“Stories have no real endings or beginnings. They are just moments in time, chosen by the author.”
“I am telling you that there is absolutely no reason for crying. Nova is just temporarily lost. I am sure that she will find a way to come back,” I try to reassure Castella who is weeping bitter tears. It's heartbreaking to watch her like that after all the progress she made. “If you don't stop, the babies will start crying too.”
I know that I probably shouldn't send her on yet another guilt-trip, but I know no other way to force her to get a grip on herself. At some point, she simply has to learn to deal with loss. It's okay to grieve, but not for decades!
After the events at the Eternal Battlefield, we returned through the damaged part of Illum to Nova's private quarters. Our enemies had been crushed, even if we paid a high price for it. Only the coming years will show if Nova truly managed to change the course of this world.
If nothing else, this day will go down in history as the end of several great nations. At least the Empire is done for. My agents gave me several reports which spoke of burning cities and villages. Slaves who were massacring their masters. Half of the continent was turned into hell.
The Sociocrathy had fewer slaves, but several of the nation's high and mighty fell victim to their illegally owned pet. The whole nation is in a state of chaos.
All the reports caused me to not pay enough attention when I encountered my daughter. Castella was in the living room and I filled her in on everything that had happened. The decision was made in the spur of the moment and without thinking. It was my mistake. My daughter got so much better since Nova's arrival that I thought she could handle the facts.
I honestly didn't expect her to have a breakdown.
“But how can you know that she will find a way back!?” my daughter cries out, smearing tears and snot into a handkerchief. She is sitting on the living room's sofa and looks simply miserable.
Zane leans over and whispers, “What makes you so sure that you are right?” He is clearly shaken by Nova's apparent death and the reports. I allowed him to listen in on everything, but unlike my daughter, he is holding it together.
I hold out Lucifer to him. When the ghost cat snuggled up to me after my granddaughter's disappearance, I was relieved.
Nova's familiar returned to normal cat-size after Nova stopped overfeeding him through their bond. “Lucifer is still here. If Nova had died, he would have withered away within a few hours. A familiar like him can't survive without the bond to a magician after it is bonded. We would have had to find him a new mage from the bloodline, but he is still receiving energy from somewhere.”
Point made, I set Lucifer down in Castella's lap – partly to give her something to do – and raise my hand to show them the ring on my finger. “And this is my second clue. The rings which give us partial control over Illum. Wouldn't you expect that a paranoid person like Nova would make her heritage do something upon her death? Like locking others out of the system, or giving a person of her trust administration rights?”
He pulls down the corners of his mouth. “Blowing up is much more likely.” His expression turns a little guilty. “I am still waiting for the hammer to fall.”
I ignore him and cross my arms in front of my chest. “Then there is my final point. I felt nothing when Nova 'died'.”
“During the first few moments after her disappearance, I was too shocked to realize it. Without a body, I wouldn't have been able to revive her, but I knew the exact location of her death. I should have been able to sense her departing soul. There was nothing. That's why I am saying that she was teleported away, rather than killed outright. The religious maniac tried to perform a summoning ritual. It's likely that Nova was taken somewhere.”
My daughter sniffs, clinging to this hope and looking up at me with red eyes. “Are you sure?”
“I have no definitive proof, but three different clues are enough to assume that I am right,” I answer without hesitation. “Nova has only been missing for less than a day and she isn't a person who leaves things unfinished. She will return as soon as she finds a way back.”
As if to mark my words, a flash of lightning sparks through the room.
When I can see again, I find Nova in the middle of the room. She is grinning from ear to ear and holding a bag in her hands. Next to her is a blonde goddess with a figure even I am envious of. The both of them are wearing white robes of a completely unknown style. The wardrobes are simple, yet elegant. “Nova!” I call out in relief before I can stop my emotions from overtaking me.
The stupid bitch somehow grew on me during the past year, even if we had less time with each other than I liked.
“You are alive!” Going against his normal behaviour, Zane rushes to Nova's side and hugs her, only to be joined by Castella moments later. The one who is left out is Lucifer, who is clearly unhappy not being the centre of attention, his tail swishing back and forth. To him, it was always clear that Nova would come back.
I let out a sigh of relief, but don't let my guard down. After seeing that Nova is completely fine, I turn my attention to the newcomer and squint my eyes at the woman. Her face looks so strangely familiar. Tilting my head, I try to remember and then I recognize her. “I know you. I saw you in front of the palace a few months back! You were checking out the building!”
Normally I wouldn't remember a stranger after such a long time, but that woman has a distinct presence around her. She also behaved strangely. When I take a closer look at her aura, it feels like she is suppressing it somehow. The aura doesn't look any different from a very strong person at the reincarnation stage, but it's far denser than I am used to. Strangely enough, it seems like Nova is doing the same.
The blonde shrugs. “Aren't I allowed to walk around in a public area? I was just making sure that everything is in order and that there is no outside interference. I have at least some interest in what's going on in this world.”
Nova turns her attention to the unknown woman. “I thought that you were on vacation, Seria.”
Seria scowls. “I have no obligation to explain myself to you. Back then, I wasn't on my vacation, yet.”
Castella purses her lips and lets go of Nova. “Your name is Seria? What a strange name. Like that ancient goddess of death, which the Mir worshipped? I think that I've read something about it.”
The blonde smiles smugly. “Exactly like that Seria.”
They are interrupted by the crying twins who instinctively recognized the voice of their mother. Nova untangles herself from Zane and Castella to rush over to the babes. A few moments later, she has one in each arm and is smiling. “Yes, yes, I missed you too, my future investments.”
Seria is watching the scene with a strange, conflicted expression on her face. It's a combination of envy and frustration. Before I can ask, she whirls around and walks towards the wall. Just before reaching it, she turns around, looking over her shoulder at Nova. “Don't forget to visit me after you got your things in order. There is a lot to discuss!”
“Sure,” Nova answers, paying the blonde only the barest minimum of her attention.
Seria doesn't wait. There is another flash of sizzling lighting and she is gone. This time I am able to get the barest glimpse of what had happened. It seemed like reality itself warped and gobbled up the blonde, giving me a short view of what might have been another plane of existence. It looked like she stepped into an endless, white plane of nothingness.
I turn to Nova. “Where have you been?”
“I am afraid that the details are a secret, but rest assured, it doesn't have any immediate consequences for this world. Ah, before I forget!” Nova hands the children to her mother and rushes over to the bag. “I was in a wondrous place! They had all sorts of stuff there, and I realized that there is yet so much more to learn!”
She picks up the bag and spills the contents onto the floor. I gape at the items. “Mana crystals!” In all shapes and sizes, more than I have ever seen! Some are even bigger than the one Sirra had!
Nova picks up one of them and waves it through the air. “They have a lot of this stuff where Seria is from! Imagine all the experiments and the possible research! With this, I will uncover so much knowledge about soul magic and the nature of mana that nobody will be able to oppose me!”
Turning, she looks at us. “Oh, and there is that little point about rebuilding this world. We will turn it into an advanced and educated culture.”
Zane slaps his own forehead. “Someone, take away those crystals. I have a bad feeling about this! And who says that an advanced and educated culture won't repeat the mistakes of the past!? We should first make sure that law and order are firmly in place before we do anything else.”
I just chuckle as they start arguing. It's the first time that I have seen Nova so excited. How could anyone try to take away her new toys? Though, I think Zane has a point. Hopefully, they will be able to put their different opinions aside when they see how colossal the task of rebuilding will be.