"It's a boy!" One nurse cleaned the baby with a wet cloth gently while the other held him cradled in her arms, holding him so the mother lying on the bed could see too. "You've given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Yun Anya."
Anya opened blurry eyes to take a look at her child. She wanted to reach out and hold the baby, but she was so weak, so tired...
"Anya, a boy!" Her faithful husband Asael looked on at his new son in awe, reaching out a hand that dwarfed the little child. Gently, ever so gently, Asael touched the little newborn's palm. The child's small fingers wrapped halfway around his pinky, unable to fully close over his finger. Asael's eyes lit up, so happy.
"Asael," Anya groaned as an unexpected pain wracked her body, pumping her heart erratically and stealing her air. "Asael," Anya squeezed her eyes shut as another horrible shudder wracked her body. She didn't know if this was normal, but knew she had to see their child. If she could just see the baby, it'd all be alright. "Show me..." Anya's breath hitched. "Show me Fang, Asael." Fang. It was the name they both agreed upon if the baby had arrived a boy- and indeed, he had. Anya fought the strange, painful contractions in her body and opened her eyes as Asael took the newborn from the nurse carefully and carried the crying little guy over to his wife.
Thrashing and crying, the baby stilled suddenly as his eyes roved over his mother. Anya breathed in deeply, stilled with the baby as those beautiful crystal viridians rolled over her. Weakly, barely able to move, Anya tried to reach out for her child. Asael lowered his arms closer to her, holding their precious child out to her. Anya managed to barely scrape the back of her knuckles across the child's head, where little sprouts of hair blossomed, cleaned by the nurses. "Fang." Anya mumbled, so very tired. "My child...so beautiful..." Anya exhaled softly, letting her hand fall limply back down as her eyes closed exhaustedly.
"Anya, I think he likes you." Asael studied the calmed baby's face, who was now silent and watching his mother intently. "Anya," Asael looked up from their child, tears of happiness clouding his eyes. He expected to see his wife smiling softly, and she was, but it was wrong. Asael gazed upon his silent wife, comprehension taking its time to dawn. "Anya?" Anya remained still.
"Anya?" Asael's voice caught on desperation as recognition filtered in. "Anya!" She didn't move. "Anya, wake up! Anya! Anya!" Asael wasn't aware of the hands that gripped his shoulders, pulling him back as the child was removed from his arms and nurses and doctor's surged forward, crowding his wife. "Anya!" Asael fought against the nurse, who suddenly became three orderlies as they pulled him back, keeping him from his wife. Asael's voice dropped from him, but he wouldn't stop yelling and fighting, desperately trying to make his way to his wife on the other side of the room, who wasn't responding to the chest compressions, and wouldn't. Asael howled and fought, but his efforts were in vain. A pinch clipped his arm. Asael didn't care; he yelled after his wife again and again, but the world was fast becoming blurry. Asael reached out desperately, longing for his wife. "Anya..." And suddenly, he felt no more.
Strong arms caught him as Asael fell.
Nearby, rocking in the arms of a horrified nurse, the baby wept.
Six months later, Asael straightened before the two diplomatic monarchs who presided over the newly-ruled Cocoon planet. "Lord Cyrus, Lady Raina," he nodded to each of them in turn, then looked over at the written agreement he'd just signed. "I agree; when Yun Fang reaches of age, he will marry your eldest, Claire Farron."
Cyrus smiled easily, putting aside all pomp and delicate mannerisms of his position, he stepped forward and unexpectedly slung an arm around the muscular monster's shoulders and took his hand, giving Cyrus a solid grip that matched his strong stature. "No need for formalities, Asael," Raina sighed softly as her husband's friendly countenance took over where he was comfortable. "We've been speaking of this for months now. It's bound to do wonders for our plans of re-uniting the worlds."
Asael grunted in the back of his throat, shifting his massive muscles so Cyrus hand dropped from his shoulder. "There's still much work to do before then."
"Yes, yes," Cyrus breezed. "The migrations will commence immediately, of course. Raina and I have been setting up bonuses and plot advances to motivate the emigrations. You've prepared training centers and agricultural designs for my people already and they just need to be set in motion. In turn, we've cleared developmental space and constructed schools to teach our technology. It should be a perfect mix of cultures. Until we've adopted each other's skills, trade will continue as it has. And now that the fal'Cie are gone, the citizens are finally being re-educated to our cultures. It's perfect, Asael!"
"Theoretically," Asael frowned. "But it's foolish to think we won't encounter resistance."
"Excuse my husband," Raina stepped in, putting a delicate, pale hand on Cyrus' high shoulder. "He gets easily excited with our progress, but I assure you Chief Asael, we've taken the precautionary steps necessary. Neither of us expect a flawless transition, but all parameters are set. We're as ready to initiate the meshing of our cultures as we'll ever be."
Cyrus glanced over his shoulder at his wife and met her crystalline blues appreciatively. He put a dwarfing hand over hers on his shoulder and smiled kindly, reaching out a hand to those long, auburn tresses. "Raina."
Asael noticeably stiffened at the affection between the two.
Raina sighed softly, gently nudging her husband's shoulder as she pulled her hand away. "Finalize the rest of this business, Cyrus. I'm sure Chief Asael must get back soon, we don't want to delay him. I'm going to check on Claire."
Asael lowered his head respectively. "Lady Raina,"
"It was a pleasure to finally meet, Chief Asael," Raina smiled kindly, waving Asael up. "I look forward to our plans having progressed well by your next visit."
"As do I, Lady." With that, Raina politely excused herself, leaving the two men to clean up the trivialities.
"You really gonna let your old man best you?" Asael taunted, watching his son carefully. "Come on, Fang, show me what you're made of."
At five, Fang was a little chipmunk compared to his hulking father, who was easily two and half times the size of him abreast and twice as tall. Asael wasn't necessarily a tall man, but compared to little Fang, he was a giant. With arms three times the mass of his own and the strength to back it up, Fang faced a David and Goliath warzone when facing his father.
But, however intimidating his massive frame might have been, Fang was determined and his father was expecting a take-down before the night was up. And Fang hated letting his father down.
Sidestepping to the right, Fang darted back over in a sneak-slip charge to barrel at Asael. He reached his father and- Asael sidestepped too, surprisingly fast for a man of his muscle girth. Fang's world suddenly flipped upside-down as a strong grip circled his abdomen and turned him in mid-air till he dropped on his back. Fang groaned as his father loomed above him. "Not good enough, Fang."
Flipping himself to his feet with a flexible backward arch, Fang raced at Asael again, fist cocked and already reeling by the time he reached his father. Air whistled around Fang's fist as he struck at Asael, but his father saw the blow coming and caught his fist before the punch could land. Fang groaned again as Asael exerted pressure, pushing Fang's fist right back to him. Fang gritted his teeth and tried to sustain, but Asael was clearly stronger. Fang struck out with his other fist, but Asael knocked away the blow and grabbed his arm. Squeezing both hands around his son's fist and arm, Fang breathed raggedly as he tried to push back against the stronger man in vain.
"Fang," Asael shook his head reprimandingly. "Brute force won't carry you far in a fight when your opponent is stronger. Come on, son," Fang sweated as daddy dearest pushed so hard that he collapsed to his knees. "You know better than that. You gotta be sneakier when you're the weaker link."
"Gaa-ahh-aghh!" Fang groaned, his pain shaping into a scream of agony. Frantic, feeling like his wrist was about to break, Fang swung his leg around from under Asael's and connected wildly with Asael's knees.
"Whoa!" Asael released him in surprise, falling back on his ass as his knee quaked. Fang dropped on him in an instant. But, listening to his words, it wasn't his body he dropped on top of to pin. Asael was stronger than him after all and would be able to break out of that. So Fang scrambled to his feet instead and put one foot over Asael's knee, carefully applying pressure.
Asael howled. "Fang! My boy!" Reaching up through the pain, Asael snagged Fang's wrist, but instead of yanking him to the floor harshly as Fang expected, Asael pulled him down, tight against his chest, and warmly wrapped his arms around his precious, talented son. "Fang," Asael hugged him. "Dad's proud of you, son."
Fang glowed; proud, grinning, happy to hear such compliments from his father.
Asael chuckled, seeing Fang's smile. Affectionately, he patted the boy's shoulder, so proud of his great son. I'm going to make you the strongest warrior alive, my son. Asael promised silently. "Help me up, Fang." Asael laughed. "And we can both get a potion. There's even time left to take you on a short hunt, if we hurry."
Fang enthusiastically helped his father up and to the door; in his mind, he couldn't have been a luckier child.
Later that night, after Asael and Fang had returned from the hunt with a few dozen Adamantoise spikes and a few sharp Gorgonpseid fangs, Asael visited his son's room. Fang was fast asleep by this time after their long ventures. Asael stood in the open doorway, light spilling into the room from the hall behind him. He watched his son.
Fang's chest rose and fell steadily. His small body was hidden under a thick Behemoth's hide, but Asael knew the boy to be thin. It was something he planned on working on with the small child; Fang's body needed a more muscular tone, there was no doubt about that. It's what we'll get to next. Asael told himself. Fang was by no means a weakling, but there was honing and muscle building to be done for the boy, as Asael planned on Fang being the best, nothing less. He couldn't be anything less, if he was to be High Chief over Gran Pulse some day. My son.
Asael's gaze ticked affectionately up to his son's features. He studied his soft face for a long minute. Fang was still young and his face prepubescent. Delicate cheekbones traced a fine soft curve that led to a shapely chin that didn't jut out the way Asael's did, but had a more slender curve that reminded Asael of his mother, very feminine. No matter, the boy was still young. He'd grow out of those slender eyebrows, small nose, and curvy cheeks in time.
Asael's eyes squinted as his gaze fell on Fang's lips. He frowned slightly at his son's bottom jutting lip, the soft curve of his upper one, and the fairly light pink shade of those lips. They looked so completely...feminine. Asael's brow furrowed. His hair's just getting too long again is all. I'll cut it again tomorrow. His mop grows as fast as weeds, I swear. Asael shook his head. I'll start him on weight training tomorrow, build up the boy's mass a bit. He's still young, after all. Plenty of time to grow. Offering his son a small smile, Asael crossed into the room quietly and kissed the top of his precious boy's head. "Sleep well, my son."
Serah watched as her sister blocked the wooden sword with her own. The two blunted blades slapped together with a small thwap and the small little fighter pushed off the blow with a gigantic lurch. Dashing forward, she swiped her wooden blade at the new opening she'd just created. King Cyrus made a half-hearted attempt to block the incoming weapon and missed, where the young little one slashed at her father's hip.
"Oh! I've been struck!" Cyrus gave an exaggerated moan before dropping to one knee, wooden blade braced before him in a manner that seemingly held him up. "Oh, such pain!" The little girl's brow creased as the older man gave an another exaggerated huff and laid down his weapon. "It is too much! Claire, I surrender." The statement was followed by a series of fake coughs as Cyrus grabbed his side, pretending to fall. "Oh- Oh, the pain. Oh, the pain. How will I survive? My children, my daughters, aid your dying father!"
"Daddy!" At four, Serah was still very much daddy's little girl. Pampered like a princess ought to be, Serah was still very young and very much innocent to the world. She rushed over to her father's side, who was now laying on his back, bemoaning his fate. "Daddy, are you okay?" Serah crouched down beside her father, looking horror-struck as she threw herself on Cyrus in a hug. "Don't die, daddy! I love you!"
"Huh," Cyrus looked up at the little beauty sprawled across his chest. "It's strange- I think I feel better. See how powerful your love is?"
Serah gripped her daddy as tightly as she could. "Daddy, don't leave me!"
"Maybe...maybe I could heal, Serah." Cyrus grunted, as if pained. "But it'd take a hug from your sister, too, to complete the magic."
"Claire! Daddy's dying! He needs us!"
The little seven year old sister rolled her eyes, knowing better. "He's fine, Serah." She pouted, screwing her face into an angry little scowl that achieved an adorable look, not a frightful one. "I'm trying to train here, dad."
"I'm sorry, Claire." Cyrus made a show of struggling to breathe. "You were just too fast, I couldn't block in time. Oh, woe to my daughter's great agility! I just cannot keep up."
The little one grunted, brows knitting, she looked aggravated. "You didn't even try to block the last one!"
"Oh, woe," Cyrus continued, "Oh, woe. I feel faint. Serah, I have not much time, you must fetch your sister and save me." He coughed again. "Before I...before I..."
"Claire!" Little Serah leapt off her father and scrambled over to big sis. "He needs us!" She grabbed Lightning's wrist and started pulling the older girl over. "Hurry, Claire!"
"Oh, fading world. I see a bright light, it's coming for me. Oh, it's so close-so close!" The older sister grunted and grumbled as she let Serah tug her over. "What's this I see? Is it my eldest, come to her father in the darkest hour?"
"It's mid-afternoon." She grumbled.
"Oh Claire, Oh Claire, you've come for me! You've come to save your father! Quick, daddy needs his hug and all will be well."
"Come on, Claire!" Serah encouraged.
Sighing in a show of her exasperation, the little one uncrossed her arms stubbornly and knelt before her dad before giving him a little squeeze. "Oh, Claire!" Cyrus' arms wrapped around her slight shoulders completely as he squeezed her tightly in turn. "My little angels!" Cyrus opened one arm to let Serah plop down in on the hug, which she did, wrapping her little arms around her sister's back and Cyrus' side. "You've cured me! Oh you precious beauties, you. Daddy loves you."
From the comfort of her father's arms, the young stubborn one bit her bottom lip as she smiled guiltily, feeling a little girly at her dad's praises as she rested against his strong chest. Cyrus grinned and, being the big, broad bear that he was, he easily squeezed both of them to his chest and lifted all three of them off the ground, where he gave them another tight hug before setting them back down again. Cyrus grinned as he witnessed his young daughter fighting to hide a smile.
"Can we still train?"
"Claire," Cyrus chuckled kindly, shaking his head at the stubborn little thing. "I have a surprise for you." Cyrus smiled down at his daughters. "And you too, Serah. I was going to save this for next week's festival celebrating the fall of the fal'Cie, but since you two are such good little angels, daddy's not going to make you wait."
Serah bounced excitedly. "A present, daddy? You got us a present?" Beside her, her sister felt giddy at the prospect too, but held it a little better.
"Yes." Cyrus nodded. grinning. "You both stay here; daddy's going to get your presents."
The sisters waited in anxious excitement as Serah squeezed her sister around the middle in anxious excitement, chattering happily. A few moments later, Cyrus came back with a small wrapped package and a big, fit man who was almost as broad as her father, but stood a little shorter. Cyrus went to Serah first and handed the giddy girl her package, where she delicately undid the bow before losing her poised patience and ripping into the wrapping excitedly. When all the paper was gone and torn away, Serah found herself looking down at a book that had a beautiful picture of a princess on the front and a faraway chocobo knight in the back, looking on after her.
"That's for both you and your mother," Cyrus told her. "For when you read at night; she's told me you want to start learning to read. This is a good book that she can teach you from."
Serah, ever the emotional little one, threw herself at daddy again, wrapping her little arms around his legs. Cyrus smiled kindly and reached down to pick up little Serah, who clung to him tightly, wrapping her little arms around his neck. "Daddy," Serah sniffled, so happy. "Thank you, daddy." Cyrus kissed his little girl on the forehead sweetly before turning to his other daughter, who was eying the big stranger suspiciously.
"Claire, you've been asking for ages now and I think you're finally ready." Cyrus nodded to the stranger towering near the doorway. "Claire, meet Amodar, you're new trainer."
The little one's eyes bugged out in astonishment as she looked from the stranger to her father, hopeful. Cyrus nodded encouragingly while Amodar laughed, jolly as his whole frame shook with the chuckle. "Hello there, little one." Amodar stepped forward. "Your father's told me a lot about you. It's Lightning, isn't it?"
The little one nodded, fixing her expression sternly. "Yes. My name is Lightning." Resting her head on Cyrus' shoulder, Serah giggled at her sister's assumed surname to everyone besides family. Lightning cast her a dark look that she missed entirely.
Amodar held out his hand, chuckling. "It's nice to meet you, Lightning."
Lightning eyed him, suspicious, but deeply curious; she didn't want to come off too anxious or childish if this man would be her brand new first trainer. "Sir."
"I hope I can look forward to some dedicated hours with you; your father tells me you're quite anxious to learn."
"I'd say I'm willing..." Lightning reworded, careful of how eager her father may have made her come off as. She was eager, but it wouldn't do if she came off as an overanxious child wanting to play soldier. This was serious.
Her father chuckled at his little girl's caution. "Don't worry Amodar, she likes you already. Claire doesn't refer to all her elders so respectfully. You'll find her very spirited, once she warms to you."
Amodar smiled, chuckling all cherry again. "Hohoho! Someone I'll have to win over, eh? I'm looking forward to it, Lightning! I feel we'll be getting along very well indeed!"
Lightning blushed, glancing over at her father. One giant child after another. No matter, only tomorrow's practice would tell. Lightning was looking forward to it, too.
"Fang, ohmiGod!" Fang's little best friend Vanille squeaked in astonishment, covering her mouth which had fallen open at the sight of Fang. Rushing forward, Vanille grabbed Fang by the elbow and pulled the taller boy's arm down to her height so she could get a closer look at Fang's upper arm. Vanille stared, wide eyed in awe.
"Wow..." Fang grinned at Vanille's astonishment. "It's huge, Fang!" Vanille looked up from her new black tattoo imprint that was still red at the edges where Fang's flesh was raw and healing. The surface scab had died away from Fang's arm and healed, but the black maw retained an injured, reddish outline around the stem. "I thought you were supposed to get this when you turned twelve and passed the Trials."
Fang winked at her. "I passed early."
"But you're only nine!" Vanille exclaimed, eyes dropping to the scary maw branding Fang's arm. It was customary of all Yun clan members get a tattoo when they passed the Trials. Fang had told her about it a little while ago. Being the last blood member of the Yun clan, since his mother was deceased, Fang took these rituals to heart in way of honoring his clan. They were traditions passed on through the generations and they'd be traditions Fang would pass onto his own kids, if he had any in the future. But for now, it was important that Fang carry on his tribe's traditions for himself, too.
Vanille brought up a hand, admiring it, but paused before touching, glancing up at Fang. "Does it hurt?"
"Nah, it's okay now." Fang waved her off. "Still a little red, but nothing serious."
Vanille was still clearly impressed and it made Fang proud to know it. "You're so tough, Fang. Wow..." Fang grinned. "What's it mean?" Vanille asked curiously, still analyzing the symbol. In Yun culture, each tattoo had a meaning according to their abilities; Vanille figured she could guess the maw easily enough, that one was simple, but since the Yun tribe had a symbol script separate from the rest of Gran Pulse's, she couldn't tell what the rest of the tattoo meant.
Fang was more than happy to explain. Pointing to the top little jutting triangular arrow inside the black, Fang nodded. "That's for strength; father's been weight training with me to help me grow stronger. It's the shape of a triangle pointing upwards because I'm only supposed to get more powerful from here on out. I'm strong now, stronger than a lot of people, but I'm still just a kid, you know? So it's pointing up 'cuz that's the only acceptable way I can go."
"And the claws?" Vanille lightly touched the tattoo, tracing the bottom two with her fingers gently.
"For the beasts I slay." Fang chuckled. "And the top spike here," he pointed to a ridge that jutted in the middle-top of his tattoo. "Is for victories over the fiends." Fang gave her a smile. "And the maw's for me, of course."
"Fang..." Vanille smiled back and hugged him. "I'm so happy for you, Fang."
"Hey now," Fang chuckled, "You're making me feel all mushy."
"Good!" Vanille hugged him tighter.
Warmed by Vanille's affection, Fang gave his little best a gentle hug back. "Thanks, Vanille."