Fated to be Free

(Arc)Rating: M

Spoilers: Do NOT read unless you have completed BOTH: Tales of Symphonia (the game), Sealed Fates (the fic).

A/N: Rape-scene is rape-y-ful. Also, I had to cut out so much legitimate detail because I didn't want to turn it into the, "Watch the Author Drag a Character Through Their Own AU World Show!" So, any plot holes due to that reason can be dumped in the "I give not a fuck" pile. Also, bad-ending-line is bad. I write beautiful things.

Arc Two: Gentle Idealist and Boorish General

"Young Master… please!" The young maid pleaded in painful gasps, "I beg you… please sto—"

He slapped her firmly across her tear-stained face. It stung. "Shut up, wench! One more word and I'll call the guards as soon as I'm finished with you! And you know whose story they're gonna believe?" he asked in a sinister tone, cupping her chin in his hand.

She kept her silence, pleading for his mercy with her eyes as she tried to reign in her tears. He gingerly wiped them from her soft skin with his thumb. "Now hold still, be still." He cooed, running his fingers through her silky hair. "I want to look at you."

Within the serene silence of the dark night, the heir to the throne ran his piercing golden eyes over his unwilling mistress' body with a lustful yet satisfied gaze.

"You're so beautiful…" he whispered huskily into her ear, his dark mane intermingling with her light hair. He nuzzled her neck with a baleful smile, inhaling her deeply. He ran his tongue along the skin of her shoulder before proceeding to let one dark hand slip from her silky hair down the contours of her figure. His hand rested on her thigh, his thumb rubbing the inside of her leg with impatience. His whole hand suddenly followed, reaching higher until she let out a mangled cry as she desperately tried to push away her assailant. But he held to her tightly, roughly covering her mouth with his hand, his eyes burning with rage.

Tears welled in her bright eyes as she realized she could not escape; he had her completely trapped. "I am not letting you go." He told her in a hiss. "I've waited moons for this opportunity to arrive when I could have you all for myself—pure and unspoiled, and away from all the eyes of this stupid kingdom." He then removed his hand to cover her mouth with his own, a fiery desire flaring strongly throughout his body, leaving his muscles near trembling with anticipation.

My head was pounding. I was lying on something cold and hard. A spot on my head was wet and warm… it hurt.

"Hahaha… oh jeez! Hey, man, are you okay?"

The air was damp and cool. I could feel the batter of footsteps on the stone pavement with one set rushing towards me. Where ever I was, I wasn't alone.

The paces stopped next to my torso. "Hey! Come on, open your eyes, c'mon…"

A hand partially gloved in black reached out to me, to help me up. I slowly opened the other eye to see the person connected to the hand. An older boy with flaming red hair looked down at me with a crooked grin, his emerald eyes warranting a friendly glow. As I hesitantly reached up to accept his hand, he snatched mine and pulled me to my feet suddenly. My stomach lurched and I stumbled before regaining my balance, but the boy placed a sturdy hand on my shoulder.

"Whoa, easy now." He laughed. "Y'alright?"

Stone dominated the landscape. Paved walkways littered with muddy prints webbed through the garden of lush grass, enclosed by walls of mirthless minerals. Stone wrought towers carved into the dismal gray sky; the earthen citadel loomed over the land with an ominous aura. I couldn't help but shiver.

The boy stepped into my line of vision. His voice was considerably gentler. "Cael, hey, look at me," he said, forcing me to lock eyes with him. "Are you alright? Answer me."

Cael? That name… I swallowed with a bit of difficulty, my head throbbing painfully. "Y-yeah… I think."

I felt myself cringe at the sound of my own voice—it belonged to a child.

The boy sighed and shook his head, his hair turning into a wild blaze of red. "Yeah, right. I bet you've got a knot the size of your fist. You hit the ground pretty hard," he laughed a little. "Why don't you go inside and see if one of the royal nurses won't look atcha? I'll pick up our stuff and catch up in a bit."

He walked off and started gathering various toy weapons and things of the sort from the ground. Who was he? He seemed so familiar; I know I've heard a voice like his somewhere before. I turned and headed towards the doors to the bastion. Next to the door, a sign hung written in a foreign alphabet. I paused at the wooden doors to see if the sign's message would become any clearer. I still couldn't read it.

Hesitantly, I moved to place my hands on the door, but I stopped and flashed them before my eyes. Muddy, calloused and a bit scraped up—just like I remember them. At least that was still the same.

The doors were heavy and groaned loudly as I entered. They shut behind me with a thundering slam and I was left in a wide hall without a clue as to where I was going. My head pounded glaringly as if to remind me why I was going where I was going, but that still didn't help the fact that I didn't know where it was.

I started by taking a few steps in what I hoped to be the right direction—forward. It's the only one I'm given, after all. Thrown into this world all of a sudden, where else could I possibly turn? Behind me lies a past to which I cannot return and to my right and to my left stand those who send me away. If I travel onward, eventually there will be those who stand beside me and a past to look back on, should I ever get lost.

The halls, lined with gray stone no less, were draped in ancient tapestries in every direction, each bearing a motif of scarlet roses. It must have been the royal insignia. Even those immortalized in the portraits upon the walls were covered in sparkling rubies, and, of course, a rose clutched in one hand.

I felt like I've been walking for hours and the scenery hasn't changed. I could feel the blood still trickling weakly down the back of my neck—it stung with every step. Not a single person seemed to occupy this corridor except me. I began to get a little dizzy from the loss of blood—or maybe a concussion. At that point I couldn't even tell the difference. I squeezed my eyes shut in order to try and realign my multiple visions. My headache was becoming worse by the—

I felt a swift pressure on my chest and I was lying on my back, the rug beneath me wrinkled from my fall.

"Watch it, you little runt!" a voice above me snarled. I hurriedly opened my eyes, one hand quickly moving to the back of my head with a wince. The man towering over me couldn't have be older than someone in their early-twenties, but his ferocious tone suggested that he be given more respect than his age let on.

Before I could say anything, I took note of his features. His hair was thick and dark as it slithered past his shoulders like bristles. His eyes, in contrast, were a fierce gold, although just as hard and cold as the metal as they stared down at me. He wasn't incredibly strong-looking, but he definitely wasn't scrawny, either. He had a widow's peak.

A deep growl reverberated in his throat and I shivered—it sounded unlike any sound a human could make. "Insolent brat! Don't you have anything to say for yourself? Speak up!"

Suddenly I felt a pair of hands raise me back onto my feet by my shoulders. They remained firmly attached even as I maintained my balance. "I-I'm so sorry, Your Highness!" I heard a familiar voice from behind me blurt hastily. "M-My friend and I were playing outside a-and I—he took a hard hit to the head a-and I-I think he might've gotten a concussion or s-something and he's not remembering stuff right now and he just—"

The man narrowed his gaze. "…And just who the hell are you? Are you a servant's child?"

I could feel him nod behind me. "Y-yes, Your Highness! I… I'm Fervidus, son of—"

"And who's he? Is he a servant's child, too?"

Fervidus! Caelestis mentioned that name as part of the Undecim. Is this kid the same Fervidus that traveled to our world, whose job is was to pursue…

"Y-yessir. C-Caelestis, Your Majesty."

Cael. Short for Caelestis. Of course, it was just as he said: "I am you displaced by time and born into a different world." It was an inescapable fate that I would… turn into him. …No, that's not true. I'm still me… just, with a different name, on a different world. I told Colette, "It doesn't matter who your parents are, even if you become an angel, you're still you." This time it was the same case for me, except I still don't know exactly what I've become… or why.

"Stop stuttering. And who's he the boy of?"

I could feel Fervidus' hands start to shake on my shoulders. The man's golden eyes intently bore into mine, as if he was scrutinizing my every feature. I couldn't help but stare back; I know I've seen this man before, somewhere. He looked so… familiar.

"He's the son of Cordelia, Your Highness."

Never taking his eyes off me, the man pressed, "Cordelia and who?"

His question was met with silence from Fervidus behind me. I couldn't respond even if I had known the answer. I couldn't help but feel waves of spite surge through me as I looked at this man eye-to-eye.

He took my chin in his cold, gloved grasp, twisting my head from left to right as if I was some sort of merchandise. His brow furrowed slightly. "Cordelia and who?" he repeated impatiently, commanding, "Answer me."

Fervidus' hands tightened around my shoulders as he waits for my response. I locked eyes with the man. "I can't remember… sire."

"Hmph," he grunted with mirth, releasing me. His mirth turned into a dark laughter and he said, "Tell me, how old are you, Caelestis?"

Again, I answered, "I can't remember, sire."

"Well I'll be damned." He sighed, his laughter slowly fading. Traces of it still lined his voice as he said, "Eleven years to the day, under the Potentinfusco Moon. Feli' natalis, you miserable little curr." He brushed past us, an icy wind tailing in his wake.

As soon as the man was out of earshot, Fervidus released his grip on me and sighed loudly in relief. "Holy crap, I thought for sure he was gonna kill us..." He started walking and I followed him quietly. "He's a complete jerk. I don't understand how someone so black-hearted could have possibly come from the King and Queen, they're so kind and compassionate. But Prince Nicholai…"

He shook his head and a grin reappeared on his face. "Hey, you didn't tell me it was your birthday! Feli' natalis!" he laughed. "You're ten now, right?"

I looked down at my undersized hands. Ten. That sounded about right. "Yeah. Thanks."

The nurse administered tests, each of which I managed to fail quite expertly. Some things never change. Once she finished, she sighed and shook her head as she placed her hand directly on the wound. It stung at first, but her touch quickly grew soothing and gentle. I could feel my eyelids begin to droop, but I held them up.

She spoke mostly to Fervidus. "Normally, I'm not really supposed to treat servants' kids, but this case I just can't ignore." She removed her hand and instantly the pain was gone. I put my hand over where the wound had been, in mild shock. Not even Raine could do something like that. "Just what were you two boys up to, anyway?"

"We were just… running around in the Commons Square. In the grass," Fervidus explained, lying through his teeth. "but I kinda got mad and maybe… kinda tackled him a little too hard…"

I could hear the nurse sigh. "And?"

He looked away abashedly. "…He sorta flew in the air and hit his head on the stone walkway… really hard." He then looked down at the ground and muttered, "…Really, really hard."

"I'd say so!" the nurse exclaimed in a huff, "Your friend now can't even remember even the most basic things, as a result of your recklessness. So, I think you should learn to exercise more patience by re-teaching him everything he needs to know. Honestly." She shook her head. "You were born under the Canignis Moon, weren't you?"

"Yes, ma'am."

She scoffed. "Thought so." She then placed her hands on my shoulders and gently urged me forward, saying too sweetly, "Okay, hon, it's time to get going. Just follow your friend here—"

"Fervidus." I stated his name firmly, hoping she'll stop treating me like a two-year-old.

"Very good, you're a quick learner. Now just follow Fervidus here and he'll teach you all you need to know." I could feel her stern glare shooting over my shoulder. "He'll be patient and gentle—you have nothing to fear."

"Y-Yes, ma'am, I will!" he replied stiffly, taking my hand and hurriedly leading me out. "Come on, Cael, let's get outta here…"

Fervidus tore out of the small room faster than Raine from an ocean. I could hear the nurse call out as we darted down the hall, "Take it easy! No more roughing, do you hear me?"

We turned a corner and he pressed himself flat against the wall, panting as if he just ran a marathon.

"What're you all worked up about? She seemed… sorta nice." I asked, my hand drifting to where the wound had been healed.

He pursed his lips and looked at me like I was crazy. I probably was. He shook his head, clenching his hands into fists at his sides. They began to burn. "I just… got problems with people like her… y'know? Like, Creturaqua. We… just don't get along." He saw me frown a bit in confusion and shook his hands free of the flames. He started walking down the hall, and I followed in his steps.

"Man, you really have forgotten everything." He remarked, sliding his hands into his pockets. "Well, depending on your birthday, you're aligned with a certain element, and a native form. For example, I was born under the Canignis Moon, meaning 'fire dog', so I'm most comfortable using fire. But the reason why I have trouble getting along with people like the nurse is because she was born under the Creaturaqua Moon, and her dominant element is water—the healing element. And I should hope that you know that fire and water are opposites…"

"Well, yeah," I nodded, jumping ahead a few paces to catch up. This tiny body was really starting to get on my nerves. "The Undine to your Efreet."

He looked over at me. "Hmm? The what to… my feet?"

This definitely was a different world I had gotten thrown into. Maybe I should just let him talk for a while… "Nothin'. Never mind."

"Okay…" he paused, finding his place. "…Right, so there are other Moons with other dominant elements and other native forms and whatever—y'know, Light, Dark, Ice, Plasma, Earth, Wind, blah, blah, blah… What are you, again? Err, do you remember?"

A familiar scene suddenly flashed itself before my mind's eye.

Shortly thereafter, the golden-eyed man disappeared into a small sphere of light, and then not a second later reappeared in the form of a great bird with feathers as dark as night and a wingspan to cover the sky. He kept himself hovering over the ground with periodic beats of his wings.

"If you are indecisive, you will alter into your most native form. Because you and I are the same—born under the moon of Potentinfusco—that is what you see before you. More commonly known to this earth as the… raven."

"I'm a Potentinfusco, I think."

Fervidus nodded. "Right, right, the 'black bird'…" he scratched his head in thought. "…You… don't really have a dominant element. Potentinfuscos usually don't have much problem mastering or getting along with any element. Pretty amiable people, usually. A lot of great leaders were Potentifuscos, y'know." He laughed, "Doubt you could follow in their footsteps though."

I couldn't explain it, but I suddenly felt very defensive about it—something I really knew nothing about. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He jumped almost into a battle-ready stance, exaggerating his surprise. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What's this? Caelestis the Coward… defending himself? I thought you just lost your memory a bit, but this is… unexpected." He put his hands back into his pockets casually and laughed again. "You're a weird kid, Cael."

Caelestis was… a coward? It made me wonder just who Caelestis was in the first ten years. He must've been a different person—a different soul from my own. Then… whatever happened to him? "This whole world is weird." I retorted. "Keep talkin'."

"Alright, listen up, amnesiac…"

By the time the day was over and we had reached the servant's quarters, Fervidus had managed to fill me in on just about all the basics about the world, even the supposedly 'common sense' stuff. I found most interesting this 'Sight' thing he had told me about. Just as its name implied, it was a vision of some sort—whether past, future, or any place in time—that came to everyone near their death, more often than not during their dying moments. Some of them were not relevant to the one who sees them, but are meant to be shared so that someone else may learn from it something life changing. Others give reassurance or closure to the dying person; the type of vision usually depends on the moon under which the seer was born. From there it got pretty fuzzy and I didn't really remember much of it.

He had led me to the door of my living quarters and called it a night, returning to his own family's residence. For a long while I stood outside the door, unsure of how to enter into this situation. Fervidus had said that, in this world, my mother's name was Cordelia… was that how I should address her? Was that how Caelestis had addressed her, or was there some archaic word I was unaware of that was used to address parents, like 'mom' or 'mother'? After a few minutes of internal debate, I decided to throw caution to the wind and blame any mistakes on my apparent case of amnesia.

"I-I'm home." I announced as I closed the door shut behind me. I looked around, taking in the surroundings of the cramped living space. Of course, it wasn't something I'd have to adapt to—living in the house of a dwarf meant getting used to undersized rooms, among other things.

"Hello, Cael." I heard a cheery, yet tired voice from the other room reply. "You were gone an awfully long time today. Was everything alright?"

How much longer than normal did awfully mean? Furthermore, I didn't know how to respond. Supposedly, I had amnesia, but it was so much more than that, and so much more than I cared to explain at the moment. "Yeah, don't worry about it."

"Don't worry about what?" I could hear her inquire.

"Nothing," I replied hastily. "There's nothing to worry about."

I could hear her sigh and things were shuffled around in the adjacent room. "…Alright, whatever you say." She paused, coming through the doorway with an armful of blankets and other laundry items. She looked weary, but her light eyes glowed from behind her messy blonde hair. "I talked with the Professor today when I was making my lunch rounds. He's very impressed with your academics."

What sort of sick joke was this? I had thought, putting me in the shoes of some prodigy. I hoped my amnesia alibi could cover for a sudden drop in grades. "Oh… that's, um, great."

"He said he'd be willing to privately tutor you outside of class, if you'd like." She added as she disappeared into another room, which illuminated with her entrance. I heard her set down the pile of fabrics with a small huff. I followed her to the edge of the doorway and peeked inside the minute room. The floor and walls alike were covered in stone, with a drop-off point just after the frame of the door. A single pipe protruded from the side wall and a drain lay at the opposing side. The space reminded me of the Meltokio sewers.

Cordelia quietly rolled up the leggings of her maid-like outfit, just below her knees. She then rolled up her sleeves alike and stared up determinedly at the pipe. "Some water…" she mumbled as she positioned herself in a stance suitable for casting. She focused momentarily before calling some sort of spell.

The room dimmed slightly, but nothing more resulted. She broke her posture and cursed under her breath. She put one hand on her hip and started to call loudly, "Cae—oh, you're right there. Well, I need your help getting some water up through the pipe. Y'know, just a little so I can wash things."

Immediately, I froze; the only sort of mana manipulation I knew dealt with swords and occasionally protective barriers, and I doubt even the most well executed Psi Tempest would do the trick. I knew nothing about casting and the sort back on Aselia, let alone on a completely different, unfamiliar and weird world. It looked like the ruse was up. "Uh… I don't know how…" I say slowly, sheepishly.

My confession was met with a groan. "Not now, Cael. It's been a long day and I've got an early morning tomorrow. Spare me the theatrics, please."

Apparently Caelestis had called wolf enough already. It seemed nothing in this world would ever go down easily. I unconsciously moved my hand to cover the back of my head, as if to cover the previous gash. "I… Fervidus and I were practicing today and… I hit my head on the stone pavement. I… can't remember a lot anymore…"

I could see her frown slightly, doubt settling in her vibrant eyes. "Practicing? Practicing what?" she inquired slowly.

"Sword-fighting—y'know, like sparring." I couldn't help but frown a little, myself: what else was there to practice? Multiplication ta—well, never mind.

In an instant, I was face down on the cool stone pavement again. I had been Raine-slapped by… Cordelia? I begun to feel a little nostalgic, and even a little homesick… and that painful throbbing in the back of my head. Truth be told, I was a little hesitant to get up, in fear that she might go all-out Raine on me and follow up the cuff with a kick in the chest.

"For Heaven's sake, Caelestis, what have I told you about sparring?" she spat, her voice high and airy with rage. Another second and she had picked me up onto my feet by the back of my collar and turned me around to face her. All of my instincts told me to push her away, but I couldn't look away from the tears welling in her eyes. "If any of the knights see you even play-fighting, they'll assign you into training for the Royal Army! They'll take you away, Caelestis, do you hear me?" she asked in hysterics, shaking me softly. "They'll take you away! They don't care how old you are, or anything! Cael…"

She wrapped her slender arms around me, and although she was holding me as tight as her remaining strength would allow, her hold was weak and fragile. "Cael, I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to hit you. I was just… so afraid. I don't want you to get taken away. You're all I have…"

"I-It's okay…" I heard the words spoken in my voice, though I didn't at all remember uttering them. "…I'm sorry."

She pulled away, keeping her arms around me, and smiled ruefully. "I probably just made your headache a little worse, didn't I? Sorry…" she said, gently pushing locks of my black hair from my forehead. "Where did you hit your head, dear?"

"O-On the back," I replied, "it doesn't hurt anymore. It's fine. A nurse healed it."

She blinked rapidly in surprise. "A nurse tended to you? Awfully generous. Who was it? I'll have to thank them."

"I don't really remember. She was a Creaturaqua, though."

She laughed, returning to her earlier preoccupation. "Of course she was, dear, only Creaturaqua and Viscuspirit can heal like that." Suddenly, her expression dropped and she paled. "Oh no… dear, did you even know that? You said you had some memory loss, didn't you?"

Her sudden question had caught me a bit off guard. "Uh, yeah, I—"

"What was yesterday's lesson about? Who was it taught by? What was for dinner?"

She continued to pelt me with questions; needless to say, I didn't know any of the answers. Heck, I didn't even understand half of what she was talking about. I simply shook my head to each question and her anxiety became worse with each reaction.

But she wouldn't give up. "Okay, well, when's your birthday? You can tell me that, right, Cael?"

Fervidus and the man he called 'Prince Nicholai' had both wished me a happy birthday—"Feli' Natalis"—today. "Yeah, it's today."

I could see the sorrow in her eyes, as it was her turn to shake her head. "No… dear, the Viscuspirit Moon passed days ago."

I found out what happened to the original Caelestis the first time I transformed. There was another voice in my head, and I could feel a separate presence alongside me. For a moment, I thought I had hit my head again, especially when it started talking to me.

Saluto. You must be the Spirit from the Stars.

It wasn't until I replied that I had sworn I had gone completely mental. Who are you? Where are you?

I heard it laugh; its voice was similar to mine in this form. I could tell you that I'm Caelestis, but I'm afraid that'd be you now. And right now… hmm, I'm not really anywhere. I like it that way.

You're Caelestis? I asked incredulously. What happened to you? Why're you…

I was Caelestis—that's the name of the physical form you are currently taking. But now, seeing as my conscience is no longer connected to that body, I can't say what I should be called... Oh! Animeus. That's got a nice ring to it—and the irony!

Animeus… I grew silent, my mind flashing to the 'Animeus' Caelestis had hosted. This kid… there's no way he could be the same person… The other Animeus was twisted and cruel, just looking at him through Caelestis' eyes sent shivers down my spine.

Anyway! He went on, I'm glad you could make it. I had been expecting you for a while.

I totally blanched; I had kicked him out of his body, after all. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to kick you out of your own body. I didn't have any control or anything— I stopped, letting his other words sink in. Wait, you had been expecting me? How's that possible?

Nah, don't worry about 'kicking me out'. Having a body is such a hassle. I love living life without the physical limitations and whatever else—it's wonderful! Honestly I'm just interested in observation, so being able to watch and listen without actually having to do anything is a dream come true! He laughed exuberantly. He started to remind me of Genis and I smiled. I received my Sight a couple days ago—on my tenth birthday—before you came, and I knew the boy they were talking about could never be me, hah. I was really worried at first when I received it at barely ten years old—I thought I was gonna die!

You saw me coming in your Sight? That's… how?

I could feel him pausing to think. Finally, he said, Here, why don't I just show you instead?

The skies overhead were a dismal shade of gray as rain drizzled down onto the cold stone streets of a small city on the outskirts of the bastion. Footsteps pounded through the rain sodden streets as figures sought refuge from the elements, others simply in a rush to get to their next destination, a state that was not at all uncommon in this time of war, famine and poverty. Thunder echoed throughout the town and rumbled within the tiny, drafty establishments lining the street.

In the midst of this downpour, a large crowd gathered around a stage placed before the Trail of Vines, eyes alight with awe and filled with wonder as a scrawny, destitute old man stumbled up to the dais with fearless determination. They could tell by the far-off look in his eyes that he wasn't long for this world; the only thing that kept him tied to this life was his essential need to pass on his Sight to all who would listen.

His bony wrinkled hands shook as he gripped the sides of the wooden podium, but his voice was strong over the raging downpour.

"I… have seen the future… of our most beloved Kingdom," he began, casting his eerie gaze over the silent crowd. "…and it lies in the hands… of a boy."

The crowd whispered amongst themselves, their murmurs fluttering in the still air of the city. The old man closed his eyes, deep in thought as he sought to recollect his vision. As he opened his eyes, a hush fell over the crowd once again.

"Born under the moon of Potentinfusco, the boy will be of royal blood with dark hair, golden eyes, and wings as black as night. He shall come to our world from a place very different than we will ever know, and will be named Child from the Stars. Years after his birth, war will erupt between all the nations, and his Kingdom will be thrown into unending peril and suffering."

A few stifled cries trickled out at his words. The nearby knights tending to the Trail of Vines turned their full attention to the man, now wary of his every word. They were ready to take any necessary action, should the man spread slander, propaganda and openly defy the Kingdom once more.

"The Child from the Stars will enlist in this nation's army and fight along the front lines." The old man continued, his withered voice growing raspy. Nods of disbelief spread through the crowd like a disease; it was unheard of for royalty to enlist and serve in the forces. "Utilizing his knowledge he will retain from the unfamiliar world, he will be one of the few survivors of the battles and will move up through the ranks with God's speed. But within a year, he will grow weary of the fighting, and will leave the plains of battle. He will lead a rebellion of peace against the war and every nation in it. He and his followers will be banished from all lands, and in a chance escape will flee this planet in search of a familiar, yet unknown world in which they may find their eternal peace.

"…In their absence, this world will fall under the rule of an evil dictator… Our own young Prince Nicholai. And in his hands all our people shall—"

In an instant, the knights rushed from their posts, weapons drawn as the silenced the old man, once and for all.

In the name of the Kingdom of Roses.

By the time I reached the age of legal adulthood—an age spanning a couple of decades to even a century on this world—so many things had changed. With a great deal of Animeus' help, I had graduated from Professor Gnartias' lessons at the top of my diminutive class. I had learned how to fully control the ability to freely change forms, and Cordelia had taught me how to manipulate the energies of this world to cast spells and direct the elements. Fervidus' family's tenure of servitude had ended in the Kingdom of Roses and his family fled back to their home country OTHERPLACELAND:D.

But not a day went by that I didn't think of everyone back on Aselia. While here the moons pass like years, who knows how much time passes back home? Here, generations could pass in an Aselian day, or maybe their months would span only minutes. My friends, everyone I've known, could have lived and died in the time it took me to reach this new world.

What would have become of them?

Colette had been saying how she would try and make relations between the newly merged Sylvarant and Tethe'alla much smoother—that the people of Sylvarant were envious of the Tethe'allans for their technological advancements and tried to make amends, but the Tethe'allans looked down on them for being so 'behind the times'. Maybe she had accomplished her goal—maybe Aselia no longer knew of Sylvarant and Tethe'alla but of just Aselia. Maybe Meltokio and Palmacosta, with her help, had reached agreements and made treaties that would span the entire planet. Whatever the case, I'm sure she's happy and has her life filled with furry-four legged friends. She always adored dogs.

(I wonder how Noishe is doing? Who's he living with? Poor guy.)

Like Colette, Genis and Raine had set out to campaign in Tethe'alla for the ethical treatment of half-elves. I always worried a lot about them. Two half-elves traveling through a world where they're treated as second class citizens, even worse… but I know they'll come through—they always have. The Professor always had a way with words (that I never understood) that I'm sure could get her out of a sticky situation. Genis might be a little too hot-heated for calm negotiation and such, but he's practically a genius, so he could find other ways to use his big head, I'm sure.

And if they ever ran into loads of trouble, I bet Zelos could help them out. As the Chosen of Tethe'alla, he'd certainly have some authority in the matter, wouldn't he? But… he does have his own biases, but he said Genis and the Professor were his friends—they were different! He said he was getting over his biases, but it wouldn't be easy. Nevertheless, I think he'd help them out if they got into too big of a bind.

But that aside, what would he do? He'd hinted at trying to get rid of the Chosen title, but I don't know if he really would. He admitted himself that he was just a simple guy with simple needs, and if getting rid of his title as the Chosen would mean getting rid of his wealth, I don't know if he'd do it. That's not to say I think he's a snob—well, okay, he can be a snob, but that's different, right?—he just grew up with having just about everything at his fingertips. If I didn't know any other way, it'd be hard for me to give that all up too. (Which is probably why he kept calling me a 'back-country hick' when I'd say stuff in Meltokio. Yeah well, if I'm a 'back-country hick' then you're a snob, Zelos. Touch-ee!)

Speaking of the upper-class, Regal was always incredibly busy with his Lezarano company. Turns out they manufacture just about everything under Aska! But he said he was going to try and aim their efforts at more fill-and-throw-pick causes… whatever those were. Maybe it had to do with mining; though I'm pretty sure he said he blew up the Toize Valley Mine because of all the exspheres it held. If that's the case then I'll definitely have to thank him for it. …Wait, if he blew that up, wasn't that the only way to get down to the dwarves?

You know, I bet Noishe probably got returned to Dad—Dirk, that is. Either that or Colette might've taken him along for the journey. Dad never really liked Noishe a whole bunch; Noishe was always getting into his smithy stuff and making a mess of the place. I told him it was because Noishe was just a dog and didn't know any better, but he'd always mumble something like he'd "learn him ta know better" or something. That's when he built Noishe's pen. He hates that pen… Maybe on second thought Dad wouldn't be the one to keep Noishe.

Though Kratos would. But, knowing him, he's probably long gone—floating away in space on Derris-Kharlan. I still don't fully understand why he did that. Don't like it either. But he said it's what he had to do, and I'm not going to doubt that he's probably right… I just wish he could've stayed for a little bit longer. And not have had to come back when he did. I hated having to face him the way I was; it felt like I was going against a bunch of the stuff I said to him in the first place. I hope the Professor was able to tell him, and everyone, the reason why I had to do the stupid things I did.

So, I guess I kind of regret the way I went about things, but… you live and you learn. You can't change the past.

Presea was never much of a talker, but she had a passion of rebuilding her hometown of Ozette. She probably managed to get the place rebuilt in no time! But I wonder if she started to regain her feelings? Even in the short amount of time that passed between saying good-bye after reuniting the worlds and talking to her here and there along the way, she definitely seemed a little bit more expressive each time. For example, she'd smile when she greeted me and her voice would get away from the monotone she had when she was under the influence of the Cruxis Crystal. It was without a doubt a huge relief to see her becoming more like the person she was before everything was taken away from her. I hope I'll get a chance to see her again.

But, of course, the person I really want to see is Sheena. Well… maybe not. If Zelos' nickname for her speaks anything of her temper, I don't know if I'd last too long after what I put her through. I really underestimated what was going to happen with Caelestis and I broke my promise to her… big time. I'd really thought, after all was said and done, we could have a future, one way or another. But I don't know about that anymore. I don't even know if I'll go back.

I don't even know if I can go back.

Every living creature must be killed—if it moves, kill it.

Those were the orders directly from the Prince, now the King after the assassination of his parents, the former King and Queen—the event that set into motion the War of Nations. It was a war that no side could win, but a war all sides sought to triumph.

Against my mother's—Cordelia's—wishes, I enlisted in the Royal Army after passing all of Gnartias' lessons. She hated to see me go, and, to be honest, I hated to have to leave her, but I just had a feeling that I couldn't ignore. Fate was calling to me, let's say.

I was alone in the battle field—nothing moved for miles. Warfare had taken its toll on the land, had ravaged it almost beyond recognition. The rest of my infantry had split up as to not draw attention to ourselves, and it was every man for themselves. We had been going for days non-stop; I didn't know how much longer I could go without collapsing into a dead-to-the-world heap in the middle of this barren field.

Suddenly, I could hear a faint ruffling in the wind. I looked around, body turning and eyes rapidly searching every corner for the source of the disturbance. All too late I realized the noise was coming from overhead. Before I could even think to unsheathe my sword, I was blinded by a burst of light and found myself pinned with my back against the arid ground. Red hair fell against my face and I struggled against their grasp. They just laughed, disappearing into a ray of light, which I took as an opportunity to escape, rolling out from under them and onto my feet with a sword in each hand.

A fiery ktugach appeared in their place, eyes glowering purple and blazing liquid dripping from its fangs. It snarled, body shaking from the force of its own sound. Paws pounding against the soil, it charged with a reckless howl and I brought my swords into a defensive stance, ready to fend off the creature.

Instead of a physical onslaught, it whipped up flaming winds around me and melted the ground to magma beneath my feet. Luckily, I was quick enough to transform and fly to safety before returning to my human state and preparing to attack the beast from behind. It, however, was well prepared.

The ktugach transformed, taking the form of a soldier with enemy markings, but with red hair I couldn't quite put a name to. He withdrew one sword and called, "Fang Blade!"

I quickly jumped aside, leaping forward to strike him from the side, but he still was one step ahead of me. I could hear him hiss in aggravation before he promptly disappeared in another burst of light. I kept my swords close, wildly scanning the environment around me for wherever he might rematerialize. Seconds had passed and I still couldn't find him; I panted raggedly, "Two can play at this game." I put away my weapons and focused my energy inward.

Still to the day I've never learned how to describe what it's like between transformations. It's one of the worst and yet most wonderful feelings: it's a delicate balancing act between keeping your life energy from exploding worthlessly into the atmosphere and having all the power surging through you in one big unending rush.

Good thing it doesn't last too long. Going native, as they called it, I lifted myself into the air in search of the enemy solider. It wasn't long before I found him again, but it didn't do me much good at all. In the haze of the struggle, I had reverted to my human form when I felt him slam me into the ground. Maybe it was a stroke of good luck that he had pinned me to the ground, otherwise I might not have been able to see his face. I recognized it immediately.

"Fervidus!" I gasped, as he was holding my windpipe pretty tightly in his free hand. "Fervidus, it's me—Cael!"

Fervidus' grip faltered slightly as he pressed his face closer to mine. Yeah, it was definitely him alright—he still stunk of burnt skin and meat jerkey. His eyes went wide and he let go of me. "Son of a bitch!" he laughed. "I shoulda known it was you from how easily you went down! No shitting me, Cael! It's really you!"

He jumped to his feet and extended a hand to help me up. It reminded me of the first time we met. Grabbing his hand, I smiled, "Things really do come full circle, don't they?"

"How'd you wind up fighting for the Kingdom of Roses, anyway? I thought your mum was all over keeping you safe!"

I grimaced. "She… she was."

With Animeus' help, accelerating to the top of my class had been a breeze. With his natural intelligence combined with my knowledge of tactics as Fervidus and I had continued to spar into the middle of our teenaged years, the royal guards had us signing up for the army in an instant. Fervidus had gotten out of it because of his family's affiliation with the other nations, but Cordelia's service to the royalty was the only thing that kept me from avoiding the draft. How this news made it up to the then-newly-crowned-King Nicholai is beyond me, but when he found out he summoned me for a meeting where he blackmailed me into service.

I had originally refused, strongly. I should have listened to Fervidus' warnings of how ruthless the newly-crowned-King could be to get his way.

Fervidus must have caught on, as he said, "Oh, so sorry, Cael."

"Nicholai did it," I spat. "He drove her to it. Kept her captive until I agreed to join. Even after I agreed, he held her as his concubine. I wanted to break her out, to help her and escape from this place, but by the time I could do anything… She was a strong woman, but apparently it wasn't the first time…"

I had to stop. Cordelia had been as close to a real mother as I'd ever had, and telling Fervidus wasn't easy. But, it almost felt good at the same time. "She told me everything in a letter she left for me after the fact. Ironically, I had been the only thing saving her from his continued torture because he couldn't afford for people to know."

"Shit, you don't mean…"


I'd had to tell Animeus eventually… I wish I hadn't though. The news seemed to break him. He hasn't been the same since—I hardly recognize him as the Animeus I had come to know, but now I know where the Animeus I first met back in Aselia as Caelestis' second-in-command came from…

Fervidus jumped up in one of his usual energized speeches. "Then what the hell are you doing out here? You could RUIN him!"

"My existence isn't enough leverage," I told him flatly. "Besides, there's more to this than him and the Kingdom and this war."

"Once an idealist, always, eh? This world's in short supply, I'll tell ya what."

I couldn't help but smile at the title. I looked at him squarely. "Not just that—I'm just so sick and tired of having to fight against other people for something that everyone should just be born with. Everything's a war, and it's hurting people on both sides and even those just caught in the crossfire, and I'm just so tired of it!"

Fervidus raised his shoulders in a shrug and looked past me warily. "I hear ya, you know I do." He looked back at me. "But unless you pair some action with your talk, then all you're doin' is adding more noise to this poor, confused, mess of a planet we call home."

Home. Aselia.

That's when I realized it was time to take action. It was time to go home.

So I told Fervidus about Sylvarant and Tethe'alla, and about the race wars. I told him about the two planets, and how they had merged into one, and the tree of mana. I tried to compare it to anything on this planet, but nothing came to mind. There was nothing on this planet at all like what Aselia offered. I also admitted to him I would give anything to go back.

"You wouldn't be the only one—no, I don't blame ya at all." He said, "A world like that sounds almost like paradise compared to this place." He paused to think. "Ya know, I've heard some old Viscuspirit legends that mention—oh, what'd they call 'em?—'beauteous worlds beyond imagination, but not reach.' I reckon we can gather a crew who would want to high-tail it to a better life. Whaddya say?"

…I suppose I should have told him what he was getting himself tangled in, but that he brought it up in the first place made me think he already knew. Or, at least, knew his stake in it, too. For the moment, I was too overwhelmed with a sense of relief and joy to even let myself remember the road that still lay ahead.

Because, at least for the moment, the light at the end of the path outshone all the trials that stood before it. It served as the reminder I desperately needed if I was going to go through the crazy plot in store for me on the other side of the fence.

From that moment on, I knew my fate had been sealed.

Edit: Yes. Fervidus hails from a glorious place called "Otherplaceland:D". I think my notes-to-self are hilarious and therefore you should, too. Deal.