Shu, the Bronze Alchemist, waltzed into the Shadow’s room with a vial in hand.
“Clear out of the way, you hacks! Enough stitches.”
“What is that?” The doctor asked, looking dubiously at the concoction in her hands.
“This? This will make that muscle grow again,” she said triumphantly, before smiling vainly. “I think.”
“What if it doesn’t?” The healer asked, agreeing with his doctor friend.
Shu took her free hand to her waist.
“Is your hokus pokus working?!”
Albert, standing idly nearby, looked up from his book slightly insulted.
“It’s a spell, it’s not hokus pokus.”
“Never mind it, Albert,” said the healing mage, “we can’t just regenerate it, she’s right.”
Albert wanted to be there when she woke up. Despite refusing to help them when he had the chance, due to his vows of pacifism, they had saved his life. What she had accomplished was insane, all things considering, and he wanted to personally thank her for it.
Alfred, too, was writing a thank you note. He was too shy to say it out loud but, since she was sleeping, he might as well write it there. Being near her gave him the motivation to do so.
Yana, dwarf old lady that she was, was getting sick of waiting for her to wake up. She wanted to tell her good job but even sitting down on that bench was starting to make her hip ache. Still, it was amusing to see all these youngsters flustering about the girl’s well-being. Oh, to be young and desired again.
“That thing will not hurt her, correct?”
Mitsue was tapping his foot, deeply concerned about the health of his prized student. The Bronze Alchemist turned to him and shrugged.
His frown deepened.
“That is not an acceptable response.”
The Mists that were accompanying him, very few remained, shifted their stances. Ayane was the Shadow. The last remaining of the triumvirate of Kagekawa’s prime agents, the savior of the world, and most of all, the girl he had taught to speak. And to fight and to believe. She would not be hurt under his watch.
“We either amputate now, or we try this,” Shu flat out told him.
“Could that kill her?” Mitsue asked, without reserve.
Shu, the Bronze Alchemist, was ordinarily very sure of her inventions. But looking at the men peering at her, she couldn’t help but think back to Falk. Very few knew what she had done to the Mad Genius. Indeed, only Jamie.
“His eyeballs moved. The others might buy it’s him sleeping, but I know different. He’s conscious, ain’t he?”
The girl was a demon when it came to that perception of hers. In any respect, no, the truth was she was not a hundred percent sure. Would she make Falk’s mistakes and pursue certainty in her own abilities no matter what? Just to prove she was not wrong?
No, not when her life was at risk.
“Yes,” she admitted. “However, it is very very unlikely,” Shu guaranteed.
“Amputate,” Mitsue said without hesitation. “She can live without her right arm.”
Shu looked down at the Shadow, holding the vial helplessly.
“I guess so…”
Nobody in the room was happy about it, but none dared protest. And the room was a bit too full for her taste. Yet, for all the people there who cared about the Shadow, not one voice rose against it.
“I’ll prep her,” the actual doctor said, “can you assist?”
“Yes, I’m trained in that as well,” replied the healer mage.
Shu, disgruntled, almost threw the vial at the wall. But she hesitated, she wasn’t capable of it. If it worked, it would be one amazing discovery, or at the very least, the first step in an amazing discovery.
“I will go then,” Shu said, her priorities having shifted. “Best of luck.”
Everyone more or less allowed her to go and she wondered if she could find a rat. That would be perfect to test whether she was right about muscle regeneration.
Hours went by, and alone on a lifeboat, a great mind withered into nothing. Slowly, but without running. Alas, the time came for all of its intellectual steam to finish dissipating.
And so…if x equals…if x is uhh…hm.
The sunlight was piercing through the eyelids almost too much. The Mad Genius could feel the warmth of the sun on his face even with his sense of tact going numb. He couldn’t feel his clothes anymore, or the boat beneath him. He couldn’t discern the waves and the undulations that rocked his body. And now, the Mad Genius couldn’t even finish his equation.
He was so close, too.
But the warmth on his face, that he could feel. And the silence. There was nobody around, no idiotic mongrel spouting off her idiocies and foolishness. He was withering away into the Void… in peace.
Could be worse.
At least, he felt, there was that.
At that moment, the Shadow opened her eyes.
Before she looked around the room, she waited until awareness and memory related to her what the ceiling was from. She could feel her first instinct was to look at what was missing, so she looked right, where nothing but the wall and a missing arm was there to greet her. She paused there, half shocked, half understanding. The wound she had suffered, the gravity of it, and then she had dragged through debris and filth in the fight with Falk. And that was after the punishment the arm received at the hand of the beast prince.
Falk? She thought, remembering what had happened.
“It was necessary.”
The voice tugged at her heart with the full effect of a familiarity Ayane never expected to experience again. She turned her head to find a group of Mists surrounding a very painfully familiar face.
“Mitsue…” Ayane said, in utter disbelief.
“Shadow,” he smiled, giving her a nod.
“You live,” they said at the same time, reaching for each other at the same time. Both his hands clasped hers as he nodded again, small tears escaping happy eyes.
“I do, and you do too. Oh, you have done—Oh,” he pulled back, and gestured at the Mists to go away. They quickly did.
“There were many that wanted to see you wake, Ayane,” Mitsue said while the Mistlings left. “They left messages for you.”
Ayane followed his gaze to the cabinet that was next to her bed, and there, found several sheets of paper and one scroll. They were letters.
“The Shadow is on everyone’s lips. They all talk of you, they all are thankful to you.”
She looked back at the man that was like a father to her, finding it hard for her spirit to be brought low by the loss of her arm. At least she was alive. At least she could see him again.
Just then, a great flash of light illuminated both their faces, coming from the small window that was built into the wall.
The Shadow struggled to sit up, which worried Mitsue for a second but he quickly settled and joined her in looking out the window.
Jamie was not paying attention. Drinking a bottle of water, because she had been arguing for hours, she doubled down on her argument with Emery. The flash distracted the old woman, it was why Jamie had positioned herself facing away from the window, and now that Emery was distracted, she would make the final push for her plan and get one up on her new rival.
Still, look at that shine, Jamie thought, just from judging the reflection on the wall. Whatever it is, Amara’s gonna milk that for years.
The Circus Freak did not have a good angle to see the explosion. The flash of light illuminated the wall and ceiling, and that was all he could see.
“Oh wow,” Michela commented, “Wow, Falk. What…in the world did you build? We must be miles away.”
Hugo found it very ironic that Falk, upon his death, had produced such a strong light. He smiled at himself, freaking himself out as he realized he was developing faith.
For the first time ever, which was an expression he really should start getting used to, he was thinking about the future. And hoping.
“What does it look like?” Hugo asked, calmly.
“Uuh…this is gonna sound weird,” Michela said, scratching her head, “but well…”
Zaniyah also missed the explosion. Thunuk had taken a big risk, and she had welcomed it. They parted away from a very deep, very heart-warming kiss, to face the mighty explosion. She put an arm to cover her eyesight from the very bright light and basked upon a thing that was difficult to describe. She had never seen anything like it.
“It is a mushroom,” Thunuk said, using his legendary powers of simply stating things as they are.
Zaniyah had to agree. It was one made of a bright cloud of white fire, but it was, indeed, the shape of a mushroom. It seemed that though Falk had been drugged and bled to death like a piece of cattle, his end was one for the legends.
“It is romantic,” Thunuk said, in a tone of voice that betrayed the fact it was more of a venture than a confident statement.
“No,” Zaniyah said, trying not to laugh. She leaned her head on his, and they looked at each other, “but we do not need it to be.”
Thunuk looked the happiest she had ever seen him. And that made her happy.
Somewhere…abandoned in the lands they had fled from, stood the body of the Don. Perhaps, he was still standing over the Beast machine he had killed, still facing the photo of his mother.
Somewhere, the Sorcerer had long decomposed, the first of many casualties.
Griff died abandoned and alone, probably choking on regret. Soon, Eliza would be sent out into the seas, a pyre to represent everyone who had fought and perished in defense of all.
“It is over,” Ayane said, almost towards the window. The explosion was massive, taking into consideration how long it was taking to dissipate. “It has ended.”
“No,” Mitsue said, in that very special way that he usually used when saying things to her. A way that was both stern and full of expectations, but also kind and caring. As in the past, he waited for her to look at him to show him she wanted to hear what he had to say.
“You are still young,” Mitsue said, meaningfully, “and very much the Shadow. It is not the end.”
It was such an old person thing to say, and yet, it was so full of honesty and truth that it made her sigh a smile. “Pfuh.”
Ayane nodded lightly, feeling how gone her right arm was, and then the two vacant spaces in her denture. She lightly shook her head and smiled, feeling her cheeks unrestricted and free of any cloth. Her eyes were also not hiding behind the lenses.
It had been a long while.
“Yes, true,” Ayane said, “the Shadow lives on. After all…” she trailed off for a second, looking back out the window to watch the sunlight seamlessly taking over for the mushroom’s shine as it gradually dissipated.
“There is still light,” said the Shadow.