Meru — Legacy

“When you drag the past around, you cannot walk anywhere.”

Meru joins the party sometime into Disc 2 when they are on a quest to save an NPC from bandits, forcing them to take her with them as she insists on saving the person. Loud, upbeat and with plenty of energy to spare, she introduces herself as a wandering dancer and is acknowledged as the holder of the Blue-Sea Dragoon Spirit by the end of the disc.

It is not until story events during Disc 3 that she reveals her identity as a Wingly, a species believed to have gone extinct after the events of the Dragon Campaign. The Wingly settlement she belongs to is hidden deep in the forests of Mille Seseau, inaccessible by Humans.

Inscrutable Gap

Meru and Rose aren’t close, and the distance Rose initially maintains to the party is accentuated in their case as Meru is quite intimidated by the older woman, without the slightest clue as to how to approach her. Unlike Shana, who spends the first part of the journey feeling inferior to Rose, I think that Rose’s aloofness unsettles Meru as someone who tries to understand and learn more about Humans. Meru may just be the most sociable person in the group, and generally has an easy time getting close to others and making them feel natural and comfortable, but here’s a person she just can’t figure out.

As the the life of the party, Meru’s behaviour and interactions are often played for laughs, her interactions with Rose being no exception. When it comes to Rose’s attitude towards Meru, I think the awkwardness of their relationship tends to get exaggerated among fans — understandably so, if you look at Rose’s various lines in the first half of the game in isolation:

  • when Meru first invites herself into the party: “Just leave her alone. Let’s go.”;
  • when Dart allows Meru to tag along: “Are you serious?”;
  • in response to Meru’s excitement and thirst for adventure: “I don’t think you’re gonna have ‘fun’ from now on.”;
  • when they hear the cry of a Dragon: “I can’t blame you for feeling scared.”;
  • when Meru obtains the Blue-Sea Dragoon Spirit: “Oh, I am surprised that Meru was recognized.”

All of these can be read as anything ranging from teasing to sarcasm to condescendence, though it is most likely the middle-ground of sarcasm if you ask me, given Rose’s personality. But that may be all there is to it: Rose’s no-nonsense attitude extends to everyone, and is perhaps most noticeable around Meru because Meru is part of the group (unlike NPCs), and because she is very expressive (unlike her party members, who don’t talk as much). I wouldn’t confuse this quantitative difference in opportunities with personal disapproval or dislike on a fundamental level.

Meru may not have many personal moments with Rose, but I read the way she behaves around the woman and the way she talks about her in in conversations with other party members as immense respect. She acknowledges and appreciates Rose’s role within the group, and perhaps wants to be acknowledged by Rose herself, seeing the way she retorts and stands firm whenever one of Rose’s remarks hit her. Meru doesn’t think negatively of Rose, and her intimidation certainly doesn’t keep Meru from trying to get to know Rose better on board of the Queen Fury:

Rose: You look bored.
Meru: Exactly!! Can we hang out together?
Rose: If you want to practice your sword, I can give you one.
Meru: Um… Ah…. I think I’ll hang out by myself.
Rose: Okay. It’s unfortunate though.
Rose turns to leave.
Meru: (Nyah!!!)
Rose turns back to Meru.
Rose: I can give you some practice if you want.
Meru: No thanks! No thanks! I’ll behave!!

Of course, at that point, Meru is so frustrated and bored that she asks any party member who speaks to her to spend time with her, but Rose being included in that isn’t a given to me.

Well-guarded Secrets

Rose is also singled out when Meru later roams the ship and asks Dart to come along on her “adventure”:

Meru: (Well… There is something bothering me. Don’t ya think Rose is strange?)
Dart: She is strange, but I don’t think she is as strange as you.
Meru: I’m not talking about that strange! I think she has something that she hasn’t told us or she has been involved in something shady or…
Dart: Have you told us everything about you, Meru?
Meru: I’m the exception!
Dart: Don’t talk bad about your friends. Everybody has something that they need to hide.
Meru: Sorry. I don’t mean to talk bad about Rose, but she’s cold to me… So somehow…

No other member of the group brings up the mystery surrounding Rose as directly as Meru — even Haschel only politely asks Rose why it is that she is still accompanying the party. While this conversation shows that Meru is very curious about Rose, far more interesting is the fact that it is Meru of all people who voices that Rose may be hiding something, and that Dart responds with such a question, even if he doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s interesting because, as is revealed later on, Meru, just like Rose, has in fact been hiding her identity all along. And just as in Rose’s case, there are several of spoken lines that hint at it, whether they’re as brief as “It’s been a long time!” upon returning to Mille Seseau, or Meru’s insistence on joining Dart’s quest after the bandit episode:

Dart’s journey won’t be easy. What you guys do is not normal. Monsters like Virage appear, Dragoons, Gigantos. I thought they only existed in fairy tales. I can’t explain it, but I think there’ll be a lot of things I can help you with.
Meru, Disc 2: Home of Giganto

As is the case with Rose, Meru can’t really explain why she feels that she needs to come along, yet can’t resist the pull. When Albert asks her about it on the Queen Fury, she merely responds with: “Um… Let me see. I dunno why but I really feel that way. It’s true. But, I dunno what it is.” Similarities between the two characters may never be brought up in the game directly (mentioned again below), but it’s striking that both Rose and Meru temporarily leave the group one after another while the group is journeying through the Evergreen Forest on Disc 3: Both claim to have errands to take care of without elaborating. Rose revisits Neet, while Meru returns to the Forest of Winglies for the first time since setting off to see the world.

Mutual Awareness

If Meru is aware of Rose keeping secrets, so is Rose of Meru. Rose startles Meru on Disc 3 when she speaks of the Winglies’ sealed ancient weapons, the Dragon Buster and the Dragon Block Staff, and perhaps for the first time, Rose addresses Meru, the Wingly, directly: “Actually, it seems that one of us knew about it. Meru?” Rose wouldn’t have drawn attention to Meru’s knowledge of the Winglies if it hadn’t been for the dire situation, the threat of the fiercest Dragon of all. More importantly, Rose doesn’t divulge Meru’s identity at that point even though it’s clear between the two that Rose knows. She leaves it up to Meru to reveal herself as a Wingly later on, and Meru’s first worry concerns the way her newly-found friends perceive her: “Would you believe me? Would you consider me as a friend if I told you guys?”

Rose clearly limiting the information she offers to what is necessary and thus not giving away Meru’s secret merits mentioning not just because of the parallel between their identities as the Black Monster and a Wingly respectively, which makes them afraid of the group’s reaction were they to find out. The truth runs deeper than that: Rose and Meru are both remainders of the old world — Rose as a survivor of the war, Meru as a descendant of the former ruling species. It’s never stated how old Meru actually is and how her age translates to Human age. (Whether or not Winglies are naturally immortal is discussed as part of the spell of eternity. Judging from her outlook in the game and the lack of personal accounts of the past though, I doubt that Meru hails from that time, and believe that she was born much later on. Nevertheless, Meru, as a Wingly, carries the legacy of the old Wingly regime and is still affected by it, even if those times have turned into legends — stories — in the Humans’ present age and memory.

The Winglies of the settlement Meru is from most are most likely descendants (rather than survivors) of those who have retreated and closed themselves off after the war. Although their magic has drastically declined, they still draw a clear line between Humans and themselves, some of them outright hating Humans. They mean to protect their own life, and their mentality is coloured by fear — fear that Humans will do onto them as the Winglies have done onto Humans in the past, because their magic power separates them from Humans. Leaving the forest is a taboo, and those who break the rule become outcasts. When Meru returns to the settlement on Disc 3, she is met with relentless scorn and distrust, no longer accepted as one of theirs, and forbidden to return.

Meru puts on a strong face despite all that, even though being shunned even by her own parents and being deprived of a place to call home clearly hurts her. That’s not all there is to being a Wingly in this age though: Meru faces her ancestors’ wrongdoings when the group visits the Winglies’ ruins of the past, and feels appalled and ashamed — especially at Kadessa, which once housed a coliseum for the Winglies’ entertainment. Yet, by the time the group reaches Capital Vellweb, former capital of the Humans, Meru has taken her newly-found friends’ words to heart:

Albert: We are standing at the legendary place where Humans began their liberation. I wonder if it is an abominable place as well?
Meru: You think too much. It’s the same as Kadessa, isn’t it? When you drag the past around, you cannot walk anywhere.
Albert: It is true, Meru. The Forbidden Land that was the royal capital of the Winglies. And this Vellweb is a mere historic ruin.
Dart: Yes. We can do nothing but settle for the present.

Road to the Future

Meru is among the most impressive characters in the game when it comes to willpower and conviction, and she, more than any other character, strives for the future. Meru doesn’t blindly submit to the Winglies’ taboos and doesn’t care about upholding and living by the rules of the past. What she deeply cares for is the world outside of self-set boundaries, making friends, learning new things, and the friendship between the races.

When Meru goes through Savan’s trial in Aglis, she is faced with both her legacy as a Wingly and her own way of carrying it: Another Wingly’s sister admired Meru, and, influenced by her words, left the forest, only to be killed by a Human. Although Meru is blamed for it, her answer is: “I still cannot die! I cannot do anything if I die! Even make amends!” Though it may resemble Miranda’s, it carries a different meaning. Unlike Miranda, who has to realize that there’s no value in being willing to die at any time and that she has to see the mission through to the end, I think that Meru’s answer goes beyond purely personal reasons. She is the representative of the Winglies, and as such, she has to stay alive so as to actively shape the future — on behalf of the Winglies who remain, and on behalf of the Humans who suffered under their former reign.

The most important thing? Meru fiercely loves humans — it’s what her personal battle in the final dungeon is about. Meru loves them for the qualities that they possess, qualities that the Winglies lack or have lost, for the way they help each other, but especially for their hopes and dreams, their future. Rose and Meru both lack(ed) futures in a way: Rose is bound to her mission and continues living solely because of it, whereas Meru, had she not left the forest, would have been forever confined to the mindset of surviving Winglies. But while Meru never so much as hesitates to proclaim her love for Humans, I’m not so sure whether Rose still harbours any love for them.

Who cares about taboos!? Everybody in this forest!? And the Humans outside!? Both of us are living in the same world. How come we have to draw a line and lock ourselves in like this!?
Meru, Disc 3: Forest of Winglies

Shared Burden

Meru’s relationship with Rose is the one relationship I wish had received more personal moments due to their histories, precisely because it’d combine personal and historical aspects and would thus represent the game’s core themes. Even as the reign of the Winglies lies in the far past and the Dragon Campaign is long over, Rose and Meru are both still struggling with the consequences of that time. This goes as much for their missions as themselves as persons, seeing how they are both shunned by their own species for what (they feel) they must do. Both of them are fighting for progress in their own way, and take responsibility for what has transpired. The main difference lies in their perspectives: Rose is anchored to the past and fights to preserve, whereas Meru looks to the future and fights for change. To preserve, Rose has no need for the cooperation of Humans — whereas to change, you do. It would have been interesting to explore all that in the game, and to have Rose reach out to Meru more, especially when you consider that Rose is friends with Ulara’s Winglies.

Rose and Meru have very different personalities and come from initially divided sides, but in the end, they’re not all that different. It’s quite fitting that their only serious and personal moment towards the story’s conclusion ends with a question that hints at more:

Rose: You are coming too?
Meru: Of course! Without me, the strongest of all, you cannot save the world! Besides, I learn a lot following Dart. Everybody’s the same, Gigantos, Humans and Winglies. And I can’t stand the destruction of a world where everybody lives!
Rose: I think for the first time, I agree with Meru.
Meru: Is this the first time?
Disc 4: Spring Breath Town Ulara