Isei sat on a platform- well, it wasn’t really a platform as much as it was a void of darkness. There was nothing to be seen besides his own body.
He examined his hands, twisting his hand to see that the front of his palm and the back of his palm were just like how he remembered them.
He touched his face. All distinctive features still seemed as if they were there: his nose, his mouth, his eyes, and his awkwardly placed bangs that made him look like an edgelord, a look he would promise to himself that he wasn’t trying to go for.
Suddenly, his mind went from examining his face to thinking back to Aria. The facial expression that she had made came back to mind- the doe-eyed mein she had shown him made an impactful impression on him.
He got an erection at the thought of her expression.
One more body part that was still intact, he thought to himself.
It seemed that despite having been transported into another realm, he was still the same hormonal 18 year old kid that had been cajoled by his pretty classmate to join her in her attempt at changing their society.
Suddenly, another person manifested inside the void.
Isei instinctively covered his crotch for fear that he would be called out for his out-of-place horniness.
It was the same man from before- the man that had a distorted aura about him moments earlier. At the sight of him, Isei remembered the last thing he saw before he woke up in this abyss. The deep crimson eyes of the man that now stood before him made him shudder.
Thankfully, it seemed like the pulsating headaches that would afflict him when he looked at the man were no longer there.
Just like Isei was able to see his own body despite his environment being without a single easily observable source of light, the man was also fully visible, standing a couple of meters away from Isei in direct line of sight.
Now that Isei had the chance to see him better he noticed a couple of peculiar things about his attire. He was wearing a white shirt that was well fitted for his body type. It was nothing ostentatious, but the fit made the man give off the impression that he cared about his appearance. His dark wool pants and chukka boots increased that impression. One could say that, based solely on his attire, he looked like a dapper young man that you would find near the nightlife hotspots byNew Tokyo’s downtown, Isei thought to himself. The only thing that made him seem truly distinct were his crimson eyes, and his completely white hair, styled in such a way so that he had bangs that were layered, unlike Isei’s rather volumeless bangs. Isei didn’t see any mechanical body parts on the man.
The man stared at Isei with a vague smile before speaking up.
“My brother died. My dad died. My girlfriend died. My friends have died. I have died too, in some sense. I now stare at the corpses, strangely enough having the ability to perceive my own body despite it lying on the floor, lifeless.”
What was once an abyss turned into a scene of bodies scattered across the floor that they were now standing on.
On the floor were the bodies of seven people: among these seven, Isei assumed, were all the people that the man had mentioned, including the man himself.
“Oh, that’s right. You probably can’t tell who I am.” the man stated casually, as he made his way across the bodies with long steps, careful not to step on any single one.
He kneeled down beside the body of a young man, one of the seven corpses of the scene that had unfolded in front of them, and lifted the corpse’s head.
It was the young man’s face, except that the corpse’s head was bloodied and its hair was black, unlike the hair of the crimson-eyed man that, for all intents and purposes, seemed alive.
“Wait, wait, wait. What is going on here? Where am I?”
“Oh, that’s right. I guess I haven’t told you.” the man stated casually,as he let go of the head that he had lifted, letting it hit the floor, making a splattering sound, as if the head was a useless household object. The man looked up and put his palm on his face.
The scene before them returned to its abyss-like appearance.
“I’m just no good at introductory remarks and the like.” the man admitted.
This man definitely has a screw loose, Isei thought to himself.
“Simply put, I took your consciousness and linked it to my consciousness. Since my consciousness has more vitality, I was able to house your consciousness within my consciousness.” the man stated as if it was only natural that one would understand such a muddled explanation.
Isei only grew more confused, but decided to not prompt him to give any more explanations for the feeling that he wasn’t going to make any progress with him became apparent. Plus, Isei couldn’t sense any impending danger.
The man continued.
“Every death is a rebirth- except this one. A rebirth is voluntary. This one was forced upon me.” he stated, pointing at his eyes and his white hair.
Isei’s eyebrows involuntarily flashed as he only grew more confused.
“ I could, I suppose, take heed to the call of death, and therefore, at least try to, transfigure myself into something greater- something within my grasp. Maybe even outside of it, in some sense.”
“But I wish to remain a spirit. I do not want to reincarnate- that is, in the literal sense of the word. I want to float around and watch from afar. I want to be detached from it all. I’d still like to wield the controller though. Perhaps, however, it would be a mark of excessive pride to even wish to be a detached player. You are forced to sacrifice something if you want to play.”
Even though the man’s monologue was clearly incoherent for Isei, the last statement that he had made seemed to resonate with him. This wasn’t because the man was making any sense, Isei thought to himself. That statement taken at face value, without any context needed, was something that interested Isei. It struck a chord.
“Sacrifice is an interesting thing.” the man pondered out loud.
The scene around the man and the boy that were inside the void changed yet again.
This time, they were transported to a busy city center, bustling with people. The afternoon sun glowed on all of the citizens walking to and fro- working ants itching to get to their next destination.
Among the crowd of people was someone that stood out to Isei.
It was Aria, not as she is now, but a younger version of her. She looked about three years younger- perhaps 15 years old.
Besides her age, one thing was radically different.
She didn’t have a right arm.
That 15 year old Aria’s face was stoic, but to Isei she seemed to have been hiding a world of emotions waiting to be explored at one's peril, like a dark continent.
The scene suddenly shifted again to a scene that flashed before Isei’s eyes, but that nonetheless was slow enough for Isei to notice that Aria was a part of the scene. She was kneeling before someone, her hands, both hands, on her face, tears streaking down her forearms.
“What was that?! Is Aria okay?!” Isei demanded to know, the words flowing involuntarily from his mouth.
“My consciousness wouldn't be vivacious enough to hold the entirety of the universe. What happens inside my consciousness is merely a modification of my impressions.”
“What the hell does that mean!?”
“It means she’s fine. These are just memories.”
Before Isei could protest, demanding more information, other scenes flashed before the eyes of the two men. Hori appeared next. She was on a park bench, her gaze downward, until Yosuke, Isei’s fried, walked up to her.
The scene quickly cut to her kneeling down on a kneeler inside a cathedral. That cathedral seemed really familiar to Isei. That’s right, it was that one cathedral near Shibuya, he thought to himself.
More scenes unfolded before them. Each one showing a glimpse of the lives of all of the people that were a part of the meeting.
It was as if they were inside of a movie theater with a 360 panorama, watching tragic films.
The area around them turned dark again.
“The greatest weapon is betrayal.”
Betrayal. Have I ever known betrayal? Isei asked himself.
Has Aria known betrayal? Isei pondered.
“What would I need to sacrifice to not have that weapon pointed in my direction?” the man inquired, to whom Isei was unable to tell.
None of this made logical sense to Isei. What the man was saying, the scenes unfolding before him, everything. And yet. He felt their weight. What was this?
“Yes, I understand that this doesn’t make any logical sense.” the man stated, being able to read Isei’s mind.
Isei didn’t react with hostility to the man’s mind-reading feat, he merely accepted it, still being engrossed by the scenes before him.
“Such is the power of the meeting of consciousnesses, communication transcends language and logic.”
Isei felt a light stupor that prevented him from being skeptical of the man’s words.
“A life without betrayal is a life well lived.”
“Is it possible to construct my own world? A subspace of this greater space, this ever expanding space called the universe?”
A panorama of shifting colors, tones and shapes manifested around them
“I don’t like the word “goal”. It’s too cliched, not gamified enough.”
“Objective sounds closer to being game-like, but it sounds too formal.”
“Desire sounds either naive or irresponsible.”
“Duty sounds dogmatic.”
“Whatever the word or phrase ought to be, it must have a tinge of child-like curiosity and hope. That reverie that only true child-like spirits can will, or perhaps just have by their very nature, is something that is a requisite for the sort of word that I am searching for. Call it inkling, for lack of a better word.”
Isei started to feel that stupor to a greater degree.
“We have the interworld and the exterworld. The first one is a world that is able to be manipulated by me. I can plant thoughts and reap the results. The only limitations to this world is my imagination and willingness to be child-like. The exterworld is not subject to my imagination, but is nonetheless able to be manipulated. Other agents push back though, whether those agents are conscious agents or unconscious agents, in the proper sense. There are seemingly no limits to the sort of buffers that could appear in this world.”
“Both worlds affect themselves. After all, if I am eliminated from the exterworld, I can’t go into the interworld. And if I don’t plan in the interworld, I cannot bring anything about in the exterworld.”
“We must go one step forward.”
“What is the most beautiful thing that one can find, or create, or both, in the interworld? What about the exterworld? The best possible experience that one could have, what is that?”
“Perhaps we beg the question. We assume that it can be created or that it can exist in such a state so as to allow itself to be perceived, to be experienced.”
“Let’s assume this- but being the detached spirit that we were forced to be, note it as such. It’s not an a priori self-evident truth. It is not something that is within my nature due to the experience of my forefathers and myself. It is merely an assumption, an assumption that will be examined as such and nothing more.”
“I would like to figure it out, and then bring it about- for myself and for everyone else.”
“Both worlds use the same currency.”
“If I were to use currency to imagine things in the interworld, things that I want to bring about, things that give me a boost of positive feeling, of joy, of intoxication, then the overall balance of currency that I would have for the exterworld would be negatively affected. And yet, one has to plan to make their way through the exterworld in a way that, in the absolute minimal case, is not absolutely riddled with misery and death.”
Misery and death. That was the last thing that Isei heard before his stupor got the best of him and he became completely unconscious.…
“How long until he wakes?” Aria asked with a tone that had a mixture of worry and cynicism.
“It depends, he will certainly wake up before we end the meeting… hopefully” the crimson-eyed man replied.
Aria smacked her lips.
Isei had been seated, with the help of Aria and Hori, in a chair that was directly facing the table where all the members, or at least most of them, of the meeting were now standing around.
“*sigh*, seems like we are still missing Todo. What sort of reprehensible things could that oaf be up to now?” the green-haired girl observed.
“No matter, we will just have to start without him.” Perry-san replied.
“Well, what are we waiting for! Let’s start the meeting!” Hori demanded.
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