Bookman

The Lotus

(Beauty)

The next time he sees Yuu Kanda, he is broken. Half the skin is missing from his face and his beauty is finally gone. They had all loved his beauty with a desperate tenderness. They had grasped at it like a shallow ledge, to stop themselves from falling into all things ugly about him.

He thinks, from now on, the lotus will give back nothing. Not beauty, not power. It was never true hope.

The Noah had burned sweet glee and the Mugen had burned gray dust. They had scattered its ashes to bury Yuu Kanda.

His skeleton, no flesh left for beauty and no strength left for blood, is hatred and anger. It judges like a machine and a tragedy, screaming his name and leaking death.

I always knew you would betray us.

At his core there has always been rage and hate and they are the only things left he has that are useful. His vengeance burns.

I never believed you, he says. I never believed in you.

Impassive at the lie, he answers.

Liar. You would have stopped me.

Yes, he would have. He was Yuu Kanda and he had justice. He did not love, but he saved.

He did not protect those who were unworthy, so he had not known.

He did not forgive as a man, and he will not forgive as a legend.

This is what he writes.

The Heart

(Love)

He writes.

Lenalee Lee clutches at strings they used to skim out of the air like an impurity in cream. Her face is choked with briny runoff.

Like drink, both her darkness and her light, she had always flowed easy and they had drunk her. They choked on liquid which finally became solid and scabbed as the skin of her legs.

The ferocity of her love had calcified into bone shards. It had closed around her limbs. It pricked at their throats and made them choke.

She sees him trapped on a broken balcony, many feet away, many feet up. Her hand extends to him as they climb for her.

Lavi, I'm coming to help you. Wait.

I do not need help he tells her in silence, and she becomes angry with a human flesh hand. It is ashen like her worn knees, but smooth. It takes her foot and will not burn. Will not burn like trapped souls in metal scarecrows, shamed by her purity.

Burn, burn, burn.

Her heart, her face, her love. She had always been the one who had needed help, the one with the love so fiery that it burns her to cinders, and will burn no one she desires it to.

Lavi, she screams.

Lenalee Lee had a nobility that turned the world to self-hatred for betraying her. Her heart fermented strong and sweet enough to cut as they swallowed her.

He writes.

The Clock

(Worth)

Like her, he must believe there is value to what he does.

Miranda Lotte may remain a symbol so long as she has utility. They worked so painstakingly to craft her, through sympathy and science.

Like clockwork, her springs tense under too much pressure. She jams and will not work.

Like the marker of a sundial she alones stands in a lit circle. Men fall around her as shadows. They fall away from her, radiate from her center.

He reads their bodies like his does the time. She has gathered this-many clocks hands underneath her protective glass face. There are this-many that need to be rescued, now.

They start from Miranda, who forestalls the end but cannot reset the beginning.

The meters pile up on top of each other. He can not read her for all the hands that she has collected. They pull at the edges of her clock and her clock becomes too small for him to see the time anymore. She loses her worth.

She faces him but she is but a clock. Her gears strain under her stopped mechanisms but she goes on, goes on, like clockwork. Whatever instrument he is, she lets him be. To keep her hands alive, she begs them to gather more from the peripheries before they die.

He turns away from her, Miranda Lotte, loyal like a clock. Sadly, she became worthless as soon as she slowed down. Not just when she stopped.

He has value. What he is able to say about her, it has worth.

The Lover

(Tragedy)

Alystar Krory lives a romance and a dream.

Krory's life has always been art. First only a soulless treasure like a relic in his grandfather's collection. But then he took on the new skin of a lover.

His clothes are scented with perfume made from roses that eat men. Too petulant to wait for love, they seize bodies that might have the right seeds. They hope to digest it, absorb it. If love blooms, it does so, rotting, in their stomachs.

Love devours love covets love kills love honors murdered love so very, very tenderly.

It pumps, a fortifying dream, in his veins.

It had made for a fascinating story and it had made them weep, though none can say for sure that any forgiveness is involved. It was such a beautiful story he wrote it with extra care, artful and lovely, long ago.

A lover who stays a lover after death and through war is haunted and haunts. He is a myth that they all fatalistically wish for themselves.

Krory dreams his nightmare romance to the end.

There is nothing of his beloved in the monster that ends him. It is ugly and unconflicted when it meets him with its claws. But his heart is strong and devoted to the poison of his memory, stinging the heart to beat. It is all he can let himself remember if he wants to win.

A selfish nightmare of ultimate need. So much that he ate her life and she ate his. He was a romantic tragedy, Alystar Krory.

His play-write writes his final line, a beautiful woman's name, with an extra flourish.

The Destroyer

(Time)

He writes as he writes.

Allen Walker is like a song belonging to no era. His temporality trickles and dissipates and he tries to write. He is a prophecy that is reaching its deadline. He fears he will fail fate.

Time is promise he wants to believe in. The destroyer has always known that when the right number of years elapse, his meaning will come to full term.

They had watched him at his work, faithful. They had not wished this. The destroyer crafting his doomsday device in secret and alone with a countdown.

Alone in the dark in a recording room. It blocks the answer of whether he should cry for the things outside.

Like buckshot, each drop on his hand scatters into a hundred more notes.

Allen Walker does not see him. Or perhaps he does, as the staff lines become jagged with the last resort promise. It files past his ears and tousles his white hair, mixing with the tangled whir of a ghost.

I'm sorry. So sorry. Soon. Soon, he cries.

Take your time, he wishes for him as he stands apart unseen.

He writes about how he writes at the ark. The destroyer's time approaches. It is best for him to forget that the last prophecy had predicted victory as well. The world ended anyway.

The scores emerges faster like his pulse, snaking wildly and fit to burst.

Allen Walker was a destroyer who was always scared to discover that he wasn't.

He keeps writing, but Allen Walker did not.

The Patron

(Strength)

He walks in on Komui Lee, the patron saint of lost causes and martyrs, calmed by emergency. A circle of his jet black angel watchmen whirr from wires. Their sticky static smacks, noise that comes from snuffed voices.

When he sees Lavi come in, the strength in his voice thickens.

You will not, he orders and he is sickened. You will go.

Lavi. God will not let you. Go.

The exorcists under his care echo him with their silence. They buzz through thier dead noise golems. Komui is under their care. Their defense of him is a focal point.

They hold together for him whenever fissures crack the earth and score their faith. He is not their God. But he is a human who has held hands and punished sloth. That has always mattered more. If they ever needed a haven to rally around, a source to flood the cause when it dwindles dry, Komui is it.

But he is writing, not rallying.

Lavi!

His command cracks like thunder over the flood. But it is not his ark that remains afloat. The tribe Komui guided was not the Noah, the blessed people. His own covenant has failed.

He stands on a island surrounded by a flood that cleanses what it pleases.

He sifts the waves for the flotsam of loved ones' words through the cut-off golems static. But he cannot concentrate for the survivor encroaching on his watch. A fallen stares impassive and holds his fist closed around a pen to a Bible in the making.

I do not have to go. The words of God are corrupted by man, Lavi says to refuse Komui.

Komui's eyes fill.

Only by cruel men like you, he answers. He turns away and will not speak his last living acolyte. His dying and missing are worth infinitely more.

As his wards are extinguished one by one, Komui's right to be the final chapter becomes more and more obvious. A patron is like a title, gathering all under one name.

And Lavi leaves him to it.

The Dedication

(Duty)

He finishes writing.

So, you have made your choice.

The words are a consolation as Bookman takes the papers from him and puts them in his bag. Hiding willfully in those black-spot eyes are deep wrinkles. They are the wounds of apathy. The guilt pickles his skin and makes it bunch, the sin of neglect embedded in the folds.

I never fought. I only watched and recorded.

I know. Bookmen do not fight. Not when it can change things too much.

He clutches at the sheaves in the bag as if they are a treasure trying to escape. I expect you did a fine job with these, he says.

I did, he says. Do not let it be for nothing.

Bookman has no wound, no burn, no battle mark. He has nothing but the weight of regret he has long since reconciled with. It drags at his skin and puckers it, withering and enfeebling.

The privilege of the records was the only gift he had to give and he gave it to his student.

He grunts and in the cold, dying shuffle of his departure is only an old man.

A secret has a way of coming out, he grumbles. We will see. We will see who will be remembered. Who remembers.

He has age and he has years, but Bookman will have no words. He has not earned one, his apprentice knows, and a gift like the kind he has given his friends would only be a betrayal to his master.

Not one.

Nothing must ever be written for a Bookman.

They are the only ones who are and can only be, without a doubt, merely human.

The Enemy

(End)

A dust-colored face giggles and points a sharp finger as he approaches. A gaggle of slashed foreheads stand in a ring, smirking. They are nothing but intact cadavers on hind legs, he thinks. It is biased opinion and savors it with joy.

He hates. It is not too late to love and not too late to hate to his heart's desire.

What are you?, they ask, mud-skinned rejects of God.

Fragile like a flower?

Tasty like a heart?

Broken like a clock?

Grieving like a lover?

A pity, like the destroyer?

Powerless like a patron?

…or heartless like a traitor, who captures pretty demises with pretty words?

None of those, he says as he draws out his weapon. It was never for me to decide, he announces as he lights spotlights, haloed candles, for each body.

But, please he whispers.

The Lotus, (beauty). The Heart, (love). The Clock, (worth) . The Lover, (tragedy).The Destroyer, (time). The Patron (strength).

Decide something for me, he prays.

And he brings the hammer down. And the cross-crested carrion birds standing on the corpses of his comrades take to flight.

The Bookman

(Lavi)

I had an apprentice, once.

He was a brilliant boy, but too wild. He insisted that he could succeed as a neutral recorder, but…well.

I feared losing his talent, which is why I let him be. But he was always a radical at heart. I always knew that he belonged to revolution, not tradition. I only hoped that he would not find out too soon.

In fact, when he did find out it was almost too late. And, prodigy as he was, he abandoned nothing.

He was with me during the final years of the secret war. He became a full Bookman and completed his duties before I. And the stubborn fool, he would not let a lost cause be a lost cause.

He had a strong will. One needs strong will, to be the last of anything. And he was the last of two things. Two ancient, solemn things. One dived deeply into the age-old fight between good and evil. The other only. acknowledged, but its commitment was just as deep. He failed neither.

He died, you see. He remained on the losing side so he could be the last exorcist. And that was how he chose to be the last member of the Bookman clan, though I still live (barely).

He would not let us continue.

He realized, although we Bookmen love words more than any others, we never mean anything to the words we write.

Our very words--beauty, love, worth, tragedy, time, strength …We say so much about them because they are words we love dearly. It was our own invention to not let them love us back.

And such a hateful thing must end.

Author's Note:

I love Dhampir 72 and Momosportif. This "Bookman" is dedicated to their respective incredible "Bookman"s. Their work sustains me (and my drive to write at times).

I really hope this wasn't too abstract. I'm willing to explain the thought that went into some of these, if anyone's completely flummoxed… Uh…just so it's not TOO depressing… Really, I think there's room to think that some of the mentioned exorcists survived. It's not 100 certain that they lost the war either. Um, probably the worst-case scenario is more likely, but…well.

Ambiguity does its job. (I hope).