Here is where the real ramble begins: a background on peoples and characters.
Let’s begin with the world you do not know, the Sera/Ares world, sometimes referred to as paradise/hell by human beings. It is a spiritual world parallel to the earth with a Sera and four Ares for every person. This would explain why people sometimes have it so hard, but as you should understand by now, the good always outweighs the bad—so long as you have the will. This world is the harbor for spirits that affect humans and ultimately challenge and refine them before they pass into the Beyond (think of it like the spirit world’s outer space) to be with the Sun (which created all things and birthed the Sera Himself). Both sides live relatively similarly to how we do, with their respective strengths and weaknesses. Some Sera are a bit worse off than others (by human standards), even in a place like paradise, but they are still content and strive for more. Whatever the situation, most Sera look at the better of the whole and the individual at once, but work towards an entire compromise (save the rare Prince Meneth types, of course, full of selfishness and counter-productivity). The Ares usually get down and stay down—such is their nature. They are considerably weaker, hence why four of them are assigned to every human. In population, there are still four Ares to every Sera, and larger Ares are in rarity (most Sera are the same size, but the Ares vary greatly). The Ares’ weakness situation is mostly their own fault, for you know that they once were Sera, and after their tragic transformation (all due to that terrible disagreement and resulting war over just which brother, Kansko or Aestophle, should preside over the recently flooded Worlds) they really let themselves go. They became so weak that they turned into partially-physical beings with weak constitutions. And, as you have seen, it came to the point where they were dependent on the powerful few’s live blood-energy (a blood extract), while the Sera continued to share their life force and become powerful (though not infallible, as they have had mighty near-defeats).
The business of Sera and Ares being connected to humans may be confusing. A Sera with many good traits may be assigned to a person while two Ares with dominating bad traits (say, Wrath and Greed) may be assigned to the same person. This usually happens at the person’s birth, and these beings may influence the person’s behavior throughout life either directly or indirectly. The person can decide to control this, but many people usually let negativity affect him or her greatly. As a rule, a Sera or Ares cannot “meet” the person until they have seen them on their own through the World Mirrors, such as those mentioned in chapter XVIII. (I say “meet” because the Sera cannot be seen to mortal eyes on Earth unless given direct passage, which takes an astounding amount of collective energy, and the Ares may never expose themselves to humans without risking burn from natural light or human touch.) Cody (being slow as he is) did not even realize he was connected to Merpati until some time after he’d met her, having imbued her with feeling of insecurity.
You have heard of Ares “design”—a very sloppy no-one-cares city, rocklike and dead save for the black fortress. Save for the fortress, with its shimmering outside and lavish inside, the city as a whole is drab and dead, with no emphasis on art or inspiration, beauty or even unity. (Some may say they have even forgotten those words.) Sera design, however, is overly elaborate, perhaps too much so for me to describe, but they loved the elegant and the flowy, and most of them, even commoners, wrote in the same way. It can be said that they enjoyed making curvilinear design based on things like clouds and waves (one of Shimade’s favorite aspects of their designs), much like ancient Mycenaean culture. They loved richness and embellishment, and their design enhanced their love of existence. I mention this because I am admittedly poor at justifiably elaborate descriptions but am still terribly interested in them.
You may have wondered about the relationships between Sera and Ares family-wise, more specifically the characters you have come to know. At the top of the family hierarchy would be the Sun and Moon, the Father and Mother of all Sera and Ares. Of course, they once were Sera too, but before taking their place as Sun and Moon they created two sons, Kansko and Aestophle (then called Brodus). The brothers borrowed some of the stars to create companions while their newly-born power was still with them, and the spiritual race of Sera began. (This is when the Earth was beginning as well, and the Sun and Moon had to accompany it and other planets.) Kansko eventually created his own son, as Sera will sometimes do, and named him Meneth, so that when the Sun is to die and Kansko is to replace Him, someone else can guide the Sera people. Brodus, who had created his own son, Myo (then called Seressa), and later a daughter, Meyrin (then called Micca), never questioned Kansko’s intent until after both the human world and the spirit world flooded and a rebuild was at hand. Being the older brother, Brodus thought he should be in control; however, those that knew them well knew that Kansko was on the whole a much better leader in both intellect and demeanor. At this there was a rather large upset resulting in the degeneration of those on Brodus’s side. (This was also due to Brodus’s side’s general lack of care for the Human race, for whom the Sera were created.) Brodus, who still managed to capture half of the world, renamed himself and declared himself king of that side of the world, the top end, and there his now meek followers attempted to build back up, reproducing madly though on the whole they were weak. Kansko’s side continued happy as they had been, if not happier, for now they had stronger purpose, and all sorts of rules came about. Neither Meneth nor Myo nor Meyrin stuck with the now-backwards race of Ares, but Meneth would slowly become detached from everyone.
It should be mentioned that Ira is a relative of Myo’s (and thus part of the royal line, and more specifically the Ares royal line), though Myo has been so long in existence that he can’t keep up so well with his family line. I should also note that Caith isn’t directly related to any one of these Sera, but he is nonetheless very close to Kansko.
Aestophle is often tired and sluggish, a large change from his earlier and more energetic days. He actually ruled his people rather justly, and they affirmed him; however, caring so much over the years tired him. Kansko, though saddened for the fate of his brother, never felt sorry for him, for he made his own choices. Kansko felt compassion for every one of his people and involved himself with them often, but he stopped feeling compassion for the fallen Sera, who became empty and rotten shells. It’s true, the split kingdoms got along for a while, but their differences could only inevitably drive a rift between them. Unfortunately, a rift grew between him and Meneth, the small prince who wanted to love his father but disliked humans, whom Kansko loved.
It was a wonder Meneth had not joined his uncle’s side. Of course, he never hated humans that much originally, but for being Kansko’s son—and for Kansko loving the human race so much—he always felt he never got that much affection from his father, while they failed to share any interests, especially those of love towards humans. Of course, this separation can spurn all sorts of spite and hatred in a person who thinks this way, and so he does, despite his father’s explanations. For having lived so long, Meneth is rather close-minded and pessimistic, having been reclusive most of his years and never sharing in the light.
Aoron, a hard-working and hard-bearing Ares, controls the Ares whenever the King is slow to make decisions. However, in some cases, such as the one Maho proposes very near the start of the story, he refuses to take action unless King-approved. Aoron loves order, perhaps more than the King, but too often are his opinions snuffed out by the clever and sly (Maho). A long-living Ares, he has a lot of wisdom but never many chances to apply it. He also dislikes taking risks. He is comparable to Meneth in that he loathes being overshadowed and unheard and would do things slightly differently if he attained any high power. However, Aoron’s power, unrealized even in himself, is squandered and eventually done away with.
Now, Merpati has told pretty much all there is about herself, simply put as it may be. I would like to note, however, that the event that ruined her family’s finances and way of life was the terrible economy crash in Indonesia and surrounding countries in 1997, an event I chanced upon in research. Her father had made bad investments, panicked, and ran to evade it all. Merpati, like Shimade, had thus experienced great life changes.
Perhaps the biggest questions for this story would relate to Shimade, Maho, and whatever relation they had to each other.
Maho, of course, started out as Toshi Mudabone, a boy who lived close to Shimade growing up. Little Ushio was Toshi’s first friend, and they spent unhealthy amounts of time together. A point came in their friendship where they could not be any closer, yet they wanted to be, Toshi especially. They were both confused, and they both fought because of it (crossing boundaries and all), and it got rather heated. Consider they were about 10 and 13 at this time. At that age one either forgets friendships or the memories keep on burning in one’s heart. In Shimade’s case, after he moved from the area, he forgot about Toshi mostly, but the fondest memories remained. Little Toshi, however, never forgot anything.
The poor thing grew up to be rather narcissistic, which did not at all help the obsession buried deep within his heart, because he always saw another with his reflection. This face that would not leave him eventually started to fade, but at the age of 16 he was captured by Ares. Instead of lying back and dying or becoming subservient, he fought back with fierceness and eventually was made a great leader of the Force. He proclaimed himself “Azure Maho”, “azure” being one of his favorite English words as well as favorite color (which he had dyed his hair as a human).
It should be noted that he also led one of the biggest failures of Ares assault, the attack on the Sera Empire three years prior to the story. In this battle, he let his desire to reclaim Shimade—a desire awakened upon Shimade’s re-arrival—get the best of him, as suddenly the assault’s focus was thrown off, and Maho let down his guard. This is often referred to, and it is vague as to what Aestophle did to Maho as punishment—but rest assured, it was unpleasant. Maho recovers easily, however, and his physical resiliency (as well as military diligence—there was still no greater commander) earned him a General ranking despite battle miscarriages.
I should briefly mention here that humans that become Ares, like Maho or Siren and Cody (who were two friends from the early 1900’s, unfortunately merged together in their early Ares-transformation) are still structured like humans with bones and such, while regular Ares lack things like bones and recognizable organ systems. Humans that transform, however, may still sprout more appendages/organs/so on, and morph to animal-like beings like Siren and Cody (for Ares transformation is an evolutionary process). Maho remained pretty similar to his original human form, including his dyed-blue hair, because his personality remained the same (though he called himself a monster). His true self only emerged with the tastes of Merpati’s blood.
Shimade obviously didn’t care for Maho that much, especially after the things he had done for the Ares. Still, Shimade refused to kill him, both as a former human and former friend. Shimade is the type to always believe there is hope, even if it is naïve, and he somehow still saw an ounce of his old friend in Maho.
Shimade had an interesting life himself. At a young age he lived isolated with his father and grandmother, but life was fun and enriching. His mother left when he was too young to remember. Eventually both grandmother and father died, and at age 10 he went to Tokyo with his much older brother Yoshio, who had been going to high school there for a while. Yoshio was having emotional problems at this time, which drove a distance between the two despite how close they could be, together now. This served to complicate things more after Shimade went blind at 13 partially due to genetics and partially bad luck. Shimade was taken advantage of, misled, and his relationships and interests suffered. Shimade was starting to get the hang of being independent again when he was taken to the Ares world.
On that note, Shimade’s escape from the Ares’s hold was a remarkable one. He would say he could feel the pull of light coming from even across the world, and when he got a chance to be loose, he fought towards it. It was a great upset for the Ares. Many were burned, even more traumatized, as Shimade blindly tore through the Ares’s territories, his hands the single most powerful thing to them. Another note about Shimade’s blindness: when he made it to the Sera world, and as he started to improve himself, Shimade’s sight returned ever-so-slightly. To make it clear, he was able to see things like a black and white photo negative, meaning Sera to him would be black and Ares white. As time progressed, his sight grew to that of a color negative, but at times, and notably at his lowest points, his sight would fail again, all things being fuzzy or black. It was almost like the principle rule of the Sera: “Believe in it, and it shall be.”
Since I said I wanted to go into what Shimade did in his year out of the Sera world, I will, though I will shorten it. He found Yoshio, who had become a businessman with a pregnant wife (note: Yoshio is 8 years Ushio’s senior, 29 at that time). Yoshio was, to say the least, utterly shocked. He thought for sure his little brother was gone forever. No longer amid the turmoil of his young adult years, he rejoined Ushio with renewed love for his brother. In that time, they worked together to build Ushio a new life, though deep inside Ushio knew he had to rejoin Merpati someday.
I think that is most of what I wanted to say! Like I mentioned, it was very much a ramble, but I felt the need to write it. There may even be a tad more added in the future. I hope you found it informative or at least interesting, and thank you for buying this book!