He walked down the stone path, lights lining at the sides and casting a warm glow to his surroundings. Several towering figures were around, speaking amongst each other or on their own; all oblivious to the truth of what they are.
Mere animations of his making.
He continued his slow pace, exploring this replica of a city he once treasured so. His body was slightly hunched over and he felt an impossible weight upon his shoulders; a burden that only weighed more on him with the passing of time.
He had described this wondrous place to you, once.
“Never was a city more magnificent. From the humblest streets to the highest spires, she fairly gleamed…”
And it was true; with buildings that seemed to stretch endlessly towards the sky, architectural marvels that were eons ahead of what existed in this day and age. So many inventions, so much history lost to the flow of time.
He stopped in front of a familiar building, the Akadaemia Anyder.
He watched you, an almost disappointed look in his gaze as you writhed in pain. The primordial light overflowing from your form. It clashed with your soul, muddling and almost defiling it with its aether. He noted how your soul began to crack, and watched as you willed with all your might to remain strong, to stamp down on the pain threatening to break you in two.
He saw your gaze, anger and hatred burning in your mesmerizing eyes, screaming betrayal; and yet he remained impassive.
“What a disappointment you turned out to be,” he remarked. “I placed my faith in you. Let myself believe that you could contain the Light. But look at you now, halfway to becoming a monster. You are unworthy of my patronage.”
He watched you gasp for breath, gritting your teeth against the searing pain of the Light bearing down upon your very soul. “It was you who created Vauthry, wasn’t it?” you accused.
He scoffed, almost amused that even in this moment you would demand answers from him, “I am an Ascian. My heart’s sole desire is to usher in the Great Rejoining.”
And so he explained, unsure as to why he felt compelled to…no, actually, he knew exactly why.
Because it was you, that’s why.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts, almost annoyed how even the minutest of details would somehow lead him back to you. Then again, should it really surprise him? After all the history between you, he is more surprised that his thoughts weren’t constantly consumed by you.
How long has he watched you?
He has lost count of the lives. Countless reincarnations donning the name Warrior of Light or some variation of the name at some point in time. All heroes, all with that insufferable need to be of service to the realm; to do well by its people.
All lives cut tragically short.
Many times he was simply a distant observer. Forced to watch you push yourself into increasingly more dangerous situations. Forced to watch you fall in some battle or other.
Other times, if the fates were even crueler, he played the role of your executioner.
Or at least had a hand in it.
As he continued his walk to his destination, he recalled some of your more memorable reincarnations.
There was the time you held the name Ramza Beoulve, a Hyurian male who lived in the time when Ivalice stood as part of a war known as the War of the Lions. You had been one of the more famous of the Zodiac Braves, and fought against – and sealed away – Ultima; preventing the being from influencing Hydaelyn…losing your life in the process. Your story would be lost in the pages of history, by your own request. He wondered if you ever realized that you came face to face with an apparition of your past life when you uncovered the truth of Ivalice. Such a question should have been asked before these recent events; now he was sure that you would never provide him with any answers.
Then there was the reincarnation of you that lived during the fall of Mercydia, in the Third Astral Era. You were a race that would eventually become known as the Miqo’te. A female that was named A’urai Moui that lived under the collective tribes that worshipped the Goddess, Sophia. You had been one of the few that opposed the summoning of the Goddess, rallying like-minded individuals and crying out for another way; a more peaceful means to deal with the Allagans. Your kin did not agree with you, however, and your life had been cut short. Betrayed by those you called friends.
There was also the reincarnation that existed during the Sixth Umbral Era. A male Lalafell named Yomi Lami, who excelled in the use of Black Magic. You refused to engage during the War of Magi, and warned your fellow mages of the potentially cataclysmic result that would come about with the abuse of their magic. You had been summarily ignored by your peers and watched in horror as the Elementals quickly ended the war under the great flood. You watched while many of your fellow Mhachi decided to flee in an ark; something that would later result in a great tragedy for your people. And you lost your life helping many of your kin to escape the flood, allowing them to survive and later establish the city of Belah’dia; of which would later become Ul’dah.
There were many other lives that you lived, and he remembered each one. He remembered their names, and every detail about them were engrained into his mind and his soul. Some that lived barely a few years, cut short by war or some other gruesome end, and some that lived past 20 namedays. But still, in the end, none of your lives had ever lived out their years.
Before your current life, there was one other in which he had once dared to hope upon. This life existed just before your current incarnation. At that time, you assumed the identity of a Hyurian female named Fayth Delarosa. Quick witted and brave in the face of constant obstacles. You had red hair that matched your fiery personality and your eyes were of amber, a color he had not seen on you since he first beheld you…
Since before the Sundering.
It was the sight of those eyes that first led him to hope. Your previous lives held no physical traces of you from before the Sundering. Meanwhile, this reincarnation had your eyes, and your soul burned the brightest that he had ever seen compared to all your other past lives. You were a jack of all trades, taking up any and every craft available; citing wanting to be prepared to take on any role needed. You moved constantly; refusing to rest even if others pleaded for you to take care of yourself. You had learned the different trades, easily able to switch from holding an axe or sword to using a staff or cane to using bows and lances. You joined the Path of the Twelve, working with others blessed with the ‘gift’ of the Echo in the interest of the greater good. He watched as you grew stronger and stronger, and he began to hope; more than he ever allowed himself to before, that maybe this time he would be able to bring you into the fold; to call you his ally. He could tell you of your past and maybe this time you would see reason.
Maybe this time, you would stand by his side in the rejoining.
Alas, he thought, a painful lurch in his heart as he continued remembering, that life was also cut down. He watched, transfixed as you dove straight into the Battle of Carteneau. He stayed away from the others, not wishing to betray any potential emotions in front of Lahabrea or any others. He saw as you effortlessly changed from one role to the next. Protecting, damaging, healing; whatever needed to be done. He watched as Bahamut broke free, razing the land and killing hundreds in its rage. He watched, as the fervent prayers brought about a summoning of a seal which in the end could not contain the Elder Primal and saw how the Archon Lousoix absorbed the remaining Aether in a desperate attempt to destroy Bahamut. He saw how those whom you called your companions were swiftly transported away in a flash of light; clearly the Archons doing. But that realization turned into a feeling of pain and horror as he watched…
Watched you somehow refuse the magic of the Archon, refuse to be spirited away. You remained on the battlefield, spending the last of yourself to ensure that you could save as many of the soldiers as possible. You looked up, transfixed on the sight of Bahamut being destroyed, a sort of peaceful acceptance in your face.
The acceptance of your death upon that battlefield.
You closed your eyes briefly, taking a deep breath before opening them again, a quiet resignation on your face. He watched, as you turned, as if by some unknown force, and your eyes met his. The soul within you burned bright, and your eyes seemed to widen, as if in recognition, your mouth parted slightly, letting out a shaky breath as a tear rolled down your cheek. It was the last thing he was able to see before the explosion of light engulfed you.
And he watched…as you died.
If he could’ve given anything in that moment in time to save you, he felt that he would have without question. But it was too late to think of that now, that story was now part of the past.
He had resolved then, not to allow himself any hope. He did not want to find himself pulled in by your soul, he did not want to allow himself the luxury of thinking that maybe, maybe this time he could have you see reason.
And yet, he smiled to himself sardonically, he fell right back in again.
Your current life seemed to be an amalgamation of all your past lives. He could see bits of you that resonated with Ramza, or A’urai, or Yomi, or Fayth. But this you was different as well, molded and shaped through countless more hardships that your previously lives did not have to experience. This you was stoic, burdened by many losses as well as the weight of a title which had you responsible for the lives of possibly millions.
It had you responsible for the realm.
When you made the journey into the First, and you were shown to be able to absorb the Aether from the Light wardens, he thought that it could finally be possible that he’s found a reincarnation of you worthy of being an ally. He spoke with you, more than he should have allowed, and told you of his history…or your history.
Or at least, a part of it.
For he did omit some details. Details that he was not sure you were ready to know yet.
“Is it true!?”
He stilled and turned, facing a robed figure standing beyond the doorway of Convocation of Fourteen, and for once he was thankful that his face lay hidden behind his usual mask. “I should ask you the same.”
“I asked first.”
“You would have to be more specific, there’s a lot that I have done or heard that could be constituted as truth.”
Said being looked ready to step through the doorway but appeared to think better of it. “Tell me true, did you and the others of the Convocation decide upon summoning it? The will of the planet?”
He regarded the being with a wariness, wanting to – but unable to – lie to them. “And what if it is?”
They shook their head in disbelief, “You would easily yield to such impossible demands? Please, I know there must be a different way! A better path!”
He felt a rage sweep through his body, thrumming through his veins. He quickly walked towards the being and grabbed their arm with his hand, a bit too tight if their wince were any indication. “And what would you have me do?” he snarled, “Ponder the alternatives while our planet collapses and destructs?! While more of our brethren perish?! Save your pathetic and ineffective idealisms for matters that are inconsequential to the wellbeing of everyone!”
He knew the moment he crossed the line. The being in front of him stayed quiet, though he could tell that his words stabbed a deep wound within them. It was happening more and more recently, and if he were of any sound mind he would take the time to dissect and analyze what has caused him to lash out at them so much lately.
But his mind was not clear, it was filled with a driving need. A need to save his world, and all that dwelled within it the only way he knew how. The only plausible way.
Zodiark was the only clear answer.
“I see,” they whispered, their expression taking on a detached and icy demeanor. “Well, pray forgive this pathetic and idealist fool. I shall not bother you again,” they yanked their arm free of his grasp, and he felt his world shake to the core at their next words. “Consider this my official resignation from my current position within the Convocation of Fourteen. And…” they quickly pressed an item upon the palm of his still outstretched hand, “Consider this also as the end to our bond. It is clear that we are on opposing paths and can no longer remain together.”
He looked down at his hands and saw a familiar earring resting on his palm. He had created it for them long ago. It was a drop earring, with the top part made of metal formed into a diamond shape and where at the end dangled a white oval stone. He remembered the moment clearly, he went to them as they were in the midst of creating a new creature. He had startled them and they flushed in embarrassment as he poked fun at them. They were mortified and prepared to leave when he surprised them with the gift, as well as expressing his desire to spend the rest of his days with them, laughing at their embarrassment, living with their enjoyment, bonded for eternity.
It was easily one of his happiest memories, especially when they looked at him teary eyed and nodded in response, unable to form the proper words at that time.
His eyes looked back up to see them walking away. “Wait!” he called out, dread filling his very being as their words fully processed in his mind.
They froze, and the stifling silence stretched between the two. He took a cautious step forward, wanting, willing for them to understand him.
“Don’t,” they simply stated, their voice oddly hollow and bereft of its usual cheer, and he felt his very soul break apart at the sound, “You no longer have the right to call me by that name.”
They turned then and he could see the unshed tears present, “Please,” he pleaded.
They blinked, and a lone tear escaped and rolled down their face. They shook their head and turned away from him.
Without realizing it, he made it to his destination. He peered up at the all too familiar building. It was the building where he spent countless days making decisions for the good of the people, where he and the other members decided to summon a deity from fervent prayers to save them…
Where he had lost the being most important to him.
He began the ascent to the building, pushing the painful memories away. They would have to wait. Right now, he has to prepare with his meeting with the Warrior of Light.
He has to prepare for your downfall.
Shock was the name that could be best used to describe the feeling that overwhelmed him at the moment. He watched you rise to your feet with renewed resolved. You soul that had been on the brink of shattering was suddenly stable again, and not just stable, it blinded him with its radiance. He shielded his eyes in an attempt to look at you and what he saw chilled him to the bone.
A figure cloaked in black, a cowl covering their face as well as a white mask in place.
His eyes widened, his heart lurching at the sight before him. “You...how can you be here?!”
Suddenly, before he could fully question the scene before him, the vision disappeared, leaving you in its place.
“No…it’s not…you’re not her. You’re just a failure” he stated, a bitterness to his tone.
No matter, this would not deviate him from his plans.
His goal of the Rejoining.
It was time to reveal his true face to you.
It was time for him to play his role of executioner.
The first thing that he noticed, was the brightness of the scene before him and what appeared to be a sun rising from a distance.
The second thing that he noticed, was a spreading chill throughout his body. He looked down and saw a gaping hole in the middle of where his chest and stomach would be. He raise a hand to it, and watched as bits of aether floated away from the clearly mortal wound.
The third thing that he noticed, was your brilliant aura calling to him. He lifted his gaze to meet yours, and pushed back the cowl from his head so that he could see you properly and so you could see him. He closed his eyes, the realization of his defeat dawning on him but strangely he did not feel anger nor despair.
Instead, he was strangely filled with a sense of peace.
He opened his eyes and met yours again. Your eyes were briefly unreadable until he noticed confusion take over and then a dawning realization coming from you.
Ah, you finally remembered.
“Remember…remember us…” he pleaded, “Remember…that we once lived…”
He saw your eyes glaze over, and sadness radiated from your form. He watched you nod, unable to form any words at the moment without the possibility of succumbing to tears.
He breathed, and a smile appeared on his lips. After everything that has happened he felt ready to let go. He felt ready to rest finally, because he knew that he could finally entrust you to continue on. He could entrust you to find that better way that you pleaded for all those centuries ago.
“Please, I know there must be a different way! A better path!”
There would be, this he knew, and you would be the one to find it.
And he would continue to watch you, this he promised to you in his heart and mind. He will watch your journey, watch you grow, and watch you achieve the ideal world that you wanted…
…A perfect world for his Persephone.