But I will find my cross
And I will take us home
-Atlas by Covenant
Emet-Selch hates the Rak'tika Greatwood. The endless Light only makes it worse. It's too green, too bright, too wet. The humidity is horrible for his hair and clothes. And that’s not even covering his strong distaste for the greenery. He knows every plant by name and he despises it.
The Warrior of Light finds him staring at a flowering bush in a pot.
"You could start a fire with that glare," she says.
"Whoever takes care of these plants should do a better job," he scoffs, kneeling down to snap off a large dead branch. "The soil is too acidic."
She looks surprised, "Didn't take you for a flower enthusiast."
He pauses, standing up too fast, "I'm not. I hate them. Ugly and needy. Like your friends." The Angel of Truth doesn't lie but he does give half truths.
He had made her a garden before it all fell apart. Persephone had filled it with all kinds of her own creations. Lahabrea would complain that none had any practical uses but she loved to make frogs with hats and flowers and things with wings. Her flowers smelled good even if they didn't have any medicinal properties.
Emet-Selch loves them all.
He's asleep under a tree next time she finds him. The sky is dark and the celebrations have died down. It's very late and she's not sure how she stumbles upon him.
"Do you sleep out here every night?" She questions, kicking his boot.
"Just napping, hero. No need to concern yourself," he opens his eyes and immediately narrows them as he takes her in. "What are you wearing on your head?"
He crosses her arms, "I-it's a flower crown. The villagers taught me how to make it." Messily strewn together vines that largely lack any flowers make it more of a mistake than anything. Her face flares red.
"Oh, come now, that is a pathetic attempt. Come here and I'll show you how to do it right."
She isn't sure why she accepts but she sits down across from him with a huff. He sits up, tucks his legs under him and snaps his fingers. A pile of flowers appear between them.
“Persephone! What are you doing out here without your robes?!”
"It's fine , love," she rolls her eyes playfully, making a new type of flowering bush. She shapes the purple blooms in elegant spires and it reminds Emet-Selch of how he builds cities. The smell hits him then as she waves her hand. It's strong and not something that had existed before. It puts him at ease and he relaxes.
"What are you going to call them?" He asks as he kneels down next to her.
He weaves together the flowers like he’s done it so many times before (– and he has). At the same time he tells her how to braid the stems and what each flower means.
Finally he plops his own down onto her head and crosses his arms. She giggles, leaning up to put hers onto his head as well. It’s much better this time around.
He pouts, tempted to shake it off but he closes his eyes when he the smell of the crown drifts down to him. It smells like
Emet-Selch shakes his head, standing up abruptly. “Get some sleep, hero.”
When the Warrior of Light (– or rather Darkness, is it?) returns from the sands of Amh Araeng, Emet-Selch finds himself shielding his eyes from her glow. It reminds him of–
Cradling her body, broken and bloody. He screams and he doesn’t even recognize it as his own.
“Her aether,” Lahabrea says, voice stained. He’s treading carefully. And he’s right, of course, it’s too bright. Even dead, it’s stained by something else, something new.
Just as he and Lahabrea are a dark mark against the fires behind them. Emet-Selch won’t admit, then or ever, but the name on her lips when she died was not his and was not Zodiark’s.
– Nothing. The Warrior of Light wipes dust from her brow, eyes narrowed.
He shakes his head, giving a lazy shrug. “It is rather hard not to, with how you glow, hero.”
Her cheeks burn at the innuendo and he smirks. His expression falters, though, as he looks at her. She notices. She could always notice when something is wrong. No matter what form she took (– and to be fair he took her in plenty of forms).
"You look angry."
He closes his eyes to block out the Light. "Your soul is barely visible like that." Fading fast. Twisted. Tainted. It's not the first time. He had seen her die plenty.
"You are truly a masochist," Elidibus remarks, "To continually seek out shards of her. Even after she betrayed us, you are yet a fool in love."
And he is right, Emet-Selch thinks as he waves a hand and takes a portal far, far away from his supposed comrade.
"What does it look like normally?"
He wants to say 'Perfect. So close to whole. You could remember now if you tried.'
Instead he says, "Even without all the Light, it's broken. Dull except for Her taint."
He pauses. It takes him off guard.
When she was whole she had said ‘Red like pomegranates, full and bubbling, the only one like it.’ One of her other forms had been a Miqo’te with the best aether sense he had ever known (– besides her new friend with a perchance to throw herself into the Lifestream). He had looked at him with a crooked grin, fangs and flickering ears, and said ‘Like bruises. The purple almost drowns out the fire underneath. But I see it, love, I do. You are hiding. Come out for me.’
And how Emet-Selch almost bloomed for him. Almost shed his mortal form simply because he asked . He didn’t and the Miqo’te was an expert on potions and poisons. Emet-Selch found him with his own work on his lips. Lifeless. He plucked the shard up and turned away. Disappointing. He had high hopes for that one.
“Whole,” is all he says to her as he waves a hand to signal the end of a conversation.
No matter how badly Emet-Selch may have wanted her too, the Warrior of Light wouldn’t remember. It’s not like it is the first time he’s met a part of her soul but something about watching her rally the lazy and spoiled people of Eulmore makes his chest ache.
Something about it all feels so final . Because he’s seen her do it before. She always could pull people to her cause. She didn’t need manipulation; they simply flocked to her like the birds she made. And last time she died for her cause. He's sure she will die for this cause again.
“Altima,” Emet-Selch’s voice cracks and she looks at him with her head tilted, “What are you doing?”
“No titles in the bedroom, love,” she chides, folding her robes and her red mask is set to the side. On her face is a white one, that of a commoner. No masks in the bedroom, either, he wants to remind her but the words don’t come out.
“I saw you last night,” he says softly, “Preaching about Hydaelyn.”
Her shoulders tense, but still she replies, “I’m leaving the Convocation. Not you.”
And why did it feel like the same thing?
And maybe that’s why he slips up. Lets words of Amaurot spill from his lips in a desperate attempt to see some form of recognition in her eyes. He tells her how beautiful it was, nearly tearing up at he glares at the Ladder.
When he sees not a single flash of remembering from her, his face slips back into his practiced mask.
“Never mind,” he says with a shrug. She reaches out to him before she stops herself.
"I want to remember," she says softly.
He freezes midstep, "Ask me after your fight, then, hero."
He watches her sit down next to the Crystal Exarch and a kind of jealousy he hadn’t felt in a long time bubbles up in his gut. He had helped her find the sleeping Exarch with his feathered form but he is suddenly having regrets. Why had he bothered? To watch them flirt ? The emotion he feels makes him want to be sick.
And then she looks right at him, pausing mid-laugh to meet his gaze.
He likes to watch her work. Even covered in soot and ceruleum, she is beautiful. She hums, long blonde hair pulled back into a messy bun as she repairs his gunblade. He had been told by many that she is not fit to be an Empress but he ignored them all.
After all, it is her soul he is drawn too. And to find that same bright soul fragment in a Garlean, well, it had to be fate.
“Solus, dear, I know you’re there,” she looks back at him, eyes so blue he might drown.
He chuckles, walking over to her and draping his arms around her waist. His hands fall protectively onto her swollen stomach.
He freezes, eyes wide, and instantly teleports away.
“Do you see something, my friend?” The Exarch asks, starting to stand up. He holds out a hand to her. She takes it.
“I think it was just a shadow.”
"You were watching me."
"Isn't that what I said I would do since the beginning?"
She pouts, arms crossed. He closes his eyes. He wants to kiss that pout off her lips like he's done so much before.
He's standing in the shade provided by a large rock, staring out at the sea. And she's standing in the light like she belongs there. Persephone always looked so good illuminated in the streetlights.
"The people loved her more than we thought," Elidibus shuffles his papers, his voice tense.
"They are calling for Hydaelyn. In her name. Her death rallied them," Lahabrea speaks next, eyes trained on Emet-Selch.
"High Seraph, indeed," Elidibus sighs. And what was the myth? To lead a war against the gods? She had not been a willing sacrifice, just another death at what had been the end of the world. She had been trying to stop them from summoning Zodiark. Even after leaving the Convocation she had tried to run through the crumbling city to find them.
As Emet-Selch grips the table so hard it nearly caves around his fingers, Lahabrea reaches out to him. And then pulls back before he can touch the other man. There's a spiteful remark on his tongue, but he bites it back.
"Hades…" Lahabrea broaches carefully. He lets out a small breath at hearing his name.
"Don't. I knew. I knew all along and I didn't stop her," Emet-Selch snarls, "Everything we have worked for… about to be undone because I wasn't there."
Silence falls over them. And in this aspect, perhaps Emet-Selch had been the first to break. Sundered as part of his soul died in the streets.
"Don't you have a mountain to climb?"
She follows his gaze to the sea and there a tug at her heart she doesn't understand. She's homesick, she knows, and convinces herself it's for Eorzea. So she brings up something from the Source, "Zenos is your great grandson, is he not?"
It's a strange question to ask at the moment and Emet-Selch finally looks at her.
"Surprised to know I have kin?"
"Did you love her?" For some reason the question sits heavy in her throat, like she doesn't want to know the answer.
And Emet-Selch doesn't know how to answer. He did. In a way. So he replies, "I cannot even look at Zenos. He has her eyes."
He never once lied to her.
Emet-Selch finds it almost funny when the Auracite lodges into him. He would have laughed, if he wasn’t so desperate. One pair of hands clutching at the biggest shard in his chest. Thirteen. Exactly thirteen shards of Auracite. Oh, the irony in it.
Just like the crucifix of Zodiark they all gather around during meetings.
He guesses this is what it feels like to be sundered.
It’s bright when he opens his eyes after the pain fades, after his voice fails him and his aether that holds his form together dissipates. He’s surpised that the pain just… stops. He feels weightless, as his own aether dances around them. It reaches out to her, recognizing her, wanting her. He brings a hand up to his chest. And he smiles.
He is proud of her.
“Remind me, Hades. Please,” she whispers, taking a step closer. He can feel her aether too and it flows against his own, trying to fill in the hole she left while what is left of his sinks into the cracks in her soul. He feels...complete.
“Very well, Persephone,” he replies, reaching out to brush her hair from her face. His soul melds with hers, two broken parts becoming one. He would like to stay there, he thinks.