Author's Notes: Well, here we go. A revamped Part Three is on its way. From here, Jay can't rely upon her oracle powers of foresight and knowledge to help John out, even though she's (naturally) played Radiant Dawn already. He is now truly on his own. Let's see how he goes through this. By the way, Jay isn't happy with how weak her character is in Radiant Dawn. She fumes at how she's inferior to Haar.
A bit of something to discuss as to why this chapter is very, very late, but I will put this personal stuff at the end of the chapter as to not distract those who want to get to the story right away.
I see a lot of people liked John's rant and Geoffrey's response. It's good to see such positive response to something like that because I feel a bit more accomplished as a writer. Although, I will say, that I really didn't write much of Geoffrey's part, outside of melding it more to his vernacular. I admit, the previous arc was a lot more emotional and a lot less adventurous as the rest of the story (and the canon material), but my spite for Radiant Dawn's lack of character development urges me to flesh more out.
As for the Elincia and John ship, is it really truly sunk? Would I really do that to you guys? Am I really Joss Whedon in disguise? If there's one thing about fiction that's for certain, it's that anything is possible if conceived and written well enough.
Just an FYI, John does NOT know the plot of Radiant Dawn, not that it matters in this part of the story.
Also, and SO late in saying this, but... seeing Admin B was awesome, even if I was running off virtually no sleep. Although... she had to mercilessly point out that while John is a spymaster general, he lacks the ability to do it himself. Hence why he's taking lessons from Volke and such. At least there wasn't any teasing of calling me "Sophia" like the time her, myself, and Admin Z went to MAGFest. Thank you for sparing me of that, haha.
I got into RWBY and shamelessly have secretly become a Weiss fangirl. In case I never mentioned it in the fic (especially since in-story John doesn't wield one), I have always been a HUGE fan of rapiers. Seeing as how she's like some interesting cross between a rapier wielder and a mage, you can imagine this touches me in a way the others don't. A rapier-wielding swordmage!
… this chapter is also rather short, but it really sets the tone for what is to follow. Now that personal stuff is mostly out of the way (see author's notes below), I hopefully should be churning out chapters again a lot better and a lot faster.
Anyway, without further ado, here is chapter 126.
The hallways were more presentable than they were a year ago when the Daein revolution ended. The torches crackled merrily on the walls and illuminated my path for the meeting I was summoned to. So much had happened since the events in Crimea almost a year ago that all that drama eventually faded from memory. The sting was still there, but as a public servant and leader of the people, I had more important issues to tend to than the foolishness of emotions and passions.
I had a job. I was a spy. To that extent, everything that happened in Crimea was reported to my two superiors. Such tension was the very reason that this meeting was taking place. The wolves of Hatari and the feline tribes of Gallia were going to meet in Gallia itself rather than at Melior for the reason of the social and political instability of our beorc neighbor. I personally worked tirelessly for this change to ensure that Queen Nailah and her tribe, which had immigrated to Daein in the past year, would have their home in their former portion of the nation of Gallia.
… I also had my own personal reasons for not wanting to return to Melior and, while they were never discussed outright, it was somewhat understood and respected to those involved in the planning process about my general dislike of the capital.
Today was the day we were to form our ambassador party to meet with King Caineghis and his diplomats. As allies to the wolves, we were also sending some of the Daein officials along to serve as mediators, since diplomacy and passive discussion was never a strong point of the laguz in general.
I entered the room that was designated for the meeting with my usual absence of regalia, flourish, and flare. Such movements and superfluous extravagance is befitting of a true mage, but I have found myself neglecting the magical arts in favor of training my body. In the past year, I have made much progress in my training and it seems Volke has genuinely been impressed with my progress. I am starting to feel like I'm plateauing in some areas, though, although it just merely means I have to work harder to find a new plateau to climb to. My magical studies have continued with Pelleas and Micaiah while also joining General Nino in training the anima students, but again... my passion lives with my macabre dances.
"You are early, General John," Pelleas commented.
"Your highness, time is of the essence and timing is always the key to success," I replied in an even tone, betraying little to none of how I was feeling. Truthfully, I was apprehensive at this mission, having known very little of the history of the beast and wolf tribes and finding very little material that covered the topic. Matthew had met with similar levels of success in his research and even Volke admitted he knew very little on the topic. It seems that there are still parts of history that aren't known to the citizens of this continent, but it was something that we would be addressing very shortly. Even Queen Nailah herself was unsure of how the beast tribes treated the wolf tribe and what was the reason for their exile to Hatari.
However, my apprehension was none of their business.
"General John, I must admit that your progress and dedication this past year has been nothing short of astounding," Micaiah commented.
"I am a servant to King Pelleas. It is my duty to make sure that I do my best in both personal improvement as well as my duties, General. Daein has many enemies and it is my job to be the first to find out and the last thing they see."
Micaiah smiled at me slightly at my response, proud of what I have become and proud of my dedication to the nation who houses me, but I didn't care too much. Her praise and the praise of the king were not necessary. This is my job and my life and it has to be done by any means necessary. I am the man on the outside of the law and one of the most disassociated people with the nation. Truthfully, I only stick around now out of duty than loyalty, but that is not for them to know. After all, where would I really go if I was not here? It's not like I can die again and be sent back home...
Home... I miss you more and more as I grow more acclimated into this world. A magical place—or not, actually—where there wasn't so much responsibility and life and death wasn't such a pervasive struggle. I don't have my ruby slippers, though.
"Your zeal is well founded, but will it be enough to convince the beast tribes to return my people's land to them?" Nailah asked.
"Negotiations may be tricky but I am sure that barring any big surprises, it will be smooth sailing. You have told us everything you know of the relationship between your people and them?"
"I know very little of what happened but I am quite sure the current ruler would be more than willing to listen and negotiate with us."
"Do you have any thoughts on who you would like to bring along on your journey?" Pelleas inquired.
"From my tribe, merely Volug. He is my most trusted servant and advisor and his presence would ease my nerves from this meeting," Nailah replied.
"Any others?" Pelleas asked.
"Naturally I will need the services of your diplomats to ensure that everything is done properly," Nailah said.
"We can give you the very best. This is why you are here, General John. I want you to come along on this trip to accompany Queen Nailah to meet with King Caineghis and ensure the talks progress as smoothly as possible. Is there any requests?"
"Yes, sir. I request that Matthew be allowed to accompany me. He is quite skilled, despite what many believe, and would be a most valuable asset to the team."
"Understood. I have no objections. Do you have any, Queen Nailah?"
"I do not."
"Then, along with a small battalion of troops for your protection, led by General Selena, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. May Ashera smile upon you and the odds be ever in your favor," Pelleas said.
"Luck... is merely the unforeseen results and consequences of one's own actions and initiative, your highness. That is a variable which I plan to smother and quash to prevent any unnecessary burdens and complications," I replied with a hint of sternness in my tone. I have in the past few months learned to not be so under the control of my superiors and have even grown stern and cold with them as well. Sometimes it is necessary in order to poke them in the right direction. Pelleas and Micaiah are still young and inexperienced and sometimes it shows. If necessary, I will push them in the right direction.
"Of course, General John. Your foresight will be an invaluable asset in this mission. If that is all, this meeting is adjourned."
"I have one question," I said, interrupting the process for ending this senseless drivel. There may have been something productive I can glean from this after all and I intend upon snatching this. Such formality and regalia are so trite and pointless. Just cut to the chase. Is there really any need for dragging out the details of this mission with consultations and multiple meetings and the like? This has dragged on in the planning stages for over a year and we have yet to still make a journey.
"Yes, General John?"
"Since this is a diplomatic meeting and the laguz are known for their lack of experience in this area, no offense Queen Nailah, does that mean that the Gallians are calling upon any beorc allies to aid them in this delicate matter?"
"That... is something that we do not know. I had assumed you know more on the matter than we do."
"A prompt assumption, but I regret to admit that I know nothing, sir. That is why I must begrudgingly admit that I am slightly apprehensive of this meeting. Unforeseen variables such as these can ruin this kind of careful planning. I will plan accordingly on our journey, then, in the case that they request from help from their beorc neighbor and ally, Crimea," I replied.
"General John... were you not a master improvisor at one time?" Nailah asked. "Your skill of picking up a situation and fixing accordingly in the fight for Daein's freedom was a great boon to the revolution's success."
"I may be unconventional in finding the best possible success for parties involved, but the less surprises we have, the more stable the result can be. There is no harm in being cautious," I replied. Nailah nodded in reply to my answer.
"You have grown much wiser in the past year," she commented. This past year. This past year. Why must people bring up how I have changed in this past year? That is all everyone talks about ever since I returned from Crimea. I am the same person I have always been... just with all the extra fluff removed. I am more streamlined and sleek. I have trimmed the fat and become more efficient in my work, proficient in my skills, and experienced in life in general.
"Experience is the key to wisdom, not knowledge. It forms who we are, your highness, rather than simply set a mold. With that noted, I have no further questions on my part."
"Then, if there are no other questions, this meeting is adjourned."
I stood up upon being dismissed from the meeting and walked out the door without looking at the others. The only sign of flourish was the ripple of my cape as I turned to go out the door, probably faster than I should have. What if Crimea did indeed get involved? Who would they send and who would I be pitting my wits against? As I walked down the hallway toward my quarters to prepare for the journey, I was encountered by Micaiah herself.
"General John, may I have a word?"
"You have several I can sense you wish to speak, General Micaiah, but please keep it brief. The sooner we depart, the better."
"You are always in such a rush nowadays. Ever since you returned from Crimea, you have been different. Uncaring. Pragmatic. Almost... not human anymore. No one outside of your personal entourage barely sees you anymore, and usually you are too much in a hurry to say or do anything anymore. I admire your dedication, speaking as your superior officer, but now I worry for you on a personal level."
"I have a job, general. As do you. We do our jobs and succeed where we can and fail where we cannot. The results depend upon the skills we have and I try to do my best to learn what I can to ensure we do not fail. Failure brings pain upon those we are trying to protect... it could mean the end of our nation and all that we worked for. Each and every one of our citizens is a blessed child of Ashera and I will not be responsible for them getting hurt. Remember what I once said... I will stand by your side so long as you do what I believe to be right and I have absolutely no objections to anything you or King Pelleas have put forward."
"I know, I know, but you don't have to be so distant and inhuman because of it. What happened in Crimea? I mean, what really happened? You reported the revolution and the marriage, but you said nothing of your activity there. Was it heresay or did you witness it all first-hand? Tell me, John... tell me what happened?"
I paused for a second as flashes of participating in the revolution flashed through my mind. More flashes of memories. Nearly being killed by Ludveck's troops. Elincia's confession. That final kiss...
"You paused, General John. You may hide things well behind this new mask, but you are not perfect. In our time together, I have come to know you better than perhaps you care to admit. I feel the hatred and sorrow that wreaks havoc upon your heart. Do not forget what kind of ability I have as well. Share with me what happened in your journey."
"Nothing that is relevant, general. Nothing I wish to discuss. My matters are personal and matter little to the contribution of our cause."
"John, this is not a direct order from your general anymore. This is me, Micaiah... I am not trying to use anything against you. I may be your superior, but first and foremost, I am trying to be your friend. I feel the pain you carry, as much as you hide it even from me. I remember in the revolution how open you were with me. Yet now, you close yourself off from everyone. I can sense the pain and bitterness that reside within you and... I worry. I worry that I cannot accurately see why you feel the way you do and it intimidates me to see how well you can close yourself off now."
"General Micaiah... there is no need to worry. I have no intention of betraying you. Melior holds the memory of the death of the one whom I had loved."
"No, don't even use that. You had gotten over Lady Jill's death long ago. This is more recent. This is so recent that the wounds haven't closed yet. These wounds are so deep that I can feel they will never recover. Let me help heal you. Talk to me, John... please. Talk to me like you used to."
"That... is a person I am not anymore, General Micaiah. Now... by your leave."
"You are not dismissed."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I repeat myself, General John. You are not dismissed."
"Must I commit an act of subordination to return to my room to prepare for this very journey you have assigned me? Surely you do not want it to come to that."
"I just want to understand... I want to understand you and who you've become, John."
"You must separate the professional from the personal, General Micaiah. No one understands me. I am the outsider and the outcast. I am the outlier upon this society. I am the unaccounted variable in combat with an eclectic skillset that makes me a formidable warrior. I am from another world and, due to that, have a drastically different philosophy and outlook on life than everyone else. I have memories that I cannot explain because of concepts that have not been invented in this world... some of which I hope no one will discover. I am not understandable. I have fallen further and further from either life that I have lived, whether it was my early years of Tellius or my home before. I cannot be understood by either because one cannot fully understand the parts of the other I have assimilated. That is my greatest weapon against any enemy that I come against. That... is what will bring me my success every time. My failure is my death and my death could be the death of this nation."
"John... why? What could mold you into this person? What could harden your soul and heart into such a state as to completely close yourself to prevent yourself from getting hurt again?"
Without a formal, proper dismissal from my superior officer, I blinked past her using my abilities and continued to my room. Volke truly has taught me well. I can feel everything I have learned coursing through my mind and body. I may reap the repercussions for leaving Micaiah later on, depending on how merciful she is feeling, but it was necessary. It was time to prepare... and time was important. I hate waiting and I hate making people wait, after all...
I arrived at my room and packed my bag. I really only needed to take the essentials. Everything else was extra, meaningless stuff. I looked at the trumpet case sitting in the corner, collecting dust after not having been touched. I looked at half-finished manuscripts of symphonies I had worked tirelessly upon and could not ever seem to get the feeling and inspiration to write again.
This is nothingness. This is mu. This is true efficiency. This is now who I am. This peace and understanding that I strive for will happen, no matter how hard I must push myself. I have trained ceaselessly and endlessly to hone my arts to an unparalleled level. I have become a paragon of studies and talent... and I plan on using that to the fullest that I can execute in order to ensure absolute completion and success.
I mentally prepared myself for a long journey and packed the essentials. I also brought extra quills and some paper in the occasion I needed to jot down notes for ideas on how to improve the situation and to take notes in the negotiations. It helps to make sure you know exactly how the other side is thinking. No emotion. No imbalance. Nothing... except myself against the world. This... is my fate.
We finally embarked upon our journey to Gallia. It has been a while since we started these plans, but after getting past all the bureaucratic red tape, we are finally doing what we promised the wolves we would do. We are embarking upon a journey to get our allies in the revolution their home back. Let us go meet with King Caineghis and prepare for the meeting. In my carriage was just Matthew and Selena. It seems odd to send two of the Four Riders on this journey, but Micaiah insisted that we were the best of the best and could cover the most if there was to ever be a problem. I could cover things on a covert front and Selena could cover things on the overt side of things.
There was mostly silence on the way to Gallia, but Matthew decided to finally break the silence after we entered the country of the beasts.
"General John... sir... may I speak with you freely on a non-professional level as acquaintances or... as friends?"
I was a little perplexed by this inquiry from him, especially considering the conditions, but I deigned to acquiesce his request. I did not suspect him of gathering intel on me for Micaiah, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"Yes, Matthew. What is it?"
"How are you?"
I paused for a second as I became slightly more confused. What exactly was he trying to ask?
"I do not quite follow," I replied tentatively.
"I think he is asking if you are okay," Selena asked.
"I am very well, Matthew. Although, I do not believe you needed to preamble your question with such a request."
I gave a slight smile to Matthew. Ever cautious he was and never assuming anything.
"An honest answer would be preferable, John," he replied. My smile must have disappeared, because my mood darkened slightly and I could feel irritation exude from my aura. Selena unconsciously slid away from my direction at my mood change as I looked out the window.
"Matthew," she said carefully to the young man.
"It is fine, General Selena."
"John, look, you have not been the same since you returned from Crimea. You can fool the others, but Selena here has known you for a long time and I was there for the events of the revolution. What has been plaguing your mind?" he asked.
"Government and bureaucracy," I replied nonchalantly.
"A serious question answered with a nonsensical answer implies a hidden secret," Matthew pointed out.
"What does it matter?" I asked in reply, hoping to glance away some of his question's potent importance.
"You regressed, John. You were getting over being mechanical from Jill's death. No, in fact, you are worse now than you were then," Selena said. "Did Queen Elincia do something to you?"
I flinched slightly at the mention of her name. It was small, but Matthew perceived it. I could tell with that look on his face that he knew and also that I knew he knew.
"... so, what happened between you and the queen?" Matthew asked. I was cornered. I sighed in resignation to this and cornered by those who knew me too well. Thankfully, there would not be anyone like that where we were going.
"Very well," I said in reply. I could trust them, honestly. They have given me no reason for me to distrust them. I told them what happened in Crimea. I started with the revolution, followed by our relationship, and ended with her wedding. Recounting those events nearly tore down the walls I put up for my protection, but I managed to keep it together. Emotions are tricky after all. Conceal, don't feel... be the good spy I'm always asked to be.
"So, to you, Queen Elincia is...?" Selena tentatively asked.
"In the PPFZ," I replied bluntly, knowing full well that they had no idea what this term meant and yet already agitated because I know they'll ask.
"The what?" Matthew asked.
"Permanently Platonic Friend Zone," I replied.
"It means...?" Selena asked, once again failing to grasp the point I was trying to make.
"She is a person who is... was... very important to me. Someone that I trusted more than anyone else. Now that she's taken and married, I have to understand that I have to cut my losses and move on."
"Well, what if they fell apart?" Matthew asked. "The marriage is arranged and they hold no true feelings for each other."
"To restrain how I feel, conceal them, and hold them for another time is not an option. We were too close and the fond memories we shared too strong for that. I have removed all emotion I have felt for her, perhaps damaging my emotions in general in the process, for the purpose of protecting myself. I had still wanted to be her good friend, but I cannot let these feelings damage me any further. For that, I have distanced myself from her and my emotions in order to first cope with my loss and then destroy what feelings for her I have. As one of the king's right-hand men, I will be meeting with Queen Elincia in proper, regal duties, and I expect myself to hold myself proper and true in these circumstances. The price I pay for this freedom is the complete absence of the romantic emotions I once had for her to the point that if things were to go favorably in my direction, I would refuse for the purpose of that I have forced myself not to have an interest anymore."
"Can a person really do that?" Matthew asked.
"Then what was the flinch for when her name was mentioned?" Matthew asked.
"I am apprehensive that she will be there in our negotiations with Gallia. That is an unaccounted variable as I am not sure how she will react upon my presence there, if she is there. Although I am mostly well in control of how I feel, I cannot guarantee her stability should I be in her presence."
The other two nodded, as if content with my answer. Good. The needless needling inquisition was irritating my mood, to be honest. I understand their concern, but this is the path I am on and the path I have chosen. The past is gone. I have to let it go and not hold back anymore, lest I lose the future.
We arrived in the capital of Gallia soon enough, just in time. It seemed the guards were almost expecting us and were starting to get jittery from our arrival
"You are expected," the gate guardian said as we approached the castle. The door opened and we entered the grounds. I say gate rather crudely, because it was not exactly something that would have passed for a gate in Daein. However, the beast tribes never have cared much about defense. They are extremely powerful, after all, and their strength is their defense. I put on my assassin's outfit, which was much like Volke's except it was black with a grey scarf, and my long dark brown hair hid part of my glasses. I was a bit conspicuous, but my details were covered up for the most part. There is a fine balance between hiding conspicuously and inconspicuous blending, which was something I had trouble mastering. I will achieve that someday, though.
We reached the center of the entrance courtyard and disembarked from the carriage we were on and were greeted by one of the tiger tribe.
"Welcome, traveler, to the center of our capital city and to our majesty's castle. You have arrived just in time. We have received word that our allies will be arriving shortly."
"Allies?" I inquired. I figured they would draw upon Crimea for help. "You mean, Crimea?"
"A smart one you have," the guide said with a hearty laugh as he clopped Matthew on the shoulder, causing the small thief to buckle under the friendly blow. We walked to the rooms we were assigned and did what we usually did as part of the Dawn Brigade, to which Matthew adapted very quickly. It was said that the Crimean entouage would be arriving tomorrow and to make ourselves at home.
The day passed relatively quickly and without any fuss. The night passed equally boringly. Thank goodness, because I would have been upset if we heard of any trouble that happened.
The sky started to look gloomy and stormclouds were rolling in. As we approached the castle entranceway to watch for our arriving debate opponents, I could see those clouds were getting thicker and darker, signifying a heavy storm was brewing. I stood at the edge of the entrance walkway when the rain began pouring. I felt some sympathy for the Crimean travelers as it was common for travelers to be caught in random thunderstorms.
I strode through the rain in my outfit toward the gate to get a better view and slunk along items that would keep me mostly dry. I was almost invisible against the dark backdrop of the sky and the rainstorm naturally smoothing out the wrinkles. I got to the gate and saw the carriages coming up the hill toward the castle.
Without thinking, I pulled out my sonic sword and began to start up a swirling wind storm. Carefully guiding my magic, I used the wind as a protective barrier from the rain, giving the carriage a safe, dry passage through the storm. If negotiations were to happen, having my side look favorable by doing an act of kindness would be one of the many small things I could do to add together.
The carriage arrived at the castle and I walked purposefully and conspicuously amid the storm I myself created toward the entryway of the castle to return to my place. Admittedly, I should be returning at a more brisk pace, but I had a guilty pleasure enjoying the work I had done. It is always spectacular to see my magic work its wonders to help those in need.
At least, helping those in need on a personal level instead of a national level... without having to order a subordinate to assassinate a known troublemaker or to put their blood on my hands myself. Such a job required closure of my heart... or the guilt of taking so many lives outside of combat would eventually destroy me.
As I arrived at my original position, the Crimean carriage stopped and the door popped open. Naturally, Bastian stepped out of the carriage. I knew he was to come as soon as allies were mentioned and I was preparing for adequate counters for his silver tongue. Next to step out was Geoffrey. It would only be natural since, being the leader of the Royal Knights and responsible for the security of the land, he would want to monitor Gallia's actions. Lucia stepped out of the carriage next, which puzzled me slightly.
Finally, the last person stepped out of the carriage, much to my dismay. It explained Lucia's presence. This was going to be the true test of all that I spent the last year working on.
Queen Elincia of Crimea would be one of my debate opponents... and I no longer feel so ready. I did not think she would get involved with this, otherwise I would have asked King Pelleas to accompany us as well on this journey. Still... what would weak rulers, like the both of them, be able to accomplish in a game of wits, strength, strategy, and cunning? Against me?
I am apprehensive to find out.
Author's Notes: Okay, so I guess since I got asked enough times, here's John's stats. I made it a combination of Radiant Dawn and Awakening's mechanics and stat caps, as well as his own third-tier class and modifiers and such. These stats are when he's tapped into his "rage mode", which I did for a reason (for plot reasons that I can't discuss yet). I used the Noire (Avatar father) and Laurent (Ricken father) I used in one of my Awakening playthroughs to use as a "pool" (so to speak) for the caps. Noire's combined caps in her class is 438 and Laurent's is 436, so I went from there when choosing these caps. John's combined average is 435, just for reference. Also, would just like to note that John has class-changed, which may explain why his stats are higher than they would be at this time for someone in Radiant Dawn.
Class: Level 1 Spell Assassin, third-tier class, special class
-HP: 61 (80)
-STR: 42 (56)
-MAG: 59 (72)
-SKL: 46 (58)
-SPD: 41 (56)
-LCK: 49 (52)
-DEF: 23 (31)
-RES: 21 (30)
*Cannot use Crossbows
He did have Paragon, Aptitude, and Discipline for a while, but eventually ditched them. Bear in mind, this is just a rough draft, but I figured it's better than nothing.
Onto the personal point I mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. This update was late as hell and for that I sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize. I'm literally working two full time jobs and volunteer instructing for a local high school jazz band, so I literally have barely enough time to sleep, let alone do anything I want, for a good majority of the week. I have 35-39 hours at Arby's working six mornings a week and 32-37 hours at Wawa working five nights. It's really exhausting, but the paychecks are worth it. I also had been, for the past few weeks, learning the trumpet 2 part to the pit orchestra for a local high school's musical as an extra paid gig on the side.
I know, I know, adult problems. The other half of the equation is that my girlfriend of two years and I broke up. We're still going through the process of sorting out whose is what and it has been hectic moving all my stuff to where I am living now, which cuts into the little free time I already have. It has been skirting on the point of almost becoming a legal battle now because of everything that has happened, but I really don't want it to end up that way... so we'll see how things go.
I'm... honestly not sure when the next chapter will be up, but I really promise that I will work on it to the best of my ability with all that I have going on.
Why the ultra-seriousness of the narration? Just imagine all the swirling emotions and distrust that John has had to fester within him for the past year, but as the PPFZ moment has shown, he still has parts of his old self. Will he return slowly to his old self or let himself be consumed by this new personality? Only time will tell.