I began this one-shot a rather long time ago, and recently I had the urge to complete it. So basically... here it is! And I apologize for not posting very much lately; I have been lacking inspiration. Hopefully the format of this fic is understandable without an explanation--there are manychanges from past to present.
Warnings: People die. It's obvious whom the victims are fairly early in the fic, but I'm still not going to say! There aren't any big spoilers, though, I don't believe.
Disclaimer: As per usual, I own nothing in relation to Tales of Symphonia or any of its characters.
What's the worst that I can say? Things are better if I stay; So long and goodnight... —My Chemical Romance
/...For Those Faint of Heart.../Sheena sat alone in her small house, counting down the minutes until it would be an appropriate time to go to sleep. She would have just drifted off into slumber at that moment, but the sun was just then setting, and despite her fatigue it felt too early to retire. The summoner yawned, staring out of the opened window uninterestedly; the clouds were finally beginning to part after the rain that had fallen earlier. It seemed as though every day had been the same since the move to Sylvarant had been completed. The day would be spent aiding her grandfather and the vice-chief in village matters, training with Orochi, and then finally returning home with nothing to do. Sheena could feel her head slowly lowering as sleep overcame her, however a sudden call of "Sheena!" caused her to bolt upright again as she looked around, searching for the voice's source. "Yo, Sheena," the voice seemed to lower itself to a fierce whisper, "I'm outside the window!"
Puzzled, Sheena peered outside to find herself locking eyes with and old friend; even before she took in the rest of his features, she recognized those steel blue eyes. "Zelos! What the hell are you doing here?" Frantically, Sheena glanced around to see if anyone else was around to take notice to the former Chosen of Tethe'alla, even though she was inside of her own, empty home.
"Don't worry, no one caught me sneak in," Zelos assured, brushing a strand of rain-soaked hair out of his face.
Sheena intolerantly strummed her fingers against the windowsill, "Damnit, Zelos. That doesn't make it right that you're here!"
"Ssh!" Zelos teasingly held a finger in front of his mouth to tell Sheena to silence herself, "You don't want to attract attention, do you?" His friend clenched her fist angrily, struggling to keep herself from retorting. "Come on out here," Zelos said, motioning to the area behind him with his head, his eyes looking towards a forested area that was located just out of Mizuho.
Sheena gave an irritated sigh, but complied anyway. Once they were both outside in the back of Sheena's house, Zelos instantly took her in his arms and kissed her lips hungrily. The dampness of Zelos' soaked clothes seeped through Sheena's, dousing her skin with rainwater, although she could care less. They remained like that for a few moments, each enjoying the other's affection, until finally they pulled away and stared at each other. A tranquil silence filled the air. A smile made its presence known on Sheena's face as she threw her arms around Zelos, dropping her head onto his chest while laughing softly. "I never thought I'd experience that again," she admitted.
"Well, I certainly couldn't give you a taste without offering more, could I?" Zelos asked, a smirk tugging at his lips as he placed his hands on Sheena's back. The Mizuho native tilted her head upward to meet his gaze and then playfully shoved him backwards. "Aw, c'mon, you know I was just joking!" Zelos beamed, pulling Sheena close to him again, "It's really me who needed more of you." He could feel the summoner nestling closer to him, and it only brightened his mood even more. "Out in that forest," he said, glimpsing towards the woods outside of Mizuho again, "we could just be alone. Whenever I can come out here, that's where we can go; no one will catch us there."
"I hope you're right," Sheena gave a contented sigh, "because I don't think I'll be able to forget you now..."
After that, we would meet in the forest once every month; the times that I managed to escape Meltokio and sneak away into Sylvarant. As cheesy as it sounds, I was always so happy just to see you. Even if our love was something passing—a dream that could never work out in reality—you were the only one that I ever considered a 'love' and not a 'lover'. Back at home, groupies still swarmed around me; I guess even without the title of 'Chosen', I was still pretty good-looking. Not once did I give into any of their charm. It seemed as though the only thing that I ever said to any woman in Meltokio was "Sorry, there's someone else." But I was always fine with that, because I loved that 'someone' more than anything else in the world. A life without you was unimaginable... No. It could be imagined, but I didn't even want to consider the possibility of you being gone.
Zelos and Sheena sat together underneath one of the many trees in the forest. Sheena rested her back against Zelos' chest, while his back was resting against the tree's trunk; his arms wrapped securely around her torso, legs on either side of her. Zelos propped his chin on Sheena's shoulder, nuzzling his face innocently against hers. "Seeing you is the highlight of my month," he murmured, tightening his hold on her.
Sheena placed her hand on top of Zelos'. "Mine too," she whispered back, and then added with a chuckle, "I mean, seeing you, not seeing me."
"Don't die before me, mmkay?"
The summoner turned her head as best she could to place Zelos within her vision. "Uh...?" The combination of the classic 'I don't know why you're saying this' word and her raised eyebrow made Sheena's confusion as clear as purified water. She understood that conversations could branch off into completely unrelated topics, but to go from love to death so spontaneously was suspicious.
"I don't mean it in a negative way—"
Before Zelos could finish explaining himself, Sheena snapped, "Oh, so you meant it in a positive way? Of course! That makes so much more sense!" She huffed and placed all of her weight against Zelos in frustration.
He casually held Sheena's weight away with his hands, "No, no! You know damn well that that's not what I meant! I was just thinking about how hard it would be to live without you."
Sheena exhaled audibly. "He with the dark soul speaks dark words, no matter how light his life may be."
"That was just about the least insightful proverb-like statement that I've ever heard in my life," Zelos remarked, and in turn was nonchalantly punched in the arm by Sheena. The ninja pushed against the ground and got to her feet, her legs unsteady after having been sitting for so long. She bent her knees and stretched her arms, jerking out all of the stiffness that had accumulated. With a silent consent, Zelos also stood up and gazed up towards the sky that was almost completed veiled by trees. He stared closely and murmured, "It's getting late, isn't it?"
"Yep," Sheena responded carelessly as she took a few steps in the direction of her village. She stopped and looked back at Zelos, only turning around again once he was next to her matching her stride as she walked forward. Zelos placed his hand on Sheena's shoulder as they walked, and allowed it to conspicuously slide down her arm under their fingers were laced together. "You know what, Zelos?" Sheena asked without expecting an answer, "You're pretty selfish, telling me not to die before you. That means that you expect me to be the one to deal with your loss!"
Zelos appeared taken aback, but he covered it up in typical Zelos style, "Nooo, that isn't what I meant. I meant that we could die together, like any good couple!"
Sheena noticeably rolled her eyes, "You're such an idiot."
Yeah, it was a selfish thought. But I was always prone to being a rather selfish person... I guess that tendency has gotten me back good, hasn't it?
"Are the plans in order?"
"Yes. The army is en route to the village. They should be there before nightfall."
Zelos stopped dead in his tracks as he passed by the military room in Meltokio's castle. There was to be an attack? He had never heard any word of it, which meant that no one in the public was to know of it. Nosiness took control of the former Chosen and he decided to get more information than he should have known. He quickly peered around the hallways – pleased to find them deserted – and then approached the closed wooden door, placing his ear next to it so that he could eavesdrop more clearly.
"I don't care that they left our side of the world; in my mind, that makes them even more of a threat to us!"
"I agree. They've always been traitors, so it's best to exterminate them before they take up arms against us."
Zelos could feel his heart beginning to throb quicker and quicker with each word that the soldiers spoke. The village... left their side of the world... always been traitors... 'No,' Zelos mentally told himself, 'They... can't be attacking...'
A chuckle came from within the room, "Heh. Those Mizuho suckers had better hope that their 'ninja skills' help them see us coming!" The two voices that had been conversing broke into laughter, not even trying to repress their amusement of the destruction of a village.
"Oh God," Zelos said in practically a gasp. His eyes were wide, tears creeping towards their corners as images of soldiers raiding the serene village of Mizuho poured into his mind; shrieks of the woman echoing through the plains, men holding up weapons in an unpromising defence, and Sheena... Zelos quickly squeezed his eyes closed, shaking his head to snap out of this trance. "Shit! Sheena!" He hesitated no longer and raced out of the city, ignoring anyone who took notice to him along the way. He boarded one of the Rheairds that were kept outside, in the field, and travelled as quickly as he could to Mizuho.
As he flew overhead the village, everything looked calm and exactly as it was the last time that he had been there. He could not control the hope that grew inside of him, even though he knew that he should not have been expectant of any good news. Throughout the entire ride to Mizuho, his body had been completely frozen; he did not even recall breathing or feeling the uneasy heartbeat in his chest. As the Rheaird came to a stop at the outskirts of the village, Zelos' senses all returned to him. It was completely silent, as though even the birds were too frightened to sing. So silent that Zelos could feel his hope failing him again... there should have been sound. There should have been people visible in the small village ahead of him; there should have been voices, footsteps... anything. Alarm pulsed through the ex-Chosen's veins – it was cold and seemed to sting his very essence. "Sheena!" That was the only word to escape his mouth as he dashed forward into the hamlet.
The buildings were all perfect. Not a plank of wood was fallen; not a door was broken down. This only seemed to make the reality worse for Zelos, because beside the untouched buildings there were corpses. They littered the pathways, their blood seeping into the dirt to create some twisted form of mud. Crimson dirt was quickly becoming as traumatizing as red snow. Weapons were scattered nearby certain bodies – those of warriors who made an effort to defend the village; some of the castle's military men were left dead, too. It was the remains of a war zone, and yet if not for the corpses, one would never even know.
Limbs quivering – yet he did not even notice – Zelos wandered through the small streets. As he continued to walk, his emotions were thrown askew; these bodies, he had known so many of them. He passed by Orochi's corpse, left collapsed outside of the chief's home. Denial. He found Tiga's body within a home. Terror.
Even as he looked down upon the bodies of people he never knew, he was horrified. In the village's garden there were lifeless women and children; their baskets of fruits and vegetables overturned, beautiful flowers left tainted by red liquid. At long last, he came to the house in the farthest corner of Mizuho: Sheena's house. Never in his life had he had this much pessimism within himself, and that was certainly saying a lot. Zelos slid open the front door, immediately greeted by Igaguri at his feet; eyes open, glazed over, and dead. He cringed at the very sight. "Damn. Chief Igaguri..." he muttered, "I never expected to see someone as strong as you end up like this..."
The former Chosen started in surprise as he heard a feeble voice from the other room. "Oh, please..." he pleaded to anything that would listen before running into the bedroom. Mixed emotions overcame Zelos; there was Sheena, alive and... dying right before his eyes. "Sheena," his voice cracked as he spoke; he wanted to cry. She looked so pathetic, collapsed onto the floor, her back against the wall – blood flowing out of the wounds on her abdomen and shoulder, leaving marks on her torn clothes. He would not cry, though. Zelos hurried across the room to where Sheena was sitting and dropped down to his knees beside her. He pulled her into his arms; the blood oozing out from the gashes in her skin stained his clothing, but he could care less.
Neither of them said a thing; the only sound was that of Sheena's deep breathing as she savoured what were to be her last breaths. She was dying, and neither one of them was even going to bother denying it. They were sitting in a pool of blood that was ever growing. "I... I tried, Zelos." The redhead remained mute as he felt Sheena tightly grip onto his shirt, leaning closer to him, "But... I guess I'm still going to... die before you..."
Restrained sobs came from the summoner's throat as she held onto Zelos. "Sheena..." his fingers lightly skimmed her chin, easily tilting her head upwards. Her cheeks were marked with the salty remnants of her tears. "You shouldn't cry. A beautiful woman like you shouldn't have her face stained by tears as she dies..."
His comment only seemed to make Sheena more upset. Her crying grew more uncontrollable as she sputtered, "Damnit, Zelos! You never change!" She dropped her head onto his shoulder and continued to weep, "I'm... petrified out of my mind to die! I want you to comfort me... and tell me that there's something more beyond death... not that I should look pretty as I go!" After a lifetime of suppressed tears, Sheena could no longer keep it all inside. It was pathetic, she thought, that it was on her deathbed that she finally allowed herself to break down.
Zelos forced himself to give her an obviously false smile, "Sheena, things aren't going to be over for you. I refuse to believe that once you die, that's the end. I don't know whether that means you'll become a ghost, be reincarnated, or go to some paradise... I just know that it's not blackness that awaits you. And..." Zelos found that he had to stifle his own tears from falling as he tenderly embraced her, "no matter where you end up, I'm going to find you again, all right?"
Sheena sniffled loudly to try and stop crying, but it caused her to cough the air back out again. Her hand reached up to her throat and she made another attempt to inhale, though it failed miserably. "Thank you," she squeaked, "That's exactly... what I wanted to hear..." Zelos simply held her close to him, feeling as her chest quickly rose and fell as she continued to try and breathe. The former Chosen stared outside of the room's window, refusing to watch as Sheena departed from this life. Her body grew limp and her hands released Zelos from their hold. Zelos knew that she was gone. He could have cried 'don't leave me', or something of the sort, but what point did it have? She was gone... She was gone forever.
I couldn't stay in that scene for too long... I had to leave, to avoid reality. What I did next was pure instinct, because I certainly couldn't have relied on my mind with the state that I was in. Next thing I knew, I found myself face-to-face with Lloyd in Iselia, and words were pouring out of my mouth in either fragments or run-on sentences. I guess I got my point across; Lloyd passed word onto some other people, and then they all left for Mizuho. I stayed behind with Colette. Neither of us wanted to face the village the way that it was... Well, I didn't want to face it again
"But I'm not gonna take my life away because of it. Remember our decision? To not run away... I'm still here, baby. And I'm not budging in the face of loneliness, fear, and whatever the hell else I'm feeling right now..."
Zelos turned his head towards the source of the sound that he had just heard. A few tombstones down, he saw a ninja. Initially, the sight before him caused his legs to quiver, nearly stumbling over; everyone in Mizuho had died, so this person must have been a...? "No," Zelos steadied himself and evened out his gaze, locked onto the ninja. He or she was draped head-to-ankle in a burgundy outfit; a hood on their head, mask over their face... shin and arm guards, a dagger in a sheath. As Zelos stared at this other being, he realized that not all of the people from Mizuho were in their village when the raid occurred. Tethe'alla's former Chosen briefly cast his eyes down to the gravestone that he had been standing in front of, and then looked back to the other person. They were now kneeling before the monument, one hand held over their chest and the other resting atop the stone memorial. This pose gave them a paranormal appearance, although Zelos had already concluded that he was not in the presence of a ghost.
There were only four gravestones in the barren village so far; temporarily, there were many wooden crosses scattered about to represent the areas where a body was buried. The freshly piled dirt was enough of an indication of that, however.
As the second figure rose to their feet again, Zelos spoke, "So you've come to pay your respects to your brother?"
"Of everyone in this village, he deserves my empathy the most."
Zelos lowered himself to the ground and sat cross-legged before the tombstone. "I won't deny that Orochi was an incredible person," he admitted without any falseness to his voice. Slowly, he lowered his hand to the ground and toyed with the few blades of grass that were growing from the mound of earth beneath him. He twirled the grass and ran his fingers through it, as one would play with another's hair. The feeling of the plant between his fingers made him sigh desolately, with emptiness. "But so were all of the other people of this village," Zelos insisted as he motioned to the three graves alongside of Orochi's, "These people... I may not have been openly welcome at Mizuho, but it always felt like a home to me. The villagers never knew of the relationship that I shared with their successor. The chief and vice-chief knew it, however. Your brother did, too. She couldn't hide something so important from them, and that didn't matter. They accepted me despite the fact that I was from a totally different culture..." His gaze was never focussed on the other visitor of Mizuho's graveyard; he stared at the stones engraved with the names of Igaguri, and Tiga, and Orochi. "This place became much more open after you left and she became the village's successor. I'm certain that there would have been many more changes had she... been given the chance to become chief. I think that they all became a sort of family to me. You abandoned them, and so they took me in."
His company hastily got to his feet and turned towards the former Chosen, stomping his foot against the ground to express his disagreement. "They will always be my family," he snapped, "I lost my parents at such a young age. I also basically lost Igaguri, who was like a grandfather to everyone in the village—children and adults alike. Tiga did all that he could to replace them all, and took Orochi and I into his care. And the girl who was always so close to me... she wasn't close to anyone anymore. Don't tell me that I am not a part of this village's family! Was... not a part of it..."
For the first time since the incident in Mizuho transpired, Zelos grinned. It was not a false smile, nor a forced one. It was teasing, taunting, provoking. It was the type of grin that Zelos would always give her; to make her face turn red, to make her stammer, to make her act nonchalant. "You still think that Orochi is the only one who deserves your empathy?"
The scarlet-clad man coolly stepped towards Zelos, moving slow enough that he could have time to rest his hands over the tombstones of the lost comrades that had impacted his life more than he was aware of. When he was finally standing over Zelos, he stopped and waited for Zelos to stand up, as well. The Chosen did as was expected from him, and stared evenly into the eyes that stared back at him. He had never previously noticed how distinct all Mizuhoan eyes were; he had always thought that only hers were so unique. Unique or not, he thought, no eyes would ever be as beautiful to him as hers were. "They all deserve my empathy. Not only that, but they deserve my respect," the ninja tentatively placed his hand on the grave he stood next to, "Even Sheena, despite the pain that she caused me. No one will ever replace her."
"I understand," Zelos spoke solemnly, "I'm probably the only other person in this, or any other world that may exist, that understands what you're saying so strongly. Kuchinawa, I may hate your guts; but hell, you're a human too, and..." His sentence stopped short as his gaze travelled from the sole living Mizuhoan in front of him, to the mass murder scene that surrounded them both. "Fuck!" Zelos looked down towards the ground to avoid looking at death in its raw, silent, scream-inducing state; but the ground itself was, in Zelos' eyes, drenched in just as much blood as the gravestones. As the house floors. As the weapons used in the fight. As quickly as he had turned towards the ground, he turned towards the sky only to find himself feeling as though he were staring into the faces of those deceased, their souls floating above him. "No one, nothing; no animal, no human, no goddamn traitor deserves to be slaughtered this way!" The Chosen stumbled back blindly until he found himself leaning against Sheena's headstone. The cold stone with its rough surface, despite its newness, caused Zelos to freeze. "I..." he brought his hand up to the top of the tombstone and let it slowly glide along the grave's side, "H-how can I just leave? I can't put on a façade like I used to."
Kuchinawa dismally stared down at Zelos, who was hunched feebly by the memorial. "Those who are fainthearted will run away, and remain in isolation. They will curse the people who caused their suffering, and seek vengeance on them. They will be alone forever. And those who are strongwilled..." the ninja turned away from Zelos, "will get over it."
Hesitantly, Zelos raised his head only to find a shroud of mist in place of Kuchinawa. He straightened himself up without removing his hand from the surface of Sheena's memorial.
Then... what am I?
I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how this turned out. This is basically the product of what was originally a bad mood, and eventually just became a story that I was interested in finishing and posting. I'm not sure whether or not I portrayed the emotional moments of this story very well, so I would really appreciate some feedback on the emotional aspects of this fic; as well as anything else of course!
Thank you very much for reading. I am about three-quarters through writing the next chapter of 'Just Tell Me', so keep your eyes out for that one.