“8,000 years ago, imagine, if you will, a tiny farming town off a river in the middle east.”
It’s her own voice, Rye knows this, but it sounds like it’s playing back from a recording. Even if she can see out of these eyes, the body feels wrong, too small, too thin.
“And there was a little girl. As things were back then, when she was old enough to stand and follow directions, she worked on her family’s farm. They feared the gods as they should, they prepared for life down the road.”
She takes a hit of a… lollipop. Rye’s mad that’s EXACTLY her sense of humor, now only partially played off by herself. Maybe. It’s a memory, she realizes, but only partially of her own. It’s herself, but not all the same.
It’s the man, she notes, the blond haired man with the dark skin. They’re talking again. It’s a beautiful sunset, the pair seated at a bench overlooking a gorgeous sea, painted orange with the light.
“When she was old enough to understand, they were already preparing her for a husband. She cared not for this, but she was of exceptional magical talent. A girl with pure human blood, with powerful red magic, she was a man’s dream. The problem is she had a shitty attitude.” Rye laughs. The man nods slowly, listening but not commenting in the slightest, not even a hum. He’s not enjoying this one, but he still takes it in nonetheless.
“And the Cradle of Civilization was as violent then as it is now. War soon came to her insignificant little town, one day like the rest. It was an ordinary day.” Rye pauses, trying to recollect where she was going. “The girl had no interest. She just wanted to live her life, unhindered by this silliness about husbands or conquest. However, the enemy soldiers, they thought otherwise.”
Within this memory, another memory occurs. A man on horse back, shadowed by the harsh sun, staring down. He is impossibly tall, Rye can feel the mud at her feet and some plucked plant in her hand as she looks up at him. He’s got a spear. It’s leveled at her throat. There’s a simple tension – she does not move, and he does not attack.
“She wonders to herself, ‘why has fate forsaken me? What did I do to deserve this? Surely this is not some divine intervention for a crappy attitude’ the girl thinks. But her time has come, all to soon. She never even got to get boobs like the other girls!” Rye laughs, slapping her knee. The man just nods. He’s disheartened, but not gone from this story yet.
“So the girl thinks, ‘the gods have forsaken me to die, spilling my innocent blood. I only wanted to live peacefully. And yet this monster is about to skewer me.’ So, a thought occurs. If the gods will not help…”
The soldier’s lance quivers, and that second of movement, the switch as he gets ready to attack, that’s all Rye needs.
“Then divine judgment will have to be dealt by her own hand.”
Power coursed through her, the girl leaping up and followed by a blinding red light. Her own magic, searing and burning, and –
Unbelievable pain shot right through her stomach. Oh, she’d been impaled. It was unlike anything Rye had ever experienced, she was dying, stabbed like fork through a hotdog. This stunt had failed horribly, the girl wheezing and trying and failing to stop the pained sobs as her life slipped away all too fast.
“It didn’t work out all that great at first, but luck favors the persistent.”
Hadn’t she just died? Rye lay in the dirt, the soldier off to find his next victim. Her hand went to her wound – and there was nothing. It was sticky and wet with blood, but what should have been a gaping hole was her stomach like it was supposed to be.
The gods were fickle things. That magic rose again, the girl staggering to her feet. Hot and blindingly bright, the red only grew stronger, and stronger. She couldn’t even see all that clearly, but it was enough. The soldier turned, taken aback like he’d seen a ghost.
“And that’s when I learned about the eternal life. Never grow old, never die, nothin’.” Rye concludes. She’s drawn back to the bench with the blond man. “So you see, Rich Boy, we all got our personal demons. I ain’t sayin’ mine are more important than yours, but just remember. We all suffer.”
“I never assumed my suffering was more profound than yours.” The man answers carefully. “I… I just…” he pauses, drawing in a painful breath. “You were a child.”
“That’s horrible. To die like that, so young – even if you revived. Most people only die once, and yet you still keep – ” He stops. He’s choking up. It’s not even his pain, but it’s still like he’s the one who got run through like it was just yesterday and not millennia ago.
“Hey, relax, pal. I’m over it.” Rye hurriedly tries to comfort him. “It’s just how the world is. It sucks, but we’re not all so lucky to grow up. Everyone dies one day.”
“It’s not a comforting thought…”
“Yeah, not really, but it’s how it is.” Rye says. “But, you know. Somehow I got the immortal deal here. None of us ever asked for it. We’re trying to figure out why. Loon thinks it’s punishment for our sins. Jack thinks it’s a cruel joke. Ben isn’t sure.”
“What about you, though?” The man asks. He’s still a little upset and unsteady, but he turns to look Rye in the eyes. “Do you think it’s a curse?”
Rye takes a hit of her lollipop again like she’s smoking it, going so far in this silly charade to even exhale when she’s done.
“As I said, when karma does not handle things, then I do.” Rye states. “Divine retribution is not always so clean. So that’s why I exist. I strike down those who think they are exempt from the ways of the universe.”
“So you believe it’s your duty,” The blond clarifies. “That the gods have given you a purpose.”
“The gods didn’t give me this purpose,” Rye laughs. “I gave it to myself. The gods, if they even exist, are worthless creatures who sit back and let everything go to shit. This is a cruel, disgusting world that rewards the violent and punishes the innocent. So if I see any beast who thinks they will never see their rightful judgment, then I will deliver it. Wherever this curse of Immortality came from, I will use it to my best advantage.”
The gods were truly absent. Or hell, they didn’t even exist. If there was any god, even just one, they did so good at hiding their presence that Rye had no reason to believe they were even there.
“If there even are gods…. Hmph. Then I suppose I am the closest thing to one.” She laughs quietly at the thought. “For I deliver judgment in their place, and I’ve also never met a worthy opponent who could defeat me. I’m the strongest immortal, and I’m the oldest one, too.”
“Haven’t you read all the children’s stories about hubris?” the man sighs. He’s over the pain from earlier, lapsing into a more normal mood of tired irritation.
“Of course, of course. Only speculation.” Rye waves her hand. “Well, that’s why I lie low. I’m like, F-list celebrity at best. Unfortunately they got some nice pics of me and Loon getting a little too uppity at some… protests,” This is a stretch. Another memory, of a war torn place in France, and Rye knew it was love when Luna rushed forward to grab a grenade while others fled, throwing it back where it came from. She envied that, how Loon could fly forward with purpose in a split second. There was the elegant picture of a small girl with long curly hair, taken by the wind as she threw her whole body into hurling this bomb away from everyone, her eyes only carrying the same sharp focus she always had. Luna was beautiful like this, a shining ray of light in the darkness of the world.
“Define ‘too uppity’,” The man says, and Rye laughs.
“You know – remember that stunt where that rich people party we were all at went to shit?” Rye offers, giving a cat like smile. “So those stupid terrorists, they picked Jack as their poor little victim – and then Luna just drop kicked the shit out of them out of nowhere? THAT!” Rye explains, and beams, quite content with this. “We do that all the time! Luna has this lighting fast kick she does, and Ben can liquefy a man’s organs – or blow out all their little things in their ears and make it impossible for them to stand or hear! Very permanent too, and non lethal.”
The man shook his head, keeping his eyes on the orange painted ocean.
“You lead an odd life with even more strange morals,” He mutters.
“But if it hadn’t been for us, you may have died that night,” Rye says. “Such is the ways of fate. Fate lead us here, and fate is letting us deliver your just reward.”
“You think I’m to be rewarded?” He laughs. “No, I don’t like your way of thinking. I deserve nothing. What could you possibly do to bring good karma to me? Do you think your suffering has given you the authority to decide what justice is for us?”
“My suffering never gave me any authority,” Rye explains, bitterly. “It gave me insight. Insight on how people are. It happens again and again – ” She’s said his name, she knows this, but she can’t make out the words coming out of her own mouth. ” – It’s just the way humans are. They are selfish creatures, whether it be to benefit only themselves or for the few they care about.”
“I think you’re wrong,” The man says. “Humans are inherently altruistic beings. They empathize with animals that aren’t like them at all. They’ll do nice things for each other and expect nothing in return. People are good at heart.”
“You still have faith.” Rye sighs, and a wistful smile touches her face. “It’s cute. I don’t understand people like you who seek no revenge.” She knew this man was hurt like the rest of them. He tended to flinch if someone raised their hand too fast. He was wary of quick movements in general, in fact – he shied away from raised voices, he was startled far too much by doors slamming, he hated being touched. Yet he didn’t desire retribution like any one else would.
Sickness of the soul, Rye noted. How sad. Those were the kind of wounds that may never heal.
“Easy,” The man says. “I… I chose not to let my enemies define me. When I think about them, I’m letting them take time and energy from me. When I do everything that they hate just out of sheer spite, I’m letting them have control over me. I will not let those who despise me and I hate in return to take more than they already have.”
“How admirable. I sadly, have no choice but to let the men who wronged me so long ago define me,” Rye answers. “For it was them in that moment that changed me forever, and it is their fault I stand here today, speaking to you about our ideals.”
“Then I pray that one day you find freedom from the hatred that binds you.”
“That will never happen.”
“Never is a strange word coming from an immortal’s mouth,” The man laughs, brightening up again, and suddenly Rye knows why everyone seems to naturally gravitate towards him. Like Luna, he just has it, whatever it is, a kind of shining warmth that brings people close and makes them spill all their darkest kept secrets.
That smile is damn charming.
“There isn’t another choice for someone like me,” Rye counters. “I’ve been screwed by fate. I can’t see people like you do – ” she said his name again. ” – but I can take that misery, shape it into something else. My hatred is something that I can use to fight. Eight thousand years and this is how it’s always been. I didn’t survive by bringing love, I survived through my desire for vengeance. I can’t know peace and love and I never will.”
“And that vengeance led you to take three others under your wing to protect them and help them throw off the pain of their past,” The man replies, calmly, a little too much wise-ass in his tone for Rye’s liking. “For all your talk of being driven by hate, I’d say there still is a lot of capacity for caring.”
“Listen, don’t talk like you know – ”
“And Fai,” The blond continues smoothly. “That poor guy. When everyone else said we had no choice but to kill him to end the threat of possession – you were the one that sought a different approach.”
“Because I’ve done it before,” Rye says, impatiently. But she does remember that. Pain like Fai’s didn’t come about from nothing. He suffered, long term, believing he was nothing, always second best. It really wears down on your soul. A weak soul poisoned by anger and sorrow is a perfect target for demons. “I just told him what he wanted to hear. I set him up to fight back on his own accord. He just needed some choice words.”
“Those choice words also helped that other immortal, Raiden, was it?”
“Raiden has spent 3000 years absolutely miserable! I taught him a few lessons so that he might not be!”
“What do you call what you did to Din, then?”
“Din was a poor kid who just lost his best friend to bad luck in battle! The first time ALWAYS stings the worst! I bet you’d cry if Cal died, huh?”
He stares at Rye, smug, and she realizes she’s been backed into a corner.
“Damn you,” Rye growls, getting to her feet, tensed like she’s in battle. “You’re making a fool of me.”
“You have the capacity to shake the chains off of you, I know it.” The man seems satisfied, and settles back into a comfortable position, one leg crossed over the other and his hands folded in his lap. “You know it, too. Perhaps one day you will reach new horizons.”
“Well, I’m beat.” This whole conversation was somehow physically exhausting.
“Never thought I’d have to convince the sun of its own warmth,” He muses.
“You will speak nothing of this.”
“I don’t have to. Were you actually as cruel as you say, you would practice what you preach.”
Bah. Rye doesn’t answer by now. She opts to finish her neglected lollipop, biting into it.
Brought back to the present, Rye is floating listlessly in her headspace, not quite in control, but the familiar presence of the Right Hand Man is nearby.
“I wish you wouldn’t go dicking around in my memories,” Right Hand Man complains. “I don’t like to think about that one.”
“Why not?” Rye asks, perplexed.
There is no answer.
“So be it!” Rye chirps, drifting along as she lets the Right Hand Man stay in control of this frail body. “Most people would love to be accused of the awful crime of being kind.”
She’s promptly ignored once again.
“The moon sure is beautiful tonight,” Right Hand Rye says airily, raising her eyes to the heavens above. When Rye gets a look too, the only lights in the sky are the stars, countless and far away.
Idiot. It was a new moon tonight.
“One of those out there has to be a moon,” Right Hand Man says, and laughs. “For this endless world has countless possibilities.” Rye thinks this is silly, but she thinks she begins to understand what mangled message her alternate self is trying to say.
“Next time we meet him… It’ll be…”
“Fate never work out cleanly in the end. Bad things happen to good people,” Right Hand Man says. “But he was right. We’ve always been sentimental fools, haven’t we?”
There’s a long silence. Right Hand Man takes a deep breath.
“That’s just how it is on this bitch of an Earth,” She concludes, and Rye laughs.