Wednesday, April 25, 2012

(Fine. Here's what I put away. It's not so bad to think about it now. -Nick)

Nick has tried to write this story many times. Started to many times. Broke down and quit many times, swearing to try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.

I can't watch anymore. So I'm writing it for him.

Day 19. 11pm. The first time I got to meet Nick in person, and Green Man too. The three of us got together at Nick's apartment. Nothing special, to an outside eye, just sitting there. But it was actually a lot more than that.

The Presence was corrupted and out of control, and had been for the past 6 years. Green Man had finally agreed to kill Her.

But... this sort of thing is complicated, especially when working astrally. Nick has tried to put Her out of Her misery many times before, but he's never quite been able to accomplish it. Part of it was that he always held back, no matter how badly he wanted both their suffering to end. Part of it was that, even if did manage to somehow nullify the Presence, they were connected so intimately that his memories of Her, his doubt that She would ever truly leave his life, always somehow brought Her back to him, and the torment would start all over again.

Green Man was to counter that first weakness. I was to counter the second. My job was... to watch, basically. To be objective, outside confirmation of the Presence's death.

I wound up doing a bit more than that, but that comes later.
Nick has mentioned before that Green Man has some kind of impenetrable armor around him, armor that stayed with him even when he chose to give up this whole astral business. So he would be basically invincible for the first 5 or 6 minutes of the fight. Green Man was also, for a myriad of reasons, invulnerable to the Presence's illusions, illusions She used to tap-dance all over Nick's mind and heart for far too long. We took every precaution to give Green Man every conceivable advantage possible.

I asked Green Man if he was really going to kill Her.

Green Man said, "Yes. I am."

Nick said at the same time, "At this point, I don't have a life. I'm basically defending myself from Her horseshit about twelve hours a day, non-stop, for the past six years. Six years in hell. I can't go on like this, Val, not if Stick Man's gonna be gunning for me too."

I instantly felt bad for even asking, because it wasn't as though absolutely every other recourse short of nuclear weapons and hard drugs hadn't been tried dozens of times over. Nick loved Her. He still does. He wouldn't ask this of us lightly.

So we went to work.

The first thing I remember was a lot of explosions. Both Nick and Green Man insisted that I stay quite far away until the dust settled - near enough that they were still within my sight, but far enough that it would be more trouble than it was worth for Her to come after me instead. So I couldn't see a lot of the details of the fight, but I know it was enormous.

In an attempt to better understand what was going on, I tried to extend my senses towards the fight. I remember seeing/feeling a small, intense patch of pale light for Nick, and a smooth sort of blank spot for Green Man - or rather, Green Man's armor - and when I found the Presence...

There was a jerking sensation in the pit of my stomach, that same feeling of panicked disorientation you get when you expect your next step to be a solid one, only to find that the ground beneath your feet is gone.

It was a complete accident. I just... fell. I fell, and fell, and kept falling until "falling" was no longer a sensation that had any meaning. Everything was a dark gray swamp that pressed against me from all sides, made of nothing bug pure corruption. But no matter how much it all pushed, it was nothing but empty, empty, empty. Scorched out and hollow, with nothing but ravenous emptiness left behind.

It's a sensation I'm familiar with, now.

But then, for a few moments, there wasn't nothing. Inside all of the nothing, floating right up next to me, was a tiny white spark. And the spark was a child. And the child just looked at me sadly. She kept saying, "You should go." Nothing but those three words.

I tried asking who she was. But there was no answer.

You should go.

I tried to take her hand. But she wasn't Real.

You should go.

I tried to convince her to get out of this place. The corruption would destroy her.


Just... You should go.

I was becoming increasingly aware of the danger I was in, staying there. The entire time, the area shook as though it were rocked with blow after blow. The empty pushed in at me on all sides too, trying to make me implode and become as hollow as it.

But I refused to leave. I couldn't just abandon her there, no matter what she was.

"You should go," she said.

And then... nothing but intense, astonishing regret.

The spark vanished. Just... blew away like dust.

And then I was back. Not just back to watching, but back to myself. The fight was over, and Green Man and Nick were both looking at me expectantly.

I drew my knees up to my chest to hide the shaking. In a halting voice, I tried to explain what happened, and I think I got most of it across.

Naturally, Nick's first reaction was to apologize over and over.

Green Man was a bit more practical. He asked me questions until he had a basic idea of what happened and why it happened.

"The method I used was directly linked to, essentially, a grounding. Anti-magick, or a realer-than-real spot." Green Man shook his head. He looked exhausted, but not as utterly drained as Nick. "Couldn't touch Her any other way," he said. "Had to kill Her magic before I could kill Her."

I said, "I still don't understand how that explains it. I thought She was supposed to be amazing. How did I get inside Her?"

Green Man looked at me. "At the end, She had no defenses whatsoever."


Nick put his head in his hands, and his voice was ragged. "I'm sorry. I didn't think trying to see could get you hurt. I'm really, really, really sorry."

I said, "I'm not hurt. Just... stunned, I guess. I didn't know I could do that."

Nick paused for a long time. "I remember right before it all started," he said. "Six years ago... She begged me to kill Her. I couldn't do it."

"She wanted to spare you all of this, Nick," I said. "She knew where it was going."

His hands clenched into fists. "She was alive. She had a full life ahead, she'd gotten Her revenge. I just don't understand!"

"She was completely empty inside," I said. "Utterly hollowed. There was nothing left but that tiny spark, and... if it's any consolation, that spark was fulled with regret."

Green Man piped up then. "I have a theory that puts this all in a positive light. I mean, if She isn't actually a human entity in entirety, She's gone for good. However, if She does have a physical body somewhere, She may simply end up being deeply rooted in the mundane. Stuck there, so to speak. And given that's how I spend most of my time these days, it's not an altogether horrible--"

Nick growled. "[Green Man]. Just because you can't stand the feeling of connecting to anything doesn't mean everyone does. You scare me sometimes. Not to mention that, you know what would have been really easy? If you had actually tried to help me SIX YEARS AGO."

Green Man didn't bat an eye. "The entire point of my training these days is about being connected--"

"You have this thing where you'll notice eventualities," Nick interrupted, "and then hide from them. I think it'll be easier if you don't do that in the future."

"If it hadn't been now," Green Man said calmly, "I wouldn't have had the tools to do it at all."

This was clearly an argument the two of them have had far too many times.

I said, softly, "I... connect to everything, whether I want to or not. And I don't not want to, even to Her. Even now."

Finally, Nick looked away. "Fuck you for being right," he muttered. "Fuck you, and fuck Fate for fucking us all for six years..."
Green Man rolled his eyes. "There are other ways of being connected than astrally, and if She's a real human, She'll just have to explore them."

Nick ignored him. "Val, we both have the same feelings when it comes to being connected. I've spent 6 years being blinded, struck with illusions, and generally shoved through the cosmic equivalent of a garbage disposal... I'm not trying to argue anything, really. I just... really needed someone other than me who can sense this, to be sure that it's finally over."

Part of what I do is knowing when words are meaningless. Any way you put it, Nick would be, and still is, a long time in recovering from an ordeal like this. There was nothing I could say to him that he hadn't already told himself a hundred times over, and wouldn't tell himself a hundred times again, and still wouldn't be able to convince himself entirely that he had done the right thing.

I stood up. And I hugged him.

"It's over," I promised.

And it was over. Mostly.

But... you know that feeling when you just feel compelled to do something? Actually... I'm sure most of you reading this don't know that feeling, but people like me, Nick, and Ellen feel it quite often. This principle had slipped my mind at the time, but when you meet someone on that deep of a level, virtually the level of their innermost soul... it leaves a mark.

That night when I got home - over a year ago today, back before I was so fearful of outside influences, but no less susceptible to them - I was drawn outside, to the enormous maple tree in the center of my backyard. I didn't tell Nick or Green Man, but... the shadows of nothingness clung like cobwebs, and I needed to get them off.

I don't actually remember much of what happened next. It might be for the best. But when we met, the spark and I, She left a... an imprint, I guess. A template of Herself, Her real self, burried deep in my subconscious. I didn't even recognize or comprehend the ritual I found myself performing, but whatever it was, it was powerful. Powerful enough to attract the attention of dozens of entities all around the area, powerful enough to let me recognize them for what they were.

Powerful enough to hide my house from the gaze of the malignant? I don't know.

What I do know is, I saw her again. The spark, the little girl. Only in much, much clearer detail. She had short blonde hair that was tied partially up on one side, a white shirt underneath a blue dress with a lace hem and a little black string tied above her waist. She was very young, no older than twelve. And she was smiling.

She was smiling.

I was suddenly aware that this little girl's name was Stacia, just like I was suddenly aware of exactly what I had to do with the imprint the Presence left on me.

With more skill than I thought I posessed (skill that probably wasn't actually mine, if I'm honest with myself), I took the template and hid it in a special pocket of space, a sort of astral vault. Then I wove the energy around the template itself to protect and dispell, and to eventually draw back when the time was right.

See, it was then that I fully understood what Green Man accomplished hours earlier. What he was able to do with raw power that Nick couldn't do with skill. In destroying the Prence's body, he had violently divorced Her inner self from the corruption that had twisted Her, mind and heart, and completely taken Her over. Because I had "fallen in" the way I did, an imprint of Her latched onto me in the moment of Her death, and Her soul scattered to the stars to purify from the distortion it had undergone. When it was healed, She would be drawn back to the template and be born anew.

Stacia promised me this, and I believe Her.

So then there was only one thing left to do.

The bad news was, Nick, Green Man, and I had to return to the site of the fight and annihilate the corruption that was left behind when She died.

The good news was, this was actually the easiest part of the whole ordeal.

It was Day 18 on Nick's "Days Remaining" calender. We three went back to the same place as before, and the field of corruption was enormous. From the ground, it went as far as the eye could see. From above, it had boundaries, but they weren't fixed. If it had been on this plane, it would have been the size of four city blocks or more. It was dense. It was dark. It was moving.

Worst of all, it was watching. It could see us there, and that's more than can be said for most sentient entities. This thing... I don't know what it was, and hopefully I'll never know.

Nick just stared right back. "I remember the darkness," he said softly. "Whoever they were, they took Her, twisted Her, and let Her loose on the world. She deserved better. No one deserved the life She had."

I found it sad that he didn't qualify that no one deserved the life he had either.

Nick scowled and said, "When in doubt, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

And that's exactly what he did.

And by the time he was finished, with more anger than emotion than I thought (at the time) was possible from him... we were, in fact, sure. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

That was the end of it. Forever.

I told Nick afterward what I had done in my backyard the night before. About the little girl named Stacia, with her blue dress and her smiling face. About the promise that the Presence would be back someday, though he might not recognize Her when he saw Her. He took it... better than I thought he would. I think it helped that he finally had a target to blame for the past 6 years, one he could go all out against.

He told me not to tell him where the template was hidden, so he couldn't inadvertantly bring Her back before She was ready. I said okay, and gave him another hug.

After a long, uncomfortable minute, he hugged me back, and said, "Thank you."

So that's it. Now you know. Now Nick can get on with what he has to do in relative peace.

There are still a few more things that I have to do, though.

Keep an eye out for me. Remember who I am in the times when I can't. It helps more than you comprehend.

~Hakurei Ryuu


  1. Hakurei Ryuu's involvement was cruel to her, cruel to Nick, and cruel to anyone that had to watch the account being retold. It was unnecessary. It was out of character for you, Nick, to do things that would cause good people pain simply because you couldn't do what you needed to do on your own. Your reluctance to kill a corrupt, evil love of yours is directly the cause of what happened, of their pain. For that, I am disappointed in you, all this time later.

    She was right. You should have killed that poor girl years ago, rather than being selfish, rather than letting both your pain continue on for so many years. It wound up in the loss of life. The loss of innocence, and hell, so much pain it is disgusting to see even from a stranger's perspective. That little spark.. had bee there all along. That little bit of goodness, wishing for an escape, wishing for your help and watching as the corruption swallowed her whole had to endure every bit of cruelty that she wound up committing. That, out of all of it, was wrong.

    Little Stacia will come back when she is ready, when the timing is right. You have to find some kind of happiness in what's happened, in the fact that things are finally tying up and being understood. That you managed to salvage what little good there was of her, the REAL Her, and protect her in the end. That is beautiful. It is miraculous, and wonderful.

    Maybe in the end being selfish was necessary in that instance. But please, please do us a favor Nick, and don't let your Self become consumed like Hers did. Let yourself heal, become the beautifully amazing man that I know you to be. Stop letting the pain consume your life. I'm not telling you to try to overcome every terrible thing in one night, far from it. You are lying to your friends, hiding in a corner and hoping your pain will leave, telling yourself that the numbness is preferrable to the emotions. Yet you know as well as I, those horrible emotions are still there, you aren't truly numbed to their effects. You're suffering.

    Get up and DO something. Do the things that make your soul shine, help people once again, practice on the astral plane, whatever gets you motivated and moving. I promise being constructive will help you in the end, and it will prove your usefulness. Not to the followers, not to the Proxies or the Runners or anyone else, but to yourself. So you can feel truth and faith and confidence in yourself once more. I know who you are. This shell, it isn't you.

    There are many people that love you, that wish to see you through this time and want to support you. Let us. Let us help you, no matter our fussing or our fighting.

    You owe it to yourself.

    You owe it to Stacia.

    You owe it to.. well, everyone that's ever looked up to you.

    I have faith that you won't let us down.

    1. I'll take your words in the spirit they're intended.

      Look. Ellen gets to say whatever she wants about The Presence. She was on the wrong end of her for a long time, almost as long as I was. She gets a free pass from me. All you have to go on is this story, and events I've hinted at, and you're judging awfully fast.

      I was connected to that woman since I was a small boy. We were together wherever we went, and whatever we did. She was everything to me.

      When Val's mind left us, she didn't see what happened while she was out. Green Man asked me if I was sure about this.

      I told the thing The Presence had become, "He's going to shoot you. You WILL die."

      For the first time in years, she went quiet. She started crying. She said, "Do it. Please. Just do it."

      It wasn't the first time she'd begged me to kill her. This time, I knew there was no other way out. I told Green Man to do the job.

      I called Green Man in because I didn't have the power to finish the job anymore. She'd grown beyond what I was. Beyond what any of us were, really. Except what he could do. No one else could do the things Green Man did. I called in Valerie, because Green Man's senses are distorted by his armor. The thing the Presence had become, it's EXISTENCE screwed with my senses. I needed someone who could tell me it was over. Valerie was the only one I had left who could view it at a distance and UNDERSTAND it.

      So don't shit in my coffee, and call it nutmeg: thank you for your kind words, but there were some words you should have left out. Years ago, when she first begged me to kill her, should I have done it? Maybe. But as you'll find out, there were a lot of other people who fucked up who could have helped me save her. Others betrayed us to make sure that there could be no other outcome than what happened.

      So kindly shut your hole until you know the story. In the meantime: Welcome to the Impossible. It's time to save the world.

    2. It's kind of amusing how worked up Amy is getting about your personal life.

    3. It's kind of amusing how you're a dick, Ben.

      Although I am sort of liking the sort of narrative trinity this part of the story has - one takes care of the body, one takes care of the soul, and one takes care of the corrupting force. Magic being the apparent clusterfuck of allegory that it is... who knows, maybe it couldn't have been done any other way.

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    5. Nick? Could you do me (and the other readers) a favor and actually tell the whole story so we'll know what on earth you're talking about? You can't tell us the beginning and the end, and get upset because we don't know the middle.

      I do apologize for judging your friends' involvement before knowing the whole story.

      Oh, and Ben? Your reputation as the rudest commenter precedes you! I honestly don't care what you have to say. Kindly fuck off underneath your bridge.

    6. Yeah, she's generally got a point there Nick. Not saying she doesn't go too far at times while bitching people out on stuff(a level of tact we seem to share at times), BUT... she's only judging based on the information given her. So stop complaining when we don't understand the whole picture... when you aren't giving us the whole picture. There's only so much that can be deduced from the little pieces. We're trying our best over here. Xp

      Beyond that, still gotta say, you are WAY too hard on yourself man. I understand, for the most part, but still... Way too hard on yourself. Try and "Relax" a bit, eh? "The world's always ending." So take a day off now and again, hm?

  2. You guys want EVERYTHING?

    Okay. Fine. I'll see what I can do. But we're going into serious crazyland. We're talking really weird shit, shit so weird that *I* still question my sanity. We're talking the shit that turned my catchphrase into, "Now I might be insane, but..."

    So yeah. LEts talk about the past. Besides which, scrounging up all the badasses I can find is taking longer than I thought.

  3. We want the truth. Is that so much to ask, Nick?

  4. never snip those parts of yourself personally. ribbons stripped from the soul can never be sewn together again.

    your decision was the best route. take that from someone who walked that road less traveled.