“Ninomae Ina’nis,” Kronii’s grave tone brook no argument, her piercing gaze sharpened into a glare that could shatter the strongest of stones, “You’re hereby sentence to imprisonment for allowing the Ancient Ones to unleash havoc upon the world.”
“Your sentence is indefinite.” Fauna’s voice was but a whisper, her expression darkened by clouded eyes, “We cannot allow another chance for the Ancient Ones to be freed – to destroy all life on this planet.”
“I’m sorry,” Sana’s downtrodden gaze was impossible to see, hidden by her bangs, “But it must be done.”
Ina looked at the assembled council, standing before them in chains. The five women looking at her with expressions ranging from barely restrained disgust to open sympathy, and she bowed her head.
“If that is the will of the council, then I will gladly serve my sentence.”
She was being escorted deep into the Earth. She didn’t know where, the blindfold over her eyes prevented that, but she could feel the air turning cool and damp, and the steady decline she was walking on never seemed to stop. There were several turns, some muted whispers as the servants of the council opened numerous passageways deeper into the earth, and she just allowed it all to happen. She could have possibly escaped, used the Ancient Ones powers to overpower everyone, but she didn’t. She knew what she did was wrong.
She allowed the Ancient Ones to control her, even if it was only for a brief few hours. She still caused untold amounts of destruction, hurt countless people, destroyed hundreds, perhaps thousands of homes, and left a path of destruction that was rife with corruption. The land would take decades, perhaps even centuries to be cleansed, and even then, she didn’t know if the land would ever be fertile enough to host more than a couple weeds.
Her friends had all opposed her imprisonment. She could still hear Amelia’s outraged screams when she realized what was happening. Gura’s disbelief was palpable, her tears made Ina’s heart tremble at the mere sight. Kiara’s eyes wide in shock, her mouth mutely trying to form any coherent sentence. Calli meanwhile just glared – not at her – but pass her shoulder into the council chamber, towards the ones who imprisoned her.
“They can’t do that to you!” Amelia cried, “I won’t let them!”
“Amelia,” Ina said, trying to be as soothing as possible, “It’s ok.”
Her efforts to be soothing were a wasted effort, and she flinched back when Amelia’s head reared towards her, her teeth bared into a snarl, “How can you say that! Ina – they want to – they want to lock you up! Forever! That’s not right!”
“I’m fine with that,” Ina replied gently. The two guards on either side of her gripping her shoulders tightly, and she was acutely aware of the chains still binding her hands together, “It has to be done.”
“I can prevent this…” Amelia muttered, putting out her watch, “I can –”
“Amelia.” Calli’s voice pierced through Amelia’s low growls like a gunshot, “Kronii won’t allow you to do that.”
“So what?!” Amelia’s ire turned to Calli, “We should just let this happen?”
“Amelia,” Ina whispered, “Stop it, please.”
Amelia anger dimmed, and she turned back to Ina, “But… Ina…”
“Ina…” Gura’s voice wavered, “Are you – are you really going to be gone forever?”
Ina shook her head, “You can visit.” She tried to smile, to be reassuring, but her heart broke more with each tear that dripped down Gura’s face, “It’ll be just like old times.”
“It won’t,” Gura sniffled, and she took a few hesitant steps forward. The guards on either side of her tensed, but they didn’t do anything as Gura hugged her, which Ina was thankful for. “I’m going to miss you…”
“You’ll be ok,” Ina whispered, her voice hoarse as her throat started to choke up, “It’ll all be ok.”
Kiara let out a shaky breath of air, “You’re… Ok with this, Ina?”
“Yes.” She replied. Each word was difficult, her throat felt so raw, she wanted to cry feeling Gura’s trembling form holding her, “I don’t know if I can maintain control of the Ancient Ones. This is – this is for the best.”
Kiara didn’t look happy – none of her friends did. Amelia’s indignant anger was wavering quickly, and her eyes had a shiny sheen that Ina recognized easily enough. Before any tears were shed, the detective pulled down her hat, “This isn’t right…” Amelia muttered, her voice but a mere whisper.
Ina basked in their hold, all four of them leaning over to hug her tightly. She tried to ignore the tears and subdued sobs, and forced a smile as they parted. She wanted to start bawling herself, but she wouldn’t allow it – she wouldn’t let this memory be poisoned by her cries and whimpers, muttering about unjust fates and consequences. This had to be done – she knew it had to be done, but it would take quite a while for her to make her peace with that.
Leaving her friends behind as she was escorted to her prison was one of the hardest things she’d ever done in her life, and she didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the last time she’d ever be with them all together in her life.
She was brought out of contemplations as she heard the sound of stone grinding on stone, and large chains being moved. After at least a minute of the noises, they stopped, and she was accosted by an almost deafening silence. Before she had but a moment to confront the lack of sounds, she was forced to move forward again, and then her blindfold was finally removed.
She’d been blindfolded for so long that it took a moment for her vision to adjust. As her sight slowly returned, she could see that she was forced into a room, and the surrounding walls were rough rock, encircling the entire room except for a massive stone door behind her. The walls were covered in dozens, perhaps hundreds of paper seals, each one was dimly glowing. The ground was smoothed out like marble, and there were no definable features in the room except for a single moss-covered boulder in the center, with just a glimmer of sunlight shining down on it. Looking up, she could see a small crack in the ceiling where the sunlight was shining in from, but it looked like it was a mile away, impossibly far to reach.
The seals prevented her from using her powers, and she could feel the influence of the Ancient Ones become weaker just by standing in the room. The chains binding her arms was loosened, and she scratched at her raw arms, red from the constant rubbing of the chains. She turned to the two guards who had escorted her, and noticed there were a half dozen more behind them, all of whom were armed, ready to attack her if she so much as made an attempt to flee.
“Thank you,” She whispered.
The two guards escorting her didn’t respond, other than the slowly back away. Once they were far enough away, she could see some of the ones in the back performing quick hand movements – some sort of magics she didn’t understand, and the wall behind her started to lower, the rocks grinding heavily against one another as it closed.
And then she was alone.
She looked around her prison – her new abode for the rest of her life – and she walked forth. She ran her hand against the mossy stone before her, and took a seat. She crossed her legs, and just closed her eyes, accepting her fate.
“You wouldn’t believe the bureaucratic nightmare it is to get in here.” Amelia complained, kicking her feet, pacing angrily back and forth. “Only one of us can see you at a time, and then I have to have an entire entourage of these dipshits follow me here!”
Ina watched Amelia with a bemused smile, absently wondering how long it’d take Amelia to create a groove in the ground. Said entourage were hidden behind the closed rock wall, undoubtedly monitoring them through some means.
“Oh – hm?” Ina shook her head, having been lost in her thoughts, “Yes?”
“You – you aren’t listening, are you?” She let out a sigh, taking off her hat and running a hand through her ragged hair.
“I was!” She insisted, “But you just started repeating yourself.”
Amelia drew herself up, and when she put her hat back on, she walked over to the rock Ina was seated on, and sat down beside her. “Well, I guess there’s no use complaining now, I guess. How about we play a game?” She smiled as she reached into her coat pocket, and pulled out a deck of cards.
Ina liked meditation and the quiet, but she wouldn’t say no to that, not when she could see how hard Amelia was trying to make her feel better.
“Of course,” Ina replied pleasantly, scooting over so there was a little space between them, “I’ve just been meditating these last few days, so this will be a nice change of pace.”
Amelia paused momentarily, and she looked up, her gaze unexpectedly sharp.
Ina tilted her head, “Did I say something wrong?”
Amelia shook her head, “No – nothing, just… Had a thought, is all.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of that, but Amelia’s odd behavior was quickly shoved to the back of her mind as they began to play a round of Uno together.
All of her friends visited fairly often, so the intense isolation and loneliness of her prison never really got to her that badly. Unfortunately, the days between visits seemed to grow longer as the weeks began to pass, and instead of the nigh-daily visits, it turned to every few days. After that, it became weekly visits, and now the length seemed to be growing even more. She wasn’t distressed though, a part of her felt happy that her friends were accepting her fate, and learning to move on.
As she sat with Calli a few months into her indefinite sentence, she muttered, “It’s been a few weeks since anyone has visited.”
Calli finished playing the last few notes on the guitar she’d brought along. She was absolutely abysmal with it, but Ina didn’t particularly care, it was just nice to have someone around, really. The reaper set it aside, gently sitting it on the mossy rock.
“Is that so?” Calli asked.
“Mhm,” Ina nodded serenely. Even though she was locked up, there was something peaceful about her prison. She didn’t know if it was the seals preventing the Ancient Ones from touching her mind, or if she just preferred the absolute silence, but she was coming to view it as more of a sanctuary than anything else.
“How long has it been now?” Calli asked wistfully.
“Hmm, four months, I think?” Ina mumbled, looking up in thought, “It has been a while though.”
“Feels like years since we’ve last seen you.” Calli sighed, leaning into Ina’s side.
Her lips turned up – trust Calli to be so dramatic, “I’m sure.”
There was a little silence where nothing was said, and Ina just relished their companionship. She closed her eyes, just focusing on her breathing, feeling the reaper’s cool touch against her shoulder.
“How has everyone been?” She finally asked after the silence stretched a little longer.
“Good,” Calli replied softly.
Ina tilted her head, looking at Calli from the corner of her eye, “Just good?”
Calli let out a little huff, “Yeah, we’re all doing ok.”
“Come on Calli, details.” Her melodious laugher filled the room, and brought a fragile smile to Calli’s lips.
“Well…” Calli paused another moment, and before Ina could even give her a playful little shove, she let out a little laugh, “Well, Amelia and Gura finally got together.”
Ina let out a little gasp, “What – really? Which one got a clue first?”
Calli barked out in laughter, “Now that’s a story! Now get this!”
As Calli went on her explanation, Ina’s smile grew wider and wider. She’d been afraid that her friends would be stuck on her imprisonment for quite a while, and she was worried that they wouldn’t live their own lives in the meantime. It seemed her fears had been unfounded, and while a small part of her was sad that they seemed to have moved on so quickly, the much larger part of her was thankful that they did. They could pursue their dreams, and – in this case – fall in love.
Calli went on, talking about Atlantean proposals and Amelia’s panicking, and explaining how Kiara was so ecstatic for them.
She was content with how things were. If her imprisonment here was the cost of maintaining her friend’s happiness and the prolonged survival of the Earth, then it was more than worth it.
It was a price she was willing to pay, and continue paying for all of eternity.
Ina snapped out of her mediative state when she felt a tap on her shoulder, and she blinked her eyes a few times before her vision fully returned. She hadn’t even heard the door to the prison opening, since she was so deep in her trance. Every once in a while, she’d just sit on her mossy rock and meditate. When there was little else to do, it was an easy way to pass the time, and the introspection helped make the silence of the prison feel a little less lonely. Sometimes she’d think of past memories, and others she’d just try to actually clear her mind like she was supposed to.
She pushed those thoughts aside though when she realized it had been Amelia to tap her shoulder. “Ame!” She cried happily, uncrossing her legs and jumping to her feet so she could hug her friend.
“Hey, Ina!” Amelia replied happily, letting out a soft ‘oof’ as Ina collided with her, “I’m glad to see you too!”
Ina parted, her smile wide and impossible to feign, “I’m glad to see you again!”
“Yeah,” Amelia nodded, “me too.”
Ina actually took in the woman before her, and she felt worry rush through her, “Ame? Are you ok? You look a little, uhm…” She didn’t want to be rude, of course, but her friend was looking pretty haggard. She held Amelia’s hands, looking closer and worriedly.
Amelia’s coat looked a little frayed, as if it had been put through quite a bit of use recently and was starting to fall apart at the seams. She noticed several lines on her face were much more prominent, lines that once were faint and faded were much deeper. There were some bags under her eyes, and she looked like she hadn’t slept a single night in quite a while. Even her hands looked a bit more ragged, with callouses that Ina wasn’t familiar with adorning her fingers.
“Wow, Ina,” Amelia’s resulting grin was wide, and it made the lines on her face much more noticeable, but even then, it seemed to erase much of the fatigued look all the same, “What exactly are you saying? I don’t look that bad, do I?”
“Not bad!” Ina exclaimed quickly, hoping that Amelia hadn’t taken offense, “Just… Tired?”
Amelia’s laughter was loud, but clearly joyful. Most of Ina’s worries eased further upon hearing it, and they melted even further away when Amelia’s eyes were crinkled upward, her grin impossible to miss, “Well, I am really tired, yeah.” She chuckled, letting go of Ina’s hands and settling down beside her, “I’ve just been having some trouble with some kids, is all.”
“In one of your time jumps?” Ina hazard a guess, scooting over a little so Amelia could settle down a little easier.
“Hm, I wonder.” Amelia tapped her chin, the mischievous gleam in her eyes was evident, and her blue eyes seemed so much brighter, and so much fuller of life than the last time she’d visited. She didn’t know what it was, but she was thankful that Amelia finally seemed to stop ranting and raving about the politics of her imprisonment, or trying to scheme up ways to help her escape. She was so happy she finally seemed to be moving on.
“It’s a mystery, I guess?” Ina asked, unable to stop chuckling, Amelia’s exuberance was infectious.
“Something like that,” Amelia agreed amicably.
Ina’s eyes went lower when she saw a shine, and she noticed a weird medallion hanging around Amelia’s neck, swinging gently from side to side. She tilted her head, feeling some sort of weird power coming from it, but the magics was wholly unfamiliar to her, and oddly enough, it wasn’t being dampened by the seals surrounding the room.
“Oh? See something you like?”
Ina sputtered, “What – no, I was just wondering, when did you get that?”
Amelia held the Medallion up for them both to look at, holding it gently in her hand. It wasn’t too large; it was easily able to fit in Amelia’s palm with little issues. It was almost completely gold, but there were ripples in the metal that when viewed from different angles made it look like they were actually moving like waves. Additionally at the bottom was written a short sentence: Amor meus semper vobiscum.
“Gura gave it to me,” Amelia replied, looking down at it with a lighter smile now, her eyes softening as her fingers gently traced along the waves.
Ina felt giddy, and she couldn’t stop a smile crossing her lips, “When she proposed?”
Amelia let out a little laugh, “Not then, no.”
“Then when! You can’t just not tell me!” Ina exclaimed, “And I can feel magic coming from it too!”
“You can?” Amelia asked with a raised brow, “Huh. It’s supposedly to make me look younger and beautiful, how did it work?”
Ina tittered, “Well, considering my reaction to when I first saw you…”
“Wow, rude.” Amelia rolled her eyes, and she gave Ina a light shove, “Jerk.”
Ina chuckled, “Well you’re the one not telling me when it was given to you! Come on, I’m dying to know more about you and Gura!”
Amelia laughed, “holding back compliments from me to gain information? Tsk, tsk, Ina.”
Ina waited patiently for Amelia to stop laughing, and they just sat in companionable silence for a few more seconds. Amelia seemed fine busying herself with looking around the room, while Ina just stared expectantly at her. It took almost a minute before Amelia finally gave in and looked at her, and Ina felt a small amount of smug satisfaction as she sang out, “Well~?”
“Oh, fine, you win, Ina.”
Another long silence.
“Oh, sorry, I meant I’ll tell you later.” She jumped to her feet, “So what do you do for fun around here anyway? Don’t tell me you just meditate all day?”
Ina let out a huff, knowing that it would be impossible to get more out of her now, and she indulged Amelia, allowing her to change the topic. She’d get the story about that medallion from her one of these days, but for now she jumped to her feet, and cringed as she realized that both of her legs were numb from sitting on them so long.
She just laughed as Amelia rushed to her side.
Ina stared up at the sunlight shining down upon her prison. A moment passed, and she closed her eyes, just basking in the warmth of the rays, her shoulders hunched downward, and a soft breath of air left her lips. It was days like this when she didn’t feel like meditating or moving much that were the worst. These were the days that she could feel the weakened link to the Ancient Ones the strongest, and could hear their whispers telling her to escape, to free them so they could kill those who locked her up in here. It had already been a year since her imprisonment, but she still found her conviction strong, and she’d never give in to their whispers.
She ignored them, as she always did. She knew it was important that they never gained control, and as a result, she knew it was best she stayed there.
Her head snapped over to the door as she heard the sound of rocks grinding together, and a cloud of dust kicked up and obscured her view for a moment as she spotted the form of someone walking into her cell. She squinted her eyes, frowning slightly as she tried to see through the dust, until it finally settled down, and she could see a figure standing there, looking at her with shining blue eyes and a familiar smile on her face.
“Amelia!” Ina exclaimed.
“Hey, Ina.” Amelia lifted an arm to wave, and Ina noticed immediately how slow the movement was. She frowned as Amelia walked forward, and saw how her once spry and bouncy movements were now a shuffling gait. Her coat looked even more ragged than before, and her face was even more haggard.
“Are you hurt?” Ina asked, walking over quickly.
Amelia chuckled, it was a low and trembling thing, “Hurt? Not at all.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Ina muttered, “Why are you here – you should be at home lying down!”
Amelia’s smile never left her face, but she did reach over and gently pet Ina’s head, her fingers going through the strands of her hair, and Ina could feel a slight tremor in her hand, filling her heart with even more worry.
“Don’t worry, Gura and the others are waiting for me up above.” Amelia replied, “Trust me – they haven’t left my side for the last few weeks.” She let out another trembling laugh, which quickly converted into a cough.
“I’m glad you’re visiting,” Ina gently patted Amelia’s back as she coughed, “But I don’t want you to hurt yourself to be here.”
“Oh hush,” Amelia gently swatted Ina’s forehead after her little coughing fit, and she made her way over to the mossy rock, Ina fretting by her side the entire time. “It’s true that I’m a little tired, but I wanted to come visit you again.”
“It could surely wait.” Ina insisted, settling down next to Amelia once the time traveler was comfortably sitting.
“It probably couldn’t,” Amelia shook her head, her eyes staring dead ahead at the closed door. She licked her lips, and let out a soft sigh, “This will probably be the last time I see you for… for a very long time.”
“What?” Ina was sure her heart stopped for a brief second. Her breath hitched, but she forced herself to calm down. It was a privilege that her friends were still able to visit, so if one of them wanted to stop coming, then she had no right to complain. Still, she couldn’t help but meekly muttered, “Why?”
“There’s a journey I’m going to be heading on soon.” Amelia replied. Before Ina could even process what she said, she felt Amelia slap her back lightly, “Don’t be sad, Ina! We’ll meet again one day, I’m sure of it!”
“Are you going to be time traveling again?” Ina asked.
Amelia seemed surprised by the question, and she reached down to her coat pocket, and pulled out the familiar watch, “Yes.” She mumbled, her words were oddly quiet, “It’s what I’m made for, after all. There are still so many different timelines to visit, and so many different things to see.”
Ina looked away and let out a half-hearted chuckle, “I see.”
“Ina. Look at me for a moment?”
She turned her head back towards Amelia, and blinked in surprise when she felt a weight press down atop her head. She reached up and touched the hat placed there by Amelia. Unlike her coat, Amelia’s hat was still in fairly good condition. She saw Amelia’s smile widen, “Hm. Looks good on you.”
“What’s this for?” Ina asked, scratching at the side of the hat curiously.
“Something to remember me by.” Amelia replied happily, “This way I’ll always be with you. I won’t be here in person, but I will always be with you in spirit.”
“Ame…” Ina muttered, her lips trembled, “I’ll miss you.”
The detective leaned over and wrapped her arms around the priestess, holding her tightly. Ina could feel Amelia’s tremors and shakes, some of it was definitely from whatever injuries she sustained, but she also knew a lot of it was from her emotions, “I’ll miss you too Ina.” Amelia buried her head in her shoulder, “We’ve all missed you so much. Even though you’ve been missing from our lives, we all still love you and will always remember you.”
“Thank you,” Ina mumbled.
They went to move away from one another, but Amelia planted a soft kiss on her cheek before she leaned back. “Hm… By the way, this medallion?” She lifted it up.
Ina’s eyes were drawn to it, she hadn’t even noticed it hanging around her neck until now, “Yeah?”
“Gura gave it to me at our wedding.”
Ina let out a little gasp, “Wedding – wait, you two got married?!”
Amelia just smiled, and kept smiling even as Ina began grilling her about wedding details. The detective had a nostalgic smile on her face as she patiently answered every question, which must have taken several hours, but soon enough the single ray of sunlight began to dim, and Ina knew that it almost time for Amelia to leave.
It was with a heavy heart that she watched her friend stand and stretch, and then turn to face her. The smile was still present, but it had lessened, “I guess this is it.” She muttered, shaking slightly as she had been the entire time, “I’m going to go back to Gura and the others, and relax a bit before I go on my little trip.”
Ina nodded, “Please do, and make sure to spend a lot of time with Gura if you’re going to be gone for a long time.”
“Oh, trust me, I will.” Amelia chuckled wryly, “And Ina…” She hugged her again, “Make sure to take care of yourself, and if Gura visits you, could you make sure to comfort her if she needs it?”
“I’ll take care,” Ina nodded, holding her tightly, “And I’ll take care of Gura too. I’ll do whatever I can from in here.”
Amelia patted her back as they parted one last time. “Goodbye, Ina.”
Ina watched as she walked away, and she reached up to grab the hat, clutching it tightly in her hands.
“Goodbye, Amelia.” She whispered as the gate opened up, and she watched as Amelia stepped forward, and then their eyes met for but a second as the gate slowly ground close behind her.
And that was the last time Ina ever saw Amelia H. Watson, ace detective and time traveler.
Gura was very quiet, and Ina wasn’t sure what to do. It was only a few weeks after Amelia went on her journey, so she had a good idea why Gura was just standing there with her head down. She’d been doing it for several minutes now, having offered only a small little ‘hello’ when she walked in. After that, Gura would twitch, and there’d be a small intake of breath every now and then, but no words were spoken.
Ina spared a glance to the rock beside her, where the beam of sunlight was shimmering down upon an array of plants. She had no idea why they started to grow there, especially since she had no seeds, but she certainly didn’t mind the opportunity to occupy her time with something else. In the middle of the small array of flowers, a large stalk grew, far above all of the other plants, blooming into a golden sunflower, its presence seemed to brighten the very room, and at times Ina would just stare at it for hours.
It was a gentle reminder of her dear friend, and as a tribute, she’d placed Amelia’s gift right at the base of the sunflower. Since it seemed to have grown so quickly, she wondered if Amelia was actually with her in spirit here, while traveling through the timelines. It was a comforting thought, and one she relished in as she sat alone. She reached over and gently ran her finger along the cap’s edge, feeling the material, memories playing in her mind.
“When did that start growing?” Gura asked, startling Ina out of her thoughts.
Ina gathered herself, and looked over with a small smile, “Soon after Amelia left. It has only been two – maybe three weeks, and it is already grown to this size.”
She didn’t miss the grimace that passed Gura’s face, the way her lips pursed and she looked down with squinted eyes, but the expression was gone quickly, “I see.” She mumbled, taking a few steps over. She gingerly touched the hat, and there was a sudden intake of breath.
She was silent, her eyes glued to the hat. As she leaned down to touch it again, Ina couldn’t help but notice that around Gura’s neck was a watch – upon closer inspection, it looked awfully similar to Amelia’s, and she just sadly smiled.
“I miss her too,” She spoke softly, watching the dangling watch.
Gura froze, and then her hand immediately darted to the watch, “Ah – r – right.”
“Do you want to sit down with me?” Ina asked. There was still plenty of room on the rock, and the moss was pretty soft, “We can talk.”
Gura took a deep breath, and seemed to visibly gather herself. Her watered eyes, dried up, her shoulders were less tense, and she took Ina up on her offer to sit down. Her eyes still looked over every once in a while to the large sunflower.
“How have you been?” Ina asked, when she settled in.
“Ok,” Gura replied, “Just… A lot has happened.”
“It’s hard… With her gone.” Gura admitted, her voice cracked again, “I miss her.”
“Amelia promised that we’d meet again – this isn’t the end.” Ina tried to console her dear friend, placing her hand on Gura’s shoulder and gently rubbing it, soothing over it, “It has only been a few weeks, give it some time, and I’m sure you two will be together and happy again!”
If anything, Gura looked closer to crying now, her teeth were digging into her bottom lip, but she still nodded her head. Her eyes looked over to the hat again, “D – Did Amelia leave that for you?”
Ina smiled, “Yeah, before she left, she told me to keep it. Says it looks good on me…” She giggled, “I don’t know if that’s true, but I appreciated the gesture if nothing else.”
Gura hummed, her fingers toying with the watch.
“Is that a replica?” Ina asked, “I know Amelia needs the watch to time travel or to go to other time lines.”
Gura’s expression was unreadable for a long moment, and then her lips drew back into a smile. It didn’t quite reach her eyes, and that worried Ina, but before she could ask about that, Gura spoke again.
“Yeah. We went shopping together before she left, and… She gave this to me. To remember her by.” She clicked a button on the side of the watch, and it popped open, the insides look remarkably similar to Amelia’s watch, except on the other side was a photo that was planted in it. She could see both Amelia and Gura, wide smiles on their faces, looking like they just simply belonged to one another. It was a wonderful photograph, and Ina couldn’t help but match the smiles in the photo.
“So, she left both of us things to remember her,” Ina whispered, “So we don’t forget her. Joke’s on her though, I doubt I’ll ever forget her.”
“Me too.” Gura agreed, her eyes glued to the photo still, “I’ll never forget her either.”
Ina leaned gently against her companion, closing her eyes and just enjoying her presence, but she felt the woman begin to shudder. “Gura?”
“I – I’ll miss her,” She mumbled, a fat tear landing on her photo before she managed to close the watch again, “I miss her so much already…”
“Gura…” Ina forewent simple touches, and just held her tight, pressing her cheek against her shoulder as she pulled her in, “It’ll be ok.”
“Will it?” Gura asked, a tint of uncertainty in her voice as she held Ina close.
“It will.” Ina replied, “I promise.”
“Ina…” Kiara’s words were hesitant, like she was afraid of something.
“Hm?” Ina looked up from tending to the flowers. Gura had shown her a few tricks, so to speak, and what to look out for. It seemed the Atlantean was rather fond of plants, funny enough, considering she lived under the ocean for so much of her life. Her attention was again drawn to Kiara though as the phoenix let out a little sigh, “What’s wrong, Kiara?”
“I think…” Kiara began, but she closed her mouth again, her eyes darting away from Ina. A little intake of breath later and she mumbled, “I should…”
“You should what?” Ina asked, curiously with a tilt of her head.
Their eyes locked, and Ina passively watched as a war of thoughts was waged in Kiara’s mind. It was often said that people’s eyes were a window to their soul, and Ina could see the conflict within them.
“Nothing,” Kiara finally muttered, “It’s – It’s nothing.”
Ina wasn’t convinced, but didn’t push. Kiara would talk in her own time, or hopefully confer with her friends outside of the prison, “Ok.” She replied easily, her attention returning to her work.
A moment later, Kiara started helping her, and the conversation turned to easier topics. Things that Ina was more than happy to indulge in for the time being.
It had been several years now since she’d been locked away. With the plants growing on her rock, the room truly was becoming more of a sanctuary now. The sunflower was still there, having never withered, and she still had Amelia’s hat, taking immaculate care of it, making sure it was clean of any dust or dirt as a matter of routine now. Her friends still visited, Calli most often, but Kiara and Gura still showed up every once in a while.
The length of time between their visits was beginning to grow even longer, but she was at peace with that now. She was happy they seemed to have moved on and were living their own lives. Where once she had some doubt or reservations regarding that, she now felt no sorrow. Locked away as she was, she was no threat to her friends, and they could continue living without the fear that she would lose control of the Ancient Ones again. The entire planet would be fine without her, and she hoped her friends were aware of that.
She heard the noise of rocks grinding together one day, and knew it meant one of her friends were visiting. Though she satisfied with them having moved on, it didn’t mean she didn’t want to see them.
“Hello,” She called, turning away from tending to Amelia’s hat, and saw Gura standing there.
“Hello.” Gura replied, giving a short little wave. She no longer wore her blue hoodie that Ina found so cute and familiar – she’d stopped wearing that some time ago now. Instead, she seemed to have fully adapted to human society, and wore a shirt and some jeans, a hole cut out for her tail of course. More prominently though, Ina caught sight of a medallion hanging around her neck, instead of the watch she’d often been seeing Gura wear.
“It’s good to see you,” Ina walked over, noticing Gura’s steps were short, and each step seemed to take the girl several seconds to achieve. She frowned worriedly even as she hugged her, “Are you ok?”
Gura chuckled, it was low, and Ina could feel her rumbling through her hold, “I’m fine, Ina. You mind helping me over to have a seat?”
“Of course,” Ina replied. As they walked the small length to the mossy rock Ina spent most of her time on, she looked back to the medallion, “What’s that?”
“Hm?” Gura noticed her gaze, and she slowly looked down, before a shaking hand reach up and grabbed the medallion, “I suppose it has been a while for you, hasn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Ina asked, staring at the medallion again.
It was a gold medallion that easily fit in Gura’s palm, and as the sunlight shimmered on its surface, there were grooves in it that resembled waves… Her eyes darted to the bottom, reading familiar words: Amor meus semper vobiscum.
“That’s the medallion you gave to Amelia at your wedding, isn’t it?” Ina replied, staring at it, her heart was heavy with worry, “Wait – why do you have it?”
“Amelia gave it to me.” Gura replied, “A while ago now, before – before she left.”
“Oh,” Ina frowned, “Why are you wearing it now? And what happened to the watch?”
“Let me sit down first,” Gura said, and Ina helped her sit down, worried at how odd she was acting. “There we go,” Gura sighed, stretched her legs out, her tail spayed out behind her, the tip of which touched the base of the sunflower.
“You’re ok, right? You’re not just trying to make me feel better?”
“Ina, dear,” Gura laughed, “Please. It’s ok, I’m just getting older is all.”
“If you say so,” Ina muttered. Gura seemed to be in high spirits, so she supposed she shouldn’t worry too much.
“My legs just hurt a little is all. You try stand up for thousands and years and see how well your bones hold up, eh?”
Ina chuckled, “Ok, ok, I believe you.”
“You’ve better,” Gura mumbled, but it was all in jest, there was a pleasant smile on her lips, and her eyes shined in the light.
Ina just stared at her for a long moment, but then her attention snapped down, where Gura’s hand was reaching down and into her pocket, “Oh – right, the watch.”
“What about it?” Ina asked, watching Gura dig in her pocket for a moment, before she pulled out the watch. It shined brightly in the sunlight – it had clearly been cleaned and polished. It would have looked absolutely flawless if not for stickers of sharks plastered on it. One of the stickers were peeling at the edge, and Gura went to smooth it out. Seeing the stickers was just so Gura that Ina couldn’t help but chuckle seeing her mess around with it. “Added a few flairs of your own?” Ina asked over her giggles.
“My, hm, friend’s grandkids picked the stickers out.” She chuckled, staring down at the watch with a loving gaze, and then she held it out, the golden chain slipping from her grasp, and dangling between them.
“Huh?” Ina tilted her head, “What are you doing?”
“I want you to have it.” Gura replied, that gentle smile never leaving her lips, her eyes were filled with kindness and love.
“What – no! I couldn’t take it from you!” Ina exclaimed, “It’s yours!”
“It’s mine,” Gura agreed affable, “But now it’s yours, because I’m giving it to you.”
“I couldn’t – didn’t Amelia get that for you? It’s important!”
“It is,” Gura agreed again, still smiling, still so kind and gentle, “It’s very important, and I want you to have it.” Ina was ready to argue again, but didn’t expect Gura to reach out and grab her hand. “Please, Ina?”
“To remember me by.” Gura replied, “To remember Amelia by, to remember all of us.” She gently pulled Ina’s hand forward, and settled the watch down in it. Ina didn’t dare speak, this felt like a sacred moment. She couldn’t even decipher why, but she felt compelled to listen to Gura, to hold the watch tightly in her hands.
She looked down at the watch, and noticed immediately how warm it felt. She couldn’t hear anything ticking, however, but before she could vocalize her thoughts, Gura spoke.
“It stopped working the day Amelia left.” Gura replied, noticing her confusion, “It hasn’t worked as long as I have been coming in here with it.”
“A memento, then.” Ina concluded.
“Yes. Now open it up.”
Looking back to the pocket watch, Ina clicked the side so it would flip open, and she saw a photo plastered to the backside of the flap. The photograph was small, but it was easy to recognize herself and her friends all gathered together. She couldn’t make out the background or anything, so she didn’t know exactly when or where it was taken, but they must have gotten some random person to take it, because they were all in the photo smiling, and it looked like they were all barely holding it together, about to burst out laughing at any moment.
“Gura…” Ina whispered, feeling her eyes water as a wave of nostalgia and longing passed through her. She wished she could go back to those days, back when she was free to be with her friends and out exploring the world and just having fun. She’d almost forgotten it entirely, being locked away so long.
“Figured you’d like that. A little something to look back on, a nice and happy memory.” Gura replied.
“Thank you.” Ina mumbled. She felt Gura hug her, and she wanted so badly to hug her back, but her arms were frozen, holding onto the watch, memories flashing in her mind. “Thank you so much,” she mumbled into Gura’s shoulder as she was pulled forward.
“You’re welcome,” Gura whispered to her.
“I wish we could go back to that,” Ina whimpered. It was a betrayal to her earlier thoughts, but her heart yearned so heavily for it, she would love so dearly to go back to those carefree days, where she didn’t have to be locked away, worried that the ancient forces that possessed her book would take over.
“It’s ok, Ina.” Gura replied, gently running her hand through her hair, “Everything will be all right.”
Ina believed her. It was the absolute certainty in how she said it. Despite how much Gura’s body seemed to tremble as she held her, and despite how impossible it was for Gura to truly believe such a thing, she knew it was true. The Atlantean planted a soft kiss on her forehead, and they just stayed like that together the rest of the time, whispering about old times, and trying desperately to reassure one another.
She could barely see through her tears as Gura left several hours later.
“Goodbye, Ina.” Gura whispered just as the door closed, blocking Ina off from her friends once more.
Gura’s visits had stopped completely, she wasn’t sure what prompted it, but Ina didn’t truly mind. The gift that was given last time was still close to her heart, and she was happy that Gura moved on. She didn’t know at the time that the visit would be the end of the Atlantean being in her life, but she was happy with the friendship as it was, and the memories it provided. Not to mention, the stopwatch was now nestled within the hat Amelia had left her years ago, and seemingly as if called by Gura’s last visit, light blue hydrangeas were growing among the other plants on the rock.
Calli was the only one who ever visited anymore, really. It had been well over a year since Kiara visited last, the last time being maybe a month or two after Gura’s last visit. Again, she was happy that the phoenix found happiness in life and was able to move on. It did make her concerned for Calli, however, and her seeming inability to let her go and forget about her.
“I won’t leave you,” Calli replied the moment Ina’s concerns left her lips, “I’ll never leave you.”
“But the others –”
“They still love you,” Calli assured her, “They remember you and want to meet you again so badly.”
“Really?” Ina asked hollowly, “Then why…?”
Calli sighed, running her fingers through one of the blooming hydrangeas, rubbing the petals between her fingers. The seconds passed, turning into a full minute before the reaper seemed to find the proper words, “Life happened.” Calli replied, “They all had responsibilities that demanded their attention, some of which were completely out of their control.”
“Oh…” Ina was curious to know what exactly kept them from visiting, but didn’t want to vocalize it, fearful that it would sound needy.
“Just trust me – they all love you, and miss you dearly.” Calli smiled lightly, turning towards her and grabbing one of her hands so softly. Calli’s hands were ice cold, but Ina didn’t mind, it was a sensation she very rarely felt anymore. “For now, I will be visiting you until such a time comes that they can see you again.”
“Ok,” Ina sighed, gripping her hand tightly, “I believe you.”
She’d never forgotten her friends, even as the years continued, but she was momentarily surprised when the door to her cell was opened, and Kiara strode in.
There was a difference though – Kiara’s eyes were guarded, and her lips were pulled back into a hesitant and somewhat fearful frown. She wasn’t wearing her usual outfit either that Ina remembered so fondly. She was wearing odd clothing too – a skintight shirt and pants that hugged her curves nicely, and her hair was also cut short, just barely above her ears. If it weren’t for her feathers sticking out prominently behind her ears, she wasn’t sure if she’d have even been able to recognize her.
The phoenix’s expression was still guarded, even as she looked at Ina curiously. It was starting to unnerve her a little, but she just smiled and waved politely. Kiara stepped in further, and mumbled a small, “Hello.”
“Is something wrong?” Ina asked, “You’re acting strange.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Kiara replied, walking further in, her eyes went to the small little garden that Ina had been tending to.
“Well,” Ina stood up and stretched, her back cracking satisfyingly, and she turned around to fully greet her guest, “It has been a long time, Kiara. How have you been?”
“Good.” She replied, “But, uh… Who are you?”
Ina realized at that moment what happened. A lot of her worries eased away, and was instead replaced with a gentle smile, “Oh, I’m Ina. We’re very good friends.”
“Calli said that too.” Kiara mumbled.
“Did you die recently, then?” Ina asked, “Would you like to come sit with me?”
“I did,” She answered, looking around the whole room now, her eyes gazed upon the seals briefly before they returned back to Ina, “I forgot a lot of things, but Calli told me I should come here. I don’t know what you did to deserve to be imprisoned here, but apparently that didn’t matter to me and we were friends?”
Ina chuckled lightly, sympathy for Kiara coming off her in waves – no wonder Kiara hadn’t visited lately, “Come, sit next to me.” She settled down on her mossy rock, making sure not to disturb all of the plants growing around it.
After a moment of hesitation, Kiara strode over.
Ina reached over for the pocket watch, and she opened it up to the photo that she so dearly loved, still in pristine condition. She smiled down at it in nostalgia for a few seconds, before allowing Kiara to view it next. “Do you remember any of them?”
“Calli’s there,” Kiara mumbled after a second, “And that’s you right there, but the others…” She frowned, “I don’t remember them… We look so happy…”
“We were,” Ina sighed. The memory loss of a phoenix upon death was sad to her, to forget such precious memories was something out of a nightmare for Ina, but even more concerningly was the fact that Kiara had apparently forgotten Amelia, Gura, and herself entirely! Usually, her memory loss was just a few months, not years – but she supposed that is why Calli made sure she came down to her prison to meet with her. “Would you like me to tell you about us?”
“Yes,” Kiara breathed out, her eyes were less guarded, but still not quite open. There was still a small gap between them, but Ina paid it no mind as she began her tale.
“Well, it all started when a time travelling detective named Amelia Watson decided to gather a bunch of mythical beings together. Not because she wanted to capture and study them, but because she wanted to befriend them all.” She sighed happily, and briefly she wondered how Amelia was doing. Was she still out on her journey? Was she living happily with Gura now? She certainly hoped so, but for now she returned her attention to Kiara, “Amelia traveled back thousands and years into the past, and the first of us she met was Gura, albeit after a little accident…”
While her initial distress at Kiara’s memory loss was at the forefront of her mind, it slowly went away as she told her story. Even having forgotten her, Kiara was still Kiara, after all, and as Ina continued with her tales of her friends and their adventures, it was heartwarming to see the ice surrounding Kiara’s gaze thawing off. Her defensiveness faded, and in its place was a shy little smile, and eyes alight with excitement for each new story Ina told. There was almost an endless repertoire of them, after all, and Ina had spent years reflecting on them, so they were still vivid in her mind, as if they’d just happened yesterday.
“We must have been great friends,” Kiara managed to say after laughing so hard she could barely see. It was difficult to keep a straight face, after all, hearing about the story of Gura accidentally showing up to a party completely naked.
“We were,” Ina replied, “All four of you were my best friends, and we did so many things together.”
Kiara looked down at the broken stopwatch. Ina had given it to her to hold as she swung her arms around during some of her stories, and she didn’t want to accidentally toss it across the room. Kiara was more than happy to keep it, content to just look at the photo, seeing all of them so happy and carefree. “I understand why Calli made me come see you now.”
Ina just continued to smile at Kiara, “I’m glad to help.”
Ina wasn’t quite expecting Kiara to lunge at her, holding her in a tight hug that made it a little difficult to breathe, but she didn’t complain – she’d never complain about receiving hugs from her dear friends. Instead, she just wrapped her arms around Kiara, and closed her eyes as she leaned her head forward, just enjoying the sensation of touch she’d been missing for so long, though oddly Kiara was a bit cooler than she remembered. The phoenix was always such a furnace, but now she felt more lukewarm than anything.
“I’ll always be there for you, Ina. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there. I may not remember you fully, but I can tell that we were good friends, and I will never leave any friends of mine behind.”
“Kiara?” Ina blinked in surprise, “What do you mean?”
“Nothing,” Kiara replied. She let go of Ina, and Ina reluctantly let go of her too. Kiara reached up with her hand, and Ina watched her pluck a feather from behind her ear, the feather shimmered in the sunlight, like a beacon glowing so brightly with orange and teal light, and she held it over.
“For me?” Ina asked, gently taking it out of Kiara’s hand.
“To remember me by.”
“Remember – what?”
“It’s so you’ll never be lonely. I mean it when I say I’ll always be here for you, and a phoenix never goes back on their words!”
Ina wasn’t entirely sure what exactly Kiara was talking about, but it had an air of finality to it. She held the feather reverently, much like she’d held the watch given to her by Gura, and the hat Amelia had left for her. Kiara’s eyes lingered on the photo in the watch before she closed it, and settled it down on Amelia’s hat, and she turned to smile at Ina again and hugged her.
“You’re a wonderful person, Ina. Don’t ever doubt that.”
“Kiara…” Ina muttered, this time the phoenix felt even cooler to the touch, “Why are you so cold?”
“It just happens,” Kiara mumbled into her ear, holding her closer, “It’s ok. It’s all part of the life cycle of a phoenix.”
The rest of their time was just spent holding one another. She fell asleep in Kiara’s arms, and when she woke up later, she was gone. Only the feather held in her grip was all that was left, a reminder to her of their friendship, and of Kiara’s promise to never leave her alone.
She placed it gently down upon the mossy rock along with the other objects she held dear, and she was sure she could feel Kiara, Gura, and Amelia all there with her right now, keeping her company, not allowing her to feel lonely. They were not there physically, but always in spirit, they’d promised not to leave her, and she was certain they kept true to their word.
She closed her eyes again, basking in their warmth and company.
She wasn’t quite sure why in addition to the sunflower and hydrangeas, camellias started to grow around the mossy rock, hiding in the shade the other plants provided and thriving, blooming into beautiful reds, pinks, and orange flowers. She appreciated the variety, and took care of them just as much as she did the other flowers. None of the plants have withered yet, and it had been well passed time for them to do so, so she could only conclude that the magics of the prison kept them alive and well. She certainly appreciated that fact, it added some color to her otherwise gray life, and it provided her a sense of joy, tending to the flowers that reminded her so much of her dear friends.
Calli still visited occasionally, but she was the only one who did, anymore. Amelia, Gura, and Kiara never came by, and Ina was glad. She felt no resentment for that fact. After all, Amelia and Gura were both mortals, so it was for the best that they moved on and forgot about her. Kiara was a free spirit, and she shouldn’t have to be tied down to someone incapable of doing anything with their life. She was satisfied with her lot in life, and accepted her imprisonment with grace, happy to lay forgotten deep within the crust of the Earth, only accompanied by the array of plants at her side.
Years passed, at least ten, if she had to guess, perhaps more, but time was a little hard to tell in her prison, and it quite frankly had little use to her anymore as it was. She would go days at a time of doing absolutely nothing, only to snap back into focus and resume tending to her flowers, or meditating on her favorite mossy flower-covered rock, or just take a little stroll around the perimeter of her prison. Anything to occupy her time, really.
She’d become so accustomed to the silence that any disturbance in the peace was easily detected, and she could hear the distant sound of footsteps. She immediately looked to the door leading into the cell, and after a few minutes, the heavy footfalls stopped, and the sound of rocks grinding on one another started up. Up the rock wall went, until Calli was standing there alone, looking the same as ever. She walked into the prison, and the door didn’t close behind her – it stayed open, something that had never happened before, to Ina’s recollection.
“The door?” Ina hesitantly asked, even as she walked over to Calli. She wanted to hug her, but she stopped herself, realizing how grim she looked. “Calli? What’s wrong?”
Calli let out a loud sigh, her eyes seeking out Ina’s. “Ina…”
“Your sentence is over.”
“Wha – What?” Ina asked in shock. She began shaking her head, “No – no! I can’t! I don’t want the Ancient Ones to take control of me again, I’m happy being in here alone, I know it’s for the safety of everyone on Earth.”
Calli let out another heaving sigh, and she just stared at Ina, not saying a single word. Ina in the meantime was nervously glancing at the door, still opened wide, and she could hear the Ancient Ones whispers growing stronger in the back of her mind. The seals were still doing their trick to keep them subdued, but even a small opening was granting them access to her mind, and she hadn’t felt them this strongly since she’d been locked away.
“You should go, Calli.” She said quickly, “I – I’m happy you still remember me, but it’s best if you forget about me – like the others.”
“The others never forgot you.” Calli said, stopping Ina in her tracks, “Up until their last moment, after I guided them to the afterlife, they never forgot you.”
“Huh? What do you mean…?”
“There is no one left for the Ancient Ones to hurt, anymore, Ina.” Calli muttered, “Humanity – and all life on this planet – is gone now.”
“What?” She was sure she didn’t hear that correctly. There was no way it was true, “But – but… It’s only been, what? Thirty years? What happened? Please tell me you’re joking, Calli.”
“I’m not.” Calli replied, “It has been nearly five hundred thousand years since you’ve been locked away down here. You, and your plants…” She pointed to the garden Ina had been tending to, “Are the only life left.”
“You’ve been locked away all of this time. The actions the Ancient Ones committed millennia ago became a myth, something that only a select few knew about. Myth became legend, and then it faded from the collective consciousness of humanity entirely, and even mythical beings forgot… Those that imprisoned you have moved on, no longer fulfilling their obligation to guard you, deeming it pointless to do so on a dead world.” Calli stepped forward, and her hand was placed on Ina’s shoulder, “I still remember, though.”
“Where’s everyone else…?” Ina asked, “A – Are they…”
“Amelia passed away at the age of 108. She was married to Gura, and they had two children together.” Her grip on Ina’s shoulder tightened, “One of her last requests in life was to visit you, and she came in here to say goodbye to you and give you a gift…” She pointed to the hat, and then her eyes lingered on the sunflower, “And even then, she still waits. She doesn’t want to move on until the rest of us are there.”
“I would’ve known she was that old – She – she wasn’t 108 when she visited last…”
“The medallion Gura gave her.” Calli replied, “A vanity of Ancient Atlanteans to look young even in their advanced years. It was used to hide the passage of time from you…”
“It wasn’t a unanimous decision… Kiara was really against hiding it from you, but we all eventually agreed that it would be cruel to tell you that we were all aging at a more accelerated rate than you thought. Amelia especially knew she didn’t have long to live relative to all of our lives, so she made us promise not to tell you she passed away. She didn’t want to burden you with that.”
“So, when she went on that journey…”
“She was surrounded by her loved ones as she took her last breath.” Calli replied, “All of us were there, and we wished you could have been as well. Her children and grandchildren were there too. She was loved to the very end.”
“Gura lived to be nearly 150,000 years old, very long lived for an Atlantean.” Calli explained. She had to catch Ina as the priestess’s legs gave up on her, and she lowered them gently to the floor, holding her close, “She never remarried after Amelia’s death, but her legacy lived on with her daughters and grandchildren. When she knew her time was coming, she too came to visit you one last time, giving you her most prized possession, and like Amelia, she still waits.”
“The watch,” Ina gasped, “That was Amelia’s?”
“Yes. It stopped working when Amelia passed away, but Gura held onto it all this time.” She chuckled slightly, “Her grandchildren got their hands on it and put some stickers on it, but Gura didn’t mind, she thought Amelia would have loved it like that, and kept them on. Like Amelia, she was surrounded by her family, with me and Kiara there at her side too when she passed on.”
“And Kiara…?” Ina asked, her mouth feeling dry, she felt dizzy, as if the whole world was spinning.
“A phoenix’s cycle of death and rebirth can only last so long. Soon, the fire within them dims too much until it can’t be reignited again, and they too pass on. Over the centuries Kiara slowly forgot about you all, and I thought it was a kindness, because she was hurt the most from Amelia and Gura’s passing, and she couldn’t get over the injustice of your imprisonment… It was only when her fire was dim, when I realize she possibly wasn’t going to be revived again, that I sent her in here to see you. To spend time with her friend, and to remember those she dearly loved in lives passed.”
“Then… She’s gone too.”
“Yes.” Calli replied, “She passed on, but not before giving you her promise that you would meet again.”
“And the rest of the world – what happened?”
“The descendants of humanity and all of the other magical beings on Earth fled the planet. Due to actions committed by those from thousands of years in the past, the planet reached a point of unsustainability for life… They live out among the stars, continuing humanity’s story into the rest of the galaxy. You, Ina, are the last sentient being on the planet.”
Numb didn’t even begin to adequately describe how she was feeling. She didn’t want to believe a word of what Calli was saying, but she knew it was all true. How was it though that time got away from her so badly? That to her a single year of imprisonment was actually thousands of years? When did she lose track of time so badly? Was it the moment she stepped in the prison? How? Why?
In the back of her mind, she received her answer, when she heard the cruel rumbling laughter of the Ancient Ones. Perhaps an act of petty revenge for preventing them from unleashing their horror upon the Earth.
Tears flowed from her eyes, and she couldn’t hold back the whimpers and cries. She buried her face into Calli’s cloak, trying to hide from the world, trying to remember her mantra – that she deserved this. Nothing had really changed, did it? She was still locked away; she was still doing her duty… She just didn’t realize that her friends had all long passed, and that instead of thirty years, it was nearly five hundred thousand instead. So why did it hurt so badly to learn that the reason her friends hadn’t been visiting wasn’t because they were happy and had moved on, but instead because they had passed away. Why did it hurt so badly to know that even to their dying breaths, they had always remembered her, and wanted her by their side?
“What do I do?” She asked in a broken whisper, her voice hoarse from crying.
“Your vigil is over, Ina.” Calli whispered, “You can leave the book here, alone on a broken and shattered world. In a place where no mortal will find it and be driven to insanity. We can lock it away in here, to be forgotten forever. Its power can’t lure anyone here to find it, not when it will be hidden so well.”
“If I leave it here… I can leave?” Ina asked.
Calli’s grip on her tightened, and Ina didn’t resist, allowing the reaper to pull her into a loving hold, “Well, in a sense, you can leave.”
“In a sense?”
“Without the power of the Ancient Ones flowing through you, you’ll lose your immortality. All of those hundreds of thousands of years that you’ve lived through will catch up to you, and you will die.”
Ina froze, “Die?”
“Yes. I’m sorry, Ina.” Calli whispered, “Life has been so cruel to you. You never deserved this fate, and yet you went along with it to protect your friends and the entire world. A deed that only a handful of people will ever recognize. You deserve everything you want, Ina, but unfortunately, this is all I can grant you.”
Ina’s grip on her was shaky, but it firmed up as she gripped harder, “Will I see everyone again?”
“I’ll be right here,” Calli replied soothingly, “I will guide you to the other side. The others are all there waiting for you, they refused to move on without you.”
A part of her was scared to accept Calli’s offer. To willingly die, and move onto the unknown. However, the idea of seeing her friends again, all in place together again was one of her greatest desires. The still pristine photo Gura had given her twenty – no, hundreds of thousands of years ago – came to mind. She didn’t know what exactly would happen when she moved on, but if it granted her a chance to see them again, to be happy with them and go on new adventures, then it was something she was willing to try.
She took a deep breath, and parted from Calli. Hesitantly getting to her feet, she looked around her prison, eyeing the plants that had all grown, vestiges of her friends to keep her company even in death. They truly never did leave her behind. “Thank you…” She mumbled, looking away from the garden – her little sanctuary in this cell.
She held out a hand, and the ancient tome appeared hovering just above her palm. A book of evil and despair and chaos all in one. She could feel the screams of the Ancient Ones in her mind, insisting she leave this cell and go explore the galaxy, to find where humanity had gone off to, to find and purge them.
“Calli…” She whispered.
“Yes, Ina?” The reaper was a few paces away, unable to even look at her.
“Thank you for always remembering me.” She cleared her throat, feeling it tightening up, “Thank all of you, for remembering me. I – I was content to be forgotten, but… But I’m really glad you never did forget me. I love you all.”
“You can tell that to them when you see them again,” Calli muttered, wiping her eyes, “I’m sorry we couldn’t do anything to help you.”
“You’re helping me now.” Ina said, and she settled the tome down next to her other precious items. She took a moment to grab the pocket watch, and held it close to her chest, and then she put on Amelia’s hat, and grabbed Kiara’s perfectly preserved feather. The screams in her mind intensified, until she felt the link severed. The silence was almost deafening, and she felt dizzy. She fell back, right into the arms of the reaper close to her.
“Ina? Are you ok?” She asked.
Ina grinned, already feeling a huge amount of fatigue wash over her body. She held up the pocket watch, “I – I kind of look like Ame, don’t I? Going on a new adventure…”
“You do,” Calli tried to laugh, but it was a poor attempt, Ina could hear her trying to stop herself from whimpering, “Where do you plan to time travel back to?”
“I want…” Ina gasped, feeling her consciousness beginning to fade, “I want to go back… To my friends… I want… To be with… You all…”
“Yeah…” Calli held her body closely, “We can do that. I promise you; you’ll see them soon enough.”
Ina could barely even keep her eyes open, but she spared one last glance over at her garden, and saw three glowing forms there, standing over her. She felt a smile cross her lips, and then she was no more.
Ina’nis died in Calli’s arms, and shortly after, the flowers withered away to nothing.
There was a dark void of nothing, and she wondered if something went wrong, but that worry was quickly taken away by Calli, who hovered next to her. The empty void was vast, and Ina had no idea where they were going, but she trusted Calli to guide her. She was almost scared to go anywhere new, having spent so much of her life confined to one room, but another part of her was excited, eager to go on a new adventure.
It may have been hours, perhaps seconds, but soon enough the darkness gave way to an open field. The sky was the brightest blue, hardly a cloud in view, there was a gentle breeze, and practically an endless ocean of hilly green fields. Everywhere she looked was the definition of beauty, and she settled down on the grassy ground a second later.
Freedom… She’d finally been granted the freedom to go and do what she wanted.
She looked over to whoever was calling her, and she saw three figures in the distance waving at her. Beside her, Calli smiled and laughed, waving her arms in wide arcs over her head. It didn’t take Ina more than three seconds to work out who they were, and already she could feel tears flowing again.
“Everyone’s so excited to see you,” Calli whispered to her, “They all want to talk to you so badly – to introduce you to their other friends and children that you never had the chance to meet.”
She felt Calli gently rubbing her back, and she can’t hold it together anymore. She let out a choked gasp and begins to sob. She couldn’t see through her tears no matter how hard she tried.
“Welcome home, Ina.” Calli’s grip on her shoulder was firm, but it was nothing compared to the group hug she was completely engulfed in seconds later.