Faith is our shield: The stronger it is, the more arrows of doubt it can repel.
The next day, after resting and preparing for their assigned quests, the Eight Champions of Light depart with Airship Aurora to their designated sites, with two angels to guide them as promised.
Alexis’ team chooses the Greaves of Truth and Cristophe’s team chooses the Shield of Faith as their first quests, so the airship goes Northwest. Team Alexis disembarks in Edel, and Aurora flies farther Northwest.
That night, Prince Cristophe Deveraux stands on the deck of Aurora, alone with his thoughts.
Must I take these quests? Must I give up Iris to bear the burden of this world and being with a princess I never knew of? This is distressing. Iris hasn’t spoken much to me since the trial in Valanis. But, what have I to say? Oh, I know. I must convince her that if I’m chosen, I shall let my brother marry Eloise, even if it costs me my princedom. But come again, do I really love her? I mean, she’s an elf, she’s pretty and fun, but I sense something’s missing in our relationship...
Suddenly, Chris is startled when someone is coming to him. It’s Iris.
‘Ah, it’s you, Iris,’ says Chris very gladly. ‘Listen, I have something to say to you, now...’
Iris interrupts, ‘And I have something to say to you as well. Let me talk first, Ariel, because I’ve been thinking hard about this for a long time. Tell me, Ariel, do you really love me?’
‘I do, and do...’
‘And are you willing to sacrifice everything just to spend your entire life with me?’
‘That’s very sweet of you, Ariel. But don’t you see? The “entire life” is the problem. I, an elf, am doomed to live an eternal life, naturally. We only die in densely dark-plagued land, by Enia’s will, or be killed. But a human like you only live a limited lifespan. I didn’t know the reason Vadis created humans, but after my little conversation with Archangel Avariel just now, I finally understand.
Because humans are mortal, they can live their lives to the fullest as today might be their last. They have more fun, more motivation and determination, and closer to Vadis than we ever think they are. We elves are so self-content, serious, reserved, and avoiding trouble. That’s why I admire you and envy you at the same time. You are the only one who appreciates my artistry, and applauds whenever I perform.
But that’s not enough. You can’t be an elf, and you know what? I’m also willing to sacrifice anything but one: my immortality. And I can’t stand to see you die in front of me and leave me to spend eternity in loneliness, unable to love another because an elf may marry only once.’
‘Please, don’t tell me, are you going to...’
‘Yes, Ariel. I think our relationship can’t last. I’ve heard about an elf who was willing to be mortalized just to be with the human she loved – Carolyn’s mother, but no, not me. My love to you isn’t that strong. We have begun a wrong love story with a wrong way, because we both love to have fun. But as both of us grew more mature, more serious, with all responsibilities to Vadis, Enia, our nations, and the entire Terra Eternia, our priorities changed. As fun is no longer principal, you and I know that something is missing and our relationship is meaningless and dry without much fun. Just empty lies and embraces, nothing more.’
‘Oh, no, Iris, please don’t...’
‘We must, Ariel, or we will end up in disaster if we keep this up. From now on, I shall call you Chris or Your Highness, not Ariel anymore. Let me assist you in your quest as your truest friend. Your responsibility is your highest priority now, your calling and your destiny. I don’t want to hinder you or be your burden. Go and get it, Chris, and you’ll be far greater than you are now. And this is the only way I can support you.’
‘But Iris, I have something to say to you as well, you are...’
The elf archer-enchantress just turns and runs away. Chris can’t continue talking, only sees her back and tears sprinkling from her eyes. He chases Iris, but the she-elf is more agile than his own and disappears from view.
So, the broken-hearted prince falls on all fours, crying his heart out like he never cried before.
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