There Are Only Ashes Here
Epilogue

'Theater'


It's bright when she opens her eyes.

Impossibly bright.

What... is she doing here...?

Memories flicker through her mind; hazy images, blurred at the edges, empyreal- more like dreams than anything else (but they're not dreams, they can't be, because Clair has never dreamt before).

He was holding her.

He...

Who...?

Battler.

He learnt the truth... Took Beatrice's (the real Beatrice- not the washed-out faded sepia-tainted memory of Beatrice that is Clair) game board back.

And he killed her...

He killed Clair.

She died in his embrace and crumbled into dust.

Shouldn't she be dead?

This... isn't right.

H-has she been fooled somehow?

Tricked?

Is this a trick?

B-but it's so bright she can hardly think clearly; the harsh lights keep in her place, like a fragile butterfly being pinned to a board, and her wings are all torn and broken now, Clair should be all torn and broken...

Her skin is ghostly pale.

Her hair falls in gossamer strands about her face.

Her skirts swirl about her legs like a shroud.

Slowly, tremulously, her fingertips poke at her cheeks, nose, lips- run through her hair, catching on the silvery pearls and making them clink together in that melancholy death-toll- and then she wraps her hands round her middle, leaning into the warm of her own body.

B-but it's not enough...

It's still cold...

Not just her skin, either. Deep inside her, where her heart is- beating that steady rhythm out inside her ribcage thump thump thumping forever, pumping blood through the body of a girl who isn't truly alive- encased in ice.

She shivers.

It's not the same as when he held her.

He made her feel safe.

She looks around her new, strange surroundings slowly- and the harsh lighting is unpleasant, cutting through her vision and sending her thoughts scattering like funeral ashes from a pyre, but even so she still turns this way and that and searches.

Searches for who?

She's always been alone.

She doubts there's anybody there to look for.

Or, at least... anybody that would care...

I-it shouldn't hurt that much... if she's alone again...

She's been alone for a long time.

I-it shouldn't hurt...

I-it shouldn't...

But it does.

Clair's heart is still beating- and though the sound is dull, muted, she can hear it; hear the steady thump thump thump through her paper-white skin and beautiful dress.

She's not dead...

Why isn't she dead?

The sound of her own heartbeat dances, tenuously, through her ears; it flickers inside her chest like the flame of a candle.

A flame that should've been snuffed out a long time ago.

All sorts of ugly creatures gather round lighted candles...

All sorts of monsters...

Clair can feel eyes staring at her from the darkness; the eyes of thousands upon thousands of hissing and spitting and prowling creatures, all of them watching her, waiting.

Waiting for what...?

Where is she...?

Battler said he was going to kill her.

H-he was going to save her...

S-somehow, Clair vaux Bernardus feels betrayed.

Betrayal.

Another selfish emotion.

Another human emotion...?

"Human? You? That's... that's kind of funny... Ahahaha..."

Clair eyes widen as she feels something sharp- something metallic- press against her stomach. There's a voice whispering (hissing) into her ear; it reminds her of a cat, an angry cat; of all those large, unblinking, feline eyes are still staring at her from the darkness as she... stands on the stage... under the spotlights... like a character in a play.

Playing a role.

Clair's still playing a role.

And it isn't the role of a princess...

"Don't you know that it's not a pieces' place to decide when it gets taken? No, it's not... Fufufu... That's the job of the game master... And if a piece gets taken in one game, it can always be picked up- polished- dusted off- and put back on the board in the next one. So stupid~ So naïve."

"A-ah... H-ha..." Clair breaths out softly, her voice tinged with the slightest trace of alarm. As she exhales she feels that sharp, metallic surface press into her stomach with just a touch more pressure than before- just a little...

It hurts...

The erratic beating of her heart hurts even more.

He made a promise, he said he'd save her; he'd come and rescue her on a white horse- where is he?

But he never made that promise with you.

Never... to you.

"And guess who the game master is this time?~ It's not difficult~ And I like to play around with my character a li~ttle bit more than Bahh~ttler did! Fufufufu! Just because he didn't resurrect you in his game, it doesn't mean I can't in mine..."

The eyes that bore into Clair's are hollow.

Empty.

They're devoid of any real human emotion- not like his, not at all like his, his eyes were so bright blue and warm and filled with so many emotions it almost hurt (he had eyes like the ocean)- but Clair can detect maybe the faintest trace of... madness... in the eyes of this person.

In their expression.

The girl that stands before Clair is fairly short, with a demure appearance; lily-white skin that shines sickly under the spotlights as though she has some sort of disease, with long blue hair that cascades down her back. Her bangs are cut straight across her face, casting dark black shadows over her eyes, over those horribly empty purple irises...

The girl with the blank face and deranged smile is holding a scythe.

Clair... knows who this is...

A shiver of fear runs down her spine.

This is the new game master.

And Battler... Battler is...

"If you're waiting for your 'prince', don't bother. He left with Beato already," says Bernkastel carelessly. "You thought he cared about you? How stupid..."

The words pierce through Clair with more force than that sharp sickle blade ever could.

Bernkastel admires the way the theater lights catch on the side of her blade, forming shimmering rainbow patterns across the silver metal- but she looks up, smiling (not a kind smile, not like his smile, this smile is cold and dark and completely terrifying), to see Clair's reaction to her heartless words.

But Clair... can't say anything...

She's a doll.

She can't speak unless given words.

She repeats the phrase Bernkastel said over and over in her head, endless - a repeating mantra.

He left...

He left her...

B-but he never promised to save her, not really.

Clair's not the person Battler cared about.

Nobody... really cares for Clair vaux Bernardus.

Not even she does.

"He never loved you, Clair. And you're so empty, so pitiful and disgusting, I doubt you even know the meaning of the word anyway, even if you say you do," says Bernkastel. Her voice is cold.

Everything about Bernkastel makes Clair think of a corpse. It's almost as though she just crawled out a crypt, a morgue- and it feels like skeletal fingers, bony and decayed and diseased with age, are pressing round Clair's throat as that witch speaks.

"You think anybody would care about an empty vessel like you? That's... that's also kind of funny... A-and a little sad... Hahahaha..."

The blade of the sickle presses against Clair's stomach with more force.

It hurts.

It hurts-

Then a loud ripping sound cleaves through the air- splits through the frantic thump thump thump of Clair's numbered, laboured heartbeats that were ringing through her ears- as Bernkastel draws her scythe across Clair's stomach in a sweeping motion.

Skin tears off bone.

The floor is bathed with blood.

Internal organs have nothing left to protect them- to keep them together- so they spill out of Clair's body in a sickening ooze, glistening under the bright lights of the stage, hanging out the gash in her stomach and splattering her white dress bright red like some horrible impressionists' painting and black spots begin to eat up Clair's vision- her body slumps, not quite lifeless because she's still breathing but she exhales blood, to the stage floor.

Bernkastel stands over her, watching with amusement as Clair vaux Bernardus dies slowly- vomiting blood from her mouth onto her beautiful dress; that chain of pearls in her hair have snapped, they're all rolling across the floor, and Clair's hands go to the wound on her stomach and press against it but she can't keep everything inside can't keep feeding her illusion (she never believed in herself anyway) and slimy liquid and bits of her insides that were probably important slip past, press against the gaps of her fingers and she continues to bleed slowly, slowly...

When you read mystery novels, its best to love them first...

And take them apart later.

Tear out their insides.

Expose them for the world to see.

Clair vaux Bernardus is just another mystery novel- and now her inner workings have been laid bare for all those in the audience to watch and laugh.

Clair gasps.

S-she thought...

She thought she would...

T-that he would...

He said he would save her (he never said that about her).

She thought he cared (but he's already gone).

S-she thought...

The feeling in her heart... hurts...

Her feelings began to grow so softly, so delicately, like a flower- beautiful, elegant. But the roots of that flower became deadly, sharp and spiky, and they dug into fragile muscle and wrapped round her heart like a snare- like long fingers with sharp nails- and those roots cut and sliced until it hurt to breathe because he was meant to save her but he didn't he didn't

he never even said he would

he never

never-

Bernkastel raises her scythe again in a graceful motion, swinging it back- it carves through the air effortlessly even though that witch is so small (she's done this before) and Clair knows she's going to die.

And be reborn.

And die again.

As die many times as that witch wants before she finally grows tired...

A-and how many years will that take?

Clair tries to hold her body together with her fingers but it's no good- it's too late- and she coughs out more blood, splattering against the floor; and it feels like her feelings, too, are being drained out of her body as she slowly dies.

She is a doll.

A broken doll.

An unwanted imaginary friend.

That was all she ever was.

That child doesn't want her.

And now Battler- the one person who made her feel... whole- doesn't want her either.

It takes two people to create a universe.

But, in this case, the only two people who ever loved Clair have disappeared.

When you get tired of toys

you throw them away

lock them up

in the

darkness

right?

She has no right to think.

She has no right to feel.

It takes two people to create a universe...

It takes two people

and they're both gone

Clair's going

And Clair thinks that this

can just be another

promise

That Ushiromiya Battler didn't keep.

Who would keep promises with a dead girl, anyway...?


In a near-empty space made of fragmented worlds, sparkling lights and shooting stars, Clair Vaux Bernardus drifts.

She supposes she should feel lonely. That seems only logical; after all, wasn't Shannon distraught when Battler never returned? Loneliness, like being lovesick, is a poison that plagues humans.

Clair has felt lonely once before.

But not now.

Never again.

She can hardly remember what it feels like... At all...

And Clair continues to drift.


The End


a/n: Cheerful ending ^_^;;
I love Clair/Battler now, it's so adorable- and I would write more for it, but I feel any story I'd try to write with these two would end up similar to this anyway. So there might not be much point.

Finishing fics is a wonderful feeling :D

Thank you to everybody who read this/liked this, I'm glad you did ^_^ And you can have a reward (omg!)

I made a soundtrack of alll the songs I drew inspiration from to write this, and they're all very soft and pretty and mostly this fic was inspired by songs by Hannah Fury (although this last scene was completely inspired by one Miku song) so yeah, have fun :D You might not like the same music I like, but that's okay XD

h t t p : / / www . megaupload . com/?d=IKM0MGGO