Part 103: Episode XCVI: Yume
Episode XCVI: Yume
Alright, one ending down. Three to go. Upon completion of Ending A, the game allows us to make a new save and New Game Plus unlocks from said save. New Game + in NIER is...a bit different. Nier's stats, words collected, weapons obtained, and sidequests completed all carry over. As well as everything in Nier's inventory for the previous run-through (barring plot items like the Shadowlord's Keys, of course.)
Unlike the usual New Game + where we start over from the very beginning, NIER's version of it begins at a very specific point mid-way through the game...
Music: Kainé ~ Salvation
(Whenever I interacted with Kainé, I was reminded about something from my past. Maybe my mind has been confusing her with my sister this whole time...)
"Here we go!"
Music: Dispossession ~ Piano
The sound of rain filled the village. The steep cliffs that surrounded the area magnified sound, causing even the slightest drizzle to rattle like a thunderstorm. Thin wisps of smoke streamed from huts as the villagers huddled in their homes and waited out the rain. A single child, however, had braved the downpour, and was now wandering slowly toward the wooden, hawk-shaped weather vane at the center of town. The wanderer reached the vane, which had existed for as long as any could remember, and stared. The child's face was simultaneously delicate and fierce-like a teacup that had survived a shipwreck. Those traits combined with pale white skin to give the face an almost sexless quality.
If the beak turns east, I go home. If it stays west, then I...I...
The child blinked. Rain slowly dripped down the young one's short hair and began its long descent to the ground.
Come on. Come on!
The child felt a slight breeze and watched as the vane slowly creaked to life. Spinning this way and that for a moment, it finally settled with the beak pointing firmly toward east.
Before the vane could move again, a jagged rock came spinning and tumbling through the air, finally striking home against the child's head. The force of the blow dropped the child to the ground as a hail of stones began to fall all around.
Oh no. They found me...
A heartbreaking smile crept across the child's face as the stones continued their assault. Through the rain, the sound of multiple footsteps grew louder before a voice rang out.
The voice belonged to Dimo, worst of all the bullies in The Aerie. As Kainé struggled to stand, a final stone came skittering through the mud and bounced against her foot. Blood oozed from a cut above her eye and blurred her vision, but she could make out the shapes of Dimo and his usual gang of idiots. The boy seemed taken aback for a moment by Kainé's seeming indifference to the blood dripping from her face, but quickly regained his bravado.
"What's up, freak? You like the rain? You like getting' all wet? Or did you finally decide to run away from home?"
Though she knew it was futile, Kainé turned to leave. Before she could get more than a few steps, the other children scrambled to surround her, cruelty burning in their eyes. Kainé knew those were not the only eyes on her; the tormenters' parents watched from the safety of their homes. She was attuned to this sensation-it was one she had experienced many times before. While some villagers simply turned a blind eye to the actions of their children, many encouraged it openly. In a society ruled by superstition and fear, Kainé was something to be hated, and if possible, destroyed.
"I didn't say you could leave, freak."
Dimo's words chewed at her like a worm through an apple.
He can't hurt me, she lied to herself. Be strong. Be brave. He can't hurt me. He can't hurt me. He can't hurt-
"Oh, look! The little freak is gonna cry! What's wrong? Are you sad that everyone hates you and wants you dead?"
Kainé prayed for the rain to flood down and carry her away from a world that seemed to have no place for her. But if there were gods, they chose to ignore her. As Dimo crept ever closer, the clouds began to thin and the rain slowed.
Even the weather hates me. I'm useless A failure. ...I wish Dimo's rock had taken my head off.
Kainé couldn't meet Dimo's leering gaze; she lowered her eyes and stared at the muddy ground below. The bully moved forward until he was inches away. She could smell the scent of old meat on his breath. The boy grabbed Kainé's face with thick fingers and yanked it upward. She tried to turn away, but he forced her gaze back and jammed his thumb against her eyelid to pry it open.
"You're a freak."
"...N-no. I'm not."
"Did you just say no?" Dimo grinned evilly. "You don't say no to me. No one says no to me." Not even taking his attention from Kainé, he called to his cohorts, "Come on, guys! Let's give the freak what she deserves!"
As soon as Dimo finished, kicks and blows began to rain down upon Kainé. Dimo paused, still grinning, as Kainé curled into a ball and tried to make the pain stop.
"I don't get you, freak. Whatcha acting like a girl for, huh? Everyone knows what you really are!"
Kainé ignored the question, choosing instead to stare at the weather vane. It continued to point east, as if supremely confident about the future it had chosen for her.
Go home? Yeah, that's a funny joke for someone with dead parents and no home to go to.
"Freak!" chanted the children. "Freak, freak freak!"
Kainé closed her eyes and listened to the rain, waiting for the pain to start again. As the clutching hands of the village children closed around her, she bent her mind to the sound of the rain, letting it become her world entire.
The rain fell...
But the pain never came.
Only when the laughter of her tormenters turned to terrified cries did she dare open a single blood-caked eye. Kainé was shocked to see Dimo sprawled on the ground, holding his head and screaming in pain. She could see blood welling from spaces between his fat, twisted fingers.
Oh my god. He's crying. He's actually crying!
Deprived of their leader, the other children glanced back and forth between themselves, as if waiting for someone to step forward and take charge. When no savior emerged, they began an uneasy shuffle away from Kainé. But the young girl was the least of their concerns. Instead, their attention was rapt on the ancient woman standing a few feet away. After struggling for breath for a moment, she finally spoke in a voice thick with rage.
Music: Kainé ~ Escape
"Hurts like a bitch, don't it!? Now I suggest you scatter before I throw another one. And if any of you little bastards ever touch my Kainé again, I'll do far worse than throw a rock! You can count on it."
The old woman crouched down and gently touched the hand Dimo was using to cover the wound. Before he could think to protest, she ground her palm into the wound and twisted it back and forth.
"Ow!" he screamed, leaping to his feet. "Stop it! What are you doing?"
"Quit whinin'! Ain't no one ever died from a scratch."
"You hit me with a rock, you stupid bitch! A big one! That thing coulda killed me!"
The old woman shrugged.
"Death is the best cure for stupid."
Dimo's face twisted with rage at her words. Locking his eyes on Kainé, he took a step backward and spat on the ground.
"Get out! Leave this village! No one wants you here, either of you!"
Seeing the old woman grab another stone, Dimo and his companions turned tail and rain. As they fled, the old woman grabbed her side and barked out a single laugh.
"Hah! Look at the fat boy go! Guess he's healthy enough to run from a fight."
The woman's smile faded as she turned her attention to Kainé. Kneeling down, she removed her shawl and placed it around the young girl's shoulders, then produced a cloth from the folds of her dress and began blotting at the blood on her forehead.
"Oh, Kainé," she said. "Why didn't you fight back? You're stronger than that lot."
The words of her grandmother stung Kainé, and she turned away.
"Don't be nice to me," she said, "I don't deserve it. Nothing...nothing matters anymore."
Music: Yonah ~ Piano
Her tears, held in check for so long, finally began to fall on the muddy ground below.
"Everyone h-hates me. They think I cause bad things to happen. They think I'm a freak. I wish I was dead."
As Kainé's tears turned to sobs, she felt her grandmother's hands on her shoulders. Despite her advanced age and diminutive size, she was a woman of surprising strength, and Kainé found herself unable to turn away.
"Don't take like that, Kainé! It's a river wide and deep that flows between the realms of this world and the next, and it grants no mercy to any that attempt the crossin'. You got a duty to fight until your last breath. Understand?"
The old woman tightened her grip and tried to still the tremor in her voice.
"You know the pain of losin' someone close to you, Kainé. You know because you survived it."
As the words hit home, Kainé was struck by the force of her love for the old woman. As a young child, she didn't even know of her grandmother, but when her parents died, the woman quickly accepted her as her own. Grandma, as Kainé called her, was cunning, vulgar, and quick to violence-and their first few years together had not been easy. But with each year that passed, Kainé and her grandmother had grown closer. However, it was only now, sitting in the mud with tears and blood caking her face, that Kainé truly understood the depths of her affection. Here was a woman who had seen hard times; who had seen death; who had fought through all these things and somehow emerged on the other side. If anyone could understand Kainé's pain and loneliness, it was her.
"Do...do I make you sick, Grandma?"
"Course not! Don't be an ass!"
Kainé drew her grandmother's moth-eaten shawl around her body and shuddered.
"But...my body. It's...it's not...normal. If I was normal, then Mom and Dad wouldn't-"
"Hush," interrupted Grandma. "I'll not hear another word of this nonsense. You're my granddaughter, and I love you, and if folks have a problem with that, they can just go to hell."
With that, the old woman reached out and placed a wreath of dried flowers in Kainé's hair. The skill it took to bend the flowers without breaking the stems or losing a single petal was remarkable, and the beauty of it made Kainé want to cry all over again.
"Oh my gosh! These are Lunar Tears! Grandma, you made this for me?"
Lunar Tears were legendary flowers; most people could live their entire lives without ever seeing one. And yet her grandmother had somehow collected a dozen or more. Kainé reached up and touched the wreath as if she couldn't believe it was real.
"Wh-where did you find these?"
"Oh, you know... Just stumbled on 'em one day while I was out shoppin'." The old woman turned away as she was explaining, leading Kainé to suspect that the search had been much more difficult than she was letting on. The pains she took to construct the ornament-let alone track down the flowers used in its construction-made Kainé's heart hurt. She reached up and gently adjusted the wreath, admiring the way it felt between her fingers.
"Didn't quite turn out right," said her grandmother as she squinted at it. "These old hands have trouble with delicate work. But it sure looks good on a pretty girl like you."
Kainé blushed and turned away.
"You...you think I'm pretty?"
"Course you are! What a fool thing to say."
"Th-thank you, Grandma."
Her grandmother smiled.
"We're gonna be fine, you and me," she said. "Long as we got each other, we'll be just fine."
Kainé took her grandmother's hand in hers, and the two of them struggled to their feet. As they began the long walk home, Kainé gripped the hand with all her might, as if trying to stop smoke from drifting away on the wind. The rain had stopped. Kainé stood beneath the weather vane, watching it spin in lazy circles, no longer caring about the direction when it stopped.
I don't need to escape. I have a home now. Grandma loves me, and that's enough. Even if it's us against the world.
Kainé let her gaze drift past the vane and into the cloudy sky. The last faint hints of a rainbow were slowly fading. As she turned and headed for home, the light scattered into a million particles and vanished, seemingly taken away on the breeze.
Young Kainé Concept Art
Notice: Hey! It was raining in that story! Weird, huh? It's night time in a later one. Wonky! Don't shit up the thread sperging out about that aspect, you goony fucks.