Which is more Godlike? The power to create worlds, or the willingness to save lives?
However the point isn't so much the history as the story.
In the planes this universe are all manner of odd creatures. Reptiles that speak and walk as humans, giant rats that do the same - named Nezumi - humans with all manner of mutation. Perhaps the most odd though, are the planeswalkers. God-like. Powerful. If provoked, they possess the power to transport a being through the shades of dimension to worlds of demon spawn and fire... and then disappear without a trace.
Of course, many of them don't find the average person worth it to do something so rash to. But it doesn't mean that they haven't, or don't. And it still doesn't mean that they have any sort of compassion. Sometimes I even doubt that they have feelings, much less a heart. They can do other things, without mercy or compassion that those of us blessed with mortality are usually given.
My bitterness should be obvious, but it is warranted, and I will tell you why. No, better yet, I will show you.
"Gods Reiza! They do this to us - he does this to us - and I'm tired of it! If ever there was a tyrant, it was him, and I'm done answering to him, and I'm done having our entire village answer to him!"
"Be careful, he'll hear you."
"I don't care any more, don't you see?"
Reiza turned from the window to face her husband, eyes flashing anger, "I know you don't care, Yaku, but I do! I don't want to open that door one day to find him on the other side, prepared to strike you down for speaking against him!"
"As if he'd care," Yaku muttered, arms crossed and bowing his head and looking to the right, "it would take an army of us knocking at his door just to notice us!" He dropped his arms, sighing, "Gods know if he's even human any more."
"He's lived for thousands of years, and not changed form once," Reiza said, "he must be human."
"Yeah, that's my point!" Yaku said in exasperation, "Thousands of years! How can he still be human! How can a soul last so long in this world?"
Reiza sat down heavily in a chair, sighing and running fingers through her dark hair, eyes tired. No one had slept well in the last few months, and it was beginning to be normal to glance into water and not recognize herself. "I don't know," she said honestly, "they say the planeswalkers are Gods, or demi-gods... but no one ever claimed that the Gods possessed a soul."
"They are only supposed to gift us with souls... and they seem to miss a few even in that capacity," Yaku agreed, coming behind Reiza and wrapping his arms loosely around her shoulders. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment of silence, kissing her temple in a reassuring gesture.
"It's all right," Reiza murmured, covering his hand with his. "I just ..." she shook her head, leaning it against his shoulder mutely.
"Scared?" Yaku asked quietly.
"Yes. He's getting worse. It's getting worse. There are children that haven't slept in weeks. They doze in the day and when they're awake they look like zombies. Their parents are only marginally better. We're all tired, and heartsick since..."
"Hush," Yaku whispered, tilting Reiza's head to kiss her gently, "you know why they died - to protect the rest of us."
Reiza leaned into the kiss, extracting what comfort she could from the contact. "But why did he kill just them? They went for all of us..."
"Shh, no one knows that," Yaku said softly, lips moving slowly down her neck, pausing at the base of her shoulder. "And we'll probably never find out."
Reiza nodded miserably; everyone had asked the same questions when Junei and Kinun had gone to entreat the planeswalker to cease the energy extraction from the area that left everyone exhausted day after day, and the experiments that caused blankets of caustic gas to blanket the lands some mornings and induced severe coughing. As Yaku resumed his exploration, he took her hand, mouth moving near to her ear and whispering, "Reiza, stop worrying about it for now, please. Something will come up - it has to. He can't ignore us forever."
"He's got that long," Reiza said, but gave in to Yaku's insistent lips, smiling in spite of herself and drawing him closer with a hand to his sun-bleached hair. "But then," she said with a breath between kisses, "I guess that means that he can wait too..."
"Say, an afternoon?" Yaku asked with a feral grin as he scooped her up from the chair.
"Sounds perfect," she replied with a chuckle as he ducked through the door and deposited her on their bed, kneeling to give her a long kiss.
"Yeah," he said breathlessly, "I thought so."
"Are you still intent on fixing this?" Reiza asked sleepily, one finger lazily tracing the lines of Yaku's face.
"Of course I am," he said, a hand curling around Reiza's waist. "I can't stand by and watch, you know that. And no one else has the education around here."
"I'm not letting you go."
"Because I won't let you risk it."
"No. After what happened last time..."
"That's why I want to go."
"If I can't stand beside you when you-,"
Yaku rolled over, placing one finger on Reiza's lips to quiet her, eyes meeting hers squarely. "You're not going," he said in a final tone, "because I won't give him that bargaining chip so easily. If he threatened you directly, I would give up everything. And if I'm going to help, he can't have that kind of upper hand."
Reiza swallowed, and, unable to argue, nodded finally. "All right," she said, "but at least let me help you before you go."
Yaku rolled back beside her, sighing. "As if I wasn't going to do that anyway," he said with a smile.
Reiza gave him a smile in return and settled back into his embrace, closing her eyes to doze in slight - if somewhat troubled - contentment.
"They say gaze of a planeswalker is the nearest thing to a knife one can get without ever once approaching an edge. Do you believe this is true, Yaku?"
"You'll forgive me, my liege, but I did not come here to discuss philosophy with you," Yaku said mildly, never once shifting his stance. "I am here to ask you to cease the harvesting of my village and the surrounding area for spiritual energy, and to stop - or at least divert - the foul air that comes from this direction semi-weekly."
"I see," the man said flatly. "And you believe that philosophy is useless to your cause?"
"Not at all, sir," Yaku replied smoothly. "I simply believe that you would understand all of my arguments already. I believe they were brought forward several months ago."
The tension in the room stretched like a spider's web against a child's inquiring fingers, the planeswalker's gaze flicking to Yaku calculatingly and then back to flatness. "Indeed," was his only response for a long moment. He then moved to study a piece of blank parchment, seeming to find interest in its smoothness. "Tell me, Yaku, do you believe in the existence of the immortal soul?"
"I have never heard the term in its entirety, sir."
The man sighed as if presented with a difficulty, and sat back, studying the man before him. "There is a society on another plane - Terrestria - which believes that every man and woman born, no matter the parentage, is in possession of a soul. A seed of self which is timeless, and cannot be lost or eroded with time. Do you believe in such a thing?"
Yaku looked somewhat paler as he answered. "No."
An eyebrow raised. "I see. Do you know what makes a human?"
"The elements, the components, or the consciousness?"
Yaku forced himself not to swallow, aware that his words were subtly being used to trap him. "Passion. Awareness. Compassion. Mercy."
"A sense of mortality?"
Yaku paused before responding. "Yes."
Yaku hesitated. "Love is a sort of passion, is it not?"
The man noddd. "If of a prolonged and deeper sort, I suppose."
Yaku relaxed somewhat, until the man spoke again. "Aren't you going to question my understanding of Love?"
"You have lived long years," Yaku said, "many more than myself. You possess a deeper understanding of love than I."
"An understanding, you say?" The man asked, seeming amused. "Your words are slippery. Do you understand hate?"
"Trued hatred? The kind that drives men insane and eats away at them until they can dwell on nothing but it? Can you understand it?"
Again, forced to truth by power, and trapped by his own words. "I can."
A smirk. "Have you ever felt it, Yaku Mamoru?"
Yaku felt a shiver as the planeswalk spoke his full name, the inflection perfectly matched to his own. He nearly bowed his head, and then realized that his answer was not something to be ashamed of and raised his chin again. "No."
There was a long pause, and then the man nodded, seeming to have decided something. "Something a man may be proud of," he murmured, and sighed. "Very well. I am nearly finished with my experiments in any case. Rest assured that your village will cease to be sapped as of sundown, and the gasses will likewise cease."
Yaku could not hide his surprise, and bowed deeply with an overjoyed grin. "Thank you sir!" he said, "From all of us."
"Yes, yes," the man said, waving him off, "give my regards and apologies to your Reiza."
Halfway turned, Yaku suddenly tensed at the mention of his wife, a shiver of fear shooting up his spine like black ice. Abruptly he remembered the man's alignment of mana - black and blue. Dark ice, warmth stealer. He half turned. "Apologies, sir?" he asked in a pseudo polite voice.
"For her worry in your coming here," the man said half-heartedly. "Now go and spread the good news while you can. It is already starting to get dark and I need to finish up."
"Ah," Yaku said, "yes sir. Thank you again."
As he walked back, the man leaned back, eyes half-lidded in thought, hands steepled before him.
"Yaku!" Yaku had barely closed the door before he was pressed against it by a crying Reiza, who bowled into him and then clung like a frightened child. Yaku smiled, loosely wrapping his arms around her and kissing her crown. She took a shuddering breath and threw her arms around his neck, saying, "I was afraid you wouldn't come back! That you would disappear without a trace, no warning, no nothing, just like-,"
Yaku leaned down to interrupt her with a kiss. "But I didn't. And he's going to stop. Nothing happened but some uncomfortable talk."
Reiza's eyes widened, she leaned back enough to look at his face in wonder. "He...he's going to stop?" she asked in disbelief.
Yaku noddd, grinning boyishly. "Yeah," he said, "the sapping and the gas." He frowned slightly, "said something about being almost done anyway... but I'm not counting right now."
"I should say not!" Reiza cried and threw her arms around him anew, "I would have been happy just to have you back alive, but this! Yaku, this is amazing!"
He nodded, and pulled her closer, saying, "It is. Should we let everyone know?"
Eyes shining, she nodded, "He won't be able to go back on his word then."
"He won't," Yaku said, and took her hand, opening the door and smiling, "come on."
Nodding, she followed him out.
As he walked back to their home in the late afternoon light, Yaku stumbled. Reiza caught him, frowning, but he shook his head and took her hand again, smiling, leading them through their door and closing it with a final snap, then turning to her, and without a word pressed her against the table with a deep kiss. Reiza responded almost desperately, fear still left over from his absence evident in her gestures as she ran gentle hands across his back. As he broke a kiss, she murmured, "we could wait until he stops."
He chuckled deep in his throat and pressed in again, one hand threading itself through her hair as he captured her lips for a moment, and then whispered, "or we could not wait, and take advantage of the extra energy it will afford us."
She paused, and then laughed, both arms around his neck as she said, "I like the way you think."
"I know," he returned, kissing the insides of her elbows lightly, "if you didn't, you wouldn't have married me."
"It's getting dark," Reiza observed, trying to hide her excitement.
"You want some dinner?" Yaku asked, "We can celebrate over bread and fruit."
"Sounds lovely," Reiza said, and grinned, "as you suggested it, you can get it."
Yaku rolled his eyes, and pecking her on the cheek swung out of their bed, sauntering into the kitchen as Reiza stretched, smiling. She could already feel the difference in the air - less oppressive and more pure somehow. Strength seemed to be returning to her body even as she lay in bed. She smiled, reveling in the feeling of true rest, only just glancing up as Yaku appeared in the doorway.
However, halfway, his hands seemed to slip, and the tray that he had held clattered to the floor. Worried for his feet with the knife, Reiza half rose to help him, but he waved. "It's all right," he said, kneeling, and picking up the knife and board, "I'll..." he paused suddenly as he rose, panting slightly.
Mild panic rose in Reiza's heart. "What is it?" she asked, trying to keep her voice even.
"I...don't know," Yaku said, one hand over his chest as he breathed. He stumbled over to the bed and sat down heavily, still breathing hard, even from just the small act of leaning down to retrieve the small items. "I'm suddenly... exhausted."
Swallowing down a pit of fear, Reiza laid a soothing hand across Yaku's chest. "It's almost dark, he should be stopping soon." She forced a smile, "I told you we should have waited..."
He smirked, leaning back to kiss her, but instead falling back onto the pillows and trying to disguise it as his intent. Reiza frowned though, helping him raise his legs to rest. "Are you sure he said he'd stop?" she asked.
Yaku took a deep breath, as if the air were thin and there was a great weight on his chest. "Yeah," he said, "he said that I could rest assured that my village would cease to be sapped as of sundown."
"It's nearing dark," Reiza said quietly, peeking out of a window, "Another ten minutes."
"Oh," Yaku managed, and raised his hand to beckon her back. She obliged, sliding next to him and leaning her head on his chest. He wheezed and shut his eyes a little tighter, the hand on her waist curling slightly with effort. Silently, Reiza took his hand, squeezing it slightly in an attempt to give him strength, forcing the voice in the back of her mind going insane with senseless fear to quiet as her eyes watched the window, waiting... waiting... waiting...
"Almost there," she said quietly, "nearly sundown."
"Hush," she said soothingly, "tell me once it's lifted."
He was quiet for a moment, breathing laboriously, and then tried to lift his hand to stroke her face, but it flopped back to the bed, useless and sapped. "Reiza," he whispered, voice nearly gone. "Reiza, I'm not -,"
"No!" she said, refolding his hand in hers, "No, you are. It's not more than two minutes more - you can make it and it will be done. And you'll have saved everyone and we can finally move, or set up a job of our own, or start a family..." her eyes shone with dreams slowly collecting in her eyes, brimming over for the fall she could see was inevitable.
He swallowed and gasped again, breath shortening. "A family," he whispered, "Oh Reiza... I wish,"
"It'll happen," she said, pressing his hand to her heart, "it'll happen, just another minute and we can start again, remember?" She sniffed, trying to keep the tears at bay, just for another minute.
He almost shook his head, but the effort was too much, and settled for a frightfully weak squeeze to her hand and a ghost of a smile. "I love you," he said, "Reiza, I love you, please, remember that..."
She hiccupped, refusing to accept it even as he faded before her eyes, "what's to remember?" She asked, "you're right here...Yaku,"
She bowed her head, kissing his fingers and then laying his hand over her waist and curling up to him again, gently grazing his lips with hers, assisting his last breath as she let him taste the tears in her mouth. "I love you," she said, trembling, and even as her life returned to her, she felt it leave again with his, the eyes she held dimming to reflect the swiftly approaching darkness.
We realized the snake's smooth words too late. Whereas he had said 'your village' he did not say 'you'. I discovered later that the spell he was using would have required another month's worth of sapping from all of us... just a month. But instead of telling Yaku this, he took him as a donation, a sacrifice, a victim, without his... our, knowledge. He was a rat, a snake, no better than the insects that prey upon our blood and bring pestilence with them. But he is no bug, he is a planes walker, a God. Above us all in might and intelligence, and below all in morality. Yaku risked and gave his life for us, so that we could live as more than dolls. He gave us our souls. How can a mortal man be more god-like than the Gods?
I learned from him. Great power and long life are nothing - nothing - compared to the simple, pure light of a soul.
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