"Ike are you okay?" Lethe asked as Ike winced in his seat as the horse walked down the road.
"Just bumpier than I thought it was going to be Lethe." Ike assured her.
"We should stop and check it out though." Rief said from his and Soren's horse. "It's been a few hours and I need to make sure it's healing right anyways."
"If Elincia had given us pegasi liked I had asked we wouldn't have this problem." Soren said as he slowed the horse down to a stop.
"If beorc were meant to fly you would have wings." Lethe said as she hopped down from the horse she rode with Rhys. "You do not see any of the Beast Tribe trying to fly."
"Besides can you see Ike on a pegasus?" Rhys asked.
Everyone stopped and though about it and almost broke out laughing. Soren merely smiled at the thought. Ike was a "man's man" and it would look just wrong with him seated on one of the girly looking horses. That and the poor pegasus would have a hard time lifting such mass. Pegasus riders were generally female because the pegasi could only support their smaller frame.
Rief had Ike lift his shirt up so that he could inspect the wound. The area where Geoffrey's spear had punctured Ike was still ghost white. Sun had barely touched the skin and so it stood pale against Ike's tan body. Gently Rief placed his hand on the wound and closed his eyes. The powers of Mercury flowed through him and gave the Adept a diagnosis of what was going on within Ike's body. The tissue underneath was still knitting itself together to become as strong as it once had been. Rief poured a little Psynergy into the wound to give energy to the process so the cells could work faster.
"Alright that should help ease the pain to." Rief said as he lifted his hand off of Ike's side. "The damage will still be done you just won't feel it as much so take it easy still."
"Are you sure that was a good idea?" Soren asked. "Ike tends to only stop when there is pain."
"Then this is a great time for him to learn to stop before." Rief said as he pushed up his glasses and moved to mount the horse.
After a few attempts he had managed to make it up onto the back of the animal. Soren walked back over and mounted the horse like he'd been riding his whole life. Lethe did the same and hopped up behind Rhys. Together the three horses started back down the trail. They had been traveling for three days already and if they kept the pace they were going at they should reach Port Toha by noon tomorrow.
It wasn't often but they did have to stop for Ike from time to time and wait from him to catch his breath again. Ike always grumbled when he was the cause of the stop. Rief or Rhys would make sure that Ike was fine and then they would head off once again. Due to this fact the journey took longer than they wanted but they were actually making pretty good time considering.
When it came time to set up camp Rief dropped, almost literally, off the horse and checked on Ike again as the others went about setting up camp. It was a nice warm day with not a cloud in sight so they didn't bother pitching a tent as they'd rather stare up at the stars. Without tents there wasn't much to do in the ways of camp set up. Wood was gathered to start a small fire for the fish that Lethe would get from a nearby river that ran a few feet from the road. Everyone propped their bags where they though was the best spot to sleep and waited for the Cat to come back with fresh dinner. Rief had tried helping Lethe last night catch some fish but she had made it clear that his "bumbling" had gotten in her way. Rief was a little insulted. He knew how to catch fish. During the summers in Imil when there weather wasn't so bad his dad had taken him to rivers and shown him how to catch fish bare handed. When he'd started traveling with Matthew he'd been the fisher of the group until Sveta came along then they both shared the work of catching fish.
Night came and went without any problems rising. No Tuaparang assaults or bandit attacks. When the sun came up over the horizon its yellow-gold light shining down on the people of the world Rief pulled his blanket up over his head. It was too early in the Adepts opinion to be up no matter what the sun said. He didn't get much of a choice though when Soren woke up and demanded that the others do the same. Maybe if Soren slept in more he'd be in a better mood, slime chance but maybe.
After a quick meal of trail food, yay, they saddled up the horses and moved on towards Port Toha. Rief pulled out a book on beorc anatomy he'd gotten from Elincia and started reading. The people of Tellius had the same physiology as the humans of Weyard but the book contained knowledge that Rief hadn't learned yet. More of the birthing process than what his mother had taught him and more of the female anatomy in general. His mom had been hesitant to teach her fifteen year old son about a girl's body. Nowell had been taught about a male's but for some reason Mia had neglected Rief's training. All Rief wanted to do was be a healer like his mother and a scholar like Kraden. He'd travel all of Weyard looking at ancient ruins and lending aid to towns that he visited along the way.
The closer they got to Toha the more Ike looked anxious. It was easy to tell that Ike would want nothing more than to join the battle and it was going to be a difficult task to keep him from charging in should he decided to try. Well not too difficult seeing as how he was still injured and Rief could remove the Psynergy pain killers that were currently helping the Vanguard stay on his horse.
It was in hour before noon when the port town came into view. Smoke was trailing up into the sky a sure sign that a battle had or was taking place within the town. The horses were urged into a run and Rief had to hold onto Soren for fear of being thrown off otherwise. Lethe had let out a grumble of protest as she too had to clutch Rhys in order to stay seated on the galloping steed. Ike's face was scrunched up in pain as he rode his horse at top speed towards the town. Rief called upon his Psynergy, which was a lot harder with in his current situation, and checked Ike's wound from a distance. The pain that Ike was feeling would be intense even with the pain deluded by Rief's Psynergy. The wound itself wasn't getting any worse though which is what Rief was worried about.
Approaching the gates to the town Rief could see that they had been knocked over in an attempt to overtake the town. There weren't any sounds of fighting which fill the Mercury Adept with hope that his friends were done with the fighting and that they had all made it through the ordeal just fine. Bodies of Crimean and Tuaparang soldiers littered the town's streets each of them lying in the ground unmoving. So much death over a single town. Even if he wasn't a healer Rief would have been appalled by the shear amount of lost lives. Soon they saw living Crimean soldiers moving the bodies of their fallen comrades. It brought relief to Rief when he saw the white armored soldiers were the ones that were moving the dead instead of the black armored Tuaparang. Crimea had won the fight.
Soren lead the horse to the port on the far edge of town where he figured that Lucia would be set up. Sure enough when they got to the port in front a hastily put up looking tent stood Lucia talking with members of the Crimea's army. Around the tent were various soldiers that weren't on clean up duty. They sat in groups and were conversing about their deeds they had done during yesterday's fight. Many were sounded impossible but it seemed that everyone was impressed with the strength of the young Adepts that they had seen fight. Stopping the horse Soren jumped off and Rief followed suit. The horse was given to a soldier to take care of. Rhys and Ike did the same thing with their mounts and all five walked up to Lucia.
"Nasir is your ship ready to take us to Weyard?" the General asked the Dragon Laguz standing in front of her.
Nasir had is arms crossed as normal when he answered Lucia. "We need a few more supplies if what Eoleo said is correct. It had taken them to months of straight sailing and they had almost run out of supplies before they spotted Begnion. What more it seems that the young Adepts had used their Psynergy to speed the process up."
"Can we expect them to be able to do so again?" Lucia asked.
"I don't know. But you can ask the young man standing behind you." Nasir said as he unfolded his arms and gestured to the arrival of Rief and the others.
"Ike you finally made it." Lucia said as she turned around and saw the Vanguard standing there. "I received word from Queen Elincia that you would be meeting us here."
"Yeah. I thought that since most of our group was already here in Toha that we should simply head to Weyard from here." Ike told her.
"Lucia you had a question for Rief?" Nasir prompted.
"Yes." Lucia said with a nod. "Rief from what Eoleo has told us you, Amiti, Sveta, and Karis helped the ship along the way to Begnion. Would you and Sveta be able to do so again?"
"I honestly don't know. I wouldn't plan on it though. Even with Amiti's help keeping the waters around the ship calm during storms was taxing and we could only hold for a few minutes at best. Sveta might be able to help keep wind in the sails easier but you'd have to ask her." Rief informed them.
"I'll do that." Lucia said. She turned towards one of the guards sitting nearby. "Soldier. Make yourself useful and please bring Adept Sveta here."
The soldier stood up and saluted Lucia before running out into the crowd to find the beastgirl.
"Speaking of Sveta." Rief said. "Where are my friends?"
"Sveta and Matthew are both most likely hold up in one of buildings upwind, Sveta couldn't stand the smell she said. Amiti is seeing to the wounded while Eoleo is on Nasir's ship giving it his 'person inspection' to see if it'll hold up to the sea." Lucia answered.
"If you don't mind Lucia I'd like to help the healers." Rief said.
Lucia asked another guard to show Rief the way to the house where they were tending to the wounded. Rhys followed after holding onto one of his many Heal Staves. There was a silence the fell over the group as the Mercury Adept and Saint left. It was clear that something had gone wrong in the battle and no one wanted to bring it up at first. Soren, being the most sensitive of the group, was the one to speak up.
"What happened Lucia?" he asked flatly.
Lucia took a deep breath. "They had dressed the citizens in Tuaparang armor and sent them out against us without weapons. We didn't know and we ended up killing many of the people we had come to protect."
"It seems that these Tuaparang have no honor if they resort to such cowardice." Lethe grumbled. "Tellius will be much better off without them here."
"I can't say I disagree with you Lethe." Nasir said. "Luckily though most of the people of Toha were gathered here and we managed to save them."
"I see." Ike said. "The faster we can depart then the better. We can hopefully rid both Tellius and Weyard of these Tuaparang."
"Agreed." Soren added. "Nasir what do we need to get on our way?"
"We have enough water to cover our trip but it's enough food that I'm worried about. We laguz will have to have to deal with smaller portions than normal if we are going to be able to make it across the sea." Nasir answered.
"How much longer until we can sail then?"
"With any hope tomorrow morning. The townsfolk are letting us buy the supplies that we need." Lucia informed them.
"They certainly bounce back after being occupied." Nasir commented.
A soldier approached the group of heroes. "General. We cannot find Adept Sveta or Adept Matthew. My men have looked all over the town and have not found any sight of them. However a few of the townsfolk say they saw a young laguz girl and beorc male leave the city earlier today."
"Post men at the gate. Tell them that if they see Matthew or Sveta to send them here." Lucia instructed.
"Ma'am" the soldier said with a salute and went to carry out her orders.
"You should all get some rest if you've been on the road. We have a few buildings set aside where you can get some sleep. Do whatever you feel you need to, we set sail tomorrow morning for Weyard." Lucia told the group.
Everyone nodded and dispersed into the city. Ike walked through the groups of sitting soldiers and listened to their tales of the battle. He knew from experience that it was best to hear from the soldiers own mouths what they had thought of the battle. After getting a few retellings of yesterday's fight Ike felt he had a pretty good idea of what had transpired. They had successfully destroyed the wall's ballistae during the night and the following morning overtook the town. A small squad had taken the wall via Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders. After that they had taken the town's gate and destroyed more of the Tuaparang's Psynergy Vortex machines. After that when they reached the docks they had run into an Umbra Adept which the Adepts had taken care of. While that had been going on the dragon ship had docked, secured the townsfolk, and created an opening for Crimea's army to put an end to the battle. It had sounded very exciting and Ike had wished that he'd been there and able to fight.
Every soldier Ike had talked with had been happy to inform him of what had happened and each one had told him of the Tuaparang's dirty trick. The soldiers' moral was high though having won their fight and they were ready to fight again should the Tuaparang strike them here or anywhere else in Crimea. It was good to know that the army was ready to take on more battles because they more than not were going to be experiencing more than they wanted.
What hadn't occurred to Ike though was that Lethe had been following him throughout his tour. She was as silent as a shadow as she had paced behind him. Ike figured that it was because there wasn't anyone else for her to talk with. Lucia was much of a conversationalist and had an army to prepare for her absence. The only other people that Ike had seen Lethe talk to were Sveta and other Beast Tribe members which now that Ike though about it Sveta wasn't that far off from being one of. This wasn't to say Lethe didn't get along with other people she just didn't talk with others very much. Like Ike she was more concerned with keeping in shape and getting ready for the next fight. So with no one to train with or talk to Lethe had followed him around.
Now that Ike had gone through the camp getting stories from the soldiers he didn't know what he was going to do to fill the time between now and when it was time for sleep. He certainly felt fine and his side wasn't bothering him anymore. Ike decided it was time to test out how much he had recovered and start practicing. Ike told Lethe what his plan was and she offered to be his sparring partner and take it easy on him so that he could test his limits. The two left the city as there wasn't an open space for them to fight in. Ike hefted Ragnell off of his back and stood ready for a match with Lethe.
Their match wasn't much of a fight at all. Ike would wince when he went to swing Ragnell and it would mess up his attack. Lethe didn't even bother with attacking and simply gave Ike a target to try and hit. After a few minutes Ike conceded unable to keep swinging Ragnell around. The blade might be blessed by Ashera but that didn't change the fact it was a heavy two-handed sword. Ike plopped down against a nearby rock and set Ragnell next to him. Lethe rolled her eyes annoyed that she didn't get as much fighting in as she wanted but still had an understanding look in her eyes. She leapt over Ike and sat atop the rock.
"Sorry Lethe I thought I was better." Ike apologized.
"Yes it was quite disappointing. You still owe me a fight though." Lethe reminded him. That had been her condition to accepting Ike's offer of dating.
"I know. When I get back to my full strength I'll fight you no problems Lethe." Ike assured her.
"I expect that you won't hold back?" Lethe asked.
"When have you known me to hold back Lethe?"
"Good point. But when I win I want to make sure that I truly beat you so make sure you remember to give it your all when the time comes." Lethe answered.
"That's if you win." Ike chuckled.
"Bah. You might be a great warrior Ike but you haven't seen the training I have undergone." Lethe said. Even though Ike couldn't see her he could hear the grin on her face.
"Is that so? Had to take special classes to learn how to take me down is that it?" Ike joked.
"I trained under Giffca. He might be a Lion but he knows how to train a Cat. He put me through a very rigorous training course and I have come out strong for it." Lethe boasted.
"Then I look forward to our fight. Hope you don't hold back on me." Ike said.
"Quiet Ike, I hear something coming." Lethe said suddenly.
The feline jumped down from her rock and stood between Ike and the nearby woods. The fur on Lethe's tail stood up on ends as it swished back in forth in anticipation of what was coming out of the woods. Two figures came into view and Lethe calmed down when she saw who they were. It was Sveta and Matthew the later carrying a deer over his shoulders. The animal looked as if had met a gruesome end at the hands of a wild animal, or a transformed Sveta by the size of the claw marks on its throat.
"See Matthew I told you there was someone nearby." Sveta said as they approached Ike and Lethe.
"I don't have your sense of hearing or smell Sveta I really couldn't tell they was anyone close by." Mathew responded.
"What were you two doing in the forest?" Ike asked them.
"Hunting." Sveta said as if was the most obvious answer. Really it was. Why else would Matthew be luging around a dead deer? "I felt restless sitting in the city doing nothing after our battle yesterday. Matthew agreed to accompany me this morning on a hunt so that I could do something. I am sure that the people of Toha will appreciate some deer."
"I felt useless though." Matthew grumbled. "Surrounded by plant life and I still couldn't catch a deer and yet Sveta comes running through the forest and just gets the deer in no time flat."
"That is only because you are not built to hunt like I am Matthew." Sveta said sweetly.
"Beorc cannot match a laguz either Matthew. Don't worry about it too much." Ike told the Venus Adept.
"Yeah I guess. I just want to know how this thing managed to dodge my Mad Growth attack." Matthew said.
Since she was standing next to Matthew he couldn't see Sveta's ears twitch. From the look on her face Ike guessed that the deer didn't exactly dodge the Psynergy on its own. There might have been some interference by his fellow hunter.
"Sveta you need to get back and see Lucia. She was wondering if you'd be able to help the ship at all once we get out to sea." Ike said as he remembered Lucia posting guards to keep an eye out for the beast girl.
"I might. Wind is a free element though and does not like to be controlled." Sveta said.
"Well we should get back and let Lucia know. She wants to depart tomorrow morning." Ike told the Adepts.
"So she finally figured out when she wants to leave." Matthew said.
"Yeah so if guys have anything you need to do you're going to need to get it done today."
"I cannot think of anything that we need to do." Sveta said.
Sitting in a pitch black room Sheba meditated. It had been three months since the Tuaparang had captured her and stolen her Teleport Lapis. She had been exploring a set of ruins that had appeared near the southwestern Gaia Falls. With the expansion of the Falls old lands had been restored. When she had headed into the ruins she was met with a group of the black armored soldiers. They tossed a few black orbs at her that exploded and drained her of her Psynergy. She tried fighting them off with her staff but their crossbows had sent to many bolts at her to dodge at once. There was a spot on her left leg where one had gotten her that still hurt if she put too much pressure on it. They had made sure to cover her head before they lead her out of the ruins forcing her to walk on her injured leg. It had been such a saddening feeling when she left the ruins and couldn't feel her Psynergy call out to the wind around her.
The three months she had already wasted in her cell was starting to get to Sheba. It was three months since she had last felt the wind across her face. For a normal person this was a bad thing but it was sheer torture to a Jupiter Adept. What was really annoying Sheba though was that no one had bothered to talk to her for the past three months. The guards that stood outside her cell door didn't even talk with each other as they stood there. She only knew they were there because she could hear the clatter of their armor as they shifted. If it wasn't for the few Djinn she had on her she was sure that she would have gone mad by now.
Now you might be wondering what was stopping Sheba from unleashing a storm and busting out of the cell. The Tuaparang had come up with a nifty solution for keep captive Adepts. Sheba had on a pair of black shackles with purple veins running through them that drained her Psynergy. The drain was weak enough that her body still produced Psynergy like any other Adept but she was left with so little she couldn't even make a microscopic spark. She was left with enough to keep her alive as an Adept would die if they didn't have Psynergy. The shackles were somehow able to also drain the Djinn to a point of uselessness, there was no chance of unleashing a summon either.
With nothing to do other than sit and wait for her next meal Sheba had taken to meditating on her life. She still after years of searching with Felix hadn't learned a thing about her parents. It hadn't bothered her so much when she was a teenager but as she got older she felt a need to find out where she came from. That had sparked a journey around Weyard with Felix who was her boyfriend at the time. Thinking about Felix brought up some painful memories. She hadn't exactly been gentle when she had broken up with him. A few years after Jenna's marriage to Isaac, Felix had started to question her about whether or not she would want to get married. Sheba was twenty-two at the time and not ready for anything that serious. She enjoyed her time with Felix and could possibly see herself years later marrying him but his question had scared her and so she decided to leave him. Now twelve years later she could admit she was had been a bitch in the way she had dumped him. She had basically told Felix that she would never want to marry someone who so cold to others and kept his emotions bottled up inside. Felix had been through a lot during the start of his teen years and had been forced by the Proxeans to keep his emotions to himself. She had known that he was still having troubles opening up because of that and he had been working on it over the years and improved but he still kept many things inside. After she ripped his heart out and stomped on it she had Teleported away and hadn't seen him since.
Her past was now haunting her as she sat on the floor of her insanely dark cell. With a moan of annoyance Sheba fell onto her back and looked up at where the ceiling would be if she could actually see it. That one mistake that she had made had cost her all of her friends. Jenna and Isaac cut her off right away for being so cruel to Felix. Both Garet and Mia tried to act like they didn't mind and tried to understand why she had done it but couldn't bring themselves to do it and soon stopped talking with her all together. Piers was always been sailing around Weyard patrolling the world and hadn't been in touch with her much anyways. Only Kraden really talked with her and it was only about the new ruins that appeared. Sheba honestly doubted that any of them where missing her or even noticed that she had gone missing. After all she had been Teleporting all over Weyard so she would be hard to track anyway. But somehow these Tuaparang had done it.
As she lay down on the floor Sheba heard footsteps coming closer to her cell door. It couldn't be time for a meal already. She had just pushed the empty tray out before she started her meditation. That meant that either someone was being put into a cell next to her or the person was coming to see her. If she had any strength she probably would try to attack them and make an escape but she was far to drained to try it. The sounds of armor shifting outside caught her attention and she could just hear the sounds of keys jingling together as the holder tried to find the right one to open her door.
Light shone through as the door open and Sheba had to avert her eyes from the doo to protect her eyes from the sudden entrance of light. While her eyes still adjusted to the light she felt someone grab her hand and pull her off the floor roughly. Sheba almost fell right back down when the hand let go of her but managed to stand on her own. Her injured leg wasn't happy with her and reminded her that it was still hurting. Whoever had pulled her off the floor was now standing behind her and pushed her out the door and into the hall. She was led this way down the hall and up a flight of stairs. They went up three floors before she was led down another hall this one wasn't made of the same black stone that had decorated the dungeon she had been in. Instead the walls were made of normal grey stone that you saw in most structures around Weyard. At one point Sheba tried to look back and see who was leading her but he quickly delivered a smack to her face and she didn't try looking back again.
Sheba was lead into a room with a fireplace and two chairs. Her escort told her in a gruff voice to take a seat and not to touch anything. She did as she was told seeing no reason to put up a fight and plopped into one of the chairs. Now that she was in a lit room Sheba looked herself over. Her normally white shirt was covered in grime and her pants which had started off as tan were now as black as the shackles around her wrists. A door on the other side of the room opened up and admitted a very familiar face.
"Alex." Sheba practically hissed.
"Dear Sheba is that anyway to greet an old friend?" the blue haired man said as he sat in the chair opposite of her. "I am her on behalf of the Emperor of the Tuaparang. He would like you to join his cause."