EPILOGUE RAINING LIGHT
She heard a ringing that reached up toward the heavens.
She felt like she heard a song of tears sung by someone’s loving voice. A sense of actually claiming victory, the joy of protecting their home, a feeling of accomplishment. The sadness over the comrades lost and the mourning of the victims. All those emotions and thoughts could not be expressed or repaid with a simple word such as victory .
In the labyrinth where it all ended, Aiz was walking by herself. She did not have any more strength left to swing her sword. Her wounded body was shrieking in pain. If she relaxed for even a moment, her knees would give out. Her body pleaded with her to rest. There were no more enemies. All the demi-spirits had been taken down and the green flesh in the labyrinth had turned a yellowish-brown color, rotting away. The passage that Aiz was walking down was the original stone of Knossos. There was no trace of monsters, either. The vibrantly colored monsters that were like feelers for the spirit had stopped functioning.
But Aiz kept walking. Just a little bit more, as if she was searching for something. She kept moving through a labyrinth that had fallen silent.
At the end of a winding path, members from Loki Familia appeared. Raul called out to her and ran over.
“Y-you came all the way here? Th-those are some serious injuries! Are you okay?! But if you’re here, that means you won…That’s great!”
Raul’s squad had set up a temporary base in the passage there. A little while before, the order for all squads to retreat had come over the oculus. They were to gather up anyone who could not move and wait for rescue teams to come. Aiz did not have an oculus, but she had been told the order by a Xenos who had kindly stood on the ground, wearing a robe to appear more human. It was the siren who had been flying around, searching for adventurers who had been separated from squads.
This base had been the closest to her, and it also had the person Aiz had wanted to find.
“F-for now, let’s get you healed…! Ah, but we’ve already used up all the items, which means it would probably be faster to just get you out of here…But I guess walking by yourself or getting carried outside would also be rough…I-I’ll go get a healer and a cart!”
It could have been simple exaltation from winning the war, but Raul was a bundle of energy. He kept switching between concern for her wounds and joy at finding out she was safe. As he confirmed the state of her wounds and got ready to head out, Aiz smiled.
“Okay…I’ll be waiting for you.”
Raul’s cheeks flushed, and he stared at her for a second. When she tilted her head a bit, confused by his reaction, he hurriedly stammered, “I-I’ll be right back!” and dashed off.
There were several adventurers there besides just Raul’s squad. They were all wounded and exhausted. There were some celebrating victory, but there were others whose mouths were shut. They must have lost comrades. But there were others, too, who must have been remembering what Finn had said before they set out that night, smiling at their comrades in arms who had been added to the funeral procession in the heavens. And there were those who took out a hip flask stashed away and downed half the alcohol before pouring out the rest on the weapons left behind by those who had been lost.
She dragged her body along, watching the scene after the decisive battle with all its cocktail of emotions. Rakuta and the others were happy to see her safe as they passed each other. And then finally…she found him.
The boy was sleeping. He was sitting on the ground, his upper body leaning against the wall. He seemed utterly exhausted. There was no indication that he would wake up any time soon.
Aiz smiled and sat down next to him.
They were words that he would never hear, but she still looked at him as she whispered in his ear.
No one noticed them there. The group was mostly of Loki Familia adventurers, who were already pushing themselves, walking around the encampment, checking on the condition of those who were wounded. Watching all that in the background, she continued to whisper.
“I won…thanks to you.”
Aiz had defeated Levis with his ringing bell. If it were not for that, Aiz would have been consumed by the black flames without ever making it back.
It was always like that. Like when she had found him collapsed in the Dungeon and gotten close to him. Her heart had become clear, like her spirit was being cleansed. The black flames had disappeared. It was as if she had reclaimed just a little bit of something—of her more innocent self. Not realizing that her expression was still softening, Aiz’s lips spread into a wider smile.
“I could hear…your voice.”
Finally, the boy’s head slid to the side, falling against Aiz’s shoulder. But that weight felt comfortable. Letting go of her last bit of strength, Aiz leaned closer to him.
“Thank you, Bell.”
She did not know whether she had gained anything. In exchange for victory, some people must have lost things that were important to them.
But right now, in that one moment, she allowed herself to lean against Bell and sleep peacefully.
There was a melody ringing in the distance. The tremor of light connecting the heavens and the earth was gradually fading. And Lefiya was crying without noticing any of that. She had fallen to her knees, supporting a single girl’s body.
“Miss Filvis…! I…I…!”
Her tears fell on the girl’s body as she wept. And then the girl’s tear-stained skin turned to ash and crumbled. She was the girl whose life Lefiya had brought to an end—the fairy freed from her fate of destruction.
The magic stone that Lefiya’s sword had pierced cracked further, the fissures spreading. That she still had any time left was a miracle in and of itself.
The life of the girl who had become a monster was drawing to a close.
“Don’t cry, Lefiya…It’s fine this way…It’s better this way…”
Filvis smiled faintly as Lefiya kept sobbing. There was no energy in her whisper. Every word caused a new crack in the magic stone, and her body continued to turn to ash. Both her legs had already crumbled to dust. Her left arm was in the process of turning to soot and fluttering away.
The sight of it caused Lefiya’s chest to constrict.
“I didn’t know…! I never understood…! I never knew which was the real you or what you really wanted…I never understood anything…!”
There was the Filvis who had cried out and rushed to Dionysus’s side—and the Filvis who had stayed there in Lefiya’s embrace. Which was the real her? What had been her true salvation? Lefiya bawled as the grief sank in again, the powerful image of her unyielding resolve long gone.
“The one who clung to Lord Dionysus is me…and the one saved by you is also me…”
“They’re both the real me…”
Filvis was worn out to the point where she could not control herself, splitting into two using magic. She was unstable and broken. That was why she had said both instances of her were real. It was no lie that Lefiya had freed her from suffering.
“My heart was in shambles…I didn’t know what I should do…or what I could do…”
“…I’m not strong. And I’m not beautiful, Lefiya…I was always unclean…and corrupted…”
Her eyes lost their focus, and she whispered as if falling into delirium.
Hearing Filvis’s confession, Lefiya bit her lip as she fought back her tears. There were so many things she wanted to say, so many thoughts that she could not convey. She wanted to turn back time. But she knew that she could not let that confession be Filvis’s last words.
“You weren’t strong…You were a weak elf who couldn’t live without relying on someone else—like me!” Lefiya spoke her own truth. And those honest feelings reached the girl who was consumed by regret.
“But that weak and proud side of you—!”
Fragments of memories of all that had happened leading up to that day flickered in her mind. There were so many happy memories, the numerous times that she had been helped. Their arguments, too. All the times that Filvis had doted on her like a kind older sister. Images of Filvis’s anger, her suffering, her embarrassment, and her smile punched Lefiya’s heart.
Her voice was on the verge of giving out as she desperately gathered herself.
“That was far…far more beautiful than anyone else!”
Filvis’s eyes that had grown distant opened wide. Slowly, she looked at Lefiya, who was crying a river of tears. Tears fell from her red eyes, as if to stop Lefiya crying.
Her lips cracked slightly. She smiled as tears fell down her cheeks.
And that was the most beautiful thing Lefiya had ever seen.
Mustering the last of her strength, Filvis drew her lips close to Lefiya’s ear and whispered, as if singing a lullaby to a bawling child.
“If you are ever…in trouble…Just remember. I promise…to…”
She was turning into ash. The shapes of her arms and legs disappeared, stealing away what little was left of her time.
Lefiya was at a loss for words. She could not make a sound. She shook her head like a child throwing a tantrum, refusing to part with her friend despite knowing that it would have to end.
“Thank you, Lefiya…I’m glad I met you.”
Filvis smiled one more time. Lefiya’s tears streamed down.
“I’ll always be with you.”
Let’s go see the crown of light together.
Those words were not spoken, disappearing in the crumbling ash, but Lefiya still heard them.
Filvis Challia disappeared. She vanished into soot and cinders, smiling for Lefiya until the very end. What remained of her rose in a pillar of dust, setting off on a journey as it left Lefiya’s arms.
Her body was trembling as she desperately tried to hold back her emotions. That was when Lefiya realized something.
There, underground, there was a light rising upward. It was as if all the magic in the chamber were dancing. The beautiful white light was diffused as the light and ash danced together. The rays of light quivered, gathered together, and formed a ring, as if to prove that a single fairy had been there.
It was like the crown of light. It was exactly like the scene in Lefiya’s home forest that they had promised to see together. The rays of light scattered and rained down on Lefiya. At a loss for words, Lefiya watched, sure that she saw Filvis smiling at her from inside that light.
She could see a crown of light—a ring of diffracted light suspended in the air, woven together to create a white stairway ascending to the heavens.
She had promised to see this together with Filvis—which meant this had to be an illusion. Her battered consciousness should have already slipped away, but it showed her this fragile, transient, final hallucination reflected in her eyes. That was but a sliver of a beautiful dream.
Even if it was a trick of the eye, she had conviction that it was lovelier than anything she had ever seen.
It was the Elf Ring in Lefiya’s home forest.
As she looked up, the radiant light burned into her eyes. And as her eyes were scorched by its radiance, all that was left was to give in to the impulse welling up inside her.
She cried, weeping aloud. Praying that her tears would dry up. Praying there would be an end to her sadness. Her tears mixed with the white gleam pouring down to become a rain of light. It was unfairly beautiful, held a cruel purity, a rain more precious than anything in the world. Those tears became a song that echoed out and back again.
Watching on, the renart wept quietly. Supported by an Amazonian girl, the lone werewolf turned his back and left the chamber, as if shunning those tears. As if turning a deaf ear to that weeping voice. As if just for now, he was letting the girl be by herself. The renart and others trailed after him.
Left alone, the fairy continued to cry—continued to sing. And she would carry on that song always and forever, a melody of tears that would emerge whenever she thought of that lost girl. And as the white light shone down on the ash, what was left of that girl’s slender shoulders disappeared, praying that she would be able to always look over the girl who remained behind.