They face off on the rooftop past the wee hours of the morning. Lethe leans against the wall as he watches Mnemos pace around.
“I remember everything!” Mnemos shouts, the words not quite meeting the movement of his lips. There is a crazed, manic look in his eyes as he raises his hands into the air.
“It is easier to forget,” Lethe shakes his head enough to make the watching of his mouth in correlation to the rhythm of the words presumably coming out of it all but impossible: or at least very difficult to even the discerning eye.
“Is it?” Mnemos turns to glare at the other, “I don’t think so.”
Lethe doesn’t say anything to merit subtitles or otherwise. In fact, he somehow manages to look down even further at some place beyond both of them, or at least his own shoes.
“There, you see?” Mnemos laughs, “it is hard to forget. But it is so easy to remember. So much so that it hurts. It literally hurts. Because I remember it, I remember … all of it …”
“You shouldn’t do that,” Lethe gets to his feet, as though finally deciding something, “it will not help you.”
“Nonsense!” Mnemos snarls, but then slowly begins to smile, “Remember, I’m of–no, I am–the Order of the Mnemos. I am the sum total of all our experiences.”
“Then you have no identity. Just as it is in the Order of Lethe.”
“You’re wrong,” Mnemos shakes his head almost pityingly, “I am the culmination of all the identities within my Order. I am all of our curiosity, our happiness, our joy. And … also our pain, our nostalgia, our regret and our despair. Our … anger,” he brings out the long sword that has so far been sheathed at his side until this moment, “and we have a long memory.”
Lethe sighs and slowly reaches underneath his coat, “Your self is an illusion, as is your anger. It is irrelevant. You are irrelevant,” he draws out a short katana blade and holds it loosely at his side, “in the grand turning of the universe, your ego will ultimately be forgotten.”
“You should seek to preserve yourself, Lethe,” Mnemos holds his sword–a bright silver blade–directly in front of him with two hands, his eyes burning with power, “Because I remember all the times you have beaten me, and I’ve defeated you and this time, you don’t have a chance.”
“I have already forgotten,” Lethe waves his dark katana casually, but still keeping it on his opponent, “You think you are powerful because you are drawing from your pain now: a quick and easy solution, but it is only temporary. You should really seek to eliminate your sense of self as Lethe has.”
“So, you think you’ve eliminated your instincts towards self-preservation?”
Lethe’s coat flows behind him, “That is the goal, yes. All memories are detraction and self-preservation is the ultimate muscle-memory of them all. This battle will assure it.”
Mnemos grins, “Then maybe it’s not the self-preservation urge that’s your weakness, Lethe.”
“And what–from your wide experience and knowledge of all things–is it?” Lethe’s voice is casual as he angles his blade with one hand so that its tip faces Mnemos.
Mnemos lunges for Lethe who smoothly meets his opponent. Metal clashes against metal , singing and shrieking loudly in the air and then fading into the distance. It is like a metronome: fading in, fading out, fading in and out of existence. Mnemos is a flurry of extravagant strikes and slices seeking to overpower his opponent. Lethe responds with parries, surgical jabs and feints: almost casual movements but looking for an opening … looking to bring the other down.
The air wavers between them from the sheer force of their blows. It is an epic battle: one that can go on for longer than most people live–for pages–but unlike the most overly dramatic duels, this is a decisive conflict: as most battles in the real world are often intended to be.
The two jump away from each other and face each other down one more time.
“Remember the lactic acid in your muscles,” Mnemos shouts, “The exhaustion in your mind, the weariness of all the battles that came before.”
“You forget your false confidence and the reason you ever fought to begin with.”
Mnemos flinches, slightly as the air wavers between them again, but then his grip on his sword hilt tightens, “You will never escape your memories, disciple of the Order of Lethe.”
Then Mnemos charges forward, as does Lethe. Their blades reach past each other …
Moments later, Mnemos is slumped onto the ground. Lethe is on his knees. Their swords lie away from each other crossed over each other. There is silence as the sun begins to rise from above the rooftop.
Lethe sighs: a hollow vessel, an instrument for wind to pass through, “You are already forgotten. As is this battle.”
Lethe gingerly sits down and manages to cross his legs. He closes his eyes. His calm, expressionless face somehow relaxes even more.
“It is easier to forget,” he says, having already forgotten that he repeated himself. Something quirks at his lips: even as tears begin to flow down his face and the first cycle between memory and forgetfulness ends.