The first thing Adam noticed when they plopped down on the bed of their Tokyo hotel room, tired and jet-lagged, was the view. The Tokyo Sky Tree towered over the skyline, the edges of the snow cap of Mount Fuji almost luminescent as the sun set behind it. He could already imagine it as an oil painting.
Stella yawned and lay back beside him, her long red hair spilling over the mattress. Adam leaned over and gave her a kiss.
“So,” he said. “Have you figured out what you’re going to ask them when you see them?”
Stella shook her head.
“Well,” he said, laying back beside her. “You’ve got three days left to figure it out.”
“It’s not easy,” she said. “Even if I try to tell them who I am, they’ll never believe me. And after all this time, I’m not even sure what I want to know anymore.”
Adam glanced at the television and laughed. “I only just realized – we’re in the land of anime. We should watch some on TV.”
Stella propped herself up with a grin, her green eyes glinting behind her glasses. “Oh yes, we should.”
Adam grabbed the remote from the night stand and turned on the television. The hard rock beat of the introduction for Eternal Chronicle of Hyperborea filled the room. Stella snuggled into his side as the credits ended and the episode began. The show’s heroine, Atria Silversword, was planning the defence of a cavernous power plant, her mech Volandpanzer standing near a wall. The power source, a glowing orb in the centre of the domed chamber, rested on a large pedestal.
“Right,” Adam said, “this is the one with all that military terminology that keeps tripping us up. I’m only catching about half of what she’s saying. You?”
“Not much better,” Stella replied. On the screen, Atria pulled herself into the mech and got into an argument over the radio with her love interest.
“Oh yeah, they split up at the end of the last season,” Stella said. “I had forgotten.”
“I hate to say it, but we should just watch the simulcast with subtitles,” Adam sighed. “I’d like to understand all the dialogue.”
Stella nodded. “Okay.” A mischievous look filled her eyes as he turned off the television. “You know, we’ve got an hour to kill before the simulcast, and it is a brand new bed we’re on...”
Adam grinned and gave her a deep kiss. “How could I ever resist your highness?”
After their lovemaking, they cuddled together and brought up the episode simulcast on Adam’s tablet. The opening credits flashed onto the screen. The scene opened up onto the cavernous dome and the orb, and Atria Silversword giving directions.
“So, that meant ‘field of fire’,” Adam said.
Atria climbed into her mech. A crashing sounded behind her.
Stella blinked. “Was that in the show before?”
Atria turned her mech around, activating the rapid-fire cannons. “Identify yourself!” she demanded.
“Why aren’t there any subtitles here?” Adam wondered.
Stella stiffened. “Something’s wrong.”
A hole was ripped out of the wall. Into the chamber stepped a tall figure, looking like a demon lord out of some bad isekai anime. The expression on his face betrayed nothing other than the curiosity of a sightseeing tourist.
“Identify yourself or I’ll open fire!” Atria shouted.
The figure stepped up to the orb and smiled. “This will do,” he said. No subtitles appeared on the screen. “Zveit telekinesis,” the figure intoned. The orb lifted off its pedestal and took a position behind him.
Atria opened up with the rapid fire cannon. Tracers streaked towards the figure’s chest. The high explosive shells exploded against an invisible barrier.
“That was impolite,” the figure said, raising his hand toward the dome. “Zveit telekinesis.”
The masonry of the dome formed itself into spikes and slammed down into Volandpanzer, impaling it to the floor. The escape hatch popped open. Gasping and battered, Atria crawled out. The figure gave her a curious look, and then turned away to leave.
“You can’t take that!” Atria cried. “The city will be defenseless!” She drew the pistol from the holster on her hip and emptied the magazine at the figure. The rounds exploded against the figure’s barrier.
The figure turned back to her. “Very impolite,” he said, raising his hand again. “Zveit telekinesis.” Masonry broke away from the wall, fashioning itself into an impaling spike, pointed directly at Atria’s chest.
Adam glanced away from the screen. Stella had his arm in a death grip. “Something’s very wrong,” she said.
When he looked back, Atria was scrambling away, the hovering spike turning to follow her, but there was nowhere left to go – the debris from the dome collapse had created a corner. She pressed her back into the corner...and disappeared through it. Out in the city, to the south of the hotel room, Adam heard what sounded like a sonic boom.
Stella bolted from his arms, pulling on her bra. “We have to go find her.”
On the screen, the strange figure had also disappeared. The video on the tablet glitched and threw up an error code.
“It’s dark out there,” Adam said. “Wait, what do you mean ‘find her’?”
Stella was onto her grey turtleneck and panties. “Atria,” she said. “She fell into our world, just like I did. I’m certain of it. We need to find her, and fast.”
Adam pulled on his underwear. “Okay, but it is dark out there. Wouldn’t we be better off doing this tomorrow morning, when we’ve got daylight?”
Stella hugged him. “Adam, she’s going to be disoriented and scared and alone, just like I was. We can’t leave her like that. We are the only ones in this city who have any idea of what she’s going through or how to help her. Please, do this with me.”
Adam nodded. “Okay. Of course.”
Once they were dressed, they hurried out of the hotel. The neon street lights threw an artificial tint onto the streets and buildings, reminding Adam of a digital art cityscape.
“It’s a big city,” Adam said. “Do you have a plan?”
“Basic search pattern,” Stella said. “The same sort of thing we did back in Arcaniana. They may be rusty, but I’ve still got the skills.”
It took an hour to find her. Adam spotted her first, leaning against the corner of a building in a side street, her short blond hair and form-fitting green uniform haggard, her dark blue eyes wild. “I think I found her,” he said, pointing.
Atria drew her sword and pointed it at them. “Who are you?” she demanded in clipped Japanese. “Where am I? What happened to the sphere?”
Stella held up her hands. “We’re friends,” she replied in Japanese. “This is a city called Tokyo. You’re in another world. It’s hard to explain.”
The dark bladed saber shook in Atria’s hand. “Who are you?”
“I’m Princess Stellaria of the Royal House of Arcaniana, Keeper of Lore, support mage to the Hero of Prophecy. I’m like you – I fell out of my world into this one five years ago. This is my fiancé, Adam.”
“Prove it,” Atria spat.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” Stella said. “My powers faded away a year after I got here.”
Atria recoiled, her face close to tears.
Adam glanced at Stella. “Do we tell her?”
Stella took a deep breath. “Look, this is going to be hard to believe, but you’re a character in a television series. We’ve watched it. We were watching it when we saw you fall out of your world. That’s why we came to find you. We’re here to help.”
“And you can’t prove any of it!” Atria cried.
“We can, but not here,” Stella said. “From what I’ve seen in your show, you are an excellent judge of a person’s character. What is your judgement of mine?”
Shaking, Atria lowered her sword. “I think you want to help me.”
“If you come with us back to our hotel room, we’ll get you some food and explain everything,” Stella said. “We promise nothing untowards will happen to you. Will you come with us?”
“Can you walk?” Stella said. “You look injured.”
Atria scabbarded her sword. “Give me a hand up, and I’ll manage,” she said. Stella took her by the hand and helped her up. They began to make their way back to the hotel.
“When we have time, you’re going to need to teach me your language,” Atria said.
“Why’s that?” Stella asked.
“Because your pronunciation of mine is terrible,” Atria said.
They came to the hotel and entered the foyer.
“People are looking at me,” Atria said. A couple of people held up their phones and snapped pictures.
“They think you’re a cosplayer,” Adam stated. “Dressed up as...well...you.”
“I don’t think I like this world very much,” Atria said as they waited for the elevator.
Stella squeezed Adam’s hand. “I’ve found it has its benefits.”
When they got to the room, Atria placed her sword and scabbard on the table, sat on the armchair and took a deep breath.
“I’m going to get room service,” Adam said. “Is there anything you would like to eat?”
“I really don’t care,” Atria replied. She looked at Stella. “You said you’d explain.”
As Adam called room service, Stella sat on the bed and folded her hands in her lap. “We’re both from worlds created as fiction by the people of this world. You’re from a story called Eternal Chronicle of Hyperborea. I think it was a light novel before it was an anime. I’m from a video game called Chronicles of Arcaniana.”
Adam winced as the person on the other end of the line switched to heavily accented English as soon he started trying to talk in Japanese.
“So I’m just a character in somebody’s story,” Atria said. “You can understand why I have trouble believing that.”
Adam finished with the order. “I just got us rice balls and tea. That seemed simplest.”
“We can show you,” Stella said. “Adam, bring up the previous episode.”
“Yeah, sure,” Adam said, wiping his eyes. He tried to figure out how long it had been since they had slept, but he was too tired to do the math. He pulled up the third season premiere of Eternal Chronicle of Hyperborea on the tablet, pressed play, and handed to Atria. The opening credits started to run.
“It takes a couple of scenes for you to show up,” Adam said, rubbing his eyes again.
Atria’s eyes widened as she saw who was on the screen. “That’s–” Then, as she appeared in the episode and started talking, Atria stiffened. “Okay, I believe you, please turn it off.”
“There’s actually a really great fight sequence in this one,” Adam started. “Worth it just for the–”
Atria grabbed his wrist and squeezed, looking into his eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek. “Please. I don’t want to watch my best friend die again.”
Adam blinked and turned off the video. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Apology accepted,” Atria said. “I’m going to need a minute.”
There was a knock at the door. Adam answered. It was room service, with rice balls and tea. Adam took them and shared them out. As he watched, Atria chewed on hers mechanically, her face expressionless. Then she wiped another tear from her eye and took a deep breath.
“You two are foreigners here,” she said. “You don’t speak the language here, not well. Why are you here? It wasn’t to come looking for me – you didn’t know I’d appear until a few hours ago.”
“I want to meet the people who created my world,” Stella said. “They’ll be at a convention here on the weekend.”
“You won’t be able to prove who you are,” Atria said.
Stella smiled sadly. “I know. They’ll think I’m just another fan.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“I don’t know.”
“And how did you end up in this world, anyway?” Atria asked.
“I fell through the floor of a wild magic dungeon,” Stella replied. Her shoulders slumped. “It just happened. My parents, my party, my friends from the Academy, none of them will ever know what happened to me.”
Atria stood and put her hand on Stella’s shoulder. “At least you have parents to miss you. I grew up in an orphanage, and not a very pleasant one.” She took a deep breath. “You say you can meet your creator in this place? I want to meet mine. I want to know why my best friend had to die.”
Adam rubbed his eyes. “Okay. I think it was a light novel first, so if we find the author, we should be able to contact him. Or her.” He looked up the series on his tablet. “It looks like your series was written by Junichi Kaguyama. And he lives in Tokyo...and he has a website with an email address.”
“So we just need to convince him I’m really the person he created,” Atria said.
“We could send him a photo,” Stella suggested.
Adam shook his head. “He’d just think you’re a cosplayer.”
“He created everything in my world?” Atria asked.
“He should have, yes,” Adam replied.
“I know what to do, then,” Atria stated. “What character sets can your device use?”
It took a moment to set Atria up with the email program on the tablet. For a few minutes she sat composing in a language that Adam didn’t recognize. Finally, Atria hit send.
“I wrote it in Old Hyperborean,” she said. “If he created everything in my world, he should be able to read it.”
Adam yawned. “I really need to sleep. If you two want to stay up and keep talking, go ahead, but please do it quietly.” He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Even though he could still hear them talking, sleep came swiftly.
When he woke up in the morning, Stella and Atria were still talking. Atria leaned back in the chair with a smile on her face, the open tunic of her uniform exposing the white blouse underneath.
“They were all clumped together, perfect for a meteor strike spell,” Stella was saying. “So I let them have it. And right as it came down, that’s when I discovered they had a mage, and he had a reflecting shield.”
Atria gasped. “So the meteor strike–”
Stella nodded. “Bounced right off. Directly towards the tower on the hill. And that’s when we discovered that the tower wasn’t empty.”
“Who was in it?”
“A wizard,” Stella grinned. “With a reflector spell.”
“So the meteor strike...”
“Bounced right back again,” Stella said. “Landed right where I’d aimed it in the first place. Of course, by then they were gone...and so were we.”
Atria laughed. The sound brought a smile to Adam’s face. He turned on his tablet to check email. It chimed. He opened the new mail.
Atria and Stella turned to look at him. “It’s from Junichi Kaguyama,” he said. “He says he can meet us this afternoon.”
For over a century, fictional characters have been falling out of their stories into our world. Some, like mech pilot Atria Silversword and isekai protagonist Daiki Yamato, want to go home. Some, like JRPG non-player character Princess Stellaria, want a new life. Some, like superhero Captain Infinite and devil king The Destroyer, want to meet their creators. Some, like monster hunter Jenny Calhoun and super-assassin Jack Death, want justice for their suffering.
And one will fight a bloody war to liberate them all.
New chapter(s) every Friday.
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Art by Foxtail: https://www.deviantart.com/wilsanne07/gallery/
Review by Josh Piedra at The Outerhaven: https://www.theouterhaven.net/2022/05/light-novel-review-reapotheosis/
Print and e-book editions, with a new afterword by the author, will be released on November 21, and are now available for pre-order!