OUT OF CHARACTER:
Name/Handle: Sylvia Viridian
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, sylviaviridian on AIM, Renegade_one on Plurk
Character name: Yuan Ka-Fai
Character journal: cloakand_danger
Series name: Tales of Symphonia
Canon notes: Canon point is between games 1 and 2
Species: Half-elf, magically augmented into an angel
History: Not much is known about Yuan’s childhood. It’s known that he was born in the city of Asgard, sometime before it was called that, and presumably during or before the reign of Cleo II, since it’s mentioned that Mithos the Hero (one of Yuan’s traveling companions later) aided that particular ruler. As a half-elf in a city of humans, he would have faced heavy discrimination for his race, and seems to have grown up aggressive and resentful as a result of that.
At some point, he joined the military. It’s mentioned that this is where he met Kratos Aurion - on opposite sides of the battlefield, as Kratos was a Tethe’allan knight. Yuan rose high in the ranks despite his race, and was positively infuriated that Kratos was pretty much the only person he met who never seemed impressed by that. Then, on the eve of a battle where they were about to attack the Tethe’allan capital, Kratos came to him with a shocking request: abandon the battlefield in favor of helping him guide a pair of fellow half-elven siblings, Martel and Mithos Yggdrasill, on a journey to end the Kharlan War, which was killing the Great Kharlan Tree, the source of the world’s mana. Yuan drove him off with accusations of being an idealistic idiot...and the next day, after the battle, showed up at their campsite, claiming that he was only coming along because he wanted to point and laugh when they all turned out to be hypocrites.
He softened up somewhat as they traveled, turning out to be more idealistic himself than he liked to pretend, and eventually fell in love with Martel and asked her to marry him. They formed pacts with the summon spirits, and once they’d amassed enough power, brought the leaders of the world’s major countries together to sign a peace treaty.
But the Kharlan Tree was still dying, and mana levels were now reaching a critical low. As a last-ditch effort, they devised a desperate plan: Derris-Kharlan, the homeworld of the Elves, was a wandering comet composed of mana, in a stable orbit which brought it near to Aselia every few centuries. In order to preserve the world, they would have to split it into two separate alternate dimensions, one flourishing with mana and one in decline, like an hourglass, and swap their positions every few decades until Derris-Kharlan came back around. Then, they would use the comet’s mana in conjunction with the Unicorn Horn Martel had acquired in their travels to restore the Great Tree. In order to ensure that they would live long enough to accomplish this, they modified the Exspheres which gave them strength to fight, halting their own aging and giving themselves superhuman abilities above and beyond those of normal Exsphere users.
The human nations were not happy about this solution, but the Kharlan Heroes (who had been granted wings by their additional enhancements, and would forever more be known as the Four Seraphim) had the power to back up their plan. However, tragedy struck before it could bear fruit. One of the human nations, misunderstanding the process by which their world was kept alive, decided it wanted full control over the mana and would simply leave the other nation in its alternate dimension to wither and die. They sent an assassin after Martel, killing her before the ritual could be completed, to stop the reversal of mana flow.
Needless to say, the Seraphim were shocked and enraged by this action. Where previously they had relied on the willing-if-reluctant cooperation of the human nations in their plan, this was clearly no longer a viable solution, and instead they took over the world by force. An army of half-elves was raised in the world with less mana: the remaining Seraphim gave them weapons, training, and tools, and allowed them to subjugate huge portions of the human population. Some humans were taken prisoner, to be farmed for more Exspheres, while the rest lived in fear of being dragged away to these Human Ranches. The flourishing world with its resources, though, would prove more difficult to defeat...and their positions still needed to be swapped.
An opportunity arose: Martel’s soul had survived, trapped inside her evolved Exsphere. Mithos bound it to the seed of the Great Tree to prevent her from fading away, and devised a plan that would take care of all their problems at once. They converted some fellow half-elves into subordinate angels by granting them similarly enhanced Exspheres to their own, but with some modifications so that the Exsphere’s parasitic qualities would be less suppressed. The result was an army of soulless, nearly-mindless servants, all eerily alike. A few of these were sent to both worlds, where they named Martel as their Goddess, and a young woman with a similar mana signature to Martel’s as her “Chosen One”, who would go on the Journey of Regeneration in her place. Each Chosen One was given an evolved Exsphere to equip when the time was right: it would slowly drain her soul away, and leave her as an empty vessel for Martel’s soul to fill...not that the Chosen Ones themselves would be informed of the exact details of their journey. Then, once Martel had been restored to life by a successful Chosen One, they would be able to germinate the Great Seed together and repair the world’s mana. In the meantime, the Chosen Ones would be able to cycle the mana seals just as Martel had in the past, and the half-elven Desians with their Human Ranches would migrate to whichever world was currently in decline.
At least, that was the initial plan. Eventually, the Seraphim discovered that Martel’s soul was now inextricably bound to the Great Seed - if she were to revive, she would absorb the Seed, the world’s only remaining source of mana, thus dooming the world she had loved so much. Mithos didn’t see a problem with that: after all, they had taken Derris-Kharlan as their base, and Derris-Kharlan was made of mana, so would never have a shortage. He’d populated it with soulless angels, all alike: a world of equality, free of discrimination, just as his sister had wanted. Compared to that, who would care if the world that had rejected them and murdered her died out in their wake?
Yuan, on the other hand, had his doubts about the choice Martel would make, between her own life and that of the world. Though he loved her still, he began to understand - too late - that they had done her dream a great injustice by creating this twisted world, and the only way to rectify it would be to sprout the Great Seed...which would cause it to absorb her soul, preventing her revival forever.
Of course, sprouting the Great Seed would require reuniting the worlds first, and that would require the Eternal Sword, which Origin, the King of the Summon Spirits, had given to Mithos. The sword which could only be wielded by a half-elf, and only then with consent from Origin...who had been sealed away with a spell bound by Kratos’ own life force. In other words, Yuan would have to kill his best friend and long-time comrade, convince the betrayed Origin to help him, and somehow wrest away control of the Sword from Mithos, who by this point was as powerful as Kratos and Yuan put together.
It seemed impossible, and so Yuan kept quiet about his stifled doubts for a very long time, waiting for any opportunity and concocting increasingly unlikely plans in the safety of his own mind, as Mithos spiraled further into madness and Kratos failed to rebuke him or do anything except obey as mindlessly as their angelic servants.
Eventually, around the same time as an incident where a Chosen of Sylvarant accidentally crossed over into Tethe’alla, he formed a resistance group called the Renegades, to disrupt the activities of the Desians while wearing their uniforms so that humans couldn’t tell one group from another. With Yuan as the leader, the Renegades interfered in several regeneration journeys, culminating with that of Colette Brunel, Sylvarant’s seventh Chosen of the current cycle, who was accompanied by none other than the son of Kratos Aurion, one Lloyd Irving, who Yuan and Kratos had believed dead for some fourteen years.
Lloyd’s survival opened up a new opportunity for Yuan: using Lloyd as a hostage, he could force Kratos to release the seal keeping Origin suppressed. Once Origin was freed, Yuan would persuade him to grant Yuan authority over the Eternal Sword, with the aid of a summoner he’d recently discovered and employed from the hidden village of Mizuho. Then, at last, he would take the army of rebels he’d built and go after Mithos, forcing him to relinquish the Eternal Sword. Once he had the sword, he could reunite the worlds and germinate the Great Seed, and Martel would finally have her rest.
The biggest problem with this plan was that Lloyd proved remarkably difficult to capture and keep hold of, despite several attempts. Lloyd, in the meantime, had discovered the true nature of the twin worlds and the Journey of Regeneration, and was running around making his own attempts at solving the problem. Eventually, finally, Yuan was able to corner both Kratos and Lloyd in the same place...only for Mithos to reveal that he’d been traveling with Lloyd in disguise, and had just heard all of Yuan’s plan, or at least enough of it to understand Yuan’s betrayal. He left Yuan alive only out of respect for Martel’s wishes, and Yuan was forced to evacuate his Renegades before Mithos could send armies of angels to annihilate his bases.
With no other options remaining to him, Yuan formally allied himself and his few remaining resources with Lloyd and his companions, who did eventually manage to succeed in reuniting the worlds and sprouting the Great Seed, and revealing one last twist to the process: the guardian spirit of the new Great Tree took on Martel’s name, shape, and for the most part her personality. Martel’s soul had indeed been absorbed by the Great Seed when it germinated, along with those of the countless Chosen Ones sacrificed in her name...and in being absorbed, they were reborn as the Tree’s new spirit. This spirit was not precisely the same person Martel Yggdrasill had been in life, but a close enough mimicry that Yuan volunteered to take on the role of becoming the new Tree’s guardian himself.
And that’s what he’s been doing for the past year. The world is starting to settle into its new shape, rebuilding after the damage done by the various events of the game and sorting out new political structures between the two countries who haven’t had to deal with each other’s presence since the end of the Kharlan War, 4,000 years ago. Kratos left to manage Derris-Kharlan rather abruptly as it was drifting away - he and Yuan keep in contact via projector, but this won’t be a viable communication method much longer, and they’re both aware of it. Ratatosk, the spirit of the old Kharlan Tree, has yet to awaken, so for now Yuan’s just trying to adjust to this new world they’ve created...
Personality: When you first meet Yuan, the impression you’re likely to get is of someone competent, practical, and charismatic. Yuan is accustomed to leading people and to being listened to, and it shows: when he speaks, he fully expects his audience to listen to and respect his words. If he is not listened to, or feels that he’s not being respected, his temper is quick to flare in response.
Yuan does have quite a temper: although he’s good at keeping it reined in when he really needs to (a skill honed by years of deceiving Mithos and holding his tongue about his disagreement with the Age of Lifeless Beings), it’s really not all that difficult to make him angry, and if he has to hold back he’ll find a way to vent later instead. Most of the time, his temper is as quick to cool as it is to flare, but he holds grudges a very long time if he feels betrayed in some fashion. He also has absolutely no tolerance for abuse of or deliberate cruelty toward those he considers innocent, due to his own childhood being spent as a street urchin, and his own guilt over Cruxis’ treatment of society as a whole and the Chosen Ones in particular.
His guilt over his role in Cruxis is well-hidden. For the most part, he keeps his gaze turned firmly forward, so that he doesn’t spiral into brooding the way Kratos does, preferring to work toward a better future rather than to dwell on the past. Still, when he can’t avoid it, he does feel intensely guilty about the whole thing - he just refuses to let any such weakness show. Adding to that is that Yuan doesn’t believe in such a thing as redemption, reasoning that failing to do the right thing is the same as doing the wrong thing, so new decisions can’t outweigh old ones: doing good in the present means not doing wrong in the present, and has absolutely no bearing on the past.
As a leader, Yuan genuinely cares about the people he’s taken charge of, and this combined with his confidence and pragmatism makes him extremely charismatic. He would never ask anything of his soldiers that he wouldn’t be willing to do himself if circumstances allowed it (and in fact, he’d prefer to be on the front lines more often, but he had to keep his position secret from Mithos), and takes their morale seriously. This extends to anyone else he decides to like or protect, as well - and to Yuan, liking someone is the same as deciding to protect them.
When it comes to getting emotionally close to people, or letting them get close to him, Yuan is extremely defensive. His history is pretty much a long saga of emotional trauma, and his childhood lacked support figures, so he has a very hard time genuinely trusting anyone. This goes both ways, though: he also doesn’t expect anyone to trust him any more than he trusts them, and generally likes people best when he can keep them at arm’s length. Genuinely nice and kind people tend to put him off-balance, because as much as he doesn’t want to let anyone close, he’s a little too nice to push them away if they haven’t done anything to deserve it, either.
He takes himself and his goals very seriously - sometimes too seriously, and is easily put off and annoyed by people laughing at him taking himself too seriously. He has a melodramatic streak a mile wide, which easily leads him to make overdramatic speeches or act out like a villain from a storybook. Mocking him when he’s in this state will usually lead to Yuan blushing and flailing around as he attempts to be taken seriously again. (This is inevitably hilarious, and the mun encourages it.)
His goals themselves are generally fairly noble: Yuan wants to save the world from the system of flourish and decline perpetuated by Cruxis, to finally allow Martel’s soul to rest, and if possible to bring about equality between half-elves and humans, as per Martel’s dream. As mentioned, he would prefer to do these things with as little bloodshed as possible, but he’s far from the kind of idealistic fool that actually believes victory can come without sacrifice. As a result of this, while his goals are relatively heroic, Yuan will absolutely and emphatically refuse to allow anyone to call him a hero - even though, deep down, a hero is what he most wants to be. He was a hero once, and fell: now, after all the things he’s done, he understands that no matter how much good he does, he’ll never again be worthy of that title.
Because Yuan is so emphatically not a hero, he’s not afraid to take decidedly un-heroic actions in the name of accomplishing his goals. While he still prefers not to make sacrifices if they aren’t necessary, he can and will (and has) run roughshod over anyone standing in his path, considering a few lives reasonable collateral damage in an effort to save the world. To assuage his repressed guilt over this attitude, he’s built a near-impenetrable maze of justifications for his actions, and anyone attempting to call him out on them will face a barrage of caustic sarcasm.
Yuan’s sense of humor is generally extremely dark and bitter, heavily sarcastic, and he mocks friends, rivals, acquaintances and strangers all with equal venom. Those he becomes close to, however, will eventually learn that he’s perfectly capable of directing the same mockery at himself: he’s well-aware of the more absurd aspects of his behavior and personality, he just considers it within his rights to be contradictory, because he’s ancient and bitter.
Those who do manage to navigate his mess of neuroses and defense mechanisms to befriend Yuan, however, will find that underneath the bitterness, anger, and chilly temper, Yuan is an extremely loyal and devoted friend to those strong enough or foolish enough to continue to care for him. He has very few friends at any given time, fewer still that he’s willing to come to with problems, and so he feels a strong need to look after the ones he has. Getting him to trust you is no easy feat, but if you can manage it, he will be your friend for life.
Because Yuan’s past is so deeply checkered, he feels he has no particular right to judge others on their own pasts. He may not believe in redemption, for himself or for others, but as long as a person is reasonably moral or at least not actively evil in the present, he really doesn’t care what they’ve done before they met him. It takes a great deal of wrongdoing for him to consider anyone as bad as or worse than himself, and more still for him to truly consider someone totally without merit.
Yuan’s greatest fear is to have control of himself and his life taken from him. Growing up, he had absolutely no control over his life, and he fought long and hard to reach a position where he could have that control, only to have it slip away from him time and time again over the course of the years, chance and cruel fate proving to him that no matter how much control he has, it’s never enough to hold onto the things he cares about. As a result, if unchecked by his better nature, he can be extremely bossy and controlling toward the people he cares for, in perfect innocence, trying to manipulate them for their own good. This is a behavior which was also exhibited by Mithos, and if this is pointed out to him, he will immediately and without hesitation step back and take another look at himself. He is aware of this tendency, and usually tries to surround himself with people who will call him out on it if necessary.
Mana Sense: Half-elves and others with elven blood can sense mana and magic in the air around them and in others, including telling the difference between humans, elves, and half-elves. It's not clear whether they can narrow that down to what element the magic is, but it probably depends on how strong the traces are; in this game, Yuan will be able to tell when someone who looks human is not, unless they have something that would interfere and tell him they're human anyway.
Immortality: Half-elves naturally live about a thousand years, but angels have adjusted their metabolism to run entirely on magic. They do not age, eat, or sleep, and it's not really clear if they even need to breathe (aside from, like, talking). They are also stronger and faster than any mortal, and have a dimmed sense of touch which extends to being unable to feel heat or cold. I am capping this slightly so that he will need to eat and sleep occasionally, but not nearly as often as a human would. He's more interesting that way.
Spellcasting: Yuan, like all half-elves, has the ability to draw on elemental mana and cast spells. His preferred element is lightning. Spellcasting in Symphonia requires the mage to stand in place and focus until the spell goes off, and if they're attacked during the cast it may be interrupted and force them to start over. He is also, predictably, limited by his mana reserves: the more powerful the spell, the more mana it takes up, and the less he'll be able to do afterward.
Angel spells: A subset of spellcasting, there are four light-elemental-based spells which angels can in theory all use, although in-game Yuan uses exactly none of them and angels other than Colette only seem to use Judgement. I'm giving him access to all four anyway, because there's no logical in-canon reason why he shouldn't be able to use them.
Physical Artes: In addition to pure spellcasting, a magic-user who wields a weapon can channel elemental power through that weapon to create new techniques. These techniques drain mana roughly on par with spellcasting, but go off instantaneously and thus cannot be interrupted, though none of them quite match with the power level of high-end spells. In addition, there are a few techniques which draw on mana but do not count as spells, such as the ability to form one's energy briefly into a shield against magic. Like his spells, all of Yuan's abilities in this regard are oriented around the lightning element.
Teleportation: Angels can teleport. The final boss uses this in battle to rapidly move short distances, but all other instances in-game are a non-instantaneous fadeout, and take the user out of sight entirely, so I'm going to say that the farther he's going, the longer he has to focus and the longer he'll spend fading out. A maximum range is not defined in canon, but I'd put it at no more than a mile or so – but this means that if he knows exactly where your ship is relative to his and you're not too far out, he can probably get there without a shuttle.
Augment Skillset: Communications
Sample: Test drive!