Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The One Who Called Himself The Morning Star -- Atelier Iris 3 fanfiction (1,369 words, spoilers)

A ficbit that I've been wanting to get down for a while. It's not as coherent as I'd like it to be; it's basically just some drifting snapshots of a train of thought.



Blades of light-- no, metal, but reflecting the light, like steel talons polished until they blazed under the sun, blazed with a light that seemed almost to surge forth from within. The wings of a warrior angel, each one honed to the truest edge, rainbow light coruscating off the tiny imperfections in the surface: the scores and scratches where other blades had scraped along the metal's finer surface, where acid blood had tarnished the otherwise flawless finish. An impeccable figure of glory, yet carrying a subtler message to her eyes and mind: there is beauty to be found in weakness, behind blemishes and downfalls, in those things which we would otherwise cast aside.

You're right, Iris thought. There isbeauty in weakness. In things not fitting the pattern, and going their own way....

But Fanatos, you are not the only Mana.... Your ways are not the only ways.... And there are some patterns... that were never meant to be distorted.

Even you must feel that, now, joined like this....

She watched the motions of the brilliant armour, guided by Edge, the human who now wore its form. The last few times they'd fought, she'd barely been able to stop staring at it; it seemed to hold a puzzle for her, a visual illusion that set her perception on edge, trying to unravel it, trying to make the parts make sense. What part of this picture doesn't belong? The disparity, the conflict, was giving her motion sickness, but her eyes couldn't stop being drawn.

With time, her watching had paid off, the pieces falling into place. It wasn't Fanatos, the dark Mana, who was in some way incomplete; even if humans had dubbed her "the Mana of Evil", there was nothing in this picture that was truly cruel. She reflected that which people did not normally desire, fallings, failings, the tribulations of life; but only because even suffering could know beauty, even the darkest things could retain some component of grace. She was that flicker of grace in all evil things, the light of wonder within all that seemed hopeless.

In the few battles they'd fought together, she'd become certain that, as with any Mana, she could not dislike Fanatos. Indeed, she'd learnt a lot from just studying the shining creature. Even without words, there was a certain communication that went on between an alchemist and her pact-bonded.

She only wished the Mana could have that communication with Edge. That either of them could.

The armour of Fanatos dwarfed him, and within it, his hard, brutal motions seemed ill-fitting to the grace of the great angelic construct. It was like watching a play put on by untrained actors, who thundered and blustered through lines that deserved to be carefully weighted, even-handed. She wasn't much of a critic, but she knew when the actors were getting it right, because she'd forget they were acting and just lose herself in the story's ebbs and flows. But the sight of Edge, encased within Fanatos' mighty wings, kept jarring her, drawing her attention to the flaws in the pattern.

And each time, like a reader woken from the thrall of a story, she found herself feeling, suddenly, very alone.


They talked about it in her workshop-- not her house, really, more a workshop with a bed, the trappings and trimmings of alchemical labours spilling out into every available nook of the space. She liked it that way, a living space that felt like it was honoured by her craft. Edge thought she should clean up more often.

"So... what's it like, Edge, using the Blades?"

He looked up at her from his sword polishing, his hair frazzled and smelling of ozone and ash, damp sootish strands hanging over his eyes. He looked at ease, here, within the aftermath of battle, more at ease than he had out there dancing with the Mana. Iris didn't know quite what she thought of that. "It seems like it's working so far, I guess. I mean, we're getting through our quests a lot more quickly now." His eyes flickered up to hers, taking in her seeking gaze, seeming to grind over in his mind, for a moment, what she might be asking. "...Thanks. I wouldn't be able to do that if it weren't for you."

"No, that's not what I meant. Getting to join with something like that, I.... Doesn't it feel different? To what you're used to?"

"Yeah, I guess, now that you mention it." He gave the blade of his weapon a pass with the whetstone, the harsh ringing noise seeming to punctuate his words. "It does feel different." Another stroke, another metallic hum. "I'm stronger. Lighter. There's more I can do. Iris, why are you staring at me?"

"Stronger...." She turned the word over on her tongue, not sure what she expected to find. It felt hollow. "But doesn't it... mean anything to you?"

"Mean anything? Should it mean something?" His words rung with the cold scraping of stone on metal.

Yes, she thought, it should mean something, but I can't explain what. There are so many things that mean so much, but I can't begin to have the words for you. Your ears only hear the ringing of that sword... I'm not strong enough to drown it out.

She touched her hand to her chest, unconsciously, the energy fields around her fingers mingling with the tight, tangled knot that clenched at her lifeforce. Do you know what it means to speak with the Mana? she asked of its creator. Do you know what it is to live the way I do, to make alchemy your blood and breath? Do you understand the art you claim to know? Do you?

Does anyone, any more? Anyone but me?

She knew that even if she got an answer, it wouldn't be one she could trust. But for a simple "yes", she thought, she would run a thousand miles across the land, into the maw of her own grave.


She didn't ask Edge to leave the workshop, that night, but her silence eventually drove him out; knowing, perhaps, that she longed for things he could not be and could not even know. She watched him for a time through her window: a silhouette sitting on the steps, his back to her house, the moonlight glinting dully off his sword. Like he was a wraith, half-real, only the sword alive.

She turned over in her bed, letting the more comforting scene of soft candlelight reflecting off wooden furnishings drive out the spectral images. Had they really grown so far apart that these were the thoughts that filled her mind, now, when she thought of him? A ghost of a person, unable to see the truth she lived? It wasn't that she hated Edge; she didn't hate anyone, not even the man who had cursed her to die-- especially not-- not if--, she started to think, and pushed the thoughts out before they could form-- and he'd done so much for her, been there for her through so many hard times. She was just... disappointed, she supposed, that he hadn't grown along the same path as she, hadn't even found a vantage point from which he could understand anything that made her live.

Anything she'd live for.

Anything she'd die for.

She took one of the books from her bedside stand. Thick with allegory and metaphor, with universal truths gilt in ancient symbolism, it took her on a ride from life through death, and beyond-- against a backdrop of falling angels and morning stars, rapture and redemption, the preciousness of transformation. Her head spun with the heaviness of it, and how it made her think, all at once, of her own fragile position with regards to life, and the burnished, flame-ringed outline of Fanatos's armour cloak, and the shadow-image of one who could wear it and honour it-- an eyeblink's image, one she would not let herself hold onto, replaced with formless what-ifs and a hollow sense of longing.

With the tome as her pillow, she drifted into sleep, and there dreamt of a rising star that eclipsed her very soul, and burnt all her life away.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A Prayer for Peace(?)

Presented without comment.

What makes me stranger doesn't kill me.

A little less of a fannish post, today, and a little more of a post on life in general.

So, as some of you may know, I keep up with the awesome Slacktivist blog. I'm solely a lurker, but I've learnt a lot from the discussions that pan out in that blog-- not just on religious fundamentalism, which is the main topic of its popular Left Behind Friday posts, but on everything from Norse gods to werewolf myths to the politics of job loss in the newspaper industry. It's a fascinating forum full of thoughtful minds, and even when I don't agree with them, I feel my understanding of the situation broadened by seeing people hash it out, and gain a better appreciation for both sides. Oh, and it's often pretty funny, too.

But I'm going to have to stop reading for a few days, because the current thread is bugging me too much. It's nothing big or drastic: just an ongoing discussion, which is dragging out way too long for my comfort, in which a lot of the stereotypes about obsessed fans/nerds/"otaku" are being used to justify derision and mockery towards people who lean towards the geekier side of the social spectrum.

The thing that's grating on me, though, isn't the usual bugbear that people have with this kind of rhetoric: "well, my friends and I aren't like that, so stop tarring us with the same brush as all those losers who can't hack the real world". That's the main party line that the geek side of the argument is turning out here, and I don't disagree with it entirely. Not all geeks are people who have problems handling the mundane world, and it's terribly unfair that the media and society invariably paints all geeks in the worst possible light, even if some are like that.

But my problem with the issue is that I've had friends on the end of the spectrum that most frequently gets ripped apart in these discussions, even by other geeks. People who didn't quite know when to stop talking about their comic book collection, even past the point when people seemed to be bored. People who couldn't face a 9-5 job, or social interaction, because they simply broke down every time they tried. People who would happily have become hikikomori if only they could. People who turned up to conventions smelling kind of bad.

And yes, some of the people who fall into these categories are obnoxious, destructive, abusive.

But some of the people who just aren't that good at mundane life are also some of the most compassionate, gentle, thoughtful, philosophical and interesting people I've known.

And some of the people who live perfectly mundane, normal lives are obnoxious, destructive and abusive, moreso than the weirdest geeks and nerds I've ever known.

The person who was being down on the "loser geeks" the most self-identifies as a "bitch". Quite frankly, when it comes down to it, I'd much rather talk to someone who identifies as an elf than someone who identifies as a bitch. Calling yourself an elf, unlike calling yourself a bitch, isn't a declaration that you're inherently hostile and vicious towards all other intelligent beings.

I guess it basically makes me sad to read discussions like that because when people say "it's okay to mock and attack loser geeks", they're saying "it's okay to make the lives of some pretty nice, thoughtful, intelligent people miserable just because you think you're better than them". And I know some people do think that. It just makes me sad, that's all. And I know some people will laugh at the fact that it makes me sad. To some people, the only acceptable response is to deride these people; any attempt at compassion is a laughable weakness. I don't mind, at least not when they think it of me. But I still reserve the right to say it.

Monday, 20 July 2009

turn, turn, turn -- and a time for every purpose under heaven

So I really haven't posted in here in forever. I guess I may as well say a few things about why.

I still love Ar Tonelico. Very much. I'm eagerly anticipating the third instalment in the series. But I guess, maybe, I haven't had anything new to say about it for a while. The more I see of AT2's Luca, the more I realise she is not my Luca, not the Luca I inexplicably became attached to in the first few hours of the game, before the scene in the prison. At some very early point in the game, my brain decided that Luca was a certain type of person, and it wouldn't let go. The cognitive dissonance hurt, but I've learnt to accept that the Luca I know and the game's Luca just aren't the same individual, or even really related. And so, though I'm curious about Luca's path in AT2, I know I'm never going to get attached to the person that path explores. The Luca-shaped hole in my heart, to paraphrase a Christian saying, has been filled by another.

I'm still annoyed by the far too frequent, far too glib use of the word "human" in NISA games in the company of, and even directly describing, non-human sentient species. I'm still annoyed by Croix and how he'll brush off Luca's descriptions of magic and intensity with "I don't get it..." yet still think he's suitable for a 400-year-old cranky Beta who's spent most of her life as formless data, who can destroy walls with a flick of her finger, who lives and breathes and feels magic more than she feels the physical world. I'm still annoyed that the game puts them together, too, and prefer to believe that Croix's own strong feelings for Jakuri warped a Cosmosphere in which she only wished to tell someone the story of what Harmonious meant to her.

I'm branching out a little, too. I'm playing Atelier Iris 3, and so far it's very enjoyable-- I'm loving the quest-centric format, and the way it provides challenges that aren't wholly combat-based. I'm really wanting Cross Edge, but I don't want to buy a PS3. I'm considering it's probably inevitable if AT3 happens to be on it.

I still think up ideas for short stories, flashes of imagery. I consider writing fanfics about what would happen if Jakuri killed Croix, or about the surges of unexpected, uncontrolled emotion that come with harmonising, how a calm and peaceful mood can be ramped up to bright and brilliant surges of feeling in a matter of moments. I still imagine the sparks going off behind the eyes of someone so entranced. I still imagine. I still live.

Mir is still my favourite canonical Reyvateil, and probably always will be. I still love her story, and I hope it gets the conclusion it deserves. I'll be cheering for that as hard as anyone, if not moreso.

I believe that monsters are small lives, that time is eternal, that hopes and dreams and fantasies are worth pursuing for as long as your heart still beats, and beyond. I believe in living like a Narnian, even if Narnia doesn't exist. I believe in many things, and I like believing. If you think you're too old to believe, or I'm too old to believe, I believe you should probably wake yourself up before you die completely inside.

My life is full of believers, and I like that.

I haven't been writing. And I haven't been reading, really, all of your blogs. I forget, when I'm not logged in here. But I have been living, and dreaming, and thinking of you all.

I pray that you all keep living and dreaming too.

monsters are small lives

I haven't posted in here in forever, I know. But I felt like sharing this one, undoubtedly never-screenshotted-before line of dialogue with a wider audience. If it turns up even once on a Google search, perhaps it'll make people think twice. It's something RPGs rarely think of, and while AT2 isn't exactly the best at not making monsters out of its monsters, it was nice at least to see this snippet of text in there.