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A Dagger Through the Spark

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[29th of the Great Tree Moon. Imperial Year of 1185]

 

Victory was all but certain to the forces of the Imperial Army. The battle in the Tailtean Plains was finally brought to an end, and the mad boar prince has finally been slain. Though having delivered a fatal blow to the Church of Seiros, it was not a time of celebration. Immediately, the Adrestian Emperor rallied her forces towards the heart of Rhea’s forces; Fhirdiad. Time was of essence, as the soldiers marched towards the Kingdom Capital, eager to bring a close to this ever-lasting war.

 

Troops were deployed in battle, with soldiers having already broken through the enemy’s offensive. The students, hailing from the Garreg Mach of old, managed to push back the Knights of Seiros as well. Even after the Immaculate One has ‘blessed’ the village with the flames of hell, the Imperial Army did not allow themselves to be deterred by such a callous tactic. In fact, this simply gave them all the more reason to stop the rampage of what they deemed a pretender goddess.

 

The Adrestian Emperor was determined to see this to the end, and her dear mentor was no different. The emperor’s former colleagues, now fellow war generals were, at first, hesitant to wage war against that of which once had a firm grasp on the entirety of Fodlan. However, they now all share the same sentiments as their ambitious leader, no longer bound by the fallacies of the scriptures. Even those who were formerly affiliated with the Church, now show their unwavering support towards this cause of the empire. 

 

Among those who once fought for the archbishop, a lone archer sat amongst their ranks. Said archer cannot help but be wary of what is to come, a first for her in quite some time. Her facial expression maintains its nonchalant façade, and her movements did not grow stiff, as confident as ever. Yet her eyes. . .her lavender hues, they tell a different story. Her demeanor exudes certainty, yet her vision speaks of anxiety. What was it that she feared? What was it that she wished to avoid? Certainly, it could not be the sight of blood, nor was it the thought of innocent lives lost. No, it was something else. . .  

 

Any more unwanted bloodshed is sure to disrupt the morale of the army. Yet, in the midst of the battlefield, all they can do was to keep this to a minimum, if not completely avoid such scenarios. The archer knew this well, she’s steeled herself for moments as such. Though a sad sight to behold, she was well-aware that one must not falter in battle simply due to such. No, one must use this as a reason to continue fighting, to finally put an end to all these gruesome sightings.

 

Perhaps it was the fear of having to cross paths with Rhea once more. No that wasn’t it. Having served the archbishop for nearly half a decade, the sniper knew well of her person. She feared neither man nor beast, and she certainly does not fear the Goddess Seiros herself. She could care less about whatever ‘divine punishment’ awaited her, should she lose. She feels no remorse for having to betray her former employer. She was never a devout follower of her teachings, and after witnessing the goddess’ true form, she had all the less reason to start practicing now.

 

Then what was it that worried her? It cannot be the idea of having to face her former allies as well, no? Those who were once students of Garreg Mach Monastery despised the idea of having to face their former colleagues in battle. The archer does not share the same sentiments, however. She would be willing to strike down any foe, be they her old comrades or the other students, if they posed a threat to her new (albeit temporary) allegiance. At least, that was what she thought.

 

Among her former allies were the enigmatic Gilbert, the youth Cyril, and the fearsome Catherine. Gilbert was a man the archer hardly knew of. She couldn’t care less about what becomes of him. As for Cyril, though once a boy under her tutelage, the archer knew well that the youth was servant to Rhea first, apprentice second. He chose his own path, just as she chose hers. It was inevitable for them to be on opposing sides, and there were no strong sentiments between the master and the student.

 

And then there’s Catherine. The fearsome Thunderstrike Cassandra was among the enemy ranks. Though the archer knew well that her splendor was not to be feared, regardless of how impressive it was, it was the thought of facing her that worried the Dagdan herself. Shamir knew this day would come. She knew that it was a fate neither one of them can escape. She knows this for a fact, and she detests knowing that. She hoped that there was another way through all this, that there was a ray of hope in this hour of dark times. She hoped. . .that that they could’ve been partners, maybe even something more.

 

. . .

 

On the other side of this battle were the Knights of Seiros. Having lost their allies from the Kingdom of Faerghus, and their remaining forces cornered like animals within the capital, the outlook was grim for those who swore fealty to the Goddess. Coupled with the decision to set the capital aflame, as well as the loss of both Gilbert and Cyril, the defeat of Rhea was all but certain. Only the Immaculate One herself, as well as who is arguably her best knight, the wielder of the Thunderbrand, stood in the way of the Empire’s victory.

 

Though the Nabatean remained undeterred and unfazed about her own losses, the confidence of the noble now holy knight began to slowly crumble. Soldiers lost one after another, walls and barricades all being torn down by the opposing army. To top it all off, the very person she once viewed as a friend, as a partner, as someone special. . .was among the enemy ranks. Shamir Nevrand, oh how she longs to see her once more, yet under circumstances far different than the one she’s in.

 

Just as how the archer felt, the blonde knight had hoped that there was another way out, that they’d see through the end of this war together. Though their partnership may have been temporary, it was one of the best she’s had. In fact, it may also be possible that she’s held feelings beyond that of admiration and respect towards the archer. She wanted to live by those feelings, to live by her own independence and free will. She wished to carve a path under the conditions of her own desire.

 

Yet her she is, siding with Lady Rhea once more. As a Knight of Seiros, it is what’s to be expected of her. But was it all worth it? Was it wise to abandon all her hopes and dreams in favor of repaying her eternal debt to the goddess? Perhaps, at the start of the war, she’d be more than capable of reaffirming her own decisions. Yet now. . .to serve a beast, who gave not a single care to her own allies, to openly command setting the entire capital under the flames of judgement. Perhaps the Empire weren’t traitors after all, perhaps Seiros truly bears a darkened heart. Perhaps. . .Shamir was the one who made the right choice, and she herself made quite the regrettable one.

 

But it cannot be undone, there was no way to escape this. Cassandra knew that a path chosen is a path that cannot be averted. There were no openings for her, no means of escape from this cruel predicament. She could not force herself to leave the Immaculate One’s side. One may say this is due to her unwavering loyalty. However, the reality is that she wished to own up to her mistakes, to her decisions, until the very end. Even as the former noble of House Charon wished to surrender to the Empire, it does not change the fact that she worked alongside the mad archbishop; that she was the one who carried out the order to burn the town to the ground.

 

. . .

 

Moments have passed, and the war is at the brink of its end. The flames that had once lingered throughout the capital began to slowly fade. What once were wooden structures found within the village, all withered as only ash remained. Enemy formations slowly began to crumble, as battalions began to thin in numbers, with generals as mighty as Gilbert and Cyril having perished alongside the flames. The Imperial Army was brimming with hope just as the Knights of Seiros lost theirs.

 

East to the Capital lies the remnants of Seiros’ vanguards. Led by Charon herself, she rallied what was left of her troops in preparation for a frontal assault. Just as her own troops began marching towards the enemy, a shadow lurks beneath the smoke that had enveloped the area. The concealed figure began swiftly prancing from the front, towards the knight’s left. Immediately, Catherine noticed this, yet her visage failed at tailing the silhouette. Even so, she knew for a fact that it was her.

 

Confirming her suspicions, an arrow immediately flew from her sides, darting towards her head. Of course, such a boorish tactic would not be enough to extinguish the flame that she herself carried within her. Rather, her grasp has ceased the velocity of the arrow, having caught it in time with her mitted palms.

 

“Hello Catherine. I always knew this day would come.” 

 

A voice echoed from the smog. As the ashy mist that once surrounded them had began to vanish, the figure was revealed to be none other than Nevrand herself, no longer cloaked by shadow. A tired smirk was plastered onto the sniper’s face. Even until now, the tenacity and the fighting prowess of the knight impressed her.

 

Likewise, the knight herself could not help but reciprocate the expression that beheld her visage. The fact that her old partner would aim for her head didn’t bother her at all. She’s always aimed for the blonde’s head, even when they worked alongside one another. Only this time, it was the first she’s done so outside of a training scenario.

 

“What a coincidence, so did I. It seems now we have no choice.”

 

Catherine replied. Though her expression was that of a brimming smile, her eyes were but a void. Azure orbs devoid of emotion for what is to come, the knight could not help but force a confident expression. The very expression which she once held genuinely, a far cry from the façade she bore at this moment.

 

An exchange of words continued between the warrior and the mercenary.

 

“We have nothing in common. Not our backgrounds, nor our beliefs.”

 

“Not the way we lived. . .or the way we’ll die”

 

“It’s funny, don’t ya’ think? We’re literally nothing alike. Even the way we dress ourselves is different.”

 

“We’ve always been worlds apart, yet here I thought that. . .”

 

A pause. Words eluded the archer as the smirk on her face withered. No longer can she hold on to the stoic demeanor she’s always maintained. Her face cannot even muster up the strength to put on an uncaring mask. She cared, cared too much for her own good. She’s allowed herself to let the knight get close to her, and it cost her both her emotions, and her second partner. . .

 

Neither one of them were willing to make the first move. Not one of the women wanted to extinguished one another, yet they know they must. There was no other way to settle this, and that brought a sense of dismay to both the swordmaster and the sniper. Tears began rolling down the cheeks of the Dagdan, as her eyes lay shut for a moment, hoping to stop any more from flowing out of her orbs.

 

“Come with me. Let’s put this war behind us, maybe leave Fodlan behind to. . .start over. . .”

 

“Shamir I—argh! You know it’s not that easy. I’ve already gone this far. I can’t turn back now. Even if I wanted to, but we’ve already chosen our paths. Even if I can’t fully agree with Lady Rhea’s actions, I can’t turn back now. I just—I’m sorry. . .”

 

“Catherine. . .”

 

“Stop that, I can’t stand any more of your vulnerable side! Besides, I didn’t think you’d get all emotional like that.”

 

Silence befell the atmosphere, as words had escaped their lips. For a moment, they stood in the midst of the battlefield, prolonging the stalemate between the two. Though no words were present as of the moment, their feelings were instead conveyed by the reflection on their spheres. Sorrow, regret, guilt, fear, love. All these were present in their vacant stares.

 

“Well? What are you waiting for? Someone has to end this soon!”

 

The knight cried out. Wanting to finally be done with this moment, the blonde could not stand having to stare at the archer standing idly for another moment. Ever since the very moment that their paths have crossed, the warrior had always known the sniper as stoic, calm, aloof. To see the Dagdan grow soft for her, to see her emotions spill onto her. . .

 

. . .To see Shamir be in such a state, Catherine could not bear it. She could not bear the sight of her partner slowly crumbling from within. The one before her eyes is burdened with a weight upon her heart once more, and she could not help but blame herself for this. She could not help but shed tears of her own, devastated that their choices would damn them for all of eternity.

 

Yet, Catherine had no choice but to push on. Just as Nevrand maintained her stance, the knight followed suit. Begrudgingly, she accepted the notion that war was not a place for emotions. That it was a place of neither sorrows or romance. . .that there is no room for true happy endings in a field of conflict. Though peace awaits them at the dusk of conflict, both of them knew well that a price is to be paid, all so they could restore the peace that once was gifted to the land.

 

. . .

 

“. . .You know what you have to do, right?”

 

An inquiry befell the ears of the archer. She knew exactly what is it that must be done. The real question for her question was whether or not she knows of what is to come, but whether she would dare to do so. There were little options, neither one can drop their arms and simply settle it with an embrace. The time for diplomacy has long since passed. The time of war is at nigh of conclusion. The time for emotions, for love. Was there ever a time for love to begin with. . .?

. . .

 

The Dagdan laid shut her eyes. For a moment, she took a deep breath, steeling herself for what is essentially the hardest battle of her personal journey. Though her posture stayed firm, and her movements unhinged, her heart ached so. The pain she feels right now is akin to having her own heart stabbed by a dagger. A single tear would slowly be shed from her spheres of lavender as she prepared to enter a stance of combat.

 

All these years, she silently yearned to mend her old wounds, the ones she received the moment she lost her first partner. All these years, longing for another partner. And after having finally found one, the whims of fate have forced her hand. Once more, Shamir is to suffer another loss. What separates this from the event years prior, however, is how it shall be she herself that shall be the cause of her loss.

 

“You’re right. I guess there really is no turning back now. I suppose this is our farewell, Cassandra. . .”

 

“Shamir. . .I—I’m sorry it had to come to this. . .”

 

. . .

 

Immediately, a battle has ensured. Both women of opposite sides came to finally face one another in combat. A decisive battle was upon them. Neither wanted the other to fade, yet both knew of the inescapable fate they were trapped in. Was the goddess herself to blame, or were these simply fruits bore by their own choices? Have they anticipated such an event to come, even before having made the choice? Or did they not see this coming. . .?

 

 

. . .

 

 

 


 

[14th of the Harpstring Moon. Imperial Year of 1187]

 

Two years have passed since the Battle of Fhirdiad. . .

 

The world was at peace, the empire has won. The emperor’s campaign against those who slither in the dark has finally reached its conclusion, and the emperor herself has finally married to her new empress. All was well in the kingdom of Fodlan. Of course, even at a time of peace, events such as skirmishes and thievery are still bound to happen. At the same time, there are those who shall ensure that peace maintained, be they soldiers or rogue forces.

 

A rumor now arises of a mercenary, bearing the mark of the spider. This mercenary is said to lurk the shadows, stopping those who prey on the poor and innocent, stealing from the greedy to give back to the poor. This mercenary is also mentioned to be a capable sniper. There are those who oppose the mysterious figure, as well as those who condone the sniper’s actions. And there are those who believe their existence to be but a hearsay, made to scare children.

 

Of course, no one truly knew who this mysterious anti-hero was. No one knew of their face or their name. No one was sure of their background, of where they came from. And certainly no one knew of the burdens they carried. No one but the sniper herself.

 

. . .

 

Inside a small cabin, distant to the major cities of Fodlan, a lone archer sits by a window. Her hues are but a void, as her expression reflected the gloom present at the skies outdoors. The clouds were dark, the soil muddied with puddles and wheel tracks. These were what the archer saw as she stared blankly through the glass.

 

Though her eyes were empty, her mind was cluttered with thoughts. Memories. . .painful memories. . .of the events that have transpired years prior continued to linger even to this day. Though the archer finally knows of peace in Fodlan, it was uncertain if she would be able to know peace with herself, once more. . .

 

 

“We have nothing in common. Not our backgrounds, nor our beliefs. . .”

 

“Not the way we lived. . .or the way we’ll die. . .”

 

. . .

 

These words continued to echo within the archer’s thoughts, constantly reminding her of that faithful exchange. Somehow, having recalled that moment was far more painful than the event itself. She knew it had to be done, she knew that it was bound to happen. Yet, she asked herself. . .was it all worth it? Was it necessary? Wasn’t there another way. . .? Why couldn’t it have ended differently!?

 

“Come with me. Let’s put this war behind us, maybe leave Fodlan behind to. . .start over. . .”

 

“Shamir I—argh! You know it’s not that easy. I’ve already gone this far. I can’t turn back now. Even if I wanted to, but we’ve already chosen our paths. Even if I can’t fully agree with Lady Rhea’s actions, I can’t turn back now. I just—I’m sorry. . .”

 

“Catherine. . .”

 

“Stop that, I can’t stand any more of your vulnerable side! Besides, I didn’t think you’d get all emotional like that.”

 

. . .

 

Tears would slowly roll down her cheek, as the clouds began roaring outside. Drops of rain would begin falling onto the soil, just as Shamir herself began silently weeping for the loss of her partner. Why couldn’t she have agreed to her proposal? Why did she have to face Catherine? Why wasn’t it her, instead? Why did she have to lose her as well. . .?

 

 

“. . .Until our paths diverge, you’re my partner. And I couldn’t ask for a better one.”

 

Her words, from seven years prior, would continue to pierce her emotions as it began  to linger within her mind once more. A day would not go by without her remembering the short amount of time she has spent with Catherine, both the times they’ve spent on the battlefield, and other times where they would train together, share a meal or two with the professor, or simply lay idle.

 

After losing her first partner, she isolated herself. She allowed herself to transform into a lone wolf, working only for herself. She would gain the respect of some of her peers, and even employers. But she made sure to never go beyond that. She only saw her former comrades as a means of getting the job done faster, not wanting to waste time chatting with them. And she succeeded, for a while.

 

But ever since she met her. . .ever since she met Catherine. . .there was just something about her that made it hard to resist. Perhaps it was the knight’s fault that the archer was swayed by her charms, or maybe it was the archer’s own for allowing herself to let the blonde close to her.

 

Now, she’s gone. Her second partner was her partner no more. Though their partnership was temporary, it was still more than enough to leave an impact on her the same way her first partner did.

 

If only. . .if only she saw another way. If only they stood by one another until the very end. All these seemed avoidable. Yet at the same time, it all seemed inevitable for the both of them at the time. She’s gone, gone forever. Not even a proper farewell, not even a moment where the two indulged at the act of companionship. Neither a hug, nor a kiss. Instead, it all ended with a barrage of arrows, a number of wounds, and a dagger to the heart. It was all too much for her to bear, having to lose not one, but two partners. . .It left a scar on the archer, one that she may not be able to heal from completely.

 

“Why. . .Why did I have to lose her as well. . .”

 

. . .

 

“I’m sorry Cassandra—I’m sorry. . .”

 

 

 

~end~