Chapter 4:

Circle of Life

Face of Eternity : The Star and the Rose

I woke up pretty early. You wouldn't believe how dark it was outside. It was kinda giving me PTSD from almost drowning in a void of darkness last year.

The only thing giving off any light was the little fire Indena set up.

-Night vision engaged-

My night vision mode allowed me to see in the dark. A glowing outline went over everything, making details in the environment pop out. Indena highlighted green, like when the IFF tags were active.

“Hey, Indena, it’s pretty dark out tonight.” I said. “But I have night vision, so I can see.”

“You too?” She nodded. “If I close my eyes, I can see things using inferred.”

Huh, that was cool. I didn’t even know it was possible to see like that, but it made sense that if anyone could see heat, it was a fire mage.

Indena and I switched places and I took watch while she got a few hours of sleep. Everything seemed to be alright. Samael even woke up and slithered around the overhang to help keep watch where I couldn’t. To be honest though, he didn’t need to do that. My map was pretty good at catching anything around us.

While I was playing around with the map, I found out I could customize it a little bit. There was actually a legend, just hidden from sight. It allowed me to change icons for people and animals if I was familiar with them.

I changed Samael’s avatar into a picture of him I had in my memory. It was a PNG, so I made the background transparent. I did the same with Indena, only I picked a moment where she was smiling last night. It was a cozy picture.

My own icon wasn’t able to change though, oh well.

I got a little board well fidgeting with my map, so I tabbed it and started playing with some sticks. The map now worked like a mini map in RPGs. If anything popped up, I’d be alerted to it.

One of the sticks I picked up was short, and the other one was pointy, like it was pulled apart. I wrote my name in the dirt and made fancy decorations around it.

“Ya-l-da. A-sa-mo.”

My name was written using Nazalian. It looks like a bunch of lines all coming together to form a picture. It’s read from top left to right.

After making a really elaborate frame for my name in the dirt using swirls, stars and hearts, I noticed the sky was getting bright pink. It must have been dawn, but I couldn’t see the sun.

Boy, what I wouldn’t do to see the sun…the real sun. I’ve never seen it. I’d also like to see the stars too. Maybe the clouds will clear up soon and I'll see both today? Something about giant orbs of flame in the sky captivated me with wonder.

With the morning light, Indena started to wake up.

“Crap…” She rolled around. I heard her back crack a few times. “Christ. Sleeping on freakin’ rocks SUCKS!”


With one big hoist of her arms, a thunderous crack ripped through the air. She was like some statue coming to life with all that noise.

Once she woke up and stretched out herself, I called back Samael and he slithered into my hair. I noticed he was careful not to slide over the pictures I drew in the dirt.

“Good morning.”

“Egh.” She grunted. “Morning sucks.”

Morning was the best time of the day…breakfast, cartoons, and family time. Of course, we didn’t have any of that here.

“I hate you people who wake up and act all perky. Screw that.”

“You hate me?” I sniffled. "I thought we were starting to be friends…"

“Huh?” She raised her brow. “I don’t hate you. Stop being so sensitive! And who said we were friends?!”

She'd pretty much said she'd hated me twice. Now she was taking it back? No, she was acting like she'd never even said it at all. She was scary, and grouchy. I didn’t know what to think of her.

“Come on. Let’s go get some food. Can’t stand my stomach right now.”


She said that she saw a river not far away. We could catch some fish and eat them. Was that safe to do? How did one catch a fish in real life?

One of my video games had a fishing mechanic in it. You’d toss bate into the water and then cast your line out. The fish were these little blobs under the water, and you’d have to wait for one of them to bite the bait and reel them in!

If you caught a fish, they’d have a little minigame where you’d bring them to a guy and he would cook them for you. It looked like he put them into an oven and they came out looking like a meal.

But, wouldn’t catching them kill them? Or maybe they didn’t actually die, they just transformed into something new that we could eat. That’s what happened in the game anyways.

The babbling river came into sight. The rush of water was a soft, yet powerful sound that soothed us into a focused state of mind. We knew why we were here, and it was to catch some fish.

My map said that there were animals in the water. I peeked into the river from a rocky vantage point and didn’t see any fish. I saw a frog, a turtle, and a…was that an eel?

Eels were like snakes of the sea. Some of them were electric. Did that mean they knew lightning magic? Wouldn't that be interesting if animals were smart enough to use magic? Maybe that would make them monsters actually…

“See any fish?”

I shook my head. “Nope.”

“Let’s go further up then. I think fish like to jump up waterfalls or something.”

Oh, she was right! I watched a nature documentary that said bears like to catch salmon around waterfalls.

Wait, were there bears around? I certainly hope not…

“Shrimp!” Indena called out from up the river. “What’re you waiting for?! Come on!”

Shoot, I got so focused on watching the eel swim around…

There was one of those flat waterfalls pretty far up the stream. I saw more animal icons in there, so maybe those were fish.

"Oh oh! I see one!" I announced.

Indena quickly leapt into the water and snatched it up without a struggle!


“Oh my god…”


The fish looked like a zombie. It was really scary. My sensors read it as an animal, but it was definitely not doing too well.

-Identifying animal…Identification complete-

-Esma Salmon-

-Status : Alive :: Organ failure due to recent spawning cycle-

Is this what happens to them when they’re dying? Oh well. Poor little thing. I hope it had a good life.

Indena tossed it back into the water and it slowly swam away.

We once more stepped back into the water. Samael actually went in too. I didn’t know this, but he could actually swim. Pretty weird, right?

He looked a little like the eel I saw before. I lost track of him when he went close to the waterfall, but my map said he was still there.

“YES!” Indena pulled up a fresh salmon. Oh wait, she got two of them!

Those were some big looking fish! Bright red, too. What a great catch! We’d be eating pretty good today.

Since we didn’t want to head back to the overhang, Indena just built another fire pit and started to prepare the fish to transform into food.

While she was doing that, I went near the waterfall to find Samael. The water was flowing pretty quick, but not fast enough to knock me down.

“Samael!” I called out. The map said he was right around here. “Where are you?”

He came slithering up my leg and went right into my hair. His head peeked over my forehead and I noticed he had something shiny in his mouth.

“Now, what did you…OH!”

He found a crystal heart! Oh my gosh, what on earth!?

This crystal heart was purple with blue swirls on the inside. I don’t think an Exceed would have used this, but it looked like it was something I could interface with.

So, I had three crystal hearts on me. One in my chest, and two on my forearms. They all were my hearts, but only the one in my chest was the main one. The others were backups.

I couldn’t unplug the main one, because that gave me mana to live. But I could take out the other two and plug other crystal hearts in temporarily. Kinda like thumb drives.

I took out the crystal in my right arm, then plugged in this one.

-Downloading information…Water Sonar ability now available!-

Huh? Water Sonar? That sounded interesting…

As the ability completed downloading, the crystal heart cracked and turned into dust. I placed back my original crystal.

I don’t know how useful a water sonar would be, but it would be cool to test it out.

-Water level not deep enough to use sonar-

Maybe I’d have to find deeper water. I couldn't really tell if this ability was cool or not, since I couldn’t even test it.

“Oy, Shrimp!” Indena called out. “Quit playing with the fish and get over here!”

I raced over, smelling cooked fish in the air. The transformation process must have been a success!

But, when I got there, the fish didn’t look right…was I supposed to eat this? It had a face. It didn’t look anything like the fish fillet I saw in my video games, or the ones Uncle would synthesize for dinner.

"This is yours," she said.

I shook my head, not wanting to eat it.

"Why not?"

"It has a face," I replied.

She took a look at the fish, inspecting the head and the rest of it.

"Oh yeah, how about that…"

She used a sharp rock to cut off the head, right in front of me!


I screamed in fright! She just cut off the poor fishies head!

I ran away, hiding behind a big rock. She'd just murdered a poor fish before my very eyes! Oh the horror!!!

"Oy...Shrimp! Where'd you…" She turned a corner, seeing me quivering on the ground. "There you are."

"How could you?!" I cried, tears rushed down my face. "That poor fishy is dead now!"

"You saw me cook it, right? That thing’s been dead since I cut its…"

Cut its what? Why did she stop talking? Her lips were twisting like she was rethinking her words.

"You killed it. Now it's in heaven."

Animals go to heaven too, right? They should, they're alive!

She must not have transformed it properly. She just killed it. That was the sign of a bad chef.

"Okay, look…" she sat down next to me, "you probably lived a pretty sheltered life, but food comes from animals and plants. Fact of life. You can't eat them alive, so you have to kill em'."

"No. Uncle always synthesized food in the kitchen. He made things without killing animals."

"Oh brother…" she slapped her forehead. "Well, if Uncle can bring me some synthesized steak, that'd be great. But hey, he's not here right now."

What was she getting at? Of course Uncle wasn't here. It would be nice though. I bet he's out there looking for me right now, and when he finds us, he'll bring us food.

"Do you even need to eat?" She asked me.

I explained that I needed to eat. It was how my body took in nutrients to help me grow, just like a normal person.

Little nanobots would break down the food into atoms, then combine them into different things I needed.

Anything that would be wasted was then further broken down into subatomic particles. Those were used in my quark fusion reactor, which was actually used to help make some of the special elements, like ferronium. It took a lot of materials to make a single atom of that.

If there was anything left after all that, it would be completely destroyed. Which apparently was scientifically impossible, but dad somehow managed to figure it out. Magic had a way of doing the impossible.

"What the hell are you on about?! I'll take it as a yes, you need to eat."

I explained the process to her clearly, what about it confused her? Food turns to atoms and quarks, quarks power fusion, fusion creates occulat elements, occulat elements make me grow. Simple really.

"Yeah," I nodded. "But what part confused you?"

"Forget it." She pulled up the fish and held it out for me again. "Food comes from these guys. If your God didn't want us eating them, he shouldn't have made em' taste good. That's the circle of life for you."

Maybe that was true. They did taste pretty good. At least, if they were anything like the synthesized version. And if I didn't eat, I wouldn't be healthy. Same thing went for her.

Maybe it was our fate to eat animals. But they were so cute, just living could I take their lives?

"I get what you're saying, Indena, but I don't wanna' kill them." I looked down with sorrow. "They deserve to live too, you know? What if something big came along and wanted to eat us?"

"Then we defend ourselves like sentient beings. These guys aren't like us, they're just here to help keep the World turning."

So, sentience was how we judged what was important life and what wasn't? What if someone was unconscious, were they still sentient? Or would we judge based on their overall potential for sentience? I asked her all of that.

She gave me a questioning look, then shook her head.

"That's way too complicated. Just eat the damn fish already."


-Second Commandment in effect-

"Order acknowledged."

Without even thinking, I snatched the fish away from her and started munching on it.

What was going on? I just accepted the order without question...oh, wait, this was part of my Three Commandments. They were as follows:

1. Thou shall not harm a human, or allow a human to come to harm.

2. Thou shall obey a human, so long as it does not conflict with the First or the Third commandment.

3. Thou shall protect one’s own existence.

I was supposed to accept any order given to me by a human, as long as it wouldn't harm myself or another person. That's why I took the fish and ate it. She ordered me to.

Oh boy, I really needed to find a way to turn that off. Otherwise she might work me to the bone. That sly smile she was giving me told me she already figured out how this worked.

"Hey, stand up."


"Order acknowledged...stop it!"

"Do jumping jacks."


"You big jerk!"

"Now chirp like a bird!"

“-WARNING-” a loud, male voice projected out of my head. It almost sounded like dad a little. “-Any further abuse of Second Commandment privileges will result in termination-”

My eyes and heart turned red and my crystal heart had a set of big red rings grow around it, aiming at Indena. They were some sort of focusing lenses, lining up for something…

-New ability unlocked! Mana cannon coming online-

"Christ…!" Indena looked really scared, she was scrambling backward into a tree. "Fine, sorry! I was just messing around!"

-Mana Cannon powering down. All systems returning to normal-

Oh my gosh! That was so scary! I totally lost control of myself. My body was going to kill her for just messing with me!

How in the World would it be able to do that? I'd be violating the First commandment.

I checked my subroutines for a list of command scripts that were active at any given time. Apparently, my body was actually completely able to subvert the First Commandment with a script called 'Protect Yalda.'

This worked by bypassing the First with the Third Commandment, which was to protect my existence. With that priority, my life came before anything else. You see, the Third doesn't specify that I can't protect myself if it costs human life, but neither did the First specify the opposite...what a paradox.

I think that's why this script was at work, to justify my priority and solve the paradox. It looked like it ran a complicated algorithm to determine if the danger was necessary or not. But, what counted as 'necessary' danger?

It also stated that if an order was too unpleasant, it would be forcibly denied. If the person kept trying to abuse their human privileges over me, then they'd need to be terminated. Why would dad put such a violent counter measure to this?

I looked a little more into the script. Turns out it wasn't just a single script, it came from a file's worth of executables for self-preservation. There was a text document in the file...from dad?

It read, 'Yalda, I'm sorry. But this needs to be done. You'll hate me for what I've made you to do, but one day you'll understand.'

Why was he sorry? Maybe it was because it was possible for me to harm a human if my life was in danger...wasn't this a bit extreme though?

Indena was still quivering, I felt like a bad guy for scarring her so horribly.

"I'm so sorry!" I started crying.

"I haven't been this scared in a long time." She huffed out a few steady breaths. "You're something else, Shrimp."

As a show of forgiveness, she stood up, then put a hand on my shoulder as she crouched in front of me.

I kept saying I was sorry, but she just sighed.

"Forget about it, Shrimp. I'm the one who screwed up, alright?"

"I could have hurt you."

"Nah. Not much hurts a bitch like me."

There she goes, swearing again. But, I think I was getting used to, never mind. It still bothered me.

Honestly, it was a little goofy. Why call herself a bad word?

"Hey, why are you laughing?" She gave me a disapproving look.

"Because, people in video games call other people that when they're doing bad things."

Her head slowly titled and closed in on me. It was a bit sinister.

Then, she smirked.

"You aren't supposed to play those types of games, Shrimp."


Yeah, some of those games were pretty filled with older people's stuff. Like, they had swearing, evil guys, and a ton of violence.

"Does your uncle know about that?"


Uncle told me to play games, he never said what the games rating had to be. I think I mentioned before that I had to play with the sound off so I wouldn't hear the swearing. But most games were subtitled, so I had to read them anyway.

Indena started laughing now. She seemed pretty pleased with the situation.

"Ha! That reminds me a' when I used to sneak into horror movies with my friend Sasha. Man, those were good times."

I didn't like her comparing me to something bad like sneaking into movies without paying...but either way, we both were doing things we shouldn't have. I hope she won't say anything to Uncle about it.

"Come on, Shrimp. Let's go get some more fish. I'm still hungry."

"Me too." I nodded. "You aren't going to get me in trouble, are you?"

"Hmm…" she put a finger to her lips and turned curiously to the sky. "Maybe…"

Oh no! If he found out, he'd definitely take away my TV time again! He already hated that I played video games so much, this was bad!

"No please don't tell! Or I'll...I'll report you for movie hopping!"

"Heh…" her devious smile mellowed. "Alright. But only as long as you keep playing games like those and having fun with them."

What kind of…? You know what? I could deal with that ultimatum.

Mario Nakano 64
Taylor J
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