Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandom: Fate/Grand Order
Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna
Genres: fanfiction, AU
Characters: Karna, Siegfried
“I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”
Sequel to Till I Break You
Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the burning sunlight flowing through the open window. He squinted his eyes out of reflex and grimaced, until a figure blocked the sun and provided the much-needed shade.
“You were kinda drooling on the textbook, you know,” a familiar voice said, and a hand handed him some tissues.
Karna lifted his head and caught sight of Siegfried’s face. His lips were slightly curling at both ends and he was having a Slurpee in his other hand. His long hair was tied back in a high ponytail, his tie was loosened and the top button of his white shirt was undone.
Spring was receding rapidly to make place for summer and the weather was getting hotter by the day. Along with the heat came the conclusion of their semester and the long-awaited summer vacation.
Karna consciously touched the corner of his lips and found no traces of drool. He shot Siegfried a glare but snatched the tissues nonetheless. Just in case.
“Stayed up late last night?” Siegfried asked, sitting down on Karna’s table, which earned a reprimanding look from Karna. It wasn’t that Karna disapproved his act; Siegfried had done it countless times before, and Karna was fine with it. Mr. Steinfield, however, wasn’t, and he was more than happy to give Siegfried a detention should he catch him.
Siegfried shrugged and didn’t budge.
Karna nodded. “Got into a fight with Arjuna last night over moronic things.”
“Video games. Someone was being a sore loser.”
“So you had a hard time falling asleep? You often do when you two fight.”
“Not this time though,” Karna bleated, pillowing his head on his arm. What he would trade for a real pillow right here, right now. “I… was having a nightmare. When I woke up, it felt like I hadn’t slept a wink.”
He motioned his hand for Siegfried to share the Slurpee with him, which the other student did. Siegfried was even thoughtful enough to bring the straw to his lips. “What was it about?” he asked.
Karna lazily took a long drag of the refreshing cold drink. Wild cherry huh? Siegfried’s favorite while his was watermelon but wild cherry wasn’t too bad. The sweet coolness on his tongue dispersed somewhat the cloying mist in his head and soothed his rampaging headache. “It was weird,” Karna began. “I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”
“Dissolving?” Siegfried echoed, wincing. “As in acid sulphuric?”
“Sounds horrible. It had to be excruciating.”
“The thought was, yes, but I wasn’t in pain. In fact, I felt almost nothing. Weird, huh? Could feel the heat but not the pain. I thought that too, until I realized I had no lower body and no limbs. Only my head, neck and shoulders connected to a torso. And I knew, without having learned how, that soon what was left of me would dissolve—”
“Okay, okay, okay, stop right there before that image burns into my head.”
“That’s not the worst of it,” Karna said, half irritated because Siegfried cut him and half amused by his reaction. He was too sleepy and lethargic to decide which was dominant. “The same dream came back just a few minutes ago.”
“A recurring dream huh?” Siegfried wondered, stroking his smooth chin pensively. “Maybe your subconscious was trying to tell your something.”
“Looks who has just become Sigmund Freud,” Karna deadpanned.
“That’s Fox’s major, not mine, along with horoscopes. Wanna meet her after school and consult her?”
“I want to go straight home and sleep until tomorrow,” Karna replied, yawning dramatically audible. “Maybe the day after tomorrow.”
Furrowing his eyebrows, Siegfried looked down on Karna’s I’m-a-lazy-cat form. “Then I suppose our date is canceled?”
Karna’s half-lidded eyes shot open. “What? What day is today?”
“Friday.” A beat. “And my parents are out of town until next week and yours by the end of the month.” Another beat. “I got pizza and Netflix and PS4. Just enough to last us through the weekend.”
Karna’s eyes shone the brightest this entire morning and afternoon. “It’s not canceled,” he protested. “Just let me snatch some shut-eye and I’ll be good.”
Siegfried beamed triumphantly. “But didn’t you just say you wanted to go home?”
Seeing through his taunt, Karna pouted. “Between Arjuna’s spicy tantrums and his bland curry – same thing this whole week – and Netflix and pizza, I’ll go with Netflix and pizza.”
Siegfried arched an eyebrow. “You don’t mean Netflix and chill?”
Karna gave him a hard pinch, almost sending the other student off the table. Despite that, Siegfried was laughing so hard his eyes were brimming with mirthful tears. His laugh was contagious and Karna found himself laughing along.
“Anyway, just forget that weird dream and take a nap,” Siegfried said. “I’ll wake you up when break’s over.”
“Don’t get too bored doing so,” Karna replied, resting his head on his folding arms.
Mouthing “I won’t”, Siegfried looked around the class. Once he had made sure they were definitely alone, he bent down to place a light kiss atop Karna’s spiky head. His heartbeat quickened, excited by the prospect of spending the whole private weekend with Karna.
With his eyes shut tight, the corners of Karna’s lips curved into a smile as he tried to do as he’d been told, pushing that horrible nightmare to the far corner of his mind.
… along with a tidbit of truth he had withhold from Siegfried so as not to worry him: he wasn’t alone in that dream, because Siegfried was right next to him…
Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the purple sky that stretched far beyond his eyesight. The sun was present in the sky yet he felt none of the familiar assuring warmth from the sunlight, for the sun was not the blazing wheel of his father’s chariot but a gigantic black hole outlined with ominous light, from which dark mud continuously poured down the vast sea under. Hot and cold engaged in a continuous battle, each with its own ferocity.
Soaked in lethargy, Karna let out a feather-soft sigh and attempted to move his limbs, only to be sharply reminded that they were no longer attached to his body. Already dissolved in this sinister mud, their presences a lingering phantom in his fading memory. It would be a matter of time before the rest of his body and his consciousness succumbed to the same fate.
The familiar voice was a gentle breeze that dispersed some of the soupy mist in his mind.
Coming into his sight was a face of doleful horror: where the skin had been smooth and adorned with the light pattern indicating the powerful dragon blood was now charred and falling off, partly revealing the teeth. The other half of the face, unmarred and still retaining its handsomeness, was masked by unspoken sorrow and agony.
Karna wished he still had a hand – just one hand was enough – so that he could press his palm against Siegfried’s cheek and hope to ease away the sadness and pain he had endured.
“I was dreaming,” Karna whispered, forcefully taking his eyes away from the horrific wound on Siegfried’s face while they were being magnetized towards it. It wasn’t its grotesqueness that shook him; rather it was the jarring truth of whose hand had inflicted such cruelty: his own. “It was a bizarre drea—”
His speech stopped short when his gaze landed on Siegfried’s shoulders. His usual armor had been stripped off, and in Karna’s sight was a blood-crusted stump. “Your arm…” His breath got stuck in his lungs, pressed down with incredible pressure.
“Ah,” Siegfried let out a sigh of resignation. It made a weird soft wheezing sound through his wound. “It’s only inevitable. My only regret is that now I’m unable to hold you with both arms.”
Jabbed by the sharp pain clouding Karna’s irises, he quickly added, “It didn’t hurt at all, only a minor discomfort, the nagging feeling of phantom limbs.”
He cut himself short, realizing Karna probably knew it all too well; after all he had been submerged in this dark mud long before Siegfried.
“Tell me about your dream. I want to hear it.”
“It was a… strange dream,” Karna began. “It wasn’t a nightmare, no, maybe it was but let’s say it wasn’t a nightmare in the conventional sense.”
“It was… peaceful and normal and these two alone were the telltale signs of bizarreness.”
“Because peaceful and normal do not apply to us Servants?”
It was a question that came out of his mouth but his tone indicated a statement.
“We were humans in that dream. Not just you and I but Tamamo, Kiyohime and every other Servant we’ve acquainted. Humans living human lives, going to school, fooling around, having fun.”
“That sounds…… tempting,” Siegfried sighed.
It took him a while to find the word, and the courage to voice it.
“It was… beautiful. Sunlight pouring through the wide-open window, enveloping me in its pleasant warmth, like Father’s large hand softly patting my head, my shoulders. So beautiful that it was terrifying.”
“Can we Servants even dream?”
“If it wasn’t a dream then what was it?”
Silence, only the bubbling of the mud to fill the space.
“Another world, perhaps?” Siegfried said, at last.
“You mean a parallel world?”
“Yes. I prefer to think there is another world out there where we are humans. Maybe there are myriads versions of us.”
Karna temporarily shut his eyes, contemplating Siegfried’s theory. It fascinated him, excited him even, to imagine himself and Siegfried as humans as in his dream. Humans who weren’t heroes having to shoulder the weight of saving an incinerated world. Humans who led their lives as carefreely and ignorantly as humans could.
“Perhaps there is,” he replied, his tone hinting a sliver of joy. “It was blissful to be able to catch a glimpse of such a dazzlingly peaceful world.” A pause. Long enough for Siegfried to start pondering if he should interrupt his train of thought or wait. “Is it selfish to wish to be in that world even for just a few moments?”
“It’s a little odd hearing the selfless Hero of Charity claim to have a wish,” Siegfried teased. “Might take a while for me to get used to it.”
Karna managed a smile and even a gesture as small as that seemed like great exertion. His time was probably not long. The next time he closed his eyes, perhaps…
“I didn’t have a wish when I was summoned,” he said, “and then I met you. I wished to fight side-by-side with you for as long as our time in this world allowed. And now…”
“I only wish to be with you, even though it seems impossible now.”
“It’s not impossible. I’ll be with you till the very end.”
As if to assure Karna as well as himself, he kissed him on the lips, which had become even paler than normal and long lost its warmth, together with the rest of his body. What he was holding in his arms resembled a cadaver, with almost no life left in it.
“And I with you,” Karna said. He felt warmth and moisture on his cheek, and was unsure whose tears they were.
“If we were ever summoned again…”
“If we ever were summoned again…”
They said in unison and their sentences were cut short almost at the same time because Karna had closed his eyes. With that his body disintegrated into thousands light particles.
Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the sounds of plastic bags being rustled. One glance at the window told him that dust had already settled in. The sky was dyed a purplish color and the sun was a half ball of dimming light disappearing behind the countless houses and buildings. The temperature had become a bit milder with the soft breezes scented with the faint smell of roses from the garden one story below. The honking of vehicles echoed from the distance. He straightened his back and sat up from his half-sitting, half-lying position on the couch. He had always loved this couch in Siegfried’s living room – so fluffy and comfy that once you sat down, you never wanted to stand up. In front of him Siegfried was busy laying the boxes of pizza, fries and drinks on the coffee table. It seemed a bit too much for the two of them; luckily they were both big eaters.
“Caught a nap?” Siegfried asked, opening the boxes of pizza to reveal a Seafood Deluxe and a Pepperoni Superb. Steam was raising and an enticing aroma fought off the scent of roses to fill the living room. Despite the uneasy feeling in his stomach, Karna felt his mouth water at the sight and scent. His appetite was catching up to him.
“Yeah,” Karna replied, ruffling his spiky hair. His hair was probably sticking in all directions but he couldn’t care less.
“I just went out to grab some drinks, just in time for the pizza delivery guy to arrive. Here.”
Siegfried opened a coke can and handed it over. Their fingers brushed and Karna received it with silent appreciation; his throat was often very parched after waking up. The cool liquid quickly washed away his thirst. “I was having a dream,” he said.
“Don’t tell me it was that dream again. If you keep having the same dream like that it’s really worrying.”
“I’m pretty certain this is the last time it visits me.”
“Well, the ‘me’ in that dream died. No, more like vanished or erased. I’m not so sure what that was supposed to be. His body became countless spots of lights and disappeared. Anyway, I knew that ‘me’ no longer existed.”
“That’s disturbing,” Siegfried commented.
“It was a just a dream, nothing more. And I want a slice with that juicy prawn.”
“Right,” Siegfried said, handing Karna what was seemingly the biggest slice. As for himself, he took a piece of pepperoni pizza. “After dinner, what’s the plan? Netflix or game?”
With his mouth half-full with pizza, Karna said. “We still have to decide who’s gonna clean up and take out the trash. That means game.”
“Oh? Is that a challenge? Alright. Game on.”
Karna shrugged and finished his slice, savory and chewy. Just the right kind of junk food to soothe his hunger. As he stretched his arm to get another, he tried to temporary push the last vestige of his dream to the back of his mind: the look on Siegfried’s scarred face while watching Karna turn into particles of light. He had a hunch that look was likely going to haunt him for some time before the memory worn off.