Author's Notes: This was a one-shot I wrote for a contest on the Temple of Kraden, and the winning entry. Consider it's placement here part of an apology for not getting a Project Psynergy update out... it's coming, I swear it. Anyway. It's been a little too long since I replayed The Lost Age, so I can't remember the full extent of the dialogue of the Madra scene from which I'm quite clearly referencing. I may be crossing a few little lines here, but hopefully it's nothing major and the remainder of the story proves intact. Story may contain traces of romance and extreme amounts of instropective philosophy.
The Other Side of Dusk
Slowly, Felix opened his eyes. It had taken him just about all the willpower he had to fight off the needs of sleep, especially given the exhausting tolls that he and the others had put themselves through only recently, but it appeared that he'd been successful. Good.
On the other side of the room in Madra's inn was Piers, eyes shut and breathing slowly to indicate that he was doing what Felix should have been doing... sleeping. Still, no time for regrets now. He had far more important things to consider.
Slowly and quietly, he slipped his sheets off and got out of the inviting bed, pulling his travelling garments on with all the stealth he could muster. His companion remained asleep... good. In other rooms nearby, Kraden would be sleeping soundly if not absorbing himself in some local text, and the girls would likely have exhausted their conversation by now and drifted off. There were only a few hours before dawn, anyway, and they needed their strength for the trials that were surely to come.
Felix, on the other hand, needed something else more than that. Something far more valuable to him.
Tiptoeing out of the room, he started moving with a little less care once out in the hallway. It wasn't uncommon for people to get up and move around during the night at an inn, even if it was just to relieve themselves. All his stealth evaporated the moment he reached and opened the front door, breathing in the cool night air as he took one last look around the entrance before slipping outside into Madra proper.
Nobody had noticed the private, silent exchange that had gone on during the earlier events of the day, and that was just the way Felix preferred it. No doubt Jenna would have had many questions if she had caught on, but she hadn't, and so he was spared explaining it to his sister. She might have understood – despite their years apart, they were still siblings – but that was something he didn't want to chance. Not until he knew the whole situation could be sorted out.
Looking around once more, Felix returned to the rise in town where the earlier conversation had played out. The discussions and implications of the situation had been considerably alarming, something that they had all talked on further upon reaching the privacy of their own rooms for the night's rest. But throughout all of it, Felix's mind had been on one thing and one thing only.
He was alone on the rise. Even the biggest night owl in Madra had given in quietly to their rest, or at the very least had made themselves scarce from this place. Perfect. But then, not so perfect... had she understood his gestures? It had all been done without words, without drawing the attention of their respective companions, of the ever observant and intelligent Alex... if anybody, he would have noticed it. Understood it. Still, Alex was not an enemy, so it wouldn't concern Felix if he was present...
He just needed to see Karst again.
"Karst," he murmured to the empty area around him. It was barely over his breath, barely audible over the faint wind that was coming in from the not too distant ocean. He repeated it once, louder, hoping against hope that she was there.
And he was not left wanting. Immediately he could hear footsteps from behind him, could almost sense the presence emerging from cover nearby. It was less the sound, or even the faint tingle of Psynergy in the air that all Adepts faintly possessed... no, it was the familiar presence that he knew instantly, that he would have been able to pick out from any other person.
"Felix," the voice said quietly. The voice tried to sound as impassive and reasoned as it could be, but the faint subtleties of it betrayed the emotions of the speaker... there were many things concealed within it. Sadness, confusion, anger... love. No mistaking it.
He turned around slowly to face her, his heart pounding in his chest. He'd been waiting for a proper reunion for months now, and yet... now that it was here, he was unsure of how to act. Given all that had happened... what could he say to her that would make her understand? That would give her closure? Let her know how much he had missed her?
Slowly, Felix held his hand out for her to take. Karst's expression was, like her voice, forced into impassiveness... yet the faint downward turn of her mouth and the dancing anger within her eyes betrayed her again. Perhaps most people wouldn't notice... but Felix knew her. He knew what to look for.
With some hesitation, Karst began to hold her hand out... and then dropped it back to her side, looking down for a moment before matching his gaze again.
"Felix, Menardi is dead."
The sentence wasn't meant to inform him of the event, just to remind him. He had been there, and she knew it. Nonetheless, it reopened the old wound that Felix held close to his heart. Menardi and Saturos alike... they were gone forever, his companions and trainers and even friends of three years. He'd never see them again, and they had died carrying out the dreams of their people. Ironically enough, it was against people who fought for what they believed in, too. Isaac... his childhood friend was determined and idealistic, but his ideals were tainted by archaic information. He had fought to save the world, not knowing just what his actions would instead deal. And he had met two brave warriors who stubbornly – perhaps even viciously – refused to back down... so he had dealt with it appropriately.
Given what immense pressures rode on their shoulders, and given just how hard they had had to train to get where they were, to make sure that Felix's training was to the point where he wasn't a burden on them... who could blame them for their actions? For their antagonistic words and attitudes? They were trying to save the world, trying to denounce ancient mistakes and stupidities so that their families could live on.
They were heroes. They had died as heroes. They, like Isaac, had fought to save the world... and their ideals had been defeated and crushed by someone who didn't even understand the bigger picture.
The thoughts hurt Felix, even as he understood Isaac's viewpoint. And even more so, he understood Karst's viewpoint, tainted as it was by only knowing the one side of the story. Unlike Felix, she didn't understand what Isaac was truly doing, what his motivations were. She knew only that of her sister, and her sister's closest friend and partner... and of their young aspiring trainee, originally a victim who had grown to understand them and fight by their side.
Originally a comrade and friend to their killer...
"I know." Felix took a slow step closer, to which Karst didn't react. Another step, and still she matched his gaze. Slowly, he reached out his hand again, and slowly hers rose to meet it. It touched his this time, her fingers running over his for a moment before kneading their way between them, closing down softly. It was a good feeling, instantly reconnecting them in more than one way despite their months apart. The moment was weakened by Felix's knowing that very soon, they would likely part ways yet again, but for now it didn't matter. Best to enjoy what they had, while they still had it...
"You understand what's going to have to happen now, don't you?" Karst said to him quietly, her eyes still not leaving his. The anger came slightly to the fore, but it was kept in check more by her admiration for him... her passion for him. "After tonight, I mean. My partner and I will go off with Alex properly and start pursuing him. Isaac. As long as he has the Mars Star, and as long as he keeps pursuing you, he can't be allowed to continue. And for sister..."
Her fingers clenched against his tightly, but Felix placed his free hand over their grip as if to bring it closer, to relax her.
"Yeah... I understand. I know what'll happen from here on out." He sighed. "We both knew when I went with them, that this task would make things difficult for a while... I never dared to imagine just how much, though."
Karst chewed her lip, but took a small step closer to him. "Menardi knew what she was getting into, and she knew the risks. Knew that fanatics would keep to the old ways no matter how much death and destruction it would lead to."
Felix sighed again, looking down at the ground. "I'm sorry I couldn't save them. The battle was fierce... and they fought to the very last with everything they had. They were true Proxian warriors... true Dragons. Don't ever doubt that or remember them as anything but."
"Heroes. That's what they were."
"Yeah... nothing less. Prox will sing songs and tell stories of their exploits for centuries to come, no matter what else happens." He felt guilty now, still unable to meet her gaze. "And I'm so sorry I couldn't save them."
Karst was quiet for a moment, but Felix felt her other hand come up to his face, gently resting against his cheek and steering his gaze back to her eyes. She held it there for a moment before the hand drifting down to his shoulder, pulling him a step closer.
"I missed you... you know that?" Despite all the restrained emotions in her expression, her mouth curved up into a faint smile. The smile was all he needed to see to make him relax, to make him feel like Weyard was a better place, a special place... more than that, her lips were an invitation.
"I missed you too. You were on my mind every single day..."
Another step closer, and they were together, their mouths joining their hands in linking them together. The sensation sent a wave of memories through Felix... his arrival at Prox with his parents and Isaac's father, his quiet demeanour and apparent inner strength somehow alluring the sister of one of his rescuers. He recalled the times he'd spent between the lessons, between the training, how much of it was spent in company with her as a friend, and then... something more. Something like what they were now.
And then there was the less pleasant memory of having to part with her. As far as Felix had been concerned, his real home was only partly in Vale. The remainder of it... well, it had no set location. All that mattered was that she'd be there with him, no matter where it was. No matter which wretched corner of Weyard it could fester in, it would have been paradise with her. Parting Prox hurt more than leaving Vale ever had, but at least there was the promise that he'd be back. He'd see her again.
If only the conditions of their reunion had been better... but he wasn't going to let it spoil the moment. He'd missed her too much.
Gradually, their kiss broke off, Karst giving a faint sigh of satisfaction as her head slipped past his to rest on his shoulder. Somewhere during the moment her arm had moved down around his waist, holding them closer together, but neither of them minded in the slightest.
"I can't stay long," she murmured into his ear, sounding disappointed. "It took all the bribing I could muster to convince Alex to stay close by, just for this. You know what he's like, he refuses to simply sit still when there are things to be done..."
"I guessed as much. Feared it, really." He sighed. "Where will you go from here?"
"No matter how successful you are at getting to the Jupiter Lighthouse and lighting the beacon... we can't end this without the Mars Star. So I'm sure you know where that will lead."
"Right... straight to Isaac." Felix pulled his head back slightly to meet her eyes again, frowning. "No doubt you know from Kyle that we were good friends. That our family was close. Hell, that my sister had a crush on him... still does, if today was anything to go by." He paused, thinking on that for a moment, but quickly shook his head to put himself back on track. "You know of my past, at least."
Karst nodded. "And you know of my present. What he did."
"I... I know the answer to this question already, so forgive me. But..."
She shook her head, the anger in her eyes building up again. "No, I won't just forgive him. I won't just listen to his viewpoint and talk to him. He didn't give my sister and Saturos that pleasantry, so why should I return it? We'll take the Mars Star, and we'll take it out of his flesh."
Felix nodded slowly. "Isaac's a good man, deep down. He'd listen if you tried." Before she could protest, he held up a hand. "But I know you better... I'd like to think I know you well. So I'm not going to try and stop you. I won't protest."
The harshness in her eyes faded away again. "Thank you. But, Isaac still fights to stop our salvation... so I will have to teach him, no matter how harsh the lesson. Maybe this will end up putting you at odds with him in the future. Maybe with Kyle. Maybe... with me. I'm sorry, Felix, but that is the way it has to be. No matter what his reasons... he's a fool. Menardi... she and Saturos are heroes. Martyrs. No matter what... Isaac will always be the person who killed them. And I will have vengeance; I will end their killer and help them rest in peace. No matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes." Karst narrowed her eyes, looking more sad than anything now despite her words. "I love you Felix, but this is something I have to do. Even if it puts us at odds in the future. And given Jenna... given Kraden, given everything... it just might lead to that."
"Karst..." Felix leaned in and kissed her again, a gesture that she met happily. "I've always admired you. Your strength, your force of will... I know that I can't dissuade you, and I know that our next reunion might not be so happy. But I respect you for it. I love you for it."
"...thank you, Felix. I respect your strength, too, and everything else. Even if we end up on opposite sides, I'll still believe it. And believe me when I say that I love you." Karst closed her eyes. "No matter what happens."
"I believe you. And I promise, I feel the same way."
Once more they found themselves kissing, yet it didn't last nearly as long as either hoped. In moments, Karst split from him slowly and took a step back, eying him faintly before turning on her heel and walking away. But... she hesitated, and turned back over her shoulder.
"They'd be proud of how you turned out, you know. Your parents are proud of you... Saturos and Menardi would be too. And of course I am." She gave him another smile, though it turned shaky very quickly, forcing her to turn away again. "Goodbye, Felix."
She was gone in seconds, yet Felix lingered a few minutes, watching the space into which she'd disappeared. He almost wished that he could chase after her, take her in his arms, disappear into the night and off into the unknown... they wouldn't have to worry about the world ending, they wouldn't have to worry about Isaac. They could just be together... happy.
Sighing and spinning on his heel, he headed back in the direction of the inn. No matter what else happened, it was good that he got to see her. Karst had been his inspiration, his guiding light in a world that had seemed dark and empty when he'd been removed from his habitat. She'd always be that, no matter how far apart they were.
He'd just have to hope for a happy ending to the tale...
Author's Notes: Yeah... I'm a complete, total asshole. A real bastard. But that said, damn did it feel good to write again. This entire thing was completed in two sittings during the one day, though the idea for the scene had been stewing in the back of my mind for at least a month. I hope that this proves a good entrant in the fanfic contest, and especially that it's a worthy piece of filler until I get the next Project Psynergy update up to scratch. Hope you enjoyed it.