Atria, Stella, and Adam sat at a table in the foyer of the hotel. Atria took a deep breath to calm herself. Her creator was running late.
“You’re sure there wasn’t a photo of him somewhere?” Atria asked.
“I didn’t see one,” Adam replied. “But, I also hadn’t slept in around twenty hours, so I could have definitely missed something.”
Atria took a moment to look at her new friends. Stella looked tired but happy after staying up talking with her all night. Atria couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be stranded in a strange land for years without people she could really talk to about it. Then Atria frowned. If she couldn’t find a way to get home, she was going to be just as stranded too.
“You okay?” Stella asked with her terrible pronunciation.
“I don’t know,” Atria said. “This is not how I imagined my day would be when I woke up in my own world this morning.”
“You think he’ll recognize you?” Adam asked.
“I’m the only one wearing this uniform,” Atria replied. “He’d better.” She undid the top couple of buttons of her tunic. Somehow, the military decorum didn’t seem quite so important anymore. At Adam’s suggestion, she had left her sword and gun in the hotel room.
A couple of girls came over, asking to get a picture of Atria in her uniform. They weren’t the first, and based on what Adam and Stella had told her about this “cosplay” culture, she didn’t figure they would be the last. She stood up and let them take a couple of snapshots, and then sat down again.
“As soon as we’re done this meeting, I want some civilian clothes,” Atria said.
“I spotted a store just across the street,” Stella said. “We have enough saved up for the trip to buy you an outfit.”
Atria took Stella’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Thank you for coming and finding me.”
Stella smiled. “It was three days before Adam found me. I couldn’t let anybody else go through that.”
“There are a couple of people looking at us,” Adam said, pointing. A stocky Japanese man in his late forties in a blazer and button down shirt, accompanied by a young lady in a white blouse and pink dress, stood just inside the hotel lobby doors.
“They don’t look like they just want a photo,” Atria said as they started walking towards them. The three of them stood as the duo approached.
“Are you Junichi Kaguyama?” Atria asked.
“I am,” the middle aged Japanese man said. “Are you the person who sent me that email?”
“I am,” Atria replied. “My name is Major Atria Silversword. You created me and my world.”
“This is Aiko Mitsubi,” Kaguyama said. “She’s my illustrator.”
Mitsubi bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you. You look just like my drawings of you.”
Atria took a breath. “Thank you, I guess.”
“Can we sit?” Kaguyama asked.
Atria nodded. Kaguyama and Mitsubi pulled a couple of chairs over to the table and sat down.
“The email you sent me is very impressive,” Kaguyama said, “but I’ve met fans at conventions who could have written it. I’m going to need better proof that you are who you say you are.”
Atria gritted her teeth. “No, we’re not doing this. Just tell me why my best friend had to die.”
Kaguyama fliched. Atria felt a flash of anger. “I’ve had a very bad week,” she said. “First, my best friend died screaming defending a village against an attack. I watched him die. You know, creator, the one who I’d known since the orphanage, the one I lost my virginity to shortly after entering officer training, the one who was my first crush? That best friend.”
Kaguyama and Mitsubi traded a startled look. Atria pressed on. “Then, the capital’s outer defenses came under attack. And right in the middle of preparing to defend the power stations that handle those outer defenses, some strange new enemy I’ve never seen before with horns on his head and a stupid looking outfit walked through the wall, stole the power orb, left the entire capital defenseless, destroyed Volandpanzer using the ceiling, and nearly killed me. Then, I fell through a wall into this world, where I found out that my entire world was created by you to entertain people. So I really do not care about proving a damned thing to you. I just want to know why Abel had to die in front of me. Just tell me that!”
Kaguyama swallowed. “That information about your love affair with Abel isn’t in any of the books yet – just your full character description, and Mitsubi’s the only other person who I’ve shown that to. I can’t believe it – you’re real!”
“Very nice,” Atria said through gritted teeth. “I don’t care. Why did Abel have to die?”
“I’m sorry,” Kaguyama said. “He died because that’s what happens in your story.”
Atria rolled her eyes and turned to Stella. “We’re wasting our time here.”
“Please wait!” Kaguyama cried. “Let me explain!”
Atria took a deep breath. “I’m listening.”
Kaguyama leaned forward. “When a story comes to life, like yours did, the writer doesn’t write the plot so much as discover it. Your story unfolded in my head, and I just wrote down what happened in an outline, and then fleshed out the scenes later. I don’t know how else to describe it – characters make their own decisions and carry them out. Those decisions have consequences. Those consequences create the next part of the story. Sometimes I have to tweak it to keep it under control, but when you have a story as alive as yours, it’s better to avoid doing that. I didn’t make any changes to what Abel decided. He died because he was the sort of person who could never leave innocent people unprotected, no matter how small the village or how great the odds. I am sorry for your loss, please accept my sincerest condolences.”
Atria put her head in her hands and wept. She felt Stella’s hand on her shoulder.
“Is she going to be okay?” Atria heard Mitsubi ask.
“Going through this is hard,” Stella replied. “It took me a week to process it all when I went through it.”
“So Atria is not the first,” Mitsubi said. “If I may ask, which character are you?”
“I’m Princess Stellaria, but everybody calls me Stella. I’m from a game called Chronicles of Arcaniana.”
“And you don’t speak Japanese?” Kaguyama said. “At least, not very well. Forgive me for saying so, but your pronunciation is terrible.”
“Language localization seems to matter,” Stella said. “I don’t claim to understand all of it. My fiancé and I spent a year learning Japanese before we came here.”
Atria took a deep breath and collected herself. She wiped her cheeks. “Forgive me, creator,” she said. “I misjudged you. I thought you were a heartless god playing games with the lives of everybody I know. I apologize. It hasn’t been easy having faith lately.”
“Would it help if I told you that your story has a happy ending?” Kaguyama asked.
Atria smiled thinly. “With events of late, that’s a bit hard to believe.”
“If you come to my home, I will show you the entire outline. I’ll show you how your story ends.”
Atria blinked. Had she heard the hint of a quiver in Kaguyama’s voice when he said that?
“My friends need to come with,” Atria said.
“It will be a bit of a tight fit in the car, but okay,” Kaguyama said.
Kaguyama’s apartment was smaller than Atria expected it would be. A simple single-bedroom unit overlooking a park, the walls were filled with bookcases and blow-ups of cover art, most of which had Atria’s face on it. Atria decided to spend as little time looking at the walls as she could.
Kaguyama pulled a large binder off one of his bookshelves and handed it to her. “Here it is. Your entire story, from start to finish.”
Atria sat down at Kaguyama’s kitchen table and opened the binder.
“The anime is on volume 7,” Kaguyama said. “I’m right now working on volume 10, and there are four more after that.”
Behind her, Mitsubi was chatting up Stella and Adam.
“I’m a graduate student in quantum physics,” Stella was saying. “My research area is the imprinting of information on particles.”
“How long have you been here?” Mitsubi asked.
“Five years,” Stella replied.
Atria glanced up from the page she was reading. “The attack on the capital was a feint?”
Kaguyama nodded. “The Paladin Legion was actually attacking the communication hubs down south. But, you and Prometheus figure that out and stop them.”
Mitsubi tugged on Kaguyama’s sleeve. “Are you sure she should know all of it?” she whispered. “There are a lot of spoilers.”
“It will be fine,” Atria heard Kaguyama whisper back. “It’s not like she’ll share them with the internet.”
Atria reached the end of the binder and closed her eyes. “My story does have a happy ending,” she sighed.
“I’ll be writing your reconciliation scene with Prometheus in this volume,” Kaguyama said. “You save your world and end the story at his side.”
“Thank you,” Atria said.
“And there won’t be any more slip-ups in the schedule, I promise,” Kaguyama added.
Atria blinked. “Okay. Again, thank you.”
“But there’s something I don’t understand,” Kaguyama started. “You said that one of the power orbs was stolen. I never wrote anything like that, and I consulted on the anime scripts as well. That’s not supposed to happen.”
“I think it was another character who had travelled between worlds,” Stella cut in. “We watched it happen.”
Kaguyama sat down and rubbed his forehead. “This is very hard to wrap my brain around.”
“Try being in the middle of it,” Atria said. “Regardless, we need to find this person and recover the orb.”
Stella leaned on the wall, pressing against Adam. “That won’t be easy,” she said. “If he’s moving into other created worlds, then he could be anywhere in world media.”
“We have to try,” Atria stated. “Created or not, Hyperborea is still my world. It’s my home, and what I’ve spent the last ten years fighting to save. Without that power orb, the capital will be defenseless. My duty is to recover it.”
Stella held up her hand. “That said, I have a theory. I don’t think his person can travel directly from one created world to another. I think he has to come to this world first. And based on the fact that he invaded your world in the Japanese localization, I think he’s basing himself here in Japan. So, we can find him. It just might take a while.”
Atria smiled and looked up at Stella. “I’ll need help. Will you help me? Will you all help me?”
“Our tourist visa is only good for another thirteen days,” Stella said. “But as long as we’re here, you can count on us.”
Adam nodded. “I don’t think I could look at myself in the mirror if we didn’t help you.”
“I’ll help,” Mitsubi said. “However I can.”
“As will I,” said Kaguyama. “Tomorrow is free, so we should be able to meet and strategize then.”
Mitsubi stared at him. “No it’s not – we have that meeting with the publisher and the production company tomorrow. We set aside the day for it.”
“Right, sorry, I forgot,” Kaguyama said. “I apologize. I got caught up in the moment. What about the day after tomorrow? Is that free?”
“That’s Saturday,” Mitsubi said. “It’s free.”
Adam glanced at Stella. “We’ll miss the first day of the convention.”
Stella sighed. “That’s fine. This is more important. We’ll do the convention another year if we have to.”
“Atria, do you have anywhere to stay?” Mitsubi asked. “I live alone, and I could put you up if you want.”
Atria shook her head. “Thank you for your kind offer, but I’d rather stay with my friends.” She motioned at Stella and Adam. “Assuming they’ll have me.”
Stella and Adam glanced at each other. “We’ll figure something out,” Adam said. “Get you an adjacent hotel room or something.”
“At least let us pay Atria’s share of that,” Kaguyama said. “Also, if there’s anything you need, please let us know.”
“Civilian clothes,” Atria declared. “Too many people are trying to take pictures of me while I’m wearing this.”
“I don’t have anything that will fit you, but we can do some shopping,” Mitsubi said. “I’m free today.”
“That’s what we planned to do after this anyway,” Stella said.
As the discussion devolved into selecting clothing stores to visit Atria smiled. She had the beginnings of a plan, she had comrades, and her story would have a happy ending. So long as the thief who invaded her world didn’t gather any allies, she would be able to figure out how to defeat him, recover the orb, and save the capital.
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!