A hollow void spans as far as he can see, as far as he can feel. Through the seemingly absolute blackness, traces of faint purple crackle in the distance. Song focuses, trying to make sense of the mysterious sparks, trying to tell if it’s real or just another figment of his hallucinations. The sparks are still there, but its meaning alludes him. Tired, he relaxes, letting the silence engulf the empty, sunless world around him once more.
Am I dead? Song had never believed in the afterlife, or that there was a god above that watched over them like some sort of parent. In fact, the only reason he was able to survive his childhood and be the strength he needed to be to protect Shu was because of the sense of self-worth and strength that he got from his atheism. There was nobody he could rely on to protect them. When he first met Shu and realised he had to protect him, he had decided to carve out his destiny relying on nothing but his own two hands. And despite all that, Shu eventually turned to a deity for spiritual support. It angered him, and it made him a little envious.
There is no god, Song thinks to himself once more. Kiin wasn’t a god. This isn’t the afterlife. There is nothing left for me. And yet, the pain that’s been seeded in his heart grows the more he thinks about these things. If there is truly nothing left for him, then he would never be able to see Shu again.
“It’s fine, isn’t it?” Song whispers. “It’s my fault for getting into that duel with Kiin; it’s my fault for getting Shu and the rest into all that trouble. I deserved this. I just… want Shu to be okay…”
When Song looks up again, he realises that the world is no longer the pitch black emptiness that it was before he drowned himself in thought. Now, he’s standing on water, water that’s so still that it could’ve been mistaken for a floor made of pure, milky blue marble. Or a massive blanket of silk. The water stretches to beyond the horizons, every inch reflecting the clear skies above.
“Is this where I’m spending the rest of eternity in?” Song scoffs. There is no confusion or fear left in him. Something about the knowledge of being dead has caused him to be unreceptive to those emotions. When you’re dead, there’s nothing left to lose or be afraid of.
The water gently ripples beneath his boots as he makes his across, yet it never feels for a moment that he might sink. With no sense of direction or purpose left, the only thing he can do now is to go forward. After walking for half an eternity, he notices something shimmering in the waters ahead. A reflection. There, scenes of Song’s childhood play before him. The times he had to fight off bad people from the streets during their Initiate days, the times he had to steal food with Shu to survive; the times he fought to protect Shu from being bullied by the other Purgers; the times they fought tooth and nail against the Void Seekers for their lives; the times he saw people getting cut down or eaten by the Seekers, while others changing into the very monsters they’ve sworn to destroy. It’s as if the water surrounding him is a theatre, replaying his life with a clarity that no stage actor ever could. As the scenes continue to play, Song wonders why there weren’t any good moments being shown to him. There were many horrific moments in his life, but it wasn’t as if he didn’t have good ones either.
It’s at this moment where he can sense a change in the air. Suddenly, Song can taste the rancidness of the place. The blue waters are now purple, with the skies dark as dusk with ripples of mysterious purple waves. A massive purple moon peeks over the horizon. Song didn’t even notice when the scenery had changed; it all happened in the blink of an eye. Now, he can feel something else in the air, an ominous vibe that is oddly familiar to him, as if they belonged to him.
As the vile emotions grow thicker in the air, fear begins to grip Song’s heart. There is nothing in the waters now. Nothing around him but water and night. Yet, there is something as well.
A figure appears in the distance. A chill races across his body, crackling beneath his skin. Whatever it is, Song gets the feeling that it should not be here.
The figure is suddenly closer, half the distance between them crossed within that split second. It has its back turned from him. Song clenches his fists, trying to suppress the pounding of his heart, trying to get his breathing under control. He wants to turn and run, but his legs are rooted the the ground, as is the rest of the body. He is completely paralysed, utterly hopeless even in his death.
The figure is closer now.
Song blinks one last time.
The figure stands right before him. Now, Song can see the details of his demonic-looking armour, as well as his long, purple hair that bears a streak of red gashing its side. The figure turns to face him. Cold, murderous eyes of blazing purple sits on his features, bright as the strange moon on the horizon, piercing Song with a hate-filled gaze. Up close, his murderous desires are so overwhelming Song can barely breathe.
Unsmilingly, wordlessly, he reaches out to Song’s face. Even as the cold, bladed fingers cut through his flesh, Song cannot seem to move away from him. The force around his face tightens, until a sickening crunch rends the air.
Song bolts awake, drenched in sweat, his heart pounding so hard he could feel the beating in his ears. The slimy, cold sensation of fear clings to him like the sweat on his pale skin, and no matter how hard or fast he breathes it just won’t go away.
Suddenly, someone tackles Song with an embrace, startling him once more. But the sobbing in his shoulders puts him at ease. He recognises that voice. Song can feel Shu’s soft, silky hair brushing his cheeks, and the scent of lavender tickling his nostrils.
“How many times… do you have to make me worry…”
As Song’s heart bleeds, he can feel the tears welling in his eyes. He returns the embrace with his good arm, soaking in the fragrant warmth of his beloved partner. Holding Shu like this, Song feels blissfully safe, like a child in his mother’s warm embrace.
“If I said sorry, would you forgive me?”
Shu smacks Song in the back, pumping out a yelp from him. “Of course not, idiot! First thing you do after coming back to life is to piss me off? I hate you!”
Song chuckles softly, and they let go. It appears that they are back in Song’s quarters, with candles lighting up the shadowy bedroom.
“There’s a lot I want to say to you,” Song whispers, looking at his right arm that’s wrapped in bandages from shoulder to finger. “I’ve done so many things that I shouldn’t have. Whether it was for revenge, or whether it was to protect you…” Song hisses, clutching his head. Somehow, his head still feels a little light, as if he doesn’t quite have full control of his body just yet.
“Don’t push yourself,” Shu whispers, gently resting a hand on his lap. “You just woke up―”
“I have to say it!” Song bursts out, his voice cracking. Shu jolts from his outburst. Song takes his hand, and pulls him close, so close that he can feel Shu’s breath on his face once more.
“Do you know why I wanted to run from the Palace so badly? It wasn’t because I was afraid of dying… I just…”
“And you’re okay with giving Kiin your life for all that? Have you forgotten all the boys that died over the years from the training, the Ritual, and the missions?”
Song had said that himself, and Shu brushed his words off, but he didn’t know the real reason why he said that.
“We’ve seen so many boys die during our time in the Palace. Yes, I was sick and tired of fighting all the time… but more than anything, I didn’t want you to end up as the boys ripped apart by the Purgers. I was always afraid that such a day would come…”
Shu shifts himself closer to him, so that their bodies are touching.
“You’re right; everyone is right; I’m an idiot. I’m not good at thinking, and I can’t do many things right on my own. I don’t know what happened back there, and how I made such a decision to risk your life for some petty revenge. After seeing you almost lose your life in the Electric Chamber, I just couldn’t think straight anymore. The helplessness of not being able to save you drove me insane. Then, Kiin offered a death duel with me and I just… sometimes, I really don’t know what I’m doing… but in my mind, I felt like I had to do something.”
Song remember how he pleaded with Kiin, how Kiin scoffed at him when he even offered to take the rest of Shu’s sentence upon himself. This was what he was trying to run away from; there will come a time where no matter how hard he tries, he won’t be able to protect Shu. It’s his greatest fear.
Shu sees his pain. He can feel it. Gently, he tilts Song’s head towards him, and with a smile, Shu presses his lips against his.
“Since our childhood, you’ve always been the one protecting me,” Shu whispers. “You took everything upon yourself, and it has hurt you so much. I didn’t realise this because of how privileged I was thanks to your protection. I scolded you every time you talked about escaping from the Palace. I didn’t understand why you had so much hate. Please don’t blame yourself, Song. It’s my fault too.”
Song scrounges his face, trying to hold his tears back. “But I still shouldn’t have―”
“Kiin manipulated you. He made use of your weakness, at the right time, to make you accept the duel.” Shu wraps Song in his arms again. He closes his eyes. “I won’t let them hurt you anymore. I want to protect you too. So please, Song…”
Song closes his eyes as well.
It feels really calming, to be in Shu’s arms like this.
“Please…” Shu whispers. “Rely on me too, okay?”
A Purger’s love. Love itself. It’s as if this is the first time Song truly understands this feeling. The boy who has his arms around him right now... he’d do anything for him, and he knows he’d do the same for him as well.
This is the boy he’d like to be with forever.
“Thank you, Shu.”