“It’s quite… cold.” Amelia rubbed her hands against her arms. “Or it’s supposed to be.”
Drenched in the middle of the sea. The season amid its transition into winter. It was supposed to be cold—unbearably cold. However, it was different. It was not as cold as Amelia thought it was. If nothing, it was like a breeze passing by in the middle of spring.
“How much have I changed…”
It was terrifying. Though she needed the change, the pace was monstrous when compared to the growth period of an ordinary human. No, it was already beyond what normal humans could achieve.
At the thought, Amelia found herself looking up. The moon. The stars. They were like a blanket of shining trinkets far up in the sky.
The stars, as I thought, they are unreliable.
Many had mapped the stars in order take note the four cardinal directions. Some even used the map to visualize mythical creatures—at times, superstitions. However, Amelia never took much interest in them. Books, reports, decrees, contracts, meetings, negotiations, and more mostly took her line of sight—or in other words, the entirety of her time.
In addition, quoting what once a scholar had written, the stars were unreliable.
No one knew the exact reason. Stars came and vanished. Some even appeared then disappeared in a span of days. Some stars mapped from centuries ago were missing in the current age. It was as if the stars refused to guide the residents of this world. It was as if something unknown was happening beyond the world’s atmosphere.
But the moon never changed. Celes… never vanished. She kept watching.
Amelia’s sight trailed towards Evelyn. She was asleep. Despite the waves that kept on rocking their boat, Evelyn remained still. If anything, it was as if her body swayed along with the boat, enough to not knock her into the sea.
There was no response.
Evelyn remained asleep.
“She sure could sleep soundly in this kind of situation…” Amelia inched forward. She drew Dwight’s sword and made its blade touch Evelyn’s neck. “Not even conscious.”
Lightly, Amelia pulled the sword, taking a short swipe of Evelyn’s neck.
“It’s similar, but not quite.” Amelia returned the sword to its hilt—unstained by blood. “She’s completely defenseless. Not even the slightest wariness.”
Amelia reached out and grabbed Evelyn’s hand. “It’s thick. Far thicker than mi—Ah!”
A light shock. The substance that coated Evelyn’s body revolted.
“How come? How come she’s protected if she isn’t conscious? Is this… a blessing?” Amelia shook her head. “But the nature of the substance… it’s similar to mana. But it isn’t it.”
Maybe I should have checked Meiko.
“I really don’t understand Heroes.”
“I’ll know nothing unless I try.”
Evelyn yawned. “That hit the spot.”
A full stomach, milk, and an overloaded mind. It was high time for a rest.
“I’m pretty sure she won’t lay a hand on me.” Evelyn stretched her arms as she approached her bed. Then, with a plop, she nimbly grabbed a pillow and pressed her forehead against it.
“I bet she’d stay wary and stare at me all night.” Evelyn chuckled. “Have a great night, Princess.”
Amelia reached her hands to the back of her neck. Practiced, she unwound the lock of the necklace. There were no signs of revulsion. It was removed just as Amelia remembered.
After taking a good look at the crystal, Amelia wound the cord between and around her fingers—until the crystal rested at the palm of her hand.
“Now then.” Amelia gulped. If possible, something as precious as her necklace would never be used for experimentation. However, a hint of trust towards Celes calmed her judgment.
It won’t break. Nothing bad will happen. Again, Amelia gulped. Slowly, her hands inched towards Evelyn’s. It’s unbreakable. Celes modified it. I’m sure it’s more durable than an armor forged with orichalcum.
Amelia kept on deluding herself. Despite how Celes modified the necklace, Amelia kept it well protected. Sometimes even coating it with her own mana as a means of practice.
About an inch away from Evelyn’s hand. Amelia stopped.
She bit her lip. Took a deep a breath. And with a quick exhale, she grasped Evelyn’s hand—her eyes focused and unblinking.
What is a game? What constitutes a game?
Numerous definitions could be found around the world. However, anything could be a game depending on whose perspective was considered.
Hunting animals in the wild could be considered a game, while others may consider it as a mere massacre. Others look upon politics, political dynasties, as a mere game between the ruling families. Some may look upon life as a mere game of life choices, where everyone has only one life.
Many more definitions and opinions could still be raised. Some heard. Some disdained. Some ignored.
In this case, what is virtual? What is reality? Is it still a game?
No matter what the answer for Amelia or Evelyn, it will always remain the same. At least for the Gods that once ruled Origin, it is a game. A game of lies and deception.
A light quake disturbed Evelyn’s sleep—earning a knit on her brow. The building alarm then flared, shaking Evelyn’s drowsiness away.
“Ugh…” A light dizzy spell haunted Evelyn as she took a step away from her bed. “Why now…”
Her pod flared a similar alarm. It flashed a message across its glass tinted cover, alarming Evelyn of the intensity of the quake.
Ceramics and glasses clinked. Metallic objects clanked. However, it wasn’t enough to knock off objects from their shelves. It seemed that the building’s structure could fend off the intensity of the quake.
“Damn.” The sudden shock forced Evelyn’s knees to buckle. Then a greater intensity shook the building once more. “Is it the epicenter nearby? Maybe a few kilometers away.
Evelyn crawled towards the wall. She checked the surroundings for objects that might possibly fall or break. “It’s getting strong. I need to get to the schute.”
Hurriedly, Evelyn strode in crawls towards the compartment near her unit’s door. With a quick pull on the lower metallic cabinet, a hole tunneled with a soft and rubbery material entered Evelyn’s sight.
However, when Evelyn placed her feet inside the schute, the building shook, then, unbelievably, a portion of her unit’s wall was torn off.
“What the hell! Are earthquakes supposed to do that?!”
The torn wall flew as if a hurricane tore it apart and continued to gnaw on whatever remained. Bits and pieces followed the wall, eventually crumbling and vanishing from sight.
“What’s going on?!”
There were no hurricanes in sight. Only a black a mass in the clouded sky.
“Don’t tell me it’s a black hole?!”
Debris flew from everywhere, effectively making a swirl of objects hurtling towards the sky. Humans, animals, plants, and even smoke rising from burning structures were sucked.
Eventually, what seemed to be a hole became a seam, then a large tear. What laid beyond the tear were copious threads tensed to its limits as it held the tear from further growing.
Gradually, as the threads gave in, a view beyond the tear was unraveled.
The coat of substance around Evelyn’s body moved towards her hand, thinning out at every portion of her body. However, no matter how much the substance kept on reinforcing itself, the crystal absorbed the substance—breaking down whatever protection the substance offered.
Evelyn was generally unharmed. Despite the crystal’s rate of absorption, the substance held on, not allowing the crystal to physically touch Evelyn’s skin.
“This thing is in the way.” Amelia frowned. It was far from what she hoped to see. However, it seemed that the substance was endless. No matter how much the crystal absorbed, the substance recovered, albeit thinned out aside from Evelyn’s hand.
“I guess it can only happen when she’s conscious.” Amelia exhaled.
Once Amelia freed Evelyn’s hand, the substance gradually leveled around Evelyn’s body, eventually returning to its initial state.
“Still, I wonder where all those substances went…” Carefully, Amelia unwrapped the necklace around her fingers and wore it on her neck. “I’ll have to ask Celes.”
“Wait, what?” Exasperation and astonishment were written all over Evelyn’s face.
The tear in the sky gradually recovered. Eventually, the threads re-attached itself and closed the tear. Subsequently, the structures in the surroundings were clouded with translucent cubes, recovering what once existed in the spaces inside the cube.
Everything that had been destroyed had recovered. Everything rewound back to its initial state.
“I don’t… understand.”
Nothing made sense. Though technology advanced in different multitudes, the technology in Evelyn’s era never brought something convenient as recovering what was lost—even life.
“It doesn’t make any sense.” Evelyn crawled out of the schute and took a good look around her unit. She took a quick dash towards her phone. She remembered it flying off like the wall did, so she tried turning it on, and so it did.
It was torn apart. Crushed into bits. It vanished like dust. However, there it was as if nothing happened.
“Ohh…” The amount of stress took over Evelyn, eventually losing her consciousness and falling the bedside.
“Ahh…” Celes muttered. “It was close.”
[It’s understandable.] Fenrir said. [She knew nothing regarding the fragments inside the Heroes.]
“Yes, it’s understandable. However, I would have preferred if she kept on and reveal the truth on that little trick the Gods used.”
[I believe she won’t understand even if the Hero realizes her situation.]
“I believe she might be able to, that’s if she were able to connect what I made her witness.”
Fenrir grumbled. [Accounts from a rattled is unreliable.]
Celes sighed. “I have hopes, but I guess the chance is low. Either way, it’s not mandatory for Amelia to learn the trick. However, I want her to realize that not only I can manage to recreate a reality based from memory—just like how I made her a reality where her loved ones are alive.”
[That aside, what do you intend to do with the Ancient? It seemed to have observed quite a bit.]
“I’ll let him to his own devices in the meantime. All he has are questions and speculations. He lacks decisive evidence for Divines to believe him.”
“In any case, I wonder what Amelia will do? Will her parents find her first? Or will she be able to accomplish her initial aim?”
[Which do you prefer.]
“Whatever happens, happens.” Celes chuckled. “After all, whatever the result, it was Amelia’s choice.”
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