Just because I will never truly be able to say goodbye to Yuri and Alice.

/and hearts to carry/

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

The creature, the monster, the demon, the god turns onto him and looks—and it thinks:

we have played this game before, little ant

And he—boy, fighter, harmonixer, Yuri—screams and screams and screams. The god wedges itself into his soul, swallows him up in an instant, as if a soul is as inconsequential as a raindrop in an ocean. And he can scream no longer, and the Masks laugh in ravenous approval, and the god continues on as if nothing had stood in its way.

Yuri runs from it, to that last safe haven in his soul. But it is no safe haven at all and his father waits for him there, mask covering the grim, harsh lines of his face. He hands him a shovel to dig. And below, on the ground in the rubble, Alice watches in horror.

"Your soul is fading."

It rains when he digs her grave, and the hard dirt becomes soft as mud and he thinks—this is good, I am out of tears to shed—and she lays beside him, spread out on his father's coat, face serene and hands clasped around the cross he had given her. Her hair is pure white, she was old before she was young.

He does not dig with a shovel because he remembers deeper, deeper you idiot. Instead he uses his hands, fingernails chipped and bloody and lets each speck and grain and clump of mud and dirt sink into his skin, into his pores, into every piece of him so when he leaves her here he'll at least have this little piece of her yet.

It feels as if he has spent his whole life digging her grave, carving out this destiny for her. When the Masks came for him, did they know? Had they glimpsed that they would trade in his tarnished, blackened soul for something so much better, something so much more? Covered in his mother's blood, staring into her dying eyes, he had written the contract of Alice's death. And when the demons spilled forth from him, he signed it in blood.

On her gravestone, bleached white like bone, he carves Be at peace, Alice Elliot. This I swear, your soul will have my lifelong love—Yours, Yuri.

Alice, Alice. What's that name even mean, Alice? Alice could be anyone, Yuri. She could be a girl you brush shoulders with, she could a mother living across the sea, she could be a name you catch over the radio. She could be anyone. So why? Why does she have to be this girl, this girl in this grave, the one you're digging? Don't you know what Alice could mean? Alice could be anything, if only you'd let it.

If he could, he would go back. Not to save her, just relive those moments over and over again, across the haunted plains where he learned to love, where she breathed life into his deadened soul.

Yuri would go back if he could, back to the beginning, to try it again.

Alice in the graveyard.

She swallows the heavy air, the tombstones of Yuri's soul loom above her like macabre monuments to the horror of his youth. Her heart beats so loudly in her ears, she cannot hear the cackle.

"It's almost as if this entire world was waiting for me," she says.

The Radiance reclines against the tree, her towering body an immaculate mass of endings and beginnings and middles. The sun sets behind her, like blood across the field, the field that is a memory or a premonition.

Amon gorges himself on Malice beside her, cracking the ribs of a monster, dipping his fangs into blood, his claws rending flesh from bone and he says to her, "Ants—they never learn."

The Radiance laughs. "There are shadows under our family tree. It is high time we prune."

Alice in the graveyard.

He goes back. He doesn't get on the train.

Alice, strung up like a marionette on Dehuai's machines, whimpers and dies. Albert Simon inclines his head forward and finally rids himself of the nuisance. The god does not come, even as the tower rattles and shakes with the girl's dying breath, lighting it up like fireworks.

Yuri, in Shanghai, grasps his chest and lurches forward. Zhuzhen, in the bar for a visit, turns to help the stranger but he is already too far gone.

Gasping, he says, "Again."

Inside his soul, the Radiance says, "Very well."

Alice doesn't die on the train. Yuri kisses her warm skin awake and they watch the hills roll into mountains. The masks lay in wait—"shall we see how this plays out, shall we, shall we? Let us give them a bit longer"—and they go to Zurich. And they are married, and Alice dares to think—we shall be happy, oh we shall be happy.

Karin plunges her sword in Nicolai's black, black heart. In Russia, it is always cold, but she is especially frozen because here before her is proof. Rasputin, twisted and putrid, and Nicolai, handsome and lethal. And they two, summoning gods to destroy the world. She plunges her sword in Nicolai's black, black heart.

And he pulls her close, and closer still, and presses his mouth into hers. She tastes the blood in his mouth, the thick and warm copper, the shaking of his limbs, the spasm of the muscles in his jaw. She feels the dagger in her breast, in her heart, twisting.

Rasputin would have laughed, if he had the soul to do so, at the two of them. Entwined on the floor as they were, swimming in their own pool of blood. Almost lovers.

But Asmodeus says, "Let us burn this city down." And Rasputin does.

Zurich is among the first to burn. The masks turn to each other and say, "Well, it's not what we had in mind, but it'll do that job, at least."

A constant.

In the graveyard, a small tombstone says Rest in peace, Alice Elliot.

"My very own grave," Alice says, and she thinks she must have dreamt this up before.

On the train in a graveyard that is a soul, the Radiance comes upon Alice. Outside, it is barren and empty. A cold wind sweeps through it, scrapping across blank stone. The Radiance prefers the other one, dead trees twined around monolithic tombs and the masks there, guarding the door.

"Alice, Alice," the Radiance says. "Do you know what that means—Alice?"

Alice turns from it, looks out the window onto the rolling hills and remembers falling asleep. "You will you not let him go?" she wonders.

"No," the Radiance says. "For he is mine. An eternity into infinity, and he is mine. I have his heart."

"And he has mine."

With pride, looking at her as if to say very good, my girl, you have solved my riddle, the Radiance answers, "I have you both."

Yuri has come to bury a saint. It rains when he starts, and does not stop. The dirt softens into mud, and he lets it sink into his skin, so that he might carry this little piece of her around.

He has been digging Alice's grave forever, it seems.

If he could go back, he would. He would go back and change it. But even if he could not change it, even if he had to relive her death over and over again, he would still go back. Better to let his soul die a thousand times than forget that he had it all.

He would do it a million different ways. He would not get on the train, he would protect her, he would wake up in Keith's tower before she ever made that deal. He'd burn his soul to ash so she would never have the chance to save it. In Shanghai, he'd fuse with the Seraphic Radiance.

"I want to go back," Yuri says. "I want to go back. As many times at it takes. Over and over again."

The stalagmite pieces his heart and shatters the necklace and the shards dance before his eyes, like the pieces of the sun. Like tears. He hangs, arms swinging at his sides, eyes wide. For a moment, for an instant, he is just a corpse. An ornament hung around a branch of the earth. For a brief second, the world forgets him. But on his body it is written—Yuri Hyuga will love Alice Elliot until the end of time, God help them all.And the essence of time curls itself around him like a lover.

The Radiance draws a finger down his cheek and says softly, "We will achieve Nirvana yet, we three."

In the graveyard of his soul, Alice comes upon him. He digs resolutely and the image is almost innocent, a young man in the field digging into the dirt to plant the seeds that will bring life. But the hole is wide and long. She knows that it is a grave.

"Yuri," Alice says. "Oh, Yuri." She cannot help but wonder if he will never stop digging, if he will dig graves forever.

One day he will put me in mine, she thinks but cannot comprehend the thought before it is fled from her mind. And she steps forward. She has played this role many times.

The train that is not in a graveyard because it is not a soul, rocks them both into sleep. Sunlight drifts across their faces and she, the saint, presses her cheek into the jutting bone of his arm and inhales the crisp, brutal scent of him. And he, the harmonixer, unconsciously turns to her and loops an arm around her shoulder to hold her tight, to keep her with him.

Who are you? You two? You have played this game over and over again, and you have given me everything. Will you not continue? Will you let this be the last time? I have taken you to the beginning and to the end and to the middle and it has never been good enough. You don't have to play this game. Remember that it is your game, you have chosen it. You must want to stop.

"Ants—they never learn," Amon says, and blood rolls down his cheek. The creature in his claws squirms for freedom. He snaps its neck.

"And that is why I love them so," the Radiance answers.

Yuri wakes up, and shakes off the nightmare and turns to Alice and kisses her beautiful, snowy hair. Her head lulls to the side, temple clunking against the wood. And he realizes far too late (or he realized too early). He closes his eyes against his tears and holds her to him, as if to keep the last remains of her soul tethered to her body.

Alice in the graveyard of his soul.

She takes a seat on the train, her eyes wide and sad, her hands curled in her lap. "I shall wait here for him," she says to no one in particular. "And we shall try again."

Yuri turns the cup in his gloved hands, eyes the gold, picking at the jewels embedded there. For the first time he pays attention to the small words on the side.

"Death drunk on souls," he mutters. On the road to Wales, everyone is asleep. Alice lays at his side, wrapped up in his coat, her face serene and hands clasped under her cheek. Her forehead presses against his thigh, a constant connection, and her hair is soft and white and he has thought: she was old before she was young."Told the Overlord—"

He falls asleep reading, and daring to dream.

Against his ear, the Radiance murmurs, "Come, my love, let us play this game. Over and over again until we are wilted away into nothing."

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-e.e. cummings