Jeriah watched out the window the next morning as the Monarchs saw the Royals off. They were heading back to their home after the oath ceremony that Jakob had told him about, and it seemed that things had basically been mended between them. Jeriah was glad that the Monarchs had their alliance all set once again, but he also wondered why it was so important to them. The Royals must have been valuable as friends and allies if they were willing to even commit an oath to them.
Zhai came up behind Jeriah and looked out the window as well. “Ah, there they go,” he said. “I’m kind of disappointed. I would have liked to get to know them better.”
“Really?” Jeriah asked as he glanced back at Zhai. “I feel like they weren’t terribly fond of us.”
“I disagree,” Zhai shrugged. “They didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know us. They only knew us as the ones they needed to finish their contract with Prudentius.”
“Well, they have an alliance with the Monarchs, so I’m sure we’ll see them again,” Jeriah said with a small nod.
“Did that all end well, then?” Verity asked from where she was still laying in her bed. She was dressed, so that was an improvement, but she still didn’t seem to have the energy to get up.
“I suppose,” Jeriah nodded. “Jakob said the six Monarchs made a loyalty oath with five of the Royals that they would never hurt each other again. It makes me a little nervous, since Jakob is my little brother and being bound to those Royals...well, I guess I just don’t know them and their intentions well enough, yet.”
“I’m sure their intention is only survival,” Emersyn said as she stepped out of the bathroom. She slicked back her still damp hair, since she’d just had a shower, and then sat down on the edge of the bed. “I don’t think you need to worry.” then she patted Verity’s leg. “Let’s get up and join the Monarchs for breakfast. We haven’t really eaten since our arrival here.”
“I’m not hungry,” Verity said as she sat up as well.
“Well, you need to eat something or your body won’t last,” Emersyn said as she stood up and began to walk to the door. There was still a cloud of sadness that hung over the four of them, there was a missing piece in each of their hearts that could not be mended and only time would heal over that missing piece, but for now there was nothing they could do but accept that they had to feel this heaviness in their chests and know it was a reminder of Kiyah.
It was a reminder to never have dealings with the Immortals again.
After eating a light breakfast, the group was surprised to discover that the Monarchs had made a memorial for Kiyah in the chapel room of their castle. Emersyn and the others seemed stunned into silence regarding this, but they just followed the Monarchs quietly through the halls of their castle until they arrived in the room that had been restored and was a lovely chapel now.
There was a wreath of flowers resting on a table, and Kiyah’s name and illustrated likeness from the old ages had been placed next to the wreath with a black ribbon placed around the framed illustration. None of the group had actual modern photographs of themselves, after all, since they had hidden away since the old ages. They only had paintings and illustrations from books that humans had written on guardians.
Various bowls of fruits and different foods were also placed on the table next to the illustration, but there was a table for the living as well which had food upon it. It was quite the perfect set up for a proper goodbye to Kiyah.
Jeriah immediately had tears well up in his eyes and he sniffled. Jakob held onto his hand and tried to bring him comfort, but it was clear he was going to cry either way. Emersyn was desperately trying to hold herself together, but her eyes were watering, too. Verity kept wiping at her eyes with her hands, but no tears had fallen yet. Zhai was staring at the floor now and it seemed he couldn’t lift his head. His broad shoulders started shaking, and Luca came alongside him and patted his back to comfort him.
“We created the best memorial we could with the limited time we had,” Apinya said as she gestured towards the scene. “We thought...it would be nice to have one last meal with Kiyah.”
“I don’t know if I can eat,” Jeriah said in his voice choked with tears.
“Well, I want to,” Apinya said as she took a bowl of rice and picked some pickled vegetables to eat with her rice. “I didn’t get to share a meal with Kiyah before he passed. I haven’t shared a meal with him since the ancient days. I feel like it’s the least I can do.”
Soon the entire group was sitting on the floor of the chapel next to the table where Kiyah’s picture sat and they ate a very light meal, almost more of a snack, next to him.
“Let’s use this opportunity to talk about our good memories with Kiyah,” Emersyn suggested as she wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “Or...or we can talk about...how we’ll continue his memory into the future.”
“What more can we do? Aside from live as guardians and protect humans and work alongside the Monarchs?” Zhai asked with a soft sigh. “That’s what we’re made to do, and he always enjoyed that work. He loved keeping people safe, obviously. He died doing exactly what he loved doing.” He glanced at Jeriah briefly before looking down at his empty rice bowl.
Jeriah met Zhai’s gaze for a moment before looking away as well. “I feel like I’m going to have to carry on his legacy since he gave his life so I could live,” he said softly. “But I don’t know what that means.”
“I think you’re all thinking too much on this,” Minhee said as he hugged his knees to his chest. “I mean, it’s important to keep your memories of Kiyah alive, but I don’t think he saved your life so you’d go on to give him a grand legacy, or whatever. He did that because he loved you. I’d do that for any of my friends, too.”
Hector chuckled a little and put an arm around Minhee’s shoulders and pulled him over so he could ruffle his hair. “You’re so self sacrificing, Minhee,” he said before letting him go. “But I agree with him, honestly. I don’t think you need to punish yourselves or make some sort of righteous, uh, movement or whatever in Kiyah’s name. I think you just need to live and live well and that’s what he would want for you.”
“It’s easier said than done, of course,” Dari added quickly. “You have us to rely on if you need anything.”
“Thank you, Dari,” Emersyn said with a small nod. “We appreciate your support. We...definitely need it right now.”
Jeriah sniffled again and rested his head on Jakob’s shoulder. “I think I just...I need to learn a big lesson, that’s all. I was so focused on what I wanted, that I didn’t think about what others might need. I don’t know...I just need to...I want you all to know that I love you all and from now on...I won’t be a person who focuses only on my own wants and needs.”
“You just wanted to save your brother and see him again. You can’t deny your Twin Soul nature, no matter how much you want to,” Zhai pointed out. “I think there’s nothing we could have done to prevent a tragedy. Not really. If we hadn’t gotten the Life Stones, we would have died of old age and never would have seen the modern world or the Monarchs again. And, of course, getting the Life Stones meant eventually losing you, Jeriah. Kiyah just didn’t want to live in a world like that, I guess. He wanted to save you. He never thought you were selfish, either.”
Jeriah covered his eyes with his hands to try to keep the others from seeing his tears, but his shaking body was evidence enough that he was sobbing against his brother’s shoulder. Verity reached out and took one of Jeriah’s hands to hold onto it and give him some comfort, but this was going to be a long road of mourning for all of them. Jeriah wasn’t going to be able to accept that it wasn’t his fault that Kiyah died for a long time, and the others wouldn’t be able to accept that there was nothing they could have done to prevent this disaster for a long time, either.
But grief was like that. Grief could be crushing, but slowly as time passed it would become easier. They had so much support from the Monarchs, and maybe eventually from the Royals. They were going to be able to find where they fit in the modern world, since they had only lived in the mountains all this time and didn’t know where they belonged, yet.
They didn’t like that they were going to have to navigate this world without Kiyah, but he wasn’t ever going to be entirely gone. He was in their hearts, as cheesy as it sounds, and they would carry him with them on whatever journeys they took.
“Life is not easy,” Dari said as she looked towards the picture of Kiyah. “But if it was, they wouldn’t need guardians to keep things in order.”
“I hope we’ve endured the worst of it by now,” Luca mumbled. “I think we’ve all suffered enough for the rest of our life spans.”
“At least we don’t have to suffer alone,” Jeriah said softly. “All of us in this room...and all the guardians out there in the world who have been neglected and banished...maybe that’s where we need to set our sights in the future. We need to unite and work hard to regain the trust of the humans so they don’t have to suffer attacks from the Immortals. I think I’d like to dedicate my time to helping others, when I feel well enough to do so.”
“That sounds like a really nice idea,” Emersyn said with a small nod. “The Immortals are probably manipulating and using the guardians since they know they’re not trusted in human society right now. We shouldn’t let that happen. We’re supposed to be the mediators. The Immortals can’t be trusted to care for human needs. We’ve seen plenty of times that they do not care for them.”
“Like those girls we ran into! Joy and Mirae,” Verity exclaimed. “They said they were being housed by Nivalis, but they were also obviously being used by her to retrieve the Life Stones.”
“Maybe we should have just given the Life Stones to them,” Zhai muttered.
“We didn’t know we would live at the time, Zhai. We can’t...we can’t live in the past, or think about what might have been,” Emersyn said softly. “But yes. Maybe we can help those guardians first. It’s a good place to start.”
“But you don’t need to start right away,” Hector said as he tilted his head a little. “Take some time to recover first. We can take care of your needs right now.”
“Thank you,” Jeriah said with a small nod. “I think we’ll take you up on that offer.”
The group of guardians talked long into the afternoon as they sat together with Kiyah. Eventually they got up to leave, but Jeriah picked up the picture of Kiyah and Zhai picked up the wreath. They walked to the room across from the chapel where a mausoleum resided. It had been unused all this time, so Kiyah would be the first resident of this cold place.
Kiyah’s picture was placed on a shelf and the wreath was placed beneath it. They all took a moment and bowed out of gratitude to their lost friend, and then slowly the group left. They had spent one last afternoon with Kiyah, their guardian friend with a strong and beautiful spirit, and now it was time to rest.
The world would keep moving forward, but his memory would go with them in everything they would do. The future was only just beginning for the guardians.