Part 25: Chapter Twelve - part 2Chapter Twelve part 2
Masters. Of course. Did you expect something different?
Perhaps, but nothing so blatant, surely... And in the Polyhedron, too? All sorts of crazy hogwash happens there... Still a chance to see Khan and hear what he has to say about Kapella's possible World.
Hmm... Nope... I'm guessing that we won't be seeing Khan, after all...
It's clear that neither the chamber Artemiy saw yesterday nor this one are the full extent of the Polyhedron. The staircases attest to that the pathways are multiple and they take the traveler wherever he wishes them to.
It's simply that Artemiy has no time for revelry. Besides none of this is for him, either.
After all, it was time for him to face yet another Truth.
Awfully familiar, that little sandbox, isn't it?
I'm sure that Artemiy has some questions...
Look, look! Haruspex has come to us! You're quite big! How did you find us? Wow... you look so alive... So angry, too!
The situation was, of course, quite stressful for poor Artemiy.
You little scamps! Tell me everything before I'll choke the living life out of you!
Hold your horses, you... you... Toy! Look at you, all angry-like!
Yep. That's the twist, ladies and gents.
I'm... I'm a toy?
Well yeah! You seem to have gotten a bit bigger, all of a sudden...
What sort of devilish game are you playing at here?!
Look! It's a magical sandbox! See how everything reflects in the mirror? Everything is real there! See? That's the Town that we've built from the sand. There is a terrible thing happening there... An epidemic! Everything is crawling with growths... Town is collapsing... But we sent heroes in there in order to fortify it...
So... so what were you doing with the heroes?
Do you see how everything is rotting away? Ewww... We were thinking that they would think of something. They could, at least, hide in the sand to save themselves... They are magical, too, you know? Look at you, at least look how everything turned out. You were a toy, but you came to life. Maybe the others will be like that, too?
Did you know that your dolls were alive?
Everything is alive here! It's this building, it brings all the games to life! We don't rip off anyone's legs or arms, after all... It does it on its own... We simply sculpted the Town and it became so miraculous on its own. We only shoved those dolls in there which we didn't care very much about... They were all broken and torn-up, anyway... Oh... Well, sorry... Don't you see, doll? It turned out so great! We've never managed to make a world like this before. It's magical. We planted it and this is what grew out of it. It's all rotting away now, though.
Stop calling me a doll, whelp!
Hey, stop shouting! Take it easy! Maybe I didn't make you, but I've had you since I was three years old! Ask anyone you're a doll! Your name is Haruspex. You are a Ripper. When we play with you, you're always on the side of the enemies. Your head isn't a head, but one big lump!
You're right... My head hurts immensely, but the one who will have a lump on his head is you!
Really? So, you're not a toy, then? Try and hit me, then! What? Can't? Come on, hit me! Don't be afraid!
Artemiy tried with all his might, but, of course, he couldn't...
... What the hell am I to do now?
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you ought to help us repair our little Town! Everything was going so well... There's only a little bit left and the game will be over. We should be heading home soon, anyway...
I don't believe you! You're not real!
It was hard to not feel sorry for Haruspex, so the little girl decided to chime in.
There-there. It's not so bad being a toy!
But... but why were you playing this game? Why this game?
We just came home from a funeral. From the graveyard, to be exact.
So that's how it is... Who died?
We won't tell you. Besides everything here might not be real. It's impossible for someone to die. There is no death. Understand?
But... but why did you need toys for your game? Couldn't you have played without us?
We needed to use you somehow! We never really loved you, much... You were always a scary doll and it wasn't very fun playing with you.
So, you threw all those you didn't care about into the heat of it all, is that it?
Only those who could help the matters! Not everyday a Smart Doctor comes into the Town! That's just how the game is being run. Will you help us heal the Town?
I don't know... Maybe... Just don't touch it anymore! And stop shoving things into it!
Yes, the disease took place in a sandbox. Either the kids decided to play this game after coming back from a funeral, or they simply felt their childhood dying...
However it is, the hero... the hero has been cruelly tricked!
It seems that all this time he thought himself to be a live human being saving other living people. This feeling, without a doubt, drove him and helped him reach the finale with a certain degree of triumph, one might add.
For naught all of this is for naught. He is a puppet that is saving other stupid puppets in a made-up Town.
It's strange that the all-powerful Authorities are still silent... They've probably gotten tired of it all or they were called in for supper.
It was time for despair for Artemiy. Time to let it all go to consign it all to flames. To hell with the Town, with the Adherents, with Aglaya, with the Udurg to hell with it all. In this moment of emotional turmoil, yet another letter has arrived.
A letter from the Creators.
If you find time, come visit the Theater.
There will be a not particularly important, but, nonetheless, serious conversation.
We preemptively apologize for an uncomfortable and improper form that the conversation will take place in.
Sure... Why not pile it on! What else awaits poor Artemiy in the Theater? A Shiba Inu in a control room?
I would abide by it, sure, but it all just seems rather needlessly cruel towards the poor collection of pixels that is Haruspex especially so because this is the reward for his damnedest efforts! But, whatever bring it on and let's get this stupidity over with...
Come on in. They are waiting for you.
Neat trick, switching places like that or is just nobody giving a damn about merging cutscenes and actual gameplay anymore? I certainly wouldn't!
These children are as much toys as the main hero is. The real game is happening right now between You and Us.
Even so, I cannot exit the Haruspex's body. You are limiting my abilities.
Haruspex lost his fight for freedom from the moment he was born. What about you?
Haruspex was my hand in all of this, that is all. I was curious would I make it or not?
We were curious about that too! Would you make it, or not make what, though? Would it be at all possible that you wouldn't make it?
Oh, I made it, alright. I have managed to defeat your poisonous evil that you've spread around your little world.
Was the disease the real evil, though? The disease was merely a form that it took. It occupied the same sort of role for the Evil that the knife occupied for your Hero. The Disease will leave on its own, it will devour itself. Its place will be taken by war, and famine, and heresy. Do you think we made all of this for their sake? Look around you.
So what? Was all of this for the sake of this feeble Town?
No. This Town was built for You. Sorry if we didn't fulfill your expectations.
Are you curious about what I'm going to do with it?
For this, we'd like to make sure that You are the master of Your own fate. Are you sure that, during all this time, nobody has forethought Your decision?
Not at all... Could it have been any other way?
Absolutely! When every step of your way is foretold, then you still have a freedom to perform the foretold steps. However, when every step of your way is forethought and accounted for, you remain a puppet in the hands of the puppetmaster.
You lot give yourself a lot of credit, deeming yourselves to be my puppetmasters, and all.
It would be good if it were actually You. The only enemy, the only evil in this situation carries one name - Inevitability.
Still... I have the last word.
We could, of course, talk to the other fellow.
Do you see how sorrowful our fate is? We had such hopes for you! We, the miserable actors, expected that you would be a director of a new pantomime the old one has grown so tiresome! Yet, here you are a puppet...
Knock off the act! I'm not a puppet.
Did... did I hear that right? Whom am I speaking to?
It's me. The player.
Or, to be the exact, the LPer.
Oh dear! You must forgive me... You, of course, are not a puppet though, I doubt that this fact will help your hero in this case. He is humiliated, defeated and, above all, deprived of the last shred of power that everyone has counted on so much. Are you still willing to be responsible for him?
Yes. I am responsible for him. I will be at his side until the end. His words will be my words. His actions will be my actions.
Oh my... then I must ask you for forgiveness not once, but twice! Perhaps, not everything is lost quite yet! Let's wait until the end and see if the day will bring us any surprises still... We still have a chance to have a role in a drama with an unexpected plot.
Good. Pay attention to me, then.
Fourth Wall is for chumps, anyway. Still, I'd have to say that it's all a bit much at this point, isn't it? A cool story ruined by excessive plot twists at the end, right? Well...
Let's take it to its conclusion until we cast our judgment... Whoops sorry a bit too early.
There... Pardon the meters in the upper right corner I've actually ran out of food at this point and the stores don't carry any more.
Come on in, Haruspex! Your decision is being awaited at the Council. Two Queens have paralyzed each other. The game may very well end in a tragic stalemate. You are a pawn that has, quite suddenly, became a Queen itself. Wrap it up it's endgame!
Everybody in any way important is here. Good. Time to talk to our friends one last time.
I see that you've been thoroughly bewitched by the Inquisitor. You shouldn't trust her. She will trick us all. And you.
What did she ever do to you, Daniil?
She lied to me. Fooled by her intrigue, during all these last days I have acted and even inspired others to act all in accordance with her plan. Discoveries that I have made have been reinterpreted and presented in such a manner that the Truth has become a Lie. They have mocked me.
Ah, yes the hurt pride of an inanimate object with zero agency.
What, you think you're in a better position? She has a tactic for each and every one of us. For me, it was my hatred and rage. For you, it was your love and responsibility. I wonder what sort of key she has found for Klara if, of course, she even thought the Impostress worthy of her intrigue...
If you are still fooled by her, then why do you speak with such self-assurance? What if this is still a part of her plan?
I only discovered her tricks through a sheer miracle probably because I'm... well... you know...
What? That you're smarter than me, is that it?
Let's put it this way I'm more predisposed towards logical and critical thinking.
Are you, now? Good for you. So what are you offering?
I'm offering you to use the chance that she is giving you... Or to do the exact opposite of what she expects of you... Still... Maybe that's part of her plan... It's scary to think how far her plot can go...
Maybe I'm inclined to demonize her, but I'm simply furious because of what happened to me...
Although he, of course, won't tell us what exactly that was...
So - now you want to save the Polyhedron just to spite her?
Yes! Polyhedron and her are two self-contradictory things. If there is no her, then the Polyhedron will stay and vice versa. I recommend that you finish her off. This way, we'll preserve one of the most important monuments of Humanity for the history. It is the seed of our future.
I see what you're driving at... but I'll still make the decisions on my own.
Then... why the hell did you call me here? I'm giving you good advice... but you won't listen to me.
You'll find out everything, don't you worry.
Such an emotional fellow simply can't be trusted. It's funny that this is the end-point of the Scientist of the story a crazy-angry wreck of a man. Cheery, that. Time to speak to Klara her option seems to be the most agreeable one and we'll probably go with it.
So what? When will you decide?
I would still like to know how exactly you are planning to preserve the Town...
Burakh... Burakh? Come on, now. I've told you that that is my secret. I will only reveal it to the Queens. Don't be afraid. You know that the General will never compromise. If I can't convince Aglaya that my way will rid the world of the disease, then it won't work. Everything will happen the way it needs to be.
You seem to have a great deal of influence on the General.
Influence. Oh yeah.
Even if I hypnotize him, he won't disobey his orders. Don't worry. I'll tell everything to the Queens. Each of them separately, of course. But not you, no. I don't want to reveal the mystery too early.
But you aren't afraid to reveal it to the Queens, right?
Well yeah! Because, in my path, they destroy each other! It's all forethought! Don't worry.
Is it now?
My path has a lot of surprises, Burakh. Or did you actually think that we are doomed to this dilemma? Either one or the other?
The way you talk... It's as if someone else is speaking for you...
Perhaps, I'm not the one whom you knew before. There are several of us... Perhaps, even a great many. Face is the same, but who knows whose will stands behind it?
That's quite enough... So what will happen to Aglaya?
Aglaya will die.
Can you make it so that she survives?
No. I have no power over that. That is a very important part of my plan.
Who else will die?
Listen I've had enough of your curiosity. You will live, don't worry about that.
Welp there goes that plan. Unfortunately for Klara, Aglaya's survival is non-negotiable.
Well your loss.
So the ones I've asked you about are alive?
Yes. They are. Why did you say that my victory is impossible without them?
You wanted to preserve the Town, yes? The Udurg, however, is a living being. A Body that contains within itself the World. Do you think that such a world could do anything if nobody in it does anything? Who would rule it? Who would paint it? I will entrust this responsibility to the children when they grow up.
What colours would they use to paint it?
New colours, Servitor. Triangle, on which the Town stood, is leaving. There will be no more scarlet of the Utopians, deep-blue of the Termites and gray-green of the Humbles. There will be Gold, Amber, Violet, Malachite-Black, Coal and Beige with a hint of dawn.
Sounds pretty. The palate is richer than the three colours of the old.
Yours will be coal. Don't despair there is beauty in it, too. Its role, however, is different. It, like my white, will be a necessary part of the combination of colours in order to achieve different shades.
Who will receive each colour?
Mother-Superior will control the Order. You won't be able to take care of them on your own, after all. You can only rule and control the knowledge. That will be the malachite-black power.
I'm still not sure if I will be staying, but continue.
Notkin will be entrusted with scouting and exploring the Steppe. He will also look after the warehouses and the railroad. We will have to maintain connection with the outside world, after all. His colour will be the pure gold.
Mishka will take care of the streets. Everything in the Town must be pretty. Besides, she will also take care of the plumbing. And the sewers. She will be the Lilac Mistress.
Matchstick will watch after the trade. He will be taking care of the stores. He will make sure that we have everything we need. With time, he will take over the throne of one of the rulers... just like the two other boys whom you saved. His will be the colour of Amber.
Laska will keep her job taking care of the dead. The dead have their own dukedom, after all they, too, need a caring hand. She will be the beige Mistress. The most valuable thing in that colour is the hint of dawn. A shade of pink and lemon colours...
Finally, who will be the ruler of all of this?
We will be betrothed to each other, Khan and I. This betrothal will establish peace between the two warring families and will put an end to our differences. We will restory the Harmony of the rule. I will be a mistress and will do what my Mother did for the Town before me. Khan, with his army of Dogheads, will rule the Town. I will make him White... just like me...
So that is how the Town will look now...
It is a pretty picture, but it's not a Town that he will see... Besides will the Town exist after midnight tonight? If the purpose was in the exercise, then all of this will be gone, won't it? Still...
You are the one making the decisions. I give my words to you. I close my lips behind a lock.
A strange turn of phrase... but... it makes sense that she would suddenly try and make it seem like she wishes to affect us as little as possible.
So, you were my Sacrifice after all.
Yes. If you remove me from the board, then you will free the General. Pick the path offered by Kapella and I will live. Pick the path of either Klara of the Bachelor and you will send me to the noose and will perform your inevitable predestination.
Though, it still strikes one as if she chooses the words very particularly, doesn't it?
Why will that choice save? What is it in what Kapella's offering that will save your life?
Speak to her, if you haven't yet. She is the only one who will help you keep the Town alive. That is what will save me.
What is the price of this path?
Come on, Artemiy. You know. The Polyhedron will be destroyed, for it is the reason behind the disease. That is General Blok's demand. He needs to spend the ammunition. For the appearance of propriety, of course. The Town will live... That is the price of my forgiveness. That is how you will perform your predestination.
But... the sacrifice?
By destroying the Polyhedron, you will perform an adequate sacrifice. Perhaps, the Butchers won't allow you near the blood, but you will be able to take it on your own... Still I cannot dare to advise you. My advice is dangerous.
I'm still lost... I don't know what to do...
I have no right to advise you. Each and every one of my words can be interpreted as action. I want you to be free. You are the only one here who is more powerful than me.
What about the General?
We are equals... Besides before him, I grow stronger, while before you, I grow weaker.
Still... You've lied to me, haven't you?
I didn't tell you the whole truth... Is that a lie?
I hid from you the fact that I want to destroy the evil Tower. I was under no obligation to tell you that, though...
You hid from me the fact that you are the sacrifice that the Order expects from me.
You see? You found it all out on your own. Believe me if I wanted, you would have never found that out. You would have carried out a sacrifice and wouldn't have noticed that the butchers didn't accept it. You would notice later, but I'd have been far away by that point.
I believe you, but still...
So... the original path is the only way to save Aglaya from the wrath of the Authorities... But... Wait a second... The Authorities... The kids...
So... are we all toys?
Yes... Exactly so. Are you surprised?
That's a rather... blasé way of talking about that.
I thought I was a human.
I didn't know at first, too. My only advantage was the fact that their mother took me with her in her bed when I was young. I know a lot of things that they don't.
You are older than me?
I didn't think about it. We don't have an age, after all. The new ones are better than the older ones, that much I know for sure. Lately, however, they took me to a tailor, made a new dress for me. Do you see how pretty it is? So, you are, probably, a bit older than me.
Why do they treat us like this?
They hate me... I loved them my entire life... when they were tiny, I dreamed that they would grow up and play with me... Instead, they immediately hated me. Perhaps, it is because their mother wanted them to love me?
The disease, though is that their game, too?
No. The Town is a toy, but the disease is real. Come out of the Cathedral, take a walk on its streets don't you see? Their fantasies have nothing to do with it. They are deathly afraid! They did return from a funeral today, after all... I don't even know who has died, yet. Perhaps, that is the reason behind all this?
I... No... I can't... I refuse to believe this!
For her dire and honestly heart-wrenching predicament, Aglaya was taking it all in strides. Artemiy, on the other hand, was taking all of this a bit too hard... It was time to pitch in.
It turns out that you are a fantasy. You are a made-up, illusory creature. You don't exist. You have a fate, but you have no future.
Who said that? I hear the voice... but I don't believe that the ones who said that is the one whom I love.
It's me. The Player. Do you wish to talk to me?
No. I don't. I want to stay with Burakh. You should leave.
You loved him because he was free, yes? But that came from me. When I will leave, he will turn into the same sort of puppets that surround you.
This is a bit too cruel... Even if it's towards an NPC in a video game, this is just too damn cruel.
No... No. Don't worry. I'm merely tempting you.
Get out! I won't be talking to you anymore! I want my Haruspex!
Good. That isn't... natural. And it certainly makes me uncomfortable what is it with the games trying to make you feel guilty for your actions, anyway? At least this one didn't need to use white phosphorous to do so...
If there is one thing that I feel is worth saving in this Town, it's Aglaya. And we know the way towards her salvation. Manipulation or no, this is what this was about all along. Preservation.
So, Healer Burakh, whose Father was the head of a local caste community your decision will not be affected by calculation, by personal gain or by other extenuating circumstances but solely by your conscience, yes? I have received the orders to destroy everything. However, if there is no need to do so, I am ready to believe you and to risk both my life and my honor. I am merciful. Where shall I direct the cannons?
You only need to destroy the Polyhedron to halt the spread of the disease. There is no reason to destroy the entire Town.
So, that means that, under the Town, there is an entire repository of the material that can be used to create enough Panacea for the whole Town? They say that that material is blood, yes?
It is so.
How will you prove that your solution is workable?
Here is my evidence: Panacea, the presence of the underground blood and my rights as the Elder of the Order to this blood.
They told me that the Order will not give you access to the blood until you kill the Inquisitor, right?
How will you kill her?
I will not. We will demolish the Tower. Blood will flow from the open wound. That will be enough.
Correct. That is how it was told to me by Victoria Olgimsky, whom, despite her young age people named the White Mistress and who says that you are able to do this. Your decision is supported by the words of those whom you saved. In that case, you are free to act. The Cannons will fire ten minutes before the midnight. Lead the kids away from the Tower before 10 p.m.
That will be taken care of. Aglaya will give the order. I've made my decision.
It is done.
I won't ask you for anything...
We will leave this accursed Town, you and I.
Aglaya Lilich lives. Even the General cannot kill her the only ones who can do that are the all-powerful Authorities.
They will put her head on the guillotine if the Town is destroyed. While she is alive, the Order will not allow me near the blood under the Earth, for she is my sacrifice.
But I will get the blood another way. If the Polyhedron is destroyed, the blood will flow from the open wound. I can choose this sacrifice. The Will will make any choice the right one. That is so.
REEL 15: The End
Did he manage it? It seems so...
It was a free choice! We admit the victory of the player!
Indeed! This does look like the wonderwork!
The exit is open. This was not supposed to happen! It must be a miracle...
So... was that all it was for? Freedom of choice? Exploration of agency in video games? Putting everyone in the game through a gigantic conga line of trauma?
Exploring the world of the game? Making the right choice? Unraveling the mysteries of the Town? The Polyhedron? Fighting against blatantly dickish game mechanics only to find out that the game not only hates the player, but also all of its characters?
If you know the answer, then do write me because I've played through this game about three times...
And I have woefully little idea as to what it all actually was about.