World of Endings Promised
A story is for the readers, and the ending is for the writer. The beginning is merely an idea, a "what if I…" and so a story is born. The fun in writing comes between the beginning of the story and the ending, where the author shares what he envisions with the reader.
The ending, though…
The ending is like a secret pact between the author and the characters. No author should create a character without knowing how his story will end, for the ending is perhaps the most important part of the story, where the final impression is made. The ending makes the difference between a reader saying "Gosh, that was a good yarn" and "Wow, I want to read more! I wish I could read something else of hers…"
To jot down a story for the sake of a story is fun, but without knowing how it will end, it can never be a true work of art: the art of the writer.
This has been my tip for the month, to all prospective writers.
I give you the epilogues to the ending I have crafted for the tale of El-Hazard, for even though a book can stop having pages to turn, it does not mean that there is less of the tale to tell.
Epilogue One: The End
When recounting the legend of the Sleeping Guardian, it is traditional for storytellers to stop and wait at this point, because someone, even if they have heard the story before, will always bring up the fact that what happened to the Demon God just wasn't fair.
Whether a child's petulant whine or a philosopher's eloquent proof, the storyteller will invariably snort and say, "Fair? Who said anything about life being fair? Can you imagine anything less fair than life? We are born ignorant, spend most of our life cursing that ignorance, and just when we start to figure it all out, we die!
"And if there's anything less fair than life, it's love! Offering your heart to someone without reservation, trusting them with all that you are, without ever knowing if they do the same…"
The storyteller will pause for a moment, letting that sink in, then add nonchalantly, "Of course, without any real way of knowing, it is held that this is how the story truly ends."
Makoto runs his fingers down my cheek. "I've missed you so much," he says softly, then embraces me with welcome force.
Is this another of my dreams?
Is this an afterlife I never believed in?
Whatever it is, I don't care, for he is here and I am here.
And he is beautiful.
Epilogue Two: Should old Acquaintance be Forgot
Nakamura leans a bit closer to me from across the desk, leering. "Ms. Jinnai, I'll take the payment in money or on… other terms, of course." I feel his eyes crawling all over me and I have trouble resisting the urge to pull my suit jacket just a bit tighter over my breasts.
I suppose it's a good thing that the little toad is coming on to me so blatantly: It means he can't tell how much I detest him.
I can't remember where I first read the concept, but if ever there was a man whose soul was six sizes smaller than his body and twelve sizes smaller than his ego, Akira Nakamura is he. He's the sort of man who thinks his position is the most important in the world, and, sadly, he's just close enough to right to make him very, very aggravating. It won't be a personal thing to have him fired when
I have the power, though; he's been embezzling for almost as long as he's worked here. Call it… job satisfaction.
I act as though I don't quite get what he's referring to as I lean back in my chair. "The money will be in the usual account… once I get the information, of course."
It's hard not to laugh at his obvious disappointment; he just looks so stupid. I manage somehow, and he recovers quickly. "You know, there's a new French restaurant opening downtown. I could get reservations easily, if you're…"
I'm saved from having to reply as the intercom beeps. I press the button, and my secretary says, "There's a woman here who insists on seeing you, but she doesn't have an appointment. Her name's… Ifurita."
I try to mask my irritation from Nakamura. I know that I told that idiot to let anyone named Jinnai, Mizuhara, or Ifurita in with no delay! "Let her in, you moron, before she gets angry!" Then, I stand up. "I suppose this means our interview is at an end. I'll see you… again."
Nakamura stands up reluctantly and turns around just as the door opens. And she is standing in the door.
I can actually feel his eyes and mind leave my flesh as he blatantly looks Ifurita up and down. She pays no mind to him, though, and he walks past her, wearing a comedic look of disappointment once again.
Just after he walks out the door, though, he turns around and asks, "I've always wondered, Nanami. Why do you wear so many rings?" His expression implies more than a simple question.
Suddenly fed up with his odious habits, I say in a sweet tone, "Because my mother taught me that it isn't ladylike to wear brass knuckles." I firmly shut the door in his face, then turn around with a broad smile on my face. "It's been a long time, Ifurita." I gather her into a hug that she doesn't respond to at first, but, after a few moments, her arms come up and she grips me tightly.
For a moment, I wonder what could possibly be soaking the shoulder of my almost-Armani suit, staining the silk, then I realize that Ifurita, Demon God of legend, is shedding hot tears of grief all over my shoulders.
My left hand comes up to where her head rests on my shoulders and I stroke her platinum hair comfortingly. "Shh… it'll be all right." I try to remember how one of my friends with a little girl acted when she started crying at a company picnic last week, and I apparently succeed, because after a few moments Ifurita quiets.
I guide her to my couch and seat her. She simply sits there for a moment, looking at her hands, until I say in a brisk manner, "So are you going to tell me what this is all about, or are you going to sit there so long I miss lunch? I'm hungry."
She doesn't look up from her hands as she says, "Fujisawa-sensei… is dead. So is your brother. I'm sorry."
"Wha…" I draw back a bit from her in surprise, then, as she starts telling her tale of the last few weeks, I move closer and closer, and by the time she's sobbing again, words barely intelligible, I'm holding her once more.
To my deep shame, I can't stop from exulting while she weeps. But… but… it is so gratifying to some dark part of myself I thought long dead, to watch her suffer.
With a start, I realize that she's finished. She looks at me and says pleadingly, "You're the only one that can help us!"
I slide a bit further away on the couch and say disbelievingly, "What do you mean, me?" I point at myself. "I've got no powers over El-Hazard!"
"But… but…" She almost starts crying again, then draws a deep breath and takes a visible hold on herself. "The only reason that Masamichi and your brother died is because their connection to this world is fading. That connection comes from the people that knew them. Those same people believed that our two friends were dead, so their connections faded away. You're the only one who knows, knows, that Makoto is still alive. Please, you have to…"
"Have to what?" I hear myself ask, somehow… distant… from this scene, as though I'm subconsciously recoiling from the cruelty I'm about to inflict. "Start loving him again? Let my life be drawn into his again? Lose myself and what I've managed to do on my own just to save his life?" I shake my head slowly. "No."
I watch as that word shatters her world. As I continue, I feel like I'm receding, farther and farther away. "I think that I may hate you. Isn't that horrible? I watch you as you sit on my couch, reddened eyes dripping tears, and think, 'this is what you get!'" I clench one fist and snap the illusion of distance. "I don't want to feel this way! I hate this part of me! Why should I enjoy watching you suffer? You didn't do anything to me except take a man that I had a silly high school crush on. Why should that make me so angry? And yet…"
I shake my head quickly, then stand up and hold out my hand. "Can I offer you lunch before you leave? There's a French restaurant that just opened up, and I'm personal friends with the manager."
She stands up, disdaining my hand, and almost falls over. "I always wanted to know something. Why did you leave?"
I slip one arm under her shoulder and half-carry her to the door. I say, softly, "I couldn't stand watching you two, so happy, so powerful, and not having anything of my own that you didn't suffer me to have. I wanted to stand on my own two feet."
I scowl at my idiot secretary as she stands up from her desk. "Stay here and take any calls. Make appointments if you must."
The moron nods and sits back down, and I ask the platinum-haired Demon God, who cannot even stand on her own two feet because of what I have done to her, "Was that so wrong of me?"
Epilogue Three: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Queen Deva sat on her throne, staring blankly at the empty hall that had once buzzed with her courtiers. She couldn't remember what Jinnai had said to her about them leaving, it had made so much sense at the time…
Deva knew that she wasn't the first Deva, and had vague memories from all the others of her self, stretching back to the Creator. But this… constant fog… was something new, something none of her previous selves had ever dealt with. Did it have something to do with Jinnai, her Warlord?
Suddenly, an explosion boomed. Deva leapt to her feet, looking around wildly. That had sounded like it had come from the outer walls! Was someone attacking? Why weren't her courtiers…
Oh, yes. Jinnai had sent them to do something. Probably, he had already anticipated this attack, and they had been dispatched to deal with it. Deva laid back down on her couch, content in the knowledge that after nearly a century, she was safe in the hands of her Warlord.
Deva looked over her shoulder, heart beating quickly in anticipation as she saw Jinnai standing there, one hand behind his back. "Yes, Jinnai?"
"Do you love me?"
Deva blinked. "What?"
"Do you love me? It's a simple question, and it makes a little sense. After all, we live much more closely than most married couples." Jinnai chuckled nastily. "How many married couples can say that they've almost conquered the world four times?"
Deva sat up slowly. "I don't… understand… what you're talking about."
Jinnai shrugged. "That figures. It seems that I've worn away too much of what you were for you to understand. But I know you could answer a simple question. Do you love me?"
Deva smiled. "Of course not. I'm just using you as my tool until you conquer the world for me, then I'll dispose of you."
"That's good." Jinnai raised the weapon that he'd had hidden behind his back. "I didn't want to kill someone that loved me. It would seem… wrong, somehow."
Jinnai's faithful were waiting where he had asked them to. This once, he hadn't ordered them, and he was secretly grateful for their loyalty, which had lasted nearly a century.
One of them asked a question. Jinnai dropped the weapon that he had been clenching in one hand and rubbed that hand on his pants. "Yes, yes, I did do it, Gummo." He stared down at the weapon lying, seemingly innocent, on the cold ground. "God has a very… unique… sense of humor. To deliver into my hands the one weapon capable of destroying or neutralizing Ifurita, allow me to raise up an army that could conquer the world, then to start killing me…"
He brought one heel down on the weapon, crushing it to an unrecognizable mishmash of components and wiring. "Funny, isn't it?"
Much to the concern of Jinnai's faithful, he didn't laugh, even though he had said it was funny.
Epilogue Four: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
The woman's slap knocked the man from his feet. "Why are you doing this?! Are you suicidal?"
The man rubbed his cheek but made no attempt to get up. He said calmly, as though this was nothing out of the ordinary, "Why? Because the Goddess Reborn asked me Herself to do this. Could you deny Her, Toni?"
Toni crossed her arms across her chest. "I suppose not." Then, a note that would have been mistaken for plaintive from anyone else crept in her voice. "Why does it have to be you? We have so many assassins…"
Now, the man did get to his feet as he shook his head slowly. "We've tried sending assassins against this woman many times, but she has a strange ability to see through the illusions they weave. Not a one has succeeded." He clenched his fist. "But now, we finally have a chance to get someone close to her. I don't know why she chose me, of all the people there, but we cannot afford to pass up such an opportunity!"
Toni spat, "I won't let you go off on some suicide mission!"
The man stayed silent for a moment, then said softly, "Even if it is a suicide mission, wouldn't it be worth it? This woman, this one woman, has managed to wreak havoc in all our sanctuaries, has blunted or outright devastated all attempts we make at opening the war beyond the shadows we fight in now, and has killed the Goddess Reborn once! My life would be worth hers a thousand times over.
"Besides," he added, drawing her into his arms, "I'll be back. And then we'll get married for sure, once this is all over."
For a moment, Toni stood there and let herself be comforted. Her fist caught the man in the pit of the stomach. As he slumped to the ground, she said sweetly, "You liar." Then, she spiraled on one foot and stalked away.
Once she was a safe distance, she whispered as if her lover was still close enough to hear, "You forget that I 'know' these sorts of things. I'd rather have you remember me as a bitch and hate me, then die knowing that I still love you."
The only thing that heard her was the wind whistling through the burned-out tenements and deserted hovels, the same wind that taunted her with visions of what only the Fates should see. It seemed to be chuckling faintly…
Epilogue Five: Excerpted from the Journals of my Life
by Karylis Yuli,
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