He still remembers it like yesterday.
The NOVA had been their most ambitious project up to date, every child - and by every, he means every - child in Halcandra and its colonies having anticipated for its completion for a long time. A wish-granting machine, the scientists had said; a crafted genie among the stars. A mechanized comet that shall bring forth a new age.
It is finally done! They had announced. We have at last transcended our limits placed ourselves among the stars.
A bold statement, perhaps, dripping with hubris. Yet back in that day it did not seem to matter, when suddenly they were capable of anything and everything, all their wishes for themselves and others suddenly right within grasp, when they had been convinced that they can turn the very universe itself. NOVA had been open to anyone and everyone, given their wishes contained no ill-will, and with that prospect in mind people had been so hopeful, so idealistic, so full of dreams of things to come. There had been lines, reservations, and even deputy services for a meeting with NOVA; to have a wish granted, to see the incredible machine in action.
And at front of that line of wishes stood children, like him, like so many others, full of excitement and anticipation.
Children are our future, the adults had said. Surely their dreams must come precedent.
He still remembers that day, that thrilling buzz of waiting in line where everywhere around was another child, wondering, chattering, daydreaming. He remembers one by one each one of them handing in a piece of paper with their wishes written on it, having it checked by a Council official to see if there's anything wrong with it, and then quickly stepping into the warp-panel to meet the great comet.
He remembers the night before that, sleeplessly wondering about what to write down, of what to wish for.
He remembers recounting the engineers' stories again as he lied down on his bed, of how hard NOVA's construction was, of how it wouldn't have been possible if not for the mages from afar, of how magic and technology complemented each other's flaws and helped them overcome their previous failures; of how NOVA would change the world now, of how there would be no more need for fighting for resources, of how there would be no more pain, suffering.
Of how there will be Paradise.
He remembers writing his wish down after that, giving it to the officer the next day. He remembers watching it head into NOVA's scanning system with wide, amazed eyes.
He remembers meeting with NOVA, the colossal machine with an odd smile and quirky decorations. He remembers his own heartbeat, loud and excited in his ears.
He remembers him saying, just for the sake of it, "I wish..."
"I wish to see history unfold."
To see where it goes from here on. To stay and watch how far we can go, how far we will go. To stand witness to its every turn.
His fate had been sealed ever since.
"Those mages sure are a bit odd, aren't they?" he remembers his best friend saying once.
"What do you mean?"
"Their little... cult things, I mean. Not that there's anything wrong with religion, but don't they seem but they seem a little too zealous to you?"
He had blinked, considering. "Huh." The mages were in fact very strict with their beliefs to their 'god' and their daily prayings, and sometimes they indeed looked a bit over-the-top with their robes(seriously, what was with all the black hearts?), but he never thought of them too weird before.
"Eh, whatever. As long as they don't cause trouble, no harm done I guess." His friend had shrugged.
He had then turned to face him more properly, curiously eyeing his face."Speaking of no harm done, you okay with those wings by the way?" He had gesturing vaguely towards his form. "Doesn't hurt anymore?"
"Yeah, I think I'm getting a hang a of taking them in and out now," he had said, experimentally summoning said wings and flapping them a few times.
"Ooh, nice. I thought they would have fallen off by now, from the way you've been absolutely abusing them." his friend had replied with a mischievous glint in their eyes. "You look more orange than ever, my friend."
"Like you're the one to talk!" He had laughed. "You're pink, of all colors!"
"Hey, at least my wings aren't the same color as my body. For NOVA's sake, that comet had some pretty weird fashion sense."
It was a strange side-effect to his wish ever since his meeting with NOVA. Apparently the machine worked in mysterious ways, and no one could exactly pinpoint why he had been given a pair of butterfly-like wings he can take in and out of his will; but it had looked pretty awesome and all the other kids were amazed by it, so he had accepted the small change without much complaint.
Maybe it means you can now fly to anywhere you want? his friend had said when he had told them about it. That you can travel and see things happen without any restrictions - 'watch history unfold' in the literal sense. Once you're grown up and your parents allow that, that is.
He response had been to chuckle back then, too.
"Man, things really are getting weird ever since NOVA," his friend had started after a little. "Now I'm not the only one with wings anymore, we've got a genie hovering around our star, now mages are suddenly everywhere."
"It's not a bad kind of weird though, don't you think?"
"Not at all. This is a kind of weird I can get used to." His friend had grinned. "I heard the scientists are working on dreams now, now that wishes are done. Can't wait to see what that ends up becoming."
"Yeah, me too."
Satellites had twinkled from far above, and they had sat there together pretending they were stars, full of dreams, dreams about dreams.
The Star Rod was finished a month afterwards.
The first sign of wrong came a few years later.
"What do you mean you can't contact the research team inside?" his parents - both engineers of the newest twin projects of CROWN and STARCUTTER - had urgently been shouting at the communicator when he had come home from school.
"Corruption? Mutila -What?"
"That thing isn't supposed to have a will! how is that even possi --"
"--Okay, initiate evacuation and lockdown on all research bases within Egg Engines. Evacuate the area. Contact the council for the permission to send in the metal generals--"
"Mom, dad, what happened?" He had run across the house in seconds, bag forgotten and discarded by the entrance.
"It's the CROWN, something went wrong during the newest experiment," One of them - was it his mother? Father? He could not remember anymore - had said grimly. "I think - I think we lost her."
His eyes had widened. "Her? You mean Galacta's -?"
The projects CROWN and STARCUTTER had been their attempts to analyze and simulate magic, which up to that point they had only a very limited amount of understanding of. The former of the two projects tapped into the very source of the mages' power, gathering data and energy from the so-called nexus, the root of all magic; the second was nothing directly related to the first, but was crafted by utilizing said power and knowledge gathered by the CROWN. It was meant to be their first step of understanding into the arcane, another breakthrough of science, of creating magical energy not only through runes and spells, but also circuits. The mages had been worried about at first, but had joined their cause eventually.
From what his parents had told him the trial runs of the CROWN had been very successful until that point, revealing more and more data and knowledge each time they connected the device to their networks. Only recently had an authorization been given to someone to actually wear it, to see if its original purpose - to grant its wielder an access to its endless knowledge - would be achieved.
It was a potentially dangerous experiment, and they had known it. As such it was one of the research team themselves who had volunteered - which just happened to be his best friends' mother. Galacata's family had been one of the most powerful species living in Halcandra, naturally gifted in both physical and mental strength; an ideal candidate, as far as they had.
He remembers feeling faint at the news, as if he were falling apart to a million pieces. He remembers dizziness, a sense of vertigo.
He remembers light, suddenly erupting everywhere, yellow and white and orange, and his parents calling out his name in alarm.
He remembers butterflies.
He remembers flying.
He had been a thousand and one, everything and nothing at the same, shattering into a myriad of wings as he headed toward somewhere he did not know.
No, that is a lie. He had known. He had just not recognized, had just not been himself. Only after he - they - arrived at his -their- destination that he regained his semblance of self, the butterflies coming together like a network of neurons and rebuilding his mind once again.
He remembers Egg Engines, watching it from above.
What is going on? he remembers wondering the moment his thoughts had become coherent once more.
You're watching history, a voice way too like himself had echoed somewhere in his mind. Being the witness.
That was your wish, wasn't it?
He remembers the chaos, the destruction, the madness. Egg Engines falling apart as waves of magic swallowed up the area, powerful and incredible and wrong.
He remembers a familiar yet alien figure standing in the middle of that chaos, in the eye of the storm, a mutilated smile with empty eyes. A monstrous golden crown had sat on top of their head, seemingly swallowing up their whole body, a rush of dark energy pulsing from within; their horns had been twisted, wings shredded, a mockery of the woman he had once known. The kind and brilliant mother of his best friend, long gone.
He remembers the figure slowly turning their eyes upward, right towards his direction.
They had smiled, the darkness inside their mouth seemingly spreading.
He remembers a single, red iris opening from within.
He remembers fear, dread, powerlessness, and light, once more.
He remembers waking up in a hospital.
Apparently he had dissolved into thin air, shattering into a thousand orange butterflies, only to suddenly reappear a few hours later; light-wings gathering where he had vanished before and merging together to create his form, his disappearance played in reverse.
He remembers his parents, afraid and worried and relieved and embracing him in a tight hug.
He remembers Galacta, sitting behind them, watching the scene wordlessly.
Egg Engines were bombed that day. There had been no survivors.
Only one of them had been killed by the bombs.
No one had talked about the mysterious herd of butterflies that had been hovering above Egg Engines during the massacre.
Things had started falling apart after that, one by one.
The disastrous failure of the CROWN project led to some serious re-examination of their earlier magic-incorporated works. Many had been discovered to have a seed of "corruption" inside them as well, and its effects were already starting to show - more and more people starting to meet the same fate Galacta's mother had, going berserk as they accidentally tapped into the Nexus. The phenomenon was dubbed 'Soulfication,' for the magical energy seemed to break down the victim's physical body, bringing forth a much more ghostly presence.
A lot of projects had been either abandoned or destroyed after that. Many were put into examinations for indefinite amounts of time. NOVA had been sealed, the only key to unlocking it broken up into seven pieces.
There had been outrages toward the mages, who apparently had known the potential danger and darkness of their magic.
Magic by itself is a force of chaos, they had explained, neither good or bad, just endless potential of creation and destruction. There is beauty in it, there is darkness in it. It is the natural way of things.
We'd told you before.
With that new knowledge in hand the scientists had desperately sought out a way to fix things, but more and more accidents of magic-crafts and soulfication were being reported in every day. Things were turning lawless all around, and they had even lost contact with one of their sister planet of T3RR-A, "Earth."
A lot of his friends from school either had gone to join the research teams to fix the problems themselves, to the military to keep public security from falling apart.
He was one of the former; Galacta belonged to the latter.
"You're really going?" He remembers with a pang of sadness, watching his best friend ready to leave.
"You know I have to. After what happened to mom... I can't let anyone else suffer their last moments like that." Galacta's eyes had been distant, like they had been ever since the CROWN incident. "I'll find whatever's lying in that Nexus, that monster that's swallowing people up, and kill it myself."
He had not known what to say to that. "...Just, be careful, okay?"
His friend had smiled, albeit faintly. "Same goes to you. Visit if you can, got it? I wouldn't mind seeing that light show again sometime soon."
He had smiled back weakly. His so-called "light-show" involved turning into a swarm of light-butterflies and flying away, like he had first done back in the day of the CROWN experiment. He would still involuntarily shift sometimes and summoned to who-knows-where(to "witness history," as he remembers) but he'd been starting to get a hang of controlling his abilities for his own use. Quickly move in and out of places in the blink of an eye, physical boundaries notwithstanding.
"I'll be fine. Don't worry."
Which also meant he was an excellent person to act as a scout to dangerous situations. But his friend hadn't needed to know that.
That would be the last time they speak to each other eye-to-eye for a very long time, without any screens or communicators or other devices in between. He had not known, back then.
He wishes he did, however.
No one exactly knew how the riots began.
It had started off with the discovery of the true nature of the mages' "cult," that was for sure. Yet to this date he does not know who attacked first, threw the first stone, them or the mages.
He often wonders why he had not been summoned to witness that particular moment of first blood, but rather to the all-out onslaught afterward. He wonders whether it was because such things do not matter in history's eyes, trivial compared to the grand scheme of things.
He often wonders who decides such things.
At any rate he remembers the first massacres, right after it was discovered that the gods some of the mages worshipped had been the very source of darkness itself, the so-called "Dark Matter." The red-eyed entities that devoured those who were soulfied from the inside out, the ones who corrupted magic and its wielders.
Not all of the mages were fanatics like that, of course. Only a small portion of them actively participated in the rituals to spread the influence of their "dark lord". Yet most of the mages had been aware of such rituals taking place, and all of them had known of the true nature of their powers, the root of evil within their magic.
They weren't exactly lying when they had said that magic was a neutral force at heart, however; chaos, creation, destruction... such things did not have wills, after all. Such things only come to power after they are merged with intentions, and that was the part the mages had kept their silence, that the intentions merged with their of magic had been negative ones.
Grief, pain, obsession, hatred... all dark yet incredibly powerful, in a way positive emotions never could.
All things built up from that - how can there be anything but corruption?
In fact, not so long after it was discovered that the only reason some of their earliest magic-crafts - the Star Rod, for example - had been free of such darkness is because of the sheer amount of hopes and wonder that had been infused in it during its creation, born out of their naive ideals, of wishes for the future. Something, by the time the riots had begun, they had lost a long time ago.
He remembers his return from one of his "witnessing" of such bloodshed, exhausted and nauseated and despair threatening his very existence. He remembers the weariness, of the watching, of the inability to interfere, as he was summoned from one scene of violence to another against his will; each one bloodier than before, all monumental and important, something that would make a mark in history.
This is not what I had meant, he remembers thinking with tears in his eyes.
No, but it is what you had wished for, a twin voice had replied in his head.
When the fightings finally ceased, only about a half of their population remained, countless either killed or fled or in the mages' cases, publically exiled to corners of the galaxy.
By that time, his butterfly-form had been stated to be known as the fiend, the omen of death.
"This is our fault," he remembers one of his colleagues speaking in the lab. "The mages - they were indeed worshipping Dark Matter, but they by themselves wouldn't have been able to provide enough power to actually summon them into existence. It is our incorporation of magic - most notably, the CROWN, of course - that actually made things escalate to this state. The Dark Matter's core has gained too much power now, absorbed too many souls. Even if we defeat them once, the will rise again."
"We need to build something that can counter it, permanently." he remembers him saying. "It's our responsibility, the only way we can atone for all the horrors we unknowingly cost."
A round of grim understanding went through the team. Everyone had been pretty much aware of his 'condition' to be forced to witness particularly horrifying events of their era.
"We can create a new magical core. A nexus without any corruptions, one that could hopefully grow into something more powerful than Dark Matter."
He had nodded. "We would have to begin with whatever we've got. Starting with the Star Rod, anything we've made over the years that we are absolutely certain that are free from negative influence. Find someplace where the Dark Matter won't reach for a long time -terraform a barren planet somewhere, I don't care - and let its energies grow."
"We would have to hold on, too. The nature of magic is chosen by the will of its creator - that is the principle. The moment we succumb to despair or hate, it will all have been for naught."
A grim, yet hopeful determination had been set to their team.
Thus had been the beginning of project FOUNTAIN.
At some point Dark Matter's forces began to directly invade their homes. It appeared one of the exiled mages finally succeeded in reviving their 'dark lord,' Void Termina.
No one had been surprised.
He had been summoned a few weeks afterward, to a scene of a particularly gruesome battlefield.
He had seen Galacta there, in the center of that crater full of half-soulfied bodies, imposing and terrifying with his wings and mask and blood-soaked lance.
He almost didn't recognize those glowing eyes beneath the mask.
Not so long after his return, stories of Galacta Knight had begin to spread around even Halcandra.
He had been surprised when he wasn't summoned to the last fight against Void Termina, led by four heroes whose name eluded history's eyes.
Perhaps that is why.
Even with the enemy's head was cut off, the war had not been over. The remaining Dark Matters still had been a formidable force, and the fighting continued for months, more and more planets plunging into radio silence as the remaining soldiers desperately fought on.
When the war had finally been over, only Halcandra itself remained among all the planets they had inhabited once.
Project FOUNTAIN had found a suitable candidate for the location of the new nexus in a planet called Popstar a few dimensions away.
All mages were exiled from Halcandra, for their willful negligence of what had happened.
Galacta Knight's name had come to be known as one of fear and awe, the ruthless rogue soldier, the greatest warrior in the galaxy.
"He'd been on the battlefield for too long," one of his team had said. "Look at these accounts of what he did - he shouldn't be this powerful. It's scientifically impossible. He must have been influenced by those he fought against for too long."
"He's too dangerous now," another had nodded. "Even if he can be brought to his senses, we cannot let him loose in the world."
"He's not - " he had begun to protest, but everyone had shaken their heads.
"You're too used to bloodshed, after years with that unfortunate condition of yours," One of them said. "He's massacring anyone who's even got the slightest potential of being influenced by Dark Matter. Such actions cannot be tolerated."
He had not been able to reply to that.
"Speaking of which, how's the rebirth of NOVA going on?" The chief had asked. "It's the only hope of stopping him now."
It was a dangerous move, building another computer based on NOVA's flawed designs. Yet they knew it only would only have to work just once, and that had been reason enough to take the risk for their team. The other options - whether to actually summon the great comet once more, or build something that can overcome Galacta in terms of strength - would have been far more dangerous.
He had not participated in project STAR DREAM, focusing his sole efforts to FOUNTAIN instead.
If anyone had noticed, no one had said anything.
He had been summoned to Galacta's last moments. For the first time in his countless 'witnesses,' he had been in his true form, not just countless wings of butterflies. His friend had glanced at him one, eyes widening in surprise, before slowly being encased in his crystalline coffin.
"Goodbye, Galacta." he had whispered.
So much had been lost in Halcandra. A lot of the population agreed that rebuilding would take more effort than they would be capable of - both physical and emotional.
Those who wanted to remain in their homes went to live in the Egg Engines area, - untouched ever since the bombings, ironically enough - guarded by the four dragons of Landia.
Others chose different planets to migrate.
He chose Popstar, gladly volunteering to finish project FOUNTAIN.
He remembers the familiar tug of a summoning the moment he placed the Star Rod at the spring in Rainbow Resort, yet finding himself not going anywhere.
He does not remember the exact moment he began to spend more time as a butterfly than not. Perhaps he saw it to be more fit, considering the planet's rich natural environment.
A Halcandran had no place in such a star.
He remembers existing, for a long time.
He remembers being summoned, after who knows how long.
He remembers seeing a pink puffball riding on a star, a traveler from a spring breeze.
A start of an era, he remembers thinking.