One day, I want you to become a hero just like me, my precious little Luke. Protect what matters to you. Always...
You have your mother's smile. Live wise, my son...
Luke woke up to the sound of clashing steel. He shot up from the ground, startled as he wiped the tears from his eyes. It wasn't the time to daydream.
Could it be...did the Sphere of Temporea not work?
He looked around and was immediately relieved upon seeing that there was no one around him. The sounds of battle were close, but not close enough that he could see the ones fighting, nor could they see him.
His gaze roamed around slowly as he took in his surroundings. He was in a dusty old room, full of cobwebs and broken pieces of stone and rotting wood.
"These ruins. It is somehow..."
Familiar, he almost blurted out.
Then, he looked more closely.
Above him, the broken ceiling exhibited a design commonly seen in modern Asherian architecture. The massive arced pillars in the four corners of the room were all partially damaged and worn out, but it was still possible to make out what they looked like in the past.
All of these, combined with the sight of a stump that was once a decorative pedestal right beside him was enough for him to draw a reasonable conclusion.
He knew this room, for it was the throne room of the castle where he had been only moments ago.
Or at least, it used to be.
After hearing that the battle was still raging on close by, he got out of the room as quietly as he could and walked across the halls of the ruined castle surreptitiously.
This should be impossible. The Asherii Kingdom stood tall and proud for countless centuries in the past. How come the castle is in this sorry state?
Luke's mind raced. There was already one possibility that crossed his mind, but he did not even want to consider it.
After all, if what he suspected was true then everything—his mental preparation, his training, all of the information he painstakingly memorized for years, and his desire to relive his past and save his mother from dying a second time would have been all for naught.
Not now. I need to focus so I can figure out what happened.
Luke muffled his breath as he tightened his steps and leaned against the entrance of the dining room where the sounds of battle were coming from. He would've preferred to avoid the dining room, but he had to pass through the hall in front of it to get to his room where he could finally ascertain the truth for himself.
Carefully, he leaned over and caught sight of several people—including a boy about the same age as him dressed in crimson and gold. The colors of Arvenhail royalty.
With the same red eyes that Alastaire had, Luke would have thought that the boy was somehow related to the king of humans if it weren't for the golden hair he had and the elongated ears on the sides of his head that only an elf or a hobbit could have.
He saw that the boy's ears, however, were not as pointed as they should be, and his eyes, though they glinted a comely brilliant red, had no glow to them. These were two of the most common features of a person with only a part of ancient blood. The boy was a halfbreed, like him.
At first glance, the boy was fighting pretty well for his age and looked as if he was merely toying with the others who were dressed in drab and cheap armor. Bandits, Luke assumed.
With a sigh and a wry smile, the golden-haired boy said, "You lot are simply no match for me. Could you just surrender without fighting anymore? Please? Just come with me to the city to answer for your crimes. You'll probably be locked up for a year or two at most. No biggie, right?"
"Damn it! To think that a fuckin' student tracked us all the way here," one of the bandits said while clutching his broken arm with a wince. "Don't you have homework to do?"
Deadpan, the boy responded, "This quest is my homework."
Luke raised an eyebrow. Hmm. Student? Of what?
After a moment of deliberation, Luke looked around and slipped past the unblocked entrance of the dining hall, leaving the scene behind him. He dared not tarry any longer, especially with someone like the mysterious young man around.
Luke walked at a brisk, yet still-cautious pace from then on. When he arrived in front of his room, he wasn't at all surprised to see that the door was torn off of its hinges just like every other room he passed by.
After having a slightly-emotional parting from that very room not too long ago, he did not expect one bit that he would be seeing it again so soon.
He stepped inside and frowned as he saw that his room too had been robbed blind. The numerous piles of books he had painstakingly amassed were now completely gone, except for a few books that he had snuck inside an unremarkable, yet secure partition that he made under the bed.
He kneeled and opened the now rickety and mostly-hollow wooden hatch and found his old collection of fictional novels. Books that Castarossa forbid him from ever reading, fearing that they would corrupt and deaden his mind.
Luke gritted his teeth as he hurriedly flipped through all of them one by one. The signs of aging on the paper of the books were undeniable. Even some of the subtle bookmarks that he left by pressing a fingernail against the bottom of the pages were still there, much to his dismay.
So it is true...
Every single thing that his father's prophecy foretold. They were all lies.
Instead of being sent to the past like he was supposed to, he was instead three centuries into the future. The worse part was that he was not even certain if it was indeed exactly three hundred years. With one part of the prophecy wrong, how could he believe there aren't any more errors?
I should have known this was possible. Even the ancestors only stated that it gives the power to transcend time. Nothing about sending me to the past or the future. Father...he must have made it all up. But for what?
Luke hung his head in disbelief for a moment before closing the book in his hand. All of the predetermined goals and advantages that he built his plan around for years that would've been useful had he gone back to the past instead were lost in an instant.
His acquired knowledge of every major historical event in the past was now useless, and so was learning every location of vast hidden riches and Materia all over the realm.
And, more importantly, Luke realized that he could not see his mother again. He had just lost the very reason why he looked forward to traveling back in time in the first place.
He even thought of saving his father—who burned right before his eyes while protecting him with a smile—from his grisly demise.
What cruel fate you have given me, Deus. Is there no end to your torment?
Luke could almost laugh hysterically in his anger and regret. He waited patiently—enduring the hardships and cruelty he had to deal with in Askanar Castle until the day where he could finally leave it all behind him and see his mother once again—all for this?
He had always known it, but the gods, Deus included, were cruel after all. If they truly cared, then they would've allowed him even the slightest bit of respite, wouldn't they?
He sank onto the floor and buried his head in his hands for a long time as he tried to pull himself together in between sobs.
Self-pity was for the weak. It was one of the few things he agreed with from Castarossa's teachings.
There are still some things that I must do, even if all else fails.
Luke remembered his mother's last words, along with his father's. The ones he had dreamt of before he was sent here.
After some time, with a renewed will and resolution, Luke walked outside his room and went straight for the castle's treasury.
Sorrow still lingered in his eyes, but within it hid the fire of desire that could never be extinguished.
If he could not save either of them in the past, then he would just have to live his life according to their wishes in the present moving forward.