Long ago, when a certain young girl had just been ‘born’.
Deep inside a dark forest on the fringes of the 94th Floating Island.
The girl was crying in front of an old, moss covered stone monument. She cried and wailed with a loud voice that resounded throughout the forest. She felt sad. She didn’t quite know why, but for whatever reason an overwhelming feeling of loss had welled up from deep inside her chest and refused to go away.
“How is she crying so loud!?” A fairy soldier, who had just finished up a battle nearby, laughed as she covered her ears.
“She must be carrying a lot of emotions from her previous life!” another fairy soldier, also covering her ears, replied.
The two exchanged glances before moving in closer to the child. They squatted down to match the girl’s eye level, then spoke to her in gentle voices. “Good evening. How are you doing?”
“… she’s not listening.”
“No she is not. In times like these, you just gotta do this.” One of the fairy soldiers embraced the crying girl in her arms. The girl, unable to breathe very well with her face buried in someone else’s chest, soon stopped crying and, after a short moment of flailing about, settled down quietly. “See? Just like that.”
“… did you kill her?”
“She’s just sleeping. Listen.”
Upon listening closely, the two fairies could hear faint snoring coming from the little girl, the volume of which couldn’t even compare with her crying from just a few seconds earlier. The wind blew by, softly rustling the trees of the forest.
“Welcome, little one, to this half apocalyptic, restless, completely unsavable world.”
“Doesn’t sound like a very pleasant welcome.”
“It’s fine. As elders, it’s our duty and our right to tell children the harsh reality.”
“Some elder you are…”
“I know, I’m great.”
As the two went back and forth, they peered into the sleeping girl’s face.
“I wonder what kind of dream she’s having.” One of the fairies lightly poked the girl’s squishy cheeks.
“Who knows? That’s the one thing that only she knows.”
“Ah. She just smiled. Maybe it’s a happy dream.”
“That would be nice.”
Half a month had passed since news of the incident at Ground Level Ruins K96-MAL reached the fairy warehouse. There were some who cried, some who pretended to be okay, some who were shocked, some who were bewildered, and some who disappeared to hunt bears… They all took half a month to do what they needed in order to cope with their feelings.
As the sun sank low in the sky over the grounds of the fairy warehouse, Tiat Shiba Ignareo continued running by herself.
“Pushing yourself too hard won’t help you at all, ya know?”
She paid no attention to Aiseia, focusing solely on running the next step forward. Swinging back and forth in front of Tiat’s chest was a silver brooch, still slightly too big for her.
“She sure is working hard,” Naigrat said as she walked up to the two of them.
“Too hard, I think,” Aiseia answered.
When the news arrived, Naigrat had cut her hair. To the little ones, who wouldn’t stop asking why, she vaguely answered that she just wanted a change. Aiseia, of course, knew that there was more. Naigrat had gone to the harbor district and released her hair into the wind, scattering the severed strands down onto the ground below. In the ancient Troll tradition, two people eating a part of each other is a ceremony which ties their hearts together for eternity.
“I think she’s still having trouble accepting Kutori’s death. She’s trying desperately to bring herself closer to Kutori,” Aiseia said.
“Really brings me back. Kutori used to be the exact same a long time ago,” Naigrat said with a smile. “There was someone like an older sister to her, and when she passed away, Kutori used that grief as a catalyst to grow incredibly strong.”
“So the world keeps on spinning just as it always has, huh?” Aiseia said, then lay down on the ground. “Noft and Lantolq get out of the hospital tomorrow, right? Are we gonna have a welcome home party?”
“That’s right. It’s unfortunate that some of them couldn’t make it home, but we have to give the ones that did a proper welcome.”
“So grown up…” Aiseia flailed her legs about and gazed up at the sky. “I guess I’ll have to learn to be like that soon enough, huh?” she murmured as her eyes began to glisten.
“I can’t accept this,” Noft grumbled as she sat on top of a bed of white sheets.
After surviving the battle, Noft and Lantolq had been taken by the ship’s crew members to a treatment facility on another floating island. They both suffered from weak life forces as a result of igniting too much Venom. For a few days, their condition was so horrible that it wouldn’t have been surprising if they died at any moment. Only recently did they regain consciousness.
“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘I’ve already been happy for a long time now’. Did she think I would accept that for an answer? Then she just jumps off and everyone lives happily ever after? No!”
“Noft, you’re too loud,” Lantolq responded coldly as she flipped through a local newspaper. “You can’t see or understand someone else’s happiness. Trying to decide what happiness means for someone or denying their happiness is nothing more than foolish selfishness.”
Noft flailed around in frustration.
“… but still…” Happiness is often brought about by that foolish selfishness, Lantolq thought to herself.
Lantolq never really liked Kutori. However, she also didn’t particularly hate her either. So if she really was happy as she claimed to be in her final moments, then perhaps that really was a happy ending.
Up above, the winter sun finally dipped below the horizon. As if taking over for the now absent sky blue, the stars began their gentle twinkling.
Familiar scents: freshly baked bread filled with nuts, scrambled eggs, crisp salad, freshly squeezed orange juice. The usual smells of morning. The smells of the beginning of a new day which his body knew so thoroughly.
Willem stirred slightly.
“Ah, are you finally awake?”
He heard the soft pattering noise of a pair of slippers walking across the floor. Similar to the smells, those footsteps were also quite familiar and well known to his body. The usual footsteps.
Willem opened his eyes. He saw the faded plaster ceiling. “Where–”
It looked very similar to a certain nostalgic place. It very closely resembled that place which he once longed to return home to. Feelings of joy began to slowly well up from the bottom of his heart. But something else within his heart strongly denied those feelings. It couldn’t be real. It wasn’t possible.
Willem called out a name, and received a response. A thick blanket of fog still lingered over his mind.
“Was I sleeping?”
“You didn’t look too well. Did you have a scary dream or something?”
All over the building, little presences began to stir. The smells of morning affecting all those in the orphanage equally. Pretty soon, all the children would emerge from their rooms and gather downstairs.
Was I having a dream?
If that were true, it was a pretty realistic dream. Within that dream, he had been on the verge of death many times. He had lost much, gained more, then lost again. He had grieved so much he had run out of tears. And he had rejoiced so much that he had run out of smiles.
But a dream, no matter how brilliant, is in the end just a dream. Eventually, it must end, only to melt away in the morning light and drift out of memory. Perhaps Willem’s recollections of his dream, as precious as they were, would soon sink into some place deep within his mind and never be remembered again.
Isn’t that a good thing? A voice from within seemed to whisper to him. Forget it all.
“… I can’t do that.” Still not fully awake, Willem swatted away those thoughts. Right now, he needed to wash his face and clear his mind fog.
As he raised himself from the sofa, a small girl rolled off his stomach.
“Ow…” A gray haired young girl sat up on the floor. Rubbing her eyes, she took a look around. “Huh? Where is this? Why… am I here?”
Willem recognized that girl. He remembered her. Nephren Ruq Insania, a Leprechaun. A resident of the fairy warehouse. One of the guardians of Regul Aire.
The lid on the box had been lifted. Once he remembered one thing, everything else came flooding out. Countless images and names ran through his head.
“Nephren…?” Willem said, trying to fight back the deep confusion overtaking him.
She wasn’t there, five hundred years ago on the land. She wasn’t even alive back then.
If Willem had stayed a little more calm, he might have noticed immediately. Beside his chest, a single small metal fragment glowed faintly.
It was the language Talisman which Willem never ended up returning to Grick, an ancient treasure said to convey will itself using language as an intermediary. Once activated, the user no longer needs to supply any Venom. It translates every message it receives, regardless of what the user wants to actually listen to. The convenient little device which had helped Willem greatly when he first awoke on Regul Aire, before he learned the common language, was beginning to do its job again.
Willem, being an experienced warrior, should have recognized immediately what the glowing light signified. What the true nature of this new world was. He could have seen through it all right away, but…
“Father? What’s wrong? Father?”
Nephren’s confused voice. Almaria’s footsteps. Willem couldn’t hear any of it. He couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t think about anything. His senses seemed to cease functioning, leaving him in his own little world of pure white nothingness. All he could feel was the warmth of the tears streaming down his cheeks.