Indulging on a little bit of Sasarai existential angst...
Feb. 22, 2008
To Die For One’s Country
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
I don’t really know who it was who first said those words.
But I knew that when I first heard those words, it moved me so much that I couldn’t help but break down and cry. Of course that was putting it mildly. Old Yohan, bless his soul, my mentor and perhaps the man closest to who I could call a “father” when I was a child, used to tease me about it. He claimed that I fell into a hysteric fit that not even Lena, my governess (not to be confused with Lady Suphina) could comfort me. Then I burned with a fever for almost three days.
Personally, I think Yohan was exaggerating just a little bit. I don’t remember any of those happening aside from breaking down in tears. I don’t think I even understood what those words meant in the first place at the time. But I do know for certain that an overwhelming emotion that I couldn’t explain came over me as soon as I heard those words spoken. A little bit like feeling desperate and anxious over an ache in my chest as if trying to remember a half-forgotten memory.
It was probably the first and clearest memory I have left from my childhood.
I was four years old.
It wasn’t until years later that I encountered those words again. I was ten, and I was finally allowed to view rare ancient texts that showed glimpses of that time when Aronia fell as Harmonia was born in the One Temple’s locked library. They were mostly letters and journals, written on enchanted parchment to survive the passage of time. They were mostly by soldiers, writing final letters for their loved ones just as they were about to fight in the battlefield… as if to ensure their existence before they died in battle.
Then even more rare and valuable were the speeches coined by The Absolute One himself. They were from when he was still young man, perhaps only five or six years older than I was back then, as he led his rag tag army through the Hero War. Who knew that despite having no family, no history, and being an age barely old enough to be considered a man, an insignificant farmer’s son would become a great leader who would later usher the birth of a great nation from the ashes of the Kingdom of Aronia as he gathered supporters to join him to war with these words…
How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country.
My entire existence revolved around his words.
How sweet and noble on how men would be inspired by the words of a child to give their lives for a country that only existed in their dreams still. How admirable and powerful were such words that children born many generations after those words were first spoken, emotions were still stirred in their souls with as much passion as what their forefathers felt.
I never questioned it.
I always believed it.
I still do.
I never believed that I was a mere pawn or tool as you claimed.
Not even once.
I may have been young and naïve but I knew well enough to understand that there were more things happening around me than the truth I was told at face value. I understood that maintaining secrets were sometimes a necessary evil, especially during times of war. I have even been entrusted with countless confidentialities throughout my short lifetime for the glory of beautiful Holy Harmonia. But all that time, not once did I question who I was and what I believed in.
Perhaps that’s why I’m feeling the way I feel.
This inexplicable turmoil of emotions …
Please… answer my question…
If I did things differently than what I did, would everything turn out to be different.
Fifteen years ago… I was seventeen, young, naïve, brilliant though inexperienced, idealistic and eager to prove myself.
Those were the words how the other Bishops described me.
There were truths in their words. Some.
I may not have the same lifetime of experiences from the battlefield or in politics, but growing up within the walls of the One Temple and within the grounds of the Circle Palace has given me a unique spectator’s point of view of Harmonian politics from a young age. I was already aware with how Bishops played games to manipulate both Temple and People’s Factions into a sordid sense of political balance and order. I already accepted that I was being groomed to be key player in their grand game and I knew that I was expected to perform well when the time came.
I ignored the snide remarks behind my back by senior Bishops who suddenly found themselves outranked by a greenhorn at least twenty years their junior. A snot nosed brat who had nothing to show for other than the ability to bear a powerful rune on his right hand. Then again, there was one truth that no one could challenge regardless of ranks.
Despite whatever prejudice they had against me, they were afraid of me.
Yohan once told me that I was Harmonia’s hope and fear made flesh.
I didn’t really understand what he meant back then. I always assumed it was because of my Rune and the fact that I rose through the ranks effortlessly despite no one knowing the truth behind my origin.
Even I didn’t know the truth behind my origin.
Until that fateful day when you shoved me to face that glaring truth, I always believed in that fantasy they conveniently allowed me to discover when I was thirteen. That was when I stumbled upon an interesting collection of papers.
They were papers that documented how the Temple acquired exceptional children orphaned from one of the many wars in the lands bordering Harmonia. How these children of savages were rescued and adopted into the fold because of their unique talents. The papers didn’t document the identities of these children but there really were no doubt on who they were.
These children were watched carefully and tended by the Temple, as one would watch over a prized rose blooming in the Circle Palace gardens. It would not be unusual that any of those special children to grow up to enter the ranks of the Harmonian Temple Guards or even lead the Harmonian Central and Regional Armies. After all, talent trumps lineage when it comes to Holy Harmonia’s Militia. Having blonde hair or blue eyes accounts for nothing if you have the ability to crush an entire enemy battalion with the simple wave of your right hand.
How glorious it is to crush your enemies but how sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country…
I do admit, however, that I was eager to prove myself worthy of those words by The Absolute One. Even though it wasn’t our war. Even though possibility of my death would not necessarily be for the glory of my country. It was a duty entrusted in me and I embraced it wholeheartedly even though not everyone was happy about the assignment.
Yohan dared to criticize The Absolute One’s decision in public (of which he was greatly reprimanded for). Then again, it wasn’t a secret that Yohan had his own ambitions. The last thing he wanted was to see his protégé die an insignificant death in a foreigner’s war.
Dunan, in essence, was simply a stage designed to test my abilities. We were sent there to aid our Highland Allies to crush persistent bands of growing insurrections, reclaim Dunan and perhaps even expand further south if possible. We were supposed to win and return to Harmonia without incident.
Who would have thought that a small-scale rebellion of no significant importance would escalate into a one of the most important events to be recorded in History? Who would have expected that my True Earth Rune would be neutralized and rendered useless by the sudden appearance of a mysterious power? Who would have imagined that after seventeen years of blissful ignorance, I would inevitably find myself colliding against you?
I felt you that day. I didn’t know what it was back then. But looking back it made sense why I felt what I felt. Perhaps it was because of the connection shared by the bearers of the True Runes. Perhaps it was because of the connection shared by our blood.
Until this day, I don’t know.
All I knew was that for the first time in my life, I found out how it was to feel pain in battle. I have done countless of simulated battles with Bishops whose had years of experience with war twice my age and emerged with every single one of my men unscathed. Not a single scratch, drop of blood, or even a speck of dust.
But that day, I tasted defeat for the first time. It was a humbling experience. It was like recovering with a painful shock after learning that you don’t necessarily end up stopping in time from hitting a brick wall when you run towards it at full force.
That day, I also tasted your loathing for the first time. Your hatred of me was as cold, fierce, and razor-sharp as the wind magic you cast. It tore right through the protective barriers I erected around my men and cut me. The venom of your abhorrence was so potent that I barely managed to feign good spirits in front of my men as I secretly fended off a physical illness that ravaged my body for nearly five days after feeling the full force of your attack.
After our humiliating retreat from Dunan, I tried to find out everything I could about you. I only got as far as the knowledge that you were one of the many adopted special children of Harmonia… who was stolen away one night by that witch you call your mentor, and forced the Temple to hold stricter regulations on how to keep the roses in their gardens from being picked by unsavoury passer-bys.
And yet still… I didn’t question anything…
…even after the Absolute One chose to answer my inquiries with silence.
I never told anyone. Not even Lena. But I used to have nightmares when I was growing up. I’ve forgotten most of it by now. But I still remember how I felt after waking up from them. There was this sense of urgent emptiness… like I had left behind something very important but I had no memory of what it is…
It didn’t make sense, you know. What you said to me during the Second Fire Bringer War. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever if there was truth in your words. Regardless of our origin and who… what we really were, it made no sense why they would simply give you up. You were just as valuable as I was. While she would probably put up a fight, I know with the Absolute One’s power, we would have successfully recovered you.
But despite knowing who stole you and knowing where that witch was hiding and knowing your activities in Scarlet Moon and Dunan and...
He didn’t do anything. All he had to say was give one order… but still, he did nothing. He did nothing to attempt to get you back. He would order clans to be massacred, countries invaded, lives sacrificed and destroyed… all for the sake of claiming a True Rune… but when it came to you… he did nothing.
Or was it because…
Do you want to know a secret? Do you want to know why everyone was afraid of me? Despite being useless, and clumsy, possibly being less skilled with wielding magic in battle than you, and failing to meet their expectations of me?
I hear his will.
I discovered it by accident. I was four. I don’t even remember it at all. I was told that I was supposed to watch Yohan perform a simple but boring morning ritual that I was expected to learn in a week’s time. But after being separated from Lena and thanks to the affliction of my misguided sense of direction, I somehow ended up wandering near the Holy Chambers. Lena said that I told her I simply followed the whispers.
There was much panic and confusion with the idea of the other child disappearing. Yohan told me that he would find me hours later, sitting in the receiving room, facing the locked doors of The Absolute One’s Holy Chambers, having an animated conversation with the nice man behind the door.
I don’t know how it was possible really. Perhaps it was because of the connection shared by the bearers of the True Runes. Perhaps it was because of the connection shared by our blood. But I hear his voice… his memories. They’re muted, muffled… whispered most of the time, probably due to the influence of his Rune. But they always rang true and clear when he summons me, and wishes his will to be known. The Temple Faction was not happy about it at first. They had gotten used to making all the decisions of the country for him. But they grudgingly relented on the condition that they were given the privilege of be the one executing his will. Regardless of their games and manipulation, one can go against the will of The Absolute One.
Not even me.
Perhaps he sent me to Dunan fifteen years ago for the sole purpose of meeting you for the first time. Then he ordered me to the Grasslands for the sole purpose of…
I was angry after you told me the truth.
I forced my way through the door of Holy Chambers, the force of my anger driving past the numbing influence of his Rune. I needed to face him when he confirmed or denied your words. I needed to hear it from him. I would have believed anything he told me. For the first time in my life, I yelled and screamed and threw a tantrum like a spoiled child provoking his father.
But his voice stayed calm, quiet…silent.
Without the protective barriers of the Holy Chamber, the weight of his will was heavy and imposing, sapping away all emotions and forcing you to surrender to the will of stagnant calm. As all my anger and hurt and betrayal slowly ebbed away, I finally saw him for the first time and realized that I didn’t need to hear his reply to find the truth. I just needed to see the immortal, unchanging, eternally sleeping, tranquil features of his face.
And as I sank to my knees, he finally spoke. His physical lips remained frozen and unmoving. But his voice whispered clear and his will as imposing as I faced the truth.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
And I knew...
My entire existence revolved around his words.
FYI, Horace, not Hikusaak, was the original author who penned them pretty words. This is my first Sasarai fic, my second Suikoden fic, and the first Suikoden fic I’ve written in MANY MANY YEARS! It’s been a damn long time since I last wrote pure angst… and Sasarai does existential angst so well!
Anywayz… on to random ramblings…
I’ve always been fascinated by Luc and Sasarai… and no, not the icky twincest type of way! That’s just disturbing! Though unlike a lot of the Luc and Sasarai fics out there, I don’t share the idea that Sasarai and Luc felt any brotherly affection of any sort with each other. Luc obviously hated Sasarai with a vengeance since S2, and Sasarai’s fighting words in their interactions in S3 showed that the feelings were mutual. Luc and Sasarai were “programmed” to be intensely loyal to Harmonia… most specifically to Hikusaak. Luc’s apparent betrayal to both Harmonia and Hikusaak’s will only incite Sasarai’s absolute wrath and hatred for “the traitor”.
It also bothers me that Harmonia didn’t make a lot of efforts to recover Luc (I blame it to poor writing and that stupid manga interpretation). I mean Harmonia sent armies that massacred entire clans, invaded countries, and pretty much brought wanton unforgiving destruction for the sake of recovering Runes… I don’t think Leknaat is that powerful. The woman pretty much announced her whereabouts in the 1st Suikoden game… Luc appearing and helping in them significant wars didn’t keep his profile low either. Oh yeah… after the stunt with Sasarai in S2? C’mon! There’s got to be some kind of secret deal between Hikusaak and Leknaat (sorta like divorced parents dividing their kids between them in “Parent Trap”).
Anywayz… hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!