shiraume_fic: (Cetera: Tezuka - Cetera)
[personal profile] shiraume_fic
A Prince of Tennis fanfiction. Fantasy AU, drama/romance. Rated R (M) overall. Multiple pairings. 50,000+ words total. Originally written 11/20/2004 - 7/18/2006, with ongoing revisions.

This part belongs to one of the backstory sub-arc, Ripples, and takes place a few centuries before the events in the main story. Please be advised that there is a mention of major character death in this part.

Et Cetera: Ripples by Shiraume


01. Yanagi Renji


Yanagi sometimes wondered what had made Inui Sadaharu so pessimistic, so detached, even as a child. It was true many things set Inui apart: his birth, his upbringing, his choice of academic discipline. Inui's family was old and wealthy, and very well-respected, yet had chosen to live among the Humans rather than in Heda with the rest of the Cetera elites. So Inui was born and raised in the Human world unlike Yanagi and the rest of their elite peers. All Cetera were expected to keep open communication with other Cetera, and visit Heda several times a year, if not more, for that very reason. Inui had few friends and rarely voiced his inner thoughts and feelings even to them, and he scarcely visited Heda once a year.

Yanagi, like all other Cetera children, had accepted the ancient maxim that the Gods created Cetera to help all living things, that Cetera represented the Gods' love and mercy for the World. The idea had been so deeply rooted in the heart of Cetera culture, so often repeated that no one ever thought to question it. Inui, for his part, evinced little interest in anything outside his own studies.

Inui’s indifference to Cetera's divine purpose had surprised Yanagi time to time growing up. In fact, for the longest time, Yanagi was convinced the only thing Inui cared about in his life was his research. But the love for research and learning was what bound the two of them closer than anyone else. And he’d naively believed it was a bond that would last all their life. Unfortunately for both of them, reality interfered before they even reached majority.

Near the time the two of them were to take the Mage certification exam, Heda was in a state of great political unrest. His parents, deciding further contact with the increasingly ostracized Inui family was unwise, forbade him from associating with the Inui heir. Not permanently, his parents explained to him; if they waited, once the tumults died down, and the Council was no longer on the edge and keen to root out undesirable elements, everything would be all right. Until then, Inui family would have blessing from no one, least of all the Council, and associating with their only son would jeopardize Yanagi's own future. True to their prediction, Inui Sadaharu was denied a place in the Academy, and thus any hopes of attaining the status of an Archmage. It was the last straw. If there had been any doubt the Inui family, once so respected among even the scholars, had been disgraced, this cemented it. Rather than waiting for a chance to reapply, Inui sought instead a contract with Human cities. That much, Yanagi could understand and even sympathize with; to Inui, the top research student in all of Heda, such attack on his pride wouldn't have allowed him to stay, or stoop to reapply.

However, even now Yanagi couldn't understand why Inui accepted the contract with Pyris of all places. Pyris had unusually rapid turnover rate of Mages due to frequent conflicts. If Inui wanted to work in the Human world, there were other, safer places.

One cold, starry night, several centuries ago, the two of them had been looking at the constellations from the roof of Fuji's new home in Hessedi. The sky of Hessedi was midnight black, not the variation of blue and violet seen from Heda. The stars should have been farther away in Hessedi; after all, Heda was in the sky, closest to the heavens. But that night in Hessedi, Yanagi felt the stars closer than ever.

"Do you think the stars remember how the World began?" Yanagi had asked, though he could't remember what had brought on the question.

"Why would they want to?" Inui returned.

"The Gods kindled the stars in heaven," Yanagi began.

"...To light the way for the children of the World," Inui finished. Any Cetera child could recite the story of creation by heart. "Did they ask to?"

"What?" Yanagi turned to look at Inui. Inui's eyes were fixed on the distant stars, and did not look at him.

"The stars did not ask to be created, or given purpose," Inui explained. Neither did we.

"All living things need a purpose," Yanagi argued. Inui snorted.

"Animals live just fine without a purpose. At least, without any other purpose than to live and procreate. It's the Humans and Cetera that search for it," Inui paused, closing his eyes. "Or rather, Humans do. Cetera don't even bother with that much."

"Ours is to help all life, to serve this World."

"Is that what we do?"

Struck by the strange tone, Yanagi remained silent.

"Was our brand of help ever asked for? We Cetera cling to the idea of helping others, because otherwise our existence oppresses us," Inui said at last, turning to study Yanagi's face. "Our long existence laden with equally long memories."

"Others see our long life as a blessing from the Gods," Yanagi pointed out, and saw Inui's lips twitch briefly. Inui reached out with a hand to touch Yanagi's cheek. The frank tenderness in Inui's face took him by surprise, but to his disappointment, Inui's gentle expression soon waned to one of mixed bitterness and distant longing.

"It is our curse to drown in our memories, because we spend so much time of our long lives merely lost in pleasant dreams."

Yanagi did not remember what he had wanted to say to that, because Inui kissed him then. It was a gentle and bittersweet kiss, one that awakened a sense of faint longing in him, though for what he couldn't tell. Neither spoke again until Fuji came up to invite them inside. The next day, Yanagi returned to Heda, and Inui to Pyris, and they never spoke of that night again.

A year later, in the City of Pyris, Inui Sadaharu was killed by the Humans on whose behalf he'd been negotiating peace.

Fin




( Notes on Cetera Universe: The People )

The world of Cetera has three major kinds of intelligent beings: Humans, Sprites, and Cetera. (Animals are not considered to possess a comparable level of intelligence.) Humans are much like us, with a lifespan under a hundred years, and are the most numerous in the World. Humans possess no Magic, with only rare exceptions (the Human Mages). Sprites range from little winged fairies and Magical creatures to Unicorns, Dragons, and Elementals, and can have a vast range of appearances, characteristics, and lifespan. All Sprites possess Magic, though their Magic tends to be extremely varied and wildly different from that of Humans or Cetera.

The Cetera are indistinguishable from Humans in appearance, but have strong Magic, with lifespan of 1,500 years. Although the Cetera have a capital city in a flying landmass called Heda, only the wealthy elites have permanent residence in the capital itself. The rest, who reside in the Human world (often with contracts with cities and potentates), nonetheless pay visits to Heda often. Heda is also the seat of the High Council, which governs all Cetera. Because the Cetera possess powerful Magic, every Cetera must be thoroughly trained from early age, and even certified Mages are subject to strict rules and regulations regarding their usage of Magic. Misuse of Magic can result in severe consequences. For Cetera, intermarriage with other kinds (such as Humans or Sprites) is strictly forbidden, as a child from such a union is considered a serious misuse of Magic.

Dragons are considered Sprites by the Cetera standard but not their own. Like other extremely intelligent species of Sprites, Dragons disdain Cetera classifications and prefer to consider themselves their own people. Although Dragons, Unicorns, and Elementals are known for their extremely long life, their true lifespan is actually unknown, as there is no recorded instance of a natural death for any of them.
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