MAESTER KINOC:

Really now. Who would execute a dear friend?

AURON:

You would.


AURON:

Although he was not the man I once knew... Kinoc was still my friend, Seymour. You will pay for his death!


Happily Ever


Kinoc knows he'll be great someday. Most fifteen-year-olds have trouble thinking ahead to Wednesday, but not him. The other recruits mostly signed up because they want fame and glory, heroics and valor, and Kinoc wants that too, but he knows there's more then one way to get it.

He's going to be a general. A brilliant tactician. He's not in the best shape; he knows he won't ever be a champion of the sword, so instead Kinoc will lead from behind. The soldiers will fight the battle, but he'll decide the grounds.

That's why he joined the Warrior Monks.

The others think he's a joke, Kinoc knows. A chubby boy, he has trouble keeping up to the others, and most physical activities become a matter of being able to finish, not a matter of winning. He bears it with as much good humor as he can, knowing that someday he'll be ordering them around. The somewhat childish fantasy of sending them to their deaths, unfortunate casualties in this never ending war, is well loved and well tended to.

Later, when the other boys are running around, playing out famous battles, sparring and gossiping, conspiring to loose their virginity with some of the prostitutes in the lower sections of the city (Kinoc thinks of these things with a condescending scorn that is older then he is; he's a virgin too, of course, but the promise of greatness is more important then young lust), Kinoc reads. Every textbook on War, on Sin, on Fiends he can find he devours, making himself notes and testing himself later--why are frontal attacks unfavorable when fighting the Greater Marboro? What tactics are appropriate when fighting in the desert?

After a while, Kinoc becomes the outcast of the recruits, because he looks down on them, and they hate him for it, for being fat and friendless and thinking he's better. They tease him still, kick him around when bored, but it isn't worth the bother: Kinoc doesn't even get worked up about a punch in the face, so why do it to start with? The new recruits are now second years, and there's a newer, younger batch to mess with instead.

Auron is in that batch. Tall and quiet for fifteen, he's already better then most of his year in combat, and the few sorry attempts made to harass him peter off in confusion, for Auron always seemed to be able to make the attacker feel silly for trying. "Do you really want to do that?" he asked one third year boy, once, somberly serious as the harasser threatened to beat him for not being adequately polite. The boy shook his head, cracked a shaky grin, and jaunted off.

Auron, it was quickly and silently decided, was just as bad as Kinoc. It seemed only natural that they'd become friends. More then friends, if you listened to the cruder rumors, but Kinoc considered himself above them, and Auron hardly seemed to notice. They'd sit in Kinoc's dorm when his roommate was out, Kinoc reading cross-legged on his bed, Auron sitting on the other, and talk, a little.

- So where did you learn to fight?

- Around. How do you learn to ignore the fools?

- They just aren't worth listening to. Why did you join the Monks?

- Why did you?

Kinoc tells Auron his plans for the future. Auron tells Kinoc of his past. Sometimes Kinoc finds himself wishing that Auron was different, cooler and less serious. Someone popular, who the others would be jealous of. Look at Auron--I wish I were friends with someone that cool. That Kinoc is sure lucky. But then Kinoc always feels guilty, a little, because Auron is his only real friend, his best friend, and he doesn't really want to be one of those popular fighting types, anyway.

He's above that.

And Kinoc suspects, a little, that Auron sometimes wishes other things of Kinoc, that he considers Kinoc to be a little haughty, a little pompous, a little less then sociable. Kinoc doesn't mean for Auron to feel that way, excluded, but he can't but be what he is, either.

In Kinoc's third and final year, Auron's second, two more boys join their group, first years both. One is twitchy loud and obnoxious, the other strong but incurably stupid. Kinoc didn't want them to start following Auron and him, and tried to push them away with all the power being senior had, but it was Auron who protested--what harm could it do? Leave them alone, and the others will just tear them apart. And then, a compliment: They aren't as controlled as you.

The other two are worshipful of Kinoc and Auron, and in time Kinoc grows to like the attention, the feeling of eyes following him, of respect so palpable he could grab it in his fists. He finds himself growing protective of them both, telling off the other trainees for doing either of them the slightest injustice. This causes the boys to love him more. They love Auron, too, but Kinoc doesn't mind that: Auron is too quiet for proper hero worship, and the boys are like puppies, wanting attention in return.

One weekend, a rare day off, the four of them go down to the lower districts, confident teenagers all, the Warrior Monks of tomorrow. They wander for a few hours, drinking sometimes, and Kinoc forgets to look down on them.

"I signed up for this," Auron admits, later when they sit in a pub, arrogant boys loud in a corner, "because I don't know what else to do."

"I'm going to kill Sin," the stupid one says, a bit drunk.

"How about you?" Kinoc asks the fourth boy, nodding his head in his direction.

"Me dad used ta be a great Crusader," he explains mournfully, "So I'm guessin' that I'm meant ta follow 'n his footsteps." The boy lifted his stein and threw back his head, Adam's apple bobbing impressively as he drank all the ale.

"I'll be," Kinoc says, just the right note of solemnity in his voice, "a general."

"That's great..." the drunken one slurs. Auron eyes his ale before taking a drink, and the other one stares longingly at an impressively busty waitress.

"Known throughout Spira," Kinoc adds.


They head back to the school, watching the younger boys sway, but Kinoc is annoyed and doesn't appreciate the image of one of them toppling over, splashing in a puddle, as much as he might've normally. "Have you every noticed," Auron says suddenly, "that you have an ego problem?"

Kinoc is slightly taken aback, slightly annoyed. "I don't. I'm going to be a general, a famous one, but I work for it. I don't just assume."

"You look down on us. All of us," Auron said, "but really, if we were to all line up by talent and strength, you'd be one of the last."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Kinoc snapped, surprisingly hurt by his friend's words.

"Just that you need to be careful," Auron said. "I think you should give up on this general nonsense. You're no good when it comes to fighting, but you're smart enough. Be a professor or something."

"Being a general has been my dream for years now," Kinoc hissed.

"Power corrupts, and," one of the boys ran into a couple, a young woman and older man, daughter and father, the woman in a fancy dress, and Auron changed tactics. "I think we should probably intervene," he says dryly, walking over to them, hoisting the drunken friend up by the arm.

Kinoc stays behind and watches as Auron explains, hits the drunken boy when he say something no doubt perverse (the girl is really quite lovely). Auron introduces himself, makes amends, bows awkwardly and speaks awkwardly, accidentally charming the girl. Her father is High Priest of Bevelle's main temple.

Only two weeks later, Auron is proposed to. He looks over at Kinoc hopelessly, completely out of his element, but Kinoc is suddenly angry, vengeful, and stomps off to his room without a word, throwing a tantrum there and collapsing onto his bed, face in his hands. "I'll be great," he says. "I'll be the greatest."

Isn't that what is supposed to happen? Isn't it what he deserves? The little fat boy with no friends always triumphs over the popular idiots. Kinoc's better then them, he's known it all along, but when will everyone else acknowledge it? Auron didn't even want to get married, and here one of the most important officials in Bevelle wants to make him his son-in-law!

It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.

Kinoc fumes.

Auron comes in later and tells him, flatly, that he turned the Priest's daughter down. This angers Kinoc more then almost everything else. Why did you do that? Didn't you know what could happen if you had married her! You could do anything--you could have helped me!

Auron stares at Kinoc silently, and then turns to leave. "I won't help you corrupt yourself. You're my friend as you are."

"Don't be stupid. Don't be selfish."

"Maybe you're not my friend, then," Auron snaps, eyes flashing like steel. He leaves, shutting the door behind him, and they ignore each other for the rest of Kinoc's year, parting ways without so much as a backwards glance.


Years and years later, Kinoc is a rising figure in Bevelle politics, married to a wealthy woman from a prominent family. He listens to rumors now, and they all agree that he'll be Maester within five years, less if he's lucky and plays his cards right. Some disgraced Summoner suddenly defeats Sin, and the world is thrown into the happy turmoil of the Calm. The names of Spira's new heroes are shouted in the streets: Braska, Jecht, Auron.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Kinoc grieves.