Chapter 11:

An Uneasy Night (Part 1)

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.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“…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?”Bookmark here

She spun around and smiled. “Who can say?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

It seems she’s been wanting to get back at me for a while.Bookmark here

“So, can you help me please?” David asked.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That’s not true and you know it.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I’ll buy you some chocolate cake from the bakers down the road.”Bookmark here

“Sold!” Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“That sounds perfect. What it is?”Bookmark here

“In simple terms, it’s this: you must live the character in their entirety to be able to act as them.”Bookmark here

“…Okay?”Bookmark here

“Right…you don’t get it, do you?”Bookmark here

“I mean, sort of?”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Right.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That sounds like a lot of effort for a minor role like this, don’t you think?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That sounds a bit scary,” David said.Bookmark here

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?” Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

With the castle now his, David retired to what had once been a luxurious guest bedroom in the castle.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

The Machai bowed and promptly left, closing the doors behind them.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Anyone would’ve wanted them to suffer if they’d seen and heard what they’d done to that girl. Bookmark here

Anyone would!Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Then, an idea came into his mind.Bookmark here

What if this was Eris’s doing? Bookmark here

He slowly sat back up onto his knees and thought back to when Eris drenched him in that black mud. Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

What if Eris had fundamentally changed his mentality of what it felt to be normal and David hadn’t even realised?Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

That has to be it.Bookmark here

“Even if that is it, all I can do is fight it, huh?” He mumbled, wiping what tears remained in his eyes. Bookmark here

He looked around the room and spotted something that could confirm that for him: a tall mirror.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

He had become taller and more muscular than he had been before. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

There’s still a bit of me left in here.Bookmark 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.Bookmark here

Maybe I’ll feel better after some sleep.Bookmark here

Just as David closed his eyes, he felt a familiar, icy chill envelope the room. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“How are you enjoying yourself, Mr. Demon Emperor?” Eris gently asked with her usual cruel smile.Bookmark here

All of the anger, disgust and hatred that had been building inside of David exploded when he saw her.Bookmark here

He roared at her, summoned his armour and weapon swung at her, but his blade never even came close to her face.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

He glared at her, but Eris didn’t care. Bookmark here

“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.” Bookmark here

She giggled and rested her chin in her hands, kicking her feet, almost like she was lying down on a bed.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Don’t rise to the bait!Bookmark here

David calmed himself down and slowly stood back up, never breaking eye-contact with the Goddess.Bookmark here

“Oh?” She purred. “Do you have something that you want to say to me?”Bookmark here

“…Why are you here?” David growled.Bookmark here

“Hmm. I could’ve sworn that I told you the reason.”Bookmark here

“You didn’t tell me the real reason.”Bookmark here

“I did.”Bookmark here

David had to resist lashing out at her again, reminding himself of how it went the last time.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“It seems like you’re finally starting to believe me,” Eris said.Bookmark here

“If I believed everything you said, then I’d be the biggest fool in the universe,” David spat back.Bookmark here

“Oh? Is that so?”Bookmark here

“You didn’t think that I’d believe everything the self-proclaimed Goddess of Chaos and Strife would say, did you?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah. But you never mentioned anything about fixing certain events or places in this world!”Bookmark here

“Fixing?”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“You expect me to believe that with how things have gone so far?”Bookmark here

Eris lost her smile and David reflexively stepped backwards till he was pressed up against the wall.Bookmark here

“Are you calling me a liar?” Eris asked in a low voice. Bookmark here

“…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?”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“So…that means that I have been doing what you wanted so far, right?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“They aren’t strong, nor can they perform their tasks as well as the Machai or the skeletons. So, why let them live?”Bookmark here

I didn’t want to harm good people and I didn’t want to kill anyone else, David thought. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

David flinched and she giggled.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Wait! Before you go, let me ask you one question.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“…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. Bookmark here

Eris gaze him a quizzical look and smiled. “Do I really need a reason?”Bookmark here

“…No, no you don’t.”Bookmark here

“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?” Bookmark here

Eris giggled and slowly floated towards David. Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

David glared at her, making Eris laugh.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

As soon as she said that, she vanished, leaving only her feathers behind.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.