A/N: Cory is the name of my hero. Suikoden 4 belongs to Konami.
What have I done...?
Dusk was descending upon the forest, concealing the shadowy figure further from view. The man was running at a fast but inconsistent pace, as if in frantic search of something.
The scream he heard in the previous moments was unmistakable; it was only after he had gained consciousness and fully collected his thoughts that he was able to begin the search. He knew the owner of the voice was nearby, but more importantly, he knew the owner--someone who was undeserving of the fate he feared had befallen this person.
A lamb led to its own slaughter--this thought rattled around in his mind, and it was not far from the truth, he feared. The only lack of solace to follow was the possibility that it could have been prevented with just the slightest bit of self-control.
Oh God, let him be all right...
"Are you all right, Ted?" The voice broke into the wandering thoughts of the young man.
Although, when it came to describing him, 'young man' was a term that only went as far as physical appearances. He bore the visage of a teenage boy but had existed for over a century and a half. In that time, he had seen things that most young men had not, and could recite tales older than the men themselves.
"Huh?" Ted looked up, somehow surprised at the person's presence. "Oh...Aldo. I didn't see you there."
"You didn't...see me there?" Aldo asked, a bit offended by the admission. "I've been standing there for the past five minutes. I suppose you didn't hear me either when I told you that Mister Cory and Lady Kika have turned in early."
"There's no need to get upset," Ted said, somewhat taken aback. "This inn is noisy, and my mind was wandering for a while."
"Oh...well...I'm just telling you, the others have already gone up, okay?"
"So you've told me," the rune bearer replied bluntly. "There's no need to repeat yourself."
The hurt was back in Aldo's expression. "And there's no need to be so cold. I was just being courteous. What's your problem, anyway?"
"Aldo," Ted began to say, but the other man had already walked off.
Their friendship was never what one would call solid; in fact, very few would attest to it being a friendship at all. At best, it appeared to be one-sided. However, Ted had his reasons for not growing close with anyone, let alone Aldo. The curse he bore on his right hand was a potential threat to anyone he could consider a good friend. The rune fed on the souls of those who had established such a bond with its host. For years, Ted tried his hardest to prevent this from happening.
But now, all his efforts would prove in vain. Ted continued running through that forest, praying that what little daylight existed would adequately assist him until the task of searching was over. He knew Aldo had to be around somewhere, anywhere; he had heard him. Only when the power of the Soul Eater had been unleashed did he realize that a grave error had been committed. There were many around him, but there was one voice that did not belong to his pursuers. In the following moments, Ted passed out from exhaustion while helplessly wondering if a certain someone he knew had also been sacrificed.
When he came to, he initially blocked the incident, but when it all came back to him, there was no doubt in his mind. They had quarreled earlier that day, first, over various petty things, and then again over Aldo's persistence and Ted's overall lack of warmth. Eventually it all built up, finally causing the two to part ways for a while. However, Aldo never stayed away for long. Ted knew he would likely be back, whether he desired it or not.
The moment Aldo returned was simply poor timing. A group of bandits had been eyeing Ted for some time, ever since he had entered that village. One of them had recently witnessed the power of the rune and told their leader about it. The leader, who greedily wanted the rune for himself, then ordered his men to take it. Not understanding the rune's true power, the bandits sought Ted and cornered him some hours after Aldo had left. Ted held them off for a while, but knew he would have to put the Soul Eater to use...
"I just don't understand!" Aldo stated dramatically. "Why do you keep pushing me away? I just want to be your friend!"
"I don't intend to be rude," Ted responded, though his patience had approached the breaking point several times during the unwanted conversation. "I just want to be left alone."
"Yeah, yeah..." Aldo turned away slightly, looking defeated. "It's that rune you have, isn't it?"
"Everyone knows about it, Ted. That huge ghost ship appeared out of nowhere; how could anybody not notice? Anyway, I heard some of the details from Mister Cory. I just don't know why you never want to talk about it. If that rune is such a burden, why don't you unload some of that weight and talk to someone about it? You can't just keep that inside of you--"
"I'm dealing with it just fine. In fact, I have been for the past hundred years or so. Why divulge the details to someone who wouldn't even begin to understand?"
"Y-you don't--" Aldo began, but then grew silent for a while. "I guess it's true then," he finally said. "There's no mistake. You were the one I saw, so many years ago..."
"What are you--" Ted's expression changed. "Now that you mention it, you've always looked kind of familiar to me. Have we met before?"
"Oh, do you remember? Many years ago, when I was just a child, a young man saved me from a group of large mutant spiders. I watched him as he used his bow and magical ability to obliterate those monsters, and I became fascinated by his power. It was then I vowed to become a strong warrior, just like him. That...that one act of kindness forever changed me..."
"Aldo, it would be inhuman to let a child die."
"It doesn't matter!" Aldo declared. "When I saw you on the ship, I couldn't help but wonder if you were that same person. It had to be impossible, right? You hadn't aged at all, but I had to find out. When you talked to me about your rune just now, I knew. I knew it was you..."
Ted was stunned. "What? That's..." Those long days on that ship, he thought. Was it such a small frame of time that I managed to meet him when he was a child...?
"After that incident, I spent a long time training, just so that I could be as strong as you were. As soon as I learned how to use a bow, I traveled the land, honing my skills. And...I think a part of me was also hoping I'd run into you again..."
An unknown force collided with Ted's ankle, causing him to stumble and fall forward. He landed hard, taking in a mouthful of grass. He grunted and lifted his head, spitting out any loose green blades and soil. The rune bearer then looked back to realize he had tripped on a vine.
Of all things, he thought as he started to tremble uncontrollably. Those men today were no match for my years of training, but a simple vine will obstruct me from reaching my goal...
Life was strange that way, he realized, at times unkind or rewarding or stagnant and usually accompanied by an equally inconsistent thing called fate. He'd gone from being a child in a peaceful village to an orphan with a sudden curse, to a defeated man giving up on destiny to a resolved man taking back what he had spent thrice a lifetime ridding himself of. However, when he took back control of his own destiny, he'd had a different outcome in mind. Knowing the rune's secrets only fed his desire to keep as many people away from it as possible. He knew that if anyone got too close, one day their lives, too, could be taken...
Ted was quickly back on his feet. He had to find Aldo...
"Wh-who's there?!" Ted shouted to the rustling bushes.
A sheepish Aldo stumbled out of the brush. "F...fancy meeting you here, Ted..."
"Aldo!" he said in exasperation. "Have you been following me?! I thought that leaving Obel in the evening would've cut down on any unwanted company, but it appears I was wrong."
"Don't be so mean to me, Ted," Aldo stated, though a lot more calmly than he usually did. "I was just...concerned about you. Ever since you told me about your rune, I just...I can't let you go off alone. It isn't good for you."
"And I told you, I've dealt with all of that before! Look, I appreciate the thought, but there was no need to follow, really."
"Go back, Aldo," Ted ordered. "You don't want to be around me. It was enough of a mistake being on that ship, being around all those people. I didn't want to get too close to anyone, and for a very good reason. Believe me, this is for your own good. Just go home."
"Uh..." Aldo watched as Ted walked away, but once again, his persistent nature took over. "Hey!" he shouted, running after the rune bearer. "I don't care what you say! I'm tagging along, no matter what. You aren't even giving anyone a chance to be your friend."
The words caused Ted to stop in place. "Friends..." he said bitterly. "Why waste time with something so momentary..."
When he was alone, it was excruciating, but in a way easier. The company of anyone else would simply complicate his situation. From early on, he had decided to spare anyone the pain of being linked with him, and the danger of having their lives taken away in some kind of unfortunate accident.
Looking back, however, Ted realized he was only trying to protect himself from the pain--the pain of loss. If he didn't give anyone the chance of growing close, he would never have to develop feelings for that person, and therefore would be spared the grief that came with losing that person.
This way of living worked quite well for a while. Ted never made good friends, nor did he have to watch them die, with or without the assistance of the Soul Eater.
Eventually, the stress of bearing the rune became too much, and he turned to a higher force to relieve him of his destiny. However, with the help of another True Rune bearer, he realized that this was simply taking the easy way out.
He also came to understand that shutting others completely out of his life was just the same.
Aldo made that task difficult anyhow, but as persistent of a young man as he was, he was rather harmless. With the exception of a couple of travel companions, he, too, had gone some time without human interaction. But although he had become socially inept, he was at least making the effort. Unfortunately, there were times he would come on too strong, and Ted would unapologetically let him know.
But while they traveled together to no place in particular, the ineptitude slowly faded for both. Aldo tried a little less hard when Ted divulged a little bit more, and vice versa. An acquaintanceship of sorts was formed between the two, and there were times feelings or actions would almost indicate a brotherhood...
It was early evening when Ted decided to retire. Usually, he would return at a much later time, but a group of shady-looking men had been eyeing him the moment he walked into the tavern. Not wanting to call any more attention to himself, he quickly ate his dinner and then slipped out when he was sure none of the men were watching.
Ted entered his room at the inn, surprised to find Aldo waiting there.
"Aldo? I thought you were on an errand."
"I was...but there was no one to send the letter to Obel."
"I see. Well, don't worry about it."
"But I never got to thank Mister Cory for taking me in," Aldo said. "If it's one thing I hate, it's to be discourteous. I know it sounds selfish, but when he disappeared, all I could think about was that I'd never be able to thank him for all that he did. And with the recent rumors about him being found, I just want to be certain my letter of thanks reaches him. But if not, then someone who worked closely with him."
"I think it'll be fine, though. One more day isn't going to affect much. At the very least, it'll get there."
"Maybe you're right..."
"By the way, I had the strap on your quiver repaired while you were out," Ted said, casually dropping the object onto the table.
Aldo's expression turned into one of surprise. "You...what?"
"Well, it was barely hanging on by a thread, and I'm sure it would've been a bother..."
Aldo rushed over to the table and picked up the dark leather case. He turned it over, studying it less for the quality of the repair work and more for his own disbelief. The young man then stared at Ted, nothing short of bewildered.
"Um..." Ted suddenly grew embarrassed. "Sorry. I guess I should've asked you first--"
"N-no!" Aldo exclaimed, setting the quiver down. "I-I mean, it's okay. In fact, more than okay. I mean, th-thanks..." Moved by the act of generosity, he happily drew Ted into a sort of half-hug. "That was really great of you. Thank you so much, Ted..."
Not having anticipated this outcome, Ted began to shrink back awkwardly. "Err..." Just then, he felt something just barely touching the top of his forehead, and realized that it was Aldo's; he glanced up to see the young man there, eyes closed. He could also see that the feelings behind the unexpected gesture were genuine.
"Heh..." Ted blushed a little, but eventually relaxed.
Most friendships had their ups and downs. To believe a relationship was immune from conflict once it had reached a certain point was foolish.
However, in the mandatory event that a friendship be terminated, it was preferable that the friendship be in the better state. Nothing was worse than being angry at someone and then learning that something unfortunate had happened to that person.
Perhaps that's why Ted was running through this forest as though frightened for his own life. It was bad enough they had quarreled earlier that day, but thinking that Aldo had died before they could reconcile was a feeling far worse than anything that went down between the two...
"Wait!" Ted shouted. "What are you aiming at?"
Aldo lowered his bow carefully, casting Ted a dirty look. "Oh, nothing, just the same bird I've been trying to hit for the last half hour. 'Cept I can't 'cause someone keeps breaking my concentration every two seconds."
"You're aiming toward that village over there," Ted scolded. "There could be children playing. They could get hurt by your carelessness. What you should do is move--shoot from a different location, one that's safer."
"I can't shoot from anywhere else. If I move over there, the tree branches obstruct my view and might bounce the arrow right back at me, or even at you."
"Then wait a while. We'll walk and find something else."
"You can wait, but I'm hungry now," Aldo grumbled, redrawing the bow. "And besides, there aren't any children over there."
"All right! Fine! We'll wait. Have it your way." He grudgingly followed Ted further into the forest.
"There now, this isn't so bad, is it?" Ted said a while later. When he received no response, he turned around to see Aldo standing some distance away, aiming at a rabbit. "Aldo!"
"What-- ow!" Two events occurred when Aldo released his weapon in surprise. First, he practically jumped in place, causing the bow and arrow to be raised slightly. As a result, one of the lower points of the arrowhead struck him in descent, puncturing the forefinger on his left hand; both items then landed at his feet. Aldo was holding his injured hand, looking as though he were in a bit of pain.
"Grr...!" He glared at Ted. "Don't ever do that again! That really hurt!"
Ted's face flushed red. "Err..I-I didn't...well, if you'd been taking precautions in the first place...!"
Aldo brought his bleeding fingertip to his mouth. "Whatever," he grumbled, snatching up the fallen arrow with his other hand.
"And don't ruffle the fletching, all right? Those are brand new arrows. Or do I need to keep reminding you?"
This only served to irritate Aldo more. "Ted...no offense...but what the hell crawled up inside you today? Aren't you taking all of this a bit too seriously? You have been on edge all morning, and it didn't start with my hunting."
Unbeknownst to Aldo, Ted had no issues with his archery skills. Rather, he was upset with that group of bandits he had seen again the previous night, shortly after he had learned some new details about them. Like most groups, they sought power, but this group in particular had a penchant for magic. Ted wasn't certain why they had been eyeing him until he recognized a face in the group. It was a young lady who had witnessed a little of the rune's power when Ted used it to save her from a wild creature, just days ago.
He remembered the feeling of bitterness at recalling that incident. This was the thanks he would receive for saving her--being pursued by a morally deficient group of warriors who would likely kill for his power. But a confrontation was the last thing he wanted; he preferred to disappear and be forgotten by the bandits. He certainly did not want to resort to taking human life in that case.
His motives for stopping Aldo now had nothing to do with a child's safety or taking other general precautions; he was just trying to get away from the village as quickly as possible. Had he divulged this to his friend, the two might have been working together harmoniously; instead, he was back to his old habits, but this time, taking it out on Aldo.
"You just aren't taking it seriously enough," Ted replied, and rather defensively. "And besides, I...I have my reasons."
"Oh, don't start that again," Aldo said in exasperation. "I thought we were past this point. I thought you were finally opening up to me."
"Maybe I'd open up more if you didn't take it as an invitation to act creepier than you already do!" Ted retorted, an immature but effective shot.
"Who's acting creepy?! I'm minding my own business, and you're using every opportunity to nag or bite my head off!"
"Oh, get over yourself."
"Me?! G..." Aldo stopped and bit his lip, shaking his head. "Hehe, know what? Forget you. I don't need this, or you. I'm going back to the village."
"I'm going back to the village!" Aldo shouted. "That tavern is open, I'm sure. You can stay here and rot for all I care. I'm going back."
"Fine," Ted spat. "Go."
"I didn't ask for your permission," Aldo said coldly. "See you around. Or not."
When Aldo left, Ted thought it nothing short of a relief, at least at first. Without another human around, his responsibilities were alleviated to a degree; he didn't have to work as hard to safeguard human life, but above everything, he wouldn't have to watch someone receive a fate they did not deserve.
A couple of hours afterward was when he began to regret turning Aldo away. Ted had been right about one thing--the bandits had been hot on his trail. He had successfully evaded them for about another hour, using cheap tricks and good hiding places in the forest. However, even he knew that his luck would run out...
There was a loud rustling in the bushes, too much to be a small animal, and too close for the rune bearer to escape undetected. Ted whirled around with a fully drawn bow, aiming at the older gentleman who was stepping out of the brush.
"This is as far as you go, kid," he said, pulling out his sword. "Do yourself a favor and come along quietly."
"Why?" Ted demanded. "What actions of mine could possibly warrant my detainment? Besides, you don't come from any honorable group, let alone one that has the right to govern my fate!"
"Heh, heh...it's nothing you've ever done, so don't worry. You just have something we all could use. My little girl told me all about your power."
"What's your point?"
"Didn't anyone ever teach you that, if you have the power, it's your responsibility to share it? You shouldn't keep this for yourself. Besides, it's not something for a weakling like you to handle." That's when he began to approach him.
"Stop right there!" Ted shouted. "Stay back or I'll shoot!"
The bandit showed him a smirk and, unexpectedly, open arms. "Heh, you want to shoot? Go right ahead."
Confident, because...his friends are here, Ted realized as he heard more rustling. All around me...
He lowered his weapon and turned around just in time to dodge someone else's attack. The man swiped at him with his sword, narrowly missing him several times. When he saw an opportunity, Ted carefully dropped the bow and dove in between the bandit's wide stance. Grasping a rock of good weight, the archer scrambled to his feet before the other man could even turn around. Then, using his shoe, Ted applied downward pressure to the back of the man's knee joint, which was slightly bent. As the unlucky fellow stumbled, Ted gave him a violent shove forward, causing him to land on all fours. The bandit tried to move back, but was knocked out from behind.
Ted dropped the rock he had used to hit the man. Have got...to find a better way of defending myself, he thought, whirling back around as another one climbed out of the bushes. Picking up his bow, he took an open stance and drew the weapon, aiming for the man's heart. As the bandit reached for his knife, Ted struck him in the chest with an arrow, the sharp point skewering the man in between the top bones of his ribcage. Wincing in pain, he, too, went down.
Just then, a flame shot up from the ground, just inches away from Ted. The archer darted to the side as to avoid getting burned from the magical spell. Taking advantage of this distraction, another enemy rushed him. Ted saw him and backed away, but not quickly enough; he felt the sharp edge of a sword penetrate his coat and scratch him across the arm. But before he could react to this, he was tackled from behind.
"Argh!" Ted struggled with his captor to no avail, and was struck in the face by a hail of dirt, courtesy of the leader's dusty boot.
"Give it up!" he barked. "We can do this one of two ways. You can either come with us quietly, or we can cut that rune out of your hand, right here. Which do you prefer?"
Ted coughed and sputtered, choking on a mouthful of dust and filth. "Why..." he started, his eyes burning. "...do you want this rune so badly? How can you desire to have a power you have no understanding about?!"
"Silence!" the man ordered, kicking more dirt into Ted's face. "Obviously you're the one who doesn't understand the very meaning of power. It is what governs fate! Refusing to utilize such power makes you unworthy of wielding it!"
"This power is not meant to be utilized for your selfish ends!" Ted declared, shaking his head furiously. "It is not meant to be in your hands! Look what it is already doing to you and your men! You are nothing more than a pack of bloodthirsty savages!"
"And you are nothing more than a fool! I grow tired of your inane utterances. Men, remove that rune."
"Grr...!" Ted wrestled with the one holding him down, but the act yielded no different results than before. He could feel the rage building inside of him, at both the helplessness of his situation and the revolting attitudes of the men around him. He could barely contain this emotion as his glove was removed, his sleeve pulled back.
"N-no!" he screamed. "Damn you all to hell!"
"B-boss," said the bandit, who no longer seemed confident. He was staring at Ted's right hand, which was glowing. Just then, a dark force knocked him clean off of Ted's body.
Ted himself got up on all fours, moaning, eventually moving onto his feet.
"I was wrong," said the leader, whose expression was a mix of surprise and resentment. "Maybe you are worthy of using that rune."
"My job is to ensure that this rune doesn't fall into the wrong hands," Ted stated, breathing heavily. "I won't let you have the Soul Eater!"
"Enough! Men, get him!"
The increasing numbers of the group began to surround Ted as he began to chant a spell. The bandits were within arm's length of Ted when the rune began to manifest its deadly power. A black cloud descended upon the men, causing all of them to stop in confusion.
"What's going on?" one of them asked, looking around nervously.
Ted raised his hand, concentrating hard on the power of the spell. The rune on his hand glowed scarlet, occasionally flashing black.
Forgive me, Grandpa...
A great force exited the rune, rolling out full blast at a twelve-foot spherical radius. The closest men were vaporized on contact, the others running for their lives with less than few succeeding. Amidst the roar of the magical attack and the screams of the men, Ted thought he heard someone calling his name. As the spell concluded, the powers retracted back into the Soul Eater, and the echo returned with a voice that was most familiar to him.
Those were his last thoughts before blacking out.
When he came to, he was in a world he did not recognize, in the aftermath of something he did not recall. When he saw the bodies around him, he knew something terrible had happened, and that he had to inform someone. That's when he remembered he had been the cause of this.
But they were after my rune, he thought, as if to justify what he had done.
He couldn't stay there, however. Before he realized it, he was running off in any direction, away from this place. This was all in the past now. He couldn't stay behind and risk attracting more unwanted attention. He had done enough damage.
Still, he had to tell someone. It was times like this he needed a friend. As much time as he had spent away from people, the human part of him yearned for some kind of blood brother, or even just a friendly ear. That was the one thing he never admitted to Aldo, that as strong as the young man came on at times, he was grateful for the presence of another caring individual. Yes, he needed a friend like Aldo now, except...
Ted had been running for several minutes when it hit him.
That voice... He remembered now. While he was striking down most of the bandits, there was a voice calling out to him.
Just as the majority of bandits were getting wiped out, Aldo had shown up at the most unfortunate time.
And he paid for it, didn't he...? Ted thought in horror. In that blast, there's no way he couldn't have.
Oh God...what have I done?
At last, Ted was revisiting the scene he had left some time ago. When he left, it hadn't occurred to him that one of the charred bodies could have been Aldo's, given he hadn't been reduced to ash. The thought now sickened and frightened him, but he had to know.
"A...Aldo...?" Ted called out, his voice a scared whisper. When there was no response, he spoke at a higher volume. "Aldo?"
Images of Aldo dying occurred over and over in Ted's mind, the guilt tearing into him just as often. One desperate act and their friendship had faded, like ashes scattering in the wind.
"Aldo..." His eyes were stinging, tears forming in their corners.
A faint moan briefly renewed his hope, and he immediately followed the sound of it. He ran into a patch of trees that were partly scorched by the rune's power, and then stopped, frantically looking back and forth.
Another moan directed Ted's attention to the base of a tree trunk. There, sitting awkwardly against the tree, was Aldo...or at least, something which resembled Aldo. Half of his body was intact, but the other half was a combination of torn clothing, severely burned, blistered skin, and some blood. What was worse, the young man was wincing in pain, but did not seem remotely disturbed the fact that he was literally beside himself. Something resembling an arm was lying a couple of feet away from him, a long, stained, putrid mass of bone clumsily enveloped in blankets of torn, charred flesh.
Entirely shocked by the sight of his friend, Ted approached cautiously, toward the physical side he could still recognize. He knelt down slowly. "A-Aldo...?"
Aldo was trembling, his breathing not unlike that of a person who had just been scared out of his wits. "Agh...who...who's there...?" Nearly a third of his face had been horribly burned, ruptured blisters and scorched dirt distinguishing his exposed cheek from the rest of his flesh.
Ted's expression turned remorseful. "Aldo..."
Aldo's features tensed, his eyes fluttering before opening. "Ted...?" he asked weakly. "Y-you're here. You're okay. No. Y-your arm..."
The rune bearer shook his head. "I'm fine. Aldo...why...did you come?"
"Guh..." He coughed up a bit of blood. "That's...that's...yeah, those guys. I heard...I overheard...some of them...in the village...talking about you. I had to...come...stop them..."
"A-and that's when..." Ted's expression grew even sadder. "I...I'm so sorry, Aldo. I did this to you. You were just trying to protect me, and..."
"You..." Aldo shook his head weakly. "N-no, what are you--don't...don't blame yourself. You didn't...do this to me. You didn't know. You were just...protecting yourself...from those men. It was my choice...to go after you. My arm...took a pretty bad beating...from one of the bandits...just...just before you...unleashed that power. I...used the tree as a shield...not...not well enough...I guess. I was...scared...but now I see...you're okay...that's...that's all that matters..."
Aldo studied the rune bearer, a bit stunned by his reaction. "Ted...you...you're shedding tears...for me...?"
Ted briefly touched his own face, surprised at this as well.
"Ted..." Aldo whispered, reaching out for him.
Ted drew closer and took the hand of his dying comrade. "I'm sorry, Aldo...I knew about those bandits...I shouldn't have kept that from you. If only I'd said something...you wouldn't be here...like this..."
"You don't...you don't know that..." Aldo loosened his hold and lifted his hand to his friend's face.
Ted began to tremble at this gesture, more tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Ted...I'm so glad...I got to know you...just...remember...I would've...died eventually, and...you would live on. It just...happened sooner, is all. Just...just promise me...one thing...please..."
"What is it?" the rune bearer asked, carefully touching the hand that was cupping his cheek.
"Live on...after me...I mean...really live. Don't...don't shut down again...learn again...to open up...to others. Give them...the choice of...whether they should...be your friend or not. They deserve...that much...and...and so do you..." The young man's trembling then ceased with a final breath.
Ted felt his friend's hand grow lifeless and slip from his face. "Aldo...?"
In the following moments, the rune on his hand began to pulsate. It was in a rare manner, though not one in which he hadn't before witnessed. It tended to occur shortly after someone he cared about had died.
A brilliant light shone upon Aldo, extracting a sort of apparition from his body. This image became encased in a glowing white sphere, which was transferred over to Ted's right hand where the rune was. The light then faded as quickly as it had appeared.
Ted sat there for a little while longer. He bowed his head, sighing.
Ted buried the body of Aldo shortly after the incident. He was not a religious person by any means, but managed to say a prayer in his honor.
Despite the freak accident, some of Aldo's belongings escaped unharmed, one of which being his weapon. Ted retrieved the bow and arrows and studied them, different memories playing through his mind. He recalled the moment he first met Aldo, though it was less of a proper introduction and more of an unintentional encounter. From that point on, all their encounters did become intentional whenever it was up to Aldo. However, the meetings were not altogether unpleasant, and not all of them were spent analyzing the need for a friend. Thinking back, Ted could imagine the days they spent perfecting their techniques, carrying themselves like professionals in battle while acting awkward in a friendship that came naturally to most. He remembered the joy in Aldo's expression when the quiver was repaired, as well as how annoyed Aldo was with handling the new arrows with extreme care. Ted recalled these memories and others, but more importantly, he would smile at them. Hi s heart was full of pain, but he owed a debt of gratitude to the person who had made his life eventful in the last few months.
There was a terrible void left behind from the loss of a wonderful person, and though the two hadn't had the chance to become true brothers, Aldo clearly approached the level of what anyone would call a great friend. Though he was gone, he'd left behind some good memories, as well as some useful advice. He no longer walked the living earth but hadn't left Ted entirely alone; there was a part of Aldo that would always stay with him. Perhaps it was in what the rune had taken, but Ted would argue otherwise.
With a gentle bonfire burning, Ted managed to fall asleep in the woods that evening. When it was nearly daybreak, he awoke, and set off with Aldo's bow in hand.
A/N: Thanks for reading, folks. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. I'm not sure just how or when I became so obsessed with the idea of Aldo and Ted (as friends! AS FRIENDS! XD), but I seemed to be cursed with an admiration for cute Tenei stars who worry about young teens with True Runes. (Well, Ted still looks like a teen, so there XP)
I took all the info I could from gameplay, GameFAQs, and Ted/Aldo topics at Suikosource, so various thanks go all around (gee, aren't I so nice? =P). As for the thing about Ted meeting Aldo in the past...that's just my own theory, because Ted does say Aldo looks familiar. Anyway, Konami will likely release some info about the 'mysterious accident' two seconds after this fic goes up, but, umm...oh well. This is just my take on things at the moment. ^^
Until next time,