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Thread: [Quest] Lost Singularity - Fimbulwinter

  1. #1241
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of Javier's volcanic lightning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

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    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier
    "I really wanted to help."
    There's hope for Javier yet!

  3. #1243
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Plaza Sotomayor, Valparaíso
    Day 04
    Morning Phase – 11d
    Severe cold (-30°C/-22°F)



    (BGM)

    Move.

    Everything moves in this world. It is only obvious she, too, is never a static being. Boldly (recklessly) diving into the fields of doom, the territory of the goddess, she challenges divine castigation with eyes firm and heart unsteady. Her divine radiance, the brand of ancient Mesopotamia’s divinities, flares and pulsates along with her frantic heartbeat. Fear of death mingles like foam with the wild tide that is the longing for the dance.

    I’m afraid.

    To not fear the field of divine castigation is to be a fool. To not fear the fathomless depths of Saver’s power is impossible.

    To know the dance is to know fear.

    Fear is born of the dance that begets all things in this world never static. However, the Queen of Heaven cares not for Maria’s fears and trepidation. Setting foot into her territory is to present your life to her.


    This is how the dance begins. How it always begins.

    The nineteen-years-old mind cannot react. She cannot allow herself to react. The speed of her thoughts would be found lacking before Ishtar’s might. This battle she must defect to the demon blazing in her soul, to the dance already engraved in her body. They are the ones that can move before the beams are fired, the ones to whom the beams are no threat whatsoever.

    Is this really…me?

    Naturally, Maria Westinghouse cannot move like this. Her body is healthy and strong, but her current speed and elasticity defies all known human limits. Any witnesses to this spectacle would find it nonsensical. Again, the dance oscillates between beautiful and grotesque, between erotic and barbaric, between acrobatic and spastic. One moment she is a pole-dancing goddess swaying around her own sword stabbing the ground, the next she is a rampaging ape hulking from one place to the other. Regardless of the elegance or lack thereof, Maria remains unharmed.

    The purpose of the dance is not victory. Thinking of the dance as “something bearing a purpose” is in itself a mistake.

    Thoughts drift, clash and amalgamate in a separate space detached from Maria’s consciousness. She cannot make herself aware of any thoughts, because they would distract her from the dance. It is similar to the self-suggestion mages need to place themselves in the proper state for spellcasting. Perhaps that is the only reason this miracle (?) is possible.

    No thoughts are allowed to seize control of the mind. There can only be the dance.

    The dance simply is. It is flawless and self-perpetuating. I dance, and everything in this World dances along with me.

    Therein lies the scary part. Now that Maria has witnessed the dance and experienced it with her body, it is frighteningly easy to fall into it. It is not some transcendental super-technique of ultimate complexity and difficulty. If anything, it seems the very opposite: so trivial it feels she had known it all along. That is the problem.

    It feels too jarring.

    What does it mean that the dance is so easy to perform now? Maria feels like she has been infected with something. As if she has been handed a game-breaking power she does not deserve, so there has to be a catch. Is this her human malice betraying her, is this her intuition’s warning not to let herself by swayed by the demon’s honeyed words?

    I don’t know what to do…!


    The beam strikes her left cheek.

    Stupid girl.

    Who is the one scolding her by this point? Is it Saver, or is it herself?


    *** ***




    Lancer is the silent witness to the misstep. A single arrow of light strikes the girl’s left cheek. Unlike the last time, this does not result in a cascade of failures; the swordswoman grits her teeth and steps back into the proper dance.

    It is enough to bring a frown to his handsome face. If she is who he knows she is, then her dance should be flawless. This Noble Phantasm was merely his last bout of defiance, a pathetic final stand from a man too proud to say, “I give up”. He cannot ever be a match to the fawn of the Abzu; such a thing simply is not a possibility in the mind and the heart of one who knows and respects the gods.

    This Noble Phantasm should have been defeated already.

    Understanding fills his thoughts. Really, it should have been obvious from their very first encounter. Lancer thus realizes the depths of his self-centeredness. He was so focused on his defeat and his desire to overcome her, to the point that he willingly changed himself into the thing he hates her most, that he did not pay attention to the fact that she should be even stronger than this.

    “You, you are the same kind as Rider, are you not? A person acting as a vessel for the god-born virago!” he calls out to the girl desperately dancing for her life. Naturally, these are not the best circumstances for an exchange of words.

    “Girl, step out! Get out of the ring, now!”

    Maria does precisely that, to her own surprise. The dance decided to stop itself.

    (BGM)

    “Girl, do you really know the spirit you wield? Or is the one who talked back to me an echo beyond your control?”

    The second ring does not expand, in agreement with Lancer’s intent and desire. The sky still glows a vivid gold, the wordless warning of the divine presence permeating this entire battlefield. Its low-pitched hum feels like the goddess’ unspoken approval of whatever it is that is happening.

    Maria, who needs a moment to reassert herself, to remember that she is in fact Maria Westinghouse, remains silent. Her brain takes its sweet time to reengage in the miracle called consciousness, and then wonder about this strange, pointedly nonviolent development.

    “Girl,” repeats Lancer. This time he sounds noticeably calmer and less insistent. “Are you familiar with the concept of me in my culture?”

    Maria frowns, but nonetheless indulges the man. Any chance to catch her breath is welcome, even if she is technically in a hurry to end this.

    “Yeah, those’re your texture’s Divine Authorities, right? Yeah, Saver told me she is a living Authority given flesh. Waddaboutit?”

    “That is not entirely correct,” retorts Lancer. “The mes are indeed Authorities, but not all Authorities are mes.”

    Maria frowns. She is indeed unaware of that. Rather, that was not a distinction Saver made in that terrifying vision of
    her origin
    the origin of Heaven and Earth
    . Fortunately, Lancer wastes no time in completing the essential clarification.

    “The mes refer exclusively and explicitly to the Authorities corresponding to humanity, and the human experience. The Sun and the Moon are not mes. Love, Hate and Apathy; War and Peace; to build and to destroy; to argue and to agree; to buy, to sell and to steal; the authority of the king and the obedience of the slave; the wisdom of the queen and the wiles of the prostitute. Those things are mes, just as it is the one that was given life as the demonic warrior of the gods.”

    Lancer lets that sink in for a moment, trusting Maria to be smart enough to understand what he is saying. Only then does he continue.

    “That is why the episode of bright Ishtar and venerable Ea was so important.” Naram-Sin was no erudite and no priest in life, but it is only natural he knows all the great legends of his land, especially those involving his patron goddess. “By claiming all the mes for herself, Ishtar made herself ‘the goddess of humanity’.”

    Of course, she did that for entirely self-centered reasons: she wanted those powers for herself, not out of some messianic drive to connect with mortals. However, the important thing is not the motivation, but the result and its implications.

    “Why do you think she was the most beloved of our gods?” He continues with a voice and a face full of contentedness. Indeed, to this man, just as to most people of his time, to sing the praises of the radiant Ishtar is his joy and his pride.

    “Even if the times when she walked among us were long past, she remained the divine closest to our hearts, the source and partaker of all our sorrows and joys.”

    Hmph. That moron has the bad habit of forgetting that. But I guess this whole mess is the opposite extreme; taking that love of hers way too far. Really, one way or another, she just can’t stop herself from being a pain in the ass.

    Maria is not really listening to her own voice inside her mind. The earlier explanation still consumes her attention; the explicit clarification that Saver is in fact not just an Authority, but a me.

    That Saver is a thing of humanity.

    It is a strange sensation, to feel both deep bitterness and utter relief at the same time.

    “You are saying that it’s never been about ‘accepting’ or ‘rejecting’ the dance…” Maria says in a low voice. “…because you’re always been a part of me. A part of every human.”

    Everything in this World dances my dance, Idiot Girl.

    “But, but, I mean!” Maria speaks more insistently, her words aimed at Lancer rather than at the unhelpful demon inside her. “If she is a natural thing all humans have, then, then I don’t have to worry about corruption or something scary like that!?”

    The snort in her mind is most discouraging and even Naram-Sin looks like he is holding back laughter.

    “No, no, girl. She is one of the strongest demons; of course she will ‘corrupt’ you.”

    “Eh!?” Lancer’s tone is so lighthearted it is hard to feel fear. On the other hand, not feeling any trepidation when it comes to Saver is outright impossible.

    “Everything is a poison in the right dose,” points out Lancer, but he is nonetheless presenting Maria his lady-killer smile. “If you let a demon of disease into your home, it will make you sick; that is only common sense. But, girl, that Servant is no mere demon, and you, its host, are no mere human.”

    “The point here is that you decide the influence it has on you. For good or ill, that one is already part of you and me and everybody else, but we are the ones who decide when, and most importantly, how and why we dance.”

    (BGM STOP)

    His words are the gale that blows away the mists of uncertainty. “This is not beyond your control”; “your fate is still your own”. Those are the things Maria Westinghouse needs to hear.

    …huh. I guess he is a king after all.

    Maria pays no heed to the sassy voice inside her head, pushing herself to calm down her heart and settle the ripples in her mind. This…should be enough to accept the dance wholly, right? The wording is actually wrong; there is no accepting what is already part of you. She just has to abandon herself to the dance, molding herself along with it to create “the self that expresses the dance.” In other words, she must answer the vital question: “What is the dance to Maria Westinghouse?”

    (BGM)

    The golden sky hums one more time, as if voicing its impatience. Lancer shows far more tolerance, watching placidly as the girl closes her eyes and looks inwards. Her melam also retreats as if absorbed into her body. Far away from their stilled battlefield, the great dome of blackness disappears behind buildings and hills as it becomes smaller and eventually disappears.

    So, you’re here.

    Saver’s presence is within her and all around her. Her dance is the howl of a distant wolf and the psycho killer’s breath on her neck. Her dance is in the conqueror king and in the revolutionary’s guillotine. Her dance pushed Cain to smash Abel’s head with a rock, and started the fission reaction inside Little Boy.

    Well?



    Think you can call out my name now?


    Servant Deduction
    * At certain points throughout the Quest, whenever the Main Characters discuss the issue of Servants, participants in the Quest can influence this discussion by presenting their own speculations on the identities of the Servants in Fimbulwinter.
    * Naturally, correctly deducing an unknown Servant’s identity is a boon to our protagonists, regardless of whether they wish to befriend the Servant, or defeat them, even if the nature of that boon is unclear at first glance.

    Present your deduction on the identity of Servant Saver.
    Maria’s Decisive Choice
    Based on what she has learned, and on the name of the Servant in her heart, Maria…

    1. Abandons herself to Carnage.
    2. Abandons herself to Chaos.
    3. Abandons herself to Conflict.
    4. Abandons herself to Calamity.


  4. #1244
    Evil of Humanity Half-Blood Master's Avatar
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    Saver, I shall call your True Name! You are Distortion. You are Deviation. You are
    Ṣāltum
    Discord


    Who?
    • Ṣāltum is a demon or monster featured in the Agushaya Hymn, where she fights Ishtar. Her name literally means "Discord"
    • Ṣāltum is a demon created by Ea from the dirt under his fingernails. This would fit multiple points made about Saver in-universe: being a forged Mes/Demon Goddess, referring to Ea as "Father", and The Maid always calling her dirty, mud and such.
    • The text where she appears exalts "The Mad Dancer in Battle", her combat with Ishtar is described as a whirling dance, and originates the guštum, a whirling ceremonial dance that could well be the Ancient Mesopotamian Martial Arts Saver seems so proud of.
    • The text states she was specifically created as a counterfoil to Ishtar, matching her Nemesis skill description of "From the very moment she was given shape, she was nothing else but the nemesis of another"
    • Ishtar—or, for that matter, Inanna—fits the six characters obscured in Saver's Nemesis skill. So does Irnina, the serpent deity identified with Ishtar in that text.
    • Ishtar asks Ea to make Ṣāltum "return to her cave". This would fit Saver's true form being secluded in a temple in Abzu—Ea's realm—since apparently forever.
    • The text mentions Ishtar asks to be saved from Ṣāltum's "Monstrous virago" That's probably where "Deviant Virago" comes from.
    Last edited by Half-Blood Master; April 11th, 2020 at 11:43 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, July 20th 2019
    We gave HBM, of all people, access to a morals loosening field
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, December 25th 2019
    Senta deserves the right to a life where she gets to choose if she's actually a Nazi
    True Rider
    A wise and beautiful woman who exudes an aura of grace. She is a sly, cunning, manipulative person who always gets what she wants, whether through trickery or ruthlessness. Her own fighting abilities are low, but she should not be trifled with. What does she ride? Men, of course!

  5. #1245
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    Abandons herself to Chaos.


    All four of the options sound bad, but of the four options Chaos sounds the least bad but then again for all I know it will be the option that switches between the other three making it harder to predict.

    That said if I had to pick a trait that Maria fit the most out of the four of them, than Chaos does honestly come to mind so it's what I'll stick with for now.

  6. #1246
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    With the quote “…because you’re always been a part of me. A part of every human.” my first thought was Kingu as in the creation myth humanity is created from the defeated god's blood. However in the Agushaya Hymn our beloved Ishtar, goddess of sex and war is "terrifying to the gods with her wild, ferocious and virile antics." “She dances around gods and kings in her manliness” and “young men are cut off as if for spears.” which is about twelve different kinds of youthemism. Through her actions Ṣāltum humiliated the goddess, saving all humans and gods from her. This action probably qualifies her for the "Saver" class.

    Therefore I agree that Saver is Ṣāltum, Discord itself.

  7. #1247
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Abandons herself to Chaos.

    Just feels right


    Conflict

    I am easy to convince
    Last edited by zikari8; April 11th, 2020 at 02:48 PM.


  8. #1248
    wwwww Spartacus's Avatar
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    yeah Chaos
    Chaos sounds bad, but the rest are awful

  9. #1249
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Yeah, I think HBM is right. Saver is Ṣaltu*, "powerful in her form, monstrous in her proportions".

    Also, I choose for Maria to abandon herself to Conflict. Ṣaltu isn't formless Chaos, nor Carnage and Calamity; it's Strife, which "was made, was created / so that people of the future should learn of us".

    (Conflict also isn't a negative thing by itself. To live is to be in conflict, after all.)

    * I'm using Foster's transliteration because it's easier.
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

  10. #1250
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    well if that the case, I'll change to Conflict then
    it seems like the type of choice with a "correct answer" adterall

  11. #1251
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    3. Conflict, if for no other reason that it sounds like it matches that line about Cain and Iskandar and nukes the most.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  12. #1252
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    True Name: Ṣāltum

    Conflict
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  13. #1253
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    I still think Chaos is the best choice as while I agree that Saver favors Conflict the most, the decision we need to make isn't necessarily supposed to match Saver's Choice.

    We are supposed to be picking a choice for Maria so that she can truly claim the Dance for herself, which is why I think Chaos fits best for her.

  14. #1254
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    "Based on what she has learned, and on the name of the Servant in her heart," though.
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

  15. #1255
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Conflict it is

  16. #1256
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    (BGM)

    “Allow me to begin with a piece of wisdom from my era,” starts Lily, taking exactly three steps backwards. “Man was born to serve, not to be served.”

    She shrugs.

    “The only thing that’s changed is the target of that service. In a world without gods, who else will look after humans but each other? Now, some people will be quick to complain and say something like ‘But I can’t figure out other people’. Well, they are wrong. The ones they cannot figure out are themselves.”

    “They say communication is hard, but it should not be hard at all. It is hard because you have made it hard. It is hard because you live in a world that demands results, and failure is rewarded with mockery and disdain. Dealing with other people is not hard at all; what is hard is dealing with the wounds you assume in advance those other people will inflict on you. What is hard is focusing on them and on what they can do to you, instead of focusing on yourself and what you can do for them.”

    As she speaks, her expression and voice both harden. This is not the gentle advice of a friend, but the blunt admonition from a teacher.

    “You know what your problem is, Javier? That you’re the kind of person who’s only willing to work hard when the result is guaranteed.”

    Lily does not hold back. I already knew she was like that, but the bitter ache in the chest is ineludible. People don’t like to be scolded or criticized. I am no exception. She is utterly unfair in that she is not here in person; she does not even give me the chance to defend myself.

    “If I follow this recipe, I’ll get this meal done. If I work this number of hours, I’ll receive a salary at the end of the month. If I complete this procedure, I’ll be able to cast a spell. That is as far as you are willing to go. You are pathetic.”

    Really easy to say that when I don’t get to talk back at you, huh.

    “And do you know why you are so pathetic, Javier? Because you still haven’t found something worth struggling for—”

    She halts herself, pursing her lips for an instant.

    “No, that is not quite right. Rather, you still haven’t struggled enough to find that something. You are so self-centered that you’ve spent your entire life ‘playing it safe’. You keep your distance from others because you cannot control or decide what they do to you. Because you don’t want bad things to happen to you, and the only person who can’t hurt you is yourself.”

    And now she pities me with her eyes and with the shift in the corner of her lips. Damn her.

    “You keep living like that, and you feel you are lacking something. You feel you have not done enough, that there should be more to life than such…pleasant mediocrity.”

    Shut up! What do you know, all holier than thou, talking like you know me at all! Don’t talk to me like I’m still a brat!

    “Of course it is like that, idiot,” she fulminates me with a voice more clad in humor than bile. “If you remain your sole judge, you will never be satisfied with yourself. That is human nature, Javier.”

    With clenched fist, she adds. “It is the Principle of Comparison that governs all intelligent beings.”

    Lily stops for a moment, as if to let me digest her words, but I don’t really know what she is trying to get at now. It is not like I can do anything else, so I wait for her to speak again.

    “You are like the aspiring author who never tries to publish because he always finds his work lacking. You are like the boy in love who never aims for the one he desires because ‘she is out of his league’.”

    She shrugs.

    “The quality of a book is decided by the ones who read it, not the one who writes it. The only who decides who that girl will or will not fall in love with, is that girl herself. It should be obvious, Javier. Nobody can judge themselves properly. You will inevitably find the stain in a work everybody else may deem spotless. You will look at what another has done and wonder why yours is not like that.”

    Another shrug, this one laden with resignation.

    “Why am I not as good as him? Why can’t I do it like he does? Why don’t I get the response he does? What else could I have done? Why can’t I have more? What am I doing wrong?”

    Lily shakes her head despondently.

    “Javier, those questions haunt you and every single human being every single day of our lives. It’s when you let them paralyze you that you become a pathetic human being.”

    “Get this in that thick her of yours,” she declares, poking her own head for good measure. “Any judgement you make upon yourself is worthless. In the end, the foremost and final judge of your life, your deeds, and your works, is humanity itself. You may not like it; you may think it unfair, but such is the lot of us humans.”

    She is back to “incensed teacher mode”.

    “You will fail, of course. People will find you effort lacking. You will face criticism, rejection, and sometimes, even authentic scorn, or even worse, utter apathy. You might think it would be nice if everybody succeeded at everything on the first try, but failure is a necessary and valuable pain. Life is all about experiences, and failure is a particularly useful one, because it teaches you your current limits, and it pushes you towards reaching out to others.”

    Again, she emphasizes her words with a pointed finger.

    “Those who braggingly say things like 'I do what I want’, or ‘I don't care what people think of me' are idiots and/or liars.”

    She throws her hands to the air.

    “Of course you care about the impressions you create on others! You cannot not care! For it is those impressions that create your 'history'. It is that 'record' you leave in others that makes the 'proof' of yourself!"

    Her words are always accompanied by eloquent gestures, like a practiced orator. This is a woman well used to giving speeches.

    “Things like 'I'm fine on my own'; 'I don't need anybody else'; 'I don't want to depend on others'. It is foolish to think those things, Javier. You are a human! Everything you do in your life is built upon the achievements of others. You are a branch of an ever-growing tree of effort and progress and legacies. It is neither good nor bad; it is merely how it is.”

    She ends with a dainty finger pointing vaguely in my direction. It would have been rather silly if I had moved from this place at any point.

    “So make the best of it, you fool!”

    She is laughing without laughing. I fail to see what is so funny.

    “The world and humanity are unflinchingly looking at you, and expecting things from you,” she declares somewhat excitedly. “In the same way, it is your privilege, your prerogative, and your responsibility as a human being to look back at them, to judge them as they judge you, and to act on that judgement. That is what it means to be a part of 'humanity'.”

    It is a disheartening message. “You are what others make of you.” “Your worth is decided by others.” How is that supposed to make anyone feel good about themselves?

    “Now, because you seem the kind of guy who will take what I say in the worst possible way, let me make something clear. What humanity defines and judges is your history and only your history. They do not define you nor your sense of self-worth.”

    Again, her face takes a mien of absolute seriousness. I cannot keep up with Lily’s spectrum of expressiveness.

    “What I mean is: you do not need the validation or acknowledgement of others to feel good about yourself.”

    Well, yeah, that is what I’ve always believed. The idea that I could only find self-satisfaction through the validation of others makes me feel dirty and pathetic. I refuse to believe humans are such pitiful creatures.

    “But, Javier, you will never feel satisfied with your life unless you do things that touch the lives of others. And how can you do that without love that is not selfish?”

    For a moment, it seems like she dismissed me to dip her feet in the nearby waters. That cool sensation on one’s skin is still profoundly familiar. I loved this place as a child, and I guess she did as well.

    “Javier, there is so much love in the world for you, but if you want any of it you have to be willing to give your love to the world as well,” she continues, no longer looking at me. “If you want the world to acknowledge you, you cannot turn your eyes away from it. You cannot stand out in the world if you are not even part of it.”

    …yeah. I guess that much is obvious. Is she implying I’ve been placing the cart before the horse? All this time, I’ve thought I had to become “a special person” to be someone I can be proud of in this world, but…I guess that is the wrong order of things, after all.

    “However, the person, Javier Lucero, is not something you can find by looking someplace else or at somebody else,” she continues. “Don't ever believe you will find ‘Javier Lucero’ in that divine flame, or in Blavatsky's teachings. The things that make humans truly shine are nothing that esoteric.”

    Then, how am I supposed to find it? ‘The best me I can be.’

    “Well, I have ranted a lot, but I have not given you any useful advice. But you must know by now that I cannot give you an answer to that question. I can only share with you my experience and my honest belief.”

    Spoiler:
    The world disappears in an explosion of the purest light. I fear for my sight right before a new scene appears in front of me.


    (BGM)

    It is a familiar scene I never expected to see. An old, rundown bathroom from a time when life was rough. How old was I at that time, twenty-two? Stranded in Istambul, sharing an apartment with other sailors without a ship. But, this perspective—you would have to be a bug or some other sort of crawlie to get this angle.

    And there I was, locked inside the bathroom in the middle of the night, for it was the only place with a modicum of privacy in that overcrowded apartment.

    The more I see of this scene, the more I remember of that night’s sensations. How to forget the scent of his own sweat in that stuffy room, the dryness of his mouth, the twitching of his eyes that refused to blink, or the ache in his limbs like lava flowing in his veins? How to forget the tautness of his muscles, the ache in his fingers fiercely clenched, his haphazard attempts to regulate his breathing? The rising tension, the growing sense of danger mixed with the faint hunch that something was happening, and the simmering doubt as to the whether this was not merely his delusion, or that he should stop fooling himself and get back to bed.

    It would have been the rational thing to do. Yet, the me of that night did not stop. He clung to the most unreasonable hunch, longing for the impossible.

    “Ah…”

    That was not me. Well, it was the other me; the one I am looking at through this window into my memories.

    “Who are you?” echoes Lily’s voice to my side. Detached from our bodies in this strange vision, Lily exists only as a ‘presence’, reliable and familiar.

    “There is no grand answer to that, my dear child. It is a small and simple question, with a small and simple answer.”

    Right, that’s how it went. I was so surprised by the minuscule ball of flame that it burst between my hands. Yes, there I am, shaking my singed hands while keeping myself from shouting in mixed pain and triumph.

    Yes, it was there, in that stuffy, rundown bathroom, that I confirmed there is magic in this world, and that I could use it. And there I am, withholding the loud cheer that would wake everybody up to instead pump my fists while grinning like a loon.

    “That, Javier Lucero, is you.”

    …seriously, what the hell, me?

    When did I forget the sheer joy I felt in that embarrassing, pathetic moment?

  17. #1257
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    Wow I have to admit you can really write some inspiring speeches.

    It really does remind me of some of the better speeches in FGO, and the OST really enhanced the overall feeling well.

    I can easily say that this may be one of my favorite chapters of the entire story so far.

  18. #1258
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    (BGM)

    “I know I have ranted a lot, and I apologize for that. I hope you understand this is my only chance to do it, so I cannot afford to hold anything back. Now, let me explain exactly what happened, how you ended up here, and you can do about that issue.”

    We are seated on the roof of Father Scissors’ church of all places. Some steps away, seventeen-years-old me is hard at work fixing some leaks. I remember complaining every minute of it, but there was also a certain sense of accomplishment. My parents never made me do much of anything beyond fixing my bed every morning. Therefore, there was something about “working for the sake of my household” that felt strangely satisfying, in a “doesn’t this make me more like an adult?” kind of way.

    “You tried to draw even more of the sacred flame of the volcano ruler, which opened the door for its attempt to manifest fully and independently onto the world, using your body as kindling. I planted the spirit-sealing formula inside Liria in case something like this happened.”

    Lily speaks grimly, emphasizing the magnitude of the problem.

    “Javier, you have fueled that flame too much, too quickly. This was your last chance. If something like this happens again, there will be no saving you.”

    Important Note
    Warning!
    If Javier reaches Regression Level 4, he will cease to be a playable character!
    “I do not know what the older me intended to teach you, and to be honest I care little for it. I do not have a satisfactory answer myself, in fact. The suggestion I have is not one I personally like, but it is the best I can offer.”

    “Javier, you must understand why using the power of the gods is suitable for people like me, yet dangerous to one such as you. It is a very obvious reason.”

    She glances at younger me for a moment before turning to face me properly.

    “It is faith, Javier. Faith, and only faith, is the proper means to connect with the numinous. But you live in a world where that true faith has become a rarity. A world in which faith has been reduced to mindless attachment to rigid dogma, became intertwined with ignorance, and thus acquired a deplorable stigma.”

    Lily looks sad. She pities the world that has forgotten its gods.

    “The one who aims to claim the power of the gods without faith deserves all the bad that will happen to them. Javier, the gods are not mindless, detached machines you can just use and abuse and then throw away when they become obsolete. They are not ‘tools’, nor are they ‘resources’ or ‘products’ to be exploited or expended.”

    She speaks with the firm conviction of a woman who embodies religion. A woman who loves and respects the numinous to a degree unreasonable to the humans of the modern era, so submerged in the sea of “common sense” and “rationality”. A mindset that some would look down and mock in utter contempt. Yet, she is unmistakably strong, confident, and realized as a human being. Can those deniers claim the same?

    “They are systems indeed, but they follow intents, motivations and purposes of their own. You wield them through respect and conciliation, not through vapid assertions of dominance. Because they are the instruments of the World, not of humankind. If you choose to reach for the gods again, you cannot be the same as ‘the humanity that parted ways with the gods’. What is that expression? ‘You cannot have your cake and eat it’.”

    “On a related note, I have read what your historians think of my people and our culture. What they fail to understand is that the entire body of folklore they call ‘pessimistic’ and ‘negative’ was the record of the proper ways to communicate with the gods, how to compel their systematic actions in a favorable direction. It is the reason that demon has the Saver class, you see. She is the living, breathing embodiment of that idea, and therefore of ancient Mesopotamian religion.”

    Lily shrugs, perhaps stopping upon realizing she has entered a divergence for her own self-indulgence rather than provide any proper advice.

    “Well, reeducating you into the proper shape and expression of transcendent, self-aggrandizing faith would take far more time than we have. On the other hand, I care for your life and your future more than I do for my ideals, so I will give you a hint I would rather withhold.”

    A wagging finger points in my direction.

    “You are an alchemist, aren’t you? THEN USE THAT ALCHEMY, YOU FOOL!”

    My heart stops and my body jumps at the sudden shout, but loud and scathing. For only a moment, her eyes look like a predator about to leap for my jugular. She would have hit me if she truly existed here, physically. That much I can tell.

    “Honestly, I can’t believe I have to tell you something that obvious,” she mutters while pouting.

    Alchemy…? Wait, she is talking about the very definition of alchemy itself: a system for transformation. Then…to change the divine flame into something I can use? Is she—yes, she is definitely aware that I went for internal alchemy, but, to think of using that system on the divine flame…will that even work?

    “Just try it,” she says as if reading my mind. “Really, it’s not like you have any better ideas. The only thing you need to remember is that it is only the flame within your soul that will consume you.

    I feel it. She has just said something extremely important, even if I cannot yet decipher what she implies. Also, she does have point; I lack the knowledge of magic and these strange powers to come up with ideas of my own.

    “Now, the crux of the issue. Allow me to talk about the older me.”

    With a flick of her fingers, we are back in that most nostalgic scene of greenery; the place where we met and where we existed together, as friends.

    “Now, I represent the first half of her life, and I have an objective view of the second half she represents, so I can propose my thoughts on her decision-making process and her plans, but that is still a long way from claiming to know what she is thinking. Furthermore, I am not a Human God like the original, nor in divine henosis like that Alter Ego. I am the priestess above all priestesses, but I remain fundamentally and entirely human.”

    Time seems to accelerate around us, and in a matter of seconds afternoon becomes evening. I do not remember this scenery, because I never stayed that long in this place.

    “The first thing you must know is that the freezing of Valparaíso and the capture and gradual draining of its inhabitants are components of both her plan and the Fourth Reich’s plan. In concept and execution, they are the same, but it is unlikely that they are aiming for the same result. After all, she has been feeding the Nazis exactly the information she wanted them to know all the way since the 1920s.” She shrugs. “Naturally, it is not that they were so trusting as to simply take her words at face value this whole time, they simply decided it does not matter as long as they have their way at the end. In their confidence, they never realized she had far more control over them than they ever had over her.”

    Then she makes a dismissive gesture of all things.

    “But all that is of little relevance, because this whole singularity thing is just one element in her list. She is definitely developing multiple plans at the same time. She is my future, so she is definitely leagues above me in that regard. By the way, this is not a guess. I know for a fact she is aiming for multiple objectives, because her first and foremost desire has always been to create a new Human God.

    …I see. Yes, I guess that makes some sense.

    “I will not go over her reasons because it is not my place to do so. If you really need to know why, ask her yourself. I will only say that nobody can convince her to let go of that wish. It is engraved in her nature, and in the very reason she is an Alter Ego in the first place. However, there is one last matter I have to bring up, because it is of the foremost importance and I believe you and your allies remain unaware of it.”

    She speaks and looks dead serious. Everything tells me I have to pay the utmost attention.

    “Javier, if the older me only aimed for Human Gods and the conclusion of that singularity’s ritual, then there remains one unexplained element. Something absolute unnecessary for either plan, yet present nonetheless, and through considerable effort from her part.”

    I try to figure out what she is talking about, but it is fortunate that she is not waiting for an answer from me.

    “Javier, I am talking about the Hexensoldaten. Those girls fulfill no obvious purpose. It does not make sense if they were made only to fight for the Fourth Reich—with the amount of effort and resources she spent on creating those advanced artificial humans, the older me could have built many more tools and weapons, all of them more reliable. She could have made ordinary homunculi with the methods of modern magecraft, and those would have been more useful soldiers than what she made.”

    I…think I can understand Lily’s point. I don’t know shit about magecraft, but creating artificial women indistinguishable from the real thing, and further loaded with magical powers cannot be easy. It only takes looking at the scientific challenge that is cloning a human being.

    “My point here is that those girls are important, in ways they themselves might not be aware of. So keep your eyes open and be very careful in how you deal with them.”

    Alright, got it.

    Seemingly satisfied, Lily nods to herself.

    “Alright, I guess that’s about it.”

    (BGM)

    A cold breeze blows, stirring the trees and sending shivers through my skin. A sound like cracking glass brings my attention to the celestial sphere over our heads, where I see the unreal scene of the world breaking apart. Reality seems to be slowly breaking down, the air, the stars, the trees, the nearby river and the very ground around me becoming sparkling dust. Lily slowly rises to her feet, and I do the same, unreasonable fear making my heartbeat faster.

    “What is there left to say?” ponders the smiling young girl. “What piece of advice should I send you off with?”

    When the tips of her fingers crack like old porcelain—that is when it hits me: that this girl, my dear friend, my first love, is about to leave me, and I will never see her again.

    “Do not forget, Javier: happiness makes one kind. Judgement makes one strong. Suffering makes one human. Failure makes one humble. Triumph makes one brilliant. However, it is faith, true faith, which throughout the history of humankind has pushed men and women forward.”

    The unraveled parts of the illusory world become utter blackness, a nothingness more fearsome than a moonless night. As the light around us diminishes, Lily herself seems to glow. She is ethereally beautiful, but also painfully evanescent.

    “Sometimes you do not feel satisfied with your life, while many people near and far dream of a life remotely close to yours. The farm boy looks up at a passenger plane and dreams of flight, but the pilot of that plane looks down at that farm and dreams of home. Such is life, Javier. Enjoy your own!”

    The ground under our feet disappears, and we are now floating in the midst of the unraveling world. Part of me wishes to reach out to her, but my mind reminds me that is it pointless. I can only let my ears record her final words in my mind, and my eyes engrave her smile in my heart.

    “If wealth were the secret to happiness, rich people would be dancing on the streets. Yet it is only the poor who dance, play and party in that way.”

    “If power were a guarantee of safety, important people would have no need for bodyguards. Yet it is only those who live humble lives who can go to bed at ease.”

    “If beauty and fame were a guarantee of fulfillment, your celebrities would be the people with the happiest, most stable relationships.”

    An invisible force pushes us apart; we are sent floating in opposite directions. I call out her name, but she only keeps smiling as her form, too, slowly breaks apart.

    “Faith! It doesn’t have to do anything with gods! Just faith! Faith sustains us! Faith pushes us forward! So, Javier, beloved child! Have faith in yourself!”

    Her smile is resplendent, even as tears fly off the corners of her eyes and scatter into points of light.

    “Live humbly, yet walk proudly! And above all things, love with all your heart!”

    The unseen force accelerates us, and she already looks very small when her breakdown reduces her to a talking head.

    This is goodbye.

    I cannot cry. I do not want to cry. I will not leave this person with tears, no matter how hard it is to keep my lips from trembling. She has done everything in her power to give me strength through this strange “dream”, so I cannot end it by showing her weakness. This is my selfishness; she should be used to it by now.

    “Gah! I forgot!”

    What.

    “Javier!” Her voice calls out from the distance, where she is almost a bright dot in the darkness. “One last hint, because I love you this much!”

    Really? Well, this is actually very you in a way that hits all my nostalgic strings, but really!? Now, of all times!?

    Not like I get say in anything that happens here. She delivers her final words: a sentence completely out of context, which makes no apparent sense. However, she called it a hint, so I memorize it. I am sure its obvious significance will come to light sooner or later.

    Complete darkness beyond darkness. This is the moment. If I am to return to the frozen city, it is now that I have to decide what to make of Lily’s words. How I am going to face the present and the future awaiting me outside this “dream.” I am rather fond of being myself so I cannot just let the flame have its way forever. However, alchemy…how exactly—no, if Lily brought it up, it can only mean that it is possible, and that she believes me capable of doing it.

    I do not need to close my eyes, for it cannot get any darker. Even my form seems to be fading away, as the false reality Lily built in my mind comes to an end and forces me back into the world of the conscious and living. The nothingness shown before me is soon accompanied by the warmth of my body; the familiar sensation of magical energy circulating within, and now around my body. Of course, the flame is also here, both within and without, both offering itself to me and taunting me with its presence and its power. If left unchecked, it will consume me. It cares nothing for me, its vessel.

    Lily was right, you know. I’m not gonna become a faithful worshipper, nor am I gonna start following the traditional mapuche ways. But if you’re gonna insist in being a part of me, you shitty flame, I feel like showing you what that really means!



    *** ***

    Warning!

    This is a Locked Save Point.

    If your quest reaches a Dead End, it may only resume from this point.


    Javier Lucero’s First Ultimate Choice
    Magecraft is but another tool for humans to tame the World. Unlike the cold, rigid ways of the exact sciences, the Art is an expression of the self, deeply intimate and personal. The difference between casting a spell and offering a prayer is not that large.

    What is the shape of the
    alchemy
    prayer
    Javier decides to use on the divine flame?

    1. Alambique.
    2. Átanor.
    3. Ekhtros.
    4. Fireball.
    5. Luminous Dress.
    6. Sthūla-Śarīra.


  19. #1259
    リビングデッド Living Dead Faux's Avatar
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    Having given it no thought:
    5
    False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

  20. #1260
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    6 as it's helped us a lot throughout the story, I'm also rather interested in seeing it explored further.

    That said I'm open to changing my mind if somebody has a good argument/explanation.

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