Chapter 1: Homecoming1
Many historians agree that the rise to prominence of the Republic of Bastok is one of the more surprising ironies of the history of Vana'diel. When its founders, the industrious humes, began to congregate on the southern shores of Quon, they were uniformly dismissed by the other races. They were not born and raised into a society of strict military discipline like the elvaans to the north. Their existence was not accredited to the survival of harsh landscapes like the mithra to the south. And the arcane arts did not flow through their veins as naturally as their blood like the tarutaru to the east. Temperamental, impatient, individualistic, and cursed with short lifespans, they were not viewed as any kind of threat and were left alone to find their own fate, because the other races disregarded the one quality they had perhaps greater than any race in Vana'diel's history…
Their temperament and impatience demanded results from their endeavors, with swift punishment for failures. Their individualism bred competition, which incited their obsession with success. Their short lifespans reminded them they had to establish a legacy that will be remembered beyond their deaths. Their ambition became unquenchable.
It manifested in noble aspirations of protection and safety for their fellow humes, leading to inventions like the airship which was to contribute to the turning of the tide during the Great War. It manifested in the greed of the miners, which led them into the bones of the world to uncover precious metals and stones, ultimately leading to enmity with the neighboring quadavs. It was ambition that, under the guidance of a particularly gifted engineer named Cid, led to a speedy advancement of technology, which allowed them to compensate for what qualities they lacked inherently as a race. The ambition of Bastok, along with the boost in population by the galka exiles who had fled from the Altepa desert to escape genocide at the hands of the eerie race known as the anticans, led them to not only survive and hold their own during the Great War, but flourish beyond it, challenging the empirical mights of San d'Oria and Windurst, and become the undisputed capital of science, industry, and technology.
Matthias could recall a time when Bastok was all the world he knew. To him, "adventure" was being dared by his friends to retrieve a chunk of precious metal of some kind from Zeruhn Mines, and "exotic" was when they served Windurstian or San d'Orian cuisine at the Steaming Sheep Restaurant, and "the northlands" referred to North Gustaberg. He had some inkling that there was a world beyond the walls, but in a boy's tiny little world, one city was already beyond what he could fathom.
It was an exciting time when he was finally ready to venture outside the city. Armed with little more than the clothes on his back, a map of the Gustaberg region, and a sword2, he acquiesced to his wanderlust and set out to cement his place in this world as an adventurer. And in the process, he was given the opportunity, often with little choice, to travel to its furthest corners, and now there was no nation however foreign, no city however fortified, no terrain however barren and uninviting, no caverns however deep, and no ruins however ancient in or upon which his feet had not trod. His journeys even took him to the realm of the gods high above Vana'diel and deep below the sea.
As he stood on the airship watching Karana peer over the railing as Quon passed beneath them, he felt the stirrings of the same awe he felt in those early days of his career. For in this diminutive figure was the reminder that there was yet an entire half or more of the world that he had little to no knowledge of. But this time, gone was the sense of excitement and adventure he had felt before, replaced by a sense of trepidation. For already he saw that this half of the world held grave dangers, and those dangers had followed this diminutive figure straight to him. This danger had nearly ended his life, and now he was leading this danger directly to his hometown.
He gazed at Karana as she leaned against the railing, staring in rapt awe as the lush green of the Konschtat Highlands gave way to the badlands of North Gustaberg. As they drew nearer to Bastok the sense of urgency and fear grew as his brain raced in despair. Why me? he wondered. Why always me? This girl has nothing to do with me. Who am I to judge what happens to her? We should remain onboard once we land, and take the return flight directly back to Jeuno. I should turn her into the authorities and let them decide what to do with her. They have greater resources and contacts, they'll know what to do with her, and protect her better if she needs it. And if they decide to return her to Ishmael who am I to judge? He's her father after all, maybe it's right. Why should I be responsible for her anyways? After all who is she to me-
A sudden tugging at the sleeve of his cloak awoke him from his lull. He looked down in surprise to find Karana pulling him towards the prow of the ship, her face beaming with excitement… A look all too familiar to Matt. He had worn it many times before, the first time he entered Valkurm Dunes, San d'Oria, Jeuno, Windurst…
She pointed over the brow towards the horizon, where the outline of buildings could be seen slowly rising in the distance. She tugged at his arm and yelled over the roar of the winds, "Is that Bastok?"
Matt stared out into the distance and managed a smile and nodded, "Yes it is."
"Yay! We're almost there!" Karana shouted gleefully and went back to her place at the railing to take in every moment of their arrival.
As Matt watched her run off, he felt a wince of pain shoot through his forearm where she had grabbed him. He rolled back the sleeve, and stared for a moment at the scabby marks left by her fingernails days ago. He could still feel her fingernails digging into his arm, could still remember the look of abject terror on her face as she recognized Ishmael… her father…
"Yes we are," he said softly as he followed her gaze out over the horizon and watched as they drew closer to his home.
1 Actually this is more of a prologue but such option doesn't exist on this website that I know of.
2 Onion sword (Sword), All Races, DMG: 5, Delay: 228, Lv.1, WAR/RDM/THF/PLD/DRK/BST/BRD/RNG/NIN/DRG/BLU/COR.