Disclaimer: I am not the owner in any way of SH. I do like to rent them from time to time, but I do not own them. I also do not in any way own the plot of this story either; it's sort of a response to the original KeT's 'Absence of War.' If you haven't read that, I suggest you do, because it's absolutely amazing. This is just a mere shadow compared to it.

I actually do know who wrote my quote, it's from a book by David Twohy.

This fic is a present for the one and only the original KeT. I would say it was a Christmas present, or even a New Year's present, but I already gave him mine. He's the most awesome pen pal, he writes some of the most amazing stories I've ever read, he's smart, and observant, and fun, and he helps me be a more open person. (Believe it or not, he taught me what 'XD' meant). KeT, you're a great friend, and I am so thankful to know you!

A Longing for Peace

"All those poets, on all those worlds: the ones who spoke of battle being such an unsightly thing? They never stood here, did they? Strange how, from a distance, war can actually be beautiful."

She liked standing on the balcony on the very top of the palace, looking out on the whole Atmos. Down below, the skimmers flying in and out of the Cyclonian hanger bays had the appearance of little ants, scurrying to and fro, busy, unimportant. She was above it all.

There was a reason that she wanted to rule the world: for this sense of power. She knew the secret. Power is not hurting people, power is being able to hurt, and choosing to hold back. She had the ambition, she had the drive, she had the brains, she had the control. She would rule the Atmos. One day, she would look down on them, and all that she saw and more would be hers. She was like a goddess on her own pedestal.

Brilliant, powerful, feared. Great and terrible, beautiful as the dawn. For all should love her and despair.

But ultimately, never knowing what it is truly like to be human. The pedestal that raised her above them, it also cut her off from them. Below her, the Talons, they were just ants. Their lives meant nothing to her.

Goddess was just another name for Monster.

She remembered the first time she'd seen him. She had recently taken her grandmother's throne, and she had called all the highest ranking Talons into her throne room. She glared at them all with her intense, unnatural violet orbs, demanding obedience without saying a word. All of them had cowered and bowed.

All but one, a newer addition to the Talons. The…what was he calling himself, "Dark Ace"? Self-appointed greatest fighter in the Atmos, self-proclaimed champion of Cyclonia. She couldn't criticize him, no, because he had already in his two years here taken down more Sky Knights than most of her best squadrons put together. However, she would keep an eye on him. Once a traitor, always a traitor.

She didn't question his loyalty for long. Behind that smug, chiseled face lay the mind of a warrior: cold obedience, never pausing or questioning, always clicking onward. Yet at the same time, he knew how to plan battles, how to rally troops, how to win the mind games before the actual fight. She didn't know what to make of him, so she just watched from her tower. From so high, everything took on an unrealistic tinge, like it was all a dream. The scars he brought back from those battles, though, were very real.

Just as real as the victories.

They were alike, she decided. Motivated. Independent. Intelligent enough to be restless and uneasy in the world. And neither of them liked to back down.

She began to look up to him a bit, not that she would ever let him know it. She made him the official commander of her Talon army. She actually took his advice on strategy, and it paid off. More and more Terras were falling under Cyclonian rule. Perhaps it was because he was slightly older than her, more experienced. Perhaps it was because of his strength: strength of body, strength of mind, strength of spirit. Little by little, she began to favor him more than her other elite Talons.

Somehow, something shifted a bit. Everyone kneeled to her, yes, but it sent shivers running down her spine when it was the Dark Ace at her feet. They all bowed before her out of fear, but him…it was more respect, respect of a peer. She began to relish sending him out on missions, her right hand man, just to have him come back, bow in that traditional Cyclonian salute with one fist over his hard, and speak, "Your will has been done, Master." His strength fueled her determination, her insatiable lust for the entire Atmos.

And one morning she woke up while it was only just starting to get light and realized that she loved him.

The moment she thought it, she knew it was a lie, just an aftermath of some dream where logic and thinking and reality held no sway. She was an empress, a queen, a goddess, a Master. She could not step down from her pedestal.

She was afraid that she would find that she really wasn't human. How could she be capable of love when she was responsible for so much death, for so much hate?

No. no, she respected him. Admired him. She would go as far as to say she trusted him, a gift she bestowed onto no other mere mortal beneath her.


No. She couldn't love anyone.

Not when she'd grown up in a world of winter, where her father looked at her as his ticket to the throne, where her grandmother looked at her as Cyclonia's future. Where the only spot of happiness—a grim, morbid gladness at that—was when they both died, because then they weren't holding her back any longer. She had fought mentally and emotionally for this throne, this pedestal she held, and she was not going to throw it away because of some childish fantasy.

But the more she tried to ignore him, the more she was aware of him. Betraying her power, her control, by that rush of pleasure—too much pleasure—when he returned home victorious. Getting a bit too upset when he didn't win a battle in the first five minutes, or was off on a mission for longer than two hours, and feeling far more relieved than a Master should when her servant returns.

That was all he was; a servant. She liked him more than the others because he was more useful than the others. Favoring him was merely an…an investment in the future.

Denial. She forced herself to look the other way, she let the cool logic wash over her until she didn't feel anything, and she told herself that there was no such thing as love, so she couldn't be in it.

But saying it isn't there doesn't make it go away.

Cyclonia's economy is based on war. Farmers make more money selling their crops to the Cyclonian Army stores than to civilian sources. 64.7% of the factories' exports are bought up by the crown for use in war. Cyclonia is a terra that has been at war almost nonstop for over 1,000 years. There is no time for peace, there is no need for peace.

So why does she sometimes dream about it?

Is it because peace is like some forbidden fruit, something that she intrinsically knows she needs, but can never have, not without destroying all who she is and stands for? Or is it because peace is something…new, and unusual, that it captures her interest?

These dreams, they leave her shaken, and confused, until the logic washes over again and the world is as it should be: numb. Cut off. Where it is small and abstract below her.

Yet these dreams are like a guilty pleasure, because in them, she can feel.

In these dreams she is not on Cyclonia. It's a different Terra. Someplace warm and sunny. They're on a beach or grassy meadow. Yes, they: he is there too. Somehow she has persuaded him to leave everything behind, at least for a while, and come with her to this place where no one knows them.

When she tries to examine these dreams as she is conscious, she is confused. Why would he ever leave Cyclonia? This empire, this conquest, this war has elevated him from a street kid scraping a living off of the scum of Terra Atmosia to the most revered and feared fighter in the entire Atmos. This war has made him rich and powerful. He lives in luxury. What could she possibly say to convince him to give it all up?

She doesn't know how she did it, in these fantasies of hers.

But as he puts an arm around her shoulder, comforting her, warming her, that warmth that threatens to melt the ice that has protected her heart for so long, it is then that she knows: no matter what it was, she is so, so glad she did it.

Yeah, that was really lame. I totally stole your work…but it was my way of showing just how amazing I thought it was. I was inspired to write a…um, I guess a 'sister piece,' if it deserves to even be called in the same family as the original work.

KeT, thanks again! And I hope you have a not-okay year filled with adventure, suspense, action, romance, and all the favorite elements of whatever stories you like to read, as that would be what I would wish for myself.