We’ve returned to the end and sent Ferris back to Kugg Village through the Teleportation Spell Circle.
Seeing Bright heave a sigh of relief, I then turned to Pochi at my side, who’s still hanging her head down after all this time.
“Man, we sure walked around a whole lot today… my legs feel like lead. Hahaha…”
I suddenly cracked a shoddy joke, which Pochi replied to quietly,
“And the soles of my feet… are called paws, sir…”
I know, I know.
I lack the energy to even laugh at that unfunny joke, as much as I’d like to.
“Father, there’s something I like to discuss. Do you have some time to spare?”
“Hmm? What is it?”
I listened carefully, waiting for what Chappie had to say about his issues.
But then Chappie shook his head.
“Well, not HERE…”
That caught Pochi and Bright by surprise.
He was keeping Bright away from the discussion… which had happened a handful of times in the past, but for him to do it to Pochi – his mother – was unheard of.
I signaled Pochi with my eyes, telling her to take care of Bright in the meantime, before following Chappie outside.
And by outside, I mean the inn’s backyard.
Seeing a bench, probably one for customers, I sat down on it… then Chappie sat on ME.
“You’re pretty heavy, you know that?”
“Bear with it just this once, father – just for the private discussion, yes?”
“That’s nice and all, but I can’t even see anything in front of me. Just be reasonable, damn it.”
I said and tapped on the bench.
“Ngh… all right, then.”
Chappie relented, getting off me and sitting down to my side.
If someone passing by were to see us, they’d probably think they were seeing something quite surreal.
I mean, a pretty damn big bird – not to mention a Violet Phoenix – sitting on a bench. That’s got to be something.
“So, what’s the thing you wanted to talk about?”
I asked, but Chappie didn’t answer immediately.
Well, not to blame him – Chappie’s naturally got Chappie things to think about.
It’s been about a year since this Violet Phoenix was born. His father and mother – me and Pochi – were from the future, and we had been told that once we did everything we needed to do here, we would be going back to where we belonged. After much discussion with Pochi, I had decided to talk to Chappie about it at one point, but it wasn’t necessarily something one could let sink in so quickly.
But now comes the Violet Phoenix issue. An issue way beyond our scope.
By the way of the Violet Phoenix species, only a single fully-grown one of them is permitted to exist at any given time. If that is imposed strictly, and the Violet Phoenix in the future is the OTHER ONE… that would mean that Chappie doesn’t exist in our time.
Or MAYBE he’s still alive somewhere out there, but hasn’t met up with us yet as of the day we had been sent back to this past.
Had he decided to not show up, so as to not jeopardize his very existence, or had something happened to him later in this era…?
Also, what did Shi’shichou say to me that time before going away?
If I remember correctly… it’d asked me what my name was, and when I told it, it said ‘……I see. Remember to do me a favor later, and I shall let you off the hook, Asley,’ didn’t it?
Could it have realized who we were at that time? At the time-travel shenanigans level of connection?
That I was a mage it had met once before, more than 5,000 years prior to that encounter?
But it did try to kill me for real back then… and only stopped once it heard Pochi’s inappropriately-timed yawn.
Could it be that Pochi had made more of a lasting impression on it that I had?
But then again… the only ones of our group it had seen were me, Ferris, and Chappie.
Pochi must have been hidden in the bush all through the confrontation.
Which means… eventually, inevitably, Pochi and Shi’shichou will have to face each other.
That’s probably what Pochi’s request to me came from. Because we didn’t meet Chappie in the future…-
“First off, father…”
Chappie broke the long silence, starting to talk with carefully chosen words after much thinking,
“You and mother aren’t from this era. I still… can’t wrap my little bird brain around that.”
“Before, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. Couldn’t bring myself to ASK you two about it. But now that that’s changed, what should I do?”
I feel like Chappie’s words really got all his emotions across.
“When you return to your time, will I be…?”
“…Yeah, you can’t come along with us.”
I’d already told him exactly that before, but it seemed that Chappie had asked me again just to hear me say it again.
“So… what should I do?”
It was such a simple question, but one that choked me really good.
But I must answer. As a parental figure, and also as someone who had lived through most of my eternal life by himself.
Whether Chappie knew that… well, he probably did, and because of it, chose me over Pochi to ask that question of his.
All the more reason that I must answer. I’ve got to give him something to kill time with in his long, harsh, eternal life, without anything holding him down.
“Let’s see… how about you start with flying around the whole world?”
“The whole world?”
“Yeah. You’ve got great wings, Chappie – wings that I won’t ever have. No choice but to make use of them, right?”
I said while stroking Chappie’s wings.
Chappie cast down his eyes and nodded. I could see him smiling a bit, too.
“And then… try eating lots of stuff, I guess.”
“Yes, that’s important.”
Rather than an immediate reply, it was more like his appetite doing the talking.
As one would expect of Pochi’s kid.
“Hahahaha… and go around to see a whole lot of places-“
“Then whenever you’re bored, you can just go hang out at either the Fulbright or Adams houses.”
“Bright and Ferris’ places?”
Chappie asked, tilting his head in confusion.
“Yeah. Now this isn’t something you’re supposed to know, but those two households still exist even in my time.”
“Oh? That’s impressive.”
I DID hear that the Fulbright household had recently fallen, but at least some of the people of that house are still alive, so I’d say I wasn’t stating anything incorrect.
“Keep that a secret, all right?”
Chappie answered, seemingly happy… because he’s getting to share a secret between just us two.
“And you should protect those two houses if you deem it necessary, Chappie.”
“That sounds like fun.”
“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, of course.”
“…? What do you mean?”
Chappie opened his eyes wide, surprised by my sudden change of direction.
“So I explained everything to you already, right?”
“Yes, you did.”
Chappie, after spending a moment to think back on everything I’d said thus far, affirmed my question.
“Then it’s all up to you to decide for yourself, Chappie.”
“I can… decide for myself?”
“Right. Trying things out by yourself can help you learn a lot, you know?”
“So THAT’s what you meant…”
Chappie, seemingly understanding of what I’d told him, cast his eyes down again.
“BUT you have to operate under a guiding principle. That’s the one thing you need.”
“The main topic here is what you’ll be doing from now on. Think about it – your underlying feelings, policies, goals, those kinds of stuff.”
Chappie muttered that one word to himself and started giving it some hard thought.
Then, after a while, he seemed to have thought of something, and proceeded to ask me,
“And what’s your guiding principle, father?”
“Pretty simple, really – don’t bully the weak. Except the evil guys and monsters.”
Hearing me explain my guiding principles, Chappie sprang up from his seat.
Amid the moonlit night, he walked in front of the bench and spread his wings wide, his deep purple feathers fluttering in the air. For just a brief moment, it was quite the fantastical view in my eyes.
“I’ve decided, father! I won’t bully the weak! And I’ll travel the world! Ahh, I’m so excited! These are the goals of my life! My guiding principles!”
With the genuine delight in Chappie’s voice, I saw him as an innocent yet majestic Heavenly Beast.
Not even noticing that my mouth was agape the whole time, I stared on as Chappie happily fluttered around.
Then, when Chappie settled down, he stared back at my face. I woke up from the trance, as if I had just seen a brief yet beautiful performance. I reached to stroke Chappie’s head and neck, then whispered,
“Yeah, this is fine.”