Disclaimer: How I wish I owned Trigun. Sadly, I own it not.
AN: As promised, I present ye all with the Epilogue! Enjoy! XD
There comes a time in every epic tale that is both wonderful and saddening. And that is when it comes to an end. Life resumes its normal pace, but at the end of the day, one knows that the life that once was is gone forever. Everything has changed because it is well near impossible to pick up the shards of an old life and put the pieces back together again the way they once were. No, there must be new beginnings. And endings. But for the four who convened that one day in December to discuss their futures and the future of their race, life certainly did become much more interesting and busy after that.
For Brilliant Dynamites Neon, however, it was time to resume his old lifestyle. The eccentric, flashy leader of the Bad Lads Gang, returned home to his own turf between Inepril and May City. There, he continued his extravagant robberies of sand steamers passing through the area, accumulating a great amount of wealth during his escapades. Amazingly enough, Neon was never caught, but some say that he donated some of his "acquired" funds to several charity organizations, possibly at the suggestion of one Millie Thompson, whom he visited from time to time.
Meanwhile, Samuel Johnson and Alex Thompson went on to solicit funding from multiple different sects of the business community and the government. While skeptical at first, when they presented their findings, as well as the sample technology from Knives's fortress, a deal was struck. A huge project was soon under way as the equipment became more and more sophisticated, and a team of engineers researched possible ways to create a water supply without using Plants.
They found it. Determining that the shift in temperature between night and day produced dew at certain intervals in the morning, Johnson hypothesized that installing dew collectors (1) throughout the desert planet would, over time, cause the development of a water reserve. And, as it accumulated, the need for Plants (already cut down by the advent of solar power) would also decrease until they would be unnecessary.
At first, it was difficult for him to gain support for his undertakings since no one felt truly motivated to help alter the status quo. Fortunately, Johnson had two great assistants to help him in his endeavors.
Shortly after their meeting, Millie Thompson quit her job at the Bernardelli Insurance Society, whom the chief was somewhat disappointed to see go (even though she was always late). Joining in her brother Alex Thompson's attempts to open the eyes of the people of Gunsmoke to the possibilities of solar power, Millie toured many of the large cities. Her cheerful, honest demeanor won over many people and helped to gain funding for the project.
Meryl Stryfe, on the other hand, became Samuel Johnson's personal secretary, handling most relations with the press as well as within the organization that soon sprouted, as well as remaining close friends with Millie, with whom she attended Marianne and Alex's wedding. Inside the office, though, Meryl worked hard at her job for many years, but the most lasting impact she made was when she published her book Fifth Moon: A History of Misconception, an account of the abuses endured by Plants and an argument for seeking alternate power sources, but also a look at the life of one Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon.
It became a bestseller within weeks of its publication, and Meryl occasionally did book signings when she had the time. And while some accepted her story (mostly the younger generation), there were those who did not. Fifth Moon caused a great deal of controversy in the cities, which filtered down to the more rural provinces. The mudslinging began, and many public officials lashed her verbally and made multiple insinuations about her and her relationship with the Stampede. She never responded.
In the meantime, those involved with the solar power project worked diligently for the next several years until finally, the first power plant went online as dew collectors were mass-produced and distributed to each town. At first, they merely supplemented Plant power, but the strain on Plants was lessened somewhat. Solar power gradually became more common.
Then, a mere couple months after this event, the first ships from Earth arrived, their mission to transport the people of Gunsmoke back to Earth, which had been slowly recovering for over a century. Some accepted the offer. However, most decided to stay and tough it out, determined to make it on their own in the wasteland.
Years passed. The relationship between Earth and Gunsmoke strengthened, and people began to travel between the two as technology advanced. It was the beginning of an exchange in culture as residents of each different world began to comprehend the other's equally different mode of existence.
And, as time went on, the face of Gunsmoke began to change. Decades after the first solar power plant went online and dew collectors were installed, the planet began to change. Small offshoots of greenery began to sprout in random areas, at first hardly noticeable. Little by little, the landscape shifted, and the desert receded. The sandworms and thomases, once rulers of this dry, arid world, were eventually confined to wildlife preserves to prevent their extinction. And, for those who lived during that generation, it was as though the Gunsmoke of their forefathers had never existed at all.
In addition to other things…
Even in the far future, people still spoke of the legend, the man who had destroyed two of the Seven Cities of Gunsmoke. The Humanoid Typhoon, they would whisper, a mythical being who frightened small children into doing their lessons and turning in their homework on time. That was all he had been, they reasoned. Just a myth.
And yet, every now and then, there would be reports of a mysterious man clad in red with blonde hair, always lurking near the outskirts of settlements. He never went in, they said, only watched, a silent observer. Most dismissed the rumors, of course, not believing that it was possible for one man to do all the things Vash the Stampede had reportedly done. Not even literature, including Meryl Stryfe's work, could convince them otherwise.
In the end, all people had to do was look up at the night sky, a crimson light of the Fifth Moon beaming down from above. Everyone thought the hole within it had always been there. And yet…they wondered…
Stardate 0231, July 21st, December City, Gunsmoke
"Hey, Bob. You done locking up, yet?"
Bob sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I'll be there in a minute. Just checking the gate."
The guard tugged a bit in the bars, which rattled slightly but held. Turning back, satisfied that it was secure, he waved to his friend Andy. He beckoned to Bob, and the two of them began to walk away.
"Long day, huh, Bob?"
Bob nodded, rubbing his eyes. "Yeah. You wouldn't think a graveyard would be so popular on a weekday, would ya?"
Andy shrugged. "I dunno. Guess some people get off on that stuff."
"I don't have a problem with it," Bob said. "I'm just sayin' it was a busy day."
"Fine, whatever." Andy withdrew a pack of cigarettes and lit one, taking a drag on it before speaking again. "Anyway, wanna go get a drink? My treat."
Bob shook his head. "No. I gotta get back home. Annie's waitin' for me."
"Psh," Andy scoffed. "Be daring, man! Get out a little! Your wife won't care if you're late one night!"
"Haha. That's what YOU think."
"Ok, fine," Andy muttered. "I'll see ya tomorrow then."
As the voices of the two men faded, a figure detached itself from the shadows clinging to the graveyard walls. Looking both ways, checking to make sure everyone really had gone, he slipped around the back way, keen upon not being seen. His booted feet thudded gently on the ground, his movements fluid.
Once he had gone around, he peered upward, still sticking close to the wall as he waited patiently for the clouds to pass over the full moon. The seconds ticked by slowly, but he did not move. Then, as the light disappeared behind the grey shroud, he clambered quietly over the wall, landing silently on his feet.
He stood slowly, the wind rustling through the semi-barren trees. Pausing, he took a moment to look at them, the golden-red leaves dangling from the branches, many of them scattered randomly across the earth. It was a sign that fall was ending, and winter was on the way, something he had never dared to hope he would see. And yet, there it was.
Somehow, he had almost never believed it possible. He had always told himself he did, but for some reason, seeing it for real, it really hit home. It had used to be that such natural beauty could only be found where a geoplant was also present. It was truly remarkable to him, especially considering where this planet had once been. And while it made his heart leap with joy, it also saddened him because so much had been lost.
Feeling a little chilled, he shivered slightly despite his custom-made coat, wrapping his arms about himself. Walking slowly through the maze of headstones and crosses, he stopped every now and then to read what was inscribed on each one. They had all been people, people with hopes, dreams, ambitions…life. They had passed on now, though, gone on. But he remained.
He wandered for a while, his countenance becoming more solemn by the minute. After all, he had not simply come to read the engraved captions or to roam aimlessly throughout this desolate place. No, he had come for a much more personal, important reason.
As he walked, he noticed almost immediately how the graves were organized by year, the ones near the front of the cemetery dating back to the earlier years of Gunsmoke, the oldest one from about twenty plus years after the Great Fall. Since then, the graveyard had expanded exponentially due to spatial needs. I he continued on towards the back, he knew he would be able to find the one he was looking for.
It was a long way, though, and he took the time just to think. What would he say? What could he say? It had been such a long time, and he doubted he would ever be forgiven for most of what he had done. Still, he had to do this. He needed…closure. And hopefully, his message would get through.
He stopped short, his heart thumping in his chest loudly. It was there. He did not move, staring at the singular grave that stood out amongst them all despite its simplicity. Then, step by careful step, he moved towards it. Kneeling slowly, he sat down, the dying, browned grass crunching softly as he did so. He stared at it for a while without seeing, barely registering the words written across the headstone. He should say something…
Smiling tentively, he cleared his throat. "Hi…"
He scowled, smacking himself internally. Stupid! You should have said something besides that! It's been years, and that's all you have to say for yourself?
"Eh heh…sorry," he said , rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "It's been a while, and I guess…I've forgotten how to talk."
There was no response. Not that he had really expected to get one, but still. He was trying his best here! He cleared his throat once more, feeling decidedly awkward about this, as well as something more. His face fell some, reminded for the millionth time why he had come. Taking a deep breath, he steadied himself.
"I guess you're wondering why I'm showing up now," he whispered, his voice gaining strength as he went on. "I've been away for a long time. A really long time. I should have come sooner. I know that." He swallowed hard, his voice faltering. "I just…couldn't bring myself to."
He signed, running a hand through his hair. "I've already been to visit Preacher Man and Big Girl. I saw both of them a little while back, but coming here to see you…well…" He smiled sadly. "It's…difficult. And I know you'd probably smack me upside the head right now if you were here and call me an 'idealist, idiotic, pacifistic, upside-down-haired, woman-chasing, broom-headed lunatic who's nuts for donuts and gorges them like a starved hog in heat,' just because…that's what you do. But," he said hesitantly, "if you'll just hold off on that for a little while, I'll explain myself."
Shifting slightly, Vash took a deep breath, preparing himself to tell the tale of what had actually happened to him…
100 Years Ago
Vash ran as fast as his legs would carry him, his heart beating loudly in his ears, his thoughts racing. His red duster, already stained an even deeper crimson, was now becoming soaked through with sweat, the salty liquid trickling down his brow. All around him, the landscape was bleak, a blasted, bleak rendition of what had once been, twisted chunks of debris strewn about the battlefield.
He stumbled, falling to his knees in the hard, dusty earth. His muscles ached, screaming at him to simply lie down and rest for a minute. Just a minute. But he could not do that. Vash did not trust himself anymore. Knives had seen to that.
Stumbling to his feet, the bullet wounds in his legs throbbing violently, Vash staggered away, away from the devastation, away from the shroud of death that clung to the area like a parasite. But most of all, he ran away from her.
He had almost killed her. It did not matter that Knives had been the one controlling his body. It did not matter that he had, in the end, not killed her. The fact remained that he almost had. Him. Vash. No one else.
By mere association, Meryl's life had been placed in danger multiple times, even before he had even brought Knives back home with him. And now, Vash could not help but think, despite the ideals that had shaped his life and molded him as a person, that he should have killed Knives when he had had the chance. He should have pulled the trigger and ended it once and for all. Vash's eyes burned, and he wiped at them roughly, only serving to smear his already-smudged face even more, blood and dirt mingling with tears.
He glared up at the blood-red sky, his fists clenched. "What good are your ideals to me now, huh?" he screamed, his voice tearing. "Do you see what's happened? Look at what I've done! LOOK AT ME!"
No one answered him. A moment later, Vash tripped, falling flat on his face. He groaned, pushing himself up slowly, spitting dirt out of his mouth. Rolling over onto his back, Vash moaned softly, lifting his arm over his face, blocking out the sight of the crimson sky.
'Stop your ridiculous whining, Vash.'
Vash closed his eyes, so tired he could barely move. 'Knives…'
His world shifted, drawn inwards by the pull of the other consciousness within him. They were back on the SEEDs ship again, the foliage characteristic of the old Rec Room surrounding them. This was where they had first parted ways, even though they had not known it at the time. This was where it all began.
'You fool,' Knives snapped. 'Get up! Don't just lie there. There are things we must do, you and I.'
'And what things are those, Knives?' Vash asked dully.
'You know well enough. What happened today was only a small taste of what I have in store.'
'Don't do this, Knives. Please…'
Knives's lips twisted upward wryly. 'Since I have been deprived of a body of my own, yours will have to suffice to do what is necessary.'
'It's not necessary, Knives,' Vash said, his voice shaking slightly.
'That's where you're wrong. And don't try to deny that even you have despaired by trying to live up to your foolish, contradictory ideals,' Knives sneered.
Vash closed his eyes. 'I don't know what to believe in anymore…'
'Then why not help me, brother?' Knives suggested soothingly, moving closer. 'It would be easy. Just stop fighting me, and you won't have to worry anymore.'
Vash blinked, staring blankly at Knives. 'But…'
Knives smiled. 'You want to rest, don't you? You want to be free, free of the cares laid upon you.'
Vash nodded, his mind numb. He barely noticed his brother circling behind him, the grin on Knives's face widening. The only thing he was aware of right now was how far he had fallen, how much he had failed. What was the point in going on now after he had lost everyone close to him? Rem, the SEEDs crew, his friends from Sky City, Wolfwood, Millie, and now Meryl… All gone because of him. It was his fault. All of it.
The whisper of Knives's voice tickled his ear as his arms snaked around Vash's waist. 'The process isn't complete yet, brother. We must become one in both body…and mind. Are you ready?'
Knives's arms tightened around him, and Vash's eyes widened. He whipped his head around, shock mingling with horror as he saw his body sinking into his brother's flesh, melding with him. Vash twisted violently in his brother's grasp, fighting desperately now. This was wrong. It was wrong! WRONG!
'Let go!' Vash shouted, struggling as hard as he could even as he could feel himself being drawn even further into his brother's presence.
'No, Vash,' Knives hissed. 'You're mine. You always have been. That woman stole you from me, but I won't let her have you! Not anymore!'
He screamed, his body sinking further and further into Knives. This was what his brother had intended all along, Vash realized frantically. It did not matter which body was used as a host in a Plant merger! If the absorbed mind was stronger than the one possessed by the host, regardless of the size of each individual's Gates, the stronger mind would be able to take control!
Vash writhed in Knives's clutches, gritting his teeth. He had to get free. He had to! If he let Knives have his way, Knives would kill everyone! Including…
'LET. ME. GO!'
Feathers spouted from his right arm then, battering Knives repeatedly. Seconds later, tufts of feathers and wings erupted, clashing viciously as they ripped at each other. Amidst the chaos, Vash finally managed to rip himself away from Knives, crying out as they "unmerged." Staggering back, Vash quickly raised his right arm defensively, prepared to ward his brother off. Knives straightened, holding his curved blades in front of him, poised to strike, his lips curling disdainfully.
'No, Knives,' Vash stated, determined. 'You're the fool. You couldn't defeat me in the real world. You won't beat me here.'
Knives narrowed his eyes. 'That's what you think brother,' he snarled, each syllable dripping with venom. 'I WILL find a way…'
And with that, he was gone…
"After that," Vash continued solemnly, "I woke up. And, I knew it wasn't a dream because it felt so real. So, I got myself up and walked as far and fast as I could, avoiding settlements if at all possible. I didn't trust myself. I still don't…"
Vash sighed, laying down on he grass. Turning on his side, he faced the grave, a slight breeze ruffling his spiked hair. Absently, he ran a hand through it, knowing that the charcoal-colored hairs at the back of his neck were still there and that they had progressed up his skull a little over the years. They would never go away, he knew. The black would continue to creep upwards until the day he died. Smiling sadly, he resumed his story once more.
"Then, I found an old SEEDs ship, the same one where Knives had built our guns all those years ago. When I went inside, I was kind of surprised to see that everything had basically stayed the same, except for a little extra sand. I explored some, feeling a bit…nostalgic. And then," he said softly, "I found the Plant bulb."
"It was an old one, but it functioned just fine. I checked all of the equipment, and I saw that the Plant that had previously inhabited it had died some time ago. I removed the body and gave it a proper burial. After that…I locked myself inside."
Vash shook his head, his stomach twisting uncomfortably. He could still remember his own screams echoing in his ears as the wires and needles had latched onto his back, sinking into his flesh as feathers and wings sprouted roughly, attaching themselves to the energy outlets within the bulbs. Excruciating. That was the only word he could think of to describe it.
"It was…painful. I pulled it off, though, even though Knives tried to prevent it…" Vash said quietly, his expression growing distant. "It was like floating in a haze of white warmth. Peaceful. I didn't have to worry about hurting anyone anymore…"
But of course, that was a lie. He had worried. But, it had only been a subconscious thing. After all, strong emotions and extreme thoughts were not present in Plant bulbs. Vash had learned that firsthand.
"My memories of the past century are…murky. I know that I got out a couple times, saw the planet progress as time went on." He hesitated, sitting back up again slowly. "I should have come sooner, but…I didn't… And, I hope that…you can find it in your heart to forgive me…"
Vash scooted forward a little, his vision blurring faintly as he set himself a couple inches away from the grave. Resting his fingers lightly on the headstone, he traced the letters engraved in its surface, his face wistful.
"I wish I could have stayed, you know. But I just…couldn't."
Vash's hand fell away slowly, letting it drop into his lap. He did not know if she could hear him. He did not know if he was doing any good here at all. But somehow, it felt…right, even more so since Knives no longer bothered him as vehemently as he had before. Vash could control his older brother somewhat now, mostly because of the improving condition of Gunsmoke itself, proving Knives's wrong about humans. Vash knew he still wanted to kill them, but he kept his brother well-contained. It was difficult, but he managed. And yet…
"I don't know what I'll do now," he said, his expression pensive. "But maybe I'll know…someday…"
He glanced over his shoulder, a few rays of golden light beginning to peak over the distant horizon. Vash stood, brushing himself off some before looking down at the grave once more. Then, very carefully, he reached into his coat and withdrew an object, resting it lightly on the headstone. Stepping away, Vash turned to go, looking back one more time. He managed a smile, something of the old Vash coming through in his semi-cheerful tone.
"I guess…this is goodbye. Meryl…"
And then, he walked away, the red duster flapping gently in the wind, leaving behind a single geranium on the grave of Meryl Stryfe, thinking about things that had nothing and everything to do with her. (2)
1) Reference to Dune
2) Final line co-written by fellow fanfiction author Spicy-obsession.
WAAAAAAAAAAH! It has come to and end! -cries-
But seriously, I just wanna thank ALL of you readers and reviewers for sticking with me so long! I LOVE you guys! Such wonderful people…you guys made this fic possible!
Special thanks to Abo (the Almighty Brainstorming Monkey) and Puchiko2 (who betaed from time to time)! -CLINGAGE-
Farewell, my friends! Until my next story, I bid you all a very fond farewell! -blows nose loudly and obnoxiously-