Goodbye Forever balistafreak 2012/03/09 (Fri) 05:10 No. 154328 ▼
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Your auravision suddenly washes completely dark as His aura impossibly expands to fill the entire room. You shut it off immediately as you turn to face His original position, just in time to catch Him stalking towards you. His face is just as you remember it: seemingly not a day older than it was the day you found your master on her own ritual table, twisted with fury and hatred at your refusal to help Him gain unlimited power, hitting you with an bolt of Tainted energies as you desperately teleported away.
Just in time, you remember to stretch your jaw open as wide as possible.
“It is a shame to kill one so capable as you,” He hisses from behind clenched teeth, his eloquent words in stark contrast to the pure wrath etched on his face. Despite the anti-magic field, you feel an enchantment spin itself around your body, imprisoning them in a you-shaped cage of force so tightfitting the bleeding from your wounds stops. He’s so powerful, He can force His own magic through a zone of dead magic, an act analogous to reshaping reality. “But I have preparations to complete before I Ascend, and your presence is very, very annoying. Just. Die.”
This is the turning point, the moment where you goad Him into His final mistake. “Oh? Me? Die?” you ask quizzically as if the idea had never occurred to you, your jaw waggling up and down in the space you reserved earlier. For someone who just beat two former blademasters and left half his blood all over the floor, your voice is remarkably composed, not even winded. “Do it. I dare you~” you practically sing, giving him a cheery smile.
That does it. With a wordless cry of rage, He rushes up to you and plants His palm on your brow. Unlocking the hundreds of magical gates that keep His power from infecting and destroying His living body, He unleashes it upon you, a bottomless well of the vilest, most corrupted necromantic energies ever imaginable: Taint.
Nothing seems to happen.
“Die!” He screams. “Why don’t you die?!”
You can feel the Taint weaving itself into your flesh and bones, settling itself into each and every particle of your body, absorbing His power without harm. Anything alive, like Him, would have been instantly melted and assimilated into the ‘pool’ upon direct exposure, but something killed then reanimated with necromantic energy sympathetically absorbs it.
And you made sure that you died a long, long time ago.
As He rages, you feel the smile drip off of your face as your own expression twists into a mirror of His own. “I gave up life to get here,” you hiss, freeing your limbs with an iron heart surge, shattering the imprisoning enchantment with sheer willpower. Smoothly, you draw back your arm – He has enough time to gape in shock as you drive a short, jagged quicksilver blade as wide as your arm through His torso, tearing through his heart, lungs, and intestines in a single strike.
It didn’t have to be barbed nor as wide as it is, but you want this to hurt as much as possible.
Your other hand claps on top of His, keeping the two of you in contact as His power continues to flow into you. “It was a small price to pay to stop you.”
His aura is fading, yet the overall level of energy in the room remains the same as His power flows into you. “You – you bleed,” He stutters, disbelieving.
“All an elaborate illusion,” you smoothly explain, gloating in your victory. Your body has a beating heart, flowing blood, pumping lungs, warm skin and even a system of functional muscles, but ultimately what powers it is necromantic energy. Making an unliving body cosmetically appear to be alive to outside observation was a feat of engineering, but the deception, as proven by His actions, was sufficient. You could have flown through His tainted mists without any protection – the only reason you needed to weave an abjuration against it in the first place was to not arouse His suspicion.
It was Marcus who subjected you to the Ritual of Crucimigration a long time ago in that pocket dimension, transferring your willing mind into your own corpse when you realized that your living body would not survive the Tainted wound He inflicted upon you upon the discovery of His betrayal. Over the years, you cultivated the Taint, intentionally feeding it the mana your mind could bring to bear, harvesting its natural radiation to return it to its corrupted source in a cyclic process. The end result was your unlimited arcane endurance, if not power – that develops far more slowly, even with all the additional time you had in Marcus’s demiplane. But now, with all of His own Taint, you are just as powerful as He is – was, rather.
“Well – too bad – you can’t stop it,” He giggles, blood pouring out of his mouth. “Can’t stop the Ascension. Too late. You may have stopped Me, but this world will still end. You can’t save it! Useless! Everything you did was useless!”
You only smile wider, something that makes Him cringe even as He dies upon your blade. “Stopping the Ascension was never part of the plan,” you say, like a parent scolding a child. “I just wanted to leave You with nothing when You died.”
Eyes filled with horror, He tries to say something else, but it disappears in a burble of vomited blood as He loses consciousness. Hundreds of precast contingences attempt to set themselves off, but without the weight of His old power behind them, they fizzle in His own antimagic field. Seconds later, He dies, a fact confirmed by both the disappearance of the field and the flow of Taint coming to a halt.
Your body may only feign life, yet you still can’t stop the tears from rolling down your face.
Tears of joy.
It takes you a few minutes to collect your composure, to stop shaking with maniacal glee. But you realize that if you spend all your time sitting here, you’ll never clean up the loose ends – loose ends that desperately need to be wrapped up. Extracting your blade with a wet splurch, you turn it inside out a few times to wipe His blood off of it before reshaping it back onto its normal position on your wrist.
You don’t trust yourself to access the power you took from Him, fearing that the moment you tap it, an unimaginably deep well of Taint created from untold sacrifices and acts of unspeakable depravity, you’ll lose all inhibition and decide to continue what He started, reaching out across the Planes in an unspeakable massacre. This is why you wanted Marcus and the humans to destroy the Citadel’s base; this entire operation will be your last use of arcane magic.
And so you sit and wait. Namely, you sit on His old throne. You don’t need the comfort of the cushions, your unfeeling body not caring for either wound or posture, but something about the action tickles your sense of revenge quite nicely.
A few minutes later, you suddenly gain awareness of the entire Citadel: most notably, the news that the outlying outposts are destroyed and the base is in the process of being demolished. Your shikigami successfully realigned the Citadel without a hitch, then. Good for it – you’d hate to see what happens when a corpse Ascends. Nothing good, you imagine.
And then an hour later, when the last chambers attuned to Him in the Citadel are nothing more than rubble, Marcus descends from the tunnel into the inner sanctum, both shikigami in tow. Marcus is covered in battle damage, the beautiful engravings on his armor ruined by layers of scratches, his sword chipped in places, and half his shield simply gone, broken off somewhere in the earlier melee. Yet all of this accumulated abuse doesn’t seem to hurt him all as he triumphantly stomps towards you. The younger shikigami is unharmed, although its clothing has undergone similar abuse, and its limbs and head droop with fatigue. Yet what you instantly notice is how ill at ease your own shikigami seems, its eyes rapidly flicking back and forth between you and Marcus, tails waggling back and forth as if preparing to bolt for its life.
“I’ve just finished telling Ran and Chen here all about what you’ve planned! They don’t seem convinced that you’re a good guy all along!” he laughs elatedly as you rise from the throne and step back down towards them – it doesn’t seem right to have this talk sitting up higher than him. “About how you’re going to turn this ritual of His around, bringing life back – oho, it will be glorious!”
So that’s why your shikigami seems so uneasy. It knows both the story you told it, the truth, and the story you fed Marcus. It hasn’t spilled the story you told it, though, and Marcus is too naïve to think that its reticence is due to anything but skepticism. Bracing yourself for the hardest moment of your life, you open your mouth, and say two of the most damning words in the world:
Marcus stops cold. If he had a mouth, it would be hanging open right now.
You continue, “I was never able to do that, Marcus. Yes, I hold all of his power now, but when the Ascension happens, I will be in control of all this Plane’s mana, just as the Ascension intended.”
Marcus stops cold. Normally, the Ritual of Crucimigration embeds the owner’s soul into the same corpse the mind resides in, but Marcus wove it into his own body for safekeeping and to keep you in line while you trained, just in case you decided to rebel with your newfound arcane power. Never mind that he was in pitched combat, destroying the base of the Citadel; that was still far safer than being left unattended.
For centuries you led him on, making him think that by helping you, you would reverse the Ascension, and instead of destroying the Plane, it would reseed it with life once more. It was simultaneously the most difficult and easiest lie you’ve ever made; most difficult, because of the sheer audacity of such a feat, and easiest, because Marcus never once asked you to prove it, pure to the point of gullibility.
And now he’s shifting his weight into a fighting stance, tucking behind his shield even as his sword draws back in preparation for a strike, knowing that if you tap into His power as you , you can annihilate him and reclaim your soul over his shattered body.
You can’t take it.
“Stop that,” you say, throwing out a hand, sans eldritch energies or magical compulsion. Confused, Marcus’s stance wavers. “No, Marcus. I told you, I’m not going to use His power. I swore that to you, and I have no plan on breaking a promise to you.
The trepidation on your shikigami’s face turns to absolute bafflement, an emotion shared by both the younger as it struggles to comprehend the situation and Marcus as he realizes that you aren’t about to turn him to dust, his pose relaxes, yet remains wary. “You – you lied to me!” he starts, unable to process this one fact.
Ignoring his protest, you continue, “I need you to take the shikigami and the humans to Gensokyo. The shikigami because that’s what we agreed, and the humans because they need a new home. Preferably one with a little more life,” you joke, your attempt at levity coming out in a strange choked sound. “From what you’ve told me, Gensokyo’s a pretty lively place.”
“You’ll take me with you – He pushed a tendril into Gensokyo, I’ll still be able to Ascend. But when it happens, I want you to banish me. Banish me from Gensokyo, so that my mind and body remain on this Plane, but you still hold my soul.”
“You’re going to split yourself between Planes!” he cries, suddenly striking the floor with his sword in disbelief, tearing a huge gash into the adamantium. “You’re going to – “
“ – lose all consciousness, be trapped in a living body without motivating thought, yes,” you finish for him. “It’s just as it should be. No single thinking mind should be in control of an entire Plane’s power. Not unless they’re a god.” You smile sadly. “I know I wouldn’t make a good god.”
Your shikigami’s eyes are wide as saucers now. It never expected you to be so altruistic, not after the apparent evil you showed it when you first gated her onto the demiplane. You can feel a thousand questions formulate in its surface thoughts, all screaming to be answered, but you shift your gaze to it, shaking your head. Quietly, and without ceremony, you examine the bond between you and it, and tear.
The thoughts disappear from your own mind, and you’re left with a sudden feeling of loss. Looking up at the shikigami, no longer yours, you see that feeling reflected in its face as it goes hollow with shock. “Why?” it voices. You have no answer for it.
Marcus’s posture shifts, suddenly deep in thought, trying to save you from this fate worse than death. “You – perhaps we could petition Her – “
“I’m sure your god supported you because She believed what you believed, that I could bring life back to this Plane. But now that you know that’s not the case, She knows – and She’s not about to help someone motivated only by vengeance reach godhood,” you voice aloud, stating what you both already know.
For a moment, the room is silent. “You didn’t just want revenge,” he contradicts you. “You wouldn’t be making sure all these people have a home! You wouldn’t have been so squeamish about bluffing that you would torture Chen, either!” Both shikigami blink at that, the elder’s earlier impression of you rapidly collapsing at each new revelation.
“So? I’m not a psychopath. I don’t want anyone else to be hurt because of what I want, and I don’t like seeing people in pain… except for Him. I know you don’t enjoy hearing this, but I savored every second He was dying on my blade.” It’s true – you can’t deny it. “I’m not a good person, Marcus,” you press on, spreading a hand across your chest. “Everything we did – all those years of training, of practice, or planning – that was all just so I could savor bringing that one man to ruin. Not because I’m some saint who wants to save the world. That’s you,” you chuckle, pointing towards him.
“You’re telling me you never intended to return life to the Plane,” he states flatly, returning to the subject.
“Marcus, that’s something gods do. Not mortals. Not even immortals,” you qualify; neither you or Marcus can die of natural causes, but there’s still a limit to your power that gods don’t have. “I don’t have some super secret magic ritual that’s going to reverse what He did! Maybe some archmage on some other Plane does, somewhere, but there’s no way we could find one in time!”
“And here I was, thinking that you were that archmage, with that super secret magic ritual.” He flings your words back. “… aaaaaah, crap. Well, still, I can’t disagree that you were helpful here.”
“Eh?” You’re confused at his sudden acceptance of the situation.
“She would have sent me here to try and stop Him anyways, you know. But She doesn’t have that many agents… I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone. Enlisting Ran and Chen – that’s something I hadn’t thought of – “
Your former shikigami suddenly cuts in. “If you had explained everything honestly, been honest from the very start… perhaps I would have helped you willingly,” it says slowly, as if unsure of its own words.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” you contradict it. Marcus turns and nods in agreement – he’d agreed with your plan, after all. “Marcus and I knew you were busy preparing Gensokyo for an assault. You knew something like this was coming, and you wouldn’t have taken the word of a stranger that we could have stopped Him. You’d have thought it was a trap.”
It hesitates, then nods. As a servant of Lady Yukari, the one with power over planar travel, it had been creating the extraplanar equivalent of barricades, labyrinths, and traps for anything that tried to cross the border – nothing that would have ultimately stopped Him, but at least given Him pause.
“Well, you still have one last job,” you continue. “You can bypass your own preparations, right?”
“I – yes, I can.”
You nod, satisfied. “Well then, glad that’s settled.”
“So in the end, you’re still a hero, a good guy all along.” Marcus sighs in disbelief. “Well, an anti-hero, maybe. Motivated not by altruism, but a personal vendetta, but in the end you saved a lot of people anyways. The people here, the people of Gensokyo, and all those other planes He would have attacked next.”
You smile a bit. “Yeah. I guess I am,” you mindlessly agree. You’re tired of this – you didn’t want this moment to be so emotionally charged, but that’s the way it is. “Marcus. Let’s do this, before I change my mind,” you jokingly threaten.
Marcus pauses, looking at the two shikigami who eventually nod in turn, accepting the course of events. “Well then. No sense in waiting,” he says gruffly.
You’re tired. Everything’s coming to an end, and all you want is for everything to be over – you’ve gotten your revenge, that’s all you wanted. You’re vaguely aware of Marcus scooping you up and flying you up and out of the Citadel, rallying the humans around him. Hands stretch out to touch you both, as if you’re saints – to be fair, you probably are to them.
Minutes before the Ascension happens, Marcus’s plane shift goes off without a hitch, planting you all into a grassy field somewhere in Gensokyo. Marcus and the two shikigami come up to try and say some last words to you, but you don’t pay them any attention, looking away and waving him off as you sit in the grass – actual grass, you dumbly realize, watching the haggard warriors throw off their arms and armor, rolling in the field, laughing with previously unknown joy. The humans will love the life here. Good for them. Various figures appear on the horizon, flying up and above into the air, eventually creating a watching crowd, but they don’t interfere; you suppose the presence of the shikigami as natives have something to do with that.
Even when the Ascension happens a few minutes later, devouring the entire Plane and fueling you with power behind any mortal’s comprehension, your torpor doesn’t fall off – you don’t even bother examining the incomprehensible power now in your grasp. Your aura at this point is bright enough to send half the flying spectators and most the humans scrambling for cover, only the most hardened or perhaps curiously suicidal lingering to watch both you and Marcus rise from your seats in the grass. You manage to bring yourself to pay attention to him for these final moments – you can pay him that much respect.
“You know, mate, I never knew your name,” he huffs, putting his hands on his hips – he’s shrunken back to his original, less angelic form, his armor gone, replace with the old wood and metal skin you’re familiar with. He’s right – in all those centuries, you never needed names to refer to each other, your understanding transcending mere titles. “But, you know, maybe it’s better this way. You’ll be easier to forget… even though…” His voice sounds as though it’s crying, even though his body should in no way be able to do that. “… I’ll never forget you. Don’t forget me, alright?”
“I’ll try not to,” you promise emptily, forcing a smile on your face for this last moment. Forgetting him, forgetting everything – that’s the point of what you’re about to do.
“Well then – “ He pauses, and you swear you can hear tears being swallowed. “Get out of here, you idiot! The next time I see your face, I want it to be in the afterlife!”
The most casually worded dismissal you’ve ever heard, it doesn’t have a chance of working against a creature of your power. You spare a glance for the shikigami – the younger cheerily waves, perhaps not quite understanding the magnitude of what’s going on, but knowing that it should see you off. The elder only stares at you, and for the sake of its own shikigami’s feelings mirrors the gesture.
You don’t say goodbye when you let the dismissal seize you without resistance, catapulting you back to the well of mana that was once your home Plane, flying far away from your soul in Marcus’s grasp. Your final action is to withdraw all of the tendrils He wove into all those Planes, forever removing any evidence that He ever existed as your consciousness escapes you –