~30 Kisses~

~27: Overflow~

Sacher's plan was to reform the world. Half of the world's lives would be sacrificed for the sake of this in the hope of making things better... and indeed, such a thing was a noble aim. The divide between Sorcerers and Parsoners was a wide one, but even if he did manage to control the power of Hakaishin, how would Sacher go about such a duty? Hakaishin was the Destruction God and very unlikely to be controlled by any human hand in the first place, but even so considered... would it be the Sorcerers or the Parsoners who would die? Would there be any control over this? Very few knew Sacher's motives and even fewer knew his plans beyond those motives.

As it was, Hakaishin wouldn't be revived. Sacher was determined but he was also desperate and while one may have expected murder to be but one stepping-stone on the path to Hakaishin's revival, perhaps Sacher should have expected more from those particular Sorcerer Hunters than to just lie low and remain dead. There were many forces at work between those five, the ties of the Peer Gods, of the seal over Hakaishin... and closer to their own humanity, the bonds of friendship and family and love. Perhaps such things were too distant and too far-removed from Sacher's own experience to be able to understand or predict, but even within Carrot, the first instinct of the sleeping Destruction God was that of protection. To protect the vessel that carried him until which time as he should be unleashed...

Sacher had wished for Carrot's fear to overtake him, for his humanity to be lost and for Hakaishin to rise up from the chaos within. However, Carrot's promise to Marron to simply not become Hakaishin was something far deeper than mere words - Marron had given his life so that Carrot would live and live as himself, and though Marron himself had died, his protection lived on through power granted that sat alongside Hakaishin in Carrot's heart. As far as he had Marron's blessing, Carrot simply wouldn't allow fear to overcome him. Marron had soothed that fear and had sacrificed much for it, Carrot refused to allow himself to devolve after that... first it had been Marron, then Gateau, then Chocolat, then Tira... such a reality without those four seemed hellish, but Carrot endured. More than his feelings and their lives was the potential destruction of either half of the Spooner Continent or even the entire Spooner Continent, if Sacher was proved too weak to control Hakaishin... as much as he wished to run and hide from the world after the sheer hell of what he'd had to endure, a rational part inside him knew that running and hiding and trying to cope with the enormity of what had happened would have to wait at least until after Sacher had been dealt with. He didn't know how to deal with Sacher and he certainly didn't know how long he could keep up the chase, but he was determined not to let Sacher succeed... he couldn't succeed... he wouldn't succeed...

"There's been too much death today," was Carrot's distant thought as he felt the first impact against the spire of Eden, knowing Facade to be directly below there. It was a distant thought, but Carrot didn't want anybody else to die and, when he thought about it, he didn't want to die either. The situation was too sudden to be seriously considering such things, but if it was a choice between life and death, especially with the thoughts of the sacrifices made in his name fresh in his memory, Carrot knew he could do nothing but choose life. He didn't want his last thought to be one of regret that, once again, he hadn't managed to live up to everybody's expectations. Carrot wanted to live and Hakaishin inside him wouldn't let him die. Sacher seemed to be unaware of the somewhat symbiotic nature between the Inner Gods and the souls that held them; if Carrot had wished to die then it might have been different, but...

It was only the bodies that had died. The souls and the memories were repressed, sent forth to exist in a different world... Big Mama had told her Haz Knights and Dota that once this happened, there was no hope for the souls to return. They'd moved on to different lives now. Perhaps even Big Mama had underestimated the power of the human spirit.

Carrot's element was Destruction, but even such a being had interests in self-preservation. Interests in self-preservation and a will to live granted by the Peer God of Creation itself... such things Sacher couldn't have foreseen. Carrot didn't want to die but naturally he wished that the others hadn't died... it was all too recent to take in, but Carrot knew that of the situation. He had to stay alive but it would have been so much nicer if he could have stayed alive with the others around him, like always...

Such a desire was not ignored by those distant souls. Without Carrot they were incomplete and without them, Carrot was incomplete also. That desire was stronger than life and death itself, flowing even across the path of time to somewhere they could connect. Their bodies were gone but their souls remembered, Gods were not Gods without their own unique powers. Carrot was held in protection by Hakaishin when the other four resurrected and all including Sacher were surprised to see such a scene. The sight of Hakaishin, there but still sleeping... those four Sorcerer Hunters, alive once more... the sight of Carrot held by Hakaishin. What did that mean? Was Carrot too far gone to be saved...?

Then he opened his eyes. He turned his head and he looked and he saw them. They were there, all of them. Sacher also, but... they were there. He reached out to them. There had been too much death that day, but there wouldn't be any more. They'd already cheated death. They'd prevent the rest, Carrot knew it.

All they could do was to run to him. He'd called to them across such distance, they had to be with him...

Memories of that other time were repressed and memories of death could wait until afterward. Carrot wished he could embrace them all as strongly as they wished to - and did - do to him, but he felt so tired, so exhausted... and they were there, they were holding him up. Marron's arm was around his shoulder, warm and alive and holding him tightly... they were all so pleased to see him and he them in turn, the Misu sisters open in their affection and Gateau's expression betraying his rough words... Carrot smiled at the Misu sisters and leant back against Marron, knowing that he wouldn't let him fall. He could feel Marron's fingers shaking, could almost sense the tension to not press too harshly against Carrot's skin from Marron behind him... but it was alright, it was alright.

For all the times he'd ever said blunt words to Marron, Carrot vowed he'd never say such things again. The relief was too much and he could only stay silent as they stood together, the five of them content in each other's presence... he'd managed it. He said he'd stay alive, he had done. He said he wouldn't turn into Hakaishin, he hadn't. He'd vowed to stay alive on behalf of the sacrifices made for him, but in the rush of the moment and the shock of how brutally Sacher had killed them... it had almost seemed too much to hope for to see them again, though that had been all Carrot had wanted. He'd wanted to see them again, but what power could bring back people from the dead...?

He didn't know and he didn't really care. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he lacked the strength to say anything at all just for those moments. He felt cold but warmed by those around him... and Marron's voice was soft against his ear, "Niisan..."

Carrot allowed himself to fall back, just slightly. He closed his eyes, leaning his head on Marron's shoulder. It only now seemed to occur to him how scared he'd been... just to momentarily think back on what had happened made Carrot feel numb inside. Taking a mental step back he at least felt proud on how he'd managed to cope and continue on, but now... such a thought seemed unimaginable. They had to stay together. If he had to lose them again, any of them...

He'd be a better person from now on, he vowed it to himself. A better friend to Gateau, a better man for the Misu sisters... a better brother for Marron. After all, they'd given so much... Carrot didn't know how he'd ever match up to any of that, nothing seemed like it could match up to the love and warmth in their voices as they stood together... but for the moment, surely it didn't matter. He couldn't think of anything now, but he vowed to himself that he'd keep those promises to himself. Somehow. After all, they were alive... and as long as they were alive and together, there was hope for them.

Even something like death couldn't break them apart. Carrot felt heartened by this, though still exhausted.

Marron said the word 'niisan' so many times across the path of a normal day. Sometimes Carrot had wondered how Marron would react if he were to count how many times he heard that word and report the findings to his brother at the end of the day, but supposed that such a thing might be a little too teasing for Marron. It wasn't that he didn't like it or that it annoyed him, just that the thought amused him. He said it so much and so often and yet when Marron whispered it at that moment then, it was as if it was the first time Carrot had heard it spoken. He wanted to hear it again and many times over, he didn't want there to be any eventuality where he wouldn't be able to hear Marron say that word...

The world faded into light and dark as normality restored itself over Facade and Big Mama transported her Sorcerer Hunters safely back to Eden. Not before Carrot had trembled at feeling Marron press a gentle kiss against the back of his head. A small gesture, but Carrot felt so much for it; thoughts of sacrifice and determination flew around Carrot's mind before he felt his body becoming light and the scenery blurring around him... they'd be back home soon. Those thoughts were pretty high-reaching ideals, but when it came to it... just as long as they could stay together...

Carrot moved his hand back to grasp Marron's other hand tightly as they reappeared back in Eden's main great hall. Big Mama was there, as was Dota and Milphey and the rest of the Haz Knights... Big Mama recommended the Sorcerer Hunters their rest before anything else. None of them argued with this and little was said... again, comprehending what had just happened could wait until a clearer mindframe. For that time, rest was the most important thing.

For that night, Carrot moved into Marron's bed. He hadn't let go of Marron's hand since their return and only reluctantly did so when Marron requested it so they could change into their nightclothes... Marron had turned his back and when he'd looked round again, Carrot was already snuggled in Marron's blankets. Marron had gone to take Carrot's bed in return, but had found himself refused. The singular beds were quite small, but that didn't matter. Carrot held him so tightly Marron didn't think he was in any danger of possibly rolling out of bed or of his brother doing the same... and it wasn't as if he particularly minded, either. All Carrot wanted was to be close to his brother and Marron's feelings ran similar to this... so much so as to be overwhelming.

For everything that had happened to that point, Marron could only hold Carrot as tightly as he was held in the first place. Previous memory of the last time Marron had held his brother so intently brought memories that were jarring and painful... but this time, Carrot's eyes were closed and his breathing was easy. There was no danger, not in that room, not at that moment. Sacher's whereabouts were unknown, but they'd know if he was anywhere nearby.

Still... Sacher's first target would be Carrot if he ever did happen to be nearby...

For a while, Marron wondered how he'd ever be able to sleep with such thoughts in his mind... but he still held Carrot, determined to shield him and protect him from any such danger. Everyday difficulties, the perils of Sorcerers, the dark threat of Sacher Torte... anything. He wouldn't let anything happen to Carrot.

"... Not asleep yet...?"

Carrot's sleepy voice had startled Marron slightly. He glanced down at his brother, seeing a sleepy expression and tired eyes, but more than that he saw Carrot's smile...

"... I'm sorry, niisan."

"You don't have to be... you should rest, though. You--"

The words 'you tried hard' froze in Carrot's throat before he could speak them. Marron had done a lot more than that. When he finally brought himself to speak again, his voice was more raw, more emotional, a whisper against the silence of the bedroom.

"... You saved me."

During the slight silence that followed, Marron found himself stroking Carrot's hair.

"... I only did what I could, niisan."

"Idiot... can't you at least be proud this once..."

Marron's expression became wistful, "... I don't think I can look upon today proudly in my mind..."

"I think we can be proud about today even if we're not about any other day...!"

"I forgot you, niisan."

His words were blunt and followed by another silence. Carrot seemed unsure as to what to say to this and for that Marron was somewhat glad, for he didn't know quite what to say, either. Only that that had happened, that it was true... that other reality, that other place he had existed... that place his soul had resided before being summoned back by Carrot. He remembered nothing of that other life, none of them did, but... another life? Another life, whole and entire and without Carrot... Marron had no memory of that life and he didn't desire it, but just that such a life could have existed in the first place...

Carrot only looked up at him with serious eyes, "... Don't think about it, Marron."

"... But, niisan--"

"Marron-! Don't. Not yet."

"... Niisan..."

"If we're gonna think about that, then let's think about it after sleeping, 'kay...? I'm not thinking about... what happened today. Just for now, I want to be able to stay here with you and not worry about things like that... so..."

"Niisan..."

Pressing his head over Marron's shoulder, Carrot replaced the tight embrace between them. Marron stared at the other side of the bedroom before closing his eyes and closing his arms around Carrot's back. The reasoning was sensible. Rather than worrying... even if it was only for that night, then... being able to relax was better, wasn't it...? And to be so close to Carrot...

Morning came, as did many others like it afterward. The nights opposite those mornings always seemed to end up with Carrot gravitating towards Marron's bed, always with Marron holding Carrot under the guise of protection and the knowledge of comfort... the reality of what had happened sometimes still seemed too much to bear, but more than that were the feelings that seemed almost to overflow in reaction to those terrible scenarios. Such an encounter with death caused all five of them to appreciate what it was to be alive, the thought that they could have existed without Carrot seemed so terrible, and yet... such a life wasn't theirs. There had been that life, but even so separated, they hadn't been able to refuse his call. This was in itself comforting. They had life where they might not have regained it and had life with Carrot where they might not have regained that, either. For that, they were thankful.

Sometimes, Carrot would look at Marron as he slept. So close and so protective, even in his sleep...

Perhaps...

Perhaps it had been worth it.

It had been frightening and Carrot had been frightened, Marron had sealed his fear but at the cost of his own life and even if Marron had no qualms on such a sacrifice, Carrot could never say he'd ever want to willingly allow Marron to die for his sake or anybody's sake... but... for things as they were following those events...

For the strength of feeling it had caused, for the bonds it had strengthened between them...

At least now with hindsight, he could look back on the benefits of such a terrible threat and see that, now, the positive did seem to outweigh the negative. What was left of then but bad memories...? What were bad memories in comparison to what had been gained...?

Carrot would close his eyes again and let himself feel wonderfully captured by Marron's arms. He'd smile as he drifted back into sleep.

At least in the end... after everything that had happened, they were still together. For as long as either could manage it, Carrot knew that neither he nor Marron would let this change.

For such things to be confirmed...

To be so certain in that knowledge...

Yes. After everything... it had been worth it.

~fin~