Epilogue: Many Years Later

July XX99

Next time he was aware, X was in a wheelchair overlooking a forested valley. Where was this? Did he know?

There were footsteps to his right. He turned his head. His body felt disconnected, but he managed this. Neko appeared again, landing on his arm. Then Zero pulled over a chair and sat by him.

Why can't I feel anything from either of you? This thought was strong, but X couldn't do anything with it.

Zero touched X's chin and saw his eyes move. "Have you come back?"

X tried to respond, but only managed to move his right arm and displace Neko for a moment. The elf jingled, then landed on him again.

"I think you are. You banished Ikari Domino from our world. At least a dozen oracles say you banished him to hell, so it could be so. But whatever spell you and Xenophon came up with," Zero shook his head. "You nearly killed yourself casting it. Xenophon died."

Neko chimed sadly. But then he added some quick bird-like chirps.

"You need to know what happened. You destroyed your mind opening that portal and guiding all those souls."

But I still think… X then considered that maybe he wasn't thinking as well as usual. For one, he couldn't understand Neko. For another… he wasn't able to come up with another.

"Your mind is repairing itself, thank goodness. You'll regain control of your body in some time. I hope not too long from now. When you recover, hope for the rest of us will be restored. And we need that now. Even if you don't want to fight…"

Neko said something.

"Right, I'm getting ahead of myself. X… I don't want to be the one to tell you this. But it has to be said." Zero tried to gather his thoughts, but then took an item out of his pocket and put it in X's hand.

It was a connection crystal; a match to the one X wore behind his ear.

Tears came from X's eyes.

"Sigma got him." Zero punched the arm of his chair and cussed. "Sorry, didn't mean for you to hear that. But I saw… I saw Sigma destroy Omega, and then believed his lies that nothing had happened. I saw it. I felt the evil aura, and Xenophon even said it felt like evil. I knew and I walked away. I can't believe I was so stupid. We got back from fighting Ikari and Sigma had killed Rock. And Blues."

X looked at Zero.

"He just walked into the home. Shot Rock in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Blues fought him…" Zero sniffed and rubbed his eyes. "You know how he used to boast that he never truly lost an honest fight. He lost this one and died for it. So did his wife. His son Thomas, well, he's an adult now. I had to raise him."

With some effort, X managed to curl his fingers. Zero took his hand.

"And my mom… Solstice was with her. She tried to protect her. Sol's dead too, but not from that… there was nothing that could be done."

Who else? How long had he been unaware? Who else was gone now?

"Please come back to us, X," Zero pleaded. "Sigma's become this monster and there's strange new curses in the world. The Fire Dragon waits for his eternal summer. I'm doing everything I can to help, trying to remain strong, but it's overwhelming.

"Enker and Laudo told everyone the truth of what happened. Everyone knows that you banished Domino and you transformed the Ice Dragon. I know you'll hate this, but you must recover and at least give everyone hope. That will change things. But because everyone knows, I got drafted into a more important position. I'm trying to keep everyone from despair. And the others, but there's only so much they can do.

"But we've lost so much. And then you… they had to pull you out of the hospital. There's too many wounded and dying, and you were mostly stable. Iris and I have been taking care of you. If it wasn't for her, I don't know how I'd manage this, trying to give everyone hope while I've had to work out my own feelings of losing my mother and uncles. Iris has been wonderful."

Zero sighed and hugged X.

"But you're my soul brother. You know my weaknesses and my heart. I need you back. Please be back, X."

"I've written some things for you to say," Lulani said. He handed the papers over.

X walked slowly, not quite back to normal. He scanned the speech and made sure he understood it. "All right."

"It may be some time before your mind is fully healed," Iris said. "Please be careful."

"I will."

Leave one burden behind, take up another, X thought. That's how his life always seemed. Then again, seeing everyone brighten with joy and hope just at the fact that he was walking and talking again, that was a pure happiness. And hearing of the crowd waiting, anxious to see that he really was alive, that was encouraging in a way few sounds were. Perhaps this would draw Sigma's attention, which would unavoidably make things harder on him. But he would do it. It was the right thing.

He and his escorts met up with Zero. Radically different from his pleading and weeping earlier, he was stoic and seemingly cold. He held himself with a confidence that was reassuring to any on his side. But there was a small smile that briefly betrayed the child that X had once been threatened with death to care for.

"We're clear," he said with authority. "So long as you're up to this."

"I'm fine."

Zero looked right at his eyes. "What are you thinking?"

His friend would notice. "I am thinking… the words of my father will haunt me for the rest of my life."

"I've had my heart broken in so many ways, usually when I least expected it," Rock said. "I've seen brave men who deserve the title more than myself die and never be recognized. I've attracted so many curses and monsters, and enemies, and responsibilities. But it's the right thing. I feel happy when another is safe due to my actions. And the rare rewards that I have received are far more valuable than any worldly treasure."

And there you go. The story may have ended, but history continues, making weird parallels with canon.

I have considered a sequel to this; I'd even thought of it way back during the original posting. But in the years between then and now, I learned more about other series and characters. Due to that, I did modify the last chapter and the epilogue so that I'm a bit freer for making a sequel. It was mainly taking out a section that was in the far flung future, which struck me as odd in rereading it. Anyhow…

But a sequel will have to wait, since it's only ideas right now and I have other stories to attend to.

Thank you for reading all the way through this. And special thanks to you reviewers here, every one of you. Bye for now!