Chapter 37: Come What May
We lingered on the field of flowers for quite a while, as the sun of this long-forgotten world rose higher into the sky. Our shadows were still long from the low angle of the sun, but it was getting much brighter.
"I guess... it's time to go home," I said, as Miyuki let me go. My head still hung so low that my chin nearly touched my neck, and I sniffed the last of my sobs. I had passed the urge to cry, but I could still feel the itch of it in my eyes.
Ziggy pat me on the shoulders comfortingly, and we turned for the Penelope. It was standing static in the storm of flower petals kicked up by a gust of cool wind. This place wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for the circumstances. I plucked a flower, and thought of pressing it, preserving the moment, somehow. Maybe I could grow a number of them back home. Then I let it go, and it flew in the air. A dull pain in my heart would be enough to remember today by.
The raindrops became lighter, and then the drizzle dried up. Beams of light began to break through the clouds overhead, creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors and lights in the misty morning.
We heard a beep. I didn't think much of it to begin with. Something in Miyuki's possession was always beeping for one reason or another, sometimes with complex musical tones. I turned to find her spinning around on her heels like a puppy trying to catch its tail, until she determined that the beep was coming from her connection gear clipped to the back of her waist and took it out.
"What is it?" Ziggy asked, as Miyuki flipped on the holographic image and her eyes opened wide.
"U-u-um," she started to say, waving her hands around excitedly. "It's a-it's a ship! A ship!"
Ziggy and I raised our eyes sharply to her as she began to key away furiously to find more information. "In orbit!" she said. "Entering the atmosphere currently!"
Where the clouds parted, a column of light poured down on us from the sky. We looked up, sensing somehow, I suppose, a presence there. A sparkle appeared, gliding along a straight path in the sky. It was tiny at first, wrapped in gold.
We watched in awestruck silence, necks craned upwards, as the small fleck of gold became turquoise and grew larger with each moment that passed.
"Is that...?" Miyuki gasped.
Ziggy was equally surprised. "It is..."
The shape of the blue ship ripped open so many memories and feelings that had been hidden deep inside and barricaded within me so that the passage of time would not destroy them. I knew it as if it were my true home, and yet it had the unfamiliarity of an object I had not laid eyes on in years. I became stuck there as if I were back in limbo, not sure whether I would run up and throw open on the door as soon as it landed, or remain frozen there in disbelief. I actually wondered, consciously, how long it was going to take me to believe this one.
We watched as the swan knight ship lowered to the ground in the field. It's landing feet settled down gently in the grass, at an angle to the Penelope. I held my breath tight in my chest as the hatch opened, and the boarding steps lowered into the grass.
I saw a pair of feet--not the same color as those unfinished ones we put her in the ground with, but so obviously KOS-MOS's. She reached the bottom of the stairs and walked a few steps into the field. Her brilliant blue hair flowed in the wind, more brilliant and lively than even in her encephalon projection. Her frame was completely repaired, and sparkling brilliantly--not with the suns light, but with something even more radiant. Her eyes were bright red, and to my utter amazement, she smiled.
"Mission complete," she called out across the length of the open space, and raised her arm, as if she hadn't caught our attention.
Miyuki laughed and ran towards her, her words came out in half-formed bursts as she jogged. "What did you--how did you--KOS-MOS, you crazy--!!"
Then Shion emerged, and Allen behind her, along with a small person who I had never met holding onto Allen's hand with tiny fingers. I was too dazed to put it all together in the moment, but it also may have been the natural feeling that they emitted as a family, it didn't surprise me enough to snap me back to reality.
"Good morning, everyone!" Shion greeted us, just a few seconds before Miyuki made impact.
"Shion-Shion-Shion!!" she shouted, and barreled Shion over. I was still staring blankly, as if these were ghosts I was seeing.
The next to descend from the ramp was chaos, who smiled at us in his mild-natured way. Finally my expression did lift from pure disbelief into joy. "You did it, you've really done it," I whispered, and then shouted aloud, "chaos, you are okay!"
"Yes I am," he replied. "And in fact, we--"
Before he finished his sentence, I heard someone shout "Outta the way!" and I could have sworn that it sounded like Albedo, or maybe more like Gaignun, but neither really. A tall red-haired man pushed chaos nearly off of the unloading platform as he ran out.
"Hey, watch out!" Shion shouted back at him as he almost knocked both her and Miyuki over at the bottom.
"MOMO!" he shouted, and I'm not even sure if he'd realized that he'd run into either of them.
He was you. You were there.
Suddenly I was flying, and I wasn't aware of just how. I don't think my feet were touching the ground at all, but my heart was overwhelmed with too much joy to be affected by even a universally binding force such as gravity.
"Jr.!" I cried, and though you were running towards me too, it was my velocity that sent us both tumbling to the ground. I realized what I had done only a few seconds after I had done it; and it surprised me, too.
Not as much as you, I guess. Uh... you weren't breathing when I looked, but just sputtering and gagging. "Can't... breath..."
"Geez, MOMO!" Miyuki laughed. "The poor guy gets back and you try to kill him, way to go!"
"Oh dear, I'm sorry!" I gasped, patting you on the back and feeling so awful about it. "Do you need some medicine?"
"I'm okay," you gurgled, as your breath came back. You coughed several times and started laughing. "I'm fine!"
Then a tight hug. I couldn't believe that you were here, and so the fact that I was in your arms was almost beyond perception, let alone comprehension. I saw that your shoulder was wide and angled as you thrust my chin over it in embrace. Your scent, you smelled the same. Kind of like chili and gunpowder, but not in a bad way.
We both stood to our feet again, and that's when I think it struck me. "Wow... You're really tall," I said in disbelief, having to look upwards for the first time to see your eyes. They were not as large and round compared to the rest of your face, but there was still a certain child-like energy there; still the exact same color blue, and in the depths of them I could see a little more. Someone else looking back at me, just as youthfully excited and most likely bickering with you from the inside, but you weren't paying any attention to him.
I yelped a little as Shion proceeded to tackle me in turn, though she didn't quite send us to the ground. "And you're taller than me!" she laughed, and she seemed like she might cry, at the same time. The next thing I knew was that Mary was competing with Shion for hug-space, though I hadn't noticed her and Shelley come out.
"How ya been, honey?" Mary asked, while squeezing me just a little too hard. "Didja get our letters?"
"Please, Mary," Shelley scolded her cooly. "She can't speak with you assaulting her like that."
Finally she let me go. Ziggy joined us, and Shion hugged him around the waist. I watched her moving, and it was amazing to see. Her hair was longer, and her face was more matured. There was no wrinkle or sign of age to be found there though, except for the knowing eyes of a good mother. "Shion, I can't believe you're really here!" I laughed with her, and I nearly cried as well.
Ziggy smiled and reached his arm out to you. You grinned and initiated some secret code buddy handshake involving fists and claps and symbols that had everyone watching in amazement. At the end of it, you laughed so loudly that you had to grab your stomach. "You still got it, old man!"
Shion raised an eyebrow. "Did you guys plan that out?" she asked Ziggy.
"No, it's different every time," Ziggy said with a tired sort of sigh. "He makes it up, I just follow along."
"Haha," chaos laughed as he watched us. "MOMO, it seems like it's been so long... but I suppose I spoke to you only yesterday, from your perspective?"
I pranced over to chaos to give him his own due hug, while the meaning of what he was saying sunk in. "Uh... where exactly have you guys been?" I asked him, blinking.
chaos chuckled, and held up a silver plate, identical to the one I had just lodged in the dirt. "I guess I can give this back to you, now," he laughed. "Make sure to write detailed instructions, when you hand it down to future generations. I believe the young man who gave it to us might need them just as badly as Jr."
I wasn't sure I understood, but I took the plate back into my hands, then looked back to where you were standing. You and Ziggy were exchanging friendly pats on the back and laughing, yes... Ziggy was laughing, too. Miyuki hugged you as well, she was so excited, even though I don't even remember if the two of you had been introduced before.
"Hey, there's my girl!" I heard a gruff and familiar voice call out. Captain Matthews barreled down the exit from the Elsa, intent on giving me a big bear hug with those thick arms of his, but stopped, along with Hammer and Tony who followed him in jaw-dropping shock. "Y-you are MOMO, right?" he asked.
"Of course she's MOMO, you stupid goons!" you grumbled at him, as if his surprise would have insulted me. "What'd you think she was gonna be twelve forever?"
"Hey, I didn't ask you when you didn't grow, I didn't ask her when she didn't grow," he said with a shrug. "But damn! She sure as hell grew, didn't she?"
"I'll say," Tony added, staring right at the parts of me that had expanded the most. The captain turned and pushed both him and Hammer back several feet with one motion of his right arm. "I mean, you look well and healthy MOMO!" he corrected himself, shouting in monotone like a soldier reporting. "Pleasure to see you again, Ma'am!"
Next, and I assumed last, the professor and Scott came running out of the ship, along with a black dog. The dog seemed much more eager to see us than the two of them. They ran right past me, turned a corner, and stood staring, mouths agape, at the Penelope.
"Wah-whoaaaa what a beauty!" the Professor hooted, as if someone had just unfurled a posted of a model in a swimsuit.
"I-it's so beautiful" Scott said, almost in tears.
"You guys are nuts," Matthews groaned, and adjusted his ball cap. "Well! Lost Jerusalem, here we are! Let's take a break, eh? We deserve it!"
Alby yapped to celebrate that announcement, and began to prance around at your heels. The larger, black dog walked over, and Alby gave him a proper sniff. He yapped in approval, and both began to bounce around.
"I knew you guys would be friends!" you laughed, and sat down in the grass to rub Alby's tummy.
"Doggie!" the little boy who accompanied you said, and began to dance around with Alby and the very satisfied-looking labrador retriever.
"Hey, Suou!" Allen chuckled. "Why don't you say hi?"
"Suou?" I asked in disbelief. "That little boy is... is yours?"
"Sure is," Shion said with a grin. This set off a ticking time bomb in Miyuki's head.
"Oh my god, ha ha!" she exploded, at last. She continued to poke at Shion and Allen mercilessly, while I took interest in the boy himself.
I smiled broadly and walked over to the little green-eyed boy, and bent over with my hands on my knees to meet him. "Hello," she said. "I'm MOMO. I'm happy to meet you, Suou!"
Suou looked up distractedly from his play, not expecting to see anything interesting. But when he saw my face, his eyes widened and he jumped up in a giddy excitement. "You're the realium!" he shouted joyously. "I know who you are!" Then he seemed to realized something and pouted. "Hey... you're not little. I wanted to play with you!"
"Not anymore," I said. "I'm sorry. We will be sure to find you a friend very soon, though!"
He seemed relieved by that and began to tug at my sleeve. He shot suspicious look at you as I leaned over. Then he cupped his hand so that you, particularly, couldn't see or hear what he was saying, and whispered to me. "Uncle Jr. likes you, my mom said," he told me, putting a stress on the end of the sentence to insinuate that Shion's word was absolute. I blinked and flushed. This, you did notice.
"Hey, what are you whispering about?" you asked, giving Suou a suspicious glance as you walked over. "You better not be saying gross things to MOMO because she's a girl, I won't stand for that!"
Suou responded by sticking his tongue out and blowing it at you. "It is gross stuff, really gross stuff!"
You stuck your tongue right back at him. You're not a model adult, I have to say, but it was cute. I laughed as the argument between you continued. I began to see that Suou wasn't really your nephew in heart, but more your little brother (maybe that's why Albedo doesn't like him very much?). I think it's sweet, and I hope that maybe Shion would like to have me take care of him now and then.
"Hey Suou," Shion said, getting the boy's attention. "Did you meet Ziggy?"
"Ziggy?" he replied, forgetting all about your argument. Ziggy stepped forward, and Suou looked at up at him from head to toe in awe. "It's the robot-legs man!"
"Seems that you've heard of us," Ziggy replied, and smiled.
"Oh my god, he's so cute!" Miyuki squealed. "Aw Allen, you dog, you!" Then she punched Allen in the shoulder and he grunted because it hurt a lot more than she'd meant it to.
"Uh heh," Allen chuckled in discomfort. "Suou, this is Miyuki. She's a friend of ours."
"I can't believe you guys!" Miyuki went on, without stopping. "I mean we just put KOS-MOS in the ground, and--oh geez! That's right! KOS-MOS!"
"Yes?" KOS-MOS replied.
Miyuki blinked. "How the heck did you get out of the ground?"
"I am still in the ground," KOS-MOS stated, without moving her eyes at all or faltering.
Miyuki blinked again, looked at the spot where we had buried KOS-MOS, back at her, then back at the spot, several times before shaking her head like an animal that didn't want to be wet anymore. "You are blowing my mind!" she said. "But uh... I guess as long as your consciousness is in this one..."
"Maybe that's why we couldn't activate her," I laughed. "Does it really matter, though? She's here!"
Miyuki smirked and walked over and pushed me. "Geez, so optimistic now-- and you thought they'd never come back!"
I regained my balance as those words instilled a silence between us. I suddenly remembered how I'd felt, and I was ashamed. I looked slowly up at you. You were no longer smiling. "Did you really think that I wouldn't return?" you asked me.
"I got lost here, at the very end," I admitted. "I thought maybe that I wouldn't see you again, at least until we're all reunited..."
"But you kept trying to help us, even though you thought you might never be rewarded for it, that you would never see us again. You still pushed on, helping us."
I nodded. You made it sound as if I'd done some great heroic thing, but I felt that I'd failed you somehow. Because you had promised me, not in words that I could quote, but you did promise that you would be back someday; and I thought for a moment that you wouldn't be able to keep that promise, except for in the sense of cosmic unity. "I knew that we will never be disconnected, but to actually see you again, face to face... it's more wonderful than anything I could believe to be true."
I felt your hand touch my face, and raise my head up again. "I dunno if I believe it either," you said with a smile. "But it's happened. We've come home, and we're never going to be apart again. It's thanks to you never giving up on us."
I felt my face flush, and raised my hand to brush my bangs out of my face. You saw what I was wearing on my wrist, this old charm, and laughed. "Or maybe it was just dumb luck!" I laughed too, at the pure simplicity of that idea.
KOS-MOS cleared her throat. That was extremely odd since KOS-MOS's throat should never need clearing, and I was still not quite used to the idea that she would see it necessary to imitate clearing it.
"Oh, right!" you exclaimed, and began digging in your pocket. "I meant to give this back to you!" You held out the barrettes you had sent me. They sparkled in the sunlight. "KOS-MOS drained out all of the energy, she said, but they still look nice, don't they?"
"Of course," I giggled. "I love them very much. Thank you for bringing them back to me."
Then you said in agitated tone, "No, I'm not going to do that, shut up!" and I raised an eyebrow curiously. "U-um!" you sputtered, and looked back at me apologetically. "Sorry! Uh... internal conflict."
"Is that Albedo speaking to you?" I asked, timidly.
"Yeah," you answered in a flat tone. "Uh... he says hi."
"He wrote me a very nice letter," I giggled meekly, and began to lean back and forth on my heels. You looked confused at that, as well you should've. I was a bit nervous to say this, but I think that I needed to. "I forgive you," I said, not to you, but to the other person who I could see in your eyes. "I know you won't accept it, but I am not scared of you anymore, not as long as you're with Jr. So... come out from time to time, I won't mind."
Shion witnessed this conversation, and with her sense of when you were and weren't having inner dialogues (which I soon learned to be eerily accurate and began to pick up from her for my own use), she looked at you and her eyebrow raised questioningly. "What's Albedo saying?" she asked.
"You don't wanna know," you replied. "You really don't."
Because Albedo had been telling me things about your figure even since I stepped out of the Elsa that I wouldn't want to repeat in front of anyone else, Suou especially. It's like my Id has a megaphone and it's blaring inside of my head twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week ASS this and BREASTS that and wait... why am I saying this out loud? I don't mean to, I mean I'm sure I'm not winning any points here. Oh crap. Can you hear me? ...MOMO?
Haha! YES. Control!
So sorry, but I'm going to have to butt in right here. Oh, bwa ha! Don't look at me that way, Ma Pe-- MOMO. Yes, it's just MOMO. Excuse me, old habits die hard. I'm going to interrupt for the sake of summing things up clearly. You're too shy to tell him; not that I don't find that oh-so-adorable, but Rubedo is dense (not to mention, the same color) as a brick, so consider this a little reunion gift. Both of you missed most of what was going on, you were so preoccupied, anyway.
Dammit Albedo, give me my body back, right now!
Oh, relax, Rubedo! You're going to like this story, I promise. It's got a killer ending.
So, like you said, we arrived in the current time to find that you were already here, that you had come all of this way to find us. Not only that, but with an hour glass figure and in this Scientia harness fetish ensemble to boot. Let me tell you, Rubedo didn't fail to notice that!
God damn you!
HAHA. Well. Your merry band decided to have a lovely picnic or what Rubedo would probably call an "awesome party" right on the fields of Lost Jerusalem and organize our return flight. You said that it wouldn't take very long at all to install your new system on the Elsa, and we'd be back in a matter of days. See, Rubedo? You should have just waited a little while and-- hm, well I did enjoy our little trip into the future, looking back on it. I wonder what would have happened if we had never gone. The universe probably would have gone to Oblivion, and I've been there. Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be.
And you think I ramble on... geez.
Shion and Allen's curious child was instantly enamored with your robotic friend, the cyborg, and your other dog as well. Uhg. That dog. What in the name of all things holy and unholy were you thinking when you adopted that ugly thing? And the way it trails alongside the black one as if it's in a pack, uhg.
Hey, you shut up! Alby is an awesome dog! He's smart and he's loyal, I mean... he recognized me right away after seven whole years! MOMO likes him, too. He's her favorite!
Hmm... maybe it is suitably named, then.
Hey-- W-wait! Dang.
In any case, that little creature of a boy rolled around with your pet dogs for quite some time, while Shion was explaining how she'd married Allen and everything else. I kind of zoned out here from the boredom, but it's not important. MOMO, you were so happy to see everyone, that smile on your face... more beautiful than tears even, I had never noticed.
Probably because you were looking at her ass, you jerk.
Oh, who wasn't? So, you had your big touching conversation with MOMO, handing her back the gift that you gave her. I told you what you should do, but you didn't listen to me.
Oh gee, who wouldn't take romantic advice from you of all people?
I know what I'm talking about. You should have caressed her cheek very tenderly, and then places the pins back into her lovely hair. That would have been suave, Rubedo. But though you emulate "cool action heroes" to no end, you wouldn't know charm if it bit you on the ass.
You creep me out, talking about where I should touch people and stuff like that! At least I've never violated anyone!
Ahem. This is all beside the point, my dear. Back to the story, then.
Rubedo's professor and that fool that follows him around were elated with MOMO's accomplishments and took to examining her craft right away. Those two clowns from the bridge were all over her like starving men on a rack of fresh meat (or just a nice rack, as the situation was), and you turned and kicked them both in the ass only seconds before the captain clobbered them both over the head. He was easily satisfied when, MOMO, to my surprise, pulled out a case of beer and a set of albums. I don't recall ever seeing Sir Captain so close to tears.
Nigredo's servant harpy wenches--I mean, the lovely ladies Mary and Shelley--had been humming a romantic chorus as the two of you ran towards each other in the field of flowers, and I laughed quite a bit, though neither of you noticed the clever little joke. They were extremely interested in your new appearance and your address book, as well. I'm sure if that Rubedo and I hadn't of shooed them away, you'd still be listening to Mary gab on and on and on to this moment.
After everything had settled, we decided that it was time to head home. The Elsa was overcrowded even more so than usual with the addition of chaos and KOS-MOS, so I suggested that we move on board the Penelope to allow for more space.
I'm sure there was no ulterior motive behind that idea.
Just trying to help a brother out, Rubedo.
The Penelope, while not quite as large as the Elsa, has the loveliest little garden room, rather than a bar. So after the flight plans had been laid and the goodbyes said, the two of you--or should I say the three of us?
Gaignun, why oh why did you do this to me, why?
Yes, the three of us! --Retired to this little room filled with potted plants and flowers, and the little glowing bugs that MOMO enjoys the company of. The far wall was nothing but a large window looking out onto the road that laid behind us.
Your cyborg watch-dog graciously decided to go to the lab for maintenance that he didn't need, and Miyuki decided to put Suou down for the night even though it was much too early to do so. The little boy had been so excited about the new ship--which even on its own was like an entirely new world to him, who only knew of the Elsa--that there was no way he would ride the Elsa back home, and the girl (who needs to lay off the caffeine, I'd like to add) insisted on taking care of him so that Allen and Shion could obtain some "quality time," which we both know means they'll both be examining KOS-MOS diligently until they both pass out from exhaustion, though she obviously had a different form of physical exertion in mind.
Hm? I'm not following you.
And so the two of you sat down together, maintaining an adorable and yet frustrating distance of five centimeters at all times. Rubedo, we're thirty-four years old. Stop acting like you're thirteen.
You're one to talk! Stealing people's bodies? I'd say that's pretty immature!
Haha! You fail at insults, now pipe down, cherry-head.
Don't you tell me to pipe down! I'll--wait, what did you call me?
"So how did it all happen?" MOMO asked you, with that cute coyness that you know we both eat up.
"What?" you replied, feigning innocence.
MOMO answered, "I mean, what have you been doing all of this time? How did you save the universe, and everything?"
"Oh, you know," you sighed, mocking humility, "It was no big deal. Wouldn't be the first time, right?" Then you managed to look at her, and some of your color showed through. I mean that both in the literal and metaphorical sense, by the way. If you're going to try and act all debonair, try not to blush. "I'm much more interested in what you've been doing," you said. "You've been rebuilding the whole universe! I've just been stuck in a ship for seven years, pretty much. Nothing exciting."
"How about a compromise?" she suggested with a soft laugh. "We can both take turns."
"All right," you answered. "That's a great idea. But you're going first."
Then you told each other your stories, and in the hours that passed, you learned to know each other, and how each of you had changed. How Rubedo finally became a man in most senses of the term, how he came to accept himself and your image in his memory. How you blossomed into this beautiful flower we see before us, remaining ever-loyal and constantly true to the people who she cared for, even as her childish idealism matured into true resolve, as she accepted the loss of us and still did her duty. As you were both rewarded for your hardships by this future you've been granted, back in the world where we belong.
Each of you felt that even despite these immense changes that occurred in each of you, that you still knew the person sitting next to you just as well as if they'd never been gone at all. You knew that even as you vowed to get to know each other all over again, from the beginning, that it wouldn't take long. All things have been renewed, all past hindrances swept away. Like an old story. "And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart; and it was summer--warm, beautiful summer."
And then, Rubedo, you leaned over, and you kissed MOMO on her pretty, virgin, lips, which laid all of her doubts to rest; and though she blushed furiously and couldn't look at you in the eyes for nearly an hour afterwards to due to her bashfulness, it was the most wonderful experience of her recent years.
What the heck are you talking about? I did not!
No, but you're about to, unless you're stupid. I'll even back out for a while, if you want! But there's no point in wasting another moment of your life. It'll happen now, or maybe tomorrow--because, oh... there is no way to be free from love;
If you break into song, I swear I'll shoot myself in the head.
Haha... well, to avoid that finality, I'll simply close in the most simplistic manner possible: