Destroy and Rebuild
Chapter One: Homecoming
Disclaimer: I don't own Radiata Stories or any of the characters in the game; they are the property of the brilliant minds at Square Enix.
Authors Note(s): Words in '…' indicate a thought. Words in "…" indicate spoken words. The first thing to note is that this story is a sequel. The characterization and storyline contained here are based on the characters and events that occur in my first story, Sever All Ties. Everything that happens in this story will make a lot more sense if you have read that one, so I recommend reading the first story before reading the sequel. With that in mind, the story picks up where Sever All Ties left off, and tells what happens after Aphelion is defeated and Jack and Ridley return to Radiata. I hope you enjoy.
"Ridley, let's go home."
Jack smiled warmly as Ridley slipped her hand into his. He wasn't sure he would ever be able to hold her without that reaction. The struggles they had endured since leaving Radiata had given him a new appreciation for the people closest to him, and Ridley was the closest of all. With an air of confidence, the boy and girl walked hand-in-hand down the street toward the castle they had left behind so many weeks before. This poise was almost immediately replaced by a creeping sense of unease, working its way through the young swordsman. There were always a few people out, no matter the time of night, their paths illuminated by lamps that lined the streets; on this night, however, the lamps were unlit and the streets were bare. The stillness and tension in the air amplified their footsteps on the rough paving stones as they walked toward Radiata Castle.
Jack Russell was, by all accounts, a fairly plain young man. His dark brown eyes matched his hair, which was somewhat short and rather unkempt, occasionally getting in his eyes. He was slightly above average height, owing to a moderate growth spurt he had recently undergone. This growth left the appearance that he was somewhat thin, though he was in good shape. The things that set Jack apart were not his physical characteristics, which had changed little since he had left Radiata to join the non-humans in fighting a war against humans. During his time away, Jack Russell had grown immeasurably stronger. The hesitation and uncertainty in his posture and gaze had vanished, replaced by confidence and steady determination. He was more comfortable with himself, and his self-assurance had grown by leaps and bounds. The cocky boy from the warrior guild had been replace by a cool, confident swordsman with a definite sense of purpose. He even looked the part, the deep blue color of his cloak complimenting the burnished silver armor that he wore. The Alefstrain armor had been forged by dwarf smiths, and was the first armor Jack had ever purchased that was custom fitted to him. The final touch was the sword at his side. His father's sword, the Arbitrator, was buckled on his left hip. Jack had inherited the sword and his father's legacy. The plain, unadorned leather of the scabbard concealed a masterfully worked blade that was simple, yet elegant. Though Jack's right hand held a travel bag that was slung over his shoulder, he seemed ready to draw the sword in an instant. A closer look revealed something about the young warrior: the darkness of the street seemed to intensify around him. It was as if he swallowed up the light around him, creating a sensation of emptiness. His voice sounded hollow when he spoke.
Ridley Silverlake was the perfect compliment to her companion. Half a head shorter than Jack, her long blonde hair framed a face that had once appeared fragile, but had been hardened by the burdens she carried. Her green eyes caught the moonlight and shone like two emeralds, managing to simultaneously reflect a delicate character and fierce determination. The clothes she wore were more eye-catching than Jack's. Ridley's Valiant Mail was like an outward manifestation of her personality. The sharp points of the armor on her gauntlets, leggings, and shoulders were an outer frame for a high-necked pink blouse that was trimmed in black. In much the same way, Ridley's terse way of dealing with people was a buffer to protect her softer side. The calm, self-confident persona that Ridley wore most of the time was to hide the fact that she often felt rattled and indecisive, even frightened. She had grown more confident as the Changeover had approached, and felt more comfortable with herself now than she had in a long time, but insecurities still lurked in her mind. The fact that she had not fulfilled her destiny was still weighing heavily on her mind. The soul of the light elf Hap was still merged with her soul, and the Gold and Silver Dragons had not changed places. In fact, both guardian dragons were dead. The implications of this on the conflict between humans and non-humans troubled Ridley, who was unsure what would happen and what role she would play. She tried not to dwell on these negatives, focusing instead on the boy whose left hand she clasped in her right. Jack believed in her, and she believed in him. Standing next to the darkness that enveloped Jack made it more obvious that a golden light radiated from Ridley. The light was not blinding, but its presence was undeniable. Golden warmth emanated from Ridley herself, reaching several feet in any direction.
The two companions walked hand-in-hand up the path that would lead them to the Castle. As they walked through the Yellow Town of Sun and Glory, they passed under a bridge with steps that led up to the town square. Jack's body tensed as they stepped out from under the bridge, and he stopped where he stood. His arm went rigid, and Ridley stopped as well. Unsure of what was happening, she glanced around as Jack set down the bag that he had been carrying. Ridley grew concerned as his hand hovered toward the hilt of the Arbitrator, his head moving quickly to try and see in all directions at once. Long moments went by in tense silence, but Ridley thought it best not to speak. Finally, Jack's head snapped forward, staring intently straight in front of them. A figure walked calmly into their field of vision just as Jack began to speak.
"I guess I shouldn't have expected to get to the castle without being noticed," Jack said. His hand came away from his sword as he bowed to an armor-clad figure. "It's been a little while, Chief."
"So it has, Jack Russell," was the tense reply. Elwen, the leader of Theater Vancoor, stood in front of them. Jack had served in the warrior guild before leaving Radiata, and his choice had forced him to fight against many of his former comrades, including Elwen herself.
Elwen's burnished plate armor had been repaired since she and Jack had fought; looking as commanding as always, the helm hid her face and cast an intimidating gaze. Jack had known her long enough to know that the armor was imposing because of the woman wearing it, and not the other way around. On his left, Jack saw a figure emerge on the steps to the square. Alicia, one of Theater Vancoor's sergeants, wore the bright violet dress that she favored for missions, with its bright embroidery. Her gauntlets, pauldrons, and silver helm gleamed with the moonlight coming from behind her. The stern look on her face looked out of place, and she fixed on Jack. A moment later, he glanced over his right shoulder and saw that they were surrounded; Gerald, Theater Vancoor's Deputy Chief, stood behind them. The older man was wearing his leather armor and overcoat, and his single green eye was fixed intently on Jack. All three wore their swords, though none had drawn.
"Theater Vancoor's three best swordsmen," Jack mused aloud. "That's quite a welcome. For what it's worth, we didn't come here with the intention of fighting."
"I know, Jack," Elwen said simply. Her voice still had an edge to it. Elwen's attention shifted to the girl at Jack's side, and she bowed politely. "Lady Ridley Silverlake, I presume? I didn't think we would have the opportunity to meet; it's a pleasure."
"The pleasure is mine," Ridley replied with her own polite bow.
"Hold on," Jack interjected. "If you know we're not here to fight, then why do you look ready to ambush us?"
"You've told us why you aren't here," Elwen continued. "Now tell us why you are here."
"When we fought at Fire Mountain, I told you that I was fighting for Ridley," Jack said. He spared a momentary glance for the girl on his left before continuing. "The situation between the humans and non-humans has changed, and our place is now in Radiata. We have come to speak to the King about this."
"You think it will be that easy," Elwen challenged. "That you can simply walk up to the gates of the castle and ask to speak to the King? In their eyes, no change in circumstances will alter what you have done."
"Believe me, I know," Jack replied. "But there's no other way. The cosmic order has changed, he'll have to listen to that."
"The cosmic…order," Elwen's gaze seemed to intensify as she spoke. "Jack Russell, I'm afraid you won't be going to the Radiata Castle tonight."
"What do you mean," Jack asked. "Why would you stop us?"
"We are going to apprehend you personally," Elwen answered. "You'll go to the cells beneath Theater Vancoor, and be transferred to Radiata Castle from there."
"Why would we do that," Jack seemed puzzled.
"For a number of reasons," Elwen spoke levelly. "First, because you won't be given a choice. You and the Lady Ridley may be quite strong, but there's no way you'll defeat the three of us. Plus, a prolonged battle will draw attention to you, and it will certainly look like you're here to fight. Second, because I want to hear what happened at the City of White Nights. Third, a brief respite at Theater Vancoor will allow you time to think about what to say when you get to the castle, and I will watch over your belongings so that the castle does not confiscate them. Fourth, our capturing you will allow the guild to regain some of the honor and pride that it lost through your leaving and fighting against us."
"That's pretty convincing, Chief," Jack smiled.
"I assure you that you will be treated with the utmost respect, and that we will transfer you to the castle with minimal delay," the guild leader sounded sincere. Next to Jack, Ridley was evaluating the body language of the three warriors surrounding them. They appeared very relaxed, as if what would come next was a foregone conclusion. "You owe it to the guild, Jack, and it's your best option."
"I know," Jack nodded. His right hand moved toward the Arbitrator's hilt, but stopped instead at the buckle of his sword belt. "Ridley, what do you think?"
"It doesn't make much sense to fight here just to go turn ourselves in if we win," Ridley spoke to Jack, but her eyes were on Elwen. "If you trust them Jack, then I trust you."
"Then it's settled," Jack concluded, unbuckling his sword belt and picking up his travel bag. He turned around and handed them to Gerald, who was walking forward.
"Very well," Elwen said, stepping closer and demanding their attention. "Since you have surrendered yourself into our custody, I'll trust you to follow willingly to Theater Vancoor. I'm obligated to inform you that you will be charged with treason."
"We understand," Ridley said calmly. With a nod, the two warriors who saved humanity were escorted to Theater Vancoor to be detained in its cells.
Vegeta26: Well, that'll get us started. Things are only going to intensify from here, and I'm pretty excited to continue this storyline. For the new readers, I appreciate reviews and will respond to reviewers at the end of each chapter. I'm going to try to update as often as I can, but there may be some gaps. With all that said, hope you enjoyed this one, and I look forward to hearing from you.