Chapter 92: Much to Think About
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“So…Chrys, tell me a little about yourself.” Izumi said. “How old are you? I can’t seem to put my finger on an age, and you seem too old for the Queen to have had you the normal way, but she and Rose are very clearly your parents, I can see it in your facial features.”

“That is a loaded question.” Chrys replied tersely.

Izumi frowned. “Did something happen with the Queen when she was younger or something?”

Chrys sighed. “What part of “it’s a loaded question” do you not understand?”

“Well, I just figured that we would be traveling with each other for a while, and we had to talk about something. You’re a bit of an enigma for me, and I figured that if I wanted to really know more about the swarm, you would be a good place to start.”

Chrys gave Izumi a look that clearly meant that she didn’t believe her, but began to speak anyway. “Look, it’s complicated. Really complicated. The point of it is that Lia isn’t my mom. I was the daughter of Rose in her previous life.”


“Like I said, complicated. I’m like this because Lia did it on accident. She wanted to make sure I didn’t feel lesser because I wasn’t her biological child, and…well, apparently, she fixed that aspect of the problem.”

“And she just did it without your permission?” Izumi asked. “You don’t sound too happy about it.”

“She did it without her own permission. It was entirely on accident.”

“Then…why haven’t you tried to fix it? I’m sure Amelia could do it.”

“Who says we haven’t?” Chrys asked grumpily. “You’re making a lot of assumptions.”

“So, it’s impossible, then?”

“See?” Chrys said. “Like that. You think you’ve figured out what’s going on and are just acting like it’s the truth. No, Lia wanted to fix it, but I said no. Just like Mom, I want to distance myself from my old life and my old mother, and this is just another way to do it. My appearance and species is in constant flux anyway, so who cares if I have fox parts now? I mean, I was a rat kobold before and I’m a plant now, so this is comparatively minor.”

Izumi was silent for a long while. “Was your old life really that bad?” She asked. “If both you and Rose are trying to get as far away from it as possible, then it sounds like some bad stuff happened.”

Chrys rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure someone like you would really understand how bad it was.” She said. “You grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth, and seem utterly oblivious to how things really are.”

“Excuse me?” Izumi said, taken aback. “You grew up as the princess of an empire. I don’t think you can get more “silver spoon’ than that, so you’re not one to talk.”

Chrys stopped, giving Izumi a flat look. “Have you read a history book?”

“I haven’t had the time, no.”

“I killed her, Izumi.”

Izumi frowned. “Who?”

“Rose. I stabbed her, and then I sat there in the bathroom, watching her bleed out in front of me, all the while she was smiling and telling me that she loved me and forgave me. Then I had to sit and watch as the world devolved into chaos and violence, knowing that it was my fault. Do you have any idea what that does to a person? I do, and it drove me to suicide. So no, I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, I grew up with distant parents and a horde of people whispering poison into my ear and manipulating me for their own gain.”

Izumi didn’t have a response to that, but Chrys seemed more than happy to carry the conversation. “You denied our goals before you were converted, but you don’t understand. We had a true golden age, an era of peace and prosperity the likes of which the world had never known, and it was ended by the greed of a few people and the folly of one girl. There will never be true, lasting peace unless we do this. Someone, somewhere, will always be unscrupulous enough to do something stupid and plunge the world into chaos again.

“And do you know what the worst part of this all is? Even now, Mom believes that the whole situation is her fault, that if she was just better none of this would ever have happened. Never mind that she was physically incapable of doing better, she thinks if she had just somehow tried harder then everything would have worked out. The world is a cruel, unforgiving place, Izumi, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure it gets better.”

Chrys’s face grew cold as she continued. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Izumi, and naïve idealists like you and like the old me will gleefully walk that road, convinced the whole way that they are in the right.”

“How was I supposed to know?” Izumi protested. “The gods chose me and told me to act as I saw fit. Never once was I told that what I was doing was wrong, so I just assumed that I was still in the clear!”

I sure implied it, and so did Amelia.

“You attacked a child, Izumi.” Chrys said, unaware of Connie’s words. “No one should have to tell you that’s wrong. And, of course, the irony of this all is that the only reason you were even capable of such an unprovoked act of naked aggression was because Mom and Amelia paid the price with a lifetime of suffering!”

“What are you talking about?!” Izumi asked, bewildered. “What do they have to do with whether or not I’m capable of something?”

“I’m curious as well.” Ophelia added. “What do you mean by that?”

Chrys froze. She was silent for a long second, staring off into the space in front of her, then she sighed. “Look. I’m going to let you guys in on a secret that I really wasn’t supposed to know about.” She said. “And the only reason I’m telling you now is because I was just given the divine go-ahead since it’s no longer an issue.

“I’ve heard a couple of Mom and Lia’s private conversations, ones they had when they thought no one could hear them. From what I’ve pieced together, Heroes used to have this…thing that messed with their emotions, made them act like golems, incapable of doing anything that didn’t benefit the people.

“Mom and Amelia showed the gods that such a system was flawed, and that it should be removed. And, because of them, you weren’t subjected to the same torture that they were. Heck, if you were, you might have been forced to join the swarm immediately; we’re the best option for helping the world out, and surely even that curse would have seen it.”

“I’m not so sure.” Ophelia said. “The gods seem…divided on this issue. We know for certain that the Goddess of Law is doing everything in her power to stop us, but Mistress has the Title “Favored of the Gods”, and Rose has one of the Blessings of the God of War.”

“My patron goddess seems to be in your favor, but the God of Space certainly isn’t. He looked a little concerned when I asked him for an item that would let me travel to and from here and my home world as my reward for defeating the Lord of Monsters. At the time I thought I was imagining things, but now…now I’m pretty sure he’s worried because that will mean the swarm has an opportunity to spread there as well. Though…I’m not sure that’s still valid now that I’m no longer a Hero.”

It's completely valid, and the laws of the gods are very particular in this instance. You will get the exact intent of what you wished for, no wordplay or trickery, as much as some of the other gods would like to prevent this from happening.

“Never mind, my patron goddess just said that it’s still valid.” Izumi said. “So, I guess we have that in our future.”

“Look, we’re getting off-topic.” Chrys said. “The point is that I see a lot of my old self in you, and that’s not good. So…take it from someone who was similarly idealistic; stop getting fixated on one thing and think. It’s hard, a lot harder than blindly charging forward, but it’ll save both you and everyone around you significant heartache in the long run.”

She turned away from Izumi and resumed walking down the path. Izumi followed behind, not saying anything but thinking deeply on what Chrys had said. The gods…did in fact appear to be on both sides of this issue, so…who was to say who was right? Her gut was telling her it was the swarm, but…she’d just have to check this one last thing before she could fully commit to the cause.

Meg perked up as she heard the knock on her door. “Come in!” She called out, placing a bookmark in the book she was reading and closing it.

“Meg?” Leonardo, her brother said, peeking his head into the room. “Can we talk?”

“Of course, Leonardo!” Meg said, smiling warmly at him. “You know I’m always open to talk.”

Leonardo crept into the room, closing the door softly behind him. “It’s still you in there, right?” He asked.

“It sure is.” Meg said. “Every bit of me is…well, me! Maybe a bit more compassionate, a bit kinder, but…I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

“But…Mother and Father said you’d been changed. That you didn’t want what’s best for the Glens anymore.”

Meg sighed, patting her knee and inviting Leonardo to sit on it. He didn’t accept, but then again, he hadn’t done so in years; he was ‘too old’ for this sort of thing now. “I do. We just have different ideas of what is best for the Glens now.”

“I don’t understand.” Leonardo said. “Why would you change your mind so suddenly when you were so adamant that Father was right before? That was a core part of yourself, and yet you’ve claimed that you remain unchanged.”

Meg gave him a sad smile. “It is true that my loyalties have shifted.” She said. “And it is true that I favor the swarm now, but I’m afraid I cannot explain my reasons why, not with the Oath.”

“Why not? Father showed me the contents of the Oath, there should be nothing preventing you from talking about it.”

“Because the Goddess of Law is working against the swarm.” Meg said. “She is stretching the Oath to its limits in an attempt to deny us every advantage she can. If I were to explain why I favor the swarm unprompted, it would count as hostile action towards the Glens, even if I just talk, nothing else.”

Leonardo frowned. “That’s stupid.” He said. “You’re just talking about your feelings, in what world is that hostile action?”

“It can be very unfairly construed as propaganda. Personally, I think the Goddess of Law is afraid that if–” She cut off, a debilitating anxiety forming as she tried to say her piece.

“Meg?!” Leonardo asked, seemingly forgetting that he was being wary of her. “Are you alright?!”

Meg grimaced, riding out the effects of the Oath. “O-Oath.” She wheezed. “Can’t say more without being directly asked.”

Leonardo frowned. “Well…if the gods are working against you, then doesn’t that prove the swarm is bad?”

“No, it’s not that simple.” Meg said, the effects of the Oath fading. “Only some gods are. Others are helping us.”

“Meg…what would you do if the swarm attacked the Glens?” Leonardo asked.

“I know this is going to sound bad, but I would help the swarm.” Meg said. “I was given the option to stay out of the fight if I wished, but I truly, honestly believe that it is what is best for our people. And it’s not like it will be particularly bloody; we will do our best to preserve every life that we can, including yours, Dad’s, and every other person, regardless of their station.”

“Why do you believe it is best for us?”

Meg smiled at the question. It was an unambiguous request for her to share her true feelings, and even the Goddess of Law could not stretch the Oath so far as to deny that. “The things the Queen does for the people…the world she envisions, it’s exactly what Dad wants. We know the road to getting there will be bumpy, but…the result is worth it.

“How often has our father stayed up late at night, trying to work around the nobles who stand in the way of the policies he wishes to introduce? How many times have we been frustrated by their greed, arrogance, and fear blinding them to the fact that happy, well-cared for citizens are more productive and easier to work with?

“The Swarm bypasses this by just making everyone…understand each other. We’re all in the same boat, all running the rat race of life, and if we can make things better for our fellows, we should. Of course, were the Queen one of those nobles I was just talking about, I’m sure the swarm would be drastically different, but as it is now…

“The Queen is a product of Dad’s policies, one that understands the good they do and earnestly wishes for the betterment of her citizens’ lives. Were circumstances different, I’m sure she and Dad would make good friends and excellent allies, it just happens that her methods are not as…passive as Dad’s.” Meg sighed wistfully. “I wish I could show you all what life is like for the people there, you would get it once you see.”

“Why don’t you?” Leonardo asked. “You are under an Oath, you could bring us there and show us what you talk about. We wouldn’t have to be afraid of anything, since the Oath guarantees that we’ll come back safely, especially if the Goddess of Law is trying to work against you. If it truly is like you describe, then Father or I might change our minds. If it is not…then we will know it is the brainwashing talking.”

Meg bolted upright at the suggestion. “Leonardo, you’re a genius!” She squealed, rushing over and hugging him. “This is why Dad made you the crown prince! Will go you tell Dad about the suggestion for me? I’ll write a letter to Amelia, and I’ll see if we can sneak a secret visit in, so you can be sure we’re not just prettying things up for you.”

“As the future King of the Glens, it is my duty to ensure that our people are properly looked after.” Leonardo said. “And, to tell you the truth, I do not believe we can win against the forces you have. With two extraordinarily powerful Heroes who can somehow bypass the restrictions of Heroes…they alone could make a large dent in our forces. And, if by the time our peace treaty ends you have conquered more of the world…we will be no match against you.”

Meg nodded. “A wise call.” She said. “Amelia is…far beyond anything I had even thought of as possible. Her power is more on the level of a force of nature than a person, it’s…awe-inspiring.”

“We shall see.” Leonardo said, carefully prying himself away from the hug. “I’ll tell you what Father decides. Thank you for your time, Meg.”

The biggest thing I have to talk about here is Leonardo - as I wrote this, he was at first eight (now age unspecified, mid to late teens probably) and a confused kid trying to see his big sister and understand what happened. As I wrote, I realized he was too...competent for a normal eight year old, so I instead cut out much of the confusion and made him a bit less emotional, a tad less confused, and overall more...confident, and I think the chapter is better for it.

Also, full disclosure: I have no idea how Brom's visit will turn out. There's a good chance he significantly warms up to the swarm (and a distant chance he considers conversion. Keyword distant), and a good chance he maintains his current stance.

But that will have to come later. Next time...we're probably going to check in with the gods again, so look forward to it, I guess.

And, as always, thanks for reading!