“It’s you!” she repeated.
“Are you going to say anything else, or just keep repeating yourself like a lunatic?” Ethan asked coldly.
She looked at him with contempt. “You’re the reason I’m here! You’re the source of all this misery and humiliation I had to go through! Damn you! Damn all you humans to hell!” Her face was turning purple before she finally paused to take a breath.
“I fail to see how I could have caused all of what you’ve mentioned from here. I’ve done nothing since I came to this world,” he retorted.
She suddenly calmed down. It was odd to see her switching mannerisms in an instant.
“So you are not of this world? From whence do you come?” she eyed him in the way of an avid entomologist studying an interesting insect.
“Fuck!” he slapped his forehead. She was a prisoner like him, and probably knew nothing about his origins, and he’d just freely admitted to coming from another world. At that moment, he made a solemn promise to himself. No more blunders! He couldn’t afford to be making mistakes like this again.
“That’s none of your damn business,” he said and turned away in his cage. He made sure the coast was clear of guards, then started moving his body in well-practised motions. He wasn’t so much keeping fit as recharging his implants, although his body’s fitness was a great side effect. Besides, now, more than ever, he was spending great amounts of CPU computing time on his simulations, which were always running in the background—even as he slept. All of that power had to come from somewhere.
The line of implants he had installed was a standard set for scientists, they recharged from tiny nanotubes that grew to interlace themselves throughout the muscles of his body. The nanotubes served a dual purpose: they could either passively generate power from the kinetic energy caused by natural muscle movements, or imbue the muscles with greater strength and control in case of emergency. He wasn’t using the military variant that allowed the owner to lift tonnes or jump over buildings, but it was a good boost nonetheless.
Of course, in this medieval world, it was a great advantage, although the firmware of the implants would only grant access to such inhuman strength in life-or-death situations, and only as a last resort. This was to be judged by a separate logic circuit of the AI, and before coming to this world, it had never activated in his entire lifetime.
Right now, he couldn’t focus on his stretches, though.
A nagging Polarii was still trying to fish information out of him. “What’s your name?” she asked at first.
He completely ignored her.
“Your world, what is it like?” she was brimming with curiosity.
“So you won’t talk?“ She asked in annoyance after a while.
”What are you trying to do anyway? Why are you jumping in your cage, you little ape?” she teased.
“Why are they keeping you here? Aren’t you a human, one of their kin?” she just wouldn’t quit bothering him.
“Would you please just shut up?” he finally shouted.
He heard movements from the guards and swore. She started laughing maniacally.
“Why are you making a ruckus, boy?” one of the guards asked in a gruff voice.
“And you! [Mage]! Shut the hell up and stop laughing, or I’m going to carve out your tongue,” he shouted at the Polarii woman.
Wait a minute … a [Mage]? Ethan immediately eyed her with renewed interest.
A [Mage] could be his ticket out of here! He waited until the guard grunted and left, then turned to look at her, deep in thought.
“I see your change in demeanour, and wonder what caused it,” she finally said after a while.
“You’re a [Mage]?” he asked carefully.
“Ah, I see. You are wondering why I have not escaped yet,” she said quietly.
“Yes, it crossed my mind.”
“What can you offer in return for this information?” she asked.
“What?” he asked in shock.
“The way I see it, you may be in the same situation as I, unable to cast any magic. And while it was easy for me to deduce the reason behind this, it might not be the same for you,” she explained.
“I assure you, I am not stupid. And the reason I cannot cast any magic is that I don’t have it,” he quietly said.
“You what?” She was shocked. “Even young children without a [Class] usually hold the vestiges of an innate spell!”
“I. Do. Not. Have. Any. Magic,” he slowly enunciated for her.
She didn’t look offended but was instead lost in thought for some time.
“Do you not have any magic in your world?” she finally questioned.
“What can you offer in return for this information?” he sneered at her.
“A human after my own heart, how endearing,” she laughed. “What is your name, human?”
“Ethan West,” he responded.
She thought for a while, then nodded. “Fine, my name is Aylin Merza, and I have an offer that may be beneficial to us both: let us partake in the exchange of information.”
“How do you want to go about it?” Ethan asked, his mind wandering in all directions. This could be his chance to learn magic!
“We will take turns asking each other questions. The one who has to answer can forbid a question, but afterwards, they have to answer two questions. Either one of us can end the exchange by sacrificing their turn,” she offered.
He laughed, “And how will you know if I lie to you?” he mocked.
With enough practice, his AI could analyse visual and auditory cues to detect lies. He did not believe she had the same advantage, though. Moreover, she could not use magic, so how could she guarantee his honesty?
“With a solemn oath to The Eye Of Judgment, of course,” she said with a glimmer in her eyes.
“The what?” he asked in confusion.
“I will show you!” she said and lifted an outstretched palm.
He thought she was going to cast a spell and frantically ordered his AI to do a detailed recording of everything. While the AI did record everything during normal operations, it could be described as glossing over events compared to a detailed recording.
“Oh Eternal Eye Of Judgement, I, Aylin Merza, summon you to fulfil your eternal oath!” she solemnly intoned.
<WARNING: UNKNOWN TEMPORAL/SPATIAL EVENT IN PROGRESS!>
A rip in space and - according to the AI, time - opened, and the strangest being Ethan had ever seen stepped, or actually floated, through.
“I ACCEPT YOUR SUMMONS AND SHALL JUDGE ITS MERIT.” Ethan heard the deep, scratchy voice clawing inside his head. A perfectly black eyeball with a shining, vertical golden pupil stared at them. It turned and focused on Ethan for a few seconds as if surprised, then it screeched.
<WARNING: UNKNOWN ENTITY SHOWING HIGH HOSTILITY LEVELS, ACTIVATING SURVIVAL PROTOCOL>
That was when The Eternal Eye Of Judgment charged at his cage and sent him tumbling head over heels.
Aylin Merza closed her eyes in pain as The Eternal Eye Of Judgment screeched loudly inside her head.
When she could open them again, she watched speechlessly as The Eye, oblivious to the shouts from the guards, rushed closer and charged at Ethan West’s cage. The cage went flying as the chains holding it broke free. It clanged and banged, as it was sent tumbling on the cavernous rocky floor. The Eye followed the cage on its path, still screeching in its madness to hurt Ethan.
When it got close, a fist shot out and hit it square in the pupil. Its screeching got even louder and crazier if such a thing was even possible! It started bleeding with golden blood that splashed everywhere. The blood caused anything it touched to corrode and melt. Most of it fell on Ethan’s cage. She heard him scream loudly and curse.
Then Ethan shot out of the molten cage. Parts of the skin on his forearms were burning, and his clothes were in tatters. His chiselled muscles glowed with perspiration as he heaved up the cage door and threw it away. He stood defiantly, in a fighting stance she’d never seen the likes of before.
The Eye Of Judgement would not quit so easily, though. It kept coming at him for more, and he met its charges with his own. Sometimes, its pupil would glow and it would send a ray of energy his way, which he evaded with strange precision and inhuman reflexes. Every time it got too close, he’d send it reeling with a strike that was fast—way too fast for a human, or any other race she knew of, for that matter! She’d thought him dead the moment the Eye charged him, but he was actually holding his own!
As things currently stood, it was a stalemate.
She looked at Ethan’s form. From up close, he somehow radiated a sense of solidity she’d never encountered before in any other being. He just felt… ‘denser’ than everything else. It was a strange phenomenon that had escaped her observation from a distance, back at the battlefield, but seeing him fighting like this somehow reinforced that feeling.
She looked around and noticed the guards and tribesmen gathering to watch. They did not try to interfere. She screamed at them to help, but they all stood there and reverently watched on.
Savages! This was probably a sacred honour to them or some weird such thing.
It’s not like she particularly cared for the human, she just saw him as a potential source of knowledge and a promising research subject. Even if her imminent demise still loomed over her with tyrannical certainty, she still refused to acknowledge it until the very end. Then she remembered something she’d read about somewhere in an old journal. She alone could dismiss The Eye! She’d been the one to summon it, so she should be able to send it away! If only she could remember the words…
But wait, shouldn’t she just observe for a little while longer? She might make some interesting observations if she let him reach his breaking point, right? And then there was The Eye’s behaviour. The Eternal Eye Of Judgement was a neutral force in this world. It oversaw treaties between nations, and petty squabbles between peasants just the same. It dispensed judgement to king and peasant both in equal measure. If one broke an oath witnessed by The Eye, they would lose their classes or levels. More solemn oaths involved shaving off one’s lifespan, and even more solemn oaths could make one perish completely if broken in some cases. It was not supposed to take sides, display emotion, or attack anyone.
According to myth, it was created by the gods to oversee The Truth in all things. So why would it suddenly become enraged at someone?
Also, isn’t it an immutable being? It certainly was, until now. Until it saw Ethan West.
Interesting, very interesting indeed.
She was so engrossed and completely lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed when someone tossed Ethan a spear.
He was fighting The Eye in earnest now, and its strength was starting to wane! The spear tipped the scales, and the stalemate was no more. He was actually winning! She noticed many shamans and the elusive elders watching with the rest of the crowd as if this event had turned into a ritual of sorts.
Ethan fought fiercely and gave no quarter. She saw him leap on top of empty cages and attack The Eye from above with the spear. It pierced The Eye yet again and it hissed at him. Its golden blood corroded the spear even more. He made yet another inhuman jump at the volcanic wall, pivoted, and pounced, piercing The Eye yet again. Strangely, the blood did not corrode the wooden shaft; only the iron tip was affected.
That was a new piece of information. She shelved it for analysis later.
Wooden weapons are impervious, or near-impervious against The Eternal Eye Of Judgement. Such information was truly priceless.
Not that anyone sane would decide to attack The Eye though.
Ethan jumped back as The Eye shot a ray of light at his position. Unfortunately, part of the spear crossed with the ray and it broke in half.
But not impervious against the ray attack, interesting.
Ethan tossed the broken spear away, and somebody else must have noticed something because they tossed him a wooden spear this time. He attacked again and again, then rolled out of the way and attacked once more. This went on until The Eye was turned into a pulp and could no longer float. Ethan stood there, panting from the exertion. He looked around at the tribesmen surrounding him, his eyes sunken and his breathing ragged. He put down the spear.
The tribesmen charged him and carried him away.
Aylin was left alone in her cage, wishing she could just lay her hands on the dead eye and dissect it somehow.
Or if she could cast a soul trap spell—she wondered what would happen then!
Alas, she had to watch the corpse dematerialise into thin air while mulling over the events she’d just witnessed.