Fighting For My Freedom In Another World
“So, why are you doing this? Why just randomly come talk to me now? Frankly speaking, I think I’d probably have forgotten you by now if you hadn’t.”
“I have my reasons. Let me ask you. What is it you think has happened during these last few days?”
What happened… Was there something he wanted to know about hidden among my memories? If there was, I’d be better off not telling him too easily.
On the other hand, no matter how many times I thought it through I couldn’t figure out why any of it would matter to him. He was already claiming to be behind half of what had happened to me anyway.
But I also didn’t need to give all the details, did I?
“We got some vague mission to go somewhere and deal with some bandits. On the way we got attacked three times, and after that… Well, you can probably guess from seeing me here alone now. We met someone important and the princess didn’t have any choice but to go back for now.”
I hoped that was sufficiently vague. That I wasn’t going to give anything I didn’t want to away.
The Elias guy seemed as unfazed as always.
“Ah, right… The mission. Or as I would like to see it, the ambush. That was my doing, in case you didn’t know. An attempt to kill the princess. Sad to say that was a failure. But lucky for you, I suppose. You would have lost your life that day if you had set foot there according to plan… I do wonder who made sure you didn’t.”
Which meant he was still claiming to have had nothing to do with the very first time we were attacked. Could I believe that? And if he was telling the truth, then who had done it? Were there several groups that wanted Alena dead?
“Fine. Let’s say I’m willing to accept that. But what’s the point of telling me all of this?”
“See it as a… Token of friendship. Of trust. I want you to know that none of what I will say next is a lie. That everything I am about to tell you is the truth.”
I motioned for him to continue.
“What if I told you all that happened to you these last few days is nothing more than an elaborate fraud? The danger, and the fights, and the things you’ve had to endure …That much is real. We made sure no one else would come to harm, but what you experienced is real. I can attest to it. But love? So much easier to fake. So much easier to make people believe they’re feeling something they’re not.”
“What, exactly, is it you’re trying to imply?”
“Your romance with the little princess is nothing more than a fabrication. At least on her part. You have some things to protect you, but… She does not. She probably really did believe there to be some sort of camaraderie between the two of you, but nonetheless it was created by my hand. By my magic. And I can take it all away just as easily if I wish to.”
Why would I ever believe that?
It didn’t matter how many other things he would tell me. Didn’t matter if all of those were true. That wouldn’t mean this would be true too. And this? This was not. It wasn’t anything more than a half-baked lie.
Was telling me that lie why he was here? To make me think Alena never actually cared for me, or something like that. To make me start hating the royal family and join his cause, maybe?
For now the best I could do was to ask some follow-up questions and see if his story remained consistent or if cracks would start showing once I pressed a bit harder.
“You said I had something to protect me? What’s that all about? You can’t use that magic of yours on me?”
“Correct.”, he nodded, “You see… Magic can be difficult. Intricate. My own more so than most. There is a very simple reason for why it cannot do what I want it to on you. You are immune. Your mind is… Messed up.”
What was I supposed to say in response to that?
“Thank you, I guess.”
“Do not take my words for an insult. It is merely me stating facts as I see them. Your magic messes with the mind. I knew the prior possessor of your body, and was able to experiment enough to say that it interferes with not just my own magic, but also your own state of mind. From this I take it my magic can interfere with emotions… But not to the extent that it can affect another individual’s magic. ”
That actually made a lot of sense. Much more than I wanted it to. The part of my magic messing with my mind. I couldn’t say anything about how the other guy’s magic worked.
But I did have trouble with being aware of my surroundings while using magic. Somehow there almost always seemed to be some additional damage to whatever was around me in addition to what I actually wanted to use it on.
So what did say about the rest of it? About Alena’s affection for me supposedly being fake?
I wouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming the worst just because what he was saying made sense at a surface level. This man had no reason to tell me the truth, and plenty to lie to me. The question wasn’t if he was going to lie, but what he was going to lie about.
“So let me see if I got all of this right. You’re claiming you used magic to make the princess like me, yet your magic conveniently doesn’t work on me, so you can’t actually prove any of it? Isn’t all of this starting to sound a little bit too convenient?”
“I understand if the impression you have of me is less than favourable, but… I promise I have nothing but the best of impressions.”
Still as unshakable as always. Claiming he was telling me the truth, and didn’t mean any harm.
But I still felt like there were things that didn’t make sense. If he truly was so innocent, several of the things I had seen wouldn’t add up.
This Elias guy was still lying to me.
But how was I supposed to make him slip up and tell me the truth? Or at least give me a hint?
What if I tried acting upset? If I made it seem like I was shaken by his words? Would that get him to react any differently, or would he just keep on the same smug facade as he had the rest of the conversation?
It was worth a shot.
I stood up, and slammed the table as hard as I could.
“You’ve told me your first name, and you seem to be the leader of some shady group that goes around trying to kill people that don’t agree with them. I have absolutely no idea who you really are and I think you’ve tried to get me killed. That is the impression I’ve gotten so far. If you want there to be a snowball’s chance in hell I will ever change my mind about you, then tell me. Right now. Who are you, exactly?”
He contemplated for a moment before answering.
“You don’t know who I am? In that case, why don’t I take the time to tell you?”
That was… Easier than I had pictured.
“My full name is Elias Darkfire. That body you are in once belonged to my sister. That is how I know how her magic works. Why I know my magic cannot affect her body. We petitioned the king once, when she was young.
“I suppose I should tell you that I once was a fashion of royalty myself. Nothing more than a prince of a small neighbouring country, frankly speaking tiny in comparison to where we are now, and I was not even the oldest child. That still brought me enough influence to petition the king here for aid when misfortune befell my younger sister.
“Her magic was… Different. Powerful, but hard to control. At first things seemed to be fine. Enough practice and everyone figured she would be able to handle it. Yet, things quickly grew worse. The more she used it, the further out of her grasp it slipped. Eventually it started making her do things she didn’t want to. Made her begin hurting people and herself without realising she was doing it until it was already too late.
“So we went and asked our neighbours for help. They asked us to give up our land in exchange for their aid. We had no choice, but the help we had been promised… It never came. Until the years passed and things got even worse. My sister started doing things all the more horrible without being able to resist. Yet they blamed her for it. The king, the father of that princess you’ve gotten close to, accused her of all kinds of things. None of them lies, but… Also none of them her fault.
“I wanted revenge. My sister saw things differently. She didn’t want to cause any more harm than she already had. So she submitted herself to be judged. By the time I went to visit her, she had been mistreated for weeks, and her trial was still days away. I couldn’t put up with it. Couldn’t simply watch her die at the hands of the very family that once had refused to aid her and had the power to prevent all of this. I wanted to do something.
“And that… That is where you enter the picture. I made some arrangements, used a certain type of magic I had been studying for years prior in the hopes it would one day be able to help my sister find peace. Magic for crossing worlds… At least for making other people do so. I am sure you must have seen some of the remains of my preparations in the cell after you woke up.
“Once you were here, I used my magic to make the princess care for you. To give her a reason to go with you, away from her protected position in the castle.”
The Elias guy went quiet again. Was that it?
...Was he telling the truth?
In a way, it made sense. Alena thought the reason I in particular swapped places with the witch was because I was so similar to the witch. To who she had been. Name, age, and… As it turned out, maybe even our personalities weren’t too different.
Thinking about it, if he was telling the truth, wouldn’t that have made me former royalty? Or at least my body would have been. Maybe it didn’t really matter at this point.
Next up: Was he actually telling the truth or was this whole thing a big lie?
I closed my eyes to think. What was there he hadn’t told me, and what did I know myself...
“What happened to your sister when I came here?”
“If everything went according to plan, she should hopefully be enjoying a new life in your old body by now. What used to be your old life, I would think.”
I at least couldn’t outright deny that. I had assumed I died before being sent to this world, but all I could remember was intense pain, falling over… And then the chains. Nothing about the actual moment I died.
Maybe I never did. Maybe we just swapped places, and that was all there was to it.
Somehow I didn’t find the thought nearly as distressing as I probably should have.
The other Maria… She could have my old life, if she wanted it.
I was never all that attached to it anyway.
With that, I should have had a complete picture. At least I should have known everything this guy could tell me.
Assuming it was the truth.
It all made sense so far.
But only almost. Everything aside from two things.
Two fatal flaws that were enough to bring this guy’s whole argument down.
I opened my eyes again.
“You said your magic can’t affect people’s emotions to the extent it would impact their magic.”
“That is indeed what I believe to be the case, based on past observations.”
“Then I take it you don’t know how the princess’s… How Alena’s magic works. She can create illusions of things she feels a strong enough connection to, or is used enough to. I’ve only been here for a few days. Yet she could create one that looked like me. I’m guessing you can figure out for yourself what that means?”
“Surely you’re not implying that…”
If everything else he told me was the truth, that meant Alena’s feelings had to be real. Which would mean the part about her not caring about me was a lie. Nothing but an attempt to manipulate me.
And there was more.
“It’s not just that. What about the little girl that almost burned to death?”
“Don’t play dumb. The girl I saved after the attack on the city. In a burning building on the outskirts of town… One I find it hard to think anyone except the people you hired set fire to. Furthermore, if they hadn’t attacked us in the middle of a freaking city of all places, none of this rebuilding would have been needed.”, I gestured at the window and the scenery outside.
That shut him up. He didn’t reply for several seconds. For the first time he seemed to genuinely be at a loss for words.
When he finally spoke, what he told me wasn’t what I expected-
“I… I believe I have made a most grievous mistake.”
Elias clutched his head in his hands and stared down at the table, unmoving and in shock, despair in his eyes.
It was probably at that point I realised the truth.
There was no ulterior motive to this whole thing. I couldn’t say if he had been hoping to sway me by telling the truth, or if he just wanted to stall for time… But either way he almost knew less than I did, in quite a few ways.
I had gone into this whole thing picturing it as a battle to be won, but it never had been.
I had just been wrong.
This whole thing wasn’t some elaborate scheme plotted by a cunning mastermind. Just an angry rich guy who had money and tried to use it to get rid of the source of his anger, without having any of the experience needed to make it all work out in reality. A naive idiot that thought he could solve his problems with money and violence. Who seriously thought no one else would get hurt.
I stood up. There wasn’t anything more for me here.
“Wait. There is something I must tell you.”
I stopped and turned to stare at him.
“I… I have sent command for an attack on the princess before she reaches the capital. I had hoped to finish her off without collateral damage, but if your words are the truth… I must apologise. But one thing is clear to me. I was naive to believe anything could be achieved without collateral damage. I have a request for you, if you would listen.”
I wasn’t exactly in the mood for further conversation.
“Please… Go. Stop the people I sent to kill the princess, before anyone else gets hurt.”
“Do you seriously think you’d need to ask? I was already planning to.”
I needed to go.
There were still plenty of things I wasn’t sure about, but I knew I needed to do something.
Not because anyone had commanded me to.
Not because anyone wanted me to.
But just because I felt like it.
Sure, technically someone did just ask me to, but that didn’t really have anything to do with it.
My one and only reason for doing what I did was that I wanted to.