The Love of A Seeress
Chapter 10: Paradox Resolved
Author's Note: In this chapter there are two scenes which go on simultaneously. I found it very hard to keep track of what was happening to whom so I decided to put one scene in italics and the other in regular font. Before the asterisk (*), italics indicate thoughts as they have throughout the story. After the asterisk, they indicate things happening to Hitomi and her friends. Clear? Ok.
Also, this is the last chapter of this fic! OMG I can't believe it's over :(
Please leave a comment if you've read the whole thing, I would like to know what you thought of it!
Thanks for reading XD
Serah wasn't sure why it was so hard to tell Hitomi the truth. Telling Van had actually been easy. But every time she resolved to explain herself to this girl from the Mystic Moon, something inside her warned against it. She knew that the timeline was disrupted already, and maybe she was worried that Hitomi meeting an alien on the day she was supposed to go to Gaea might screw things up a little. Finally she decided on a white lie that might just work.
"Hitomi, I didn't want to tell you where I'm from because… Well because I'm from the future. I travel through time, making sure everything happens the way it is supposed to. Right now, I'm here to set you on the right path once again."
"So you're like… the time police?" Hitomi said in disbelief.
Serah laughed at the concept. "I guess so."
"Doesn't your telling me you're from the future violate some kind of code or something?" Hitomi questioned semi-seriously.
Serah just shook her head. They had arrived at Hitomi's school. Students were filing in, talking and laughing. A group of girls nearby erupted in a fit of giggles over a hilarious text message. It reminded Serah of her class back on New Bodhum, though her students were quite a bit younger. Or were they? In 500 AF they'd be long dead. That was the trouble with time travel; you lose appreciation for how far you've gone from your home.
"Are you ok?" Hitomi asked, seeing Serah's expression darken.
"Fine," she lied. "But I would like to see what your school system is like," she said. "Do you think I could pass as a foreign exchange student?"
Hitomi raised one eyebrow in surprise. "You actually want to go to school?" When Serah nodded, Hitomi shrugged. "Ok, let's get going."
Van waited until full dark before attacking his home. Stealth, he decided, was the most important element in this assault, so he hid Escaflowne outside the walls of the city. He would make his move on foot. All he needed was his sword.
The city was built in a valley surrounded by cliffs on three sides. At the mouth of the valley, a great wall protected the city with a gate that was guarded day and night. The only way to catch Fenalia by surprise was to be either invisible (as Zaibach had done) or to attack by air. The cliffs were treacherously steep and prone to avalanche. Thankfully, Van didn't plan on climbing down. From far away, Van knew that his wings made him look like a bird, so he could safely fly in without too much alarm. From there, he would have to determine where the soldiers were and defeat them one by one. As long as he was quick and quiet, they wouldn't know he was in the city until he was in the castle. He assumed that the Fenalian soldiers had been imprisoned so that they wouldn't mutiny against the Zaibach forces, so his first aim would be to free the prisoners. His plan firmly in place, Van took a deep breath and jumped from the cliff.
Van! As he plummeted to the ground, Van's mind flashed on a woman's face.
Hey Van! Her short brown hair, her large green eyes, and the way she would puff out her cheeks when she was offended… Hitomi! It was all coming back! Does this mean that the timeline was fixed?
Ten feet off the ground, he let out his wings. The shadows of the cliffs above hid his landing from sight, and he touched down lightly enough that there was nothing to hear. Sneaking around a corner he spotted a Zaibach soldier. The man was dozing off at his post, his head bouncing up every few minutes as he tried to stay awake. Van charged at him with speed and force, not giving the soldier any time to retaliate, nor himself any time to change his mind. Van steeled his resolve to kill the man. However, as he was swinging his sword down at the soldier's neck, again Hitomi's face flashed in his mind, and at the last second he shifted his grip, slashing the air instead. To his surprise, the air split in two, as if it had been made of fabric. The Zaibach soldier was yelling in surprise "Attack! We are under attack!" as he ran away from him towards the castle.
A light coming from within the tear had caught Van's attention, and he momentarily forgot that he was supposed to be attacking the castle. Experimentally he reached his hand into the space but nothing happened. His arm didn't disappear, it was neither hot nor cold inside. It was just… empty space. More soldiers were on their way now, he could tell by the noise. They'd sounded the alarm. From within the city, there was no way out except through the gates or by flying again. He figured they'd have archers as well as swordsmen, so he figured he'd be captured for sure now. So much for my plan.
Without options, Van sheathed his sword and stuck his entire head into the tear. Inside it looked a little like the clock-tunnel he'd observed while time travelling. Had he just cut through the fabric of time? Looking back to the current situation, he caught sight of the first wave of soldiers; he didn't have any more time to think. He jumped into the time rift with both feet and prayed that he wouldn't be killed.
It was getting late, but Hitomi knew that Amano would show up. It was his last day before leaving for England, and he had promised to say good-bye. Serah had disappeared somewhere behind the school, saying that she'd be there if something went wrong but would otherwise stay out of the way.
In her hiding spot on the roof of the school, Serah was watching the sun set on the water of the bay. She had climbed up the emergency fire escape searching for the best view of the race track. The Mystic Moon reminded her of Cocoon, except there were no FalC'ie. This was the world that Hope was trying to create back home, based on human technology, for humans to live together. Free. It was amazing.
Once Hitomi leaves for Gaea, there would be no reason for her to be on Earth. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to get back to her world… Hitomi had the pendant, and with the paradox resolved, there would be no time gates appearing to take her home. It was frustrating to know that she might, again, be stranded. Her objective was to find her own life though, regardless of where it lead her, but now that she faced it, she was afraid.
So she waited, to see if her plan to fix the timeline worked. A breeze was blowing causing Serah to sigh in relief; it had been a hot day and the evening promised to be a lot cooler. Leaning back on her hands, she stretched her feet out in front of her and rolled her neck, trying to relax. A feather blew past her and out above the track where Hitomi was down below. When a second feather caressed her cheek, she glanced behind her. There, framed by the oncoming night, was Van, wings spread and eyes all for her.
Serah jumped to her feet. "Van! How did you get here?" she asked in surprise.
Calmly, Van walked over to her. "I'm not sure. It was like I was called here."
"But if you're here… I thought I had fixed things." Serah fretted. If he was here, that meant that something had gone wrong…
"And you did. Serah, my memories of Hitomi are returning. I think when Hitomi returns to Gaea in this time, things will be as they were." He wrapped his arms around her. "I'm glad you're ok. The last time I saw you, you were falling…" Van trailed off, not wanting to dwell on the feeling of abandonment he had been left with since she had disappeared. It felt as though a lifetime had passed since he had any human contact and he didn't want to let her go. After a moment he asked, "So what will happen to me when the paradox is fixed?"
"I guess you'll be returned to your proper time, four years in the future," considered Serah as she relaxed in his embrace.
"And you?" he asked softly.
Serah sighed against his bare chest. "Well I didn't belong there in the first place. I guess it will be like I was never there at all. When you change the past, the future is also changed."
"But I don't want to forget you." Van said resolutely.
Looking up into his face, it hurt Serah to respond, "That's the way time travel works."
Hugging her tighter Van whispered "The things I've learned, the changes I've seen, they all just disappear...?" and more quietly, hardly audible over the soft breeze, he added "Where do they go?"
"I don't know…"
Down below, Amano had arrived.
"Amano! Wait up!" Hitomi panted as she doubled over with her hands on her knees. When the dark-haired man turned around, she straightened up. "Amano I have a favor to ask you." Hitomi held out the pendant in front of her as she continued, "Don't think less of me but if I can run the 100 meters in the time it takes to swing the pendant 13 times I would like you to do something special for me…" she blushed.
Amano looked her over curiously, "Oh?"
Hesitantly, she bowed to him as she finished, "Give me my very first kiss?"
The man reached for the pendant, which caused her to gasp. "I'd be honored to," he said with a smile.
"Thank you so much Amano!" Hitomi said with watery eyes and cheeks aflame.
"I had never known this Amano personally, but she talked about him frequently when she first came to Gaea," Van reminisced. It felt good to remember the past with clarity.
"He looks and sounds a lot like Allen," observed Serah from her vantage point.
"That must be why she was drawn to him, at first," Van considered.
They were both sitting now, their legs hanging off the edge of the building. Van had one arm wrapped around Serah's shoulders after she had complained of the cold night air. The touch of his bare skin against hers was intoxicating. It was getting harder for Serah to ignore Van's closeness, though she was trying. Her mind was trying to sort out the timeline, and her part in it.
"Van, I – I think that maybe I was the cause of the distortion of the timeline," Serah lamented.
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, I'm the only thing that doesn't fit. We followed the clues, first it was your memories of Hitomi that were fading, and then we found that the changes went all the way back to when Zaibach attacked Fenalia. Hitomi had never come to Gaea, and it was because her fortune had changed. I've traced the distortions back to this day and there seems to be no other cause. No person was tampering with the timeline."
"What about Folken and Emperor Dornkirk?" Van reasoned. "They were trying to bring about an ideal future… that's probably why they sent you to me." He smiled coyly.
Serah frowned. "Don't be cute, I'm serious. I think that I changed the future by appearing in Gaea, and that caused the past to change as well."
It was obvious to Van that Serah had been thinking this way for a while now. She meant to blame the whole thing on herself, even though she had no control over her coming to Gaea in the first place. It bothered Van, but he saw no argument that would change her mind, so he let it go for now.
"What if you had come to Gaea, instead of Hitomi," Van mused as he leaned his back against the railing. "For one thing, you wouldn't be as helpless, with your magical abilities…"
His words reminded Serah of what Varie had said about the prophecy…"the love of a seeress".
"And for another thing," Van was saying, "you understand the need to fight. One thing I could never get over was Hitomi's fear of conflict."
"She doesn't fear conflict, Van, haven't you been paying attention?" Serah responded huffily. "She hated needless suffering. She feared for your safety every time you went into a battle. Because she loves you. She hated your attitude towards war, and your disregard for the value of human life while fighting."
Van scoffed. "I've grown a lot since the boy you'll see here tonight, killing for the first time. I know. But it becomes you or them out there on a battlefield."
"Well, I don't know a thing about war. I've fought creatures, but I've also fought alongside those same creatures. I never wanted to kill anyone. Not even Caius, after everything he put me through."
Van sighed. "Forget about it. I just thought that we could have fought Zaibach together. We made a good team."
As much as he was wrong, he was still right about that. Serah smiled sadly.
The sun had set and stars filled the sky. Hitomi returned to the track dressed in her shorts and a t-shirt. The starting blocks were set for her.
"Kanzaki, are you ready to go?" asked Amano from the finish line.
Hitomi stepped up to the blocks. "Yes, any time you are Amano." Then the field lights flooded the track with artificial light.
"Hitomi!" Yukari waved from the bleachers.
Touched that her friend was there to support her, she smiled back. "Yukari" she said happily. It was time to show herself that this wasn't a waste of time. Amano did like her, and she would prove that she could make her wishes come true.
"Ready?" Amano said, with the pendant in his fist.
"You bet I am," Hitomi said under her breath.
"Go!" shouted Amano as he released the pendant. Hitomi exploded from the blocks with incredible speed.
From above, Serah and Van were counting the seconds: One… Two…
"You know that we only have minutes left together," Serah remarked absently, trying to hide her distress.
"We have all the time in the world. If I could just tear time again-" said the King of Fenalia as he reached for his sword. Serah gently stopped him and held his hand in her own.
"It would be borrowed time. We'd have to give it back."
"Seven seconds, eight seconds…" Amano counted watching Hitomi progress down the track. Her strong legs propelled her forward with every stride in perfect form. She had improved so much from junior high, she was sure to make Nationals this year.
Suddenly a light appeared in the middle of the track ahead of Hitomi. The beam of light grew and within it a young man with dark hair appeared and landed directly in front of the running girl.
"There you are," Serah said to Van. "You look surprised."
"I had no intention of coming to Earth. I was hunting a dragon," Van remembered. "Just like when you came to Gaea, it must have been pretty startling for you too."
Hitomi, unsure if this man was real or one of her visions again, collided with young Van at full speed. Startled, Van raised his arm to protect himself and knocked her to the ground.
"Well at least I didn't push you over," Serah joked.
Mischievously, Van pushed her lightly, and Serah pretended to lose her balance. Scared that she was really falling from the roof, suddenly Van was just there to catch her, holding her tightly, his breathing much faster than it was a moment ago.
"Just who are you?" young Van demanded Hitomi. He looked around and, not recognizing his surroundings, asked "Where am I?"
"I'm ok… Van…" Serah said, turning her face to look into his amber eyes, bringing their faces closer together. His lips were inviting, so close, and so warm. His heart was still beating like hammer in his chest, but she could no longer say for certain it was because of fear. "Van?" she made it a question.
Composing himself, Van moved away, releasing Serah from his grasp. It was a cruel joke, and he had fallen head over heels for it. He moved away from her, within touching distance but avoiding contact.
Serah knew she'd ruined the moment, but she wanted it back. Why does life have to be so complicated?
They both looked down on the scene below.
"Don't take that tone with me!" young Van was shouting at Amano.
"I was such a bastard back then," Van noted as he looked over at Serah.
Without warning, he changed his tact. It was bothering him and he needed to bring it up. "What if Emperor Dornkirk did manage to tamper with fate. What if it was he who managed to bring you to Gaea? Shouldn't that have any value?"
"It's wrong, Van, it wasn't supposed to happen," Serah said.
"It isn't wrong. Just different. Don't tell me that you've traveled through time for this long and haven't figured that out."
Alternate realities. Different but not wrong. Serah had come to understand this when she had talked with Varie, but still it didn't quite add up with her previous experience. "Yes, but it still seems like there is a main flow of time," Serah reasoned. "Because distortions do occur, and when the paradox is fixed things revert back to normal. It seems like those alternate realities cease to exist."
"Or maybe you just haven't found them yet," suggested Van.
"Get moving! Unless you want to get eaten by a dragon!" yelled young Van from down below.
Ahead blue lightning was springing from the ground. At first it was just like static electricity but soon multiple prongs were dancing upwards from the track.
"No, not again." Amano said, worried that more people from another world would appear. Or worse, that dragon the young man was talking about.
"Hitomi… What's going to happen?" Yukari asked her friend. Hitomi was holding her mouth as if she was about to throw up. Surprised, she inquired "You ok?"
"I don't know but I feel really sick." Hitomi responded.
"Here goes," The young Van whispered. Within the electrical field a forest scene appeared in front of them on the track. Two pinpoints of light could be seen, and they blinked. Out of the trees stepped the beast, half as tall as the school itself and covered with scales. A dragon.
"When I find where all the alternate realities go, I'll come visit you," Serah was saying to Van when the dragon appeared. Their tender moment was shattered by the screams of the students below. In a second, Serah was on her feet, moving to help Hitomi and her friends in any way she could. Van stopped her, grabbing her hand. He was still and unmoved by the horrible cries of the beast.
"They'll be fine," was all he said as he sat back down, pulling Serah down as well. Seeing as Van had witnessed this moment of history once before, first-hand, Serah trusted that they'd all be ok.
The dragon's chest started to glow, signifying that a flame attack was eminent. The young Van put up his arm shield to protect him from the fire. Then he pulled out a crossbow and shot the dragon in the eye. A direct hit. The dragon writhed and fell to the ground in a cloud of dust. "Gotcha!" said young Van triumphantly, ready to strike with his sword. Suddenly, out of the dust came the dragon's barbed tail. Young Van was also knocked to the ground and dropped his sword in the process.
The onlookers gasped as their hero fell. Van rose to his hands and knees and coughed up blood. The dragon was still screaming and writhing. With its good eye, it spotted Hitomi and the others.
"You won't finish me off that easily. I'm stronger than you think," Van said as he struggled to his feet and stumbled forward for his sword. To the others he yelled "If you want to live, get out of here, now!"
"You heard what he said. Let's move!" Hitomi told her friends. "C'mon!" They saw the wisdom in getting as far away from the dragon as possible, and ran away, towards a shrine.
His sword in hand again, young Van lunged at the dragon. His attack deflected harmlessly off the dragon's scaly back. The dragon hissed at Van, but followed the others instead in its lumbering side-to-side run.
"Hey… Wait!" Van called as he attached himself to the dragon's scales. "Gotcha. You're not getting away that easily."
Seeing that the commotion had subsided and everyone below had moved on, Serah stood up. "I guess this is good-bye."
"What will you do?" asked Van. "Stay here on the Mystic Moon?"
Serah smiled bravely. There was no way for her to return home, and she was at her wit's end.
"Serah, what are you going to do?" Van demanded worriedly.
"Van, there's nothing left for me here. Without any way to get home, there's no future for me."
"Don't talk like that. Don't just give up. You think that dying is a valid option?" yelled Van, furiously. This wasn't like Serah to be so fragile. She was supposed to be the strong one, fighting for what is right, all the way to the bitter end.
"Last time I thought I died I ended up in Gaea," replied Serah with a heat of her own. "Then, again, at Millerna's wedding when I jumped from the balcony, Hitomi's pendant appeared and a time gate and took me back in time. Don't think that my life is so easily ended."
"But this time you have none of those things," Van reasoned. "I don't think it's a good idea. Don't just fall down and die. You're worth so much more than that. Don't do this," he pleaded to her. Serah walked away from Van, over to the very edge of the rooftop.
"You don't understand. I'm done. I've completed all of my quests. My options are to stay here away from everyone I know, on a different planet with different customs for the rest of my life or to take a chance." Looking down from the edge of the roof, Serah knew she was going to do it. She clenched her fists. "If I don't jump today, I'll only jump tomorrow or the next day. And if I don't… I'll always wonder if it would have brought me home."
Watching Van fight the dragon, Hitomi was overcome by a vision that young Van will be speared by the barbed tail of the dragon. In fear she gasped. "No he's… He's going to die!"
"Hitomi…?" Amano said as Hitomi ran back down the stairs towards young Van and the dragon. "Hitomi!"
The dragon rushed Van, who dodged to the side. The tail reared up, ready to strike, as Hitomi arrived on the scene and shouted to Van "Watch out from above!"
Van glanced her way and then up and saw the attack coming. Hitomi screamed and covered her eyes. Barely dodging the attack, Van's chest plate is sliced through by the dragon's tail. Van scrambled over the tail using it like a bridge and attacked from behind. While the beast reared in pain, Van ran around the dragon and sliced its chest open, spilling forth its blue blood. The dragon fell on its side and Van was drenched from head to foot in blood. Panting, he retrieved the energist. The dragon disintegrated along with its blood leaving no trace of the battle on Earth.
"Excuse me? A-are you ok?" Hitomi asked Van.
The young lord glances her way and blurts, "Look. I don't need any woman to worry about me. I guess you want a reward then? Well fine. Come to my castle. Just don't get cocky. I apologize for involving you and your friends in my dragon slaying. Oh, and by the way, you didn't help me slay the dragon."
Hitomi slaps the younger version of Van Fanel. "What is your problem? Are you always so pig-headed? I didn't help you for a reward… I just… Well, I thought you were going to die and I was scared, really scared. The least you could do is say thank you! You know I shouldn't have even saved you. I should have let that stupid dragon eat you." With that, the violence, the worry and the adrenaline all caught up to her hurt feelings and Hitomi began to cry.
On the rooftop, Van spoke to Serah with resignation in his voice. "Look, I won't stop worrying about you. I'll always wonder if there was something more I could do. You want to jump? Well fine. But I'm coming with you. I'm sorry that I involved you in this paradox. I wish I could repay you somehow for everything you've done! Damn it, Serah. It isn't fair!"
Serah caressed his cheek. "Van, I never helped you for a reward… it just felt right. Soon you'll be back where you belong. And I- well, you won't have to worry about me because you'll never have met me. You can't save me now. This is my choice and I've accepted it."
The girl's reaction left the young Van nonplussed. The stone in his hand began to glow. "The energist," he whispered in surprise. All of a sudden the ground beneath them started glowing as well.
"What the?" said Amano. A pillar of light surrounded Hitomi and Van. Their feet left the ground as they are lifted into the air. Amano ran forward, shouting "Hitomi!" as he reached out to her. "HITOMI!"
When they see the glow of the pillar of light, Serah and Van know their time is up. They jump from the building in each other's arms.
"My hand," Hitomi cries as she reaches down to Amano. "Hurry." But already she is too far away, only the pendant is passed between them as their fingers remain just out of reach. "Help me, Amano!" pleads Hitomi as she drifts upwards into the sky.
They were falling faster, clinging to each other in their last seconds together.
"Hitomi!" Amano shouts again, as he is left alone when the light dissipates. The night grows dark once again. "They're gone."
"Hitomi? Hitomi!" shouts her friend Yukari.
The paradox resolved, Van was called back to his own time. He tried to resist, holding Serah tighter. "Serah!" Van cried as he dissipated into a cloud of feathers, two feet from the ground. Serah's arms compress against her chest as they cling to nothing but air. A single tear falls from her ocean blue eyes, as they reflect the pavement below her. "Snow, I'm coming home."
Was it all a dream? Or maybe a vision…