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Mistakes Unlearned Bear Repeating [Final Fantasy XIV]

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Rae stared at Francmage as he drew nearer. How was he still alive? She glanced and spotted him in the fray, frozen in time as well, so this Francmage that was moving was not the one from back in time. Rae had to act fast. She needed to pull Marishi away from the knight if she was going to save her. Rushing quickly, Rae started to run towards Marishi, but was intercepted by Francmage. She skidded to a halt and glared at him with wide-eyes, wanting nothing more than to kill him. Yet again he was standing in her way between her and her wife. What was wrong with him that he was this obsessed with capturing her? "Get out of my way, Francmage. I'm saving my wife." Rae growled, her tone threatening. She drew her rapiers. She wasn't above killing him, or at least mortally wounding him. If fire didn't kill him, however, what would?

"It's alright, Rae," Francmage answered, a smile on his face, he held his arms out to her, standing straight, in his right hand he held his rapier. A foreboding scene if she ever saw one. "You don't have to keep doing this. That foul bitch has no power over you now. We can be together now. You don't have to try to keep her from being killed. With her out of the way, we won't have to worry about anything."

Rage boiled within Rae. How delusional can one person be? "Shut up!" Rae spat, pure vitriol oozing from her words. Francmage made no indication her anger affected him. Instead, he looked upon her with pity, which intensified her rage. "You think this is some sort of game? Some joke? You think you have a hold on me? That I even care about you? You mean nothing to me! Not a goddamn thing! You are a thorn in my side at best, a cancer at worst. You have tried without end to come between Marishi and I. You have tried and failed. Marishi and I will never be apart! I will never go with the likes of you! I don't care how posh you can promise my life will be! I don't care how much you claim to love me! You. Do. Not! This is not love! This is obsession! You are sick. All of this for what? For a woman? For me? I can assure you, I am not worth this! Look! Your men have fallen! Died at the feet of mine and my friends'! You have so much blood on your hands that you cannot even beg the Goddess Altana forgiveness without staining her own dress! You're pathetic!" She couldn't contain her words. They flowed from her mouth like venom from a viper's bite. She didn't care how he would feel afterwards. She wanted him to hurt. She wanted him to back down. She wanted him to leave her alone.

Instead, he persisted. "My poor, Rae. Don't you see how strong a hold she has on you even past the grave," Francmage said, his arms still out on either side, the grip on his rapier tighter now. "Do you not remember that blessed day? The tour around the city? The foods, the smells, the gifts, the laughs, the tales? Do you not remember the feeling that night as we stood in the stream together and shared our kiss? I saw the look in your eyes. There's no denying it! You enjoyed the kiss. You wanted it! Now you refuse to acknowledge it."

"It was wrong!" Rae snapped, tears forming in her eyes, arms shaking. Her lips were curled into a snarl and her fingernails dug into the balls of her hands, drawing blood from the punctures. "It was wrong to have done that! You and I are married! Your wife is fat with your heir and you chose to chase after some alien from another universe! You had it all and you threw it away like a selfish, narrow-minded idiot!"

Francmage laughed, stepping closer to Rae. "Just because it's wrong, doesn't mean you didn't like it." He continued to step closer, Rae feeling horrid guilt plague her conscience. She did. She had enjoyed it. The neglect from Marishi left her wanting. But that was not Marishi's fault. It was her's. She knew at any time she could have spoken to Marishi about it, but she did not. Instead, she got caught up in the magic of the day and let a moment's weakness slip where she allowed herself to indulge in something that was painfully wrong. He was close now. Rae's eyes flickered to him and she quickly summoned the power of the earth to rise, causing Francmage to tumble to the side. She then threw a blast of fire at him, knocking him back and causing his clothes to singe, but the snow beneath him doused the embers.

"Don't you dare come near me," Rae hissed, her Dreadwyrm Rapier held before her, ready to launch another attack if needed. Her gaze then darted to Marishi, still frozen in time.

"Daughter of Bahamut. If thou do not fetch Marishi now, I cannot keep mine hold over time in this world." Came Alexander's voice. It rang in her head, blocking out all other sounds. She needed to act quickly. As she moved towards Marishi, Francmage did as well, aiming his rapier to strike her ribs. Rae, however, would not allow this. Not now, not ever.

"Just DIEi" She screamed, casting a spell of summoning while still running towards Marishi. She focused all her emotion, all her energy into the spell, conjuring her summon full-strength. The aetheric energy shot into the sky, hiding in the clouds. Thunder rolled and the earth trembled. The mountains groaned in agony as its load of snow shook free, threatening to create an avalanche. The resulting tremor caused Francmage to lose his balance, falling back in the snow, while Rae reached Marishi first. The moment she placed her hand on Marishi, the hold against time that Alexander had on her was lost, dragging her in between the tides of time. Without pause, she summoned nine blades of aether and aimed them directly at the Holy Knight. He would die when time reverted to normal. It was then that a terrifying roar echoed throughout the skies. Through the opaque clouds dropped a form. It was not quite the size of the Bahamut they knew from Hydaelyn, but it looked genuine. Rae's eyes were veined with purple and gold as she looked up to the sky a wild look in her stare. "Bahamut! An noskh ool strah! Ehk morn err! EHK MORN ERR! N narr ool kin! Eehl nesh fanl! Ahk Morn!" She spoke Dragon Speak, her voice ringing through and reaching her summoned Bahamut. 

In the stillness of time, Bahamut's head reared. Francmage, on his feet now, stared up at the wrathful Bahamut, then to Rae, who stared back at him, eyes wide and filled with pure hatred. The look was almost frightening to him. Never had anything stared at him with such an expression. He could barely recognize her. She looked more dragon-like than feline at that point as she glared at him while clutching on to Marishi. The resulting blasts would destroy the face of the mountain they were on. She didn't care. She knew this would kill him, though. What could be resurrected if nothing was left of him? She would destroy him at all cost, no matter the collateral damage.

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“Well, we’ve made a mess of things, haven’t we? Truly chaos, Needs tidying up. Swept under the rug.” A familiar voice lamented from the echoes of another plane of existence. “Just when we were doing so well! Greatness indeed! Pure talent! Worthy of praise!” The cat watched the scene unfold, the time lock unable to affect the immortal. “Is that her Fenrir, why is she back? Very curious. Unknown motives. Curious actions.” The best stared unflinchingly at her with his cold gaze. “So, that primal actually let her lock time and come back to Vana’diel. I must assist her. Though our pact nullified on Hydelean, it is not nullified here.” The great hound said.

Then, their world trembled in the firmament. They each looked at each other with alarmed glances. No one should be able to interrupt them, let alone cause a disturbance. They were in a plane beyond mortal reach. Beyond demi-god reach. Nothing could ever exist in this place. A purple sigil began to materialize by a purple flame. “Get back!” Carbuncle exclaimed. “He is coming!” The traces became more and more Intricate until the fire went out and only the sigil remained. The whole circle caught fire and dropped away through a portal below.

The sounds of a horse bathed in blood and fire could be heard galloping faintly coming closer, and closer, it’s ugly sounds heralding doom and promising death. It’s disguising red eyes could be seen as it leapt out of the portal. Horse and rider. The animal was huge and appeared to always be slick with something. Blood, oil, both, it was hard to tell. It thrashed and turned as if trying to break free it’s masters will. It chomped on its bit wanting nothing more than to ride down these wretched excuses for gods. Upon the horse sat a visage that would cause some mortals to faint with despair. His eyes globes of fire and his mask of bone. Though not one solid piece. Many pieces of bones adorned his mask. The untold thousands he had taken. His armor was pitch black gilded with gold. At his side, he wore a black longsword of eastern design. The Zansetsuken. The sword said to end all things. On his back, he wore a lance black and tipped with red. It resembled a trident if it were twisted and contorted by malice and hate. Grungnir is was named.

“Odin.” Fenrir breathed. His hackles up and teeth bared. Though Odin was a terrestrial avatar, he served no one, had no master. A will all his own. Altana herself could not command him. “To what do we owe this please Odin?” Carbuncle tried to sound cheery, but the shake in his voice showed he was scared. Cait Sith hid behind Fenrir not saying anything.

“AHAHAHAHA. You would think to hide such a turning of events from me?! Thou are foolish indeed, brethren. The two morals in the snows below, they do not belong to this star. Do they? I hath seen their faces on another. Hydalean. They hath bested Zansetsuken on more than one occasion. Strong these mortals are. They have a stench about them that makes my blood boil in hate and avarice. They treat with mine mortal enemy, but not the same. Curious. That he should manifest in their world as well. Much stronger on Hydealean it seems. The other mortal, he is strong. Very strong. Deserving to be my vessel. I felt his spirit from the void call to me.” Odin said slowly as one awoken from a long sleep to find his children misbehaving. “No Odin, I beg you, do not take him as a consort. His is sick. His mind is broken. You would be giving power to malevolence beyond knowing of this world. The suffering and death would be incalculable.” Carbuncle pleaded with Odin.

“Perfect! That is a perfect host! Fan the flames of war to create the dance of death and usher in Ragnarök!” Odin cried out preparing to enter the mortal realm to offer his terms. Their soul for the thing they desire most. The power to have it. But when the time comes, they will become death as they are just shells of humans for Odin to inhabit and bring about his war. “We cannot allow you to go down there! Descending prohibited! The path out of order!” Cait Sith spoke up. Fenrir added his own thoughts. “No Odin, we cannot allow you to interfere. Too much hangs in the balance of these mortals. Know that I would challenge you here, as well as down there. I likely go to my death, but you will not move unobstructed. The mistress is MY mistress.” He barred his teeth at Odin. From above came a loud screech followed by an afterglow of flames in the sky. A woman in a pure white toga with hair red as fire materialized walking toward the group. Carbuncle sighed in the relief. “You are late my Lady.” He said.

Odin looked over at the approaching woman. “Hail, avian! It is odd to see thee in the body of a frail one. Hath thou become some weak that you cannot summon your true form to instill fear in thee?” He had an amused tone, obviously not considering any of them a threat. “I chose the form that I choose. For my will is also bound to the mortals below. We share a link. Even though the smallest of divinity I gave her, I can feel her emotions and fears. Her pride and shame. Her past and present. We can not allow you to interfere and take Francmage as your vessel. All would be lost. He is already augmented by hideous magics wrought upon him by a being more powerful than even you Odin.” Phoenix explained. “HA. A being more powerful than thyself? There is none. I am the beginning and thy end. For you and the pathetic mortals. I am the overseer of this land. None other. Move Phoenix, Fenrir, Cait Sith, Carbuncle. I do not want to quarrel with thee. But I will cut down any who stand before me.” Odin threatened.

A light from above suddenly appeared and fired through their realm. A light so bright that all had to shield their eyes lest they go blind. The first to understand this portent was Phoenix. She dropped to her knees and placed her forehead on the ground uttering something intelligible. Fenrir laid on all fours and set his jaw to the ground looking up at the light. Cait Sith came from behind the hound and fell to both knees, tears in her eyes repeating “She has come. She has come.” Over and over. Carbuncle bowed his head and laid one arm into the kneeling position. The only that did not offer reverence and respect was Odin. He stood atop his horse who threatened to buck and flee. He was barely able to control Sleipnir and nothing could even be seen. The light was so bright that it ripped away the cloud of darkness that Odin blanketed himself with. Exposing a still imposing, but very damageable body. “What is this?” Odin whispered.

Emerging from the light a woman appeared, wings on her back and halos over her head. Her eyes were closed, but she had a smile on her face that cannot be described by something as paltry as words. She was divine. Truly. She was the goddess who reigned over everything and anything on Vana’Diel. She was the Goddess Altana. From her lofty heavens did she journey to speak to the group gathered of her minions concerning 3 mortals on her plane. Two of which didn’t even belong.

“My loyal and loving subjects, I thank thee. I love all, I know all. Torn are thee with decisions that must be made. Thy moral world is often fickle and capricious. But there is also such beauty in sacrifice and love. Happiness and beauty. Would thou truly take these boons from them my servant Odin?” He voice was unlike any heard. A thousand voices converged into one heavenly sound. Enough to make men weep in joyous rapture.

“I wish only to perform my function my Goddess. This is what you have made me do.” Odin replied meekly. “You go beyond your instruction and seek to sow chaos for the sake of chaos. On this star and others. I have seen thee. I understand thee, Odin. Lay down thine arms. This fight is not yours to interfere. Out of all present, only two are allowed to descend. Thou knowest who those are.” She continued. “Remember thy purpose. All. Love, respect, heal, teach. These be our charges and is why we are able to descend upon thy children. Fulfill your duties my beloveds. And Know I shall always love thee. Soon we shall all be together across thy Great River where we may all rest our burdens. Be not afraid of the darkness children. Without the dark, there would be no light. I love all. I know all.” Altana’s parting words were spoken before fading away and the pillar of light dissipating.

“… It seems you have won. Go to them. Though they will fall and die like the mortals they are. I could have given them so much more.” Odin sneered as he leapt back into the portal he created. The sigils returned and faded away as if nothing was ever there.

Carbuncle was full of light and conviction from the Goddess, they all were. “You heard her. Fenrir, protect your master. Phoenix, provide aid and succor to yours. Without your help, they cannot stop Francmage. Go, before it is too late!” Carbuncle cried out.

Fenrir howled so loud it shook the entire firmament and could be heard on the mortal plan deafening all who had ears. The woman in the today materialized into a giant plumed firebird golden red in color almost of fire. She cried out her own avian call that could be heard in the mortal realms. They were coming. They were coming to aid their masters. They prayed to Altana that their strength and the mortals would be enough to destroy this abomination.

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The ensuing moments happened faster than they could process. Where scores of men stood, suddenly they were lost to the infinite white. Kagero was the first to realize that they were no longer on the battlefield. Safely resting from the battle, she glanced to her right and saw as Fenrir returned, dropping Gilgamesh while Phoenix returned Tenzen to the ground. Both avatars returned to the battle as they all staggered forward, swinging down on enemies that were no longer there. The army was frozen in time, but only a few bodies moved. From their position, it was difficult to make out who they were, but the trio knew. "Lord Tenzen, look!" Kagero gasped, pointing to the sky across from the ledge they rested upon. Bahamut floated from the clouds, inhaling deeply while below two forms duelled and the third remained still. The way the first two moved, it was clear one wielded a rapier while the other, a Katana. "Marishi..." Kagero whispered.

The first blast had gone off already, but due to time behind held still, no resulting explosion happened. A strain could be felt on the constraints of time as Alexander struggled to maintain its hold over their battlefield. Rae could sense it. "Just a bit more." Rae murmured. Bahamut would create enough blasts that would decimate the whole mountainside. Suddenly, Fenrir was at her side again. "Intercept them. Marishi is still fatigued." Rae ordered, to which Fenrir obeyed. Another blast hit the mountain, the earth groaned and bubbled up from the impending explosion. Fenrir darted in between the two staggering back from one another, clamping down on Francmage's arm, causing him to scream in agony. He shook his head, tearing his arm to shreds, then threw his head back and slammed down, causing Francmage's body to rag-doll around and hit the earth hard. Before more damage could be done, Francmage aimed a blast of stones at Fenrir, forcing him to let go and jump back to safety, close to Rae. She watched the playing field. Everyone here would die. No one would be able to escape. But what was stopping Francmage from escaping the force of the blast? He could move freely in time. By the time they got out, he would be out of harm's way as well. All that would result would be a large hole in the mountain. She needed more. There needed to be more done. He needed to be trapped in time there as well... it was then the idea came to her.

"Phoenix!" Rae called out, the fire bird turning to acknowledge her. "Help Marishi! Give her strength! Help her to pin him again!" The avatar obeyed, flying to Marishi's side. Rae then turned to Francmage and stretched forth her hand, veins of purple creating fissures down her arm and along her face. Commanding Bahamut, allowing his essence within her to take so much of her energy, was causing her to physically change. Fangs appeared in her mouth, her canines elongated. Her eyes were now purple with gold veins running through them and a circle of gold around her pupil. Her hair appeared darker, almost blood-like now and her skin paler. She opened her mouth and spoke her next command to her summon. "Bahamut! Giga-flare!" It was the attack that destroyed Cartineau and almost all of Eorzea. It was the attack that was seared into the memories of all the inhabitants of Hydaelyn. Giga-flare was the single most potent attack she could think of that would surely destroy any remaining essence that would be Francmage, but she needed to finish the cast. She needed to pour enough of her aether into the spell to ensure it would be strong enough to do the job. As she began to cast, Francmage darted towards her, knowing her intentions and feeling the need to stop her.

Marishi was knocked aside and Francmage darted towards Rae, reaching out to stop her from her cast, but he was intercepted by Fenrir, body-checking him into the snow and snarling at him, pinning Francmage there. A blast of fire sent Fenrir rolling to the side, allowing Francmage to scramble up. It was three against one, the prize being Rae, though he would have to knock her out to stop her from completing the spell. Parts of his army that had fallen behind were killed from the blasts that riddled the plateau they were on, though time held still, so they were still very much alive in that exact moment. Francmage screamed , begging Rae to stop, but she was beyond hearing, she was beyond listening. He ran to her, grabbing her wrist and yanking her to face him, as she spun around, an open palm met his face, jagged lines of blood opened across his cheek she slapped as she raked her finger nails across his flesh. In a fit of rage, Francmage slapped her as well, the force of it knocking her down. Before she could get up, he was on her already, wrestling, trying to overpower her. While her magical prowess was beyond compare now, she was still physically weak. The cuts across his cheek was starting to heal as he wrapped his arm around Rae's arms, pinning her down. Still, she focused on the spell. She'd die in a blaze of glory if it meant he died as well, whether he got what he wanted or not.

Though it would not be given to him so easily. Fenrir leapt in, clamping his jaws down around Francmage's head and squeezing, causing him to scream and his arms to flail, while he tried to pry the fanged maw off his head. Several teeth cracked through his skull, causing him to twitch, hos motor function losing control. Blood and grey matter spilled into Fenrir's mouth and onto Rae's back as she slowly stood up. Fenrir jerked his head, shaking it to cause more tears into Francmage's body before he threw him aside, towards Marishi. "It is done," Rae said, her voice harsh, raspy. Like she had inhaled flames and it burned her throat. "Take us from here before we become a victim of my own spell." Fenrir nodded, allowing Rae to climb onto his back, then sprinted towards Marishi, giving Rae a chance to sweep her up once the task was completed.

"Marishi," Phoenix beckoned, appearing to her in the form of her bestial appearance, a brilliant fire-bird. "Use me once more that I may pin this monstrosity down and prevent him from fleeing. Together, we shall end this abomination and rid the world of his wicked plague!" As she spoke, she bound her spirit to Marishi's black weapon, her energy fusing with the material of the blade, strengthening its already ominous energy that it radiated. The weapon would be able to lock any foe in place and with Phoenix's added strength, even Francmage would not be able to escape.

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Marishi was dazed by the events. One moment she was to duel a holy knight the next she was atop a plateau watching the deformity of her wife sweep over her body. She was scared and repulsed. This was too much. Things had gone too far.

Suddenly memories of her life not yet lived crammed into her head causing her brain to swell and hemorrhage causing her nose to bleed. She remembered what was to happen. She remembered saving their world, for an awful price. She had died on that field of snow and was turned to ash. She watched Francmage’s arm shatter and rend with detached interest. She was still processing what was happening. What was to happen. What had happened.

The sword in her hand felt heavy. Far too heavy to lift. Her wounds bled freely, blotches of red dripping on the white snow. She was ashen and weak. Watching Francmage dash for Rae gave her strength to move, even though Marishi wasn’t sure if that was even Rae anymore. He was on top of her, his hands around her wrists. Marishi wasn’t fast enough. She wouldn’t make it. Then she saw Fenrir slam down on his head and decimate his face. She stopped dead in her tracks.

The next she knew was Rae was on Fenrir, the keeper of the moon and teller of the future. Rae screaming to Phoenix and the firebird imbuing itself into her katana. The Sugari No Ontachi it was now named. Fusing with Phoenix its obsidian black blade gave off a fire aura.

She heard the command to pin him, but there was nothing to pin him too. Suddenly time lurched forward half a second then froze again. The mountain heaving before stopping. The only way to pin him was to physically hold him until time unfroze. She walked to the twitching body of the seemingly dead red mage. She looked up to the fleeing Rae and her hound. Marishi smiled her bittersweet smile at her. Dark splotches drenching her clothing in red. “It has to be this way.” She whispered, not knowing if she heard her. She lifted her sword and drove it into his chest digging itself into the earth. Marishi waited for time to resume and her life to end.

“How? What is happening? How is this happening?” Tenzen questioned in awe looking around. They had been pulled from the time lock together. Tenzen, Kagero, Gilgamesh, and Arcelia. They had been taken away from the mouth of the cave and deposited on a nearby flat, safe from harm. Kagero was the first to recognize Marishi and Rae’s silhouette. “We have to help them!” Kagero yelled. “I thought we were already!” Gilgamesh roared. They watched as the avatars swooped in to assist their masters. They watched as the hound tore apart the man size object and the small figure meld with the wolf. Tenzen’s eyes misted over with tears as he saw Phoenix, his Phoenix swoop down from the heavens and bond with a sword not his own. “How is this happening?” He asked. “She’s not going to make it. She’s not going to make it! Marishi! Run!” Kagero screamed. This was enough to spur Gilgamesh into darting for the doomed plateau. “Gilgamesh, no! You can’t save her! She’s too far!” Kagero grabbed his arm. “Then what in hell are we supposed to do?! Sit and wait for her to explode?! Let me go, Ninja! If I chose to die, then let me die as I chose!” He tried to break her hold. He wanted nothing than to join Marishi. To take her place. To do something. “You can let me go, lass. The panic has passed.” He said quietly. He knew he wouldn’t make it to her. Her fate was no longer in his hands. Perhaps it had never been. “Pray.” Was all Kagero said.

Marishi’s consciousness was pulled from her body and hovered in darkness as if in a dream. She saw all that had gone before her that she loved all in one place. All smiling at her. She was ready to go. “No, you’re not. You’ve still much left to do.” Her father said smiling. “Don’t think you would get off that easily, my love.” Her mother’s voice chimed and a small laugh. “I have failed. I have failed to protect those I love. Instead I hurt them. I push them away. I abuse them. This should be my penance. This should be my payment.” Marishi said quietly.

“Listen to yourself. Do you know how you sound? You sound like a selfish self-indulged brat who has spent too long wallowing in self-pity. When will you wake up? When will you understand that it’s harder to live than it is to die? When will you understand that a life of servitude is just that. Your death means nothing.” Her father sternly chided her. Marishi looked away ashamed. “Do you think dying will ease your wife’s pain? Do you think she doesn’t need you? Stop thinking about you. What about Rae? Kagero? Tenzen? What about Gilgamesh, Marishi? What about him? He loves you so fiercely. They all do. They would lay down their lives if it meant you would live. But they don’t at the drop of a hat. They all know that life is sacred. Sometimes Sacrifice is nothing more than running away. Stop running. Just stop. You don’t have to run anymore, little Marishi.” Her mother said compassion and love in her voice filling Marishi till she would burst.

“Good. Now, finish the job. End what was started and begin life anew. The scars you bear, you’ll carry them the rest of your life. But you don’t need to carry the weight. This journey is nearly over.” Her father’s voice said fading away.

She blinked. She was holding her Katana, shoved into the earth pinning the healing Francmage to the ground. Even after a devastating injury, he would not die. He gripped the blade, lacerating his hands on the razor edge trying to pull it up. Marishi looked to Rae, she was screaming something, she couldn’t hear. There was fear in her shrill voice. She was out of range of the blast that would go off at any moment. “Rae …” Gurgled Francmage, one hand reaching her way. “Phoenix … help me.” Marishi said letting go of her weapon and sinking to her knees next to her foe. She closed her eyes and made peace with the world.

Time shifted like a mirage and started again. The explosions on the mountain were catastrophic. Explosion after explosion after explosion went off in a row the balls of fire clearly seen malms away. Kageo, Tenzen, and Gilgamesh all gasped at the sheer destruction being wrought. Marishi smack in the middle. The Gigaflare activated and blew the entire side of the mountain off sending rock and snow down into the valley to cover it over. Nothing could survive that. Anything near it would have been vaporized. Fenrir stopped his dash and turned around. “I cannot feel her” He said.

The flames and energy released was unlike anything before seen on Vana’Diel. There had never been destruction of this magnitude in written and oral history. All the cause of one small girl, that couldn’t even call this star her own. Gilgamesh fell to his knee’s tears forming in his eyes. He had lost her. Again. His mind running through visions of his daughter and Marishi. They both had the same sad smile and the same heart-breaking look.

“Look!” Kagero yelled. As the flames reached their apex a bolt of fire could be seen breaking from the host and flying at high velocity into the air. “What was that?!” Kagero asked? “Phoenix. It was Phoenix.” Tenzen said openly crying his hands on Gilgameshes shoulders. Fenrir arrived at the small party to be greeted by the three warmly. Rae’s body beginning to turn to normal. Kagero helped her off the wolf, clearly seeing Rae’s concern wasn’t for herself, but for Marishi. The dart of fire arced from the sky and slammed into the ground next to the four.

As the dust and snow cleared, On the ground in a ball almost as if asleep, lay Marishi. Damaged, but whole. Breathing light. Asleep. A faint smile on her face as if in a pleasant dream. Her hair no longer auburn, but red, like the pinions of a firebird. The shockwaves dissipated and the destroyed mountain slowing and stopping its crumbling and the sound echoing away.

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"I said turn back," Rae screeched, tugging on Fenrir's mane. He ignored her, however. He knew there was no way he'd be able to reach Marishi and get out of the blast. He could sense Alexander's grip on time was slipping too quickly. "GO BACK! MARISHI IS STILL THERE!" Rae screamed again, desperately trying to get Fenrir to obey, but still he did not. If he wasn't going to take her down, she'd go herself. At least she wouldn't have to live without Marishi that way. As she went to throw herself off his back, Fenrir bent his forelegs, pinning his elbows back and trapping Rae's legs around him. Another screech from her ranging his ears, but he ignored the slapping of her hands and punching of her fists on his shoulders. They were weak, anyways.

"Both of you need not be martyrs." Fenrir told her flatly, but Rae struggled on, trying to free herself from Fenrir's hold.

Sobs escaped her lips as she watch the dome around the battlefield drop and the explosions set in. She heard the scream of soldiers become drowned in the roar of the explosions. She struggled to hear Marishi, but could not. As Fenrir spoke, Rae howled in agony, feeling every bit of her being break. "What was the point?!" She cried, throwing herself onto Fenrir's back, burying herself in his mane as hot, burning tears streaked down her purple-veined face. With the cast completed, Bahamut vanished into the sky and the spare aether he held was returned to Rae. "Why come back in time?! Why come here and be stuck on this planet?! I just wanted to save Marishi! I only want her alive! Altana, please! Rhalgr, Nophica, Althyk, Nald, Thal, Azeyma, Byregot, Oshcon, Llymlaen, Thaliak, Nymeia, Menphina, Halone... anyone! Please! Don't forsake us! Don't abandon me!"

"The gods and goddesses will not bent to heel to one who will not choose," Fenrir advised as he landed, his yellow eye looking back to gaze at her. "Altana listens and watches. Believe in her, for she has not abandoned you." Rae dropped from Fenrir's back and landed heavily in the snow. By then, her body was reverting back to normal. Her canines shrank, the veins of purple smoothed onto her skin, the colour returning to it. Her blood-red hair returned to the same copper-hue it was before and her eyes reverted to green, but the golden circle around her pupils remained. She looked fatigued, but she got to her feet when Kagero, Tenzen, and Gilgamesh turned to her and welcomed her, despite her being the sole reason Marishi was dead. She wrapped her arms around Kagero, clutching her and sobbing into her shoulder while Tenzen and Gilgamesh hugged her as well, offering support.

No moment was spared them before Rae's eyes snapped open. The fireball that drew nearer caught her attention and she moved away from the group. Quizzical gazes were given to her before she staggered forward, tripping in the piles of snow and falling to her hands and knees just as the flame descended, landing before them to reveal Marishi's slumbering body. Rae moved quicker, strength renewed upon seeing the perfectly preserved body of her wife. Tendrils of steam radiated from her body, making it impossible for Rae to judge based off sight alone if she was still breathing. Rae was at her side in an instant and she fell to her knees, then leaned down, pressing her left ear to Marishi's chest. The steady, soothing beat of her heart could be heard clearly as well as her relaxed breathing. Tears flowed again, this time of relief as she closed her eyes and exhaled, her whole body visibly dropping all the weight she bore. Any fear, any stress, any worry was gone as she listened to the rhythmic beat of her wife's heart. "She lives." She sobbed happily. Behind her, Kagero and Tenzen smiled, gathering each other up in an embrace as tears flowed. Gilgamesh smiled broadly while tears formed in his eyes as well.

Rae sat back on her feet and gazed up to the sky, smiling as tears dripped from her cheeks and onto her lap. "Altana, thank you." She whispered. Her eyes gazed down to the destruction below. Many lives were needlessly lost that day all because of one man's lust, one man's greed. Many paths could have been taken to avoid this, but life would not freely give them second chances. This life, this path in the crossroads of time was most preferred. Marishi alive, with her, their friends alive and safe. There was nothing she would change. Life would not spring forth in the crater that was created by Bahamut. Just as on Hydaelyn, it would remain barren and destroyed for many years to come, if not for eternity. Part of Rae was remorseful for the damage dealt, but she knew it was necessary.

"Come, we should get to someplace warm." Gilgamesh said, walking over and bending down to pick up Marishi, carefully cradling her in his arms. He took utmost care to avoid waking her. She earned a rest. Tenzen moved to help Rae up but Fenrir stepped in between. Tenzen backed away, allowing the avatar to have his peace. Rae looked up to him, seeing the look in his eye. 

"The contract is not void on Vana'diel." He pointed out to her. Rae stood, climbing onto his back, stabilizing herself before he walked forward, following the path the others took down the side of the mountain.

Rae thought upon his words a moment, then huffed. "Maybe so, but you'll find killing me would be most difficult," she countered quietly, not wanting the others to listen to her conversation. "I've finally reached the timeline I want. I would live here on Vana'diel in peace with my wife. We will live long lives. Long, and happy lives. If you think to take that from me, I will fight you with every ounce I have. If I die, it will be because I've expended every bit of energy and tried to kill you first."

His lips curled into a wolfish smile and a low rumble vibrated in his chest. "That is what I like to hear. Perhaps one day I shall call upon the end of our contract, but today will not be that day. Nor any time soon. A happy ending, yes. Some summoners deserve those." He mused.

Before they could make it down the mountain, their backup arrived. Arciela's airship landed on the small part of the mountain that was not completely destroyed. All on board gawked at the sight of the massive crater formed into the land. Where once grand mountains stood only a hole in the ground. As the group drew nearer, the red mage spotted Fenrir and gasped. "F-Fenrir! You did this?!" She exclaimed, waving to the totally levelled mountains.

"Nay," Gilgamesh answered, climbing on board with Marishi in his arms still. "That fiery-haired woman on his back did." He then laughed and walked into the cabin, finding a bed for Marishi to be laid down upon. Arciela gasped and watched as Rae dropped off Fenrir's back, then fell to her knees. Tenzen quickly helped her up to her feet, lending his support to her as she walked on board the ship. Rae looked up to her and locked eyes, then smiled cheerfully.

"Arciela, it's wonderful to see you again! I've missed you so much." Rae said, which earned her a bewildered expression from the young woman.

"I-I don't believe we've met." She answered, holding her hand out to Rae.

Weakly, Rae took her hand and shook it, laughing breathily. Fatigue was setting in hard at that point. "We have. In another time. You're quite a formidable Red Mage. One I'd ever appreciate to have at my side." Tenzen then brought Rae into the cabin where Marishi was resting and attempted to take her to another bed, but she shrugged herself out of his hold and moved over to the bed Marishi was at, kneeling down and draping her body over the feathered mattress and grabbing Marishi's hand. She dropped her head down and instantly fell asleep. As Tenzen attempted to get her to sit in a chair, it was obvious she was too deep asleep to bother trying. Instead, he took a blanket and draped it over her, then they left them alone to sleep.

Once they landed on Ulbaka, they disembarked and were taken to the grand city of Adoulin, they were taken to an infirmary where their wounds and weariness would be tended to. It was a week before they could visit Rae after she regained consciousness. The drain of exerting so much aether and having practically starved herself for weeks on end the month prior all added up and nearly wasted away her body, but she woke up, her body stabilized, her strength mostly returned, and her soul at ease. A gentle tapping came on the sheet that covered Rae's bed area and she was greeted by four familiar faces--Tenzen, Kagero, Gilgamesh, and Arciela. They brought her gifts of fruit, something warm to eat, flowers, and good company. As they pulled up a seat, Arciela was the first to ask what happened during the battle. It was then that Rae passed on the success of their mission, the death of Marishi, and her determination to travel through time to keep her alive. All who listened were in shock and awe. Arciela seemed skeptical, but Gilgamesh, Tenzen, and Kagero knew them quite well and would not put it passed them if this were to happen. "If I did not feel the fearsome strength of Bahamut and these three did not see it for themselves, I fear I would have counted you a liar, Rae." Arciela explained, laughing a little, which caused Rae to smile as well. "Your wife suffered grievous injuries, but she will be fine after the healers finish with her. She will be joining us soon I have been told. You will stay here until you are rested and able to return to your home planet."

The smile vanished slowly from Rae's lips. Home. Hydaelyn. She could never return to that place. What Alexander said echoed in her mind and she closed her eyes, sighing. "I'm afraid I won't be able to return to Hydaelyn. My life will be spent here on Vana'diel. A consequence of my action in meddling with time," Rae explained, everyone's eyes raising in shock. That was her soul purpose for the past several months! How could she so quickly abandon her mission? "With Pandemonium and Ultimecia dead, there's no reason to go back to Hydaelyn. I've no responsibilities there. Perhaps I could return with the help of Cait Sith, but it is better here. Despite all that happened, despite the pain and trials, Vana'diel is a better place--a happier place for me to live. If you all wouldn't mind, I would like to stay here." Rae turned to them and smiled.

Tenzen and Kagero nodded, smiling to Rae happily while Gilgamesh stroked his chin. "Well, if ye promise not to keep levelin' mountains, I suppose we can keep ye." He teased, causing Rae to giggle.

"I can make no such promise, Gilgamesh. You know how I feel about mountains." She teased back, the group laughing again. Tension was gone, urgency vanished, peace settled in as the group joked, waiting for Marishi to recover enough to come out to speak with them. Rae thought of how to break the news to Marishi. She wondered if she'd feel the same about staying here as she did. Once upon she might have, but would she now?

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“She is critically injured doctor. It’s a miracle she’s been able to hold out as long as she has.” The nurse said with concern. “She has lacerations all over her body and her fingers are damaged. The girl was tortured!” The doctor inspected her hands and muttered in shock “My God. What sick perverted soul would do this to some one else?” The nurse continued “She has been tended to previously, though through crude battlefield means. It looks like she had an infection due to a wound she suffered. The medicated we’ve been giving her should help with that. He body has taken about as much abuse as anyone I’ve ever seen. Alive or dead. Her right eye doesn’t appear to function. At all. Just dilated and open, even with stimulation. I don’t know about this one doctor.” The nurse finished. “We will just have to wait and see.” The doctor replied.

Time passed. A day, a week, then a month. Marishi had not woken. Her breathing was steady and her wounded mended to the best they would ever be, but it was as if her soul had left her body while it was still alive. She received 24 hours around the clock treatment from the best healers on the continent. The body of doctors were at a loss as to why she would not wake. “There is no logical reason why she won’t awaken. Her body has mended and we have tried several ways to rouse her. She doesn’t appear to be in pain, she just seems … no longer there. I’m sorry my Queen, that I could have more answers for you.” The head doctor said to Arcelia. “Thank you doctor. Continue your care of her at this time.” Arcelia said.

She walked slowly back to the meeting halls that her friends were at. She had been stalling telling them that Marishi hasn’t woken up. And with this amount of time that’s passed, she probably wouldn’t. She drew a quivering breath. She had to tell them. She had to tell Rae and Gilgamesh. Poor Gilgamesh. His own daughter died in almost the same manner. Saving the world by fusing with the protocrystal to prevent the Gates of Paradise from opening. Her body unbroken, but her spirit no longer bound to it. He kept her asleep for months before he made the decision to take her off support. She died in his arms, never to awake. Altana would have him repeat his fate, this time with Marishi. Why? He was a good man. He had done nothing wrong to anyone. That didn’t deserve it. But no, he is forced to live while those he loves are allowed to go on. Arcelia worried most for Gilgamesh. He couldn’t take another blow like that. He’d follow Marishi and Lion both.

It was the middle of winter and even Ulbuka was layered in snow. A rarity for the area. The city sat below the Khamir Drifts, but the weather was cold enough to leave several ilm’s of powdery white snow on the ground. It was peaceful. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. Arcelia didn’t want to shatter the happiness they had been given. Confident that Marishi would recover. She walked quietly into the hall to find them sitting at a table laughing at one of Tenzen’s stories. They hadn’t noticed her yet. Good. The look on her face would have given her away.

She silently approached the table and quietly said, “My friend! Some I have known all my life, while some I have known but a handful of moons. But everyone here is my friend. I love you all. I am so happy that you have fully recovered Mistress Ten.” Arcelia said. She chose her words carefully. All laughter stopped. This was highly irregular. She addressed Rae as ‘Mistress’ denoting that she had no partner. Rae’s smile slid from her face and cheeks went pale. “Why are ya sayin’ this lass? Why the formal speech? What’s wrong?” Gilgamesh asked, his heart in his throat.

“I didn’t mean to deceive you. Please, believe me when I say that. I only wanted to keep the happiness and love we’ve all had a little while longer.” Kagero was on her feet, anger rising. “What are you saying Arcelia? Where is Marishi? You been telling us for a week now it would be any day for her to awaken and join us. A week.” Arcelia looked at the floor ashamed, her ashen hair covering her eyes and face. “I truly thought she would wake. Her body lives, but it’s like her spirit, it isn’t tied to it anymore. It’s just a husk of the girl.” She started crying out of shame and sadness for Marishi. To come so far and to be so close to only have it fail. She looked at Gilgamesh. He wasn’t looking at anything. He rose suddenly and said “Excuse me. There is something I need to attend to. Take care, all of you. Live in peace, be joyous and have no fear.” He laid down his Odachi and Wakizashi, but kept his tanto. “Gilgamesh, I won’t stop you, for I know the code in which you, myself, and Marishi live by. But ask yourself, is this really the right thing? What of Rae? She needs a father as much as Marishi. Don’t let yourself be eaten by sadness. Neither of them would want that.” Tenzen said to Gilgamesh. Perhaps the only other person in that room to understand his mind.

There was the sound of a door opening and closing nearby, but none paid attention. Rae was crushed. To have come so far and be so close only to lose it. For a third time. She was the most wounded at the table. Kagero was crying angry tears and yelling at Arcelia who flinched every time her voice rose. Tenzen was with Gilgamesh his hand on his back, offering soothing words to back down his thoughts of suicide. The only one not engaged, was Rae. Seated in a chair. Alone and forgotten.

“Not forgotten and certainly not alone, Sunlight. Some hurts take longer to mend than others. Some can only be healed by coming to terms with the reality of the past. I’ll say the same thing to you as I said when I saw you on that airship landing and when we stood before the twelve to consummate our Marriage. I will never leave you. My body may fail, but I will always be with you. So, dry your tears. Sadness isn’t meant for this day. Happiness and celebration seem more in place.” A familiar voice called to her from behind one of the nearby pillars.

Marishi smiled, they would be surprised indeed at her appearance. She began to clear the pillars with the heels of her boots falling heavily so everyone could hear them ring in the hall. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked over in annoyance. “This area is off limits, get out – “Arcelia’s throat caught at the sight of the figure walking slowing up to them. A Miquo’te. Seeker of the Sun. She was small and lithe with curves becoming of a woman. Her left eye was sanguine red while her right was onyx black. Her makeup was heavy in the eyeshadow accenting her eyes. Her hair was shorn into a bob on the left and right side, the middle pulling back and creating a tail. The hair secured by a small silver brooch. The color was no longer auburn, but fire red. The pigment being changed by divine intervention. She was pretty. She wore the black garb of the Shinobi of the Far East with a slender long Katana tucked into a white silken sash. A sash made by Rae Ten just for her, many years ago.

She walked up to the table with no limp, or crutch. No malady. She sounded strong and full of life. As she sounded when her and Rae had been blacklisted from the transport ship that brought them to the Isle of Eureka so many lifetimes ago. She was healed. In body and mind. “Thank you for waiting for me. I was a bit slower to mend than anticipated.” She said as she bowed in the Far Eastern fashion. Everyone at the table mouth agape and shocked.

She turned to the person that mattered to her the most and gently said “Your moonlight has waxed and is hale enough to take her place next light of the Sun, if you would have her.” She smiled and held her hand out to Rae. She snatched it greedily, jumped up, and kissed her wife. Deeply. The four looking on laughter on their lips and tears in their eyes.

All was as it should be.

In the infinite blackness of the void, nothing could live. For no Aether existed. There were no building blocks of life. But the void wasn’t always so and actually housed life at one point. Dark purple crystals would at times drift in and out of the area bereft of anything and everything. As they would pass by, a small sucking sound could be heard and the crystal would go completely dark, it’s aether consumed. A pair of yellow eyes and horns began to materialize, shimmer. And disappear. Not all that die stay dead, as all that live don’t thrive. Ultimacia would bide her time, syphoning off wayward crystals until she was strong enough to enter the world again and break those who had thwarted her plans.

It wasn’t over. It would never be over. For time is like a river, and history repeats.

 

 

FIN~

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