I suppose a bit more of a recap is in order before I go into current events.
Weeks ago, about five days after this post, I think. When I was screaming on the blog about redemption or so, I looked through my old email account I don't use too much, back when I was the big go-to guy. Not that I could do much back then, of course, aside from give advice. Back before my hands got dirty...
Anyway, I noticed that one of the three bloggers that was still asking me for help lived down near where I was. Considering that Arkady wasn't going anywhere, since he was apparently stuck in some mindfuck labyrinth, I decided to pay this other gent a visit in....fuck...was it...Mobile, or Oklahoma City? I can't fucking remember anymore. All I know is that I had to walk into the city, because the car I was using ran out of gas, and I certainly couldn't pay 4 dollars a gallon for gas, being as broke as I am. So, the swordsage hit the shoeleather express, with the sides split out of his sneakers.
Makes puddles interesting.
Anyway Dean McMillan was his name, the tortured soul I went to visit. I still have his email address, which is fortuitous, since I forgot his name until just a few minutes ago. I recently responded to him that I would be in his neighborhood.
Dean, apparently, had read my current blog. He told me that he moved, that he was better, that he was sane now.
In retrospect, not so good to let him know I was coming. Yeah.
Anyway, google maps got me to his housing complex. It's not as good as the Tablet for directions, but for a simple address, it worked well enough. When I arrived that night, I saw the door was already kicked in. Drawing my previously whole sword (thanks again for that, Robert), I investigated.
For someone as haunted as Dean, his house was drawing free, though I did see signs of arson, as well as a most likely emptied fire extinguisher, that laid on its side in the hallway. I walked as soft as I could, pacing down the hallway. A broken mirror hung on the wall beside me, the shattered pieces made a soft crack into the carpet as I continued past, towards what seemed to be labored breathing.
Within the master bedroom, a man, battered and bloodied, laid up against a wall. The room was quite disturbed, and my now veteran experience in brawling told me that quite a scrap had taken place before I had shown.
With his mouth hanging open, the man that I could only assume was Dean, panted as he looked over at me. He held his arm close to his chest as he wordlessly watched me approach. I felt that he should've been corrupted fully by now, judging by the frantic emails he sent me. He showed all the signs. Binary, possession, dreams. Everything lined up properly with what I needed from him now. And yet, he wasn't 'right', or rather 'wrong', I should say.
Things, obviously, were amiss.
Unknown>>> "That bone you wanted to collect ain't gonna do you much good, sugar. Guess you can't tell what you're looking for when it's been smashed up, huh?"
Her again. Rika. That explains why she carries a hammer...she probably had this idea in her head probably the moment she set her sights on me
Me>>> "....You again. You brutalized this man...practically tortured him."
I wanted nothing more right then, than to take her out. Yet, I was...I was unable to take more than a step towards her. My sword wavered, then fell to the side. I growled in frustration, as I tried to understand what had happened to me just then. I glanced back towards Dean. Certainly I might've done as bad to him, in the name of hope, and in an act of mercy...This was a sick mockery.
Me>>> "And you did it all, because why? Because of me?"
Rika>>> "Well that's kinda self centered of you. What makes you think you're that damned important? How do you know its not just a coincidence that we had the same target? After all, we're not that different in what we do."
My mind reeled for a moment, the thought that Rika had a list of targets as I did, and then pieces started to come together.
Me>>> "You're full of shit, Rika. But I get it now, you're just antagonizing me."
I stepped forward. At least I could do that, if not fight her.
Me>>> "You're doing all this to prove yourself to someone, aren't you?"
I tried to convince myself to press on, to keep pushing her, get her to talk, nevermind the numbness.
She shrugged off my questioning, almost literally. I could barely keep my eyes off of that sledge she was holding.
Rika>>> "Sugar who do I have to prove myself too? Redlight? Eulogy? In the big picture they don't matter. Tall One's gonna eat us all in the end."
While her words were just as fluid and honeyed as her Southern accent allowed, I couldn't help but feel the grim thoughts behind it.
I gestured towards her with my one good hand, caught up in my assumptions.
Me>>> "No, you're doing this for someone, or something. You didn't accidentally pick your name, you didn't accidentally decide to stalk me. You're constantly talking about how you're so much better than the Rika I used to know, and for what it's worth, your life seems devoted just to piss me off."
Again she laughed at me, brushing me off.
Rika>>> " There's that arrogance again. You have met me twice, little boy. Which doesn't come even close to counting as my life being devoted to you. I plenty of games that have nothing to do with you. Which reminds me, I've got places to go, people to smash, so I best be getting out of here."
Casually she swung her hammer over her shoulder and looked at me. I was still in her path.
Rika>>> You mind?
I couldn't stop her. I just couldn't bar her path. My body refused to cooperate, as I screamed frustrated at myself to get up, and fight her...I stepped aside.
She strolled through as if she owned the place, then halfheartedly looked back at Dean, then to me.
Rika>>> "Come on Zero, crusader against monsters. Make your choice. He's obviously corrupted. You said before that you don't enjoy taking lives, that you did it solely for your pet project. Well...his arm's no good for you, shug. Yet he's also just about proxied...so justice or compassion...which is it? Kill or spare?"
I hesitated as I looked at the man. Dean grimaced as he looked up at me, sweat drenching his face as he tried to catch a breath to whimper.
Was I just a murderer? I've always said, I still say, that with death comes a greater purpose. So what could I do, could I self justify his death, if I chose to take it?
I closed my eyes.
I thought of those who had died.
I thought of Amelia, then made my choice.
And Rika laughed.