After her fight with Mikiko, Aria found a nice patch of grass, set her sword down, and lay down next to it, sort of curling into a little ball as she did so. Then she closed her eyes and drifted into sleep...
Aria opened her eyes and found herself in a rotting building. She looked around a little bit, knowing for a fact deep in the back of her mind that she had been here before...
Suddenly, standing before her, was the man clad in black: Xeranad Lekard. "Welcome back. I see you've gotten a little stronger since we last met. Mikiko really is quite the teacher, isn't she? More than capable of shoring up for your lack of physical prowess..."
Aria's eyebrow twitched at that statement. "Hey, arschloch*, I've always been a capable fighter. I can take care of myself, thank you."
Xeranad chuckled. "Is that what you honestly believe? Then may I direct your attention to this little drama..." Xeranad sidestepped out of Aria's view and Aria could see exactly where she was.
This was the run down orphanage that she lived in when she was a child... and sitting on that dusty, worm-rotted bed was herself, age five.
"I remember this..."
"Of course you do, you were there. I'm just giving you perspective." Xer stated. As he spoke, Aria's brother Alastor came in.
"So, how are you holding up, sis?" Alastor asked.
"Still sick, Ali. And it's cold in here." Little red head Aria said. "Did you find me a pair of shoes yet?"
Alastor shook his head. "No, sorry. I found a shawl, though. Would that help?" He wrapped it around Aria's shoulders, and she sneezed.
Alastor smiled, stroking his sister's lovely red hair. "Hey, you know what would make you feel better?"
"Tickle-time!" Alastor shouted, and started tickling Aria's bare feet. Aria started to laugh and laugh, and she couldn't stop laughing. Alastor tickled her some more and then stopped, giving Aria some time to breathe. "Feeling better now, sis?"
"Yes, Ali." Aria said, giving her brother a big hug. "I love you."
Alastor hugged back. "I love you too, sweetie."
Xeranad and adult Aria watched this display, and tears started rolling down Aria's face. "Brother..."
"Yes, he was a very good brother. He took care of you, provided for you, loved you, made you laugh... Such a shame the way it had to end." Xeranad put his cloak in front of Aria's eyes like a curtain, then pulled them back just as quickly. Aria gasped.
Now... they were on the very street Alastor was shot down in. Just as it was happening.
Alastor's body fell down onto the cold hard ground, his eyes open wide, a look of shock on his face that was frozen forever in Aria's brain. Aria shook her head, watching her younger self run, seeing herself call out for help... and noticed, for the very first time, that there were people there the whole time... but no one was willing to help her. They were afraid. Afraid of the guards, afraid of Cypher, afraid of Prince Shadis. Aria gritted her teeth as she watched herself getting shot down and fall over the railing to the river's edge below. Watched how she was left to die, how no one who saw this display even wanted to be anywhere near her. As if the moment the guards shot down her brother, she had been marked for death too.
"Stop it." Aria said flatly, trying hard to keep a lid on her emotions.
"Oh, I think not... you need to understand what I'm trying to show you." Xeranad pointed down first at her own five year old child body, and saw, for the first time, how her hair changed to the white it was today: it was as if as she bled out, the color just ran from her hair. "You are a lot tougher than anyone would have guessed. And it wasn't mere accident that Scathe found you. All of this was preordained. Now, take a look over at your brother... notice something unusual?"
Aria looked over and gasped. Alastor's hair also had now been bleached white, and the guards stood over his dead body, thinking. Alastor's body twitched, and the three of them decided to take him back with them. Aria's eyes opened wide as she saw this occurring before her eyes for the very first time.
"That's right, my child: your brother, Alastor Alraune Kahner, isn't dead at all. He survived just as you did."
"But... but how?"
"You survived, and you were only five. He was twice that age. Don't you think asking that question is entirely pointless now? The fact is, he's alive."
"Then I'm going to go find him. The next time I see Cypher I'm gonna wring the information out of him like a wet sponge!" Aria growled.
"As good as that sounds, you aren't entirely ready just yet. There is still a few things that need to be done before then-"
"SCREW THAT!" Aria yelled. "My brother is alive! I need to find him! To save him! And you can't stop me!" Aria turned to walk away.
"Actually... I CAN." Xeranad grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her back, grabbing her by the neck and shoving her to the ground. "Do not let your personal feelings get in the way of your mission. If you try saving him, not knowing what you'll be up against... I can promise you exactly what your future will hold." Xeranad then pulled his cloak over Aria's eyes once more, and pulled them back again.
The scene before them now was the Ixion Castle Courtyard. Aria saw herself, naked and bloodied, tied up in front of a firing squad. Cypher was there, watching from the rampart, and raised his hand, the order to fire when ready.
A cluster of bangs was all that Aria heard as the scene faded to black, leaving Aria and Xeranad floating in a black void. "Unless you find the fifth hero and recruit more allies, your rebellion is not only doomed, but so will you. Now, once you gain an alliance with the warrior monks, gather your strength and return to Ixion via the railways. There, make a mark there by destroying one of the royal ammunition dumps. This will effectively cripple their artillery for the time being, but it will also serve as a rallying cry for those who don't wish to suffer under Shadis any longer. Then head north, past the Black Citadel, and gain an audience with the barbarians there. They do not like Shadis either, forcing them to leave their homes and making them move past the Black Citadel. You'll meet the fifth hero along the way."
Aria, still a little shaken after seeing herself get executed, nodded. "O-okay. Anything else?"
"Two things: The first is you should be very careful when you are near the Black Citadel. You have not faced anything like the creatures the Dark Lord had in his service... and under no circumstances are you to enter the tower. The second is that when you wake up, you should roll a bit. Mikiko is waiting to punch you in the face again."
"Wait, what-" Aria didn't finish the sentence before everything turned to light, and Aria rolled out of the way just in time to avoid Mikiko's crater punch.
"Still sharp even as you're just waking up?" Mikiko asked. "I really am beginning to like you."