Kon’s thoughts scattered and crashed as a torrential storm rushed through his weary mind. The dark mass of swelling mist had arrived suddenly, his plummeting body carried by a turbulent stream of emotions and memories. He drowned in an ocean of aching grief and deep-seated regret, leaving only the angry flashes of Jrana shouting to bring clarity to the noisy emptiness.
I’m not letting you go! I’ll drag you kicking and screaming if I have to! Fate has taken enough from me already. I won’t let you abandon me too!
Yet Kon had abandoned her anyway. Jrana had not dragged him kicking and screaming. Instead, he had walked away without so much as a kiss, a hug, or a word goodbye. There was a reason he kept pushing himself, in spite of Lafer and Vigor’s many protests. He had not wanted to sleep knowing it meant reliving that night.
From the beginning, you told me your greatest dream was raising a family! You told me over and over that you wanted a better life for your daughter. A million times you told me that you wanted a better life for me!
Raising a family was still his greatest dream. Kon didn’t want his daughter to grow up without a father like he had. He didn’t want Jrana to lose her husband like her mother lost hers. But it wasn’t like he asked for Fate to give him the Sight. As soon as She did, he knew Fate would take him eventually. The best he could ever do was delay. Delay he did, and thus he faced the consequences.
Was every sweet word you told me just a puff of wind? No truth? No substance? Just a few hours ago, you promised me that Fate wouldn’t take you anywhere! You asked me to have faith in you and I did! Maybe I was a fool, but either way, you were a liar! You’re nothing like the Kon I married. The man I fell in love with would never break his promises this easily!
Kon knew she was right. It stung, hearing Jrana tear him apart, ripping up the very foundation of his self. The decision he made went against everything he’d ever told her; everything he’d ever told himself. All lies, in the end. Kon wasn’t half as good of a person as he’d spent his life tricking himself into believing.
You’re a coward! If you weren’t, you’d… you’d run with us. I know what you can do with your fae. I know you can get us far away from here and hide us when the Seers come searching. Kinjra already knows the plan. She’s distracting that girl in armor as we speak.
In the noisy void, Jrana’s whispers were no quieter than her shouts. Like nails scraping against a chalkboard, the words carved agonizing furrows in his eardrums. The wounds continued to burn in the sudden lull of silence. A breath’s worth of consideration stretched out into a breathless hour. Kon struggled as he sank into the darkness, tightly gripping his throat. It took him letting go and shaking his head to finally breathe again.
If that’s your answer, then go. Get out of here and don’t ever look back. As soon as you’re out that door, you can consider me done and gone. I’ll take my daughter somewhere you can never find us. I’ll keep your promises for her and give her a better life. A life without her father, but a better life nonetheless.
Kon continued to drown in his own tears. It didn’t matter if he knew Jrana was lying. He could hear it in her voice then, when it was meager and broken. Now it exploded in his head. Even knowing they were lies, he cried anyway. Kon never wanted Jrana to hurt like this. Never wanted himself to hurt like this. Helpless and alone, he suffocated. As dark as the storm around him was, a deeper black started to bleed in at the edges.
Then, a sound. A gentle, melodic strum in the distance. A star in the void, helpless and alone like him.
Kon approached the light at speeds he could never dream to fathom. In seconds, it grew to fill his entire vision. Music swelled around him as he crashed into the swirling orb of gold and silver luminescence. It blinded him, searing his vision. He blinked the pain away furiously, panicked screams bursting from his lips.
Abruptly, the music vanished; soon too did the light.
Kon stood in dark silence. He was no longer falling. No longer alone. Before his eyes, his fae was hovering solemnly, twinkling faint sparks of silver and gold.
He reached forth. Took her in both hands and brought her close. Tears spilled off his cheeks, falling against her knotted shell like thick drops of rain. Each time one landed, a scream rang in his ears. Not Jrana’s, but two others. A pair of voices Kon hadn’t heard in a very long time.
His mother and brother.
Kon shut his eyes to hold back the tears. Again, he welcomed the darkness and silence.
He opened them again and found himself standing in his attic. In his hands, he held an open photo album. On one page, a dark cloth stirred like the writhing mist of a storm. On the other, a black and white photograph screamed.
A five-year-old Kon was clutching the leg of his mother, his eight-year-old brother leaning down and hugging his shoulders. The pain of sharp nails dug into the back of his head, just like it had on that day. Unlike his younger self, the Kon in the attic crumpled under it. Tears were streaming down his eyes and dripping onto the photo. Before the ink could smudge, he patted the image dry with his sweater, then with a sigh, wiped his own face.
Be stronger, Kon demanded. Be as brave as you were that day, and actually look.
His mother, Kir, looked so beautiful. She always looked beautiful, her eyes and smile forever radiant, but on that day, something was different. Light seemed to bleed from her very soul, filling her up like a vessel with endless warmth. Kon had been strong and brave enough to bear Rin’s nails because of her.
His brother had been beautiful too, in his own way. Even while he tried to make Kon cry as their photo was taken, Rin was staring off into the sky, his gaze as vast and unknowing as space.
Though none of their fae were visible in the picture, Kon could remember where they had floated. His mother’s was above her head, a ring of sunlight raised on its side. His brother’s lingered in front of his face like a cloud of shadow and velvet starlight.
Kon could remember his own fae, too. At the top of the photograph, she appeared, drifting from above. A dancing tangle of gold and white light that bloomed with rings of illumination, each ring brighter than his mother’s fae had ever been.
Terrible lies shone bright on that lone photograph. A childhood spent in denial, followed by an adulthood of repression.
The fae had always been there. Kon just refused to see them. His fae had always been there, but he let her cries go unheard for so long, she eventually grew silent. Because of his fear and his selfishness, his fae spent decades hiding where he couldn’t find her. It wasn’t until he witnessed the mountain-sized corpse rampaging across the Last Talon, Vaska Toma, that her voice cried out again. Again, he ran the other way. Too afraid and selfish to accept his Fate.
It was all built on lies. The foundation of his reality began to crumble. Kon could no longer avoid the colorful shapes dancing around his classrooms. He could no longer look at his wife and daughter and not see their fae. They often caught him staring into space and asked questions he couldn’t answer. Instead, he turned to his best friend. After all, Gul had known since the beginning.
Kon flipped the page.
Another photograph, still in grayscale. Gul’s parents stood above a pair of nine-year-old boys with bright, fluffed up hair. Though Lum’s hand was laid gently upon Kon’s shoulder, the kind woman could never replace his mother. No more of a father than his had ever been, Gin loomed above Gul, a proud spark in his eyes. Gin had always favored his actual son over the orphan that did nothing but make his life harder. It was a small miracle Gin’s face in the photograph had faded over the years.
At nine-years-old, Kon should have outgrown the Sight. Gul believed there was a reason, but Kon insisted on the contrary. He’d seen what the wraith did to Kir and Rin. Instead of helping, he’d just run away.
Gul never believed Kon lost the Sight, but after a long season of angry silence, he relented. His best friend encouraged his lies until they became a reality. Not long after, Kon started calling him brother.
He soon discovered his passion for music. That passion carried him across the world for years until he met the woman he would marry. At first, it was their many similarities that brought them together. With time, it was their stark differences that kept them together. So long as they had each other, they felt invincible. Like they could go anywhere and do anything they dreamed.
Both dreamed of having a family.
Kon choked on his own breath, unable to hold back the tears. For so long he’d spoken of the importance of truth and the nature of secrets. How lies could fester and grow so large they collapse into caverns so wide, they rip the closest people apart.
Kon flipped the page. On it, a vibrant photograph of himself, Jrana, and Kinjra was shining, depicting the three of them standing in front of a precarious ledge. Like in the picture with his mother and Rin, Kon actually felt brave despite the Grand Rift yawning behind him. In ignorance, their happiness gleamed in their eyes and their smiles. A few weeks later, the Battle of Vaska Toma would take place.
Suddenly the light behind the photograph dimmed, casting the scenery in darkness. The faces of his family were no longer visible, their bodies faint silhouettes in the glowering ringlight. Down by the Grand Rift, the Skyblade truly evoked its name, cutting apart the sky like a radiant scimitar, devouring the light of the stars it kept from reaching their world.
A great crack ran down the photograph, like a bolt of spectral lightning cast down from the crumbling Skyblade. The crack forked out like a trident, splitting his family apart. Jrana was safe, standing a little off in the distance, though Kon's head was severed completely. One of Kinjra’s arms was in his hands. Spiritfire burned in the background.
Kon shut his eyes, relishing in the darkness. Why are you showing me this? His thoughts screamed.
Like the sigh of an angel, her voice resounded. Look.
Kon opened his eyes to brightness, then wiped the blurriness from his vision. In the picture, his family had been reunited. Although the Skyblade continued to glower with its hollow radiance, happiness still gleamed in their eyes and their smiles.
Together, his fae cried.
Kon sighed with understanding.
The greatest mistake Kon had ever made was not accepting his Fate. By cowering in secret, he’d only brought his dreams to ruin. But so long as he and his family were alive, there was still a way for them to be together. He’d met Ebi’s husband and daughter, seeing firsthand the kind of reality they had. It devastated him to see a family that resembled his, united and happy while his was divided and suffering. That had been the core of why he refused to stay the night in Underfall.
The experience seemed different in retrospect. It meant that he could have that too. All he needed to do was convince Jrana to accept their Fate, and they could be together and happy when he wasn’t being called away to defend their world.
Kon pulled the photograph out, then closed and dropped the album. A sensation like crying heralded the light of his fae, who began to pour from his eyes. Droplets of silver and gold liquid that coalesced into a sparkling orb. She beckoned for him to follow, flying around his head and across the chest-filled attic. At the open shaft of the ladder, she slowly drifted below.
Kon moved for the ladder, head high and chin straight. I don’t know how but I know what to do. So long as my family is alive, I can find a way to fix this. We can be together, and that’s what matters the most.
He would go down those steps and listen to Jrana scream at him again. He would memorize every word if he had to, just so he could understand the pain he had put her through. He would replay the words again and again until he knew exactly what to say to make her forgive him. He would do whatever it took to be by Jrana and Kinjra’s side.
Kon was determined. He could not fail. Together, his family would face the coming War and survive it. All three would bear witness to the paradise that awaited humanity’s victory against the wraiths. No matter what Fate throws our way.
Kon descended after his fae.