fleets: I kind of mildly hate myself for trying to update at the dead of night, but I continue to 3am regret my way through life.


Chapter 14: Faded

The boat creaked, gently rocking as it glided over the calm ocean. A foggy mist had clouded over the shore until neither Thuban nor his barren domain could be seen. There was an uncertain silence between the two former companions - Sheik gazing ahead near the front of the small wooden vessel, while Vaati gazed backwards from where they'd come. Silence wasn't new, but this was something different from the silence of the past, for it was no longer grounded in mutual understanding but instead stemmed from uncertainty.

I'm tired…

Vaati thought he knew what the robed man, the wandering spirit, had meant when he'd told them that they would be met with despair. In all his existence, despair was not something the sorcerer had really known. Always, always, he'd had some way, some plan, some idea that he would be able to conquer whatever challenge stopped him. Even if the challenge was something daunting to the ordinary man, like ascending to the level of gods themselves, Vaati had always had something that drove him forward. Even if he failed he knew he would eventually succeed. Despair was something for others to feel, not him…

He watched the fog roll over the water where white foam left a trail where the boat had drifted. The vessel moved on its own, leading them to whoever this 'Ausar' was that Thuban had mentioned. His fingers clenched for a moment, remembering his gruesome defeat against the god, and then his hands fell limply where they rested on his knee. The fight had been laughable, and not even worthy of being called a 'fight.' True, he had been injured from his fight with Sheik earlier, but the gap in power between him and the god had been nothing like what he'd anticipated. From the time he'd first imagined dethroning the gods, he'd believed a contest would, at the very least, be well matched. He was a god. He was a god.

I was just a man.

The pain of that realization had been more devastating than the physical wounds he'd endured.

"I thought I was one of them. A god," he said quietly, the first words spoken since the two had left the beach. "It turns out that I wasn't even close…"

He wasn't sure why he was even talking out loud, but he felt a need to fill the silence. For the first time he could remember in centuries, he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. He spoke without purpose, his words floundering for meaning. To be honest, his words didn't need to have meaning, for after they reached wherever Thuban was sending them, they wouldn't remember anything that had happened. They wouldn't remember their past, their mistakes, their victories, their losses. They wouldn't remember how they'd fought against each other, or how for a brief moment they had been fooled into thinking they were -

A wrinkle creased along his nose.

Everything… everything would be gone.

A part of him was fine with that. He was done. He had lost. There was nothing left for him here. However, even while knowing this another part of him couldn't stop looking back, back towards the shore that they were leaving behind. But for what? Regret at everything he had lost? (he had nothing…) Was he afraid of the unfamiliar newness, now that the cycle he'd become accustomed to had finally broken? (he missed none of it…)

It still hadn't quite hit him yet that after all this time he was-

Was he?

Am I really… free?

It was something he'd wanted all along, though he hadn't truly recognized it, but now that he had it, it just all felt so empty.

Wrath was gone.

He was just… him. Not a god.

Just an ordinary person.

Vaati tilted his head upwards at the sky. It was a dull grey, slowly becoming enveloped in the same fog that had come rolling over the sea. He wanted the fog to go away, so he could see the same sky he'd forgotten when he'd been blinded by Wrath. However, the fog only thickened, and the vast clear blue of freedom slipped away from him. He thought again how nothing really mattered anymore, since after this Vaati, the Sorcerer of Winds, would become someone else. The wind mage's time was over, and though that thought came with regrets, it was strangely comforting. Past Death's door, the things he'd placed importance on in life seemed trivial now. Nothing mattered anymore.

Nothing.

This was the last chance he had to say whatever he wanted.

"Are you having second thoughts?" the sorcerer asked the Sheikah who was sitting at the front of the boat, his back turned towards him.

There was no response, save perhaps a small creak of the wooden boards from Sheik shifting his weight.

Vaati wasn't sure what to think of the person sitting with him in the boat. It was true what he'd said earlier, that he had no quarrel with the Sheikah. Back when he was alive, he'd wanted nothing more than to destroy anyone related to the royals, but his hatred wasn't personal. Instead, it had been more or less directed at the fact that they were but a pawn to the goddesses. He still carried a lingering resentment for the goddesses' servant, but something had changed while they'd traveled across the desert. They had both been people. Not gods, not servants. He didn't remember the last time he'd actually had a conversation with someone, mostly because he'd been unable to see anyone as a person worth talking to. In the brief time where the two had had no memory of each other, they might have even been friends. They weren't friends now, of course, but in that brief time…

And perhaps this was the reason, starved as he was for conversation and his thoughts no longer clouded by the rage that he'd nursed for hundreds of years, he began to speak words he never imagined he would ever say. "Sheik. I did… terrible things to you." It was hesitant and reflective, an objective analysis as though he were speaking of someone else. The words were detached: a statement of observational fact.

Sheik stirred, and he tilted his head slightly over his shoulder. The Sheikah, too, wore a haggard expression. He appeared unwilling for conversation and maintained his silence, but he seemed somewhat taken aback by the sorcerer's comment. His eyes widened briefly before they returned to that cold, narrowed gaze.

"I am sorry. That things unfolded the way they did," Vaati continued in a quiet murmur.

His head still turned, the tenseness in Sheik's eyes was replaced by surprise. The apology was confused, but genuine, and one the false Sheikah hadn't expected he would ever hear. It was one he hadn't expected he would need to hear.

Then, the warrior's gaze lowered and his expression softened, though the pained wrinkles along his brow remained. He turned back to look ahead at the misty ocean. He finally spoke; the first words since he'd nearly plunged his dagger between Vaati's eyes. "Why did you do those things?" he asked.

There was a small pause. Then, "Would it comfort you to know?"

Sheik considered the question for a while, before he sighed and shook his head to himself. "I don't know," he said. Thinking back on what had happened was exhausting, and a part of him knew that no answer would ever give him peace.

With that, Vaati left Sheik's question unanswered, perhaps because he, too, didn't know how to reply. He could explain it and he could justify it, but he didn't believe it anymore. Back then, anger had been what was real, and it drove everything he did. Hatred bubbled beneath the surface of even his calmest days. Now, however, his anger was gone. His reality was gone. He was just a husk much like Sheik had been when he'd encountered him in those last moments at the Palace of Winds. Empty. "I wonder if reincarnation is any better if we forget everything that had happened," Vaati mused to himself. And then he took a deep breath. "I…" he began, and then he trailed off.

What was it? It was so unlike him to be so uncertain and open with his thoughts. Then again, after what had transpired, he didn't really care about anything anymore. What was said now wouldn't matter, and so he continued to speak his thoughts rather than bottle them up as he'd done for ages. He shifted his seat, turning his head over his shoulder so that he was looking at Sheik now, and he realized that his wavering pause had prompted the blonde to also turn his way. Their gaze met, and Vaati began again, bolder this time with the knowledge that nothing, nothing mattered anymore. "I am afraid," he admitted.

He'd expected to feel disgust or anger at admitting to such a thing, but instead he was surprised to instead find relief. It was like an ancient burden he hadn't known he'd been carrying had finally lifted from his chest, and he could breathe again. His voice was clear and confident in what he wanted to say, for though he'd lost his grasp on who he'd been, there was one thing that was still true. In a way, like anger it had always been true: he just hadn't been able to face it. "I am afraid," he repeated, "to forget the things I remembered here. There were things I'd forgotten, even before the Keaton had taken our memories away. Things I had forgotten through spans of time you couldn't begin to comprehend."

All he'd known was anger, until he remembered…

"I am not sure if I want to live that again."

For several seconds Sheik said nothing. Then, gradually, the edges of his eyes mellowed into an expression that was more familiar to how he'd looked at Vaati before he'd remembered the tragedy between them. Slowly he swung his legs around the seat of the boat so that he was facing the sorcerer. The Sheikah studied the other for a while, and then he took a long, tired breath.

"I'll find you," he said.

Vaati tiled his head, puzzled.

"I'll find you, and this time… this time I'll make sure a tragedy like this never happens again. I swear it," Sheik continued.

Vaati stared, surprised once again by the blonde's familiar determination.

Sheik's gaze lowered slightly. "To be honest, I'm not sure I could ever forgive you for everything you've done. But I think," he sighed, and he looked out at the fog that had become so thick now that they could barely see each other anymore, "I think I understand what Thuban was trying to do. Something needs to change, to heal the anger. It hurts, but we can't go on like this."

Vaati said nothing, though his lips curled into a pensive frown.

"So next time when I find you, perhaps we won't have to meet as enemies - " Sheik said.

Through the thickening mist, Vaati noticed a hand outstretched towards him from across the boat. His eyes lifted slowly to see Sheik with a small, hesitant smile from across the fog.

"- Maybe we can meet as friends"

This time Vaati didn't even try to hide his surprise. He stared through the fog, and his lips were slightly parted out of bewilderment. Then, despite himself, the sorcerer snorted and then smiled to himself. You idiot…

He reached through the fog, the mist cool on his skin. Briefly, Sheik's hand was firm around his; warm and rough to the touch but compassionate, just like the conviction that had saved them both. Then Sheik's hands slipped through his fingers, and the two figures on the boat vanished into the fog.

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"Are you satisfied?"

Back on the shore of the ocean, Thuban addressed the figure that had been standing respectfully behind them for some time now. The Keaton had returned to their less menacing form, though their eyes still gleamed fiercely from behind their cowl. Behind them was a taller individual with birdlike features that betrayed the fact that they were not human. Their fingers and feet were the three-pronged talons of a bird, and long white feathers flowed from their elbows like sleeves of a robe. One might say they were similar to the bird-like race that inhabited the mortal realm, Rito, but their single glowing yellow eye from behind their hood indicated that they were not of the bird race.

The new figure stood up straighter upon being addressed. "They are hurt, but they will heal," they replied. Their composure did not last long, for they began to fidget, their talons grasping another copy of the Grand Scribe's book and picking absentmindedly at its spine. "Thuban-" they began, but they were interrupted.

"I told you not to write any more than what I allowed in that book of yours, Phact, but you disobeyed me at the end," Thuban said harshly, a glimpse of gold fang appearing on black.

Phact's fidgeting worsened and they nearly dropped their book from nerves. The scribe rambled. "Thuban I am sorry. I couldn't… I simply couldn't watch any longer. What you were doing to them I-"

Phact paused when Thuban immediately swept towards them. Afraid, they quieted, but then they noticed that the other god appeared more troubled than angry. They stopped fidgeting with their book when the Keaton shook their head in something like pity.

"I don't know how you stand it," Thuban said, and then they stepped away to give the scribe some space.

"Yes?" Phact asked cautiously.

"To care about them as you do. Does it not tear you apart, when you know that in the end there is little you can do for them?"

At this, the scribe appeared to sigh, their shoulders raising and lowering slightly. Now that it was clear that the Keaton didn't seem interested in punishing them for their transgressions, Phact strode over with a bit more poise than earlier. When they spoke again, their tone had returned to their usual empathetic and patient cadence.

"Surely you don't believe that after what you've done here. Your methods were cruel if I am to be honest, but in the end you saved them both," they insisted.

Thuban, however, appeared bothered by something, and though they kept their expression hidden from the scribe, their tail twitched, betraying unease. Sensing Phact staring, Thuban snapped their head around with a wide, forced grin. Their teeth clacked together as they chuckled. "Phact, I am but one of the Gods of Death, presiding over souls deemed cruel and twisted. It would be wrong of me to meddle to try and change the course of such souls, to give them another chance as it were." Their grin vanished, then, and they hid their face from Phact again. "It would be wrong of me to care."

The scribe studied them for a few seconds, and then, "Thuban, you are angry."

"Am I so easy to read, now?" the Keaton mused.

"Gods are not so different from mortals as our associates would like to believe, and I have spent a great deal of time observing them. You are easy to read. You are angry."

The creases from Thuban's grin along their nose slowly turned into snarl lines. Having nothing to hide from Phact now, their expression remained fixed into a menacing glower. "… Of course I am," they said with quiet rage. "Does it not anger you? Does it not anger you that countless souls I had cast into oblivion, when if they were given an opportunity to change they could have tried again? I had two souls here with more than enough reason to want to destroy each other, but they overcame every trial, trials where I had doomed them to fail. One of these souls nearly destroyed the world. I would have once said that it was a soul that deserved no more chances." Their last few words were coupled with a low growl, and as though in response, the sand below their feet swirled inches off the ground before settling back down.

"I have always believed that our black and white views were unfair, though my opinion is seen as a product of sickness. No one takes me seriously," Phact sympathized. This comment seemed to remind them of something, and Phact suddenly became nervous again. The eye beneath their hood wandered, and their curled shoulders revealed their lack of confidence. "Thuban, the goddesses are going to be very upset with you that you took one of their champions to your domain without their consent. I have heard… I have heard rumors that you may be punished for it."

"Then so be it."

"I worry for you, Thuban. They will not be merciful," Phact pressed. They held their book tightly to their chest, and they turned away, troubled. Among the various gods, Phact was not very powerful, and gods with more influence such as Thuban always made them uneasy. However, over the course of their discussions with Thuban, they'd come to appreciate how the Keaton had been one of the few to take their work seriously; it would be upsetting if something happened to them. "Why did you do it?" They asked softly.

"Perhaps reading that book of yours was a mistake," Thuban replied shortly.

"I am sorry. Troubling you was not my intention."

Thuban waved a bandaged hand in the air, as though to wave away Phact's apology as unnecessary. "The wind mage… I could kind of understand him, Phact. The favoritism that the champions receive does not seem fair to me. We pretend that we give mortals a choice, but do we really? Perhaps he was right. Reading about his history… I was curious to see if the chosen champions could also fail my trial." Their ears twitched, and then they smiled to themselves, shaking their head. With an expression that was as tired as their latest trial goers had been, they lowered themselves to the ground and sat with their head lying against a knee. "… No, it was more than that," they corrected. "Mortals, are surprising, Phact. Their capacity to forgive, to change, to heal, is unique. We can all learn from them. Alas the gods are stubborn and set in our ways. We think ourselves perfect, and it is only when we are aware of just how flawed we are that we can become something better." Thuban sighed. "When did we begin to go wrong?"

Phact joined them. "You have changed."

"I blame your writings."

Beside them, Phact carefully opened their red bound book, turning each page with care. Every page was filled with writing, inked in neat letters and with conscientiousness in every stroke. Eventually they reached a blank page, and the scribe looked back out at the water where Vaati and Sheik had disappeared. "Then I will write about you, so perhaps one day the others may begin to see the world as you do."

At this, Thuban threw their head back and laughed. "No, do not write about me. Keep writing about them, for there is nothing interesting about the existence of a god," they grinned. They nodded towards the ocean, and their smile became somber. "It is from those whose flames are brief from which we have much to learn."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

In another time...

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"Where did she go?!"

"Zelda? Zelda!"

An individual no older than sixteen remained ducked behind some shrubbery growing along the path where several adults ran past, calling the name of the village shrine maiden. The hiding teen was none other than the said shrine maiden, and Zelda held her breath until the people looking for her had run a good ways up the path back towards the village.

She'd changed her appearance enough that she was confident that no one would recognize her at first glance, but the island wasn't very big, and everyone practically knew everyone who lived here. If they questioned her about who she was, they would quickly discover her identity as the missing shrine maiden.

She couldn't stand it there, sitting at the temple day in and day out, supposedly because she was some avatar of some goddess. Sometimes she had a feeling that most of the stories about the gods had been made up by the people who'd washed up on this island. They told her she had to stay there to "appease the gods" lest they flood the world again, because apparently the story went that her ancestor had abandoned her duties and caused a once prosperous kingdom to be submerged beneath the sea. She was made to pray a chant in an ancient, forgotten language (gibberish, she was certain), and was told to keep her magic to herself. Ah yes, the others were uneasy about her magic, though they assured her that they respected it as a sign from the heavens that she was a true avatar of the gods. She had a suspicion that part of the reason why they kept her locked up in some shrine was because they were afraid of her.

She didn't deserve this. She wanted to be free. She wanted to see the world beyond the island.

And she knew there was a world out there, despite what the others told her. She'd seen the sails of distant ships, and once she thought she saw an enormous whale passing through the clouds miles above the sea. From time to time traders visited the island, but everyone seemed content to explain that they were from a nearby island away. No one, no one seemed to want to face the possibility that the remnants of an ancient, beautiful civilization was hidden somewhere out there beyond the vast sea. They were afraid, perhaps, of sending imaginative villagers out to sea only for them to never return. Most assumed they'd died in their journey. Zelda liked to believe they'd found something amazing.

Today was the day. She was going to leave and see the world, and she wasn't going to come back until her legs were worn from adventure.

Besides… she'd always had a nagging thought that she needed to find something out there. There was something important that she needed to find. It was out there. She wasn't sure what it was, or perhaps it was even a person, but she couldn't stay here.

Her only regret was leaving Impa behind. The old lady was known as the village's batty witch, but to Zelda she was like a mother. Family. The old woman had kept her company with stories about places beyond the shore, and even taught her how to fight like warriors of old. Though her hair was white from age and her back was slightly crooked, the old woman knew how to fight. Through her, Zelda had learned how to conceal small weapons on her person, make smoke bombs out of the deku nuts growing in the woods, and even hone her magic for combat. In fact, Impa had gained the reputation as a witch after the villagers were convinced she'd 'put dangerous ideas into the shrine maiden's head.' She hadn't wanted to leave Impa behind, but the woman had insisted she go alone. "I am too old to see the world, child, but you, you still have time. Come back when you have stories to tell," she'd said.

Zelda peered up the path where her searchers had gone, and then winced when her braid got snarled in a bramble. Frustrated, she took out a dagger and cut her blond locks at the base of her braid: where she was going, she didn't care about appearances. Taking one last look to make sure no one was around to see her, she jumped out of the bushes and made a dash down the dirt path towards the shore. As she ran, she flung some of the twigs that had gotten caught in the blue tunic she'd stolen - er, borrowed - from someone who'd been taking a bath at the lake. She hoped they wouldn't be too distressed to find their outfit replaced with her shrine maiden dress…

If I could just get to the docks and take one of the fishing boats out to sea then -

She slowed. She'd scouted this route several times in the past month in preparation for this sprint, and she knew what was normal and what was not. She knew that the dirt path led down to a small hill where the sand had been blown by the wind, a natural wall covered by tall beach grass. Beyond the hill was a small shore protected on both ends by rocky hills that children liked to dive off of in the hotter months, and beside it was a modest pier where the fishermen's boats were docked. At this noon hour the shore was almost always deserted while most people left for lunch back at the village.

Today, however, there was something on the shore that did not belong. It was -

"A body!" Zelda gasped, and she ran towards the figure of a young man washed up on the beach. As she approached, the teenager just about her age coughed and pushed himself up on his elbows.

"Easy, easy…" she said as she helped him sit up slowly. She was nervous about this unexpected development in her plans to escape, but at the same time, a small part of her was excited. This boy was wearing some kind of robes that were a design like nothing she'd seen from her own island; further proof that there was an entire world for her to see out there. His robes were a dark navy with an almost purple tint, made of a light, loose fabric that thankfully hadn't turned too heavy from water. Rather than boots, he wore sandals, and Zelda figured that if he'd worn anything heavier he might have been less lucky and drowned before washing up on the shore.

The boy's eyes, a startling red that she'd only ever seen on Impa, fluttered open and he squinted at her in a daze. He groaned, and then rubbed his pale ghostly bangs away from his face. "Ughh, what island is this?" he asked.

"Overlook Island." Zelda looked behind her shoulder, still a little concerned about her searchers coming back down to look for her by the shore. Then, she surveyed the ocean with a somewhat bewildered expression. She could see no sign of debris of a shipwreck that would have washed up with the boy if a ship was where he'd come from, nor of any kind of seaward vessel anywhere in the horizon. "What happened? Where did you come from?" she asked.

"Some infuriating frog who claimed themselves a god dropped me here on a tornado…" the boy muttered. He cleared his throat of residual salt water, and then he gave her a flat look when he noticed her staring. "Don't ask, long story."

"Gods exist…?" Zelda asked skeptically, but with a buried hint of awe. The world was bigger than she'd thought.

The boy snorted while he wrung water out of his long hair. "I wouldn't call them that. A word of advice, if I may? Those who insist that they are gods are probably assholes."

She watched him with interest, wondering about the answer he still had yet to tell her. She couldn't help but notice his curiously formal manner of speaking, and wondered what kind of place he'd come from, as well as his story about frog gods and tornados. But more than that, however, she had a strange feeling that she knew him from somewhere, no matter how impossible that was.

Briefly their eyes met, and for a moment the other boy, too, looked startled by something. His hands paused where he'd been squeezing water out of his hair, and he blinked, his brows beginning to knit together in confusion. "Have we," he asked tentatively, "… Have we met before?"

Before Zelda could answer, the two heard a shout from beyond the path leading towards the shore. She jumped backwards, her jaw muscles tense. No, no! They came back too soon!

"Halt! You kids over there! We're looking for someone," a group of burly men approached.

They can't recognize me. They can't… Zelda repeated to herself.

"Hm? You two aren't familiar. Who are you? Are you outsiders?" another man asked.

Next to Zelda, the marooned boy glanced her way, gauging her reactions. His eyes narrowed slightly, and then he turned to address the men. "Yes, we are. Who are you searching for? Anyone dangerous we should be aware of?"

The first man shook his head. "Oh no, nothing of the sort. Our island's shrine maiden has gone missing, you see, and we are concerned for her safety."

"Ah," the boy glanced back at Zelda whose gaze had become fierce, almost angry. Then, a small smirk seemed to play on his lips before he covered it with a serious expression. "Well if I see her I will tell her she is causing you worry."

"Thank you." The men turned to make their search elsewhere along the shore, and Zelda was about to sigh in relief when they stopped. "By the way, who are you kids? I don't see any trade vessels around."

Zelda paled, wondering if this was the question that would lead to her discovery, but the boy beside her appeared confident. He cracked a smile and waved the men away with a pompousness that was much too exaggerated for such a young individual. "Oh, it's rather a long story and I wouldn't want to waste your time while you have a missing person to find. My name is Vaati, I am a cartographer from Windfall Island. This," he pointed his thumb over to Zelda, "is Sheik. He's a friend."

Huh? Zelda blinked. She stopped herself from looking too surprised, however, and did her best to keep a neutral expression. It wasn't the fact that he'd called her a boy that was surprising (for her disguise and her roughly cropped hair did make her look ambiguously masculine). No, it was something else. Vaati's words struck her in an oddly familiar way in a manner that she had difficulty identifying. It was almost like he'd said something she'd known a long time ago, and she was so shocked that she had trouble not blowing her new cover.

Sheik.

He's a friend.

They'd only just met, and the words felt natural, like deep down she knew that this wasn't the first time she'd heard those words before.

"My apologies, I had to think quickly there," Vaati said once the men had left. Zelda hadn't even noticed that the conversation with them had ended. "I had a suspicion you were the one they were looking for, and that you didn't want to be found. I found these islands with marks that read 'Sheik,' though I believe the words were cut off and the real name was once longer-"

Zelda stared at Vaati who had begun to ramble.

"- and that was simply the first name that I could think of. And I hope you did not mind it too much that I told them that you were a boy - "

"No, no!" Zelda exclaimed, shushing him. Then, realizing that she'd spoken rather loudly, she gave an embarrassed cough. "I mean," she hesitated, and then she surprised herself when she continued slowly, "I… I prefer that." She didn't really know how to explain it, other than that both the name and the identity fit, somehow. Like she was remembering something she'd forgotten. Something important.

"Hm." A similar look of curious surprise passed over Vaati's face, like somewhere, sometime, he'd seen this before as well. He tilted his head slightly, and then he shook his head as though dismissing a thought he'd had with a small smile. "Well Sheik, I need to leave this island and get back to what I had been working on before a frog on a cloud interrupted me. You clearly do not want to stay here. So, what will you do now?"

"I was actually planning on leaving by taking one of those fishing boats, before I found you," Zelda, or rather Sheik, frowned. "How were you planning on leaving, since you didn't arrive here by ship?"

However, Vaati had gone on ahead, and was already working on preparing one of the fishing boats to be seaworthy. He appeared comfortable on the sails, like he was used to traveling the ocean freely, and he seemed eager to leave for the freedom of the open ocean despite having just survived a marooning by an angry god. "Actually I was thinking about borrowing one of these ships myself." He paused his work to look at the blond hideaway like he was expecting something.

Sheik's face lit up with a smile, realizing what the other was thinking. "Do you mind if I join you?"

"If you must beg, I suppose."

The wind caught the sails, pushing the boat and its two passengers out to sea; Sheik sitting up at the front, Vaati near the back. Neither of them hounded each other with questions about who they were or where they'd come from and they settled into a familiar quiet as they both watched the island become smaller and smaller on the horizon. It was almost like they felt they had no need for such answers, even though they had just met no longer than an hour ago. Before long, the island was a small dot on the horizon, and excitement welled up in Sheik's chest. Not only was this something he'd been looking forward to for a long time, he also had a strangely comforting sensation that he was continuing a journey that had been left waiting for the both of them.

Except this time, there was no mist obscuring their path. The sky above them was a brilliant azure.

They were free.

Begin again.

- Grand Scribe Phact


fleets: That's it! This story is done! I cannot express enough thanks to any readers who made it this far, and also thank you so, so much for all of your kind comments throughout the process. They really made me feel like my efforts to bring a story to life was worth every hour I stayed up past bedtime :')

I'm not sure if I was able to convey everything I wanted to convey in the last chapter, but now that it's done I'm going to try and enjoy the fact that I made it. This story was definitely one of my harder ones to write, mostly because it was just so different than my usual Adventure stories and therefore less practiced. I'll probably be nitpicking this story in a month or two, but for now I'll try and be happy with what I was able to do haha. I also initially meant for this to be a romance (?) but that never quite panned out, oops!

I also initially had an idea to a sequel (which I was thinking of turning into a visual novel rather than fanfic) for this story that would follow Thuban's punishment. It would basically follow that Thuban would be cast down to the mortal realm as a regular Keaton, and be told to correct their mistake (e.g. murder Vaati with their obsidian dagger) or to die as a mortal would. Thuban would have trouble adjusting to not being a god (like mortal worries - hunger, thirst, cold, sleeplessness), and be eventually found by Vaati and Sheik during their seaward adventure. The story would focus on Thuban's struggle to follow through with the kill as they continue to realize how awful the rigid and somewhat arbitrary rules of the 'gods' are.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I currently have no intention to write that story, since I am too caught up on Asphodel right now. If you enjoyed this story, I hope you will check out Asphodel! It has more shenanigans with so-called gods, and of course salty Vaati.

At any rate, thank you so, so much for everything. I know this story was a little bit different than my usual stuff, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same :')

pickle: Pickle heyy! So nice to see you back, thank you so much! This entire writing experience wouldn't have been the same without you :')

Serpent Tailed Angel: One more chapter! You're right that there's too many things left unaddressed if I left it with the last chapter. Thank you so much for once again making it all the way to the end of my stories! It still sometimes blows me away that you're here, so thank you.

Vesperupus: Ahhh glad you liked chapter 10! That was definitely one of my fun ones to write :D
And oy, that was painful to write too, let me tell you… didn't anticipate how hard that would be to execute when I was writing my outline. I hope the ending was ok :')

AquilaMage: So last chapter was. Kind of rough haha but I'm a fan of happy (or at least bittersweet!) endings so I hope this patches things up enough! But ahh thank you so much Aquila! Your comments were seriously highlights of my day every time I saw them, thank yoU!

Cheza the Flower Maiden: Everyone needs a hug. Everyone. (but l aughs thank you so much for all the comments Cheza! I hope the ending mended some of the pain from the last chapter haha)

Zadria Cerulean: Thank you so much! And thank you so much for your support during the story ahh I cannot express my gratitude enough. I only hope that the ending was okay (thank you so much for reading this far!)