"Evil is a concept created by society to protect the weak from the strong."
They say that in the last moments before death your life flashes before your eyes. I never really believed that. Now I know differently. I can feel it coming, and I know there is nothing I can do to stop it.
I watch them draw together, their power combining in an unstopable hurricane, and I know they are going to kill me. I rage, it is all I can do, it is all I know. Then a try to fight back, a last desperate gamble in a shield to protect myself but it is pointless. I hate them. All of them.
The bandana-adorned brat called Ryouga I hardly know, but I hate him. The boy whose soul I captured to complete the sphere, Ranma, I hate him too. I know more about him. I know he loves, and I know it is this love that drives him to destroy me. I can not understand that. Love is foreign. Only hate matters, only hate is -real-. Thanks to them it is all I feel. I hate them for allowing me to hate them.
Gaeld, the dragon, there is nothing I would rather see than his miserable traitorous hide drapped across the battlements of the Keep. I hate the wolf too, whose interference nearly destroyed me, whose sacrifice created my brother. How could he? How could he create something that was me, that felt and that could love, yet leave me trapped forever with only my hatred? And my brother is no better, a martyr, he knows me and I know him better than any two people could know each other. I can understand him, and I do not hate him. I loathe him. He is everything I wanted to be, he is a mockery of my very existence. He shows me exactly what it is that has happened to me and I feel the darkness consume me when I think of it.
Blade, the one who comes closest to me. He is a pit of hatred as well. He has mastered the Iron Blow of the True Dragon, the ultimate expression of the inner darkness. Yet he has love, in all his darkness there glows a light that drives the madness from his mind and gives him the one thing I can never have. Hope. That is what Blade is, he is the hope I never had, someone so consumed with darkness that they seem beyond redemption. Yet the love of a women... no, TWO women gives him hope. I hate him too.
The last one is Heavensrun, a girl who thinks she's a man. Torn between two loves... oh yes, I know her, perhaps better than she knows herself. Know you enemy and all that. How dare she mock me, complaining about having too much of the one thing I will never have. She allows it to eat away at her, to feed her rage that fuels her power. It would be a pleasure to put her out of her misery.
I hate them all... and for a moment, just a moment the shield holds. I rage more, the power of my defense grows, but then it begins to shatter. My hatred is no match for their power. It is at this point I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is over.
With this I realize one thing, that there is one person I hate more than any other in this room. That person is myself. I hate what I have become because that is all I can do. I remember all my promises, all my intentions, all my failures... my hatred crumbles away to nothing. It leaves emptiness, but not the familiar emptiness of non-feeling. No, this is a different kind altogether, this one hurts. Hurts more than the fact that their power has struck me like the wrath of the cosmos itself. Hurts more than the reality distortions that I myself created flooding my body as water floods past a broken dam. Hurts more than feeling my body being torn apart by this, feeling my atoms scatter across the infinite that is the multiverse. In those last seconds they mistake my cry for that of physical torment. But they do not know the pain that fills me, and the phrase that burns across my eroding conciousness like a comet. The last thing I will ever think...
If only... if only it could have been different....
Journey Into Darkness
The Tale of Epsilon
Chapter 1 Innocence
A GRITfic by Aaron Peori
I first became aware in a house. It was not a large house, just four rooms and only one floor. By that era's standards it was almost a mansion. The front room was the largest, about thirty of a paces across and fifteen by the side. In one corner sat a chair, little more than a collection of flexible wooden logs covered over with the leathery hide of some animal I never did learn the name of. It brooded in the corner, whether because of the fact that the light of the fireplace that was within a mans reach left it perpetually in shadows or some strange aftereffect of the man who sat there I could not say. Above the aforementioned fireplace gleamed two swords, one was iron, the other bronze. They were my father's, he had used them in the war. At least that was what I gathered from his drunken ramblings.
Opposite the fireplace from his chair was the pile of straw I called my bed. In the center of the room was a table, made of oak or some other large tree, just a trunk cut thin and propped up one four rickety logs.
In the back of the room two doors led to my father's room and the kitchen. The next door, found directly opposite the fireplace in the far wall, was my mother's room. That room was sparse, a single bed (actually little more than a collection of reeds in a sack on a frame of bent wood) and a window covered in canvas to keep the cold out. Not that she would have noticed, in fact in her state she probably wouldn't have noticed anything. Jupiter knows we tried everything.
You see my mother was in what modern doctors would have called a coma. They probably would have been unable to figure out why, nor could I actually. And I had learned the hard way that asking my father would get me nowhere. So I accepted it, like I accepted all the other constants in my life.
It was my job to look after her, and I would spend many hours cleaning her, brushing her string like blonde-white hair from her closed eyes, spoon feeding her mush and forcing her to shallow. Her skin was pale, almost white, and tended to accumulate sweat as if she fought a battle as terrible, or more so than, the ones my father alluded to in those not-quite-rare times when he'd ramble into his wineskin. Sometimes, when my father was in a strange mood, he would lock himself in her room. I could hear his hoarse sobs all throughout the little shack, punctuated now and then by his fierce moans of loss.
I didn't know what loss was then, that would be a lesson for another time, nor did I know what the strange affliction was that caused tears to fall from my fathers eyes. Somehow I knew that these tears were not unnatural, and that in fact I was the strange one for not joining my father. Somehow, I knew that if I had done that things would have turned out differently.
For some reason I could not fathom in my young, albiet precocious, mind when my father returned from from those fits and would see my dry grey eyes the Fury would overtake him worse than at any other time. The Fury was another constant of my young life, one that I can say was perhaps the defining concept. It would come from nowhere, seemingly at random, and consume my father. His face would twist and his eyes would shine with some inner light that transformed him from a man into a beast spawned of nightmares and forged by the stuff of madness. Sometimes he would scream, his voice harsh and uncaring, blaming me for my mother's condition, other times he would just go straight to the beating.
Pain was one of my clearest memories, its bitter-sweet taste one I knew well. My father knew about pain too, or more importantly how to inflict it. His years in that nameless war had taught him that. I lost conciousness so many times that I didn't bother to count, but other times I was left battered and covered in my own blood, laying on the floor in agony that lingered for hours. I'm not sure how often my father nearly killed me, at those times when the Fury was at its worst. I remember at least five times, each time I could feel my body giving in, the darkness beginning to encroach on my vision. But not the cool darkness, no, this one was hot and within it my mind screamed. Yet each time he stopped short, each time he would halt himself and with an effort repress the Fury. Whether he did this because of some deep buried feeling for me or my mother, or to simply prolong the suffering I know not. Even so, I don't think I would have survived those first ten years if I hadn't learned that first important lesson: adapt or die.
As I said, I was a precocious child, and by the "tender" age of six I had learned that moving with a fist was easier than resisting it. I would, over the next several years, learn how to turn that to my advantage, rolling with the Fury rather than facing it. I would also adapt my body, strengthing it. This I did during my father's frequent trips to town. Chopping wood and hauling it helped to build my stamina and strength, and by the time I was ten I was already quite sturdy and well built, if small. I had several advantages over other children, if at the time I didn't know this. I healed faster for one, not much, but enough to make the difference since the Fury would come more and more often as I grew older.
The one time I did meet another child my age was when I was eight or nine. My father was out, gone to retrieve more wine no doubt. I was chopping wood in the back, the slow methodical motion of the hatchet sending a creeping burning through my muscles, but leaving my mind free to wander. I was unsure of what I was thinking, my young mind tended to drift from topic to topic. Maybe I was thinking of how the shadow of the sun would tell the time, or remembering the fact that the small leaf I had once dropped had been lifted ever so little by the steam from a pot of boiling water. Either way my thoughts went out the window when he approached.
Another of my father's lesson was how to understand and be aware of my environment. It was a neccesity when you had to hear your father approaching from a distance so that you could make yourself busy elsewhere. Sometimes I would simply sit, late at night when my father had fallen into drunken slumber, or during those days when my chores were finished early, and concentrate on the world around me. The scamper of a small rodent, the screech of the owl... but I digress.
I was aware of the child before he appeared, I suppose turning to face his hiding place was not the best thing to do in the interest of generating ease. I sensed a strange force from him, not one that my father had ever projected. This was not something with which I was familiar. In time, I would learn to recognize it as fear and curiosity.
"Come out," I remember saying, it being so rare back then to say anything at all that I remember it quite clearly. I waited for a time, unsure what to do. I considered going over, but somehow I knew that would make whoever it was leave.
"I won't hurt you," I added as I placed the hatchet aside. I felt whoever it was change, their mode shifted. Slowly the bushes in which he had been hiding parted and he stepped out. He was taller than me, with short hair almost cut to the scalp, of some brown hue.
"Hello," he said.
"Greetings," I replied. He seemed taken aback by my formality.
"You have weird eyes," he offered.
"I do?" I inquired.
"Uh-huh," he nodded, "They're all grey, see, my eyes are blue." He pointed at the aforementioned orbs. "With black and white and junk. Yours are just grey."
"Indeed..." I said.
"Chopping wood for the evening fire."
"I'm chopping wood for the evening fire."
There was a long silence, interupted only by the distant chitter of small animals.
"I better be going," he said, finally breaking the strange silence. "My parents took me on a picnic, they'll be looking for me..."
"Farewell," I offered.
"You're not like other kids," he said and was gone.
"No." I replied into the air, "I'm not."
I returned to the wood pile. -*-
I was sixteen when my mother died. The promise of my younger years had fulfilled itself after my brief and early puberty. My puberty had been unlike others, coming when I was young, as if my body had raced to catch up with my mind. I was also not plagued by hormones, somehow my lack of confusion over the changes that occured to me in those years would cause the Fury to consume my father more often.
Thankfully I was a sturdy youth, already as big as some men and nearly as tough. Still it was not enough to protect me from the pain, from the longs hours spent lying in a a puddle of my own blood, or from the cold embrace of unconciousness.
My own increasing strength seemed to be inverted by my mother. For almost a year her health had been flagging, her face had grown tighter, her hair thinner and her breathing more difficult. During that year my father's Fury continued to grow, while his self-control lagged further and further behind.
I was with her when she died. Going through my regular routine, as I had for as long as I could remember. Then, as I wiped the sweat from her brow I felt something inside her slip away. As it did her eyes snapped open, her voice cracked out for the first time in all my life. Her words were incoherent, her meaning lost forever, but I could repeat them verbatim now, over three thousand years later, not a syllable off, a tone incorrect or an octave different. Then she looked at me, her eyes filled with something, a power filled her that I could not understand. She smiled, a tear rolled down her cheek... and her eyes closed. Her last breath was one filled with a calm and peace I had never seen before. Her struggle was over.
I don't know how long I stood there. Maybe hours, maybe seconds. At some point I decided to get to my other chores. No use wasting time on it, less work to perform tomorrow.
When my father returned he was half dead from drink. His eyes shined red and puffed out, his gait slow and infected with an odd stumble. He had been like this a few times, and the Fury never took him at times like these so I knew I was safe for the moment. He would drag himself to his bed and sleep the night away. My father had grown fat over the years. His former warrior's build was hidden underneath an inch of flab that covered his entire body. His hair was usually unkempt, covered in his own sweat and oils. His face was shaved only once every few weeks. He smelled like the animal he had become. The few times his friends had come over I had seen the looks on their faces, and felt the throb that I would later identify as pity.
"Mother is dead," I said when he was half-way across the room. I was sitting on my bed, reading a scroll that I had managed to get a man down the road to give me for weeding his gardens. A fire burned high in the fireplace, to keep away the chill. Not that I minded chill, but my father preferred it warm and I knew better than to do something that would make him unhappy, not matter how illogical it seemed.
It was then I was to learn my third lesson. Never take anything for granted. For as I watched my father sobered in an instant. His lumbering gait was gone, the bloodshot eyes seemed to sink back into his face and cool. It was an unusual sight.
"What?" he croaked, I felt the sorrow flood through him, stronger than any time he had locked himself in with her.
"She died this morning," I replied, "Not long after you had left to help that caravan pack."
His body seemed to stiffen, "You were with her weren't you?"
"Yes," I saw no reason to lie.
He came over to me, and I felt the Fury grow within him. It's power was like I had never felt it before, it threatened to overwhelm me and it was all I could do to think as he approached. Then he struck me, and I was reminded that despite that fat he was still strong. He had to work for his wine, and he worked with heavy lifting, manual labor and other grunt tasks others didn't wish to do. Thus, under the fat was still a layer of muscle, strong as any steel. I was lifted from my seat and sent sprawling onto the floor. My cheek ached and I could taste blood in my mouth from where a tooth and gouged the inside.
"You little monster..." he growled, The Fury grew still, but he had not given into it. No, it seemed instead like he was only holding it back to allow it to build. He was on me in a second. Lifting me from where I lay he tossed me into the table. This time I rolled with it, and thanks to this my spine did not snap like a twig when it collided with the round table.
Unfortunately the table gave way, the legs fell out from under it and I went falling with it. Again I lay on the table, trying to get the strength to think. "You killed her!" His fist connected with my jaw, I saw light and my vision blurred as I skidded across the table top and collapsed to the floor again. "Little monster, you've been draining her dry all this time haven't you! But now you're bigger, you had to eat it all, well you won't get away with it."
I expected another blow but it didn't come, in fact, I had time to stop the spinning and raise myself to a crouch. What I saw however, proved that this might not have been a good thing. My father took down one of the sword made of bronze and turned to face me, holding it with deadly familiarity. Then the Fury overcame him at last. I watched my father die too that day, I felt what was him, and I watched it slip away like I had felt my mother leave. All that was left was the Fury. I knew with certainty that this time he would not stop, this time he would not pull himself short. This time, I would die.
He came at me with methodical measured strides, slow and easy. I had nowhere to go, and he knew it. So I did the only thing I could, I waited, now standing with feet spread to allow myself better balance. The Fury was hot, but not hot like before. Instead it was the burning cold of the Darkness that I had almost slipped into those few times.
Then he was upon me, sword flashing in the firelight like a shard of the sun itself. I tried to roll with the blow but it didn't work. The sword bit into my side, freeing a small river of blood that rolled down my leg and pooled on the floor. I did not cry out, I did not fall. He pulled back his sword, his face twisted beyond humanity and I felt the low buzz of pleasure flow through the Fury, the pleasure he felt when he would laugh with friends who pitied him. The wound was shallow, not life threatening by far, only meant to hurt. Oh yes, it hurt, like nothing else it hurt. I readied myself for the next blow. Adapt or die.
When it came I was already moving. He struck high, meaning to peel skin off my shoulder like a man may peel the skin of an apple. But I was faster, I ducked underneath the blow and crouched, feeling the energy build in my legs I went with it. Releasing myself forward my fist crashed into his stomach, sinking into the flab before it found something more solid. He fell back, winded, and I knew I had no time to waste thinking on how this was the first time I had ever struck back, how this could only mean he would make it worse. Instead I was around him and to the fireplace by the time he had recoved his breath. He turned to face me, his sword held low and the Fury burning coldly within him, even stronger than before. But I was ready, in my hand I held his other sword, the one of iron.
But I held it like a novice, my hands clenched in the wrong places and my stance all wrong. He smiled as he recognized this and shifted into a good stance, sword held high. And this was what I wanted. With a single motion I copied his stance, shifting my hands as I had watched him shift his. I now stood in a ready stance.
For a moment he faltered, than the Fury grew strong again and he was upon me. I was no match for him. He beat down my guard with a few mockingly easy blows and struck again and again, carving shallow lines of red across my chest and arms and legs. His sword flicked with the movements of a master, and I couldn't even see half his blows, much less have any hope of countering them. After a minute or so he stopped. I was still standing, I had not cried out. But I could feel strength ebbing from my wounds. My sword's tip lay on the floor, and I couldn't raise it despite all my efforts. My arms were lead, my legs were saplings bending under my own weight. Only my sturdiness kept me from collapsing and dying right there.
With a laugh he struck with the flat of his blade, sending me sprawling into the fire behind me. I felt the fire fall in around me and he smiled, expecting me to scream in pain as it burned the flesh from my bones as my body, too weak to rise, slowly roasted in the flames.
But I didn't die. The fire filled me with warmth, it flooded into my skin, and I felt something inside me swallow it like water soaking into the ground. And I could move, my strength returned quickly as the fire flooded me.
Without thinking I acted, throwing myself from the fire with my second wind I struck. Sword held in front of me like a spear I drove myself into his chest. He didn't recover from his surprise quickly enough to save himself. My sword point drove home, into the place where I could feel his life held. His body and heart were pierced, my sword blade stuck from his back. He died quickly, his heart stopped, his blood no longer flowed. His breathing stilled and he fell. Eyes open he lay on the floor, cold, lifeless. I realised that I had thrown the fire behind me into chaos. That logs had rolled onto the wooden floor, that my bed was already aflame.
I grunted and lifted my father over, pulling the sword from his carcass. I would need it later. I cleaned the blade, running it along his body to wipe the blood from it before taking down the sheath and sliding it into place. I turned and watched the fire beginning to climb up the walls of the house. I didn't have much time left here. Walking into the kitchen I retrieved some water and clothes, then I left. I stood at the edge of the clearing, watching the house go up as I cleaned my wounds with the water which I had boiled using the heat from that very inferno. Already they were beginning to clot, I would survive. Once I had wrapped the rags around myself, stemming the last of the blood flow, and felt assured that there would be no infection I left. Walking into the wood, sword held in one hand. I never looked back. The Beginning Author's Notes: This is the origin story of one of GRIT's most infamous villians, that being Epsilon. More chapters will follow as I finish them but don't expect this series to finish anytime soon. The entire saga of Epsilon covers three thousand years (not counting timewarps and other wierd stuff that happened) and it was a pretty eventful life. ----------------- Epsilon " Pain without Sorrow; Want without Desire; Purpose without Passion, That burns like Fire."