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Poisoned Garden

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"You told us Elysium was real."

"My lady and I travelled all this way at your behest. Master Rex, did you intentionally deceive us?"

"Here you are, wasting time, and all the while my countrymen are… You just run ahead, without a thought for anyone else, and this is the result…"

"You have fun, chum? Playing the hero like the kid you are, stringing us adults along…In your hurry to get here, you never stopped to consider… all the things you left lying in your wake!"

"Did I… did I go wrong somewhere?"

Rex wretches himself awake, his sides heave in and out as trembles run down his arms and legs. His hands are tense and cramped, as they are unwilling — or unable — to let go of his clumped up blanket. Through bleary eyes and scant moonlight, his clock tells him it was just an hour into the new day.

An hour.

With every day, he wakes earlier and earlier.

Rex rubs his forehead with slight fingers, hoping to soothe away the pains of sleep deprived migraines. He didn't realize how much sweat coats his face. It certainly explains his damp bedding, and why his night clothes constrict and cling onto his body like adhesive.

He sighs, but not all the tension wanted to leave his shaky limbs alone. He supposes it would be hard not to have terrible nightmares after all the events in the World Tree and their long journey. It had only been a month since then.

Rex turns toward his window, contemplating. Some night air would fresh him up a bit and hopefully slow down his racing mind. He winces hearing his old bed creak under his movements, and even more so when his bare feet skims across the cold surface of hardwood.

A salty breeze greets him as he opens the window, and a smile never fails to grow on his face as he leans on the windowsill, taking in the sight of Fonsett Village by star light.

"Elysium was here all along, huh…" Rex whispers to himself.

He had spent years away from Fonsett, salvaging to make ends meet for him, Corinne, and the orphans. Yet it is ironic that the paradise he had searched for is here all along.

This is the longest period of time that he stayed home ever since he started salvaging. Not that he could right now: an ocean made of water is quite a difference than a sea made of clouds. But he isn't going to complain about some rest and reprieve. Even if he hardly gets any as of late. He can't really hide it.

No matter how much he tries to shrug it off and pretend that it's just simply fatigue from the journey, he is sure that Pyra and Mythra aren't buying it. Not when dark bags grow underneath his eyes, giving him a grim pallor that his usual attitude couldn't erase. Nor did it help when he could not give them a reasonable answer why he had trouble keeping focus and hurt himself during a roof repair job for one of the villagers.

Even so, they never push the issue any further than minor admonishments and a reminder to be more careful. Rex knows he worries them, and he hates himself for doing so.

It's not that he doesn't trust them. He had always trusted Pyra — and by extension, Mythra - ever since they met on the hill in Elysium. It always has been them. He would do everything for them...

" — Oh right, Pyra...Pyra...Pyra, Pyra, Pyra! Is that it? You've only got eyes for her! Get your head out of your arse!

"I've been here all along! Why won't you realize? Look! Just look at me!

"Look at me, Rex! — "

Rex could only fall to the floor and hugs his knees towards his chest as another flashback sears away his smile and his joy. The heat of Nia's laments keep burning away his drive and fuel his hungering guilt.

Klaus may have found the answers he wanted from those tests, but Rex feels like he failed no matter what. His nightmares are testament to that. These fears, no matter if it was told to him in some sort of illusion, are real. There are so many things that he had to answer for, and he doesn't know where to begin.

And it's just that... it's not fair to burden Pyra and Mythra with his insignificant worries. They've been through so much, but it is finally over. Alrest is peaceful for now. There isn't anyone that needs to be defeated. No world ending plots that they need to fight for.

Now they finally have a chance to live their own lives, free from the burden of responsibility of an Aegis.

There is no way Rex could ruin this chance for them. They deserve happiness, not more worries and unnecessary baggage. He needs to be strong for them; this isn't a problem that they need to solve for him.

If he couldn't deal with this, then how could he be worthy to stand by their side again? When they met again at the Cliffs of Morytha, he made such a grand speech that he would always be there for them.

Yet he couldn't do a thing but watch them sacrifice themselves at the World Tree.

Has he...ever done anything for them yet?

They reached Elysium, but he is sure they would have reached there with someone else as their Driver. Every problem Rex faces, it is them that saves everyone. Back when Vandham dies, Mythra wakes herself up to protect them all. At Tantal, Pyra gives herself up to Torna. the World Tree…

His eyes begin to sting again; he tries hard not to sob but fails just as horribly as always. It shouldn't be like this, and it wasn't always like this. Now? Rex finds it harder and harder to not wallow in his misery.

Why is he acting like this when the future for Alrest is brighter than before? Now there is more land, and they don't have to worry about the Titans dying. He should, as Zeke put it best, stop throwing a tantrum and grow up. Everyone can move forward now, without the threat of war looming over each nation.

Rex should be happy. Content. Jubilant.

But he isn't.

He needs to stop and pull himself together before someone could hear —-

" — Rex...?"

Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.

They shouldn't — no, can't — see him like this. He just needs to raise his face up and greet them back with a smile. He must show them that his tears are just due to dry eyes, and definitely not because he is too weak to dismiss his nightmares away like an adult should.

But he couldn't do anything but freeze when he finds both Pyra and Mythra at his door.

Pyra clasps both of her hands over her mouth in shock, while Mythra shrugs off her sleepy demeanor and rushes towards his left side. Once again, Mythra raises her finger to tenderly wipe away his tears, just as she did before in the final vision.

"Oh, Rex…" Mythra murmurs, and she wraps her hands around him in an embrace. Rex knows that Mythra can be just as affectionate as Pyra, but it's only recently that she's willing to express it more often.

Pyra slides to his right and takes his hand into hers. He couldn't help but to clutch them back harder — as if he needs the reassurance that they're there.

The warmth of these two is more than enough to shelter him from the coldness of his insecurities. Some time passes before the tears stop, and embarrassment soon follows to fill him instead.

"Thanks," he whispers, unsure of what else to say or how to even start.

"Don't worry, Rex," Pyra says, but a lithe smile on her face couldn't quite erase the worry in her tone. "We know that you've been trying to be strong for us, but it's alright now."

"Rex, no matter what, you're our Driver." Mythra raises her head from his shoulder. "That will never change. Please, let us be here for you this time. What you saw in Father's visions...what we've done at the World's what's keeping you up these nights, right?"

Rex gapes at Mythra. "How did you…?"

"We only knew what Father intended to do, but we didn't know what would happen. We know what you saw in your visions. Sorry Rex," Pyra apologizes.

"You apologize a lot," Rex reminds her again, and they both share a sad smile. He admits, "You're right. All this time, I've thought that reaching Elysium was the right thing to do — that it would hold the answer for everyone. But, we've all seen what it actually looks like…"

An empty wasteland, a far cry from a plentiful paradise.

"Klaus's visions…" Rex continues, his eyes turn to the window, towards the World Tree. "I know they're not real, but I can't say they were wrong. I've been so focused on Elysium, that I've neglected everything and everyone else. It was only luck that everything worked out in the end."

"It isn't luck, Rex," Mythra denies it, shaking her head. "If it wasn't you, we've never gotten this far. You changed both of us, Rex. We told you back on the Cliffs of Morytha, right? That we're no longer lost because of you. You've accepted who we are, treated us more than just an Aegis, and gave us a reason to live for. So please, Rex...why can't you also accept what you've accomplished as well?"

"What...I've accomplished?" Rex repeats.

Pyra nods. "Well, for starters, you're an accomplished salvager. Didn't you say that you were recommended by Bana to Jin and Malos because of your skills?"

Rex isn't convinced. "Yeah, but they just needed a Leftherian salvager...there are plenty of other people who'd fit right in."

"Well, but you were still recommended over the others, right?" Mythra brushes strands of her hair from her face. "Not many other 15-year-old salvagers could claim that much. Especially for one who does so to help out his village."

"Then we have Tora and Poppi," Pyra recalls. "Not many people would've trusted Tora and helped him create Poppi. Most would've disregarded him."

"But at the time, we needed help to rescue Nia," Rex disagrees. "Anyone else could've helped Tora make Poppi…"

"Yeah, but how many would've done so in order to save a friend?" Pyra rebuts. "You aren't the type of person who would've abandoned Nia and Dromarch. You've never abandoned a friend in need, and no matter what we've done, you have nevered abandoned us, Rex."

"And what about Vandham...?" Mythra brings him up, but she stops, not quite able to continue nor meet Rex's eyes. Rex immediately understands her reluctance and embraces her further -- to try and tell her that it isn't her fault that she couldn't save him. She leans on his shoulder in response.

"He trusted you to lead the Garfont Mercenaries, right? There were plenty of mercenaries who worked with them longer, but he still picked you out of all of them. And there's Emperor Niall, Morag, and Zeke too. All of them are royalty, and most of them have their own council and staff. They still trusted in your decisions."

Pyra embraces his free arm, leaning on his shoulder like Mythra does. She smiles as she snugs closer towards him. "What we're trying to say is, Rex, you've come this far not because of luck or that you're the Driver of the Aegis. You became a salvager because you wanted to help Aunt Corinne and the orphanage. You were willing to trust in us immediately and promised to take us to Elysium. You helped Tora, Morag, Zeke, and even Jin and Malos. All of your actions, they're born from your kindness. It is a boon for all of us. People trust in you because they believe in that kindness, that optimism. It's a light that guides all of us towards the future."

"There may be more experienced salvagers or Drivers," Mythra continues, a slight flush on her face. "But there's only one person we love with all of our heart. No one can replace you, Rex."

Rex couldn't help but blush at the amount of love they shower him with. He still believes that they give him more credit than he deserves, but just for now, it is enough.

"So tell us," the two of them both ask, "Do you love this world?"

That's right. No matter what he fears, no matter what he struggles with — as long as he has them by his side, he will have the strength to move on and prove that he does have a place by their side. That's what he told them.

This is what he needs to accept about himself.

"I love this world because you're in it."

"Well then, let us see what lies ahead, together and forever."