It was roughly in the early hours of twilight when the Valhalla set down in one of the forests surrounding Timber. Though Raine wanted to pursue Virados as quickly as possible, but she knew from the condition of her friends and the feelings her own body was giving her, that the Wolf Pack needed rest. With day after day of fighting after him and against him, the team was becoming extremely fatigued. One day would be more than enough to recover, then the Pack could assault Virados at full strength. Raine hoped then, when they were at full power, that it would be enough to combat their enemy, and for once triumph over him. Then, and only then, would everything be over and done with.
The ten soldiers meandered through the streets of Timber, not meeting many people on the way to the hotel, everyone having returned home to their families. Upon reaching the hotel, the team had to gather together their money, and just barely had enough to pay for rooms that night. Raine, Epsilon, Andraia and Edea went into their rooms, ready for sleep the second they hit the hotel's entrance. The others however, had too much energy and anxiousness built up in their bodies to actually fall asleep. They settled on going to sleep later, and spending some time downstairs before retiring to their rooms on the upper levels of the hotel.
Lilliana was sitting on one of the windowsills downstairs in the hotel lounge, looking out into the night. Timber was her hometown, though she had left it long ago for Deling City. Her parents would probably be expecting a visit if she was in town, yet she knew that there was simply no time for that.
She felt a hand tap her shoulder, and she looked up to the owner of that hand. Smiling back at her was the face of Corin, who apparently couldn't get to sleep either, much like the rest of the Wolves. "Hey, Lily. How are you feeling? Bahamut isn't making you feel sick or anything, right?"
She chuckled, "Nah, that feeling only lasts for a little while. It went away by the time I summoned him against Emerald Weapon. Thanks for asking."
He waved his hand in dismissal. "Don't worry about it. So, what are you doing down here? You look kinda deep in thought."
"Oh, I was just going over some memories. Childhood ones, mainly. I grew up here, you know? Just being near Timber sets off those kind of emotions again."
He nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I feel the same way whenever I'm around Balamb. I had some good times there. My brother still lives there with his wife near the town entrance. Haven't been back home in a while."
"Yeah. Hopefully, when this is all over, we can all go back home." Lilliana replied with a slight smile. She sat up after that, a cheerful gleam in her sapphire eyes. "Say.... would come with me to Odell Lake? It isn't very far away, we'll be back for it gets too late."
"Odell Lake.. w-with me?" He asked nervously. He laughed slightly, "Um... yeah, sure. Okay, let's get going. Best not let Raine know, she might get mad at us for going out so late."
"Good," Lilliana said. "I don't think we've got to worry about monsters, but I guess if we find any, we won't have a problem. Our fists are the deadliest weapons out there right now!"
"Yeah, exactly! Come on, let's get going."
Julia spotted two figures moving rapidly away from the hotel and out into the plains which led towards the massive lake nearby. Squinting in the night, she was still able to make out who they were, despite the fact that they were so very far away. She shook her head and laughed slightly.
"Dincht and Frieda are escaping. Raine won't be happy if she finds out they're going out at this time of night, when the monsters are out more."
"Well, how will Raine find out if nobody tells her?" Zion said, smirking. "Besides, you wanted those two to get together, right? Maybe they're going to do so out there, away from everybody else. You know how nervous Dincht can get around everyone on the subject of romance."
Julia rolled her eyes at his last comment as the two continued to walk through the botanical garden in the back of the Timber hotel. Usually closed at this time of night, it had taken Julia some persistant begging and whining to one staff member in order to have it unlocked for her and Zion. Why she had wanted in was a mystery to Zion, but he wasn't complaining. At least they were alone for the first time in a long while.
There wasn't any artificial lighting in the garden, so it was almost pitch black. Because of that, Zion once again tripped and nearly fell over an unknown object, which his eyes couldn't make out. Julia laughed, having been the second time he did that since they entered. Zion frowned, mainly at Julia's ability to see in the dark due to her Mysidian genes. She helped him get his bearings back by grabbing him by the shoulder, and pulling him next to her.
"So..." He began. "Why'd you want to go out here in the middle of the night?"
She laughed, "You probably aren't liking it are you? Flowers would be bad enough, but in the dark? You must be having a horrible time. Mmm.... I just wanted to be alone with you really." She said, and then turned to her left and gently cupped a baby pink rose bud. "And... I like nature. Seemed like the perfect place to me."
"I'm not having a horrible time. I like being alone with you. Though... I do admit flowers aren't really my thing. They're still not too bad looking though. I guess. I never pictured you to be a flower person either."
She sat down on a nearby bench, and motioned for him to do the same. He could barely see, so she grabbed his hand and led him over to her, letting him sit down on the small wooden structure. "I'm a lot more to me than a grenade launcher and giant magic spells of destruction. There's more depth to me than that." She chuckled afterwards shortly, a small smile tugging at her lips. "Not much, but there's still something deep down in there."
"Like what for instance? You don't talk about yourself much."
"Well... a lot of people, even some of the Wolves I assume, just think of me being a psychotic murderer without a conscience. I admit that my hands are probably more bloodstained than anyone else's here, but... I have some compassion. I don't kill like those people are just robots or something. I have some feelings. True, they might wear away after many more years of combat, but... who knows?"
"I don't think that. I never did." He replied, caressing her back absent-mindedly while he talked. "I highly doubt any of the other Wolves do, too."
"I did a bunch of bad things before the army. I didn't tell Edea or Raine this, but I didn't have much of a choice on joining the army or not. For me, it was either the army, or I don't know how long rotting in the Deling jail cells. I told them, when I was seventeen, that I was going to enlist, but I didn't give them a reason why. They went along with me, Raine far more willing than Edea though. I'm still unsure of why Edea joined. She's just too peaceful."
"If it's not rude, can I ask you something? What did you do that got you in trouble?" Zion asked her, looking into her eyes, or at least trying to in the darkness. The only part of her eyes that was illuminated was a spot in each one that was reflecting the moon.
She chuckled, trying to remember her not to glamorous teenage years. "It was a bunch of things. I worked for the Deling underworld. Kind of like an assassin or just doing all that little dirty work. Some highlights of that career were robbing banks, killing anyone who knew too much, fighting off rival crime rings, etc. Like I said, not too pretty. But.... I don't want to talk anymore about me. Tell me about you and your life."
"About me? There's not really much to know. But, I guess I could manage something if you want." He replied. After seeing her nod, he continued on. "I grew up in Balamb. On the outside of the city, not inside the main parts like Corin grew up in, but the areas that were for the families that wanted to be alone."
"But you still hung out in the main city, right?"
He shook his head, "No, not as often as I would have liked. My parents had this obsession with making me perfect. I was the only child, so I had a lot of pressure to be the best. They forced me to study to train my mind, and then forced me to do extreme exercises to make my body stronger than anyone else's. I know that sounds normal, but they sometimes ended up locking me the basement of our house, or in some other shut off room with no food for several days until I agreed with them."
"That's horrible! What'd you do when they did that?" She asked, worry evident in her brown eyes.
"I just dealt with it. I was young, then, so I was in no position to argue. I was afraid they might end up beating me or something. But, when I turned sixteen, I lied about my age and enlisted with a fake ID. I bet it was real look of shock on their faces when they realized I had gone. I haven't been back since."
Julia shook her head in sorrow. "It's terrible when parents are like that. The kids don't know what's happening. A similar thing happened to Raine. She was beat up by her adopted parents quite a bit. She moved in with my family after her parents were arrested when she was about thirteen."
"What about yours? The Heartillys and the Darknights? They were good to you, right?" He asked, hoping Julia hadn't met a similar fate.
"The Heartillys were. They were hilarious parents. There were always fights, but they were humorous to everyone in the house after they stopped. Let my sisters and I do whatever we wanted, and such. They're aids to the president, so we were kind of wealthy. The Darknights.... that's another story. Now that I can remember a few things, the memories of them are starting to come back.
"Hyne, my father, was very quiet and reclusive. He was never around because he spent all his time trying to corrupt the senate. He only very rarely spoke to me, and even then it might have been only a word or two. My mother and her two guardians raised me. Dante Roland was one of them, and he more or less took Hyne's place as a father figure. My mother, Trinitaria, brought out my sentimental side, and Ultimeca Loran brought out my wild reckless side. I think Ultimecia also gave me my slight pyromaniac problem too."
"So, all in all, they treated you all pretty good. Except for your father, that is." Zion replied.
Julia nodded back and smiled. "Yes, basically. ...Do you think Hyne loved me? Stupid question, huh? Of course he didn't...."
Zion shrugged and chuckled. "Dunno. I didn't know the guy. I'm sure he wouldn't like me dating you. Though... I find it pretty hard not to love you, so I'm sure he must have felt some pang of emotion."
Julia's gaze immediately shifted from him to the ground as he said that. She felt her cheeks begin to burn, the sign of a blush. Luckily, it was too dark to tell. After a few minutes of getting over her initial shyness, she responded. ".... I love you too."
The two smiled, and Zion leaned in and kissed her. For probably the first time, she responded to him without a hint of nervousness or intimidation.
Lancer and Celeste sat in the secluded resting areas of the hotel, seated on a large loveseat that stood next to a roaring fireplace. The two, not having any normal food and having to rely on military rations found on the ship for food, desperately sought some actual nourishment. Lancer silently had gone into the kitchen areas, but was only able to steal an apple before the staff returned to their duties. To them, it didn't matter. Any fresh food was better than rations. They now shared it, Lancer cutting off pieces with his knife.
Celeste was getting tired, but didn't feel like going to her room. She was more content in her current state, her legs being draped over the edge of the loveseat and her torso resting against Lancer's chest. His arm went back around her body as he fed her another bite of apple after he had taken his own piece.
After swallowing it, Celeste couldn't help but ask a question that had been on everyone's minds. "Do you think we'll win? Do you think we'll make it out alive?"
Lancer remained quiet for a moment, but then answered. "I've never been taught to lie, so I'm going to give you the honest truth. I don't really know how strong Virados is. Only Raine, Edea, Julia and Zion have engaged in battle with him. But after what he did to Raine, I image he's very powerful. There's a good chance someone might not make it out alive. But still, all we can do his hope."
Celeste nodded solemnly. "I guess so. Oh... it all used to be much simpler than this. When we used to just take orders without worry of the world ending for goodness sake."
"Maybe." Lancer agreed. "That was my whole life though. Taking orders. It's okay for a while, but then once you get to an extreme level of it, it can be kind of overwhelming."
"You've been a mercenary your whole life? What about your parents? Your hometown?" Celeste asked, turning around to face him.
"My parents were killed and my hometown was destroyed by and Estharian invasion force when their was just tension between Galbadia and Esthar, but before the war. I wandered around, until another older blue mage found me. He took me in and trained me as a mercenary when I was fifteen. Since then, I've just been hiring myself out to the Western countries to fight against Esthar."
"That's awful." Celeste replied. "I didn't like my family, but not knowing one all together must be a terrible burden."
"You don't get along with your family?" Lancer asked, taking another bite of the apple and swallowing it down quickly.
"No. The Trepe family was held in the highest respects in Dollet. Every one of us had to be an overachiever, a prodigy. I was, but only in the computer and electronic sense. As for school studies, I was always far too distracted or uninterested, and thus wasn't a very good student. I taught myself most of what I now know. Teachers always taught too slow for me anyway. My sister Bianca and I always fought, as did my parents and I for me not being the ideal student. I was seen as a lazy nuisance. I moved out to Deling City when I had enough cash, and joined the army to make some more money. I was a hacker anyway, so why not put my skills to some good use?"
"I understand." He replied knowingly.
Celeste tilted her head, looking out one of the nearby bay windows on either side of the fireplace. Seeing the moon up high, and the stars fully out in the darkness, she decided it would be best to get some sleep. She tapped his knee to get his attention.
"We've got a hard day tomorrow. We should probably get to sleep. Come on..." She said in a soft voice, not really wanting to depart, but knowing full well that they would need rest for the next day.
He nodded, and the two slowly made the ascent up the stairway leading toward the Wolves' rooms.
Lilliana picked up a small, flat rock, and looked at it for a moment. She brought her arm back, and with all her strength, she flung it towards the water. It skipped several times before disappearing before the now rippling lake water near the shore. She smiled, proud that she had finally skipped a good one after several tries. Corin smiled from the side as she thrust her fist in the air triumphantly.
"So you used to come out here all the time, right?" Corin asked, standing up from his sitting position and walking over to her.
Lilliana nodded. "My high school friends and I always came up here whenever we had the chance to. Sometimes we even camped up here during summer break. I still do, even by myself, when I'm in town during our off-time."
"So how come you never asked one of us Wolves to come with you? I'm sure we'd love to go on a big camping trip during what free time we have." Corin suggested. "Not that we see enough of each other while on the job, you know..."
"I dunno." She shrugged, "You guys always seemed to much like city people or something. I didn't figure all of you wanted to go hiking and sleeping the forests. Edea and Raine maybe, but not really anyone else. Maybe later then, after all this Sorceress War crap is over."
"City people. Yeah, maybe the people from Deling... but not everyone. I kinda like camping myself. Sure, it'd sound like fun to do that after the war is through. We'd need something to do then, without all the fights..."
Lilliana shook her head. "What are we going to do? If we survive Virados, and end his little reign of terror in Helios, what will then become of us? All we know is the war... nothing else."
Corin shrugged. "Nah, we could make a living outside of the war. Even without it, Galbadia will probably still send us out and stuff. We'll still be paid, just have more free time. Even so... we'll probably all want families or something like that. It'll be good to be at peace if any of the Wolves ever have kids."
Lilliana laughed at his face as he mention the thought of having children. "You really plan ahead don't you? You never struck me as a the type of guy who wants to settle down at 20 years old."
"Well," Corin said with a smile. "I like kids. Besides, it doesn't have to be now... later maybe. Got to find a girl first though, you know. It kinda only works with two people."
Lilliana sighed, and sat down, leaning against an oak tree. "Yeah, I guess your right. Say, you've dated a few girls in the Pack haven't you? What about them?"
"The female Wolves? Yeah, I've dated three of them. No relationship worked out though." Corin said with a smile. He wasn't upset about that, since everyone was still good friends. "Edea was just way too smart for me, so it didn't work. Heartilly was too much like my sister, and Andraia was way too hyper for me. Besides, I always wanted one of those romances where the two people just knew it was meant to be. You ever feel that way?"
"Hmmm... yeah." Lilliana said, not trying to push the matter any more. "Come on, we should get back."
The two stood up from the lakeside, and made the twenty minute trek back towards the hotel. Hopefully, no one had alerted Raine they had gone out.