An Identity Beyond Self
A ripple occurred in Simon's consciousness, and he opened his eyes... to see that he was at home.
Jordan wasn't there at all, but he felt at ease somehow after seeing nothing was different from usual. It was as if everything that occurred earlier was just a dream. This let him relax momentarily.
A wave was spurred in that ripple made in his consciousness, causing him to be forced to remember some terrible times. He... was definitely dead. His heart had stopped beating long ago.
Even now, he couldn't hear his heart beating...
"I have to wake up...!" He murmured, standing up so abruptly that his seat fell heavily to the ground.
He didn't know why, but knowing of his death didn't stop this thought. He had to 'wake up'...!
It was as if two words were ingrained in his heart...
"No, you don't 'have to'." It was only on the verge of ending his dream... did a voice call out to him.
A man with a crown came through the front door arrogantly. His clothes had a 'bull' aesthetic that seemed distinctly familiar. Although he had never heard the man's voice before, the eminence in the strange man's presence brought forth a memory.
However, that creature was dead. He remembered killing it with his own hands within his dreamworld.
"Aren't you going to offer us some food? We're both your guests, after all." Another feminine voice could be heard behind the eccentric 'king', who scoffed yet stood aside at the woman's presence.
In comparison, Ariadne looked mostly the same in terms of physical features. However, her eyes and clothing changed drastically. She had a puffy and large white outfit fit the highest ranking royalty.
On her waist was a sheathed blade, but he knew this was probably the 'white sword' from before.
"...How are you two alive?" Although what he did to them was blurry in his memory, the corpses that were left were still vivid. The two individuals didn't answer him.... They just made themselves at home.
Simon couldn't be as easygoing as them. There was still many regrets he had before dying.
Those feelings made him continue impatiently:
"I need to wake up."
"What's the rush anyway? This 'dream' of yours is infinite, like the last one. Even centuries here won't translate to even a millisecond outside." The now imperial 'bull-human' responded with a lazy look.
Simon paused. It now started dawning on him that maybe having this 'dream' meant he was alive.
But how was that possible...?
"We're only trying to make a better mood. It's going to take some time going into detail about everything. Why and how we're here is both simple yet complicated." Ariadne made herself some tea.
"...What should I call you?" The geezer felt like the two people in his mind weren't the same as before.
"You can call me Rau. You already know of my sister's name, so be sure to call me by mine. Don't just call me 'Minotaur'." The glowing figure of Ariadne nodded at her half-brother's response.
He was extremely on point...
Seeing that the old hippie had calmed himself. The queenly woman was the first one to elaborate:
"We're alive because we were never 'alive' in the first place." Though what she said was like a riddle.
"We are 'Imaginary Spirits' from a Higher Plane. It's only natural you can't destroy the soul of someone who only exists in your imagination." The drunkard felt like he understood somewhat despite his headache. Well, there was a more curious subject...
"And if you're going to ask why we look different than before, then it's because you've 'assimilated' us within you. Our powers are now your own." The kingly Minotaur answered before he even asked.
"Does that mean I can use your power?"
"Weren't you already using it?" Rau asked while Ariadne was putting hot water in her teacup.
When the queenly nymph got back to the table they were on, she explained while adding milk to it:
"You made 'Sacrilegious Wine' out of mixing your Holy Type Skill Root and Evil Type Ability Core. If your body is the teacup, empty of any of your personal internal energies, then you can call us the representation of the powers hidden within you."
"...That can't be right." Simon was sure he'd be able to sense it if he had powers like them earlier.
To this, the bull-human at him smiled sinisterly. He showed an approachable display of patience, saying:
"You may not remember, but these appearances we now have is all thanks to the 'Gifts' your wife had left you. We became one with those 'hidden potentials' within you. Our powers is at your command. Be sure to call me anytime~"
Seeing the man's nonchalance, the old drunkard was somewhat suspicious due to their history...
Ariadne brought her cup to her mouth. They then bickered, not leaving anything unspoken or vague:
"...You act like you've submitted to me."
"That's because I already have."
"Because you beat me up." The former large and monstrous creature spoke as if it was obvious.
"Hah... Is that so?"
"Defeating me was the only condition to gain my support. You should call out to me sometimes."
"Then I could use your-"
"Not mine. It's 'yours'!"
"Right... Then I can use 'my' Ability Core?"
"I have no idea what that is."
"You'll understand if you use it in battle. You won't ever lose to 'those guys' if you ask for my assist-!"
It wasn't a loud noise, but the sound of her teacup hitting the table made him close his mouth tightly.
Simon realised the power dynamic between them was uneven. The man seemed scared of now...
"Anyway, even if we wanted to, we can't assist you thanks to your 'Empty Physique'... and what you did to us last time.
Your butler sent us to you so you could gain new strength, but you rejected it all." It almost felt like she was accusing him of something.
She was a little different from the 'Utterly Pure' maiden for previously. Her demeanour and attitude now seemed to convey that she was the 'Most Holy'; 'Sacred' existence in his dreamworld.
"...That wasn't my fault."
"And how wasn't it?"
"You forced me to... By bullying me like that." The queenly nymph sighed at his gibberish. She wasn't sure if being drunk for a few years had made him immature, or that he'd regressed due to traumas.
Regardless, she knew pressuring him would likely lead to him exploding in rage like the last time.
That's why she chose her words carefully:
"I admit our tests for you were hard, but it was a necessary step to become part of you."
"...Forget it. Anyway, I don't have a butler."
"Not one you remember... He'd cry if he heard you." There was a trace of mirth at Ariadne's lips.
"Is he related to Fauna?"
"He comes from the same place as her." Simon didn't comprehend the double meaning of her words. There was still a lot he wasn't privy to despite being directly relevant to everything...
She took control of the conversation by telling him:
"You're 'grandson' was attacked by the same people who killed you. This is your fault."
The table between them was smashed into two pieces by his strength alone. The two 'Imaginary Spirits' dodged back, watching as he glared at them ferociously. Both of them seemed to sigh...
Though he felt it was for different reasons. The rage only started dying down as he stuttered:
"That's.... I mean... That's... T-that's not-!"
"You know it's the truth." Feeling irritated, the queenly 'hanged nymph' turned away from him.
Simon's started to become pale upon hearing her words. His body started shivering afterwards.
"Decide who is going to assist you. It's either me or him. Unless you want to be stuck with a useless wine bottle after waking up." The woman finally decided to leave, not giving a chance to respond.
"It's alright. Nothing's actually your fault. She's just annoyed your obsession with drinking twisted her power into the shape of wine." Rau consoled the old geezer, who was almost kneeling on the floor.
His voice truly contained sympathy for him...
Making a decision like this was a bold action someone as indecisive as Simon couldn't do....
"..." He fell into silence, but the kingly bull-human immediately picked him back up and patted his shoulders. The man seemed different from the time he was man-bull trying really hard to murder him.
"You know, choosing me would be much easier than her. I'm not weaker than her, and am already under your control. So long as you seal my 'dear' sister up first, you can use my full power." The former hulking creature persuaded him patiently.
He seemed much more intelligent than before. Was this the power of the 'Ability Core' or just inherent?
Maybe gaining human form was a blessing to him.
"I can't decide that easily..."
"No worries~ Just remember the 'third option'."
"You don't have to choose."
"Pardon...?" Seeing Simon's visible confusion, the kingly bull-human leaned closer before explaining:
"You're a 'God' in this dreamworld. If you choose to stay, time outside will be stretched out infinitely."
"He can also be brought here as well." Although this sounded too good to be true, he became unconsciously excited after hearing this. Rau felt like he grabbed this great 'dragon' by the tail...
"The power you imparted to your 'grandson' is still there. Since he's also currently unconscious, you could form a 'bridge between dreamworlds' that can let him come here. Even trick him to believe that everything was just a dream... and you had no fault in it." Like an intimate sibling, Rau whispered.
He didn't push Simon to answer.
Instead, he let his words settle into the old drunkard's heart like the whispers of the devil.
Even though this kind of tactic would be sloppy if he was in his prime, the bull-human knew the geezer was interested.
The old man had made the same decision not too long ago. His rejection of good and evil was proof.
Simon Stuman wouldn't be able to resist him...
And in truth, he was spot on in his assumptions. It was an easy choice for the former hero who had nothing left to lose. The moment Rau left the room to give him time, he considered it a good option.
Why should he awaken? If he really did, then many uncomfortable things would happen to him.
Firstly, he'd have to succeed in saving Jordan. If he was the least bit careless, he'd lose him forever...!
Secondly, he'd have to explain everything to him.
One part of Simon wanted to believe that the youth would forgive him, but the other just couldn't.
'He will hate me...!' This was different from being a burden. The youth would've almost died earlier.
He believed there was no chance he'd be forgiven after that. He'd be abandoned by the only person he considered his family even if he 'beat the bad guys'. He believed a decision would be pointless.
Deciding nothing was better. That way, he wouldn't have to deal with any negative consequences.
He could nonchalantly act like everything was fine.
Although he couldn't recreate the outside world here, he could keep them in a perpetual loop of their fondest memories. He'd also make it so Jordan wouldn't remember anything suspicious.
With the realisation that his miraculous power was still inside his 'grandson', everything was possible.
He just had to give up properly...
"Yeah..." He convinced himself that he was doing the right thing. It just couldn't be helped.
The 'Fangs' were stronger than him. Only one of them was needed to kill him. Even if he got a new power, who's to say he wouldn't fail? He'd tried so much already... What was the point in taking risks?
If he took a risk, Jordan could die miserably...
If he was free to choose a decision. Wouldn't this be the right choice? Isn't he free to choose this?
Isn't that what freedom was?
'Wait... Freedom?' This word suddenly made him remember the face of the man who killed him.
Wasn't he... 'that guy'?
A stream of memories were unearthed from the darkest part of his mind. The place where he threw away cherished memories that would make him remember that... he was truly a scummy person.
["In 1538, Africans and Brazilians were treated as cargo and sold as goods. A mere few coins were able to buy the average man's freedom. Compared to all that nonsense, aren't we already free? Don't run from the choices you've been blessed with."]
'Run from my choices? He calls this a blessing?' It now made sense why that guy would resent him.
He believed the man probably hated him for disappearing. That was what made sense.
If not, why would he come to kill him?
He could barely remember their conversations, but the feeling of betrayal he felt stung him deeply...
He'd run from his choices as much as he liked. It didn't matter to him how others would criticise him.
Coward? Trash? An irredeemable old drunk? He'd rather be called that than lose his last connection.
There's nothing wrong with this 'choice', right...?
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