-=Hold Me Today as we Fly Away=-
“Amazing….simply amazing! I’d heard about this a lot growing up, but to see it for real like this….it’s unbelievable.”
Lance was referring to the ship the group of adventurers had boarded as he spoke. Dubbed the S.S. Ellinia, the enormous cruise ship was in every way a sight to behold. From the outside, it was a majestic schooner, crafted from various wood and metals to give the ship a regal look. A humongous sail, spread out above a great deal of the ship, wafted under the light winds. Twin engines set on the sides of the ship looked to provide plenty of power for flight. From the outstretched pole on the bow to the shining glass windows dotting the stern, every inch of the vessel practically screamed for a glance, and often got more than that.
The group of Shadow Viper had their eyes wandering all over the craft ever since they boarded it. On the outside, the ship simply looked amazing. The inside would increase their interest threefold, however. Though it was simply an outstretched hallway from end to end lined with numerous four-person cabins, the appearance was still spectacular; from the polished wooden design of the floors, walls, and ceiling, to the lengthy stretch of red, soft carpet, to the bright, golden lamps that lit the hall from the ceiling, the entire party looked upon everything with dropped jaws.
“You can say that again, Lance,” Skye whispered excitedly.
The group’s eyes were feasted for so long, they almost didn’t notice a stewardess approach them. “Like the look of the ship?” she asked with a giggle. The others nodded slowly in return. “Glad to hear it,” she replied in kind. “Here, follow me, and I’ll take you to your rooms in the back. It’s too bad you were the last ones to board. Though it is mostly four person rooms, we only have the two-person rooms available near the rear.”
The response to the problem was minimal, though Emma was all too eager to complain. “You see?” she blared. “If you all hadn’t taken so long, we’d’ve gotten a better room! I’ve heard the four seaters are nicer-looking than those smaller ones we’re getting.”
“Oh, relax, you!” Damien said nonchalantly. “Two or four, I’m just ready for a nice nap for once!”
Amber chuckled at the comments. “Well, in any case, better pick your cabin mates along the way!” she advised cheerfully. “Melanie, you can sit by me if you’d like.”
The younger Raine, who was still admiring the ship as everyone walked, was caught off guard by her friend’s offer. She blushed slightly. “S…sure, okay,” she said softly.
“We already have our choices made!” Lance and Skye said together, their arms around their shoulders.
“Yeah, we know!” the others replied in unison.
“What about you, Shadow?” the Crow asked as she sidled up to him. The question distracted the bandit from his own sightseeing. In response, he merely smiled and took one of her hands in his own. “Us, I take it?” the Crow guessed, getting the hint.
“Well, guess it’s you and me, then,” Damien mentioned to Emma. “Sword and sorcery in one room. Quite the combo, eh?”
Emma rolled her eyes, still upset about the rooms they were stuck with. “Yeah, whatever, just please don’t snore. I HATE snoring.”
At that moment, everyone realized Moira didn’t have a roommate. They were considering what to do until the archer spoke up. “Please, don’t worry about me,” she said. “I’m just fine sitting by myself.”
As the group walked on, another pair of travelers trailed distantly behind them. One was a rougish figure dressed in all black, including a mask. The other was a hooded man in white robes. Another stewardess walked beside them, explaining the problem. The dark-dressed person waved her off. “It isn’t a problem,” his mechanized voice declared. “We’d prefer a smaller room anyway.”
A half-hour after the last passengers had been seated in their chosen cabins, the twin rocket engines flared to life, roaring with a sonic boom as the ship slowly gathered itself up into the sky. In only seconds, the ship had propelled itself to cruising speeds, soaring away from the Ellinia docks. Those who missed their flight could only watch as the S.S. Ellinia left for its destination. Despite this, many watched in awe; it was still fun to see that great vessel take off into the great blue yonder from the outside.
Inside one of the cabins, Shadow relaxed on his comfortable, plush booth chair. The Crow leaned next to him. “Man, what a day,” she said. “I hardly did a thing at all, and yet it only took your duel and Layenna’s tragedy to get me stirred up.” She looked out the window. “I mean, I haven’t been this wired since….” she trailed off.
Shadow smiled at her. “Now’s your chance to relax,” he said to her. “Once we land, we’ll be back on our feet again.” He let out a sigh. “More unfamiliar territory for me to explore….I’m lucky I had friends to keep me from getting lost back on that island.”
“Heh,” Crow muttered, playing with a lock of her hair. “Well, you won’t be counting on us for navigation this time, pal. From the sounds of things, I don’t think the rest of us have ever been to Orbis before.”
“Well, that’s comforting,” Shadow said with a wry smile. “Oh, well, maybe it won’t be that bad. Even if it is a huge place, they oughta have a map or something.”
The Crow guffawed loudly. “A map, huh? Did you get a map for Victoria?” she asked.
Shadow went red in the face at this. “Er, no, I didn’t….” he said. “Dangit, I never thought about that. Gah, and to think I knew a good deal of my own homeland like the back of my hand.”
“Aw, don’t worry yourself,” Crow replied. “Visitors from other worlds are a big rarity here. Our largest amount one year was ten, and even that was compared to about 8,000 new adventurers. Maps just aren’t something we deal with, especially since nearly the entire population actually learns the geography rather quickly. The fact that Victoria is an island makes it that much simpler.”
“That makes sense,” he said with a shrug. He took a moment to stretch his arms. “So, have you heard anything at all about this Orbis we’re going to?”
“Pff, not much,” she returned dryly. “Just that it’s very different from our island. I’ve heard talk about Orbis being made almost entirely out of rock, and that it’s a city in the sky. Different people, different monsters….I’ve even heard stuff about fairies.”
“Fairies?” Shadow asked curiously. “What’s a ‘fairy?'”
“Got me,” the Crow answered. “Never seen one before in my life.”
Even at the lack of info, Shadow grinned. “Heh, fairies…” he repeated. Then his face grew more serious. “Well, in any case, it’s possible that this dragon we’re going after is there, at least according to Dark Lord.”
Crow nodded in agreement. “He didn’t sound sure, but what he gathered from the direction it was flying, it sounds like that’d be the place to go.”
The rogues let silence surround them for a minute. Then, Shadow said, “Crow, from the sounds of things, this mission will be tougher and more dangerous than the last one, even more than fighting that demon. We’ll all have to really watch our backs this time.” Even though he was outwardly calm when he said it, he felt a shiver run down his spine. His mind was now swimming with all of the past battles he’d experienced. Though he’d triumphed over all of them, each one had almost cost him the life of one or more of his friends….even his own. After all of the casualties he’d had to endure in the past, the last thing he wanted was to have one of his own companions pay the ultimate price in their quest to defeat an unknown evil.
“Yeah,” she mumbled softly. Then, she leaned in closer to her cabinmate. Without warning, she held his fleshy hand. “Shadow, I…” she began, her voice wavering slightly. “I still haven’t forgotten…that last battle, with the oni….when he tried that thought-kill on you….I almost lost you, and-“
Shadow put his robotic hand to her mouth, silencing her. He took her into his arms and gently rocked her for a while, as he did, he whispered in her ear. “I’ll be more careful next time. I promise.”
Crow held onto him a bit tighter. “Please do,” she said. “Please….don’t leave us.” A pair of tears rained down from each of her eyes. Though all of her new friends were now a new family to her, she couldn’t help but feel especially close to this bandit from another world….one who never gave up on her, even when she’d given up on herself.
They would hold each other close for the rest of the flight.
“A…Amber?” asked a slightly nervous Melanie. She’d spent the first five minutes of the flight in deep thought, wondering what to talk about. The silence was becoming a bit awkward for her. Normally, she didn’t mind silence, but that was back when she was still her silent self. Now, however, she felt like talking a more, like she had the past few days. It felt unfamiliar to her at first, having been silent for four months, but now, she viewed it as a welcome change. The only question was what to talk about. She figured Amber could come up with something.
“Huh? Oh, Melanie, hi,” the redhead replied, somewhat embarrassed. She’d been looking out the window before she was called. She smiled at the junior Raine. “What’s up? Enjoying the flight?”
“Um, yes,” the first girl replied, her heart rate slowing. “Is…is the view nice?”
“Oh, absolutely!” Amber said eagerly. “Would you like to have a look?” Melanie had gotten the seat next to the door.
“S-sure, yeah,” Melanie answered. She unbuckled her seat belt and walked over. Gazing out the window, she could see nothing more than the bright blue sky, decorated with numerous, small, fluffy clouds. Yet even though it was a simple view of the sky, the sight took her breath away…..literally. Melanie took no more than five seconds looking before she felt faint. Darkness enveloped her sight for a while. Then, starting softly and getting louder, she heard a voice calling her name. She eventually managed to open her eyes, giving her a view of the cabin ceiling, obscured by Amber’s face. She felt two supporting arms wrapped around her back.
“Melanie?” Amber said, holding Melanie. “Oh, you’re awake. Thank goodness. You really made me jump passing out like that!”
It took the Raine sister a few moments to process everything that had happened. Once she realized that she had indeed fainted, she started to cry. “Oh, Amber, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed worriedly.
“There, there, think nothing of it,” Amber replied soothingly. “You probably just got nervous from the flying. I was a bit jolted myself when I finally realized we were off of the island and in midair. I had to keep looking at the window to get used to it.”
Wiping her tears as she got back on her feet, Melanie was confused by her friend’s words. “Haven’t…you flown…before?” she asked. “You…came….back from Orbis, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right, I told you about that,” Amber said, remembering the time the two of them had talked in Perion. “Well, it’s been about two months since then. To be honest, no matter how much I fly, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I always feel like I’ve been lifted off the ground, you know?”
“I…I do,” Melanie said. “Kind of like….just a minute ago.”
Amber giggled at the notion. “I was happy to help, Mel,” she said. “If you need anything else, let me know, okay? I’m always here, you know.”
As the two girls sat back down on their seats, a thought occurred to Melanie. “Hey, Amber,” she asked. “You remember….when you said….somehow, I’m always….nearby when you n-n…..need me most?”
“I do,” Amber replied, smiling warmly.
Melanie leaned her head in lightly on Amber’s shoulder. “I never told you….you’re the same way….always near when I….I need you.”
Hearing those words brought a lump to Amber’s throat. She pulled Melanie in closer with a hug. “I’ll always be near when you need me, Melanie,” she whispered. A silent tear ran down her face.
The two girls never let each other go for the rest of the flight.
In a third cabin nearby, Skye was having and fighting giggling fits over her boyfriend, who was currently taking numerous breaths into a paper bag he’d found in the room. Ever since taking a single glance out the window, Lance had shown he wasn’t quite the person able to handle a flight.
“Oh, look at you!” Skye blurted, trying as she could not to laugh. Despite her efforts, she found the sight of her nervous friend very hilarious. “We haven’t even been on the flight ten minutes and you’re already getting jittery!”
“I…I can’t help it!” Lance yelled in between breathing. His girlfriend’s laughter only made his bugged-out eyes widen. “Skye, please! Not to ruin your mood, but you really aren’t helping here!”
“Okay, okay!” Skye amended, slowly gaining control over her incessant giggling. She took her by the arm and led him to the window.
“Ugh, not the window again,” Lance groaned, trying to break free. The girl tightened her grip in response, determined to help him in her own way.
“Just calm down and come here,” she told him. Once finally at the window, she had him view the blue sky and passing clouds. “I know it must be unnerving, but try to look at it in a different light. So there isn’t any actual ground underneath your feet. It’s still beautiful, isn’t it?”
Lance looked down at his smiling companion, then through the glass again. His rapid breathing slowed down as he gazed. He slowly allowed the paper bag to fall from his face. “Now that you mention it,” he said, “it is a very nice view. In fact…..I remember looking out at the sky like this from the highest peaks of Perion. Usually I’d take a break from training, just to look at the sky….I always found it calming…soothing, in a way. It made me feel free…as though the horizon was mine to explore.”
“See there?” Skye said with a chuckle. “I knew this would work. You’re looking out at the sky, just like you did before. How is it different?”
Perplexed at the fact that she asked such a question, Lance turned back to the cabin. “Well, even you ought to see this room isn’t exactly Perion,” he muttered. “Plus, Perion wasn’t this high up. I guess I can’t get used to being so high above the ground.”
The female bowman laughed again, grabbing hold of the warrior’s hand. “Well, try and keep in mind that wherever you see the sky, I’ll be looking at it right next to you,” she told him soothingly.
Lance almost laughed himself as he turned to Skye. “Dear Skye, every day we’ve been together, I’ve always had that in mind.” This made the girl smile as she relaxed against him. She sighed; her heart started to race.
“Lance,” she said softly, “even with every day we’ve been together, I feel like there have never been enough moments for us like this. They’ve gotten less frequent with our endless job training, and this quest we’re on….has made them even shorter.” She sniffled.
Lance put an arm around her. He knew just what she was thinking. “I know,” he murmured. “For some reason, it feels like that pattern may continue, what with a new mission before us. Still, Skye…” He led her over to the chairs. “Rare as they may be, think not of how often we’re together. Rather, think of the certainty that when one time together ends…”
“…Another will soon come,” she finished. “My parents told me that once.” Her voice broke; emotion was taking a light yet certain hold.
Unwilling to let her cry, Lance gathered Skye in his arms. “Together or not,” he whispered in her ear, “you’ll have my love, now and forever.”
She held him tight in her arms in response, her tears speaking for her. They were inseparable the rest of the flight.
The cabin that belonged to Emma and Damien was completely silent, though both of them were still awake. Despite his yearning for a good nap. The pair, different as they were in jobs and appearance, held a consistently similar quiet moment that lasted several minutes. Emma leaned back in her seat, staring at the ceiling, while Damien gazed out the window, silently counting the clouds that passed by his eyes.
*How amazing is this?* Emma thought, annoyed. *This guys claims he’s ready for a nap, and yet he’s as wide awake as I am! I never realized someone could be so lazy in going to sleep.*
The swordsman’s thoughts were also in bloom, despite his current mindless activity he was immersed in. *Man, it’s quiet,* he surmised. *I shouldn’t have proclaimed my wanting to sleep. For some reason, I just can’t seem to…well, not on my own. I figured the girl would start talking about her day or something. That’d probably done the job.”
Ten minutes into the flight, still no noise ventured into their ears. Soon getting sick of the silence, Emma threw up her arms behind her head with a sigh. Her eyes kept looking at the ceiling…until a small photo passed in front of her eyes, wafting towards her cabin mate. Not until it’d left her sight completely did she sit up with a gasp. “My photo!” she cried out.
The scream jolted Damien out of his seat. He looked around, catching sight of the picture floating towards him. He managed to see a little bit of the person in the photo before Emma’s hand snatched it away.
“Please, I’m sorry, it’s a private-” she started to say, until her eyes ran over the picture. Her words were lost to her lips as she soon found it difficult to speak. Feelings of sorrow and grief began clutching at her mind. She pressed her hands to her head in order to fight them off, succeeding only in falling to her knees on the floor. Loud sobs escaped from her mouth. “R…Richard..” she whispered. Her trembling hands could no longer hold her picture, and she let it fall to the ground.
“Hey, Emma,” Damien began as he knelt by her, concern in his eyes. “Is everything okay?” As he offered what comfort he could, he saw again the picture on the ground. He picked it up and got a better look at it. A brown-haired boy, sporting brown, parted hair, freckles, and a beaming grin, was on the photo. He looked to be just a few years younger than the elder Raine. He was about to ask who it was, until the spell casting girl snatched it from him in desperation. “Emma, I’ve already seen it,” he muttered softly.
Agitated, Emma stuffed it within her robe sleeve, but she knew he was right. With a downtrodden sigh, she began to explain. “His name is Richard, and he is….” She swallowed. “He WAS my boyfriend. Next to my family, I loved him more than anyone else in the world. Now, he…..he’s dead. The Victorian Oni killed him three years ago.” She held an embittered look on her face as she crossed her arms. “The anniversary of his death was three days ago, and the last thing I wanted to do was look at the picture within the week, despite how I always keep it with me. There, now you know. You should also know that I don’t like talking about it.” She looked away from the warrior.
Damien sighed softly. The flight hadn’t lasted fifteen minutes, yet he discovered something about him and his cabin mate. “Emma,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry. I know how you feel.”
“NO YOU DON’T!” Emma screamed in response. “NOBODY knows how I feel right now! Three days ago, I had to relive a moment in my life, a horrible moment that took from me someone I loved! Even destroying that demon for good won’t bring him back….his death will always be with me, no matter what! Don’t you DARE tell me you know how I f-” Her rant of rage became a gasp of surprise when Damien clamped her mouth shut with his hand and held a picture of his own in front of her eyes. The photo depicted a beautiful-looking blond girl that looked to be his age.
“Yes,” he said quietly as he let her look over the picture more. “Yes, I do, but I mean not to admonish you. I only want you to know……this girl, a true love of my own, was murdered a couple months ago. Her name is Claire.” He let Emma go and sat back down in his seat, putting the memory in his pocket.
Feeling immediate embarrassment, Emma quickly apologized. “Damien, forgive me…I spoke out of turn. I mourn your loss wholeheartedly. I just…don’t like bad memories.”
“Don’t worry about what you said, I shouldn’t have pried,” Damien responded. “Nobody likes bad memories, Emma.”
“Yeah, I know,” she mumbled, sniffling. “To be honest, I was about to cry not just from the picture of Richard….but rather from the uncertainty of the future. The friends I’ve made this past month…to lose any of them, even on this mission that sounds much harder….to lose them would be like….”
“Like losing someone you love,” Damien said, picking up the trail of thought. “We’ve all lost someone we love dearly, and believe me, I’d hate to lose someone again. Even so, though, I’ll never forget when I visited my love’s grave before I became a crusader. I blamed myself for her death, as I felt I was responsible, but she appeared before my eyes. She comforted me, telling me it wasn’t my fault. Not only that, she told me to keep fighting…to save the world, like she knew I could.”
Emma leaned into Damien’s arms as she listened. She felt her heart rise from his words. “I have yet to see something like that myself,” she said, “but no matter how painful it is, I’ve always told myself….Richard died defending my village. Though he was easily cut down, he had the strength and courage to stand up to his foe. He was willing to sacrifice everything for his home.”
Damien nodded at her words. “I myself am willing to do just that. As a lightbringer, I’ll do everything I can to make the world safe again, no matter the risk.”
Emma nodded, looking at her friend with newfound admiration. Eventually, she felt herself welling up with tears again. Unable to fight them off any longer, she dove into his arms. He received her without resistance, more than happy to keep her company, even if to last for the whole trip.
Another cabin was even quieter than the others, as Moira sat by herself. As she’d said, she didn’t mind the other companions sitting with each other. In fact, right now, she preferred different company next to her, albeit the fact that that company would never sit by her again. Quietly, she took out a locket she kept on a necklace from inside her dress top. She gazed at it with a smile, seeing the reflection on her face from the stainless, golden piece of jewelry.
“Theresa,” she whispered as she opened the locket. Inside was a small picture of her late best friend, who looked very similar to Moira except for a green bow in her hair. The woman stared at the photo adoringly.
While the eyes in her head looked longingly at the last memory of her friend, Moira’s mind eye received many memories. They began with the time the two girls first met, after Moira became part of her homeworld’s military training academy. From the moment they first talked, they became inseperable. More flashbacks flooded in, including the days of training where they learned together and shared strategies and information. Then there were the days off, which they would usually spend relaxing in the endless, peaceful fields just outside their home city. Other days they would stroll about the town streets, talking about whatever was on their minds. The visions swam about in her head, slowly driving her emotions to the breaking point.
Eventually, no matter how much she resisted, Moira’s memory of their last day together came to life. The two girls had been walking the city streets when Moira’s mother told her her brother had returned after a time of disappearance. The blonds agreed to meet up later in the day. The archeress then met up with her family at the city gates, where her brother was. After a brief exchange of words, monsters invaded her world. A great battle followed, resulting in the triumph of the evil army of creatures, led by her own brother, now called Sethofan.
Though she’d been wounded, Moira found herself recovered by Theresa, who herself was brought to the edge of life before death’s great fall. Moira ran over to Theresa’s dying form and held her close.
“Theresa, you saved me, didn’t you?” Moira asked, her voice as broken as her spirit.
“Y…y…yes….I…did,” Theresa slowly replied through heavy breathing. Her numerous wounds had been robbing her of her lifeblood.
“Why?” Moira asked. “Why save me, and not yourself? Grateful as I am, you’re the one who needs the healing.”
“D….don’t worry about…..m-me,” Theresa forced out. “You….were….just as…..in danger….of dying….as…..me. Besides…..” Her words trailed, and her eyelids fluttered. She began to relax.
“No, NO, Theresa!” Moira cried out in fear. “Please, don’t leave me here. I’ve got…I’ve got to save you!”
“You….already….did, Moira…” Theresa said. “I….lost my….entire family….to illness…long ago…..you s….saved me….from loneliness…..you truly…are….my friend…my love….forever….”
Moira was at a loss for words. By the time she found them, Theresa had entered into eternal rest.
The memory now played out, Moira could fight her emotions no longer. Just as she had that day long ago, she cried in her cabin. She grieved for her home, her family, and her one true love. She was so deep in her sorrows that she didn’t notice a spiritual prescense; Theresa’s ghost was sitting by her, holding her albeit without touching.
Guess how much I love you, Moira.
In the sixth of the two-seat cabins, farthest from the lavatories, the man in dark and the man in white sat quietly. The masked one was sleeping, his head rested on the back of the chair; light breathing noises emanated from the mouth of his mask.
The priestly-looking fellow beside him was awake, though undisturbing to his cabin mate. He cheerfully looked out the window with a smile. *Ah, today is a good day indeed,* he thought. *It was rather rough before the flight, but something tells me it will get better.*
Then he heard footsteps. He looked out the window on the door, noticing two stewardesses talking to each other. He could just barely hear one of them mentioning needing to visit the restroom real quick. The other nodded, and they were both on their way in opposite directions.
“How ironic,” the robed man said to himself with a chuckle. “I must use the restroom, too.” He stood up to leave, making sure to nab one of the throwing daggers off of his compatriot’s belt before heading out of the room. *Today is a good day indeed,* he thought again as he headed out the door.
To begin with, I must say to everyone who has read my story in the past that I am terribly sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. I had recently found a way to get my ailing computer to play games well again recently, and before that, I’d decided to take a break from this tale for another writing project.
Apparently, I’d almost forgotten about this whole thing here. My computer’s processor is still working okay, but, it’s getting to the point where I might not be able to play MS on it. I managed to get 4 levels on my sin before the thing crapped out on me again. ROMs and Diablo 2 are likely the only things I can play. I’ll try MS again in the future, but for now, I may be calling a temporary retirement from the game until my compy is replaced.
I’ve also decided to break away from my other project on fanfiction.net as well. Though it’s only six chapters long, it hasn’t seemed to garner the amount of comments I was hoping for(at least one a chapter; apparently the game I chose to base a fic on isn’t as popular as it used to be). I may go back there for a try at a different story; I do better writing about games I’m actually playing about.
For certain, though, I’ll be returning to this story. And this site. Again. For what, the 19th time? For those who’ve been waiting for another chapter, again, I’m sorry. I know I promised one before, but I got sidetracked on other things. To be honest, I really miss this project and, even if only for fun, I’d like to see it to a fitting end.
Once more, many sorries, and I PROMISE you all who gave me sub chars, you will see at least one of them next chapter, when everyone finally lands on Orbis. Thank you all for reading. Now I gotta do the blasted laundry. See you!