General Disclaimer: This story is solely for entertainment and fun, not profit. All copyrighted elements in this story belong to their respective owners, which will be specified as they appear. All elements in this chapter are mine except for the Wii and its components and software, which belong to Nintendo, and any namedropped game series, which belong to their respective owners. The story itself, as it is written, is also mine.
In a great white world, many white lights did battle against dark, misty shadows. From a great height, a great white light mustered power from its core until it glowed brighter and brighter and sent out beams that overtook and drove away the dark intruders. Most dissipated. A few fled to the horizon.
It was over for now. They had been attacking with greater frequency and force, and while the great light was certain they could be fended off from this world as long as it was there to do so, some of them had managed to occasionally slip into worlds beyond. If the light was to banish them for good, the Runestones would be needed from the worlds under the greatest threat, the older and more powerful worlds, but with conditions like this…
The light was trapped here, unable to enter the other worlds without risking them. This place, the only barrier between the Thoughtless and its targets, would be unguarded.
The great light had been considering an alternate method—to call upon one who could and would perform the task.
The more the attacks occurred, the more viable it seemed.
It was decided. A new hero was coming immediately.
The Shop Channel's music was perfect to browse to, Gancena thought. Sure, it resembled elevator music, but it had a special, happy touch only Nintendo could provide. It seemed to add an atmosphere of a content, sheltered life in the otherwise empty gaming room.
She twirled her ponytail as she thought aloud. "So Mega Man X is eight hundred points, Castlevania is five hundred, Super Mario RPG is eight hundred… twenty-four hundred points total, and thus, twenty-four dollars." She slumped on the couch for a moment and thought it over one more time. "No, wait. That's twenty-one hundred… right? Sixteen plus five… yes." She sighed. "Either way."
Gancena sat back up and thought about going back to her room to look up more game-based cartoons. Maybe she could finally give in to her morbid curiosity about the universally panned but wonderfully premised Captain N: The Game Master… Watching an episode or two would certainly round out her video game cartoon experience. She shuddered and giggled at the thought.
Then she considered it a little more. It wasn't like there was anyone else who would want to chat or play with her, and she hadn't written anything in weeks, but if she just went back to her room and started browsing the Internet like she normally did, she'd eventually get bored. Captain N would certainly be something new.
The urge to just pick a game and start playing overtook Gancena. She pulled two handfuls of Wii games from a shelf and started shuffling through them. Then she got the idea to sort them into piles based on how far in she was and pick a game she was in the middle of but hadn't gotten back to.
"Wow." When she finished, she was surprised to find her pile of completed games higher than expected, but still dwarfed by her in-progress games. At least there wasn't a need for a third pile of untouched games.
She then looked over the other shelves: Gamecube, Xbox, a small stack of PlayStation. She decided to sort through all of them, too.
The completed stack grew a little, but her in-progress games more than doubled in height and there were a handful of games in a third pile.
Gancena paused to listen to the Shop Channel music and suddenly slapped her forehead. "Aw, man, but I haven't beaten the Virtual Console games, either! God…" Sure, she only had a handful, but these were classic Nintendo Hard do-or-die NES games. She hadn't put in the practice necessary to complete any of them.
She sighed. "Well, the only way to play a lot of games is to play a lot of games." She carefully pushed the in-progress pile aside and began putting the rest away.
The moment she finished, the music faded. When Gancena turned to look, the TV screen had turned completely white, save for a little blue circle and a large dot moving around it, the Wii's loading icon, in the center. Gancena jerked in surprise and stared. That was weird... She hadn't pressed anything, but the console was clearly doing something…
Above the circle, words appeared.
"Do not be alarmed," Gancena read aloud, and she felt a little jolt anyway. She'd never seen anything like this before. She stood up and approached the console, wondering if it needed to be reset. The words faded, and new ones appeared. "There is nothing wrong with your Wii. Well, what's going on, then?" she muttered.
She leaned towards the screen as those words faded. "Hold still…" Her brow knotted.
The dot slowed to a stop at the top of the circle, and the circle's center suddenly became multicolored, like rainbows were streaming through it.
The entire screen, save for the circle, glowed intensely. Gancena yelped and backed away, but instead of falling back on the couch, she stopped as though she hit a wall, and she was pushed closer to the screen as tendrils of colorful light reached for her arms.
"Hey! What's going on!?" she yelled. "Help! Help!" She twisted around and tried to reach for the Wiimote on the couch, but the force pulling her was too strong to fight and she was already too far away.
"Mom! Dad! Gaby! The gaming TV's pulling me in! Help me—!"
"Do not be afraid," said a calm female voice. "This is just the beginning of your adventure."
A wave of disbelief flowed over Gancena. "My adventure…?" She was turned back around.
The glow brightened until it was almost blinding, and the circle grew bigger until it was big enough for Gancena to jump into.
She didn't know whether she wanted to, but she was pushed forward into the entrance of a colorful tunnel of light and pulled farther into it.
She shouted, stretching her arms in front of her. She glanced back, panting, but there was no sign of the other side of the screen.
When she looked back ahead, she started to hear sounds, nearly all of them from older video game systems: the hero obtaining an item, the music of a hometown, damage being taken, victory fanfare. She also thought she could see images of older games, but the streaming light seemed to blur it all…
When Gancena opened her eyes, she'd landed face down on a slate of blackness. She gasped and scrambled to stand up, tugging her purple shirt down and blue jeans up, glancing alarmingly around her. Blackness everywhere, yet she could see herself clearly. The ground was hard and perfectly flat underneath her socked feet.
The instant she looked back ahead, a huge ball of white light appeared, nearly blinding her. She shielded her eyes with one arm and stumbled backwards, yelping.
"Sorry. This is the first time I've directly interacted with an inhabitant of any of these worlds." It was the voice from before. Gancena moved her arm, and the light came closer.
Gancena's heart jumped. "Wait, what?"
"Allow me to show you just where you are." A stream of light extended from the ball and briefly covered Gancena's eyes, making her squint.
When it cleared up, Gancena gasped again. Directly ahead of her stood a grand white palace, which towered higher than she could see. The surrounding land was one continuous stretch of white ground. Even the sky was white. Everywhere she looked, other, smaller balls of white light roamed freely.
"…What is this place?"
"This is my world," the huge light answered. "It stands between your world, the origin world which you call 'real', and the many video game worlds I guard."
"You guard video game worlds?" Gancena replied quickly.
"Yes. I am a manifestation of the bond between the players of your world and the gaming worlds themselves."
"You guard video game worlds," Gancena repeated. She wondered if she was dreaming. She was certainly breathing more heavily, which often happened before she woke up panting from dreams. She blinked slowly, trying to force herself to wake up, if she was sleeping. Nothing changed. Everything seemed real enough. Maybe she'd just hallucinated that TV screen and the light. Or had a seizure? There was always a risk of seizures from video games, however small.
…She thought it over and dismissed both possibilities as ridiculous, even for her. There was no reason she'd suddenly start hallucinating something this vivid now.
"Yes. And I'm sure you have a general idea of why you're here."
Gancena took a deep breath clasped her hands, pinching one with the other. It felt real enough. Her heart beat faster and she quivered slightly as she spoke. "…Well, considering that we're talking about video games here, I assume there's… there's something going on… and you…" Her voice quieted. "…You probably want me to… help?"
"You may choose to decline this mission. I understand that players cannot spend all their time with video games. Striking a balance in life is an important part of the connection. If you decline, I can simply find another like you who may also accept."
"But I want to accept!" Gancena immediately responded. She clenched her jaw shut and swallowed as soon as she spoke. Was she crazy? She didn't even know what the mission was! She thought maybe the adrenaline was getting to her head. Maybe.
The light was silent for a moment, and then it emitted a chime-like sound.
Gancena took a deep breath. She felt calmer, but her stomach was still knotted in shock, confusion, and anticipation.
"…I knew you would want to," said the light. "It was part of why I went to you. But you must also consider the dangers and potential costs of this mission. You don't even know what you're doing yet. I can protect you from true death, but that does not mean the journey will not be hard or painful. I can bend the passage of time here so that it will be as though you never left the origin world, but will you be okay with being away from home for so long? And you must realize that if you do go on this journey, you will not end up the same person as you are now. You will never see these worlds the same way again."
The light's concerns were valid, and Gancena likely would have thought of them after calming from accepting the mission. If the light hadn't stopped her now, it probably would have been too late when Gancena did think of them. And yet, if she turned and left now, when such a wide-open opportunity was right in front of her…!
"Those are good points, but a huge part of me really wants to just accept, whatever the mission is," Gancena admitted. "Maybe… maybe you could tell me more about what I'd have to do?"
"I was about to." The light began moving towards the palace. "Follow me, please."
Gancena did so, though she glanced back once. Infinite white.
"That which threatens us has no name of its own. As far as we can tell, it does not even have thought of its own. In recent years, this world has come under siege from its offshoots. I simply dub this being 'the Thoughtless' for its lack of a clear consciousness."
The light paused, and Gancena watched in awe as the huge doors to the palace opened. The inside was almost blinding in its whiteness, but the brightness subsided within a moment. To her surprise, it was empty save for carpet and chandeliers, all that same bright white.
"In these years, I have created offshoots of my own to fend off Thoughtless attacks. When Thoughtless invade, my offshoots hold them back until I drive them off."
The great light was silent for a moment, as was Gancena, who was thinking it all over. Unsure of what else to do, she said, "I'm Gancena, by the way."
"I thought so. It's the name you give most frequently when asked."
"When you're asked in games, Gancena. There's no other way I would know."
"Oh. …Right. …So what's your name?"
"I have no name of my own, either. But if there is something you would prefer to call me, go right ahead."
The great light began to lead her up a giant spiral staircase. Gancena took a moment to observe herself climbing, walking on her toes, pressing with care against each step. She looked back up and thought. A name came to her, though she wasn't sure where it came from.
"May I call you Selene?"
"If it pleases you."
"All right. So… Selene. Should I accept your mission, what must I do?"
"I will show you. We've been climbing up the central tower. Above this room, the central chamber, is a secret and sacred room which only I can access. Come in."
Gancena entered tentatively. The central chamber was also nearly empty, but it also had a window circling it, overlooking the world.
"Is this your room?"
"Yes. It is from here I can best watch over this world. Look up," said Selene.
Gancena did so, and noticed a dark hole in the ceiling. Selene entered and reached out to Gancena with two streams of light. Gancena grabbed them, surprised to find they felt as solid as human arms, and Selene pulled her up to hover just above the hole while it closed.
When Gancena was placed back down, there was another flash of light. She yelped again, but it was shorter and quieter than before. The room was still entirely black, save for a white tower much taller than her with many circular indentations all over it.
"This is the Rune Tower, where I originally forged the Runestones. The Runestones—or simply Runes, if you prefer—are how the love of players enters each of the worlds and keeps them alive. I believe it is this love that will ultimately save the worlds, and so I have modified it somewhat to hold the Runes we need to destroy the Thoughtless for good. I have determined which worlds we need the Runes from, and they are all represented here. Take a closer look."
Gancena swallowed and approached the tower and peered into one of the indentations. Inside, she could see the engraving of a dragon… "Mortal Kombat!" she immediately shouted, grinning with excitement. She looked into another, seeing a circle cut in half by a line and another, smaller circle. "Pokémon…" She walked around the tower, looking into every indentation she could reach. "The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Super Mario Brothers!" She looked back at Selene, breathless. "And I'd have to collect the Runes from each of these worlds?"
"Yes. As you can see, they bear symbols players commonly associate with each world. I want to bring the Runes back here to use to defeat our enemy, but I cannot leave."
Gancena turned back to Selene, brow furrowing in concern. "You can't leave? It's that bad?"
"Yes. My world and I are the only things that stand between the Thoughtless and the gaming worlds. If I leave, it will pass into the gaming worlds and destroy them."
Gancena winced. Selene chimed softly before continuing.
"You see, Gancena… it is a manifestation of negativity that surrounds video games."
"What, like the dumb people saying stuff about how games make kids more violent?"
"Not necessarily. Such people and opinions exist, but they're not the only thing that fuels the Thoughtless. You'll notice that many of the gaming worlds represented on this tower are older than you, and most of them are long-lasting series. This is because there are a good amount of players who experience negative feelings surrounding them specifically."
"Older games tend to be more difficult."
Gancena raised a brow. "What, do rage quits fuel this Thoughtless?"
"Only when they're unhealthy. It's normal to be frustrated when you're pursuing a task and it doesn't go as planned, even after multiple attempts. But when players let that anger overflow and it damages their friendships or their consoles, then it becomes something dangerous to the player and those around them, something the Thoughtless can feed on. It's recently come to a tipping point where any strong negative emotion coming from the worlds is something it can draw from. Now our enemy grows in power… I haven't been able to fully protect these worlds."
"Eh!?" Gancena shouted. "But you're this super powerful being, aren't you? You told me you guard these worlds, and since you're still here to protect them…"
"I do, and I am. But now recent attacks have allowed the Thoughtless to leak itself and its attached feelings into the gaming worlds, augmenting their villains' powers. As you no doubt well know, if the villains win, these worlds will begin to die. They will weaken, and the Thoughtless will destroy them. If they all die, the Thoughtless will eventually find no other worlds to turn to but ours. My world and I will be erased first, and your world will slowly be consumed the same way, and it will wither, too. We have time, but I don't know how much, which is why I need to act now."
Both were silent for a moment. Gancena tried to understand. A few people's hate of video games could be the complete end of her world? Of all these worlds? It couldn't be true. It couldn't be that powerful.
Maybe this was just a nightmare… Gancena glanced at the tower, and then at her socks, definitely the socks she was wearing before being pulled here. White. Like this world. She clasped her hands tightly and blinked slowly. Everything still seemed real enough.
Selene made another chiming sound and approached Gancena. "Do you understand why I need help?"
Gancena nodded vigorously. "Yes."
"Do you understand the objective?"
"Gancena, I know that you can accomplish this mission."
Gancena looked up.
Selene continued. "You have the heart and love for these worlds. You have the capacity to learn and grow. You have the understanding of what I have shown you. And you will not be alone. Along the way, I know you will gain friends and companions to help you. You can do it. But will you?"
Gancena thought. It would be hard, Selene said. Painful, even. She could already imagine it, a little. She had strength, but she was no athlete. She had knowledge, but of some worlds more than others. She was no Game Master. She didn't know how long it would take, either. It would be as if she'd never left when she was done, Selene said, but could Gancena herself go it alone for that long?
…Well, not alone, but this was ignoring the thought of gaining friends and companions and the feeling of longing that came with it.
She wondered if she would be capable of it, considering the recent mishaps and the recent vow she made to herself…
But she also wanted the adventure. She wanted to become stronger. Smarter. Better than anyone in her world because she would have lived all the games firsthand. And she wanted to protect these worlds. She didn't want them to die!
And if she didn't accept the mission, who would?
And yet, something in the back of her head kept her from saying what she knew she needed to say. "…I need some time to think."
"I… I really want to accept. So much, Selene. And I'm so sure I will. But I… need to prepare myself first. Mentally, as much as I can, anyway. …Would… would you mind if I just went outside the palace for a little while?"
"Not at all. Take your time. Rest if you need to. When you're ready to answer, call for me."
Gancena nodded. She blinked slowly once more.
She decided this was all real. It was all in her hands now.