(Author's Note: Just as there are two ways to start the game, I wanted to have two possible beginnings here. I hope I can have two storylines — similar, and yet told by Claude's and Rena's alternating viewpoints, which would allow you, the reader, to choose which way you'd like to go. Also, this takes place as if the events in Star Ocean: Blue Seed never existed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is an SO2 sequel. Unfortunately, it has not been released here yet, and it's only for Gameboy colour. Thanks to Sandra for looking this chapter over for me.)
Ocean of Stars
Prologue 2 -Home
The smell of Mom's cooking, although not as fragrant and succulent as the meals Rena's mother can whip up, is still, with its invisible beckoning fingertips, able to rouse me from fevered half-dreams. Has it really been a year since me and my friends put a stop to the Ten Wisemen's nefarious plans? It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since I last beheld the tearstained and fond faces of friends wishing me well on my return trip to the Federation – to Earth. I know I promised each one of them that I'd come back after I finish up on my examinations and such, but I just can't find a moment to pull away – to go back to Expel. It's not like I don't want to go; after all, didn't I once turn my back on my father by refusing to return to the Calnus?
The Calnus. Dad.
Maybe that's what's troubling me, keeping me from returning with such a heavy heart. Although it was the right thing to do, I still betrayed the duty and responsibility I owed to my father. It's a weight on my soul that devours me in my darkest moments and makes me wonder how I could so much as dare to cherish the private and sacred hopes that my friends are happy and healthy, when he is dead. Yes, I was always in his shadow, always fighting to make a name for myself without having to fall back on him, but that didn't mean I didn't love him… that I don't miss him as terribly as I do now. I know, if I'd been on the Calnus, I would have been just as helpless as he was. I would have suffered the same fate and allowed not just one, but all worlds to die, but knowing doesn't change the hurt inside me. It just makes it a little less unbearable.
I just can't go back now. They can live without me for a few more years… and I can at least get a title – I've already been promoted to lieutenant -- even a badge, in memory for my father. Don't get me wrong. I don't really care for such things personally, it's not for me, but…
Mom's voice calls me from my internal struggle, reminding me that what my nose had warned me about earlier is now on the table. She didn't really have to cook, as we have replicators, but I don't mention that to her anymore. After living on Expel and sampling much of their cuisine, I find a home-cooked meal rather pleasing and I look forward to those moments when she actually cooks.
Sliding quickly from my bed and adjusting my loose shirt and beige slacks, freeing it of bed wrinkles, I take a quick look into the mirror with a disapproving frown. My frizzy blond hair is a mess, and no matter how I try to comb it into some semblance of order, it refuses to obey. This just won't do. I can't waltz into the dining room looking like a guy hit by a tornado. My mom will take – as I'm sure all mothers everywhere do -- the hands-on approach. That consists of putting her hands EVERYWHERE on my body in some parental attempt to fix clothing that should be worn a certain way. It's annoying, but what can I do? I only have her now, and if I argue, things always manage to somehow return to the topic of dad…
"I'm coming!" Great, now she sounds mad. Whatever thoughts I had been thinking seem to melt away as I lunge for the door. Jerking it open and running into the hall before she calls my name again, I shout back, "I heard you the --"
But instead of being able to finish my words, I find myself cut short, unable to speak. I've been struck dumb and yes, I feel like I've been hit over the head with a smith's hammer. Dressed in her black, revealing gown (perhaps even the very same one she was wearing when we first met) that shows off her shapely left leg, and toting a short-sleeved jacket, is Opera Vectra. She hasn't changed much. Her smile is still nostalgic, her long, golden hair just as shiny as it was then, and her three eyes (that mark her as a Tetragenes) light up with fondness as she catches sight of me.
"Claude, it's great to see you." But the voice doesn't come from her, but the taller gentleman standing beside her dressed in what appears to be a white trench coat over black slacks and shirt. My eyes nearly bulge out of my skull as I recognize him too. With his three eyes, stubble-covered chin, and blond hair, I'd be an idiot if I couldn't name Ernest Raviede -- Opera's boyfriend.
"Ernest! Opera! I can't believe my eyes. What are you doing here?!" I run towards them and offer my hand to Ernest, who grips it fiercely before I turn politely to give Opera a hug. Opera glances over to Ernest, but I don't miss the troubled look the two of them exchange and that plagues me with worries. Does this mean this visit isn't simply one to pay their respects? "Is something wrong?"
"I didn't want to bring it up right away," Ernest admitted with obvious discomfort as his hand searched the pockets of his coat for a cigarette he could not find. "In fact, we should sit down and share some tea, discuss old times. Where is it?"
"Dear, you quit that disgusting habit, remember?" Opera wore that look that hinted how rude it would be to smoke in someone else's apartment. "Claude, we're sorry about interrupting your dinner, but what Ernest is trying to say is that Expel is in trouble again."
Those words jolted me. I view Expel with the same fondness as I view Earth; it's my home away from home. To hear Opera's worried voice breathe those uncomfortable words sends a cramp through stomach. "In trouble? What? How?! Didn't we get rid of --"
"I don't understand it either," Ernest tells me with a serious sigh, "but Expel was hit with another Sorcery Globe."