Beyond It All, Do You Recognize Me?
Rating: G | Category: Gen | No Warnings Apply | Originally Posted 7/10/23
Cassiopeia & Horace | Cassiopeia & Oliver
After being restored to her former self, Cassiopeia is reuinted with - and has to say goodbye to - an old friend.
“And I want you to see it, the world you saved.”
The joy in the room was palpable. Oliver had finally brought down the White Witch, and she could no longer hurt anyone else. Cassiopeia was herself again, after all of these years, it was finally time to begin bringing her kingdom, her home, to what it once was. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so overjoyed, she couldn’t even remember the last time she had felt happy at all. Cassiopea had nothing but gratitude for her new friends and what they had done for her.
After saying their goodbyes, Oliver and the others turned to begin their way back out of the Ivory Tower. It was quite peculiar then when Cassiopeia watched Oliver stop in his tracks, spin around, run back to her, and grab her wrist with wide eyes.
“Y-you need to – come with us.” His voice stuttered, but Cassiopeia could tell how urgent his tone of voice was. And to be honest, she was quite intrigued with what could be so important that she didn’t know about, and based on how Oliver’s friends looked at him as if he had three heads, they didn’t quite know either. She nodded, allowing Oliver to basically pull her out of her own inner sanctum and down the hall.
“You know, I know every inch of his tower,” she reminded him playfully. “If there’s anything here, I have already seen-”
There was someone standing at the council’s chairs. She can see him from the end of the hall.
He’s. No. It can’t be. It’s impossible. Oh my goodness he’s translucent. He hasn’t noticed her yet. But he’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. It’s-
“Horace!” Cassiopeia cried, ripping her wrist from Oliver’s grasp and ran down the hall. The figure’s head whipped around when he heard who called his name. His staff slipping from his fingers and vanishing into mist upon seeing her. Cassiopeia had tears forming in her eyes as she desperately attempted to remember the strokes for Spirit Medium mid-run, and few things felt more rewarding than the glow of casting a spell as she reached her destination.
For a moment, the only thing either of them could do was stare. As if both of them felt this had to be a wishful dream. Horace finally lifting a clear hand in an attempt to pull her hair behind her ear – like he wouldn’t go straight through her.
“My, Cassiopeia, look how you’ve grown.”
Cassiopeia’s head spun, even after her ten thousand years of isolation and despair and despite him disappearing when she was so young, her memories of Horace had never left her. It seems he himself had never truly left, either.
“Horace…have you been in search of me..? All this time?” She asked, her heart hurting at the mere idea of Horace spending centuries looking for her, completely unaware the sweet girl he cared for had been locked away and twisted into something wicked.
Horace sighed, frowning. “I’m sorry it took me so long. It seems even in death I fail you.”
She tried to hold back her tears. “Th-the council. They told me you ran away. That once Father died you grew afraid of the responsibility of teaching me.” Cassiopeia vividly remembered the way members had spat words like coward and traitor to a child who only dare ask where her dearest friend went. “I never believed them. I couldn’t. I knew there had to be a reason…you would never abandon me.” She felt it better to not mention the time she spent as a child crying silently into the night, fearing the worst had come to the man she loved like a father so quickly after she had lost her first one.
Horace looked down, face full of sorrow. “I should have come back sooner. I never should have left at all. I could’ve saved Nazcaa. I could’ve saved you.”
She frowned. These were the words of someone who had spent far too long agonizing over what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. The words of someone whose regret chewed them inside out. Words she knew far too well. But she knew more than ever now that the only way to move was forward.
Cassiopeia shook her head. “What is done is done. No matter how much we wish, we cannot change the past, but the future is ours to create. I’m going to rebuild Nazcaa, give it a second life. We start with planting flowers, oh Horace you are going to love it!” She beamed. Horace smiled in return, but his eyes remained sad.
“I wish I could be here with you to see it.” He sighed. “But now that I know you are well, my time in this world is done.”
It was Oliver who responded before Cassiopeia could even have the chance to. “But Horace!” He cried, Cassiopeia turned her head to look at the boy, whose face had twisted into a pout. Admittedly, Cassiopeia had been so caught up in the moment that she forgot that she and Horace were in fact, not the only two people in the room. She did not know what had happened during her solitude, but based on Oliver’s actions, he and Horace had become well acquainted.
She turned back to Horace. “Must you go so soon? I’ve only…” Cassiopeia trailed off, chastising how insensitive she would’ve sounded, but the intention was clear. I’ve only just gotten you back.
Horace’s face turned wistful, and Cassiopeia could already see the light surrounding him refracting. “If I could, I would do nothing more than to stay by your side a moment longer. But alas, there is nothing I can do.” He held his hand to his heart. “But I know that if anyone is to bring Nazcaa back to its former glory, it would be you.” It seemed he got harder to see every second, growing fainter and fainter.
He turned to speak to Oliver, but Cassiopeia filtered out all the noise around her, taking the moment to consider what to do next. When Horace turned back to her, she held her head up high.
“Before you leave, I have one final request of you.”
Horace nodded, beckoning her to continue.
She took a deep breath, trying to keep her composure. “Please tell Father I say hello.”
Cassiopeia could barely make out Horace’s smile.
“Of course.” He replied, voice as gentle as it could be. “Goodbye, Pea.”
And with that, he was gone. His silhouette turned to specks of light, which then faded into nothing. Cassiopeia sighed, taking a moment to dry her remaining tears, before turning to lean to Oliver’s level with a smile.
“It seems you knew each other quite well.”
Oliver sniffled, wiping his face with his sleeve. “He…he didn’t remember anything at first. When I met him. He wanted to see what the world looked like, and every time I met him somewhere new he taught me a spell…he went everywhere trying to remember. To remember you. Horace…” his voice trailed off, whimpering.
Cassiopeia stood silent, eyes closed. Her heart ached for her former teacher, but she was now more determined than ever to make sure he would be truly allowed to rest. She shot straight up with a bounce in her step. “You know, I haven’t been outside for a very long time” spinning around to look at the rest of the group, who had been awkwardly standing off to the side. “I am quite interested in seeing the world Horace was so eager to explore.”
Oliver dried his tears one last time and then smiled, taking her hand once again, though this time much more gently. “Let’s go then!”
With that, they were off, and Cassiopeia was very excited to see the sun again.