-Golbez! We… did it! –
Cecil’s thoughts rang across the calm surface of the Sygnus awareness. Now that the battle was over, they were slowly drawing apart in mind once more.
We did, didn’t we?
There was little joy in the fact. Ben couldn’t figure out why defeating the Dark Sygnus made him I feel that he had done something awful.
Did you hear him? The way he said her name?
Luccious had knelt down to the little girl. She had reached out to him. And the Dark Sygnus had wept.
In the end… he was someone mixed up in a cruel fate. Not so different than us…
-Except he gave into the Hatred that consumed him… and then the world. Golbez, don’t forget the fate of Father’s people was his doing. And Joran.-
Ben’s eyes fell on the motionless shape near the damp pool of blood. A pang of deep emotion gripped his spirit. The battle had given him time and distance from the reality. But now it was all coming back to him.
A shadow fell across the dark crimson glass. Ben looked up, remembering that they were not alone. Their companions were there, waiting. But they were acting strange — no one dared to look at them. No one dared to move. Their breathing was shallow as if they did not wish to be heard at all. It was too hard to bear.
“Cecil…?” Rosa finally gathered herself together, the first to break the silence. Her expression was tormented with longing, tracks from her tears clear upon her cheeks. Her eyes were rimmed red with the worry and shock of a woman who had thought she had just seen her husband die.
Ben could feel the twisting fear rush through his brother.
Just open your arms to her.
Uncertain, Cecil did, “Rosa. I…”
That was all she needed to hear — she was wrapped in his arms instantly. He stroked the hair out of her eyes, the dark-tipped wings curling around her protectively.
“Wings,” she whispered, peering up at him with hazy eyes, “Your wings are really pretty…”
The others were slowly approaching, a wariness about them.
“Cecil? Is that you?” Kain gave a skeptical look. His face was bandaged along one side, the cloth stained red.
“And Golbez?” Rydia stared up, echoing the Dragoon’s tone.
“What’s is that thing?” Edge crept forward, warily gripping his swords.
“Edge,” Rydia caught his arm. “It’s all right. I think it’s… Sygnus.”
“Sygnus?” he choked. Then a strange sadness crossed his features. “Who?”
“Who? Sygnus who? Cecil or Golbez?” the Ninja repeated. He swallowed, then drew his tongue over his lips. “Who… died?”
“No one did,” Sygnus replied slowly.
“But, then how?” Edge stared, baffled.
“Somehow their spirits have merged together,” Rosa’s blue eyes bore deep concern.
Edge took a breath. He looked at Sygnus. Then he frowned. “That’s seriously screwed up!”
“Edge… hush!” Rydia punched him in the arm lightly.
Their chatter rose around Ben, but his own mind was far away. Something still felt undone. As if there was something left to do… only, he couldn’t grasp what it was.
-Do you feel that too?- Cecil asked.
Yes. I wonder what it means.
-I wish I knew. I wish I knew what happens to us now.-
I don’t know. Sygnus came so fast. And now that the battle is over, what do we do?
As if response to the thoughts, a warm gentle light bathed down upon Sygnus, reaching to him from somewhere vast and unknown. Within the light there was an awareness, so far beyond any that he had ever felt. He trembled slightly, but for the sake of the others, fought to remain outwardly calm.
A voice came to him. Only it was not a voice. It was more like birdsong.
He could see her shape within the stream of light, outlined faintly. Her face and body were featureless, but he got the impression of long hair draping in luminous waves around her face. She looked up him and smiled. A sad smile of recognition.
Sparrow’s broken voice echoed through the hall for the first time, “Zeni…”
Zeni? She’s one of the Trine!
~Suzume,~ the light spoke. ~ Your time of rest will come soon.~
“Yes, I know. I’m ready,” the girl lifted her head, fighting back tears. “Lucci’s gone… there’s nothing left here for me anymore.”
~Please don’t cry. Everything will be alright,~ Zeni told her, touching the winged girl gently on the head. The two stood there for a long while before the light turned her attention back towards the Sygnus.
Not knowing what else to do before a member of the Trine, he slowly knelt.
~Please,~ she coaxed gently. ~You don’t need to do that. You were the one that avenged our brother.~
He looked up slowly.
~Sygnus. My time here is short. But my sister and I… we wished to offer you a gift in return for all you have done.~
~Yes. We wish to offer you a place with us. At our side. To fill the void in the Trine… where your ancestor once stood.~
Rosa uttered a broken sound.
“To go with you?” He began to shake, mouth growing dust-dry.
What do we say?
-I… don’t know.-
How do we turn down the offer from one of the Trine?
-Turn her down?- Cecil’s tone was incredulous. –What are you talking about?-
Ben felt cold in the pit of his stomach. W-we are going to decline, right?
-Decline? But… This… this… must be our destiny! This is where everything has been leading us all along!-
What about the others? What about Baron? For Shiva’s sake — what about Rosa?
There was a deep conflict. And something that just didn’t feel right.
-If we were given this power to protect the world… it’s our DUTY.-
But, Rosa loves you!
-And I love her too. I love her so much I would protect her. I would protect everyone!-
Cecil… I can’t believe you’re saying this!
-Don’t you feel it? Don’t you hear it? It’s destiny, Golbez. This is what we were born for! How can you deny fate?-
Ben could not find words to answer. Cecil’s statement sounded so similar to what Luccious had said. Scarily similar. Yet, what else could he do but to let Cecil have his way?
“Kain,” Sygnus began slowly, “I want you to take good care of Rosa.”
“Cecil! No… no.. no! Please… please… no!” a look of horror marred the white mage’s soft features. She reached for him, clutching his cloak and running her hands over his armored shoulders.
“Rosa. This… is something I have to do,” he tried to explain. Failing.
She shook her head mutely, tears stinging her eyes.
Kain’s face was a mask of confusion and torment. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words.
~Sygnus~ Zeni urged. ~We do not have much time.~
Sygnus nodded. Then he took a step toward the light, turning his back to them. To the world he had known.
Suddenly, there was a piercing cry from behind, “Cecil! No! Please don’t leave me alone!”
Ben drew in a hissing breath between his teeth. The words. They had been his own words to Joran. Images shattered behind his vision…. the girl slumped in a pool of blood. Onyx run through her. The gentle smile as she stared into the face of death. Her body dropping limp into his arms. And his own cry– Please don’t leave me alone..!
NO! I can’t… I can’t let this happen! I…
Before he could make sense of things, the light consumed Sygnus. It was a warm, pulsing current that rose through his very soul. His green eyes cast skyward to the waiting presence. There he found a deep, lulling peace waiting. True balance. Real being.
Zeni’s voice washed over them, ~Is that your decision, Sygnus?~
At the sound of the word, a burning pain shot through his body. Tremendous pain. Ben could feel the cry bubbling within his chest. He could hear another voice — Cecil’s voice, far away. It, too, was wailing.
A cold, heavy feeling churned within his stomach. Then the sickening feeling of falling — falling fast and leaving everything behind. The voice was speaking to them again, though it was harder to hear, further away.
~Then that is your choice. For you both must be willing for this to happen. I respect your decision, Sygnus. Nothing is harder than to choose your own destiny.~
The floor rose to greet him as the warmth of the light slowly faded from above. The stone was cold against his palms. He found himself in the Core of the Red Moon. When he glanced over, he could see the form of his brother slumped at his side.
Cecil lifted his head quizzically. Then he looked at Ben with a pained and uncertain expression. “Wha… we’re… you’re…! What happened?”
Ben’s face hardened as he answered, “It’s like I told Luccious — I don’t believe in fate. I never have and I never will.”
Cecil’s eyes softened in surprise.
Ben offered a crooked grin, “Listen to your big brother. He knows what he’s talking about.”
“Sometimes…” Kain was leaning over them with a quizzical look.
“Golbez. Cecil. I never thought I’d say it but… it’s good to see you in two pieces,” the Dragoon teased with a straight face.
“Very funny,” the Paladin frowned back.
“You are… sticking around, right?” Kain arched an eyebrow.
Cecil looked down at his hands and nodded. “Yeah. I… don’t know what came over me. It was all so weird. And I really felt compelled to…”
“Hey. Don’t gush at me,” the blonde-haired man thumbed back over his shoulder. “You better scoot over there to Rosa and do some patching up… or you’re going to be sleeping on the couch for a LOOONG time.”
Cecil’s green eyes widened.
“Is that bad?” Ben asked
“Rosa! I didn’t mean it!” Cecil was making his way across to his wife, hands spread. His face was flushed, stammering as he tried to explain the unexplainable. But was not allowed to utter another sound.
“Don’t say a thing,” Rosa’s finger dropped over his lips.
“We’ll discuss it later,” she hushed him again. Her deep blue eyes studied him for a long moment, drinking in his image as if she had been afraid she would never see him again.
Still, yet, Cecil protested, “Just let me–”
So, she kissed him. He had no choice but to fall silent and kiss her back.
“The hero gets a kiss,” Rydia sighed with a giddy look. “That means it all must really be over.”
“Yeah,” Edge pulled some of the loose bandages tighter around his upper arm, “Let’s go home. I’m starved!”
“Home…” Ben paused, lost in thought.
Home. Where is home?
Thoughts of returning to the Lunar Homeworld made him shiver. The painful memories of Incrytan. Knowing that Joran would never again come to visit his little room in the depths of the library.
“Home…” he repeated, somberly.
Rosa looked over at him and offered a reassuring smile, “Home. To Baron.”
Sudden emotion welled within his chest.
“Will you?” Cecil asked, adding to his surprise. “Will you come home with us… and stay?”
“I…” Ben turned, mouth wide open. “I’d be honored to… if you will have me?”
“Always, Brother. Always.”