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“No!” Rea cried out. “I won’t do it.”
“Do you want me to save her?” I asked.
Rea shot me a tearful look and then turned back to her mom. She slowly started to shake her head.
“Is there no other way? Why did you bring me here?”
“Would you believe it if I said I didn’t bring you here?” I asked.
She spun at me, a furious look on her face. “What you saying? You’re the one who claimed to know the path!”
“I do know the path.” I nodded thoughtfully. “And this is the way the path leads. I can only follow things to the end.”
“Are you saying that if I don’t push mother in, then we won’t be able to escape?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“All I know is that everything that follows depends on this event. However, it’s not my place to choose. You need to decide for yourself.”
Rea looked at me suspiciously, and then back at her mother. She looked a few more times, her eyes growing increasingly filled with tears. With her arms crossed in front of her chest like she was trying to put a shield to protect herself, she started to walk toward Raissa. I watched as she put her hood up and continued forward.
Raissa was still looking down into the Abyss with a frown on her face. It was clear that the words the assassins had said to her had gotten under her skin. She was doubting herself. She was correct too. I was down there. Since time had no meaning in the crack, technically I had always been down there.
Rea was the assassin’s guild leader. Over the years, she had grown in the ability to create her soul world. Her abilities couldn’t be underestimated. When she wanted to sneak up on someone, she had all of the lore this crack had collected at her disposal. She was able to approach Raissa without the other woman noticing. Just as she got within touching distance, she froze. She was staring down at her mother, a look of reluctance on the conflict on her face.
If Rea pushed Raissa, she’d be condemning herself to her fate. She had always blamed me for my role in things, but it turned out that her role was far greater. It was a difficult thing to accept.
“Wha- who-“ Raissa had finally noticed the woman behind her.
She pulled her blade as smoothly as she had ever done. Rea let out a scream, waving her hand. Raissa didn’t even have a chance. A wave of distorted space flew out from Rea’s fingertips and hit Raissa. It wasn’t much of a blow. The attack could almost be considered gentle. It was simply a push that forced Raissa back. Unfortunately, with her back in the Abyss, that meant only one thing. Raissa was shoved directly into the Abyss.
As she plummeted down, there was confusion and shock in her eyes, but perhaps even a little bit of relief. She’d be able to find the answer to whether I was down there or not in a short time.
Rea was still left standing at the top of the cliff. She collapsed to her knees, sobbing. However, our time there had come to an end. There was a familiar pulling, and the two of us were yanked back into the Abyss for another round.
How did I come up with a plan to leave the Abyss? I mapped out the currents of time. The problem with that was that the currents went this way and that. They left the Abyss only to loop right back into it. I had managed to account for every loop except one. Simply put, I had found the end of the line, the final loop. My previous actions pulled us into that final time stream. So, even though we were still stuck in the Abyss, we were heading toward the end.
I had led Rea to believe that I was in control, but that wasn’t the case. I was merely a boat floating along the currents. I just happened to know that this was the right current that would take us home.
When the light faded, we found that we were not standing in the white light of purgatory. Instead, we looked to be in the same spot we just left, yet everything was different. There was a crack, but there was no forest or sky. We were standing in complete darkness, with only the crack to keep us company. It looked much like the outside world next to the crack, but I knew this to be the inside of the crack. This was the final place, the ledge that Rea had fallen on, and where I had once wedged my soul world.
I could hear weeping, but it wasn’t the weeping of the adult Rea from before. This was the weeping of a young child. I could see her sitting at the edge. She was cloaked in mist but was otherwise completely naked, and she was sitting with her head between her knees sobbing.
“Why are we here?” A voice next to me asked.
I turned to see that Rea had traveled along with me. This was because we were now in the same timestream. The time currents had synced the pair of us as I had predicted they would.
“I thought you’d be able to tell me that,” I asked.
“This place…” She looked at the crying girl at the edge. “This is the place dreaded the most. I never wanted to come here again.”
“You’re familiar with it then?”
She nodded. “After the first time I met you, this was where I ended up. I used to think that you were the one who put me here. I remained lost for so long. That’s when…”
“When?” I looked up but could see her eyes were focused on something in the distance.
I followed her look to see a woman walking toward the little girl. That woman was Raissa. This was the youngest I had seen Raissa. This would be here shortly after her pregnancy. She was walking forward slowly, glancing from left to right like she was looking for something.
“Mother!” She shook her head. “I don’t get it. Mother doesn’t show up here.”
“Maybe she doesn’t,” I stated, causing her to glance at me. “Maybe, this is the point at which I can save Raissa.”
“You will save her?” Rea blinked.
“I said I would, didn’t I?” I shrugged. “I just needed the right spot to bring her into our stream. It will have consequences, but I believe I can manage. The three of us can escape.”
Rea stared at me for a second and then shook her head. “It won’t work.”
“Why not?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
Rea lowered her head. “I remember this happening. This is when the guild master finds me. This is when she takes me and starts training me to kill you.”
“You know that the guild master is you, right?”
“That’s the thing. I remember meeting the guild master and helping her, but I don’t remember being the guild master. From my current perspective, my younger self was always my apprentice.”
“Then, you’re saying…”
“The person who rescues my young self and trains me to be an assassin… is me!”
“Don’t you get it? We need to trade places. This is how you’re able to free mom! I will be the one who stays in her place!”
“You’re mother didn’t give her life so you’d remain trapped in this place.”
“Even if you say that you can still find me later… find me at the end. You can save that version of me. I just have to remain a little longer. I’m not done yet, that’s all.”
Rea bit her lip, looking at me tearfully. “It’s fine. Just do it. Save mother. Save Raissa. You can always save me for later. Okay?”
I thought about it for a moment, and then steadily nodded my head. “If you insist.”
“Good!” Rea wiped her tears from her cheeks and coughed. “Anyway… um… how do we do this?”
“I think I have an idea. I’m just going to swap your souls. It’s just a small bend. This will put you and your younger self in the same timestream.”
Rea nodded. “That’s what I expected. Can you show me how to do the trade?”
I bit my lip. Raissa was getting closer, but her movements were slower and her wondering was aimless. She couldn’t hear the crying Rea. This gave us a bit of time. I showed Rea the steps involved in switching souls. It was a skill I had thanks to my soul smithing. It functioned similarly to a sacrifice, except instead of burning a soul, you did a fair exchange.
I lifted my hands and began to cast the spell. After a few moments, Rea looked up at me and smiled. It was the first time I had ever seen Rea smile before, and it caused me to stop for a second. She was quite beautiful when she smiled.
“Daddy… I’m sorry for everything. Thank you,” she said.
For a second, I almost fumbled the spell. Her words were shocking. I didn’t expect her to call me that. However, it was too late to respond. The spell took hold, and Rea seemed to become less vivid and mixed into the mist, while Raissa became clearer. Her eyes almost instantly fell on me, and she let out a cry before racing toward me.
“Master!” She cried out.
I wasn’t looking her way through. My attention was on Rea who had approached her younger self. The younger girl jerked when she realized the other was next to her.
“This is the moment I’m supposed to take you under my wing. I will raise you into a powerful assassin, and you will one day be powerful enough to decide on life and death!” The older woman declared.
The young Rea could only stare up at her blankly.
“What’s going on, Master?” Raissa had reached me, but she stopped and her vision followed mine. “Rea! She’s okay!”
As if she couldn’t see them before, her body jumped as the two Rea’s came into focus.
“Shhh!” I grabbed Raissa and pulled her toward me. “Wait a moment.”
“I should make you into a powerful assassin… but I’ve changed my mind!” Rea pulled out the malacrum dagger she had been holding onto.
She looked in my direction, although it wasn’t clear if she could see me or not. With one last smile, she plunged the dagger into her chest.