Maybe, just maybe there’s a chance, she thought. She wanted to believe in miracles. But reality moved forward, indifferent to her wishes. A high speed airship of the Winged Guard retrieved one corpse from the land, the corpse which, just a few days ago, had been Kutori Nota Seniolis.
Naigrat exited the room and shut the door behind her. Lacking the strength to move any farther, she leaned her back against the wall of the corridor and slid down to the floor. The thunderous rumbling of the spell incinerator shook her entire body, making her feel as if she were a baby being rocked around in its mother’s womb. Naigrat quickly shook that image out of her head. It had no place here. There were no lives coming into creation here, only lives already lost and lives which would be lost soon enough.
Naigrat was on board a medium sized Winged Guard patrol ship which mainly watched over the area around the 20th Floating Island.
“It must be painful to look at for you,” a giant Reptrace, the one who had called Naigrat to the ship in the first place, said in a deep, heavy voice. “In most cases, a fairy soldier lost in battle does not leave behind a corpse. They shatter into beads of light and melt into the wind… so it is as you said. Kutori was no longer a fairy.”
“I guess so,” Naigrat responded half heartedly, her gaze still on the floor.
In the room behind them was the thing which used to be Kutori. Whether she had been crushed, hacked, pierced, scratched, or perhaps all of them, no would would ever know, but innumerable wounds had mutilated her body to the point where it hardly resembled its original shape. In addition, ruptured joints and tendons, probably the result of her forcing her body to act past its limits, had damaged the body even more than the external wounds.
When Naigrat saw it, both her hands immediately went up to cover her mouth in a desperate attempt to shove the wails of despair back down her throat. At the same time, tears began to overflow out of her eyes. She didn’t bother trying to hide them. After all, unlike some of the demon races, she only had two arms.
“She really did fight hard…”
But being the two armed Troll that she was, Naigrat could immediately decipher the messages left behind by the condition of the body’s flesh. She could tell how intense of a battle that the corpse had gone through, and how intense the emotions it had fought with were. The body most likely didn’t try to stop Kutori as she fought. As the girl drew closer to death, the Venom inside her would have blazed brighter and brighter. Such power would have been more than enough to force her body to continue its reckless fight. Even as her flesh split, bones fractured, and blood poured out, she never stopped throwing every last drop of life inside her against her enemies.
“What will you do about the funeral? Demon style?” the giant Reptrace asked.
Regul Aire, being home to many different races and cultures, and consequently many different views on death, also has various ways of handling the deceased. Burning the body, burying it, exposing it to the wind and letting birds eat it, soaking it in chemicals to preserve it, letting the local government retrieve it on trash day… the list goes on and on. The demon style funeral is relatively common. It involves hiring a qualified Troll to eat the corpse of the deceased. The idea is that a living being which survived by consuming other life should pass on by serving as fuel for another living being, as if part of one giant cycle.
“… no, I don’t think so.”
Naigrat had the necessary qualifications to perform that role. If she wished to, she could have easily gotten a burial for Kutori approved. But still, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Every fairy up until now passed away unmourned, simply turning into fragments of light before fading into the wind. Even if Kutori was special to her, Naigrat felt it would be wrong to make her the only exception.
“That meat is empty. I don’t know too much about Venom or souls or whatever, but I can tell that the meat has nothing left to pass on. I can’t eat it.”
Their conversation came to a pause. Waves of emotion still crashed violently inside her, but the shaking in Naigrat’s voice and the tears streaming from her eyes had managed to subside. She stood up.
“… by the way, what happened to the other two? They fell close to Kutori, did they not? Were they not found as well?”
“About that…” The Reptrace gave Naigrat a troubled look. “I have confirmed news and unconfirmed news. Which would you like to hear first?”
Isn’t is supposed to be good news and bad news? Naigrat thought. Because in that case, she would have told him to tell her the good news and then shut up. Right now, she didn’t want to hear anything that would make her mood even worse.
“… I’ll go with the confirmed news first.”
“The 1st Beast appeared. That is the reason why the investigation of the site was stopped midway, and also the reason why we cannot gain any more information.”
“Is that strong?”
“That is unknown. There is not a single person in recorded history who has fought against it.”
“It is not possible to fight it. All who approach the 1st Beast are simply reduced to sand. Perhaps the Beast does not even carry malice or ill intentions. But just by existing, it poses a deadly threat to all life. No one can approach it. No one can touch it. Therefore, no one can defeat it. One cannot even start a battle. In other words, we cannot even search for traces of the remaining two, Willem Kumesh and Nephren Ruq Insania.”
“I see…” Naigrat, her back still against the wall, embraced herself tightly with both arms. “So that’s the confirmed news. What about the other one?”
She urged the Reptrace on, not expecting anything in particular. Naigrat was already at rock bottom. No matter what words came out of his mouth, they couldn’t make her any more depressed than she already was. That was the only thing she was confident in at the moment.
“The Great Sage searched for Willem’s whereabouts with an ancient technique. If I recall correctly, it detects heartbeats or something of the sort. It can seek out a living being up to the very ends of the earth.”
Naigrat was getting a little confused. When Limeskin mentioned the ‘Great Sage’, he was probably referring to the founder of Regul Aire itself. The over five hundred year old man versed in ancient techniques and possessing deep knowledge. The past, present, and future guardian of Regul Aire. A legendary figure found in countless children’s picture books and school textbooks. And apparently, Willem’s old friend. Naigrat didn’t believe it when he first told her, but apparently it was true. So it didn’t sound too surprising that the Great Sage would try searching for Willem’s whereabouts. But the real question was…
“Seek out… a living being?”
“The results of the search said that Willem is alive somewhere on the land.”
Naigrat gulped. No. That wasn’t possible. But. Wait. No. But…
“We cannot jump to conclusions. If even the ancient techniques of the wise Great Sage yield a result as vague as ‘somewhere’, there must be something off. But still…”
But still, there was a possibility. An ancient technique for seeking out living beings had yielded results. That was fact. And they could not help but see a small sliver of hope in that fact.
“That warrior may still be standing on a battlefield somewhere.”
A strange voice escaped Naigrat’s lips. Before she knew it, the tears that had finally stopped just minutes ago and the wailing she had tried so desperately to suppress both rushed forth again, for a completely different reason now. This time, the Troll’s mere two arms could not stop either one.
Naigrat understood. This was the unconfirmed news. It wasn’t certain that he was still alive. And of course, they couldn’t assume Nephren was alive with him either. But still, she couldn’t stop her heart from clutching onto that tiny fragment of hope.
Naigrat knew. Despair results from severed hope. The only way to avoid that pain is to not have hope in the first place. She understood that logic, but she couldn’t resist the feelings of joy welling up inside her. She couldn’t help but chase after the faint glimmer of light beyond the dark shroud of despair.
The spell incinerator shook the airship back and forth as if it were one giant cradle. And within, a Troll woman cried and cried, as if she were one large baby.