“The weather’s quite nice out here, isn’t it?”
“What’s the matter.”
“I want to kill you,” said Lily.
“What a coincidence,” I said. “So do I.”
“Good thing we aren’t together then.”
“Yes, it’s almost like someone planned it that way.”
“I wonder who.”
“I don’t know. Whoever it was, they must be an absolute genius!”
“Or an absolute asshole.”
I chuckled. The prism in my hand grew warm and flickered. Lily’s voice floated out again, “So, is it true?”
“Yes,” I said simply. I turned to the other person walking beside me. “Azoth, are the preparations complete?”
Demon general Azoth nodded. “I must admit, I’m surprised it’s working. Recruiting you was the best thing we’ve ever done.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you.” I stopped outside a door. “Hey Lily, you there yet?”
“Yep,” came her voice from the prism. “But Runir…”
“Are we sure?”
I stretched my hand to reach for the door. “We’ve been over this before. I’ve told you why we need to do this, and you came to the same conclusion yourself, did you not?”
“I did, but…”
“Come on. Let’s go over it again. Why are we doing this, who are we doing this for?”
“And who is us?”
I chuckled. “There we go. It’s the best choice. Helps everyone involved, even if they can’t see it yet.” My hands grasped the door’s handle.
I stopped. “Yes?”
“Are we sure?”
I sighed. I couldn’t blame her. It hadn’t been an easy decision for me to arrive at, either. But it was the most logical one, judging by the circumstances. After scrapping my previous plans, I’d built this one up from scratch, and taken everything into account.
“We need to hurry. There’s been a miscalculation,” said Azoth, a smaller prism next to his ear. “They’re executing the plan, now.”
“Lily, take some time to think over it. I’m going in.” I opened the door.
The air was musty, stagnant, and stale. The room was dim, as expected of a place like this, but there was a strange ambience, probably because of the swirling ball of energy in the center of the room.
“Damn it!” Kai’s fingers loosened and Amy flew from his grip. The bubbling mass of energy swallowed him, enveloping him completely. Veins of purple energy crackled on the bubble’s surface, melding into the transparent walls before shooting out again.
“Kai!” yelled Amy as was flung out of the bubble. She hit the ground, groaned, and scrambled to her feet. She banged the sides of the bubble, to no avail, and got stung and shot back onto the ground.
I frowned. That wasn’t according to plan. I turned to Azoth. “Is this the miscalculation?”
He nodded. “It appears the Fire goddess had not been orchestrating this plan, after all.”
My frown deepened. That wasn’t good. “Lunaris, you said Amy was behind this.”
“Hey, I didn’t think she’d be this stupid,” said Lunaris. The other goddesses faced me.
“Well, it’s not like I hadn’t planned for this possibility,” I muttered. “It does make things more difficult.”
Now I had to convince Amy to comply with the plan or else it would go up in smoke.
“The demon lord, what are you doing here?” asked Adriana, interrupting my thoughts.
“I’m here to –”
“You?” interrupted someone.
I took in a deep breath. My brain was working so loudly it whizzed in my ears. “Hello Amy.”
“Runir,” came another voice. “You were in on this too?”
“Yes, Kai,” I said, calmly. Kai stood in the middle of the bubble, but since it wasn’t particularly large, he was only a few feet from the walls. “But what did you expect? You sent me straight to Azoth’s dungeons!”
“You were supposed to find out what they were doing!” said Kai. “I sent you there because I trusted you, trusted you with –”
“I trusted you too. We trusted you. But not only were you lying to us, you’ve been perpetuating this malevolent world order; you’ve been playing us like fools, toying with us for – what I can only assume to be – your own amusement!” I spat.
“What do you mean?” said Kai and Amy, at the same time.
I smirked. “Really Amy? You know he’s Fate, right? He’s responsible for the Haze that Lunaris kept complaining about. He’s the one forcing Lily and I to go to war against each other. He’s the one who stops the goddesses from helping their people directly, and forces you to rely on proxies.”
“That’s not how it works!” said Kai.
“What if he can’t control it?” said Amy.
“Only one way to find out,” I said, taking a deep breath. “You know Amy, you really are quite dumb. I’ve known that since the time we met, but I never thought you’d be this cold-blooded too.”
Her eyebrows furrowed.
“The reason Lunaris was sure you were manipulating Kai, was because she believed you were the one who hated Fate the most,” I said, meeting her gaze resolutely. “She said you’d lost someone, back when this world had just begun.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You…”
“They died but you lived. Fate made you immortal, but your loved ones died in your own arms because Fate condemned them to a mortal existence. Solaron even found their names, let me see… Ah yes, they were…”
“Jeffi and Yunni,” she whispered.
“The one who took them from you, is right there.” I pointed. “I don’t know about you, but if I hated someone that much, I wouldn’t forgive them. Never, I would never forgive them.”
“You asshole!” growled Kai. “How was I supposed to stop that? It was hundreds of years ago!”
I sneered. “So you knew about it huh.” He didn’t respond. “Another thing, Kai, you brought us here, didn’t you?”
He looked taken aback, in a way that made me suspicious. It was almost as if this was the first time he had been genuinely surprised. “Not really, but what does that have to do with this?”
We turned to face the speaker.
“You too?” asked Adriana. She addressed Lunaris. “The demon lord and the hero? You’ve been keeping too many secrets, sister.”
“Lily,” said Kai. “You too? I sent you to the Water goddess. Runir’s a pretentious asshole, I can see why he’d do something like this, but why would you betray me too?”
“We aren’t betraying you. Besides, I’m not completely sold on it just yet.” She took a deep breath. “Did you lie to us?”
Kai frowned. “No, I merely hid the truth. Our party didn’t like to share any secrets. You can’t blame me for that.”
“I was just getting started,” she continued. “You were obviously stronger than what you appeared to be, yet you let us fall into danger anyways.”
“You turned out all right, didn’t you?”
“You knew we wanted to go home. You’re Fate, you brought us here, you could send us back but you didn’t.”
“That’s because –”
“And if you really are Fate, then you could have rescued Zoe a long time ago. You could have spared her a lot of suffering. You could have spared a lot of people a lot of suffering. My problem with you is a simple one: if you’re Fate, why the fuck didn’t you do anything? If you could fix everything, why didn’t you? Tell me, could you end this war right now? Could you end hunger, cure diseases, stop murders, could you make this world a perfect world?”
“Because see, if someone has the power to help people but doesn’t do so, if they live on an ivory tower and look at the struggles of ordinary people as entertainment, then I’m reminded of someone from back home. A despicable man who ate up all the money that was supposed to go to our orphanage and rebuild our community.” She walked up to the bubble and stared at Kai, hard. “People like that disgust me. I hate them. So if you are one of them, then…” Her lips curled and she snarled, “I hate you too.”
Kai’s mouth was frozen open. It looked like his words were caught in his throat.
“So,” Lily said quietly. “Is it true? Are you Fate?”
“Yes,” whispered Kai. “But –”
“Second question,” she interjected. “Did you know about all the suffering in this world? Maybe not hundreds of years ago, but right now, while we were traveling together. Did you know that people were suffering all over this world while you could have helped them? That kids were born with diseases that made their every living moment unbearable? Little kids were raped and tortured somewhere. Families were destroyed. People died, people suffered. They suffered while you made us pancakes…”
“Last question. This is one you can explain, so you better think of something good,” she continued. “Why didn’t you stop the suffering? Why didn’t you immediately fix all the problems in this world.”
This was an important question. It was one Lily and I had gone over before. We’d call off everything if he answered this right. If he said that he couldn’t do it, that he wasn’t all-powerful, or if there was something stopping him or resisting him, then maybe, maybe we could wrap this all up and help him do the right thing.
Kai’s mouth shut. He didn’t respond. His eyes drifted over all the people in the room; Amy, the other goddesses, Azoth, Lily, and me. His gaze rested on me a little longer than the others. There was a little surprise in them, maybe a hint of trepidation.
He mumbled something inaudible.
“What did you say?” said Lily, her eyebrows furrowed.
“I said, I don’t know.”
He didn’t know? That was not the answer I expected. Judging by the looks on everyone else’s faces, I wasn’t the only one surprised.
“What?” Amy was the first to recover.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” repeated Lily.
“You could have saved Granny Nipa,” said Lily. Adriana’s eyes widened.
“And you didn’t.”
He wasn’t even replying anymore. His gaze dropped.
“And you don’t know why? Well that’s fine. You can redeem yourself,” continued Lily.
“Wait, you don’t mean…” trailed Adriana.
“Bring her back,” said Lily. “Bring back Granny Nipa. Find Zoe and bring her here right now, too. Do it, and we’ll let you go.”
“Wait a second –” began Lunaris, but Solaron held her back.
“Come on,” said Lily. “Do it.”
Kai’s eyes were still downcast. Eventually, a whisper escaped him. “I can’t.”
“You can’t?” spat Lily. “Or you won’t?”
He didn’t reply. Lily glared at him, her eyes reflecting the sense of betrayal in her heart. This was all I needed. It was time to end it. It was time to execute the plan.
“I think we know what to do now –” I began.
“Wait,” interrupted Amy. “Kai…”
He looked up.
“Can you do it. Can you bring back Jeffi and Yunni?”
Kai’s mouth opened. Then it closed. He took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“Will you… will you do it?”
Heavy silence. I didn’t dare breathe, the weight of his response – that one word – was suffocating. No. He wouldn’t do it. No. He wasn’t going to revive the dead, heal the sick, turn water into wine, or whatever.
Tears welled up in Amy’s eyes and she bit her lips. “All that talk about morals; no killing monsters, sparing those young Ashfiends, those stories about friendship and love. So high and mighty. So righteous, just, and caring. So… kind and gentle. That’s the Kai I loved. That’s the Kai I loved on that mountain peak. That’s the Kai I respected. But… he doesn’t exist, does he? He never did. All along, under that façade, under that mask of a smile, was this, this…” She gestured to him in disgust. Her lips twisted into a smile; she was growing hysterical. “You were a monster all along. Disgusting, deplorable, and vile. You’re evil, eviler than anything else. You, you’re… Fate. You’re Fate.” She wiped her face. “Yeah, you’re Fate.”
The ensuing silence was palpable.
“So,” I began. “We know where he stands. Any objections before we proceed with the plan?”
“What’s the plan?” asked Amy.
My heart leapt a little as Kai sat on the ground inside the bubble. I didn’t expect him to give up so easily. Something was wrong, we had to hurry.
“We trap him down here, inside a perfect anomaly.”
“And what good will that do?” said Kai. He put his elbows on the ground and rested his head on his palms. He smiled, smiled the way he’d done so many times before. A chill went down my spine.
“Let’s see,” I said, fighting back my trepidation. I walked up to Lily, grabbed her hips, and swerved. I brought my lips to hers. Her eyes opened, then closed. I heard a gasp or two, as well as a chuckle. We separated, but I kept my hand around her. I smiled, “Hey, it worked.”
Lily’s face was flushed. She snapped out of her daze and punched my shoulder, “Fucking asshole…” Her voice petered out as I met her eyes.
No time for this right now, I thought, as I felt Kai’s gaze piercing the back of my head.
“So,” I said. “That’s why we need to lock you up.”
“You want to lock me up so you can kiss the hero?” said Kai.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t understand the significance of what just happened,” I said.
Is he stalling for time?
“Runir,” said Amy. “I don’t get it. What do we achieve by locking him up? It won’t bring back Jeffi or Yunni, or anything.”
I sighed. “True, we can’t do that, but…” I removed myself from Lily, and walked up to Amy. “Punch me.”
“Do it. Come on, doesn’t have to hurt, just do it.”
“What good will that do?”
“Don’t you care about Jeffi and Yunni?”
She frowned. “But what does this –”
“You don’t even love them enough to listen to what I’m saying?”
“That’s not –”
“If they were alive, they’d hate you.”
I heard someone shuffle behind me. Kai was standing up.
Fuck, no time for this.
“Isn’t it your fault they died? You couldn’t stop Fate from taking them away. Despite being the goddess, one of the most powerful beings in this world, you couldn’t stop them from dying. Worst of all, you continued to live after they died. You’re despicable. You couldn’t save them. You let them die. You killed them. You –”
I was sent flying. I crashed into the walls of the cave, and my HP fell tremendously. I collapsed onto the ground, gasping for air.
“Runir!” cried Lily.
Bleary-eyed, I raised my gaze. Lily had rushed over. Amy was standing frozen, tears in her eyes. An intense red aura surrounded her, lighting up the entire room with a crimson glare. The aura subsided, her eyes cleared, and she looked at me, then her own still-outstretched fist.
“Understand,” I said, coughing.
“Wait,” said Amy. “You made me do that. You –”
“Yes, yes,” I said, standing up with difficulty. I downed some medicine I’d grabbed from the demon lord’s castle and my HP recovered a bit. “But screw that, the important thing is you hit me. You.” I pointed at her. “Hit me.” I pointed at myself.
“Wait…?” Her eyes widened. “You’re the demon lord!”
“Exactly,” I said. “As long as he’s locked up in that thing, Fate can no longer influence this world. I no longer have to fight Lily, and you goddesses are no longer restricted from interfering in worldly affairs. Monsters won’t have to attack people anymore, people won’t be plucked from Earth to be heroes or demon lords, and the Alliance and the Union won’t have to go to war for no reason.”
“I see,” said Kai. He put his hands on the bubble’s walls and tilted his head. “Is this your final choice?”
My eyes narrowed. “If you’re not willing to use your power to fix the world, then we’ll take what we can get by imprisoning you.”
“You think you can imprison me?” He smirked. “With this?” He stretched out his hands.
“Fuck!” I cried. The other goddesses had crept into position around the bubble, relying on me to distract him. I pulled Lily along and put my hands on the bubble as fast as I could.
“Now!” I shouted. Tendrils of black energy emerged from my fingertips and flowed into the walls of the anomaly. Similar energy poured out of the hands of everyone else around the bubble. Brown, blue, gray, black, and white energy mixed together, forming a whirlpool of colors.
There was only one missing.
“Amy!” I shouted. She hadn’t been filled in on the plan, so she was staring blankly at us. She stepped forward but it was too late.
The whirlpool of energy froze. It began to fade as the walls of the bubble creaked like a rusty door, and cracked like a hardboiled egg. I bit my lips. Failure yet again, damn it.
“Not this time, you little fucker!” cried Lunaris. She screeched and waved her hands, sending smoke flying out of her robes. It melded into the whirlpool and submerged the other colors. The whirlpool began spinning again, although it was like a black hole now, sucking in the walls of the bubble.
Kai grunted. “That won’t work.” The smoke stopped. It quivered and shook, as if whimpering. The smoke began floating out of the bubble’s wall, despite Lunaris’ curses.
“Amy!” I shouted. “Put your hands on the anomaly and feed it your mana, now.”
She ran over and pressed her hands against the walls of the bubble as the smoke fled. She was going to make it! A little mana, that’s all we needed! But no red waves of energy left her fingers.
“Kai,” she said, softly.
The bubble stopped cracking. “Amy,” said Kai, looking at her with a strange expression. “I know you don’t trust me right now, and I don’t blame you. I’ve kept secrets, and I haven’t explained everything yet, but please, please, give me a chance. Don’t I deserve that much?”
They held each other’s gaze. I tried to pour more mana in, ran my mind into overdrive thinking of a solution, but, in the end, there was nothing I could do.
“Listen Amy, this anomaly is a natural one Lunaris found in the depths of the Alderan wastes, but it’s incomplete. The only way to complete it is to combine the energies of the goddesses, hero, and demon lord,” I said, quickly. “The rest of us have poured our mana inside, if you do the same, the anomaly will be complete and Fate will be locked away. Do it.”
“Amy,” whispered Kai, ignoring my presence.
“Kai,” she said.
“You too, Lily,” said Kai, shifting his glance. “You may not know everything about me, but you know what I’m like. Give me a chance.”
I saw the hesitation in Lily’s eyes. The stream of white energy coming from her hands wavered, then cut off.
“And what will you do, if we give you another chance?” she asked in a measured tone.
“Fix this world,” he said.
“How?” asked Amy.
“I have a few ideas.”
“And they are?” asked Lily.
He didn’t respond.
“You’re not going to tell us?” said Lily, eyebrows raised. “You’re in no position to hide stuff from us.”
He held their gazes but kept his mouth shut.
“Fine then,” said Lily, sending a wave of mana into the bubble. “Fuck you.”
Kai sighed. “I understand your frustration, Lily, Amy, but I –”
I noticed something. Kai’s fingers were moving inside their sleeves. Alarmed, I tilted my head and nearly cursed aloud. A small part of the bubble was shaking vigorously, and a hole was rapidly forming there. It was hidden from view by Kai’s figure so the others hadn’t found it yet.
“Amy!” I shouted. “Zoe, Lily, me; do you like us?”
She blinked. “Of course.”
“Would you be sad if we died?”
“Yes,” said Amy, softly.
“There’s another thing Fate controls. It’s the reason the goddesses can’t summon the hero or the demon lord without Fate’s directions. It’s also why they don’t know what happens to people’s souls after they come to them,” I said. “Fate controls death.”
Everyone’s eyes widened. Even Kai’s face paled and his fingers stopped moving.
“Wait, if that’s true,” began Lunaris. “It means –”
“If we seal Fate, we seal death,” I finished. “No one can die without Fate.”
Kai’s lips quivered. He was a deer caught in the headlights. It was the first time I’d ever seen him so shaken, so confused, so genuinely confused.
“How do you know that,” he managed to say.
I smirked. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, yes it does,” he shouted, his face contorted in anger. “Damn it, I can understand Lily and Amy’s concerns. They’ve lost people close to them. Lily doesn’t like liars. They have reasons but you, you have nothing! Why are you doing this? Maybe I’d understand it if you’d gone along with someone else’s plan, but it’s obvious that you were the one behind this. Yet, you’re the only one whose motivations are still a mystery to me. Why, why are you so hell-bent on screwing my plans, Runir?”
“Interesting question,” I replied. “Like I said, I didn’t have much choice after you sent me to Azoth’s dungeon.”
“You could have manipulated him, could have gathered information about the goddesses plotting against me instead of leading the cavalry!”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because we’re friends.”
“I’ve saved your life several times. I kept your status secret from Lily. I helped you find love, a reason to live your sorry, empty life.”
“Ouch, you’re not going to convince anyone like that. I will live a very fulfilling life now, thank you very much. Tell me, are you willing to stop the demon lord and the hero from fighting?”
He grit his teeth but didn’t respond.
“Thought so,” I said. “Now –”
“That still doesn’t explain how you know so much,” interrupted Kai. “About the anomalies, about the extent of Fate’s powers. How, how do you know so much.” He was muttering to himself by this point. “Don’t tell me he…” His eyes opened suddenly. “You! You’ve played it, haven’t you?”
Oh? He brought it up himself?
“What’s he saying, Runir?” asked Lily.
I see, he wants to make it seem like I was hiding things too. Fine, I’ll do it.
“He means,” I spread my arms wide. “That I’ve played this game before.”
No one spoke. Amy frowned. Lily looked at me blankly.
“You have,” whispered Kai. “I see, that explains it. Fuck, it makes sense now.” He started laughing hysterically. “Fuck, it makes sense now!”
“Runir, what do you mean, what game?” asked Lily.
“This game. I’m talking about this game,” I said. “Stats, abilities, mana, a hero, and a demon lord; I’m sure you realized this yourself but this world functions exactly like a game. And that’s because it is a game. A role-playing game from our home world, Earth.”
“Bullshit,” cried Lunaris. “You’re telling me this world is a game?”
The other goddesses were clamoring for an answer as well, though they were too stunned to speak. I could see it in their eyes.
“To be fair,” I said. “All I know for certain is that this world is based on a game, a video game called Choices. That game was a big deal a few years ago. A large map, a wonderful story, and the choice to be the hero or the demon lord. It was a wonderful game. There are tons of similarities too; the cities have the same names, the goddesses too, the world system and the magic system, it’s all the same.”
“No,” said Adriana. “That can’t be…”
“Remember the Haze?” I continued. “That was the game before it became real.”
“No,” mumbled Opal.
“It’s not true,” muttered Breize.
“And I’ve played this game before,” I said.
“You’ve… played it before?” said Solaron. “Played… us before?”
“Yes,” I said. “Choices: the game where the player – that’s me – chose how to win. I used to play it all the time. I’ve won as the hero and the demon lord. Sometimes I went around the world beefing up my character with blessings from the goddesses, or I’d beat up the other side with economic warfare. I’ve assassinated the hero, and gotten the demon lord drowned. I’ve burnt the demon lord’s castle to the ground, enslaved everyone in the Light kingdom, and much more. Like I said, it was a wonderful game.”
I’d started reminiscing so I didn’t notice the disgust and scorn on the goddess’ faces. But there was something else mixed in too: fear and confusion.
“That’s why you knew how long you could talk to me when you were first summoned,” said Lunaris.
I nodded. “It’s also how I knew how to survive in the Twilight forest, how to deal with Azoth, and how to escape the castle. I formulated most of my plans with the knowledge I had of the game. Of course, things aren’t exactly like they were in the game. It’s been nine-hundred years since the game ended and the world of Erath became real. I didn’t realize what the anomalies were until I learned about them in the academy. They’re bugs in the game, errors that were never fixed.”
“And you didn’t tell me?” said Lily.
“What good would it have done?” I replied. This was the tricky part. Kai looked on carefully.
“I would have been more supportive of locking up Fate if you’d told me this,” she said.
“Perhaps, or it would have freaked you out. After all, I found out about the perfect anomaly conditions when the game collapsed during an epic battle I orchestrated. If the perfect anomaly doesn’t act like the other anomalies have acted so far, then we might just end up destroying the world.”
Uncomfortable shifts and worried lips. Not a good sign.
“But I’m not done yet,” I said. I turned to Kai and stared into his eyes. I smirked as his frown deepened.
“Wait,” he said. “You…”
“Choices was made by a young video game developer; a celebrity in the video game industry whose real name and identity was a corporate secret. Instead, he was known simply by his penname, K0. But we can probably call him…” I pointed at the man in the bubble. “Kai Zero.”
I let the words hang in the air.
“What?” Amy was the first to break the silence, jostling everyone from their stupor.
“Kai, you made the game?” asked Lily.
“You made us?” asked Solaron.
“You,” growled Lunaris. “You made this world? You designed all the pain and suffering, the endless wars, the chaos, and the craziness? Shit, for a second I thought you’d been forced into being Fate, like we’d been forced into being the goddesses, but no, you chose it. You fucking chose to be Fate.”
“That’s not –” began Kai.
“That’s not true?” I laughed. “You made the game and let people suffer and die for nine-hundred years, and refuse to fix everything despite clearly possessing the means to do so, yet you still claim that you didn’t choose to be Fate? That you don’t deserve to be locked away for your crimes? I think we can all see what’s going on here. You won’t fix this world because it makes it’s your baby, you’re proud of it and can’t bear to change it. Your vanity is disgusting.”
“I – that’s not why I –”
“Shut up,” I spat. “We’ve wasted enough time already. Amy, you’ve heard all I had to say. You inject your mana into that thing and no one will die anymore. I’m sorry I can’t bring back your lost loved ones, but I can promise that you won’t lose anyone else. Never again, you will never lose anyone ever again.”
“Amy, don’t!” screamed Kai. A surge of energy blasted into the hole he had been digging.
“Shit, he’s trying to break free. This is our last chance, Amy. Do it!” I shouted. “Do it for me, for Lily, for Zoe, do it so we can stay together! Do it for the people you’ve lost, give them the justice they deserve by imprisoning this monster! Come on, do it! Do it!”
“Kai,” said Amy, her eyes closed.
“Amy,” whispered Kai, not letting up on his attempt to break free. “You can trust me. I love you.”
Amy opened her eyes and a stream of tears gushed out. “I love you too.”
Red energy shot out of her fingers; bright, hot, and angry. The mana merged with the swirling whirlpool on the bubble’s surface and the bubble’s walls began to solidify.
“No,” said Kai. “No!”
He gave up trying to break through the hole and began wildly banging on the whirlpool, as if trying to punch it into oblivion.
“You can’t do this to me, I made this world. It’s my world, my baby. You’re not going to change it. No, I won’t let you.” He was hysterical. “You, you’re just like Leer, that fucking snake. No, you’re all fucking snakes. Fucking corporate snakes who wouldn’t know a good game if it bit you on the ass.”
The solidified walls were still transparent, but gleamed like diamonds or gemstones. The walls weren’t creaking anymore, no matter how hard Kai hit them. The goddesses stepped back, except for Amy who stood next to Lily. The two of them stared as Kai delivered his crazed outburst.
“You’ll make this an endless runner. A shitty platformer. Maybe a first-person shooter with a shitty, clichéd plot,” Kai muttered. He battered the walls but to no avail.
Amy was still crying. Lily bit her lips so hard she was bleeding. Even I felt conflicted as I watched Kai – the most stable person I’d ever met – devolve into an incoherent mess. Eventually, his words slurred, he hiccupped in between cackling laughter. The walls solidified and the anomaly was complete. It was a giant ball with a rich luster and chaotic swirls of energy dancing over its surface. A fitting prison.
Kai collapsed onto the floor, defeated. Pitiful sobs escaped him sometimes but he never looked up.
Most of the goddesses slowly shuffled out, mixed emotions on their faces. Opal and Breize left with satisfied faces. Adriana glared at him but left with quivering lips. Solaron went away with a sad expression. Lunaris walked out, her face hidden in the shadows. I heard her curse as she left the room.
Amy crept over to him. Her shaking arms reached for the walls but she held them back at the last second.
Lily growled. “Stubborn asshole. Fuck you, damn it. Fuck you.”
I stood by solemnly. “We should go now. It’s over.” I put a hand on Lily’s shoulder. “We won.”
Strangely, my own words felt hollow to me. My plan had been executed without a hitch. I’d achieved everything I’d wanted to, yet, I felt empty. I looked around myself, searching for an answer.
Kai sat sobbing inside his eternal prison. Amy was crying her heart out outside. Lily was on the verge of tears but stubbornly kept them at bay with her anger. They were my three best friends, perhaps the only friends I had ever had. And I had brought them all to tears.
I felt a pang in my heart, a throb of emotion which I didn’t know how to deal with.
“We won,” I repeated, to reassure myself. “We won.”
Lily ran out of the room, hiding her face, and leaving my hand hanging in the air. Dazed, Amy stood up and stumbled out of the room. I watched it all happen, like a movie or a play that had nothing to do with me. Amy cast one last tearful glance at Kai before leaving.
Kai’s sobs stopped. “Yeah, you won,” he whispered, almost inaudibly. “Congratulations.”
I breathed. “Thank you.”
The conflicting emotions were too much to handle so I did what I’d always done when faced with something like this. I retreated into my shell. I found something I thought I’d gotten rid of a long-time ago and donned it once again.
My poker face.
I walked to the door in measured strides, coldly calculating the events that had precipitated thus far. I analyzed them and concluded that victory was a good thing and I should be happy. But I couldn’t show that happiness because of my poker face, so it was okay to be happy inside my head. That’s what I would do from now on, be happy inside my head.
I turned around, my face unflinching. “What is it?”
“Tell me,” said Kai, his voice hoarse. “How did you know?”
“We’ve been over this, I’ve played the game. That’s how I found out about the anomaly and –”
“No, not that,” he interjected, his face still downcast. “How did you know that I was K0. It was a secret. I know for a fact that even the government kept it hidden when I burned the house, I was protected by the Privacy Act. How, how the fuck did you know?”
“That,” I said. “That’s how I knew.”
He raised his head. His eyes were red and puffy, his face crisscrossed with tear-lines. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“A lot of things tipped me off. Your insane powers, your knowledge about the world, your secretiveness. It also doesn’t take a genius to realize that K0 stood for Kai Zero.”
“But how did you know I wasn’t from this world. I could have been the administrator of this world, some kind of personified code or system driver.”
“See, that’s the funny part. Despite all that knowledge about this world, despite all that power you had and the information you possessed, you forgot one, simple fact about your own game. Considering how much you seem to love it, I’m surprised you didn’t realize it. Hell, you were doing a fine job at hiding your origins, pretending to be ignorant of cars and stuff. But, you failed. You have no one to blame but yourself. You practically told me you weren’t from this world, and once I knew that, connecting the rest of the dots was as simple as it could get.”
Kai snarled. “Damn it, just fucking say it already!”
“Mind your language,” I said, allowing a smirk to leak onto my face. “This is a family game, you know.”
“The fuck are you talking about? That doesn’t mean…”
He froze, his eyes widening. “Holy shit,” he continued. “Holy, motherfucking shit.” He held his head in his arms. “PG thirteen. The game was rated PG fucking thirteen.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Didn’t you notice? Go on, think back. None of the people from this world uttered any profanities. No shits, nor fucks; hell, they didn’t even say damn. Even when we cursed, they would ignore them as if there was a filter in place. So the first time you cursed aloud, I knew you couldn’t be from this world. You fucking gave yourself away.”
He started snickering, then laughing. He was on the ground, absolutely hysterical.
“Fuck!” he shouted. He laughed again. And again. And again. “Fuck you! And Amy, and that bitch Lily. Fuck that snake Leer, most of all. Fuck him, fuck you, fuck you all!” He kept rambling as I left the room.
I heard a few more, nearly unintelligible, curses, just as I closed the door on what had once been the most powerful being on Erath.
Fate; the one thing no one could resist, not even the goddesses. All-powerful, unchallengeable, that’s what he used to be.
Now, he was a blithering mess who cursed the world from inside a tiny bubble that, in a way, he had himself created. I cast a final, pitying glance at him, and saw him raising his middle finger in my direction.
The door shut. Fate, had been defeated.