The World

by Tenshi

The World: Attachment. Completion. Perfection. Ultimate change. The end result of all efforts. Success. Synthesis. Fulfillment. Capability. Triumph in undertakings. The rewards that come from hard work. Eternal life. Admiration of others. [inverse] Imperfection. Failure to complete the task one starts. Lack of vision. Disappointment.

Humes are full of change.

Most Viera take their inconstancy to be a sign of immaturity, but as so few Viera live among humes, few of them can understand their need for evolution. Unchanging, enclosed in the wood, living long seasonless lives, Viera cannot develop an appreciation for the brief, harsh urgency of a hume's lifespan.

For Viera outside of the Wood, it is quite another matter.

Fran at first took them as her cloistered sisters did; for wild untempered creatures, full of capricious whims and demands, with their feet in the sea and their eyes on the sky, never content to be where they were. But the longer she lived among them, observing them, she found in that impatience a kind of desperation, as an animal who knows it is not long for the world, one who must breed and eat and then die. Only unlike animals, humes have a need to make an imprint, to leave their echoes ringing down their histories, so the brevity of their lives is nothing in their vast, collective memory. And so Humes build and tear down, make peace and make war, bed one another without any real thought of babes, and dare the things that Viera would never dare.

Humes, unlike Viera, have little to lose.

Balthier, she knew on their meeting, was not the man he once had been. His name alone was a lie, a willing metamorphosis. He had enclosed himself in a Judge's armored cocoon, but had emerged from it as something wholly other, and took to the sky as though moths could be born as moths. Fran found she liked the look of his wings. It would do her no harm, she with the Wood already dulling in her ears, to live for a while like Humes lived; to take risk and to take life. And so she learned.

Vaan was one of the youngest Humes she had known. He burned for the change, but had not yet learned to spin his cocoon, or to shed his skin. He itched in a too-tight carapace, biting at the constraints of his own skin, knowing what it was he must become, not knowing how to become it. And it was then on meeting him and watching Balthier with him, that Fran really began to understand. Humes must first learn change from one another. Most of them cannot evolve on their own, all they can do is long for it. It takes years for them to be able to initiate their own changes.

Vaan wanted to be a sky pirate. He did not know how, any more than a caterpillar can watch a butterfly and then leap from a branch and start flying. This largest change, the first one of note, must be the hardest for Humes. Fran watched Vaan learning, watched the taut line of his mouth as he studied the Strahl's controls, watched him watching the way that Balthier walked, spoke, fought, listened. Humes would notice his changes faster, Fran thought. Humes would find a world of difference in the Vaan who dragged their hoverbike down the Dalmascan Palace's garden stairs, and the Vaan who snatched up a discarded sword and plunged it into the breast of a distracted enemy. He still talked too much and at the wrong times. He still asked too many questions. He still failed to understand the answers. But he was changing. At the end, even Fran could see it. Maybe one day he would learn to adapt and evolve at a word, or a sudden shift of environment.

Like Basch did.

She met him and he was a wasted prisoner, an honorless kingslayer, the husk of a man whose true purpose and name had been shelled out of him and cast away. Yet within hours he was a warrior again; needing only a sword in hand and an enemy to face over it. In days, he was once more a knight of Dalmasca and queensguard, though the queen herself would long scorn him by the old name of kingslayer, until she too, capitulated to his change. And though Fran and Balthier had already made their hasty exit by then, Fran knew that Basch now wore his brother's name and his brother's plate, becoming a Judge Magister of Archades as though it was as simple a matter as a change in doublet. Basch was suddenly Gabranth as though he always had been the man on the other side of his cage, and Fran, knowing Basch's earlier transformations, did not doubt it.

Slowly Fran understood was that this most accomplished form of hume adaptation was, at its heart, unchanging. What others named Basch meant nothing. Basch was Basch, on a layer so deep that Hume names meant nothing to it. He was loyalty, he was honor, he was endurance. What his outside was called, and what his outside wore, were only mummer's trappings.

The heart of hume change is not to change. A malleable outside, and a small, dense core of adamantium. Fran began to pity her sisters, whose shells and centers were one fixed thing, unjointed and inseparable. Was it even possible, Fran wondered, for her to change as humes did?

"Let them fly on their own for a little while," Balthier said, with the wreckage of Bahamut a smoking pillar behind them, on the horizon. "They'll have to learn to get on without us."

"And what will we do?" Fran asked, tapping one nail on the steering column of the Imperial hover Balthier had stolen. "We have no airship."

"Well then," Balthier said, scanning the line of the world, away from the present that was quickly becoming their past. "I suppose we'll just have to adapt."

Fran, for the first time in her many years, thought maybe she might be able to do just that.


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