Chapter 49:

Labyrinth Expedition #20

What Clichés has this World Wrought? [ Volume One: Another World ]


The crackling crunches were gut-wrenching, enough for most to flinch, but the silence of his mind was a prison that shackled his place. His mind was thrown somewhere far away, memories ten months in the making, shattering just like glass.

His ears picked up the ear-piercing scream that escaped from Olivia’s lips, he heard her knees crashing on the ground as her legs lost strength, the barrier giving way as they did– and he was still, deathly so, feet firmly planted into the ground, arms stuck to his side doing nothing as tendrils of shadow plucked the grieving woman from their midst.

Akiro’s sense ignored the tears from the girls, Masashi’s threats, Sebastian’ trembling cry– he ignored all of it. Even as the ground underneath them shifted, a round disk was brought close to Jester. The demon smirked as he talked, his right arm still firmly lodged into the corpse of Kaiser, his heart on his right hand.

Like their own, the ground underneath the demon rose into a stage, putting him above them in a space just out of reach from their spells, and even if they shot at him, magic formations in the shape of Roman numerals swirled around him.

Akiro only looked, he only listened to the echoes of panic as audiences like the first summon began to approach from all around them, wielding circus props, blood smeared on every surface.

He could listen in on his peers scrambling together for defense, Ayama and Haruto each taking a side, the healers rushing to the middle of the formation, and the fighters being marshaled by Sebastian. Perhaps they tried to reach him, but he couldn't heed their calls, instead, he focused on the pit growing inside him.

Akiro looked down at his body, his right first curling into a ball over his heart, a familiar feeling he had once banished began to resurface. A creature even more heinous than the demon reared its ugly limbs, claws breaching the proverbial walls it had once been trapped in. He could feel his subconscious cracking, allowing the flood of one single emotion to come through. His chest tightened, his blood pounded into his ears, his muscles convulsed and his vision went red.

Ah! Akiro grinned devilishly. He recognized this feeling, it was everything he hated. He looked forward, seeing a replica of himself, shrouded in shadow, contorted in horror. He knew what this was, it was regret. No! It was anger. No! Is it sadness? No!-- he knows this familiar face all too well.

The Assassin looked at the abyss and the abyss stared back at him. Torment did. Torment born from his guilt, his anger, his frustration, his grief, his sadness, the loneliness he was once trapped in— all into Malice, Malice born from anger, rooted from guilt, sourced from loss.

For some reason, he felt calm when he stared at the swirling mass. It rooted him in place from the outside world, calming his heart. The mouth it had began to move. Wield me!-- it said, Use me!, it chanted, clapping feverishly as he did so– You broke your promise! You trusted them, and they failed you! Just like your—

“Shut up!” Akiro yelled loudly, the world around him finally coming to speed.

The voice reeled back, aghast in its way. It frowned sharply, before fading away like smoke, but unlike its form, the damage was extensive– his heart and mind etched with cracks. Then, He remembered what the voice first told him, the paragraph that sent him down the path of moving on.

One day— even your most trusted ally will betray your trust. You know I’m right. In the end, you can only trust in yourself, at least then… whatever way it goes, it’ll hurt far less and you’ll only have yourself to blame.”

Akiro bit down on his lips, hard enough to draw blood, his eyes lost in a daze of memories flashing by. In a dark room, the sun’s light flew by as it was overshadowed in the room. He’d sit for hours in one spot, knees tucked underneath his arms as he listened to his anguish personified into this shadow.

Time became a concept foreign to him, his mind piloted his body automatically, like a virus to a zombie— only finding rest when pain from cuts or a bully’s fist overpowered his inner turmoil.

It continued until one fateful day, a pelting storm over the country, with only his hatred keeping him warm in the rain. Akiro stared long and hard at a gravestone bearing his father’s name, caked in the dirt he kicked onto it, hiding the engraving like a stain under a rug.

Why must you suffer for the inadequacy of others?

Why are you so pathetic?

Why did you fail to convince him?

Why are you so weak?



If they cannot fulfill their promises, If they betray you If they lieWho was the fool? The one who lied? Or the one who believed him?

Trust in yourself, and yourself alone. Never fail like they did, Never let yourself down again! If you crumble, crack, or break, never fall. You are not and never will be, the inadequate, the weak, the coward. You are not them, and they are not you.

You can be better, you will be better!

“Thank you…” Akiro whispered to the voice, the same one he had locked away. He thought he could imprison it, to heal and forget– to live, striving to forget the past and looking forward to the future; but forgetting one’s past is cutting one’s roots. “I will never be like him, I will never be like them.”

A scar may fade, but where it once was, they are what makes you. Mistakes are what forge you, they are errors that make you human. Why hide? Why be ashamed? Why cower, when you have nothing to fear?

Akiro looked up to the demon on the platform suspended in the air, his former instructor still in hand. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” He said softly, “You raised us to be strong in a world not our own. I thought of you as invincible, but in the end, you were human.”

The assassin’s watch begins to tremble in his pocket, his gaze looking back at the Magician suspended in the ceiling. His shadow began to swirl, encompassing his being with power. “You can fail, you can break, you make mistakes. You sacrificed yourself to raise us, but in the end, all you cared about was what truly mattered.”

“I will not fault you, neither will I curse you, but I will not be as benevolent as you. I’ll put myself and all that is precious to me above everything else. I am no Hero. I am not you.”

[ You have fulfilled all the conditions ] [ Your Bestowal Ceremony has begun! ]

Above somewhere, beyond the dimension comprehensible to the human mind, a place far away, but closer than it seemed, cackled a figure whose patience had almost run out.“Finally, things are going to plan.” He said, “A little later than I had intended, but it is never too late to grow.”

The figure rose from his seat, raising his hands in the hair, a scythe in his raven-colored skeleton hand. “Rise, my chosen one.” the figure decreed, power flowing from his hands, “May you rise and cleanse the world of the gods' first Chosen, our first creation! My brother’s folly— may you offer his head, and give rest to both your souls.”

Magic coursed through the dimensional planes, earthquakes, storms, and screaming hurricanes came into being. “From this day forth, till your soul is reborn! Hiroto, you are my Champion.”

At his bold declaration, the space around his domain began to react with incredible violence. The being turned to others just like himself with a disapproving frown, but then into a proud grin. “You have no right to be upset. But I suppose I would be too if I were afraid of myself. I am as powerful as my brother, and I am not afraid of him.”

“We all were not born equal, how are we that different from the creatures that ‘willed’ us into existence? Unlike myself, I am not afraid of death– for why would I be fearful of myself?”

The arrogant declaration sparked great conflict in the realm, but he was none too bothered. He only looked down at the world with a prideful smirk, “Forge your destiny, chosen.”

Jester closed his eyes, humming a peaceful tune to drown the carnage below his feet. Perhaps he could have fallen asleep if it weren’t for the disturbance that rippled through the world itself. He looked down at the humans, the only probable source of such a disturbance, and he met eye-to-eye with its source.

A figure dressed black as night, exuding the aura of death, stared back, his unholy weapon directed at him. The dark skeleton spoke, its jaw moving but without sound, mouthing words only comprehensible to him.

Jester’s smile slowly faded as he focused on the figure, watching it fade back into the resolved boy’s face, his equipment forever changed. “Pardon?” He asked out loud, not that anyone would answer him.

Jester squinted at the human, his exterior that of a normal male, but when he peered inside of him– he did not like what he saw. A vision flashed in the demon’s mind, a hellscape worse than any other. A foretelling, a prophecy in the form of a vision. Untold thousands of lives snuffed out from the world, corpses of all kinds, shapes, colors, and sizes drying underneath a black-red sky, two figures surrounded by armies.

Then, words began to echo in his mind, a deep memory etched into his very soul. Jester gasped his form twisting, his back bending backward, his eyes rolling back into his skull. A memory, thousands of years old played, as if it were yesterday.

Seven figures bowed down in reverence to a figure atop a throne, colors from the memory gone from its age– but not the sound, nor was the crushing weight of the speaker forgotten. Their emperor bellowed his last decree, the duty he and six others were tasked to accomplish. At any cost.

“My most trusted soldiers, heed my words. Years, centuries, millennia– eons from now, a great enemy will stand before me, The Hero born from the ashes of a Dying Star.”

“When the Astral Clock strikes twelve, the sun and moon will converge and the sky will be clear as the midnight seas– and once the dying star’s ashes are washed away, the world will bleed–”

“--And from the ashes will rise the whose words all will heed.” Jester shoots upright, cold sweat pouring from his brow as the thought runs through his mind, “The prophesied one! The one the Emperor had prophesied! He is among them! The Dying Star is amongst them–

“T-the dying s-star is amongst them!” He repeated aloud, the throat he had stitched onto himself finally breaking. He reached into his pocket, rising with the assistance of his cane, bringing out an unassuming deck of cards.

T̸̢̙̘̞̤̭͈̲̞̖͖̳̬̱̭͖̜̈́̈́̅̏̈́̓̎͑̐̈̊̑̚̚̚͝͝͝ͅḫ̷͕̮̪̣̫͎͓̺͓̮͙̯̲̙̦̺͎̓̓͐͗̒̒̓̒͗̽͘̚͠ḯ̷̢̡̛̬̙̠̬͚̳̺̜͕̞͒̃̾̊̃̿͛̔̏͑̾͌̑̇̅̏͜͝͝͝š̷̡̡̡͍̺͔̰̻̫͙͓̼̜̟̙̹͖͔̼̭̯̫̻̓́̆͛̃͛͑̑̓̚͜ ̶̢̫̳͉͕͚̲̳͇̺̐̔̾̅̃̾̈́̊̽̑̊̾̉́̄̅̈̄̌̕i̴̪̳͈͔͎̺͇͉̦̖̝͓̝̞͖̻͖̜̙̱͔̅̋͐̓̕͝͠s̴̨̞̭̳̣̭̭̻̯̥͈̣̜̥̯̬̼͚̤̪̊́̒̓̌͐͐̔̔̋͑̀̈́̈́̊͒͘͘̚͜͝ ̶̛̛͙͋͑̆̾̊̅͑̈̓͝͝ḑ̸̡̠̬͉̦̗͚̪͕̠̤͉̖͙̙̾͊̂̂̾̓̑͐̕ả̶̡̡̡͖̥͍̟̤̮̘͎̪̺̣̟̗͋̓́̿̒̀́̉͑́͐͆̈́̾̇̏͛̆̃͛͆͘͝͝ͅn̷̡̨̮̼͎̖̮͉͎̈̒̄͐͊̅̈́̅̇ģ̵̩̖̥̦͔̱̹͎͇̦̬̟͚̩̟̥̹̬̺̫̭̭͛́͒̔̈́̿̿̽ȩ̵̮͎̰̘̫̺͂̒͂̄͐̈̎͆͌̊̈́̆͘ŗ̸̱̗͇͚̤̗̦͇͇͇͚̺͓͇̻̦̤͈͐͂̋̔̓̑͛̾̑̌̈́̀͜ơ̷͇̫͑̏̋̒̀̿̓͑͋͘͘ȗ̵͕̹̤͕̙͖̖̹̟̰̮̟̟̱̪͌͑̍͊͊̿̃̔̉̔̑̀̍͋̾̚̚̚̕͝ͅs̴̢̡̛̘̲̯͉̻̪̮̫̭͚̰̤̳͇̝̈́̆̃̊͐̃̏͗̈̐̓̾̓̉͆́́̀̑͘͘͜͜͜͝!̷̢̛̮̫̯͈̩̜̗̦̺̺̮̬̺̠͔̫̭̹̱̥̼̰͗̽̓̂̆͗́͂̿̋̍̓̚ ̵͔̗̮̝̌̉̽͑͛͌͑̋͒̀I̵̡̧͔̳͍̗̦̥͍̟̮̗͖͖̞̗̤̻̯̠̯͊͆̌̓͑́͊͂̎̇̎͑̀́͑͑̒̈̚͠͝͝ ̶̗̬͕͐̌͌̈́́̈́m̴̝̱͇̰̗̙͈͔̖̥̾̄̔̀ͅụ̴̮̗̩͇̺̣̹̟̬̲̻͋͑̉̈́̀͆́̀̍̆́̎̽̀̈́̽̽͌̎̕̚͘̕̕̕͝s̸̩̊̆͌̉͗̐̄̓̓̿͑̎̈͛͘͝͝t̷̛͙͓͙͈̪̮̘̒͐̃̀̉̌̆̅̏̍̈͘͠ ̶̡̗̤͉̱̳̪̻̯̬̫̯̮̻͈̠̰͍̞͓̮̔̒̽͑̈́͑̑̆̑̔͘͘k̵̢̞̼̥͇̪̳͔̹̠̱̠̫̫̭̟͆̃̇̐į̸̲͈͚̤̳̱̣̖̙͉̥̞̩̯̞̰̲̬̥̰͕̫̍̿̎͊̏̈͘̚̚͜͝ḷ̸̢̢̢̢̛̭̘̯̳͎̮͖͇̙̬͖̫̰͓͖͙͔̈́̈̐̊̌̌̿̄̌͛͒̃̾̀͆̒̅̇̃͒̚̚l̶̡̜̞̙̩̻̟̰̥͓̖̱̈́͌̈́̌̒͜͝ ̸̧̨̧̧̢̖͈̟̰̼̭̝̦͇͇̤͚͍̘͉̩̱̏͒̂̐̈́̏̇̚͝t̶̛̩̙̰̪̰̲̯̖̀́̀̐̎̓̏͆̈́̌͋̀̅̂̍̀̃͌̐͆͐͒͝h̵͎͍͍̗̻̭̺̹̮͙̼̤͙̊̋̊́̈̔͛͛̒͊̃̔̿̇̉e̴͍̼͉̟̽̓̊̀̈́͝͝͝m̵̢̢̢̘͇̖̲̳͍̬̺̠͇̞̜͍̩̉͐̐̋̈́̋̌͂͂̔̂͂͗͂͘͠ ̴̨̻̣̝̞͉̥̣̣̪̹͚̗̜̺̙̲̻̪̼̫̪̒̾̈́̎͐͌͜͝á̸̹̯̗̩̼̤̠̱̞̃̇̆́́̉͋̓̌̑̉̓͌̂̈̀̌̎̔̀͘̕͘͜͠͠l̴̢̡̢̥̭̠͈̪̻̤̥̥̦̣͕̞̮̪̳̝̈́͋̑́̈́̀͌̎̉̿͋̾͒̕̚ͅl̷̡̟̘̤̐̄̒̈̏̅̎͛̉͛̓̍́̋̄͛̕̕̕̕͝,̷̨͚͍̻̻͚͚̭̫̪̮̺͙̼̲͖̮͈̪̗̞̤̼̣̑̒͂͋͛̒͜͜ ̶̮̜̯̼̜͓̯̖͉̓̀̉̒̇̂̿̉͋͝͝p̴̢̢̳̱̻̮̹̰̳̬̯̪͔͕̥͊̔͐̐͊̈́͘̕͝͝ě̷̢̧̛̮̟̳̖͓̺̽̒̿́̊̄̃̆͑̈́͐͂̏̄̓͂̈́r̵͙̫̗̠̼̝̞͎̭̘̮͖̙̮̟̠͚̭͚̳͔̱͘s̸͉̘̱͕͔̟͚͍̪̪̮̈́̆̒̈́̓͋̓̍̆̈̇͐̌͑̓͊̕̕͘͝͝ǫ̸̡̛̮̹̞̠͇̗͍͉̥̜̮̭̭̂̈́͂̆̇̓̏͐̒̽͋̅̃̃͐̎̌͂͋̂̋̕̕̕͝n̷̢̢̧͕̻̗̜͇̫̗͈̻̙̱̱̉̾̑̊̈̐̀̊̀͋̾͋́̍̈́̅̍͌̈́͛̓̃̍̈́̿̒ͅą̶̡̛͖̪͙̳̦̻̪̤̓̒̒̌̌͗́͊̈̔̋̆̏̉̒̊̈́̄l̸̢̨͓̩̙̘̺̪̦̦̯͍̥̗̯̪̳̪̪̟͖̰̠̱͓̣̆͐́l̵̤̪̼͙̒̐͌̈́y̷̛̻͍͉̝̣͓̳̫͙͕̳̠͂̋̇͌̓̆̆̅͌̇͘̕͘͠͠!̵̛̛̦̟̮̹̤̜͙̬͎͎̩͉̭̯̾̿͂͗̃̿̃̅̇͂̂͑͛̊͆̕̕͠

And as he spoke his mind, all the summoned creatures returned to dust, the corpses they were made from finally able to rest. Jester sharply glared, the air freezing solid.