DISCLAIMER: This story is NOT MINE IN ANY WAY. That honor has gone to the beautiful bastard Ryuugi. This has been pulled from his Spacebattles publishment at threads/rwby-the-gamer-the-games-we-play-disk-five.341621/. Anyway on with the show...err read.
I came back to myself in a rush, blinking my eyes closed for a moment before opening them once more. I left myself rock slightly backwards as I did, shifting on the balls of my imagined feet, but it was more because I felt I should than anything. It was a lot to take in—should be a lot to take in, something hard to swallow, to grasp, to comprehend.
But instead, I simply took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and then nodded.
"So it's like that," I said, even as I sorted the pieces out in my head. Before, I'd remembered nothing but the absolute basics, everything else having been scoured away by Death. I hadn't even remembered the way I'd died or how or even why; the only things that had been left behind were things that were at once indiscernibly intrinsic and priceless, such as my name, or varied scattered images that were hard to make sense of without context. I'd remember a few quiet hours one afternoon without anything before or after it, part of a speech or conversation, bits of work. There were other important memories mixed into it, but they were parts of an otherwise missing picture and the blanks became harder to fill in the long things went on. When it came to conversations with my siblings especially, things tended to grow oblique as things were rooted in interactions I couldn't recall and conversations I didn't remember. It was enough, over all, for me to paint a rough picture, but relatively little more. Given what I knew of the context and what had resulted, I sorted the pieces out as best I could.
This was different. I still hadn't gotten everything, but I'd gotten enough—gotten most of what I'd considered important. It was a steady chain of memories, along with everything tied or connected to it. Not every single day of a thousand year lifetime, but most of the important days, the major events and turning points and whatever else I'd deemed important. I could remember that, in fact; myself creating this computer as a living, organic thing, something as much temporal as it was physical. It was less a storage place and more of a backup drive that had sorted through my lifetime and drawn out whatever had fit certain criteria, analyzing them for surrounding bits and facts that helped make them understandable. If there was any computer her, it was me, with this place being an external hard drive of sorts that I remembered linking myself to.
If I wanted, I could do so again now, letting it store my memories as well. It would remain connected to me, even once I left this place, because it wasn't something that just existed within the confines of its physical mass—I remembered leaving it behind as one of my backup plans before going to fight Malkuth for the last time, but I remembered our final battle, too.
Should I risk it, though? In a way, this wasn't just my backup—it was Malkuth's, as well. So long as it remained, he could have another chance; he could still, at least theoretically, afford to kill me and wait for my next life in the hopes I'd be less careful then, more malleable. Looking back on things now, I was even more aware of the risks involved, the measures that I'd been forced to take. The time it had taken for my Semblance to awaken had been intentional, both to give myself more time to grow attached to Humanity and live a 'normal' life, as well as to help avoid Malkuth's attention until I was prepared to deal with it properly. If I'd come into my power too early, if I'd had a worse childhood, if he found me…everything could be ruined before it even began. Many things had carried over across lives, but I was still different, had been made different through the loss of my memories and the people I'd been attached to. Should I die again and be wiped clean, I'd be different again and even I couldn't say for sure how, and that was only the beginning of the risks I might face. I was pretty sure Malkuth didn't want to risk having another round any more than I did, but the possibility remained.
Of course, the risk remained no matter what. I'd been wrong in a number of my assumptions, believing some things had been deliberately planned where they'd truly been forced, that somethings had been goals when they'd merely been results. This had been personal for me since the day my father died, but it had been personal for us for far, far longer, and I couldn't be certain of anything. I didn't want to believe I might fail, that I'd pass on what was now my responsibility to someone else and possibly go through the same things, but neither had Keter. In the end, it might still happen and getting rid of our backup plan wouldn't change that, merely raise the stakes.
And frankly, the stakes were fairly high as it was. I wasn't particularly surprised to learn that the fate of the human race hung in the balance, but having it confirmed was a bit troubling. To say nothing of the parts my other erstwhile siblings might play in all this, if they'd been reborn yet. If they had, it was likely that someone had noticed, seeing as out natural power rendered us effectively immortal; assuming nothing had killed them before they truly came into their power, they might still be around. I'd always known that, of course, but with what I'd seen…some of them had been on my side and some had chosen to side with Malkuth.
Five-on-five, I'd managed something resembling a draw. But if none of them remembered anything either, if Malkuth was keeping an eye out for them as he was for me and had gotten to them…well, I was pretty sure I wouldn't like a nine-on-one fight. At least, not when the odds were against me. Worse, thinking things through I already had a few worrying suspicions.
Of course, things were hardly the same as they'd been before—I was hardly the same, especially now. Remembering what had happened, remembering the progression of events and the battles…it had done more than just explain things and fill in the blanks. It had come with knowledge, with an understanding of what I was doing as I fought and worked. Again, it wasn't complete, but I'd known what I might be facing and hadn't been foolish enough to send myself in blind. I didn't recall every experiment, couldn't remember all the researched and attempts and failures, but I could see a fair bit of the results, especially for the things I'd put to practical uses. But for some things, that was enough.
You have received the title, 'Crown of Heaven.'
You've obtained the skill 'Metatron's Cube.'
You've obtained the skill 'Tzimtzum.'
There were others, although some things showed for their absences. In those cases, I'd need to work through some of the blanks and put things together. I'd had no way of knowing how my Semblance might manifest upon my rebirth, so there hadn't been any way to determine precisely what needed to be recorded. In many cases, where my power had simply given me the skill, I had an easier time picking things up than my prior self would have. Where it hadn't, where there'd been a focus on concept, idea, and theory, I'd have more difficulty as I was forced to figure out what was wrong, what was missing, and what I'd need to learn and do; I couldn't simply assume the role I needed to take it for myself.
But even then, at least I had some idea of where to start and what results I was aiming for; it was simply a matter of figuring out the other side of the equation, instead of taking shots in the dark to see what would stick. Better yet, I'd managed to pass on a number of my important tricks, even if they'd proven ineffective on Malkuth himself and I was dubious about how well they'd work on his most powerful minions. Metatron's Cube was all well and good, but it was probably too much to hope for that the same trick would work on him twice…and it hadn't really worked the first time, at least not the way I'd wanted it to. He'd still retained a connection to and control over the Grimm and had destroyed most of the world. Tzimtzum was better, but not much so. The offensive skill I'd created to contract time, space, gravity, and more, built to crush parts of reality and leave only an absence behind hadn't even knocked the breath out of Malkuth and he'd had a long, long time to figure out further countermeasures. It might make a good weapon against the Grimm, but it wouldn't surprise me if several had ways to block it by now. With Metatron, I might be able to reshape them into greater things, but even then…
No. Those were useful, but the real prize was what I'd come here for in the first place. What mattered most was the knowledge; I'd had ideas and theories about possible ways to defeat Malkuth that either hadn't shown results in the time I had or which had simply ran into walls—and it was those things that I'd been after, not my failed attempts. I'd needed something to at least reduce an impossible battle to one I might be able to win, to make it something that was merely liable to get me killed instead of guaranteed.
Did I have that now? Maybe. It'd take time to sort through the results, compare notes, and see what I could find. The surrounding well of information I now had to draw on would help clarify things and put them in place, as my knowledge of Partzufim helped shape my understanding of the composition of 'souls' and Gilgul shaped my knowledge of their cycle.
It was a place to start, at least. Something small but indescribably important.
Taking another slow and pointless breath, I lifted my eyes to look at my copied self.
"You have what you need now," My recorded self said, looking at me. "You understand."
I nodded once.
"Yeah," I said. "I think I get it."
Then I hesitated for a moment before continuing, pursing my lips slightly.
"Malkuth was wrong and he was right," I told him. "I'm still me and I'm not me. Knowing what I do now, remembering our time together…I know him better. I understand him. A part of me even cares about him and who he once was. But here and now, he's a monster. He's hurt countless people for longer than even I can really imagine. Someone has to stop him and it looks like it has to be me."
My duplicate looked a bit sad at that—but not surprised.
"It's been a long time," He said. "At this point, death might be a mercy."
I didn't nod. He might have been right, but I tried not to dress things up more than they needed to be.
"If you don't mind me asking, what do you intend to do now?" He asked.
"Leave," I said. "I'll back you up again, add this iteration of myself to the system. It's not bad for you in here, is it?"
"No," He replied. "I can't fully exist without you here; I'm not conscious of anything that occurs in your absence. For me, it's not no time at all will have passed, if and when you return."
"Do you ever wish that wasn't the case?" I wondered, musing to myself.
He paused for a moment, seeming surprised and then considering.
"I don't know," He mused to himself. "I exist so briefly, I've never really thought about it. I don't feel lonely or without purpose, if that's what you're asking; when I do exist, I remember your past as if it were my own."
"It is," I said. "For all intents and purposes."
"Perhaps," He allowed. "But do I wish for more? I don't know. I'm not sure it's possible, considering what I am…but I suppose I'm not against it, if that's what you're asking. Do you need me for something?"
"Maybe," I replied. "Just an idea I'll be looking into. If anything should come from it…"
I shrugged and he nodded.
"And after you leave here?" He asked, drawing things back to the original topic of conversation.
"I'll keep moving forward," I told him. "There's some people waiting for me and they're probably worried, so I'll check on all of them first. At least for the moment, Malkuth and I are at something of a stalemate."
"It won't last," He stated.
"No," I agreed. "So I better make sure that when it all falls apart, I'm ready for the aftermath. I've got a lot to do on that front, though; some people I've got to keep an eye on, friends and enemies, options to explore. There's still a long way to go before anything is resolved. And then there's my siblings, if any of them are around. I'm not sure whether to be hopeful or filled with dread by that idea."
"I suppose it depends on whose side they're on," My recorded self replied. "And what they're doing. Life and death are funny things, aren't they? There's no telling how much difference a single one might make."
I nodded quietly at that, looking down at myself. My death and rebirth had resulted in a number of changes, both planned and not. Many things, I'd prepared for before going into battle, well aware of the possibility of death and what might happen if I failed. But others…there were things I'd had no way of knowing or planning, such as the nature of my Semblance, in so many ways ideal for the fight I now had to prepare myself for. I'd thought to myself a number of times that it was too perfect to be anything but intentional, but it hadn't been a conscious decision. The only explanation I'd been able to come up with was that it was that my soul had been responding to my situation and preparing for it.
How far did that go, though? Probably further in my case than in most, given my nature as Keter, but I still had no real way of knowing how souls existed, above it all. When I used skills like Ohr Ein Sof and rose to those levels, I wasn't conscious, as such—at least, not in a recognizable, human way. Was it possible that I'd done other things intentionally, helping myself before I even knew to? I wasn't sure. I wasn't even sure of any way to be sure. But it made me wonder about something I'd once told Malkuth, about us being together after death, and if there had been any truth to it.
None I could remember, sadly. But perhaps. And if so, I wasn't sure if that would make the probability of other Archangels being around more or less likely.
Either way, it was another thing to keep an eye out for. I had suspicions, but none I could safely confirm—but hey, that was my life, pretty much. I'd manage somehow, or else die.
"Malkuth—" I began before stopping myself again, pausing to decide on precisely what I wanted to say. My copy watched me for a moment, waiting patiently as I did. "I still remember the past, even if it doesn't change the present. I may be the only one who remembers anymore, how things used to be and could have been. If they're alive, none of the others are likely to remember exactly what happened and even Malkuth might not recall it any more, having lost so much. So…I'll do my best not to forget it."
"That's good to hear," He said. "I think I understand now, what he meant—about how sad it be, living as the only one who remembers what was lost. I'm glad that's not what I am to be, even if I spend most of my time dormant."
I chucked quietly at that and nodded before sighing.
"It looks like I won't be able to fix things this time either," I said, letting my tone grow serious. "Or grant my own wish, to be a better brother. But…if I defeat Malkuth, if I kill him and am still alive when he's reborn, or if we die and are reborn together…I'll try then. I'm not the type to hold grudges longer then they deserve to be held and everything that's between us now, I'll try to end with this life. After that, we'll start over and hopefully I'll do a better job."
"It's risky," He warned, but his smile undercut it. "There's always the chance that history could repeat itself. Just as you retained part of who you are, it's not impossible that something could persist in him."
"I'll manage," I told him with a shrug. "If nothing else, I should have a while to prepare for his arrival, right? I'll figure something out and deal with the risks. I don't really like it when stories don't have a happy ending. And it's such a long one, it'd almost be a waste. Do you think I can do it?"
My reflected self paused for a moment and seemed to consider.
"I believe that the human spirit is indomitable," He said at last. "That if you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate and sometimes it may be something you will not achieve within your own lifetime. But the effort you put forth into something transcends yourself, so there is no futility even in death."
I thought back to my previous life, to my brothers and sisters who fought and died for what they believed in and to myself. I was willing to trap myself forever to achieve my goals, willing to go far past death if that was what it took, even if it was just death I found in the end.
But here I was now, at it again. Still fighting. Was that a single will carried over or two wills united towards one cause? I wasn't sure. Maybe both. But either way…
"Then like I said," I replied, closing my eyes and smiling slightly. "I'll manage somehow."
He nodded, looking at ease now.
"Goodbye," He said as he began to fade. "And don't worry. However long it takes, I'll believe in your success."
The living illusion faded and I blinked eyes open, abruptly back in my position on the platform. The moment I was back to myself, I began to gather power, waiting to give a nasty surprise to any nasty surprises.
But when nothing happened, I stood.
"Was that it?" Raven asked, seeming a touch surprised. Given the nature of the 'computer', she hadn't experienced the amount of subjective time I had, to say nothing of the vast deluge of memories I'd received. She'd probably just seen me kneel, pause, and then stand up again.
The way other people viewed the world could get kind of weird, honestly.
"It was pretty user-friendly," I replied, smiling at her as I stepped off the platform.
"Did you get what you needed?" She asked as I drew closer.
"Mm," I said. "Yeah. I think I did."
She looked around, scanning the perimeter in expectation of a surprise attack—but at this point, I was fairly convinced that we weren't missing anything. Death simply wasn't here. Which had a whole bunch of worrying implications, but they could wait until later. Here and now, at least, we'd won.
"A bit anticlimactic, after everything it took to get here," She mused. "I suppose it's time to go then?"
"Don't sound so disappointed," I replied, bumping her shoulder lightly with my own. "We survived Jericho Falls. Jericho Falls did not survive us. It's a good day. We should go celebrate."
Her lips quirked upwards at that before she shrugged a shoulder lightly.
"I suppose," She said. "We should make sure the kids haven't done anything while worrying about us as well."
I imagined Autumn growing to consume a building. She tended to spread and build fortifications around herself when she was nervous, after all.
"Probably a good idea," I agreed.
"And then?" She asked, giving me a moment's pause.
Thinking back, it had all started with a rejection letter from Signal. And now, here I was, looking forward to the future, towards the place that everything had been leading for so long. All the pieces were coming together, the plans and schemes coming to ahead. More would follow now, considering the cold war Malkuth and I had started, but…
I guess this settles it, I thought.
I was finally going to Beacon.
The End of Book One
The Games We Play
Pulled from: threads/rwby-the-gamer-the-games-we-play-disk-five.341621/
Next Book coming soon?
The Lies We Tell