Chapter 2: A Deal with the Devil
“A champion?” I ask the supposed god as I narrow my eyes into a glare.
Yes, I need a warrior unlike any other
I need a pawn for my designs
“Well look somewhere else, I’m done fighting.” I spit back at the god.
What was that song that girl used to sing?
“No.” I reply as I turn away from the eyes, knowing exactly what it was talking about.
Take up our quarrel with the foe…
I freeze as I hear her voice and the voices of my platoon echo out across the darkness. I grit my teeth as I feel the old wounds bleed anew.
To you from failing hands we throw…
The torch be yours to hold it high…
If ye break faith with us who die…
Then silence, their voices silent as their graves. Never to sing again. Their song is like a ghost haunting my mind, this song sung at a time when there was still hope.
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In flanders fields, in flanders fields
I croak out, finishing the verse. I know what must be done, I have always known. But in truth I am so… so tired, I feel like just giving up. In the darkest recesses of my mind I am almost happy when I thought that a god wanted to kill me. After all, what can mortal flesh do against divine power, it gave me an excuse, so I could find rest… However, it seems the higher powers are not done with me just yet, it’s my duty to die fighting or win the war. With all that has been lost my war ends when either I die or Moscow burns. There is no middle ground, not anymore...
There is a reason this creature just sang that song to me and I will not spit on my comrades memories by staying idle. I have to go back…
I turn to face the supposed god, not even bothering to wipe my tears.
Excellent, I have many plans for you my champion
The god says with a laugh not even waiting for a reply.
“What do you want?” I hiss, knowing he can hear me no matter how soft I speak.
I want a champion
And you want to go back
To die your honourable death...
I can offer you…
A far richer sacrament
“Meaning?” I ask.
When you arrive in the new world you will be granted my blessing
You will have the power to absorb the power of any creature you slay
Just like in a video game, you would be able to…
Level up as they say
Your power will grow beyond your wildest imagination, that is…
If you can survive…
When I am done with you I will return you back to your world
Back in time to when your friends are still alive
You will have the power and the opportunity to save them
“And what is so eager to kill me?” I ask, narrowing my eyes.
I could tell you...
But where’s the fun in that?
Does it matter?
“No I suppose not…” I reply, I know I have to take this offer. There’s no other path left for me, everyone I ever cared about is gone. An hour ago I was just hoping to die a good death, but now? I have a chance to try and fix everything. Such a prize would cost a hefty price, nothing was free and I’m not stupid enough to expect the god of death to offer charity. Still... the promised prize… impossible to resist.
I stand straight and look straight at the pair of the red eyes unflinchingly. In my heart I feel something I haven’t felt in a long time… hope.
Now what weapon would you prefer?
Or perhaps a bow?
Or are you the cliche type and want a sword?
You could call it Excalibur
“What is this world? Some fantasy RPG game?” I ask coldly at the laughing god.
Of course not
RPG games are fun...
I can swear if the god had a mouth he would be smiling.
So what will it be?
“You got an assault rifle?” I ask.
But sadly you are going to have to start with something smaller…
Do you like westerns?
High noon, tumbleweeds, moonshine and all that?
“What are you…” I began.
At those words I feel the floor fall away and find myself plunging down into the abyss. I shouted in alarm at first, but once the shock wore off I calmed down. This must be another one of the gods games. Afterall if he wanted me dead there was nothing I could do, no point screaming all the way down. I guess I should brace myself, I can see a light appearing far below me.
“Another day, another fight.” I say with a sigh as darkness begins to give way to light.
Then I felt the gravity shift and I landed face first onto a hard floor.
I hear a female voice say, at least she sounds polite. I raise my head and see a group of medieval style soldiers staring at me. They are wearing ornate plate armor with gold patterns etched onto their armor. From their backs flowed red capes and their helms were in the shape of an eagle’s head. In their arms they held long gold halberds that were polished to a sheen.
In front of them was a beautiful girl, she looked to be about the same age as me. Her hair was brushed to perfection, her flowing blue dress was of the finest make embroidered with what looks to be gemstones. Her features were delicate and fair as if she was made of porcelain. It was easy to see that she was gorgeous. If he was the person he was two years ago, he would be blushing and tongue tied. However, that person died in the ruins of Sapporo, along with his friends from basic training. Right now he couldn’t care less about her perfect face, her flowing platinum coloured hair, her blue eyes that shined like sapphires or her jewel encrusted dress that tried to make her chest look bigger than it actually was.
I grunt as I try to stand up and notice there was something in my hand. I look down and see an old fashioned revolver in my hand. It was made of some kind of black metal and it’s grip was made of what looks to be white bone. In silver inscribed on the side of the barrel I see the words,
“Dance of death... very funny.” I mutter to myself as I stand up and hear the clinking of metal.
I look up to see the soldiers impose themselves in front of the woman their body language guarded and their halberds at the ready. I tighten the grip on my gun, if they turned hostile I would need to be ready to defend myself. I stared down the soldiers for a moment but I was interrupted by a voice from behind me.
“Erm are you ok?” the voice said.
I turned to see a blonde girl, this one was a younger I’m guessing about a year or two younger than me. She is holding a wooden staff made of a light coloured wood. This one was no less pretty than the platinum haired girl but she was wearing modern clothes unlike the Victorian-esque one the other one was wearing. It was then that I noticed she was standing below an archway and around the arch shone an ethereal green light. Green branches seemed to grow from the stone and flowers bloomed in all the colours of the rainbow.
I noticed that there were other arches in the room. I look around and see a few more scattered around the room in a crescent formation. I noticed two more arches had people standing in them. One was a brown haired man who looked to be fresh in adulthood. He held a white shield and sword, he too wore modern clothing. Around him his arch shone with an holy light with large pure white feathers floating gently around him.
I look to another arch and see a black haired teenager around the same age as me. He wears torn and patched clothes. Though the clothes are definitely modern, he is a perfect picture of poverty. His build is slight and skinny, he is also rather short as if a lifetime of malnutrition has stunted his growth. Moreover he is covered in what looks to be soot… or perhaps coal dust? In his hand he holds a pickaxe or maybe it’s a war pick, he had heard of this weapon type in some games. The warpick looked to be made of fine bronze and it’s encrusted with jewels. The same jewels seemingly grew from his arch like barnacles on a ship's hull, the gems sparkled in the flickering flame of torches that lit the room.
Then he noticed that all the arches these three were standing under all had glowing symbols above them. The one above the girl who spoke had a glowing green symbol of a tree and inlaid in the stone were the words “Life”. Above the older man with the sword and shield was the symbol of a star glowing white with the word of “Light”. Finally the coal dust covered teenager had the symbol of a gemstone and the word “Earth” inlaid in his arch.
The other arches were all dull with nothing but stone, then he noticed an empty arch. There was no person standing under it but if he had to guess judging by its appearance, he would guess this was his arch. The arch was made of stone but there was no livery, no lights, no gemstones, nothing just carvings onto the depicting showing bones, skulls, nude men and women with expressions so twisted I can’t even tell if those are expressions of ecstasy or agony. Above the arch in glowing purple is a symbol of a laughing skull and the words, “death”.
So it seems the other three get grand entrances and I get spit out of my arch like a piece of garbage.
“I’m fine.” I reply to the girl once I realise my silence has caused a tense silence to fall upon the room.
“That’s good to hear, that fall looked unpleasant.” the girl said kindly, her diction is impeccable and she carried herself with a kind of quiet nobility.
Sister has the heroes arrived?
I hear a loud voice shout and I turn to see the soldiers give way to a man in his early twenties. He had the same white platinum hair as the woman and he wore regal clothes that looked to be a dress uniform. The man halts when he sees me and he scans the arches before locking onto my arch. His eyes widen for a moment, then he locks his gaze onto me. I know that look, it’s the look I see when I have a barrel of a gun pointed at my head.
Sure enough he draws his sword and I raise my gun in response. I take aim right at his head and we pause as we size each other up.
“Onii sama, stop. You know what will happen if we attack the Dark Hero.” the platinum haired woman says.
“He will destroy us.” the man replies, as he turns his head to face the woman.
“Not before the Black Hand does.” the woman says evenly.
Is this guy stupid? He threatens to kill me, I point a gun at his head and he turns his head to have a conversation with his sister?
“We cannot risk what happened during the…” the man began.
I take aim and fire a shot at his sword, the bullet leaves a purple trail as it flies and strikes the sword in a flurry of sparks. The sword shatters and the man shouts as metal fragments tear his sleeve.
“You’ve never been in a real fight before have you?” I ask dryly.
“How dare you!” the man shouts as the soldiers all lower their halberds, their golden tips pointed right at me.
“You draw a weapon on me and think you have the luxury to turn away and have a conversation?” I reply dryly. The rest of the soldiers are a problem. If this revolver is anything like the ones in his world it probably has a five to six round capacity. Which means he has at least four bullets left. Not nearly enough to deal with dozens of armoured soldiers.
So if this guy wants to kill me, he would just have to give the order. But the thing is, he is in a position to give orders, that makes him important and what is important can be used as leverage. I let loose another shot aiming right next to his ear. The bullet flies right past and the man flinches as the bullet tears through the air right past his head.
“That was a warning shot, I have a few more shots left in this thing but I need only one to kill you.” I say.
“If you kill me, my soldiers will cut you down like a dog.” the man growls.
“Maybe, maybe not. But that won’t be your problem now would it? Nothing will ever be your problem ever again. You see I had a chat with my patron god, he told me that there is no afterlife, this life is all you got. So choose wisely, oblivion is not a nice place, trust me.” I say.
This got their attention, the soldiers shifted uncomfortably at those words. So this place has a religion and some idea of an afterlife. Nothing like the possibility of eternal damnation to cause unease among soldiers. I know soldiers always talk about how they’ll meet up after the war is over, if not in this life then the next…
“Stop! We can’t start fighting each other.” I hear the voice of the blonde girl cry out from behind.
I hear her footsteps tap across the stone, I know it’s her, the strides are short and light on the hard stone. The other two are both taller so longer strides and their footfalls will be heavier based on the weapons they were carrying.
I feel a tug on my arm and I turn to see the girl staring at me intently.
“Lower the gun please.” she says.
I look back at the platinum haired man and I see the other woman approach.
“Onii sama please calm down, we should let father decide what needs to be done.” She says as she lays a gentle hand on his shoulder. The man closes his eyes and relaxes, standing up straight. He takes one last look at me before turning and storming past the soldiers. I lower my gun and see the woman calmly approach me. She raised a hand when the soldiers made to approach, her simple gesture making the soldiers still and raise their halberds, placing the butts back onto the stone.
“I apologise for my brother’s behaviour Dark Hero, he can be… impulsive.” the woman says calmly. I sense no fear in her eyes, of all those who would possess a spine, some noble woman is the last thing I would have expected. Weren’t noble women supposed to be shy, always hiding behind fans and sitting in towers waiting to be rescued?
“I hope your father is not as… impulsive.” I reply coldly.
“He isn’t. I am Princess Filianoreh Pulchra vas Regus. The second in line to the throne of the Holy Kingdom of Regus. I welcome you four heroes, you are the only hope this kingdom and all its peoples have.” Filianoreh said.
“Hope?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Do you not know why you are here?” Filianoreh asked.
“The guy on the other side of that arch wasn’t very forthcoming.” I reply dryly.
“We are here to fight the Outworld Incursion. Right?” the blonde girl said as she looked to Filianoreh
“Yes that is the general idea as for the specifics… I will let father explain. Come, the court is waiting for us, we mustn't delay them any longer.” Filianoreh said as she gracefully turned and walked towards the door. The soldiers respectfully parted giving her a path.
“Well we wouldn’t want that.” I say sarcastically, as I made to follow.
I hear the helmet of a nearby soldier turn and I can sense the glare in my direction.
“Eyes to yourself Sir Campbell.” I say as I walk past.
As we enter the hallway I see the Princess walking a few metres in front of me. As I walk along the hallway, I hear a small giggle from my left. I turn to see the blonde girl giggling into her dainty hand.
“Did you just call him a can of soup?” she asked with a laugh.
“First time that came to mind when I heard his armor squeak.” I reply.
“We haven’t been introduced. I am Charlotte of the House of Holstein.” She says.
“I’m Katsuro. Holstein? You are German?” I ask, as I look at her blonde hair, fair skin, small pink lips and baby blue eyes.”
“Yes, Prussian more specifically but I am a proud member of the Kaiser Reich.” Charlotte replied with a warm smile.
“Kaiser Reich? So your world is different from mine.” I say, as I try to remember the things I learned in history class.
“Does the Kaiser Reich not exist in your world?” Charlotte asked as she tilted her head curiously.
“Does the word Nazi ring any bells?” I reply with a question of my own.
“Ah yes, the Munich Putsch, some man tried to overthrow the Kaiser. I don’t recall the name…” Charlotte said as she furrowed her brows as if trying to remember.
“Adolf Hitler.” I reply.
“Ah yes, the one with the funny mustache.” Charlotte replied with a laugh.
“Yes, the one with the funny mustache.” I say in a clipped tone.
“I’m sorry did I offend you?” Charlotte said meekly when she heard my tone of voice.
“No, sorry, you wouldn't… you wouldn’t know… hang on you said Hitler tried to overthrow the Kaiser?” I ask, suddenly remembering Hitler didn’t overthrow the Kaiser in my world, he overthrew the Weimar Republic. The Kaiser was deposed after World War 1 which means something possibly changed at that part in the timeline.
“What happened after World War 1?” I ask.
“Oh the nations came together and agreed to disarm so that something like this never happens again. We called it the War to End All Wars. Now the only conflicts are against pirates, terrorists and the odd cult or two.” Charlotte replied.
“We called it that too, but we weren’t so lucky. War continued after that one and it hasn’t stopped.” I reply wearily.
“Is that why you are dressed as a soldier?” a voice said from behind. I turned to see the soot covered teen behind me.
“Yes, I’m a soldier sent to die for my country.” I reply as I turn my head back and face forward.
“You’re a soldier? How old are you?” Charlotte asked, surprised. She clearly had no idea I am wearing a military uniform, how sheltered is this girl anyway? I have my helmet on and... I couldn't feel the weight of the ceramic plates in my tactical vest...
“I turn seventeen in a few months.” I reply looking back at her as I tap on my chest to find all my grenades and magazines gone.
“Are soldiers in your world usually this young?” She asks, as she peers curiously at my vest.
Looking down I see my pistol holster has been replaced with one made of black leather. Guessing that was wear that god wanted me to put my gun I slipped the gun into the holster.
“No, my country ran out of adults to throw at the enemy, so they settled for people like me. They sent some younger than me, guys and girls were all drafted. My government was not only willing to sacrifice the current generation they were willing to sacrifice the next one as well.” I reply.
“I… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” Charlotte said as she looked away biting her lip.
“It’s fine, it doesn’t matter anymore.” I reply, normally if someone asked these types of questions I would tell them to stick their question up where the sun doesn’t shine. Charlotte however, wasn’t stupid or tactless, she just came from a world where the horrors I lived through were a foreign concept. It’s not her fault she asked those questions, after all no one can judge a person based on the circumstances of their birth.
With that conversation died as we walked in silence and soon we approached a large fine wood door. It was massive, easily two stories tall and on it was a myriad of gold and silver engravings with encrusted gemstones as accents. It reminded him of the pictures he had seen of the Palace of Versailles. With it’s gold gates, gold walls, gold ceiling, all that gold and all it bought the owners was a trip to the guillotine. How he hated the powerful, the big, fat and soft men, wearing their fine clothes, drinking their coffee from the other side of the planet. These men command the masses below to do their bidding, all the while they grow fat on the people's sacrifice.
“You are about to enter the throne room. Above you will seat the great men and women of this Kingdom and my father the king. They will explain your duty to this world.” Filianoreh said as she nodded at the nearby guards who started turning wooden wheels on the side of the door.
As the doors slowly opened all I can think of is that last line she said.
My duty to this world?
They sit on their gold chairs and tell me my duty? They tell me what I should be? Some rottweiler to release on their enemies when it's convenient? Fine I’ll play their game for now, until I find out what that god's “designs” are.
For I have only one duty
Gain my power, return home
And burn Russia to the ground
As for those fat pigs on the other side of that door?
I owe them nothing...