A/N: This story is based off of BoFIII, kind of a prequel. It takes place during the Techno Age, when the Guardians roamed around slaughtering the Dragons. Hopefully that's not TOO spoily. And hopefully you'll enjoy.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan appreciation. I get no material compensation for writing this. The Breath of Fire world is copyrighted and belongs entirely to Capcom.


Breath of Fire: Decline

Prologue

Another blow, hitting the floor one more time. Biting back the pain, the boy drew himself to his knees once more, then his feet. It was partially pride that made him continue to get up; like hell would this man see him submit. Most of his reason was that his father's punches and slaps hurt far less than his kicks. Being hit to unconsciousness was decidedly less painful than being kicked there.

The man roared in fury at seeing the bastard child rise again in defiance. He struck the boy once more this time throwing a good deal of magic into the blow. The boy reeled back, stumbling back against the wall with the force of it. Once the stars cleared from his vision, he saw his father standing over him, face splotchy and eyes dilated in uncontrolled rage. "By the gods, you've gone too far this time, boy," the man sputtered.

The child closed his eyes. In the name of Ladon, Father, be a man for once in your life and do it. Don't leave me half-dead like all the other times...

"Aldin Markus Bateson! What in the living hell do you think you're doing?"

The child opened his eyes again, in shock. These "disciplinary actions" were never interrupted. And yet, standing at the door of their quarters was no less than the Crown Prince of Dragnier, Kirai, with his son Ryu standing behind him. Neither father nor son looked very pleased; it appeared that the young Prince Ryu was severely winded, glowering hatefully at the boy's attacker. Prince Kirai wore no less a severe visage as he regarded Aldin. "What do you think you're doing?" he repeated, this time in a lowered tone of voice.

Aldin sneered. "It's none of your concern how I treat my servants, brother. Leave me be!"

"It is my concern, especially when the servant in question is a child!" Kirai's scowl deepened, if it was at all possible. "My son tells me that the treatment of this boy that I just witnessed is common for you. Who the hell do you think you are? What right do you have to beat a child?"

"That boy ruined my life!"

"No, Aldin, you did that all on your own!"

"He's my servant!"

"He's your son!"

At this, the enraged man picked up the nearest object and hurled it at Kirai. The Prince threw up a magical shield around himself and Ryu, the vase shattering harmlessly against the barrier. The child couldn't do anything but watch as the two men met and grappled, and Ryu sprinted around them to the cowering boy. The older child grabbed his arm firmly. "We have to get out of the way!"

Not knowing what to make of this sudden disruption in their routine, the child hesitated, staring wide-eyed at Ryu. The Prince repeated his plea, then saw another object hurtling at them from the corner of his eye. Ryu threw himself against the child, knocking them both out of the path of the glass, and the boy was finally able to move his body. Ryu tugged him underneath a table, and held the younger child tight in such a way that the boy couldn't see the altercation. "You don't want to look. Don't look at them. This isn't your fault. You didn't do anything bad." Ryu repeated those words rhythmically, like a mantra that would drown out the sounds of the fight.

At some point, Ryu's words ceased. The boy became aware of a third adult in the room now, and the Prince loosed his hold so that the child could look. For the first time, the boy was truly afraid as he saw who this newcomer was.

The King of Dragnier.

Was he in heaps of trouble now... the King was involved. He shouldn't be! He wasn't so important as to involve the King...

His father and the King spoke softly, until Aldin finally spat, "Fine, then. You take care of that ingrate of a bastard. Get him out of my sight or I will kill him! He's no right to live anyway!"

The King's answer was only slightly louder than the rest of his words had been, and he spoke them with a venom that surpassed any of his father's poison. "You ever claim that any living being has no right to live again, and you will not be a part of this court any longer. Am I clear, son?"

The last word struck a cold chord in the boy's chest. This was new... Aldin's response was to stalk from the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

An uneasy silence settled over the room. The fury in Kirai drained, and concern for the boy flashed on the Crown Prince's face before a forced benevolent indifference came over him. "It's okay to come out now. He won't hurt you any longer."

Unsure, the boy didn't budge. It was only through the older child's gentle coaxing that the boy eventually came to stand before the two adults. The King looked on him with heartbreaking pity. "What do we do with him now, Kirai?"

"I don't know, Father. I assumed that giving him to Aldin as a servant would have been a good move. He's probably worse off with him than he would have been in that sorry excuse for an orphanage."

Ryu cleared his throat. "Excuse me. May I speak?"

Both men looked intrigued. "Of course, Ryu," Kirai said with a smile. "We really need ideas right now."

Ryu looked at the boy, then at his hands. "Maybe... just... maybe he could... be one of our servants," the child said meekly. "He already knows his way around and... and I think I want to get to know him better, too."

The smile faded from Kirai's face. "That's an idea," he said in a bland tone. "However, Ryu, he is-"

The King cut in. "Be very careful, Kirai. He has no more control over who he is than we do. We cannot punish him more than what Aldin already has. He didn't ask for this."

"Then what should I do?" Kirai responded. "He's completely unacknowledged. By the old laws, we can't acknowledge him, either."

The King paused, considered his answer carefully. "He may be unacknowledged. We may not be able to acknowledge him. Does that, then, change who he is to us? Are we to simply not care because his parents chose a poor path for him?"

What effect this had on Kirai, the boy could not tell. Ryu, however, seemed slightly braver. "The old laws are stupid!" the older child declared. "And it doesn't change who he is! It doesn't matter whether you care or not, Dad, I do!"

Kirai looked down at the two children grimly. "Well, Mika, all of us have had our say in what your fate should be except you, and yours is probably the most important opinion. What would you have us do? Is Prince Ryu's suggestion something you might want?"

The boy blinked. Mika...? "I- I'm sorry, Sir," he stuttered, "bu-but do you mean me?"

Kirai blinked in confusion. "Of course I mean you. Who else in this room is named Mika?"

"My name is Mika?"

The benevolent indifference cracked. "He... didn't even tell you what your name was?" The boy shook his head, feeling unreal and unnatural. The King uttered an astonished and horrified oath in Draconic and Kirai's facade fell apart. The Crown Prince dropped to his knees, holding his arms out. "Yes, child, your name is Mika," he said gently. "And I promise you that I, personally, will make sure that you never, ever forget it. It's over, Mika. You're safe now."

Ryu gave a small cheer. The boy looked from one person in the room to the next: the King, smiling sadly with unshed tears in his eyes; Ryu, grinning jubilantly from ear to ear; and Kirai, just looking at him patiently with outstretched arms. All of the pain from the beatings, the silence and rejection bubbled forth, and the child threw himself into Kirai's arms, sobbing.

As he cried, his saviors heard him through his tears: "Mika. My name is Mika."