Aftermath 1: Sparrow’s Sacrifice

after1
“I hope that I can meet you in the Mists.”

“You let them go,” Sparrow said, peering up into the luminous glow of the bird-Arweinydd.

~Yes.~ came Zeni’s quiet answer. ~I realized… It’s what Zemi would have wanted.~

“But won’t Lady Zazo be angry? Wasn’t her plan to capture the Sygnus?” the girl folded her hands in her lap around the dim, crackling shape of Incrytan.

~Perhaps. But she will get over it.~

The chamber was silent now that everyone else had left. Where they had gone, Sparrow didn’t know. Didn’t care. There wasn’t much for her to be concerned about in the living world anymore. The one person in all the world that she had fought to save was now dead.

~Suzume, are you certain this is what you want to do?~ Zeni’s words were sad and quiet.

“It must be done. Incrytan is bound to me now,” the winged girl’s breath came in quite rasps. “There is no going back on it.”

Incrytan had to be destroyed.

Things had gone too far. With the rest of the Crystals destroyed, and their energies welling within the heart of the Key Crystal, there would be no reconstructing what once was. Not that there was a need to anymore. Not with Lucci gone.

So in the midst of the confusion with Sygnus, Sparrow had willed her final wish as the Watcher of the Arweinydd Zeni. She had asked that the bindings between the one called Golbez and Incrytan be broken and that the Crystal’s burden be put on her own shoulders.

Son of KluYa. Grandson of Zemi Dreigiau.

He was completely unaware. The last thing that she wanted to do was leave him weighed down with more guilt. All that he had found left of Incrytan was a small shard of crystal that had broken off during the Sygni battle.

Golbez had taken it with him. She had let him believe whatever he wanted to about it.

You do not deserve the death of a Crystal’s binding. Your life has just begun upon the Blue Planet.

Sparrow didn’t know why she chose to spare the Sygnus-Half. Maybe it was because she had watched him lose someone who was just as close to him as Lucci had been to her. But unlike him, Sparrow didn’t think she could continue in the world without her once best friend.

As to not make it a selfish act of sorrow, the girl offered heroic excuses for her actions instead.

“The only way to fully release Lord Zemi is to destroy Incrytan,” Sparrow said somberly.

~Yes. I know. However…~ the Arweinydd trailed off.

They had been companions for so long, Sparrow knew it was hard for Zeni. Despite what others might say about Arweinydd, the girl had discovered that they were creatures capable of both friendship and love.

“I’m sorry Zeni.”

~No. It is I who is sorry, Suzume. I wish that I could have saved Lucci, too.~

“I know,” Sparrow said, slowly getting to her feet. “You’ve been a good friend to me.”

Zeni was silent for a moment. Then she fluttered her wings, ~I will help you with your final desire. If you feel that it must be so.~

“I’m tired,” the girl told her. “It’s been so long. Too long… too long not to have brought him back. Lucci wanted me to be good. That’s what he told me. The only good I can do for this world is in this.”

~I disagree. But I will defer to your will if you believe it’s your time.~

Sparrow took a short glance around the chambers, swallowing back the rising dread that welled within her throat. Then she slowly lifted Incrytan between both hands.

“Lucci… The world has changed. You and I, we were put here a very long time ago, for a purpose. I just can’t understand why some continue on while others must die,” she lowered her head in a motion of deep sorrow. “And now, the world no longer needs us. I must have faith that we can leave it in their hands. It’s time for us to rest.”

A tiny flicker pulsed within the heart of the Crystal, tracing her hand’s outline lightly.

Sparrow closed her trembling eyes, “I hope that I can meet you in the Mists.”

Incrytan’s power was warm upon her skin. Growing warmer. And warmer until there was only a searing blast of heat. The girl bit back any exclamation of pain. She had rarely cried in her living years. She wasn’t going to cry in her final moments.

The Crystal’s shatter screamed through her mind. Even through closed eyelids, the light was dazzling. Consuming. Just as the light and flame became unbearable, everything fell dark and silent.

For a long time there was nothing.

Then there was a soft, damp feeling. Something touching her hand. A quiet voice speaking her name.

Her vision fought to clear in the hazy shift of white. What stood before her took her breath in a quiet gasping whoosh.

“Lucci?”

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Aftermath 2: Coronation

“We wish to offer you this memorial to celebrate the trials you have overcome.”
“Odin’s Blade!” Ben swore. “I’ve never seen so many people in one place at one time.”

The Half Lunar’s face was flushed with embarrassment. His robes now bore the crest and seal of the royal house of Baron. His long white hair had been pulled back to keep it from straying into his face. He had exchanged his normal jadeite tiara for a small gold band at his brow, just for the day. Humble nobility was written on his face.

“Better get used to it, big guy,” Edge grinned, closing the tall door of the Baronian throne room with the help of one of the guards. “The life of royalty is a life in the spotlight!”

Ben blanched.

“Nevermind him,” Rydia frowned over her shoulder. Then she took Ben’s arm, smiling up at him, “Your coronation was beautiful.”

It had been a very nice celebration. Out in the middle of the Baron Square, the trees had all been decorated, candles everywhere, streamers and music. People laughing and singing, welcoming their king and queen home. And gathering to curiously greet the new prince of Baron. Ben had been so overwhelmed, he had nearly broken down right there.

“Rydia’s right. You were wonderful,” Rosa took his other arm with a reassuring look. The two of them led him up to the dais, sitting him on one of the steps.

“But… I almost cried in public,” Ben sniffled again, face still flushed.

“There is no shame in that, Prince Golbez,” Yang assured him quietly.

“I once cried at my birthday party?” Palom offered as consolidation.

They turned and blinked at the Black Mage questioningly.

“Er… I was only saying,” he turned away with a grumpy face, muttering. “Someone spilt Kantal on my piece of cake.”

Cecil and FuSoYa entered the room from the far door. The Paladin had already exchanged his royal garb for something more comfortable. Nodd was trotting around their feet, his whiskers trembling in delight.

“Ben!” the Kitt exclaimed. Eyes alight, he bounded gleefully into the half Lunar’s lap. He immediately snitched the golden tiara from Ben’s head, and placed it on top of his tufted ears. “Moving up in the world are we? You won’t forget the little people who made all this possible, right?”

Ben grimaced, “I’d doubt you’d let me.”

“You’d better believe it!” Nodd squirmed away from his grasp, laughing triumphantly as he tried to keep his new treasure out of Palom’s hands.

FuSoYa cleared his throat, watching the two of them with disapproval.

Ben grew rigid as his uncle strode up the steps. His thick accent was heavy with emotion as he attempted to speak, “Golbez… I’m certain that your father would be very proud of you.”

Ben could not meet his gaze.

FuSoYa reached out a weathered hand, placing it on his nephew’s arm. “I know I am.”

When the Half Lunar peered up, there was a silent acknowledgment behind his eyes. FuSoYa gave a half smile. Ben smiled in return.

“I’m gonna spew,” Edge grimaced.

Rydia, Rosa, and Porom, who had obviously been appreciating the moment, turned on him at once. A trio of frowny female stares.

“Whaaat…?” the ninja spread his hands wide.

Just then, Kain entered the throne room. He, too, had already changed back into his day-clothes — his suit of Dragoon armor. His blue eyes sparkled with unusual mirth as he waved his arms to catch everyone’s attention.

They all politely turned.

“Edge,” the Dragoon grinned. “Would you like to do the honors?”

“Huh? Oh! Yeah! That! I almost forgot!” Without another word, the ninja king scurried out the door through which Kain had just come.

There was the sound of something heavy moving behind the wall. Kain craned his head to peer around the doorway, his face split in two by a gigantic smile. He shot a few light hearted words at someone on the other side.

Then Cid appeared, followed closely by Edward. They were both hauling on a thick woven rope. A box-shaped cart, draped in a long white mantle, made its way through the door’s frame with a little maneuvering. Edge had both palms planted on the back of it, pushing. The three of them wheeled it in, turned it around, then set it decoratively with its side to the near wall.

By that time, Edge was cracking up so hard he could barely talk. “As a gift… from the Kingdom of Eblan…”

Cid and Edward almost had tears in their eyes. Every time they looked at Kain, the three of them would begin to snicker uncontrollably.

“Uh oh…” Cecil muttered over to Rosa.

“Do you guys mind?” Edge finally took a deep breath through his nose, attempting to be serious. A moment later, the ninja broke down in gales of laughter again. Then he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

The Paladin frowned, “What are they up to?”

The Baronian queen shrugged and shook her head with a puzzled look.

“Ahem!” Edge tried again. “As… a gift to the Royal House of Baron from the Kingdom of Eblan…”

“And Damcyan!” Edward slipped in quickly. He began to strum a crescendo upon his hand-harp.

“–and Damcyan. To show… er… how happy we are that the Royal line of Baron has returned home safely…” The ninja spat the last part out while he still had breath, “We wish to offer you this memorial to celebrate the trials you have overcome.”

The four of them broke into sobbing laughter again.

“This… doesn’t sound good,” Rosa frowned.

“I’ll kill him!” Rydia growled.

Edward’s strumming swelled around them in suspense as Kain and Edge swept the white mantel from atop the cart.

Cecil’s face paled.

Ben barked a laugh of appreciation.

A magnificent pillar of marble shimmered in the warm light of the throne room, newly cut and hand-crafted with Cid’s unmistakable quality. Upon the marble stand was a plaque. And above that, Cecil’s pair of enchanted boxer shorts stood proudly bronzed.

The room was suddenly awash with mirth.

Cecil sunk into the folds of his throne, a pained expression on his face, “Oh… guys… You really shouldn’t have!”

“It was no trouble at all,” Cid grinned widely.

“Do… do you want me to read the plaque?” Kain doubled over, catching himself upon the pillar’s side.

“Er… No… no! That’s perfectly all right!” Cecil stammered, his face turning many different shades of red. “I wish to do the honors of seeing it firsthand. So I can get a chance to… er… admire its craftsmanship up close.”

The Paladin King of Baron rose, stepping down as if to do just that.

Cecil was the picture of composure as he studied the monument. Then he reached out, putting his arms around Edge and Kain’s shoulders, pulling them close. His voice was low, “I will get you back for this, you know?”

“Ah-ha!” Edward gave a merry whoop and broke out in a cheerful tune. “Kantal all around!”

A chorus of shouts echoed behind. And the party in Baron began.

Aftermath 3: Repose

“Ben!” the boy threw his arms around the Master Wizard’s neck.
The sunset was violet once again, the colors shifting through the clouds as the sunlight faded. Though the previous day had been one of cheer for the Kingdom of Baron, today, those on the Lunar Homeworld had grieved the loss of one of their own.

Golbez had just returned from Joran’s Passing.

Cecil found his brother sitting up on the battlements. Golbez was staring into the dying light, silent and motionless. His green eyes searched the horizon with a hint of pain, as if he was attempting to hear Joran’s voice again.

“Brother…” the Paladin spoke quietly, placing a hand on Golbez’s shoulder.

“Cecil..?” the Half Lunar barely roused from his thoughts, dropping his chin into one cupped palm. His eyes were still very far away. He was absently toying with his medallion.

“I’m sorry about…”

“It’s alright,” Golbez answered softly. “I’m content to think that wherever she is now… she’s free.”

Cecil nodded, not knowing what else to say. It had been a long road for them both since the day that his brother had walked through the arched gates of Baron. Everything that had happened during the battle on the Red Moon now seemed so far away. Like a hazy dream.

Sygnus — it was hard for him to believe that it was real. So Cecil had decided it was better to try to pretend that it hadn’t happened. Afterall, there would probably never be the need for a Sygnus on the Blue Planet again.

For a long time, the two stood in silence, watching the darkening sky. Then a thought occurred to the Paladin and he remembered why he had come up there to begin with.

“Oh, Golbez,” Cecil said. “I almost forgot… that document you wanted? I have it here for you, ready to be signed.”

Golbez’s face transformed instantly, his head lifting, “You do?”

“Yeah,” Cecil offered a quiet smile, holding out the smooth parchment for proof. “So, when are you going to ask him?”

“Let’s do it now, Cecil,” the Half Lunar caught his breath. “I have to know and I’d never do it without his permission.”

Cecil didn’t have to say anything else. Golbez was already eagerly making his way to the stairwell. The Paladin nodded, following quickly. He was relieved to see Golbez’s mood lighten, if only a little. He had hoped the good news would have that very effect.

The young king nearly had to jog to keep up with Golbez’s long strides as the Master Wizard led them through the twisting halls of Baron. Directly to the Page’s Quarters. Somehow, even if he didn’t know the way anywhere else in the castle, Golbez knew the way here. And to the kitchen.

The first thing they heard was the sound of boys shouting. It was cheering and jeering that Cecil knew all too well – a fight. Golbez’s eyes were wide as he approached. Cecil pulled back on his arm, signaling to let the boys be. Instead, they peeked through the doorframe’s crack.

Chase was standing in the middle of a ring of older boys who were shoving him back and forth. Finally, the golden-eyed boy tripped, stumbling to the ground. His breath was heavy as he pushed himself up with a pained expression.

Golbez’s fists tightened at his side. Once again, Cecil held his brother back.

“Don’t you see what they’re doing to him?” the Master Wizard demanded in a low rumbling voice.

“Yes, I see. I’ve been there before and I know how it feels,” Cecil’s green eyes were clear. “You’ve got to let him fend for himself, Golbez. Give him a chance.”

The Half Lunar’s breath caught in his throat. Reluctantly, he nodded. They continued to watch.

The leader of the boys dragged Chase to his feet with a scoff, “What’s wrong? Are you tired from your loooong trip?”

“Yeah, too bad you came back alive. They already gave your bed to someone else,” one of the other boys sneered.

Chase bit down on his lip.

“So,” the larger boy shoved him into the middle of the ring again. “Did you bring anything back for me?”

The other boys laughed jeeringly.

“Yeah, I brought you something,” the Page’s voice fell low as his gaze lifted.

Suddenly, Chase leapt forward, his little fist slamming straight into the older boy’s face. There was a sharp, painful sound. Blood splattered. Then the older boy toppled over, clutching his gushing nose with a high-pitched wail.

That was a punch that I brought all the way from Fabul,” Chase glared down at the sniveling boy. Then he turned a wicked, golden-eyed glare on the others, “Is anyone else interested in a gift?”

The other boys backed away, before rushing off to their own little spots in the room. No one looked at the boy with the bloody nose. No one looked at Chase.

“Did you teach him that?” Cecil accused Golbez in a low whisper.

“Not me!”

“It was a good punch,” the Paladin mused.

“Well… those boys really deserved it!” the Master Wizard scowled.

“Yeah. Just watch this,” Cecil rose to his full height, then slowly swung the door inward.

The entire room of boys turned. Then oogled. Furious whispers fluttered from bed to bed as the King of Baron entered the Pages’ Quarters. The children stared up at Cecil with a combination of awe and fear.

Chase turned with a smile, “Your Majesty!”

“Hello there, Chase,” the Paladin smiled back, patting the boy on the head.

The other boys stiffened. A lowly page had been recognized, by name. By the King of Baron. Their world was coming to an end.

“There’s someone here to see you,” Cecil told him.

Golbez took his cue and poked his head into the room. Even if it was only a bunch of children, he still looked uncomfortable under the gaze of so many eyes. As his attention turned to Chase, he seemed to forget his discomfort.

“Ben!” Chase called cheerfully. He raced up to the Half Lunar, throwing his arms around his neck. “Where have you been?”

“Hiya, Chase! I’ve got something I want to show you,” Golbez grinned, lifting the boy up in the crook of his arm. He turned back to the peering eyes of the other boys and added, “Why don’t we go outside?”

“Okay!” the page agreed cheerfully.

As Cecil closed the door behind him, the room broke out in a chatter of excitement. The Paladin’s eyes glittered with mirth.

“Did you see the look on their faces? That was great!” Chase giggled. Then he paused with a worried frown. “Does that mean that you saw me…”

“What?” Golbez asked. “Punch that other boy?”

Chase swallowed hard, “You saw..?”

“Yes. We saw. And you have very nice punching form,” Cecil notified him with a droll arch of his eyebrow.

Chase’s worry shifted into a bright beaming smile.

Golbez led the boy over to the nearest bench and sat Chase down on his knee. As he brought out the parchment, his words were slow and grave. “Now, Chase. I have a very important question I want to ask you. And I want you to think hard about it before you answer. You… don’t have to say yes if you don’t want to. But, I…”

The boy cocked his head, the light catching his golden eyes.

Cecil felt a shiver run through him.

“I…” Golbez bowed his head. He handed the boy the parchment, “I want you to read this…”

Chase took the parchment between his fingers, holding it wide so he could see. He stumbled along as he sounded the words out, “With the power invested in me, King Cecil of Baron, I do so declare that the boy known as Chase Wescott be released from his status as a Page of Baron…”

The boy stared in shock, eyes flicking up, “But… but… Your Majesty! I..!”

“Hold on,” Cecil shushed him. “Keep reading.”

Chase swallowed, but continued. “…and I give legal paternal guardianship of this boy unto Golbez Benjamin Ya…”

Golbez bit his lip.

The boy looked up, puzzled, “Paternal guardianship? Does that mean..?”

“Chase,” Golbez held the boy out at arm’s length. “It means I want you to be like… my son.”

Chase gasped. “You… want to adopt me?!”

“Yes…”

Me?” he squeaked.

“I’ll give you time to think about it!” the Half Lunar’s eyes grew fearful. “I understand it’s all so fast. I don’t expect you to answer right away.”

“Ben!” the boy threw his arms around the Master Wizard’s neck. “You really want to adopt me?!”

Astonishment kept Golbez from answering.

“Chase,” Cecil did the honors. “Golbez cares about you very much. He wants nothing more than to watch over and take care of you. Do you want that, too?”

“Yes,” the little boy whispered. “More than anything else in the world!”

Golbez’s face broke into a lopsided grin as he handed his brother the parchment. “Cecil… Sign it for us, please.”

Without another word, the Paladin King did.

~To Be Continued… in Wayrift~