September 27, 2018

1.16 I'd Rather Be Wrong

IMPORTANT Author's Note: Hey everyone, this is very important, so please read up. The following chapter is FAR longer than any normal Factions chapter prior. This chapter is actually what I would define as a "connector" chapter into my other stories - predominantly: Where the Willow Walks. 
This chapter is NOT required for Factions-only readers. 
I repeat: this chapter is NOT required for Factions-only readers. 
The reason I'm saying this is because the main storylines for Factions does not (and will not) need this chapter to be comprehended nor furthered. So why is this chapter here, you might ask? This is one of the beautiful things of having a world that all my stories take place in. This chapter creates connections of world events that are currently ongoing (and have been hinted at in a previous chapter). These events are crucial, if not CENTRAL to the plot of Where the Willow Walks, however the perspective is coming from a Factions character, so that's why it's here and not there. It WILL be there in the future, which leads me into my next point:
Also noteworthy of this and not many people know/possibly aren't aware: Factions and Willow are on different points on the Timeline of Atalan currently, Atalan being the name of this world. Willow's chapters (currently) are in 810 of the Era of Prophecies; Factions is in the mid to late 800s of the Era of Prophecies; yes this does mean that what you're seeing now is the FUTURE of Willow; however before you get upset about "spoiler" potential, I hesitate to call any of it spoilers, and I'll explain why: 
As a writer who writes a world, I do not believe in spoilers. I believe that the more you read and the more you dig into my world, the more you'll know. Even in this case, the glimpse you'll get into Willow will not tell you how these events/people/places/themes came to be. I do not lean on any "big reveals" for any of my stories because all four of them sit on different points of the timeline, and very truthfully, the exact year of Factions is not entirely set in stone currently, as my timeline is being adjusted. The exact year of Factions and Reapers might change slightly, but it won't change anything just the numbers before each section. This is because my stories go (in order of present day sections from oldest to youngest) in this order: Willow, Nightingale, Reapers, Factions. The things you're reading in Factions is the furthest in the future my current timeline is. 
I apologize if my view on spoilers and the way they're handled does not line up with what you hoped or prefer, but that is why I'm explaining that this chapter is ENTIRELY skip-able, but I should warn you that not every chapter like this will be in the future. I can make no promises about any future chapters in any of my stories, but I can say this one is safe to be skipped if you truly wish to not be "spoiled" of future Willow content or if you're really only here to read Factions. If you have any questions or hesitations, feel free to message or email me on any of my usual forums, or on my Tumblr. I love to answer questions of any variety! Don't be a stranger!



I always thought I knew better than you.


Nan told me you would be my mentor, since I was so keen on being a part of the Knowledge Circles and you once held a prestigious position there. It was my life goal to best you.


“Stein, maybe you should adjust your foot-”
“No, I’ve got this!” 







I didn’t need anybody’s help. That was what I told myself. I didn’t need my grandparents, I didn’t need my sister, and I certainly didn’t need my father. He preferred my sister anyways, that's why he always pawned me off onto you as often as he could.



I knew how he talked about me when he thought I couldn't hear. I don't know why you defended me. I wasn't normal and it was obvious. Everyone danced around it.
None of them wanted to deal with me because of it. I was convinced you didn’t either.


So I told myself I didn't need anyone else.
Of course that never seems to pan out well for me, so why can’t I just accept that you were right?
Was it because I was secretly jealous of a girl I never met? 


Maybe because you gave me more attention and investment than my dad ever did, but I hated admitting that.


“I can do it myself!”
“Alright, then.” 




Or maybe it was because I just needed to prove myself? To prove I was worthy?



“See! I was RIGHT! You were wrong and I was right!”
“That’s good, Stein.”
Yet through it all you never snapped at me, not even once. Not even when I really deserved it.



“What do you mean ‘that’s good.’ That’s not good for you!”
“No, no, that’s very good. I like being wrong.” 


“No one likes being wrong.”
“Well I do, because being right doesn’t make me happy. I like being wrong sometimes. It means I’m still learning, and sometimes… it’s good to be wrong.” 




It was you who was right all along, but I was too prideful and stubborn to admit it.




All of those times I fought you.


All those curfews you set that I broke.


All the times I told you that you couldn’t tell me what to do. 



All the offered comfort that I would shove away.


All those phone calls I didn’t answer.
You told me not to go into the Knowledge Circles now; I called you jaded and bitter for it. You told me what they did to you... to your daughter... 





I was just so tired of people telling me I couldn't do something or that I wouldn't be able to achieve anything.
I just... wanted to prove everyone wrong.



And that everyone included you, even though it shouldn't have.
Even though there was never a point where you didn't believe in me.
You didn’t fight me on it. I expected you to fight me on it. Everyone always fought me on things I wanted.




Why didn’t you fight me on it?
Are you disappointed in me?
I know everyone else is.



I certainly am.
I just wish I could drop my pride enough to tell you I’m sorry, but it feels like my pride is the last thing I have left. If I drop that now, what will I even have?





No home.
No family.
Nothing at all.

~~~~~~

Outskirts of Midnight Hollow, Era of Prophecies 874


Stein’s feet dug into the ground as he hastily cast a ward to shield him from an oncoming spell, only narrowly catching it in time and setting him off balance.


He turned sharply and continued running. He wasn’t proficient enough to teleport himself on the run, and he’d already spent far too much of his magical energy defending himself to even try summoning a portal. His pursuers were skilled - it was their job. They were the grunts who guard the library. All they know how to do is fight.


Robert told him they never used to exist. The library hadn’t needed guards before Irena rose. He had warned him so many times to not enter the circles when everything was falling apart as it was.
Yet Stein had to do it anyways to prove something, and now he’d almost gotten another person killed for it.


Now it was looking like he was going to die for it. The next spell hit his back, catapulting him forward through the brush.
It didn’t even hurt, yet. He knew it would soon. That was the problem with spells.
Nothing was hurting, but he had no control over his limbs, they were still ringing with the static of the magic.


Stein watched them wind up another spell.
He wouldn’t even get a trial. Irena didn’t do those anymore.
Stein hadn’t joined up with the Knowledge Circles to follow her. He joined up because all he ever wanted was to know why. He wanted the answer to all the millions of questions he hadn’t yet formulated.


That’s what the Knowledge Circles were supposed to be, but Irena twisted them, and now it’s all about obedience, just like Robert warned him.
No one questions if what they’re doing is wrong - killing him without trial. Experimenting on all of those spirits…


How had he disassociated himself for this long?
Now he was paying for it.
At least Soliana was safe... for now.



Stein clenched his eyes shut as the world lit up, yet nothing came?
His eyes opened to watch the spell disperse into a ward around him. He had no energy left to cast it so who…



Robert.
“Mind your business, Egan, or else we’ll put you both down.”


It was hard for Stein to keep his eyes open and pain began to radiate in his back.


Robert didn’t appear phased, and instead he smirked. “Curious. You seem to forget where you are, Thing-One and Thing-Two, so please, allow me to inform you. You stand precisely three and two-quarter meters beyond the boundary of Midnight Hollow… an area which, need I even remind you, you shouldn’t be. So, you can turn, leave, and keep your lives, or you can pursue and die while threatening a war for your dear madame. I’ll give you ten seconds to decide.”


The guards exchanged a look, and Robert looked casually at his watch.
“And… time! Thoughts, gentlemen?”
They began building up their magical pool.


Robert shook his head slowly with a heavy sigh before taking his own stance and stretching. “Ah well, c’est la vie, trou du cul.”


Robert always made magic look easy, but he was gifted that way. Being able to cast a ward was at the top of Stein’s abilities, but for his mentor it was child’s play.


Stein wanted to help, and he tried to force himself upward, only to have a hand of gentle magic push him back down. “Save your strength, son. I’ve got this one.”


There was never a doubt about that, but this wasn’t his mess. This was Stein’s. Robert always had to clean up after him, and Stein hated it.


Stein wasn’t sure when the fight had ended, his vision had begun blurring in with the pain that echoed in his shoulders and knees.


His body was moved and he squinted towards the direction that pulled him. “Come on, up we go Stein.”
It wasn’t just the pain that made Stein’s eyes wet. “I-I’m sorry, Robert.”


Forever steady, Robert adjusted Stein onto his shoulder and gave him a warm smile, not something Stein expected. “Don’t be. I’m so glad you’re here, Stein. Let’s go get you patched up.”

~~~~~~

The God of Magic's Realm


























~~~~~~

“Hold still please. This… is probably going to hurt a little bit.” Olivia’s hands hesitated just below the spot where Stein had been struck.



Who would’ve thought he’d be laying with his face down in a mattress within the realm of the God of Magic after running for his life over the past few days? Maybe it was Soliana rubbing off on him, but he was developing a very strong distaste for the gods that left him feeling far too uneasy being where he was.


Olivia had been working on healing him, and she’d done a miraculous job so far getting out most of it. There was just a little left to it, and she started a slow pressure there that began to heat up his back.


Stein closed his eyes when a horrible pain rushed through him and he immediately jolted, hissing through his teeth. “A little bit?” He said through his clenched teeth.



She smiled sheepishly at him and shrugged. “Well if I told you it was going to hurt a lot you would’ve braced and I never would’ve been able to work it out of your back…”
The pain continued to throb, but it grew less and less until Stein could release the breath he had been holding, “ouch.”


“Here.” She handed him a cup with a delicate hand. “This should help with the rest of your pain. The worst is out now.”
Stein pulled himself into a sitting position and took the cup gratefully, swallowing its contents before setting it to the side. After a moment of hesitation and catching his breath he spared a glance at her. “Thank you.”


Olivia smiled anxiously, “of course.” She was likely helping him because of Robert, but it still surprised him.
She should hate him, given everything. He had gone to work under Irena even after knowing what happened to her. In his mind, he had believed that there had to be some good people left in the Knowledge Circles, researching for the sake of knowledge. He had intended to join them and not partake in the darker side of it.



Olivia drummed her fingers together and it was obvious she had more to say. Perhaps he should brace for the worst? “How bad was it?” She swallowed and straightened, “the library, I mean?”



Stein couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eyes. “It was…” He took in a long breath and swallowed, too. No point in lying, she’d find out about it sooner or later in her line of work. “Brutal.”


“Oh…” It wasn’t the answer she hoped to hear - but who would actually want to hear news of a slave revolt? Seldom do those ever end well in the Circles. “I see.”


He kept his head down. He was good at that, wasn’t he? It was how he had been able to avoid the entire slave-ring that was right beneath his nose while he worked under Irena. If he didn’t see it, it wasn’t his problem.


Yet how could he look a former slave in the eyes and tell her that all the friends she had while trapped there were likely dead or to be executed to make a point?
Especially when she was Robert’s daughter?



Olivia slumped down onto the bed next to him, looking forward in thought. “I’m so sorry, that’s not an easy position to be put into.”


Stein gaped at her. She was unreal to be apologizing to him; he almost wanted to be angry about it.
Yet before he could say anything, she continued. “We had been trying to release tensions there for a while now - my husband and the Guardians, that is - but it was just…” Her hands came in front of her, reaching and he knew exactly what she was trying to say.


“You couldn’t ask the slaves to tolerate anymore and the masters wouldn’t listen.” He answered her.
“Exactly.” Olivia nodded, and her eyes examined his face. “I’m just glad you made it out alright.” She looked over to the doorway and back. “We all are.”



She patted his shoulder before pulling herself standing and heading for the door. “I’ll give you some time to rest, Lord Majnun wishes to speak with you soon about getting you out of this mess.”
Stein had to ask, he needed to know why. “Olivia, wait.”


Olivia turned and looked at him questioningly.
“Why aren’t you angry with me after everything…?” It was difficult, but he tried to watch her face carefully.


She was a surprisingly expressive woman, just as Robert had always described her when Stein would ask. He hoped to be able to read if she was actually angry with him or not.
Her face reflected genuine confusion and she spoke softly: “why in the world would I be angry with you? Because you were a slave to Irena?”


Robert must have told her that to lessen the betrayal. Stein couldn’t fault him for that, but instead he shook his head. Why did he feel the need to atone now? What could he even say to her to justify it? Nothing. There were no justifications good enough in slavery. “I… I wasn’t… I-I… I went willingly, Olivia. I worked under Irena willingly. I was just… I was one of…I wasn’t a slave!”


Stein expected her face to change, yet she patiently waited for him to finish - an unphased look in her eyes. She crossed the small room and sat down again, quickly wrapping her arms around his shoulders in a soft embrace that he hadn’t expected. Just as quickly, she pulled back with a gentle, readable face. 


She wasn’t even slightly angry. “Perhaps you entered willingly, Stein, but tell me this: if you truly weren’t a slave, then why did you have to run for your life to leave her services?” She held his gaze and he resisted looking away in shame. “Just some food for thought. Now get some rest.”


There was a knock on the doorframe. “How’s it going in here?” Robert leaned into the room.
“He’s all patched up now.” Olivia smiled warmly at Stein and he still hadn’t registered her kindness. “I’ll leave you to it.”
She pulled herself off the bed and made for the doorway as Robert stepped in.
“Merci, Lili.” Robert took her hand and squeezed it.


“Oui.” Olivia grinned and kissed his cheek. “Was Kefka out there by chance?”
Robert smirked, “as if he’d have anywhere else to be.”
She laughed in return, shaking her head as they released hands. “I did give him an errand.”
“Yes, and I’m sure that kept him busy for all of one minute.”


Olivia was still laughing as she turned to look back at Stein, “if anything still hurts after a bit, just let me know.”
Stein nodded and was even able to smile a bit - her mannerisms were just strangely contagious that way. “Thank you.”
“Of course, Stein.”


“You rang?” Kefka Keeper, one of the infamous God of Magic's sons and Olivia's husband, leaned only partially into view, raising his eyebrows towards Olivia.





Robert rolled his eyes with a smirk as he moved over and sat down beside Stein, causing Stein to grin.
Robert let out a breath, his face growing more serious. “I’m so glad you got out of the Library before things got too bad.”


Stein nodded, his mind wandered before the question he’d meant to ask came back around to the front of his mind. “How did you know? Nan said you sent her a letter saying I would be on my way, but you would’ve had to send that before I even left… How…?”


Robert looked at him with an amused face, “what, did you think I was going to send you off into Irena’s grasp without keeping tabs on you? We were worried for you. We wanted to make sure after all the tension between Majnun and Irena that you weren’t dragged in.”


Stein shook his head, “I sorry I ever left in the first place. You were right, I shouldn’t have-”


Robert gripped his shoulder firmly. “It doesn’t matter anymore, you’re out now. You’re safe. That’s what matters to me.”
It was strangely relieving to hear him say that, and Stein hung his head with an unsteady breath. “I’m not, though… I’m still tied to her magic.”


Robert tipped Stein’s head up, “we’re working on it right now with Majnun. After everything Irena pulled with Lili, she’d be stupid to try and test him.”
“What about Sol-?”


Robert was already nodding. “Her as well as Chrys and Is, too. We can’t be too safe here. There’s a lot of chaos that’s about to ensue, and we’re trying to keep everyone covered. I’ll admit it would be easier if they were in Midnight Hollow or at least in Monte Vista...”
Stein cracked a slight smile, “are you going to convince them to move, because I sure won’t be able to.”


Robert laughed. “No, I know better than to try with them.”
Stein smiled, but it was hard to keep his thoughts from sinking into something darker. “You don’t need to do this for me, I don’t want to put you or your family at any further risk.”


Robert had already begun shaking his head, “Stein, you are my family.” His brow was furrowed as he responded. “You always have been and you always will be. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, I will always be here to support you.” He wasn’t even angry as Stein always figured he would be.


Stein leaned heavily into his hands, embarrassed by the way his eyes blurred over.
He could feel Robert’s hand rub his back and that only egged out the flow of more emotions he hadn’t wished to face again.
Robert had been right the entire time.
Stein had never been so happy to be wrong.

~~~~~~

< Previous Chapter | Chapter List | Next Chapter >


French Translation:
“Ah well, c’est la vie, trou du cul.” - "Ah well, such is life, assholes." 
“Merci, Lili.” - "Thanks, Lili." 
"Oui," - "Yes" (an intended "of course, but Olivia's French is rusty at best). 


SimNaNo Count
Words: 3,474
Words (total): 7,015
Pictures: 114
Pictures (total): 235 ⭐

4 comments:

  1. The entirety of this chapter had my fangirlingness in ovERDRIVE

    God man Stein being a stUBBORN kid, let Rob the perfect parent SOOTHE YOU. I swear I shouting almost the entire chapter "YOU'RE LOVED STEIN. BELIEVE IT." and he kept ignoring me till the end.
    All of this I can barely even breathe, just scrolling through it all over again.
    Being in Willow and now seeing Robert as he is NOW had me absolutely flipping. God i ADORE HIM. LOOK AT HIM GO. PROTECT YOUR SON. I had absolute shivers, like Rob is unbelievably badass, but he's also a complete dork. I mean "Thing One, Thing Two" listing out specific measurements SNORT. But he's an epic dork.

    Olivia and Kefka in the background?? afisjalkjalkgja KO'ed yes very much all the subtle touches and the ROSE. My god Kefka you incarnate the Knight in shining armor and Olivia loves it and so do I.
    Also Olivia is too PURE for this world. I'm not kidding WHAT THE HELL. And she means ALL OF IT wholeheartedly. Woman you are too much. Thank god you have Kefka to care for you or else i'd be in constant fear of people using you.

    Hehe it really felt like a redemption for Stein here. Like a COME BACK INTO THE FOLDS of the family. Olivia may be Rob's daughter, but you're also Rob's son and Olivia basically treats you like a brother like SWALLOW IT BOY, YOU'RE LOVED.

    aoisjflaksj the ending really hit. I feel for him, a lot, and while he's sobbing his way to the end of this chapter, it feels like really really good tears. Productive tears. Good emotional tears.

    what a sweet chap I'm still fangirling HARD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had this beautiful reply written to you a few nights ago and internet totally wiped on me in the middle of it so it's lost into cyberspace. Just my luck!

      YES! I'm so happy! This was such an emotional ride to get to write! Stein really was a stubborn kid, and I feel for Rob having to raise him but Rob is perfect incarnate when it comes to parenting and he's crazy patient. I wish that boy would just BELIEVE he's loved. Rob's been trying for AGES to get him to see it!

      Willow is like icing on the cake. Robert is my precious boi! <3 <3 <3 You worded it best though like an EPIC dork. Dork of EPIC proportions. Badass but still dorky in all the best ways.

      aldsgj;adslkgja my COUPLE. My SHIP. They SAIL off into the sunset and it makes me so unbelievably gooey.

      Yes! I'm so glad people are feeling a wee bit of redemption for Stein. He's got a good heart, so long as he uses it properly. It's about time he slowly got the realization that he needs to shape up!
      Good and productive tears indeed. Let's hope he does something with it. My fingers AND toes are crossed for him, but I have high hopes, I do.

      <3 <3 <3 Thank youuuuu! Let's fangirl together!

      Delete
  2. Beautiful chapter. ROBERT! I love him so much.

    At least for me, I don't see it as a spoiler. I think it's more like a gleam at the future, I can see what kind of man Robert is going to become and that Chrys and Isidore are together. But how did those things happen? It just makes me more intrigued with the story.

    Olivia is an adorable character, worthy daughter of Robert.

    I like how Stein's character developed throughout the chapter, It's interesting to see how he came to be who he is and how people really aren't what they show at first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Haha, I was hoping you'd like Rob, and I directed you to Willow RIGHT in time for you to get the full impact of this chapter! That pleases me greatly!

      I'm so glad you didn't see it as one. I have my note up there just in case; I know a lot of people said it's unnecessary and they're probably right, but I know some might not like being "spoiled" about certain facts of the story but unfortunately that can't be helped for some of my chapters. It's a hazard of having multiple stories at different points of the timelines...
      I love it most of the time, but times like these is when things get a little hairier.

      I'm super glad that you're of the same mentality I am with it! I'm more of the "so you know something happened, but you don't know the how or the why, so that's where the surprises come!" And believe it or not, I think I got quite a few great surprises still in store. ;)

      lsdkjgalsdk I LOVE Olivia. She's like Robert's mini-me and it's freaking perfect. They're my absolute *favorite* father/daughter duo I've ever written, if that says ANYTHING about how much I love them.

      Stein was so overdue for a chapter from his perspective completely. He's been painted so badly previously and I felt bad that no one got to even glimpse at the poor boy who he is behind his mask.

      <3 Thank you for making my day!

      Delete