Part 87: Once we step through that door, there'll be no going back.
B-But it looks so...so...
Yeah. I can barely bring myself to accept it's not the real thing.
Everything from the feel of the earth underfoot to the smells in the air are just like the real thing.
This is where the two of you grew up? Judging by the emblem at the entrance, I take it this is a facility operated by the Septian Church?
That's right. It's what's called a gospel facility.
Think of them as a cross between an orphanage and a monastery.
So that means you must be...
Well, no reason to dance around it, so yep. I'm an orphan.
And how I came to be here is a story best saved for another day.
Feels weird being back here again, though... It's been about five years.
Five very long years...
Well, anyway. We're bound to find some kind of clue as to how to get to the seventh plane somewhere in here. You guys up for having a look around the area with me?
Yeah. Let's go.
The door is locked.
Is it locked?
Well, whatever. We can keep poking around.
There's an empty well.
We used to get our drinking water out of here.
We had no fancy orbal pumps, either. We did it all using a good, old-fashioned bucket with string attached... It was a nightmare!
Tell me about it... We would go out on winter mornings and come back with our hands numb and red raw.
But looking back on the whole experience now, it was fun in its own way.
Haha. I guess it was.
The door is stuck fast and doesn't have a keyhole.
Why won't it open?
This is a side entrance that only opens from the inside. We can't get in from the outside.
Yeah. If we want to get into the chapel, we're gonna have to go through the front.
This is the living room, where we used to have all of our meals.
The matron here was a stubborn old sister who was strict as could be. Every mealtime we had to pray so much that our stomachs had given up on getting fed by the end of it, and we got yelled at for the tiniest thing.
Oh, I see...
You deserved it all, in my opinion.
You never did as you were told and caused her nothing but grief.
Eheheh... Okay, I'll admit that's PROBABLY accurate, but still!
It was also Ries' favorite place to sneak into whenever she had a hankerin' for some food.
That brings back memories of Matron Theresa's orphanage.
Daniel and Polly used to do that, too... Perhaps they still do.
Heehee. How cute.
P-Please don't take everything he says at face value.
Haha... Well, anyway...
This was always Rufina's turf back when she was still here. She was always out here around mealtime making food for me, Ries, and the other kids.
After she left, Ries and I took over her position.
That brings back memories...
Of course, then you left, too, leaving me to handle it all alone.
The mere thought aggravates me. In fact, I think you should whip up something right now to make up for your selfishness.
I'll make you something...later.
The only thing less reliable than a promise with 'later' attached to the end is one said by you.
I'm not going to get my hopes up.
*sigh* Man, no faith in me, huh?
By the way, Ries... How is the matron these days?
She's fine... Her injuries weren't lasting.
She hasn't had the energy she used to ever since retiring, unfortunately.
She really wanted to see you again, Kevin.
She did, huh?
I slept here back when I was first taken in before graduating to the boys' bedroom.
You never really did mix well with the other children.
Rufina had such a hard time trying to get you to make friends with them... It was a real ordeal for her, you know.
Yeah. I know...
I was like a little hedgehog who didn't want to let anyone get near back then... I feel sorry for everybody who had to put up with me.
I'm still amazed you even bothered trying to be friendly.
Well, I knew you were only playing tough.
Like that time with Rufina and the chocolate.
Stop! We're not hearing that story here!
(Heehee... Now I'm really curious.)
Technically, the boys and girls weren't supposed to enter one another's bedrooms... That never stopped Ries here from doing it all the time, though.
What he neglects to mention is that it was his fault I did so. What else was I supposed to do when he slept in every morning he was on cleaning duty?
W-Well, you could've just knocked on the door until I got up...
But then I'd disturb the other boys who were sleeping, which would have been unfair. They weren't the ones shirking their duties.
It was one hundred percent your fault.
...Fine, fine. Whatever you say.
The place where Rufina spent her nights. Same for you eventually, too, Ries.
I even used to sleep with her from time to time.
Her bed was always cozy and smelled really nice. It was much nicer than sleeping in my own. After she left here, her bed became mine.
I bet you were jealous.
Haha. You bet.
I was at the time, I'll admit.
Oh... I thought you'd be a bit more flustered than that.
I shouldn't have bothered saying anything.
Give me a break...
To progress here, you have to see all those little scenes and then exit the dormitory building via the front door in the dining room.
NOT this side door, which exists only to cause frustration and disappointment.
Our last hope seems to be the chapel.
So it seems...
What is it, Kevin?
...Hey, Ries? You were the one responsible for cleaning the chapel that day, right?
On Aster House's final day.
When Rufina died.
That was what I was told when I went to visit the matron afterward, at least. Well? Were you?
I was. Why?
I thought so.
Check your pockets, Ries. I'm pretty sure the chapel key's in one of them.
Ries began checking the pockets of her habit. Eventually, she found an old brass key.
It can't be...
Is that the key...?
That makes sense.
This is just another manifestation of this world's ability to make thoughts into reality.
Honestly, I wasn't entirely sure you'd find it in there.
But in all the other areas on this plane, there was always a reason to take the person we needed with us. This just goes to show that you really were meant to come here, Ries.
But... But... ...
No... As disbelieving as I am, this is definitely the chapel's key. I suppose all we can do right now is try to go inside.
The door is locked.
Before we go in here, Ries...there's something I should warn you about.
Once we step through that door, there'll be no going back.
You're going to find out the truth about what happened that day--all of it. And you won't like it. Are you sure you're ready for what you're about to find?
Kevin's not kidding. This is the chapter's point of no return.
I'm more than ready.
All these years, I've never quite been able to accept what happened here. The life I thought I knew just suddenly came to an end--with us all getting moved to other places--and I still don't even know why... I even tried to come back here just before beginning my training to become a squire, but it had already been demolished.
I've been ready for a long time. I want to know the truth.
And more than anything, I feel like knowing will let me get closer to you and Rufina.
Let's head on in, then.
Say... would it be best if the rest of us stayed outside?
No... Actually, I'd prefer if you came in with me.
This is relevant to you guys, too, in a sense.
It all started five years ago. A jaeger corps someone had hired took this place over out of nowhere.
By the way, how much do you remember of that day, Ries? Just so I know.
I just remember a group of men in black forcing their way through the gate and charging in here. They tied everyone up, took the matron up to the second floor... and then...
Next thing you knew, you were in a bed in the hospital in town, right?
After which you found out that Rufina and I had come to rescue everyone... and that she had died in the process.
That about right?
Just what happened, Kevin? All I've heard is that it was the work of someone who opposed the church...
...but I haven't had a chance to meet you since then, much less to ask you about it. I tried asking Instructor Selnate, but she wouldn't say a word.
That doesn't surprise me.
The Gralsritter's commander can't admit this orphanage was being used as a smokescreen for an artifact that needed sealing away.
Here we go.
A-A secret passage?!
If there was an artifact here...you don't mean...?!
Below here is a primal ground used to seal artifacts away.
Just like the one under Grancel Cathedral.
I'm sure you remember... The day it all happened, Rufina and I were due to come back here for the first time in a while. We were both coming from different places we'd been sent, so we wanted to meet up in town and come the rest of the way here together.
But then her train was delayed, leaving me in town to wait for her alone. That was when I got word of what happened.
Kevin: All I could think was that you and the other kids were in danger...and so I decided to try and take out the jaegers here alone.
They weren't all that experienced, so fighting them wasn't even hard for a squire like me.
Before long, I was able to disable them all and free the matron and the other kids.
Or so I thought. You were nowhere to be seen.
I asked the other kids where you were. They told me one of the jaegers had taken you somewhere else and that you were unconscious. I looked frantically all over trying to find you before eventually stumbling across this place.
As for how... You remember how you didn't have your ribbon in your hair when you woke up, Ries?
I-I do... What does that have to do with anything?
I found that ribbon in front of the secret passage we've just gone through. And there were new footprints near it, too. Made it easy to find the entrance.
Anyway... after getting in here, I made my way down this staircase in pursuit of the jaeger that had taken you.
Do you remember what I was like back when you first met me?
I was still young at the time, but it's as fresh as if it were only yesterday.
Ries: You looked like you'd been swallowed by blackness. Like there wasn't a single thread of hope bound to you.
I kept wondering what must have happened to you--what you must have seen to make you end up that way.
Haha... What must have happened to me, huh?
Rufina seemed like she knew...
Before I met you, I killed my mom.
Maybe 'killed' isn't the right expression. It's not like I directly did it.
I still let her die, though. I've still got a responsibility for what happened.
Kevin: Growing up, it was basically me and my mom for the most part.
My father showed his face from time to time, but not that much. From what I understand, he had another family elsewhere.
But even without him, she did her best to look after me on her own. I loved her dearly.
Kids in the neighborhood used to make fun of me for how I talked, which I got from her...but I just beat them up most of the time.
I gather that in the original Japanese version Father Kevin speaks the Kansai dialect, which of course is super weird and usually gets translated as ridiculously corn-fed Southern YEEHAWs.
She was always kind, she loved cooking and...yeah. I thought the world of her.
When I was seven, my father, who had all the money in the world, chose to abandon her.
At the best of times, she was always a frail person...and after that, she grew more and more despondent. Her health suffered...
I tried everything a kid could do to cheer her up, but nothing I did worked.
And during one winter's day when she must have finally had enough...
She came over while I was sleeping and tried to strangle me.
I'm so sorry, Kevin...
I failed as your mother...
...but I'm so tired...I'm so, so tired...
...At least this way...
...At least this way, the two of us can...
Kevin: I guess she figured that if we were both going to suffer, we might as well take the easy way out as a family.
But I wouldn't let her take me with her.
Before I knew what I was doing, I'd pushed her aside and ran barefoot out into the snow.
I wandered around for a while after that. I couldn't understand what had happened or what she'd been trying to do...
Eventually, I could feel myself getting hungry. I thought that maybe she'd been able to clear her head.
I made my way back home, nervous as could be, and...
Haha. Sorry for making you listen to all this.
Still, I think that's probably when it happened.
When my Stigma was carved inside me.
What a strange place...
Who would've thought a place like this existed under an orphanage?
This was where I finally caught up to the jaeger who had you with him.
He probably didn't think anyone was gonna come after him. The second he saw me, he panicked...and putting his gun down, he ran over to the pedestal right in front of us.
On it was the artifact that required sealing away I mentioned earlier: the Spear of Loa.
What's the Spear of Loa?
A malignant spear that transforms the body of its wielder into that of a monster. It's hard to believe something like that could be a gift from the Goddess, right?
In any case, the cornered jaeger grabbed it and used it.
-Stairway to Gehenna-
Kevin: ...I didn't stand a chance.
Much as I tried, I wasn't any match for the inhuman monster before me.
He knocked me to the ground, and then went to raise the spear against the still-unconscious you...
That's all it took.
Kevin: My Stigma drew all of the spear's power from it into itself...
...and blasted it, magnified countless times over, into the jaeger's body.
The result wasn't even a battle; our precious home became a slaughterhouse.
By the end, he wasn't even recognizable. Just thousands of lumps of flesh strewn all over the floor.
After defeating him, my Stigma's power was still coursing through my body...
I'd never experienced anything like that before. I lost complete control of myself.
Kevin: At this point, Rufina had arrived, and she seemed to understand exactly what had happened.
Using her bowgun and templar sword, she was able to separate me from you and prevent me from doing you any harm.
Kevin: When I returned to my senses, I was in her arms, dumbfounded.
Her body was full of holes all over, but she hugged me as tightly as she could...
That's when she drew her last breath.
There it is. The truth you wanted.
It wasn't that I couldn't save Rufina...
I was the one who killed her. With my own hands. Right in front of you.
B-But you didn't...!
I didn't want to? Maybe not, but that's just an excuse. If I'd been able to control my Stigma's power instead of letting it consume me and fill me with bloodlust, it wouldn't have happened.
If I wasn't so weak, she'd still be alive today.
That's not all, either. Looking at her standing before me at that moment, she reminded me of my mother. She reminded me of Mom when she came to strangle me.
Suddenly, this feeling of betrayal welled up inside of me, this desire for revenge...so I filled her full of spears. I loved them both. I wanted to protect them both...
Heh... And what did I do? I killed them both. Me.
...Why? Why...did you...?
Why did I what?
Why didn't you tell me this before?!
Five years apart, and THIS is the first time you're telling me this?!
Sorry... I know I should've done it earlier.
But now I have. And I'm ready for the consequences.
So go on. If you want to avenge her, do it. If anything, it'd make me happy if you did.
YOU'RE SO STUPID!
You think I want to avenge her?! That's not why I'm angry at all! Why have you shouldered a burden that great all this time, all on your own?!
We're FAMILY, Kevin! Why didn't you ever talk to me?! Why didn't you ever let me hug you?! Why didn't you let me do ANYTHING to help you?!
I finally understand... I always thought you were hunting down heretics as some kind of atonement for letting Rufina die.
But that's not it at all, is it?
C-Come on, Ries...
I finally, finally understand. You don't want to atone for anything. You don't want to get rid of your sense of guilt at all... You... You...
That's right. He wants to be punished for what he did.
Wh-Why now, of all times?!
So that's what they look like, huh?
Haha... You have my congratulations on making it this far. Beyond here lies the seventh plane. The place of my birth, and the foundation of all planes hereafter.
And judging by how we have to go through here to get there...
...I was right, wasn't I?
Right about what...?
Allow me to ask you once again. So, Kevin Graham... Do you really want to see the face underneath this mask?
Damn right, I do.
It's time to take off that creepy mask thing and show us who you really are...
Hahaha. With pleasure!
And as for you, Kevin...I'm impressed you were able to work out my real identity.
It wasn't hard. I had a feeling from the start.
The answer was right in front of my face the whole time, and your every taunt should have made me that much more sure.
The only reason I couldn't be until now was that I didn't want to accept the truth.
You can imagine how surprised I was when you were able to defeat my strongest knight.
You talking about the Bladelord?
What connection does he even have to you, anyway?
I met him through my work, oh...about six years ago.
We were enemies at the time, but we managed to reach a compromise of sorts.
And he felt he owed me a debt for as much.
All right. So you ended up summoning him in order to have him repay it?
It's a crafty move, but that's not so out of character for you.
Haha... Flattery won't get you anywhere with me.
Still now that you've made it this far...I assume you understand what I'm trying to do?
Yeah...and I'm ready.
Take me away.
W-Wait! What are you two talking about?!
I would have thought you worked the answer to that out already, Ries.
Do you recall what I said before? Kevin wants to be punished.
I was born here in order to give him the punishment he strives for with his every breath. It was to that end that I recreated Phantasma into its current form and welcomed all of you here.
All of this was a result of Kevin's desires. He wanted this to happen.
...Sorry. She isn't.
I couldn't tell you why it all actually happened...
...but what she says is true.
The seventh plane is likely somewhere made for the express purpose of punishing me over and over. A fitting hell for someone who let his own mother die and killed Rufina to suffer and rot.
...And once I'm dropped down there, this'll all be over.
B-But that's not right!
I mean...I suppose it makes sense...
...but I still can't understand why.
This is getting to be a bad habit.
What do you think you're doing, Ries? That's not a very nice thing to do to your sister.
You're not my sister! My sister would never do something like this! Never!
-Cradle Where Feelings Rest-
You promised me, Kevin! You promised me that you'd never do anything that would make Rufina sad!
So what do you think you're doing?!
How can you believe sacrificing yourself for everyone would make her happy?!
Heehee. Who are you to say it wouldn't?
I might not be the real Rufina, but I'm a very close copy of her. If Kevin wants to be punished, why wouldn't I want to give him his wish?
Because that's not how Rufina was at all!
She'd never indulge something like that. Not in a thousand years!
Think back to when you first met us, Kevin! You'd given up on the world, like you just wanted to disappear...but did she let you do that? No!
She forced chocolate down your throat and dragged you right back into the real world, even when you didn't want to! Whether you liked it or not!
Haha... Well, this is a surprise.
You've grown a lot more than I was expecting if you're able to talk back to me.
Stop talking to me as if you're my sister! You are not, and I won't stand for you defiling her any further!
Hmm... Well, if that's how you want to do things...
...perhaps I should invite you in Kevin's place?
It's the Evil Eye!
Stop this, Rufina! She's got nothing to do with any of this!
Oh, but she has! Consider this another part of your punishment.
After all, if she suffers for all eternity in your place...
...that's going to make your suffering all the more potent, isn't it?
Go ahead and do your worst!
Drop me wherever you like. I'll live!
I'm never going to let Kevin be alone again...
I WILL come back to him!
Haha. Fighting words, my sweet sister.
We shall see whether you can make good on them.