Chapter 5:

The Rest

An Old Friend's Final Request

It's hard to tell how much time has passed when you can't sleep. The only judge of time I have is Gertrude's garden. The snow has melted to give way for her flowers and vegetables that she tenderly cares for every day. I should've counted how many times the plants were raised from the ground as a makeshift measure of time since she grows different plants for each season. I can't feel heat or cold to determine the seasons and the evergreens don't help. Neither does my memories from life bleeding into to my memories from death.
Although I'm not exactly sure if I am still producing memories or if they're just figments of my imagination. This world is wrong, but I'm not sure I can describe how. The world is real, but it's not. Imagination seems like the most fitting word. I can't see the world, I imagine it. I can't hear sounds, I feel them. I can't smell scents, I know them.
Except Gotthard. He's more real than anything. He doesn't flicker, he doesn't fade. I can see, hear, smell, and touch him. He's real. Even other spirits are drawn to him, although they usually remain at their tree.

I can't interact with the mortal world, save for extending my mana in the form of loose tendrils, and hearing the thoughts of anyone it touches. A skill I'm certain I never possessed in life. I've never even heard of such a convenient power. Would've made living with Mia a lot easier. How long has it been since I've seen her?
It's strange. Despite living nearly my whole life with Mia and watching Eena grow up, I feel like I never knew them as much as I know these new people. I know Gertrude, Adam, and this new Eena better than I've ever known my own wife and child. Hearing someone's thoughts is almost too useful.

Eena, no matter however much time has passed, never says more than 'thank you for the food,' and answers to whatever basic questions Gotthard asks her while they travel out. She has learned to control her mana to cast the most basic of water spells though. A far cry from the little girl who tried to befriend everyone she met. And I still haven't seen my wife. Eena's sure she's dead, but she would've shown up by now. I'm sure I returned to Alsfeld at some point to look for her. Where are you Mia...

Gotthard however, remains the mystery he always was. This is because he occupies the elusive second floor. I can't actually touch the cottage floor. I just phase through it, but I'm tall enough to reach anyone on the first floor. The steps up to the second floor are out of the question. And although I can touch Gotthard, I can't interact with him. I tried hitching a ride on him to look over his notes, but he flowed past my hand like a river around a rock. Even in my grave, he manages to defy my will.
I may have been the 'leader' of our squad, but I think he'd rather die than admit that. I wonder if he even remembers those days. I think humans start losing their memories by seventy. It would be an easy explanation as to why he's never mentioned me or the rest of us to Gertrude and Adam. The ten of us built this cottage as a sort of base, but it quickly became our haven. A place to relax and forget about all the lives we had taken. A place where we could talk about something other than our missions and let our guard down. Where we perused our hobbies for the first time in forever. Oddly enough, those hobbies ended up bringing us all closer together but also set us all to follow our own paths. The first place most of us could call home.

Even if humans lose their memories, Gotthard couldn't have forgotten that. He's a bastard through and through, but he's not heartless.