I know it's rushed. It probably needs a lot of editing.
She was sick.
Noel's grandmother was ill. There was no way to help her other than to make her comfortable in her final moments.
My dad was tending to her day and night. I worried he might get sick too, but I wouldn't tell him to abandon Noel's grandmother while she had limited time. I guess we'll all have our time eventually.
"Perhaps I'd like to see your mother again," He admitted.
What was there to say?
The world was dying. We were the end of humanity. Susu (what I called my mom because she had a complicated name that I couldn't pronounce when I was little) was gone. My big sister, Hotaru, died getting us away from our village, holding off the monster attack. We'd made it to Paddra, but we were only delaying the inevitable.
Ten years now that I'd been living in Paddra. Ten years that I've been seeing the people around me die, one by one. Ten years that have worn away at my hope, that innocence that I'd once had when I was little.
I walked outside through the crystal sand.
How were we supposed to go forward? The end of the world was coming. There were no more new children being born. The adults were dying off one by one. We weren't going to make it.
"I'm not in the mood, Yanny."
He looked disappointed. "What's up?"
"We're not gonna make it, are we?"
"Noel's grandma is sick. The rest of us aren't gonna last long. The village will be wiped out in our lifetime. Who knows if there's anyone else out there? The only reason me and my dad found Paddra was because we'd heard of the seeress."
Yanny stuck his hands in his pockets and looked down sadly. "Maybe."
"Maybe? We're doomed, Yan! We have been since the day the pillar crumbled! If the people back then could build skyscrapers, have amazing technology, build massive cities, then why couldn't they have prevented this?!"
"I don't know. Maybe they didn't expect Cocoon to fall when it did."
"They had five hundred years to prepare for it."
"Not a lot of time, in the long run. People back then lived to be, like, a hundred years old, right?"
I sighed. "I guess I'm just…I'm tired, Yanny. I'm tired of fighting this hopeless fight. What's there even to fight for, anyway? If we're the last of humanity, then it doesn't matter if we become strong. We'll be wiped out eventually, if not from a monster attack, then from old age."
"Well, isn't it our job to, uh…reproduce?"
"Sure, but most mothers die upon childbirth. At best, we could give one or two more lives to make up for two deaths. And who knows how long we'll be able to keep up that trend in this world. Maybe once there was technology that let a woman survive giving birth, or just healthy enough woman to handle things all on their own, but not now. There's nothing we can do."
"Stay positive, Fang."
"What's the point of staying positive? Won't do us any good."
"If you've got time to mope, you've got time to hope."
I kicked the crystal sand as hard as I could, sending a shower of dust ahead of us. "That's what my mom used to say. And then she died from a stupid Malboro!"
Yanny visibly flinched, though not from my actions, but my words. "I…I'm sorry."
"It's not fair, Yanny! Why did the stupid people of the past leave us like this?! Why…why is humanity itself resting on our shoulders?!"
"They were stupid. They didn't realize how stupid they were."
"Smart civilization, my arse. If they had been so great, we wouldn't be stuck here, drowning in this sea of crystal dust and sorrow!"
"There's no use complaining about it. Might as well save your energy for surviving as long as possible."
"What? To set a new record?"
"To enjoy life while you have it. If we're gonna be the last of civilization, might as well make the most of the time we have left."
He sighed. "Look, maybe you just need a hunt to get this out of your system. However long we have, being all down isn't gonna help anyone."
He grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the village, though it wasn't like I had much left in me to resist.
He took me through the sea of crystal dust that was the world. If there had ever been great civilizations out there in the world, where was the evidence? I wish I could go back, tell them what will happen to the pillar, make all of this go away. Even if this reality never existed, that would be okay.
I stared at the ground in front of me, uninterested in where Yanny was taking me. He was silent the entire way, which was out of character for him. Maybe he was only cheery to block out the sorrow we faced together. That didn't really sound like him, though.
"Rei, watch your step!"
Yanny pulled my wrist, and away from the edge of the bridge over the chasm to the Black Sands. The next thing I knew, I was at his chest, a breeze from the abyss below tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. I'd almost fallen. I wouldn't have been afraid if I had.
"You know something?" He asked, still holding me close. "There are reasons in the world to keep going."
"Like what?" I asked, inhaling his scent.
"Is love enough to save us?"
"That, and a little bit of willpower. I've known you for ten years, Rei. I think you've got the willpower thing down. At least until today, that is."
"I'm out of willpower, Yan. I've managed for too long. I've been sucked dry."
"Well I haven't. And I've got a bit of love left in me, too."
I couldn't help but chuckle. "You? You don't seem the type."
"I know. But I am. What about you?"
"I'll love my papa for as long as I can. But I think he's ready to find my sis and mom soon."
"What about your friends?"
"I'll love them, sure. But I think we all want to see our loved ones again."
"And maybe I just want a little more time with you before then."
Yanny stepped back and then leaned forward to kiss me.
I remembered vague images of what I'd seen all those years ago, and remembered that Yanny had taken me on a hunt to the Black Sands.
Noel's grandmother was sick.
Things were all falling into place.
So what I'd seen had been visions of the future. But how could I have a vision of the future? I wasn't Yeul, I wasn't a seeress. There wasn't anything special about me. I'd have to ask her when I got the chance.
But if this came true, then that meant everything else I'd seen would come to pass as well.
I was going to lose them all. I couldn't lose them all.
Please don't let me lose them.
Please don't let me lose Yanny.
"Papa, I'm home!"
My father was sitting in a chair beside Noel's grandmother. When I arrived, he looked up grimly. "She wants to speak with you."
It was coming to pass. She was going to die here. No, no, no, no, no.
But what was there to be done? Nothing can stop death, not in this world. I knew that first hand.
So I sat down in the chair my father had been in, and he walked off to leave us alone.
"You wanted to see me, ma'am?"
"None of that ma'am nonsense," She said. "I've known you since you were a child. You and your father have taken care of me for all the time you've been with us."
"It's the least we can do with you allowing us to stay with you."
"How could I turn down such a nice pair? You were such a bright-eyed child, seemingly unmarred by the hardships you'd faced at such a young age. But you were old enough to understand, I knew. I saw it in your eyes."
"I'd just lost my sis and Susu - my mama. Papa was all I had left."
"And you still smiled, child. You acted like not a thing was wrong in the world."
She looked to the ceiling with a sigh. "Children shouldn't have to force their smiles like that. At one point in time, children had innocence. They didn't have to worry about survival from the moment they were born, and they could just live life normally. Without fear."
"Why did the world come to be like this?"
"Some say that people took the gifts of the goddess for granted. That the miracles that saved them allowed them time to prepare for the apocalypse, but they thought it was going to be safe forever. They say this is our punishment. For all the peace they lived in, we face the consequences of misery they avoided."
"Do you think we can do anything about it?"
"I'll be honest with you, honey. I'm not so sure."
"What if…what if I told you something…a little crazy?"
"I've seen a lot of crazy throughout my lifetime. At this point, anything you tell me will be nothing compared to reality."
"I…I had this vision…and…and I think…it might be coming true."
She let out a chuckle. "Well, that's far from unnatural. I've seen Yeul, her powers and abilities. That was probably the most normal thing I'd ever heard."
"But I'm not the seeress. Where would I gain the ability to see the future?"
I hung my head. "Well, what I saw wasn't much of a miracle."
"They say Yeul must keep her visions to herself to prevent others from facing worse fates. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if any vision of the future was just a suggestion. There aren't any other people left to kill off, no more terrible events that could be punishment for breaking the rules. The world here has ended."
I was surprised by her statement. "So…you're saying I should try and save them? Go against what I saw?"
"I might be. The universe likes to straighten itself out. Maybe you'll buy them a day at most, but it's another day of life for them, with the worst consequence being death, which was already in motion from the day we were born, from the day our grandparents' grandparents' grandparents were born. Do you love them?"
"Then I'd say those few days are worth it. Maybe this is Etro's final gift to humanity. She created the crystal pillar to save humanity, but in the end, even that wasn't enough. Maybe, she gave you one final gift, a few more days to live with your loved ones. At this point, a day is a lot. An hour is a lot. A minute is a lot. Even one more second with those you love would be worth it."
She erupted into a fit of coughs, and I quickly moved to give her some water.
"I lost Noel's parents what must've been an eternity ago. A mother shouldn't have to burry her child, see them die before their very eyes. Even in these times, I should've joined the goddess before my children. I survived giving birth, and I had put my hopes into my daughter doing so as well. But luck only goes so far, I suppose. You've been given a final gift, the last luck that might ever exist in this world. Use it while you can, darling."
"But what if I can't do anything?"
"Then you can die knowing that you tried."
She reached to her chest and pulled out a necklace hidden under her dress. "I've been saving this for a special occasion. This has been passed down for generations. My mama told me it was a gift from the gods, that it would fall into the hands of the person who might be able to save humanity. You can believe her if you want, but I'm giving it to you."
In her hand was a shell, and as she motioned for me to examine it, I opened it to find a gem that seemed to shimmer with more color than I'd ever seen in this dying world. Were there even names for these colors anymore?
"Why me? Why not Noel? I mean, he's your grandson, right?"
"I never said this was passed down through my family alone. My mama got it from her friend's uncle. He got it from his wife. It was passed on to the people who we had faith in. I have faith in you."
"Me? Why me?"
"I saw that look in your eyes as you grew up. Your papa, Noel, all your little friends and everyone in between. There's always been weak hope in their eyes. They've given up, but they haven't fully given up yet. You understand?"
"But…that basically describes me too."
"It didn't. For longer than I'd ever seen, you held something else in you. A knowledge that things would be okay. I began to think that you already could see the future, long before this talk. Only Yeul had ever had an expression similar to yours, and even hers didn't go as unmarred. You must've seen something good."
"I saw my first vision five years ago. Nothing's ever been good."
"Even before that, hon. Maybe you didn't know it on the surface, but you knew things would be okay."
"But then…why would things suddenly change now?"
"I guess the end is coming. It's time for you to make your own choices. You were given hope, and now you're being given despair. Which one will you chose to believe in?"
"But I don't even remember being given any hopeful visions."
"We don't understand the goddesses gifts a good deal of the time. I have faith you'll figure it out."
"No more of that, child. Start believing in yourself again."
She took her hand and put mine around the necklace she'd given to me. Her grip was weak and shaky, but she forced me to close my hand around it.
"I know you'll do great things. I know you're special. If you can save your friends for even a day, I know you'll be able to do it. If you can save humanity itself, I know you won't give up until you do."
"And if I fail?"
Her grip slackened. Her eyes closed. They tried to stay open a little longer, but eventually, she fell victim to eternal rest.
I removed her necklace and took the shell with the gem into my palm.
"I'll try," I promised.