32 Stayin“ Alive
(From the point of view of Vonerich Lardizabal and Lars Frigg)
Ah... darn it all... I dropped the prince. Fuck. Now what?
Shit... I dropped myself too... hahaha... this sucks. I even sounded a bit cool earlier when I said that. Now, look at me, a broken mess of absolute fucking disappointment. I am so fucking disappointed in myself that I can't even begin to start where the degeneration of my life started. Was it when my mother died trying to protect me when the war broke down in Defuntalac when I was like, eight or ten? Did I start being a piece of shit human being when I began living as a servant in Varba? Did it commence when my father died from typhoid fever when I started learning how to use swords and spells a few days before my birthday? Perhaps it kicked off when my dear friend Vonerich landed me a position as a royal soldier, serving the first son of King Devyn till the last of my breath.
Well... I don't know really, but all I know for sure is that I can finally feel my contract with Vonerich ending anytime soon. I looked at my dear prince as he suffered from all sorts of pain throughout his body while lying a few inches away from me. One of his legs has been ripped off by what seemed like the fangs of a wild beast. The only thing I could see there is the ripped fabric of his harem pants while blood trickled out of his mutilated leg. An arrow bigger and longer than what humans might consider 'normal' is also piercing his shoulder while his once shining red tiny shirt is now turning dull with all sorts of dust all over it. His beautiful face is now filled with all kinds of small bruises while the entirety of his body looked more like a tattered brown cloth now. I'm sure I look just as horrible as him right now, but I couldn't be bothered. I have experienced something far more wretched than this wound on my left side. Vonerich is a prince who has only seen misfortune when the oppressors have been annihilated. I intended to have him stay in that sort of peace while he loafed around in the comfort of his own home. That's how every human being should live; that's how life should always be for every person living here in this bitch of a world. However, not only did I fail to bring him the peace he deserves, but I also did not manage to save him from death. How can I even amend for this mistake when I saw the prince's soul in the halls of the God of Death?
I was about to accept the end of my life when something took my attention right away as I raised my gaze. There, standing a few meters away from Vonerich and me is a monolithic structure that looked the same as the Monument of Herald; the only difference is that this one is so iridescent, so absolutely colorful that it changes its hue the longer I stared at it. It's a gigantic chunk of gemstones that endlessly turns its skin as the second passes. It seemed to be standing on a large white platform, making it an imposing figure that ruthlessly looked down upon our mangled remains. The large gemstone that looked like it owned every color in the spectrum shone its dazzling gleam throughout our surroundings, making it possible for me to see what lies around us.
It looked like... a throne room of some sort. Standing in front of the large gemstone is a throne made out of what seemed like soft maroon velvet fabric, and placed at every side of the pale sandstone platform, I saw narrow staircases made out of white bricks. I couldn't quite explain what else is there around us since I can't really move my head well, but I saw what seemed like two long staircases behind the dazzling giant gemstone, which leads towards a porcelain-white mezzanine with opulently designed balustrades made out of what looked like pale glass.
Suddenly, ghastly pale arms started to appear on the white platform. They're all shaking around like they're having what seemed like a seizure panic while their stiff hands formed the shape of a claw. From what I can see, it looks like hands that suddenly popped from within the white cube-like platform. There seems like hundreds of arms that suddenly popped one after another from underneath the surface of the platform. They all shook vigorously once their arms touched the air. Suddenly, some began to appear around the iridescent gemstone, circling it like a black cotton candy ring as it let out a hissing sound that boomed our quiet surroundings. Out of nowhere, the ring that orbits the gleaming gemstone swiftly moves towards the throne. Perhaps it must have been my dying mind playing tricks on me, but I could swear that the smoke is slowly turning into the shape of a pale and thin man. First, the pale man's slender and smooth legs formed, then the smoke continued to develop the rest of his bony and bare body. After a while, the smoke started to move up and build the man's thin face: high collarbones, chiseled jawline, deep sunken eyes, and rough black hair that stretched up to form what looked like a black cone of hair above his head. As the body of the person who's sitting on the throne slowly developed, I noticed that the smoke ring around the colorful gemstone is thinning out like it's gradually lessening. Finally, after a few seconds, most of the smoke all disappeared and turned into a man with a pair of sharp and dead eyes. I saw what looked like an awfully skinny young man sitting on the velvet throne. Then, the rest of the now thinning smoke around the gemstone moved around the pale man on the throne. They were forming what seemed like a shiny latex dress that hid his right leg, a pair of leather stilettos, black latex gloves that stretched up to his elbow, one round, diamond-studded earring hanging on his left ear, and a black mask shaped like a right triangle hiding his right eye. I then noticed that the hands that suddenly appeared on the surface of the pale platform are all reaching out to the man on the throne.
I then stretched my hand towards Vonerich, trying to tell him that something had suddenly appeared, and it looked a whole lot like trouble, but... before I could even feel the prince's warmth one last time, I suddenly saw darkness invading my eyesight.
"Oh, no, no, no, no! Not after you ruined my carpet!"
"Oh, no, no, no, no! Not after you ruined my carpet!" The booming voice of the man resounded around us as I laid there while gazing at the lifeless body of my dear friend, Lars Frigg.
Suddenly, I felt my body rising into the air while I was forced to sit straight while facing the person who's sitting on the throne at the pale platform. The blinding lights coming from behind him made me wince, but after a while, I managed to get used to it. I then realized that I'm sitting on what seemed like a soft sofa, but when I looked around me, I saw that it looked like countless transparent bodies of lifeless corpses. I wanted to scream, but I just couldn't be bothered with all the pain rushing all around me. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the green and transparent corpses around me are all squished and mashed together to form what looked like a soft chair. I moved my head a bit to see that I seemed to be about 12-feet above ground. I then looked at the person who's looking at me with drooping eyes as he laid his head on his knuckles. It seemed like this pillar-like chair made out of transparent corpses raised me high enough to look at the man on the throne at eye level.
"In three words or less, explain to me why you're here." The man said with a bored expression as he laid his head on the surface of his latex gloves.
From the looks of how the monsters adamantly chose to stay out of this white hall, I'm relatively sure that this person is the ruler of this area, and I cannot, for the life of me, offend a foreign ruler of an empire in the far south. I then complied with what he asked of me as I felt the pain in my severed leg returning. "There's a war in the north. I was accidentally transported outside of your magnificent hall to save my ass..." I then winced while breathing with tearful eyes as I saw that blood started to flow out of my leg again, painting the pole-like chair with a crimson liquid, but the corpses beneath me don't seem to mind it much. I then continued while looking at my bleeding leg as I felt a bit of my strength returning to my body for some unknown reason other than a miracle. "...and monsters bit my leg off."
"You're not the herald of the gods, but somehow, your blood managed to awaken me." The ruler of this land began to utter lazily before yawning. While still yawning, the ruler continued his words, "Who are you?"
I started to feel a bit confused. How did this person know about the Herald of the Gods, and... why exactly would the Herald's blood awaken him? That doesn't seem to make sense, but we are in the far south. There's so much more in this place that I could not possibly explain. Thus, I decided to reply cautiously instead with all the honesty in me. "I am the brother of the Herald of the Gods. Perhaps there's a connection, Your Highness?" There's no need to lie about it, for, after all, my brother Venne being the Herald of the Gods, is a matter of public knowledge.
"Heh. 'Your Highness,' huh? I like your style, boy. You seem a bit fun." He then sighed weakly with a slight smile. "Indeed, you managed to awaken me, but you fail to awaken the rest of me, so now I'm sooo... sleepy... oh, if only my husband is with me! But enough about me, let's talk about you. If what you said is true, and I sure hope it is because I can easily kill you wherever you are, then it's safe for me to say that you're also a prince of that empire somewhere at the upper side of my realm, correct?"
I then frowned when I heard what he had just said. Did this man really proclaim that the entirety of Nihilheim is his realm? How absurd and utterly disrespectful to the gods! However, I cannot afford to be mad at his earthly boastings now that I'm dying here in his mercy. "If you're talking about Varba, then yes, Your Highness, I am the prince of that empire along with my brother, Venne, the Herald of the Gods that you spoke of earlier."
"I see." He said with a yawn while using his other hand to fan his lips. "So they call that place 'Varba' now, huh? It's been so long; I don't even remember when was the last time I went there. I think they still call it, uhh... Something like Cardenon?"
I gasped in disbelief at what he had just said. Indeed, Varba was once named Cardenon until our empire grew exponentially and became a tremendous power in Luxael. Although it is not a big Varban secret, I still cannot believe this king here in the far south knows such an ancient tale. "Err... would I be audacious enough to ask you a question, Your Highness?"
"Hmm? Oh? So, first, you woke me up prematurely, then now you want to ask some questions?" The man wearing a latex dress then laughed heartily but weakly at the same time while lightly tapping on his legs. "Go on ahead; why not? I am giving you the privilege to ask me one and only one question."
I then gulped hard as I saw a bit of his mana carelessly spewing out of his body as he uttered those words. It seems like he has no control of his own magic power, but... there's just so much mana in his body that he doesn't need to conserve it. "Then..." My lips shook as I tried to utter the question that I had in mind. I cleared my throat before continuing, not even knowing what it is precisely that I want to say. "Are you the king of this land?"
The man then laughed out loud, spewing so much mana around that I could visibly see it spilling from his body. The hands that have been profusely shaking all around him all started to disappear every time the man's mana touches them. "Silly boy. I am not the king of this land!" He said amid his awkward laughter. Ahh... That's great then. At least I know that I have not offended a foreign nation... "I'm way above that! My name is Vilhelm, and I am the GOD of Nihilheim!"
I can't even ask for death because I know I'll just go towards him. Heck, this is the hall of Vilhelm, so if I did die, I'd just stay here, lingering like one of these ghosts that I'm sitting on right now! AAAAH! I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BY THE TIME I SAW THE CHAIR! OF COURSE, HE'S THE GOD OF DEATH! OF COURSE, HE OWNS NIHILHEIM!
I then began to panic as I felt my fear rising above my body. "I... I'm sorry... I apologize on behalf of all beings living in Luxael that I..."
"So, what about that guy?" Vilhelm uttered while pointing at somewhere on my left side.
"Eh?" I then moved my head around to that direction and saw the lifeless and pale body of Lars Frigg sitting on the same corpse chair a few feet beside me. "F-FRIGG!?"
"Ah, so this man is named Frigg, then?" Vilhelm said with a bored expression once more with a nod. "And if you're the brother of my Herald, then you must be Lardizabal."
"P-please, God, please!" I said as I tried my hardest to extend my hand towards Vilhelm, but I just can't seem to move even an inch of my body other than my face. "Please, do not harm Frigg! Please, God!"
"Boy, how am I gonna harm this man? He's already dead!" He said with a sarcastic sneer as he shrugged before chuckling. "And don't use God. That's too basic. That's something Philommena uses. I ain't the bitch of Caelum! Use that Your Highness title instead. I like that better."
Philomena, the patron God of Caelum who's known to have dominion over the skies. From what I remembered, the God of Caelum embodies the body of both a man and a woman. Thus, there are two rulers in Caelum, who are both personally chosen by the God of The Skies, Philomena, to worship the duality of the God's gender.
...and if the stories are to be believed, then an ancient prophet once told that Vilhelm and Philomena hate each other's guts.
"I HAVE NO WORDS, YOUR HIGHNESS! PLEASE, FORGIVE ME!" I screamed as I felt my tears falling from out of my eyes. "PLEASE FORGIVE MY INSOLENCE!"
"I don't care. You're boring." Vilhelm then raised his right hand with a bored expression. A ball of smoke then formed on his palm before he pulled it back down to his lips. Wordlessly, the God of Death pointed his right hand towards Frigg's side and blew the smoke around his palms towards the body of my dear friend.
WHERE AM I?
I looked around. Then, I saw Vonerich crying a few distances away from me while I was placed somewhere before the smoke-person who's sitting on the throne in front of the gleaming stone.
"WHO ARE YOU!? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY PRINCE!? I WILL KILL YOU! I WILL KILL YOU!!" I screamed as loud as I could as I tried to jump towards the man on the throne, but I just cannot move even an inch of my body to extend my arms towards him.
"FRIGG, STOP IT! YOU'RE OFFENDING HIS HIGHNESS VILHELM!" I heard Vonerich's subdued but loud voice echoing on my side.
"...what did you just say?" I said as I slowly moved my head towards Vonerich's side, making me see the prince's troubled expression.
He then tried his hardest to talk to me in a shushed volume, but we're too far away, so his words are still loud enough that he might as well just scream, "He's the God of Death!"
"Cool. Now that your moment is done, why don't you tell me in less than three sentences as to why you're here, Frigg?"
Eh? HE EVEN KNOWS MY NAME!? AM I IN THE LIST OF PEOPLE HE WOULD PUNISH FOR ALL ETERNITY NOW!? I heard he has such a list from old folklore! BRRR! I'm so fucked now! "W-we came from the war in the north, My Lord God Vilhelm..."
"SHUT UP! CAN WE ALL STOP CALLING ME 'GOD' ALREADY!? THAT'S NOT MY THING!" Vilhelm hissed loudly with a nasty scowl while pointing his latex-covered finger at me.
...I cannot believe this... I am definitely going to be punished for all eternity after this.
"OH, YOUR HIGHNESS, FRIGG IS A BRAINLESS ILLITERATE STUPID IDIOT! PLEASE DO NOT PUNISH HIM!" Vonerich said with his head hung low. It seems like he also cannot move his body other than his head just like me.
"YES, YOUR HIGHNESS! I AM DUMB, DUMB NO BRAIN, DUMB!" I replied the same way as Vonerich while trying my hardest to pretend like a darn fool.
"Whatever. But if the two of you aren't lying to me, which I really hope you aren't because I'm definitely not going to be the one who will get the shitty end of the stick here, then I need someone to end this war." He then clapped his hands twice, which later echoed throughout the hall as if a loud explosion had just detonated after he made that action. "Great. That's done," countless smoke then started to appear around the God of Death's surrounding one after another until he's covered with so much of it. "but they'll be back probably around a few years or so. I cannot be bothered to wait for that to be resolved before I can get the Herald's blood." Vilhelm then pointed towards Vonerich with his other hand on his waist with an imposing sneer. "You, Prince of Varba, I cannot end all of them with the little power I have left, but I, Vilhelm of Nihilheim, demands you to end this war now and in the future while I cultivate my Herald into the great being that he will soon become."
"D-does that mean... You're appointing me as the next king...?" I heard Vonerich utter those words weakly, clearly stating his displeasure of what he had just heard.
"If that's what it takes, then you can even be the king of the world." Vilhelm then stood up from his throne. When he did, he leaned his body forward with his right hand placed on his bent knee while his left arm was raised into the back of his head. "Do you have a problem with my decision, Prince of Varba?"
"N-no, Your Highness!" I then saw a sudden spree of determination in Vonerich's voice, along with his burning gaze.
"Good! But your words aren't enough."
The God of Death had just proclaimed my place as the new Crimson King.
Who am I to refuse a God?
"Good! But your words aren't enough."
Suddenly, Vilhelm stretched both of his hands towards Frigg and me. I then felt something coming out of my chest, forcing my torso to be pulled up towards the God of Death's open arms. After a few seconds, my heart swiftly tore a hole on my chest and flew towards the direction of the Death God. Oddly enough, I did not feel any pain from it. From what I can see, Frigg also lost his heart since Vilhelm's other hand is holding another heart.
"You get to keep your body, Prince of Varba, but I get to keep your soul, your heart, and your friend's body!" After hearing the God of Death's words, I saw Frigg levitate swiftly towards the Death God's direction. The Death God then clenched out hearts tightly, which made both Frigg and I scream with pain. "From here on out, you are both MY property, MY toy, MINE!"
When those words were spoken, I felt as if the world around us slowly stopped, swirled into million different fractals into space, and I swear to the Gods that I saw the figure of Frigg and I floating within a bed of endless glowing stars in a dark violet sky. It felt so surreal, for I could feel my body and all of my senses, but I could see my bare body embracing Frigg's naked body tightly while we huddled tightly as the countless stars around us orbited us swiftly. Suddenly, I saw the face of Vilhelm appear above our embracing bodies as if he's some kind of child playing with his newfound entertainment.
"You are both MY property!"
Vilhelm's voice rang throughout our surroundings as Frigg's body turned into dust, leaving my body alone there, embracing the only leg I have gone with a melancholic expression. The dust that was once Frigg's body then turned into a small ball that looked like the many stars around us.
I then saw Vilhelm's arms appear out of nowhere from a distance like he had just shoved him into a hole in his toy box. His latex-covered hand then gripped my body tightly. Meanwhile, his other hand then appeared above my naked body, grabbing the light ball that was once Frigg's body.
The God of Death then held the ball of light, and my body tightly on each of his hands. He then laughed loudly, echoing his voice all around the endless galaxy around us. Still cackling, the Death God suddenly did one single loud clap that sent tremors throughout the violet universe, which surrounded my body that I'm gazing at from a far distance. I then saw him tightly clasping his hands, making sure that he smashed the light ball towards my naked body.
Then, the gigantic face of the Death God, which was placed somewhere far from where my sight is, then moved towards me; yes, he moved towards my gaze as I looked at him, crushing my body with his hands. Vilhelm then very nonchalantly scooped his only visible eyeball using three of his fingers and pulled it out of his eye socket with the greatest of ease.
"Oh, and you can have this too!" He said as he held his eye gently on his hands before showing it towards my right eye socket.
Then the rest, I do not remember anymore.
All I know for sure is that I am now walking towards this clear path the God of Death laid out for us. The surroundings are still filled with smog, but the way that leads towards Varba is clearer than the blue skies of Valencia that I could almost see a wall of smoke on each of my sides.
Oh. So you're awake, already Frigg?
You're right, though. The monsters are nowhere to be seen.
I then moved my eyes around and saw what seemed like words plastered everywhere, along with countless geometric shapes in all of my surroundings. When I looked around, I saw a few words hanging on my eyes.
I then moved my eyes to a flower somewhere at a distance and saw a few more words hanging around my eyesight.
'Special Quality: Poisonous Tongue that can melt steel within five to eight seconds.'
I looked down and saw that there is indeed a new leg there now. It was a pale and much muscular leg than the one that I once had. Is this yours, Frigg?
Of course. Take good care of my body, too, okay?
Ah! So that's why my usual back pain is gone!
I then remembered the words of the God of Death; it echoed in my head like a booming reminder of my inevitable demise.
"Win this war for me, Lardizabal, and you shall keep your life until the next war erupts. Lose, and your soul will forever be another insignificant part of my collection!"