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Momento Mori

Chapter Text

Prologue

The stars were especially bright the night she was cast away, practically dead to anyone who bothered to remember her. They seemed to twinkle like diamonds among coal, a single rose against fields of weeds. He found himself gazing at them as he sat atop a plain, rusty lamppost in a street that looked just like any other, no significance that he could pinpoint. Although the stars were clear and present, clouds seemed to weave in empty spaces, spilling tiny drops of water onto the ground below, soaking the greenery with a light sheen. Regardless, he didn’t move away from the rain or find shelter. He quite liked the refreshing, cold sensation of water against his wings.

The fluttering light beneath his pale silhouette was like a candle flickering in the wind, barely lighting up the surrounding street which was abandoned by all, desolate benches littered among the pavement. Whatever human souls that wandered around at this time weren’t in this area, for sure. He liked the quiet anyway. The silence was like calming whisper which seemed to magnify all of the natural sounds that surrounded him. The hymn of the trees floating through the air, catching on the wind which would bite with frost every so often. Taps of water against the man-made structures, like clockwork, tap, tap, tap. Each blade of grass shuddered as the drops sunk into the earth, descending through the layers of soil and buried wildlife, animals burrowed, unknown and forgotten.

The rain didn’t appear like it was going to let up very soon. The stars seemed to slowly twinkle away, and he found himself frowning as the clouds covered them from existence. He just hoped, deep down, that it didn’t convey a bad omen. Usually, the stars twinkling out meant the fall of an angel’s human, or an angel themselves.

He could just be reading too much into it, though.

As the drops collected, minute by minute, miniature pools of water formed on the streets, rippling with each drop that fell, spreading larger with each empty second that passed by. Roxas could almost imagine small fish skipping along the water’s edge, the ghost of their image dancing amongst themselves, flipping and skimming the water’s edge. It was easy to imagine life given form, bones and veins and flesh formed out of thin air in a labyrinth of basic evolution. The image, however, dissipated as soon as it arrived, the environment reducing itself back to the cold, barren wasteland void of a soul.

It was then that he heard the unmistakable rustle of wings, the woosh of air that weaved in and out of the feathers that sent a gush billowing outwards. Xion’s grinning face loomed over his in a matter of seconds, her black halo of hair framing her features, though the memory of the stars winking out prevented a matching smile to appear on his, despite his best friend’s appearance.

That caused her expression to fall in turn, her wings drooping slightly, though she still remained floating in the air, the drops of rain absorbing into her hair rapidly, small strands already sticking to her pale skin.

“I knew I’d find you down here.” She spoke softly, though there was an unmistakable edge to her voice that he caught instantly. Roxas broke his eyes away from hers, observing the tree nearby. She shifted to float alongside him.

“You were there again, weren’t you.”

His gaze returned to her face, only to watch it crumble in dismay. She didn’t speak for a few seconds, the only sound originating from her was that of her wings beating in a dull motion. The leaves whistled harshly as the wind picked up alongside the rain.

“I can’t stay away.” Her voice sounded pained, and he could’ve sworn he heard it crack towards the end. Her telltale sign of avoiding the tears.

“You don’t have a choice, Xion. We have one duty, one loyalty. Regardless, they’re humans. We’re angels. We don’t mix. We can’t mix.

She shook her head, her eyes averting as the tears began to fall. “Well, what if I don’t want to be an angel anymore. What if I want to choose my own fate?”

“What? Xion, I swear to the Angel, you can’t be doing this again. We have one duty. To protect and guide our assigned humans. Not to fall in love with them. And not to listen to the demons! Their sole reason for existing is to taint whoever they can grasp.”

“...It’s not like it can be helped now. Maybe I’ll even get my wish, as I’ve been called upon Ethos. And you know what that means.”

The air seemed to still around them, the wind no longer noticeable as time stopped. “No. No, no, no, no. You’re- not-”

“Roxas, I’ve come to terms with my fate.”

“You can’t just.. turn your back on us! You’ll gain a fate worse than death. Why would you want to become a mortal?”

Xion turned her head to look straight ahead of her, the raindrops falling on her face going unnoticed. She ignored his plea entirely. “Maybe I’ll be lucky and meet her.”

“I could lose you forever. You’re being faced with the threat of banishment and all you can think about is a human?”

“She’s not just a human. Her name... is Namine.” Xion sighed, her gaze looking down below. “She… she’s beautiful. I’d rather chance my existence than know I’ll never be able to meet her. I don’t want to watch her grow old and die, don’t want to be assigned to anyone else. I- I couldn’t, yet they don’t care about us, they just use us-”

“How can you even say that? We’re here to serve one purpose and one purpose alone. You can’t just question it because you’re stupid enough to get attached to a human!”

Roxas knew that arguing would only drive her away, though he saw no other way, because, in truth, he was scared. All the facts seemed to point to the fact that Xion was, in fact, going to be banished, wiped away, gone from Roxas’ life forever. All those years they’d stuck together, never wavering, like two sides of the same coin.

What rattled him even more was that she didn’t seem to care. She was ready to leave him behind. Ready to push their entire existence aside.

Xion didn’t respond to that. Roxas didn’t expect her to. Neither of them spoke a word to each other again until the familiar whistle that stood for a summon rang through their ears, and with a flash they vanished, transported to the place only dubbed as Ethos, their separate part of heavenly tranquillity. It held vast pillars and hallways built within clouds, various plain living areas held below that were rarely ever visited. Who needed to sleep, or partake in mundane activities, when you were an angel? A being that existed to guide humans in their daily lives, and watch over what remains?

Only the higher angels resided in the throne room, and even then, the area surrounding the shimmering seat above was only visited when an angel’s fate was being decided.

It was rarely ever a good fate that was decided on.

The two soundlessly walked along the misty path, various angels standing aside, watching, whispering. They knew why Xion was called. It was common knowledge among angels if one was led astray by their wants and desires.

Roxas, however, was there for a lesson. To view the consequences.

Each step up the polished steps felt like an eternity in which Roxas’ panic seemed to rise higher. Each second they walked may have been a second less that Xion would be by his side, forever.

The bile rising from his gut felt like a death sentence.

Yet all too soon they reached the pinnacle of Ethos, a circle of higher angels standing in silence, their eyes closed in contemplation. Their heads seemed to give off a shimmer as they turned towards the two, their pale white eyes opening to view at nothing.

Both Roxas and Xion stood upright opposite them, their hands held behind their backs and head held high. One of the higher angels broke away, moving to stand in front of the black haired girl.

Alea iacta est.” Their voice was like a hymn, mouth unmoving as they spoke. Their eyes, yet non-existent, examined everything. “We have made a decision.”

Roxas’ breath seemed to catch in his throat, and he was quite sure Xion felt the same, although, with a quick glance to his side, she seemed calm.

“We exist to guide. We are all knowing, the divine messengers. We do not interfere, nor deceive. Absit invidia. Yet we know yours is not.”

The angel clicked his tongue, looking upwards, a silent communication, almost like they were reaching a verdict. Yet he knew that had been made hours prior to her summoning.

Exilium.”

No!” Roxas cried out, his teeth bared as his arm moved to fall in front of Xion, a pathetic attempt of protection, although he knew deep down that it was going to happen. Within a matter of seconds he was restrained by invisible ties, slicing into his wings as he tried to struggle, making him howl in pain. He could hear the heart-wrenching sizzling that radiated from the burns, though he couldn’t stop, he had to find a way to change her fate, to change their verdict, because it was Xion. The vice felt like a feather compared to the prospect of losing her. The only angel he knew worth caring about. Worth defying anything to save her.

Banish.

Blood began to run, and he only faltered when a sob sounded from next to him. The abrupt loss of adrenaline made the pain settle in, and he winced as he focused his narrowed eyes to her tear-filled ones. Not even her words could dissipate the anger, the fear that ran through his veins.

Stop struggling.” She let the tears run, not bothering to wipe them away. “I told you. I’ve accepted my fate.”

“But I haven’t!” Roxas’ voice broke, his eyes, filled with panic, switched between Xion and the unmoving angels facing them. “You- You could agree to be good, to do what you’re supposed to do-”

Roxas.

No!”

“Xion Nihil, you are hereby exiled, a fallen angel sent to live among the humans below, forever dead to your fellow beings. You will not remember a thing about us, now and forevermore, your fellow friends,” an emotionless glance to Roxas, “and closest companions wiped from your mind. Oblivioni traditæ.”

Xion’s eyes closed right as the sickening sound of flesh being torn ripped through the silence. Though she didn’t flinch as her wings were forcefully ripped from her body, bone and flesh leaving jagged tears across her back. She didn’t flinch as the blood began to run down her spine.

Exhile and forced amputation of those beautiful, ethereal wings. Even as a human, she’d have unexplainable, jagged scars across her back, lasting until she took her final mortal breath. The only mark of who she used to be.

Oblivioni traditæ.” They began to chant, a mantra, forgotten, forgotten, forgotten-

Before too long the sickening stench of Xion’s wounds caused him to forcefully empty his stomach onto the floor, retching long after it emptied. Yet not a word, or even a tear escaped her body, and it set something in him alight.

“Don’t you care?” He screamed at her, screamed at the angels, screamed at nothing. She betrayed them and she didn’t even seem to care.

No reply. Not even a wobble of her bottom lip.

“Goodbye, Roxas.”

Roxas blacked out moments later, an invisible force knocking him cold, the sound of her voice ringing in his mind.

-

He awoke on the same marble flooring moments later.

A brief glance confirmed Xion was gone. So was the vomit and blood, and only the angels remained, back in their formation in the middle of the hall. He let his wings pick him up from the floor, shuddering as he felt the reverberations of watching Xion’s wings being torn from her skin.

“Let that be a lesson to you, youngling. That is what happens when you become a Fallen. That is what happens when you defy what you were created by the gods to do.”

Roxas nodded obediently, soundlessly, emotionlessly, bowing as he left the room and leaped from the cloud-frosted balcony, the wind whipping around his face as he fell to the ground below. Within a brief moment he was back to the same lamppost he’d sat upon moments prior, with Xion next to him, though the space next to him felt like ice. His feet rested on the post just the same, lowering himself to perch and look at the streets below. Still empty. Still dusted with endless rain.

The fight within him, present only moments earlier, was long gone. Now he just felt cold. Numb.

The world felt more lonely without her, and as he closed his eyes, Roxas knew things would be considerably different from there on out.