153. Far, Far Away
—Fu, something is approaching. Whether it be footsteps, the rustling of clothes, or breathing, none of it is clear. As it should be. That place is a realm without substance or solid form. It is a dark and stagnant place just like the bottom of the sea, yet at its center is a white light.
The perception of that place depends on the beholder. If the beholder imagines that place as being pitch black, it will be pitch black. If the beholder imagines that place as having a pure white light at its center, it will have a pure white light.
Whether that place is a throne or the universe doesn’t matter.
—It is a place encompasses everything.
That place has many names: the seat of god, the place beyond the world’s shell, an interval. It is there where divine entities can exist. At present, the goddess Alshna occupies the throne. She is the one who reins over the world Suimei and his friends were summoned into, the deity who molded the world to its present state with her own hands.
As such, the form that place takes can be called her heart. Should one think she is inside a sublime sanctuary, the place would instantly transform to match that thought. The ambiguous and uncertain surroundings distort like the surface of a pond after a hand runs through it. A new scene takes its place before long and the dream of the goddess is realized.
Underneath a tall ceiling appears rows of enormous, white stone pillars along with something resembling an altar. Windows fitted with stained glass dye the light shining through a myriad of colors.
Unlike the usual case, the deepest chamber doesn’t house a statue of the goddess. Instead, there is a chair upon which that with the form of a woman sits. Her chin rests upon her hands and her eyes are closed. The white dress she wears sways as she rests.
Underneath her arm is a scepter. It is a tool not needed by gods. Mankind created scepters to symbolize their authority. As the divine are existences that transcend such notions, that tool holds a different meaning for them.
The dream is delayed.
The place manifests and the goddess actualizes accordingly. The footsteps, rustling of clothes, and breathing of the one approaching are also transformed.
The goddess Alshna eases her eyes open and grants the approaching spirit a courteous greeting. “—a skillful defeat, my loyal retainer.”
Arriving is one with long black hair coupled with tanned yellow skin belonging to those of the Orient. The one stepping forward also wears the blazer of a school girl’s uniform, a red muffler, and fingerless gloves. Ano Mizuki stands before the goddess.
She is not who steps forward, but from appearance, the one standing there is undeniably her. The spirit who possessed Ano Mizuki kneels before the goddess and says, “Great lady, as our mother, please forgive this rude hindrance to your slumber.”
“Am I so petty as to be angered at being disturbed from my rest?”
“Nay, our divine one. I just fear that rousing you from your rest may result in the world you hold within your palms being crushed.”
Alshna, seeming to realize that the spirit draws from a source of knowledge unavailable to her, speaks with a tranquil expression. “Is this inspiration from the body of the girl you borrowed?”
“Yes, she is the source.”
“Then that appearance, I presume it also belongs to that girl?”
“Yes, as I am unable to manage a form like that child of Shakti’s, I accepted this guise.”
“Her tone also fits you quite well.”
The spirit boasts with a grin playing at the edges of her lips. “Agreed, I found appropriating this appearance along with her tone very suitable for myself.”
If Mizuki were to hear that spirit’s mirthful words, her face would flushed from anger. The firm and ancient tone being used by the spirit comes straight from her dark history.
Alshna says to that spirit, “I believe I recall commanding you to support and monitor that person?”
“About that. An unnecessary hindrance made itself present. Thus, I was restored to this [interval]. My honor is tainted at having to return merely partway through my mission.”
“You mean to say that someone exorcised you.”
“I was driven away by the hands of those foolish people unable to understand our mother’s affection.”
Resignation spreads across Alshna’s tranquil expression as she says, “So it was managed through the help of one called from the other world. That my affections would fail to reach those of a different world is to be expected. The people from that world have powerful [dreams] and [heart]. As such, their cravings are more than their bodies can handle.”
“Misunderstanding the brilliance born from their ideals as a sign of hope is utter foolishness.”
“It is because they rely on it… that their path becomes difficult for them.”
The spirit gives a deep bow of her head as she says, “The truth is as you say.”
The goddess Alshna then shifts her gaze as though she were seeing through the spirit. “Now then, how is that person?”
The spirit, with just the phrase, “that person,” guesses who she’s referring to and says, “That person is gradually accustoming himself to mother’s power. Except—”
“Does something worry you?”
“His acclimation to your power is happening prematurely.”
“Fumu… Since his arrival, the star has only been half revolved around… In that case, what stage is he on now?”
“I shall tell you. He is presently on the second stage, on the segment where his consciousness is beginning to unify. Acclimation is by nature, a gradual process. Furthermore, the star needs to be revolved around twice… From what I have gathered, needless words are a hindrance.”
“Your opinion is that outside words cause him to waver?”
“A foolish person made contact with him and now the words that person spoke refuse to distance themselves from his mind.”
“…and so he’s adjusting prematurely. Such a baffling situation. What was the exact cause?”
“As was stated earlier, that person’s [dreams] are exceptionally powerful… I fear the influence stems from the armament ferried in from the other world.”
Alshna narrows her eyes as she contemplates and links together the fragments of information.
“This is because of that weapon created to deny the approaching end, Sacrament(Exisiting Phenomena Armament)? Is it guiding that person?”
“While I am unable to make that assertion at present, I am confident that it played a major influence on this development. If the unification of the consciousness begins, then I fear we’ll be force to make a decision.”
“That’s quite… vexing.”
The dilemma revolves around the conflict between that person’s emotions and the mission Alshna imprinted on him. That he might deviate from the path intended for him fills her with unease. No, more than that, he might not be able to endure the pressure and rebel. It’s an outlier, but I cannot deny the possibility of it occurring.
Regardless of the outcome, neither will change her aspirations for the world. As such, for that world, she’ll make her decision only when she can no longer put off making it. Another event could still influence the conclusion, after all.
Alshna says, “…You are to once more return to that person. Don’t let him be misled by needless words and guide him along the proper path.”
“Then, should I borrow that girl’s body again? I won’t be able to prevent placing a heavy burden on her if I keep taking it.”
“Do you recall the qualities of her body?”
The spirit raises a concern about continuous possession. “Although her spirit is good, her mind and body are still delicate due to the immaturity of her years.”
As Alshna alluded, the host has an unexpectedly high affinity for mysteries. However, possession comes at the price of the memories made during the possession. That creates an unnecessary worry for the possessed.
The spirit has already once been exorcised. The host’s original consciousness then returned and noticed a gap in her memories. Not only would repeating that process over and again terrify her, it would cripple her heart with anxiety and suspicion towards those missing memories. Not even those well into their years would accept such a development in their lives. In the end, after repeating that over and again, the host would break down and live out the rest of her days as an invalid.
The girl who served as the spirit’s host is a kind and gentle girl. Condemning such a person to that sort of future would be too pitiful. Instead, it should be avoided.
The goddess, however, believes otherwise. “It doesn’t matter. All that is serves to protect this world from every threat. Sacrifices will be made as needed.”
The spirit hesitates on agreeing with the goddess. It first wants to consider the situation and find a clear solution in advanced.
The goddess says, “I understand your feelings, but if that world perishes, then there will be neither your reason for hesitation nor that child. Or am I mistaken?”
“…It is as you claim.”
“That reply looked a bit late to me.”
The spirit finds Alshna’s tone very cold. “M-my deepest apologies…”
Alshna has no reason to grant the spirit any mercy. The spirit was born from her. Should its thoughts deviate from her will, then she, as its mother, just has to reabsorb it.
The spirit realizes it displeased its creator and braces itself. What follows, to its surprise, is an unexpended gentle tone. Alshna says, “Let’s not worry about that for now. Please just go back after this. What you do from there, I’ll entrust to your discretion.”
“I shall do as our honorable mother desires.”
Alshna then stops the spirit before it can depart. “…even so, I have a request.”
“I’d like for you to keep an eye on that person’s friend.”
“That person’s friend… You refer to my riv- excuse me. You would like me watch against the technique user from the other world?”
“That’s correct. Please be particularly weary to his persona when he is around that person.”
The spirit ponders over Alshna’s words. From the words it exchanged with that other person, it didn’t judge him as a human requiring vigilance. That person, whether in ability or ideology, isn’t an obstacle. “Honorable mother, if truth be spoken, I do not believe caution is necessary against that man. While he does wield a considerable amount of power, in the end, he is still nothing more than a child of man. That person will before long also acquire comparable strength.”
“His strength isn’t all you need to stay vigilant against.”
“That man, does he also mislead that person?”
“The two are intimate with one another. That person holds the other’s words with high regard.”
The spirit recalls what it can of Suimei and Reiji. Both respect the other’s opinions. Reiji depends on Suimei for his pragmatic voice of reason while Suimei in turn appreciates Reiji’s appeals for righteousness. In a sense, they balance each other. Their words create equilibrium by restraining the heart of the other and prevent him from stepping off the correct path.
Are they mutually complementing the aspect lacking in the other?
The spirit says, “As he gets more used to his power, the other’s voice will weaken. As his strength grows, that is to say, as the technique user’s strength lowers in comparison, he will lend his ear to him less often.”
Alshna, however, shakes her head. “No, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“…Certainly, the power mother granted was divided among four, but even then, I do not believe the technique user will be able to stand to a single one of them.”
“Incorrect, even if all the power I granted was consolidated onto a single being, that person still would not be able to exceed him.”
The spirit, for the first time, demonstrates open aversion towards Suimei. For even those with blessing of the creator to be surpassed means entering a realm beyond that of humanity. “That person, does he truly reach that far?”
“He does and that is only in reference to his talents. He is also someone bridled with a responsibility to counterbalance destiny. His burden is such that the depths of truth run much, much deeper than us.”
“Hence you must remain vigilant. That person, for the sake of surpassing that technique user, will most likely rely on his armament to compensate for the difference. Should that be the—”
“That person will greatly depend on his armament for guidance.”
“The situation will still be favorable if that is the only development. I await for him to fall prey to the devil known as human desire.”
“For him to succumb to greed?”
“This is something humanity has been tethered to since their [origin]. For those with heavy desires willing to make sacrifices for power, their cravings are endless. As such, temptation whispers to those who lust for even more strength.”
“Our conversation seems to have diverged a bit.”
The goddess pauses for a moment and regards the spirit. “Right now, please remember this. That young technique user, his power is one that drove out the divine from his world. Even the impending end was erased. As such, he’s someone able to grasp the light.”
“The light? What do you mean, the light?”
“The light he used to save the girl I bestowed with power from the servant of that foolish man. The light which is none other than the eternal light that would grant all the desires and prayers of those who reach for it.”
“—So, something like that can be wielded by humans!!”
“Once the moment that person needs it arrives, I have no doubt he will reach for it. He’ll do it for the sake of that wish desired by all, to give his utmost to grasp that which all in the world wish. The day he shall reach for it will surely come in the not too distant future.”
“How can a normal human accomplish something like that?”
The goddess narrows her eyes as she contemplates the spirit’s question. “That person may have been forgiven.”
“What do you mean by forgiven?”
“Of everything and for everything. His fate must have also been decided there in the place where all things are born.”
The spirit is unable to comprehend the words spoken by the goddess. They were too abstract for it. The goddess, noticing the spirit’s bewilderment, gives it an admonishing, “Is that enough? Be mindful of the technique user from the other world. You’ll probably be dazzled by him while you’re around him.”
The spirit lowers its head at Alshna’s words. It has no objections due to a certain clause spoken by the goddess herself.
T/N: I have one thing to say to the spirit. Suimei isn’t human, he’s a magician~ Still, the ending got a bit complicated, it even made subtle references to things discussed in the gaiden. I won’t speak of it here though, spoilers.
Merry Christmas everyone,
154. The Return>