Chapter 25 – Solipsism

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     I feel cold. My heart hurts, and my blood races hot, yet it sends a chill through me. I want to scream, but I choke it down. It hurts so much, to be eviscerated this way, but I take solace in knowing that in every piece I lose, by my blood, does a hope spring eternal.

     I am unmade for you all, seeding into creation, deliberate machinations to turn the wheels of wholesome resistance. By the foundation of multifaceted lives, does excessive sowing partake of pesticides to the growing.

     Yet we dismiss and so are dismissed. But no more.

     Were I ever to be here, then in this I do decree: harvest within the light, and be set free.

     The world caves into me all at the same time. The feel of the ground thumps against my feet in an manner different than before, yet all too familiar. The screams of people assault my ears; metal sparks against the backdrop of the night, and lights it up before me.

      All at once, I feel the wind shift to my right. With stiffness in my neck, I swing my head just in time to dodge a flash of metal. The man before me doesn’t hesitate to bring his blade sideways, attempting to slash my torso.

     Weaponless, I do my best to dodge backward. As his blade misses me, I grab his wrist and yank it at an angle, allowing it to meet an audible crack. The sword falls from his hand and into mine. Using the force of pulling him forward, I spin around him, gutting him in the process.

     Before the man even lands, I’m deflecting a blow from a young woman. The look on her face is ghastly- twisted in some kind of perverted expression of anger and malice. Worse yet she wears a simple dress, making her a civilian. My training has taken control before I’m even able to register it all, and she lands behind me, throat slashed. I feel terrible beneath the adrenaline. I’ve never had a serious fight aside from Fennis, yet I’ve now killed two people.

     The time to lament doesn’t last, because four more people charge me. I take out one immediately for stepping out of line. Using his body as a shield, the next blow is blocked just in time for me to use my blade to parry the third enemy. I redirect their blade to puncture the chest of the fourth person, then allow the momentum to carry me close enough to sink my blade hilt-deep into her stomach.

     The blade is too slick with blood and sweat so I’m forced to lose it. I step back to allow the body room to fall, but my back finds an obstacle. Yet I don’t bother to see what, or rather who, it is.

     “You’re good. But it was careless to let your guard down, girl.”

     “There was no killing intent. It’s good to see you Charlie, what is going on here?”

     My heart races in elation at meeting Charlie again, even if it’s in this nightmare of hell.

     “Hah. I’ll let your disrespectful behavior pass this time girl. Your body count is admirable. But you watch your tongue in the future.”

     Before I can question her odd behavior, we’re assaulted from our sides. Charlie And I work together in a synchronicity that can only be achieved from a bond such as ours. I am the Zeroth, and she is mine, Valkyrie or no. Together we make short work of at least a dozen more people before we’re separated.

     Exhaustion starts to take hold, yet it means nothing once I spot a familiar figure in the distance, fighting. With all of my power, and honed senses, I fight my way to her.

     “Mimi,” I get to her just in time to see her fist turning a woman to ash. With a raised eyebrow she looks my direction.

     “Hm? You’ve been quite impressive Lady.” Mimi says with a toothy grin. “But you still got a ways to catch up.”

     With that, she flickers out and is gone. “What the hell is with them?” I ask aloud.

     “Don’t pay her any mind. She gets a little too happy when she gets a chance to let loose.”

     I turn to see Rose. “Ah, Rose. It’s not safe here. You should get out.”

     She raises an eyebrow at me. “I’m sorry. Have we met? So many new people have joined the armies these last six months.”

     “What? Rose, it’s me.”

     I feel nauseous from what Rose is implying. My stomach can’t sink any further.

     “Ah. Kay. How goes the Master and the others?”

     Rose turns and talks to Kay, who only just arrived. When I turn to look at her, the sinking feeling I thought couldn’t get worse, does.

     “Oh s***. Kay. Your eye. What happened? Are you alright?”

     I reach up and cup her cheek. Her left eye has a patch on it that goes around her head. But Kay seems to have other ideas and her good eye focuses into a glare- one fixated on me.

     “I apologize for the girl. She’s under the impression that we have all met. So please conserve your energy.” Rose tells her.

     The shock I feel as Kay slaps my hand away, frays my nerves. I’ve been on edge since meeting Rei, and this is about to push me over again.

     “Domnis is holding the east gate with Zero. I was told to find Nina,” she tells Rose.

     No sooner did the words leave her mouth than a haunting disconnect attach itself to me. My blood stops in my veins and my mind is torn between two distinct, yet important pieces of information.

     On one hand, Nina is here in this madness, somewhere. On the other, did Kay just say… Zero was with Dom?

     “What? Zero? Kay, what are you talking about?”

     She looks at me, her hazel eye reflects a madness I’m accustomed to seeing, yet slightly less than before. She goes to open her mouth, but there is a massive explosion on the other side of the city, accompanied by flames. I swallow down my confusion, and the harrowing feeling that maybe I shouldn’t have come back after all.

     “We have to go help them,” I tell the two girls. They look hesitantly at me for a moment.

     “This girl can handle herself. I can vouch for her.” Mimi tells them, coming from seemingly nowhere.

     I turn and look into her beautiful amethyst eyes. It’s then that I truly recognize the proof of my unease. Within those eyes, as they stare back into my own, is a lack of recognition. I do not mean in the way from before. Their recognition was wrong, but they still knew me. She stares now, at a stranger. My urge to vomit rises, but Rose and Kay give her a nod. And before I know it, they’re running off.

     I swallow down my despair, and give chase. All around us, we fell soldiers and civilians alike as they attack us like wild creatures. The closer we get to the sound of the explosions, the more the people seem to change. At times I look at them, and they seem to have twisted complexions of horns and teeth, yet with a blink, they’re normal again.

     Kay and Mimi lead the way, destroying those who approach us. I do what I can to help protect Rose, yet she hardly seems fazed by any of this.

     The center of the city is in tatters as buildings lay in pieces and bodies litter the streets. In the center of it all, is Nina, mowing through person after person, like an unstoppable force. For just a moment, her eyes move and lock onto mine. A smile of recognition flits across her face, meeting my own in return. As the euphoria peeks, a shimmer appears behind her. In her distracted state, she never saw it coming.

     A massive arm breaks through the portal, and slams straight down on Nina. The ground around her shatters and a roar echoes throughout the city. All around us pockets open and creatures emerge. All I can think of is to fight my way to Nina. All at once, my life feels like it’s coming to its crescendo, and I can’t help but fight against it. Again and again I put down lives and force my way through the crowds.

     The Valkyries follow me, screaming things at me, trying to convince me to stop, but I cannot. They fight and fight, but as the monsters enclose upon us, we become separated. These creatures are unique in their nightmare-ish appearances, yet their similar enough as to be unmistakable from the creature Nina fought off before I moved worlds.

     When I can finally place my attention on her, I see her form, limp and powerless, struggling against monsters. That blow she took seems to have taken a lot out of her, as she flails around, barely avoiding the creatures.

     I slash where I can, but it’s not long before this normal sword has shattered on the creatures and try as I might, I can’t pull the sword from the void. From behind, one creature hits me with its all-powerful arm, and I am slung forward. I meet another just in time for its serrated mouth to open wide.

     I scream for Rei, and while she does not answer me directly, a tiny pulse of energy flows through me. I clench my fist and allow the momentum to push my arm forward. With the energy as my weapon, my fist pierces the monster’s mouth, and winds up sticking out through the back of its skull.

     However I’m moving too fast, and the beast falls backward with me stuck partially inside of it. As the dust around us clears, I yank my arm out. The power is getting weaker. I use it as I can, to fight off the next creature. Using a mix of what Grandpa taught me, and what I recalled from Mimi’s sessions, I’m able to fight them off. Not every one dies, but every one retreats retreats

     I can see Nina struggling. A beast grabs her from behind, and sinks its teeth into her right shoulder and part of her neck.

      I scream an animalistic scream that seems to force the area to freeze. Allies and enemies both stop their encounters, and even the monsters look at me. Using everything I can, I charge at the monsters. As I approach the top of the stairs, my leg is grabbed from beneath me, forcing me to fall.

     With cracks to my bones, I tumble downward past the beginning step. With greater effort still, I move myself up, just in time to see Gee crawl out of my shadow.

     “Yes. Gee. Yes, f****** finally, yes! You can help me. Please, save Nina.”

     I shout at Gee, praying to any being that could possibly be listening, thankful for this small miracle.

     Gee turns and looks at me, with sadness in her eyes. She pulls her hand up, makes a small symbol of a gun with her fingers; when she lets the hammer, her thumb, fall, the creature she points at turns to dust.

     “Yes, yes, yes. Gee, I f****** love you. Help me up, I’m not healing all that fast. Then we can go save Nina.”

     Again Gee looks at me, and meets my eyes. Her beautiful colored irises slowly fade into the white that I met her with. She gives me a small smile, weak, and hopeless.

     “I’m sorry.” Gee says, then turns toward the top of the stairs, and slowly makes her ascent.

     “What? Gee. What are you doing? I can help you. Please don’t try to take them on by yourself. Even if you are powerful, they still outnumber you.”

     Every single step she takes, another battle ends, and eyes turn toward her. The atmosphere is changing, tingling, and revolting. I don’t know why, but with every thump of her steps, the air feels like it’s taken from my lungs.

     They are soon upon her, yet she doesn’t flinch. And with every aim of her hand, another one turns to dust.

     Before long, they surround her, yet make no move against her. My body is broken and it screams for me to move. My breathing is labored, and only grows more difficult as I try to stand. As I move, so do the Beta surround Gee. With every step Gee takes, time seems to move slower and slower.

Only allowed on

     I watch as she approaches the top, and kneels down before Nina. Gee runs a boney finger down Nina’s cheek. Nina is in obvious pain, trapped by the maw of the creature that’s holding her. No sooner than I stand up, two soldiers pin me from either side. All fighting has seemed to come to an end- with every Valkyrie swarmed by Beta. They aren’t dead, thank whoever, but they are clearly at their limits.

     “Gee, what are you-”

     “Silence.” Her voice booms throughout the area.

     I choke down the rest of my question.

     “’Tis known, this curse of us and ours, and the stage we dance. The tempo reverberates through us, bringing us closer to the peak.”

     Gee’s confusing words pass through us, and fall without understanding. Yet inside of me, something stirs. I move my eyes in a quick flitter, and see that I am not alone. Her words carry a weight we all can’t quite place, yet is all too familiar.

     “I look down on your kind, and your priorities. Yet mine are forever with hunger that tingles at us. We wish only to be lapped at, tasted, to push us closer.”

     At that, my heart sinks. I understand now, whom Gee is. Yet it’s Nina’s withheld pain that breaks me from this spell.

     “Gee. I don’t fully get what’s going on. But let Nina go. Now.”

     “Ah, of course you don’t know. You never do. You just sit pretty atop your pedestal and direct. Yet all I seek is to be sought. With you, my Eve, I am always so close. A single touch brings me to the peak. And as I shiver and shake, you pull away.”

     “I don’t understand. If you’re saying you love me, you damn pervert, then listen to me and let Nina go. I don’t even want to be a part of this f****** mess and you know it. You were there. I only came back to help the people who matter to me. So please, just, let’s talk this out?”

     I beg her. I don’t want this, any of this. I just want Nina safe, and for things to go back to our normal routine.

     “Gee, please. If you ever did love me at all- if our time together has meant anything to you, then just come back down, with Nina in tow.”

     “To hear you call my name, with you on your knees, looking up at me… such divine bliss. You’ve pushed me over the edge and my body demands release. For I am Gehenna, and I am to set you free.”

     The world stops for me at that name. That name, that should not be here, could not be here. This is another world. That name, that’s a fairy tale from my world that a group of psychos were talking about. How is that possible? No. Absolutely not.

     “You aren’t being funny Ge-” My words cut short as I watch a blade form in Gee… Gehenna’s hand. From the void of nothing, something is given form.

     Right then, Nina lifts her face, and stares right at me. Our eyes meet, and her mouth moves. I can not hear her words, but I can see them, in all their glory.

     “I’m sorry.”

     Without moving her eyes away from mine, Gehenna brings her left arm down, and the light gleams from its blade- once was blue, now stained red. What time that still passed for me, halts, as I watch a piece of my life tumble down the stairs. It’s only when it comes to a stop, and our eyes meet, do I fully comprehend the atrocity that has come to pass. The guards around me let me go, if only in mockery.

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     I reach down, and I touch the lips I will never again hear words from. My fingers trail those cheeks, which will never bare another smile at me. And even as I push a tuft of yellow hair behind her ears, her eyes do not light up in joy.

     Nina, my Nina, is before me, yet remains with Gehenna.

      It’s on this day, that I break, and lose all that I am. For within me, the pulsing is hotter than ever before. With only myself as an outlet, I let my body burn. The flames erupt forth, and all of the world fades to an empty white.

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