To Belong
by shatteredjewels

As a child, he had traced the world on the Elder's maps, and as he dragged his finger along the parchment, he dreamed of adventures in distant lands. He imagined himself taller and stronger, setting out to conquer the world. He dreamed of exploring the mountains and the forests and someday seeing the Mana Tree.

The map showed no strange places now. He had been everywhere and had met everyone. He saved the lives of kings and queens, saved entire kingdoms, saved the entire world. They welcomed him as a hero in every city and town; everyone knew him. Even the little children playing in the streets knew his name.

He was a legend.

Everywhere but Potos.

Through all the years, he had been welcomed everywhere but Potos.

The memory was an old, dull pain, one that stung at odd moments, reminded him that some wounds never heal. He had once trusted the villagers, once trusted the Elder. They had scolded him and laughed at him and fed him. Even though he was the resident oddball, the boy without a mother. They were still kind.

Until the day they sacked him out of the village with only a rusty sword and a wallet full of gold. He could remember the elder, with reserve in his eyes telling him to open the chest.

Money. A poor trade for losing a home.

They had welcomed him back with open arms and smiles, but smiles could only heal so much. He remembered the banishment and so did everyone else. They lived small lives and only knew the walls of the village. It was almost sad. They still marveled at the cannon set outside the village. He remembered when he and Timothy and Elliot had dreamed of taking a ride on that cannon, planned on how they would save their money through the years until they had enough to take the journey of a lifetime to unknown lands.

One day, when they trio had been sick and tired of the endless monsters, they had taken a day to play, and shot themselves back and forth from below Potos to Gaia's Navel until they had finally landed on that one pesky buzz-bee that always clung to the falls.

Money didn't mean much anymore.

This village didn't mean much anymore.

He had worked so hard to return to Potos. It had been his original goal, to do what it took to get rid of the Sword so that he could return home. And he had found himself swept into current that he couldn't escape. At times, he didn't understand why he was fighting.

Until that day when he touched the bark of the Mana Tree. He felt his mother's life under his palms and her wisdom touched his mind.

And he felt safe.

And loved.

He felt like he belonged.

And then she was killed, and he felt her wither away and die beneath his palms. And he learned of hatred and he fought for revenge.

And now there was no reason to fight, but battle was all he knew.

Purim had given him all the weapons with a wink, saying that she had fought enough and was ready to heal instead of destroy. She wanted to help people and help her own heart and forget the past. She was happy, busy in the castle, busy with the soldiers, busy with her own life.

He was alone.

And so every day, he practiced with those weapons, because they were all he had left. They were Mana's weapons, and he was considered a master with each of them, but none of them felt like his sword.

Watts had worked long and hard, and forged what he claimed was his life's work. It was a beautiful sword, considered priceless, and it fit his hand like a stranger. He worked with it and admired it, but it didn't feel right.

It wasn't the Sword of Mana.

He sometimes returned to the woods outside, returned to see the stone where his sword- and it was his, it had always been his- rested. Waiting for its time of need, to destroy another Mana Beast.

Mana was a cruel master.

He was in tune with Mana. He felt it coursing through his veins, felt it bubbling through everything around him. He had felt the power and majesty and the purity of the Mana rippling through the beast. He had felt its agony. With every stab of the sword, he had felt like he was killing himself.

But he was alive.

They stared at him with hooded eyes, wondering what had made the motherless boy so strange. They pitied him, the hero who had saved the world.

They couldn't see.

They couldn't see Popoie out of the corner of their eyes, making faces from the shadows.

They couldn't hear the Mana Beast cry in his dreams.

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