I…I…uh…wow. Wow. I never thought I'd get this far. Again, thank you ALL for being so dedicated and stuff! You deserve potatoes with cookies in them! (throws potatoes with cookies in them)

Enjoy the epilogue. Epilogues. TWO! My beta says they're kind of unnecessary, and I kinda agree with him…but I think they're needed to tie up loose ends. Ah well. Sorry if you think it's sucky.

Disclaimer: I still don't own Code Lyoko.


Epilogues


June 7, 1994

The Men in Black never returned from the forest.

After an hour's wait, a search party was dispatched by the police in order to find and/or help them, as well as capture Franz Hopper, the accused murderer that they had been chasing. The forest was empty of any sign of humanity, though, and even the Hermitage, once it had been found by a desperately lost trainee, proved abandoned. The house was a mess, making the police wonder if a struggle had taken place there. But nothing about the place was noteworthy, other than a letter in the mailbox, in Franz's hand, canceling his membership to the Coffee-Blend-Of-The-Month Club. (Seeing no reason to waste good coffee on a now-missing man, the police allowed the letter to be mailed.)

This fruitless mission completed, the search party returned onto Kadic grounds to the waiting ears of Jean-Pierre, Sissi, the teachers, Chris, and several other overseas students who could not go home, and related their findings. They responded with a shocking finding of their own- Aelita, Franz's young daughter, was nowhere to be found. After the initial panic and shouting match that comes about in such situations, the group was able to make a coherent interpretation of the situation. Franz, they hypothesized, had run from the school after his accusation, kidnapped his daughter, and escaped to some unknown place. Far away. Very far.

The police agreed with this hypothesis, and pledged to continue searching the local area for Franz and Aelita (the Men in Black had long since been forgotten). If Franz was captured, they promised, they would interrogate him quite thoroughly for information on the event. Of course, they added, they would have to wait until Medea's autopsy before any conviction could be made. Her body would contain quite a bit of evidence- such as the cause of death- and could secure a conviction. Jean-Pierre, forlorn that Franz had not been caught, decided to attend said autopsy, and set out, leaving Sissi with the teachers, to find the hospital to which she had been taken.

Once the Delmas family was safely off the premises, the police took over Kadic's affairs. They officially closed the school for the rest of the week, though many of the students had already left. The entrance to the school was barricaded to keep out the throngs of locals wanting information. Witnesses still at the school were interrogated for details on the event. For the most part, their stories were copies of one another, but the alibi of one young man- Chris Moralés- proved quite different. Claiming to be a close friend of Aelita's, Chris told of an encounter in which he had seen the small pink-haired girl carried off by "an ugly blond kid in huge specs" that had shadowed at the school that day. Further witnesses also mentioned the boy- he had come to the school that day, claiming to be a shadow student, and had not been seen since Medea's death.

Research done in the school computers confirmed his existence- "Jeremie", no last name given, had been scheduled to attend the school that day. A "parental phone number" had been given in his description. Upon calling it, police reached the home of a certain Ms. Belpois, who denied everything, including knowledge that Kadic even existed. She was very supportive of the school's situation, however, and wished them luck on their investigation. By an astounding coincidence she did have a son named Jeremie, but the only further information that the police could find out about him was that he had just turned one. After the phone call, witness information on "Jeremie" was filed, stored, and for the most part, forgotten.

Μήδεια Ξανθόπουλος-Delmas was nearly immediately pronounced dead upon entering the local hospital, as if everyone hadn't already figured that out. An autopsy was hastily approved by both her husband and her parents's family, and began within thirty minutes. Six hours later, the results were released- to the shock of both the families and the authorities. Most of Medea's organs were in perfect working order, aside from the fact that they were no longer working, and her bloodstream was perfectly clear. As one medic joked, "She's perfectly healthy. She really should be sitting up on that autopsy table right now wondering where the hell she is." However, this wisecrack was made before medical staff examined the brain.

As the head was opened, those in the room at the time were greeted with what the same medic described as "a horrific purple-white soup"- her brain, somehow, had been melted from the inside. Later tests confirmed deadly levels of microwave radiation in her head, radiation that might have lead to the meltdown and consequential death. The only dilemma with this discovery was the fact that no such microwaves had been present at the scene. The standard kitchen microwave, which was just to the left of where Medea had been found, was shut and unused at the scene, and could not operate with the door open besides.

The death was listed as "accidental", and the body was returned to Jean-Pierre, who had it moved to a morgue.

With the consent of all parties involved, information about the death of Medea and the involvement and disappearance of Franz and Aelita Hopper was released to the public- in particular, the newspapers. The next morning, June 7, 1994, the headline "Horrific Incident at Suburban Boarding School- Teacher, Medea Dalmis, Found Dead at Age 33" greeted those taking a passing glance at the front page of the Paris paper. It was shoved into a small corner of the page, with the rest of the story on Page 4. It was a largely accurate report, with the only glaring error being the mangling of Medea's last name. However, many statements that it made were largely unfounded.

For example, though it was unclear whether or not Medea was actually murdered, the article clearly implied that she had been. Franz was portrayed as though he had already been convicted- as a crazed psychopath who would surely commit more heinous acts if not caught. Aelita was, quote, "a defenseless victim of fate", who had likely been mistreated by her father before the kidnapping. Jean-Pierre and Sissi were described in the end as "mourning family", and Jeremie and the Men in Black were not mentioned.

Although this was the only article ever written about the incident, the murder got the entire small town of Bolougne-Billancourt – and quite a bit of the Île De France- talking. Oral tradition often twists the truth, and within the month, the most widely accepted version of these events was that Franz, on a homicidal rampage, had killed Medea, run away with his daughter, killed her, and then killed himself. Eventually, this story gained a title, though no one knew exactly from whence it had come- "The Legend of the Kadic Slasher." It wasn't exactly known or mentioned if Franz had used a knife in the murder(s), but he was called the "Slasher" nonetheless.

The story escalated into urban legend, told and retold in so many versions that the truth was blurred almost completely. It became a story that older children told younger children to frighten them off the swings. Some versions had Medea and Aelita switched in the order of death, some had Franz stalking at least one of the women before killing them, and still others had the names changed completely, often to puns on genitalia. However, one basic detail in all the stories remained the same- gruesome murder. The story editions spread out over about a quarter of France, but, with no further information the actual incident, interest was quickly lost. All of the tales died within a year.

Once his wife's autopsy results had been returned and her body moved, Jean-Pierre did not waste a moment in acting to straighten remaining affairs. First, he collected Medea's life insurance, a very small sum, and invested most of it in a quiet funeral in a week's time. Then, in a surprise move, he emptied the old house on Kadic grounds of anything that had belonged to either him or his daughter (leaving Medea's belongings intact), moving all items into a small dormitory in the faculty wing of the school. He then demanded that the house be completely destroyed. Within the week, a construction company came to do the deed, and Jean-Pierre moved into the dormitory with his daughter.

He had told the home insurance company that he had needed the money in order to provide financial security for his daughter- and besides, if harmful radiation had killed his wife somehow, who was to say that some still remained on site? However, those closer to Jean-Pierre - namely, his employees - saw a greater, more emotional reason for the destruction. If he was to survive further without Medea, he couldn't wallow in what could have been. He had to go forward. He could never turn back.

Once this was done, he closed the school for the rest of the year, partially out of respect, and partially because he was not motivated to run it at the time.

At the funeral, while everyone shed tears, Jean-Pierre was steel-faced. He never again broke down as he had at the scene of her death when remembering her- in fact, it seemed as though he simply put her out of his mind most of the time. However, no one could deny, though no one pointed it out, in the three months between June 6, 1994 and the beginning of the next school year, 37-year-old Jean-Pierre's brown hair, moustache and beard had turned completely gray. Some say it was genetics, but most say it was a sign of the shock and grief he had repressed for so long. He did run the school the next year, and the next, and the next, mostly without a hitch. He rarely mentioned Medea to anyone, even his own daughter, but whenever he did, he always spoke in a low, incoherent mumble. He never remarried, though he did attempt to date on one occasion and failed miserably.

He still harbors the smoldering belief that Franz Hopper killed his wife, and that he is a coward running from the law. Someday, he hopes, he will be brought to justice- that is, if he doesn't get an angry lynch-mob on him first.

Sissi, apart from the occasional nightmare, does not remember having witnessed her mother's death, or, indeed, remember anything about her at all. She was never told the true nature of her death, for fear of trauma- the first time she asked about her mother's absence, at the age of five, Jean-Pierre simply mumbled "she's dead" and then changed the subject. Despite it all, Sissi grew up fairly normal. She lived with her father in the faculty wing until she came of Kadic age, after which she moved into her own student dorm and began attending the school itself. She ate, breathed, worried over her appearance, and chased after boys, in particular an unfortunate brown-haired one who did not exactly reciprocate her affections, to put it lightly. Quite normal.

Chris, like Jean-Pierre, also lost a beloved by the supposed hands of Franz Hopper. However, unlike Jean-Pierre, Chris, in his typical dramatic style, refused to forget or move on. He had just lost the first girl he had ever loved, and he was not going to take it quietly. During the next week he spent in the Bolougne-Billancourt area with his uncle (who was working to straighten things at the school), he did nothing much but complain. Loudly. Why weren't greater search efforts for Aelita and Franz being enacted? Why had no evidence come up? Nothing could satisfy him.

Jim, truly pitying him but fed up with his whining, eventually sent him back home to his parents in the UK, in order to give him "a breath of fresh air". It didn't quite work. Despite efforts to distract and/or comfort him, he continued to whine, complain, and rage. He spent most of his time that summer searching through newspapers, hoping desperately for any tiny shred of news about Aelita, but beyond the June 7 article (which he had stashed in his sock drawer) he found nothing. As the days wore on, his hope rapidly began to fade. He became sullen, rarely leaving his room for any reason other than to eat, go to the bathroom, or mow the lawn, which was his weekly chore. His parents were very worried, of course, so they immediately did what they saw as the right thing- put him in intensive mental therapy.

Finally, the summer completed, Chris returned to Kadic for his final year as a more subdued, grief-worn shell of himself. By then, he was beginning to believe what the legends had told him- Aelita had been killed the very day she had disappeared, and he should not bet too much money on her life. All around him, people sympathized with his loss, but encouraged him to move on, make other friends. For a time, he did not feel the motivation to do as such. He had placed too much confidence in Aelita's existence, and now that she was gone, so was nearly all of his bravado.

Over time, however, he found that he was able to fill at least part of the void in his heart (and free time) with one activity- music. He had never much paid attention to music before- he was more of a listener than a maker- but soon, without any clear warning from himself, he found himself trying out different instruments, seeking where his talents lay. Unfortunately, he didn't have much talent. Within a month, he found that he could not play the guitar, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, trumpet, tuba, or sousaphone, and, on top of it all, he couldn't sing. But he was very good at banging on things, and thus, he made an excellent drummer. Soon, he bought himself a drum kit (which he was made to practice in the school shed), and made a habit of drumming his pencils against his desk in class.

Through this hobby, he met two younger Kadic students who had a bit of a more fervent passion for music- Ben and Nico. Though not entirely a replacement for Aelita, the two of them were fun, interesting, and, most importantly, intolerant of Chris's moping. So, eventually, the three of them became great friends. They stayed as such throughout the rest of their years at Kadic, and all years since. By the time they had graduated high school (a graduation for which Chris bleached his hair white in celebration), the three of them had invariably formed a band- the trio that would one day storm the world, the Subsonics.

Chris, Ben, and Nico began small, selling their singles on the Internet, at university functions, through newspaper ads, even from the lemonade stand run by Ben's next-door-neighbor (age seven-and-a-half). In 2004, an agent for a major record company happened to be thirsty while walking past this particular stand, and picked up not only tasty refreshment, but excellent music. He contacted the band, and offered them- to their shock and delight- a major contract and merchandising deal, one guaranteed to make them a household name. They agreed enthusiastically, and within the year, their first major-label album hit the racks and airwaves.

The rest of the story is common literature to die-hard fans. The Subsonics, or Subdigitals as they were eventually called, became an instant sensation. Their album and subsequent singles rocketed to Number 1 and stayed there for some time. Chris, now the drummer, spends most of his time traveling round in his little tour bus with Ben and Nico, doing shows, appearing in interviews, practicing the drums (sometimes still with two pencils on the table), and buying funny T-shirts off the Internet. He has had seven girlfriends, all dumped (four within a week), and one experiment with a boyfriend, also dumped rather quickly. He didn't seem to connect with any of them.

He still hasn't forgotten Aelita. He still keeps the June 7 article stashed in his sock drawer, and it could be supposed that one or two of the band's songs are about her. His connection with her disappearance is not shared with the general public, as it would darken his preteen-aimed pop band image. Though it is generally accepted that she is dead, Chris still holds on to the hope, however fleeting, that she could still be alive somewhere. More important things matter to him at the moment than her, but, if he can ever find her again (so he says to himself) he will go to all ends to make sure that she is never taken from him again.

He agrees with Jean-Pierre's lynch-mob idea.

Franz and Aelita Hopper have not been seen since June 6, 1994, and their bodies were never found. Because there were no leads or clues as to their locations, and they had no other known relatives, interest in finding them soon waned, and then died completely. "Have You Seen This Child?" flyers were circulated for Aelita (with Franz listed as the kidnapper) for a time, but as of now they are no longer made, and the contact number on them is void. All flyers printed have now been lost, except for three- a faded one in a phone booth in Nice, half of one on a supermarket bulletin board in southern Paris, and a whole one, kept in an airtight bag in pristine condition, right next to the newspaper article in Chris's sock drawer.

Medea's killer, whomever he, she or it is, was never truthfully identified, and is most likely still on the loose.


A Rose For The Fallen

It was a slightly less than beautiful day at Kadic Academy, but alright nonetheless.

It was just after three o'clock- for boarders and day students alike, a blessed release from classes. These students, those who weren't shut in their dorms or the Rec Room, were spread out over the grounds of the old school, talking, laughing, and in some cases engaging in underground homework deals- but that's another story. It was much like the market of a small kingdom, where the subjects came to buy and sell snippets, gossip, general trinkets of amusement. It was a small, quite unproductive land, but for its self-pronounced, fourteen-year-old queen, it was quite a delight to rule over. Usually.

"SIIIIIIISSI!"

The loud, nasally call snapped Elisabeth Delmas out of her dreams of dominance rather unhappily. She whirled around towards the sound of the voice, cringing, and was disgusted to find that it was not one voice, but two- Herb and Nicolas, her two-man fan-club.

She placed her hands on her hips as she scowled at them, trying to look as menacing as possible. "What could you ever want?"

"Uh- uh-" There they went, she thought. At the moment, Herb was speaking. His face had broken into a wide smile, which only made his enormous red pimples stand out even more against his pasty skin and unattractive features. She could almost feel the grease emanating from his face and settling on hers, meaning a lot of time with the acne scrub tonight. Nicolas, the token "other guy", was also smiling, to no further advantage than Herb. Perhaps he could have been attractive…if he'd ever showered once in a while, or sprouted another few brain cells. At least he didn't wear those horrid red gym shorts anymore.

"Uh, well, we just wanted to say…" Herb continued to smile. There was silence from both ends for about thirty seconds. "…Hi."

More silence. Sissi's expression did not change, though she had begun to vibrate with anger. Herb and Nicolas didn't seem to notice- if they had, they would have headed for the hills.

"Hi? HI?" She swung around, grabbing Herb by the scruff of his sweater vest. His smile disappeared instantly. "What have I told you a thousand times? Do NOT bother me unless it's something highly important! And you being what you are, that means you shouldn't be bothering me at all!"

"But- but that was important, Sissi!" Herb choked out. Sissi appeared to be cutting off his windpipe. "If we don't say 'hi' to our friends, then we-"

"What makes you think I'm your friend?" She put him down, but still fixed him with a harsh stare. "What credit could you ever give yourselves to be worthy of that?"

"Well…" Herb looked to the side, clearly overwhelmed. "Uh…"

"We follow you around a lot," Nicolas cut in, his slow, stupid voice drowning out Herb's whiny one. "And you give us stuff to do, and you talk to us sometimes…"

"Eurgh." Sissi whirled away from them. "I don't have time for this. Go… go do things."

"Uh…anything you say, Sissi! Your wish is our command!" She heard footsteps behind her, first slow, and then quicker- they were gone. Finally. She breathed a sigh of relief.

She started walking. She had no real idea where she was going, but that never really mattered to her- wherever she stepped, it'd always be familiar. And it would get her farther from Herb and Nicolas. Honestly, she thought to herself, those two. She knew she was attractive, but why couldn't she be attractive to more attractive people? Like…not Herb and Nicolas? She didn't know what she was doing that enticed them and repelled everyone else. Maybe they were the repellent. Yeah. It was good to shift the blame onto them, rather than herself.

As she passed under the arches next to one of the buildings, she caught a glimpse of brown hair out of the corner of her eye- an all-too-familiar shade. Her heart skipped a beat, and she did a double take toward it.

It was just as her instincts had told her- Ulrich Stern, Attractive Person Numero Uno. He had just walked past her, ignoring her as always, followed by his own personal set of friends/drones/ what have you. She blushed as she watched him. Ulrich had been her sweetheart ever since she could remember...and in all that time, she had never once gotten him interested in her. Instead, he just had to go and hang around with- and talk and laugh with, no less- the low, unpopular likes of Jeremie (the school hermit), Aelita (that really weird Canadian girl), Odd (some idiot over there), and…Yumi. She shuddered in anger at the thought of her. That gang had too much Yumi, and too little Sissi. That had to be remedied.

She shot over to the group of five and cut behind Odd, planting herself directly in front of Ulrich. She looked directly at him, and smiled what she hoped was a wicked, seductive smile. "Hello, sweetheart."

She waited. Normally, Ulrich would respond to this with some sort of scathing remark, or one of his gang would cut in. But this time, he remained silent- shocked, but silent. Without any sorts of pleasantries, he tried to walk around her.

"Oh no, hold up!" She stepped back, clapped him on the forehead, and pushed him back. He didn't appear to notice this, as he kept walking against her. "When someone says 'hello' to you, it's the polite thing to do to respond." Or maybe more than respond, she thought in the depths of her mind. Perhaps French kiss spontaneously…

But, as predicted, Ulrich did not. He stopped walking, and looked up at Sissi, looking indifferent.

"Sissi, could you please get out of my way?"

Another odd chord was struck in Sissi's head, but she chose to ignore it and plow on. "Oh, not just yet, dear. We haven't spoken to each other in a while. I really miss our conversations."

Ulrich scowled for a moment- and then, suddenly, his expression lightened. He didn't look happy, but he didn't look mad, either. "Uh…yeah. Um…look, Sissi, I'm a little busy right now. Maybe later…?" He ducked away from Sissi's hand and tried to get away.

"'I'm a little busy right now'? 'Maybe later'?" She spun round and grabbed his shoulder. "Come on, Ulrich, this is no fun. Usually you have lots of funny things to say."

By now, Ulrich's gang had noticed that he was no longer trudging along with them, and had doubled back to where he had been taken captive. At first, Sissi didn't pay attention to them- at the moment, they were about as important as potatoes to her. But very quickly, she noticed that they were a lot less taunting then usual as well- they just stood there, quietly observing. It unnerved her a little more.

"I just don't feel like being funny right now, alright?" He shoved her hand away again. "Like I said, maybe later." He shrugged, nervously, and began to back away.

"Uh, but-"

"Sissi, please don't be difficult." It was a higher voice that cut in this time- Aelita. "We're just minding our own business."

Yumi gave a mumble of assent. Odd said "uh" a few times, and then went silent. Jeremie was nodding his head rather rapidly, toward a tree. He didn't entirely appear to be in focus. In fact, Sissi realized, he'd been out of it for a while now- at least a week, maybe more. They all had, really, but Jeremie most noticeably. Not all of it had been that bad, just unusual- he'd been out of his room more often, and he wasn't spending all his time on the stupid computer. But he was also spacing out a lot, and twitching at odd times. And he, all of them, were being a lot more tolerant of her than usual, for instance just now. Most of the time, they-

Her hourly ration of logical reason ran out, to be replaced by frustration. She growled, and balled her hands into fists. "Rrrrgh! You're not supposed to be acting like this!"

"L-like what?" Yumi answered. Several members of the group took a step back. "We're not-"

"Yes, you are!" she screamed back, whirling on Yumi. "You're not supposed to be letting me off easy! It doesn't work that way!"

There was a short silence. Jeremie and Aelita exchanged some uneasy glances, as did Odd and Yumi. Ulrich continued to back away. Sissi didn't understand it at all.

"You people are crazy!" She tightened her fists and stormed off, shoving Odd as she passed him. She didn't look back. She didn't want or need to.

Behind her, she could just barely hear voices. "I don't have any idea why she got so mad…" "Yeah, what did we do?" "We hardly insulted her once. It probably made her tiny mind explode." "That's a distinct possibility." "Well, yeah, but it just doesn't feel right, you know, ever since we heard about…"

The chatter died as she left range. Again, she was now wandering aimlessly, trying, as all humanity does, to escape confusion. Mentally, she seethed at Ulrich and his gang. She would never come to understand those five, honestly. They usually paid so much attention to her, though negative, but now, they didn't hesitate or sugarcoat that they wanted her gone. But, of course. They, their attitudes, seemed to change and shift with each coming day, never content with one concise definition for themselves. And they were always together- they were Kadic's most exclusive clique, hardly aware of half the school. It was downright creepy.

She had wandered quite a way, and seethed quite a bit, when she stopped, and looked around. She twitched- she didn't recognize where she was. She was in some part of the grounds forest- though that was no real help, as Kadic's forest was enormous. (Even when she had taken walks there as a child with her father, she had still managed to get lost a lot.) But, she had to try and get back to the main school at some point.

She looked around for a good landmark with which to place her location. Tree…tree…oddly knobbly tree…tree…discarded football…pothole…not a tree. She paused, surprised, to stare at something that did not quite look like it should be there.

A large, greyish mound of earth sat further on, its discoloration a standout against he green of the surrounding area. It was about a quarter foot high, several yards across, and full of odd, square shapes. Though it was hardly remarkable in any way, Sissi felt an odd curiosity toward it. She had never seen anything like it, and as, on the grounds, it was technically her property, she had to check it out. Tentatively, she walked ahead.

As she approached it, she realized it really was nothing remarkable- it was made up almost entirely of what looked like trash. It was mostly spare lumber, but here and there the remains of something more complex showed themselves- a chair leg, or the corner of a photo frame. It gave off an odd smell- most likely, all the wood rotting. She stared at it. What, of all things, was this big mess doing here? Why hadn't it been removed long ago? She had to tell her father about it when she got back. He'd have it out soon enough.

A beige piece of plastic near the edge stuck out amongst all the grey, one with a small design on it. Mildly curious, she dislodged it from under a board and picked it up. It was faded and worn, but a small bit of lettering, "n&Jerry's", was still legible. Ben&Jerry's. Ice cream.

"Depressing."

She dropped the plastic, which disappeared back into the heap unceremoniously, and swerved to her left. A tall, dark figure was now standing next to her, though she had not heard anyone approach. He wasn't looking at her, but at the heap, looking disappointed and (of all things) utterly bored. He didn't even seem to have noticed that she was there- it was as though he had spoken only to himself. She recognized him in an instant.

"William?" She tilted her head to the side. "Wha, where did you-?"

He ignored her. "Utterly, utterly depressing. The curse of sentimentality takes its toll on another perfectly worthwhile human mind."

He paused. Sissi opened her mouth, as if to ask a question, but he cut her off. "If they're really so keen on using their precious resources to destroy material possessions for such reasons as memories, then it's no wonder this planet's going downhill. Honestly." Without warning, he turned to face her. She gasped, but he retained a calm face. "I suppose you have memories here too. Good or bad, or maybe just forgotten. Hopefully forgotten."

Sissi twitched. "Well…" She looked back at the rubble. "I don't think I've ever seen this place before…and I don't really know why it's even here. I mean, come on, it's a junior high school, not a dumping ground." She kicked a bit of debris. William made an odd noise, as though he were stifling a laugh.

"I knew it." He smiled.

"And yet…" The smile instantly disappeared from his face as Sissi continued. "I don't know…it's like I've been here before. Many times. Maybe when I was little…before I could really remember. Maybe when it wasn't a trash heap. Maybe when it was really something." She smiled at the heap. "Do you think that might be true?"

"Mm hmm. Yeah. Sure." He looked away again, bored once more. Then, his expression perked. "Where is your mother, Sissi?"

"Wha?" Sissi took a step back- this wasn't the question she had expected. "Uh, I…well, she died. A long time ago…" She looked away again. William didn't hold back his laughter.

"Died a long time ago. How unfortunate." His face didn't match his words- he looked positively gleeful. "Do you miss her terribly? Think of her a lot?"

"Why's it so funny to you?" Sissi looked positively disgusted at his elation. William did not reply, but his smile disappeared, as though ordered to desist.

"Whatever." She turned away from him. "Answering your question…yes, I guess. I mean, well…" She held her hand to her heart, and looked at the ground. "A week ago, when Ulrich and his gang asked me about her…I would have told them, I really would, but I hardly knew anything about her myself. I didn't mean to run from them…but I was curious, and I wanted to know more. I went to my father…I asked all I could…" She sighed. "But he just said that he didn't like talking about her, and that he was busy."

She tightened her fist. "I wish I could say I missed her, but I don't know what there is to miss. I don't know her face, her personality…I can hardly remember her name. She should mean something to me…but she doesn't."

She continued to stare at the wreckage. William still didn't respond to her, but a small, self-satisfied smile returned to his face. He hummed to himself, a hum that was barely audible. They stood like this for a while, just staring.

After a while, however, Sissi, realizing something, did a double take. She whirled round at him.

"Hey, hold on a second! Why are you asking me all this? What are you even doing here? You've been acting weird for a long time, you know. You randomly vanished on some freakish vacation, then you came back as a dribbling moron, and now you're all creepy and you're speaking in riddles! What is wrong with you? Why can't you just be normal again?"

William raised his eyebrows. "Good question." He laughed again to himself. "I suppose it depends on which medicine I take in the morning."

"Which medi- oh, come on!" She turned away from the heap, back toward the forest. "I'm going back to the dorms. It's getting late."

"Take your time." She walked away. William did not follow.


He didn't move for quite a long time. He just stood there, staring at the sky, eyes narrowed. Eventually, his smile faded, and he groaned.

"I don't know what there is to miss! Why can't you just be normal again?" He laughed. "Foolish girl, fool of fools." When his mirth had ended, his face hardened, and he stared heavenward still.

"I really hope you heard that. Seriously. It should get you thinking about things for once."

The few, pink-streaked clouds did not move. Behind him, a knobbly tree swayed in a sudden breeze.

"Oh, be that way if you wish. But it's the truth, my dear. She doesn't care about you like you cared about her. Her own father, your dear true love, tries to hide you from her. You are nothing to them, something better tossed behind the bush and forgotten."

The tree rocked violently, another tree or two joining its angered dance. Some very motion-sick squirrels fell out of them, and ran in circles round them, waiting for them to stop.

"Ah, but you see, I won the bet. One human cannot change the world. Oh, you tried, I know that well. Your mysterious ways, your oh-so-offbeat actions, your infinite knowledge of this world's rules…crushed. Nothing. Not even to the two most important people in your life. Your existence, like all other human existences, was a useless joke. Your…noble sacrifice…" His tone took on a hint of sarcasm. "…was buried and forgotten."

A squirrel threw an acorn at his thigh. He ignored it, along with the ever louder noises of the wind and trees.

"But I? I will live forever. I have all the time in the world to create my true significance, and all the power to do so. I cannot be overthrown. I cannot be defeated. And if five little children really do think they have the gall to save every day in the way they do…" He smiled wickedly. "They are in for a surprise in a very short time."

A strong wind blew past him now, mussing his hair and clothes. He brushed one lock from his face, nonchalant.

"Oh, you really think that, don't you?"

Another short puff blew past.

"Perhaps there really is nothing more I can do to you. But, you know, your husband and daughter are still alive…"

A particularly violent tree whacked him across the back with a thick branch. He whirled round, seething.

"They have to die at some point, you know!" He growled at it, and then calmed. "Ah, yes. Well, if I haven't convinced you, I suppose I'll leave you be. Your opinions matter no more, not even to the humans and their standards of importance."

The wind's fervor died a bit, but it still manipulated the trees and their movement. One squirrel bravely shot up the knobbly tree, ran into a hole, and huddled there, afraid.

"Why? 'Cause you're dead, you stupid woman. And I think you are aware that the dead…" He reached into his pocket. "Tell no tales."

He pulled his hand out. In it lay the withered stem of a plant, fruitless, thin, and dying. He clutched it tightly in his sweaty hand, and brought it to his face. "But, do I have a tale to tell you tonight."

He held the wilting stem above his head, and waited. As it lay in the wind, one could see that it changed as it was held- small leaves had unfurled from its sides, thorns had sprung from its depths, and at its top, a mauve-hued bud had formed, curled, and burst, revealing a maze of petals and dew. A rose, and a beautiful one at that.

Even as it had finished its sudden bloom, becoming more lush by the moment, William held it still. He took a deep breath.

"A rose for the fallen, by your human traditions, a salute well made and so very fitting. A harmless blip in the sequence of the living, lovely to see yet so easy to ignore, quite flamboyant but hardly significant. Its color will fade, its petals will drop, and its thorns will dull and shrivel. Once it has found the ground, it will never again rise. I offer it to you, for it is your company and friend, nay, your very likeness, in both the human standard of beauty and in intelligence. Come, watch this wilt onnyour silent ruins forever, unseen and unnoticed, a tribute to nothing."

He lowered his hand to eye level, and sneered at its contents. Roughly, with a dark, unloving vigor, he held the plant to his lips, and kissed its center. "Lovingly infused with that passion you value so."

He tossed the flower onto the rubble. It fell onto the beige carton of Ben&Jerry's, and lay there, undisturbed by the wind. William smiled at it with a mock sweetness. "A bittersweet irony, it really is."

Still smiling, he turned from the heap, and walked away.

He was not nearly as elated as he looked- quite the opposite. Stupid humans, he thought to himself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So thickheaded, so determined in their ideas of right and wrong and truth and justice and who knew how much…it was a hopeless cause to show them reason. And some were such brilliant spirits…his own father…the boy, Jeremie…but they had that unfortunate handicap of humanity saddled with them.

Jeremie. Twelve years ago, as he had watched from his prison as Franz Hopper fell to his hypothetical knees, begging for mercy, he saw Jeremie for the first time. He had come from the future, sent- oh, the irony!- by himself. He had been prepared to give vital information to Franz and stop the little virus he then was. But, Jeremie was shuttled on home before he could do anything, and the timeline had gone on as it should have. He had thought long and hard about young Jeremie. He had thought, when the appointed time had come, that he would simply not send him to June 6, 1994, therefore not telling Franz about his evil intent, so that, in the past, XANA could catch him off guard. Possibly even destroy him.

He thought this for a long time. But, as time went on, he had become an older, wiser virus. He learned about time, and its paradoxes. He learned that if he did not send Jeremie back, then he would never have known not to in the first place. And if he had not known, he would have sent him back, meaning he would have known…

He did not want to mess with time, he had eventually decided. As a superior intelligence, he was not bound by the chains of humanity- jobs, taxes, even death had loosed his grasp on him. But, as a part of reality, he was still under the dominion of time. It was an unbreakable force, and the idea of meddling with it belonged only to the imaginations of humans.

In all these musings, William had exited the Kadic grounds. He was on the streets now, walking on the edge of a sodden ribbon that was the river Seine. He looked down at it as he walked. It was blue in spots, but in others it was only the dull grey of pollutant. In the middle of this river sat the factory, his birthplace, his home, and his final destination. A place created by the enemy. He, XANA, created by the enemy.

Perhaps, he thought, he did have to give humanity some credit. They were a part of this coincidental universe, like himself, and therefore had to be there for some logical reason. Their emotions, beliefs, sympathies…maybe they did mean something, in the scope of things. They did make existence interesting to the humans, after all. If they didn't come up with any silly ideas about religion or politics, they would be bored out of their minds, quite like he was much of the time.

And besides, as he had told himself many, many times, if they, or even only their shortcomings did not exist, his purpose, that being to eradicate them, would be pointless. And a pointless purpose, after all, simply was not logical.

THE END


….

I'm…I'm done?

I'M DONE! Oh my god, I never thought I'd get here. It's…It's…it's a lot of hours typing, that's what it is, but…it is. Holy cow.

But, I have to write my story-ending speech, as per tradition…first things first. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU ALL for all the kind words, reviews, and all that! I especially want to mention some people. First and foremost, Stonecreek, my beta from Ch. 13 onwards…I cannot come up with words to express my gratitude for all he's helped me with. Without his input, talent, constructive criticism and patience, this story would be…well…not good. Next, Tetsu, for being awesome and for knowing what Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is, Grave Bells for being awesome and a good artist, Hiraku, for being awesome AND a pwnsome writer (and for calling me a friend), The Mad shoe1 for being awesome and sticking with the story from Day 1, and all the rest of you whose names I know but am too lazy to go back and check, for being awesome. I love you all (gives you all even MORE cookies)

…so, what am I gonna do next? First, I'm gonna go do my homework. Mmyep. Well, fanfic-wise, I'm going to go back over the whole story and do a major editing job. The earliest chapters were okay, but they are nowhere near up to par with later ones. There are plot holes to be filled, jokes to be added…some that need to be completely redone. It's not that I think they're bad, they just need improvement. (Except Chapter 7. Chapter 7 was bad. Just…don't read it. Please.) If you don't think I should edit for some reason, please tell me. I likes input.

After all that's done with, or maybe near the end, I'm gonna start my next story, "The Dunbar Element", which is slightly shorter and a bit less epic. Somewhere in there, I need to do a non-CL giftfic for my boyfriend, maybe a few one-shots (funny, hopefully- I don't write enough funny), and, yes, an RTTP follow-up story, which I'll start near the end of Element. With the new CL movie thing coming out in 2009, I'll have plenty of time.

Again, thank you all so freaking much, and see you all next time!

- Carth