Level 979 1

Vincent had once again found himself sitting in a dark alleyway of Level 11, merely observing the trash scattered around him while being lost in thought. He couldn't stop thinking about what happened a few days earlier. How he almost died, how he became a God, and how he was saved by Philia on a whim.

All the people he had killed, those cursed murderers who took away everything he had… What could he do now? He had nothing left, he shouldn't even be alive, he should have died after eliminating all who had wronged him and the one he loved. He had nothing to live for anymore.

He felt lost.

His current train of thoughts was interrupted by a familiar presence sitting by his side. Philia had come all the way to level 11 to check up on him.

"What is troubling you, Vincent?”

She said in a soft tone, giving him a kind smile in hopes of cheering him up just a little. Vincent returned the smile, though with a hint of suffering.

"I’m… thinking. Thinking about everything that happened two days ago… I shouldn't be here, you know? I was sure I'd end up dying after doing what I had to do, and now… I don't have a home, I don't have any friends, and nothing else to do…

Philia… I’m lost."

She slightly frowned, placing her hand on top of his, as she returned to smile soon after.

"It isn't true when you say that you have nothing else to do, or when you say that you have no friends. I am your friend, and I'm here for you…

I will help you find a purpose in your life, I will listen to your sorrows and wipe your tears, I won't leave you all alone.”

I just… need you to keep hanging on, okay? I need you to let me guide you."

“Wh- Why do you care so much about me? We barely met a few days ago and all you know about me is that I’m some messed up excuse of a human named Vincent…”

"Because I know how much pain you are in. I lost everything just like you did… I want to help you, so you will not deal with this pain on your own.

I want you to find peace of mind, because you deserve to continue living and rest from all that happened."

Vincent seemed to hesitate for a moment before answering, his voice shook with the effort to hide what he felt.

“Fine, I’ll take you up on that offer. Not like I have anything to lose anyway.”

Philia gave him a big hug, holding him close against her as she happily nuzzled with him.

"I promise you that I'll do all I can to be the best companion you can ask for! You can tell me all that's been weighing you down, you can cry if you need to. Just please… be truthful about how you're feeling right now.

Then when you feel released from all those pent-up emotions, we can take a stroll, alright? Who knows, we may find something cool."

Vincent began to cry after all the affection that was given by Philia, all of the memories of his wife and all that happened afterwards came back in his head like a speeding train. He couldn't hold it in anymore.

"It's… not good for you to keep in your pain for so long, think of it this way. You may fill a balloon with helium for a very long time, but at one point… it'll pop.

Nothing can bottle up so many things forever, jars are made to be emptied out every once in a while, aren't they?"

Vincent covered his face, feeling like a putrid bundle of nothing.

"If I had stayed home… she would have been fine, she was waiting for me… and I didn't return for her. They took her instead of me.

Every single second I keep thinking about the possibility of what if I was there at her place…

They took her away from me, all because they are full of hatred and revenge. She got involved because of me!"

Philia softly rubbed his back, caressing the back of his head in a gentle motion.

"You were never at fault, Vincent. The Iron Fist… they have lost all sense of reason. You just wanted to do your job as a journalist, you had a dream… you didn't deserve this.

You wanted people to know about our existence. You found those hidden texts… you couldn't know what was going to happen. You shouldn't blame yourself for not being home when that tragedy happened."

"I just… It's difficult… to think that I can continue living, while having all this guilt suffocating me. I don't know how to do this, I don't know how to feel better…

I just wanted to live a quiet life with her…"

Philia wiped his tears with her thumbs, concentrating her magic to soothe him. She washed away a bit of his suffering, like a small and gentle wave on the ocean shore.

"It's perfectly okay to feel lost, to not know how to go on. I know how it feels, but I also know that this big scar of yours will heal.

Time heals all wounds, and 5hey becomes visible reminders of the past.

They will never disappear fully, but they will not drag you in a pit of guilt, because all broken things can mend.

Letting go… is difficult, but it's entirely possible, and one day, you will be able to do it too. Okay?"

It seemed there was something about Philia that Vincent couldn't shrug off. Despite how tired and worn out he was, Philia still made him smile… For the first time in forever.

Her words reached his heart, and were able to give him temporary reassurance and relief. For now he could try to continue marching forward, despite the thoughts of his suffering haunting his mind.

"Aww! You're smiling! That's so cute! Look at you!"

Unable to contain her excitement, Philia lightly squished his cheeks, before picking him up with no effort needed. He was as light as a feather for her.

"Do you feel ready to go around?"

“Yes… I’m ready. Thank you.”

He felt really small at that moment, but it didn't feel bad. In fact, it was comforting.

Despite his current embarrassment from getting picked up as if he was a ragdoll, he quite enjoyed being carried around.

Philia seemed to be running so fast that he couldn't even process it, or rather, she's flying. Her wings are spread open as they both barely floated above ground. They traveled for an hour until they stumbled upon a strange building.

"Oh? Do you see this, Vincent? I've never seen this hotel in level 11 before!"

The building looked like it was ready to fall apart at sny moment. The windows were boarded up, but haphazardly, like the ones who shuttered it were in a hurry. The empty billboard on the roof sagged, one side higher than the other, the words long faded.

"Looks so… run down. Almost as if it was abandoned." Vincent commented, seemingly curious about its history.

"I think we could go check it out, don't you think? Maybe we can spend our time exploring it! Who knows, maybe we could even find treasure!

"It's best to be realistic at times, as you might only end up disappointing yourself"

"Hmph, come on, you don't know! What if we find a nice amulet or trinket? Or what if we find a luxurious bedroom with all kinds of foods?

It won't hurt to try, will it?"

"Alright…" Vincent chuckled, returning her smile, "Let's see what wonders this place has in store for us.”

Philia carried Vincent inside of the strange building. They quickly no-clipped the moment they entered through the door.

They were now inside a good looking hotel. It seemed to be empty, but well decorated. It was pretty spacious, although it lacked supplies.

However the moment Vincent was put back on the ground, the level reacted to his presence. Philia could see a few of the hallways become infested by a dark fluid. It seems that Vincent accidentally took over this place.

Philia didn't seem to be concerned about this, instead she turned to him with a bright smile. She knew exactly how to keep his mind distracted from his grief. One day, when he heals from said grief, the liquid would disappear and Vincent could live without her.

"I know what we can do with this place. Like a little passion project between you and me!

But… we will need to hide our past from the public eye, don't you think?

Hmmm… I think I know… how we can make this work."

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