Summary:...Or what transpires out of stubbornness, inability to use cell phones and a disastrous first kiss. Gaius/Musee.
Warning: light spoilers for ToX2.
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Xillia world, story or characters.
Author's note: this is a prequel to 'Trials...'.
List of names I keep from the original Japanese game because their localized version did not click with me at all:
Kanbalar – Khan Baliq
Auj Oule – Ajur
Muzet – Musee
Erston - Arst
ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ARST OUTWAY
The Central Trigleph Station greeted Gaius with the screeching of steel wheels on the rail tracks and shouts of passengers who rushed past him as he stood on the platform, glancing round now and then. When the train arrived, a new crowd of people like a turbulent stream gushed forth, impatient and desperate, onto the street. The evening was approaching quickly, the sky darkened and street lamps illumined worried and haggard faces of ill-assorted passersby. He was not used to seeing a throng so large and boisterous. He could recall a similar gathering during his coronation, but in this world it seemed an everyday occurrence. Amidst so many people dressed in a queer way, he felt somewhat uneasy and aloof.
Nobody recognized him. Nobody stared, pointing at him with an awestruck expression; people walked hastily, their glances riveted onto the paved sidewalks littered with cans and cigarette butts, their poses betraying fatigue and a certain humbleness. That, too, begot a new feeling, a mixture of freedom and constraint which he barely understood himself. He was not a king of the world; for the time being he was not distinguished from them in any way and he would remain incognito until he understood how to merge their worlds without provoking another war. That much he owed to everyone who inhabited Riese Maxia and Elympios.
Somewhere above him a whistle was heard, the train heaved a heavy groan, slowly moving away from the platform, and vanished in darkness. A brisk voice announced into the loudspeaker the arrival of the next train. His world could have benefited from building railroads, but the price was too high for the spyrix technology and Gaius – no, Arst Outway – dismissed the thought. Then he reached for his GHS device. A blinking icon appeared in the corner of the screen; perhaps it was a message from Rowen who was concerned with his safety, yet he couldn't read it for when he looked at the keys, all lessons his Prime Minister tried to hammer into his head were suddenly forgotten. He pressed a few glowing buttons, but to no avail. After a few equally unsuccessful attempts, Gaius shoved the phone into the pocket of his suit and swore under his breath in Londese. What use did he have for his fancy title in this predicament?
"Watch where you're standing!" He was interrupted by an angry voice and rudely shoved aside by a small, stout man who ran past him, gasping for breath. Gaius was so astonished by the shameless display of disrespect that by the time he recovered, the culprit had disappeared out of sight. Having frowned, the king of Riese Maxia reminded himself that he had temporarily abandoned his title.
However, his misfortunes for that day had barely begun. When he reached for the paper on which was written the address of the inn Rowen booked his room at, he discovered that it somehow disappeared from his pocket. He retained the contents of that note in his memory or so he thought until he found a clerk in an immaculate suit and asked him for directions. It took Gaius about ten minutes to explain to him what an inn was (in Elympios it was called a hotel) and to realize that he had forgotten both the name of the establishment and the street. It was not in his character to be remiss and forgetful, but in justification of his blunder it could be said that those names would seem foreign and strange to any inhabitant of Riese Maxia.
He could not be discouraged so easily, but not without chagrin Gaius had to admit to himself that he was hopelessly lost.
It was drizzling outside. Droplets of water slowly accumulated on his coat and sharp wind chilled to the marrow. Blurry street lights reflected in the puddles. Ghostly figures hurried by, hiding their faces behind collars of their coats – their numbers did not shrivel, quite the contrary, only swelled. The enormous city sprawled around him, overwhelming him with the width of its streets where at least two dozen men could walk in a row and the height of its edifices, with its unfathomable grandeur. Gaius looked around, his perplexity growing. Then he noticed a woman who stood by the sidewalk, rummaging in her bags. He approached her with intention to ask about the nearest inn, but she recoiled from him and, mumbling incoherent apologies, minced along. The city seemed to drain people of vigor which could be the effect of the spyrix technology or merely his first impression of a culture diametrically opposite to what he had been accustomed to seeing.
'What am I to do in this gloomy place?' He thought mirthlessly. 'Yes, indeed… I am lost, unarmed, a perfect prey for a thief or a swindler.'
The Central Station was left far behind and he wouldn't find his way back even if he wanted to. Night fell like a bird of prey, the wind lulled, but the rain came down in torrents, pattering against the motley umbrellas. He didn't even have an umbrella. His personal belongings among which was his sword were delivered on Rowen's orders to the inn whereat he was supposed to stay since no one anticipated he would be stranded in the center of Trigleph with only a few hundred gald in his pocket.
As Gaius stood under a shed of a small store, which barely protected him from foul weather, pondering over a solution, he caught a glimpse of a silvery figure and at the same time Musee noticed him. Sudden though it was, he was not surprised to see her; they recently kept meeting in places they least expected to.
"Gaius, what brings you here?" She stretched in thin air, unconcerned with the rain as she was with the cold. "I thought your boring subjects wouldn't let you go for another week or two… Oi, you look awful! You are drenched to the skin and your fingers are cold…" She propped her cheek with her hand and glanced at him with discontent.
"It is raining," he replied with philosophical stoicism, "and I am not a Spirit."
"That's just the trouble that you aren't. Humans get sick, develop a fever and suffer for weeks, coughing and raving. How terrible!"
"Even if I catch a cold, it won't be even half as bad as you make it sound," Gaius cleared his throat. "Just a minor inconvenience…"
"See, you are already coughing! What are you doing, taking strolls so late at night without an umbrella? Didn't you know that downpours are frequent in Elympios? The rain falls, but it does not return life to this forsaken land…"
"Humph." He was not going to make a fool out of himself by explaining to her the circumstances of his arrival. But Musee wasn't entirely bereft of acumen.
"Wait, you got lost, didn't you?"
"You shouldn't concern yourself on my behalf," he said flatly, trying to read another message from his Prime Minister. They were amassing in his mailbox with alarming speed. "Do you know how to open these? I am sure he sent me the address again… He is a farsighted man."
Musee shook her head, "No, I don't, but I can find you a decent place to stay for now at least. In the morning you can look for… what it is you're looking for."
"…What were you doing in Trigleph? Our meeting hardly seems a coincidence to me," said Gaius about half an hour later when they reserved a room at a small hotel. It was clean and neat, with pale-orange curtains shading the windows and saffron yellow blankets on twin beds. The pleasant smell of fresh fruit and ocean breeze permeated the air, not the heavy odor of dampness or mold, but Musee remarked it was artificial. Gaius took off his coat, heated water for tea on the spyrix-powered stove and set about questioning the Great Spirit.
Musee settled on the windowsill, having assumed an air of nonchalance, but underneath that impish innocence, Gaius felt a certain kind of desperation, which her gestures betrayed when he pretended he was not looking.
"I was flying around the city, seeking answers, and then I suddenly noticed you so it was a coincidence. I swear… You don't believe me? I see you don't… Did I even need reasons besides my desire to see you?"
"Musee, don't lie to me. Something is bothering you, that is all I know… and I don't mean my involuntary adventure."
She stubbornly maintained the air of injured innocence about her. "When I left the Spirit Land, I was worried because I observed a variety of unusual phenomena. I was worried about Milla, but I also rejoiced I would get a chance to see you again. No, you can't do anything for me, I have to cope with his task on my own… But I am glad."
She was so sincere that he almost laughed – at himself, at her, at their circumstances – because he was used to lies and pretense and even if she told the untruth, she did it naively, childishly and he liked her for it. But he did not know whether she would have acted in the same way towards Jude or Rowen or even a complete stranger; whether she understood what in altogether drew him to her and what it was that he wanted to protect. Frowning, Gaius loosened his tie and fixed his eyes on her. No vanity, no false arrogance; if naiveté ever caused harm, it was unwittingly.
"Is the weather always so unwelcoming in Elympios? Or is it just my luck?"
"Seasons are different here, fall and spring last longer, winter is very short. If you plan to stay here, you need to get used to it. Do you?" He didn't answer, but she understood him regardless. "Why?"
"Standing underneath that worn out shed, I thought they were the lucky ones, these people… absorbed in their routine, they never knew their ordinariness, their everyday life was about to come to an abrupt end. If Wingul and you helped me achieve my goal… all you see, it would cease to exist. But if we are to live in peace, they, too, become my responsibility and I cannot make decisions, understanding their world order from my limited perspective; I need to see it how they see it. Otherwise those who live in Riese Maxia will soon wish I succeeded. It's similar to your interest in human customs…"
"But they are human!"
Gaius faintly smiled. "It might seem confusing, but yes, they are human and yet we do not understand each other. Different choices lead to different outcomes, views are circumstantial, limited… what we do not understand or what we cannot control, we often fear… and fear begets the powerless hate. I would like to say, believe me, that nothing I've seen so far had fazed me, but that would be untrue."
"spyrix," Musee shivered, wrapping her arms around her shoulders. "I shudder at the mere thought of those of us who died so that they could use their phones."
"In hindsight, when my world is no longer threatened by the Exodus terrorists, I can understand Maxwell."
"I can't," she retorted sharply and anger flared up in her eyes. "Say what you wish, but Wingul meant a lot to you and for his undying loyalty you wouldn't abandon him."
"I betrayed alliances for the sake of the greater gain for my kingdom… but never those whose loyalty to my cause was unwavering. There isn't a more senseless action than wasting devotion which cannot be easily attained."
Musee shifted closer. "Tell me about Ajur."
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything!" She threw up her arms in excitement. "Your own words… isn't it why you came to Elympios?"
There was an avid gleam of curiosity in her eyes as she leaned forward and it was easy to mistake it, foolishly, for a different kind of interest.
"To tell you everything, I will need more than a few hours…"
His words elicited a smile from her. "We have plenty of time until morning." No, he wasn't utterly immune to a woman's charm, especially a woman like Musee.
"What if I say I will show it to you? We annually hold a fair in Khan Baliq and there you will see dwarfs performing circus tricks, people breathing fire and tamed fire teagels dancing for the man's whims… quite a fascinating sight," Gaius said warmly. "You can try our famous seafood dishes. The main square is lit up by a myriad of lights and they draw people in… lights and overwhelming gaiety. It is an integral part of our lives as much as GHS are a part of the Elympian culture. Among us, only Presa often attended fairs, Agria was aloof and unsocial, Wingul did not like the bustle, and Jiao… because of his unusual height, he was often mistaken for a member of a traveling circus and I knew such reception offended him."
"That sounds so awesome!" She clapped her hands, but there was something affected in her rapture and when his hand covered hers, she fell silent; then, recovering from sudden stupor, she twined her arm around his neck and fiddled with the collar of his shirt. Light blush covered her cheeks. "And you, Arst, did you go with them?"
"If I had time, yes, I did go… You would be surprised how much you can learn about your subjects in an informal atmosphere. And spirits can loosen a lot of tongues…"
"That's no fun at all. If you invite me, you can't have ulterior motives to spy on anyone or conclude governmental affairs." He listened to her response with half an ear. She began explaining something about the Spirit Land, but soon was alerted by his faraway look and terse answers. "Arst, is something the matter?" She asked, slightly confused, and that was when Gaius, thinking his desire was reciprocal, leaned forward and kissed her.
It was a mistake. She froze in his arms and then, in breathless suspense, drew forward, undoing the first button on his shirt, but as he pushed her lips open with a bit more passion, his hand instead of her waist found emptiness. There was a loud ding, Gaius leapt to his feet only to see a quick, like a streak of lightning, movement in the darkness outside the window and heaved a groan of frustration. What was Musee thinking? He looked outside, but all traces of the Great Spirit had vanished. The circumstances were reminiscent of the times she fled from him, but then he had means to chase after her and tonight he was not even certain he wanted to. He did nothing wrong as far as he was concerned; she was doubtlessly attracted to him and yet after his very first attempt to kiss her, she became unhinged. Her sudden outbursts befuddled him.
Gaius buttoned his shirt, twirled the tie in his fingers, discarded it after a moment's vacillation and slipped into his long coat which had not yet dried out. He clothed himself thoughtlessly, but no sooner had he pondered over his actions than he sank into the chair. He did not intend to cater to her whims; instead he would wait for her until morning - she'd come, he was certain of it – and listen to her explanation or excuse for such an unreasonable behavior.
What a whimsical creatures she was. Gaius could not recall a single lover who ran away from him after the first kiss.
Then another thought flashed in his mind. Trouble befell her when she could not think clearly, when, overwhelmed by emotions, she blindly obeyed her own deep and groundless fears. He promised Musee he would take care of her; no, he decided he would protect her because he had laid that duty upon himself willingly although at times she could be a nuisance.
But where did she go? Where should he begin looking for her? She would not return to the Central Station because she did not like the spyrix-powered trains, neither would she go towards the center of the city… but these conclusions could help only if he knew his way around. Frowning, Gaius hesitated for another moment, then waved his arm with irritation and leapt out of the broken window, heading in the vague direction of the Trigleph outskirts. Pale moonlight lulled the city to sleep and even the rainstorm had quieted down, once and again whimpering like a child in the hollows between edifices.
Long time ago, Karla and him snuck out of the house, risking their father's favor, but after he was crowned, his skills became rusty due to the obvious lack of practice; however, where he lacked skill, luck sometimes rescued him. Perhaps he had enough bad luck for one day because the circumstances took a favorable turn when he stumbled upon Musee only three blocks away from his hotel. He passed a jewelry store with dark windows and a small café and then the street widened, leading him to the park where, amidst the trees, he saw her. A large crowd of people surrounded her, among whom he noticed at least a dozen men in the uniforms of the local law enforcement personnel. Unnoticed, he approached and only then did he discern three bodies prostrated on the ground, a man cradling a woman in his arms and a corpse with a burnt face. The woman was coughing blood, drawing deep, painful, slow breaths. Her condition was hopeless, Gaius determined at once. The idlers must have gathered because of them, but Musee attracted too much attention and the throng swelled. The king of Riese Maxia pushed his way in as far as he could, turning a deaf ear to the curses and angry shouts which rang after him, and in the circle of light he noticed that both the man and the woman wore similar clothes which betrayed in them the inhabitants of Rashugal. In the meantime, Musee rose higher, arms outstretched, and screamed, "Get away from them!" Her finely wrought features were distorted by a grimace and suddenly Gaius realized what was about to transpire if the people of Elympios did not comply. And they didn't. A few bawlers drew their guns and aimed them at the winged figure in the sky with a unanimous shout, "Death to the foreigners!" Police intervened, however, and here the chaos and clamor would have waned if not for Musee. A dark sphere appeared above her head, the same one he witnessed to have destroyed entire ships, and, having pushed a bony man in a wrinkled suit aside, Gaius squeezed himself through the first row of spectators who, carelessly exposing themselves to danger, with avid curiosity observed the dramatic spectacle.
His hand reached for the sword and then he realized that on Rowen's advice he had come to Elympios unarmed. Confound it! He could not let her lose her senses and make a bloodbath in the street. Gathering his own power, he was prepared to shield them from the explosion if the Great Spirit decided to unleash her power upon him. Musee hesitated, he saw it in her green eyes, but the situation was altogether beyond his control.
There was a commotion behind his back. "He, too, is from that Riese Maxia! He has a mana lobe… Abomination!"
The police called to order in vain. Someone aimed a blow at him, the king crushed his wind-pipe with his palm, span around to disarm another loudmouth when the man who heretofore did not seem to pay attention to anyone but the dying woman in his arms, pushed him to the ground. The bullet, aimed at Gaius, hit him in the back. As the stranger fell on top of him, the king heard a faint whisper.
"Get out of here, I beg you, Your Majesty…"
The loud gunshot perplexed the crowd for a moment and it flooded back from the bodies.
"Arst!" Overhead rang Musee's heartrending cry. "Arst, no!"
Gaius rolled over and, wiping blood from his face, rose with a stagger, but it was too late. Musee's arte tore the bodies apart, scattering them across the small lawn, people ran every which way in fright and shots were fired. Then her burning gaze found the king, alive and unharmed, and she rushed to him.
"Arst, are you…" there unmistakably was relief in her voice, but he interrupted her at once.
"We need to go. Now!"
Gaius seized her elbow and dragged her towards the narrow alley, scarcely illumined by the street lights. Out of the corner of his eye, the king saw a few figures in dark uniforms detach from the crowd and follow them. There was something odd about their behavior, something he could not quite put a finger on, but decided to investigate.
"What is this commotion about?" He asked, quickening the pace. He knew Musee would effortlessly keep abreast of him, but refused to let go of her arm.
"Those men in dark uniforms tried to put spyrix handcuffs on the people from Riese Maxia, they refused, the fight ensued. That's all I've seen."
"They prevent those like you from tethering with Spirits. It was an awful sight…"
"Halt! You have nowhere to run!" Rang from behind and dark figures barred their only way to escape. Ahead of them the alley ended with a tall brick wall of a building.
"What are we going to do?" Asked Musee and between her palms Gaius recognized the flicker of cold blue flame.
"You are going to disappear and I am going to give myself up," he replied calmly.
"But I can…"
"Musee, trust me, I need to do it," he repeated more insistently and let go of her hand. She didn't move. "Go! Follow me and help me escape if you wish because I do not intend to stick around for the interrogation, but go!"
Finally she listened to the voice of reason and soared up, leaving him in the company of at least a dozen suspicious men. They did not belong to the local police, he was certain of it now.
"The Spirit escaped, but we got the other one," one of them said to an invisible interlocutor. Then he addressed Gaius. "You, show me your hands and don't move until we put handcuffs on you or you're dead. And don't even think about using your magic tricks on me. It," he shook something in front of the king's eyes, "will hurt a lot if you as much as try."
Gaius readily outstretched his arms and something warm with a faint clank closed around his wrists. Whoever captured him didn't lie, for even when he attempted to call forth his power, there was a stab of pain in his temples and pain he could bear if he felt he could use his mana lobe. Frowning, he stared at the simple handcuffs – a powerful and dangerous device.
"What's your name?" Continued the same voice – his captors wore helmets which concealed their features. It was an annoying, lisping voice, but by it Gaius could identify who was in charge. "I know you are from Riese Maxia, your magic tricks betray you wherever you go."
"What's your business in Trigleph? And that Spirit… there is something fishy about you, Arst… assuming, it's your real name, anyways."
Gaius narrowed his lids, amused and vexed at the same time at the irony of the situation. Perhaps he should sound more frightened or worried, but in his voice there was so much dignity and authority that only a fool would believe he was just passing by. "It's my first day in Elympios and I do not know your laws. I, like everyone else from Riese Maxia, decided to move to Trigleph in search of a new life." Fortunately, his suit and hair were spattered with liquid dirt and if his words did not convince them, his despondent look certainly did.
"Fine, take him to the main base, I am certain the boss from New Domovoy Company will want to talk to him."
It wasn't the first time he entered as a friend or a prisoner and left as a triumphant foe. The danger of truth was such that while it retained its desirability, its essence could be easily counterfeited, distorted and shaped according to the short-term needs of men.
Before the king allowed them to lead him away, he threw a glance back and amidst the trees in the distance he could have sworn he had seen Musee.
Faster and faster turn gears of time, orange sun melts like a wax candle, and two shadows on the moonlit path lean towards each other in fearless longing. 'I thought you wanted to see them again, Arst… Arst…'
"Arst, wake up!" Someone shook his shoulder and a moment later the same melodious voice whispered. "Don't pretend you cannot hear me!"
Gaius was jolted out of uneasy slumber and found Musee leaning over him with a concerned expression. Her fingers painfully clutched at his arm, handcuffs cut into his wrists which numbed after he lay in the same position for a while and his head ached. He morosely glared at the barren wall in front of him. "I'm fine," he then said in a toneless voice.
"We don't have much time," Musee was evidently distressed. "I had to kill three or four guards before I could get to you. Somehow you were concluded too important to be held captive on the same floor as everyone else… I am sure they heard me."
Gaius rose from the narrow bunk, hitting his head on the steel frame. "Ah!" He murmured. "What a loathsome place!"
As if to corroborate her words, a patter of feet was heard without followed by muffled voices and clanks of weapons being readied.
"Quickly, follow me!" She opened the dimension rift and he without a moment's hesitation jumped into the gaping black-and-blue hole. Indeed, he did not intend to await interrogation which threatened to reveal his true identity.
The king of all Riese Maxia found himself on the large rock which floated in the emptiness wherefrom thick mists rose, embracing its edges gently and wistfully. In the middle, there was a swell on the ground which resembled a small grave and near it stood a lone tree, outstretching its branches towards the vast of heavens. It somewhat resembled Maxwell's dwelling in the core of the Temporal Crossroads.
"Do you know where you brought me?" He asked once the tranquil sky above his head ceased spinning furiously, but to his words Musee only sheepishly shrugged. While he was striding along the thin edge of the rock, she settled on the thick branch and adamantly refused to climb down.
"This tree affords a fine view," her loud voice echoed overhead. Gaius closed his eyes and leaned against a tree trunk, feeling its warm, coarse bark under his fingers, like a hand of a hard-working farmer. There was a limit even to his seemingly infinite patience. Besides, his fiasco to kiss her was not among his immediate concerns; the New Domovoy Company whose employees dared to lay a hand on his people was and so was his inability to contact Rowen. His GHS showed at least ten missed calls from his Prime Minister and at this rate Rowen would send an army for his rescue. What a terrible misfortune that would be. "So… did you find out who those people worked for?"
"Yes, I did. If my misgivings are correct, they are supplying the Exodus terrorists. And these spyrix handcuffs," he shook his numb wrists, "are extremely effective and dangerous. The only advantage we have over their superior technology is our abilities, but we lose it at once if they begin producing these devices."
"You sound concerned."
"What worries me more is the lack of contact with my Prime Minister. If I do not find a way to call him, I am afraid all my efforts to negotiate peacefully will be set at naught. Can you return us to Elympios?"
"I… I might, but…"
"Musee," he said sternly, "I need to speak to Rowen. I am not going to reproach you for running away…"
"You won't? Honestly? It's not that I didn't want to… I don't even know what you did!" She slipped off the branch and hovered above his head, covering her cheeks with both palms, but he could see the poignant blush through her fingers. "If you want to talk to your Prime Minister, I can show you how… here, all you need to do is find his number and press a button."
"Wait, didn't you say you didn't know how use a GHS?"
Musee unsuccessfully tried to suppress a giggle. "I knew you'd never come with me if you found your hotel. But it was a harmless lie and you like me so I also knew you'd forgive me."
Gaius gazed at her in mute perplexity. So much for naiveté… She was right in her own way, but he was not going to admit it. Instead he dialed Rowen's number and explained him the circumstances of his sudden disappearance, having assured him that he was unharmed. He did not mention anything about Exodus as it was too early to draw conclusions and bid him farewell after the Prime Minister gave him the address of that ill-fated inn.
"I barely averted a disaster," he said cheerlessly, trying to shove the GHS into his pocket in handcuffs. "I must go."
She carelessly waved her arm and pointed an accusatory finger at him. Then, as if remembering something, she blushed with shame again and averted her face.
"Humph, you have nothing to say."
"Wearing these handcuffs must hurt," suddenly she touched the metal rings and winced from pain. Gaius took a step backwards, at a girt freeing his hands from hers, but she already removed the shackles somehow and, paling, sank onto the ground. "S-spyrix…" There she remained seated, her head drooping down, as though she was about to fall asleep, and when she spoke again, her voice was faint. "I wanted to be accepted… that's why… But all of it is untrue, isn't it?.. Give me your power, Arst, and I will open the portal to Elympios."
He nodded because from her incoherent babbling he understood only the last request. It was like breathing, simple and natural, and for a moment, when he tethered with her directly, he felt her whole – her hunger, her fire, her burden.
"You owe me a wish," he said at parting with the faintest of smiles and it seemed to him that Musee understood what he meant.
In Trigleph, the day was breaking.