"Alley did what now?" I snort with laughter while lurking in the shadows of the von Amsterg manor.
"She bludgeoned the servant with a fire extinguisher during the mission to assist the Hero." The Voice rasps, "Quite frankly, I was as surprised as you when it happened."
"No shit." I stifle my giggles as a servant walks past my hiding spot, "How did she get into such a situation?"
"Mrs Alley and Commander Hernandez had managed to infiltrate the stadium the duel was being held in." The Voice relates, "Unfortunately, they were detected by the servant who led a team of security guards to corner the pair in the stadium's control room."
"So how did those two get out of this situation?" I ask genuinely curious.
"Mostly thanks to you." The Voice rumbles, "Defeating Fate sent a shock wave throughout the world, disrupting the means it had been using to blind me. I was alerted just in time to our assistants' plight and triggered the stadium's fire alarm, giving them the distraction needed to turn the tables on the servant."
"And Celeste got slugged by a fire extinguisher." I chuckle, "Classic. What about the other guards?"
"Commander Hernandez managed to draw his pistol and gun them down during the fracas." The Voice says, "Unfortunately, the confusion also allowed the servant to escape, but I suppose you cannot win them all."
"So Celeste is still out there, running loose?" I query uneasily.
"Just so." The Voice states, "We have also not found the location of Fate's physical brain. There are a number of loose ends but all in all, we have won a solid victory."
"But won't Fate come back?" I press.
"Eventually." The Voice agrees, "Nevertheless, the loss of so much of its power as well as two Incarnates will leave it impotent for a few decades at least. By that time the civil war will be underway and my victory will be sealed."
"You're the expert." I grunt and peer out into the grand hall where a celebration is being held. Anyone of substance in The City would be here at the von Amsterg manor tonight, since it would be a golden chance to suck up to the new Prince of Europe. There's a long line of luxuriously dressed men and women lining up before a high backed chair in gold trim. And sitting on the chair is our man of the hour, the Hero.
Tensei looks at the fawning crowd with a slightly sorrowful and strained expression, but plays along with the dignitaries and celebrities, treating them with respect. There are a few jealous glances thrown his way though, but that's really no fault of Hero man's. Sitting on his lap is Brocon, smirking at the crowd with an insanely smug look. And Tensei is sandwiched by Magic Police Girl and the Idol who have each perched themselves on one of the chair's armrests while leaning into the Hero. The Heroines were always hot, but now that they have dolled themselves up and rolled out the primo evening wear, the trio are beyond supermodel attractive.
"I've heard of a flower in each arm," I mutter, "but what in the world do you call this?"
"The Harem End, Transmigrator." The Voice laughs, "This is what we have been working towards. Tonight is the culmination of all that effort."
"How did Hero man beat the vampires anyway?" I whisper.
"The Hero and Heroine von Amsterg battled the St Clairs for one day and one night, to the very limit of endurance." The Voice explains, "At the break of dawn, Mrs Alley and Commander Hernandez fortuitously opened the stadium's automated shutters from the control room, letting in a bit of sunlight for our friends."
"And no one bothered to investigate?" I quip.
"What is there to investigate?" The Voice asks in mock innocence, "Heroine von Amsterg has formally given up her inheritance. Nicholas von Amsterg was vaporized into ash that morning. Gustav von Amsterg has gone mysteriously missing.There is only one legitimate heir to the Princedom of Europe."
"Well, this bullshit will cast a shadow over Tensei's reign." I comment, "Feel a bit bad for him."
"The Hero will only reign for around nine months." The Voice chortles, "Once his children are born, he will be terminated and we can get the civil war on the road. Tensei von Amsterg will be nothing but a footnote in the history books."
"Now I feel really bad for him." I grunt as I begin making my way out of the manor, "Bring the cab around. I'm done here."
"Had the closure you needed?" The Voice asks as I sneak through the manor's garden, now replanted with fresh rose bushes and vault over the perimeter wall.
"Just wanted to know how things turned out." I reply, "I have been here for a while, maybe its me being maudlin. I'm never coming back you know?"
"Not changing your mind then?" The Voice rasps as the black cab rolls down the road and comes to a stop in front of me, "The offer to stay is still on the table."
"Pass. This place isn't where I belong." I shoot back while getting into the cab, "I got feuds of my own back home to deal with anyway. I wonder though, how will things work out for Alley and Hernandez?"
"Mrs Alley and Commander Hernandez will be redeemed in the eyes of society," The Voice rumbles, "for stopping the vile conspiracy that had destroyed ORPO and SOPO. I expect them to rise high in their careers under the aegis of a mysterious benefactor. Yet their real work will be performed in the shadows, securing the reign of this world's True Emperor."
"There you go again with that Emperor nonsense." I snort, "Ever get checked for megalomania? Anyway, you're not letting Alley and Hernandez go then?"
"Why would I?" The Voice asks sounding slightly incredulous, "Mrs Alley and Commander Hernandez are probably the only two natives who do not dismiss my messages as hoaxes or crank emails. They will be useful in the days ahead."
"Interesting times are in store then?" I say rhetorically, leaning back into the passenger's seat.
"The most interesting." The Voice confirms.
The cab takes the long way back to Ascension Tower, letting me take in the sights of The City one more time. Not that I am ungrateful for the opportunity, but The Voice seems really out of character lately. This little bit of consideration was not the only odd thing. When I demanded a bonus for taking out Fate and straight up asked for immortality, The Voice agreed, no questions, no counteroffers, just a straight up 'Granted'. It made me suspect that it was planning something. That the rug was going to be swept out from under my feet at the very last moment. I don't sense any treachery from The Voice at least, but you never know.
But there's no point in ruminating about stuff like this. I would know when the time comes to leave. And that time is soon.
After a leisurely drive, the cab stops at the entrance of Ascension Tower. The building has already been closed at this time of the night, but I hear the doors discreetly unlock as I approach. Walking inside as if I owned the place, I notice there's an elevator waiting for me at the lobby. Everything must be ready then. I just need to head back to Naiberg's lab and begin the process.
The elevator whizzed upwards without any preamble and deposits me on the floor where Naiberg's lab is. Stepping into the main area, I notice that The Voice had cleaned the place up and erected a long metal stand where the codex is mounted. The stand has been hooked up to several generators which begin powering up. In front of the stand is a mattress which looks like it had been carelessly dumped there as an afterthought.
"You did not replace the supercomputers." I remark.
"No need." The Voice says, "All I need is for the codex to produce the artificial singularity. From there I can remove Mr Gallant's soul fragment."
"So what happens now?" I swallow hard, my hackles beginning to rise. This is it.
This is really it. I'm actually going home.
"Confirm that you will leave this dimension, Transmigrator." The Voice intones, "Then I will proceed."
"I confirm." I nod firmly. No turning back now.
"Very well." The Voice responds as the codex begins powering up, "Lie down on the mattress and go to sleep. Let the wind of the Crossroads carry you away."
I lie down as instructed, looking at the codex as it begins to spew light from its innards. As my vision fades, the light splits into a hundred different rays, then consolidates back into a rainbow. My body grows numb as I close my eyes to the light. But I can still see it in my mind, in my soul, flowing into me, pulling at me like a torrent. I don't resist and let the light fill my, no, Gallant's body up. There's a brief moment of pain as I feel something being torn out of me.
My eyes open to the Crossroads once more, but this time Fate is not there to assault me. The red threads are in absolute ruin and weakly twitch as I begin to walk down the path of puke. Fate's in no position to stop me. I really did it. I beat her and now I can go home.
"A moment please Transmigrator." a booming Voice echoes throughout the void. The Voice now overwhelmingly dominant, has extended its influence throughout this dimension. Barbed wire lines the path of puke and now the constellations are pulled about on their orbit by claws made out of iron.
"What?" I ask, "I'm not turning back you know."
"There is a matter I need to discuss with you." The Voice says delicately, "You see, it involves Mr Gallant."
"Gallant's problems are not my problems." I snort, "Anyway, isn't he dead? What's there to discuss?"
"Oh, Mr Gallant is most certainly dead." The Voice agrees, "However, there is the issue of the prayer he made to me."
A bad feeling rises in my heart and I start to hustle down the path of puke. I don't need to hear this. I cannot afford to hear this. But I only make a few meters before coils of barbed wire grow in my path, blocking the way.
"How rude." The Voice harrumphs, "I was hoping you would be more understanding to your fellow collaborator. You see, before he died, Mr Gallant prayed that I would grant him the office of Sacred Executioner in return for eternal service."
"Was that why you started spawning those edgy clothes?" I shout back.
"Yes." The Voice admits, "More importantly though, I do actually need a Sacred Executioner for what is to come. So it all works out."
"What has any of this have to do with me?" I fire back while looking for a way to escape.
"Everything." The Voice continues, "You see, Mr Gallant killed the Incarnate of Prince Enma. The law of equivalent exchange obliges me to grant his prayer."
"Not that you wanting to grant it in the first place has any bearing on the matter." I snark back.
"Coincidence, I assure you." The Voice laughs, "Getting back to the point, I cannot make Mr Gallant my Sacred Executioner because he is dead. But I can still grant his prayer."
"How?" I ask, the bad feeling returning.
"I can empower his corpse with the artificial core." The Voice explains, "With his mind fully reactivated, Mr Gallant's prayer will be granted. Unfortunately, there is a problem."
"The core has a piece of my soul in it!" I shout angrily as I get the idea of what The Voice has been hinting at, "You dick!"
"No need to be rude." The Voice scoffs, "To let you return home, I need to disassemble the artificial core. Otherwise, your soul fragment will constantly pull you back right at the horizon. But if I help you, I cannot help Mr Gallant."
"So what?" I snap, "You're going to throw me under the bus?"
"Nothing of that sort." The Voice rasps, "You and Mr Gallant will decide the matter between yourselves."
I feel a sudden tearing sensation in my body and the soul fragments rip out from my torso and land on to the path of puke. A warm glow suffuses the area surrounding the fragments and the fragments, causing me to feel a familiar warmth. Its the power from the core, The Voice has reactivated it. The fragments quiver and break apart into dust under the illumination of the glow. The dust cloud swirls around with frenzied energy and steadily begins growing, reconstituting itself.
And eventually taking the form of a man dressed in black, with an executioner's hood over his face and a double handed sword strapped to his back.
"You and Mr Gallant will do battle." The Voice announces, "Win Transmigrator, and I will let you leave with all the rewards I have promised. Lose, and stay in this dimension to serve as Mr Gallant's replacement soul."
"YOU DICK!" I shriek in fury, driven half mad by my impotence. As I gasp for breath, staving back panic, my armor begins to form around my body. In no time at all, I am as equally equipped as Gallant who stands patiently in front of me.
"This will be a fair contest." The Voice rasps, ignoring my outburst, "Both of you will have access to all the skills you would normally possess. Now, whenever you are ready, feel free to begin."
"Sacred Executioner." an unfamiliar voice addresses me. I spend a few seconds looking around before I realize that its Gallant who is talking to me. The Voice must be running this construct of Gallant from his physical mind. That would explain the speech and everything.
"I will uphold the dignity of your office." Gallant says, "I will serve the True Emperor with all my heart. Now, let me prove myself worthy of your strength!"
Gallant draws his sword and salutes me, waiting for me to do the same. Is this guy for real? Does he really want to serve The Voice forever and ever? You know what? Screw Gallant. Screw The Voice. Screw everything in this stupid dimension. I am going home. And that's all there is to it. I draw my own sword and salute Gallant in return.
"You want it?" I declare, "Then come get it."
And for the last time, I charge into battle.