For those of you just joining us, Heaven's Requiem is a novelization/retelling of the PS1 RPG Valkyrie Profile, following the A ending story path, so obviously spoilers abound.
For those of you already familiar with this tale from FFO, a little more explanation is in order. As indicated by the thread title, this isn't a repost, this is a revision. The writing of so much of the story unfortunately doesn't hold up well years later, and there were structural and pacing problems as well. Therefore, I'm writing it anew, with a refined style and a streamlined, altered structure that aims to trim some fat and fix certain issues that the first version had. I hope you'll stick around and enjoy it even if you already read and enjoyed that first version.
Prologue - Requiem
She knew it wasn’t a good idea to linger too long at the stream, but Platina couldn’t help doing it anyway.
She had her reasons, of course – she was worn out from a long day of ceaseless laboring at every task her parents set her to, and thirsty, and besides, it was just really pretty here. The sun had come out for a few hours today, and though its light was waning now, it was still a pleasure to watch the dimming rays play gently on the water. This was Platina’s favorite time of year, when the sun began to show itself more and more, bringing with it tantalizing hints of spring. The air was still chilly enough to require warm clothing, but the snow was beginning to melt and she could just see bits of green here and there, poking their way up from the softening earth. So even though certain punishment awaited her at home, she found herself unable to resist sitting for a moment after helping herself to some of the frigid water, just to watch the shimmer and sparkle of the pale light on the surface.
“Oh, but I’ve got to hurry!” With a reluctant last glance at the stream, she rose quickly and lifted her bucket in both hands. Her aching muscles protested at the weight of the water, but she gritted her teeth and ignored the pain. It wasn’t that far, she consoled herself, not that far at all back to her house. Before she knew it, she’d be back already, it wouldn’t take long.
She trudged up the path, panting as the slightly uphill incline robbed her of breath and made her heart work harder from the sheer effort. She didn’t dare stop to catch her breath, though, since she’d lost too much time already. Her own fault, certainly, and she knew it. The optimism she’d bolstered her spirits with as she left the stream faded in the harsh glare of reality – the reality of a longer walk back than she’d thought. She felt ready to pass out as she crossed the stone bridge next to the mayor’s house, and her pounding heart drowned out the noise of the watermill. Still, she couldn’t stop, not now. She was almost there; just a little bit more and she’d be home.
She caught sight of a familiar face as she finally made it past the bridge and onto more level ground. Just beyond the mayor’s house, Lucian was sitting with his back against the tree that marked the division between the mayor’s property and her own parents’ home. His normally pale face was sweaty and pink, his blond hair stuck to his forehead. No doubt he’d been working in Coriander’s meager fields all day with the other village men. He didn’t seem to notice her at first, but her slow, trudging footsteps and the splashing of the water soon alerted him to her presence, and he looked up as she approached.
“Platina!” He got up and hurried over to her. “Do you need any help with that? I’ve been waiting for you – I finished working a little while ago and I thought we could spend some time together before dinner.”
Yes, please, was what she wanted to say, but she bit it back – her parents, especially her mother, hated Lucian, and would punish her all the worse if they knew she let him help her with chores like this. It also didn’t help that the feeling was mutual, and if one of them came out just as Lucian got the bucket to the front door, there would be shouting, and she couldn’t stand that. So she shook her head. “No thank you, I’m fine. It’s not much further anyway. I’m sorry you waited, but I can’t stay, I have to get back.”
“You’re sure I can’t carry it for you the rest of the way?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you, but I have to go.” If she sounded impatient, Lucian either didn’t notice or understood why, and either way he said nothing as she moved past him, trying to hurry without spilling the bucket’s precious contents on the dirt.
The water did end up spilling, but not on the ground: in her haste and distraction, she’d neglected to watch where she was going, and ended up colliding with someone. Water sloshed over the side of the bucket, and landed on the dark clothing of the man she’d bumped into. Platina’s mouth fell open in horror; it felt like she was watching it in slow motion, yet could do nothing about it. Even worse, she could see, out of the corner of her eye, her mother standing in the doorway of their house.
“Stupid girl!” Platina cringed and ducked her head. “How dare you splash water on a guest! Apologize at once!”
“I – I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”
The man merely grunted and walked away, followed by another man in identical clothing. Her mother yanked the bucket away from her once they were gone, and ended up splashing Platina and herself with it. She cursed as the icy liquid soaked into her dress. “Useless slut! I keep telling you not to fill it so full! That’s why it spills so easily!”
Tears pricked at Platina’s eyes. “Mother, I – I’m not a – a –”
“Oh no? You think I’m naïve, is that it? You think I don’t know what girls your age get up to with boys?” She slapped the side of Platina’s head with her free hand. “Don’t take me for a fool; I’m not as stupid as you! I know you still hang around with that Lucian and I know what boys like him want from girls! But I also know that he wouldn’t be so keen on you still if he’d already gotten it, so at least I never had to worry about you turning up with a swollen belly and another useless mouth to feed. You’d have been thrown out on your backside if that had ever happened, mark my words!”
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. “Mother, we’re not – we’re not like – Lucian isn’t –” She was cut off by another slap to her head, one that made her ears ring and the tears start to drip down her face.
“Stop arguing with me! What makes you think you can show me such disrespect, especially when you can’t even be on time fetching water? You dawdled at the stream again, didn’t you? And don’t bother lying; you can’t even do that right!”
“I – I’m sorry…”
“Sorry doesn’t turn back the clock! Get inside, you worthless girl, and stay out of my sight until dinner is ready!”
Platina obeyed, and kept her head bowed so her mother wouldn’t see the tears on her cheeks. She was expecting it, so she barely stumbled when her mother gave her a hard shove from behind. She didn’t know whether it was as punishment for her other transgressions, or because she was walking too slowly… but in the end, it didn’t really matter, did it? She held her sobs in until her bedroom door was safely closed behind her, and then muffled them with her pillow.
Would things ever get better? From here, it certainly didn’t seem like it.
The moon hadn’t fully risen in the sky when Lucian stole across the bridge towards Platina’s house. The watermill drowned out the noise of his boots on the rough-hewn stone, but as he neared his destination, he slowed his steps in an attempt to quiet them. His stomach fluttered with nervous energy, and he hated slowing down, but there wasn’t really any other option, not if he didn’t want to get caught. He crept behind the tree he’d sat against earlier, and made his way to the back of the house. He pushed the slightly ajar window open as carefully as he could, but it still made a quiet creaking noise.
It was loud enough to disturb Platina, or maybe she was a light sleeper. She mumbled something, and stirred, and then opened her eyes to look up at the source of the noise and the pale light seeping in. Platina blinked sleepily several times as the identity of her visitor registered, and then sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Lucian? What are you doing here? It’s late, isn’t it?”
“Shhhh.” Lucian leaned in and gently pulled her up to the windowsill. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t object, and rested her elbows on the wall. “Keep it down, and come out here. Come with me.”
“What? Why?” This was too weird to be reality, she decided, and yet it couldn’t be a dream either. Hers were never so vivid that she could feel the cold night air or the warmth of anyone’s hand. She shivered. “Is this some kind of game? I think we’re –” She yawned. “A little old for that, don’t you?”
“No, it’s not a game. Listen, I’ll explain it all, but we have to get out of here now, before your parents hear. There’s no time, we have to –”
The door burst open, and Platina’s mother stormed in. “You! What the hell are you – get your filthy hands off my daughter!”
“Platina, now!” Lucian yanked on her arms, and she tumbled out the window onto the ground beside him. She was too dazed to protest as he helped her up and took off running, her hand clutched in his so tightly it almost hurt. Her mother shouted after them, but she couldn’t make out the words and focused instead on not tripping over her own feet as she and Lucien dashed madly towards the woods at the edge of town.
“Lu – Lucian…” They were well into the sanctuary of the trees by now, or so it felt like, and her lungs and heart felt like they were about to burst or collapse from the strain. “Pl-please, let’s… st-stop and…” She let go of his hand and doubled over, gasping for breath.
“Of course, I… s-sorry…”
It took a few minutes for them to catch their breath, and Platina was afraid the whole time that the sound of their heavy breathing would alert someone or something to their presence. The forest remained quiet, though, and even though she strained her ears, she couldn’t hear any sound of pursuit from the village. They probably needed to get moving soon instead of lingering too much longer, but she wanted answers first before anything else.
“Lucian, will you explain to me now what this is all about? Why are we out here? I don’t understand.”
“Well… I…” Lucian hesitated, but Platina shook her head.
“Tell me! Please! You can’t just drag me out of bed in the middle of the night and then keep the reason from me! I’m scared… I want to go home!”
“Home?” Lucian stared at her incredulously. “Home? Platina, you – you don’t have a home anymore!”
“I saw those men that came out of your house today,” Lucian continued as she stared in shock, “and I recognized them immediately. They’ve been over at my house too, and the day after that, my little sister disappeared.”
Platina’s brow knit in confusion. “I thought your sister died from a disease.”
“Have you ever heard of a disease that makes your entire body vanish into thin air? Because I sure haven’t. And mine wasn’t the only house they’ve visited either – they’ve been to other ones in the village, and every time they did, someone went missing afterwards.”
“What – are they kidnappers?”
“Slavers.” Platina felt a chill run down her spine at the word, even though she was still warm from all the running. “The parents in the village, they’re selling their children into slavery. They’re only selling their daughters now, but eventually they’ll start in on their sons too.”
“That… that can’t be right. You must be mistaken.” Platina shook her head. “It – it’s been a hard winter, and there hasn’t been as much food – some adults died too…”
“I’m not wrong. It’s a pattern, Platina – haven’t you noticed it too? The hard winter is why they’re all disappearing, but not for the reason you think. It’s because people are selling their children just so they can buy more food for themselves. My sister wasn’t the first, and you wouldn’t have been the last. Think about it – hasn’t it seemed strange to you too?”
Platina opened her mouth to say something – but what came out was a sob, frightfully loud in the silent forest. She clapped her hands over her mouth to muffle the sound, but she couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Behind her eyes, a storm raged; what rained down were faces and voices, all the girls she’d known who one by one weren’t there anymore. Everything she’d missed or ignored was coming back to pelt her with the awful knowledge of what it all meant when taken together. You should have known, whispered a voice in her head, you should have known. All the clues were there, but you were too stupid to see them.
Lucian embraced her, and she buried her face in his shoulder as she cried. He didn’t say a word, just held her and stroked her hair a little. When at last the tears slowed and she was merely hiccupping instead of sobbing, he pulled back a little and wiped at her wet cheeks with his sleeve. He then took off his jacket and placed around her shoulders, for she had begun to shiver now that the heat from the dash into the woods had abandoned her.
“Th-thank you,” Platina whispered. “Wh-what now?”
Lucian took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Now we go wherever we want. When I saw those men coming out of your house, I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to let them take you away like they took my sister and all those other girls. So I saved a little bit of dinner, and stole what I could from the stores as I cleaned up, and packed a few other things…” He patted the small bag slung over his shoulder, which she could see now that his coat was off. “We should be able to get ourselves to a city, and then… and then we can start over. How about it? Do you – do you want to come with me?”
“Of course I do.” As if she could go back now, when she knew what was waiting there. As if she ever would. She forced a smile onto her face through her lingering tears. “I’ll go wherever you want, Lucian… anywhere at all.”
Lucian was relieved to hear that. Keeping hold of her hand, he began to walk through the forest again. They were silent, save for the sound of their footsteps, for fear that too much noise would draw unwelcome attention from the animals. The branches of the trees were still mostly bare, only a scant few having started to regain their foliage as spring edged closer, but they were so dense that they nevertheless blocked out much of the moonlight.
After a while, their walk began to slope uphill, and they had to stop frequently for breath. Their run into the woods had sapped much of their energy, and neither one had gotten much sleep, so they were teetering on the edge of exhaustion by the time the forest cleared and they reached the top of the hill just beyond its borders. One look at each other’s faces, and they knew it was the perfect time to rest, so they sat down and Lucian pulled out the small flask of water he’d been able to smuggle out of his house. They shared what was in it and then rested for a few minutes, letting their overheated bodies cool down again in the cold night air.
The moon had risen fully by now, and hung directly over their heads as they carefully made their way down the other side of the hill. So focused on their own feet as they tried to avoid sliding right down onto their backsides were they, that they didn’t notice what sort of place they had come to until they were at the very bottom of the slope.
“Oh…” Platina took a cautious step forward, then rushed further in. “It’s beautiful!”
A meadow filled with countless delicate white flowers spread out before them, the soft wind causing some of the tiny petals to float up into the air. They were almost glowing in the moonlight, and it felt as if winter’s frost had never touched this place, it was so green and full of life. Neither one of them could ever have imagined that such a valley could exist in their world.
“What do you think this place is? I – I never thought we’d find something like this when we left…”
“Hmmm. I don’t know.” Platina knelt beside a cluster of flowers and inhaled deeply. “It’s so pretty I almost think it’s… it might be… heaven?”
“I don’t think so. And you shouldn’t say things like that – it’s bad luck.”
“Sorry!” She giggled. “I didn’t know you were so superstitious, Lucian.” She plucked one of the flowers and tucked it into her hair, right behind her ear. “Look, isn’t it pretty?” She stood up and threw her arms out, then spun around in a circle a couple times. “It’s so beautiful here I almost want to cry.”
And then Lucian knew exactly why the sight of the flowers was making him so uneasy. Terror seized him, and he ran through the meadow towards Platina, ignoring her cry as he trampled so many in his haste. He yanked the flower out of her hair, and a few silver strands came with it – she cried out again, in pain this time.
“Platina, come on! We have to go! These flowers – they’re weeping lilies!”
“Weeping what? I’ve never heard of them…”
“Lilies! They’re poisonous – if we stay here and inhale the pollen, we’ll die! Come on!” He started to walk towards the other end of the meadow, but turned back when he didn’t hear Platina following him. “Plati –”
She wasn’t looking at him. All her attention was focused on the handful of lilies she held far too close to her face. “Lucian,” she asked him, in a voice that sent cold fear shooting through him straight to the bone, “do you think – do you think if I fell asleep here, would I just… slip away? Without any pain?”
“What? Platina –”
The flowers slid out of her hand, and if Lucian had been but a second slower in rushing back to her, she would have joined them on the ground. “Platina… Platina, come on, stay with me…” He patted her cheeks, trying to rouse her attention as her eyes started to close.
“I’m sorry, Lucian.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper. “I’m so sorry. But I just… I don’t think I can go on with you after all. Mother and Father… I tried to believe that one day they’d look kindly at me. But, but they sold me… and now all I can think about is how much of a fool I was for ever hoping they’d change their minds and love me.”
“Platina, no – you’re not –”
“Lucian, thank you. Thank you for being my friend all these years.” Platina’s lower lip trembled, and in the moonlight Lucian could see the tears clinging to her eyelashes. “I’m glad I had you by my side, I am. I just have too many terrible memories mixed in with the bad, and I don’t think I can bear it any longer. I’m sorry.” She pressed her face weakly against his shoulder, feeling for the last time the dampness from when she had cried there earlier. “Goodbye, Lucian. I hope… I hope that someday… maybe we’ll be reborn together. But for now… for now I just… just want to… forget…”
“Platina, no! No, you can’t! You’ll forget me too! Do you really want that? Please – please don’t, Platina, I –”
The thud of her body hitting the ground as it went completely limp and slid out of his arms was the only answer he would ever receive.