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Captured again. How embarrassing...

"You've got some nerve!" Yeah... nerves like the last twenty groups this week. The guy I was shaking down for recompense due my harrowing position was barely conscious, emitting only a few whimpers as I take adequate gold from his pockets to pay for my lodging in whatever we could get that night. I drop the guy roughly and shake a fist at him and his two partners.

"And if I ever see you guys again, I won't hold back!" I threaten.

With shock, they reply, "You held back?!"

Just then, Kari steps in and whispers something to them. Kari has forgotten about my elf-like hearing, if he ever knew. What he says to our assaulters are words of wisdom, though; that's something you rarely hear out of Kari...

"Just go on home," he says with a smile. "You'd only be throwing your life away fighting with her."

The small party is quick to get up and scamper away. I give an exasperated sigh and turn to Kari, who looks as relaxed as if all this never happened -- or was happening -- in the first place. I tuck my hands and forearms behind my head and give another little sigh, "Geez, Kari... how can you be so relaxed at a time like this?"

In pretty much the same position I'm in, he raises his eyes to the half-clouded, half-clear sky and smiles, "Oh it's just like my grandpa used to say..."

He pauses unnaturally, which gets me wondering if his grandfather was just as forgetful and ignorant as Kari can sometimes be. After a minute of trailing off on his sentence, I elbow Karius in the ribs. He doesn't look down at me. Growing annoyed, I snap at the blonde, "Hey, Kari! Are you gonna tell me what your grandfather said or not??" After yet another minute, he causes me to almost lose my balance in disbelief with his answer...

"I'm not even sure if he was my real grandfather."

Later on, around the campfire near a small river, he tells me that he was adopted by a family in the Elmekia Empire. Their name escapes me right now, but it sounded very, very familiar... anyway, on to the more important things. If there's anything I've been doing too much of lately, it's reminiscing.

Kari and I were walking down the beaten path in the broad morning. I didn't even get hungry; my main goal was to get to Seyruun. As if on cue, Kari pops a question. "Hey Rina... why are we going to Sheeroom again?"

I slap a gloved hand onto my face, running it down so my eyes were visible through the spaces between my fingers. Can he really be so dumb as to not even get Seyruun's name right? "I can't remember how many times I've told you, but we're going to Seyruun because Seto is supposedly one of the priests at Ciephied's Shrine in the city's center. Oh yeah... it's SAY-ROON, not 'shee-room'..." Bah.

As always, I managed to confuse the boy even more.

"See... fee-ed? I never liked school much..." I find myself pacing in front of Kari, lecturing him on how Seyruun isn't pronounced like cream of 'shroom, why we're going there, and how Ciephied is NOT a class in school. He says he never liked school much and it shows. Arrrh... but my stress level isn't helped. This doesn't help a chronic ulcer I have, either. I'm about to give Kari a knocking upside the head when a breaking twig alerts me. I shift my gaze back behind me; Kari does the same.

"Who's there?"

My question goes unanswered by anything other than a few grasshoppers, a frog, a score or more of birds, and a few dozen cicadas. I roll my eyes and turn back to the road.... but fate decides to give me the slip this time. As I take a step forward, the ground, instead of holding my foot up, gives way and drops me several feet into a pitfall. At this point, my anger was far more than could be suppressed.

"Why me, god!? Why always me?! AHHH!!!" I had just enough composure left inside my pettite frame to begin casting a competent Levitation spell, but things never go as I plan. Is it getting a little old? Pff... you don't know the half of it. That oaf, Karius, takes a tumble onto poor me as he, too, falls into the pitfall. Needless to say, I'm thouroughly conked out after Karius' full weight of body, armor, and thick skull comes crashing down on me.

Were we caught in a bounty hunter's trap? Or, more hopefully, was it a practical joke gone horribly awry? I can't imagine anyone trying to catch a sorceress with a pitfall... after all, most mages know Levitation, at least. There's no point in dwelling on what already happened, I guess...

"A-how!! Ow, ow, ow..." A migrane, a backache, a splittingly-bruised arm... yeah, today was one of my less-fortunate days. Through blurred vision I can see Kari with his arms hanging out of... a cell door?! Caught??! This is an affront on my honor, dignity, and rights! And it's also shameful! How the hell did I get caught with a pitfall??

Immediately, I rush to the cell's bars and bang the first loose item I find against the bars. "Who's responsible for this?! I want to know RIGHT NOW!!!" I nudge Kari with the tip of my foot to get his attention, "Hey you... you make noise too, okay??" Surprisingly, he didn't respond. "Uh... Kari? Are you okay?" Karius stirs ever-so slightly, moving his shoulders up... but he rolls onto his back and over on his side. A weak voice comes from his mouth.


"..." Kari just might be more food-driven than I am. It makes no difference to me. I go back to banging on the bars with wanton abandon. "Let me out, you idiots! You have the wrong pair, I swear!!!" This goes on for a minute until I am fed up. 'Only a minute?' you ask... hey, I can't help it if I'm used to freedom and comfort. Anyway, when I'm fed up, I decide to blast this joint. "FINE. If you don't wanna let me out, I'll blow myself a way out! DAMU BRAGHAGHGAHGAGHA!!!!" Shocked with something equivalent of a Mono Volt, I look around as best I can. Every nerve on my body tingles with pins and needles... grrrr...

"Well well... we finally meet, Rina Erris."

A low and young voice prevades the hallways, my shock leaving me for a little bit. I look toward the darkened corridors... I can't help it, but a certain sense of foreboding hits me. Carelessly, I groan.

"I wish you people would stop guessing my name..."

"Hey Rina... you know this guy?" Kari had somehow ressuscitated while I was on my rage trip. I shake my head gingerly and squint to see. "Ligh--oops!" That was close. I almost gave the short chant for lighting, and that would've cost me my consciousness, probably. I quickly glance down at my hands and see that I am wearing two bracers that aren't mine... hmm. When I try to channel magical energy, these things reverse the polarity and turn the energy of the magic into an electrical charge, thereby shocking the one casting the spell. Rrrgh... my plan is spoiled, at least for now.

"No Kari... I don't know him," I answer. In almost the same sentence, I call out, "Who are you?"

"The one whom you have been stuck in, you wretched thorn."

Methodically, a figure steps forth from the shadows with a Lighting spell following about him. He is tall, at about Kari's height. His hair is a dark, dark color and flows down his back and along the length of his robes. His eyes are green, from what I can tell in the dim light, and his robes are those of a priest's. The robes themselves are adorned with various lengths of gold and violet, red, and white cloths. The man holds a high standing within the clergy, obviously. He's just as arrogant and overbearing as a high priest would be assumed to be, from what I can tell.

"I am Seto Endeo, high priest of Ciephied's Shrine in Seyruun."

And so it's come down to this. I right myself onto my knees and grin lowly, giving him a narrowed glare from where I sit. "You finally showed up. I don't think I have to ask to know that it was you who put out that hit on me... and the one who sent hordes of monsters and a Mazoku after me and Judas." I cock an eyebrow to give the impression that I was in wonderment, although I made it obviously sarcastic. "And I, heh, wonder... what a priest of Ciephied is doing by dealing with demons and Mazoku..."

Seto gives me and Kari and narrowed, snakelike look and curls his lips into an overconfident smirk. "It is much too much for you to understand, Little Rina. Let's just say that I am going to set things in history right..."

A low voice calls from down the corridor, "Lord Seto!" After whence, there is a short but indistinguishable conversation between voices. The moment after, Seto's voice comes over all other noises with the same self-sufficient arrogance that he put forth with his first impression. "I'll be taking your small bundle of contraband, Miss Erris. All the same... you will be executed for your crimes against humanity." My jaw drops... crimes against humanity?! I've only been comitting crimes FOR humanity!

"WHAT?!" I yell at him. The priest only smiles and turns with a swish of his robes. "You... you can't! What about Karius?? He hasn't done anything wrong!!" The priest only makes me hate him further with his answer, "Associating with scum only makes one just as filthy... heh heh heh." Seto's musing expression lightens exponentially as he adds, "I wouldn't try casting any spells if I were in your position. The effects could be... shocking? Ha ha ha..."

Yeah, you're just a regular comedian, aren't you, Seto? I snarl and yell at the departing priest as the light filtering in from the dungeon's door disappears. "You are the only scum here, Seto...!" The door creaks shut and I slide down into a sit, my face enshadowed by the darkness of these depths as I think a little. Kari breaks the silence, "F...o.o...d...."

His ghost-like moans remind me: I'm hungry, too. I turn a begrudged glance to the tray; a few crumbs litter the abused, pewter dish. "Arrgh... I can't stand this anymore, Kari!" He looks to me with a brow raised, thick strands of blonde obscuring his other eye. I pull up a sleeve with a daring grin. "We're breaking out, Kari."

He gawks, "You're insane, Rina! You can't cast spells or you'll hurt yourself!" Kari sometimes surprises me with his observation. He must see everything and understand it. Maybe his inanity is just a facade... yeah.

"Oh? You were paying attention, then?"

Kari sits up and rubs his chin with his right hand, "Well, not exactly. When they took us in, I heard them saying that you were just a dud with those things on."

That reminds me... "... oh? And just WHY didn't you knock them all out when you had the chance??"
He shrugs and replies with an innocent tone, "Well they were just soldiers doing their job." He laughs nervously before continuing, "And besides... they were too many for just me to handle, and they already had you. I figured that it was best if we didn't get separated again."

I cross my arms across my chest, tapping an index finger against the opposite arm. A brow arcs on my forehead as I narrow an eye, "And the bag I had with me?"

Again, he replies quickly, "Oh they took that along with your cloak and sword."

I feel like my legs are about to give out from under me. "You idiot! Now they have the Sorcerer Stone, too! AUGH!" Kari smiles oddly, "Uhh... relax! Maybe they haven't taken it yet!"

I eye the area. No sentry... they must have extreme confidence in these little bracers they've put on me. Perhaps overloading them will cause them to break, and then I'll be free to cast whatever spell I want again!

"We're busting out anyway!" I say. "Ahhh!" Kari yells. "Take cover," he adds as he jumps behind a table. Now I'm clear to get out.

"Mono," I begin. No less than the instant I begin channeling the necessary magical energy needed to cast this simple spell, the bracers begin reversing that energy into my body as electricity. I close my eyes, voice growling as I vow to myself that I won't let this stupid thing keep me down with its shocks. "Vvvv," I struggle out. From this point, it's just a little more to go until the spell is completed and released. The shocks are giving me a little trouble when it comes to performing the needed movements to cast the spell.

But I can't let it end like this!

"VvvooOOOLT!!!" I recite the last. I perform the last. I belt out a scream and the forces of my will and the bracers clash. An explosion of smoke and sparks flows through the cell like water as I break free. The smoke filters out through the high windows and allows me to, finally, see myself free of those bonds. The sound of rattling wood is recklessly audible as Kari pushes the remains of his shelter off.

"Yikes, Rina... that was dangerous!" he remarks.

No duh. My whole body hurt. Still, I laugh defiantly though each joint in my body ached. I straighten up from my forced hunch, clothes slightly singed with a few frayed edges which still smolder. "Compared with the things my brother has put me through... that was a piece of cake..."

I put my right hand on the floor in front of me and call out, "Bephis Bring!" The ground, from where my hand is placed, is blasted out since it is made of stone. I controlled the spell so it wouldn't take out the ground from beneath me or Kari, but the spell is effective all the way down to actual bedrock. In other words, this spell will make a tunnel all the way to the lowest floors of this now-obvious tower. "C'mon Kari. We can cut them off at the bottom before they get away." And get my things back, no less!

"Where did they put my stuff, Kari?" I asked him as we dropped through the tunnel created by my spell. We didn't freefall since I was using a Levitation spell to slow our descent, so we had time at least for this small exchange. "Your cloak was put in a store room on the bottom floor, I think." Yeah, it sounds as good a place as any to put a sorceress' goods... or any ill-gotten goods, for that matter.

We soon alight upon the ground floor. Sure enough, there are guards. I go about like any normal stickup. "Alright, everyone. Put down your swords, spears, and axes and nobody'll get hurt." Kari smiles and helps me with some reassurance, "Oh trust me. You don't wanna fight with her."

"Who are you people? Do you think we're just going to lay down and let you do whatever you want?!" A guard captain replies. I sigh and ruffle the crop of hair on my crown, "I knew this wouldn't go down peacefully, but it's always worth a try." I raise my gaze to the charging, spear-pointing guards. "Well, here I go," I quip. In that moment, I shift my body so my left shoulder faces our antagonists. I form my hands over my chest and spin once, bringing my arms outward to their respective sides. "Freeze Arrow!" I call. As should be expected, a freezing mist forms in front of me. I push it outward and launch a volley of icy arrows. Guards topple as their feet are frozen together or stop as they are joined to the ground by the ice from one of the arrows.

"Ha! What do you think of me now?! Levitation!" I vault my body through the air and bounce off one of the guards' steel-capped heads for a small boost of speed. I somersault and land beside the captain across the room from where Kari and I entered. "So? Are you going to give up or do I have to make you chill like the rest of your pals back there?" I angle my head backward; Kari is disarming the batallion one by one, adding an apology as he does so. I turn my gaze back to the captain with a grin. He sheepishly nods and hands me the keys.

"You're too kind," I add with a sweet smile. "But... I don't need these." I toss the keys out to a side and point my right hand, palm open and fingers splayed, and recant my earlier, less successful spell, "Damu Brass!" A red beam lets fly and impacts the large door, blasting it to splinters. I clap my hands and walk into the storeroom to retrieve my goods. Kari gets to knock out and tie up all the guards meanwhile I do this.

Yeah, I know I'm incredible. Still, things are incomprehensibly complicated now and matters aren't helping. I got to my things before Seto could, and thats a definite advantage. All that's left now is to run as far as we can from here.

"Got your things together, Kari?"
With a reassuring nod, "Yep. All set to go, Rina!"

"Good," I answer, rubbing my hands together. The sound of descending footsteps catches my attention. I look to Kari. He apparently hears them, too.

"Hey, follow me... and hurry!" I rush. We have no time to waste... if we can get to one of the above-ground floors of this tower, I can use a spell to blast a hole in the wall and Raywing us to safety. Like I said before, though... time is critical. Soon, we're both back at where we came in. Kari gazes up.

"Whoa... that's high." I shake my head. "Yeah, but we have no time to think." He gives me a bewildered gaze as I raise both my arms and cast them down at the ground, "Raywing!" A bubble of air, transparent but slightly visible, surrounds me and Kari as we're lifted off the ground. Up one floor... up two floors... up three... gah! As we pass the fourth floor up, I catch sight of Seto, looking like something out of hell with a similar glare. We reach the fifth floor and I stop, landing on a remaining ledge. Kari hits the ground on his rear, but I have no time to help him up as I slap both of my hands against the wall.

"OW! Rina--!"
"Too late, Kari. Blast Wave!" Like that, a huge hole is blown in the wall, away from my hands as shockwaves rend the stones apart. I poke my head outside... a clear, welcoming day beckons from outside these walls. I grin and pull Kari towards the exit... but then his eyes nearly pop out. "NOOO! I hate flying!! No more!!! AHHH! That hurts!!" In case to what he's talking about, I grabbed his hair by the end and pulled him out via Levitation. Raywing tires me easily, anyway.

I look back as I fly away. There, in the opening I had just created, is a very, very angry Seto. Our eyes meet halfway in the sky as I fly off toward the horizon. Soon, the tower in which Kari and I were held disappears behind the trees of the rapidly-shrinking vista.

I let Kari's hair go over a tree, so he falls in and crashes down through some branches before hitting the ground. My landing is a little more graceful as I alight beside his crumpled form. "I think complaining is worthless now, isn't it Rina?" I fold my arms and kick a stone, "You're right it's worthless! Geez!"

I sigh and shut my eyes tightly. I hate all this... why is all this happening to me? Now I can't go anywhere because I'm a criminal, Judas and company are nowhere in sight, and I don't even know where the hell we are!

Like always, Fate acts strangely. This time, she favors me and Kari as we see a house up ahead, beside the road which is not far from where we landed. A seemingly glowing eye peers out from inside; I was watching the building since the moment we came upon it. As we begin to warily pass by the house, the door bursts open and who should be standing there but Judas and a stranger he seems to have picked up -- a young girl who could possibly be no older than I was. She looked... familiar. She's also clad in an outfit typical of a traveling shrine maiden.

"Kari, Rina... get in here. We have to talk...." Judas looks somber as ever, but in his actions there is a hint of sorrow and urgency. "Judas... what's going on?" I ask softly.

He sighs and moves inside the house, "There has been a change in plans..."