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He fought for years, struggled against impossible odds, but survived despite all that sought to stop him. He gained everything he wanted, and then he fought to protect it. There were days, weeks, sometimes even years of peace, in which he could simply enjoy the world. But sooner or later he would receive word of another threat at the edges of his ever-expanding influence, or be forced to reclaim kidnapped children from the villains who never seemed to give up.

It was never the same.

It never changed.

The longer he lived, the longer he fought, the higher he advanced, the more he began to see imperfections. Repetitions.

The same expression, identical down to the pixel, on his wife and a random townsperson. The same phrase, said one too many times in an exact tone.

He’d always known the world wasn’t normal, wasn’t the same as when he'd been young, but now he saw it wasn’t just changed. It was false. Nothing about his accomplishments mattered, nothing of his family was real.

He couldn’t accept it, pushed the knowledge away, hid it in the depths of his heart, and threw himself back into battle.

Foes came for him.

Always for him.

They took what was his.

Only his.

His neighboring kingdoms only had trouble when they needed him to help, no other time. His subjects came to him when they sought his aid, no other time.

It never ended. Events and challenges shifted, reskinned, but never truly new. Like facial expressions; like reused dialog. The longer he lived it the less he could deny it.

This world revolved around him.

At first, this truth hadn’t bothered him. Who wouldn’t want to be the center of all creation? But it nagged at him endlessly, as decades drew on into centuries, and he could no longer even pretend to himself that the cracks in the illusion hid anything but artificiality.

The weather moved on a predictable random pattern, never too long the same. There were no droughts, no major floods. The seasons shifted with the precision of artificiality, smoothly slipping from winter to summer to spring to autumn.

His wife remained faithful, despite his ignoring her. His children remained young and bright, despite the time passed.

He threw himself into research, trying to find with his intellect what strength could never accomplish, but everything he found could not fill the growing emptiness in his heart. He learned to manipulate the world down to its smallest grain of dust. He could reshape it with arcane powers as well as sheer unstoppable might. But in all his strength, he found no solution to his internal void.

He ruled a broken utopia, a virtual hell painted to look like heaven, and he’d scratched off too much of the facade.

There was no escape.

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About the author

Asviloka

  • Just Add Magic!

Bio: I've been writing longer than I can remember, but only started taking it seriously around '08 when I discovered nanowrimo and started attending conferences. Since then I've written several million words of practice stories leading up to posting here starting in '19.

My goal is to continue to perfect my craft and find a way to make writing my fulltime occupation rather than an obsession pushed aside by the necessity of working to support myself. Whether that means traditional or independent publication, building a strong patreon following, or something else entirely, I have yet to discover.

I always welcome suggestions for improvement and gladly accept all feedback, positive or negative. Don't hesitate to let me know what you think, and please consider leaving a rating or review! :)

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