“Wait…” Altera became pale. Her eyes wandered across the sea. “We murdered all of these lives?”
“Each of these crosses is a life you will take. Lost souls you will destroy. All these crosses are yours to bear.”
Ragna looked at her companions. Eric didn’t react and stood on his patch of ice, frozen. Not that she could blame him. Crosses littered the sea, millions if not billions of them, and this Mimir told them they would be responsible for all of them. A number – so absurd that one couldn’t fathom the thought of its reality and severity.
How could that even be possible? Just from a logical point, what would they have to do to reach such a number? If they dedicated their entire lives from this point on to killing people, they might succeed. But that was ridiculous. Not even the most heinous serial killers or a monster like Kaiser Wilhelm III. had this body count…Wait, no…
“So, that’s what you mean.” Ragna chuckled. She pressed her hand against her forehead.
Eric and Altera looked at her. Their expressions didn’t change. They had to have realized the reason for the death count, as well.
“We’re the ones to end the Millennium Peace. Right?”
“Indeed, that seems to be the case. Though, I would hesitate to call this period the Millennium Peace. That name is deceiving. I must applaud the mind who gave birth to it.”
“It’s not the Pharaoh, not Vaix, Skyfrost, Midgard’s warmongering generals, or an idiot like Altera’s wannabe despot of a brother. No, we’re the ones who’ll plunge Aes into a new world war. We’ll become death, destroyer of worlds.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Huh?” Ragna looked at Altera.
She shook her head. Her red eyes pierced through the mask, burning it down with fierce flames.
“You think I lied?” For a second, the mask’s voice changed, coating his words with pain and disappointment. He sounded like a man who had encountered loss and betrayal countless times. It wasn’t disdain directed at Altera, but at himself for hoping for better, that the same game wouldn’t repeat.
“No. You’re telling what you think is the truth.”
“It’s true. Death, pain, and misery will fill our future. But only if we do nothing. Every step we take has the potential to lead us in a new direction. We have the power to change our future. So, I’ll tell you this.” Altera widened her wings. She raised her voice and swung her partisan, pointing it at Mimir. “We decide our own fate and no one else.”
Altera was right. If the future was inevitable, then it didn’t matter what they did. She might continue or give up; nothing would change the end result. So, she might as well try her best. If the future was malleable, she might change it if she gave up, or she might change it while she continued her journey. So, she might as well try her best.
Eric and Ragna nodded in silence and readied their weapons at the mask. Altera’s response didn’t need further affirmation. To Mimir, she had voiced their minds as well.
“Excellent. How truly excellent. I have no doubt you, of all people, have the power to change your future. No, everyone’s future.” The mask raised further into the sky. Like Altera, his voice grew. Each word and sentence, he minced with passion, and its solemnity increased into newer highs. “I believe I have answered all your questions. So, now let me tell you this. There are those who wish to put an end to your journey. They desire for you to fail out of misguided love. Perhaps they are right; perhaps your future will be death, pain, and misery. But that is only for you to decide. All three of you are wonderful in your own unique ways. Even if you cannot see it right now. So, take your future into your own hands. Defeat me in this fight. And show me your brilliance, future Valkyries.”
The mask started to shine. Light erupted on its surface. It hit Ragna in the face, and she dropped on her knees.
“But also, let me apologize. For I will play cruel in this battle.”
Images from the past raced through Ragna’s mind. Scenes she had repressed within the depths of her subconsciousness bubbled to the forefront. The mask had destroyed its lock, and the memories resurfaced, leaving Ragna no option but to confront her past and ignored sins. For ignorance could no longer be a sanctuary.
The moment their lips had connected, he did not just feel her. There was also metal and something warm and liquid. A strange sensation came from his throat. First pain, then strange grunts and noises – his own perhaps – and then nothing.
Ragna pulled her seax out of the man, and with a swing, she wiped the blood off her weapon. She raised her skirt and hid the seax in the slot sewn into her garter. Her gaze wandered to the lifeless body. Blood gushed out of the pierced flesh. His eyes were closed as if he were sleeping.
At first, Ragna didn’t react. Then she turned around. She was smiling with frivolous joy.
She faced both Altera and Eric. “Please, forget your confusion over my actions.” Her lips formed a smile. “You can remember what had happened, but think of it as nothing unusual, like brushing your teeth.”
Her hand reached out for Altera’s face. Ragna touched and caressed her cheeks. “Just this little incident. Don’t bring it up unless I will it. Would you be so kindly?”
“Yes,” they said in unison.
At that moment, Ragna remembered.
She had killed Clockwork’s minion. No, she didn’t just kill him. She seduced him, kissed him, and murdered him in cold blood. And then, she played with Eric’s and Altera’s minds. She hypnotized them, seduced them as well, and forced them to do things they would never do. There was no excuse she could come up with; no greater good she could hide behind. She was a murderer, and she had taken the free will of her friends to cover up her shame and ignore the guilt. Violating the minds of others – She was no better than her uncle. Her actions didn’t just disqualify her as a Valkyrie. No, what she did were the actions of a monster.