A Tales of the Abyss Fic by Digitaldreamer
Part Four: Home
Annnd here's the last part. Originally, this was meant to be a one-shot, but since it was going to be so long I decided to make it four parts instead. I suppose it worked well enough, right?
...well, I hope it did anyway.
Well, thank you for all the reviews last chapter, I'm glad you all enjoyed the angst. Hopefully this last bit won't dissappoint. :P
Um...not much else to say, so enjoy part four, I suppose.
Jade didn't even look up from the book he was reading.
The military commander took a sip of his tea, then turned a page.
A small hum, then another flip of a page.
"Jaaaaaaaaaaaade!" Emperor Peony's voice took on the tone of a low whine. "Come on, look at me!"
The bespectacled fonist blinked and glanced up from his book, flashing a not-so-apologetic not-smile. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry Your Majesty. You know when I'm reading I have a tendency to filter out obnoxious background noise."
Peony rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I-- ...wait a second, I am not just obnoxious background noise!"
"Of course not." Jade drawled, closing the book and setting it aside before smiling unpleasantly up at him. "Now what is it that you find so important that you feel the need to interrupt the rare time when I am not at your beck and call?"
The emperor gave a sigh. "Did you look through your mail?"
Peony snorted. "Oh right, I forgot, you don't do that sort of thing." He said with a small laugh. "Well, I guess you wouldn't know then." The emperor shrugged, then pulled a crumpled and somewhat dirty, but still royal-looking envelope from the folds of his clothing. "Well, here then."
Jade wrinkled his nose at the envelope. "Your Majesty, the way you treat your mail is appalling."
"At least I don't burn it without even reading it like some people." Peony pointed out. "Now go on, take it."
The military commander rolled his eyes, but never-the-less took the envelope. He pulled out a beaten-looking letter and unfolded it, crimson eyes scanning across it quickly. "...An invitation to Luke's Coming of Age ceremony?" He murmured, brow furrowing.
Peony nodded gravely.
Jade gazed thoughtfully down at the letter. "...So then... they've given up on him."
The Emperor sighed. "You don't have to say it like that, it's not like it's his funeral or anything."
"It may as well be. They've already dug him a grave, after all." Jade said with a shrug, refolding the letter without much care and placing it back in the envelope.
Peony frowned as he watched his best friend carefully. Though Jade gave no outward appearance of even giving the slightest thought over the matter, he knew better. "...Do you intend to go?" He asked.
"No." Jade said flatly, taking another sip of his tea.
His best friend stared at him for a moment, brow furrowing. "Jade..."
"No." The colonel repeated, crimson meeting bright blue. "I'm afraid I'm simply far too busy for such a pointless visit. Why ever would I want to spend a few hours in a room full of overly emotional nobles and energetic youngsters when I have so much work to do here?" He drawled, adjusting his glasses.
The two of them both knew that was a lie. Jade had done very little for the past few weeks, and from the looks of his schedule, that was unlikely to change anytime soon. Not that he worked very often anyway.
Peony frowned. "Jade..." He tailed off, his expression sad.
"Well, you have my reply, Your Majesty." Jade interrupted, standing. "I'm afraid I'm quite busy, however, so if you'll excuse me." With that, he began a brisk walk through the library towards the door.
"Wait, Jade." Peony called after him. "Maybe...maybe it's time for you to move on."
Jade paused. "...Why, Your Majesty, you sound as if you think I honestly care." He said, sounding surprised.
"Don't give me that, Jade." The emperor growled, standing and folding his arms. "Hide it behind that cold smile and those insults all you like... maybe everyone couldn't tell, but there's no way I could miss it. You really did genuinely care for all of them...for him."
"Care?" Jade scoffed as he shrugged. "I haven't a clue what you're talking about. Perhaps I would have felt their loss as useful fighters, but other than that I can honestly say I could care less."
He was a master of lies, but even that did not seem to be enough.
Peony watched him in silence for a moment. "...I know," He finally murmured. "I know...you were all waiting. But it's been nearly a year, Jade. If Luke...if he were to return, he would have done it by now."
"...I am aware." Jade said coolly.
The blond emperor gave a sigh, running a hand through his hair. "If you won't go for yourself...then please go in my stead?"
Jade glanced over his shoulder, crimson eyes narrowing. "...Is that an order?"
"If you won't go willingly, then yes." Peony said.
"...Very well." Jade sighed, finally nodding in consent before looking away again.
"Good." Peony murmured softly. He gave another sigh, gazing out the window. "It's funny...I guess in a way I was hoping he would come back if only it would feel less like it's our fault for asking him to die...but it seems there's no way out of this one, is there?"
The bespectacled Fonist shook his head and adjusted his glasses, closing his eyes for a moment. Though he would not admit it, rarely did a day go by where his mind didn't wander back to Daath, when the fateful words had tumbled from his lips, placing the weight of the world on that boy's shoulders. Rarely a day went by when he couldn't see innocent green eyes gazing up at him, trusting him, always trusting.
Jade was not one to dwell on things like guilt or regret, not if he could help it. Even so...the fact that the boy had joined Professor Neblim in the few dreams he had... it wasn't something he appreciated. Anything would be preferable to those eyes gazing at him, again and again those words ringing in his ears. "Would you really ask me to die?"
I already have.
Yes, I did. Stop.
Stop looking at me like that.
Stop. This is ridiculous, you're already--
The military commander gave a sigh, putting his hands behind his back. "I've already agreed. Now then, if you'll excuse me, Your Majesty, some of us actually have work to do." With that, he exited the library.
Perhaps it was time to move on. Jade wasn't sure why he hadn't yet... he was never one to trust others, or to believe empty promises. He supposed, in a way, it couldn't be helped... that boy had wormed his way into Jade's heart against his will, and whether Jade liked it or not, he wanted nothing more than for that boy to return. Perhaps it had been foolishness to believe, and he wanted to deny ever doing so, but he had. He had believed... but his theory had not come to pass, and it had been a year.
Two of them had already let go, perhaps it was time for him to do so as well. After all...for Luke to return at this point, there would have to be a miracle.
And Jade had never believed in miracles.
It had been a gray day in Grand Chokmah when Noelle arrived in the Albiore. She had greeted Jade with a happy smile, though she'd barely been noticed seeing as Anise had promptly flung herself across the room and glomped the Colonel.
It had been the first time they'd seen each other in months, after all.
After an excited babble from Anise and a few quips from Jade, the trio found themselves making their way to Gardios Manor, casual chit-chat going this way and that. It was only when they entered that they stopped, seeing how what they'd come for was in the entryway, lacing up his boots.
"Guy?" Natalia paused in the doorway, brow furrowed. "You received my summons, then?"
Guy glanced up at his visitors, then smiled. "Ah, hello Princess, Jade, Anise." He nodded to each in turn. "I got your message, but I'm still surprised to see you, Natalia."
"Oh, well..." Natalia gave a shy smile, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Well, preparations are finished, so...I thought I may as well accompany Noelle to come retrieve you all."
"Sure was nice of her, huh?" Anise beamed. "I'd forgotten how much I've missed the Albiore, everything's so pretty from way up high!"
"Airsickness aside, I'm sure." Jade drawled, adjusting his glasses.
Anise huffed as Noelle yelped. "Colonel, I'm fine! Noelle's flying is perfectly smooth!" She assured, causing the pilot to smile.
"Yeah." Guy chuckled as he stood, running a hand through his hair. "I admit I would kind of like to see the Albiore again...but you guys do know I'm not coming with you, right?"
Natalia frowned. "What ever do you mean?"
Jade gave a sigh. "You see, Princess? I already informed you, he's far too stubborn." He said, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Guy quirked a brow at that, putting a hand on his hip. "Call me stubborn if you like, but I have no intention of attending the funeral of a person who isn't dead." His eyes narrowed dangerously at those words, voice taking on a somewhat cold tone.
"Guy!" Natalia gasped. "It's not a funeral, it's his Coming of Age ceremony! We're celebrating his life and you were one of the most important parts of it, you should be honored to attend."
"Celebrating his life?" The blond snorted. "It's a glorified memorial service...and you all know that as well as I do."
Anise scowled. "That's not true, Guy! It's..." She trailed off, then shook her head and huffed. "It's not like that!"
"Oh yes, indeed, because you sit around and toss around memories for a person no longer there at birthday parties." Jade commented.
The crimson-eyed fonist shrugged. "I apologize...but Guylardia does have a point, hollow victory though it may be." He said, looking to Guy and quirking a brow. "I thought the exact same thing."
Guy shrugged as well. "Maybe so, but it's not stopping you from going, is it?" His shoulders slumped, brow furrowing. "...Jade...you too?"
Jade looked at him for a moment, then gave a sigh. "I am attending on behalf of Emperor Peony." He stated.
"Maybe so...but it doesn't change the fact that you've given up too, does it?" The blond asked, hands clenching into fists at his sides.
The eldest of the group was silent as the rest of the group turned their attention to him, then looked away. "...I cannot help but wonder if perhaps it is time to move on, I suppose." He finally murmured.
Anise bit her lip and looked to the floor. After a few moments of silence she finally spoke. "We haven't been able to get in contact with Tear... no one has. I'm worried about her. I mean, Natalia sent her an invitation, but--"
"I wouldn't go looking for her." Guy stated as he walked across the room, taking his traveling coat from the rack and shrugging it on. "If I know Tear... you can look all you want, but you aren't going to find her. Even if you found her, she wouldn't come... that much, at least, I know. She and I..." He trailed off, then shook his head.
Natalia winced. "Guy... please, won't you come with us? I... we...even you still believe he'll come back, I think it would be good for you to--"
"No." The blond shook his head, then flashed a smile. "Sorry Princess... but that's my final answer, and I have no intention of changing it. It was nice seeing you all again." With that, he brushed past all of them towards the door.
The former servant paused at the doorway, then turned and smiled. "Sorry to leave you all, but I've gotta run. I'll see you all later." He said, giving a wave.
Jade's brow furrowed. "And where, may I ask, are you going?"
"Where?" The blond shrugged.
"There's just...somewhere I need to be."
With that, he was gone.
"So...you came too, huh?"
Tear blinked in surprise, then turned, her long hair billowing in the wind as blue eyes met those of a similar color. "Guy?"
"Yeah." The blond smiled as he walked through the grass and selanias, pausing a moment to take a deep breath. "Man, I forgot how beautiful this place was." He murmured, shoving his hands in his pockets as he looked around.
Tear's brow furrowed. "What are you doing here?" She asked, looking confused.
"Isn't it obvious?" Guy laughed, a genuine smile coming to his face for the first time in awhile. "The same reason you're here, isn't it?"
The Oracle Knight blinked. "I... suppose you're right." She murmured, a smile coming unbidden to her face as she brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
"This is where you've been, right?" The blond asked. "Everyone's been wondering where you've gone off to. It doesn't help that you make yourself so damn hard to track."
Tear bit her lip. "I..." She trailed off, then nodded. "I... thought if I were on my own, at least then I wouldn't be worrying anyone."
Guy gave a small laugh at that. "You're better than me, then... I couldn't leave, so I locked myself in." He sighed and scratched his head. "I just... you know how I feel, right?" He asked. "Those other three, they had something to move on for afterwards, but we..." He trailed off, then swallowed thickly, unable to say it.
Out of five, only they hadn't given up, because they had nothing left.
His companion nodded, looking to the sea. "I... no, we... we love him too much to let go." She murmured.
"Yeah... I know what you mean." Guy murmured, shoving his hands in his pockets as he followed her gaze. "We love him."
Love. Not loved, because talking about someone in past tense was one of the first steps to letting go.
"...How did you know to come here?" Tear asked after a moment of silence.
The blond shrugged. "I just... knew. Like he was calling me." He grinned again. "Kinda stupid, huh?"
Tear shook her head. "No... no, I don't think it's stupid at all. I..." She drifted off into silence again, her eyes remaining fixed on the horizon.
Guy watched her for a moment, then smiled. "Well, shall we?"
Tear looked back to him, then smiled as well and nodded. Together, they made their way deeper into Tataroo valley.
They had a long wait until sunset...but at least they weren't alone.
That was really the only way one could describe it, though the throne room was vast and more than roomy enough, it did not change the fact that the entire ceremony felt stuffy. People from all over the globe had gathered, some whom Luke had known and been friends with, while a large portion of them were simply nobles gathered simply because this was what nobles do.
And so, though it was expected, it did take some effort for them all to keep quiet as these great and powerful men and women, people whom had everything handed to them their entire lives, stood and gave great speeches of Luke's deeds. They spoke of what a wonderful person he was, how brave and noble, and it took effort to keep their mouths shut and to not snap about how they'd never even met him. They went on and on about what a hero he was and it took effort not to yell about how they had no right to even speak of him. They went on and on of his brave sacrifice, and it took everything the ones who truly knew him had not to scream about how they knew nothing at all about how much this world had cost.
Somehow, they held it all in, even when they stood to say their own speeches, doing their best to keep their eyes off of a shimmering casket that they knew was empty and always would be.
It was during the afterparty that Jade sat there in silence, a glass of wine held in a single gloved hand as he watched the proceeds with a slight measure of disgust. He knew he was a noble himself, but it didn't change the fact that he detested the lot. They were only at the ceremony to up their status, it had nothing to do with honoring the boy who had saved them all.
This was more of an insult to his memory than anything, really.
"Hey Colonel." Anise sighed as she flopped into a chair beside him. "Geez, what a party, huh?" She drawled, sounding completely and utterly bored.
"Indeed." Jade quirked a brow at her. "And here I thought you would appreciate this sort of thing."
Anise huffed as she crossed her arms. "The food's dry, and of course they won't let me have any wine, something about being 'underaged'."
Jade chuckled. "And I'm certain you will be getting that long after you actually are of age, dear Anise."
"Boo!" The girl pouted.
"It truly was not what I was expecting." Natalia sighed as she took a seat next to the two of them. She looked frazzled, having spent much of the party greeting her guests.
Jade quirked a brow. "Are you certain of that? Your father was the one who suggested it, correct? What more could you expect from such a gathering?"
The Princess blinked, then gave a sigh and a sad smile. "I suppose you are right."
"Indeed." Jade adjusted his glasses and gave a cold smile as he gazed around the room. "It would take far more than a boy giving his life to save the world in order change the majority of the upper class."
"Colonel!" Both girls gasped.
"Well, it is the truth." Jade shrugged.
Natalia bit her lip. "I...suppose you are right."
The three sat in silence for awhile, simply watching a party that they didn't belong to. Finally, Jade stood. "Well, I for one have had quite enough of this party. Shall we?" Both Natalia and Anise gave nods of agreement, and together the three of them stood and made their way out of the throne room, weaving past all sorts of "grieving" nobles.
They didn't belong there. They had somewhere to be, after all.
It was when the sun dipped below the horizon, long after it's soft rays of crimson had dipped below the horizon that Tear began to sing. Perhaps it was her way of singing a lullaby to those strands of red, slipping from her gaze the way his hair had slipped from her fingers. Regardless, she sang, her voice loud and clear as the selanias bloomed around them.
She sang, and Guy stood behind her, blue eyes fixed upon the horizon line, keeping silent vigil, just as he had one year prior.
She sang, he watched...and as time went on one by one they filed into the valley, their fancy clothes and uniforms billowing in the wind as they took their place behind Tear. Natalia stood with baited breath, stormy-gray eyes fixated upon the moon, hands pressed to her heart as she gazed on. Anise stood beside her, unusually quiet and solemn, black pigtails swirling around her head as her gloved hands relaxed at her sides. Jade summed up their little group, his tall frame silhouetted against the horizon, hands behind his back as his crimson eyes gazed steadily onward.
It had been one year since they had all gathered together in this place, one year since they had been together at all. It hadn't been planned, none of them had any intention of coming originally... yet there they were.
They didn't know why they were drawn there, what they were waiting for... all they knew was they were there. Something had lead them there, calling, insistently tugging at their hearts and minds until all they could do was follow that pull to where they were now.
And so they waited. Tear sang, her voice ringing throughout the valley, and they waited.
They waited, and just when they were about to leave... there he was.
Luke, or something akin to him, stood on the horizon crimson hair billowing around him as if he were made of the very rays of sunset that had vanished earlier, as if he were the sun itself and Tear had called him back. He stood, emerald eyes darker than they remembered and his smile a bit more restrained... but he was there.
He came back.
No one was quite sure who said it... but somehow, that seemed to be what broke the spell. With smiles and laughter they all ran for him, Tear with her arms around him first and Guy not far behind, tears in his eyes even as he laughed and clapped his best friend warmly on the back. Anise latched around his waist and rambled on and on about how she'd known all along he would come, while Natalia took a moment wavering between two childhood friends before giving a tearful smile and embracing him as well. And still Jade stood behind, a small smile upon his face as he adjusted his glasses.
Of course, he could he doubt himself? He was rarely, if ever, wrong.
It had been an entire year...and though some had lost hope, some had wavered, while others clung desperately because they had nothing left... in the end, each of them had retained a small glimmer of hope. A wish to see him return, to fulfill that naive promise...and in the end, that had been enough.
And so as they all gathered and laughed and cried, all Luke could do was smile as he stretched newly created limbs. He still wasn't entirely sure who he was, though he was fairly sure of what he'd been... but in the end, it didn't matter. All that mattered was he was here now, with the people he had promised... the rest could wait until later. He had a lifetime to decide and a family to help, after all.
Besides... he had enough of waiting.
Annnd I'm done! Please review and tell me what you thought... I know it wasn't the most original premise, but I had a nice time writing it, and if you enjoyed it I'd really like to know.
...oh, and every time a person reads this fic and doesn't review a kitten is born without legs. There's that too.