Series: Tales of Vesperia
A/N: I received a really cute tumblr message about Yuri looking up at the palace and thinking of Flynn, and I ended up writing something for it.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings in this story are from Tales of Vesperia and do not belong to me.
On sunny days, the palace sparkled. The stone caught the light and shone as bright as the blastia cradled atop its spires. The glow of the barrier was no match for the vast blue of the sky, and Yuri could almost believe that the world was peaceful and good and just. He sat sunning himself on his windowsill, legs dangling out over the edge, happy and content as he turned his face into the heat of the sun and closed his eyes.
The palace left a glowing afterimage inside his lids, wavering like a candle flame. Flynn was in there, somewhere. He'd been down to visit yesterday, and told Yuri before he left that he would have drills today, but that he would be back in the evening. Yuri smiled wider to think of it, and a laugh escaped him. He had never seen a Knight as joyously welcomed in the Lower Quarter as Flynn had been when he had returned to Zaphias. Everyone had crowded around, welcoming him back, joking with him, touching the fine material of his uniform, ruffling his hair, pressing gifts of cookies and preserves into his hands. They all knew that he was one of them, that he carried their hopes in his heart and would fight for them. Flynn was a minor celebrity in the streets where he'd grown up, the Lower Quarter's favorite son, their champion. The attention had bewildered him.
What a welcome it had been. The atmosphere inside The Comet had taken on a festival air. People had gathered close and demanded that Flynn tell them all about joining the Knights and the events of Ceazontania, never mind that Yuri had already told the story to anyone who had asked when he had arrived home. Flynn told his version, some of which Yuri had never heard in full. He didn't gloss over all their fights, and had met Yuri's eyes over the laughing crowd whenever they came up, his look both wry and chiding as Yuri shrugged off their differences and mockingly raised his tankard in a toast to future disagreements.
The end of the story, of course, was more somber. The laughter and comments died out, leaving only Flynn's soft voice to fill the room with his recounting of their battle and of Niren's last moments. Hearing him speak it somehow cut deeper than Yuri's own retellings had, and he turned away, hiding his face behind his tankard as best he could while he listened. Flynn did Niren justice. It was good to hear how well he would be remembered.
The heaviness lifted quickly after that, and Flynn's impromptu welcome home party carried on. Everybody seemed to want to buy him a drink, and Yuri sat back and laughed as Flynn clumsily turned down one after another, still trying to finish the first he'd gotten. It had been good to have him back after the long trip home, alone save for Repede, and the days that had passed since. Things just weren't the same without Flynn around to start fights with or to help Yuri end them. And it had been good to see him so loved, so celebrated. Yuri had known for a long time that Flynn's strength would be what changed the world. Seeing everyone so ready to stand behind him, so happy for his success, vindicated his own belief. Flynn would be the white knight of the Lower Quarter. He was a rising star. He would bring change.
Yuri opened his eyes, squinting against the sun, against the bright, white towers of the palace. How high would Flynn rise? How far would his path take him? Staring at the palace, at the symbol and center of the Empire's power, Yuri felt a sudden shiver despite the heat of the day. A thought had occurred to him, and for the first time, he wondered what would happen if Flynn's path led him someplace that Yuri couldn't follow.
The light of the barrier washed over the city, brighter than the moon, protection from on high against the monsters that roamed the world. Like sunlight, it was palpable against the skin if one focused on it, a faint tingling, stronger there in the Lower Quarter near where the edge of the barrier concentrated. Sitting on the windowsill, Yuri closed his eyes and felt the soft breeze that stirred the air and obscured the sensation of the magic. The radiance of the barrier glowed cobalt through his eyelids. Until his journey to Ceazontania, darkness had belonged to closed up rooms and shadowed alleys, not to the night itself. It wasn't until he had left the capital and the barrier's protection that he had seen how numerous the stars were, how bright the moon...and how dark the night when clouds shrouded them or when thick, grasping canopies held the light greedily away from the forest floor.
Behind him, his room was deep in shadow. He was reluctant to face it, already too familiar with the changes for them to be hidden by darkness. Flynn's bed was gone, given away to a family that needed it. The empty space where it had been gaped like a missing tooth and left Yuri with a hollow ache in his chest. All of his things were gone, but that was the most obvious. He'd left only his first sword, the one he and Yuri had saved up to buy together as children. Maybe he'd meant it as a reminder to Yuri of all they'd wanted to accomplish. Maybe he had abandoned it because it was now useless. Either way, it leaned in the corner gathering dust, exactly where Flynn had left it when he'd last set foot in the room two weeks ago. The only addition was Repede, currently napping on Yuri's bed, paws twitching as he dreamed.
Sighing, Yuri opened his eyes. His window gave him a view of the far side of the largest ring of the barrier, out past the spires of the palace. The city rose sharply, culminating in the palace that shone with reflected light as if built from pearl. During the day, his gaze was usually drawn to the bustling streets of the Lower Quarter. At night, though, in the wee hours of the morning, when the crowds had thinned out to nothing and there was no one to watch, no friendly faces to call out to, then his attention would be drawn up and up to the shining palace. It had taken on new significance since Flynn had returned and been quartered there.
It was just so strange. They'd always been together, practically ever since the day they'd met. Even when they'd fought, they had never stayed apart for long. And Flynn, no matter his background, was a Lower Quarter brat to the bone. To think of him living in the palace of all places...!
But they'd always known that joining the Knights would be the only path they could take that would allow them to change anything. They had known that status and honor were the only things that could carry their voices to the powers on high. Flynn was doing as they'd promised. It was just....
Yuri had always thought they'd be fulfilling that promise together.
Even when they had argued, even when his doubts about the integrity of the Knights had made him think that they would have to find another way...even then he had tried for Flynn's sake and for the sake of their dream. He had ignored his misgivings and joined the Knights with Flynn and gotten a glimpse—just a tiny glimpse—of how things ought to be.
But it had fallen apart. He'd had to leave the Knights. It wasn't his path to walk. And now Flynn had moved out, and every creak and groan of the old building settling as Yuri tried to sleep seemed to whisper of his absence.
Hours after most people had gone to bed, Yuri sat in his window, staring up at the palace, and wondering about Flynn—if he was happier in his new room, happy in his rank, happy with his comrades...
...and whether or not he was finding it hard to fall asleep without Yuri nearby.
The roof was leaking again. A steady drip...drip...drip fell heavily onto the bare floorboards. From his seat on the windowsill, Yuri stared blankly at the growing puddle. Once the rain cleared up, he would patch the leak. Little things like that were all he could do to help out now.
He turned his face away, eyes tracking across the dim room, knowing every inch of it even if he wasn't really seeing it. Rain was pouring thunderously down on the hunched forms hurrying past below. It slapped against the cobbles, splashed in the gutters, and breathed a damp chill into the room. The eaves kept off the worst of it, although Yuri was splattered with cold droplets. He watched the people that had been forced out into the storm by employment or errand and almost envied them. It would have been nice to have some job to do, something to keep himself occupied. He'd always been impatient with rainy days, but that feeling had grown much worse over the past several weeks. Now, stuck inside with nothing to occupy his time, he felt his uselessness keenly.
Flynn had started hinting that maybe Yuri had been too hasty in leaving the Knights. He'd gone back to his old arguments, the ones that had caused such friction between them before they had joined, back when Yuri had been torn between what he knew of the Knights and what he knew they could offer him. Flynn had reminded him that they needed to gain honor and standing. His recent promotion to Lieutenant was only the start of even greater things. He wanted that for Yuri. He still believed in their promise, and he still believed that becoming Knights was the only way to make it come true. It was only Yuri's certainty that that path was closed to him that Flynn couldn't seem to believe. As close as they were, Yuri could feel when a disagreement would blossom into a recurring argument, and this was an old one given new life. He knew that Flynn wasn't going to let it go.
Even though it annoyed him and and would likely continue to ignite fights between them, deep down Yuri knew that Flynn was trying to reach out to him. Living alone had taken some adjustment, and he still wasn't entirely used to being without Flynn. He still forgot that there was no one in particular to watch his back when he got into fights. The solitude of his room still made it hard to fall asleep some nights. He still missed Flynn—that wasn't something that was going to change anytime soon—but at least it seemed that Flynn missed him too. That knowledge left him feeling a bit less lonely. If Flynn had been able to simply leave him behind the way he'd left their first sword, Yuri wasn't sure what he would have done. It was a silly fear that crept in during sleepless nights and bad days.
The rain was a gray curtain obscuring his view of the palace. Towers rose dark and looming, soft-edged by the downpour. Yuri wondered if the roofs of the palace leaked. He wondered what Flynn was doing on a day like this. Inside exercises, probably. Drills or lessons. Maybe sparring. Yuri missed that the most. Having so many others to test his skill against had been great fun. He thought Flynn ought to feel the same, even though he had always took his training so seriously. But Yuri had sensed a change in him beginning around the time they'd left Ceazontania. Some knot inside Flynn's heart was working itself loose. He hoped that Flynn would be able to be happy.
As he stared up at the palace, he wondered, not for the first time, which room was Flynn's. He'd told Yuri that his promotion had come with a small room of his own away from the crowd and mess of the barracks. It wouldn't be any of the ones up toward the top, of course. That would be where the important people lived, up as high above the rabble as they could get. Flynn's room would probably be near the bottom somewhere, hidden from Yuri's sight by perspective, by the roofs of the Public and Royal Quarters, by the high wall surrounding the palace. Flynn had invited Yuri to come visit him there, but Yuri had yet to take him up on the offer. He could hardly bring himself to consider actually visiting the palace. It was rare for him to even leave the Lower Quarter these days.
Yuri wondered when Flynn would come down to the Lower Quarter again. He missed his friend.
Fireworks exploded over the capital, brilliant arrays of magic that served no purpose other than to awe the people watching. They painted the stone of the palace with bright washes of color that faded slowly away, leaving only the cool blue of the barrier.
Holding Repede on his lap, Yuri watched from his window. The dog was almost too big for it, but he'd gotten hurt two days ago when a foolish impulse had led Yuri wandering outside the barrier's protection. Repede had lost an eye when monsters had attacked them, but thanks to Flynn, he would heal up and be otherwise all right in time.
Yuri had been frantic when it had happened. He'd never been any good with magic, never mind healing spells, and he'd had no gels on hand, nor money to buy them. It had been the first time he had sought Flynn out in the palace, and he was beyond thankful that Flynn had been able to come right away.
Repede stirred in his arms. His head rested in the crook of Yuri's elbow, nose out over the city. Yuri kept as still as possible so as not to disturb him, stroking Repede's fur with only the tips of his fingers. Couldn't save Lambert, couldn't protect Repede. He felt alone and powerless. Niren's last words to him, his own most fervent wish, seemed an impossible task. He thought maybe it was a good thing that he had no gald to his name. The mood he was in, he'd be too tempted to drink, even though he knew better than to drink alone.
A few people still walked the streets or stumbled drunkenly from the taverns, shadows in the deep blue. Amber light spilled from open doorways and a few windows up and down the street. No one called up to him, no one noticed him sitting in the window of his darkened room, watching. Inevitably, his gaze was drawn upwards to the castle, alive with light and movement and faint snatches of music carried on the breeze. There was a ball tonight, though Yuri neither knew nor cared what was being celebrated. His only interest was an idle curiosity about whether Flynn would be among the guests. Would he be up at the palace drinking and rubbing elbows with the nobility? Would he dance? Yuri was almost sure that officers were required to learn to dance. He remembered Hisca threatening him with that, once.
It was still hard to imagine Flynn in that world. He didn't belong there, and only the realization that his background would mark him as an outsider reassured Yuri that no one would try to steal him away. Flynn was different from the other Knights who bullied the poor and took bribes to ignore the wealthy. He was different from the nobility who thought that their wealth and bloodlines put them above the law. Flynn's successes would be those of the Lower Quarter. They would be the victories that Yuri should have stood at his side to help him win. And in the meantime...dancing. Parties. Good works in the Lower Quarter where help was most needed and hardest to come by. Flynn was beloved by the people who had watched him grow up. He was respected by his men. He was fulfilling the requirements that he would need in order to keep their promise.
And Yuri sat in the window, watching him, watching the distance between them increasing.
They had been fighting again. Not as fiercely as they had before joining the Knights, but they could hardly cross paths without arguing. While Flynn had remained focused on their goal, Yuri had been drifting. The lack of direction frustrated him, left him more prone to brawling when he felt someone needed to be taken down a peg. He'd even picked fights with some of the Knights, which of course made things worse with Flynn. Anger was one thing, but it cut too sharply to see Flynn so utterly disappointed in him. Especially when he was so proud of Flynn.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. Despite his injury, Repede was quicker to turn his head to look. He squirmed, suddenly eager to get down as the door swung open, and Yuri set him carefully on the floor, avoiding Flynn's gaze as he did. He watched Repede hurried across the room, watched as Flynn knelt to greet him, and then took up his seat once again, looking out over Zaphias.
“I came by to check on Repede,” Flynn said after a moment. “He seems to be doing well.”
“Thanks to you.”
Silence rolled in between them like thick fog. Above the city, another magical array lit the sky with an intricate tracery of light.
“They didn't invite you to the party?” Yuri wasn't sure why he asked.
“I slipped out not long after it started. That sort of thing.... I'm more comfortable with a sword in my hand.”
“Nothing wrong with that.” He offered the reassurance in response to something he'd heard in Flynn's voice.
“I figured you'd see it that way.”
For the first time, he looked directly at Flynn. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“What?” Still kneeling on the floor to pet Repede, Flynn looked up at him, eyes wide in the faint light. “Nothing. I....” He fell silent.
It was hard to have things so awkward between them. Yuri turned his face away.
“I knew that you would understand,” Flynn said quietly. “That's all I meant. I didn't come here to get into a fight with you. I just...needed to break away from it. Just for a little while.”
He sounded tired, and Yuri felt instantly guilty over his misplaced suspicion. They'd been at odds too often lately, but there would be no arguments tonight. He relaxed against the window frame.
“Make yourself at home. Sorry I can't offer you anything to drink.”
“That's all right. I brought you a couple pastries.”
“Why didn't you say so sooner?”
Smiling now, he eagerly accepted the bundle Flynn held out to him, a fine linen napkin wrapped around a pair of sticky pastries that smelled of cinnamon and honey. Flynn drew a chair close to the window, and they watched the fireworks together, talking softly and laughing over old memories. It felt like a tenuous re-connection, and Yuri was sure that they would be arguing again soon enough, but at least for that night he could pretend that everything was the way it should be, that he'd never had to give up working toward their dream. It meant the world to him.
The Lower Quarter looked largely unchanged despite the massive amounts of damage that had been done when Alexei had swamped the capital with aer. Reconstruction was nearly finished, and almost everything had been rebuilt much the same as it had been before, although perhaps a bit stronger. Yuri had spent the day helping to paint or make some of the final repairs around the Lower Quarter. There was paint in his hair, he was tired and in need of a bath, but he was content.
It had taken him a long time—four years of waiting, and another mostly spent on his adventure—but he had finally found his path. Even without the Knights, without rank or position, he had found a way to keep his promise with Flynn, found a way to live his convictions and follow Niren's final order. He had stumbled and struggled and suffered, but he had come through it all, not changed, he felt, so much as renewed. His life belonged to him again, and his destiny would be whatever he made of it.
A smile curved up his lips as he stared up at the spires of the palace, gray against the brilliance of the dying sunset. Molten gold spread out along the horizon, setting fire to the sky below the soft indigo clouds that gathered above. The barrier was gone. With the disappearance of the last of the sunlight, the sky would be teeming with stars twinkling through gaps in the clouds, eager to show themselves to the citizens of the capital after their long banishment. The nights were lit now with starlight and the flickering glow of candles or oil laps in place of magic. Humanity had given up a great deal, but it had survived and people would find new ways to thrive.
Halfway across the city, Flynn was undoubtedly still hard at work in the palace. He had everything he needed to fulfill their childhood promise, and Yuri would be there to support him from outside the Empire as part of Brave Vesperia. There would still be obstacles and difficulties, but there was nothing the two of them couldn't handle together.
Soon, Flynn would find a chance to end his work for the evening. He had promised Yuri earlier that he would come to see him that evening, and neither one of them would consider breaking a promise to the other. Yuri had no reservations about the visit, no worries that Flynn would lecture him over shortcomings that he was already all too aware of. Yuri had found what he was missing, and that had been the piece that had allowed him to stand on an equal footing with Flynn once more, and to finally patch things up between them.
His stomach growled, but he made no move to get up and go find food. Flynn had promised to bring dinner from the palace kitchens. He'd said he would try to be there before dark, that there was something he needed to tell Yuri, something important, something he'd been wanting to say for a long time. Watching the light fade behind the palace, Yuri wondered if Flynn might.... He stopped himself, reluctant to let that particular hope take root when they had only recently mended the differences that had been tearing them apart for years. He could content himself with what they already had between them.
The moment Flynn turned onto the street, Yuri's eyes were drawn straight to him. He must have made some sign, because Repede got up from where he had been sleeping at the foot of the bed and came to look out the window. His tail wagged gently.
Down below, Flynn walked quickly through the streets, returning greetings but not lingering. In one hand he held a covered basket, a bottle of wine protruding from one side. In the other hand, he held a single red flower. Just below Yuri's window, he paused and looked up. Their eyes met, and it slowly dawned on Yuri that he was staring, eyes too wide as the hope he'd tried to suppress flooded through him.
Smiling, Flynn waved with the hand that held the flower. The gesture snapped Yuri out of his shock. He scrambled off the windowsill, nearly tripping over Repede in his sudden haste. He rushed out of the room, heart racing with anticipation as he hurried to meet Flynn.