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Gilder looked deep into the loqua in his glass, as if wondering what could be found in it.

--Temporary relief in exchange for a splitting headache later. Why do I even bother anymore?--

He set it down on a nearby table and was about to go back to his thoughts when he saw Vyse looking at him strangely.

"Normally, you'd never refuse loqua. Are you feeling okay?"

"I'm fine." Gilder flashed one of his usual lopsided grins, and downed the rest of the glass. Fina laughed and Aika punched Vyse on the shoulder, causing the three of them to start a comedic argument. Gilder chuckled and relaxed back into his chair, again thinking about the past.

--Damn... I never wanted it to end up like this, never. But it seemed to be the only way out... If only... If only I'd said no...--

Gilder could feel his eyes sliding shut, and his perception of the outside world faded as he fell into a deep sleep.

/dream sequence/
I was in a familiar kitchen, observing myself. I stood at the sink, with cups and a dishrag in front of me. Silently, Gilder at the sink sighed and picked up one of the cups. Just as he was about to start washing it, Amber came in, her mouth moving as she spoke, yet I could not hear her.

The dream me listened, and then nodded. A tall, thin man entered, clothed so completely in black that all you could see were his gray eyes, with the color and emotions of steel. He nodded stiffly, and the dream me followed him out of the room.

That scene faded, and all I could see after that were small portions of scenes. I grew older, reaching eighteen in the scenes as I trained in the dark rooms. Those faded as well, and I was rushing towards a forest, following the dream me.

Abruptly, the dream me turned into a yellow bolt, and was instantly lost from my sight as he streaked farther into the night sky. I fell, winding up at the base of a red tree. Blinding light surged overhead, and a deafening crack was heard.

I looked up, and saw crackles of fading electricity on the red branches of the tree, a maple. Something slid off one of the upper branches, and I reached out instinctively to catch it. It landed in my hands, and part of it flowed away, leaving a red stain and a dead nightingale.

I cried out in horror and tried to drop it, but the bird was stuck to my hands by the crimson tree sap. Looking around for any way to remove it, my eyes were drawn to a large tree in another area of the forest. Despite the light of the red moon, it remained white, and almost radiated purity and hope. But the mist was rising, already it was at my waist rather than my ankles. A sweet fragrance hit my nose, and abruptly I wanted to just stop thinking.

I shook off the temptation with great effort and set out for the tree, only to be blocked by a large stone wall. With the bird in my hands, I was unable to climb it, though I knew that I had to get to the white maple.

I set off in another direction, but as I did so, the nightingale turned to sand, and the red grains slid through my fingers and blew away. Nothing was left except the crimson stain, and a single dark feather, somehow untouched by the sap. Or was it blood? There was no way to tell.
/end dream sequence/

Gilder blinked the sleepiness from his eyes and looked out a nearby window. Seeing that it was just past nightfall, he stretched and went upstairs, tracing the familiar paths until he reached a balcony. Leaning against the railing, he stared at the moon.

--The dream never went that far before... it used to just stop after I realized that the nightingale was stuck to my hands...--

Sighing, the blue rogue rested his head in his hands in an effort to dissapate the oncoming headache.

--What was the white maple there for, and what did the feather and sand mean? I'm so confused...--

Looking down, he found himself thinking that it would just be easier to just jump and end the pain and confusion. Disgusted with himself, he decided to go back inside to get more loqua. It may leave him more depressed that before, but right now, he needed a way to escape, and this was the only one that he wouldn't hate himself for later.

--Curse nightingale. Both the bird and the person.--

For as he left the balcony, a nightingale had been perched on the Nasultan's palace, singing its beautiful, sad song, and reminding him of what he wanted to so desperately forget.

That's it for Before Piracy, and I know that it is an EXTREMELY evil place to stop. Don't worry, there will be a sequel, I'm already planning it.