Summary: Kenshin didn't notice the little changes. But how could he?
Set, well, during the manga, but before Kenshin meets Prince.
Rated mostly due to swearing, but some of the fights rate fairly highly too.
Kenshin's PoV. Er, extreme third-person limited again.
I always have a problem with the genre. Not angst, because Kenshin just... doesn't, really, you know? Depressing, especially for the first part. Mind-bendy?
I had to raise Kenshin's comprehension again. ^ ^
I'm mixing up a couple of things said in canon, and what Kenshin knows.
Hope all the 'He's aren't too confusing. If parts do get confusing, tell me please.
I'm drawing quite a few things from World of Warcraft so ask away if there's a term or something happens that doesn't make sense.
By Dark Ice Dragon
He wandered the cavern. Waiting. Waiting for something. Something was supposed to happen. He did not know what, but he knew that there was something that he had to do.
But no matter where he went, the feeling of Waiting never stopped. Still, he continued moving, continued searching for the off-chance that he would find what he was Waiting for in that next step. Or the step after that. Or the step after that...
He did not know how he found himself there - he just was.
The area in front of the cave mouth was no different from the cavern, only being more open, a slight breeze wafting past him. There was still the feeling of Waiting, but now he had to Stay. Stay where he was, to not wander far. There was no reason for it, but he did it.
Why should he not?
He continued to Wait.
He watched as the sky turned to reds and golds, before it darkened to a deep black, dotted by stars. Then it would light up again, staining pink before fading into a light blue. It happened many times, but nothing changed, no matter how long he Stayed.
He continued to Wait.
Black. Black hair. Straight long black hair that reached the small of her back.
Someone he knew. A childhood friend.
But where was she?
She was... not here. Should he not try to find her? He began to walk away from the cave. Where would he start -
Stay. Stay where you are.
He halted, conflicting impulses warring against one another. She was waiting too - he had to find her.
Why was he standing so far from the entrance? He had to Wait there. There no reason for him to wander away. He walked back to the cave.
More days passed. More times where there were gaps in his memory, where he found himself where he was not supposed to be.
But why was he not supposed to be there? Why was he Waiting?
A noise reached his ears, sudden and instantly noticeable in the quiet that he was used to. It had not come from him. He looked towards the sound. Was this what he was Waiting for?
What rounded the corner was... a human, something told him. A human dressed in blues with short blonde hair and a staff that looked more like a scythe. As soon as the human saw him, she pointed the staff at him, a smirk on her face.
"I'll be taking your documents now." Her voice rang clear in the silence, echoing slightly.
Unbidden, one hand defensively covered the pocket where he kept the precious papers; with his other, he reached for his bow.
The human narrowed her eyes and began chanting something under her breath. He could feel the air change, getting colder slightly, and did not hesitate to loose an arrow at the human. The arrow was knocked away by the staff, and the human's smirk widened.
"You're pretty low level, aren't you? This quest'll be a breeze!"
Low level? Quest?
He jumped out of the way of the blocks of ice that flew at him and fired again. Another miss.
The human began chanting again, her gestures wilder than before. More ice the size of his head formed out of the air and shot towards him. He evaded most, but the last one clipped him on the shoulder. He tested how well he could move it, rolling it slowly, keeping an eye on the human, in case she started casting again. His manoeuvrability was affected, but he would still be able to use his bow.
He notched another arrow, aimed carefully, and fired.
"Ahahaha!" the human laughed, tipping her head back. "You can't aim worth - oof!"
His legs were still working, and his left arm had enough strength to leave the human gasping.
At this distance, there was no chance of missing.
After the arrow sliced through the human, he blinked when the human exploded into a ball of light. As soon it formed, the ball shot off towards the sky, leaving him to see an afterimage of its trail in his vision.
He returned to where he had been standing before. His eyes flicked to his shoulder, but the cloth was no longer sprinkled with water or blood.
She had blue eyes. Blue eyes that shone with the sun, that seemed to sparkle when she laughed. She loved going for long walks outside and reading. Her house was filled with books; there was always an open novel somewhere whenever he had visited. There was also a constant presence of flowers, either picked from her travels or bought from the local store, their vibrant colours brightening up a sun-warmed room.
But who was she?
"Assassin! I call you out!" It was another human yelling. He thought the shouting was pointless as they were only standing a few feet from each other, but the human did not seem to care. "You'll pay for your misdeeds against the village!"
It did not matter. He unsheathed his daggers, the human pulling his own sword free at the same time. They eyed each other, waiting to see if the other would make the first move. When he did no such thing, the human charged forward, his sword raised high above his head as he gave a loud battle cry.
Dodging the strike was easy - he did not expect the human to lash out with his left arm, catching him squarely in the stomach. He stumbled back a few steps and almost did not parry the thrust aimed at his head. As it was, the blade still slipped through his guard and nicked his cheek.
A flick of his wrist, an upward sweep of his arm, and the human turned into a ball of light.
His face felt strange every time he blinked afterwards, but he dismissed it as something that would fade in time.
Red. That was the largest feature in what he could see of his reflection. But that was not right. It was not supposed to be red; it was supposed to be -
How did he know it was meant to be different?
He continued to stare at his reflection, but it gave him no answers.
"We know you're there, Dark Mage!"
Two humans this time, dressed in identical feathery green clothing. The woman held a red bow that had markings that glowed with a purple light, while the man wore a pair of daggers at his belt.
He did not wait for them to take the initiative; he instantly began chanting and as soon as the spell was ready, he let it loose.
The man paled and dove out of the way, while the woman stood her ground and fired an arrow at him.
An instant-cast spell took care of the projectile, but while he was distracted, the male human had closed the distance between them and started attacking with quick jabs that he was just able to block with his staff. Even if they connected, they would only leave shallow c-
He ducked, feeling his hair ruffle as the arrow shot by.
Taking advantage of the change in his balance, the man rammed a fist into his throat, the space too close that the human had miscalculated; by the time the dagger flashed by, his neck was already out of the way from the force of the punch.
Eyes narrowing, he quickly cast a few more low level spells to make and maintain some space. The next arrow flew wide, too high to be a danger so he continued to focus on the man. As he drew breath for another spell, something sharp struck his cheek and his head was covered by a brief rain of gravel. A quick glance upwards showed the arrow buried deep in the wall above him.
Enough. He had been too defensive so far, and the spells were not adequate. He pivoted and ran towards the woman. He blocked every arrow she sent his way and as soon as he was within reach, he swung his staff with one hand. The staff and bow clanged against each other, but he quickly withdrew and attacked where she had left herself open. She hastily spun her bow to defend there but the head of his staff caught her just below the ribs. She bent double as she was hit and he twisted out of the way of the oncoming daggers at his back.
Who hit the woman instead.
"Amazon!" the man screamed, dropping down on to his knees next to the woman. He cradled her head in his arms as her blood started to soak through his clothes.
While they were distracted, he began to cast a higher level spell. The pair still did not move when the spell tore towards them.
There was a small crater left in the aftermath.
He lay gasping, propped up against the wall - that was the only thing keeping him upright. He took a shivering breath, his whole body shaking.
He had lost to Satan and now he was caged here. It was his - he should not have accepted the challenge. Now, he did not know if he would ever see her again.
The entire fight had been a blur, shaky details that made no sense.
He should not have left her behind; he should not have left the village.
Now, all he could do was wait, trapped here, changed forever.
"Demon Lord! Ha!" The human gritted his teeth as their blades crashed against each other with a high-pitched screech.
He allowed the human to force him back a step before changing the angle of his sword and sidestepping, watching the human lose his balance as the resistance he was pushing against suddenly disappeared. The human was able to block his next attack in time, but the man's sword was ripped from his hands from the blow, leaving him wide open.
It only took one slash to ensure that he was left alone again.
He sheathed his sword and resumed wandering the cave.
He knew this path, had walked it many times, he was sure of it. But he did not seem to be able to deviate from where he went. His lips pulled down slightly at the sides, his eyebrows drawing together at the same time. Why did he follow the same route over and over?
A skitter of pebbles on his left.
"Shit!" someone hissed. "That must be him!"
He whirled around, sword already drawn. A pair of humans again. The man was wielding a yellow staff, the woman, a red and black mace, its head two times the span of his hand.
"The hell?" the man said, looking down. "We can't have entered his aggro radius."
... His what?
The woman tightened her grip on her mace. "Guess he's a caster."
A snort. "And that sword's just for decoration."
What they said did not matter. He dashed forward, aiming for the human closest to him, the woman.
The woman swung at him as he neared, but he jumped over her, turning as soon as he touched the ground and slashed. The blade bit deep into her shoulder and she cried out.
"White Tiger! Rapid Healing!"
A green light settled around the woman, and when it faded, the blood on her clothes was gone.
He turned his head to look at the man. He could beat the woman easily, but the man would make it harder.
The man's eyes widened and he took a shaky step back.
"Hey, yer opponent is me!"
He snapped his attention back to the woman and leaned back. The mace whistled past and smashed into the wall next to them. She yanked it out, pulling more of the wall with it.
While she did that, he ran at the man.
"Fuck fuck," the man chanted as he backpedalled. "Aggro. Aggro!"
He was able to hit the man's thighs, and had cut the man open from wrist to elbow by the time he had to jump out the way of the woman's mace.
"Ya all right?" the woman asked as she planted herself between him and the man.
It would not be difficult to get around her. He dashed forward and jumped, swinging down - his sword bounced off the mace's head.
"Ha," the woman huffed as the man ducked behind her again, glowing green. "See? NPCs always use the same moves - it's what they're programmed to do. That's why they're so much easier to fight than other players." A pause. "Usually."
... An NPC? He was not programmed. He was the same as them.
The woman hefted her mace up, higher than she had at the start of the fight.
She was expecting him to attack in the same way, even after discussing it right in front of him. Did she think that he was incapable of learning? Or listening?
He darted towards the pair and crouched low, still running. When the woman raised her mace above her head, he continued running, cutting her cleanly across the torso. Another step, and he reached the man; one more, and he slashed right through him.
When they disappeared, he stayed there, sword still in hand as he stared at where they had been, turning over what they had said in his mind.
He was not different from them. He did not understand everything they said, but that did not make him... That did not make him an 'NPC'. Satisfied with that, he sheathed his sword and took the right turn, instead of the left turn he normally took.
The path was fairly narrow, with a steep drop on the right-hand side, but it would not be difficult to cross over. The cave went far deeper than he thought it would - it had been several days since he had began exploring and he was still finding new areas that he had not been in before.
He came to a halt as he reached the corner. Another dead end.
Next time, he would try the second left.
Slowly, day by day, he was able to build an internal map of the cave. There was still one area that he had not been in yet and as he walked through it, it seemed to reach back much further than the others.
He paused when the craggy stone walls smoothened out and formed an enclosed, straight path for him to follow. He had not seen this anywhere else in the cave. There was something making him hesitate, where he wanted to turn back around, to not come back until the conditions were right. But it was not pressing, so he continued forward.
The door was very very big, and he craned his neck back, trying to see the whole of it all at once.
Once he had finished his scrutiny, he pushed the door open slowly and surveyed the room that he was in. His first impression was that the room was bright, and he waited a few seconds for his eyes to adjust. There were gold trimmings everywhere, from the curtain tassels to the panels lining the bottom part of the wall. Dotted around the room were large vases and treasure chests, seemingly at random. There was a small flight of stairs on the other side of the room; at the top of them, a chaise longue. Behind that was a decoration that looked like a giant seashell to him.
"Oh?" A soft rustle, and he could see a bundle of cloth on top of the chaise longue moving. "Hello." What stepped out from beneath the shadow was... He waited for the knowledge to present itself, but nothing came.
He stared at the man. His skin was darker than what he had seen anyone else have before, his long white hair making it stand out even more.
"You're the one that I've been waiting for, aren't you?" the man asked, head slightly tilted to the side.
Who he had been waiting for? He had been Waiting as well but...
"What's your name?" The man was slowly making his way towards him, his bound feet not making a sound on the floor.
His name? He had none.
"Mine's Lantis Ilyushin," the man said, taking a half-step back and bending at the waist.
A name. Something he was called. "...Demon Lord."
Lantis Ilyushin nodded and started walking towards him again. He put his hand on his hilt, waiting for the fight to begin. Except...
When Lantis Ilyushin saw that, he stopped, eyes on his sword, before looking back at him, eyebrows drawn together and slightly raised. "We aren't meant to fight each other."
He knew that. Just like he knew that Lantis Ilyushin was different from the others that he had seen before. It was not just that Lantis Ilyushin was not human, but because he did not know what he was. His hand slid away.
"Is someone with you?" Lantis Ilyushin was looking around the room, eyes always going back to the door after a few seconds.
Lantis Ilyushin huffed and crossed his arms, full attention back on him. "But you're supposed to bring someone with you when you come here."
That did not make sense. He waited to see if Lantis Ilyushin would say more.
The arms stayed crossed, but they relaxed a little bit. "Well, you are."
That was not much of an answer. "What do you mean?"
Lantis Ilyushin frowned, eyes settling on the ground, but not actually seeing it. "I just... know you're supposed to have someone with you when you come here."
Similar to how he knew certain facts about the others. He knew that what Lantis Ilyushin was saying was true. Even though... "I don't."
"Hmph." A wave of a hand, meaning nothing to him. "I can see that." Lantis Ilyushin spun on his heel, hair fluttering behind him, and padded back to the chaise longue. He looked at him once he had sat down. "Aren't you coming?"
After a few seconds of deliberation, he walked up and sat next to Lantis Ilyushin.
"So..." Lantis Ilyushin said, as he reclined on the chaise longue. His legs ended up draped over his lap. "Why are you here?"
His eyes flicked to the legs, but he made no move to remove them. "I was exploring the cave."
Lantis Ilyushin stilled, his eyes going wide. "The area outside here?"
'Here' meaning this room. He nodded.
A grin lit up Lantis Ilyushin's face. "Describe it."
He was not sure how long he stayed there, but there seemed to be no end to Lantis Ilyushin's questions.
There were two humans wandering around in his territory again. Their voices were bouncing off the walls, even though they were trying to keep quiet.
"So all we gotta do is get his hairband?"
"Yeah. It seems like a pretty straight-forward quest."
There was that word again. A number of the other humans had used that word, along with a few other phrases he still did not understand. He followed the voices, but he came to a four-way fork, and he strained his ears to pick out which path they took.
"Better be," the first voice muttered. "I gotta log off soon."
The one furthest on the right. That one was usually wet, but it would not slow him down.
"Don't worry. All we have to do is find him - killing him'll be easy."
"Yeah, I know, but c'mon. This is, what, the fifth kill quest we've done today? They take so long to complete."
"Only 'cause we have to find them first." The second human sighed. "It's too bad we don't know his patrol path."
He was getting closer now. Just a few more corners and he would reach them.
"Dammit. Dammit, dammit!" the second voice said under his breath.
"I just remembered they switched my lecture times - I need to go now."
He could see their shadows on the wall.
"S'fine. I'll see ya tomorrow."
Their shadows flickered and disappeared.
When he turned the corner, there was no-one there. They could not be hiding because it was a straight path for several metres.
Where had they gone?
"What's the sky like?" Lantis Ilyushin was in his regular position, his legs covering his own. He also had his head tilted back on the backrest, his fingers intertwined, hands resting on his stomach.
"Blue," was the first thing that came to mind. "Black, red, pink."
Lantis Ilyushin frowned at him. "You're lying again, aren't you. The sky can't be like that."
He had never lied to Lantis Ilyushin, but there were a few things that Lantis Ilyushin had had trouble believing ("How can something be constantly moving? How does it do that?" "Why would a rock fall down by itself?")
"It changes depending on the time."
"Hmm." Lantis Ilyushin was quiet, but he had learned not to trust that - he was only deciding which of his numerous questions to ask first. "So, the sky's just colour?"
"No." He thought back to when he had last been at the cave mouth - it had been a long time since he had left the depths of the cave. "There are clouds as well."
"What are clouds?"
"Clouds are..." He searched for words, and mostly came up with blank. "They cover the sky and the sun, and are usually white or grey."
That was easier. "It's where the light comes from."
"The light...?" Lantis Ilyushin's eyes flicked to the ceiling, staring at the crystal. "Like that?"
He shook his head slowly. "Sunshine is... warm when it's on you."
"Sunshine is warm..." Lantis Ilyushin repeated quietly. "Hmm." He did not speak for a while, far longer than he normally was between questions. The longer he spent silent, the more wary he became.
"I don't like my name," Lantis Ilyushin declared suddenly. "I didn't choose it, so I'm going to name myself Sunshine." He smiled at him. "You have to call me that now."
It did not make any difference to him what he called him, though he did find that he preferred the second name; it would be easier to say.
Sunshine looked at him when he did not say anything. "Aren't you going to pick a name for yourself?"
"Why not?" Sunshine whined.
He had no need for a new name. He was indifferent to what the others called him, felt no attachment to it, and he did not know what else to call himself.
A sigh. "Maybe I should give you your new name."
He glared at Sunshine.
"Right, so I'll grab his aggro -remember to let me build it up first, okay?- and then you can cast magic to your heart's content."
They were talking like he could not hear or understand them again.
The mage rolled his eyes, and one shoulder went up and down. He knew that the mage was an elf, but he could not see the difference between him and the human.
"He's an NPC - I know the tactics already."
That again. "What is an NPC?" he demanded, annoyed at being repeatedly called that, and not knowing why.
The pair stared at him, their mouths open. It was the swordsman who eventually answered. "An NPC is a Non-Player Character. They're characters created by the system."
...Created by the system. If he was a non-player character, that would make everyone else (apart from Sunshine) a player character.
"Weird..." the mage murmured, his staff loose by his hip. "Most NPCs usually only have three phrases saved, don't they?"
He did not say the same things over and over again. The only repetitive thing he could remember doing was when he followed the same path through the cave, and that was a long time ago.
He would think more about it once the fight was over - the two... players still wanted him dead. He drew his sword and rushed towards them, aiming for the mage first.
A few seconds later, he was alone.
As the dust settled around him, he thought over all the conversations he had heard. In his earlier memories, the players had commented on his predictability; when he had heard that, he changed the way he fought. From what other players had said, he was not supposed to be able to do that.
What was he?
He had been programmed, that was what one of the players had said. He had been given specific instructions in how to act, what to do, what to say.
And he was not following those anymore.
What would happen if his creators noticed?
Blank spots in his memory. He had found himself in different areas, with no idea how he had gotten there. If his creators realised that he was no longer doing as he was instructed -programmed- they would... erase his memory, change him.
He could not let on what had happened.
In the distance, he could hear a pair of footsteps slowly approaching.
His creators wanted him to be a Demon Lord that endlessly wandered the cave.
He drew his sword and headed towards the intruders. So be it.
So, the premise (I don't think I'm using the right word here) of the first part, is that Kenshin was just a random NPC, before the progamming people started tinkering and watching to see what he would do, how well he did it. I also wanted to show clothing changes, but Kenshin didn't look too closely at them.
D: I wanted to end this fic just before Kenshin met Lan, but that turned out to be impossible because I couldn't figure out how Kenshin and Sunshine worked out their quest chains.
If something doesn't make sense, because of the terminology or it's confusing who's doing what, please tell me and I'll explain or fix it. On the same vein, if you see a mistake, please tell me. :)