As expected, the Shadow followed after the girl with her eyes, bending over the railing wishfully even if she probably couldn’t see anything but the smog. Then she looked back at the hole where the wire had come out of, then back down at the canyon.
After almost a minute, the shadow took a hand to her mouth. “She made it…”
What? Falk thought, legitimately surprised. He couldn’t help but look down himself, at the canyon, but he could not see past the fog.
Falk adjusted his left monocle for night-vision, which improved it but they were so high up that there was no way he could discern much past the now even more visible particles of metallic dust. He tried to adjust it further, but the different shades of light and darkness and shadow made it impossible to find the perfect setting that would allow his vision to reach very far. In summary, the Shadow could see better than he could.
“Huh,” Falk remarked.
Falk looked back at the Shadow with interest, not interested in her, obviously, but in the thing over her eyes. Her expression was not very readable, due to the mask, but she was definitely looking at him.
“What happened to the wire?” the Shadow asked, almost making him laugh. The girl was really slow.
“It was a fake,” Falk said simply. “Did you really believe pulling her up through the Beast’s gun placements would work?” He shook his head, “you’re both stupid if you thought there is any way to come back from that dive.”
The Shadow, with her left hand still on the railing, looked over to the canyon. She looked back to him, then back down. She was trembling as her right hand turned into a fist, and her left shivered in an attempt to squeeze the railing.
“What would you suggest?” Falk asked, trying to be understanding of the poor girl. “That I talk her out of it? What about saving the world?”
“She…she deserved to make the real decision,” she said.
“Her informed decision would doom the world,” Falk said.
“Then we would have thought of something else!” She yelled, actually yelled, at him.
Falk frowned and shook his head again, annoyed at having to deal with such a naïve foolish brat.
“How can you be more naïve than the Street Rat?” he sincerely questioned. “He’s nine or some such, and yet he still manages to not be such an idealistic fool.”
“It is wrong,” the Shadow said in response, because what else can people say when they have no answers?
“Who cares?!” Falk was really at a loss. How could he be hearing such things from Kagekawa’s top agent? “You think people in a hundred years will care that we tricked the girl into saving the world? You think it’ll be written down in history that these blokes saved the world, but they were terrible miscreants about it, just awful, no one should be happy about what they did.”
Falk was mocking her and enjoying every second of her squirming and trembling as she tried to contain herself.
“They wouldn’t do so tomorrow, let alone in a hundred or more years,” Falk added, stirring the wound. “What’s wrong with you? I thought you cared about saving the world.”
She remained silent for a few seconds. Then, she brought up the supernatural communication scroll and looked at it. It made her freeze.
The Shadow sniffed and silently wrote on it. Seemed to Falk there was a vibe of acceptance and surrender to her.
“Yes. You should know better, you’re the Shadow,” Falk said. “You’d risk this entire airship, our plan b, to try and rescue one person? It’s stupid.”
The Shadow looked up at him as if remembering he was saying things. She sniffed again and shoved the parchment inside her costume fully spread open. It would be hugging her back.
“There are untouched shadows at the bottom of the canyon,” she pointed out, again alerting him to the fact she could see much better than he could, “I will dive into them and make sure Sam gets out.”
Falk scoffed, feeling his temper flare.
“What?” He asked, giving it one laugh, which didn’t calm him down. “What?! Are you real, girl? Do you truly exist?! What are you talking about?!?”
The sheer stupidity of the girl was driving him really angry.
The Shadow stood against his mocking, unfazed, which only made him angrier. In truth, it would make him very happy for her to willingly jump to her death, it would clear up a negligible yet possible point of failure for his plans, but his competitive nature and the need to be right drove him to argue further.
“Is it because you promised her?” Falk questioned. “You can’t break a promise?”
She was trembling. “No.”
“Is it because you want to prove me wrong? What is it? Did you fall in love with her at first sight?” Falk questioned, at a very insulted loss. “Is she secretly a sister to you or something?!”
The Shadow of Kagekawa scratched her arm, clearly nervous, and still trembling.
“No,” she said.
“Then what?” he actually yelled. “What madness would drive you to do such a thing!? The world might need you, isn’t that what you said about the Warlock?”
“Exactly,” said the Shadow, nodding one too many times, “exactly. The world might need her.”
Falk would not be beaten.
“If it does, if it does at all, and it really doesn’t,” he chuckled, a bit maniacally, she was driving him a tad mad, “but if it does, it’s for what she’s doing right now. There is no other reason. Besides, can you really make it into the shadows down below?? This kind of drop?”
The Shadow looked down, interrupting herself. She shook her head, throwing uneven breaths downward, and approached the ledge. He wanted an answer but not to the point of stopping her from doing what he wanted her to do.
Then, she grasped the railing with both hands, still staring down.
“You are a fool,” the Shadow confessed, “if I had done as you wished and left the Warlock behind, we would all be dead.”
Falk snorted, a rage welling up within him. Who did she think she was?!
“No. I had a plan, actually. You see—”
“You are wrong,” she interrupted, “you would have failed.” She was shaking terribly. “You have before. And you will again. Because you are stupid and you are wrong. But worst of all, you are cruel… and without a doubt…completely mad.”
By the time Falk had his mechanic hand fully out of the way of an opened wrist, to give room to a small gun barrel, the Shadow had jumped.
“Me?” Falk screeched.
He threw himself at the ledge, unconcerned with how it cranked and wobbled in his hurry to yell back at her.
Instinctively, however, due to the blood boiling in every part of his body, he aimed his mechanical arm and took a shot. He couldn’t tell whether it hit.
Still, Falk yelled.
“YOU ARE THE STUPID…EST FOOL! I’VE EVER MET! YOU BETTER HOPE, YOU HEAR ME?!”
He took a breath so he could scream even louder. “YOU BETTER HOPE YOU DON’T COME BACK ALIVE!!!”
“Sir?” someone called out from behind Falk.
“YOU BETTER HOPE I NEVER SEE YOUR MASK AGAIN! OR ANY OTHER PART OF YOU!”
“Sir,” the voice tried again.
Falk snapped his head around at the annoying mage. “WHAT??”
The mage shuddered and hopped back in fright, and that made Falk realize he had been there the whole time. Falk had been watched in his entire exchange with the Shadow. He kept the mechanical arm ready to shoot again as he considered whether the stupid man had seen something he would have to kill him for, all the while doing the math on what consequences would follow if he was to do that.
Falk realized his breathing was off, he wasn’t calming down at all, he was just occupying his mind with productive thoughts rather than allowing it to be deafened by rage.
What she had said…
Still, Falk came to the conclusion the man could live. He had seen him get angry and attempt at her life, sure, but most of all, he had seen her jump on her own and had heard him trying to convince her not to. So all and all, the man would have some value regarding staving off Falk’s confrontation with the Darkness.
The mechanical arm transformed back to assume its usual form.
“I… have a very hard time dealing with such high levels of idiocy,” Falk offered as an explanation, but not an apology.
Pawns and maggots weren’t worth any apology.
Falk hated her. With a passion.
It was a testament to how strong he felt about her that though she was likely dead or about to die, he wasn’t satisfied. She had insulted him more than the Beasts had, both in actions and words. She dared call him wrong? Stupid?
The Shadow Conclave had two agents working to categorically gas the home of the Beasts, and at the same time, he was about to gas Neyrk for the fight that was coming. The Shadow Conclave had gotten a big victory in Magni, and in Igtahlia before that, and none of that would have been possible without him.
Cruelty? The term was conceptualized.
Results were produced. Mostly, if people were honest with themselves, by him. Ethical quandaries were nothing but boundaries. Morality consisted largely on a subjective will to delay the inevitable.
Falk stood on the balcony of his quarters, watching as his airship emitted a near-invisible air of particles that would tear apart the technology of the Beasts. He watched as what was left of the world, scarcely anything, was likely looking up at him. They watched him in hopes and expectations that did not care, in the slightest bit, for who he was or what exactly he was doing. They just wanted him to win.
They just wanted results.
Frowning, he downed half another glass of the alertness potion and then threw it down at Neyrk.
Falk would give them results. As he had so far, no matter the odds, he would deliver them salvation, only so he could properly enjoy taking it away from them…personally. Some would call him evil over how little he felt for killing someone, and yet others, they would call heroes. They seemed to think he was obligated to consider things from their point of view, to bow down to their sense of morality, their opinion of good and evil, and obey it.
Why would he?
Why would he care at all about what the silly and the meek think? People who think there is order to the world, and justice. And goodness. And a reason for events other than their cause. They believed there were direction and intelligence to causality.
Fools, the lot of them.
Is a star good? Is a comet just? Is the Sun sympathetic? Are the seas polite, does any form of life other than humanity concern itself with flimsy conceptualizations like forgiveness or cruelty? No. Only humans do that, only the mad ones.
But the geniuses among them. The smart and exalted, every single human being knowing the true nature of the universe, or nature, or physics… and how it’s all utterly devoid of any personality trait. No sympathy. No cruelty. No justice. No crime. No good or evil.
Some of these illuminated individuals go by unnoticed, convinced that this concept exists for the benefit of society. They already know a lot but, on that point, they lie to themselves so that they don’t clash with their loved ones, and with the aspirations that they can’t realize without civilization. Falk knew what it was like to forever be seeking approval from the community, respect from the stupid and value from the powerful.
He knew better now. He was taught a very hard lesson when he experienced his very first, and only, mistake.
Falk grinned and shook his head, the monocles very present on his face. The welded attachments to his shoulder and thighs suddenly feeling foreign, even if for just a moment. It had been indeed a hard time…when he was accused of causing the failure of his own experiment. Of killing so many of his peers, even the ones that were actually smart.
When he was put in jail for the rest of his life, like a common thug, it had been hard. To be sent to suffer like some kind of a degenerate waste of life.
Falk learned from that. He learned that those concepts of morality, ethics, and all derived, exist for only one reason…they subsist for only one reason.
To protect the stupid…and the meek.
The strong and the geniuses did not need protection from anyone. No one can take what is theirs, or stop them from getting what they want, or from killing them because they’re corrupt or an absolute waste of air. So they make up morality and ethics, and all derived, to protect themselves. And the ridiculous thing is that all they do with that protection is to either get rich or try to get rich, but all in all, they use that protection to be worthless and miserable. They damn near choose it.
Falk shook his head in disgust.
“A blight. A blight on existence, and she wants to stop me from succeeding?” Falk spat at the air, “I don’t think so.”
That was the other thing, the third thing that people did with that protection. They just messed up other people’s lives. They squander their dreams, they block their own efforts to achieve anything noteworthy…and these people, these actions, are protected. If Falk kills them, he will be called into account instead of lauded as a hero.
They were flawed conceptualizations indeed. Falk had decided to be free of them. Free. And ever since then…he had been inevitable.
Stars burn. Grass grows, Falk thought to himself, starting to laugh.
Falk looked down at the world he was about to save…before he burned it with his own two hands, finally bringing an incalculable amount of stupidity and uselessness to an end. And his laughter grew, spurred by the glorious certainty of what was to come.
Falk Goldschmidt gets results.
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