Drakengard 2 Novella Translation: The Garden of Light
When was the last time I dreamed? When had my sleep become dreamless?
All sleeping consisted of now was closing my eyes and waiting for my consciousness to fall down a deep, dark chasm…
Eris turned to avoid the morning light pouring onto her face. She had purposefully had her bed moved to the corner of the room where the sun shone the strongest for fear that without it, she might never awake. Her body’s fatigue was not the sort that could be alleviated by a single night’s rest.
Sighing, she began to focus on getting herself out of bed. Her body was stiff in the mornings and creaked in resistance to every movement. Her back gave an audible crack, but ignoring the compulsion to fall back into bed, Eris gingerly placed her feet onto the floor. Slowly but surely she went about her morning routine, brushing her hair and putting on her clothes. Sadly, these small tasks made her well out of breath.
(There’s no use in getting down about it. After all, this body no longer my own.)
Eris was the Goddess that carried the Seal that kept the world from reverting to its chaotic primordial state. In other words, she was the pillar that upheld the world as humanity knew it. As such, from the moment she took on the role, Eris believed that her body and life were not hers alone… even if the pain of the Seal was.
Rising, Eris began to walk while holding onto the wall. Her steps were heavy. It reminded her of how she used to cross rivers outfitted in plate armor as part of her training with the Knights of the Seal, back when it was still under the command of General Oror. She must have been around twelve at the time… perhaps slightly younger, since she and Nowe were still squires. Nowe had learned enough of human speech to communicate mostly normally, but he would still sometimes make mistakes. Eris always took care to correct him. It was all so nostalgic, now… For a moment, the warm memories flooded out the pain in her chest, but as if in retaliation, it came back fiercer than ever. Stopping in her tracks, hands still on the wall, Eris struggled to support her body which was on the verge of collapse.
The Seal manifests as a brand on the Goddess’ body that sends continuous currents of pain coursing through it. However, the pain the Seal caused Eris was never consistent. It ebbed and flowed, and at times she would find herself in the throes of an agony much more intense than usual, as was the case now. But Eris, a veteran warrior in the service of the Knights since the age of nine, knew how to manage pain. There had been countless times in the past where she had no choice but to work her way through it in order to continue brandishing her spear while battling monsters or quelling civil unrest. And while the pain of the Seal was of a different order entirely than that of a mere bodily injury, the methods of coping were about the same. Fear and alarm only made things worse. It was of the utmost importance to not become panicked and focus on regulating one’s breathing. This did not erase the pain, but made it much easier to endure.
When the convulsions had alleviated a bit, Eris continued her journey. If she was too late getting to the dining room, it would inconvenience the people responsible for preparing her meals. Originally her servants wanted to bring her food to her room, but Eris wouldn’t have that. If she didn’t try to get at least some exercise, her body would weaken, which would make the pain worse. And if she didn’t expend any energy, she would lose her appetite entirely; it was already poor as it was. Walking on her own two feet and eating three proper meals… these were the two most important tasks in Eris’ day. If she became unable to complete even them, she would know her end was near.
(But no, I shall not die.)
Holding her head up high, Eris continued putting one foot in front of the other. Her long day had only just begun…
The Hierarch Seere came to visit Eris a little past noon. As the Goddess, she was largely prohibited from interacting with others, so it fell to the Hierarch to see to most of her needs. That was the commandment of old, but as the Hierarch had taken on many more responsibilities since the formation of the Knights of the Seal, Eris was allowed a few servants to look after her. They were not to engage her any more than necessary, however, and so the current Hierarch’s role became that of the Goddess’ confidant; someone to talk to and help ease her sense of isolation.
“Good afternoon, Eris.”
Hierarch Seere’s child-like body had not grown at all in the past nine years, but in truth, he was six years Eris’ senior.
“How do you feel today?”
“Very well, thanks to your visit.”
“You aren’t tired? Is it all right for you to be sitting up?”
He reminded her of a little boy fretting over his mother, which made Eris smile. While Seere’s unchanging form was undoubtedly a source of consternation to himself, it put Eris greatly at ease.
“I’m fine. Actually, I was planning on taking a stroll once I’d finished reading these prayers.”
“Eris… You are amazing.”
“You are! You always walk with such perfect posture. No one would ever suspect you were in pain just to look at you. Come to think of it, it was the same back then… when you shrugged off that near fatal wound as if it were nothing.”
Seere was referring to the time Eris had been dealt a grave injury by the former head of the Knights, General Gismor. The cowardly Gismor had used Eris’ body as a shield against her friend Nowe’s sword. It had been nearly a decade now, but Nowe’s devastated expression remained fresh in her mind. Seere felt the moment exemplified Eris’ hardiness and strength.
“My Lord Hierarch, it was thanks to your healing magic that I recovered.”
“No, I don’t believe that to be so. The wound was deep enough that my magic may very well have had no effect at all. It was due to your vitality and extraordinary determination that I was able to save you.”
“Yes, well… It would take more than that to do me in!” Eris joked. That she could still laugh meant the world to her.
“This might sound all wrong, but… in a way, I’m glad you were the one to become the Goddess. I can think of no one else who could bear the burden of the Seal, now so much heavier than it was for Goddesses past…”
At one time there had been three additional Seals to lighten the Goddess’ load. However, the Empire had destroyed them, making it so the Goddess had to carry the weight of the world on her own. The cruelty of the act upset Eris deeply, and had been the sole reason behind her decision to start training in case she might ever have to take on the role.
“Say, how about we stroll through the garden? The weather is nice out today.”
(The garden? Oh, that’s right. Today is…)
“That sounds lovely.”
Closing her prayer book, Eris rose.
Nine years since the world was pulled back from the brink of destruction. The Key System, which had required the sacrifice of so many, was dismantled and the Knights of the Seal formed anew. Even the Goddess’ Castle had been rebuilt, and was now full of people. The trees in the inner garden, which had been saplings when they were planted, now extended high above Eris’ head. The carefully tended flower bed bloomed with a variety of seasonal flowers, surrounded by fluttering butterflies. So beautiful was the scenery that no one would have believed that two had lost their lives here, vanishing in a haze of flame…
“Eris, would you like to rest?” Seere inquired concernedly. For her aching body, the journey to the garden was an arduous one. Perhaps he had noticed her shortness of breath.
“Yes. For a bit.”
“I’ll call someone to bring you a chair.”
“That’s all right.”
Smiling, Eris shook her head before settling down on the ground beneath a tree. The afternoon sun, filtered through the leaves, was warm and pleasant.
“This reminds me of my days with the Knights…”
“Come to think of it, you and Nowe were always training out in the garden.”
“Yes, we’d train until we were out of breath, then fall flat on our backs until we were rested. Then we’d go right back to sparring.”
The dazzling sunlight, the rustling of the leaves in the wind, the smell of the grass… while the place she was in and the person she was with differed, these things alone had not changed.
“It has been nine years… since the Red Dragon perished in this garden.”
While a proud member of the dragon race, the Red Dragon had entered into a pact with a human and then saw fit to sacrifice herself for mankind. She became the Goddess, a role that normally would have fallen to Eris, who was a newborn at the time. The strain of the Seal would have killed her, so the former Hierarch, Verdelet, accepted the Red Dragon’s offer and performed the sealing ceremony on her.
Exactly how Goddesses were selected and how the Seal was transferred to them was shrouded in mystery. There had been women who had no choice in the matter, but also those who had personally volunteered themselves. The last human Goddess, Furiae, lost her life to the Empire. If not for that, she may have lived long enough for Eris to reach a suitable age to inherit the duty. If she had, then perhaps Verdelet would have refused the Dragon’s offer, and the tragedy created by having an inhuman Goddess could have been averted. Surely the man had not been foolish enough not to consider the risks.
And so, Eris was determined to live as long as possible to make sure the next Goddess would be an adult and not a child. Although, since the Goddess selection process was so incomprehensible, she was not sure how much good her resolve would do…
“It was also nine years after the Red Dragon became the Goddess that you first joined the Knights.”
That was true, now that Seere mentioned it. Eris had parted with her parents, abandoned her status as a noble and left home all at the tender age of nine.
“I remember passing by you in the hall that day.”
Eris didn’t recall. She didn’t remember anything about that day save for her last look at her mother’s face and the long corridor she had been led down which she feared would never end.
“You didn’t notice me. You were too busy glaring at the back of the knight who was escorting you, biting your lip.”
“How rude of me…”
“Not at all. I’d heard of your situation from Verdelet, so I understood how you must have felt. I was struck by how mature you seemed for a nine year old. When I made my pact with Golem, I didn’t understand a thing.”
Eris had heard that Seere had entered a pact at only six years of age, following the death of his mother.
“Well, there’s a world of difference between six and nine.”
“But my sister Manah has always been more mature than me, and we’re twins.”
When Eris heard the name Manah, a dull pain shot through her breast.
“Ah, yes, your… sister. Is she well?”
Eris struggled to keep her voice steady. Luckily, Seere didn’t notice.
“She is! After everything that happened, she left on a journey… but it seems she settled down around three years ago.”
Eris’ heart skipped a beat. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear any more.
“She’s running an orphanage now, taking care of little children.”
“She writes me letters now and then.”
Seere mentioned that she was living in a city in a different country.
“Does she ever plan on returning…?”
“I’ve asked her the same thing, but she says she couldn’t, since the children would get lonely without her.”
Seere chuckled, remembering something.
“All Manah ever writes about in her letters are her children! This one said this, this one did that… this child worries me, this child needs extra attention… and on and on. It’s as if she’s their real mother! I never imagined Manah could be so nurturing.”
Eris had also heard tell that Manah was mistreated by her mother, in stark contrast to Seere who had been bathed in her love. She probably saw herself in those children with no parents to love them, and wished to provide them with the same love she’d longed for herself as a babe.
Eris had felt similarly looking after Nowe. Although they were both so young, she took care of him in the way she wished her mother had been around to take care of her. Seeing Nowe happy made her feel happy as well.
“At first I wondered whether letting her leave on a journey was wise… but now I’m glad, as she seems so contented.”
“That is… good to hear.”
If Manah was in a distant land, yet to return… that meant she hadn’t been with Nowe. Of course, he could have visited her on his own, but Eris had been told that Nowe was so busy since becoming the new leader of the Knights of the Seal that he had no time to himself. And he had lost the set of wings that could have swiftly flown him there…
(Look at me. Hearing the two of them are apart has made me feel such relief.)
“Eris, may I ask a personal question?”
“W-why, yes. What is it?” Eris stammered. For a moment, she thought Seere might have been able to read her mind. But no… it was his sister that had the knack for reading people, Eris thought with a bitter smirk. She remembered Seere telling her Manah developed the skill as a direct result of her mother’s abuse.
“Why won’t you meet with Nowe? You haven’t seen him once in these past nine years, even though the two of you are like family.”
“Family…? Yes… he thought of me like… family…”
From the day she had met him, Nowe had been precious to Eris. It was thanks to him that she had recovered her lost smile. If he was by her side, she felt she could take on any challenge. Suffice it to say that her feelings toward him extended far beyond the familial… but to him, she was but a sister.
“I must obey the commandment that dictates that the Goddess of the Seal not be in contact with anyone from the outside world… not even her family.”
Nowe occasionally sent Eris letters describing what was going on in his life and the world at large. His childish scrawl hadn’t changed a bit, which made her happy. She had read those dozen or so letters so many times over the years, running her hands over the pages, that she could probably recite them from memory if prompted.
However, she hadn’t once replied to any of them. Of course, she had Seere thanks Nowe for writing them. But that was all.
“It is for the best that I not interact with anyone more than the commandment permits.” Eris answered to form, but in her heart, she felt the pangs of her conscience.
“You know…” Seere began, a bit hesitantly. “Eris, that commandment is not as strict as you seem to think.”
“It’s more of a general guideline. While not allowed to associate with too many people, a Goddess’ family would never actually be turned away if they came to see her. And, if she really desired it, she would be allowed outdoors, albeit with heavy surveillance.”
“I bet you just thought to yourself that a rule that isn’t abided by is as good as meaningless, didn’t you? Honestly, you’re so serious.”
Eris thought Seere was about to laugh, but he didn’t. His smile was a dark one. It was an adult expression, ill-suited to his cherubic face.
“Letting you see your family or venture outside… the Hierarchs would classify these things as special exceptions to reward your for your hard work.”
“Special exceptions? But Lord Hierarch, you just said…”
Eris began, but she closed her mouth as understanding dawned on her.
It is said all Goddesses are doomed to live short lives. That is how heavy the burden of the Seal is. On top of that, there is the despair of knowing the pain will not cease until the exact moment of one’s death. It was little wonder that so many Goddesses in the past had chosen suicide as a means of escape. The reason they were so strictly monitored, then, was to make sure they didn’t make any attempts. And the reason they were kept from seeing anyone was to make sure they didn’t try to run away with a lover or friend…
However, if nothing else, humans are adept at surviving. If they have even the smallest glimmer of hope, they can keep on going. That was the real meaning behind those rewards. Even the smallest of joys would seem like godsends to someone living the stark lifestyle of a Goddess.
“The rewards send the message that if you want more, you must continue to endure.”
In truth, they only served to help keep the Goddesses under control.
“It is one of the ways the Hierarchs have manipulated Goddesses into staying in line. An underhanded method.”
“But a clever one, as well.”
Eris did not know who had been the first to think of it, but he grasped the human psyche. What wretched, selfish creatures humans are in the end… myself included, thought Eris.
“It only works on human Goddesses, though. A dragon cannot be cajoled in the same manner.”
“Is that why the former Hierarch did what he did?”
Verdelet strengthened the seal on the Red Dragon by creating five Keys which served to completely rob her of her freedom, and which required the sacrifice of many lives.
“That was the only way he could think of to ensure the Seal’s protection. But he was sorely mistaken…”
The Red Dragon went mad and the world fell into peril once more. Tragedy had been wrought by human selfishness yet again…
“Lord Hierarch, was it all right for you to tell me all that? You can no longer use those methods to influence me.”
“I couldn’t have in any case, due to your devotion to the rules.”
Seere was right. But, he didn’t know the true reason behind Eris’ strict adherence to them.
“Do you see now? That is the truth behind the commandment. You don’t have to force yourself not to see Nowe.”
“No… Even knowing the truth, still, I cannot see him.”
Seere’s expression was that of confusion.
“It is because I know of the last moments between the Red Dragon and her pact partner.”
Eris had not been there to witness them personally, but Nowe had described them to her as they rode atop Legna to the Promised Land.
“I understand that one of the reasons the Red Dragon went insane was because she lost the ability to see or communicate with her beloved.”
Ironically, it was Seere’s sister Manah who had destroyed the Keys sealing the Red Dragon’s five senses, along with Nowe who sympathized with her cause. However, having already plunged into the depths on madness, the Red Dragon thought only of burning the world she cursed to ashes.
Each of her screams pierced Nowe’s heart, as he was capable of understanding the speech of dragons. He said he would never forget her sorrowful voice as she called over and over for her other half, the man named Caim…
“Unable to comprehend that the person she most wanted to see was right beside her, by the time she regained her senses, she was at death’s door…”
The reunion between the couple, the one they had endured eighteen years of suffering for, ended in seconds. That was all the time the Red Dragon had left before the light left her eyes.
“Now I know her anguish, for it is my own. It makes me shudder to think that, since she was not human, she had to suffer far worse than I…”
Unable to see or hear, even feel her own limbs, she had been jailed in a prison cruel beyond imagining. Her only sensation was the intense pain of the Seal. And all because humans had felt anxiety over not being able to manipulate her, because they could not trust her… just for that, they cast the Red Dragon into a living hell.
“When I imagine her pain… the pain of not being able to see the man she loved… there is no way I could allow myself to meet with Nowe.”
(No, that’s just me trying to pretty the picture. In truth, I am not so different from those Hierarchs. I am selfish, unfair… and weak.)
“Eris, Verdelet was the one who created the Key System. And I was the one who let it go on. The people responsible for Angelus’ suffering are he and I. Why must you pay the price?”
“Because I wished for the Red Dragon to remain the Goddess forever. If she had, I could have led the life of an ordinary human woman. That was all that mattered to me. I thought not once of her pain. That is my sin.”
Perhaps it was divine punishment that the woman named Manah took Nowe away.
“Did you think you could have him? You, who’s never been allowed to have anything?”
Eris had felt Manah’s red eyes whispering those words to her each time she looked into them. They had enraged her, incited her hatred… to the point that Eris was ready to kill her.
(Ah… In the end, I’m still jealous. Jealous of Manah, who stole Nowe’s heart. Even after becoming the Goddess, my heart is no purer…)
“Even if Nowe came to see you… would you still refuse to meet with him?”
“If he came to see me…?”
“He told me to keep it a secret, but the truth is Nowe has come to this castle every year on the same day. The anniversary of the day you became the Goddess.”
Eris had believed that if they did not meet, Nowe would come to forget her. That he would stop writing letters and settle down with Manah. She had been mistaken. Manah left for another land, and not only was he still sending her letters, Nowe traveled here every year…
“Today is that day. The day the Red Dragon died and you became Goddess.”
How could she forget? It had been nine years since the ceremony ended and Eris had parted ways with Nowe.
“Don’t be sad, Nowe. I’m merely returning to the role that was mine to begin with.” She had told him, but she was putting on a strong front. It took all she had to keep from weeping, and she knew if she looked at Nowe’s face she would, so she kept her eyes lowered. Afterwards, she would regret not taking one last good look at him.
“If you’re willing to… you could meet with him today.”
Nowe. Eris longed to see him. She knew she did not have much longer to live. The day they would be separated forever was fast approaching. She knew this. She knew this, and yet…
“No! No, Lord Hierarch, I cannot!”
Even she was surprised by the emotion in her voice.
“I… I swore an oath. That I would not die until the day I could reunite with Nowe.”
She swore such an oath despite thinking… because she thought they would never see each other again. That was why she had been able to keep resisting, to keep desperately trying to live, if only one day longer.
“Until the day we meet again, I will live. That thought has given me enormous strength. It’s not an exaggeration to say it has kept me alive until now. Far more than the weight of my duty to keep the world safe…”
Before she had become the Goddess, Erin thought she could sustain herself on her sense of duty alone. But she couldn’t. It just wasn’t enough.
“If the oath were fulfilled, if I met with him now… then surely my will shall break. And then I would have no choice but to let death take me. Even though that’s not proper of me… as… the Goddess…”
Eris felt the tears rolling down her face. No matter how she reprimanded herself, there was no end to them.
“Don’t cry, Eris. I’m sorry… truly sorry…” Seere brushed her cheeks with his little hands. “I did a cruel thing, not understanding how you felt…” His words were those of a man, though the fingers wiping away her tears were a boy’s.
“No. Now I know that Nowe has never truly forgotten me. I will always be grateful to you for telling me that.”
Eris felt certain that Nowe was the same as ever. Surely his eyes were just as honest and gentle… and maddeningly pure. She knew that if she saw them, she’d wind up telling him not to worry about her and go be happy with Manah. Then she would regret having done so from the bottom of her heart. She would wonder why she had added to her already considerable suffering. Eris was terrified of weaving those words she did not mean, and so had avoided answering Nowe’s letters. Her adherence to the commandment was an excuse, an escape from him and the truth in her heart. But things couldn’t go on this way. Her time was almost at an end.
“Lord Hierarch, please tell Nowe this: I will meet him here in three years.”
In three years she would be approaching the end of her life, if she was not dead already. Seere, too, must have known this.
(I’m a mean one, aren’t I? Making Nowe wait longer than he already has. But…)
“If I carry out my duties as the Goddess for over a decade, surely even the Red Dragon will forgive me.”
And by then Nowe will have surely awakened to his true feelings for Manah and his desire to be with her.
Next year was too soon. Neither Nowe or Manah could yet forgive themselves for exposing the entire world to danger in the name of their shallow justice. That was why they chose to separate. Eris could only guess at Manah’s feelings, but she knew Nowe’s better than he did. Him becoming the new head of the Knights and sacrificing every moment in service to them and Manah leaving to care for orphans in a foreign land… Both were acts of repentance. But in three years time, things might change within them. After having lived for more than a decade as sinners, they may allow themselves to take each others hand. They may think of a different way to repent. So Eris believed.
“This day, three years from now, shall be our day of promise.”
Even if, by the time that day came, Eris was no longer among the living. No… perhaps she hoped she would not be, to keep from saying the words she so dearly wished not to. To not have to use her own lips to tell Nowe to forget her and find happiness with someone else…
“I should return to my room now.”
Eris stood up slowly. Her body ached as badly as ever, but she felt strangely calm.
“I’ll leave you here, Lord Hierarch. Please return to Nowe. I assume he isn’t far?”
Likely he was close enough that, should Eris have agreed to see him, he’d have appeared before her in just a few seconds. She was certain Seere would have arranged it that way.
“Will you be all right going back on your own?”
Watching Seere dash off like the child he appeared to be, Eris turned around. It occurred to her that this might very well be the last time she walked through this garden on her own two feet. Wanting to burn the scenery into her mind, she paused. Looking around, she witnessed a flood of color and light. Flowered blooming bright red and yellow, the vivid green of the trees, the deep brown of the soil. The singing birds, fluttering butterflies, even the insects crawling in the earth… the garden was teeming with life.
“It’s so beautiful…”
This is the world. The world that you revived, Nowe. And now, the world that I protect. This light belongs to you and I alone. As long as the world goes on existing, then you and I will always be linked.
“Nowe… This is the proof of my having lived.”
And I will live. As long as I can.
So Eris thought as she walked through the garden of light.