runiclore: (Tales of Symphonia - Yggdrasil)
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A Pawn in Exile - 1/?
Author:
Myaru
Fandom: Tales of Symphonia
Rating: really doesn't need one
Notes: Divergent Timeline

More notes: I literally came up with this title two minutes before posting. This is obviously unfinished, but I do have more, and will probably add to it when I'm bored because I've got most of the plot written out (for once). Not a guarantee, just like... every two years or so I might add more. :P

I've wanted badly to answer the question "Why might Genis switch sides?" for years, and the answer is about what you'd expect. I started writing this some time last September, and figured I may as well put it up.

Do I even have to tell you it's unedited?



..................................................................................................................
Crisp-cool night air made the dark outside Altessa's house feel deeper, and the impression didn't get any better when Genis led his friend away from the bright spots of the windows, farther than he'd originally intended to go. You'll be able to see us from the window, he'd promised Raine, and anyway, Mithos is with me, so we'll be fine. Strength in numbers, right? If they ran into trouble--probably a monster, or if they were really unlucky, a bandit--one of them could hold it off while the other ran for help. Raine got the idea and didn't like it; he could tell by her expression she made the obvious assumption: it would be Genis holding off untold dangers, while Mithos ran.

Genis wanted to tell her that was all wrong, that if pressed, Mithos would surprise them, but--he wasn't sure yet. Not positive, beyond all doubt.

Not yet.

"How far did you want to go?" Mithos startled him with his voice.

"This should be okay," Genis said, glancing back again. The windows were smaller than his thumb if he held it up and squinted. If Colette sat right next to the window and pressed her ear to the glass, she probably wouldn't be able to hear them. They'd stopped at the crest of the rise from the coastland, where the grass was tall and coarse, a dried-up color of green that looked gray under the moon, like the silvery underside of a sage leaf. A fence bordered the path on both sides. He climbed over it on the side facing the sea and found a bald patch of dirt where they could sit. The grass was tramped down where they left the road on days everyone wanted to go to the beach, and theoretically, somebody should be able to see them when looking out the window. "It was getting kind of noisy and stuffy in there."

Mithos laughed, light. "I forgot what it was like to live in such a small space with so many people." He looked away, at the sea, and said, "Never a moment to yourself."

His tone was slightly different for that last bit, but Genis couldn't decide how. Exasperated? Maybe a little annoyed? Maybe amused. Possibly all three. He asked himself what he'd think if this were just Mithos, just the boy they'd rescued after the destruction of Ozette, and still couldn't decide. "Sorry about that." He tried to sound casual.

"I like it when you visit," Mithos said, reaching for his hand. They clasped, tickled by the grass. Warm. "It's dreary here without you--and the others." Of course. "Although they treat us like children, and I think we're both old enough to know how silly that is."

Genis fiddled with the panpipes in his pocket with his other hand. It shook slightly, slipped on the wood, pricked on the crack that had ruined the pipes. He felt worse about it now--that he'd broken what must be such a precious treasure, older and more important than he'd ever thought. "It's always like that." Everyone trying to protect him, cover his eyes when something ugly happened--fine, that was just Raine, but it counted. She worried about him the way he worried about her. Genis didn't try to cover her eyes, though. Not usually.

He wondered if she was trying to see them right now in the dark, squinting out the window, only to find she'd been blindfolded.

"You're shaking," Mithos said, looking down at their clasped hands, and then up at Genis's face, a crease between his brows. "Are you cold?"

Aren't you? he wanted to ask. But no, he wanted to say. No, not cold. Or maybe--very cold, colder than he'd ever been in his life. Colder than Flanoir and the ice prison of the seal for Celsius. Mithos scooted closer, rubbed his arms, and looked concerned. Genis stared at his knees and thought... this is it. The most danger he'd ever been in. What he was about to do might be stupid, but there was no other way. No good way. If he was wrong, his accusation would hurt a lot, and it would hurt more with everybody there staring. Mithos needed somewhere to go if Genis was wrong, and turned out to be a horrible person.

He tried not to think about how horrible it made him if Raine and Lloyd came out to find something awful happened.

"I'm a little tired," Genis said after a long pause. "Like I ate too much and I'm gonna food coma."

Mithos's laugh sounded unrehearsed, and his hand lifted to rub Genis's hair. "Maybe that's not a bad thing," Mithos said. "It sounds like... like you all had a hard day. I'll make sure you don't get cold if you doze off."

Could he? Could he doze pressed up against MIthos, climb into bed with him like always, and actually sleep? If he did, he'd lose his nerve and never go through with this. Genis always lost his nerve. Lloyd was the one with guts of steel; Genis was a coward.

"Before I get sleepy, there's something I want to give back to you," Genis said. He didn't know how he got the words out and made them sound so normal. He sat up and pulled the panpipes out of his pocket, turning to face Mithos when he handed them over. "You dropped these."

"You found them!" Mithos's face lit up like he'd just been presented with a birthday cake. "Thank you. I had no idea where they--"

He stopped like a bug had caught in his throat, staring at the pipes in his hands. He hadn't dropped them at Altessa's; someone else would've picked them up, or he would have found them himself. He said he went on walks sometimes, but admitted when Genis and everyone got back that he'd slept most of the day because of a headache. He watched Mithos lose his smile and take deep breaths, staring intently at the pipes, almost like he was afraid to look up. "Where did you..."

"In the tower," Genis said. Now his voice shook and he braced himself. Coward. Coward coward coward.

Mithos lowed the pipes to his lap and stared outward again, somewhere, at nothing, his posture now stiff and still. The wind toyed with his hair. He had gone pale, and even his lips were colorless and thin, the moonlight on his hair making the color dull like tarnished brass.

What did friendship mean to the lord of Cruxis? Anything? When Genis thought about how long he himself would live, how he'd see Lloyd, Colette, and Sheena die, and probably their children too, and their children... sometimes he wondered if friendship was worth it. Right now he thought it was, but would he feel the same way in a hundred years? Would he isolate himself instead, associating only with his own kind like some half-elves did, because anything else was too awful?

"Why didn't you tell anyone?"

Genis jumped, and felt his face get hot when he saw Mithos looking at him sideways, from beneath the shadow of his bangs. "I wanted to ask you first." His mouth and lips were dry. "Because I thought we were friends."

"We are."

He couldn't look away, but wanted to, badly. "But... but you lied."

"I couldn't believe it at first--humans and half-elves traveling as friends. I thought they couldn't possibly know the truth about you." Mithos had the same incredulous expression he'd worn when they first met them under the ruins of Ozette's tree. He shook his head. "I had to know. If these people--Lloyd, Presea, the Chosen, Bryant--if they accepted you and believed in you, I... I didn't want to kill them."

"So you just came in and--"

"What did you expect?" he snapped, but he reached out immediately when Genis shrank away. Mithos's brows were drawn together, his lip bitten inward. He pulled his hands away after a moment, and moderated his tone when he spoke again. "Genis, none of you would have spoken honestly with me if I came in the shape you knew. This," he said, looking down at his hands, his knees, "this is what I really look like. It's more honest than anything I've ever shown you. I was fourteen when I put the crystal on, and time stopped for me. But I had to change. Nobody listens to a child."

Genis could relate, and didn't want to right now. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"I tried and tried and tried," Mithos said. "I tried Lloyd's way: we tried to show people that half-elves weren't bad seeds, that we didn't want to hurt anybody, that all we wanted was an end to the war and peace for everybody. We tried for years. How do you think that ended?"

'Badly' was the obvious answer. Genis could imagine people like Lloyd and Colette welcoming him with open arms in spite of his race, but the problem was--he only saw Lloyd and Colette. Maybe Sheena; she knew what it was like to be an exile. But Zelos didn't embrace them. Presea didn't see him. Regal seemed okay, but he was another outcast, accused of a crime he didn't commit. Of course he understood.

"Half-elves didn't start the Kharlan War," Mithos said, pressing. "Humans started it, humans perpetuated it, and when they'd drained the planet dry and all that was left was a seed that everybody wanted, they fought over that. They killed my sister for standing between them. Right there in front of me when I couldn't do anything."

Genis felt sick. He leaned back against the fence, but even that hurt. "But... enslaving the world just for that is wrong, don't you see?"

"You're the one who doesn't see. The world isn't 'enslaved.' This world still exists because of all we've done. They kept fighting, Genis, but I found a way to save both of them--my sister and the world. You may not like it, but even you can surely see that stopping the war was necessary. Without anybody to fight, there was a sharp decrease in the use of destructive magitechnology in both countries. The seed is enough to sustain the world as long as that stays down."

Was he just supposed to believe that? "How do you know all of this?"

"I was there, obviously. Me, Kratos, Yuan."

Genis stared. At least his hands weren't shaking anymore. He was cold now, cold and stiff, and his eyelids felt heavy. "Oh."

"We're supposed to be friends,right? Friends get a chance to explain themselves." Mithos tucked the pipes in his pocket, this time buttoning it closed. "You don't need to take my word for it; I can show you. I have proof. Records, measurements, even models." He looked up again, and his face immediately contorted into a frown. "Genis, are you alright?"

He was fine. Now that he thought--tentatively--that Mithos wouldn't attack him, Genis felt wrung out and weak. "I'm fine, just tired."

Mithos leaned in, put both of his hands on Genis's face. "No you're not," Mithos said under his breath. "You look like ash. You can't even move."

That was true. Genis tried to pull out of his reach and couldn't. "I feel kind of sick." Must've been the food. Should have known better than to let Zelos near the stove for a single minute. Never again.

The night was darker, even though the sparkle of the moon on his friend's hair seemed especially bright now. He closed his eyes.

"Genis!"

Someone kept calling him, but he was too tired to answer.


*

Waking up felt like digging through layers of bulky blankets, all of which were heavier than Genis. His lids were pasted closed, and is lips plastered together with the same bitter glue. He'd never felt this bad, even when he was sick. Raine always made him drink water, tea, soup, always rubbed his forehead in soothing circles and left a cold compress on that smelled like herbs. She might not be able to cook, but she knew all the right combinations of herbs and roots, when bone broth was best and when juice was better. He wanted her to be there when he opened his eyes, but they wouldn't budge. All he could tell through the lids was that there was bright light somewhere to his left.

The room was silent; that he could tell, too. Not quiet like Altessa's, where a person could lie down in the back room and the stone walls would muffle all the talking and work sounds, because they were all still audible. Even at night, there were owls calling outside, and cats out in the trees. Here there was--nothing. His own breathing, and the sound of wind, like the kind in Asgard that blew pinwheels round and round with a shuffling sound.

When his lids finally cracked open on command, Genis saw metal walls, bright lights. An infirmary? He had to close them again. The whiteness stung like soap in his eyes.

He must have fallen asleep, because the next time he was aware of the room, someone was definitely there. To the right, shifting or sitting, doing something that made a coat or a belt move, and the friction made sound. Genis licked his lips and tried to say Raine's name. His voice croaked, and his lips cracked and stung.

"You're finally awake." Mithos. His hand across Genis's forehead was familiar. "If it wasn't for how active you are, whatever the idiot Chosen put in that curry would have hurt you."

Genis made his eyes open and turned his head to squint at his friend, even though from the look of his face, the light wasn't actually that bright. "What are you talking about?"

"Zelos drugged your food," Mithos said. He removed his hand to reach for something. Water in a clear glass. "Are you thirsty?"

Genis could've drained the Tethe'alla resevoir dry. He sat up with some help and had to sip slowly because of the way Mithos held the water (or you'll throw up, he said, which was probably true). The story made him feel bad enough: when Mithos got back to the house, the Renegades were there with Kratos and Yuan, and everyone had been caught sleeping because Zelos had drugged their food. He was working for them, the rat. "Yuan wanted Kratos to break his vow, and used your friend Lloyd to convince him to do it," Mithos said, setting the water aside and helping him to lie down again. "I didn't think he would go that far."

He sounded pensive. Genis remembered what he said earlier about fighting in the Kharlan War with them: Kratos and Yuan. He asked why.

"He's dissatisfied with this system we put together, and maybe he wants to forget he was ever a part of it." Mithos shrugged and looked off past Genis at something; his eyes tracked as if he were reading before he looked back and said it wasn't anything to worry about. Ancient history. "I had Pronyma bring you here for medical care, and it's a good thing we did, but--this puts us in an odd position."

Genis wanted more water to wash the terrible taste away. "Now I'm the hostage, I guess."

"No." Mithos got up and said something in Angelic to a person Genis had to twist around to see, and gave up on. Then Mithos met his gaze again and felt all at once more distant than ever, farther away than even Yggdrasil. "Since I know Yuan's objective now, I've shut the dimensional system down and raised all our shields. The defense grid won't come down until I've annihilated the Renegades, which means that you're stuck with us for now. That's all."

That's all? Genis's vocal cords couldn't even start the incredulous shriek he would've liked to give. His throat hurt, his face hurt, his stomach turned. Mithos said he'd be back later, that Genis needed rest and the medicine the doctor was here to give, and then he disappeared.

*

Genis didn't see him again for a long time--or what felt like a long time. He woke every once in a while, tired and thirsty, to see the glare of his doctor's glasses and hear his calm, flat voice respond to his requests: water, food, water, water, water. His eyes wouldn't stay open. It won't be long now, the doctor kept saying; you're almost better. You're almost ready to leave. Genis didn't feel ready; he could barely move, and wasn't allowed to get up. Nothing hurt, and he didn't feel sick, just--so, so tired, like that first night out on the grass by the sea, with the panpipes in his pocket.

The pain started on the last day, when he woke up. An exsphere was a distinctive feeling, one you could feel sinking into the skin and reaching farther, farther, latching onto you. Genis didn't wear his over the heart, but he felt something very like an exsphere there: a deep ache, a wound made by lightning, a tightening of the skin around the invasion as it tried to knit around something it didn't recognize. Marble's sphere wasn't on his hand any longer.

The doctor finally introduced himself as Kenaz. He didn't bother to tiptoe around the thing in Genis's chest, but came right out with it: "We'll be monitoring you the way we do everyone else. Avoid strenuous activity and advanced artes, and the crystal should not be triggered into its evolution phase."

Genis stared at his glasses and wondered why he wore them when his crystal probably improved his eyesight. "What does that mean?"

"I suppose the Chosen's transformation is opaque from a mortal's point of view." Kenaz pushed his glasses up. His tone hardly changed at all, even to show contempt. "Like exspheres, a Cruxis Crystal requires time to interface with your body and expand your capabilities. Stress and extreme exertion are the most efficient ways to produce a reaction. I am advising you to avoid confrontation with our security, as you are not strong enough to resist them by yourself, and trying will most definitely trigger the crystal. If you hope to return to your friends on the surface, I must encourage you to avoid such situations."

"Can I seriously expect to ever go back?" Genis curled his fingers into the thin blanket over his waist. He wanted to touch the crystal, poke it, like a scab. "Why would he bring me up here, then?"

"Lord Yggdrasil did not define your status," Kenaz said. "I cannot speculate on his plans, of course. Everyone here is tracked; there is not a single angel allowed to be invisible. This treatment does not imply you are to be imprisoned, if that is your concern."

Everyone up here was so stupidly formal. "Anyway, I can barely move," Genis said.

"How badly do you want to move?"

Genis stared at him. Nope, no more expression now than before--no eyebrow lifts, no twitchy lips. What the hell was that supposed to mean, 'how badly did he want to move?' He didn't want to be stuck in bed forever.

Kenaz told him to sleep on it, and went back to his office which, from what Genis could see during the brief interval before the door slid closed, was full of screens, keypads, and shelves with shiny silver stacks that looked like they could be books if they weren't individually so thin. He sat up to get a better view, and only realized he'd moved without help after the portal closed him out.

How badly did he want it, huh?

Maybe he slept that night because he wanted to sleep. One moment he closed his eyes, wishing time would just move faster, that he wouldn't have to sit through it waiting, and waiting, and the next he opened them and found someone new at the foot of his bed. The clock read seven in the morning--although he didn't know how accurate it was--and she waited with her hands clasped behind her, in full uniform that reminded Genis at once of Colette and Kratos. Long, almost-blonde hair disappeared past her shoulders. Her crystal wasn't visible, but there was a glaze to her eyes that meant she definitely had one. He wondered if the same blankness had taken over his own face.

The girl bowed. She couldn't have been any older than Colette. "Lord Yggdrasil calls me Iri," she said. Her voice had very little inflection. "You may also, if you wish. I will be your escort."

Genis asked where she was going to escort him, because that sounded an awful lot like a euphemism for harsher words like, oh, 'overseer,' or 'guard,' or 'warden.' She didn't catch the subtext. Her answer was straightforward: to his room, of course. He was expected to dress and follow her.

Whoever had put the infirmary gown on Genis hadn't left his old clothes behind; neither Iri nor the orderly in the next chamber knew anything about them. Black, close-fitting, uniform-like pants and shirt were what he put on, and then a coat. University students wore uniforms kind of like this; he tried to think of it that way. Going away to school--that was what he'd done. He'd left his friends to study, the way they encouraged him to do during Colette's journey, back when that academy kid challenged him to a test. He was sick, and they'd left him behind to recover while they kept up the search for a way to defeat Cruxis.

He wished he had told Raine what he intended to do and why she would never see him again. Because she wouldn't, would she? Not unless Cruxis came crashing down, and that meant they'd take him down along with it.

Genis wished Mithos would appear to hold his hand, and also hoped that he wouldn't.

Welgaia was as non-descript as ever. Every hall, street, and metal door looked identical to his eye. Iri led him down a series of quiet corridors lit by aqua lamps, and finally up a wide staircase that led to a teleportation circle big enough to fit all of his friends and their reihards into at once. Genis stared at the runes building the spell, watched them flame to life until they became too bright to look at and he was forced to close his eyes. He understood some of it--the basis of the arte, the guilding principle of the first equation. But the circle was made up of eight. He didn't have time to check them before the spell activated, and he felt like throwing up when it pulled him up, folded him, twisted him, and dropped him into his destination. If Iri hadn't been there, he would have fallen. Instead, he stumbled, until her hand gripped his shoulder and steadied him, and his hands and feet tingled like an allergic reaction.

"Vinheim," she said in her inflectionless voice. Genis opened his eyes.

Raine, he thought. Raine.

The stonework was older than anything he had ever looked at, except maybe for the Otherworldly Gate. There wasn't any plaster; all the scrolling, all the decorative molding and columns, the sconces for lights, they were all carved directly into the rock. Whilte marble floors mirrored light from an ornate white chandelier. The room, vast and empty, sent the sound of their steps whispering back to them when they walked across a large emblem embossed on the floor, toward the fanciest staircase Genis had ever seen--and he remembered the palace in Tethe'alla. Iri let her hand drop, said he should follow. It was easy to get lost in Vinheim, she said, especially for newcomers. And he shouldn't ask questions, because everyone was very busy.

Of course, they didn't see anyone. She took him down a hallway lined with doors at wide intervals; those were the libraries, which Lord Yggdrasil said he could peruse as much as he liked, as long as he remembered the way. Genis tried to memorize where they walked: a right turn, up a flight of stairs, two more right turns, and then doors without numbers, names, or anything to distinguish them. His was the first.

Inside, two simple rooms: a bedroom, a study area. No windows.

"Food will be provided at appropriate intervals," Iri said, bowing. "Call me if you have need."

She forgot to tell him how before she left.

Genis clasped his tingling hands under his coat and looked around. The narrow bed was long enough that even Lloyd could fit without his feet hanging over; the coverlet was a rich red, and the sheets pristine white, cleaner and prettier than any hotel he had ever stayed at, but the room reminded him of public houses just the same: no paintings on the walls, no pans above the table, no herbs drying, no clothes hanging on hooks, no books stacked on the nightstand. Nobody had ever lived here, or if he was wrong, it was a long, long time ago. When he breathed in deeply it tasted slightly chemical, as if someone had tried to scrub the air clean, and it was cold. Goosebumps prickled his arms and legs, even though he wore two layers and a jacket. His hair--even that felt thinner, because they'd washed out the salt treatment Raine used to fluff it up and hide his ears. It lay closer to his head, tickling his chin, leaving the tips of his ears to poke out and freeze.

Pressure built behind his eyes until he closed them.

*
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