The Children of Eris
“Come on, David,” Hailey chided, putting her hands on her hips “It’s hard for me to rehearse if the person I’m acting against is as stiff as a wall.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t really know how to do this sort of thing,” David said. “I mean, do you have tips or hints you could give me?”
Hailey smiled. “Sure, but I wanted to see if such a ‘bright, intelligent and amazing student’ like yourself could figure it out without needing my help.”
“…So that’s why you didn’t help me then. You’re still mad that I didn’t let you copy my notes, aren’t you?”
She spun around and smiled. “Who can say?”
Two weeks ago, Hailey had jokingly bragged that she was such a bright, intelligent and amazing student that she didn’t need to study too hard for her exams and could pass them with flying colours. Later that day, in their Maths class, Hailey had been so enthralled in a text conversation with a friend that she ended up missing all the notes the teacher wrote on the whiteboard about a key formula for their exam. When she asked David at lunch that day to let her copy his notes, he’d grinned and said those same words back to her.
It seems she’s been wanting to get back at me for a while.
“So, can you help me please?” David asked.
“Hmm, I don’t know,” Hailey mused. “I thought that there wasn’t anything at school you couldn’t do if you put your mind to it.”
“That’s not true and you know it.”
“Okay, okay, I could tell you, but they’re tricks of the trade, you see. The sort of thing that the Acting Guild’s elders wouldn’t want me sharing so easily and for such a low price.”
“I’ll buy you some chocolate cake from the bakers down the road.”
Hailey jumped onto the bed across from him, cleared her throat, and said, “Honestly, the main technique that I use is a bit of a difficult one to use at first but, once you practice with it enough, it becomes second nature.”
“That sounds perfect. What it is?”
“In simple terms, it’s this: you must live the character in their entirety to be able to act as them.”
“Right…you don’t get it, do you?”
“I mean, sort of?”
“Okay, try to think of it like this. You’re you because of the way you think, talk, the words you use, the tone of your voice and what actions you take, right?” Hailey explained.
“So, it’s about trying to apply those principals to acting to better become a fictional character. To be that character, you must think like they do, talk like they do, use the words they’d use, use the tone of voice they’d use and take the actions that you think they’d take. I know it sounds excessive, but it’s what works best for me when I’m acting.”
“That sounds like a lot of effort for a minor role like this, don’t you think?”
“Even then, it’s necessary.” Hailey looked down at the script and gently ran her fingertips over her character’s name. “After all, we’re breathing life into these fictional characters and so it’s our duty as actors to give them life and make them seem real to our audience, even when they aren’t.”
“That sounds a bit scary,” David said.
Hailey smiled. “Maybe, but, as long as you train yourself properly to separate yourself from the character, then you’ll be just fine.” Hailey smiled brightly, leaned towards David and asked, “It’s simple when you think of it like that, right?”
With the castle now his, David retired to what had once been a luxurious guest bedroom in the castle.
Had the master bedroom not been damaged during the assault, David would’ve gladly taken it as his own. The room that he was in however had been largely untouched by the Machai during the attack.
“Leave me,” David said to the two Machai that had escorted him. “Or do you dare insult me by staying as if I need guards to protect me?”
The Machai bowed and promptly left, closing the doors behind them.
Once David could sense that they were far away and that there was no one else within a short distance of him, he dispelled his armour and collapsed onto his knees, panting heavily.
He clutched his chest tightly and felt vomit rising up the back of his throat, but he swallowed it back down. He couldn’t calm down, nor could he manage to do the calming breathing exercises he’d studied; his mind was all over the place.
In a single night, hundreds of people had died at his command, he acted like a monster as best as he could, suppressing every single human emotion inside of him so that he could play the role the way Eris wanted him to. But what bothered David the most were the last words he had said in the dungeon and the feeling it had swelled inside of him.
He had tried to embrace the acting advice that Hailey had given him as best he could, but, at some point during the night, David had gotten scared that he might not have been able to keep the two parts of himself separate.
When he had said he’d make the parents suffer, that hadn’t been an act: David had wanted to hurt them worse than they had hurt that woman. Worse, he had, for a brief moment, imagined what would happen to them, and he had been looking forward to it.
That’s not me! He thought, lowering himself closer to the ground. I don’t want to do those things! All I was doing was using the method Hailey taught me; play the part so much that you think just like them. Even if they did deserve it, I would never do such things.
Anyone would’ve wanted them to suffer if they’d seen and heard what they’d done to that girl.
David cried and smashed his head hard against the ground, weeping quietly to himself. It didn’t hurt, so David did it again, yet he felt no pain from it nor did it bruise his body.
Then, an idea came into his mind.
What if this was Eris’s doing?
He slowly sat back up onto his knees and thought back to when Eris drenched him in that black mud.
In her own words, she remade my entire body to handle the power that she gave me, but what if that wasn’t all that Eris did? What if she gave me powers and changed the way my body functions, even the way that I think?
When David had awoken in this world with his new body, he had thought that he felt normal but what if that wasn’t the case?
What if Eris had fundamentally changed his mentality of what it felt to be normal and David hadn’t even realised?
That does sound like something she might do and, if she had done something like that, it’d explain why I suddenly felt that rush from killing those goblins and why I thought of doing something like that to Rebecca’s parents.
That has to be it.
“Even if that is it, all I can do is fight it, huh?” He mumbled, wiping what tears remained in his eyes.
He looked around the room and spotted something that could confirm that for him: a tall mirror.
He stripped off his clothes as he walked towards the mirror and, for the first time since Eris had rebuilt his body, he could see what he now looked like.
His hair was as black as the night’s sky; his eyes were a blood red colour and their shape reminded him of Eris’s. The strangest change, however, that he hadn’t even realised himself until now was what had happened to his body.
He had become taller and more muscular than he had been before.
David had only been able to figure it out now because his family owned a tall, standing mirror that was the same height as the one in their house.
So, Eris did change my perception of some things then, otherwise there’s no way to explain how I didn’t notice that I was taller than normal. I can’t feel pain like I used to either; that’s enough evidence to prove that Eris has changed the way I think.
However, even with those changes, David could still recognise his face and body as his own. The faint scars on his arms and legs from when he’d hurt himself when he was a kid, the painful looking white tissue above his heart where the burglar had stabbed him, and his face, even with his new eyes, still looked like him.
There’s still a bit of me left in here.
David changed back into his clothes and slipped under the bed’s duvet and stared blankly at the ceiling, his body still shaking a little from everything that had happened tonight.
Maybe I’ll feel better after some sleep.
Just as David closed his eyes, he felt a familiar, icy chill envelope the room.
He opened his eyes and, floating above his bed, looking down at him, were the blackened sadistic eyes of the person he hated the most.
“How are you enjoying yourself, Mr. Demon Emperor?” Eris gently asked with her usual cruel smile.
All of the anger, disgust and hatred that had been building inside of David exploded when he saw her.
He roared at her, summoned his armour and weapon swung at her, but his blade never even came close to her face.
In a fraction of a second after David had started his attack, Eris had effortlessly thrown him across the room without lifting a finger. David crumpled onto the ground as his armour vanished.
He glared at her, but Eris didn’t care.
“You know, you should really find a better way of venting your anger,” Eris said. “I’ve heard that talking to someone helps, so I graciously came here to help you calm down.”
She giggled and rested her chin in her hands, kicking her feet, almost like she was lying down on a bed.
“I’m such a nice Goddess, aren’t I?” Eris asked. Then, she grinned. “Oh, but I’ve also heard that a good way to relieve stress is to take it out on others as well.” She giggled. “If only there was someone nearby that you could take your anger out on.”
Don’t rise to the bait!
David calmed himself down and slowly stood back up, never breaking eye-contact with the Goddess.
“Oh?” She purred. “Do you have something that you want to say to me?”
“…Why are you here?” David growled.
“Hmm. I could’ve sworn that I told you the reason.”
“You didn’t tell me the real reason.”
David had to resist lashing out at her again, reminding himself of how it went the last time.
Don’t piss her off, or else she could hurt your family, he repeated in his mind again and again until it took a slight edge of his anger.
“It seems like you’re finally starting to believe me,” Eris said.
“If I believed everything you said, then I’d be the biggest fool in the universe,” David spat back.
“Oh? Is that so?”
“You didn’t think that I’d believe everything the self-proclaimed Goddess of Chaos and Strife would say, did you?”
“No, but you do believe some of the things I tell you. Like your family’s fate.” She stretched out one of her hands towards him. “And yours.”
“…Yeah. But you never mentioned anything about fixing certain events or places in this world!”
“Like the fact that there was a cave so close by to where I appeared in this world, or that the first thing I got to kill were goblins so I could get used to spilling blood. Or how about this castle that was filled with scum so I wouldn’t have to feel as awful about killing them? How much of this did you arrange?”
“I didn’t ‘fix’ or ‘arrange’ anything in this world,” Eris replied. “The only things I did was choose where you were summoned to and drafted a list of potential generals for you. Everything else was just how this world already was before I sent you here.”
“You expect me to believe that with how things have gone so far?”
Eris lost her smile and David reflexively stepped backwards till he was pressed up against the wall.
“Are you calling me a liar?” Eris asked in a low voice.
“…N-No,” David whispered. He took a deep breath and then said, “But you can see why I’d think you set some of this up, right?”
Eris hummed softly and cocked her head to one side. “Perhaps. However, I didn’t do anything to interfere with this world nor shall I do so directly. All I will do is summon the generals you choose and the heroes when the time is right. That, and I am constantly watching this world to see whether or not you are acting in a manner befitting that of a Demon Emperor.”
“So…that means that I have been doing what you wanted so far, right?”
Eris smiled slyly. “For now. If you hadn’t, I would’ve shown myself before you long before now. Though, I must admit, I was a little surprised that you decided to let the young lady and her servants live. I let it go at the time because they are truly terrified of you and your minions, but I do wonder why you kept them alive.
“They aren’t strong, nor can they perform their tasks as well as the Machai or the skeletons. So, why let them live?”
I didn’t want to harm good people and I didn’t want to kill anyone else, David thought.
Even though he was confident enough to say those sorts of things in his mind, he wouldn’t dare dream of saying those things aloud to Eris.
“Because their knowledge of this world could prove useful to me,” David answered. “Right now, the thing that we are lacking most is knowledge. I can gather a great army using Mania’s necromancy and Abaddon’s portals, but I don’t know enough about this world to start making plans to establish an empire. As it is, there’s already plenty of risks in taking this castle as my own, but I have to in order to start forging my domain.”
Eris hummed and leant back in the air, resting her hands behind her head. “That does make sense. However.” She turned and grinned at him. “That’s not the real reason, is it? Or, at the very least, the main one?”
David flinched and she giggled.
“Well, it doesn’t matter.” She spun forwards in the air. “For now, I shall leave. Though, I will be visiting you again, David Athelward. Do your best to entertain me, won’t you?”
“Wait! Before you go, let me ask you one question.”
“…Why did you pick this world? Why make me the Demon Emperor of here and not some other world? Why this world specifically?” David asked.
Eris gaze him a quizzical look and smiled. “Do I really need a reason?”
“…No, no you don’t.”
“Oh? Does that upset you? Would it make you feel better if I said I had a good reason for it, like maybe this world is so corrupt and evil that it deserves to be destroyed? Or that I something I hated about this world?”
Eris giggled and slowly floated towards David.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I chose this world for the same reason as you,” Eris purred. “Because I think it’ll be fun to see it break.”
David glared at her, making Eris laugh.
“That’s a scary face you’re making,” she whispered. “It might work on your servants, but, to me, it’s like a small child throwing a tantrum.” She straightened up as her body slowly turned into black feathers. “Never forget your role in this world, Demon Emperor.”
As soon as she said that, she vanished, leaving only her feathers behind.