Chapter 1: The myth
The myth: After the War of Closing Three-Eyes, the God of Death was guarding a monster on the topmost floor of the Tower.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The teacher on the 111th floor read an amusing tale today.
While the curriculum has changed since eons ago, her father once told the girl how drastically bad it was. Back then, early education for children like her with silver hair and vivid sky eyes meant bearing spears to strike another kid with.
As the girl grew up, with kinder mentors and warmer friends, school was a second home, and the professors served like second parents.
Her teacher taught a fable: of how winter in the Tower came to be.
After the War of Closing Three-Eyes that ended Jahad’s oppressive empire, snow engulfed half of the floors in a neverending winter. They said many have died due to the freezing temperature, and the higher the floors, the more uninhabitable it becomes.
The ones who climbed the top, the very same group that sparked the rebellion against King Jahad, battled this harsh weather ongoing for centuries.
On top of the Tower was a beast that froze the citizens in outrage and cry. Whether the reason was because of Jahad’s fall or the rebellion stepping after the 134th floor, the people did not know why.
Yet the group of Tower conquerors was unable to completely defeat this monster that hailed the coldest of storms. The God of Death arrived to help and locked the beast on the topmost floor with a price.
The God of Death made a deal with the monster: in exchange for the humans and creatures to live on without snow, the monster asked for the last three months of the year to wail and cry its sorrow. Three months , the beast assured, I will cry for three months and everyone can still survive then.
So far, no winter in the Tower ever surpassed the three-month rule.
According to the variations of the myth, there were numerous gossips and theories on what happened after. The conquerors of the Tower disappeared to the Outside, while others said they have also died from the killing ice. Some described the beast was once a very beautiful man, while others accounted that the God of Death was kind.
“The story wasn’t far from the truth,” The girl’s father humored.
Her eyes twinkled in delight, of course, her father must have known something! He was very young during the era of the War, he must have witnessed what entirely transpired at the top of the Tower.
Did he survive the winter too…?
“What happened after?” She asked, her father picked her up and placed her on his lap. The girl steadied her seating, his father often held her in his arms when he recounted the past.
“You see…” His father began. A long story awaiting for everyone to discover. The stories her father told were too good from the tales because it was wholly different.
If only anyone would believe her…
“Every year, on top of the Tower, a beautiful man wakes up and falls in love with a monster…”
(Then, I know what I have to do
-For everything, for you
For everything which is you)
i. I shall kneel to saints and patrons
Of every daring myth and religion
I will pray for the first time
Eyes closed, hands clasped tight
The way Catholics zealously follow
Each commandment of their human priest
I will believe blindly, even if it may not be real
Chapter 2: The truth
The truth: Aguero wakes up in a cave without any memories except his name.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Flower of Spring
When Aguero woke up, the smell of fresh breeze, wet ground, and soft blossoms hit his nostrils, a gentle reminder: life is here to welcome him .
He rose from the moistened meadow, and the shaft of light from the hole in the ceiling had Aguero squinting. The first he accounted for was the dewy humid, and then the pink cherry leaves from a tree that did not completely shadow him.
The sun, Aguero assumed, was the big ball of yellow that provided light in the cave. If his eyes were fooling him, Aguero thought the sun was a lid on the hole of this hall.
How did I get here…?
The last memory Aguero had was...memory...last...what... I’m Khun Aguero Agnis. There must be something more than that, Aguero panicked as he examined himself. He was a man dressed in wooly satin robes, his silvery cerulean hair cascaded to his waist and Aguero touched the strands in wonder. Soft, like it was tended.
Yet Aguero never found an answer on why he was in a cave with a large tree he was sleeping under. On why he was alone, and why his name was the only thing he remembered.
Fear and panic of the unknown unsettled his stomach, before the heat from the sun, was too hot, and the scent of the flowers was too intoxicating, Aguero heard footsteps echoing in the chamber. Strangely, the sound brought him comfort, perhaps it was just the presence of another and the thought I am not alone.
There was a man, but judging by how the branches of the tree swayed as the stranger neared, the man was something more than a human. The sunlight enunciated the eyes of the creature, like a pair of stars ready to explode.
Aguero misted from the sight, a handsome lad clad in gray and black Hanbok who eased the too much vibrancy of Spring around them. Aguero briefly contemplated if this was the afterlife, but if this godly individual was the Reaper, then this hand that reached out, this smile that he did not know what he did to deserve, was too warm and gentle for a meaningless stranger like Aguero.
Take it , his instincts whispered.
“I’m Bam,” The long-haired man breathed as Aguero clasped their hands, fitting snugly and heavy like his palm meant to rest in those. “Nice to meet you, Aguero.”
The blush petals swirled in the air, along with his hair that flowed like tides in the morning sea and the ponytail of Bam which flicked behind like a fox’s tail. You are a strange fellow, Aguero kept in mind but the way his heart never scrambled again in panic after the introduction shut down his doubts.
“Thank you, Bam.”
For what, for why, for whom, Aguero did not know. Only that the man named Bam, who was the first to be his company in the darkness of this cave and his missing memories, loosened their fingers. The weight of the world in those shoulders seemed to fall too as Bam replied, without any context.
The Tree of Summer
The luscious tree was a magical child taken care of by the parent sun, Bam entertained Aguero with the knowledge. At night, the citrine hole above was replaced with the other parent moon, gleaming luminescence as Bam pillowed his lap. Time stretched on between as Bam told him stories and the leaves of the once cherry blossom tree tinted viridian green.
The cave was a lonely place, and his mind was an emptier expanse. Bam relieved him in both, by filling their days and nights with suspenseful adventures. About a group of friends, each with a colorful personality that clashed with everyone but worked together like an abstract painting beautifully. These people were born in different races and ages, all cooperating as they climbed this prestigious Tower that promised them the world. Each floor that molded a friendship from broken pasts and silent understanding that they won’t lose anymore by the next test.
The other afternoon Bam talked about a brave alligator that hunted turtles down, Aguero laughed as Bam animated a spear-bearing crocodile that poked tiny turtles which soon became the animal’s greatest companions.
“ Did they reach the top, Bam? ” Aguero asked, and the rising moon hiding the sun gave those white corneas a sheen.
“ They almost did. ”
Tonight, Aguero was the one lying as Bam sat under the tree, tracing his eyebrows with such delicacy. He giggled as the nails tickled his forehead, and Bam was looking at him too fondly Aguero felt conscious.
“Tell me a story, Bam,” Aguero said, diverting the intensity of the gaze. “About other people who climbed the Tower…”
Bam inhaled deeply and shut those eyelids close, Aguero missed it already. He supposed he could revel in Bam’s flawless skin, glowing ethereal and smooth Aguero almost cupped the face in the moonlight. Instead, he fiddled with the tips of his hair straying along with the patch of grass beside his waist.
“There was a God of Death who climbed the Tower,” Bam sighed, and Aguero shifted in those thighs his head laid in, the silk clothing of Bam rumpling together with his hair underneath. “He did not know he was a God.”
Bam fluttered those mesmerizing eyes open, and once again Aguero was sucked in daylight at midnight.
“He had a bunch of friends that climbed with him, some left and some betrayed him.” Aguero found himself hypnotized by the curve of Bam’s mouth as he spoke, “There’s someone who accompanied him to the top, I call him Spring.”
“That’s funny,” Aguero commented without much thinking, his hand reached for the ponytail atop Bam’s chest.
“Is it?” Bam chuckled, “Spring reminded the God of Death was human.”
“How did he become the God of Death in the first place?” Bam took his hand that was playing with the tied hair, Aguero sniffed the last of chestnut fragrance as their fingers automatically intertwined.
Aguero can’t name the giddy feeling inside him yet, but it sure was familiar and safe.
“He became the God of Death when everyone around him died.”
“What about Spring?” Aguero murmured, as Bam lifted his fingers to peck a cooly kiss on his knuckles. Aguero shivered, from the electrifying gesture, from the sticky envy poisoning him as Bam stared at him listlessly. Like Aguero was not here, like Bam was in a faraway dream and Aguero was only a figment of sweet imagination.
“He stayed, but nothing was ever the same.”
There’s a feeling Aguero wanted to name as Bam carefully cradled him in those strong arms, as they spent nights and days frolicking together in this cave without worrying much. With only the mythical tree, the legendary sun and moon, and Bam who achingly had a connection with the God of Death.
“The God of Death...isn’t he the loneliest person in the Tower?”
When Bam nodded, his instincts whispered, don’t ever name the feeling you have when the sorrow of this man welled too deep in your emptiness.
Aguero observed the vibrant bushels of green, the cylindrical trunk of the tree wrapped with barks his fingers slotted in perfectly. He dragged his nails down to the wood, scraps of brown and dust clipping off the living thing. Bam said, today was the longest day in the year and that he’d love to meet Aguero here.
Bam sometimes disappears, but with how often Bam visited him the vacant gaps between their time together does not weigh much loneliness in. Aguero does not pry, wherever Bam heads off to. His curiosity never peaked, and the silence of the underground assured him somehow.
His body ironically relaxed from the blankness, of his memories, of the mysteries, of his existence. Especially since Aguero had Bam who approached him quietly, the onyx dress almost merging with the shadows not raided by the sunlight of the hole.
Aguero peeled off bark from the trunk and flicked the dirt encroached in his nails. He scrutinized the natural gashes of the summer tree once more, before turning his wandering gaze to Bam.
Bam was oddly somber for such a bright day, Aguero anxiously walked to him. The tantalizing pull, the magnetic poles between their skins, and the urge of his lips to place on top of those sadly toned ones.
This was a... kiss .
Aguero does not remember learning anything of the sort, only that his palms have greedily grasped those cheeks if it could take away the tired wrinkles. His hands have brushed the brunette bangs that slipped in their mouths as they first tasted each other. Mint and spice, and everything that was undeservingly nice. If only this could erase the melancholy in those topaz irises because yellow was the color of happiness. And Aguero intended to steal the sun in the hole at their ceiling if it could melt the eclipses forming in the pair of eyes he liked.
“You’re not lonely anymore, Bam.”
They paused in between, the longing, the comfort, and the tugging of their hearts and lips.
“Bam,” Aguero said, and Bam teared up as the eclipses passed by those sun-like eyes. The dark phenomena were over and Bam looked at him in a profound expression that seized his chest tight.
“I love you, Aguero.”
The lonesome boy hitched, those cobalt eyes widened in a frantic epiphany, almost like pleading as Aguero returned the phrase.
“I love you too, Bam.”
Bam was crying and the sunshine shafting through the leaves illuminated those yellow eyes in gold. Bam embraced him, nose sniffing his elongating hair tight and all the memories Aguero never had never mattered.
“You always do,” Bam whispered.
Aguero did not understand, only that Bam had the weirdest mix of the saddest and happiest emotions that he swatted away because the eclipses were no more, and that’s all that mattered, right? Aguero blushed, not minding how his instincts screamed to Run away, Khun Aguero Agnis, and never come back.
“I wish we could stay here on the longest day of Summer.”
The Fall of Autumn
Dusks of Autumn has an enchanting mood that captivated Aguero, and he planned to ensnare the scene when Bam threaded those fingers over his lengthy hair. Bam loves combing the strands with a bamboo brush but they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves last night, opting for Aguero to wake up with tangled locks. Bam apologized, although he must have not regretted anything, and Aguero swore to pull that damn ponytail next night.
“You’re tying it differently today,” Aguero noticed as Bam weaved his hair in an unusual style. Bam often braided his hair and Aguero did the same to him but today, Bam raised the upper portion of his hair and twisted the blue in a cloudy bun. The other half of his hair resembles a soft waterfall on his shoulders and waist.
“I am,” Bam admitted, with a hint of anticipation voiced. “I want to treasure this day, always.”
Aguero cannot ask any further when something metal and long protruded in his hairline. His lips parted, but muscled arms captured him from behind and a small mirror was in his lap.
In the reflection, the sunset to evening indigo hazed in Aguero’s complexion. His hair was tied up in a half-bun, plunged with an opal crescent hairpin.
"Lune, my moon." Bam tipped a chin on his shoulder, the exhale warming over his exposed neck.
"Bam," Aguero called, imprinting the picture of this ephemerally beautiful creature beside him as the moon waned over their place in the cave.
“Stay with me, my moon,” Bam confesses, lingering a kiss on the shell of an ear.
“I will.” Aguero promised, he plucked a treasure he found and tucked from the breast of his robes. As much as Aguero did not want to leave the welcoming chest behind him, Aguero swiveled to face Bam who uttered confusion.
The moon was nigh and nearer, encompassing the cave with effervescent lumination. The dangling beads of the accessory Bam gifted swayed as Aguero moved, Bam put the mirror somewhere on the ground and there was a surprise that had the man gasping in front of him.
Bam gaped at Aguero.
Like Aguero was the only person that existed, like Bam finally had a dream come true and Aguero was the sweetest reality he woke up to.
“I found this on the branches of the tree,” Aguero showed Bam a steely butterfly pin, he thought it suited Bam the most.
“Let me be your Spring, Bam.”
And Bam could only nod appreciatively as Aguero tenderly crowned Bam with the butterfly hairpin. The beads that tailed the butterfly plopped as it hit each other, Bam gazing at Aguero in awed reverence.
The amber leaves swooshed and crinkled as it died on the ground, the branches of the mythical tree stripping naked as autumn danced its cider air. The barks were dug more prominent than ever, and the moon literally bathed them like they were the most special beings that lived.
Bam smiled genuinely wide, and the butterfly pin in that ponytail glinted as Bam answered.
“Yes, yes, god, yes—Aguero, every time. ”
The opal moon hair accessory on his hairline was stinging, but Aguero willed the pain away in favor of cupping the God of Death’s lively face.
The Ice of Winter
Anxious trepidation sweated over Aguero as the final leaves of Autumn contacted the cold soil. The new season was scary, Aguero did not like it. There was a tension in the atmosphere as Bam kissed him harder, needier, and hugged him closer, greedier.
Aguero once slotted in his fingers again at the barks of the shaved magical tree. The sun that was harsh a while ago was long gone, and the moon that lighted in the ceiling hole was blinding. Aguero felt like icy water splashed at him after getting drunk in intoxication.
All it would take was a question.
Don’t ask, don’t ask, don’t ask, his instincts begged him. Aguero scraped the barks in the tree out of fidgety frustration.
The Tower that Bam meticulously talked about. A group of friends built from otherworldly friendships. An alligator, a black and blue turtle. A God of Death who climbed the Tower, a God of Death who was in love with Spring. This entity referred to Spring who accompanied the God of Death as they ascended the Tower.
When Aguero finished dragging his nails on the surface of the trunk, he realized the mark was there all along. And he was just following the trail.
These were no barks, these were slashes and scrapes from nails of someone with grudges.
Footsteps clicked behind him, Aguero had his heart crawling out of his throat. The millions of questions never bothered thinking or asking, frothing his mouth and he does not know where to start.
“I…” Aguero blubbered, “We’re not in a cave...We’re on top of the Tower…”
“Aguero, I’m so sorry.”
Aguero never spared Bam a glance.
Bam, the 25th Bam. An Irregular granted entrance by Headon. There was a King. His name was Jahad, we climbed the Tower.
“How many times did we...” Aguero gasped as memories pieced together in his mind, all the blank slates poured with everything from the beginning.
“I...can't tell you.”
I am Khun. A Regular that climbed the Tower, I wanted to overthrow my father Khun Eduan, a Great Family leader. I met Bam, I lost him at some point—-
“Did I ask you to erase my memories?!” Quakes erupted from his shoulders as Aguero cried, the endless information almost puking his stomach inside out.
“I can’t answer.”
Aguero turned, seeing Bam and recognizing the person he promised to team up in the Tower. The boy he anguished as he lost him to another name, Jyu Viole Grace, a FUG Slayer—
“Bam what happened?” Aguero demanded, the tears streaking his cheeks but it will never be enough to depict the pain his heart drenched in. “Why did we stop on the Top?”
You didn’t care about conquering the Tower as King, we didn’t care about the test floors that almost killed and tore us apart. All we cared about was each other, and fleeing this goddamn Tower—-
“Because we lost everyone. And I lost you.”
Aguero spewed tears that could not be measured in liters and volumes. The pavement of the 183rd floor thickened as his tears metamorphosed into snow, a blizzard of a storm circulating around him and Bam.
When Aguero wailed, Bam shed no tears and his instincts answered:
You shouldn’t have asked, Khun.
Aguero recalled the moment with perfect accuracy. They have won the war against King Jahad, along with the chaotic FUG, the reliable Wolhaiksong, the rebelling Great Families, the fallen Jahad Princesses, Team Sweet and Sour, Team Isu, and Rak.
Aguero screamed, his voice echoing the cavern of the topmost floor. Snow flurries in the air like a thunderous hurricane.
“Shibisu! Goddammit, why won’t the firefish heal him?!”
What firefish? It never helped him, not when Aguero needed it the most. The wet ground froze in a sheet of ice that was similarly drawn like his first rink in the Hidden floor.
“ Hatz...Hatz died, Khun. I can’t do this anymore.”
The Princess left, while another stayed until the end. His inhales and exhales were fogging the entire surroundings.
“In order to pass this floor test, we need the blood of a Jahad Princess.”
Endorsi was never seen again. Like how the brown tree at the center was covered in frost, life never saw from it again.
“Bam, Bam, please look at me.”
“I don’t want to lose anyone anymore!”
“—-Bam, please trust me on this. Neither of us will want to destroy the Tower.”
A gentle pair of hands caught his wrists that were grappling his long, long hair. The opal hairpin scattered somewhere along with the spikes of ice. His lips were dry, his eyes were exhausted from crying snow, and his throat burned with each memory of climbing this godforsaken Tower.
A palm slides his bangs back to clear his blurred periphery, and there is Bam. Bam. Alive, and breathing, but never the same.
Aguero yelled, thrashing from the hold as Bam tightened on his wrist. His body jerked instinctively, kicking the man he loved with all his heart and life.
“Aguero!” Bam howled, and Aguero sat frozen in his position. Panting as everything, the cave, the tree, the truth was painted in porcelain white by the snow he emitted.
“No…no..Bam, please .” Aguero begged, the inevitability of their fate crashing them both whole. “Don’t do this, don’t do this, DON’T DO THIS WE HAVE TO STAY TOGETHER—“
“WE’LL STAY.” Bam shouted on top of his wailings, “WE PROMISED WE’LL STAY NO MATTER WHAT, IT’S FOR THE SAKE OF EVERYONE WE LOST AND EVERYONE IN THIS TOWER WE COULD HAVE KILLED ANYTIME.”
Aguero did not listen, his arms flailed wildly as it tried to push Bam away from him. His nails scratched the flawless skin and warm muscles of arms that attempted to cradle him. Aguero was not having any of this shit. Bam died already on the third floor, Rachel pushed him—-
“Aguero, I love you.” Bam clutched his arms, his words were spoken in a rush like he was racing against time. “Please, fall in love with me again next year, okay?”
There was a...kiss.
By the succeeding seconds that ticked by, Aguero only remembered what happened in a dreamlike haze. Drowsiness doused his body as Bam prolonged their kiss mercilessly, his rowdy movements limping as shinsu circuited to his nerves and spine. Presumably, on its way to his hyperactive brain.
Aguero yawned as Bam retracted from him, at least Aguero could not see a speck of white anymore. Aguero focused on the honeyed eyes of Bam, and it was not the stars that will grant Aguero his wishes. Instead, Bam muttered the most melodious of goodbyes that lulled him to another eternal sleep.
“My Spring, sleep until the Winter eased.”
My God of Death, this moon of yours will not be able to receive your sunshine for a while.
Bam combed his hair with those careful fingers until Aguero cannot fight his consciousness anymore.
ii. I shall connect each star to a constellation
So that the lost will now be found and ask my deed for a consolation
My lips will open without hesitation
The never-ending wish falling from my teeth
“Please, let us live amongst the stars,
let lovers on the ground be jealous
When they gaze up at the skies
And see that despite all the trials
We are, at last, together and ethereal.”
Chapter 3: The story
The story: When FUG Slayer Jyu Viole Grace climbed on top of the Tower with Khun Aguero Agnis, they lost everything.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The last petal of Spring
They discovered the Tower had 183rd floors after dealing with the Administrator who crowned Jahad as King.
Around 50 more floors, and all they needed to pass the 134th was to end Jahad’s sovereignty. Bam wondered what type of test it was before Jahad, the Irregular, contracted with the Administrator. And why the hell did they stop, causing a rift between his parents and the Great Family leaders? Bam supposed he had no time for such tell-tale musings, he wanted to climb more than ever, regardless of his parents’ wishes.
Bam won the fight against the King, but it was not his victory alone. Everyone who helped him, either as an enemy or a friend, a friend that turned enemy, and an enemy turned friend. Bam appreciated every lesson he learned, from his companions that left as they traversed the next floor, and also from his friends that stayed as they continued on with the challenges.
But Bam also lost. He lost...so so much. This loss will be the start of a chain that he, nor his group, never expected would experience. Not after decades and centuries of training and surviving together, not after all of the conflicts they had with each other.
Everyone was celebrating as Bam raised Jahad’s crown and tore it in the middle of the battlefield. Lighthouses glowed and blinked, announcing the success of the FUG Slayer Jyu Viole Grace. The communications within his team cut off as cheers erupted from the bloody haze and fiery smoke. The opposing spear-bearers and fishermen threw their weapons in surrender, while their army clanged spears and needles as applause. The amount of shinsu in the air dissipated as hostility was replaced by accomplishment and defeat from the battling parties.
Bam immediately searched for Khun, connecting to an Observer from Shibisu. He’d go to him, and he’d embrace him as he thanked his strategist for everything. But Shibisu’s calming voice wasn’t the one that echoed in his earpiece.
“Shibisu! Goddammit, why won’t the firefish heal him?!”
Firefish…? The euphoric atmosphere suddenly flushed down the drain and dread surged in his instincts. He contacted Xia Xia for the coordinates of Khun, sending the broken crown of Jahad to Karaka, his nearest comrade, who caught the pieces with disinterest. Bam flew fast and sharp, butterfly wings in a spread that blazed the war-ridden skies like a shooting star.
The soldiers did not pay much attention, well, when a God was on its way to becoming human, Bam did not prefer anyone witnessing the next moments too.
Khun and Shibisu were in the same sub-group in their plans, they were the nearest to each other as they supported the main keys of the war. The big flaming fish above the familiar tuft of sky blue and violet tracksuit signaled Bam to thrust quicker.
Why was it that every time Bam gained something, he lost another?
Why was the Tower designed to take everything away from its climbers as soon as they fulfilled their ambitions?
“SHIBISU!” Khun screamed, and the man was not usually keen on displaying emotions in front of so many people. But Khun screeched the name in reverence and prayer, as the lightbearer willed the fish once more to heal the unconscious body in front of them. Khun repeated the mantra of their precious friend’s name, and Bam thought the world deserved to hear the person who was a sacrifice in this cruel, cruel war.
The raging cries of victory deafened the entire floor, but Bam wanted to shut them up.
Because he was going to lose a friend, a friend who helped him in times of need. A friend who stood by him when Bam was at his weakest, a friend who brought Khun back to life. And Khun always repaid his debts and favors, so even when Bam recognized the gust of Death in the breeze, Khun commanded the firefish to heal, heal, heal. Take him back, please .
In the end, Khun was only a mere vessel of a fish that has been overused. In the end, Bam was only a mere human pushed to the skies as God.
When Khun turned to acknowledge Bam, hands shaking as the flames returned to those soulless eyes, they shared a knowing look. The background music of victory muting as Khun and Bam realized the same thing.
This is not...victory.
The guise of recuperation contributed his excuse to stay in his room for successive days. Everyone was gathering strength and energy again after their resources had depleted. Khun did not visit Bam, Rak dropped by some bananas and encouragement outside. Bam does not still know how to deal with the caving emptiness in him.
When Khun knocked on his door, the meeting was an event neither of them were prepared for.
“Bam,” Khun called, “It’s time.”
Time to face their sins.
Bam went out and they walked together towards the congregating hall, there was a space in between them. Their hands never brushed with each other, and as much as Bam craved the touch, the gap was filled with his monstrous thoughts of your touch killed so many, he will die if you hold any longer.
The area was a simple four-cornered soundproof location, but the room was able to encompass the overbearing grief that weighed after the headcount.
Their original team, back at Evankhell’s floor, the special people Bam treasured as FUG threatened their lives over and over again for their whims.
Rak was in his minimized form, reptilian arms crossed as he sat at the table. Laure was lying in his sleeping bag, but eyes awake. Endorsi leaned by the wall, not glancing to Anaak who was the only creature dignified to sit in a chair.
They’re not here to discuss who died. The missing scent of sportswear and glint of a samurai sword was enough to decide how they’d tackle the future.
Hwaryun was not present, and Bam cannot think he could keep his hands from strangling her if she was here. Maybe Hwaryun saw a path that led to her death once she was in his proximity.
“Shibisu said he’d love to climb with us to the top.” Khun recited monotonously, and Bam knew the line was practiced. “He said we should pour him a drink once we’re at the final floor, that’s all he requested.”
“Then we’ll climb.” Rak huffed, “To the final floor.”
“Khun…” Anaak tried, clenching her fists. “Hatz...Hatz said...dammit.”
Nobody dared say the lie that it was okay.
“I couldn’t even hear what he said, I found him lying right there!” When her voice broke, everyone stiffened from the visualization. What did Hatz climb the Tower for? What will Hatz ask for once they’re at the top? What could Bam ever dedicate to the departed souls in order to forgive himself?
The thousands of souls from White, the Blue Thryssa, his nemesis Data Viole, and the power of the Outside God rumbled within him. There were too many voices chaotically merging with one another, blaming each other, a catastrophic war inside him that Bam never emerged victoriously. Bam squeezed his eyes shut, and only removed himself from the overpowering thoughts once Anaak pronounced a name.
“Khun,” There was a finality as Anaak exhaled deeply, “I can’t do this anymore.”
The door banged as she left and the consuming silence afterward was the hardest test they must have faced in this Tower.
Was it like this back when Rachel pushed me off? Was grief a weight of regrets from the dead we’ll carry on in living?
The answer popped off when only he and Khun remained in the area, everyone rushing back to their private quarters after finalizing their plans of travelling the next floor once everyone was buried properly.
“I’m sorry,” Khun whispered, head hung low and the apology was not for Bam. Because Bam will always assure Khun he was human too, and saving everyone was simply unimaginable. Bam remembered that’s how Khun comforted him.
This. This was only two lives, among the many that were used as collateral damage in the war. The innocents, the civilians, the families who will never encounter their loved members again.
Khun apologized to the spirits of their beloved friends, and also to himself. These deaths that will forever haunt them both, Khun will apologize repeatedly because it was a tragedy they’d never forgive themselves for.
Bam found the conclusion to his questions, this death was harder to recover from.
The last ray of Summer
“ In order to pass this floor test, we need the blood of a Jahad Princess. ”
This fucking Administrator.
Nobody was prepared, nobody had enough research, because they were the first to dare accept the challenge.
“Let me take your test, I am an Irregular,” Bam said, resorting to his most utilized line. A trump card that was favored by everyone, but Khun scowled at it long ago. The first time Bam drew that card, Rachel betrayed him and...just a series of unfortunate events.
“ You see, monster, this is why I made this test. The Tower shifted when Jahad and the Irregulars caused chaos in the lower floors. ”
Bam does not flinch from the epithet anymore, there was no other perfect description to the various powers vying for his attention inside him. Bam encountered countless races and creatures in his ascent, never surprising him when they shook hands with him. There were all types of living beings, sentient in this Tower including the Administrators Bam loathed with each floor.
“We, Administrators, prioritize our survival. A Jahad Princess threatens everything.”
Bam called forth the shinsu endlessly cycling in his reservoir, his thumb circling the pad of his middle finger. Enryu annihilated an Administrator before, Bam can attempt to be the second Irregular to crush an Administrator limb by limb-
“Why not me, then? I am an Irregular, I threatened everyone-”
Fingers softly wrapped his fist, Bam halted in his motions of charging the shinsu up. Bam recognized the endearing touch because the person never failed in showing her affection to him.
“It’s okay, Bam.” Endorsi smiled at him, and Bam cannot afford to lose anymore. “They said blood, maybe they need to drink it like vampires. It’s not like they can kill me.”
Bam began disliking Jahad Princesses, whenever they had this expression of finality. Anaak wore it when she exited the team, and Bam wished Endorsi did not copy it accurately in those honeyed eyes. Whenever Princesses of Jahad stripped off their masks of confidence, regality, and bravery, their real self was revealed.
Endorsi had cute dimples, Bam only noticed now. And he hated it, he hated how he never truly entertained her despite how many times she professed her allegiance. Bam hated how the crinkles under her polished eyelashes were still pretty when she bid her goodbye.
When the shoes of Jahad’s Princesses tumbled down the showcase, along with the authoritative masks and dresses sewn with breastplates, only one fate resided.
All the Princesses have signed off to an unhappy ending the moment they were crowned.
“If I remain on this floor, they will pass, correct?” Endorsi stood her ground and Bam frantically twisted to stare at Khun. Maybe they could stop this, form another scheme, execute a grandeur plan that will let him, Rak, Khun, Endorsi and Laure beat this test together.
“ Of course. ” The Administrator chirpy replied, and Rak was shaking Khun whose eyes were blank and empty. Even Laure shed his blanket and flicked his finger to snap in front of the lightbearer.
“I...I can’t…” Khun stuttered, teeth chattering and the darkest secret was out. “I can’t think...I don’t know what to do…”
Endorsi’s hand was firm as she squeezed it, Bam helplessly watched as she proudly regarded the Administrator. Fearless, daunting, and bold like the Queen she was meant to be.
“Thank you, Khun,” Endorsi addressed sincerely, “Thank you for understanding my pain.”
Khun opened his mouth to refute anything, yet only croaked syllables spewed out. He was hyperventilating, Rak and Laure were patting his back. Bam’s feet urged him to near his lightbearer, but he cannot let go of Endorsi’s hand.
“Rak, take care of your turtles, okay?” Endorsi spoke in such a charming tone, “Laure, stop sleeping and help these people out, will you?”
Rak and Laure gaped, flustered, and scrambling to return the right emotion. But all of them were not ready, because what kind of friend composed such memorable quotes for their last moment to look cool? Endorsi seemed to collect these phrases way before she made friends with them. His palms were sweating when Endorsi faced him.
“Thank you for showing me life is good, I hated it when I was born...But you taught me there’s more to life than pain, now...I’m so in love with life I don’t fear death anymore.”
Endorsi was the first to let go, and his hand was cold as she slipped away.
She strode briskly towards the Administrator, the brightest smile on her lips like a child whose innocence wasn’t tainted yet.
Endorsi...you are the most beautiful princess of Jahad that ever existed.
If there was a constant in his life, Bam was always too late to appreciate the people who were important to him the most.
The truce between him and Khun shattered one night.
“Laure’s dead,” Khun said, closing the door to his room behind him. Khun packed a caravan that accommodated everyone. With a room fitting for an estimated number of teams in the Tower, but now the trailer truck was too big for a company of four.
“He took too long to wash the dishes and when I got into his room, he won’t wake up-” Khun explained in a rush and Bam cornered him, “I think it’s the pressure of the shinsu-”
Khun stumbled to the plastic surface of the door as Bam slammed his hands between the beautiful face. Bam wanted to touch him so bad, but his palms never grasped a strand of hair as he encaged him.
You should be scared of me, you should drop me, forget me.
“I want to destroy this Tower right now, Khun.” Bam seethed, “I know I could. I’d turn this Tower upside down.”
“But that’s not what you really want, right?” Khun cupped his puffed cheeks, breath fogging his lips and Bam traitorously caved in.
How could he not when Khun’s gaze drowned him into the deepest trenches of an ocean? How could he not when Khun was always his lightbearer who supported him physically and emotionally? How could he not when Khun, smart, perfect, intelligently handsome Khun Aguero Agnis specialized in both?
In tethering his body, his mind, and his soul.
“What do you really want, Bam?” Khun asked, and their lips were millimeters apart.
Khun swiped those thumbs in his gaunt cheekbones, and Bam crumbled from the gesture. He once fancied a thought that he might be the strongest person in this Tower, but no, he was the weakest human born. Khun reminded him gloriously with each caress.
He loved it, Bam loved every second he was human in the person he believed was the strongest in this Tower.
“You, Aguero.” Bam confessed as their lips collided in a merciful hallelujah, “I want you.”
To not lose you, that’s what I want.
Rak headed the ceremony.
Bam learned the concept young when he was still in the cave with Rachel. At that time, he was foolish enough to think his relationship with Rachel will soon bestow a marriage.
But Rachel dived in the Tower, Bam followed suit. He threaded new connections and witnessed different forms of relationships. Strangers were acquaintances, friendship was a company, and marriage was the one you’d spend the rest of eternity with.
Rak took the deaths of their friends better than him and Aguero. There was a routine with the alligator, stomp off to isolate, sulk in private, and return to eat bananas. Bam and Aguero had to carve each other’s bodies with their names and marks like animals if only possession was a cure to their grief.
Bam realized he loves Aguero, way back before their losses. Was he too late? Bam convinced himself he was not. Yet Bam couldn’t help imagining what if he discerned these feelings earlier, what if he kissed Aguero right before the war. Especially in their reunion after Aguero’s self-induced comatose, because Bam smiled the happiest that day.
His unhelpful doubts diminished when Aguero appeared in the distance. The man emerged from the caravan, promptly dressed up in a sleek black suit and mustard tie. Bam donned crisp white long-sleeves and black ribbon, as they exchanged their signature colors for a while.
The event was not a famous one, and they all preferred it. Rak suggested a wedding when they all ate breakfast the other week and Rak’s eyes were too keen. Or maybe Bam should have kissed Aguero in a smarter place. Rak smugly said, “You turtles keep mating, you should get married already.” Bam almost choked in his food and Aguero spit his coffee.
Rak officiated as a priest, and their only witness to this testimony at the 180th floor. The residents of the upper floors weren’t welcoming since they were a group of anomalies. Most of the time, Bam rang the Administrator to find out how to pass the test. Some they had difficulties with, because the languages and culture of each floor varied.
Under a lively tree that resembled the ones on the lower floors, the caravan was parked parallel to. The ceremony also transpired there too.
“Black turtle fell in love again?” Rak jeered as Aguero strutted towards them. The silky teal hair reached on those postured shoulders as Bam and Aguero never snipped after the war. Bam found out his hair was inherently fast on growing while Aguero had a hard time maintaining such length.
“I’ll fall in love every day with Aguero, Rak, you know it.”
Bam took Aguero’s hand and they stared at each other longingly. Bam forgot the pain and the memories momentarily, deluding himself in this fantastic reality of both his best friend and his loved one present in this sacred ceremony.
Rak coughed and handed them a velvet pillow with jeweled accessories in it. Rak was taller than them both, releasing his maximized form for the formality of it.
“I carved this with my spear, I took the liberty of choosing the designs as your best alligator and officiator.” Rak declared, and Bam knew in an instant which pin was his and which was Aguero’s. “I don’t know how to make rings and I think these suited you turtles better.”
It was an elegant pair of silver hairpins, not rings like in traditional ones. Bam was not saddened, because the opal moonstone fitted Aguero in every way. If Bam was the Night, the shining moon was his constant company.
Aguero eyed the stellar butterfly and prompted Bam to sit on the grass. Bam did, after snatching the moon pin in his hand. Aguero knelt after plucking the crafted butterfly in those palms.
Aguero slid the pin in his high ponytail, the vow murmured clemently, “Wear this as a sign of my love that transcends years and death. We have lost each other too many times, but with this, let us remember we will return to each other’s arms.”
There was a heavy knot in his throat as Bam replied, meticulously crowning the opal hairpin. He laughed with tears when he cannot figure out how to stick the pin in the hair Aguero slicked and waxed for the event. Rak sighed exasperatedly, and Aguero conjured his lighthouse in half a second to pull out a tiny wooden comb.
Aguero stole the hairpin for a while and pasted the comb in the middle. Aguero shyly deposited the accessory back in his hands. Bam blushed embarrassingly, clearing his throat as Aguero sat and Bam knelt.
“Wear this, my love, as a promise that I’ll never leave your side. I’ll bring you with me to the Top, as you have promised when we were still teammates. I will passionately love you every day, every month, every year, and never let you feel loneliness as you have erased mine.”
“Do you, the 25th Bam, take this man, Khun Aguero Agnis, as your loyal partner, to cherish and to hold for better, for worse, in sickness and in health...until death do you part?”
Bam grinned, Aguero chuckled and even Rak snorted at his speech from the internet. Their love was more than life and death, tested by so many trials and storms death was a mere occurrence between them.
“As if death can ever part us now,” Bam said, bathing himself with Aguero’s loving gaze as salty tears slid on his cheeks.
“Yes, I do, I take Khun Aguero Agnis as my husband for the rest of my life.”
Because we will never die.
The first dry of Autumn
The 183rd floor, the final floor as the Administrators guided, was an exemption.
The moment you entered, there was nothing. Only a cave with a hole in the ceiling and a bright, tantalizing light from it. Bam fleetingly questioned if that was the star Rachel madly obsessed with.
Aguero gasped beside him and fell to his knees, the corneas surrounding the bluish irises expanded in white. Bam held him, asking what was wrong and what does he need—
“The...shinsu…” Aguero wheezed, “Too much pressure.”
Bam did not feel it. In fact, the final floor felt unsettling because it was the lightest. No booby traps implanted, no mysterious creatures residing, and simply nothing.
Bam delved into the other dimensions, and willed the shinsu to ease Aguero’s airflow. The voices inside Bam that shut up since Aguero accompanied him in bed every night, skittered under his skin in a terrifying crawl.
Aguero inhaled sharply, recollecting the air his lungs desperately heaved seconds prior. Bam’s shoulders loosened when Aguero breathed back in rhythm. Gratitude wafted over the soft face of his husband, and Bam comforted him with a smile. We got each other, we promised, didn’t we?
“ You two passed the final test. ”
The sunny light from the holed ceiling descended in an orb. Bam recognized the aura of an Administrator, presumably the Administrator of the entire Tower itself.
“Two?” Bam queried as he pulled Aguero up with him. Aguero once again gasped, but not due to the lack of air, the noise was of terrifying fear. Bam followed where Aguero stared off to, the rocky ground.
The final floor where Rak laid peacefully. As if Rak was only napping, as if Rak could wake up anytime and hit their heads for assuming he was dead. Aguero and Bam had the frequency of staging fake deaths, maybe Rak caught a whiff of the habit.
But Rak did not exceed their expectations.
The Administrator, a fiery orb blazing in light split into two. Before Bam knew it, there was another source of light, pale blue and silvery like the mythical moon of the skies.
Bam gasped, in a shocking epiphany, because these two celestial orbs were the top floor Administrator. The sun and the moon cleverly watched over the final test.
The sun swam towards his eyes, a flaming ball of heat that sizzled his senses alive. The last image he pictured was the other half of the Administrator, the luminescent moon, glowing as it was sucked by Aguero’s eyes of the sea.
“ The 25th Bam, what do you wish for? ”
The Administrator boomed in total darkness. Bam could not see Aguero but he assumed his partner was in another space like this. The thousands of souls from White, the Blue Thryssa, his nemesis Data Viole, and the power of the Outside God quietened like they disappeared in this silence.
Bam appreciated his distractions dissipating, because here, he was only Bam. And the 25th Bam who was the husband of Khun Aguero Agnis only wished for one thing this Tower could offer.
“I don’t want to lose anyone anymore.”
Aguero was crying, no, the right word to describe the catastrophe was wailing .
Aguero cried over Rak’s lifeless body in front of him, and Aguero called forth the firefish but what could a Ranker even blessed with many talents and skill sets do, when Bam had to control the shinsu to save his beloved.
Aguero wept, like a beast that was wounded by scavenged hunters. Bam cannot lick those scars away, and the pungent smell of iron welled in his nostrils. His instincts demanded blood, because despite Aguero having emotions blatantly expressed in their privacy, those feelings made Aguero human.
But this? Aguero scraping the soil with his nails, screeching out his voice in garbled syllables, the humanity of Aguero that Bam cherished seeped out and Bam cannot have that.
His strongest person was at its weakest, and no matter what Bam desired from the Tower, there was nothing he could do to reverse the fate of their dear friend.
Bam was powerless.
The 183rd floor quaked, the Administrators have long returned to their high and mighty throne at the circled ceiling. The Tower shifted and rumbled, dust particularly raining on them.
Aguero visibly felt the tremors and sprinted towards Bam. Aguero took his hands, cold and shaking. The dust that fell off from the ceiling metamorphosed into ice as Aguero’s shinsu enclosed the whole place in a blizzard. The brownish-gray walls were covered in a sheet of ice, despite the sun glaring at them both. Snowflakes danced along with the whiplash of a blizzard, Aguero begged as fog emitted from their breaths.
“Bam, Bam, please, look at me.” Aguero’s pupils were shrinking in size, and along with it, his comprehension. “You’re tilting the Tower! If you don’t stop you’ll destroy everything!”
“I don’t care!” All the people he cared about, he lost. What were mere humans and animals hundreds of floors below them? Why would Bam ever spare such greedy creatures that did nothing but lie and kill and betray each other?
“You do, Bam! You cared more than everyone else!” Aguero shouted, the icy winds picked up between them.
“Let’s calm down, I’ll take care of it.” Aguero pleaded, and each of the tears those lovely cerulean eyes shed was crystallized in ice. “ Please , Bam, I don’t want you to lose yourself.”
The Tower froze in its impending disaster.
The storm calmed, but it never stopped either.
Bam trusted Aguero, his greatest support, his partner, his everything . Bam trusted Aguero when he assured Bam he’d take care of it. That they’d deal with these raging emotions before it overshadowed them.
Looking back at it, that was the first mistake. Bam should have never trusted Aguero, Bam should have struck the Tower down to ashes. Bam would have brought Aguero to the world Outside the Tower and they’d bury the debris of each floor, along with their most painful regrets and memories.
But his humanity bloomed, and Aguero paid the price for it.
The first cold of Winter
Bam asked Aguero, again and again if he wanted to venture Outside since they finished the Tower. Aguero only chortled in mirtle, telling him to stay a bit more in the 183rd and Bam was weak with the request. So they stayed for a little longer, but the cold never died around them. Not that it affected Bam, it never did.
They dug a container for Rak and buried their friend, as they also planted a sapling of the tree. Aguero and his lighthouse had a complete arsenal and Bam was still utterly amazed.
Something was wrong, though.
There were times Aguero pinned their wedding ornaments to his hair, while there were times Bam almost stepped on it at the ground. When Bam confronted Aguero about it, Aguero tilted his head in confusion.
“ This was mine? ”
“ Love, it’s our wedding ring. ” Aguero apologized profusely and fixed the lengthened hair with the accessory.
One time, Aguero tackled him in an embrace. Arms tight around his waist and Aguero cried as if Bam died.
“ Bam...you’re alive… ”
“ Of course I am. ”
Questions and queries muddled his brain and the answer came in the form of a Guide that went missing eons ago. Hwaryun jumped from the shadows, her skin never wrinkling but Bam cannot detect the mysterious aura the Red Witch had.
“I apologize, my God.” Hwaryun bowed, Bam contemplated whether to leave or let her be. At least anger did not bubble hotly in his chest anymore. “My sisters have deigned me a punishment for guiding an Irregular like you.”
Was it the lack of wisdom in her presence?
“I am at my last vestiges, soon I will fade.” Hwaryun prophesied, “This future...I did not foresee. Once again, before I disappear, I want to beg for your forgiveness.”
“What’s wrong?” Was there something wrong with the future for Bam? Everything was done right? Aguero was fine, Bam had calmed down. They have prayed and poured drinks for each friend they lost in their climb.
“You do not know what Khun wished from the Tower, don’t you?” Hwaryun accused and Bam disliked how it was the truth. Bam was sure Aguero must have wished for something similar like his, to never let wretched destiny separate them again.
“Does it matter?”
“My God, Khun wished one thing out of all the greed he had.”
The blizzard whirred again on the topmost floor, Hwaryun’s burgundy hair speckled with dots of snow.
“He said, ‘I don’t want the 25th Bam to lose his sanity.’”
There was a rink of ice in the pavement, dominating steps clacked on the floor. When Bam turned to the source, Aguero was screaming at the sight of Hwaryun.
“What’s happening to him?! What does his wish entail?” Bam asked hurriedly, his feet stuck frozen as Aguero grappled his own hair. Their wedding accessory gliding accidentally, about to cascade off the luscious strands.
“He asked for your sanity, Viole.” Hwaryun pronounced, “The Administrator of the 183rd floor took your insanity and placed it on him.”
Aguero shrilled, and the hairpin fell to the ice rink. A loud thunk that served as the final bell for their fate. Once again, played by these cruel beings that did not deserve his kindness nor Aguero’s.
“He asked for your sanity, Viole.”
A never-ending life of suffering...
And I asked for our immortality.
Aguero was laughing.
The arctic blizzard never paused since they lingered on the final floor. Bam figured out a few more truths after Hwaryun’s revelation. Aguero froze the Tower in order to stop the shattering earthquakes Bam produced. If the ice were to melt, would the Tower continue stifling in accordance with Bam’s previous feelings?
Or would it die down as humanity and kindness showered him whole? The inhumane voices inside departing since they conquered the Tower.
“Bam,” Aguero admitted excitedly, “I froze half of the Tower! You said you want the Tower to go down!”
I regret saying it. I say things I don’t really mean, and now you’re going to destroy the Tower on behalf of me.
“Bam, why did you ask for immortality?”
“So I won’t lose you.”
But I already did, and it was my fault.
Aguero fulfilled his word, as expected, and as trusted.
When Aguero embraced him this time, the grip was tender and full of affection. Bam focused on Aguero’s eyes, dwindling between coherence and madness. Bam knew it took a tantamous amount of strength for Aguero to request this.
“You’ll never lose me,” Aguero stated.
“I lost you too many times to count…” Bam sniffed Aguero’s hair.
“And you’ll lose me again…” Aguero refuted, “Arlene’s pocket had that spell...erase my memories, Bam. Erase it, so we could stop destroying this Tower.”
Will the plan even work? Will they be able to salvage the last dredges of their humanity together? If Bam erased Aguero’s memories, will Aguero halt the freezing temperature that killed dozens of people under?
“Your sanity is guaranteed, you’ll be fine.” Aguero smiled, genuinely and Bam hung onto every word of his lover. “I’m sure I’ll fall in love with you again and again, so Bam please, trust me on this.”
Like an oath, Aguero kissed him.
“Neither of us will want to destroy this Tower.”
Bam combed Aguero’s smooth hair as he put him to sleep in his lap. Under the growing tree and the aching moonlight, Bam kissed the man he swore to spend eternity with.
Another peck in the forehead, and the spell was sealed.
“I wish I’d still fall in love with you despite my missing memories.” Aguero yawned, and that wish was the start of a curse.
A curse, a legend, a myth, a truth, a story, and a reality.
The plan succeeded, somehow, because Aguero made it.
But his Aguero, his smart, perfect, intelligently handsome Khun Aguero Agnis specialized in loopholes and figuring puzzles like the blank expanse of those memories.
He always found out what happened, whether Bam was careless or not. By the ninth month, Aguero would connect the dots and the information wasn’t kind to the beautiful, glorious mind.
The cycle repeats: Aguero wakes up with no memories, they fall in love, Aguero figures out what happened, and Bam puts him to sleep as a snowstorm consumes the Tower for three months.
Bam has been called many names, ranging from a monster to a god.
Bam supposed if he was ever a god, he’d be the God of Death.
Aguero’s eyes fluttered open, revealing a pair of vivid sapphires under those snow-like lashes blinking as the frost on those irises melted.
Bam swiped his thumb on the hot tears cascading, warm unlike the body he cradled for months of sleep.
“Good morning,” Bam greeted, gathering all the strength he had but never enough for heart-wrenching pain burning in his chest at the sight.
Aguero desperately clutched onto him, without recognition, pure body instincts wanting to merge their bodies closer.
“Who...who are you?” Aguero croaked, but the hold never loosened.
Bam threaded his fingers on the long woven hair, guiding the pale blue head to rest on his shoulder. Aguero trembled as sobs wracked out of those chapped lips.
“How many times did this happen…”
Bam had stopped counting the years meeting all versions of Aguero with no memories of him, of them, of their journey. Bam had stopped counting the days he fell in love with each and every Aguero in his immortal life. Bam had stopped counting the nights he held the slumbering man in his arms.
Bam had stopped counting, so his only answer was silence and a stare to the sky that was never worth climbing this Tower for.
“How many times did I wake up not remembering who you are for my body to memorize your touch?”
Eternity is a curse I put between the two of us, so I will take every smile, every cry, every love, and every hate of yours as a blessing, Aguero.
“Too many times, love.”
iii. I shall don the wings of an Angel and a Demon
Who both fell in love before love was forbidden
I will soar through the expanse of the kingdom of Heaven
And fly down to enter the gates of Hell
So that both God and the Devil had met me
They will both look into my eyes, and feel powerless
Because the world will be hopeless in what I have decided to do
For you, my only beloved, my love dearest
Chapter 4: The reality
The reality: Every year, on top of the Tower, a beautiful monster wakes up and falls in love with the God of Death.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The reality of the truth
A hand reached out from a long-haired man who smiled at him, and the first word Aguero associated with him was ‘warm.’
“I’m Bam, nice to meet you, Aguero.”
The blush petals swirled in the air, along with his hair that flowed like tides in the morning sea and the ponytail of Bam which flicked behind like a fox’s tail. You are a strange fellow, Aguero kept in mind but the way his heart never scrambled again in panic after the introduction shut down his doubts.
The answer came to him, easy as breathing in a field where clouds blotched the Columbus skies.
You’re the one who erased my memories, didn’t you?
Nevertheless, Aguero clasped their hands together fitting snugly and heavy as he anticipated another year of falling in love with the loneliest stranger throughout the seasons.
The reality of the story
Rak’s tree, as Bam liked to refer to the sapling he planted with Aguero, swished to shake off the remnants of snow that clumped in the last Winter. A sign that the cold will end soon as tiny leaflets protruded from the skinny branches.
Bam leaned on the trunk, life magically thrumming underneath the surface as the gray sun shone on them. Aguero slept serenely in his lap as his fingers carded the satiny rich strands, the crescent opal hairpin safely tucked in Bam’s robes.
His butterfly ornament that Rak crafted splendidly, perched on one of the thicker branches of the tree. Once Spring blessed the Tower again in hopeful joy and happiness, pink petals will flock to hide the accessory.
“Thank you, Rak,” Bam hummed wistfully, “You always handed it to him, didn’t you?”
A whirring breeze splashed the topmost floor, his hairpin dangerously teetering to fall. Yet the jewel does not let the wind threaten its position as it held on, Bam chuckled.
“He’ll wake up soon,” Bam reminded as he gawked at the big tree, “Be our officiant and best man again, okay?
Aguero, my Spring, he never fails to find our ring.
“Black turtle fell in love again? ” The faraway memory whisked in his ears, Rak’s voice hollering as if Rak sat beside them.
“My answer never changes.”
The reality of the myth
“You mean they knew what would happen...all along?!” His daughter cried, clutching the front of his shirt. She was a cute child, inheriting her mother’s quiet beauty and canary eyes, the only traits she received from him was her snow-like colored hair and pale skin.
Khun Ran loosened a small smile, his daughter was ever the expressive one. He was relieved as his stoicism and Anaak’s endearing grumpiness did not pass onto their child.
“But why would they do that? Why would they stay with each other even if the ending wasn’t a happy one?”
“Because,” Ran tucked a chestnut strand over her ear, “They promised.”
“The beautiful monster promised he’d always return to the other’s arms, and the God of Death vowed to love him every day, every month, and every year.”
“Princess,” A smooth voice enraptured the room, Ran and his daughter regarded the intruder at the door. Sometimes, his wife’s extraordinary skill of hiding her presence still spooked Ran despite the centuries since they’ve married.
“Mama!” His daughter, Khun Princess Anaak, tumbled off his lap and hugged her mother. The girl wept on her skirt and Anaak glared at him, Ran shrugged his shoulders in nonchalance.
“Teacher told a story, Papa told me the truth!” Princess wailed, “What should I do?”
“You should do your homework,” Anaak pinched Princess’s nose, and Ran warmed at the sight. Princess sniffed Anaak's dress once more and ran away from the room, crying all the time.
“You told her?” Anaak accused as she shut the door behind her, she strolled to join his table at the window. The view of the 111th floor has remarkably changed, where once killing coliseums and bloody amphitheaters erected, stood homes and schools that educated kindness.
Khun Ran may be leading the floor as of the current, but there was no authority, only democracy.
“It’s not like anyone will believe,” Ran assured, “I found it hard to believe when you told me what happened.”
Anaak sighed and intertwined their hands atop the coffee table, gazing out at the translucent panes to appreciate the snow drying view. Little mountains of ice littered the ground of the floor, but people have gone out as the temperature was bearable.
“I used to keep track of Endorsi when they traveled the floors,” Anaak breathed deep, “But one day she won’t reply anymore, I had to contact the alligator.”
“Rak sent disgusting updates of the two,” Anaak rolled her eyes, and Ran laughed. He also remembered suffering the yearning between A.A. and the FUG Slayer.
“Then one day, Rak wasn’t texting my pocket anymore and the Tower shook for a moment.”
“A.A.'s ice shinsu was felt here too, they said the upper floors had it worse.” Ran continued.
“I never imagined contacting Bam again, but he only said he and Khun made the biggest mistake,” Anaak said, her lips pursed.
“You never stopped worrying,” Ran pointed out. Her hand squeezed his tighter.
“Neither did you,” Anaak said, but there was no bite. Ran followed her gaze, back to the peaceful floor once dripping with red, now covered in white and green.
“I suppose, we can’t help it. We were once their teammates.”
“A.A.,” Ran addressed to the pink flower, dew drops at the tip of the petal. “I hope Viole is taking care of you.”
Ran watched as the last of the snowflakes melted and the first flower of Spring bloomed in the Tower.
iv. I shall have galaxies and universes fight amongst each other
I shall walk in the middle of the battlefield without an armor
And appear without scars and bruises in the aftermath
I will stare back at the exquisite tragedy I had created
I will take in every detail of the art I had painted
I will march to war everyday and slay monsters to drink its blood
Just because you gave our future a chance of happiness
(These are the things I can and will do
I will dedicate everything for you
For everything which is you)
Chapter 5: The glossary
The glossary: clarifications and terminologies by the author as she explains herself.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the story, for the pain. I was hesitant about posting this fic, because I've felt how sacred this story was from Bam and Aguero. Something that should only be theirs, yet at the same time, it demanded to be heard.
The sun and moon in the holed ceiling of the topmost floor was the Administrator, and they watched every day and every night as these two conquerers paid the price of their wishes.
After Bam relayed how he and Khun made the biggest mistake, Anaak never heard from him again.
Final Floor Test.
The test was a mirror to the one administered by Lero Ro, where examinees pass through the condensed wall of shinsu. On the final floor, the test was, "Survive the shinsu, and you pass." Unfortunately, Bam was not able to save Rak as his priority was Aguero.
Feathers Across the Season by Kagamine Rin and Len.
The tidbits at the end notes as you have noticed by each chapter was written by me. Please do not plagiarize it, I have written that poem when I was seventeen and in love. I did not imagine I'll be digging it up again for this fic, but I thought it suited Bam and Aguero too.
He was buried under the mythical tree, the tree that changed colors and bloomed with the seasons. The same tree where Bam and Aguero marry each other yearly.
Please take care of yourselves after this, it was a long painstaking journey.
Why did Bam and Aguero continue on the cycle, despite knowing how painful it was? Because Aguero does not want Bam to be lonely in his immortality, and Bam does not want to kill the thousands of innocent lives in the Tower.
It is said that the higher floors have contained shinsu in suffocating levels, this was the cause of Rak and Laure's deaths.
The myth of Persephone.
In Greek mythology, the King of the Dead, Hades, stole Persephone, the Goddess of Life and Spring from her mother, Demeter. Enraged, Demeter, the Goddess of Wheat, did not grow crops at the end of the year and Winter consumed the world.
It is said that once you have eaten fruit from the Underworld, you were meant to stay there forever. Persephone six pomegranate seeds, but Demeter wanted her back on Earth. After a negotiation, Persephone stays in the Underworld with Hades for six months, and winter covers the world in Demeter's sorrow. In the next six months, Persephone reunites with her mother, and Spring was brought to Earth.
You could guess it was based on the myth above.
We all need it, honestly.
The longest day for Bam and Aguero to fall in love.
The longest night, as Bam puts his lover to sleep before Aguero's madness, freezes the Tower again.
366 days in a leap year, split by half and people will get 183rd. In the middle of the year, Bam and Aguero fall in love.
Once you've finished reading this,
I have a silly wish, a tiny experiment. If you've reached this, endured, and did not look away from the pain of Bam and Aguero's love for each other and the Tower, I only wish you to tweet: "The 183rd floor was where love conquered all." I am active on Twitter, and I'll appreciate this even if you do not leave comments here. It means you have read this story which was dear to me, to Bam, and to Aguero.
If somebody asked what the meaning of the tweet was, ask them if they're ready to hear about the story of a God of Death and a beautiful monster (just send them the link).
Of course, this is just a silly wish from the author herself. I just want to thank everyone who reached here, this was written painfully and I had to pause sometimes because of its intensity.
Chapter 6: The alternative
For me, the story never really had an ending because they were stuck in a cycle.
Then the traitorous question was asked, “what if they had an ending?”
(Or the author self-indulges once again. P.S. I saw the 183rd floor tweets, thank you so much.)
The alternative: There was a Tower built by cruel gods, climbed by ignorants, and conquered by love that brought Life and Death.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
On the day the Tower crumbled down, brick by brick, floor by floor, it was a summer afternoon and the skies were cloudless clear.
But it rained.
It rained cold and terrible and the showers fell like diamonds, glinting sharp in direct sunlight.
And it quaked.
The gilded columns reverberated, revealing marks and gaps filled with ice. These lines, almost-like lightning strikes, were the scars of the first time the Tower quaked. The Administrators, Rankers, Regulars, shivered in anxiety as the foreboding feeling of disaster impended.
All the floor residents, regardless of races and religions, status and ranks giving each other a worried glance. An earthquake? A test obstacle? A catastrophe nobody was prepared?
Rain poured harder, droplets into snowflakes. Floors shook harsher, pockets, lighthouses, shinsu losing gravity.
Then the Tower cracked.
On the brightest day of Summer Solstice, Bam was oddly somber for such a sunny day.
Aguero felt the intense pull, the tantalizing magnetism between their skins, and the urge of his lips to place on top of those sadly toned ones.
However, there was no kiss.
Only a promise as Aguero cupped those memorable cheeks, his palms never forgetting the sensation. His Bam never once hesitating to lean onto the affectionate gesture.
“Bam,” Aguero breathed on those lips confidently, “I love you.”
“Aguero—“ Bam gasped, there were tears on those eyes and Aguero refused to let them fall. There was a sorrow that welled too deep within his emptiness whenever Aguero got too close.
Not again. Not this time.
“We know how it ends,” Aguero eyed the butterfly pin cleverly placed on the branch of the tree. His hands caressed the top of Bam’s chest, a hairpin, the moon to be exact embedded underneath the onyx robes.
“Aguero, please, I’m so so tired.” Bam’s voice was the sound of broken edges, crashing waters.
This was not worth it. Staying on the topmost floor, preserving the millions of lives in floors below down them. Keeping the walls of the Tower frozen, so it won’t deliriously fall.
What Aguero and Bam were protecting everyone from will be nothing , Aguero understood.
It will be nothing if his God of Death will cry in loneliness forever, for three months because of him. Aguero wanted a future, for them to be together.
Let the Tower crumble, Bam doesn’t want to save lives anymore. Bam looks at him pleadingly, clutches his hands strong and tight and he kisses Bam as he knew the truth.
“Let’s flee, love, let’s destroy the curse of us that is this Tower.”
Bam wants him. Only him.
There was no split second hesitation, only a blasphemous tugging on their lips as their hands intertwined together. The cave, the tree, the 183rd floor rumbled, and this , glory kissing as their tongues fought in with a rebellion to their fate.
The yellow, the color of happiness was finally back in Bam’s irises. His hand, once cold and blue was finally warm as he held hands with Bam.
“I love you, Aguero, this Tower doesn’t deserve you.”
The magical tree swayed, the moon hairpin cascading from the branch. The approval of their dearest friend and priest heard as Aguero caught the jeweled accessory.
“This Tower doesn’t deserve us.”
For the first time in a year, Winter never came.
Stone by stone constructed by gods of dragons and fishes, step by step climbed by creatures of folly and pride, test by test forming friendships and breaking bonds.
Floor to floor tilting upside down, dust to dust crumbling sideways, and tear by tear snow drizzling under rays of light.
There was once a Tower designed to take everything away from its climbers, and there was a pair of lovers who conquered the said Tower.
They have brought Spring and Winter, Life and Death in an endless cycle. The God of Death, together with his beautiful monstrous Spring.
When the Tower fell, only those who knew the truth knew what was happening.
“The God of Death will take his Spring away from this Tower.”
When Bam woke up, he was in a cave.
A real cave.
Something heavy and heady rest on his shoulder and when Bam turned, his partner was there. Mesmerizing eyes opened, irises no longer shrinking in icicles, and there was a fond recognition that had Bam hitching in breath.
“Where are we, love?” Aguero yawned, but the man was not tired. Bam thought Aguero was the most beautiful to exist, and he was the luckiest man to have him.
Never mind the debris, ashes and ashes of the Tower with its millions of lives buried by bricks. Bam cannot think about it, not when the repercussions of mirth disappeared, not when the realization dawned on their skins.
“In the cave Outside the Tower...where I woke up.”
“Where Rachel found you?” Aguero teased.
“I built a pile of rocks to reach the ceiling, she’s the one standing there.” Bam rolled his eyes.
When Bam reached to tuck a stray hair of Aguero, he noticed there was something in his palm. Cold and metal rod, Bam didn’t have to check.
Bam pinned the hairpin again in Aguero’s hair, it must have transferred in his hand earlier when they held hands as light engulfed them both in the Tower.
Aguero blushed as Bam finished fixing the silky hair, whispering, “Marry me, Aguero.”
“How many times have we married already?”
“I want to marry you Outside the Tower.” Bam proclaimed, standing up and brushing away the dust in his robes. He offered his hand to Aguero who stared at him in confusion.
“Where are we going?” Aguero asked but took his hand snugly.
“I told you, I built pile of rocks—“
“We’re climbing again?”
“I didn’t get to explore before entering, remember? Besides, your father was an Irregular from the Outside too.”
Aguero snorted, letting Bam pull him up.
“I supposed I’d rather climb this Tower you made, Bam.”
Bam smiled, truthfully, gently, and once they’re both Outside the cave, then maybe, they can forget the memories of the Tower that was made in brokenness.
Remember the morning that came afterwards
Sun’s hot rays crowned your head in a halo
We were angels, we had wings, I wanted to cut it off
Because I wished to stay here, in my safest place on Earth