Reviews:

Quatermass: Yup, here it is!

Pyromania101: Hopefully this epilogue can clear some things up that might have seemed unresolved last chapter. Glad that you enjoyed the read.

FuryJoe: Thank you.

Tom2011: Thanks for the kind words. Here's one last one.

Guest: A bit sad, yeah, but one that fits with a more bittersweet ending. Hopefully, some parallels will work better in the future.

PrometheusDark: Well thank you. Part of the reason the finale was so long was that I wasn't really ready to let this story end after writing for it so much. Glad that you got into the canon series and here's hoping Miura actually does finish the series in general.

OBSERVER01: Yes, and here it is.

Celexs Draconia: So glad that you enjoyed the ending of this story and how certain events played out. And I would say Zodd is my favorite apostle, as well as writing for him, was just a pleasure.

Uday Sra: Thank you.

CybeastFalzar: Yeah, Umbridge had to have a fitting end alright. Love McGonagall as well. And only Miura truly knows how the series will actually end. Thanks for reading!

Everyone Loves A Menace: I am very glad to hear that. Just for good measure, here's one last one.

No Idea What to Name This: Well, the epilogue is here! I hope you enjoy the reread!

p6lishb6kser: Thank you for the praise. I don't think anyone can really guess what Miura has planned, but I did my best to try and get inside his mind. As for writing my own book, the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion about an idea I've had for years and I actually drafted a concept not too long after finishing this so...

Guest: Well, wait no longer, here it is!

Valaista: Glad to see you're hooked on the concept. Happy reading to you!

erica. phoenix16: No problem at all! Writing and developing Charlotte was one of my favorite parts in the latter half so I'm happy you enjoyed the payoff with her. We can only guess what Miura has in store for us, but since he's off hiatus now, maybe we'll get some insight on what he has planned.

5 Years Later

It seemed a cruel thing to see it end. No good action should ever be left to dim out and die, especially when it was so innocent and young. Words were falling on deaf ears in the midst of an eternal paradise, and why should they not? For as frustrating as it could be, this was what a ceaseless struggle had borne. To be carefree and alive; to feel the softness of the sun's warm caress before it faded to the warm cold of the night, what a feeling it must seem. But, as is just the way of things, it would not last.

A simple call of a name. He did not seem to hear it, he was far away, already at the top of the hill. Legs clad in armor strained to catch up.

The name escaped once more, falling on deaf ears. Perhaps he was purposefully ignoring the calls. The small burden in those armored arms was well balanced even with the longer strides.

The horizon became tangible heaven at the green summit of the hill, a perfectly unobtainable slice that had been stubbornly carved from the whole to fit something new entirely. And existing within his own world in that slice was him.

Longer legs moving with stern patience approached from behind. An almost clawed hand reached out, to grab him with affection.

"Gaiseric."

"Mm?" the boy tilted his head back to see his mother looking down over him.

"You're getting too far ahead. Again." She could tell her brows were scrunching close together as they normally did, albeit with far less animosity.

His shining dark iris' had the decency to look the smallest bit ashamed. "Sorry. I just wanted to see it first."

"It isn't a race you know," she calmly reminded the son. "You don't exactly have much competition anyway." She adjusted the bundle she had balanced in her left arm. "We can leave and come back in a few years if that would teach you some patience."

"No! No, it's fine. I'm sorry for running ahead." Gaiseric was quick to apologize.

Seeing his distress, she put her hand on his head and lightly ruffled his dark locks. Gaiseric's hair was still long, but as he grew over the years, he had taken to wanting it cut at his shoulders as opposed to his waist. He lightly tried to push her hand away while trying to duck out of the touch.

"Apology accepted. Now how about I lead the rest of the way?"

Gaiseric fixed his hair back the way he liked it and nodded silently. "Can I at least carry Chich?" he asked.

"Oh, finally offering to help your struggling mother? How long did that take? I was beginning to think you were some other little boy."

"I help out plenty," Gaiseric said with a face tainted with red.

"Relax. I know," she assured as she handed him the bundle she had been carrying. "Careful of-,"

"-Of her head. I know."

With care, Gaiseric accepted the wrapped bundle containing a girl of two years of age. Her equally dark hair poked out and while her eyes were shut, they were the same dark as his own. Her skin was tanner than his own, taking to closely resemble her mother's complexion. For her name, Chich, it had been Guts who had picked the name. Apparently the name reminded him of a kind spring; compassion that he had never received except in the most unexpected of ways.

Needless to say, she hadn't been expecting him to come up with it - she wasn't even expecting to have a second. With how much of his life Guts had lost, neither of them thought it possible. Especially as the years went by, the strain showed more and more on Guts to where even the simplest of chores seemed a miniature war to accomplish. She felt a lonely cold run through her at those memories and as she handed Chich over to Gaiseric.

"Aunt Charlotte is going to fawn all over her," Gaiseric held her firmly as they walked together.

"Queen Charlotte," she corrected.

"No," he shook his head. "She told me last time we were here to call her Aunt Charlotte."

"Did she?"

"Yeah. That's what she said."

"Well in public call her by her title. In private you call her whatever you feel like."

Gaiseric looked at her curiously. "Are you mad at her?"

"No. Why would you ask that?"

"I don't know. It just sounds like you're upset."

She sometimes hated how observant he was. "I'm not upset with her. I just know that things in the capital are still a little tense with certain things. Us showing up right now could cause some rumors to spread."

"What kind of rumors?"

"Just rumors," she answered. "They don't have to be true to- get behind me!"

Fwwweeeeee!

An arrow shot past them, hitting a tree in the foliage to their right. Her sword was already in her hands, the ruby on the pommel glittering with the sun as she turned to face this new adversary.

"My apologies."

Gryffindor's Sword was still posed to strike, but it slackened only a fraction at hearing the voice speak.

"How long were you following us?" she asked as the archer came into clear view.

"It wasn't my intention to follow you. My own query happened to be nearby."

Not lowering her sword just yet, she spared a quick glance over to where the arrow struck the tree. There was a flicker of sorts, a dead movement come to life by the end of the arrow. The disguise was dropped and a human-sized lizard of sorts fell from the side of the bark where it would fertilize the grass beneath.

"Hm. I see." With caution, she lowered the blade. "It would seem we owe you thanks, Sir Irvine."

"There is no need for such, Miss Casca," the archer replied with equal amounts of stoicism.

With how he acted and behaved, she often found it difficult to believe that Irvine was actually an apostle. She knew all too well just how cruel the species could be. Nightmares were nothing new to her by now, she had lived in one for a few years of her life. While the thorns were gone, the prickle could still be felt at times. She would just consider it luck for Irvine that he was not one of the shapes that she saw in that darkness.

"You make it hard to discern if you're sincere or not," she mentioned, observing how he would respond.

"I have no reason not to be," Irvine replied evenly. "There is no need to sound too surprised. Your name is one of great significance amongst the surviving apostles."

Her eye narrowed ever so slightly at the corner. "How so?"

"Nothing to merit offense, I assure you. Rather, they hold a rather fearful tone." Irvine's gaze remained unflinching. "To slay a king does not go without certain notoriety, and your name isn't the only one."

Gaiseric walked back to his mother's side with his young sibling in his arms. He looked between Casca and the archer, recognition of a time spent as an observer registered with him. Irvine saw just a boy.

"And I take it that the ones that followed your lead are being kept busy?" she inquired. Since moving back into Godo's old home, the creatures of fantasy had kept clear enough away for a somewhat uneventful time.

"As well as to be expected. They are what they are and finding ways to quell the bloodlust may never fully be satisfied. That doesn't mean that having them hunt down and repel some of the more dangerous creatures in this land doesn't go without gain. But more people have started to move back into their old homes as a result."

She hazared a glance back to where Irvine's arrow protruded from the body. "Clearly he was one who didn't share that same sentiment."

"No," he agreed. "He was a difficult one to track down. His camouflage was a useful advantage."

"Sir Irvine!" a shout carried up the hill as two men came running up to the archer.

One was a sandy-haired youth in typical Midland armor and the other was darker and wore a set of purple robes while carrying a wand in his hand. So they have still been at this even after five years.

"Ah, Sir Mule, Mr. Shacklebolt," Irvine greeted his companions. "No need to fret, our query has been disposed of."

"Thank Merlin," Kingsley said as he pointed his wand and summoned Irvine's arrow back to him. "He proved to be a slippery one."

"Far more trouble than he was worth," Mule said with a hint of displeasure as he looked over a sheet of parchment. "Even so, another name off the list can only make it shorter."

"I see that you're still under watch," Casca observed the other two men. They had agreed to accompany Irvine and watch over him to ensure that he stayed true to the vow he made of hunting down any stray apostle in Midland or even over to Magical Britain.

"Time can weather and build a great many things, but true trust has never been easy," Irvine shouldered his bow. "Wouldn't you men agree?"

Kingsley gave a polite nod in her direction. "For a great many people, no doubt. Any reserves Sir Mule or myself may have, we do well to keep to ourselves."

"Perhaps not in regards to Ministry standards," Mule said just loud enough to be heard.

Casca inclined her head slightly enough. "More trouble from them?"

"Less than before," Kingsley gave a reassuring smile. "Minister Scrimgeour recognizes the need for action and change when needed, a large step above what Fudge ever did."

"Yes, he has been very accomodating when it comes to tracking down any renegade apostle in their jurisdiction," Irvine added. "Granted, he does demand biweekly reports from Mr. Shacklebolt which are quite tedious from what I've been told."

"It is no different from any other report," Kingsley said. "Convincing Scrimgeour has never been an issue for someone in his former department. It is the other politicians that have to be considered."

Despite the varying backgrounds that they all shared, a mutual feeling for the subject could be shared. And she would find herself willingly venturing into that pit of vipers soon enough.

"Too true," she agreed. "Still, if you have someone to trust mixed in with a lot like that it makes it just a tad more bearable."

Mule picked up on what she meant. "Well, do enjoy your visit to the capital, Miss Casca. Do you require an escort the rest of the way?"

"I appreciate the offer, but we'll be fine," she assured him. "I don't mean to keep you from your task at hand."

With a polite excuse to the two of them, she and her children continued on the rest of the way across the farmer fields before coming to a stop at the main gate of Falconia. Complying with all the questions asked of her; what was her purpose for coming, how long was she staying, what was her name and residence outside the city? Casca was permitted entry.

"Everything looks so new!" Gaiseric exclaimed as they walked the smooth cobblestone street of the city. "Doesn't it?"

"It does, and don't walk so far ahead."

Falconia had always carried a style beyond modern architecture, but the effort that had been put into rebuilding after the war could clearly be seen. There was more color than just the dazzling white, homes had color tiles, shingles, or just flattened for simplicity. The road had been smoothed out and marked along both sides by tan stones made to curve and groove to separate carriage and foot travel.

One of the most ambitious challenges seemed to have been the inclusion of statutes of a greater variety instead of just the commonplace hawk, falcon, and griffon. On top of a row of marble columns, she spotted one of a perching cat, a constricting snake, a proud lion, and a crouching wolf.

"Over there! Look at that!" Gaiseric eagerly pointed out a pedestal of sorts that sat in an enclosed circle of the street so that the crowds had to meander around it.

Sightseeing wasn't on her list of things to do, and she made sure they kept moving even as they neared. Up close, she could tell that the pedestal was a memorial. A lone sword was encased in white stone up to the hilt and chiseled into that eternal scabbard a description read: To be eternalized, courage, honor, loyalty, and unwavering unconditional love. A true knight, Sir Laban.

A fitting sight to a city that had seemed so unreal. Casca allowed a small smile to grace her features, her mind drifting off to a garden balcony where the wind was freer than anywhere else. A beautiful place for rest amongst the ugliness.

"Why do you look so sad all of a sudden?" Gaiseric asked as they neared the zigzagging path that leads to the top of the slouching palace of Falconia.

"I'm not sad," she denied as they continued their trek. Why did he have to be so observant?

"You were making a face."

"I can make a face at you right now and you're smart enough to know what it is."

"Fine," he grumbled, dropping the topic as they continued on for a few moments of silence. But being in a bustling city, quiet was not going to last.

"I don't remember it being this high up before," he spoke again.

"They haven't built upon it as far as I know," she cast a glance upward on the yet untraveled rows of road. "You're just being impatient."

"Maybe Harry had Aunt Schierke put an enchantment on them," Gaiseric offered up.

"Or, and this is even more believable, you're just impatient." It did seem to take longer.

When they did arrive at the top where the drawbridge was lowered, the usual ensemble of guards and officials were in attendance. After giving both of their names again to the one in charge, they were instructed to wait for an escort.

"More waiting?" Gaiseric looked up to his mother.

"Everything has to be official here, remember?" she could feel her own patience thinning with the wait. It wasn't too much of a surprise for them to be here. In the years past, this had always been the day they would pay a visit back to society from their isolated home in the mountains. Granted, their visits were sporadic in those years, but someone ought to have surely noticed.

"Miss Casca!" a voice called out to her through the rows of guards stationed near the bridge. A blonde man with his long hair tied behind him and shining armor bearing the insignia of Midland strode forward to greet them.

"Hello, Sir Owen," she greeted. "It is relieving to see you."

Owen smiled good-heartedly. "Indeed. Your last visit seemed so long ago." He took notice of Gaiseric and her other. "Greetings to you as well, young Gaiseric. You're growing at an impressive rate. Who is that you're carrying?"

"My sister, Chich," he answered the seasoned knight.

Owen smiled excitedly. "Her Highness is sure to be pleased by that news. Please, allow me to escort you."

The row of guards parted at Owen's lead to allow the four of them to pass by into the entry hall of the massive palace. Much like the outside of the city, the palace had seen some much-needed improvement.

There was far less white than before. Red and gold carpets lined the floors and the colorful banners of Midland hung from the rafters and frames of the walls. Thick tapestries hung to section off halls that were deemed out of bounds with pairs of guards stationed at either side.

It all appeared unnaturally thrown together that made the place seem entirely more organic. It was one that Casca did not mind at all in the slightest.

"Was this our queen's idea?" she asked while eyeing some of the changing touches that had been made. "I recall her having an eye for complimentary detail."

"She approved of them, but the designs should go to the Lower District Overseer, the Lady Luca."

"Luca?" Casca repeated the name of the other woman. "Last I saw of her she and Silat were expanding housing settlements for the Bakiraka. How'd she manage that?"

"Not exactly by voluntary choice," a new voice chimed in.

Sir Owen looked behind them to see a woman a little older than Casca walking over toward them. Her brown hair was just as long as always, but there was more of an effort to make it look more elegant despite letting that one stay brushed off to the side of her face.

"Convenient timing, Lady Luca, I would think that you were following us," Sir Owen addressed their addition.

"Merely just escaping a lecture from Minister Foss," Luca sighed in humor. "How a sweet little thing like Elize can be related to such a stooge is far beyond me. Not unlike this little one." She smiled down at Gaiseric.

"Hello, Miss Luca," he greeted back. "Do you want me calling you lady now?"

"I'm as much a lady as you are. It feels a breath of fresh air being called something different." Luca directed her attention over to Casca. "I suppose I can finally relate."

Casca allowed a tiny scoff before embracing the other woman quickly. "The people here should be grateful you didn't change, Luca. Lower District Overseer? How'd you come by that title?"

"As I said, not exactly voluntarily. People seemed to remember me well enough from when I helped evacuate them to the sewers when the battle was going on. After everything had been rebuilt and expanded, a group of them seemed to think it'd be a good idea to try and get me on the council."

"And you didn't say no?"

"It wasn't exactly something that was easy to say. I just figured I would still be able to live a cozy little life in the meanwhile. Not exactly easy when most of the city knows your name and face."

"I can recall a time when most peasants didn't even know what some of their officials looked like. It sounds to me that they're in good hands." She had certainly been.

Luca gave a half-smile in remembrance as well. "Funny. I said something similar some time ago for a much different context."

The smile could only falter for but a split second before composing itself again. "Yeah. I can only guess as to what."

"A fair head's up, Lady Luca," Sir Owen spoke quietly. "I think I see Minister Foss waddling this way."

"And I thank you in advance," Luca said as she hugged Casca one last time and gave an affectionate rub of the head to Gaiseric before meandering her way through a gaggle of other court ladies and became lost to their sight.

"She is mighty intuitive," Owen said as they made their way through more halls. "It seems almost hard to believe what her former profession was."

"Running an inn, you mean?" Casca wanted to clarify as she spotted Gaiseric looking at them curiously.

"Er, yes. Exactly." Smart of him to notice as well.

Fresh light poured in from the windows on the upper levels as they began to near the queen's residence. Not too much seemed to have changed around here, she noticed. If there were to be a change, she wouldn't exactly know what to look for that wasn't too obvious. Certain things came to mind, but they were clearly just thoughts to be left in her head along with a great many things.

Sir Owen gave a cautious knock on the residence door and waited for a response. "Who is it?" a familiar voice called.

"Sir Owen along with Miss Casca and company," he announced. There was the sound of a lock being undone and the door opened to reveal a blonde youth in her teen years to answer.

"Miss Casca! Little Gaiseric! It is lovely to see you again." Her bright eyes sparkled as she gave all of them excited bows, caring little if her hair became disheveled in the process.

It was impossible for her not to give a small chuckle at the younger girl. "Glad to see you too, Erica."

"Yes, yes, it is rather exciting, but please do try to contain yourself, young lady," Anna appeared behind the young maid and began putting her hair back in proper condition. The older blonde hadn't changed much at all, save for looking much more tired and exhausted than Casca ever remembered seeing her.

Erica looked sheepish enough when she had to utter an apology to her elder.

"No need to sound so stressed, Anna," a third woman elegantly walked forward. "We are among equals, are we not?"

Her dark brown hair was brush back where a net of golden wire held in all in place, save for two braids that framed the side of her delicate features. Her doe blue eyes brightened in recognition. Casca, Owen, Gaiseric, and her attendants all bowed their heads at her approach.

"Queen Charlotte," Casca greeted as she raised her head.

"Miss Casca," the queen greeted in return. Her eyes traveled over to where her son stared back up in contained excitement. Her eyes shined in response. "And greetings to you as well, young one. You've grown since I've last seen you."

"Hello, Your Highness," Gaiseric addressed her as Casca had instructed previously. "You look very nice today."

"Oh, how nice of you," Charlotte beamed. "But I've told you before, you've no need for formalities when speaking to me." The bundle in Gaiseric's arms wiggled. "What have you there?"

Gaiseric looked to his mother who gave a small nod. "This is Chich, my baby sister."

It was the simplest answer that he could have given, yet it seemed so much more to the queen. "Truly? You've a-, well, my congratulations to you. And to you, Miss Casca."

"Thank you, Your Highness," Casca said. "Gaiseric here knew you'd be looking forward to meeting her."

"Yes, he was quite right," Charlotte instantly agreed. "Would it be alright… may I?" her hands moved forward just a tad, blue eyes shining with a second more silent plea.

"Go ahead, Gaiseric," Casca instructed, giving into the pleading look the younger queen was beseeching her with.

Handing the bundle of life over to the queen, she was mindful of the small head and body within as she accepted. "My, she is beautiful." Charlotte's smile grew as she rocked her arms slowly. "How old is she?"

"Just a little over two years," Casca replied, watching the queen's joy grow by the second.

"So small," Charlotte continued to be fascinated. "Why did you not bring her along when you came last?"

"I thought it might be a little too much excitement." And leaving her at home in the hut wasn't much of an option anymore.

"Too right you were. Might I ask, do you have clothes for a young girl? Dresses, bonnets, slippers?"

"I've never known infants to care what they wear, but…" she wasn't blind to the pleading look the queen was giving her, and in the future, she could save the hassle of having to hand down some of Gaiseric's old clothes. "If you have any suggestions, I'll be happy to listen."

"Yes, of course! Anna, would you be a dear and fetch some of my clothes from when I was but an infant?" the handmaiden bowed and went in search through the impressive wardrobe.

"That is awfully generous of you, Your Highness, but you needn't trouble yourself that much." Casca still remembered when she had encouraged her to try on all manners of dresses.

"It is no trouble at all," Charlotte denied. "You'll find no better make, save for maybe on England's side of things. Besides, it would be a travesty to let fine garments go to waste collecting dust."

Anna returned with a number of small, frilly dresses and skirts along with a few pairs of small slippers and gowns. "Some might be a bit large, but She can always grow into them in later years."

"Why don't you put them in your satchel, Gaiseric?" Casca asked, knowing that neither of them really wanted to be seen carrying dresses.

"Excuse me, Aunt Charlotte, but do you still have that one book you showed me last time?" Gaiseric asked after stuffing a pair of slippers into his bag.

"Of course. Your lessons are not to be overlooked. Anna, would you be so kind?"

With a bow, the handmaiden went in search of the query, bringing it back to place on the desk for Gaisric's viewing. He flipped to a page that had been marked and eagerly continued on from where he had left off. Anna stood to his side, quizzing him on his knowledge from before to make sure he was up to speed.

"What book is that?" Casca asked, not having caught a glimpse of the title. She could at least count on it not being anything from the Holy See.

"A History of Midland and Surrounding Nations," Gaiseric named off without looking up. "It's about this land and its relation to its neighbors and their cultures." All it took was a quick glance out the window to the glow of the World Tree. "It was written long ago."

"And you find that interesting?" she asked. Gaiseric had always been perceptive, but content to sit still and read wasn't his strongest trait.

He fidgeted a bit in his new seat. "Some of it. I wanted to read it when I heard a man with my name was mentioned a lot in here." Her eyes were lightly downcast. "He seems pretty familiar somehow."

"Familiar yet cryptic sounds about right," she spoke to where only she could hear. When Gaiseric had been old enough to understand, he was told his name was given to reflect a fighting spirit. He had never been told just where that name had originated from.

Charlotte was smiling next to her, still softly rocking the bundle of a blanket. She held her arms out open, ready to take the babe back. "Allow me, Your Highness."

The smile worn by the queen dropped in eyes only, her doe blue becoming rain on the ocean. "Yes, of course. Forgive me." Even as she handed the infant back, the queen's hands stayed extended for an eternal second, her fingers holding a phantom weight before interlacing with each other. "Thank you for letting me hold." Her eyes were clear near the corner.

"It was no trouble," she assured. Still, there were some matters that could not be avoided. "Would you care to speak privately, Your Highness?"

The queen briefly cast a glance over to where Gaiseric and Anna poured over the text, Owen standing at attention, glancing heir way. "I would not deny you that," she answered. "You may remain here, Sir Owen. I am in capable hands."

Nodding his approval to her, the two women left the queen's chambers, walking together along the refurbished corridors of the palace.

There was silence there between them at first until Charlotte started speaking of some of the decor changes that had been made and how proud she was of them for livening the place up. Casca could only really nod her head and give the occasional, "mm-hmm," in pauses between the queen's descriptions.

"Magnificent, really," she said as they continued down a set of stairs. "So much of this feels reminiscent of home to me, just… stripped away of all the worst bits and filled with new breath."

"Mm-hmm," Casca nodded along again. She enjoyed Charlotte, but sometimes her prim upbringing really shined through a tad too much. "That does sound lovely."

Charlotte smiled softly, Casca's dull tone lost to her. "As I had hoped. I'm sure Gaiseric was in admiration of some of the changes made around here."

"He was," Casca affirmed as they reached the next floor. "He was also one of the reasons why I wanted to talk with you."

Charlotte looked over in mild confusion. "How so? If something is the matter, if there is anything I may do to help him, do not hesitate to ask."

"He isn't in trouble or anything of the sort," Casca dismissed that notion. "He's good, a bit of a rascal at times, but what kid isn't?" Charlotte gave a remorseful blink. "I just wanted to hear it from you, but, just how do you view Gaiseric?"

"What do you mean?" she asked. "He's just about the sweetest, most polite, excitable, and mature little boy there is. I like to think that he'll excel in just about anything that he would ever hope to do. Why do you ask?"

"Just how he speaks of you," Casca recalled. "You give him lessons in all matter of subjects in the past, gifting him with something or other before every departure, asking him to address you with less formality no matter who may be near." She observed the queen who did not offer any rebuttal to any of the points she had just made.

"You… speak as if that is wrong to do?" they walked along at a slower pace.

"There is nothing wrong with it," Casca rebuked. "But I just can't but see a side of favoritism from you." If she had said that around other court officials, she would be berated until she became deaf. But Charlotte just accepted it. "I can't help but feel that you're grooming him or something."

For perhaps the first time since Casca had known her, she could not read the expression the queen had. "Perhaps you are right."

"Huh?"

The queen's head seemed to hang low with an aura of loss. "I am not deaf to the whispering that occurs in my court, nor am I naive enough to believe that I will ever feel what I had with a mere ghost ever again." Their pace had slowed, but they continued on. "To be a lady of twenty-five, unmarried without children and being queen no less. What an existence to live." Spoken in remorseful bitterness.

"You're still young," Casca assured her. "I'm sure a great many young men would value the chance to know you."

"Without a doubt. But I still abide by what I said those years ago, I do not believe I will ever wed, not when my heart still clings to a ghost. Besides, if time and that ghost have taught me anything, the titles and power that come from my hand would only be what is valued. They might expect someone to be as regal and heavenly as possible. Hm. What a surprise to just have a normal girl." The first hint of a smile appeared to grow. "But that reality is but a fading dream. From what I was told of my ancestry and bloodline, how it's crumbling carried for centuries, maybe it is best to have the line end with me."

"That isn't exactly the best sort of long-term thinking, Your Highness," Casca was tempted to reach a hand out to the younger queen, but adjusted as the bundle in her arms kicked. "The people have always known a monarch."

"That is true, and I don't fully intend on adopting the system that Magical Britan has in place," Charlotte agreed. "I will have no children myself, but… that does not mean I cannot name an heir." She stopped walking so she could fully look Casca in the eye. "If you would give your blessing."

"You would name my son your heir?" Casca asked, not fully in disbelief.

"Greatness need not be from birth. When I first saw him all alone wandering these halls, I felt a nature inside me that I had never felt; an instinct and desire to protect someone weaker than myself. And having watched him grow as years passed, that desire never faltered. The chance to see him grow, to learn, to guide… there is no gift I would deny him, this kingdom is no exception."

There was a new look in her eyes that Casca had yet to see for herself, an unseen fire that burned from beneath the sapphire surface. She could tell by that alone that the queen meant everything that she had said.

"Your Hi- Charlotte, that is an awfully big responsibility to give to a young boy. I want what's best for him too, how would that look to some groups out there?" even with Irvine being civil, Casca could not imagine some of the placed apostles taking too kindly to the son of the ones who killed their demon prince becoming heir to their country.

"It is something I have considered myself," Charlotte admitted as such. "I would have Harry assist in any way that he can. You've probably seen firsthand, but the man is more cunning than he lets on. I still recall on more than one occasion how a few dignitaries found themselves thoroughly embarrassed at a council meeting when he brought in their mistresses and wives to meet while adjourned."

"Oh my. And what warranted that bit of drama?"

"I believe that they had made some less than kind remarks about his choice in consort, that being the Lady Schierke," Charlotte recalled. "And if not Gaiseric, I was hoping to name one of their children as my heir - once he proposes and they conceive, that is. My point being, Harry has had time to adjust to life in court, he has picked up on the intricacies of helping one lead. I would not leave your son without the proper aide."

"And have you told him of this idea of yours, Harry, I mean?"

"I have strongly alluded to it, I just believed that you should be the first I tell. I had planned on telling Gaiseric himself when he comes of age at thirteen, and while it would be his choice, I could not do so without first asking for yours." Charlotte regarded her with gentle regality. "I just thought that you ought to know."

The amount of trust and sincerity that the queen seemed to hold was almost staggering. Casca knew that Charlotte adored her son, and even with all the facts laid out with her feelings, it almost seemed an impossibility. Casca had come from humble beginnings, Guts from even less; the idea that any child of theirs could one day have the opportunity to be better than their lives was what she assumed any parent would want.

But to rise to something like that…

"This is overwhelming, Charlotte. I… I want more than anything for Gaiseric to lead the best life that he can. If that be as a smith, a knight, or even something higher than that, I want that life to be his own." She watched for the expression. "He has my blessing to life the best that he can. To say anything more would be ripping away something precious."

They stood in silence for a momentary lifetime, accepting a future choice that neither could control.

"I see," Charlotte said, breaking the silence. "Please forgive me for any lack of tact that I took in my approach. That was rather unbecoming of me."

"You don't have to be sorry, Your Highness. And even if it might seem a lifetime away, I can assure you that Gaiseric really enjoys coming to visit."

The following smile was soft, but one of the truest that Casca had ever seen the queen wear.


"Ready for our next stop?" Casca looked down at the boy as they once more meandered their way through the streets of the capital.

"Uh-huh. And you don't need to slow down, I can keep up."

"I'm more concerned with you dropping one of your many gifts."

Gaiseric's already full satchel had been crammed further with some additional tailor clothes, toys, and even the text he had been pouring over before. Charlotte's excuse for doing so, just because she felt like it.

"Well, when we see Aunt Schierke, maybe she can shrink some of it down," he fiddled with the strap, making sure that the weight didn't make him go lopsided.

"I take it you're up for carrying it just a bit farther?" she teasingly asked.

"It's not that far," he grumbled.

"We have to go into the forest."

"What does that have to do with how far it is?"

"It doesn't. Just so you know."

"But I did know that." He blew a stray lock of hair out of his eyes.

The Sanctuary of Astral Studies, that had been the name that Harry and Schierke had settled on for their project of creating a place dedicated to helping people better understand magic following the addition of a bridge between their world and Magical Britan. It would have been an impossible task for anyone else to establish, but when one of those people was the queen's personal advisor whom she held eternal gratefulness towards, anything was fair game.

They had been granted a portion of land in the forest just outside of the city's farmlands as Schierke had always said that magic was strongest when in a natural setting. Plus it also served as being close enough to the capital so that Harry would not have to travel far between his duties as an advisor alongside his position with Schierke.

When they had first started their project, it had just been the two of them and Farnese setting up a makeshift house of sorts in a tree. That was to be their personal quarters and solars. They then constructed a few more for different areas of studies, really only attracting a few peasant families and some remnants of Kushan peoples who were more accustomed to ethereal practices due to their eastern beliefs.

And when the children of those families would venture back to the capital, they would spread the word of what was happening in the forest just south of the city. Stories of buildings built up in the tops of trees, bridges that connected one to the other, strange runes carved into the barks, and an almost weightless feeling in the air.

Many people were turned off to the idea, still clinging to the beliefs of the Holy See and the inherent evil of anything magical. Some did just not care at that point, having lived among a city filled with beings who could transform into monstrous creatures; they just wanted to live out their lives peacefully in the city with little thought to what went on outside of it. And then there were those who were truly curious, mostly younger children who were curious about everything.

The trickle began slowly, one drop after another. Then more. And more. And even more began visiting this sanctuary in the trees just to see if the rumors were true. And how true they were.

"This was sure to have been a few sleepless nights," Casca admired, looking upward at the spiraling sight above them.

The bottoms of wrap-around walkways circled the tops of the trees, wooden bridges connecting one tree to another, and the hut-like structures that resided in the center of them, glowing with candlelight, some even having puffs of purple, blue, and green smoke coming from their windows. And from the sight of it, they had expanded out even more since the last time they had visited.

Guiding Gaiseric over to where a rectangular cage had been constructed with wood and left alone of the forest floor, she let him ring the bell that had been tied inside. The lookout from above heard the ring and looked to see the cage they were in begin to levitate off the grassy ground and up to where the landing awaited them above.

"Hello," their arrival official greeted as he opened the cage for them to exit. "What is your busine- oh! Miss Casca, it's you."

She gave a half-smile to the young man. "Hello yourself, Neville. How have you been?"

"I'm doing just fine - great, really," he assured in his bit of usual awkward manner.

"You've clearly sprouted up, again," Casca found herself having to look up to meet his eye. What is it with boys growing so tall?

He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Not by much. If anything, Gaiseric here looks like he's been growing fine."

Her son straightened up when he heard that. "I am reminded every day," she said in dry humor.

"And… you have a new one?" Neville carefully eyed what she carried. "Congrats, then!"

"Thank you. She's content for now, but this one-," she ruffled Gaiseric's hair, "-won't be for too much longer."

"Ah, right. Figures you'd want to see them. Right, this way, Miss."

Smells of sizzling sparkles and sounds of popping bubbles filled the air as they walked past some huts that were emitting some of the colorful smoke seen from below. A peek through the window showed young teens and some adults pouring over some cauldrons that held some liquid of impossible color.

"I take it you're not the only former student who came here?" Casca asked, waving away some of the smoke as they walked.

"No," Neville shook his head. "Tracey and Astoria are in one of the potions huts, and Luna is around with Sonia, talking about something called a crumple-horned… whatsitcalled?" Neville was stumped.

"Sounds about as casual as always," Casca recalled both blonde girls and their excentric fashion.

It had to have been three years ago when the wizards from the other side first began taking notice of what Harry was building. As Queen's Advisor, Harry was required to be at Charlotte's side whenever she and the other dignitaries would hold summits with the Ministry of Magic on neutral ground. Most of the time it consisted of the status of Irvine's ongoing mission, help in containing a magical creature that was posing a threat to a town in Midland, and on that particular occasion, how Harry's own progress was faring.

The reaction wasn't… the worst from the Ministry, far worse if the previous Minister was still in office, and even more so if Umbridge had not met her end by Void's hand. If anything it was treated more scandalously that a name like Harry's in their society was encouraging nonmagicals to learn more and study magic. And the fact that he was doing so alongside a girl who was not born with magic herself, that was a honey pot ready to be swarmed by hornets.

But since the Statute of Secrecy did not exist in Midland, the Ministry could not put a stop to any development, they proposed an olive branch of sorts. It became a sort of program to send witches and wizards who had either already graduated from Hogwarts or were in their seventh year to have them volunteer of sorts. If their intention was to have it become more Ministry mandated, nothing was showing to indicate that. If anything, Casca suspected it was to calm tension on their end in the demand to know what was going on with Harry Potter.

That seemed far more believable.

And among those who took the job of representing Hogwarts and her education were Neville and Luna. While Neville had gravitated more toward some of the local floral life that Midland had to offer, Luna had sought out Sonia right away. The two girls wore radishes as earrings, necklaces made of garlic, and large glasses that let them see invisible creatures. As much as Casca didn't understand, they offered insight into being mediums and what could come from unseen connections.

But like anything, now that a connection had been made, information was also able to spread. Specifically in a certain newspaper that Britan had.

"Have you heard anything about what your country is saying about this place?" Casca asked as they neared the central hub of activity, instantly spotting where their solar would be.

"They say… lots of things," Neville hesitated.

"Such as?"

"A bit of everything, really. Mostly about how they believe Harry is under some sort of spell that is making him break centuries of secrecy." He paused. "But, there isn't exactly anything that they can do about that."

"Even if there was, I doubt Schierke would stand for it."

Neville nodded along. "No argument there. I don't think the people back at the Prophet would be as eager to write some of those articles if they knew just how powerful she was."

"Writing stuff about her?" Casca felt a protective inquiry take hold.

"Just the same recycled piece over again, really," Neville seemed to regret mentioning it. "No one here really believes it. The Prophet isn't delivered here so it's really just for the people back home who really take it to heart."

"Hm. And just what exactly is it that they're saying in that paper?"

Neville really seemed to be considering the best way to answer truthfully but also placate a near irate Casca. "Just that… they think some love potions might have been passed around."

"A love potion?" Gaiseric asked, his brows scrunched in confusion. "That's a thing?"

"That's what Tracey told me Witch Weekly said," Neville affirmed. "She just thinks that the witches over there are trying to justify why they'll never be married to The Boy Who Lived or something like that. The Prophet is less of a blame-game and more name-calling."

"Well aren't they charming," Casca fought the urge to roll her eyes at the nonsensical nature of gossip. No matter how much time may pass, it seemed a fool's hope that others would just let people try and go about their lives in peace.

"But, it's like I said, no one here really believes any of that," Neville reiterated. "I mean, the Creevy brothers bring it up, but that's more in outrage over what was written or what they heard back home."

"I'm not mad at you or anyone here," Casca said as they crossed the last wood bridge to the central hut. "I was just curious to know, that's all." They stopped just outside the door. "Thank you, Neville."

"Oh, right, no problem," he smiled in awkward fashion as he bid them a quick farewell and went to go tend to some of the magical flora that they had growing in one of the huts.

Gaiseric wasted no time grasping the handle and opening the door for them, something Casca found a bit odd. Schierke and Harry weren't too fond of random surprises and would have normally kept their door locked, or at least put some spell to alert them of sudden visitors.

"Have I not taught you how to knock?" Casca lightly scolded as he opened the door.

"Won't they be happy to see us?" he asked while walking in.

"Would you be if someone just walked into our home?" Casca rhetorically asked.

"Not if I knew them, "Gaiseric answered simply. She sighed at his reply.

But even just peeking in at the cozy setup, the owners were not present. The main hall of sorts could best be described as a welcoming mess with stacks of books lying open and closed, piled around a set of armchairs close to a circular fireplace. Underneath an arch was the kitchen area where some dishes occupied a bucket of water and an empty table. There was just one other door inside which Casca knew to lead to their personal solar, and if she were to listen very faintly, she could hear the sounds of faint voices on the other side.

Evidently, Gaiseric must have heard them too. Walking over to the door, he gave a quick series of knocks to announce their arrival. By doing so, whatever voices that had sounded from the other side halted abruptly.

"Wh-who's there?" a confused voice then called.

"It's me, Gaiseric, and my mom," he announced them.

There was a pause. "Hold on just a moment!" she sounded back from the other side. Casca heard some creaking and then shuffling around and one that seemed to settle, the sound of a lock being undone.

Opening the door was a woman of nineteen dressed in her usual purple robes and large purple hat which she quickly straightened and that covered her head of natural green hair that she had allowed to grow to reach her neck. The years had certainly been kind to the young witch considering she had sprouted up in height, but Casca would still wager that Schierke would still be the shortest of all their companions no matter how much time would pass.

"Casca! Gaiseric!" her green orbs addressed both of them. "Uh, welcome back!"

She found herself smiling naturally at the witch and her semi-flustered demeanor. "Hello yourself, Schierke. Sorry for kinda barging in here. The door was unlocked and… you can probably guess who's idea that was."

Schierke lightly shook her head. "You're always welcome, you know that. Harry must have forgotten to lock it is all."

"And is he in there with you?" Casca inferred.

Before Schierke could answer herself a voice called, "Right here."

Moving from out of sight, she saw one of her oldest friends come to stand next to the witch. His black hair was as unkempt as always and seemed to have grown a bit longer as well, but as long as he kept it out of his eyes, it looked fine. The glasses were the same, no change there, but it was his eyes that held the greatest difference. A light seemed to have been reignited behind those green surfaces, a glow that had been building back up for years now. While he could still never use magic from his journey in the Abyss, his sense of acceptance was returning to his eyes every day.

"Huh, there you are," Casca still found it weird how she had to look up to meet his eyes. "I certainly hope that Gaiseric and I weren't interrupting both of you doing anything." Considering that they were both adults and sharing the same home, Casca wouldn't rule out anything.

"You must be a bit famished," Schierke evaded the implication. Uh-huh. "Gaiseric, do you want any honey bites? You're fond of them, right?"

Gaiseric eagerly followed Schierke over to the table as Harry and Casca watched in amusement.

"You know, I thought you might be someone else before Gaiseric announced you," Harry said, striking up a conversation.

"Really?" Casca arched a brow. "And who could you possibly mistake us for?"

Harry just quietly smirked. "Maybe stick around for a bit and see."

She could think of some faces but kept quiet on her hunch. She gave a nod of agreement before they went over to join the two others.

"So, this little one is Chich?" Schierke remarked as Casca handed her over to Harry to hold. "She's…" Schierke tried to find the best words to put together. Eventually, she just went with, "Why didn't you show us sooner? You still have the hairs I gave you, right? Thought transference, I would have been able to see her so much sooner."

"I just figured that you'd want to see her in person," Casca said while Schierke continued to fawn over the bundle in Harry's arms. "Was I wrong?"

"Well… no, but that doesn't mean that - oh! You know what I mean!" Schierke was in far too good a mood to find her counterargument.

"Yeah, you tell her, Schierke!" a pink light fluttered in through the window to rest snugly on the brim of Schierke's hat. "Tell her what for."

Casca had been wondering when the elf would make herself known. "I see you're still hanging around, Ivalera. You've been keeping a close watch on things I take?"

"Hm, right on the mark," the pink elf smiled proudly. "Someone has to at least keep an eye on this one." She jerked a thumb accusingly at Harry who rolled his eyes. "If not, they might have one of those crawling around right now." She referred to Chich.

"Ivalera, you're doing it again," Schierke cautioned the elf on her hat.

"I'm just saying," Ivalera shrugged in a truthful fashion.

"I'm sure your worries are misplaced," Casca defended. "Afterall, both of them are mature enough to know not to be too careless. Besides, I'm sure they'd want to be official before anything of that sort were to happen." She quickly redirected the topic back towards them.

"Ughh," Schierke seemed to slump. "Did anyone here bring up those ridiculous things those wizard papers write?"

"We only spoke with Neville and he was trying his best to be as vague as possible."

"That was kind of him," Schierke mulled. "If you've read one, you've read them all."

"And then there's Magnifico," Harry added, passing Chich back to Gaiseric. "Sometimes I think he'd be better off as one of those journalists than as a financial manager."

"So he's still making a fuss about those titles of yours and inheritance claims, then?" Casca asked.

"Still? He never stopped." Harry shook his head. "He probably thinks up ways to just casually slide it into conversations. He's just as bad at gossiping as-,"

"The queen?" Casca guessed.

"I was going to say that Prophet. Why? What was Charlotte saying?"

"A few things," not all strictly about you. "She seems to have taken an interest in your future. I wouldn't be surprised if she already has wedding plans in mind for you two."

Harry and Schierke exchanged a look; even Ivalera kept quiet. Eventually, Harry spoke. "Well, that's kind of Charlotte, but something huge and elaborate isn't really necessary."

"Aren't you her advisor?" Gaiseric asked. "Isn't being a part of something big just natural?"

"Uh, yeah," Harry responded. "You're right, but for something like that, we decided together that we really didn't need anything extravagant. Just as long as we meant it and we'd be able to tell who we wanted, that would be enough."

"Exactly," Schierke agreed. "We knew that not everyone we would want would have been able to come to see whatever ceremony, and between the time spent here overseeing things and Harry's duties at court, planning it out would just be another thing to worry about."

Casca just nodded in understanding. She would have liked for Farnese or Schierke to be there when she had her second but knew that would be no small thing to ask. And yet, something in the way that they had been talking just now…

"I can understand where you both are coming from," she assured. "Yet it seems to me that you were talking like it had already happened." She observed their reaction. "Am I wrong?"

"Well… not entirely," Harry didn't fully deny.

"I mean, there was no ceremony or reception or any plan of any sort," Schierke continued. "Farnese was here and so was Ivalera, and we really just exchanged a few words in front of them and… that was it really. It really wasn't anything more than a very sincere promise that we took to heart and-,"

"Schierke," Casca held up her hand to stop an incoming tangent. "You don't have to explain anything to me. I am happy for both of you."

It made little difference to Casca. For the entire time she had spent with Guts, he never made any proposal or exchanged any sacred words with her. They just trusted and valued the other and that was honestly enough. Words were fleeting and meant little without a heart to boost them. She knew all he had done for her sake, that was enough.

"So... congratulations?" Gaiseric said in uncertainty.

"Congratulations? Is there a party?" an excited tone asked as Ivalera suddenly blanched.

"Oh no," the pink elf sighed. "Why?!"

A blur of blue light entered Casca's field of vision, flying everywhere, to the ceiling, to bouncing off hanging pots and pans, and eventually stopping right in front of her face with a smile bright enough to rival the sun.

"Cassie, hey!" he waved. "Didn't know you would be here. Did you miss me? Huh? Did ya-?" her finger was more than enough to cover his mouth.

"Hello, to you too, Puck. Now, if I let go of your mouth will you try to behave?"

"Mmhfff!" he gave a salute.

"He's a liar! Don't do it!" Ivalera shrieked too late as Casca let the blue elf go.

"Wow," Puck dumbly stated as he ruffled up his hair. "Haven't had that happen for a bit. Oh well. Anyway, glad to see ya!"

"Hi, Puck," Gaiseric greeted as well.

"Hiya! Whoa! Say, you've really sprouted up. In a few years, you might be taller than me." That elicited a chuckle."

"So, Puck," Schierke began once the elf had settled down some, "if you're here, can we be expecting Isidro to show up too?"

"Nah," Puck dismissed. "He's still a few days out. He just sent me ahead to let you know when to expect him."

"Really?" Schierke asked in pseudo amazement. "That's responsible for him."

"Aw, c'mon, don't be like that," Puck encouraged. "He's matured plenty." And he wasn't exactly wrong.

The last Casca had seen of the rusty-haired hellraiser, he had filled out his scrawny form quite a bit. He was lanky, sure, but the additional muscle he had built made it look better suited to his build. He still kept his Salamander Dagger but had also added a balanced broadsword, nowhere near as large as Dragonslayer, but one better suited for his style. Red stubble was also in the works, growing down from his sideburns to his chin with the start of a future beard. Then there was his leg.

It would seem that Rickert had outdone himself yet again. Isidro's prosthetic was in perfect proportion with his other and he was able to walk with little to no sign of a limp being present. He had been overjoyed to show it off to her and by accident had fired off a shot from the cannon that was concealed inside which ended up blasting a hole straight through a tree. Isidro had seen fit to offer a measly, "oops," at the misfire.

"I was looking forward to more of his stories," Gaiseric said with disappointment. "He's been just about everywhere."

"I was also hoping of talking with him," Harry lamented. "The most promising swordsman has been making a name for himself, even amongst the merrow people."

"Mermaids?" Gaiseric asked.

"Merrows," Schierke corrected. "He became really close friends with that one merrow girl, Isma. Harry and I were looking to learn more about them, maybe extend an olive branch of sorts. If any human gets lost out at sea, they might feel better knowing that they'll have some being watching out for them and guide them toward shelter."

Casca nodded. "You know, Gaiseric, Puck might be able to tell you a bit more about merrows. He's been around them, hasn't he? Plus, I'm sure he's dying to see the little one."

"Sure have!" Puck proudly declared. He landed on top of Gaiseric's head. "Walk with me for a bit and I'll tell you one whale of a tale!" She found herself grateful that Puck complied, leading Gaiseric over to the fireplace to recount some fictional tale or another.

Same with Charlotte, she had some things that needed to be discussed privately. Harry and Schierke both knew what she was going to inquire about.

"Has anything been happening? Anything show up? Any surge in od or in the astral world?"

Schierke shook her head. "None at all. From what I can tell, there haven't been any accounts of behelits popping up in this layer or even on Britain's side of things. It seems like what Harry did in the Abyss put an end to that chain of events."

Harry looked pensive. "It would seem that way. There really isn't a sure way to kill an idea like the one that had taken root down in that madness. To be something as twisted as that, one can only really try to change it into something worth believing in."

Harry had said as much before and Casca admired the sacrifice he had made in order to do so, but that did not stop a prickle from being felt in her heart. A lingering thorn, one that she maybe refused to pluck until sure. He evidently saw the look on her face.

"Casca, I would love to say for certain that what we did put an end to things for good. But if it turns out to be a matter of time, be it a thousand years, two hundred sixteen, or even just one, we shouldn't spend what time we have fueling that flow."

"I don't think it will happen in any of our lifetimes," Casca countered. "My concern is for those who will have to deal with it if it does." She eyed her kids from where Puck was entertaining them. "They'll be the ones suffering."

"Maybe," Schierke admitted. "Or not." Harry went to go retrieve a leather-bound book.

"What's this?" Casca asked.

"A book about belief," Schierke answered, flipping through some of the pages. "Harry and I began working on it a year after the Godhand's defeat. Should the need ever arise to where someone would need to stop a power like the Godhand, we wanted them to be prepared."

"Guidelines for people to follow for future generations?" Casca looked it over. "That sounds an awful lot like Gunderic writing for the Holy See to be founded."

"I suppose so," Harry ran his hand across a page. "He was actually where that idea came from." Casca viewed that with justified wariness. "After seeing his human half inside that madness - all of their selves, I think I finally got it. The choices they made, as horrible as they were, they all came from one place - no one could understand them. What they did, they did of desperation and craving, never understanding themselves until they took a look inward. If this can help anyone understand, just one, that would be enough."

"And you think that will work?" Casca couldn't help but ask. Things were hardly that simple.

Harry's gaze didn't waver from her own. "I want to believe that it will."

Casca would argue no further. For all the resentment she might harbor, all the doubt that she wanted to express... She wanted to believe that too.

...

"You know, Farnese is back from visiting over at Lith," Schierke said once Gaiseric and Puck returned from their storytelling. "She's instructing some of the younger kids on astrology and astral projection, but she would no doubt spare a few moments - or an hour - for her closest friend."

"Can we?" Gaiseric looked up at her hopefully.

"Yeah, can we?" Puck joined in.

"Considering how it's almost night out, I figure we'll have to stay the night. And if she has room to spare, how can I really say no to that?" not that she would have to begin with. "But don't go getting too comfy. First light we head back home, got it?"

What a phrase for her to say. A desolate hut in the mountains where she had been confined to the mine was where her home was. And it also wasn't.

Her home was in the capital, the place where it all came to an end. It was wandering around the country, finding new experiences in life, and growing past the limitations that had been set. It was right here. And it was back at the hut, leaning against the wall - too big to be called a sword; massive, thick, heavy, and far too rough. Indeed, it was a heap of raw iron. And it rested there, unused.

Her home was no dream. It was far greater.


A/N: So, this is the epilogue chapter that was hinted at. This was originally only supposed to be a few thousand words, but the more I wrote, the more I wanted to show what else has happened in the time between the finale and this one. And, keeping in line with the bittersweet ending, I really wanted to keep Guts' fate ambiguous and up to interpretation to you, the reader as he is the only character mentioned here without any solid conclusion. Anyways, I can finally mark this story as being complete, and as always, thank you for reading.