April 7th, Year P-132.
Waking Day 1.
I blinked slowly as I rose back into consciousness. The same question kept echoing in my head.
How? How? How am I still alive?
My bedroom on the boat was…odd. The entire room mainly seemed built around wood, old wood, but smelled and felt shockingly nice and well-maintained. The floor was a red carpet, which I would have found gaudy were the rest of my surroundings not so wooden and unbearably old-fashioned. Distantly, I could recall the fancy-ass “ballroom” and the outdoor deck of the boat where Sobekai served me food and oxygen before putting me back to sleep.
I thought while unconscious that I’d been hooked up to some kind of machine that was keeping me there. Something that was preventing me from waking up and experiencing waking reality. But now that I was awake, there was no one here but…me.
But somehow I knew. Somehow I knew people had been in my room frequently, a series of unfamiliar scents filled the place. And if the clean clothes on my body were any indication, there was at least some degree of tending to my body while I was unconscious, which made me nauseous but…at least I still have my right arm, I guess.
Should I wait for the next person, or try to head out on my own? I mean…I’m not tied down or anything, so…
Season Two: [RE]prisal
Episode Four: The Boat (Day 14)
…and left my room.
The hallway was about what I expected. Old bed and breakfast-y. Old polished wood on the walls and the ceiling, with occasional yellow lights and curtains around the top. I kind of expected it to be fancier, but if my sleep seasickness had been any indication, I was being lodged in an “older” part of the boat. That is, one closer to the edges.
In real-time and awake, though, it was subtle. It was so subtle I barely noticed. Probably because I wasn’t suffering from any undue time dilation, ie the time dilation one might suffer if they spend a full week’s coma in a state of panic and isolation.
Is that what I’ve been doing to myself?
I shook my head warily.
Not quite. It ended pretty fucking badly but the dreamscape was helpful, too. I fought so many old rivals there. Like they’d been waiting for me to come back and fight them properly all along.
Thinking of my grandfather and my mother, I sighed. If only.
I took off down the hallway, trying to take in more of my environment than my own swirling pot of emotions and anxieties. Remembering my own name was the easiest part, even if it took a week by itself. Reconciling with my name took a coma ending in what might have been my actual death had I not woken up.
Did I ever really wake up, or am I already…
I shook my head.
Nah. That doesn’t make sense. Between ‘in the afterlife’ and ‘on a boat’, I’m taking ‘on a boat’.
Am I gonna have to fight every single person here to the death to escape? No. No that’s just me hearing the sound of my own voice and not pretending I don’t have ears.
I sighed, but continued down the hallway until it broke into a turn, into an unexpected sight.
Life! Life under the seas I’ve made a great effort to avoid speaking about in any detail until now. To be fair, Trine also has sea serpents. We try not to talk about ’em because the Great Beasts are generally regarded to be more…”benevolent”, but somebody had to carve the planet into the shape of a snake eating its own tail and it wasn’t us! A single sea serpent did that, apparently, and we still don’t know who and where because the only parties who do know will never fuckin’ tell us.
There’s more to life underwater than sea serpents, though. Contrary to my worst fears I saw an incredibly wide variety of aquatic life, things I’d been scared to even research when I was a child. Fear of the unknown’s a powerful fucking thing, and for good reason. I basically had to d-
“Kid.” A voice whispered, “Are you gonna stare off into space like that forever?”
I chuckled to myself.
“…have you eaten, though?”
I turned sharply to the source of the voice, but saw nothing.
“Oh. All that meat on your bones, I’d assume you’d eaten plenty.”
I squinted. Am I being pranked by some punk bitch Light user right now?
Not quite. If I closed my eyes and just focused on whatever Elemental energy could be felt in the room, my focus inevitably narrowed down to…Wind. I followed it to an urn, beside yet another window out into the sea in this long hallway on the boat.
The urn was blue, mostly. I chuckled to myself at a sizable orange fish swimming by the window as I reached the urn, but I paid it no mind.
I stared down. “Hey, Urn. Don’t talk to me like that.”
“What the fuck are you gonna do about it?” Urn asked in response, “I’m already in an urn. Life won.”
“I know the feeling. You seem pretty talkative for a dead guy.”
“I’ve been told that.” Urn replied, “But…enough about me. Just for a moment. What exactly happened to you?”
I dropped my head in dejection. I’d lost my left arm. I’d lost half my entire combat prowess from a single fucking mistake, and now all the battle experience I’d gained didn’t matter. No matter who I fought now, I was just a god damned cripple. Weak and diseased.
Urn chuckled. I didn’t need to answer out loud, apparently.
“So this is the first time you’ve lost something?”
I shook my head.
“This is the first time it feels permanent.” Urn corrected. “Like nothing can salvage you as you are now.”
I was possessed by the violent urge to flip the table. Just fucking hurl it over for letting a god damn object speak to me that way.
I fought it.
As much as I loved battle, there was no way I was gonna get it from a fuckin’ jar. Also it was clearly speaking to me, which meant I was either hallucinating in ways previously unimagined by mankind, or I was talking to a dead person.
“There we go.” Urn chuckled sinisterly, “Battle. Don’t think I can’t read lips in this form.”
“It’s the human condition.” I replied, turning to face the window instead of Urn but still clearly speaking to him, “Don’t you know that?”
“Battle is not how I got here. It’s not how you got here, either.” The Urn replied, quite seriously, “When I…lost my golden arm, I could only find a single way out. I took it right there in the airport, in front of my loved ones and my enemies. I could never stop dreaming of hands. Even now I’m here, trying to dissuade the likes of you from taking the path of the inevitable.”
“Why?” I asked.
Urn laughed. “This world has very different rulers compared to the one I’m used to. But that’s really the main difference. The wounds you maintain while keeping your integrity of character intact are worthwhile wounds to carry. Death is not a failure, but you don’t belong here under the sea, either.”
I blinked three times.
“Huh. How big is this boat?”
Urn laughed, ‘with chest’.
“It’ll serve our purposes fine. But find something to hold onto, yeah? And if my advice has served you well…bring me a lemon. Whenever you feel your journey is actually complete. Memories are nice in this form, but fruit is nicer.”
I shrugged. “I’ll think about it. But we should talk again soon, Urn.”
I still wondered what exactly he meant by that as I wandered deeper into The Boat, but took mental note of where we’d met. Somehow I doubted I would find a lemon here, but I also never thought I would get to speak directly to a ghost, and apparently that happens more frequently than one would think.
For a moment, I envisioned fulfilling the Urn’s wish right away. I wanted to, more than anything. Being in an urn and yearning for lemons had to suck.
But his words spoke louder than my own desire for closure. Whenever you feel your journey is actually complete. What fucking journey? I bit my lip as I continued further into the depths of the ship, pondering what the Urn could have meant.
I had found my siblings, yes. I also immediately had my body hijacked by what I mistakenly believed to be an inanimate object and proceeded to attack them both. It’s been so long that I can’t even be sure either of them are still alive. And if they are, how the fuck do I explain myself to them?
It’s not like I had never been warned about using Murzim. It was Vincent’s weapon of choice against my father, the one that inexplicably did the most damage to him despite being the hardest to wield prior to Pandora. I guess the continued existence of…Epsilon, if I can even call it that, within the sword explains that.
Epsilon was a curious figure in Lockheart Family Lore. We understood the concept of a doppelganger that Vincent had to overcome, but his writings also omitted several key points of information about not only Epsilon, but the weapons Murzim and Tsukimono. Both had been used against us by our own Ancestor to steal away our autonomy and our peace. Like we were just extensions of him to be used like so many weapons prior.
I snarled to myself, unintentionally exerting Light energy in the process.
I nearly collapsed to the floor from the pain.
What the fuck!?
I was heaving now. Leaning against the wall with my left…shoulder-stump, trying to ignore the rising pain and anxiety and nausea. I covered my mouth with my right hand as I used my left leg to raise and steady myself.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
That hasn’t happened to me before. Why does using my own Light make me feel like I’m going to die?
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to reach equilibrium. I pushed myself off the wall.
My entire body feels foreign to me now. I’ve always been right-handed but my left arm was just as fucking important. How the Hell am I supposed to finish a journey when I’m crippled to a state worse than I started, fighting people so much stronger than me that their leader nearly suffocated me by just standing near me?
A disgusting feeling coursed through my veins from my chest. Not self-pity nor self-loathing. Despair. Just true and genuine despair.
If my journey’s already over. Maybe I should just give up and die here.
A cold wind brushed against my left cheek. Not from the Urn. Not from any source I could recognize or identify.
I gasped at the intensity of the feeling.
That’s not the answer. There must be a reason I keep waking up.
Even here. Away from everyone and everything I know and love. Beneath a sea I never wanted to tread on or under.
I took a deep breath of oxygen to remind myself that I could still breathe, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Hardening my gaze, I proceeded further into the depths of Sobekai’s ship. If they wanted me dead, I’d already be dead. It’s time to get some answers.
When I made it back to “the ballroom”, no soothing jazz or rich vocals remained. In fact, no person remained. The place was…rather ominously empty, despite all the fancy tables, bright yellow lights, red carpets, and shiny, empty glasses left on the tables. In the back of the room was a large, empty stage, most likely for the performed music I had been hearing the last time I was here.
I felt curiously drawn to the stage. Something told me if I climbed up there, things would get better for me. I could fall to my knees and sing my heart out. I could cover all those wonderful tracks my deceased mother shared with me. I could make my own music, for a change.
I couldn’t stop it.
My shoulders started shaking with the force of my laughter. Hot tears followed the laughter, which began raising in volume as I fell to my knees on the floor before the stage, not even bothering to climb on because this wasn’t a fucking performance.
I couldn’t tell the difference anymore. Between genuine sobs and my own ruthless laughter at the sheer, brutal despair of my situation. The situation I fucking deserved for jeopardizing every attempt Nalia made at preventing the unsealing. The situation I fucking deserved for consciously choosing to wield the weapon that did the Most harm to my father in the hands of the man who would use it to cut off my fucking arm.
I punched the floor in a blind rage. A dazzling amount of Scarlet Lightning lashed out from the point of contact, disintegrating everything it touched, past the carpet and tile and into the wood of the ship below.
It doesn’t hurt anymore. I realized, with sick glee, Regular Light hurts more than using my own blood as a fucking catalyst on top of it. HOWL’S REALLY MINE NOW.
I punched the floor again, blood splattering off my knuckles from the point of contact as yet more destructive Howl energy lashed out from contact, striking and vaporizing entire tables in my vicinity and yet deeper into the hull of the ship.
I know exactly how to get out of here now.
I leaned back and laughed, raising my bloody right fist into the air above my head. More Howl energy than I’d ever seen or harnessed before burst from each of my five bloody knuckles, but converged and circled around my hand repeatedly, building charge for what was coming next.
But what about Urn? I asked myself, What about Sobekai and the rest of the people on this boat? I’ve been taken care of. They didn’t do this to me.
I need to stop this.
I opened my fingers, trying to dispel the Howl energy without actually releasing it. It didn’t release, but it didn’t dispel either.
I didn’t have a left arm with which to pull myself off the floor. I was still on my knees, my face still hot with tears, still very literally on the edge of destroying this boat and likely killing the dozens of people I knew were onboard before I pulled out reserves of power from this deep within my own soul.
This isn’t right. Light shouldn’t cause me pain while Howl is painless.
One of the five bolts of scarlet Lightning circulating around my knuckles grazed it. I hissed in pain as I saw it burn against my skin and disintegrate some of the blood into yet more Howl.
“Well, kid?” asked a familiar voice from behind me, “What are you waiting for? You’ve already fucked up my ballroom. Why not send this whole ship into the abyss? Go ahead. Make that first step into ‘Godhood‘.”
I turned sharply to the source of the voice.
It was Sobekai again. Those cold blue eyes were just the same as before. He was seated at one of the tables closer to the entrance I’d entered through, an open bottle of wine on the table beside his raised legs. He was reclining so infuriatingly casually, the jacket of crocodile scales glinting against the crackling of Howl from my right hand.
“Godhood?” I hissed, “You consider an act of mass murder Godhood!?“
“Of course I do.” Sobekai replied, “What do you think happened to all the people here that you woke up to? Do you think I just kept them around after they failed to serve their purpose? I assumed my true form and devoured every last fucking one of them.”
He smiled maliciously, his teeth glinting, “They were all delicious, Michael Lockheart! Go ahead! Destroy my boat! It doesn’t make a difference anymore, does it?“
“You…” My heart was unbelievably hollow, “She…for you…they…for YOU-“
I couldn’t use my left arm to push myself to my feet anymore. I bent a knee and used my legs instead, consciously keeping the accumulated Howl energy in my right hand from touching anything while I did so.
“I’m going to turn your whole body into a fucking jacket just like that one,” I told him, the Howl intensifying yet stronger in my right hand as I lost blood and more blood to it, “I’m going to wear you like a suit, you fucking monster.”
Sobekai laughed, now. He didn’t need to say anything.
I pressed my right palm into my chest and screamed out in agony as the Howl re-entered my body in its most dangerous form. But I didn’t care anymore. If nowhere was safe and no one could be trusted, I didn’t need to hold back. It didn’t matter if I died here.
I’m already dead. I just need to take one more subhuman motherfucker with me before I go.
I blasted at Sobekai faster than I ever had. Light as a battery was the fastest any human could hope to use. Howl as a battery was something else entirely. It was almost one with me and every drop of blood in my veins. The catalyst, the fuel, and the result were all starting to blend together into pure fucking Killing Intent.
It was in my heart, too, which seized with every step I took. Every step I was taking at a speed beyond Light.
Sobekai smiled right through me. Whether or not his eyes could track me at this speed didn’t matter. He clearly understood the situation better than I did, in the midst of my own rage.
His right hand held a half-full glass of red wine. His left was frozen in mid beckoning motion, encouraging me to rush him with everything I had. A process I knew would kill me before I ever reached him.
I took one more step forward, and his left hand beckon turned into a snap.
Instantly, all the Howl in my body became inert. Instantly-instantly. In another instant, it began to flow again, but…as blood?
I gasped in oxygen as I returned back to normal speed and time perception.
Sobekai hadn’t moved. He raised the wineglass to me, then brought it to his lips and consumed it in three gulps.
“Atta boy,” Sobekai chuckled, “Cyria told me that would work on you. You humans and your morality. No better killer than that.”
“Wouldn’t slaughter an entire boat full of people to make a point and satisfy my ego.” Sobekai replied, “I lied. All that rage you were feeling is what you wanted to do to yourself for being willing to kill every single person on this ship just to escape the consequences of your own ego and your own actions.”
“See?” Sobekai said, kicking the table aside carelessly, the bottle of wine crashing and splattering to the floor, “None of this has value. Not to a true and genuine monster like you.”
I chuckled. I leaned back, and I roared with laughter that echoed on the empty glasses and the empty stage surrounding us in the ballroom.