Chapter 1 - Restless
It was a beautiful night in the great forests of Ircandesta; the sky was clear, the moons were bright, and the air was cool and dry. The wind whispered softly as it wove through the folded leaves of the massive chronoan trees surrounding Yuna Lake.
A young tigreth woman stepped hesitantly from the cover of the trees, her folded clothes clutched to her naked bosom. Although the color of her fur was hard to make out, the light of the moons caught on the white patch of fur that ran from her stomach, across her chest, and just over her nose.
Her cat-like ears twitched as she listened intently for something beyond the normal sounds of the forest. Hearing nothing out of the ordinary, she set her clothes on a smooth rock near the edge of the lake. With a final glance at the forest behind her, she stepped into the tranquil water.
"Thank the Creator." she breathed as the cool liquid washed over her road-worn body, "I feel like I haven't had a bath in ages."
The young tigreth maiden waded into the lake until the water came up to her stomach. She hummed softly as she cleaned herself in the cool water.
As she started to wash her hair, her ears twitched. She froze for a moment before looking around only to find the lake as empty as ever.
The tigreth maiden let out a light-hearted laugh and resumed washing only to stop a few seconds later. This time she was certain she had heard something … no, she was hearing something.
After a few moments of looking around only to find herself alone, she looked up at the night sky. The stars were shining brightly, as were the three of Vinta's moons that were currently visible. After a few seconds, however, it was clear that one of the stars was much brighter than the others. In fact, it was growing brighter by the second.
The tigreth maiden stared at the star a few moments, her ears continuing to twitch as the subtle whine in the air grew louder and louder. She wanted to run, but her innate curiousity made it impossible to tear her gaze away from the falling object.
A strange wind began to blow around the lake. It started as a whisper, but in a matter of moments grew into a gust that shook the limbs of all the trees.
A particularly old limb was blown free and hit the ground with a crash that brought her back to her senses. Finally tearing her eyes away from the shining light, the tigreth maiden moved toward the shore. The wind stirred up the water of the lake, making it hard to keep her footing. Desperation on her face, the tigreth maiden fought through the rippling water and rushing wind.
The brilliant light slammed into the lake just as the girl leapt from the edge of the lake and landed with feline precision behind the rock where her clothes lay. The impact sent water in all directions; fortunately, the girl had the forethought to grab her clothes before they were soaked.
As the wind died down and the surface of the lake began to calm, the tigreth maiden stepped tentatively out from behind the rock. She clutched her clothes to her chest as she approached the edge of the lake, her eyes searching for whatever had just interrupted her bath.
Something broke through the surface of the lake. After a few moments, it became clear that it wasn't something; it was someone. By the light of the moons, she could make out the smooth-skinned face of a young Galden man, apparently unconscious.
Dropping her clothes, Teria rushed into the lake and swam toward the still figure as fast as she could. She grabbed his arms, but abruptly let go when her hands touched metal.
"He's a scrap." She whispered, looking with interest at the young man's metal encased arms.
Shaking her head, she grabbed him under his shoulders and dragged him to the shore of the lake.
She pressed an ear to his chest and listened for sounds of breathing. Hearing none, she put both hands on his chest and pushed hard once … twice … three times. Tilting his head back, she put her mouth to his and blew as hard as she could.
He still wasn't breathing. Worried, the tigreth started to blow another breath into the boy when he coughed right into her open mouth.
"Ew!" She fell back, wiping her mouth as the boy sputtered back to life.
He pushed himself over and promptly retched lake water. The tigreth maiden patted him on the back as he fought to regain his breath.
"Thank you." he breathed once he got the water out of his lungs. As he looked up at his savior, his cheeks went bright red. "I-I … I …."
"What?" Looking down, she realized that in her hurry to help the boy, she had forgotten that she was still naked.
With a yelp, she darted back behind the rock and started clawing around for where she had set her clothes.
The young man picked her clothes off the ground and approached the tigreth maiden slowly, careful to keep the rock between them. His eyes averted and his cheeks crimson, he held the clothes out to her. "Are these yours?"
She kept her eyes on his as she stepped out from behind the rock and snatched the clothes from his grasp. Once she had darted back behind the rock, she said, "Thanks. What's your name, anyway?"
"My name is …" The boy's face fell. He ran a metal hand through his long unkempt hair, looking pained.
Slipping her shirt on over her damp fur, she asked, "What's a matter? Don't tell me you have amnesia."
The boy shook his head. "It's not that. I just …"
She gave an impatient snort as she tied her shirt into a makeshift top. "Do you know who you are or not?"
"I'm Glen Gineros."
"Your name's Gineros? You a sentient or something?"
"What's a sentient?" Glen asked, looking perplexed.
"How could you not know what a sentient is? Are you from another planet or something?"
Hearing nothing but silence, the tigreth gave an exasperated snort and stepped out from behind the rock to get a look at the young man.
He was looking at Everblue, an odd look of wonder on his face.
"What?" She asked, looking up at the moon, "What's wrong with you?"
"I think you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Wait, what was I right about?"
"I think I'm from another planet."
The girl didn't seem perturbed by this, small surprise seeing as she had witnessed his unusual arrival. She sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Great. I got peeped by an alien."
"I'm not a … I didn't …" the boy flushed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"To fall out of the sky into the lake so that I had to haul your butt out and give you mouth-to-mouth?" A grin slid across her face. "So, how was it anyway?'
"How was what?"
"Your first kiss."
"I …" the boy's whole face went red. Coughing, he asked, "So what planet is this, anyway?"
"Vinta. It's a nice place." Her face fell. "Well, usually. It kinda sucks when your parents are on your case, y'know?"
"I never knew my parents." The boy said, sounding a little sad. "The closest thing I ever had to a family was my team, but I guess that doesn't matter anymore."
Teria leaned toward him, her hands behind her back as she peered at up at his downcast face. "You wanna talk about it?"
After a few moments, she kissed him on the cheek.
He looked up with surprise in his eyes.
"Life can suck sometimes," She said kindly, "but you can't let it keep you down."
"You're right," the boy admitted, "but-"
"But? But? There's no but. You just got kissed by a beautiful lady twice; isn't that enough to cheer you up?"
The boy let out a light-hearted chuckle. Rubbing his spiky hair with a metal hand, he said, "I guess the only thing to do is to start over again."
"That's the spirit!" The girl gave the boy a hearty smack on his back. "And you can start by being my protector."
The boy gave her an incredulous look. "Excuse me?"
"My protector. You know, my bodyguard. I don't need one, mind you, but out here in the wild, I might just need someone to watch my back." Her eyes narrowed. "Or were you just gonna abandon me out here?"
"O-of course not, but I don't even know your name."
"Easily fixed." She thrust her hand at him. "Teria Celes Myssohn."
"Call me Glen," He said as he shook her hand.
She gave him a crooked grin. "Glen, huh? Strange name, but it's got a good sound to it."
The world began to blur. The night sky melted away into the beautiful twilight of the dream realm. The lake vanished, replaced with the edges of the floating island. The Chronoan trees faded until one remained, which slowly shrank into a single oak tree.
One sat up suddenly, accidentally knocking Nixil off his lap in the process.
"Gyaah!" Nixil bounced off the ground like a small rubber ball. After recovering from the initial shock, he flew up to One's face, bat-like wings flapping angrily. "Hey! What's the big idea?"
"Sorry, Nixil." One said apologetically, "I was having a strange dream."
"Of course you were dreaming! This is the dream realm! Just being here is technically dreaming, you moron!" With an angry snort, Nixil flew off toward the Solarius, the distant sun that hung in the very center of the dream realm.
Sighing, One fell back against the trunk of his oak tree. The dream … no, the memory had played out in his eyes like a reel from a movie. He was regaining his memories, but how? Luck had the ring; was she doing this for some reason?
He had vaguely remembered falling into a lake during his first visit to Vinta, but he didn't remember it actually being Yuna Lake. He certainly hadn't remembered that Teria had been there to fish him out.
Just thinking about their first encounter brought a chuckle to his lips; she hadn't changed a bit since then, at least not personality-wise.
"I wonder if she's okay." One mused.
"What about Luck?"
"I like her. I like her a lot, but …" One stopped abruptly and turned to see to whom he was speaking.
A black-robed figure stepped out from the shadows cast by the oak tree. One was on his feet in an instant, Headache materializing on his arms.
The figure lowered his gaze to the units encasing One's arms. "Ah, One's infamous Headache. The grapple beam still giving you problems?"
"Who are you?" One demanded.
"Forgive me; I am told that I have something of an unsettling manner." The figure pulled off its hood, revealing a surprisingly youthful face and a head of long, white hair. "As you can see, I am unarmed."
"That doesn't mean much in the dream realm."
The robed boy let out a laugh. "True enough. However, I give you my word I'm not here to give you any trouble."
Lowering Headache slightly, One asked, "How did you get to my nexus point?"
"You invited me. Indirectly, of course. You can call me Mixe, by the way." Mixe bowed to One. "And you are the Dreamer known as Narrator Number One."
"Are you a Dreamer?" One asked.
Mixe shrugged, but said nothing.
Chuckling, One lowered Headache. "I thought I was supposed to be the cryptic one."
"Actually, you've always struck me as rather straight-forward." Mixe sat down and rested his back against the tree. "You see a problem, and you hit it dead on, no delay. I know some consider it a flaw, but I've always believed it your greatest strength."
One wasn't sure what to say to that, so he just sat down beside Mixe.
After a few moments, the boy said, "The dream realm is as lovely as ever, I see. I've always loved the perpetual twilight."
When One didn't respond, Mixe chuckled. "Now, now; it's not like you to be so quiet."
"No one was supposed to know where I was. Even if they did, I don't let just anyone into my nexus point."
The boy raised his eyebrows. "Really? Then I guess I'm flattered. I love what you've done with the tree."
One opened his mouth to deliver an annoyed response, but Mixe quickly raised his hand. "I'm not here to bother you; I just thought you might appreciate a friendly ear, especially after what happened with Luck.
"How do you know about Luck?"
A pang shot through One's heart at the mention of his ex-girlfriend. "Ukaroh? You've seen her?"
"Indeed. She didn't recognize me either, but that's hardly a surprise. She's still keeping tabs on you, y'know."
"How is she?" Mixe asked, raising an eyebrow.
One nodded silently.
Mixe considered a moment. "She's definitely gotten better at guitar. She dyed her hair blue; now she looks like someone out of one of Wong's anime shows. Oh, and she's still upgrading that old motorcycle of hers with any technology she thinks will make it faster … or more dangerous. It's hard to tell with Ukaroh."
"It always is. I'm glad to hear she's doing well." One said, but it sounded forced even to him. When he had refused to leave the Elsewhere with her, she had left him without a second glance; even after a few decades, it still stung.
They watched the clouds in silence for a few moments.
One let out a sigh. "What should I do?"
"About Luck? To be honest, I'm not sure. Your situation is … complicated."
When it became clear that Mixe wasn't going to continue, One let out a snort. "Thanks for that, Mixe. Here I was getting worried."
"It is a rather personal affair." Mixe said in mild tones, "If Luck doesn't want to be found, let's face it; you aren't going to find her. If you can't find her, there's not much of a relationship going on, is there?"
"So, what?" One asked, "Do I just sit around and wait for her to come to me?"
Mixe simply shrugged.
Shaking his head, One said, "Something about the Breath of Fire scared her, but why?"
"Maybe it just scared her. It is an intimidating machine."
"Pssh. Luck's faced worse things than that."
"Perhaps it wasn't the Breath of Fire that scared her, but rather what the Breath of Fire represents."
One glanced at Mixe curiously. "And what does the Breath of Fire represent?"
"What indeed." After a few moments of silence, Mixe stood up. "Well, I'd better be on my way."
"Wait a sec!" One scrambled to his feet. "If you know something about this, just tell me already!"
"It's not for me to tell, One. Don't worry, though; I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually." With a final bow, Mixe vanished.