The following piece of fiction means absolutely nothing. It isn't supposed to take place at any definite point before, during, or after the Xenogears storyline. It's not necessarily supposed to have even happened at all, although you can intepret it however you like. It can be an allegory, a dream I had during waking hours, an actual part of the Xenogears world, or anything at all you want. But I'm not saying it means anything.
Any persons attempting to find a moral will be stepped on by Siebzehn. :)
Some had renowned the mountain, in days gone past, as the dwelling place of God. Some had venereated it as a source of enlightenment and divine influence. Many had journeyed here in search of revelation. Some had come for artistic inspiration. Some had come to meet God.
Kahran Ramsus had come here to die.
A tiny flake of snow alit on the edge of his long eyelash; he flicked it off with a quick blink and wrapped a tattered sheath of brown tightly around his body, pressing on into the white maelstrom. In the vortex of the crying winds, snow rose and swirled with liquid grace.
Ramsus's hands had long since gone quite numb; his withered fingers stubbornly clutched at the clasp of his flapping robe, too frozen to move from the position they had assumed. The wind lifted his feathery spray of grey-dappled hair and breathed a whirling gust of life into it, so that just for a moment, it danced with its own soul. And then the drift was gone, and a lock of hair fell down sadly before Ramsus's eyes, obscuring his view of the barren snowscape-- however little he might have been able to see.
..."The stability of your body is breaking down on a molecular level." Hyuga's eyes had been so heavy and sorrowful as he spoke the words to his old friend. "I wish it hadn't been I who had to break this news to you..."
"So what does it mean for me?
Hyuga paused, inscrutable, and gently rubbed at his eye before continuing. "It means you haven't much more than a month before your vital organs begin to cease to function, less if you put your body through unnecessary travail." And here his eyes, brown and watery, had filled up with tears. "I'm so sorry, Kahr. There's nothing our technology can do for you. I've tried so hard, but I can't stop it. I'm sorry, old friend..."
Here, on the mountain, the same numbness that had overtaken his hands earlier began to encroach on his booted feet, and distantly Ramsus wondered if even his muscles, his nerves were beginning to fail him.
With a soft groan, he heaved his foot forward, sinking it into a knee-deep sea of icy white, and pressed on into the tempest.
"If only..." He recalled the words with a strange wistful longing he couldn't quite put a name to. "If only you'd been allowed to stay in that Nanoreactor longer, instead of being taken out before your development was complete..."
The tattered edge of his coat snagged a thorny branch jutting from the surface of the snow and tore as he pulled away, leaving a frayed scrap of cloth dangling from the bare brush. The worn folds of the cloak swept a soft path in his wake as he pushed through the stifling whiteness.
"If we put you on life support, we may be able to extend the duration of your life for as much as two months, Kahr. But once your brain starts to give out... I'm afraid it won't matter what any of us do."
"Now, I can't guarantee anything; please don't hope for too much. But if you stay in bed without putting yourself through any kind of physical duress..."
"Hyuga. No. That's not me. I can't live that way... and I won't die that way, either."
His old friend gently tugged his glasses off his aging face, letting a lock of white-streaked brown dangle before his eyes. "Kahr..."
"To hell with that, Hyuga. To hell with all of that. If I must die, I'll do it alone, in my own way. That's how I've always wanted it to be. Please understand me..."
And Hyuga had reached for him and tears had flowed like a river.
It was said that once hypothermia set in, a feeling of enveloping, quite pleasant warmth would overcome the body. Ramsus shrugged the folds of his cloak tightly around his neck, and mused with a quiet wonderment that his own body, for all that it stood poised on the brink of collapse, was certainly taking its time in delivering him to that state of warm inebriation.
His eyes stung like fire, burned by the thrall of the white glare. Deep within his padded boots, his toes began to flare with the fiery pain of a deep chill. With a cry Ramsus stumbled, fell to his knees in the suffocating ocean of snow, and slowly let a whimper of pain escape his lips, mist rolling out with it in dense clouds. He couldn't go on this way...
For a time, he lay in the midst of the storm quivering, pain overtaken by exhaustion; and then, with a heave of fanatical determination, staggered to his feet and began marching through the snow, eyes blazing with a willpower that trod the line between humanly possible and unreal.
I will not give up now. Not when it's almost over.
His thoughts raged around a single idea as he began his stumbling journey towards the heart of the maelstrom.
Not time yet. Not time yet. Not time...
Fueled into motion by these three words, he made it a good deal further into the storm than even he had imagined to be within the capabilities of his dying body.
He had no notion of how far or how long he had traveled before he found himself before the junction of two fallen rocks forming a crevice, their little shelter already half-immersed by the falling snow. He knew only the need to rest; and with a half-delirious moan of exhaustion and bliss, Ramsus delivered himself into the grasp of the tiny inlet of rock and flung himself, haplessly, to the ground, then lay curled up within its confines as if embraced by the folds of the womb he had never known.
The ice-cold burning of his extremities had faded, replaced by a numb and restful warmth. Is this what it feels like, then? he wondered distantly, and nuzzled his head against the feathery cushion of snow.
"Almost... time... now..." he murmured aloud, before the motion of his chilled lips failed him.
All in all, he mused, it hadn't been such a bad life after all. Not when one considered the dismality of its beginnings. Worse lives have surely been lived, Ramsus thought with an inexplicable bit of good cheer. Never a dull moment, to be sure, and a little internal chuckle resonated somewhere in the depths of his dwindling consciousness as he thought this.
And yet... he regarded the thought with caution, taking care not to let it sully his dying contentment... there are just a few things I could've wished for.
He snuggled his chest up against his knees. Just once, just once... it might've been... interesting to talk to... ...him. Ask him a few things. After everything that happened in the end... is it possible that he too felt emotions somewhere in that dark and ancient heart of his?
Just once... ah, yes, just once would've satisfied him. But it little mattered now. He felt a dark and restful sleep coming on, accompanied by the inevitable knowledge that if he delivered himself into its warm and peaceful grasp, he would never again awaken. At one time this thought would've chilled him, terrified him. Now he looked upon it with a gentle sort of relief.
To sleep, Ramsus mused, perchance to dream. And his eyes began to close.
His eyes flickered open with just the remotest bit of astonishment. That voice...
"Stay in this world, just a bit longer. Ramses, my precious child..."
Of all the times I should've wanted to face him... this certainly never ranked among them!
"You called to me..."
The crevice of rock began to illuminate with brightness, a gentle and suffusing glow that made Ramsus shiver slightly as his skin returned to life in the warm bath of light. At once he became aware of the icy bitter chill that cradled his weary arms and legs, and sat up with a twitch, muscles weak and trembling.
Through a shimmering veneer of light, Krelian's eyes glittered wistfully at him; in a corona of brightness the man become god stood bare to the wind and cold. His feet touched the downy surface of the snow without causing the slightest whisper of an impresion. Wreathed in a twining curtain of hair, enshrouded by radiant golden wings, he gave the impression of a weary king dissatisfied amidst the wonders of the world. His gaze, so ancient and heavy, flickered across the crevice and alit upon Ramsus.
"Have you come to laugh at me as I die?" More than a bit surprised to find his voice functional, Ramsus nonetheless coughed the words out with a strong dose of bitterness.
Krelian was silent, his radiance dancing with shadows across the walls of the rock.
"Is it... is this what you wanted? To see me lose at last?" Ramsus inquired, his voice growing weak and tremulous.
"Lose?" Krelian's voice was scarcely audible at first. "Lose?" At this, he smiled, and his eyes filled with a hazy pain.
"Hardly. To be one with God is to understand the enormity of human suffering, of histories that cannot be cured. To presume myself worthy of looking upon your face again is, I fear, supreme arrogance on my part." His wings quivered slightly as he spoke the words, and Ramsus regarded him with an odd and intoxicating mixture of envy, pity, and awe.
"A thousand years for every drop of blood shed by my actions... by this measure, Ramses, I have exiled myself to the ends of existence."
Ramsus tugged at his sadly frayed coat, feeling himself shudder within its thin folds. "Why are you doing this? Why do you come to see me in my hour of death?"
"My child." And with this Krelian knelt upon the face of the snow, his hand extending to Ramsus in a gesture of peace but never quite touching. "Yes... I was never so enthralled with any life I brought about as I was with you. In so many ways you were mine, and in so many ways, in the end... you were what I ought to have been. And yet, what kind of parent was I?" His eyes began to glisten wetly as he spoke the words; Ramsus nervously averted his gaze. "I never gave you anything but pain and suffering, your whole life long. That such a beautiful soul had to be housed in such a poor broken body as the one I made for you is only the first of my wrongs."
"I..." Ramsus found his own voice imploring and hesitant. "I... am no longer bitter about it. I found my way beyond that many years ago."
"And even so, it pains the depths of my soul, however much can be said to remain of it, that I should have given you nothing in return for the measure of joy you brought to me."
Ramsus tilted his head to the side in curiosity. "Why do you tell me this?"
"Ramses. I cannot ask for your forgiveness." A tiny tear, radiant with its own internal energy, slipped down Krelian's face and vanished into the depths of the snow. "But my heart aches to give you something, something other than misery and loss, some remembrance of me which is not so terrible and painful."
Beyond reason Ramsus felt his heart begin to stir in his chest, and he sighed wearily. "What could you give me now... Krelian?" His arms quivered weakly as he raised them, and the tattered cloak fell from his shoulders and landed in a disheveled heap in the snow. "See how old I've become. My body is at the end of its existence, and I do not fear death. I prepared myself for this inevitability long ago. There is nothing more I wish to see or do in this world." Limply, he allowed his frail limbs to lower. "I can't find it in me to reject you, and yet... there is nothing you could give me."
"Ramses." Krelian's gaze lowered and he let out a sigh as gentle as a breeze. "You and your kind are children yet. Must you think in terms only of this world?"
"I..." Ramsus felt his heart give a little flutter, and a sudden weakness surged through his veins. Through something deeper than mere knowledge he understood that his body was giving way. The shadow of death was upon him, and he felt not the slightest inclination to resist its calling.
"My child. My dear, precious child... the end is near for that poor weak body of yours. Stand and face me, Ramses..."
"So that I might give you the only thing I can ever hope to give..."
Ramsus sharply drew a cold breath into his lungs. His body was tired, so tired and frail...
And yet, he was curious in a distant childlike sort of way. What difference would it make, in the end, if death came now or a bit later?
Gathering together the last dregs of his will, that will everyone had always found so extraordinary in its sheer burning intensity, he let out a soft groan as his heart flooded his body with its last measure of available energy and he stood before Krelian in humbled shame at the angel's magnificence, he the impoverished mortal with his sad shabby clothes and bewildered eyes and exhausted face.
"My precious child..." He stared in awed incomprehension as silent tears spilled from Krelian's pained eyes. "This is all I can ever hope to give you. If only it were enough."
Gently, his eyes full of something that might in some world have been called love, he raised a single radiant hand with one finger extended and touched Ramsus softly upon the forehead.
Ramsus's eyes snapped open.
"A--ah... aaahhhh!" He managed a muted cry of ecstasy in that instant as something no less than light made tangible exploded into his body and surged through his blood, pouring into every fiber of his being and he felt himself trembling with a bliss no words had ever been concocted to describe as the light embraced him, absorbed him, became him, leaving its vessel something very different from that which had existed before.
His heart pounded, pounded, and time beyond reckoning passed by in a second as the light pulled him gently into a womb without flesh and he was growing, growing through those long months of watery dreaming, held tight in the embrace of a living being beyond physical existence, all within the span of a heartbeat. And when he felt himself gently pushed out of that little world it was with a burning certaintly that he was quite ready to go. The child drew in a breath of cold air, and cried out, and that immaterial womb faded away gradually and left him standing there in the snow before Krelian, trembling with pleasure and astonishment as the light settled itself comfortably within his body.
Ever so softly, the touch of Krelian's hand left him.
"W... what..." His voice, suddenly strong and healthy, left his lips in a bewildered gasp as he felt a thoroughly pleasant tingling trace the length of his back, where something soft and just a bit damp unfolded in a spill of silver feathers. "What have you done to me?" Ramsus stared down at his body, as nude as Krelian's now and unfettered by any trace of age, his wings quivering as he drew his arms to his chest.
The world seemed bigger, now, just a little bigger, and filled with such wonder and mystery that somehow, some tiny corner of his mind was certain, he just might be able to come to understand at last...
"What am I?" He desperately searched the depths of Krelian's wet eyes for an answer.
"Welcome to the world, little one." Krelian's voice was a whisper of aching joy as he wrapped his arms around Ramsus, cradling the newborn angel into his embrace without encountering so much as a trace of resistance. "I only hope I've given you a more proper birth than you had the last time around."
Still a bit lost in his own wonderment, Ramsus clasped his hands together and nestled his head against Krelian's chest.
"Where are we going?" he murmured drowsily as Krelian spread his wings and the two began to rise from the surface of the earth.
"Home..." And, after a heartbeat, "Not my home. My crimes are too many for me to consider myself worthy of dwelling there. But your home..."
"But... where is that?"
"The place where all of our souls are born..."
"You mean... the Wave Existence?"
A subdued chuckle. "Of course we don't call it that..."
"What do you call it, then?"
"Anything. We have no need of words there..."
There was a sweet, long, and comforting silence as the world flew away so far beneath them.
"You shall see, little one. You shall see..."
Hyuga stumbled frantically through blinding waves of snow, squinting to see, his eyes all but useless amidst the tumbling white flecks. "Kahr!" Arms flailing madly, he struggled through a frozen ocean, snow falling into his boots and chilling his flesh. "KAHR!"
"He couldn't have done it... he couldn't have..." he gasped out, knowing somehow beyond all logic that the footsteps he had been following were indeed Ramsus's. "Never... even... got a chance... to say goodbye." A bit of black against the screaming glare of the snow caught his eye; at the very edge of his field of vision a thorny branch protruded from the snow. Snagged on the end of it was a torn bit of brown cloth.
"Kahr's coat..." Hyuga murmured aloud, and shook his head, his shoulders sagging under the weight of the undeniable reality.
He pushed on through the snow. The cold tore into his skin like a thousand knives.
Somewhere beyond that bush bearing its scrap of ill omen, the thick, shambling trail of footsteps, already half-obscured by fallen snow, led into a narrow gap between two rocks.
Calling out Kahr's name, Hyuga staggered through the trail's wake, the warmth of tears already beginning their courses down his cheeks before he had reached the entrance. "Oh, God... Kahr..." He flung himself into the narrow gap and instantly sunk to his knees, his mouth opening in a silent gape of agony at the sight of the tattered cloak lying in a sad curled heap.
With a tiny sob he extended a hand to touch the body of his old friend. And felt nothing at all beneath that ragged pile of cloth.
"Kahr...?" he murmured, uncomprehending; and glanced outside at the entrance to the crevice. The trail certainly stopped here; the junction of rock held no means of escape at all, small and tight as it was. The snow in here was scarcely deep enough yet to cover a body.
Hand quivering, he gently tugged at the folded cloak, and abruptly stopped, stilled with shock.
Tucked within those tattered folds of cloth was a single silver feather.
For a long time he stared at it wide-eyed, a picture of open-mouthed wonder, knowing somehow that it portended a miracle beyond any words in any language yet devised by the human race, or perhaps by any race. At long last he clasped it to his chest and held it there, held it close against his beating heart, head bowed gently in awed reverence and tears growing cold on his face. Tears of pure and unfettered joy.