The air was warm and comfortable. The sun hung high in the noon sky over the rolling hills. Rei stood over a familiar pasture, staring down on what she recognized as her home. How she had gotten back here, she couldn't remember. In front, there was a man who stood under the a tree in the yard, busy washing a vehicle.
"It's…" She whispered to herself, "Dad, it's really you."
She sprinted across the plain toward him. He didn't seem to notice at first, but he looked up when she called out to him. He looked toward her with shock, as if he couldn't believe what he saw.
"Dad!" Rei shouted. As she approached him, she held her arms out and was expecting a warm embrace. However, the welcome she got was far from what she was anticipating.
"Don't come any closer!" He responded. He took a stance as if he were ready to fight.
Rei stopped and looked confused. "Dad…?"
"What do you want? You've no business here."
"Dad! I'm back home! I've been wanting to see you for so long!"
"This isn't your home any longer."
"What? Why --?"
A woman ran outside. "Honey, what are you yelling at?" She paused at the sight of Rei.
"Mom, what's wrong with Dad? Why is he acting like this?"
Rei's father centered himself between Rei and her mother.
"Stay away. I won't allow you to hurt my family. Now leave."
"Dad I still don't understand! Why are you sending me away? Do you not even recognize me?"
"This is your final warning. Begone, or I will force you."
Rei started to burst into tears. "It's me. Rei! I'm your own daughter! Why, Dad?" She tried stepping forward.
Her father widened his stance. Her mother stood behind him with a worried look.
"Not a step closer. You've been warned already."
Rei started to back away. She shook her head slowly as tears fell profusely from her eyes.
Another figure ran from the house. She was a young woman, with long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her eyes were stormy grey, but her expression was innocent and slightly worried. Her mother tried to wave her back inside.
"Go back inside, sweetie. It's too dangerous."
Rei was too mind-blown to speak. She stared directly into the eyes of herself, how she imagined she appeared before her parents were gone. The other Rei ignored her mother. At the same instant, the scene faded. Nothing was visible other than fog. The other Rei was the only thing that stayed behind. Her innocent expression began to change. Her clothing started to wear slightly and began to tear in a few places. A few cuts became visible on where bare patches of skin where. Then suddenly, the familiar Phoenix armor wrapped around her, save for her face. Her expression was now stern and intimidating. She walked toward Rei. Rei couldn't move. She was too afraid of her own image, even more so of what it changed into.
Other Rei's eyes were inches from her own. She stared straight into them and spoke:
"Where is your humanity now, Rei?"
Rei awoke, gasping for air. Sweat was beaded around her forehead. She was shivering tensely. Her body ached, too much to move. She tried to calm herself long enough to focus, and began to realize she was in the middle of a dense forest, and she was slumped against a tree. A voice pressed into her mind.
Rei blinked. "What?"
"Something troubles you, does it not?"
"Our feelings are intertwined. Now spit it out."
Rei recalled what she had just seen. The voice was silent for a moment.
"It means nothing. You're letting my absence get to your head. We will be united in due time."
"I hope so…"
"Can you move?"
"I don't think so. It hurts."
Rei tried to stand, but her legs gave out.
"Don't give me lip. You're not trying hard enough."
"I'm doing the best I can…"
"No back-says. Get up. I'm trying to offer encouragement where no one else will, and this is the effort you give me?"
"My body will not physically let me. I'm ready to see you too, but don't be so harsh."
"Excuse me for attempting to care for my own. It's not like anyone else tried to watch out for you."
"I feel like that vision meant something. Like some entity is trying to tell me something, but I can't tell what it means."
"I told you. It's just all in your head. It doesn't mean anything."
Rei didn't respond. Her thoughts replayed what she saw earlier. It replayed a second time, but this time her father was holding his arms out, and a smile was on his face. Rei was slightly confused at why the events suddenly changed. She felt a hand rest on her shoulder. She looked up to another smiling face. It was Bard.
"Welcome home, Rei."
Tears formed in Rei's eyes again.
"H-have I made a mistake? Were Bard and Keena right? Am I just being too ignorant and reckless?"
"You mean those two? They had plans of their own. They raised their weapons against you did they not?"
"And they abandoned you here."
"But did they do it for a good cause? The more I think about it the more I start to believe that I abandoned them…"
"Ignore them and go about your own business."
"But, why? There was truth in Keena's words…I might be dead right now if they weren't around."
"Hardly. You're just easily distracted. If you focus on your objective you don't need any other outside influence."
"…Bard forced me to use his life energy to stabilize myself. Had he not, there's no way I would be alive right now. I doubt he will ever forgive me, but I have to find Bard. He's helped me through so much and I rebelled against him."
"Don't you remember the first time you encountered that Hunter fellow? He made no attempt to free you. He instead left you within the grasp of Death."
"That bothered me a little, but he had a plan. If he tried to free me any other way Hunter would have shot me. His idea was the best solution."
"But you nearly fell from the vehicle as well."
"…But he was already there to catch me. He taught me how to fight. He did everything to keep me out of danger. He was like a second father to me. I got so caught up in my own quest that I saw everything else as a threat. After everything they helped me through…and I turned my back on them…"
"Help you? But don't you --"
"Just stop. I'm going to try to find Bard, and nothing you say is going to change my mind."
"Will you just forget him and focus?"
"No! Bard was right. Maybe YOU'RE just all in my head! Maybe it's YOU who's been trying to deceive me!"
"How dare you! You're my offspring. Don't speak to me that way."
"You're not Dad. You can't fool me! Go away…Go away!"
"Listen here you --"
"I'm not listening to you anymore! Get out of my head!"
"…Fine. But I told you. We are indeed related, whether you want to believe it or not. And we will meet. You had best be ready."
Rei felt the voice retreat. She braced herself and tried to stand again.
"Have to…find Bard…"
Her legs wobbled, but she fought through the pain. She used the tree for support, and tried to take a step forward. She managed to walk a few steps, but her knees buckled and she collapsed. As she hit the ground, her energy seemed to leave her. When she opened her eyes again, her focus was slightly blurred. She noticed that her arms in front of her were armored, but it wasn't the Phoenix she was used to seeing. The armor was a lighter blue, with a few areas of purple. Her right arm felt like it was on fire, and a strange object glittered in front of her. She glanced up and noticed a shadow approaching her. She couldn't see who or what it was clearly, but she could make out the image of what looked like a large sword behind the figure.
The stranger stopped when it reached where Rei had fallen.
"So it's you, my old adversary. After all these long years…To live, or to die? Hmm…"
Rei's consciousness slipped.