Ethan: “You were the only one to escape from the black hole, you say?”
The woman sitting in front of him with her gaze lowered at the ground nods in response.
Sneha: “It almost felt like the black hole started to disappear because Kais had been sucked in.”
The timing of the black hole starting to close was the peculiar detail that led to Sneha thinking so.
Ethan: “What you are saying is not making any sense to me.”
To a depressed looking Sneha, Ethan says with a dejected and confused face.
Ethan: “If that hole really started to disappear that conveniently after sucking in Kais then it might have been there just to do that. But, I know for a fact that Ozyllus left this place before I came in and there’s no way he could have slipped in without me noticing.”
Sneha’s eyes twitch on hearing Ethan’s words, and so she voices her question,
Sneha: “Are you sure about that? You haven’t forgotten what happened with Walter Schmidt, have you?”
Ethan: “I haven’t.”
The incident Sneha is referring to is the one that happened at the beach, when Walter was able to deceive Ethan by exuding power of such a degree that even Eyes of Truth could not see through. It only stands to reason that someone like Ozyllus would be able to do something Walter could. However, Ethan’s confidence in not without its own foundation.
Ethan: “There’s a difference between being powerful enough to deceive Eyes of Truth and being powerful enough to make Eyes of Truth unnecessary.”
Even if Walter Schmidt is the strongest person on the planet today, that doesn’t mean he is a match for Ozyllus himself. And the difference in their power levels can be justified with just this –
Ethan: “I don’t need Eyes of Truth to detect him. He’s so powerful that once you have felt his aura, you can detect it even without any special means of detection. Basically what I am saying is that he’s so powerful that it’s impossible to hide his presence without the most complex of mechanisms done through psychic beyond what anyone today would even dream to do.”
Sneha: “I get what you are saying but why couldn’t he have used those complex mechanisms you are talking about?”
Ethan: “Because he can only hide himself using those mechanisms from those who do not have Eyes of Truth.”
As she hears that, her eyes widen on realizing the double-edged sword that Ozyllus’ power has become for him.
Ethan: “Simply put, if he doesn’t try to take enough measures to hide himself, pretty much any creature can detect his freaking large aura. And if he does go to the extreme lengths of hiding himself using very complex mechanisms, Eyes of Truth will be able to see through those mechanisms because, in the end, those mechanisms would just be a combination of much simpler uses of psychic energy that Eyes of Truth expertise in finding.”
Basically, Ozyllus had become so powerful that he would never be able to hide himself from someone who has Eyes of Truth.
Hearing so, Sneha sighs as she understands what Ethan said and, even if unwillingly, starts admiring the level of power Ozyllus has achieved.
Ethan: “But anyway, coming back to the topic, I suppose you don’t know anything of what happened to those three after that point.”
Ethan makes a simple guess that should be answered with a nod, but doesn’t. Much to his surprise, Sneha denies it.
Sneha: “I don’t know everything of what happened after that but, I do know some things.”
Ethan finds himself honestly surprised and curious on hearing so and fixes his gaze on her. Because of his Eyes of Truth, he can see fluctuations in the energy surrounding someone as they lie. So, he knows Sneha is telling the truth. Though, there shouldn’t have been any reason to really doubt her in the first place, he just couldn’t help it.
He asks with a little bit of nervousness finally coming to his face,
Ethan: “what happened after that?”
Sneha turned to look at him as she answered,
Sneha: “After some minutes had passed since the black hole disappeared, I found her lying here.”
Ro: “Looks like we have completely lost.”
Ro whispered to the dragon. Even if the two who defeated them heard them, there won’t really have been any problem. But still, Ro decided to whisper. So, in response, the dragon answered in a whisper too.
Dragon: “I suppose that’s true. But still, one can say we lost the battle, but won the war.”
The dragon said with a faint smile.
Dragon: “After all, we were able to buy enough time for Kais to go in the tomb.”
Ro: “Is that really us winning the war though?”
He asked doubtfully as he glanced at Walter.
Dragon: “I see. So you noticed, huh?”
Ro: “It’s true, isn’t it? He knew all along that he would fall short on time but still didn’t try to run after Kais.”
The dragon nodded.
Dragon: “He deliberately let Kais go in the tomb. But, no matter what he thinks, I can guarantee that Kais would not join the ghost’s side after coming out of the tomb, no matter how much they preach.”
There was an unexplainable confidence in the dragon’s eyes and seeing that made Ro feel guilty for being doubtful.
Dragon: “Ha! Ha!”
The dragon chuckled seeing the guilty expression on Ro’s face.
Dragon: “There’s no reason for you to try to hide your doubts. I understand perfectly well why just me saying that would not convince you. In fact, I would advise you to keep up that attitude; it will surely help on a future occasion.”
The dragon accepted his doubtful expression. Ro, on the other hand, was still stuck between guilt and doubt, even though some of his guilt had been lifted after hearing the dragon’s words.
Dyne: “Hey, you two, I want to ask something.”
Ro and the dragon turn to Ro, who was looking at them with one hand on his waist.
Ro: “And why exactly would either of us answer you?”
Dyne sighed exasperatedly on hearing Ro’s response, however,
Dragon: “Well, we can at least listen to what he has to say. Maybe it would be something we can answer and there’ll be no reason for pointless hostility that way.”
Ro stared at the dragon with narrowed eyes as if to say, “You know they could ask us a trick question that we can’t refuse to answer.” The dragon blinked as if to say that he knows that but is still willing to let them ask.
The kind of thing Ro was worried about was a question which if they refuse to answer, Dyne would automatically be able to interpret the answer according to just that. If they refused to answer from the start though, then it won’t be so easy. However, the dragon, knowing all that, had still agreed to answer if he can.
Dyne: “Well, do you guys know why time is suddenly running so fast?”
Ro: “No idea.”
Dragon: “Same here. Though if I were to take a guess, it’s Ozyllus’ doing.”
Dyne narrowed his eyes on hearing that but very soon accepted the dragon’s answer.
Dyne: “His ghost’s doing this, is your guess, correct?”
The dragon nodded.
Dyne: “Well then, is this the first disturbance that has been caused like this?”
Ro: “No, it’s not.”
Ro immediately gave his answer as he reminded himself of the time when this happened before.
Dragon: “Although no one on the island felt that way, a disturbance was caused back when Ro, Barry, Ethan and Sneha had come to the island as well.”
Walter: “I see. That’s peculiar.”
Walter, leaning next to a tree with folded arms, said so.
Walter: “So he messed with both time and people’s sense of time back then but not now. Why?”
Dragon: “I believe it is related to my death.”
All three turned to stare at the dragon with varying degrees of shock on their faces. Ro and Walter were not that surprised to hear so but Dyne was utterly baffled.
Dragon: “Strictly speaking, five days were left for me to live back when Kais was first brought here. However, the thing that would kill me is not psychic. It’s demonic, so …”
The dragon trailed off seeing all three of them understanding what was going on.
Walter: “So in other words, even if you don’t believe your time is up, whatever kills you will be activated and you will die.”
The dragon nodded to give an affirmation to the summarization of the understanding Walter had gained of the situation.
Dragon: “In the case time is running slowly, whether I realize it or not, I’ll live longer. Since I was being quite loyal to him back then, that’s probably why he slowed the time so as to make me live longer and carry out the orders he gave me to the fullest.”
The dragon continued, unfazed.
Dragon: “However, when the opposite of that started to happen, he started to make my end come sooner. As the time is right now, even if I try to convince myself that my time is not running out so fast, it wouldn’t matter because the time of death will come sooner.”
It is a sickening concept. Or so Ro thought at least.
Ro: “So I suppose this ‘thing’ that kills you is, in the end, a contract, huh?”
Only contract could have such conditions that can completely ignore psychology. Ro was well aware of this much at least.
Dragon: “Yeah, I made that contract with him. In exchange for giving me a human form, I would have to agree to his demands. The result, as you can see, is this form, a replica of his appearance.”
The three find themselves surprised and losing composure on hearing that. For what reason could the dragon have wanted a human form so badly that he would have agreed to such a contract? Seeing their reactions was enough to let the dragon know that was what they were thinking. And so, the dragon answered.
Dragon: “The reason I wanted a human form was because I was threatened.”
He said without showing any hint of sadness in his voice. There was absolutely no emotion in his voice as he said that, all was buried underneath. The emotions that would not come to his face when they are felt by him, for once, they were helping him deal with a painful situation.
Dragon: “He threatened to destroy the whole dragon race if I didn’t agree to that contract.”
Dyne: “Seriously, he couldn’t have been serious, right?”
Dragon: “He killed a five of them in front of me and then gave his threat.”
Ozyllus had made it very clear how serious he was about his threat by showing that horrible sight of five of his dead kinsmen to the dragon. And so, the dragon had no choice but to agree to everything Ozyllus said.
Dyne: “I see.”
Dyne lowered his gaze. He just didn’t feel enough courage to look the dragon in the eye after hearing that. Walter was no different in that regard, but
Ro: “I have something to ask too.”
The dragon turned towards Ro as he urged him to go on.
Ro: “How much of this does that little girl know?”
The dragon looked surprised as he heard Ro’s question. But soon, as his surprise subsided, only the emotion of happiness came from within him.
Dragon: “Thanks for worrying about her but she does not know any of this.”
The dragon had a faint smile that described his expressions best.
Dragon: “I didn’t need to tell her any of this because she could fulfill her duties without knowing this stuff.”
Ro: “Is that all?”
Dragon: “That was all.”
The dragon stretched ‘was’ to make his intent very clear.
Dragon: “In all these years, even after knowing that she is just a mass of energy at her core, I ended up starting to think of her as someone who was important.”
The dragon confessed.
Dragon: “I started to think that I was a monster to treat that mass of energy as if she is a machine.”
The dragon confessed the sin.
Dragon: “I started to feel disgusted at myself. And so, one day,”
The dragon confessed the sin that he believed he had committed.
Dragon: “I, who had started being respected among the animals on this island, asked them to start assisting her. On my command, there started to be always a handful of animals around her to look out for her.”
The dragon confessed everything.
Dragon: “And by doing that, I finally felt I had set things right.”
The dragon confessed everything he felt.
Dragon: “I never really expressed it out loud, but I did wonder, is this what I felt towards her what you would call a parental love?”
It was still lacking in certain areas because of obvious reasons, but the answer to his question was definitely ‘yes’. All three present there had understood that. And so, they all kept quiet.
They just looked at each other unable to say anything. The dragon, realizing what they must be feeling at that moment,
Dragon: “HA! HA! HA!! HA! HA!!!”
He started laughing with all his heart.
Ro: “W-what are you laughing so much for?”
Dragon: “HA! HA! Ha! Ha! I … am sorry. I-it’s just …”
He wiped off the teardrops forming near his eyes because of his laughs,
Dragon: “I never thought I would be talking about things like this to anyone, much less anyone like you three.”
The dragon, having accomplished his mission to sent Kais to the source of the knowledge which will change everything, felt the weight of the responsibility he had felt for over 1000 years being lifted off his shoulders. And as that happened, he found that he could still laugh so wholeheartedly. It was such an elating self-realization for him that he almost wanted to dance.
Dragon: “I wonder, what brought on this change?”
He asked a question that Barry had also asked himself over why he was able to give up on everything and help Kais when the moment called for it. What made these two victims of Ozyllus to find courage to stand up against him even if it meant early death? And that answer was,
Dragon: “That’s right. The reason for this change was him.”
He thought of the man who was undoubtedly the person who inspired that change in both of them.
Dragon: “It was because of Ethan Kales.”
He thought of a man, who despite being exponentially weaker than everyone around him would look down at them with a smug face. On seeing that powerless human, showing no fear in the face of monsters like him and Barry, how could they not have found in themselves to want to rebel. How could they not have told themselves to go against Ozyllus, even if one last time?
Dragon: “I still don’t know what exactly his stance is in all of this, but he had undoubtedly led to some things that both I and Barry and even many others would be grateful for.”
She saw it. She saw the dragon fallen on the floor as he answered the questions of the three around him with a faint smile. She was hearing the answers to all the questions she didn’t even want to think about.
Girl: “This … is … wrong.”
The dragon had said that he had started to feel something akin to parental love for her overtime. But from her perspective, he was the only person she could look up to and call a parent. She had always felt that love a child feels towards a parent.
Girl: “Why … would … would he … do something … so horrible?”
She had also heard that Ozyllus had threatened her parental figure and put such a horrible condition on him. With everything she had been hearing about Ozyllus, she had come to realize that he is someone who has created a lot of trouble for a lot of people. But, she had not started hating him.
Girl: “How could … he … do … something … like this?”
Now, she had started hating him.
Until her parental figure had not shown his sadness, this child had not understood that he was this sad. But when he did show it, the sadness within this child was perhaps even doubled or tripled compared to what the dragon felt.
Girl: “Why … why … can’t, things … work out?”
She had started to feel a tight knot in her chest. This knot was starting to suffocate her.
What were these feelings? She didn’t know.
Why did she have these feelings despite being made of energy? She didn’t know.
What were these feeling going to cause? She didn’t know.
Girl: “H-huh!? Who’s there?”
In the darkness that she was surrounded in ever since she got sucked in the black hole, she was being shown the scene of the dragon with other three. But, who exactly was making her see all this?
Girl: “W-who are you?”
The answer to that question was in front of her. In the darkness, there was a silhouette visible. This had to be the person who was showing her those things. His name was,
Sagax: “I am Sagax, the former holder of Eyes of Truth.”
He said in a calm voice.
Sagax: “Though to be honest, I am just a ghost of who is used to be.”
The girl was left with widened-eyes and mouth open. Of course she knew who Sagax was. Ozyllus and Abyss may have been considered the most important people in the history, but if anyone were to come after that, that would be this man standing in front of her. Shock was natural.
Sagax: “I see that you are in much pain.”
The silhouette of the man calling himself Sagax’s ghost drew nearer to her and his features started to become clearer. He appeared quite tall because of long legs and arms. They weren’t so long that one would feel awkward looking at him but were definitely out-of-proportion. But regardless, what struck the girl the most was his face.
Sagax: “I understand that you have feelings then.”
His face gave the impression of someone mellow and there was a nice atmosphere to being around him. If there was one thing that made Sagax look different from an ordinary tall man, it was his eyes. That is, they were not present.
Sagax: “But why would you have feelings?”
Instead of his eyes, there was just pure darkness. It looked as if two black spots had been formed on the places where his eyes should have been.
Sagax: “Tell me, do you remember anything that may lead me to understand why an artificially created existence like you has feelings?”
He asked in a humble and calm tone.
Girl: “I-I … I don’t … know.”
Sagax: “I see. Do you remember when was the first time you started feeling any special attachments to anything?”
Girl: “I-I don’t r-remember.”
She wasn’t lying. She really didn’t remember. It was simply because she had never really considered things like that to be something she should remember.
Sagax: “I see. I suppose you accepted the birth of your feelings as something natural. But still, there has to be a reason why you have them? I am pretty sure the dragon wouldn’t have made you in a way that you’d develop the ability to humanize more than you already had.”
Sagax knew the dragon well enough to know that he wouldn’t do something so horrible as to try to create a person. But seeing all these feeling in this girl, one would assume that he did. However, Sagax believed that something or someone other than the dragon is responsible for the existence of her feelings.
Girl: “T-that …”
She was so overwhelmed by the things she had seen and the things Sagax had said that she was unable to speak fluently.
Girl: “That … doesn’t matter right now.”
Yet, when she reached her boiling point, her words started to come out as if they had been programmed to.
Girl: “W-what’s important is …”
Sagax: “I see.”
As the girl, who had lowered her gaze shifts it back up in anger, she sees Sagax looking at her closely, which forces her to stop talking.
Sagax: “I can see traces of psychic energy in your structure.”
Regardless of how he would be able to see without there being any eyes, he had been able to figure out why the girl had human feelings that the dragon never built her with.
Sagax: “Ozyllus is the one who gave you these feelings, isn’t he? He took all the emotions he could find in different people and probably forced it out of their brains to inject into yours.”
Sagax kept talking while bringing a hand to his chin.
Sagax: “Yes, yes.”
He nodded to himself.
Sagax: “He is the only one who could have done something like this.”
Girl: “I … don’t care.”
The girl faced down as she trembled with rage on hearing Ozyllus’ name.
Sagax: “Looks like you do care though.”
Girl: “Shut up! I don’t care!”
She shouted in anger, to which, Sagax sighed.
Sagax: “The person you have come to think of as a father is about to die.”
It would only hurt her to hear this, but Sagax continued anyway.
Sagax: “And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
He continued knowing it would hurt her,
Sagax: “So would you like to die too?”
He continued for the sake of this question.
She stared at Sagax with wide-eyes.
Sagax: “If you decided to die now, I will grant your wish. I don’t have much power, but I can at least do that much.”
She stayed silent, unable to answer as she kept staring at the face of the man with hollow eyes.
It had been 10 minutes since the black hole had disappeared. All Sneha Stone could do was to bring herself down to the second floor, being as vigilant as she could.
Sneha: “Hah! Hah!”
She was breathing heavily, half because of her body still not having recovered from the pressure of the black hole and half because of being in a tired state of mind ever since then.
Sneha: “Just what happened to those three?”
She could do nothing but wonder … or so she thought.
But something proved her wrong. That something was the little girl – sitting on the floor while leaning to the wall.
She exclaimed as she saw the girl and brought the girl’s attention towards herself.
Girl: “I-I see. It’s Ms. Sneha.”
Her voice, as she spoke with a smile, was weak.
Sneha: “Didn’t you get sucked in that black hole?”
She asked as she started walking towards the girl.
Sneha: “How are you here?”
Her voice was filled with pure surprise. But the girl, on the other hand, only smiled as she said the truth.
Girl: “I agreed.”
Girl: “I agreed to die.”
Sneha was left speechless. She did not understand what was going on but she did understand that whatever it was, it was tragic.
Girl: “I agreed to die, so I am here. Now,”
Her voice weak but sweet continued on,
Girl: “I can rest just like he would.”
The smile on her face was also weak but full of happiness.
Girl: “And, in the end, both of us will be free.”