This is Guest written by Guankim. Considering when I received it, I'm counting it as Christmas gift from him to us. It is meant to follow the chapter "The Great Escape." I think it's absolutely adorable. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. (Updated 12/31)
Sometimes a ride through the plateau was nice…but it wasn’t Lufaise Meadows, mind you, but it was a nice breezy area nonetheless and I could ride through and half-doze while letting the choco run where it wanted. Now, mind you, I don’t get all mushy and go trying to be a chocobo-raiser of my own. Far too annoying to keep up with the little brats…Such is the same with children – no need for them right now.
But anyway, my chocobo apparently decided to head towards Halvung, as I could hear the grunting of Trolls as we passed, and resisted the urge to hop off the bird and throw a thunderbolt their way. I told you, I was half-dozing. That implies not trying to walk on my power, of course, so much less anything that would require multiple spells!
My brief but enjoyable doze was abruptly ended when the rental bird decided to run towards one of the huge mirrors, which instead of shattering, acted as a portal. This brilliant clucker ran (Deliberately, the bastard) right into another bird upon emerging, causing a stop abrupt enough to send me de facto flying, and then dashed back through as the swirling portal closed. Jump is especially useful up in the mountainous areas around Giddeus where leaping down off cliffs is just commonly called “a shortcut.”
Luckily, learning to land was required in my training as a Dragoon, and I carried it over as a handy trait.
For those of you watching at home, we keep all our traits, and that is why I have trained every single job up to a minimum of 10th level. Yes, even the damnable puppetmasters.
So, upon landing, I had to look up to see this other bird whose rider was all hyper and into the day (much more than I was at the time) looking at me. I suppose keeping a grip on the bird might’ve helped in the art of not going flying, but that wasn’t a point I would bring up. And of course, the stupid bird went running off when it realized it was riderless, despite the presence of another chocobo. Obviously it wasn’t suffering with lovesickness at the time. How convenient. And why I’ll avoid raising my own.
Well, such is the glory of being able to teleport and warp, right? Right. My wandering mind then decided it would be appropriate to acknowledge the rather annoyed…or was that amused…woman into whom my rental chocobo had chosen to plow without grace. I noticed she didn’t have on her communicator shell, so I figured I would do a slight courtesy and actually pay attention, (since my chocobo actually HAD crashed into her, ya know) and I removed my HeavenEarthWarriors communicator as well.
“Sorry about the collision there. I suppose napping and riding don’t mix too well. But at least the bird appears to know a good target,” I opened ironically, considering who she was. “I’m Guan Kim, Mystic Sword. Are you alright?” I realized she was, most likely, as she hadn’t been thrown from her chocobo. I asked anyway, not really knowing what kind of thing to expect from an Elvaan…especially one from whom power radiated, yet wore casual gear and had her hair down, windblown. It wasn’t something I was accustomed to running into, but then again, I usually actually ride as opposed to sleeping, so that wasn’t really worth much, was it?
Apparently, she wasn’t exactly overjoyed about the crash either, “Where the heck did you come from? You could have hurt Momo. She could very well be champion material you know!” The woman glared at me for not saying anything, so of course, wit must thus ensue.
"If she's hurt by that pansy bird that I rode up on, she's far from champion material, luv." I tilted my head to the side, amused. "And as to where I came from...I rather napped through the rest of the ride for the particulars, but Bastokan I am."
“Not surprised. No wonder you’re so reckless and rude.” She sighed, “Are you ok?”
I looked around as if just realizing where I’d ended up, "Outside of not having a ride anymore, sure. So what brings you to the plateau?"
Her reply was abbreviated, “Secret mission...”
“Yeah, too brief, something’s suspicious with that,” I thought to myself. Now this meant I had to form a plan to eventually convince her to weasel out what it was, just because it was supposedly “secret.” So I replied, “Soloable, I take it?”
Her reply got a bit more evasive for such a simple question, “I guess you could say that.” She paused and attempted to shift the conversation subject, a typical thief skill, I noted. “I’m not exactly in a rush. I suppose I could give you a lift if you need one. My "not so champion chocobo" is actually rather strong.”
I thought, "Well, outside of something about a corny 'pick up' line, I think I’ll let the joke slide...the air doesn't feel the same here." Instead of making that comment, I countered with a topic shift of my own. I didn’t go through all that SATA training for nothing, you know! "Dare I ask a question first...Which galaxy is this, as the elementals feel quite different here?"
She laughed hard at that, “Galaxy? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think you may have hit your head harder than it looked.”
"Hmmmm. I suppose you may be right, but something is amiss, but that I suppose adds incentive to take the random kind offer, despite its apparent dubious nature." I let a joking grin slide onto my face for a brief moment.
“Well, if you think you can actually stay on a chocobo without a saddle then you’re welcome. I'll consider it my good deed for the day.” She extended a hand down to me.
My head tilted back slightly as I laughed, allowing green and golden eyes to finally show from beneath the brim of the feathered hat. "Good deeds, eh? Except replace good with Devious, and you might have a deal." I took her hand and deftly swung up behind her on the bird, wrapping an arm around her waist. "So…where are we headed for this mission?"
This elicited a chuckle from her, “I didn’t plan on taking you on my ‘mission.’ Where were you going?”
"Well, I was headed through to the Mis..." I paused, and it must have looked like it just dawned on me, but I didn’t particularly care how it looked at this point. "This isn't Lufaise Meadows, and I didn't sleep *THAT* long..." I looked up again, "I think that if you don't mind the company, I might give you free services for your mission, at least until I resolve how I ended up in La Thiene Plateau when I was near Halvung..."
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to Jeuno to see a doctor?”
"Bah. I already talked to Monberaux before I got involved in the whole escapade that sent me to Lufaise Meadows in the first place. I'm fine really, though your concern is touching." I thought to myself, "She obviously doesn't remember that Red Mages are invincible...just not immune to misleading effects of stupid birds’ misdirection, it appears."
A smirk crossed her lips, “Hmmm…I just don’t want to feel responsible for you if you pass out and fall off Momo.” That was rich, it almost sounded like something I would’ve said.
I couldn’t help but chuckle, "I guess I'll just have to make sure I don't let go, eh?"
“So you’re telling me you have no idea what you’re doing and you don’t have anywhere to go? Figures.”
I paused briefly at the question, "Like you're really going to complain about having me around, you could use the help, especially since I don't mind you keeping all the treasure." As I felt the elements while we rode, I smirked, "And I don't think I'm in the Garudan galaxy...the elements of this world are astoundingly different."
“Garudan? This is Ragnarok, honey. You are seriously lost.”
"Ragnarok..." I leaned my chin down to rest on her shoulder as I thought. "So… How did I manage to end up here would be my next question...?"
“OK stranger I admit my mission has failed already.” She sighed heavily, “I’m on a mission to do nothing. You ruined it.” I pondered if I was supposed to feel guilty about that before she continued, “Well, now that you're here I guess I might as well feed you. Hungry?”
I just laughed quietly, "Then your mission can be a success still, luv. It’s very salvageable; random daily enjoyment is a past time of mine...unless you're opposed to my company?" I pondered the food question. "Are you a chef also? Surprises may never end."
The woman laughed loudly, so I sufficed it to know that she didn’t enjoy the kitchen. “No, I don’t cook but I know a place.” She turned the chocobo downward into Valkurm headed towards Selbina. “And no, I guess I don’t mind a new face…it’s the old ones that have given me trouble lately.”
I smiled in memory of Fiery, and the bits of cooking I’d learned from her, though it probably passed over well as a kind reply, "How about you just find a place on the beach here, and let me handle the picnic planning. I have enough synthesis that I should be able to make a few things...and you can tell me what's going on while we ride, yah?"
She paused to think, and Momo must’ve been in sync with her, as the bird slowed down as well to give her time to decide. She nodded after her Zen moment, “I guess that would be nice.”
"Play your cards right and I might even bring out my bardic skills for entertainment," I joked. I pondered meal ideas, "Do you prefer vegetable meals as most Elvaan from my world, or do you have different tastes?"
“Well, I do love carrots...” We arrived at the beach as I was in thought still, and she pulled my hand off her waist suddenly, causing me to tumble off the back of the chocobo, which I recovered into a convenient tuck and roll, rising to my feet smoothly. ”How does this spot suit you?”
"Works for me. Some flavorful steamed carrots then. It will give you enough time to tend to Momo there." I pulled out a fire crystal and smiled, "And not a bad toss. Have you studied the monk class?" I setup the ingredients and focused my will into them, allowing the magic of the crystal to forge them into dinner.
She dismounted and released Momo, sitting in the sand to watch silently as I continued work.
I lay down my extra white cape from our battle with Diabolos, and set the meal down across it, spreading the variety of steamed carrots, a grilled hare, and some San d'Orian grapes leftover from crafting a red wine. "Did I do something to earn this silent treatment, or is it just a benefit of being me?" I winked as I asked, as she continued to ponder whatever it was she had her mind so wrapped around.
“Just taking some time to try to figure you out. Clearly you’re crazy.” She carefully tasted the carrots, “But dang these are really good.”
"Sometimes crazy is a benefit in this realm of adventuring. And hopefully the Orcs think so now after the last raid we did into Davoi." I paused, sampling a bit of wine, "I have a logical question for you, then. You call me rude, but you have yet to give me your name. Doesn't sound exactly proper where I come from."
“Well, I can’t just go around revealing personal information to questionable men… even if they are good looking.” She broke a grin, “My name is Alison,” she said, bowing slightly, her hair dancing in wisps about her brow.
A smile crossed my features briefly at the compliments, and then I laughed, "Excellent, I'll be sure to stalk you later since you seem to enjoy my cooking so much.” A pause before adding, "But you're not half-bad yourself." I chuckled and took a bite of the hare, following it with a sip of wine.
Alison moaned as she tried the hare, which didn’t do the best job of helping keep repressed the naughty part of every Red Mage’s mind, admittedly. “Oh warm food does taste good. I usually eat cold take out.”
"That's where it would behoove you to learn a low-level Fire spell, chere. Ah, one moment." I took out another crystal, and focused again. A moment later, a wrapped chocolate bubble appeared in my hand, and I offered it to her, "Nice to meet you, then, Alison."
Alison’s eyes grew wide as she took the chocolate and quickly gobbled it. She lay back in the sand looking very satisfied. “Well, thank you stranger.”
"Wow. I take it you're a fan of that type, eh? And please, call me Guan."
“I do have soft spot for chocolate of any kind,” she said, sitting up again. “Well then, thank you, Guan.” Her smile was a tender one, such that I was getting somewhere, at least, “So tell me. Why are you here?”
"My pleasure entirely. Has the mission already been completed, or do we have bonus time to farm for other thoughts?" I grinned, a sparkle in my eye at her question, "I think that you might have as much the answer to that as I do currently, Alison. The gods of Vana'diel have seen fit for me to run into you...as it were."
She giggled softly, “Literally.”
I couldn’t help but to chuckle to myself, "You didn't tell me what was distressing you about... the old faces yet, either, you know."
I think she thought she’d managed to escape the line of questioning for it, as she lay back again, “Hmm...”
"So I'm claiming a free service from my lack of entertainment on my travel, as well as the story that was omitted. I'll keep the ticket until I decide to use it." I grinned, swiping a napkin which mystically changed into the spoken-about ticket. Allowing a shifty-eyed glance intentionally with a wink, I queried, "So yes, story time; mind if I join you?"
Alison’s brow furrowed, “I’m so confused now. You are going to tell me a story?” She paused, her face brightening then, “I do love stories.” She propped herself up on an elbow, as if waiting on me to begin a long epic.
I cleared the cape and joined her in lying back, leaving her an arm to use for a pillow since she propped up. "Nay, time for you to tell me the story of the old faces. Then perhaps I'll return that, but not before," I laughed. "Nice attempted derailment, though."
”OK, you got me.”
“Once upon a time there was a lonely maid. She felt trapped in the same daily routine and longed to be free from her world.”
My hand ran it lightly through her hair just because it gave me something to do as I listened, and I nodded for her to continue, pondering why people put stories about themselves in distant third person, as if to remove the emotion from them or something.
“So one clear day she put down her pail and ran and ran and ran until day turned into night. She didn’t know where to go anymore and sat down and cried in frustration.”
"Poor thing." My hand took to massaging her neck as she told the story, hopefully easing a bit of her tensions, as she didn't seem to react. "What happened then?"
She paused for a long moment before continuing, “Then a prince found her and called her by name taking her chin in his hand and drying her tears.”
Guan scowled slightly, "Hopefully not like Trion..." I commented before a playful wink.
Seeming to not even realize I was still there she continued, “Off to the castle he took her and taught her what happiness felt like, and she was truly happy. Years passed and she grew old. One day, as she returned from her daily ride, she was not permitted to enter.”
"Old, in Elvaan terms, of course, meaning she still didn't look a day past 23, and just as beautiful as ever, I assume?"
“Do you want to hear the story or not?”
Hmmm, that could’ve been a bit of an icy breeze, I’ll humor it for now…silence is good. I just smiled, motioning an invisible zipper across my lips.
“OK then…She saw her prince and called to him. He said, ‘Just because you feel like a princess doesn’t make it true.’ He turned his back on her and joined his queen. He lived happily ever after.
That’s the story for you.”
"So what did she do then?" I shifted slightly, meeting her eyes again, "For it was her story, not the prince's to usurp."
Turning away from me, she wiped a silent tear and watched the waves break on the shore.
I wrapped an arm around her in a gentle hug and said softly, "Sometimes destiny is left better to a warrioress than a princess. I'm sure the fair maiden will find something much more enjoyable than wasting her time away in a castle with someone who would only disillusion her." My head lay lightly on her shoulder, but I didn't speak; I only offered her my support quietly to let her cross the bridge on her own.
“She returned to the woods to search for her true purpose.”
"And what did she find," I asked softly.
Alison laughed, “I don’t know. I think I may have lost that book.”
Turning her lightly to face me, I wiped the tears from her eyes slowly, "I disagree. I think it's still being written." My voice came out as a velvet cloth in the darkening sky, "and she has to choose how it ends."
She shook her head and sat up, “OK Mr. Wise Pants. What's your story?” She eyed me suspiciously before deciding to lay her head down on my arm. She quickly reached in my pocket and stole a chocolate, popping into her mouth.
I smiled and chuckled at the eyeing and theft, draping the cape lightly over the two of us, caressing her arm tenderly, "First, thanks for sharing that with me…And now, our story begins on the distant deserts of Altepa, where a young child started out training with the legendary monks of the Galkan temple before the Antican invasion..."
"However, it wasn't a Galka; it was a young Hume of perhaps eight years, who the Galka found stranded and surrounded by hungry spiders and rescued. His parents had been killed, and he shared a lot of spirituality with the immortal race."
I frowned slightly at the memory, "Soon after he had reached adulthood, the Antica finally succeeded in overrunning the ancestral village, and the people fled through the Korroloka Tunnel to Bastok for refuge." Her hands tickled as they searched my chest pockets, probably looking for more chocolates and finding none. "The Humes there accused the Galkans of kidnapping him, and only after...." I paused at her patting around on my chest, and focused a crystal in my free hand, and held up a heart chocolate, placing it to her lips. "There you are, chere."
She propped herself up on her elbow to watch my face as I told the story, eating the chocolate silently, her lips soft as they brushed my fingertips.
"After a lot of trials, he helped the Galka earn their trust, as the people of Bastok seemed to think of him as one of their own. They claimed they knew his parents, and whisked him away from the friends and family he'd grown to love." I sighed softly, “The boy became a warrior, which was very easy with his martial training from the Galkan monks to back him up...and he met a young man who became like a brother to him, and inspired him along the paths of the warrior mystic, logically deciding that of course magic plus physical skills equaled more dead enemies."
I blinked and met her eyes directly for a bit, revealing my green and gold spheres rimmed by a thin ring of the deepest lapis lazuli. "He grew and fought many battles, leading many men to conquer new areas, but grew weary of the constant grind, deciding that peace was the way, and he would be forever alone: a friend to those in need, a heart full of love, and yet a soul destined to wander eternally in search of those who needed help.” I looked up again into the crystalline sky, “But above all else, he would always be a defender of the world itself...And then he vanished from the world he loved."
She lay back down, resting a hand to my chest as her temple pressed to my arm again, “So is that why you’re here? Did I will you to come?” She blushed adorably, her voice trailing off into the night, “Or is that silly…?”
"I think you're the only one who could answer that, Alison. But it's very possible." I smiled at her blush and tilted her face to my own, "But it's definitely not silly."
“If nothing else I'm glad for the company.”
I reached up and took off my hat, the very symbol of a Red Mage, and set it on her head with a smile, "As long as I can get a smile on your lovely face, I'm content for the time being." Alison’s smile seemed to grow brighter at that; she took the hat in her hands and ran her fingers along the feather. "You look much better when a smile is on your face, chere."
“I can’t remember when I started.”
The back of my hand slowly traced a path along her jaw line. "And maybe I'll turn you into a red mage eventually," I quipped with a wink. Propping myself onto an elbow, I turned on my side to match her position, "You don't need to remember, the important thing is to always keep that happiness within you."
She blushed a deeper red at the touch and looked away, “So how are we going to get you home anyways?”
My voice was soft as I held Alison lightly to me, wrapped in my crimson cape as the sunset faded into the distance of the Valkurm Dunes beach. "Do you want me to leave already?"
“I didn’t say that. I just figured it’s late and you must miss home.” Her eyes revealed her nerves were on edge in the silence that followed.
"I am guided only by the wings of destiny, Alison. I go where I am needed most at the time. I cannot miss home...for as long as there is someone in need, that is precisely where I am home." I met her eyes again, turning her face back to face my own yet again as if forcing her to see her own truth reflected, "The question would be: Are you alright, and do you wish for me to go?"
“I'm tougher than I let on,” her voice took on a much softer and vulnerable tone, “…but I wouldn’t mind if you stayed.” Her eyes and lips agreed finally, both smiling warmly.
My thumb slid up, gently pulling down her lower lip, "I think that sounds odd coming from one who aided in bringing me into this realm."
“Well you do have a way of going from stranger to old friend don’t you?”
I grinned slightly at that, "Perhaps I have a way of changing through many things." With that, I leaned in very slowly to meet her slightly parted lips with my own for a gentle and brief kiss.
She started to return the kiss, but then looked away, “Please…” She paused as if unsure of what she was about to say, “…Don’t kiss me. I can’t handle that right now. It feels wrong.”
"Does it?" I tilted his head to the side, "It's a physical expression to let you know that you're beautiful and you are a dear person." Brushing a hand through her hair slowly and dotingly I continued, "Maybe that's exactly what you need to free your spirit once again. Should I say the universe told me to give you the message, perhaps?" I winked slightly, only half-joking.
“Can I admit something?”
“I don’t think the Princess is ready to give up on the Prince even if he doesn’t deserve it.”
“Ahhhh, Now we will find out her true feelings and the end of the ‘story’ perhaps,” I thought, nodding my head before vocalizing again, "If the prince already has a queen and is living happily ever after, then the maiden would either be making a grave error in judgment, or showing that she selfishly cares more for what she wants than for his happiness, and thus wouldn't truly love him...wouldn't you agree?"
“Maybe you’re right,” she confided, leaning forward against my chest and pressing her self lightly against me.
I pondered briefly, "Maybe indeed why I was summoned." Another crystal found its way to my hands, and I focused on it before slipping something into her pants pocket. I embraced her tightly and rubbed her back, "I can't promise you anything but to be who I am, Alison. I'm needed by many: some as a warrior, some as a healer, some as a heart that won't betray them..." My voice trailed off as I remembered many of those very people about whom I spoke.
She let out a sigh of relief.
"I can only offer you truths, in all of their unabashed...well, truthiness, but if you need me, I *will* be here for you, Alison."
“You say that like you’re leaving.”
"Being here for you means leaving? Odd way of taking my statement, I admit."
Alison suddenly looked panicked, reaching down to her pocket where I’d placed the item. “What is this?”
I clasped my hand over hers as I saw her reach in the pocket. "Not yet. That is for you to find when you wake up and I'm asleep." I winked cockily and grinned, slowly guiding her to put the item back in her pocket and release it, "You'll appreciate it more if you forget about it for the time being."
I rubbed my bald head slightly, tracing some of the tattooed markings before adding, "I think I'll give you the choice, but make it difficult for you at the same time, such is the way the universe works." She looked up at me with wide questioning eyes, and I continued, "If you want me to stay, open your mind, your heart, and your spirit, and kiss me. Convince me that you want me here. If not, I will go for now, and tomorrow, look at the item in your pocket. That is the decree of the universe."
She shivered, looking down at the sand, “You ask too much, Guan.” A tear formed in her eye, and began to run slowly down her cheek.
I gently kissed the tear away, "I warned you it would be difficult, chere. But I can only send the messages as they are given." My hand ran through her hair again. "You should keep your hair loose and free more often, your spirit may follow..."
Alison struggled to think but came up with absolutely nothing, falling silent against me again.
I nodded silently, "I guess this means I should go then, eh? It was a pleasure to meet a spirit such as yours, then, Alison. I will burden you with my presence no longer..." Slowly, I released her, my hands sliding down her back and sides as I watched her expectantly.
“I'm so confused.” Her voice sounded lost, like she couldn’t grasp fully what was going on, “You come out of nowhere, gain my trust…just to leave me?” Her features twisted angrily as she shouted, “How dare you?!?”
I sighed softly, having seen such reactions before…but that didn’t mean I liked them. "No...The universe asks you to choose. I .. My feelings cannot come into play at all." I looked down to the sands, "Hit me if it will make you feel better, Alison. You know and I know that I didn't do this to hurt you."
That seemed to diffuse her anger as she replied with a deep breath, “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to be at peace.” She turned her back to me, sitting in the sand to watch the waves.
I moved over, lightly massaging her shoulders, "I want very much the same as you, chere...Destiny is a fickle thing...as evidenced by that it has given you that choice."
She rose, facing me and taking my hand in hers, “I'm sorry, I am grateful. Thank you for this day.”
As she spoke, the universe summoned me again, as she didn’t need me there anymore by her own choosing, though I did leave her a way to contact me more simply…and without chocobo crashing, hopefully! My hands slipped from hers into nothingness as she watched me disappear like magic, the universe wrapping me in a mysterious light and fading away into memory.
Only my smile remained in the air..."You will remember in a few days. Thank you for the time we shared, Alison. I will remember you too." Alison sank on the ground in thought, and picked up the hat that remained behind, a memory of her encounter, and possessed with a spirit of the red mage.