Disclaimer: This story in no way indicates propriety. It is for entertainment prose only (Translation- I don't own 'em, I just writes 'em.)
The first thing Setsuna noticed as she entered the dank dungeon area was the smell. A putrid stench of urine and death assaulted her senses. For the briefest of moments she considered turning back. No. No she would not be deterred from her decision. Gathering up her courage, she began her search.
Looking in the window of the first cell door, she saw what at first looked like a scarecrow in the corner. Only his incoherent mumbling indicated that he was alive. His hair was white and matted. His skin mottled and grey. A greasy cloth tied around his waist his only clothing. He giggled childishly as he played with a strange pile of mud before him.
Setsuna shuddered as she watched him. Suddenly his head snapped up and he glared in her direction. She was startled by this. He shouldn't be able to see her. But the mad glint in his eyes belied this. Then she remembered; The glamour of concealment only worked on stable minds. One that could easily dismiss things that can't be explained. A broken mind like this one was unaffected by her magicks.
Still angry, he scooped up a handful of his mud and flung it at her. She dodged, barely avoiding the foul missile, then frowned as she noticed the smell it gave off. Not mud. Feces. The man had been playing with a pile of his own shit. She turned to look at the wretch. He had removed his loincloth and now stood before her clutching a lump of flesh between his legs she could only guess was his privates. Then with a crude gesture, he sent a stream of urine in her direction. It arced through the air and landed on the small pile of feces that fell on the floor where he had thrown it at her. The combined smell almost made her gag. He cackled at the face she made. Then unexpectedly he dropped to his knees and scrambled back to his corner, whimpering like a scolded animal.
Setsuna turned away from the cell door concerned. If this one was unaffected by the concealment glamour, what about others? She would have to be careful.
The next cell was noticeably different. Markedly clean and well kept. A rather pretty young was singing softly to the baby in her arms, her breast open to nurse it. Setsuna smiled at the scene, but then thought for a moment. Why would a mother and child be in such a place as this? And why wasn't the baby nursing? Neither movement nor sound came from the small form.
The answer became clear after the mother removed the blanket from the baby's head to reveal a withering head. Gently she stroked the head, cooing softly as though comforting a crying infant rather than a rotting corpse. Softly she spoke to the dead baby. Setsuna in spite of her horror, felt compelled to listen.
"There there, my little one. We won't be in here for much longer. Your father will soon come for us. He is an important man, your father. A direct underling to the Governor himself. He will not leave us here. Soon this whole misunderstanding will be cleared up. And we will all live happily together. Won't that be wonderful my precious one?"
Setsuna finally turned away, unable to hear anymore. The woman's words a final testimony to her fate. She had become pregnant by a high-ranking official. But when she informed him of it, he dealt with the situation by throwing her into the dungeon. Cold, sick, and starving, she was in no condition to give birth. The child undoubtedly was stillborn. The last cruel stone thrown at an already fragile physche. Her delusions were her only reason for living now.
Setsuna trembled with rage. This was too much. What kind of world was this? Were these the people Serenity sacrificed herself to save? "What were you thinking my Queen?' she whispered. "When you gave your life to save this wretched race?"
"She was thinking that life is a precious gift. And that only through giving that gift for the sake of others is it's full value measured."
There. There he was. She approached the cell door and peered inside.
As bad as the others were, this was far worse. He barely looked human. His fleshed marked with lash marks so numerous they made a grotesque pattern of red. Huge purple bruises covered his face. His hair was matted to his skull, while a yellow seemed to drip from a closed eye where it had become infected. Still, he had one good eye. Which was now open, and gazing at her with gentle humor.
"Hello Setsuna. You don't look so good."
"I don't look so good? I don't look so good!?" She stared at him incredously. "How can you joke at a time like this? They want to execute you."
"I know that." he answered.
"But you didn't do anything!" she said angrily.
He sighed. "I know that too."
She glared at him. "So are you just going to sit there and let them get away with it?" She demanded.
"It's the path that destiny has chosen for me." he said.
Setsuna snorted at that. "Sounds more like fatalism to me."
He shook his head, wincing as he did so. "You're wrong." he said. "Fatalism is when you have no other choice. I could have chosen different path than this one. I decided to stay with this one. Just as Serenity did."
Setsuna's temper flared at that. "Don't speak to me of Serenity." she hissed. "Serenity was a fool. She held the greatest power in the known solar system. She dedicated her life to helping the people of Earth. Right up to the time when they betrayed her. And what does she do? Gives up her life to save them! Why would she do such a foolish thing?"
For the first time a hard edge came to his voice. "Don't you mean 'why didn't she destroy the humans as expected?'" he asked.
The color drained from her face. "I-I d-don't know what you are talking about." she stammered.
"Then answer me this." he said. "How did Metalia and Beryl and all of their minions get through the protective shield?"
"It wasn't supposed to happen that way." she cried, her voice cracking. "She wouldn't listen to my warnings about the dangers of letting humanity go unchecked."
"So you decided to force the issue. Thinking that she would have no other choice but to destroy humanity."
She rested her forehead against the bars of the tiny cell door window. "It wasn't supposed to happen that way." she whispered.
Quietly he stood up and approached the door. Gently he raised her head to look into her eyes. "Listen to me Setsuna." he said. "Serenity did listen to your counsel. And she did understand what was happening. What you failed to understand is that no matter how much we think we have someone backed into a corner, there is always a choice to be made. Even if that choice is so extreme, it can't be fully understood by others."
She sighed. "You mean like silently awaiting your own execution?" she asked. "When you could just as easily destroy everyone?"
He actually grinned at that one. "Something like that." he said. "The true test of character is how we deal with those choices when they are presented to us."
She shook her head. "A philosopher to the end aren't you?" she said. "Is it worth it though? Giving up your life like this?"
He nodded. "When it is done for the sake of others. It is always worth it."
"Even when the ones you sacrifice for don't even realize what you are giving up for them? Or even care?"
"Yes. Even then."
She thought for a moment. "I'm sorry." she said. "I thought if I spoke to you, I would be able to understand why you and she would do these things. Instead, I am left with more questions."
"That's because you are trying to rationalize this." he answered her. "You don't try to explain it. You just accept and trust in it."
She looked at him. "I'm not sure that I can do that." she said. "All I can promise is that I wil try."
"Good."he replied. "That is all that she and I ask." And with that, he turned back to his sleeping mat to lay down.
With a wave of her staff, Setsuna found herself back at the TimeGates. His words seemed to echo through her head. 'The true test of character is how we deal with those difficult choices in life.' When will her extreme choice come into play? Will she have the strength to do the unthinkable?
She shook her head. This debate would have to wait. Right now she would watch his trial start. She felt she owed him that much at least.
As expected the whole affair was a pitiful sham. Several strong political forces clamored for his conviction. Yet shied away when it came to passing sentence. Although there were people defending him, there testimony was callously disregarded. His case was bounced from one court to another. Until it landed onto the highest court in the land. There his case was layed out to open public forum. Setsuna listened carefully. Anxious to hear what judgement the people would render.
"CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!"
She closed her eyes at those words. Tears streaming down her face. "Yes." she finally whispered. "Yes. Crucify him."
Authors Note: This story is not meant to imply any religious convictions. Although I am a believer, I am not trying to influence anybody. I am just telling a story. If you do take issue with what I have written, you can deal with it three ways; You can ignore it. You can be offended by it. Or you can see the thoughts and concepts of this story as possible lessons to be considered. The choice is up to you.