Chapter I – "Plight"
One had to wonder if having existence stripped was a blessing or a curse. If it was a person with a great deal of enemies, undoubtedly it would have been much preferred to be forgotten. If it was a person who had never really done bad to the world or its inhabitants, inevitably there would have been a side of personal hurt with the unfortunate consequence.
Nier had, in all of his wisdom and his years, not been able to truly determine which it was for him. He'd done it with the best intentions in mind and the other option given seemed cruel, even for him. For the circumstance, he'd believed that his actions taken were the right ones. Plenty of innocent people were going to die, and already had. Attempting to prolong Death's embrace was often interpreted as useless. Perhaps it was. No. In fact, it most definitely was in the long run. No one lived forever.
Thinking like that, however, was only serving more as a depressant than a realistic view of the world. How was he to go to a child and simply announce that death was inevitable and one had to simply get used to the idea that the morning you awoke in your bed could be the very last? No. Nier was never going to do that. He wouldn't have done it thirty years ago and he still wasn't going to do it now.
Not… that there were any children around in the first place.
For an undetermined amount of time—or whatever he defined as 'undetermined'—he had wandered through a space of complete, vast whiteness. Quite literally, it was nothing more than that. White everywhere. Blinding, white… emptiness. The other traits he could have handled fine, he'd assumed. Sure, it was like walking in the direction of the sun without the overexposure to heat. Sure, it was like walking either into or through an entire wall. It was the emptiness that had bothered him.
Ever stood in a field by yourself, far from the streets of traffic, far from babbling brooks, and the rest of what the world considered to be 'life'? Know the sound of absolutely nothing except your own footsteps? Know what it's like to hear not even the creaking of a branch too old for an aging tree? That incomparable silence, that unaltered state lacking in sound had been Nier's punishment.
'Punishment.' That was certainly the word to sometimes use. If someone had asked him, Nier would have said time lost all meaning in the White Space. He never grew hungry. Occasionally his feet would hurt and he would sit on the white solid beneath him. Every now and then his head would incline and he'd fall asleep. But then he'd wake up and start everything all over again. Non existence was a very lonely existence indeed.
Often, he'd wanted a mirror. Just to see if the lines in his face were increasing, perhaps above his forehead, at the outer corners of his eyes, or maybe even the ones around his mouth. Often, he'd wanted just a spoonful of water. Just to see if he could remember the taste and to verify that it wasn't simply a dream. Often, he'd wanted to go back to the world he'd come from. Just for a brief visit. Just to see everyone one more time.
Just to see her again.
When he thought of his daughter, the first immediate reaction was to cover his face with his hands and hold back all of the potential weeping that could have come from a father who missed his flesh and blood. When he thought of all that had trespassed and pushed him into his loneliness, it made him want to get a leash for the pent up rage and emotion that surged through his veins. When he thought of blue skies, suns, lakes, stupid days he spent fishing from the shores, and scolding sarcastic tomes…
Well. It made him want to die, actually.
But for one reason or another, there was a glimmer of hope in the too-old heart. Somewhere along the lines, it must have been locked in a chest, closed up tightly, and pushed aside. Out of sight, out of mind, the saying went. And though he may have tried—and tried hard—to forget, it simply stuck out, like a child too blind to realise that he'd put his trouser legs over each of his arms and a shirt about his legs. The hope that had been tucked away sometimes made him believe that if he could simply find the exit that he could go back to the world he once knew. Little childish dreams like that and Nier had outgrown the title of 'child' quite some time before.
His feet had begun to hurt some hours before. Or perhaps it wasn't hours. Perhaps it was years according to the hellish White Space. Perhaps it had only been a few minutes. However long it might have been, as Nier was less than capable of telling, he'd been unable to take anymore steps. His calloused hands rubbed at the arches of his feet, and brushed over the well-defined flesh that had grown rigid with the amount of time he'd spent doing manual labour.
Thank the gods those days were over.
Gods. Right. Nier scoffed and scowled over just the mere possibility. If there had been any gods at all, they'd long since abandoned their children. Of course there were tales of gods. Merciless ones, cruel ones, apathetic ones. Gods of all kinds. Large and small. Tiny and tall. Those were only stories, however. Nier had never seen a god, had never personally met one, though briefly he'd wondered if Grimoire Weiss had been one.
Regretfully that hadn't panned out with any truth to it.
Still. One had to doubt the existence of gods for quite some time. For if they had been present, Nier believed he wouldn't have lost his wife to the Black Scrawl. If they'd been around, nothing that happened would have… Well. Happened. No. Gods had abandoned the people. And if there were any that remained, they were likely sitting on a fine throne and laughing at the deteriorating state of the world and its inhabitants. To be fair, a god simply could have recreated the world with the right sources—whatever those might have been. Why a god would have any other reason to watch its own creation crumble away was beyond Nier.
Lowering his left foot, his hands lifted and rubbed over his face. He was tired. What he would have given to fall asleep and wake up in a bed again instead of a hard white floor. Even if it were the most uncomfortable bed in all of the land, even if it were a bed of spikes, he would have much preferred it to the drab and dull consistency of a world where he didn't truly exist. Like everything else he wanted, however, he was guessing that a bed was a bit too much to ask for. No. Whoever had put him into this place, whoever it was that might have been in charge had no intention of making things easy for him.
This was, of course, assuming he really wasn't the only entity to ever grace the never-ending horizons, ceilings, and floors of white.
The only voice he ever heard was his. It was usually when he was either mumbling something incoherently, or one of the few times he was truly attempting to recollect how his own tone sounded. And when he heard it, he didn't even hear an echo. Or perhaps he did and it never registered to him. Unfortunately when one was sentenced to that solitary confinement for so long, it became only natural to question everything uttered or believed to have been experienced. An eerie sensation. As if he had truly died, but had not the ability to recognise that he had passed on.
Again, that hope spoke up. The hope that he wasn't dead. The hope that all of this was a temporary hold. The hope that maybe—much to his chagrin—he had caught the Deathdream. Yes. Of course. That would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it? He'd caught the Deathdream and like the villagers in the Forest of Myth, he simply needed someone's help being pulled from it. The only problem with that was the lack of an existence.
Tyrann had been quite clear about the stakes. Never mind that in the 'heat of the moment' Nier had never stopped to consider just how Tyrann knew half of what he had. For all he had really known, Tyrann had simply used Nier and then gotten rid of him. Previously, Tyrann's attempts to unleash himself had been quelled. The easiest way to obtain freedom was to simply get the old man out of the picture. When he thought of it that way, Nier was more likely to define Kainé as a weakness, rather than an asset.
But the shade had sounded rather sincere. Well, if a shade could sound sincere. In his experiences, the shades simply made a bunch of grunts and growls. Well, up until the moments that Kainé had suffered. Were shades capable of speaking the common language then? There were too many unanswered questions. In hindsight, if he'd known there would have been so little time, Nier would have asked Weiss. He knew very well it was too late as he slipped his arms behind his neck and stared up into a never-ending sky of white.
So the conclusion Nier arrived at was that whatever plane of existence he was in wasn't the same one that the others were on. Or had been on. He also realised the possibility that he'd only been a pawn for Tyrann. Tyrann simply could have done away with Kainé afterward. And then likely Yonah, too. The shades were bloodthirsty creatures, after all. They couldn't be trusted. And the last thing Nier wanted to do was to sit down for a pint of ale with one and attempt to hold a conversation. There was also the note that in spite of how the signs may have pointed, Nier really had gotten the bad end of the deal.
It was like saying, "Well. Here. Save this person you clearly care a lot about, but if you do, you're going to get screwed out of your own existence." Except Kainé would have said something like he was getting fucked over. At the time, Nier hadn't thought much of her profanities. Honestly, he still didn't even in the White Space, but he wouldn't have minded hearing her yell and scream and throw a tantrum while slipping obscenities in here, there, and everywhere. Hell, even hearing Devola and Popola would have been better than nothing.
Well, maybe not. Most of this really led back to them. In fact, all of it did. Nier simply didn't know just how much or how right he truly was. And it seemed that the longer he lay on a floor of white, he wasn't going to get any closer to finding the answers to his questions. But then, even if he walked miles north, he wasn't going to find anything. There was nothing in any direction and that kind of hopelessness left him with the question as to why he even ought to try.
Scratch that. There was a reason to try, and a very worthy one at that.