"Wars of Light and Darkness"
By: Jade Lightning, a.k.a. ReverseTheEclipse
"The First Interlude"
Verse Twenty-Nine: “Fight or Flight”
Picking up the pieces was a gross understatement when it came to describing this next step in Kashkie’s life. He was alive, and he was awake, but he wasn’t himself. Everyone could see it. It was like he still wasn’t really there at all, at least to all of them.
For Kashkie, he was very clearly there, very obviously awake, and yet he too knew something wasn’t the way it should be. The mountain for him to climb here was daunting, as he looked up at it from the perspective of someone who didn’t understand the first thing about climbing, or even how to avoid the dangers associated with it. All he knew was that there were dangers, and that he had no choice but to face them.
There was no going back to the Darkness. He felt safe there, but the one thing he understood now, and fervently accepted, was he was never going back to that place again. He never belonged there in the first place. Almost every thirty seconds or so, he had to remind himself of that. As often as he could spare the moment, the instant his mind strayed to something that hurt him, he had to remember it.
He belonged here with these people, in this world of Light.
Shadow realized pretty quickly that he couldn’t hold Kashkie’s hand through all of this. He still had to hide himself from everyone but Lily and Baralai. Kashoku had told him he needed to be Kashkie’s light, and he planned to be, but Kashkie needed to learn to lean on Deannalee, Casselina, and even Lily in order to get better.
That first night Kashkie didn’t leave his bed, the one he had slept on for that long year now past. They cleaned up after he wretched, sickened by the negative memories he had to swallow down, but now he relaxed around Deannalee and Casselina. Part of him still wondered if he was safe. They could somehow sense this, and kept everyone in the village away for the time being. He accepted fruit for dinner. His progress was small, but progress nonetheless.
The next day was the real test; Deannalee helped wash his hair, something he was nervous about at first, until he realized water didn’t hurt him and actually felt good. He recalled how wonderful water would have been in that horrible place he came from. Deannalee listened, wanting to understand the pain that tormented him, even if she could do little to help him through it. She gritted her teeth while keeping her lips in a smile as pain pulsed through the hand he crushed the day before. The doctor had wrapped it as best he could, and decided all they could do was wait for it to heal naturally.
She told the village she had fallen down on it. She wouldn’t hurt Kashkie any more over it. After washing his hair, she decided a bath in the lagoon would be better for him, as her little bird baths for him over that past year could only keep him feeling so fresh. Besides, if the water felt that good to him, maybe a swim would help heal him on an even deeper level. She would try anything at this point.
After lunch, Casselina cautioned everyone to give Kashkie space. While Baralai ran ahead giggling, Deannalee took Kashkie’s arm gently and they walked together. While he was still slightly unsure of her and everyone, except maybe Shadow, whom he could see following silently keeping a watchful eye, he latched on to her arm for safety. He wanted it to be Shadow walking with him; something about how Shadow watched over him, as though watching for danger, made him trust Shadow completely. It felt good having someone he knew he could trust watching his back.
Shadow was someone who was familiar with the darkness, and understood just how much pain and torment he was suffering. Seeing Shadow was reassuring. Somehow he figured out that nobody else could see him, except for Baralai, and so he never gestured to him or spoke out. This was a relief to the Dark Elemental. Maybe Kashkie would heal faster than he thought. He would be hopeful, but not overly so, as too high of an expectation can lead to horrible disappointment.
And yet, as they walked, Kashkie looked around. He remembered what Shadow said about trying not to remember names or specific details, and instead let the memories and feelings flow into him, and they would lead to the answers. Building trust in Deannalee’s steady gait, Kashkie would close his eyes and breathe…something he couldn’t do in that darkness with any sort of ease…feeling the world around him. The air smelled like salt and fruit, with a hint of smoke and various kinds of meat, seasonings, and vegetables coming from the dinner they were preparing for that night, a massive feast celebrating Kashkie’s awakening.
He heard them say it; a party for him waking up. It sounded silly to him in a way, but on the other hand, it made him smile, yes, even in his unsettled state. He was happy that people cared. These people were just as grateful as he was to be away from the terror. Maybe he was safe in this world of light after all.
The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. He remembered all the bad things that happened to him were in the darkness, and yet eventually he felt safe there. He couldn’t remember exactly how just yet, but he knew the darkness he felt safe in was different; somehow he blocked out everything until that comforting figure came, and even before then, comforting figures tried to reach him. He started to pick apart the connections he had made between suffering and darkness. If they weren’t one in the same, perhaps this world of light was separate from being a scary place as well.
He had certainly met more than enough friendly people so far.
They continued their walk. Deannalee would stop and talk to each villager. She would try and engage Kashkie slightly, but after a small introduction, she would talk herself, and let Kashkie stand there and listen. Shadow watched carefully and figured out what she was doing. She was letting Kashkie listen with the hope that memories would return to him. It was the same strategy he employed yesterday, and it worked to great effect, although, memories would come back a lot easier than his security and personality.
His mind would wander as it recollected memories and put them back where they belonged. He loved the feeling of the tropical breeze on his skin, warm and fresh, smelling of flowers the closer they got to the jungle. They stopped for fruit during their walk; oranges and pomegranates, which Kashkie accepted, and ate happily. He even smiled a little, still not speaking much, but making sure to say thank you before the walk resumed.
Deannalee smiled. This was progress. Right now, she was just thankful Kashkie was even awake, and that Teikaru was staying the hell away from them. She wasn’t sure exactly what would happen, but she couldn’t imagine an encounter between them would end well. The one thing she did know for certain, Teikaru didn’t care about anyone’s feelings, especially Kashkie’s, and she hoped whatever light inside Kashkie kept Teikaru at bay would continue to do so.
After they spoke with pretty much everyone in the village, the walk entered the jungle, with Baralai running home to spend time with his grandmother. Kashkie was wary at first, the jungle being full of unknown things. He felt Deannalee’s hand, the undamaged one that rested on his arm gently give a reassuring squeeze after his feet became frozen to the ground.
He looked at her and saw her smile gently. “It’s alright, it won’t hurt you Kashkie,” she said.
Kashkie wasn’t sure; he still wasn’t completely sure he could trust anyone, besides Shadow. He also safely assumed he could trust the children in the village, but even that he couldn’t be one-hundred percent sure of; they could morph into those same demons that gnawed on him ripping chunks of flesh out of his limbs and torso no matter how hard he cried for it to stop. If he couldn’t trust those children, could he really trust this girl? The vilest of evils hide in disguise as beautiful things.
This girl was probably the most beautiful in the village…what if she was the queen of those evil spirits? She certainly received reverence from the other villagers. Kashkie had seen it, them bowing their heads and greeting her as Lady Guardian. What if…what if her kindness was a ruse and she was leading him into a trap? What if those good memories he had were just planted there to get him to lower his guard and trust her? What if this world of light had every intention to torture him again with the promise of being just as worse?
His feet were glued to the ground, his legs were shaking. Any fragile feelings of trust he formed for this girl were starting to fall apart. He heard her call his name again but his eyes were shut tight. He swallowed hard; that terror was creeping back. He could feel it underneath his skin. The urge to run away was strong; he wasn’t paralyzed or tied down in this world of light. He could run away. He could escape. He just had to get his legs to move.
“Kashkie!” Deannalee frowned. Her instinct was to tighten her grip on him, but for some reason she stopped herself from doing it. He needed security, to feel he was safe, however if he was having an episode, a hallucination where he felt he was in danger, he might simply perceive her to be a threat. She had to prove to him that she wasn’t. Shadow watched closely. Again, he couldn’t always hold Kashkie’s hand. He knew how difficult it was to get through the nightmares alone, with only a memory, a solitary reminder that he would be alright, and yet it was a journey Kashkie now had to take.
Fight or flight. Do you stand against the darkness full of nightmares and continue ahead facing it, or do you run away and hide until the pain departs for a time? Shadow did a fair amount of the latter; he wasn’t ashamed to admit that. He knew that it wasn’t until he learned that you have to face it, due to it returning time and time again without cease all for the cause of destroying you, that you had any hope of surviving.
It was now Kashkie’s time to learn this.
“Kashkie,” Shadow whispered, sighing, “It’s alright to be afraid, but it’s not alright to let the fear prevent you from living, or trusting. …Believe me feeling alone and abandoned in a world of pain is a hopeless feeling, but, if I had given up, I wouldn’t be here. I’d never have met you. I’d have broken my promise to Arandor ages ago.” He rubbed his head looking over at them again, Kashkie still unwilling to move but his shaking even more violent now. “Believe me…I thought about ending my life more than simply a few times, and I don’t mean just by killing myself. Many times…I wanted just to curl up in a ball and never get up again after I ran away and found a little hole to sleep in, weeping away my sorrows. I learned a hard lesson. I lost my feelings as a consequence. You have to be strong enough not to run away, and brave enough to not sacrifice your feelings. …you have Arandor; you’re young and full of promise. I trust you’ll be alright.” Shadow looked out into the jungle. Old memories were still a hard thing to swallow.
He whispered, “You have your life ahead of you. As for me…all I have is an old, tired promise to fulfill, before my time ends at last.”
Shadow wasn’t intending to be heard, as he liked to keep moments where he had negative reflections on his own life to himself. Kashkie in his terror couldn’t hear it, and yet Arandor, or rather Kashoku heard him. With Deannalee standing there unsure of what to do, and Kashkie frozen in place while screaming on the inside to run, Kashoku’s spirit reached out to his best friend, his brother.
“How many times…exactly did you want to die? Shadow…I’m so sorry.”
Shadow’s ears twitched, his eyes snapping open. The last thing he wanted was for Arandor to hear that. It was hard enough telling Kashkie when Shadow was certain Arandor wasn’t awake to hear him.
“How…how are you awake, Kashoku?” Shadow said slowly, finally forcing himself to reply.
His words hung in the air for a moment, long enough for him to entertain the possibility that he was imagining them, maybe his spirit attempting to cheer him up. Arandor’s voice often took shape as words of encouragement over those past two-thousand years, floating into his head whenever he was ready to give up.
This time, however, they were very real.
“I think the Master Jewel did something. I’m pretty sure it was what freed me from the nightmare. Both Kashkie and I were in one. When I broke free, I immediately went to save him. It took a long time, but I managed to find him, and he was able to wake up. I’m not sure what his nightmares were about…but mine…I left you with such a mess, Shadow. I feel…horrible for this.”
Shadow trembled slightly. He immediately felt guilty for saying he wanted to die or just curl up in a ball until the pain went away. He felt ashamed for saying he lost his feelings. He wasn’t the only one suffering here. How dare he whine and complain about what he went through in the wake of Kashkie’s and Arandor’s suffering. Really, what Shadow had gone through was nothing…nothing at all…
“It wasn’t nothing Shadow. I know what you would say. It was devastating what I left in your hands. Breaking Father’s heart was bad enough. Leaving a duty that was supposed to be mine in the hands of not just my children, but all who would follow them, eventually innocent souls who had no clue and no choice but to accept their fate is even worse. …What you’ve been through, what you suffered, I…I feel worse than shame. To be alone and have to endure all of this…I’ll never be able to make it up to you. I was supposed to stand beside you and help you. Instead, I cost Kashkie his family and practically his life and you suffered needlessly. What else could my nightmares possibly entail? Shadow, my brother, I’m just…so sorry. …I can feel your pain, and your tears, even from here.”
Shadow wiped his eyes with his arms, dragging in a shaky breath. His eyes glanced over at Kashkie, the scene and the rest of the world falling away. An image of Kashoku overtook Kashkie, but didn’t arrest him, as Deannalee’s pleadings and Kashkie’s eyes remained locked on the jungle beyond, swallowed up in fear.
Kashoku appeared separately, just an illusion to Shadow, not one he could reach out and touch, not yet. Illusion or not, the echidna frowned. The pain he felt was real, Shadow’s pain.
“Don’t make light of it Shadow. I’d never want you to bear it alone, much less hide it or pretend like it is no big deal just to protect me from it. I can take it now. Unburden yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give up. It just means you were having to be too strong for too long without help or rest. You never quit, you’re here. It’s…okay to let yourself feel it.”
Shadow swallowed hard, staring for a brief moment before dropping his eyes. “I…I cannot. Kashkie, your descendants, Father and you; I can’t stop for a second. I can’t rest,” he wiped his eyes, “If I fail, I invalidate everything, all of this. I don’t have time…to cry or be concerned with my own pain.” He paused, and looked up sneering. “I had to block out the pain and every feeling I had otherwise I’d have failed!” He shouted. “Don’t ask me to take them back! I can’t! It’s…it’s far too late for that now,” he yelled, his voice eventually crumpling down to a whimper. “I’m gone Kashoku. There’s no point in feeling sad for me. I live for everyone else, not myself. Pity does nothing for me. I’m not changing my goals. …I can’t.”
Kashoku frowned. “Shadow…what…what happens when this is over? What happens when I’ve returned, and the world is safe? You’ll have…lived over two-thousand years fixing the mistakes I made, but never living for yourself. What happens then? How can you expect me to come back and live knowing you’ll likely die having not lived your own life?”
The ebony hedgehog was silent. “That’s…inconsequential to me. As long as I keep your children safe, get you back alive, and protect this world, whatever life I had was put to good use.” He looked up wiping his eyes again. “I wouldn’t know what to do Kashoku. I don’t…ever think about myself. I’m not sure, if I can even remember how anymore. …besides,” he looked out, “I did have my chance, with Lulabei, and I promised her there would never be another. There is nothing.”
Deannalee continued to watch Kashkie, unsure of what to do, unaware of the drama unfolding around her. Kashoku sighed softly. Listening to Shadow’s words was hard enough; it was made unbearable by being able to feel what was really going on inside his heart. It was pain not even the Nega Elemental Eclipse could touch. It was pain that was enough to awaken the eclipse, and yet Shadow swallowed it down and bore it. This alone was a testament to his strength. This made it clear how he was able to survive, but Arandor was not.
Something about this made Kashoku smile, even when he felt ready to melt into a pool of rubble as he took in the true gravity of Shadow’s pain.
“I wish I could hug you, and let you know everything is going to be okay. You know, it might not seem like it now, but your life is hardly over. All you’re doing now is living my life since I’m not around to do it…and you’re doing a hell of a better job than I did that’s for sure.”
Shadow blinked. He wiped his eyes looking up where he could see Kashoku’s spirit grinning. “You’re…you’re insane. A better job? Yeah right…” He paused, then smirked gently, “Well, maybe not that insane of a notion.” Another pause, leading to a sigh. “You wouldn’t have crumbled and abandoned your feelings and entire sense of self like I have. You’d still be your happy, hopeful self.”
“Have you forgotten how depressed I got? Have you forgotten how you had to come back here alone because I was too devastated to face what I had left behind? Shadow, you just don’t see it. You’ve always been the stronger one. You equate Light with Strength and Darkness with Weakness. You faced things I was too afraid to. You looked after me when I was too down to even care about what happened to me. You were brave and kept going no matter how much pain descended on your heart to torment you. You held on to little more than a promise made to someone you feared you may never see again, and you survived. So what if you had weak moments? You survived. You’re here, you’re alive. I died to that Eclipse because I wasn’t strong enough to make it. You were. You say you abandoned your feelings, but you stand before me now and weep. You haven’t abandoned them. You’ve simply pushed them down to keep moving forward. This means they’re still there, and one day, happy feelings will be the ones that leap to your heart instead of the agonizing ones that are there now. I believe in you Shadow. You just need to believe in yourself again, like you did so long ago. Like you did in me.”
With a heavy tremble Shadow’s eyes drifted back to Kashoku’s spirit. They stared at one another briefly before the hedgehog let his eyes close, finally able to swallow down the lump in his throat. “You’re…giving me too much credit. Kashoku, I’m not that…beautiful of a person.”
“It’s how I see you, my brother. It’s how a great many will see you. Not everyone will, but those whose lives you touch, those that love you the most for what you’ve done, they’ll see it. It’s how one day, maybe you’ll see yourself. Fight or flight, Shadow, that is what you said. You’ve been brave enough to keep going. You’ve been strong enough to put aside your feelings so that you would survive. Now you have to be strong enough to keep going, and brave, when the day comes that your feelings light the way to a new path in life. You have to be courageous enough to take it, and realize that that road, and the one that leads to keeping your promise, can be the same road. A promise follows you, it doesn’t lead. You carry it with you, no matter where else your life chooses to go. I know you can see this; you simply must be brave enough to. I wasn’t, but you will be, I just know it.”
Shadow looked up and saw Kashoku’s spirit grinning at him. The words sunk into his heart slowly, and he wiped his eyes. “You’re crazy you know? I survived the Eclipse because UnLight wasn’t as devastating as UnDark…Father almost saved you. If he had gone for you first then…then…,” he sniffed.
“That wouldn’t have made a difference. Shadow…I sense that once this is all over, your spirit will be ready to depart from this world. I’ll be the one left behind, and I’m alright with this. You’ll deserve the rest, my brother. My only regret is that you may die without knowing the joys I have. When the Eclipse took me, I knew even if I died, everything would be alright. Short of your suffering, I’ve been proved true. Please. Don’t write off happiness for yourself. Be brave. You and Kashkie are both facing something you fear. I know you’re both strong enough to make it. You’ve never let me down before. You won’t now.”
Shadow put his hands on his face, wanting to hide or force down the tears that spilled down his face. He held in the pain for so long, shoved the emotions down, and convinced himself that having any sort of happiness was unrealistic because it would only serve to hurt him in the end. That’s when he realized that Arandor faced it, once, twice, many times over. He was facing it now.
Taking a deep breath Shadow wiped his eyes. He wanted to run away, but instead, he faced it too.
“I’ll try, Kashoku,” he whispered. After a pause he shook his head and added, “I still think you’re insane, but, if you can face it, and if Kashkie can, then so will I.”
Kashoku’s spirit smiled, closing his eyes and slowly fading away.
“I knew as much…that’s how you made it this far. Thank you, Shadow. Not only do I feel better knowing I was finally able to comfort you, but now, you’ve given me strength to face the one thing my nightmares were about; having left you to suffer alone. I can face it now, because I know you’ll be alright. I’ll be with you, always, my brother.”</i>
Shadow blinked slowly. He reached out, as though he hoped to be able to follow Kashoku, or reach him in some way. “Your…nightmares were about my suffering?” he murmured. Closing his eyes he sighed. “The only relief for you would be to know I was alright and actually had a shot for my own happiness, instead of putting bandages on the life you left behind and trying to be sure it wasn’t lived in vain. It’s not selfish of me to have feelings. It’s selfish of me to rule out the possibility of happiness, because that makes you think, my suffering is all your fault.” He looked out. He could see Kashkie still frozen in place. He smiled some then, something rare for the Dark Elemental, looking out towards the ocean, impossible to see, though he knew it was there, much like his future.
“Maybe…happiness is worth the chance of a bitter end. Maybe facing the nightmare, is worth the reward of the dream on the other side. We’ll never know, unless we try, unless we dare, to fight.”
Something drew Kashkie’s eyes in Shadow’s direction. He hadn’t heard the exchange between him and Kashoku’s spirit, but it was as though the yellow echidna could feel Shadow’s pain bleeding into the air, and perhaps hear his words of strength and resolve. Still, this did very little to block out the nightmare scenarios racing through Kashkie’s head. Kashoku may have been reassured enough to face his nightmares of Shadow suffering, and Shadow may now have received reassurance that it was okay to be in pain and entertain the possibility of being happy while still achieving his goals, but this did little to comfort Kashkie. He was certain besides Shadow everything was out to get him.
Deannalee stood quietly, before finally having her own epiphany. In a world where you feel everything is going to attack you, space provides you with the only comfort. She looked down at his arm, and released her hold on it slowly. This caused Kashkie to tense up and look at her immediately, almost confused.
She looked at him stepping back. “I’m not going to hurt you Kashkie. I just want you to see that you’re safe. If you want to run away, you can. You’re free to do what you want. If you feel you can’t trust me…it’s alright, I don’t blame you, because I have no idea what you’ve been through. I can only try my best to help, and leave it up to you to decide. I myself know I would never hurt you, and if this is how I have to prove it, then, I will.”
Shadow glanced back over, taking notice of them finally. Kashkie stared at her, bewildered. She was letting him go? Of course she was! That jungle was probably full of dangers and all of her friends were probably about to turn into monsters that wanted to eat him and torture him in grotesque, indescribable ways. He knew he couldn’t trust her. She was a witch all along.
“Face it Kashkie…face her. Look into her eyes. Remember? She’s not someone you saw in that horrible place. She’s not someone that you fear. Just like you never saw Shadow there, and you know you can trust him, just like you trusted me, when I came to save you. I know you want to run away and find some place safe, but if you do that, you’ll spend your entire life running. The only real safety comes in other people, the ones you love, because when the scary things catch up to you, they’ll help you survive. You were alone in that place until I arrived. You’re not alone here. That alone should help you feel secure. Run away and hide like you had to, suffering all the while, or, face it and trust her, and let her help you fight the fears away.”
That voice…it was the figure he remembered, but had no idea who they were. He winced. He wanted to refute everything. Hiding was the only option…it had to be.
He swallowed hard and looked at Deannalee, frowning. The voice was right. She wasn’t in the dark place. She wasn’t someone that scared him. He was alone in his nightmares. It wasn’t until that figure came and saved him that he realized he would be alright. No matter what he did, hiding, crying, even gouging out his eyes, he never was safe, not until he had a friend there with him. It was a friend that was his final and only defense.
He remembered Shadow telling him that Deannalee and her mother had looked after his body and protected him while he was lost in those nightmares. He glanced at himself. He distinctly remembered feeling weak, sick, and wounded, and while he did still have lingering sickness from whatever poison ailed him, he realized he was in good shape largely. Perhaps he was a little out of shape from not having moved for a year, but he was a healthy weight, his body was clean, and he felt strong despite the illness that riddled him and the fear that shook him to his core. They had every opportunity to harm him while he was vulnerable, and they didn’t.
If he could trust Shadow, and this voice, maybe, maybe he could trust her. If having a friend was the only way he would be safe, he would put his faith in her. Shadow couldn’t always be there, but Kashkie knew Shadow was watching over him, looking out for danger. This girl would do the same.
He wanted to run away, but now he understood why his feet locked him in place. It wasn’t to keep him from moving forward, it was to keep him from running away until he realized he was brave enough to face the danger.
Swallowing again he shook his head gently, causing Deannalee to tilt hers. He held his arm out for her and whispered, “I’m…I’m alright. I’m not afraid of you.” He paused, closing his eyes. “Truth be told I…feel better walking with you.” He looked at her again. “I’m afraid only…of being alone again.”
Deannalee blinked slowly, but soon smiled, taking his arm. “You’ll never be alone Kashkie,” she said, patting his arm gently, “I just…wanted you to see I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
“I know,” he nodded, speaking slowly, “You’ll…have to be patient with me.” He looked out; “I have lapses in judgment. Sometimes I get scared and think that the trees will become monsters, or the children in the village will become demons that chew at me and rip out my flesh.” He looked at her. “But…I know that if I have someone with me, that even if those things do start to happen, I’ll have someone there to help me through it. I want that person to be you.”
“Kashkie,” Deannalee whispered slowly. She closed her eyes. She wanted Kashkie to live his own life. She was thinking in the days leading up to his accident about asking him what kind of girl he would like, to sort of encourage him to find her after what she had done to him. Now, he was in a position where he actually wanted to be dependant on her, and for now she had to allow it. She still had no intention of trying to win over his heart, per her promise, but she would never stop caring about him. This caused her to smile and look at him. “I’ll always be there for you Kashkie, I promise. If you’re feeling braver now, how about we go for that walk?”
Tilting his head Kashkie nodded, realizing he did feel braver now. “That sounds fine,” he said, glancing at her hand, then looking back at her face. “My…thoughts are more lucid now. If I get scared again don’t worry. Just…remind me that I’m not alone. I will be just fine.”
She smiled, nodding. “I will, because you aren’t alone,” she replied. She took a step ahead, followed by another, encouraged when his footsteps mimicked her own. They made their way into the jungle. Kashkie glanced around, nervously at times, unsure of what this world held for him even as positive memories of it floated into his head. When this happened he’d look at Deannalee, listening to her talk about their times in the village and their friendship, and he knew to trust her and those good thoughts over the nightmares and their tricks. He felt his body start to relax. Maybe he would be alright after all.
Maybe facing the fears would be where he found his security. If that happened, he wouldn’t have to run away anymore.
Shadow followed quietly, feeling his spirits lift after the encounter with Kashoku’s spirit. He still didn’t put much stock in a happy future for himself, but he could no longer completely write it out either. That wasn’t fair to anyone, Arandor or himself included. The suffering happened, yes, and there was no erasing it. This didn’t mean that things couldn’t turn around and have a much happier upswing.
This was true for all three of them, Kashkie, Shadow, and of course, Arandor.
Running away from pain, accepting it, deciding you’re okay with it because you think it’s all you’ll ever know, this is where the tragedy lies.
Fight or flight?
On this afternoon, three faced this choice. Together, they decided the only road they could take, was to face it.
“Will you fight or take flight?
Will you confront, or flee?
A choice has to be made,
Against a faceless enemy.
To stand alone and suffer,
Or take a hand in trust?
Will the strong one day find comfort,
For facing what they must?”
UnLight flipped through pages, looking at old tomes left behind in Mukot’s castle after his creator, his uncle Serpent was banished due to challenging his older brother, convinced his plans would ultimately lead to failure. It was one of those days where UnLight questioned it. He remembered that Serpent was the Guardian of Fate. This allowed him to see any and all possible outcomes of something, barring his own future.
He remembered him telling UnLight that out of all of them, UnLight’s future held the most hope.
Like Shadow, he didn’t put much stock in this. Like his older brother, he lived his life serving the greater good of another, his “father” Mukot. His sole purpose was to make sure Mukot got whatever his heart desired. He never stopped to think about what kind of life he would want for himself. Even Shadow had this chance however brief in his marriage to Lulabei, the short time spent living with Arandor. UnLight lived the entirety of his life in service to Mukot. He observed the world, he loved watching people and the lives they lived, and yet he never tried to put himself in their shoes.
He just never saw the point.
UnDark strolled past the room glancing in. He smirked; he got along well enough with UnLight now, but never passed up the opportunity to tease his older brother. Walking in he looked around, his mind temporarily distracted from his intentions. He knew what this place was and rolled his eyes in disgust. “Ugh, are you that bored that Uncle Serpent’s old library is your only course for entertainment? What a masochist you are. If you want some punishment I’ll make it more fun for you.”
UnLight looked up. “Maybe I’m not as bothered by him as you are,” he said, looking back at the book. “I know he said Father would fail and lose this war but, I can’t help but be fascinated by a mind that would dare stand against him. …a younger brother that would betray his older one. …Uncle Serpent had absolutely no faith in him, and tried to save him from what he saw as inevitable failure.” UnLight looked at his hands. “Is that what a brother does? Dare to stand up to his sibling and risk everything to try and save him?”
“I wouldn’t know,” UnDark hissed. “We’re considered brothers and I wouldn’t risk my life to save you. I still think you were stupid to save me, but since I’m alive now I’m not complaining.” He shoved some books out of a chair and leaned back in it. “I think you’re both insane. Being soft and vulnerable is what leads to failure.”
UnLight shook his head smirking gently. “You would save me, you just don’t want me to expect it, and that’s fair enough. …still.” He closed the book leaning back in his seat. “Everyone has something that makes them soft. I just…I wonder what Father’s weakness was, before all this.”
UnDark smirked; “Probably that idiot Shadow, but he got over that and by the time I came along he was made of steel. Nothing will shake him now.” He closed his eyes. “Getting rid of Uncle Serpent was honestly the best thing he could have done for himself; cutting off the useless fat like he did the rest of his family.”
“…The…rest?” UnLight asked, looking at his brother.
Chortling quietly UnDark sighed with pleasure. “Ah dear brother, haven’t you wondered why you don’t look anything like the rest of us?” He opened an eye, grinning devilishly. “It is because you look like two members of Father’s family that he got rid of long ago. His mother and his sister.”
UnLight sat up straight, physically stunned by this admission. “UnDark…how did you…”
“I found pictures our dear uncle kept. The hilarious thing is he doesn't even remember how he knows them, just that he knows Father is his brother. The idiot. The reason you look like that is you received his mother’s DNA chain. I heard she was soft and stupid, hardly worth having around…just like that Shadow and Uncle Serpent,” UnDark smirked. Getting up he went to a nearby shelf. “The only way to survive this world is to get rid of anything that makes you soft. Shadow’s almost learned that, but until he gets rid of feelings for that idiot Arandor and even his dead wife, he’ll always be weak, just like the rest of Father’s family.” He picked out an old book and dropped it on the table in front of UnLight. Looking him in the eyes he whispered, “You see for yourself, and you realize, dear brother, that only by throwing away all that gentleness, will you survive.” He grinned, then pulled back leaving the room.
UnLight blinked. The idea of Mukot having an entire family, a mother and a sister…it was something UnLight should have thought about before, but for whatever reason hadn’t until now. Staring at the book he realized he had a vague memory of his uncle explaining to him why he looked different, but for the moment he couldn’t remember the conversation in exact words.
Opening the book, it only took a few flipped pages to find what UnDark was speaking about. There were portraits drawn in line on two pages. On the right were Mukot and Serpent. Below them was a girl that was labeled as being Nienor of Love. Below her was a blank space, one that almost looked like it had been erased feverishly, and only faint letters vaguely representing the word “sacrifice” could be made out.
The girl was lightly shaded in with brown fur and blue hair. On the left page were two more portraits. One was of a powerful looking male Guardian titled Omega of Memories. He looked a lot like Serpent and UnDark, dark fur with blue hair and a mask, with multiple tips compared to their five. Near him, was a beautiful woman, brown fur, long red hair, and green eyes. Her name was Medula of Dreams.
This was where he got the brown fur from. The orange eyes couldn’t be explained away, but sure enough, he got his looks from this woman, Mukot’s mother, who he apparently had killed as she was seen as a weakness, and now he could not even remember her.
UnLight leaned back in his seat. What was his weakness? What did he had to cut off in order to be invincible? He thought about it, and rubbed his head when he realized there was no solid answer. He loved the entire world. He disagreed with this plan to destroy it all and turn it into Blackfire. He agreed with punishing Kalak, Shadow and Arandor yes, but not the senseless destruction of innocent people.
In that moment, he realized he would never be like Mukot, or UnDark, able to completely refute what could be perceived as weakness. He sighed, slamming the book shut. All he wanted was approval from them, approval from Mukot, and apparently he’d never get it. All he could do was as he was told, and suffer through the consequences.
He rubbed his head gently sighing. Suffering, more suffering. What a wonderful prospect this was. For whatever reason, as he swallowed down this realization, he looked outside, his eyes looking out into dark sky with its bloody red clouds swirling about in the place of a sun, moon, and stars. Though it disgusted him in stronger moments, somehow thinking about Shadow didn’t bring a vile taste to his thoughts in this weaker instance. Leaning against the window he sighed again. He always thought of Shadow as being weak, but he was now beginning to see both he and UnDark were very, very wrong about this.
All the loss and suffering Shadow had endured, both willingly and not so accepting, and yet he survived. Unlike Shadow, UnLight at least had people to turn to. UnDark wasn’t always the best company, but he was something, and even when he couldn’t be honest to him or Mukot, UnLight had the malevils that loved him and he could confide in them. They loved him so much they kept his secrets and covered for him time and time again and promised to in the future even in the face of Mukot’s wrath.
That was the closest thing UnLight had to real love, even if he didn’t completely see it. What he didn’t understand was how Shadow had gotten so far alone. Suffering, and alone.
UnLight closed his eyes. “Father’s not the one made of steel, UnDark. If you have to eliminate your weaknesses just to have faux strength, you might as well be made of paper. Shadow is the true strong one, for he doesn’t run away from his. I may know why I look the way I do, but nothing else is certain for me. I walk ahead blindly and in apprehension. Shadow moves without seeing the same and yet he perseveres. I wish…I wish more than anything I could be as brave as the family Mukot abandoned. His brother, his parents and sister…even his first son.” Opening his eyes UnLight looked out, frowning, a small sigh escaping him as he heard the words pass his lips just as they arose from his heart.
“I wish…I could be like him. Brave enough to face what hurts me, and strong enough to fight back without fear.”