Chapter 1: Beginnings

"Why are you here?"

The collapsing cavern rumbled, floor cracking open to allow magma to rise up from its depths.

"Why not?" The man languidly remarked, as the first stalactite shattered itself against the fracturing foundations. "This is interesting. Stories like this don't happen all the time. The end of one age and the birth of another." The man smiled.

It wasn't the smile he once had had, back when he was young. No longer a cocky, infuriating smirk, his smile was now the calm, satisfied, self-assured smile of a man secure in his strength, no longer in need of posturing. He was the best, after all.

"This is not the end of an age. The lighthouses will not be lit. The Golden Sun will not rise. Isaac and Garet will prevent the return of alchemy, as I have instructed them."

The man looked the Wise One in its quasi-organic eye, raising an eyebrow.

"They cannot fail," the Wise One asserted.

"They will choose to restore alchemy for the sake of all that they love. You know that, and you must accept it, Wise One," he stated.

"Mankind will destroy themselves if the lighthouses are lit. You, more than anyone else, know this," the Wise One retorted. "Time after time it happens, yet they never learn. How many times has the world been destroyed by power-hungry fools? Even you have failed to teach them."

"There are good ones too. Like Isaac. And the lighthouses will be lit, because heroes give their enemies a chance to explain themselves. They will decide to believe in the people of this world and in their ability to mitigate evil. If they weren't going to choose that path… you wouldn't have chosen them. They would be the wrong heroes."

The Wise One met the black-haired man's eyes (eyes so blue, so tired, one who looks so young should not have such eyes). Even as the chamber rumbles and the fire rose a susurrus lay upon the two. The Wise One looked away.

"We shall see," it said.

"You know it is the truth. Don't think I missed that little trick you pulled with the Mars Star." The man turned and walked away from the protector, over the cracked ground. Coming to a halt, he meditated upon the glow of the rocky plasma.

"Need help with Alex?" He chuckled. "No… that should be alright. But do you want any help with this? Exploding mountains are something I have a good deal of experience with."

The Wise One gave the man's back a blank stare. "…I believe I will handle Mt. Aleph myself." It summoned its aura, psynergy pulsing across the surface of its spherical, rocky form.

The platform the man stood upon shuddered, its base unable to resist the lava's heat any longer. The dark-haired male sighed, and hopped to another, more stable, surface. He prepared to leave. The Wise One, however, had more to 'say'.

"…Do not interfere," it 'spoke' with its telepathy. "…This is not a test of your power, your decisions, or anything involving you. This is for the people of this world, this age, and this is a test of their willingness and ability to fight together for the fate of this world. This is about Isaac, Felix, and their comrades. Not you."

"I know."

It was not as much a whisper as the thought of a whisper. For a moment, the very air seemed to weep with sorrow and longing.

"Sometimes… you have to give heroes a chance to be heroes, right?"

"I am sorry," the Wise One murmured in reply.

"This is about humans, however humane they may, or may not, be." His words resonated with the stirring bones of the world. "And in too many ways, I am no longer human."

"No longer representative, perhaps," it answered quickly. "But you choose to be human, and so you are."

Glancing down at the rising flames, the man did not respond. The Wise One continued.

"…You already know that. And you do not need to be so subtle in your rebukes."

"Heh. Fair enough," the man acknowledged, responding to the Wise One's glance.

"You only have a short time left until the weight you bear is lightened. One way… or another." It seemed to sigh, closing its eye.

By the time the Wise One opened its eye again, the man was long gone.