Breathe Again

NOTE: A little something to celebrate Philippine Independence Day.

I'm still not quite out of my writing funk but I thought I'd put something together for the occasion and to somehow start getting back into the groove. It's been a while and I miss writing though I'm not sure if I can do as much as I used to.

The world's a weird place right now so we have to find comfort in whatever we can. And this is my way of coping.

Enjoy.

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It had been three years since the war had ended. The process of rebuilding had been long and arduous, the damage caused by Zaibach's folly having been more extensive than anyone had realized.

Recovery had been gradual. So many lives had been destroyed and it was a struggle to pick up the pieces. There was no simple way to simply pick up where one left off. The world had been irrevocably changed.

While the burden of restoring Gaea had fallen on its leaders, particularly on two young monarchs who had been forced to grow up faster than they should have, their subjects also keenly felt the need to reinvent themselves. King Van and Queen Millerna worked tirelessly to repair the structural damage to their countries and to somehow bring hope back to their despondent people. Their efforts were admired and appreciated and they would be remembered as two of the youngest but most capable leaders in their countries' history.

But there were individual struggles that were smaller but no less important. These would not be chronicled in the annals of Gaean history but these were essential journeys that every individual needed to take to survive the unprecedented catastrophe wrought by a madman who tampered with the forces of destiny.

This was as much Merle's story as anyone else's.

Even as the cat-girl tried her best to support her dearest friend, she was not a politician or soldier. But she knew her people and she did all she could to bring them comfort. She spoke to them and gave words of encouragement. She helped personally deliver relief goods to the families ravaged by the war and she helped organize charities to take care of those most in need.

And she herself felt the hardship of trying to face every new day without fear. For years she had trouble sleeping, her nights plagued with nightmares of giant guymelefs razing Fanelia to the ground, invisible enemies chasing after her in the dark, and noble warriors falling to their deaths in the blood-soaked battlefield.

She would wake in a cold sweat, and the sensation of terror would be so intense that she would feel almost suffocated by the memory of smoke everywhere, the metallic stench of blood, and the smell of scorched earth. Traumatic memories were always exacerbated by the cat-girl's keen sense of smell.

She knew her own strength. She knew that she had endured much but that she could overcome all these trials. She was not alone in her struggles, and she was surrounded by those she loved. She would allow herself to grieve and to relive the pain so that she could slowly move past it.

And with hard work and determination, she knew she would succeed. Peace would not come overnight, after all.

Merle grew up fast, in the last few years. She gained a certain seriousness that surprised those who knew her and her compassion for others only grew, causing many to admire her even more. She became a level-headed counselor to the king and a champion of those in society who had been most neglected, particularly those of her kind.

She also realized that she had changed so much since the war. There was no going back to the girl she was before. All of them had been irreversibly impacted by what they had experienced and they all had the power to choose who they would become.

They were not puppets of some unseen force of destiny. They were living and breathing children of Gaea and they would shape their futures.

And though the peace that she had yearned for was a long time coming, it eventually arrived. The nightmares stopped.

One day, as Merle watched the sun rise from her bedroom window, she felt that she could finally breathe again.

The cool, fresh air of freedom.

Fanelia finally felt like home again.