Think of this as the Anguished One's equivalent of Daichi's Perfect Ending, requiring everyone at level five and all possible recruits.
While I was thinking about the original idea for this, I decided to change one more thing about the Anguished One's ending. While I was writing, I really wanted to have Ronaldo to use as a viewpoint character. While I was playing I thought that while Yamato's suicide made perfect sense because of his mental state and specific issues, Ronaldo becoming irrational and randomly tackling someone that wasn't Yamato and wouldn't actually be coming totally out of left field? Because of the relationship he had with the group, Ronaldo most likely would have heard about the Nicaea administrator and probably would have wanted to recruit him so he had a source of information on Polaris that didn't ultimately come from Yamato. In fact, we see the Anguished One with civilians on the outside a few times, and given what he did during human history it seems likely that he was doing what he could to help them. For those reasons, Ronaldo's reaction to him felt far too much like a Deus Angst Machina when compared to how he acts in the other routes. Again, Yamato I'd expect this from because he has no idea how normal people act, but why is Ronaldo acting like he's been jilted?
According to TVTropes a manga adaptation of DS2 named the MC Hiro, so I used that for the fic. I named him Shinji Meguro in the game, both as a reference to the Eva references and to the SMT series' excellent soundtrack composer (although sadly the credits for this game don't list him).
This will probably eventually be added to: the full story is mostly complete, bar a couple scenes, but it needs a heck of a lot of editing & will need to wait until I finish at least my second route.
"Huh…! What, what is this place?" Daichi asked, feeling the sand shift under his shoes as he shifted his weight, smelling the sea air after so long trapped in cities surrounded by nothingness and then the strange, dead air of Polaris' realm.
"It's the new world," Hiro told him, even though they both knew Daichi knew that. It was just hard for Daichi to believe that it was real, that they'd really won, that they were going to survive until he heard Hiro say it.
"Correct. This is your new world. You will no longer be bound by anything," they heard.
"Huh?" Daichi asked, startled. "That voice… Is that Saiduq? He looked behind him and was not just startled but shocked to see that Saiduq hadn't appeared there. He always did that. But not this time. "Where are you?"
"I am before you." Since the Shining One had asked him not to appear behind him again. Of course, he was behind him as well, but he couldn't quite help that anymore because, "I am now the world. All will be with you."
"You won't show yourself?" Hiro asked, not jumping around the way Daichi had but looking around, scanning the horizon, trying to recognize his friend in this world. He couldn't. This was a new world, but a new human world. Another earth, made for them. The sunlight, the light on the waves, the messy strands of kelp already getting swept up onto the beach? After a week trapped inside shrinking bubbles of cityscape, the sheer naturalness of this place hit him like a blow, shocking him out of the determination to survive and keep his friends alive at all costs that had held him together and let him hold them together.
It was over. This was their world once again, not one that creatures from beyond the stars, from the Akashic Record could just waltz into and start deleting.
Or appear in and start helping.
Saiduq wouldn't fit into this scene any more than he had into Tokyo: despite the crazy things people wore and the crazy people who came there to see and be seen, Saiduq had seemed subtly off. In a place without any straight lines or right angles, just the curves of wave and leaf, wouldn't alien geometries stand out even more?
Saiduq had created a world for humanity, Hiro realized. That was their bargain, that was what Saiduq had wished for all along but been unable to achieve without someone else's guidance. There was no room in this world for the septentriones.
None for Saiduq himself.
"I have no physical form now, but I need none. This world requires no administrator," Saiduq said to Daichi, and Hiro knew that his fears had been confirmed. If there was no need for any administrator, and Saiduq was the administrator?
He would have no need for a body to use to speak to Hiro or his other friends if he was dead.
"You're going to die and take Heaven's Throne with you? That wasn't part of our deal!"
"The Akashic Records must be destroyed so there is nothing to dictate humanity's future but their will and their will alone, Shining One. I am a being of the Akashic Records.
"Then rewrite yourself into a demon before the administrator account is fully deleted?" Fumi suggested, her normally detached voice at the same level of, 'I am only somewhat amused by your bullshit,' as when she'd proceeded to multi-strike the Trumpeter, whose horn would break the seals turning the seas to blood and destroying the world, with laptops until he damn well did what she'd told him to do. Even though he'd proclaimed that he'd only obey God himself, was readying himself to destroy these humans for their hubris.
She was impressed by Yamato dying for his ideals, that that didn't mean she'd liked it any more than the others had. So he wanted there to be no more administrators? Fine. But there was another way: he could stop being that administrator.
"Oh," Saiduq said, appearing in front of Hiro, since he'd asked… But behind Fumi. "That hadn't occurred to me."
Since even he could tell by the way everyone was staring at him that they were just as surprised and confused as humans usually made him, he added, "I did think of turning into a human once," or rather wished he could know that freedom and potential, "but the reason I can't understand you that well is that the human mind and we Septentriones… Or the way we were," since there were no Septentriones anymore, "are fundamentally incompatible. I wouldn't be able to think or feel properly with a human brain, and I didn't want to burden you with something like that." Didn't want them to remember him as a drooling infant, unable to understand words without the translation protocols he'd struggled to write into himself over these millennia of trying to interact with them in a positive way.
Keita shuddered at the idea of ending up a weak and helpless baby after being one of the strongest things around. Saiduq might have looked like a human and fought like one while working with Hiro, but Keita knew what the others had looked like, what they'd been able to do. He still didn't get why Saiduq hadn't turned into this any of the times he'd gotten in trouble, rushing around the battlefield to assist the rest of them. Even Keita, although at least the alien had an excuse for not being able to get that Keita hated that, dammit.
Even Fumi supposed that under the circumstances, she wouldn't punish him for nearly just letting himself get erased like that. The thought of losing her mind, remembering her lost genius but being unable to think, unable to understand anything about the universe: what a nightmare.
"I am a doctor," Otome pointed out. "I could have looked after you, and I'm sure the others would have helped." Jungo, Makoto, Daichi, Io and Hiro would have jumped right in, and she knew the others would have done whatever needed to be done for one of them, however grudgingly. "Unless you didn't want to live like that." Like the patients whose minds were too far gone to even ask to be taken off life support. Nothing in there that could think, or feel, or enjoy life.
"The will to live, finding a reason to live: those aren't something I could feel, even though the Shining One's explanation helped." Such admirable creatures, struggling so hard to find and fulfill purpose instead of having one handed to them at creation. Not wanting to have one be handed to them at creation, perhaps because this would demean both them and the concept of purpose itself in some way?
"Hey, are you okay?" Daichi wondered. "You're…" Bouncing? Shaking?
Bobbing up and down was probably the best description, even if it seemed too cheerful and juvenile for Saiduq. Even though his cluelessness about human behavior coupled with good-intentioned apology made him seem like something of an airhead when he tried to talk to people, they'd seen too many Septentriones to underestimate him. To forget the power and alien will that was leashed there, the iron hand in the white puffball glove. Or head.
Clearly, combs were among the many human things Saiduq still hadn't grasped after millennia of observation.
Not that he needed a comb anymore.
The black cube within a larger shape that looked like the outline of a cube in gold – consisting of only the edges, without the sides filled in – stopped moving. "I am fine. Thank you for your concern," he added.
"You're one of us, you know?" Daichi thought it was a little weird how weird it wasn't, to talk to someone that didn't look at all human. They'd already known he wasn't human, though, and it wasn't like they hadn't talked to demons over the past week.
"Aww, don't stop," Joe said with his casual smile. "You looked happy. Like this dog a friend of mine had, that'd practically levitate when she came home, he was jumping up and down so fast." Only Saiduq was actually levitating literally.
"If you don't mind, Shining One?" Saiduq asked Hiro, of course. Which just made Ronaldo agree with Joe even more. He admired dogs: such loyal creatures.
"What do you want to do?" Hiro asked him, which seemed like an odd response until the others remembered that the former septentrione was odd. Maybe that was why Hiro became their leader so fast, not just his strength and tactics. He'd listen to people, figure out their languages.
The cube was silent for awhile, thinking, then it resumed moving up and down, not so much bouncing as happy? Energetic? Raring to go or excited at all the potential?
Such a change from the Anguished One, mourning the world he'd cared for and the people he'd helped. Blaming himself, because by giving the Hotsuin family and Yamato the power and knowledge to protect their world, he'd caused its end. All he'd been able to do was try to give them some tools to survive, despite already knowing the future preserved in the Akashic Record.
"I think my first purpose should be learning human social mores and interaction. Oh, yes!" The cube suddenly realized something and vanished in a blur of light that beamed up into the sky… Then paused and came back down again before solidifying again, this time into a human form. "First I forgot to transform into a human body, and then I forgot that I can't do that by accessing the Akashic Record anymore, but under my own power." Oh dear. "I'm so used to accessing it, and now I'll have to rely on my memory." Which, as this had just proved, was absolutely abysmal due to lack of use.
"Write yourself a scheduling program," Fumi recommended. "That's how I keep track of things like what clothing I should wear."
"…But you wear the same thing every day." And coming from Makoto, who wore a uniform, that said something.
"Yes," Fumi agreed. "Thanks to careful planning." She'd gotten these shirts in bulk. She hated clothes shopping. "So do they." She waved at most of the group, "So what's your point."
"That's because we didn't have any other clothes," Io explained, a little embarrassed. "Thank you again for doing our laundry every night," she said to Makoto.
"It's fine. Actually, I just had them put it in with the uniforms."
Airi was openly staring, while Hinako was grinning. "We have got to go shopping, girls. And you too," she told Saiduq. Not only did he probably not own any other clothing, but that outfit was incredibly dorky. Well, yes, he was a bit of a dork, but he'd be a cute one if he got a little meat on his bones and color in his cheeks so he looked less like a shut-in scarecrow.
Wait. Thin, pale: he looked a bit like Fumi. Well, they were both programmers. Pale as though the only light they got was from a monitor. She half-turned, the rising sun bringing out more shades in her ginger hair. Well, they had a beach right here! All they needed was sunscreen.
Keita gave her a look. "Uh, where?" he muttered under his breath. You idiot. He found himself holding back the volume because even though it was the truth, he didn't want to burst her bubble. To remind them that everyone was still dead.
"Right: We should start looking for water." Unlike the others, Ronaldo hadn't been living off JP's resources. He'd gotten not so much a crash course in survivalism but a pop exam. One that had been final for so many others. Wait. "You did remember to give us a fresh water source and some food sources, right?" On the one hand, this place had been created by a friendly alien god. On the other, the alien god was a space cadet.
"Oh yes, and coconut trees. I looked up human concepts of tropical islands."
Hiro smiled. "Let's go make breakfast." Well, more like dinner. Either way, Keita wasn't the only one whose stomach would be growling soon.
"How do you keep making this stuff!" Keita demanded, after a bowl of Jungo's chawanmushi appeared in front of him. "It's always fresh and just the right temperature, too!" He managed to sound like he was complaining.
"I'm sure there are shellfish," Makoto said to herself, scanning the shore. She'd always loved swimming: when had that gotten lost in a dream thwarted?
Yes, it was time to take back the water.
"I'll help," Airi told her. "I used to go looking for them with my dad."
Hiro and Ronaldo, with a little help from Makoto, divvied up the first things they needed to do. Ronaldo and Hiro went with Saiduq to find the stream that was supposed to be nearby, since Ronaldo seemed to have decided he needed a minder and Hiro was the one most likely to figure out what to ask him to jog his memory of what else he should probably tell them. It was a good thing he'd had the Akashic Record as a brain extension telling him what humans needed and what the new world should be like, because even though he was aware that humans needed to eat, septentriones didn't. He might have tried Jungo's chawanmushi, but while humans were reminded that food and water were urgent necessities they must acquire constantly several times a day, for him it was academic knowledge, like that the moon orbited the earth. Useful in some situations, like figuring out tide patterns for sailors, and certainly very important to the people who used it, but otherwise mostly trivia.
The kind of trivia Sherlock Holmes had made an effort to forget, to keep his mind clear of the useless. Maybe it was a good thing he was so, so… Him. After all, if he'd been a normal septentrione, he wouldn't have really noticed humanity, let alone liked it, or whatever the septentrione equivalent of it was, and wanted to help them.
Now Ronaldo was the one struck by the realization that Saiduq was the septentrione equivalent of that mad scientist girl Fumi.
Hearing Hinako's cry of delight followed by the loud meow of a grabbed cat and Jungo's happy rumble made him stop in his tracks. Saiduq had remembered to bring Jungo's cat with them?
Caring more than was considered rational about beings most people of his own kind didn't consider really people, or sentient, just too damn clever and selfish for their own good.
Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for life. And Saiduq had given humanity fire and who knew what else.
They were living in a world created by the septentrione equivalent of a crazy cat lady.
At least it was the kind that brought the really expensive cat food and probably some of those carpeted tower-things to climb around on, he consoled himself.
Hiro wouldn't have sided with the guy and encouraged him to basically become the new god if he didn't trust him, right? And Ronaldo trusted Hiro.
It fit, though. It really did. Ronaldo was a dog person himself, but what a lot of people liked about cats was their independence. Making a world where people could decide on their own what to do, with no god to boss them around or destroy all their hard work? A world with 'ideal tropical islands?'
It wouldn't be an ideal world of peace and harmony, but it was one he could believe in, all the same, as he watched the other two try to pull and tear a way through a large mound of some kind of flowering vine.
There was only enough room for two of them to be working at it, so he stayed out of the way until he saw something.
Surrounded by all this green, on a backdrop of pale skin, the color was hard to miss. "What are you doing?" Ronaldo reached forward and grabbed Saiduq's wrist, tugging him back easily and opening his hand up: it hadn't quite formed into a fist, but his fingers had folded flat in a reaction that wasn't quite human.
Shielding the wound?
"You hurt yourself?" Hiro asked Saiduq, clearly disappointed. "You should have said something."
"He doesn't have any calluses," Ronaldo said, which would normally have been an insult, an indication this was some rich brat that hadn't done any real work in his life. Damn. They'd need all the workers they could get to build shelter and keep finding food once the easy stuff had been harvested, so, "Someone'll have to make gloves out of something." Oh, his hands would toughen up over time, and he'd get some muscle, but right now his skin felt as thin as paper. Calluses were kind of like scar tissue: they built up to defend an area that got regular rough handling. Like muscles, you didn't have them if you didn't use them.
"Since I had the opportunity to choose my abilities, I gave myself a healing ability," Saiduq reassured Hiro, as casual as if he hadn't just been manhandled and didn't have a hand clamped around his wrist. "I thought I would finish this first: was that wrong?"
"If you're hurt, tell me," Hiro told him.
"And don't heal this. I've still got my old scars, but no new ones. You need to toughen up." Wait. "You're not human: will this heal itself?" He considered telling Saiduq to make a new body, one a little more sturdy, but if he couldn't look up human biology anymore? Maybe he should ask Otome to try to explain it to him.
"Yes: the standard regeneration ability is still here. I'm simply not using this brain or the normal senses for anything but relaying instructions and data, as well as perceiving what you perceive. It's mostly incomprehensible to me, but I'm working on it." The last phrase had the air of something he was trying out.
Right, alien space cadet. As a detective, too, Ronaldo knew how unreliable witness testimony could be because memories were so distorted by opinions and emotion, at the time and upon recall: that the mind could filter out even data that was important in hindsight or that the brain would fill in the blanks so people could be convinced they'd seen just about anything if it was done right. It was pretty insane.
If Saiduq was used to perceiving the perfect memory of every aspect of reality from the Akashic Record, the way humans didn't perceive the world? It probably would drive him insane. Hell, look at Ronaldo, the way he'd dwelled on his mentor's death, growing angrier and angrier until he lost sight of everything they'd both believe in.
And taking Yamato's word for it? For anything? Oh, he trusted Hiro, who was the one Yamato confessed, or rather bragged to, but Yamato hadn't remembered Ronaldo, or the specific man he'd had shot. Was Ronaldo's mentor really the only man to ever look into JPs?
Ronaldo was used to being able to understand people, read people. It came from studying them, trying to figure out how to do it. He knew how to spot the crazies, the psychos, and Yamato was one. Al Saiduq was the kind that got eaten alive by them, so no wonder he'd just handed Yamato all that information, Ronaldo thought as he tore at the vines, frustration fueling his strength as he ripped his way through. Huh, it was thinner than he'd thought it would be. Saiduq was right, though: Ronaldo could already hear the sound of running water.
A few hard stamps tramped the vines down enough to make a hole big enough they could walk through it. He waved for the two of them to go ahead, since the… teenagers plural were smaller than he was.
"But I was just joking," Hiro said as Ronaldo followed them through.
A small stream poured over rounded, mossy rocks, into a small pool where fish swam. The water looked perfectly cold and clear.
"Shining One… You don't like it?" Saiduq sounded disappointed, head lowered and with the small blush on those pale cheeks that was one of the few expressions he'd learned. According to Airi it could mean anything from very happy to, 'oh dear, I was rude again, wasn't I?' Maybe it just meant ashamed he was having trouble with something, and since he had trouble dealing with emotions?
"I didn't say that," Hiro reassured him as Ronaldo looked up the stream, seeing a small ornamental bridge over it, then raised his eyes past the garden to see the house.
"It's really nice. I'm sure my family can manage the property taxes. My cousin can chip in too… I'm sure they'll all love it." Hopefully Saiduq wasn't picking up on the tone of Hiro's voice. Ronaldo had never heard him so shocked or flustered. The kid had really buckled down to deal with demons and the apocalypse: maybe after so long dealing with horror it was pleasant surprises, mundane problems that he didn't know how to deal with anymore?
It was very nice, not Western-style ostentation or gleaming white but woods that almost blended into the forest, plenty of porches and bay windows.
Ronaldo bit back the frustration he'd allowed to turn into anger for far too long. To be fair, "…I asked you about a stream." So it wasn't really Saiduq's fault he hadn't realized that he should mention that there was someplace nearby where water came out of a faucet. Ronaldo sighed and looked down the path to the beach. "And the shortest route." When they could have followed the beach and avoided all the jungle that lay in a straight line between the beach they'd arrived on and this place. "So we've got a house." Well, they wouldn't have to build a shelter. "Wait. Your family?"
"I didn't want to get everyone's hopes up," Hiro told him. "Did it work?" he asked the pale one, and now there was another note there, so different from the 'it has to work!' of the final days.
"Did what work?" Ronaldo asked, feeling those terrible hopes rising up within him indeed.
"Well, yes. Polaris was deleting your world, but I… Well, metaphorically it was still in the trash bin." He'd loved studying human programming. First libraries, and now something even more like the Akashic Records, where people recorded their daily lives for no reason but that they chose to! Humans were truly amazing. "You see, giving humanity freedom wasn't my dream, not really. It was the Shining One that encouraged me to let it be my dream, that wanting change and freedom really was… something that existed." When his concept of the world contained past and future all written down, set in stone. "He helped me, even fought all of you, and I was the one that benefitted from it. So I asked him what he wanted, and first he asked me to restore the world, which was of benefit to everyone, not himself. Giving them the ability to make choices. When that was the dream he gave me."
So by Al Saiduq's logic, Ronaldo managed to puzzle out, "That just put you more in debt to him."
When that didn't seem to compute, Ronaldo realized that the septentrione had given humanity all those tools and knowledge just because he wanted them to prosper: there hadn't been any repayment involved and he certainly hadn't expected them to even be grateful. If anything, he'd seemed happy they weren't mad at him because his presents had gotten them in trouble.
Yamato was just a jerk. "So you wanted to do something that was for him, not for you," Ronaldo said, trying again.
Hiro hadn't thought much of that other conversation about 'the Shining One's' goals at the time, when there were so many truly important things happening. "I said he was going to be trying to do so much already, I wasn't going to ask for a tropical island or anything."
Which sounded like a tropical island was the selfish thing he wanted but was too unselfish to wish for.
Well really, Hiro thought, it was better than Al Saiduq trying to come up with something on his own. Still, if he was going to joke, he should have said something like how his only wish was for his friend to stop appearing right behind him. After days of skirmishes, attacks and ambushes, everyone's nerves were hair-trigger. Hiro knew he'd startled his friends far too many times, even though he'd tried not to.
Hiro's phone suddenly rang. Realization struck both him and Ronaldo at the same time. He hurriedly opened his phone to answer the call and put Daichi on speaker.
"Hiro, Fumi checked her phone to try to summon a demon and we have cell phone service!" an excited voice practically crowed, talking so fast the words were falling over each other in the rush to share his joy. "Io's talking to her parents! Where are you?"
"Go south." Since the sun rose in the east, that meant, "Face the shore and go right," Ronaldo told them. "You'll find a paved path." And probably a dock.
"Dad? It's really you? Dad!" they heard Airi's joyful cries over the background hum of voices coming through Daichi's cell phone. She hadn't really thought he'd be brought back, when he'd vanished before this happened, but she'd tried his number just in case.
"So he was…" Hiro glanced at Ronaldo. "Does everyone have their memories of what happened?"
"Of course, Shining One." Saiduq was surprised that Hiro would even ask. Removing their memories would be removing their knowledge: knowledge and memory were extremely important to a being of the Akashic Record. Not to mention that he hadn't had time to give them a choice of whether or not to forget it, and he hadn't wanted to spend his last seconds of life, his own tenure as administrator, forcing his choices upon humans.
Hiro's stomach growled then, and Ronaldo could see that he was torn between getting in the house and seeing if there was anything to cook and calling his family now. Ronaldo saw his decision-making abilities kick back in, and Hiro started forward. "The lines are going to be jammed. I'm surprised the others got through... Of course: we're on the JPs network." Which kept functioning when the others were down, so it had to be magical. "I want to call my family, but everyone's hungry..."
"I'll handle it. You head down to the shore and get them moving in this direction," Ronaldo told him, grabbing the alien's wrist again, more gently this time, because this was clearly also something he didn't quite understand but valued because it was important to his friends, and Ronaldo knew he wouldn't want to be watched either curiously or happily during conversations like that.
Jungo joined them soon enough, with a headset Fumi had gotten from wherever she kept her laptops. His calm and short replies to whomever he was talking to weren't as intrusive as Keita loudly arguing with some woman and Airi screaming at her father for faking his death. They weren't looking at each other, but from the way they were walking together, a little apart from the others to avoid drowning out their conversations with their loved ones, the two of them seemed to be bonding over their rising urges to hug and never let go and murder their parental figures.
They seemed to be handling it alright, but how were the people who had lived on the streets during those seven days, outside the protection of JPs, going to handle it? Going from having to do whatever it took to survive, watching others die, killing them and finally dying themselves back to civilized life? How would the world react to the fact the apocalypse had come, the world had ended and some people had gotten together to kill 'God' and put a new one on the throne? Had Saiduq really given up that power, the detective's trained suspicion wondered.
The trouble with restoring things so that people could make whatever choices they wanted was that people could make whatever choices they wanted.
They'd lost their chance at a utopia (or had they?), and now simple problems that could be solved by violence would be replaced by the constant restraint civilzation required.
Either way, Ronaldo was certain that if people found out what Hiro had done, the role he'd played, the boy who'd saved the world would end up thinking that had been the easy part. Everyone was going to want a piece of him, just like Yamato, Al Saiduq and Ronaldo himself.
Winning the war was one thing. Keeping the peace, every cop knew, was a totally different story.