Chapter 7:

Reprieve from a cold darkness (Part 1).

A Reverie for Another Eternity

"Dreams and futures are inextricable aspects of the same coin, never meant to see past each other's faults."

- Helena

No sooner had Mikuta run down the last step chasing Helena, she heftily collided into a sister, knocking the both of them down.

At the same moment, a certain chill ran up Mikuta’s spine as she could’ve sworn she saw a few gold strands peeking from under the religious coif.

“Ohhh, you shouldn't have done that.”

Helena leaned over a wooden counter, her elbow resting on top of her large book while dangling a punch card slyly.

“Do you not know how the hell to look, eh?”

Mikuta, in a split second, was thrust upward, her feet off of the wooden floor as she hung precariously from the front of her tunic. First and foremost, she was impressed with how sturdy her clothes were, which consequently led to her not acknowledging the nun who grew angrier with each passing second. The sister began to tighten her grip, constricting the loose neckline around Mikuta’s slender throat as a reminder of her existence.

Apologetically rolling her eyes downwards, she sees the unfitting spectacles worn in front of an intelligent blue gaze.

Her angered face, however, didn’t compliment those features at all. Upon seeing Mikuta, she just raised her eyebrows slightly.

“Oh, it’s just you.”

She let Mikuta down without a second thought and proceeded to brush her hands over Mikuta’s chest to smooth out the creases, only to further crinkle her clothing. Realizing this, she stopped and looked at the girl in front.

“I have orders; you mind coming with?”

The attractive sister stood there, hands on her hips, waiting for an answer. With such an imposing demand and earlier attack, Mikuta felt as if she had no choice but to go with her. However, right after Mikuta was about to reply, Helena comes tottering over and interrupts their conversation.

She grabbed Mikuta’s arm with two of her hands, her flat chest closing in as she stared daggers at the nun.

Both glared at each other with a fiery dislike streaking across their eyes, hinted at by their rigid expressions.

“Sorry, but we’re planning on going out to tour the city. It’s her first time here after all so I think a proper introduction is due before anything else.”

The blonde nun crossed her arms in annoyance, her finger tapping on her upper arm.

“Pretty sure it could wait but, well, it's not like my end of the issue needs to be urgently solved or anything.” With a sigh, she unraveled her arms and nudged her glasses upward on her nose with her middle finger, the lenses glinting from the lights in the hallway, obscuring her sharp eyes. "You better bring her to the old hag later, understand?”

Now it was Helena who crossed her arms, who accepted the sister’s selfish request with a smug overtone.

In truth, there was no room for rejection with those vexed furrows, and especially for someone of her caliber, it’d be something akin to a death wish.

“Of course. It would make it my obligation to do so after all.” Helena coldly replied, not backing down. She broke off her gaze and turned back towards Mikuta with an innocent smile. “Anywho, let's go now.”

Tugging on Mikuta’s sleeve, they quickly left the nun behind as they hustled down the long and grandeur halls decorated with various expensive paintings and skylights.

With an intentionally loud “hmph” that could be heard even from behind, the irritated sister turned on her heel and walked away, the menacing click-tap of her boots echoing in the distance.

The pair walked through various corridors. Much was lined with stairs and doors like outside of Mikuta’s room, and a few were for faculty and maintenance purposes according to Helena. Some of which led to bathrooms and the cafeteria. Mikuta made sure to keep note of those locations.

Though pretty much all the halls kept the same monotonous mood despite its flashy paintings and skylights.

Mikuta yawned as the endless hallways tediously stretched on even further. Helena mindlessly droning about the establishment certainly didn’t help since their departure.

“I’m surprised you could be so excited about something as boring as this to be quite honest with you.”

She chuckled, but Mikuta could see that Helena briefly flinched at this comment. There was nothing more than a flash of dullness within her eyes, so Mikuta couldn’t tell for sure what she was feeling at the time.

Perhaps it was something that shouldn’t have been said, judging by how things went last time when Mikuta carelessly remarked.

Regardless, the pair stayed silent from then on.

“That sister is awfully willing to hand off her responsibilities at any moment, isn’t she?”

Hearing those words, Helena quickly darted her eyes from behind, above, right, and left, and finally in front as if to confirm Mikuta’s earlier suspicions. Mikuta took a silent vow never to speak badly of that machine-like sister ever again.

Helena cupped her hands next to Mikuta’s ear, her shallow breathing giving off a weird sensation. Without faltering, Mikuta stood strong, though her ears slightly flushed.

“Yeah, Erika is just that type of person ever since I’ve known her. Always action-heavy and never willing to listen to others unless she also benefits from it…” She heaved a heavy sigh, putting her hands down as she shook her head with a shrug. Then, she looked at Mikuta with those playful hazel eyes of hers. “Bet I just scared you.”

Wait what?

For a few minutes, the two awkwardly waited in silence, until it finally dawned on Mikuta that the entire setup was a prank on Helena's end. Very unexpected for someone like her, or so she thought. 

"Oh, you-"

Laughing to herself, Helena ran up ahead and down the main hall to the right with Mikuta right behind her.

The girls approached a large metal exit, with two heavy doors on each side. Each door had intricate carvings of giants, dragons, and other mythos', but Helena didn't pay it any attention.

Advancing to the doors, she easily opened them with a powerful slam of her own two hands and walked outside as the doors stood open. Her lean yet muscular arms stretched to soak in the rays of the early afternoon sunlight.

Though the right door slightly inched backward in an attempt to close, with another heavy thud, Helena had securely kept the right door open. She then twirled around happily and faced Mikuta.

“Come on! It’s great out here.”

Entranced by the simple beauty under the sun which only emphasized her appeal, Mikuta couldn’t help but delay her response as Helena began to slowly teeter backward, taking a few huge steps to avoid falling over.

“...I’m coming, just wait a little bit!”

Mikuta’s arm outstretched, they held each other's hands as they ran down the cobbled streets filled with people of various hair colors and clothing.

Leaning on the doorway, a familiar blonde sister heaved a heavy sigh and drew a cigarette as well as a lighter from her tunic pockets.

To the onlookers, it may have well been just another ordinary moment, but for Erika, time seemed too slow as she captured their two figures under the sunlight.

With a flick of her finger, the lighter flame burned into the end of the cigarette. Erika took a few puffs before blowing out a huge cloud of dense smoke, blocking out the sun’s rays.

“At least close the doors, you dimwits.”

She sighed once more, the heavy drops of ash piling in front of the metal door sill.

A loud growling could be heard from the girls' stomachs, much to each of their embarrassment.

Mikuta looked up to see a proudly standing and unfazed Helena. Well, maybe proud and unfazed weren’t the right words to describe the quivering figure with her stomach growling.

“So, what do you feel like eating right now?”

They both stood around a bustling street corner. Mikuta paused and gave thought to the foods that might be available in this world. Though she shrugged as she realized there really wasn’t anything, in particular, she did want or could recall anyways.

“I’ll let you choose for me.”

Helena grabbed Mikuta’s hand, pulled her up from her squat, and led the way down the very busy street with a beaming smile.

“For starters, let's get some bread.”

They ran past the great crowds of a four-way intersection, drawn by carriages and wagons of different builds and sizes, and squeezed through the oppressive alleyways formed by the looming brick structures.

The large clock tower bell tolled, signaling that it was now two in the afternoon.

“Must...Be… Nice…Being...You...Isn’t it…?!”

Helena was struggling to pull Mikuta out of an especially tight alleyway. Though it was easy for Helena to slip through, Mikuta seemed to have gotten caught between her hips.

“I didn’t ask for any of this though!?”

With a final grunt, Mikuta was pulled out and fell flat on her face.

Helena stifled a snort, her body casting a shadow over Mikuta as Mikuta looked up at Helena.

“You couldn’t have done that a little more gently?”

Mikuta raised her hand, struggling to get a grip on herself as she was about to fall again.

“Noooope. You should’ve been better prepared.”

She smiled as she timely stepped forward and helped Mikuta get on her feet safely.

Helena then gestured towards the colorful stands that surrounded a clean market square, each to be marveled at for its cleanliness and tasty smells.

Mikuta took in the scenery; around her were concession stands each with its own foods and aromas. A spicy and gamey scent wafted around the vicinity from the right side, while the crisp crunches of fruit could be heard from the left. In front, two angels, one holding a fallen another in a dear embrace, could be seen in the middle of a huge fountain. It truly was an achievement, a monument to man's hard work. Anything lesser would've been unthinkable, and quite frankly, deserving of obsequious hatred for such sloth. 

She looked at Helena, expecting a similar reaction, but all she saw was a grimace at the beautiful sight. It was as if Helena was in a world of her own, not one of which Mikuta could empathize with nor understand fully. Helena, however, caught Mikuta looking at her and quickly hid away her expression with a smile.

“Alright, let's go now. Enough looking around.”

Mikuta was soon snapped out of it as she was pulled along by Helena, arriving in front of a small bakery. Upon entering through its shabby wooden doors, Mikuta was hit with the scent of rising yeast, the appetizing smells of the freshly baked bread stirring her ravenous self. At this moment, all she simply desired was for a bite of harmless pleasure.

A short and pudgy old lady with wrinkles came out from behind the counter and waved the pair over, her fat arm jiggling in the process.

“Is that a new friend of yours, Helena?”

Helena beamed at that idea, and without letting MIkuta give an introduction of herself, Helena did it for her.

“Yes yes, she is. Her name is Mikuta and I am in charge of her.”

She puffed her chest out at those words.

In charge of me huh. Riiiight…

Mikuta thought of those words somewhat distastefully, the small creases beginning to show, but Helena paid no attention as she continued to converse with the fat lady.

The old lady scrunched up her face and squinted at Mikuta, scrutinizing every detail about her behind those opaque and fancy glasses of hers.

Mikuta shyly looked away from her gaze.

A humph could be heard as the fat lady went to the back, carrying and putting out another batch of fresh bread rolls onto the baskets that were displayed behind the window. She looked at Mikuta once more, and back at Helena.

“For someone, you’re in charge of, she sure looks older than you…”

Helena turned and looked upward at the obviously taller and more developed Mikuta, focusing on her breasts and down her legs. The old lady began to cut a large baguette and spread butter on the quarter slices.

“Hey, you.”

She stuck a finger on Mikutas chest, still focused on her chest area. This brought Mikuta back to looking at Helena, who seemed to be a little jealous of Mikuta’s development.

“How old are you again?”

Mikuta stammered, not knowing what to say because she herself didn’t know either.

“Uh… nineteen?”


Helena turned away and stomped towards the counter to inspect the bread, the old lady chuckled in the background.

The old lady slowly shuffled up to Mikuta with a baguette on a cutting board, waving her free hand so Mikuta would bend down. Mikuta obliged with a shrug of her shoulders and lowered her head at the old lady’s request.

Suddenly, half a baguette was shoved into her face. Mikuta let out a surprised “hmph” while the old lady gave two pats on the top of Mikuta’s head, ruffling her hair, albeit shakily. Possibly due to her old age.

“You remind me of my granddaughter, dear. So please, eat up and grow up to be strong.”

Mikuta was half-listening and mostly just chomping down on the large bread pieces, and though it was a simple meal, it was the most delicious thing to her at the moment.

The old lady closed in on Mikuta’s drooped head and lowered her voice in a poor attempt to avoid Helena from overhearing.

“You’re exactly a year older than Mrs. Helena here; be sure to look after her, alright?”

Though it was a pretty awkward moment, Mikuta nodded her head as she finished the remaining bread she had in her mouth.

“Hey! I heard that you know!”

From behind, Mikuta could see Helena dropping off some gold coins in exchange for a few of the breadbaskets in front.

Actually, Mikuta was pretty full from that large baguette

“Mikuta, could you grab the two baskets from your right?”

As she said that, Helena popped a few rolls into her mouth, consuming it all in one bite as if it was nothing.

“Y-yeah, of course.”

As the two were leaving, Helena still in a bad mood, Mikuta took another glance at the old lady, who only waved goodbye with a wistful smile as the two-headed away from the bakery and back into the bustling streets.

They headed down an unmaintained road, where the once relatively modern-looking structures around them were soon replaced with ruined buildings and overgrown vines. Looking back, Mikuta could see that they were heading away from the center of the city for a while now.

Mikuta was indifferent as they approached what appeared to be the slums after traveling a long distance. Actually, it brought forth a feeling of an overwhelming repugnance, but she somehow handled it well; it was almost as if she was already used to this sort of despairing scenery.

They delved even further into the outskirts of the city, eventually closing in on an abandoned building that looked the same as the others they’ve passed by. On the same note, that building was actually a cathedral upon closer inspection, past the dead shrubs and unsecured plank bars that stood in the way.

Eventually, they arrived in an empty clearing within the cathedral, the sun’s scattered lights shining through stained glass and on the mosaic flooring below.

There, the two set the baskets full of different pastries and rolls down, a small cloud of dust forming when they did so. Helena formed a cup with her hands over her mouth.

“Come on out!”

Six figures came out from the dusty and moted surroundings, each having a set of animalistic features that were unique to one another. 

Most only had what could only be called animal ears and horns, and a few possessed tails. Overall, they looked very human if those qualities were to be overlooked.

The largest of them, a yellow-eyed girl, had jumped out from behind a pillar, her golden tail and ears spotted with black.

The catgirl approached serenely, looking at the pair up and down, and then turned her attention towards the breadbaskets, seemingly counting each one.

To Mikuta, the girl gave off a very cute impression with her adorable face and harmless gestures, but Mikuta could see beyond that ruse of hers, those slitted eyes which were scheming something.

Even that innocuous smile of hers was weighed down by her fangs, as she opened her mouth.

“Big sis, Maya will only need three for today.”

She turned to the rest, who held their hungry gazes upon the baskets. In unison, they all asked her, each with varying levels of volume.

“Can we dig in!?”

The cat lady closed her eyes and tilted her head, her hands clasped together as she smiled.

“Of course, go for it.”

Much to Mikuta’s surprise, that cat girl was very graceful in her movements and was even kind enough to let the others go first. Her speech, albeit in third person speech, was very soothing and melodic to hear.

Her first impression was definitely the opposite of what Mikuta had thought initially.

With voracious appetites, the rolls and pastries were snatched up one by one, until most of it disappeared.

The few that were left behind, the cat lady dutifully took it in her hands and ate them slowly with grace.

Helena walked up and patted Maya on the head, making a kind smile while looking at her mouthful face.

“Thank you for being the big sister around here, Maya.”

Maya just nodded her head, not indicative of anything except for her tail, which swished back and forth.

It seemed like an endearing moment for the two, in which Mikuta didn’t want to interrupt. And so, she just stood around the back, awkwardly, not wanting to intrude on whatever Helena was doing. However, at the sight of their little faces enjoying the food brought before them without trouble, an unbridled rage began whirling around inside Mikuta. A sort of rage and disgust that's usually directed towards those who never truly do anything with their lives, to those who do not reach what is considered to be normal. In their rags and discolored clothing, she truly couldn't see how the earlier scenery at the town square was in the same world as these creatures. 

Mikuta's disapproving frown was met with Helena’s look of satisfaction, who walked back towards Mikuta.

“Why are you doing these things for them?”

Helena looked surprised at this question. This wasn't a question towards someone who serviced in the name of a church, known for its hospitality and charity. This was something more personal, a sort of jealousy that even Mikuta herself didn't know about. 

Even then, she couldn’t help but ask such a burning question.

“I mean, I suppose it’s because they don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“But why do you continue doing these things for them?”

“Why does it matter?” She crossed her arms, her brows slightly furrowing. 

“I just don’t think it’s right for them to take advantage of you, and it’s definitely not right for them to expect handouts.”

Though it was sudden, Helena took it all in stride. She was fed up, her brows furrowing, wondering why her partner-in-crime would be asking something like this.

“Is it so bad to help others who’re in need? Those who are struggling to survive in this everyday society that actively discriminates against them for being who they are?” She angrily began tapping her foot on the ground. “They don’t have the power to change this world that they live in. So, would it not make sense for those who can care for those who cannot?”

Mikuta scoffed at this silly humanitarian and altruistic spouting. Again, she didn't know why she felt this way, but her white knight idealizations were something she couldn't overlook. 

“It’s fine to be weak; the problem is staying weak without attempting to improve oneself." Taking a glance at them and then back at Helena, she sighed. "Judging by how familiar they are with you, I suppose this happens quite often.”

“Going by that logic, had Sister Erika not rescued you back then, you would’ve made attempts on improving your life as a slave? However impossible that might’ve been?”

Mikuta jolted, for she was not aware that that was the future to be held had she not been saved.

“There is no going back when you’re at the bottom of the social caste, and even worse, if you’re something inhuman.”

She paused, her lips quivering in justifiable anger at Mikuta’s bigotry.

“You only say these things because you were saved, because you were able to secure an opportunity that others usually couldn’t when in your position.”

Unable to take that retort at face value, Mikuta haphazardly argued back.

“Well, it wasn’t my choice to be saved. I simply would’ve changed my life for the better, even as a slave.”

The stupidity of that statement sent Helena into a burst of derisive laughter, wiping away her tears as her sides shook.

“You really are naive, Mikuta.”

She took a deep breath right before preaching.

“Even if you didn’t have the choice in your choosing, I do. And that’s all that matters when it comes to taking action within my life.”

“Those kids have tried time and time again to help and be helped, and no one was willing to lend them their time. They’re desperately trying their best to live in a world that could care less about them, treating them as pests. So, would it not be up to me and those like-minded to help?”

Mikuta thought quickly to find any fallacies that may have been in that statement, and so she did.

“Wouldn’t it fall under the churches and orphanages jurisdiction to take in and save these kids? Just like how they did with me?”

“Oh… It doesn’t work like that, Mikuta. Not at all.”

Dumbfounded, Mikuta had to ask another “why” to her answer.

“The church is just another business in this country, and the local orphanages don’t accept nonhumans…”

She paused, her eyes dulled as she spoke in a lower, more dangerous tone.

“Why can’t everyone see past each other’s faults? Why do they have to perpetuate the violence that our ancestors bear sin to? To no fault of our own yet we bear it…”

Helena shook her head, her hands wrapped around her head as she began to mutter. To Mikuta, seeing the headstrong and sensible girl reduced to something like this was jarring, to say the least.

She lifted her head, her eyes panged with a sadness that Mikuta couldn’t and most likely wouldn’t understand, even if her forthcoming words were to explain. It would have to be an experience that Mikuta would have to go through if she were to have any chance to empathize with her first and only friend thus far.

“Do you mind if I talk a little bit about myself?”

Not wanting to worsen the situation, Mikuta took the initiative to read the air before replying.

“Of course.”

She stood by obediently, looking into Helena’s somber eyes in stark contrast to her usual, cheery expression.

“I was probably around the age of nine, in a small village town not too far away from this kingdom. For as long as I can remember, my family of demihumans had told me that I had come from a place far beyond the reach of this one. And if you can’t tell by this point, I was adopted.

In a family of eight, I was the youngest. But it was fun - frolicking around the flowery gardens and grassy plains without a care in the world. Though by no means were we wealthy; in fact, we were pretty poor now that I think about it." She laughed bitterly at something Mikuta took to be a fond memory, much to her surprise. “At first, maybe it was because of the people around me, I couldn’t perceive what ‘evil’ was. To me, it was the pain brought by tripping over a rock, and a fit of burning jealousy when my step-siblings stole away my childhood crushes, all of whom wanted someone more ‘girly’. You could say I was pretty sheltered.” Helena’s eyes wavered for a second, but her cold steely expression returned straight away. Mikuta couldn’t help but be bewitched by such contradictions to her usual friendly nature. “Those naive perceptions of mine were soon washed away as I grew up. In the end, on a particular day where I went out fishing, I heard screams coming from the village. I still remember the sheer panic I felt as I ran and ran, till my breath no longer commanded my body.” She paused, her lips quivering from a deeply repressed memory of hers. “I collapsed long before I even reached my village. All I could do was see it go up in smoke, and hear the cries of anguish. The laughs of the perpetrators echoing in combination with the terrifying slashings were horrifying, to say the least.” Helena began to choke on her words, small tears streaming down her face as she tried to keep a stoic expression. “They… They even killed the kids. Kids that I’ve played and grown up with. Even the people - no, family - who were always doing their best to live in harsh times were meaninglessly slaughtered at that time. Their screams wouldn’t leave the raging inferno that had left me behind as I was too late and too powerless to do anything. I could only watch and hear the blood-curdling screams from those who tried to escape or protect another.

I screamed into the dirt, my hands clenched at piles of dark soil and grass. I spat at this unforgiving world, wishing that it would’ve taken me too, for it had taken all of what made me me. When only smoke and ashes remained, I wandered around aimlessly, looking at the charred wood and bones in the razed village. I simply wanted to die there at the time, and I probably would’ve had it not been for Sister Melissa.”

Mikuta stopped listening halfway, Helena's later words totally imperceptible in the face of her boredom. But, she did her best to listen along to the after story.

“Had it not been for the church's efforts in rescuing the remaining survivors, which happened to only be me, I would’ve died.” She paused, a familiar light returning to her expression. “And you, Mikuta, wouldn’t have had someone to help you with your soiled clothes.”

“Ok, let's not go there BWAH-”

Maya had silently crept up behind Mikuta, surprising her greatly after almost being induced to sleep by Helena’s backstory.

Though Helena hadn’t noticed Mikuta’s open-eyed dozing, Maya certainly seemed to have caught on, her yellow irises full of ill rebuke. Yet, she had kept it to herself, almost as if to not hurt Helena any more than she was. This definitely worked in Mikuta's favor.

“It is Sister Helena’s dream to one day help the less fortunate beings, regardless of race.”

She paused as Helena, on queue, interrupted her from saying anything else on her part. Maya quietly obliged as she bowed out. With a firm cough, Helena cleared away any thoughts she had on the past topic.

“Though, yeah, it is my dream to one day open my own orphanage to help out everyone.”

She stood proudly, but Mikuta couldn’t help but detect another unintended fallacy. Perhaps she was attempting to be an ass about the topic or was simply curious as to why Helena had thought that, but in the end, Mikuta had irreversibly spoken out her immediate thoughts without giving concern to Helena’s situation.

Mikuta slowly spoke, savoring each word to get her point across. Oh yeah, she definitely was enjoying this crucial moment.

“You do realize that countless kids are suffering just like these, right? Does it really matter in the end? I mean that goal of yours.”

At those words, Maya scowled, baring her sharp fangs as she took a step forward before being stopped by Helena, who was also glowering at this response.

It was only for a moment, but Helena quickly returned to normal. Some time passed while Helena gave thought to Mikuta’s response.

“I think it’s what we do in the present, doing what we can for the people around us that makes us human. And making the most of it in any situation with the help of others while giving your own is what it means to be a truly good person in front of god.”

“I guess what I mean is: we can’t be there for everyone, but everyone can be there for others, know?”

She gave off a convincing smile, brighter than the early sun that had woken Mikuta up earlier in the day. Mikuta sighed, unconvinced by this act, but was happy to know Helena's inner machinations.

“It really is the small things you do in life huh.”


Helena gave an approving nod, thinking that she had gotten her message across to the absolutely incorrigible Mikuta. Though, Mikuta’s nature was obvious to the observant Maya, who could only suppress the urge to let Helena know.

Of course, Mikuta was well aware of this whole situation as well, and she began to feel very very pleased with herself for being the sole bearer of this knowledge.

She sat on the floor, tucking her legs in a criss-cross, looking up at Helena’s face quizzically. Helena, on the other hand, awaited her response.

“So what were you studying for anyways with that book of yours?”

“Oh, it’s for becoming a certified caretaker and spellcaster.”

Mikuta was amazed to hear that term - the term spellcaster. Maybe she was in a world of magic after all, though it wouldn’t explain the very 21st-century streets that had no semblance of magic. She did wonder if there were wizards, sorcerers, and the like in the world.

“So… a witch?”

“Well, not exactly. Actually, it’d be easier to just show you.”

She pondered for a few moments, thinking to herself if it was a wise decision to let Mikuta know.

“Yeah, let me show you.”

Helena had held her hand out, and chanted the phrase "toradh lasair". 

From her palm, she had produced a tiny orange flame that soon flickered out of existence. There was no trace of the heat, no trace of any sort of scorching that should've happened at the close proximity her hand was in contact with the flame. It truly was something magical that is only available in this world.

Huh, neat.

“I need to be able to do a little more than this to pass through. These cantrips are kinda hard to do.”

"Hey, do you think you can teach-"

“Maya thinks it's time for you two to leave.”

Mikuta was rudely interrupted by the catgirl, who was looking at a wristwatch with broken glass. The hands were still ticking, pointing at a five and a twelve.

“Big sis, It’s already five. I think you should leave.”

Her eyes were deadly serious, but Mikuta didn’t entertain the thought. Helena, on the other hand, was also very worried.

“Oh, it’s already that time?”

She began to gather up the baskets.

“I’ll come around next week, so be on the lookout!”

Mikuta and Helena began to walk out, but Helena was stopped by Maya. Helena turned around but was met with a peck on her cheek.

“Thank you for everything.”

Her eyes were full of bona fide gratitude and... a tinge of something else. Mikuta put her hand over her mouth, slyly smirking to herself on the inside.

Oh, I see how it is.

“Stay safe, Helena.”

“You too, Maya.”

The orphans waved goodbye as Helena and Mikuta made their way out of the cathedral, and back towards the capital.