Five months ago, Tiz sent a letter to Agnès. It had been safe-kept by the Prime Minister of Ancheim for a few months as she had in fact been away, tending to the crystals, but one month ago she had returned to the Harena region, calm restored to the crystals, and she had written him a response two pages long. Those two pages have become heavily creased from being unfolded, refolded, and read over and over, dozens of times in the past few weeks; even as Tiz makes his way to the graveyard with Norende's memorial, his hand brushes against his back pouch, where he can feel the shape of the paper. He could never say this to Agnès—very likely it would sound blasphemous to her—but her words for him on a certain matter have become like scripture, the verses of which are engraved in his heart. After all, she has always been his light of hope; what faith he has in Crystalism was born by witnessing her words and deeds.
Do you remember that time you said you felt sorry for ghosts? he had asked in his own letter. He'd gone through three drafts to figure out how to frame his question properly, as an aside that was mentioned only after telling her how well he and Egil and Karl were all doing, describing how Caldisla remained peaceful and Norende's construction neared completion, and requesting she let him know how she was doing in return. I think you said Crystalism believes that souls are reborn after their deaths by returning to the crystals. If that's so, could someone pray to the crystals to eventually be reunited with loved ones in another life? Do you think the crystals would heed that sort of prayer?
He had made sure to ask that only after telling her about all the good things in his life, because he didn't want her to think he was grieving still. Though in a way, he supposed his feelings were of a fresh grief: not for the family and friends he had already lost, but the people he would soon be separated from. Her response had soothed a part of that anxiety.
Tiz, are you truly well? We will all meet again soon. Please keep your heart open to us. As you told me, our burdens shared become much lighter. The first time he had read that opening, he had cringed. Sweet as her words were, it was apparent he had worried her with the inquiry, despite his best efforts. He supposed there was no way he could have kept it from sounding somewhat morbid, considering the very subject, and back then he had wondered then how closely she was going to watch him at the reunion. Not that he would make it that long, now. Just shy of seeing Agnès again, it was time for the Celestial to leave. That was why he had needed to ask her before the reunion, even knowing the question might be a concerning one when it came through a distant letter.
Even if he had worried her, she had been kind enough to answer his question. The crystals do heed prayers, and not only those of the vestals. I am certain they would listen to the sincere wish of someone who fought so hard to free them from darkness. I myself have prayed to be able to meet with Olivia again someday, and though I do not know where or how we will meet, still, I trust that we will. If you need faith, borrow mine. Til loves you. He must surely be seeking to reunite with you in another life as well, after you have enjoyed all the blessings of this life with us. That had only been the beginning of her response. Agnès, thorough as always, had gone on to explain: the theories of Crystalist thought regarding the dead which she had not been able to relate when the subject first came up (Edea abhorred ghosts, and hadn't stood for talk of them); verses of scripture to show how Crystalism supported the rebirth of souls; even stories from the history of the Orthodoxy. Apparently within the church, there was a well-known account of a fire vestal who had practically chosen herself as a vestaling, greeting the mother vestal as if she were a dear friend and knowing things about the temple and crystal before she was even taught them. In time, the mother vestal and several senior acolytes had come to the realization that her manner was in every way like that of an acolyte who had taken her vows at the same time as the mother vestal and died a decade back, lamenting she would not be able to serve her vestal any longer. Her devotion had become a light in her spirit bright enough to mark her with the potential of vestal, and the girl was a great comfort to her mother vestal as the elder advanced in years.
It's that story that keeps coming to Tiz's mind now, as he climbs the worn steps and the first row of graves come into view. Though he can hardly see himself reborn a vestaling for several reasons, he does want, more than anything, a life where he can meet Agnès once more. There are so many other people he wants to see again too, Ringabel and Edea, Til and his parents, but that he has a hope of seeing any of them again is because of the wind vestal and her strong, beautiful spirit. If he can be reborn to protect that spirit, he'll be grateful. If he can be her friend again, he'll be happy. As long as Agnès is there in some way, he's certain the next life will be a good one.
But he doesn't have much more time for idle thoughts. A painful feeling in his chest, almost like his heart squeezing, makes his fingers tense on the shape of the paper, and he loses all his breath in a shocked and pained exhale as the brilliant light of the Celestial emerges from his body.
All the strength leaves his limbs; he falls forward and hard onto the grass, and the green blades of grass already look like a massed blur of shadow to him. As his vision grows even blacker, he makes his prayer in his mind one last time, asking that the crystals lead him back to a life where he can be with his friends again. With Edea, Ringabel, and Agnès.
He is so glad she gave him this light of hope. It's all he has to hold onto when the darkness swallows him whole.
After finding Tiz's body in the graveyard, it is several confused, tear-filled hours before Agnès is even close to understanding what has happened, and then only because Tiz had written her another letter. He'd written them all letters, Ringabel and Edea too, as well as Egil and Karl. But when the mood in the inn was a gloom of crying and panicking and failed healings, it understandably took the innkeeper some time to remember the envelope that had been left to him 'just in case'.
"He expected to die," Ringabel says; he's sounded distant for such a long time now, as if still on that other Luxendarc he had gone to. "Perhaps that's why none of our white magic is working."
"But he's not dead! He's alive!" Edea retorts. She had only skimmed her letter once before flinging it away in upset and swearing she'd get the explanation for this "poor joke" direct from Tiz's mouth when he awoke. Truth be told, Agnès sympathizes with that plan to some extent. When she'd read the first letter from Tiz, asking about loved ones reuniting after death, she had been afraid he was keeping his pain to himself, as he had done at times before, and that it threatened to overwhelm him. She'd poured all her concentration into her response, hoping the reassurance would calm his heart until they could talk directly. She hadn't guessed… anything like this. That his life has not been his own, all this time? How could she have known? But it was still true that he had been keeping things to himself, and perhaps if he had asked them for help, he would not be trapped in this strange state! He isn't dead, as he'd assumed in writing these letters, thinking they would be opened after his passing. He does not even seem hurt, outwardly. But he hasn't responded to any of their efforts to rouse or heal him. The question started as how they should treat him, but it's starting to become a question of if they can. Perhaps the Celestial was holding together something within Tiz that they truly cannot fix.
All things considered, the letter Tiz wrote her sounds so hopeful for the situation. I've prayed every day for the same thing, one part read. I want to come back to a life where the four of us can be friends again. I'm sure it'll be a wait, because you three have so much to do still! But for this, I would wait as long as I need to. If you would pray for that too…it would make me very happy, Agnès.
Agnès has to rub the palm of her hand into her eye so she doesn't cry fresh tears. She can't pray for him to be reborn, because he isn't dead! Even if he really was supposed to die, something has obviously prevented that, but it's beyond her understanding. She'll pray to the crystals for him to be healed. She'll pray for him to come back—
To a life where the four of us can be friends again.
And in that moment, Agnès is very certain of one thing at least. It is not by accident that Tiz is still alive. "Edea," she says. "The white magic cables are reconnected now that the earth crystal is calmed, correct?"
She doesn't need to explain her line of thought to the other girl, who's already nodding. "The Central Healing tower is back at normal operation. There has been some change, because the earth crystal puts out less energy than it used to for the past 15 years, but we've also made improvements on the efficiency of the cables."
"Our spells may be strong enough there," Ringabel muses, some life coming back to his expression.
"Even if we are still unable to wake him, the white magic stasis chamber will keep him alive," Agnès says firmly; this would be blasphemous for her to support, normally, but she doesn't care—and to her eyes, neither do the crystals. "He thought he would die. Perhaps he truly was going to. But he prayed to the crystals to bring him to a life with us—that's this one! Obviously, it is not yet time for him to leave. If that prayer is responsible for him holding on… This will give him the best chance."
It is likely trust in Eternian medical science, rather than belief in the crystals' benevolence, that make Edea and Ringabel agree with a nod. But they are agreeing, and that is enough. Tiz put his faith in her beliefs, and it may have given him a chance to keep living, so she will make sure to see this fledgling miracle through. She will see Tiz wake again, however many prayers it takes.