Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy IV, nor Square-Enix's characters such as Rydia, Kain, Cecil, etc. They belong to Square-Enix. This is just a fan work dedicated to my all-time favorite game. Also, I did not steal any ideas from FFIV: The After Years. This is my own story, written up from my own ideas, thus, all new ideas, character interpretations, events, etc. are reserved by me.

Rydia: Heart and Heartache

by

Aegis Runestone

Chapter 1

As the school bell rang, the door burst open and a congregation of children ran out into the roads of Mist. Rydia let go of the bell's rope and rushed to the open doorway.

"Have a good day, children! Don't get into any trouble!" she called.

Some of her students turned around and waved at her. Rydia waved back, a pleasant smile spreading onto her face. They then turned around and ran into the town. She was very pleased; her pupils had worked hard today, and she wondered which one had that potential inside of them.

Musing to herself, she walked back into the school house—which doubled as her home—and closed the door. Her entire place had been remodeled to meet her needs. Her old living room, which had consisted of a small space with a fireplace, had been expanded into a spacious room with many tables scattered around the room.

With her living room expanded, Rydia had moved her private quarters to the back of the house. A door, which she kept bolted during class, now stood between the classroom and her chamber.

Sitting down at one of the tables, Rydia played with the plain brass ring on her finger. Mother... she thought. She no longer cried when she thought of her mother. Instead, she felt a strange sensation of regret and love, combined into one emotion.

She took the ring off her finger and gazed at it. I hope you've been watching me; I'm certain you're proud of everything I've done. She paused, running her finger down the ring's band. And I still have your ring. Rydia placed it back on her finger, and sighed. Other thoughts that disturbed her entered into her head. Perhaps a stroll down town will help me clear my mind.

She stood up, and opened the door to the house. Ah, nothing like a sunny afternoon. She smiled, and ran her fingers through her green hair. Rydia walked down the road toward the central square of Mist.

Years before it was a town, Mist had been simple village, and Rydia a mere child. Then, a ring had been delivered by a dark knight named Cecil, and a dragoon named Kain. Although Rydia didn't know then that they had not expected the ring to release a circle of Bombs nor set the village on fire, as a child, she attacked them in her summoner rage.

All the summoners... supposedly died. But Rydia didn't believe it. She knew someone in this town, maybe one of her students, could summon eidolons again.

She shook her head. I'm supposedto be out on a walk to clear my mind. She took in a deep breath and turned her thoughts elsewhere.

As she passed several houses down the road, she received friendly smiles and waves from various townspeople. A few children beamed at her and others cheered at mere presence. Rydia sighed, and yet only returned the gestures.

She reached the central square—defined by its large fountain in the middle. The square was busy as usual; Rydia saw trading caravans from Baron, Damcyan, and Kaipo. Merchants, within their simple yet appealing stands, called out to attract shoppers. These wooden stands were decorated with tapestries, clothes, and whatever other items were sold by that particular merchant.

She glanced to her right and saw the town's inn; once a tiny building, now a large two-story building to house many, many travelers. Far more than what the people of Mist ever imagined.

Thank you, Cecil, she thought, a proud smile spreading over her face. This dream of mine wouldn't have been possible without you.

Then, a couple of women—one of them was a mother to one of Rydia's students—ran up to her from the fountain, leaving the other gossiping ladies behind. Rydia swallowed, she knew what was coming.

"Oh, Rydia! It's so good to see you!" the first woman, named Elena, said. She whipped one of her blonde bangs from her face. "My daughter has been talking about you all day since class ended. She's hoping she'll be able to summon a chocobo soon!"

"I'm sure she'll be able to," Rydia said with a pleasant nod.

The other woman, rather plump, clasped her hands together. "And it wouldn't be so if it weren't for you and restoring our home!" she said. "We're so grateful.

Rydia giggled. "You already thanked me before."

"Oh, but, once isn't enough!"

"I appreciate it," Rydia said with a smile. Good, that subject hasn't come up yet.

"You're wonderful with children," Elena chimed in. The summoner bit her lip. "I know you're young, but you should get married!"

She groaned under her breath. Not this again! "I'm only twenty-one years old," Rydia tried to say as gently as possible. "I don't think it's time for me to—"

"Oh, Rydia, don't be so modest, twenty-one is the perfect age to become married." Elena smiled with excitement.

The other woman raised a hand. "We've heard the rumors," she said with a knowing smile. "Prince Edward of Damcyan is interested in you. Surely, a prince must tickle your fancy!"

Rydia nearly slapped her forehead. Wrong Edward. "Uh... last I checked, Edward was still rebuilding his castle."

"Indeed," Elena added, biting her lip. "And... um... it's the other prince who is interested in Rydia. Not Edward of Damcyan."

She paused. "Uh... oh. I, um, must have misheard!" she said, placing her hands behind her back.

"Regardless, I've heard he's almost finished with the repairs," Elena continued. "That is, because our blessed king provided the funds." She gazed at the summoner with hopeful eyes. "Though, still, you ought be wedded. It would be good for you."

"I'll... consider it," Rydia lied. She smiled at Elena and her friend, and then took a step back. "Excuse me, I need to continue my walk. I... I'm very tired from teaching today. Again, thank you for your kind words. I'll see you later."

"Oh! Very well," Elena said, beaming. They waved good-bye to the summoner and then returned to the fountain. Rydia didn't listen to any details, but she could hear them talking excitedly with the other women there.

She sighed, and took a deep breath. It isn't as if I don't want to get married... I just don't feel ready yet.

Rydia changed her direction from the town and went to outskirts. Many trees lined the mountain side of Mist. She walked over the green field that had slowly been pushed away from the extension of the town. She hoped that it wouldn't go any further.

There was a stump sitting in the middle of field. Rydia smiled. I remember this stump. I came here a lot. She sat down on it, and began to let her thoughts leave her mental state for a moment. Her body and shoulders relaxed, and she let out a calm sigh.

After several moments, not knowing the time that had passed, Rydia came to herself, feeling peaceful and refreshed. She smiled, finally letting go of all her troubles. This feels... good.

Rydia looked down at the stump and patted its roots. "You and I have spent a lot of time together, eh? Remember that day when I brought my students here? It was their first day at my school."

-S-

Rydia and the children gathered around the stump in a circle. It was just past noon, and the children had all eaten their lunch.

"All right, children," she said. "We're going to go around the circle, starting on my left, and introduce each other by name and our favorite hobby. Ready?"

"Ready, Miss Rydia!" the children chorused.

One by one, they went around the circle doing as she had asked them. Some were excited, others were shy. Regardless, once they had finished, a girl raised her hand.

"Yes, Milina? What is it?" Rydia asked with a gentle voice.

"My mommy told me that you were almost eaten by a big snake once!" Milina said, blinking. "Is it true?"

There was a chorus of "wows" and rapid talking among the students. Some of them (mostly boys) looked excited. Others looked concerned—fearful even.

Rydia's face split into a smile. "It is true," she said. She heard a chorus of gasps from her pupils. "It's all right. His name is Leviathan, and he is the king of the eidolons. I was a child like all of you at the time, and I was headed on my way to Baron with Cecil." Rydia raised a finger. "Then our ship was attacked, and I was thrown overboard into the sea."

"Oh no!" one girl said.

"Don't worry, I'm still here, aren't I?" She couldn't help but giggle, watching spreading smiles over the faces of her students. "Anyway, Leviathan swallowed me and took me to the land of the eidolons: the Feymarch. There he spit me out."

"That sounds yucky," another girl remarked.

Rydia nodded. "It was... a little disgusting. However, Leviathan told me why he had brought me to the Feymarch: to counter the evil Cecil and my friends were facing." She grinned. "Although Leviathan looks soo scary," she said, wiggling her fingers. "He was a very kind person, and a great teacher. Because of his teachings, I became a powerful summoner."

"He taught you? Were you scared?" one boy asked.

"Yes, he did. I was scared only for a little while," Rydia said, resting her chin upon her hands. "But I became used to the Feymarch. There were monsters there, too, but they were all very friendly and kind to me."

The children looked astonished, and it seemed like they didn't know what to say. There was a long silence until Milina spoke up again.

"Wait, if you were a child... mommy also told me that two years ago you helped the paladin beat the bad guys!" she said. "How come you're all grown up now?"

"Hmm..." Rydia wasn't sure how to explain. This concept may be beyond their understanding. I have to try, though.

"Well," she said, clearing her throat. "You know how a clock moves its arms, right? To tell the time?" Her students nodded. "And after that we have days, then weeks, then months, and then years." Her students looked at her with curiosity. "Well, in the Feymarch time goes by more slowly inside it than outside of it."

"What do you mean, Miss Rydia?"

"Well, basically, when I was there, I spent twelve years in the Feymarch while my friends had only been separated from me for two months." Her students still looked confused. "Well... say you're here, and it's been an hour. In the Feymarch, that would be like a week has passed." She knew the comparison wasn't accurate, but..

"Oh!" They nodded together. Rydia smiled with relief; they all smiled back at her.

"All right," she said. "It's getting late, it's time for you all to go home. Tomorrow, I'll start teaching the basics of summoning eidolons."

-S-

"That was a few days ago, wasn't it?" Rydia said to the stump. It had been a week since then and there had been little progress, but she wasn't going to give up. A smile spread over her face as she thought of her school.

Then, another thought crossed her mind. Edge... The other prince—Edward 'Edge' Geraldine, heir to the throne of Eblan; the kingdom of ninjas. She sighed; sure, sometimes he was annoying, but over the past two years, Rydia had grown comfortable around him.

There was a problem, though; Edge wanted to marry her. He was willing to wait until she was ready (which she appreciated), but he also wanted to keep her dream of reviving the summoner bloodline alive; which meant she needed to continue to teach.

Edge had been pondering over ideas of how to compensate the two. One of his ideas was to let her go teach in the morning, and then pick her up in the afternoon back to Eblan. However, before even Rydia could see the problem, Edge did.

"If I did that," he had said. "Then you wouldn't be able to see the kids if they wanted to spend more time with you—extracurricular stuff—and if I needed you for a court in the morning, you wouldn't be there."

"Edge..."

"Argh... Rydia, sometimes I wish I wasn't a prince. There's not a girl in the world like you. I love you, but I don't want to shatter that dream of yours."

Rydia smiled at the thought of that memory, but then frowned. What do I do? She wondered. What can I do? If I become a queen, then...

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of battle coming from the mountainside. The growling of monsters and the battle cry of the warrior that sounded so familiar to her.

Rydia got up and ran around the trees over to the ledge up the mountainside. She made a sharp turn and saw an ugly display of monster corpses on the ground. Above them stood a knight—a dragon knight, also known as a 'dragoon.'

The summoner smiled as she looked upon the dragoon. He was armored head to toe in blue armor made of dragon scales, and the armor even appeared that of a dragon's. His helmet had a pair of small dragon wings on either side. In his left hand, he held a white lance that glowed with a blue aura.

Rydia walked up to him—his back still turned to her. It had been a long time since she had seen Kain.

-S-

Kain wiped the blood off his lance. Frustrated, he noticed that he didn't even sweat once during combat. There must be something more challenging than this! he thought.

"Well, well, well..." a voice said behind Kain. He turned around to see a beautiful woman with shining green hair that he hardly recognized.

While her outfit was still a deep green in color, the rest of her clothing had changed. No longer were her arm-drapes plain green, but they were a translucent green, and they hung from her long sleeves at each end. The sleeves did not cover her shoulders, however. At the end of each side of her sleeves were golden cuffs. Her neckline was noticeably higher now, revealing little. Her hair was a bit shorter, and her hairclip now carried a ruby in it instead of a sapphire. The only thing that was the same were her knee-high boots.

"... Rydia?" Kain said. "You look... very regal in that outfit."

She beamed. "Thank you, Kain."

She remembered my name? "What are you doing here?"

Rydia cocked a friendly smile and folded her arms. "I was about to ask you that same question. Last I heard of you, you had left for Mt. Ordeals. Now... maybe you don't realize it, but you're on the mountainside just south of Mist."

"I see. It doesn't matter why I am here though." Kain turned away from her. "... the Light at Mt. Ordeals held nothing for me. Therefore, I left, and went across different mountains in the world, seeking a challenge. But all of that is of no import to you."

He could hear her walking slowly towards him. "Really? I don't know about that; one of my friends goes 'missing' for over two years is rather important to me."

Kain looked at the ground. "I'm no friend, I'm a traitor."

He heard her groan with disbelief. "Are you seriously telling me that you're still berating yourself over that, Kain? I guess you didn't go to Baron on your travels then?"

"Why would I?" He said, slamming the butt of his lance on the ground, and gripping it tightly.

"Kain..." said her gentle voice. "Cecil and Rosa... they miss you."

He frowned. "I'm not worthy to speak with them."

"Oh please..." Rydia said, sounding concerned. "Don't do this to yourself, Kain. Leave yourself behind and go see others. You'll go insane if you keep living alone."

"I am not returning to Baron until I am ready." He gripped his lance firmly and started to walk away. Then he heard a chant behind him and Rydia appeared in front of him. He grit his teeth. "You're quite stubborn about this."

"Listen to me," Rydia said, her voice gentle, yet firm. "I don't think a month, no—even a week, that goes by without Cecil saying 'I wish Kain were here.' Besides, you know everyone has forgiven you; even Edge has. Really, they want you back, Kain."

He wanted to refuse, but the kindness in her voice made him think twice. Is this really true? Do they want me to return? After all I've done, conscious of my own sins and not even acting against them?

"... Kain?"

He blinked, and he realized that he had been silent for some time. "... You're not going to let me go, are you?" His grip on the lance loosened. "Very well. I will return to Baron."

Rydia smiled brightly. "Do you mind if I come with you then?" she asked. "I haven't seen them in awhile myself."

"As you wish, milady."

She chuckled. "No need to call me that. Come, let's go."