Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 16:38:20 GMT -5
He probably should have made his way to the Gulgan Gulch, but Ingus figured that there were some of the sages taking a reprieve at the Village of Ancients. They knew the future; they would know what was happening to their world. He leaned against the yellow Chocobo at his side for the seventh time of the day. It warked loudly, but they were still on the outskirts of the village, so Ingus did not suspect that the giant bird was disturbing anyone.
The nightmares only worsened after the Merge. It was an awful feeling he had, one that settled in the very pit of Ingus' stomach. He didn't want the world to fall apart again, not that it actually appeared to be breaking, but in fact, seemed that other worlds were expanding upon it. The latter was just as terrifying.
The Chocobo, fittingly named Phoebus, batted at his rider with an outstretched wing. Ingus wondered if splashing water over his face would wake him up, hopefully a revivification spring, or one with similar healing properties. Only time would heal a broken mind though.
"Just a few more minutes," he said into the bird's neck as he leaned against it, voice muffled by the yellow feathers. How long had he been asleep for this time? Five hours? Four? Even less? Phoebus bent his neck down to rap his beak against Ingus' black grieves before lifting his head to nibble on the elbow of Ingus' gauntlets.
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2012 16:40:55 GMT -5 by HAUTECLERE
It had been a year. One, single, long, grueling year since The Merge; when she and her father had begun to learn of the machina and technology and magic that all of these different civilizations had slammed together into one realm. One could argue that Refia had become accustomed to it, considering , but even her father knew better than that. He had told her to take a vacation -- maybe go visit Besaid, where there were serene beaches and other such things.
Refia had no time for that. She could not simply take 'time off' to relax; while her father did not see this expansion of the world as a bad thing, she knew better. She had to get better. So there she was, Chocobo-riding across the continent, heading toward the Village of Ancients. They were ancient, as the name implied, and incredibly good with machinery -- if she wanted to start delving into the realm of making mechanical weapons, perhaps that was where she should start. (And, perhaps, she would be able to learn more powerful magic; she was still too weak.)
She was close to the outskirts of the village when another Chocobo caught her attention -- along with a man who was leaning face-first into his mount, seemingly exhausted. "'Ey there, traveler!" she greeted, slowing to a trot. "Need any help?"
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2012 16:50:27 GMT -5 by excalibur
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 17:00:20 GMT -5
It was just another traveler passing through the area, no? Perhaps if Ingus stood still enough, the young woman would keep moving. Against Phoebus' neck, he dug his teeth into his lower lip. He knew that voice, and he had no doubts in his mind that she, too, would recognize his own. It would be incredibly strange if he did not acknowledge her presence, so he shook his head. Perhaps if he had been outfitted in his Knight job class, he could have gotten away with slipping away without his identity revealed (what with the helmeted visor), but he had no hopes of that as a Freelancer.
Ingus leaned away ever so slightly from the Chocobo's face. The creature sensed his rider's discomfort, and shifted about from foot to foot, giving a quiet wark with clucks mixed in between. He leaned towards Ingus, gently nipping at the longer golden locks that leaned on the back of his neck. Ingus lifted a hand to gingerly ease the creature away. Perhaps if he moved less and put on an uninteresting show for Refia, she would leave.
But considering how well he knew her, he sucked in a breath and gave the young woman a weary smile. "It's been awhile, Refia," he said. The least he could do was seem pleased to meet her again, because he really was happy to see that she was still strong and healthy. Ingus could not recall the last time he looked in the mirror, but he felt physically weaker as of the late. Walking around without an appetite and running on five hours of sleep within the span of two days had its consequences.
It only took a short while for her to realize who, exactly, this traveler was. His outfit hadn't changed very much -- and had he grown taller? She couldn't tell, considering she was atop a giant yellow chicken at the moment, but it struck her how long it had been. Two years was a long time. In the beginning, after the calm, the days had been quick; then agonziningly slow when the boredom and loneliness set in; then the days once more flew by when she had finally accepted that the one great adventure of her life had ended. The less she thought about them, the less she missed them; the shorter the days seemed and the less it hurt.
He finally turned to face her, and she struggled to keep the sudden surge emotion out of her voice. "A while?" she echoed, her voice cracking. "Goddammit, Ingus, it's been two years!" But she wasn't angry; as she jumped off of her Chocobo her expression changed from one of disbelief, indignation, and joy to one of concern. "Hey, you ... don't look so good."
Refia stepped closer to him, closely examining his face. There were bags under his eyes, and weariness in both his voice and his expression that hadn't been there before. "Ingus, are you -- are you all right?" Had something happened?
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 17:20:32 GMT -5
Nor had Refia's outfit changed much since the last time they had seen each other. Same blue dress, same white blouse, cross brooch. Ingus didn't mind though, and in fact, he found it a relief that one thing had not changed. At least he could count on Refia of Kazus being the same girl who had set off with himself, Luneth, and Arc, to seal away the darkness that swallowed the land. Or at least, she seemed the same with her immediate mothering (he wasn't about to comment on the fact that she hadn't grown into her womanly curves yet).
He shook his head again. The last thing that he needed was Refia worried about him. There was plenty of danger outside the villages that would require her full attention to avoid. "No, I have been traveling extensively lately," he replied. That wasn't a lie. He really had been traveling far and wide, trying to make sense of the Merge. It was not novel news, but King Sasune would not be satisfied until Ingus got to the bottom of the Merge. Unfortunately, he did not have much faith in himself.
"I haven't had anything to eat yet," Ingus said, but quickly added, "but I intend on finding something soon. My appetite will most likely set in after a bit." Now, that was a lie. He hadn't been hungry for days, and had to force himself to eat. It could have been just about anything. There were plenty of stresses involved with knighthood that Refia was probably unaware of.
Time to switch the subject. "Did you come looking for the Gulgan as well?"
Refia regarded Ingus with suspicion. She didn't doubt that he had been traveling far and wide; as a knight, wasn't that kind of his job? Do whatever your liegelord wanted to you do, jump when he said jump and be there at his beck and call. (Refia clearly did not approve, but she did not comment. This was what Ingus had chosen.)
Her expression turned into a scowl when he said he hadn't eaten, and it grew even darker when he changed the subject. "Actually ... no." Refia sighed. "I came here to talk to the Ancients -- maybe see if I can put machine-things into my weapons and all." Refia paused. Suddenly, she felt some sort of divide between the two of them that hadn't been there before. She had no idea what he had been doing since they parted ways; what if he had changed more than she thought? "I ... won't ask why you're here, but you can tell me if you want to."
Abruptly, she reached for her saddlebag and pulled out a bright red fruit. "Y'know, Ingus, you look like crap right now." He had tried to divert their conversation earlier, but Refia wasn't going to let that drop. It was true that she didn't know about him and his life for the past two years, whether or not he had turned into a different person; however, she was still going to make sure he got what he needed, whether he liked it or not. "Just ... eat it, okay?" Refia held out the apple, worrying her lip. "Even if you're not hungry." He clearly needed something to replenish what little energy he seemed to have; Refia swore that it looked like one good push would leave him sprawling on the floor. "... For me?" she added. Maybe their previous friendship still meant something.
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 17:48:54 GMT -5
That sounded relatively normal as well, natural even, that Refia would seek out the Ancients to learn more about machinery. Ingus wondered if Refia had reached out to the newcomers to their world (or at least, he presumed that they had invaded their world, and not the opopsite), to ask them about their glowing machinery and lights. He did not have a doubt in his head that Refia had greatly improved her smithing abilities, and that she'd have little trouble incorporating newer technology in her methods. In a way, he was proud of her.
Ingus was not so exhausted that he missed the dark look that flitted across Refia's eyes. He swallowed, waiting to see what Refia was rummaging about in her saddle bag. Yes, he was quite aware that he was not in the best of shape, but Ingus had convinced himself that it was just the lack of sleep that was tripping him up. He lowered his blue eyes to the ground. "I... I can't, Refia. What will you eat if I take it?" That probably wouldn't work on the young woman either. But then she tagged on the last bit of her sentence, and he could not turn her away.
He took the fruit from her hands and bit into it, still using Phoebus for support. The crunch fruit's juice flooded his taste buds as he swallowed its flesh down his throat. There was something about this particular apple that was edible to Ingus. Briefly, he wondered if it was Refia's presence that helped it slide down his throat as opposed to being pushed up the opposite direction. Ingus took a second bite, then a third, until he was left with its seeded core.
Ingus lifted his eyes, figuring he should at least try to look Refia in the eye. He knew her well enough that he realized he'd worried her. He didn't want her to be worried. That wasn't how it worked. He was the one who was supposed to make sure that she, Luneth, and Arc didn't go hurling themselves off the edge of a cliff by stepping before they looked.
"Thank you," he said softly. "I will... find another one for you soon."
The young woman snorted. "I can find my own damn food, thank you very much." But she nonetheless grinned hugely when he ate the apple -- all of it, to her great pleasure. It still worried her that he had to lean against his Chocobo, and Refia realized that whatever was going on with him wasn't a one-time thing. The Ingus she knew stood tall and proud and was her -- their -- pillar of support. He was the voice of reason, he was the one person they all came to when everything had gotten too overwhelming for the ragtag group of fourteen-year olds.
When she thought about it, however, who did Ingus have? Who could he lean on when the going got rough?
Refia halfheartedly rolled her eyes. "As I said, I'm not totally helpless." No. This time, she would be the one there for him. Especially now, when he looked so ... vulnerable. She wrapped her arms around him, half to comfort herself -- she had dreamed of meeting her friends again for so long -- and half to see how thin he truly was. She expected it, but it still shocked her. There was no doubt in her mind that he had changed. Maybe he was still the same in some ways, but ... this person was also so very different.
"Ingus," she murmured. "What -- what happened to you?"
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 18:14:00 GMT -5
It hurt, if not physically, to have Refia witness him in this state. Ingus moved to retrieve a cloth to wrap the apple core, but before he could reach into his saddle bag, his Chocobo leaned down and snapped it up whole. He raised a brow, for it hadn't been too long ago before he paused in his journey to feed Phoebus. But it solved the problem of having to carry around an oxidizing apple core, so he spoke no more. "I'm confident that you can," Ingus reassured Refia. "I'm sorry." He sensed that he hadn't truly offended Refia though. They were sixteen now. Refia was more than capable of taking care of herself.
He froze. This was exactly what Sara had done when she'd heard, from a younger page, that Ingus had been waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, or moaned all throughout the evening hours if nobody stopped to wake him from his nightmares. He'd managed to hold himself together then. Princess Sara Atley had no business in seeing Ingus so vulnerable, but it was much difficult to cling to the pieces of himself around a familiar friend.
"I cannot say," he replied, for not even Ingus had truly wrapped his mind around what bothered him. In short, it was everything since the Merge, everything after sealing away the Cloud of Darkness, and defeating Xande. Everything just felt wrong, and it scared him that it felt right to be chasing after evil on a dangerous journey. "Sasune has tasked me with investigating the Merge. It has not been easy." There was that too. He couldn't not think of the Merge, even if he wanted to.
He bit his lip, resting a hand on one of Refia's arms. This was wrong. His job had been to support her, support the others, and Ingus found himself wondering if the other knights had noticed the fear in his eyes but chose not to tell him about it.
It hurt, to see Ingus like this. Arc, sure; Luneth, even. But not Ingus. Never Ingus. The fact that he didn't know what was going on, what made him like this, only served to pain her more. The girl's grip around him tightened when he mentioned Castle Sasune and its king -- she wanted to yell at him, tell him to live his own life. He was more than a dog of his king -- he had been a Warrior of Light, determined to blaze his own path to defeating evil.
She felt his hand on her arm, and Refia leaned her head back to look up at Ingus. "Let me help you," she breathed. Refia would not let him do this alone. Back then, he was the strong one -- now, she hoped that maybe they could be equals. Of course, she also wanted to go to make sure he stayed healthy, that he wouldn't one day just topple off of his Chocobo because of exhaustion.
What she refused to admit was that she wanted to accompany him because of the potential danger. She could prove her worth on this journey, both to herself and to the world at large. "I mean, if -- if you don't want me, that's okay too." It pained her to think that he wouldn't want her around any longer, but she couldn't help but think -- who would want her around? Who would want her, the girl who couldn't even manage being a girl properly -- the one who had been all but useless on their last adventure?
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 18:49:12 GMT -5
Ingus never had trouble with letting people in behind his boundaries. He understood that oftentimes, this was necessary for teamwork. It would be safe with Refia. After all, he trusted her. It was not supposed to be this difficult to let her in. She had seen him as a pillar. Naturally, Refia did not expect him to keep his calm, composed demeanor at all times, did she? In a low voice, he whispered, "How?" It was a small, genuine syllable, and for the first time, he allowed his despair to slip into his eyes. "Our world, if it falls apart once again, I will work to mend its wounds. But if I had a choice, I would not wish it upon myself, nor upon others."
He lowered his other arm from Phoebus' side, standing on his own now. Ingus resolved to at least try and convince himself that he was not afraid and that nothing was wrong. Perhaps if he believed in it, it would become a tangible result. He was willing to go on nearly any ends to have more than five hours of sleep at a time, to rid his stomach of its numbness that prevented Ingus from knowing when he was in need of a meal.
"No, I do. I... wanted to be strong."
His words were vague, but in his head, they made sense. It pained him to have Refia see him in this state of mind because he abhorred his own weakness. And although Ingus would not admit it, part of why he did not want Refia to move on was because he was afraid of what would happen to her as well. She was sixteen, a big girl. He knew that his fears were irrational, and that she was very capable of taking care of herself in either of her job classes. Of course he wanted her around, and not entirely because she was a capable fighter.
When had he become so -- so broken? Refia never could have imagined that this would happen. Not then, not even now; not even now, when he was so clearly falling apart in front of her.
This wasn't a time to be thinking about herself, about her own failures. Ingus needed her, and so she would be there for him.
The arms that had been holding him drew him closer, Refia resting her head on his shoulder. "I-Ingus," she began -- why did her voice have to crack now? "Ingus." She repeated his name, as if that would call him back from whatever abyss was swallowing him up. "Ingus, it'll be all right." She raised a hand to stroke the back of his head, her fingers sliding through his golden hair. “I’m here. I’m not gonna leave you, Ingus.” She held him tight. “I’m right here.”
She felt like crying.
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2012 19:10:36 GMT -5 by excalibur
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 19:42:35 GMT -5
He felt like crying.
There was a weight on his shoulder, and at first, Ingus' mind did not process that it was Refia's forehead against his shoulder. As her slender fingers worked through his hair, he wondered if this was what it was like to have a mother. He had grown up without a mother and without a father, raised by Castle Sasune's older servants. It still baffled him what they saw in the naked orphan infant of sixteen years ago, but they scrounged together enough funds to send him off as a page. They were his brothers and sisters, but never once did he look to them as a parent.
Even if it was a small light, Refia was the root that Ingus clung to after falling off the face of a cliff. Sara had been one as well, but it felt wrong, even perverted, to let her comfort him. He could not give the princess what she wanted. She deserved nobility and high blood, not an orphan boy from only who the goddesses knew where. He'd always intended to return to the lower lands and learn if he still had any surviving family, but he didn't think that it mattered anymore.
But something wicked was coming their way, and Ingus' body acted on its own. Despite being physically exhausted, he found that his training in Castle Sasune had still kept both mind and body sharp. His eyes widened as blood pounded in his ears. For a second, he was deaf to the world despite the earth-shaking roar that could only belong to a Behemoth razed the fields. He wrapped his arms around her and quickly thrust both of them upon the ground as debris flew from the field.
If the Behemoth was not stopped, it would easily destroy the village. It would have to be stopped before it could get any closer to the vicinity. Ingus' fingers curled around the grip of his sword as Phoebus warked loudly and flapped its small wings in distress. He would put away his own suffering for now. Ingus sent a quick glance at Refia and shut his eyes as if to quiet his fluttering heart and the throbbing that was happening behing his eyes. He knew better than to tell Refia to wait behind.
Ingus flicked the jade pendant around his neck with a finger and was engulfed by a white light. When it faded away, He was outfitted in his Red Mage garb. He gave Refia one final, quick look, before running forward, focusing on the adrenaline that shut away his fatigue, coursing through his body as he let loose a Fira at the monstrous beast.
There was the tremble of the ground, the booming vibrations that ripped through the air -- and suddenly she was on the ground, with Ingus’ arms around her. She knew just as well as he did what this meant; they would fight together again, for the first time in two years. Refia had no time to wish that Arc and Luneth were there with them; they were both back on their feet, ready to fight.
She saw him transform into a Red Mage, and she knew what to do. With just the two of them, she couldn’t risk becoming a Viking -- no, she knew he was going to keep attacking. She traced a single finger over her brooch, feeling the familiar light envelop her. Then the light faded as quickly as it came, the white-and-pink robes of the Devout replacing her Freelancer garb.
Summoning her magic, Refia cast Protect on him, followed by a Haste. She knew that casting spells in quick succession would only tire her out later, but she had to keep him safe. She had to.
Refia would never forgive herself if something happened to Ingus.
The giant figure of the Behemoth loomed ahead of them, and Refia bit her lip. She held her staff in her hand, taking a deep breath. If Ingus could occupy it for long enough, she could cast the greatest spell in her arsenal -- Holy, but ... that would leave him on his own for a little bit.
“Please be careful,” she whispered.
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2012 19:59:55 GMT -5 by excalibur
Post by HAUTECLERE on Nov 12, 2012 20:22:32 GMT -5
This was not the first time that Ingus had faced a Behemoth, but the last time there was a Behemoth encounter, he and Refia had two more allies at their sides. With their numbers halved, Ingus could only cross his fingers and hope that it would be enough to hold off the monster. It was strange to see one all the way out here, and he wondered how it had managed to get so far without anybody else stopping it. But there was no time to dwell on such theories, and no time to waste as the ball of fire was absorbed into the Behemoth's hide. The creature snarled and gnashed its teeth, seemingly more irritated than wounded by the flames. That was not Ingus' job though. He did not need Refia to speak aloud her intentions of her strongest spell.
It was not just a Behemoth to Ingus. If he could strike the beast down with Refia, if he had some sort of physical proof that he had not lost his inner strength from those two years, perhaps his mind would rest easier. He felt himself grow lighter as Refia's familiar Haste spell put on an extra burst of speed for him. As a Red Mage, Ingus was no master of speed, strength, or magic, but he was competent enough in all three. A Protect spell followed quickly, and Ingus made a note to thank Refia for keeping him safe.
There was a race against time, not between himself and the Behemoth, but instead, between the Behemoth and Refia. One or the other would cast their strongest magic, enough to fatally wound each other's enemies. He needed to stall the monster, and physical attacks would do no good to hold the Behemoth off. His sword was a toothpick against the creature's tough hide. Ingus whispered a few ancient words, and with the help of Refia's Haste spell, was able to call up a Blizzaga. The ice crept up the Behemoth's limbs, and the creature tossed its head from side to side with blind rage. Ingus knew, for the most part, they were dumb creatures who would retaliate against the enemy who bothered them the most. The ice climbed further up the Behemoth, past its shoulders, until it was fully incased in a block of ice.
Ingus sucked in a breath, shoulders heaving as he glanced at Refia. He regretted not eating breakfast today, especially when the block of ice suddenly shattered like glass. The Behemoth lowered its head, pawed at the earth, and charged like a rhinoceros at Ingus.