The cries of the denizen echoed through the lavender halls of the sanctuary, the ground shook at the impossibly high beast, Kydoimos, stumbled back onto the stone walls, taking with it a large banner that was hanging between two pillars with a peculiar symbol embroidered on it.
Ashton, the soon to be fully-realized Lord of rage, stood in the middle of the circular hall, xyr hand tightly clenched as a warm stream of blood trickled down xyr arm, labored breaths and blurred vision afflicted xem, but xyr resolve was ironclad.
ASHTON: fuck... you...
KYDOIMOS: YOUR STRENGTH IS FORMIDABLE. HOWEVER, I WILL NOT LET YOU TRIUMPH.
The beast rose from its rocky bed and stared down at Ashton. Beneath it, xe seemed minuscule, like an ant, a pebble, a crumb.
ASHTON: youre real talkative for a supposed "final boss"
ASHTON: this ends, now
Ashton took flight and rose until xe was eye-level with the denizen, its two beady black eyes peering into xyr soul.
In one flawless motion, xe flew into the beasts face, slamming one of its eyes with xyr feet, sending Kydoimos onto its back. The floor underneath the beast gave way, a voracious chasm opened up, swallowing the denizen whole.
Ashton gently floated back onto the ground, collapsing onto xyr knees as xe made contact.
ASHTON: fuck... that was tough...
Xe waited for the denizen to rise from the chasm, to reveal its special final form, but nothing happened. Nothing rose, only the lingering cloud of dust hanging over it which seemed almost frozen in time.
It was frozen in time.
In fact, everything was frozen in time apart from Ashton. “What just happened?” xe wondered, getting to xyr feet and weakly walking over the edge of the pit. Xe stared down, only the abyss stared back. Had xe won? Where was the prize? Was there a prize to begin with?
A couple of moments after, a door slid open behind xem, revealing a long, narrow stairway, lit up by dim candlelight.
Xe made xyr way up the stairs, each step making pain ring through xyr body as the adrenaline in xyr bloodstream began to subside.
At the end of the staircase, there was a boundless black void with a single platform in the middle. On the platform, a clock stood, its monotone ticking soothing Ash’s nerves as xe approached it.
This was it.
The clocked that judge xyr death, this was the thing that determined Ashton’s cause of death, be it Just, or Heroic.
Xe gave the clock a hefty kick at its base, felling power return to xyr body, xyr fatigue seemingly vanished, the lingering pain xe felt all over xyr body alleviated itself.
Another kick, a punch, blood continued to trickle down xyr hands, but the wounds healed with each blow xe dealt.
Xe pushed the clock over, crushing it under xyr feet and stomping it to oblivion.
But it still ticked, it was still working. As long as this clock ticked, Ashton could die.
Just before xe was about to deal the final blow, xe was dragged out of the room back into the ruined temple hall by some unknown force.
ASHTON: WHAT?! NO NO NO I WAS SO CLOSE!
???: SHUT UP.
Ash turned around to see a towering monster over xem. His flashing eyes and coat made it hard to focus on his face, but xe knew who it was.
The time demon himself, Lord English.
ASHTON: did you do it? did you just stop me from destroying the clock?!
LORD ENGLISH: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE IMMORTAL BEING.
ASHTON: you BASTARD!
In a fit of rage, Ash jumped to xyr feet and threw a punch at Lord English, hitting his chest with incredible speed and strength.
But the demon didn’t move an inch. In fact, he was completely unphased, amused, even.
ASHTON: oh fuck.
ASHTON: guess im going to have to try these new badass powers on you!
LORD ENGLISH: YOU DON'T STAND A CHANCE.
English’s eyes began shaking violently, his jaw opened to reveal a sphere of rainbow light akin to a supernova. The ground began shaking once again, almost knocking Ash off-balance.
Without hesitation, Ash activated xyr strife specibus, which had been restored by the additional powers the smashed clock had granted xem.
In one swift movement, xe pulled back the bowstring, electric arcs extended from the arrowhead, leaving burn marks on the ground.
The arrow cut through the air before colliding with English’s arm with a thunderous slam, a thin purple trail hanging in the air behind it.
Upon impact, lightning bolts stretched across the demon’s body, leaving burn marks all over his chest and arms. English, though, seemed completely unphased.
LORD ENGLISH: IS THAT ALL YOU GOT.
LORD ENGLISH: WEAK.
ASHTON: tch, im only getting started
Lord English pulled the arrow out and completely opened his jaw, the rainbow ball hovering in his mouth shaking extremely violently now, about to burst.
With a deafening sound, a beam emerged from his mouth, narrowly avoiding Ash’s head, and tearing a hole in the wall behind xem. Ashton was speechless, xe had never seen such destructive power from a singular attack, it made xyr mind cower in fear, thinking of how xe would simply be vaporized if xe simply touched it, but xyr heart beat faster, it yearned for more.
ASHTON: holy shit...
LORD ENGLISH: YOU HAVE NO CHANCE. I AM GOING TO WIN.
ASHTON: we'll see about that, big guy.
Ashton pushed off the ground and took flight, drawing another arrow and sending it straight at English's head. It tore through the air at the speed of light and hit his head, exploding on impact.
The arrow left a gaping hole in the top of his skull, charred streaks of lighting covered the whole top half of his body, only his pool ball eyes remained pristine and glowing.
ASHTON: HAHA! TAKE THAT SUCKER!
Xe laughed gleefully, naively landing in front of Lord English and looking up at his fractured skull, xyr sly grin more prominent now than ever.
ASHTON: Seems like i won!
ASHTON: if you let me go, i'll spare you your life.
But as Lord English's eyes turned to eight balls, Xe remembered something, one crucial fact that changed this whole battle, one fact that, if xe had remembered beforehand, wouldn't put xem in such a bad situation.
Lord English was immortal.
LORD ENGLISH: CHECKMATE.
With overwhelming force, English slammed Ashton into the ground, the stone floor cracking under the impact of xyr body.
The world around Ash turned and twisted, everything went blurry, the sour taste of mortality in xyr mouth followed by a numbing feeling at xyr fingertips.
For a moment, xe felt like xe could float, the ground under xem vanishing. Until the hard truth, literally, knocked xem back into reality.
Xe returned to xyr body lying on the ground, gasping for air, xyr heart racing like it never had before, xyr heartbeats booming in xyr ears.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU DO NOT STAND A CHANCE AGAINST ME.
ASHTON: well... fuck... can’t believe this... is how it all ends
ASHTON: this is terrible.
LORD ENGLISH: NO.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU ARE THE FIRST BEING TO DEAL THIS MUCH DAMAGE TO ME.
LORD ENGLISH: I AM IMPRESSED.
ASHTON: so what are you going to do.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU WILL WORK FOR ME.
ASHTON: i dont want to.
LORD ENGLISH: THEN I WILL KILL YOU.
ASHTON: hey now calm down.
ASHTON: lets not get hasty.
ASHTON: what do i get out of serving you
LORD ENGLISH: NOT DYING.
ASHTON: fair enough...
ASHTON: but like, whats my job supposed to be?
LORD ENGLISH: I BRING YOU TO DESTROY UNIVERSES AND PARTICIPATE IN HEISTS.
ASHTON: oh??? really???.
LORD ENGLISH: YES.
Ash shakily stood up and looked up at Lord English, a simmering feeling flared up in xyr heart, but xe quickly repressed it. Now wasn't the time for it. The hole in his skull was completely hollow, almost as if the pure void was the only thing there, staring at xem.
Taking a deep breath, xe cracked a pained smile and nodded.
ASHTON: alright, i'll work for you.
LORD ENGLISH: SERVE UNDER.
ASHTON: same thing.
Lord English grunted before turning around and snapping his fingers, the sound echoing through the desecrated halls of the temple. A large flashing sarcophagus plummeted through the ceiling and crashed onto the ground, shattering the stone under it like glass.
LORD ENGLISH: GET IN.
ASHTON: can i finish smashing my clock before we go?
LORD ENGLISH: NO.
ASHTON: why not??
LORD ENGLISH: GET IN.
English pushed Ash into the sarcophagus, shutting the door behind xem. Everything around xem went completely silent, xe could feel xyr breaths against the stone walls of the sarcophagus, xyr heart continued booming in xyr ears, it felt like a ticking time bomb, ready to burst.
A couple of moments passed in complete silence, before xe heard a gentle knocking in front of xem.
???: Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?
???: Doesn't. Sound. Like. The. Boss.
???: Calm down everyone, lets open it before we start freaking out.
???: No no no no no no something is wrong the boss doesn't sound like like like a child.
As the mysterious beings questioned Ashton, another figure emerged from the sarcophagus, his footsteps shook the room. It was none other than the boss himself.
LORD ENGLISH: I HAVE RETURNED.
???: Scuse me boss, who's the new kid?
LORD ENGLISH: THIS HUMAN WORKS FOR ME NOW.
???: Why would you work with a human?
LORD ENGLISH: THE HUMAN IS VERY POWERFUL.
???: I see. Whatever you say boss.
With a grunt, the maroon-hatted creature walked past Ashton, scrutinizing xem intently before leaving the room.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU TWO GET OUT OF MY SIGHT.
???: Ok ok ok ok ok
The two green creatures scurry out. Well, the one with the blue hat excruciatingly makes it outside the room at record-slow speeds while the one with the yellow hat almost vanished instantly from how fast they were going, leaving burn marks on the ground, but you get the point.
Lord English pushed Ashton along, indicating for xem to follow him. Ashton felt particularly happy at that moment, xe couldn't think as to why xe was, xe just... was.
ASHTON: uh, who were they?
LORD ENGLISH: SHUT UP. YOU ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS.
ASHTON: what, are you scared?
LORD ENGLISH: WHY WOULD I BE SCARED.
ASHTON: are you hiding something?
LORD ENGLISH: SHUT UP.
LORD ENGLISH: I WILL KILL YOU.
Lord English brought Ash through the mansion, hundreds if not thousands of clocks filled each corridor and corner, all ticking at the same time.
As xe followed English, many more of those green creatures glanced at xem with curious gazes, evidently, a being of xyr complexion had never made xyr way into these eternal halls.
Eventually, English opened a large door and walked in, sitting down behind a desk and taking off his eternally-flashing Cairo Overcoat. The desk was empty except for a small snowglobe, sitting there, alone.
ASHTON: is this your office?
LORD ENGLISH: YOU ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS. STOP.
ASHTON: i am told i'm VERY curious
LORD ENGLISH: I DO NOT CARE.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.
ASHTON: and what could that be?
LORD ENGLISH: YOU WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN THE NEXT HEIST.
LORD ENGLISH: HEIST.
ASHTON: oh shit already?!
ASHTON: i cant wait to get my hands dirty!!
LORD ENGLISH: YOU WILL BE UNDER CROWBARS COMMAND.
LORD ENGLISH: FOLLOW EVERYTHING HE SAYS.
ASHTON: oh? the one in the stupid hat?
LORD ENGLISH: SAYS THE ONE IN PURPLE PAJAMAS.
ASHTON: ...fuck you...
Lord English opened the door, indicating for Ashton to leave.
ASHTON: uh alright, what am i supposed to do now?
LORD ENGLISH: GET READY FOR THE HEIST.
ASHTON: what?! how?
The door slammed in front of xyr face, an eerie silence fell in the green-tinted halls, the monotone ticking of the clocks has now become white noise for xem, xyr mind began wandering towards Lord English. He was the one xe had been looking for this whole time, someone who-
No, now wasn't the time. Xe had to get ready for a heist, not fantasize over a massive time Demon.
Ashton began wandering through the stretching green halls of the mansion, brushing xyr hand against the repeating wallpaper and occasionally giving a light kick to the carpet under xyr feet.
CROWBAR: So you're the new one?
Ash turned around and pulled out xyr bow, aiming an arrow straight at Crowbar’s face, little electrical arcs jumping all over the arrowhead.
CROWBAR: Calm down, I'm not going to hurt you.
ASHTON: you scared me!
CROWBAR: I heard what the boss was saying about you. You're going to be in the next heist, huh? I could always use a couple more helping hands.
ASHTON: listen, i dont want to be rude, but im not going to be taking orders from a green doll in a dinky hat.
CROWBAR: Well get used to it, whatever the Boss says around here is law. And if he said you need to listen to me, you better listen to me.
CROWBAR: You'll get used to it.
Crowbar gave Ash a pat on the back before indicating for xem to follow them.
ASHTON: where are we going?
CROWBAR: To meet the others.
ASHTON: the blue and yellow one?
CROWBAR: Them too.
ASHTON: there are more?
CROWBAR: How many members do you think the Felt has?
ASHTON: the felt?
CROWBAR: The Boss' gang.
ASHTON: oh, like five?
CROWBAR: Try seventeen.
ASHTON: holy shit
ASHTON: thats a lot of little dolls in cute hats
CROWBAR: Doc has planned this heist out perfectly, each member has their own role. You're sort of a wildcard, got it.
CROWBAR: Alright, here we are.
Crowbar opened a door to reveal a large hall, gothic decorations wrapped themselves onto the walls, a large chandelier hung in the middle, emitting a beautifully radiant light.
While the hall itself may have been a perfect harmonious balance of all elements, light and dark, the residents of the said hall were a whole different story.
It was total chaos, leprechauns were all over the place, running left and right, one of them was hiding in an oven, another one was simply standing in place, seemingly staring blankly into the wall.
Or just moving extremely slowly.
ASHTON: is this supposed to be the notorious "Felt"?
CROWBAR: This is just the main hall, they usually hang out here
ASHTON: uh, alright...
CROWBAR: HEY EVERYBODY, LISTEN UP.
Every single leprechaun in the hall froze in place, all of them looking at Crowbar and then At Ashton, their eyes darting left and right.
CROWBAR: The boss has assigned this human to assist in the upcoming heist, and although I don't completely agree with xyr involvement, I expect all of you to at least tolerate xem.
CROWBAR: Also, Trace, if I catch you cheating on poker night again I am going to make your life hell.
CROWBAR: Alright, Clover, give xem a tour, I need to go do something.
A tiny little Leprechaun made his way over to Ash, looking up at xem and inviting xem to follow him.
ASHTON: uh, hi
CLOVER: Hello!!! I'm Clover!!! Whats your name??
CLOVER: Okay Ashton!! Welcome to the Felt!!
ASHTON: yeah, i expected a gang to be lead by Lord English himself to be y'know, cooler
CLOVER: I can assure you!! We are very cool!!
ASHTON: alright, whatever you say
CLOVER: Follow me!!!
Clover brought Ash through the main hall, introducing xem to every felt member that was present in the hall.
Ashton felt as if xe were submerged in a twisted dreamscape, first meeting Lord English in, managing to see his hulking body in the flesh, and now this? Each encounter with the next leprechaun felt increasingly bizarre.
At one point, Clover showed xem a literal oven claiming it was an impenetrable time-traveling fortress that traveled at the breakneck speeds of one second a second.
After a brief but eventful tour, Lord English’s stomping footsteps made their way into the hall, the fracture Ashton remembered on his head was completely gone, as if it were never there, to begin with.
LORD ENGLISH: THE HEIST IS ABOUT TO BEGIN. IS EVERYBODY READY.
ASHTON: wait, uh, English-
LORD ENGLISH: REFER TO ME AS YOUR LORD.
ASHTON: alright, LORD English, what exactly are we hesiting?
LORD ENGLISH: DO YOU NOT KNOW.
ASHTON: how was i supposed to know?
LORD ENGLISH: I DO NOT CARE. GET READY.
Lord English stomped out of the room and disappeared behind a corner, leaving the hall in total silence, Ashton's heart still racing.
ASHTON: sooo is anyone gonna tell me what exactly we're heisting or is that just part of the fun?
ASHTON: derse, like, the whole planet?!
CLOVER: The Dersite Bank!!
ASHTON: bank?! does Eng- LORD English need money?? since when??
CLOVER: No!! He wants to weaken a rival's area of influence so he can start taking control of Derse!
CLOVER: Atleast, thats what we all think!
CLOVER: He does not tell us much about the reasoning behind the heists!
The leprechauns began preparing themselves, one of them picked up the oven and carried it on their back, others prepared their weapons, even the slow blue-hatted one seemed in a hurry, somehow.
What piqued Ashton’s interest, though, was a mysterious figure in the corner of the hall, drenched in a penumbra, only the gentle flicker of a cigarette piercing through the shadowy veil.
ASHTON: whos that person in the corner? i didn't meet them.
CLOVER: Oh!! She's Snowman!
ASHTON: Snowman, huh? Why is she being so mysterious?
CLOVER: No clue! That's just how she is!!
ASHTON: bank?! does Eng- LORD English need money?? since when??
CLOVER: No!! He wants to weaken a rival's area of influence so he can start taking control of Derse!
CLOVER: Atleast, thats what we all think!
CLOVER: He does not tell us much about the reasoning behind the heists!
Xe carefully made their way towards the shadowy figure, trying xyr best to seem cool and slick. Snowman seemed like the type of person that would judge you off of first impressions, Ashton wanted to nail xyrs.
ASHTON: hey there, real mysterious arent ya?
ASHTON: hey, you there?
SNOWMAN: What do you want.
ASHTON: oh nothing! we just didnt properly meet! Plus, i find mysterious noir-like characters like you very interesting so i couldn't help but see what u were all about
SNOWMAN: I see.
ASHTON: so everybody here seems to have a special time-related power, whats yours? I mean, the name "Snowman" doesn't inspire much...
SNOWMAN: ...I sustain the entire universe.
SNOWMAN: If I die, the universe dies with me.
ASHTON: oh really?
ASHTON: sounds a bit unrealistic to me.
SNOWMAN: And yet you seemed to be completely on board with the idea of a time-traveling oven going at one second a second.
ASHTON: you were watching us?!
SNOWMAN: You not only are the only human Lord English has ever brought here, but you’re also a very loud one. It was impossible not to watch you.
ASHTON: thats creepy...
SNOWMAN: The heist is about to start. Crowbar is calling you over, don't keep him waiting.
Ashton slyly walked away from Snowman, giving her one final look of suspicion before finally reaching Crowbar, who was waiting for xem, crowbar in hand.
CROWBAR: Let's go, we don't want to keep Doc waiting.
CROWBAR: You'll see.
Crowbar lead Ashton through the endless green corridors of the mansion, eventually arriving at a regular-looking green door. Several voices were murmuring behind it. Crowbar opened the door to reveal a beautifully-furbished room. An extremely realistic model of the battlefield in Skaia sat in the middle of the room, next to the model, a hardwood table with a bankers lamp illuminating a completely blank sheet of white paper. On the sheet of paper, a pristine white revolver with two little marble-shaped bullets next to it.
Is that the human Lord English recruited?
We're all here then.
A short man with a perfectly spherical head stood in the middle of the room, looking over the model battlefield with a curious gaze.
At least, what looked like a curious gaze considering the lack of face on the cueball head of his.
ASHTON: uh , hi
ASHTON: where are the others?
I already debriefed them on the plan of action while you had your conversation with Snowman.
ASHTON: alright. so, when are we getting this show on the road? i can't wait to go and heist some banks!
Crowbar, could you give us a moment?
CROWBAR: Of course.
The cueball man snapped his fingers, Crowbar disappeared instantly in a flash of green and yellow.
ASHTON: where did he go?!
I teleported him down to Derse. The heist is already in motion, I just needed to talk to you for a moment.
ASHTON: oh, uh, what did you want to tell me?
You are very special, Ashton
ASHTON: yeah, im the best person out there.
You class, in particular, is special.
ASHTON: my class?
It is special.
ASHTON: ah, figures. i knew this long-ass cape meant something special.
You are what's called a master class.
Your master class in particular, Lord, is assigned to extremely powerful players who participate in solo sessions and manage to defeat their denizen in battle.
ASHTON: who would want to sacrifice themselves?? thats just dumb.
The only other being that has managed to defeat their denizen in battle was young Lord English.
ASHTON: oh shit! does that mean im as powerful as him!?
Nowhere close. Lord English is a combination of various powerful entities, you are just one.
In addition, you can die. He can't.
ASHTON: right... dont remind me.
I've already taken up enough of your time. Have a good heist.
In a flash of light, Ashton found xemself standing in a purple room, a bunch of Felt members glanced at xem for a moment before returning to what they were doing.
ASHTON: where am i?
ASHTON: where are the others? aren't there supposed to be like, more members?
ITCHY: Theeeyyyy are heistingg!!!
ASHTON: why aren't you?
CROWBAR: Itchy is extremely volatile, we can't risk him blowing our cover.
ASHTON: huh. and why arent you heisting either?
CROWBAR: Doc divided us into a main and a backup team. Incase trace fails to infiltrate and gets caught, we head in and finish the job.
ASHTON: cant we just go in guns blazing?
CROWBAR: The Midnight Crew has pretty much run the place around here. Sure, it may seem like the Black King is doing it all but in reality, he exchanged immunity for “favors” by the Midnight Crew. Most of them involving assassinations of his Prospit or political opponents.
CROWBAR: If the Midnight Crew realize we're here, they'll track us down and raid our mansion again.
ASHTON: so what? we can take them, no?
CROWBAR: They are extremely organized, brute force alone will never win against them.
CROWBAR: Plus, Doc said he would rather they didn't burst into the mansion and wreck the place, so its better if we stick by his plan.
ASHTON: ugh, fine.
Ash sat down on a chair and looked out the window, admiring the vast purple expanses under xem, Purple, like rage. Each rooftop had a tiny little carapacian standing on top of it, looking down at the bustling streets. But as xe observed the tiny little carapacians scurrying around, a particularly tall figure sticking out of the crowd like a sore thumb.
ASHTON: hey, uh, Crowbar, who's that guy?
CROWBAR: Oh fuck. Why is Boxcars here?
ASHTON: you dont mean-
CROWBAR: Hearts Boxcars, of the Midnight Crew. Yeah.
ASHTON: oh, why would he be here?
CROWBAR: No clue. Did someone tip him off?
ASHTON: do we need to take care of him?
CROWBAR: No. No. We can't engage him. If we lay low here he shouldn't spot us, plus, if you attacked him, he would definitely notify the rest of the Crew.
ASHTON: oh come on, thats boring...
CROWBAR: Get used to it.
Ashton let out a long, exhausted sigh. Xe wasn’t the type to idly stand around and wait for a bunch of little green things in eccentric hats to finish whatever they had started. Xe was a person of action, of taking matters into xyr own hands. Carefully, xe slid back and crept towards the door, taking each step slowly.
Crowbar seemed too distracted worrying over what Boxcars would do, Ash took advantage of this and crept out of the room, hoping the others wouldn’t snitch on xem.
Xe rushed down the purple brick steps of the small tower xe had been transported to, emerging into the bustling street with adrenaline filling xyr veins.
Making xyr way through the carapacian crowd, xe eventually reached Hearts Boxcars, who had turned a corner and entered a particularly dark alleyway.
ASHTON: ...ive got you now...
In one swift motion, xe grabbed the carapacian by the collar of his suit and threw him onto the ground with a satisfying thud.
ASHTON: for being the muscle of the Midnight Crew, youre surprisingly easy to throw.
BOXCARS: Well well well, if it isn't the lord xemself.
ASHTON: shut up, listen. im going to give you an offer:
ASHTON: if you and your crew lay off and let us do our little heist, i wont kill you.
BOXCARS: "Us"? "Heist"? Hear that Slick?
SLICK: Loud and clear.
Ash woke up to the sound of dripping water and a cold sensation around xyr wrists. The room was damp, and the single lightbulb dangling from the ceiling.
ASHTON: fuck, my head. what happened
SLICK: Ya got caught.
ASHTON: no shit
SLICK: I expected better from the Lord of Rage. But hey, guess we can't all be winners.
ASHTON: so whats the plan spades?
SLICK: Never thought you could beat the denizen, I'm impressed.
ASHTON: thank you-
SLICK: But why join the Felt? Thats just boring.
ASHTON: hey, i didn't ask to join the felt, English forced me to.
SLICK: Since when does that steroid beast over there recruit people himself?
SLICK: Last I heard, the Felt didn’t set up a little wooden booth with the words “Sign up to join the worst fucking gang in history and work under a buff fucking time demon who probably can’t even fit through any of the doors in the mansion half the time considering how huge he is”.
ASHTON: that wouldn't fit on a sign
SLICK: It would.
SLICK: Y'know, you're acting real tough for being the one tied to a chair.
SLICK: Maybe I'll just end you right here right now, how about that?
DROOG: You can't.
SLICK: Huh? Why not?
DROOG: The kid is god-tiered, no matter how many knifes you go through, xe won't die.
SLICK: Ughhh I HATE THIS.
ASHTON: hah, loser.
SLICK: FUCK YOU. IM GOING TO DESTROY YOU.
DROOG: Alright Slick, maybe you need to go and have a rest, I'll handle xem.
Spades Slick stubbornly walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him, leaving Ash and Diamonds Droog alone.
Diamonds grabbed another chair and sat down in front of Ash, looking at xem straight in the eyes before lighting a cigarette.
DROOG: Why did English recruit you?
ASHTON: wouldnt you like to know?
DROOG: You must've done something pretty significant to warrant the attention of Lord English himself.
ASHTON: why should I tell you?
DROOG: Why not?
ASHTON: you have a point, you sly dog
DROOG: Sly Droog, actually.
ASHTON: shut up
DROOG: Come on, spill the beans.
ASHTON: beans? where
DROOG: Don't try to change topic.
ASHTON: youre the only one changing topic, Droog.
DROOG: This trick might've worked on Slick, but I'm not as short-fused as him.
ASHTON: oh really?
DROOG: Now go on, tell me what happened.
ASHTON: or what?
DROOG: I'll punch you.
ASHTON: oh please, you couldn't punch a fly.
DROOG: Who punches a fly?
ASHTON: you, apparently
Droog stood up and grabbed Ash by the collar, looking down at xem with burrowed eyebrows and gritted teeth.
DROOG: Listen, kid, you may be immortal, but I don't want to ruin my suit and your pajamas with blood so, speak up.
ASHTON: unlike your suit, my god-tier jammies clean themselves sooooo go ahead tough guy.
DROOG: You are unbearable.
ASHTON: anything new?
DROOG: Give me a moment.
Diamonds stood up from the chair and walked over to the wall, punching the cold hard stone wall repeatedly, blood splattered all of the walls and stained the suit with a deep red shade.
DROOG: Fuck you.
ASHTON: what are you going to do? punch me?
With devastating force, Droog punched Ashton in the face, causing the chair xe was on to fall over and shatter on the ground. The metallic taste of blood filled Ash’s mouth,
ASHTON: wrong move droog
In an instant, Ashton pulled out xyr bow and shot an arrow at Droog, who had just pulled out his Ultra-Violence Cuestick.
The arrow missed him and hit the wall, exploding into a brilliant electrical explosion. Droog remained on the offensive, jabbing his cue stick forward and tearing through Ash’s cape.
Xe felt rage simmer inside of xem, xyr movements became quicker, all of xyr movements seemed seamlessly attached to one another as if xe were doing a dance, each step was choreographed, Droog couldn’t keep up.
Droog tried to retreat, but Ashton was faster, delivering a stunning kick to his chest, sending him onto the ground.
ASHTON: once again, the performance of the midnight crew has greatly disappointed me, yall really arent all that great
DROOG: Tch. If you're going to kill me, at least tell me why you're working for Lord English. It's the least you could do.
Ashton stood over Droog and put a foot on his chest, keeping him pinned to the ground.
ASHTON: i didn't really ask to join the felt, i was forced to.
DROOG: Why would Lord English force you to join?
ASHTON: oh nothing much, i just bested him in battle
DROOG: I highly doubt that.
ASHTON: doubt all you want, i did.
DROOG: Okay, lets indulge your little fantasy and say you DID somehow beat him in a one on one fight, why would he come to YOUR universe specifically?
ASHTON: oh, because i was a threat to him
ASHTON: yep, a threat, can you believe that??
ASHTON: i can still see it: there i was, about to destroy my clock-
ASHTON: yeah, after I killed my denizen, i was brought to this mysterious platform in the middle of the void where i beat up a clock with my BARE HANDS and became extremely powerful DROOG: Why would you beat up a clock?
ASHTON: well, if i HAD destroyed it, i would’ve been one hundred percent immortal
DROOG: Like Lord English?
DROOG: That makes sense now.
DROOG: See? It wasn't that hard, in the end you decided to talk.
ASHTON: what are you talking about?! im going to kill you!
DROOG: You never learn.
ASHTON: WAIT FUC-
Ash found xemself back in Doc Scratch’s room, sitting on one of his armchairs.
ASHTON: WOAH WHERE THE fucK AM i-
Back in the mansion.
ASHTON: what? why?!
He wanted me to bring you back.
ASHTON: i was about to kill Droog!
You were about to fall for the same trick twice and get kidnapped again.
He wants to see you in his office. I advise you get a move on.
ASHTON: alright uh how do i get to his office?
Doc snapped his fingers, transporting Ash in front of Lord English’s office, the door was slightly ajar.
LORD ENGLISH: HELLO. SIT DOWN.
Ashton walked inside and closed the door behind xem, before taking a seat on the large leather armchair before xem, xyr heart flaring up again, why was this happening?! Lord English was holding the snowglobe in his hand, it seemed minuscule in his palm, almost like a pebble, weak and frail. But Lord English seemed to treat it with care as if he wanted to keep it safe.
ASHTON: where is your coat?
LORD ENGLISH: IT IS BEING FIXED.
ASHTON: what happened to it?
LORD ENGLISH: TIME SHENANIGANS.
ASHTON: so, why was i summoned here?
LORD ENGLISH: TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH OF A HUGE. STUPID. DUMB. MORON YOU ARE.
ASHTON: is this for the whole midnight crew thing?
LORD ENGLISH: YES.
ASHTON: oh come on, you cant blame me. I was bored
LORD ENGLISH: I WOULD KILL YOU BUT I NEED YOUR ASSISTANCE.
LORD ENGLISH: THERES A UNIVERSE THERE I NEED TO DESTROY.
LORD ENGLISH: BUT THE KIDS THERE ARE VERY POWERFUL.
ASHTON: arent you like, immortal?
LORD ENGLISH: THEIR UNIVERSE IS VERY CLOSE TO THE BLACK HOLE MY SISTER MADE.
LORD ENGLISH: I WOULD RATHER NOT GET PUSHED INTO IT.
ASHTON: oh shit
LORD ENGLISH: GET READY.
ASHTON: wait what were leaving already?!
LORD ENGLISH: YES
LORD ENGLISH: MEET ME AT THE SARCOPHAGUS.
ASHTON: okay. where is the sarcophagus exactly? sorry i still havent gotten used to the layout of this place
LORD ENGLISH: GO.
ASHTON: ok but where is it-
LORD ENGLISH: GO.
Ashton let out a long sigh before walking out of the room, xe looked around at the long, barren, clock-ridden corridor before ultimately deciding a direction, xe was bound to stumble upon the room sooner or later.
As xe walked through the green halls, xe stumbled upon a large metallic door, it was jarring, considering the rest of the mansion had the same repetitive victorian style doors. This one, though, almost seemed like it was guarding something, something important.
Xe put xyr hand on the cold metal handle.
CROWBAR: I wouldn't go in there if I were you.?
ASHTON: where did you come from?!
CROWBAR: Itchy ran off with my well-earned winnings so now I'm on a leprechaun hunt.
CROWBAR: Didn't you know? That's what we are.
ASHTON: you dont look like one
CROWBAR: Thats because you've never seen a real one.
ASHTON: but anyway why shouldn't i open the door?
CROWBAR: Behind that door there's the vault.
ASHTON: the vault?
CROWBAR: The boss' personal vault. Nobody knows whats in it, not even Doc.
ASHTON: is that what the midnight crew is trying to get into?
CROWBAR: That and killing Lord English, yes.
ASHTON: is there any way to open it?
CROWBAR: Clover is the only one that knows how, but you need to answer his riddle first.
ASHTON: a riddle? that sounds easy...
CROWBAR: It's not, trust me.
ASHTON: youre just overreacting
CROWBAR: Alright then, next time you see him ask him the riddle.
ASHTON: maybe i will!
ASHTON: anyway, i have to go now. Lord English gave me a special assignment!
CROWBAR: Do you know where you're going?
ASHTON: oh definitely. the sarcophagus room is just down to the left
CROWBAR: It's up to the right.
ASHTON: close enough
CROWBAR: Oh and, one more thing before you go.
Crowbar set his crowbar down before sucker-punching Ashton in the face, sending xem against the wall in a confused daze.
ASHTON: WHAT THE FUCK
But Crowbar was nowhere to be seen.
Ashton shrugged off the needless assault and made xyr way to the sarcophagus room, where Lord English was waiting, coatless.
LORD ENGLISH: YOU ARE LATE.
ASHTON: does the concept of time apply here?
LORD ENGLISH: SHUT UP. GET IN.
English shoved Ashton into the sarcophagus, slamming the lid behind xem.
Inside, Ash felt thrown around as xe were a ragdoll. Was the sarcophagus traveling through paradox space? What would happen if xe opened the lid?
An indeterminate amount of time passed. Some might’ve said it was an instant, others might’ve said it was one thousand years, others might say time didn’t pass at all, Paradox space was full of mysteries.
The lid was sealed shut, no matter how hard xe pushed against it, it wouldn’t budge.
A sudden loud woosh enveloped the outside of the sarcophagus, was it if were falling from the sky at record-breaking speeds.
With a tremendous thud, the sarcophagus hit something. Was it the ground? Ash was about to find out.
The lid creaked open, streams of light flooded the inside, blinding xem for a moment.
Beyond the sarcophagus walls, xe could make out distinct voices commenting on the arrival of this mysterious flashing Egyptian relic.
???: Whats that??
???: don’t worry, it’s probably just another flashy obstacle the game is throwing at us, nothing special.
It was time to wreck these kid's world.
ASHTON: HELLO INHABITANTS OF THIS WORLD
ASHTON: BOW DOWN TO YOUR NEW LEADER!!
???: Who the hell are you?
ASHTON: i literally just said it
ASHTON: your new leader
ASHTON: well, not leader. more destroyer of world and apocalypse harbringer
ASHTON: you get it
???: wait so you're supposed to be the game's REAL final boss? some kid in pjs? lame.
ASHTON: i will destroy you.
???: how? inviting me to your book club?
ASHTON: you BITC-
A comically large sarcophagus landed next to Ash’s one with thunderous force, cracking the ground under its titanic weight, knocking one of the kids off-balance.
ASHTON: HA. WHOS LAME NOW?
???: OH SHIT THATS REALLY THE BOOK CLUB!!
???: Who's in there?!
LORD ENGLISH: TIME TO DIE.
Lord English wasted no time flaunting his immense power and got straight to work, releasing a blinding beam of light into one of the players, vaporizing them instantly.
???: OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK
A raging battle proceeded between English and the two remaining session players, beams of death were fired, time was manipulated, injuries were dealt, planets were destroyed.
And during all this, Ash sat on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the carnage and chaos left behind by Lord English, and let out a dreamy sigh. A peculiar feeling clouded xyr mind, xe had never felt this feeling this strong before in xyr life, like butterflies in xyr stomach, a little angel had come down from the heavens and blessed xyr mind. Xyr thoughts about Lord English beforehand seemed to be much more evident now, xe could almost grasp them.
Ashton isn’t the romantic type, for sure. If xyr obsession with fire wasn’t already a huge red flag, xyr desire for world domination surely would turn anyone away. But for some reason, watching Lord English ravage this world and go after every living being standing in his way, made xem realize something. Something xe had repressed for so long, thinking it was unimportant, thinking it was simply a hindrance, a useless emotion that can be easily manipulated, a burden.
Xe was in love.
LORD ENGLISH: HEY.
LORD ENGLISH: WAKE UP.
LORD ENGLISH: STOP IGNORING ME.
LORD ENGLISH: I'M GOING TO KILL YOU.
ASHTON: huh.. wh?!
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT IS WRONG. WHY ARE YOU STARING AT THE SKY.
ASHTON: oh uh, nothing
ASHTON: did you take care of the players?
LORD ENGLISH: THEY WERE EASIER THAN EXPECTED.
ASHTON: ah, alright
LORD ENGLISH: I AM GOING TO DESTROY THE UNIVERSE NOW. GET BACK TO THE MANSION.
ASHTON: can i stay and watch??
LORD ENGLISH: YOU WILL DIE.
ASHTON: ughh fine
Ashton reluctantly got up and walked back into xyr coffin, peeking one last glance at English before shutting the lid.
ASHTON: ...oh my fucking god...
ASHTON: OH FUCKHJFSKJ
Crowbar was poking his head through the door, behind him, Die and Stich were in a heated argument, probably complaining about how they misplaced their pins again.
ASHTON: WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?
CROWBAR: Well I was going to Stich’s office to see if I could find Die’s pin but I heard the sarcophagus flare up so I had to check it out.
CROWBAR: I'll be off then.
ASHTON: have fun
CROWBAR: I won't
Ashton slipped out of the room and made xyr way to the main hall, where most of the other felt members hung around causing wild time-based shenanigans.
Xe found themselves a fairly secluded corner to contemplate the mix of emotions, hopefully, no one would disturb xem- oh fuck.
Clover grabbed the armrest Ash was resting on and awkwardly climbed up, straightening his hat before resuming the conversation.
CLOVER: You're back!!! How did your encounter with the Midnight Crew go????
ASHTON: it was eventful
CLOVER: Is it true you fell for the same trick twice???
CLOVER: Is something is on your mind???
Ash was completely unprepared in facing emotions of this sort, xe had no idea how to open up to someone.
But hey, it wouldn’t hurt to try. Xe didn’t completely trust Clover considering xe met him a couple of hours ago but he seemed pretty understanding.
ASHTON: actually, yeah, i have something on my mind
CLOVER: Oh!!!! Do tell!!!!
ASHTON: alright. so. uh... have you ever like, felt like you found someone who’s perfect for you?
CLOVER: Oh!!! Personally, not really!!! But we have a term for that!!!
ASHTON: what is it?
CLOVER: Yes! It’s Heart-Moon-Horseshoe-Rainbow!!! A very nice trove!!!
CLOVER: Hm?? It’s Heart-Moon-Horseshoe-Rainbow!! Doesn’t get much simpler than that!
ASHTON: what does that mean
CLOVER: Oh no!!! I forgot you do not know how leprechaun romance works!!!
CLOVER: Do you want to know??
ASHTON: uh, i think I'll pass
CLOVER: Who is this person you're Heart-Moon-Horseshoe-Rainbowing for???
ASHTON: i cant tell you
Telling ANYONE xyr feelings about Lord English would be the most humiliating and devastating thing xe could ever imagine. Can you believe it? Falling in love with the boss of a time-warping gang you were forced to join? Things don’t get much wilder than that. Well, they do. But this is already pretty freakin wild
But every time xe tried to repress xyr feelings, xe felt a hand squeeze xyr heart tightly as if something were trying to tell xem something.
Xe had to tell Lord English, xe couldn’t keep it repressed forever.
But before xe could ponder any more on xyr mixed feelings, Die approached Clover.
DIE: We are about to start playing,
DIE: Join us?
CLOVER: Oh!!! Certainly!!!
CLOVER: Can the human join too???
ASHTON: i have a name but sure
Clover grabbed onto Ash’s arm and sat on xyr shoulder, hitching a ride over to the large casino table that had been set up, a soft murmur spread across the room upon the arrival of Ashton.
ASHTON: oh? poker?
CLOVER: Yes!!!! Did you expect pool???
ASHTON: not really but now that you mention it yeah that does make more sense
CROWBAR: Alright, listen up everybody. You all know the rules.
CROWBAR: As always, Clover, you need to play with your cards on the table.
CLOVER: Oh come on!!!! I though you forgot to say so......
ASHTON: what? why
DOZE: He. Is. Extremely. Lucky.
ASHTON: oh, makes sense
Crowbar began handing out cards to each member, accompanied with a bunch of chips.
CROWBAR: Are you going to play too?
He gave Ashton five cards and a pile of poker chips. The chips though, had strange symbols on them: stars, squares, triangles, and one singular chip with xyr own face on it.
ASHTON: hey uh, what do these symbols mean?
CLOVER: Oh!!! They’re very simple to understand. Ten squares is one star, ten stars is one triangle and the one with your face is your soul!!
ASHTON: my what?!
CLOVER: Yes!!! Your soul!!
ASHTON: what happens if i lose it?
CLOVER: You die!!!
ASHTON: oh SHIT!!
CLOVER: Pfftt ahahahahah!!!
CLOVER: I'm joking!!!
CLOVER: That isn't your soul!!!
CLOVER: It’s just a special chip! Worth ten triangles!!!
ASHTON: im going to DESTROY YOU
The poker game started out fairly slow, Fin was on a winning streak for a while until he lost everything to a cocky bet after Trace had one lucky hand. Soon after, Clover got three royal flushes in a row, forcing everyone to fold at the start of the round. Doze was so slow at showing his cards they eventually kicked him out, while Itchy was caught cheating for the tenth time in a row and immediately disqualified.
Ashton managed to make some big winnings, causing Quarters to lose all of his chips.
Eggs and Biscuits only got so far off dumb plays before both of them lost after Snowman had an extremely lucky hand.
The game went on for hours, Ash lost track of time, xe was focused on each movement xyr opponents made. Four players left: Xemself, Clover, Crowbar, and Snowman.
CROWBAR: I’m impressed, you managed to make it to the last four. Have you played poker before?
ASHTON: no, not really. it isnt a complex game anyway
CLOVER: This is getting exciting!!!
SNOWMAN: You're luckier than usual today, Crowbar.
CROWBAR: Must be a good day.
Ash glanced down at xyr cards, a flush. Clover had a three of a kind, so he couldn’t possibly beat xem. Crowbar’s face was as monotone as usual, either he was pulling off an incredible poker face, or his hand was terrible.
Snowman, on the other hand, had her face completely hidden by her wide-brim hat, only her mouth was visible, and it was cracking a sly smile. She pushed her towering pile of chips into the middle all of them before saying those two magical words.
SNOWMAN: All in.
CLOVER: Oooh?? What have you got up your sleeve??
CLOVER: All in!!!
CROWBAR: All in.
Ash a moment to breathe, xyr hands trembled slightly. Everyone had gone all-in. They were all staring at xem, waiting for xyr next move. Why did xe find an insignificant game of poker so stressful? What else was on xyr mind?
And at that moment, from the corner of xyr eye, xe saw him.
He had come out of his office to watch the end of the poker game. Around him, the rest of the felt had gathered to see how it would end.
Ashton quickly swallowed xyr emotions and pushed xyr chips in.
ASHTON: all in
Crowbar was the first to turn over his cards, Straight.
Clover followed, simply pushing his cards forward so they were easier to see.
Ash was next, xe placed xyr cards down, turning them over to reveal xyr hand, Flush.
Finally, Snowman turned her cards.
Three of Hearts, King of Spades, Three of Diamonds, Three of Spades, King of Clubs.
Snowman had won.
CLOVER: Wow!!! Lucky!!!
ASHTON: ah, shit
ASHTON: better luck next time!
ASHTON: whats the point of money here anyway?
CLOVER: Nothing!!! We play for fun!!!
Snowman got up from her seat at the table and took one chip from the immense pile of her winnings, tossing it over to Ash before disappearing into a veil of shadows.
On the chip was Ash’s face, looking back at xem, frowning.
Xe got up and walked into the corridor leaning against the wall and clenching xyr cape, and holding xyr breath.
Xe wasn’t made to handle these emotions, to bottle them up, it felt like every time xe tried to think about something else, xyr mind instantly drifted back to Lord English. Xe still couldn’t grasp the reason as to why xe found him so… him.
Xe had never thought someone else like xem was out there. Sure, some people were evil and malicious but they’re all show more often than not, and Ash hated it. Xe didn’t think people like that deserved what they claimed to own, an empire built on lies, on deception. It disgusted xem.
ASHTON: i have to tell him
CLOVER: Tell who???
ASHTON: AUGH DFUCK
ASHTON: why are you always listening to me?!
CLOVER: You're interesting!!!
ASHTON: what does that mean??
CLOVER: You're thinking about something, aren't you???
ASHTON: well yeah, were all thinking about SOMETHING
CLOVER: Yeah, but you're thinking about something very deeply!!! What is it???
ASHTON: since when are you a therapist?
CLOVER: Oh I’m not!!!! I just learned to read faces very well so I could pull off the best pranks!!!
ASHTON: listen, prank or not, nothing is on my mind
Clover gave Ash one last “Alright, whatever you say” look before skipping off down the corridor, disappearing behind a corner.
Xe knew the little leprechaun wouldn’t stop pestering xem. After all, xe wasn’t the best and making a poker face. It was a miracle xe got so far in the poker game.
After a quick brainstorm, Ashton finally made up xyr mind, xe had to go and tell Lord English xyr feelings for him.
The trip to his office felt almost infinite, every step xe took felt like a slow, sluggish shuffle through the mud. Xyr heart slowed down and sped up and completely random intervals, each heartbeat booming in xyr ears.
As xe approached English’s office, xyr palms became damp, xyr breath heavy, as if a thief had stolen it and kept it away from xem.
Xe knocked on the door, waiting for English to respond.
He opened the door and looked down at the little lord.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT DO YOU WANT.
ASHTON: oh, uh i wanted to tell you something
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT IS IT.
ASHTON: i, uh
This was it, this was the moment xe would tell English everything, let everything off xyr chest.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
LORD ENGLISH: IS THIS A PRANK.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
ASHTON: really like your overcoat! where did you get it?
LORD ENGLISH: IT REPRESENTS THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM YOU CANT "GET IT".
ASHTON: oh, thats a shame
LORD ENGLISH: ...
LORD ENGLISH: IS THAT ALL YOU WANTED TO ASK.
LORD ENGLISH: OK. BYE.
Lord English closed the door in Ashton’s face, leaving xem awkwardly standing in front of the door, looking up at where English’s face once was.
Xe put xyr face in xyr hands and screamed, gripping xyr hair and digging xyr fingernails into xyr head. Ashton got as far away from that door as quickly as possible, running xyr hand across the green wallpaper. A multitude of thoughts ran through xyr head, each of them echoing in xyr mind, tormenting xem.
Ashton woke up lying on a couch, xyr head throbbing, xyr fingertips numb. Xe felt a presence next to xem, who was it? Was it Lord English?
ASHTON: what happened?
CROWBAR: I found you passed out on the floor.
CROWBAR: You were just lying there, so I asked Cans to bring you here.
CROWBAR: Why did you pass out?
ASHTON: how am i supposed to know
CROWBAR: Alright. Do you remember what happened before you passed out?
Ashton froze for a moment. Xe couldn’t tell Crowbar xyr feelings towards Lord English, could xe? Would he understand? Would he laugh? Would he ridicule xem?
It was too risky, xe couldn’t put xyr reputation on the line already. How could you take someone who is in love with a ruthless time demon seriously?
Ash forced xemself to stop thinking about it, instead, making up a believable white lie to get Crowbar off xyr back.
ASHTON: i just havent eaten lots. thats it
CROWBAR: Oh? Do you need something to eat?
CROWBAR: Let me see what I can find.
Crowbar left the room for a while before coming back with what seemed like a box of lucky charms.
ASHTON: are those lucky charms?
ASHTON: y'know, the cereal
CROWBAR: Oh, no.
CROWBAR: Doze gave me these.
CROWBAR: Well, he didn't give them to me, he told me I could have them.
CROWBAR: If he had given them to me physically I would've been stuck there for hours
ASHTON: uh, ok
Ashton opened the box and found a bunch of large metallic horseshoes and stars, grabbing one of them with suspicion. It felt cold, like iron.
ASHTON: what are these?
CROWBAR: Lucky Charms.
ASHTON: wait, ACTUAL lucky charms???
CROWBAR: Yeah?? What else would they be??
ASHTON: can i even eat these?
CROWBAR: Why wouldn't you be able to?
ASHTON: i guess it wouldnt hurt to try
Xe took one of the horseshoes and bit down on it, a loud crunch echoed in xyr ears, xe felt small, hard pieces of something fall down onto xyr lap.
The horseshoe had completely crumbled into small pieces, it tasted very sweet with a hint of grape.
ASHTON: its not bad.... suprisingly
CROWBAR: Did you think they would've been bad?
ASHTON: honestly i have no idea what leprechauns eat so i guess i was preparing for the worst
CROWBAR: What do you think we eat?
ASHTON: i dunno something weird
ASHTON: gold, stardust, you get it
CROWBAR: Why the fuck would we eat gold?!
ASHTON: because youre leprechauns?
CROWBAR: I don't understand your reasoning.
ASHTON: forget it
Xe got up from the couch and wiped crumbs of the horseshoe from xyr mouth, putting the rest of the delicious treat in xyr pocket, running xyr hand through xyr hair, and brushing some dust off of xyr cape, the taste of sugary grapes swirling in xyr mouth reinvigorating xem. Turns out these leprechaun treats aren’t all just for show. Enough repressed emotions, enough hiding, Ashton wasn’t about being passive, about letting things happen to xem.
If you wanted something, you had to get it.
ASHTON: fuck it.
ASHTON: im going to tell him
CROWBAR: What? Who?
CROWBAR: Alright. Have fun.
ASHTON: i will
Xe ran out of the room, cape flapping behind xem, full of resolve.
As xe approached Lord English’s office, xe began thinking about how xe would confess xyr feelings. Would xe be direct? Would xe think up some fancy metaphor? Or would xe simply improvise whatever comes to mind?
With a deep breath, xe pushed the office door open, ready to say everything.
But Lord English wasn’t there.
ASHTON: where the fuck-
A loud explosion echoed through the halls of the mansion. In the distance, Ashton could hear the distressed voices of the leprechauns. What was going on?
Xe rushed to the main hall, it was empty.
ASHTON: hello? anyone? what just happened?
In the corridor, xe could hear the pitter-patter of steps, it was very quiet, but it was definitely there.
Who could it be? Clover? Itchy?
Xe went towards the steps and opened the door, finding a very unwelcome surprise.
DEUCE: Oh!! Hi!
ASHTON: what the fuck
Clubs jabbed Ash in the chest with his Bull Penis Cane before running off, disappearing behind a corner.
ASHTON: wait, was he...
BOXCARS: Yeah, he was.
Xe ducked down and jabbed Hearts in the belly before following up with an uppercut, xyr knuckles stinging against the hard carapacian shell.
BOXCARS: Well well, look who learnt a lesson.
ASHTON: real cheap of you using the same tactic twice- no- THRICE.
BOXCARS: If it ain't broke.
Hearts took advantage of the moment and kicked Ashton to the ground before pulling out his battleaxe, pummeling it into Ash’s chest.
Xe quickly reacted and grabbed the axe by its handle, the blade inches away from xyr face.
Adrenaline pumping, shortened breaths, the battle was on.
Hearts pushed the axe down harder, the axe blade gently pressing on Ashton’s nose, the cold metal making chills run down xyr spine.
Xe pushed the axe up and quickly rolled to the side, the axe narrowly missing xem and tearing through xyr cape.
ASHTON: damn, i liked that cape
Xe jumped to xyr feet and pulled out xyr bow, shooting an arrow straight into Boxcars’ chest, exploding into a devastating electrical explosion.
ASHTON: is this all the great Hearts Boxcars has to offer?
ASHTON: im disappointed
Hearts grabbed the arrow and pulled it out with a grunt, the bloodstain barely visible on his suit.
He threw the axe at Ash’s feet, narrowly missing xyr leg before pulling out another axe and throwing it at xem.
Ashton managed to dodge the axe at xyr feet but didn’t have much luck with the other axe, which struck xem in the shoulder.
For a moment, it felt like every single nerve ending in xyr body all felt pain at once, it was disorienting, the warm sensation in xyr left shoulder soon overcame the cold, frigid sensation of the axe. Xe wanted to scream in agony, but xe couldn’t.
ASHTON: ah- fuck
BOXCARS: Luck isn't my thing.
ASHTON: clover begs to differ
BOXCARS: That little purple gnome isn't important now.
BOXCARS: Let me end you once and for all.
Xe wasn’t in the mood for joking around, especially considering all the events in the last hour and the fact xe had a huge axe sticking out of xyr shoulder.
With gritted teeth, Ashton pulled the axe out of xyr shoulder, staring intently at Hearts the entire time. As the axe left Ash’s shoulder, the warm sensation of flowing blood became stronger, xe felt it soak xyr god-tier pajama. How long could xe stand?
Slowly, xe felt rage fill xyr veins. It was slowly building up, it simmered, then it seethed, it boiled, it bubbled, it smoldered.
With superhuman speed, xe lept forward and struck Hearts in the face, xyr fist sinking into his face, crushing the carapacian shell under it.
Hearts Boxcars stumbled backward and hit the wall, bloodstains now much more evident on his suit.
BOXCARS: It gets interesting.
ASHTON: it does
BOXCARS: You're strong kid, real strong.
BOXCARS: Most god-tier players that go after us fall like flies.
BOXCARS: Even Clubs killed one, can you believe it?
ASHTON: im flattered
ASHTON: the great Hearts Boxcars acknowledged my power
BOXCARS: Don't get full of yourself.
The two of them looked at each other intently. Ashton was filled with rage, Hearts Boxcars was filled with morbid curiosity and with adrenaline.
But before either of them could make their next move, Diamonds burst into the room.
DROOG: Boxcars! We're leaving.
DROOG: We got what we needed. Lets go.
DROOG: Come on, we don't want English coming bac-
DROOG: Well well! Look who it is!
DROOG: You seem to be holding up well.
DROOG: I would love to stay and chat but I've got places to be.
DROOG: Good luck with your shoulder!
Hearts and Diamonds ran out of the room, leaving Ashton alone, standing in a pool of blood.
As the adrenaline in xyr system began dying down, the pain in xyr shoulder began getting stronger and stronger, xyr vision blurred, xyr fingertips became numb.
In a frantic motion, Ashton stumbled over to the pieces of the ripped cape and tied it around xyr wound, wincing as xe pulled tightly, stopping the flow almost instantly.
ASHTON: that went well...
Xe expected Clover or Crowbar or any other felt member to pop out of nowhere and add a sarcastic remark to what xe had just said. But nobody came. Where were they?
After having patched xemself up and taken a small rest, xe got up and exited the main hall, exploring the corridors.
Most of them were in perfectly good shape, although, the ground was covered in faint footprints, probably from the Midnight Crew.
Upon turning another corner, xe found Trace patrolling the corridor, probably following a future trail.
ASHTON: holy shit! trace!
ASHTON: where are the others?
TRACE: I am looking for themmm
ASHTON: alright, where is Lord English?
TRACE: In his officeeee
Ash ran through the hallways, searching for English’s office. The pain in xyr shoulder lingered, pestering xem every moment it could.
As xe reached Lord English’s office, xe found his door complexly busted down, explosion marks all around the door frame.
ASHTON: OH SHIT OH SHTIO SHOT ENGLISH ARE YOU THERE
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME.
ASHTON: THANK GOB
LORD ENGLISH: NO DON'T THANK GOB.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME.
LORD ENGLISH: I AM YOUR LORD. NOTHING ELSE.
ASHTON: sure, sure
LORD ENGLISH: THEY TOOK MY SNOWGLOBE. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT. I AM FURIOUS.
LORD ENGLISH: IT WAS VERY FANCY TOO. THOSE BASTARDS.
ASHTON: can't you just send trace to get it back?
LORD ENGLISH: THEY ARE EXPECTING HIM, THEY PROBABLY SET UP A TRAP.
LORD ENGLISH: I CAN'T AFFORD TO LOSE HIM. HE IS VERY VALUABLE.
LORD ENGLISH: WHEN DID THEY ATTACK.
ASHTON: just now
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ARM.
ASHTON: Boxcar's axe
LORD ENGLISH: DID YOU KILL ANY OF THEM?
LORD ENGLISH: USELESS.
ASHTON: well im sorry i had no idea carapacians could be so skilled in combat
ASHTON: and you’re one to talk telling me i shouldve been better when you weren’t even HOME when your base was attacked
LORD ENGLISH: I HIRED YOU FOR A REASON, YOU ARE POWERFUL.
LORD ENGLISH: I AM NOT MAD. I AM JUST DISAPPOINTED.
ASHTON: thats worse
LORD ENGLISH: HOW.
LORD ENGLISH: BEING DISAPPOINTED IS BETTER THAN BEING MAD. I DONT UNDERSTAND YOUR REASONING.
ASHTON: its more of a context thing than a definition thing
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
ASHTON: like, being mad is something short that lasts a rly short time but being disappointed is something that like, lasts a while and is really impactful.
LORD ENGLISH: WELL IM MAD BECAUSE MY SNOWGLOBE WAS STOLEN AND IT’S NOT LASTING A REALLY SHORT TIME SO THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
ASHTON: its more of a human thing
LORD ENGLISH: THATS DUMB.
ASHTON: i know
Was this the moment? Was Ashton about to tell Lord English about xyr feelings?
ASHTON: Lord English, theres something i need to tell you
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
ASHTON: i am...
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
ASHTON: i am... madly in love...
LORD ENGLISH: WITH?
LORD ENGLISH: GET ON WITH IT.
ASHTON: with those amazing lucky charms! have you tried them?
LORD ENGLISH: I HAVE.
LORD ENGLISH: THEY ARE VERY GOOD.
ASHTON: yes!!! anyway i have to go now!!!
LORD ENGLISH: GOODBYE.
In the end, xe couldn’t do it.
It was too hard, confronting feelings like that, how do people do it?
Ashton needed to go slower, xe needed to dilute these emotions somehow.
That’s when an idea popped into mind: if xe discovered if Lord English liked xem back, xe would have a much easier time confessing xyr love, problem solved.
The hard part, though, is finding out that exact fact. Lord English isn’t exactly one to show emotions easily if any at all and isn’t really very expressive considering his eye and mouth and general face situation.
So what could xe do?
Xe needed to find someone that knew Lord English well, someone who essentially WAS him. As much as xe hated to think it, xe had to go and talk to Doc Scratch. Xe found his huge cueball head unsettling and his whole “omniscient and a huge fucking bitch about it “ shtick kind of annoying.
But xe had no choice.
Doc Scratch’s office always had this peculiar smell of cleaning chemicals. It’s not like he would need cleaning chemicals, but apparently he just... Has them.
With reluctancy, Ashton pushed open the door to Scratch’s office, getting hit by a wave of toxic lavender fumes the moment xe stepped inside.
ASHTON: hello? anyone here?
ASHTON: hey, uh, i need to ask you something
ASHTON: lets say, hypothetically, you have to get a gift for Lord English
ASHTON: what would you get?
Lord English does not consider materialistic wealth important. You could give him all the riches in the world and he wouldn’t care. Well, except for his snowglobe. He likes it a lot.
It was a souvenir from the first universe he destroyed.
ASHTON: alright, so if i got it back from the Midnight Crew, he would be happy?
ASHTON: ok. teleport me down to derse.
As you wish.
Ashton found xemself in that same room the first time xe was teleported down to Derse, the purple walls seemed to glow under Skaia’s light, it was especially bright today.
Now another problem faced Ashton, where could xe find the Midnight Crew?
Xe thought they would just come to xem considering how much xe stands out of the black carapacian crowd.
As xe descended the stairs and emerged into the main street, xe began thinking up a plan on how to steal Lord English’s snowglobe back. Would xe burst into xyr base and take them on all at once? Would xe try and flush them out? Burn their hideout to the ground?
The third option sounded much more appealing, but xe didn’t want to damage the snowglobe. Who knows how mad English would be if his favorite snowglobe was destroyed in a freak fire accident.
Xe’s first task now was finding their base.
A roadside bar seemed promising, its purple neon sign almost blending in with the rest of the scenery, the words “Midnight Bar” flickering on and off.
The bar had a very noir feel, only stray beams of light lit up the counter and the toxic smell of cigarettes made Ashton wince in disgust.
Xe sat down at the counter and looked at the bartender.
BARTENDER: Hello. What would you like?
BARTENDER: Do you work for the Felt?
ASHTON: i cant answer that
BARTENDER: What sort of information are you looking for?
ASHTON: where is the Midnight Crew's base?
BARTENDER: You do realize you're in Midnight Crew territory right now?
ASHTON: i do.
BARTENDER: And you realize you’re acting awfully suspicious especially after dodging that felt question?
ASHTON: i do.
BARTENDER: I am armed.
ASHTON: are you going to kill me?
BARTENDER: I don't get paid for nothing.
The two of them stared at each other intently, the bartenders beady, black eyes almost seemed lifeless, but Ashton knew murderous intent when xe saw it.
In an instant, the bartender slashed a knife upwards, narrowly missing Ashton’s nose, xe didn’t flinch though, xe simply grabbing the bartender’s arm and slamming it into the table, forcing them to let go of the knife.
BARTENDER: FUCK FUCK FUCK OK LET ME GO.
ASHTON: thats it?
BARTENDER: Intimidation tactics usually work.
ASHTON: how about i propose you an offer: you tell me where the Midnight Crew hides out, and i don’t break your arm right here and now. would be a real shame if you weren’t able to server drinks anymore, would it?
BARTENDER: It would.
ASHTON: so? what will it be?
BARTENDER: Ugh. The Midnight Crew has many hide-outs. I know about ONE of them. It's in the back, under a wine cask.
ASHTON: thank you!
Ashton let the bartender go and walked to the back, rolling the wine cask over revealing a hidden trapdoor.
Xe opened in and climbed down the metal ladder, a damp, wet feeling surrounded xem.
ASHTON: oh ew
Xe felt the wall and eventually found a light switch, flicking it on to reveal an empty room with a small table in the middle.
On it was a large piece of paper, a couple of wrinkled suits, and a block of de-armed plastic explosives.
Upon further inspection, the piece of paper was a map of the felt manor, indicating its various entrances and exits.
The snowglobe obviously wasn’t here, they wouldn’t be dumb enough to hide it in an unguarded place like this.
So xe decided to leave xyr mark before leaving, a reminder that xe was here.
Ashton reached into xyr pockets and pulled out xyr trusty matchsticks and piled up all the flammable things xe could fit and set them onto the table in a nice neat pile.
With a flick of the wrist, xe set a match ablaze, its orange glow lighting up Ash’s face, its swaying flame occasionally stinging xyr skin.
Ashton climbed out the hidden base and smashed a wine cask, letting it flow into the cellar.
As xe walked out xe gave the Bartender a sly look. They had no idea what they had coming.
Xe settled on going to the main plaza next, hopefully, xe would spot some shady business going on and investigate.
The carapacians along the road all looked at Ashton with admiration as xe walked past, xe was their sleeper after all.
Maybe xe could use their loyalty to xyr advantage?
ASHTON: excuse me. do you know where one of the Midnight Crew's bases is?
ASHTON: hello? you there?
CARAPACIAN: underneath the fountain...
CARAPACIAN: i see them go underneath the fountain a lot...
ASHTON: ah, thanks!
After that odd encounter, xe hurried xyr step, pushing through crowds of carapacians to eventually reach the main plaza, where a large fountain stood.
On it, a large statue of the black king pointed towards the sky, probably to inspire the soldiers of Derse to go and destroy Skaia or some other imperialistic thing of the sorts.
In the most subtle way xe could, xe rolled up xyr pants and climbed into the fountain, running xyr hand over the ground for a hidden trapdoor of the sorts. None of the carapacians around the fountain looked suspicious at all, mostly just ignoring xem or giving xem a curious look.
Eventually, xyr hand grabbed a small handle around the middle of the fountain where the water was shallower. With a tug, the trapdoor opened with ease, partially draining the fountain.
Ashton climbed down, trying xyr best not to get completely drenched and closed the hatch over xem, the water at xyr feet that had flowed in slowly drained out.
ASHTON: this is advanced shit. maybe i just went thought an exit though...
Ashton entered the main area of the hideout and found a little silhouette on the other side of the room, staring back at xem.
Xe slowly pulled out xyr bow and aimed an arrow at the figure, the electric arcs at the arrowhead lighting up the room in split-second flashes.
ASHTON: whoever you are, dont move
DEUCE: You should be the one not moving!!!
The lights flickered on, revealing Clubs Deuce sitting on a high-chair, detonator, and Bull Penis Cane in hand.
Around the entire room, C4 was planted everywhere, on the walls, on the ground, on the ceiling.
ASHTON: you wont press that trigger. intimidation wont work on me
DEUCE: Why wouldn't I???
ASHTON: because youre in the room with me?
DEUCE: You're right!!
ASHTON: sure am
Ashton shot the arrow straight at Clubs’ arm, hitting him in the shoulder and completely tearing the arm off and pinning it on the wall behind him, the Bull Penis Cane dropping to the floor with a clang.
DEUCE: Oh okay!!!
DEUCE: Bye sucker!!!
Clubs hopped off his chair and opened a small hatch on the ground, crawling down and slamming the hatch down over him.
ASHTON: oh fuck FUCK FUCK F-
With a devastating blow, the C4 detonated, engulfing the whole room in flames and tearing a hole in the plaza above, throwing Ashton out onto a pile of unsuspecting carapacians.
Xyr head was turning rapidly, xyr ears rang, xyr body felt as if it were burning.
After a couple of moments, xe shakily stood up and looked over at the fading cloud of dust.
DEUCE: Oh no!! You lived!!
ASHTON: of course i did
DEUCE: Now what?
ASHTON: i end you
BOXCARS: Not so fast, we have a score to settle
ASHTON: OH COME ON
Behind xem, Boxcars threw a punch, barely missing Ashton.
In retaliation, xe jumped back and threw a piece of rubble at him, knocking his hat off.
ASHTON: you dont give up, do you?
BOXCARS: I was going to beat you.
ASHTON: you got lucky
BOXCARS: Again, I don't need luck.
ASHTON: you're gonna after im done with you
BOXCARS: Big words coming from you.
ASHTON: not as big as the grave im going to dig you
Ashton drew xyr bow and shot an arrow, hitting Hearts in the chest and releasing a large electric shock, burning off some of his suit and charring his face somewhat.
But the carapacian remained steadfast, staying on his feet even after being basically electrocuted, carapacian shells don’t seem to be the best electrical conductors.
A small crowd had begun forming around the large hole in the middle of the plaza and the two combatants, murmurs and gasps filled the air, tension grew.
BOXCARS: You should just leave.
ASHTON: and give you the satisfaction? no can do
BOXCARS: Slick and Droog are going to be here real soon, its gonna turn ugly if you're still around.
ASHTON: you're gonna after im done with you
ASHTON: no, i dont think i will
BOXCARS: Suit yourself.
Boxcars returned on the offensive, brushing off the fact he was just electrocuted as if were no big deal. He pulled out his axe and threw it at Ashton, secretly hoping xe would fall for the same attack twice.
But xe wasn’t a dumbass.
Having expected the move, xe grabbed the axe’s handle as it flew by and spun it around, sending it back at Boxcars and, ironically, making it hit his shoulder.
Ash wasted no time thinking up some witty remark as xe would usually do, but instead pressed on, rushing towards him and shoving the axe deeper into his wound.
Boxcars clenched his sharp teeth and grabbed Ashton by xyr wound, digging his sharp carapacian fingers into the gash.
The two of them simply stared at each other for the next couple of moments, each of them wincing in pain as they dug their respective fingers into the wounds.
BOXCARS: Whos... gonna let.... go.... first?
ASHTON: i was about.... to... ask the same.... thing...
Hearts eventually lost the grab-off and fell to the ground, letting go of Ashton’s wound.
Ashton let go as well but took the axe and placed it in front of Boxcars’ face.
ASHTON: it seems i win
BOXCARS: Yeah, about that.
Ashton heard the sound of a gun getting cocked, xe could feel the barrel pointing at xem.
SLICK: ASHTON. HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL ALIVE?!
ASHTON: honestly, i ask my self that every day
SLICK: Can you just, fuck off.
Spades slick pressed down on the trigger, sending the projectile barreling towards Ashton’s head, and with tremendous speed, it pierced through.
Everything for a moment seemed clear. Xyr ears stopped ringing, xyr vision was completely unobstructed, in the distance, xe could hear the faint ticking of a clock.
Around xem, a pitch-black void extended infinitely.
The only thing xe could make out in the distance was a small, broken clock, lying on the ground, in pieces.
But it kept on ticking.
Xe carefully approached it, xyr steps somehow echoing even though there seemed to be no apparent walls.
The ruined clock drew closer, the ticking became louder.
Xe stood over it, staring down at it with disgust.
ASHTON: is this it? am i dead? from a fucking bullet?
The clock said no.
ASHTON: then why the fuck am i here? Why can’t i just wake back up and kick all of their asses?
The clock’s ticks seemed to move away, almost pointing to somewhere in the boundless void. Xe squinted towards the clicking and looked closely, a small green silhouette was coming towards the ruined clock, its footsteps booming.
The figure became clearer, it was Lord English, crowbar in hand.
ASHTON: huh? Lord English? what's he doing here?
But before the clock could respond, English crushed it underneath the crowbar, its last intact pieces finally breaking.
The last tock almost sounded eternal as it vanished into the void around Ashton. The clock was destroyed.
Xe suddenly found themselves filled with power, more than xe had ever felt in xyr life. It was euphoric, like a drug, and xe was tripping.
And as xe felt xemself ascend, two words boomed in xyr head, two words that would forever change xem.
Ashton woke up lying on the ground, around xem, a large group of carapacians had formed, looking down to see if xe was still alive. Filled with energy, xe jumped to xyr feet and immediately spotted Hearts Boxcars, who was limping out of the plaza, trying his best not to get spotted.
ASHTON: HEY! THE BATTLE ISNT OVER YOU COWARD.
Boxcars turned around and looked at Ashton, he looked shocked.
Ashton drew xyr bow and was ready to send an arrow straight between his eyes, but was rudely interrupted but Spades Slick, who had put the gun to xyr temple.
SLICK: Why. Won't you. FUCKING DIE!!!
Spades squeezed down the trigger and expected a satisfying bang, followed by a whole lot of dead Lord. Instead, he was greeted by a small click. The gun jammed.
Slick resorted to his favorite weapon and pulled out his knife, slashing Ashton and stepping back.
The knife didn’t even bother Ash, simply cutting a small hole in xyr god tier outfit, not even damaging the flesh underneath.
ASHTON: that all?
Before Slick could finish his sentence, Ashton pummeled him with a powerful punch to the head, sending him flying and crashing on the building behind him.
ASHTON: the snowglobe, Slick, hand it over
ASHTON: the one you stole. give it back.
SLICK: Thats it? THATS IT?! YOU COME HERE, BURN DOWN A BAR, BLOW A HOLE IN THE PLAZA FOR A FUCKING SNOWGLOBE?
ASHTON: yeah. now hand it over
Spades threw Ashton the snowglobe, gracefully landing in xyr hands.
ASHTON: alright cool. how do i get back though-
ASHTON: oh. im back.
ASHTON: alright listen i would love to chat but i have to go do something so uh see ya
Ashton ran through the corridors at light-speed, weaving through the leprechauns and skidding on the carpeted floor.
Xe slammed English’s door open and took a moment to breathe.
LORD ENGLISH: WHAT.
ASHTON: i got your... your uh... snowglobe..
LORD ENGLISH: OH. THANK YOU.
LORD ENGLISH:I APPRECIATE IT
Ashton’s heart skipped a beat, he appreciated it?! Did xe hear correctly? Lord English appreciated xyr gift?
Well, it wasn’t really a gift but it's pretty much the same thing.
ASHTON: oh... and, i need to tell you something
It was time. Finally.
LORD ENGLISH: I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING TOO.
LORD ENGLISH: I DESTROYED YOUR CLOCK.
ASHTON: oh, i saw
ASHTON: i had this weird vision
ASHTON: anyway what i need to tell you is-
LORD ENGLISH: DO YOU NOT WANT TO KNOW WHY I BROKE IT.
ASHTON: i think MY thing is much more important
LORD ENGLISH: NO, MINE IS.
ASHTON: fine, go ahead. it cant be THAT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT-
LORD ENGLISH: I LOVE YOU.
A small smirk grew on Lord English’s face. He looked down at Ashton and put his hand on xyr shoulder.
Xyr face became a glowing red, xyr heart began beating faster, xyr breath shortened.
ASHTON: you aARE?!!?
LORD ENGLISH: YES.
ASHTON: oh... oh my.,., uh,.,.
ASHTON: im speechless aha...
The two of them shared a flustered look, Ashton looked deeply into English’s eyes, the pool balls turning a bright, solid red.
Xe stepped forward, putting xyr hand on Lord English’s face, his bony, hollow skull felt warm against xyr palm.
Lord English lowered himself and looked deeply into Ash’s eyes, xyr heart now beating rapidly, about to burst from xyr chest.
And in one, passionate moment,