heavy is the crown only for the weak
Born in a settlement near what is now known as Zhongwei, Shida is the last living Ku of Neolithic China. Born blue mouthed but bold, Shida was a confusion for his own parents and then, a fear for his people. Shida's own father wanted him abandoned but his mother fought against; she recognized the power in her child, in the way their veins connected. After so long, she had one and that was all that would matter. When they came for her and her child, when their human fears overtook the logic of their rights, Qiuyue (Sîn's name, by then) massacred them all. Without malice, without compromise, the entire tribe was destroyed in a moment. Men, women, children, animals; they would be remembered only by the one, the first human born ready for true power in the world: her son, destined for his 12 Pains.
As with all things, there was a reason that The Enduring were not able to have children. The gifts they received through ritual and sacrifice were celestial. Their very removal from humanity made them... cold. Hungry for power. The very core of every Darwinian fantasy ever conjured up was their morning thought and their afternoon daydream. As parents, they would raise nothing but creatures of pure power that knew only one thing: to want. And any creature that only wants, that has no predator, that has no worry, will only doom its habitat thoroughly. Shida may have ended up a good king, in better hands. Shida may have redefined the world for glory and love, had that been a lesson he was ever given. But that is not the way of the world Shida was given. Instead, there were conquests. Abandonment in forests and mountain plains, left with no tools or guidance by the age of six and seven, were the norm; Shida, killing the animals of the wild until a Pain glowed to him and he learned to steal it. His reward? Power, of course, but his mother returned to his side again, smiling and happy in their secret tests.
The fittest, the strongest, the guiding light. She called him her Morning Star. She held him with each success and lavished him with love, then held all The Enduring from every knowing their truths. When finally it came to pass that they knew of Shida's power and growth, they tried to interfere but it was too late; she fought them, too, and only three originals survived by siding with her. Sîn, the first; Sîn who knew best. Sîn who would come to them in a hundred years with worry in her eyes and a hole in her heart. Because Shida only knew power, then; and once Sîn felt he had enough, that he could guide, he was unsatisfied. He needed more. Men had only sticks and stones but he was not satisfied with fire; men had their armies and beasts and Shida would not be satisfied by simple stars. He saw the world as he claimed it to be: on a trajectory to less and less, to false governance and idols no one would put a face to. He wanted different. Wanted better.
He wanted to be the only god for them to look upon.
The Name 'Apocalypse' is only the most recent that Shida has owned. Before, there were others. Gods of Death. Gods of Life. Gods of Chaos. Elevated beyond the normal spheres of the universe as Shida traveled, building an army, amassing an empire so fast and powerful its descendants would rule in history books: Egypt, Mongolia, Japan. But everything made of mortal heart is due for its end, even the gods that Shida tried to become; when the right witches came together, under the guidance of The Enduring who had spent centuries then grooming cults and covens, Shida found his spirit pulled out by the light of the moon and a new ritual begun: his flesh and blood destroyed with a new vessel in wait. A weaker vessel, to try to humble him. Again and again this came to pass, a body that seemed unbreakable and immortal finding itself suddenly frail; the marrow of a human body too weak to sustain his power for as long as he would ever like.
What good was two, three hundred years, when he had plans to make the world over permanently in his image? His likeness? Frustration became a friend for the first time, a kind of temper in his chest that did not destroy the world but distracted him instead. Distracted him with lovers. With family. Shida tried more times than he could count — to forgive the world and let its laws try to govern. But the same thing continued, each time: the humans would make the world seem like tigers and wildcats again, like mammoths and survival. And he would prove himself the fittest. He would do whatever he had to, until some magic interfered and removed his lessons from the history of man. He would rise and time and time again he would find himself hammered back into dust.
Then there came America, after traveling through dimensions with a body fueled on rage and tempers. There came the world on edge of nuclear war. Bombs. Threats. Information as power. Money. All things that Shida saw no use for, returning to a world that lacked any lingering flesh and blood of his lineage; they had taken everything, every last glory, every last measure of survival, and he would take theirs. If they would not let him have his children of blood, he would have all the children of power. His children: the homostia. But things did not go as planned. The battles came, instead. Cities destroyed only for forces of weak homostia to try and rebuild. They were kind to the humans. Broken, untrusted, some even hated — and they did not stand with their father. They fought him, instead, and it was not until the final day of battle that Shida found his hope again: a spark of a child somewhere, a promise he could cast out on the world before their Sky Father pest broke through his chest and locked him away.
They could try, again and again, to take like the animals and the maggots. Shida would survive. Against Mother Darkness. Against humanity. Against the children who needed reminding of their truth, of their power. Shida would rise as King or Apocalypse; language had never mattered when the goal was always the same. Power enough to rule everything.
Even those who know of Sîn know little of her youth. All the importance lies in the day she first met Irra and the night The Enduring were made. More creature than humanoids, the four original Enduring were all born of sacrifice and power, their eyes attuned to see lights within the planet they could harness and use. They came to know these as Pain itself: as the gifts of the planet that they could use because of the anguish they had been suffered through already. At first, The Enduring were willing, were kind; they could not bear children and could not settle into lands with their ambiguous looks and their need to find more power. They wanted to share their gifts, to teach the world to use what the planet offered. They imparted upon those worthy various touches of power, power that would begin to develop over the millennia, that would turn homosapien to homostia when the time was right. Humanity would elevate, they felt, when it was ready; it was their duty only to guide it, slowly, into acceptance and power.
It wasn't until they learned the truth, the interference of celestial creatures that had given power to their rituals, that Sîn began to feel differently about the course of their natures. If others had interfered so harshly, had given gift to flesh and blood only because flesh and blood had been taken, why should they not take a more active role in fixing it? In making children of pain who did not require the death of those around them? So, she snuck her way out of their path, hid herself against even her fellow Enduring for a time and tried to make a family. A husband, a good man, who worked the land and rams of the mountains. And a child, then, when his passion had finally been stoked enough to give her enough time to work her magic through their sex. But her child was not welcomed by the mortals. Her child was not welcomed by anything. Sîn felt this a personal attack, until it was too late to do anything but try and apologize and beg for forgiveness.
Now, for ages, she's tried to make amends. Every time there are too many incarnations of Shida on the planet, Sîn helps to nourish powers against them. Some, she's even had killed; the rumors began to spread, as if Shida really had need of flesh and blood, until the truth and the lies were incapable of being separated from one another. Fables. Myths. She worked it all against his favor, proved the world could rise against time and time again, homostia or not; and yet, all along the way, the Enduring did their tasks the same. Homostia leaders. Homostia rich. Homostia that could try and shape the world within the boundaries of its own rules. All their dreams, slow harvested, and threatened again and again by her one and largest mistake. It was only when Hugo Hwang was born that she slowed the killing herself — that she thought, for the first time in thousands of empires, that a child of her blood could prove everyone wrong. Her fellow Enduring, Shida, and the celestial assholes who only saw the world in shades of agony.
So she has waited, and watched, from her perch in shadows. And she hopes, against all odds, to see the final solution to her oldest mistakes in him: her own great grandchild.
The truth of Sîn is that she is born of a celestial race of beings known as Paragons who are all, essentially, siblings manifested into flesh by the urge and need of the universes. Some are born into flesh and blood — others, concepts. But they are the same in the end: cores of such power that all that is born of them becomes power in the universes and planets they desire. Each new life born from a Paragon's blood is tested at some point, whether they will learn into corruption of their souls or become the powers of forgiveness. The Enduring are a byproduct of Sîn's will herself, influencing other beings, the same as Shida and his lineage all are.
as we burn down, we are found
Like when a flower blooms and reveals its heart that isn’t there.
Cover the memory of your face with the mask of who you will be and scare off the girl you once were.
For most of her youth, Keira Hwang kept secrets. She was more bristle and box than girl: she was cold locks and thorns, the Queen of the English Roses. But secrets are poison and Keira, flower as she may be, has never been right for harming others. So it would happen even when she didn't want for it. At ten, a touch to her mother's stomach and suddenly the woman was healed and ready for children. At twelve, a boy's broken nose healed with a kiss to his lips. Creation, at her fingertips, and nothing that could end it. Word got around in the softest of Chinese whispers and before long they were at her door: a dream couple off the television sets.
Avery and Woohyun were hardly as daunting in person as Keira's young mind had imagined. It didn't change her family's reaction, however; the world's richest couple, heroes in their own right, trying to get permission to help educate their daughter. They had known, of course they had — Keira would walk through the orchards and suddenly not a single fruit off the trees was anything but ripe and perfect. Knowing and doing were different things, though, and the girl she was did not find herself ready for all her secrets to spill out.
No one speaks on it anymore. It isn't right. It's in a different kind of lock box, the memory of Keira slamming a door and screaming about not going anywhere. It's hidden in steel and darkness, the way the light around her had changed and for the first time, it was not creation at her fingertips but destruction as everyone saw their own worst fears. Apocalypse returned, now painted in carnation pinks and the petals of a flower, ready to stomp the Gardens out and ruin effort of safety. But Woohyun stopped her then, showed her that he was not afraid no matter what power ran through her or tempers mocked her thoughts. And Avery held her close enough that she could hear every song of every flower that felt the grace of the mother's love. So, Keira took some time.
A week later, she visited their campus, listened to their stories. And none of it mattered because she saw a boy. No — not a boy. She saw a young man who smiled like the sun and right after turned to the handsome stone of safety she had never known she wanted. Richard Hwang, the young hot shot of the campus and brand new. And he, he saw her, rushing over to meet her, asking Avery to introduce them and offering to show her around. A flirt, of course, which had her wanting to turn away. But he persisted, insisted there could not be anything better to do with his day than try to entertain the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. Considering Avery... it was hard to believe, but then his eyes and his smile all spoke to here with sincerity and the rest was history.
Keira accepted almost instantly then — she had to be part of this school, had to learn herself and... well, she had to learn more about the young man. It was only a matter of time, then; meeting Richard's friends, making her own and, finally, forming a team together. Not the First team, the way most people like to say, but certainly the most popular. Marvel Girl, Prodigy, Cloud-Walker, Eranko, Double Take, Amaglam, Canary and Spectre. Overwatch. The First Cazerns, because they were the heroes that proved the university worked: they saved lives, cities, countries, and even the planet a few times.
It's what made things so awful, when she gave birth to Channing and the world turned against her for the truth of her bloodline. It was the nurse who spilled and spread the rumors of the baby, of the way it had killed her and she had drained her husband. All of it false, mostly, but the news didn't matter. They tried their best to turn all the same, even marked Richard as a villain now, a terrorist, for throwing blows against people who tried to come after them. It wasn't until Woohyun himself took to the world and spoke out that things settled, enough. Hatred grew, it bristled beneath the brine, but it never turned to the lashing of the world against them.
Which is why Hugo came. A happiness, a hope, when things finally did make sense. And their new bond made him different. Stronger, it seemed, and without the cursed marks Channing had to bear. Just freckles, like little constellations of spells against his skin. That her children were always at odds and ends didn't matter much to Keira; she settled them as she could but always, always, the flower of her heart leaned toward the sun that Richard had become instead. Nothing mattered. Not the traveling, not the settling later, not the transition into business woman. It was all fine, as long as he was there.
Even when Channing turned rogue and began to kill people, her life moved forward, as did Richard's. There is only so much they can do. It's another team's problem now.
you don't want that parade to leave
The sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: "Wait" and "Hope".
When Richard joined The Garden Academy he could still hear the wind blowing off of the old Cessna 172. The smoke flooding the pit as his mother strapped a parachute to his chest; he could still remember the way the explosion shoved him downward as he fell from the sky crying. And he remembers the way his body reacted: absorbed the energy and burst it out beneath him, let him fall down slower than needed, landed him safely in the mountains of Colorado. Or, mostly safely; his parents were gone, forever, and authorities came through to bring the boy into the system.
Victor and Judy were dead, as far as Richard knew. But there was hope there again: finding some kind of truth in a school and team that would make sense of what no authorities could so far. So, Richard finished high school with some help from the staff of The Garden Academy and — then, he went into university and things started to fall into pairings sets that Richard was unprepared for. Friends! A group of people he could trust. People that looked to him as a leader — as someone who didn't just know things but spoke truth, spoke words worth respecting.
And then, her.
There's a difference between a beautiful girl and the one, Richard will say. And he knew right away Keira was his one. The timid smile. Her soft eyes. The way her fingers pulled at the edges of her sweater sleeve and hugged at her own elbows. She was it, there was no doubt about that; time just had to catch up. Before long, he'd all but forgotten that his story was awkward — a tragedy at best. It was a love story now, a drama that would end in church bells and symphonies. They came together like they were destined for it. Overwatch. A partnership. A love. Everything just the way it was supposed to be. Straight up through the sky and on to the stars.
But they had their own secrets to keep. And in the shadows of eternity, Richard found those awkward truths. In the middle of a galactic war, in another galaxy, old nightmares returned: Richard's own parents in garbs and planets that didn't belong to them. Or, as he came to learn — as they did belong to Victor, who had been blasted down onto Earth as a child and finally found when his Starjammer extended family needed more bodies for war. It took a few weeks to settle in, with the mission as the most important thing, but eventually Richard had to sit down and wrap his head around that awkward truth: he was an alien.
If it wasn't for Keira, Richard isn't sure he would have had enough presence of mind to even try to get Victor and Judy back to Earth. He certainly wouldn't have been able to survive knowing he wasn't fully human. But she loved him, from the first day, and that never faltered; so, Richard, too, would learn to stand straight and tall. He would tower, for her, when the right day came.
It was two years later before it hit. The world turned scorned when Keira's true heritage came into scope after. Her pregnancy hadn't been that difficult, or tough; but then the delivery turned into a rollercoaster of Murphy's Law. Keira died, the baby blue as the ocean. But Richard, full of temper and power whole, vowed more for her than that and then it came: her gifts, her child, all woke in the light of her blood as her life bound itself to Richard's and his to her own. A miracle. A miracle and a curse at once, as the nurses and staff noticed Channing's marks.
An heir to Apocalypse? An inheritance of evil? It wasn't even a week before the word was in every paper and people were banging on the Academy doors. Richard threw the first blow out of pure instinct: someone pulling at Keira, throwing an insult her way. From there, things began to fall apart.
But Richard stayed her tower. Stayed at her side.
Their resignations were not allowed; Woohyun and Avery would have none of it. Instead, they sheltered the new parents and their baby. They did their work, the best in the world at glossing everything over. At making everyone play their game. And before Channing's first birthday, his parents were heroes again: brave and bold and bright, sharing glory as they paved the way for something new. Leaders, again, of being heroes that could transition into something normal. Leaders that were not evil. So that, when Hugo was born, everyone could breathe a sigh of relief that there were no thick marks or tribal warnings. That the heroes they believed in were true heroes after all.
good to get high and never come down
The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea.
Channing Hwang could have grown up to be a great hero. He might have even grown up just to be a great musician, or father, or brother. But all those choices seemed like distant horizons for the young boy the day his baby brother was born. There was only anger that had been fostered the entire pregnancy. Richard always rubbing at Keira's belly instead of noticing what Richard had made. Keira always wondering when Richard would get home and asking Channing to go play on his own. Even all his grandparents drifted their attention and focus, made the boy feel like he had some kind of role to play now instead.
Hugo tried. Even Channing can admit it. From birth, he looked up at his older brother and there was something in his eyes. A kindness, despite his luck. A gentleness. Channing remembers the first time Hugo walked, and the way his fat legs had turned from their parents to stumble into him instead. Things began to swell in Channing's soul but he couldn't understand it — not then. It wasn't until later, his first fantasy film with swashbuckling and adventures, that it made sense. Hugo was special, sure. A king, or a Princess, or even a cool wizard. But Channing was the knight. He was Lancelot, waiting to steal the day, to claim battle and earn glory. He was vital, and important, and no one could take that away.
But whatever strength he earned from their backyard games in all their moving around the world faded when Channing started to linger long enough in schools for rumors to spread. Questions about his marks, his family, how evil he was. "Does your mom eat babies?" Questions that drove through his skull like nails. The first few fights were pure fist — trouble, sure, but nothing worse than other kids with tempers had. Then, Channing saw Hugo getting picked on and his fists weren't enough. The lockers crashed down on the kids and left severe injuries; Keira and Richard both paid attention to Channing with certainty that week, but it wasn't the kind of attention he ever wanted.
If they had known the troubles yet to come, they might have done better. But none of them really could have predicted it. Channing rejecting invitations to The Garden Academy. Channing, suddenly using his gifts against his own parents when he came home late. The fight that broke out. The way he'd left Keira crying. The way Hugo, just 13 at the time, had been the only one that could even get into his brother's room to try to talk to Channing.
Or that it was that night that Channing made his decision.
They talked about the stress. The problems. Hugo wanted to know about staying out late, about real friends, about having fun. Channing hadn't realized it — what everything had done to his baby brother. That there weren't people out there to build a net for him. That he was too kind and timid and scared to demand what he deserved. How many other kids out there were just the same? How many even in The Garden Academy were too scared to use their gifts, to shine the way they deserved to? Channing started to research their family, the truth beyond the rumors, and that was how it all changed.
By 19, Channing had run away. By 20, he was a criminal wanted in seventeen countries, only evasive because he had built himself shelter on a space station he'd designed and built. No one had sovereignty in space. This only made itself more abundantly clear with the rise of The Allumes — and Channing's own sect within them, his little Brotherhood of Horsemen. No one could put out missions against them or enforce laws and any time someone tried to fight, they lost; his power had grown, turned him into everything people had feared. An Incarnation of Apocalypse. A blight of terror. Because the world would know that homostia were the mighty, that they were in charge. No one would bully them, or leave them timid for who they were born to be.
Hugo could be the perfect little crown, Channing would gladly give him that. But Channing would be the knight of the universe. Channing would strike down their enemies and turn the world into the stomping ground of glory that every homostia had ever deserved. Kings and Queens and Rulers, each and every one.
nightingale with a voice of longing
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.
There are plenty of days where Clarissa still remembers the first time she used her gift properly: holding onto her baby sister and taking her far from the explosion in their home. She'd fallen through nearly a dozen portals before landing in England, lost and scared and unsure of what to do. It haunted her, for ages, that as soon as she'd tried to figure things out another portal had opened — and this one, further away than ever before. Duixia was no longer at her side. London wasn't, even. Instead, Stránstve stood before her in all its wonder and glory.
For most children, this might have been a distraction. But Xiaoxiao was not most children. Her purple eyes flared and the marks that scattered her face glowed just as brilliant as the stars around her. When a young man approached, his robes trailing over the walkway, she struck out. Her daggers were held in mid air and still, she fought, rushing him down and catching the boy by surprise; his voice gasped as they began their tussle, pulling at hair and sleeves, throwing punches with their young fists. Then, a large hand was on her back and pulling Xiaoxiao off the ground only to speak in a voice that came from everywhere at once.
It took years for Xiaoxiao to accept the truth of things: that she had happened into a dimension that unraveled her form to rewrite it into their own and now, she could not return to her Earth. She would have to work at it, train, become one of their warriors to master their techniques. And at first, she was enraged, until the boy she'd fought made his way back to her chambers one day and made for a better introduction. Jono, he'd told her. Next in line to the folding power. A prince, she'd said, and his pretty eyes had tried hard to make sense of the title. Sure, he'd offered back, and told her she punched like a prince.
Jono swears the way she'd laughed at that had made him certain he was in love already.
Years became decades and Xiaoxiao became Clarissa, trying to form something of herself. No one could ever figure it out, how to get her back, how to work around her powers. And she'd tried, saw creatures die for trying to exit her portals, so she knew better. But then, she was pregnant; then, she was giving birth in safety and still pain found her, killed her, with her own determination bringing her back. It was only then, with her baby in her arms, that Clarissa Boese learned to travel with her family to other worlds. Only, then, it didn't matter.
With no way to find Duixia and her own child now to finally care for, it seemed the best way of life to simply make her eternity with her husband at her side.
The war's gentle consequence.
Maybe we look into mirrors not merely to seek beauty, regardless of how illusive, but to make sure, despite the facts, that we are still here.
To see yourself still yourself is a refuge men who have not been denied cannot know.
Being the child of heroes has its perks. Few kids know the luxury of never really needing a want. But being the child of heroes on their way out, painted in downcast of turned tides and troubled bloodlines is different. Hugo Hwang has always been a child of great luck and great misery, this way. Glory unto his name before he was even born, risen to the ranks of great hope with only his first breath, and scorned because the blood in his veins was one of pain and agony, because his parents were bound to only one another and neither of their children.
Which isn't to say they didn't try, of course, always aiming for the best schools they could whenever they had to move and making sure dinner was always on the table. But they didn't know how to exist beyond those basic laws. It was always about just enough: just enough attention to calm the crying, just enough food, just enough love. Hugo was bright despite it, though; Hugo, the charming little thing that wanted to smell every flower and give them a proper name. Hugo, who tried to make sure his mother, his father and his brother all got drawings at the same time, all got the same snacks and drinks. Even at his worst, Hugo tried his best, rather than lean in to the ways to get attention Channing had.
A few times, he fought in school, throwing punches and getting into fist fights from sports or insults or competition. His parents worried that he would be "like Channing" — an insult Hugo's brother always heard and walked away from before hearing Hugo's rebuttals. But he wasn't that way. Hugo let patience rule until there was no more chance for it. Violence was supposed to be a last resort. It was a reaction, not an action; it was called for, not thrown out into the world. But that is, as people like to say, the before: a Hugo Hwang who traveled the world and tried to think of better. Later, after the world had changed in him, for him, he would hardly remember the boy who curved light.
It began to get to even Hugo, the way they spent weeks here or there. The way that Brooklyn was only half-way a home. England the other, his tongue split between two worlds, his languages rising and falling like ocean tides. And his parents, his parents who were so crazy for one another that films would beg for a taste and Hugo and Channing would hate the notion of romance. He faltered and fell, swayed into whims that didn't make much sense. It wasn't until he learned to really use his voice — a gift from his summers in England more than anything — that Hugo made headway toward an identity that could belong and last.
The fall of 2014 came with forward movement all around. Hugo had grown up learning everything that interested his parents: how planes worked, rock music, baking, flowers, candles and — and dance, which had been the only thing they'd ever shown up to school events for. So, Hugo went the next step beyond that: he applied to and got into The School of American Ballet. Keira and Richard were terribly reluctant about it, the rumors they'd heard, but Hugo seemed so excited and ready and all his little vision boards and notebooks seemed too put together to deny. So, they let him join, they helped him reach for happiness and along the way, they saw him make his first true friend. Kai Kim was anything but what people expected Hugo to befriend. But there they were, the two awkward Korean boys in a room full of the elite. And Kai was good — no, Kai was amazing. It frustrated Hugo beyond all measure that others didn't see it. Almost as much as it frustrated Hugo to not be as good.
But there was still enough of the old light there to last, to make Hugo extend a hand and offerings to Kai. It went from lunches and tips to walks to the store and discussions to Hugo inviting Kai over without a care in the world. The reveal was a bit odd, having to admit who his parents were, but Kai didn't make it seem any stranger than Kai made everything seem. And Hugo's parents, for the first time in ever, were actually distracted from one another by the sheer surprise of it. They were kind to Kai, talked to Hugo about his curse later, worried about wanting to help before letting go when Hugo said not to get involved. They made sure there was always enough in case Kai was dropping by — even made sure Kai had his own towel and short stay supplies in their house. No hesitation, no stress. It was as close to a real family as Hugo ever saw them being, if they ignored the way Channing never took to anyone.
As dance grew difficult (his legs were too thick, his ass was too fat, his posture was all wrong, he was pretty not handsome, his shoulders should square out more) Hugo found his comforts in Kai, in having stability, in having a say. Every time someone left him bruised, left him hurting and aching, Hugo could at least find comfort in snuggling with Kai or being home to hear his parents actively have a question about his day. The dark remained no matter the point of it all; the dark lingered underneath the purple skin and the broken toes that healed even when Hugo so wanted them to learn to adjust instead.
The elegance would have shattered earlier if not for the demon-killing sense of love. Baaz Sadiqi was not the kind of handsome to walk right off the pages of a magazine; he wasn't even really what the songs and stories talked about. But he was real and when he held Hugo's hand, it felt electric in its light. He kept Hugo going, made him aware that sometimes you had to compromise and break things down, you had to be less than whole to make it all okay. It served him well until it didn't.
2017 was a year for discoveries, for awful, for torment and ruin. Hugo finally gave up trying with the ballet after one too many insults (you're too gay, you're too soft, you're too bottom heavy, you're too pretty - be more of a man!) only to be met with monsters that shrouded the world: Citrant tried to blend into our universe and everyone fought, everywhere, only for Hugo and Kai to protect who they could before Hugo said his last farewell to ballet. Then, the summer came, an anguish hitting that no one could have ever prepared for. Baaz saying goodbye was bad enough, but when Hugo felt his head dizzy and watched Baaz's friend's enter the room and lock the door, even the drugs weren't enough to keep him from being aware. Just weak enough to be held down by their own homostia gifts as they raped him, their tongues and hands and cocks all leaving marks in his flesh.
Something woke in Hugo and before he could even finish seeing the light, Kai was breaking the door down and fighting. Everything, after, got worse and worse; hospitals, police, and Hugo who worked and wormed the projected paths of truth as best as he could. Therapy came right away, Hugo's parents trying to get any help they could. Miles Saint-Bosse was the first and only therapist to make any sense, a homostia himself, and one who did not just want to fix and fight it all. He wanted to really make sure Hugo understood that life did not begin or end with one event. There is a before, he said, and you can define your after. Nothing ever needs to stay broken.
Still, it took time, especially with all the other things happening through the universe. A year of tortures, of random rising heats and agony and memories that stripped him bare and tore his flesh from his bones. Slowly, though, Hugo learned about hope: about the way a world government was forming, about hearing that people from other dimensions were being given real rights, more than just diplomatic leaders who were safe on visits. Things were dark, of course, with Hugo bearing more power and responsibility than ever before, but the light never died. Until, it did.
Julian Kim's dead body is the last thing Hugo ever expected to saw. All the light rushed out of him at once. It was only Miles, hand to his shoulder, lips to his temple, that kept him on Earth at all; he was talked through it, believed in. But it was Jackie, whose tongue felt like a lashing before a kindness, who spoke the truth. "Your family has done some amazing things, and some fucked up things. You get a shot at a real miracle here. You gonna let a little fear stop you from your one shot at being something all your own?" It worked, looking past Jackie's broad shoulder, staring at the way the chaos was shifting the world around them. Hugo did what no one else could: he rewrote the universe.
In there, there was anguish, too: Bryce became the essence of chaos in our universe, his powers refined so purely that he could enter Hugo's mind and life any time he wanted. But Jackie helped there, Jackie who showed Hugo all his gifts, all his potential, and worked the boy up to join The Garden Academy to learn properly. It was Jackie who helped Hugo with establishing a locatino for heats, it was Jackie and Woohyun and Avery who helped Hugo find Pains in the world; they introduced Hugo to Kilig, to Reverie, to so many people with so many wonders that even the worst of his nightmares and torments started to seem like yesterdays.
So, he thought that his light now needed to be sheltered. A haven. And he got Kai to come along to learn, to grow, to find chances in a world that had Hope incarnate now. The Majestrix who would be willing to guide that hope, no matter what pains hit.