Chapter 3

"You finally ditched them."

"Can't you just be quiet for a moment so I can have at least one thought to myself?" Ryn asked, obviously annoyed with her guardian.

"Oh, I'm sorry, almighty one," Bahamut mocked. "I've saved your tail a many number of times and this is how you thank me? By telling me to shut up? Remember the time when…" Ryn rolled her eyes and looked around the ally corner. The town was bustling with people. Not many, but just enough to make her "Like a Ghost" plan get flushed down the toilet.."… and when you were in that aircraft, what was it called? Oh yeah. When you were in Ragnarok…"

Ryn just sighed and shook her head. It was better to just let the dragon keep thinking that she was paying attention.

"Reiven, where are you?" She asked aloud, but quiet enough that the babbling fool wouldn't hear her over his own racket.

"Uh, 'scuse me sir."

Ryn turned. A young boy was tugging at the hemp of her shirt. Ryn smiled and squatted down to his eye level. "I'm not a sir, sir, but what'cha need?"

"I'm sorry." A young woman, Ryn assumed it was his mother, ran over and grabbed the boy's hand. "It's just that for some reason he's been having this crazy idea about joining the- Oh! You're a woman. I'm terribly sorry ma'am. C'mon, Cye."

"But mommy!" The young boy protested, but the woman still managed to pull him away.

"Cye. Bahamut, his name was Cye."

Bahamut sighed, Ryn was so busy with the boy that she didn't even notice he had stopped rambling. "I heard her Ryn, but there's no time to think about him right now. Quick, before she leaves, ask about Reiven!"

"Oh, 'scuse me, miss?" She had to run a few steps to catch up to her.

"Yes?"

"Have you seen a girl around here with red hair, like mine, but with black highlights? She's about my height with green eyes."

"Uh…"

"This probably sounds so ridiculous, I know, but I really need to find her."

The woman shook her head. "I'm sorry, my dear, but I haven't seen her."

"Well, thank you anyway." Ryn smiled warmly, though she obviously didn't mean it.

"Oh, by the way, how did you manage to get into the military? I didn't think they allowed females."

Ryn sighed and forced another smile. "Well, you see… it's a long story." Before the mother could ask another question, Ryn was gone.

"Well, that was most unrewarding," Ryn groaned.

"Obviously you're outfit is making a scene. Perhaps you should change?"

"You mean go back to my room and see if there's anything to change into?"

"That's a good idea."

Ryn sighed and turned around, heading back towards the inn. "I just hope no one's in there. I don't want to have to throw those fools out the window this time…"

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Ryn walked through the inn entrance, slipping past the innkeeper as he was busy with another customer. Speeding up the stairs, she barely missed running into a maid carrying a duffle bag in her arms. Only a quick glance saved Ryn from a few unwanted conversations. "S'cuse me but where did you find that bag?"

"Oh this? It belongs in the last room down there on the left. Apparently some customers were having a brawl of some sort and we have to clean out the room. I'm placing the things over there in the hall."

"Well, this is mine." Ryn grabbed the bag before she could argue and sped back down the steps and out the door. "Bahamut, why am I running so much today?"

"Probably 'cause you have a nasty habit of getting into trouble." the dragon muttered.

A quick change put her in a white t-shirt and light blue, long-sleeved jacket that she zipped half way up her torso. Loosely fitted, back pants and high brown boots finished off the outfit nicely. "Now, let's find Reiven."

"Good idea. You lead the way." The redhead finished throwing her long hair into a bun and strolled up a path that seemed to lead out of the town. A huge, two story mansion stood ghost-like on her left. The cracked windows gave little view into the dark room behind them, but Ryn guessed that the place had been abandoned for years. She strolled up to the steps to the front doors, pushing them open a crack.

"You sure this is a good idea?" Bahamut asked.

"I'll just have a small peak. This is just the kind of place that Reiven would be hiding in."

"Alright, I'm trusting you." Just as Ryn thought, the place was definitely abandoned. The front hall was littered with debris ranging from tables to the chandelier that had once been hanging elegantly on the ceiling Taking her focus off the ground, she moved further into the room. A tall staircase spread out before her. It branched off at the top to the two different sides of the second floor. Off to her right, stood another room, but debris was covering the entrance. The room to her left was clearer, but still not worth the risk of venturing into. So, she took the stairs.

"Funny, I thought you'd be here earlier. Get tied up with the natives?"

Ryn sighed, knowing that Reiven was most likely standing right behind her with her scythe inches from her neck. "I'm getting bored of this charade…. Don't you tactics ever change, Reiven?"

"If you turn around you'll realize that a few things have indeed changed." Ryn reluctantly obeyed. There was no scythe at her throat, in fact there was no weapon in sight. Reiven stood in the open foyer next to the chandelier. Her eyes weren't the crimson red that she expected them to be, but the forest green that was almost soothing. "Reiven?" She asked, unsure if this was her friend from long ago, or just another trick.

"That's my name. It's been a while, hasn't it, Ryn?" Her smile looked genuine, but was it really? Griever had pulled such a ruse on her before. Reiven opened her arms, as if waiting for Ryn to jump into the hug, but the redhead just narrowed her eyes and stayed still, her grip tightening on the railing. Reiven chuckled. "As suspicious as ever. Is there anything that I can do that would convince you that it's really me?"

Ryn shook her head. "No, Griever, you can't."

Reiven shrugged, her laughter becoming less innocent. "Either you've become less gullible, or your luck still holds."

"And you thought I was being cliché?" Ryn mocked, walking down the staircase to meet Reiven in the entrance. "I expected so much more from my equal."

"'Equal?' You mean your superior right?" Ryn reached for her swords, figuring that Reiven would reach for her scythe, but she still remained still.

"Bahamut, I don't like this. What's she doing?"

"Just be careful. She likes to fool around."

"Don't need to tell me twice."

"So, you still talk to that reptile guardian of yours I see?" Reiven feigned interest in her fingernails, glancing up momentarily to make eye contact before returning to the invisible dirt under the nails.

"Unlike you."

The other redhead shrugged. "I say hi every now and again. He never seems to want to talk to me anymore though." A small chuckled escaped. "I must admit, I don't miss his banter-"

"You don't mean that."

"I don't? What has he ever been to me? A guardian? When did I ever need a guardian? I can and always could take care of myself."

"Then why fall for Griever?"

"Oh who really cares? It's all in the past. You really should be worrying about the present. 'Cause," she laughed again, taking a few steps forward, forcing Ryn back. "right now I'm in front of you, with more then enough power to wipe your sorry ass from this world, the past, and our crumbling future." She brushed a finger across Ryn's cheek.

Ryn froze. Every nerve in her body seemed to turn into solid ice. Her breath quickened, puffs of icy mist forcing its way through her lips instead of comforting warmth. She wasn't sure whether it was from the touch, or from Reiven's statement. "The future's… crumbling?"

"Aw, is our heroine worried about her fiancé?" She smirked, seeing that her magic still had a firm hold. "Come, I want to show you something." Her index finger signaled her forward.

Ryn's feet moved on her own, just as she expected them to. "You and your games. Can't you ever be serious for once?"

"I've been nothing but serious ever since we started this charade." She led her up the stairs and down the hallway to the right. Three rooms branched off. One with giant, stained-glass windows, another littered with still more debris and a third which looked like a bedroom. "There," Reiven motioned her puppet into the room, stopping her at a the curved sectioned of the wall just to the left of the doorway. Ryn stared at the spot, wondering what Reiven was up to. She didn't expect Reiven to kill her. Griever wouldn't do something so forward and for some reason he still wanted her alive. Probably to torment Reiven.

The stone wall seemed solid enough. Ryn didn't expect it to open and yet here it was, sliding aside as soon as Reiven drew a certain symbol on one of the stones. Ryn didn't catch what it looked like, but she doubted she would have any use for such information. The wall opened into a long dark pit with nothing but an old, dissolving wooden stairwell leading to the bottom. "Figures…" Ryn muttered and Reiven snickered. The spell led Ryn down the stairwell first. Determined not to get bested by her fear of heights, Ryn looked straight at the wall in front of her. She almost resorted to counting the bricks as she walked by, but Reiven was still as talkative as ever.

"In a few hours another man will venture down these same stairs, but for a totally different reason." The stairs ended at a cavern, but Reiven forced her forward. Small lanterns were lit on the walls even though that seemed virtually impossible to Ryn. It had to have been decades since the last person had ventured down this path. Spider webs littered the corners, bare of the insect that spun the masterpiece, but still held the corpses of its victims. Small holes were scattered along the path's edge, housing the only living occupants; rats. Water dripped off to the right, but neither had to look to know that the moisture from the ground above was seeping through a crack in the rock.

"How do you know all this?" Ryn asked.

"You may have already met the man," Reiven continued, ignoring the question. "I think I saw you with him before at the inn. He's the tall one with the long silver hair. Sephiroth I think his name was. Anyway, he's gunna come down here and read some documents then cause a whole bunch of chaos." She clapped her hands together. "Isn't that wonderful?!" Her laughter made Ryn shiver.

"Reiven, why are we here?"

"Too bad you won't be able to see all the action. It's going to be such a show!"

"Listen, I don't give a shit about your damn entertainment! Just tell me where we are and why we're here!" The redhead yelped when her little toe connected hard with a rock sticking out of the floor. She bit her tongue to hold back the tears.

"Ah ha! We're here." Reiven clasped her hands in delight once more before opening a wooden door to Ryn's left. The door opened to darkness, but a simple casting of Fira lighted the remaining torches. Four coffins were laid evenly across the floor. Three lined side by side in from of the two and the fourth in the back on a raised slab of stone. Reiven led Ryn over to this particular one. She opened the lid, emptied it's contents, including the bones resting peacefully on the bottom, and put Ryn in.

"Is this really the only thing that you could think of to get rid of me? Why not just kill me and get it over with?"

"'Cause I know how much you like being nailed shut in coffin. And besides, I don't need you dead, just out of the way for a few days. I can't have you roaming around here causing all sorts of mischief."

"Like you will be you mean."

"Not at all! I have some very important non-mischief-like things to do while I'm here. Now, Sleep."

Ryn's eyelids drooped, her muscles becoming lax from the spell. She saw the lid close and Reiven's quiet "Good night!" before she sunk into unconsciousness.

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"Ryn! For goodness sakes, Ryn wake up!"

Ryn recognized the voice, it was same one that had been living in her head for the past two years, but she noted that this time it wasn't inside her head. Instead the voice was coming from in front of her. She opened her eyes and yelped when she saw the scaly snout of her dragon guardian. Bahamut's icy blue eyes contradicted her own warm hazel ones, but they still held their own source of heat. The skin near those eyes wrinkled up into some sort of dragon smile. He backed off, laying down a few feet from where Ryn now stood. He had black scales that seemed to shimmer a light blue every time his body moved with silver claws arching from the tips of each massive wing. When Bahamut chose her to be his partner, Ryn had to admit that she was a little scared. The thought of a giant reptile living in her subconscious would frighten any typical human, but when she actually came face-to-face with him she wasn't scared at all. He was powerful, that she knew, but his size would make one think differently. His torso stretched to be about 18 feet long with his tail adding another 6 feet. His neck curved elegantly from firm shoulders, adding yet another 5-6 feet.

Ryn walked up to her scaly friend and placed a hand on his neck. Even laying down the dragon was about 7 feet tall. "I take it my body's still sleeping."

Bahamut nodded and nudged his human friend under the chin. "I'm surprised you fell for such a trick." The reptilian hiss in his voice used to make Ryn shiver, but the middle tenor pitch that she'd gotten used to hearing always counteracted the snake-like side. It reminded her of a light rain, although she could never figure out why. "Lately you've become really lax, Ryn. I mean she petrified you with Break earlier, manipulated you with-I don't even know how she manipulated you-, and now put you out of commission with Sleep. What's happened? You've never been so careless."

"I don't even understand it myself. I know I've junctioned myself against such attacks, well, all but Break. Perhaps such immunities don't work in this dimension."

"I guess that would make sense."

"How long have I been out then? A few hours?" Ryn stretched her arms above her head, her mouth opening into a large yawn.

Bahamut sighed and shook his head. "More like a couple of days."

"Days?!" Ryn shouted. "Sleep's never lasted that long! How in the world have I been out for days?!"

"I don't know, Ryn. All I know is that while you've been laying here dreaming Reiven's been causing a whole lot of mischief. Things haven't exactly been peaceful."

"B-but why didn't you wake me up sooner?"

"Now Ryn, you know that it's very difficult to make a connection when your partner is unconscious. It's taking all my energy just to sustain this 'limbo'."

"Well, we have to get me awake somehow." Bahamut rolled his eyes, as if the answer was obvious." I'll just use Esuna and get me out of this mess." The redhead closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She muttered "Esuna" and suddenly her body was enveloped in the same green light as before.


A/N: Alright, here's chapter 3! Woohoo! Yeah, kinda a boring one in spots, but hopefully it turned out alright in your eyes. Things are going to start slowing down now. I'm in a writing class at school and, unfortunately most of my attention is going to be on that. I'll be writing, of course, but things just might take longer. Oh, there's a few spots that I wasn't totally sure on the certain amount, so let me know of any mess-ups. Well, I hope you enjoyed this chapter and thank you for reading! Your support is what keeps me going!

Strata