A/N: A year ago, I uploaded a story about a normal guy who gets transported into the world of Fire Emblem: Rekka No Ken, and becomes the tactician character that plays through the game plot. I had no idea where it would go, and ended up adding quite a few original subplots and characters. I ended up really enjoying the stuff I came up with, but had only finished the part of the story that involved Lyn. The main part of the story wasn't written yet.
Now, exactly one year later, I present the sequel to Trials of a Teenage Tactician! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Fire Emblem and any of its characters or settings.
Trials of a Teenage Tactician: Minds of Legend
"I suppose it's about time we finished this, Sean."
"Bring it," I smirked, getting into a fighting stance with my rapier. I was standing, facing my opponent: a tall, muscular brown-haired male who went by the name of Conner. It was the day of our examination in Pheraean Combat, and Conner and I were facing each other with the rest of the Academy watching. I could feel the sweat dripping off of my brow from the anticipation and the heat.
"Alright, boys," said the fiery-haired instructor. "You will fight until one of you has made contact twice. The one who does wins the match. Also remember that you are not only graded on your winning, but on your technique and use of your surroundings. En Guarde!"
I watched as Conner readied his sword. This was the guy I was going to fight: the best student in the Royal Academy of Pherae in terms of combat and physical ability. I watched as he shifted his weight to accommodate the fighting stance that we had been taught over the course of these past few months. I thought about it and had to chuckle. No way would I have been able to do anything like this when I first arrived here. I had spent these past months in this academy learning to fight, and now I was a master with the sword.
And I was going to show everyone what I'd become.
There was a long pause as the instructor put his arm between us two combatants to separate us. I looked up to see my opponent staring at me, like a predator ready to pounce on his prey. Only this prey was armed and ready to fight back. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife, and the instructor's arm moved as if it was in slow motion...
Conner immediately lunged forward with his sword, and I stepped back and parried it. His strike was very quick, but I had honed my reflexes over the course of these few months enough so that even something that fast was instantly avoided. I made my counter attack, a quick jab toward the chest... Touche!
"One contact for Sean," said the instructor. "One more and he wins."
"You've gotten better," said Conner. "Looks like I'll stop holding back so much."
"Like I said, bring it," I told him. I was confident that I could take him on. The match began again. This time, Conner began with a quick thrust, which I dodged and countered. Conner shifted his weight, avoiding the counterattack and moving to the side. I regained my balance and made the next move. My opponent dodged it and proceeded by spinning around me as my momentum carried me forward, and lunged once he got a firm footing. I noticed this as I faced him again, and leaned back, watching as the blade lunged over my face as I dodged below it. It was like slow motion, and I felt my adrenaline pumping.
I caught myself from falling with my left arm, and pushed myself back to a standing position and faced him again. Conner had regained his composure much quicker that I'd anticipated and was already making a low swing with his sword. I made a quick leap into the air, jumping over the arc of the sword swing, and did a nice backflip before landing perfectly on my feet.
And then, before Conner could ready himself again, I thrust my rapier forward, catching him on the shoulder.
"Touche," I smirked. "That's two hits. I win."
The instructor smiled. "Sean wins the match!"
I suddenly heard the cheer of a crowd, and looked around to see the students of the academy rushing toward me from the bleachers. I noticed one girl in particular, who jumped on top of me and threw her arms around me. "Congratulations, Sean," she whispered in my ear.
I smiled and hugged her back. "Thanks, Lyn. I really did it. I never need to be protected by you anymore..."
She responded to that by starting to unbutton my shirt. "Oh, I think you will," she chuckled coyly. I'm pretty sure my face was turning red now to her response. I felt her slide my shirt off, not paying attention to the other people watching. "L-Lyn..." I began, but she silenced me with a kiss. The crowd began a chant as the scene unfolded.
"Wake up Sean! Wake up Sean! Wake up Sean!"
"Wake up, Sean!" I heard the voice of my friend snapping me out of my dream. That's right, my dream. That entire thing with the fight and the crowd and the girl was all part of some elaborate fantasy that my unconscious mind cooked up so that I could wake up feeling like crap.
Sometimes, I hate my subconscious.
"Thanks, Chloe," I muttered, sitting up on my bed to face her. "Jeez, do you know how good a dream I was having?"
"Actually, I do," she giggled. "You were moaning Lady Lyndis' name and making very pleasurable sounding noises."
I really hate my subconscious.
"You also sounded like you were challenging Conner," she told me. "Sean, it has been three weeks since he defeated you in that sword fight. Face it, you are no match for him in combat."
Okay, back to reality. I was not a master of the sword as I was in my dream. What had actually happened that day was more like...
"En Guarde! ALLEZ!"
3... 2... 1...
"Conner wins the match!"
Combat was not my strong suit. Actually, I never really had much of a strong suit, apart from my above average brain. I suppose that's why Professor Dumas sent me to Elibe as a tactician, not a fighter. All because I beat him in a freakin' chess game.
Okay, for those of you who feel completely lost right now, I'll give a brief recap of my previous adventure. My name is Sean Masters, 18-year-old male born in January. Some time ago, I was an ordinary teenager with little-to-no athletic ability, but a pretty sharp sense of math and logic, and a pretty good chess player. I came from a modern world, where people my age who possessed such qualities were labeled "nerds". Because of such a labeling, it was pretty hard for me to find someone of the opposite gender to notice me, and so for all eighteen freaking years of my life, I had never had a girlfriend. Honestly, I think there might have been some genetic code malfunction that prevents me from being able to talk to girls... but I digress.
My life completely changed when I met Professor Edmond Dumas. After helping him move into my neighborhood, he challenged me to a game of chess, promising me that if I beat him, he would introduce me to a beautiful girl who would actually notice my talents. Well, he kept his promise, but left out one small detail: That girl was from a different world. After beating him in that chess game, he transported me to said world, telling me that I was to be a tactician whose destiny was to save Elibe. I blacked out, and who should I meet when I woke up but Lyn, the most amazing young woman in existence.
Anyway, I traveled with Lyn through this medieval world of Elibe and met up with several other people who all came to travel with us, and after practicing being a tactician against hoardes of stupid bandits, we found ourselves caught in the midst of an inheritance dispute between Lyn and her granduncle, Lord Lundgren. See, apparently Lyn was the only surviving heir to the throne of the Lycian territory of Caelin after the current marquess, Lord Hausen, passes away, and when Lundgren found out about her existence, he sent a bunch of assassins to kill her. Yeah, not fun. Eventually, we pulled through and Lyn was able to save her grandfather from a slow poisoning that Lundgren had been giving him for months. And after all that, I actually managed to get the girl. That's right, Lyn actually fell for me and we kissed. Go me!
That was 9 months ago. At this point in time, I was studying at the Royal Academy of Pherae with my only friend there, Chloe Eagler. That is, I was not in Caelin with Lyn, I was in Pherae. Why? The answer is that I was getting a formal education in strategy from a man named Darius. Or, as he was known in the country of Bern, Lord Darius the Black Shadow. He was the most renowned tactician in Bern, said to be a genius in the art of war. I got to witness a sample of it firsthand when I played him in chess and we had to end in a draw. He wanted me as his apprentice, and was willing to do anything to get to me. I couldn't risk his genius against my untrained mind, so to protect Caelin, I agreed. Darius became a temporary instructor at the Royal Academy of Pherae, and I became a student there.
It wasn't all bad. I mean, with his training, I learned a lot about the art of war, and apparently, I was progressing fast. Of course, in 9 months, there was no way I'd reach the level of genius, but hey, I don't think I was doing too badly.
Unfortunately, that was only in strategy. In anything that involved physical prowess, I sucked. My little-to-no athletic ability was still there, as evidenced by my needing to concoct an elaborate fantasy scenario to make myself feel better about failing a combat lesson. At some point, I think I should've realized I was dreaming. What the hell were bleachers doing in that room?
"Sean, it's getting late," laughed Chloe. "We were supposed to be at the banquet ten minutes ago and you are still not ready yet!" At that moment, I realized that Chloe was dressed much more formally at that moment. Her sea green hair was down over her shoulders, and she was wearing the same indigo dress she wore during the celebration of Lyn's arrival at Caelin. Honestly, she was looking pretty damn good in it as well.
"Oh, shit," I immediately rolled off the bed and started rummaging through my clothes for my formal wear, before realizing that Chloe was still in my room. "Uh, Chloe, you mind?" I asked. The girl chuckled a bit before getting up.
"I'll be waiting for you downstairs," she told me, and left the room. Chloe, like I said, was my only friend at the academy. Turns out that the labeling I had in my world carried over to this world as well when I went to school, yet again making it incredibly difficult for me to make friends when people like Conner ruled the academy student body. I was friends with Chloe because during the battle of Caelin, she was with me in the cell I was captured in, but other than her, it was hard for people to get to know me. It made sense, though. Back home, a "nerd" could get pretty far in life with just intelligence and skills, but in Elibe, physical ability was pretty much required. Once again, I got screwed in that deal.
I found my green dress tunic that made me look like a video game character, and put it on. The formal dress was for the year's Roland's Day banquet, in celebration of the founding of Lycia. It was a big event which brought together all of the students and faculty of the academy, and was also attended by former graduates. There was going to be a big feast and a speech given by the top upperclassman of the academy. This year, it was, not surprisingly, Conner. Yeah, that guy was pretty much perfect. Handsome, strong, smart, and charismatic were the words that most people would use to describe him. He was second to me in strategies and numbers, but pretty much kicked the crap out of me in everything else. Plus, he had that ridiculous charm about him that had every girl in school swooning over him.
Ah well, who needs them? I always told myself. I already have Lyn.
I rummaged through my clothes and found my gold scarf. As I picked it up, a small familiar piece of jewelry fell out, apparently wrapped in the folds of the scarf.
"Huh, was wondering where you were," I said, picking up the small golden locket. I remembered the day Lyn had told me about that little trinket that she always kept with her. It was one of her only memoirs of her first fiance, Kal, who had died protecting her family during a bandit attack. There were two names engraved on the locket, 'KAL' on one side, and 'LYN' on the other. Yeah, it does seem kind of weird that I'd keep a piece of jewelry that had the name of my crush's ex on it, but I could never throw it away, not under the circumstances that she gave it to me.
"I promised," I smiled, putting the locket around my neck and tucked it under my tunic. I put the scarf on, and then found my dress boots and gloves. Feeling like I was ready, I made my way downstairs to meet up with Chloe.
And then I realized that my belt was still on the bed as I felt my pants slide.
The banquet hall was a large, spacious ballroom which had several long tables situated parallel to each other, stretching from one end of the room to the other. The food prepared ranged from roast goose to large wild boar to broiled herring, along with a bunch of things that I had no idea what the names were. It really was an annual feast.
Unfortunately, by the time Chloe and I got inside the place was already packed full of people, and finding a place to get food was nearly impossible.
"This is what I get for sleeping?" I muttered. "Fully awake and empty inside?"
Chloe laughed at this, and pointed toward a certain table. "The spot next to Professor Black is open."
In hearing the name, I stopped and looked toward where my friend was pointing. I saw the man who had brought me to this school in the first place casually chewing on a roll. That man, with his fiery orange hair, tall build, and golden eyes.
"Yeah, I guess it is," I responded. Chloe gave me a small smile.
"Sean, I know that you're afraid of him. But he does favor you as a student above everyone else in this academy. I think we should sit with him."
He's the reason I'm in this academy, I thought to myself.
"I know that," I told her. "I just don't feel comfortable sitting with the guy." That was an understatement. Sure, he was my teacher and I learned a boatload of strategies from him, but he was still Darius the Black Shadow. He was still the man who kidnapped me, who was willing to start a war between Lycia and Bern because I didn't want to be his apprentice.
"Allow me to finish your decision for you." I felt a hand clamp down on my shoulder.
"EEK!" I shrieked, startled. That's right, I shrieked. I'm pretty sure I got some weird looks from everyone who heard my surpisingly high-pitched voice. Hell, I had no idea I could reach that octave.
"Good evening, Professor Black," said Chloe, taking a small bow. I could tell she was stifling a laugh as well.
"Good evening to you too, Miss Eagler," smiled Darius. "I apologize for startling you, Sean."
"N-No problem, Professor," I replied. I swear, it never became any less strange to refer to Darius as a Professor. This was Bern's best tactician, and a really sneaky character, as demonstrated by how he was able to come up behind me.
"Well, moving on," smiled the fiery haired gentleman, "I happen to have some seats near me for two fine students, as well as some extra food in case such students decided to show up late." Like I said, Bern's best tactician. Talk about thinking ahead.
"Thank you very much, Professor," said Chloe excitedly, making her way toward the seats that Darius had reserved for us.
"You really know how to plan ahead," I told him.
"It's not difficult to predict once you closely observe how someone works," said Darius. "I've had nearly half a year of watching you to know how you would be after a Lycian History exam you studied so much for that you only had an hour's worth of rest."
"H-How did you know that?" I asked. Honestly, was this guy stalking me or something? How the hell did he know I had exactly an hour of sleep? Darius just chuckled.
"When you arrived in my class yesterday, it wasn't difficult to see that you were tired," he told me. "I know that you would not seem so worn out had you actually had enough rest. The only thing that could keep a student like you awake for so long was an examination, and even then, only a History examination could possibly make you study so much. It is understandable, seeing as you have never studied it before. And yet, you seemed like you weren't as used to being awake, as if you had just woken up and had no desire to leave the bed. I was left to conclude that you had at most two hours of rest, and so I put my guess at one hour, being the middle of the two extremes. Well, after an ordeal like that, it is entirely understandable that you would be unwilling to part with your bed the next day. Considering Miss Eagler would never attend a gathering while leaving you behind, I knew that both of you would be late."
Yep, I was completely and totally speechless. This guy, Darius, lived up to his name as Bern's finest tactician. It seriously takes a lot of processing power to draw so many conclusions from so little information, and correctly guess the right conclusion afterward. Honestly, I think I was screwed if I ever had to go up against him, tactician against tactician.
"I see I've left you without words," smiled Darius. "Always remember, my apprentice, that a tactician's primary task focuses on information. You must be able to consider as much as possible given very little, since it is rare that you will have very much information presented to you. You must be able to draw many conclusions from what little information you do have, without making forceful leaps of logic, and use those conclusions to plan ahead. Strategy is forged from conclusion. If you can do that successfully, Sean, then you will have become my equal and I will have nothing left to teach you."
I feel like I was one of those little kids who became Buddhist monks, and this was the pebble I had to snatch from my master's hand. This was the level of thinking I had to have to beat this guy. It honestly was not comforting to know that Darius and I would soon have to face each other in battle. I knew about the Black Fang, that group that Darius worked for, and I knew that he was the brains to their brawn. I also knew that the Black Fang was a group that I would never join, seeing what they would do in order to kidnap a young boy and his sister.
"Well, enough talk about strategy, I'm sure you are famished," said Darius. "I must join the other professors. What say you join the Lady Eagler and feast on this fine Roland's Day evening?"
"Y-Yeah," I replied. I think my brain was going into overdrive thinking about how I could possibly face Darius, and some food really did sound good at that moment.
About half-an-hour later, the entire room stopped eating when we heard the headmaster of the academy called the room to his attention. He was an old man who apparently in his younger years was one of the great scholars of Lycia. He was your typical headmaster: old man in dress robes with tiny spectacles and a big white beard. Seriously, with this guy and Professor "Darius Black" at this academy, I honestly felt like I was part of that book series I loved so much.
And for that reason, I was half-expecting him to be carrying a talking hat on the stage.
"Good evening, students of our Royal Academy," the headmaster began, clearing his throat. "I am pleased to see that the year so far has been good to you all, and that the scores this year have been some of the highest ever seen in our school's history. On this, the annual Roland's Day banquet, we celebrate nearly a millenium of peace in Lycia, and to give the commemorative speech this year is our Academy's finest student: a young man whose strength in his studies and his physical ability sees a fine future for our country. I am proud to introduce my grandson as this year's prefect, Conner MacDougal." At his name, the familiar-looking upperclassman made his way onto the stage as the student body applauded.
I swear, I could hear all the girls in the room heave a sigh. Lucky bastard...
"Thank you, grandfather," said Conner as he took to the podium. "Once, dragon fought man in a war called the Scouring. Mankind vanquished the dragons thanks to the efforts of eight heroes. These eight mighty generals brought peace to Elibe. The continent was divided into nations and the people enjoyed an easy prosperity. The Hero Hartmut settled in the east and founded Bern, famed for its military might. St. Elimine moved west, and her sacred name flourished among the artisans of Etruria. The horseman Hanon's legacy lived on with the nomads of her beloved plains of Sacae. The birthplace of the knight Barigan is now home to the renowned Knights of Ilia. The berserker Durban's final glory was to create a warrior's clan in the Western Isles. The archsage Athos is said to have retired to the barren wasteland of Nabata. And finally, the heirs of the champion Roland themselves became the lords of the Lycian League. Thanks to the efforts of the eight legends, Elibe has enjoyed a peace spanning nearly a millenium, which continues on today."
"Does he realize he only mentioned seven legends?" I whispered to Chloe. She giggled a bit.
"Somehow we always seem to miss the final one," she replied. "Brammimond the Mysterious."
"Just wake me up when it's over," I whispered, putting my head down. I jolted up when I felt Chloe's elbow.
"I'm not letting you fall asleep," she said.
"Why not?" I asked. "This speech is basically from our texts in History class."
"It's not his speech I'm worried about," she told me, smirking. "Because his speech is uninteresting, I'm afraid that the words you speak when you're asleep will catch more attention. I know you won't want that to happen."
I'm pretty sure I felt my face go red, and Chloe couldn't hold back her chuckle. "Oh, Sean, you are too fun to tease," she laughed.
"You're really something, you know that?" I sighed.
For the next few minutes, we listened to Conner talk about the hero Roland, blah blah blah, and his accomplishments in the Scouring, blah blah blah, and how we should be proud to be Lycian and blah blah blah... Honestly, I hate speeches like that. They go on forever, and don't really say anything. Seriously, Conner could have taken the History text, picked a random paragraph, and given a speech and it would've sounded pretty much the same. I knew better than most that day, considering the time I spent reading them for that damn exam. I was about to nod off when...
"Well, well, well, happy Roland's day, ya bunch of scamps!"
Everyone turned toward the obnoxious and gruff sounding voice. It belonged to a large, green-haired unshaven man, carrying a large axe. He was pretty much like the kind of guy we ran into everyday on the way to Caelin, and judging by the guy's clothing (a battered tunic) and his, well, aroma (a bunch of students near him scooted away as far as possible), he wasn't invited.
"Who are you?" demanded the headmaster. "How did you get past the guards?" At that, an arrow whizzed across the room and struck the old man in the chest. "Gah..." he managed to gasp before falling over.
"Grandfather!" cried Conner, and another arrow struck him in the shoulder. The guy fell down grasping his bleeding wound.
"Heh, ain't nothin' we Ganelon bandits can't get past," laughed the archer, a small mouse-like man who was standing behind the big guy.
"Ganelon?!" I gasped.
"S-Sean, you know them?" asked Chloe.
"Yeah, well... not these guys in particular," I told her. "But I met their gang of bandits when I was traveling with Lyn. They pretty much chased us halfway through the Bern mountains."
"Were they dangerous?" she asked.
"Yeah," I replied, still taking this in. Something wasn't right about this whole ordeal. I had the map of Lycia in my head. The last time we ran into those Ganelon punks was outside Araphen, which was around the northwestern part of Lycia. Why the hell were they so far south?
"Hoho, so many young Lycians," chuckled the large, green-bearded one, walking toward a red-haired student, who was literally shaking. The man laughed as he started caressing her cheek. "And so many cute girls, ripe for the pickin'. Boys, I think we're going to have some fun tonight!"
The guy was suddenly struck on the back of the head by a bowl of watery gruel, which was thrown at him by someone sitting very close to me. "Nice shot, Chloe," I whispered. She gave a slight smile in response.
"Bitch..." the guy growled, drawing his axe. "Come on out, boys! These little nuisances are going to pay!"
"Calm yourself, Groznyi!" another man commanded. He walked into the room, giving both me and Chloe a good look at him. Both of us recognized him right away.
"Balan!" we both shouted. The former Caelin knight turned toward us. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea for us to draw attention to ourselves.
"You..." he growled, drawing his sword. "Tactician!"
"Oh boy..." I muttered. I began to hear murmuring around me about how I knew the guys who were attacking and how I might've been telling the truth about being the tactician of Caelin. Yeah, pretty much everyone believed Conner when he spread the rumor that I was never really the tactician of the Caelin War, but this really wasn't the way I wanted to prove it.
"So, it was true! This is where you've been hiding!" he sneered. "I've been waiting a long time for this."
"Balan, how could you?!" shouted Chloe. "You defected from Caelin to join a gang of bandits, just to hunt for Sean? Where is your honor?"
He chuckled. "Honor? I have no more honor, Chloe. It died when Caelin decided to accept this boy into its arms, and when that... barbarian girl dared to take the throne from its rightful heir!"
"Don't you dare talk about Lyn like that!" I shouted. Okay, honestly, I was a little sensitive there, but this guy pretty much summed up all of the negative propaganda that Lundgren threw at the world when he was poisoning Lord Hausen. See, Balan was pretty angry at me when his brother died and blamed me for it, and understandably so given the information that Lundgren was spoon-feeding him. He was the guy who beat me to a bloody pulp when I was chained in a prison cell, and spit on me afterward. Even then, I had no idea he would go this far.
"Students of this academy! Listen well!" shouted Balan. "If you do not wish to be killed, do not leave this hall! These Ganelon bandits have at least enough honor to not kill unnecessarily, but they will not hesitate to strike down anyone who disobeys my warning!" He then pointed his sword threateningly in my direction. "Tactician! If you do not wish any harm to your fellow students, follow me to the courtyard. I want to finish what we started in that cell all those months ago."
Basically, he was going to beat the shit out of me again. Or maybe he was going to kill me, since he seemed so keen on doing that back then. Either way, I didn't really have a choice in this matter. I started getting up when I felt Chloe's arm grab onto mine.
"Sean, what are you doing?" she asked. "He wants to kill you!"
"You think I don't know that?" I replied harshly. "What am I supposed to do, Chloe? Try to call his bluff? I'm not going to take that chance!"
"Chloe, please," I said in a calmer voice. "The Ganelon bandits are tough. And there are ten of them in here. So long as they think we're helpless, they won't attack you. Just keep calm, and things will work out, alright?"
Chloe paused for a few moments to take in what I just said, before finally releasing my arm. "Alright, Sean, I trust you," she told me.
"Keep things going here. I'll be back soon," I smiled. I took a small glance at the surrounding students, who all gave me a small acknowledging nod before I made my way out of the large entrance.
The courtyard was in the center of the large castle-like academy in the hills of eastern Pherae. It was a large circular, grassy area surrounded on all sides by the stone buildings that made up the classrooms and halls of the school. Four stone walkways from all four cardinal directions converged in the center of the grass, where a square flowerbed surrounded a marble fountain that served as a symbol of the Royal Academy.
"It has been nearly two years since I left this academy," said Balan. "This school and its worthless lessons on battle and numbers. They never prepared us for the truth. There is no elegance, no pride, no glory. It is only loss, and tragedy."
"Balan, I'm sorry about your brother," I sighed. "I know you can never forgive me, but at least accept that I'm really, really sorry about what happened."
"I cannot," he sighed, drawing his sword. "I will not allow you to live, tactician. You are no savior, you are a bringer of death. I will not allow any more tragedy come from your existence."
I clenched my fists and looked away as the memories flooded back to my mind. I remembered Balin, who was so intent on killing me, and his dying, unwavering glare. I remembered Yogi's dead scowl as he fell to Kent and Sain's attack. And General Eagler, Chloe's father, his warning to us, and a final acceptance of who I was. "I'm so sorry..." I whispered.
"Then repent for your sins, and die, tactician!" growled Balan. He swung the blade... and missed me by an inch as I stepped backward.
"I'm not going to die yet," I told him. "That's not an option."
"Coward!" he screamed, swinging again in a horizontal arc. I stepped back and fell to the ground, letting the blade harmlessly pass over my body. "You are too afraid to take your own life, and yet are so keen on killing others?!"
"I think your perspective of me is a bit skewed," I replied, pushing myself up. "Dying is not an answer, Balan. I have people waiting for me as well, and I promised I'd be back." Balan glared at me, not even bothering to talk anymore, and began a barrage of mad swinging with his sword. I kept on my toes, stepping backward and dodging each swing. By the way, part of that fantasy was true: I really did train my reflexes during those few months.
I felt my back hit a column as Balan began another horizontal swing, and rolled around it, letting Balan's blade embed itself into the stone. "Curses!" he growled. I took the chance and threw a hard punch in his jaw. Well, 'hard' is a relative term.
"OW!" I winced in pain, covering my throbbing right hand. Yeah, better reflexes was pretty much the only physical thing I had going for me now. My actual strength hadn't changed much since when I was traveling with Lyn. Balan noticed my pain and kicked me hard in the stomach. I doubled over, allowing him to cup his two fists and slam me on the back. I fell on my face pretty hard, and if I hadn't landed in grass I think I would've had a broken nose.
"Jeez," I coughed, wiping some blood from my lip. I looked up to see Balan free his sword from the stone column and swing down, trying to slice me in half. I quickly rolled out of the way, letting the blade send some grass flying. I managed to get up, though I was still in pain from that kick. Balan came at me again, and I jumped to the side, landing in the flowerbed. Unfortunately, the dirt was wet from a recent rain, and I slipped and fell, hitting my shoulder on the stone fountain.
"C-Crap..." I winced again, clutching my aching right shoulder. Seriously, this was not going as well as I had hoped. Sure I was good at dodging now, but I still had rotten luck when it came to actually fighting. Hooray for my hapless hero-ness.
Balan saw his chance, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to dodge anymore. He began his final swing. It was over...
And then I heard the familiar sound of clashing blades. I looked up to see that someone had blocked Balan's attack with his own sword. And boy, did it surprise me when I saw who it was.
"Are you alright, Sean?" asked Conner, pushing the surprised Balan backward.
"Yeah, and your timing was excellent," I replied, struggling to get up.
"Y-You are a student!" exclaimed Balan. "Did I not tell you that the bandits would kill you if they watched you leave?!"
"You can thank your friend here for getting us out of that," smiled Conner, looking out me.
"I take it the students got my message, then?" I smiled.
"They have taken control of the hall from those bandits," he replied. "I came as soon as things were under control. It seems that you have managed to stall him long enough."
"Wh-What do you mean?!" demanded Balan. "What message?!"
I smiled. "Right, explanation time. See, while everyone was panicking at first, it wouldn't take long for them to realize that there are over one hundred students, and ten bandits. I mentioned to Chloe that so long as we remained calm and they thought we were helpless, the bandits wouldn't attack."
"Once Sean gave the message, their part of the table were able to subdue one of the bandits," smiled Conner. "Following their example, the other students were able to take the rest of the bandits before they could do anything."
"Honestly, it would've been better if you didn't have just ten bandits to attack a hundred students in a school that has Combat as part of the curriculum," I chuckled.
"Y-You!" growled Balan, lifting his sword again. Conner blocked it, and with a quick movement, forced the sword out of his hand and stabbed Balan in the right shoulder. The former knight screamed in pain as Conner pulled the sword out, and he clutched his shoulder, falling against a pillar. I saw tears begin to come out of his eyes, his revenge against me now hopeless. "I h-hate you..."
"I know you do," I sighed, and Conner held out his hand to help me up, which I gladly took.
"You really were what you said you were," he said. "You really are the famous tactician of Caelin."
"Yeah," I smiled. "Glad you finally believe me."
"I'm sorry for spreading those rumors about you being a liar," said Conner. "It is... quite an embarrassment for me now."
"Don't worry about it," I replied. "Okay, now to clear something up here." I turned to Balan. "Who paid you to come here?"
Balan looked at me surprised. "Wh-What do you mean? I came because I wanted revenge, after finding out where you were!"
"You can stop giving me that bull," I told him. "I know there's more to it than that."
"But, Sean, it makes sense, doesn't it?" asked Conner.
"Not everything does," I replied. "First off, what are the Ganelon bandits doing here? Pherae is way too far away from their home mountains for them to just randomly wander here."
"You fought with them before, didn't you?" asked Conner. "Wouldn't it make sense that they would want revenge as well?"
"They didn't even recognize me," I replied. "Don't you think that's weird? Even when Balan was shouting about me being a tactician, they never showed any signs of acknowledging me as the same tactician they faced all those months ago. It's clear that they didn't follow Balan for revenge against me."
"So, you think they must have some other motivation," Conner replied.
"Exactly," I smiled. "The only thing that I can think of besides revenge that would motivate them is money, though, considering Balan's less-than-pampered state, I seriously doubt that."
"A knight who abandons his duty loses everything, including wealth," Conner realized. "So, Balan couldn't have motivated them with his own gold."
"Right," I replied. "So, the only other explanation is that someone set this whole thing up, bribed Ganelon with a ton of gold and Balan with revenge on me."
"Y-You really are amazing..." said Balan.
"Spill it, Balan," I commanded. "Who sent you here?"
"I-It was..." Balan began, but got distracted by a large fireball that began hurling towards us.
"Look out!" shouted Conner, tackling me out of the way of the blast. The fireball flew toward Balan, who let out a blood-curdling scream as the flame consumed him. The blast was so strong that even Conner tackling me out of the way didn't stop both of us from being thrown out range of the blast.
"H-Holy shit!" I exclaimed. The flame soon died, and the former Caelin knight Balan was left a blackened skeleton. "Th-That wasn't an ordinary Fire spell."
I heard clapping in the distance, and a familiar figure made himself clear under the full moonlight. "You have progressed farther than I ever could have anticipated in such a short time, my apprentice."
"P-Professor Black?!" gasped Conner. "Wh-What are you doing here?"
"Darius," I muttered. "I thought it might've been you."
Darius smirked and took a look at the blacked pile of ashes that was Balan. "Elfire," he smiled. "I had nearly forgotten how brutal it was."
"You did this?!" demanded Conner, drawing his sword.
"No, I did," another voice said from behind the fiery-haired gentleman. The figure made his way out of the shadows, revealing a tall hooded man in a dark indigo cloak. "So, this is your apprentice, Lord Darius?"
"Yes, he is," Darius replied. "Sean, allow me to introduce Ephidel, one of the highest members of the Black Fang."
"He is quite impressive, I must say," the man smiled under his hood. "Had we more time, I think we would have found great use for him."
"More time?" I asked. "Wait, Darius, what's going on?"
Darius gave me what I think was an apologetic look. "It seems that I had found you too late, Sean. I do not have time to finish training you to become the next greatest mind in Elibe."
"Halt!" shouted Conner. "Professor, I do not understand what is happening, but I know that if you are with the Black Fang then I must stop you!" With that, Conner charged at Darius. I blinked at the next part, so I wasn't able to get everything that happened, but it seemed with one quick move, Darius had drawn his rapier, dodged the attack, and stabbed Conner in the chest.
"Rest now, Conner MacDougal," Darius whispered. "Find peace in the next life." With that, he withdrew the blade from Conner, who fell on his knees before he collapsed from the fatal wound.
"I-I'm s-sorry..." he managed to croak.
"CONNER!" I shouted, running to the upperclassman. I checked his pulse. Nothing. Conner was dead. I fell to my knees. "No, not again... Oh God, Conner, I'm so sorry." I shot Darius an angry glare. "Bastard! He was your student!"
"My being a teacher was a disguise, remember?" he smirked. "You are my only true student, Sean."
"Shut up!" I screamed. "You're not my teacher! You're a fucking psycho!"
"I think it's best we take our leave," said Ephidel. Darius nodded in agreement, turning to leave me.
"Where do you think you're going? We're not finished yet!" I shouted. As a reply, Ephidel turned back around and conjured another Elfire.
"I think we are," he smirked, and threw the flaming orb toward the banquet hall. It took me a second before I realized what was happening. Balan and the Ganelon bandits were simply a distraction, while the banquet hall was doused in oil. As a result, it caught fire within seconds.
"NO!" I screamed, watching the building become engulfed in flames. "You sick bastard! There are over a hundred people in there!"
"Then you had better be quick," replied Darius. "The wooden supports inside the building won't hold for long, and they are all locked inside." He turned around and began walking away, only stopping to make an acknowledging gesture at me with his hand.
I made my decision and ran as fast as I could back to the burning banquet hall. I couldn't let everyone die. There had already been too many casualties that night. When I reached the building, I found that the door was blocked by a large piece of wood lain across the handles, and I could hear the screaming of the people inside, and their desperate poundings on the door. I mustered up all of my strength, and began pushing the wood out of the door.
No more deaths! I thought angrily to myself. Come on, Sean! You can save them! PUSH! With every ounce of strength I had left, I managed to move the wooden blockade, and the doors flew open as the crowd of students burst out, knocking me to the side. I hit my head on the ground pretty hard. I was close to blacking out, and the last thing I remember seeing was a large creature with bright wings flying toward the moonlight.
Well, the good news was that I had actually saved everyone in that building. Everyone got out with nothing more than some cuts, burns, and bruises. Believe me, I was incredibly thankful for that. It was a great feeling knowing that everyone was alive because of me.
The only problem was that it was because of me that they were in a burning building in the first place. Balan was after me, and so if it wasn't for me, this whole situation would never have happened, and Conner and the Headmaster would both still be alive. Because of this, I pretty much kept out of sight when the students' parents came to pick them up a few days later.
I sat by myself, wearing the clothes I had when I first arrived in Elibe, outside the walls of the academy near a rarely used path that I had found early in the semester. It gave a good view of Pherae from the hilly ground, and the landscape was beautiful and serene. The spot kind of became my secret thinking area, where I could just stare at the landscape and relax.
As such, it was the best place to get away from the students who would inevitably tell their parents about me, and the parents who would probably blame me for the near death of their children.
"I thought you would be here," I heard a familiar voice from behind me.
"Hey, Chloe," I replied. "How are you feeling?"
"Alright, thanks to you," she smiled. The girl sat down next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. "Don't blame yourself, Sean," she told me. "Those people who accuse you do not know what you had to go through."
"Still, they're right," I muttered. "If I wasn't here-"
"But you are here," Chloe interrupted. "And Sean, you are the reason that we are all still here as well. You had no control over this incident. Balan's hatred toward you was due to Lundgren's lies, and it was his own fault for not accepting the truth." She paused to take a breath before continuing. "Stop blaming yourself for everything, because truthfully, I think that Elibe needs someone like you."
I turned to look at my best friend, and she pretty much had a look in her eyes that said 'Argue with me, and you'll lose.' She was right, though. There was no point in beating myself up with the 'what if' situations. The fact was that I was in Elibe. I was sent to Elibe because I was the one who could save it. Somehow.
"Thanks, Chloe," I finally managed to reply.
"You do not need to thank me, Sean. You are my best friend," she smiled.
"Yeah, you're mine too," I replied.
There was a pause, before Chloe spoke again. "So, what do you plan to do now? Will you return to Caelin?"
I honestly wanted to. Caelin was a place where I would be accepted, where I had people I could call 'friends'... hell, I'd call them 'family'. But there was that thought in the back of my head. Why did they let me live? Ephidel said that the Black Fang couldn't use me, so why did he let me live? I was obviously the best match against Darius (though admittedly, not much of a match), and I was probably going to be a hindrance to them. It could be that he was overconfident, but given Darius' agreement to him, that didn't seem likely.
They wanted me alive.
"I can't go back to Caelin right now," I sighed. "The Black Fang wants me for some reason. I think if I go back, Lyn and everyone will be in danger."
"But they are strong!" exclaimed Chloe.
"No, they have to protect Caelin," I told her. "Lord Hausen is still recovering and the territory is in a state of chaos. Lyn is needed as a leader right now, not a warrior. There will be a time when I need to go back, but right now, I have to find out more about the Black Fang."
"Why is this Black Fang so important?" asked Chloe.
"They're strong, organized, and lead by someone I can't compete with right now," I replied. "I'm going to travel around Lycia to find out more. Something tells me that the Black Fang is interested in Lycia for some reason. And, I think this will give me a bit of a chance to train some of my own skills. I know the theories of strategy, and now, I need the field work. I think that's the best way to get ready for a battle against Darius."
Chloe and I just stood there in silence for a little bit. She was averting her eyes and shifting her weight uncomfortably, with an expression that said that she was considering something.
"When do we leave?" she finally asked.
"As soon as- What do you mean 'we'?!" I demanded.
"You know as well as I do that you cannot travel alone," she answered. "So, I will accompany you."
"No, Chloe, you can't!" I replied. "Your mother will probably be worried sick about you!"
"I will send her a letter," she told me. "She is a strong woman, I know she will be alright."
"She won't like the fact that you're traveling with me, of all people," I warned.
"It doesn't matter if she blames you for father. Right now, I know Lycia needs you, Sean. And, you need me. I won't let you go alone."
"Chloe, think about what you're doing," I sighed. "You're the only one she has left. What do you think will happen if you tell her you're running off with the guy who killed your dad? I don't think that it will end well."
"Then come back to Caelin with me!" she shouted. "I don't want you to wander around Lycia without anyone to go with you!"
"I have to do this!" I shouted back. "I really want to see everyone again, but now's not the right time. Darius decided that he didn't need me as his apprentice anymore, which means the Black Fang is making their move. Until then, I need to prepare as well. It will be the first time that I'll really be on my own."
"So, you're not coming back to Caelin," sighed Chloe.
"Not yet," I replied. "Tell Lyn that I'm okay. And also tell her not to worry about me. I'll come back to Caelin soon."
Chloe just looked at me and gave a small smile. "Alright, I will inform Lady Lyndis. I guess this is good-bye?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I guess it is." She got up slowly, and held her hand out to help me up as well, which I gladly took.
"Take care of yourself, alright?" she smiled.
"Of course," I replied. She slowly took her hand out of mine and made her way back to the school where her mother was presumably waiting, leaving me alone for the first time. I looked over the beautiful Pheraean landscape one more time before making my way back to the dormitory to gather some things. And this began what was probably the most dangerous and tiring journey anyone my age should ever have to go through.
Sometimes, I hate my "interesting" life...
A/N: And the chapter comes to a close! This chapter contains pretty much all original characters, apart from Ephidel. I came up with this one once I read the blurb on the tactician after the end of Lyn's Tale. It said he wanted to travel Lycia, and, well, Sean didn't. I figured this would be a good way to merge the game story with my story.
Anyway, I'm glad that I finally finished this. I needed to tie together the 'One Year Later' with the Pheraean Academy plot somehow, and I like how this turned out. I also brought on some questions about Darius's motives which will be brought back again and again during the course of the story. Remember, this story ties together completely with the game (if I'm successful).
I hope I succeeded in making Sean grow as a character, but kept the lovable tactician from the previous story that became so popular. He can now dodge, but is still crap at fighting. I finished the Balin/Balan subplot now, and brought Chloe back because, well, she was my favorite original character after Sean. I won't say much, but I'll tell you that this will (probably) not be the last appearance of Chloe Eagler.
Reviews would be greatly appreciated!