I’m really, really going to try to keep this one shorter. No videos or clever storytelling, since I don’t have the former handy and the latter takes too long!
As I alluded to in my last post and release announcement, the end of the Shadowbringers story arc did… not produce the expected, inevitable result that I feared. Much like Raphail himself, G’raha has ever been a force for making the impossible happen, and unlike literally every other good story I’ve ever seen involving time travel and romance, he found a way to save the world that didn’t result in his own death or erasure. Well… sorta. Let me explain. *deep breath*
He somehow thought it would be a good idea to come up with a plan that would save both worlds AND result in his own death BUT only the death of his actual time-traveling, old man, already-crystallizing body. His soul could then be magically shoved into a special crystal laced with his own blood and carried back to his original, sleeping body. Then, of course, his soul in the crystal could merge with said body, resulting in the perfect union of his old body and his older, wiser mind and heart.
Thus leaving a legacy for those that loved and respected him in the world he’d adopted, and returning to live out his life with his new husband and friends in the world he left behind, once upon a time.
…I didn’t say he was sane. Just amazing. And very, very easy to love.
Raph’s been through the wringer with all this. More of the speculation regarding who he used to be in a past life has been brought to a close, and the answers are… complicated for him, to say the least. He’s also had to face down and defeat yet another foe that he never wanted to fight in the first place. When it comes to G’raha, though, I swear the writers are aiming for Raph in particular. Every single one of the themes and issues I’ve touched on between the two of them (trust, protection, equality, agency) came back and mattered to the story in-game. This felt like the ending to the story I was trying to tell, not only the one they were trying to tell. That just doesn’t happen with 99.9% of fanfiction!
The person Raph was when he started Shadowbringers couldn’t have made it this far. He’s grown and changed so much this year, despite repeatedly being pushed to his physical, mental, and emotional limits. He’s started to overcome some of his worst habits and tendencies, and while many pieces of the puzzle of his mind aren’t quite locked down, they’re in place and waiting to settle into their proper shapes. For the first time ever, he is actually the hero he wanted to be — and he has someone of equal heart, courage, strength, and kindness by his side to help remind him when he forgets. Instead of standing alone against the world, he can turn to his friends and his husband without hesitation, knowing they’ll always have his back.
He’ll be doing a lot of reminding of his own, too. G’raha has always followed in his footsteps, and if there are two things they both have more of than love for each other, they’re angst and self-pressure. Knowing what to look for in one’s self because you see it in others is a gift, albeit sometimes a difficult one to appreciate in the moment.
For now, the story’s on pause again until the next major patch. The story version of G’raha awaits, nervously preparing to tackle his first days as a real adventurer — now official part of the special group that Raphail and his friends have formed over the years. His greatest dream has been realized, but that doesn’t mean the story’s over. Far from it! (And I’m absolutely thrilled to know that I’ll get to play and write a married couple for whom marriage is not the end of the story or “settling down” in any way!) Danger is already lurking, as it always is in the lives of storied heroes… but for now, things are quiet.
He also has an updated character model with new hair and clothing that I can’t say enough good things about. He was frankly gorgeous before, but Raph nearly tripped over his own jaw when he saw the change, and I’m not going to argue with him!
For Raph, the time is right to do all the things he’s ever wanted to do with his beloved. Welcoming G’raha back, helping him to settle his nerves, and making sure he knows he’s loved and supported through all of it is Raph’s dearest wish. He knows exactly how lucky he is to see this day, and he’ll stop at nothing to be sure he doesn’t take this second chance for granted. He also now has tough shoes to fill himself — keeping up with G’raha, both mentally and physically, will be a ride.
And me? I’m… happier than I’ve been in a long time. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be out from under the constant certainty that doom is right around the corner. But in truth, I feel bad for not believing in the hope that G’raha has always stood for in this story. In my life, I’ve learned a little too much about the price of foolish hope. Even when I still have it, I hesitate to preach it; it hurts so very much to hope for something with all your heart only to have it snatched away. Expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it all turns out for the best has been my philosophy for a long time.
But in my heart of hearts, that’s not what I believe at all, and never has been. I’ve had just as many examples in my life of foolish hopes that have been rewarded or praised; impossible dreams that came to reality through hard work, patience, time, and luck. I’m eternally drawn to people that still believe in the good and right of the world, because I think those people are the way forward out of so many of the nightmares we’re seeing in today’s real world. It’s wrong to ignore the awfulness that others suffer every day, but becoming jaded and hateful and bitter does nothing to stem the tide. Only those willing to refuse to take no for an answer will see change done in their lifetime.
Weathering the storm around us is well and good, but tired people don’t fight well or make things happen. Erosion of what makes the human spirit beautiful is the enemy of both action and hope. We all need a little more foolishness in our lives. It’s not just Raph that needed that message, and I think Square-Enix and Shadowbringers know that. This is a story for our world, not just the made-up fictional ones in the game. And I want to listen, and learn, and grow along with Raph. G’raha’s brought so much to so many fans out there, and now it’s time to put what he’s taught us into action.
Which means… more writing. More understanding. More love. More risks. More expecting more from the world around me. More letting go of things that don’t serve my dreams or the dreams of those I love.
Some would say this is just a game. And maybe, at the end of the day, it is. But stories, regardless of where they come from, give us the power to shape our lives for the better.
I’m grateful to have this one in my life.