My eyes snapped open and I looked up at the ceiling of my usual room at the manor in Mist. I took a deep breath of of fresh beach air and I exhaled slowly. Light but that felt nice. Normally I'd've crashed in Gridania since it was my favorite place to sleep. That and it smelled nicer. Honestly it was the biggest reason I preferred Gridania over the other three city states. I mean, I liked Limsa Lominsa because it reminded me of home but the smell? Oh it was infinitely worse than back in the Bay. And the less said about Ul'dah and the problems there? That and despite everything, Ishgard was way way to cold for my liking.

But beach front property? As a gangbanger I'd overhead once said, damn son.

Serious talk. Beach life is the best life. I have spent literal days relaxing on the beach here in Mist. Especially after a few bad days or dungeons, I'd come here to relax. Of course, that was before the whole being accused of poisoning the Sultana and being exiled to the frigid North thing. Neverthless, Taylor must soldier on! And stop thinking in third person. That way lies madness, Taylor!

Oh right, I've already gone mad, haven't I? The past 24-ish hours have been absolutely fucking surreal. I glanced about my room as I pushed myself up with a stretch, I could feel my tail arcing back too Yeah. Surreal alright. Especially since I know it's all real and not just a dream of adventuring that I'd been treating it up until recently.

I glanced to the hanging portrait of Haurchefant and instantly felt miserable. It took me a moment to plaster a smile on my face once more and nod to myself. "A hero needs to smile, right?" I asked the air. I relaxed a little as it started to feel more real instead of brittle plastic.

It was real. I was real. All of it was real!

I needed to talk to the twins about this. Urianger! Y'shtola! Thancred! Thancred.

...Thancred.

"Thaaaaaaaaancred!" I screamed into my link pearl that was connected to the rest of the Scions. "Where the hell are you?"

"Taylor?" Y'shtola's voice came back instantly. "What seems to be the problem?"

"Have you seen Thancred? I owe him a beating and a hug." I walked over to the two bells in my room as I continued to talk to Y'shtola.

"Nary a sound since yesterday. I believe he's off on one of his usual jaunts. You know how he can be." Oh I knew alright. Especially now.

"Right. If anyone sees him, tell him to contact me ASAP. I'll be in Mist most of the day getting some things together for when that letter comes in." I flicked a finger against one of the bells.

"What?" The voice was as sudden as it normally was. Alicia, my Retainer, an Au'ra that was slightly shorter than I, was looking at me in annoyance. Which, well, on her, was her normal state. "I don't have all day."

"Yeah, I figured. How much money have we got?" I kept it short with her as I started to quickly empty my items into her bags, I needed to clear up space.

"In excess of nearly a hundred million. Everything has sold."

"Good. I'm gonna be buying stuff to make Bells in a little bit. You know Thancred Waters from the Scions of the Seventh Dawn?"

"Aye, I know the lout."

"We're going to be working with him a fair amount in the very near future. Buying a fair amount of materials. Anything he says to buy while I'm not around, you've got the go ahead to do as such. Just get me a list of everything all said and done."

"Fine. What else?"

"What're your thoughts on dimensional travel?" She gave me the flattest look. "Besides here and the Market and Ventures." I added.

"Couldn't care less." Yeah, should've expected that.

"Good. Cause we'll be hopping planets soon enough." I grinned and she continued to stare at me. One of these days I'd get her to smile, dammit. "In the mean time, you do you."

She nodded tersely, turning and walking away, disappearing mid step. "Gods, this is tiring..." I barely made out before she vanished like she always did. Alicia might've been an absolute bitch, but she was my absolute bitch. And she did good work.

I went over to the other Bell in my room and rang it, I had to wait a little bit longer before Jandeline himself walked into my room with a strut, just as vivacious and outlandish as usual. "Darling, darling, it looks like its time for a change of pace for the vaunted Warrior of Light."

"Yeah. Let's see what you can come up with, hm?" I grinned toothily, sharp canines easily in view. "Lets go with something dark."

"Dark and mysterious, yes? Let us discard the old and weary!"

Well. Suffice to say I was impressed after he left me feeling refreshed and new. He even helped me fix my nails, a new black with my one left ring finger painted a blood red much like the highlight in my new black mane of hair. He pulled back the fringe of hair, leaving my forehead exposed and did my hair up in a braid in the back with the red a fair bit more prominent there. All in all I liked it.

I nodded to myself as I pushed outside of my room, ignoring the glances I was getting from the rest of the Free Company that had heard my scream from within. I waved them off with a shooing motion and then went back to their game of Triad.

My first order of business?

The Market Board.

I spent about, all said and done? About 20 million gil over the next several hours just buying all sorts of materials. I spent more than I meant to, in the end, but that was mainly due to the fact that I had more space than I originally had thought. While I was gone, it was as if something in the air had changed. And well, I knew something was off the moment I'd gotten back to Eorzea, but hey...more bag space than I thought I'd had? Bonus.

I may have gone a bit excessive but I wanted some High Quality materials for things I figured were a bit important. I emptied out the excess fishing supplies I had as well since I could easily pick them back up after the fact. I wasn't going to be going fishing in Brockton bay after all, and I didn't really need extra Materia on me.

Honestly, I was a bit of a packrat normally. I preferred to be a bit on the self-reliant side since I could easily just make and gather my own supplies with what I wanted to make but I was in a hurry, and I had flush funds. Besides, some of this would easily sell on the other-side in just the food alone.

I continued to organize and get things ready. I wasn't going to be making any of my supplies in Mist, just getting them ready for when I got back to Brockton Bay. Enough to craft a few Bells of various make, stuff to make potions, and a few other miscellaneous items. That and I prepped all of my gear ready for action. Materia slotted properly, but I didn't keep excess on me.

"Anyone need me for anything?" I asked over my FC Link, getting a smattering of negative responses. Everyone to busy in their mini tourney of Triad to want to do anything. It wasn't as if we were heading for Doma yet either. Oh well. "I'm heading to Limsa for a spell."

Being the lazy person I was, I snagged an Aether current and teleported to the main Aetherlyte. Or at least that was the plan. I found myself in a black void backlit by a soft and loving blue light.

A flash of white light caused me to shield my eyes with my arm, once I blinked away the light blindness I found myself standing in front of someone that every chosen of Hydaelyn knew. "Lord Yoshida." I nodded, deferring to the larger than life man in front of me. "What can this one do for you?" I was polite, refraining from my usual antics as I relaxed a little from the minor tense up I had from the misfired teleport.

"Chosen of Hydaelyn." He intoned, his voice echoing all around. "I'm afraid there's been some changes."

"I felt them when I woke." I demurred. "I haven't fully checked all of the changes. Dare I ask why?"

"The Light of Hydaelyn reaches out further and further." He said as if that explained everything. Which in a way it technically did. "There must be a Balance. Her chosen have weakened to strengthen her Light." I nodded to that. I didn't feel weakened in any shape or form though. I felt stronger still. "You are the exception to the rule, for the most part."

"I am?" I continued my polite tone. "Is it because I am originally from Earth-Bet?" I got a nod to that query and I nodded in turn. "I felt stronger, more attuned." I mused.

"Hydaleyn is far from your home, yet at the same time, you are her sole connection to pierce the veil in the darkness. Any weaker and she would not be able to sustain you." Lord Yoshida continued. "Be ever careful. Your home is ripe for the plucking. There is much to learn, much to be shown and you are alone, a Light in the darkness." With that, another flash of effervescent light nearly blinded me.

When I blinked again I was standing in the ocean air of Limsa Lominsa. Great. Just fucking great.

"Y'shtola?" I tapped my pearl for the Scions.

"Yes, Taylor?" My fellow Miqo'te responded rapidly.

I paused, wondering how to word this. "I need crystals. Not the kind readily made available through the market."

A pause on her end. "Towards what endeavor?"

I took a deep breath and settled myself, sitting down against the main Aetherlyte. "I want to make an Aetherlyte portal. Thancred is helping me. It's about Home."

"Quite so. That'll be dangerous." Y'shtola's voice is flat, deadpan even and I couldn't help but laugh faintly. "What about the Aether currents?"

"I've got those mapped out. I have for over a year. It is Home." I replied dryly. "I can easily make a smaller set of crystals but I need a bigger one."

What followed wasn't a question. "You want one for more than just yourself to use."

"Yeah. Things aren't the best there...and I might need backup. Not quite Primal Bahamut level...and I only really need to deal with one that has their own Tempered, and thankfully it supposedly isn't right away." I shrugged against the Aetherlyte despite Y'shtola not being able to see me. "But at the same time, harder to deal damage to and they devastate their surroundings easy."

"And you'd seek aide from your fellow chosen."

"If at all possible? Yes. Its a long-shot, but...if I can do anything to halt their advance I'll take it."

Something was niggling at the back of my mind but I ignored it like I usually did. I still needed to do things here before I went back to Brockton Bay and the day had just started after all.

After talking to Y'shtola I spent a few hours talking to various other people, gathering proper supplies, upgrading small things here and there and getting everything ready. I still had a few guild masters to see to things, and then this and that. It wasn't, in my eyes, anything special. No, it was just mind numbingly boring busy work that needed to be done. Limsa Lominsa was my first stop.

I spent a fair amount of time in Limsa Lominsa because I rather quite enjoyed the smell of the sea, that and I had the most to do there. There was more area to cover due to dealing with all the boats and ships, and it was where I remembered to grab those extra Linkshells and pearls I needed for back home. One for Dad, one for Thancred since for some reason ours didn't connect back in Brockton Bay.

Stupid space-time nonsense.

Gridania was my second. Making sure everything was ready and all of that. I had an easier time of it in the forest because I knew my way around better. The capital of the Black Shroud was the smallest of the three city states after-all.

I left Ul'dah for last-ish.

Ul'dah. I don't like Ul'dah. So many things have gone wrong in Ul'dah when I'm involved that I prefer to just stay away when I can. My first meeting with Thancred at the fair and when that Gobbue got lose, then most recently when the Sultana was poisoned...

Suffice to say, my opinion was pretty much 'fuck Ul'dah' and everything in the entire fucking Thanlan area.

It was hot and sweltering, it smelled worse than oceanfront refuse, the people were assholes, it was to easy for me to get lose in the twists and turns of the city, the palace of was pointlessly huge, and I still didn't feel all that welcome after I was framed for assassination.

Now, I've no qualms about killing. I've killed so many different people that I've lost track of my kill count. Though, I'm sure I could find someone that knows that specific number if I really needed to find out. In fact, I'll merrily shoot a fireball through someone's skull if they were interfering with me and mine. I don't take any particular joy in it, just another aspect of life.

Except for King Thordan. That I did with a smile on my face. And a smile does suit me best!

But back to Ul'dah, the real reason I left it for last was because if I'd gone here first, it would've probably ruined the rest of my day after dealing with all the pushy merchants that would try and get out of their deals, and all the political backstabbing and intrigue going on. Again, if I was going to backstab someone I'd use a knife, not some honeyed words and fake reassurances and get someone else to do it for me.

Why yes, I hate this place, why do you ask?

Anyway.

"Look. The stuff is paid for, just get it delivered on time. I'm just checking up on it. I don't want no muss or fuss. Just get. It. Done." I leaned in with a frown on my face while my tail was sticking up in agitation. I really hated this place.

"Well, you see, about the logistics..." the merchant trailed off as I snarled in his face.

"Get it to Gridania. I don't care how. You were paid in advance, either do your job or give me my Gil back and I'll find a more suitable merchant." I hissed. The Lalafell took a few steps back as I got in his face threateningly.

He gulped back his retort and nodded, sweat gleaming upon his brow. "Good. Now if you'll excuse me." I stood up and smiled down at him before walking off with my tail waving behind me.

Self-important jackass.

See? Half the population are desperate for anything, the other half are nothing but tools.

Reminds me way to much of the bad parts of home. With the merchants as the gangs whereas Limsa Lominsa reminded me of the slightly better parts, with the enjoyable smell of the ocean.

Where as Gridania was just kind of relaxing in a way. It might be because I appeared there after being pushed forward by Louisioux and I've always enjoyed the forests since I was a kid.

I was jostled out of my thoughts as I heard a commotion going on further down the street. A little girl?

"Miss!" She called out as I walked up to her. She was oddly well dressed all things considered for someone that seemed to be panicing. Well, it certainly reminded me of a few things. "I need your help! My sister has been kidnapped!"

Yup. Certainly reminded me of something.


I threw the Red Mage Soulstone up and down in my hand a few times, looking at and into it every so often. "Now this has been a shitty day all said and done." I sighed absently. The ambush at the church had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Mindless puppets that sacrificed themselves? It reminded me way to much of the Tempered and that was always a good way to ruin a day. At least X'rhun would look into things for me a little more and I had a new conversation starter with Alisaie so that's always a plus.

The Elezen was keeping more secrets than I originally thought. More power to her in the end, but something like this would've been useful information and good to know. The Job was a nice mixture of different ranges when it came to attacking. I'd probably give it some use for certain. See what situations would be best for it just like the rest of my Jobs.

I'll cop to being a little biased about some jobs. I preferred Scholar when healing in smaller groups because Eos could easily take care of that and I certainly would avoid being a Dark Knight if I didn't have to use a huge fuckoff sword. The souls in the Crystal seemed to have been speaking a little louder lately too, pushing more thoughts than just skills onto me. It was a jarring sensation that was really only quieted while I was farming per se, or screwing around as a Machinist.

"Thal's balls, just when you think you've seen it all!" someone's shout caused me to twist and turn at a man shouting ecstatically. "The world is full of surprises!" Huh? What's this man going on about? I stepped closer as he shot me a wide grin. It didn't look like he recognized me but that wasn't anything particularly special. I was about to ask when he went on. "What am I talking about, you ask?" Well. Not yet. But sure. Let's go with that. "Oh, nothing much," A-huh. "Just the most amazing blade work I've ever seen!"

Really?

That sounds like a blatant challenge to yours truly.

I let the young man blather on about what he had seen. An old man in the Colosseum taking on challengers with some fancy blade work, huh? I looked at the Soulstone down in my hand and a wild smirk made its way to my face. Who knows, I might have even more new toys to play with.


Yeah.

Called it. Totally called it.

I had a moderately nice fight with the old man, albeit interrupted rudely twice, and now I had a new Job, Samurai. Two within the space of half of a day was actually moderately quick all things considered, of course I had done the same with the Dark Knight and the Machinist jobs as well. All things considered though? I'd enjoyed my day. Which was a blessing when it came to Ul'dah.

I looked up to the darkening sky as I considered my next step. I did have a few more stops too. I needed to get to the Scion's headquarters out in Mor Dhona, and make a stop up in Ishgard, and then take a few trips down through the Palace to get some experience with my new Jobs.

Or maybe leave Ishgard for last. Yeah. That was probably the better idea.

I didn't want to go see him with my mood bad from Ul'dah, it wouldn't be fair. To either of us really.

"Smile, Taylor." I said to myself as I paused in my movements and with a thought teleported through the Aether to Mor Dhona. Revenent's Toll was as busy as normal, Adventurers of all walks were walking about and milling around. I looked out over at the sky as it continued to darken the skyline glittering from all the crystals and Aether in the air. I quickly strode in towards the entrance to the Rising Stones. I didn't pay much attention to any of the patrons though i did give a nod to the Bard in the corner. I pushed into the area the Scions had pretty much taken over in the back only to stop as I looked to the side and at Hoary dancing and making a fool out of himself for the amusement of some kids. "Huh." I spied Hoary's brother Ocher looking on in disbelief and I snickered to myself..

"Taylor." F'lhamimn flowed over to me in greeting and looked over at the two Roegadyn brothers as I tilted my head in their direction. "Cute isn't it?"

"Mm, where'd the kids come from?" I asked as I walked with her over to the bar she had set up. "They're new I take it?"

"Hoary and Coultenet brought them back." The other Miqo'te nodded in their direction again as she grabbed a glass and a bottle of something, pouring it for me and pushing it the few inches needed in my direction. "Their family were caught by some monsters out in the Shroud."

"Why were they in the Shroud?" I mused more to myself knowing I wouldn't get an answer beyond the shrug I received. I concentrated on my newfound drink first before sighing. "Thanks for the drink. Any news? And is Thancred back?"

"No, not yet. I heard you were yelling at him over the Linkshell earlier?" F'lhamimn shrugged a little again. "Otherwise nothing yet. the Grand Companies are still going over the details for the push into Ala Mhigo. Yugiri is in the back too. Something in the air, she said?"

I nodded a little. "Yes. A shift in the air. I don't like it." I said with a faint sigh and finished my drink. "What about Gosetsu?"

"With her as well. And before you ask, no Alphinaud isn't back. He's with the Grand Companies right now. I believe he should be back soon as well. I believe General Raubahn has him running an errand. No sight of Shinryu or Omega either."

"Bloody hell."

"Language young lady! But the sentiment is shared. Now go talk to Lyse." F'lhamimn motioned to the side with a smile.

I sighed as I pushed back from the bar and wandered over to Lyse. The blonde gave me a look and a weak smile as I sat down beside her at one of the round tables, my tail writhing out behind me as I looked at her "You alright?" Well, that was a dumb question. The blank look I got from her was enough to cause me to chuckle. "All things considered that is." I put my new sword against the table it getting nary a glance from the Monk.

"I suppose so." Lyse relaxed back into her chair as I looked at the bottles on the table. She'd been drinking a fair amount it seemed. "I keep looking over my shoulder expecting..."

"Papalymo to order you around or chide you for your drinking?" I asked wryly as I sat forward, leaning my chin on my hands with my elbows planted on the table. "Trust me. I understand."

Lyse chuffed as she looked to the side. "I'm sick of sitting around, waiting for something to do."

"Well..." I trailed off as I motioned to my new sword. "If you're up for it, want to head down through the Palace with me?" I paused and looked at her. "I picked up a couple of Jobs today and I need to test them out."

Lyse stared at me before laughing. "Someone just gave you a Mythrilite sword like that?"

I snorted at her, my ears flattening in a way that was noticable. "Considering someone gave me a Fantasia Potion as a prank?" I asked the blonde as she looked at me sheepishly in response.

"Well, you needed a way to improve your mood?" She asked me. Asked. Light, Lyse. "We hadn't seen you in so long and you were in such a bad mood..." I waved her explanation off and shook my head.

"It's fine, Lyse. It's actually been helpful." I didn't bother to mention how bad of a place I'd been at that point. "Fact is, I actually prefer being a Miqo'te over a Hyur." I smiled a little. "Better balance for one." I snickered softly.

"Right," Lyse drawled out with a faint laugh as she pushed her chair back. "Alright, tell you what, let's head down through the Palace for you to get into the swing of things. Did you have anything else to do though?"

I froze for a fraction of a second before I shook my head, a smile slipping onto my face again. "Nothing that can't be pushed off for now. Now let's see how well this sword cuts through things, hm?" I picked up the sword as Lyse shook her head.

"I'll stick with my fists."

"Weapons can be fun you know."

"You're a weapon fanatic, you collect them."

"Because they're shiny!"

"You really are a cat at heart."

"I am at that, Nyahaha!"

The two of us left the Rising Stones and took our time getting out to the Black Shroud. The Palace of the Dead waited.


I lost track of the time I spent delving into the Palace, Lyse was with me until the 100th floor as I learned how to be a Samurai from scratch. It was a little easier than having the knowledge just shoved in my brain from the original spar I had with Musosai before it was rudely by Beroald.

She bid me goodnight and I went back down as a Red Mage to repeat the process.

I lost track of time while soloing down into the Palace, plumbing its ever changing depths repeatedly until I was satisfied with my current level of experience with both Jobs. I went down and down and down as time passed. So much so that I came out with a new apprectiation to the new classes...and I'd probably be switching back and forth with my new 'toys' while dealing with all of this soon to be nonsense.

But that was when we left for Ala Mhigo or Doma.

When dealing with Ishgard though, I needed something a little more formal. Nothing better than the Azure Dragoon's finest afterall.

That and I didn't want to show up in any sort of healing gear. It just wouldn't be right in my mind.

So when I left the Palace it was morning in the Black Shroud and with nary a thought I teleported to Ishgard after swapping my gear. The bitter cold was nothing new and my armour barely did anything to protect against the biting wind. I reveled in the pain, taking it in with a breath and expelling it with another. With a sigh, I made my way to House Fortempts. Best to pay my respects first.

Using the Aetherlyte to teleport, I made my way to House Fortempts manor, the guard looking at me and with a bare nod, allowed me my passage.

Once in I was also bade greetings by several of the servants as they made about their day, one of the butler's detaching himself as he walked just in front of me, opening doors for me and leading the way to Count Edmont's study.

"The Lady Taylor, Count." I was announced and I slipped in besides the Butler who looked me over before giving me a nod and leaving the room. It was just the two of us at that point as the elder Elezen looked at me from across his desk.

"Count Edmont de Fortempts." I started, trying to not take a shuddering breath as I did. "I..."

He motioned with his quill, cutting me off. "None of that, Taylor. Edmont is fine." He gestured to the ornate chair in front of his desk. "Sit, sit. What can I do for you today?"

I remained silent as I moved, leaning my Areadbhar Lux over against the wall before sitting down. "I wanted to say hello before looking in on Ser Aymeric and then heading to Camp Dragonhead before heading back home."

I received a nod as Count Edmont finished writing what he was, placing his quill down carefully. "Thank you for coming by then. How have you been?"

"All things considered?" I asked more to myself.. "I lost track of time working on a few things but I managed to find my way Home a few days ago. I can travel freely between there and here now, not in the way I was, but in a more permanent manner. I'm hoping find a way for others to travel there soon too." I chuckled mirthlessly at that. I know what I said to Dad, but everything was all to real and it was starting to come crashing down on me. "I was just...a few weeks to late." My smile was watery as I looked at the Count.

"Oh dear child." the Count's voice was subdued as I took my helmet off just to wipe my ears clear. "He would be so happy that you found your way back."

"Yes. He would." I came across a bit more harsh than I would've hoped, but the Count didn't hold it against me as I forced a smile as I looked at him once more. "I've told my Father part of what I've gone through, but...I'm not sure how to really word things any better." I finished bitterly. "How do you tell your Father that you've lived for almost 15 years longer but still only look 15?" I asked rhetorically, more to myself than to the Count.

"As a Father, I'd say tell him the truth." Count Edmont responded wryly and with a faint smile on his face. "I know you've shared your secrets with only Haurcherfant and in extension me but I think you need another support to anchor yourself Taylor. You'll be left adrift if you rely on just yourself with your secrets."

"Thancred Waters knows, now. It was surprising to find out that his knowledge extended to that area though." My smile was a little less forced at that point, thinking of Thancred and his antics.

"He does know a surprising amount of various things, doesn't he? He's quite a surprise in the end. And quite spry for his advanced age." I couldn't help but laugh at the note of mischievousness in the Count's voice.

"He is only thirty-two, Count..."

"Edmont."

"...Edmont. Not much older than I, really. I mean I'm..." I tried to think it through. "I'm in my early twenties now, I believe? I started this when I was, twelve?" I asked more to myself. I'd always been tall and I was mistaken for an adult in the clothes I found myself in when I first met Thancred in Ul'dah those years ago. "I suppose I should be 22? Well, 27 if one counts my time displacement from when Bahamut was summoned."

"And you used to be a Hyur by all accounts. Transforming into a Miqo'te didn't change much, though you are still tall for one." The Count, no, Edmont pointed out.

"Just the additional bits added on top, and smoothing out my lankiness I suppose." I shrugged it off. "I'm much more comfortable like this. I don't think I would ever go back to the way I was before. Besides, this is how I first met..." I trailed off and gulped. "...Haurchefant."

"Well, with a different hair colour I'm assuming? The black is rather nice on you though, Taylor." He didn't comment on my difficulty of his son's name to which I was ever grateful.

"Oh yes. The Aesthetician had decided my normal colour, which is this black actually, just wasn't lively enough for his tastes. So instead he decides to give me a makeover," I gestured to the little pink heart below my left eye that I had kept because of a stray comment from Haurchefant. "And I suddenly everything was hot pink with white highlights. He refused to change it for months despite my near begging of the man."

Edmont let out a wry chuckle. "Ah yes, when we Elezen go to extremes, we sure take the full measure don't we? I've never met the man, but I've heard other stories. Completely outlandish."

"He just doesn't have Ishgardian sensibilities after all." I rejoined with faint smirk and a flick of one of my ears. We paused in conversation, the silence not as awkward as it would've been a few minutes ago. Instead it was relaxing to me and I quite enjoyed it for the breather it was. After a moment I pushed my chair back and stood. "I should go see Ser Aymeric, make sure he's doing well after this entire mess. Give my greetings to Estinein if he's around as well."

"Alright." Edmont stood as I did, using his desk as support instead of his cane as I put my helmet back on and went to retrieve my spear. "Taylor?" he asked as I opened the door to leave. "You have a place here anytime you so desire."

"Thank you, Edmont." I nodded.

"There is no need to thank family, Taylor."

I didn't know what to say to that. All I could do was be grateful I was wearing my helmet once more as I left the study. I didn't want him to see the fresh tears in my eyes. Now or ever.


The outside was still bitterly cold, matching my exterior with my interior as I made my way down towards the Congregation of Our Knights Most Heavenly.

Such a pretentious name if you're asking me.

I walked by the guards without nary a glance, they knew me by now and wouldn't stand in my way to see Ser Aymeric. The only person to stand in my way as I strode in and made my way through the building was Lucia. The Garlean was looking well and I stopped to greet her specifically. "Lucia."

"Taylor." she responded dryly. "Here to meet with Ser Aymeric?"

"If he isn't busy." I said. She shook her head in the negative. "Lead the way then, please."

She turned on her heal and briskly lead the way. "Pray tell the meaning of this meeting?"

I decided to humor her. "Supplies for the sojourn into Ala Mhigo. Chocobos are needed for supply runs into Gyr Abania from the Black Shroud. The cleaning effort of Baelsar's Wall is nearing completion and we're going to be making our ways inward once Alphinaud returns with General Raubahn's word."

Lucia glanced over her shoulder at me. "And those are things I'm capable of taking care of.."

"Which is why I told you. But now you get to sit through a meeting of pointless flower wording before running off to do what needs to be done in about ten to fifteen minutes." I smirked a little at her as she rolled her eyes at me. "Really though, I came to see how he was doing. I was going to be looking for you after for just that. But since I came across you first instead of at the same time." I splayed my hands out in a shrug and continued to walk with her.

"I'll leave the two of you to your conversation then. Anything else?"

"Estinein around?"

"Nay, off on another contemplation walk of sorts."

"Mm, thank you Lucia."

"Farewell, Taylor. Good tidings to you."

She left me at Ser Aymerics entrance after announcing me for our benefit, leaving me with the door closed behind me and Ser Aymeric much like Count Edmont behind a desk, busy with paperwork. "Ser Aymeric." I greeted

The Elezen stood and nodded at me. "Lady Taylor." he greeted in kind. "You are here to oversee the requisitions I take it?"

"Quite." I nodded as I strode over, leaning my lance against his desk and removed my helmet once again before sitting down on one of the two chairs. "I've already spoken to Lucia about everything that the others members of the Alliance needed."

"I see, and yet you've still come to see me." Aymeric smiled at me as he sat down after I was settled. "It is nice to see a familiar face after dealing with all of this."

"It sounds like you need to take some time off." I pointed out as I looked at all of the paperwork he'd been working on. "And to delegate a little bit more than you have been." I narrowed my eyes at him as I looked around. "You've got minions for all of this now." Ser Aymeric frowned minutely at that and I couldn't help but laugh gently at that. "I don't mean be like your...Father." I said the word with distaste as I thought of Thordan and the rest of the Heavensward. "You need more than Lucia to trust with these things."

He smiled at me slyly as he gestured around. "You're right. Want a job?"

Pfft.

Hah.

No.

"You couldn't give me enough to even consider it, let alone say yes." I deadpanned at him. "Me behind a desk? I'd go nuts."

"Can you blame me for trying?" Ser Aymeric spread his hands with a grin before becoming a little more serious. "I'm doing fine though. I'm healed from all of my injuries."

I nodded slowly at that. "Good." I paused and repeated myself. "Good."

From there we trailed off into meaningless conversation, how things were going, minor details here and there.

Then it was off to Camp Dragonhead.

Off to see Haucherfant's grave.


Camp Dragonhead was colder than Ishgard. The lack of as many buildings and the smaller walls made the wind worse. The fact that where I was headed was a cliff side made the wind even more harsh but I paid it no heed in the end. But my first stop before heading to Providence Point, was to check in on Emmanellain. He had very recently taken over Haucherfant's duty in Camp Dragonhead but by all reports had been doing a fair job.

Considering the very rapid pace the boy had to grow up in the past month or so, it was a nice surprise to see he was handling himself as well as he did.

I didn't stop in to greet him, in fact all I did was see that things were progressing smoothly as the young Elezen did his paperwork under the watchful eye of Honoroit. Both were diligent in their work so I quietly left before either of them even noticed my presence. I gave the other guards here and there a careful, though blank, nod, and made my way to my last stop.

Providence Point.

The grave of Haucherfant Greystone.

It didn't take me long even though I took my time walking. I could've mounted up and been there faster but I didn't.

It didn't feel right to do that kind of thing even if I had been putting this off.

I didn't want to go to another gravestone.

I barely went to visit Mom.

And this?

This hurt just as much. Maybe more. Mom's death felt so so long ago now. It'd only been a few years in reality, but with all of my time here? In Eorzea? More than a decade and a half had passed for me. Almost 20 years if I put both times together. Mom's passing had been the worst day of my life. The Locker was the third worst.

Watching Haurcherfant die, after defending me? After I couldn't heal him? Nothing I could do to save him? After he told me to smile? Nothing would ever compare to that.

My revenge was bitter and cold. It felt so good to sate my wrath on Thordan and his Heaven's Ward as I cut them down, one by one.

Zephririn, the one who caused Haucherfant's death? I crushed him beneath my foot and didn't look back.

Most of the Heaven's Ward were good people. They did what they needed to for the their country and I could forgive them that. I granted them a mercy by ending them quickly.

The one that ordered them? Thordan? He may have been Ser Aymeric's father, but he received no mercy from me. His end was bittersweet in that it didn't grant me respite. It was just another death at my hands. Another life snuffed out.

It was also the only time I'd ever felt good about killing someone.

I don't regret that. I still occasionally feel better about myself for killing the Archbishop. About my revenge that'd been sated. However I don't normally think about it. I try not to dwell on the past so much since it would bog me down seeing to the present and to the future. I wouldn't be able to help anyone, let alone myself, if I thought upon the past and whatifs.

But today I thought back. I dwelled upon what I could've done, what I could've changed.

And I did so as I made my way to Providnce Point slowly. feet dredging through the snow until I found my way to the edge of Providence Point and the single gravestone that took up its place there.

"Hello, Haurcherfant." I whispered to the gravestone as I knelt in the snow in front of it. I pulled my Dragoon helmet off once more as I faced the stone tablet and the view it gave off, seeing Ishgard off in the distance. "Light...I miss you so." I tried to smile. I tried so hard but all I could do was let tears fall down my face as I broke down and cried and cried.

At that moment, I was nothing more than a grieving girl, missing the one I adored the most.

The worst part? Nothing I could've done could have saved him. None of my aetheric powers, none of my healing spells, none of my magic, my martial prowess, my extraordinary skills. The Echo that had saved my life so many times in fights, letting me plan ahead for fights against Primals and other monsters both in and out of human flesh? Completely useless.

"Why am I still here?" I whispered bitterly to the grave. "Why did you save me?" I'd asked myself a thousand times the very selfsame question. "You audacious, happy, lovable fool. Why did you save me?" My face was fresh with tears again and I wiped them away bitterly once again.

No doubt, I would've been killed if it hadn't been for him, what was through his chest would've gone through my head. But...I would've woken up in my bed and Haucherfant would still be alive...but in the heat of the moment..?

I reached up to my neck, pulling up the necklace that I wore. That I'd told only one about. Looking at the two rings strung along it, I was tempted to take it off, to leave the rings upon his grave as my final memento, looking at the gleaming crystal set upon the top of the Allagan metals I'd worked to make them.

One for him.

One for myself.

My left hand ached to wear it after I had taken my measurements and had Artoriel secretly give me Haucherfant's. Artoriel was the only one I'd told about the rings but Count Edmont obviously knew as well after his comment earlier.

But that didn't come to pass. I'd never wear the ring I'd made. I'd never be able to give Haucherfant the one I made for him, not in person anymore.

I twisted the necklace around, removing the ring I'd made for him and put it upon the gravestone and pushed. Channeling some Aether as I did, merging the stone and metal, fusing the ring as my final gift. "A knight lives to serve," I quoted him. "To aid those in need." I smiled. A weak, bitter, and broken smile. "Your last words to me, to smile. I have tried my best, Haucherfant. I will continue to do my best, for those that need my help. For myself to move on, and for your memory. A knight, a hero like myself...I shall continue on my path. A path I wanted to always walk with you..." my voice choked as I closed my eyes, clenching at my ring. "I miss you. I'll always miss you."

Slowly I kissed my fingers, gently placing them on the ring I had fused to his grave and backed up slowly, slipping my necklace back down upon my chest under my armour. "I love you Haucherfant Greystone. I will do my best in service of your memory." I bowed as I stood back before kneeling and picking up my snow covered helm. "Farewell beloved, may you find your rest in the void beyond."

Then I finally turned and walked away, back to Camp Dragonhead and then to the Mists. It was late and I needed to get home.


Before teleporting back to Mists, I decided, at last second, to take a detour out to Baelsar's Wall, mainly to see how things were going, and to have a chat with someone. Once I was a fair bit of a distance away from both the Wall and deep into the Shroud, I mentally called out for who I wanted to speak with, only verbally greeting him when he appeared in a warp of Aether, flying in front of me. "Midgardsormr." I greeted his small flying minion-esq form. His red-glowing eyes peered back at me.

"Chosen of Hydaelyn." he greeted me in his own language, translated via the Echo. "Thou dost reek of black Aether."

I frowned, lifting up an arm and sniffing it. All I smelt was cold metal and the background of dragon. "Really?" I paused, realizing exactly how stupid I was looking and dropped my arm to my side. "I mean, I did sleep in my own bed last night, at home, my actual home home, not here in Eorzea home." The mini Midgardsormr just stared, unblinking at me as it flapped its tiny wings. Oh yes, he was less that impressed. Reminded me of Dad actually. "Don't look at me like that." I defended myself as I looked away in a small huff and a faint blush. "I don't know how Hydaelyn works."

"The Mother Crystal doth work most oddly." Midgardsormr intoned blandly. "Now Chosen, what doth thou seek?" He asked as he flew over and landed upon my shoulder.

"We are linked, you and I." I said idly as I walked towards the wall. "You felt what happened." It wasn't a question. "You knew when you first met me, didn't you?"

"Aye," the dragonet replied in his rumbling bass. "Before I forged our covenant and after I broke thy connection to thy crystals, t'was expected of you to dissipate back to the Aether. Yet thou stayed."

I remembered his words, how he would watch, listen, and wait. "I didn't."

"Nay."

"Why not?" I asked, more to myself than to the dragonet, looking to Baelsar's Wall a moment, the imposing wall marring the skyline. "I was just a schoolgirl, lost because my mother died."

"And yet thou proceeded to try and save another from the very selfsame fate." Migardsormr noted. I barked out a harsh laugh at that and shook my head. "Aye, thou failed, but thy attempts changed the entirety of all of Eorzea." I looked over at the mini dragon on my shoulder and stared at him. "Thy companion, if thou weren't there..." he trailed off leadingly and I grimaced.

If I hadn't been there, Thancred would've probably been grievously injured and Minfillia would've probably been killed by that rampaging Gobbue. Then what would've happened with the Scions? What would've happened if I wasn't around at all? Would someone have stepped up? But...why me though? "Why me?"

"The Mother Crystal doth work most oddly." Midgardsormr repeated just as blandly as the first time, I couldn't help but laugh at that though. "You shall continue on thy path to thine end as any other."

"Everything has their own end." I whispered to myself before letting out a faint sigh. "Thank you Midgardsormr. Would you like to see my home?"

He continued to stare blankly at me, red eyes gaining a little more glow than usual. "Through the black Aether, beyond the Shroud of Chaos to thy home." He didn't make it as a question, just a simple statement "There is much to discuss between us, and that of thy Father as well." Dad? What did he have to with any of this? "The taint thy Father carries hast attempted to leech its way into your mind. The light of the Mother Crystal kept it at bay. Hydaelyn shines and protects those it chooses." He chose that moment to launch himself off my shoulder and to fly and look directly at me.

Taint? What fucking taint? "I need to get back. Now."

Midgardsormr nodded, "Indeed." He gave me one last stare before disappearing into a whisp of Aether.

I stared at the wall and disappeared into the Aether myself.

Reappearing in the Mists, I hit up the mini Aetherlyte and teleported to the one nearest the Free Company building, I took off in a sprint, ignoring everyone that was looking at me weirdly, only pausing at my door. "Going to bed, leave me alone unless it is super damn important. As in, unless its from Alphinaud or any of the Scions, keep out!" I shouted before slamming my door and running towards my bed.

I launched myself on it, put myself under the blankets and in twenty seconds I was out.