A Bargain of Souls

Note:

Happy Birthday, Folken!

Exactly a year since I posted the first chapter and I've wrapped this one up! It's come full circle and I'm so glad.

It's also the darkest scenario I've written for Hitomi so far and I find that exciting. This girl has so much potential to make decisions in moral grey areas and that's what I wanted to explore in this piece. It was pretty obvious in the last chapter who she would be willing to give up to save Folken's life and that will have interesting repercussions. But not ones that I will explore further in this story. I just really enjoyed the idea of her doing something a bit ruthless and this story was always meant to be about the trade.

So, this ends pretty well for Folken anyway so it's an apt birthday present. And though this is the last chapter for this story, if you want to read a bit of what happens to Folken and Eries after this, you can check out the last chapter of "To Any God Who Will Listen" which I'll be posting some time next month.

Enjoy!

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"Now the sky has turned to black

And the wind is like a knife

Cold, dark Death is coming back

For the man who clings to life

And the girl will have the Fates

To repay…"

Hitomi found herself surrounded by complete darkness. She shivered, not from the cold but from the gravity of the decision she was about to make. But she could not falter now. Time was running out for Folken.

"To make the trade, you must say the words," the Fates instructed her.

The girl nodded, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath, summoning her courage and those incomprehensible powers that allowed her to make this momentous transaction. She pictured those involved in her mind, waiting for the blurry images to become clearer and clearer.

She saw Folken, desperately clinging to life, his black wings drenched in his blood, his eyes so full of fear. But he was not alone. Princess Eries remained by his side, reassuring him that the worst would not come to pass, hoping and praying for a miracle.

Hitomi would deliver.

In another vision, the girl found herself on the battlefield, and in the midst of the chaos, she spotted the person she needed. The fierce soldier easily dispatched his opponents but he was not at his best. His movements were frantic and unstable. He was weighed down by a vicious internal struggle as the rightful owner of his body was fighting to regain control.

Hitomi would restore Celena Schezar.

"Say the words," the Fates repeated.

"I will trade the soul of Dilandau Albatou for the survival of Folken Fanel."

There was a moment of utter stillness.

Then, slowly materializing before her in that darkness, Hitomi saw the familiar figure of Dilandau Albatou.

The silver-haired soldier was still in his armor but he was standing alone, looking even a little forlorn.

"Where am I?" he asked, looking around him in confusion.

He caught sight of Hitomi. "It's you," he said with recognition, "What are you doing here?"

Seeing him before her, Hitomi could not find it in herself to speak, knowing what fate she had decided with her strange power. All of a sudden, she even felt a stab of pity for him, despite everything he had done. He perhaps deserved a better end, a warrior's death, but she had taken that away from him.

But the bargain had been struck and it could never be undone.

Dilandau frowned at the girl but she maintained her silence although she looked at him with an expression of regret. He did not fully understand what was happening but it was clear to him that she was somehow behind it all.

Before he could do anything else, shadowy tendrils appeared and surrounded him like shackles. He gasped in horror as he felt himself being dragged into some unknown abyss.

"What's happening to me?" he cried in alarm, and then looked at Hitomi once more, "What have you done?"

In spite of herself, Hitomi felt tears start falling down her cheeks as she watched Dilandau's soul being taken.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'm so sorry."

"No! No! No!" were Dilandau's last words before he disappeared completely into darkness.

Hitomi fell to her knees and wept. She had never expected this trade to be easy but she had underestimated how painful it would be to witness. She covered her face with her hands and cried for a while.

At length, she sensed that a shaft of light had pierced the darkness and when she looked up, a large black feather was floating gently from above. She caught it in her trembling hands and watched in awe as the stain of death was instantly washed away.

She smiled and began shedding tears of joy as she held the pure, white feather in her hand.

No one must ever know. She would make sure of it. Only she would have to live with the consequences of what she had done. But she had caught a glimpse of the future and this gave Hitomi peace.

"If this is my burden to bear," she said with conviction, "Then, I will bear it gladly."

For she had seen brothers reconciled, love rekindled, countries rebuilt, and a broken world repaired.