Argentum was like an anthill- always crawling with countless people, human and nopon, doing all manner of work to keep the guild's salvaging empire running. And the bustle had only increased as the inter-titan trade had increased thanks to the Garfont Mercenary Company's clearing the way for and guarding new trade routes.
Brighid hummed at the thought as she sipped a cup of tea, which Pyra had urged her to try. The girl could be a little off sometimes, not quite what the Empire's strongest Blade had expected from the legendary Aegis, but she was a good friend now… And one with good taste, as it so happened.
'Ah, just as I was thinking of Pyra…' Brighid thought to herself, as she observed said Blade's Driver break through the throngs to enter the Argentum Canteen. Rex was glancing around, looking for something, and seemingly oblivious to the stares from all around him, his Master Driver armor calling attention wherever he went. Oblivious, or perhaps just ignoring them.
When he spotted her, however, his eyes lit up and he made to go straight for her. ' Odd,' Brighid thought, 'what does he need from me?'
Rex stopped at Brighid's table and put his hand on the chair opposite her, but still asked "May I?" Before he pulled it out. Brighid gave him a nod.
Once the boy had sat down, Brighid delicately set down her teacup. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"...Brighid," Rex started, "I wanted to ask you something. What makes a good Driver?"
One of Brighid's eyebrows rose, almost imperceptibly, so as not to crack her polished porcelain mask. "An interesting question… but would it not make more sense to ask Lady Mòrag that question?"
Rex leaned forward in his seat, resting his arms on the table. A part of Brighid's mind demanded that she chastise him for the breach of manners, silenced by her common sense reminding her they were in a bar for salvagers to eat sandwiches and get drunk in, not Ardanian high society. "No," Rex said, "I've talked enough with other Drivers about it. It's all about combat, trust in battle, affinity… What I want to ask is, as a Blade, what should I always do to be a good Driver to my Blades?"
"I… hm." Brighid brought a hand up to her face, blocking her mouth from sight and ensuring Rex couldn't see the smile growing on her face. "So… You aren't asking about wielding a Blade in battle. You realize what you're really asking is simply that which applies to any kind of interpersonal relationship?"
"Not necessarily." Rex answered, shifting his weight to one side. "Even out of battle, all the Blades and Drivers I've ever met have a dynamic. It's like… we need each other, Drivers and Blades. But the Driver always leads the Blade. Before, when I wasn't a Driver and didn't know any Drivers, I never thought about it, but now… Well. I just want to be sure that all my Blades are happy and comfortable, and know that, like… They can speak up, or disagree, or something."
"Hm hm." How very like Rex. Granted, this wasn't an uncommon line of thought for newer Drivers, but neither was it ubiquitous. That he thought of it was a good sign, and an entirely unsurprising one. "I think you're doing a fine job of that already, Rex."
Rex didn't look particularly relieved or convinced. "...Huh. News to me, I guess."
He was being coy. "And what does that mean?"
"I'm… ever since I started traveling with Pyra, and later Mythra, people have been telling me I'm not good enough, for one reason or another. And I get it, criticism is how we grow, and all, but… I don't really see what else to do."
Brighid brought a hand to under her chin. "And now, you're the Master Driver. You've fully unlocked the power of the Aegis, and through her gained the power to command all Blades, including myself. I would say you've thoroughly proved your doubters wrong."
"Yeah, well… not all of 'em."
Brighid cracked a small smile as she lifted her teacup. "There will always be doubters, Rex, but that doesn't mean they should be taken seriously. I would disregard any further naysayers." And she went to take a sip.
Rex moved his arms, resting one elbow on the table and propping his head on his knuckles. "...Brighid? Is Mòrag a good Driver to you?"
"Well, of course she is."
"Would she be a better Driver for them than me?"
Brighid chuckles, a dignified and graceful sound with her hand under her chin. "Oh heavens no. That would be a disaster."
That was a surprise. "Wh- really?"
"Did you think I would say yes? Lady Mòrag is a superb Driver… For me. "
"But… not for Pyra and Mythra?"
"Rex… tell me. Do you think any of your friends are poor Drivers?"
Rex thought. "Well, no. At least, I don't think so, but it's not really my call to make."
"Azurda's taught you well. And you're right. Nia, Tora, Lady Mòrag, and Prince Zeke are all shining examples of Drivers. Now tell me, Rex… what do they all have in common?"
Rex leaned back in his seat, arms crossed, eyes to the ceiling. Brighid watched patiently, knowing he was going over everything he knew to try to find an answer, but she did not let him waste time for long. "I'll tell you. The answer is nothing, besides being Drivers."
"You're right," he leaned forward once more. "None of them have any one thing in common between all of them. Is that your point?"
"Precisely." Oh how Brighid loved a cooperative student. "Look at how they all treat their Blades… Mòrag will happily tell you that she is a soldier first, an Imperial Princess second, and everything else third. Her life, and therefore mine, is run with military discipline and structure. On the other hand, Zeke is much more lax. He and Pandoria live with little in the way or rules or structure, day-to-day. Tora, for all his… questionableness, is utterly devoted to Poppi, spending all his time either working on her or planning his next upgrade for her. And in contrast, Dromarch is the one devoted to Nia, doting on her like a loyal servant. None of them are poor Drivers… for the Blades they have. "
"But you don't think they would make good Drivers for Pyra and Mythra?"
"I know they wouldn't. All of those Drivers awakened their Blades from core crystals. We have no memories from before then. The same is not true for the Aegis. They are burdened with memories that haunt and attack them constantly. They need something special."
Brighid paused, sipping her rapidly cooling tea. "They need you. They need the way you treat them; with understanding, care, and patience. You have a unique challenge, Rex, and… don't tell Mòrag I said this, but I don't think anyone else is capable of it. It isn't just that you're worthy of their power… you're worthy of their hearts, too."
"H-hearts?" He was blushing now. Ah, youth. It reminded her of a teenaged Mòrag's first crush, before she tamped down her personal feelings to better serve the state.
"Yes… You know, Rex… I'm in a unique position now. It's very rare for a Blade to be Driven by more than their original Driver."
"That's true," Rex answered, "You resonated with me in Morytha for a while."
"It was an eye opening experience. Like I said, most Blades will go their whole lives, so to speak, only knowing what it's like to have one Driver, losing that memory by the time the next comes along. And as such, they have no frame of reference for what it's like to resonate with another."
"So it was… different?"
"Absolutely. If a Blade was like a sword… Lady Mòrag's grip on my handle is firm, practiced… her movements are that of a soldier trained and drilled to perfection. The same movements every time, that grip never faltering for even a second."
"I see… it's hard to tell if that's positive or negative though, Brighid."
"Neither," Brighid answered. "She is what she is, Rex. I don't believe it's something that she, or indeed any Driver, can help."
Rex's gaze moved down to the table, digesting that information. "And that way of Driving is right for you?"
Brighid nodded. "Indeed. You must remember that my core has been passed down as an Imperial Treasure for centuries, alongside Aegeon. Most of my past Drivers have been much the same. Even if I do not remember them outside of what is recorded in my journal, my… soul, is well accustomed to that way of living."
"I get it… It's the way of living you're comfortable with, so as soon as you wake up, it's easy enough to get into the groove, right?"
"Yes, but we've gotten sidetracked. I still haven't told you how it feels to resonate with you."
"Oh right! I'd love to hear that!"
"If Lady Mòrag's grip is firm, yours is as well, but… in a different way. With Lady Mòrag, that grip is for strength, so that she retains control of her weapon, and can deliver blows with optimum power. But your grip is firm in a way like… holding onto someone's hand to keep them safe, I suppose. There's a warmth, and a strong will to it. Like you'll never let go of your Blade, like you're the one supplying strength to them rather than the other way around. It's actually… quite comforting."
"You… felt all of that?"
Brighid regarded Rex with a warm smile. "I did. Perhaps it was all the stronger because of the contrast. But my point is, Rex… that resonance is the kind of resonance that Pyra and Mythra need. They never returned to their cores… they didn't get the fresh start most Blades do, so they carried all that pain, all that regret, all that trauma from 500 years ago… They haven't been able to forget. For them to heal, your way of Driving is a necessity."
"And that's why you don't think Mòrag would make a good Driver for them?"
"Only partly." Brighid paused, swirling her remaining tea around its cup. "But to know my other reason, you will have to swear that this conversation will not leave this table under any circumstances."
Rex sat up straighter, a bead of sweat gathering on his forehead. "Y-yes ma'am. Salvager's honor."
That was good enough. "You.must understand. I do not intend to cast any disrespect on my Driver. But I can only see the Aegis being a weapon for Mor Ardain in her hands."
"Really? Mòrag? "
"Is it really so surprising? I love my Lady, but as I said before, she is a soldier of Mor Ardain first and foremost. And that isn't a bad thing, but it would not have helped Pyra and Mythra at all. It might have made them worse."
Rex thought for a moment, and nodded. "I get it. It's just the way she is, and what she values. It's nothing wrong with her, she just wouldn't be the right Driver for them."
"I'm glad you're such a fast learner. Rex…" Brighid scooted over in her seat, putting a hand on Rex's shoulder. "I understand. You're still young, but you've been thrown into the deep end of the world of Blades and Drivers. But you must know that you are equal to the challenge. In fact, you are the only one who has the ability to Drive them. So please… keep your grip strong, and warm. Don't stop holding their hands. Do you understand?"
"I do. And I don't intend to stop."
Brighid looked with approval upon the light in Rex's eyes. Mòrag had been right about him.
"Um, Brighid, why are you touching Rex like that? And sitting so close together, alone…?" My, it seemed Pyra had snuck up on them, and she eyed the hand on Rex's shoulder warily.
"P-Pyra!" He said.
Brighid gave him one more squeeze before fluidly rising to a standing position, her hand sweeping off his shoulder, her fingertips the last to leave. "Nothing to worry about, Pyra. Your Driver was just looking for a little advice on his sword-handling technique."
Pyra looked a little relieved. A little. "Okay… though, the type of sword you use is quite different from ours…"
"Certainly. That was a big part of my little lesson today."
"Well… Thank you, I guess! For helping Rex." She still didn't seem entirely convinced. Who knew the younger Aegis had such a possessive streak?
"It's no trouble. Although, it looks like you two could use a moment together. See you back on the ship."
Once they said their farewells and parted, Brighid took her teacup back to Rumtumtum at the counter, and took a glance back before she headed for the flight deck. Pyra, it seemed, had taken the seat Brighid vacated and scooted closer, and the two were now tentatively holding hands- albeit under the table.
The Empire's Strongest Blade smiled, knowing what to put in tonight's Journal entry.