Aidan sat down on the bed and let out a loud sigh. This was his reality now, and he had to decide what to do with it.
Or did he?
He could just do the same that he always did – let things run their course, go with the flow, and hope it will all be over soon.
That reminded Aidan that he had no idea how old Adnan Minn actually was and what he looked like. If he was lucky, he might already be approaching the end of his lifetime.
He slowly walked towards the big mirror hanging on the wall. Aidan hated mirrors and avoided them, like a plague. Seeing himself gave him weird anxiety. It was not that he had a problem with the way he looked. More like seeing his own reflection made him confront the fact that he was indeed real and had a corporeal form. And that was something he didn't want to think about.
Unfortunately, Adnan Minn was not yet a grandpa. He seemed to be the same age as Aidan himself. Adnan's face was also eerily similar to his own – just a bit less pale. The General was slightly taller, and his green eyes seemed colder and more distant. But they shared the same dark hair, long nose, and full lips. It was clear that Adnan had led a healthier lifestyle than Aidan and was even less likely to suffer an untimely death. How unfortunate.
Adnan's wrists also didn't have any scars. Aidan didn't know how to feel about it. On one hand, he hated those marks and the weakness they represented. On the other hand, he had gotten used to the soothing feeling of touching the rough marks on his skin. It made him even a bit sad that he won't be able to touch them again.
What concerned Aidan the most was that he had only been in this place for a couple of days, and he had already managed to feel more emotions than in the last decade of his life. It felt weird, and he didn't like it all.
If he were to continue existing as Adnan Minn, he had to find a way to take off the edge and stop the intrusive thoughts. Be it with the help of alcohol or any kind of drug available in this miserable place. He also needed to figure out how to get out of this whole 'torturing people' business. Hopefully, it was not General Minn's only source of income.
Aidan decided to start with the easier task. He opened the door of his room and peeked outside. Sure enough, his gloomy soldier friend was right nearby. Aidan gestured for him to come closer.
"I was wondering, where I could get some wine around here?" he asked, keeping his voice down.
The soldier gave him a confused look.
"General Kear or General Mung might have brought some with them. Is there a reason you would require wine?" he said.
"To drink some, of course," said Aidan patiently.
What was it with these stupid questions? What other reason would he have? Bathing in it?
"Have you denounced your asceticism vows, General?" the soldier's eyes widened in disbelief.
In addition to being an asshole, was this Adnan Minn also out of his mind?
"Not denounced, per se. Just taking a pause," said Aidan carefully.
An ascetic? Seriously? So this guy was A-OK with torture, murder, and whatnot but alcohol was where he drew the line? What kind of moral compass is that?
Aidan would rather inhabit a body of a homeless alcoholic with incurable syphilis than live as an ascetic. The Universe was obviously having fun at his expense.
No, he was not going to play by these rules. Adnan Minn was about to experience a whole lifestyle makeover, and Aidan didn't care if somebody had a problem with that.
When he was about to order the soldier to fetch him the good stuff from other generals, he saw the tall, handsome general from the earlier meeting appear in the dark hall.
"General Minn, I'm very sorry to bother you so late, but we've received the answer from the savages. They seem to have swallowed the bait."
Aidan had nothing to say to that. He didn't care either way. But he nodded just to be polite.
"We shall make our move immediately, so please put on the disguise and meet as at the gate," the tall man handed him a bundle of something that looked like rags.
Aidan was confused.
"Why should I put on the disguise? Weren't you going to send the best fighters?"
The other general gave him a crooked smile.
"Since when are you so modest?"
Great. He had dug his own grave. Boy, were these guys in for a surprise when they realized that Aidan was more useless in a fight than a fifth leg on a horse!
However, this might be the chance for an escape he had been looking for. If he gets killed in the battle... wait, no, WHEN he gets killed in the battle, he will be out of this life for good. And hopefully, that will finally be the end. Aidan didn't particularly want to return to his 21st-century slacker existence either. So he shrugged and accepted the bundle.
The slave outfit was skimpy, to say the least. Thankfully it still covered certain parts of the body, but, all in all, it was just not something anybody should ever wear outside of an adult movie.
Aidan didn't even want to think about what was the purpose of these slaves. The ways of this world were giving him a bad case of depression and reminding him of his forgotten anger issues. At least, soon it won't be his problem anymore.
In front of the gates, he joined the group of other men. They were dressed just like Aidan, and they all looked a bit uncomfortable. Honestly, no one could blame them for that.
The tall general was also amongst them, and he was looking at Aidan with a weird expression. When Aidan looked back, the guy blushed and turned away. Before they left, the older general put fake chains on their ankles and wrists. They didn't get any weapons which made sense as there was no way to hide anything under these questionable clothes.
"General Minn, try crouching a bit. You look too tall for a slave," criticized one of the generals leading the way.
Aidan wondered if they enslaved only short people here for some reason. Was it some weird kind of sizeism? Well, in any case, it was good he was considered tall.
It took them a couple hours to reach the savage fort on foot. Aidan's back hurt, he was cold, and his head wound started pulsating again. There was no way his mood could get any worse. Except it soon did.
The moment they infiltrated the fort and launched their 'trojan' attack was when Aidan realized that Adnan Minn's body had an outstanding hand-to-hand combat ability. In fact, it was so outstanding, that before Aidan could even understand what had happened, he had broken through the wall of enemy fighters and was standing in the middle of a long empty hall.
There was not even a scratch left on him.
Now that wasn't fair. How OP was this General? A master of torture AND a genius fighter? Clearly, while Aidan wasted his time watching TV and hanging around weed dispensaries, the outstanding Adnan Minn was training, improving his skills, and not drinking alcohol.
"What a nerd," Aidan muttered under his nose and continued moving forward. He had no particular idea where he was going, but he was hoping to meet an equally OP enemy and be cut down by him. Was that too much to ask?
Suddenly he noticed a light at the end of the hall – he walked towards it and ended up in a big room. Aidan looked around as he entered, and his eyes immediately picked out a blond youth lying on the floor face down. Aidan stepped closer and noticed that the boy was intricately tied up by a red rope – it seemed he was incapable of moving.
"Hey," said Aidan quietly, trying to figure out if the boy was conscious. To his surprise, the boy sighed in response.
"Are you by any chance... the kidnapped guy? I mean the Emperor-in-Waiting?" Aidan asked, almost sure of his conjecture, but he still needed to check.
The boy sighed yet again and then said:
"Untie me. Please."
Aidan looked at the complicated knots, and it was his turn to sigh. He looked around, searching for something he could use to simply cut the ropes, but the room was completely empty.
"Hurry," the boy said impatiently. "Before they come back."
Aidan squatted next to the boy and gave it an honest try. The knots were hard, and it seemed that when he managed to loosen one knot, the other ones would tighten. Now he really regretted that he had never even opened that book on the Japanese art of shibari that he got from his colleague as a gag gift. Who knew this kind of stuff one day would actually come in handy!
It took him embarrassingly long to finally get one of the knots undone. And as soon as that happened, others seemed to come undone by themselves. Aidan was grateful for that little mercy.
"You took your time," the boy finally stood up and gave Aidan a detached look. His eyes were light blue, and his face, though strikingly handsome, was not particularly friendly. He looked like a rich kid in his last year of high school.
There was now no shade of doubt that he was a member of a royal family. They were rude, entitled pricks in all realities, as far as Aidan was concerned.
"Not even a thank you," Aidan muttered in response.
"Oh, you think I should thank you!" the boy seemed amused now. "Who are you?"
„General Ai... Adnan Minn."
The young Emperor looked him up and down and smirked.
"I've heard of you. They say you're a dangerous pervert. I guess some rumors are indeed worth listening to."
Aidan was just about to object, but then he realized that Adnan was most likely indeed a pervert. The whole asceticism thing was a definite red flag. Combine it with all the torture, and we've got a recipe for America's Next Top Psycho.
So he just shrugged in response.
"We should leave," he said finally.
The boy smiled and said softly: "Only one of us can leave this room alive."
"Really? How come?" Aidan was very interested.
"The exit has the 'Fear of Death' spell on it – only the first one to leave will be able to pass without trouble. The one who follows will be cursed and die, crushed by his own fear," the boy said softly.
So this world had magic. Aidan was impressed – he was not in a historical but rather in a fantasy setting. Interesting, if there were some real dragons around here too. Most likely, they even had unicorns and fairies. Just no weed.
"All right then. You go first. I would assume our fighters have cleared up the way by now but try to be careful just in case. I wish you luck," said Aidan and waved at the boy.
The Emperor-in-Waiting looked shocked – his blue eyes widened in disbelief, and he was lost for words.
"Are you sacrificing yourself for me?" he finally asked.
Aidan couldn't help but laugh. How self-centered was this kid? If he only knew how little fucks Aidan gave about the life of some spoilt royal monarch-to-be!
"I guess so," he said out loud. The boy shook his head.
"Why would you do that?"
"Because... I serve the Emperor," Aidan thought the reason he came up with was pretty solid. It was weird to sound so patriotic, especially when he didn't even know the name of this Empire he was supposedly dying for.
The young monarch frowned.
"Somehow, this rings fake."
Outrageous! Aidan was giving an Oscar-worthy performance here, after all!
"I assure you, my feelings are sincere," Aidan said, even trying to tear up a bit. That didn't work, but at least he managed to get his voice to crack as if trying to hide some deep emotions.
The boy didn't move and just kept looking at him.
"Do you want a reward for your family or maybe your harem?" he asked.
Aidan had no idea if Adnan had a family. And he really hoped that he didn't have a harem.
"No need. Just go." This was taking way too long.
"I won't forget you," said the Emperor-in-Waiting finally and walked out of the room.
Aidan was even a bit touched. Such a cute boy - he might not be as bad as he had thought at first. At least he knew to appreciate what others did for him and didn't take everything for granted.
Aidan smiled to himself. It was his time to go.
He had attempted suicide a couple of times before – but it never worked out as expected. At the last moment, he would always wuss out from all the pain, and then the biological imperative would take over and not let him finish the deed. It was torture to be mentally prepared to die but have his physical body still struggle for survival.
And now, his physical body had no chance to put up a fight. Just one step... It seemed almost too good to be true.
"Farewell," he said to no one in particular and walked out of the room.
Not a thing.
Either it was the most anticlimactic death in the history of deaths or he had been clowned yet again.