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Flowers for a Grave

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They'd never think to find her here.

That was the single crystalline thought playing in her head like a mantra as she pushed herself forward on the path. Light burned over head, almost as if to be a constant reminder of her failure, her shame, and she did what she could to ignore it. Golden and pure and painful as the events played then replayed in her mind's eye as if maybe seeing her error, she could go back in time to that point and fix everything as it should have been.

Pain lanced through her and she stumbled, gagging on the bile that surged up as she managed to catch herself on her knees before falling completely to the ground. Not fast enough, however, to stop it from splattering on the ground. A few white stains, glistening in the stark brightness of permanent light, gleamed up at her almost as if mocking her current predicament. They had begun coming faster now, the stark brightness in her vision nearly blinding her...

But she wouldn't die here. Not yet. Not yet.

Staggering back to her feet, she stomped the offending puddles out of sight and ground them into the earth. She straightened up, but already she could feel another attack threatening to over take her. Not much time left now, it seemed... and she'd felt so strong sneaking away from the Crystarium. She wondered if being near Ryne had something to do with it, the Oracle working so hard to keep the Light from consuming her.

Ryne, sweet, innocent, kind Ryne. It was too much to ask of her, too much of a burden, and she wouldn't ask it of her anyway. She couldn't. She was just a child, while the Scion was the Warrior of Light. If anyone was to bear this weight, it had to be her.

Thinking of her, of her friends, made it easier to hold it together. It gave her the strength to stand again, to push through the cracking of her very soul to go where she needed to be. Whether... whether she could hold out long enough to arrive and do what needed doing, that was another matter entirely.

"I pity you. I do."

Emet-Selch's voice came unbidden to her mind, his parting words barbed and painful. He'd sounded so angry, so disappointed, and while she'd been in too much pain at the time to take note her looming demise had blessed her with a kind of ultimate clarity.

She remembered him lording over her as he was wont to do, sneering at her from on high... but behind that barely masked contempt, was something she couldn't quite make out. A shadow in his eyes, like he was in mourning.

"Your friends are now your foes," he'd said quietly, almost gently. "If you do not kill them, they... will kill you." It had been hard to hear, that catch in his words as if he hadn't wanted to finish saying them. As much of a bastard as he was, an Ascian, an enemy to the bitter end... he'd never lied to her. Almost brutal in his honesty, though that didn't mean he always said everything he should have.

But if it was one thing she could rely on, even now, she knew he believed it. He was wrong of course; he didn't know her friends as she did, and how could he? He claimed from the first to suffer no other's company save his own, and she believed him. He didn't know what it was like, so certain she was, to spend time with your friends. Among people who loved you, people who were willing to die in your place. People desperately searching for some way to save her and the First.

Though as the hour grew late and later still, she could see only one answer. They did not want to accept it, did not want to hear it, as much as she begged them to just see reason as she had. In their efforts to save just one life, her life, they were damning so many others.

That was why she was here now, on a lonely road in the middle of the night under a veil of scorching Light. She wouldn't allow it, couldn't bear it. Not as long as she was still the esteemed Warrior of Light. Not as long as she still had life left to her; she would do what needs be done, and then--

And then what?

She stopped, another crack almost doubling her over as she coughed and held back the bile. Bent over as she was, hand to her mouth as if that alone would hold back the flood as another wave of agony shot through her with no easy way of easing the pain. If she just gave up, surrendered to the Light, it would be painful for a moment but then it would cease.

"Leave me be," the words fell from her like broken glass, almost ripping their way out as she finally just let herself collapse to the dirt path. A short rest, long enough to argue with the man that had been following her for gods know how long, and she would get up again and continue forward. A rest, enough to marshal her strength, and she could finish this pathetic pilgrimage she'd set for herself and finally...

Finally just be done.

There was silence, and for a moment she panicked and wondered if she really was going mad. She started to turn, before she felt another splintering crack inside-but-not that made her cry out. Bile leaked between her fingers, pure and white and terrifying as she looked wildly behind her-- and there he stood. Imposing, but hunched, his golden eyes watching her like a wolf on the heels of the doe as she struggled along.

Almost as if waiting for her strength to give out.

Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she glared at him but made no effort to stand. There was little left to her now, and if he was here to gloat then she would atleast be comfortable even if it was forcing him to look down at her as she sat in the dirt among the rocks.