Description: Testament has strayed a little too close to the Sacred Order of Holy Knights' base. But instead of the whole Order mobilizing to destroy him, one man handles it. Their formerly retired leader, Kliff Undersn.
It's an emergency! That crazy scythe-wielding guy-- the one who busted up the UN building and then killed those people at the 'Resurrection of Six' concert! He's back! And he's at a PLAYGROUND!! There are defenseless children there! Their parents probably won't stand a chance against that MONSTER of a man if they try to face him!
With this high of an alert, it's not going to be long before word gets around to a lot of the right-- or wrong-- people. With 'crazy scythe-wielding guy' having been identified as a Darkstalker long ago by people in the know, it's a safe bet that someone will be whispering into the ear of someone at the Holy Order. He's close by, this lunatic-- and there's no better time to go after him.
By the time Kliff arrives at the scene, police have already created a perimeter around the playground. People are (mostly) behind barricades, looking on in stunned, horrified silence, some mothers and fathers clutching their children. But it's not all silent. There's a man who the police are having a devil of a time (haha, devil of a time) keeping behind the barrier. The reason is easy to discern.
"Let me GO, dammit! Let me get to my SON!"
"Sir, I need you to calm down..."
"NO! My son is in there, and he is IN DANGER! I will NOT calm down until you LET ME GET TO MY SON!!"
The man is struggling like a madman, and the police are having no small amount of trouble getting him under control. But the father going in there would be a big mistake. And that mistake may cost the man's son his life. But the father is obviously in no mind to listen to reason...
10 MINUTES AGO
An alert rings out at the Holy Orders' base causing every knight available to mobilize. There aren't many of them at the base, recruits, trainees, squires, all inexperienced, and all ready to fight for humanity, no matter what it takes.
Although Kliff Undersn doesn't know the details of the situation just yet, he knows in his heart that the day has come to face his past failures. He can see it in the faces of his men around him long before the actual message reaches his ears.
"Its that crazed scythe wielding maniac, and he is in the park right below our base!!"
Kliff's long lost son.
The Holy Order seldom mobilizes when there are petty crimes going on nearby, even a psychopath murderer terrorizing the playground would be better handled by the police. But this situation is different, this is a classified Darkstalker, and it is the Order's duty to eradicate it.
And yet Kliff thinks otherwise.
"Everyone stand down." He says, much to the horrified shock of his knights. "I'm going by myself."
There is tactical reason behind Kliff's decision of course. EVERYONE in the base besides him is a novice, if Ky, Amy, Alma or, hell, even Mimiru were around, he would not hesitate to dog pile Testament in full force. But they are all out in missions, and though he is certain the Order would prevail if they mobilized all available troops, the casualties would be many.
He is not going to make anyone else pay for his mistakes.
Kliff Undersn arrives in the scene via chopper. The old man forgoes the traditional landing phase and simply jumps out when they are sufficiently close to the ground. The concrete shatters around him, and after struggling a bit to get his tired old knees to straighten up, he advances towards the crowd and bids them to move out of the way with his massive bardiche.
"Don't worry, my good man." Kliff says to the distraught man with a very familiar look on his face. "I'll get your son back."
He advances towards the playground, Dragonslayer resting on his shoulder.
It's time for a family reunion.
Kliff's appearance is startling enough to stop the man from struggling, just long enough for the police to get him under control. Not to worry, a man who jumps out of a chopper, cracks concrete, and totes a sword bigger than he is as easily as if he'dbeen carrying a walking stick is not someone these people are going to give much trouble to. They give him a wide berth as he approaches. No one speaks until the formerly struggling father finally says, "...Th-thank you sir. Please get my boy out of there alive..."
The source of everyone's concern isn't hard to find. Just follow the sounds. But the sounds to follow are not sounds of death. No, it's...
But it's not the heaving, insane laughter that Testament has been known for more recently. It's honest, joyful laughter. And not just Testament's own laughter. That of a young child. The sound should lead Kliff to a set of monkey bars, where a boy-child of about eight years of age-- the same age Testament was when Kliff rescued him-- climbs over the top. As he reaches the end...
...He leaps off, arms spread wide...
...Only to land safely in someone's arms. A pale man with long, straight black hair. Red eyes. Wearing a bandeau top and an ankle-length kilt that shows his legs probably more than is strictly necessary, and mostly-undone boots. All those clothes (if you can call them that) are black.
...But Kliff might just know exactly what he's looking at. That bandeau top? The shoulders of a Holy Order overcoat. The kilt? The bottom of that very same overcoat. And those boots? Yes, from the very same outfit. And it isn't just from any outfit, either. Those torn pieces came from a very specific outfit... a Holy Order uniform that was originally black and purple. One whose belt, now long gone, once had 'HELFEN' scratched into it-- German for 'help'...
...The outfit of the Sacred Order of Holy Knights' own 'Black Knight'. The boy who grew into the young man who hated fighting so much that he froze up utterly every time he was sent to fight. The young man who wouldn't squish bugs, wouldn't eat meat, routinely brought injured baby birds and squirrels home that had fallen from their nests to care for them.
The former Black Knight catches the child, and then expertly spins him over a shoulder, gently rough-housing the boy with a growl that probably sounded way too real for someone who truly knows what he's capable of. However, the child's shriek is immediately followed by laughter, so Testament is obviously not hurting him.
...He's actually... playing with the boy?
Kliff listens to the father's plight despite not looking at him directly. All the old man does is glance sideways and nod, a comforting gesture, but to the father or to himself is the real question. "I shall." He says with conviction only seen in real knights. "Upon my honor."
The old commander knight follows the sounds, strange sounds indeed, laughter, something that is not associated with the death and destruction that this scythe wielding Darkstalker has brought to bear in numerous occasions. It would be confusing, where it not for the fact that Kliff knows this Darkstalker far better than most. A father knows his son after all.
The knight arrives to a sight most grim indeed. Testament, clad in the rags that were once his old black and purple uniform, playing winsomely with a young lad, he must be the same age that Testament was when Kliff first picked him up.
It's been 40 years since he last saw him, and he still remembers his boy as if he had only seen him yesterday. The torn upper piece of his uniform, the long black hair. For a moment, it's like Kliff is back in time, silently watching his young boy, his pride and most loved one, playing again and being free as he can be.
Kliff does nothing to interrupt the meeting, the butt of his bardiche is rested on the ground, and he stares, silently waiting to be noticed. No matter how much time has passed, and no matter what has Testament done lately, a father's first reaction upon seeing his lost son is never to attack him.
Testament might actually have missed the man's presence entirely ifit were for the bird in the tree nearby. Black as night, with red eyes and a thin silver collar around its neck. A raven. It releases a loud squawk and fluffs its feathers up, wings flaring up. The sounds draws Testament's gaze up quickly...
And he just stills immediately.
Testament freezes, holding the child against his chest. Then he looks up. Sees the man that's there. His eyes go wide and his expression goes lax. It's that same thousand-yard stare he had way back in that destroyed village. And speaking of that destroyed village... Testament is suddenly somewhere else. At least, in his mind.
Fire. Blood. Death. The snow's melted from the flames. What isn't melted is dyed red with blood. The red's so bright... like everything else is monochrome except for the blood. The blood is all over him. It's not his own though. It's that of the people on the ground before him. A man and a woman. But when he looks down to their faces to see who they are...
In place of faces, the man and woman have black, swirling voids that seem to reach out and grab at his soul...
...A cough, and the feeling of something squirming against him draws him back to the present. "M-mister?" It's the child he's holding. "You're squeezin' me too hard, can you please let go? It hurts..."
Immediately Testament releases the painful pressure on the child's body. He'd been clutching the poor child like a life preserver while his panicked thoughts ran rampant. Gently he hugs the child, tucking the boy's head on his shoulder and closing his eyes. As he does he sways softly from side to side, while rubbing the child's back. "I'm sorry..." he coos quietly. "Verzeihung, bitte."
Although Kliff undeniably knows Testament better than most, forty freaking years is a long, loong time. What's even worse, while the passage of time has not been kind to Kliff, now much shorter, obviously older, with deeply white hair and wrinkles on his face, the composure of a knight being the only thing that the years have not been able to wither away.. Testament on the other hand doesn't look a day older. It's almost like time had completely frozen for him save for his clothes.. and clearly malevolent aura.
What have they done to you?
What have they done to Kliff's son!!??
The old man's eyes widen when he sees the child complaining of being hugged too tightly. For a moment, he's panicking, the grip on Dragonslayer tightens and though he dares not think that his son has turned into a mindless beast, Kliff will charge in without hesitation should Testament even look like he's trying to hurt the boy.
Fortunately, it is evidently clear that Testament released his grip on the boy once he started complaining, causing the old man to draw a noticeable sigh of relief.
He looks up, still unable to believe his eyes. What does he do? What does he even say after all these years?
"Hello lad." Klff doesn't mince words as usual. "It's been a long time, my son."
Testament's eyes open again, and he looks to Kliff. That face. That... that FACE. Testament KNOWS this man! But... who? Where?! Why is his head hurting so much all of a sudden?! The wince on his face increases with the pain, until he slides to the ground on his knees, still holding the child. He wants to cling, but he doesn't want to hurt the child. So he lets go, and sets the boy on his feet.
"...Go find your parents." Testament's voice is a whisper.
The child blinks up at Testament. "...Are you OK, mister?"
"No. But it's not your fault." Pause, and he hisses in pain. "...Please go. It... it's not safe now." The child makes to speak again, but Testament hisses, "Go, please..." It's severe, but not unkind. The boy doesn't ask anything else, but darts in the direction Kliff arrived from, meaning to zoom right on past him.
In the meantime Testament's fingers dig into the sand under him, as if he could grasp the fraying threads of understanding. As if he could somehow hold onto the images that whirled through his mind. But just like the sand, they slip through his fingers no matter how tightly he tries to grasp them. Head tilts down, hair obscures his face, and Testament does nothing but slowly clench his hands into fists in the sand.
He stays silent for a long moment. When he finally does speak, it's barely a whisper. It's not an insane spiel of death to humans. "...He fell off the monkey bars. I caught him. Everyone ran. He thought it was fun, so he climbed up and jumped off so I could catch him some more." And then he falls silent. But what he says next is liable to be even more concerning.
"...Who are you?"
Testament's inner struggle is painfully clear and very literal at that too. The boy's face twists with pain, anger, confusion, and what bothers Kliff most is that a devastating feeling of nostalgia strikes an inner cord of his when that happens. Kliff has always been a very severe, serious man, an utter no nonsense type who didn't suffer fools, and while he was a true dedicated warrior of justice, Kliff's heart wasn't soft and tender to be ruled by his emotions. A man of the Light needed to have no weaknesses, no cracks in his armor.
But Kliff had one, and that was Testament. When his boy suffered, he too suffered, and he could not believe that even after all these years, seeing Testament having problems, internal or otherwise, afflicted him this much. He wanted to stab Dragonslayer, his own prized possession, into the ground, forgotten momentarily, to run over to his son and tell him all would be fine.
But when the boy finally leaves, returning to his father, and Testament explains himself, Kliff understands just truly big the gap between them is.
He doesn't remember him?
"My son." He begins, taking one step forward and extending his hand as if to want to grasp the dark haired man. "I know it in my heart, that no matter what atrocities you've gone through, no matter what darkness has befallen you, you will always remember your old man. Testament, my child."
"I am your father. Kliff Undersn."
No. No, Testament is not letting himself be grabbed. But instead of attacking-- which is what he'd have done to anyone ELSE who tried that-- or merely teleporting away, he scoots back from the hand. He gets to his feet. "...No. I don't have parents. They're dead." He doesn't sound so sure, though.
And yet... 'Kliff Undersn'. That name... Testament associates it with a person. A face. A person he trusted. Kindness where everyone else was horrible to him. Encouragement. But why didn't he remember? Why couldn't he REMEMBER?! He takes a few more steps back, stumbling, shaking his head as if he didn't believe it. Or maybe he's trying to clear his head.
And suddenly rage rises up in Testament's throat. Not at Kliff. At the situation. At himself. At THOSE PEOPLE who took this from him. The snarl is visible; a split-second later that rage needs an outlet. He roars loudly... and takes a swing at a tree. Which abruptly snaps where he strikes it and falls. It is not, thankfully, the tree that Zio is in.
"...Then I have nothing else for them to take."
It's not as if Kliff was expecting to be able to grab Testament. To draw him, hug him tightly, maybe give him a good headbutt like the old times. But he wasn't expecting Testament to recoil back so violently. It takes Kliff a moment to remember that his boy is now a Darkstalker, and as such they should be at each other's throats right now.
The Holy Knights can be zealots like the young recruit Mimiru reminded Kliff not too long ago. But just as the light clears away the darkness, it can also blind so very thoroughly. Kliff must know what happened to his boy, because he refuses to believe this betrayal was done willingly, not when Testament clearly has human feelings and has been so clearly brainwashed into not remembering his past life.
The old knight doesn't move when Testament swings his fist at a tree. He's seen where it's aimed, a swing of frustration to release pent up anger.
"Your parents were killed, yes." Kliff admits. "By Darkstalkers.. just like my own."
If Testament truly doesn't remember, then all Kliff can do is attempt to jog his memory back. He begins to dig through the pockets of his coat, searching for a thing he knew would come in handy for this meeting.
"I found you when you were naught but eight years old, my lad. We knights saved you from your burning village and I took you into the Order. Forty years ago you left me, saying that you were off to become stronger leaving me only this note."
The old commander extends an extremely old piece of paper to the young looking Gear, only having been able to survive the test of time due to Kliff's careful tending. It's the note that Testament left Kliff so many years ago. 'Off to get stronger' is all it said, but Testament would be able to at the very least recognize his own handwriting.
"I never saw you again after that."
"Until now.. please, son.."
"You must remember!"
Kliff can easily hear Testament's breath, shuddering with rage. His head turns slowly, to regard the paper that Kliff holds out to him. Yes, he recognizes it. And yes, he remembers writing it. Everything's checking out. His head's been shaken violently, like a snowglobe, but just like a snowglobe, the pieces are beginning to settle. Not all in the right order. But they're settling.
His shoulders slump, as if all the energy has abruptly drained out of him, and his head droops again. He opens his hand, the one he'd just used to punch the tree in half, and looks at the palm as if the answer rested there. It didn't, of course, and he was no closer to knowing what to do than he was.
"...A lie. It was all a lie." Testament's voice is lifeless. "They knew. They knew about how useless I was to you. Useless. Weak. /Pathetic/." His head tilts up. "They said they could make me into a soldier. But that's not what they did."
Pause. "I remember what happened when I woke up." His voice is still lifeless here. "They hadn't given me any clothes. Commanded me as if I was a machine. Talked over me. Referred to me as 'subject'. I wasn't a person to them. I was a thing. A project. Just a piece of property. When I started showing signs of still being aware of myself... they tried to put me under again." Here his voice takes on a dark hiss. "And I killed them..."
One moment there is a knight standing against a demon.
And the next its a father comforting his son.
It was like going back in time for Kliff, who approached Testament when he felt his voice falter and his shoulders slump. That was more like the child he knew back then, the kid who could no harm to even a fly, but felt ever so mortified due to being so useless. Kliff knew Testament had always been annoyed with himself for being incapable of following on his old man's steps. He never thought Testament would go to these lengths to attain power though.
No, this was not Testament's doing, Kliff knew so. Not his boy, he would have never sold his soul, he would have never betray the Order or him.
Someone had done this to him.
As Testament explains and the mystery begins to unravel, Kliff approaches closer and this time does try to grasp his arm. There's quite the size difference this time, Kliff used to be so much taller and now he barely reaches Testament's shoulder. It doesn't keep him from acting fatherly in the least though.
"Who is 'they' Testament?" Kliff must know who did this to his boy, even if Testament killed them he must make sure to know the source of this evil. "Who did this to you??"
And this time Testament doesn't back away when Kliff approaches. Everything's different-- Kliff may notice that Testament's temperature is much cooler than should be normal for a human. The skin of his arm feels odd... almost rubbery. It's just very unsettling. But Testament's reaction to the touch is to relax.
However, the raven's reaction is to squawk in a clearly threatening way. Testament looks up at her. "No. It's all right," he says quietly. "He's fine. I... I remember now. He is... who he says he is. You may look if you don't believe me." The raven calms, tilts its head, and blinks. Then it closes its eyes. And oddly? Testament does the same. "That's right. Look there." He and the raven open their eyes at the same time too.
That is clearly more than a pet.
Kliff has asked him a question, though. Testament draws in a breath, exhales it in a sigh. "...They said they were beginning a training program to defend people against the monsters. They'd be training people in non-conventional ways of combatting things that people didn't have ways to combat otherwise."
A pause. "The UN. They said they were from the UN."
Admittedly, Kliff hadn't noticed that odd looking raven with the collar. A rather embarrassment admittance by the commander knight, who's keen perception is nearly legendary. Although, the first things to go with age are the senses, and considering Kliff was a little distracted with this wee thing of seeing his long lost adopted son that he hadn't seen in forty years again.. he might have missed a few things here and there.
The old knight's eyes glance up to the raven now that it squawks though, he can sense faint demonic energy emanating from it too. For a moment, Kliff has a mind to swing Dragonslayer up at it, thinking that is in some way guilty of this affliction that has befallen his beloved son. However, Testament starts speaking to it and the raven shows surprising training when it clams down. There is more to that bird than meets the eye, but that is not Kliff's main concern at the moment.
That would be the next revelation from his son.
Kliff furrows his white eyebrows when he touches his son's skin. So clammy and cold, like a corpse, his heart aching to see his son in these conditions. But nothing, /nothing/, could prepare him to what Testament says next.
"The--the UN??" The United Nations did this?? Kliff is taken back, growing pale, as if he had seen a ghost.
"No.. it cannot be." A cold sweat running down the side of his face as everything he once held sacred felt like it was shattering before his very eyes.
"The United Nations...are the ones that founded the Sacred Order of Holy Knights!"
The organization that Kliff has been working with nearly his entire life.
"That's why I went after them, Papa." Kliff might remember having heard about the attack on the UN building. Two guards were killed, but fighters came in and subdued the killer before anyone else died. Though the killer got away.
And yes Kliff... he did just call you 'Papa'. Like old times.
"I have to keep hunting them..." Aaaaand this is where the madness starts to creep into his voice. "They're so corrupted by greed and lust for power. They made so many others... mindless, soulless flesh puppets to fight their wars for them. I can't let them do it anymore. I'm already dead. It's too late for me. But I'm going to take them down with me...."
The word echoes in the deepest recesses of Kliff's mind. A word that for the longest time had been a synonym for true happiness for the Knight, happiness, innocence.. hope. A word that represented a long forgotten era, one that the old Knight thought it could never come back.
Until now, until that which Kliff thought was lost and could never be recovered, stands before him.
"No." Kliff's answer was resolute.
He was not going to lose his son again.
"The light abandons no one, my son. Never say that it is too late for you." He twirls his massive Dragonslayer bardiche, the blade pointing downwards where the man embeds it on the ground, spider web like cracks spreading through the ground.
The knight advances towards Testament, totally unarmed, seemingly not caring for his own safety as he approaches a thing that is for all intended purposes a monster.
But Kliff only sees his son there. Kind and happy Testament who wouldn't hurt a fly. Even with all the darkness surrounding him, Kliff can pierce the veil of artificial evil and see the truth behind it all.
"There has not been a single day in these past forty years that I have not thought about you, my son. Every day I awake with regret and every night do I slumber in despair not knowing of your fate. And now that I find you at last you simply wish to fade away from me?"
Kliff extends his hand, motioning Testament to come closer. "Testament, my son... let us bring Justice to those wretches that did this to you together. I will stand by your side no matter what happens."
"Let us be again as we were meant to be.."
"It does." This to Kliff's words of the light abandoning no one. "It does, and it has. I've been in the dark a long time, Papa. It's the only way I know. The only path left for me now. Like this. I know what I am." He doesn't elaborate.
As Kliff approaches, Testament doesn't move. He trembles, as more memories surge to the fore, but head aching with the effort of remembering it all. Not just the good things, either. "...Worthless." It's spoken practically under his breath. "I did nothing but watch them all die. Worthless. Pathetic. Fragile. And I still didn't care what they thought. Do you know what hurt more? Being unable to defend the people I cared for. Letting them down. Letting YOU down."
He emits a mad chuckle. Short, but still showing a glimpse of how much he's unhinged. "I made that decision to go with them instantly. I didn't even ask for certifications," he explains. "I just... went with them. Maybe I was afraid that I'd find something out that would make me decide against it." Pause, and his strange eyes with the red pupils close.
"...I told them I'd give anything to be stronger. To be able to stand alongside you. It's ironic. Now that I'm strong enough, I still can't. Because of what I am. They said I was useless, Papa. What do you think they'd say about me now?" Testament muses. "Monster. Abomination. It deserves to be destroyed. Lock it in a cell and throw away the key...."
The extended hand is regarded. A half-smile pulls at Testament's face. Only for half an instant, though. "...That's a nice dream, Papa." But he shakes his head, taking a few steps back from the hand. "But I can't. I think you know why. I'm one of the things we were supposed to fight. I /am/ the monster now." The madness comes then, his shoulders begin to shake.
But not with tears.
Kliff will hear the mad chortling beginning, before it blossoms into a full-fledged, unhinged cackle. It doesn't look like it's going to be as easy as 'let's go home, son'. Testament appears to have not only been changed physically but mentally too. And not for the better.
The mad laughter stops, abruptly, and he speaks. "...No, Papa... you can't stand by me. Not where I'm going," Testament replies quietly. "I'm going into places the Holy Order can't follow. I'm going to find them. And they're all going to pay for what they did. Not to me. To the others. They were too methodical. Too familiar with the expected results. That means they did it to others. Others that weren't so lucky to keep their minds."
Pause. "...I won't stop there. They'll just replace the people at the UN with others. So I have to kill them all. Everyone. So no one will ever go through it again." Then his brain seems to abruptly change tracks all of a sudden. "...They hunt us, they kill us, those of us that are different. Even those of us that THEY made. I have to kill them. So they'll stop making us monsters, stop hunting us, stop hurting each other..."
...Kliff can probably see where this is going...
Was Testament always this obtuse?
It's hard to tell, even for Kliff, its hard to tell where the darkness that consumes his soul ends and where does Testament's actual, natural, inability to handle difficult situations begins.
Never has Kliff frowned more profusely than here. A dark shadow begins to fall over his eyes the more Testament speaks, every word that comes out of the boy's mouth is a stab to the knight's soul and heart. Like the thing that you loved the most being utterly destroyed and defiled before your very eyes.
And what pains Kliff the most..
Is that it seems that the boy likes it..
A betrayal of massive proportions and it only fuels Kliff's drive to walk closer and closer to Testament.
He's not angry. He's not boiling with indignant Holy rage as he often does when facing the forces of evil.
He is disappointed.
Disappointed in his son.
"GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF, BOY!!!" Kliff is standing right in front the Gear and shouts at him in point blank range. The woods and playground directly behind Testament all but falling over at that Dragon's Roar. Kliff rarely ever got angry with Testament when he was a child, but its needless to say that Kliff at one point showed true anger when disciplining his soldiers.
"ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO WHAT YOU'RE SAYING!!!?" Burning fatherly rage bears down upon Testament and suddenly there's no height difference anymore because Kliff is looking like he did forty years ago. A mirage maybe but it's definitely there. The tall, statuesque, muscled Kliff Undersn with long white hair.
"If you go down this path you are letting those monsters that did this to you win. You won't kill them if you succumb to this rage, Testament."
"The only one you will kill is me."
Testament actually flinches at the shout. Oh, he was familiar with his father's tumultuous temper, but no... it had never been aimed in his direction before. Not even when he broke the Waterford crystal bowl when he knocked into the table it was on and it fell. Discipline came in the form of having to do extra chores until the cost of the bowl was made up, not angry words. Granted, he was extremely remorseful about it.
This... doesn't look like remorse. If it's not actually enjoyment, Testament does seem totally committed to this path of destruction. And of self-destruction. There's a possibility he really doesn't want to, but... it's hard to tell now.
The image of Kliff, the way Testament truly remembered him, gives the Gear pause. And it also makes his headache worse, as more memories begin to flutter around his head like panicked butterflies. He grips the sides of his head with his hands, slides down to his knees. It hurts, it HURTS! He can't remember them all... can't grasp the memories. But the photograph.
He remembers the photograph.
It was just after he'd been rescued. Right after Kliff gave him his name. He'd had his wounds bandaged, and Kliff had encouraged him to smile. Because he had survived. It was better than if he hadn't, so it was a good day for everyone.
"...A testament to strength? To survival?" The Gear's metallic voice is strained with the pain in his head. "That's what you said, wasn't it?" He pulls his hands away from the sides of his head, and then shakes his head. "So I didn't die. What did it get anyone? It got the Order saddled with me. And it got me turned into... this." He puts his arms out to his sides a little. "I could have died and it would have stopped this. I should have."
A short bark of a mad laugh cracks loose from his mouth, arms still out to his sides. "But instead of being put out of my misery, I can't die! There's nothing left of me inside to live... and I /can't die/!" He calms, taking a breath, putting his hands on his knees as he kneels on the ground, looking up at Kliff.
"I'm already dead, Papa." He puts a hand to his chest. "Here."
Kliff has always been a kind, good hearted man at his very core.
But just because he's decidedly good in nature didn't mean he was nice.
This is abundantly clear when one sees him in his younger state. The old short man was nothing like the imposing lion like warrior that stands before Testament, sharp fangs showing, profound eyebrows furrowed into a deep frown, and a wild mane of white hair flowing backwards, not by the air, but by the power that comes from within himself.
Testament's mad cackle would surely drive even the most stalwart of warriors to at least shake in fright, or put themselves in a defensive position. Kliff doesn't even go back to pick up his Dragonslayer. He just stares down at Testament's red eyes with an impassively fierce gaze.
This is not a fight.
This is a father scolding his rebellious son.
"Did I really fail you so much as a father?" Though his words seem to be full of regret, their tone are that on an immensely disappointed father. Like catching Testament burning himself on the oven after telling him to keep his hands off it. Chances are that actually happened at some point too.
The very fact that Kliff's anger is for once directed towards him should tell Testament of the enormity of this situation. This is soon starting to escalate into the moment of truth, and Testament's next words could define what happens next, not only for him and Kliff, but considering the might of these two, for the entire world.
"Do you really not see it?" Kliff continues, staring ever stoically even with his fierce lion like features. "You were turned, twisted, corrupted, forced to do the bidding of evil men. Then fought off when you tried to redeem yourself, preventing from self-destruction even when it was your last attempt at setting things right."
"You have failed. You were a failure when you are a young boy. And you are a failure now even after being give all this power.
"And yet you will not die."
The moment Testament kneels, Kliff's rough hand is brought down on the boy's collar bone, squeezing as his clavicle, as if he intended to lift him up by pulling on his bone. But that is simply a gesture to keep Testament's focus up on him.
"You are /TESTAMENT/. Even after all these failures, even after all these many years. Even when you should have died along with your village, you didn't."
"Can't you see, boy!? Time and time you have fallen and yet you continue to get back up."
"Stop giving me your petty excuses. You are my son, and you know as well as I do that you are stronger than this."
The squeezing continues, and Kliff's eyes narrow even more, almost looking a beast himself.
"It's time to get back up, son."
"Get. Back. Up."
That is an order.
The grip of the hand on Testament's collarbone doesn't disturb him in the slightest. Kliff will probably note that the flesh doesn't give so easily, and the bone seems strong as a metal rod. Not that Kliff couldn't break a metal rod if he so chose. But in this case, Testament could regenerate if Kliff chose to do that. For the time being he hasn't, though.
Perhaps Zio also recognizes the gravity of the happenings here. Despite how close the strange man that her master knows so well and yet does not remember, she knows that this is not something she can help Testament through with her interference. She stands by, pacing along the branch she sits upon, but keeping quiet.
As for Testament? He speaks. Quietly. His metallic voice sounded defeated.
"...The only thing I see is that I failed, again, to end a useless existence. So I live... and I fail. Again and again. What's the point of continuing to live if there's only to be failure? But I'll find a way to end it. I'll find /them/. And I'll take them to Hell with me."
As for getting back up?
"I... don't think I can anymore, Papa," he says. "It hurts too much. It all got broken inside me... I'm not there anymore... I can feel I'm different, even if... even if I don't remember... everything."
He shakes his head, hard. "It's all flying and whirling in my head... it's all there, but it won't settle, I can't put it together, it hurts..."
...Maybe he /is/ too broken. But maybe he can be repaired. It's hard to say...
If you love something.. let it be free.
If they never come back, they were never yours to begin with.
But if they do.... they are yours forever.
Testament may be too broken inside, but all that Kliff needs is half a chance to set things straight. However, that chance is not his decision anymore. One way or another, Testament has grown, perhaps not in the way that Kliff wanted, but forty years is a long time, and the young, scared boy that Kliff once knew has certainly turned into something else.
Kliff releases his grip from the Gear and draws a long sigh, his shape returning to that of his present short old man state. That transformation seemed to have taken a lot out of him, sweat running down the side of his face to imply that it hadn't been easy. His entire short body trembles for a moment attempting to adjust everything inside of him, but the knight ignores the plights of his ancient body as usual and focuses on the task at hand.
His eyes open at Testament, and given his new height he can put his hand on the kneeled boy's shoulder without bending over.
"It will be difficult, lad. I know how it feels to be so utterly broken that nothing seems to work anymore. When everything around you and inside you fails and you just wish you could lie down and cease to exist."
Kliff has been there. In his long time as a Holy Knight, the old commander has been in his fair share of situations where he's down on the ground, bleeding half to death facing against some immeasurable demon. With no back up and at the end of his own stamina, many would simply die.
But he did not die.
And neither did Testament.
He steps back after giving one last squeeze to his son's shoulder and he picks his Dragonslayer from the ground. "You will know when you are ready to join us. To embrace your rightful place by my side. I know you will... you simply needed to know that there's something for you to come back to."
"You are alive, Testament. And I could not be happier..."
"Come back to us when you're ready so that we can end the UN's schemes together once and for all."
As he begins to leave, Kliff looks over his shoulder, to the boy who he has wisely decided to give some much needed space.
"I love you, son."
Testament doesn't initially speak as Kliff begins to do so. He angles his head down to look at the ground again, just listening to Kliff speak. At least he's listening, though... a vast improvement over his past endeavors.
He also knows that it may very well be the last time he'll hear his father's voice...
The conflict inside him reaches a fever pitch at the invitation. And at his father's final words before leaving...
That hurt. A lot. But it also kindles a flame of hope in him. That hasn't been there in years. Maybe the cruelest thing of all, to light the flame of hope inside someone that hasn't known it for that long. But it's only a tiny flame. Shouldn't be hard to snuff out if it became a problem.
"...I... love you too, Papa."
But it's not enough. Not enough to get Testament to call out, to ask Kliff to wait. He watches the older man leave the area. Watches what might be his last hope walk away. But... Kliff will be here. For a little while, at least.
And it occurs to him. Kliff is still human. Even if he doesn't fall to Testament... Kliff is going to die. And there won't be anything Testament can do to stop it...
It's not until Kliff is out of earshot that Testament speaks. "And so, I fail you again, Papa. They keep piling up, my failures. Maybe if I fail enough they'll crush me."
It's at that moment when the raven flies down to Testament again. Alighting upon his shoulder, she lays her face against his neck. Not to bite him. To comfort him. She emits a soft 'awk'.
He can feel it. The tear rolling down his cheek. He raises a hand to brush it away angrily. Takes a breath. Stands. "Come on. We shouldn't linger here long. The Holy Order will be all over us in a minute." The raven gives an 'awk' of acknowledgement, and shifts to perch on his shoulder properly.
There is a sound of space distorting, the very air protesting the power. And his shape, as well as the raven's, disappears. He leaves only the image of a skull, hanging there in the air at about the level of his own head, to linger for a moment. Then it too disappears.
And it's as if he was never there.
Log created on 18:29:36 03/24/2015 by Testament, and last modified on 06:17:55 04/11/2015.