This is the part that fits with the theme of the fic the least well, but I wanted the three sections to be the impact coming from a culture that isn't any earthly one could have had, the impact Shurelia being Shurelia would have had, and the impact reyvateils/the city as people instead of as 'culture' would have had, and you can't discuss reyvateils and Lyner's early life without bringing up Misha. A/Ns, mostly human psychology background info as applied to Ar Tonelico, at the end of the fic, after some notes that are actually about the fic itself.
Last and far from least:
Lyner Barsett's behavior would, for his entire life, evoke bewilderment from anyone who hadn't known him as a small child, and sometimes amazed even them.
Some of this was because the most formative events of Lyner's life had happened when he was too young to consciously remember them. Thus, if anyone asked him why he always protected reyvateils, for example, he didn't have any answer besides the fact that it was the right thing to do. Which was true, but (almost) everyone knew that and it generally didn't make people as generally even-tempered as Lyner act the way he did when someone laid a hand on a reyvateil in his presence.
Specifically, he went berserk unless somebody stopped him. According to Jack, he hadn't done that the first few times he'd seen it happen, but that had mainly been because it took awhile to sink in that this was actually happening.
They'd only seen him demonstrate that power in their defense, they knew that he'd never take advantage of any of them, but they all knew what could happen when a powerful human warrior had a reyvateil in their grasp. They knew that Lyner didn't want to hurt people… Except, when faced with someone hurting a reyvateil, all of a sudden he did.
Shurelia had been puzzled by the fact that Lyner was able to forgive Mir for killing so many people so easily until she realized that Lyner genuinely didn't blame her. She'd dropped one of the Wings of Horus, destroying easily a fifth of the world's remaining population and half of Ar Tonelico's and, actually, Lyner kind of approved. Sure, he didn't approve of killing innocent people, but people who had sat back and let reyvateils be tortured? They weren't innocent. Decent people just did not let that sort of thing happen. It was just not acceptable. Any world that let that happen… well, it had to change.
According to the Knights of Elemia's standard tactical doctrine, a reyvateil without a knight had only one option: obliterating their enemy before it could get close. They didn't have the luxury of trying to defend themselves non-lethally, since sparing the opponent was much harder than killing them even for someone trained in physical combat. Knights fought. Reyvateils overkilled.
Mir didn't have anyone to protect her, so what was she supposed to do? How could you blame someone for doing nothing but protecting themselves and other innocent people the only way they knew how? Sure, killing half the world wasn't the right thing to do, but neither was killing anybody. Lyner might have taken military ethics classes, but Mir had been a confused, scared little girl with far too much power, and the people who had raised her and, with their actions, taught her the difference between right and wrong had believed that torturing her and using her as a weapon to terrify their enemies was a-ok. What had they thought would happen?
Lyner had grown up in a city where no one would even think of hurting a reyvateil.
Then one day his father had, and it had destroyed his world.
Lyner was born a few years after Misha, but by the time she was brought to Platina to train under Leard everyone was already used to him toddling around the Cathedral and finding someone to take him into the city for funbuns. Leard had already given up trying to keep track of him: Lyner was gregarious by nature, so he was always with someone, somewhere, who knew that Commander Leard would kill them dead if anything happened to his heir. And that was if Shurelia didn't get them first.
So Lyner spent a great deal of his childhood being passed around from one set of partners to another, being cooed over by the ones who didn't have children yet (and were generally sorely disappointed if they thought their own would be as well-behaved as he was) and playing with the children of those who did.
He would have ended up incredibly spoiled, as the Little Prince of Platina, if he'd ever been in a position where he'd had to cry or scream to get his way, but he learned early on that it didn't help. All the knights and maidens were soldiers, who knew discipline and were unimpressed by threats or tantrums, and thus no meant no and yes meant, 'Of course I'll take you to the park, and while we're there, why don't we get some Funbuns and a shaved ice and sit by the fountain?'
Lyner's world was an orderly place, that functioned according to simple rules that were easy for a child to understand. If you did something bad, you got punished and didn't get treats. If you were good, you got to ride around on top of Lala and eat funbuns. Children need structure, sensible rules and role models, and even if he didn't have a traditional family he had that in spades.
And then Misha came.
And things stopped making sense.
People weren't supposed to be mean to people. It was his Daddy's job to punish them if they were, and now Daddy was hurting this poor little girl by locking her in rooms and making her cry. It would have made sense if he was doing it because she was bad, but he did it even when she was good!
"That's cause your Father's a, a big jerk!" Misha said.
"You haveta come with me and eat Funbuns," was Lyner's reply, because that made everything better.
"…but I don't like Funbuns." Misha's lower lip quivered and Lyner's eyes grew big.
How could someone not like Funbuns? Had the world gone mad? His daddy wasn't supposed to be a jerk, he was supposed to be a hero, and…
"I'll eat them, I'll eat them! Just don't cry."
He wasn't crying. "Let's go find 'Ane!"
Ayatane was never around when Misha was with him, for some reason. Misha spent the rest of her life under the impression that Lyner had once had an imaginary friend named Annie.
"I'm supposed to go to the Chronicle and be stuck in this little room for the rest of my life! Your father thinks I'm just a, a singing machine! That's all he wants!"
After Misha had to go back, Lyner had gone up to Lala and tugged on her leg. "Lala? What's a singing machine?"
Shurelia had frozen in shock, wondering who on earth had told Lyner that term. "Don't say that again, young man, or I'll wash your mouth out with soap. That is something that you do not call people."
"I know they aren't people." Misha had said she wasn't one. "So what does it really mean?" It had to exist, if Daddy wanted it.
"…Well… I suppose a phonograph, or maybe some kind of instrument."
"An instrument? Like a harp?" A lot of knights learned to play instruments, to help their reyvateils practice singing by providing accompaniment. Just because someone was a reyvateil didn't necessarily mean they had a good singing voice, and breath control took lots of practice, just like swords. "Can I have one?"
"Well, you aren't ready for a harp yet… Maybe an ocarina?" Those were simple enough, you just blew into them.
"What's an ocarina?"
"It's a lump of clay, or metal, that has holes. When you blow into them, song comes out."
"Can I have one?"
"Maybe for your birthday."
"But…" But he needed one now! If what Daddy really wanted was a singing machine, then Lyner could give him one and he would stop trying to get Misha to be something she wasn't. Then things would go back to normal!
"Lyner!" Lala scolded. "if you want something, then you should work for it!"
Lyner ran off, and Shurelia was certain that her armor was all that was keeping her from collapsing into a pile of goo. Aww, it was so cute when he acted just like a knight acknowledging an order…
It was less cute the next morning, when Lyner came to her with one of his fingers stuck in his mouth. "Lala? I got a cut."
That wasn't all he had. Somehow he'd managed to mash up his fingers, and there were a multitude of tiny scratches all over his hands. "Lyner, what were you doing?"
"Trying to make an ocarina! I got a thing with song in it, so all I have to do is poke holes in it! It keeps slipping, though. Can you hold it for me, Lala? Since you've got metal fingers."
"A… thing with song in it?"
While the star-shaped object that Lyner handed her was sometimes called a Siren's Canned Song, a better description was an anti-song-magic personnel mine, that would attack any reyvateil in range when they started singing. Its edges were razor sharp, and she could see the blood where Lyner had cut himself as she turned it over in her hands. "Lyner?"
"Who gave you this?" Who had given a six-year-old an inhumane weapon of war, let alone a six-year-old who lived in a building where reyvateils practiced daily?
Lyner looked down, scratching his foot on the ground. "I found it." Actually, he'd promised not to say. Ayatane knew where to find the best things, and he'd said this was the best thing of all to make it so Misha didn't have to sing. Lyner wasn't going to get 'Ane in trouble.
"You… found it." Shurelia tried to keep her voice calm.
"Are you mad, Lala? I was making it for Misha."
"That's very sweet of you, Lyner, but Lala has to go have a little talk with the armory staff."
"Can I come with you so you can help me right after?"
"No, Lala is going to have to use adult words. The armory staff have been very, very bad. I'll come find you in a little bit, though."
Lyner's idea of making Misha an ocarina was, well… His heart was in the right place, even if it wouldn't be possible for her to play it while she was singing, and it wasn't safe for people to be there to play it for her. It was almost the very cluelessness of it that made it adorable. Still, maybe using the Siren's Canned Song was a good idea. It would be possible to grathmeld an ocarina out of it that would be able to play on its own, meaning she really could have something to listen to.
So, when Lady Shurelia was done putting the fear of a certain goddess into the armory staff, and verified that there was indeed a Siren's Canned Song missing from the stock, she went to Lyner's room. "Lyner, what is all this?"
Normally there was stuff on the floor, true: messyness was the default state of small boys. But normally it was things like toy soldiers, books with pictures, bits of plants and pieces of clothing. Not scraps of fabric that were clearly from girl's clothes, bells, whistles, and "Is that a wind chime?"
"Myria said I could have it because they got a better one."
"Why do you have it?"
"Because it makes noise."
Actually, that was how making new grathmelding recipes worked. Not that Lyner would have the time to learn how to Grathmeld, but it was a good sign for the future of Platina that Leard's heir was such an adorable clever little boy.
"And why do you have all these ribbons and scraps of fabric?"
"Because I said I wanted to make something for Misha and they said you should make pretty stuff for girls." Lyner thought the Siren's Canned Song already looked cool, except for the edges that he'd tried to pound down so they didn't hurt, but everyone had agreed that was right.
"Alright. Why don't I hold this still, and help you hammer down the edges, and put some holes in it, and then we'll make it pretty so Misha will like it." Shurelia had to do all the work of guiding the hammer and applying the force, but Lyner insisted on doing it himself since Lala had said so, so she made sure that he thought he was.
The finished product… was far from impressive. It was lopsided, with irregular edges and ragged holes, but Shurelia thought it was the best ocarina ever, in the way every proud parent loves their children's fingerpaint or stick figure pictures.
"Alright. Now Lyner, I have to adjust the song inside the can so that it will work. I'll need to do that by myself, but tomorrow we can wrap it up and you can give it to Misha."
Lyner supposed that was ok.
Leard couldn't wait for Lyner to grow up so he could retire, but sometimes he liked the surprises his son kept giving him. "Is that what the boy's been up to?"
"It's going to take all of my grathmelding skill to make this function." Shurelia paused. Looked at Leard. She was tempted to just make another one and keep this one just the way it was… but no. That wouldn't be right. He'd worked so hard on it.
The next morning, Lyner was so excited when they went to give it to Misha that he was jumping around and babbling. "Misha's going to be really really… Misha! I made you a singing machine!"
Misha hesitated "…What?"
"Lyner, you're supposed to let them unwrap it and find out what it is themselves."
"A singing machine! Like Daddy wanted! So you can put it in the room and stay here with me and Daddy and Lala and Ane and everyone!"
Misha's presence here and the reason for it were supposed to be top secret. Officially, Mir was dead, not just sealed away, so that the people on the remaining Wing of Horus didn't have to live in fear of her return. Knowing that a single hymn was all that held her back, and if that ever stopped she would be free to wreak havoc once again frightened Shurelia, for that matter. Letting a six-year-old who would just shout it out like that find out?
"Did you tell him that?" Leard glared at the idiot girl, furious.
Leard grabbed her arm, towering over her.
Shurelia knew that the Star Singer had to learn discipline, and it was unfair for Lyner to have to learn about this so early, but she still couldn't stand to watch. "Lyner, come with me."
"But, Daddy, no!"
And that was the last time Lyner saw Misha.
Officially, Misha had never been there. There was no Misha. She was a sacrifice for the world, and if people knew that she existed (such a powerful beta type) and what she guarded? Leard's own childhood friend had turned to Mir for power. There would always be fools willing to court their own destruction.
This peace came at a terrible cost.
Lyner and Leard's relationship… was just one more casualty.
Without anyone to remind him, Lyner gradually forgot about her, but those years were when children learned how the world worked, and he had learned that it was possible for those who shouldn't be hurt to be hurt, and that when they were?
Shurelia knew, and Leard knew. Misha knew some of it, the Knights and the Songstresses knew most of it and Ayatane knew it all, first smiling and listening to Lyner saying how wrong it all was, then agreeing how wrong it was, words that fanned the flames and made Lyner angry at his father, and then joining everyone else in the conspiracy not to mention Misha, because the last thing Ayatane wanted was for the heir of Platina to care about the fate of the Star Singer or rush to her aid when she was finally… removed.
He was here to be close to Lady Shurelia, and the best way to be singled out among her many admirers was to feign friendship with the little prince. It wasn't hard: he was amazingly easy to get along with. Especially for a human.
Mother would hate the way all the reyvateils flocked around him, trying to make him cheer up and go back to the way he was. At least he wouldn't actually be using any of them: everyone knew he was going to be Lady Shurelia's partner and Ayatane would kill him before that happened, too. Perhaps that was why he was so tolerable? All of them were, actually, compared to the ones Mother had shown him. Lady Shurelia had ruled this place for generations: perhaps that was why? Maybe these were tame humans?
An amusing thought, but the fact remained that they were vicious animals and Mother would never be free or safe until they were gone.
He hoped the other half of Mother's plan took a long time to finish, though. It should, with humans involved, but when that happened he was going to have to arrange for Lyner to have a little accident so Lady Shurelia would turn to him, allowing him to infect and control her, and he didn't want to.
He was a little jealous, though. He had Mother, but Lyner had Lady Shurelia, and the woman who thought she was Ayatane's mother, and so many, many more. There were so many who looked after him, while Mother hadn't even had the love of her own parents. It was unfair, that Lyner had all this and Mother hadn't.
Still, Ayatane shouldn't have tried to play such a mean trick on him. Lyner would never have forgiven himself if that mine had hurt one of the reyvateils… one of his family.
There was a saying that it took a village to raise a child. It said something, that it took that much concerted effort to produce a single decent human being.
Lyner had a whole city.
I swear, I tried to keep this from getting turned into infodump... This was written as a side project or warmup for a larger fic that is 74 pages and counting, although the Misha confrontation happened differently in that one. It was also written while I was having a discussion about Ar Tonelico gender roles and the concept of opportunity cost as applied to Lyner's character. On the whole, I'm not too happy with how this turned out. I was going for humor and the kind of brainbreaking that results from things not fitting with one's preconceptions in the first part and angst in the second, with childish cuteness running all through it, fitting well with the first half, and being jarring in the second half. The sense of innocence lost. Unfortunately, it can be hard to have a contrast like that seem jarring without the components in the fic seeming... too ill-fitting, too patchwork, and the fact I kept writing essay and having to cut it didn't help with that. I've gone over it several times, but I think I need to give up and stop editing it. Recently, I've been writing decent humor, but too many of the stuff in here falls into 'don't explain the joke' territory. You'd think that crack humor would flow when writing Ar Tonelico fic, since it's one of the building blocks of the games...
One of the things that I value in a fanfic is fitting with the mood of the source material. Ar Tonelico is a combination of pervertedness (which I hit with the prostitution), idealism (mainly represented by the city itself here, the knights), in-jokes, other cute fluff (hit with the kid), angst (focus on people being condemned to suffering and death) and so-wrongness. Ar Tonelico 1 focuses on the idealism and fluff, with what happened to Mir and Aurica's lifespan as there to be overcome, Ar Tonelico 2 went very heavy on the last two, with Croix as the token decent person. Not to mention that the plot and themes of AT2 did seem a little patchwork at times... I think that the one thing I did successfully in this fic, besides the general idea of tossing ideas out there and getting them flowing, was get something close to the feel of the two games.
Humans are a tribal species, and require human companionship in the same way we do food and drink. Fortunately, we have this handy virtual reality simulator in our heads called the imagination. Stick us alone somewhere, and we'll start talking to imaginary friends, a pet/pet rock, or God.
Hama was likely Misha's Companion Cube, and I tend to think that her stories and the characters in them became Mir's companions and family, especially after her parents rejected her. It's the General Ayatane from her story that became Mir's cosmosphere guardian, and then she made Ayatane the virus to literally be her new family. This is probably why she isn't able to kill him, even though he expects her to kill him the instant he betrays her, and why even though Lyner showed her kindness no one else ever had and gave her hope, she will never forgive him for objecting to the downer ending to the story she inserted into Shurelia's 'cosmosphere' and metaphorically writing a fixit fic.
Ayatane's cover story in the game makes no sense. There was no way a random soldier, down on his luck, should have been able to get to Platina to be found unconscious and taken in by Shurelia. Not without the Circula Teleporter and with only one airship, hers, that could get that high. She should have called him on it long before she did, not let him get close enough to hack her brain.
His childhood encounter with Misha is, I tend to think, the other half of why Lyner is the way he is.
A common question is "Why doesn't Lyner remember Misha?"
The two obvious answers are:
The human memory is like a sieve, and we start forming permanent conscious memories even later than we think we do. Most of our memories of childhood are actually memories of us remembering those memories, which kept them around in the brain. Without mementos of Misha?
Children repress traumatic stuff, or really it's more like everyone can. Lyner's reaction when he sees someone abuse a reyvateil in front of him, especially lategame after he's gotten over the 'wait, what?' initial reaction, is prettymuch a one-eighty from his normal personality. Someone who doesn't even want to hurt a crazy genocidal maniac who ravaged his hometown suddenly doesn't just want to stop the perpetrator but wants to tear them apart, goes berserk enough to scare even the ancient Shurelia. A question that's asked of him at several points by all three of them is if he wants to protect them because they're them or does he want to protect them just because they're reyvateils. While Lyner did know Shurelia personally and cared about her a lot (so choosing to make it his literal job to protect her seems reasonable), he very clearly has issues with reyvateils being hurt. So, if his encounter with Misha scarred him so deeply, that would actually be a reason why he'd forget it just as much as a reason he'd remember. It could go either way.