- Epilouge -
“Are you okay Dad?”
“Mm... maybe, I don't know, it hurts a lot.”
“Yeah, I bet it does, you took quite a beating after all.”
“...Teepo? Am I dreaming?”
“Strange question Dad, are you all there as well?”
“I... don't feel dead?”
“-giggle- you're being silly, I have yet to see anything that can keep you down for long.”
“I don't know, this one almost did.”
“It's just some scratches.”
“...Where are you?”
“What do you mean? I'm right here Dad.”
“Here, right here, always with you, I'll never leave you alone, just like you never left me alone.”
“I feel pretty alone right now.”
“You won't be, you already made some friends, you just need to wake up and say hello.”
“Well... hello there too you as well.” greeted a gentle voice.
Warm light bathed Adrian's eyes causing the lids to twitch rapidly, struggling to even pry the edges of them apart enough to see. He let out a quiet groan once he was finally able to peer through enough to see the ceiling of the room. Blinking twice slowly, Adrian attempted to reach up with his hand in an effort to remove the debris and gunk that formed at the corners. Though moving appeared difficult and restricted, a lethargic grip held on his muscles like a weighted chain.
Another hand, not his own, gently took him by the cheek, a thumb approached his eye and carefully wiped away the discomfort in turn. The gentle massage helped to exercise the muscles and he was finally able to focus his vision on the ceiling tiles above. Quiet wavy sounds and low toned pings repeated in a slow fashion, and... music, a vocal hum brought a soothing serenity.
A white furred face, long pink hair, golden eyes slipped into his view and greeted him with a smile, “Welcome back Adrian,” said Fa'Lina gently turning his head a fraction to the side to test his reaction, he let out a grunt but didn't appear in any major discomfort, “For a while there, we thought you were going to be lost to us.”
Adrian mumbled an unintelligible grunt as he tried to put thought into words, reaching out to her face with a struggling hand. The headmistress took the hand and carefully placed it back to his chest before placing a finger over his lips.
“Shhh, do not speak, save your strength... think your responses and questions, and I will answer them.” she told him sliding her hands from his body and resting her arms on the infirmary bed. No doubt he had many things to ask, and much more to say, a lot of which she herself had to answer for. “No more, secrets, no more absence of trust. I will tell you everything you wish to know.”
The man let out a long breath, appearing frustrated that he could do little more than rest and barely speak, unwilling to admit that the last vestiges of his stamina were incredibly weak by even normal standards. When a Creator pushed themselves to incredible limits, it often left them incredibly weak once things came to a calm. He stared at her for a moment and from whispers she heard his first sentence.
“The Academy, I brought you here two days ago; you have been here since, under my own and Ink's care.” she replied motioning to herself before placing the hand against his arm, “Your father caused you grievous injuries, so bad that had you not removed Destania from harm's way, I doubt she would have survived.”
Adrian made a slow blink along with a very fine motion of his fingers, the tips trying to pluck at Fa'Lina's attentive arm, an effort to exercise his fingers, but also to show appreciation.
“Alexsi is home, safe, and she is fine.” said Fa'Lina answering his next question while plucking an item from the bedside table next to her. It was a small hand made note card, decorated with calligraphy and gold printed etchings. Lost Lake Inn was written on one side, and the other had a single sentence, 'Thank you', written upon it. Fa'Lina placed the card under his hand, “Relina is safely home too, her injuries are healed, and will be eager to see you are awake. She has a lot to thank you for too, as do I.”
Another blink came from the man, this time it stuttered a little.
“Destania...?” questioned Fa'Lina, hearing more emphasis on the name from his thoughts. She hesitated a response before folding her arms and twirling some of her hair around a finger. “She is, I would imagine she is well too. But I have not seen her since departing the tower after tying up some loose ends.”
He repeated the words back to her, Loose ends?
“Destania... what are you doing?” asked Fa'Lina arms folded and standing at the entrance to the chamber that contained the pulsating globe that still remained in the room. Originally the headmistress had returned here to take care of a loose end, yet she had sensed and found Destania had done the same. She noticed that the usually icy hearted Cubi stood before the orb for the second time today.
It had been some hours since Brelioro's death, everyone was back to safety and the threat against them had been quelled. The only worrying factor was the Creator guest that remained at the Academy in a very unstable state. Still, Fa'Lina couldn't quite help but ponder what Cyra's daughter had in mind with a device that was clearly so dangerous.
Destania remained motionless as she observed the glowing orb that lashed out with dark coloured energies, some grew unerringly close to her person. She greeted the headmistress with an absent mellowness, “Fa'Lina... how nice to see you again...” said the cubi with a sarcastic undertone. “Did you come to marvel at Brelioro's demise for a while?”
“Hardly, you know I am not that type.” replied Fa'lina, crossing her arms while fixated on the orb before the blue cubi. She didn't need to know what it was to understand that it gave great cause for concern, more so for the one that seemed hypnotised by its power. “No, I came here for another reason entirely, but it seems I have a secondary reason now.”
A secondary reason? Destania looked back with a glare, unsurprised that of course Fa'Lina would choose to get involved rather than let things be. And judging by the returned stare, she wasn't going to simply turn around and walk away. “You always have to try and be that annoying voice of righteousness, don't you.” she shot.
“I prefer the voice of reason.”
“Same difference, both as equally pedantic.”
“Quite.” sighed Fa'Lina. Already she could tell this was going to devolve into an unnecessary argument. Better to get this over with now, “I do hope you are not planning on attempting to control that sphere.”
“And why not? Do you not see this could be the key to finally ridding Furrae of the dragons?” said Destania motioning out with her arm as her irritation grew quickly with the overbearing Cubi. “You saw those Hollows, what they can become-”
“And how dangerous they are, that sphere could end up controlling you, Destania.” snapped Fa'Lina interjecting the obvious problems with this reckless plan. “Better to destroy it now while-”
“YOU had every opportunity to create a weapon at one point and you wasted it!” barked Destania, throwing a threatening digit at the headmistress. “And now we have been left with a possible alternative to finally rid the very things that almost caused our extinction!”
Fa'Lina felt an inward smile form, “Possible...? That means even you are not completely sure it seems.” she said, and that also provided a slight relief that Destania may not be as entirely irrational as Fa'Lina started to believe she was becoming.
“It is worth the risk to try, this chance will not come again.” said a determined Destania, turning back to the sphere and drawing closer to the surface.
Fa'Lina snapped her finger loudly, ensuring she still had Destania's attention, “Consider this my dear,” She began and edged closer to the irate Cubi, “Even if you do pull that power to some use, the moment a certain Creator discovers your actions, he will do everything he can to destroy that sphere... even if it means killing you.”
Destania's hand stopped dead inches away from the sphere as that name brought her a momentary pause, “If he knew the truth of the dragons he would see reason too.” she argued clenching her fist, “He trusts me, he owes me too much to simply not hear me out.”
“But you have never been a very trusting Cubi, Destania,” reminded the poodle Cubi with a flick of her finger and a cunning smile. “You already have his implicit trust, he even believes that I was the one who attempted to save his father using Teepo's soul. But we both know the truth of that do we not?”
“I did NOT know what my mother did, that is NOT on me!”
“True, but you know OF it, not the details, but enough to have told Adrian the truth when he asked.”
Destania clenched her teeth, muttering under her breath, “...Do you plan to tell him?”
Fa'Lina clasped her fingers together and stretched them out, walking past Destania casually with a light smile, “Think this through, Destania, you already have Adrian's trust, today you could sacrifice it by keeping that sphere. OR... you could cement it, perhaps forever, if you destroyed it, realising the danger it presents in untamed hands.” she explained, stopping in her walk and turning to face the blue Cubi, “I shall... not stop you in your decision, I have never been one to interfere after all. I will already have much to answer for, and I intend to repay his forgiveness of me of my own transgressions.”
“Humph, he already has? How surprising.”
“No, but like you I have seen his mind... Destania, surely you can deduce enough from that.”
Silence fell in the room. Destania remained with a hand hovering before the sphere, all she had to do was touch and discover what it was this sphere required of her. Fa'Lina's footsteps started to tap along the stones again and drew further away as she started to take her leave.
“Do take care, Destania, I am sure you know what is best for yourself, after all, know one knows that better than you.” said Fa'Lina with a loud emphasis on many of her words relating to the other Cubi. A split second later the room was rocked with a loud verbal growl followed by the sounds of glass and brick impacting. Shards of Elevas scattered around the room, Fa'Lina remaining undisturbed by the noise.
Destania threw a portion of the broken sphere past the headmistress, smashing it against the archway, “I. Still. Hate. You. So. Much. Fa'Lina!” she told her with a deathly tone before marching her way towards the broken hole in the side of the tower.
“I know...” replied Fa'Lina quietly.
Destania stopped at the gaping hole just for a moment, “One last thing... if Adrian doesn't survive, tell him... I do trust him.” she said before leaping out of the side of the tower and disappearing out of view silently.
“I know that too...”
Fa'Lina smiled down to Adrian and brushed at a few of the locks of brown hair that weren't covered by the bandages, “I had intended to destroy that sphere, your fat- ...Brelioro had, but Destania had already destroyed it by the time I arrived. She sends her regards by the way.” she said, curling one of the locks playfully.
Adrian made a stuttered grunt and groan, giving a light shake of his head at her.
“Heh, yes, not in so many words.” chuckled Fa'Lina flicking out her finger from the curl of hair she played with and then brushed it back to its original place. She then listened again for a moment while Adrian reached up and brushed the tips of his fingers against her nose. Clearing her throat she lowered the hand with a sigh, “I did something beyond even my powers, I made a rash decision. I cannot apologise my intentions were not harmful, I tried to save one and while I did in a way... well, you saw the result. Had I known Mahkah were a Phoenix and your daughter a Creator I would have paused in my judgement.” she explained, drearily brushing a fingertip along the sheets in thought. Fa'Lina then smiled again before chortling briefly, “A phoenix, Adrian, not just any phoenix but one even our tales call legends. I wonder what the Phoenix Oracles will say about you.”
The man just made a slow confused blink at her.
“A explanation for another time, but let us just say you and your father are something that was thought of legend in many tales of Furrae.” her face grew sad again, “Tis a shame you both fought like strangers, again, I cannot-”
Suddenly Adrian reached up and grabbed the poodle Cubi by the muzzle clamping it shut and silencing her from saying any more. He shook his head briefly, starting to feel more and more strength come back to his body. His thoughts told her no more, no more apologies, forgiveness was already given and that he didn't hold her accountable any longer.
His daughter would be upset if he did... not after what he had learned and was told. Life had told him it was better to sooner forgive than to hold onto pointless grudges. Nothing was going to bring back Teepo, she was gone before he could do anything about it anyway.
“You are kind Adrian,” smiled a pleased Fa'Lina, bridging her hands together and leaning on them, “If I may, when you have recovered your strength I have a-”
“Oh! He's okay, he's okay!” squeaked a different voice from at the end of the bed. Teacup the Warp-Aci appeared at the foot before leaping up onto it like an excited puppy. Without pausing to think about it's temporary master's injuries it fumbled closer towards his head.
Fa'Lina made the quick decision to grab and lift it, preventing any further pain to the already weak Creator. She held the critter suspended above Adrian while it cast its excitement in seeing him well.
“Teacup!” snapped Fa'Lina with an authoritative tone, “Settle down, Adrian is going to survive but he may just wish otherwise if you trample his injuries further.” she said and carefully set the warp-aci back down, putting her to Adrian's side. “Teacup has been reluctant to leave your side for very long, she appears to be attached to you in absence of a link.”
Adrian placed a clumsy hand onto Teacup's head, petting the critter appreciatively for its attention. His eyes looked up to Fa'Lina and asked a question. One that made even her ponder for a moment with an expression of curiosity.
“Hmm I cannot see why not, it will be interesting to see the effects of a Creators soul to one. But we should wait until you are at least able to move around on your own” she replied to which Adrian nodded.
Teacup looked back and forth between the two, puzzled at Fa'Lina's reply to a question it apparently did not hear. Scratching its head it only assumed it was a question not meant for its ears, a set of fingers belonging to the Cubi scratched between the ears of the fox looking critter.
“Teacup, Adrian has requested that you become linked to him, when he is better of course.” said Fa'Lina, answering the obviously reluctant question the Warp-Aci had. “He has deemed you very useful and very comforting to have around, is this acceptable?” she asked, giggling at seeing the critters eyes light up with extreme delight quickly and watched as, like a puppy, it buried itself into Adrian's arms nuzzling against the man's chest.
“Haha, I fear you may have unleashed a good deal of affection Adrian,” laughed Fa'Lina, but he didn't care and simply curled an arm around the critter to keep it close as he managed a smile, but also a tear that slipped down the side of his cheek. Things were going to be hard for a while as they caught up and Adrian came to terms with his new setting still. The headmistress brushed away the tear and stood from her seat, “You should rest for now, once your strength is back you can decide where to go from here.”
Adrian offered a confirming nod, rest sounded good, it wasn't like he could go anywhere until his regenerative powers picked up.
“Hey Alexsi, can I get one down here for my friend?”
Without even thinking, Alexsi pulled up a clean tankard and shoved it under one of the kegs behind her, allowing it to fill up. It was something that had become second nature; serving drinks, knowing where everything was and putting customers orders together without hesitation. Even as her mind was distracted reading the local newspaper for the day, curious to know if any strange occurrences had been reported in the region. But alas non as far as she could tell, you would've figured by the story Fa'Lina had passed on since the incident at the tower, someone would've noticed two giant Phoenixes fighting.
Nothing, not even a whisper, or even a rumour in a tiny article.
With the tankard full and the keg clicked closed, she placed it upon the bartop and with a flick of her wrist she shot the drink down to its customer at the end of the bar. “There you go Mab, no charge.” she said drearily.
“Thanks Alexsi! Cheer up, I'm sure he's okay!” called back the Fae.
Yeah, she was sure of the same thing too, but the last Alexsi had heard about Adrian was the critical condition he had been left in after the fight. Left in such a bad condition because of a family member, she couldn't fathom what it must've been like to face down your own parent to do what you felt was right. She almost chuckled thinking back to Wildy's remark about idiots in shining armour, not that she thought the Creator was an idiot mind you, quite the opposite.
Alexsi briefly looked up from the paper and watched her brother pass by speaking with a friend, a small yellow furred Being. She hadn't told him about the incident and kept Mab, Abel and Pyroduck from speaking about it. The less Dan knew the better, as much as she loved him he tended to let his emotions get the better of him too much. A point that made her worry so much as he would get older with his Cubi heritage.
Things would be fine, she assured herself. It would be better if Mom and Dad were around still.
A gentle thud tapped into her arm prompting the innkeeper to look down. The tankard she had served across the bar had already returned, empty and was likely an indication for another one. Taking the container by the handle she paused when an unusual smooth feeling brushed against her finger.
'Huh?' she thought and turned the tankard around, attached to it was the crystal rose brooch that she quickly recognised as an earlier gift. Alexi's eyes shot across the bar and expected to see a Cubi from the school, instead she saw someone else that brought a bright smile to her lips. Attaching the brooch she filled the tankard again and quickly approached her Fae resident entertaining an important guest.
“Mab, you're not boring him with all those Fae rules are you?” she asked, grinning at Adrain who appeared to be listening intently to the eccentric creature. The man smiled back with a wave, happy to see her as much as she was to see him walking around alive and well.
“Nahhhh, I was just showing him some of the things magic could do,” denied Mab, snapping her finger and causing another duplicate of the tankard to appear next to the first. Looking to Adrian she gauged his reaction, appearing a cross between confused and impressed as he chuckled. “See, straight out of thin air, now watch this.” she snapped her fingers again and the drink inside changed to a different colour.
Adrian threw his hands to the sides from under his chin, “There is some explanation for that, I'm telling you whatever you call Magic is another branch of Mana, I could do that as well... if I had the materials handy that is.” he debated taking the 'duplicated drink' and tasting some of the contents. He suddenly recede in disgust swallowing it with a harsh grimace. “Ugh! At least if I weaved it, it would taste like Ale and the tankard didn't feel like sandpaper.”
Mab snerked, “Maybe I just made it that way, haha.” she rasped poking her tongue out at him.
“Uh-huh, sure.” he replied blowing one of his own back at her.
Alexsi giggled, it was nice to see him getting along with the Fae despite Mab's normally erratic and upbeat demeanour that would usually puzzle others so easily. Leaning across the bar, Alexsi wrapped her arms around Adrian giving him a hug, “It's good to see you're okay, had me worried for a while there after what Fa'Lina explained had happened.” she pushed back and looked at him directly, showing a little sadness, “And about... him, your father, none of us had idea.”
Adrian shook his head, “Not even me,” he sighed, “At least I know why his Aura was... different now.”
“You... seem to be taking it well, at least?” inquired Alexsi, watching him look away and stare down to the real tankard that sat before him, playing with the rim, his index finger making a light squeaking noise along the surface. He didn't offer any sort of reply yet his expression and reluctance suggested a suppressed pain, or denial. “Adrian? You're not are you?” she asked cautiously.
Adrian cleared his throat weakly, “Y'know I was just asking Mab here about trying to find the souls of the departed or what happens to them when they leave a body.” he finally replied, resting against his hand while leaning on the bartop.
Noticing Alexi's sudden sharp look, Mab quickly reiterated what she told him earlier, “Sorry Adrian, we don't even have anything to do with souls.” she said, sucking from a carton of juice. “Sure, we're powerful as you've been told, but even some things are beyond our reach.” The man just stared at her with an apathetic crook in his lips. “All I can say is, your daughter's soul is likely at peace now that it was released from intermingling with your father's.”
“What? Souls can do that?” asked a surprised Alexsi, but the Fae just shrugged, showing she was just as unsure as the next creature. Souls were fickle things, very misunderstood and were nothing ever to be trifled with, Alexsi knew that much. “Hey Mab, can you give us a moment?” requested the feline to which Mab slipped away without another word, taking the duplicated tankard of 'ale' with her. She waited for Adrian to collect himself, even though he shed no tears or displayed any sadness, it was easy to see the loss was tearing him up inside.
“It's always hard making the choice between what we want, and what we should do.” said Adrian pushing away the drink and making a direct stare towards Alexsi, clasping his hands under his chin. “As a solider, it's a thing I have often had to make and live with. And still know how to smile.”
“But, you're not smiling, how can you smile at what's happened?
“I'm not a soldier any more either.”
“You chose between family and strangers, I don't envy you making that call.”
“I chose between my daughter... and doing what was right.”
“That doesn't make it feel any better, not for me either.”
“No, but I've learned to live on, if what Mab says is true and she is at peace, that's good enough for me.” said Adrian forcing a light smile and taking his drink in hand again while putting his hand into the inside of his vest, “I know my daughter didn't waste her time trying to make sure I was safe, I'm sure as hell going to make sure I live knowing I did right by her.”
He produced a small square card and placed it on the bar, sliding it towards Alexsi. She picked it up, it was a photo picturing a Border Collie Being, white and brown tipped hair with a smiling expression. The girl looked as if she never knew a sad day in her life and it brought a warmth to the innkeeper's heart to have been shown this. She must've been in her teens at the very least, no telling how old she was when she died or what she looked like now.
Pulling open a nearby draw Alexsi plucked a small round object from its contents and attached it to the back of the photo. Then smiled at Adrian before turning around and placing the photo against a white board that displayed the daily lunch menu. It wasn't the best place she could think of to hang it, “She'll be a welcome sight at the Inn, knowing her father stood by and defended it when he had little reason to. I know my father would love to meet you sometime if... or when he comes back.” she said, hoping this gesture would lift some of the weight he carried, “You'll always be welcome here, Adrian.”
A genuine smile finally crossed his face and he nodded, “Thanks Alexsi.”