Mana Khemia is mingled tragedy and fluffy fun. The really terrible thing about Isolde is that she's right. It's why I really can't hate her or see her as a Karma Houdini. She's a mistress of the cold equations at a school for people who believe immortality is possible (the Philosopher's Stone). Part of it's revenge, yes, and resentment, but she's able to overcome that in the ending. She can't overcome it in-game, simply can't, because as long as Vayne needs to die she can't put the reasons she wants him to die behind her.
She's the One Sane Woman, the trouble is that reality is not a nice place, so of course everyone else is out of their minds and living in optimistic fantasies. It's dark and scary in there.
At the end of the game, Vayne's subconscious, dreaming wish was enough to create a huge freaking fortress complete with bosses. That wish was, fundamentally, to keep his friends and the school he loved safe.
At that point in the game, Vayne still flunked at selfishness the way Flay said Theofratus flunked as a mad alchemist. (4/10 due to his 'monster' being way too nice.)
However, he did end up having the 'I just want to be normal' wish. So if he had started granting that one, gaining a human's level of selfishness, that night…
The trouble with being very, very good at things is that can you have trouble understanding that other people might not find them easy. "How can you possibly burn water?" "How can you possibly not get fractions?"
Isolde was as much a genius at Predictology as Theofratus had been at alchemy. It was that genius that both guaranteed her place on the staff and made her a horrible teacher. Wasn't it obvious that anything practically begging to be caught was a trap?
She'd picked that assignment specifically for him, since adjusting to Al Revis was being difficult for him, after growing up alone in the woods except for Sulpher. Fishing was one of the few things he might learn to like, and he did need a break. She was very proud of how well he'd managed to fit in and how quickly he'd made friends, after those attempts to find a foster family for him had gone so horribly wrong.
It simply hadn't been safe to bring him to Al Revis until he was able to keep his nature a secret. Damn Theofratus, how could he possibly have been foolish enough to get himself blown up? If only he'd waited until Vayne had grown enough to be able to wish him back by himself, at least!
Of course, she hadn't warned him about the monsters. Just because he was her adopted son didn't mean she was going to favor him (and the F would go a long way to ensuring he avoided the label of teacher's pet). He had to be challenged if he was ever going to learn what challenge was.
But despite that early black mark, he'd managed to graduate with flying colors, secret intact, and would be taking a year off to travel and get some practical experience with Roxis before deciding what type of alchemy he wanted to go into.
Although really, she thought that he'd be happiest traveling and helping people. That was his nature, after all.
She didn't know why they were delaying their departure, but it was good because it meant that she could finally plan a proper birthday party. She wasn't entirely sure why she hadn't had one for him in all the years he'd been here, or at least a private one with Sulpher before.
She didn't know where her journal had gotten to, with her to-do lists and all her notes in it. There was so much left to do. She'd gotten the principal to make the cake, and…
Isolde had gone twenty years without misplacing her journal. Predictology was the science of figuring out what would happen, after all, and losing her journal would be troublesome, so she'd always put it where she would find it.
It was strange that she'd lost it. It was strange that Theofratus had died in an explosion when he'd never, ever made such a miscalculation either. It was strange that Sulpher hadn't wished him back to life. It was strange that she'd never given her son a birthday present.
It was strange that she'd planned a surprise party. She'd always detested those.
There was a note on the card she'd written to go with the present, putting it in the cupboard so Vayne wouldn't find it. The dots and curls of an obscure language hidden in the decorative border.
It was almost redundant, really.
It wasn't just her journal that was missing. The papers in her desk were gone, and all her books had been replaced by different copies. She was certainly able to predict what would happen if she tried to summon her mana, or gave any sign she had realized what Vayne had done. Again.
He didn't know her well enough to know that she'd always kept a journal, that its absence would be suspicious. That alone told her that she certainly hadn't helped raise him.
The notes were redundant because the truth was clearly spelled out in a hundred little details, as plain as day. As plain as the truth, that Vayne had to be destroyed, so very obvious that she hadn't understood why they all hadn't seen it.
She itched for a journal, but not buying one was such a clue that something was so very wrong.
Probably that was why she'd left notes for herself, as though she was some student of Predictology who needed to show their work, since she couldn't write the truth down in a proper journal.
Surely she hadn't loved her son before, or else he would have known her better. Or else she would have trusted him enough to put her heart in his hands and he would have known what to wish for.
Surely she only loved him because he had wished it. Still, it was convenient that no matter how hard she tired she couldn't wish him dead. If she couldn't wish it then it wouldn't let him know that she had recovered her memories and was trying to kill him.
But there was a difference between wishes and reality, desires and needs, one that Vayne still couldn't quite grasp. She wished now that the lie was true, that he didn't need to die. Yet that didn't change the fact that it was the truth. That he needed to die, before that sweet little boy became even more corrupted by the ultimate power he wielded. Or before he realized what he might become and recoiled in horror, stopped using it to defend himself, and then the world would realize that Theofratus had created not a mana but a genie, and who wouldn't do whatever it took to gain the power to bring their loved ones back to life?
Every single scenario spelled out nothing but horror, and she would have wished he could see it if she hadn't known that he wouldn't wish to, so it would be pointless. He wished that it wasn't true.
He hadn't done this to hurt her. He didn't want to kill her, he wanted her to be his mother. That was there as well, in the very fact that he had done this to her, woven into every thread of this tapestry. He was a lonely little child who surely had to love her now after at least three months of this fantasy. Of his heart's desire.
She must have hated him before. How many times had that hate given her away? How many times had he tried to remove the clues that allowed her to find out? Without any understanding of difficulty, how could he understand that things needed to be imperfect to be true, how could he mimic that imperfection?
There was no way for him to keep her from finding out, she mused, writing out invitations on very nice stationary that definitely wasn't the sort she would buy or make for herself. She did like the pattern, though.
Not without changing the very way she thought. Not without making her stop being her, and after this long he had probably tried it, out of frustration, and turned her back because it was her that he loved, that was the Mother he'd always wanted.
The only way to kill him now that his powers had fully awoken was to make him wish to die.
He would only do that if he understood the necessity. If he understood that just wishing it was so didn't make him able to live in this world. If he came to understand impossibility. That some things just couldn't be because of how good they were, no matter how hard anyone tried to make it so. No matter how much she'd wanted the little child she'd seen in Theofratus workshop, eyes closed like a kitten, to be their child, to have that happy ending…
Surely he would wish to know if she was crying. That had been obvious but she just couldn't stop herself. He came, like she knew he would, with fear in his eyes, so happy that she didn't strike at him but let him hug her. Surely she must have raged at him like a madwoman before she'd come to understand as well as love him.
Love just made feelings of betrayal worse. "I'm sorry," she told him, apologizing on behalf of her entire species, on behalf of an entire would that simply was too tainted to allow him his simple wishes as she wrapped her arms around him.
"No, it's my fault." For existing. For doing this to you.
"It's not. I should have seen what Theofratus was truly planning, I should have stopped him. I just refused to see that we couldn't be happy." So how can I blame you for refusing to see?
"We can be," he pleaded for her to believe.
She closed her eyes, rocking him slightly. So very young. "I'm sorry. I wish there was a way too, now, and no matter how hard I try to see one all I see are reasons why I have to tell you that you're better off dead, before what's going to happen, what has to happen, hurts you."
"I know I can, Mo- Ms. Isolde."
His shoulders dropped and she squeezed him. "It's alright. I should have been. I wanted to be, once upon a time, I'm sure of it." Because the signs that she had weren't things Vayne would possibly have wanted her to feel. Her wish to be his mother had been born of pain and loneliness and rejection, the very inverse of what he could wish upon her, upon anyone.
"Mother?" Really? This isn't when you're going to say that you hate me?
How many times had they had this conversation? "I was trying to hurt you, even if I had to lie before, wasn't I. Even after I learned to love you, I was trying to hurt you so that the world wouldn't, when I remembered. Before the world could. Vayne, no matter how hard you wish for it, you can't exist in this world. And you couldn't be happy in some sort of prison." Yes, he had to have tried that, hadn't he. "All of the possible ways for you to survive are like that. You could live, but the prices aren't things you could live with. Like making me stop being myself."
Yes, the reminder made him look deeply regretful, ashamed and perhaps a little horrified by what he recalled. He didn't understand people, so the person he had wished her to be must have been so eerily inhuman, so clearly fake and wrong. Happy. Too happy.
"I don't want you to die. But you need to. There are some wishes that can't come true, that's the nature of this world. I…" She wanted to say 'I wish you would understand that,' but she couldn't. "Eventually you'll stop being a child, understand that actions have reactions." If only by banging his head against every single one of those walls. "At this point," she could see it now, "even if you were to become human no one would believe it. Or they would come for you for the sake of Theofratus' notes, to study your body to try to create another you, and they would not stop. They could not give up, they would not want to admit the possibility that there was no way to fulfill their wishes. You would have to make everyone forget you, and you're not capable of wishing for that."
"Won't you help me?" Try to find a way?
"I am trying to help you. I'll help you learn Predictology, if I can." So that you'll be able to see, so that you can at least avoid some of the traps as you feel your way out in the dark. "But…" The power this boy had, the power to grant everyone's heart's desires, or at least they would wish he had, want to believe he had, try to make him until it broke him. He was their heart's desires, of course people would do anything to control him, to keep anyone else from taking him away if they captured him.
If she wasn't someone who saw consequences as plain as day, she would have fought him to force him to revive Theofratus, not to kill him.
She was (his mother) the adult here, and adults were supposed to fix things. To make things right. She wanted to, she wished with all her heart that she would think of a way. "The very fact that you aren't granting my wish right now means that it can't be granted."
"I just need to figure out how to grant it!"
"Did you need to figure out how to reclaim the soul of your friend? Do you know where people go after death? Understand the process step by step?"
His silence answered that question. "A wish is a goal. You can achieve any goal, but the aftermath…" He couldn't just wish that she would never remember. "I'm sorry Vayne." I know I've told you this before. You're not going to listen now, anymore than you did then, so there's no point to having this conversation. No point to ruining this brief happiness, what life you can have.
He wasn't going to listen until his heart had been broken a few more times, banged against cold hard reality. But the cracks were already starting to show.
She wished she still hated him. This would be easier if she did.
Trying to do the impossible, trying to grant life when there just wasn't any to give? "You're so like your father." So it was inevitable, really, that she come to care for him and watch him come to wish for the release of death after too long trying to make the impossible possible.