"That's not true! Humans and half-elves are a very important part of this-"


Without even a moment's warning, not even a moment to charge the attack, Ratatosk opened fire. And just like that, Aster was gone. The one who had been standing there, arguing in the defense of an entire world with his own style of optimism and idealism… I think it was safe to say that he was dead before he even hit the ground. What I found most disturbing was that, after the blast hit him, he seemed to… I guess you could say that he seemed to be burning. It was a flame that smoldered briefly and then went out, and while he didn't appear to be that badly injured at first, I looked closer and saw that there was definitely blood. The blast has grazed me closely enough to leave wounds that would trouble me for years. I didn't care about the pain, though. I ran over to where Aster had landed. He didn't move. I bent down and touched him… he was still warm, but he was definitely dead. At that very moment, something inside me broke. It struck me that Aster would not be returning with me. One of the most important people in my life was gone for good. I didn't know what I would do without Aster, and I didn't expect to lose him now, after all we'd been through together.

Aster was dead. That was the only reality. Not even the enraged spirit standing just a short distance away, getting ready to finish the job, could steer my mind from any other subject. All I could hear was Aster's name in my head, over and over, like some horrible incantation whose sole purpose it was to drive me mad. Aster. Aster. Aster. Aster, Aster, Aster, Aster, Aster, Aster, Aster… over and over. I dropped all pretenses of stoicism. There was no holding back this indescribable rage. That fiend must be punished for what it has done, I thought. It must die. Die. DIE!

I lunged forward and drove my weapons into Ratatosk with all the force I could muster. Striking something down had never felt so good. The monster collapsed at my feet. I stared at that beast, waiting for it to finally die. Ratatosk then reverted to his core form. Aqua appeared behind me, telling me to destroy the core. I was more than ready to do so until Tenebrae snatched the core out from beneath me. He vanished and took my chance for vengeance with him. That's when my resolve just gave out. I stared into space, trying to comprehend what had happened in that very short time. Those few minutes felt like hours. I was jolted awake by Aqua's voice.

"Master Richter... Your friend is-"

There she was, by Aster's lifeless body. Our eyes met, and she knew she didn't have to say any more. I couldn't speak. I felt like I had died in the attack, and I'm sure that some part of me did. I used all my will to avert my eyes from Aster and Aqua and to move my body out of the Ginnungagap. I staggered out with my mind completely clouded over. Where was Aster? Why didn't he have some cheerful remark to say to keep me sane? Before I could come back to the logical conclusion and break my mind even further, Aqua appeared again.

"Master Richter... I want to help you. What Lord Ratatosk did was... awful. If it will bring you peace of mind, I will help you avenge Aster."

I took a moment to consider her offer. Who could be a better help on my new quest than a Centurion that knew all of the ins and outs of Ratatosk's power? All I could manage was a nod. The clouds around my mind cleared, and I slowly noticed that I was in pain. Horrible, searing pain where that shot had "grazed" me. It had come quite a bit closer than I thought it did. There was quite a bit more blood than I first thought there was, too. Everything faded to black...

When I came to, Aqua was watching over me. Seeing her caused all of the events to flash back. No, Aster was no longer with me, and his killer had escaped nearly scot-free. If I needed to remind myself of the new reality, all I had to do was look at the new scars all over my body, including one on my chest, near my heart... How fitting. I was still in shock, pathetic as that sounds. I started off to the nearest inn with my conscience all fogged over again. I don't think I said a single coherent phrase for days after the incident. The nights were bitingly cold and silent. My wounds would send throbbing, pulsing pains through my body at the most inconvenient of times. I stayed at Sybak for a few more days before I left that place for good. There were just too many memories trying to force their way into my head and make me weak. I had a new objective: find some way to avenge Aster's death. Maybe even bring him back, if I could. I was as prepared to do anything for my friend in his death as I was in his life. As for what came after that... Well, I'm sure you know what brought me here today.


Things have changed quite a bit since those days.

Ratatosk really does seem genuinely sorry for his actions in the past, but I don't think I can ever completely forgive him. I think he knows that, too.

...For a thousand years, I have been sentenced to burn.

And for a thousand years, I shall burn. It will be Hell... And where else can the man who sold the world be?

What kind of world will I see a thousand years from now?

I think it's time for you to leave. I'm surprised that Ratatosk let you stay this long. The sooner we start, the better.

...Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality. I'm sure you're tired of hearing that by now, but that doesn't change the fact that they're words to live by. Now, go back to the outside world. We'll be here, watching the world change as it is rewritten by Ratatosk's new law. As for me...

Well, there's not much else to be said about that that I haven't already said. You have my side of the story. Now it's time for me to pay my dues to this world, and for Ratatosk to pay his.