Written by Jia Zhang
For all those who have loved and lost, for all those crying in the darkness, for all those who feel terrified of continuing to breath. For all those who continue to question and hope and believe despite all the pain, this is for you.
The last memory Rosiel remembered was the soothing pain of his sister's sword, plunging into his flesh and liberating him from all the blight he has gone through—all the insanity, the pain, the dark laughter and games of pretend. He felt the gentle touch of her skin upon his, the smell of her hair—a scent of lavender and lilac, and the love she had as she cradled him in her arms as hues of scarlet stained the ground. It was a memory both bitter and sweet, tasting like burnt caramel apple, containing the lingering reminiscence of a story—not quite finished—from long, long ago. He felt pain, and he felt love, and then he was engulfed by that warm glow of light.
That warm envelope of light trapped Rosiel in its tender embrace. It comforted Rosiel of all his sorrow and woe, his suffering and torment; and in a blinding spell of Whiteness, it cleansed Rosiel of all his sins. And Rosiel felt so loved—a love more pure than newly fallen snow, more kind than a mother's smile, more sweet than cotton candy. Rosiel had never felt such a wonder. In all his years of living under God's autocratic rule, he had never felt such peace and happiness. And he felt so much ardor as he wrapped himself in the warm womb of Light, and slowly and slowly, he drifted into a wonderful dreamless sleep.
(No more nightmares.)
And that was it—nothing more.
Rosiel awoke to the soft tingle of water against his toes, cool and light, the quiet humming of the wind, and the laughter of children in the far distance. His eyes were closed, and he could not help but smile as he basked under the comfort of the sun, the tepid water playing against his feet. The soft sand beneath made him a bed. Rosiel did not want to wake.
"Mister…Hey, Mister! Are you okay?"
Anxious and unsure, a pair of wide, silver eyes opened to view the bright luminescence of the Sun, and the shadow of a young girl looking down at him curiously with two bright, luscious violet orbs.
"I'm okay…" he replied gingerly.
The little girl smiled brightly, an innocent smile that spoke nothing of the corrosion of age and time. "Oh good! For a second there I thought something bad happened to you…even here, something like that could happen."
"And…where is here?"
At the question, the girl-child smiled even brighter, her eyes glittering of a joy Rosiel knew naught of.
"Here…here is the place you want to be most."
And steadily, Rosiel lifted himself from the ground (the sand clinging to his clothes) and surveyed his surroundings.
He was on a beach—a beautiful beach where the sand shined as brightly as specks of gold, glittering under the benevolent light of the Sun. There was not fleck of white cloud in the sky: it was a clear mass of blue, the colour at the end of an artist's paint brush as he painted the extravagant image of a brilliant summer's day. The water was clear, and gleamed like a crystalline azure swathe. The radiance from the Sun shone down on the water; flickers of light lit the surface of that massive ocean like fireflies and bright stars. The wind sang its harmonious song of spring and fall, and Rosiel smiled at this wondrous place of forever as the Northern Tempest hummed against his ear, his silver hair flying against the wind like wisps of snow and ice.
Not far was the sound of folksongs and stories, the laughter of children free from poison of time; somewhere, far away, Rosiel watched a translucent balloon float up high into that gathering of blue—free, so free, from everything.
Rosiel became a balloon.
This was not paradise—paradise denotes that blasphemous land of trees and lush fruits of sin and pleasure, a creation at the hands of a Father that never knew how to love.
This was not Heaven—that cruel Kingdom of autocracy and tyranny, ruled by a merciless Mathematician, who felt no kindness towards his experiment.
This was not Eden—the place where he was bred and born with his sister, where she was locked up and taken prisoner; a cell of lies and deception where Man has always sought.
No—this was none of that. This wasn't stained and ruined, burnt and charred into pieces of black ash. This was pure and clean, soft and gentle—like the smile in a child's eyes as he watched the carnival man spin the pink and blue candy. This was the feeling of fullness after a warm homemade dinner; the feeling of a mother reading a bedtime story, where the dream catcher caught all of the nightmares, and left only the sweet whispers of wonderland. This was the warmth of a fireplace, and the smell of roasted marshmallows on gram crackers and chocolate—the feel of toes against the soft carpet beneath, and a house full of laughter and joy.
This was not what they had envisioned. This was not the Kingdom up-high humanity so dreamed for millennias.
No—this was home—a place to call home—and Rosiel, for the first time in his tragic life, felt safe.
He felt happy.
He felt joy.
"The place…I want to be most…" he murmured.
The little girl laughed and smiled, and grabbed his hand.
"Come, come!" she cried in glee. "Let me show you this place! Let me show you!"
Laughing in splendor, the little girl took Rosiel past the sands of the beaches, and into the City. On the way, she waved to passersby—men, women, children, and the elderly—she petted dogs, cats, and animals. Sometimes, she would stop suddenly to say good morning to someone, and introduce Rosiel in the process; sometimes, she would lead his hand to the soft fur of some small animal. She would pick flowers, smell them, and skip cheerfully as she made them into pretty crowns of rainbow shades. And Rosiel could do more than follow this child as she lead him far away from the beach and into this place—full of people, full of earth and nature (flowers and trees, small creatures of the rush).
"Hey! Hey, wait!" Rosiel cried as he attempted to catch up to the girl. "Where are you going? Where are you—"
And Rosiel stops. He stares at the woman before him, smiling at him kindly, a basket in her hands.
"Good morning!" the little girl speaks to the woman.
"And good morning to you too…" smiles the woman kindly, her short platinum locks blowing in the wind.
The girl eagerly hands one of the lovely flower crown to the woman. "A gift for you," she speaks.
"It's lovely…thank you, sweetie." The girl beamed up at her, before running up to a group of children—handing them each a lovely flower crown.
But Rosiel could not help but stare at the woman before him in awe and wonder—because, it was not someone he expected to ever see again.
And finally the woman turned back to him.
"Hullo, Rosiel…" the woman spoke.
"Lailah…" Rosiel whispered quietly.
Lailah suddenly smiled at him. It was such a strange smile, Rosiel thought, a smile that would have never graced the face of Lailah when she was still the cruel Prime Minister of God's Kingdom. Lailah had been ruined, torn and broken into shards of mirror and glass—this was not Lailah, could not be the woman who transformed into Sevotharte. And yet, undeniably, undoubtedly, this woman who smiled at Rosiel so kindly, so compassionately, was none other than the woman he had destroyed.
Lailah smiled at him as if she had never been raped and tortured, never ruled in lustful revenge, in hungry pursuit.
Lailah smiled—smiled in a way Rosiel could not understand.
"Hullo, Rosiel," she spoke. "It's good to see you again. We never thought we would see you so soon." She sighed and looked up into the sky, watching the birds sing against the blue. "Isn't it beautiful—not like Heaven at all, is it?"
"Where are we? This isn't Eden, this isn't Heaven…I died…so…what is this place…this place that feel so much like…home?"
At the question, Lailah laughed. "Rosiel…I asked the exact same question when I got here, too. I saw so many faces—people I had destroyed, killed. I saw Zaphikiel, and I cried in his arms. I held on to Anael tightly, and embraced her with all my love. I saw all those who had died before me, who I had broken for breaking me. They didn't forgive—they didn't need to forgive me, because the moment I stepped into this world, I had already repented. That is what I wanted most here—to be forgiven, to be love and saved. To find a place to call my own. I don't know what this place is, Rosiel, but for all of us, it's simply a place to call home."
Gingerly, she reached up to him, and touched him gently on the cheek, placing a soft kiss against the side of his mouth, and whispered quietly into his ear: "You are seeking something. I sought love and repentance from all those I wronged. Find what you seek, and everything will be clear."
Rosiel watched in amazement as Metatron, with his girl-guide behind him, ran up towards them. Metatron beamed brightly and childishly at him before he took Lailah's hand. "Can we go home? I'm hungry!"
"Tired of playing?" spoke Lailah with a kind smile; Metatron nodded, and slowly, the two departed. Just as they were far enough, the once Prince of Heaven turned around and waved at Rosiel.
"You have questions."
The silver haired Angel turned to the little girl by his side. She held a knowing smile on her face, suddenly different from the childish façade she carried before. In her hands, she held a bouquet of daisies (of which she had received from the other children).
"Come…" she spoke. "Come, follow me. Let me show you."
She took his hand once more, and led him through the City, scattering the daisies along the stone passage.
The City was a magnificent place, whose beauty was hard to describe in words—built from clear white Pygmalion marble, fashioned in the manner of old Venetian cities. The cloudless sky was lit with bright stars and the Moon, even in the benevolent presence of Sun. Flowers were all around, lavender, lilies, daisies, tulips, and more; and canals ran all around the city. Poets sang old epics of Achilles and Odysseus, heroes from a memory ago. Men and women danced in the streets to the music, and children ran in the streets and played in the sky, and the air smelled of sweet honey and ambrosia. In the center of the City was an exquisite fountain made of white crystals, and clear shining liquid sprang force in lovely splashes, floating up into the sky.
And in the streets where all the people who had once loved, and lived, and wept, and died under a heartless Father's despotic rule.
Rosiel suddenly felt a hand creep against his; the small girl who was definitely not just a child held his hand tightly as they walked in the City.
"You have questions; questions of which you want and need answers, and I will answer them to the best that I can, Rosiel—for many things, I simply cannot say. Too difficult is it for my tongue to devise the sound."
"Where am I?"
"Nowhere. You are nowhere; this is not a where or a place so simply given a name. This is not Heaven, this is not Hell, nor is it Limbo. This is just nowhere—no time, no beginning, no end. It is what you want it to be, Rosiel, and what you make it to be."
Slowly, bright eyes gazed around at the City. "So…this isn't Heaven."
"No. It's just Nowhere. No place. But call it what you wish. Some call it Paradise, some call it Eden, some it call the End, Elysium, the Afterlife, or the Megiddo…"
"And the people here…are they the dead?"
"Yes, and no. The people here leave and return as they please. They are both the dead, and the yet to be born. And many, like you, are one who has returned."
"Then…I have been here before?"
She laughed. "Of course! Everyone has been here!"
"If…I was from here…then, does that mean I was born here? That I was made here?" He turns to the girl. "Then…does that make you God?—my Maker?"
The little girl grinned up at him kindly as she led them to the water fountain. They sat down against the white edge, and watched a group of children chase after a small kitten with balloons in its mouth. The girl beamed proudly as she dipped a hand into the water, gliding it against the surface.
"I am not God. I am not a Maker. I am one with Nowhere. I am everything, and I am nothing. That is all."
"If your not God, then what was He!? Who was the One that created my sister and I!?"
Her eyes quite sad, the little girl turned back to him. "Rosiel, he was—too—once from this place. But he can't return. He won't let himself. He has lost his way, as have many, who refuse to return just yet. He is no greater to you, than you are to him. All is equal; and of equal value. That is how Everything is—a balance, and no force can tip that balance, for the physics of it is inapplicable."
"No God…No God, you say you are not God. But you must be! You must be the Creator!"
"If you wish to call me as such, do so. Many still do. But I have no name; people say good morning and good evening and good night to me without ever mentioning my name. What I am cannot be so easily expressed in terms of language. I do not think even I am capable of it. I am what I am; I am the rain that falls on green leaves; the sound inside a seashell against your ear; the light from the Moon as it touches against the surface of the water on a cold, winter night; the taste of melting chocolate ice-cream; the cat sleeping on a young mother's lap; I am the child, I am the woman, I am the man; I am nothing, and everything…And this place is what I give to you—this place of Nowhere, where you can call home."
Rosiel gazed around at the scene before him, and his heart broke with pain and joy. "Home…Home…do I deserve this place? Do I deserve to be home, after all that I have done?"
The little girl spun her hand in the water, making tiny waves.
"We all make ripples with each choice that we make. We give and take away, with every breath, and ever gesture of the hand. It is uncontrollable, unavoidable; we are all marked by what we choose, Rosiel…there is no evil, and there is no good. Never forget this—there is never good and evil, only what we choose to do. The consequences of those choices, of that liberty, which is given free. Our actions are reactions of the actions previous, and our actions lead to more and more movements; it's a game of infinite motion, and we are all part of that Grand Inertia. Here, nothing of what you did before matters; you ask for repentance, and you are forgiven. I choose not you over anyone else, or anyone else over you. All is the same, and equal, and free…like the water that flows through your hand…"
She takes his hand in her's, and runs it within the soft, azure liquid.
"See how it flows…how the water flows…that is what we all are…that flow…that movement…" She turned to him and grinned merrily.
"Now, sweet Rosiel…I have question for you: what is it that you seek? Now that you have come home, what is it that you seek here? You sought my answers, and now you have them. So look into your heart, my dear Rosiel—what is it that your heart yearns for?"
"Yes…beyond all questions, and worries, and fears, what is it that you want?"
A sound—a voice—a name, so familiar against the ear. He turns his head, quickly, suddenly, forgetfully, quickly pulling his hand free from the cool waters. He stands and stares in wonderment at the person who stood before him, clad in white, smiling at him. Rosiel felt his heart swell with love and joy. He was here, here with him in this place of Nowhere—no end and no beginning, this place of Eternity.
He ran—he ran quickly and wrapped his arms around this person, holding on as tightly as he could.
I want…I want…
Nothing of anything—take it all away, I don't care…but leave just him…he is all that I need; leave me weeping, bleeding, dying, breaking—but just give him to me. That is all I want…
That is all…That is all I want…
What I want…
And Rosiel held him tightly—to the point of suffocation.
"Lord Rosiel…You're smiling…"
This is significantly different from the first version of Repentance, which I wrote a long, long time ago when I first began The Bible series of Angel Sanctuary fanfiction. Out of all of the fics, it is definitely one of the hardest to write. The inspiration of this revised version of Repentance was always something I meant to write, but it took much longer a process to re-write the story than I had initially expected because I wasn't quite sure as how I wanted to go about doing it. After about a year or so of procrastination, I finally sat down and finished this piece, care of much inspiration from the film What Dreams May Come and Joan Osborne's song "One of Us". It's still not exactly how I wanted it to turn out, but at this moment in my life, I like it as it is.
(1) Nowhere reference to the word Utopia from the Greek οὐ meaning no, and τόπος meaning place. This denotes the meanings of "no place", or "place that does not exist", and thus "Nowhere". Also made in reference to Sir Thomas More's novel De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia.
(2) Megiddo an allusion to the Hill of Megiddo in the Valley of Jezeel in Israel. It is often believed to be the place where the Final Battle (Armageddon) between Satan and God will occur; thus, the reference refers to "The End" of all things, places, and time.