Chapter 11:

They deserve their privacy.

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?


Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.

Manato Suda finally escaped the unusually-crowded Tohoku Shinkansen, which he had ridden all the way up from Eastern Saitama. He was now waiting on an equally-packed bus to take him to the outer ring of Sandai, with many others who had likely heard the same rumor that he had.

He would have taken the much hastier bullet loop that had opened about a decade back, but it was long booked out after everybody had heard the news.

It was all over the internet, after all. And even without that, you’d find out by word of mouth. Japan’s worldwide virtual-idol sensation, as many had speculated, was not just an AI, or even a fabricated celebrity personality made by eLSE.

Vi was a real person, and their location had been leaked to the public.

Well, I already knew the truth, so the rumors didn’t interest me as much. But as far as the story goes, their real-life counterpart was a sickly man who had been indefinitely stationed at the Japanese branch of eLSE’s VR vacation facility.

And this boy, like many others, was more than just desperate enough to discover the truth behind the rumors. On the bus, he was quiet and composed despite the lack of comfort. Of course, the reality of his inner feelings were quite opposite. The inside of his head was like a brain-smoothie.

Of course–he, too, knew the truth; that it wasn’t actually Vi. The rumors were no more than just that. But it was the very reason why he was so nervous; and why he had to go see the truth for himself.

But we’ll get to that.

After the boy’s arrival, he saw that the building had long since been closed off to visitors. Reviews of new applicants were also on hold, and only currently checked-in customers were allowed inside. Though, they were advised not to leave their pods unless in case of emergency, as re-entry would require heavy screening. Of course, that was right in line with what he had seen on the news. After thousands of terrorism and murder threats calling for the alleged idol’s release, that much was to be expected. We were talking about Vi, after all.

When he arrived, there was chaos surrounding the massive sleeping quarters. Protesters of all types were gathered left and right, with the JSDF making a poor attempt to regulate the situation. If you had digital specs or an implant, you could see the chat messages and signboards which had been placed so densely towards the epicenter of the fuss that you could barely move three feet ahead of you without being bombarded by them. There were endless board threads that were happening at the location, spammed with all sorts of messages as well. If one didn't turn off their location services, the sheer density of the notifications might make them go crazy.

I put on a pair of specs beforehand to be able to see all of the drama in action, but I didn't have them on now, considering I wasn't too fond of using them to begin with. And the interface was a bit difficult for me to navigate anyway.

Minato was scarcely interested in all of that, though. Instead, he looked for a certain smiley-face masked individual, which he had received a picture of over traditional mail. It took about twenty minutes of looking, but he finally found them at the far end of the crowd, noticing their lack of an eLSE ID tag.

It was a bit ironic, that the company that was at the center of the controversy created the very tech that everybody used to perpetuate it.

He pushed and shoved his way through the crowd to meet them, and sure enough, they were the one he was looking for.

"Ah, so you made it here alright."

The voice was male; not just anybody, but a vaguely familiar-sounding tone. Perhaps a celebrity, or somebody he had heard online somewhere? Considering what he claimed to be capable of, it wasn’t too much of a stretch. A long, thin neck extended out from the mask, into a slim figure clad in an unimpressive sweatshirt. His charcoal hair, clearly dyed, was messily tied up into a bun, with a pale face which was hidden from behind the cheap plastic smiley-face mask which covered it completely.

He looked a bit like me, save for his face.

"How do we get in? This place is crawling with protesters."

"I have an in. Just like I said. I presume you still plan to hold up your end of the deal?"

"You get five minutes with him alone. But I told you already, he isn't Vi. I don't know why you'd still be so insistent on going through all of this trouble regardless. You’re going to be disappointed."

"Well, that much is none of your business. Just like how I won't ask about your own motives. Let's just get down to business, shall we?"

"Yeah. But what do we do now? You didn't tell me what your plan was from here. And there's both public service and protestors surrounding the entire building. Do you really think it's possible to just wander in like this?"

"Of course not. You ought to prepare yourself for what’s about to happen next."

The lights radiating from inside the building went dark. Silence ensued, as everyone turned their heads upwards just above the sealed-off entrance to the eLSE facility.

There was nothing there, and yet you could see shock on everyone’s faces. Well, it was probably an AR thing.

I figured I wouldn’t need my specs to properly see what was going on, considering he wasn’t very fond of using altered reality tech either. But I guess this was a special case scenario.

After putting them back on, sure enough, there was a large video feed which had appeared front and center.

You could see the look of horror on Suda’s face, as he realized just who he had gotten himself involved with.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Protests; empty threats; many of you have long waited for a cheap opportunity to make your relationship with the idol “Vi” personal. Many of you have long searched for proof that they may be somebody for you to connect with personally, rather than from the other side of the virtual world. Well, today I come with a message for their fans. For all of you, who are ridden with selfishness, and ulterior motives. You are all wrong. You are all unjust. Leave now, if you wish to be spared. Otherwise, you will surely die a meaningless death in the crossfire of what I am about to do.”

While the pre-recorded message captured the attention of the onlookers and police were scrambling about the newly introduced threat, the Villain took Suda by the hand, taking her in through a back entrance as the patrol around them seemed to drop unconscious one by one, like flies to a buzzer.

“L-let go of me! This isn’t what I signed up for!”

“You’re here to see him, aren’t you? That’s what we’re going to do.”

“A-Atom will come, right? The hero from Cascadia. She’ll come and-”

“Atom is dead.”


After those words, Suda felt himself resign to The Villain’s whims, not entirely sure of himself. Something about the line tugged at his heart; he could tell that a futile resistance wasn’t worth it. Like he was a child being led around by an adult.

“I’m here to help you see him. You could call it atonement, or more of a favor, really.”

He wanted to cry. He was terrified, but more than that, sorrowful. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. Things never seemed to go right, when he was working by himself. It was always everyone around him who solved his problems; who made him happy. But he was always the one that was benefitted; that received the credit. And yet, when given the shady offer to get inside of eLSE headquarters, he still took it, because he was so desperate.

The boy was so swept up in his own thoughts that it wasn’t until The Villain let go of his hand that he realized they had already arrived at the lowest level of the building.

“Now, you know where to go from here, don’t you? We don’t have time to look through each and every room.”

Through quiet sobbing, he complied.

“He said it was room 309. I don’t know where that is though.”

“Right. Wait here.”

For a moment, The Villain disappeared into thin air. But before Suda had a chance to react, he was back again in the same spot.

“I found it. I confirmed it, he’s dead.”

“Then… Wait, dead!? How!?”

“EMP. Or, an electromagnetic pulse. I used it to cut the power, and it killed his life support.”

“He was on life support…? Then, you knew this would happen!?”

“Of course.”

“How could I- how could… huh?”

He coughed up a bit of blood. The boy’s vision became a haze, and he fell to the ground.

“What- what’s happening?”

Some more left his mouth as he began to choke up, and found it hard to breathe.

“You…! Was this your plan all along?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“So you knew from the start? That I was Vi… And him…”

“He’s special to you, right? Well, don’t worry. You’ll thank me, soon enough.”

A third, blurry figure entered the picture. They were cloaked, but unnatural clicking sounds seemed to escape from their hood.

“You’re late.”

“We’re not alone here, you know? You should be a bit more careful.”

“Yeah, I speculated as much. But I cease to care. If The Observer was really an issue, you would not have shown yourself to begin with.”

“Well, I suppose that’s true. I tend to act like he’s not even really there, these days. Strange of me, don’t you think?”

A bit of a chill went down my spine. I didn’t do well with smart people.

“Let’s not waste time. Begin your ritual.”

“A ritual is such an unrefined thing to call it. I wish you could be a little more romantic in your language.”

“He’s dying. Start it.”

“You remind me of somebody else I know.”

No, seriously, was this really the time for idle chatter?

“Right then.”

The cloaked figure bent down to face the now pale young boy, who was just barely holding on.

“What is your wish, my dear?”

He knew. He would be dying any moment now. So while he didn’t quite understand what was going on, he didn’t have the right to be picky.

No, there was nothing fuzzy in his head. He could see clearly, what it really was that he wanted to say. Even if she hadn’t asked, he still would have blurted it out.

“I want to see him! I want us to be together forever, uninterrupted by anyone else. I don’t care about Vi, or about fame, or money, or eLSE. I only want to perform for him! Ever since we met, I never cared about anything else! Shouldn’t that be obvious!?

“I see. That’s convenient. His wish was the same.”

A wave of relief washed over his nerves, which had been wrought with a tight, burning sensation. He felt calm, amongst the sudden burst of wings, which had extended out behind the cloaked figure.

“He wanted… the same thing… That’s good… then. That…”

…makes me happy.

Is what he wanted to say. But he had already passed.

Vi was dead.

“You’re wondering why we did this, aren’t you?”

I paused for a moment. She was looking right at me.

“I do.”

I was. Though I knew about The Chaotic’s powers, I wasn’t quite sure what she had exactly done. Nor did I really get the whole motive here.

The Villain interjected.

“I was the one who leaked the information to the public about Vi. The two of them wanted to be truly together, but they were ashamed of their physical counterparts. So I helped them shed it. I uploaded their consciousnesses.”

Their consciousnesses were uploaded? To a server? What if that server were to be found or destroyed somehow? Isn’t that too flimsy of a solution?

“I can see you’re worried. Rest assured, there are no servers. They’re floating around freely as radio frequencies that are invisible to us. They’re both everywhere, and nowhere. They’ll be around far longer than any other human, for sure.”

Another concept that went right over my head, courtesy of The Chaotic. You probably have more context than I do. Is none of this clicking for you, either? I hope so, because I surely couldn’t explain it to you myself.

“They’ll be far out of the eyes of The Ego, too. You’d probably be the only Chosen capable of seeing them, if any of us could.”

So that was his goal. Saving others from the fate of The Ego; from the fate of the world’s supposedly inevitable destruction.

Well, I was supposed to stop that from happening though. But either way, it seemed word about it was getting around to the others.

I looked toward The Chaotic. She could tell what I was thinking.

“Well, I don’t necessarily support the idea. I just wanted to see if it was possible. The idea is intriguing, don’t you think? Like an afterlife of sorts.”

“No, I don’t really get it to begin with.”

“Well, that’s to be expected.”

Was that a jab at my intelligence?

The Villain said that if I really attempted to, I could try and see them for myself. Maybe I should try to properly understand how it all worked?

No, I shouldn’t bother them. They deserve their privacy.

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