At first, my blade-to-blade battle with the ghoul went well. We were evenly matched, with the ghoul having become slightly rusty with no challengers while I had honed myself for months. When it came to magic, I was having more trouble, but the Harmony Blade kept me safe.
Unfortunately, we were too evenly matched. I slowly started to run out of endurance and, under moonlight just like the one under which I had first seen Ria dance, I started to miss her.
I had been reliant on her mending spells to keep me going even when I was starting to run out of strength to continue.
I reminisced those spells and used them to coax the Harmony Blade to help me keep my footing. It did, inspired by my determination to defeat the ghoul, give me some strength. I continued the fight, refreshed and grateful.
The first time I lost my footing, I resorted to magic to blast the ghoul away. That blast, bright as it was, looked like the brilliant sunset at Midsummer Lake. I couldn’t help thinking about all the melodies Ria had created, some of which she said were inspired by our experiences at that very lake, the brilliance of the sunset and the happy memories we made under it.
I missed her already. I had wronged her twice about this battle. I could only hope that she would forgive me in the end.
If she did not, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. She had become my dearest friend, perhaps the true definition of a “best friend”, and I loved her as such even though we had never romantically clicked together.
I got back up on my feet and returned to the battle, reminiscing all the training my father had given me before his death.
I would become a hero like him tonight and live to tell the tale.
Yet as the battle dragged on, I started to lose my focus as fatigue set in. My spells slowly became sloppier, more undirected and more ineffective. Ria had supported me with her spells so that I could concentrate only on fighting instead of following my own energy levels as well, and she had covered for me whenever I had had to take a break to either recover or heal.
This was a mistake. I had been too rash, too occupied with what everyone else thought. Too proud and ambitious as well.
I should’ve come here with Ria.
Oh Ria… please forgive me for being such an idiot.
I had to end the battle soon, but the ghoul was too skilled and lacked all signs of fatigue. I was going to die at this rate, but I couldn’t run away to get backup or call for Ria. Even if she would come, she couldn’t hear me from this far, and the ghoul wouldn’t let me leave the clearing alive.
I had to figure something out quickly or else I would go into history as a fool who went under a fallen angel’s influence, escaped and got killed, dooming my home village to be under the ghoul’s terrible reign for who knows how long.
When I went for a desperate lunge, the ghoul suddenly blasted me against a rock. I think I felt something snap in my back upon impact, but I definitely felt the rock shatter behind my back before I landed on sharp rubble, gasping in sudden agony. I could no longer move my legs. Pushing myself up with the free hand despite of the rubble digging into my palm, I raised the Harmony Blade to defend myself. The ghoul smacked it away with its own sword, making me lose balance and fall on my back again. This time, I screamed when the rubble set itself back into my flesh into new spots.
Once the worst of the pain disappeared, I looked at the sky and tried to move my legs. Nothing. I was helpless. The ghoul came to my view and pointed its sword at me.
I looked at the stars behind its head. Ria and I had talked about going to them to meet her old angel friends once this journey would be over so that she could try to make amends and make the others see that being a fallen one wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only what you did after you fell mattered, and she had used her new powers well. I knew that she missed her home and friends.
The stars twinkled at me. I wanted to reach them, but I knew that it was far too late for that. The blade was against my throat. I had lost.
I had lost.
“Unar, no!” a familiar voice screamed. A dark blast tossed the ghoul away. Someone landed near me.
Ria came into my view. “Unar! What did you do?”
“Ria…” I gasped. “Ria, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I wanted to offer some kind of explanation, so I did when I still could. “I was stupid. I minded their opinions too much. It was a mistake. I… I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”
“Don’t go and die just yet,” Ria said. She was changing her form, although not before pushing some healing magic into me. “I’ll be right back.”
She disappeared from my view. I heard the Harmony Blade getting picked up.
“You will pay for what you did to my friend!” Ria proclaimed with her fallen angel voice.
The ghoul laughed. “Really? A fallen angel saves the ‘hero’? Please, do your worst. You can’t kill me.”
I heard Ria say under her breath. Then her footsteps ran towards the ghoul. Swords clashed together once. Twice. Thrice.
Ria screamed. The ghoul laughed. Had I had the strength, I would’ve cried out for her.
Then the ghoul let out a gurgle. I heard a thump. Footsteps hurried back to me.
The stars were still twinkling at me, although they were starting to become blurry. I was starting to lose my consciousness.
Ria came to my view again.
“No, no, no, don’t go, don’t go,” she said. She took me to her arms and started to speak healing incantations — something she did only when she was desperate. I coughed blood.
“Don’t go. I don’t want you to die, not yet,” Ria said. There were tears coming down her face.
“Ria…” I gasped.
“Don’t speak. I’ll heal you, trust me. You’ll live. Just hold on!”
“Ria, no… It’s too late. I messed up… I messed up everything…”
“We can talk about it when you’re no longer bleeding out.”
“No, Ria… It’s too late.” I reached out with my bloodied hand and found her tear-stained cheek. “Ria, I’m so sorry for failing you. For thinking that I could do it alone when I always needed you. For thinking that both parts of the team could work alone. I’m sorry… I’m so sorry it had to end like this.”
“This isn’t the time for goodbyes!” Ria told and pushed more of her healing magic into my wounds. “You’re not dying, got that?!”
“Ria…” I knew I was fading away, so I had to give my goodbyes now. I knew that she would never forgive me. “Live long… and prosper.”
This wasn’t the end I wanted, but it was the end I got. Our journey… was at its end.
I faded away while Ria screamed, “UNAR, NO!“