This article, Xena's Tale: Looking Back, is a Flashback.

This article, Xena's Tale: Looking Back, is property of Zicoihno.

This is a flashback story centering around Xena Daniels' origins.

A Bet on the Next Generation

It was night time, the the night breeze blew over the grounds of the Military HQ. Frogs crickets echoed in the night and the crescent moon shined radiantly. Normally most commissioned officers would be home already, but due to a big meeting, many were just leaving. But two, in the Supreme Commander's office, were thinking back on old times, reminiscing on the amusing parts of the past.

Xena leaned back in her seat, setting down her drink. "You know how it is, old man." she remarked, taking a sip from cup. Raimo laughed alittle. "It would seem so Xena-kun." Xena rolled her eyes at the statement. "Can you not call me that anymore!" Xena commented loudly, folding her arms with a pout face. "I'm no longer a child." Raimo had always treated Xena kind of like a daughter, she had a good relationship with his family.

"Hahahaha..." Raimo laughed harder. It was amusing to mess with her, they both like annoying each other. "That makes me think back to how you first entered into this life. Oh boy." Xena narrowed her eyes at him, this was not a fun topic for her. "Oh can it. I don't need to think back to that." the young Commander replied, with a serious tone. Raimo leaned forward in his seat, pointing at her. "You were so different back then."

"Not that different." Xena replied sharply.

"Oh no. You were very shy." Raimo said, before breaking out into laughter again. Xena didn't mind much, but this was not any fun. Her past was not the best one either. Though she was very indebted to Raimo, she had learned alot from the great mage. Raimo exhaled softly, he leaned back in his leather seat. "I can remember yesterday....."

21 years ago....

The night was cool, the moon shined lovingly upon the koi ponds of the Vista Manor. It was the home sweet home of the House of Vista. The atmosphere was very peacful, it was family time as well. In a large well lit room, sat Raimo, on the ground, sitting criss-crossed. He looked much younger, lighter build, only a small goatee for facial hair; midlength jet black hair with no gray at all. He was holding up cards. Across from him was Ruzana , even more beautiful lookng and much younger, sitting seiza style.

In his mother's lap was a 3 year old Sanjo , giggling as he's mom tickled him for every question he got right. Seems Raimo was testing the boy's genius with some photo card trivia, usually something 7-8 year olds would do. Ruzana smiled as she tickled his tummy, he laughed in response. Both parents were immensely enjoying playing with their first, and then only, child.

"Alright Sanjo-chan, here's another one!" Raimo said excitedly, he whipped out another card. The toddler stared at the card for a moment. "Raimo, how about you give him a break?" Ruzana remarked, she scruffled his hair playfully."I'm sure my Sanjo-chan is hungry for dinner." The boy giggled in return to his mom's affection. Raimo shot a finger up, to emphasize his words. "Battle waits for no one and not for their stomach either. He hasn't said anything about food anyhow." Raimo remarked.

Ruzana sighed, "He's 3! You have him distracted." Ruzana knew her husband too well, he could overdo things some times. "If he wants to stop, then we'll stop." he replied, as he shrugged. At this point in time, Raimo was not the Supreme Commander. The young woman sweat-dropped comically. That wasn't what she was saying.

There was a knock at the door. "Come in." Ruzana called. Jeeves, the head butler, stepped into the room. Raimo smirked, "Oh what's up Jeeves?" he asked, seeting down the photo cards. "There's a small girl asking to see you." He cocked an eyebrow. "She said she met you in market place and you told her to come here, if she wanted to?" The bulter wasn't too sure what to say.

Raimo nodded, "Let her come in...." The butler opened the door, once more, revealing a young girl no older then 11. She had dark skin and short black hair. She was wearing some plain fitted shorts with a worn-out t-shirt. The girl had a plain look in her eyes, not something to see in a kid. She seemed rather univiting to say the least. Ruzana noted that the girl was quite cute though, just kind of dreary.

"So you decided to come?" Raimo asked rhetrorically. She uttered no response to his question. Raimo looked over to Ruzana. "She's not much of a talker." Ruzana nodded in agreement, "I could see that." she replied. The toddler in her lap fidgeted, trying to get better look at the strange person who had entered the room. "She said nothing but what I told you sir." Jeeves commented, stepping back alittle.

The girl stared intently at Raimo, then trailed off to Ruzana; then set her eyes on the toddler. Her eyes softened at the sight, she had still yet to say a word. Raimo scratched his head, "What's your name girl?' His question was very straightforward, earning him a glance from his wife. She looked down for a moment, as if she was pondering something of great importance. "Xena...Xena Daniels..." the young girl replied, apprehensively.

Raimo narrowed his eyes at the girl. "Daniels? That's a noble family...but...those clothes say otherwise. Is she illegitimate?" He deduced that the girl was the illegitimate child of a nobleman, given her name and clothes. He could not let her go on like this. Raimo looked back at his wife. "Are you serious? Well it's the right thing." Ruzana replied, she knew exactly what was on his mind.

She stood to her feet, and took little Sanjo's hand. "Come on, Mommy is gonna get you some ice cream." Ruzana said, in a soft tone. The toddler's face lit up. They walked out of the room. Raimo stayed at the same place. "Alright I can't let you live your life like this. You can live in the Academy dorms, a single room. Through training you will become strong. I see potential in your eyes Xena-kun." The words brought a slight smile to the girl's face, faint, but there. This had been the first time in a long time, that someone showed real concern.

"" Xena stuttered, twidling her thumbs.

The next day, Raimo had some explaining to do.

" brought a random girl into the Academy? What's your explanation for this?" an elderly man said. He was sitting at a large wooden desk, in a well decorated office. The old man held a pipe to his mouth and slowly exhaled. Raimo sighed, "It's alright, she will be fine. And I find it to be a wise idea." he replied cooly, hands in his pockets. " How is it a wise idea?" the old man inquired, he let out another puff of smoke.

Raimo smirked, just the question he wanted to hear. "She has potential, and a lot of it. I could tell just by looking at the little girl." The words did not pierce the old man. "We all think alot of things. I hope for your sake, this goes well." While hidden potential was nice, Raimo had never really seen her do a thing. so it was somewhat of a reach. " I promise you, it won't go wrong." Raimo remarked, he turned to open the door and leave. "Don't do anything stupid, brat." the old man said sternly. "I won't, dad ."

Xena had never seen such a palatial home before. It was like an adventure walking through the wing she was in, though she hadn't explored to far in fear of getting lost. The home of her bastard of a father was big, but just the west wing of this home could dwarf it. The last two days had been like some kind of weird dream. One minute she's living in the shed of the Daniels estate; now she has her own room at some Academy's dorms and is welcome here.

When she wasn't at her room, Raimo told her to hang around the Vista Manor. He had to call off their first training session for "business matters", what kind of training, she didn't know, but she wasn't gonna complain. Her nose was caught off guard by a sweet aroma. With haste, she followed it to a large kitchen. The old man who had let her into the home was frosting a cake, it seemed. She shifted her view to an onlooker who beat her to it.

The blonde toddler, chin rested in his palms, was waiting to pounce on the cake before him. "His name is Sanjo, I'm sure." She thought. He turned his attention to her. The boy's blue eyes were as calm as the sea. Xena didn't utter word as they exchanged stares. It wasn't her intention to be stuck in a staring contest with a 3 yeard old, but it couldn't be helped. "Are you guys gonna have a stare-off all day, or are you gonna help me test how this cake tastes." Jeeves said, smiling.

The 3 year old jumped out of his seat, and rounded the counters to get to the cake. "Can I have a big piece?" Sanjo asked, standing on his tippy toes as if to make himself seem bigger. Jeeves handed him a slice of cake on a place. "Sanjo-dono, too much sweets is bad, you know that." Jeeves remarked, much to the boy's misfortune. He turned his attention to Xena, handing her a plate with an extra big piece.

Xena eyed the slice. "Um....t-thank y-you." She stuttered. Jeeves laughed for a moment. "Xena-kun, no need to be so timid. You're not imposing on anyone." He reassured her. She had taken a seat in front of the bar counter next to Sanjo-- the 3 year old was currently gorging himself on the chocolate cake as if it were his last meal. She took a bite of the cake, it was great.

Still, her eyes were sad. Jeeves sighed, it seemed her words had not reached her. "What if they don't want me anymore sooner or later?" She asked timidly. Jeeves halted, the question downed the mood even more. There was a short silence between them. Xena awaited the butler's answer. He turned back to her. "Xena, I don't know your past but that won't happen here. You're not the first unlucky child he has seen, yet....he decided to bring you here and to push you into a new world, one full of possibilities. Have faith in yourself, no one is meant to be alone in this world." He finished.

Xena's eyes widened in shock at his answer. She smiled a little, those were words that she needed to hear. "You see, that pretty smile. Keep that, great things are on the horizon for you." Jeeves said, a big smile on his face. She nodded in agreement. Xena felt a tug on her sleeve.

"Wanna play?" The toddler asked. Xena took a few moments before agreeing nervously.

The Essence of Magic

The next day was a breezy one. The trees in the courtyard swayed with the wind. This was the main courtyard of the Vista Manor. Across the paved patio was a very large grassy area, a large pond present with a small wooden bridge stretching over it. It was simply a nice day out. There stood Xena, dressed in combat shorts and a fitted t-shirt, she was trying to keep the hair out her face. Across from her was her new teacher, Raimo, sporting a grey tank top with black pants.

"You can call me Raimo-sensei or even better, Raimo-senpai if you want...." He trailed off, as he could tell she didn't mind such titles."....actually, just call me Raimo, Xena-kun." He finished. Xena just stared at Raimo. She had got dressed up to "train". But how was this supposed to go? She raised her hand. " we gonna train, Raimo?" Xena asked, confused. He sighed, she was still too timid.

"Xena, I'm a Commander in the Fiore Royal Military. I've seen alot of talented kids, but I haven't this much potential in a while," He walked over Xena and patted her head, " Yes, I'm talking about you. It's only us two out here." Raimo added. He stepped back away from her. "So I'm gonna learn how to fight? I...uh..I'm not sure I'm cut out for that. " Xena muttered, nervously.

Raimo shrugged at the statement. "Right. Have you never fought before? I know you're a little girl, but still...." He remarked, crossing his arms across his chest. Xena twiddled her thumbs, she had to be honest. "Well I've fought people on the streets. But they're weren't big or anything, just other kids! I'm not...sure about this." She retorted, stuttering all the way. Raimo smirked, street fighting was real world experience.

"Ok, so I have fought before. But I just wanted to be safe, you know." She said softly, eyes on her feet. "Xena, do you know about magic?" Raimo asked sharply. "Not much, I've never used it. But someone like me probably can't anyway." Xena replied, still having a hint of shame in her voice. Raimo lifted his hands slightly, catching Xena's attention.

"All around us. An all encompassing force that governs life in mysterious ways. It's a living power within some of us," He tapped Xena nose to get her focus on him, " for mages it is like life itself. Magic can be used for great good and great evil. The possibilities are endless, Xena, endless. You can breathe fire, fly, wield a sword with the strength of a hundred men, or even use the elements to your disposal. And that's just the tip of the iceberg!" In that moment, Xena found herself captivated by his words. Something was stirring in her, a desire to learn.

"Xena, magic does not make us but we make the magic what it is and how it defines us and our world. You can change your life with it, and changes lives as a whole. Know that is the essence of magic. "Raimo finished. Xena took in all his words at full force. She felt more then just enticed, this was the first time she felt something draw her like this. Xena stared straight into Raimo's eyes. "And I can learn these things...and great things?" The girl asked, anxiously.

A big smile crossed Raimo's face. "Indeed. By living, you can see how far you can stretch magic and its' possibilities. So are you interested, Xena-kun, in mastering this craft. You're gonna have to put your life on the line in the military, and fight for justice." Raimo stated. A strong gust blew past them. They were silent for a moment, as Xena pondered on this life decision. She looked up at him.

"I'm ready for it." Xena answered, confidently.

Raimo smirked. He beckoned her to come at him. "First things first, attack kid!" Raimo commanded. Xena ran towards Raimo, she seemed kind of swift for a chilod who couldn't use magic and had no formal training. Raimo blocked her kick with a finger. That's when he noticed how she changed in the heat of battle, she wasn't timid but had a fierce look in her eyes. He pushed her back, resulting in her landing on the ground.

"Xena, I am gonna teach you magic. Have an open mind as we do this, alright." Raimo informed his new little student, helping her up as well. Xena had a confused look on her face. "What is it?" Raimo asked. "I just question and request." Xena muttered, the stuttering back in full swing. "Can I just live here, p-please? I don't like being alone at those dorms." She blurted out.

Raimo was shocked. "Well, actually, Ruzana was telling me to do that. Saying I didn't get the feelings of a little girl by leaving you at the dorms.....seems she was right. Jeeves has probably already readied a room for you." He repiled, smiling. Xena's face lit up. He scratched his head, "And your question?" She snapped out it and shyness overcame her again.

Twidling her thumbs, Xena was trying to figure out how to word this right. The Commander was just simply waiting, he had a feeling her question was important. She looked up to Raimo. "Will going down this path, will know. Um....will I find friends this way?" Xena asked, nervous of the response. Raimo gave her a thumb up. "You bet. I promise you, Xena. You won't regret this. And no one, I repeat, no one is meant to be alone in this world."

The words echoed in her head. There was just like what that butler Jeeves had said. The girl's eyes began to tear up, barely, as she kept in her tears of joy. She had finally found someone who truly cared. She didn't know what exactly fate had in store for her. Dropping her reserved nature, and ran and hugged Raimo tightly. The latter smoothed the hair on her head, crouching down to her level and wiped away her tears. "Now, let us begin." He said with a big smile.

She nodded in agreement. They stepped away from one another. And so Xena's training would begin, in not just magic but in the art of combat as a whole.

I Am

"Oi, we're out of milk." Ruzana moaned as she set down a bowl. She was planning on baking something. What was not something Xena or little Sanjo knew, as the young woman said it was a surprise. Jeeves turned to her quickly, "I'll go get it on the double, mada-" He stopped speaking at the lifting of Ruzana's hand. "I got it Jeeves, I don't want you overworking yourself...." She said,smiling. "....actually, why not Xena-chan go get it? And you can take Sanjo-chan with you." The young woman suggested.

"Milady, is that needed? You have the other servants and I. We can go get it." He contested. Ruzana sighed at the statement. "It'll be fine. My son has grown quite attached to Xena-chan anyhow. It's fine, everyone should know how to get things for themselves," Ruzana replied, turning to face Xena who had gotten up holding Sanjo's hand, " You guys can go now, you know the way to the Peterson grocery shop." She finished. Jeeves chuckled, "Oh this reminds me of what Raimo-dono and his brother would do as kids. This is truly the strangest noble family around."

Ruzana took a seat near the counter. "Indeed." She said with a big smile.

Lying past the area of the Vista Manor and near the Military HQ itself, was the huge bustling city where Raimo had found Xena. Sole City, aside from the slums where Xena had hanged around now and again, was a lovely place. The city was home to many ranked soldiers who didn't care for the barracks or military housing. Along with many merchants, blacksmiths, and mages.

Xena was holding Sanjo's hand tightly. She and him had grown something of a sibling bond, the toddler treated her almost like family in just a matter of 5 weeks or so. Whether he was a good judge of character or just overly friendly was up for debate kinetically but things were clear now. They walked down the cobblestone streets. People were all over the place-- kids playing, merchants selling, food vendors, etc. They were looking for Peterson Grocery, the old time providers for the House of Vista.

"So are we almost there or no?" Sanjo asked, still gazing at the passing crowds. She looked down at him, "Almost, just be patient, Sanjo." She replied. Despite being 3, he was quite articulate, which was weird in an impressive way. "Sanjo, did you know Sole City has been one of the greatest cities in Fiore for centuries?" Xena said, trying to divert the child's attention to something else.

Suddenly Xena's attention was caught by some noisy children not too far from her. They were pointing at her. They didn't look too happy or even nice for that matter. "Hey, isn't that the stray the Vistas picked up." One girl shouted out, acting as if Xena did;t know what she was doing. Some of the children laughed in return.

"Yea, I heard they felt like being nice and just let some street trash into their house." One boy taunted, The others joined in. Onlookers stopped to see what was going on. Xena was in shock. Why did they have to do that. She was not a stray or street trash, the Vistas had treated her like their own kid. "I bet she's gonna cry, hahaha!" Another boy shouted, making faces at her.

None of the onlookers bothered to stop the verbal assault on Xena, which bothered Xena even more. She clenched her left fist. Unaware of what was happening, little Sanjo was added by Xena's grim expression. The children continued to taunt and harass her verbally, hoping she would cry. Xena clenched her teeth. They were wrong, very wrong. She wouldn't let herself be anyone's mental punching bag anymore. She set her eyes at the little devils.

" I am not trash. I am not a stray. I am not a freeloader. And I am not some little girl looking for sympathy." Xena proclaimed clearly and confidently. The children silenced themselves. She stamped her foot on the ground. " I am somebody. I am loved by the Vistas. I am going to prove you all wrong. I am Xena Daniels, and I am proud to be myself!" Her words resounded, the children still silent.

Xena huffed as she let out quite a mouthful. She had said what she needed to. Their words would have no hold on her. She waited for them to say something, Suddenly she felt someone step behind her, startling her and Sanjo. She looked straight up to see a young familiar black-haired teenager, which a smirk on his face. A weak blush crossed her face.

"Well said, Xena-kun. You guys can fuck off! Xena is a loved remember of our family, even if it not be by blood. If I hear about any of you guys messing with her again, you're dead. You hear me!" He shouted, send chills down their spines. "Oh crap, it's Kai , let's get out of here. We'll never bother her again! We're sorry" They said, scrambling away. This teenager was Kai Vista, Raimo's younger brother.

Xena thought he was too cool for words. They had barely talked before, but he came off as a nice person to be around. According to Ruzana, he was usually at the Academy or with friends. Xena was happy he had arrived at the right time. Sanjo giggled as he ran to hug the young man's leg. "Yo, Sanjo-chan. Getting bigger, I see. You'll be as tall as me in no time." He joked, as he tickled his nephew.

He turned his attention to Xena, whom was currently twiddling her thumbs and hiding her blush that just wouldn't go away. "I'm sorry I wasn't around sooner. Those assholes won't bother you again, and don't mind them anyhow. Ruzana said you guys were out to get some....." He trailed off, as she didn't bother to make eye contact, or rather couldn't.", Xena, Earth to Xena?!" Kai remarked, waving to get her attention.

She looked up at him. "I'm sorry and it's fine....but I'm happy you showed up anyway." Xena said softly. Sanjo giggled, but didn't bother to meddle in Xena's "moment". Kai put his hand her shoulder. "Let's get that milk and head home, eh, Xena?" Kai remarked. She nodded in agreement with a smile. Just when her day could of been ruined, things were looking good.

The walk home was rather fun for Xena. Kai had let Sanjo ride piggy back all the way home. Along the way, Kai shared hilarious stories about some of the stuff Raimo and he had done in their younger years. Xena had wondered how well they could get along since their age difference was large, but that didn't seem to matter to them.

They passed through the entry gates of the Manor. It glowed as they passed through it. Apparently. the Vista Manor was protected by an extremely powerful barrier. The fact made her feel even safer then before, this home was like a haven for her. They passed by some of the gardeners who were busy at work. Kai put Sanjo on his feet; stretched his arms. "Well, we're here." Kai said, smiling.

Xena smiled, it was nice to be back even if they were only gone for an hour or two. They made their way to the main kitchen to find Raimo and Ruzana joking around as usual. "Oh you guys are back. Thanks for checking on them, Kai-kun." Ruzana said, pulling away from Raimo to go greet Xena and Sanjo. "Yo, big bro." Kai said, as he walked over to Raimo.

"Look who's home. How is the Academy going? I haven't been around there in a while." Raimo asked. Kai sighed at the question. "Who cares about that. What mission we're you on today? I heard you got deployed. Was it a dark guild you had to take out?" Kai anticipated a story of an answer like a kid in a candy shop. Ruzana giggled at Kai's excitement. "Someone's excited." She teased, poking Kai's cheek. He pushed her hand away.

"Hey hey, calm down that down, Ruzana. I'm 17 not 10." He moaned. "Ah, but I like messing with Kai-kun." Ruzana laughed, poking away. Kai did his best to dodge and block her attempts, his irritation building. Xena giggled at Kai's frustration. "Dammit, woman, lay off." He contested. Raimo sighed, "It wasn't anything like that, I was dealing with a troublesome mage from a certain guild as usual." Raimo interjected.

Ruzana pulled her finger away. "Oh you and Gildarts went at it again, huh? Right on schedule." She remarked. Kai took a seat next to Raimo. It was pretty much routine for Raimo and Gildarts Clive of Fairy Tail to fight it out. Though from the looks of it, it didn't get too serious this time. At same time, Xena poured herself a glass of water. "Uh, Raimo, when's our next training session anyway? " She asked.

Raimo scratched his head, trying to make a schedule in his head. " I'd say, like this weekend. I have to overlook the newest platoons for the rest of the week so no fun time for us. " Raimo said. Xena sweatdropped at his answer. Since when were the hell he put her through and "fun time" ever the same thing. Nevertheless, she was excited, she could feel herself getting stronger.

Ruzana turned from Raimo back to Kai. "Now where were we?" She said with an evil grin. A cold sweat went down Kai's face as he jumped out of his chair. "Leave me alone!" He said, trying to get away. "Oh Kai-kun, come here!" She teased. Raimo burst into laughter, Sanjo and Xena following in suit.

5 or so weeks ago, Xena's new life began; it has been one interesting experience. Of course, this is only just the tip of the iceberg.

Where This Path Leads

Winter, the season of holidays, family time, celebrations and the works. Xena had never known the bliss of this time of year, just letting it pass her by each and every year. But this year was different, she had found what she could call a family-- the Vistas had welcomed her with open arms, Raimo was like a father she never had even if he was too young to be her dad, Ruzana was her role model and showed her motherly love, Sanjo was like a little brother to her, and Kai treated her like family as well.

She had come a long way in a matter of a few months. She felt better then she ever did. She thought on how wise it was to take Raimo up on his offer and come to the Vista manor. Suddenly she felt a ball of snow hit her square in the chest. She looked to see Sanjo laughing like the little child he was, she brushed the snow off her jacket. " I'm gonna get you, Sanjo-chan." Xena proclaimed, smiling, as she ran over to a laughing Sanjo. This was just too much fun.

Raimo sighed as he took a seat on a bench. This was the same courtyard he would play around in during his years as a kid, simpler times. He looked to his left, " Nothing like kids playing, huh, Kai? That's happiness right there." Raimo said, smiling. Kai crossed his arms behind his head in a relaxed manner. "Yea yea, I get you, bro. It was wise bringing Xena here, I can't imagine how she would be if you hadn't." Kai said. The two brothers hadn't talked like this in a while.

"Just don't let her get too attached to you, she should be worried about magic not some crush." Raimo retorted, a smirk crossed his face. Kai cocked an eyebrow. " What the? Seriously, she has a? Little girls....." Kai remarked, sighing. That wasn't something he wanted to hear, she should be focused on her training and enjoying her life. Not a crush on someone too old for her.

"Speaking of, I was talking to Ruzana and it seems like she's expecting something special when she gets back from her visit to Fairy Tail," Kai teased, nudging Raimo's shoulder, "you know, mistletoe, chocolates, all that fun stuff. Either that or...." Kai was interrupted by a slap on the head. " That's about enough of that. I already got that covered, brat." Raimo said quickly. Kai hopped from his seat, still massaging his head due the pain. "Good luck, bro!" He shouted sarcastically, as he took off.

Raimo shook his head, that was the same kid who wanted to follow everywhere and still does now that he thought about it. He felt a pat on his shoulder. He turned to see a familiar face, whose white hair nearly matched the snow all around them. "Oden! You're back, what's up?" Raimo said with a big smile. He hadn't seen his best friend in a while. He had a silver jacket and dark pants. The young man took a seat next to Raimo.

"So that's her, huh." Oden asked, crossing his arms against his chest. "Mhm. She's got a talent, Oden. Alot of it, she can really change her life with the proper help." Raimo replied, proud of his newest student. " She's not Oros-kun, but under that innocent appearance she's has the look of someone who can go far." He said, smiling at Xena and Sanjo still fighting it out with snow balls. The atmosphere was relaxed as ever.

Oden clapped his hands to get Raimo's attention. "Enough of that. Say, where's Ruzana? I mean, it's holiday time, I thought y'all would be getting more lovey dovey then I could ruin it." Oden said, sheepishly. Things were not going according to the plan. Raimo laughed, and Oden joined in suit. That was holiday season for you, a crazy time of year.

Xena turned to see Raimo dying of laughter along with Oden. The girl smiled, she would repay back his kindness in some way, some day. She suddenly noticed Raimo's figure getting closer and closer, his hair flowing to the side by the wind. It was starting to get pretty bad outside, she felt Sanjo cling to her leg. She patted him on the head and pointed towards the approaching adult. "Don't worry, your dad is coming, Looks like the fun is done for today, Sanjo-chan." She said, giving a smile of reassurance.

They all found their way to the kitchen. Their noses had been hypnotized by the smell of hot chocolate and cookies. Sanjo and Xena's eyes glittered at the spread. Sanjo was about to grab a dozen cookies till he felt a familiar pair of hands grab him and pick him up. He squirmed as he wanted some cookies and now, but the kiss to his forehead got his attention. "Mommy is home, Sanjo chan." Ruzana said, tickling her son. He laughed and nestled his head into his mother's shoulder.

"Ruzana! You're back." Xena said, smiling. Ruzana retuned the smile and patted Xena on the head. "Yep, I see y'all got forced back inside by mother nature," Ruzana joked, turning to Oden and Raimo, still holding Sanjo in her right arm, "and look it's the trouble making duo." Ruzana teased. The two laughed. She set down her son and let him go wild on the cookies and hot chocolate. It was the holidays afterall.

"Say, Oden, shouldn't you be with Hana right now?" Ruzana asked with a cocked eyebrow. Oden waved his hands before him nervously. " She had work to do in Oshibana city, she'll back soon. I'm not that bad. And where were you anyhow, missy?" He asked. "You're asking for it, Oden." Raimo intejected. Oden laughed it off, still waiting for an answer.

"You could of just asked Raimo before, but I was at Fairy Tail. The guild has changed quite a bit. Gildarts is still a clown. Oh but Ivan's son is so cute!" Ruzana said, smiling. The three young adults continued on their converation, joking around. At the same time, Xena was making sure Sanjo didn't end up getting a stomach ache . The boy was a typical 3 year old when it came to cookies and hot chocolate anyhow.

Oden set down his cup. He looked over at Xena, and then back at Raimo. Raimo blinked, "What is it?" He asked, curiously. Oden got up and walked over towards the young girl. "Raimo, I'm gonna take her to that river, She needs to hear some things, and I'll handle it. " He remarked. Raimo simply nodded in agreement, and Ruzana seemed to be in agreement as well.

"But damn it, Oden. Make sure she doesn't get a cold or anything like that, don't take your eyes off her." Ruzana commanded. Xena waved her hands before her nervously. "It's okay, Ruzana. I can take care of myself, I haven't be training for nothing." She said, turning to Oden. "But where are we going? What river" She was puzzled as to what was going on. He simply patted her head. "You'll find out soon."

While trudging through the snow wasn't a big deal to Xena, she was a bit confused. While not a complete stranger, Xena and Oden never really interacted. So why would he choose to take her to some river and tell her some important things? It all seemed random to the young girl, but she wasn't gonna complain. All there was to do was see how this played out.

Oden peered over his shoulder. "Don't get lost, just follow me, kiddo." He said, smiling. He seemed like a nice person, most people liked him anyway. According to Ruzana, Oden was a Commander like Raimo and pretty much his partner. So Xena figured he had to be crazy strong. To her, he seemed like the type to enjoy combat. But that wasn't important at the moment. Xena was snapped out her thoughts by a tap on the shoulder.

They had reached the end of the forest path. She looked around. "Where from here?" She asked, nervously. "Through those trees, keep close behind me." Oden pointed to the left of them. Oden made his way through the trees, Xena followed in suit. It was getting pretty annoying dodging tree branches though. "When are we gonna reach this river?" Xena thought.

She realized suddenly that they were moving downhill now. As if dodging random branches wasn't already annoying. The girl was losing interest in finding this river, but she wasn't gonna complain. Despite having finally become articulate for the most part, Xena was still timid of when she disapproved of something when adults were around.

"Xena-kun, look."

She passed by the final pair of trees to find herself in sudden awe. The girl almost felt a jolt pass through her body. The water was as clear as glass, beautiful rainbow fish swam around along with other colorful river animals Xena had no idea existed. The trees around the river almost glowed with a tint of blue. She didn't know what to question first. Why was this river not frozen over in the middle of the winter? What was up with the trees? And the questions rolled through her mind.

Oden chuckled at the girl's dumb found expression. "I see that you approve, eh?" He mused. She wasn't sure of what to say, the sight was breathtaking for her. " It's a real gem of nature," He turned to Xena and beckoned her over to him," this place is dense with magical energy. Is that how the water isn't frozen over? I'm not sure, and neither is Raimo." He added.

He laid his hand on her shoulder. "What do you see, Xena-kun?" The question was simple, yet she wasn't so sure the answer was so simple or at least the intention behind it. She could of swore Raimo pulled one of those deep questions things on her....even if she's just 11.

"Um, I guess Is that right? " She said, nervous of if she had said the wrong thing. He nodded in agreement. "Yep, you got it. But you know, things like this....this peace needs protection, you know? There are those who have to suffer to ensure that those within in this river can live their lives to the fullest." Oden's facial expression was calm as it's ever been. "That's where we come in." He said softly.

She titled her head in confusion."Huh? I don't get it?" She replied. Oden crossed his arms across his chest, she was just 11 anyway. "In the same way that this river and it's lovely surroundings are preserved by magic. The Kingdom of Fiore is preserved by our will." Oden said. She observed the river for moment. The water flowed slowly but surely. She had learned that Fiore has not fought war on its' own land in centuries due to the Military keeping conflicts outside the motherland.

Xena was getting it now. He meant to help her understand the point if the military. "You needed to hear it from an unbiased source, kid. Raimo, while he'd never admit it, would of sugar coated things for you. People die, Xena. As a soldier, that is something you will see time and time again. And in war, it's just deaths upon deaths even if you are winning. Entering the miltary, yes, you find adventure, but unlike guild mages, we put our lives on the line for the peace of Fiore and the fullness thereof. Where this path leads depends on you, kid." He said.

She looked up at him, this was serious. "You could do great things and have a good life, or you could die soon into your career. Depends on you. I think you can do great things. But understand where this path leads. Or better yet, make sure you steer your path in the right direction. Only you can shape your future. You won't have Raimo on the battlefield, keep that in mind." The words made Xena pause for a moment.

Was she really up to this? She had no doubts in wanting to fight for justice. But also she liked the idea of attaining fame. All those that ridiculed her for no reason would see her potential come to fruition. With a serious face on, she looked Oden straight in the eyes. " I haven't been living long, but I'm sure I can do this. Just like this river, I will make sure Fiore is a good place to live." Xena said.

The simple but straightforward reply was all Oden needed. "Not curious of this river's name?" She blinked at he question. It would be nice to know, she realized. She nodded for him to go on. " It's a bit corny but it's Destiny Creek. Raimo and I stumbled upon it in our teen years, we were looking for Kai at the time who had got lost in the woods. Hell, Raimo proposed to Ruzana here. I prayed for good fortune during a visit to this river before my first war. It has a way of forging people's paths, I guess." As he said that, it began to snow.

The scenery just got more beautiful. Xena smiled, looking up at the sky, as the snow flakes fell around her. Where would this path lead her? She caught a snow flake in her hand. Life had been so cruel to her until that fateful day that she met Raimo in a market place. Because of that she could change her life for the better.

Where this path leads would be Xena's decision, it would be decided by how she lead her life. She was up for that challenge.


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