Chapter 12:

Tale Null: Rampaging Raven (2)


There wasn't a soul in sight.Bookmark here

Not a single sound to be heard, no smell to be perceived.Bookmark here

No life.Bookmark here

An illusion.Bookmark here

An illusion within an illusion, or maybe - truth.Bookmark here

"What do you mean, friend of friends? Oh, never mind, I got it. Don't worry about it too much, it's nothing worth getting hung up on. I've decided to, uhhh... I guess make your life easier?"Bookmark here

"How... What... Huh?"Bookmark here

"You don't need to ask too much. In fact, I forbid you from asking. I don't feel like explaining yet. All I'll say is, having all those nuisances removed will make this proceed much more smoothly."Bookmark here

"Proceed... Smoothly... But what about all those people?! What did you do to them, Ellie?!"Bookmark here

"Hey, hey! Calm down, big boy! Nothing happened to them, okay? They weren't even there in the first place. It's all in your mind after all. This world..."Bookmark here

I stood with my mouth hanging open, unable to reply.Bookmark here

This... A dream?Bookmark here

It just couldn't be true.Bookmark here

It couldn't -Bookmark here

"Oh, come ONNNNNN! Don't start with the overacting already! We haven't even started this game yet. I just thought I'd make the walk a bit more pleasing to you, is all. That's how you're thanking me? If I'd known, I would just have brought you here in silence."Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

Deep breaths.Bookmark here

Dream world. Ellie controls it. This is her "game". Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

Okay.Bookmark here

I understood so far.Bookmark here

However hard to believe this all was, and no matter how afraid of the mere idea of being in a world controlled by Ellie I was, I had no choice but to accept it. Bookmark here

Remaining stuck here would only hurt me.Bookmark here

Getting terrified, reacting violently, struggling like a cornered prey seconds away from its death-Bookmark here

That's exactly what would give Ellie an advantage.Bookmark here

The moment I stopped thinking and let empty preconceptions and assumptions take control over my actions, I had already lost.Bookmark here

That much was fact, undoubtedly proven before.Bookmark here

During our last confrontation...Bookmark here

During my second battle with her.Bookmark here

Two fights, two losses.Bookmark here

Would the third time be the charm? Or...Bookmark here

"Okay. Okay, Ellie, I understand. So what's the game about this time? What are your rules?"Bookmark here

"Oh! Right to the point, I see! Good, good. It looks like last time's beating finally got the message through, hahahaha!"Bookmark here

She laughed, evidently pleased. I was trying my damned hardest to play long, so that I could get this game of hers over with.Bookmark here

Going bad to my peaceful life was my top priority.Bookmark here

"Yes, I've been working on controlling my temper a bit. Can you explain the game already?"Bookmark here

I lied to speed up the process. I still didn't like talking to her at all - some things I can't change no matter how much willpower I put in.Bookmark here

"Yes, yes. Coming right up. So, do you know what place we're in right now?"Bookmark here

I looked around once more, devoid of my initial shock from mere moments ago.Bookmark here

Of course I knew this place. I could never forget it.Bookmark here

"Yes. This is the park two streets behind the school."Bookmark here

"Ding-ding! You are, of course, correct. So then, I'm sure explaining the importance of this place would only be redundant."Bookmark here

"Yeah."Bookmark here

"In that case, I will tell you what the setup is and what the objective of this game is. First off-"Bookmark here

She pointed at someone far away in the distance. I hadn't seen them before when I looked - though that meant little in this world.Bookmark here

That person, whose head appeared hidden behind the park's trees, was sitting completely still. So much so that I wondered if Ellie had frozen them in place on purpose.Bookmark here

"That person right there - is dead."Bookmark here

She said it like it was no big deal. And it really wasn't. I'm sure she'd resurrect them when the time came, or just make them vanish into thin air.Bookmark here

"And your objective," she continued, "is to uncover the events that lead to their death. I don't care how or what methods you use, as long as you can unveil the truth behind their passing. Because only when you do- only then will you be able to reach them."Bookmark here

"Wha...?"Bookmark here

I walked towards that person behind the tree. What did she mean by 'reach them'? Figuring out her metaphors would take me a whi-Bookmark here

*thump*Bookmark here

Ow.Bookmark here

That one hurt.Bookmark here

Right as I was walking towards that person I couldn't fully see, an invisible wall had suddenly come in my way - or, to be fair to the wall, I had inadvertedly slammed myself head-first into it.Bookmark here

"See what I was saying? It wasn't some metaphorical bullshit. I literally meant you'll have to uncover the truth to physically become able to reach that dead body over there. And I think that about covers it for my part. Any questions?"Bookmark here

"... Am I allowed to know anything at all about that person?"Bookmark here

"Hm? Ah, yeah, I guess you'd want that kind of information beforehand. And sure, you can know anything about them except their name."Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"... So you gonna tell me or...?"Bookmark here

"I only know their name. Tee-hee."Bookmark here

I felt disappointed at myself for even hoping I'd get anything helpful out of Ellie.Bookmark here

“So then, should I just go ahead and start investigating, or…?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, sure. The faster you reach the truth, the sooner we can end this pointless battle between us.”Bookmark here

Pointless… Bookmark here

It really was. But hearing it from her lips, from her that had started it in the first place, made my blood boil.Bookmark here

If it really was so pointless, why did she have to keep it going for this long…?Bookmark here

Why not end it during our first ever confrontation…?Bookmark here

… Oh, never mind.Bookmark here

Forget I mentioned that.Bookmark here

It couldn’t have happened like that.Bookmark here

So in that case, yes, I finally understood why she had come back to drag me into here… ruining the Tale of the Painless Porcupine in the process.Bookmark here

She really would have ended appearing anyway… so at least, in a sense, it’s good that she did it this early. This way, and just like she’d say-Bookmark here

It can be settled quickly and effectively, without wasting time on needless junk.Bookmark here

… I still couldn’t believe how much I had been agreeing with her since I entered this world. Though I’d say it isn’t strange, since she can possibly control my thoughts to a certain extent.Bookmark here

“Anyway, friend of friends. I’ll stay here doing nothing for the majority of the time you spend investigating, so please feel free to do whatever, okay? You can explore any areas you want in the whole world except that section blocked off by the transparent wall. Oh, also, don’t worry about laws of physics or anything. This IS a dream world, after all. So just do whatever.”Bookmark here

She said, directly telling me to discard common sense whenever needed…Bookmark here

So, right at that moment. Though, in fact, I had already done it quite a while before, so I didn’t have to worry about it much. All this meant was that my investigation was unrestricted except for that small amount of space I could not reach.Bookmark here

And so, with the whole known universe at my disposal, I knew exactly where I needed to start.Bookmark here

After all, it was no coincidence that the place I couldn’t access was-Bookmark here

That place.Bookmark here

Just by learning that detail, I instinctively knew that it had to be related to that incident.Bookmark here

An incident- which was completely my fault.Bookmark here

So much my fault, in fact, that you might even wonder if anyone else was involved – which they definitely were.Bookmark here

So then.Bookmark here

I guess it’s time to revisit that incident, I thought to myself.Bookmark here

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