Aching To Return

By Frozencat

Chapter 1 - Recollection

After leaving Mizuho, I found myself having terrible nightmares, which left me unable to sleep peacefully. Nightmares of my crime haunt me. Nightmares of fighting her, and losing even more pitifully than I ever imagined possible. I failed to even avenge the parents that were so forcefully ripped from my life. But even after finally managing to fall asleep under that dark forest's shade, all the strength in the world would not prepare me for what was next.

At first I thought it was just something large falling or rolling through the forest. But it continued, growing in magnitude with every second. Opening my eyes, I saw a tree crashing towards me, and I froze. Suddenly there was a flash of light, and I found myself forced aside to safety. My parents – the ones I fought for with all my heart – had once again saved their failure of a son. Gripping their golden locket that that chief had given me, telling me not to be afraid, I decided I must continue on. My journey wasn't just for me anymore; it was for them as well.

Chapter 2 – The Scare

Aching legs, a sore back, and numbing chest pains forced me to collapse near the empty wooden dock. I thought to myself, "What if she came by and found me like this? A dirty wreck, an outcast, a criminal – and a failure." If I had ever planned on returning, an encounter with her would be out of my best interest. I forced myself onwards, although the pains grew sharper. I edged through the rest of the forest, towards the mountaintops near the shores that crossed to Altamira.

Then I remembered a moment of my past - a moment where my revenge could have been fulfilled. The Lezareno Company had just given her – Sheena – the cure needed to save one dear to her. Though then, my flames of hatred were doused with her sincerity, giving me the keepsake of another life lost to Volt. If I had not cared for her sincerity, I might have finally been able to avenge them – for Orochi and my sake – to repay the debt of leaving us with a burdened life of no family. Another sharp pain interrupted my thoughts. It was time to stop pressing myself onward. Managing to locate a small inlet where the tide could not enter, I took a large amount of grass and shaping it into a bed, I felt I was finally able to rest. Lying down, I closed my eyes. I had fallen asleep once again, and I thought I could finally have a moment of peace. But I thought wrong.

Finding myself among a group of horrified children, I tried asking them what was wrong. No responses had followed, only blank and empty stares. Stares full of fear and despair, of agony and suffering. And then it hit me. Where I was became suddenly clearer than crystal, and my thoughts were soon confirmed when I looked upwards – thunderclouds. To anyone else besides those of Mizuho, these thunderclouds would only worry the smallest of children and animals. But to those who witnessed the tragedy of Volt, it symbolized something much more painful. I walked into the nearest home – my home. My younger self and Orochi were both huddled together in the corner of our room, our parents at the door. Crack! A bolt of lightning filled my vision, and I awoke. Only the place where I lay now was not the one where I had laid to rest.

Chapter 3 – The Hospital Life

"Doctor! He's awake!"

The first actual words I had heard in a while were some of great confusion. Struggling to lift myself, I was quickly told to lie back down, as I had pulled many muscles in my body.

"Ah, Kuchinawa! I have not heard from you in ages! How is life in Mizuho?"

It was the doctor from Flanoir. The one who had tried to revive mother, had failed, and had offered to raise my brother and I as children. I recognized him though it had been at least 10 years since I saw him last.

"I've left Mizuho. I must punish myself…"

He was either surprised by my honesty, or he still remembered the rules of Mizuho from when he entered the village to aid us. He now knew that I was a criminal but seemed to not give the slightest thought about it. He moved over to a cabinet, took out some herbs, and began mixing them with a liquid that I did not recognize.

"You know what it means when someone leaves Mizuho, so why do you continue to treat me!?" I had shouted this, not necessarily with anger, but more so with a need to know.

"Kuchinawa, although you could have just as easily lied to me, you showed honesty of your crimes – whatever they may be. This shows a deep want for repentance of your crime, a sense of good in your heart, and for that this treatment is free."

"Thank you, Doctor. But, if you don't mind me asking, how in Spiritua did I get here?"

"Why you were sent from Mizuho!"

The words echoed in my head. Why did she always save me? I endangered her friend's life, threatened to grind a memento, and constantly made my want for revenge clear. Why?! As a final chill ran down my spine, a lack of pain settled over my body. For the first time in at least a month, I had a peaceful sleep.

Chapter 4 – A Mysterious Encounter

A large boat soon arrived just outside of town. As the doctor walked me out of Flanoir, and I walked through the ice-covered lands to the boat, I was surrounded by silence. No animals were heard grazing, no wind was howling, just a calm snowfall which seemed to make this journey a peaceful one. When I gave the captain my ticket, he seemed puzzled at first, but edged me onward. The ship had set sail, and I was on my way to the main continent once again. I was headed for Sybak, and then Meltokio. I had hoped to find the records that I learned the Pope kept under lock and key – records of where my parents were laid to rest. I believe that after I finally visit them, and confess my sins to them, that I may be able to forgive her.

The boat came to a sudden stop, so I figured we had arrived ahead of schedule. As I got up to leave, a crew girl came down from the deck and told me to stay in my cabin. Apparently, three similar towers were found just under the surface of the water, and were being studied. As I lied in bed awaiting the change of course, I heard a knock at the door.

"Come in!" I shouted, only to be greeted by the most mysterious of figures: A man with a small build, no taller than myself edging towards me.

"The successor would like me to deliver the message that you are free to return. Your crimes have been forgiven and those who share your pain have recognized her. That is all."

In a flash of smoke, the figure was gone. While trying to figure out his identity, it became clear that it was no other than Vice Chief Tiga. A stream of memories came back to me, but I soon was brought back when the boat had stopped once more. I was finally at the mainland, and could set off to Sybak.

As I waved goodbye to the captain, and hurried onward, I couldn't help but think I was wrong about her all this time. Sheena Fujibayashi – a murderer of many, including my parents. Yet, there was something always evident about her. A kindred spirit that emanated clearly from her and touched those she met. Constant looks of sorrow and regret for something she was far too young to be responsible for that she could never manage to hide or ignore. Realizing the nonsense and anger held toward her, I tried to release myself of that grudge, for it had only led to the position I was in today.

Chapter 5 – A Second Trek

I started walking faster. The bounds of the forest soon came within sight, and I knew I must try and navigate its darkness once again. The teachings of Mizuho allowed me to pass these trecherous woods before. The intensive teachings that Orochi and I both started at the age of 3, everything from basic martial arts to survival. Although it was probably due to my parents – taken far too young – that saved me the last time around. However, I quickly dispelled my thoughts. I had released my grudge. There was no more need to show unwanted hate towards the new chief, as well as those of Mizuho.

I came to the first fork and the road, and for a moment, thought of visiting Mizuho. My mind knew that I mustn't, for my private journey was nearly over. My heart, however, did not agree. It was aching to return home: to those who knew and loved me; to those who cried with me during that horrible event; for those who survived with me and pushed through those terrible times to rebuild our town. Before I allowed my inner conflict to go on any longer, I ran. Passing innumerable trees, bushes and shrubs, I made my way once again to a crystal clear sky. Darkness had settled in, and I found a small cave. The animal that had originally lived here showed signs of abandonment, as two smaller beds were left unkempt behind the main pile of straw. Not failing to pass up this opportunity, I got on top of the hay, eyes open for a while, staring at some cracks in the rock.

Allowing my mind to wander, I began remembering earlier times. Times when I had found Sheena crying behind the inn, asking the Goddess herself why she couldn't take the place of those that perished. Other times where I found her conversing horrible thoughts, with Tiga, of leaving the village behind. This of course, would result in the rest of the world seeing her as a criminal, an outcast – banned from even those who lived in seclusion. It would make everything in her life that much harder, from settling down to a peaceful life to even the smallest things such as buying food. And then, probably the most important yet obvious detail hit me. Sheena had not stayed in the village on her own accord. It was due to all those who released their anger, saw her pity, and accepted her repentance, and ensured that she would be safe from harm. Even as a small child, it had become plain to me that anger was naturally held towards her. I declared to myself in that cave, "I must not fail this journey. I will finally be able to forgive you Sheena Fujibayashi!"

Chapter 6 – Recognition

I awoke to a wonderful smell, but soon realized I had absolutely no idea where it was coming from. I had not left anything cooking, and even if the town of Sybak was to be cooking something, the winds of Sylph would surely not carry it this far. Finally opening my eyes, I looked to the left and saw a freshly cooked pot of stew. I was skeptical at first – was it a trap? Could this stew be drugged, or even poisoned? But then I remembered what I had yelled, and figured that the Goddess Martel must have given me recognition. And what I yelled next must have been heard even far off in that small research town, for I yelled with all my inner strength.

"Pleased be to the Goddess Martel!"

Chapter 7 – Stranger in Sybak

Wandering through the small brick archway of Sybak, I found myself surrounded by watchful eyes. Wandering over to the library, I carefully avoided all the contact being made with me, and sat down at the back of the room. I wasn't quite clear why I had walked into the library in the first place, but something then caught my eye. An out of place book, yellow with discolored paper, stuffed with small paper clippings. I then felt the sudden urge to sit down and read all that I could.

Painful memories raced back to me. After all these years, I had failed to see just how many had held Sheena accountable. Bold letters filled my vision, 'Young Girl Fails – Village Pays For It', 'Many Suffer Due to Out of Control Spirit,' and many more headlines that were too harsh on her to even remember. I now saw myself in a new light once again. Instead of a righteous grudge, I was the owner of a horrible misconception that held her logically responsible, but she was obviously way too young to hold that much of a burden.

Now depressed, I walked out of the library into a strange figure. A petite figure in a panda costume, dancing around. When the creature had noticed me, she stopped dancing, and seemed to be deeply focused on my clothing – as if it has recognized me. I found myself staring back, hoping to find some sort of recognizable feature. Suddenly, however, the panda darted towards the research facility. Darting after it, I soon found myself tripping over a large heap of something. Looking down, it turned out to actually be a charm – obviously engraved carefully by a crafting master – with ink that I began to recognize. This black paint was sacred and secluded to those of Mizuho, for it held mysterious powers.

Picking up the charm, I felt increased strength; the strength I needed to accomplish my journey. Walking towards the inn, I vowed that no matter what nature could through my way, I would finish my journey the following evening.

Chapter 8 – Regretful

Of course, I had to go open my big mouth. Looking outside while packing up for my final day of walking, mounds of fresh snow covered the ground. I guess that Martel wanted me to strive for my repentance. I left earlier than I had wished, in order to gain up for the potential time I could lose. Of course, walking through cold gusts of wind soon made me wish I had just stayed an extra day in Sybak. But finding a semi-clear path, I trekked onwards. Shortly coming to the bridge, I found out something that I had failed to take into account. The Grand Tethe'Alla Bridge, raised up over the water, closed due to the ice and snow. I looked for any sign of an operator that could lower it, no matter what the costs, just so I could reach Meltokio. But as fate would have it, such a person was not present.

Thinking to myself, this must be another trial, I located a small drop in slope, and tiptoed my way onto the ice. Seeing just how solid it had become overnight, I walked carefully onwards. But, with all my recent luck, came yet another forgotten possibility. A horrifying sound from came from under my feet that quickly grew in volume with each passing second. C…crack…! The ice underneath me was no longer stable, and I soon found myself submerged in below zero waters, luckily with no current. However, the weight of my clothes and belongings soon started to increase as they saturated with water, and they were slowly weighing me down into oblivion. My journey was over. A tunnel of light materialized in front of me – the path where I might join my family. A blue aura surrounded me before I passed into unconsciousness, which seemed to completely calm my fear and anguish. I thought I was dying for sure.

And the next thing I knew, I was lying on the shores of Meltokio, dried off completely, and only with a slight cold and headache. The charm I had found earlier was loosely hanging off of a string, as if it was now a makeshift necklace. As I walked towards the golden gates and Papal Knights, I thought to myself. Had Martel saved me? It must have been the Goddess herself who prepared that heavenly stew; thus it must have been her who saved my life once again. In my mind, it was clear at first that Martel was ensuring my journey to be a safe one. But what was that blue aura? From the teachings, Martel was supposedly only accompanied by a pale white glow. Thought after thought rushed through my mind in a confusing state. But then, a solid thought hit me. The summon spirit known as Undine was always depicted with that same calming aura. Surrounded by the bluish aura and a calming disposition, the teachings made it clear that it was the summon spirit Undine that rescued me from the frigid waters.

However, that thought led me to the most blatant realization of my life. The summoning arts were exclusive to those of the mana lineage, and the only recognizable figure in my life with that blood was no other than Sheena. Having failed at such a tender age, she carried her burden and constantly punished herself. Yet now, she was saving all those that she could, and keeping an eye on those affected by Volt's scars. Walking towards the gates of the local Martel chapel, I was given a new sense of honour. The honour of knowing the successor to the Chief of Mizuho.

Chapter 9 – Painful Records

Approaching the Church of Martel, I began to drift off into my own thoughts of the information these documents would obtain. Were my parents buried where they dreamed of being laid to rest – the calm lands of Flanoir? Or were they buried close near Mizuho, or the Tower of Lightning, to commemorate their lives? Only time would tell, so I pushed myself onwards and snuck into the Pope's former office. I had remembered where the hidden key was placed from the last time I had visited – the time I betrayed what little honour I left.

Walking towards the burial records, I quickly skimmed through the organized sections until I found it – the tragedy of Volt. Yet, a pain worse than my parents' death struck me so hard and fast that I still believe I have no fully recovered from it. My parents were not buried at all. As it turns out my parents were not buried at all. At that time, so many had died that only those chosen by the Pope were buried. The rest were burned. Burned like criminals, or like the corpse of a murderer. Tears began to stream down my face for the first time since the accident. Falling to the ground, I realized all the hate towards Sheena was nothing in comparison to the man I used to betray her. There was no way I could return to my old life in Mizuho.

However, rather than simply vanishing, I wrote Sheena a last goodbye. An apology of sorts, explaining all the thoughts of my journey, and all the mistakes my mind held towards her. I included the charm that she ensured my safety with, as well as the golden locket of my parents, I sent the package as fast as I could. Walking into the ocean to carry me to my parents, I spoke my final words with pride:

"Praise be to Sheena, honourable chief of Mizuho!"

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