Where All Roads Lead

Chapter 18

May 23rd, 2023
“A-A Valkyrie!?” Megame repeated, perhaps for the fourth time after they had been led into the castle and shown to their rooms. Kara, Megame, and Hachi were sharing a large opulent room with a pair of four-poster beds and vast windows overlooking the dark forest with heavy curtains drawn over them. Megame had always dreamed of staying a night in some opulent western castle, though she hadn’t imagined that when she did it would be in the possession of a vampire, or that her roommate would be a Valkyrie.“You can stop saying it now.” Kara frowned, leaning back as she sat cross-legged on her bed.
“But you’re a Valkyrie!” Megame shouted.

Kara’s mouth screwed up into something like a scowl. “Do you even know what a Valkyrie is?”

“Eeee…” Megame trailed off as she tried to think. The immediate vision that came to mind was a somewhat rotund blonde woman astride a winged horse, dressed in armor with a horned helmet and spear in hand.

That was a hazy vision but it was still nothing like the girl that sat before her. Kara was almost morbidly thin, her hair was raven black and she carried a rifle instead of a spear. No sign of a winged horse either.

“I’m going to take that as a no.” Kara said. “Because if you knew I doubt you’d be as impressed.”

“Of course I’d be impressed!” Megame said. “I think it’s really neat.”

Kara sighed. “A Valkyrie,” she began, “Is a female warrior in service to the Norse gods. It’s their duty…was my duty…to reach out to the dying valiant heroes of the world and take them to Valhalla, where they can fight and celebrate until Ragnarok.”

“Mmm…” There were a lot of half-remembered words in there that Megame only sort of knew.

“So I was basically a glorified pall-bearer. It was my job to protect the souls of the dead.”

“You keep speaking in past tense.” Megame said. “It’s almost as if you’re not a Valkyrie anymore.”

“I might as well not be.” Kara said. “I don’t do that kind of work anymore.”

“Because you’re a hitman.” Megame nodded, but Kara shot her a pointed glare.

“There’s a little more nuance to it than that.” Kara said. “I’m not simply a contract killer. I don’t do it for money or personal pleasure. I have reasons for doing it.”

“Well that makes me feel a bit better at least,” Megame said. “But I’m still kind of uneasy. I mean…you look perfectly human and normal, it’s weird thinking of you…”

“As inhuman?” Kara asked. “Would you like proof?”

“Proof?” Megame blinked.

Without another word Kara rose from the bed, getting onto her feet as the room seemed to darken around her, the oil lamps that lit the place dimming for a moment and throwing long shadows over the wall. Behind Kara, cast over the deep red curtains, were the shadow of a pair of long elegant wings sprouting from her back. As the moments passed, the shadows seemed to pull themselves from the wall, solidifying around her until they truly were a pair of great black raven wings rising from behind her shoulders. Everything about her seemed to glow, exaggerated beyond a human level. Her eyes were a glowing deathly blue, her hair lightless strands of black, and her skin pale as death.

“W-wow…” Megame couldn’t help but recoil slightly from the sudden transformation. Kara hadn’t grown beyond her wings but she seemed to fill the room as if her presence had become ten feet tall. For a moment, Megame swore she heard the flapping of wings and the caw of ravens from outside the windows.

As soon as the vision had come it passed, Kara’s wings receding as the lights brightened again, returning to her normal “Human” state.

“Proof enough?” Kara asked.

“I-I didn’t doubt you.” Megame said, somewhat shakily.

“I don’t think you doubted.” Kara said. “But I do think you didn’t entirely understand what I meant when I said I wasn’t human. Sometimes you need to pull the mask off to make a point.”

“I can’t do anything that impressive…” Megame said. All of her power came from the Kami; she had almost none left for herself.

“Well then take it from me.” Kara said. “There are always going to be things you don’t understand. Sometimes the things I do look awful, but I need you to understand that it’s for the best.”

“I…don’t know if I can accept that.” Megame said. “Even if I don’t understand the reasoning…I still want to know why, Just taking your word for it makes me feel so…passive.”

“This is my job, not yours.” Kara said. “You’re the one who chose to tag along and you can leave at any time.”

“I don’t know if I can just…leave this now.” Megame frowned. “I might not have a right to know…but I still want to. Do you do it because he’s not human?”

“That would make me a hypocrite, wouldn’t it?” Kara scoffed. “It makes no difference to me that he’s a vampire. I don’t just take down monsters. Sometimes I need to target humans too.”

“But why?” Megame asked. “What possible good can come from killing people?”

Kara sighed. “Don’t ask me to explain”

“Too late for that.” Megame huffed, crossing her arms. “I’m asking.”

Kara groaned. “Honestly…fine, do you reeeeally want to know why I do what I do?”

“Yes!”

With a sigh Kara began to speak.

“Okay so…do you know what a paradox is?”

“It’s a thing that is the opposite of itself, right?” Megame said.

“Close enough. In this context, a paradox is something that contradicts itself, or contradicts how things are supposed to be.”

“Supposed to be?”

“Yes, stay with me here. With the Days of Revelation, there was a lot of magical and metaphysical upheaval. Not everything made sense or fit nicely into causality. You probably haven’t noticed, but in a few cases…more than you’d think…the past was altered as well as the present.

“Imagine time is a book, a single long book with all of history being written on one page to the next. The Days of Revelation not only wrote new words, but they quietly went back and changed some of the old ones. Now you can see where that might be a problem?”

“The new stuff might not make sense,” Megame said. “Or contradict what will happen before it does!”

“Bingo.” Kara nodded. “You’re getting it. These little past alterations, or even the lack of them, can cause paradoxes in the present. If a paradox is big enough or noticeable enough then people will catch on to it.”

“And that’s bad?”

“That’s very bad. When people start actively noticing key inconsistencies, then the whole tapestry is in danger of unraveling if they try to track the change, or if they try to further contradict the paradox.”

“Further contradict?”

“If some people spotted an inconsistency in time and causality,” Kara said. “They’d be tempted to push its limits, test it, see how much breaking they can get away with, let the inconsistencies spiral outwards in cascading events or perhaps try to make little paradoxes of their own. If more of these inconsistencies and paradoxes are made then the whole thing threatens to collapse. Causality breaks, reason goes out the window, and chaos wins.”

“It sounds dangerous…” Megame said. “But I still don’t think I entirely understand. How does one little paradox create more?”

“Easy,” Kara said. “Say that a man reaches a fork and is supposed to go right. Instead he goes left because the road to the right has a monster on it, a monster that didn’t exist before the Days of Revelation. So he takes the left, and all the people he meets are people who he was never meant to meet. Their interactions create perturbations; they influence the decisions of all those people who were never supposed to meet him. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. At the same time, all those people on the right road never got to meet him, their fates are now absent his presence. This isn’t a big deal for many, but it’s a huge deal for some.

“From that one wrong choice, that incorrect path taken, a growing tide of inconsistencies emerge. Consequences no one could have predicted, ripples become waves as the paradoxes grow. Soon the best laid plans of fate are trashed, the future is in turmoil because of one false choice in the past.”

“Hmmm…” Megame said. “Inari Okami-sama never put much stock in fate…”

“An odd choice for a goddess.” Kara said. “They’re more tied to fate than others.”

“She said it is an individual’s responsibility to carry the weight of their own future.” Megame said. “That fate controls the actions of no one.”

Kara shrugged. “Maybe she’s right. Maybe fate doesn’t control anyone. But we instead unknowingly follow along. Time is the music and fate is the dance, each step deliberate even if you can’t appreciate the whole until the dance is over.”

“What does all of this have to do with you?” Megame asked. Kara looked at her dead on, her eyes hard and Megame found it difficult to keep her gaze.

“It’s my job to find these paradoxes, these people who turned left instead of right, and remove them from the equation before things become too far gone.”

“Th-that seems like a really brutal way to solve a problem.” Megame said, body trembling more than a little.

“It’s a hard solution, but the most efficient one.” Kara said. “Trying to push them back onto the right road can just create more consequences and inconsistencies. It’s my job to take them out, and when I bring them down, I bring them down for good. Not just dead but out of the history books.”

“I see…” Megame started. “Still that seems…like a really difficult job. How did you get started in that?”

“Now that is where I draw the line.” Kara said with a distinct tone of finality. “You know what my job entails but you can kindly stay right out of my personal life.”

“Sorry…” Megame said quietly.

Kara sighed. “Let’s just say I work for very important people, and I’m paying off some dues to them. Until then I do as they say and I don’t ask questions.”

“Even if your job is killing people?”

“Killing people who aren’t meant to exist.” Kara said. “Constantin is a problem and I am the solution. I don’t like it, he doesn’t like it, but it has to happen.”

“What did he do?” Megame asked. “Where did Constantin turn left?”

“Dunno.” Kara shrugged.

Megame stared in disbelief. “You’re telling me you need to kill him and you don’t even know why!?”

“It’s not my job to know.” Kara said. “It’s not anyone’s job to know. Only three people in all existence know the whole story and not one among them knows all of it. Most people just aren’t meant to know how fate will play out, I’m just around to make sure all of it goes smoothly.”

“I still don’t think I can accept that.” Megame said.

“Accept it or not that’s the way it is.” Kara shrugged again.

“Well maybe it doesn’t have to be.” Megame said. “Can’t someone’s fate change?”

“People who change fate tend to wind up dealing with me.” Kara said coldly. “It’d be best for everyone if you just dropped it.”

“And if I find a solution?”

“Huh?”

“If there’s a way to fix fate but kept Constantin alive, would you spare him?”

“First of all he’s a vampire, so he’s not alive to begin with.” Kara said. “Secondly, you’re not cut out for playing that game. The stakes are too high and the players cheat.”

Megame set her face into a confident smile.

“Maybe, but I don’t ever play alone. I have the Okami of Luck on my side. With that much luck, I doubt even Fate can stop me!”

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The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9551?chapter=36&sl=454

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  1. Pingback: Where All Roads lead | The Cities Eternal

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