Next to her, Tricky's breathing slowed and evened out to signal his state of deep sleep. Turning onto her side, to watch him sleep, she wondered when they would explore each other again. It had only happened the one time, so far, and she felt herself growing more and more attached to him each passing moment. Strange, she thought, how easily she had fallen for him after the heartbreak of Oberons rejection. Somehow the two of them had connected even before she contacted Oberons in the jungle, but the bond they had shared had been one of friendship and understanding. Slowly the small cozy room around her faded, and all she could feel was Tricky's warm body next to her. Satorii drifted off to sleep.
...Nightmares. They had been haunting her sleep since the day Oberons had pursued them from Jeuno. Usually, she saw him fighting or being injured, but sometimes she saw his face only. Vile, angry, full of malevolence -unusually emotive for Oberons. His face had always been so impassive, so cold. These dreams, however, frightened her. The one she was having as she lay with Tricky in the theives den in Bastok was particularly harrowing.
Oberons was towering over her, as she knelt at his feet. He seemed to be waiting for something, grinning down at her with a menacing glint in his eye. He reached out a hand to touch her face, and suddeny his whole face changed. It was right in front of hers, taking up her entire field of vision, and his eyes were no longer cold or hard or wicked. They were afraid and filled with tears. She saw his mouth form her name, and the hurt and fear in his eyes shocked her. He seemed to be begging for death, for her to kill him. Her resistance to these feelings violently forced her out of the dream. Waking with a start, she screamed and sat up in bed. Tricky reacted immediately, almost pre-cognitively, and bolted upright with his dagger in hand.
She could still feel the spot on her cheek where Oberons' cold fingers had brushed against her skin. But this was part of the dream... surely not real.
Holding her face in her hands, she turned her tear-filled eyes to Tricky, who had taken thorough stock of the situation by this time. He tucked his dagger back under the bedding and reassured her, reaching out to embrace her. Crying silently, Satorii struggled to understand the vision she had been given.
"Something's not right," she whispered into Tricky's shoulder, holding on to him with all her strength. "He's afraid of something... I can't..."
As he shushed her and laid them both back down, Satorii curled against Tricky's side and rested her head on his strong shoulder. She was pained by the disturbing images behind her eyelids at night, but thankful beyond words that she wasn't alone. Closing her eyes, she tried to relax by counting the steady breaths beneath her head. He seemed to be asleep again.
Quietly, carefully, she began to sit up. She knew that Tricky was a thief and a master of silent movement -so she took pains not to disturb him or make a sound. He moved just a little as she slipped out the door and into the night, but she was almost positive he hadn't awoken.
Slipping down the Bastokan streets, Satorii cloaked herself and bought passage to Jeuno on an airship. She had to keep Tricky safe, and this was her only chance.
The Tenshodo headquarters never sleeps. After inquiring about an emergency audience with Aldo, she was finally granted admittance just hours before dawn. Apparently he never slept either.
Sitting in the common room among the black market merchants and the general riff-raff who served the mysterious organization, Satorii's gaze kept returning to a dark stranger at the counter. He was wrapped from head to toe in dark fabric, some foreign garb to be sure, and exuded a sort of power. It was different than the sort of energy she'd sense from a caster or a summoner, though. This man seemed strong in a different way. She was intrigued almost as much by his manner as by the fact that his eyes kept meeting hers with their cool quiet gaze.
Huddled in her cloak and feeling quite sleepy from her late night travels, she was just nodding off when her name was barked from Aldo's hallway. Standing and composing herself, she lifted her chin and followed the underling to Aldo's chamber.
Having hand delivered a letter to Aldo from the archduke of Jeuno just a short time ago, Satorii had at least that recognition on her side. Tricky's warnings of the dangers of dealing with the Tenshodo rang in her ears, but she had no other choice.
"I am formally requesting ...well... " Satorii paused. She was so uncertain, but she couldn't let it show. She needed help and had nowhere else to turn. All the people she cared about in the world were either turning against her, or had been endangered by their very association with her. This was the last hope.
"-A favor" Aldo finished her sentence while she mulled over what exactly she was doing. He smiled, charming and endearing and deadly all at once. She shrank from him internally, even as she began reacting to his game of polarities with a smile and a flirtatious strut.
"Yes. You see, after our first meeting not so long ago I was made aware that San d'oria has put a price on my head." Satorii sauntered over to the table in the middle of the room and placed a hand on it, splaying her delicate fingers and admiring them. She had never bluffed so hard in her life, and she was banking on beginners luck.
Aldo approached her, holding his chin thoughtfully. "Favors are indeed one of our many services... I'm sure you realize that the granting of a favor on the part of the Tenshodo requires a certain degree of ...shall we say reciprocity?" He his predatory grin chilled her from across the table.
Swallowing, she inhaled deeply to cover her combination of revulsion and dread. Satorii met his gaze and leaned over the table just slightly, toward him. "I do... What would be expected in return for a disguise, a weapon... and perhaps a small amount of training with said weapon?" Satorii rushed a little too much in the last part of her request. She realized as she spoke that she had no knowledge of any weapon other than the staves or wands used by mages. She absolutely could not be recognized as a mage. They would be looking for that.
Aldo's grin spread quickly across his face as he watched her. He knew exactly what she was -a young woman with no idea what she was doing. Fortunately for him, this was just the sort of opportunity he took pleasure in exploiting. As she met his eye-contact, almost convincingly, he quickly drew and slammed his dagger into the table between her first and second finger.
Keeping her gaze locked on his, Satorii managed to supress the urge to gasp, yank her hand away, or look down. She had felt the air move from the passing of his hand, but no steel had touched her skin. This was a test, and she recognized it as such. Her stomach jumped into her throat and she concentrated on relaxing it before she was required to speak again. She maintained her gaze, staring straight at Aldo with as straight a face as she could muster.
Nodding his head solemnly, Aldo stood. Walking around the table to stand closer to her he reached down and removed the blade from the wood with a practiced yank. Looking her up and down in the painful silence, he seemed to be appraising her.
A dark figure appeared in the door. It was the stranger who had caught her attention in the common room before she entered. He spoke in a quiet low voice. "You summoned?"
Funny, Satorii thought, I didn't notice him signal anyone. The stranger approached them both, leaning in to hear Aldo's whispered command and nodding in response.
"You will go with this man for now," Aldo started, in a business-like tone. "He will provide you with clothing and a blade. You will train until noon today, after which point our end of the bargain is complete. We will call on you when we feel repayment is due."
Finishing his statements, Aldo barely waited for Satorii's slight nod of approval and walked back into his inner chambers. The stranger quietly beckoned her to follow him and led her out the way they'd come. It was done. She had requested aid and would recieve it... she just hoped it would be enough to allow her to travel from Windurst to San d'oria without having to cast. The training would be hard, but she was a quick learner.
Following the dark stranger from the Tenshodo headquarters, Satorii soon found herself in a very plain room with bamboo floors and rice-paper walls. He spoke not a word, and she dared not ask questions. She briefly inquired as to his name, and he just shook his head quietly and opened an oblong black box he had produced from a floor safe. She was handed a long deadly looking sword. As he presented the weapon, very ritualistically, the stranger looked deeply into her eyes and spoke a word she did not understand.
Pausing, she looked down at the weapon. Her own eyes reflected back at her from the blade, and in that instant she felt a strange stirring within her. Somehow this weapon felt familiar to her -like an old posession she'd forgotten she had. It's handle was comfortable in her palm and the metal edge was almost warm to the touch, like a living thing. Her training had begun, and she suddenly had the energy to respond with all her ability -she was mysteriously anxious to do so. It was going to be a busy day.