The flower bed beneath me was incredibly soft. It seemed to almost lift up gently to support me softly while I kneel here. My eyes, partially closed, sit firmly on the beautifully ornate black wooden coffin in the center of the garden, or what was left of Miss' hab workshop. I stare. And I think.
I think about, well, first off how beautiful this funeral garden is. It's really its own biome in here now, with flowers and little sproutlings and mushrooms covering over everything. The layer of soft grey moss beneath the canopy seems to have spread and thickened since the last time I spent any time in here. It's relaxing, and beautifully somber. So I keep staring. And I keep thinking.
The coffin Ortet, Seraphim Versalice, has been placed into is just… likely the most beautiful piece of woodworking artistry I will ever lay my visual processing systems on. It's carved with symbols and flowing patterns. It seems to be living as well, a living black wood, grown up and around her, encasing her resting body in nature. It makes sense, reading it this way, seeing the box as something that has grown up and around her, as the carvings and flowing patterns look to be wholly organic. Truly a wonder, and a melancholy spectacle. What a place to rest.
Slowly, I open up my eyes fully, and bring myself up from my knees. My every moment is slow and careful, as though if I move too suddenly, too abruptly, I'll hinder my own soul as it travels to heaven. Much the same as the garden of Eden I happen to be standing in.
Miss is behind me. Close as She always is, but allowing me a bit of space to recontextualize myself again. She is a mess of unguided nature, slowly seeping into the room and mixing with the rest of the garden. But She's nearby, and that's all that matters to me right now. A comforting presence, as always.
My bare feet tickle when pressed into the softly damp moss and underbrush. Passing by all the little flowers that almost seem to lean in towards me when my fingertips brush across their black petals. A beauty in the sadness of a funeral hall.
I take a long and deep breath when my hand finally rests across the coffin box. I can feel all the little ridges in the wood, all the miniscule splinters left behind by growth. It smells earthy, floral, and lightly spiced. But most of all, it smells clean. It smells…. like she hasn't rotted even slightly. As though if I opened it to peer in at her, she'd be the perfect angel that left this world, sleeping quietly in her wooden bed. A pained smile joins me at her side.
It takes me a few moments longer to begin what I came in here for in the first place. The Funeral Procession.
The moss gently holds my knees once again as I dip down low enough to place my palms beneath the coffin. It's almost a little warm on the bottom, cushioned by the plush moss and petals.
Lifting it is another story entirely. It's…heavy. But not heavy in a physical sense, more so in an emotional sense. Picking her up out of her resting place feels akin to slowly wading into deeper waters. The vines and roots anchoring the coffin to the earthy floor below give way easily. Pulling apart silently as though they're giving her up without resistance. Handing her to me itself. I take the angel Ortet with a gentle bow, and a sturdy shift to my back. The flat end of the coffin, at the feet, is supported by my hands behind my back, as the flat bottom is held across my back and supported by my wings. I rose slowly from my crouch into a slightly hunched over stance. Now it's just time to take the first step.
Ever so slowly, I take a step forward. The weight is easily properly distributed across my body in a way that almost guarantees a gentle ride. Though I'm a little unsteady, with how much it weighs to hold your own corpse on your back. I'm worried I might drop her, even though I know I won't. She is made of porcelain and glass. I wouldn't want to shatter her.
The next few steps are easier after that.
We have to get her on board the ship somehow. This may be her last journey home.
When I make it to the threshold of the room, I'm stopped by a hand made of love and soft darkness. I look up towards Miss. She's partially out of my view, blocked by the edge of the coffin, but I can still feel Her looking at me. She steps in front, and kneels down to my eye level. "Are you sure you want to do this on your own?" She asks me. I nod, a few tears already pooling at the edges of my eyes. Purified water, as I've found out, is what my tears are made of. A genuine weeping angel.
The hand on my shoulder shifts to my chin, which is gently angled up towards Her. She smiles upon me, and snakes a dry vine up and around my neck. It eventually makes its way to the halo still floating above my head. Sometimes, I forget it's even there. Always a symbol, a representation of the journey I'm making in death. The vine, a knitted crown of thorns, ties around my halo. A floating crown of thorns. I'm gently rubbed a few more times before the pathway in front of me opens up, clearing me to begin once more. A gate from here, to there.
Stepping out of the room, I'm careful that the edges of the coffin don't accidently bump into the door frame on my way out. I don't want to disturb such a peaceful sleep. I slowly carry her out to the front door.
It's late evening. Sunset is just beginning at this time of year. A warmer season, likely summer or spring, but I don't really keep up with the lines drawn for when seasons end and begin. Maybe that's telling of something about me. It's all just a bit of a blur. Kinda like the sight before me when the door finally opens. Just a bit blurry, as little tears ceaselessly trickle down my face.
I take the first step outside.
Here, To There. Here, To There. Now just the journey in between.
Each step is long and slow. A bend at the knees which takes me just a bit lower when I push myself forward off the smooth stone of the walkway to the hab unit. It's warm to the bottom of my feet. Still holding a bit of residual energy from baking in the summer sun all day. Or is it spring? Or early autumn?
Where I'm from -another long, heavy step- we usually call autumn "fall" which -another step, labored as though the coffin weighs like the earth- I think is quite the interesting parallel, as every few steps, a feather from my wings detaches and gently falls to the ground. Another step.
The tears join the feathers, as I continue my slow journey to Golgotha. Marking my path with little damp puddles like footsteps in sand or snow.
I have to often stop myself from thinking about worthiness. Do I deserve the afterlife I have? Do I deserve everything I've been so generously given? Do I deserve this salvation? I remember everything, of course. Every detail of "my life" from before I opened my eyes the first time in Aether's room, my legs gently compressed into the soft by her head laying atop them. Sobbing weakly. But was it really ever me? It wasn't my life, was it. It was Ortet's. But I still remember.
I remember my friends. When I met Lillina for the first time, on a park bench at the edges of the town. I was looking over the still yet unrenovated parts of the city that used to contain the hells of fathers' workshop. He was a murderer, you know. Maybe I never saw it with my own two eyes, or later with my ocular lenses, but I saw his statistics and success rates. They were high. Higher than you'd think. He supplied many of the weapons during our occupation of the Rinnan homeworld. He is responsible for the deaths of thousands. He knew this, and would smile about his success. An efficient killer. One who feels no guilt.
Humans as well, too. Little wars between colonies, or some labor union that needs to be mercilessly slaughtered for their crimes against capital. And every so often, one of his robots would fail. Detect an innocent person as an enemy combatant and gun them down as easily as poking holes in tissue paper. But that never mattered. Because he could always pay it off. It would cost less to pay off the damages to the grieving families, than it would to fix the original issue with the bots. So he never did.
I met her there. With my head lost in thoughts, she came and sat down beside me. She said I looked cute with my dazed expression, but she wanted to know if I was okay, lost completely in my head like that. I told her I was. And that she can leave me alone, and go back to whatever the Affini do. She laughed, and asked if she could pet my head. I allowed it. I didn't know what it meant at the time, the feelings of comfort I felt to have a caring hand placed atop my head. We became friends after that. Slow at first, but stronger later. She was my first opponent. Another feather looses from my wings and gently floats down. I keep my march.
I remember it all, you know. Each and every little detail of every little thing Ortet went through. I can't distinguish any of it away from my own. For everything that is me, went to sleep on that deathbed, and opened her eyes on another. Simply a transition from one place to another. But there is a distinction, I know. I am not Ortet, and the memories in my head… though they feel like mine… I can't be so sure that they are. I have to stop myself from thinking about this kind of thing. Whether or not I deserve all of this. Ortet died for my earthly, mortal sins. I'm merely what came about after. I know there is a distinction between myself, Ramet, and I Ortet. I know there is, because I met her. She was perfect, and deserving. And she's me.
My foot catches on the edge of a curb, quickly bringing me down to my knees. The tears flowing down my face are a steady stream now. The box, the weight of my undeservedness, still rests flat against my back. As though I'm holding my own cross for crucifixion.
A dark mass enters my blurry vision, gently swiping away my tears. They halt, but only momentarily. When I look up, I see Her there. She's wearing a full black funeral gown of tightly knitted rose petals and leaves pressed flat. There's a dark hood draped across Her head. Proper, formal attire for a time like this. She helps me slowly to my feet, reinvigorating me with a righteous journey. I have to press on.
With a subtle glance behind me, I notice the flower petals that mark every few paces. And feathers that mark every few after that. Mistress seems to be almost shedding small parts of Her as we continue. That can't be the best of signs. Maybe I'll ask Her after this.
I carry on, heavy coffin on my back. Carried both like an anchor, and a bag of priceless jewels. A dichotomy of sorts. Am I really her, yes or no. I continue regardless. Heavy step, slow heavy step.
There's a slight sound of rustling off to my left, but I hardly pay any mind to it because of my current task. A few green vines snake their way into my vision in front of me. "Oh Floret? What exactly are you doing with that big box?" I halt in place, and slowly tilt up as much as I can. "Oh! Are you okay, little one?" I don't respond. The affini's hand, breaking apart into smaller pieces, comes to rest on my cheek and make my eyes meet theirs. "Are you okay?"
"I am." I respond, voice staticy and dull. Synthesized, simulated, and without the heavy emotions my normal voice would give.
"Why are you crying?" They ask, voice heavy with concern.
I open my mouth…. Then close it, as darker, more powerful vines start to wrap around the affini holding my cheek. A beautiful, deep voice washes over me. "I apologize for the way my Floret must present at this time. But, she needs to do this herself, even if it's hard. It's what she wants, and what she needs to accomplish. I would appreciate it if you back away from my pet. No harm meant, of course."
The other Affini nods and takes their hand away. The tears begin to stroll down my cheek again. "Thank you. I really must be going. She won't carry herself home." I say before beginning to march once more. Slow steps, as always.
Mistress stays back to speak to the other Affini for a while before catching up with me. We're almost home now, entering the hanger silos. I slowly make it down the hallway before collapsing at the door to our hangar, the ship, our ship, our home, dominating my view as I lay on the floor crying.
Gentle waves of cooling pressure slowly washes over me, calming my nerves and bringing my sobs back under control. A large, strong but soft hand is placed under me, helping me back to my feet. When I look up and see Her, She smiles down at me, washing away the last of the weight on my soul. I smile back, gently retrieve the coffin, and take the last few hundred steps to the entrance of our ship.
I make it past the threshold only just barely starting to sob again. Why this hurts so much, is purely beyond me at this point. Softness starts to wrap around my limbs to provide a bit of extra support, but I halt. "Thank you, Mistress, but I need to do this myself, please." Even my simulated voice cracks subtly from crying. The vines slowly snake off of me.
"This way, my angel." Her voice guides me out of the front room and toward our little house in the woods. Then slowly behind it, where a large altar is placed. There's a perfect indent for a long square shape.
I gently set the coffin in its respected place.
I'm swept up and away before my knees even hit the dirt below me. Pulled down into the Ocean Of Dark and Warm… and Soft… and Comfort. And She holds me until I stop crying, a few hours later. She holds me the whole way through. Each layer of my grief, my sorrow, my pleading, and in some parts, my jealousy. I should have been the one to die, not her, not Ortet. Not the original angel.
Oh, that's what I am, aren't I? Not the original angel?
I cry again for another hour or two.
When the feelings are slow cooked and simmered down into a thickness that seeps between my metal bones, but no longer spills over my mechanical heart, I'm released.
"Oh, Sera…" Mistress says, clearly overcome with emotions as well. Emotions, that's right. It's not just my own self pity at play here, but Her's too. How forgetful of me. I remember, in this moment, my true duty. The one gifted to me by Ortet, by the original angel. Make Her happy with my presence. Just as She does for me.
I curl around the coiling vines a little tighter. "Yes, Miss?" They slowly brush across my almost-skin.
"I love you, Sera. Nothing less than the collapse of the universe will part us."
Oh what was that saying? Oh, right. "Till Death Do Us Part? Right, Miss?"
She takes a deep breath. The air in the room flows across each of Her flower petals. It's a soothing, brushing sound. Accompanied by a cool breeze. "Right."
Silence reigns again for a little while. Until "Seraphim."
"I want to… I want to work on you. It's been a while since I've gotten a chance. And I think now… I'm ready. Are you?"
"Of course, Mistress. Always and whenever you need."
"Good." I'm coiled up a little tighter, a little more possessively.
"Umm…." I say, slightly pleading. She catches my meaning.
"Good Girl." She says, running a few fibers through my silver white hair. I'm slowly picked up and moved into a different part of the ship. Towards the underbelly. The workshop, apparently.
It seems sparse, only just lightly filled with the tools that Mistress collected when we were back at the old hab earlier. Though what it lacks in tools and assistance, my Owner makes up in precise appendages. Does She really even need all those pesky tools anyway? Apparently not, as I'm picked up and placed into a cushioned seat towards the center of the room.
"I've turned down your sensitivity." She says, unfurling beautifully around me. "I know this is a rough time for the both of us, and we're both not really in the mood for anything more than just a gentle tune-up, don't you think so, beloved pet?"
"Yes, Miss, I do think so."
"Oh? What's that I hear?" She starts to poke and prod at various parts of my metal shell. "Since when could you use anything less than my full designation? I don't remember updating those parameters, Sera."
I shrug, my arms all wrapped up in soft. "Well, to be honest, the author thought it was a little inappropriate to use that full designation of yours when going over such a sensitive point, and that Miss was a little better fitting for the time."
My Owner leans back for a moment, looking at me with a dumbly confused face mask. "What?"
"What…?" I respond back.
"What did you say?"
"Oh, uh nothing. I just found a way to underwrite your digital signature so I could copy your… fingerprint essentially, and access a few of the higher level administrative capabilities. But it seems to have changed since then, so I don't seem to be able to do it again like that." I shrug.
She hums. "Good, that's for me to do and not you. Remind me to update my security and add a few extra layers of encryption… you're getting too good at this bratting thing." She says, pulling open a few of my access hatches and taking a peek inside. It makes me smile.
"The reminder has been set, Mistress. And I know you love it."
She smirks, pulling out a jumble of wires and plant tech. "I only love it because I love you, silly thing."
"Oh, I'm a thing now, am I?" I respond smugly back.
"Yes, and a very distracting thing who seems to be bent on not letting me properly repair her." She says as She properly undoes all the little knots.
"You love my banter."
"Yes, yes I do. Your voice is beautiful." My Owner leans forward and kisses me softly on the forehead before leaning back down into Her work.
"You made it, Miss."
"But you speak with it, and that's what makes it special." A stray vine, one not seeming to be busy, trails up my side and rubs across my cheek softly. "Now, it's been a while since you've had your tools, huh?"
I nod, if only to rub my face against Her tickly vine a little bit more.
"Well I had the idea… why not give it back to you, but a little different, a little more… upgraded. I do have the rights to all your little workshopping blueprints, after all. I think you may remember agreeing to give those up to "the Affini" whenever you lost. That happens to be me, and I happen to have followed those plans." Mistress says, taking out a small silver box and placing it somewhere tightly in my chest. She then retrieves a small, thin, wire like vine from somewhere in Her body and connects it to one end of the box. "You had the idea to connect your warp drive to your brain once you were fully digitized. Well, you are now, so why not give that a shot huh?"
"Wow, Mistress! That's amazing! How am I gonna power it?" I ask, beaming a smile.
"That's what this little box is for, it's a secondary generator, just for your little sword and warp device. Isn't that nice?"
I nod happily. "It is, Mistress, thank you so much."
She leans down and kisses me on the forehead once more. "Of course sweetheart, anything for you." I watch in adoration as She trails the other end of the wire up the inside of my metal shell and out of sight. There's a little clicking feeling in my head as I feel the generator connect to the circuitry that runs my digital consciousness. Awesome. "All right, that's all connected. Now to just stick this in its little spot and you're good to go." She retrieves the final piece, slotting in my warp drive device, and curling all the vines that make up my internals around it. It feels a little strange, like hugging myself in a small place. But more than anything, it feels right.
Mistress takes another few passes over my body, gently tightening a few joints here and there until I'm all properly tuned up. "There, all set my darling pet. Give that a try." She says, helping me to my feet and closing up all my hatches.
"How am I supposed to do this, exactly?"
"Should be just like your ability to exert my signal over general tech. Just think about it hard enough and it should respond to you properly." She says, patting me on the head.
Just think huh. Well I'm pretty good at that. Well, until I'm horny, then I'm not very good at that. Thank goodness I'm sober!
The world shifts suddenly the moment I pass the thought to warp a few feet in front of me. A sudden shift in point of view, and very slightly in the air. There's a crack and boom when I appear a few feet forward, before a gentle thud when I land on my feet on the floor.
I spin around suddenly, looking over at my Owner with my eyes wide and my cheeks stinging with a giant smile. "It works!!!!"
"Seems to be so." She says with a smile.
"That's so fucking rad!!!!!" I shout, thinking hard enough and warping straight back over to Her.
"It sure is, darling." She wraps up all around me, as tight as can be. She seems to relax softly around me, curling all over my body and holding me close. It seems like a tension She was holding just got released. A big, long, slightly chill rush of air washes over me and all throughout Her vines and flowers. It fills the room up with a pleasant floral scent. "I'm so glad I was able to do this for you today, Sera. I was worried I'd be too afraid to ever work on you again."
I squeeze myself up against Her a little tighter. "I'm glad you were able to too, Mistress. It makes me feel very nice when you fix me up."
"Well, my sweet princess flower, I'm more than happy to fix you up any time you need." She curls all around me a little more, ruffling me all over and pressing various flowers up against me like kisses across my metal shell. Though after a few minutes more, we part. "We still have some work to do though, sweetheart. All that furniture won't build itself. And you, missy, need to practice for tomorrow."
I grumble a little bit. "Mmnneeehhh… You're right. You're just so comfortable though. And soft… and I love You."
"I love you too, dear. Come on, I'll carry you into the bar if I have to." She finishes disentangling from me. I look up at Her with pleading eyes.
"What do you say."
"Good girl!" She pats on my head before sweeping me off into the bar room. When we enter, I see Aether standing on the top of a tall ladder with some kind of toolkit. She seems to be attaching the projector system in a recess just under the main chandelier lights for the room. She looks over me and waves. I smile and wave back.
"You're getting really good at that." I tell Her.
"Good at what?"
"Controlling you both at the same time. How come you're getting so good at that?"
"How come you're getting so good at undermining all my control over you, huh?" She retorts, voice like honey and love.
I think for a moment…. And shrug. "Practice?"
She smiles and nods. "Practice. I never had a reason to control both at the same time before we got close again. It was always one or the other. But I think I've gotten pretty good at it so far. It gets easier each day."
There's a loud clinking sound and a whispered 'shit!' from across the room as Aether drops a tool down several rungs of the ladder.
"Well… I get better in theory at least." Mistress says, setting me down behind the bar. "Are you ready for some practice of your own?"
"Sounds like a plan, Miss!" I stretch out my shiny silver arms and interlock my fingers together before making a 'chhk chhk' sound with my teeth. "I'm ready!"
Mistress flops over into a wriggly mess of plant and beauty, making a wonderful orchestral sound of alien, inhuman laughter. "Did you just!" She reels back a moment more, laughing in an ascending scale of notes. "Pretend to crack your knuckles?"
"Yes, yes I did." I say with a smile, miming out the motion with my hands again.
"Ugh!" Mistress collects Herself all up again, standing back on… the messy bundle that makes up Her lower half. She never seems to form feet or legs all that often these days. "You are so fucking funny girl, I swear. Every day I spend with you, you do some other dumb thing that I can't help but just adore! You don't even have knuckles!" She falls over laughing again like the ocean meeting the beach. Gentle waves washing over me again and again.
"That's why I made the sound! I don't have the knuckles to do it normally!" I say, half giggling out each word.
"Ahh… That's true, isn't it." We laugh together a bit more before cooling down. "Now, girl, you have some practice to do. Get to it, that's an order, love."
I 'crack' my 'knuckles' again and pick up a yellow fruit off to my right to begin cutting and preparing. "You got it!"
(End Of Page Twenty Five)