The Color of Shadow
David Boudreau

"Nanami!" Riou shouted as he grabbed his ton-fa and rushed forward. The archers were just about ready to fire their arrows. There was no time. No time!

"Here it goes," Nanami muttered, barely audible, "Genkaku’s secret move…"

Then, she was under fire. The arrows flew quickly, and Nanami, with her three-part rod deflected one, two, three! It seemed she would succeed without any help whatsoever. Riou looked over at her and caught her eye, and he thought he could see a hint of a smile.

But then, the unthinkable happened. As she reached up to deflect the fourth arrow, she was a fraction of a second too slow, only managing to barely tap the arrow and send it into her stomach rather than her chest. The force of the piercing blow sent her off her feet, and as she hit the ground, the pain welled up in her mind. It was all she could do to stop herself from crying out. With the pain came an even sharper realization, and she could not hold back the words for that.



"You missed," Gorudo, traitorous leader of the White Knights, growled to his archers as he stepped forward. "It doesn’t matter. I’ll finish them off."

"Gorudo, you…" Jowy Blight hissed through clenched teeth as he stepped up next to his former friend Riou. He drew his sword, intent on avenging his friend. The anger on his face was clear as day, and burned brightly.

"I’ll never forgive you for this Gorudo!" Riou shouted as he leaped forward and attacked. The White Knight escorts jumped to protect their lord, but they were dispatched quickly by deadly blows from the Dragon Army’s leader. Several more knights tried to overpower the warlord, but Jowy would not allow it, as he killed several with his sword and even more with the power of the Black Sword rune. He rushed Gorudo at the same time as his former friend Riou. Gorudo raised his own blade to deflect the attack, but, backed by the power of the True Runes, Riou and Jowy shattered the sword and struck the leader of the Matilda Knights a fatal blow, sending him to hell without so much as a gasp.

Riou ran to Nanami’s side, lifting her head gently off the ground and onto his knee. Her eyes looked faint, as if life was going out of them. The pool of blood quickly growing underneath her spoke volumes to the fact. He tried to heal her with the power of the Bright Shield rune, but it was no use. The rune had the strength to heal battle injuries, to bring people from the point of unconsciousness to full strength instantaneously, but it could not heal a fatal wound.

She was dying. They all knew it. And there seemed to be nothing they could do.

"Riou…you’re…okay?" She breathed as he held her in his arms. He nodded, not trusting his voice to do much of anything at this point. He felt that if he even opened his mouth, the tears would begin and never stop. He would flood the world. She spoke again, each word taking more and more time from her. "Jowy…Riou…Let’s…let’s stop fighting…I don’t…want to…see you…fight…anymore."

Jowy, who had been kneeling next to his friend, abruptly stood up and turned away. "I’m sorry, Nanami." He started to walk away slowly, as if expecting one of the others to try and stop him. But this time, they didn’t, and he found that he had to explain why. "I have people who have…put their hope in me. I can’t…" And there were no more words. He walked away, stopping once more to look back. He was thankful that neither was looking at him. He turned away, wiping the tears from his eyes as he left.

There was pain in Nanami’s eyes, but it wasn’t from the arrow in her stomach. She did her best to keep it from her brother, but failed, and she realized she could no longer protect him. Jowy was her friend too, and fighting him was the hardest thing she had ever done. The fact that he kept fighting, and that Riou was right there to oppose him, pained her so deeply that she would never really heal.

"Riou…I don’t…want you to…fight Jowy. But…I can’t stop you…not anymore…"

"Don’t say that, Nanami." Riou said desperately, fighting back his tears and failing miserably. "You’re going to be fine. Doctor Huan will heal you in no time. You’ll-"

"Can you…do just one thing for me…Riou?" Talking was really taking it out of her now. Her face was deathly pale, and the pool of blood was only getting larger. She looked like she was not going to make it much longer. As much as he wanted to tell her not to talk, to save her strength, instead he nodded as his tears began to hit the ground. "Just once…can you call me…’Big Sister’?"

"Big Sister, please…don’t…" Riou said, his tears hitting the ground in almost a torrent now. There they made contact with the blood, as if trying to hold it back, but the blood quickly engulfed the tears and continued on relentlessly.

"Thank you…I’m so…glad…I got to…be your…big sister…" Nanami said. She closed her eyes then, and seconds later, went limp.

Riou stared at her in disbelief. She couldn’t be dead. She couldn’t be! He shook her a couple of times, trying to get her to open her eyes once again, but to no avail. He couldn’t see now for the tears in his eyes, and his frail-looking body shook with his sobs as he put his head to her chest and cried.

At some point, he was vaguely aware of Lord Shu entering the hall and issuing orders to the soldiers who were with him, but he would never remember the events that brought him back to Genkaku Castle, just outside Doctor Huan’s office. He stood there, outside the room, surrounded by his friends. Viktor and Flik stood in front of him, trying very hard to listen through the door and failing. Eilie and Rina stood on either side, trying to comfort him, assuring him that Nanami would okay. Lord Shu, along with others, was behind him, but strangely silent. Riou remembered when he had first met Shu in Genkaku Castle, when he had said he was no good at inspiring people. Perhaps that was why he didn’t say anything.

Surrounded by all these people, Riou had never felt more alone. Already, he missed Nanami’s voice. She was always one to talk during a situation like this, and while he sometimes found it a little irritating, it had always been comforting to know that she would probably voice his opinion on the matter and save him from talking. But she wasn’t here this time, and, if Doctor Huan failed, she would never be here again. He was sure that the good doctor would do his best, but he also dreaded the possibility of failure. To never see his sister again…

Suddenly, the door opened and Doctor Huan emerged. Viktor and Flik backed away to allow him to step out, but immediately assaulted him verbally.

"What’s the word, Doc?" Flik demanded, "She’s okay right?"

"Come on Doctor!" Viktor almost shouted when the doctor didn’t answer immediately, "You saved her, of course. She’s okay, isn’t she?" Doctor Huan hesitated for almost ten seconds. Riou’s heart was beating painfully, and the anticipation was killing him. He was afraid. This hesitation meant that she was dead didn’t it? But she had to be okay! She had to!

"I’m sorry…" the renowned healer said, looking directly into the eyes of the leader of the Dragon Army. Immediately, it felt as if everything that was supporting the young man simply vanished, and he fell to his knees, his head bowed.

"What?" Flik shouted angrily, "How could you fail?"

"Easy Flik," the bear-like swordsman said as he put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, "There’s no use attacking him." Viktor’s voice sounded devoid of happiness, empty, and very, very far away.

"I know, damn it, but what about Riou?" They all turned to look at him at that point, and he felt their eyes on him, but it was as if all his strength had left him. He couldn’t even lift his head to look back at them. He quietly cried, not caring about anything but his own loss, totally oblivious to everything around him.

"Lord Shu, may I speak to you for a moment?" Doctor Huan asked.


The stars shone on the castle that night, ignorant, or perhaps spiteful, of the events on the evening. Riou rubbed his red eyes as he looked out at the water of Dunan Lake. The full moon was reflected on its surface, and it kept shimmering with the waves, lending a beautiful moment of tranquil peace to everything and everyone that gazed on it.

Riou turned away after a short while, unable to look anymore.

Nanami would never look on something like this again. It hurt to think that she would never be around anymore. He’d been forced to leave his room, much to the dismay of his guards, because just looking around at everything he’d shared with her brought back too many memories. He’d retreated to the roof of the castle, sitting on the very apex of the tallest structure in viewing distance, hoping to get away from it. Feather had left shortly after he had arrived, offering a somber "Kyooon…" to try and ease his pain. Just like everyone else in the castle. They’d all tried to comfort him, to try and give him some solace as he drifted aimlessly from room to room of the massive headquarters, yet none of it had even penetrated his sadness.

Right now, the darkness of the night seemed to be the most comforting thing for him, and even that wasn’t working. As time passed and he looked at the stars, his mind called up more memories of Nanami. He closed his eyes to try and make it stop, and he saw her face. He started to cry again, but this time the tears would not come.

When he heard movement behind him, he found himself wishing it to be Lucia again, come to kill him once more. This time he would not resist. He had nothing to resist with anyway. Death would be welcome.

"We’ve been looking all over for you, you know," Viktor said in his gruff voice. It was just a statement of fact, with neither reproach nor anger behind it. "We started to worry that maybe you’d thrown yourself off of here."

"Enough, Viktor. Don’t give him any ideas," Flik said quietly, but not quietly enough. Then again, maybe he intended for Riou to hear it, though the young warrior neither knew nor cared why. "Lord Riou, you really shouldn’t be up here," he continued.

"Did you come to drag me back to my room, Flik?" Riou asked softly, his voice barely carrying on the breeze. He supposed he might have spoken louder, but after the events of the day, he simply didn’t have the strength.


"Then don’t tell me what I can or can’t do."

"Of course, Lord Riou. I’m sorry." Flik spoke formally, slightly annoyed at being rebuked by someone only slightly older than half his own age. The annoyance faded quickly, however, as he realized how much of a right the young man had to be defensive right then.

"Riou," Viktor started, "I know you lost someone very important to you today, but-"

"But what?" Riou replied, suddenly finding strength in anger, "But what? Are you going to tell me I have to keep fighting? That I can’t give up now? That everything depends on me?! Those useless remarks are what got Nanami killed, and I’m not taking anymore of that crap!" He stood up suddenly, finding his balance on the narrow edge of the rooftop. "If I want to give up on Jowston, if I decide to leave this country to the ravages of the Highland army and my best damn friend, then that’s what I’ll do! To hell with the Bright Shield rune and destiny and the 108 Stars of Destiny and-" He trailed off suddenly, turning to face the two warriors, his face red. "And all of it," he hissed bitterly, his jaw tight as he turned away again, refusing to look at either of them any longer.

Neither Viktor or Flik appeared startled by the sudden violent outburst, but while Viktor’s face betrayed no emotion at all, Flik appeared to be the opposite, his face burning with barely contained rage.

"You think you’re the only person in the world who’s lost someone?" Flik demanded, rage burning against rage, "I’ve lost someone. Most of the people in your own damned army lost someone they cared about in this war, and if not this one, then another! Viktor lost his whole damn village!"

"Calm down, Flik," Viktor muttered to the other man, "The last thing he needs right now is for someone to yell at him. Just calm down." Flik turned away, his fists clenched tightly, but he remained silent.

Riou turned away again, looking back at the lake. His anger was still strong, and for a moment, he actually considered throwing himself from the roof, just to make it all go away, though he didn’t believe for a second that it would work. Feather was probably still somewhere nearby and wouldn’t let him fall. Neither would Chaco, if he was still awake. He had a feeling that the whole castle was watching after him tonight, to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid or dangerous.

But looking at the moon reflected in the lake brought thoughts of Nanami again, and his anger quickly ebbed, to be replaced by sadness again. He sat back down heavily on the roof, drained once again.

He heard careful footsteps from behind, and before long, Viktor and Flik stood on either side of him, looking at Dunan Lake.

"Riou," Viktor said softly, "I was going to say that you shouldn’t try to deal with this on your own. Believe me, it helps to talk about stuff like this rather than to keep it all inside."

"I don’t…want to talk about it. It hurts whenever I think about her." Riou replied, trying to hold back more tears.

"It always will," Flik said, his anger forgotten for now, kneeling down and putting his hand on the young man’s shoulder, "but if you don’t talk about it, it will hurt more. You should get it out now."

"Who am I supposed to talk to? You? Viktor? Eilie? Who?"

"You can talk to whoever you think will listen, but…I thought of someone earlier today who knows what you’re going through."

Riou turned to look at the stairs and saw a familiar figure standing at the top of the stairs.

"Michael," Viktor said, then caught himself, "I mean, Master McDohl, um…"

"It’s okay, Viktor," the former warlord said with a raised hand.

"Thanks for coming, Michael," Flik said as he shook hands with his old comrade. Riou just stared. He had fought with the commander of the Liberation Army on the path towards the Toran border to save the boy, Ko. He’d been in awe of the young man’s strength, but hadn’t really understood the sadness that seemed to haunt his eyes. He had heard the story of the Gate Rune War, of course, but only in the broadest terms.

It took him a few seconds to realize Viktor and Flik were leaving, heading back down the stairs to the castle, and that Michael McDohl was taking their place at his side and sitting next to him on the roof. They stared at the lake for a long time in silence broken only by the occasional sniffle from Riou. After what seemed like an eternity, McDohl spoke.

"You know, the view from Odessa Castle is a lot like this."

"Odessa Castle?" Riou asked, drying his eyes as best he could. The name was unfamiliar.

"It’s what I named our Headquarters during the War. I think they’ve renamed it Toran Castle now."

"Why did you call it Odessa Castle?" He felt a flicker of genuine curiosity now.

"She was the original leader of the Liberation Army. She trusted me to lead them to victory after she died. I…named the castle after her so that I would never forget that she believed in me, that she trusted me to finish what she couldn’t." The ever-present sadness in Michael’s voice seemed to thicken slightly when he spoke of her.

Riou was silent. He remembered that Flik had named his sword Odessa, and wondered if there was a connection. As if reading his mind, Michael spoke up.

"She and Flik were…pretty serious. He was really shaken when he found out she had died." There was a pause, both of them thinking of what they had lost, before McDohl asked, "So who’s Genkaku?"

Riou hesitated before speaking. "He adopted Nanami and I and raised us in Kyaro. It wasn’t until we got tangled up in this mess that we found out that he was once the hero of the City-States…before they exiled him."

"So you named this castle after him so the people wouldn’t forget?"

"Something like that. I don’t really remember my reasoning anymore." Silence again. This time, it was Riou who broke it. "Did you…ever give up? Even for just a little while?" He felt ashamed to have asked that of such a great hero, but he had to know.

"I…thought about it…a lot. There are…so many reasons, but…mostly, I…was going through something like what just happened to you."

Riou had to take a few seconds to compose himself as the pain started again, but finally he asked, "What happened?"

Michael sighed deeply before he took the glove off his right hand and showed Riou the rune embedded there. "This is the rune you used to save Ko?"

"This is the Soul Eater. It’s one of the True Runes. It…devoured the souls of people I cared about very much." He had stop for a second and blink away some tears. Even three years later, it still caused him so much sadness to talk about this. "I don’t have control over who it…takes. It took the souls of four people just so it could become stronger and…" He fell silent, crying softly. Riou didn’t know what to say, and so remained silent. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Michael looked out at the lake once again and said, "They’re in my dreams sometimes. It…hurts to see them, to remember them, but I can’t ever forget them. It’s…hard sometimes."

Riou still didn’t say anything.

"I almost gave up…when it took the fourth person. I…had trouble going on."

"How did you go on?" Riou asked quietly, but he leaned closer to Michael, desperate to hear his answer.

"I told myself that if I gave up, then their sacrifices would be for nothing. I had to make their deaths worth it. Otherwise I had gained nothing and lost everything. But it took…a long time to get there."

He turned to face Riou and said, "I’m not here to tell you that you have to go on. If you give up, if you walk away, then no one will fault you. As I understand it, this isn’t even your war. But lots of people have put their faith in you, died for you, and still live for you. It’s not an easy burden to bear, but if you put it down, someone else will have to take it up, and it won’t be any easier for them."

Riou was silent for a long time. He looked out over the lake again, trying desperately to figure out what he should…would do. He knew what he should do, but he didn’t know if he would be able to. He had lost Nanami. His best friend in the whole world was leading the Highland Kingdom into war, and the only possible outcome he could see was for one of them to kill the other, as much as he abhorred the thought of fighting Jowy.

"I can say this," Michael suddenly said, interrupting his fellow commander’s thoughts, "If you keep fighting, you’ll lose a lot."

"I’ve already lost so much. I think if I lose anything or anyone else, I…"

"But if you don’t fight, you’ll lose so much more." Riou was caught up short. He had to stop and think. If he didn’t fight, what would he lose? Someone else would inevitably take the reins of command and continue to lead the Dragon army. But so many of his men fought because of his reputation. He was the bearer of the Bright Shield rune, the son of Genkaku, the slayer of Luca Blight, the hope of the City-State. If he left it all behind…the army would splinter and fall apart. The 108 Stars of Destiny would scatter. Highland would conquer. Jowy would rule the unified kingdom. Many, many people would die. He would lose the last person he had left: Jowy.

If he kept going, many people would die, and many more would feel the pain he felt now, the pain of losing someone. They would lose family and friends, just has he had. And he would still lose Jowy. But there was a difference. The people who followed him did so willingly. They offered their lives to this war, for him. They knew the risks, and fought anyway. They chanced sacrificing everything for the peace that they hoped he would bring. He had brought them so far, got their hopes for peace so high. Could he abandon them now?

"Do you know what the color of shadow is?" Michael asked suddenly.

"The…color of shadow?"

"It’s not black. It’s something you really have to figure out for yourself. I didn’t quite know what it was myself until after the war, after I left Gregminster. Knowing doesn’t make anything any easier, but maybe it will make things a little less difficult."

"So what is it then?"

"Like I said, you really need to figure it out yourself. It’s just not the same when someone tells you."

The color of shadow? Riou thought. It seemed unimportant, but McDohl apparently believed it important enough for him to know. What could it be?

Whatever the answer was, he didn’t think it would come easily, just as his decision to keep fighting or run away would not be easy. He needed to think things through a little more, and to do so somewhere he wouldn’t be disturbed.

"Lord McDohl, thank you for talking with me tonight," he said as he stood up.

"You’ve made a decision?"

"Not yet, but I think you’ve helped me get a little closer."

"Take your time, but know that whatever choice you make, no one will criticize you."

"Thank you once again." And Riou walked McDohl to the nearest guestroom before returning to his own.


The horizon glowed pink as a prelude to the morning. Riou stood at the window of his room, looking again at the lake, different now, yet still the same.

He had been thinking for the last…three hours? Four? And still, he didn’t have an answer. He still didn’t know what he should do. In the morning, if he didn’t make a decision, Shu would make it for him, by asking for permission to do whatever with the army. As far as he could see, Shu was the real leader of the army, whereas Riou was just a figurehead, a rallying point. He would have been insulted had he cared, but he knew he was too young and Shu was good at what he did, which is all that really mattered. Nanami would have cared, he remembered, which only made the realization more painful.

He thought back to what McDohl had said, about shadows. The landscape he looked at was littered with shadows, some lighter than others, all different colors. McDohl had said that it wasn’t black, and Riou had the feeling that color had nothing to do with it.

So what is shadow? Shadow exists where light cannot see. That’s easy enough. So shadow is the opposite of light. But it isn’t true darkness. Light can easily be added to shadow to erase it…but new shadows are created in the process. When light is added to darkness, shadows are created. So there are always shadows. But what does that have to do with anything?

Riou stopped thinking about it for a minute and looked around his room again. His bed looked very comforting to him in his sleepless state, but he couldn’t sleep right now. Somehow he knew that, just like McDohl, his dreams would be full of the people he had lost. Nanami, Genkaku, Jowy, Pilika, Anabelle, even General Kiba, though he hadn’t really been a friend so much as an ally. He had lost so many people in the last year, and he couldn’t face them yet, not until he had made a decision. He turned back to the window once more.

Okay, so there are always shadows. Shadows exist where light does not penetrate. What if light and dark are in a war, as I am? Light exist were it has been victorious, and it easily defeats darkness, but the darkness retreats to the shadows, can never be destroyed, and is always ready to conquer when light leaves. Hmm…That means that shadow and darkness exists when light is absent. That means…

And suddenly Riou had his answer. Maybe it wasn’t the answer that McDohl had come to, but maybe it didn’t matter.

The color of shadow was absence. Shadow was the absence of light, but it was also the loss of friends and family, the lack of love. And where there is light, there is shadow. So just as there was happiness, there was sadness; where there was victory, there was defeat; where there was life, there was death.

Nanami, who had once been a light on his own life, was now a shadow, as were Jowy, and Genkaku and all the people he had lost. But the other side of it was that wherever there was shadow, there was light. He still had light in his life, however faint it might seem to him. He had his friends in the Dragon Army. He had his memories, which would never leave him. He had his life, and he owed it to his friends, both those present and those gone, to not give up. They had given their lives to him, and, while their passing had created many shadows in his heart, they had served to awaken the light he didn’t even know he had. He owed his life to them, just as they had felt they owed their lives to him.

And, in that moment, he came to a decision. Jowy was his enemy and a heavy shadow on his heart, but only through circumstance and fate. If one of them could end this war, they could be friends again, and it would be one less shadow he would have to deal with. If neither ended it, the shadows for both of them would spread until their hearts were of the deepest black.

He would give his life to save his friend from all the pain and torment, and he knew Jowy, his brother through friendship, would do the same. That was why they were fighting. That was why Jowy had counseled him to run away so many times. Because in the end, they would kill each other rather then let them suffer the unbearable pain that would come if this war continued. And neither of them ever wanted to do that. Not ever.

War, death, pain, suffering, agony. They had both caused so much. It had to stop.

So that the shadows would not spread to anyone else.


"Lord Riou," Shu said the next morning, "the time has come to finish this war. Please, give us permission to invade Highland."

Riou hesitated. After having spent the whole night coming to a resolution, he was tired and weak. The decision he made here would be so devastating to both the people of Highland and the people of the Dragon Army no matter what course he chose, and that weighed heavily on his conscience. However, he had come too far, lost too much, and was so close to finally ending this thirty-year war that the choice he made was already decided for him. He could not let all the people that looked up to him down. And he had to save his friend.

"Lord Shu, this war has been going for too long. The time has come for the shadows to stop. To end this war, we will invade Highland."

Lord Shu nodded and left the room to gather the various army commanders. Riou turned to look out a window, at the sun climbing slowly in the sky, to the vast world he might never see.

"Nanami, Grandpa Genkaku, please help me see this through to the end."

He realized that he didn’t want to think of them as only shadows within his mind, as a tangle of memories and losses and unresolved feelings…and they couldn’t be only that, could they? Could all the times he had spent with the ones he loved be reduced only to shadows within his own mind?

As he thought about it, he realized that, maybe, the reason that shadows always existed was because of the light cast by the people themselves while they lived. Maybe…maybe that meant that, in their own way, these shadows, these losses, created their own light. Because as long as the shadows existed, there would always be the light of memory within himself. If the shadows ever conquered him, that light would die, and he’d lose all the light within himself…his memories, his strength, his ability to make a better future.

Maybe that day wasn’t far off. Maybe the light within him was already fading. Maybe it was already too late.

But maybe it wasn’t.

Until he felt the light within vanish, all the ones he loved would be with him.

And he suddenly felt a little less tired, a little less unsure.

Maybe, just maybe, a little lighter.

Author’s note: I suppose I should say I’m a rabid Suikoden 2 fan, having finished the game no less than a dozen times. It has so many characters that fan fiction is inevitable. Not only that, but certain plot points are "overlooked", which leaves so much to the imagination. This is my attempt to share my imagination with everyone. Hope you enjoy.A very special thank you goes out to my muse, Janet, without whom this story/fanfic would never have actually said what I wanted it too. She mercilessly pushed me to say what needed to be said, and I thank her for that.This fanfic contains massive spoilers if you haven’t played Suikoden 2 yet.

The main character of Suikoden 2 does sort of have a "true" name, Riou, so that's what I called him here. However, since McDohl (from Suikoden 1) is really more of a last name, I gave him a first name, Michael, just to avoid awkward sentence structure. The name of the army is the Dragon Army, and the castles are called Odessa Castle (S1) and Genkaku Castle (S2). I also don’t remember the exact words, or even the vague idea of what the characters were saying during the game scenes, so bear with me if it isn’t right.