Poor Luka!
by Nightshade

Luka wanted to scream.

For over two hundred years she had been in control of her life and affairs. Now, that the Imperial threat seemed to be over, she had no privacy. Undine checked up on her every ten minutes, the Elemental's reason being that she was "merely concerned". Sage Joch was no better. He would follow her everywhere, and get angry if she left his view. When asked the old sage's reply was, "I'll tell you later."

"Oh? And when will that be, oh great one?" Luka's tone was sarcastic, "You've given me that line before! When will you answer me?!" Joch hadn't replied.

And now, three days into the meetings, Luka was reaching her breaking point. Why me? she now wondered to herself every chance she could. I'd do anything to get a bit of freedom!

Everywhere Sage Luka looked, she saw familiar faces. All these people were at my mother's funeral... I wish I could remember their names! Most of the Ancients didn't care about the names, however. "Why worry? Last time you met most of us was at your mom's 'funeral'" A purple haired female Ancient named Clarissa told her when they met up in the Tree Palace gardens, "No one's worried. I mean, you're Pandora's daughter!"

"Yeah, who knows - you might get a kingdom named after you too!" A green haired Ancient named Lakuta joked, coming from nowhere. It was true that the Kingdom of Pandora had been named after Luka's mother, since she had helped rebuild the capital after the Mana Fortress war. "Your mom was one of the nicer of the Ancients, unlike some of us..."

"Lakuta, that's not true!" Luka smiled, since almost everyone knew that Lakuta Guardian was easily the kindest Ancient left alive after the Fortress war.

"You just want sympathy!" Clarissa punched him lightly in the arm.

Lakuta smiled. "You're a sweetheart. Hey, have either of you seen someone? His name's Geshtar Guardian..."

Clarissa murmured, "Seems everyone in the Dark Tribe is a Guardian..."

Luka hid a smile as Lakuta retorted, "Oh? And what about the Moon Tribe, I may ask?"

As Clarissa and Lakuta started a squabble, Luka took the opportunity to take a walk around the grounds. There were breathtaking floral arrangements and scenery, for which the Tree Palace had always been famous. It seemed to Luka that many minutes went by, and that put a smile on her face. I've forgotten what freedom's like! she sighed contently.

"Sounds like someone's happy."

Luka looked around to see no one. The voice had seemed pleasant, but these were dangerous times. "Who's there?" she asked, trying to keep her voice emotionless, "Why don't you show your face?"

A light sigh came from behind her, and Luka turned around. A cloaked figure loomed over her, though oddly Luka didn't seem scared. She couldn't see a face, though the voice seemed oddly familiar...

"Pandora's daughter? Luka, correct?" the voice seemed hesitant, as one who doesn't want to offend.

Luka nodded slowly as she thought of the man's identity. I know that voice... Then it dawned on her. "Varcricho!" she smiled and hugged her long-time friend.

Varcricho broke the embrace and smiled back. "I was hoping you'd remember me." He stepped back and looked her over, "You're not the same as from the funeral..."

"Neither are you, my Ranger friend!" Luka bowed as she replied.

A few moments of silence fell upon them. Varcricho reached in his cloak and brought out a piece of paper. "I, uh, was going to give this to Alian if I didn't see you. Just the usual."

Luka took the paper. "Undine and Joch don't know. They still think I believe all the lies my mom told me about you Rangers." She looked up at the stars and sighed. "She was so bitter at the end. Towards everything."

The next hour and a half were spent talking about everything and nothing. "We have almost a hundred thirty years to catch up on!" joked Varcricho at one point. They both laughed and cried at their memories.

"Talking in person isn't the same as talking through paper." Luka commented. "Even the best courier system doesn't compete with a live voice."

"LUKA!!" Sage Joch's voice filled the garden air. Varcricho stiffened as he rose. "I'd better go. We both know how much Joch hates me."

Luka sighed. "It's a shame, to dislike someone because they were born on the wrong side of Mana... I'm starting to see how the Fortress War started."

"LUKA!! Where are you?!" Joch's voice was getting closer. Varcricho nodded and left. Luka stared off after him. It's possible to know something that Joch doesn't... wonderful!

"Luka! Where in Mana have you been?!" Sage Joch came up from behind her, his voice showing his obvious fear. "I asked you not to leave my side, and what do you do? You disappear for almost two hours, somehow evading Undine and I." Knowing the routine, Luka started walking towards the camp. And her room.

"In the name of the Tree, whatever am I going to do with you?" Joch asked as he walked close behind her.

"I don't know, oh great one." Luka replied sarcastically as they reached the Palace building.

Varcricho stepped out of the shadows when the danger from Joch had passed. Smiling and laughing, he proceeded towards the camp at a slower pace than the two before. Poor Luka!

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