the same rainbow's end @chime
two drifters, off to see the world posted 22 july 2019

Ardbert was shocked when, once, his fellow Warrior had laughed, bitter and sad. Said, “Woe betide those who stand opposed to the weapon of light. You’re always right, aren’t you?” Then she was quiet for a long time. She might have been crying. He couldn’t bring himself to watch, to ask. After Innocence, things started tilting sideways, stopped making sense. He didn’t want to face losing her to something he couldn’t understand.

But he thought about that a lot with the time he had left. A weapon. Some people probably thought about Ardbert and his friends that way when they were alive. Definitely after the Flood. They led the charge, cracked whatever dam held back the light. Who would listen, if he said he didn’t mean to?

Making yourself into a weapon is easy. You don’t even have to know you’re doing it.

So he’s fine with how he ends. That’s how he knows he was always meant to go - one last dance. And he had a hell of a partner.

He just didn’t expect an epilogue.


 

Ardbert stumbles into a room full of brightness. Might be a room - it’s all the same color, like sunlight streaming through leaves. Less an actual color and more a memory of one.

He steps forward, and finds that he can just keep going for a while. Not a room. A hallway? A word for where he is would be comforting. A word other than the ones hovering just in the back of his mind - the Flood. But he can’t be back there. That would mean they failed. Not just the Warrior but Renda, and Lammitt, and Branden, and Nyelbert. And Minfilia.

Something happens, when he thinks about Minfilia. The room seems to catch on that thought, go fuzzy or shift in a way beyond comprehension. Or beyond his comprehension. Y’shtola might be able to understand it. Funny, how he thinks of her as a friend now.

He feels a tug, from the room itself almost. He turns slightly, because he’s tired and if something huge and powerful wants to tell him something he might as well listen carefully this time.

Not long before he sees something in the distance. He breaks out in a run, almost expecting to not close any distance between him and whatever it is. But he does. Eventually.

“You,” says Ardbert. He’s out of breath, by some joke of a miracle.

“Hello!” says Minfilia. Her eyes crease at the edges with her smile.

Ardbert remembers Minfilia clearly. As the Word of the Mother - distant and dutiful. As the Oracle of Light - strained and serious. Did she smile, in the brief time he knew her? Did that smile ever reach her eyes?

“I don’t understand.” Ardbert says. “You… Ryne is the Oracle now.”

Minfilia’s smile only grows. “Ryne. That’s a lovely name. Was that from Thancred?”

“You don’t know?”

“I’ve been over here, haven’t I?” At Ardbert’s expression, Minfilia laughs behind her hand. “I’m sorry. I’m not used to being the one with answers. Keeping others in the dark can be thrilling, I suppose.”

“I… That’s your right.” Ardbert says, thinking of Urianger’s guilt and grief.

“The Aetherial Sea connects all the shards to the Source.” Minfilia recites, in a tone that reminds Ardbert of one of Nyelbert’s lectures. (They always made him sad, because he knew where that knowledge came from.) “I believe when I left for the First, I left a piece of myself behind. Not enough to come back, of course, but enough to hold on to. For a while.”

“Hold on to?”

“Oh, yes,” Minfilia says, her smile creeping back. Ardbert can’t understand what she’s so delighted by. The adrenaline of escaping death? She continues, seemingly oblivious to Ardbert’s growing confusion, “She wants me to return to the Sea. You cannot ignore Her for long. But I mean to for a little longer.”

“Why?” Ardbert says, though there can only be one answer.

“I want to speak with you.” Minfilia says.

Absurd. Ghosts talking to ghosts. Ardbert shakes his head. “Why? To hear me say you were right? Why not go back? Why not the Warrior, or your family -”

“Please,” Minfilia says, face stern. Finally, familiar footing. “Do not assume my intent. We are strangers, at the end of the day. And dead, too.”

Ardbert sighs, scrubbing at his face. “Sorry. I… I wanted some rest. This wasn’t what I was expecting.”

“I’ll be quick,” she says, voice gentle now. She takes a step forward, and pulls Ardbert into a hug. “Thank you.”

“Oh,” Ardbert chokes out, throat tight. A memory of tears, not actual ones, he’s dead now, but they feel real on his face. Minfilia feels real too, warm and steady. “You… You too.”

She laughs, and he’s glad he’s not the only one crying. Or whatever you do when you don’t have a body.

She pulls back first, and Ardbert pushes down his disappointment, his embarrassment. At still wanting, after all this time, some kind of contact.

“I’m glad you were there. To watch over all of them.” She shakes her head, wiping at her eyes. “I knew she would listen to you.”

“I’m glad I was there.” He confesses. Somehow, it doesn’t make him feel better. “I wish I had more time.”

“I know the feeling,” Minfilia says, and there’s the smile he expected. Mournful. “I can show you a good place to rest. Just up ahead.”

Minfilia holds out her hand, and Ardbert takes it. Together, they walk.

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