Delilah sat on the edge of the White Whale’s – Solla’s – back, her legs stretched out in front of her. To her right were Nekoma and then Redmond, looking softer than ever as the wind rustled their glowing fur. To her left was Alice, and then Rabanastre, and then Felix.
Squished between Rabanastre and Felix, holding Reginald close, was a sleeping Adelaide. The little girl had been so excited to cuddle up with the giant rabbit and swordmeowster after the battle, and being able to hold Reginald in her arms had sealed the deal. She’d squealed with delight, and then promptly passed out, sinking into the fuzzy softness all around her.
“Just like a little kid,” Alice said, rolling her eyes.
Delilah had been staring at Alice for a while. The girl was so confusing.
She’s been through a lot. And in many ways, she’s been warped by it.
But in other ways, she’s been unaffected by the brutality that’s defined so much of her life.
She still wants family. She wants companionship. She wants something bigger to live for.
Don’t we all?
“Any clue where we’re going?” Alice asked. Solla and Lunos had been flying together for quite some time now, with the bleak silent lands stretching on and on below them. “And how the heck is Lunos flying, anyway? He was stuck walking everywhere when we went to save him.”
“It sounds like he was weighed down by the chains and the darkness,” Delilah said. “Now that he’s free, he can fly like he was always meant to.”
Alice pursed her lips in thought. While Delilah sat up properly, Alice leaned back on her elbows, lounging. Now and then she leaned a bit to her left, bumping her shoulder against Rabanastre’s arm.
“What’s all this light and darkness stuff, anyway?” Alice asked after a while. “You told me about all that Library of Solitude stuff, but… I dunno. It all seems a bit too convenient. Light is good, darkness is bad.”
“Evil,” Delilah corrected. “I don’t know about convenient, though. Good and evil are real things.”
“Hmm,” Alice hummed thoughtfully. “Does that mean I’m evil?”
Delilah paused at the question. Her initial reaction was to frantically say “no, of course not!” but she held that back.
She’s done some horrible things. And while killing her parents…
…as awful as that is…
…I can somewhat understand…
So much else is just awful. She’s killed I don’t know how many, all as some “game” in her mind. I don’t understand her.
She helped fight against the darkness. She saved Solla and Lunos with me. And while she just said she wanted to have “fun” and see things no one else had…
I don’t think that’s all there is.
“You’re not evil,” Delilah said. “Or, well, it isn’t that simple. I think everyone, all of us, has a bunch of good and a bunch of evil inside us. And the choices we make tip us one way or the other, but even if we go really far into evil…” She smiled. “We can always come back, by making the right choices, and through a lot of help from others.”
“So you’re saying I’m evil, but I can become good,” Alice said.
“That’s not what I meant!” Delilah said frantically, waving her hands. “I meant that I don’t know which side you’re leaning towards. I don’t know you well enough. I know you’ve done bad things, but… you also helped me and your sister and Solla and Lunos.”
“I just wanted to have fun,” Alice said with a smirk.
“No,” Delilah said, staring at Alice. The girl looked back at her, eyes flickering white to black and back again, wide with surprise. “That’s not all you want. You want more out of your life, and more out of this world. If it was just for fun, you wouldn’t have stood up to Senn like you did. You suffered, and you didn’t run away from that.”
Alice stared back at Delilah for several seconds. Her white eyes flicked to black, and she looked away. “Maybe I don’t know what I want,” she said.
“You wanted a big sister,” Delilah said, laughing softly.
Alice sighed. “Yeah, okay.” She looked up, gazing out across the endless expanse. “Our parents were real monsters, you know. They were especially bad to Addie, but the way they treated me… it was just as bad, in a different way. They looked at me like I was a doll. I was the daughter they always wanted. And if I wasn’t, they’d just make me into her. I was their angel, while Addie was their demon. They weren’t what most people would call human. But I guess… if you’re right about people… then they were just as human as everyone else. They just tilted as far to the evil side as they could.”
“So what about everyone else?” Delilah asked.
Alice smiled. “Blaise made it into a game. And that was easy, and fun. And I mean…” Alice paused, her smile slowly fading. “I never felt anything. Except joy. Well, no, not that, not like what you said joy is, the whole ‘deep inside’ kind of thing. I felt happy. It’s fun to win. It’s fun to see what you can do to the world. When it’s a game, you can just kill whoever even remotely bothers you. When it’s a game…” Alice sighed. “It’s not a game, though, is it? I don’t miss my parents, and neither does Addie. But there are other people I killed who are missed by someone. Just because their deaths didn’t bother me doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt someone else. And I like to say I just do things for myself, but I guess…” She looked away, towards the sleeping Adelaide.
“You killed your parents to save your sister,” Delilah said.
Alice nodded, leaning back until she was laying down, staring up at the sky. Her eyes flickered to white, stayed that way for a few seconds, and then faded back to black. “You said all that stuff about purpose and a bigger meaning,” she said. “I can’t just… play games anymore, can I? I can’t do things to people just because it’s fun. I have to think about stuff, like you do. And like… I guess like I did, that one time.”
What does she mean by that?
Alice pursed her lips, letting out a long breath through her nose. She tapped Delilah’s knee with her knuckles. “Addie was right. You’re like a big sister.”
Delilah laughed softly. “But I’m the baby of my family,” she said.
“Well, your big sisters must have rubbed off on you, then,” Alice said. “Addie and I should be a lot further apart in age, but because of all that happened, we’re pretty much the same. So I… I don’t miss my parents, or even having parents. But I miss… having a big sister.” She glanced at Delilah, her eyes turning to white. “Will you stay with me? Like, you’re not just my new sister for a day, right? We can be sisters for…” she paused, looking away, her cheeks flushing slightly, “a… long time, right?”
Delilah’s heart soared, and she nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “I’ll stay with you. We’re sisters, now. And that’s…”
Sisters are forever.
Just like that song. And just like Mom told all three of us.
Towards Fae, I…
Delilah stared at her feet.
Can I be a proper big sister to Alice and Addie?
What if I change, and grow distant, and then they disown me like I wanted to disown Fae?
Can they really rely on me?
Can I get Fae back?
I don’t want to be angry with her anymore. I haven’t seen her in so long, and she’s off on her own journey, and I…
I miss her. For the first time in so long, I really miss her.
So much has changed. I thought I’d realized how much, but…
Delilah smiled a small smile.
“That’s forever,” she said softly.
“I didn’t take all the cookies, it was Alice!” Adelaide suddenly shouted, sitting up straight, eyes wide as she looked around wildly.
“Great, just blame it all on me,” Alice said, rolling her eyes. “You’re the one with the sweet tooth.”
“Oh,” Adelaide said, giggling. “It was just a dream.” Then her smile turned into a distraught expression. “I… I don’t actually get any cookies!”
“Not yet,” Delilah said, laughing. “When we get back to Grimoire, I’ll make you some.”
Adelaide’s frown transformed into the biggest, brightest smile Delilah had ever seen. “Really???” she asked, voice rising an entire octave in a single word.
“Like I said,” Alice said with a smirk.
Adelaide stood up, letting Reginald go so the blue butler cat could walk around freely. She held her hair back against the wind and gazed out across the wide open emptiness. “Where are we going, anyway?” she asked. “Are we ever gonna leave this place?”
“Eventually,” Delilah said. She’d stayed seated partly because of fatigue from the battle, but mostly because it kept her in a lot of contact with Solla, and that way she could understand her songs better. She’d been listening and feeling the entire time, getting a sense of what was happening. “I’m not entirely sure where we’re going, but these two know the way. I think we’re going to make a stop along the way, but we’ll end up back in Grimoire eventually.”
“Well ‘eventually’ is taking forever,” Adelaide whined, coming over to sit behind and between Alice and Delilah. “Come on, come on, let’s go! We gotta get to the next part of the adventure!”
“Adventure?” Alice asked. “You know this isn’t entirely under our control, right? Try to relax for a bit.”
“I was relaxed,” Adelaide said, pouting. “I was sleeping.”
“Like a wee wittle baby,” Alice teased, grinning.
“And as cute as one, too!” Adelaide said with a firm “hmph!’ as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Hey, it looks like there’s something up ahead,” Delilah said, turning to look forward.
“Something other than the same rolling landscape?” Alice asked, sitting up to look, too. Adelaide came over and joined them, resting her chin on Delilah’s shoulder.
“What’s that?” Adelaide asked.
“It’s kind of like the portal we went through in space,” Alice said.
Before them in the air hung a circular, glowing blue gateway. Solla and Lunos flew towards it, gathering speed. Delilah, Alice, Adelaide, and the Summons all stood, gathering in the center of Solla’s back, where she formed a protective dome like she had when she took them into space.
Through the portal they went. The bleak silent lands were left behind, and blue light swirled all around them in kaleidoscopic fashion. It faded into white, and Delilah looked forward…
“Another door,” Alice said.
Delilah nodded. Before them was a massive silver door. Delilah pulled out the crescent moon key and held it up. Light burst forth, connecting key to door, and the door swung open.
Solla and Lunos flew through, singing a triumphant song. Delilah’s heart soared, and her excitement grew…
But when the light faded, and she saw where they were, that excitement faded.
“This doesn’t look much better than the last place,” Alice said, hands shoved in her pockets.
They weren’t outdoors anymore, but inside a massive manmade cavern, big enough for both Solla and Lunos to hover safely. Above them arched a smooth, pearlescent ceiling, and below them was a silvery lake. Just to their left, a short hop off of Solla, was a platform that led to a stone walkway, which led forward to a tall, arched doorway and a staircase that ascended out of sight.
It was such a wreck.
The ceiling was faded and cracked. The lake below had a bit of silver to its color still, but much of its water was murky, with rocky detritus floating here and there. The platform and walkway were faded from their natural pearlescent color to a murky brown, with cracks running all along the floor, and even some sections chipped away or cratered.
“It’s a total dump!” Adelaide said, staring with wide eyes. “Why’d they bring us here?”
“I’m not sure,” Delilah said softly.
But thinking about those visions I was shown…
And how excited Solla and Lunos were to bring us here, only to suddenly fall silent when they arrived…
And this strange, familiar feeling in my heart…
“You have some sort of idea, don’t you?” Alice asked. She gazed at Delilah with white, gleaming eyes.
Delilah nodded slowly. “But I can’t be sure yet. I need to see more.”
“Well, let’s get going, then,” Alice said. She was the first to leave Solla, as Rabanastre leapt with her in his arms down to the platform.
“Hey, I wanna jump with you!” Adelaide called out, balling her hands into fists. “Meanie!”
“I thought you preferred kitty cats,” Alice called back.
“Let’s go,” Delilah said, smiling to Adelaide. Felix came over and gently lifted her, and Adelaide’s frustrations vanished in an instant. Before Delilah leapt across, she knelt down, placing her hand against the smooth skin of Solla.
We’ll be back soon, okay?
There was a faint rumble and a soft, brief song in reply. Delilah smiled.
Once all of them were on the platform, they walked along the pathway to the stairs. Standing at the bottom, they peered up, but the staircase looped around, vanishing into shadow.
“Someone forgot to turn on the lights,” Adelaide said, tapping a glass casing for a spherical lantern that wasn’t shedding any light.
“Or they had some budget cuts,” Alice said, peering around the entire place with a nonchalant look on her face.
They aren’t exactly the same, but…
“Let’s go,” Delilah said. She led the way up, and the younger girls followed. When the staircase got darker, the Summons went ahead to lead the way, shedding their many different lights through the vast space.
“It’s a staircase built for elephants,” Alice said. “Who needs such a big house?”
“I want a house this big!” Adelaide said. She started tapping her chin thoughtfully, eyes narrowed in thought. “I can make my house bigger, too. Hmm… this is giving me good ideas…”
“Don’t get carried away,” Alice said, rolling her eyes.
They finally reached the top, and Alice leapt ahead, stepping out into the next hall first. She spun into a turn, smiling at the others. “Seven hundred and eighty-nine steps,” she said.
“You were counting the whole time?” Adelaide asked, eyes wide. “No way! How’d you not lose count?”
“Because I can focus on things,” Alice said, looking awfully proud of herself. “And I’m a great multitasker.”
Delilah was impressed, but before she could say anything, she was struck by the space they found themselves in. It was a wide, domed room, with arched hallways branching off from six points, and two staircases – one ascending, one descending – at the far end.
This vast intersection reminded Delilah a bit of an airport. There were different areas partitioned off with ropes, and against several walls were long desks with a variety of signs behind them on the wall. In the center was a tall pillar covered in charts that were so faded it was difficult to make out even a single word.
But aside from the strange things, there were signs Delilah recognized. At the top of the central pillar was a four-pointed star, tilted like an X. There were words etched in the stone, and though she couldn’t read them all, she could tell what it said, because it was beneath a similar star symbol, and was so similar to a message she’d seen in a similar place:
“The light… darkness… overcome…”
To the right, connected to what looked like some sort of circular vendor’s booth, were several silver threads that rose up, connecting to floating, spherical lanterns.
And the ceiling above was glass, providing a perfect view of a blue-and-green wonder far beyond.
“Holy crap!” Alice exclaimed, grabbing Delilah’s shoulders and gazing up at the ceiling. “That’s the Earth! That’s totally Earth, isn’t it? We’re in outer space again!”
“But where?” Adelaide asked, joining the sudden touchy-feely gathering around Delilah, leaning her head against Delilah’s shoulder. “Are we on…”
“The Moon,” Delilah said, finally finding her voice.
It wasn’t just a vision. That place was real.
“And more than just the Moon,” Delilah said, her attention shifting to the star and the faded message beneath it. “I’m pretty sure…
“This is a Daylight Bastion.”