We travel up a winding, decayed staircase of some ruined hilltop. I look around me—I have no choice but to do so—and see what remains of North Spire.
That is to say, there is not much there. What used to be vast farms and towering rocks is now fields of salted ground and ashes and bone. The whole world has a red hue to it. No more are the haven roots whose flowers once sprouted up in great excess across the lands. Now all is ruin and vast military camps.
When did this happen? Was it caused by the New Slayers? Was it caused by ME?
I shudder to think that, no matter how directly responsible I am for the destruction of North Spire, I am still complicit. I always will be.
Apparently, I founded the Slayers, or else let them take me, all simply to get stronger. I caused the first attack on North Spire, the one my amnesiac self wanted revenge for, because I wanted to become an S-Rank Hero. And that’s it.
How can I truly justify myself and my continued pursuit of glory, if this is how that path will lead me? I don’t know the answer to that, except that I shall indeed continue it. I must, or else the destruction here will have been pointless and all the retribution it has wrought will have been a meaning-free slice of misery.
We reach the top of the hill and step onto a cliff. There is a wide, dark chasm, a deep canyon, and then another cliff on the other side.
On our side, we are Rare Solbourne, Malia the Elf, Queen Mestopholees, and myself.
On their side, they are hundreds of thousands of New Slayers, leaderless and fragmented but universally hyped up and ready for a fight. I can sense their energy flowing through the air like the etherflow itself.
We’re seconds away from a massive battle... Or we would be if not for the sheer strength our party holds.
Rare holds their hands up in the air, and a giant shimmering wall right in the center of the canyon forms. The New Slayers are caught so much off-guard that some of them take steps back in shock.
A gigantic barrier. A magical force field dividing the two factions.
And now it is time for Rare’s gambit.
“Come on now, my brother,” Rare whispers. “Let us destroy our foes.”
I’m still hidden behind the others, mostly obscured from view. But I can already tell what is about to happen in just a few short moments.
Rare uses another magic spell and projects their voice all across the canyon, like the megaphones on Earth but somehow even more magical.
“Listen all ye Slayers and Slayers-to-be,” Rare shouts. “For too long have you fought needlessly and wasted your lives. You have felt hatred, guilt, and relentless hardship due to your cause. You fight for the glory of the New Slayers and its amazing leader. To that end, I have something that will change your worlds forever.”
Rare beckons, and I float forward...
Revealing myself to the entire army across the canyon.
Gasps. Shouts. A wave of noise rushed over the crowd. Even if I cannot make out specific faces, or any individual at all, as a collective the New Slayer Army is in utter dismay.
“Behold!” Rare extends their hand out to present me to the army. “Your leader, your ‘Eryk Solbourne’ is no more! He was killed by a speeding carriage; a pathetic death for a so-called hero.”
“Hey, now,” I say. “That’s a touch sensitive for me.”
They ignore me. “Your hero is a ghost. An undead relic of a forgotten age. Your symbol, your leader... is gone.”
No crying, no screaming. The hush that fell stopped them cold.
The hush that fell shook the trees.
The hush that fell... falls on us.
And then, finally, one voice to stand apart from the hush:
“It’s him! The Mighty Amaranth is here before us!” some lizard-folk or centaur or gnome screams.
Then the murmurs began. Another wave begins.
Rare’s determined expression fades away.
“Resurrect Amaranth!” they shout in unison. “Unslay the Slayed!”
“Resurrect Amaranth! Unslay the Slayed!”
“Is that, like, their slogan?” Mestopholees asks.
The chanting is murderously loud. A chasm separates us, and yet the sound pierces even my ethereal ears.
“Bring us the ghost, and we’ll grant you a merciful death,” some voice on the other side yelled out with projection magic.
“This isn’t going well...” Malia muttered.
But Rare quickly tensed back up into their hyper-confident self. “You don’t get it, do you?” they asked the New Slayers. “Eryk is done with the Slayers. He’s done with all of that. Finished with the whole Destiny Deck System!”
It doesn’t seem like the Slayers are paying much attention to Rare anymore, because they are again shouting, “Resurrect Amaranth! Unslay the Slayed!” and it’s starting to become a little bit annoying.
“Eryk no longer believes in the system! Your whole reason to live is now null and void, because he is embracing his own path! You... You must believe me...”
“Rare, my dear sibling, I never abandoned my Destiny,” I tell them. “I’m still on a path to become an S-Rank hero. You must not misunderstand my intentions here.”
“But I... But you...”
It sinks in for Rare that they have made an incredible mistake. Instead of buying extra time, we have exposed ourselves, and as soon as that barrier fades, the armies are going to attack us with all they have at their disposal. Even the mightiest of warriors could not defeat the hordes all at once. They know all about me now, and they won’t stop until they retrieve me.
This was one really, truly shitty gambit.