A Bargain of Souls

Note: Happy Valentine's Day!

I've figured out how to continue this story properly and I've decided that this will be focused on Hitomi and that dark bargain she has to make for Folken's life while also linking this to a past story with similar themes so that I can better explore the connection between Folken and Eries, "To Any God Who Will Listen."

So it may be a bit strange but since the stories are quite short, it shouldn't take too long to read them both. So one can start with "To Any God Who Will Listen," which I've updated with the second chapter, before reading this one, if only to get a better context of Folken and Eries and what Hitomi saw as their powerful connection.

But there's a darker side still to Hitomi's decision here, and you already get the sense of who will be the real casualty in the Mystic Moon seer's decision to save Folken. Anyway, this chapter is still mostly about the power of love so that works for today's occasion. Enjoy!

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"Now the sky is turning dark

And the wind is turning chill

And the Fates are out for blood

They've been cheated of their kill

By a girl without the sense to obey…"

Hitomi smiled at the vision before her, the second princess of Asturia taking the hand of the fallen prince, reassuring him that help was on its way and that there was still hope. And Folken Fanel gazed back at the princess with a renewed faith in the life he could still live.

"Do you know what you've done, you foolish child?" the voices of the Fates chided the girl from the Mystic Moon. "By entwining their fates, you've only made things needlessly complicated. You've dragged another victim into this tragedy."

"I don't believe so," Hitomi replied defiantly, "I saw that their fates had been connected for years."

Her powers had allowed her to glimpse into their past, into the years that they had fostered a tentative friendship despite Folken's allegiance to Zaibach, to their shared sorrows, to the rare moments that they had allowed themselves to trust each other, and to that simple, sincere prayer uttered by a young princess for the safety and survival of a lost prince, all those years ago. She had seen it all and she wished with all her heart that they would be given the chance at happiness that their lives had long denied them. So she knew what she had to do for them.

"I simply gave them a nudge so that they could strengthen their bond," the girl explained with a smile, "And I know that this will save them both."

"What makes you so certain?" the voices asked curiously.

"I know how much power our feelings can have over changing our fates," Hitomi replied calmly, "I've seen how anger and sadness and hate have destroyed this world but I also know that hope and forgiveness and love can redeem it."

"And you truly believe that love can conquer death?" the voices persisted.

"I know it can," Hitomi said with conviction.

"Perhaps," they conceded, "But in this case, that will not be enough. You know this too. You are merely delaying the inevitable choice. A sacrifice must be made."

Hitomi frowned but she could not deny it. She knew that someone would have to die for Folken to live. And looking at how he had a real chance at happiness now, she was determined to ensure that he would be able to pursue it. And yet, for a moment, she faltered.

"When you said you were willing to pay the price," the voices taunted her, "You already knew who you meant to serve to us. You already knew that there is a person whose unique circumstances would allow you to make this decision with the least suffering."

Hitomi remained silent, hesitating despite everything. She had not anticipated how difficult it would be to even say the name of the person she meant to betray. Not that he would ever even know what had happened. But she was not sure now that she would be able to bear so much guilt.

"Now, you begin to understand the gravity of this decision," the voices warned her, "You are at a strange advantage. No such opportunity has presented itself before. A body with two souls trapped in eternal struggle. You could free one and use the other to save your friend. It would be a noble choice, a merciful choice. A moment ago, you seemed so certain, what about now? Have you changed your mind?"

Hitomi felt tears well in her eyes but she blinked them back as she strengthened her resolve. She would see the people she loved safe and happy, no matter what the cost.

"I've made my decision," she said resolutely, "I will make the trade."