17.0 Ignis_Chapter 4: Sadness

Nine hundred years of sadness and loneliness; that’s what I went through after Yunni died. I left the shrine because it reminded me of her, and roamed the world instead.

I journeyed across the great desert of the Fire kingdom, crossed the plains and the plateau of the Light kingdom, and bathed in the lakes and the rivers of the Water kingdom. After my sisters finally reconciled their personal hatred, I even managed to soar up to the floating island of the Air kingdom, trekked across the Alderan wastes and the Twilight forest in the Dark kingdom, and climbed the lofty mountains of the Earth Kingdom.

But no matter what I did, I was still sad, I was still alone. The only people I talked to were my sisters.

My sisters were unusual but that was to be expected since they were goddesses. Fate had decreed that Solaron, the Light goddess, and Lunaris, the Dark goddess, would forever hate each other. Agua, the Water goddess, and I, the Fire goddess, were to support Solaron while Opal, the Earth goddess, and Breze, the Air goddess, were to support Lunaris.

Whenever we saw a goddess from the other faction, our hearts would be filled with anger and hostility whereas coming upon a Goddess from our own faction made us feel calm and safe.

But none of us wished to play Fate’s game, so we met on the Bridge of Babel and formed a pact, a pact to oppose Fate’s machinations.

Although we couldn’t stop our followers from fighting, we resolved to, at the very least, reduce unnecessary casualties as much as possible and increase cooperation between the Dusk Alliance in the North and the Holy Union in the South. We adopted a unified calendar that began from the day we were released from the Haze and named the months after ourselves. A little narcissistic, I admit.

Resisting Fate was difficult. I did not know what my sisters did to try to resist Fate, but I gave up long ago. Fate’s biggest curse to me was loneliness and I could find no cure for it. I dared not form bonds with any mortals, because their lives would be short like Yunni’s and they would be prone to untimely deaths, like Jeffi.

My relationship with my sisters was cold and artificial. The positive emotions that I felt when I saw Solaron or Agua repulsed me nearly as much as the negative emotions I felt for Lunaris, Opal and Breze.

Those emotions weren’t mine. They were what Fate wanted me to feel. The intrusiveness sickened me.

And Fate had its dirty hands in many other places too. There were wars, famines, droughts, and floods. There were times when the people of Erath felt hope, only to have it come crashing down around their feet.

The battles between the hero and the demon lord were the worst of all. If they encountered each other early on, the demon lord would make quick work of the hero and the damage would be minimal. But often, the hero would only fight the demon lord after they had grown to frightening levels.

When that happened, there was carnage, destruction, and death.

But then Lunaris began to act strangely, secluding herself in the Twilight Forest and rarely ever coming to our centennial meetings. Then, the demon lords stopped appearing.

Before that time, the hero and the demon lord would usually deal enough damage to each other that other warriors would be able to finish the job, ensuring that neither side could win. But after the demon lord stopped appearing, the hero could wreak havoc on the Dusk Alliance with virtually no consequences.

The bloodshed intensified and the Dusk Alliance was on the verge of collapsing. Strangely, my sisters, even those supporting the Dusk Alliance, were relieved since a victory for one side might finally remove the chains of Fate that bound us and end the senseless violence.

But somehow, the Alliance managed to pull through every time. The hero would be killed by poison or a well-coordinated strike, or something of that sort, and the demon lord’s castle would remain untouched.

Perhaps the geography of the dark kingdom made it harder for the hero to reach the demon lord’s castle. The only road to the demon lord’s castle ran between the Alderan wastes and the Twilight Forest, and since neither of those areas would allow for a large army to cross, ‘The Corridor’ saw many desperate battles and swallowed the lives of thousands of soldiers.

My sister, Solaron of the Light, became concerned and asked me to train her heroes.

At first I refused, since my self-imposed isolation forbade me from interacting with humans. But as the blood continued to flow and the fighting grew more bitter, I finally agreed to her request and the final plan for the severance of the chains of Fate, began.

I came to the Light kingdom’s royal palace and entered the throne room when Solaron gave me the signal. Inside, the current king sat on his throne, addressing a little girl who looked around fifteen years old.

Fading tear-lines scarred her face. She’d been crying. I met her eyes and saw the pain, the sorrow, and the anger within them. I couldn’t help but embrace her.

I taught her everything I could, but a month was not enough to teach her everything she needed to know. But, since I would be accompanying her on her journey and she was an impressively quick learner, I was sure that she would be able to perform her role properly.

However, I could see the unwillingness in her eyes. How could I not? I had seen many eyes like those because of Fate’s interference.

“What? You can’t find the hero?” said a voice from the hallway.

“Search for her immediately! She tried to run away when she first arrived so she may have left the palace already! And go inform the King!” replied another voice.

She left?

I opened the window of my room and blasted off just as the door opened.

Fate reared its annoying head yet again as I found myself unable to find her. The goddesses couldn’t locate the hero or the demon lord, nor could they inform others of their identity.

Luckily there were only so many ways down the plateau and I happened to find a short, black haired figure on a dirt road. I recognized her immediately and shot towards her.

“Found you!” I shouted after finally finding her. She was the first person I had formed a bond with in a very long time and her absence made me anxious as I feared for her safety. A wave of relief washed over me as I confirmed that she was indeed, Lily Grayscale the hero, and I ran over to embrace her.

But I soon sensed another presence in the vicinity; a dark-skinned youth standing under the sunlight. I had been so relieved at finally finding Lily that I hadn’t noticed him at all. I saw his status and bit my lips. He was the demon lord. The first person she met outside the palace was the demon lord. Was this Fate’s idea of a joke?

I needed to get Lily away from him but I couldn’t tell her he was the demon lord. I tried to frighten him off but he wasn’t scared at all. And when Lily began to explain their plan to find a way home, a bitter taste crawled up my throat.

The goddesses did not know how to send their summoned champions back to their own world. After all, that was the realm of Fate. The demon lord was lying to her, but why? Why didn’t he attack her like the other demon lords would have?

I stared at the Demon Lord, Runir Candela, and tried to assess his personality. His eyes glittered with intelligence and his smile was chilling and malevolent. He was surely up to no good.

But I could not forcibly take her away from there because the goddesses could not interfere with the battles between the demon lord and the hero.  And this was a battle as well, a battle of wits. This demon lord was cunning, intelligent and almost certainly had a plan to deal with Lily.

Of course, Lily was smart too, in her own way. I had learned that she was resourceful and possessed a remarkably resilient mind. Perhaps she could ruin this nefarious demon lord’s evil plan and achieve victory with her ‘street smarts,’ as she liked to call it.

But I needed to be sure, so I accepted the demon lord’s offer to join him. With that, it was certain that he did not know that I was the Fire goddess. Of course, he could also have been aware of the restrictions of the goddesses and deemed that I was not a threat to his plans.

But I was nine-hundred and ninety-eight years old, and my experience and wisdom would surely help Lily on her journey. I absolutely had to go with her. But I hesitated when he asked my name.

I wasn’t sure if he knew the names of the goddesses, because even though they had been long since forgotten by most of the populace, some ancient documents may still have recorded them. So I gave him a fake name; Amy Genis.

But then we heard a strange sound. It was something that I, who didn’t need to sleep, hadn’t heard since that night in the forest with Jeffi and Yunni all those years ago. Somebody was snoring. We followed the voice and then we met him.

A strange purple robed, glasses wearing, dark haired boy lay sleeping under a tree among the bushes. I stared at his unkempt appearance and wondered what a boy like that was doing out alone in the forest.

And then I appraised him just as he woke up. But I didn’t hear what he was saying because my heart had skipped a beat and my mind froze in shock.

I couldn’t see his status.

My sisters and I had long since reached the pinnacle of strength in this world. We were unparalleled existences in Erath and we had never encountered someone we couldn’t appraise. We could even see each other’s’ status and no skills or items could help their users hide their status from us.

So when I couldn’t see this boy’s status, it threw everything I thought I knew about my world out the window. I woke up from my shock and heard him say with a smile, “…call me Kai.”

I was on guard all day as descended the plateau. I shot glances at the demon lord but he was no longer my greatest concern. The one who really made me wary was the purple robed boy humming an odd tune – Kai.

He was completely unreadable. And that was frightening.

“We should probably make camp for the night,” said Kai.

Sleep? Well, at least he is human.

We set about making camp as he pulled out materials from thin air. The space inside his Storage skill was surprising, it seemed almost comparable to the Inventories that the demon lords and heroes possessed.

I cleared the ground as the demon lord set up a sleeping area outside the tent. For some reason, I felt like we wouldn’t be using either of those at all.

Soon, Lily, Kai and I were standing around the fire, preparing dinner. Or rather, Lily helped Kai cook while I stared blankly and passed the ingredients. I had never learned to cook since goddesses didn’t need to eat.

Lily seemed like an experienced cook but Kai was astonishingly good and the ingredients he pulled out of his Storage made even me gasp in surprise.

By the time they were done, I couldn’t help but grab a plate and start gulping down mouthfuls of steaming red curry. I had tried eating food before, but the cuisine of our world hadn’t really developed that much. The only other time I had enjoyed a dish was when I ate something Solaron had made after learning the recipe from a former hero.

However, this was on a completely different level. I asked for seconds as the sun went down over the horizon.

I didn’t need to sleep so I leaned against a tree and pretended to rest while keeping my guard up. From my position, I could see the Demon Lord tossing about in his sleeping bag and Lily lying curled up in hers. The tent stood completely ignored in the corner of the clearing since all of us had preferred to sleep under the open sky.

I could also see Kai, who was supposed to be on watch, lying down beside the campfire with his eyes closed.

Just what is he thinking? What if he fell asleep and some beast attacked Lily? I could never forgive such a mistake!

However, I realized that he was aware of his surroundings when he called out to the demon lord who was leaving for some reason. Although I felt tempted to follow him and see what he was planning, it was more important to stay there and guard Lily.

Just as I was debating whether to follow the Demon Lord, I heard a voice say, “Hey, I know you can’t fall asleep either so how about listening to a story? I promise it’ll be good. I’m very good at telling stories, trust me.”

Neither I nor Lily responded but his lips still stretched into a small smile.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I fought to stop myself from sobbing. I hid my eyes with my arm and looked up at the sky, trying to forget the story I had just heard. My head was flooded with emotions, but most of all, I felt sad.

The story had been beautiful. It had been heartwarming enough to melt my heart but what flowed in the end were tears. It had made me cry for the first since Yunni’s death.

And it was a story about a candle

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