* * *
Darkness. Pain. Sound.
Limits. I run. I sink. I die. It hurts. It’s noisy, it’s painful, it’s… bothersome.
Panting. Hatred. Noise.
Cough— It was a curse, this body was a curse… I perfectly knew what would happen going into this, and yet you insisted… I insisted…
“Ooh, you don’t seem like much of a monster, now.” I heard his footsteps coming closer and closer.
“I… am a monster.” That’s what I was supposed to be. Even though I had knowledge no other monster had or could have, but I couldn’t really reject myself either; reject my nature.
“Disappointing.” His cold voice made me shudder. “Let me ask you a question, what is a life worth to you?” I could feel his breath on my neck.
“Cough— I don’t know, it’s not something I managed to experience anyway.”
“Interesting answer; why is that?” Don’t be biased.
“From the start I never had any freedom. I wasn’t ever going to get freedom anyway.” Pure bias.
The more time I spend like this the more detached I feel. Is this what suffering was like? I had no idea. But it probably was suffering…
“Interesting reply.” He was just making small-talk, of course, it was to be expected. “Then, what is worth more, a monster’s life or a human’s? Either way, I am a monster too.” … Are you?
“They are worth the same. That’s how I see it anyway. Both perish and both live.” Perhaps it was this skewed reality I was facing, but it certainly was the same.
He didn’t reply.
“Do you truly think that?”
I started to feel pressure increasing on my ribs, and yet no reply was coming from him. The sole of his boot was pressing against my body and rubbing back and forth. Even on the ground he would kill me — I had no chance to begin with.
“Why are you lying…” It seemed my reply only made him angrier.
“I don’t have a reason to lie.” At the border of death…
“STOP LYING!” He kicked my ribs. A dull sound echoed throughout the room, akin to kicking a sack of dirt.
How long had it been? How long until midnight? If stats were absolute, then this was the only way. How long had he been hitting me? I had no idea, but I just had to survive for a bit. I focused on the icons on my vision, sadly, they were still all the same.
“Tell me, why does your kind enjoy suffering so much?” Was he talking about torture or causing it? “You could die at any moment and yet you are still alive, and yet you are not struggling like before.”
“I don’t know.” I couldn’t feel it.
He took a few steps back, I guess he was done with me. It was weird, my blood was pooling on the ground and yet I didn’t feel any different. Was this how death felt like? That wasn’t it. To believe the removal of the condition would save me — truly a broken core.
He stopped walking.
“To believe it’s almost midnight.” Eh? I finally opened my eyes.
The silver moonlight was filtering through the distant windows, I could see the silver outline of the collector — the silver lining. The wind was blowing and the cries had stopped a long time ago, it was a quiet night. How long had he been beating me up? Approximately 8 hours… I endured it. I had to endure it.
My body felt sick and pained, such a distant concept is now being experienced. I felt wobbly. I started to press on my hand to stand up, I was still holding the half-broken bone dagger. I had a plan now — one to let me survive.
[Darkness affinity — It’s midnight, and the sunrise is nowhere to be seen. Just the perfect time. — +200% to all stats] My mouth split into a grin, it had finally paid off…
The secret weapon every monster had at their disposal. You said you were a monster? Perhaps, not even my increased stats can make a difference in a battle against you. But, who said it had to be a battle?
My body felt light as I stood up.
You wanted to see pure evil? You said you wanted to see me twisted? Fine… I just hope I can reach forgiveness…
Even though the night was quiet he couldn’t hear me — if it came to being efficient, then I was among the best creatures in the planet for that — being silent was something natural… I just hope I am forgiven afterwards. How unusual, to be so hesitant… Well, things have changed.
Wanted to see true insanity? I will show you true insanity. Having feelings is not a bad thing — you can understand them — and break them. It was time to start... You wanted to see a human? Fine, I will be human.
I started coughing. “I-I… don’t want to die…” My body was wobbly, and swinging side to side. The collector turned to look at me bearing a stone-cold expression looking at trash.
“Are you finally on your last stand?”
“I…” My body collapsed and dully hit the ground. “I… didn’t mean anything… I—
“Stop... “ It wasn’t convincing enough.
I had to try harder… Break…
“I… didn’t choose any of this…” Break… “I… have nowhere left to go, even if I make it out alive I have no one… Don’t you understand?” Break. “I was dead on arrival.”
“... So?” BREAK.
“I clung to life believing there was a meaning to it… But you know…” Tears started coming out. “There is none, there has been nothing but abuse for me… I didn’t want to hurt anyone! COUGH! I had no choice…”
My nose started to bleed. “And now look at me, dying…” He remained silent. “You know? The reason I am a broken core is because I broke the initiation ritual… I was dead from the start. Even if you didn’t kill me, I was going to die…”
It was painful. The truth was painful. I never had any freedom to begin with, and the little that I had now… It was going to be taken away. I was never meant to have freedom — life was realistically unfair… Painfully so.
“I didn’t choose this…” I bit my lip. “I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS! Why did things have to be like this!? So many promises to hold, so many things to protect… And yet. I DIE!” Nothing mattered anymore.
He remained silent.
“Although… Even though, I barely understand anything… I didn’t think out of all people you would be the one taking my life… The one that gave me hope, the one that gave me food, the one that gave me shelter—
“STOP!” he roared. “You think you have it bad?! How many burdens can you bear on your shoulders?!” he paused. “Ashley, Anna, Jeriah, Lynn, Mare… The list is in the hundreds… AND YOU. YOU THINK LIFE HAS BEEN UNFAIR?!” he snapped.
Right… I wasn’t the only one suffering.
But even then— Cough! Even then… It was unfair…
“Perhaps it hasn’t been as unfair, but… I’ve been alive less than a week, barely any time to understand the world around me… Gartz, Bort, Grant, Lars… Those are the people I have killed— I didn’t choose… I had no choice…”
That’s right… I had no choice— From the beginning, there were no available options. Die or die… That’s how it was from the start. I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to die. And yet I was probably going to die anyways. How unfair…
SNAP— CLICK— CLACK.
“That’s just how it is…” He said with a pained voice.
“That’s just how it is… THAT’S JUST HOW IT IS?!” I yelled in distress. “HOW IT IS?! Am I supposed to simply die?! Life is that meaningless?! A core like me… Is supposed to have a purpose and yet I have none… And now you are telling me I have to DIE?! I want to find a purpose!” Tears welled up in my eyes. “There is no point if I am broken and useless, I can’t process things right… I can’t see things right… and now I can’t even find a purpose… Isn’t that… too unfair?”
Eh? I was crying… Someone like me… was genuinely crying… Things were truly unfair…
I heard the footsteps coming closer and closer, my impending doom… It was truly the end. Why did things have to end like this? I had no idea… but even then… It was unfair. The footsteps stopped right before me, and the cloth rustled. He was probably about to snap my neck to put me out of my misery…
His fingers caressed the side of my head…
“You’ve suffered a lot… haven’t you?” I opened my eyes to see him. The man that I feared… was… his eyes were humid… “I am sorry… for doing this to you… I didn’t think properly…”
“It’s okay…” His voice was oddly soothing… it was comforting. His fingers ran through my hair once again. “You no longer need to collect, nor do anything…” ?! What was he talking about!? “I will take care of you…”
I… “I am happy…” Tears ran down my face — it was… acceptance…
His arms went under my body, slowly and carefully lifting me up. I was in tatters to say the least… He pressed his cold body against mine, his heart was beating fast…
“I am sorry… I hope you can forgive me…”
I…”I am sorry as well…”
My hand started moving on its own… still holding onto the bone dagger. I had forgotten...
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” I screamed in a desperate attempt. I didn’t want this!
“What are yo—
STAB— TWIST— Crack.
His limp body collapsed on the floor along with me… I… Why was this happening!? What did i do wrong?! WHY!? I crawled towards him, his eyes wide and tears still coming out… It was all on me… I had killed him…
I didn’t cho—
No… this shouldn’t be! Clack
I didn’t want— Snap.
I painfully stood up… It was done… and I had survived…
[Degraded effect — You go unpunished for the death of Adin ‘The Collector’ Eckhart. Arlesh overlooks it.]
I wonder why…
[System alert: You overcame a death or death situation. +50 to all stats!]
The dagger had shattered. But that wasn’t it… Why was it?
[Unique title acquired: Follower of the forbidden — Sometimes other tools are the second road to triumph. Affinity towards the forbidden — Unique.
“Surprised? When we have no choice, we become surprisingly inhumane.” — Akhar ‘the forbidden’ to his dying master.]
I should’ve felt relieved, I should've felt happiness, mostly relief though... I shouldn't even be feeling anything, but why was it? A sinking feeling in my stomach bothered me, something that I wasn't supposed to have. I simply had to survive and took the necessary measures for doing so...
“I was supposed to detach and yet… Why do I hate myself so much right now?” I looked down on the ground to see the atrocity I had committed. Droplets falling down from my face... I was crying. It was painful but I still had to carry on.
I leaned forward and touched his body, it dropped a bag and I pocketed it once again. But it felt so wrong. I was so wrong… It was painfully wrong… But I had no choice…
I harshly bit my lip until it was bleeding. I had done something unforgivable… I am sorry, Leah…
Sometimes we have to become the villains for the greater good…
I just hope… that you can find forgiveness for me somewhere in your heart.
And that I can find it for myself...