Feeling worried, Si enters the cabin only to find a gibbering skeleton holding a motionless woman.
Wait, that’s me isn’t it?
“Tyler, are you okay?”
“… and that’s how my final year of high school ended. Soon afterwards I went to…”
“Tyler? Tyler! Please snap out it!”
“Don’t worry Si, I’m perfectly sane… which means I’m no longer dreaming.”
I carefully lay Helena’s body on the bed and gaze upon her frozen form.
It hurts. I feel as if I’ve lost half my soul. That one night of warmth will never return. Before, I could barely distinguish the temperature, but now everything is unmistakably cold.
Should we have met or should I have left her as soon as I could speak? No, that is preposterous. In all my lives, I have never experienced anything as fulfilling as our bond. You could say we were destined to meet, but were we destined to part like this?
I stare at her lifeless form to hammer in the fact that it’s over, there is nothing left I can do. I have to let her go… but is it so wrong to keep loving her?
My thoughts are interrupted by a few knocks on the door. I reach for my wooden mask, but decide otherwise and don Helena’s gift. It’s a good fit, and the antlers are well balanced. We both face the entrance in anticipation. A tall, burly man enters the cabin: it’s Helena’s brother.
“So we finally meet, Enbos.”
Everybody steps outside as we attempt to relieve our grief. Si watches over us invisibly from my shoulder. I can hear quiet sobbing beside my ear.
His name is Hedrick, and I slowly learn of his circumstances. It turns out Helena and Hedrick are actually twins! I wonder why she failed to mention that… or maybe she did. My Arenish was subpar at the time.
Anyway, since Helena was accused of being a changeling, the same suspicion also fell on him. Their parents were worried her illness would spread to Hedrick and thus “prove” he is a changeling. So, in order to avoid banishing both siblings they had to keep their distance from one another. That explains their minimalistic contact, yet he is clearly disregarding the village elder at this point. Come to think of it…
“When did Helena tell you about me? Was it during a recent visit?”
“Actually, it was about a year ago.”
“She started writing letters again after a long time, and slipped them beneath your game during our exchanges of goods. By the way, I must thank you for such plentiful meat.”
So that was how!
“You’re welcome. It was just excess from my hunts.”
“I can imagine… for a skeleton such as yourself.”
Did she spill the beans on everything! Si is outright laughing, but her <Remove Presence> is erasing the sound in Hedrick’s mind.
“I-i-indeed! You wouldn’t have any misgivings about me being undead would you?”
“Of course not. For a while I feared you were some delusion from Helena’s lonely mind. But now I know it’s the complete opposite. I’m sorry for suspecting your existence, and I thank you for keeping Helena company, even in her final moments.”
“… I see.”
“Also, in case you couldn’t return in time, Helena entrusted me with this letter.”
He pulls out an envelope from his bag and offers it. I immediately break the seal and finish reading the contents but… there is nothing different here from last night. No, it goes to show even if I had failed she would never have resented me.
“I’m glad I heard everything in person. Still, this letter is another important memento.”
“Speaking of which, I’m pleased you’re wearing that mask. Helena and I had trouble acquiring it.”
“Is that so? In that case, I will happily wear it for the rest of my days.”
“Also, please take this from me as well…”
Hedrick hands me a backpack. In it are basic travelling supplies, minus any bedding or food.
“I can’t possibly accept this much!”
“No, please do. I bought it using funds from selling your pelts. This is nothing compared to what you have done for Helena… and for me.”
Hedrick stares intently at my letter. The tears he held back finally overflow.
While he tightly grips his knees and bows his head, Hedrick says in a voice of equal parts joy and sadness, “Thank you for making me her brother again.”
We give our final farewells as Hedrick departs to prepare her funeral. I give him my old mask to bury by her side.
Si taps me on the shoulder and asks what to do now.
“It has been more than a year since we last talked. Let’s have a light hearted conversation, okay?”
We return inside to chat by the light of the moon. Helena watches over us with her body covered in a white cloth and a veil over her face. Unfortunately, I feel my grief return as I recount my time with her over the past year.
I miss you so much. Perhaps we’ll meet in your next life, though all your memories will be gone…
… unless, of course, you are reincarnated in a similar way to myself.
I halt at that sudden thought and stare at my hand. Just how different am I from being alive?
Would she approve? Well, as long as I’m not sacrificing others it should be fine. Please Helena, entertain this selfish wish of mine, just this once.
I stand up and walk over to her detached soul. As expected, she is still here, but I guess she will pass on after the funeral. A brief moment of hesitation crosses my mind before I firmly raise my hand.
“What are you doing, Tyler!?”
It’s too late, I won’t look back. I can feel her within my <Soul Core>, though I am disgusted by the fact I had absorbed her life force.
“Tell me Tyler, why did you do that?”
“Helena’s soul is inside me. If I’m lucky, no, if I try hard enough, I should be able to resurrect her.”
I still have my will, my memories and my soul from my last life. The only reason there is a rejection reaction is because my original body is in another world, and my soul is not suited for a skeleton. Resurrection shouldn’t be too farfetched at this point.
“But Tyler, it’s impossible! Not to mention it’s also taboo.”
“I’m an undead, Si. I’m already a taboo.”
“B-but it still can’t be done! Why do you think there are necromancers, and why hasn’t anyone else succeeded?”
“There is a first time for everything.”
“Then tell me Tyler… do you think she would be happy?”
Helena tried so hard to separate me from herself, and yet here I am, unable to move on. But it’s not like I don’t respect her wishes.
“I don’t know, Si. Helena was afraid I would ruin myself for her sake, so I won’t do that. I will live a wholesome life, befriend a lot of people and leave my mark on Garea. Once I revive Helena, I will take her around the world and let her experience my journey firsthand. You realised it too, right? She deserves to enjoy life just as much as me.”
She tries to read my expressionless face, before resigning with a deep sigh.
“I don’t think it will end well, but I believe you’ll be okay. Still, I want to talk to her again too.”
“Thank you for understanding. Thank you for healing her. Thank you for everything.”
I practically prostrate myself before Si. She begins to fidget and blush at the depth of my gratitude.
“I owe you way too much. If you wish for anything from me, I will do it.”
“In that case, stay safe Tyler.”
“That one is a freebie.”
“Oh, um, visit me when you’re free?”
“Of course. If you have any problems, I will be more than willing to help.”
A while later, I cut off a lock of Helena’s hair and take a sample of her blood on a handkerchief. I hope my shoddy knowledge of genetics will come in handy.
Inside the travelling pack, Hedrick has given me a spare change of clothes, which I wear beneath my black cloak.
That reminds me, I have a sneaking suspicion the cloak is enchanted, because it appears to have mended its tears. No wonder it lasted a year of outdoor conditions. Wait, could the mark next to some my items in the status mean they’re unidentified? I stare intently at a certain <Suspicious Book*> on my item list.
Before I depart, I accompany Si back to the fairy circle.
“Goodbye Tyler and remember your promise!”
“Goodbye Si. Let us meet again. Also, I wish to be called Enbos from now on.”
“… You don’t have to try so hard. I think you already made Helena very happy.”
Si is right, and I don’t know if this is for the best. But I know it’s not impossible. In this world of magic and reincarnation, I know that I can save her.
With teary eyes, she gives me a familiar awkward hug. The last I see of Si is her silhouette within a blinding flash of gold.
Now, I am alone… no, that isn’t true.
Helena, we never broke our promise. My journey’s end will be here, and I will ask for your hand once more. Remember what I said?
“I’m not going anywhere without you, Helena. If I’m going to travel, you will have to come with me.”
We follow the path the children take and step into the outside world… together.