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Lunar Cycle -- Chapter 3 CHAPTER THREE
The Ball (sort of)
"I feel like a circus clown..."

"You look fine, Vyse." Aika said plaintively.

"Says you; I know how bizzare I look in this."

"She said you look fine, Vyse..." Fina sighed.

"And what about my hair? It was fine as it was...why did you two have to make me mess with it?" He grumbled, and ran a hand through his freshly-combed hair. "You'd think I'm a sensible, normal person."

Fina turned to him. "I think you look very handsome, so stop complaining. You don't get dressed up so you yourself can enjoy your's so others can enjoy it."

His face contorted into a mixture of sour annoyance and confusion. "Fina, that doesn't make a damn bit of sense. You dress up so other people can gawk at you? What, like some sort of porceline doll or something? I can understand showing off something actually impressive...but this is ludicrous."

The Silvite opened her mouth to try to pacify him, but gave up and snapped it shut. She was wearing a dark blue gown with golden trim, and her hair was secured up on her head elegantly, with some golden-colored pearls to accent it. She herself enjoyed fixing herself up and making herself presentable, but she sometimes forgot that her companions didn't care about their apperance as much. Aika sometimes did, although she did have a tendancy to go overboard with the braids; Fina always wondered what sort of mechanics went into making your hair stay that way.

Aika was on Vyse's left, arm linked in his, just as Fina was on Vyse's right being escorted in the same manner. For once, she caved in to fashion, and listened to Rita's advice: redheads don't wear yellow or bizzare braids. Instead, she had let her hair down, and wore a deep teal-green dress similar to Fina's, except it was fairly low-cut. Vyse had raised an eyebrow when he saw the low bodice of his best friend's outfit, but he hadn't commented.

Vyse, however, didn't relish his makeover by the pudgy dressmaker. The most evident thing Vyse wore was a scowl, and his amber eyes seemed to burn with a mixture of malevolance and self-loathing. He was wearing a black "some sort of suit thing", as he had put it, with a red undervest and a white shirt. Then came the shiny black boots, which he constantly complained were either pinching his toes or chafing his heels. Eventually he stopped his whining and settled on pouting about the whole ordeal.

The scarred pirate's pouty expression wasn't about to dampen the spirits of his female companions, however; they both looked around the palace grounds in awe as they slowly made their way up to the entrance, waiting to enter the building's main hall where the ball was being held. Yellow moonstone lanterns lit the wide cobblestone pathway up to the doors, and fragrant flowering trees and roses were planted in rows on either side.

"How pretty." Fina commented, looking at the roses. "I never get tired of looking at flowers, especially roses."

"Me too." Aika said. "I wish I could grow ones like that...but I don't have the massive amount of money Enrique does, not to mention gardeners to take care of my flowers either."

"I hope Ilchymis is here." Vyse said, completely off-topic. "I want to find out about these rift and wind problems. The last thing I want to do is sail right into a hurricane."

"He'll be here, Vyse. Enrique said he's one of the guests of honor." Aika stepped up with the two of them, and turned to the porter standing at the side of the door with a list. "Hi there."

The porter glanced at them for a moment, then looked down at his list. "Names, please."

"Aika, Vyse and Fina of the Blue Rogues of Crescent Isle." Aika wrinkled her nose and turned to murmur to Vyse. " that our official title?"

"Something like that." he replied quietly.

The porter looked at them closely. "Hm...I always pictured you three as being older. Not to mention gigantic with massive weapons." He cleared his throat, and announced them loudly. "Captain Vyse the Living Legend, Leader of the Blue Rogues of Crescent Isle and the Delphinus... Lady Aika, Blue Rogue of Crecent Isle and the Delphinus...and Lady Fina, Blue Rogue and Silvite of the Great Silver Shrine!" He turned to them. "Go in, please."

"Oh, I guess those are our titles." Aika grinned quirkily. "I'll remember them."

Fina was blushing. "Nobody's ever called me a lady before. I sort of like it."

Vyse, however, seemed to stiffen up a bit as they walked into the hall. "Oh great, now everybody is looking at us."

"So?" Aika smiled pleasantly to the crowds. "I like the attention."

"I wish I was dead. But not in this outfit." he said miserably. Vyse looked at the crowds. "Why are they looking at us so much? That guy announced more people."

"I think they're looking at you, Vyse. The guy pointed out you're a legend." Aika snagged an hors de'oeuvre from a passing tray and popped it into her mouth. "Ooo, fancy cheese."

"Well, since you seem intent on eating, why don't we split up? I want to find can eat all you want and Fina...can what she wants." He turned to Fina, who was still holding onto his arm. "Well, what do you want to do?"

"Um, talk to Gilder." she pointed at the tall man who was making his way through the crowd towards them. The tall pirate was wearing red as usual, but had a white overcoat with a gold trim on it. He had a wineglass half-full of some pale wine or another, and he balanced it nonchalantly on his gloved fingers as he walked over.

"My my, look at what we have here." His grin was pleasant, yet had all sorts of hidden jibes behind it.

"Shut up Gilder...I don't want to hear it." Vyse obviously was still sullen.

"Now now, cheer up Vyse; Look at it this way: it'll be something you'll always remember. Besides, you look better when you're not dressed like somebody who ties down the hawsers and shortens sails." He bowed to Fina. "My dear, you look absolutely raveshing...a pale dove in the middle of a group of rough crows." He smirked and bowed to Aika as well. "You too, Aika. You're a pretty little rose, even if you do have your thorns."

"Fina, get Vyse some paper; I think he should be taking notes."

Fina giggled. "It would be nice to hear some compliments like that now and again."

"Tsk, Vyse Vyse mean you don't flatter your lady friends? Why in the world are they still with you?" He took a sip of his wine, peering at the blue rogue with mischief twinkling in his eyes.

"Because I'm honest to them." Vyse said blandly. "And I don't try to get into their pants, unlike a certain somebody I know."

Gilder laughed, partially coughing on his wine. "Touche....still as smart as ever. Although I don't know what a couple of rascals like us are doing in a place like this, Vyse."

Vyse crossed his arms and smirked. "I'm here by sheer accident....but I have a feeling you're here to hide from Clara."

"That, and Enrique invited me." His face went bland. "I should warn you, have your own pep squad running around out there."

Aika took a step closer. "Oooo, do tell...."

Gilder shrugged. "I ran across them a few days north of Sailor's Isle. At first I didn't think anything of them, but they pulled alongside my ship to speak to me. It was Nara."

"Nara? One of my gunners? Well...ex-gunner..."

"She was there." Gilder continued. "She had Belle with her, and she was looking for you. She said something about wanting to follow in Clara's footsteps and find her one true love."

All color drained from Vyse's scarred face. "She sa...said what?"

"She said she was looking for her one true love, which I assume, is you." He clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "My deepest empathy goes out to you, my friend. I know how being hunted can be."

"That's...disturbing." He turned to glare at Aika. "Grr, will you stop laughing at me!"

She sniggered, putting her hand over her mouth in an act of mock-politeness. "Sorry, Romeo...would you prefer I get all jealous?"

He growled something indecent at her, which caused Fina to gasp.

"Now nice. We're at a fancy ball, after all...we have to keep up apperances. Some more than others." She patted his cheek, and wandered over to the buffet table.

Vyse watched her walk over with venom in his gaze, then snorted in an annoyed fashion. "Do you see what I have to put up with, Gilder? It's been over ten years of that, all the time."

"She's just teasing you, shouldn't be so mean to her." Fina seemed a bit angry. "You didn't have to call her that horrible thing."

"Yeah well, I'm in a crummy mood, and Aika doesn't have to make it worse. She should know better by now."

"You should know better, Vyse!" Fina's voice rose an octave. "Sometimes you're just so horribly blind! I don't know why I even bother staying...." She turned on her heel and strode off into the crowds.

Gilder gave a low whistle. "Amazing...I never thought you'd be so skilled at putting your foot in your mouth."

"...." said Vyse.

"C'mon...let's wander over to the bar and get a drink." He clapped Vyse on the back and led him in the general direction of the bar.

"...yeah, I think I need one." Vyse said morosely, letting Gilder lead him over.

Aika was excitedly trying all the various kinds of appetizers at the buffet table. There wasn't any real semblance of a line; you just went up and took whatever you wanted to munch on. The female pirate was somewhat daintily sampling a small amount of what would lie in a pot or upon a platter; if she found she liked it, she would put more on her small plate. If she didn't, she'd make a disgusted face with the note not to eat whatever it was again.

"Delicious, aren't they?" a deep, accented voice said to her left.

Aika, in the act of popping a deep sky shrimp into her mouth, turned to glance at whom was speaking. A pale-skinned young man, maybe a year or so older than herself, stood there. His long hair was a dark color, but it wasn't exactly black; it seemed to shine blueish purple in the light from the chandeliers. He had it pulled back into an urbane ponytail, except for a few stray hairs. He was dressed formally in silver, black and blue, although the style of his outfit seemed somewhat alien to Aika. However, the thing she noticed the most was the fact that his eyes were as red as blood. The young man was placing a few shrimp on his plate, while glancing over at her with a pleasant expression.

"Yes, I like them a lot. I've stopped back to this tray three times already, despite myself." She smiled back to the man, equally pleasant.

"I've always liked deep sky seafood." The man said in a strangely accented voice. Aika couldn't exactly place the accent, or the way the man was dressed. "Then again, those meatballs I see on your plate are equally as good."

A bizzare suspicion started to rise in Aika's mind. She had heard old legends of pale young nobles from northern Valua; nobles with funny accents that liked to drink other people's blood and sleep in coffins. If anything, this guy definately looked like a vampire. "Are they? I haven't tried them yet." She decided to keep up with the small talk, at least until she could figure out whether this man was human or not.

"They are." He glanced around the crowds. "Tell me...where is your Silvite friend? I saw her come in with you when you were announced."

Aika waved her hand generally. "Eh, she's around. I'm sure she went to talk to Moegi or something. She and Moegi have always gotten along."

The young man smiled a handsome smile, a smile that lacked fangs much to Aika's disappointment. "Ah, thank you very much Lady Aika. Perhaps I will see you later." He bowed, and left the buffet table. Aika frowned, and looked at the shrimp on her plate. What was that just now? Something about that vampire guy was....funny, and Aika didn't like it. And now he was out looking for Fina. Aika then came to a realization that Fina was trying her best to fend for herself, both physically and emotionally. If that vampire wanted to bother her, Fina could take care of herself. Aika happily started eating her shrimp, humming a little tune that was contrary to the small orchestra playing in the background.

Fina was talking to the Empress when Vyse decided to try talking to her about an hour later. Moegi was standing with Marco, who was dressed fairly neatly. Marco was measuring something with his hands, but then stopped when he saw Vyse approach.

"Cap'n Vyse! Hey Vyse!" he waved his arms excitedly.

Vyse came over, holding two full wineglasses. "Well, look at what we have here. Hello, Marco...haven't seen you in a while."

"That's because Moegi and Enrique took me to live with them."

"So I heard." He smirked. "You look like you've changed, living in all this luxury."

Marco laughed. "Naw...not that much. I have to go to school almost every day, and it's really hard sometimes."

"School? Wow, you're lucky....I never got to go to school." He took a sip from one of the glasses he held.

"Yeah, I really like it. There's all these boys there my age, and we learn about all sorts of interesting stuff. And when I'm old enough, I'm going to attend the academy, so I can be a sailor in the armada. Enrique says I have what it takes." He seemed fairly proud of this fact.

Vyse smiled. "I'm glad you're happy, Marco. You always diserved a good family, and a good education. Keep it up, and we might run into each other in the skies friends, of course."

Moegi looked down at the boy. "Run and find Enrique, Marco....tell him that I think we'll be ready to eat within an hour."

Marco saluted, and then ran off into the crowd. Vyse laughed as he watched him dart off.

"That kid's one in a million. And to think, we found him picking his nose on a street corner." He handed one of the glasses of wine to Fina. "Here, I thought you might like a glass."

Fina looked at the glass, hesitated and took it from him. "But, I don't drink. You know that." She still seemed a bit irritated with him.

"It's a party, Fina. Everybody drinks at parties. One glass won't hurt you."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh? And how many have you had?"

"This is my third. Don't even assume I'm drunk, Fina. You know me better than that."

The Silvite looked away from him crossly. "Sometimes I think I know you."

Moegi sighed. "Oh please, don't fight you two. can't stay angry at him the whole night. That little spat was between him and Aika."

"Moegi, he called her a....thing I won't repeat." She took a big swallow of her wine, and tried not to make a face at the bitter flavor.

"I've been calling her things like that since she was six, and she's been beating me up since I was seven. I'm telling you, and Aika have been doing that all the time. Sometimes we don't do it in front of you, out of respect....but we still have this thing where we..."

"Flirt?" Moegi supplied.

He made a wry face. "I wouldn't exactly call it that...but it's similar. We're best friends, we pick on each other. It's part of the goofball relationship we have. So don't be angry at me for saying something to may of noticed she didn't even bat an eyelash when I swore at her. She probably forgot about it already."

Fina sighed, and looked at her wine. "I suppose you're right. Sorry Vyse....I tend to get defensive of my friends at times."

"It's all right....I don't blame you for getting angry at me when you do. I know you always have a good reason for it."

Moegi put her hands to her cheeks and smiled happily. "You two are so know that? This is better than going to the theatre."

Vyse shook his head, smiling slightly. "Don't assume things when you don't know the facts, Moegi. We're not getting mushy or anything."

Fina giggled. "Vyse doesn't "get mushy" anyway."

At that point, Aika wandered over, with an annoyed expression on her face. "Vyysse...." she whined. "...these stupid guys keep looking down my bodice..."

He drained the rest of the wine in his glass. "Then you shouldn't have worn something so low-cut. Don't expect me to save you, Aika. If you wanted to dress for attention, that's what you've achieved."

She grabbed onto his arm. "But that's not what I wanted! I just liked the design Rita made...I didn't realize that it would uh..."

"Let me see a lot more of you than you'd prefer from here?" he said, raising an eyebrow and openly peering down her cleavage.

Aika frowned, and then turned to pull him out into the center of the hall, where couples were dancing. "C'mon. We're dancing."


"You heard me. It's an effective way of getting those guys to leave me alone."

He shook his arm to free it from her grasp. "No fend for yourself, Aika." He then turned and started walking back towards Moegi and Fina. Unfortunately, he only managed to take four steps or so before Aika snagged him by the hand.

"Please Vyse...just this once have some fun." she wheedled. "Just save my butt and dance with me."

"I don't dance." he said gruffly.

"Oh, please...I'm not buying that. You fight gracefully, I've seen you walk along ropes and railings like it was nothing....and you move like a cat normally anyway. Trust me Vyse, you CAN dance." She pulled him to the dance floor again.

Vyse opened his mouth to retort as he was dragged along, but sighed and decided better of it. "Fine, whatever Aika."

The dance began, a somewhat old yet well-known type of dance of moderate speed, one that even a protesting blue rogue such as Vyse could execute. Aika smiled at him sweetly the whole time, knowing that once again, this was a privite little battle between then and once again, she had won. Vyse put on a strained pleasant expression likewise. Two could play at this game.

"Aika..." he said while looking and sounding for all the world like a pleasant individual. "...I'm going to kill you later."

She side-stepped around him, their backs to each other, still wearing her sweet smile. "No you're not, Vyse. You'll keep dancing with me, and fool everybody into thinking we're a cute couple."

The next few steps of the dance came up, and he turned to take her hand as he was supposed to...although he grabbed onto it a bit too tightly. "I told you, I'm not going to play your knight in shining armor, Aika. You can very well take care of yourself, right?"

She winced momentarily at the grip he had on her hand. "No, I can't. C'mon, you know how I am. Can't you do me this favor? Or at least stand with me and Fina the whole night? I don't feel like shooing away annoying old men that think I'm pretty."

He sighed in defeat, intertwining the fingers of his right hand with the fingers of hers, and the two of them mirroring each other's steps. "But you are pretty, Aika. Why can't you accept their attentions and be flattered? It's not like you have to let them have you or anything."

She looked over at him. "What?"

"I said to just be flattered at their comments and passes, and--"

"No, you said I was pretty." She wrapped her fingers of her left hand around his, repeating the same steps as before, but looking straight at him, as opposed to looking forward like the dance intended. "Wow, a compliment from you. Today's a big day."

Vyse frowned. "Please stop making things worse for me today...all I wanted was to talk to Ilchymis...not play the protective knight for you, or dance, or dress up in....this garbage. If it wasn't for you prodding at me the whole time, I wouldn't have even come here. I swear Aika...I don't know why you have to draw me into everything you do." The dance drew to a close, and the two of them stood close together, his hand on her waist, her arm on his shoulder. The music slowed.

Aika looked him in the eye. "You don't even know? I thought you were brighter than that, Vyse."

"I'm not stupid, but sometimes I need little hints. Come on Aika....I don't hide things from you, and I don't try to drag you along, you always do things of your own accord. Why can't I do things out of my own will when it deals with you?"

She locked eyes with him, expression unreadable. "Well...uh..." Suddenly she found it very hard to think straight, mostly because his face was a few inches from her own.

"Just let me do what I want...unless you give me a good reason not to. Besides, you're always following me around. What makes you think I wouldn't do the same?" There was an uncomfortable silence between them for a few seconds. Then Aika opened her mouth.

" Vyse..?"

He half-closed his eyes and raised his eyebrows in an expression of goading. "Yes? Speak up."

Aika stopped dancing and took a step away from him, one hand on her chest. She seemed to be breathing quickly. "I...think I need some air." she muttered quietly. "Excuse me." With that, she turned and fled from the dance floor, leaving him standing there stupidly. He stood and stared at the spot she stood at thoughtfully for a few moments, then turned and walked off to the side with a sigh.

* * *

Fina was watching the little exchange between Aika and Vyse on the dance floor with interest. Moegi watched as well, giving little comments about how well they danced, yet not exactly seeing what was going on. However, Fina could see, and she could read her friends' body language very well.

"Why did they stop?" Moegi asked. "They're such good dancers...I was sort of enjoying watching them."

"Discomfort." Fina answered shortly.

"What do you mean?" the Empress asked.

"Watch." Fina nodded towards the two pirates. Aika took a step away from Vyse, put a hand to her chest, and then ran out towards the massive windows along the back wall.

Moegi's brow furrowed. "That's strange. You'd think she didn't feel well."

"That's one way of putting it, Moegi." the Silvite answered mildly. "It seems that when either of us is around Vyse, we don't "feel well"."

The Yafutoman Empress turned to look at Fina quizzically. "Aika too? I thought only you were...?" she left it hanging.

Fina shook her head. "No, both of us....much to our chagrin."

"Does Vyse know?"

"Of course not. If he does know, he hides it pretty well. And we don't try to let it get in the way of our friendship, me and Aika. Right now, things are somewhat messy at times...but the three of us are happy." She scanned the crowds to find where Aika ran off to, but only seemed to find unfamiliar faces. Then, her eyes stopped on a young man who was looking directly at her. His hair was a purplish-black color, tied back in a ponytail, and his skin was very pale. His clothing, while definately formal, seemed a bit bizzare. "Who's that?"

"Who's whom?" Moegi started to scan the crowds.

"Don't you see him?" Fina asked, darting her eyes to Moegi, and then back to where the young man was. He was gone. "...he was just funny."

"Describe him?"

"He was tall and had this longish dark hair, it seemed to shine almost....purple in the light. His skin was really pale too, even lighter than mine. And his clothing seemed a bit strange, too. He wore mostly black, but I've been all over the world and I've never seen clothing like that."

"Dark hair, but pale skin? I didn't invite anybody like that, Fina. I would know, I hand-picked all three-hundred of the guests. Most the the people here are from Valua, aside from a few Nasrians, Ixa'takans and Yafutomans...none of those races have dark hair and pale skin."

Fina sighed. "I must have been seeing things, then. Excuse me, I think I'll look for Aika."

The Silvite found her blue rogue friend leaning against the stone railing of the massive balcony outside the windows, fanning at her face. Fina came to stand beside her, and put her hands gently on the railing. "So here you are."

"Yeah." It was a tone of voice Aika didn't use often.

"You look a bit red in the face, Aika...are you all right?" Fina peered at her, concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine...I didn't realize that dancing would wear me out, that's all. Besides, it's hot in this dress. I miss my poor girl clothing." She gave a wan smile.

"Oh, all right then." Fina turned to wave a hand almost expansively at the crowds. "There's somebody strange in that party, Aika. I saw him, but Moegi couldn't. Not only that, but I got a funny feeling when I saw him too."

"Really? What did he look like?"

"Hm, well...he was fairly tall, I'd say about Gilder's height. He had this dark hair that seemed sort of...purple when the light shone on it. His skin was really pale too."

"Red eyes? Funny black and blue clothing? Hair in a ponytail?"

Fina turned back to look at her. "Why, yes. Do you know him?"

Aika crossed her arms, looking at the people dancing. "I saw him before when I was snagging appetizers at the buffet table. He talked to me a bit, just small talk...but there was something weird about his accent that I couldn't place. And even weirder, he was looking for you."

"Me? Why me?"

"Maybe because he's a vampire? That's what I think. I've heard all sorts of stories about things like that, and they've all been about handsome young men in funny clothing, somewhere in Valua."

The Silvite laughed. "A vampire? Oh please...there's no such thing. That's just silly."

Aika grabbed onto her friend's shoulder in concern. "But what if it's true? What if he bites your neck and then YOU become a vampire? Then we can only feed you blood and you'll have to turn into a bat, and I don't like bats."

Fina laughed again. "You're so amusing at times, Aika. I'll tell you what: I'll look for Vyse to tell him about our "vampire". I'll see what he thinks about it."

"Yeah, okay...good plan. I'll go roam the crowds and see if I can find Vampy myself. Just give me a few more minutes to cool off."

* * *

Vyse was speaking with Enrique, Ilchymis, King Ixa'taka and Isapa the priest when Fina found him. The five of them stood in one of the alcoves in the wall, near the far end of the hall.

"Domingo says that the whole ruin was just....swallowed up by the East-Nasr Rift." Vyse was saying. "He even drew up a map as best he could of how far the rift extended." he turned to glance at Fina, who had just joined them, and then at Ilchymis again. "Fina saw it was strange."

Fina nodded. "He's right...according to the map Domingo made, the rift has gotten huge. It seems to be effecting the weather around the rift, too. We couldn't sail here through the North Dannel Strait like we normally would, because there were some very nasty storms. We had to sail over the Valuan mainland instead."

"We've been having storms too...great tornadoes have spanned out from South Ocean into our territory." King Ixa'taka said. "Some days, it's too rough for our ships to go out, and we've been having problems with the garpa harvest. Not only that, but something is unsettling about the disrupts the soul, sets one at unease."

"My king speaks truly." Isapa added. "I've sensed horrible things from these winds...a sense of darkness, almost. I wouldn't call it evil, however....I would call it...the opposite of the feeling one gets from normal winds. It's somewhat hard to explain...maybe it was because of Soltis. While things in the world have pretty much shifted back to the way they were before Soltis, a few things are still different."

Enrique touched his chin thoughtfully. "Hm, we here at Valua have had more wind storms lately, but we thought it was an aftereffect of the Rains of Destruction a few months ago...or even an aftereffect of Soltis rising, and then falling back into Deep Sky. How very strange...perhaps all these things are connected. The way of the world may be still shifting because of Soltis." He turned to Ilchymis. "What do you think, Ilchymis?"

The scientist adjusted his glasses. "Well, I do have a theory, but it's just a theory. I wouldn't make any major assumptions at this time...not until we have more evidence from more regions of the world."

A servant came over and bowed to Enrique. "Your Highness, the head cook has informed me that dinner is served."

"Excellent. Thank you." The Emperor turned to the rest of them. "Well, I suppose we can take our seats now. We can finish this discussion later." He turned and walked away with the Ixa'takans. Vyse was about to turn and leave with Fina, but Ilchymis cleared his throat.

"Wait a moment, Vyse."

Vyse watched Fina continue to their table, then looked back at the scientist. "Yeah?"

"I would like to talk to you about this rift/storm problem later on. I would like to share my theory with you...but I didn't want to speak up in front of the Ixa'takans. They're a very supersticious lot, and I wouldn't want to startle them."

"Oh, that's understandable. You can find us at the guest house Enrique provided us with for our stay here. Uh, ask him where it is exactly, I'm not overly familiar with the area."

The scientist nodded with a smile. "Very well. Until then." He turned to walk to his table.

Fina walked to their table, which was somewhat near the head table, with a thoughtful expression on her face. Apparently, this strange storm problem had been happening in more places than they thought. She decided she would definately like to hear Ilchymis' theory, even if it was only a theory.

She was so wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn't exactly watch where she was going and wound up bumping into somebody. "Oh, excuse me..." she said apologetically, looking up at the man. "I didn't see you there."

The young man smiled a handsome smile that was framed by a few strands of purple-black hair that weren't pulled back into a ponytail. "It's quite all right." It was the young man from before, and on closer inspection Fina could see that he did in fact have red eyes like Aika said. She felt somewhat strange looking at the man in the eyes, although she couldn't exactly put her finger on why. Fina felt as if she couldn't move, and her mind seemed to reel with strange images: a large dragon, a fierce storm, something shining darkly in the night sky...

"Fina?" It was Vyse's voice. "Vyse to Fina...hello?"

The Silvite blinked suddenly, and found that she wasn't staring into a pair of red eyes, but into a familiar pair of brownish-amber ones. "Vyse? What happened to..." She shook her head. "Ugh..."

"You all right? You were standing here, staring into space for a few minutes."

"Yes, I'm fine...I think I just need to eat something, that's all." She brushed past him, and took her seat at their designated table.

Vyse frowned thoughtfully. While Fina may not mention it now, he knew for a fact something strange was up. First the strange rift behavior, then the storms in Ixa'taka and Valua, then the strange man Aika saw roaming around the party, and now Fina standing here staring into space. Without knowing how exactly, Vyse felt that somehow, these strange things were related...and they wouldn't be able to find out until later, when Ilchymis spoke to them.