Hello everyone, and welcome to my third story. Now, if you happen to have me on author alert and are here for another chapter on nobility, don't worry; I won't be abandoning that story. This is something else I've been wanting to write recently; a multichapter story for radiant historia.
Why radiant historia? Well, apart from it being an absolutely brilliant game with some of the best writing I've ever seen anywhere, I was really surprised to find that there are only *10* stories for it on , with the longest one being below 3000 words. I mean... just eleven? really? A masterpiece like that deserves far more attention! So this is my contribution to the fandom.
I will try to emulate the radiant historia style of storytelling as much as possible.
Disclaimer: I do not own Radiant Historia.
Prologue: A new beginning
Even after countless repetitions, he couldn't deny that the sunsets over Alistel were beautiful. From his office at the third floor of the castle, the current leader of the special intelligence division enjoyed a rare moment of peace.
Here he could put aside his responsibilities to both Granorg and his own kingdom, if only for a moment.
Here, he could temporarily forget about his responsibilities as the keeper of the white chronicle.
Here, he could sometimes even forget about the countless times he had let the world be destroyed.
He closed his eyes to the sight. Teo and Lippti had told him that there was only one razor thin path through history that prevented the world from being turned into a lifeless wasteland, and after months, perhaps even years of travelling through time, he had managed to find it.
He had managed, but his friends and countless others had all died countless times; sometimes in battle, sometimes by assassination, and sometimes just drained of all their mana and turned to sand. In multiple timelines, the only reason he had made it back alive to start over had been their sacrifice.
Even if they were alive now, he could never forget his failed attempts. History was fragile; the relative peace they enjoyed had been bought by the lives of many. This timeline had been allowed to continue only because he had been able to learn from the ones in which the world had already ended by now.
Was there something happening out there, somewhere, that would shatter the peace or hinder the fight against the desertification?
"The spies will tell me and I'll stop it no matter what it takes. With Eruca, Gafka and Garland, we have a lot of influence everywhere," he said to himself. "But... what if that's not enough? And what happens when we're gone? When I'm gone? There will be no one to use the White Chronicle: the Granorg line doesn't have any offspring yet..."
He turned and locked his door, before opening a hidden drawer in his desk. Both were probably unnecessary precautions, since the drawer and the item inside it were permanently wrapped in a cloaking field so powerful that only highly adept Satyros stood a chance of being able to see it.
The book he took out was still white and gold, showing no blemishes or signs of wear ever since he had first gotten it. At this moment in time, the last real entry was ten years ago, right before he had fought Heiss.
Right before the world had apparently been saved.
It was a description of the situation, followed by a page that only contained two seemingly unrelated lines:
"My name is Stocke. I'm just a man who wants to see his friends again."
It had been a parting gift from Teo and Lippti, whom he hadn't seen or spoken to since then.
Ever since he had returned, he had taken the book with him wherever he went, trusting it to create new nodes to return to if the need ever arose. However, even on seemingly highly important meetings, there had never been a new one. The chronicle had always either updated itself when he was involved with an important event or choice, or was expanded by Lippti and Teo. While he had tried scribbling on it himself in the past, those entries didn't work and tended to disappear completely when time was reset.
All in all, It was as if the white chronicle had been content with how history was unfolding now.
Stocke closed the book. "Maybe I'm too paranoid..."
Yet, even as he pulled his chair closer to the window, he couldn't deny that he was thankful that he had been allowed to keep the book. With this, no matter what happened, he would be able to protect the world, even if he had to go back ten years in time to do it.
"Stocke? Stocke! Are you in there?" an all too-familiar voice yelled, waking Stocke from his usual very light sleep. He was both surprised and annoyed to find that night had fallen, and mentally berated himself for allowing himself to fall asleep while holding the book in plain view.
"Hm? Rosch? Wait a second," he answered, all the while returning the white chronicle to its hiding place.
"What are you doing here?" Stocke asked after opening the door his office. At least his best friend hadn't nearly destroyed it by banging on it with his gauntlet this time...
His physically imposing friend raised an eyebrow. "Other than telling you to take a break once every few days? Seriously, you work too much, and that's coming from someone with more paperwork than the entire industrial division combined."
'You should see the amount of paperwork I go through for specint,' was Stocke's silent comment.
"So if you're not working late like I am, allow me to repeat my question; what exactly are you doing here at this hour?" he answered instead.
The larger, white haired man sighed. "Always straight to business with you," he said, crossing his arm and his gauntlet. "All right, two things, or maybe three. First, you know about the annual unification festival to be held soon, and that you are expected to be there as an ambassador, right?"
"Rosch, there's no way I would forget that; I run an intelligence division and this is a global political event."
"Maybe, but can I be sure?" his friend asked, surprising him. "You haven't told us if you'll be there or not. We can always just assume our warhero will show up anyway, but the problem is that you're pretty hard to get a hold of. Sometimes you just disappear for days and then you're suddenly back, putting all your time into training your specint recruits. After which, of course, you lock yourself in your office like this for no real reason."
"...So what you're saying is that I don't do my job well?" Stocke asked neutrally. "I'm-"
He hadn't finished his sentence yet when Rosch slammed his first into his gauntlet, the resounding clang of armor on solid steel silencing him instantly. "You know better than that. Hell, all that info on monster migration and anti-beastmen extremist factions makes my job twice as easy. No-"
"And gathering it isn't easy, so it takes a lot of time," Stocke calmly interjected. "Even with our network, there are things only I can do."
"Right, so what you're really trying to say is: 'There are things I'm never going to teach others because I don't trust anyone'? Like that cloaking thing?" Rosch countered.
"No, just shut up and listen for a moment," the general went on, grabbing him by the collar as he did. "The truth is, we're worried about you, Stocke. All of us are; Marco, Raynie, Sonja and I… even the prime minister is, and he hasn't even been in the country most of this year. Can't you just drop that cool charade for a moment and take our concerns seriously for once?"
"…What are you getting at?" he asked, not intimidated in the slightest. The fact that Rosch's gauntlet could have crushed his head like a grape on a moment's notice didn't bother him at all; he had seen his friend do this on numerous occasions, even in numerous timelines, whenever he became frustrated and couldn't fight his way through a situation with words. But never once had he actually hurt anyone in such a way when not on a battlefield, even when he was angry.
"'What are you getting at?' See, Stocke, that's exactly what we mean; it's like you're apathetic to everything. You weren't like this when you and Raynie were still together!"
"This has nothing to do with her," he countered and pried himself loose from the larger soldier's grip. "That was years ago; she is happy with Marco now and I'm free to do my work sufficiently."
"I don't believe that," Rosch said immediately. "Both of you were happier, and the man standing before me now is a far cry from that same man five years ago. Back then, you laughed a lot and enjoyed life. Now? Where is that energy? You almost look… old. Isn't it time you took a step back from things? I'm asking you this as a friend, not as a general."
'Old? I think I look almost the same as I did ten years ago. Though I guess that I've travelled through time so much that I'm actually older than Rosch...'
"You know I can't do that," Stocke replied, turning towards the window in his office. The town of Alistel was now a dark silhouette in the night, broken only by the lighting on the streets and from the occasional rogue windows.
"Why not? If I can have a normal family life next to my duties, why can't you?" Rosch pressed, confused.
"Having a family isn't the answer to everything," the smaller man commented, "but I'm happy that things worked out so well for Sonja and you. How are your daughters doing, by the way?"
"Don't dodge the question!" Rosch warned. "What is it? Is it the White Chronicle? Does that have to do with this somehow?"
"…Yell any louder and all of Alistel will be asking me questions about that tomorrow," said Stocke, still overlooking the city.
That moment of slight hesitation was all the answer that Rosch needed. "Stocke, just because you have that book, doesn't mean that you have the carry the responsibility of looking after everything. Not by yourself, at least," he added, placing his real arm on his friend's shoulder.
Rosch was silent for a moment, then shifted his gaze to the city. "I think I even remember this coming up before, back when… um… I can't remember when, exactly, just that someone already told you."
The mention of it brought a slight grin to Stocke's face. In this timeline, it had never been said. The fact that Rosch knew about it was an effect of that particular alternate timeline on him, even if he wasn't aware of it.
His friend sighed. "Look, it's five days until the festival. Whether you decide to show up or not, just take the time off for all our sakes. Or at the very least, do something different once, like helping us prepare. I'm sure you could help us plan security, or something."
'Is he right? Am I working myself too hard? Maybe I should take his advice, trust in the others and take some time off, or just something else for a while...'
The red-clothed man blinked. "I- Sorry, what were you saying?"
"You were zoning out again," his friend explained with a worried expression. "I hate it when you do that; it reminds me too much of when you were still travelling through time. You had that same look whenever you came into a node, even if I didn't recognize that back then."
"Don't be ridiculous; I haven't done that ever since Heiss," Stocke replied dismissively. "I just wanted a moment to think it over."
'I'm sure the others will be fine without me. I'll just show up there to make a short speech. There are some reports from Granorg and Celestia I still have to go through…"
"I'll show up, but I'm sure you guys can manage everything relating to the festival yourselves," he decided.
Rosch gave him a long, hard look. "I can't order you to take a rest," he stated, clearly wishing it were otherwise. "I hope you'll at least consider what I said. Go out. Talk to Raynie or whoever has your fancy. Just... do whatever it takes to change back into that person you once were."
Stocke had no idea how to even begin responding to that, and thus he remained silent.
"I guess that's all I'm going to get out of you, huh?"
His friend was already in the doorway when Stocke realized he had forgotten something. "Rosch, what was the third thing?"
"The third thing?" he repeated, confused.
"You said there were three things you wanted to see me about," Stocke explained. You told me about the festival, about everyone worrying about me, and…?"
Rosch hesitated. "Hmmm. A letter came for you, a few days ago," he said, producing an envelope from "It was from Aht; according to her, it was ' really extremely important' that you got it. But I guess that since you're so busy, you wouldn't be interested," he finished in a bored tone.
Stocke frowned. While he had received letters from Aht occasionally, they were always mostly about asking how he was, mixed in with random titbits on how her training as a shaman was progressing. They had been amusing to read, but never contained anything 'really important'.
'... until now?'
"All right, I'm interested. I'll read it as soon as I finish the reports," he said, reaching for the letter.
"Now, wait a moment. I think it's only fair that if I give this to you, you do something in return," Rosch countered, obviously amused.
Stocke sweatdropped. "You're demanding something from me just for that?"
"Hey, I've held on to this for the last few days while you were out in the middle of Skalla, doing things to extremist-sympathisers that I probably don't want to know the details of," Rosch replied, shrugging.
"And you did that just to blackmail me?" Stocke couldn't help but ask.
"Heh, let's just say I wouldn't think it was beyond you to not open the door for me," Rosch said in return.
Stocke was silent for a moment, gauging whether or not he could just cloak himself and take the letter by force. Losing would probably still be preferable to what Rosch was going to ask.
Eventually, he just nodded. It was against his better judgment, but he was too tired to try the forceful approach.
The next morning, Stocke finished up the reports he hadn't gotten around to last night.
The first one from Kiel, who was stationed in Celestia, informed him that ever since one of the leaders of the anti-beastmen movement had been 'unexpectedly' apprehended in Skalla recently, mixed marriages between humans and Satyros were increasing again. In addition, Elder Vanoss, who had succeeded the late elder, was still consolidating his base of power but seemed to have the support of the majority of the population. This included the humans that had settled in Celestia in the years following the unification.
Finally, it included a surprisingly detailed report on Celestia's current military strength along with some updates on the background of certain key military officers; something that Stocke tended to value above all other information for obvious reasons.
While information such as crossbreed marriage seemed strangely trivial in comparison to the rest, he couldn't deny that Kiel had done excellent work.
... Or had he?
The second report, from Otto, gave him pause; in his stealth training for specint, the former resistance fighter had been sent after an established operative, Kiel, to observe him during his mission, the main goal of which being to do so without being detected.
This report could be summed up by that Kiel had taking a certain liking to Celestian culture, in which Celestian culture was represented by Elm, who was still the leader of the Celestian armed forces. It seemed like Celestian culture, in turn, had 'accepted Kiel quite vigorously'. Multiple times.
Stocke groaned at the implications.
Well, diplomatic problems aside, he supposed stranger things had happened, and it did make a lot more sense as to why that particular bit of information had made it into the report. It was just below the swordmaster's usual quality.
The document concluded with Otto speculating whether or not Kiel would be leaking potentially important information to Celestia due to this relationship, after which he asked for instructions on whether or not to interfere.
He had to give the man credit; the whole thing was formulated in such a way that Stocke couldn't be sure if Otto was joking or not. He could have claimed either afterwards.
But Stocke knew that every decision had to be considered carefully.
'So let's see, what's the worst thing that could happen? Assuming Kiel managed to keep his cover and that Elm didn't voluntarily give him the information, which would make it questionably reliable, this is a timebomb waiting to happen.
... Unless I pull him out right away, which would make his entire cover-story as a transferring weapon master seem suspicious and would also lead to unwanted questions by the Celestians. Hmmm, I guess waiting a few days, possibly a few weeks, before relieving him of his post would be the best idea, along with a strict order to lay low from now on.'
He had been just about to sent out the order when he paused.
This was Kiel, who would die a number of times over before ever betraying his trust. And didn't he also owe something to Elm for helping him to permanently kill Hugo? And what about the conversation with Rosch; if a general could have a personal life next to his duties, couldn't a normal specint operative have one as well, even if only temporarily?
As he began to write his reply, he was reminded wryly of an alternate timeline in which he had almost been killed by Marco for interfering with the personal life of someone else a bit too much.
He would abstain form interfering for now. Maybe Kiel wouldn't be found out, then this could work out well for everyone involved.
This left only one remaining issue...
He shifted his gaze to the letter from Aht on his desk. If he was going to be forced to both go drinking with Rosch and Marco, and to take a week of forced vacation, he hoped that what it contained was indeed important.
As it turned out, just the first line of the letter made him forget everything else. He reread it three times just to see if he hadn't misinterpreted it in some way.
We did it; we actually grew a Conut field in the desert!
There, I hope you keep reading now! This is really important and I hope this letter gets to you; we all wanted you to be the first to know, since you were the one who gave the chief researcher the information he needed.
So it worked! I'm holding one of the first Conuts we grew and its mana feels like any other one; we're already planning on growing a bigger field, next time.
I also feel the mana coming back to the soil; maybe in a few years, other things can grow here again? Wouldn't it be great to have this forest in the middle of the desert? I sure think so; I would really like a bit of shade here!
Look, I know you don't like to talk about yourself too much, but how are you? The last time I've seen you was three years ago; you didn't even come to the last two unification festivals! If the others hadn't told me you were okay, I'd worry! Okay, maybe I'm worried anyway. You are taking good care of yourself, aren't you?
Hey, maybe you'd like to come see the field? We'll all be here for the next two weeks before we go to Granorg for the festival. We'd all love it if you could pay us a visit...
...but I'm not sure how fast this gets to you, since we are just east of Cygnus. Oh, I know! If you can't come, you have to come see us at the festival; I'll bring some of the Conuts for you.
-Our friendship isn't withered by the passage of time."
Stocke could only stare. They had finally done it; it was a small succes, but very likely a pivotal turning point in the fight against the desertification. Sure, it had taken ten years, nearly limitless funding by all four countries and a team of top experts on the fields of mana and herbology, but that didn't matter.
They had done it.
Maybe, the world could eventually be saved... permanently.
It he could have, he would have gone there. But with the amount of time he had left, he'd never make it to Cygnus in time, let alone to also be back for the festival. But after that, he would go; he'd be damned if he'd let himself miss seeing it.
After putting the shock of it behind him, he read it a fourth time, paying attention to the details. The writing seemed typical of Aht; very energetic and jumping from one subject to the other with no prelude to the topic switches. If nothing else, it was an amusing diversion from the strict specint documents.
"Seems like everyone wants me to be at the festival," he muttered. "Guess I might as well try to make myself useful."
He went to see Rosch an hour or so later.
"So tell me, you said something about helping you arrange security, right?"
The large general was obviously surprised to find him in his office. "You want to help after all?"
Stocke nodded. "I figured that taking a vacation just wasn't like me."
The larger man threw him a quizzical look. "It's not like you to suddenly change your mind," he pointed out.
"Let's say that after giving it some thought, it was an easy choice."
Unknown to Stocke, two new entries had formed in the White Chronicle overnight.
"Today, Rosch came to see me after I returned from the infiltration mission in the anti-beastmen extremist faction. He expressed his worry, and asked if I wouldn't consider taking it easy for a while. He also had letter form Aht with him, which contained the best piece of news I've gotten in years."
"After reading Aht's letter, I knew I had no chance of making it to Cygnus in time to also be at the unification festival. I decided I would see her there, and help with the preparations for it in the meantime."
In Historia, the world to which all timelines were connected, Teo, the male guardian, turned to his female companion. "Was it really necessary to update it over this?"
Lippti, who had the appearance of a small child like himself, gazed into the endless mass of stairways and empty space between them. "I don't know," she admitted. "But I feel as if something horrible is about to happen."
"Then why didn't you inform Stocke?" Teo asked.
"Because I hope I'm wrong," Lippti replied. "And he will take the book with him anyway. He always does."
I found Stocke surprisingly hard to write when he is in a 'neutral' setting. During the game, most of his actions and thoughts are reactions to a dangerous or important situations. When he is not directly in them, he seems... passive and very closed off from everyone around him. Still, I hope everyone who reads this finds my interpretation of him believable.
Rosch and Aht (in the letter) felt a bit easier to get right, though I'm a bit in doubt how aging ten years would affect Aht: would her cheerful and energetic behavior carry over to adulthood? I'm leaning towards 'yes' since most adult Satyros in the game also seem very carefree and kind.
I decided to place the story ten years after the ending of the game, mostly for plot purposes, but it does add some additional options on some other levels, as well.
Well, let me know what you think? Please? :) General encouragement or critique is always highly appreciated.