"Déjà vu." Jean had stated when Nina had expressed the sense of familiarity the forest evoked.
Bleu had smiled knowingly and had led them deeper into the forest. In the center of the forest there was a small lake. In the center of the lake there grew an enormous tree, supported in the water by its large roots.
"This is a forest of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. There are other trees just like it back on the Inner Continent. For example, the one you would be able to remember best would be the one in the Sea of Trees." Bleu commented.
"It's so beautiful here, peaceful and quiet." Nina said in a hushed voice, so as not to disturb the peace she was commenting on.
"It won't last forever, unfortunately." The Wanderer said solemnly. "The grass at the edge of the forest was dying, meaning that the desert is closing in on the heart of the forest. My best guess would be that in about a millennium or so this place will completely cease to exist. But, for the time being this will be an excellent place to stay and we can look for your friends from here. It should make things a lot easier."
And so, they spent their time resting up and searching for the others. Bleu used her magic to conjure up spectral scouts in the shape of owls and hawks to see as far as she could, Jean transformed into his giant frog form and searched up and down the river, Nina would use the power of the forest to augment her own magic in an attempt to contact the others telepathically. Nina had become frustrated because of a particular blank space she had found. Normally, she could at the very least feel the mental residue in an area, the 'feel' of the minds that had once inhabited the area. However, in one particular area, it was as if there was a sort of 'blanket' covering the area, preventing Nina from seeing what was there. There were even minds she could feel at the very edge of her magic probe, but she feared to make contact because she had no idea who these minds were and they were to far away to make any real distinction between the minds of friend or foe. There was one other thing that made her nervous: the Wanderer would disappear for hours at a time in the forest and could not be found for that time. She worried for him because, despite his attitude, she could see a great sorrow in his eyes and she feared what he might do if he were left alone.
She really wanted to speak to him about his past and his relation to Winlan's queen Nina after she had finished her last search for Ryu and the others. She went into the heart of the forest where the great tree lay. As she entered the heart of the forest she could here someone humming a solemn tune, it sounded like a requiem she had heard once in a church. She came to the lake where she found the Wanderer's armor and sword lying on the ground near the edge of the lake. To her this seemed quite suspicious and foolish to leave such valuable items behind, then again it was unlikely that there was anyone around who would take them anyways. She again heard the humming that she had heard when she entered the lake area but did not know where it came from; until she looked up into the Yggdrasil's branches; whereupon she saw the Wanderer sitting on one of the lower branches. He had apparently gone for a swim before he had sat up in the tree for his hair was slick with water and he wore only trousers. Nina wished to speak to him, so she cast a spell on herself to allow her to float up to the same branch as the Wanderer. The Wanderer merely observed her as she stepped from the air onto the branch. There followed a period of awkward silence as Nina tried to think of someway to bring up the subject of Winlan and their Nina or at the very least start some sort of conversation. The Wanderer merely smiled and turned his head to look out at the stars.
"We used to stay up and watch the stars each night, you know. She would always fall asleep in my arms." He said.
"Yeah... Strange, but I never felt tired and never slept at all after I found my 'power'."
It was odd that he should mention this, because she remembered Katt telling her once that Ryu rarely slept after they had returned from the final conflict with DeathEvan. She pushed the thought aside as it was not important to her at the moment.
"You were married to Queen Nina 400 years ago?" She asked, trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice.
The Wanderer raised an eyebrow at the question which was practically asking him his age and thus rude, was out of character for Nina. She realized this and embarrassedly put a hand over her mouth.
"I'm sorry... I didn't mean... I... I..." She stammered, turning a little red in embarrassment.
"Don't worry about it." The Wanderer laughed. "It was actually closer to 500 years than 400 years ago, but yes I married Nina."
"Do all Dragon Clanners live as... " She started, turning beet red as she was reminded of her previous embarrassment.
"No, those of the Dragon Clans live no longer than any other clan. Your Ryu and myself are very special cases because of our 'power'"
"Yes, I have Agni; the 'Body of Ladon'. Ryu has the 'Power of Ladon', Anfini."
Nina said nothing to this; she merely stared out over the forest, trying to look everywhere but at the Wanderer. She had had something else she wanted to ask him but after her prior misstep she was a little too embarrassed to ask if Ryu would be as old as the Wanderer was. The Wanderer recognized the action and guessed what she was thinking and thus prevented her from having to ask another embarrassing question.
"I have aged because of my sorrow. The years have worn me out because I lost Nina, because she died and there was nothing I could do to prevent it." He said bitterly.
"But surely you must have know that she would age, you must have been able to accept that." Nina said as she approached him.
"If she had died of old age I might have been able to accept it, but she didn't. She had been infected with the same disease her father did, the same that your father had. I went out and found the elixir that would save her, but it was too late when I came back. I had left Winlan to my son and just traveled and that's what I have been doing since."
"I-I'm so sorry." She replied.
"Don't be, it happened a long time ago. But tell me, why are you so concerned about Ryu? Do you love him so much that you cannot let him go, even if he is married to another woman?" He asked as he stood up, keeping perfectly balanced on the branch of the Yggdrasil tree.
"W-what makes you think I love him?" Nina said turning away.
"The way you are so concerned with him and the fact that your eyes take on a certain light whenever he is mentioned kind of tipped me off. But, other than that I just asked Bleu, she loves to gossip you know."
Nina blushed at the fact that her feelings were so obvious, she had always tried to keep them secret, safe. She also felt another emotion as she looked out into the forest, away from the Wanderer: sorrow. She had kept her love for Ryu buried in her heart since she had seen him fight Tiga for Katt. On that day she had known that his heart lay with Katt and not with her. It hurt, but she kept her feelings to herself so as not to interfere with the mission or their friendship. Of course, keeping her feelings to herself had one notable effect: much like a river that has been bottled up, her feelings would eventually either violently burst out or overflow, either way her emotions would drown her.
Nina began to cry softly her heart torn asunder a she thought about Ryu. The whole situation to her was depressing: first Ryu impresses Katt and won her heart forever by fighting Tiga, then he marries her and they have a child. She had been avoiding them and her feelings about them; she had secretly hoped that this adventure would have mended her friendship with them, though in truth they had no idea of her feelings. Things had seemed to be going well at first, it was just like old times, then on the ocean the storm had ripped the ship apart and she had lost Ryu, Katt, Rand, Sten and Bow. She continued to sob softly. She felt the Wanderer's strong hands on her shoulders and she turned and just let him hold her as she cried. It reminded her of the last time her own father held her like that; she felt safe and protected.
"I-it isn't f-fair!" She sobbed. "I love him, why can't he be with me? Is this fate? Had I met him sooner he might have fallen in love with me! Is this destiny?"
"Shhh, shh, little one. I understand; I know what it is like to not be aloud to be with the one you love. In Winlan there used to be laws forbidding inter-clan marriages." The Wanderer said as he held Nina. "As for if it is destiny, I don't believe it is. 'Destiny' and 'Fate' are words people use to avoid responsibility, saying it isn't their fault. I have lived a long time and I have always felt that regardless of my actions or the situation there was always another possibility another choice I could have made. Things turned out the way they did because that's the way they turned out. There is no 'omnipotent being' guiding our every action; Ladon wants us to make our own decisions and allows us to shape events that happen. We are cursed and blessed by having free will and by not having our lives predetermined."
"Wh-who are you?" Nina asked, finally getting to the point of the conversation, her heart soothed, the pain of heartache dissipating.
"My name is Ryu Heir Winlan. I am the father of Liam, last king of Winlan and Mina, protector and leader of the Dragon Clan 500 years ago. I am your ancestor, Nina, and Ryu's ancestor, though the blood relation between you is too distant to make a difference." He said as he stepped back from her. He slipped an amulet from around his neck, Nina was surprised she hadn't noticed it earlier. "As your ancestor, I feel I should give you this, Please take good care of it."
He took her hands in his and gently placed the amulet in her palm and closed her fingers over the amulet. He then turned and, smiling that oh-so-confident smile, the same as Ryu's and as Liam's when she had seen him in her dream, he dove of the Yggdrasil's branch and into the lake below.
Nina looked at the object she held in her palm and saw that it was a small teardrop-shaped glass in a gold setting. Most interesting about the piece was that encased in the piece of glass was a single white feather with a brown tip.
The next day the group gathered on the edge of the forest to say goodbye to Ryu the Wanderer. He spoke not a word as he kissed Bleu on the cheek or shook hands with Jean. When he came to Nina, however, he leaned in close, kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear: "I love as though you were my own daughter, take care of yourself."
"He knows this is the end." Bleu said solemnly.
"La fin, madame Bleu? Of what?" Jean asked.
"Of his life, he knows he won't live through this adventure." She replied sadly.
"What!! How do you know?" Nina asked, shocked.
"He gave you his amulet. His wife gave that amulet to him on his wedding day. He holds nothing more dearly to him. For him to give up something so precious would mean he is going to die. Any man who knows he is going to die gives his things away to friends and family so they don't end up in the hands of people who won't appreciate them." Bleu said.
Nina was silent at this. She caressed the amulet given to her and watched the continuously shrinking figure of the Wanderer retreat into the distance.
The empty Urkan caravan had left the city of Dragonia at approximately dawn and had been traveling all day. Ryu merely sat at the head of the caravan watching the beasts of burden drag the wagons along the mountain road. The mountain road was by far the safest way to return to the Urkan city, as there were usually no passengers thus making the trip far quicker and far less dangerous than had there been a great number of people in the wagons.
The current position of the caravan allowed for a spectacular view of the ocean and the setting sun. For a reason that escaped him, Ryu liked watching the sunset, even though it gave him a sorrowful feeling. He did not tell anyone about his feelings, especially not Jasmine for he felt it of utmost importance that he do nothing to upset her. He always watched the sunsets alone, hoping to trigger a memory, to see something familiar and discover something about himself. He was not alone this night, though he did not know it. Gaist came up silently merely watching Ryu.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Gaist said breaking the silence.
Ryu looked at the landscape once more. It was indeed beautiful, the mountains and how the ocean took on a gold color as the sun was setting.
"Yeah it is." Ryu replied.
"Shouldn't you be out here with Jasmine? It would be a great romantic opportunity." Gaist smirked though not in a malevolent way.
"I don't want to bother her."
"You sure? I could go get her right now, if you want."
"That's alright, I would prefer to be left alone. But you aren't going to leave me alone are you? You came to see me for a reason." Ryu said as he turned towards Gaist.
"You're right. I found something that had washed up on shore just before we left for Dragonia... I thought that it might belong to you. I just never found the right time to give it to you. Jasmine's been watching over you like a hawk." Gaist laughed as he handed over an amulet to Ryu.
The amulet was made in the shape of a golden dragon wrapped around a tear shaped jewel that had a milky-white color. As soon as Ryu's hand touched the amulet, the jewel change color to a light blue. Gaist looked in astonishment and whistled softly.
"Well I guess that proves it's yours then huh?" Gaist said.
The two continued to watch the sunset. As the sun dipped beneath the horizon the sky deepened to red and gold colors and then, when the sun was no longer visible, there was a flash of green. It made for a spectacular sight. Gaist turned to Ryu and suddenly had a quizzical look on his face.
"Why are you crying?" Gaist asked.
Ryu put a hand to his face and felt a wetness that showed he was indeed crying, but as to why he could not fathom. He stated as much to Gaist, who then pondered the matter.
"Hmm... Even though you don't consciously remember who you are, maybe somewhere deep inside you do remember something and the sunset triggers it." Gaist said.
Ryu said nothing as he looked out over the mountains and the ocean, caressing the amulet. Deep inside he couldn't help feeling that something was missing during the sunset.
Many of you are probably thinking that Ryu the Wanderer's statements are incredibly ironic. Well I suppose they might not be depending on how you look at it. As the Wanderer (in case you hadn't figured it out yet) is the Ryu from the first Breath of Fire game his actions were controlled by us gamers. That is not entirely true. The programmers created him and incorporated his personality into the game. If we, the gamers, wanted the plot to advance we would have to follow what he would do. So in a sense he was the one controlling our actions. Think on that!
Artificer Urza's Fanfiction