The storm outside the beaches of the Promised Land had finally quelled but the sky remained dark. Maurice, Maeter, and Linck sat crisscrossed together in despondence, unable to sleep after helping and caring for Renton and their mother all day long. Renton had struggled to recover from the injuries he had inflicted on himself last night, while Eureka was still in pain from recently growing out a pair of rather strange and iridescent green wings.
Eureka laid still next to Renton as she tried to gain her bearings from the recent changes in her body. She stroked his cheek delicately, hoping for his recovery to be swift. No one but perhaps Eureka knew how much he had to go through to fight for the ones he loved, even going as far to harm himself to convince her that she didn't have to cry because of her change. Although the storm had passed and Renton was finally asleep, Eureka was still shaken by the events that had unfolded onto her half an hour ago. More so, she was rather shocked by what she had heard at that time.
"You're warm, mama… and you smell nice." Maeter replied as she held onto Eureka. Suddenly, Maeter jumped from her embrace, her face quickly turning petrified as if she suddenly saw a ghost
"Maeter, what's wrong?" Eureka worriedly inquired.
Maeter sat there petrified. Her eyes began to trickle tears as she tried to speak. "I… I… I remember a long time ago, I was held by someone warm and smelled nice."
As she uttered those words, Maurice instantly knew what Maeter was talking about: the day that Eureka found the children under the bodies she had been ordered to slaughtered. Out of the three children she had brought in out of guilt, he was the only one who could recall that fateful moment. Though despite what she had done to his real parents, he remembered seeing the guilt in her eyes for what she did when she took them in. And for all she had been through, he wanted to help her forget about the past as much as she does.
"Maeter, that's enough!" Maurice shouted as she tried to calm her down.
Regardless of his protests, Maeter continued. She huddled her arms together, and placed her clenched fists closer to her mouth. "And then… they suddenly got cold."
"Maeter, stop it!" He shouted once more. However, his attempts to quell her sister failed as he saw Eureka turn around in shock at what she had heard.
"I'm so sorry…" Eureka whimpered, hanging her head in shame as she felt tears starting to well up in her eyes. "I… was responsible for…"
Maurice quickly turned to Eureka as her mouth started to tremble. "You're our mama, now." He replied, as the concern on his face bubbled up even more.
"Yeah, you're our mama!" Linck offered.
Maeter rushed towards Eureka and hugged her from behind, wanting to feel comfort from the painful relapse she had experienced.
Eureka stared blankly towards Renton with a depressed look on her face. The more she thought about what happened earlier, the more she became concerned about what her children would react if she told them what happened to their real parents. Would they stop talking to her? Would they see her as a monster and run away from her? Would they stop calling her "mama?" Such thoughts had plagued her since the last thirty minutes, and even if Maurice had insisted she was their mother now, it still didn't bring her much comfort.
Renton… maybe it's time I tell them the truth. Eureka thought to herself as she fixated on the boy. I'm scared, Renton… but I know I must do this… please pray for me.
Eureka turned around to see the kids huddling together. The three seemed a bit better than last time, though it was still apparent they were worried about their mother and Renton, and the uncertainty that lies ahead from everyone. As she rose up, her heart began to beat faster at the thought of what she is about to do. Nevertheless, she knew in herself it would ultimately be the right thing for her, and the proper first step in finally letting go.
"Maeter…" Eureka replied. The kids turned around to see Eureka sitting barely upright. Though it brought them relief that their mother was fine, they immediately took note of the despondent look in her eyes.
"Mama?" Maeter replied as the worry in her face begin to bubble.
Eureka looked down on herself, still frightened about what she was about to do. She could feel every fiber of her body try to resist her from telling them the truth, but her willingness to do the right thing ultimately took over. For her, and probably the kids, it was finally time.
"Do… do you remember earlier when you said you felt cold right after you hugged me?" Eureka spoke softly.
Maurice immediately knew what she was talking about and what she was about to do. "Mama, no please!" He protested.
"No! Maurice…" Eureka insisted.
"You can't!" Maurice pleaded once again.
"I said no!" She asserted once more.
"But mama…" He whimpered in a last-ditch effort to turn her back from telling them.
"Please..." She begged, having used all her assertiveness from her reserve. Despite his efforts, Maurice finally steps aside to let Eureka speak. For all their exchanging pleas, they both knew there was no turning back at this point.
"A long time ago, I was taken from people like Dr. Morita and Dr. Egan by the military, where they taught me to do many terrible things. At that time, I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. All I did was follow orders like a dog." Despite their regularly raucous nature, the kids sat quietly and listened to her, accepting every word she had said to them.
"One day, Holland and I were ordered to go to Ciudades del Cielo… to kill people. Lots of them." Eureka continued, her voice beginning to tremble. "But I didn't know they were people… the military taught me they were targets. I… had to shoot a lot of… them there. And when we were finished, I heard crying from below… and when I looked down… I found you guys. When I picked you up… I realize what I did… those targets I shot down… were all people… and…"
"Mama…" Maurice spoke softly.
Tears began to roll on Eureka's eyes as she slowly hangs her head in shame. "Maurice… Maeter… Linck… I want all of you to know that I'm so sorry… for taking the life of your real parents." She slowly curled her body with her arms covering her. "It's okay if all of you hate me… I know… I can never be your mama."
Her last few words made Eureka covered her face in disgrace and weep uncontrollably. While a part of her felt relieved that she finally took the step in telling the truth, she was afraid that the children she raised might finally abandon her. She still felt lowly for what she had done years ago. The weight that had built in her chest became unbearable to the point where she just wanted to take her own life in return.
Suddenly, she felt a familiar but comforting embrace enveloping her that ceased her weeping. She raised her head from her palms only to see Maurice, Maeter, and Linck hugging her tightly in unison. Eureka was surprised at their response. Why didn't the children leave her in horror after realizing their adoptive mother took their parents' lives? Why did they comfort her with open arms?
"Mama…" Maurice spoke softly, hugging his mother as tightly as he could. "What you did… wasn't your fault."
"But Maurice…" Eureka whimpered.
"What you did wasn't on you." Maurice offered as he looked at Eureka with reassuring eyes. The stark remorse he saw from her gaze that immediately reminded him how drastically she had changed since Renton came into their lives. "You didn't know what you were doing, and you stopped when you found us."
"You took care of us, fed us, played with us, just like what any mama would have done." Maeter said, wiping a tear off Eureka's cheek as she extended a kind, comforting look on her mama's eyes. Despite the truth, she knew the effort that went to raising her and the others was more than enough to atone the sins of her past.
"And when you met Renton, you were always smiling." Linck replied, as he softly bounded his fingers onto Eureka's, his broken teeth complimenting his affectionate smile despite the apparent concern on his face.
"Mama… you've changed." Maurice offered, his face projecting a sort of solemnity that made him lower his head in sadness. "I know you've been trying hard to be a good person after what you did. I know we're not perfect… and I'm sorry we made it hard for you to take care of us."
"But no matter what happens, we love you." Maeter replied, placing her hand on Eureka's hand while comforting her with a smile sweeter and more soothing than a warm cup of coffee on a bitterly cold winter evening.
"We always will." Linck offered, his face displaying a warm reassurance. "So please don't cry, Mama."
Eureka was still in complete shock after what she had heard from the children. She had expected complete and utter admonishment after telling them the truth, yet what she received instead was forgiveness and compassion. She was overjoyed to know that the kids would never leave her, and they loved her unconditionally as she did to them.
Is this what they call… forgiveness? Eureka thought to herself, feebly fighting the tears from swelling up in her eyes. Humans are truly amazing.
Maeter instantly felt warm as she detected a faint smile coming from her mama. "I know you can't bring back our real mamas," she acknowledged, scooting closer to envelop Eureka in open arms. "But I'm glad we have a mama now."
Maurice and Linck followed suit with their sister and covered their mama in a deep embrace that instantly made her heart melt on the inside. Unable to contain herself any longer, Eureka pulled the children further into her and wrapped them in a much tighter embrace. She gave each of them a tender kiss on their foreheads while stroking their heads gently like a mother caressing a newborn. It brought joy to her knowing that she was finally theirs as they were hers. She pulled back to see her children's faces and the smiles that shine like a beacon of hope before hugging them once more.
"I'll do my best." Eureka sniffled.
"I know you will, mama." Maeter offered, still leaning herself onto her.
"And Renton too." Linck happily replied.
As he was still wrapped onto Eureka, Maurice's smile gradually faded at the mention of his name. The name of the boy that he remembered bullying back on the ship and distancing from him when he returned for his mama. The same boy who took care of his mama and the kids despite their vindictiveness. The boy he had almost taken his life from that one night.
"Yeah… Renton too." He quietly replied.
Moments later, Eureka had the children put to sleep. Maeter and Linck were on their respective sides, with enough space for Eureka and Maurice to sleep together. While Eureka went to check if the tent was securely shut, Maurice struggled to get himself to sleep. As he turns himself towards Renton's body, Maurice looked at him with melancholic eyes as he still felt remorseful for almost killing him in front of Eureka and the other children.
As Eureka carefully meandered over her children towards her side next to Renton, she quickly noticed the scratches on Maurice's exposed arm and the rock he used next to him. She picks the rock up and notices faint streaks of blood on it. Despite wanting to forget what happened, she couldn't help but recall what happened the other night. Eureka carefully maneuvered herself towards Maurice and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
Maurice turned towards Eureka and noticed the rock she is clutching tightly with her hands. He immediately turned his head from the bloodied object in shame, but noticed the concern bubbling from his adopted mother's eyes.
"You tried to hurt yourself with this?" Eureka asked softly, to which Maurice looks down and apologetically nods.
"After what happened last night?" she inquired again, this time with a hint of fear and shock in her voice. He nodded once more, this time with more remorse.
Eureka didn't need any further explanation to understand the guilt Maurice had felt on that night. Yet she knew she would've lost another person she had cared for. She gently placed the rock away from the two and ran a smooth hand across Maurice's cheek, giving him a sympathetic and concerned pass as she looked at him. "I know you are sorry for what you did. But you can't make up for it by hurting yourself. I can't let you end up sick like Renton."
"I almost shot him…" Maurice quietly replied, his trembling voice indicate a quiet struggle to not let any tears from rolling down his eyes.
"But you didn't. And I'm glad." Eureka offered as she continued to gently caress Maurice's cheek. "Remember what I told you last night? You mustn't go through what I went before because I can't let you to feel the same regret I do every day."
"Did it really feel bad?" Maurice replied as he shifted his despondent eyes towards Eureka's. "To shoot someone?"
Eureka paused for a moment and looked down, her gaze changing from concern to gloom. The memories of Ciudades del Cielo still brought her pain, but she knew that slowly opening her feelings of regret was necessary for the catharsis she seeks. "When I found you three under those bodies… I was horrified to realize how much innocent blood I've spilled my hands with. But I couldn't understand what I felt at the time until I met Renton." Eureka replied.
"When I knew what my feelings were, all I wanted to do was run away from what I did because I didn't want to harm anyone anymore. Then I realized that sometimes you can't always run from your past. We eventually have to learn from it, and from that we can change to be better." The solemn look gradually dissipated, as she gently bounded her fingers onto Renton's hand. She remembered how much she had changed thanks to his unyielding compassion.
"Had I kept what I did to myself for a long time, I'd be doing a lot more harm than good by lying to you guys and running away." Eureka continued, the expression of her face turning from placid moroseness to a warm, comforting beacon complimented by a faint, gentle smile as she turns towards Maurice. "But I can't do that anymore, because I have people that are dear to me. Linck, Maeter, Renton, and you. I want to protect you guys, because you saved me the moment I found you."
When he heard those words from her, Maurice immediately rose up and quickly hugged Eureka as tightly as he could, fighting the tears from his eyes as he could. Eureka wrapped her arms around him in return, feeling the warmth of the child she loved the most. She kissed him while lightly stroking his hair, taking in his familiar scent.
"I love you so much, Maurice." Eureka whispered in his ear.
"I love you too…" Maurice couldn't hold back and finally allowed the tears to stream from his eyes. He simply laid there on her arms as he cried. Eureka pulled him closer towards her, as her tender hands continue to run across his curled hair. He could stay in his mother's embrace forever; her immaculate scent and her soothing warmth was the solace he needed from all the pain he had felt.
"Mama?" He whispered.
"Mmm?" Eureka responded, still holding onto him.
"I forgive you." Maurice softly spoke, slightly muffled from her embrace but audible enough for Eureka to decipher his words. With those words, her heart instantly melted, making her embrace tighter than it was before but not enough for Maurice to cry out in protest. In an instant, she felt cleansed. Although she knows there is still work that needs to be done, she can rest easier knowing that a part of her past has been finally put to rest.
"Thank you." Eureka whispered as the tears trickled down her face again. Maurice and Eureka simply held onto each other's arms for a while, knowing that they found comfort in the forgiveness they found in each other. As time passed, the two finally parted from their embrace and looked each other with content smiles.
"Get some rest, dear." Eureka responded as she wiped the tears from his face and hers. "Tomorrow's a new day."
As Maurice finally put himself to rest, Eureka went on her side and laid next to Renton, still recovering from his injuries and illnesses. Before falling to sleep, Eureka slowly leans towards him to plant a soft kiss on his lips with a tear rolling down from her face to his. She placed her hand on his chest as she laid down, and slowly drifted to her slumber.
Renton… thank you… and please... get well soon.