Part 53: Final Battle
There. Now remember, don't stop unless we say so. He won't be dead until long after you think he is.
What, I'm just supposed to start chopping him up?
Um. Yeah. What did you think?
That I'd be using the book. Or that you had some kind of special magic or something. I don't know.
I could set him on fire. Gonna get smoky, though.
Now what are you doing in this nasty old dungeon? Children should be out playing in the sun. So to speak.
Yes. He should be. And instead he's down here.
I weep for the world we live in. I really do.
This should cheer you up, though. I brought you a present.
A shame you went running off, isn't it? He might have survived if you'd helped.
Why did you do that?
Honestly, I could almost call it self-defence. I gave him ample time to step aside.
I meant the shield. Why did you bring his shield to show me?
Am I supposed to cry now? Is that what you wanted to see? Prime minister of Waisen and you still need to bully a kid to feel big. Or is that just how the grey half gets off?
Kullervo I can sort of understand. You're just sad.
Don't look at me. He's got you pegged.
Well...I...it just seemed like the thing to do! I wouldn't want to leave room for doubt.
Good point. I'll make sure to show everyone in Rhoan your stick.
Please. Don't get up.
Well then. You already called me Kullervo. I suppose there's no sense in pretending.
Aren't you going to help your friend?
Who, him? He's not my friend. He's a power-mad sadist who had the good fortune to be useful.
Nothing like you, then.
Ah, Rempo. I have missed you. And I know you don't really mean that.
So...human. You "sort of" understand me, do you?
It's a start. Perhaps you'll let me broaden that understanding, now that we finally have a chance to chat.
Go fuck yourself. We could have "chatted" any time you wanted, but no, you'd rather have a war.
Let him talk. I want to hear this.
You're not seriously thinking about-
I just want to hear it, okay?
Hm. There's a surprise.
Let's start from the beginning, then. When the book chose me.
I did the best I could, of course. But there were too many things to go wrong, even with all my preparations. The only way to make sure was to be there.
So I wrote myself in. And when the new world was born, I became its ruler.
I already know all this.
Ah. Then you already have a picture in your head. The downtrodden people banding together to overthrow their ruthless demon overlord. It wasn't like that. My kingdom was glorious. Paradise.
I was a saviour, not a tyrant. I know that must be difficult to believe, but everything I've done to you has been for the sake of the future. I can't set things right unless I have that book. So I must stop at nothing to get it.
You know what's funny? If you'd just asked right at the beginning, I probably would have given it to you.
I'm asking now. Give me the book.
Only if you allow it to be.
Surely you must be tired of this. You could go back to living a normal, happy life. All you have to do is let me take your burden. There's no reason why it has to be you. It only matters that it's done.
What are you worried for? Yourself? Your loved ones? They're dead anyway. Keeping the book won't change that.
You are going to die no matter what happens. If you give me the book, you will die a hero.
How can you expect me to just trust you?
How can you trust yourself? You have no experience. I do. You haven't witnessed how a world develops. I have.
More importantly, you're only human. I'm not.
Aaand there it is. Knew we'd get there sooner or later. "Grrr, sinful, inferior humans, how dare they turn on their rightful master, blaaargh!"
You think you've seen the worst of humanity? All because they didn't let you run the show? Boo. Fucking. Hoo. We've been around in every single world at its absolute worst. We've seen shit that would make you jump off a cliff in tears. And we're still here, trying to make things better.
So am I. Or do you think I did all this for fun? I want a perfect world as much as you do.
And you think this is the way to do it?
Yes. It is.
Did I not promise happiness for everyone? I included you in that. All four of you. I want to help you. I can free you all. I swear I will.
...for goodness' sake. You haven't even noticed, have you? You're so wrapped up in yourself that you can't even see it.
Look at us.
...it's good to hear your voice.
Mieli was right. He hadn't noticed. Otherwise he wouldn't have hesitated so long.
This doesn't change anything. He's still a human.
And what makes you any better? You tried to destroy the world because you were bitter. Get off your fucking high horse.
The day the they turned on me, they proved they were beyond my help. They're incapable of change. That's just how it is. My "bitterness" has nothing to do with it.
Oh, it has nothing to do with it. Right. So why didn't you just wait for the book, then? Why'd you have to force it, if you were so damn sure?
This could have been the one if you hadn't messed it up. How would you know? Why didn't you just wait and see? This was your world, and the first hint of something going wrong, you had a little baby tantrum and pissed all over it. You're worse than the damn book is.
...this is the only way.
You know the words as well as I do. "The end of the world as we know it is here, for mankind has strayed from the path."
"Mankind." It's always mankind. How could a human ever hope to fix the problem when humans are the problem?
That is why the world needs me. I am beyond mankind. I can make things better if you'd only give me the chance.
You had a chance. This is what came of it.
If you were convinced humans were the problem, you should have erased them then.
I know better now. I'll not make the same mistake.
No. You'll make new ones.
I'm not giving you the book and you can't beat me. Just stop.
No. You ask me to let all I've done be for nothing. I will not, cannot do that.
You don't have a choice. You've had the book before. You know how strong it makes me. Even if you're right, you won't win.
Why do you think I bothered talking to you?
If I thought fighting was a good idea, I'd have jumped in with Werman.
Why, then? What's the point?
If I had the book now, either you'd fight me regardless, or you didn't deserve to hold it.
And you would, wouldn't you?
Look...I just think-
The longer you draw this out, the sooner the end will come.
Is it over?
Don't celebrate yet. We still need to check up top.
Oh. And, uh, what are we doing about...
He is going to prison.
And I'm taking his stick.
...he's still alive.
Yeah, we know. What-
He's still alive! Yumil!
If there was anything I could do...
...it was already too late to do it.
I did it!
I suppose now you think you have a chance.
I would say the odds have shifted.
We'll see. Before we do, though, I need to ask you something.
Why did you think it would work, writing yourself as king of the world? How can you say that wasn't just pride?
Because it wasn't. Not in itself. I thought I could use my foreknowledge to lead man away from destruction. Keep history from repeating itself.
I made human nature my enemy. And even with all my power, I lost. That was pride. To think I could fix the unfixable.
I don't know if you really believe that.
You only just pulled that spear out. It has to still hurt.
You believe the spirits' theory, then. That I harbour a grudge.
You are holding a grudge. I mean, that's not even a question.
You talk about history repeating itself? That's exactly what happened. I got hurt, just like you did. I've been where you are now. The only difference between you and me is that I stopped sulking and you didn't.
You presume much, human. You presume much of something you were not there to see. You don't have the right.
I was more kind and just than any one of your kings. No-one suffered under my rule. No-one had reason to hate me. I gave those people everything I had, and after all I'd done for them-
That's the worst thing about it, isn't it? You can't even make sense of it. If you could just understand. "Okay, I'm still angry, but I at least get why they did this to me." But you can't even say that. It's like completely different people took their skin while you weren't looking.
But it's not the end of the world. It's not. The end of the world is the end of the world. Until then, you just have to keep moving.
You haven't moved. Maybe if you'd grown up in the last thousand years, I might have listened to you. But I'm not leaving everything to some stubborn child who thinks he knows best.
I AM NOT A CHILD!
How old are you, exactly?
My life has spanned two worlds. I am older than you can fathom.
I got over it.
If things were different, I could have given you a while to think it over. But you brought the end too close. I have to stop you.
Don't say that.
He's not an idiot. He just never had anyone.
When Rhoan turned on me, I still had Lauca. She looked after me. And Heath too, I suppose. If it weren't for them, I don't know.
Nobody was there for him.
You only did what you had to do.
I know. I'm okay.
Come on. Let's check on the town.
The walk back was the first time I ever saw the spirits nervous.
Immortal beings with nothing at stake, resigned to an eternal, unchanging cycle. Even they didn't know how often they'd seen the world end. By the time they thought to keep count, they didn't know where to start.
And now they fidgeted. Rempo babbled about utter nonsense. Ur drew deep, calming breaths; quietly, so that I wouldn't notice. Mieli gripped Neaki's hand, or maybe it was the other way around.
They were nervous, possibly for the first time in their long, long lives. And you can't be nervous unless you have hope.
With that thought, I climbed out of the dark, opened my eyes, and saw all I needed to see.