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Holding Back The Shadows

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He made a promise, once.

A promise made in the tone of a statement of fact, made with a strained, pained voice while strapped down to a hospital bed, made while fighting off a foreign pressure on his mind and staring into the eyes of a dear, dear friend he thought dead.

“I will never allow myself to be taken by the shadows again!”

It is a promise that he doesn’t quite manage to keep, that time around.
He tried, certainly, and he never once fell to the shadows that had so controlled his mind but…

…well, there is more than one kind of shadow.

There is a shadow that lurks under eyes like the signs of lack of sleep and in the corners of strained and faded smiles, a shadow that creeps along in the footsteps of the heavy hearted, a shadow that skulks into hearts and minds and shows you the world through a faded, grey lens.

The war took its toll on them all, and he never quite managed to keep himself from falling to that shadow.
He hadn’t known how not to, really. With the growing despair and hopelessness from all around as the Shadowscythe forever drew closer, a heavy heart grew to feel increasingly normal. With the loss of so many and the memory of what happened, lack of sleep seemed basic fact. Faced with so much bearing down on them, so much responsibility on the shoulders of so few (so young), it seemed a simple thing to allow smiles and smirks and posing dramatically to make others laugh and just because it was fun fall to the wayside.

When the world around you is deadly serious, what can you do but change with the times?

He didn’t like it though. He never liked it. He felt hollow inside and wanted things to go back to how they used to be. Wanted to be able to smile and smirk and make others laugh again – but whenever he tried, it just felt as hollow as he did.

And then the Reset came.

Things would never be the way that they used to be. They never could be again. But that was okay. It was okay because it was a fresh start for them all, and the world felt brighter.
That was what he noticed the most, really, in those moments before time reasserted itself. The world was brighter, there was more light everywhere, and even in the short time that they were there he could see the shadows fading from the eyes of everyone around him.

He looked at the world that had come to be and felt something that he hadn’t felt in far too long flood in to fill the hollow that had kept him from smiling for so long.

Hope. True, real, actual hope. Not the sort of desperate hope that you’ll survive something, not the whispered wishes in the darkness of night that just maybe you’ll win, but a glowing, illuminating sensation of everything is going to be okay.

He thought about the promise that he made, that he would never let himself be taken by the shadows again, and thought of how he failed that promise. He thought of how he saw those same shadows take so many others, of friends growing older and older in the space of weeks despite youthful outer appearances, of university students with desperation in their eyes, forced to take on a burden too heavy for their young (all of them so young, so few of them even twenty for goodness sake, adolescence doesn’t end until twenty five they’re all just kids) shoulders but carrying it anyways.

Time begins to reassert itself and he adds an addendum to that promise.

“I will never allow myself to be taken by the shadows again…”
“…and as long as I am capable, I will not let them take another,”

When the world around you is deadly serious, what can you do but change with the times?

Simple, really.

He feels the magic thrum under his skin, beat in time with his heart and the heart of the planet. Sparks dance around his fingers and he lets a massive grin of a kind he hasn’t made in years split across his face.

You can add a little silliness instead.

When the time that will come to be known as the Final Thirteenth comes around, he’s learned a lot about keeping light around to chase away the shadows.

Literally and metaphorically.

He doesn’t falter even once. It’s just… not who he is. Sys-Zero let the creeping shadows get to him, but Cysero won’t. When you wake up in the morning, you’re not the same person you were the night before, and Cysero has five thousand years (one million eight-hundred-and-twenty-five thousand and seven mornings, specifically) on Sys-Zero. He knows how to recognise them now, and he knows how to fight them.

(A joke can be the greatest weapon you have sometimes. A smile even more so. Something as small as a thumbs up can change everything.)

So when things go from bad to worse, he doesn’t let hopelessness try to creep in. He does what he has done since this timeline started.
He smiles, and he keeps light going in the darkness, even when its greatest source disappears.

And avatars does the light disappear. The sun getting eaten does that.

So he grins, widely, wider than he has before, and declares “Wow! He ate the sun! It’s an eclipse!” and Lim drops his head into his hands with a groan – a startling, incredibly normal thing in this far too familiar darkness – and says “That’s not how an eclipse works…”

“Shut up!” Cysero chirps in response.

There are ways to fight battles without ever raising a blade, and this is how he chooses to do it. He used to be a warrior, but that isn’t his role now. There are other Heroes who will fight the conflict with blades and fists. He has a different job, but one no less important than any of theirs.

The smallest flickering candle can hold back the darkness in the night, but it doesn’t keep away the shadows.

Shadows always appear when light is cast. They are the result of the light being blocked by objects.
But if there is more than one light source, if there are enough light sources all around, there is nowhere that the shadow can fall.

Cysero isn’t aiming to be a candle. Really, where the silliness and laughter that brightens up the bleakest situation is concerned…

…he’s rather more of a searchlight.