"What trick is this?" Bonehead looked about. Inside Midori's core could have been anything really. Cores were as much reflection of the entity as anything. When Lonely Hill and Cronos fought, it was of a shared memory. That field had been the last moments of a dying world.


Bonehead watched late afternoon traffic roll by. Familiar cars passing familiar buildings. The face he saw reflected in a window was the life he had when this was real. He reached to touch the glass. Then let his hand fall away.

"Don't get too wrapped up in it," He admonished himself as he walked, trusting that hi feet would carry him to where he needed to go. There was the occasional look from passers-by. Given he was in the same clothes and armor he wore when working with the Outer Guard, with Ishida's people, that didn't surprise or concern him.

What did were the faces in the crowd. All of them. His face. At the corners of his vision he swore he saw himself. Flashes of blue. The faint rustle of his greatcoat. The footfall of his boots.

His head shook as he found himself in front of an apartment building. Then an apartment door.

Instinct told him that he should be ready to fight. That whomever Midori was, knew of him in this time and place. Yet his heart told him otherwise.

Gently he pressed against the door, and it swung open. His footfalls measured, his hand on the hilt of his weapon as he stalked into the diminutive apartment.

He saw a blonde haired woman in front of a computer, screaming obscenities. "No! No No No NO! You can't do that! Fuck!"

Realization punched him in the face. "Do what?"

The golden haired woman turned from the ongoing game playing out to look at him. "My core has gone dark, so I can't issue commands."

There was a blink. Her sky blue eyes locked onto his emerald green. He could see sadness in her eyes. Pain. A swirl of other emotions. Then she got up. Stood in front of him. Gently she poked him. Chest, arm. His face. Continually, and all over.

Then. He almost missed it, her voice was almost pleading. "Please."

"Nnn?" He held here there, or more to the point, she held him in place.

"Be real." Her voice was still that almost pleading whisper. "I don't want that bitch to be right. That wasn't your bow. You're not dead."

"I'm real," Bonehead reassured even as he snuck a peek at what was on the computer's screen.

On it there were four units retreating from Mina's border to a great library.

"I'm here." His voice was soft even as Mina let him go. "It's been a rough.... Life I suppose. Everything hurts."

"Oh! Silly me," Mina practically lept to the fridge.

Inside the fridge was coated in mottled blue fur splotched thorugh with black. The drink she pulled had white chunks of something floating in it. It was a roll of the dice but he managed to not gag when she chugged the contents.

"Mina?" His voice louder now. "What's... going on? I feel a bit lost."

The golden haired woman looked at him. Really looked. "You... died."

"And yet here I am." Bonehead's retort was automatic. Easy. "Walk with me?"

The pair left her apartment, and the computer just as the quartet of units Mina had been paying attention to ambushed a far larger cohort of less powerful units that had cornered a white haired goblin thief.

Instead, her focus was on the door to her apartment. Her body tightened and she pulled Bonehead to a halt. "I..."

His head tilted as he looked to her. "What's wrong Mina?"

Mina's eyes were unfocused. When she spoke her voice was unsteady. "That's... not my name. Not anymore, is it?"

A lie might have been better. Exploit her unease. Buy just a little more peace even if it would fall apart anyway. A headshake from Bonehead as he put a hand on her hand.

"I'm Midori." Her voice was small, but the words a declaritive statement rather than question. "I was fighting. Fuzen? I don't know."

Her brow furrowed even as Bonehead gestured to the door. "Let's get some fresh air. Might help you think."

Midori nodded, letting him lead the pair from the apartment as she talked. "I remember seeing Ami there. Creatures that looked like our friends. I wasn't going to let it happen again. I knew we were all born in the ruin of some huge evil thing that was like one of those end or beginning of an age things stories get told about for generations."

Instead of speaking, Bonehead merely walked with her. Holding doors as Midori's eyes were unfocused. her voice thready as she recalled what had gone before.

"I was born near a patch of fungus in a cave. It let me take over the things that came near me." Midori squeezed her eyes shut when they stepped outside. "It helped me make the fighting stop."

"I know," Bonehead whispered. His words non-judgemental as they sat at a bench under an awning.

"Then." Midori gestured at everything. "It wouldn't stop. There was always someone else. Something else wanting to fight."

No words from Bonehead as he sat beside her.

Midori looked to him with tears welling in her eyes. "I... killed you."

'Did you?' A voice, whispering and carried on the wind.

She looked down at her hands. "I let it in, and now it's attached to me."

Bonehead said nothing. Letting her work through what happened on her own. Yet he took her hand in his to reassure her she was not alone.

'Spread.' The wind said. 'Grow.'

Midori burried her head in Bonehead's shoulder. "How do I fix this?"

Bonehead remained silent for a long moment.

'I am everywhere.' The Wind whispered to them.

"Look at me." Bonehead's voice was a command, yet it never raised above a whisper.

When Midori did, he pointed to where the sun was in the sky. It was bright, it gave warmth, and yet it was not the sun as either knew it. "Our cores are linked now."

Midori's head tilted, confusion writ large across her face.

"Lonely H-" Bonehead paused. Then corrected himself. "I am seated at the throne Damala built for himself. Cronos once used it to attack me through its link to everything else in this place. I use it now to hold this connection open to you."

"You can't do this," Midori's protest was soft as she looked to the core that warmed this place. "You'll die."

"I know." Matter of fact statement.

"It will burn both of us up. If it's just me maybe you can.." Midori gestured haphazardly as desperation crept in her voice, "Respawn the body? Reform this part of you? Something."

"You might hold the greatest share of land in this place," Bonehead calmly stated, "But once this thing sees you as a threat, it will sever its connection to you, and when your core detonates, it will reach at best a small fraction of what needs to be burned out."

"I." Midori looked down at the pavement. "I messed up didn't I?"

A small smile from Bonehead as he stood. "A deed once done cannot be undone."

He offered her a hand. "Yet, it can still be mitigated."

Tentatively, she took his hand. "Will I be able to come back?"

"I should think so," Again, matter of fact tone from Bonehead. "Metis is proof of that."

Both of them closed their eyes and held each other's hands. The core above them pulsed.

Then pulsed again.

"I don't want to come back." Midori leaned against him, letting go of a soft sigh. "It is time for me to move on."

The pulsing was a heartbeat in the sky of this little world now. Both could feel it rattle through their bodies.

"I have a promise to keep." Bonehead's voice was soft as he held the person who had, til this point, been his enemy. "Be it a decade or a century, or even a millennia. I will keep that promise."

The core above swelled. Each pulse shattering buildings. Each pulse turning vehicles to dust. The landscape surrounding the two was reduced to a primordial nothing. Then less than nothing.

Then they found themselves dissolving.

Just before the end. Between here and the hereafter.

"Is it too late to apologize?"

Then, right as the final pulse came crashing down. Bonehead's voice spoke with as much sincerity and warmth as he could muster to give at the very last.



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