They walked to the forest that Vie pointed, her waist-length hair would naturally flutter, her boots avoiding the overgrown grasses. Her green hair naturally melted with the forest background, her pale skin had made her look like a fairy.
“It saddens me that you don’t remember me,” Vie said. “Still, this is pleasant in a way that a Brother of mine is still alive, even in this world that no longer needs a bleak walker.”
Vie stopped walking. “Brother, have you met with, Sister Ciara?”
“I have,” Nolan said. “I don’t know why a woman like her would fall for me.”
“I see,” she curved her lips. “She wants you, and that is understandable. I saw her warpath and how she turned this world into what is. Her family, have you seen it?”
“The Alician Family is incredible, they can muster a force that could rival nations.”
“Yes, that is why they are incredible in their own rights.”
They continued moving, passing through countless trees, and wading through a lake of flowers. Nolan felt like he was at peace, and the calmness was overbearing. It made him want to drop on his back, and outstretch his arms.
“Ciara, she’s strong, kind, and her love for her family can be overbearing. She’s protective, and a good friend. Honestly, she’s more of a demi-goddess that has descended from above.”
“Is that how people see her?”
“Yes,” Vie nodded. “There are people who have statues of her, and if it wasn’t for her wish, she would become a figure worshipped by a few nations, and even the Church of Light has concluded how she has gained the blessings of the Gods. It is strange that such a figure would exist, a figure that could even face the four dragons of the world and stood without a hint of fear. She has defeated all kinds of evil and fought monsters that would destroy nations. Still, I choose to follow her when she truly needs it, as for that is the bleak path.”
“I see. She’s really something, and the way you phrase it makes me more hesitant.”
They arrived on the garden with flowers that looked crystals, they were glowing, and the light coming out from them melted along with the sunlight. Nolan stood in the middle along with Vie, his eyes pointing at the plagues, and swords planted on the ground that were coiled with roots.
“This is a graveyard,”
“The Garden of Walkers,” she said. “When darkness fell, and when our Brothers had lived long enough, they would choose to come to this place and live their days, as they see no reason to continue. Some, who have given up on their bleak paths would choose to be buried in this garden, for the sunlight was great, and that it was all that mattered to them.”
“I don’t understand,” Nolan said.
“Simply, don’t you get tired of walking?” she asked.
“What do you want to do if your legs are weary?”
“I’ll take a rest.”
“It’s the same concept, however, we are the Heirs of the Old Revenant and we are prone to be attracted to conflict, and we have single-minded minds that lead us to fight until we can’t. Once a bleak walker reached a higher state, their eyes would become that of the old revenant eyes, the eyes of that old wraith that seeks for perpetual living. I have gotten my crown of thorns, and you possessed the Eternal Hawk.”
She looked at Nolan with a contorted face.
“Brother, I have been buried in books and had read all that could relate to us, and how we came to be, and how it all started. You, someone, should not possess the Eternal Hawk’s eyes unless they have lived for centuries without external help. The records say that only a few had managed to gain immortality by suspending their body’s time, and yet you...it has only been five hundred years, and yet you have these eyes.”
Her eyes became big. Tears came out of her eyes.
“You poor, poor man, you fool, how could you continue living like this?”
“I don’t understand,” Nolan said, his eyes half-open in pain.
“Brother Nolan, I could see the curse of the war maiden on you, the curse that should have meditated her power, and halted the progress of her powers. You took her curse, and made it your own, do you know what that curse is?”
“It attracts the monsters to you?”
“No, not only that, Brother, that curse allows a war maiden to be incarnated into another war maiden, a cycle that would deliver her soul, her heart, and emotions upon another war maiden, you...made it your own and it became a curse. Ciara, she had no limits because she didn’t have the curse, and that curse now lies within you.”
“Please explain it to me,” Nolan stared straight into her eyes.
“Brother Nolan, you have done what the Old Revenant have done, you have fallen to a path that even I wouldn’t dare to journey. I see, no wonder divinations couldn’t found you, no, you didn’t lose your memories, you, are you even the Nolan that saved me from that well? Your eyes had the Eternal Hawk, but your ashen hair does not match the graying hair that you possessed. No, are you even human or are you a wraith?”
Vie pulled Nolan’s left arm. She lifted his sleeve and caressed his wrinkling left arm.
“Brother...you, I see. An obsidian flesh as well...that woman.”
“I know that you want to say,” Nolan said.
“No, I understand now. Brother Nolan, if you continue following Ciara Alician, you would undoubtedly be cursed to suffer. The curse of the war maiden will keep you alive, and yet at the same time, you would be unable to reach her. No, it would only be right that being with the War Maiden would pain your soul, no, I do not disapprove of your relationship, but if you continue this path then you would be only a soul damned to an eternality of pain. It’s not a matter of fate, but simply because the roles you picked are incompatible.”
“You make it sound like two people can’t be together simply of what they are.”
“Sadly, the Old Revenant cannot be with the Pale Shine Lady, and the Burnt Woman cannot be together with her Wraith Knight, for that is akin to a moth flying into the flames. You are like a moth, no matter how much it burns, you would follow the flames until your wings burn, and you will be extinguished by the same flames that you follow.”
“That’s absurd,” Nolan said. “I am just nobody.”
“That may be so,” View clenched her hands. “But that is simply the curse of these eyes and that of the War Maiden. That’s why, Brother Nolan, if you want to, I can let you vanish, dispel the spell she attached on you, and let you fly like a hawk. I know that this will pain a dear friend of mine, but even so, can you truly say that you love the Ciara of now? If my guess is right, then the Ciara you loved, isn’t her.”
“That is,” Nolan said. “It would be unfair to her, after all the words that I spoke to her, I would leave her alone?”
“I am sorry,” Vie said. “You may choose to be with her, that is your choice, however, aren’t they loud, Brother?”
Nolan looked around him. The phantoms were loud and the way they kept killing themselves in front of him had been taking a toll on him. The screaming never stops and no matter what he had been seeing them on their dreams.
“Don’t you want to sleep?”
“But that would against everything that I believe. I only wait for death. Not grant death to myself.”
“Isn’t it the same?” she said. “You...do you even find joy in life?”
“Then why are you still alive?”
“I could ask that to you as well. What do you live for, Vie?”
“The same as you, I wish to wait for death. Isn’t that the bleak path that we follow? But you, you have gone astray from the path, and not only that, you are wading through a sea of fire, and your soul is crack all over,” her eyes swirled as if it was being covered by thorns. “Brother, if you continue walking the path where she is, you won’t last long, and you will wither before you even burn.”
Nolan folded his arms. He looked at the azure sky with a thousand-yard stare.
“Why does this world hate me so much?”
“It does not,” Vie said. “You simply had taken role that leads you to a path incompatible to hers, Brother, Bleak Walkers are meant to follow the Bleak Path, and we have lost a part of our soul to gain the eyes of the Old Revenant, the eyes that let us recall those that we have lost. It is against our nature at all.”
“I know that.”
“Yet why?” Vie asked.
“For that is my own Bleak Path...Vie...you are a bleak walker as well. You should know me, right? Tell me, what I did when ‘I’ saved you.”
She told him about what Nolan did. Nolan listened without moving his eyes away. His eyes were that of a dead fish as Vie finishes on telling him what he had done.
“That sure sounds like I tried. Isn’t it strange for someone like me to do that?”
“I think you found courage along the way. Still, I think you are hiding something, my eyes are saying that to the point that my heart aches.”
“Then there is no hiding it,” Nolan let goes. “I am from a timeline that differs from this world, in that world, Ciara Alician fell in the battlefield, and I became a Bleak Walker that assisted the light army. I fought and saw the end of the world. I was a rank-and-file soldier that fought with his fellow bleak walkers. I was despondent, and I lived by the belief that I shall not go gentle in that good light. That’s why I fought even it hurt me, even if my soul was torn to shreds, and even though I lost my heart in doing so, I fought so I can proudly say that I did my best, and my Ciara would be proud.”
Nolan kneeled. His rounded eyes were warped in despair as he narrates the past that he knew.
“You know, I was only a servant in a tavern. I liked it, I had a simple life, I was able to eat and sleep even though I had problems with the language barrier. It was then that the world darkened, I was sent to Oasis, forced to train despite my uselessness, and even though I want nothing but peace, I was brought out to fight, lost my friends, and lost Ciara. You are right, I’m probably not the Nolan Salvatore that saved you, and at the same time, maybe I am as well. However, that Nolan seems to have fallen in love with the Ciara of this timeline, and meanwhile, I am scum. Do you know? I am using the Ciara of this timeline to cover the holes in my heart, and yet I can only function because someone needed me! I don’t even want to live yet here I am acting like a damn fool! How can I be alive knowing that this goes against my sole reason why I kept myself alive? I wanted to meet death in peace, yet here I am, alive, and have nothing at all!”
He looked at Vie with a deranged smile.
“Vie...if your words are true, that I am cursed, then please, save me, please, I begged of you, Vie, please save me from this life, I don’t want to continue, I am tired and weary, and I have enough for one life.”
“You are making this hard for me.”
“Then you shouldn’t have told me.”
“And let you live a life that is a lie? I cannot do that, for no matter who you are, you are still Nolan Salvatore, and you still saved me even if you don’t remember doing it.”
“Still, I really want to rest.”
“I see, no wonder ignorance is such a bliss.”
“I don’t get it,” Vie said. “Why are you so easy to break?”
“I am not stupid,” Nolan said. “It makes sense that I might be just jumping from one timeline to another. I am being incarnated to the same world where Ciara still exist. And not only that, I have these eyes with me.”
“What I am lying to you?”
“Why would that benefit you at all? Why would you ruin a bleak walker’s life so easily? No, because you are a bleak walker that I can trust your words, and you have the crown of thorns, the thorns that bind, and those who have it have crossed a path that cannot be wended.”
“I see. I thought that you’d find the answer to yourself...to think that you want me to save you. I...am not that cruel. I cannot do that, and I don’t want to lose Ciara as a friend as well.”
“Then why tell me this?” Nolan lashed out. “You coward! The waste of time!”
Nolan pulled the dagger strapped on her waist.
“Are you sure? Even if you don’t do this, you can still live long enough to be happy, even if it is a lie, and even if she’s not the Ciara that you loved truly. Can you make her happy, and give her the family that she wanted? Your withering, Brother Nolan, and yet I think you can make a girl who waited for someone like you be happy. She’s lonely, and I save you now, then the heart would truly go cold, and I’ve known her long enough. Nolan, I know that you are quite disturbed, and you are truly unable to control the emotions. But can I ask you to be with Ciara?”
Nolan smiled at her in despair. “You are a cruel woman, you speak truth to me, makes me want to end this life of mine, and now you are asking me to stay alive for a woman who only loves someone. I have been with the Ciara of this current time, and she’s beautiful, kind and her love is suffocating. Every time I am with her, I feel like I am drowning, and I don’t know what to do. She wants something from me, and that is something I cannot give. She wants a family, and yet she shows me her family, a family that loves her, and a family that would not abandon her. It’s not fair, how can she still complain when my Ciara didn’t have those? Do you know how happy my Ciara was when she found out she was pregnant? Yet she wanted duty over love, and I had to bury our child in a hill. The next day, because of losing our child has weakened her, she was unable to fight probably, she had to save this useless me, and I had to bury her next to my child. Isn’t that just cruel? My Ciara had no one, and she wanted to have a family, and yet she had to abandon it for the world! This Ciara has everything, she has a family that worships her! So why do I matter into this equation? Tell me, Vie, why does it matter if I am alive and dead when she has a family that could comfort her?”
Nolan raised his aged left arm.
“Look at this! I am withering, and before long I will cease to exist. I’ve been able to hide it, but it seems that my stupidity in Alician City has led me into withering, this obsidian flesh, I thought it was a power, and I thought it would help me. But it is another curse that withers my vitality in order to forcibly heal my wounds. Honestly, if I didn’t almost die when she hit me with that bolt of elemental, then I wouldn’t have started thinking this way. It would have been best if we didn’t meet.”
“So that’s why you immediately want to go away,” Vie said. “I understand that. To see the person you love after a long time, only to wither because of you as well...I...forgive me.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“Brother, you know what happens when a bleak walker grants the release of a fellow walker.”
“They would return to earth, and be at peace. But I’m guessing that wouldn’t possible with me?”
“I have to cut your eyes first.”
“I see. Then I’ll do it myself!”
Nolan ran the dagger across his eyes. His vision immediately went black and he felt intense pain. He then reached for his eyeballs and dug on to his eye sockets.
Vie watched in horror, she looked at Nolan, who pulled his eyes and offered it to her. She moves her arms and crushed the eyes of the eternal hawk.
“Please do it, and I am sorry.”
Vie didn’t think. She grabbed hold of the dagger and pushed it inside Nolan’s heart. The obsidian flesh that was under his skin went mad, and before it could do anything, Vie caught the obsidian skin with her left hand and spoke words of power that halted the obsidian skin.
“You are tenacious,” Vie said, her hand holding the dagger.
Vie turned and saw Ciara standing not far from her.
“What are you doing?”
Vie had no words to speak. Nolan, who should have been dead with his heart stabbed, stood up and looked at the sunlight. He opened his eyelids for a second and kneeled without strength. Before long, wisps of light covered him, and slowly, his figure became a group of fireflies that formed the image of the eternal hawk.
“Ciara,” Vie said.
“It won’t work,” Ciara said. “What are you doing won’t work.”
“What do you mean?”
“Really, I thought I got it right this time. What did I do wrong this time? Why do you keep leaving me behind?”
“Vie, do you know what happens to a war maiden who abandoned her duties, and took her own life in front of her loved one’s grave?”
“It’s okay, I just have to endure and wait for it again. I am sure that...I can handle it. Still, I spent a month with him this time, isn’t that great? Still, not even a kiss or intercourse...what a shame.”
“Ciara?” Vie’s voice was trembling. “You...why?”
“Does it matter? Still, I just only need to wait...I will always find him, anyway. No matter how many repeated incarnation pasts...”
Her eyes turned blood red and the eternal hawk sigil of rebirth and memory appeared in her eyes. It was trapped in a crown of thorns.
Chapter 123: The War Maiden of the Bleak Walkers