Moving stone after stone, I dug deeper and deeper into the massive collapsed building. Wasn’t it ironic that I had spent the last few weeks in a mine, never digging once, but the moment I got out, it was all I wanted to do? I saw a little hand. I started moving faster, picking up more and more rocks. Tossing two aside at a time, I unearthed a little girl, not much younger than Kemala. Grabbing her, I noticed her cold skin.
“Help!” I looked out into the dust-filled streets. “I found one! Is there a healer?”
I dragged her up from the crater, trying to find more people, but everyone seemed busy doing something similar.
I finally turned, noticing the three women standing there. One of them was the girl called Lilith. One of them was Brooke. The third one who was pregnant pulled back their hood. When I saw her face, I fell down to my knees.
Just after teleporting, the three women were still around me. Brooke looked at me with shock, taking several steps back and putting up her guard.
“You… who are you?” She demanded, “Where is Clyburn?”
Lilith grabbed her arm and pulled her away. “That is Clyburn. Well, it’s what Clyburn looks like now.”
Lilith nodded. “Clyburn was hurt in an accident, really badly. His body… well, his body was heavily damaged. I can heal it, I have texts that show me how, but I had to put his soul somewhere. The Queen was desperately looking for someone to heal her offspring, so I volunteered to try. I isolated the poison in his veins. He was supposed to remain in a coma until his body was back, but somehow he woke up. No… not somehow, those damn demons woke him up! Fortunately, they were too dumb to realize Clyburn’s soul was in his body and he wasn’t the same prince they poisoned!”
“Then why did he look like Clyburn a little bit ago.”
“The demon lord’s spells didn’t just remove illusions; they bare a person’s soul. Clyburn’s soul. It would keep people from controlling and sending in spies.
I might have wondered whether my soul was even Clyburn’s. Shouldn’t I have looked like my 35-year-old self from my first world? However, I wasn’t really focused on them or anything they were talking about. In fact, all I could see in front of me was the damage spread out over the city that I had caused. I got up and began to walk.
“Clyburn, where are you going?”
I kept walking, and the world grew hazy until the moment Mia’s face appeared before me. Was it a cruel torment caused by my broken psyche? Seeing all the dead around me, would Mia fit perfectly?
“Clyburn…” Mia walked toward me.
“Hey.” I smiled, tears falling down my face. “I missed you, you know?”
Mia flinched a bit. “I know. I just felt like there were things important to do. That is why I left with Lilith. I wanted to protect you.”
“I remember…” I smiled sadly. “You didn’t want to be a grocer like your mom. You wanted adventure, right?”
Mia nodded, trying to give me a reassuring smile. “That’s right. I’m sorry I was selfish.”
“No…” I shook my head. “I’ve been the selfish one. You died… and I simply let myself move on…”
Mia glanced over at the other two girls before looking back at me.” Cly… I’m alive. See?”
I shook my head, “Ashley died. Rebecca died. You died. I’m so sorry that you died. Brooke’s probably dead too. Lilith… that’s just a fancy… you’re all dead.”
“No!” I snapped. “It’s enough. Enough death… I’m tired of it. I’m tired of everyone dying. I keep trying, and I keep failing. This world is nothing but death. I just want to go back to my old world. My wife may have been a cheating whore, but at least it was a world where I felt safe.”
“Another world…” Lilith stepped forward.
“Clyburn, we don’t understand what you’re talking about…” Mia said with a creased eyebrow.
“Don’t you get it? I died. I died and I came back. One life. That’s all people get. Yet, here I am… still here. I brought death with me. That’s why… that’s why I keep losing everything. How many more people do I have to watch die? How much more do I have to lose.”
“Clyburn… I’m alive.” Mia shook her head. “You’re wrong. I almost died, but Lilith healed me, just like she’s healing you right now. Don’t you understand?”
“It doesn’t matter! None of it matters!” I hissed. “I’m dead, or I’m dying… it’s all the same. I’m dead now, or I’ll be dead soon. So, it does matter. No one cares. No one-“
The light flickered in my vision as I felt my face jerk to the side. Touching my throbbing cheek, I finally looked up to see Mia standing there, her face filled with rage and anger.
“Doesn’t matter? Do I not matter to you!”
“Then what? Does no one care? I care! Brooke cares! Do you think all the women who looked out for and love you at home don’t care? They care about Clyburn… they care about you!”
“Madison, Hannah, Morgan, Mako, Aiko… you have many women who care about your well-being. Are you just going to abandon them? Are you just going to lay down and die? Lilith has gone through so much effort to keep you alive. I’ve gone through so much. Don’t think you can just push us aside!”
I blinked. “M-Mia?”
“Your children, what about them? Will you just forget about your daughters? How about you sons? Do you want them to end like all the other men in this world?”
“Other men…” My mind was still trying to keep up, still muggy and lost.
However, Mia’s face and her words were like a light in that abyss.
“There is no other man in this world that is like you.” Mia said breathily, “I now realize that is because you’re not a man from this world.”
“Doesn’t that scare you?” I asked, “Make you nervous?”
“Should it?” Mia asked, raising an eyebrow. “Did you stop being you? I don’t think so. You’re still the man who won my heart that day. No matter what face you wear, you’re always him.”
As she spoke, she held my face, tears streaking down her cheeks. Tears were also falling down mine, but for the first time in a while, I felt a warmth in my heart. I was no longer afraid or alone. I was no longer lost. I felt like I had a place in the world.
“Mia… you’re pregnant.” I said the first words that came to mind.
Mia laughed, tears still falling down her face. “It’s ours, you know?”
“That’s like… a 12-month incubation…”
Mia puffed out her cheeks and shot Lilith a glare. “Don’t remind me! I already feel like I’m going to explode!”
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“When the trolley blew up, I was pushed off the island. By pure luck, I landed nearly on top of Lilith.”
I glanced over at Lilith, recognizing her as the same girl I had kissed all those months ago. She was the one that stopped Amaryllis Academy from falling onto the city and causing massive damage, not unlike the damage we were sitting in right now. I owed her quite a bit, but I hadn’t even had a clue who she was before. All I knew was that she was very powerful. Now, I knew why.
Her family line had absorbed the power of a Demon Lord. That great ancestor was Lilith the Demon Lord, a figure from history. However, the story we were taught seemed to differ from reality. Lilith was thought to be a monster who wished to destroy the world and bring Demons back. It turned out Lilith was actually the only one trying to keep the Demons from returning.
The so-called hero from long ago was actually spreading demonic blood and trying to revitalize the demos alongside the males. I didn’t know the specifics, but I was able to work out that much by myself.
“Thank you for saving her…” I said.
Lilith shook her head. “At the time, I thought you were a demon too. It turns out, you may truly be the blessed man. If you weren’t, I wouldn’t be going to all this trouble.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you hear?” Mia spoke up. “You really can have children 50/50. Half of your offspring are male like the baby in my belly. However, unlike other men, your children lack any demonic blood. All men have a drop of demonic blood within them. It’s why they are able to be taken over by demons. It’s difficult for a demon to take over someone, but the more blood, the easier it becomes.
“Had Diba’s ceremony succeeded and you really were the Demon Lord, then you could have spread your seed across the world, and the Demon race would have overtaken this world within a few generations.”
“Wh-what? That’s insane!”
Mia nodded. “That’s why I hid. First, I have to have your male child, a demon-free baby. Who knows, he may also have the ability to produce children 50/50. If your genes are allowed to spread, a demon-free blood, then within a few generations the demons will be wiped out forever. You really are a miracle.”
I shook my head. “I still don’t get it. Why hasn’t our child been born yet?”
Mia lowered her head. “The demon’s sent someone after you. They died, but they managed to curse me first. I fell into labor almost immediately after. Had Lilith not woken up and realized that the baby would have come out still, then our baby would have been lost.”
“I put a seal on her womb.” Lilith added, “I’m removing the curse from her a little at a time. It’s almost done. She should be able to have the baby in a few more months.”
“So, what do you want me to do then? Keep having babies?”
Somehow, I felt like I was going around in circles. The world wanted me to become a baby factory one way or another. Before, it was to maintain the population, but now I actually needed to impregnant women in order to save the world? This whole thing felt really outrageous to me.
“Not right now.” Lilith shook her head. “The Demons are still looking for you and your body is damaged. I do not know if this body would produce offspring in the same way as your previous one. We need to wait until we can put you back into the proper body.”
“How long until I am fixed?” I asked wryly.
“About six months.”
“Six months!” I stood up, “Seriously?”
Lilith shrugged. “What do expect? Your body was burnt from head to toe! Be happy I can fix you at all. Plus, you don’t have to be in a coma or something! I even made you a prince. Isn’t that ideal?”
“A prince who had an assassination attempt made on his life!” I shot back.
“Geh!” Lilith made a face like she had been struck. “E-even so…”
“Don’t you get it! This is not a safe place for me. Even if the demons can never find me, the mother is crazy and they kill without a thought! I’ll just have to go with you guys until you’ve finished healing my body!”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I said so! I said so, so that’s the way it is!” Lilith’s voice suddenly took on the tone of a petulant child.
“Clyburn…” A voice broke the two of us up, Brooke was looking mildly uncomfortable. “I can’t pretend that I understand half of what you guys have been talking about, but if you really are still Clyburn in there, then it’s my job to protect you.”
I shook my head. “You haven’t met my mother. I mean, the new one. If you thought Morgan was overprotective, this woman is like-“
“Caleb! My baby!” There was a shout, and suddenly over a hundred people filled the streets.
There were shouts and whistles as groups of soldiers spread out across the landscape, but my focus was on the woman at the head. My other mother looked like she had lost some weight over the last few weeks. Her eyes were rimmed with red and as soon as her eyes locked on me, she leaped from the palanquin and ran towards me.
Brooke blinked as several guards got between her and Clyburn and shoved her away. She looked at me questioningly, but I only shook my head, telling her not to do anything stupid. A moment later, I was surrounded, and then two pillows pressed against my arm as my mother hugged me tightly.
“Where have you been?” She wailed out, “Why did you take off? I was so worried. I’ve been scouring the town for you. And then when this accident happened, I was certain you were lost!”
“If it wasn’t for the reward I put out, we wouldn’t have even gotten the report you were sighted here. My son, this is unacceptable! Your mother almost killed herself! Is this what you want? Do you want your mother dead?”
“S-stop…” I tried to get in a word edgewise, but she was like an avalanche.
“Even your harem was worried. Do you even remember the women you’re supposed to be impregnating? Even I snuck out of the palace once in a while when I was younger, but you’re a man. It’s not the same thing! Your mother was so heartbroken when you didn’t return! Please don’t say you’ve rejected your mother. I love you! I love you, baby. Please don’t reject me!
“Mom!” I shouted that last line, finally stopping her from gabbing. “I want those three in my harem!”
I immediately pointed at the three women who were standing nearby. There were probably other ways to say this, but this seemed the easiest ways. Lilith and Mia sounded like they were going to take off, but there was no way I’d allow that. Mia was pregnant with my child, and Lilith knew too much and I didn’t learn everything she knew. Her family line may have gained knowledge from their inheritance, but mine left with nothing but a black hole deep inside.
If they wanted to escape this place, I’d make them take me with them. I didn’t want to be trapped here for so many months. My mother’s gaze passed over the three women. When she landed on Lilith and Mia, her eyes narrowed dangerously.
“You two. I recognize you two. You were those frauds who said you could bring back my son! Instead, he was left just as much in a coma as before! Then you two took off without a word! Baby, are these the woman who took you! It must be some kind of trick!”
“That’s… we were just… stabilizing his condition!” Lilith responded.
“Stabilizing my ass!” She cried out, pointing at them, “Guards, execute-Mmmm!”
Desperate situations led to desperate actions. I grabbed her and put my hand over her mouth. However, my other hand grabbed her breast and squeezed it. I had a feeling that mom wouldn’t listen to me unless I broke her of her rage. Pulling roughly on her nipple like she liked it, I whispered in her ear.
“Mother, do not hurt these women. They did nothing wrong. Please… for your son.”
Mom looked over at me tearfully, “Ahhn… son, you’re no fair, you know when you touch mommy like that, she can’t think!”
I pulled her nipple even harder!
“Ahhhn…o-okay…” She blushed. “They can get out of my sight now.”
“Gone!” Lilith threw up her hood, turned and ran.
“Eh?” Mia looked at the fleeing Lilith and then gave a curtsy, looking at me fondling my “mother” wryly. “I’ll see you then. I wish we could speak longer. Goodbye!”
I wanted to run with them, but I realized that this was impossible now. They were going to take off to do what they had to, and I was left in this city, holding on to a crazy woman. At least this spirit thing was hard to prove. If an illusion slipped, I could find myself dead in an instant. It’s pretty hard to prove I’m not the Prince when my body is undeniably his. Mother finally broke from my grip, straightening her shirt and daring any guard to make a comment on her being fondled by her son.
“Come, son, it has been two weeks. You must properly show your mother how much you missed her!”
“Oh, and bring the brutish white girl. Clean her up for my son and then deliver her to his rooms tonight.”
“Eh?” Brooke let out a cry as she was grabbed by several guards.
She wasn’t given any choice as she was dragged away. She gave me a wooden look as she disappeared, being taken directly to the castle. As for me, I ended up on the Palanquin heading back. This time, two guards sat within arms reach of me, and if I even moved to wipe my nose, there was someone touching my shoulder. It was clear that my mother’s wrath had been put on these guards over the last few weeks, they absolutely would not allow me to escape my mother’s clutches again.
As we drove back to the castle, there were many shouts. Some were about glory to the Queen and Prince, but others were questions about what we were doing about the city destruction. Only a few hours ago, a large portion of the city was destroyed, yet Mother was prancing through the city as if nothing had happened. This seemed to be causing some people to rage.
Mother casually sent out people to deal with any problem makers. When she saw someone in particularly bad straights, she’d hand a small bag of coins to a guard to hand them. All of it still felt… insufficient to me. How could Mother be so calm about this disaster? I finally decided I had to ask her.
“Why aren’t you doing more about the disaster?” I asked.
Mother shrugged. “The committee will take care of it. My son, you will learn that the lives of royalty are not the same as the lives of a normal man. They are meant to toil. We are meant to thrive. What is important to the populace is our own stability. As long as we are unaffected by these events, the city will know everything is alright. If we panicked or made a scene, then we’re truly telling them that we don’t have things under control. Do you understand?”
I did understand, but I wasn’t convinced of it. I still felt like this whole thing was a bit of a joke. How could we just act like that? Wouldn’t that cause civil disrest?
We headed back into the castle, leaving behind the turmoil outside. Mother assured me that there was nothing we could do. The extra hands of a single man couldn’t change the course of what happened. I wondered if she would say that knowing it was these hands that caused it. I wasn’t completely blaming myself, and I understood to some extent the risk if that power had fallen into Rebecca’s hands, but it still left me with an uneasy feeling.
In a way, it was like the train scenario. I chose to change the course of a train, and by doing so, a thousand people died. Except, on the other railroad, I had no clue how many people I may have saved. Thus, all I could see were the faces of the thousands lost, not of those that I may or may not have saved. Whether my actions did any good at all, time would tell on that.
After my mother pushed me down and I made sure to leave her satisfied, I was finally back in my room again. I sat on the edge of the bed, contemplating what I would do now. I had found out so much in the last two days. I hadn’t slept last night either. My body was exhausted, as was my mind, but I refused to sleep. As soon as I regained my sense of self, I still felt so lost. Mia was still alive, but gone. Lilith was repairing my body. Ashley was a demon, yet so was Rebecca. It might very well be necessary to save the world. These were the facts I had to come to terms with.
The door to my room opened, and a woman stepped inside. She was wearing a somewhat revealing dress, albeit not at the level of the servants. Her hair and makeup had been done in the style of this country, which gave her a somewhat exotic look, especially given how short her hair was. She walked in silently, approaching me without reserve, and then sitting on the bed next to me without a word. We sat in the dark silence for a few minutes. Finally, I took a breath.
“I’m sorry…” I said. “It was the only thing I could think to do.”
“You really are Clyburn… aren’t you…” She said with a sigh.
“You only figured that out now?”
“You’re the only guy I know who is that dumb.”
“…” I couldn’t argue with that. “Either way… I know you’re angry, but I’m sorry.”
Brooke nodded her head, as if she was trying to work something out in her mind, and then finally turned to me. “I’m going to tell you something, and you need to listen, okay? Afterward, I want you to tell me something. I want you to tell me who you really are. Okay?”
I looked up to see a deadly serious expression on her face. I nodded slowly.
“I’m not… angry about what happened.” Brooke said, deliberately not looking at me. “Since it was you, it is fine. I… love you.”
“What?” I blinked, a shocked expression on my face.
“Get that stupid smile off your face, you idiot!” She slapped the back of my head. “I’m still gay! It was really gross! That bath with those scantily clad servants was really exactly what I needed after that. While I’ve been toiling in a mine, you’ve seriously been catered to by those exotic beauties wearing practically nothing and just begging to be touched. Ahhh… I’d like to take one or two to bed tonight.”
“Brooke, you’re drooling!”
“Eh? Sorry…” Brooke wiped her mouth. “The point is… you’re my best friend, okay. I love you like a brother. Wait… considering how you treat your sisters, how about a close… make that distant friend.”
“Is that your polite way of saying you never want me to touch you again?”
“If you do, I’ll break off your penis.”
“That sounds about right. But… what if you’re not pregnant.”
“Then… I’ll use your broken off penis as a dildo until I get pregnant.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how penises work.”
The pair of us looked at each other and then laughed lightly. Brooke wrapped her arm around me for a moment and hugged me before letting go.
“Now, your turn…” Her eyes grew serious.
I nodded, “When I was 12 years old, the day I was raped by Tinya, was the day I regained my memories from another life. I came from a world where men and women were equal, well, in population at least.”
After that, I began to tell her my story. I told her about my old life, about the one she had been there for, and about the things on the side. I tried to tell her about the demons the best I could. When I was finally done relating my story, I let out a long sigh.
“You… a 35-year-old man?”
I nodded. “Yeah…”
Brooke snorted. “I don’t believe it.”
“You are the most immature brat I have ever met! Are you sure you didn’t reincarnate from a horny teenager! That better fits your personality.”
“Hey! Look, I may have never had my life together all that much. My wife was my childhood sweetheart and she just about ruled my life. She was beautiful, so I didn’t mind, but she handled the finances, the cooking, the decisions. All I had to do was go to work, make some sales, and make a baby. When I found myself unable to do the last, our relationship fell apart. I spent the last five years of my life drinking myself to death in a massive depression over my failures.”
“That part does sound like you.” Brooke sighed.
“Look, Cly… you’ve made mistakes. So, have I. You need to stop letting them all hit you so hard. Every failure isn’t your personal responsibility. Every death wasn’t caused by you. You’re not a god, and even if you have some magical penis, that doesn’t stop the fact you’re simply a man. You need to accept your mistakes, and just move on.”
“I’m not sure if I can,” I spoke hesitantly.
“Well, this is the best time to try.” When I glanced over at Brooke, she continued. “You’re a prince of a country. You literally have the world at your fingertips right now. How about you use this time to come to terms with yourself, especially now that you’re not.”
Her words hit me hard. I sat in silence thinking about it for a bit. Eventually, she stood up and dismissed herself. After she left, I instructed a couple of servants to pick one with a certain disposition to go provide Brooke with a sensual massage. After that, I laid down on my bed, thinking about what she had said.
Use this time to your advantage. I suppose why not? What could go wrong?