Two Who Remain the Same - Prelude Story

November 3, 2023

"Yah!"

The shout of strength was accompanied by a heavy striking sound that reverberated across the clear, blue sky.

There was a feeling of satisfaction that came from precisely landing a blow on a foe's weak point. After a few seconds, the zeugle let out a noise and its massive body crumbled to the ground. Seeing the results of his work, Law let out a deep sigh and relaxed his posture.

"Alright. You can come out now!"

Law looked back at the trees, where a man trembling with fear emerged from the shadows. Strapped to his back was a large pack, indicating that he was a Calaglian merchant.

"Are you s-sure it's okay?"

"Yeah, I don't see any others. That's gotta be the last of 'em."

Even with Law's reassurance, the merchant didn't seem to be able to shake his anxieties. He couldn't help but keep nervously glancing to and fro.

"To think I'd be attacked after making it this far without any problems... And they said Menancia was the safest area."

It wasn't the first time Law had heard complaints like that. He scratched his head.

"There ain't nowhere you can be free of zeugles. Menancia's just a little better off than most places."

The merchant had known that, of course. But nearly getting devoured is a lot different than just hearing about it. Law knew the merchant was new to the trade and had never been as far as Menancia before.

The Renans, who had ruled Dahna until just a year prior, had brought various creatures called "zeugles" with them to the planet. Even back then it wasn't rare to find groups of zeugles running loose—free from Renan control.

Now all zeugles were like that. A year earlier, when the two worlds of Dahna and Rena merged, the Renans lost the ability to control zeugles. It seemed to be related to the collapse of their celestial base, Lenegis. Law was sure he'd heard something about that, but he'd never been particularly interested. The important thing was that zeugles were just as dangerous as before and people were likely to run into them even on public highways, meaning that armed escorts were an absolute necessity.

 Law, one of the main characters in Tales of Arise Beyond the Dawn, striking a pose.

"Relax. We've made it this far. It's just a little further now. See?"

Law pointed towards the end of the highway that stretched across the grassy plains, where a large city surrounded by high walls was visible. A sigh escaped the merchant's lips.

"That must be Viscint... the capital of Menancia. It's as splendid as the rumors said."

Suddenly his expression darkened.

"I wonder if Ulzebek can be like that too someday."

"Depends on how hard we try. How hard all of us try."

"Mm... I suppose you're right."

The merchant regained his composure upon hearing Law's encouraging words.

"In any case, you really helped me out. I was pretty worried when the Crimson Crows said they could only spare one person. But thanks to you, I've managed to make it here in one piece."

Once a Calaglian resistance group, the Crimson Crows were now in charge of the area they had fought for. Even after being freed from slavery, many Dahnans were unsure about how to build a life for themselves, so the Crimson Crows were petitioned with every kind of request imaginable. Though that issue was shared by organization groups in every region, Calaglia had always been particularly impoverished, so it had a severe shortage in resources and manpower.

A certain number of escorts were needed to safely travel the roads, so requests by solo merchants tended to get put on the backburner. That's where Law decided to step in and offer his services. The merchant had been uneasy to have only a single boy as his escort, even if he was a member of the Crimson Crows. But he also had quite the business opportunity on his hands, and the boy did come with a glowing recommendation. After a great deal of worrying, he decided to accept the help in the end.

"Amazing how you took care of all those zeugles by yourself. I'm sorry for doubting you."

"That? Oh, it was no big deal. And I wanted to go to Viscint, anyway. So it was a win-win for both of us."

Elated at the compliment, Law tried to act humble. Truth be told, however, not many Dahnans could face even a single zeugle on their own. Let alone multiple zeugles at the same time. Having made it through the war and the year that followed, there was no doubt in Law's strength, and he had the calm and composure to match it.

The merchant spoke as if something had just occurred to him, perhaps due to Law's air of confidence.

"Come to think of it, doesn't Viscint have training grounds where fighters test their skills? Is that why you're going there?"

"No, I just... have a friend, er, someone... to see there..."

Law's voice suddenly trailed off and his eyes darted around. The merchant looked at Law with an understanding smile and clapped his hands together.

"Ah-ha! So that's how it is. How rude of me to ask!"

"N-No, you've got the wrong idea!"

His earlier dignity now gone, Law's voice went up a pitch. His desperate denial had him acting his age, while speaking volumes about his true personality. Law cleared his throat and spoke as if to rush along the smirking merchant.

"Come on, let's get going. Before more zeugles show up."

"Alright, alright. Thanks again for the help."

As he walked behind the merchant who wore that knowing look on his face, Law scratched his head once more. He always ended up making a mess of things right at the very end. 

Whatever. He gave a small shrug and started walking, as to not let the merchant get too far ahead. His eyes were focused not on the merchant but on the palace that towered above the center of Viscint before them. His expression had changed, reflecting a complex mix of emotions.

I wonder how she's doing...

***

"But due to the syntax here... Hm, then this term... Oh, it reverses the meaning!"

The voice in the corner didn't match the dimly lit room with its overflowing bookshelves. A large desk, piled high with mountains of books... And on the other side, two dainty fists thrust up towards the ceiling.

"That feels much better. Now it all makes sense. I thought something was off there."

Rinwell, one of the main characters in Tales of Arise Beyond the Dawn, striking a pose with Hootle.

Reclined against the back of the chair, Rinwell stretched out with a look of satisfaction on her face. Next to her, flapping and floating at head level was the white Dahnan owl Hootle, who seemed to have noticed something.

"Hoot, hoot!"

"Huh? Someone's here?"

Rinwell responded as if waking from a dream.

"What are you doing? Buildin' a book fort?"

Rinwell remained in her celebratory pose, shifting her gaze to see who else could be in the room with her and Hootle. The face that greeted her seemed exasperated at the massive mounds of books.

"Oh, Law. What are you doing here?"

"What...? Well, uh, I just happened to be in the area on a job."

"Uh-huh, is that right?"

In response to Law's insistence that he was only here by chance, Rinwell made a big show of acting like she didn't care. She'd grown more strategic since they last met.

"I went to the trouble of dropping by. Couldn't you at least act a little bit happy to see me?"

Thinking he was being strung along, Law cleared his throat and cast his gaze over her desk. He couldn't even begin to guess how long it'd take to finish reading that staggering mound of books. Longer than he'd ever be alive, that's for sure.

"So you've just kept yourself locked up in here? How do you not get bored?"

"Easy! I get new insights and knowledge with each page I read. And just look at all the pages in all these books. It's like I'm surrounded by mounds and mounds of treasure."

Rinwell raised both arms and gestured around the room. Massive rows of bookshelves were lined up like so many walls. And every shelf was stuffed to the brim with books. Some came with the Renans, while others were Dahnan books from before the Renan subjugation. Rinwell's eyes sparkled with excitement and euphoria.

"Hoot..."

"Hootle's exasperated too. Don't you ever get tired from all of this?"

"Not really. But the book I'm reading now is a little tough."

"Wow. So there are books that even you struggle with..."

It was a frank compliment without a trace of irony. Rinwell was caught off guard by the honesty.

"It's n-not like it's HARD, per se. But it's a Dahnan book, so the writing is really archaic."

Rinwell's speech quickened, as if trying to hide something.

"I mean, in the old days Dahnans had different dialects, which varied from place to place."

"Even though nowadays Dahnans and Renans speak the same language, huh?"

Law's voice sounded distant.

The Renans had come from another world to invade Dahna, yet they'd always spoken the same language. In fact, this was because they'd been created from Dahnans. The ones who created them—the Helganquil—likely had a language of their own, but either the Renans physically couldn't speak it or the Helganquil thought that having a shared language would help the Renans rule over the Dahnans. That was Rinwell's hypothesis. And then, over 300 years of rule, many languages and dialects disappeared. With the exception of the one still in use today.

But that was all ancient history now. Law's eyes turned back to Rinwell's desk. He spotted something besides books. It was the dried-up remains of a half-eaten meal still on its plate. And the last traces of some sort of drink at the bottom of a cup. This could only mean...
"Wait a minute. When was the last time you ate something? Or for that matter, the last time you slept?"

"Now that you mention it... I'm not quite sure. It's always dark in here, so it's hard to judge time."

Rinwell awkwardly smiled. Law scratched his head and muttered under his breath, still loud enough to be heard.

"Sheesh. I take my eyes off you for one second and you end up like this."

"Seriously? I don't see how this is any of your—"

Rinwell and Law having a conversation.

"Hoot-HOOOOT!"

Hootle interrupted with a rare hoot of protest. He glared at Rinwell, wings flapping intensely.

"See, even Hootle's worried about you. Just get something in your stomach and go to sleep already."

"Ugh, you two... Okay, okay."

Two against one. Seeming to recognize she was at a disadvantage, Rinwell nodded begrudgingly.

***

As the morning sun rose from the other side of the mountains, a long, crooked shadow was cast by the light illuminating the city. People were out and about in the streets, even at this early hour. Merchants bustled around, setting up their stalls for the day. Even at a glance, Dahnans and Renans were recognizable by their clothing. And then there were the enormous armored soldiers, whose silvery garb glistened in the morning light. The residents moved about without showing the slightest hint of fear for one another.

Law sat on the steps leading down to the street from the palace, gazing absentmindedly over the scene that stretched before him.

It was the same as ever.

Menancia. With Viscint at its center. The only place in the world where Dahnans and Renans lived together as equals. Menancia had achieved racial harmony even before the Dahnans were liberated. Now a year later the city was seen as a pioneer.

"I wonder if Ulzebek can be like that too someday."

The radiant city was the inverse of the many problems experienced in other areas. Only a year earlier the Dahnans had been slaves to the Renans. Law himself had played a role in bringing down that system. But it was too soon to expect everything to change. Law narrowed his eyes at the brightness of the dawn.

"So this is where you were."

He raised his head to see Rinwell peering down at him.

"You're awake already?"

"When I woke up, it was morning and you were gone. I thought you'd left or something. Talk about a shock!"

Her tone sounded somewhat like a reproach. But standing there, she seemed relieved to have found Law.

"As if I'd leave like that. 'Sides, you NEED to get proper rest."

It was hard to tell if he was speaking from genuine concern or just making up an excuse. She was used to this kind of behavior. Rinwell sat down beside him without saying a word. After staring in the same direction for some time, she opened her mouth.

"Thanks."

"No prob."

Silence again. The two listened to the bustling sounds of the streets.

Law sensed something and turned to the side, only to find Rinwell staring at him.

Was she waiting for him to say something else? Illuminated by the morning sun, Rinwell's face looked somehow different than usual. Suddenly Law's throat tightened.

"Oh, th-that's right, I've got a delivery."

He averted his eyes and searched through his pockets. He didn't see how Rinwell responded. He couldn't.

"A delivery?"

"Yeah, this."

He thrust forward his hand, holding an envelope.

"A letter?"

"Yeah. From Alphen and Shionne."

"Shionne?!"

Her voice rose as she snatched the envelope from Law. She opened it, no longer even taking notice of him.

Fed up with her behavior, Law wanted to mutter a complaint. But he couldn't help but smile as he watched her fervently read the letter. 

Whatever.

Rinwell and Law having a conversation.

At the end of the day, this was just how they were. No matter what might happen, this was where they were right now.

Law continued to watch until she finished reading.

Hootle, who'd been sleeping inside Rinwell's hood, opened his beak wide and let out a yawn. And then he went right back to sleep.

null

TALES OF ARISE

Challenge the Fate That Binds You

On the planet Dahna, reverence has always been given to Rena, the planet in the sky, as a land of the righteous and divine. Stories handed down for generations became truth and masked reality for the people of Dahna. For 300 years, Rena has ruled over Dahna, pillaging the planet of its resources

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