They’d done it. Jerry had been right. Only in fighting together had they managed to destroy the King. But while you can win a war, to truly end it, you must give the soldiers that waged it another way.
All throughout the fight, the Queen had risen in Sally. Higher than she had ever reached before. And she had felt far more complete.
She was no longer thinking of herself as the greatest force in all existence.
It wasn’t accurate to say she thought of herself at all anymore.
The guiding principle of Layra was slipping away. And in its place, all of the minds she had gathered lifted up together.
Joseph didn’t call Sally back, even as she ran right into the chaotic storm that was the split-apart minds of the King. They started to gather together above her. And they would do that – every single time they were split apart. She doubted the Coalition would be able to call on the energy required to destroy the King again. But they wouldn’t have to.
She settled her hands on her chest. She thought of Layra. Every lesson learned, every sacrifice given. She let the rest of those minds rise through her. All of them had ultimately wanted the same thing. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t all been Hendari. They’d started with the Hendari. And that’s what they were concentrated on right now. If the Coalition crystal had been so powerful because it had recognized the inherent strength of fighting as one, then the Queen offered the protection of weakness. That was just as powerful in its own way.
It was the recognition that nobody, no matter what you thought of them, was to be left behind.
She focused on those principles, and she felt the Queen rise from her.
Her force didn’t blast through things like the King. It just lifted and lifted and lifted like a single spark that could never be extinguished nor deviated from its ascendancy. This was truly what it was to rise.
You either rise with every single part of yourself, including the flaws that you try to hide, or you don’t rise at all – you divide.
As all of these forces lifted, the Queen started to form the true Hendari crystal. The one that stood for what the Hendari had been. Not what they had wanted in their weakest moments. Not the fears that had ultimately driven most of her race toward the King project. But the actual guiding morals that had managed to get them there. They might’ve been forgotten by the majority of Hendari society, but now she gave the psyches that had constituted the King another way. She let them glimpse what had once been at the heart of their exploration and drive for protection. And as one, they flocked back to her.
As their lights gathered together with the Queen, it grew brighter and brighter.
It started to solidify. It formed a crystal. Right there above Sally, a blessed sight she would never see again.
The so-called weak minds reached out to the strong. And together, they realized they’d always been the same anyway.
Silence reigned. It echoed through the phase realm just as she turned, and just as she threw herself at Joseph.
It was over.
She’d had to sacrifice many of the false beliefs that had once kept her whole but rigid. But her life wasn’t something she’d been forced to give up. And now she was determined to live it with Joseph.