"The moon is absolutely beautiful tonight, isn't it?"
Two figures, holding hands, entered a garden that felt tranquil, yet pleasant. The shortest of the figures was a young girl, whose periwinkle eyes amassed an eternity of worry in them. She donned a short black blouse with a red tartan ribbon on the chest area. Embedded in the middle of the ribbon was a smooth sphere of black onyx, inviting an endless, yet comforting, darkness. A short mauve satin skirt graced her waist with black leggings underneath and her feet were wrapped in black Mary Janes with silver buckles. Her midnight hair reached to her shoulder and tied into a side ponytail. Only at a young age, yet had striking features of a woman in her twenties.
The second figure was another girl, about five inches taller and two years older than the first girl. The young woman's skin appeared to have looked fair, but was as pale as a ghost. Her sunset eyes were nearly devoid of life, yet desperately held on to stay alive. Her hair was as dark as the younger girl's, but longer and had a violet attached. A dazzling white cocktail dress graced her figure, which was already mature. Black accents raced across the fabric and on the empty neck area, a necklace with a diamond heart hung listlessly. Short white boots with purple accents completed the ensemble.
"Yes, it is.. I only wish this could last forever..."
Beatrice Nightingale, age 15 and Lorelei Nightingale, age 17, sisters that have been dealt with an unfortunate hand, stopped by the base of the garden.
The garden itself was wide, but there was only one breed of flowers that grew: the lightblooms. These peculiar flowers have the distinction of only blooming during a moonlit night, but the spectacle they unleash is otherworldly. The white petals would burst from their stems after absorbing enough magical energy and wrap the area with a calming aura that alleviates any soul that watch. After, they would regain their energy, but the process would take an entire year. Its secretive location was found by Beatrice, who stumbled upon it a year ago after getting lost. On that day, the lightblooms bloomed and she couldn't help but stare in awe. Immediately, she ran back to the village and dragged Lorelei to watch, but by the time they got there, the show was over, which made Beatrice pout like any little girl would. Humored by this, Lorelei would stroke her sister's hair.
Let's come back here when they're in full bloom, okay, sis? It would mean the world to me if you saw it, too!
Anything for you, Beatrice. Anything for you.
Tonight was the night the flowers would bloom again. Instead of joy and wonder, there was despair. Despair that the sisters never wanted, but fate would always play cruel tricks.
Two months after the missed spectacle, Lorelei had took it upon herself to study up on healing techniques to be able to help her village, which unfortunately didn't have access to medicine like other cities and villages did. The village itself was cut off from society due to the rural lifestyle that became archaic compared to the rapid-fire production from other cities. Many pleas were sent to the capital in search of provisions and advancement to society, but they fell on deaf ears. As such, countless villagers had perished and no one batted an eye at the result. The village had a moniker that felt fitting, yet stung: The Village That Withers.
Knowing that she, the villagers and even dear Beatrice were in danger, Lorelei took it upon herself to learn medical procedures so that she could be able to aid them should the opportunity come. Unfortunately, the only way those techniques can be put to use was to be accepted in the top ranked university in the grand capital, for it was there that upcoming nurses can touch the Tome of Airmed. The tome itself was a rare object, as it had the ability to infuse a soothing, yet powerful aura into a human so that they can be able to use healing magic. It would also give the wielder a longer lifespan. It was the only known form of sorcery in the land and it is considered extremely valuable.
After being accepted by slimmest of margins, Lorelei was overjoyed and even relayed the news to Beatrice, who couldn't be happier.
So you're going to finally help us all out, sis... I know you're going to be the best nurse in all the land! Come back once you get the power to heal, okay? I want to hug you as hard as I can!
With those words lodged in her heart, Lorelei made great stride in the field, learning countless spells that repaired body and mind; she quickly became a household name due to her kindness and determination to assist others. Fulfilling her sister's promise, Lorelei was able to save the villagers who were on the brink of death and even strengthened the ones who were healthy. She even received Beatrice's loving embrace. From that moment forward, she was known as the angel from the heavens.
However, a tragic incident occurred two months after her acceptance. While attempting to fortify a spell, the aura became distorted and had a reverse effect on her body, effectively making her body weak and her magic unstable. Everyone in the university was stunned by this and the headmaster sent Lorelei to the university's clinic to see what the cause of her weakness was. It was noted by some of the doctors that Lorelei's vital signs were dropping at an alarming rate and due to the combination of her constant spell usage and her corrupted aura, her body had been wracked by fatigue. She was still able to use magic, but every time she would do so, her lifespan would grow shorter due to the adverse effects of the Tome's aura. Lorelei immediately asked for a second opinion, but the other doctors of the capital would say the same: There was no cure. The terminal disease would be named Magia Nociva. The angel was losing her wings.
Due to her incurable disease, the headmaster asked Lorelei to return to the village after being under the clinic's wing for two months. Her plea to stay tossed aside, she reluctantly returned. She thanked every member and student, tears filling her eyes after each thanks. Unable to cope with her current pressures, Lorelei went to the secret garden to compose her thoughts. The buds had small petals on them, signaling the regenerative process. As she sat by the base of the garden, she couldn't help but stare at the sky above. An endless and calming blue would give anyone's mind serenity, but not to her.
"How am I supposed to tell her this? She wouldn't be able to take it..." Lorelei muttered. Clenching her fist, she drove it towards a patch of grass. "Curse it all! If only I hadn't been so foolish with my magic! All I wanted was to help others, but instead I inch myself closer to death!"
Shuddering to no end, Lorelei glanced at the lightblooms. Her eyes were on the verge of tears. Unbeknownst to her, Beatrice had entered the garden, desperately searching for her dear sister.
The cry was let out with such a childish innocence that the tears froze within. Turning around, Lorelei saw her younger sister run to her side. A beaming smile was on Beatrice's face, but the same could not be said for Lorelei.
"Oh, Beatrice..." was all Lorelei could utter. Sensing worry in her sister's face, Beatrice tilted her head.
"What's wrong, sis? Why do you look so sad to see me? Did something happen?"
This would be the moment that Beatrice's blissful ignorance would be shattered. The days of being delighted to be near her older sister coming to an end. The dreams of an eternal sororal bond fading. Was it fair to her? Perhaps not, but all good things must come to an end. This would be no different.
As the sunset locked with the periwinkle, a voice of resounding defeat came out from the dying girl's lips.
"Beatrice... I'm going to die soon."
The effects of such a dire statement had taken shape. The shuddering eyes, the welling tears, the wounded heart and of course, the denial.
"C-Come on, sis, that's not funny," Beatrice scoffed. "You're joking, yes? Please! Please tell me you're joking!"
No audible response came out, but Lorelei gripped her own arm.
"Oh my Goddess, you're not joking... I know that face... That's the face I saw when...when..."
Melancholy erupted from Beatrice's body as she embraced Lorelei. Unable to stop the tears from flowing down her cheeks, the little sister cried until she couldn't cry anymore. Lorelei couldn't do anything as a response, for there was no point in doing so. What could possibly be said that would alleviate the situation?
Lorelei had seen this picture before. When the girls were young, their mother Lyra died in a a horrid attack. A ruffian had gone on a killing spree when their mother went to the capital to buy goods. Fortunately, the criminal was apprehended. Unfortunately, several casualties were announced. The cause of death for all victims was severe blood loss.
Lyra was a kind soul. Her husband passed away before Lorelei's birth, but the loss didn't hamper her. Even though her workload would be doubled, she had no doubt that she would want Lorelei and Beatrice to go grow into splendid women. She wasn't able to find a job, but her endless selflessness made her endearing to the villagers. So much so that she essentially became the village therapist. Her kind demeanor and soothing voice would make anyone's troubles fade away. All ages came to see her: the elderly would let their past be heard, the middle-aged would ask for recipes and the children would come to play. She was loved by all and she welcomed it. To say that the citizens were sad would be an understatement. They mourned for more than a week and some felt completely lost.
Lorelei was the first to hear about her mother's death in a newspaper. She couldn't believe it herself and tore up the newspaper in response. At first, she was hesitant to relay the news to Beatrice, but then she mustered up the courage. Beatrice acted the same as she currently did, sobbing to no end and refusing to believe that the news was true. Coming to terms with reality, Beatrice stopped and Lorelei became the caretaker for the both of them. At such a young age, duties like those would be impossible; to Lorelei, it was a breeze to slide from a sororal role into a maternal one.
Since Lyra's death, Lorelei did her best to emulate her mother. She faltered along the way, but she was able to keep herself and Beatrice afloat for the upcoming years. The villagers knew their mother well and did all they could to support them, even giving them clothes and food. Beatrice would still have dreams of being with Lyra, but they would only make her cry.
No more... No more losses, sis. You're the only person keeping me sane. Losing you...would kill me. Promise me that you'll live forever...
Anything for you, Beatrice. Anything for you...
Beatrice's tears had halted, but the once childlike smile had turned into a heartbreaking frown. Again, Lorelei couldn't find the right words, if there were any.
"Why... Why did this have to happen to you, sis?" Beatrice wiped her eyes.
Lorelei stood silent.
"We've already lost Mom... I don't want to lose you, too! Isn't there anything we can do to prevent this?"
"...The doctors couldn't find any cure," Lorelei responded gravely. "This is the first they've heard of it and as of now, there's nothing we can do."
Beatrice scoffed. "So, what, we're supposed to wait for you to die so they can make progress?! How do you think that makes me feel knowing you could die at any second?!"
"This is out of our control, Beatrice!" Lorelei yelled, silencing the little sister. A silence filled the garden as the buds swayed with the light breeze.
"Sis..." Beatrice replied, stunned. She could visibly see her dear sister shudder to no end.
"If there's anyone to blame for this, it's me. I was too caught up in using my magic for good and because of it, I failed to take care of myself. Now every time I use magic, my life grows shorter and shorter. If you or the villagers ever get sick, I won't be able to help. Especially you. You've been a part of my life ever since you were born. You're my little sister! Working hard to finally obtain the power to help others and being unable to use it is devastating. It made my whole journey a complete waste!"
Lorelei turned around, unable to face Beatrice head-on, who was still accepting this new reality. The sunset eyes leaked out a single tear as they stared at the budding lightblooms. Lorelei immediately felt a warmth wrap around her and looked down to see her sister's arms hugging her waist.
"You always did try to act like Mom. You couldn't bear to let anyone be in trouble..." Beatrice said with a solemn smile. "I love that about you."
"If the end is really going to come, I want you to be able to die with no regrets. So, let's see the lightblooms this year. I want our last moment together to be special and what better way to do that than to see them bloom? Besides, you did promise me."
Beatrice nuzzled against Lorelei's back, making the older sister blush. Lorelei's right hand reached down to touch the interlocking arms and smoothed her palm over them.
"Anything for you, Beatrice. Anything for you..."
The sisters had reached the base of the garden and stared at the shimmering full moon above. It was a picturesque night, with stars dotting the blackened sky. An ethereal feeling washed over the location, but the sisters knew that this would probably the final view they would see together.
"Wow, it's even more beautiful before they bloom... It's like something out of a fairy tale!" Beatrice's eyes wandered throughout the garden.
Lorelei couldn't help but chuckle. "You always did love me reading those to you. I wish you would act your age a bit more. You're not a little girl anymore."
"Oh, come on, sis! It's not a bad thing to have an active imagination!" Beatrice whined. "Besides, I've been thinking about something. Something that might impress you."
Lorelei sat on a patch of grass. "What is it?"
"Well..." Beatrice took a deep breath and then giggled. "I want to follow in your footsteps and become a nurse myself."
Lorelei sat dumbstruck.
"See, my initial plan was to be a writer or something, but after hearing what you've been going through, I decided that writing wouldn't help anybody. What you've done is so admirable and your desire to help others really resonated with me. I don't know if I'd be an amazing nurse like you, but my first goal would be to find a cure of Magia Nociva! I know it's not going to be an easy path, but I'm willing to try."
A warm smile etched Beatrice's lips as she stared at Lorelei. The older sister was touched at these mature words. A girl that had once been tormented by one death and facing another was able to find solace in her trying times. Perhaps this determination was found in secret, but it didn't matter to Lorelei. She was overjoyed to see a strong woman in full bloom.
"Well, you were right. That did impress me," Lorelei giggled. "It's a wonderful dream and I wish you best of luck with that. Just don't be like me and get afflicted by the disease."
A heavy air filled the garden as Lorelei immediately wanted to take back what she said. It was too late, for she saw her sister's smile fade into oblivion.
"I'm sorry for that morbid remark," Lorelei apologized. "When you're faced with death, these thoughts just come out."
"...Don't do that again, okay, Lorelei?" Beatrice somberly warned.
The older sister lowered her eyes and hugged her knees. The younger sister shut her eyes and shuddered, mentally cursing herself.
Why did I say that?
The girls were silent as they glanced at the lightblooms, which were close to blooming. Beatrice opened her eyes and walked towards the luminous patch. She glanced at her feet and hesitantly lifted her right foot. After being here multiple times, she never wondered about stepping on the flowers. Would they shatter? Would they deflect her very presence? Summoning her courage, she took a step forward and the foot crashed onto the lightbloom. However, it phased right through it. Overjoyed, she ran towards the patch and began twirling around. Hearing her sister's gleeful laughs, Lorelei looked up. She could only smile weakly.
"Sis, come join me!"
Unable to refuse the request, Lorelei got up and walked towards the patch. Beatrice immediately grabbed her arm when she was close and the pair twirled together. For the first time in her life, Lorelei felt happiness and serenity; she wanted to relish every second of it. The girls then started to chase each other, laughing like the children they once were. They felt separated from the real world, away from the deaths, the sickness, the melancholy. Had Beatrice not stumble upon this haven, how would this event have unfolded? Would they have somberly stayed home, with Beatrice next to Lorelei's deathbed? Would Lorelei have gone somewhere else to toss herself into death's arms? That was an alternate timeline. This is the reality they wanted to keep.
They both knew deep in their hearts that it will shatter momentarily.
After their romping, the sisters lay on the patch, feeling the warm aura of the lightblooms near them. Above them was the starry sky. Beatrice sighed nostalgically as she stared, while Lorelei had a small smile on her face.
"That was the most fun we had in ages..."
"It certainly was. I felt a few years younger during that."
"Come on, sis, you're not that old!"
They shared a laugh together.
"Beatrice, do you remember the song Mother sang to us when we were babies?" Lorelei asked.
"How could I ever forget it? She sang it to use every night."
As if on cue, the sisters began to sing in harmony.
Velvet cage, fly away
Soar through the endless skies
Dreams will come, hold them close
For they're your grand treasure
Never falter through sadness
Never falter through life
Your souls must stay strong
For fate's cruel cycle
Will be overcome
The song came to a close and both girls were reminded of their mother instantaneously. For Beatrice, she reached towards the mental image of Lyra, to no avail. For Lorelei, all she could do was watch the image shatter before her eyes. She shut her eyes and shuddered in response.
"Mother, we miss you..." they uttered to themselves.
Nostalgia lasted for only a minute, sending a feeling of serenity throughout the garden. The lightblooms were starting to glow faintly. Beatrice glanced at Lorelei and got up. Brushing herself off, she walked towards the body and observed it from below.
The older sister looked fascinating under the moonlight, her hair acting like a satin blanket and her outstretched arms welcoming whatever fate has in store. She had never felt more relaxed in her life. If she were able to, Beatrice would take as long as it took to draw a portrait of the beauty before her. She kneeled before her, smiled sadly, then lay on Lorelei's body, making the older sister open her eyes. She could see her little sister trying to hold back the tears as the arms wrapped around her neck.
"Lorelei... I'm ready for what's going to happen," Beatrice choked out to say. "I know I've been stubborn the past couple of years, especially when it came to your disease. But it's only because I love you so much. Now that I'm older, I realize that nothing lasts forever. Death is next to us at every waking moment. As I spend my possible last moments with you, I want to say..." Tears streamed down her cheeks as her face was over Lorelei's. "Thank you for being the best sister I could ask for. I only wish that I could repay your kindness..."
Some of the tears splashed on Lorelei's face and she couldn't help but smile. She knew that Beatrice had grown up in the past year. It wasn't as if she doubted her sister's growth, but Beatrice was naive to a fault. She had always clung to childlike beliefs, such as eternity and the concept of the promise. To see Beatrice now change into a mature woman, that was Lorelei's dream and it had come true at the worst time. Reaching out to Beatrice's wet cheek, Lorelei caressed it.
"You being here is all that I could ask for," Lorelei fondly replied. "Had you not been here, I would rotted away, alone and scared. You've taught me how to laugh, how to smile, how to show kindness. I love you, too, Beatrice."
Through wet eyes, Beatrice leaned in close and kissed Lorelei's forehead. Lorelei quickly embraced Beatrice and held her close, never letting go. Slowly, the lightblooms were about to bloom and Lorelei's life was starting to fade.
"H-hey, sis?" Beatrice asked through her sister's bust.
"Promise me...that you'll watch over me in the afterlife. I want you to be near me in spirit."
A childlike fantasy. Possibly the last. The Lorelei of the past might have laughed at the thought, but with a dulcet tone, the Lorelei of the present—life escaping with each breath—replied, her voice trailing off with each syllable, "Anything for you, Beatrice... Anything...for...you..."
With that last word, the remaining breath of life had escaped her body and Lorelei Nightingale was no more. The lightblooms burst as her arms drooped to the grass, sending a wave of bright particles high in the air. The particles danced in the air, as if being controlled by an invisible puppeteer. Beatrice looked up and stared in somber wonder at the sight, knowing full well that her sister had passed away. Some of the particles swirled around the pair, emanating warmth. The stray particles joined the initial group, swirled into the air and burst, showering the patch and the girls with luminescent twinkles. One of the particles entered the violet on Lorelei's hair. Absorbing the energy, the violet glowed brightly. It, too, was under the lightbloom's spell.
"I wish you held on just a bit longer... Your final vision shouldn't have been of me crying. You deserved better."
As the spectacle ended, the only remnant that glowed was the violet. Stealing a kiss on the dead girl's cheek, Beatrice stared at the now lightless sky. Knowing that this place would be the perfect resting place for Lorelei, Beatrice walked away. Taking one last glance at the garden, the little sister couldn't help but smile.
"You always loved beautiful things, Lorelei."
As she stepped out of the garden's vicinity, the past was no more. For her sister's sake, she must look towards the future.