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Shindara lingered several steps behind Izanami as they meandered through the foothills. The grass was bending low under a cold gale. The sky above hinted at rain or portending storms, but they seemed to hold their collective breath as Izanami approached. Above, there was an angry whorl of gray and white haze. Nonetheless, the heavens didn’t split wide open.

Izanami didn’t seem pleased with their good fortune. She seemed more nervous than excited as she trudged along their windy path. The fact that she was this anxious made Shindara brace himself. 

Honestly, he still couldn’t believe that he was talking to the creature deity of the Yomi, the first Abhorrent. He glanced around the hillside and wondered again if he was dreaming all of this. Maybe he was going to wake up in the next few moments beside a campfire burning low. Yes. None of this was real.

“Are you coming?” 

Shindara didn’t mean to stop in the middle of their trek, but he was hypnotized by the sights surrounding him. As he scanned the low-lying hills, he realized they were haunting in all the right ways. Ghostly trees were emerging from a sea of mist. He imagined this must be what it was like to view the setting sun through a chunk of amber. 

He expected it to taste like poison with his next breath, but it was simply mist. 

“I wanted to ask you something,” he said, focusing on Izanami’s silhouette. She was becoming less of a person and more of a strange shape in the fog. For a moment, he grew nervous and hoped she hadn’t heard him—but no, he had to ask her. “Before I summoned you here, where were you? When I spoke to the hags of the Yomi, they said you hadn’t been seen in centuries.” 

“Centuries? I seem to recall thousands of years passing me by.”

“Then what happened to you during all that time?”

“I’m honestly not sure. I don’t remember how it happened, but I think the rage and shame eventually consumed me. I ceased to exist. I became the blackness at the bottom of the ravine. The shadows between the mountains. And I became the ichor in the River of Three Tortures. When you put on my mask, it gave me form. You woke me.” 

Shindara hesitated with his next step.

“I brought you back…”

“You seem to have trouble wrapping your mind around that idea. Is it really that difficult to believe? I felt you when you put on my mask. It was like looking into a mirror in some ways.” 

Shindara wasn’t overly fond of that comparison. “And you think I’m just like you?”

“No, not exactly. I think I’m better.” Izanami coyly glanced over her shoulder, as if she was daring him to prove her wrong. Shindara only chuckled in response and followed her toward a massive hill. 

He didn’t feel the path rising at first because it was such a subtle climb. It gradually dawned on him that he was looking over the tops of the trees, high enough to see the forest stretching to the South. It was a dramatic and jaw-dropping vista, one that completely captured his attention. He could also see the bog he marched through earlier. 

Turning away, he noticed Izanami was standing frozen in her steps. She was further along the path and staring at something ahead of them. Whatever it might be, it was shaking her to the core.

Forgetting the view of the hills, Shindara moved quickly to join her. When he reached her side, he was stunned by the view awaiting them. The top of the hill was dominated by a dozen or so burial mounds. Each of them was roughly the size of a boulder, and they commanded the hilltop with the presence of the gods.

Shindara felt oddly nervous to walk in their shadows, but he followed her anyway. Izanami seemed to know exactly where she was going. She took her time pausing here and there to reflect on the round-shaped mounds of earth. Each of them represented a life that was taken too soon or cruelly lost to her. Interestingly, some of them were watched over by unglazed, clay figures.

They were known as haniwa and each of them was formed in the likeness of a human. Some of them wore happy expressions while others appeared to be crying or inexplicably angry. 

The haniwa were meant to act as talismans to protect the deceased. Some of the nearby villagers believed the spirits of the dead resided in these statues. If it was another day and another time, Shindara would have been tempted to sit down and contemplate their existence. It was likely that no one else knew they were here besides a few wandering samurai or nomadic peoples.

Izanami seemed like a nomad herself as she walked silently among the dead. Memories seemed to find her because she occasionally offered a quiet chuckle or a tired smile. Clearly, she was thinking of another life that Shindara wasn’t privy to. 

“Who else is buried here?” he asked.

She didn’t reply.

Instead, she led him toward a slightly higher knoll. A burial mound was placed on the sloping side of the crest. Like the others, it was circled by stones and haniwa figures, but something felt noticeably different about this one. It was as if the air grew thinner and crackled with high energy. Adding to his suspicions, the sky seemed to grow darker and lighter at the same time. 

Shindara knew at once that this was her grave. The site was ringed with tiny clay figures that were a gross parody of humankind. In fact, Izanami was looking at one of them in particular. Without speaking a single word, she knelt before it. Her eyes grew wider still as if she was expecting the clay figure to come alive. 

“Do you know how I died?” she finally asked. 

“I’ve heard the stories. I know that you were—”

“You know nothing. However you’re imagining it, it wasn’t.”

She seemed unusually volatile in that moment. It startled Shindara to see the fury that was practically burning its way out of her eyes. He didn’t say another word for fear of offending her or setting her off. He could tell from her savage expression that she was going to tell him the truth, but not yet.

Besides, he already knew how this tale began. It was marred by the birth of the fire god Kagutsuchi. Some claimed this was how Death came to be in the first place.  

Izanami stared numbly into the distance as she remembered. 

“I was giving birth to one of our sons. Little did I know that my child would be of the flame. I gave birth to the deity of blacksmiths and fire. How was I supposed to know that it would be my last moments on the earth?” She swallowed a deep breath. “He didn’t start to burn me alive until the middle of childbirth. I held on anyway… because that’s what we’re expected to do, isn’t it? We have to swallow the pain without complaint and bite our tongues. So I did. I was determined to see my child live even if I had to die.”

She dragged her nails through the earth, squeezing a handful of dirt between her fingers. 

“But my husband, Izanagi… killed… him in a fit of mindless rage. I felt my son’s death in the seconds after I awoke in the Yomi.” She gently opened her palm, watching the dirt spill between her fingers. “I was going to name him Kagutsuchi.”

Shindara looked around the burial mounds as an eerie thought occurred to him.

“The rest of these are your children, aren’t they?”

“Some of them. I have many more sons and daughters who existed in one form or another.” She didn’t seem keen to elaborate. Instead, she lowered her gaze to the cold grass beneath her. “It’s so strange coming back here.” 

“We don’t often get the chance to stand at our own grave.”

Shindara’s dry humor elicited a chuckle from her, which was the best he could hope for.

“It’s a little more complicated than that. It’s strange

coming back into this world and feeling alive again.”

As she pondered those words, Shindara noticed she was shaking. She didn’t have to say out loud what she was thinking because it was obvious. She was trying not to finish the tale she began. She hated the ending, and more importantly, she hated the part when her husband abandoned her.  

“I remember the look in Izanagi’s eyes when he saw my face and my body…” Though her skin was flawless now, it was clear that she hadn’t forgotten the touch of rot and decay. “He looked at me as if I was beneath him. As if I didn’t matter anymore.” 

Though she was doing an admirable job of trying to keep herself together, Shindara knew she was hurting. It was a wound that no amount of time would heal and damn the fanciful notions about time healing anything. In fact, the centuries that followed only made it fester.

“I guess I didn’t matter. He ran away from me as if I was filth. Ever since then, I couldn’t help but wonder if he never actually liked me at all. Maybe I’m not worth loving.”

She turned a strange expression on Shindara, one that he didn’t think she was capable of. He was surprised by the tears on her face. The supposedly wickedest creature in existence was crying before him.

“What if he never wanted me?” 

Shindara felt pity for her as he listened, but he also felt something else. He yearned for her. He almost shrank away from Izanami when he realized these feelings. Was it wrong for him to want her like this? 

He faced countless demons on the plains outside of Namida, but he never once felt scared. He never ran away in terror of the Oni devils or the tengu demons. He didn’t even panic when a hell beast crept through his bedchamber window with all eight of its legs. Yet, he was suddenly frightened by the way he was looking at Izanami. More than that, he didn’t feel alone when he was with her. For the first time in years, the loneliness came crashing to a halt. 

He tried to hold in these emotions, but he couldn’t resist saying one stupid and impulsive thing.

“He would be a fool for not wanting you.”

She glanced up at him. It was a sweet expression of thanks, but it was also subdued. She was too meek to accept his compliment. The years of sadness couldn’t allow her to believe anything else. 

“As soon as my beauty was gone, I became nothing to him. Is that all I’m worth?”

“No,” Shindara said, kneeling next to her. He almost reached for her, but he hesitated. As he watched the tears rolling down her face, he finally wrapped one arm around her. He was still searching for his next words when she rested her head against his shoulder. “I’ve seen your kindness and your warmth. You have a certain lightness about you.”

“You saw all of that in the cave?” she laughed between her tears.

“No… but I’ve read the stories about your kindness and your…” They both laughed as they recognized this for what it was. Shindara was still trying to hide his embarrassment when she turned his face to hers.

Unexpectedly, he found himself looking straight into her eyes.

“Why am I back here? Because of you? I’ve been dead for so long that I’m not sure how to live. I wish I could be grateful, but I only feel confused. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Not here and not anywhere. I don’t know how to not be alone.” She laughed at how ridiculous she must have sounded. Despite her melancholy, a hint of thanks shone from her eyes. “So tell me,” she said, “how do I feel like I belong?”

Shindara looked past her for a moment, unable to hold her gaze for a second longer. Not without feeling like he wanted to kiss her. He gazed in the direction of Sakai, the City of Knives, instead. 

“I’m still trying to figure that out ever since I left the anger behind. But if it gives you any comfort, I’ll be here to help you. I’ll try to keep you safe.”

Izanami chuckled at such a sweet and naïve notion.

“What will you protect me from?”

“From life.” 

They smiled at each other as they considered how absurd his answer was. And yet, it was the only answer that would suffice. Slowly, she rose and walked past him, running her fingers along the side of his cheek, bidding him to follow her.

It was eerie how he felt as if he already knew her. Theirs was a bond that seemed to span days instead of hours. What he realized in that short amount of time was that she deserved the same second chance he’d been given. Maybe it was because she was the Abhorrent, too, and he needed to know they both deserved a chance at happiness. 

He was still smiling at her when he felt the ground loosen with his next step. As if irony was answering him, the burial mound nearest to him collapsed.

The earth seemed to swallow up Shindara and send him floundering into the deepest possible hole. He heard Izanami crying out his name above, but he was more acutely aware of what lay below. He saw a blur of weapons, armor, and ornamentations left as gifts at the bottom of a grave. Every clay vessel and iron breastplate seemed to be rushing up to greet him. 

Because life is the greatest irony of all.

Explosions of light bombarded Shindara. Gouts of fire were ripping through the Main Hall and furiously consuming the ornately carved pillars. His vision was swimming back and forth as if he was being pulled between two places at once. He briefly saw Hachi pleading for his help while embers rained down from the ceiling above. Shindara tried to reply, but his tongue was clinging to the roof of his mouth.

Meanwhile, Sae was in the midst of lighting another dragon engine. He let out a frightened shout at precisely the same time the weapon burst into flames. Shindara winced and recoiled from the explosion. When he opened his eyes, however, he saw the inside of a different temple and a different time.

Instead of a sword in his hand, he was wielding a brush against paper. He was attempting to copy a scroll about the mudras, Buddhist hand gestures that would reveal the ultimate truths of reality. It was the only thing keeping him sane at this moment, to stop himself from thinking about… her.

He sighed and tried yet again to focus on the symbols. He was nearly finished copying them when he heard faint voices in the reading chamber. High Priest Kobo had returned from his prayer and was talking excitedly about the means of salvation. Shindara already had this conversation with Kobo many times before. He would never convince him that Enlightenment was achieved through simple faith and not through kindness to others. It seemed Kobo found himself a worthy opponent because he was vigorously debating a new theory.

Shindara chuckled to himself and returned to his private studies. He barely pressed his brush against the scroll when he heard a woman’s voice above him. It seemed strangely soothing and familiar, but he didn’t know why or where he heard it before.

“Could that scribe help me?”

Shindara glanced up from his scroll and almost dropped the brush in his hand. Aya was looking down at him—the source of this terrible, gaping wound in his heart. He stared into her eyes as if he expected her to say something, anything to explain why he felt this way about her.

“Yes, of course,” High Priest Kobo said, ushering her forward. “Shindara, would you help this kind patron? She needs help translating a passage.”

Shindara didn’t remember agreeing, but he must have. He felt frozen to his seat as he listened to the receding footsteps of his mentor, leaving him alone with his heart’s muse. He tried not to show how anxious he was. He forced a smile on his face when Aya handed him a dusty pile of scrolls. He tried to avoid touching her fingers, afraid of what might happen if he felt the tiniest spark of her skin. She’d been avoiding him ever since the animalistic sex. Clearly, she must have changed her mind and decided he wasn’t worthy of her time.

Shindara couldn’t make any sense of it, especially now that she was sitting in front of him.

“Did you know this comes from the oldest Buddhist scripture?” Shindara asked, clearing his throat. “This chapter explores the themes of clinging, beginning with the perils of…” His fingers paused across the rough, faded pages. “…sensual pleasures. An interesting choice.”

“I thought we could both learn something new about this.”

Shindara’s lips curled in a smile, but he refused to fall for her bait. He would play along with her for a little while longer… but this couldn’t go on forever. He still had absolutely no idea what she was doing with him.

“If one, longing for sensual pleasures, achieves it, he is enraptured at heart. He is afflicted as if shot with an arrow. Whoever avoids sensual desires—as he would, with his foot, the head of a snake—goes beyond, mindful, this attachment in the world.”

He could feel Aya watching him closely, and for every second that passed him by, this conflict inside him grew. He was amused and frustrated by her game, and he realized this was entirely by her design. Making him preach about the dangers of the flesh was so cruel that it was turning him on.

“A man who is greedy for fields, land, gold, cattle, horses, servants, employees, women, relatives, many sensual pleasures, is powered with weakness and trampled by trouble. Pain invades him as water, a cracked boat—” Her petal soft fingers touched his thigh, making him squirm. “So one, always mindful, should avoid sensual desires. Letting them go, he would cross over the flood like one who, having bailed out his boat, has reached the far shore—”

She leaned into him and Shindara quickly rushed forward. When his lips met hers, he remembered how much he missed this feeling. The taste of her mouth was more than just tempting. There was unrestrained hunger behind each of her kisses. She was making him feel like he was the only person who mattered to her. He answered her siren call with a hunger of his own, longing to explore what lay beyond the tender intrigue of her lips.

He didn’t know where his breath ended and where hers began. When his tongue briefly touched hers, she opened her mouth slightly to invite him deeper inside. Shindara wanted her so fiercely that he was losing himself in her.

Suddenly terrified, Shindara pulled away. Everything about their kiss left him feeling aroused, confused, and angry.

“I haven’t seen you in the market for almost two weeks, not since we… I thought I must have done something terrible to you. You obviously didn’t want to see me anymore.” Suddenly, the words were coming out faster than he could think them through. “I was ready to move on from you. Now that you’re here in front of me, I feel like I’m right back where I started. The more I try to pull away, the more I feel like I’m drowning in you. The truth is you changed me. I feel like a stranger in my own skin when I’m with you. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

Aya lowered her head, trying to hide the guilt in her eyes.

“It was difficult to see you again. After that night, I could feel myself falling for you. You see my worth in a way that makes me feel seen and understood. I wasn’t sure if I could ever see you again.”

“But you came here anyway. What made you change your mind?”

Aya looked down at his hand trembling next to hers, hinting at his pained desire.

“I wanted to see if I still felt this way when I saw you… or if I was imagining all of this in my head.”

Shindara was almost too afraid to pose his next question.

“And how do you feel?”

Her amber-colored eyes somberly gazed into his. She looked at Shindara as if she secretly didn’t know what to do with him—but her body suggested that she already made up her mind. She leaned into him again and her lips caressed his. One ravenous kiss turned into a second and finally a third. If she kissed him again, he feared he might shatter into pieces, and nothing would ever be able to put him back together. He didn’t remember her mouth pulling away from his, but all of a sudden, her voice was growling pleasantly into his ear.

“You’re everything I want in every way.” Shindara could have succumbed to this desire. This felt like dying and being born again, a throbbing of passions that left him unable to think, breathe, or speak. This was everything that High Priest Kobo warned him about.

“We have to stop—someone might find us at any moment—” Despite his hollow pleas, he continued to kiss the slope of her neck, gently squeezing her skin between his teeth.

“Don’t ever stop,” Aya said breathlessly. Reaching down, she excitedly took his hand. She guided him under her kimono until his fingers were buried between her legs.

Shindara froze when he felt her wet skin. He only wished he was plunging inside her now. He wanted to feel her body achingly entwined with his. Her skin felt sensuous to the touch and burning up with lust—like everything was catching on fire around her. As her kimono slipped from her shoulders, Shindara noticed the flames behind her. And they were the most beautiful flames he had ever seen.

Suddenly, a scorching light filled Shindara’s vision. Burning tiles were falling from the ceiling above him. Instead of Aya, he saw only the destruction of Kiyomizu. Taira soldiers were running back and forth to escape the storm of chaos.

He thought he heard Hachi’s voice somewhere among the flames and battle cries.

“Shindara, are you hurt?!”

“Where’s Aya?!” He froze when he heard how insane his question sounded. Of course she wasn’t here. She was never here. He felt embarrassed for even voicing it out loud. Breathing hoarsely, he staggered to his feet and tried not to look directly at Hachi.


“Find him,” Shindara said, trembling where he stood. He flinched as Hachi took a step toward him. “No. Just find Buranchi now.”

His mind was surprisingly still as he gazed into the flames. He had to keep it still if he wanted to stop himself from breaking. He felt cheated. That was the happiest he felt in years, and it was cruelly ripped away. Dangled only to be denied. A few more seconds of it would have made everything better.

That had been a memory of Aya, not a fantasy. It was one of the sweetest he could remember because everything changed in that moment. At last, he found someone who saw the darkness inside him and wasn’t scared away. She loved him for it and in spite of it.

Standing quite still, Shindara felt someone over his shoulder. He heard the whistle of steel and sensed the blade lunging toward his head. He almost didn’t move. And yet, before the wicked steel could reach him, he spun around and scraped it aside.

With every strike and parry, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about her. Everywhere he turned, he kept expecting to see Aya’s smile. He reacted to the clash of swords around him, but he wasn’t consciously aware of what he was doing.

He wanted to hear her voice one last time. Just one more. In that moment, he could do nothing but scream in an effort to bleed out the pain. If he couldn’t hear her voice, he would listen to his own instead. With every flick and thrust of his blade, he let loose a desperate sound that might have been confused as a battle cry. No one would have known that he was mentally coming undone.

To the hells with it all, it didn’t matter how many times he swung his sword. There was no stemming the tide of samurai surging out of the caverns below. The enemy was endless while their side numbered little more than six.

“Shindara, we have to get out of here!” Hachi’s voice cried over the crackling flames. Shindara almost wanted to stay. His story once began in a burning temple. Maybe it was time to end it in one, too.

With black tears still running from his eyes, he furiously growled for breath. He almost let his sword fall to the floor when he looked down and froze. Buranchi was gazing up at him, cradled in Hachi's arms. The feeble man seemed dazed and completely unaware of his surroundings.

“You found him…?” murmured Shindara.

“We have to leave now!”

April 25, 1185

Shindara looked down at the gray tide washing ashore. He almost couldn’t believe that he was standing here, at what felt like the furthest edge of the world. The Inland Sea beckoned him from beyond gently shifting clouds of mist. Every so often, the fog would part and reveal hundreds of Taira ships floating on the sea.

Shindara gawked at the image just before it was snuffed out. Part of him wondered if he was only imagining this moment. He knew he didn’t imagine the last dozen days he spent trekking through the fields. He couldn’t have imagined the thousands of soldiers that Yoritomo gathered for the ensuing battle.

Shindara was still in surprise of their lord’s most recent maneuver. He revealed he’d been funneling money to groups of Taira soldiers to sway their allegiance. In theory, they would turn on their clan brothers during the height of battle. It would ensure a swift defeat and the reign of Yoritomo as their next Emperor, or some were secretly saying, the first Shogun.

Shindara wasn’t sure what that title entailed, but he wasn’t overly concerned. He regarded their eccentric lord, who was boarding an elegant vessel. Many of the samurai were fighting on the equivalent of wooden rafts. They would orbit the larger warships during the battle, or so Yoritomo said.

The fool had no idea that Shindara coveted the Obsidian Blade for himself. He wondered if it would make him an enemy of the new empire when he stole it away. Actually, it wouldn’t be stealing at all. The weapon belonged to him ever since he found it in the stomach of that spider yōkai. For the gods’ sake, his mind had practically been fused with it after it physically became a part of him. There was no way he would let it fall into Yoritomo’s oblivious clutches.

The narrow sea passage of Dan-no-Ura was filled with just as many Minamoto ships as the enemy, probably more. He wondered which of them was concealing Sadato. Wherever that brutal killer was roaming, he couldn’t be far from the Obsidian Blade.

“Do you see them?” Mikoto asked, her boots crunching in the sand as she joined Shindara.

“Yes, the Taira have finally revealed themselves. Will you help Yoritomo slay the Imperial Family and claim their regalia?”

“Several years ago, I would have said yes without hesitation. I’m not here to kill child Emperors or corrupt nobles—not anymore. If the war can end today, they won’t come to harm.”

“What she’s saying is we intend to take them prisoner,” Hrioshango muttered, shuffling toward them. He was joined by Tomoe, who was focused on the specter of warships on the horizon.

“We outnumber the Taira, but the enemy understands the tides and the water. Let’s not forget they have an impossibly powerful mage among them. Hrioshango tells me he has a plan for dealing with Goro.”

“I just said that to buy myself some time. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

“Very reassuring, Hrioshango,” Mikoto sighed, turning to face the Inland Sea. “I have to admit, this newly reincarnated version of you is blunt and honest. It still doesn’t change the fact that I want to throw you into the sea, but…”

“Our forces beat them back at Yashima and we’ll do the same today,” Shindara said, turning the subject back to the war. “They have nowhere left to run.”

Mikoto couldn’t help but nod in agreement. “Does this mean your opinion has changed about our fate? You seemed hopeless after we rescued you from Goro.”

“He claimed to have seen how this war ends. He was so sure of himself that we would lose.”

The four companions stood quietly on the shore, wary of breaking the tension. Before Mikoto could reply, Shindara’s voice rose over the whispering tide. “I don’t believe him anymore. He told me the capital would be destroyed in flames, but that didn’t come to pass. I make my own fate. It certainly isn’t dictated by a mage who keeps soiling his robes.”

“I couldn’t have said it better,” Mikoto said. Shindara was drawn to the sound of her laughter, and he looked past Hrioshango and Tomoe. He was focused on Mikoto as if she was the only one standing on the shore with him.

“Thank you,” he said softly. “I’ve been wanting to say that to you for a long time. You’ve guided me from the moment you found me on the road outside Nara. You adopted me into your family, much the same way I took in Kenji. I will always be grateful to you.”

“Where is this coming from, Shindara? You don’t sound like yourself.”

The scribe smiled nervously. “I suppose I don’t. I feel different knowing that the war will be ending soon. What’s going to happen to us when this is over? What are we going to do after this?”

Mikoto seemed stumped by the idea of a life after the war. Perhaps a part of her would also be lost without it. “I’m not sure… but I’m not going anywhere and neither are you. Have you asked yourself what you want to do? Maybe you could start living again.”

“Living,” he chuckled. “Except I’m neither dead nor alive… I’ve been thinking more about the afterlife, too. You once told me that you believe each person’s paradise will look different from the other. It is what we make of it. What do you imagine yours will be like?”

“Tell me yours first.”

Shindara closed his eyes and fell silent. A sigh escaped his lips.

“I can see stone steps built into the mountains around me. There is a winding path that takes me into a forest as deep and mysterious as time itself. It calls out to me, reassuring me that this is where I belong. As I look away, I see a city that rises out of the earth. The sun is setting overhead, ebbing and flowing like embers beneath cold ash. At the end of the path, I see Aya… or perhaps a fragment of her. A piece of her soul will be waiting for me.”

“And what about the fragments of your own soul? You don’t think you’re whole, do you? Each of us is broken from something larger than ourselves. Pieces of a soul that keep getting smaller and smaller with every new life we come back into. Do you think all of your different selves will be there with you at the end?”

“I hadn’t thought of that before…. but, yes, I would like that.” He paused and waited for Mikoto to reciprocate, but she merely eyed him with a knowing smile. “You still aren’t going to tell me yours, are you?”

She laughed mischievously. “My vision is too complicated to be put into words—even if you are a master scribe. It doesn’t sound complicated to me, but then it extrapolates upon itself into something your mind hasn’t grown into yet. As for paradise, there are as many possibilities as there are stars. Infinite. If you can dream it, it exists. Whether or not you’re worthy of it is another question. Whether or not you can even imagine it beyond this realm is a wonder and should be honored.”

Shindara smiled in appreciation of that sentiment.

“I don’t know much, but I do have faith now. I believe Aya will be waiting for me when I…”

There was a moment of silence. Mikoto looked away from the sea to regard her companion. “Shindara?”

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