chapter 107: of love and loss

After I had spent a few hours watching TV with Aurivy and Irena, the halfling goddess decided she wanted to go take a nap. As for Irena, she seemed almost reluctant to part, but also wanted to check on the status of the afterlife. Which left me, going back to my own room and returning to the computer.

I began the process of fast forwarding the world just a little bit at a time, setting each one to stop when Leowynn prayed to me. This way, I’d always be able to respond to her annual prayers. And, honestly… I have to say that it went better than I expected.

I had thought that I would get bored talking to her back to back like that, each conversation lasting well into the night– her night, anyways. Yet, it always seemed to feel fresh. With each new conversation, she had new experiences to tell me about, new questions to ask. Every year, she seemed to get more and more bold, less afraid that every question would displease me.

After our ninth scheduled conversation, she even made a rather important request. Well, it was one that I could tell was important to her. Holy Father… next year, can I see you? I like talking to you, but I’d like to be able to see you once…

I had to think for a moment on how to answer that. It’s true that she had never seen her own father before, so of course she would want to. As for why now, all of a sudden… I could figure it out pretty easily. Leowynn was currently ninety-nine years old. Turning one hundred for an elf marks their entry into adulthood, a very special anniversary for her.

“Okay.” I spoke out, talking into the program that Terra had set up for me on the computer. It was so much easier to communicate this way, without worrying about frying her brain from thinking too hard. “But I’ll have to teach you a special trick in order to see me. So for the next year, I need you to practice it, and make sure that you can perform it when the time comes.”

O-of course, Father! Anything you want, just tell me! Her voice seemed excited by the thought of seeing me in person, even if she did have to jump through a few hoops to achieve it. So, I decided to teach her. It might be inconvenient for me to appear in that city so soon after I was there to set up the wards. Soon being relative, of course, since the elves lived so long. And I didn’t particularly want to go about creating an entirely new persona for this, since I intended to appear as ‘special’ to her.

Is he really going to come? Leowynn thought nervously as she snuck out of the city, long after the sun had fallen. The regular patrol had just finished, so she knew the area that she was going to would be safe. Though, even if it hadn’t, there were few creatures that could threaten her in these plains.

Thus, Leowynn walked, her destination the statue of Ryone just a short distance outside the city. Her Father had told her that she would be able to see him if she went to him tonight. She wasn’t sure how to feel about this. Should she be happy that she gets to meet her father? Or should she be nervous about meeting a god face to face, one who legends speak of as more powerful than Ryone herself.

Leowynn took deep breaths to force herself to calm down, soon arriving behind the statue as she was told. She was wearing the black dress that her mother had made for her on her eightieth birthday. Although it was now twenty years old, it held a special significance for Leowynn, as that was also the same night that she had first spoken with her Father. I’m here. She closed her eyes in prayer, at the same time circulating her mana into her eyes.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a flash of light before her, before that light gathered together in the shape of a man. For all intents and purposes, he seemed normal. A slender body, thin features. With his body lacking in color, it seemed to cause his hair to turn the same shade of silver as her own, which brought a small smile to Leowynn’s lips.

“Father…” She spoke quietly, as if she had difficulty believing her own eyes. He had told her that this ability would let her see the spirits that roamed the land, and she had seen that herself a few times, though mostly with wild animals. This was her first time seeing the body of an elf through this form of sight.

“Hello, Leowynn.” He answered her with a soft smile. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.” Was he talking about since she called to him, or all the years she had spent wanting to know about him? Either way, she felt her eyes moisten, and not from the strain it took to see him.

Shaking her head, she had a happy smile on her face. “No, not at all… Thank you for coming. I was afraid you’d be too busy…”

“Of course not, my child.” The elf before her answered her. “I told you that I would be here for you. Or do you not trust me after all this time?” She almost froze up at his words, until she identified the teasing tone behind them, and realized he was joking. He did that to her sometimes, seeming to enjoy teasing her to get her to relax during their talks. Though honestly, it gave her a fright every time.

“No.. not that at all, Father. I just never really thought I’d be able to see you.. In person, I mean. I had always hoped that I could, but hope was all it had ever been.” She shook her head sadly. Her social life had not improved much in the years since she had begun talking to him, though she had already told him all about that. If not for her mother’s health starting to decline, she likely would have left to find a new home where nobody knew about her.

Thinking of that, she looked at the man before her with a hopeful gaze. “Could… could you do something to help my mother? She’s… she’s been sick a lot lately. Age has taken its hold on her, and I fear she will only get worse over time.” Of course, her mother easily had another century left in her, but beyond that? A mortal body could only last for so long.

Her Father seemed surprised by this request, but regretfully shook his head. “There’s nothing that I can do to reverse aging, Leowynn. No matter what I attempt, she can only live a single life.”

“But… why?” Leowynn felt herself growing confused, and emotional. Normally, she would never question him to this degree, but this was for her mother’s sake. “You can change the rules of the world with a thought… Why do people have to die at all? Wouldn’t it be fine if everyone could stay together forever?”

After she asked that, she realized what she had done, and hurriedly brought her hands to her mouth, wanting to apologize. However, her Father only shook his head. “The world is only so big, Leowynn… It is hard to explain, but I’ll try. There are two reasons why death must exist.”

Leowynn slowly lowered her hands from her mouth as she listened, making sure to memorize every word he spoke. “The first, and most simple, is limited resources. If people cannot die, but children are still born, then they will have to expand to acquire food and water. But what happens when there is no more land to expand to? If they go across the seas, they may find more, but the world is not infinite. The earth is not as boundless as the night sky.”

She could… almost understand what he was saying. At the very least, she could tell that he believed it. But it was the next thing he said which really got her thinking. “The second, and most important reason why death has to exist… is to give life meaning. A man who lives for one lifetime will always strive to do more in his limited time, while a man who lives for eternity will simply prolong doing anything he doesn’t need to. He will still be alive, but will he really be living?”

She wanted to ask what the difference was, but stopped herself. He was more than just her Father, he was the god that watched over all. His words would not be meaningless, it was just her that failed to completely understand it. She would take time to consider what he said, so that she could find the meanings that were currently hidden to her. “I… Okay, Father. But, is there anything that you can do for her? Please… She doesn’t have to live forever… But I don’t want her to be in pain. That just seems too cruel…”

Again, her Father shook his head, causing her heart to ache. Though, his words did not match the solemness she was feeling. “I doubt she is hurting as much as you fear. In time, she will feel the ravages of old age, but right now she is still quite young, wouldn’t you say? And honestly… if there is something your mother wants, do you think that there is anything she wouldn’t be able to get herself?”

She couldn’t help but widen her eyes at what sounded like his praise for Rinon. Yet, the more she thought about it, she realized that he was right. Although her mother was known as the Mad Enchanter, she was incredible in her own right. Aside from the church, who refused to deal with her ever since she refused to hand Leowynn to them, she was able to speak with anyone she wanted, even the Queen herself. As for her own power, Leowynn had seen time and again that her mother was an expert when it came to magic.

“Alright… I’ll listen to you for now. But… if the situation gets bad… can I ask you for help later?” She pleaded one last time. She knew just from looking at him, just from what she had learned and the way that he talked, the lifespan of a single elf was just a short moment for him. The fact that he had given her so much of his attention was already nothing short of miraculous.

His smile grew warm at her words, and he nodded his head. “Of course. If anything serious happens, either to you or her, you need only call for me. I can’t say that I will definitely be able to keep her alive no matter what, but at the very least, I can ease her pain or save her from a crisis.”

Her eyes once again grew moist at his words, and she nodded her head. “Thank… thank you, Father.”  Saying that, she sat down at the base of the statue, looking up at him as he moved to join her. “Can we… still talk like this? Like we normally do?”

He nodded at her request, and her smile grew even further. Even after all this time, she was still afraid that her words might have upset him. But, seeing him agree, she began telling him about what she had experienced in the past year. About everything she had learned and done, and even about her animal friends that she had made in the nearby hills.

Only allowed on

However, this night did not end like those others they had shared. Her mana eventually wore out, leaving her unable to see or hear him. In a panic, she had thought he left, before he spoke into her mind that he was still there. Gently, he told her to go back home and rest, and that he would stay with her until she had fallen asleep.

Every year before, she had fallen asleep listening to that same sweet melody which reminded her of the stars in the sky. But not tonight. Tonight, he told her a story. A story of people she had never heard of before. Lovers of opposing families who wanted nothing more than to be together. She listened to him tell of the treachery they faced from their own households, and while she was surprised that he did not sing to her, she was still happy to hear this story.

I had been reading the original Romeo and Juliet, courtesy of Terra, to Leowynn when I noticed that she had fallen asleep. I considered singing to her like I had in the past, but felt like that wasn’t really suitable anymore. Although almost no time had passed for me, she was an adult now. Rather than singing her to sleep, I thought it more fitting to tell her tales of love and adventure.

Thus, for our following conversations, I had Terra prepare a pile of classic books and plays for me to read to her. Whether Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, even a few I myself had never read, I would read them to her after every conversation. Every now and then, she would ask me questions about the stories, like what certain things meant or how they worked, but for the most part she enjoyed listening to stories that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Of course, every now and then, I took a break from simply fast forwarding after one conversation to begin the next, so that I could practice my Ten Thousand Threads or check on the status of the other races. And this is how I came across another love story that I shared with Leowynn in the most unlikely of places.

Aki and Seppo lived high in the mountains, separated from the rest of the world. Leowynn closed her eyes as she listened to her father’s voice again, once more experiencing the stories that often seemed impossible. Although they were isolated, they had never once felt alone, for they always had each other. From a young age, they had been friends, fighting battles and sharing joy together.

When the two of them grew up, it was only natural that they developed feelings for each other. Aki, as a famous martial artist, and Seppo, a revered shrine maiden. The two seemed to live completely different lives on the surface, yet they were never far apart. When Seppo was destined to wed another, the two of them abandoned their families and fled together without a second thought.

“But… how could they simply leave their families like that?” Leowynn knit her brows together as she asked that. “Couldn’t they have resolved it differently?”

Maybe. But, their families were not the type that liked to compromise. Almost like Romeo and Juliet’s. Anyways, the two of them ran far, far away, setting up a life together where none could find them. Seppo always felt that she had done wrong, abandoning her temple and her family, but she never truly regretted it. Her leaving meant being able to share a life with her love.

As for Aki, he had little family to speak of, so his decision had been far easier. With their new life, they set up a small shrine atop the mountain, where Seppo continued her daily service. Aki became a farmer, tilling the land at the base of the mountain, climbing it day and night.

Even though there were no guests to visit her shrine, it was enough for Seppo. With her shrine, she was able to feel connected with the world, as if that was truly her place. Especially whenever she saw her beloved Aki waiting for her.

Yet, like with all stories, things were unable to proceed smoothly for Aki and Seppo. As Leowynn heard that, she felt her heart tense up. One long winter season, a blizzard ravaged the mountain on which they lived. Aki was trapped at the bottom, while Seppo felt the worst of it at the top.

Although Aki put all his might into scaling the snow-covered peak, the weather had slowed him down far too much. In his absence, his beloved Seppo had fallen gravely ill. The storm was still raging, so he could not carry her down to find her aid, yet there were no herbs which could heal his wife. It seemed he could do naught but watch the life fade from her.

Leowynn felt a small tear drop from her eyes as she heard that, her hands tightly clenching the blanket covering her. She wanted him to tell her that there was a happily ever after, that Aki had managed to save Seppo, but his next sentence killed that hope. In the end, he could do nothing but let her die in his arms. Although he knew that she was in intense pain, she had passed with a smile, for she had been with him at the very end.

Yet… that is not where this story ends. Rather, this is only the beginning. After passing, Seppo found herself watching Aki as a departed spirit. She saw that he had seemed to give up his normal routine, instead taking her job as the priest of the shrine. Only when food was low would he journey down the mountain to hunt, otherwise he sat in prayer.

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Seeing her love ache for her like this, Seppo could not sit idle. She appeared within Aki’s dreams, sharing with him the secrets of her temple. She taught him how to see those spirits which had yet to pass, and how to exorcise them so that they could move on. Originally, she had intended for him to use those skills on her, to truly move on from her death.

Yet, little did she expect, the next day when he saw her, a smile appeared on his lips. ‘My Seppo.’ He spoke gently to her. ‘I truly cannot bare to see you go again. Not after seeing you once more. I ask of you, will you spend eternity with me?’ Leowynn let out a small gasp when she heard that.

Seppo was… disappointed by his request. Not because he still loved her, but because he knew what he was asking. In the teachings, Seppo told him that a lingering spirit will begin to lose its reason if it does not pass on. ‘I cannot stay as the Seppo that you love, Aki. You know this.’

‘You can.’ He seemed so confident in his words, that Seppo could not help but listen. ‘I thought of a way, if you are willing to try. A way for a lingering spirit to live within a willing host, to be eternal partners in life and in death. So, my Seppo, will you spend eternity with me?’

For the first time since her death, Seppo could feel tears forming in her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to accept his offer. And only after hearing his explanation did she agree. Through his guidance, Seppo came to live within his body. Finally, Aki left the mountain, his beloved Seppo with him. They faced dangers together again, yet were able to overcome it through their combined powers. Seppo’s one regret in life was that she had never been able to return to her family, so Aki visited them… Happy that the story seemed to have a good outcome, Leowynn found herself slowly starting to drift off, even as her Father continued telling his story.

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