Finale - A Legacy Never to be Forgotten
I was swallowed by the light only to be spewed moments later onto a patch of hardened ground. The air was filled with the scent of sun-baked earth. Yet, for being the floor of some grandiose, heavenly estate inherited by those in the afterlife, it felt quite like the flagstones I had grown accustomed to in my past life.
Upon feeling around in my immediate surroundings, my searching hand found soft locks of disheveled hair. It seemed as though Sister Carnelia had come as well as I to meet our creator firsthand.
Gradually, as I lay there, I felt something warm swell within the pit of my stomach. Weary and spent I just let the feeling spread over me. It was at about this time that the sound of murmurous voices started to fill the air around us. Warm breath tickled across my nose and brow, letting me know that I was being stared at directly in the face.
As my eyes adjusted to the intensity of the light, I realized that I was looking into the face of a young girl who beamed back at me brightly with the widest of smiles. However, she seemed a bit young to hold the esteemed position of the Goddess.
The knell of a bell overhead rang out loud and clear. Strangely, it had sounded exactly like the cathedral's distinctive toll. Taking in this series of events to be rather odd, I picked myself up, and at last, awakened from the dream which had temporarily invaded my senses.
There it was, the familiar cityscape, the sounds, and even the scent of the breeze. I knew the place by heart. It was the public square of the Imperial city which unfolded before the great cathedral of the Septian Church.
I opened the fingers of my right hand and stared down at the metallic lump in its palm, entrusted to me by Micht. Golden filaments of light swirled across the surface of the artifact. I instantly recalled Sister Carnelia's words. 'It's alive,' she had said. And as I watched the ancient light gradually fade away before closing my hand around its surface once more, I believed it.
Supporting each other by wrapping our arms around one another's shoulders, Sister Carnelia and I hobbled and limped our way toward the magnificent cathedral as the awe-inspiring figure of the Goddess, Aidios, stood silently with unfurled wings, watching over us from the deep-hued stained-glass window above. And as for the events which followed, they were all settled in an orderly fashion.
The metallic lump which Sister Carnelia had so daringly risked her life for was turned over to His Eminence, the cardinal, who presided over the cathedral. He disappeared with it through the thick open door of a sacred vault.
The level of corruption which had spread like a plague among members of the Imperial court, influential aristocrats and even commissioned officers in the Imperial Army astonished even those mediators acting on behalf of the Bracer Guild.
I stayed close by Sister Carnelia as she was laid out on a pew within the chapel of the cathedral. The real sisters of the church delicately pulled off her coat and cut open her vest, now stuck to her body with dried blood. Upon doing so, they found an ornate shirt of chain mail just beneath the layer of her clothing, which for some strange reason seemed to bewilder them all.
The next day a certain aristocrat, who had hired the jaeger corps to carry out his selfish bidding, agreed to relinquish the artifacts in his possession in return for keeping his estate. Hence, his collection of forbidden antiques were brought under the safekeeping of the Septian Church.
Sworn to secrecy, I made immediate arrangements to take leave for the Calvard Republic. My destination: a high-class resort, which turned out to be an excellent way to recover physically and mentally, as well as forget about the series of events which had occurred over the past few days. Naturally, the bracers assigned to provide my escort were none other than Clayton and Pavel, who before we left, guided me without a word to where Sister Carnelia was resting.
I talked with Sister Carnelia, who had awoken for a short interval, but as I got up to leave she reached out her dainty hand and said to me, 'Before you go, I want to tell you my real name. It's Ein. Ein Selnate.' I took her unblemished hand in mine and gripped it firmly as I expressed my appreciation for what she had done.
And today, now three years later -- I stood staring at her name once again, but this time, printed on a page of the Imperial Chronicle.
Below those printed characters ran the few lines of an unembellished article.
'Yesterday, a corpse was discovered in an urban area of the capital just before dawn. The body was found to be covered with multiple stab wounds. -- The departed, in life, had been involved in charitable work and brought salvation to many afflicted souls in various regions throughout the land.'
As I read the last line, I envisioned the deceased figure of Sister Carnelia lying motionless upon a darkened street. Yet, despite the blood-stained face I envisioned in my mind, I saw her as she rested in peace, a gentle smile crossing her face, and vindicated of any transgressions in life.
As I rolled up the copy of the magazine in hand, I brushed my hand lightly across the shining bracer emblem pinned on my chest. Almost two years had passed since I converted to my new line of work, which Sister Carnelia had so graciously recommended to me. And finally, I had even become used to using my real name.
'Toby,' came the whisper of Sister Carnelia as it resurrected in my ears.
Now only known as Toby, I pressed my forehead up against the cold, clouded window of the passenger car, the refulgent eyes of Sister Carnelia shining brightly like a carnelian stone, forever ingrained in my memory. In my mind's eye I watched as her coat sleeves trailed out behind her and she dashed away into the darkness of my memories.
Opening my eyes, I gazed out through the window glass. And there, I saw the bleeding rouge-colored illumination of the Imperial City, as it faded away beneath the heavy white fog.
帝 国 時 報》・Ⅱ
Continue Reading Carnelia
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