Originally appearing in the Japan only art book 'Xenoblade The Secret File: Monado Archives this is a side story which takes shortly before the final battle. Although the events have little real impact the story (they are alluded to briefly in a heart to heart) there are some spoilers with regards to the events during the latter part of the game.
Translator's note: I've tried to match the English translation as far as I can, but since I played the Japanese version there are bound to be some things which don't match.
There's also an alternate translation HERE.
There can be no darkness without the light. Their perpetual conflict a part of nature, and so it was with Mechonis and Bionis, the old gods rose, and fell together.
They are dead now, their monstrous frames no more than lifeless husks, but their progeny survive and through them their ancient conflict endures.
The Homs of Bionis. Their elders tell of a time when they thrived, when their colonies spread throughout this world. But that was long ago, and one by one they fell to the machine god's armies until all but a handful were left in ruins. Colony 9 would have met a similar fate, were it not for its distance from Mechonis. Now despite the conflict which rages around them it remains the closest thing to a place of refuge the Homs have left.
An oasis in the desert of this uncertain world
Shulk ...got a sec?
Shulk looked up from his research.
It was Dean again, stony faced and love sick. The long war had made many widows, and he had fallen for one. He thought of nothing but winning her heart and seemed to take pleasure in burdening Shulk with his troubles.
He had little choice but to listen dutifully although, even he had to admit, that after everything he and his companions had been through, there was something comforting about the normality of it all...
Still, Shulk thought to himself, I'm not exactly the best person to ask about this sort of thing…
Dean however, failed to notice his stoic expression, and launched headlong into another tale of unrequited love.
It quickly became apparent that Dean was after more than just a sympathetic ear, he had cooked up another scheme designed to win favour with the woman of his dreams and as it unfolded, Shulk was to play a small but essential part.
"I'll see what I can do…."
In truth, Shulk was happy to help, after all what was this compared to the the trials and hardships of their journey, the monster infested caves and their ascension of the ancient gods. It wasn't long before he was returning to Dean to report his success.
"There you go, all done"
At Shulk's words Dean's expression softened at last. Although old fashioned and serious to a fault, he was likeable enough and his heart was in the right place.
Climbing the steps, Shulk emerged into the Military district plaza as dusk was falling, bathing the square in a golden glow.
Another day had ended and it continued to elude him, another day of false leads and dead ends, of ceaseless toil with nothing to show for it.
As a scientist he was bound by reason, but had he listened to reason he would surely have given up long ago, and he couldn't give up, not while there was even the slightest hope.
Dean's little diversion had made no difference, it seemed that some things would always remain just beyond his reach
Could what Linada said really be true… he puzzled.
Heavy hearted, Shulk crossed the square. Around him, the air was abuzz with the chatter of residents hurrying home before nightfall, and the rhythmic thud of iron shod feet as the troops filed out to their posts to begin the nights watch.
He had watched this scene unfold countless times, though of course in the past it lacked such pattern and purpose, in those days they had thought themselves safe from the Mechon, the fighting, while fierce, had all been concentrated far away in the Sword Valley, any threat seemed insubstantial and remote. Indeed to many Homs, those cold iron soldiers were nothing more than a story used to frighten children. The occasional sightings on the Gaul Plain all that served to remind them of the war that raged outside their walls, but for them to come as far as Colony 9... it was unthinkable.
That tranquil life ended the day the Mechon came, they swept across Bionis taking Colony 6 and advancing on Colony 9, shattering the peace that had lasted since Dunban had driven them from the Sword Valley a year earlier. It was that sudden attack that had started Shulk on his journey.
Since then the colony had been transformed from a small outpost into the base of operations for the fight against a new threat... The Telethia
Reawakened at the ceremony of destruction and recreation, they were beings whose sole purpose was the destruction of all life on Bionis, but the people refused to give up, instead spending their days planning and constructing defences. There was an air of conviction, a hope which had been absent in the days immediately following the attacked.
A return to that former, peaceful, existence was impossible, but some semblance of normality had returned.
With everything they'd lost, Shulk thought, the colony members had gained something more important; the dogged determination to not simply give up, but to go on living in this precarious world
He found great solace in that.
For they all knew the end was coming, the final battle which would decide not only the fate of the Homs, but of all life on Bionis. Venturing into that 'lifeless husk'; the shell of the giant god was a journey which, in all probability, they would not return from.
But they couldn't go without first passing on the fruits of their labours, the knowledge they had gained on their journey, of the Machina and the monaco replica, a weapon which had the potential to turn the tide of the war and give them an crucial advantage over the machines.
It was Dean, far more adept with metal than with romance, who was chosen to lead the project. Shulk recalled the look on his face when he had passed him the data, a wide eyed enthusiasm he had previously only seen at mention of his sweetheart.
But that wasn't all, there was something else, something Linada had shared with Shulk that, unlike the monado replica, he had kept completely to himself...
He cut through the commercial district, passing shop keepers readying their stalls for the night market, exchanging idle pleasantries with the people he encountered,
From here he headed towards the town gates, to the house where Dunban and Fiora lived. It was Dunban who had chosen this place, that he might be first to respond to any danger that threatened the colony.
Shulk had spent much of his childhood here, a thousand memories came flooding back as he paused to take in the familiar sights and sounds. Night was descending, and light spilled out onto the threshold as he opened the door and stepped inside.
Fiora was a gifted cook, during their journey she had been able to conjure something edible from even the most meagre rations, but here in her own kitchen surrounded by her aged utensils and familiar ingredients she could work miracles. Shulk glanced at her as he entered the room, she wore an expression of deep satisfaction as she busied herself with the next recipe.
In the past the house had often been host to visitors. Not just Shulk and Reyn, but Dunban's comrades Mumkhar and Dickson, and even Colonel Vangarre and Kantz of the watch.
But only the chosen may wield the Monado, and for all Dunban's strength using it to drive the Mechon from the sword valley had taken a terrible toll. After he had been carried back gravely wounded and clinging to life, visitors to the house had become infrequent and the atmosphere somber.
Yet looking at the room today it almost felt as if those days had returned, though now instead of grizzled fighting men, scarred and battle-weary, it was Sharla, Riki, Melia and Reyn who now encircled the dining table. Dunban sat quietly taking in the scene. It was clear that he too was remembering the old days.
Memories of another age... another lifetime.
Then the food arrived on the table:
"Hey, you big meanie that's mine" squealed Riki "You've eaten too much already... I've been outside all day working my fingers to the bone, this should be mine!"
"What fingers!?", blustered Reyn, "And I think you'll find I was the one doing all the work, you just stood there shouting in that squeaky voice of yours"
"Well... That uses calories too you know! Heropon has to eat or he'll waste away"
Dunban continued to watch the scene with amusement, his dark eyes twinkling.
"Where do you put all this food anyway you little midget"
The pair began chasing each other around the table, much to the disapproval of Sharla who was growing visibly more agitated with each passing second...
"Will you two give it a rest. Honestly, it's like watching two children squabble"
Melia stood up, her precise, graceful movements at odds with the surrounding cacophony.
"I'm sorry for being so ill-mannered" she exclaimed as she made her way towards the food which lay cooling on the counter "but if these two don't eat something soon…"
"Don't worry Melia" said Fiora without even pausing to turn around
"Riki and Reyn can wait, I made that for you"
"...There's no need to make a special effort on my account"
"It's not that, I just made yours before I added the spicy cabbage"
It was true that Melia didn't share Reyn's love for this particular delicacy, but she had been raised since childhood to eat everything she was presented with, Her father's words echoed even now.
"The High Entian royal family must be just and benevolent rulers, to refuse food given by our people is to belittle their diligence and sacrifice, and that Melia, is a shame we cannot bear"
So on the Gaul Plain when Reyn had offered to share his rations with her as a clumsy gesture of good will, she had eaten it all without complaint ,although she hadn't been at all amused when he'd offered her seconds.
"You didn't want me to?"
"No...it's not that I... Thank you"
Fiora beamed at her "...You know Melia, you've really started speaking your mind... It suits you"
In truth Melia was caught off guard by the remark,
In the short time she had known Fiora she had come to admire her honesty and the ease with which she spoke her mind. Indeed, on more than one occasion she had caught herself wondering if she could ever be so straightforward, but old habits die hard, and a lifetime among the High Entia meant it still felt strange to speak frankly.
"Okay you two, grub's up! Sweet salmon and baked aubergine, everything you growing boys need"
Reyn and Riki's stopped, their eyes lit up
"Fiora's food makes Riki's tummy happy"
In an instant all slights were forgiven as Reyn began piling food onto Riki's plate.
"You should eat up too Melia, it's going to get cold"
"Oh... of course"
Melia returned to her place at the table, sat down and gingerly brought the fork to her lips...
Without the spicy cabbage, the subtle flavours were fit for even the most delicate High Entian palate.
For the first time in recent memory, she ate something that was truly delicious.
Melia awoke with a start, a cry of pain had pierced the quiet stillness of the night.
The ether lamp still cast its ghostly, pale light; it appeared there was some time left until dawn.
The three girls slept on the first floor of the house in Fiora's room, Sharla and Melia had been forced to make do with moth eaten mattresses spread on the hardwood floor but even those had seemed like luxury compared to the nights they had spent out in the wilds, the titans looming black against the night sky, blotting out the stars.
Sharla slept peacefully, her chest rising and falling with the quiet sound of her breathing. It was Fiora who was suffering. Her mechanical hands lay clenched by her sides, her breaths short and sharp.
Melia went to her.
This wasn't the first time she had cried out in her sleep, but she couldn't sweat or have a fever, repairing her robotic body was beyond the expertise of even the most learned High Entia. The only one who could help her now was Linada; the Machina doctor.
It was a feeling of powerlessness she had rarely experienced. The might of the High Entian Empire at her beck and call and she could do nothing more than hold Fiora's hand and whisper words of comfort into the darkness.
Anger welled up inside her, burning, acrid, white hot.
At that moment something moved, a shadow between the ether lamps that lined the street outside "...Shulk?"
Where was he going at this time of night? Shouldn't he be here? Shouldn't he be the one supporting Fiora in her hour of need?
Melia knew that it made little real difference who sat by her side, but someone had to tell him... had to let him know just how callous he was being.
Pausing only to gather her equipment (for the Telethia could attack at any time) she set out in pursuit. She already knew where he was headed for these days he rarely left the laboratory in the military district.
By the time she arrived Shulk was already buried in his reports, scanning the room she noticed hundreds more, stacked in precarious towers like gigantic paper monoliths. Whatever he had been doing this afternoon, it appeared that he had returned to continue it.
It was just like him, he was single minded, almost to the point of obsession; but it was that self-same devotion that made him such an invaluable companion, and that dedication which would no doubt ensure the success of the Monado replica project. But he was forgetting something important, he was forgetting Fiora.
Naturally, Shulk was completely oblivious to her presence, he thought of nothing but the regeneration machine.
That was what Linada had told him about. Advanced High Entian technology so ancient that even they had lost all record of it, but if he could find it; then there was a chance that could save Fiora from her suffering.
Since hearing Linada's words words they had consumed his every waking moment.
Even the machina were unable to recreate it, yet there was still a chance that one existed somewhere on Bionis. So when he wasn't assisting the Monado project he was pouring over the archeological reports left by his parents and the other explorers who had cataloged the ruins dotting the landscape. Perhaps somewhere in those records...
Knowing nothing of this Melia stormed into the lab, her poise and etiquette momentarily forgotten.
"Shulk, what are you doing here?"
But her blunderous entrance disturbed the delicate balance of the documents piled beside the doorway, they swayed and rippled for a moment, like some great serpent, before collapsing.
Shulk had just enough time to grasp what was happening and leapt to protect her from the descending avalanche. At that moment...
Melia stood in front of the authentication device and spoke.
As sovereign of the royal house of the High Entia I request that control of this facility be passed to me.
Dunban hid his face, he didn't want the others to see his tears.
"It appears I'm in your debt once again..."
"No problem" Reyn laughed "I'll keep Shulk out of trouble until it's done..."
Linada placed a reassuring hand on Fiora's shoulder
"The preparations are complete, it is time to enter"
"What happened Shulk?"
Visions gave way to a monochrome world, ink blots to water colour, reds and blues. Then Melia's face swam into focus, she stood over him.
"Shulk" she said, her anger forgotten.
"Melia, where are we?"
He looked around the lab, documents lay scattered in great heaps upon the floor, his mind still trying desperately to process everything he'd just witnessed.
Melia had seen it many times before, that fleeting moment when Shulk's consciousness was elsewhere, that faint blue light glimmering in the depths of his eyes.
"You saw it didn't' you... The future"
Shulk nodded and slowly began to explained what he'd seen.
Whatever ancient system kept the machine sealed, it could be opened by a member of the royal family... By Melia
"I think I've found it..."
"found what? ...Shulk?"
"All this time and it was right under our noses" Shulk exclaimed "Don't you see Melia, there's a way to help Fiora, and you're the key!"
"There's this machine, of course the technology's been lost for eons, but I knew there had to be at least one left somewhere on Bionis"
Melia's expression went from puzzlement to delight
"It's right here in colony 9, and you were the one who showed me. It's all thanks to you!"
Forgetting herself a second time, Melia embraced him.
"We did it!"
Despite her delight, Melia couldn't help feeling guilty. Of course Shulk had been thinking of Fiora all along. She had been wrong to doubt him...
The journey from the hidden Machina village wasn't an easy one, but difficult and fraught with danger as it was, Linada responded to their summons and arrived just a few days later. Together the party headed to the Mag Mell ruins above Colony 9.
They made their way into the caves in silence, the atmosphere of anticipation palpable.
As they walked deeper Melia's pace began to slow, her eyes fixed on the structures which sprang from the rocks in the deepest part of the caves.
"You know it's strange" she said in a barely audible whisper "but this place, it reminds me of the the royal palace somehow"
"There is nothing strange about it" Linada replied "these walls were built by your ancestors hands, what inhabits this space is not a ruin as you seem to think, but an ancient ship of High Entian design".
The companions were taken aback by this sudden revelation. To them the old ruins were as familiar as the streets and houses of the colony, the creatures weak enough so that even the rawest recruits could train in relative safety. No one suspected that they held such a secret, that the metal structures were actually part of an ancient ship, crash landed so long ago that centuries at the mercy of the elements had rendered it indistinguishable from the surrounding mountains.
"The High Entian people developed many unique technologies in their high towers, regeneration chief among these. They protected it well. It is little wonder that time has not touched this place."
The colonials visited the alcove at the highest point of the ruins frequently. It's walls, lined with hundreds of ether cylinders were an invaluable resource, though their true purpose remained a mystery. The door at it's rear resisted any and all attempts to open it.
Now, Melia stood before it and spoke.
"As sovereign of the royal house of the High Entia I request that control of this facility be passed to me"
The captain's final orders fulfilled, the ship's computer accepted Melia as its new master and the automated systems, for the first time in hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, unlocked the door. With the defences finally at rest, the party progressed quickly through the ships dark interior until they reached the central chamber.
"This is it, no doubt about it"
Linada nodded her agreement
The device appeared just as it had in Shulk's vision. Before them lay a great mass of complex machinery, a human sized transparent capsule at it's centre.
Dunban gazed at the machine, his voice trembling as he spoke.
"With this, Fiora's body will...?"
"Yes," said Shulk "I'm sure of it"
"It appears I'm in your debt once again..."
Shulk averted his gaze, he knew Dunban was trying to hide his tears.
"This machine, will it really...."
Fiora seemed far from convinced, could this antiquated contraption really be the answer?
Linada spoke, placing a slender hand on her shoulder.
"Though Iron and steel replace your flesh, the patterns of your original construction remain, this machine can use the information in your remaining cells to rebuild you as you were"
"Riki doesn't understand machines, but soft Fiora would give better hugs"
Fiora looked at Riki and smiled, though her doubtful expression remained.
"Something wrong Fiora?" Asked Sharla, concerned.
"...it's, well... how long will it take...?"
Linada punched something into the terminal before answering"
"Your physique is slight, half a year will be sufficient"
"Half a year...?" her expression darkened.
"Half a year... No problem, I'll keep Shulk out of trouble until it's done" Reyn laughed
"Like I need you to protect me you big lump"
"The preparations are complete, it is time to enter" at Linada's words the capsule slid open."Sleep deeply, and awaken to your own body"
But Fiora stood resolute, turned to them, and said
"I... I'm not going in..."
Shulk and Fiora stood outside the Terra Cave, below them the colony lay shrouded in the early morning mist.
"You're sure about this?"
"For the last time, I'm sure"
Shulk was understandably worried, but Fiora spoke with unwavering certainty.
She couldn't going in, not now at least, of that she was certain.
It was true that six months in the machine would save her life, but the Telethia would not cease the slaughter while she slept, and unless they marched to meet Zanza, the cycle of destruction and recreation would continue. Fiora couldn't let her friends go without her.
"I've decided, I'll fight with you, with this body. I'd rather face this head on than be stuck here worrying, and besides the machine has survived this long, I'm sure it will still be here when we get back."
For Linada, Fiora's words were disquieting, they had no way of knowing how long this fight would continue, and no guarantee that her robotic body could endure it without Meyneth's protection, but she was adamant, immutable.
Her body weakens with each passing moon, she thought, but I'll give her all the time I can.
Reyn and Dunban join them overlooking the colony
"We'll be back, won't we Dunban"
"Once it's finished. Then we can fix Fiora. Then we can finally live in peace"
Shulk nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, we'll be back, this is our home after all"
The companions, making for the Gaul Plain, turned and headed into the caves, behind them Colony 9 stood defiant, just as it always had.