn't as easy and I had to put my acrobatics to the test. First, I dropped from my block to the flat surface of one passing underneath, ducking down and pressing myself against it to avoid being knocked off as it swept overhead. The monkey moved to another passing to the block's left side so I rolled to it and continued to roll as the monkey kept hopping to the next one, each of the succeeding blocks making a temporary line. After the fifth, I found myself looking up at another passing block that the monkey had moved to and let it slide over me before catching the hollowed edge. As I dangled from it, the monkey climbed onto me, jumping to another block opposite, rising from beneath us. Timing its ascent, I pushed my right hand off the block I was on and caught the edge, letting it pull me along. More blocks were rushing past from above, which were going to rub against the side of my block. Before that happened, I quickly climbed to the adjacent side, seeing the monkey hop onto a static block even further up. With it sitting on top, the block began to shake and then fall. While my block rose, I waited for it and jumped to the falling block, hugging the side. With neither of my hands getting a good grip on it, I felt myself slipping, but then the monkey dropped onto my shoulder and caused me to let go. I fell onto another platform and saw the entrance to the next cloister. Simultaneously, each of the others materialised to the platform, as well, surprise shown all around. Cyan and Gideon helped me to my feet as I turned back to the monkey on my shoulder.

    “Mishka, have you fucking lost it? Why did you run off like that?”

    “If she didn't, we wouldn't be standing in front of the entrance to Cloister 52.” Gideon said in my defence.

    Taking a breath to recollect myself, I sighed, “What he said.”

    Cloister 52 was far easier, being an open space littered with fiends. What made it difficult was that overzealous monkey, who took off again, bypassing the fiends and alerting them to our presence at the same time. Unlike before, the others were with me this time and we carried out a strong offensive through the formations of the fiends, inching our way through. It wasn't easy by any measure, but we would arrive at the way to Cloister 53, the monkey patiently waiting for us until we did.

    After Cyan and I pushed back a Behemoth, the lot of us jumped down to the next cloister. Cloister 53 seemed straightforward. It was a straight hall into a dimly lit end where the monkey awaited in front of the entrance to the next cloister. However, as soon as I made the first step, fog seeped in from the corners and flooded the area. The effects were immediately noticeable; simply walking from end to end became nearly impossible. It was as if we'd all been stricken with an onset of vertigo. Of course, we'd been through similar cloisters before and one in particular had us transformed into bumbling fools, stumbling about and deliriously inebriated. A bit of vertigo, therefore, was not so much a problem as it was an annoyance. We moved slower and with more care, but the fog wasn't keeping us from reaching the other side. Nooj had the most difficulty, having to not only find his balance, but also translate this new norm to his mechanical limbs. Paine had to support him the entire way.

    When I reached the monkey, it skipped to me and pulled at my leg. Turning around, it ran and jumped down to the next cloister. I didn't want to leave any chance that it might run off so, despite not having full control over my senses, I pushed off and dove for the next cloister.

    Once my feet touched the ground, my senses had been restored. Cloister 54 appeared to be a room. Actually, it appeared to be a rather familiar room. Taking a few steps forward, I realised that none of the others had made it to this cloister, though whether I was even on Cloister 54 or not, I couldn't be sure. My eyes scanned the room and I soon knew where I'd been led. The monkey crawled out from under the nearby bed, tugging at the blanket with one of its arms.
    “Quick, quick, this way, this way!” The little girl happily chirped, running into the room.

    She wasn't alone this time and when I saw her new companion, her name escaped my lips, “Kyra...”


    Kyra’s vision blurred out. She saw how panicked Nikki looked as the space around Kyra distorted. She could feel herself fading from Spira, and there wasn’t anything she could do. There was a flash of light, then darkness.” a tear fell from her eye.

    She was falling. She couldn’t see anything. Not even a pyrefly. There was an unbearable silence. Nothing like she had experienced before. The more she fell, the colder the air was. She thought this was the end for her. She felt more lost than she ever had in her life. She thought of her home, even though that wasn’t where she wanted to go. Maybe thinking would end this fall. She thought of the house she made with Aiko and Akio. Their log house just on the outskirts of Esthar forest. It was Kyra's idea to make that house. Close enough to the city, but far enough away that she didn’t have to hear the noise. She opened her eyes again only to be greeted by the same darkness surrounding her as before, only now it was accompanied by a pit of sadness.

    She pulled her legs up to her chest. Where am I?”

    This wasn’t time compression. At least, not the kind she was used to. There were so many differences from the last time. Every time she thought about it, the more confused she got. The first time, things went weird; like worlds were clashing together. This was just nothingness, like Kyra had ceased to exist in either world.

    Just like that, something clicked in Kyra’s mind. What would make her happy? As soon as that thought passed through her mind, she could feel herself falling faster.

    Hold on, didn’t she try to kill me?” Kyra thought again. She noticed her descent began to slow down. She was beginning to understand how this worked, but she had a lot to figure out in her head if she could even dream of moving forward.

    She thought back to their first encounter. The girl was worse for wear and swearing like a sailor. I suppose that would happen is she was sent above ground after being attacked by a Malboro…” Kyra chuckled as she thought. Nikki did have flaws, but everyone had flaws. It wasn’t long after that when she invited everyone in her house instead of forcing them to use the beds at the temple or local inn. As much as Nikki tried to push things away, she ended up letting people into her life without even knowing it. The only thought that had Kyra terrified was...

    “Sanika. Why do you want me dead? It isn’t Nikki that wanted to kill me. I belong here just as much as everyone else does. Nikki, I’ll come back to find you. I swear I will. I won’t let myself disappear!”

    Just as she said that, a warm bright light appeared and engulfed her.

    She found herself standing. She opened her eyes and let them adjust to the light. She was standing in a place she had definitely seen before.

    “Can I take a picture of you two?” Said a thirteen year old familiar face as she held the camera in front of her. She was wearing a black top that was showing her shoulders, but covering her arms to just below the elbow, and fishnet fingerless gloves to cover the rest. She was also wearing black pants with a studded belt and black boots. To top off the outfit, she was wearing a stylish black beret. This wasn’t too far off of what Kyra saw her wearing before entering the Via Infinito. Lillia was looking at a familiar couple. When Kyra realized who it was, she tried to move her legs, but couldn’t. She was stuck in that spot. Even still, the scene in front of her didn’t make sense. The colours were vibrant. This scene was real, but no one seemed to take notice that Kyra was even there.

    “Why?” asked a younger Nikki, snapping Kyra’s attention to the two on the wall. Nikki was fifteen and sitting on the wall in front of Kyley’s house, Rhyse was sitting behind her with his legs around Nikki. She was wearing a purple spring dress with patterns on it, just like the picture Kyra saw in Rhyse and Raine’s house. Kyra also noticed that her bow and arrows were nowhere to be seen. Rhyse was wearing a tight black shirt with a brown suede jacket with the sleeved rolled showing his forearms. He wore black fingerless gloves on both hands. It suit him nicely if Kyra had to be honest. He was also wearing black pants. His shoes were off but close by against the wall.

    “It’s for a school project. I’m taking a class on photography and the topic is relationships.” Lillia said cleverly. Nikki groaned.

    “Ignore her, we would be very happy to have a photo taken.” Rhyse said while putting his head on Nikki shoulder.

    Nikki raised an eyebrow and looked at him. “Since when did you answer for me?”

    “Since forever.” Said Rhyse patting her head. Kyra smiled at the scene in front of her.

    “Do that again and you won’t see the next fucking day.” She said bluntly.

    “Alright then, smile.” Lillia said quickly. As she took the photo, Nikki smiled at the camera and just before the flash went off Rhyse planted a kiss on her cheek.

    “Awww thank you! This will make a lovely photo.”

    The expression on Nikki’s face changed and she elbowed Rhyse which caused him to fall off the wall. “Idiot.” Said Nikki smiling to herself.

    “Rhyse are you alright?” asked Lillia concerned that he may have hurt himself.

    “I’m fine, just a battle wound but totally worth it.”

    Kyra noticed there was a bright warm light behind her. She ignored it. She wanted to know what happened next. Nikki was still pleased with herself after knocking Rhyse off the wall, but Kyra could see something strange from the corner of her eye.

    “You don’t belong here” said a young voice behind her. Kyra regained movement in her legs as she turned around to see a tan skinned boy with a purple hood. He seemed just as out of place as Kyra did. “Don’t be scared, that light will lead you back.” The boy then disappeared.

    She regained movement in her legs and looked back toward the bright light. She wanted to stay, but the light was oddly welcoming. Unlike the other times she was engulfed in light, this one was almost asking her to follow. Kyra nodded and walked toward the light.

    She found herself in the same spot as before, but the clouds were different. Almost darker she guessed.

    “Come on Nikki!” called out Lillia who was now twelve. She had stopped in the street and turned around to see where the person behind her had gone. Lillia was wearing a light pink t shirt with a hood. She was also wearing a blue shirt and blue sneakers to match. She looked very innocent. Not quite what Kyra was used to seeing. Nikki was fourteen now. She was walking very slowly behind her head was down and she was in the black gang uniform. Lillia decided to wait for her and then walked with her this time slowly in silence until they got to Kyley’s garden.

    A ten year old Kai was playing in the front garden with Suki kicking a blitzball to each other, Kai looked up when he saw Lillia and another girl. Suki went over to Lillia and Kai picked up the ball.
    “Lillia all the adults have been worried about you, where did you go? Who’s that?” asked Suki, Kai suddenly rushed over.

    “NIKKI NIIKKI NIKKI! Where did you go? What happened? Why are you wearing black? Why have you been gone for two years? Why-”

    “KAI!” yelled Kyley at her son he immediately stopped asking questions and bowed his head. Kyley rushed over to the two girls.

    “Lillia thank goodness you are okay, and Nikki my goodness I have been so worried about you”

    With tears in her eyes Nikki looked up. “I’m sorry...” were the words that escaped her lips with a whisper.

    “No you have nothing to be sorry for” the woman pulled her into a hug. “Now come on inside you are home now, that is all that matters.” She said leading the distressed girl inside with Lillia. Kai was about to follow. “Kai you stay out here with Suki and play.”


    “No buts.” And she shut the door. Kai put the ball down and sat on it while he pouted outside the door.

    Kyra could feel the warm light behind her again. She pushed the thoughts of what she had just seen to the back of her mind as she turned to leave. If the hooded boy was right, there was no point in lingering around in a place she didn’t belong.

    She found herself standing in the same spot as the times before, but the clouds were darkened more than the last scene. The city was under attack.

    A young girl ran to the front door of Kyley’s house and knocked. She looked to be about eight. She has long black hair and brown eyes she was wearing a white summery dress with lime green and bright blue butterflies all over it, she seemed to be distressed as she knocked on the door really loudly.

    “KYLEY KYLEY KYLEY!” The friendly woman opened the door she was about fourteen years younger from what Kyra remembered, and very pregnant.

    “Oh Sanika! I’m so glad you are okay we’ve all been worried about you, Sinspawn are still on the streets.” Some children poke their head around Kyley.

    Sanika...!? THE Sanika?” Kyra was taken aback.

    “Sanika!” they say happily in chorus glad that there friend was safe.

    “Hayleigh is bringing a little girl called Nikki, she lost her family. “ said the girl quickly.

    “Okay dear, you can tell me all about it inside.” She said trying to usher the young girl in. She shook her head.

    “No! I want to go and help! Sinspawn doesn’t scare me!” Said the girl.

    “But you can help-“ it was too late the young girl had already teleported. “-here...”

    Just then down the road a thirteen year old Haleigh was carrying a five year old in her arms who was crying. The little girl was wearing a blue t shirt with a black skirt. She wasn’t wearing shoes. Kyra knew who it was. She had seen her before in a memory.

    “Kyley!” called Hayleigh. The worried woman looked up to see them enter her garden. She immediately went over to them.

    “Shhh, shhh it’s alright” Kyley held out her arms for the young girl.

    “Can you take her in her condition?” asked Hayleigh worriedly.

    “I’m pregnant not ill! For goodness sake let me take Nikki.” Hayleigh nodded and handed over the crying girl. The girl didn’t seem to want to go to the older woman at first but then reluctantly did. “I want you to go and find Sanika, she teleported off somewhere wanting to help.”

    “Oh no! Okay I will.” Said Hayleigh as she ran out of the garden and down the road Kyley then brought Nikki inside the house and closed the door who was still crying.

    The warm light made an appearance again, as if on queue. She couldn’t help but wonder about Sanika though. What happened. She looked...innocent...?

    Kyra was expecting to be thrown into another scene, but found darkness.

    "Is she dead?" She heard a young but slightly familiar voice.


    Get the monkey!” shouted the voice in Nikki’s mind, Nikki groaned at it, she had chosen to stop questioning what it was and had grown accustomed to it. Her main concern was now to find Kyra, her fight had returned to her although she still felt wobbly on her legs she could feel her strength returning to her slowly. “This way!” said the voice again as Mishka turned a corner, Mishka seemed to leading them onto a twisted path instead of a straight line this annoyed Nikki a little bit.

    “Mishka where are you going?”

    “If there really is some sort of a monkey here, can't you get it to walk straight?”

    The Nikki saw it, the teleport that would lead them to the Via Infinito she followed Mishka in making sure to keep close behind her. She got engulfed in a bright light and suddenly entered level 50, she noticed the sudden drop in temperature it was much colder than it was yesterday. “Shit!” said Nikki as Mishka suddenly took off, the increase in speed was unexpected and Nikki quickly ran to try and catch up across the room and jumped down to Level 51.

    The level was filled with moving blocks Fuck can’t anything be easy here” mumbled Nikki under her breath she watched as Mishka took off again Nikki looked around at the safest way to cross and motioned to the others to follow. At a nearby block Nikki jumped and landed. She looked up to see Mishka had jumped for a block that was further back and she had just caught the bottom. “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” yelled Nikki at her but Mishka had clearly ignored her and was jumping on ahead, as Nikki lead the group safely across by jumping to one block and another, they were barely able to keep up.

    “You think there really is a monkey?”

    “Why wouldn’t there be a monkey?”

    “Think about it Mishka just ignored Nikki just now.”

    “You think it might be a trap?”

    “Asuka seemed to think there was a monkey, and even if it is a trap we won’t know unless we keep up so stop your yapping.” Said Nikki shortly, she only wanted to find Kyra that’s all she wanted to do.

    Finally they got to the platform that lead to the entrance to the next level, Nikki was pretty pissed off with Mishka for going on ahead. As Nikki watched Cyan and Gideon help Mishka to her feet, Mishka seemed to turn to something that was on her shoulder, but nothing was there.

    No you can’t keep the monkey, mummy won’t allow it.” Said young girl’s voice as if she was telling someone off.

    “Mishka, have you fucking lost it? Why did you run off like that?” asked Nikki angrily.

    “If she didn't, we wouldn't be standing in front of the entrance to Cloister 52.”

    “What he said.” Said Mishka who was trying to catch her breath. Nikki only knew they had to get to Kyra quickly, if she was down here on her own then she was in deep trouble and needed help.

    After jumping down to Cloister 52, she was relieved to find it was straight forward, the only problem was the fiends. They all seem to be looking at something that was going towards the exit, but again Nikki couldn’t see anything there. The fiends then all looked at the group and growled. If Nikki was going to make an educated guess she would have to say that the invisible monkey thing had alerted the fiends to their presence.

    “FUCK!” said Nikki, an Iron Giant came running towards them, and it brought down it’s sword, Nikki just barely had enough time to dive out of the way, she looked to see that the group was scattered. But she had no time to think, five Vespas came buzzing towards her, she managed to take down two with ice arrows but the other three seemed to be smarter they seemed to easily dodge her arrows. She fired again and again but they were just too quick. Then all three seemed to charge at her at once, she managed to flip out of the way of the first two but she felt an incredible pain her back, the third had got her, she felt sick as the poison seeped into her. Feeling dizzy she sunk to the ground “Kyra... I’m sorry” she thought, all she could hear was the buzzing as she waited for that final attack. Suddenly she could hear the cries of the fiends around her as she saw blurred figures of Joseph and Gideon take down the Vespas, Gideon hands her an antidote which she immediately drinks. Feeling comes back to her body and she gets to the other side of the room with the help of Gideon and Joseph and jumped down to the next level.

    On level 53 Nikki saw that it was foggy, it was a straight hall which was very dimly lit, She strained to see where the end was but couldn’t, thoughts of finding Kyra quickly came to her mind and she strode ahead that was until she found her legs to be wobbly and found the floor to be very comfortable. Joseph came over again and tried to help her up.

    “You, can’t have Kyra, she’s mine.” Said Nikki poking his chest. Joseph raised an eyebrow at her and turned to Paine who was helping Nooj along.

    “So I think Nikki is gone already.”

    “I think she forgot what this fog did, she seems to be a lightweight.”

    “I am here you fucktards.” Nikki then wobbled again and nearly hit the floor but was caught before she hit the floor.

    “I wouldn’t try walking and insulting at the same time.”

    When they got to the other end and jumped down to cloister 54 Nikki held her head. “Don’t say anything” said Nikki to the group, recovering from the dizzy spell from earlier she raised her head and saw that Mishka was gone. “Okay where the fuck did Mishka go?” The Guado wasn’t anywhere to be seen on this level, it was easy to see the exit at the other side which was up high and required you to jump from block to block again.

    “Well uhhh... she was here.” Said the twins who were looking around confusion written on their faces. Nikki grew worried if Mishka had disappeared then finding Kyra was going to prove to being even more difficult; especially as none of the others couldn’t even see the monkey.

    “Did you two see the monkey?” asked Nikki,Since Asuka saw the monkey maybe the twins did as well.” The twins shook their head.

    “We haven’t seen anything, we tried though but for some reason we can’t. Although Yuki swears she saw a light.”

    “A light?”

    “A warm fuzzy one.” Nikki slapped her head in annoyance and groaned.

    “I think all we can do is continue on, the Via Infinito seems to dictate our path.”

    “So you think if we carry on we will find both of them?” Val nodded. Nikki then instructed them to continue to follow her as they jumped from block to block, Nikki then heard a groan and paused indicating the others to stop. There was something in the hole ahead of them, heart beating quickly Nikki instructed them to creep round the hole. As they crept round there was a tense atmosphere she could see the top of a giant fiend in the hole. The green fiend was familiar, it was a giant Cactuar, and she certainly didn’t want to start a fight with it.

    When they cleared the fiend, Nikki let out a sigh of relief and leant on her knees. These floors were getting even more dangerous and they had no idea where Sir Auron was or where her double was. They then continued on and managed to get to the exit and jumped down to level 55.

    “For fucks sake!” said Nikki there were three corridors again going in different directions. Her irritation was showing now she was sure they would find them here but no it was just another maze.

    Oh a puzzle! Sure I’ll play.” Said the same voice in her head. Nikki groaned.

    “If they are on this floor then we should split up.” Said Gideon.

    “And even if they aren’t at least we would have covered this area.” Added Joseph.

    Suddenly Nikki’s vision blurred and went white she saw a monkey on a pink bed and Mishka and Kyra in the pink bedroom. Then it was gone.

    “Are you alright?” asked Paine Nikki shook her head and rubbed her forehead.

    “I’m fine, let’s go with splitting up. The twins will come with me, Val and Gideon will take a group down the left corridor while the rest will go down the right.” Seeing that a wall was coming down from above, which was about to block the way forward for Nikki, she used a chocobo feather to cast haste on her and the twins and some of the albehd an d they ran and tumbled in just in time before it shut behind them with a boom. It was pitch black. “Fucking hell!”

    “Nikki why don’t you charge up a fire arrow, we can keep it alight and light the way.”

    “You know, you two aren’t as stupid as you look.”

    “HEY!” moaned the twins Nikki chuckled, and got an arrow holding onto the arrow, she whispered.

    “Fire arrow.” And the tip lit up in a flame she let go of the arrow and the twins used their magic to make it hover in front of them in a purple aura, lighting the way in front of them moved forward slowly until they eventually got to a bottomless pit.

    “Now what?” asked the twins, Nikki looked around and saw a narrow ledge at the left side of the wall.

    “We cross there, be careful and keep to the wall.” The twins paused at that, but then nodded, Nikki watched as they both cautiously got onto the ledge with their backs pressed to the wall and then Nikki followed. Nikki slowly with her heart in her mouth made her way across by shuffling her feet.

    “Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t look down.” Muttered the twins repeatedly to themselves. Suddenly there away a clang behind them. “What was that?” said the twins as they stopped.

    “Keep moving.” Whispered Nikki to them as they hurried along the ledge, it sounded like some metal was scrapping against the wall. It was getting closer and closer, until Nikki heard footsteps go into a run. Nikki paled. “GO!” shouted Nikki at the twins, as the footsteps came nearer Nikki could finally see the other side which was lit by the fire arrow. “Jump!” shouted Nikki when they were close enough, she could feel the air around her tighten the footsteps had stopped, she was pretty sure it was Sir Auron charging an attack, Nikki jumped and landed safely with the twins and ran with her heart in her mouth.

    Dead end. The twins ran to the wall knocking at it, trying to see if there was some secret passage, Nikki looked around and saw a small hole, inside of it there was a slope, that was good enough for Nikki. Nikki grabbed the twins.

    “Ah Nikki what are you-“ Nikki pushed them down the hole “DOING?!” they yelled as Nikki herself jumped down the hole barely missing a tornado attack.

    Her heart thumped loudly in her chest as she slid down and down, she felt a stinging on her elbows as the hole got smaller and she had to tuck herself in, she hoped the end would be safe, she hadn’t really thought this through, but then again there wasn’t much time to think, she knew the twins were still alive as she could still hear their yelling.

    Finally at the end she saw a light and dropped out right onto the floor and rolled. She was sore and bruised as she sat up, she saw that everyone was here and safe.

    “Well, that’s one way to get to Cloister 56.” Said Val, Paine offered her hand and Nikki took it she saw the twins were okay and were jumping about.

    “That was awesome let’s do it again!”

    “No.” Nikki turned to Val holding her head “What do you mean 56?”

    “He means after we jumped down to the next Cloister this hole appeared and you three came out of it.” Said Paine. Nikki reached into her pouch and pulled out a potion and drank it.

    “Right we should keep moving them we just had a run in with Sir Auron and-“ before Nikki could finish she was on the floor again only this time with Mishka on top of her. “For fuck’s sake you Guado freak, get the fuck off me before I put fricken arrows in your eyes and watch you eat them, and watch where you are going?!” Mishka smirked.

    “Always a pleasure, I’m glad I found you guys.” She said as she got off Nikki and Nikki stood up glaring at Mishka, she was not having a good day.

    “Mishka! Where did you go?” asked the twins.

    “Well... Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

    “I think we should hear the good first.” Said Joseph stepping forward.

    “Well the good news is that I found Kyra.” Nikki sighed in relief all that worry had been a huge weight on her.

    “Thank Yevon, I’ve been so worried, is she safe? Where is-“ Nikki stopped in mid sentence something didn’t sit right, if Mishka had found her, shouldn’t she be here? “What’s the bad?”

    “That your friend crazy Nikki kidnapped her and I lost her.” Nikki tightened a fist and glared at Mishka.

    “What?!” exclaimed Nikki angrily.

    “Hold on Nikki it’s not Mishka’s fault, we’ll find her.” Said Cyan going over to Mishka’s side and turning to Nikki. Nikki breathed she had to calm down if she was going to think clearly.

    ”I presume you mean the clone?” asked Paine, Mishka nodded. “We have a theory about her.”

    “Oh?” said Nikki turning to Paine. Paine crossed her arms.

    “I remember you saying you couldn’t remember some things about Sanika,”

    “Yeah, something happened when that other me was created but I don’t know what” Nikki remembered saying that she still couldn’t remember a lot of details about the gang her knowledge only came from remembering herself talk about it to other people, but the actual memories were gone.

    “I also remember Sanika saying that she had your memories, we think that you lost some of your memories and they manifested into your clone.” That thoughts had crossed Nikki’s mind but it had been too ridiculous to believe for her, was this clone really just her memories? Seeing that everyone was listening Paine continued. “We think she is a shadow of Nikki, memories that are so strong that they have a will of their own.”

    Was this possible?” thought Nikki “But how do you know this?”

    “We know this because of Shuyin, he was also a shadow that tried to destroy Spira.” Said the Meyvin.

    “Oh! We’ve heard of Shuyin, that was the threat that the Gullwings saved all of us from, something about a big machine and an unsent.” Replied the twins jumping about.

    “So you think that she wants to destroy Spira too?” asked Nikki. This whole thing was a little bit confusing, if she ever came out with her sanity intact from this place then it would be a miracle.

    “No, but we know that she wants to destroy you, think about it, why would she kidnap Kyra, she wants to get to you.” Said Paine



    “That would explain why we haven’t seen the shadow Nikki yet,” I commented after Paine finished explaining.

    “That doesn’t change anything. We’re still going deeper down this damn dungeon till we find Kyra, my doppelganger be damned or otherwise,” Nikki said, pushing her way past Paine. I sighed a bit as did Paine. Seems we both understand that this is exactly what the shadow Nikki wants, but we’re not going to try and stop her.

    Stepping out onto Cloister 57, another maze blocked our path. Just as all of us stepped out of the portal, a glyph appeared under each of us. I felt the sensation of teleportation and I was suddenly dropped someplace unfamiliar. I looked around to see no one else was with me.

    Great, now we’re separated in a maze while the dungeon is trying to kill us and is inhabited by a younger, meaner version of our leader and a psychic who is most likely trying to kill me. Good times,’ I thought sarcastically.

    I ran down the twisting corridors of the maze, ever vigilante for any fiends or otherwise. After 10 minutes of running, I noticed something odd or rather the lack of something.

    Where are all the fiends? We were assaulted almost constantly on our way down and now nothing?’ I thought, not pausing my run. The silence and peace made me even more on edge.

    Suddenly, I heard some faint footsteps not that far from me. I ducked abound a corner and listened carefully. The person was coming closer and closer to my location. I held my sword ready and just as the footsteps were just one step away, I lunged around the corner holding my sword at their neck. It turned out to be Nikki who had an arrow nocked and ready to fire at my heart.

    “Nikki! Don’t scare me like that,” I said, lowering my sword.

    “I should say the same to you. I nearly put an arrow though your heart,” she replied, pointing her bow down to the floor.

    After that, we ran quickly around the maze, keeping an eye out for anyone or fiends. Eventually, we made it to center of the maze which was an open circular area. No one else was there which was a bit worrying. I stepped towards the middle when suddenly the floor dropped out from under us. I managed to jump and catch the ledge while Nikki managed to stay on by flattening herself against a wall.

    Taking a moment to breath, I looked into the darkness under me. I could faintly hear the sound of steel clashing and also battle cries. I realized what had happened and looked at Nikki. She also figured out what was happening down in the darkness.

    The rest of the group must’ve came here at separate times and all of them have dropped down,’ I thought, looking into the darkness. Nikki jumped off and I let go to follow her down. As we plummeted down, the sounds of battle became clearer and louder. I drew my sword while Nikki managed to draw an arrow.

    We dropped into a chaotic situation. Adamantoises and Flan Azabaches were in a tight ring around our comrades. Our friends were holding them back but every fiend they take down, another takes it place. Gideon turned around as Nikki and I landed with a solid thud.

    “Glad you can finally join us. Where the hell were you?” he said, turning back to watch for more fiends.

    “Shut it Gideon. I don’t think Joseph or I asked to be teleported across the damn maze,” Nikki fired back. I would’ve said something had I not needed to parry an attack.

    “Good, you’re both here! Now head towards the portal!” Paine shouted. The group headed towards the exit portal, defeating or sidestepping any fiends in our path. The mad dash ended when we all ran through the portal into Cloister 58.

    I took a moment to catch my breath and survey our surroundings. It was an open, flat space. I looked up to see something I didn’t think to see. Above us was Kyra, trapped in a spider’s web. She was struggling to talk but it seems that she was gagged by the web as well. I grabbed Nikki just as she rushed past me to get to her.

    “Damn it! Let me go you fucker!” she protested, punching and clawing at me to loosen my grip on her.

    “Not till you’ve calmed down. Have you forgotten who’s after your life? This situation is screaming “I’m bait” right now,” I countered. Nikki stopped struggling but I still held onto her in case she did decide to do something stupid.

    “Youkou, Yuuki. Any chance you can teleport up there?”

    “Not a chance, we don’t know how strong the web is. Also that might be what the shadow wants us to do” they said. I looked around for any other way we can get Kyra down safely.

    “Let me go Joseph. I know she’s after my life but I’m going to get her down,” Nikki said, roughly shoving me to the side. I didn’t argue with her since this may be the only way to get her.

    We proceeded with Nikki in the center and the rest forming a ring around her. We walked at a constant pace till we were directly under Kyra. Just then, a red glyph appeared under Nikki. She was sent flying to the opposite end of the Cloister. Mishka rushed in to help but she was stopped by an invisible wall of some sort. Suddenly a loud roar was heard and two giant spider fiends dropped down onto the group. AT the same time, the shadow Nikki dropped in with Nikki and began to shoot arrows at her. I rushed the spiders as fast as I could so we can dispatch them as quickly as possible. I just hope that Nikki doesn’t die before we come and help her.

  11. #41

    The first step I took on Cloister 57 was rather unique. Unlike the other cloisters we'd been on, the moment we moved on Cloister 57, we were transported to a random place within its labyrinth structure. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have let this bother me. There had been several points in our travels down in this dungeon that we'd been separated. I, myself, have actually been quite notorious for it. This time, though, I felt my heart sink. I needed to find Cyan.

    My pace was quick, but careless. If I should draw the attention of any fiends, I'd be in a poor position to react to them. Still, I didn't care. I needed to find Cyan. Such a narrow-minded foresight only hindered me from that goal. I must have walked into a dozen dead ends simply due to my not watching where I was headed. Each time I did, my heartbeat quickened and my worry grew. After that, each time I found myself on the wrong path, I would fight against urges to attack the walls. Logic scolded me about such futile actions, but fear and frustration presented rather convincing arguments. I wanted to scream, to have a tantrum, to beat my fist against the walls until they led me to where I wanted to go, but then that would only waste more time.

    Finally, after finding myself at another dead end, I took a deep breath and just stopped. None of the thoughts in my head were doing me any good. I had a time-sensitive mission to accomplish. Once I deemed myself calm enough, I continued on.

    Some time after, I found my way back to where we'd been, the circular chamber at the heart of the cloister. There, I found Cyan. She'd either arrived sooner than I had or had she not even been moved? I pressed myself against the bend in the walls leading to the chamber, watching her. She simply stood there, her back to me as she seemingly gazed blankly at the far wall. What was she thinking about? It might seem odd that I'd hide myself from her as if a spy watching her target. It might previously seemed odd that I'd be so uncharacteristically anxious beforehand. To understand why I hid and why I'd been so panicked that we were separated would require a visit back to the previous cloister, Cloister 56, and what had actually taken place.

    That doesn’t change anything. We’re still going deeper down this damn dungeon till we find Kyra, my doppelganger be damned or otherwise,” Nikki had said.

    We'd recently discovered that Paine and a few of the others had some sort of theory regarding the clone of Nikki, believing that she was some hidden part of our Nikki's being that had been given self-awareness. Nikki, strategist she was, disregarded it and chose to embark on her quest to save Kyra anyway, which had the others worried. By this point, I was on our fearless leader's side. I had been the one to let her be captured, after all. I wanted to amend my failure and take down the clone Nikki and those spiders of hers.


    Im sorry...

    That voice was mine, but it seemed alien and it hurt, its pain seeping into me and causing my knees to tremble before they buckled under my weight and the weight of that voice. I felt paralysed and I didn't know why, but I could swear that fear itself had crept into the cloister. Then, before any of them could make it to the portal to the next cloister, chains descended from the black. The others had all moved ahead, with the closest to me being Cyan. She shouted warnings to them, but the lot of us knew the attack had been too sudden. The chains circled around their bodies, coiling about each of them and drawing taught once it had them bound. The twins, Yuubou and Yuki, succumbed to them first, the wickedly hooked ends of the chains having snatched them by the neck. Try as she might, Cyan couldn't free any of them and still the chains pulled. At last, when she knew it was futile, she stopped striking them and let the Velkomme Schwert fall to the floor.

    With her back still turned, she said, “This is all I am... This is all I have...”

    She then turned to me, walking those few ominous steps before dropping to her knee and placing her hands on my shoulders. Some part of me knew what she would say next and screamed for me to stop her, but the weight, that invisible force that bore down on me prevented any action. Cyan's words burned worse than any wound I'd ever endured. She gave her reasons. I should even say that I understood her and that it shouldn't have meant so much, but that part of me didn't care for such logical thinking and kept screaming at me to stop her, frantically clawing her way to the surface of my mind as if a victim being buried alive by mounds of consequence that Cyan created with every syllable she spoke.

    “I can only do this... my Mishka. This is all I am... all I can ever be...”

    As a tear released itself and steadily rolled down my cheek, she pressed her lips to mine and let me know her fate was sealed. And it was in that instant that the chains faded and my friends were brought back to us. I found myself standing again, the cloister having returned to normal.

    It had been an illusion, though that tear had been real. I brought a hand to my face, remembering that I felt it soon after the others left for this cloister, my cheek still dampened from it. Once the cloister had returned to normal, my memories of what Cyan had said that pained me so also faded but for the emotional scarring they'd permanently left on my heart. What had they been, I wondered. Why had they affected me so? Still, though those memories were no longer with me, it was clear from Cyan's present posture that they were still with her, albeit as yet unvoiced. The situation that caused her to break didn't happen in this version of reality and so she didn't have the chance, but whatever had led her to those ideas still infested her thoughts. Now the question to ask was, did I know enough to help her?

    Cyan continued to gaze at the wall, but I would notice that her hand was gripped in a fist so tightly, I was afraid her fingers would puncture her palm. She began feeling distant and, soon after, angry. Her fist kept clenching tighter and it started to cause the whole of her arm to tremble, but still it tightened. A few moments after that, I could make out murmurs or whimpers, though she was still facing away so I couldn't confirm it. All I knew was that she was struggling and I had to forget what she struggled with. I told myself that it was boiling back to the surface. I only needed to keep waiting. As soon as I was reminded of it, I could help her. I just needed to wait a bit longer for her.

    “Mishka!” The excited voices of the twins blurted out, gaining Cyan's attention.

    I grumbled under my breath; they had ruined my chances. The Cyan that I'd been monitoring disappeared as the mask she'd fashioned for herself resumed its role. Her fist softened and her posture straightened back to display the confidence she wanted us to see. Dread pooled inside as I considered what might happen now. There was a time bomb within my Cyan and it had been sealed. If it wasn't disarmed in time, would she survive it? Would I?

    Once she turned to face us, the floor beneath her started to give way. Without wasting a second, I rushed to her, diving down into the chasm and catching up to her as we both continued to fall. The twins would be the actual saviours, using their telepathy to slow our descent and gently take us to the bottom of the pit. They were also the ones who noticed the path to the next cloister in the distance. However, a moment later, the floor above us moved back into position, leaving us in total darkness. The twins called upon their magic to bring some light to the area, but that had the unfortunate effect of guiding the several Humbabas, Lesser Weapons, Adamantoises, and Flan Azabaches looming in the shadows towards us.

    Cyan nudged me to get my attention and, once I knew her plan, I nodded and brandished my sword.

    As I took my position, Cyan told the twins to, “Stop your spells.”

    “But if we do that how will we see them?” They obviously would complain.

    “Believe me, it's for the best.”

    “You wouldn't want to see how mangled our corpses get, would you?” I added with a smirk.


    I winked at them while Cyan got into position behind me and they finally understood. Counting down, they stood at either side of us, all our backs pressed to one another, and extinguished their light. What followed was a series of blind attacks, though more so on their parts than ours. We'd all of us fought against these enemies before. We knew what their patterns were and weren't limited by ours. Therefore, the seconds before they returned the darkness, we'd noted each of their positions. The sounds of their movement, their breathing, and their growls were more than enough to tell us where they might be and we worked out possible openings though them. The fact that both Yuubou and Yuki fought with spells only helped us as each spark of light those spells created were opportunities to update the enemy's movements. What's more, they couldn't see any better in darkness. There were many times I purposely attracted them just so that two or more of them would strike at once, wounding one another and starting a feud. During such commotions, I'd be free to find a straggler and still have full awareness of the others' locations.

    Some time later, the floor above us opened again and we were joined by more of our group. Val landed gracefully, as did Paine, but later on, Gideon and Nooj weren't so fortunate. However, to cover for his clumsiness, the good Mevyn would take his fist to the ground, causing an explosion or two against some of the weakened foes. With the lot of them among us, our tactics changed. Instead of keeping in the dark as our forces were limited at the time, now we had a strong stand against them. Our spellcasters and Nooj stayed at the centre of the area, using their ranged abilities to deal damage to the fiends. Meanwhile, with both Gideon and Paine bolstering our warrior ranks, we four kept them at bay, forcing them to take all the hits. By the time Nikki and Joseph decided to grace us, we'd already eliminated all of the Weapons and Behemoths and crippled most of the Adamantoises and Flans.

    “Glad you can finally join us. Where the hell were you?” Gideon grumbled.

    “Shut it Gideon. I don’t think Joseph or I asked to be teleported across the damn maze,” Nikki fired a retort, taking her arrows to a few oncoming Adamantoises.

    Paine, after pushing back another of the turtles, said, “Good, you’re both here! Now head towards the portal!”

    When we all made it to Cloister 58, I saw her. Kyra was covered in webbing, which held her against the ceiling of the plain arena of the cloister. She saw us and tried to struggle against her bindings, but that would, of course, be useless. The clone of Nikki wouldn't have spent such a creative effort in her capture only to let her free herself at any time. This was a trap. Not that our Nikki cared.

    “Damn it! Let me go you fucker!” She growled, punching and clawing at Joseph who'd stopped her from her careless actions.

    “Not till you’ve calmed down. Have you forgotten who’s after your life? This situation is screaming “I’m bait” right now,” He would explain, making a request of the twins after, “Youkou, Yuuki. Any chance you can teleport up there?”

    “Not a chance, we don’t know how strong the web is. Also that might be what the shadow wants us to do” The twins explained, in words that sounded a bit too responsible for their usually cute remarks.

    Still, Nikki being Nikki, she eventually did persuade Joseph to let her go. Though we proceeded with caution, she stomped to the heart of the arena just below Kyra and, as she did, she activated the trap we'd all been expecting. A symbol of warning appeared in bright vicious red under her foot and an explosion followed it, bathing the area in smoke and slamming Nikki into the wall opposite.

    These events caused great concern within me, though not for the actual events that should have also caused alarm. The questions that haunted my mind echoed louder than ever and I began seeing visions of the scene I'd forgotten, of my friends bound as Kyra was now bound and of them injured as Nikki was now injured. My eyes dared not turn to the Cyan standing nearby out of fear she'd be that Cyan, the one that had given me such a wound as I'd never faced. I couldn't allow that Cyan to resurface. The twins had stopped me from figuring out an early solution to dealing with Cyan and now there was no time. Cyan was troubled by the helplessness of our group. If I could protect Nikki and if we could rescue Kyra, Cyan's distress should be abated if not appeased a bit to allow me some more time. To this end, I ran to help our fallen leader...

    “What?” I gasped as my fingers felt the obstacle before me.

    Invisible yet unyielding, a barrier had been put in place that separated us from Nikki. A moment after my discovery, sinister shrieks sounded from above and those same two spiders crept down the walls towards us. The clone Nikki slid down from the other side of the barrier, her bow launching arrows down at her fallen double. Joseph charged at the spiders once the first of their legs touched the ground, in hopes of eliminating them quickly. However, as he'd find out, those seemingly thin legs were coated in some sort of steel-like carapace, hardly affected by his attacks. Though I had my own reasons for wanting to end this battle quickly, I knew from my previous experience with them that this would be anything but a short bout. I just hoped Cyan could hold out until then, see our retaliations and unrelenting spirit in the face of our enemy and not the hopelessness that had been our unexpected defeat then, and let her vigour be renewed by it. Even unto my last, I had to deny that other Cyan from arising.

    Are you JOKING?!” The loud bellow came from one of the Machine Faction's newly appointed personnel.

    The atmosphere of Guadosalam had changed drastically in recent weeks. Ever since my failure to deny Rin his much needed support from Gippal's influential group, he'd sent a battalion of new operatives and support teams to the tiny city both to aid in his and the boy heathen's research and to ensure the research didn't pose any danger to the local guado population. In all honesty, in spite of being one of the heretics, the leader of the lot, Gippal had shown himself to be a capable and benevolent leader. As an Al Bhed, he cannot escape his lust for advancing technology, but he'd rather fail in these endeavours if it will safeguard the people of this world. I found myself admiring such a quality in him. Nevertheless, his plans and support were a hindrance to my task. The Al Bhed must leave Guadosalam. At any cost...

    It was according to this objective that I'd begun more rigourous and forward methods to dealing with their prying into the Farplane. My abilities had been growing though I knew not how. I felt as though the pyreflies I used to force to my will were now kindred spirits, friends I could depend on to understand my needs before I even directed them as such. It was thanks to this improvement that I halted pyrefly sampling on one of Rin's operations. It buried his appointed party under rubble and Gippal's operatives quickly deemed digging too hazardous, forcing Rin to abandon it. There was much more anticipation being placed on successful testing of Vegnagun's systems now, with the heathen child leading that branch of the initiative. Still, given the nature of the Farplane as told to me by Keema Guado, I had the pyreflies housed within to condense into fiends. The constant threats slowed progress on that front, as well, though in this case, Gippal's men simply provided militarised aid to protect the researchers. The fiends still dampened the hearts of the research team, but I knew this was a weakness that I would need to amend in the near future.

    There was yet another difficulty I now faced, though. I hated to admit to it, but I was afraid of what I could become. I hadn't really considered it, though I knew it was a likely possibility. Those who die should be sent to the Farplane to rest. Those who linger become resentful of the living and devolve into fiends. I had a will strong enough to maintain my humanity, but that was also troublesome as Keema would tell me...

    You mean to say... I'll lose myself to this power?.”I asked of her.

    Yes, I'm afraid. It is the fate that befalls all unsent.” She replied, bringing her hands to her heart.

    I can't imagine why. I need to do this, don't I? If not for this power, we would not have had this partial victory over Rin and worse yet, our plot would have been discovered..” I reasoned, denying that I'd become nothing more than a vengeful phantom.

    Our Lord Seymour Guado thought the same thing of himself. The Maesters of Yevon believed, as you do, that their purpose was far too important and would sustain them, but look at what's happened since then. Our lord fell to insanity and even sought to become Sin himself. Each of the Maesters fell into despair and their tortured souls wander the Via Infinito for all eternity. Even the Lady Yunalesca had doomed herself to such a fate, even corrupting into a fiend-like state despite her stable outward appearance.” She explained.

    I still didn't want to believe it. I felt, I could be unique among them. After all, my purpose was dire and needed to succeed for the sake of every soul on Spira. Even should my soul be destroyed and I be left adrift in that forsaken chasm, I had to continue. However...

    The most unique of unsents, the shadow of Shuyin, eventually turned from his humanity and became a great threat to Spira. Do you not know? At first, his only desire was to eliminate the threat to his home, those who might bring war upon Spira. However, his despair and anger changed him. He began to believe every one of us was such an enemy and that the lot of us all needed to be eliminated. He moved the pyreflies of the Mushroom Rock Den and became a demon. His power grew tremendously and warped the Farplane itself. Do you think you could escape a fate even he could not?” She would then tell me.

    This was my kin, the strongest of us. If, as Keema said, he could not hold back the rising madness, what hope did I have? Still...

    Is there nothing I can do? I cannot simply rest when Rin's schemes beckon back the Age of Sin. I must do something to stop him.”

    The only thing I can say then is to limit yourself. If you don't exert your powers, you stand some chance of slowing your degradation. This will not be a permanent solution, but it is the only answer I have for you other than relieving yourself to the Farplane.”

    I cannot leave just yet. However, my power is all I can offer to combat Rin. If not for them, what purpose do I serve?”

    I'm sorry...” Would be her only response and she would take her leave after.

    My pyreflies told me she was being earnest and that I'd known this even without reading her mind. I'd learned from the Yevon teachings about the dangers of unsent, of what they were, what they might become... Regardless, I knew I could never rest without knowing Rin had been stopped...

    I decided that, for the moment, I could simply stay my hand and bide my time for important moments when my power would be all that decided success and failure. For the mundane, they would have to fall upon my regular abilities and upon the power of my allies. I only hoped that be enough...


    “That would explain why we haven’t seen the shadow Nikki yet,” Nikki really didn’t care about how or why the clone was created, it didn’t matter who stood in their way they had to save Kyra no matter what.

    “That doesn’t change anything. We’re still going deeper down this damn dungeon till we find Kyra, my doppelganger be damned or otherwise,” she pushed past Paine annoyed that they were just standing around.

    As she stepped onto Cloister 57 she found that she had been teleported to a section of a maze alone. “Fucking, shit , bastard, motherfucker of a fucking maze!” she yelled out while the kicking the wall in front of her, she then ran “I need to find Kyra” she thought, she turned a corner a found herself at a dead end. “SHIT!” she yelled out and ran the other way her thoughts only of Kyra, she came to another dead end. “Fuck you!” Memories of Kyra getting hurt by Sanika and herself came into her mind and haunted her, Kyra could be seriously in pain and she was stuck in a maze. Every dead end she came to she felt her self get even more emotional, until finally when she came to another dead end she sunk to the floor and punched the floor in frustration.

    I need to calm down, it wont do anyone any good if I lose it now.” Sitting up she concentrated on the environment around her, she feel it was still very cold, it was unforgiving, the pryeflies were humming in the distance. A breeze?” thought Nikki, she had felt it gently blowing on the left. Of course she could also hear the growl of fiends in the distance, so she loaded her bow and got on her way.

    She could hear footsteps right around the corner, she tightened her hold on her bow and arrow, she slowly walked forward, her breathing was heavy as her heart pounded. As she rounded the corner ready to strike she saw Joseph with his sword ready to strike her.

    “Nikki! Don’t scare me like that,” Said Joseph lowering his sword, relief flooded through Nikki, now she didn’t have to get of here on her own.

    “I should say the same to you. I nearly put an arrow though your heart,” she said lowering her bow to the floor.

    They then ran through the maze together, Nikki was feeling calmer now that someone else was with her. They finally reached a circular space in the middle of the maze. Nikki slowly walked with Joseph looking all around her, trying to feel where that breeze went, Nikki went over to the wall about to inspect something she saw on it, when the floor suddenly cracked and gave way. Nikki managed to quickly flatten herself onto the wall by staying on the ledge. She saw that Joseph was holding on by his hands and Nikki was about to edge round to him when she heard battle cries from below. Nikki looked to Joseph, she knew he also knew what had happened. The breeze, I had only felt it at moments when the ground had opened up at different times, the others are down there.”

    Nikki then jumped into he darkness, she then managed to land safely with Joseph landing beside her. The situation was not good, her friends were tightly packed into a circle with Admantoises and Flan Azabaches all around them, Nikki noted that although the group was managing to hold them off it wouldn’t be long before they would get tired and lose the battle.

    “Glad you can finally join us. Where the hell were you?”

    “Shut it Gideon. I don’t think Joseph or I asked to be teleported across the damn maze,” Yelled Nikki as she fired an arrow at the Admantoise piercing it through it’s neck.

    “Good, you’re both here! Now head towards the portal!” shouted Paine, slowly the group managed to make their way forward and Admantoise nearly stepped on Nikki quite a few times but they finally made their way to the exit and to Cloister 58.

    As soon as Nikki landed on the next cloister it was a huge empty space, it unsettled Nikki, something caught Nikki’s eye and she trailed her eyes upward, caught in a sticky web was Kyra bound and struggling, Nikki could see that she was scared and distressed, she could see that she was crying. KYRA!” thought Nikki, she needed to get her down right away before anything else. Nikki ran forward, unfortunately Joseph had other ideas and grabbed Nikki around her waist and arms.

    “Damn it! Let me go you fucker!”

    “Not till you’ve calmed down. Have you forgotten who’s after your life? This situation is screaming “I’m bait” right now,” However Nikki ignored him and was still struggling, she had to get Kyra down and if that meant kicking Joseph’s ass in the process, then so be it. However she wasn’t really getting very far with the struggling. “Youkou, Yuuki. Any chance you can teleport up there?”

    “Not a chance, we don’t know how strong the web is. Also that might be what the shadow wants us to do” Nikki could see that Kyra was getting even more distressed, she could see she was intently looking at her, trying to tell her something but her mouth was gagged.

    “Let me go Joseph. I know she’s after my life but I’m going to get her down,” said Nikki shoving Joseph roughly to the side as he let her go.

    Everyone formed a circle around Nikki as they slowly moved forward towards where Kyra was, Nikki knew she had to be on her guard but Kyra looked so distressed that all she could think about was getting Kyra down. However Kyra seemed to struggle more as they got nearer, and it was only when a red glyph appeared beneath Nikki, when she realized her mistake and thought, Oh fuck!” before feeling herself being thrown back across the cloister and hitting the wall with her back burning in pain, and her falling to the floor.

    Disorientated from the attack Nikki slowly managed to raise herself from the floor, and her vision began to focus, she staggered as she saw Mishka run towards her but was blocked by an invisible wall, and saw the surprise on her face. This filled Nikki’s stomach with dread as that moment she saw that her companions were in trouble as two spiders dropped down from above, on the other side of the wall and started to attack her companions. But she had little time to think how she could help as her shadow dropped down and touched the wall. A glyph appeared and Nikki widened her eyes ad thousands of arrows seemed to come out of the glyph and group together to head towards her. The shadow just stood by as Nikki turned to run away from the attack, using a chocobo feather she caste a quick haste spell on herself, feeling much quicker she then ran for her life with her heart in her mouth. As she ran she could feel that the arrows were catching up if she didn’t do something she was going to face a very gruesome death. She loaded her bow as she ran and shot a triple arrow at the arrows a few were caught and clattered to the floor, she fired again and again as she ran but nothing was working it didn’t matter that a few had fallen it still didn’t compare to the thousands that were following her.

    What’s that?” thought Nikki as she ran she could see one arrow at the front glowing.

    That’s the leader.” Said the familiar voice in her head. Nikki knew then what she had to do, using the speed of the haste spell she ran to the wall, jumped and used the momentum to kick herself off the wall she then drew her arrow to her cheek and let go, the arrow splintered the glowing arrow into pieces, the other arrows fell to the floor not before few struck her arms, the pain was unbearable and she immediately let go of her bow which clang to the floor. Before she could react she was suddenly struck again in the shoulder and was struck with lightning and she sunk to the floor.

    Nikki desperately resisting the urge to pass out slowly pulled out the arrows that had struck her and reached for her own arrows that were attached to her waist, charging up a cure arrow spell she embedded the arrow in her leg, more pain struck her but also relief flooded through her, the arrow she embedded wouldn’t heal and she knew that this would slow her down, but better that than to be out of the battle, she had run out of potions and so this was her last resort. She slowly stood up and pulled out the arrow in her leg. Where the fuck is she?” she thought as she desperately searched for her. She then spotted her she was on the other side of the Cloister, however when Nikki tried to run in that direction she was still stopped by a wall. What the fuck?” thought Nikki. She could see her shadow up high although the others in the midst of their battle tried to get her attention and stop her, she easily brushed them aside.

    Nikki could only watch as the shadow touched the wall to release more arrows in the same way as the glyph glowed, but this time the shadow decided to ride these arrows, as if she was giving them more control in their direction. She was ignoring the attacks from the others and focused her sights on Nikki. Oh fuck not again.” Nikki was much slower due to her injury she knew this time even with haste she wouldn’t be able to run, that was until one of the spider gave an anguished cry and blindly began thrashing about which made the shadow lose her balance. The arrows all dropped instantly as the shadow fell off. Nikki watched as the twins used their magic to raise the arrows and use them to pierce the web that Kyra was in. They then teleported her down to safety aswell as returning her gunblade to her. however as Joseph came charging at the shadow who had fallen, the unsent girl appeared and used her own powers to sling him aside.

    “Naughty boy, sissy play with mummy only!”

    Arrows came flying at Nikki as the shadow came back into the other side of the invisible wall, Nikki had no idea how she could do that, Nikki shot three arrows down in front of her forming a protect spell, however it seemed the shadow had predicted this and shattered all three arrows, before Nikki could react more arrows were shot at her and with incredible force they pinned her to the wall.

    “Goodbye.” Said the shadow as Nikki saw her charging up an Ultima arrow, Nikki glared at her she would let her see the satisfaction of her being scared, she would face her until the very last moment, however suddenly the shadow was flung aside by a psycic spell. Nikki looked up to see everyone had run over shouting her name. The shadow jumped up high to the edge of the cloister, the unsent girl appeared beside her. As Nikki felt herself being let down she felt her legs crumble and Kyra cradling her. She felt her leg slowly heal as Kyra healed hher with a strong cure spell.

    “Hey fake!” She heard Kyra yell.

    “I already told you she is the fake.”

    "You're wrong! You're a piece. Fragmented memory. Barely a representative of the real person! You're all of Nikki's worst memories all packed into one being! How dare you declare yourself as the real Nikki! If it was up to me, she's better off without you..and your memories..."

    Am I really better off without those memories?”

    “I may have one memory play over and over in my head” Screams from a younger Nikki in torment suddenly echo through the cloister. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t have other memories that are mine, no matter how distant they are, they are mine and I am the real Nikki.” The echoes turn into sounds of laughter of children playing.

    Nikki after your class lets go and get icecream kay?” the sound then fades away.

    Wait I don’t remember that, I don’t even remember that voice, and I have a clear memory of my childhood.” It hurt Nikki to hear her own pain, she knew where it was from but couldn’t recall that memory. Nikki managed to open her eyes and reach out to Kyra’s face with her hand, who was still turned to the side. “Kyra… I’m so glad you are alright.” as she said this she noticed that the others had given them some space. Kyra turned to look at her. Nikki missed her beautiful blue eyes.

    “Nikki I’m so sorry!” exclaimed Kyra as tears welled up in her eyes and she cried, Nikki hated to see her like that a brushed away a tear.

    “Why are you sorry? You have done nothing wrong,” she said while tucking Kyra’s blonde hair behind her ear, she had missed her so much and she was relieved that she was finally here and finally okay.

    "I saw... I saw everything" she said as her beautiful voice broke. Nikki then understood that painful scream from earlier, that shadow must have showed her the exact memory that she couldn’t remember, a memory of her being tortured, she was angry that the shadow did that, her own tears fell as she whispered to her still being able to compose herself.

    "I'm sorry you saw that, it happened a very long time ago, you are not to blame for that” she whispered in Kyra’s ear as she hugged her close. Kyra then nodded and she felt Kyra’s lips pressed against hers into a kiss.

    As they broke apart the twins tackled Kyra into a hug.

    “Kyra we are so glad you are safe.” Nikki glared at them for breaking the moment.

    Fucking twins…” she thought as she stood up.


    Kyra tried to focus on her surroundings, but still found that she couldn’t move. She could only listen.

    "No, she is simply sleeping." Kyra heard an older woman respond. Not one that she was familiar with. She tried to focus again. Her head felt fuzzy and her body had a slight ache. She seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness.

    "Does she have to go right away? Can she stay and play? It was very hard to get her to come here." The young girl responded.

    "Someone has to come and get her. You can look after your older sister until then"

    “Yay, okay!”

    Her mind couldn't focus on anything after that.

    Kyra awoke to find that she was on an unfamiliar floor. Hardwood it seemed. Not exactly made for sleeping, but it didn’t seem like it was her choice to make. As Kyra’s vision started to focus, she found that she wasn’t alone in this room. There was a little girl wearing a pink dress that Kyra knew she had seen before. She seemed to be about the age of four. She was clutching a moogle and smiling brightly back at her.

    “Helllllo!” The girl said happily.

    The little girl?!" Her voice finally clicked in her mind.

    "Uh, Hi." Kyra responded nervously as she sat up. Although, she didn’t really know why she was nervous. There was a happiness about her that wasn’t normally shown in the Via Infinito. Come to think of it, was she even in the Via Infinito anymore?

    "We're not meant to be in here." said the little girl in a quiet voice.

    "Why is that?" Kyra said as she began to look around the room. It looked to be a study of sorts, with many pictures and books, as well as a desk with more books and writing utensils. Kyra started to look closer at the photos and noticed that most of them were blurry, but only the girl seemed to be visible. As Kyra started to notice this, other photos started to become more clear as she looked at them. There was a maid in some that looked to be about 16 or 17, she guessed. The maid in the photo had brown eyes and brown plaited hair with a bright smile. She is standing in most of the photos with the little girl and another girl who was still blurred out.

    "It's Daddy's study we're not allowed to play in Daddy's study, he would be very cross if he found out we were in here. Come on this way!" The girl got up still clutching the moogle with her hand and rushed toward the door.


    "Why?" The girl turned around and tilted her head to the side.

    "Where are we?" Kyra asked the obvious question.

    "My house, silly." she giggled "Can't catch me!" she ran out the room into the light.

    Kyra sighed before getting to her feet. She looked toward the door and could only see a bright light. She couldn’t see through to the other side. Part of her was wondering why that was. She walked toward the blinding light. Moments after, she found herself on the landing of this seemingly enormous house. The owners of this house were obviously pretty wealthy. The design and decoration of it was quite impressive. Kyra heard a giggle come from behind a closed door nearby. there was a sign with a name on it, but it was blurred out no matter which way she looked at it. The little girl was sitting on the other side of the landing. Her legs were through the banister, swinging back in forth. She seemed to be looking down at something, but all Kyra could see was that same light, just as she saw when she walked through the door. The little girl looked up as Kyra approached.

    "You're confused?"

    "Yes I am."

    "Why? Don't you like it here? It's nice here nothing can hurt you."

    "No. Well. Its nice, yes. I just don't know why I'm here."

    "You didn't want to go, so we bring you here, I was confused I felt sad, something happened outside, no one feels sad here we showed you a path. Don't worry friends come and get you soon."

    Really? How will they know where I am? What if she’s wrong? What if....”

    "Here, bubbles cheer sissy up!"

    Kyra accepted the offer and started to blow bubbles with the girl. She guessed the girl could tell that Kyra was unsure of her current situation, and tried to find ways to ease her mind. It was a side of the girl that Kyra really wasn’t used to. She was calm, happy, giggling at her own bubbles as she blew them. Yet Kyra was still afraid to let her guard down, even though the girl in front of her wasn’t as hostile as the one in the Via Infinito. Kyra also noticed they weren’t exactly alone. There was a maid that Kyra had need in the pictures of the Study where she awoke. She was busy tending to the furniture and other chores around the enormous house, it seemed.

    As they were blowing bubbles, Kyra realized she hadn't introduced herself, even though she probably knew who she was.

    "My name's Kyra. What's yours?"

    The little girl giggled as she tried to catch the bubbles Kyra has just made. “They’re so big!”

    She then set her own container of bubbles and stood facing Kyra, “I know who you are sissy, silly.” she paused to think. “My name is...My name is...?” she scratched her head trying to find her own name in her head. She picked up her moogle doll and asked, “What’s my name Mr. Moogle?” She wriggled the toy as if it was giving her a silent response. “Mmm, Mr. Moogle says he doesn’t know either. It’s like sissy, it’s gone but might come back someday.” she smiled and looked back to Kyra, “Do I need a name?”

    Kyra let herself think about that one. This was a world based on her own fragmented memories, as Kyra was beginning to piece together. It was best not to upset her. She thought carefully about her answer. "I don't suppose you need a name. Having a name would be better than calling you little girl or sissy. Don't you think so?"

    "But in the game I'm your sissy. I like being called sissy!" the girl smiled.

    "Alright then, sissy is what I'll call you until your name comes back." Kyra encouraged.

    A soft giggle could be heard coming from the other side of the locked door. The little girl squealed with delight and grabbed Kyra’s hand as she stood and lead her to the door. As they approached, the girl let go of Kyra’s hand and pressed her ear against the door to listen.

    "Is that your big sis in there?"

    "Yes real sissy is in there did you hear her too?"

    "Yes I did. Does she always lock her door?"

    "She won’t come out until I remember, the more I remember the bigger my house gets. I don't know why though....But it's why I haven't seen daddy or mummy."

    The maid came over and seemed to ignore Kyra. "Don't you get lonely?"

    "No, I have sissy to look after me."

    "Yes that's right you have a wonderful older sister to look after you." She lightly pinched the young girl's nose, making the little girl giggle. She then went back to her cleaning.

    "Who is she?"

    "She's Ziyu and she's really nice. She plays with us sometimes."

    A monkey suddenly ran onto the landing, "Monkey!” The girl pointed to it, “Can I keep it sissy please, please, pleaaaaaase?”

    “No, unless you know how to take care of it. How did it get here?" Kyra said. Why would she even suggest it? Right, and now we're officially one step closer to insanity.”

    "Eeeek!” Ziyu screeched. “What is that thing doing in here! the Lord and Lady won’t like this at all, did one of you leave open the door again?"

    "Not me!"

    "In any case we have to catch it"

    "Okay!" and the little girl was off she dived for the monkey who dodged out the way. The girl giggled as the monkey evaded her moves.

    She’s excited? Innocence at it’s finest.”

    Kyra watched as the girl chased the monkey down the landing and into another room. Kyra followed and found what looked to be the master bedroom. The room had lilac walls with a four poster king size bed and furniture that is carved and decorated with spirals of sorts. There are photos of what look like the girl’s parents and the little girl on one of the bedside tables at the far end of the room. The Lady had blonde hair with fair skin. She is wearing an extravagant pink and maroon kimono pink and blue ribbons. The gentleman in the photo had black hair, blue eyes, and had tanned skin. He is taller than the Lady beside him. He is wearing traditional black and blue robes and is holding a wooden staff which is slightly taller than himself. The little girl is in the picture as well as another girl who seems to be shaded out.

    The monkey jumped onto the bed, snapping Kyra’s attention back to their current situation. It jumped up and down as the little girl dove in but missed it yet again. It climbed up one of the bed posters it then leaped and quickly run out of the room out of the room the little girl squealed in delight, chasing after it and Kyra followed and found that the monkey is waving a piece of paper on the landing it had managed to get it without her knowledge.

    Once the realization hit Kyra she yelled, "Hey! That's mine!"

    “Ouuu naughty monkeys that is sissy's, you give that back.” The little girl charged for the monkey, but the monkey jumped onto her head and started hanging from the ceiling and seemed to be laughing at both of them. Then the monkey ran off and turned the corner, the little girl stopped at the top of the stairs and grabbed Kyra's hand before she could go any further. "No Kyra don't go down there, you'll get lost!"

    "Lost!? What's down there!"

    “I'm not quite sure, it looks like a big hole of nothingness, I don't know what these are either” said the little girl in wonder while she pointed to the pyreflies floating about in the black space, “But they show me flashes of the outside sometimes, it's like a Sphere Screen.”

    Kyra had a look of concern on her face. It seemed she just explain the Via Infinito in a more innocent sense, and that concerned her. "I can't lose that letter! It's the only piece I have left of...

    "Don't worry he will come back to play. He always does, we can sense things on the outside, your friends just needs help in finding you."

    “How do you know?” she asked. Better yet, how did she know they’re looking for me? How can she sense it when she’s barely able to...”

    “Silly, because he's my friend.” Suddenly the little girl perked up ."Hear that sissy?"

    "What is it?" Kyra was confused, she was sure she didn’t hear anything. She was too busy with her thoughts.

    "This way, this way!" she shouted, the girl ran back down the landing and passed her sister’s room hearing her own sister giggling too "Sissy can hear it too!" she called down to Kyra. She opened the door and the monkey was on top of the ceiling in the bathroom.

    “Damn it Monkey! Come Here!” Kyra shouted. She was getting frustrated. The monkey just seemed to laugh at her and just waved the letter around to taunt her “Please?”

    "You put that down right now!" echoed a different girl's voice, the little girl beamed.

    “Did you hear that?”

    "Yes! Who is that?"

    The monkey seemed to be intimidated by the other voice, which sounded around the same age as the little girl. The monkey dropped the letter and jumped into the little girl's arms looking very sorry for itself. The girl beamed some more. "I think... it is sissy, and one day I will see her again I know I will, you see the bigger this house gets I think the more likely that sissy will come back home.”

    An interesting chain of thoughts entered Kyra mind. She was beginning to understand this girl a little. This four year old girl was trying desperately to remember her family. No one knows how long this girl has been stuck in this world for, or even this state. Kyra started to feel for this girl. If there was one thing Kyra knew, it was the desperate search she is going through for something she deeply cared for. In a way, Kyra could relate to this girl.

    The monkey then perks his ears up and ran back out of the room. "Come on this way he wants us to follow" Kyra snapped out of her thoughts, picked up her letter and followed the girl as she once again chased the monkey down the landing and into another room.

    The room that they enter in has a soft glow from the sunlight entering in the big window, Kyra could immediately see that this is the little girl’s bedroom, with light pink walls and pink bed. There was a small table in the corner with a play tea set. A toy moogle and chocobo sat at the table. The window had light purple curtains, and the walls had a floral pattern on it. The room also had a purple wardrobe with a carving of chocobos on the doors. Lastly the purple bedside tables had photos on them, however again the other girl that appears in the photos had been blurred out. The monkey was looking cheekily at them from under the covers, That was when Kyra finally saw a familiar face, snapping Kyra back into reality after having to chase that damn monkey for an undisclosed amount of time.


    ”Mishka...” Kyra hugged her.

    "You're safe" mumbled Mishka.

    "Yeah.." responded Kyra after releasing the hug.

    “SISSY!” exclaimed the little girl in joy.

    “What have you two been up to?”

    “We,” the little girl giggles and spins around and stops to look back at Mishka, “have been playing with bubbles and the monkey.” she said smiling.

    “It sounds like you have had fun.”

    “Lots and lots!” exclaimed the girl happily, her excitement then died down. “Does this mean that my friend has to go?”

    “Yes, there are a lot of people that miss Kyra, you see. So, could you tell us how we might return to them?”

    "Yep yep it's this way come on! You too monkey!" The monkey hopped onto the young girl’s shoulder and she ran out of the room onto the landing and pointed to the airing cupboard ahead of her. "That way. Come back and play with me again okay." The girl let the two go ahead of her as they open the cupboard a darkness could be felt on the outside an eerie feeling of the Via Infinito it was a stark contrast to the room they were standing in which was full of light and happiness and peace. Kyra turned around to give one last smile to the little girl. She saw the little girl waving goodbye with the monkey on her shoulder an older woman was on her right and Sakura on her left who was grasping the little girl's hand and just smiled and nodded at Kyra. Before Kyra could say anything they find themselves back in the Via Infinito. SAKURA!!! What is she doing there?”

    Kyra had many questions going through her head. “How did you defeat Sanika?”

    “I haven't the foggiest.” Mishka mused.

    Kyra brought her hand up to forehead and sighed. Although, now probably wasn't the time to get into the details. She did have one thing on her mind this whole time... “Is Nikki here? Is she with you? Is she okay?”

    “They should've been just behind me, but after Cloister 53, I suppose we were separated...”

    Mishka went silent and put her hand over Kyra’s mouth and put a finger up to her own. Kyra understood the signal. There were voices coming from around the corner. Mishka motioned to follow around the corner to investigate. It was Nikki’s clone and the little girl. The clone seemed to be just walking slowly with her head down, looking at the ground. The little girl was bouncing around her trying to get her attention.

    “Can we play now Sissy? Please please please?” The clone didn’t answer her. She just kept walking. “Please?!” the girl said a little louder. But still the the clone didn’t answer she just ignored the girl. “With a cherry on top?” The clone however still refused to acknowledge the little girl. As they get further away Mishka started to follow them. To stop Mishka doing anything rash, Kyra followed her. “Oh, oh, oh, I know, we can play tea parties!” exclaimed the little girl, but still she got no response. “Chocobos? Moogles?” The little unsent girl pouted having had no luck in getting her attention. “I know you want to play with mummy?” The clone stopped in her tracks and looked at the girl.

    “What do you know about her?”

    “Mummy looks after everyone. You won't be able to play with mummy unless you play with sissy first.”

    “And where can I find this sissy?” The unsent girl pointed to where Mishka and Kyra were.

    “Over there sissie's have been very naughty spying on you.”

    Nikki's clone then shot two arrows into the floor and two masses of green gunk appear and out of the gunk crawl out two huge spider fiends.

    SPI-... Big... Can’t...”


    Kyra was fear struck. Paralysed. Mishka grabbed her arm and ran. Kyra was running on adrenaline. She wasn’t thinking at all. Mishka let go of her arm and continued running in a different direction. Kyra kept running straight ahead. She didn't even notice Mishka had left her. She was then caught in a sticky web, stopped in her tracks.

    No, damn it. Web touching me..." A set of shivers went through Kyra’s body. It was no use. There was no escape from this nightmare. Kyra felt her body tense up as she was carried off by the huge spiders.

    Kyra woke up bound and gagged in icky web things and is in the middle of the room. The spiders seem to be nowhere in sight, but that didn’t change the fact this web was now in her mouth. She was disgusted. She noticed she was facing the entrance of this level. She could plainly see when the others will arrive the clone walked in front of her and went to the left wall and whisper something to it which Kyra couldn’t hear. A glyph appeared and the clone stepped back and shot about 20 arrows into the glowing glyph. The arrows sunk into the wall and the glyph seemed to disappear. Next, the clone went to the right wall and did the same.

    The little girl bounced up to the clone, "Sissy wanna play?" The clone ignored her as she tend to the glyph. The little girl stomped her foot at not being noticed and turned her attention to Kyra. She run up to her with a big smile, "SISSY! Wanna play?"

    YES!! I want to play! Wait, what am I saying?”. Kyra thought as she wiggled, trying to tell the girl to understand her actions.

    "Sissy says yes, she wants to play!" She goes to undo her binds but...

    "Don't touch her." she says in a calm voice. Kyra noted she sounded so much like Nikki. It was uncanny. How could they be the same?

    The girl winced at being caught she turned around "But I want to play with sissy!"

    The clone didn’t answer. Kyra watched as she fired another twenty arrows in the glyph and the same process happened as before. She then took an arrow, using the tip pressed it into the wall the glyph appeared again and she drew a line across the room to the other glyph, "I need her for the fake, if you must you can ungag her." she says while drawing the line. The word ‘fake’ seemed to stand out on Kyra’s mind. She isn’t fake.”

    "Yay we can play I spy," she went over to Kyra and freed her mouth "Hello, sissy! Are you enjoying your stay?"

    "No, not really..." She said honestly.

    "Oh do you miss my pet spiders? I can get them if you want?" she said innocently.

    "Nooo, no! I mean, I'm okay. I don't want those spiders back." She couldn’t expose her fear to this girl. Who knows what could happen.

    Kyra noticed the clone seemed to ignore their conversation. She was busy making another glyph on the ground this time. Kyra also noticed the line that was drawn was now glowing purple.

    "Sissy?" the little girl whispered to Kyra in a low voice.


    "Is mummy a toy?"

    Kyra knew what she meant. "No, she's real. Why do you think she's a toy?"

    "Sissy said she is, that's why."

    "How do you know she isn't lying?"

    "Sissy doesn't lie, she's sissy! But she's not mummy and mummy is not sissy. Mummy has something of sissy's, and sissy wants it back." she seemed to defend this clone.

    "Hmm..." Kyra thought. Something wasn’t making sense.

    "But sissy got tall quickly. Sissy started talking to herself more. Sissy talks in her sleep"

    "That's odd, Nikki mumbles in her sleep..." Kyra said voicing her thoughts.

    The clone then stood up and slightly pierced her hand with an arrow. The blood drips onto the glyph, "Now you know who you need to to target when it steps over." The glyph disappeared
    while glowing red.

    "Oh oh oh, she wants to play catch mummy I like that game!"

    "Oh no" Kyra clued in. This elaborate trap was for Nikki.

    "She knows."

    "Uhh knows what sissy?"

    "That she is here, it makes her weak, I can feel she is close."

    The clone then turned her attention away from the entrance and started to focus on finishing her trap. She got another arrow and made a line from the invisible glyph on the floor and made a loop around Kyra. The line glowed red and then faded. The whole floor looked like it hadn't been touched.

    "Oh I know! If sissy isn't real then mummy is real! Or is sissy real and mummy not real. Or are they both toys? I'm confused." a large behemoth appeared by the little girl noting her distress and growled at Kyra. It looked like it could eat her.

    The clone then finally took notice of Kyra and asked, "You don't believe I'm real?"

    After what she just saw, it wasn’t clear. "I don't know what to believe anymore.."

    "I'll show you then." said the clone and with that she used her recent psychic powers to show a memory.

    The room darkened. The sound of a thirteen year old Nikki could be heard throughout the cloister. She was singing, and it sounded forced. Kyra could hear the pain in her voice as her eyes adjusted to a figure who was chained to a pole in the center of the room. She was singing the hymn of the fayth. She was being whipped by a hooded gang member. Kyra also noticed she wasn’t wearing anything. What the hell?!?”. Kyra’s heart sank to the floor as she realized what she was watching.

    Kyra heard the steps of someone coming down a set of metal stairs. The man Kyra knew as Daiki entered the room holding a metal rod. Nikki stopped singing and the hooded gang member stopped whipping the poor girl. Nikki gasped when she saw what he was holding. "Keep singing Nikki. You need to cleanse your soul for disobedience.” Dakai said with a half smile on his face.

    She obeyed, but tears are rolling down her face. Daiki went over to the fire to heat up the rod.

    "No please no, I'll do anything I pray more I-" she pleaded.

    "Keep singing!" he raised his voice.

    She sang until he went over and very slowly placed the burning hot rod on her back against her skin. She screamed in agony. Kyra could see that Daiki was clearly enjoying it. Kyra wanted to scream. She wanted to do something. Anything to make him stop.

    He took the rod off her skin and ordered her to sing. She could barely move and was going in and out of consciousness. She began to sing meekly until he placed that rod on her back again for the second time. She once again pierced the air with her screams. Nikki then passed out. Kyra wanted out of here. She wanted to help her. Do something, but she couldn’t. This was a memory from her past. Kyra could feel herself crying. She was helpless to this situation. She noticed the singing again, and the same man whipping Nikki, the steps, Dakai entered the room again. This memory was playing over again, and Kyra had no choice but watch. It replayed so many times, over and over. Kyra struggled against the sticky web to try to escape from this nightmarish scene that just wouldn’t stop, until finally, she voiced her frustration.

    "STOP IT NIKKI!" she yelled. “Damn it MAKE IT STOP!” she yelled again. Her anger was boiling. Tears were pouring down her face. "Why do you have these memories?!"

    “These are my memories and why should I stop it for you when it plays over and over for me never stopping! She said with intense anger.

    "Like a broken record!? Right?!" Kyra yelled back. The scene was still playing.

    The clone didn’t answer

    "That's because you're broken, Nikki! Part of you is missing! Do you have memories beyond those?!"

    “I have lots!” somehow, Kyra couldn’t believe her. After what she just saw. The clone stopped the memory and it vanished showing the cloister again. “I will become whole again by destroying the fake then it will stop”

    "NO! You can't kill her!" she cried. ”...She's not fake...” she whispered.

    The clone didn’t seem to listen to Kyra at all. She used her psychic power to put the sticky web back over Kyra’s mouth. She saw the others start to pour into the cloister. More tears ran down Kyra’s face. "You'll see" she whispered to Kyra before she teleported herself away.



    I grumbled as the arrows came for Nikki, pounding my fist against the invisible barrier and leaving to handle the trouble on our end. Joseph's swords continued to clash against the unyielding carapaces. The twins and Val held back, preparing for a larger spell no doubt. Gideon provided them cover as they did. Val's only action was to strike Joseph and Paine with a Hyahou a piece to allow them swifter action. Nooj charged up and launched several Lightfalls, but the spiders seemed to have defences for every one of our attacks. The carapace protected them from physical attacks, but there was a slimey membrane coating it that seemed to absorb the Mevyn's energy-based attack. As the battle waged, my mind recalled the recent events of my first encounter with the arachnids.

    Kyra!” Stupid! How could I come up with such a stupid plan?!

    When the little girl alerted Nikki's doppleganger to us, she had sent a strange arrow at us that splattered against the floor. Spider fiends came out of the resulting stains. I told Kyra to split up so each of us could take on a single spider, but I didn't know she was terrified of the things. Worse yet, both of them went for her. I'd left her alone and vulnerable! Due to that, they'd successfully absconded with her and had already started dropping down to the next cloister.
    I'm not going to let you take her!” I screamed at them, leaping down the large chasm after them.
    Unlike the paths to previous cloisters, the way from our present cloister down was a wide and cylindrical drop. I had used what remained of my supply of bolts to create makeshift pegs to keep from falling past the spiders, but they descended rapidly. Midway down the tunnel, I unleashed my sword and brandished its Deathstrike ability, striking the walls and causing them to shatter. The debris struck the spiders, but they were quite resilient. Still, I'd managed to slow them and seized the advantage. Falling, I landed on the back of one of their carapaces and buried my sword into its head.
    At least, that's what I had hoped to do. Despite the power of my attack, the spider was not phased and it sustained barely an injury, my blade not so much embedding itself as wedging between plates of the carapace. The other spider launched itself at me then, its fangs also repelling my blade. The force of it nearly knocked me off the slick carapace, but I managed to plunge a bolt into the spider's eye, finding it to be a viable weak point in their hard shells. However, before I could do any more, the spider I was standing upon tucked in its abdomen and the new vertical angle was too steep for my boots to catch. As I fell, my body passed the spider's spinneret and it would spray a thick stream of webbing into me, pushing me all the way to the other side of the tunnel and trapping me on it. With me out of the way, they were then free to continue on theirs. Using all my strength and with some help from my dexterous fingers, I managed to cut through the webbing. I thought quickly. The spiders had been gaining too much ground and I was having too much difficulty clinging to the walls. Looking back at the web, I realised I'd been clinging simply with the few bands that had attached themselves to the wall. I tore off a couple of tiny strands and tied them to my boots as best I could. Though they didn't hold my weight, they did cling enough. I had taken hold of another small glob and, with it, I resumed my chase. The webbing on my feet and right hand allowed me to drop down in increments, giving me a bit more control over my descent. Before long, I had found my way back onto the spider's back.
    Your passenger seems to be looking a bit worse for wear. I'll have to insist you release her into my custody.” I had said, jabbing the other spider in the face to have it back off.

    With the webbing on my boots, even when the spider I was on tucked in its abdomen again, I was able to move closer to its head and maintain my position. Kyra was clutched underneath it, in a pouch of webbing. The girl was beside herself; was her phobia of these creatures so severe? I struck the spider a few times, but found that even the joints were well reinforced. My sword wasn't having much effect. What was worse, the other spider had gone to retrieve Nikki's double and soon returned. The clone had the core of Nikki's attack power and fired a series of Ultima Arrows. I had been forced to pull away, which only allowed her to continue her bombardment as I watched the three of them disappear with Kyra still in their possession.

    Once they vanished into the next cloister, I was free from the rain of arrows and dropped all the way down to what I would discover to be Cloister 56. Oddly, I ended up landing on something soft and warm, though her mouth was quite rough and cold.

    For fuck’s sake you Guado freak, get the fuck off me before I put fricken arrows in your eyes and watch you eat them, and watch where you are going?!”

    Nikki wasn't faring much better than I did against her doppleganger. She'd managed to overcome the seemingly living stream of arrows, but several still hit their mark and the clone would follow with a Thundaga arrow. On our end, Paine had spherechanged to Gun Mage, using a Blue Bullet to cast Supernova on the spiders. However, as the spell came under way, the spiders simply turned and fired blasts of thick webbing, which took the force of the spell in their place and proceeded to strike at her with their sharp legs. I moved with Joseph to catch them before they reached and moved through our counters with attacks of our own.

    “Nine Lives Blade Works!” He shouted, somehow striking his spider in nine separate areas all at once.

    Meanwhile, I caught my spider under its fangs with Slowstrike from the hooked end of my sword. Though the damage was minimal, the effect took hold and the spider grew timid. Joseph's spider, though also barely harmed, did display a few promising cracks in its shell.

    At this time, Paine changed to Berserker and afflicted herself with Berserk, leaping onto Joseph's spider to take advantage of the weakened points. Joseph and I left Paine to it and nodded to Nooj to provide her backup as we redirected our attention to my spider. I decided to go after its eyes again given that it had been the only worthwhile wound I'd ever been able to give it. With its slowed movements, it couldn't resist me, its efforts worsened by Joseph's herding series of jabs.

    We appeared to be making progress when I felt a weight suddenly push into me, sending me crashing into the floor. Once I shook the daze, I realised Paine had been thrown into me by the other spider after unsuccessful attempts at exploiting its breached carapace. It was now making its way to Nooj, whose Lightfalls and gun techniques still proved ineffective. This was when Cyan shot out from nowhere, her Velkomme Schwert landing a blow with such force that it caused the fiend to stagger, tripping over its own legs. She'd been standing off on her own at the start of the battle. I hadn't wanted to look at her then, but the Cyan that had beaten down an enemy that not one of us could even bruise, she had a look of focus that was both awe-inspiring and unsettling. Immediately after, she pushed on, connecting harsh swipes of her weapon and forcing the spider back further. Joseph was still herding the other spider. In the distance, I could see Val and the twins were finally ready with whatever it was they planned on using on the spiders, which Paine noticed, as well, having recovered and reverted to her Warrior Dressphere.

    With simultaneous nods, we both shouted directions, “Cyan!” “Joseph!” “Get them in line!”

    The two of them understood immediately, taking momentary glances at our spellcasters. Cyan swung one final cut with her blade as Joseph made one final lunge and both spiders were directly in the path of Val's guns.

    “Musubi no Jutsu!” “Endless Barrage Blazing Meteor!"

    Yuki and Yuubou stood on either side of Val, raising pillars of intense blue flame that perfectly aligned with the barrels of his guns. As Val fired, the bullets drew the flames in and became large molten fireballs, fusing the elemental magic of the twins with their magically-imbued metal rounds. The spiders quickly shot thick blasts of webbing again, but unlike Paine's earlier Supernova Blue Bullet, Val's continuing stream of bullets burned through the webbing and eventually reached the spiders, burning through their carapaces. The closer of the spiders evapourated. There was nothing it could do. As for the other spider, once the assault had ended, it thrashed about blindly, screeching in pain. Joseph, Cyan, Paine, Gideon, and I all made our way to it. Cyan reached first, swinging the Velkomme Schwert horizontally to bash the spider's abdomen, crushing it under the immense force of her attack. I would be next, landing Deathstrike on its blinded eyes as Paine, Gideon, and Joseph each sliced apart what remained.

    We then turned our attention back to Nikki's doppleganger. Joseph lunged for her as she recovered from a fall, but the little girl would come to the clone's aid. This allowed her to return to the fight with Nikki and pin her to the far wall after dispatching her arrows. She was poised to fire an Ultima Arrow point blank, but we were upon her. Paine had changed to Psycher Dressphere and used her Telekinesis to shove the clone away. Kyra, who had been freed by the twins during this time, ran to Nikki and released her from the wall, catching our fallen leader when her knees buckled in exhaustion.

    “Hey fake!” She then yelled at the clone, who'd retreated back to the top of the cloister with the little girl.

    “I already told you she is the fake.” The clone growled.

    Kyra blasted her with biting words, loosing her full wrath upon the misguided clone, "You're wrong! You're a piece. Fragmented memory. Barely a representative of the real person! You're all of Nikki's worst memories all packed into one being! How dare you declare yourself as the real Nikki! If it was up to me, she's better off without you..and your memories..."

    The cloister began echoing with screams and pleas from a younger Nikki as the clone responded, “I may have one memory play over and over in my head, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other memories that are mine, no matter how distant they are, they are mine and I am the real Nikki.”

    The screaming soon became masked by the sound of carefree laughter and familiar voices, one in particular clearly saying, “Nikki after your class lets go and get icecream kay?”

    After we heard that sentence, the echoes died and Nikki's doppleganger and the little girl were gone. Kyra consoled Nikki as I made my way to Cyan, who was still staring at the place our enemies had stood. It was her strong and confident poise seemingly returned to her, but something still felt wrong in my heart. This wasn't the same as before; something had changed about her. My mind reflected back on the battle. How had she come to such power? Not one of us could budge the spiders let alone throw them back as she had done.

    “She knows...”

    A whisper caught me off guard as I turned to locate it, allowing Cyan to move on and return to the group, suggesting they hasten their pace to the next cloister. The twins called for me to catch up as the others descended. Taking my eyes back up to where Cyan had been staring, I jogged the few steps and followed them down.

    She knows...”

    [New Skill]
    Musubi no Jutsu (結びの術) Combine Technique

  12. #42

    “I missed you too” said Kyra in a strained voice. The twins let go of Kyra and suddenly started asking loads of questions.

    “Where did you go? What happened? Did she hurt you? What did Sanika do? Did you go home?” Nikki brought her hand to her face and groaned at the twins.

    “Uh… Woah guys. Slow down. No. I didn’t go home. That wasn’t where I wanted to be…” Nikki still felt guilty at not being able to help her, how she failed her, how she wasn’t able to reach her before she vanished.

    “So where did you go then? Nikki was really worried, like super worried, super, super, worried!” Nikki lightly hit both of them on the head before they could say anything more. Kyra laughed.

    "I know she was worried. But I stayed in Spira for the most part. And, I saw Nikki…” Kyra paused. “I mean, Nikki’s life. Parts of it I guess. I was trying to get back, or someone was leading me back but...I think I was taken on a detour of some kind.” Nikki wondered what Kyra had saw, she hoped it was nothing as drastic as her getting tortured again she didn’t want Kyra to be hurt.

    The twins look from Kyra and to Nikki back to Kyra again, and then scampered off muttering something about “…potions,” leaving the two alone again. Nikki groans again, and then turns to Kyra.

    “What did you see?” she asked gently.

    “I’ll start from the start I guess. After I realized all I wanted to do was find you, that’s kind of the direction I went. I was taken to Bevelle, just in front of yours and Kyley’s house. The first time, it was the events that happened with Rhyse and the picture in his house. I loved it.” Nikki groans again as she knew exactly what that was, her cheeks went a little bit red as she brought her hand to her face. Kyley had forced her to wear that dress because it made her look “cheery”.

    “Hey, it’s okay.”

    No it’s not.” She thought.“...What else did you see?”

    “Silly. After a bit a boy in a purple hood said I didn’t belong there and showed me the right path. The next scene I saw was when you were fourteen, I think. You were walking back with Lillia…”

    “That was the day that I had left the gang, Lilla had come looking for me, she joined the gang with the promise that they would find me for her, as soon as I saw her there something clicked in my mind that I needed to leave and I took Lillia with me.” Nikki remembered that day well, she had risked her life to save Lillia knowing what the men would do to her if she stayed too long, the price was heavy for leaving he gang would want to hunt her down to kill her, but they hadn’t managed to as she was still here.

    “Yeah… Kai asked so many questions...”

    Kai hadn’t seen me in two years.” She thought. She then remembered about the boy something about his description reminded her about something. “But you say you saw a boy with a purple hood?”

    “I did. He was only there the first time, then he disappeared.”

    “The Fayth… I have never seen the Fayth, but they always said that the Fayth of Bahamut was a young dark skinned boy in a purple hood.” Remembered Nikki, she was taught in the temples what each of the Fayth had looked like.

    “That must have been him then. He was right though, I didn’t belong there. He must have noticed that and lead me out. There was another thing I saw…”


    “Sin’s attack. And Sanika, when she was about eight I guess. She looked so innocent. She told Kyley that Hayleigh was bringing a girl called Nikki. Moments later, she teleported away again. I think it was the day you were brought into Kyley’s house…”

    “I don’t remember much about that day, but you know about Sanika being looked after by Kyley right?”

    “Well, yes. It was still a shock to see for myself.”

    “Well Sanika was orphaned at a very young age, from what I was told she was orphaned at two, and Kyley was hired to take care of her as well as the temple due to her psycic power. From what Hayliegh told me she was a very polite little girl and didn’t want to bother anyone, however due to her power she got bullied a lot and would constantly feel like she was alone, no matter how hard Hayliegh tried to include her. That day when Sin attacked was the day that the gang took Sanika away, it was also the day that Sanika wiped away my memories of my family because she found me crying. I suppose she was trying to help and had no control of her power at that age. But I think the reason she is as she is now is because as she was taken as such a young age, was that she was very impressionable and her vision of right and wrong was twisted. But still, it is because of how much Hayliegh and Kyley still care for her and still have hope for her, that I told Joseph not to kill her.” Explained Nikki from what she remembered when she was told about Sanika, it was still a shock to her though that Sanika had been the one to wipe her memories of her family, something she had so desperately tried to get back. But now that she had Kyra perhaps she didn’t need those memories.

    “Hmm, I see. I guess that explains a lot. There was a method to her madness after all. Where is Sanika now?”

    “I honestly don’t know, she teleported away saying she had some unfinished business to attend to.”

    “We should hurry onto the next Cloister,” Nikki heard Cyan say, she and Kyra ran up to catch up with the rest of the group as they went down.

    The next cloister looked simple enough, there were several paths again so Nikki decided to order again that everyone should split up, since it seemed that none led to a dead end she said she would meet them all at the other side, Nikki of course had Kyra in her group, as she didn’t want to be separated from her and so that she could personally kill any fiend that tried to pounce on Kyra.

    After a while of going through the corridors and watching the pryeflies drift away from the twentieth fiend that she had killed in pure hatred, she felt someone touch her shoulder affectionately and turned to see Kyra smiling at her.

    “You don’t have to kill every fiend that comes at me by yourself, I can look after myself you know,”

    “Yes I do,” bluntly she was about to go on ahead to find more fiends to kill when Kyra grabbed her hand, Nikki stopped and turned. Kyra stepped forward and stroked her cheek.

    “I’m right here with you, nothing is going to happen to me.” Nikki felt her heart flutter at that, and felt her tension fade away at Kyra’s touch.

    “I know you are it’s just-“ Kyra interrupted her.

    “I know you are worried, but I might go crazy if you don’t give me some fiends to kill, we need to work as a team, you said that yourself.” Said Kyra as Nikki felt Kyra’s arms wrap around her.


    “Good” said Kyra pulling out of the hug while smiling at her. The albehd were staring which Nikki then just barked at them to stop and that they were continuing on.

    “So, why does the clone have your memories?” asked Kyra as they walked.

    “Because something happened to make me forget them, Paine thinks she is a shadow, a being made of memories that are so strong that they act on their own.”

    “Hmm, do you think this was Sanika’s doing, or something else entirely?”

    “No Sanika couldn’t pull something like this off, the time I had forgot them was when my clone was created as well as that double Sanika, and that was in here, Sanika wasn’t in here.”

    “Hmm, right. And the girl said that wasn’t her doing either. Was it the Via Infinito maybe?”

    “I really don’t know Keema seems to think it has a conscious and is constantly watching us.”

    “Wait, don’t you find it odd that no fiends have appeared since we continued on?”

    “Yeah that is strange.” They turn a corner to find a wide open space, the others are there waiting for them. Some of the Albehd began to talk to the twins in albehd from their group.

    “Oh so that’s why that group was late, it was Nikki’s and Kyra’s fault.”

    “Sorry for making you guys wait.” Said Kyra

    “Anyway we’ve seen very few fiends, and there doesn’t appear to be an exit either.” Said Joseph.

    “I’m concerned with what the Via Infinito is doing, so far it has been more active than normal, we have shadows popping up, friends that have passed away attacking us, I’m beginning to think that Keema may have a point about the Via Infinito having some sort of awareness. The only thing that has helped us is an invisible monkey that seemed to know where Kyra was.” Said Paine

    “What the fuck was that monkey anyway?” Nikki directed that question at Mishka since she was the only one that could see it.

    “There was a monkey?” asked Kyra.

    “Yes but only Mishka could see it.” Answered Paine crossing her arms.

    “I kinda want to know what we were following too and why you were the only one that could see it.” Said Val.

    “I think that’s best left for later, it’s a long story and best saved when having a drink. Nikki can buy us all drinks.” Said Mishka with a smile.

    “You can fucking get your own drink.” Before Mishka could respond back they were then interrupted.

    Suddenly a glyph appeared on the floor and the Pyreflies gathered to summon a young priestess, she looked around with surprise on her face, she tried to talk to the group in from of her but no one could hear what she was saying. Nikki knew who she was, she had met her before.

    Nikki was fifteen she had been in the tree when she saw the girl wander through Macalania woods, pryeflies enveloped the girl and Nikki just watched as the girl reached out to a branch and a crystal formed on the tree. Nikki thought it was the most beautiful peaceful thing she ever saw. The girl looked up and smiled at her.

    “I see you a lot here, you care about these woods, I can tell.”

    “Who are you?”

    “I am the Fayth of Macalania Temple, my influence spreads up to these woods.” Nikki suddenly jumped down the tree and did the prayer of Yevon in respect. As she lifted her head she asked.

    “Why have you appeared in front of me?”

    “Because like I said you care about these woods, it’s nice to see.” Then the Fayth disappeared.

    Nikki remembered that day well it was a shock to see the Fayth here. The Fayth suddenly held her head seemingly in a lot of pain and she suddenly disappeared. Nikki at that point felt a pit in her stomach she had seen this before they all had, she looked at her comrades they all knew what was coming.

    The room got very, very cold, the cloister began to freeze over out in a circle from where the priestess had been, three huge icicles came down from the sky, and a beautiful icicle woman floated down, she shattered the ice to reveal her form.

    “An Aeon!?” shouted out the twins.

    “No… Something isn’t right” said Paine. Shiva smiled at them as she turned into a dark tone her skin had a slight green to it her hair extended and formed into snakes that were attached to her face and that same tattoo formed on her face. The tattoo that sir Auron and Sakura had worn



    “We should hurry onto the next Cloister,” Cyan said, passing the others and moving on to the exit.

    The rest of them proceeded after her, but I hesitated, my eyes struggling to leave the spot where she had stood. Though everything appeared to the contrary, there was something amiss. By any logic, it could easily have been that delusion I suffered on the previous cloister, of wicked hooks slaughtering my friends and of Cyan's shattered will and its admission to failure. I could not be convinced, though. Not a shred of evidence and neither a plausible notion to justify it, but I felt something was terribly wrong.

    “Mishka! Hurry up or you'll be left behind!” The twins called out to me.

    It had to be postponed for another time, the same excuse I'd been using for some time now. I jogged to catch up with them as they, too, descended into Cloister 59. The new cloister was a simple area, a plain landing that preceded a wall opening into several divergent paths. Nikki kept rather close to Kyra, clearly demonstrating over-protectiveness of the recently MIA warrior. Part of me thought to make a joke at our leader's expense, but it was hard to considering...

    Kyra...” ”Mishka...” It was her.

    "You're safe" I found myself uttering as she embraced me.


    “SISSY!” The little girl chimed in, allowing me to understand that I'd been brought back to that room again.

    “What have you two been up to?” Had Kyra been here the entire time?

    I had to admit, Nikki was justified in her actions. Watching her now, though, I knew what was coming and moved towards Cyan. With the separate paths, there was no doubt she'd want us to separate. This would be a good opportunity. Alone, I could ask Cyan directly if there was any trouble. We could work through it together as we'd done before.

    “Val, we'll take the leftmost pathway. Is that alright with you?” She suddenly said, moments before I reached her.

    “Oh, sure.”

    “We'll take Gideon!" The twins chirped.

    “Fantastic...” The Fallen Paladin groaned, following the two with a squad of Al Bhed.

    Nooj was taken by Joseph and led the remainder of our Al Bhed support team. As for me, I was left with, “C’mon, Mishka. We'll take the one second to the right.”

    There were many fiends along the way, but they were weak and easily dispatched. Even so, Paine decided it'd be useful to coordinate our attack patterns. In spite of the lack difficulty, she took to the battles seriously, forcing me to keep up with her. I had to admit, my heart wasn't there and so, her orders were probably needed, but she couldn't have known that. Well, except that she did.

    “Mishka, stop worrying.” She said to me after breaking apart an elemental.

    “How do you...”

    “Well, it's true, isn't it?” She continued, stabbing behind me to catch the Tindalos in the jaw, “We've been down here a few times now and it never ends well. We're about to hit another tenth cloister. So far...”

    “...those are the ones the little girl pops in and possesses one of us.”

    “Right. We've got through a few of them now, but they've been escalating.”

    “Isn't too hopeful Via Infinito will let up, is it?” I said, mindlessly going through the motions.

    Paine stepped in to stop a fiend's claw from acquainting itself with my eyes, “So is this the focused you or just what passes for the you that's not worrying.”

    “I guess it's the me who's kidding herself...” I answered her, stabbing the fiend in the skull to completely incapacitate it.

    “You sense it, too, don't you?”

    Did she know? “Those stories Keema told us about a living, a conscious Via Infinito, they seem to be true after all.”

    Guess not... “Yes, I suppose there's some use for those tall tales I heard incessantly as a child.”

    “You're one to talk, or do you normally see invisible monkeys around you?”

    “Only when I really need to find someone... well, that or when I've got my special mushrooms.” I replied, stabbing a flan and afflicting it with Deathstrike.

    “It seems-” It was actually the little girl...“Via Infinito is-” Wasn't it?“guiding us... more like-” If it was the little girl, why would she only have me see the monkey?“herding us along the dungeon.” Paine stated, though she noticed my distracted mind and would add, “Rikku!”

    Upon hearing the name, I quickly turned and just in time to smack my cheek against a rather unforgiving palm, which precipitated the words, “Minus Fifty Respect Points.”

    “I'm sorry, but you're right. I used to believe wholeheartedly that this place was just a pit. I didn't even consider any of the stories my people told about it and scoffed at the idea it could be conscious.” I remarked, watching the approaching group of Nebiros and Wendigo fiends, “But after everything we've seen...” including the bits she didn't know about, “there must be some truth to it.”

    We have been playing with bubbles and the monkey.” The little girl had answered me as she spun about in play.

    It had been just another instance of the Via Infinito I didn't want to believe. There had already been several, but if even Paine could believe the stories, I probably should stop denying them.

    It sounds like you have had fun.”

    “Lots and lots!” She chirped in excitement, but quickly sobered to ask, “Does this mean that my friend has to go?”

    I smiled at her, “Yes, there are a lot of people that miss Kyra, you see. So, could you tell us how we might return to them?”

    She would bring us out of her room and into the hall joining a few other rooms. This I'd seen from my previous visit, the walls with eerily blank portraits. My heart jumped up my gullet as I noticed the pictures were no longer blank, though even more oddly blurred. Several people within them had been defaced and only the girl herself remained. I shook my mind of these concerns for the moment. I needed to get Kyra back home.

    Opposite of her room was a familiar cupboard. If memory served, it used to belong to the girl's room. I'd opened it once before, when she had been frightened about monsters in the dark. I remembered that, though I knew there were no monsters inside of it, something about it was unsettling. This time, she was more bold and happily ushered us towards it as Kyra opened the doors to greet a gaping darkness beyond. It was the Via Infinito... The cupboard would lead us back into that dungeon. Was that why she'd been afraid of monsters back then? Did she see this portal back then when all I could see was a normal cupboard? Unthinking, I turned my head back to her only to find she was now accompanied by both Sakura and Gideon's mother, the latter of whom took her eyes to me and gave me a look that reminded me the last time we'd spoken. However, in an instant we were surrounded on all sides by the walls of a cloister.

    “I agree. Now, let's deal with these annoyances and find the rest of them.” Her words returning my senses to me as she spherechanged to Full Throttle and unleashed Swords Dance upon the fiends.

    The remainder of the path took only a few more moments. As it opened back into a larger area of the cloister, I noticed Cyan and Val had already exited their path and walked faster to meet them. However, as soon as I entered, Joseph and Nooj also arrived, starting conversation with them as their squad of Al Bhed began reconnaissance. The twins and a grumbling Gideon arrived soon after followed by the group led by Kyra and Nikki.

    “Oh so that’s why that group was late, it was Nikki’s and Kyra’s fault.”

    “Sorry for making you guys wait.” Kyra apologised.

    “Anyway we’ve seen very few fiends, and there doesn’t appear to be an exit either.” Joseph noted.

    It had been odd. Lately, the fiends had grown stronger and stranger, but on this cloister, we'd faced quite possibly the weakest this dungeon offered. It didn't bode well for what Paine had predicted about the upcoming cloister.

    “I’m concerned with what the Via Infinito is doing, so far it has been more active than normal, we have shadows popping up, friends that have passed away attacking us, I’m beginning to think that Keema may have a point about the Via Infinito having some sort of awareness. The only thing that has helped us is an invisible monkey that seemed to know where Kyra was.” She recounted for the others.

    Nikki would be the first to respond, “What the fuck was that monkey anyway?”

    All eyes fell on me, but Kyra spoke instead, “There was a monkey?”

    “Yes but only Mishka could see it.” Paine answered her, crossing her arms in thought.

    Val also commented about it, but given my own uncertainty about these recent occurrences, I thought it best to say in jest, “I think that’s best left for later, it’s a long story and best saved when having a drink. Nikki can buy us all drinks.”

    I certainly wasn't going through more questions I had no answers for...

    How did you defeat Sanika?” Kyra had asked me suddenly.

    Taking my eyes to her, I quickly processed the question and presented as typical a manner as I could, casually remarking, “I haven't the foggiest.”

    Kyra had been a bit upset by my lack of any useful information, but I'd unfortunately been unconscious when the others defeated Sanika and I hadn't even had the time to notice they were no longer with me when I'd found myself in that room again. I hoped, as I knew Kyra would also, that they were safe. For the moment, we needed only continue and find our own way to the next cloister. At that time, I didn't even know anymore what cloister we were on. I'd dove from Cloister 53 into that portal that brought me to the room. If leaving it brought us back to the cloister I should've arrived on, I believed we should have found ourselves on Cloister 54. Given the circumstances that followed, I still can't be sure.

    My ploy seemed to do the trick until a woman abruptly appeared in the heart of the cloister chamber, clad in traditional Yevonite dress. Just as suddenly, she began writhing in pain, hands held to the sides of her head. Within another few seconds, she was gone, but in her place frost formed and dropped the temperature of the chamber substantially. As if a marker for them, three enormous icicles struck the frost and a translucent figure descended into them. It was about this time I knew what now stood before us.

    “An Aeon!?” The twins shouted in my stead.

    “No… Something isn’t right” Paine then voiced my true concerns, the sight of a black sigil emblazoned upon the Aeon's face.

    Shiva cast a gentle smile on us, but this quickly became a twisted scowl and her once lush bands of hair writhed, coming to life as serpents, each with chill breaths and cold stares. The serene Aeon of Macalania Temple now appeared as a mythical Medusa, slave in life to the mark of Via Infinito. Everyone spread out to gain a vantage point on her, but within seconds, we knew we wouldn't find an easy one. A few of the Al Bhed attempted to rush her, guns armed. The moment they were in range, she glared at them, her eyes and those of her snake mane sparked a blinding white, and each of the Al Bhed were frozen in their step.

    “Be careful! I'm detecting a new ability.” Paine warned already back in her bladed dressphere, “Full Throttle is calling it Freezing Glare!”

    Shiva remained in the same position at the heart of the cloister almost daring us to approach. Val and Nikki decided they'd have an advantage with their ranged weaponry, but as soon as Val lifted his guns, the Aeon struck, closing the distance between them to stay Nikki's hand. Before he could fire, she'd frozen him, too.

    “Don't look into her eyes!” Joseph suggested.

    “How the fuck are we supposed to attack it if we can't even look at it?” Nikki barked in retort.

    “We'll have to figure another way.” Nooj growled, “Paine, Yuki, Yuubou, protect the victims.”

    As for the rest of us, we continued cautiously circling the Aeon, keeping its attention on us while the three of them got Val and the Al Bhed to safety. Almost as if toying with us, Shiva bounded for Gideon, easily landing a kick on the Fallen Paladin when he averted his eyes to keep from being frozen. Still, she wasn't making use of any of her usual Aeon abilities. Could it mean she no longer had full use of them? Perhaps the snake hair was manufactured as a substitute.

    I'd have an answer to my theory quite soon when Cyan decided to make a bold charge. There was a shimmering plate in her hand, a frozen sheet of metal she'd taken from one of the Al Bhed. With it, she could see a reflection of the Aeon, which allowed her to see it and not fall prey to its Freezing Glare. For a brief moment, it seemed that would be the answer, but as Cyan drew near enough to strike it with the Velkomme Schwert, Shiva finally unleashed its other powers. With a wave of its hand, Shiva formed a large crystal of ice and had it smash Cyan down into the floor of the cloister. I immediately ran towards them, but was immediately stopped by Blizzaga. Nikki and a Gunner Paine began open fire on it as a distraction and I would get Cyan to safety once I recovered.

    “So... all the standard abilities on top of a brand new petrifying stare.” I grumbled, “Thank you so much, Via Infinito.”

    “There must be a way to defeat her!” Cyan growled, shaking off the Heavenly Strike.

    “And just what might that be?” I groaned, watching as Nikki narrowly dodged being frozen.

    Cyan stood, her back to me, and I saw her grip on her sword tighten. I could sense her frustration, but at present, there didn't seem to be any way to defeat the Aeon. What was worse, the mark on its face was the same as Auron. If we couldn't even defeat a human unsent, what chance did we have against an aeon?


    Kyra watched as another volley of arrows flew past her line of sight and hit her target."Was that 15 now, or 20... Damnit I lost count."She looked to see that Nikki had just lowered her bow after killing Kyra's set target. She watched as the girl huffed to catch her breath. She knew what she was up to, but the lack of something to take out her own frustration was starting to get to her. Kyra understood why she was this way. Her latest disappearing act surely got the better of all of them, but she knew Nikki was affected the most. She could tell just by looking at her.

    The group spilled into the cloister entrance just as the clone disappeared. It was nightmarish. She wanted it to end, but she couldn’t do a thing. Tears were pouring from her eyes after what she’d just seen. “NIKKI!”her thoughts rang loudly through her head. All she could do was think. Her voice was caught in her throat. She couldn’t even try to scream because of the sticky web covering her mouth. All she could do was look at her. Try to warn her of what was to come. Even the rest of the team knew something wasn’t right…“Damn it! Let me go you fucker!”the distressed girl demanded.“Not till you’ve calmed down. Have you forgotten who’s after your life? This situation is screaming ‘I’m bait’ right now,”He was right. She was being used as bait. Kyra was her weakness and everyone knew it. The thought made her tears flow more. She struggled against her bonds once again. Anything to notify Nikki to run away. Get out of here. She’ll die if she doesn’t!

    Kyra saw as the stubborn girl started to make her way towards her.
    “She escaped? Damn it! Don’t cross the line!”She hoped to convey that to her stubborn lover, but…

    It was a scene out of a horror book. The flash of red appeared under Nikki’s feet and she was thrown to the other side of the cloister, away from everyone. There was nothing Kyra could do except watch and try to stop the tears flowing from her now burning eyes.
    “How long will she last? Why do I have at sit here helplessly and watch her die?” Kyra watched as she barely survived attack after brutal attack. Even Kyra got confused when she stuck an arrow in her own thigh until she realized it was a last ditch cure spell. She was running out of options. Kyra looked below and saw the team wasn’t faring too well against the spiders. That was until Cyan delivered a knocking blow that reduced the spider to a stumbling stagger. Shortly after, another series of attached from her resourceful team would slice them to pyreflies. Kyra sighed with relief as they were gone. The twins brought Kyra down to safety and her blade was returned to her. As soon as her feet touched ground she ran toward Nikki who was now pinned to a wall. She got her down and searched her magic for the strongest cure spell she had…

    Kyra looked at her now and noticed she had calmed down since those traumatic events, but Nikki was being overprotective...Kyra went over and places her hand on Nikki’s shoulder affectionately.

    You don’t have to kill every fiend that comes at me by yourself, I can look after myself you know,”

    Yes I do.”

    I’m right here with you, nothing is going to happen to me.”

    I know you are it’s just-“Kyra knew why already. She stopped her in mid sentence.

    I know you are worried, but I might go crazy if you don’t give me some fiends to kill, we need to work as a team, you said that yourself.”Kyra pulled the girl into a hug.


    Good.”Kyra said before letting Nikki go. They noticed the al bhed were staring, and Nikki set them in their place again before they continued on.

    Kyra let out a few thoughts that were on her mind. Maybe just to alleviate everything that was going on in her mind. That was until she noticed they haven’t run into any fiends since they started to move again.

    Anyway we’ve seen very few fiends, and there doesn’t appear to be an exit either.”Said Joseph.

    I’m concerned with what the Via Infinito is doing, so far it has been more active than normal, we have shadows popping up, friends that have passed away attacking us, I’m beginning to think that Keema may have a point about the Via Infinito having some sort of awareness. The only thing that has helped us is an invisible monkey that seemed to know where Kyra was.” Said Paine

    What the fuck was that monkey anyway?”Nikki directed the question towards Mishka, but Kyra was the one to voice question.

    There was a monkey?”

    Yes but only Mishka could see it.” Answered Paine crossing her arms.

    I kinda want to know what we were following too and why you were the only one that could see it.”Said Val.

    I think that’s best left for later, it’s a long story and best saved when having a drink. Nikki can buy us all drinks.”Mishka suggested with a smile. Kyra would agree, but she thought best to not add to their current state of confusion.

    You can fucking get your own drink.”Before anyone could respond, they noticed something was stirring in the middle of the room.

    Suddenly a glyph appeared on the floor and the Pyreflies gathered to summon a young priestess, she looked around with surprise on her face, she tried to talk to the group in from of her but no one could hear what she was saying. The Fayth suddenly looked very strained, as if in a lot of pain then disappeared. Something very dark seemed to be brewing and Kyra could feel it.

    The room got very, very cold, the cloister began to freeze over out in a circle from where the priestess had been, three huge icicles came down from the sky, and a beautiful icicle woman floated down, she shattered the ice to reveal her form.

    AnAeon!?”the twins questioned.

    No… Something isn’t right” Paine said with a concerned tone. We all saw the sight of a black sigil emblazoned upon the Aeon's face.

    Shiva cast a gentle smile on the group, but this quickly became a twisted scowl and her once lush bands of hair writhed, coming to life as serpents, each with chill breaths and cold stares. The serene Aeon that Kyra had heard stories about of Macalania Temple now appeared as a mythical Medusa, slave in life to the mark of Via Infinito. Everyone took to their own positions and stood in defense against this new threat. A few of the Al Bhed attempted to rush her, but the moment they were able to strike, she glared at them, her eyes sparkles a blinding light and each of the Al Bhed were frozen in their place.

    Be careful! I'm detecting a new ability.” Paine warned already back in her bladed dressphere, “Full Throttle is calling it Freezing Glare!”

    Kyra had seen something like this before. A Basilisk would be the closest description to what she could think of, but the glare of the red eyed snakes were a dead giveaway. Nikki and Val decided to use their ranged weapons to their advantage, just at the Al Bhed attempted to do before them. As soon as Val lifted his gun, the Aeon looked at him and froze him in place as well.

    Don't look into her eyes!”Joseph shouted.

    How the fuck are we supposed to attack it if we can't even look at it?”Nikki barked in frustration.

    We'll have to figure another way.” Nooj growled, “Paine, Yuki, Yuubou, protect the victims.”

    Everyone went into dazzle and distract mode as the frozen victims were hauled to safety. Shiva bounded for Gideon, but learning from Val’s unfortunate experience, he didn’t once look into her eyes. He kept this up until the Aeon decided to charge for someone else. Just as Kyra thought, they couldn’t distract her for long. She had to come up with a plan.

    Cyan was next to attempt an attack. This time she would use the blade of a fallen comrade as her reference. As soon as she got close enough to strike, Shiva unleashed her Heavenly Strike on Cyan sending her to the cloister floor. When Mishka went to aide Cyan, Shiva then unleashed a strong Blizzaga spell stopping Mishka in her tracks. Nikki and Paine managed to distract the enraged Aeon away from Cyan and Mishka.

    So... all the standard abilities on top of a brand new petrifying stare.”Kyra heard Mishka grumble.Thank you so much, Via Infinito.”

    There must be a way to defeat her!”Cyan growled, shaking off the Heavenly Strike.

    And just what might that be?”Mishka groaned, watching as Nikki narrowly dodged being frozen.

    Kyra made note of Cyan’s effort, but they all needed to attack this wild Aeon all at once. Not one at a time. Kyra cast her eyes to the floor.Water”

    I need water…”

    Nikki looked at Kyra as if she was crazy,Why the fu-”

    Kyra looked up from the ground and squinted at Nikki as the swear almost slipped out of her mouth. Nikki suddenly drew another arrow and fired a water arrow at her feet. The water came gushing out of the arrow and continued to do so, as it landed, in a loop with Nikki focusing on that one arrow again and again.

    The twins followed suit and flooded the surrounding area around the berserk Aeon.

    Look out!” shouted out Paine. Nikki had little time to react as she was so busy focusing on the one spell the Aeon had managed to do Freezing Glare on her freezing her solid.

    Damn it!!”Kyra cursed in her mind at Nikki getting frozen.Twins! Aim for the snakes!”Kyra called out.

    Okiedokie!”said the twins as they slipped and slid between the snakes. Yuki used her psychic magic to throw rocks at them all the while looking at the floor.

    Joseph and Gideon got the hint and used the reflection to their advantage as well.

    Kyra! We got to free both Nikki and Val before they freeze to death! Use your fire spells!”shouted out Cyan.

    Shoot! Right, I’m on it!”Kyra focused her magic on her frozen friends. Cyan then pushed Kyra out of the way of another attack from Shiva.

    Keep going I’ll distract her!”

    Kyra noted that Cyan was being as equally aggressive in this battle as the one before. Kyra focused on unfreezing Val first, casting fire on his cocoon, hoping she wouldn’t burn him. After throwing spells for about a minute, she noticed the ice had barely melted at all.

    Damn, it’s not working”she was starting to get worried.

    Can… -ear me?”said the voice of a young girl.

    What?”Kyra was confused but she recognised the voice from somewhere.

    Kyra… -key.”


    Ye... -ound something t… you”

    What is it, what did he find?”Why am I talking about this now?! My friends might die!”

    Found what now?”questioned Mishka out loud who had obviously been caught offguard.

    “Mishka this is not the time to be talking to invisible people or monkeys.” said Paine.

    Ssh! I’m listening.”

    Kyra could hear a monkey’s squeal come from round the corner, it charged for Kyra clearly petrified and landed in Kyra’s arms, Kyra noticed it was carrying something it looked like a soft remedy but instead of being yellow it had a blue glow. Shiva let out a scream as Kyra took the items, the monkey took off and disappeared.

    I don’t think she likes this…”Shiva then charged for Kyra but Cyan blocked the way, by the time the remedy was used Shiva had disappeared.

    Kyra then used the remedy on Nikki freeing her from her frozen cocoon.

    Fuck that’s cold!”said Nikki shivering.

    Wecanusea-”the twins bounced over.

    No! Don’t burn her!”Kyra went over to Nikki and gave her a hug. Are you okay?”

    Yeah I think, I’m just glad that you are okay.”

    We’re a little confused,what happened?”said the twins.

    Well from where I was frozen I would say that she retreated.”said Val.

    I heard a voice. Then that monkey appeared and gave me the remedy… Beyond that, it’s a mystery”

    The monkey came back?And we didn’t get to see it again?Awwwwsaid the twins.

    A voice? Who’s voice?”asked Nikki.

    That again is better left for when you buy us those drinks again, I think we should be all prepared for what is coming next.”said Mishka.

    Mishka is right, have you noticed but every ten cloisters one of us gets possessed.” Paine said pulling them back down to reality. She had a point too. The feeling of victory was short lived. The crew had other matters to attend to. They all gathered their thoughts and headed toward the next cloister.



    Soon after Cyan's ploy met with failure, Nikki and Kyra made another move against the Shiva Gorgon. While Nikki fired arrows filled with water magics, Kyra had the twins flood the area. The result was a highly reflective landscape, which allowed us to see Shiva without actually looking at it, aiding against its Freezing Glare. However, Nikki paid for it. As the tactic required a significant amount of magic, Nikki was rendered static as she focused on the Water spells, which gave Shiva an opening to catch her eye. Still, we couldn't lose the opportunity. The twins leading, I, alongside Nooj, Paine, Joseph, and Gideon began engaging the Aeon, keeping our eyes to the ground. Despite being able to locate it, though, the awkward positioning made most of our attacks a bit too obvious and likewise ineffective.

    “Kyra! We got to free both Nikki and Val before they freeze to death! Use your fire spells!” Cyan alerted, seeing as how Val had been trapped for some time already and Nikki didn't seem to be faring well.

    “Shoot! Right, I’m on it!” Kyra responded, but before her spells could take effect, Cyan knocked her out of the way of another Heavenly Strike.

    “Keep going I’ll distract her!”

    This Cyan we've been seeing as of late continued to concern me. We needed to find out the underlying reason for it. As Paine had said, we were about to reach a tenth cloister and, with Cyan's erratic behaviour, it only increased the odds of such an event recurring.

    “Damn, it’s not working”

    Kyra's exclamation distracted me from it, but more so because it seemed to lead into yet more distractions. Originally, she'd merely informed us that fire wasn't helping thaw our friends. However, after she spoke, the cloister dimmed and I could barely see Shiva or the others. It had to be her again, but now was hardly a proper time for any of that! I narrowly dodged another Blizzaga through my limited sight and forced myself into an evasive stance. As if to further hinder my performance, the little girl's voice began resounding in my mind.

    “Sissy sissy! Can you hear me?!” She chirped.

    At this time, Shiva had gotten the better of Gideon and Joseph, dealing a heavy blow with Diamond Dust before moving in to freeze them, as well. I tried with all my will and managed to push away her distracting a bit, this allowing me to move in and prevent her piercing gaze. My eyes fixated on Cyan, who seemed almost to be stalking the Aeon, circling it to seek out an opening. When I leaped in to stop its attack on Joseph and Gideon, she launched her own attack, managing to sever a few of the snake heads. This was also when it became apparent to each of us that that was a useless move. Shiva's snake mane regenerated itself as quickly as any of the heads were cut. Even so, this did not dampen Cyan's ferocity. She kept attacking, bounding back and forth despite the fruitless attempts. She seemed oblivious to this, but Shiva did show reaction; it wasn't pleased. After following her passes, it finally aimed its arm to catch her, prompting my intervention. As it reached out, I clashed my blade with Cyan's, shifting it enough to strike the Aeon's limb as I tackled the girl away. It almost worked, too. Cyan's powerful Velkomme Schwert cut cleanly through the arm at the elbow and the momentum I used pushed us both clear of the Aeon. That would be as far as success would go, as Shiva's arm regenerated just as quickly as its mane and it used the new limb to cast Blizzaga at me again. Cyan remained safe, continuing forward from my tackle, but I was thrown by the spell, landing some distance from Paine.

    “What is it, what did he find?” I heard Kyra suddenly blurt out to my right.

    “Found what now?” I grumbled, stumbling to my feet.

    “Mishka this is not the time to be talking to invisible people or monkeys.” Paine mused in sarcasm.

    I grunted at the comment, but a moment later, a monkey did run up and jump into Kyra's arms. It was carrying something that had a faint blue glow, which caused alarm in Shiva as soon as it saw. It made a frantic dash for Kyra, the first time it showed the slightest distress during the entire bout. Cyan was there in seconds, blocking it from reaching Kyra, which caused it to retreat immediately, as if the blue item was a devastating weapon. I watched its use; Kyra applied it, first to Nikki, then the others, freeing them from the ice.

    “Fuck that’s cold!” Nikki growled as soon as she was released.

    Once the victims were rescued and we were sure Shiva was gone, Kyra began to explain that, “I heard a voice. Then that monkey appeared and gave me the remedy… Beyond that, it’s a mystery”

    “The monkey came back? And we didn’t get to see it again? AwwwThe twins whined.

    “A voice? Who’s voice?” Nikki asked.

    So, that had been what she wanted? The little girl was actually going to help this time... I smiled to myself, saying aloud, “That again is better left for when you buy us those drinks again, I think we should be all prepared for what is coming next.”

    “Mishka is right, have you noticed but every ten cloisters one of us gets possessed.” Paine added, bringing back that topic and cutting short any victory fanfare we might have had over surviving the Aeon.

    Cyan was the first to leave for the next cloister, eventually followed by Paine and Nooj, then the remainder of us. The next cloister was a tenth cloister, Cloister 60, but as I arrived on it, my mind hadn't realised this. I was too distracted thinking about the earlier conversation I'd had with Paine, the one about a living and fully aware Via Infinito, which was “herding us” as she had put it. By the time I had my senses about me again, I found the others together on the new expansive level. Several lamps illuminated parts of the cloister, leaving others in darkness. Cyan had gone on ahead, reaching a second lit space. Nothing appeared to be awry so I made my way to follow, but as the others had been waiting, this was a tenth cloister, which meant the little girl wouldn't be far. And, as expected, the whole of the cloister soon echoed with the sound of her laughter.

    “Dizzy busy bumble bee buzzing all about.” The voice of the little girl chanted unseen.

    The direction of her voice changed as she continued, “Here one is there one goes, must you scream and shout?”

    “Winter's come, oh dear, oh dear, time for worry, time for doubt.” With that, the whole of the cloister exuded a treacherous stench.

    “If you should, bet you would, brave the cold or sit and pout?”

    Once she finished, we'd be left in silence again until Cyan called out to her, “That's a lovely poem, little one, but won't you come on out?”

    Finally, she revealed herself, appearing beside her, “Ooh, your words rhymed, too! Yippee!”

    Cyan smiled warmly at her, “Now then, what's got you so excited?”

    “Sissy's sparklies are making an awful lot of noise. Can't you hear them?” She replied, “Oh, I know! I can help!”

    It took only a moment, the little girl's form melting into her, seeping inside, and we knew what would come. However, oddly, no memory played. Cyan simply stood there returning our worried looks with one of her own. I asked if she felt any different, but she did not. It was as if...

    Dozens of vines erupted from the cloister floor, surrounding the lot of us on all sides. Many had come between Cyan and the rest of us, splitting her off from the group. Without another thought, we attacked the vines, knowing we needed to reach her as soon as possible.

    “Stay back, all of you. I'll deal with this.” She suddenly said to us.

    “You're not fucking serious!” Nikki put to words what we were all thinking.

    This had to have been the work of the little girl. She had taken possession of Cyan, but what were these vines? What purpose did they serve? As we attacked them, they retaliated, striking down from above or whipping across. I noticed that their tips were two-pronged and sharpened like claws. They appeared menacing, but they were slow and hardly difficult to dodge. The real problem was that they continued to sprout from the cloister floor, preventing any of us from reaching Cyan who was also being surrounded. Worse, the ones circling her were releasing a cloud of spores, which had her even more panicked.

    “We have to get to Cyan!” I shouted, slicing through another vine.

    “What the bloody hell do you think we've been doing?” Nikki grumbled, firing arrows at the ones swinging to strike.

    “It seems they know that, too. Why else would there be a wall between us?” Joseph suggested, his swords catching the claws of several attacking vines and using them to rip them from the ground rather than cut.

    As I looked on, everyone was being swarmed by the wall yet more vines would only arise should the current rows be severed. It was as if they wanted Cyan separated, but why? Our previous experience with the little girl and her possessions had been simply to evoke some wretched memory. What did this have to do with it? Could it have been Via Infinito taking an active role? Cyan had been acting odd lately and Via Infinito had earlier lured her to that bizarre labyrinth. Maybe we were wrong.

    “Mishka, even if you're trying to piece together the situation, could you try doing it while attacking?” Paine growled, trying her best to hold back a slew of vines that had pinned her to the far wall.

    At first, it made no sense that she'd be overwhelmed by them, but then I noticed one of the claws had pricked her shoulder and oozed some sort of venom. Poison. The vines' tips were poisoned!

    “Not that that helps!” I grumbled, going to Paine's aid, “Sorry, I'm just confused by this.”

    “You mean why the girl hasn't brought up a memory from Cyan?”

    I nodded to which she also voiced her concern, “Something is different.”

    “We have to get to Cyan.” I said.

    “Any ideas?” She asked, readying her sword as more vines came.

    “Not really...” I admitted, jabbing into one of the vines and using its claws to entangle the others for Paine.

    “Maybe we could...” Paine began to say before tripping in her step and wincing at the wound in her shoulder.

    Seeing her falter, I quickly charged my sword with Slowstrike, which affected all the vines I had ensnared. This gave me the time to sidestep them and cut them at the claws. Paine had been afflicted by their poison and would need to be taken to safety. As I looked across the cloister, I could see several of them had already started to tend to the wounded. Despite how weak they appeared, their endless numbers were taking their toll. In the distance, I could see that Cyan was having more progress, though the fog of spores was getting thicker.

    “Everyone, use fire magic! The vines must be weak to fire!" The twins exclaimed, moving to the rear to charge a powerful spell.

    Val reloaded his guns and roared, “Charge-cast! Hohou!”

    An emblem formed at the barrel of each gun and flames erupted from the center, blazing into several vines, which seemed to absorb it. However, within moments, they exploded, the embers scattering to more vines and opening a large hole. Even after this, more vines were coming up to take their place, but the effect the fire had on them got everyone's attention. Nikki began launching Firaga arrows and the Al Bhed equipped Fire Lances. Those of us who weren't capable of fire magic fell into a support capacity. Kyra stayed by Nikki, fending off the vines that made it through her barrage. Joseph did the same for Val.

    Looking at the pouch on my leg, I fingered through all the fire arrows I had remaining. They were making progress, but I still had a wounded Paine to look after. I took her arm and slung it over my shoulders, walking her towards the Al Bhed healers. With the vines preoccupied with the others, it was relatively easy. If any of them made it to us, I simply struck it with my fire arrow. Still, I was lucky none of them managed to sink a claw into me. Once I set Paine down, I noted I only had about three of the bolts remaining. Of course, that no longer mattered. Just as I was about to reenter the battle, the vines rose up and revealed their base. They were all of them the limbs of Ochu fiends. As they revealed themselves, so did the ones surrounding Cyan and I knew what had happened.

    “This is a memory...” I muttered to Paine as the Al Bhed tended to her injury.

    “What do you mean?”

    “The Ochu. Her sister was killed by one. This is her greatest fear.” I explained, looking over my three fire arrows again.

    “You... have to get to Cyan...” She reiterated, placing her hand on my arm.

    My fingers fiddled with the bolts, but with the wall of vines now a horde of fiends, getting through became even more complicated. The same spores that had been bathing Cyan now exuded from the rows opposing us, leaving us at a tactical disadvantage. Nikki and Val continued to fire at them, but the Al Bhed couldn't near them with their lances and, what was worse, each flaming arrow that turned an Ochu to ash would also ignite the spores, which were being blown toward us from the surviving fiends.

    “I think we're going to need a new strategy.” Kyra voiced as she pulled Nikki further back to avoid the nearing flames.

    “You think?” Gideon added, moving behind Val who'd begun using Suisha to dowse the flames.

    Of course, the water magic was only feeding the Ochu and I began to suspect Via Infinito's hand again. No Ochu fiend had ever been clever enough to render its easily exploitable weakness to fire moot. These fiends were more dangerous than they could ever possibly be.

    I sighed, “Would be great if that gave me any ideas.”

    “Don't worry! We've got it covered! Everyone, please move back!" The twins abruptly called out, having finished their own spell, “Combination Magic! Flare Star!"

    Non-elemental flames surrounded several of the Ochu and erupted in powerful waves, which obliterated them. Since the magic of Flare, despite its fiery appearance, didn't possess the same elemental affinity, none of the spores could be ignited. Additionally, the spell had come so suddenly that the new row of Ochu hadn't been ready to replace them. I kicked at the cloister floor, running as fast as I could. When I reached the gap, one of the Ochu had nearly sprouted and I would need to use my fire arrow on it to avoid the spores. However, in doing so, I prevented my friends from making it through and they were caught on the other side of the blaze.

    There were obvious remarks about my move, but regardless of Nikki's colourful language, I had made it through and immediately went to Cyan. The spores had finally taken effect on her, blinding her with darkness. Her terror at the familiar situation was plainly visible and she swung wildly at the fiends. Without a thought, I reached into my pouch and retrieved eye drops to help her. I hadn't even realised I had the item... I hadn't even realised I'd carried any curative items...

    “Cyan! Here, I brought eyedrops!” I blurted, rushing to her.

    It was then a vine whipped down between us. Stopping once it had barred my path, it thrust forward, catching me in my ribs and taking from me all the air in my lungs. I was thrown back, landing some distance away, though the daze the attack had set my mind made it impossible to know anything more. The eye drops had been knocked from my hand, too.

    “...ffa? R... whe-e-re are you-u-u?” I thought I heard Cyan, though the sounds were distorted.

    “...e-e-ff-a?! Please answer!” Her voice showed her worry.

    Eventually, she found me, kneeling down beside me to shake my shoulders. I was slowly coming out of my daze, but the shaking was only making it harder to. I thought I heard her calling out to me, but I didn't recognise what she was saying.

    After a short while and despite her continued frantic shaking, I managed to make out a strained, “Reffa, are you alright?”

    “I'm fine, Cyan... Please, stop shaking me. You're only making me dizzier...” I groaned, but that caused her to shove me back, pulling away.

    “You? No... It can't be you...” She gasped, pointing a trembling finger at me as she stared with widened, horrified eyes.

    “Cyan? What's wrong?” I asked, struggling to stand.

    “You! You're the one doing all of this!” She exclaimed, “Don't come closer!”

    I was surprised to be sure, but I knew she had been affected by the little girl and must not have realised what it was doing to her. I tried explaining as much, but she wouldn't listen. She continued to back away, calling me a deceiver and that she'd been led astray somehow.

    “Cyan, I understand what's happening to you.” I tried to explain to her, “The little girl, she possessed you before. She's making you relive your worst memory. Don't you remember? It was about your sister. You told me about it when we went to the Moonflow. Cyan, please try to...”

    “I remember.” She said in sharp retort, “That isn't my worst memory... My worst memory is having ever met you, Mishka Guado.”

    I felt my heart stop at those words. She couldn't have meant them, but why would she say something like that to me? The Ochu and even, as I now realised, my running to her with eye drops I knew I never had, had to have been the memory of her sister's death. I knew it was different than any of the previous possessions, but this living memory was still a result of it, it had to be.

    As such, I had to get through to her no matter what she might say, “Cyan, you've been possessed and...”

    “Enough lying.” She growled, equipping her Velkomme Schwert, “I'll teach you to destroy my family!”

    “What are you saying?” I cried, “Cyan, you have to stop! Take control!”

    “I plan to!” She shouted, lunging for me.

    I barely managed to dodge given my confusion and fear for her, “Cyan, please! Look over there! Those are our friends! The Ochu fiends you've summoned are hurting them! Only you can stop that. You have to...”

    I rolled away from another lunge and tumbled forward to dodge a downward swing, which planted the blade into the cloister floor. Cyan continued to accuse me of harming her family and leading her away from her mission. None of my words were getting through, but I didn't know what else to do. The others were still struggling with the wall of Ochu and it would seem the twins were only capable of that one Flare Star. If I didn't figure out some way to save Cyan, we were all in danger.

    And it was at this time, the worst time imaginable, that my own sword manifested itself into my hand. It must have sensed the calamitous circumstances and it was still a product of the Slayer, drawn to combat. Cyan had taken its appearance as more proof of my antagonising and that only enhanced her tenacity. The Velkomme Schwert was a strong weapon, stronger than my sword. Though I knew it may only hurt my chances, I had no choice now but to fight.


    Keema Guado

    Keema sat at her desk tapping the pencil on the desk going over what had happened in the last few days. Her friend still hadn’t returned and she could really use her advice right now. She heard a growl and looked up to see a Guado pass her window with a fiend following, Keema sighed there had been a lot more Guado walking around with fiends, her people could feel that an unsent was here and that distressed them. The fiends provided a barrier to a Guado’s mind, there was no way that the unsent would be able to read their minds once a fiend was out all he would be able to see is the fiend’s pain. She had her own fiend a dingo lying on the floor like an obedient dog beside her desk.

    Keema didn’t know how much longer he would believe that the Guado were training. That was the twentieth Guado she had seen today with a fiend out. The unsent at the moment hasn’t posed as a danger to anyone, however Keema did find out that there had been a few accidents when he was out digging. Keema had sent someone to go and find out the details for her, if he posed a danger then the Guado would not hesitate to send him, she got a very eerie feeling from him and she didn’t like it.

    She went back to thinking about the events, the experiment in the Farplane was terrible, the Farplane seemed to be screaming in agony she was not comfortable with that, she had went to see Lord Tromell to request the project be shut down, but to no avail Lord Tromell had already left Guadosalem and would be away for a few days. So she requested that Gippal take over, the boy seemed to have more sense than Rin and seemed to have the Farplane’s best interests at heart.

    It was too close today, you are the one that had the sense to stop it. If the Farplane gets damage the effects will ripple up and down the planet. You saw what happened when Shuyin took Vegnagun in the Farplane. The first effect will directly impact the Via Infinito, it will get stronger.”

    Yeah but I can’t just take over just like that. But I can do something else, if you help us with the Via Infinito I’ll make sure Rin doesn’t blow up the Farplane., not that I think he would but he does get too absorbed.”

    She thought over that conversation with Gippal they were having problems with the Via Infinito, it sounded like some of it had spilled into the main hall of the temple, the unsent girl had appeared there as well as moving floors and walls. Normally a gatekeeper of the Via Infinito would help but since they were all travelling at the moment due to the eternal calm it was down to Keema, and it sounded like it was getting stronger.

    Keema rubbed her head as she scanned the room there was more paperwork on her desk and she was feeling extremely tired from all the worrying and plus she was using her strength to keep the fiend