Chrono Continuum Chapter 45
The light being's words echoed in Rakin's ears, but he couldn't bring himself to accept it. "I'm... dead? That can't be right."
"Afraid so, kid." the dark figure replied. "No living man has ever come here. You're dead. I'd tell you to learn to live with it, but... you can't."
"For that matter, most dead men don't come here," continued the light being, his voice far more pleasant than the other's. "And those that do certainly aren't as coherent as you are. Who are you?"
"My name is Rakin Guardia. What is this place?"
"This is a place that some have called the Astral Plane," replied the bright figure. "It is the final destination of those spirits which break the cycle of the Lifestream."
"You're wasting your breath, Derias," noted the black being. "He's just a human. He couldn't begin to understand."
"Be silent, Gaston," replied the light figure, Derias, his voice for once losing its pleasant tone. "Don't show off your ignorance. You've spent enough time here to know that normal humans don't arrive here. And almost none of them have had the inclination or ability to speak. This 'Rakin' is obviously special." He turned to Rakin. "Tell me, how did you die?"
"I guess I was killed by a monster that was attacking our kingdom." He shook his head. "I'm still having trouble believing that I'm dead. You said people come here when they've broken the cycle of the Lifestream. What did that mean?"
"Surely you're familiar with the circular flow of life? Life forms exist because they feed off of the energy of other life. This feeding forms a cycle, with predators feeding on prey and prey eventually feeding on the remains of predators. This is the Lifestream. You must have known some of this."
"Sorry, no. Why should I have?"
"Because it shouldn't be possible to break the cycle without extensive knowledge of the Lifestream. Cycle-breakers generally learn to harness the power of life energy."
"Every life form has life energy. Some discover how to increase the amount of their own energy, or even learn to use the energy of others. Do you mean to say that you have done neither of these?"
"I don't... think so. I've got some special abilities, yeah, but... I don't know if it has anything to do with life energy. I think Spekkio would have told me."
"Spekkio?" Gaston began to laugh. "Ah, Spekkio. He's still meddling in the affairs of mortals, eh?"
"You know Spekkio? Is he one of... what are you, anyway?"
"We are Ethereals, the old ones, created before even the universe itself," replied Derias. "But Spekkio is not of our kind. He is one of the remaining few of a lost race, nearly as old as we. How would he know of your powers?"
"He gave them to me."
"But he is simply an Eternal. True, he could grant you magical abilities, but he could not have given you power over life energy... could he?"
Rakin considered this. "Wait... life energy? What can someone do with life energy?"
"Well, one could do many things. The energy can be manifested in physical form, used to improve the functioning of one's body, nearly anything magic can do."
"Can it restore life to the dead?"
"Life energy can only be used by the living," Derias replied. "You are dead. There is no return for you."
"But... maybe you should give it a try," Gaston spoke up. He pointed off behind Rakin. "Do you see that dark spot over there?"
Rakin looked over his shoulder and saw a small oval of darkness, like a pool of water in the bright nothingness. "What is it?" he asked.
"It is a portal. We can use it to view your universe. But perhaps... Perhaps you can use it as a gateway."
"What are you doing?" demanded Derias. "You know he can't do that."
Derias turned to Rakin. "You must not make the attempt. You are dead. Your place is here, now, with the other souls. Besides, you cannot make it. The effort may damage you permanently."
Rakin looked back at the portal, then at Derias and Gaston. "I'll take that risk."
"No!" insisted Derias. "You mustn't!" He moved to stop Rakin.
There was a flash of energy, as Gaston's fist slammed into Derias. The light figure was knocked away, though there was no actual solid surface for him to hit. He began to slow, until he came to a complete stop. In the distance, he shook his head, and began to approach Rakin and Gaston.
Gaston turned to Rakin. "Go," he said. "I'll hold him here."
Rakin nodded gratefully, and turned. Despite having no actual solid surfaces nearby, he was able to run toward the portal. In a matter of moments, he had reached it.
He stood before the portal, looked into it. It was dark, but reflective, throwing a distorted vision of himself back at him. In a moment, the surface changed, showing his body, lying on a mat of some sort. His parents were sitting there, looking at his body. He touched the portal, and the image rippled, like water... but he could push only so far. It would not let him pass.
He looked back and saw Gaston and Derias locked in a grapple. Strange energies flashed between the two, as if they were fighting with more than fists. But they seemed to be slowly approaching, as if Derias were slowly drawing the fight closer to Rakin. He knew he didn't have much time.
Rakin pressed his hand against the portal once again. Again, it didn't allow his hand to pass. He pressed harder, but made no progress. He closed his eyes and tried to feel what he normally felt whenever he used his power. Exhilaration. Need. Desperation.
He glowed, he knew, glowed with the same light as this place he was in. This "Astral Plane" was connected to his power, somehow, and it seemed willing to help him. He directed the power flowing through him, and the portal opened like the petals of a flower. He jumped through, allowing it to close behind him.
"You fool!" Derias called after him, casting Gaston aside. "You cannot escape death! You have been tricked!" He shook his head. "I am too late. I must go summon the Reaper. But do not think I will forget this trickery, Gaston. You may have escaped the Wastes once, but do not think we will hesitate to send you back." And he vanished.
"So," Gaston mused to himself quietly, staring at the portal through which the human boy had escaped, "That's how it's done."
"I can't do any more. I'm sorry. I'm afraid it's no use," the doctor told her. Queen Nadia just nodded woodenly. She had trouble staying on her feet, so Crono gently brought her over to a nearby stump, and they sat down together. It was obvious that they were both taking it hard. When your son comes home, and dies before you can speak to him, you have to take it hard. But they were strong. They'd survive. They had to. They had no choice.
"Crono!" a voice yelled out from inside the tent. Melchior burst out, and, after looking around a moment, spotted the King and Queen. He ran over. "Crono... Marle... I don't believe it... He's breathing!"
Bricks and bits of glass and metal floated around in the mists that gave the End of Time any color whatsoever, but no one was there to notice. Gone was the simple paved road in the middle of nowhere, and the adjoining room. Gone was the platform holding the gates. Instead a twisted tangle of light floated in the emptiness, as the gates tried to unravel themselves from eachother, but with no success.
And something else stirred.
At first it was just a flutter, like the flapping wings of a bat. But soon one small area in all of the infinite space began to warp, and the reality of the emptiness itself began to unravel, revealing something beyond human comprehension. Fortunately, the rift soon closed. But there was something new in the emptiness of infinity. A cloaked form, shaped like a human, floating, for it had nothing better to do. It noticed that the old man and Spekkio had left, as had their "shelter" of sorts. The form didn't care.
It had a mission. Rakin. It hissed the name, not with contempt or respect, but with determination. And just like that, it vanished.
If I cannot bend Heaven, I shall move Hell.
-Virgil [Publius Vergilius Maro]