He was just a boy, an ordinary boy. He had a nice mother, an obnoxious sister, a cute dog. He went to the CCG academy with dreams of his own heroism, with a desire to transcend his own ordinariness and be seen for what he was, what he truly knew he must be inside…a hero. Maybe he read of ghouls and those who conquered them, or maybe Seidou’s head was filled with other heroes, heroes with muscular bodies and stable minds who swooped in at the hour of crisis and pulled ordinary people from the jaws of death.
But he was a boy. An ordinary boy. And when it came time to take his classes, he did well. And when it came time to take his tests, he did well. And when it came time to practice his physical fitness, he did well. But he was an ordinary boy. He was afraid of ordinary things like ghouls, like pain, like death. He was a boy vulnerable to being eclipsed by others. And this, his ordinariness, became an albatross on his shoulder, a shackle on his ankle, a weight he could neither shed nor bear to carry.
He knew, some part of him knew, that he would have to do something amazing, something heroic, something frightening, something incredible if he were ever going to surpass Akira, if he were ever going to impress Houji. Moving that impossible distance - ordinary to extraordinary - would only happen in a moment of heroism and self-sacrifice. A moment to be remembered for. A moment that could define a person, a story, a career, a lifetime.
And maybe, just maybe, he could feel his moment coming. Maybe when he sat down to write his will some part of him felt, or thought, or sensed, or guessed that his moment was imminent. We don’t know, can’t know, but we do know that the very core of him was coiled up in mortal terror, body shaking, sweating as he etched the words into the pages of a will, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE.”
But in the moment, he ran toward danger, not away from it. Through his shaking and his tears and the snot running from his nose he chose to deny Amon’s direct orders, chose to stand his ground. It was his moment, as he was faced with the cold gaze of the fire-breathing ghoul before him, it was his moment to shine, to fight, to be the hero he had always wanted to be, strived to be, feared he might not ever be.
And so, he fought through the paralysis of his own terror. And so, he lifted his quinque. And so, with Amon’s blood on his palm, with his heart pounding, with his limbs trembling, with tears in his eyes he chose to stand his ground. He yelled furiously, he activated the flames of his quinque…
And he was lifted up, the ground swept away from his feet in one swift move, as he looked into the cold eyes of a ghoul that demanded to know if Houji was his superior. He might have wondered what was going on or he might not have, too replete with confusion and terror to wonder anything at all. And with one quick motion he was tossed in the air. And then his arm was gone. It happened so fast he didn’t even really have a chance to process the pain or what had happened, a single “No way….” leaving his lips before he was swallowed up into darkness, Amon’s screams echoing in his ears.
What happened next, we can only piece together with the scant evidence we’re given. When he woke up, his body had been invaded by the very enemy he fought. He must have been terrified, possibly restrained. He might have cried, he might have screamed and shouted, he might have prayed and begged and sobbed for mercy. But there is no mercy for the devil. This fallen angel, dragged into the depths of the very organization which he had fought so hard to overcome.
Who knows when they started the torture, the tests. Who knows when Eto appeared before him, naked or wrapped in bandages, laughing and whispering of revolution, of his place in that revolution. Who knows how many times he lost fingers, toes, how many times he chewed through his own lips in his anguish. Who knows how many times he was relieved of his limbs only to watch them grow back, sinews snapping into place over newly formed bone, all of it burning, burning, burning until he could no longer feel the pain. And then there was the hunger. The gnawing ache of it, the madness of it, a hunger that he’d never imagined or felt before. The hunger consumed him like a flame, burned through him until he felt nothing else, until it was the entirety of his being.
We know that at some point, death was no longer a frightening prospect. In fact, it probably began to feel like a welcome friend, a dream he could let himself float gently down into, a warm embrace, a field of flowers…and yet, death wouldn’t come for him. There is no mercy for the devil and, despite his previous misgivings, he must have realized at some point, must have known that death is its own form of mercy.
At some point, he must have realized that he was no longer an ordinary boy. At some point, he might have marveled that in a previous life, his ordinariness had been his albatross, his shackle, his curse. He might have cursed himself and his own naivety, for what wouldn’t he give - as he grew weapons on his shoulders, on his back - what wouldn’t he give for just a moment, a taste, a hint of the ordinary.
Perhaps the plan came to him in waves and stages. Perhaps it came all at once. Perhaps it was a mantra that carried him through the torture, the tests, the torment. Perhaps it sustained him just as much as the sweet flesh of those he used to count among his friends, his colleagues, his superiors, his compatriots. We can’t be sure, but what is clear is that at some point, Seidou decided that he simply needed to swoop in at the right time, to save Houji, who had once considered him to be so weak, to save Akira, who had spurned and shunned and outranked him at every turn, to destroy the raging beast that was Tatara and save the lives of those he knew he still cared for. The heads he’d plucked, the flesh he’d eaten, none of it would matter if only, if only he could prove himself.
After all, the CCG was making its own half ghouls now, wasn’t it? They would accept him back into the fold. Houji would look at him with pride shining in his eyes. Akira would look at him with awe, admiration. He might even be made a special class right away…after all, he was strong now. He was no longer afraid of death.
He had become death.
There, on Rue island, Houji and Akira fought against Tatara, the ghoul who had snatched Seidou from the ground and thrown him into the mouth of Noro. Seidou might have waited, might have allowed his former colleagues the time to realize the desperation, the hopelessness of their situation before he swept in to save them. This was his time, his chance, his moment and this time he would not cry or scream or hesitate. He would take Tatara out with ruthless efficiency. He would end the ghoul who had killed so many investigators and agents. He would prove his use, his power, his extraordinariness.
But there is no mercy for the devil. And just as Seidou emerged from the fight, victorious and sweating, relieved, ecstatic, he was met with the guarded stares of those he had just rescued.
He was confused. Why were they staring? He’d saved them. They were saved. Why was Akira staring? Why was Houji? Why weren’t they crying from relief, running to him, welcoming him back into the fold, taking him home? Why weren’t they recognizing the gift he had given them?
Smiling, Seidou opened his arms. Eyes wide, he let Houji’s name tumble from his lips. They had to understand. He’d saved them. He was a hero. He was the strongest, now. He was ready. And then Houji spoke.
And the dream that had sustained him through the torture, the torment, the horror of this nightmare life evaporated into so much smoke. And the world slowed to a crawl.
Perhaps he shrieked, perhaps he howled, perhaps he screamed as he cut through the investigators like they were so much warm butter. We can’t know, but we do know that as the dust settled, as his fingers gripped Akira’s neck like a vice, Seidou asked why, why, why? He wanted her to be different. He wanted her to accept him, to see him, to really see him.
But she told him that Houji’s betrayal had been a mercy. A mercy. And Seidou knew that Akira, too, would have to die.
He had been a boy, an ordinary boy. A boy with hopes and dreams and aspirations, with fears and flaws. And as his hand closed around the neck of the girl he’d spent so much of his life loving, he watched all those ordinary things fade away and grow dim, just like the light in her eyes.
There is no mercy for the devil.