254 – Ars Nova Productions Presents: Alteris – Glassy Jade Moon
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A ridiculous premise and an outrageous execution.

Shield Corporation's presentation involved virtual avatars similar to Project MirAIs, but the direction was completely different.

Rather than focusing on individual VTubers, the core would be on following the journey of four heroes in the land of Ilgarde, with the viewers taking on the role of guardian spirits and vanguards to reclaim a world severed from her goddess's reach.

It was unbelievable. The sheer logistics of sketching out each individual frame and adapting to the setting and scenario as the viewers interacted seemed impossible.

But the people watching didn't have time to process the implications of that.

Because the next presentation was just as ridiculous.

As Akira Yato finished Shield Corporation's presentation and walked off the stage, the screen and lights dimmed again.

Silence. And then the sound of a harsh wind echoed. With it, a flurry of snow blew across the screen, spiraling before flying off to the right. And when the snow cleared, the darkness was gone, replaced by a scenic view.

[Play Endless love - Instrumental]

Nostalgic sounding Chinese music started playing. Soft strings accompanied with a piano and then gentle flute. 

While that began, a jade pavilion atop an island floating within a seemingly endless golden sky appeared. Snow blew across it, covering the pavilion in white.

But there was a beauty standing beneath the snow, completely unaffected. Skin as pure as the snow falling around her. Light blue hair shifting gently amidst the drifting winds.

She walked out from the pavilion and stood at the edge of the island, gazing out at the endless sky. Her flowing green robes swayed as she stood there, staring out with her silver eyes.

The camera panned, showing her from a side profile. As it did, she let out a sigh and looked up, muttering a few faint words from her lovely pink lips.

"Tell me. Do you believe in destiny? Father tells me it is my fate to become an eternal and inherit the Celestial Empire, but I..."

She pursed her lips and then reached up with her right hand, grasping at her chest. "Is this truly my path? To walk the road laid out before me?"

Her lips quivered, showing a fragile expression on her face. And then a voice called out.

"Little Snow!"

A male voice rumbled in the distance. At the same time, a green streak shot across the sky.

The camera panned out, showing a man with white hair and a wise looking beard approaching in the distance.

The beauty, 'Snow' hesitated. And as she did, the camera panned back and transitioned to a front view of her. At the same time, a textbox showed up beneath her.

[What should I do?]

It was the typical visual novel format. A textbox and the events happening in the background, with the characters and setting there.

But at the same time, it wasn't.

A monologue spoken out loud. At the same time, Snow hesitated, placing her hand over her chest and looking nervous.

A cursor appeared on screen before tapping the green streak shooting across the sky.

Snow nodded and put on a determined look. "Forgive me, Father. But..." She glanced back. At the same time, the man arrived, landing at the edge of the pavilion.

Wearing regal robes and emitting a sharp aura, he looked towards Snow. And then his eyes widened in shock. "Wait! Little Snow, what are-"

She jumped, throwing her arms out as she did.

The camera followed her, showing her falling across the sky, light blue hair fluttering in the wind.

"SNOW!" Her father reached out from the island, his eyes wide in shock.

Snow closed her eyes and made a small plea. "Heavens... I leave my fate to you."

A swirling vortex appeared in the air, enveloping Snow.

And then the scene cut, showing her standing back in the room.

The cursor appeared again before the camera turned, looking towards the approaching man. After that, the cursor clicked on him.

Snow sighed and then put on a neutral expression, bowing her head. "Snow greets the Celestial Jade Emperor."

The man... the Celestial Jade Emperor landed on the edge of the pavilion and walked over. When he did, his stern expression softened a little and he said, "There's no need for that, Little Snow."

Snow kept her head bowed and said, "Even so, I can't allow Father to lose face."

The Celestial Jade Emperor sighed and shook his head, looking weary. But then his face hardened and he said, "Your tribulation draws near. But because of your physique, you will need some spiritual treasures." He waved his sleeve and sent out a jade slip. "I've scoured the realms and found one that should help. In the snowy lands of the mortal realm, you should find what can help you transcend."

"Understood. Thank you, Father."

The Celestial Jade Emperor hesitated. It looked like he was going to say something else, but then he shook his head and walked away.

At that time, the screen froze before rewinding to Snow standing there again, looking hesitant.

This time, the cursor appeared and clicked on a sword lying on the ground.

A dark expression filled Snow's eyes and she walked over to it.

Once more, the Celestial Jade Emperor appeared. And once more, Snow turned to face him, bowing her head. But this time, she kept her hands behind her back, hiding the blade.

Seeing her remain silent, the Celestial Jade Emperor turned weary. He walked over and then sighed. When he was within arm's reach, he held out his hand to pat Snow's head and said, "Little Snow-"

But before he could finish, there was a silver flash.

Crimson splashed the screen, as if blood had covered the camera. At the same time, it turned to focus on the Celestial Jade Emperor's face, frozen in shock.

"L-Little Snow...?"

Snow drew the blade back, her pristine robes and skin covered in blood. Insanity flickered in her eyes and she laughed.

Time froze again before winding back.

And when it did, the screen shattered, showing countless scenes unfolding in each shard.

Some, Snow accepting her fate. Others, her fighting against her father. Others still showing her obedient.

But then the paths diverged, showing glimpses of what could come.

A kind-hearted young woman working at a farm.

A harsh and manic beauty stained in blood as she wandered the lands.

A collected and cold beauty wandering a packed marketplace and looking through the wares.

Completely different paths. Different lives.

As they played, they all came to a stop at the same scene.

A winter storm. Snow, collapsing on the ground. But before she did...

"Hey? Are you alright?"

...A warm voice called out to her.

The broken pieces came back together. As they did, the camera panned to a first person view, looking at a single image.

A handsome man with golden hair and emerald eyes. A sword sheathed at his left side, worn but well kept plate armor, covered by a heavy red cloak. And even through the cold storm, he seemed to emit a warm and kind aura.

"You must be cold dressed like that. Here." The man smiled and then reached behind him, unhooking his cloak and wrapping it around Snow. "What's your name? I'm-"

The screen distorted, filling with static. At the same time, Snow's voice echoed.

"You idiot. Why did I have to meet you? Across these thousand lives, why was it always you?"

Regret. Longing. Hope. Love...

Countless emotions tinged Snow's voice. And as they did, the static faded, showing various scenes.

The man holding his sword out, shaking his head as tears ran down his face. "Why?! Why did you have to kill them?! I thought you... I thought you had changed!"

Static rippled, and then the man was there again, sitting at the edge of the jade pavilion in the beginning, Snow at his side.

"I promise. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish..." The man looked at Snow with a tender expression and smiled. "I love you-"

Static rippled again.

It was the same scene, but someone else was there. A beautiful woman with flowing black hair and crimson eyes.

The view was different as well, zoomed out. And instead of sitting with him, Snow stood behind the pavilion's pillar, covering her face as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Distortions spread, and then another scene emerged.

A ruined battlefield. Corpses littered the ground in every direction, blood pooling into crimson ponds.

And in the middle of that, Snow shook her head, backing up. "No... Why?!" She clutched her hands to her chest and then shouted. "Are you stupid? An idiot? Brain-damaged? Why..." She closed her eyes and then collapsed onto her knees. "Why do you choose to shackle yourself to someone like me...?"

Footsteps echoed. The same man as before. But unlike how he was warm and kind, he had turned cold and harsh. Even still, as he looked at Snow, he let out a soft smile.

Kneeling in front of her, he gently brushed away her tears and said, "I said it before, and I'll say it again. It's because I love you. And I'll keep saying it even if no one believes me or if they think I'm crazy."

Snow shook her head and said, "But why? Someone like me... a vile woman like this...! I don't understand!"

"It's fine. You don't need to understand. But just remember, you deserve to be happy. You deserve love. And you deserve to not be alone anymore."

Snow trembled and then she started sobbing.

The man pulled her into a gentle hug and patted her back.

Once more, the screen froze, pausing on the scene.

And then Snow's voice echoed.

"In the old dream, life is like a play. And across a thousand lives, karma makes a fool of us all."

A scene of the man laughing while chatting with a bubbly fox girl, clinging onto his arm.

A scene of the man patiently teaching a beautiful woman with crimson eyes and silky black hair.

Another scene of the man studying while a beauty wearing only a crimson sash around her waist leaned over his shoulders, pressing herself against his back.

A deep sigh echoed, and then Snow's voice spoke up again.

"This time..."

The screen distorted, returning to Snow staring up at the sky. "...I'll close the door on the ruined past."

The green streak flew across the sky once more. But this time, it flew towards Snow before coming to a halt in front of her.

A jade talisman, cracked and splintered.

Snow gently reached out and grabbed it, holding it to her chest. As she did, she let out a wry smile and said, "If you know how this story ends, would you still accept me, I wonder?"

She looked back up at the sky. When she did, the camera panned up to show a pure white moon. As it did, the moon shimmered, turning transparent.

A snowy breeze blew across the screen, spinning around the moon. And when it vanished, words appeared beneath the moon.

[Alteris - Glassy Jade Moon]
[Ars Nova Productions]

The screen slowly faded out to black. As it did, Snow's voice echoed one last time.

"I don't need the heavens or the stars. If all I have is you... That's enough."

Darkness, followed by a hushed silence.

And then the lights turned on, revealing two woman standing on stage.

Beta and Emily, both professionally dressed in suits.

Emily smiled and said, "Thank you for watching our presentation! Um... Since this is our first time here, we weren't sure how long to make it, so I hope it was good!"

Thunderous applause erupted.

Emily laughed. "Well, that's good! Then... introductions! I'm Emily Nova, the CEO and owner of Ars Nova Productions as well as the lead Sound Designer. And this is Beta Nova, the one who's really in charge of this project."

Beta tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and smiled. "I would not say that. You and the others have contributed a great deal as well."

Emily smiled. "Well, we did our best, but you're the director of this project, Beta."

"I suppose. Then..." Beta looked out at the audience and said, "I will explain our project. Alteris - Glassy Jade Moon is a passion project meant to innovate the visual novel field. Using our unique Ars Nova Storytelling engine, an infinite number of stories and endings can be reached. This story in particular follows the ill-fated Princess Snow as she reaches a pivotal turning point in her life..."

The story's anniversary is tomorrow! I'll do a special Q&A chapter with the cast to celebrate. Ask your questions to any character in the comments and they'll respond tomorrow in the special chapter.