On the Honored Day
A Breath of Fire II Fanfic
Written by Zero-Sennin
The sun may have been setting on the town of Gate now, but the day hadn't even come close to ending.
That was thanks to the large mass of stone that had dropped upon the small island village like a meteor about two hours ago, landing squarely in front of, and blocking off, the large, cavernous opening that bore into the mountain behind Gate, as well as two smaller entrances that flanked the bigger one. Once, a dragon had actually been nestled amongst the crags of the mountain, resting its head and claws in front of all three passages, preventing access in the same way that the new wall of stone did now.
At the foot of the newest addition to the island topography, bottom firmly planted on a nearby flat rock, sat a young man, tired and haunted-looking. His sleeveless white shirt, lined with red around the collar, his red pants, and his brown boots were worn out, spotted with sweat, dirt, and grime. A gentle wind blew, rustling his wild blue hair and ponytail, in addition to the growths of tall grass behind him, but he took no notice of it—instead, he was focused, blankly, on some point that was somewhere in front of him, beyond the mountain.
This young man's name was Ryu Bateson. He and his friends had just traversed Infinity—more commonly known as Hell—and slain the world's greatest evil, DeathEvan, called St. Eva by the people of the unassuming surface world and revered as a god.
But he didn't feel anything except bitter sadness and discouragement…because his father was dead.
Even though Ganer Bateson had been blind, recently recovering from sickness, and had become very, very old, he had chosen to stop Ryu from sealing away the entrance to Infinity. This choice stemmed from one simple fact—if Ryu had been the one to do it, he would have needed to become a dragon, like his mother had done so many years ago, and in doing that, he would have been forced to sleep forever.
The only problem was that in stopping Ryu from leaving behind his friends, Ganer had done precisely what his wife had done, and now Ryu was doubly scarred for it.
The blue-haired lad had no one left, no one at all.
He was the only Bateson left alive.
One of two Dragon Clansmen on the surface world, with the other…somewhere.
Mutely, Ryu looked up at Township, now a permanent fixture in front of the mountain behind Gate; though he couldn't even see the village proper, high atop the rocky wall in front of him, he was concerned about Nero and all of the others. Nina and the Great Bird (not Mina, not anymore, Ryu reminded himself sharply, trying to fight the wave of sadness that almost overtook him at the memory) were taking care of them, he knew, but they were effectively displaced until they could find some non-avian related way of getting up to and down from Township. And it wouldn't be fair to impose on the people of Gate to host them, especially since no one particularly cared for the strangers that had just marched into the town and somehow or other dropped a huge rock right in front of the bloody mountain.
Father, you may have doomed us all when you saved us all,the blue-haired Ranger thought wryly as he rubbed his knee with one gloved hand. We've saved the world, but we don't even have a place within it where we can stay anymore. What are we supposed to do now?
Ryu was so absorbed in this brooding that he didn't notice that someone had come up alongside him, choosing to stand right beside him in silence…at least, not until she gently put her hand on his shoulder and sat down on the rock next to him. A single dark feather blew by his face, and when he turned to its source, he looked into the solemn eyes of Nina Wyndia, the only princess of the ruling dynasty in the city that shared her last name.
"Oh, hey, Nina," he murmured. "You've finished bringing everyone down from Township?"
The pale-blonde girl nodded, flexing her dark wings slightly in what Ryu knew was an unconscious habit. "Yes. And the people of Gate…have made it clear that we are welcome to stay here so long as we stay in Township. They don't want us in town unless we need something."
Ryu sighed and closed his eyes, as if he were trying to ward off a massive headache. "When I lived here, these people…they were honest, and kind. But…I suppose that Alzheimer and Habaruku changed all of that, didn't they? Erasing everyone's memories and then manipulating them to act in the name of 'Eva'…."
He shook his head, slowly and painfully, and then looked up to the sky.
"…nothing's the same. I knew it wasn't going to stay the same, I knew it…ever since that day when they'd forgotten me, and Father, and Yua, I knew it, but…I'd hoped that maybe their hearts would've grown just a little bigger between then and now."
"They can't be blamed for that," Nina said quietly, smoothing down a fold in her dark dress. "Habaruku closed their hearts to everyone but DeathEvan. This being the small town that it is, it would take years for that conditioning to fade."
Slowly, he lowered his head again, and his mouth eased from a tight-lipped frown into a pensive one. Nina continued to look at him, studying his face carefully; there were words forming on her tongue, but she held them back—not because she didn't want to tell him at all, but because she didn't know how he would receive the message.
…I mean, it isn't as if I can say "By the way, Ryu, I've…been feeling something…greater than just friendship for you for a long time" at a time like this, she thought. He has enough to contend with as it is.
Instead, she carefully contained what she wanted to talk about, and broached what she thought was a more relevant subject.
"We've taken Ganer's body and prepared it for burial," she began gently. "He…looks very peaceful...as if he's sleeping."
Ryu looked at her then, not sharply, but calmly, almost mechanically. "He would…look that way after a hard day's work," he said. "He'd go out and help clear the grass, or bring in crops—he'd keep going and going and going, and when he came home, he'd hug me and hug Yua, talk to us about our day. Then he'd pass out." He actually managed a smile as the memory of Ganer, snoring lightly in a chair, passed through his mind, but it was still tinged with sadness. "Somehow, he knew just when to wake up to start making dinner."
Nina shifted slightly on the stone, and her wings twitched as she tried to think of something to say. After a moment, she pressed her fingertips together and looked down at her feet. "Ryu, I'm so sorry that he…that he's passed…. I know it's not any real comfort, but…."
"He made his decision," Ryu admitted, his voice steadier than before. "I don't fault him for it, either. If I'd…done my duty as the Destined Child, I wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation with you. I would've been sleeping right there, and everyone…would've been as sad as I am now, I suppose. Besides that, it's not as if I'm the only one that's lost someone like this. Rand's mother…and Mina…they've done the same thing my father did; Rand, and you, have both continued to endure despite that."
The mention of Mina's name made Nina shrink into herself suddenly, and Ryu mentally shoved a fist into his face, realizing that her emotional wounds were barely older than his—from the moment Mina had become the Great Bird, the group had been moving non-stop, and whatever time Nina would have had to come to terms with her loss was small. Quickly, he faced her fully and said, "I'm sorry, I spoke carelessly—please don't…."
"It's…it's all right," she whispered, though it was obviously an effort. "I understand what you were trying to say."
Just seeing Nina so hurt was like a prod sticking into his back, urging him to hug her, but he restrained himself, not knowing if it was appropriate, if she wanted that kind of comfort, or even if he had the right to give it, if his…deeper feelings for Nina were interfering with his judgement….
He lost the option, and maybe the ability) to decide, though, when Nina's fragile composure finally crumbled, and the tears started flowing out of her eyes; he pushed aside rationale and pulled her close, letting her cry onto his shirt.
"…Ryu…I'm tired of just…enduring," she sobbed. "It's been so painful, just…enduring. When we met DeathEvan, I thought… 'Now we're the ones deciding for ourselves! We're not just taking whatever is given to us! We're taking control!' But when he encased me, and Katt, and Bow, in those crystals…I, I lost that feeling of assurance. I felt as if I'd lost control again. I…hated my powerlessness. Even…even when I came back, and we actually fought him, I was afraid, in my heart of hearts, that we were…going to just die, just get brush aside like flies."
Ryu gripped the padded shoulders of Nina's dark dress slightly tighter, but said nothing, letting her continue.
"…I don't want to endure! I don't want to just survive! …it's just…too much to do that, pushing on and on and on like a blasted machine. I can't…no, n-no, we can't…do it. We can't. It just…."
Ryu felt his hand rake through her hair, gently, lovingly, and though he was inwardly wondering what the hell he was doing, whatever doubt he could have felt vanished when she came closer instead of breaking away.
"…there has to be a better way," she finally croaked. "There has to be a better way to live than…than just taking the blows and walking on."
"There is," he replied slowly, knowing that what he had to say would make or break this entire thing. "You take the blows and walk on…with your friends beside you. Throughout this journey, I've come to realize that no matter what you do, life is full of pain. But giving up…giving up means dying. Enduring…it's unpleasant, but it's all we can do if we don't want to die. And I promise that…that I'll endure with you…and so will everyone else. You don't have to pretend that it doesn't hurt. You don't have to suffer alone."
Nina gasped slightly and looked up at Ryu, and he blushed violently, realizing that he'd spoken too frankly—again. But before he could apologize, her slightly puzzled expression became a small, warm smile.
"…thank you, Ryu," she said at last. "…I…want to…endure with you, too."
His blush deepened, and only got deeper when she wrapped her arms around him and pressed even closer.
"…I didn't…want to be too forward about this, but…for the longest time, I've felt…something stronger for you. Maybe it started when you helped me rescue Mina…or maybe it's just because we've been traveling for so long. Either way…I can't pretend that I don't feel it anymore. Not now."
She took a deep breath, and then…came the plunge.
"Ryu, if you'll let me…I'd like to court you."
For the first time during the conversation, Ryu actually became aware of the birds chirping in the brown-leaved, dying trees nearby. However, he could also feel the sweat on his palms, and the rapid beating of his heart, with far more acuity than ever before. He was close, very, very close, to simply freezing up.
Luckily, he managed to get his tongue working quickly enough to say, "I should be asking you for permission to court, you know. You've done it backwards. But, given the circumstances…I freely give my permission."
They kept eye contact for a few moments longer, and then slowly, gently leaned in and kissed each other; it was light, brief, lip-to-lip contact, but for both of them, it seemed to last quite a bit longer than three seconds. When they broke apart, they turned away from each other slightly, but shyly glanced at the other from the corner of their eyes.
"That was nice…Ryu."
The tender moment was interrupted by a sudden rustling from the dried-out grass surrounding them; battle reflexes acted before conscious thought, and the new couple split immediately—Ryu drew his sword and Nina gathered magical power in her hands. However, they had no need to react as they had; the source of the noise was soon shown to be a thin, toned teenage girl, with a dark-blue ponytail, bat-like wings growing from her back, and red clothing that consisted of a sleeveless, V-necked leotard and matching thigh-high boots. Ryu remembered that she'd been struck aside earlier in the day (by none other than his mother) in order to save her from being sacrificed to break the seal on Infinity.
"…it's that Patty girl," Ryu said to himself, sheathing his sword. She's been unconscious this whole time? Or was she just hiding from us?
Nina said nothing, but from the look on her face it was obvious that she shared the sentiment that crossed Ryu's mind.
"Ow!" Patty snapped, rubbing a lump on her forehead. "What the hell happened…?" She fixed her eyes on Ryu and Nina almost immediately, and waded out of the thick brush to stand in front of them, arms crossed and wings spread wide. "And just what are you two doing out here? What happened to that demon?"
"A lot has happened while you were…indisposed," Nina said coolly, gesturing to the mountain behind Patty. "If you would care to look behind you, you would see how much has changed."
Snorting, Patty did so, and then froze in place, staring blankly at the walls of Township before her. It took her several moments to compose herself, but when she did, she turned back to Ryu and Nina, her hands and wings trembling in agitation.
"…did that demon kill the dragon somehow?"
Ryu shook his head. "She sacrificed herself to let us enter Infinity. It was the only way to stop the rest of the demons from coming out of the mountain. We definitely killed that Habaruku, though, I promise you that."
Patty continued to stare at them (or perhaps, stare into space in their direction) for a while, and then looked away, speaking in a sorrowed whisper that both Ryu and Nina barely heard.
"Mother…you killed yourself. How could you…?"
Immediately, Ryu tensed and took two sharp steps towards Patty. "What did you just say?"
The girl shook her head violently, but didn't meet Ryu's eyes when she responded. "It was nothing. I was just talking to myself."
"No, you said 'Mother'," Ryu pressed, though now it seemed that he was half-lost in thought as he continued to speak. "You called the dragon your mother. That dragon was…that dragon was MY mother. And before, Habaruku, he said that you were a member of the Dragon Clan…just like me. The only other people I know on the surface that are Dragon Clansmen are me, Ray Braddoc, who has been long dead…and my sister, Yua."
Patty's eyes widened slightly at that; she could remember hearing that, and did remember hearing that. Her whole body began to tremble, partially out of the realization that was coming down upon her, and partially out of the joy she was attempting to restrain.
Ryu, on the other hand, had lost the sudden sharpness that had come over him, and he was smiling—no, beaming—as he stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Little sister…I've missed you so much."
Patty—or rather, Yua—sniffled once or twice, blinking away the tears that were coming to her eyes, and then fell into Ryu's chest, grasping him like a life preserver.
"I should have known it was you," she said, her words muffled. "I should have known! You were always chasing me. Why didn't I see it?"
"If it took me this long to figure out, you can't be expected to have figured it out earlier than me," he chuckled. "Besides that, you wouldn't even stay still long enough for us to talk. That reminds me—you and I have to talk about this 'Phantom Thief Patty' nonsense right away."
Yua put her hands on her hips, and her wings, folded as she had been lost in thought, spread wide again. "First of all, I don't appreciate that insult to my intelligence, big brother. Secondly, what did you expect me to do to survive? I had no intention of becoming a whore—I mean…a streetwalker, so I turned to thievery…nice, non-lethal, slightly-less hazardous-to-my-health thievery!"
"Yeah, and you framed my best friend in the process. Well done, sis."
"Play fair, Ryu! You know I didn't mean to do that.…"
Nina found herself smiling as her friend—no, her boyfriend—re-connected with his sister for the first time in a decade, and shed, to some extent, the angst that had troubled him so over the last few hours.
He had lost many things as he strove forward, following his destiny to its end, but now, at least, he had more than just a saved world to show for it.
His sister was back.
He was allowed to live his life with his friends.
And he had someone to share that life with.
The wind blew by them suddenly, and it freed a few of Nina's looser feathers and carried them into the sky. Ryu and Yua noticed them pass by, and all three watched the feathers travel upwards, towards Township.
Once they were out of sight, Ryu hugged both his sister and his girlfriend around their waists and drew them closer to him.
"I think Father's telling us to go home and introduce Yua to everyone," he said, grinning with the vigor he'd had at the start of his journey. "Let's oblige him."
Author's Note (from June 15th, 2010):
This is not a declaration of my return from hiatus. This is me experimenting, trying to see if I can write a short story and get the characterization I want without evolving the story into a sprawling epic.
I'm still debating whether or not I'm going to try another long story. The fact of the matter is that I planned The King of Street Fighters off the top of my head, and it shows, especially in the near-constant writers' block I had. If I could think about the story without feeling intense frustration, I would go back to it, but as it stands now, it will probably never be completed, and the same goes for the one-shot I was writing to accompany it.
Shorter stories, being harder for me, are what I want to practice with for now. Knowing me I'll change my mind very quickly, yes, but when that time comes, you all will know. Bleach has been attracting my thoughts lately, but I had a longer project idea in mind for that series before I had my great big shutdown—one that has the promise to be very interesting if I can ultimately pull it off.
All right, that's all I have to say. See you guys on the flip.
Revised December 23, 2010.