Until Darkness Falls

For the first time since the ruin began, I felt peace. Peace in the unlikeliest of places, with the unlikeliest of people. Ringo and Ohji brought a sense of normalcy to our little group. Their bond reminded me what it was like to have a family. Perhaps the most peculiar part of my circumstances was that I was with Casshern. The Casshern I hated. The Casshern I vowed to kill. The Casshern who had destroyed everything I ever loved. The Casshern who was my savior on multiple occasions. The Casshern who was one of the only beings amidst the ruin that could make me smile.

My feelings toward Casshern had quite obviously changed since our first meeting. It had taken me the longest time to admit that the fire burning in my chest every time I thought about Casshern was no longer a fire of hatred. I had wrestled with my emotions for as long as I could, forbidding myself to love the man who killed my sister. It was sickening at first, my unyielding desire for Casshern. Now it was comforting. Comforting to have someone to spend my last days with. Someone to be with me while I waited for my death.

The sunset is beautiful. Ringo is running across the horizon making exclamations of joy as she observes it, Friender following playfully at her heels. Ringo is always drawn to beauty.

However, the beauty of the sunset is not what captivates me. The soft yellow glow of the sun makes Casshern seem luminescent. His endless blue eyes glint as he sits by my side.

"I'm glad we found this place," I say after a beat of silence. "It almost seems as though the ruin hasn't touched it." Casshern doesn't respond, which is normal. I pull my knees up to my chin, looking out at the sunset.

"I see Ringo has already started a collection," Casshern notes, starting a completely new conversation. He motions to the flower pots at my feet, a small smile on his face.

"She wants to grow a field of flowers," I say, laughing a little. "I agreed to help her, though I don't know how much use I'll be."

Casshern turns to me, a thoughtful look in his eye, and begins to respond but Ringo interrupts. She is beaming, as always.

"Casshern! Lyuze!" she calls as she runs toward us. "These are for you." She hands us each a blue flower, similar to the ones we saw Dune caring for when we went to visit Luna. I thank her, and her eyes glow with happiness. For a moment, her happiness falters.

"Those are the only two with color that I've found so far," she says softly. "I wanted to find another one to give to Ohji," she pauses and glances at the white flowers in pots at my feet. "Lyuze, do you think we could change the flowers' color? I would like to have a colorful field of flowers."

"Of course you can change their color," a gentle, yet gruff voice responds. Ohji. Ringo brightens at his response. "I can give you a dye so you can make the flowers any color you wish to," he says a smile in his voice. Ohji is always willing to do anything that will make Ringo happy. He is kind.

"Oh, thank you, Ohji," Ringo cries, running forward and hugging him. "I'm going to make the prettiest flower garden you've ever seen," she says taking his hand. Ohji nods in parting to Casshern and me, leading Ringo to the small shack so she'll have shelter when she sleeps.

The sunset has gone, and the sky is beginning to lose its color, shrouding itself in the dark blue coat of the evening. Casshern and I sit in silence, merely content to be in one another's presence. I lean back on my arms to stare into the night sky, unaware that Casshern's hand where I place mine. When we contact, I don't draw away, I let my hand rest there. Casshern is warm, and his surface is smooth and welcoming, unlike my own; succumbing to the ruin.

"It's almost sad this has to end," I say, looking over at Casshern. He returns my glance, his sad, blue eyes searching my face.

"What has to end?" he asks, softly. I shrug.

"My time with you," I say bluntly. I have long since accepted that I am going to ruin. I wouldn't have it any other way. To live, I must die. "I just don't want to be alone."

"You won't be," he says, his eyes never leaving my face. His strong, slender fingers lace in between my own. There are times when I forget that Casshern has a heart, but just when I forget, he reminds me he has one of the most powerful hearts of all.

"I'll be here," he whispers, gently brushing my hair out of my face. I scoot closer to him, letting him envelop me in his strong arms where I feel safe. I rest my head against his chest.

"I'm sorry that you'll have to see my ruin," I say, sighing. My ruin made me feel even more inferior to Casshern. Where he was flawless, I was melting away. Where he was strong, I was slowly weakening. "I guess I could never be as beautiful as you," I say, laughing darkly.

"You possess more beauty than I ever will," he says into my hair. "You have a purpose. You have life. I merely exist."

I look up at him. His eyes have always captivated me, though they hold an incredible sadness I- at first- could never understand. Casshern is right, I suppose, in saying that he simply exists. But that does not change the fact that he is beautiful and kind. Such a cruel fate should not belong to such a noble person. Without thinking, I press my lips to his. Such a sensation was never meant for a machine to experience. When our lips meet, I feel the fire burning in my chest stronger than ever, as though my insides are trying to claw their way out of my body just to be closer to Casshern.

"Then," I say as we break apart, "Until my ruin, I shall do my best to make you feel alive every day." I owe it to him.

"You already do," he says, so softly I wonder if I imagined it. Still, a smile forms on my face as I resume staring at the stars in the comfort of Casshern's arms.

Every day, here in this wonderful place, I have found something to make me smile. Today, it was Casshern. He was there for me, just as he promised. I hadn't expected to succumb to the ruin so quickly. I wondered if I should feel fear. Should I be afraid that my life was coming to a close? I couldn't feel afraid, since Casshern was so close. He was holding me gently, but firmly. Supporting me when I couldn't support myself. I was slightly aware of his touch, as he rested his head against mine. His blue eyes were still filled with that infinite sadness, though today it seemed deeper than ever before. I wanted to thank him for being here with me, for not letting me die alone, but my lips didn't seem to be working. My vision was fading, I couldn't really make anything out, except Casshern.

"Lyuze," he whispered, "Thank you for making me feel…alive." I felt nothing but joy in the end, for my goal was complete.

Casshern was there for me when darkness finally fell.