The finale is up. Wooo. Done at last. That said, I've a song for this chapter. And I am going as far as to demand that you get the song to hear while reading. Available at LJ, per usual.
And yes...enjoy the finale.
Resplendence of Ebony
"Kimi Ga Tame,"
- Suara, Utawarerumono.
When reflected in your eyes, what color am I?
He ran like never before.
His hands were trembling, his footing was unsteady, his vision blurred with hot white flashes blinding him, and his breathing was ragged.
Where, where, where -
A door on his right.
He flung it open.
The room shrieked back at him and made him deaf, black smoke bursting out as if to engulf him and drag him into the darkness filled with the stench of blood.
He backed, stumbled, and ran.
Behind him, the world was falling apart, and he ran even faster.
He wanted to apologize. He needed to apologize.
He wanted to crumble and just drop and beg for forgiveness, because he promised her everything and gave her nothing.
"...I will get you out of here. I will." Words laced with desperation. He was running out of time.
The floor shook and he tripped.
She smiled weakly, watching him fumble with the controls from the bed.
And then her eyes closed.
He didn't stand up this time, inhaling air in gulps that threatened to make his lungs burst. Over. It was...over. He couldn't find her. No matter how many doors he approached, no matter how many turns he made in this goddamn tunnel...
" - You will always find me, won't you?" Hayate's startled laugh warmed him, her brown hair ruffling gently with the wind under the red sky, and her blue eyes were bright and clear -
He gritted his teeth and stood.
Behind him, the floor was crumbling rapidly.
Then he tripped again, and his glasses dropped to the floor.
His fists clenched.
And he pulled himself up, running before he could gain a steady footing.
He fisted the doorknob and pushed.
It didn't budge.
And somehow, he knew this was the door.
He tried to force the door open.
"Why bother?" A cold voice cut through his conscience. "You couldn't save her."
His hands trembled, and he ignored that voice.
"You were there. You watched her eyes close, never to wake up again." A pause. "Your attempts to save her were...pathetic."
He slammed himself against the door, and his shoulder - his whole arm - throbbed with pain.
"...And you planted the bomb in her."
"I didn't want to!" He growled back into the darkness, mindless of the world that was falling apart; hurt, angry, and most of all, desperate. "I didn't - "
"But you did."
Yes. Yes, he did.
He failed her. Failed the girl he wanted so much to protect and whisk away to safety, and instead turned against her.
But even so.
Even so...he said he'd find her no matter what.
No matter what.
He stood, and slammed himself against the door again.
The voice prickled coldly in his mind, but he ignored it.
Then he noticed a clip by the door.
Hayate's hair clip.
His gaze darted to the doorknob.
There was a keyhole.
Yuuno grabbed the clip, all at once forgetting about that damned voice that killed him and would kill him again, and fumbled with the doorknob using the clip. All he could think of was Hayate and Hayate and Hayate and -
The door opened.
He stumbled inside, the clip dropping and disappearing into the darkness, and then he was suddenly crying, hot tears running down his cheeks even as he tried to suppress them.
"Hayate," his voice was cracked and relieved, "Hayate - "
The room was dark, as dark as the other rooms, black smoke threatening to suffocate him. But she was - she was...
Yuuno ran, faster than ever. He ran a track that seemed to go on forever, even when it was so much shorter that the tunnels. Then the girl turned, black feathers falling around her in a swirl of soft light; and eyes - eyes like the blue of the ocean and so unfailingly kind - she reached her hand out -
I found you, I found you, I found you -
Then there was a light; a bright flash of white, and he was engulfed in it.
The hand that grasped Nanoha's wrist with a hold of steel and the arm that was wrapped around her waist tightly were unrelenting.
She could taste the coppery tang on her tongue.
The kiss was hard and forceful and nearly, painfully, suffocating.
Not even the intense, violent sexthat day was like this.
For the first time in her life, she felt violated.
Cruelly and coldly violated.
She didn't want it.
She had no desire for it.
Not like this.
She struggled against the grip on her, and managed to wrench herself away.
Or was it Fate who let her go?
Her palm stung.
The blonde's face was jerked to a side, cheek reddening.
Furious blue glared into intense red.
The inside of her mouth felt raw, pleasantly and yet not.
"...How could you?" she whispered; pain, anger and betrayal all ringing so clearly in her voice. "How could you?"
Yellow hair shadowed those dark red eyes.
There was no answer.
The blonde did not meet her accusing glare, and instead turned to stare into distance.
She followed that gaze, and saw the ground headquarters; and it seemed so small, from where they were...
Large pink, blue and red orbs of light surrounded the building - the tall skyscraper that was quickly disintegrating, the sound of explosions so faint in her ears, carried by the soft wind.
It was much too far for her to try and reach them.
Even if she tried, even at her best speed...she would have been too late.
Then the three orbs of light began to fade.
Her hands shook, even as she stared.
A gruff voice resounded in her mind, and she blinked in surprise.
"...Vita?" She could feel the presence. The redhead's presence.
It was strong, but fading.
Despair snaked around her.
And she clung to the contact desperately.
"Vita! You - "
"Take care of my bunny." The curt words interrupted. "I'm giving it to you."
A sharp intake of breath.
"...Don't...don't joke with me, Vita." She felt herself trembling. "Don't..."
"I don't kid, Nanoha."
"Then I don't want it! I don't want it! YOU come back and take it!"
She could almost see a rueful smile on that face.
"That so?" A snort. "Well, too bad, cause I'm making you take it."
"No. I won't. I WON'T! I - "
That made her jerk to a stop.
Vita never pleaded.
And the telepathic contact she held onto was fading more quickly now.
"...Tch." A grunt from exertion. "I can't hold my form any longer, Nanoha."
"No...no, no, no...don't..."
"Oh, shut up. Get your act together. You still have Fate there, don't you?"
Her vision was blurring.
She barely noticed the dark, intense red eyes that were fixed on her.
"...And don't die, you hear me?" Vita's tone was suddenly not as stern.
She couldn't stop the tears rolling down the cheeks.
She was suddenly cold, too cold, and she wrapped her trembling hands around herself.
As if Vita was next to her, she could hear the faint huff and sigh.
She could just...see that little smirk, regretful and amused, on that face...
"Crybaby," the redhead teased, before grunting. "Well, gotta go."
With just that, without waiting for a response, the link vanished.
Strength faded from her legs, and she would have dropped to the floor, if it wasn't for Fate who grasped her, bringing them both to the floor gently.
A pair of hands held her tightly, and her face was buried into black fabric.
She resisted, struggled, tried to shake off that grip; but Fate didn't let go.
She could barely see anything with her blurred vision, barely feel the dull throb on her fists as she pounded against the blonde painfully in a vain try to make her let go.
Her breathing was ragged from exertion, from crying, from struggling.
Fatigue seeped into her arms, but she didn't stop.
It was the grunt of pain that the blonde let out which made her stop, made her stop hitting, made her stop struggling, made her limp in that warm - cold - embrace; because it hurt to know Fate was hurting, it was painful to know that she was the one striking abuse on the person she wanted so much to protect, and yet...and yet...
She was the one who allowed them to die.
A familiar, husky voice she loved and hated right now.
But the figure that held her was warm, so in contrast to what she felt.
She was cold, and she knew it wasn't the sunny weather.
She hated it.
Loathed this numbing feeling that filled her to the core.
Still, the girl who held her was warm.
But she wanted more.
Wanted to do away with the coldness that enveloped her.
She looked up to see dark, intense maple eyes, and pressed their lips together.
There was still the same faint coppery tang Nanoha tasted before. Blood...her blood.
The kiss was hot and bruising and painful, and she craved more; because it wasn't kind nor was it loving, instead, it was hard, and it was the type that punished.
Her heartbeat picked up its speed, and she felt the familiar sensation of skin prickling from the after effects of teleportation, a hot, yellow flash penetrating her closed eyes; and she knew that they had been transferred to...somewhere else, again.
They were in some place considerably darker, some room bare and dilapidated, with a wooden, broken window and a dirty, old, white curtain hanging on it, fluttering gently with the soft wind, light flickering in every now and then.
Fate, she thought, had always been such a cautious person. So, so cautious...
The blonde broke off the kiss.
"Nanoha..." Soft, saddened voice..
Rust and silk.
That was how Fate's voice was like. A cross between harsh and tender, rough and smooth. It had been like that years ago, and it was the same even now.
But she didn't want to hear it, didn't want to listen to that voice that had always soothed her; because right now, all it did was intensify her emotions, emotions that she did not want to let stir again, and she was crying for reasons that she just didn't understand, her heart clenching violently, her hands shaking, and Fate had enveloped her in another tight embrace.
She wanted to hate her.
But she couldn't.
She didn't want to be in love with her.
But she was.
The blonde had stirred when she heard the door shut loudly.
Her middle - where Signum had pierced and left a reminder of what happened - was throbbing.
She heard the faint, raspy, painful breathing that was not hers.
She sprang awake instantly - flinched at the sharp pain she felt - and her gaze darted towards the source; even as dizziness and headaches attacked her from lack of blood.
"Na..noha?" She tried to focus on that blurry figure, grimacing.
Nanoha was leaning against the door, and her eyes stared blankly at her shaking hands.
There were no visible wounds on her.
Slate blue snapped up to look at her.
That gaze was hollow, cold, horrified...disgusted.
A look that Fate recognized all too well.
"I..." Hoarse words, filled with disbelief. "I...killed..."
She was slumping to the floor, her eyes turning back to her shaking hands.
Fate stood - wavered from the dizziness and nausea she felt - and collected Nanoha into her arms.
"I...how could I have forgotten..." That voice was soft and shaking. "When I thought you died, I just...I just..."
"It's not your fault," her tone was sharp, too sharp, and Nanoha flinched involuntarily.
The brunette shook her head vehemently. "I - I...I killed..."
"They did this," Fate said, tone dark, hard, furious, "Not you. Not you."
Shaky fingers fisted in on her sleeves, and slate blue eyes, so vulnerable and unsure - like a small child, the blonde had thought - stared back up into her intense ones.
Fate brushed stray brown hair away from her tear-soaked cheek.
"Not you, Nanoha..." Her voice softened; gentle, and so pathetically kind that she could hate herself for it, "Never you. Them. They did this. They did this...to us."
"Them..." Nanoha echoed, quietly, as if tasting the sound of that word on her lips.
Fate felt her sleeves crumple further when those fists tightened.
"...Them." The brunette repeated again, with a tone so soft she could barely hear it.
But there was an underlying hatred beneath it. A hatred so strong and dark and cold, enough to send a chill down her spine - but that was if, and only if, she had not felt the same...about TSAB.
The bureau that she...they...had once been so loyal to...
So how did it come to this?
She swung her weapon almost carelessly, and felt the slicing of flesh through Bardiche.
Blood splattered onto her cheek, and she could almost hear the silent scream from that destroyed throat, before that mage fell and stayed still.
Burgundy eyes regarded the growing puddle of blood for a moment, studied the frozen fear and pain on that dead body, and waited.
Waited for disgust to fill her, horrification to take over, regret to overwhelm her.
She waited for one full minute.
But there was nothing.
Her mind remained clear and concise, her hands weren't shaking, her heart wasn't pounding uncomfortably.
If there was anything she felt, anything at all, it was a hint of amusement.
Ah, she thought, looking at the fallen figure, a flicker of a smile on her face. How the mighty havefallen...
A bragging coward hiding behind his underlings, who met his demise in her hands.
The blonde turned, and left the room in search of her significant other.
It wasn't hard, not at all.
Though she did know Nanoha's current location, which was the conference room, there was no need to use the knowledge to find her - because all she had to do was follow the sound of the loud noises.
The sight that she beheld almost made her sigh.
Here the other was, a large magic circle beneath her, eyes closed, hands spread out as if offering herself to the non-existent gods above, pink balls of light speeding around her. Raising Heart gleamed brightly, held loosely with a thumb curled over the stick.
Brown hair ruffled with the wind that roared to life from the explosions.
Fate would have preferred to finish things quietly.
Nanoha tended to end things with a bang.
A smile was twitching on that face, left eyebrow raised slightly.
The brunette had already noticed her, hadn't she?
And yet, Nanoha remained still.
Still wants to play, does she?
Lightning crackled around Fate's open palm, before twisting her hand around, the bolt now thrown up into the sky.
Her aim was true, a figure hiding in illusions dropping to the floor painfully, electricity sparking around him for the briefest instant.
He was a bare few steps from where Nanoha was.
Slate blue eyes opened and blinked at her amidst speeding spheres of pink lights, cracking walls, and falling mages.
Fate's only response was to cross her hands as she leaned against the doorway, white cloak moving gently despite the harsh wind, blades of golden hair dancing in a haphazard sort of a manner.
There was an almost apologetic look on Nanoha's face before she closed her eyes again.
And the spheres of light sped faster than before, slamming into targets all around; walls cracked, explosions rung in her ears, and the wind picked up its speed.
A little smile, cold and cruel and mischievous, curled on the brunette's lips.
Ah, Fate suddenly understood. She was waiting for me.
Dark hazel hair flew haphazardly, stray locks tickling Nanoha's cheek and neck, and the blonde felt a sudden itch to brush them away.
But she didn't move, half-wary and half-amused; because no one could tell what Nanoha was planning when she had that smile on her face.
The pink spheres of light sped even faster, and then, all so suddenly, silence filled the air, seemingly louder than the noise Nanoha had created moments ago.
Burgundy eyes glanced over her surroundings.
A very thorough job, she thought, her impassive gaze studying the fallen soldiers and mages, growing puddles of blood, and walls and floor littered with huge craters.
That did not answer her question, however.
Why was Nanoha waiting for her?
The brunette turned on her heel and walked over to the podium then, slowly, shoes clicking gently across the pavement and over pools of blood, imprinting the floor with crimson boot marks.
Fate followed this time, even if she chose to tread across the floor littered with corpses carefully.
"...Won't you come out now, General?" Nanoha asked, softly, and yet, her voice seemed loud enough to echo through the quiet conference room.
"Or do you still have more soldiers to spare?"
The tapping feet stopped, Nanoha now some bare steps from the raised podium.
Fate stopped as well.
And then he appeared, standing up slowly from his hiding place at the platform, hands raised, face white.
He was shaking. Very badly, too.
"So the prince shows himself," murmured Nanoha.
"I - I'll do anything you want, so please - I - "
"Anything I want?" Nanoha raised her eyebrows.
There was absolute delight in that voice.
"Y-yes!" He nodded his head feverishly. "So please - "
"Okay," the brunette said cheerfully. She raised a finger towards him. "Come here."
And suddenly, bright pink rings clasped around his wrists and ankles; he floated in the air, moving towards her against his will, and his complexion paled further.
"S-spare me! Please!"
He was in front of her now, feet touching the floor lightly, half a head taller than her. But his hands and legs were still locked, and he was frozen stiff with fear.
Blue eyes inspected his face curiously, and her fingers brushed jet black hair away from his forehead gently.
Fate felt a jaw muscle in her cheek move.
"You're...actually pretty cute." Nanoha murmured, as if oblivious to the blonde who was behind her. "And young, to have this high a rank in the bureau..."
"I don't know anything!" He shook his head vigorously. "I - I'm just..." He faltered.
"A decoration?" supplied the brunette.
Decorations. High-ranked soldiers with no power.
He looked down and did not answer.
She chuckled, patting his cheek lightly. "So you do have some pride in you, General."
"Just...just spare me, please..." he whimpered.
Nanoha hummed a little tune. "I will think about it." She paused. "But you are a cute one, aren't you?"
He looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and stared at her, torn between fearful and giving her a look saying she had grown three heads.
"I like cute guys," informed Nanoha.
Blue eyes darted back to Fate for the briefest instant.
The blonde remained still and impassive.
Nanoha stood on her tiptoes then, a hand brushing past his cheek to curl around the neck, lips closing in on him.
"Would you like a kiss, General?" The brunette asked, softly, some bare centimeters from his face.
He stuttered incomprehensible words, face red
Fate's grip on Bardiche tightened a fraction, eyebrows narrowing slightly.
Nanoha laughed, then, and stepped back, gloved fingers ruffling black hair lightly before removing her hand.
"I'm afraid I can't give you your farewell gift, General." Raising Heart was pressed to his chest. "Someone doesn't seem to like it."
He had only a moment to look astonished.
And then the rings around his wrists and ankles disappeared, and he dropped to the floor.
He was motionless.
The blonde strode forward then, this time ignoring the puddles of blood that she stepped on, and yanked Nanoha towards her.
Nanoha didn't resist; there was a possessive arm around her waist, and dark, dark burgundy eyes were glaring at her.
Slate blue eyes, unafraid, stared back with equal intensity.
The brunette had the nerve to continue, amused and almost laughing. "Jealous?"
"What do you think?"
"You tell me."
"I think you know."
"No, I don't kn - "
Fate crushed their lips together.
"You are cruel."
"People change, Fate-chan."
"Must you tease me so with that soldier?"
"But you like it, don't you?"
"Me being cruel. To you."
Nanoha was her damnation.
"You're cruel too, you know."
"...Am I, now?"
"Because you are too kind, Fate-chan."
Fate wasn't her salvation.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid - !"
"Fate - "
She slammed a fist into the wall next to her head.
The wall cracked, and she felt the dull throb on her skin.
"One wrong step," she snarled, "just one wrong step - "
"And I could have died?"
Nanoha grasped her hand, fingers brushing over reddened knuckles.
She felt the tension in her shoulders fade despite herself.
"Yes," she said, voice quiet. Hard. "Yes, you could have."
Nanoha laughed, softly. Coldly.
But the smile on that face was kind, and so unbelievably gentle.
"Are we even living, Fate-chan?"
Red eyes darkened.
Fingers curled around her own.
"I have told you before, Nanoha."
Their gazes met.
"Told me what?"
"If you die, I will die."
The smile on those lips grew a fraction.
"Does the other way around hold true, Fate-chan?"
"You tell me, Nanoha."
Nanoha laughed, softly, and pressed her lips against Fate's.
She stood on tiptoes, and her hands curled around the other.
Neither spoke for a long while.
That was her answer.
Black and white.
Yin and Yang.
One cannot exist without the other.
One will not have a meaning without its counterpart.
If there is no evil, there is no good.
If there is no kindness, there is no cruelty.
They didn't hate each other then, but they do, now.
What is the exact opposite of hate, though?
Flesh against flesh.
Marking. Scarring. Branding.
The air was warm.
The room was dark, lit only by the soft moonlight from the window.
"...Sometimes, it still hurts. I wonder why?"
"Your hand, you mean?"
Fingers trailed over the rough line running along her arm.
"Strange, isn't it?"
"I guess that makes two of us."
"Strange that my hand is throbbing, or strange that your middle is hurting too?"
Lips brushed over the small bump that had the width of a sword.
Blue pierced into red.
The other smiled a ghost of a smile.
It was familiar and warm, sad and joyful, defeated and triumphant.
A white soft toy, with long, pointed ears that lopsided, watched from where it sat on the table.
Moonlight soaked into its fur, making it glow a soft blue. Its head was tilted slightly, with oddly shaped teeth.
And its eyes, eacha comical red oval shape, was the sole, silent spectator in that room.
They saved each other.
They killed each other.
Resplendence of Ebony
© 2007-2008 Eagle8819.
Did you know white is just a shade of black?
It's done. It's really done.
This project took far longer than I had expected it to. It would have been finished in March, but then I had to go pick on part V to tweak it.. -muses- And consequently, it was what delayed part VI.
1) The addition of Yuuno was what caused it. Previously, I was ready to mark him off as dead. But then I decided it would be just too...easy, if Yuuno were to die just like that. Takeru was a man that...well, that lives off on people's pain. Literally.
So. Yes. Yuuno goes back into the equation.
There are two reasons as to why it took so long to edit Part VI. One, Yuuno is a shallow character. I know he has depth, but lack of screentime tend to do wonders in making him a wildcard in character. Two, I'm not all that good when it comes to creating facets of a person, and I will admit that my reluctance in writing Yuuno (and Hayate) comes from the fact I dislike characters that go OOC.
Still. The four months wait aside, I'm actually glad I did add Yuuno. One is because his presence smoothed out the flow for part VI. Two is because it made the basis of Shamal getting the remote nothing but stronger. And three...well, I can tell you that Nanoha cursing was definitely not originally in the chapter.
2) At risk of ego-inflation, I am going to say I'm proud. RoE is the sole multi-chaptered fiction that I've really completed - and I mean in terms of longer than three chapters. This fic, while originally intended to be a one-shot depicting Fate's pain from losing Arf, became something far more...complicated. This story was definitely not something I ever imagined I could create. And judging from the number of comments that remarked on how well-planned this is, I think it may surprise many of you to find out that there was little to no planning for this fic, right up to the end. Merely a work of a whim, if nothing else. (And see, this is why I can't do long fics. I work well on inspiration, but fail miserably on plotted fics..)
3) Q and A session of...stuff that had been asked of me, and of things I think some of you may ask. Any future questions will be answered privately via pm or equivalent.
Q: Interested in Yuuno/Hayate?
A: Short answer, no. Long answer, I paired them up because I wanted to get a feel of how (and if) the pairing will work, and why. Though the first scene of this finale was a work of sudden (morbid) inspiration, it did, however, tell me that it could work, and would not be there just for the sake of...what was that word for it?...ah, yes. For the sake of completion. Note my sarcasm. That said, I also wanted to work on their characters a bit. So.
Q: No rambling on NanoFate in your last A/N? Blasphemy! D:
A: ...I'm sorry, but the pairing in this fiction is really kind of...self-explainatory. I thought, hard and long, if there would be anything I want to say about this pairing but...I came up with a blank. They are really just...too similar and different. And the above scenes pretty much conveyed things I wanted to...say. Sometimes when things break, there's just no mending anymore.
Q: So RoE is really a prequel to Ode to Darkness and not just a reference of sort? (mentioned at the beginning of part I)|
A: Mmm...I would love to say yes, but that would probably mean tweaking OtD. I say 'probably', because I will have to speculate for very long to locate inconsistencies between RoE and OtD. One that I'm far too lazy to do. But on the whole, yes, it is a prequel.
Q: Any plans to do a follow up story with Nanoha and Fate as wanted criminals (aka continuation of Ode to Darkness)?
A: I wanted to. Seriously. But no. My brain will fry before I could think of a plot that works. And I'm not a good plotter. As for Regius...well, I'll have to say he's just a randomly picked mastermind. ;p
Q: How about prequel(s)?
A: ...Isn't White Devil a prequel already? :P Though...well. I've noted this in my LJ before, but I'm still thinking about it. What I had in mind was a collection of one-shots/scenes before the events in RoE; such as their high school life, friendship, comradeship, romance, military, etc...as well as hints leading up to RoE. It's a big IF, though. I don't even have any ideas at the moment. Suggestions welcome.
Q: How could you kill them all..? -emo moment-
A: Cause I'm evil.
A: Your favorite villian, truly. When I first created this char, my only goal was to make him as evil as possible. I'm not a big fan of OC characters, but I do get that it's the only way things will work sometimes. And I did achieve my goal. Though I suppose that, in the process, he has become a character that can be...related to, somewhat... -glances at the massive killing aura from readers- ...Yeah. I think I did an excellent job. 8D
Q: ...Why all the angst?
A: Because it wins.
Q: Any last words?
A: Yep. It was...an interesting experience to write this. This piece of fiction bore witness to the events that happened to me (and around me) during this one year. I've gained many things. I've also lost a good number of things. Some are related to this fandom, some not. They aren't all good, but not all of them are bad either. It was...-pauses-...memorable. A somewhat bittersweet memory. But not something I'm likely to forget, unless if I'm old and wrinkly.
That said...I'd like to give a big thanks to my beta, Rae, who worked on the fic and prodded me despite my complaints and laziness, and to the readers. Yes, you. Thank you for keeping track of this story even when things seemed so bleak. Thank you for reviewing, and more importantly, thank you for reading. I hope it was an enjoyable trip - even if angsty - and hopefully the finale left a good closure for this fic.
And...that is all.
End of session.
Start of Project: September 07, 2007
Completion of Project: August 20, 2008
First Posted: September 26, 2007
Final Released: September 07, 2008
Total Word Count: 23, 109 (excluding A/N; 100 pages in Word)