No Matter What
A.N: This fanfic was inspired by a picture from HALTO on pi xi v. ne t ( ww w . pi xi v . (n et) / member_ il lus t. p h p ? mode=medium&illust_id = 29361685). Special thanks to the awesome fiammadellosqualo, who has very kindly translated the kanji on the picture as well as betaed this story. Seriously, you're the best ;)
Disclaimer: I obviously don't own ToV and its characters, for they all rightfully belong to Namco Bandai.
Happy New Year and enjoy the reading!
Yuri had a bad feeling since early that morning. He hadn't a clue why nor what it really was, but something didn't fit right.
It began right after he woke up, nervousness unwilling to leave his guts.
It hadn't helped when an Imperial Guard knocked on his door and handed him a letter from none other than his best friend, Flynn. The letter requested they meet at the Lower Quarter's Fountain at midnight. Now that was weird. Not only did Flynn rarely send him letters when they were both only half an hour away from each other, but the message itself also felt nothing like what the blonde would request. What in the world would Flynn want from him in the middle of the night? Couldn't he just quickly come over and explain the matter?
Yuri sighed, embittered. That was Flynn for you, always making things even more complicated than they already were.
The annoying nervousness didn't fade away one bit though. I must still be too tired he thought. Not that it really surprised him, after having spent the entire previous night with Raven and Judith, whom recent visit at Zaphias had aroused the former captain to celebrate with ginger ale until he had to be kicked out of the bar. Yuri didn't have any problems with alcohol, not to mention he'd been careful not to drink too much that night, but handling a completely drunken Raven and a teasing Judith for hours could be proven exhausting to no end.
The vigilante shook his head, unwilling to spoil his day even more. For now, he needed to pay Hanks a visit, to which he'd promised to come by and help out a little with a few broken tiling.
He stretched and crawled Repede's furry head "Come on Repede, you know how impatient old Hanks can get."
"Woof~" the canine agreed and jumped on his paws, following his master's lead.
It had taken a good few hours to fix the tilling because of a certain lack of tools, which they had to afford first before getting back to the task. In the meantime, Ted and some other children had stuck around and excitedly claimed wanting to help too, to which the long haired man had smiled fondly. It was so refreshing and comforting to know the Lower Quarter's people hadn't changed since his childhood, and had stayed as nice and helpful as always.
After finally being finished, he and Repede decided to go for a little walk, having nothing better to do. Yuri took a deep breath of air, enjoying the cool breeze of this late afternoon. The weather had been getting colder these days, as winter was approaching rather quickly. The sun was already pretty low, but the landscape still offered a beautiful sight, he found.
Sitting on a bank with Repede at his feet, they both fell silent and enjoyed the view. Even after having been quite busy all day, the unnerving feeling of apprehension had persisted and didn't seem to be leaving any time soon. Thinking back at Flynn's letter, he felt his stomach tighten and wondered once again what he could possibly want to tell him. That guy, I swear…
As evening drew near, he made his way back to the inn, where he hoped to forget about that night by helping out at the kitchen like he occasionally does. Indeed, the knot in his insides seemed to loosen a little as he joked with some already drunken costumers and his mother-like host. He'd always feel at home there, no matter how old he was or what he'd been gone through.
Unfortunately the fun didn't last long, for the innkeeper told him he had already done enough for the night. She glared at him as he was about to protest, but soon gave him a warm smile and patted his head like she had done so many times when he was little, assuring him it was okay and let the sleepy Repede stay the night.
The night was fresh enough to give him brisk as cold breezes brushed over his skin. I guess I should be going now. It was shortly before midnight, and as he made his way to their meeting place, his anxiety came back torturing his nerves. Each step made him feel even more nervous, and that frustrated him to no end.
What the hell was wrong with him? Sure, Flynn's request was anything but normal, but nothing dramatic had happened until now and he really didn't see how that would change.
Spotting his best friend was easy, his blonde hair shining despite the night's darkness. Only the moon's faint glow served as light, but his armor and bright tuft of hair distinguished themselves remarkably. Yuri gulped and approached Flynn, who was sitting at the fountain, absentmindedly star gazing.
"Hey there, Commandant. So, what's so important you'd need to keep me awake in the middle of the night?" he greeted, putting up his trademark smirk in order to hide his inner struggle not to jump at his friend and harrass him with questions.
He frowned though as the latter turned to face him, his expression more resolute than ever. Yuri knew all of his serious, stern and angry faces better than anyone, he has had enough experience with the blonde in a lifetime to recongnize if something was off just by one single look. And something was definitely off this time.
"Something the matter?" he cocked an eyebrow and placed a hand on his hip, wondering why the other had kept silent until now. Normally he'd already have started blabbering out whatever he wanted him to come for. His gaze however seemed to be studying him, as if he was calculating his reactions. He must have come to some sort of conclusion, for the knight shook his head and placed a smile upon his lips.
"No, it's nothing, sorry. I was just deep in thoughts" he explained.
"Spacing out like that isn't like you, Flynn. Maybe you should quit that workaholic attitude of yours and take some time to think about your damn health" he scolded, though there was obvious concern in his voice. The other merely waved it off.
"I'm fine, don't worry. But anyway, I didn't call you out to discuss my working shedule"
Yuri rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. So what's up?" He was getting a little tired and hoped their chat wouldn't last too long.
To his surprise, Flynn looked back at the night sky, a melancholic expression on his face. "Do you remember that promise we made, the one to change this world for the better, wether our choices lead us to go separate paths or to make sacrifices?"
The swordsman frowned deeply at that. Alright, something was really wrong with his childhood friend, and he didn't have any idea what. Yet.
"You sure you're alright? Of course I remember. Why wouldn't I?"
"Heh, right…" the other murmured and rubbed his neck, as if talking to himself.
Yuri scowled. He didn't like how nervous and unsure his friend behaved, not at all. Such was too unusual to be ignored. Taking a few more steps, he gently shook the other's shoulder.
"Flynn…? What's going on? Tell me."
His grave look troubled Yuri, more than anything.
"Will you promise me to stay here, no matter what? To protect our people when I can't?"
Taken aback, the long haired man startled. "What the hell are you talking about? What do you mean 'when you can't'?" he mumbled, confused.
The weird feeling he had felt since this morning became almost painful. Oh no, he didn't like that at all.
"You said you remembered our promise. Can I trust you to fulfill our goal, whatever happens?"
"Dammit, Flynn! Quit talking such nonsense and tell me just what the fuck you want from me!" he snapped.
"I want you," he started, "to be there for our people once I won't be around anymore to do so."
"Once you- what's that again supposed to mean? You're not thinking about running away or something, are you?"
"Of course not!"
"Then why are you saying such a thing?!" He didn't care if he was shouting now, his anguish slowly melted to anger. This guy is gonna drive me nuts, he thought, irked.
The blonde sighed, resigned. "Alright. A few weeks ago, some knights reported abnormal events happening in the area between Deidon Hold and Quoi Woods. At first they were simply increased monster activities, but very quickly those went totally berserk, blindly attacking villages in the nearest sectors."
"That's no big deal, we've had that sort of cases before and those just might be caused by a too large growth of some sort of aer-like magic or so. Ask Rita about it, she'll know for sure what's going on there, as I know her" Yuri interrupted.
Flynn shook his head "We've already consulted many mages about it, but there was no such as any magical substance detected there. Furthermore, the monsters haven't restricted themselves to ravage only these areas, but have began to spread their attacks towards Halure and some of them might make their way to the capital if nothing is done"
"I still don't see how that is a problem. Why don't you send your shiny knights to wipe them out before they even get there?" He crossed his arms in light annoyance. This was seriously getting ridiculous.
"It's not that simple, Yuri" Flynn frowned. "This we could handle. The problem is, testimonies have also reported about humans, most likely terrosrists, helping or even recruting these monsters, which seem to have gained much more strenght and aggressivity than ever before by using unknown powers. Unfortunately, we're still very short on information"
"Your point is?"
Flynn sighed "My point is, I will have a patrol investigate these areas to neutralize the enemy before they get to cause more casualties. I myself will of course be part of it, but I strongly hope this will be enough, considering our lack of information regarding their number or strength." The blonde closed his eyes for a brief moment, hesitating to continue. "Now...this is where I need you, Yuri. I need someone whom I can trust the security of the capital to in case...in case the worst comes to happen." he finally let out, close to whispering and meeting Yuri's alarmed gaze.
"Wait, hold on a sec, when you say 'the worst', you don't mean-"
He abruptly stopped, eyes widening in understanding. Breathing suddenly became utterly difficult as Yuri's insides twisted painfully and he slowly began to realize the meaning of his friend's implications. No, that wasn't right. He must have misunderstood what had just been said, right?
But Flynn's grim expression told him otherwise, and the long haired man balled his fist tightly in order not to lose his composure.
"You're...joking right?" He murmured through his teeth "This is all but a fucking joke!"
"I'm afraid not, Yuri." was the only answer he got, quiet but firm.
Upon hearing such resolve in the knight's voice, he snapped. "Are you mad?! Going with such little information at hand is more than insane! This doesn't resemble you at all!"
"I don't have much choice Yuri. We cannot wait until they get to hurt more people than they already have."
"But what about you Flynn? Do you have any idea what might happen to you?!"
"As the Commandant, it is my duty to prioritize the citizen's safety before anything else and at any cost" Despite the vigilante's growing anger, Flynn managed to remain calm, for his decision was already made.
"Quit the bullshit for a minute will you?! You can't expect me to listen to your pretty plans and stay here knowing you're off to your death!"
Yuri was fuming, which was something he did very seldomly. He himself wondered why he was reacting this violently, but quickly blamed his fatigue for his lack of self-control. For the moment, he had to somehow knock this suicidal idea out of his best friend's stubborn head.
He was about to protest further when he was cut off by a smile - a simple smile. It contained a kind of sadness Yuri had rarely witnessed, only digging further this hole beginning to form within his chest. The smile didn't reach the blonde's eyes as he bitterly chuckled, a pained expression on his usually bright face.
"I knew you were going to react like this..."
If anything, this only fueled the dark haired's rage. How the hell could Flynn stay this calm? He was endangering his very life and was acting as if he didn't care the least!
The swordsman felt his throat tighten in a whirl of emotions, so much he couldn't utter a single word while his mind raced to process a way to dissuade the other male, in vain.
A heavy silence weighed on their hearts, more meaningful than any quarrel.
Yuri understood Flynn's resolve would not waver, but his own core bled at the idea of letting him go. How could he be expected to swallow it and carry on? He'd known him since early childhood, when all they had was each other's warmth and company to survive. They had been enough to become one at a certain point, neither feeling whole when they were apart. Never had he really pondered over the idea of Flynn not being around anymore, as his mere closeness felt natural and obvious. Never once had Yuri not felt his best friend's presence somewhere within the back of his mind and heart. He knew that no matter what happened, Flynn would always be there.
How was he supposed to cope with the dreadful emptiness his definite absence would leave once he'd be gone?
Looking down, he did not have the courage to face those determined, blue orbs anymore.
"...Is this some lame attempt of yours to say goodbye...?" he growled quietly, hiding his face behind his silky dark bangs.
Flynn opened his mouth to answer, but soon gave up in defeat, not knowing how to word his dolorous intentions. His silence was more than eloquent. Instead, he frowned upon noticing Yuri's slight shaking, and his somber expression became a concerned one. Taking a step closer, he hesitantly reached for his friend.
"Yuri? Are- are you alright?"
"Do I look alright? Of course not you jerk!" the latter shouted, slapping off the knight's gesture. His shaking increased by both fury and strain. Even when his life was at stake did the blonde worry about him...this was infuriating. Not caring about self-control anymore, he grabbed Flynn by the collar.
"You were supposed to create an uncorrupted Empire!" he hissed darkly "You are the hope everyone clings on to. You asked me earlier if I remembered our promise, but do you at all? We swore we'd protect our people by changing this world together-"
"...No matter what it would take. And this is exactly what I am doing Yuri, I will not allow enemies to hurt our people. This is something have to do in order for this world we vowed to improve to remain safe and sound."
"And how is it supposed to stay this way when you're not here anymore?! I'm not fit for the job, you of all should know that. There will always be rats such as Ragou or Cumore to abuse their power on others. You're able to prevent this Flynn, so don't you dare consider dying, you hear me?!"
The knight didn't know what to say. A sorrowful, half-hearted smile graced his lips as he saw how much pain actually shined in his best friend's dark eyes, sending waves of guilt piercing through his chest. Of course he had anticipated the other to disapprove of his decision, but had never thought it'd hurt this much. He himself was reluctant to think of dying, but as the Commandant he carried a burden not even Yuri would be able to release him from. He had responsibilities, and his duty was to protect his people no matter what it took, thus having to take risks. No matter how frightening it sounded, he had to take every possible outcome into account.
How could Yuri not understand this? He had yelled at him often enough for the other to know by now just how much he had to sacrifice for the sake of the citizen's, the world's safety. Naturally, the raven haired male would never fully grasp the meaning and weight of the path he quit years ago.
Even though he had prepared for their last encounter, Flynn found himself slowly losing the cool composure he'd built up. This was just Yuri's effect on him; no matter how hard he would try, the other would always succeed in getting past his walls and reach him where no one else could.
Shaking his head in light irritation, he freed himself from Yuri's grip.
"Look, I don't have a choice! Believe me I'd rather not die either, but I have a duty as an Imperial Knight to fulfill, and I intend to do what I believe is keeping everyone safe!" he raised his voice.
"But you're human too, Flynn! You aren't an indestructible machine!"
"I never pretended to be one!"
"Then stop this absurdity and think it over! You selfish jerk, have you even thought of the people you're important to?!" Yuri yelled, infuriated.
"What do you mean?" the blonde blinked in confusion.
"You're really thick, aren't you?" he mocked humorlessly. "...How do you think would Estelle react? What about Sodia, Witcher, Hanks, Ted?!..."
Covering his expression with his bangs once again, Yuri lowered his head and took a shaky breath. His balled fists loosened, his voice laced with bitter distress.
"...What about me?" the question was but a quivering whisper, barely audible despite the night's frozen stillness.
Yuri was cursing himself for showing such weakness in front of his friend and rival, his pride surely taking a few harsh blows. Without him being able to stop them, tears were beginning to form in his eyes for the first time in many years, realization slowly sinking in. His tiredness must have taken quite a toll in him. Still, the other half of his mind didn't care anymore, for all he knew was that his oldest and dearest friend was about to leave for his death and he had no clue how to prevent it. At this point, nothing seemed to matter anymore.
"Yuri..." Flynn on his side was at loss for words, even more so when his childhood friend raised his gaze, eyes watering and shimmering with sadness. Never before had he witnessed such open vulnerability from the other, as he always seemed to keep his feelings for himself. Even though the blonde knew to read past this facade as easily as Yuri did with him, his current displayed pain was something he had only observed twice in the entire time he knew the world's savior.
In that moment, Flynn felt his determination waver ever so slightly. Truth be told, deep down he was terrified at the idea of dying, as any other human would be. Even more at the thought of never seeing the people he cherished most, in particular Yuri, who had been his closest and dearest support for all these years.
The knight didn't want to leave their side for the world; he wanted to keep seeing Lady Estellise's gracious smile, Sodia's rare but cute blushes, Witcher's energetic enthusiasm, Hank's and Ted's warm and happy expressions, but most of all the mere reassuring presence of his best friend. While he did his best at fixing the Empire's flaws from the inside, he knew he had someone watching his back, as he did the same with great pleasure.
Thinking back at all these precious faces only reinforced Flynn's resolve to keep them all safe.
He had to stay realistic and shouldn't hope too much, as they hardly knew about the enemy's battle capacities, but he would certainly stay strong and true to his resolution. He didn't do this for himself or the Empire; he did it for his family.
But at the same time, his pulse raced a little quicker than usual and he felt his heart plummet upon meeting Yuri's hurt gaze. He noticed how much the latter was shaking and struggling to keep his tears from falling. He had seen so many expressions falter his graceful traits, knew all of his smirks and glares by heart. This rare one sufficed to shatter the courage he had been hoping to display before his friend.
"You selfish jerk..." Yuri repeated in a murmur, looking back into those clear azure orbs and pulling the knight out of his thoughts. His gaze was filled with woe as he whispered.
"Don't you care about what I feel?"
All of a sudden, Flynn's whole body felt extremely heavy, chest aching furiously. Somehow those few words had struck him more than anything. Yuri looked so frail, tired and sensitive at that moment, which was a really unusual sight. The blonde's protective instinct resurfaced and he took one final step to embrace the man he knew better than himself.
Yuri did not seem to mind the unexpected gesture, nor the rough feeling of the Commandant's armor on his torso as he clutched to his friend's fabric for dear life. He did not care if he looked pathetic or miserable, for all he needed was a proof of Flynn's presence, resulting in another heart-ache as he knew this could be the last.
Since when have I become that much of a pessimist? He thought bitterly.
The blonde's arms tightened around the swordsman's waist. He closed his eyes as he replied painfully.
"Of course I do, idiot, more than anything. But this is the path I've chosen, you won't make me change my mind. I'm doing this to protect all of you, Yuri."
"And who's gonna protect you, ever thought about that?" came the silent answer.
Flynn put a little distance between them and joined their foreheads, gently cupping Yuri's face as serious azure met hurt coal.
"You're a part of me no matter what happens, got it? Stay safe and I will be too."
Yuri had given up trying to hold back his tears, now rolling over his cheeks.
Flynn chuckled shabbily. "I didn't think I'd ever see you cry again", to which he received a half-hearted glare.
"You're crying too, stupid"
And indeed, he hadn't noticed the silent, wet trails flowing down his face. Not that he cared anyway.
"Guess we're both idiots then" he sighed, unwilling to part from their togetherness.
"When are you leaving?" Yuri asked quietly, though unenthused to know the answer.
Flynn sighed. "Tomorrow, first thing in the morning"
The vigilante winced almost unremarkably.
Both fell silent, merely looking in each other's eyes, expressing what they couldn't out loud. This had been their own way to understand each other for years, knowing the other so well they could tell what their partner meant trough one single gaze; they exchanged all of their worries and doubts in a way no one else would ever share.
After a while, Flynn reluctantly pulled away. It instantly felt colder once they parted, both already missing the closeness that has been infrequent as of late.
Words weren't needed anymore, and the knight slowly started to move back. Immediately, Yuri grabbed his wrist on an impulse, looking away.
It wasn't in his habits to be this persistent, but it was the last and only thing he thought of to hold back his friend.
Flynn didn't go further, but didn't move closer either. He sighed, frustrated at how ridiculously difficult their parting was.
He looked back into Yuri's eyes, his own echoing a quiet plea.
"Please...let go. Do it for me."
Never cutting the eye contact, the raven haired felt his fingers go limp and his grip loosen, letting Flynn's wrist slip out of his grasp. The sole motion sent his heart sinking as his best friend gave him the same sad smile, meant to be reassuring.
"See you, then."
Yuri gulped and shakily tried to smile back "Yeah, see ya around."
The blonde nodded and slowly moved back again, glancing one last time at his friend before turning around and making his way back to the castle.
The swordsman's smile soon faded, as well as a part of himself. And while his gaze never left his best friend's back, the dreadful feeling returned painfully.
As soon as Flynn's silhouette disappeared into the city's darkness, Yuri knew.
He would never meet those loved, blue eyes again.