#8 - Road Trip
Location: at my desk
Music: Silence, presumably
The problem with parallel lives is that you don't really get to walk away, and it's different than lives that are over, for one simple, cruel reason: you keep wondering what it'll take to get it back.
Drakath sent us away because the final battle was coming, and it was too dangerous, and we weren't as trained as he wanted us to be by the time the Gate's bells rang. He locked the door behind us. There's no way back to Lore unless he opens the door again, or someone breaks through his locks, and nobody's going to break through the locks set by the Champion of Chaos. Not when he can put that much power into a spell, and do so casually.
It's fucked up, right? You're fourteen, you're fifteen, you're sixteen, you're finally old enough to really understand what you've been thrust into, the final battle is soon, you're understanding your other kintypes and you think you might be able to remember the magical theory you need to bring your Devil powers to life, and aid the hivemind that's saved your life multiple times over in stopping a great evil that imprisoned your Champion.
And then he locks you out, because it's too dangerous. Or maybe he just knew what you were going to do. It's not like you can hide from him, and you wouldn't want to. In the absence of the Avatar, he's the one that controls Chaos.
Ranisson was a person before I was her, before she became me, too. I wonder how she experiences being who she is, with everything behind her. But I wouldn't go on a road trip with myself like that. We barely got along. She was too critical, too clinical. She didn't care about a lot of things, and the things she did care about, she didn't show her emotions for. When it came to soulbonds and travelling back and forth between worlds, she wasn't really the one I was close to.
No, that was Stratos. I remember all too clearly the Starfall Festival over on the Youkai Isles that we spent together, eating fried dough on sticks and shooting the shit. Or Ranisson did that, and I remember it. But Stratos died and returned with me, and the two of us kept going, and he had to relive his Academy days over and over every time I had to go to highschool.
I learned to drive just in time for him to leave, and for Drakath to shut and lock the doors. I miss him so much. I want to talk things out, over and over, sit in the driver's seat and just see where the endless roads take us. Stop in shitty gas stations and amazing diners and sleep in the back of the truck and just talk. It was fucked up, right? Fifty-three recruits of our year into the SkyGuard. Twelve lived to see graduation. One war, then another, and we're expected to put the first behind us the moment the second started in the name of the Truce.
And then we both abandoned everything we cared for, everything we hated, and joined Chaos.
I think the only one of Stratos' brothers that survived and didn't choose Chaos in the end was Thermos. He didn't care either way what side everyone else was on, he wanted no part of it. He knew how it was going to end, and he didn't want to watch it twice. I can't really blame him.
But if not Stratos, I'd want Max. He never really wanted us to be formal. Chaos Lord Maximilian Lionfang, the stalwart Lawful Good lion-tamer and Lord and betrothed to the Crown Princess. (They hated each other. They were both Chaos Lords. I wish I had ever been highly-ranked enough to do more than guess at how well that went in meetings, and the fact you know everything about those of the same rank as you.)
Max gave up the formality after Xavier, his younger brother, died in the fighting. Xavier was fifteen. He was my age, and not Ranisson's at all. Max was damn near thirty. The irony of that being so close to South and Al is not lost on me. But Max was there, and he was solid, and he understood being young did not make me worth overlooking.
With the experience he had, I want to go on a road trip with him, just for all that we've never seen. He was never an adventurer, he did more paperwork than wandering in the woods, and most of the traveling he did was for the war effort. But I'm pretty sure he knew how to drive, at least, he could command an airship well enough and if you can do that, a car can't be much more difficult.
He'd have to drive, I wouldn't drive him, it wouldn't be right for me to do so. But on the other side of adolescence, I'd kill for a chance to talk to him again. He was rational, he was a rock, and he had no issues telling you about himself if it helped you understand. You'd never see him struggle, but you'd know where the scars came from. He'd never leave you in the dark like that, he was too Good, and too kind, and those are two very different things.
I think he'd like French food, and he'd recognize the castles. He'd want me to tell him the history, all of it, because he always appreciated that, and he'd be able to tell me where the fronts were just by studying the ground.
I miss them both so much. What I wouldn't give to spend a few hours on the road with them.