Innocence and All That Chapter 1

By Intrasonic

Author's Note:
This is the first fanfic, series or stand-alone that I've ever done for Final Fantasy 4, or as we North American's better know it, FF2. Actually, I've seen very little in the way of fanart or fanfiction done for this game by anyone. Its age is probably somewhat to blame. It's rather cut-and dried storyline is perhaps another reason. Unlike many RPG's, it's ending really is an ending. Cecil and Rosa are actually getting married (Not many RPG's relationships ever go so far as to invoke the word 'marriage'), Golbez (Luuuuke, I am your father. I mean, Ceeeecil, I am your brother...)  has been forgiven  by Cecil and is now drifting away to who knows where with FuSoYu or whatever his name was. Kain is in the middle of nowhere, training so that he doesn't end up turning traitor a third time. Rydia and Edge have been paired together. Yang was already married (He sure took a looooong time to get nursed back to health by those pretty sylphs... funny how he didn't snap to his senses until he was reminded of his wife/hit with frying pan ^_^). Tellah is dead. The twins are too young (And weren't very interesting anyway).
     In short, it makes bad fodder for fan-fiction writers. Nevertheless, let me point something out for anyone who cares to
listen. Yes, all one of you. Rydia and Edge are NOT an item, for two and a half important reasons.
-Firstly, I don't believe she ever _once_ returned Edge's attentions.
-Secondly, Rydia has had what could possibly be termed a 'stilted childhood'. Depends on how severe you consider having your mother killed, your village burned, and being raised in a village full of monsters (And hearing Edge call you a pretty lady).
-Second and a halfly, Edge is a prick and Rydia deserves better.
     Anyway, for those who are immune to subtlety, the main character of this fic _is_ Rydia, who incidently was my favorite
character, partly because she acts fairly human, isn't there for comic relief, and partly on account of the fact that she was the only person capable of nuking the entire screen in one shot with the Bahamut call spell, or the Meteo magic spell.(Yes, she _can_ learn it. If memory serves me right, she picks it up around level 70 or so. Tellah, eat your heart out.)
     Enough rambling from me. On with the story.

Chapter 1

     At first glance, it was a strange gathering.
     Understanding the gathering would have made it stranger still.
     It was a long room, with a high-ceiling, much like a cathedral, though without windows. Candles provided adequate lighting for those present. There were no pews or chairs, but those inside were in some semblance of order that allowed for a central aisle to be present. At the head of the room, up several steps, two thrones were present, with two individuals seated upon them.
     The first was male, with a crown upon his head, a scepter in his hand. A blue-tinted glass serpent was atop the scepter, shimmering as though made of water. His face was absent of expression. The second was female, also with a crown on her head. The scepter she held was adorned at the top with three carved faces, each with a different expression. Her face was also absent of expression.
     At the bottom of the steps, a third figure was standing, a young woman. Her face, though also expressionless, bore hints of the effort required to maintain the facade. In her left hand was a staff, thin and metallic looking, almost as tall as she was. Atop it, a dimly glowing red jewel rested.
     And the crowd. It was perhaps remarkable only on account of what it _didn't_ contain. People. It was composed of various
creatures of all sorts and sizes. Some had the appearance of birds, others of reptiles, still others of insects. Some towered twenty feet high, while others were barely a handspan in size. All were religiously silent, their attention focused solely on the three individuals at the front.
     The silence was finally broken.
     "Rydia, Caller of Mist." The voice had a detached quality to it, as though it were not originating from the woman in view, but from somewhere beyond.
     The young woman nodded curtly, her alto-esque voice containing none of the distanced qualities of the former, but laced
with a hint of nervousness. "Asura, my Queen."
     "For thousands of years, the world of the Humans and the land of the Summoned Monsters was connected through your people, the inhabitants of Mist Village. Because of events in the human world, the Summoned Monsters were seen as a threat, and rightly so. As it was, it was all we could do to send you to help combat the evil. You have done well as our representative in the earth's most dire time."
     The young woman said nothing in reply.
     "Those dark hours are behind us now, and we must rebuild our lives from the ashes of what transpired."
     The King finally spoke, his voice deeper, but with the same detached quality that the Queen's possessed. "In thousands of years that our relationship with Mist Village has existed, we have always appointed one human to act as an emissary. One who we found trustworthy enough to be trusted with our affairs. One who was able to maintain our presence in the human world and uphold our justice. It has never been an easy job, nor necessarily rewarding. But it has been necessary. And it is necessary now, more than ever.
     "So as Leviathan, King of the Summoned monsters to all here, Master of the Seas to the Human World above, I ask you, Rydia, Caller of Mist. Are you willing to take on the mantle of our emissary and ambassador in the world of the Humans? It has never before been forced upon a person, nor could it be. But it is being offered to you now.
     "Will you accept?"
     A long silence descended upon the room, echoed by all present. All eyes focused on the lone figure in the center, awaiting a
response to the question.

     It was with rigid steps that Rydia entered her room and shut the door behind her. Only after she had thrown the lock on the door did she finally exhale properly, barely crossing the distance to her bed before collapsing in exhaustion.
     As for why she was so tired, she couldn't quite explain it. She was now the official ambassador for the Summoned Monsters. But in a sense, she always had been, being the only person alive trained in the magic of summoning. Although there had never been a great deal of interaction between the two worlds, what little there was had  always required a human capable of traversing between the Human world and this world. Even Leviathan, the most powerful monster on the planet, was only capable of temporary journeys to the surface and was restricted to the oceans.
     And she was now the only human alive who was able to make the journey. That had made her something of an ambassador by default, really. The village here had been her happy home for fifteen years previous. After the business of the crystals, she had always been more than willing to convey messages or items to various places throughout the world. She had seen most of the world in wartime, it was refreshing to see it all again in peacetime. She was well recognized, both from the clothing she wore as well as her green-hued hair. The latter was a genetic indicator of her Mist Village descent, the former, a symbolic indicator of her talents. Both were more than a small source of pride for her.
     Wearily lifting herself from the bed, she shrugged off her clothing and boots, putting on a pastel-green colored nightgown
before slipping under the bedcovers and pulling them up to her chin. The large majority of the monsters down here had no need for clothing or sleep, but they had been happy enough to accommodate her decidedly more human sense of propriety. It was a far cry from a luxury suite, but she had spent more than a few nights with nothing but the ground to sleep on, and still did on longer trips. Her sense of practicality refused to let herself get accustomed to the rather excessive luxuries she was often given when visiting other kingdoms.
     Staring up at the ceiling, she tried to figure out why she felt so different now. Nothing had changed. As she had always done, she would continue to carry out assignments given to her by the king or queen. She would have an official title now, but that would be the only difference. Her life would still go on as it always had before.
     Wouldn't it?

     It was some time later that Rydia awoke from her sleep. She groaned as she clambered from her bed, disdaining the use of the mirror until she had freshened up some. Her body ached all over, finally remembering to remind her how far she walked over the course of the past few weeks.
     The hot bath she took was soothing to her body, but she was too distracted for the mental tension to leave her body as well. Sleep had done little to change her nervousness over her acceptance yesterday. It had seemed innocent enough at the time, although she had been rational enough to realize that such ceremony wouldn't have been made over something insignificant. Perhaps more duties would be coming her way. Perhaps the duties would be more serious in nature. She wasn't afraid of either of those possibilities. It was the thought of _anything else_ that scared her.
     Because she didn't know what _anything else_ might be.

     It was only after exiting the bath that Rydia noticed a folded note resting on her dresser. It was handwritten, a drop of wax with the King's seal keeping it shut. Breaking the seal, she scanned the letter quickly. There wasn't much to it, really. The king had left it while she was sleeping, not wanting to disturb her. But he wanted to talk with her as soon as possible after she was rested.
     She sighed, beginning to get dressed. So it was already starting. It seemed that she wouldn't be kept guessing for very long as to what her new position entailed...

     It was a long jaunt through the town to reach the king. While she had long ago taught herself to make use of the magical teleporters present throughout the city, she considered them a waste of effort unless there was an emergency. Normally, she preferred to walk and greet everyone she passed in the process. As far as she'd ever seen, only the royalty really made much use of them.
     Amidst the bustle and rush in the human world, sometimes she could almost forget that she had grown up here. Almost. But she had grown up here. Fifteen years. A painfully short time above, in the world of the humans, but fifteen long years down here. If she tried, she could still remember the wreck she had been after being rescued by Leviathan. Traveling with Cecil had given her a purpose, something to distract her six-year old mind after the tragic loss she had experienced. Without that distraction, she had literally been a terror to be around. An angry child was one thing. An angry child  raised in Mist Village was a completely different thing. For the first year, only those capable of protecting themselves had dared come near her. It had been fortunate that no monsters had heeded her calls. But even her black magic had been somewhat potent to anything she was angry with. Eventually, she had come to grips with her situation, electing to try and move ahead. Even after that, she had been sullen, busying herself primarily with learning magic. Even then, her mind had understood the concept of revenge all too clearly...
     Times had changed, hadn't they?

     She altered her course slightly as she spotted a friend of hers. "Berri!"
     Berri was a typical summoned monster. Which was to say, a  description did not come easily in any terms a human would
understand. A valiant attempt might involve a cross between a tiger, a lizard, and a hedgehog, yet no part of the seven-foot tall anatomy could be said to distinctly resemble any of the three. Even gender wasn't really an existent in this case, although Rydia tended to consider Berri female.
     Berri had been one of first monsters to befriend Rydia, even if the latter hadn't been very receptive at first. The two were still
excellent friends, both in the village and in the human world. Summoning Berri into the human world was often more than enough to discourage a fight without actually destroying anything.
     "How are you today?" she inquired.
     The monster bowed her head. "Ambassador. Quite fine, thank-you."
     Rydia blinked, but ignored the strange feeling that passed over her. "That's... good to hear. I heard you were sick for a few days. Sorry I haven't been in touch with you."
     "You are a busy person, Ambassador, but I am quite well now. Thank-you for your concern."
     "Uh... Berri?"
     "Why are you calling me ambassador?"
     The equivalent of confusion registered. "You _are_ our Ambassador..."
     "Well yes, but you can still call me Rydia, can't you?"
     "I... that would not be considered... proper protocol."
     Rydia swallowed. "Why not?"
     "Your position is above such familiarity, Ambassador."
     A sinking feeling was beginning to make itself known. "I... see. Look, I have to talk with the King, but you want to meet later on over lunch?"
     "If that is what you wish."
     Rydia finally lost a little of her reserve. "What's wrong with you, Berri?"
     "You're our Ambassador," the monster replied. A moment's hesitation. "Perhaps you should talk to the King..."
     Something in Berri's voice suggested to Rydia that she was treading on unknown ground. "I... guess I should. We'll meet later on, okay?"
     Rydia didn't wait for a reply as she headed directly for the nearest teleporter.

     In a brief shower of light, the teleporter square illuminated the room. When the glow had faded, in its place was the form of Rydia. She stepped off the teleporter square and quietly crossed the room, stopped several feet away from the human image of Leviathan.
     "Your Majesty," she greeted softly.
     The King turned to face her. "Ambassador. I watched you come over."
     She flushed slightly. "I've known that this village has been without an ambassador for some time now."
     "You know this. But you do not understand it in the way we do."
     Rydia briefly went over the brief conversation she'd had with Berri. Obviously she didn't. "Then I want to understand."
     "Our last ambassador was killed fifteen years ago, during the destruction of Mist village. That event forever changed things here. You are familiar with being able to converse with us while on the surface. You do so freely and at will."
     "I didn't know there was a problem with that."
     "What if you couldn't? What if the Summoned Monsters were suddenly all destroyed."
     "I'd... be angry, I suppose."
     "It was no different with us when Mist Village was destroyed. In one stroke, we had lost contact with all our comrades in Mist Village. It was... rather lonely, you might say. Like you did at first, we all passed through a number of stages. At first, most demanded immediate retribution for the crime. But in time, we calmed down and did what we could to protect the lone survivor, you."
     "That's why you yourself came after me," Rydia guessed.
     "It was. We raised you as best as we could, although you yourself must realize that there were a few differences in your
upbringing and that of most humans."
     "I'm just fine for it."
     "We talk about it very little, but many of the Summoned Monsters still wish for the older days, when we could talk freely
with those of Mist Village."
     Leviathan was building up to something, Rydia sensed. Something that was very strongly related to her recent appointing...
     "Most are at least partly aware of what my first request will be of you," he continued. "As the ambassador between the human world and our world, your authority is superceded only by mine and Asura's here. Outside of our world, _you_ are _our_ authority. All monsters must obey your summons and commands without condition. Even myself and Asura."
     "I... didn't realize the position was that... high."
     "It must be. You may be called upon to do things that would be forbidden with any less authority. It is a position with a great deal of responsibility."
     Rydia's face looked downcast. "So that's why even my friends don't act like friends anymore."
     "Do not blame them, Rydia. When they see you now... you see more than just you. They see the older days, when there were many like you that they could talk with. And they see hope that in the future, it will perhaps be like that again."
     "But... how can I change things like that? I'm just one person! Am I supposed to... have a hundred children or..." The idea mere idea was enough to make her laugh.
     "You are not required to have any children. A caller is not born. Your Mist Village heritage allowed your training to begin from the day you were born. But it can be taught. You surely must know that much."
     She nodded. "But... it's a lot harder that way. Someone could train their entire lives and not even get as good as I am now."
     "Nonetheless, it is a goal some would take upon themselves to learn if they were given a teacher."
     "So... I have to teach people?"
     "That remains to be seen. You will have to make your own judgement after I make my request of you."
     She swallowed and nodded silently.
     "As the King of the Summoned Monsters, I ask on behalf of all. As our ambassador, you are to completely conclude the events of fifteen years ago as you see fit."
     "You must see things through completely. You are to see justice done to those who destroyed our village. And you are to facilitate the moving forwards afterwards. Whether you feel that this village should remain isolated from the world of the Humans, or whether you will attempt to reinstate a rank of magicians skilled in calling, it is up to you."
     "I... don't know."
     "Then that is part of your assignment. You must find the truth, then make a decision. It may take a great deal of time and effort. But that is to be expected."
     "But, I don't even know where to start."
     "I would suggest you start at the beginning."
     Rydia frowned inwardly. A rhetorical suggestion? Maybe. Maybe not.
     "I'll... get started," she agreed quietly.

Chapter 2

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