Often, I feel inferior to the pressure placed upon me.
It’s not something that just anyone can carry.
It’s not something that just anyone can uphold.
I speak of pressure, but it’s more like a fog of possibilities.
Failure, success, contentment.
All of them mixed amongst the space surrounding you.
However…that bright smile of hers…
It made it easier to see. It made it easier to feel.
I wonder what could have been…
If I hadn’t taken it for granted.
Kato walks around the grounds of the Elected Division, sporting his newly acquired Alpha Squad gear. It had been a week since he last saw Aurelia. A week since, for the first time, he had done the opposite of what he wanted to do.
“Now…and forever. The only way I can give back to her…is to fight.”
Suddenly, heavy but forgotten memories flash through Kato’s mind:
“Father. What is war?”
Syrus Izana looks towards his five year old son, and ruffles his son’s hair.
“War is what happens when two sides do not get along and fight until there is a winner, Kato. The winners are the ones who are remembered throughout history, and are free to do with their victory as they please.”
“Is that why you fight, father?”
“Yes. I am fighting to make sure you and I are not on the losing side of this war.”
“And which war do you mean?”
“Aren’t there two of them? Humans against the outsiders…and humans against humans?”
“...you figured out that much already, huh? What a smart child you are, Kato. It can even be frightening at times, I must say.”
Syrus laughs: “Also, if anything, humans are the outsiders-”
“So which war are we in, father? Are we winning?”
Syrus looks towards his son. He stares deep into his son’s eyes, worried for his son’s state of being. Even with everything Syrus has been through in the civil war and after...he still cannot understand how his son manages to possess eyes emptier than his.
Syrus sighs. “I’m afraid we’re involved in both, my son. It makes it hard to know who to trust, and who to fight alongside. But I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure you are safe, and prepared for all the things to come…you are the future of the Izana clan, after all.”
Syrus’s expression darkens: “And as for who is winning?...it’s hard to say…”
“What do you not understand, Kato!! You cannot allow yourself to be lenient in battle!! You must always fight like it is your last fight, no matter the enemy!!”
Kato drops his daggers. His cold and empty eyes only frustrates his father even more.
“Father…why must I fight?”
“Because you are my son!!”
“That is not enough of a reason, father. You know that I do not wish to spill blood. You know that I do not wish to partake in your war. And yet you train me excessively for the sake of what?! Am I not a young man, born to choose my own path?! Why must I conform to your expectations of me?!”
Syrus falls to his knees, and begins weeping. His ten year old son's eyes open in shock.
“Father!” Kato rushes to Syrus’ side.
Syrus: “...I’m sorry…my son. I never meant for things to get this far. I never believed a commoner like myself could ever get the highest position in the King’s army. I only did what I did to protect your mother, Kato…and now…it seems that my ambitions have swallowed me whole.”
Kato glances at his father’s weak expression, and becomes swept with guilt.
Syrus: “I only wanted to protect what she left behind…our son…our beautiful son…with the way I am now, I cannot hope to protect you for long…so I thought…that if I was able to mold you into a strong fighter…capable of defeating the best of the best…then surely…you would be able to take my position when I die…and protect your own children in the future…”
Syrus looks up at Kato and holds the back of Kato’s head.
Syrus: “...everything I do…is for you, Kato…I believe in you so much…so I’m sorry…for everything…”
Kato’s eyes darken. He then grabs hold of Syrus’ hand that is pressed against the back of his head.
Kato: “Right…I will fight…I will fight…”
Kato stops in his tracks as his eyes open widely. He grabs hold of his right eye.
“What…was that? What did I just say? What did I just mean? Why…does it feel so familiar?”
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Kato.”
Kato turns to his left and sees his mentor, Ichirogen Subayashi, standing in front of him. Kato’s eye appears to be bloodshot, leading Ichirogen to be concerned.
Ichirogen: “Let’s talk in my office.”
Kato and Ichirogen sit quietly in the Ichirogen’s ‘space’, as Ichirogen pours another cup of tea to help Kato.
Ichirogen: “So then…what’s with the eye?”
Kato: “I don’t understand what you mean,”
Ichirogen: “Your eye is looking worse for wear. But there lies a distinct hole in the center of it. Like a trace of something attached to you, but still not quite - you.”
Kato pauses. His subconscious mind may be seated in front of Ichirogen, but Ichirogen could see that a piece of him belonged somewhere else.
Kato: “...what do you think of the gods, Ichirogen?”
Ichirogen: “I think they were exceptional beings that gave life to the world we live in. We owe them a great debt.”
Kato: “...now what do you really think of them?”
Ichirogen pauses, before sighing.
“I think they were both cowards.”
“Yes. Two sentient beings unable to face the world that they saw fit to create, only to recognize that they were simply children of fate trying to play the role of gods.”
Ichirogen waves his hands across the space he and Kato were seated in, and the area they were in immediately changes to resemble the surfaces of both the moon and sun.
Ichirogen: “The god of the sun and the goddess of the moon. Recorded in the Book of Asaryn as the starting point, two lovers that were formed from the depths of a phenomenon called Aether. Through their love came the first humans - a man named Shachar and a woman named Aurora. To help nurture their creation, they formed the Primals from the Aether they possessed to teach of the elements and cohabit the lands. The gods were meant to see everything through to the end. But in the end, they fled to the cores of the two celestial objects hovering outside of our world. Claiming it to be for the sake of our world’s endurance, the beings of this world accepted it as fate, and became servient to the laws the gods had left in their stead.”
Ichirogen then changes the landscape to resemble that of the skies right above the continent of Elyzan, the main continent of the world of Haven.
“Eventually, the descendants of the gods, aka humans, came to be at odds with the Primals. This has led to the thousands of years of war and strife that plagues this world. If the gods were truly capable of understanding time or matter, I am sure they must have known what would transgress. But instead of facing the reality of what they had built…they decided to flee. Therefore, I believe them to be cowards. No matter their reasoning, I cannot accept them as true gods.”
Kato: “In everything there is reasoning. You propose the reasoning to be cowardice. I cannot see it that way.”
Ichirogen: “How do you see it then?”
Kato: “They fled out of love. Perhaps in seeing their creation’s dismay. In seeing the blood shed. In seeing their children’s end. They had simply decided to avoid the circumstances in order to save themselves from it all. That doesn’t seem like cowardice. It seems like a display of love.”
Ichirogen puts down his cup: “If you see a person running away as a display of love, Kato, you may need to reevaluate your thinking.”
Kato’s eyes become dim with despair.
Ichirogen: “Say, Kato…what would you have done if it was you?”
Kato: “...if I were one of the gods?…I don’t know. I am just a man.”
Ichirogen: “And what is your meaning of a man?”
Kato looks up to face Ichirogen properly. An image of his father flashes through his mind.
Kato: “A man is one who bears the pain, but strives ahead nonetheless. A man is one who paves his own way to success, but still accepts the help of those who are willing to support him. A man… is one who works to protect what he loves…but is still willing to set it free when need be.”
Ichirogen places his chin firmly into his right palm, and leans his head against his lower body.
“And what if what he loves…doesn’t want to be let go?”
Kato becomes flush with realization.
Kato: “We’re not talking about the gods anymore, are we?”
Ichirogen laughs: “You know, Kato, almost everytime you come here, even I feel inferior to whatever lingers around you. It makes it hard to read you, even if that is the entirety of my ability. But for once…you are very readable. More than just that, you’re practically an open book.”
Ichirogen snaps his fingers, and Kato finds himself completely transported out from Ichirogen’s world.
After a brief minute or two, Kato slowly opens his eyes, and finds himself seated in front of Ichirogen inside his office. Ichirogen drops his lighter onto the large wooden desk in between the two of them, and takes a puff of his cigar.
Ichirogen: “If a man is willing to set free what he holds dear…the man never deserved to have it so close to him in the first place. The same goes for the gods…and the same goes for you as well, Kato.”
Kato says nothing. The more he thinks, the more the pieces continue to match, and things become clear.
Ichirogen: “That…is my meaning of a man. Do with that as you please.”
“Great work today, Mr. Jamaerah!”
“Thank you, you as well.”
Dante Jamaerah walks through the elegant halls of the Delta Squad HQ, carrying a few documents in hand. The ladies of the department continue to admire from a distance, all looking towards the confidence and brilliance that is Dante Jamaerah.
“His smile is even more charming today! Oh, my heart!”
“I’m telling you two, it must be because of his new engagement!”
“What is the lucky woman’s name, though?!”
“How am I supposed to know? She’s a Flare Aid! They don’t file documents in the temple!”
“Relax, relax, I found some info after a bit of digging earlier. It seems her father is a soldier in the Royal Guard Division, and she’s part of a very recently established clan.”
“Let’s see here, it says her name is ...hmm ...Ka-mi Ino-hara?”
“Wow, she’s stunning!”
“Yeah. We never stood a chance,”
Dante walks out of the HQ building and climbs into his own personal aeron. As his personal pilot takes off, Dante takes out a tablet-sized mirror screen, and answers an incoming call.
“Wait, just a second,”
Dante then looks towards his pilot through the rear-view mirror, and plasters a smile.
“Put on your headphones, please. I have an important call that you don’t need to hear about.”
“Of course, Mr. Jamaerah.”
Dante looks back towards his screen.
“What is it, Francis?”
“Isaac reports that the prince is freaking out about his new engagement. He requires…access.”
“And he will not be receiving any until he sees this through. If I haven’t made that clear enough, then I will just have to visit the palace myself.”
“No need. I will deal with it. But may I ask why you are going this far once again? All of this just for…him?”
“You can sense that, huh? Well then, I’m sure you can also sense I have no intention of explaining myself. Just know I am doing this for the greater good.”
“I am sure you are, sir. But don’t you think you are pushing his hand? How can you be sure he won’t resist your plays?”
“I’m not. In fact, I am depending on him to do just that.”
“...I don’t understand. If he resists, this could go much farther than just disputes. It seems too much of a risk for both sides.”
Dante pauses.. He looks towards the setting sun off in the distance, before hovering his finger over his screen to end the call. His expression now callous, different to his normal smile.
“And that…is what makes it so fun…”