The title, is, of course, only a reference to the chronological order of the story.
This is the image given to the Scholars, from the last of the satellites orbiting the Earth.
It was over a thousand years ago. There are no more satellites now; all have perished in the intense heat of Sol’s radiation. None could be protected like Earth was, by the Shields.
Now, even the Shields themselves are overworked. And some die, resulting in more pressure on the remaining ones, as Sol continues to kick-out in her final stand against Death.
There was once a Philosopher, who was kept alive by the Scholars… as one would keep alive the statue of Ozymandias… the Absurdist Albert Camus…
It was a similar, though unexpressed, attitude I found in the Sword Saint; he was determined to make, to ensure, he would not cease to exist. More on this connection at another time.
THE LAST TIME I SAW THE SWORD SAINT
This is fairly late in our tale; by this time, Sol’s death cries had echoed around the planet to such an extent, there were few Shields, or, sadly, people, left on the Earth. The Nexus Point of the Shields was one of the few safe places left, and, by this time, not for very long.
This is where we implemented the final part of our plan, and this involved a final farewell.
De Carte, who has not been mentioned yet in my chronicles, was preparing his desperate last assault against the Sword Saint and I. My job was ensure he could not take the Base Station of the Nexus Point. Kensai’s role in this was to buy me time. We understood we would never again see each other again. I had no doubt, at the time, Kensai would manage to hold off De Carte – who is, credit given where credit is due, not an imbecile to put it mildly – and his mercenary company.
I, however, doubted my ability to make the most of this time he was buying for me – at great cost. The end result is, well, considering you are receiving this, fairly obvious.
I remember how I felt. My travels with him had been difficult. I had witnessed some of the most disgusting specimens of humanity. I had witnessed what I knew were – originally – good decent people that had become monsters; people such as De Carte, for instance (I apologise, but this will only be elaborated on later in the story).
I also witnessed what appeared to me to be cruel acts by the Sword Saint; merciless acts of… execution. That horrified me. Still. And how do I excuse this, despite the world we live in? How do I find a way to excuse his ability to suddenly cut off his empathy (which he had in great supply) for another human being, and act in such a quick, absolute, manner?
I can only rationalise it thus:
Most of the people, who at the start of the story still lived, remained in decrepit cities, struggling for survival, but in no way would attempt to wander out of the city limits. Few would brave the harshness of the stilted wilderness our planet had become.
A Sword Saint would, but only through sheer strength of character and of will. To face a group of twenty psychopaths, grouped together for mutual survival, takes more than mere confidence in your skills, or courage. It takes an ability to focus so totally on the moment that there is nothing left inside you, except for the flickering of the Flame.
This is also a subject we have not covered yet, but I learnt of it, and of how it allows for one such as a Sword Saint to exist at all. This will be mentioned later.
And so, finally, as the world was her death-throes, as the population across the globe began to disintegrate, and the last few of our species began to engage in the kind of conflict we’ve endured since the dawn of humanity, for the last time, I will always remember how he looked at me, how I tried to find the words to express my emotions at this ending, of our journey, of our world… and he waited, with reasonable patience considering the situation, and finally, he half-smiled, and bowed his head to me, gently, and turned to face De Carte’s last desperate attempt to stay alive.