|A Tale of Two Fakes!
Author: DoraCatBuu PM
After trying unsuccessfully to re-retreive the Shield Card from IRPO, Rouge causes damage so massive that the only way to pay it off is for him and Blue to work there as police officers. With Fuse as their boss, can they survive the challenge?Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Humor - Chapters: 55 - Words: 343,477 - Reviews: 39 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 04-26-11 - Published: 06-30-06 - id: 3018094
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
DISCLAIMER: I don't own SaGa Frontier, SGF II, Kingdom Hearts, or Sephiroth. Surprisingly, all of the above belong to SquareSoft. That makes this particular disclaimer really easy to write. To make matters interesting, though, I will say I bought the deed to Margmel. It was easy, since the place was destroyed in the first few minutes.
Blue and Rouge thought their first priority – after Sith was cleaned up, of course – was to find the instruments needed to send her back to whatever world she'd been in before they summoned her. But they found that, as soon as Sith dropped the towel, smeared with blood as it was, that something didn't quite feel right. Not because there were aftershocks to Sith's massive attack, or because space had been torn open. This was different. The battle to save reality was won, but it wasn't quite over just yet. There were matters that had to be dealt with, things they couldn't leave behind.
Yet such matters were delicate, and they couldn't be achieved when the possibilities for a temporal paradox existed underneath the same roof. Though no magic was being used, there were spikes in energy that were coming out of nowhere. Blue and Rouge, despite the fact that they were surrounded by Mystics and an Esper, were the first to sense it. Even Ren and Cindy sensed the spike, though to them, it felt more like a burst of unnatural heat. Blue was going to ask what that was. Then, he saw the Time Lord smile. Similarly, Virgil and Orlouge were just as serene.
Just as sudden as the spikes of energy, the three elder Mystics simply disappeared. Ildon and Zozma screamed in alarm; Blue dropped his sword, and both Ren and Cindy cringed at the bright lights that signaled their departure. But Sith wasn't surprised. Her brow arched curiously, but she seemed to almost expect what just happened. Hopefully, she could explain it, as well.
"Where the hell'd they go!" Rouge blurted out, cutting the ensuing silence and shattering it like glass. Sith snorted, grinned a bit. She knew, of course. Because similar had happened, before.
"My guess is, back to the terminal," she told them all, and their shock was palpable, "You don't honestly think we'd stay here, do you?" She sounded incredulous now. Blue and Rouge exchanged glances. No, they didn't think that, but they also couldn't see where else to go. The terminal wasn't one of those places, either.
"Yeah, but… why there?" Zozma asked her. Sith blinked, as though she was quite unable to believe they would ask her something that basic. Then she remembered that none of them went through patching up pieces of a shattered reality. She and Saix were probably the only ones who had, and still lived from it.
Deciding there was no harm in telling them, she said, "Fuse needs to patch the rest of time, and we can't be here while he does it. Then there's the matter of sending us back to our own realities and worlds and closing off any addition realities and dimensions so this doesn't happen again. That's a lot for one cop to do." Blue agreed, though he wondered at just how Fuse went from being a cop, to being God. And he wondered how screwed they all were if Fuse decided to have fun with that concept.
But that was a problem for a different dimension. Even as Sith spoke, they watched as her body slowly began to disappear. Sith would have said more; the looks they gave her silenced her, and she experimentally looked down at her boots. They were no longer there. Her own reaction told them she hadn't quite expected that, but that it obviously amused her. She looked up at them and said, "I'll tell you kids the rest later. See you in about ten minutes." Then, she was gone. She left more confusion rather than resolution for them. Blue glanced at Saix. The man was just as shocked as they were. And he wasn't nearly as adept at hiding it.
Sith's departing message was somewhat cryptic, but they thankfully didn't need to wait long to find out what she meant by it. One by one, the group began to fade and vanish, the lights around them growing brightly as they did so. At first, those lights were as dim as the candlelight, pulsing slowly. But with each successive disappearance, they grew brighter until they threatened to blind whoever was foolish enough to walk inside. Rouge was the last to fade away. He shut his eyes, and he prayed wherever they were going wouldn't be in a dimension too far from their own. Or leave them buried under six feet of dirt.
They all recognized where they ended up next. As soon as Rouge opened his eyes, after feeling himself no longer falling, he saw everyone was gathered on the central pedestal quite a few feet below where he'd landed. To his left was the terminal, now vacant. Fuse must have let himself out when he brought everyone back there. Looking around, Rouge stood slowly. His legs felt like jelly, and he found it hard to not fall down again. But he managed, and using the side of the terminal to steady himself, he made his way down the crystal staircase and onto the lower balconies.
"Everyone here now?" Fuse asked, when Rouge finally arrived. Everyone nodded, and the cop said, "Good. Truth to tell, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get you all back here. I was hoping my guessing did a good job."
"You guessed?" Ildon asked him, his voice colored with disbelief. A normal man would've been embarrassed to admit he hadn't the faintest of what he had done, but Fuse simply grinned. He was proud of the fact that he went in blind and still pulled through for the world.
"Fine guess, judging by the fact that reality itself didn't collapse," the cop replied smoothly, and with a laugh, said, "Wasn't keen that you summoned Sith as a finishing blow, but it got the job done… more or less." Rouge heard a snort, but wasn't sure who it came from. He stared at Fuse, wondering how much of the finale had been orchestrated, and how much had been controlled only by their will.
"What do you mean 'more or less?" Blue asked him almost vehemently. Rouge glanced at his twin, saw the worry on Blue's face, "We did destroy her, didn't we?"
"You kidding me, boy? Of course you did!" Fuse exclaimed. At Blue's questioning look, he continued, "But it didn't escape me that another time-keeper was wasted trying to save one world from a fucking meteor while Sith had to help us with ours. Damn waste of time, since I think you all could've killed Baeladeen yourselves." Sith looked almost vindictive. Saix was just laughing. But no one else seemed to agree. None of them, save for Blue, had much dealings with demons. Escaping one was tricky enough. Killing one would've been impossible, considering the circumstances they had.
Rouge, Blue, and even Zozma tried to explain this, but Fuse waved it away and said, "You asses didn't even try. You were willing to let her destroy the world so Ciato lived." Needless to say, that accusation offended almost all of them, except for Sith and Saix. And possibly the three Mystic lords. But their faces were unreadable, as always.
"You've got to be kidding us!" Rouge shouted hotly, brows furrowed in frustration, "What'd you want us to do! Throw around our spells until Fascinaturu was leveled! We had a temporal paradox waiting to happen!"
"I still would've at least stabbed her a few times until she was unconscious," Fuse told him calmly, crossing his arms, "Look, I'm not here to scold you. You did what had to be done. I'm just saying you got careless. You think you did? No. Do I? Hell, yes, I did. It's all opinion. The biggest thing right now is to clean up the rest of the mess." That meant putting Ren and Cindy back in their own realities and sending Sith and Saix away. There was no telling how much power would be needed; this time, they had no Shard of Time to aid them if their magic wasn't enough.
Knowing it was a long shot, Blue turned to Sith and asked, "Would you be able to support us in sending everyone who needs to go back?" Sith's brow arched again. To her, that answer was obvious. She couldn't be at two places at once. Even Espers had their limits.
"Not if I'm one of those people," she answered simply. Then she tapped her chin, trying to think. There had to be a way. Looking at Fuse, she asked, "If you control reality, is it possible to bring Kylin back?" Fuse's face blanched a bit. He wanted to say yes, but he hadn't had enough time tinkering with the machine to find that out. Mortals and Mystics were one thing – they weren't eternal. But Espers like Kylin were another. He was literally as old as the universe.
"I'm guessing he means 'no," Ildon commented, when the cop couldn't find it within himself to answer. Sith sighed. She wasn't sure what else she could offer. If she could stay in their world, she could help them. But she was just as out of place as Saix was.
A chuckle made them realize they weren't the only ones in the dimension. The group at large turned, and found Silence behind them, trying to mend Ciato's body up. Yet the look on his face – the concentration alone! – told them the laugh hadn't originated from him. And at their confusion, the laugh persisted, growing louder. It wasn't mocking, nor insulting. But the voice felt ancient enough. Fuse recognized it, and grinned. He'd heard that laugh before, when he was a young boy who stumbled into the wrong portal at the wrong time.
"I think my uncle found his own way home," he said slyly. Blue and Rouge exchanged glances. They heard the sound of hoof beats, and then out of nowhere, a shadow materialized into the form of a large goat with a white and green mane flowing down its back. A large, twisting horn adorned its forehead, and there were white flames covering its hooves. Its eyes were similarly white, though from his distance, Blue saw the slightest impression of blue irises. Because of the lighting, its fur looked silver – from their memory, Kylin's fur had been orange.
"Kylin?" the Time Lord called, as Sith tilted her head and said, "Kirin?" The two looked at each other momentarily, bewildered at the use of the other's name. The goat-like creature laughed again, though its mouth didn't move to form it.
"You all are surprised. Amusing, to say the least," Kylin said to them, walking over toward the center. Everyone moved to let the grand creature through. Shaking his mane, the Esper said, "I've seen all that has transpired. Let me say that it pleases me that you've restored what I could not." He saw the smiles spreading across their faces. And like most Espers, he wiped them away as he turned to Sith and said, "However, I've also seen that you've left Gaia in severe catastrophe. Not a smart move, considering how powerful Sephiroth is." If he could successfully portray a grin, Kylin would have. Sith's vindication quickly turned to exasperation. Saix had to practically hold her up before she fell over herself.
"Damn it all, how many people know about that!" the younger Esper demanded furiously, not quite sure who she could still blame for it. She wanted to hit someone, but she couldn't decide between the idiot twins who summoned her, the Time Lord who used her, or Kylin for not doing a damn thing about it. Blue could see Kylin's grin growing.
"Just us," he promised. Then, thinking better on it, he added, "And the few thousands still alive in Gaia. Aeon wasn't strong enough to deflect a meteor." Sith just smacked her palm to her forehead, shaking it in utter disbelief. So much for killing the One-Winged bitch-spawn from Hell. Zozma wanted to laugh. He was smart enough to not act on it.
"Tell me that idiot's not dead," Sith grumbled unhappily. Kylin cleared his throat, evading the question. That meant Aeon was probably as dead as the corpses Sephiroth left her.
That was a problem she'd deal with in her own time. Kylin let her stew on that, and turned his attention to the group he'd dealt with beforehand. He was glad to see Blue and Rouge had survived; even happier when he saw the three Mystic Lords were united. But when he saw Ciato, his happiness faded. Ciato had been the catalyst for so much unneeded destruction, had caused what could have been a very bad situation. It wasn't his fault, granted, but even Kylin no longer knew what to do with him. To let him free would be irresponsible – even if Ciato displayed the same loyalty to humanity as he had when he tried to hold Baeladeen at bay, he was still at risk of further possession by even stronger, more vengeful demons. Unlike Espers, Mystics had no protection from such evil energies.
But Kylin also knew many things would still result from Ciato's life, if he chose to grant it. Some would be bad, but most of it would be beautiful, a tale fitting for such a sad Mystic. Ciato had not truly been at fault. But what was the right choice? What was not? Kylin could not say, because too many things were too closely tied to know for sure.
With no other recourse, he would need further opinion by other long-living mortals and immortals. He looked in succession at the Time Lord, at Virgil, at Orlouge, and then at Sith. They were as immortal as he; though they all knew Sith was quickly losing her own immortality. Quietly, he said, "My friends, I know the fate of almost everyone within my realm. Yet, for one man, I cannot decide. I must have your advice." They all felt where his gaze was heading toward. The nearly lifeless body in Silence's arms. Rouge felt himself shiver. They rescued him in the past. His future still had to pay.
"There is always the risk of possession," Virgil began gently, and Rouge felt his spirit drop, "Ciato is strong, but he is heavily burdened, both by guilt and by the knowledge of what has happened. We must think of his soul." Blue put a hand on Rouge's back. That didn't sound promising, however compassionate it was.
"He's nearly broken time several times already. He knows of the tools we use, Kylin," the Time Lord warned the old Esper, and Rouge's spirit dipped further. Kylin nodded. That was an even worse sign.
Luckily, Orlouge's account for the young Mystic was better. The Charm Lord said, "I have raised Ciato as a son. He is a surly and depressing man, but he has a spirit and ambition that burns through him. I do not think, after what he's known and seen, that he would willingly let himself be possessed again. Remember: he only allowed Baeladeen because of my madness in my court. He thought only of Fascinaturu." That made both Virgil and the Time Lord falter a bit.
Sith only added to it by saying, "We let the boy live. Madness is inherent with his kind, and he hasn't actually destroyed the world yet. He simply came very close to it. As you can see, I stopped that attempt." But by the looks on the others' faces, she had a feeling they'd only remind her that by doing so, Sephiroth effortlessly had his attempt succeed. She dared them all to bring it up. Not one of them did.
In the end, they agreed to let Ciato live. It took a lot of thought, and a hell of a lot of persuasion from Sith to do it. But they agreed, after only an hour of debate. Without a word, Kylin walked over to where Silence sat, still cradling Ciato in his arms. The body was starting to grow cold now. His life force would be gone in minutes if something wasn't done. Taking a breath, Kylin closed his eyes and focused. Ciato's spark of life was miniscule at best. He concentrated on making that spark bigger. The poor boy wasn't sure he wanted to live. But Kylin convinced him they agreed he should. And he reminded Ciato that there were too many people still waiting for him to return home. Ciato's spark returned, and Rouge saw his skin returning its color. He relaxed. Everything would be okay.
Or so, he hoped. Ciato's life force was returned, though everyone knew it would take some time before the Mystic fully regained use of his otherwise deadened muscles. Rigor mortis had set in, which told them all how long the twins had been gone – a decent stretch of time to the Mystics, though Sith was once again unsurprised. It had taken at least two and a half hours to wind their way through the past Chateau Aguille. It took only three for the beginning signs of stiffness to enter a corpse, considering the conditions were right for it. Rouge had almost offered to help bring Ciato back and heal him. But when he took a step, the painful memory of Rastaban's obvious concern for the other Mystic stung him again. It wasn't time just yet, not to test who Ciato cared for more.
Besides, there were still other matters to attend to, first. One of them was to put Ren and Cindy back, and make sure they were in the right place. Because of his skill in using the terminal, Kylin granted that task to Fuse – on the argument that this matter was due to a fracture in reality, not time, much to the Time Lord's chagrin. With a nod, the cop led the two misplaced souls back up the crystal steps, where the terminal sat in wait. No one followed them. That may have been just as well. Turning to the two, Fuse said, "You two ready to get back to the living?"
"Emelia deserves to have the life she wants," Ren said firmly, "Baeladeen used a mask to switch Joker and I, right? First thing I'm doing is finding that mask and flushing it down the toilet." Fuse's brow arched, wondering how he'd achieve such a thing. But he didn't object. Ren would find a way.
Cindy, however, was much more hesitant. She knew what Anita had done with her company, with her own body. She knew she had the same power. Quietly, she asked, "What's to stop me from doing everything my alternate self did?" Fuse tapped his chin. Damn good question, he decided. He also decided it needed a damn good answer.
"Nothing, technically," he replied easily, but seriously added, "But I know you won't. There's something to be said about knowledge. Once you know how shit's going down, you tend to focus on stopping that shit rather than creating it. You just keep on rememberin' what we all told you, and remind yourself of what you saw here. You won't make the same mistake twice." Cindy wasn't sure. But she did trust the cop.
To bolster her support, Ren turned and said, "Come on, Cindy. We both have lives to lead again. Even if we both screw up, we have someone to help straighten it out." He cast a sly grin at Fuse, and the cop didn't miss it. Quickly, Fuse stepped back, shaking his head. Oh no, he thought, he was not going to be at everyone's beck and call for all their whiny, little problems. He had enough of that from Silence.
"Hey! What makes you brats think I'm responsible for this!" he demanded hotly. Ren didn't answer, because he didn't need to. They had been followed, after all. Another ancient chuckle alerted them to it. Fuse turned, saw Kylin coming up the stairs. Sith, Saix, and the twins were following. The Mystics were still crowding around Ciato.
"Because, my son, when this is through, I'm passing my power to you," Kylin told him. This caused the procession behind him to halt, and to do it abruptly. The ensuing silence felt more painful than it should've been.
"Are you serious?" Rouge asked. Kylin nodded, and for once, his vast age began to show. He might've been an Esper, but he was getting too old. It was time to let someone else, someone capable, take the reigns.
"I fear that my part in the destruction of the world has taken a toll on my body. I am, needless to say, quite an old goat. I need a successor," he explained simply, and proudly, he asked, "Who better than my nephew?" More stretched silence followed. This would be a painful pill to swallow. Taking a breath, Kylin cryptically told them, "All things must die, eventually."
"Even Espers," Fuse ended, and Kylin nodded. Was that really why Kylin had chosen to adopt the foolhardy cop? It made sense if it was. Even Fuse considered it. If that was the case, he'd make his uncle proud. He saluted, and said, "I'll make sure the realms and dimensions are balanced. No one's gettin' past ol' Fuse, here." Never mind the fact that his accuracy in legal arrests were less than fifty percent. Neither Blue, nor Rouge, nor Silence brought that up.
Sith, unsurprisingly once again, was impatient. She came up and said, "You're confident. Show us that confidence isn't poorly placed, and send us all home." Fuse winced, and then he grinned. If she weren't already married, he'd find her shrill words and exasperation attractive. Maybe he could fix reality for that…
One by one, piece by piece, Fuse began patching together the shreds of reality Baeladeen had created. He destroyed the portals she had made, the artifacts she had placed, any tools she created in any world that would allow her – or something even worse – to come through once more and wreak havoc. He eliminated the pawns she placed to do her beck and call; Rita, Anita, and Nomad were the first three to go. He vanished all signs that she had been there. Slowly, the universe was being cleaned up. There was no way he could get rid of all the evil, but this was definitely a good start.
And when he was done… he sent everyone back to their rightful places. It was that simple. All it took was the press of a button, the selection of his target. One by one, they all left the strange dimension. Some, like Blue and Rouge, would retain the knowledge of what they had seen and learned. Others, like Ren, would not. Most – the billions who hadn't even been involved in the final acts of the purge – wouldn't notice a difference. No, the terrible knowledge and the ways to fix them would soon solely belong to Fuse. It was a terrible weight, and it grew with every friend whose lives he fixed.
When he was done, he climbed out of the machine. The only one he'd left was Silence. Silence, despite his namesake, did too much persuasion to allow Fuse to send him back to IRPO, alone. The noble Mystic waited for him, watching as he walked down the crystal steps and onto the lower platform. Behind him, Kylin's body was already beginning to die, the Esper's soul having departed long before. The two looked at each other. Neither knew what to say anymore.
'Is it done?' Silence finally asked quietly. Fuse nodded, but his grin and pride had long since disappeared. He couldn't go back to his normal life anymore. Too much had to be done before he could even consider it.
"This part, at least," the cop told him with a resigned sigh, sitting on the floor, "Baeladeen's evil won't cause us any grief. But that doesn't stop the millions of other details that caused our world to go off-kilter." He felt Silence sit down beside him. In the desolate cold, the Mystic's presence was known, and welcomed.
'Such as?' Silence questioned. Now, Fuse smirked. He could think of one very quickly.
"Rouge thinking he has the smarts to break in and steal the Shield Card," Fuse replied slyly. He saw the shock on his friend's face. Laughing, he said, "What, you thought I'd forget that? That's what put those idiots in my hair at all. I ain't going through that shit again." Silence found himself smiling as well. He knew well Fuse probably would. It'd be the only way to see the twins and have a reason to do it.
'Shall we take it before he tries?' the Mystic asked. Fuse didn't answer. As much as he complained, Blue and Rouge were like sons to him. If he took the card away, someone would know about it. Besides, that might not even deter Rouge in any way. That boy had a knack for trouble, as well as starting it.
But for all the fond memories, there was still a sense of unease. Fuse saved the universe from suffering split realities. He would try to keep it that way. But even he, with the power of the Celestial Terminal, couldn't control everything. He could remove problems. He could fix tears that darkness would undoubtedly make. But he couldn't stop the fools who made that darkness possible. Evils like Sephiroth, Baeladeen, and even Orlouge existed. As a cop, he had known he wouldn't stop them. As a god, he knew he never would. Not unless the universe asked it.
Feeling the distance in his friend, Silence turned to him and asked, 'Do you think life will go on as it had before?' Fuse took a deep breath. He wanted to say it wouldn't. But no one would know. So, he stared up into the black sky, to the twinkling stars of that strange realm.
"That'll be up to the idiots living in it," he replied honestly. He looked at Silence. Neither made a move to head to the terminal and see for themselves.
Life had been different since the trial of Rita. It had been so vastly different, that Gustave, Lord of Finney and Surpreme Judge of the Court of Hahn Nova, began to believe that God himself turned his smile away and cursed the world to descend and rot in everlasting darkness. Narcisse may have caused his own foolhardy mayhem, but Nicolette's punishment had set off a war between himself and the powerful Marquis of Otto, his own brother-in-law. It had ransacked Finney, had brought Jade to its knees, and nearly caused Hahn Nova itself to be reduced to a pile of rubble. Of which the lowliest maggots of thievery crawled out of. No… Life had not been good. And it wasn't God who had caused it. Unknown to Gustave, the true seeds of his destruction had come from a demon with a wish for the death of all powerful nations. Including his own.
Yet, on that day, as he stood on his balcony with Kelvin, he felt only the faintest changes in the air. The breeze felt fresher. The sky seemed less grey. The sun, which had shed only the palest of light, seemed to have gained a golden luster once again. The changes were subtle at best. But Gustave had grown sensitive. He knew something equally as earth-shattering had happened. Would it be for better, he wondered, or for far worse? He almost feared for the remains of his kingdom.
"Gus, Flynn and Nebelstern are returning," Kelvin told him, his voice seeming louder than it actually was. It almost made Gustave jump. He peeked over the banister. He saw his best friend and his loyal general marching toward the castle. Behind them was an army of over ten thousand men – men whose lives had reportedly been lost during a phenomenal storm! Gustave's mouth almost dropped open.
"Impossible…" he whispered, and suddenly turned around and stared at Kelvin, "I ordered no prisoners." Kelvin grinned a bit. The truth would shock his poor friend.
"They aren't prisoners, my friend," the Count of Jade told him firmly, yet he was clearly amused, "Those are the men who have died. The men who have revived." Gustave couldn't understand it. There were, of course, too many to remember. But he had seen Wil Knights and Johan the Assassin there. They had been the first casualties in the ambush to meet Otto. Yet there they bloody were, alive and well.
"Trickery," Gustave accused, but Kelvin shook his head, "Necromancy! Illusions! Actors!" His exclamations were ridiculous. But they were born from fear and desperation. And from the common sense that dead men did not rise. But this was no common occurrence. Just as the storm that slaughtered them all had been no common storm. Something was up.
"Well, what do they want?" Gustave snapped, and changed his tone, "Other than to return to the castle?" Kelvin spoke into some sort of device. It took a moment to get a reply.
"They want to start rebuilding the kingdom, Gus," Kelvin informed him, and with a genuine smile, he said, "The Marquis of Otto, and his delinquent daughter, were both found dead in their castle three nights ago." Gustave was pensive for a moment. Then, he breathed a sigh of relief. His sister would not be happy, but for a while, Finney was safe. How long the safety persisted depended on the lives of the men he would be controlling soon, and on the god that gave those lives back.
"Any idea as to how or why they're dead?" Gustave asked, though he found his mind preoccupied with everything except his brother-in-law's death. Kelvin repeated the question into the device. The reply came back, was short, and was in a context Gustave needed no translation for: 'No.'
"Should we send for a coroner?" Kelvin suggested, when Gustave gave no reply to Nebelstern. Gustave stood still for a moment, looking over the balcony to the ruins that had once been his great city. Sometimes he swore he still saw the fires burning in the rubble; the entire residency had been destroyed, and the markets and farmland had been severely crippled. The few chantries and chapels that had been spared couldn't house anyone much longer.
Yes, sending a coroner might be a wise thing to do personally. But at a second thought, Gustave reconsidered it. The Marquis had been widely disliked and was known as a tyrant throughout his lands. His death, coinciding beautifully with the war no one wanted to fight, wouldn't come across as a surprise. For all anyone knew, it was his own wife that had done it, snapping mad when she realized her husband was pulling the noose on her own brother. Examining the incident would be a matter of personal preference. But there was one option, a political one, that Gustave liked much more. He asked quietly, "Who owns Otto and Wide now?" Kelvin, thinking only of his own desecrated land, did not notice the tone in the question.
"Well… naturally, your sister does, now," Kelvin told him, "With no male heir, and with his only remaining daughter being fifteen years old, Marie inherited the land." Though he never liked casting suspicion, he found the question odd. Gustave should have known the answer. Brow rising in skepticism, Kelvin asked, "Why?"
Gustave finally did turn, and the two faced each other. Gustave looked into the disbelieving face of his dearest friend. Kelvin looked into the face of a grinning wolf. Slyly, Gustave said, "Before we go on and make a mess of things in Otto, why don't we ask my sister if she wants a new ally?" Kelvin blinked, almost surprised. Gustave never cared for politics. At least, not until the conduct in his court had kicked his ass backwards.
But he saw where Gustave's reasoning was going. He had men who were coming back to nothing. His sister had more land than she could possibly handle alone. She had the supplies to help his army. He had the army to protect her lands. If mutuality could be accomplished, the entire continent would unite under Finney's banner. Even Phillipe would have to pin his men down and form an alliance with Gustave. Marie, once she agreed, would force it on him, using their family ties as leverage. And with so much land acquired to one powerful family – in essence, to one incredibly capable leader and his siblings – no other nation would so much as try warring with them unless they had a death sentence. Yes, there was beauty to holding off on personal generosity.
There was an entire nation to strengthen, and then to rule. Suddenly, there were two grinning wolves standing on that balcony. And below them, their cubs of mercenaries were returning.
Sith returned to the ruined remains of her castle in a dreadful state, carrying the unconscious body of the time-keeper, Aeon, with her. Fuse had sent her back to Gaia, all right. He sent her back just as Sephiroth's space rock crashed into the damn planet, and she had all but one second to get her sword up and try deflecting it before the meteor hit her and sent her sprawling into the unforgiving ground far below. The good news was, she sent that comet screaming right back, shattering the North Crater, successfully killing Sephiroth's bitch-goddess of a mother, and leaving the would-be genocidal psychopath as nothing more but a mumbling, stumbling mess. The bad news was that she took the hit entirely, and now she couldn't move her left hand without it hurting. Obviously, Aeon did a stellar job of keeping Sephiroth at bay while she was gone. Obviously, Aeon got to die later.
When she reached the inner courtyard and saw the steps leading to the front doors, Sith dropped Aeon and just stared. She was so close to home. Her husband was waiting for her. Why did she feel like she couldn't go on? Damn it, no! She was home now, she had a warm bed and good food waiting for her. She could finally get some rest. She could finally bathe. Why weren't her legs moving?
All at once, Sith found herself collapsing. Damn it to hell, she was just too tired. The air wasn't too cold. As long as it didn't snow, she'd survive a few hours of sleep. But she never hit the ground. Something caught her. That same something sighed heavily and said, "The day I don't need to catch you is the day hell freezes, woman." Sith emitted a tiny growl. That was her husband. Who should've been worried about her.
"You'd be so bored that you'd go and destroy hell, Saix?" she asked, opening her eyes and looking up at him. He found himself grinning at her. He heaved her to her feet and hugged her. It'd only been a little while, but that was long enough for him.
"Well, how else will I get rid of my rage?" he asked her bluntly, and his grin growing, he said, "For one, I'll lose my wife. For two, I'd have to learn to cook for myself, I'd have to walk your damn dog, and I'd have to learn what Solitaire is. Not to mention I'd be sleeping alone for the…" He felt something slam into his face. Her tail knocked him senseless. "Ow! Damn it, woman, what was that for!"
"You never complained this much to Xemnas about how much shit you'd have to do," she pointed out sharply. Saix hummed, ruffled her dark hair. She was so cute when she was angry with him. It was like watching a kitten trying to swat at a very rabid wolf.
"Xemnas never would've bothered listening," he reminded her, his grin smug. He leaned closer to her and said, "Now, I did try to learn, darling. But apparently, searing sirloin with a Firaga spell isn't what well-done means. Also, we may have lost the stove in the process." Which was just about the only damn thing in the kitchen that still worked. Sith slapped her forehead, and then slapped his. She wasn't in the mood for this.
"Saix!" she whined unhappily. Now, Saix laughed. She was mad, but she couldn't do anything. He was bigger and far stronger than she was. Not to mention he hadn't been hit with a meteor. He controlled himself enough to hug her again.
"Dear, be thankful I didn't set myself on fire," he said soothingly, though it may as well been to himself, "Let's go inside. You've had a rough day and you need some sleep." But the grin didn't vanish. Sith almost asked why, and found she shouldn't have. He sniffed at her hair, at her burnt clothes, and said, "First, though, you need a bath." Saix suddenly found himself tumbling down the stairs and landing face first into the cobbled walkway. He grunted, and heard the heavy castle doors slam. Sith was going to be in a pissy mood for a while.
Gods, he loved that she was back. It was no fun teasing the dog.
Fascinaturu hadn't changed at all. Darkness would always be darkness, and the Mystic worlds dotting the fringes of Oblivion were simply beacons for that darkness to flutter to. Fascinaturu was no different, even if the poison that had once infected Orlouge's sanity had gone. Baeladeen had done minimal damage; only Ciato had been seriously injured, and he had the ability to contain that damage. The treasury, however, wasn't as lucky. Baeladeen hadn't done much to harm it, but Sith had thrown a tornado to signal her entrance. That tornado left paintings and tapestries in tatters, and had smashed into several other expensive, and sentimental items. Including the vase that Virgil had given Orlouge for his one-thousandth birthday. That one, Orlouge wouldn't forgive Sith for right away. Not until the Time Lord could go back in time and secure another for him.
However, though the removal of Baeladeen did little to the fate of the Mystic world, there were still changes ahead for that sly, mythical race. It began, like so many damn things in Fascinaturu did, with Orlouge. Being out in the world had done well for the Charm Lord. It gave him perspective, and made him realize there were other worlds than his own, and that those worlds didn't revolve around him. It made him understand what it felt like to help others and to be a hero. He preferred that feeling. It gave him thrills that not even Kunerai could have. He was smart enough to not go and mention that to her – she would literally destroy Rootville with the flames of hell.
The first order of business, he declared, was that he was in need of a successor. For this, every prince and princess in the Chateau had been gathered, a ceremony that had not occurred, ever, in Fascinaturu's history. The throne room could not fit them all. Orlouge had to hold his court in his garden. And though he loved his garden, he knew it'd give everyone an easy opening to run away if they didn't like what he was going to say. He'd have to just let them go. He decided to leave corporeal punishment to IRPO – no longer was he the cruel tyrant he had been before.
The announcement of his successor was a shock to everyone involved. It was a shock to the princesses, because Orlouge was finally stepping down and letting someone else sit in his throne. It shocked Zozma because, though he was the First Prince, he wasn't the one chosen. It shocked Rastaban because, though his attempt to place Asellus on the throne failed, this announcement had no influence from him whatsoever. It shocked Ildon because he never once thought he'd be around to see Orlouge do this. It shocked Asellus because the successor was not her. But most importantly, it shocked Ciato the most. And that was because the successor, by Orlouge's words, was him. At those words, the garden fell silent. Ciato felt hundreds of eyes upon him, watching him. He felt the blood draining from him, terrified there would be an immediate revolt. He was just as unliked as Orlouge had been – perhaps even more so!
Then, Ciato heard something. It sounded like a clap. Another one followed it, and then another, until slowly, everyone assembled was clapping. It had started with Rastaban. Ildon had quickly joined in, followed by Zozma. The princesses came slowly, but soon the garden was thundering with applause. Orlouge, who had always treated Ciato like a son, was applauding the loudest. For once in his life, Ciato smiled. Was this what it felt like to be happy?
"Way to go, pal!" Zozma called, as Ciato ascended the steps to where Orlouge sat. The Charm Lord stepped aside, let his successor take his place in the throne. It felt oddly right. And long overdue.
"But… why?" Ciato whispered, as princesses began to rush forward to greet their new lord. It was slow going; there was no order, and too many people trying to move at once. Orlouge looked from them, to Ciato. There was a knowing glint in his eye.
"Of all of my sons, Ciato, you understand the taint of madness the most. You set out alone to destroy it because you love your brothers so much," Orlouge answered simply, "Who better to rule than someone who knows the darkness and wants to live in the light?" Ciato had never thought of that. He had tried to… but light had been painful for him. Until he had met those blundering twins…
Something within the rush burst through. Zozma, Ildon, and Rastaban were far stronger than most of the princesses, and had been able to break through the horde. But it wasn't without consequences. When they finally fell through, slamming into the bottom steps, Ciato saw that Zozma's ponytail had come undone and he sported a black eye. Rastaban's scarf was ripped apart. Ildon was missing a wing. But at least they were able to stand next to the throne. Orlouge just laughed and said, "Now, spend some time with your brothers. Heavens knows the princesses' constant complaints will keep you busy enough!" Ciato grumbled. He wasn't keen on babysitting a bunch of women he didn't like. At least he had his 'brothers' by his side. For now.
The wedding day had been planned and was coming faster than Ren thought was possible. Ever since returning to his reality and strutting back into his house, it'd been nothing short of a rush. Emelia had been so garbled with happiness that it took Annie's translations to figure out what she was trying to say. Ren heard 'Joker,' 'Steven,' and 'I knew it wasn't true!' several times before finally just proposing and giving her a new reason to sputter out gibberish. And it worked, too.
Unfortunately, Emelia's idea of a wedding was going to be an ordeal to accomplish. She wanted everyone she knew to be there, from Annie and Liza, to the guy who gave her a hotdog in the park that day. She had at least five bridesmaids. She wanted a glamorous wedding dress, and she wanted a cake made by Hobart Sternbein. She also wanted the wedding in Baccarat. All of this was enough to make Ren's head spin. But he could do it. He had enough money, and if he didn't, he wasn't above begging Fuse for a raise to pay for it. Fuse saw the future, and would understand. Or so Ren hoped. Fuse had also been appearing on and off since taking Kylin's place. Silence had been, too. And though no one said a damn thing, the reason why Silence was gone was obvious.
So it was. The wedding was less than six weeks away. Ren made his way to his house carrying boxes of shit he'd picked up to decorate the rooms the Gnomes had set aside in the casino. He could already picture Emelia bustling around, driving herself and Annie insane with instructions. He could see himself and Roufas laughing at them.
He stopped when he knocked something off the step. Looking down, he saw that what he stepped on was a mask. It was the mask that had transported him to an alternate reality, letting Joker come through and terrorize the shell of his life. He swallowed. No… it let his alternate self come through and try to reach out to Emelia. He had seen his alternate after the fact. He almost felt bad. But history wouldn't be repeating itself. In one blow, he kicked the mask so hard that he shattered it. Then, he stormed up the steps and walked inside.
Joker wasn't coming back, not even to see the wedding he wanted to have.
Red stood on the balcony of the CTC building, looking down over Manhattan. It had been a smoldering ruin before. But in the blink of an eye, it had rebuilt itself, becoming the shopping metropolis of the world once again. People who had died simply sprung back to life. Shops reopened, stalls sold their food, and everyone hustled around as though nothing had even happened to threaten the end of their world. He and Alkaiser had watched it all unfold, thanking their two magician friends for doing their job well. The world was saved, and they didn't need a hero to do it. Alkaiser was happy. But for Red, there was one change in the world he never envisioned happening when the world was safe again…
"Dear, I really need you to come inside and help me. The Cygnus is asking for more funding, but I've got to give the donation to Trinity first. You're my husband, you understand how to speak to these people!" …yeah. As soon as the world was saved, Red suddenly found himself married. And he was married to someone he thought he'd never find himself chained eternally to: Cindy Campbell. The whole thing irked him out. Mainly because she seemed so nice to him. The Cindy – rather, Anita – he met before was a bitch who tried to kill him. Not to mention she didn't respond to Anita anymore. Alkaiser simply said 'she'd hit her head too hard.' But Red knew something else was up.
So he rolled with it. Marriage wasn't going to be so bad. His parents kept theirs up for twenty years before his dad bit the big one. Besides, he had what he wanted as a kid. He had a beautiful woman, he had lots of money, and he was still a superhero. With a grin, he said "I'm on my way, Cinders!" Then, he walked into the office and sat down at the desk with Cindy. Life was his oyster. He was going to fry it and eat it accordingly.
It was a beautiful day in Devin. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and life had resumed as it normally did. It was the perfect day to make trouble. And, as Rouge walked down the road to the airport, he was intent on doing just that. He may have had the gift for Rune magic, but he found himself unhappy with that. Why, just last night, Blue obliterated an evil Ax-Beak with the Saber Card! Rouge found that all his runes were good for was boosting Blue's spellpower. And while he loved his twin, he felt it was high time he took some of the glory home, too. So, he came up with a plan.
It was a simple plan, really. But to do it, he required a partner-in-crime, someone who he knew he could trust explicitly. But Blue would never agree to what he was about to do, so he had to settle with Lute. The idiot had nothing better to do, anyway. Rouge felt, as he made his way toward the front gates, that he was doing Lute a huge favor by asking him to help steal the Shield card from IRPO. With his usual overconfident grin on his face, he waved to the loading man at the docks and went inside.
To his surprise, Lute wasn't there. But Blue was, and he had been waiting. And judging from the fact that Ciato and Ildon were there, too, he'd been waiting a long time. Oh… oh shit. This wasn't looking good, and it wasn't even eleven in the morning yet. Rouge's confidence quickly wavered and turned to outright fear. Did Blue somehow know what he was going to do? They were twins, but telepathy was something that was iffy for them.
"B-bro? What are you doing here?" Rouge asked, trying to disarm his brother with a smile. It didn't work. He knew his fear showed through. Blue gave him a grin of his own, one that said he knew exactly what Rouge was going to do.
"Keeping you from doing the one damn thing that'll bring us back to square one," Blue told him sweetly, though by now his grin was wild. Rouge's face blanched. Damn it, they both remembered what brought this mess up! Rouge had thought that, maybe if he'd done something slightly different – perhaps not completely leveling IRPO's sub-basement – then that would keep their world from descending into chaos again. He never thought Blue would catch on. Blue, for the most part, acted as though he remembered nothing. Now he knew that had been a ruse.
"Here we thought you wouldn't remember, either," Ciato commented, drumming his fingers on the table, "But, alas, it looks like we've all been cursed to remember what's happened." His voice was low and came out as a tired drawl. He'd been more and more exhausted on his subsequent visits to his human friends. Rouge wondered how much of his life force Kylin had restored, after all.
"That's for the better," Ildon said firmly, crossing his arms, "Besides, we'd have still stopped him even if Fuse hadn't told us not to." Blue grinned again. Technically, their intervention was Silence's idea. Fuse simply put that idea into words; they weren't nearly as eloquent as Silence had wanted. Either way, Rouge wasn't happy. He'd been royally screwed.
"Come on!" he cried in exasperation, throwing his arms up, "I even came up with a plan and everything! What! Why are you bastards laughing!" He glared at Blue and Ildon. They had, as they listened to Rouge, burst out into hysterics that couldn't be controlled. Blue's chest was heaving. Ildon was practically in tears, he was laughing so much.
"You're serious? After everything you put Blue through, you'd still try stealing that damn card?" Ildon asked him. Rouge's face blanched as he looked at his twin. But as he saw that smug look, that confident grin mirroring the one he wore just moments ago, his fury returned. Blue wasn't just going to be an ass about this. He was going to be insolent.
"I wanted Arcane magic!" Rouge cried out childishly. Ildon laughed again, shaking his head. Blue just sighed, pretending that Rouge hadn't just said that. Ciato's brow simply rose. Not even Zozma was that ridiculous. And Zozma never let anyone forget when they had something he deemed as 'his.' Ciato looked at Blue.
"You were right. Rouge is whiny," he mused, snapping the younger mage out of his fit, "Perhaps making him my princess won't work out." He was beginning to look as smug as Blue was. Rouge stopped whiny and just stared.
"W-what!" Rouge yelled, eyes widening as Ildon's laughter rose again. It was bordering on lunacy, "What do you mean your princess!" Ciato pretended to be bored about the subject as he feigned examining a magazine.
"I am the Charm Lord now, so it's only fitting I have a princess," he replied simply, glancing to see Rouge's reaction, "However, I don't care for women. I've been with Ildon and Rastaban too long. So… I need a male princess. And I believe you'll do nicely." Rouge's eye twitched and he found himself blushing despite the disgust he felt. Yes, he still cared about Ciato, but… but that scene with Rastaban…
"Won't the other two be angry?" Rouge asked almost shyly. Ciato smirked a bit, shook his head.
"They have a princess of their own," the new Charm Lord informed him. Rouge's head tilted and he glanced at Blue.
When he did, he suddenly understood why Ildon had come, and why Rastaban had taken the time to warn them about Rouge's plans. His eyes widened again. Blue looked away sheepishly, which seemed to only confirm the horror that flashed through Rouge's whirling brain. No… no, that was impossible! Blue had been Princess Lion's boyfriend… but that seemed so foggy now. Still, that couldn't have been right. Mind still reeling from shock, Rouge pleaded, "Blue, tell me they're kidding!"
"Mystics rarely joke about this…" Blue said quietly. He was blushing in embarrassment. Damn it, they were serious. He and his brother were going to become princesses to three insane Mystic Princes. He looked from Blue, to Ildon, and then to Ciato. The two Mystics were grinning now. Damn, damn, damn it!
"And Rastaban agreed to this!" Rouge blurted out, and then it all came tumbling after, "No! We're not princesses, we're men! And we're human!"
"So were most of Orlouge's women, at one time," Ildon said impatiently, "As for Rastaban, it was his suggestion. Apparently, I'm too surly and depressing sometimes. As though having a human around will help." But it was clear he wasn't exactly opposed to the idea himself. His hand was gripping Blue's shoulder too possessively.
"And what if I said no?" Rouge asked, trying to find some out. Ciato took his turn to shoot that down. He sighed in boredom.
"We all know you won't," the Charm Lord stated, and stood, "Now, we've come a long way to collect you both. Be dears and come quietly. I'm not in the mood to fight and kill you both." Rouge blinked, and then started shouting gibberish as he watched Blue and Ildon both stand, making their way toward one of the gates. Then he said nothing when Ciato put his hand on his arm and started leading Rouge after them. So, this was it, was it? This was how Fuse was going to 'keep trouble down.' By letting three psychotic and love-deprived Mystics snatch two rather impressive magicians and turn them into their little princesses? Well, fine. Rouge would make the best of it. There was lots of trouble to be had in Fascinaturu, anyway. Ciato was going to regret making Rouge his princess.
Yet, somewhere, despite the initial flashes of hatred he felt, Rouge found he was also happy. After all, in the end, he only wanted what was best for both his brother and for Ciato. And this seemed to fulfill it. Even if he only lived for another century, he knew Ciato would take good care of him. Ildon and Rastaban would do their best for Blue. And maybe, just maybe, Fuse could smile at how beautifully his idea came out. And maybe Silence would be smiling, too.
Well, there it is, folks. The end, the great gate, the final moments, and the finish line. Fuse managed to fix everything up, and miraculously did it with no casualties whatsoever. Considering that it was Fuse, that took some skill to do. And everyone even had a happy ending! Honestly, I had no idea how I'd tie everything together and have it all make some level of sense, but in the end, I think I did well. It wasn't easy, and I wasn't sure how Joker, Anita, and Nomad – who were the three criminals Fuse and his team had to capture in all three of their missions at the beginning – were going to fit together with Baeladeen's ultimate plans for destruction. But I managed. As for everyone else, like Roufas and Nusakan, I guess we'll never know just how their lives changed for the better. I'll leave that up to you. Anyway, thanks for reading this insanely long, somewhat scattered SaGa Frontier fanfiction. It's been fifty-five awesome chapters, and almost five awesome years, and I wouldn't have done it any differently. The bad news is, Fuse no longer has a solid IRPO team anymore. The good news is, I'll still be doing SaGa oneshots, so do stay tuned for them! And remember to click that Review button!