WARNING: This is a sequel to "The Promises We Do Not Speak Of". If you have not read it yet, you should read that first and then you should read this. I did a really quick once over with Word... this is all the editing it's going to get, so if you see something wrong, feel free to correct it and then send me the new version (busy and lazy is a deadly combination for this author).
BRIBES: I take Bleach bribes. Or Naruto manga bribes. I am up to volume 153 right now for Bleach and 244 for Naruto... It has no relation to this story, but if you find more... Let me know!
(Thank you, Yumeko-san, for editing this! v)
"Even for just one moment of true, unfettered,
blissful happiness... life would be worth it after."
Immortal Cage: An Impasse to Nowhere Land
by Blue Jeans
The road sign pointed both to the East and the West without arrows to point. The ground was not really ground. The North was really South and there were no roads to follow it. This was the center of such a place without direction and yet with infinite possibilities. He watched the illusion pass and once again the temple resurrected itself around him. He watched the pool of water in perfect stillness of a blue mirror, reflecting the blue skies that never clouded over with rain or sorrow. He had watched it for longer than he could remember, so long that whatever life he once might have had was lost to him. Once, he was sure, he had been filled with dogmatic beliefs of his place in this world, protecting those precious, innocent dreams of pure-hearted people. In a way, he was a guardian at the gates of some form of Heaven, a magical place for earthly beings that lived uncorrupted lives.
Yet, nowadays, as the world was lulled by a millennium of peace, he was uncertain of his place within it. There had not been a disturbance in the pools of water for years now. He should have been glad, and he was, but as the days of calm stretched its hands out in eternity, and the eyes of happy, smiling humans flittered through his world like ghosts, a restlessness within him began to grow. The calmness he once sought to gain, to protect with every ounce of his being, was now disturbed by a ripple he had been so sure that he had smoothed.
"Elios-sama," twin voices called to him. Broken from his revelry, he reluctantly turned. He was ashamed and unsure of himself but he was also filled with the habit of appearing a certain way and being a certain type of person. His gaze changed to one of confidence, even though he had left such a feeling years and years ago.
"Yes?" Twin eyes, clear like the pools of reflections, studied him.
"It's time," they informed him in perfect unison. He nodded in silent acquiesce, stepping towards one of the four archways of the temple. His white shoes made not a click on the marble floors as he glided towards the sunlit area. In this world, everything was sunlit without a sun to be seen, everything was perfect and clear. Yet, in such intense unambiguousness, Elios felt himself slipping further and further into murky uncertainties.
At the archway he paused and looked back, back to those who trusted him completely and saw things far clearer than he could ever hope to. "Bliss be, Elysion Grounds." The prayer left his lips like the habits of a priest too easily slipped into. Then he was gone, wings expanding from his back as his form changed into a mythical beast long thought to be nothing more than a dying legend.
The jewel flickered as a sharp beacon in a world of pastel colors. The symbol of his rule was sharp and contrasting in the waving, shimmering illusions around him, so dazzling a sight that one could never view it in full clarity. Over the waters he raced, free and yet caged, sure stepped but uncertain-hearted. The procession of a ghostly figure danced on the shore's edge, and he went, pale white boats gliding in silent following. The bared bodied children laughed and waved at his approaching form, awed by his presence while unaware of their own nakedness, unashamed of who they were. They were all innocent and sure eyed, for they could not see far into the future, knowing only how to live in the now.
Feathers fell around them like snow, promising safety and wonderment. One pale-haired child waved at him in a crowd of out-stretched hands, waiting to be blessed. His burnished eyes could not help but rest on her excited form and linger at how her other hand was attached to another. The two children looked so similar in their pale, transparent bodies that he knew immediately of their relation to one another. Twins, he acknowledged, but it was not the only reason he stared as recognition flickered through his eyes.
They were hers.
The girl had her eyes, and the boy had her hair. The girl sported her dimples, and the boy reflected her spirit. Elios paused, dancing on the sand before the children, his eyes resting on the two that fascinated him the most whenever he could. There was an ache in his chest, of all the might have beens, of all the could-haves and would-haves that really led no one anywhere. He had thought he had smoothed out a ripple, but really, it had turned into a wave while he had not been watching. "Over yonder, in the forest of dreams, you will come to visit it for the first time." He nodded in the direction he came as little bodies filled the boats that were lined around him. "If you are good and kind in life, in your dreams the forest will always be opened to you."
Soft, eager chattering made the air vibrate with excitement.
"Will I remember this when I wake up?" the little girl asked, tugging at his mane after she had bravely approached him.
Ancient, gentle eyes rested upon her as she looked up to him expectantly. Her brother hid behind her, shyly glancing up at him in awe. He could not smile in this form, so he nodded, nose nudging them both with soft reassurance. "In the forest, you can play," he explained.
"Will I remember?"
She was so like her mother, this one, stubborn, determined, and greedy of such things as memory. He paused and wondered at her curious seriousness, at that glint in her all too familiar eyes. "Do you wish to?" he inquired as his gaze rested more on her sibling this time.
"Of course!" she huffed, ignoring the pull of her brother's hand at her rudeness. "So will I remember?" she asked again.
He bowed his head and studied her. "Just this once," he promised her.
The little girl smiled as she looked behind at her brother. "See? Mother was right all along. Always ask for what you want!"
Her brother nodded timidly, his blue eyes sparkling with relief and excitement. "Me too," the boy requested eagerly, momentarily forgetting himself. "Let me remember this as well." And though Elios felt that he should never have agreed, as it could bring far too many complications, he could do nothing but nod. It was his downfall really; they reminded him too much of her, and he had never been good at refusing her of anything. When the last small body piled up into the pale, petal like boats, he turned then and led them across the Lake of Forgetfulness and Truth, and into the forest where only the innocents could play: the Forest of Fairies.
It was the least he could do, letting them remember.
He was not in the habit of breaking any type of promises. He, in fact, had kept every single promise he had ever made... except this most important one. On the anniversary of her two-hundred and fifty-second years of rule, he had received a visit from a most unexpected person.
Endymion's hair was greying at the roots, his dark eyes were deep and far more mature than the day that Elios had crowned him King. Elios could not help but give an inward sigh, glad that his master had let go of that harsh loneliness that had once made the other man's gaze brittle and guarded with mistrust. Now, those eyes regarded him with seriousness as he knelt at Endymion's feet. Thousands and thousands of years has passed since he had first done so for the child Prince of another time and another life. At that time they had been strangers, swearing oaths to each other for lifetimes to come. The ancient soul peered at him through eyes that had seen much but could only remember this life. Elios was not so lucky. He had lived passed many forgotten histories whose existence had long been destroyed.
"My daughter," Endymion finally began, having never been a man with patience for small talk. "She has been alone all this time. I had thought it odd, but lately, I remembered of a childhood infatuation she had had with a man who looked like a boy."
"Endymion-sama," he bowed his head. "I apologize that I had not informed you of our fraternizations, earlier."
Endymion's hands touched Elios hair, a dark contrast to the pale strands. It was an action few had the privilege of experiencing. "Elios, she is lonely in our world. Will you not cross-over for her? Will you leave her alone, living only for you in dreams while barely surviving without you in the world outside?"
Elios stiffened beneath such a gentle touch that commanded so much from him. "You ask too much of me, my King." His voice trembled with hopeless, unvoiced desires.
"You have once sworn your life to me," Endymion sighed. "I would rather you find another for this post and join us in the world outside of these dreams."
"The passage of priesthood has been destroyed." Elios trembled ever so slightly beneath his sovereign's touch. "There cannot be another. If there is, it would require my death."
Endymion studied him then, eyes dark and hooded. "You are here for eternity? Why did you not tell me this earlier? There must be a way to set you free."
Elios closed his eyes in shame at the terrible hope blossoming in his heart. It is not a cage, was what he should have said. Instead, he could only whisper, "I do as you command me."
Endymion left that day, determined to sort out the affairs between his one daughter and his loyal follower. Years passed, as years did for immortal beings. It was another century before Endymion returned, empty handed and frustrated beyond measure. "Not a scroll, not a whisper! Our past... has it been completely destroyed?" The King was incensed. There were crinkles of wrinkles beneath his eyes and around a once harsh mouth.
"My liege?" Elios looked startled. "Are you aging?"
Endymion paused to study his subject. "I am not immortal, Elios. Soon I will pass onto the next world. I had never wanted to live forever, and Serenity and I have both agreed to go to the beyond together." Elios felt the pain in his chest, knowing he could not follow. "I wish to sort this out before I go."
That terrible hope was dying within his chest. "I know what I must do," Elios finally said. The weight of such knowledge was greater than any punishment anyone could have ever dealt to him.
Endymion studied him hard. "My daughter would be lonely without you. Do you mean to leave her?"
"Never," Elios said, shaking his head. "I can never do her harm." Endymion looked relieved. Yet, that relief was quickly gone when Endymion saw Elios' eyes fill with more emotions than the King had ever faced, pleading into Endymion's own. "Burn my name from history, Endymion-sama. I shall let her go. She will not suffer a tear, not a hurt, and she will be able to move on. It is the least I can do for you, the least I can do for her."
Speechless, the King would have protested if he knew another way. If Endymion had known, he would have never have allowed the events that followed to follow, but the years were getting shorter and a selfish, fatherly part of him did not wish to see his daughter continue so unhappily with a love that could not lead anyone to happiness. So it was agreed, one bright, non-descript dream passing through Elysion, that Elios would pay her happiness with his own.
Elios had only broken one promise in his countless years of life. It would haunt him forever.
The dress she wore clung to her form, dipping into every curve. His hand rested on the smooth line that rose and rounded at her hip. He wished that he could burn her into his memories. This one time, he almost went too far, but always, always the tickling of his skin that pierced him with the knowledge of his oaths came back. Her eyes had been bewildered, glazed with a passion he would be helpless against had he been less of who he was, had he been younger and more reckless than he was now.
His eyes sought hers in the clear afternoon-like dream. "You will let me remember this?" her voice had been breathless with excitement. Yet, there was an unease there as well. "You must promise me, Elios. Promise me that I will never forget!"
He could hardly speak, so he kissed her instead with everything that was in him every promise he could not make, every word of love and devotion he could not give everything. Their fingers parted and the window closed. He watched her smiling from the other side with that knowing look, with tears of pain. "I'm sorry," he whispered. That night, he erased himself from her memories forever. Not a dream, not a word was left untouched. He made it so that every touch and care she put to him, every step she made into his world, were gone. He followed every footprint she engraved into the soft grass and the pale sand, and washed away the trails they shared so that there were only his footsteps in the sand, so that there was only his laughter echoing through the leaves of the trees. He could not so easily remove the path she blazed within his heart, but it was alright with him, so long as he was the only one between the two of them that hurt. So long as he had at least a memory of her dancing in his arms and laughing into his ear, it was enough.
It had to be enough.
She would have woken up crying in the morning without knowing why,but even that he took away from her, because he left her with a dream of pleasant memories of friends and family. And though she may have been plagued at first with emotions of loneliness and heartache, soon she would forget because there was no rationale behind her actions. Soon, the reality she lived within would erase the last of his touches from her heart because her mind would not be able to understand a longing that could not be named. It was how it had happened, and in less than a decade she was married.
He watched her smiling face on her wedding day the one time he pushed away the chains keeping him in Elysion since the Black Moon's attack the one time he visited the reality of her world. Perched far from the procession so that he would not be in the way, he had gazed as a man in the cold would gaze into a warmly lit room, his eyes were misted with loss. There were so many emotions bombarding him from within that he did not even take note of the sun that once he had told her he would have given much of Elysion itself to see again.
"I'm sorry, Usagi. Be happy." For years he watched her from the portal of her dreams, making sure that she was treated right, that her dreams were only filled with joy as he banished the last of her memories of pain and loneliness from that world of her own creation and his magic. He never entered those joyous moments he created for her, loving her from afar was all he could do. He could not be with her because he would only end up hurting them both, so he stayed back. Should she ever dream of anyone, he made sure it was the husband that she loved. Should she call out that man's name, Elios would turn away, knowing his time was up. It was pain, having her so close. Yet he returned to that window, night after night, watching from afar, for it was all he had of her.
Then, she got pregnant, and her belly stretched. He watched with fascination on the other side of her window as she crooned to the unborn children in her womb with a smile so beautiful he was speechless with awe. He was a guardian who had lived for centuries and seen much, and yet he could not have found a single word in the countless tongues he had learned to describe her during those long nights. She had thought of her children so intensely in sleep that the image of her was sharper and clearer than he had ever seen her. The bitter-sweet taste of his regret lingered on his lips, as he watched her with awe in his face.
He was too old for envy and jealousy. Now, he only felt the deep weariness of a traveler who had wondered too long in the snow, having only a distant light as a guide. He remembered the warmth of her touch, just a soft feathery feel that was too surreal to be appreciated. Indulging himself in such activities only made the parting more painful as it only made him long for more. Yet, it was all he had.
Time stretched and stretched. Now, in the Forest of Fairies her children played, unaware of the priest that watched over them. Unaware of the sacrifices made so that they could be born, so that their mother could move on from the stop point of her life. Neither he, nor his Queen could stand still in the happy bubble they had created for themselves, not forever. Someone had to give and Elios would rather be the person who had to be burdened with such knowledge than his Queen.
She was happy, so long as that be true, he would endure such a life worse than death for her. He could handle the pain and the loneliness. He could live with the sorrow, old and tired as he was already. He would stay forever in his world of illusions, so long as she lived, to ensure of her happiness. It was the least he could do for breaking the dearest promise to his heart, to her heart that could not remember.
It was the only excuses he had left, for though she had moved on from the stop-point of her life, he could not. Elios, after all, was the man with memories of history destroyed. He was the only one left to cherish what could not last and could not be remembered. He was the last historian of Earth. Such knowledge, one that once he had sought in an ancient time, with a purity of a heart untainted and unfettered by any other emotion had, in the end, entrapped him into a world that did not die, and yet, did not live.
He watched the ages pass with an infinitely removed eye, recording pages into the ancient scroll, golden with memory. He spoke not a word of his true vocation, not even to his sovereign prince, not even to the nymphs that guarded him. He was the last Historian, the last one to be protected from the world by living in one that no time could invade into and corrode. The treasure at the bottom of the lake was the memories that lived on, so ancient were they that only he could recall them at will.
There could be no other, for of all the blissful people in the world, Elios was the only one who could properly honor them. Of all the cities that were built, that had crumbled, and the lives that were changed by generations into the past, Elios was the only one who had the ability to trace back the lines and tell their stories the way it was meant to be told. Because in Elysion, Heaven on Earth, life was a memory that would never be forgotten.
She was crying. He had seen her in despair before, but this was unlike any other. He could not understand why she continued living. She lived outside of the duties of a Queen now, but her first child had died, having tired of life and chosen to move on from it all. The people of Crystal Tokyo lived that way, having the choice of death after centuries of living. It was still unnatural for a child to die before the parent.
He had seen her through it all, through Endymion and Serenity's death, through her own husband's passing, and now this. It puzzled him why she continued, why the tears fell. It made the coldness inside his heart crackle with life and a familiar feeling that pushed aside his resignation to his post, one that he had long learned to endure with. It should not have surprised him that her window suddenly opened to him after all this time, that she stood there now, looking up at him with such a desperate expression that he would have done anything to stop her pain.
"Please," she whispered. "Hold me. You don't have to make me remember this, but for now..."
"You knew?" he asked in shocked surprise.
Her head fitted against him, her form once more a child's. He held her close then, gathering her crying figure into the deepness of himself. He wished, how he wished, he could keep her forever and never let go. "Why?" he questioned her softly. "All this time, you knew I was here?"
"It was what you had wanted," she said. "It was the least I could do."
He closed his eyes tightly, arms holding her just as tightly. "All I ever wanted was you," he said with all the truth and honesty burning within his heart.
"When will you let go next?" she asked as she was once more a woman in his youthful arms. "When will this become too painful to bare?"
He sighed into her hair. "I am the last of Elysion, the last of an ancient race that owed your Father's line an important debt, paid in the dues of our oath. It is more than that, my Queen, far more."
"Why must you remain so alone?" she asked, clutching at his shirt. "For once, tell me the truth!"
His eyes looked back then, back to that time when he first took office, to the oath he had spoken and given the entirety of his destiny, his life to. "If I loved you too much, if I held you too long, I would forget," he answered her. "I would look away from the memories of others. I would stop living through them their happiness, and their tears because I would no longer be filled with longing. If I had you, I would no longer need Elysion or anything at all for that matter."
"What kind of curse did they put upon you?" she asked in horror at this revelation.
He smiled into her hair and answered. "The human kind." His eyes were closed as his lips brushed against the softness of her hair. "The kind that fears to be forgotten, even if they can only be remembered in dreams. For don't you know, my Queen, even you are in love with a ghost? I am no longer real. I am only a man born from the memories of myself and others. I have no corporeal body. Only in this world will I exist completely as me. If I loved you too much I would cease to be. My reasons for being, the only reason why Elysion keeps me as real as dreams, will be gone."
"Either way I lose you," she sighed deeply as her arms circled around his waist. "Just one moment, Elios... Don't you at least want to know just one moment of happiness?"
He smiled at her. "I know it already."
Lady Serenity, the oldest living ruler of Crystal Tokyo shook her head. "No, I mean one true moment of happiness a child's happiness. One not tinged by sorrow, one not restrained by the knowledge of loss."
"I cannot ask for more," he said, brushing away her hair. "I cannot ask for more."
"Then," she said, looking deeply into his eyes, "I will make a sacrifice."
He wanted to protest. She had already given him too much. She had done her duties to her world, in her role as a Queen to a Utopia created by her mother. He loved her, so much it was beyond reason and time, more love than he had ever thought himself capable of giving, more than he had thought he would ever receive. Yet, in the end, he was but a memory that wished to be more in her arms. The trees shifted over their heads, his naked arm around her naked waist, he could not help but smile at the skies overhead.
"It has been a long time, since I thought of this place as possessing things of reality," he told her as his form began to fade. "I am happy," he told her, "that the last memories of life are filled with you."
Her eyes brimmed with tears as she looked at him, so much love he could not speak or act or think. "You were always such a fool," she whispered fondly. "I will always love you for it."
"Did you know?" he asked, tracing the curve of her cheek down to the curve between her neck and shoulder-blade. "There was an enchanted city, filled with wonder. There was an unhappy guardian, whose memories were filled with the past and the dreams of children and adults who could not forget..."
"And then?" she asked through a hiccup that made him smile.
"...And then he fell in love with a woman, more beautiful than the sun that he had not seen for centuries, or the moon that he had always been greeted with in the reality he did visit." Eyes burnished and fading to gold looked to her, turning blue, as if the sun was rising for the first time in a place that knew only of dusk, that uncertain place between living and death, happiness and sorrow. "So, he walked away on water, hoping she would lose his footprints and the path he had thought he would have to walk forever. He forgot about himself so that others would never be forgotten. The stories of human lives would be his stories beyond time, beyond the touch of reality.
"Yet, he fell in love." Elios traced her face and looked into her eyes. She could speak no words to him, awed by his tale of a boy who became a man in a dream. She could not speak even as his touch became less solid, even as his eyes changed for the first time in over thousands of uncountable years. "So he abandoned the memories of others for one moment of bliss, selfish or not, so that before he vanished he would have known true happiness, so that he could remember what it had meant to live."
She could only trace his features that expressed so much, the genuine smile on his face that promised her heart something she had always wished from him. He had never smiled at her like that until this moment, and in this moment, she could only think that every sacrifice ever made in this world was worth it to see him smile like that. "Thank you," he sighed as his form became a ghostly whisper. "I love you, beyond time and dreams. And this time, forever will not be forgotten, it will live inside us all." His hand was falling through her shoulder. His eyes met hers in a gaze she did not wish to ever forget. "I remember now, Usagi, why I loved this place so long ago..." Her questioning gaze made him smile. Bubbles of starlit colors burst around them, like the ephemeral foam of the seas. Her name was a sigh from his lips. It was a whisper that echoed through the trees of Elysion as her tears fell onto the warm grass where once they had laid, side by side, arm in arm.
"Elios..." She closed her eyes at the taste of his name. There was no more need for words. The memory of his happiness was enough. It was really all that she had ever wanted to give to him.
No more words or stories or memories were needed. The impasse was crossed, and the cage door was opened. Through the doors of memories he had flown, happily into a bluer, clearer, and more infinite sky.
"It's time to wake up, darling..."
An explaination: For those of you confused about the end of Immortal Cage, here's a brief explaination about the end.
At the parting, it is uncertain who says: "It's time to wake up, darling..."
This is italicized and left vage for one reason really: It is meant to be ambiguous on the speaker. The reason being, when the story ended, that dreamworld created between Chibiusa/Lady Queen and her lover, Elios, is shattered by the decision to no longer live for only dreams. It was time for both people to wake up to reality. Even though it is the more uncertain path, even though it would be painful, even though there might be a chance they will never see each other ever again, it was time. So I had Chibiusa decide, as she did, from the beginning, have the final say to letting Elios go. She is the one who lived in reality but subsisted on dreams. Elios, through Chibiusa, was given a chance to seek the freedom he never longed for till he met her. If you have further questions, feel free to email me.
This is a sequel to "The Promises We Do Not Speak Of". I felt I left that story at an impasse, a wall that could not be breached and a conflict not yet resolved. I don't know where the idea of Elios being a historian came from. It just came naturally as the short piece became a medium piece and my muse kept rumbling away in my head (that crazy thing)...
The dialogue wanted to get really corny on me... I tried to keep it as non-melodramatic as possible, but clichés kept popping up all over the place ;;
Usual disclaimers applied. I created a few unnamed, original characters but it's hard to plagiarize these people since they have no names... oh well...
That's the end for this one. I don't think I'll be publishing anything else in the future for sometime to come... Truth be told, I only did this as it was an idea I told Chaos-chan that I was toying with, and I felt that giving Yumeko half a story was kind of rude of me. That and I have come to a conclusion that I like none of my old one-shots... not that I'm quite satisfied with this one. I hope I'm improving.
I dedicate this to Yumeko and Chaos who actually believe I can write (though sometimes I think it's because they're going a tad bit delusional.) Aph-san and Starsea, I must also thank you, for being two people who are crazy enough to recommend me to others... sometimes I wonder about you guys.
Hope that was somewhat entertaining...
(Please do not plagiarize.)