"Hey, you still thinkin' about what that guy said? Back in the bar?" Karsh's voice sounded hoarse and straggled against the cold cries of the wind. He pulled the stark black of the official Dragoon overcoat tighter to his sore body that had been worked fresh with the brusque training of this morning, and stared curiously at Dario.
The Zenan continent felt different, even for their strongest warrior, Zoah, whose profound homesickness he nursed greater than any of them there. It was October third and Dario should have been celebrating what would have been his twenty-second birthday, but instead, he was stationed outside of El Nido doing some of the hardest militant combat training he had yet to encounter during his years as a Deva.
Dario bristled at Karsh's words. In an attempt to make up for his unconventional birthday situation, Karsh had taken him out to celebrate. Things had gone relatively well up until a strange man had decided to toast their liege and the former glory of its past Devas. Dario's father had been one of those former Devas, and it wasn't the tasteless homage to El Nido's deceased soldiers that had soured Dario's mood.
"Are you even listenin' to me, Dario?" Dario's head had flinched in Karsh's direction at having been pulled from his thoughts, and he nodded absentmindedly as he felt the first unseasonable snow fall. October snow… among other unlikely things, Dario had thought to himself.
"Yeah… yeah, I'm listening to you."
"What I say then?" Karsh challenged good-humoredly. Dario smiled, the whites of his canines glinting under the moonlight as he hung his head downwards and slid his hands further into his coat pockets.
"You said… you said-"
"Yeah, thought as much," Karsh laughed, nudging Dario forward with his shoulder. "Seriously though," he continued, the amber of his eyes settling as he looked at his friend with an uncharacteristically serious face, "You're ok, right?"
"How do you think he knew?" Dario asked suddenly, similarly to a young boy whose reluctance to unfasten his grip on something is obvious in spite of himself. Karsh sighed; he knew the incident at the bar was plaguing his friend.
"Knew what?" Karsh asked skeptically.
"How did he know about my father?"
"He didn't know about your dad, Dario. It was a lucky guess, come on. We're Devas, the chances of one of us knowing all the old legends and former Devas is pretty likely."
"But he didn't know we were Devas."
"He didn't have to. Isn't it relatively likely that most Dragoons are familiar with the former Devas? Heck, half of Termina nearly shits their pants when one of them is mentioned. I mean, their practically goddamn royalty, who doesn't know about them?"
"But my point is, Karsh, why mention what he mentioned at all?" Dario countered. Karsh sighed at his friend's persistence. He knew where this conversation was going, just like he knew why Dario was eager to latch onto whatever information about his father that would blow his way. In reality, Karsh felt bad for Dario, for losing his dad the way he did. At twelve, no child should have to bury their parent the way Dario had to; it still remained one of the most painful memories he had of his best friend.
"He was just a loon, Dario, a crack, a nut. He was a vagrant bum who you met by chance. He was crazy."
"But what if he wasn't," came Dario's quiet response, his own conviction half fleeting as he struggled to grasp onto the pieces he tried to make fit.
"You really believe that?"
"He mentioned the Masamune, Karsh." Karsh sighed and looked to the ground that was fast collecting freshly powdered snow. They had been walking for longer than he realized.
"Everyone this side of Zenan knows about the Masamune."
"Yeah, but only a handful of people actually saw the Masamue, and out of that handful only two or three people have held it. My dad was one of them, Karsh, you know that." Karsh had always had to tread on delicate ground when it came to Dario and his incomplete childhood. Things had been hard for Dario, harder than he often let on to other people, but Karsh knew the true extents to which Dario's father's death had on him, even until this day.
The Masamune had been known for centuries as a legendary warrior's sword. Only the bravest and most courageous soldiers were worthy enough to lay eyes on the iconic symbol of status, and even then, among those men only the strongest could wield it. The sword often fell in and out of obscurity, but none who tamed its legendary power lived to tell their tale of conquest. Much of the same fate had been promised to Garai, Dario's father, who, upon unearthing it in the belly of some ferociously deep caverns, had fallen victim to the legend's fate and died. Directly following his death, the sword had taken its leave once again, and its location remains a mystery even still to this day.
The gruesome details surrounding Garai's death had been far and few between. Once Garai had been laid to rest, Dario was left with a legacy of death so heavily veiled in mystery and suspicion that his inability to accept the half-truths whispered to him as a child was still very much apparent. Karsh knew that somewhere deep in Dario's heart that had been prematurely asked to grow up, was an inherently childish desire to believe that if he could find the sword, he could put the right answers to all of the half-truths he had known all his life. In some very emotionally stunted part of the grown, gallant man that was Dario, he sought to right the wrongs he could not fix as a child.
"Yeah…" Karsh started slowly, careful to not patronize the now adult Dario, but also careful to mind the inevitable child that resided somewhere inside of him, "He did. Mention the sword, I mean. But a lot of people know about the sword, a lot of people know… that your dad was the last person known to historians to have actually held the sword… so, the chances that it was a coincidental conversation are pretty high, wouldn't you say?"
They had suddenly taken a turn, and before Karsh realized it, they were back at base. Dario was latching up the bolts to the door as they stood inside of the heated room before he turned to Karsh with a look that Karsh knew Dario did not where frivolously. Dario had looked to Karsh, in fact, to be the picture of clarity and rationality. The blue in his eyes was mild and steady, firm like the hand the gripped Karsh's arm in polite rebuttal. Dario had never seemed as sure as anything in his life as he had then, and the change in demeanor had quite frankly startled Karsh.
"Do you really believe in coincidences, Karsh? I mean, really and truthfully? That we all wander this planet for a few some-odd years and then poof, we're gone, with our lives having absolutely no purpose, no meaning, no direction even in the least? Do you really believe in a life… so abstract?" Karsh was silent for a moment. Dario had always been the level-head rationalist of the group. To hear him question the meaning of life so fervently had been a deep-seated conviction he must have nursed in only the furthest recesses of his mind. The confession had nearly made Karsh want to cradle Dario as close as a best friend could, because the untethering of a mind was a maddening but beautiful transformation to bear witness to.
"Well… I don't know," was the ineloquent answer Karsh gave him instead. "Maybe… some things, I guess."
"Do you think the two of us meeting was by chance?" Dario pushed. Karsh paused and he thought no. Dario had been there through far too much for him to have come into his life by chance.
"No, no I don't think we met by chance, Dario. I think… we needed each other," Karsh replied in a low, almost reverent voice.
"We needed each other. Precisely, Karsh, we needed each other. And do you know what I need?" Karsh was silent, but he had a feeling he knew what Dario needed most in his life. "I need closure, Karsh. I need an answer. I need… something, something more than I've been given my whole life, that I've had to give Glenn because… I just didn't know. I didn't know anything, and I was expected to father my brother. In our greatest times of need, Karsh… we're given things, and I don't intend to waste it." With that, Dario had turned around, unbolted all of the fastenings on the doors, and had stalked back from where they came.
"Where are you going?" Karsh yelled out to him, jogging to keep up with him as best he could.
"Back to the bar." Karsh didn't ask for what reason, he already knew. Perhaps, he thought to himself as walked silently beside one of the most unsuspecting, zealously adamant men he had ever known in his life, perhaps Dario was right. Perhaps there were no such things as coincidences, and perhaps the answers people seek in life are actually right in front of them, if they only looked just a little harder. He didn't know what this would yield for his friend, but he knew that he would not abandon him in his time of need, and he hoped, that if he looked hard enough with Dario, he could help him find whatever answers it was he so desperately searched for.