You fall and fall and keep falling. The seconds stretch into hours and the hours into days, months, years. Yumeko and the cliff's edge, if you could ever see them, have long since receded into the darkness, an inky blackness that surrounds you physically but also mentally - it dominates your thoughts, such that you can feel nothing, nothing at all. Not pain, not suffering, not regret, not joy or happiness, nothing.
This is true death. You've been here before, having fallen into this blackness after that night of fire. They - all of them - were here before. And all of them talked about a darkness and sleep, that were then disturbed by vicious images and a sense of persecution. But whatever it was, Shinki had saved herself from it, and then she'd saved the others.
But though she believed to have done the same to you, in reality nothing had disturbed you, then. Just as nothing disturbed you now. Something, something within you, keep the darkness peaceful, calm. It surrounded you but did not smother you.
But even then, all was still lost. Bereft of thought, of light, you could do nothing more than sleep, clutching your book to your chest.
Without light, you cannot see it, even though you can feel the cold metal of the lock against your hands. Without light, you will never read it. Without light, you will never open it.
And you were so close... the intractable, keyless mechanism could yet be opened, you knew, if you could answer the riddle carved into it.
You realize you're thinking again. But it matters little, this thought is only of defeat - who could answer the riddle, if you did not know what it was? How could you know what the book was asking? And if you knew, could you possibly know the answer? All the pain that had been inflicted on you, and all the love that had then also turned to pain, had driven you, spurred you on, but it was for naught.
"It was... nothing?"
Something burns inside your chest, like a candle lit inside your heart. How could everything you've felt and seen be nothing, nothing at all? You can't understand that.
"It's not... it's..."
It had to mean something. Anything. All this suffering that has spurred you on, all the love that had enabled you to keep going without succumbing to the cruelty inflicted on you, all the pain that, now that this love had turned sour, still demands that you open the book, if only to make it mean
The fire in your heart seems to burn brighter, more painfully, at this. What meaning could it all have? What meaning could all that suffering that moved you have, beyond making your soul scarred and ugly, if it had been for naught?
If you had not suffered, you would not be here, you would not have tried to open the book.
You would have lived happily, free of care, but you would not have touched this world, you would have known nothing, nothing at all. You would have lived and loved and then died, like a match struck before the wind
, and magic, the magic you dreamed of, the one your father whispered as fairy tales when you went to sleep...
Magic would never have been real.
The candle lit in your heart has turned into a roaring flame, and the pain inside it burns more fiercely than ever, and yet, and yet it causes you no anguish - rather, it becomes part of you, a strange, otherworldly power.
Suffering had brought you here. Suffering had set you upon the path, it had made you walk it, it had made you reach the end. It had meaning not by itself, but by what it had made you do. Only through suffering could your wish for magic have been granted.
It is a dark, lonely truth. It hurts deeply, terribly, because you know that what you lost will never be recovered, and because you know that it had not been you who chose to walk down the path, but foul circumstance that had thrown you into it.
Now, you could end it. You could surrender to the darkness, to a long-awaited, blessed sleep, and dream, dream again like you dreamed before, and come back to a semblance of the peace you had left.
Or you could suffer, as you had already suffered terribly. You could keep going, not because you accepted the vile hand fate had dealt you, but because you still held onto a tiny sliver of hope that one day, one day, you could defeat it, and finally, truly feel whole again. Because you could still, somehow, in your human soul, witness all the pain and sorrow that had been inflicted on you, and, still somehow, believe that if you could push beyond it, its fruit would be happiness and perfection.
( The Sin
You let go of the book.
It floats above you, and a bright light shines from within the lock, illuminating your face and driving out the darkness. Slowly, timidly, the mechanism moves and parts aside, and the covers snap open.
The veil before your eyes is torn away, and finally you can see.
Beyond the darkness, beyond the pages of the book, you see the true nature of everything you have laid eyes upon, the hidden key to every lock, the shining golden braids supporting every wall, every law and concept, the runed circles through which thought takes shape and physical form, how to make, how to undo, how to break in half and put back together... and the more you see, the more the darkness is driven away, until you're no longer falling but floating in a massive column of radiance.
The storm of light takes you, and you smile.