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[personal profile] raindownhell posting in [community profile] spira_rp
Aerith had been right; it wasn't a quick journey back.

Lea's route, achieved by pressing further into what Fang came to know as the Bancouri border-desert and then backtracking along the river was, indeed, longwinded. It was also safer, that much was clear. Ignoring the infrequent swells and waterholes along the route, the number of monsters was greatly diminished from what they could see roaming in the distance. Smaller plate wyrms, wyverns and helms could very occasionally be seen beyond a haze of wind-thrown sand, all species better left alone.

Desert monsters were typically large reptiles, creatures that didn't crave water like mammals did, or smaller pack hunters who got most of their water from their kills and seldom visited the riverside except to hunt at waterholes. The waterholes, while more dangerous than the fast-moving river, were still something of a boon, for they often saw small herds of prey animals, or larger lone monsters, which were of as much interest to them in terms of food as they were the other creatures that hunted there.

Mercifully, the waterside hunters weren't too dangerous. Weird gators with false, hinged faces had come as a surprise to Fang, but the one foolish enough to pick a fight with her was easily dispatched with a spearpoint to the soft, unarmoured flesh beneath. Gigantoads, though slow, were better skirted around. Unlike the gator, they were not edible. Their poisonous skin saw to that.

The long journey didn't bother her, at least. She'd been on the road for longer getting from where she had started to the Chocobo Eater and travelling with a supply of fresh, flowing water was much more preferable to stopping and filling up heavy waterskins every few miles. It helped that the river allowed them to wash the sand, if not the chocobo, away from them more regularly.

The company wasn't bad, either. She wasn't sure they were hardened Hunters like she was, she couldn't shake that feeling, but if they had only recently picked it up as a job, they were learning remarkably quickly. Where she was from, Hunting was a lifestyle, not a job, something you took to from a very young age to build up your strength and stamina. It wasn't the case here. It was lucrative, apparently, but still something you could just elect to take on or give up as you pleased. She felt fortunate to have joined up with a trio with formidable fighting and healing skills, nonetheless.

Abilities aside, it helped that they also weren't bad people. Lea was more social than Saix, and Aerith was more levelheaded and friendly than both of them, for all Saix attempted to look like a voice of reason for the group. All three had one thing in common. They were odd. The boys were very powerful fighters, but the way they handled themselves, and their weapons, and their elements, just didn't feel normal, not when they seemed almost naive about certain aspects of Chakra manipulation while using it in odd ways otherwise. Something told her that they just weren't normal for the world. Being displaced by centuries didn't make her feel any differently about it. Aerith was just different. Absurdly good at healing, that was for certain, and very in tune with the natural world.

She had a feeling that they probably felt the same about her. Even though they were definitely strange, they knew more about the world than she did. The collapsed city had been her tell, she was sure of it.

As she thought about it, she hardly noticed the warmth gradually leaving the air. Night was falling. Travelling at night would probably have been easier on them all, especially the chocobos, but sleeping in the heat of the day wasn't a viable option. It was time to find somewhere to set up camp.

Date: 2015-12-09 06:53 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805185)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
The journey had been longer, but pleasant. Prey had been frequent enough that they hadn't gone without, and weren't at risk of doing so. If Saix was honest, some of the food had actually been quite good. Aerith might have lamented the scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables, but Saix hadn't missed it, and the food had been fresher and more abundant on this return journey than it had been on the long chase to catch their mark.

They'd tracked the river, too, which had meant there had been no need to ration water between stops, and they'd been able to rinse the sand and grime off themselves. He still smelled of chocobo, but being less generally grubby had improved his mood ever so slightly. Enough even that he'd teased and picked on Lea, as if they were sat in the Sandsea.

Fang still intrigued him. He hadn't tried getting close; sociability wasn't Saix's strong suit, that had always been Lea's domain, but he'd been cordial.

She was impressive, and clearly a hunter, but she was hunter in the same way that Saix was a berserker. For most of this world, 'berserker' was merely a job class, a fighting style, little more than a set of learned moves and skills. For Saix it was what he was, or at least a significant part of it. Other people weren't 'a commando' or 'a synergist', but Saix was a berserker, like Lea was a fire elemental, and Fang was a hunter. 'Hunter', for most, was a pursuit in the interest of money, or the fight, but Fang behaved as if it was an integral part of herself.

The chill of a desert night was creeping into the air when Saix turned to Lea. "Time to make camp," he said. They wouldn't hit Rabanastre this evening, but they couldn't be too far away now. Another day, maybe two, and the city and civilisation would be in reach.

If they stopped now they'd be able to find somewhere safe to set up camp and settle in before it got too cold and dark. Although Saix liked the desert nights, at least for the sky, even if the temperature was unpleasant. Not that he'd voiced that, of course.

Date: 2015-12-09 08:10 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741952)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith had found the journey back much easier. She wasn't the hardened traveler that the others were. Saix and Lea endured the same discomforts, she was sure, and the aches, and pains, and grumbles, but they were better at ignoring it. Aerith craved civilisation after a while, no matter how close to nature she was; the feel of the living planet under her feet didn't make up for the lack of a shower.

She'd happily made use of the river to keep clean, cheekily telling Lea that he wasn't allowed to peek, just to see if he'd blush.

She hadn't been able to have a proper talk with Lea, however. Not one where they couldn't be overheard or interrupted, at least. She was sure he, and Saix, had their suspicions about Fang, and she had her own, but there hadn't been a real opportunity to discuss them without it being very obvious that was what they were doing.

Similarly, she'd hadn't had a real opportunity to talk to Fang. Saix and Lea were odd, she knew, and Aerith was used to it, but she wondered if Fang had picked up on it as obviously, with herself being odd, too.

They were similar, in some ways, and very, very different in others. Fang was a natural hunter, which had definitely caught Saix's attention, but she was skilled in a way that suggested years of doing it, rather than unusual natural talent, like Saix and Lea had.

They were, Aerith would admit, a very good team, and she liked Fang even if she couldn't shake that sense that there was something off about her other than what she knew and didn't know. That sense of an impression on her, from something else, lingered, and it was faint, but it lurked, at the edge of Aerith's senses.

She wondered what Fang was going to do once they got to Rabanastre. She didn't seem like she had somewhere specific to go, she'd just wanted to head for civilisation. On her wild caught chocobo, that Aerith had grown brave enough to pet, and with little more than her weapon and traveling supplies to make her way around.

She looked around when Saix spoke. The air was getting chilly. The great thing about having Lea around on a desert evening was that you never had to worry about getting cold, at least.

"That might be a good idea," she agreed, petting her chocobo's neck.

Date: 2015-12-09 09:23 pm (UTC)
gotitmemorised: (Serious.)
From: [personal profile] gotitmemorised
Lea had been getting on with Fang quite well for the duration of the trip thus far. She was hard, and slightly unnerving in her strength and knowledge of the wild, but nice enough under the rough exterior. She knew what she was doing, even if she didn't know the lay of the land.

He shared his other team mates' feelings on her strangeness, though. It would have been nice to discuss the matter, but there was no real opportunity to do so. It would either have to wait until they were back at Rabanastre, where it was possible that Fang would split from them and render the subject a non-issue, or they would have to discuss the entire subject on the road, with her present.

If she had secrets, he thought, they could hardly be any worse than theirs.

"Good idea," he said, partly to Saix and partly to Fang's choice of camping ground. A wall behind them meant one watch instead of two, and with Fang's monstrous bird standing guard, they would be much more safe than they could possibly be out in the open. He was looking forward to spending a few hours out of the saddle.

Date: 2015-12-09 09:49 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805177)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
Saix murmured approvingly. Camping in the lee of the rocks would lend them partial shelter, and mean that they could be more rested for journeying tomorrow since they'd only need one person to stand watch at a time.

Saix was also very much looking forward to getting out of the saddle for the day. He and his chocobo tolerated each other, but Saix was still happier when he wasn't riding it, and it was happier that way, too.

"We can be settled before it gets too dark," he said, his voice soft. Dark also meant cold, out here, and he knew Lea wasn't fond of the cold. Saix wasn't a fan either, these days, but he had less reason to be unfond of it than Lea did.

He urged his chocobo on, towards the chosen spot. They could tend the birds, get a fire going, always a quick task with Lea around, and then tend to themselves. Saix would be quite happy to live like this a while longer, if he was honest. Well, if it wasn't for the chocobos, anyway.

Date: 2015-12-09 10:00 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741949)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith sighed, almost wistfully. "I can't wait until we get back," she said. "I'm going to have a bath, when we do," she said, in that same tone, "with bubbles."

She petted her chocobo again and it followed Saix's towards their chosen camping grounds for the night, and she flashed Lea a quick smile. She'd been living with him since arriving in Rabanastre, and it was a cosy arrangement, if not a formal one. The flower selling went quite well when she was there to do it. She'd progressed from a basket to a cart, and she could probably do with a bigger cart.

Nominally, she was making money so she could get a place in Rabanastre on her own, but, well... she liked being at Lea's, and he seemed to have grown used to all the flowers everywhere now. Not to mention that if she left there, she wouldn't be able to come and play healer for them on expeditions like this, not with her own rent to pay.

"I hope the flowers are okay," she said, with a slight frown.

Date: 2015-12-10 01:37 pm (UTC)
gotitmemorised: (Battle: The master of fire.)
From: [personal profile] gotitmemorised
Lea glanced at Aerith worrying about her flowers and smiled a little. If anybody could manage to keep flowers alive in a desert, even when she wasn't there, it was her. She'd managed to grow them in Midgar, where sunlight almost never reached the ground. They'd be fine. A bit dry, probably, but fine.

"They'll be okay," he said.

Making camp wasn't too difficult an affair. The riverbank, at this point, was monster free and largely level, so with a backing of rocks as protection they each unpacked their sleeping things and the food they'd be eating. Lea went looking for dry plant material to burn for the night and came back loaded with it. If there was something deserts had in abundance, it was dry plant material. When he returned, the camp was set up and felt cosy, if cold.

"Looks like I'm lighting the fire again," he said, doing his best to sound put upon. He didn't do a very good job of it. It was hard to complain about lighting fires seriously when you were, well, him.

He arranged some of the dry fuel in the pit that had been made for the fire and put the rest aside, a good distance away. He dropped a small fireball on top and the pile erupted into flame. He added some larger sticks, mostly driftwood that had become stuck in the bank in the wet season and left there when the water receded, on top of the fire and stood back.

Date: 2015-12-10 10:20 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (Epic scowl)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
Saix looked over from where he was lightening the chocobos' burdens and loosening saddles and reins, to much ruffling of feathers and happy warking from the birds, to throw Lea a glance that would have nailed a lesser person to the rocks behind him. He sighed, with a faint rumble of disapproval, and finished his task. He left Aerith the task of feeding the birds, but the weight would be too much for her to attend the task of making the birds comfortable for the night, so as much as Saix preferred not to fuss with the chocobos, someone had to do it. They needed their rest as much as the traveling party did.

"I have no preference," he said, in answer to Fang's question. It wasn't a complete truth; he generally preferred his meat roasted, but the evening promised cold air, and a stew was more warming and filling to see them through it.

He relieved his own chocobo of its burden, finally, the tethered claw of the chocobo eater floating eerily on the end of its tether. The bird warked once before stepping neatly over to join the rest, where Aerith stood with the greens. Then Saix made his way over towards their chosen sleeping area making sure to give Lea a brief dig in the shoulder as he passed him. The fire was already deliciously warm and inviting.

Date: 2015-12-10 10:29 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741955)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith fed the chocobos as they came up to her, happily chatting nonsense to the birds as she served up their greens for the evening.

"I vote for stew," she said, answering Fang. What she wouldn't give for a plate of salad, at this point. She didn't know how the boys managed with their choice of diet, but she longed for lettuce. Stew with some wild onions and roots was the closest she'd get right now, though.

A nice warm stew and snuggling up in her sleeping bag sounded not half bad, anyway.

Date: 2015-12-12 11:28 am (UTC)
gotitmemorised: (Sunset conversations.)
From: [personal profile] gotitmemorised
It never failed to surprise Lea, just a little bit, that monsters weren't attracted to fire. Plenty of moths were, but monsters tended to view camp fires as something they should avoid, not run towards, despite the potential for food sitting around it. He wasn't sure whether it was prior experience, or the fact that a fire in the desert night was unnatural and best avoided.

Either way, the fire was most welcome. It was larger than strictly necessary and nearly engulfed the stewpot that, like the Chocobo Eater's creepy claw, was floating, unheld, above the inferno while it bubbled.

He couldn't wait to get back to Rabanastre, the place that he was starting to consider 'home'. The nights were hardly less cold there, but the paved streets held in the heat of the day and the stone buildings, while they kept the occupants cool in the daytime, did provide a little warmth after being baked by the sun all day. He'd laughed about his little apartment having a fireplace when he'd first moved in, but it hadn't lasted, not after he found himself lighting it more often than not.

He found himself wondering what Fang was going to do when they all reached the city.

Date: 2015-12-12 03:22 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805192)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
Seated in the dark, on the outside of the group - there had been an unsaid but firmly stuck to agreement that Aerith was never positioned on the fringe of the camp when they settled for the night - Saix looked content. The stew was starting to smell appetising, and with only the firelight to see by the night's sky was peppered with stars, splashed across the dark like Saix remembered his school paintings of the night sky seeming when they'd been done with a toothbrush in white paint and flicked with a piece of card. The moon wasn't full, but its odd crescent lent enough light to the landscape that the river was a silver ribbon on the landscape, and the desert sands were an expanse of pale luminescence and shifting shadows from the fire.

He enjoyed this. He was with the people that mattered, and away from the ones that mattered in unfortunate ways, in an environment he enjoyed. It was growing cold, and he wouldn't object to the creature comforts of a bed, and a shower, and washing machines, and not requiring chocobos to get around, but on the whole this was... pleasant.

His face showed it, too. Saix's expression was serene in a way it very rarely was as he looked out across the sands, watching for shifting shadows that were more than moving light or tricks of the eyes in the darkness.

Date: 2015-12-12 03:38 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741955)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith was seated in the middle of the group. She'd noticed that the boys tried to keep her there, whether they realised it or not, and it was sort of cute that they looked out for her like that.

She didn't need to hold her hands out to the fire. It wasn't cold enough for that yet, and Lea was very, very good at setting up camp fires that didn't require constant tending to get them going properly. They were hot immediately, and you benefited from them straight away. She watched the stew in the pot, with her hands looped around her legs, seeming deep in thought for a moment. The party wasn't silent, but it was quiet. Saix was giving off this sense of serenity and contentment he'd had every night since they'd caught the chocobo eater, Lea was steeling himself for a night in the chill, again, and Fang...

She wasn't sure about Fang. She seemed used to this, like this kind of thing was something approaching normal for her.

They'd be back in Rabanastre before long, now. She doubted Fang knew what to expect from the city. Aerith hadn't known what to expect from the city. Everywhere had been different from Midgar, for her, and yet, even though Rabanastre was in a desert, the world beneath and around it had pulsed with a cacophony of life that had been absent from Midgar and its surroundings. There had been people, and some animals, but the world around it had been muted, drained. She hadn't realised that until she'd got away from Midgar.

"You've never been to Rabanastre before, have you?" She asked, breaking the quiet to turn her attention to Fang. She knew the answer, of course, but it didn't seem polite to jump to the conclusion.

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Date: 2015-12-17 06:54 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805164)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
"What's a l'Cie?" Saix asked.

Lea would undoubtedly be thinking it too, Saix knew. Neither of them had ever heard that word before, but she said it as though it held similar gravity to 'ryoka'. If she'd held off until now to say it, then it likely held similar, if not worse, implications.

It also did little to explain why she was so strange, although perhaps the explanation for that lay in the part about Gran Pulse, whatever it was, or wherever it lay. She made it sound like a location, but it could as easily be an organisation.

Date: 2015-12-17 07:06 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741951)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith, unlike the boys, sat up straighter. She hadn't expected to hear that term. In truth, her own knowledge of it was sketchy; she only knew about it from the legends that had been told to her.

"It's a person cursed with a task by a Fal'Cie," she said, frowning at Fang. "If they complete the task, they turn to crystal, and if they fail, they become a mindless monster until someone is strong enough to put them out of their misery." Either way, they were cursed; succeed or fail they were separated from the cycle of life and death. It was a horrifying fate.

"But Pulse is supposed to be hell," she said, a question in her tone and expression, "and uninhabited. It's been that way for centuries."

That didn't prove that it was, of course. There were a lot of things that weren't supposed to be in the world and that nevertheless existed, including herself, but Aerith suspected she, at least, would know if there was a thriving community still living on Pulse.

Date: 2015-12-17 07:54 pm (UTC)
gotitmemorised: (Side-eye.)
From: [personal profile] gotitmemorised
Lea looked flatly at Aerith, no less confused. Obviously this was some of the knowledge that natives had that them, as Ryoka, hadn't had any reason to delve into, because it obviously meant something to Aerith.

"What's a Fal'Cie?" He asked, looking between her and Fang.

In his haste to ask the question, he didn't think to ask about Fang's potential fate, and winced, mostly to himself.

Date: 2015-12-17 09:11 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741947)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
Aerith nodded, looking over at Lea, and Saix. "It's the story of the creation of the world," she said, with a soft smile. "In the beginning there was Mwynn, and from her came Bhunivelze, and Bhunivelze cast her into the Unseen World to take power for himself, and created Etro and Pulse. But Etro looked too much like Mwynn, and so Bhunivelze cast her aside too," she said, closing her eyes as she remembered the stories told to her by her mother when she had been little. "Etro tried to take her own life and walked to the Unseen World where she took over from Mwynn in protecting the balance between the Unseen and Visible world by holding back the Chaos. Her blood is the lifestream, and mortal life sprang from it, and she created the Gate to keep the Chaos at bay." She looked at Lea, "The Chaos that you must have come through," she said, gently.

She looked down again, explaining the rest, briefly, "Pulse was given dominion over the Fal'Cie, and Lindzei controlled the Occuria. The Occuria created the Lucavi to do their bidding, but some of the Lucavi rebelled and fought, until they were beaten, when Etro took pity on them and bound them to the months, to become the Espers. The Fal'Cie, not wanting to repeat that mistake, instead branded the children of Etro's blood and forced them to carry out tasks, marking them l'Cie."

She frowned, glancing back to Fang again, "But the War of the Magi drove the Fal'Cie mad, and the population dwindled. We've always been taught the continent was no longer inhabited."

At least by people. Maybe that was wrong, maybe the people had just hidden from crazed Fal'Cie.

Date: 2015-12-17 09:16 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805167)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
Saix huffed, listening to the explanation. It sounded as overwrought as any mythology he'd ever come across, but there were elements he knew to be true. Maybe the how was ridiculous, but what it explained were, at least in part, real things. Saix was in no position to scoff at the notion of a Door holding back a great and destructive Darkness, after all, even they did call it a Gate, and Chaos here.

"So," he said, addressing Fang, "you have a task you must complete?" Not that the reward for success sounded like much of a reward, but the punishment for failure sounded much, much worse.

Date: 2015-12-17 10:29 pm (UTC)
hearstheplanet: (pic#2741953)
From: [personal profile] hearstheplanet
"Then you've been in a crystal sleep?" Aerith asked.

The stories only told of eternal life as a crystal. They didn't make mention of waking up from it afterwards. Maybe those who became crystal did wake up? If someone woke up over a thousand years after becoming a crystal, how would they know? How would anyone else?

"How long ago was the War of the Magi, for you?" She asked. Fang at least hadn't been shocked by the explanation of the crazed Fal'Cie, but it sounded like she'd lived through the aftermath.

If that was the case, Fang might have been trapped as a crystal for nearly a thousand years. Aerith wasn't sure she should break that news, if that was the case.

Date: 2015-12-17 10:34 pm (UTC)
innatelunacy: (pic#9805167)
From: [personal profile] innatelunacy
Saix murmured wordlessly at Fang's answer. If that was the case, then Fang was from a different culture, and a different continent, which would explain a lot of the weirdness about her.

Including how she could be so knowledgeable about the wildlife, and so used to living as a hunter, but had no idea about things such as Midgar.

He looked at Lea as Aerith spoke again. He didn't imagine Lea would be ready to up and abandon her in light of this information. He had always been terrible at turning away people in need of help, and if they were honest, Fang's input had been useful for them, too.

There was mutual benefit to be had if they stuck together. If Fang was willing to stick with them, at least.

Date: 2015-12-18 12:25 am (UTC)
gotitmemorised: (Serious.)
From: [personal profile] gotitmemorised
Lea listened to Fang speak about her homeland, wondering what kind of shape it was in now. He didn't say anything, but his limited knowledge of Spira's history made his mouth feel a bit dry.

He knew when the War of the Magi had happened and it didn't tally with what Fang had said at all. Was that even possible? He didn't think anything about Spira could surprise him any more, but he had a feeling he was about to be wrong.

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