15: Death…Birth…Rebirth

 

I sat at a prime seat in the Bernados’ Grand Hall of Glory. A seat that I’d possibly stolen from someone else. As to what might have happened to the original owner…I can’t really say. I’d been out of sorts lately.

For the last two weeks to be exact. The two weeks since a certain metal skinned giant had bowed out instead of fighting and I’d suddenly found my status window broken.

And like I’ve said, a simple bad mood for others might be the beginning of possible psychotic break for me. My internal workings were both steadier and more fragile than the average person. Things that would break sane people didn’t phase me. Things that a normal person would laugh off could end in tears and blood for both me and everyone around me. I sorely wish this world still had some psychiatrists in it. Or anyone professionally trained in the area, really.

I almost certainly was in need of both someone to talk to and some form of medication, from someone who knew what they were doing.

Sure, I was doing a little tinkering on my own noggin here, but…I was kind of afraid of going too far and lobotomizing myself. And though I had the archive I still didn’t trust that all that fiddling with the inside of my own brain meats wasn’t going to end with me driving myself even farther off the deep end.


Thus whoever had originally owned this seat might well have been killed by me, or worse I might have politely told them to leave and then warped their minds to make them do so.

I can’t even remember whether that other person deserved it or not or “I’m” the asshole here. The answers probably a mix of the two. The area I’m seated is filled with noble types. Rich knobs that came with slaves and servants who were carrying all sort of amenities to make their viewership of the inter-kingdom tourney more pleasurable.


And by that I mean that they were getting everything from hand jobs to pretzels up here….Which was gross because there were children present, but whatever.

*****

[Status System Down: Calamity King System Initialization In Process]

*****

I remember being a kid and having school functions and not being able to help feeling bad when I looked out into the audience and saw that there was no one sitting there, who’d come there for “me”. Thus despite all the nonsense “I” had going on in my neck of the woods, I’d come out here to be here for the girl.

Clapping and stomping my feet and pretty much being your typical obnoxious parental type…Not that I thought of myself as a parental type. I’d never thought of myself as parental type. Even during those few times where my ex-girlfriends and I had to deal with pregnancy scares. I just know that I was doing my best to make sure that the girl knew I was there for her. I’d even materialized a big banner with her name on it. In the air.

“Go Innes Go!”

*****

[Status System Down: Calamity King System Initialization In Process]

*****

Today was the last day of the tournament the day of the final thirty matches. Where the top thirty students from out of all the dozen or so schools that were competing in this tourney would compete. Competing for personal glory and rewards as well as for the fates of each of their sects and schools.

I dozed through the first dozen or so battles.

Sitting in a waking nightmare. The anxiousness eating me up inside. I didn’t realize how important being able to see one’s own status had become till suddenly I couldn’t see mine.

“Damn..Damn…Damn! What the fuck…Come on…[Status].”

It was like not being able to see one’s own reflection in the mirror. Or like not being able to wiggle a toe. Important but not important at the same time.

 

I felt the same sort of frustration that one would get from having to deal with a vital but non-vital piece of tech going dead. It was like staring at a laptop blue screen or looking down at one’s cellphone in a toilet bowl.

In my head I knew it probably wasn’t the end of the world but it totally felt like it was.

And unlike in those scenarios I couldn’t just run down to an electric store, or over to my girlfriend’s place to order a replacement.

*****

[Status System Down: Calamity King System Initialization In Process]

*****

My thoughts were interrupted by a  groan from the announcer and the roar of the audience. It looked like another of the little snot-nosed punks competing with my disciple had just been blasted off the stage. Losing to some kid with actual fire for here and dragon wings.


The announcer ran to the victor, lifting the girl’s arm into the air as medics took the loser away on a stretcher.

I looked down and forgot my mood as I saw the girl, she was wearing a light gray chiffon dress. The bottom of it flaring out like the petals of a blooming flower. It was the one she’d chosen for herself after an announcement that those who intended to participate in the tournament would be advised to bring some formal wear in the case they managed to make it onto the main arena’s stage.

I know right? Formal wear for a battle tournament?  I didn’t get it either, but apparently even for the grown up battles, a lot of what went on here was at least fifty percent pageantry and looking good.

Which I guess makes sense because for the adult battles looking good and being strong were the two halves of what it took to get sponsorship.

I waved like an idiot. Standing up. Whistling. Hooting and Hollering.

She saw me, looking puzzled and then making an embarrassed teen face. I got some looks from my compatriots in the vip areas as well. And few looks of curiosity came from the area of the people in her school.

I bet they were trying to figure out just who the hell I was. Which was fine. They’d get to know me real well soon. Part of the girl’s decision to come out and compete in the tournament was reliant on the idea that we were going to reveal my connection to here.

 

Level resets or not. Status menu issues or not. I was plenty strong enough to make sure that fine folks at Dusk-Sea learned to step carefully where that girl was concerned.

I’d surprised us both by suggesting she stop hiding her status as my student. I don’t know why but I felt that since I was the one who’d initiated this whole mentor thing I best do it properly.

In any case, I was kind of excited to see the girl show the world what I taught her. The winner of the last fight got off the stage and was replaced with a green haired boy who’d won a few fights beforehand.

He rose up into the air, supported by a fact flowing cyclone. Two small tornadoes of green light shot out from the palms of his hands.

Innes  threw her guard up. Deflecting the green cyclones with a dome of black and pink light. She jumped up into the air, the movement augmented with force magic. And then allowed gravity and more force magic to bring her down on her open. Swinging her fist as she did so.

The boy hit the ground so hard that he bounced. Hitting the ground with enough force to chip the arena’s stone floor and cause me and the rest of the peanut gallery to wince in unison.

“And we have a….WINNER! Let’s have a hand for the little lady in black!” cried the Announcer. Raising the girl’s hand in the air.

The audience went wild. I went wild. Then the girl walked off the stage, and I went back to being anxious again.


*****

[Status System Down: Calamity King System Initialization In Process]

*****

I stayed anxious till the next time Innes walked onto the stage. Shelving my worried thoughts and the bad premonitions I was feeling while I watched the girl trounce a little girl with the ability to create magical constructs.

 

I watched with the bated breath, especially interested because that was yet another skill, I’d taught Innes. Hard light constructs were just force and energy stabilized. A tricky thing to make at first but almost stupidly easy to use once one knew what one was doing.

Innes matched the girl sword for sword. Her movements sharper, cleaner. Her weapons stronger and more realistic envisioned.

I couldn’t help chuckling. Wondering if the girl knew just how very cruel she was being.

“Come on, girl…no need to drag it on.”


Since I doubt that she could have heard me from all the way down there, I imagine that she too knew that she was mostly just wasting time. Since the next thing she did after making the girl tire herself out by creating and breaking over fifty swords, was to teleport behind the girl and knock her out with a blow to the temple.

The girl crumpled to the ground and again the crowd went wild. I sat back feeling mostly contented. Looking down at the Dusk-Sea Academy’s section of the Arena.

I saw the school elder’s appraising Innes appreciatively and was pleased to see that they could recognize her talent. My hope was that they didn’t do anything to bother the kid and make it necessary for me to step in. If they could just play nice and do as any good sect or school would be expected to do with a good seed, I’d been happy to possibly even lend the Academy my backing as well.

It had occurred to me that I should probably do something else with my time than just farming for mana and sleeping in comfortable shadows. Before certain things had gone down, I’d been thinking about trying to get another job.

“…Status.”

*****

[Status System Down: Calamity King System Initialization In Process]

*****

“Fuck…You know what? It’s cool. It’s cool. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Calm down.” I said. Speaking aloud as I felt myself growing more agitated.

I sat there feeling miserable till the girl got back on stage again. By now she’d earned herself a place in the top ten which was enough to make any non-insane, non-braindead sect Deans and school Headmasters, treat her like she was made out of fucking gold.


So long as nothing went wrong, even if she lost the next round there were good odds for her being fast tracked into being  one of the Academy’s elites.

In fact you can forget what I said about there being “good” odds for the matter, because from what the archive was picking up from the conversation the Dusk-Sea Academy VIP booth, it was more or less a certainty.

“Hey….”

I jumped, heart racing. One bad thing about knowing almost everything that was happening, had happened or was about to happen in ones surroundings is that you increasingly sensitive to surprises.

I looked to my side and saw the oddly beautiful, blank faced man sitting next to me. At first I was wondering what had happened to guy who’d been sitting there before but then I saw him seated just a seat away.

I was struck with the realization that the dapper gray suited stranger had likely somehow added his own seat to the layout of the place. Casually warping time and space for his own convenience. I wondered if I could do the same and was pleased to find that I could, but annoyed to find that it’d take practice for me to able to do so with as much ease as he’d done so.

(Of course…)

“Hi….er…it’s William, wright?” said I. I knew his name. Heaven help me, I was just trying to pretend that his sudden presence there wasn’t spooking the hell out of me.

“Right…” said the blank faced man.

“You’re the one in charge of the system right?” said I.

“Right…”

“Ah…in that case I don’t suppose you’re the guy I’d go to complain about my broke status window or the fact that I  haven’t been able to level up weeks?”


The guy looked at me, quirking his brow. Frowning but not really frowning. Giving me this look like he couldn’t really understand what I was trying to say, but somehow that was okay…since he at least got the gist.

I couldn’t help gulping because it was both the sexiest and scariest thing I’d ever seen. The kind of move I’d see in the movies as a hopelessly awkward teen and spend hours staring in the mirror, trying and failing to pull off.

Back before I’d given up ever being cool and before I realized that what I really wanted to be was normal. Just a normal person living a normal life.

A guy who didn’t spend his days running into random strangers or getting odd calls in the night. Or being hounded by news reporters because he was the last survivor of that sex-cult that was being talked about on every channel and social networks for the last half-decade.

(And in that moment I suddenly realized this guy whoever the fuck he really was reminded me of my father….I mean, if my had had been a murdering, rapist, egomaniac….)

“Er…Nevermind, it’s not the end of the world…” I said. Coughing. Cutting my train of thought short.

The man sat back looking slightly uncomfortable….

“Well…actually….”

I stared at him…And I stared at him…And then I stared at him some more. Then suddenly I had his collar balled up in my fist and I was standing over the guy.

“Are you fucking kidding me, man! Seriously! Don’t you think this world has been through enough? That I’ve been through enough?!”


I was panting, heart pounding a mile a minute. My grip on his collar so tight I could feel the fine textured fabric pressing through my skin.

Finally he stared back. His look flat as it had always been. A part of me had a sense that I was holding a dragon by its whiskers. The rest of me, just noted the muted, patience in his gaze.

I let go. I fell back into my seat.

“When’s it going to happen…” said I.

“Now…”

My heart rate spiked again, I bolted upright.

“Are you fucking kidding?! Now it’s happening now?!” I exclaimed.

All he said was…

“…Yes. Red Moon. It’s happening now.”

And all I could say was….

“Oh…okay….So uh…what are you here for?”

“Well…I still kind of oh you…so I figured if there’s anything I could do that’s allowed within my powers as Administrator…”

“Oh…How about not letting the world end?” I said. My mood whiplashing, surging back towards whatever direction it took to make me feel like I could fight an immortal that could produce other immortals like myself for a living.

“No…”

“How about letting me and a few other not-ass people escape this world so that the world before everything goes down?”

“Mhn…I could do that…but I’m not going to, because that’d actually be kind of hurting you. Believe it or not, the apocalyptic reset of the Agarthan Wonderland’s reality is a party that many, higher existence…existence much higher than you and a few much higher than me…are pretty much falling all over themselves to get invited. After all sure this world is ending, but the one that’ll be set up shortly after to stop the whole reality erasure issue will be even more rife with opportunities for immortals and immortals-to-be both young and old…”

I looked at him frowning….and then I sighed, because it looked like he wasn’t going to budge.

“Okay, since you can’t stop this and you won’t save me, why “are” you here?”

That question actually made him think for a moment. He spent long enough thinking that Innes actually beat her opponent and the next set of fighters were already on and off the stage by the time he spoke again.

“Mhn…I guess I’m here to apologize and to explain…”

“…Alright…” said I. Feeling the old grimace acting up. Feeling my brow furrow.

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re not forgiven.” I said. Arms crossed.

“I figured as much.” he said with a shrug and a sigh.

“Okay…now out with the explanation, please.”

“So here’s a funny story…You remember a few weeks ago when you might have wandered through a town and defeated an old giant made of metal?”

I paled as the archive filled in the blanks and I realized that the administration’s sudden need to end the world was my fault.

The world was ending no matter what they did. The system they’d set in place would be imbalanced no matter what they did. Even if they erased my existence the damage was already done.


The only difference was that they could have tried a slightly less drastic if still very large scale option if they’d gone and erased me anyway…Which in a weird way made me see how much this dude valued my life.

“I didn’t beat the guy…he uh…he sort of gave up and ceded me the win.”

The man nodded, reached into his pocket and plopped a large heavy cube with a very intense antigravity charm on it onto my lap. I felt my bones creak despite all the spells that were walking on the cube to negate its weight.

“I know….He shouldn’t have done that…otherwise you would have died and respawned and none of us would be in this mess.”

A bit of irrational pride flared up.

“You don’t know that…I could have…”

“No, Des…No you couldn’t. I was very particular about that set of Demonkings. You have to graduation level and above. Mostly above and none of you levellers are at that stage yet….not even you…”

“….Ah….O-,…Okay…” I said. Finding that thought I still felt guilty, I felt slightly less guilty knowing that it wasn’t entirely my fault that the world was ending.

“Is it safe to assume that this isn’t the only reason why you’re here? To tell me that this wasn’t my fuck-up?”

“Yes…I’m also here to explain what’s about to happen…”

“What’s about to-”

“…..” he didn’t even say anything. He just stopped me with a look and I finally realized that I was probably pressing my luck here.

“In a few minutes you’re going to see a bright, black, white and gray light and then everything is going to go away. We’ve joined up with a few angeles, a few gods of life and death, and few creation gods and we’re going to remake the world. There’ll be some background changes, and besides fixing this whole situation, we’re going to take the opportunity to hurry some things we were planning to just weight on and change some things we’d been wanting to fix but were holding back on touching since you know this world had people living on it and shit…”

“Oh…and…so?”

“For us the process will take maybe a few centuries, maybe a thousand years, but for you it’ll be as if this world had never been. Everything here will be gone. Ancient history and less than that…”


“Oh…uh…so we’re all going to die…” I said. Feeling numb inside. Feeling like I very desperately needed to smoke, to drink, to hit something.

“Yes and no…”

“What we’ve got planned is something closer to a staggered, planet wide respawn but from your end of things, it’ll look more like reincarnation. You’ll still be you…but at the same time you won’t be. New lives. New experiences. New world. New families. It’ll be the same for every other new life that’s brought over, and that’s been brought over.”

It finally clicked why he was here.

“New lives right?…And let me guess you guys can pull some string to control what kinds of lives we get.”

He nodded.

“For the most part we’re planning to just seed the new reality off a sped up simulation that would decide how society got built up for the rest of souls that’ll be reborn in this new world but we at the Administration do have some privileges and some measure of control…”

I considered and then I considered again and then I got up to go throw up a little. And when I got back I decided.

“I…I don’t really care about me, but I’ve got this disciple…my only student…this little girl I know who I’d like you take special care of.”

The guy looked at me and then he smiled. It was a beautiful smile. Light and slow like syrup.

“We can do that…”

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