Spoiler warning: do not read if you have not finished the entire novel.
Humans are rational beings.
As proof, humans invented the discipline known as science. An entire discipline founded on the assumption that every doubt can be formulated as a question, and that every question can be solved through experimental proof. As rational beings, we are unable to accept things without an explanation. Thus we strive to look for one.
Even before science, humans believed in gods. We relied on gods, spirits, angels, devils and mythical creatures to explain what happens around us. Most of us still believe in them. As rational beings, we are unable to accept things without an explanation. Thus, we make explanations for them. We made explanations for all the inexplicable things that occur all around us.
Even when God abandons us, we pray.
Even when calamity strikes, destroying the lives of tens of thousands of people, we pray, desperate to grab on to a final hope – some sort of explanation for the absurd loss of life, some sort of salvation from despair, anything. Aiyoku no Eustia is a story of rational beings, desperate for an explanation for their existence.
In other words, Aiyoku no Eustia is a story of faith.
Fione is one of those faithful people: the head of the government’s disease control division, responsible for bringing in the Winged People for treatment. Stubborn to a fault and uncompromising in her belief that her duty is “the right thing”, Fione encounters hostility from the Prison’s inhabitants. Believing that her job as a “Wing Hunter” is her fate, Fione is the kind of character who would protect her belief to the very end.
But sometimes, blind faith is poisonous.
A woman from the Lower Stratum, Fione is at odds with life in the Prison. Her faith in the just cause of her job blinds her to how the Prison’s citizens perceive the Wing Hunters. Caim, a citizen of the Prison, accompanies her in hunting the monster terrorizing the Prison’s inhabitants. Throughout the first chapter, Fione’s beliefs are tried, beginning with the revelation of her vice-captain’s wrongdoings. Her worst ordeal comes with the revelation that her brother – the brother that she so respects, and the entire reason she joined the Wing Hunters – is the murderous monster that she was put in charge of hunting. All this leads to the chapter’s climactic choice:
Caim is given the choice of dealing the finishing blow to Fione’s brother, or letting Fione herself finish the task. Regardless of the choice picked, Caim reveals to Fione the awful truth that he learned from Fione’s brother: that the Winged People taken in by the government are used in human experiments and disposed of. If Caim opts to kill Fione’s brother, Fione resigns from her post and becomes a housewife, leaning on Caim and running away from her responsibility. Upon picking the “correct” choice of letting Fione put her brother to rest, Caim forces Fione to face her responsibilities by angering her – preventing Fione from becoming dependent on him and allowing her to stand up on her own. At the end of Chapter 1, Fione once again takes the mantle of the Wing Hunter – no longer blindly faithful to her post, but instead using it to find out the truth behind the treatment of the Wing Disease.
Fione was able to stand up once more after losing her faith, but not everyone can do the same – especially not when you have nothing to pledge your faith to in the first place.
Although Eris’s chapter was poorly-executed, it’s still possible to appreciate the ideas behind Eris’s character. Having been imprisoned by her parents, treated as a prized doll, Eris grew up without any notion of independence. After being sold to the brothel, she finds her faith in blindly obeying orders, true to her self-identity as a doll. Caim, thinking that he can save Eris from her faith, buys her out of prostitution. But instead of becoming independent, Eris’s faith only switches to blind obedience to Caim – or so her characterization in Chapter 2 tells us. Chapter 2 being poorly-handled as it is, Eris’s “growth” only restores the status quo between her and Caim at the start of the novel.
Chapter 3 of Eustia presents a more straightforward story of faith by dealing with St. Irene, the religious figurehead of Novus Aether. After being saved from starvation, Collette and Lavi dedicate their lives to the Church, with Collette eventually taking the title of the 29th St. Irene.
Things become less straightforward when the role of St. Irene is revealed: Collette’s faith crumbles when she realizes that the prayers she makes do not actually make Novus Aether float. Collette clings to a new faith when she hears the voice of an “angel”; having found something new to believe in, Collette becomes firmly devoted, not noticing Lavi’s unwavering faith in Collette, establishing an unhealthy master-servant relationship that Caim attempts to fix.
Chapter 3’s climax arrives when Collette has to accept her responsibility as the Holy Maiden: to accept the curses of the people of Novus Aether once a disaster happens. Once again, the basic instinct of human faith arises: as rational beings, we cannot accept things that happen without an explanation – most especially when a calamity happens. Lavi – owing to her unwavering faith in Collette – bargains with Caim: Lavi offers Caim all her belongings in exchange for saving Collette from execution. Caim works in the background to save both Collette as “St. Irene” is sacrificed, restoring the faith of the masses to the Church.
Licia’s struggle in Chapter 4 results from her blind faith in the governance of Gilbert, and her lack of faith in her own capabilities. Unlike in the previous chapters, Licia’s conflict is not resolved by finding a new faith to rely on; instead, Caim convinces Licia to doubt everything and only trust her own judgment. Licia’s blind faith in Gilbert wavers for the first time upon seeing the squalid conditions of the Prison; from there, Licia ceases to become a puppet and learns to walk on her own – on the way finding her own method of ruling her subjects upon becoming the king of Novus Aether.
Perhaps this was the kind of “puppet becomes independent” story that Eris’s chapter attempted, but failed at.
At the center of it all is Caim, the protagonist. From the very start of the novel, he had nothing to believe in other than himself, surviving the harsh conditions of the Prison through cynicism and pessimism. Still, in his mind, the last words of his dead brother keep ringing: “Become a proper human being”. A dim hope keeps him alive – barely – but stagnating in the confines of the Prison. As the protagonist, Caim encounters all the heroines – Fione, Eris, Collette, Lavi, and Licia – and watches as they struggle with their faith. In the process, Caim loses many of the things that he previously believed in and grabs on to new beliefs.
The biggest influence on Caim’s faith is not any of the previous heroines; it is in fact, Lucius, the nobleman that Caim works for to unravel the mysteries of Novus Aether. Lucius’s judgment is purely utilitarian: he follows the path which saves the most people in exchange for the least number of lives lost. Without hesitation, he chooses to sacrifice the citizens of the Prison in order to keep Novus Aether afloat until his research on the angels’ powers bears fruit. Lucius’s faith in the justness of his actions does not waver: even Caim is forced to agree with the calculation.
But at the losing end of this calculation are the citizens of the Prison: fed up with the misfortune that they’ve suffered, the citizens of the Prison pour all of their faith into a rebellion, hoping that by taking action – regardless of the futility – will save them from the despair brought about by living idly in the Prison.
The final chapter of Eustia is where the faiths of all the characters cross paths, and their beliefs are pitted against each other. Fione chooses her duty over her experience living as one of the Prison’s citizens. Eris heads into the battlefield to repay Caim’s kindness, choosing the risk of dying over not taking action. Collette and Lavi become the figureheads of the rebellion, shouldering the burning faith of the citizens of the Prison. Licia heads forward into battle, believing that strife can be avoided and that she, as the king, must bear responsibility for failing to keep Novus Aether’s government in check.
Having experienced the faiths of all the characters, Caim becomes lost on what path he should take. At the very end, he throws all of his faith into the woman who triggered Caim’s actions from the very start of the story: the winged girl named Tia. Tia, the angel’s child who, despite all of her misfortune, believed that she has a very important purpose to fulfill. Blinded by Lucius’s proposal to save Novus Aether through Tia’s angelic powers, Caim looks away from Tia’s suffering and puts all of his faith into Lucius; that is, until the very end, when he realizes that he has a choice on what to believe.
Aiyoku no Eustia is a story of faith. Which is why it’s fitting that Caim’s faith in Tia saves the whole of Novus Aether: Tia returns Caim’s faith at the very end by sacrificing herself, purifying the black abyss below Novus Aether and returning humanity to the Earth that they long lost. Aiyoku no Eustia ends with an optimistic note: the story has faith that humanity will once again stand on its own feet, rebuilding the world that they once lost.