Greetings all (provided anyone is actually reading this…)! The idea for this fic was sparked partly by several good self inserts that I've been reading lately and by my frustration/writer's block with my other story (not a fanfic). This is the first time I've written fanfic in several years, and it's the first time I have ever tried to post my stuff on the internet. That being said, no flames please! Constructive criticism or even simple comments to let me know you read it are VERY welcome.
This fic is a self-insert, and for story purposes, the character is being made 16 as opposed to 20. The reason for this will be made clear much later on down the road provided I get far enough to write the sequel I have in mind. For those of you who simply read stories and never review out of habit, please review on this one. It's rather disheartening to write and not think anyone cares. Granted, I'm guilty of the same flaw, and I'm trying to get better about it. If no one really is reading this story at all, then I'll probably go back to attempting to kill my writer's block for the other one.
For this chapter, a great deal is taken directly from the game. However, the next chapter will be almost completely new stuff, and the chapters following will vary on the percentage of script vs. new material.
As it is a self-insert, the Mary-Sue possibility is most certainly a threat, but I will do my best to not let Auri become one. Tell me if you think she starts to; the sooner I know, the easier it will be to fix.
One last note: please tell me if anyone ever starts acting too out of character. That is something I would rather avoid.
For many teenagers, the weekend comes as a time of solace, and then for some it is a time of procrastination and Sunday-night-panic about assignments that should have been done two weeks ago. For Auri, the latter was most often the case. Shutting the door to her room behind her, she groaned at the thought of the two papers and a project presentation due on Monday. She ran a hand through her long, messy brown hair in irritation. Kicking off her leather sandals, she plonked down on the bed and pulled over her collection of games from the table on the right. After all, she mused, she could get started tomorrow. Who in their right mind would get started immediately upon getting home anyway? It was Friday! Weekends are sacred times of game playing and general brain rotting.
Then, of course, came the voice of reason. "Students who want to make good grades do their homework when they get home," it piped up. She mentally threw a brick at it and shuffled through the games some more. She went through much of the stack including: Skies of Arcadia, Threads of Fate, and Atelier Iris. Near the bottom she found Growlanser Generations. Being that she hadn't played it since last Christmas when she had gotten the last of all the possible endings (a feat that had taken nearly all of Christmas break). She plucked out disk one for Growlanser 2 and inserted it in the PS2. The game disc loaded, and she selected new game. As usual, the screen went black and the text/voice over intro kicked in:
"The annual entrance exam for the Officer's Academy has just begun. By means of this exam, anyone can become and officer in the royal army…anyone with excellent with excellent exam scores, that is. The process is completely blind to race, sex, or class. The score is all that matters.
This particular exam is being attempted by Wein Cruz, a boy with high hopes for the future."
"Burnstein Military Command Center," the screen read as the new scene faded in.
The office was a large room roughly forty feet long with suits of armor adorning its walls. A map of the world hung on the back wall and polished, oak desk sat at the back of the room, scattered across its surface were several books, loose papers, and used quills. The various commanders who had used the room often claimed the space was for the piles of useless paperwork that came their way (they also claimed they spent more time stamping things than fighting while in that position) while the new recruits claimed it was solely to intimidate them. Auri blinked twice at the scene's details. She could have sworn some of those weren't there before. Then again, it had been nearly a year since she had last played the game…
"Excuse me," Wein said from the doorway hesitantly.
Logan ceased reading the document in hand. "Come in," Commander Logan called, relieved to have an excuse to take a break.
Wein entered, walked within a few feet of the massive desk, and saluted the commander. Wein, a youth of scant (14 or 15?) years of age, had average length black hair that was held in place by a thin, silver headband, amber eyes, and a fair complexion. His garments
Giving Wein a once over, Logan asked, "So then, did you fare well on the written exam?"
"I am confident I did well," Wein replied smoothly.
"What the?" Auri murmured in confusion. "Why didn't it let me pick an answer? I know it's supposed to right there."
"Hmm, yes. Well then, I look forward to seeing the results." He paused to open a drawer on the right side of the desk and pull out a ring. The ring itself was a plain silver one with three odd little holes in it. "Here…I have something to aid you. It's a ring. Try it on." Complying, Wein tried it on. "These are difficult times, Wein. We stand at the brink of war. No one is safe. We all must arm ourselves. That ring is your first step."
Giving the ring a confused glance, he wondered how such a small thing could assist him. Abruptly, the ring glowed, and he suddenly held a long golden-colored scythe. His eyes widened.
"So you can use the power of the ring!" the rather pleased Logan commented.
"What is this?!" Wein demanded.
"It's a Ring Weapon. Our royal scientists have spent countless hours seeking to unlock the ancient secrets these contain. As you have seen, the ring converts the power of your mind into a physical weapon with special capabilities." Our knowledge of these magnificent artifacts is not complete, and not everyone has success with them yet, but you seem to have a good start. Use it well." The ring weapon, sensing it was not needed, flashed once and returned to its original form upon the end of the commander's explanation.
"Thank you, sir," Wein replied with a salute.
"Well," Logan said as he rifled through few papers on the desk, "I suppose we should begin the interview portion of your entrance examination." He pulled a small packet of papers out from underneath the pile on the right hand side of the desk and flipped to the second page. "What quality is most important in a commander?"
"That sounds reasonable enough. Tell me, how would you deal with a surprise attack?"
"Defend and prepare to counter."
"That sounds reasonable enough. How do you feel about heading to the front lines?"
"Calm and collected," Wein answered while silently wondering if that was what Logan was going to say throughout the entire interview. Not that he wanted to be disrespectful, but it just seemed odd for the man to repeat the same phrase over and over.
"That sounds reasonable enough. Now tell me, why do you wish to enroll in this academy?"
"To increase my strength."
"Well, good luck to you," Logan replied with a small smile. "In what area do you feel you are lacking?"
"Support magic," Wein readily admitted.
"That makes sense. I shall bear your response in mind." Logan flipped to the next page. "We're almost finished, just a few more questions regarding your state of mind. Which element protects you?"
"Hmmm, really?" Logan said with a surprised glance at the ring weapon on Wein's hand. "I would have guessed fire. What is your favorite gemstone?"
Wein blinked. "Malachite."
"Mmmm, I see." Logan checked off a few things on the paper and then flipped it back to the first page. "It is now time for your practical skills exam. Proceed to the training hall for equipment. This exam will test the skill of you and a partner in a battle situation. The results will be detailed in a report to me. This is important, so do you best!"
"Yes, sir!" Wein replied with another salute. He turned and left as Logan glanced over the first page again.
"Hmm…Cruz…Wein…Cruz…" Logan paused in thought. Then it hit him, "Wait! Cruz?! I wonder if he is related to the Zauer family? If that is the case, trouble almost certainly lies ahead." He shook his head. "Bah! It couldn't be… I need to stop thinking so much."
By now, Auri was thoroughly baffled. She'd never heard anything about the game picking choices for the player, and Wein's thought certainly hadn't been in the text before either. The only thing she could think of was that the bizarre changes were a hidden feature unlocked for getting all the endings.
Wein walked down the long corridor outside of the office until he found the door marked "Outfitter" at the end. Inside were rows upon rows of armor, boxed up weapons, and barrels of who-knows-what-else. A soldier in his mid thirties holding a clip board stood bent over one such barrel.
Before Wein could speak, the man pointed to a shelf on the back wall stocked with several - with his free hand. "The Skills Exam, right? You'll find what you need there, and the exam starts in thirty minutes so you'd better get a move on."
"Right," Wein agreed while hurriedly grabbing a piece of armor and heading for the door. As the screen darkened once more, Auri was definitely willing to go with the "new feature" theory. It had to be that or else she'd seriously have to consider the possibility that she was going slightly crazy.
"Practical Skills Exam," the white text read.
The skills exam area was little more than a wide field with the occasional bush slightly to the east of the town walls marked off by orange stakes. Four groups were participating in total, and four officers and three healers were stationed outside the test area on standby to monitor the exam takers as well as make sure things didn't get out of hand. Team A consisted of two sword users, Team B a broadsword wielder and a mage, Team C had an archer and a swordsman, and Team D was Wein and his partner. It was high noon, and all were present save for Wein's partner. Just as the officers were about to begin the test, the partner appeared.
"I apologize for being late," he said. "You must be my partner, Wein Cruz. My name is Maximillian Schnieder." Maximillian's hair was black with an almost bluish tinge and rather short. He wore a black chest plate over a black shirt with long black pants, a white coat with a golden (bad material for armor and weapons, isn't it?) guard around the neck, and plated hand guards.
"Your reputation precedes you, I'm honored to be your partner. And please, call me Wein," Wein replied while extending a hand. It was true, rumors of the recruit's gift for battle tactics were well known. "This practical skills exam should be a breeze with you at my side, Maximillian."
"Suffice to say, I hope to live up to your expectations!" he answered while accepting the hand shake. "Being a Ring Master is not always predictable. By the way, I hear you're a Ring Master as well. They say we're the only two this year. Oh, and…Maximillian sounds so stuffy. Just call me Max."
"That's a bit surprising. I didn't know there were any Ring Masters enrolled besides me. In fact, I didn't even know I was a Ring Master until the ring changed! When you first took the ring, did you get a scythe as well?" Wein asked.
"Ha ha ha…I'm afraid not," he said with a quick laugh and grin. "The weapon produced depends on the Ring Master. In my case, it was a sword. But enough of that. The exam is about to begin. Do you need to know the rules?"
"No, that's alright. I already heard from the officials."
"Good," he said with conviction, "then let's fight to win! We've only just met, but I wonder if I might ask you a few questions…is that all right?"
"Why do you wish to enter the Officer's academy?"
Wein was silent for a moment. "Well," he flushed slightly, "I'll tell you, but, you have to promise not to laugh…I wish to become an Imperial Knight."
"Well, that's quite a goal," Max responded with slightly shocked glance. "Not many are even considered to guard the monarchy. It's a great honor to be chosen. I can see why you would want that assignment. Just one Imperial Knight is said to be the equivalent of 100 soldiers. King Richard, Lord Ernest Lyell, and Lord Kenshin Reaves are the current Imperial Knights. You seek to be the fourth, then?"
"Yes. I know that it will be a difficult road, but I am seeking to improve my scholastic knowledge, battle skills, and social skills so that I can be chosen. I know it will not be easy, but I must try."
"Well then, I cheer your raw ambition and wish you the best!"
"Well, you know my goal now…what about you?"
Max frowned. "Now it's your turn not to laugh…I am something of a pacifist believe it or not. I have not taste for killing, so I seek to learn how to prevent conflicts from beginning. To achieve my goal, I have to learn about the military from the inside out. That is why I find myself here."
Interrupting the two, an officer on the northern side of the area bellowed out an announcement, "The Practical Skills Examination for Officer Candidates is to begin at this time. We wish all of you the best of luck and ask that you take care not to get seriously hurt. Remember, this is just a test to gauge your skill, not a war!"
"Well, it appears that this is it. Do you need battle advice?" he asked Wein.
"Any advice during the battle would be appreciated," Wein replied.
"Very well then. Can you use any magic?"
"Only Ice Bolt (check name) and not very well."
"Hmm...I suppose I shall have to act as healer then."
"You know healing magic?"
"Only cure, and I can cast Fire Arrow as well. As for battle tactics, picking one's first target is highly important, but not being led into a trap is even more important. In that respect, it would be best to coordinate our attacks as opposed to attacking independently."
"A good point," Wein responded. "Oh, how do I know when an Aria is in progress?"
"You have never seen a spell cast before?"
"Don't worry; you can see the aria sparkles that appear as they concentrate even from a good distance." The two looked up as a flare went up in the distance.
"That would be our cue to begin, I suppose," Wein said while summoning his scythe.
"Indeed," replied Max, sword in hand. "Who would you propose we go after first?"
Wein glanced over the field. "The mage on the upper right is the greatest threat, but going straight after them would put us directly in the path of the other two teams. Attacking the archer's team seems best to start."
At the end of the text, the battle screen opened as it normally did to Auri's relief. Having the game fight one's battles for them wouldn't make for much of a game. Using her usual approach to the battle, she sent Wein to attack the swordsman attacking from the north and Max to cast his ice spell on the mage in the northeastern corner. Just before confirming the spell command, she paused.
"Wait," she said to herself. "Wasn't Max's first attack spell supposed to be fire arrow?" She shook head dismissively. "Oh, forget it." The rest of the battle proceeded smoothly; in the end, both Wein and Max survived and defeated all the enemies save for two who were eliminated by Team A. However, instead of going to the victory screen, the game skipped straight to the next conversation. The two victorious exam takers stood on the edge of the testing field.
"I'm…I'm exhausted…" said Wein with a sigh.
"Ring weapons are much more difficult to wield than regular weapons. I've heard it's normal to be tired after using them." Max himself looked rather worn out. "Well, now that the practical skills exam is over, we should return to the examination hall."
"Burnstien Command Center," the text again announced.
In the room stood Logan in front of his desk and another figure to the side of; it was easy for Auri to recognize the Imperial Knight Reaves. It seemed the game was going back to it's normal pattern, and this was a good thing. The many new or altered scenes were beginning to unnerve her.
"Wein," Logan began, "I heard that you passed the exam with excellent marks. I look forward to your future endeavors. Here are the results of your exam. Study them and use the information to improve your performance in the future." The usual screen with Status Ups appeared as Auri had expected. Wein had the usual high strength up, high mobility, and battle assist scores, but what surprised her was the maxed out Sacred Miracle score.
"Where did that come from?" she muttered.
"Congratulations, Wein Cruz," Reaves stated cutting short Auri's thoughts. "You are on your way to becoming one of us now. Take pride in your accomplishment, for few achieve this in a lifetime."
"Imperial Knight Reaves, it is such an honor to have you evaluate my test results!" Wein replied earnestly.
"Huh…don't strain yourself on such formality or you shall have no strength left for the battlefield!" she chastened.
"Erm…uh, sorry….Lord Reaves?" Wein's embarrassment was clearly evident on his face. "It's just that it's been a dream of mine to be an Imperial Knight like you for so lo…"
"Nothing more needs to be said. I understand what you are trying to say, and I am honored," she butted in with a small smile. Returning to her normal, serious expression, "If you continue your dedication to excellence, perhaps you shall be a role model for others one day."
"Thank you, sir!"
The screen darkened again as more text ran across the screen:
"And thus began life in the Officer's Academy fore Wein Cruz…
Shortly after Wein was accepted into the Officer's Academy, war broke out between Burnstein and the neighboring kingdom of Rolandia.
The war began as a small skirmish during the coronation of King Richard of Burnstien, and escalated into a bloody, full-scale war that involved the surrounding kingdoms as well.
Pressed into the service under the most trying of circumstances possible, many cadets in the Officer's Academy lost their young lives in this trial by fire…
In the course of this conflict, the focus changed suddenly when a third foe, more deadly than all the kingdoms combined, reared its fearsome head in the fray and threatened to wipe out humanity itself…
The war had taken its toll on every kingdom, without exception. In Burnstein Kingdom, nearly all the Officer's Academy cadets that had enrolled with Wein were slain in the course of the conflict."
As Auri pressed the X button to advance to the next bit of text and voice over, a dull electrical whine was suddenly emitted by the TV. Pulling out and replugging the audio cables into the television, Auri noticed that the screen was still on the last part of text. Shrugging, she pushed the button again once the sound was dealt with. Once more, the screen did not change. Cursing under her breath about evil, freezing game systems, she reached to the top of the TV where her PS2 sat to push the reset button. As she was about to touch it, everything went dark.