** Song inspiration was “Passion” – Utada Hiraku
What if there was another you…in another world…from another time?
What if there was another you, in the same place, at the same time?
Nine worlds, all connected…nine worlds, nine selves: nine Others.
Liann gasped, eyes flying open. Cool water pooled beneath him, soaking through his clothing. He knew he was laying in a shallow pool of water but couldn’t remember how he got there. All he knew was that the place he had been was very dark and suffocating. He awoke feeling groggy, limbs stiff as if he’d been asleep for a very long time.
Liann sat up and saw the entire floor covered with the cool, shallow water, reflecting the soft teal light that illuminated from the giant, white tree ahead of him. Part of its trunk and the a few of the lower branches were black, covered in inky darkness that stretched out like abyssal webs.
The great tree loomed over the entire area, an infinite room that seemed to stretch into darkness. The trees branches stretched up high and reached far out, so much so, that they obscured the ceiling he thought should have been there. Soft motes of light fell gently from above. Liann stretched his hand out and caught one but it melted at his touch, like a snowflake.
The place seemed to be a great hall of some unknown palace, however, when Liann looked back, he sat nothing but void and the edge of whatever land he was on. It all simply ended, the water spilling off of the edge and into nothingness. Liann stood shakily.
Where was he? How long had he been gone, away from Borgir Hollows? He thought the darkness had taken him after he’d….seen himself lying the highest tower.
Liann’s head pulsed. He grabbed it as pain and memories shot through him. They were the visions of a life he never lived. When they faded, he looked up to see a figure by the gigantic tree. Instinctively, he drew closer. Walking through the clear water and towards what looked to be a girl wearing a white, flowing dress.
Her hair was long and golden, and when she turned to him, he saw her eyes matched the teal light. Liann approached her and the woman smiled. She looked young, like she hadn’t aged a day over twenty, but somehow, Liann knew she was much older than that. Only when the strange girl was a few feet away did Liann stop. They both stood several yards away from the base of the tree.
“Where am I?” Liann said, voice echoing oddly.
The girl smiled silently as he looked around.
“What is this place and how did I get here?”
“You don’t remember?” she said, voice so calming and very familiar.
He knew that voice.
“I called to you…from the darkness,” she said, hands clasped in front of her.
That’s right. Liann remembered. He had been drifting away in the eternal abyss. He should have never been able to see light again, yet, here he was.
“I don’t understand. How?”
She shrugged. “We all have a gift, Liann.”
How did she know his name?
“I’ve watched you and your Other for a very long time.” She moved closer, bare feet splashing in the water gently. “I’ve seen you fight and struggle against the darkness,” she said. “And it was I who led you to Deon.”
Deon!, a girl’s voice echoed in the memories Liann saw.
He hadn’t realized he closed his eyes. The girl was in front of him, teal eyes glowing softly.
“You are both connected and that bond is special, something few Others share.”
“I don’t understand.”
The girl nodded and smiled. Her smile was so gentle, so kind. Despite everything, it made Liann feel warmer. He shook his head.
“Can you at least tell me where I am?”
The girl raised her hands up. “This is the center of everything, Liann. This is Tama, the source that binds us all.”
He looked up at the great tree. It pulsed with teal light that shot through its limbs.
“Your world,” the girl said. “And all others, are bound by this place.”
Liann looked on in awe. It was absolutely beautiful.
“Then I’m dead,” he said.
“No, and you shouldn’t be here,” she said. “I just…I couldn’t let the darkness take you Not yet.”
“Because…the path of light calls you.”
He didn’t know what that was supposed to mean, only that he was sure he was supposed to be dead.
Liann shook his head, eyes burning as he remembered the terrified faces of his people. He looked at the young woman. She studied him, soft glowing motes falling around her. He distantly wondered if he were dreaming again.
“Who are you?” he asked.
She smiled again and her eyes radiated.
“Oh, how silly of me,” she said. “I am Destiny.”
Liann blinked at the irony. He chuckled so hard, he stumbled. Destiny caught him by the arm. Her hands were as warm as her voice.
“I am dead, aren’t I?” he whispered. “I failed…I let them all down. I let Ayrah down and Ryder…”
“The New Hollowed King is alive.”
Liann looked at her expectantly but Destiny frowned.
“Liann, I called you here for a reason.”
Liann fell to his knees, exhausted, head still slightly throbbing. He didn’t want to fight anymore. It was so hard losing everything and he felt like a failure.
“If it’s a hero you need, then you’ve summoned the wrong one…”
Who could he save? What could he do? The darkness was too overwhelming.
Warm hands touched the sides of his face. He looked up at Destiny.
“You always have a choice,” she said, so gently it brought tears to his eyes.
Did she know how broken he was?
“I can’t,” he said softly. “I couldn’t even save myself.”
“But you did,” she said. “You did save yourself.”
Flashes of his own form, but not his actual self, came back to him. The man lying in the towers of Borgir Hollows, the man the voice—her voice had guided him to so desperately, was his Other.
“Your path does not end here, Liann. Prince Deon needs you more than ever.”
She nodded. “Your Other.”
“Destiny…,” he said. “Is there no one else? Ryder would be better suited.”
Sorrow weighed heavy in her eyes. So much, his own heart hurt.
“Do you wish to perish that badly?”
Liann opened his mouth then closed it. He looked down.
“I swore…I swore to Ayrah that she would never suffer again. I—” his voice broke. “I couldn’t save her like I said.”
Destiny smiled and stroked his head.
“Ayrah is not dead.”
“Liann…you have a choice to make,” Destiny said, stepping back and letting her hands fall away.”
Liann stood. Could he really bear it? He couldn’t lose her again but if she and Ryder were alive…
“Tell me,” he said.
“You have three open paths. You may either fall back into darkness, forever, or you may go to one of two worlds.”
Liann took a breath. As Destiny spoke, she gestured back to the gigantic tree. It glowed beautifully.
“One path leads to Wrand, home of Prince Deon,” Destiny said. “The other path leads to Ryder, your best friend and the world of Halo.”
“You mean I can go see Ryder—”
“Both of them will face challenges soon. Both Deon and Ryder will be in danger and both will need help, but Liann, you cannot go to both. You must choose because darkness is coming.”
He looked at the tree and gritted his teeth. His head was filled with memories of Deon, memories of a life he didn’t live. Ryder was his best friend, someone he swore to protect as a knight. Destiny waited patiently. Liann pursed his lips.
“You want me to go to Deon, don’t you?”
Destiny lacked expression.
“And if I go to Ryder instead?”
“Then Deon may perish,” she said. “But, Liann, I will not stop you. The future is not set in stone and your choice is your own.”
“Will Ryder die if I don’t go?”
Again, she held no expression.
“It is one of many possibilities.”
Why was such a choice left to him? He fought so hard and earned his eternal rest. The face of a girl he’d never met flashed through his mind. Her smile was kind and her eyes bright. Soon, her world would be drowned in chaos.
Liann clenched his fist.
“I no longer have my light. The soul sword,” he said. “I gave it to Deon. I can’t even fight.”
“I never said you wouldn’t face challenges as well.”
Liann looked down at his hands. Would he ever forget the faces of friends he’d never met? Would his eternal slumber be haunted by the faces of lives he could have possibly saved? Borgir Hollows was gone, but not all was lost.
“And if I go to that world…how will I find him?”
“I told you, you and Deon are connected. You are meant to meet.”
“Almost like its my destiny?” Liann said, chuckling and shaking his head.
With his fist clench and his jaw tight, he looked back at the tree and the darkness corrupting its lower branches. He knew what Ryder would say.
“Damnit,” he said.
“You’ve made your decision.”
Liann nodded and Destiny smiled and raised her hands as if she were offering them to him. Liann took a breath then stepped forward. Reality shifted as he did so. One step and he was falling backward into a sea of waning light. Above him, he could see Destiny looking down, standing as though the floor wasn’t a deep ocean.
“Wait!” he yelled, voice muffled. “Will I see you again? What do I do if I need your help?”
Destiny smiled as the world grew darker. She knelt, eyes bright and growing smaller as he fell.
“I’m always with you, Liann,” her voice echoed distantly in his head. Darkness closed over him and he felt himself being pulled far away. “Liann…”