The raging bon fire rose into the night, taking with it both Jeanne d'Arcs and the strikers in a cloud of white, intense heat. The wave of scorching air blew back Mozart's blonde locks. His school jacket almost fell off his shoulders.
Somewhere Shiro kept screaming.
Mozart stared, barely registering the stinging pain across his throat as the heat seared at his newly healed wound. The flames leaped higher and higher—a giant, all consuming cloud of destruction. Mozart's pupils dilated in the brightness; he had never seen anything so intense or so vivid. The fluttering light of the sacrificial fire bounced off the white stone of the courtyard, illuminating the school like daylight for a brief minute. The scent of burning wood and flesh. White hot and red.
Oddly enough, amidst the bon fire, not a single sound escaped other than the roars of the flames. Where were the screams? The weeps? Hadn't Jeanne wanted to live?
The stupid girl, did she chose to not let a single sound of pain pass her lips as she died? Did she really think she had the dignity or the pride to spare? (She was just a clone, they all were). Perhaps the heat burnt her throat, condemning her to spend the last minute of her life in silent agony. If Mozart squinted against the light of the fire, he could just make out the black, charred shape of the symbolic cross. The crosshairs were collapsing and the arms toppled to one side with no resistance. If there was a chance for Jeanne to regret her choice, it was now.
Still it was silent.
Mozart remembered his own silence as he dangled in the rafters of his room. He had writhed in the midair from the explosion in his chest; his neck were ground raw against the coarse rope. The more he had struggled, the more loop tightened around his throat. However, despair had kept Mozart in rooted firmly his gallows, numbing him to the pain. Music exploded in his ears. In the darkness, tears stun at his eyes.
The arms of the burning cross fell to the ground with a thud, a wave of bright embers drifted upwards—new stars joining the old ones in the sky, but dimming into nothingness before they reached the heights. Black smoke floated up into the heavens.
It was almost hypnotically beautiful. As Jeanne burned, tied to the cross, Mozart wanted to cry.
Maybe, just maybe, Jeanne's silence was predetermined. Even as tears trailed down her nineteen year old cheeks, the French girl restrained herself, dieing in silent dignity. She hadn't given them the satisfaction of hearing her terror centuries ago, and as she perishes twice again in flames, she will never give them the satisfaction now. No matter how many times she is remade, Jeanne dies a warrior, with all the pride a warrior deserves.
A few days ago, Mozart thought he had beaten the music out of his own head. As he smashed his piano until it could no longer make a sound, as he ripped his music sheets til paper bits fluttered around his room like ashes. After he destroyed everything he ever worked for; Mozarts ears no longer buzzed with sonatinas and gigues. Nor scales nor chords. Nor did the black and white of ivory keys float just beyond his eyes during day and night. He head was only filled with raw anger, and for once in his life—silence.
I'll show you want it means to be a clone.
But like Jeanne, he could not deny himself. After one blissful day of quiet, the music came back as he swung in the rafters. The notes exploded in his ears with a vengeance, louder and louder, demanding to be heard. As he passed out, Mozart felt a slight tinge of regret for these notes, who seemed like old friends that he would never hear from again.
When he woke up in a hospital bed, a bandage around his neck, Mozart tried to recall the music he had heard as he died. No matter how much he thought, stubbornly, they would not come back. Later, when he entered his room, he realized someone had cleaned and fixed everything like his suicide never happened. As he expected. When history doesn't go your course, just reset it, right? Didn't they say that history repeats itself? There even was the exact same piano, perfectly in tune, standing where he had left its broken wreckages. Mozart had collapsed in his bed, holding himself. A sad sort of laughter tugging at his lips.
Mozart again tried to recall the notes he had heard as he hung. He shut Shiro out of his room, wanting privacy as he sat at the piano, running his fingers alone the smooth white ivory. He tried so hard to beakon the music back, but the notes were gone. He had abandoned the music, so now they abandoned him. All he amounted to in the end was nothing—silence. That was the most terrible kind of punishment for a musician, even worse than death. Mozart had slammed the lid of the piano down hard, swearing he'll never touch the keys again.
But now something had changed.
As Jeanne burned silently, the notes came back. A slow crescendo creeping towards a booming fortissimo, until the music was pounding inside his head, like blood, wanting freedom. Louder and louder as the fire rose higher and higher, as if their jubilant noise wanted to make up for Jeanne's stillness. Slurs and crescendos, staccatos and fortes. Their urgency left Mozart breathless. Exhilarated, he felt hysterical giggles bubbling at the back of his throat. Mozart couldn't contain his mirth, as Hitler muttered besides him. While all around him, students collapsed to the ground in horror, Mozart found himself again.
And he laughed—loudly.
One last time.
Mozart turned violently, not quite sure which direction he was running in. He didn't wait to bid goodbye to Jeanne's corpse, charred to the bone on the cross. Nor did he worry about putting himself in danger. He was running, his legs pumping beneath him on the hard stone floor. Each step sent a jolt up his legs, spindly after his stay at the hospital. Exiting the courtyard, climbing up stairs, pushing open double wooden door. So many things had happened tonight, but he only had one thing on his mind.
Mozart stared at four, tall windows. In the darkness of music room, even the night sky looked bright. The French glass panels let in enough light to illuminate the room, but Mozart did not need that. He knew the way to his piano blind. And he headed towards it now. The piano. His source of comfort and pain, but mostly pain.
"Why…" Mozart murmured as he ran his long, slender fingers over the shining black lid. His heart thundered hysterically in his chest though he felt completely calm, "Why am I here?"
There was a slight frown on his face as Mozart lifted the lid—gently. Something was not right. He sat down on the bench, pausing a fraction of a second. He hands rose to rest on the keys.
They were warm.
Mozart knew. He felt the slight displacement of air as a a gun was lifted to point at the back of his head. Someone was behind him, someone who wanted him dead. But nevertheless, it did not bother him. Mozart was a musician, so he closed his eyes and played.
At once, Mozart knew it was the most beautiful piece of music he had ever created in his life, perhaps in all of his lives. Notes stringed together to make a soft echo, then crescendos into arching arpeggios and a haunting, sweeping melody. A playful but nimble chord rumbled in the left hand. The music vibrated through the room.
"You continue to play?" The voice that spoke was almost like his own, but deeper and softer, less mocking. Despite that, there was no mistaking who it was.
"Mozart…" The other Mozart chuckled behind him. Mozart could almost imagine him tilting his head, enjoying the music despite himself and the gun he held in his hands. After all, he was also a musician. There was pride in that.
There was a slight pause as the striker paid respect to the music.
"But that alone won't make you Mozart." The one standing behind him stated. His voice was very melodic. But Mozart did not turn even once to look at the invader, his fingers and mind belonged to the piano. He was engrained in the music. If they were truly the same person, then the other him will just have to understand.
"I…" Mozart shut his eyes, "…know that." But even so he could not change himself. He wanted—needed—to finish his masterpiece before he died. Otherwise there would be no justification at all for his existence. Mozart felt himself running out of time as his hands moved furiously to free all the chords he had inside his head. There was a click as the other one disabled the safety on his gun and pressed the cool metal to the back of his head.
But suddenly everything changed again. High fingers struck sharps and flat notes as Mozart triumphantly changed keys. The air shifted. It was as if night turned to day. In the lonely room, leaning over his piano and lit by soft light filtering through the large windows, Mozart had achieved something akin to victory against fate. The music, for a moment, became tangible in the air. Anyone in the room would have felt it encompass them. It knocked the older Mozart back. The striker gasped in shock and almost dropped his gun.
"What…On earth…?" The other Mozart muttered in surprise, breathless. His black clad torso twirled around desperately, as if trying to see the force that physically hit him. But inside his head, he knew there was no one there. He felt the full effect of the piano piece, because music was aligned with his soul, no matter how much he may try to deny it. Until today, the striker had not touched a piano since he left St. Kleio. He had been trying to run away from himself. He had reasoned that he would never reach Mozart, because he was not Mozart, and let himself go into ruin. To hear such music now, from someone who was a shadow like himself, gave the older man sudden understanding.
"Ah…" Mozart smirked quietly as his younger counterpart worked at the piano. Mozart's head swayed to the music as played. His brows furrowed in concentration. He did no need to open his eyes to see the keys; there they were, floating inside his head like always.
They were so alike, but worlds apart, "Perhaps you can really be Mozart." The one the striker addressed stayed silent. But there was a presence in the room, a sort of fullness. It was as if someone who died too early long ago approved.
"In that case…" The other Mozart sighed, "I am no longer needed." The striker closed his eyes and enjoyed the sound. Fitting the last thing he ever heard would be a piano, he thought, as he raised his gun to his own chin. He hoped this one would do what he could not, can be who he wasn't.
Mozart brought the melody to one last dignified conclusion. In the resounding chords, no one heard the gunshot. When Mozart resolved the piece, he was the only living person in the room.
He opened his eyes. The tears fell onto the still ivory keys.
Mozart remembered Jeanne, burning on the cross, her death witnessed by hundreds of students. The brightness that burned into his pupils still refused to fade, just as music burned through his head. Mozart knew he would not lose it again, even if he tried.
"This one's for you…Jeanne…" Mozart whispered into the air. Somewhere she would hear him. Mozart staggered up, producing his masterpiece has drained him, and stumbled out of the room.
He did not spare a glance to the body on the floor, whose golden hair, now awash with fresh crimson blood, was exactly like his own. He left the music room, which smelled like gunpowder and metallic blood, with a tint of sadness. He shut the door of the without hesitation, closing the other one inside with the black concert grand piano and the empty shards of music, which despite now being still, will eternally resound through the room.
However, if he had looked closer, past the smoking gun, and the pale blond strands of hair, he would have seen a strange expression on the fallen Mozart's face. There were tears on his still cheeks. Illuminated by starlight filtering in from the four glass windows, they trailed down the contours of his unmoving face, dripping onto the wooden floor boards. And as Mozart rested in a pool of his own blood and tears, a hopeful smile curled on his lips.
Let the silence be his requiem.