Irena and I sat, watching the performances for some time. Each one held its own charm, whether it was a movie, a song and dance, or even a stand-up comedy act. After a while, Irena rose to her feet, moving to walk away from her seat. Thinking she was ready to leave, I started to rise to follow her.
However, she motioned for me to sit back down, shaking her head. As she walked out of the seating area, she vanished from my view. This lasted for only a moment before I saw her walking onto the stage.
“Hello, everyone.” She spoke curtly with her eyes closed, her wings fluttering as she gave a small bow. “My name is Irena. Please, enjoy.”
When her eyes opened up, a vast grey fog filled the stage, surging from her body. Her form was briefly obscured, before she appeared again, her outfit entirely different. Gone was the businesswoman appearance that she often showed. Instead, she appeared as a golden armored valkyrie, a spear resting in one of her hands.
My eyes widened briefly in surprise when she opened her mouth again. A soft, mellow voice began to echo out, carried along the fog as if to form a choire. Her head tilted back, her wings stretched out, and her voice filled the room.
“Let not your mighty pow’r… Obscure your thoughts this fateful hour. Let not your heart be filled with dread, when fires spiral overhead…” The grey mist began to rotate around Irena’s body, rising into the sky to become a figure of flame, as if it were an eye staring down at her.
As the song continued, spectral forms began to appear around Irena, shadowy and indistinguishable from one another. These forms stood next to Irena, striking defensive stances. Yet still, her voice continued to flow, slow and smooth.
“Don’t sit alone upon your throne. This world turns yet unbeknown… a fateful wind begins to blow. A story still that must be told.” The mist swirls again, as if forming a tornado to capture both Irena and the flaming eye. Irena’s voice began to pick up, echoing more forcefully throughout the stage.
“So lift your voice, so lift your hand! For on your own, you cannot stand. But hear me now, I’ve come to say, you’re not alone, no not today! We stand as one, our hearts aligned, so lift your hand and draw the line!”
The figures around Irena became more clear, more distinct as the tornado scattered from around her. Counting Irena herself, there were thirteen figures, all of whom I could easily recognize. Especially considering that one of those forms was myself. All of the gods and goddesses from my world, along with Leowynn and myself, stood together in full armor.
“We lift you up, so hear our voice! This world falling is a choice! So make a stand, to fight the end, this world’s ours we will defend.” As she called out loudly, the thirteen figures flew upwards into the flaming eye, weapons drawn. The eye exploded as the thirteen figures charged into it, turning into a swirling column of smoke.
“You hold us close, you say a prayer, this fight is won so we declare. Now lift your voice, and lift your hand, we fought as one so we’ll withstand.” As the thirteen figures slowly floated back down to the ground, they turned to face each other, Irena’s voice once more going slow and soft. One by one, the figures faded away into smoke, until the last ones left were myself and Irena, until I too faded away in front of her.
“So lift your voice… So make the choice… Don’t stand alone…” With the last word, her voice trailed off, and I could see a small tear falling from her eye. When her voice fell, the fog rolled back into her body, and she was once again in her formal attire, giving a soft bow to the crowd. I almost wished that I could see everyone else at the moment, or hear their applause.
However, the ‘privacy’ of the stage still prevented that, even if I began to clap happily. As she stood, I saw a small smile fill her face, before she left the stage. A few moments later, she was back in front of me, walking past to her seat. “So… how was it?” She asked, seeming more bashful than I had ever remembered seeing her.
“It was… beautiful.” I told her honestly, reaching to gently hold her hand in my own. “Really. If anything, I’m just sad that nobody else seemed to appreciate it.” That was the only conclusion that I could draw when there was no notification of points being received for that performance.
However, Irena’s eyes widened slightly at my comment. “Nobody? Oh, did you not get it?” She asked, before a small bit of spiritual energy rose up from her palm, forming the image of a message window. “This appeared in front of me when I stopped singing.”
You have achieved a 78% satisfaction rating over 732 audience members. As such, you have been awarded 2855 points for your performance.
Well, if that didn’t catch me by surprise, I wasn’t sure what would. “Almost three thousand points for that… That’s really amazing.” I admitted, shaking my head. “I guess the people here weren’t as jaded as I thought.”
Irena nodded her head with a small smile at that, her hand gripping mine gently. “Would you be fine if we went somewhere else now?” She asked quietly. “This was nice… but I would like to see what else this place has to offer.”
I had no problem with that, and slowly began to lead Irena back down the stairs of the entertainment building. There were several familiar faces that I saw on the way, but that angelic figure was still concentrating entirely on the same game when we reached the first floor.
“What did you have in mind?” I looked towards Irena and asked. However, she simply shrugged her shoulders, as if anything was fine. “Okay then… I guess we’re just exploring?”
That seemed to be okay with her, so the two of us left the entertainment building, and began to wander the streets. We took a look at every building, at least on the exterior. Whether it was the Crafts building, the Magic building, even the Special Presentations building, which seemed to just be where people could show off new abilities or races that they had created in the last year to advertise.
Ultimately, we even wandered away from the area where the buildings had been erected entirely. People could be seen sitting on the grass, talking with each other or walking around. “I wonder how big this area is…” I couldn’t help but question that when I saw that there seemed to be no limits to the ‘Meeting Area’.
“Perhaps larger than anyone can explore within eight days.” Irena remarked, similarly looking around. “This is as good of a spot as any, I suppose.”
After saying that, she tugged on my hand and sat down, pulling me to sit next to her. There was really no reason to resist, so I sat down beside her, glancing around the area. “So… how did you come up with that song earlier?”
Irena glanced away slightly when I asked that, the tips of her ears a light red. “I just started thinking about it while watching those other performances. You seemed to enjoy it when people sang, so I wanted to sing for you as well.”
I made a soft sound of realization at that, my hand gripping hers just a bit harder. “You didn’t have to go through all that trouble. But I do appreciate it.”
Irena nodded her head gently, before finally turning to look at me. Before I could properly react, she had closed the distance between our faces, planting her lips against my own. I could see her eyes closed, her cheeks red as she held her face there for a moment before backing off.
“Well… that was…” I was briefly at a loss for words, having not at all expected Irena to take the initiative for something like that. “Wow.”
There was a small laugh from Irena when she heard my admittedly dumbfounded rambling. Slowly standing up, she brushed her legs off, looking down to me. “We should go and get back to the others… I promised not to take up too much of your time on my own.”
“Didn’t realize we were on a schedule.” I said with a roll of my eyes, standing next to her. “Do you have any plans for where else to go to now?”
Irena tilted her head as we began to walk back towards the area where the buildings had been erected. “Perhaps I shall check out the magic or crafts shows? There may be something there involving spiritual energy that I could learn.” Although I could still see the corners of her lips tugging upwards, it seemed that she was trying to slip back into her more formal way of speaking.
“That would be pretty nice.” As we walked, I saw that someone was already waiting for us at beside the nearest building. She had a very catlike grin befitting of her felyn race, her red tail flicking behind herself.
“Bout time you two got back.” Terra teased, giving a small nod towards Irena. “Enjoy yourselves?”
“Very much.” Irena responded curtly, finally releasing my hand. “I would like to… thank you for helping to arrange this. It was nice.”
Terra’s smile turned softer as she heard that. “Don’t worry about it, Irena. You’ve waited long enough, you deserved this.” She walked over, gently patting Irena’s shoulder as she said that, before turning to face me. “Now as for you, mister, there are other people wanting to spend time with you.”
Oddly, judging by her tone, it was somewhat clear that she didn’t just mean herself. She pat me on the back to lead me forward. Once Irena was out of earshot, she began to speak again, a bit quieter. “She really enjoyed herself?”
“Of course.” I said with a small nod. “Did you think that she wouldn’t?”
Terra gave a light laugh at that. “I was just worried you might turn her down. Poor girl’s idolized you for ages. Would have broken her heart. None of us really wanted to see something like that happen.”
“Were… all of you in on that, then?” When I asked that, Terra gave a nod of her own.
“Of course. I was even there in the crowd when she went up to sing. Now that caught me by surprise. And given what I am, it’s hard for something to surprise me when I’m paying attention.” Terra had an almost wistful expression on her face as she spoke. “Never expected that she’d have a singing voice like that.”
“Shouldn’t you know everything about… pretty much everyone?” This seemed an entirely valid question, given that the system permeated every level of thought and existence.
“Well, yes and no. I mean, if she had ever sang before, or even considered doing so, I’d have probably known. If I was paying attention at the time. But that was a pretty spur of the moment decision on her part. I have to say that I was impressed. And the twenty-two percent of the audience who didn’t like it can all go jump in a black hole.” Terra’s expression hardened a bit when she said that, clearly displeased that Irena hadn’t gotten a higher rating.
However, she quickly shook her head, returning to her normal happy expression. “Anyways, Rivy and Bihena are waiting for us in the entertainment room, second floor. Normally, I can’t play any of these games because it would be deemed unfair for a system companion to earn points for their Keeper. But if we’re just playing it for fun and opt out of earning points…”
We quickly arrived at the second floor of the entertainment building, and I saw Bihena and Aurivy standing together near one of the stages. Moving closer, it seemed to be a four player version of the Keeper Sim game that I saw during the monthly meetings.