The name slipped off my lips; cracked and broken in much the same sense my body was after enduring attack after attack by the enemy. In front of me – it was him, it was really and truly him, twisted into something I could barely recognize. Claus. He'd been transformed into a Chimera, just like all of the suffering creatures I saw in the past while pulling the needles. Half of his face was covered in robotic parts and attached to his arm was a metallic, canon-like device, a tube of sorts leading to his back. The way it was combined into his face and arm, it looked excruciating and I didn't doubt it brought him as much agony as it brought the Chimera animals. He looked like a monster, but it was him and this was the first time I'd seen him since he was assumed dead three years ago. It'd been so long since our fateful separation - so long since everything fell apart and I was forced to undertake the fate of the world itself.
"Claus… It's me, L-Lucas…! I'm… I'm your brother! I'm your brother… Can't you see?!"
My voice cracked painfully once more as I cried out to him, uselessly pounding my fist against the ground to try and make my point clearer. How pathetic I was; kneeling on the ground and unable to move very much as I watched him with a tearful, bloodied face. My right leg was twisted in the wrong direction, signaling that it was badly broken. It was agonizingly painful, but it didn't seem to matter right now. Nothing mattered except here and now with Claus, my twin.
"…You're...My brother… Lucas…"
My eyes widened for a moment after he spoke, his voice seeming somewhat dreamy and as if he'd just woken up from a trance. He sounded exactly the same as he had before the fateful day he disappeared, trying to avenge our mother's death. It was like Claus hadn't changed at all in that aspect, and for a moment I forgot all about where we were and everything that'd happened. For just a moment, it seemed like we were back at our grandfather's house, laughing and playing with the dragos – a time before all of these horrors had taken place. It was just me and him, being innocent children with a happy family…
I shook my head, snapping myself out of my own thoughts. Those times had passed and I had to focus on what was happening now.
Here and now, Claus really and truly recognized me through blood-soaked clothing and filthy blonde hair. He finally realized who I was at long last, despite all of the years that'd passed since we last saw each other. A small smile finally found its way to my lips, tugging at the corners of my mouth ever so gently. That was finally it… Our fighting was over and we had each other again now that Claus finally recognized me. We could go back to being siblings rather than mortal enemies who had to fight to the death. For all the suffering we'd endured, he was right here and he was alive – he was really alive, even if he was a chimera now. That's what mattered now; we would worry about everything once we were home and safe again! It was a miracle to me – a beautiful miracle of life, and though I was in agony from our fighting, I felt so happy for that fact.
At my tearful smile, he smiled back at me lopsidedly, revealing a mouthful of razor sharp teeth that'd replaced all of his normal teeth – most likely in a horribly agonizing way, knowing Porky. His smile… Aside from looking almost demonic in nature with his replaced teeth, looked out of place and as if it didn't belong there. He was so shattered after everything, maybe it didn't belong there just yet. It broke my heart to see him like this, but I was so close to the Final Needle now.
I was only a few steps away from summoning the Dark Dragon and bringing forth a New Beginning for Nowhere Islands. The Dragon could perform amazing miracles with its wondrous powers. Maybe, just maybe… If I prayed hard enough, it would hear me and fix Claus, too. It was selfish of me to think that a god-like being would answer my plea for help when so many others needed it, but I had to hope for Claus' sake. All of these alterations of his body would be bitter reminders once all was said and done, adding to the horrible mental scars that already existed. I didn't want him to suffer that…
Though Claus was smiling at me with recognition, he looked so sad, too. After everything we'd both been through, I guess it wasn't surprising… We'd both been to Hell and back and not gotten out unscathed in the slightest. I didn't know everything that Porky had done to him, but I had a horrible hunch that it was worse than anything I could imagine, even after seeing so many horrible things that'd left me traumatized while pulling the needles. For everything he'd been cruel enough to do in the past, I was sure there was so much more he'd done to Claus that I didn't know of. The thought of that alone made me squeeze my eyes shut again with guilt and anger, clenching my fist in response.
Why couldn't it have been me? Why couldn't I have spared him that agony? I would've rather suffered for him than let him endure all of the agonies he did!
…But there was nothing I could do about it now, except face up to my fate and hope things worked out for the better of us all in the end. I couldn't take back what happened when we were kids… The pains we'd both faced or the traumas we'd both endured. I could only try now to make things better. This wasn't just for me and Claus – this was for everyone in Tazmily and maybe even the chance of bringing our mom back. I had my doubts that even the great Dark Dragon itself, with all of its grandeur, could reverse some of the damages that'd been done… To revive those that'd been long dead seemed like an impossible feat.
I slowly relaxed and unclenched my fist, letting my eyes slowly open as I looked back at Claus. My tears had almost fully stopped by this point, a sense of hope returning to me upon seeing Claus was reaching out to me. His one, non-cannoned hand was outstretched toward me, and he looked as though he was about to break down crying at any moment.
"Cl-Claus… Let's go home… Let's finish this and go home…!"
He seemed to hesitate for a moment, his hand lowering slightly as he considered it. There were probably a lot of reasons he wouldn't want to go back now. He would be shunned by the other villagers as he was; he would be seen as a monster for his appearance and for how he'd been manipulated to work for Porky. Why would he want to go back home when home was a painful place? I could…Understand that. I could understand why he wouldn't want to go back, but there was still a chance everything would be fixed in the end, so that leap of faith would be worth it in the end.
"It'll be okay... I promise… The Dark Dragon will help us… It'll help you, and everything will be okay!"
I pleaded to him, hoping he would come forward and rejoin the group, putting aside everything just for the time being until we could sort everything out fully. He looked down, unsure, before he gave a small nod. Soon, he was stepping toward me slowly, letting his hand fall to his side limply. His movements seemed sluggish, like he was tired and might collapse at any moment… I struggled for a moment to get into a better position, pushing myself up so that I could use my baseball bat to balance on one leg. I couldn't help the cry of pain that escaped my lips, causing Claus to freeze in place and cringe visibly.
"S-Sorry… I'm okay… Don't worry about me..."
This time I bit my lip as I pulled myself up to my feet, as to avoid crying out once more. A simple task that would usually take only seconds was now painstakingly laborious without the use of one of my legs, but I wasn't about to complain. I had no right to complain… I had to suck it up and bear the pain for just a bit longer. Sooner or later I was standing once more, using my baseball bat to balance myself on one leg like a crutch.
"Let's finish this…"
His attention snapped back toward me rather than the ground, giving a shaky nod in response to my prompt. He slowly started to move toward me again, before he halted once more, suddenly twisting around and looking around somewhat bewilderedly. Something had spooked him.
It came out in a breathless whisper as he restlessly looked around, as if searching for the aforementioned person. Both of us froze in place when a voice, soft and delicate like a breeze, spoke to us gently.
"Lucas… Claus… I'm so glad you're both safe… Claus, you must be so exhausted… Come with me, Claus."
My eyes widened and I found myself unable to move from my spot. Mom…She was here with us and… And she was going to take Claus away? When he still had a chance and we could make things right again?! Expectedly, confusion filled my eyes as I watched Claus, confusion shifting to terror as he picked up his previously abandoned sword and raised it up over his head.
"Lucas…. I'm sorry!"
Lightning flashed, summoned by his sword and aimed directly at me. He knew all too well that my Franklins Badge would deflect the lightning, so he didn't hesitate in sending his strongest bolt after me. It struck in an instant, easily reflected back at Claus before I could even think to move. It hit him head on and in only a moment, he collapsed to his knees, several of his mechanical parts sparking violently from the sudden powerful electrical current.
"Claus… CLAUS, NO!"
I ignored my broken leg and tried to rush to him as fast as I could; only resulting in my falling on my face in the dirt as the leg gave out on me. I shook it off as much as I possibly could give the circumstances, dragging myself toward Claus without the use of my legs. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, making the pain seem slightly less excruciating and giving me more strength than normal. Claus, oh Claus… As soon as I reached him, he fell onto his back, gasping for breath as he clutched at his chest. He looked like he was in agony… The tears that'd stopped previously started up once more, streaming down my cheeks.
"Claus… Why… Why would you?!"
I had to do something. I had to try and help him, even if overusing my PSI would cause me to black out. I had to save him! In reality, though… There was nothing I could do. I'd used all of my energy healing myself before Claus' attacks would kill me… I was already beyond exhausted and I was way too panicked to concentrate long enough, anyway.
A sob caught in my throat as I looked down at my dying brother, who was still gasping for breath painfully. Slowly, he reached his hand up and wiped away my tears, his pained expression turned to a more peaceful one, a smile reaching his lips. His hand remained at my cheek as he spoke quietly, his voice raspy and breathless.
"Lucas… I'm sorry…. I'm sorry it had to be this way…I'm going to where mom is now…"
His hand slowly left my cheek, dropping back to his chest as he closed his eyes. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I pulled Claus up and hugged him tightly, burying my face against his shoulder. Why… Why had it come to this and why had our mom taken him from us? I couldn't understand it… I couldn't understand why she would willingly take the life of the one person I really and truly could've had a chance to relate to! Dad had since gone completely insane and slipped into depression, leaving me to grow up almost entirely on my own… The villagers teased me when they would catch me crying, blaming my distress on not having a Happy Box... I could've had a chance to be happy again!
There was a slight movement from Claus as I hugged him tightly, his arms weakly finding their way around my waist to very gently hug me back. Our embrace…It would be the last time I could hug Claus while he was alive, wouldn't it? I sobbed against his shoulder, silencing it somewhat. Why… Why… Why did this have to happen?! Claus stirred slightly, his voice even weaker than before when it reached my ears.
"I'm glad we… Could meet again…. I'll miss you…"
...He gave one final breath before he fell limp in my arms, slumping full weight against me. His arms fell away from around me, dropping to his sides. All that was left was the hum in the distance from the pulsating final needle… Claus was gone. He was gone and it was my fault. I'd killed him... I'd killed him, but he was still smiling even in death. He looked so happy and peaceful; I was torn between being glad that he was put out of his suffering and between being infuriated that our mother had taken him away. He could've had a chance to live normally… He could've!
Our father, who'd been watching in the distance with my friends, made his way to my side as I let Claus down gently. Everyone had since woken up from being knocked out by Claus' attacks and were watching me in silence. Tears dripped from my face and down to the ground, not halting even after dad put his hand on my shoulder. I shook my head slightly at the touch, not even bothering to look up at him. Nobody could call me a crybaby when my brother had just died in my arms…Nobody had a right to call me a crybaby. I didn't want their stupid pity, but I didn't want them making fun of me when it felt like I'd had my heart ripped out and stomped on. At that moment, I was really questioning what I had left to fight for…
"Ah… Ah hope you'll forgive yer hasty brother, Lucas… Go on, ya got a needle ta pull. I'll stay here with Claus for ya..."
It wouldn't have mattered what my dad said; nothing would've pulled me out of this frame of mind now. There were no words to describe the loss we probably both felt, only a silent understanding that we'd always shared as a result of the tragedies. He stood up, helping me back to my feet with a somewhat worried expression at how badly my leg seemed to be broken. It didn't exactly matter to me, though; a lot more than my leg was broken.
Using my baseball bat to once again balance myself on one leg and act a crutch, I painstakingly moved away from dad and Claus, going toward the pulsating needle. It took a while, but I reached it eventually, leaning almost entirely on my baseball bat as I reached my hand out to it. It held such a powerful feeling… This was the final draw before I brought on the New Beginning. It didn't mean anything to me anymore, but I still had to do it for the sake of everyone else who was counting on me. Fate had been cruel to me, but it didn't have to be that way for everyone else just because I was suffering…
I grabbed it with my one free hand, relaxing myself to the best of my ability after everything. It was difficult, but the needle held such a powerful, calming vibe that I felt my tears stopping. It pulsated under my hand, causing me to give a nervous gulp. This was it…There was no going back now. Pressing what little remaining energy I had forward, a bright light flashed and filled the room. I staggered away from the needle once the light had flashed, gasping for air. My head was suddenly pounding and I felt blood dripping down from my nose at the over use of my psionics. I felt so dizzy… It hurt so much and my vision was starting to fade. The last thing that I remembered was my dad shouting my name and running to my side before I fell and lost consciousness.
It was some hours later before I woke up, my eyes fluttering open, only to be immediately squeezed shut again at how bright it was. That voice I'd heard… It sounded so familiar to me. It sounded so much like…
That couldn't be right. Claus… He'd had died in my arms before I pulled the final needle and passed out. I felt him go limp in my arms, felt his energy signature fade to nothing… He had died. I tried to open my eyes once again, squinting up at the pure blue eye above. It was sunny out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It looked just like a normal day in Tazmily Village… Hadn't I been under New Pork City, though?
"C'mon Lucas, look at me!"
That voice again! I sat up rather suddenly now, my eyes wide as I looked around. My breath caught in my throat at what I saw. Claus was sitting cross-legged in the grass next to me, grinning with a full set of normal teeth and not a single trace of robotics! He laughed smugly at my expression of pure shock, scooting closer to me.
"Cl-Claus? B-but how?! You died… and… And mom made you go to her!"
Now that I noticed it, my leg had been healed, and so had all of my other wounds. Even my shirt, which had been ripped and blood stained, no longer held a single trace of the events that'd happened. Had, maybe… I died, too? It seemed like the most logical explanation for this bizarre chain of events. It was definitely possible for how much energy I'd expended pulling the final needle, too…
"I know, I know, calm down for a sec!"
He looked at me seriously now, letting his smug grin fade away as he placed his hands on my shoulders lightly. His touch… It felt so comforting; comforting and certainly real. This was real, no matter what'd happened and not just a dream…
"…Mom said it wasn't my time. She couldn't come back with me… It's been too long, but the Dark Dragon could bring me back, she said. She wanted to see me one last time before she passed on to the other side for good..."
I fell silent. We weren't dead… Mom hadn't tried to take my brother away from me after all… And I'd saved Nowhere Islands? I was in absolute shock. I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. All that I could manage were the tears that welled up in my eyes as a result of the sudden intake of events. We hadn't managed to bring Mom back, but she'd gone to a better place and I finally had Claus back. Maybe… Maybe I'd been wrong to think there was nothing to live for. I'd definitely been wrong to underestimate the Dark Dragon's power.
"It'll be okay now, Luc'… We have a guardian watching over us now and we'll never have to fight again…"
I sniffled slightly; nodding as I practically launched myself at Claus and hugged him close. As a result, he laughed and rubbed my back, smiling a truly genuine smile.
It was a miracle. The miracle of life.