The first thing Viral really noticed was that he didn't sleep anymore. At first, he'd thought that the Spiral King had been teasing about that, about Beastmen needing to sleep or they wouldn't survive. But he'd spent his life up to then sleeping like regular, blacking out hard for several hours in the middle of the night.
Now, he would lay there, and toss and turn, and nothing would happen. Lordgenome hadn't exactly told him what the change really meant. When that stupid monkey had faced him, he'd said something about "immortal body" and "tell the world" but none of that fucking mattered anymore, did it? Lordgenome was dead, all of Viral's so-called superiors were dead. The other Beastmen ran around, more like beasts in most cases than men at all, which just pissed Viral off. He didn't want to compare himself to either. He wasn't an animal, damnit. But he wasn't a human. He didn't want to be a human.
After the Spiral King's defeat, Viral took Enkidudu into the desert. He didn't really feel anything at all. He didn't feel pain, although there was blood all over him. He'd always been kind of used to pain, anyway. Adiane had liked to push him around, make him bleed. He'd always taken it, never cared. Sometimes he'd liked it. When he'd fought that loudmouth monkey, Kamina, he'd bled just a little. He hadn't minded it then, either. He'd been impressed by it - not that he'd really say it out loud - but he hadn't cared.
He remembered pain, though. He remembered the way Adiane would treat him, the way he'd gone right to her for it, time and again, knowing what she'd do. He remembered how Cytomander had flipped his shit after Thymilph and Adiane were both defeated. He remembered what it was like to stand against Kamina…and lose. He remembered, because he couldn't sleep and block it out, the things the Spiral King had done to make his body immortal. After that, there wasn't any more pain. What could anyone do to him, now, except piss him off?
So he wandered through the desert, with the Ganmen slowly degrading, slowly breaking down. He had no idea how to fix it. He'd never really dealt with the mechanics or anything like that, and he had no idea what to do with the damn thing. It was a little bothersome, so he started looking for someone to help.
He was ambushed outside a settlement of humans, sometime in the middle of the night. They were freaked out about even seeing a Beastman at night. He laughed at them, from inside the Ganmen, and played around for awhile, but his heart wasn't in it. He didn't really have any reason to kill them. What did they know, anyway? They weren't the ones he wanted to bring down. He wanted to bring down Simon and his stupid fucking Gurren whatever. Even after all this, it was kind of a personal vendetta. The rest of the humans could go fuck themselves, but he still had his eyes set on Kamina's legacy. It wasn't the same, and knowing Kamina was dead hadn't brought him any real sense of accomplishment, somehow. But he still wanted to…fight them, at the very least..
The humans he was fighting got confused when he stopped fighting back and just started to wander away. The leader of the group called out to him, which he wasn't expecting, and it caused him to pause.
The whole encounter ended in an invitation to stay for dinner. It was the most surreal moment of Viral's life up to that point, eating with those hairless apes, but they…weren't that bad, in the end. They were still living underground, for the most part, finding that arrangement preferable to living up in the harsh desert sun.
Viral got along pretty well with the kids. They could run around and pull on his hair without him really caring much. Though his hands were big and ended in claws, he didn't hurt them. The humans actually started to trust him, and he came to stay with them in their village. If anything threatened them, he could take care of it, either with the Ganmen or on his own.
The worst was when three roaming Beastmen found him and three of the kids in the middle of the day. They were a mile or so away from the entrance to the village, and Viral had left Enkidudu back there. He could go back and get it easily, but leaving the kids alone with Beastmen that were at least twice Viral's size didn't seem like a good idea.
One of them recognized him.
"Oi, Viral, didn't you die with the Spiral King?" he said, leering down at the other Beastman. His canine mouth twisted in a sneer, revealing fangs that really had nothing on Viral's own.
Viral laughed at him. "You wish I did, dogface, huh?"
"Say, are you actually with these children? I thought you were a big shot in the Human Extermination League. Unless you're gonna kill 'em later."
"Mr. Viral isn't going to kill us!" one of the kids shouted, feeling brave from where she was standing, behind Viral. "He's our friend!"
Viral felt a muscle in his jaw twitch, and narrowed his eyes at the other Beastmen. All of them laughed.
"Traitor," the canine one growled at him. "We oughtta tear you apart. You and these worthless humans."
Who the hell do you think I am? Viral thought. He grinned at them, looking almost manic, "Bring it, dogbreath." The kids had the sense to run, at least, and the three Beastmen charged. Viral stood his ground, grinning the whole time.
It was over pretty quickly. Viral was a trained fighter, and he was also decently unbalanced. And he no longer felt pain, of course, so that gave him an edge the others didn't have. They ran away, threatening to bring it back tenfold, and he just laughed at them, like he did.
The kids came out of their hiding places when they were sure it was safe. They'd been watching, of course, unable to curb their curiosity, but they weren't stupid enough to do anything other than cheer from safe places.
"Mr. Viral, you're bleeding," the oldest girl said.
"Is that a knife?!" the youngest, a boy, squealed, pointing with a shaky hand at something sticking out of the Beastman's side.
Viral looked down, confused, and pulled the object out. It was a knife, and it came out of his side with a sickening sound. Blood flowed from the wound, but he felt nothing. "Huh," he said, staring at the knife in his hand. After a second, he tossed it on the ground and held his clean hand out to the kids. "Let's get the fuck out of here," he said.
They followed him, but none of them would touch him. They were concerned that he was really hurt, despite the fact that he showed no real signs of pain. The blood had stopped actually flowing, and when he glanced down, the wound was closed. Was this what it meant to be immortal? He realized he had no idea what the word really meant. Immortal…like the Spiral King? Yeah, well some goddamn immortal he turned out to be, letting some punk ass human take him out after a thousand years or whatever.
Fuck did you do to me, old man, Viral wondered.
Eventually he more or less became one of them, or at least, they treated him like he was one of them. He never really considered himself human, because he wasn't. He stared off in the distance as the city developed in the place where the Spiral King had been defeated, and he thought about Kamina and Simon and the goddamn Gurren Brigade and how much he wanted to rip them apart. If he was going to live forever and tell some story about victory, why couldn't it be his own? It wouldn't matter if they shot him or cut him or beat him, since he'd just heal anyway. What could they do to him that he couldn't do worse?
But something kept him from taking the Ganmen and barging into the city for some half-baked idea of revenge. It wasn't even really revenge, so much as it was that only Simon and those Gurren idiots were worth bothering with at all. No one else could fight him and have it mean anything, or make him feel much of anything. The longer he stayed in the village, though, the more he could pretend he belonged there. He'd never had a family, never had an idea of what that would be like. He was a solider, a fighter, a subordinate. That was all he'd ever been. Now, he did what was asked of him because he knew how to follow orders. Sure, he shot off at the mouth no matter what, but he was still following orders. He didn't know how to do anything else.
His eyes turned to the horizon, where the city loomed, and he thought about Kamina and how he had to go and fucking die, and he couldn't figure out if he really hated the naked apes or if he just…didn't have any other way of living.
Years passed, though Viral only marked them because the kids grew up. Kids did that, he guessed. He didn't really change, except he stopped cutting his hair. Other than that, what did it matter? He wasn't going to die any time soon, or maybe ever. The idea of "forever" hadn't sunk in for him, and didn't really much matter. Sometimes he remembered why he hated them, and sometimes he forgot, and life went on.
When they got the order to all move above ground, there were protests. People were scared, and people were pissed off. A few Beastmen had seen how Viral was treated and had gotten in close with the humans, and they were pissed too. Viral didn't really see what it mattered, but the fact was, the people didn't want to go, and they shouldn't have had to. Although it was a little bit against his nature, Viral stood up for them. He had the Ganmen to help him, and he had an inability to feel pain to help.
In the end, he was outnumbered, and his Ganmen wasn't the most functional anymore. He couldn't really fix it or control it, and he was pissed off and halfway to crazy when they dragged him off and threw him in prison. He sat, alone in the dark, a lunatic grin on his face, and thought about how fucked up it had all gotten. What point was there in a prison? Eventually he'd just bust out, since it wasn't like he'd die here, and they obviously weren't going to kill him. He wished they'd try, since that made more sense. The Spiral King killed people who disobeyed him all the time. But the humans had to make a big damn deal out of it, something to do with government and order and shit Viral didn't care about, and here he was locked up.
He mostly got along okay. He was quiet. There were other Beastmen there, but it only took a couple skirmishes to get them to leave him alone. The humans were still mostly afraid of Beastmen, especially ones with lunatic shark grins, so they weren't really an issue.
At least, they weren't until one of them with blue hair and a faraway expression ended up in the cell next to him.
Viral picked a fight with Simon right off. Someone else got there first, but Viral didn't give a shit. He could take anyone any day at this point, and with Kamina dead for the past however the fuck many years, Simon was the next best thing. Maybe Simon could make him feel something. But Simon couldn't land a hit, and Viral just got fed up with him, and they ended up locked up again anyway.
Simon also sucked at conversation. Not that Viral was really excellent at it, but that wasn't the point. Simon was all flipped out about the end of the world, or whatever, and that forehead kid had acted like a total dick, from what Viral gathered about it.
Viral found that in the middle of the night, Simon would talk in his sleep. He would curl up in a tight little ball, or he'd toss around all over the place. Usually the words were mumbles, but Viral caught "Aniki" or "Nia" or something about "spiral" in the middle of all that. Since he still didn't sleep, he would just sit there and listen.
The last night they were there, Simon woke up screaming.
Viral looked over at him. He watched the human kick himself out of bed and sit there, shaking. He didn't bother asking what the dream was about. It didn't really matter, did it?
"Gonna wake everyone up," he said, instead, though his tone was careful and not mean.
Simon glared over at Viral, and Viral offered his shark grin in return.
"Shut up, what do you care," Simon whispered.
"I don't care, nudie," he said, flipping his hair back over his shoulder and staring off out the bars of the cell, at nothing.
Simon paced around for awhile. Viral glanced at him sideways a couple times, but neither of them spoke. Finally, Simon came and sat down against the bars that separated them. Viral was already sitting there, though he couldn't have said why. Simon buried his face in his hands and sat there for awhile, silently.
"You killed Aniki," he said, finally, so soft Viral wasn't sure he'd said it.
"Yeah," he said, anyway.
"Are you even sorry?" Simon asked.
Viral didn't answer right away. He slid down against the bars, too, so they were back to back. Was he sorry? That was a word he didn't really think much about. Sorry. Was he even supposed to be? They were enemies.
"Are you sorry you killed the Helix King?" he asked.
"No," Simon said, immediately.
Viral chuckled. "Yeah, guess I'm not really either." He was quiet for another minute. "I didn't mean to kill that loudmouth nudie, you know? It wasn't supposed to go that way."
It wasn't really an apology. Viral had no idea what sorry was supposed to feel like, so he couldn't answer Simon's question. Simon seemed to take that well enough, though. He turned, so he was sideways, instead of with his back against the bars. Viral turned, too, more out of curiosity than anything else.
Simon caught the movement and turned the rest of the way around, holding onto the bars with his still-cuffed hands. Viral jerked away, on impulse, but after realizing it was okay, he turned to face Simon head on.
"The world's gonna end," Simon said. "Because of us. Dai-Gurren. I just…wanted to follow Aniki, you know? I just wanted to…and now they're gonna destroy the world. Not just humans, but Beastmen and pig-moles and everything."
"Everyone blames me for it."
"Yeah, well, there's always gotta be a scapegoat, right?"
Simon sighed and leaned his forehead against the bars.
Viral reached up with his own still-cuffed hands and pushed his long fingers through the bars, twisting them in Simon's hair a little bit, ruffling it. "It's not really your fault," he said, roughly, hesitantly.
Simon made a sound that might have turned into laughter, another time. "Yeah."
When Simon asked Viral, when they busted out, if he'd pilot Kamina's Ganmen, he agreed. Not because he really cared about the moon falling or whatever it was, and not because he liked humans. He kept telling himself he didn't. But with his fingers in Simon's hair, and the tone in the kid's voice, he remembered pain again. It wasn't his pain, though. It was Simon's.
He told himself he didn't owe the kid anything for killing his bro. But Simon offered him silent forgiveness, and he did the same thing he'd always done: followed orders.
And he couldn't say he didn't like kicking ass again, even if he had to share a Ganmen with a human. Even with that human.
It hit him, in space, when they weren't sure they were going to win. Maybe he wasn't immortal so he could tell the story of Lordgenome's victory, or even his own victory.
Maybe he was immortal so he could tell the story of Simon's victory. Surprisingly, that wasn't such a terrible thought. And all he had to do was help the kid win, or die trying.
He could live with that.