|Gears of Time
Author: Lord of Judgement PM
One night she came to him and made an offer he out of curiosity could not refuse. Post ToX. Somewhat Gaius/Musee.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 4,455 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 2 - Published: 11-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8688631
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary: She came to him one night and made an offer he out of curiosity could not refuse. Somewhat Gaius/Musee.
Warning: game spoilers.
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Xillia world, story or characters.
Author's Note: Gaius/Musee again. I am really sold on this pairing. :)
Also, I am using Melnics here, but to make a transliteration of Arst's name, I used Aasto, how it sounds in Japanese, not Arst.
GEARS OF TIME
"They have flying ships, Rowen," Gaius repeated insistently and fixed his eyes on his newly appointed Prime Minister, seeking a sign of understanding on his face, but for the gravity of the situation his unconcerned expression was unbecoming. "Last time, if you recall, we barely won although that victory could partly be attributed to sheer luck. Their incursion was poorly coordinated. But only imagine if they find a way to invade Riese Maxia in full force. We have nothing to oppose to their fleet of flying ships, they have superior weapons and these new devices… my head reels when I am thinking about them. A year ago I would have found your sharp mind degrading if you told me that it was possible to instantly convey a message to someone leagues away from us."
"Do you mean cell phones?"
"That's how they call them... the name slipped my memory."
It was late evening in Khan Bark and in the darkness behind the window even the most alert eye would not discern ethereal snowflakes, lazily floating in the air. King Gaius whiled away the time in solitude when the Prime Minister joined him for a casual discourse and he welcomed the company because it was in those moments only that his dreary memories returned, like thieves caught him unawares and stole his inner peace. He did not like to remember. He did not like to mourn, counting back eternity one day after another, each like a snowflake, fragile and discolored, for in each he saw their faces, not sad or reproachful in the least, but joyous and radiant and proud. Accepting. They chose to sacrifice their lives and he could not lie to himself, pretending not to know why.
Together they started a rebellion, a wildfire which consumed Ajur and often he selfishly preferred to see Wingull or Jao – they have been with him the longest – in Rowen's stead. They understood him too well, almost without words. When Shell was destroyed and dozens of flying ships invaded his land, Jao needed but one glance to tell him that he had made a choice to sacrifice his life for their wellbeing. A silent bargain. An unwritten truth. The king must live.
Will the newly appointed Prime Minister ever repay him with such unconditional devotion?
Once he asked, tersely, how Wingull died and Rowen gave him an apologetic answer, to which he turned a deaf ear the moment the old man tried to tell him that his former adviser could have survived. Gaius simply needed to know how.
"I don't think they plan to attack us," Rowen took a sip of hot, fragrant tea, a drink commonly prepared when one needed to get warm. Sometimes inside the thick stone walls of his castle, it became very cold.
"Forewarned is forearmed, it is said not without a reason. Who knows what will transpire as a result of this sudden merge and only a terrible king will utterly dismiss such a possibility. If we had a weapon similar to the Kresnik Spear, but the one which was meant to destroy ships, not Spirits… And yet, I cannot say I gained nothing. I didn't win, but neither did I lose. I find myself in a strange predicament."
Rowen uneasily fidgeted in his seat. "Weapons like these only bring misery."
"Humph, I knew you wouldn't change your mind. However, since their existence is hypothetical, we will make do with what we have, as we did during the uprising. Wingull and I… we began with a small detachment of well-armed footsoldiers, volunteers mostly, and cavalry, but not the traditional kind which uses horses as mounts. By that time we learned how to tame the flying beasts and it gave us a bit of an advantage during the siege of Khan Bark. When the uprising was over, we had the whole country behind us with the exception of a few disloyal tribe chiefs."
"I remember those times. Nachtigal whom I still served then was very much out of temper when he heard the news of your consistent success, but I knew he was frightened. Revolutions tend to spread like wildfire. He kept complaining that he couldn't sleep and ignored my attempts to explain to him that his scheme wasn't in danger. And then he wasn't even a king, just an offspring of a noble family who was hell-bent on winning the struggle for supreme authority."
Gaius closed his eyes for a moment, ignoring the hint. "I still can't believe there was a whole world on the other side of Shell all this time and no one knew, not even suspected… besides Maxwell."
He didn't enjoy talking idly, but in those evenings he could not do much besides talking idly while sipping tea and reflecting on the past. Tomorrow he would have to speak in front of Rashugal nobility, persuading them to share their knowledge of Spirit Artes for irrigation and illumination with the native people of Ajur – his Ajur – when it felt like begging although the other part of him knew it was simple politics; nuances of reshaping the whole world. It belonged to him now, weighted heavily on his shoulders although he was not afraid of that burden. At least, Rowen's tea left an exquisitely pleasant aftertaste. It reminded him of citron flowers and his mother.
"Everyone writes me from time to time," Rowen's words interrupted the flow of his thoughts. "I've heard from Jude, he graduated from medical school and continues his research on Origin Spirits. Leia works as a reporter in Elenpios, Elise is studying…"
"It's good you keep in touch with them." Gaius glanced askance at his Prime Minister with certain chagrin, wondering if he was alluding to his and Musee's actions which could have led to the destruction of Elenpios. Or, perhaps, Rowen did not have an ulterior motive, sharing his joy, and Gaius's suspicions reflected his own doubts.
"Maybe they could…"
"No, I wanted to go to Elenpios myself, I do not know when, but rest assured I will… Even if I leave all the governmental affairs to you, I need to be certain that the tension between Rashugal and Ajur is relieved… for now. But how else can I understand how their advanced society is structured? How am I to maintain a diplomatic relationship with their leaders?"
"It is an honorable goal, but you cannot walk around in your armor, attracting too much attention. Let's say they are not used to seeing clothes we are wearing," Rowen smoothed out his beard, hiding a smile underneath his palm. "And we will have to learn how to use cell phones… I am not too old to resent novelty."
"I'll travel incognito then, use my birth name."
"What do you mean?"
"In Ajur, it is an old habit to keep your birth name a secret. I am Arst Outway, Wingull was Lin Landau, I thought you wanted to know. Gaius seemed like a name suitable for a king, a worthy old name… old, although my country is young. But now it is time to put it in a sheath, like sword in times of peace… How ironic is it, to hide, using your real name?"
"Who else knows about it?"
"Most of them are dead. Among those who are still alive, you know and… Musee."
"The Great Spirit?"
Gaius frowned, "I revealed it to her to gain her trust, but now she permanently resides in the Spirit Land."
He could have used her immense power even now, he thought. If he closed his eyes, the king could easily relive the moment.
He points at the sky of the artificial world and its walls shake, crack like a mirror and through the rift in the dimension appears the enormous bulk of the Kresnik Spear, Musee standing on its muzzle, her arms outspread, her laughter ringing in the air. And he orders her with passion he kept inside for so long, passion which is his battle with himself and his desire to protect everyone and his resolve to carve a new path in history.
And she proved herself to be a faithful ally.
…He retired for the night early, soon after he discussed his future plans with Rowen in detail. His room awaited him, dark and cold, taunting him with predictable emptiness of a different kind than that which could be filled with furniture and gilded mirrors. Gaius sank into the chair, took off the head adornment, and stared into the darkness in strange agitation. He could not determine the source of it, but as any skilled fighter he learned to trust his intuition, that fickle feeling which was almost divine. It was then that he noticed how curtains quivered in the draught and unsheathed his sword, seeing more and more signs of intrusion as his eyes roved about the room. When he ripped the curtain aside and flung open the balcony door, he expected to find a frightened bird which miraculously got inside the castle, seeking warmth and food, or an assassin, but instead in a pale glimmer he discerned the contours of a woman's figure sitting on the stone handrail. Underneath sprawled the magnificent city of Khan Bark, blazing with multicolored lights, and she fearlessly sat on the edge of the precipice, dangling her legs. A pair of transparent wings fluttered behind her back.
He blinked once, twice, but she didn't vanish. "Musee!" Her name escaped his lips, a genuinely astonished exclamation. "I didn't except to find you here."
She was frighteningly like Musee he knew, pale-skinned, green-eyed, seething with life and joy, and yet she had changed. Imperceptibly. Inexorably.
"I was sent back to the human world, but I can't tell you the reason. It's a secret," she raised a finger with a cryptic smile and pointed it into the distance where the wind twirled weightless snowflakes. "I forgot how beautiful your city was and then, feeling nostalgic, I decided to visit you."
Awkward silence hung in the air. Gaius did not know what to tell her. He felt as he would feel, meeting an old lover with whom he parted amicably, but whom he did not intend to see again. He regretted nothing and accepted his faults – to err, after all, was human – but he couldn't know if to her he would not be a mere importunate reminder of a past failure.
"Why?" He lifted an eyebrow.
"Ah, there is no reason at all," she straightened to full height and adroitly balanced on the handrail or so it seemed, but her feet, he knew, did not touch the surface. Long hair, glimpsed in the moonlight, cascaded over her shoulders. "All right, I did have a reason… I want to show you something, Arst, but you have to come with me."
"Arst, humph?" He smiled gently. "I am delivering a speech tomorrow, to go anywhere would be an unforgivable folly."
"Don't be such a bore, Arst." She slipped off the balcony and floated into his room. He followed, slightly befuddled.
"I suppose being a ruler means to be boring, implacable and relentless."
"I'll just ask you this once to bear with me."
She froze by the mirror, clasping her hands, pale and despondent. "We have gone and done it, haven't we? I am very sorry."
"What nonsense!" He retorted sharply, clenching his fists. "It is what I wanted, it is what I would have tried regardless of who joined me, my vision, my duty, my… it is all mine. I regret nothing and you, too, should put it behind you."
"It is easier said than done," she said quietly. "Milla, my sister, she is very kind. She forgave me, welcomed me to a place where I belong, helped me move forward, but even she can only do so much. To finally forget and forgive myself I needed to see you. That's why," her voice grew firmer, "you will come with me."
"Why do you believe you owe me anything?"
She threw up her hands and stamped her foot in a familiar dramatic manner, as if she expected him to understand and agree with her at once. "Because I failed you, wasn't strong enough, wasn't…"
Gaius laughed. He didn't laugh very often, but rarer so did he meet women who not only could match him in power, but also amused him and astonished him greatly. And she didn't fear him, not even in the least, as if fright wasn't an inherent trait of hers.
"You owe me nothing, I didn't…"
"Your reasons don't concern me. Say whatever you wish, but know that words won't change my mind. You would have kept that promise, I felt it, and at that moment nothing betokened a hopeful morrow but you."
Suddenly Gaius understood that in truth he didn't mind seeing her at all. He was with many women in his life, but none were like Musee and it was a dangerous conclusion; as a king of undivided Riese Maxia, he could have anyone he desired, but her he would not want as a trophy which was meant to be abandoned on a whim unless she disappointed him somehow. However, if she could leave her homeland, he had time to decide.
"You persuaded me and I will accompany you, but until the current issue between Rashugal and Ajur is resolved, I can't leave. Return in a week, but not later than in ten days…"
Musee beamed, rising almost to the ceiling and assuming a reclining position in thin air. "You are always such a bore. What kind of issue? I don't know much about human world, but you are a king and you can order them to comply with any decision you think is right."
"If only it was that easy to rule a country… People have opinions and desires, they misinterpret my words and misunderstand each other, they long for freedom and yet when they receive it, they are scared and confused. It's very easy to think what others should give up for the wellbeing of their nation, but when the time comes for them to make a sacrifice, most people prefer to protect their personal interests."
"All right, I'll come back in a week, but," she slowly descended so that her face was level with his, "don't forget your promise or I will… I'll think of something."
"You haven't told me what it is that you wanted to show me."
Musee playfully tilted her head. "Think of them as alternate worlds, endless possibilities, distorted reflections of a reality. I think you'll like what I found, but I won't tell you what it is because then you won't come."
"That's preposterous; I already said I would…"
"Farewell, Arst." When they were alone, she never called him by his fictitious name. "I'll see you in a week."
And with those words she was gone, leaving him with mixed feelings of disbelief, annoyance and inexplicable joy.
Musee came back in a week, as she promised. By then, Gaius had already decided he would leave for Elenpios the following month and Rowen ordered to prepare him a new outerwear in which he would not stand out – a black suit, a white shirt and a matching tie. He wasn't used to seeing himself in such a strange, bizarre even outfit, but at least most articles of clothing fit perfectly except for the tie whose purpose he could not figure out. The suit looked complete without it.
The king was about to give up and ask his Prime Minister what to do with the odd accessory which looked like a long ribbon of uneven width when he felt her presence behind his back as she once again brazenly appeared uninvited.
"You are going to Elenpios, aren't you? People there wear that sort of strange clothes. I watched them so many times before Shell was destroyed that I can probably help you."
She radiated an aura of serenity, which he had not noticed before, but it was almost tangible now, mixed with the soft melody of her voice and a smell of citron flowers. Suddenly he saw she held an apple in her hand.
"Where did you get an apple?"
"I took it from your kitchen."
"You stole it?"
"Nobody seemed to mind; most of them stared in awe at my wings and at my hair, silly lot. And then," she waved her arm in a vague direction, "I disappeared." Then she noticed a tie he still held in his hands and, having lost interest in the fruit, snatched it from him. "Now, how was it supposed to be tied? Let me remember… No, it certainly isn't the right way." She bit her lip in a touching manner. "While I am trying to recall what you, humans, do with it, tell me about your speech."
"I thought you found me boring."
"Aren't I allowed to joke? I am awfully curious about human traditions, relationships, likes and dislikes… I asked Milla, but then I saw that some of my questions brought back memories imbued with sadness."
Gaius turned to the window, folding his arms. "It is an art in itself to persuade stubborn people, but an art I mastered exceptionally well. Of course, they complied fully with my requests, I made sure of it. To those who refused to see the wisdom in it, I showed the inevitability of failure. At times, it is frighteningly simple to influence and shape one's opinion. People who have a lot to lose, will unite when threatened by an invasion. People who have nothing to lose… those will be united only under the banner of a revolution."
"The memories of that war are still fresh, but… not all of them are like Gilland. Kresnik was from Elenpios as well."
"Perhaps you are right, but truth at times is irrelevant."
"I remembered how to properly tie it!" She exclaimed with excitement, forgetting about their conversation momentarily, and wrapped the ribbon around his neck, tying it nimbly. "It's quite easy…"
"So that's what it is meant for," said Gaius, scrutinizing his reflection. "Seems useless and uncomfortable…"
"But now you can pass for a member of the Elenpios elite, prim and authoritative, although…" there was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, "much too handsome." Then, as if having realized she said more than she intended to, Musee hastily opened a portal to the new dimension which resembled a wound with blue blood on its edges. "Follow me if you want to keep your word."
Gaius shook his head and stepped inside.
The place he found himself in resembled Maxwell's dwelling. It seemed boundless, a meadow stretching as far as the eye could see, but he felt as though he was surrounded by palpable walls which would crack like mirrors if he struck the glassy surface hard enough. And yet he could not tell where they began. Light fell out of nowhere, yellow, even. The sky was without a cloud, but as the illumination, it appeared artificial. The air was still and silence oppressive. A pair of swings stood in the middle and thereat sat Musee, wiggling her foot.
It was a strange place indeed.
"Where are we?" He asked and then felt their presence although they were invisible – unreachable, rather – through layers of distorted reality. Somewhere the gears of time he saw in Maxwell's dwelling kept turning.
"You felt their presence, too, didn't you? It's the place of endless possibilities where paths meet, but never cross. It is calm now, the storm had ceased, but tranquility never lasts long here." As if to corroborate her words, the sky darkened, the clouds, as though having fallen mad, rushed towards the center, the ground shook and a gust of wind scattered her hair. The place which was dead a moment ago, returned to life; a shadow flitted over the mirrors, erasing what they reflected heretofore, the green grass, slightly tinged by saffron yellow, the blue sky, the swings, and he was suddenly seeing familiar walls of his castle in Khan Bark, its courtyards and towers afire. Rashugal forces advanced through the open gates, slaughtering the people of Ajur, footsoldiers and civilians alike, but he was nowhere to be seen and neither was Wingull or Presa, only the night and snow and carnage.
"What is it showing me?" He asked, bewildered.
"The events which could have transpired if you had never led the revolution. Look here!"
He obeyed, pivoting on his heels, in time to see another image on the wall. He stood with Wingull and Jao on the outskirts of Ha Mil and the sun shone into their faces with sweltering ardor. Jao covered his eyes with his palm and with that familiar unconcerned smile was telling something to his former adviser whose features still bore traces of youthful naïveté.
"This future was lost when Gilland built the Kresnik Spear," whispered Musee, her face reflecting profound sadness. "And this is what would have happened had you chosen not to chase after me when I fled in search of Maxwell."
Gaius saw Musee's figure on the edge of a cliff, kneeling in the pillar of light, her arms awkwardly lifted, and then the light faded and she prostrated herself on the ground. Her wings fluttered in the wind and fear gave her face a deathly pallor; she was withering, dying in a way he had never seen a human die.
"Is it the reason to which I owe your visit?" He asked, feeling certain frustration.
"No, these possibilities are dead and we can only regret or rejoice that circumstances were such and not different. But shades of them remain and gears of time keep turning…"
Suddenly, Gaius saw himself and Wingull in the throne room. They both looked younger and both wore bloody clothing. Wingull's whole figure betrayed an immense suffering which he underwent somehow, and he would have fallen if Gaius didn't extended him his arm onto which he was leaning his whole weight. His pale face – it was hard to forget that expression – radiated admiration and humbleness so uncharacteristic of him, resignation to the inevitability. He didn't shift back from his battle form or he had no strength to do so and his white hair was smirched with dirt.
"The last stronghold of the insurrection, Khan Bark, had fallen," Wingull slumped onto the throne, bloody and disarrayed and crestfallen. "It is futile to resist, futile to yield… Kuuru tun, Esutii. U etsu tiudindu."
His counterpart frowned, lowering his sword, and replied in the same dialect, "Mui, U dinfuosun."
"What did you say?" Musee whispered behind his shoulder.
"I said, 'I refuse' to his request to take his life in Melnics, the language which was spoken in Wingull's clan," Gaius replied in the same quiet voice, afraid to interrupt his alternative self from the inexistent world.
"Kill me, Arst, I cannot bear the shame! It is finished now and I only wanted… to die by your side," Wingull made an effort to rise, but it drained him of his last strength and so he remained sitting in the same pose, gazing at him with that overwhelming adoration. "Kill me and save your own life. Where you walk now, I cannot follow."
The vision was so vivid, it seemed real. Gaius outstretched his arm and the wall rippled, as though he had plunged his fingers into water. He fancied he could smell the burning wood, hear the distant screams of the dying.
The answers to the future always lie in the past.
"So that's what you did, Wingull…" Then he jerked away his hand. The reality rippled and soon in a blur he could no longer discern his own face. "I think I understand now more than ever that I shouldn't have…"
He shouldn't have come here, that much was certain. He had only his curiosity to blame.
"Where are you going?" Musee hailed after him. "If you wait a little, they will appear again…"
"I am going back."
"Then at least take this dagger, a key which will always guide you here…"
"No, Musee, I will never return to this place," he retorted sternly and resumed walking towards the portal.
"Arst, wait! Don't be angry with me! I thought you would want to see them again… I didn't know, I swear on my life!" The sheer desperation in her voice made him halt. "I am a Spirit, not a human…"
"I am not angry because you are right, I would have sacrificed riches and human lives to see them again, but these are not my comrades. I feel as though I visited a graveyard where tombstones can speak and memories can come to life. But understand that I cannot allow myself to get bogged down in the morass of the past," the king of all Riese Maxia conciliatory outstretched his arm, a gesture to which she, despite being a Spirit, always responded immediately, captivated by its strong symbolism of unification, of offering, of bridging a gap. But this time she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, trembling all over, weightless and sad and so familiar. "Human life is too short. My future alone holds too many possibilities to commit a grave mistake."
He led her away from that deceptively alluring place, but behind his back if he closed his eyes, the enormous gears of time kept turning. And somewhere deep inside he knew he would have to confront himself and his Fourves one more time.
…When Gaius woke up the following morning with a slight headache, he at first thought Musee had never returned and he saw a queer dream, but on the nightstand beside his bed he saw an apple core and on the back of a chair hung a tied tie and his hand remembered a timorous touch of her trembling fingers.