This battle is a holy war in the name of God.
You ran through the smoky streets that had been reduced to nothing but rubble. Your machinegun bumped against your hip with each eager step, and your heart raced with determination. Even though a thick cloud of dust fogged up your vision, the streets had once belonged to you.
You knew them like the back of your hand, blinded or not.
You lowered yourself as you heard the roaring sounds of Anfs growing closer, and you moved for shelter. Your back pressed against the wall of a building that had been blown apart, and you steadied your weapon as you waited for the hulking machine to come into view.
“God is watching over Krugis,” you whispered. You narrowed your eyes in a sharp glare as the ground beneath you shook. Your finger locked on the machinegun’s trigger impatiently, but firing early would give you away.
Somewhere beyond the smoke and war there was a sky. It stretched overhead endlessly. Unlike the ground so far below, the sky was calm. By now it was soaked with beautiful shades of orange as the sun began to set. You had been fighting since dawn. You were exhausted, but you couldn’t give up.
Your shoulders tensed as you waited for even a glimpse of the Anf in the clouding dust. Even though you were unable to see the enemy, you heard a hiss as a shot from their guns whistled through the air.
Unable to run, you pressed yourself flush against the wall at your back. You closed your eyes and muttered a prayer. You wanted to be saved from becoming an Azadistani, even if it the cost was your own death.
The shot hit the road that you had previously been following. You were close enough for the shot to have an impact, and you were tossed aside like a doll. You had been thrown from the smoke covering. When you hit the road farther down, you rolled before coming to a stop against the foot of another wall.
There was no motion from you. Though your eyes were open, you couldn’t see; you didn’t want to see.
Positioned on the ground where you were, the scent of death seemed stronger. The soil beneath your cheek was soaked in someone else’s blood. Tears formed in your eyes, and you closed them as pain wracked your battered body.
Had God abandoned you?
We shall strike down the infidels who disrespect our traditions and lay waste to the land of God.
Six years passed after that day. You had survived to tell the tale, but you preferred not to.
Time had healed your physical wounds like it always did. There were things that would never be fixed, like your right arm that had been blown off by the explosion which had evidently saved your life, but you could manage.
It was the mental wounds that you were having difficulty recovering from. There was an ever-present guilt because you had followed Ali Al-Saachez willingly, and had even gone as far as idolizing him. The man had said he was a freedom fighter, and when you had been eight years old, you trusted him.
Now you held a grubby teddy bear to your left breast, and buried your tear-filled eyes in it from time to time when the memories were too strong. The bear had been something your father had bought you when you were a child. It was the only relic you had to remember what had once been the Krugis Republic.
You lifted your head slowly to look towards the door of your room when it creaked open on rusty hinges. The woman standing there was a dark-haired Azadistani who had taken you in after you had been dragged out of the rubble. She was a nice enough woman, but strictly followed the Muslim religion.
After being betrayed by the God you thought was protecting your homeland, you weren’t big on religion. Your image of God was that of a redheaded man with a shrubby beard and cold green eyes.
“[Name],” the woman said quietly, but her voice was more like that of a nurse than a mother-figure. “There is someone here to see you. Will you come down to see him, or should I bring him up here?”
You looked down at the bear held close to your heart, and your weak legs that were covered with thin white sheets. “Please bring him inside,” you decided, and then looked up at the dark-haired woman who had nursed you back to health. There was no emotion in your eyes, but you added sincerely, “Thank you.”
The woman ducked her head and was gone. In the brief moment that you were left alone, you dropped the bear onto your lap. You reached over to the bedside table and yanked out the crude wooden drawer to reveal a loaded gun. Even though it hurt physically to take the killing machine back into your hands you knew it was for your own safety. People never came to visit you.
When the door opened again, without a polite knock first, you pointed the gun towards your guest.
“What do you want?” You asked icily, but the boy at the door didn’t flinch. You were slightly surprised that your guardian had let you see the boy alone, but you were careful not to show it.
As you eyed him more carefully it became clear to you that he was vaguely familiar. Even though he was dressed in Azadistani clothing you could tell that he was from the Krugis Republic. Your heart raced as you lowered your weapon to stare into his deep, but empty, chestnut-colored eyes.
“You were from the KPSA,” you said with surprise. He didn’t appear to be armed, so you felt it was safe to at least lower your weapon for the time being. “You were there that day!”
The dark-haired boy gave a confirming nod, but still didn’t say anything. You put the gun down on the edge of your bed, and scooped up the teddy bear to hold it close to your chest again. “Soran, right?” You asked.
His gaze flickered away with uneasiness. “No,” he replied. It was the first time you had heard his voice, but it was familiar. Your eyes met his confidently and curiously. You had thought you were the only survivor from that bloody battle. “My name is Setsuna F. Seiei.”
“Setsuna,” you repeated, and then lowered your gaze thoughtfully to the bear in your arm. “That’s a foreign name. Are you ashamed to be Krugi after our fall to Azadistan?”
“[Name], do you know what Celestial Being is?” He asked. You figured he was avoiding your question, but you gave a small nod. Occasionally the dark-haired woman who had been looking after you would talk about them. “Our aim is to eradicate all conflict. I’ve come to invite you.”
You had a feeling that you didn’t have much choice in the matter now that he had revealed his identity to you, but you looked at him sceptically. “Aren’t they the same as freedom fighters?” You asked. “How do you know they won’t turn on you like Ali Al-Saachez did?”
He thought about it for a moment, and then his eyes landed on the bear clutched close to your chest. He held his hands out for you to give it to him. “We’ll clean that bear up,” he said, “and bring it back as a sign of trust.”
You looked at him hard for a moment. Setsuna was definitely a Krugi boy, and he had gone through the same hell as you. He must have known how difficult it was to trust an organization that promised something as unrealistic as peace, but he seemed to believe in it wholeheartedly.
With a sigh, you held out the teddy bear to him. He stepped forward to take it, and he cradled it close with the same precaution that you had. He seemed to recognize the value it held to you.
“Please stay with him so that he doesn’t get lonely,” you said. Your eyes locked with Setsuna’s, and the boy gave a firm nod. For the first time since you had been brought to Azadistan, you smiled. It was a simple gesture that you hadn’t believed you were capable of anymore. “The survivors from Krugis have to stick together, right?”
Setsuna looked down at the bear in his arms, and he carefully adjusted his hold on it so that he could hold the torn ear in place. He didn’t smile, but he looked up to meet your gaze. “Right,” he agreed, and then he left.
When the dark-haired boy came back with the cleaned up teddy bear, it looked as good as new. He’d had it with him for three days. While you could have assumed that he had bought you another one, you could feel in your heart that the one he handed back to you was the one he’d left with.
“He missed you,” Setsuna said.
“Thank you,” you said as you cradled the bear to your chest again. Your bed had been rather empty without it, but you had found ways to keep yourself busy in his absence. You had hardly noticed that you were alone because the dark-haired Krugi had been on your mind. “Setsuna, why are you inviting me into Celestial Being?”
He watched you press the bear to your chest like you had when he’d first arrived. “It was decided soon after the fall of Krugis,” he explained vaguely, and you looked at him with surprise. “You have the power to change the world because of what you went through, [Name].”
“The power to change the world,” you echoed with awe, and you looked down at the bear pressed against your bosom. “But how can I do that when I only have one arm?”
You were beginning to have doubts now. You had been doing some leg exercises when Setsuna had taken your teddy bear, and you could now walk without having someone help you keep your balance. But your right arm would cause a problem; you couldn’t pilot a machine, and you didn’t have the physical strength to be a mechanic.
“You will be the doctor’s apprentice,” he said.
You had never been exposed to the work that a doctor might do. When you were being treated you had been unconscious, and the few times you drifted into conscious were blurred in your mind. However, you nodded to show that you would accept the duty. You were willing to learn if they thought you could do it.
Setsuna reached out his hand, and you looked at it for a moment. You wedged the teddy bear between your chest and right arm, which had been cut at the elbow, and then reached out to take his hand. It was warm.
“You’ll have to stay with our forces here in Azadistan for now,” he explained, but he helped you stand from your bed. Your hands didn’t unlock even after you were steady. “Massad Rachmadi was kidnapped a few days ago, and the radicals have caused Celestial Being forces to deploy.”
You didn’t know much about the kidnapping, but the woman looking after you had mentioned it. She had seemed shaken up about the whole thing, but you had never even heard of the man before.
“Who would want to kidnap an Imam?” You asked.
Setsuna watched you for a moment, but his eyes seemed to say that you should already know. “It’s a third party organization,” he said, and then pulled you towards the door. You uneasily let go of his hand to put the teddy bear back in a safer hold, but he didn’t seem offended. “Nobody knows who’s behind it yet.”
He opened the door and he held it for you. You looked into his eyes as you passed, and smiled softly in thanks before leading him out of the house. Your guardian had locked herself in her room pray for Massad’s safe return, and wouldn’t notice your disappearance until later that evening.
By then it would be too late. You would be helping Setsuna and Celestial Being change the world.
Seven years later, you sat in the medical bay on the Ptolemaios II next to the unconscious dark-haired boy. You held one of his hands tight in yours, and pressed your lips to his gloved fingers as you prayed.
The rest of the Ptolemaios crew just wanted to see Setsuna wake up. You knew that his first contact with the alien race known as ELS had been extremely hard on him, but you also knew he would reawaken in time. You just prayed that it would be soon.
Celestial Being had changed the world; now it was time to save the world.
He stirred as you muttered an amen under your breath, and you watched him hopefully. You didn’t unlock your hand from his as it turned out to be just another plaguing nightmare.
However, the groans that whispered softly from his lips gave you an idea. Whenever you had nightmares there was one thing that always chased them away. Your teddy bear. You didn’t have parents to tell you, albeit in lies, that everything would be okay. It had been up to you to seek comfort in whatever ways you could.
You left the medical bay to venture off to your room. It didn’t take you long to find the bear, and you scooped it up against your chest just as you had always done.
When you got back to the medical bay it seemed that your efforts had been in vain. Setsuna, who was still bound to the medical bed, was awake. His chestnut-colored eyes remained on you. “Your teddy bear,” he acknowledged, and you nodded. “Are you worried?”
You shook your head. “You seemed to be having nightmares,” you explained with a soft smile. It was a relief to see that he was awake, and you hurried to his side. “I thought bringing it might help chase them away.”
He watched as you let the bear go into the weightless room around you and worked on releasing the binds around his wrists. They had been put in place because Setsuna had been wild when he’d first been brought back to the Ptolemaios II, and you didn’t want him to hurt himself.
It seemed that there were no hard feelings for your actions. Once he was released, Setsuna plucked the teddy bear out of the air and held it in front of him. He seemed to be searching its eyes for something. “Thank you,” he said, and your eyebrows rose with surprise. “You’ve been beside me the entire time.”
You averted your gaze with slight embarrassment. “That’s my job,” you said, but it was a lame excuse.
He kept the bear with him as he floated over to the door, but he didn’t push it open. “Take care of yourself, [Name],” Setsuna said, and he looked back at you over his shoulder. His irises had turned gold.
You didn’t have any problems with him taking the teddy bear with him for the fight. It would make you feel better to know that he had it. He would keep it safe for you and bring it back when the fight was over. Still, you found yourself chasing him to the door and taking his hand tight in your own. Setsuna looked surprised.
“You’re going to come back, right?” You asked. Your voice didn’t waver with the fear that you felt, but your linked hands sent the vibes directly to his heart. As tears flooded your eyes for the first time in many years, Setsuna nodded reassuringly, but his eyes held uncertainty. “Keep my bear with you so that you don’t get lonely.”
You turned the dark-haired boy to face you a little more, and though you gestured to the bear in his arms, you brushed your lips against his in a sloppy, rushed kiss. He looked slightly alarmed.
“What–?” Setsuna had started to ask, but the momentary look that had been on his face disappeared. It took a lot of courage to keep your eyes locked with his, but you didn’t look away. You knew that he could feel how you felt. “Thank you, [Name]. I’ll come back for you.”
You nodded, and watched in silence as he broke your contact and left.
It had been fifty years since Setsuna had gone out onto that last battlefield. Every night you prayed at your bedside that he would return to you. You wanted to hear him knock on your door just as unexpectedly as he had when you were living in Azadistan.
And then one peaceful morning, it happened.
There was a knock on the door, and you turned your head with surprise. “Come in,” you called. You pushed up your reading glasses and closed the book daintily on your lap as you listened to the door opening from the main hall. Footsteps sounded up the stairwell, and stopped in front of your bedroom door. “You may come in.”
Unlike when you had been living in Azadistan, you got a lot of visitors nowadays. People from Celestial Being often came to make sure you were doing alright.
However, there had been something about the person at the door that had seemed different to you, and you had a hopeful feeling in your chest that you usually didn’t allow. But when the bedroom door brushed open silently, and the white-haired man stepped into view, tears sprung into your eyes.
“Setsuna,” you whispered, and you stood up with the book falling to the carpeted floor soundlessly. You shook your head with disbelief, but the small smile that came across his face reassured you that you weren’t dreaming. “You came back to me, just like you promised!”
It would have been the perfect cinematic moment to rush to him and give him a great big bear hug, even with just one arm, but you were too surprised by his presence to move.
“I’ve been… many places,” he said, and then held out the teddy bear that he had taken with him onto his last battlefield. The tears that had been resting in your eyes overflowed, and trickled down your cheeks quietly. “I wouldn’t have been able to go through it all without him.”
Now you found it in you to move, and you took the teddy bear carefully. It was cold, but soft. You looked into the black bead eyes for a moment and then pressed it to your chest. You buried your face into the stuffed animal’s head and cried with tears of joy.
Setsuna didn’t make any move to comfort you. He watched until it was over, and the last of the tears had dried up. Just from being in your presence he knew that they were not sad tears.
“You’re going to stay here now, aren’t you?” You asked as you looked up into his eyes hopefully. His response was a simple nod, but to you it was an oath. It was a vow stronger than any words, and a relieved smile spread across your face. “I’m so glad.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Setsuna took you into a gentle embrace. It was full of love and warmth. “I’ll never leave your side again,” he assured, and you nodded against his chest.
The last world that Setsuna changed was yours.