Delilah stared at the man formed of living darkness who called himself Sen. He cocked his head to the side, and Delilah thought, for a moment, that he was staring at her. He twirled his massive sword once, as if it were no more than a broomstick.
And then Sen charged.
Rabanastre and Felix rushed to meet him, blocking his sword together. But the force of the impact knocked them both back, and Sen stepped forward, pressing the attack. All around the girls, the darkness surged, rushing forward, and Delilah was hard-pressed to hold their defensive circle. Nekoma stayed stalwart, Redmond kept firing his arrows, and Reginald kept rushing to and fro to fill gaps wherever they might be. In the midst of that, Adelaide kept shining her super-bright flashlight, forcing back the tide.
But with both Rabanastre and Felix tied up with Sen, the defense was crumbling.
“We need to stay close to the main fight,” Delilah said.
“That’s so dangerous, though!” Adelaide said.
“It just might be safer than here,” Delilah replied.
They moved their fight closer to the battle against Sen. That main battle was punctuated by massive blasts of concussive sound, as every blow that connected burst with energy, resounding through the air, even forcing back the darkness around Sen that attempted to aid him.
Rabanastre punched and kicked with all his might, but was blocked and pushed back again and again. Felix danced here and there, orange swords flashing like lightning, and yet Sen blocked every attack, responding with powerful strikes of his own that left the swordmeowster reeling.
“Felix!” Adelaide suddenly shouted. “Mister Rabbit! Don’t let him have it so easy! Kick his butt!”
That’s right. We need to support our Summons, and each other. We need to stay positive.
There’s no escape from this fight. Only victory.
Well. Let’s not think about the alternative.
“Come on!” Delilah called, moving even closer to the lopsided duel against Sen. Redmond managed to get off a few arrows in Sen’s direction in between defending against the writhing tide of darkness all around them, and that seemed to help, for a moment. But Sen quickly adjusted his fighting style, accounting for the random projectiles, and once again began beating down Rabanastre and Felix.
Delilah looked at Rabanastre, the mighty rabbit looking so downcast at every hit he took, at every step he had to take in retreat. And she looked at Alice, who watched her Summon’s losing battle with a look of complete disbelief.
“Come now, girl,” Sen said, pointing at Alice with his free hand while beating back Felix’s attacks with his sword. “You’re having your Summon hold back. You have this whole time. Why would you do such a thing?”
“Mister Rabbit’s holding back?” Adelaide asked.
Delilah stared. Could that be true?
Alice stared at Sen, her expression coolly dispassionate. “You don’t know a thing about me,” she said. “But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, we’ll be glad to give it to you.”
“You are your team’s weakest link,” Sen continued in his ethereal, whispering voice. “But then, that’s no surprise, is it? You don’t have any reason for being here. You’re fighting for… what, exactly?”
“Because it’s fun,” Alice said with a smirk. Rabanastre seemed to rally, standing tall and punching strong and steady. Each time Sen blocked a punch, the force reverberated through the air, and a shockwave burst out, pushing back the living darkness all around.
But Sen quickly recovered, even as Felix adjusted to Rabanastre’s pace to aid the powerful rabbit. The dark sword flashed, and rabbit and swordmeowster fell back. “Fun?” Sen asked. “I thought your idea of fun was murdering your own parents. You’re a killer, not a savior, and yet you fight to rescue this doomed creature from its bonds? This isn’t you. And as long as you keep up this façade –” Sen swung his sword, and Rabanastre fell to his knees, “you will creep towards an inevitable defeat.”
“I…” Alice started, but she trailed off silently, her mouth hanging open slightly, her eyes looking lost as they flickered from white to black to white in rapid succession.
“She’s not a killer!” Adelaide cried out. “She’s my sister! She killed our parents to protect us from them. And after that…” Adelaide’s confidence seemed to waver. “After that… she…”
“You see?” Sen asked, sending Felix flying with an effortless, contemptuous slash. “Your own sister, and she can’t defend you. Because you aren’t supposed to be defended. Killers like us need no defense. We do as we please, and take what we wish.”
“Alice –” Delilah started.
“He’s not wrong,” Alice said, shaking her head. The world seemed to slow, and sound seemed to drain away, and for the moment, Alice looked like a little girl, lost and afraid. “I’ve done… lots of things. Killed lots of people. But… it was a… game. I didn’t…”
“There’s no need to hide who you are,” Sen said. Felix and Rabanastre both charged together, but a single sweeping sword swing knocked both Summons flat on their backs.
“Who I am…” Alice said, trailing off. Her hands were shaking, and she shoved them in her pockets. “I… I don’t even know why I’m here, or why I’ve done all the other things I’ve done to get to this point. I have… no idea… who I…”
“You need purpose,” Delilah said. Alice looked up, staring at her. Delilah smiled. “Our Summons come from beings that exist for a single purpose. And when they get to fulfill their purpose, they get filled with joy, deep and impenetrable. It’s amazing. And I think, at least in some way, humans are the same. Without a purpose, we just float along, not knowing what to do or who to be. We chase things, and pretend to be someone we’re not – like chasing fun. But fun isn’t enough to bring joy, just little bits of happiness that don’t last on their own.”
“So what’s your purpose?” Alice asked.
Delilah’s smile wavered. “I don’t entirely know,” she said. “But…” She knelt down, placing her hand against the dark skin of the Doomed Beast. “I know that the White Whale called out to me. And I know that saving her… it made me feel something incredible, deep within. I think it’s joy. I can’t be sure yet. But I know that helping others… it’s a lot more wonderful, somehow, than helping myself. And I think if I just keep helping others, keep giving my all, even when it’s terrifying, to save lost and captive beings like the White Whale and the Doomed Beast, I’ll find where it is I’m meant to be. I’ll find who it is I’m meant to be.”
“Enough of this drivel,” Sen said, pressing forward. Rabanastre was flung away easily, but Felix stood up to the shadowy man, deflecting his powerful sword swings and responding with swift barrages of his own.
“Your parents weren’t good to you or your sister,” Delilah continued, stepping towards Alice. “I don’t know if killing them was right, but staying with them would never have been good. All you’ve had is your sister, but she was separated from you, too, by Kaohlad. You’ve been alone, and lost, and that’s terrible for a child. I can’t imagine who I’d be, or what I’d be like, if I hadn’t had parents and siblings who loved me and I loved back. But… chasing fun… it’s not going to be enough. Just doing whatever you want… that’s no good, either. And while there may not be much I can do…” Delilah stopped just a few feet away from Alice. She smiled at her and held out her hand. “I can be a friend.”
“Friends,” Sen said, scoffing. He brought Felix to his knees, and slashed at the swordmeowster’s neck. In the nick of time, Felix rolled underneath the attack, rose back to his feet, continued the fight. “If you cannot stand alone, then what use are you? Strength is something you are abounding with, Alice. Don’t let your strength be burdened by the weak.”
Alice looked at Delilah, and for a long moment, the two girls just stared at each other. Silence stretched on between them. Alice looked down at Delilah’s outstretched hand, and then back up at her face. Her eyes flickered from black to white. And then she asked a question that made Delilah’s heart skip a beat.
“Will you be my sister?”
Delilah stared back at Alice, lost for words. She was bewildered, and stunned, but …
“You’re like a big sister.”
Addie said that. And there’s also…
Chelsea. And Lorelei. They’re not related. But they’re sisters. I saw their bond, and it’s amazing.
Can I be like that for Alice? I barely know her. But…
I want to help her.
“You’re like a big sister.”
Maybe… I really can be like that?
I won’t ever know. Not unless I try.
Delilah smiled, tears stinging her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “We can be sisters.”
“Hey, hey, that means me, too, right?” Adelaide asked, racing forward. “If you’re her sister, that means you’re mine, too.”
“That’s right,” Delilah said, laughing. She felt a shock through her body as Alice reached out and clasped her hand. The girls stared at each other, once again silent for a long time.
So many things…
Are so hard to convey with words.
“What a –” Sen started, voice dripping with contempt.
“Shut up, you,” Alice said, turning glaring white eyes on Sen. Rabanastre rose and dashed forward with sudden incredible speed, and Felix joined him. When the two Summons struck, Sen blocked.
But he was pushed back.
“Go, Felix!” Delilah shouted out, her heart soaring.
“Get him, Rabanastre!” Alice shouted, beaming.
Felix’s swords flashed. Rabanastre’s fists and feet flew.
Sen fell back. Step by step, he retreated. He blocked every single attack thrown at him…
Until a gleaming white rabbit fist punched him in the jaw.
Sen reeled, but blocked the next three slashes from Felix.
The fourth slipped through, slicing along his chest.
Sen fell back, again and again. He blocked less and less, as more and more of Rabanastre and Felix’s attacks broke through. A spinning kick to the ribs knocked him off his feet. A crossing slash from twin swords left glowing lines along his chest, and sent him reeling.
Sen held up his sword to block. Rabanastre’s kick and both of Felix’s swords connected with the dark blade at the same time.
The blade shattered. Its fragments dissolved in the wind.
Sen’s voice began to speak, but before he could form a single word…
Both attacks connected, thrusting through the shadowy man’s chest. He gasped, sinking into the attack.
And then Sen, too, dissolved in the wind. But his whispering voice could be heard, one last time. “We… will meet… again…”
The darkness parted, and the final silver lock was revealed.
“Delilah, go!” Alice called out. Delilah nodded, racing forward. She pulled out the key and thrust it into the lock.
Delilah, Alice, and Adelaide stood together in a grey, swirling void. Wind howled, but everywhere they looked, they could see nothing but swirling patterns of grey, endless sky.
Suddenly, Adelaide gasped.
“The stars are coming out,” she said softly.
Delilah saw them, too. Little pinpricks of light began to appear, piercing the gloomy sky in all directions. As more appeared, they combined together, lighting up the darkness until it was utterly banished.
The girls stood in a blinding white void.
Suddenly, a form crossed their path. They could barely make her out, save for her swirling, rainbow-colored eyes.
A voice spoke into the void, speaking a single word: “Solla.”
The White Whale vanished. A new form crossed their path, with swirling blue eyes.
A voice spoke into the void, speaking a single word: “Lunos.”
The Doomed Beast vanished.
Slowly, the white light faded, and Delilah found herself and her new sisters back aboard the body of the Doomed Beast. The White Whale soared along beside them.
But now, Delilah and her new sisters knew their names.
Together, Solla and Lunos sang a beautiful duet. It was filled with love, hope, and joy.
They were free, and reunited at last.