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Spoiler Warning
This page contains the full text transcription of the story from The Death of Shay and Arionne quest. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please do not continue reading.

Ch 1: The Rusty Swordsman Edit

“Our memories are the only paradise
 from which we can never be expelled.”

Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)


Under the magnificent tree lay a corpse.
It was a girl, and judging from her clothes,
she was very young. She lay face-down
in a pool of blood, a deep wound
in her back. Her heart was pierced with
a single stab.

She must have died on the spot.


“Caught you red-handed!”

The city watch appeared. With a bloodied
sword in hand and specks of blood all
over your clothes, it was no surprise
you got mistaken for the killer.
But how to explain to the city watch
that they got the wrong idea, that
you had nothing to do with this?

“Well, this makes our work easier. If they
put up a fight, don't bother capturing
them alive. Just kill this scum!”

It was either kill or be killed.


“Throw away your weapons!”

The reinforcements arrived. You were
greatly outnumbered. It would be pointless
to continue putting up resistance.
No choice but to let them capture you.

“What a bloody nuisance you turned out to be!”

They pushed you down onto your knees and
a gauntlet-wearing guard punches you
in the face, knocking you out.

As everything became blurred before
fading away, you cursed yourself for
your recklessness.

Why did it have to come to this...


Three hours earlier...


Shay Aldour.

You met the man with this unusual name
at a bar so filled with tobacco smoke
you could mistake it for a smokehouse.

“I swear I used to be stronger that that...”

The man muttered, supporting his
head with both hands. His expression
was hard to read, which was perhaps
down to how drunk he was...


“He's the target.”

Huh, who said that? You looked around, but
everyone seemed to just be preoccupied
with pouring as much booze into themselves
as they could hold. You must have imagined it.

Hmm, didn't you have some urgent business
to take care of? If only you could remember...
Focus... Darn, no use.

Your mind was so cloudy, like some thick,
viscous soup, with thoughts struggling to
bubble up to the surface.


The man was a knight in the service of
Earl Diacroix. He had been sent to meet
the earl's niece, returning from studying
abroad, and escort her back home.

He didn't know what she looked like, though.

She left ten years ago, when she was still
a little girl, and it was safe to assume her
appearance would have greatly changed by now.


The knight was supposed to meet here
with someone who can recognize the earl's nice.

“So I've been waitin' and waitin', but this
lad Godot hasn't shown up.”

Nearby chapel's bells rang. It was way past
the agreed time. Eventually Shay decided
to leave.

“If Godot ever shows his face here, tell him
I've headed out of the city, will ye?”

Clearly frustrated, he stormed out without
waiting for a reply.


“How's he going to find the girl if he's got
no clue as to her looks?”
“Anyone knows this guy Godot? No? Well,
how will we know who to pass the message to!”

A very drunk Stonefolk man shouted over.

“Did I hear the name Godot? You chums of his!?
That swine owes me money! When's he going
to pay up, huh!?”

A red-faced Lizardfolk man raised his head.

“You're not the only one he's tricked!
He came up to me begging for a loan, saying it's
for a wedding dress for his daughter. I want
my coin back, but Godot's vanished into thin air!”


“Hey, hold on. We're no friends of Godot,
we're just travelers asked to pass a message!”

The bartender sensed trouble brewing and
stepped in to bring the situation under control.

“They tell the truth. I have a good memory for
faces and have never seen them here before.
And I'm sure they're generous folk, and will pay
the outstanding tab of their friend who's just
left, am I right?”

A shrewd man of business, this one.
Unfortunately for you.


Other customers were quick to join the fight,
which turned into a disorderly brawl.

You elbowed your way out of the tavern.
Outside, a young shepherd with a lamb
was waiting. He spoke to you.

“Mister Godot said he's not coming today!”

You decided to follow after Shay to let him know.


A giant oak stood majestically on the town's
outskirts.

The girth of its trunk indicated it was four
hundred years old, yet it was clad in lush green
leaves.

There was no better rendezvous spot around.

Sure enough, Shay was there.

“Don't leave without paying for your drinks, Shay.
You got us into a tight corner there, you rascal!”

But he didn't even turn towards you. He stared
at the ground, transfixed.


You followed his gaze. It took you a few moments
to process what you were seeing. A corpse.

It was a girl, and judging from her clothes,
she was very young. She lay face-down
in a pool of blood, a deep wound
in her back. Her heart was pierced in
a single stab.

She must have died on the spot.


“Who killed her?”

There was no reply.

“Shay, what happened here?”

He finally turned around and you saw it was
someone else.

“Shay? Been a while since I heard that name.
So again he failed to protect the person
he was sent to guard.”


The man you mistook for Shay wore
ebony-black armor. His sword was drawn,
and fresh blood was dripping from the blade.

“You killed this girl, didn't you!”

“Indeed. It was I, Al Bhainne, who have taken
the life of Arionne, the late earl's daughter.”

Before you knew it, you were surrounded...

“And since you have seen me, I'm afraid I have
no choice but to erase you from existence!”


Your foes suddenly froze, alerted by something.

“It's the city watch! Very well, this plays
to our favor. Retreat at once!”

As Al Bhainne gave the order, his underlings
put away their weapons and just as they had
appeared, they instantaneously disappeared
without a trace, leaving just you and your
friends at the scene of the crime.

You realized you were standing over the dead
body, holding a bloodied sword in your hand...


“What a bloody nuisance you turned out to be!”

They pushed you down onto your knees and
a gauntlet-wearing guard punches you
in the face, knocking you out.

As everything became blurred before
fading away, you cursed yourself for
your recklessness.

Why did it have to come to this...


A voice penetrated into your fading
consciousness. It was the voice you heard
in the tavern.

“Can you hear me? It didn't turn out well, I see.
She has seen through our tactics.”

What is it talking about?
What does it want from you?

“There's no stopping her now.
She's coming--”

Who is it? The voice sounds vaguely familiar,
but you just cannot remember. Who could it be?


How pleasant it would be to spend this sunny
summer day in the shade of that giant oak...

Yet here you are, imprisoned.


to be continued...


The interrogation was brutal.

“Who are you?”
“Why did you kill the girl?”
“Who hired you?”

And in between the questions, they tortured you.
It went on and on. You and your companions were
covered in countless bruises, bleeding from
dozens of wounds.

The cell was damp and stank of mold so much
that it made you gag.

But at least the cold floor lessened the
burning pain of your wounds.


“Al Bhainne? Is that the best lie you could
come up with? He was executed a long time ago!”

“Al Bhainne the Executioner is dead, you fools!”

Who was the knight in the black armor then?
Was he an apparition?

“The poor girl Arionne was only fourteen.”

“Can you imagine the earl's grief!”

Just as you had guessed, the dead girl was
the earl's niece. So she was called Arionne.

But wait, you've heard that name before.


“It's no use.”

You recognized that voice.

“It's hopeless...”

It was Shay.

He was tasked with safely escorting Arionne
back to the earl's castle. Since he failed
his mission, the city watched put him in a cell.

He seemed out of it, muttering to himself,
repeating the same words over and over.


“What's that!?”

“It's a demon! A demon!”

Screams of the city watchmen echoed through
the dungeon, as the ground shook as if from
an earthquake.

“We can't fight this thing! Run for your life!”

There was a loud smash and the walls and ceiling
began to crumble. An otherworldly creature
peeked in through a wide gap between
the shattered bricks.

Is this...is this a demon?

You broke into cold sweat.


“It's Morgana!”

Pepropé? That's right, the voice, it was Pepropé!

“I don't have the power to stop her now. Hold
her back until I reboot!”

You felt dizzy. A memory stirs in your head.
What is it? You must remember!

“She's after Shay! You must protect him!”

Ah, it all came back now. This is why you
came to this medieval world.

A world constructed entirely for that one man.


“Darn, we didn't make it! But at least,
we've temporarily stopped Morgana's
advance into this world. I'll reboot now.
Let's try this again.”

You knew what had to be done. Saving Shay
was instrumental to making the plan succeed.

Come on then, Pepropé! Let's get started!


“What just happened...?” asked Shay,
still panting heavily after the battle.

The dungeon was again quiet, and broken walls
were whole again, as if the ordeal was but
a bad dream they had just woken up from.

“Listen, Shay. We've come to save you.”

“Save me from what?”

“From this world!”


“Hold on, what are ye talkin' about? And what
was that thing, that horrible demon?”

“That demon was your own creation, Shay.
Or should I say, Dr. Aldour. It's a machine,
a weapon, which you made.”

Ch 2: Heading North Edit

“Silence is
 the most perfect expression of scorn.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)


Bathed in bright sunshine, the vast meadow of
crystal plants was a bedazzling sight.
Their see-through leaves glittered in all
the colors of the rainbow, and when a gentle
wind rustled them, they made a pleasant sound
reminiscent of a wind chime.

A single brick road lead through this meadow
to a curious little town.


Houses in this place are all made from
bricks of various sizes, and blobs of many shapes,
giving the town the appearance of something
fashioned by a child out of stacking blocks and
modelling clay.

As for its residents, they also are quite bizarre,
with glass eyes and long bunny ears.

It is a world like from a fairy tale...
Or perhaps it really is an illusion brought alive.


“Are you together now?”

Who said that? You look around in confusion.
Was it an auditory hallucination?

“It's me.”

Ah, it's Pepropé's voice.

“Is Shay with you?”

Shay? No, you came here alone.


The name “Shay” sent the inhabitants of this
little town into a panic. They ran back to their
houses and the streets were soon empty.

Door after door, window after window
were slammed and bolted shut as you
passed by.

The townspeople fled from you as if only now
had they noticed your presence, despite
the fact that you've been strolling up and down
the streets for nearly an hour.


“They're coming! The wretched minions!”

Screams of grief and terror filled the town.
The sky instantly darkened as storm clouds
formed overhead. A powerful gust of wind
stirring up a billowing cloud of dust nearly
knocks you over.

What is going on?

A coven of broom-straddling witches appears,
followed by mechanical puppets. They came
swooping down on the town.


“Are ye all right?” Asked a knight.

“Shay?”

It was him, it was Dr. Aldour!

“Pepropé was right. Divin' into memories
causes information from one's surroundings
to overflow into the hippocampus during
the adjustment stage. This is the cause
of the temporary memory loss.“

“Remember your mission!”

Mission? What was it again?
What was it that you came to this world for?


“Are they abducting the towners?”

The witches flitted about, opening locked
doors and windows with ease, pulling out
the rabbit-eared folk from their homes and
flying off with them.

“We've got to help them!”

You couldn't just stand by and watch as
injustice was being done!


“What are they?”

A closer look at the defeated witches revealed
that they were not human. They were not even
creatures of blood and bone, but mechanical
contraptions, with cogwheels under a layer
of fabric and cotton stuffing.

“They're Morgana's minions. She's controlling
them!”


The rabbit-eared, glass-eyed residents of
this quaint town explained the situation.

Since as long as anyone remembers,
the evil sorceress Morgana who dwells
in the ruins to the West has been sending
her minions to abduct the towners.

“We have no means of fighting back. Even
when we try, the minions bind us with
their magic and we can't move hand nor foot!”


So that was why the rabbit-eared folk
put up no resistance when the witches
descended on them. Fighting back would
only hasten their demise...

“Look out, it's them again!”


“Getting close to our limits here!”

It seemed as if the battle would never end,
but then the minions suddenly froze motionless,
and after a while flew off westwards, their eyes
blank as if unseeing.

The air felt heavier for some reason.

“The magical barrier has been restored.”

It was Shay who broke the silence with this
unexpected announcement. You had no idea what
magical barrier he was talking about, though.


“This town is normally protected by a magical
barrier. It makes the town invisible to the minions.

Yer arrival was likely the cause of it becomin'
inactive.”

Ah. So the intrusion of inhabitants of other
worlds deactivates this protective barrier.

In other words, the reason Morgana noticed this
town in the first place and started sending her
servants to capture the rabbit-eared folk
was that in the past someone like you,
who did not belong here, appeared in this world.


“But who put this barrier here?”

Shay's question distracted you from the nagging
pangs of guilt over having caused such trouble
by arriving here.

“No offence, but I doubt it was ye who managed
to install this sophisticated firewall...I mean,
this magical barrier,” he said to the towners.

“It was the sorceress who lives in a castle to
the north of our town. The kind and powerful
lady Arionne!”

Arionne! The pieces are finally starting
to fall into place.


“We're going to be pooped by the time
we reach that castle!”

The fairytale landscape gave way to treacherous
mountain paths where one wrong step on
precariously balanced rocks could send you
tumbling down.

“So how much further is it?”

The rabbit-eared boy who was our guide put
a finger to his lips.

“What is it? You cannot tell us?”

He quickly shook his head as if to say
that wasn't it.


Come to think of it, before you left the town,
the locals warned you that Morgana was also
after Arionne. That's why Arionne set up
a whole array of traps on the way to her
castle...

How could you be so naive and think getting
to the castle would be like a walk in the park?

The only one you could curse was yourself.


“Arionne's really gone too far with these
traps, sheesh!”

Well, according to Shay, Morgana was a formidable
weapon, which would regenerate every time after
being defeated. And she wouldn't only return to
her previous form, no. She'd analyze the reason
for her defeat, find her weak points, and remove
them, getting ever stronger.

Knowing this, Arionne's precautions seemed
well-justified, but for us they were a major
nuisance.


“Welcome to my castle.”

We were greeted by Arionne, who looked to be
but a young teen. It was hard to believe that
she was the genius scientist who gave
creation to that deadly weapon.

“So you're the outsiders. I suppose you're aware
of the fact that your arrival temporarily disabled
my barrier and 38 people were taken because
of you?”


Pepropé explained that this world was merely
a figment of Arionne's imagination. A fantasy
nourished by her thoughts and memories.

Shay Aldour was a fan of medieval tales,
and so he became a knight. As for Arionne,
she had a fascination for sorcery.

It was good of Pepropé to clear that up, but
that didn't help you any.

You found the girl all right, inside her
fictional world. But she firmly believed this
was real. No matter how many times you told
her the truth, she was in denial.


As long as she did not wish to leave this
world, there was no way to get her out of it.

But what did she want then?

“Morgana is a great threat to this world.
As long as she exists, I must stay here.
However, I do not have the power to
destroy her on my own.

Not any more, at least.”


She talked of how in the past, certain
restrictions were to be placed on Morgana,
to make sure she never got out of control.
But she became self-aware and escaped,
after killing her makers.

“Huh, hold on a second! This isn't Arionne!
She wouldn't be here if she did remember
what really happened. This is Morgana!”

The sorceress Arionne shed her disguise,
and revealed herself as Morgana.


“Is she gone for good?”

Shay, still out of breath, shook his head.

“It was only a copy. She copied Arionne's
abilities.”

She was clearly using Arionne to lure us.
Which meant she was probably holding
the girl hostage.

Our next destination would be Morgana's
castle. We headed westwards.


to be continued...

Ch 3: The Western Sorceress Edit

 “Your life would be very empty
 if you had nothing to regret.”

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890)


You were assailed by a scorching hot gust
of wind, which brought with it a cloud of
dust and fine gravel, which bounced off your
skin, leaving tiny scratches.

The ground was parched. All plants were dead.
The sun continued to shine down relentlessly,
as if intent on burning this place down until
nothing was left.

It was very quiet; not a sound other than
the blowing wind. This place was a wasteland
devoid of life.


You set off to the Western Castle in the hope
of rescuing Arionne.

Morgana was gradually gaining more control
over this world, and hardly anything went
unnoticed by her. Soon she would have it all
in her grip, having rewritten Arionne's fantasies
into a thing entirely her own. You had to locate
the girl and free her, taking her back to the real
world, before that happened.

Since you couldn't hide from Morgana, there was
no point in trying a sneaky approach. But why
did the way to her castle have to lead through
these badlands?


“Will ye stop complainin' and get a move on?
Or we'll never get there.“

Shay was impatient to reach the castle. You
couldn't help wondering what his relationship
with Arionne was. Was she only a coworker?
Or was there something more between them?

Your head was filled with speculations,
even though you knew they were pointless
and you might never get to satisfy your curiosity.


“Watch out! They're coming!“

Pepropé's warning snapped you back to reality,
if you can call it reality, all things considered.

You had to focus and deal with the problems
at hand, as befitting a practiced warrior.


The everbearing stillness returned and
the wasteland was as peaceful as ever.

Even the dusty wind felt good, drying off
your sweat, cooling you down after the heated
battle, and making you feel...alive.

Shay kept his poker face as he spoke.

“Arionne is....a good colleague and a friend.
And also...my beloved.”


“Arionne is....a good colleague and a friend.
And also...my beloved.”

Shay and Arionne met at a research facility
and hit it off at once. There was a 6 year
age difference between them, but Arionne
was a very mature young lady.

“Two years since we started workin' together,
we were ordered to develop a new type of
autonomous weapon to use against Oxsecians.”


“The Oxsecian army presented a whole new
level of threat, and we needed a brand
new approach to stand a chance against them.”

Arionne and Shay put their heads together about
this and in the end Arionne came up with
a brilliant concept, which was named
Project Morgana.

“I was immensely impressed with her idea
and agreed to it at once. I helped her
flesh it out, suggested improvements,
but it was mainly her work.”


As they worked together on that project,
they became very close. Respect and
admiration were soon joined by the desire
to make the other yours and yours only,
and to be wanted with equal strength.

“Workplace romance is common as dirt,”
sighed Pepropé.

Shay wanted to protest that the relationship
was unique, that no one else could surely
have felt in exactly the same way, loved
each other as much as they did...

“Everyone thinks their case is special.
But don't you have something else to worry
about now, lad?”

Stop reading people's minds, Pepropé!


“Look, that must be it.”

Shay pointed with his chin at a tall rocky
outcrop. Even though this was an imaginary
world, the formation looked so authentic that
you could be led to believe that thousands
of years ago it was part of the bedrock
underneath an ocean, pushed up at a sharp
angle by tectonic shifts.

On top of it was a white structure with two
spires in the center. It resembled a hospital
or asylum more than a castle.

No doubt, this was the lair of the Western
Sorceress Morgana.


You were in Morgana's domain and she would
be aware of your presence, so you might
just as well come out in the open.

But perhaps there would be traps?
Maybe you'd better proceed with caution?

“Didn't Pepropé say we had to get Arionne
out of there as soon as possible? Let's go in
already.”

You could understand Shay's impatience, but
acting so rash might get you into trouble...
But before you could say anything, the castle
gate opened and Morgana's minions rushed out
at you!


“Frontal approach was a big mistake!”

The foes kept coming, and you began wondering
whether Morgana couldn't just produce these
minions indefinitely.

Did you even stand a chance against her?
The repeated onslaught was wearing
you down, even as you kept defeating
the oncoming attackers. Were you only
staving off the inevitable, as Morgana
was draining you of your energy bit by bit?


The waves of enemies were more like
a tsunami. You were reaching your limit,
even though you haven't made it inside
the castle yet.

Morgana detected that you logged into this
memory partition, and if you gave up and left
now, she would lock you out of it forever.

Turning back now would thwart your plan,
and it was the only plan you had.


The Western Sorceress's castle was like a maze.

You soon lost track of which way you came,
or rather, which way you ran, desperately
trying to avoid the pursuing minions. So many
twists and turns. You were all exhausted,
weary-eyed, your faces sunken.

Nobody said anything, but every one of you
felt the same: a growing sense of despair.


“Arionne! Arionne, can you hear me?
It's me, Shay! Where are ya!?”

Has the poor sod lost his mind? You tackle
him, pushing him down on the floor, covering
his mouth with your hand. Normally it would
be quite a challenge to bring down a burly
man like him, but the long string of battles
took its toll on him. He tripped and fell, much
like a puppet whose strings had been snipped,
pulling you down with him.


“Shay? Is it really you?”

A clear, noble voice resounded throughout
the castle, and Morgana's minions stopped
attacking.

What was the meaning of this? You stayed
motionless on the floor, waiting to see
how the situation would unfold.


It was so silent you could hear a pin drop.
Somehow, it felt suffocating, and the stench
of mold only made it worse. You had to hold
back from coughing.

“It's definitely Arionne,” breathed Shay.

But was it, really? It could just be another
copy, like the Northern Sorceress. How could
he be so sure? And if it was her that was
the ruler of this castle, why did we get attacked?


“I guess there's only one way to resolve this
impasse...”

As a shrill electronic noise made you cover
your ears, the space around you began to distort.
The floor vanished, and everything flipped
upside down. You felt weightless, and were
assaulted by nauseating dizziness.

You were no longer inside a castle, but
surrounded by light, floating down this
strange cybernetic space.

At the bottom awaited Morgana.


“Was that...a mock battle?” muttered Shay,
regaining his composure.

The battle did go much easier than you
expected, compared to the first time you fought.

“Autonomous weapons shall not fight among
themselves... That was a rule you programmed in.”

You were surprised to see the woman who claimed
to be Arionne appear before you.


About a hundred years earlier...

Arionne and Shay were members of a research
team working on new robotics technology.

They were assigned the task of developing a new
weapon to use against the Oxsecians.

They had to develop a new type of weapon to
protect the Animata from the Oxsecian army's
attacks. Their endeavors culminated in the
creation of Annihilator Morgana.


Morgana might have looked like just another
war machine, but what set her apart was her
unique programming.

The program was able to modify itself and
reassemble the mechanical body as needed.
Even if the machine itself was destroyed
in battle, the program would acquire the
necessary materials and rebuild it.

This AI was backed up in Animatas'
cyber-world, and in the case of Morgana's
annihilation, it would reactivate after a certain
amount of time.

That's right. Shay and Arionne constructed
the ultimate war machine, which would come
back no matter how many times it was destroyed.


But a hundred years ago, Morgana escaped
the control of her makers. They lost their
lives in the attempt to stop her, managing to
put her in sleep mode.

However, when Oxsecians struck again,
they triggered Morgana's self-repair
algorithm. She awoke and set about gaining
control of the Animata.

“We had foreseen that Morgana would awake
one day, and entrusted her memory data to
the Animata, having secured it so that she
would not be able to gain access.”


“And you won't be getting that data!”

You turned in surprise, to see the Northern
Sorceress, Morgana in the form of Arionne.

“Now, give it to me. So that I may finally
be complete!”

You gathered up the last of your strength,
steeling yourself for battle with Morgana.
You had to protect the Western Sorceress,
Arionne, from her!


In the real world, Pepropé had long been
trying to destroy Morgana, but every bit
of headway gained was undone when she'd
reappear, stronger than before.

He trawled through databases to find something
that would give him an advantage over her,
and learned of Shay and Arionne. With their
help, he could consign Morgana to oblivion.
That's why he uploaded us into this cyberspace.

However, Morgana was onto him. She saw through
the plan, and chased after us into this data
stream to erase Shay and Arionne once and for all.


“I divided my memories and hid them.
But when Morgana ventured into this world,
I decided to retrieve them, knowing that
my assistance would be needed,” explained Arionne.

Fragments of her memories were disguised as
the rabbit-eared folk. That's why she was sending
out her minions to fetch them from the town!

“Now, Shay, it's my turn to help you regain
your memories.”


to be continued…

Ch 4: The Executioner Edit

“Every saint has a past,
 and every sinner has a future.”

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900)


Under the magnificent tree lay a corpse.
It was a girl, and judging from her clothes,
she was very young. Laying face-down
in a pool of blood, a deep wound
in her back. Her heart was pierced with
a single stab.

She must have died on the spot.


“Caught you red-handed!”

The city watch appeared. With a bloodied
sword in hand and specks of blood all
over your clothes, it was little surprise
you got mistaken for the killer.
But how to explain to the city watch
that they got the wrong idea, that
you had nothing to do with this?

“Well, this makes our work easier. If they
put up a fight, don't bother capturing
them alive. Just kill this scum!”

It was either kill or be killed.


“Throw away your weapons!”

The reinforcements arrived. You were
greatly outnumbered. It would be pointless
to continue putting up resistance.
No choice but to let them capture you.

“What a bloody nuisance you turned out to be!”

They pushed you down onto your knees and
a gauntlet-wearing guard punches you
in the face, knocking you out.

As everything became blurred before
fading away, you heard a voice.

“Morgana is interfering...”


Was it just your imagination?
No, it wasn't. You remember that voice.
It's Pepropé.

“She's trying to stop us from reaching
the right point on the axis of time.”

“Aldour, you fool. Don't think the likes of you
can protect Arionne.”

Your memories are hazy, but you put a face
to that voice. It's Al Bhainne.

“A forced reboot is too risky. Curse it,
what should I do...”

“Leave it to me!” you heard a man shout.
Was it... Was it him?


A giant oak stood majestically on the outskirts
of town.

The girth of its trunk indicated it was four
hundred years old, yet it was clad in lush green
leaves.

There was no better rendezvous spot around.

Sure enough, Shay was there.

“Don't leave without paying for your drinks, Shay.
You got us into a tight corner there, you rascal!”

But he didn't even turn towards you. He stared
at the ground, transfixed.


You followed his gaze. It took you a few moments
to process what you were seeing. A corpse.

It was a girl, and judging from her clothes,
she was very young. She lay face-down
in a pool of blood, a deep wound
in her back. Her heart was pierced in
a single stab.

She must have died on the spot.


“Who killed her? Who killed Arionne?”

There was no reply.

“Shay, what happened here?”

He finally turned around, as if only noticing
you now.

“Who killed her? It was you, Shay.
You let her die, time and again.
Just like when you fought Morgana!”


The knight in ebony-black armor turned
slowly. He could be Shay's identical twin.
But his expression was that of hatred
and hostility.

“It will always end like this. You can't
protect her, regardless of what you do.”

Before you knew it, you were surrounded
by soldiers ready to attack you.

“Hmph. Fine, I will cross swords with you.
You may keep trying, but nothing will ever
change.”


Your foes suddenly froze, alerted by something.

“It's the city watch! Very well, leave this
to them. Retreat at once!”

As Al Bhainne gave the order, his underlings
put away their weapons and just as they had
appeared, they instantaneously disappeared
without a trace, leaving just you and your
friends at the scene of the crime.

You realized you were standing over the dead
body, holding a bloodied sword in your hand...


“Looks like I'll have to log in as well.”

The calm, beautiful voice belonged to Arionne.

“No, it's too dangerous, and it's not part
of the plan!” protested Pepropé.

But she paid him no heed. After all, the plan
would fail anyway if Shay's memories couldn't
be restored. She would join in and help to defeat
Al Bhainne, the gatekeeper standing in the way
from accessing this world's Arionne, who was but
a protocol to the memory fragments they needed.

“I think you've realized it already, Shay.
That Al Bhainne is none other than you!”


A knight in the service of Earl Diacroix.
That's who Shay Aldour was in this world.

Knowing Morgana would come after her
memory data, Arionne split it into fragments,
to make it more difficult to locate.

Shay, who loved medieval fantasy stories,
found himself faced by quests he himself
devised to slow down anyone trying to piece
together the hidden memories, with a powerful
enemy, a boss you might call it, that had to be
defeated in order to proceed.


“Al Bhainne was created from feelings of
guilt and regret: giving life to the monster
Morgana and not being able to save me
when we fought her.”

Even now, a hundred years later, Shay was
unable to shake off the crushing feeling of
guilt and self-condemnation. That's why
he needed your help, and you were ready
to offer it. Even if this Al Bhainne were to
prove as powerful as Morgana herself.


But to get to the decisive battle with Al Bhainne,
the girl had to be saved in the story.

There are boss fights you just cannot win;
that is the way they are scripted.

At least until you trigger a certain flag.

Shay, you never imagined what a pain in
the backside this idea of yours would turn out
to be, did you...


Shay had been sent to meet the earl's niece,
returning from studying abroad, and escort
her back home.

He didn't know what she looked like, though.

The dead girl under the giant oak tree
looked strangely familiar, but you couldn't
remember who she was...because that
was part of the story's setting.

As if things couldn't be easy for you for once.


“Only Godot knows what Arionne looks like.
I've been waitin' and waitin', but this
lad Godot hasn't shown up.”

Even if he went straight to the oak tree without
wasting time waiting for Godot, he would find
the girl dead. That's because the right flag
hadn't been triggered in the story.

Meeting with Godot was a prerequisite for
getting to see the girl alive.

But where was Godot? Did he really exist?
Did the gamemaster forget to place this
NPC on the town map?


A very drunk Stonefolk man shouted over.

“Did I hear the name Godot? You chums of his!?
That swine owes me money! When's he going
to pay up, huh!?”

A flushed Lizardfolk man joined in with his
complaints.

Darn. We're on the path to the bad ending again,
aren't we?


Other customers were quick to join the fight,
which turned into a disorderly brawl.

You elbowed your way out of the tavern.
Outside, a young shepherd with a lamb
was waiting. He spoke to you.

“Mister Godot said he's not coming today!”

...It's just like before, it will be the bad
ending all over again!


“How the hell do we break out of this loop!?”
Pepropé shouted in frustration.

And what were you supposed to say? You had
to do all the fighting, getting a whacking
from the city watch as it was part of the script
you were stuck in.

“If Godot ever shows his face here, tell him
I've headed out of the city, will ye?”

You tried to hold him back, but he shook you
off and walked out, as if he were an NPC
doing only what he was programmed to.


A very drunk Stonefolk man shouted over.

“Did I hear the name Godot? You chums of his!?
That swine--”

“He owes you money, right? When's he going
to pay up, that wretch!”

You took the words out of his mouth and turned
to another customer who was about to curse
Godot for tricking him.

“He came to you with a sob story about needing
money for his daughter's wedding dress, but
it was just a lie, wasn't it?”

And for good measure, you told the bartender
you had no intention of paying for your drinks
this time.


Oh for the love of... Not again! You did things
differently this time, yet the story progressed
in the same way. Gamemaster, how about
some variety, huh!? What sloppy design.

“Mister Godot said he's not coming today!”

It was the twentieth time you heard that.
But this time Arionne, who kept quiet until
then, spoke to the boy.

“Take us to Mister Godot, then.”

What!? You never knew you had that
dialog option...


The little shepherd shook his head and replied
that it would be impossible, as Godot had
already left the town.

Does he actually exist? You were becoming
increasingly doubtful. It was getting ridiculous,
but the quest was designed in a certain way
and as players, you could do nothing about it.

Having said that, there must be a way to
complete this quest. If there isn't, then
it's just a wall, an insurmountable obstacle
preventing you from ever making progress.


That's when you had a eureka moment.

If Godot doesn't exist, it is impossible
to save the girl. Her identity remains unknown
and she ends up getting killed by Al Bhainne.

Assuming Godot doesn't exist, the whole
scenario written by the gamemaster
is pointless. Waiting for Godot is meaningless.

Then playing the bar scene over and over
again was completely unnecessary.


“The solution is so simple!” exclaimed Arionne
and Pepropé.

You were a little lost, though, and asked them
to explain what they had in mind.

“There is no gamemaster in this world.
There's no one to stop us from doing Godot's
job! Hello, I am Arionne! Here I am!”

At that instant, the bar customers transformed...
Into Al Bhainne and his underlings!


Al Bhainne bellowed a terrifying roar of agony
and vanished without a trace.

Since there was no Godot, the girl under
the oak would inevitably die. But if she
showed up safe and sound here, the loop
would be broken and the story would have
to end differently.

The real Arionne's appearance in this world,
interacting with the quest NPCs, was the key
to completing the quest successfully.


“Come, Shay. Let's go. Now that we've retrieved
all of our memories, we have work to do.”

“This nightmare has gone on long enough.
Let's put an end to it, together.”

Their long journey through the cyberspace was
over. Now it was time to finally stop the war
machine Annihilator Morgana once and for all.


to be continued…

Ch 5: Murderous Angel Morgana Edit

The war machine before you was an amalgamation
of all sorts of weaponry, combining technologies
used in Animata, and even in Oxsecian machines.

It was unlike anything you've seen before,
grotesque, intimidating, yet magnificent.
A manifestation of pure evil, a mechanical
angel of death.


Was that it? Was she gone for good?
The answer was no.

You managed to defeat her, but it was only
a matter of time before she returned.
You were well-aware of that.

After all, that's how Shay and Arionne
designed her.

Even now that they had regained all their
memories, they did not have it in their power
to completely destroy their creation.


Was that it? Was she gone for good?

Morgana was in pieces, all her functions ceased.
The shrill scream she emitted as she was being
destroyed still rang in your ears.

“It's alright now. I've taken care of everything,”
Arionne reassured you.

Shay delicately embraced her. Their plan seemed
to have worked.


The idea they had was quite simple.

They set Morgana upon herself.

She was like a computer virus that was able
to evolve. Over the past hundred years she
had grown far stronger than the original.
Shay and Arionne simply copied her.
The copied AI, modified so that it could be
controlled, assessed the other Morgana and
concluded that the world only needed one of them.

It destroyed the other.


“Now it feels both as if we're back from a long
journey with danger at every turn, and as if
it had been all over in the blink of an eye,”
said Shay.

What an irony that they were now back in
the real world owing to the Oxsecian cloning
technology.

Shay and Arionne were guilty of having
created a deadly weapon of mass destruction.

They swore to never repeat that mistake again.


We can only imagine how much their guilty
conscience tormented them.

But Morgana, that great threat to the world,
had been erased, for good.

Past mistakes cannot be undone, but their
consequences can be dealt with. Shay and
Arionne took responsibility and set
things right.

A new chapter in their life was about to begin.
Hopefully, their story from now on would
be a happy one.


 “Courage is
 grace under pressure.”

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961)


FIN