Slowly and meticulously he had completed the entire plot. Playing his role as tragic lead villain perfectly, not a mission failed. It had taken years, but finally, all the hard work was going to pay off. Soon he will be able to go home.
‘One last mission,’ Asterius’s thinks, staring out across the rolling hills of Midran. It truly was a beautiful world, if given more time he would have liked to see more of the mortal plane, but his time in this novel was done.
He had only come down here to get some peace, and to give the original owner of this body more privacy when he returned. The novel never explained what happened to Asterius after the story was over, but hopefully the original would be able to enjoy the rest of his life here. He wasn't a god anymore and therefore didn't need to stay trapped in Celestia any longer. No one would come looking for him.
‘One person would,’ a voice in his head says softly, as a memory of unreadable silted red eyes fills his thoughts, ‘he would care.’ Yes, probably Cadeyrn would care, but not because he wanted Asterius alive, but because he couldn’t do the deed himself. Still… no, best not to think about bridges already burned.
[Host!] His cheery System says, the blinking holographic green screen appearing in the air and hovering in front of him.
It had been with him the whole time in this strange world, shadowing his steps, scolding him for acting too out of character, and assigning him detailed missions to help advance the plot. Despite all of that, a smile flickers across Asterius’s face, it’s been his only true friend in this novel. He would miss it, even if it did act like a spoiled kindergartener at times.
[Host!] [Host!] [HOST!] The System repeats, the window getting closer to his face each time.
“I’m here System,” he says with an amused, already wistful chuckle, “No need to yell.”
[Host wasn’t paying attention to System!] It complains, the corners of its window diming in a familiar sign Asterius knows is its version of a pout. [Host will be leaving soon, yet Host is too busy watching the evil sun to talk to System!]
“I was just lost in thought,” Asterius clarifies, making a point of turning away from the sunrise to better face the holographic screen, “and since when is the sun “evil” System?”
[Solveig is the sun god, Solveig is mean to Host, being mean to Host is evil, so the sun is evil!]
“You can reason your way into the sun being evil, but you can’t be bothered to use your encyclopedia of knowledge to find the right word for a Panda?”
[Host Said He Would Never Mention That Again!] The message reads in a large, bolded font, [Host is being mean to System!]
“I’m sorry,” he says with a chuckle, as a brisk cold wind runs through the valley, tossing around Asterius’s long silvery hair. With a sigh he wrangles it back under control, carefully braiding it back out of his face, something he wasn’t ever allowed to do while in character, but he doesn't need to be Asterius anymore.
Hmm, it would probably be better to stop thinking of himself as Asterius then, wouldn’t it? Soon he will be back in his original world, able to live under his real identity, “How much longer System?”
There’s a pause, Asterius-William- he corrects in his thoughts, can almost hear the System’s non-existent gears turning, as a green window pops up.
[5 minutes and 23 seconds.]
He hums, bending down and taking a seat in the fresh dew-covered grass, it stains the edges of the light blue robe he is wearing, hopefully, the original wouldn’t mind too much when he got back. How fitting for a romance novel to end on the first day of Spring.
“What will you do when it’s over System?” he asks. They had talked about this before, was something they spoke often of, but it felt important to address it again now, everything that he had worked for was finally going to happen. How strange to be mourning a journey that isn’t even over yet.
[System will advance!] The text box reads, fake holographic confetti fluttering around them, [System will be in charge of larger and larger worlds, and then System will team up with a creator and make a new world!!!] The bolded font is a telling sign of the System’s excitement, [What will Host do?]
“Go back home,” he says staring out over the mortal world, it was odd being a god for so long, it would take time to relearn being human again, to stop looking at mortals as something to protect instead of well- just humans. “I’ll give my mom the biggest hug I can.” William says, trying to recall his mother’s face, it alludes him now, having been in this new world longer than he lived on Earth. Time is funny when you are an immortal, “I’ll probably hug Beth too, even though she’ll complain about it and call me sappy, but as soon as I’m done being thankful I’m back, I’m banning her from ever reading a romance novel again.”
[System will remind Host once again that reading the novel is not-]
“Yes, yes,” William says with a sigh, watching the Royal Sun fully crest the horizon, the sky turning a thousand shades of gold. The sunrises were so strange in this world, it is odd how quickly one can get used to seeing three suns in the sky. “This is really the end huh?”
[2 minutes and 32 seconds remaining until the end of the Epilogue.]
There’s a pause, then a very dim text box appears at his elbow, something the System does when it's unsure, [Does Host not wish to say goodbye to the others?]
A sad smile stretches across his face. He had debated it, almost done it a few times, but he was a coward in the end. William wasn’t really Asterius, it felt wrong to say sorry in his place. “They will be fine, the real Asterius will come back once I go right?”
[That is what System’s database says.]
“Then what would be the point? Sure, maybe I’ve gotten… a little attached,” he confesses, shaking his head to rid himself once more of that crimson gaze, he should really stop thinking about Cadeyrn. In all those 20 years his crush had never ended, it was as easy as breathing to conjure the demon's face in his mind, to see his fanged smirk and tousled black curls. He would miss the little inside jokes, the taunts that always sounded like innuendoes despite the demon's intentions, and all the easy soft touches that made him feel like he mattered.
There's a bittersweet feeling of regret pooling in his heart, he wanted to say goodbye, so badly he had wanted to spill his guts with the truth, that he wasn't Asterius, that he was hopelessly in love, that he wanted to stay. But William was fated to leave, there was a whole other family waiting for him, one that needed him. Willaim's love would only add to the heavy burden Cadeyrn was already carrying.
“This was never my life," he reasons, pushing all thoughts of beautiful handsome demons from his head, "Best to ease the transition for the original.”
[System thinks Host is too nice.]
William can almost hear the blunt unamused tone in that message, it’s probably a good thing the System can only type and not speak, “I’m not nice System, just being a bit polite that’s all.”
[System would like to repeat [System thinks Host is too nice]].
He can’t stop the small chuckle that slips out, even as he waves the screen away, breaking the text box and sending thousands of little pieces of holographic code to flutter about like a dandelion, “You know I can't do any of that. I can never tell them the truth.”
The fractured pieces of static quickly regroup back together, [If Host really wanted to-]
He raises a hand already knowing what it's going to say, it's unfair that it keeps bringing up the fact he doesn't have to go back, this is already hard enough. The original Asterius has already suffered so much, and now he was free, Willaim can't steal that newfound freedom from him. (no matter how much he wants too-)
[System is sorry] it quickly reads, before a new message appears with a dozen added visual effects, [Does Host want System to count down?]
Not the smoothest transition, but he's still thankful it's dropped the subject. “Sure,” he nods, mind drifting towards the home he's about to return to. He's not sure if it is the mention of a countdown or something else, but a forgotten memory of the last New Year he spent on Earth resurfaces to the front of his mind. His mother had gotten off work for the next day, and had surprised them by coming home early, carrying a half chocolate half vanilla cake(the only kind they ever bought since he and his sister could never agree on a flavor) and a bag of dollar store party hats and poppers. Fingers covered in frosting and a bit tipsy, they had all gathered around the small tv in the living room, chanting loudly as the seconds till midnight ticked away.
He smiles, the regret easing to make way for longing, he really did want to go home, “I’ll count with you.”
The System gets a few shades brighter, becoming a soft pastel green.
[Okay!] And a little analog clock appears in the air, counting down to midnight, even though it's somewhere around 6 am, seems System had remembered when he told that story last time, it both warms and cools a part of his heart to see the care. [53!]
“Wait, there’s still a minute left?”
[Host said he would count with System! Count with System!]
He laughs but complies, slowly counting down the numbers as the Blood Sun finally crests the edge of the horizon. Watching the little second hand of the clock tick slowly by, it’s a beautiful peaceful morning, William couldn’t think of a better ending.
A new message suddenly blinks to life next to the countdown, small and dim, [System will miss Host]
He smiles, feeling the sudden sense of loss twist higher in his throat, he really had gotten attached to this world, “I’ll miss you too System.”
Another message, blinking right next to his face, [Bye.]
He holds a hand out as if to cradle the flicking window of code, “Bye”
William takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.