Chapter 27:

A Reason to Live

Chained Regalia

“L-Layn? Layn!” I’d seen Lucia look tense before, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen a look of fear on her face quite like this.

Finally, as if deciding I’d been given enough time, my nerves seemed to catch up. All at once, every neuron in my brain began to scream that I was in pain.

“AGGGHHHHHHHHHNNNN—” I let out an inhuman wail, but I couldn’t even hear how it sounded.

I couldn’t hear anything anymore.

I couldn’t see anything anymore.

My mind was too overwhelmed. My brain burned. My arm burned. My entire body felt like it was being immolated from the inside out.

It hurt it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts—

I was clawing at my face with my other arm, digging my nails into my head and breaking through the skin in a desperate attempt to divert the pain signals somewhere else.

I couldn’t feel it.

It hurt it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts—

I already knew what I needed to do. I needed to focus, to ignore the pain and restore my arm before it was too late. My wound was massive, so it’d take a lot out of me to manifest it; I’d probably die pretty quickly if I didn’t act immediately.

But I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t strong enough.

At that moment, I would rather die than feel the burning any longer. I prayed that the pain would finally cease, one way or another.

It hurts… but at least I got to save her… I wasn’t completely useless in the end, right?

I can die without feeling ashamed this time, right?

“Layn, come back to me! Please! Please!”

I couldn’t hear anything anymore; yet, impossibly, I heard her voice. It felt like a whisper, even though I knew it was a shout. It felt distant, even though I knew it was close. It felt like a lie… but I knew it was real.

And that shout was enough to finally make me realize something, even though I knew it had been true for a long time.

I would never feel satisfied dying here. But I didn’t regret pushing Lucia out of the way, either. I wanted her to live, and I would do anything to ensure that.

But I wanted to be there, too, right by her side. It had stopped being about repaying a debt to her long ago, even if I refused to admit it. It wasn’t about simply helping her realize her dream; it was about walking on that journey alongside her.

I had dedicated everything I had to becoming the best Chain I could for her. Why? Sure, I did it for her sake, but it was just as much for myself. I wanted to protect this life, more than anything. Somewhere along the line, I grew to treasure this new life I had, to love it and the time I spent with the people here.

With the new people I’d just met, who showed me kindness and respect—or, in one case, concern—despite us being complete strangers.

With Alwey and Selina, who had devoted everything they had to helping me when I struggled, and whose company made me feel at home in this foreign world.

And, of course, with Lucia. The one I could let my guard down around, and who let her guard down around me. The one who had brought me into this world and never stopped believing in me. The one I’d willingly follow to Hell and back without hesitation. The one I swore to protect, who swore to protect me in return.

I refused to leave that all behind. This was my life, and I wanted nothing more than to continue living in it.

Maybe I am worthless. Maybe I am incompetent. Maybe I don’t deserve this life. And maybe, no matter how hard I try, I’ll still fail.

But am I really going to lose everything I treasure, all because I’m too scared to even try and hold on to it?

She believes in me, after all. She’d probably be lonely without me, anyway, so it’d be cruel of me to leave her behind...

I know I’d be lonely without her, so I get the feeling.

“ANNNGGGGGHHHHH—” I could hear my delirious screaming—but that meant I was back in tune with reality.

The surging pain from the arm that no longer existed hadn’t eased, and my entire body still felt like it was on fire. But I ignored it. I wouldn’t let it conquer me.

I narrowed my eyes, trying to sharpen my blurry vision as best as I could, and visualized, with as much detail as possible, the arm I now lacked.

Every curve. Every bump. Every blemish. Every little detail.

“Believe in yourself every once a while, alright?”

I let out one final scream—not one of pain or fury, but an incoherent cry for the victory I was certain I would achieve.

* * *

Apparently, I must’ve blacked out at some point. I didn’t know how much time had passed before I came to, but, at the very least, the rest of the battle must have wrapped up, because everyone was standing around me. I’d been brought over to the house and laid against the wall.

Admittedly, it was probably more correct to say we had been laid against the wall. Lucia’s arms were completely wrapped around my body, and she was sobbing quietly into my shoulder, so we were practically bound together at the moment. I couldn’t remember ever seeing her quite like this before, so I didn’t know how to process it.

I urged my brain to open and close my right hand. I was still frankly a little worried, but, to my relief, the once-severed limb obliged. I hadn’t died, so I figured it must’ve worked, but it was still a weight off my shoulders to know for sure.

Now seeing that I was awake, the faces around me all began to get expressions of happiness, relief, or some mixture of the two.

I’m glad to see you guys, too.

My eyes drifted downwards towards the one person whose face I couldn’t see. Her dress was stained red all over, which was definitely my fault. That probably meant she’d been clinging to me the whole time, even during the ordeal.

Clinging… to me? It really happened after all, huh?

I couldn’t say for sure why she was doing it; all I knew for certain was that, just as I saved her life back there, she was the reason I was still alive right now. I’d all but given up, and her voice saved me. Her voice always saved me.

In this moment, more than ever, I was reassured that this life was worth living. That I was happy to be living it.

It was a little embarrassing with everyone watching, but I began to gently stroke Lucia’s hair as she continued to cry on me for a while longer. In fact, not much later, I started to cry a little myself.

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