Above them is the night sky, littered with stars. Nier once read a book about how people have names for the different constellations, but he never bothered memorizing them. All that matters now are the names he and Yonah come up with, pointing out the shapes and patterns that only they will ever know.
Yonah bumps his shoulder with her own, leaning forward to hug her knees to her chest.
"What'll be different?" she asks. "After the…"
Her lips twist as she tries to pronounce the word, voice failing her. Nier smiles as he pats his sister's head, interrupting her to finish her trailing sentence, as he's grown so accustomed to.
"Gestalt," he says, running through the word with her a few times to help her memorize it. "The Gestalt Project."
The premise of the project is so promising, but like with so many other things, he finds it difficult to place all of his trust into it. He turns back toward the sky, toward the infinite promise the stars hold. There have been countless stories written about the way the world used to be — before the skies started to rain salt and the ever-changing climate ravaged the environment.
But to Nier, that's all they are: stories. He never lived in the time before the world started to break itself down; he wasn't alive yet to know the cruelties of the world. They're just tall tales to him, just like the lies he tells his sister, and he can't look her in the face when he lies.
"Everything will be fine," he continues, tight-lipped as he watches the stars. Maybe they're dying right before his eyes, fading from existence in the blink of an eye. "Just better."
Yonah doesn't ask him what "better" might entail, and he's relieved that he doesn't have to spin more elaborate falsehoods. He doesn't even know what that better life might be; Yonah safe and happy, with a roof over her head and plenty of food on the table, is all he's ever wanted.
"I'll still know it's you, right?" she asks. "And you'll still know it's me?"
There's something in her voice that worries him, something high-pitched and anxious. Before he can stop himself, he's looking into her eyes, clear and blue like the sky on its best days — without the salt and without the pain.
It is fear he sees on his sister's face, eyes wide as she stares up at him, awaiting his reply. He wishes he had all of the answers for her — to ease each of her worries — but he doesn't. As an older brother, it's always been his job to take care of her, but sometimes he doesn't know what to say.
Nier is so tired.
And the planet — it's tired too. It holds not only the weight of his own worry but that of humanity as a whole. He imagines the planet is exhausted, and he wonders what the sweet release of nothing might feel like.
He thinks about that a lot.
Nier volunteered for the Gestalt Project for Yonah, and Yonah alone. Her sickness has only become worse with time: the listlessness, the endless fits of coughing. Fate has backed him into this unfortunate corner, forcing him to see help from strangers he isn't sure he can trust.
The Gestalt Project is Nier's last hope.
The whole purpose behind the program is to find a cure for White Chlorination Syndrome — to save this dying, decaying world before there's nothing left worth fighting for. To Nier, his sister is his world. Losing her isn't an option he's willing to accept, no matter how close to the end they've come. There isn't a point of no return for him — not when it comes to Yonah. He will fight for her until his very last breath.
All of the researchers involved with the project tell him that the future is looking bright. They've made so many substantial breakthroughs and in such a short amount of time. The world can still be saved.
While Nier might not have a point of no return, the world does. Humanity does — at some point, they won't be able to bounce back from the damage that's been done.
Humanity hangs on that very precipice, lingering on doom.
Nier believes in the scientists, taking them at their word that they can save his world — Yonah.
He is the first human to successfully become a Gestalt — that word his sister had trouble pronouncing. It seems like so long ago that they sat under the stars, looking forward to the future while wanting nothing more than to remain by each other's side.
Because of his success with the project, people have started to treat him differently. Instead of a no one — no face, no name — he is now a beacon of hope for mankind.
Despite his own success with becoming a Gestalt, there are still just as many failures as there had been before him. The only difference now is that more people are volunteering themselves — their bodies and souls — than ever before, all because of one man's success story.
All because of Nier.
He might feel guilty if it weren't all for Yonah — her smile, her warmth, her love.
The researchers promised to help her — to heal whatever it is that is ailing her — in return for his cooperation with the project. But whenever he asks for an update on her progress, they brush him aside with vague replies.
"We need more time," they say, scratching at their clipboards with near-empty pens, refusing to look him in the eye. It's the same as when he lied to Yonah. "Just more time."
But it's never enough time. Until finally, they tell him he'll have to wait a millennia to see his sister well and whole again, once the project has run its course. It doesn't matter whether or not he as a Gestalt could actually live that long; he would tear down what's left of the world to see her again. The worst part of it is that he was wrong.
Nier does have a point of no return. Gestalt Project, humanity, the entire planet — let it be damned, for all he cares. He is but a husk, watching the rise and fall of the sun each day with nonchalance.
When he closes his eyes, dead to the world, he can hear his sister's voice; her slight lisp, her passion for life and everything dwelling in it.
Turning his back on the humanity he once knew, he decides he'll fight for her in his own way. Even if it takes a thousand years, he will hear his sister's laughter again.