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Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn

Chapter Text

Jean Valjean opened his eyes. Where am I?

He, who does always have a kind of habit, a natural habit practiced but not so evident: to observe. When arriving a place unknowing of, the first question he puts out will always be: where am I?

The silence here was different from death. The first thing Valjean felt was comfort, which opposed to the origin of that habit, thus finally made him uncomfortable: he has, from the beginning, two motives of mind, the fear of uncertainty, and the desire for stability. It was the latter not being short of, making him confused anyway.

The sky painted pink with orange like afterglow spilled over, and, not too deep. Valjean had no enough time to think of more than he had walked for too long, whereas the skylight seemed never darkened, this gathered his confusion. It might be days already since he stamped on here, or probably only hours; the time, collapsed in front of the eternal motionlessness, became unthinkable in the space of expansion, warmth and cease. It was still bright upon him, that brought Valjean to think, the daylight here would be endless.

Sound came to him, through distance, rough and thick.

He was reminded of what Toulon once taught him. The resistance toward wisdom, cultivating anger and hatred, arising prisoners’ fear and awareness of the hit from the guardians, which might come whenever it wanted; however, for the prisoning, Toulon only brought them numbness. Up to now, Valjean was feeling like becoming the unknowing young man to be sent to his penalty, unable to confirm his location, unable to find his orientation. Once the pocket of galley-slave emptied, the prisoner wouldn’t know where to be.

The only solution was to put out the second question: how did I come here?

Valjean found a rock nearby to sit on.

The way he came had an unthinkable length and the scenery he was facing was the square of that. Tendering light shed from everywhere, impossible to find the origin. Windless, only peacefulness like consoling from a giant palm, soft and firm.

Which strengthened Valjean’s confusion, again.

The brimming sky made him annoyed, he should find the way out. But whom to seek for? (He was unaware of that, he by himself fell in the attempt to find someone.) He reminded that he made only few acquaintances during his lifetime, the blood spilled over the stone and rock had already run dry and, he finally gave out all the hopes and expectations for his beloved. The poor old guy had, eventually, ended his- ah, so I am dead now- consequently, the man died alone, like when he was just born.

At least I won’t suffer more! Much to his relief.

Jean Valjean looked up. If the sun also exists here, I must be inside it now. He thought in sudden, maybe it was the treatment for deaths like him: no one being beside him, only endless daylight.

But that’s unfair after all! Valjean raised his arm, forcing his thumb to forehead. And the motion, completely out of unconscious, brought him to something attached to his back occasionally.

Well, he thought, with pair of wings as present!

Regardless of the wings, he came back to the questions.

What to do, whom to seek for? The duty of mine I’ve already finished, thus the duty for me should have finished as well. Doesn’t it mean that, there actually won’t be anyone accompanying with me?

The sound, thick and threatening, always existed there, like vague flashes on the horizon. His fear and anger had disappeared long before, but suddenly he trembled through his entire body, like hit by the lightning. He started to search.

To search, same as to observe, is the wisdom derived from his defective mind. Stray birds could tighten their wings while staring onto the ground, he almost had forgotten that he could use his wings. But what he knew more clearly was that, the one he wanted to find- didn’t exist on the ground he stamped on, wouldn’t appear from the nothingness at the distance of his sight- where would he be? Valjean couldn’t find any existence of life here, even trace of shadow. He was, surrounded by thickness of solitude, nearly out of breath. He isn’t here.

So, where he is? 

The anxiety inside Valjean’s heart turned into inevitable anger without an outlet, rolling and overwhelming in his chest. Scratching his head, he yelled out, “Javert!” but, how could it be any response here!

Ah, ah! finally he looked down.

The sound approaching him again and again, bursting out in his head, if comparing to the description of thunder, it seemed more like the shock came out from the storm throwing fierce wave onto cliffside. Once he thought it was the threating from the shadow of his past: a man like already dead was thrown into swallowing sea from a vessel, he could see in fatigue that the ship was passing on towards its dawn, and he himself, overboard between the end of night and the beginning of the day, no way to go on.

He never thought of the sound could be any sort of calling, until seeing a piece of shadow standing in its straightest.

-

Valjean wrapped his wings into rough clothes. He found that he was with hood and cape when coming here (but, why these?) and then put them on without hesitation. That made him like a fugitive as well as a beggar; he shouldn’t be afraid though trembling, and nearly biting his lip into bleeding. In fact, it was difficult to say that he had accustomed to this, even probably he had exactly this kind of indescribable peculiarity, and it was not the memory finally caught him up but he himself voluntarily raised his hand to carve the memories on the skin, turning everything into a mess. Meanwhile he felt that he should disguise as a more normal passer-by. And soon he rested assured, for the night was so fit for him, which was the same feeling as when realizing no one would pay attention to the costumes of prisoners in Toulon. Once he thought of that inspector, two of emotions rose up from his chest: extreme shame and extreme respectfulness. He gripped his fingers into a fist like a good-natured bear, challenging his endurance to adapt to the rubbing cloth. During the previous aimless searching, did he ask anything? No response between the silence, and he himself, of course, would forget all instantaneously. Those questions only derived from a nature of mankind, the curiosity, or to call it observation; however, how could mankind know the way destiny and the God leading them, the way of hearing their question and the way responding with answer? Jean Valjean knew nothing of that. There used to be a bishop, who regarded these should have their philosophers and researchers to think about, Valjean must agree with him.

He only felt that, he was nearer and nearer to his Javert.

And by all means he wouldn’t have imagined that he would be cast down onto a stone along a river, so roughly.

-

River runs through, transforming the weight pushing riverbed into roaring voice, thick, rough, threatening. Valjean struggles to rise up from a stone not too slippery, luckily not injured. (How can a dead man be injured? He laughs by himself.)

It’s not an unfamiliar place, for he had been with Cosette staying here for such a long time; despite more frequently going to parks rather than this river, now, out of nowhere, Valjean does feel a sense of acquaintance.

But the next second has Valjean’s realization: it’s night now. 

Jean Valjean has his unnecessary ability to adapt. No matter how being pulled up or cast down, finally could he fit into every place- at least the verbal meaning of that. He would be dazzled when facing the eternal daylight, however, even only an instance of darkness would be his most comfortable nest. He squeezes his right eye, fallen a mixture of dust and tear.

It does no matter what time in the night it is now. Maybe it was rainy yesterday, his cape becomes muddy. The roar of river, once he regarded as terrifying and faltered his heart, only brings him sense of emptiness when coming face to face, stirring his chest; waterflow forms whirlpool then sinks itself in; spots of light floating on the waves, at the distance of too near and too far, lanterns lifted by darkened wind, guiding his direction in faintness. The deepening cloud pushes over his head, refusing starlight in the height, any light could be called as beautiful and twinkling is warmed not to pass over, only several read lights reflected on the stones near the river, declaiming what in front him is the depth of dark. Valjean realizes here runs the fastest part of the swallowing Seine, he almost drowns himself into staring at it, forgetting to go on.

Which reminds him of Javert.

Before this, he has heard of lots of those, who also lowered themselves and stared at the depth beneath the bridge, at the night or the hours near the dawn and even the second before sunrise. Some fell with determination, some faltered only because of the appealing of the darkness; some left out of unwillingness, some wakened by the sunrise. Javert was one of them, however he was also stubbornly an inspector with unchallengeable faith, which is aware of by Valjean, thus leading him to the conclusion that Javert should not understand that kind of person.

But the fact seems to say, it’s him who doesn’t understand Javert.

Jean Valjean paces out a step. Javert uses one of his eyes glaring at the guy in front of him.

Chapter Text

“So, what’s your purpose of seeing me here, for now?”

Javert manages his word to compensate the blankness of time caused by his verbal speed.

Valjean also notices that Javert stands in the gesture like before. Early in Montreuil did he discover that Javert tended to draw one of his knees back and this heightened the other leg consequently, the imbalance would be perfectly hidden in his coat. However, he no more stamps his feet, no more shivers even a little, while has lost his bludgeon. He studies Javert’s every detail, eyes rolling from his messed hair (apparently caused by days’ disinterest), down to the dampen woolen coat, then from his little muddy boots up to the eyes with blue sparkles in them. It takes him a long time to remind himself of Javert’s word. He stares at Javert’s eyes. He hopes that they’re not very important; and, how can he speak out anything important now?

 

Javert folds his arms to back, half-closes one of his eyes, with his eyebrows jumping up, approaching Valjean slowly. Valjean feels that he no doubt is deliberately scratching his face with eyebrows and, only with eyebrows. They’re too close; Valjean thinks in a relief he won’t be recognized behind the night, the best doer of hiding things. Maybe it’s Javert can’t remember him. The motion of Javert is completely out of order, some of his long hair falling down on Valjean’s nose, itches him. Their faces approximately touch, which reminds Valjean of something unclear, and Javert seems to try to sniff out something from him.

Try to imagine this scene: the summer night, the sky clouded, and the Seine beneath. Everything is vague like ghosts, every sound is like extracted from the very world, two shadows standing on the Pont au Change, the thinner one lowering his body to the stronger one, like two of rocks’ confrontation. Light is darkening, scenes are disappearing, the taller can only observe in another way, pricks up his ears and wrinkles his nose, studying the soul, if there is, wrapped in this strange black cloth. If the starlight can fall on them now, it can be seen that Javert is biting his longue; if Valjean is less aware, and draws his attention to audition, he will find the thick breath from whoever.

He draws out a conclusion. There must be at least one of them stupefied. The action, which can be called observation or inspection, only lasts less then one minute, though Valjean feels like lying on fireplace for no less than three months.

And what Javert acts looks like saying the inspection failed. He can only regard this wrapped angel as one of the unknown ghosts. However, Valjean sees the light in his eyes still dancing.

It’s also at this moment realizes Valjean that he is aimless about this journey.

“So, what indeed are you looking me for?”

“I passed all by occasion. Then…”

They utter nearly at the same time, but only Valjean haven’t ended. Javert releases out his full question and the question mark, Valjean swallows his answer and gives out a sigh.

“I’m curious about… what you do here.” He seems to be reminded.

He stares at one of river stones, maybe rather at the tip of weeds. Which will prevent the word “inspector” from his mouth.

 

“How can I know.”

Javert says not clearly, with some rubbing noises between his words, heard by Valjean. Javert follows his sight, but turns back to his ear again (Valjean thinks, though Javert can never see it outside his hood), sinking in his thoughts. He moves one of his arms back, elbow against waist, as if still owns his bludgeon. Valjean, turning his head back, coincidently discovers the stiff gesture of him.

If a dead could have his belongings, Valjean will buy a delicate crabstick for him willingly.

 

“There’s already a year after that,” Javert seems annoyed, while Valjean understands he hadn’t wasted too much time in the place before, “To be simple, it was the river over-charming or anything, and eventually, I’m dead. Not completely dead, though. However, …” Valjean just finds that Javert should not know him now. The fake identity constructed with effort in the past, can be pretended easily by cloth out of nowhere now. If Javert does know him, the man who tangled him (maybe compelled) all his life, must have throwed him into the Seine now. But it also means that he doesn’t have to let him explain word-by-word. People like Javert won’t be happy talking these to people. The scene Javert sitting on a wooden chair in the Police Prefecture of Montreuil emerges in his mind, as well as the inspector baking his shoes and uttering slangs.

-No. How far is it from him to me? The farthest should be living and death, but we’re all dead now. Completely. Then what’s the farthest? What about his face in the past? And, what about present?

Valjean have lost his attention. Maybe Javert can remember all parts of him, however, he himself is blocking them from him. He only feels that, he is farther and farther from his Javert.

 

Javert resumes after a second, “It is like the new chief punishes me in a way of offering me another job.” He almost has drained his head for speaking out this, as if part of his consciousness is extracted. One of his eyes turns to Valjean.

The words unclear, and it’s certain Javert has not much confidence about it. Valjean can adapt to every surroundings but Javert can inhabit everywhere faster than others. Only this “job” without purpose and specific content makes him annoyed. He even didn’t know he is dead until he read newspaper by occasional, and it was in throwing himself into the Seine and not any other way. It was precisely at that time, one week after his death, he felt obliged to stay alongside the river.

It’s because that he can not understand why he decided to drown himself. The blood smell of rebellion spread over, once he complained about why the dead would be more sensitive than the living, but eventually, with the smell gradually weakened and the memory slowly thinned, the complaints were swept away. If talking of the live in this year, he will say firstly that it’s not a “live” literally and no need to enquire, unless being annoyed will let out more, in the way most suddenly, opening his shells like showing the palms beneath his sleeves, saying out the annoying trifles such as he has been more dullish during the time or he has nothing to do in the circulations of day and night and he could realize summer passed but late in winter. He can not find out the reason he is so willing to haunt about the river, that he always doubts about himself while never want to leave. That’s strange. In conclusion, the things he has been doing through this year are only three: collect his memory, wasting his time, and…

He exactly would witness the people drown in the river like him. He would laugh at the people who use the Seine to earn other’s mercy, though he isn’t much appreciative about the kindness. However, he would be silent toward other people drowned. At first, he was doubted, exceedingly, about why those people hesitate on the bridge would go to two extremes, which were to revive and to lose life, he couldn’t understand how was this river able to whether break out or build up one’s heart within a thought. He wasn’t the person good at thinking, heavy thinking wouldn’t be included in an inspector’s tasks, but he isn’t an inspector now. There’s nothing in front of “Javert”, he is in blankness, he has become more and more opposite to think. At last, the unrest disappeared, he will ignore all of them.

Which is for restricting the pity rolling in his burning heart from leaking out.

There was sometime when he thought of pushing some of them back to the bank, but he abandoned that. That wouldn’t be fair, as well as he didn’t have such rights. Even saw himself fallen wouldn’t stir anything in him, he would watch it uninterestedly, face frozen, appreciate the fearlessness and the straight body at most. He had a strange feeling that the wave would subdue to his willingness, but he also felt that the waves should follow the nature rather than random command from a death, just like thousands of years before. The river runs, he almost has forgotten this. He still haunts about the bridge, reads newspaper handled by people once in a while. There seems to be no difference between wandering these days, and swallowed by the Seine.

Until an impulsive stupid guy strike into his sight.

 

Valjean is uninterested about Javert’s endless speech. Rather to say that he is completely in his mood. He tries to figure out what relationship does he have with Javert, no answer. The sound of river becomes more stronger, messing his mind, making him more impatient. Javert lingers his fingers around the pocket on his coat, trying to dig out more of questions, as well as stopping his claw from stroking the man near him out of unconsciousness.

“At the beginning had I thought about being cast down to wherever. You should know about that, about, eh, the flame and the sword, or anything else.” Javert’s tone seems unlike him.

Valjean stares at somewhere. Observing the surroundings, observing himself.

“…maybe I will stay here forever. It is a punishment. And you-”

A cart rushes by. This is another convincing proof of a rainy yesterday, the wheels lift the mud on the road and spray it over, the owner swears his Utrecht velvet is stained, maybe he would extort from his passengers for it. People come and go, stop and stamp, the unrest brought by drying heat blowing like real storm through the bridge straight and strict as geometry on the river, while the lanterns stayed motionless. The flood attacks the piles of the bridges more and more strongly, people get away from the parapet of Pont au Change, reminding Valjean that it’s the most dangerous point here. The gleam from the infinite distance stirring the surface of Seine, waves spreading with spot of light, dazing. The sky seems to flowing slowly, the river takes its first to rush onward, water in form of waves snakes through, disappears into distance.

“…can’t I imagine such a hard work on earth. You will probably find out me as a former inspector. How do people say? ‘A derailed-”

Javert cut off his speech himself. All of those are so natural.

“How about you? Don’t you come to take care for me?”

Valjean finds grief inside the lynx’s eyes.