That one spirit isn't hard to find after the war. You follow the thin "roads" (if you can call them roads) through the terrains of Hell (and Heaven and Earth, because in the end it's all the same) - past the rotting corpses of trees and the luminous, still-lingering, spirits of long-dead forests, to the deepest pits of the Abyss.

…you said, once, that light is found in darkness. They are... entwined - a string of night, a string of light, too close together to tell apart, most of the time. And the brighter the light, the greater, the deeper, the shadow it casts. That's never been more true than it is in you. Fitting, then, that your light lives in the dark.

Yes, that one spirit isn't difficult to find. Even in Hell, he is more distinct than the shades around him. Even here, he bears that brand.

Guts doesn't. Speak to you. He doesn't speak at all, though there's no particular reason that he couldn't. In a certain sense, he isn't really there - that you perceive his presence is a side effect of your function - the way you can see the minutiae that differentiates one soul from the next, even if they are not, technically, bordered. Because of this, you can tell where he is... and the fuzzy edges of where he begins and ends. Because of this, you recognize his face. Scarred and one-eyed, still clutching that blade. It is his will alone that makes him an individual inside the stream of souls. That will could make him speak. If he wanted to.

...how long as it been since you last saw him?

Your fingers are long and taloned and black and they brush against the cheeks that aren't there, empty spaces shaped like a man you once loved.

I told you once that there were gods, you say to him... though technically you don't say anything at all. It was shortly after we'd met Zodd for the first time. And after everything you saw, you must have believed... but even so, you had to fight.

You remember that well. The Black Swordsman's war against everything. He had no business making that declaration. He is remarkable, but he is only a man... and these things always end the way they end.

Your fingers are slim and silver-white, covered in thick gloves and mail, and they drag along the surface of Guts' ambiguous edges. He feels like light and air - not at all like the man you once loved.

You can't help yourself, you say. Yes, of course he fought. Of course he fell.

Your fingers are pale flesh and well-filed fingertips, and your silver-white hair settles over your shoulders. Your fingers, they linger at his face... gentle, gentle, as though he can feel you. Maybe he can - is it even possible for a damned soul to be ignorant of your presence? But it doesn't matter; he doesn't respond. He never responds. Such stubborn behavior from a man you once loved.

(No. A man you love.)

I won't ask you to forgive me, you say. Although, in a sense, just saying it means that you're doing just that. The demands of destiny are... consuming. Cruel. But nothing that happened would have happened if it were not necessary. Every raindrop that falls into the ocean - falls because it must . That is the nature of these things, and all things." A justification? Perhaps. But you see things differently, now - you see the great forest and every leaf on every tree. The tapestry of all creation, and the threads wound to create it.

The world needed me as I am, you say to those empty eyes. Of course, it was impossible to imagine at the time. At that time, all I knew was suffering, and the call of my dream. But now I know... it was time for the birth of a new world. And all birth comes from blood.

Your fingers brush against the nothing that is Guts' cheek, his jawline. And you tell him, It could not have been any different. His face is blank. If he has a war, now, it is no longer with you - only the nature of death, drawing him in, trying to break him down. But you remember a time when no one lived the way he did - hot passions and furious rage burned under his skin like fire, then. Sometimes, it was cooler, of course - a slow burn - and sometimes it nearly seemed to disappear. Those times, he laughed, and smiled, and you thought back then...

It doesn't matter what you thought. Those memories are nothing, now, but the memories of dead men.

You say, ...I won't ask you to forgive me.

And, of course, he doesn't respond.


A drabble written for a prompt meme.