Release from Serenity

"Pfffah. Ha..." Free of her gag, Forte lifted her head, her eyes adjusting through exhaustion and disbelief. "Are... are you my Eris, or are you that inquisitor again... or some new Eris altogether?"

"I have not been honest. It was my duty to give you peace of mind before the end, and revealing myself would've given it all away, but... I am the Keeper of Serenity. I watch over those who wait in Nexus's bosom until the time comes for the end of things."

"Gods above, that's heavy..."

"Those other me's, as you referred to, they are aspects... no, "facets of me" would be the better phrasing. They extend my reach and help guide all through serenity, to make sure that what lies in the hearts of those kept here are truly being expressed... and I nudge things along if I have to."

"So, none of that was real? The mage, this castle, you... the fight we had, me whisking you away, claiming you as my mate... all lies?"

The keeper's frown grew sadder. "It was what you desired... in truth, I had not expected to have personally been someone's desire, let alone that desire being so..." She blushed, and glanced aside. "But... then others started rejecting serenity. They were determined to face despair head on, to embrace their suffering. And my faith in Nexus started to waver." She looked Forte in the face. "So I... mentally rebelled against myself. Those facets, those extensions of myself, converged to assert the righteousness of our task, and punish me for wavering. I think, because in your heart, you also started to realize the artificiality of this world. I think that because you were growing uncomfortable and regretful with what you had done to the dream versions of myself and the mage, you were vulnerable to being punished as well."

"Regret?" Forte muttered. She glanced aside, putting on a brave smirk. "Well, maybe I regret being SO barbaric with you, to start..." Her facade cracked, her shoulders slumping. "...and realizing that things were too... perfect. Unreal. And, worst of all... not caring. Trying to retreat into the dream more, not wanting to face reality." She scoffed. "For the Dark Dragoon to be so weak as to run away from reality and into some immature fantasy..."

She gasped as Eris stroked her cheek, and looked the priestess in the eyes.

"It's over, now," Eris assured. "Those who choose to face despair and stop Nexus have already left. I am determined to join them. I only wish to give you a choice. To stay here, safe and at peace... or give you the chance to regain your honour and dignity. That which I... took from you, by indulging in both our most base desires."

"...Would I ever see you again?"

"Would you wish to?"

"After some time to think... yes."

"Perhaps, then. Should we succeed. Should we survive."

"That dire? Hmph. Sounds like a chance to regain my pride. Alright then... please, let me go."

"Of course." Eris moved to untie Forte, but flinched, realizing this was her first and perhaps only chance. "But...!" They looked into each other's eyes. "One last kiss, before we go? Rather, a first... real kiss?"

"Of course..."

Story by HoshinoBound
Artwork by SednaStudio-QWZ

High resolution (2480x3507)

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