This came from an attempt to get a Mana Khemia & Gust in general meme running on lj.

Well, twas a noble effort.

"The only thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart." - not sure where this is from, but it sounds like Lois McMaster Bujold to me, possibly Miles quoting Cordelia?

The prompt: Mana Khemia 1, Vayne learning he can't live with being human.

(Lol, in order to have me post this anon comment, LJ asked me to "please confirm you are a human below". Oh irony.)


It's not that he doesn't like it, because he does.

It's not like he's unfamiliar with pain and effort. It hurt, it really did, when he went to a place and made friends and did what they wanted and all of a sudden they wanted him to go away. He'd wanted to stay, to have friends, to make their wishes come true, but he hadn't known he wanted that then, so he hadn't been able to wish.

It had hurt all the more for not being able to understand why, when it should have been so easy.

For so many reasons.

It's not that he didn't want this. Well, it wasn't like he wanted Jess to be sick, but traveling, helping people along the way, working alongside everyone, visiting them? He wished things could stay like this forever. He'd first felt that wish when he'd brought Roxis back, and now Roxis would never leave his side until he defeated him, for one thing, and saved his life, for another.

Roxis wanted to save his life. They all wanted him to live, how could he not want that? How could he not hold it in his heart like a precious gem?

He'd wanted to be with them, and now he was one of them, could share their joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses. Could understand them in ways he hadn't quite been able to then, because he hadn't even been able to understand his own nature and desires.

It wasn't that he wasn't happy, because he was.

It was that for a few blinding seconds, when Roxis' anger at him for not realizing what he was giving up, not realizing what he was destroying by his cowardice had pierced him to the quick he had finally started listening to what they had been telling him all along. Finally started feeling.

And they had wanted him to live. Wanted him to stay with them, be happy, share their joys, share his pain even. Because they had wanted to comfort him, wanted to help him even though seeing his pain would hurt them.

It had broken his heart with how beautiful it was, and all he could do was laugh softly at how... Ridiculous it was that he hadn't understood. Ridiculous it was that it was so simple. Why Roxis hadn't wanted Vayne to grant his wishes. Why Roxis hadn't wanted to surpass him.

It wasn't about heart's desires. They weren't what was important. It was about the hearts that had those desires.

He didn't need the power that granted wishes because he had the only thing worth wishing for. He still knew that, but then he had barely been able to feel what was really important in all the clamor of a thousand voices.

It wasn't that he didn't remember. It wasn't that he didn't understand how precious they were, how even death wouldn't take them from him.

But then, in those instants, he'd been able to see it, not just know it, and it was so beautiful. He hadn't lost that beauty, he hadn't really lost the ability to see it, but he still ached for the memory.

The effort, the risk of failure that Theofratus had thought he wouldn't be able to understand? They were precious things. They wouldn't exist if they weren't, Roxis would have wished his away and Vayne could have granted it if they weren't. Instead he'd jealously guarded them, because even then he'd known that it wasn't winning alone that mattered, even if he hadn't known how to say it. His frustration that Vayne had won without effort had been on Vayne's behalf, in the end, because he really was missing out.

It made him stronger, it made him better, and it was living that way that mattered, not the outcome. To strive.

But that was it. It was the striving; the challenging yourself, that mattered. Taking on the challenges he was now felt like cheating, like beating up little kids as opposed to sparring with Roxis. It was wrong to be suffering hardships that he already didn't just know but saw the reasons for. He wasn't learning anything from this. It was coasting, and seeing how hard Roxis was trying made him ache, because he knew Roxis wanted to get stronger to give Vayne a challenge, so that he would be challenged, so that he could learn, and like this the effort Roxis was putting in, that precious gift to him was being wasted.

Isolde had been right; his existence would damage the world. Everyone would clamor for their hearts desires, wish upon him instead of themselves, and that would be missing the point. They'd be hurting themselves by doing that. He wanted to reward their effort, not trick them into squandering it.

Before he had felt a little hurt when Roxis didn't want to let him help, how he would always try to be the one doing more in a co-op. If he had his powers back and offered to conjure a thousand elixirs, Roxis would give him a look over his glasses, as though he was utterly missing the point (and he would be), and if Vayne looked contrite say that Vayne could help with the synthesis when Roxis made them.

It was all his power, in the end, that Roxis would be using. The ability to desire something was necessary to strive for it and bring it about. But what mattered was the people who used it, the hearts that felt those desires.

The hearts whose desires he felt.

He would be stealing something precious from the world if he granted all their wishes, but he was stealing something precious from himself, from Roxis, from all his friends, by staying human. This wasn't where he should be, he was so far ahead of this. More of a super-senior than Flay. But he didn't want to graduate and leave them behind.

He might be a human, but he wasn't one. Having a human body didn't change anything. To become human, he would have had to blind himself to that glory, and he could never wish for that. He ached for it even now.

If he could never wish to be blinded to it, then that meant... There was a difference between not being able to see something and not being able to see it at that moment because you were looking away.

He'd really thought he was human. He'd been lying to Ms. Isolde, to everyone. To himself.

It wasn't that he didn't want to be with his friends. It was that he couldn't make a mockery of all their wishes, all their striving. It was… wrong.

In the end, it was a thousand cure jars, and Roxis didn't glare, just looked exasperated. "Why didn't you wait until the ingredients I sent the healthy ones out to gather arrived as usual? They're always too rushed to keep count, so it's simple to 'miraculously' have more than enough ingredients in there, but how are we going to explain suddenly having enough cure jars?"

Vayne blinked at him. Now Roxis looked peeved. "Oh come now, you can't really believe I didn't know what you were doing."

"You... knew?" And he'd been using his powers all along? Well, if he'd had them all along… Why was he surprised? He'd had two selves, one that thought they were a human and the other one that knew the truth before. Why was he surprised he'd still been granting wishes that were right to grant, if he had that power?

If this were the old days, Roxis would be furious over the insult to his intelligence instead of aware that yes, Vayne really could be that stupid and giving him the benefit of the doubt. Of course he'd known, he'd been observing Vayne this whole time. Not to mention, "No one would give up that power." Wasn't that obvious even to Vayne?

"Roxis!" Was it that he had thought Vayne was selfish and power-hungry? That hurt.

"Do you remember what I told you when you wanted to remove yourself from the world?"

Vayne did.

"You're so selfish," Roxis had said then, when Vayne had thought he was being unselfish. Unselfishness had turned out to be the worst form of selfishness. Keeping this power, the power of seemingly selfish desire, was the unselfish action.

A power of wishes that existed to help others gain what they truly wanted.

How had Roxis understood that when he hadn't?

"You honestly thought I didn't know?" Roxis snorted. "Really, Vayne, you are the most selfish person in the world. All this time I've been covering for you and you didn't even notice?"

"I didn't notice that I was doing things before now?" Vayne tried to get Roxis to forgive him with sheepishness. He really hadn't known.

Yeah, that Roxis would believe. "You always were so criminally ignorant." But the words had no sting. "Now get rid of those and help me show the search parties what to look for. This epidemic isn't going to cure itself."


Things that this is referencing:

The miracle of the loaves and the fishes: basically, Jesus was giving a speech and people got hungry. They asked if anyone had food: a few people did, but only enough for themselves, not enough for the entire crowd. Jesus asked them to pass it around anyway, and after everyone had eaten their fill they noticed there were more leftovers than the food originally volunteered. It's a nice little thing about the ripple effects of charity & good examples. And when hungry people are passing stuff around in a disorganized fashion, it would be easy to hide that more supplies miraculously appeared. Roxis is practical like that.

General concepts of enlightenment, although on Vayne's side more of the Hindu/Buddhist than Western alchemy styles. Essentially, being incarnated on whatever level you're ready to learn the lessons of. (Life is a lesson, and you will repeat the course until you stop failing's a fun way to put it.) Roxis is echoing more of the Western & alchemic view, that life and suffering are tests (as Cordelia puts it, a great test is a great gift) and opportunities to grow. Or the engineer's viewpoint, that problems are things that exist to be solved.

Roxis is 'I am perfectly capable of doing this myself, and by depriving me of valuable practice you would be sabotaging me.' Like doing someone else's math homework. They might thank you for it then, but not when they get an F in the class.

A concept I enjoyed playing with here is that, given different levels of being, Vayne might be on a higher level of being than Roxis, but Roxis is more enlightened as a human, being the most alchemical alchemist in the game, than Vayne is as a mana. And Vayne may be on a level above humans, but being essentially a different species doesn't automatically get them and what their needs are.

Also, 'enlightened self-interest' is basically that selfishness and unselfishness are both for the greater good, the issue is whether or not the individual is smart enough to realize what is truly in their own best interests. Vayne thought it was unselfish to die: this is because he was an idiot. Living and keeping that power were the right things to do.

And I still want to do a post-game 'Vayne's still a mana' fic with an entirely different scenerio, but this thing fit the prompt better.