previous: Isekai ch8
The moment our hands touched; time froze, our bodies were locked in a permanent fist to fist punch, like something out of a videogame. There was a throbbing mass of energy between us. Our memories intermixed as if we had known each other our entire lives. At least I’m assuming that’s what happened.
For me, the experience was like a series of files being forced into my head. Once one story ended another began. Voices and sounds intermixed, but somehow, I understood everything. I knew about his loss, his anger. I watched it all from my father’s eyes; a passenger trapped, forced to witness his terrible decisions.
When King Vladimir’s wife gave birth (to this world’s version of me) the baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. There was no way of knowing if the newborn was actually alive. Even the King knew that. He had to. But none of that mattered. Holding the tiny baby in his arms, my arms, all sense of logic went out the window.
Dr. Tomas was told to try and get the newborn free of the noose. This was accomplished with sharp surgical tools, leaving behind large amounts of blood. if there was that much blood in just the umbilical cord, why did no one check on the mother? My mother.
The baby had been born dead, silent. Even after cleaning the body, clearing all blockages, he was still dead. However, it was clear that my mother had been alive for at least a few more minutes. I could hear her voice, her cries. All of her concerns were for the baby. Yes, I already knew, if Dr. Tomas (the only medical professional in the room.) had decided to change course; abandon the baby to save the mother, both the King and Queen would have been understandably upset. Miracles were not an option, because upsetting the status quo was not an option.
The Queen lived just long enough to see her husband holding the dead infant. I knew this because her head was turned, facing her husband, and she had died with a calm, peaceful smile. Through Vlad’s eyes, my father’s eyes; I felt everything, this was truly a fate worse than Hell.
I made the sign of the cross on the baby’s head, bestowing the name Marcus. ‘Looks like you got off easy in this life, little prince.’ Did he get off easy? The baby would never be physically or emotionally abused, but he would never know happiness, joy, pride, or the love of a devoted father who would have likely given his life to save his only son.
There was so much sadness in his heart, it had turned into a toxic rage. A feeling I knew all too well. My eyes opened with a jolt. I was still standing, while the mighty King fell to his knees, gripping his chest as if injured and in pain.
I assumed he was waiting for someone to offer a hand. My heart was racing. Although I was not in any physical discomfort. I didn’t move, nor did I want to.
“Marcus, my son. I beg for your forgiveness.” The once strong man’s voice seemed to quiver like a frightened child.
“Sure, whatever.” I nodded if only to give closure to this poor, pathetic, excuse for a human being. He may have had my father’s face, but this version of me did not forgive him. I was not baby Marcus. I was a kid in need of help. I had lost five, maybe even ten years in that prison. And for what? Because HE was offended by my presence? This sadistic lunatic assumed I was part of a cruel joke? ‘Beg all you want. I hope you beg all the way to your grave.’
Accepting my response as a positive, The King dusted himself off, attempting to stand while maintaining a fraction of his dignity.
“Papa!” Emily rushed to his side. She seemed overjoyed to finally see the King leave his self-entombment. There were tears in her eyes as she cupped his face.
For a brief moment the cowardly royal allowed himself to fall to his knees in a proper bow worthy of a Queen (even if that Queen was his eldest daughter.) He was showing humility, apologizing without words, but only to Emily. (He had barely taken notice of Dr. Tomas.)
Meanwhile I looked down at my feet; they were dirty, covered in cuts and bruises. Most notably; they were massive, if I had a pair of shoes, they would have been on the higher end of the sizing chart. I was now (at least) eighteen, in my full-grown body, but with the maturity and fear of a small child. I wanted to vomit.
“Mirapo.” The sound blew away like a whisper in the wind. The portals were not portals, they were sentient creatures, and somehow, one of them followed me. This idea filled me with adrenaline, and a unique sense of confidence.
“What did you see from my past?” I shouted, interrupting the father-daughter moment.
Emily shot me a glare. “Dear brother that is a topic for another time.”
Did she expect me to stay because we’re family? Or did she just assume I would stay because I had nowhere else to go? “No thanks.”
“No thanks?” Emily asked with a hint of sadness.
“I think I’ve wasted enough time.” My voice was laced with rage. Every part of me wanted to start running and never look back. I had my item box, apparently, I also had my personal portal-companion. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted. “Before I go, I want to hear his words.”
I lifted my hand summoning my item box. Whatever the heck a ‘Mirapo’ was, I hoped it had my back. ‘Item box contents= 798.’ I assumed the glowing neon words, were only visible to me, but judging by the odd looks I might have been mistaken. Still, the number was abnormally high, in fact, it was the highest I had ever seen.
The King spoke from his position on the ground. “I know that your father struggled with chronic pain.”
Although I knew it was unintentional, he was kneeling before me. It took every ounce of self-control not to laugh. I bit the inside of my mouth to keep a neutral face. “My father had broken his leg as a child. It never healed right.” To his credit, that was a secret very few people knew. Prior to Emma Rose Amanar’s attempt at blowing up Papa’s workshop, he’d always walked with a limp. “What else do you know?”
He seemed disappointed with my lack of unconditional love. “Your father,” the words seemed forced. The King was trying to separate himself from what he knew of my father’s past. “He was too sick to save you. He heard you crying, pleading.”
I observed him blink tears from his reddened eyes. Those eyes were similar to the man who raised me, the man who held me. Then his next words cemented my anger.
“You were just a child, his only child. The rage alone would have been enough to fuel him to kill the vile woman once and for all.” At this point, the King made a deliberate move to avoid looking me in the eye.
Perhaps he meant this act to come across as humble, if so, he failed. His prose came across as a lack of sincerity; he was telling a story, attempting to manipulate my emotions. “So, why didn’t he?”
“Because he could barely leave the bed.” The man’s voice was breaking with emotion; his own emotion, perhaps there was some truth to his words. “Your father sold her his good leg, and then she kept him on so many drugs.” His eyes blinked, as if he was struggling to focus. “Your father wanted to end his life.” He reached his hand forward, grasping at the air directly in front of him. “He knew where she kept her blades and one night, he wrote you a letter and then attempted to cut his own throat.”
“I remember.” In my anger, I assumed something much crueler. The demon Emma Rose had gotten my father drunk (on her bizarre collection of potions) and then left him to his own devices. Maybe she wanted him to attempt suicide. Yes, she was probably just waiting outside the door, to rush in and ‘save’ him. It was either that or my father was willing to leave without me.
“That was why his lover, was willing to help him escape. The wicked queen would have easily chosen to keep your father sedated, in fact, she said as much directly to his face.” King Vladimir stood up, with the help of his companions. He reached out his hand. “I know your father was a good man, driven to madness, illness, and sin.”
There was a moment of awkward silence. I stood there waiting for an actual apology; something to make me want to trust him, that was all he had to do. Instead, he continued to tell this fictional fable about someone else’s life. Was I meant to be honored that he was willing to shake my hand? ‘Fuck that.’
Without another word I turned and walked away. What other choice did I have? This was not my father, this was not my family; these were a bunch of people who saw me as a character, a supporting cast member in their life stories.
“Marcus wait!” shouted Emily.
That only made me want to walk faster. My sweet, kind, loving, older sister wanted me to turn back? Where was she when I was stuck in a cell for YEARS? Soon I was running. “Mirapo,” I muttered while making sure to keep my focus on my feet.
The surface of my vision rippled. Either I was going blind, about to lose consciousness, or I was about to get the help I needed. I could see in the distance I would soon be faced with the challenge of an impending cliff. Without much thought, I decided to take a leap of faith. Worst case scenario I’d be dead. (At least I’d be free of this cursed life.)
I felt a rush of wind. I was being dragged down an incline, landing with a hard thump. Thankfully it was just dirt; cold, solid packed dirt. I rolled on to my back, looking up at the blue sky. All the colors looked so bright. I was high on life.
Standing up, I brushed myself off to take a look around. I had been teleported to a location just south of the castle; far enough to feel safe, but close enough to still be able to see what I was running from. “This is nice.” I took a seat on a flat, clean rock and took to scanning my inventory. Hopefully, I had some clothing, food, or even weapons (anything I could sell.)
“You can’t run forever, Marcus,” said a familiar male voice. Leo took a seat beside me, not even bothering to take an animal form.
“Hey, Leo.” I knew it could have been anyone, but the fact that he sat down, so calmly cemented my assumption; he wasn’t here to drag me off in chains. “I know.”
“And yet you’re still doing this?”
“Doing what?” I turned my head briefly, just to see if he was looking at me; glaring with contempt or pity.
“What do you want, Marcus?” Leo’s question seemed rhetorical at best.
I wanted to know why the fuck he left me to rot in a prison cell! “Right now?” I replied, still looking at my internal screen. “To off myself and start over.”
Leo scoffed. “You don’t mean that.”
He was right; I wanted to see Becca again, and Jay, and everyone in this life who genuinely cared about me. But more than anything I wanted to see Queen Emma Rose held accountable for her crimes. “If you leave me alone, I’m likely to hang myself with my disgusting clothes.”
“Yeah, I figured.” Leo silently nodded. I expected my guardian angel to laugh or at least shake his head and offer a forced chuckle at my ‘over dramatic’ statement. Instead, he patted my arm, giving my dirt-crusted shirt-jacket a tender squeeze.
“You’re not going to ask if I’m kidding?”
Leo shrugged. “I know what happened between you and Dr. Tomas.”
“Really?” I muttered, attempting to not punch him in the face.
“Queen Emma killed her own husband for you. You’re the one she wants; she won’t stop until she finds you.”
Wow, he actually did want me to hit him. Do angels bleed? “My little portal gave me a view of the homeland and Emma Rose appeared to be having plenty of fun on her own.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
“So, then why are you here?”
Leo shrugged again, looking out at the sky. “What’s the plan? Do you want your newly discovered sisters and father to find your body? And then what? Will they feel bad, maybe shed a tear for the baby brother they managed to lose twice?”
“You can’t convince me to go back.” As I looked through my inventory, I could see a variety of raw ore; silver, gold, iron, cobalt, coal, among other things that did not seem to have a clear use. ‘Sodium, potassium, silicon, uranium?’ Did I look like someone with a degree in chemistry?
I looked at Leo who was glancing at a floating mirror-like object. He reached out his hand, tickling the surface. It was like he was interacting with a puppy. “You’re a good little yo-kai, aren’t you? Yes, you are, Mirapo.”
The surface shimmered and for a brief second, I could see a pair of bright round eyes that could only be described as adorably derpy. “Mirapo!”
Leo nodded, as if they were having a conversation. “Well, I should be going. You take good care of him.”
“The talking portal has a gender?”
“No, I was talking to it about you. This creature is a Mirapo, a sentient living creature that exists between worlds. A time spirit, if you will.”
“It’s a Pokémon.”
“It was a videogame series on Earth about animals with powers.” My voice trailed off. I did not feel like explaining the multi-decade history of Pokémon. “Never mind.”
“I know what a Pokémon is,” he said with a smile. Leo stood up, stretching his back. “Actually, this ‘talking portal’ is a Yo-kai.”
“A yo-kai?” As in a Japanese demon?
“The series came out around the same time, but it never took off like the epic story of a yellow mouse with the power of Thor. Anyway, like I said I’m going to walk away for a while. Good luck to you.” Leo leaned back, falling into the mirror. (I mean ‘Mirapo’.)
When he was gone, the mirror transformed to a black screen, like a television. It flew past my vision, taking with it, my view of my inventory. “Excuse you!”
“Mirapo!” The screen filled with a series of text files, all listed under ‘Known Recipes.’
I clicked the first link just to see what was instore. “Seems more like something likely to blow up in my face.”
“Mirapo,” the sound was akin to a sigh or eyeroll. Suddenly the mirror started to float away with my data.
Clearly it wanted me to follow (unless I wished to lose access to all of my worldly possessions.) It led me to a nearby cave, the perfect place to workshop my newfound chemistry hobby. Or rather, alchemy. ‘Yeah, this is pretty much magic.’
With a wave of my hand, I looked through my inventory, attempting to match the recipe with the necessary ingredients. since I had no tools, I simply dug a small hole to use as my cauldron. It started out as a depression the size of a human head, but after testing a few of the more corrosive and exploding compounds it quickly became too deep to be useable. So, I built a firepit.
When I was thirsty, I sought out a water source. I was waiting for Mirapo to offer a suggestion, but apparently this was on me. I walked until I found a partially frozen spring. There was ice so clear I would have mistaken it for glass, if not for the dripping water. I gripped a crystal the size of a pencil. It felt cold, refreshing. I was holding the life-giving hand of God. “Mirapo can I still open my inventory box?”
Its screen rippled, shoving a single glowing cursor off to the side. My item box was mine.
I collected as much ice as I could, hopeful that it would remain in that state. I also collected firewood, tinder and a few dozen river stones. Back at my cave I started to work on a series of building materials. I needed something strong like stone, but pliable like wood (or clay.) Once I found an ideal recipe, I created a mold to make bricks.
I soon realized that my final creations did not have to cure to harden (like clay or resin). They also smelled oddly of kitchen foil, generic plastic and spoiled milk. (Perhaps leaving the pieces to cure wasn’t such a bad idea.) I was hopeful that I could find a work around, but until then I needed a place to sleep. I assembled a bed, close enough to the firepit to allow myself to keep warm. ‘Half this stuff is probably radioactive and I’m going to die of this world’s version of cancer.’ The thought brought about a genuine smile. This was Hell but at least it was mine.
My days went by much like the prison cell; I worked, I ate, I slept. However, unlike the darkness, this place was nothing but beauty. After laying the final brick, I took a moment to catch my breath. I had managed to build off the cave, moving outward until I had a decent-size one-room house.
I heard what sounded like a knock on my door. The polymer that Mirapo helped me create was a plastic-like material that was semi-translucent. This was intentional; allowing me a view of what was beyond; a bird, a dragon? Nope, it was a King.
I opened the door to the sight of King Vladimir. “Hello.”
He wore his dark blond hair long, over his shoulders. His facial hair was unkempt and his clothing was that of a traveler. “You made all this?” He tapped on my door, then on my wall. “This is just beyond impressive.”
“Thanks.” I began to shut the door, but he gripped the lock, forcing it open.
The King paused for a moment, seemingly in awe of my plastic-compound door. “May I come in?”
“No.” The answer left my mouth all on its own. I had no reason to speak to him, to impress him. I could easily live out the rest of my years in solitude. ‘That was a lie.’ I was lonely. I wanted a friend; I wanted my father back. I allowed myself to get emotional. And for the briefest of moments, I considered giving him a chance. and then he spoke.
“You wish to live here?” The King waved his hand as if to draw attention to the pathetic nature of my surroundings. “It’s impressive how much you’ve accomplished in just a few weeks. I can only imagine what you could complete in a proper setting. I could give you access to space, tools, anything your heart desired.”
I felt sick to my stomach. He wasn’t proud of me, he wanted to know my secrets. “Give me one reason to not shut this door.”
He nodded, pursing his lips. For a moment I could see a hint of humility. Maybe that’s what it was; the King, he was so used to living with his head up his own ass he didn’t know how to express emotions like a normal human.
“It’s just us; you and me. I’ll start; I know you killed your wife.” I looked him in the eyes, resisting the urge to smile. “What do you got? What do you know about me?” I took a step closer, staring at him with as much villainy as I could muster. “She loved you, she trusted you.” It was then I realized we were roughly the same height. “Come on, man, tell me something that will send me straight to Hell.”
“You never appreciated all your father did for you.” He flared his nostrils in frustration as he struggled for the next line. “I know I have his face, although I know nothing about being a prisoner of war or witnessing the genocide of my people.”
“I think you mean: the eradication of my people.” I was the one who lived as a slave, born into a war that I had never known. I was the one who lost everything.
“You clearly know that’s not true,” the King’s voice quivered, but he stood still. “We are of the same blood. And this Queen Emma Rose Amanar; she must be stopped.”
“Stopped?” For a moment my mind went blank. I had assumed that with the extinction of my people she was simply opting to live a life of excessive luxury and sin. In hindsight, that was stupid; she was a witch; she could never be satisfied with mortal pleasures.
The King agreed. “As long as she is alive, Emma Rose Amanar will devote herself to her magic. Her goal is not beauty or power, but rather immortality and I fear she is close.”
“Immortality?” That was information only my father would know. (Technically Emma Rose’s husband would have known as well.) I opened the door to my humble, cave home. I had only a skylight for natural light, as well as a few candles. In time I would have liked to figure out a way to create a source of electricity for light and heat. Thankfully, using the ice I was able to create a limitless source of water. “Would you like something to drink? I only have ice water.”
“Water would be nice.” He remained standing, looking around at my lack of furniture.
I had a single table and chair that I used for brainstorming, eating, and anything that required me to have a solid surface to place something on. Otherwise, I was more than comfortable sitting on the floor, or my bed. I reached for a paper cup from the dispenser on my wall. The machine was designed to release a single-use drinking vessel that could then be composted back into a clay that could be sanitized, and remolded.
The King seemed impressed. He took a sip and carefully sat on the ground. “Someone has to pay.”
The man was on the verge of tears. “Some might say your father was forced to live the life of a slave. I would say his existence was more akin to a pig.”
“A pig?” I’d always thought of our suffering as something akin to cattle.
“There was an old joke about a three-legged pig. The man asks the farmer, what’s happened to your animal’s leg? The farmer tells a story of how the pig heroically put out a fire, and later it saved a child from a well. Something like that.” He paused to take another sip. “Sorry, it’s been a while. I just know that when the man asked the farmer, so is that how the creature lost its leg? The farmer said no, I just needed to try out a new recipe.”
“I think I heard that one before.” I forced a chuckle to lighten the mood.
He cupped his hand over his mouth, blinking back tears. “There was a time when I couldn’t imagine what that pig went through. The fear, and pain; it’s all so very real now.” This was the truth; the story he was too embarrassed to share in front of his daughter. “I know about the cemetery; her personal harvesting ground.” His hands were trembling so badly he dropped the cup, spilling water on himself. “I cannot close my eyes without seeing memories of what she did.” His eyes were wide, unable to blink. It was as if he was experiencing live hallucinations. “Emma Rose Amanar needs to die for her crimes.”
“Her whereabouts are kept secret, as she is a princess from a long line of powerful beings. To launch an attack on my own would amount to suicide, but I cannot live out the rest of my life in this state. So, I ask, with humility, and grace. Will you ride with me into battle?”
“No, I’m not that far gone. I will create a plan, organize an army. I just wish to have you on my team.”
“I can’t handle the nightmares; I can’t speak to any one of what I’ve seen. I am not a mentally strong man. I proved that by sending my own child away for five years. You have no reason to trust a lunatic like me. But if you don’t wish to follow me into battle rest assured, I will still be pursuing Emma Rose. If only to bring an end to the visions and hallucinations.”
next: Isekai ch10