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“My dear guests.” Eric took the microphone. His voice echoed from the surround-systems into every direction of Castle Gimli’s ivory banquet hall.

In the dark, the spotlight scattered into star-like patterns. It danced through the scenery and conglomerated at the stage’s center, casting Eric’s shadow onto the background.

The shadow mimicked the body language of its owner, enlarging his performance into the movements of a titan. Every step he took, every finger he moved, the black giant would follow for the audience to see.

They raised their glasses, the liquid inside rocked. LED-lights swirled around and painted the scenery in blue and red hues.

“I welcome you to another night of excitement, faith, and pleasure.” Eric’s voice soothed into their ears. “And now, that the moon has replaced the sun, give into your carnal wishes till they’re gone.”

The audience applauded and sat down. Where once stood statues of heroes past, couches and stand-tables took their place and formed a parable.

And amidst that audience sat Ragna. She crossed her legs. From the table next to her, she grabbed a drink and downed it in one go. The sweet strawberry taste ran down her throat, and the alcohol warmed her stomach.

Ragna ought to be focusing on the task. Yet her eyes continued ogling Eric.

He had switched his usual adventurer-archeologist outfit for a black shirt and leather pants. They showcased his well-defined body and refused to leave much to the imagination.

What did he say? Pleasure and carnal wishes? What weird-ass level had she entered?

Ragna blushed.

Eric had always been good-looking. But this was...fuck.

Ragna took another strawberry daiquiri and emptied it. Unless it required seducing him, she had to focus on clearing the level.

“So, let us welcome our little morning star,” said Eric. “You all worshipped her and crawled on the ground to kiss her feet. But tonight, as she spins your heads right round, call her Freya. Be enthralled by her voice, and by the night’s end, our girl will show you her gratitude and repay. And remember, the number one rule here is: Don’t tell daddy.”

Freya, huh…

Ragna sunk into the couch and put her arms behind the couch’s rest. Her eyes stared at the chandelier, whose features the darkness obscured.

How long ago had it been? Far too many years. That she heard that name in Utgard of all places. Freya wasn’t a common name, but other people would have it as well.

Eric descended from the stage. He walked towards the audience and sat on the frontmost couch facing the spotlight.

Piano music started to play on the stage, and the light moved to the back. Its radius grew and revealed a clavier. On it, Altera played a song Ragna had never heard before.

Yet, tears ran down her cheeks. Ragna rubbed her eyes.

Why was she crying? Was it because she had remembered Freya? No. The person that came to her mind was....her mother? Her dead body in her father’s arms. Why had he brought her home? Letting children see their deceased mother was fucked-up. Didn’t he consider how much it would scar them? Of course, he didn’t, and she couldn’t fault him. He had witnessed her death and shut down. Except for her, they all did. She couldn’t stop living. Her world had to move forward. She had to live on and make up for what she had lost.

If her mother saw her now? What would she tell her? Would her mother's face show pride, love, or disappointment? How could she know? She worked every day and night to become a Valkyrie. But all that hardship paled compared to the increase in skills and power she experienced during the last days. Yet, she never felt further away from her goal than now. Assuming she found her father, cleared her name, and brought all preparators to justice, would she become a Valkyrie?

Ragna took another drink.

Why did she remember all of this? Was the tower manipulating her emotions and thoughts through melody? Some Fylgja used sound and music to affect reality. Was this another case?

Accompanying Altera’s piano play, a person appeared on the stage out of thin air. She crawled on top of the instrument and sang. The spotlight widened its radius and illuminated the singer, revealing her to the public.

Aura? Ragna’s eyes widened.

What was she doing here? Did the tower create this level based on her memories? No, that didn’t make sense. Aura's voice couldn't compare to the singer's. She had never shown any talent in music or arts. With her singing, the princess could shatter a wine glass.

That woman was neither Aura nor her memory of Aura. The princess on the piano wore a revealing dress the real one would never showcase in public. Midgard possessed an openminded attitude, but if its citizens ever saw Aura in such a get-up, they would slander and shatter her reputation. Wearing her birthday suit would create less public outrage. And Aura would never call herself Freya.

With a microphone in her hand, Aura rolled around the piano’s wing. She propelled her legs into the air. One of her heels swung off and landed on a table next to a couch in the front line.

Five men within the shoe's vicinity jumped at it. Like seagulls, they screamed it was theirs and fought for it. Eventually, a man with skin resembling a soaked piece of leather emerged victoriously. He stooped like a chimpanzee, giggling in a high-pitched voice. The man whispered to the shoe how ‘his precious’ belonged to him and caressed it. First with his hand, and then with other body parts culminating in a performance of indecency.

Ragna’s eyes switched to Aura and concentrated on her voice. Everything was better than the creeps in the audience.

Together with Altera’s play, Aura created a powerful ballad whose melody didn’t belong to this place.

“At the crossroad, I am all alone.

I walk further, my destiny unknown

And dance on a path with no return

Splitting and ripping from what I yearn

Not black and white, wrong or right

Yet, I fight for my eyes can’t see day and nigh-”

The song halted. Aura rasped for air, syllables formed in her mouth, and she fell from the piano. Her body plopped like a sack, and blood gushed out of her wound. A crossbow bolt stuck out of her throat.

Before Ragna could process the events that happened before her eyes, the scenery faded away. The castle and the people were all gone, and Ragna stood in a white void room.

What happened? Did Aura die? Where was she?

Ragna paced through the void. Her hands skimmed through the emptiness.

Wait. Was she supposed to prevent Aura’s death? Had she failed?

Words started to glow in blue light within the void. “Mission failed. Do you wish to continue? Yes. No.”

Ragna exhaled.

Thank Twice. She had multiple tries. The task was like a video game. How many attempts did she have? Nothing was indicating any number. Did she have infinite lives? If so, then what would be the point of the level? On a long enough timeline, she would eventually succeed. Though, she should try to keep the number of tries to a minimum.

Ragna chose ‘Yes’, and the room transformed into the banquet hall of Castle Gimli.

֎

“My dear guests.” Eric took the microphone. His voice echoed from the surround-systems into every direction of Castle Gimli’s ivory banquet hall.

In the dark, the spotlight scattered in star-like patterns. It danced through the scenery and conglomerated at the stage’s center, casting Eric’s shadow onto the background.

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A note from YAK Edge

So, that concludes this chapter. How did you like the beginning of the first level? As said before, this portion of the story will be more video game-esque and darker. This is also a good place as any to make it clear that a character voicing a certain opinion, especially regarding a controversial topic, that it doesn't necessarily reflect my own opinion on the subject.

 

As always, thank you for reading the story. It would be amazing if you could comment, rate or review, or follow and favorite my story. And if you have any problem with what has been written, please let me hear your opinion.

 

See you on Saturday.


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YAK Edge

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