I woke up with a blinding headache, although I was starting to become used to that. The memory of Charlie and what had happened came crashing back before I could even open my eyes. I felt frustration, confusion, and anger. Those two bastards were dead, and my children were safe. That was what was important. I couldn’t let anything come before that. However, now that they were dead, the extended protection act would continue on without a challenge.
Any good those two men might have done over the last week in their various meetings had been completely undone in an instant. As for me, I had no clue what the repercussions of my actions would be. I felt a hand being placed on my forehead. It was cool to the touch and felt somewhat refreshing. I felt some degree of magical energy going inside me. This must be healing magic. Whoever had done it disappeared. I could hear people talking, but the sounds were distorted. It still ended up being a few more minutes before the words started to make sense.
I could hear women talking in the background. One of them sounded like Mako.
“He had been trying to stop this from happening.” She said.
“Well, it isn’t known who set off the explosion. Did he say who he was trying to stop?”
I felt a bit of dread at those words. If she mentioned Terah, then everything I had done would have been for naught. Even though she hadn’t been the one who had blown them up, she would still end up getting the blame for it.
“No, he never said,” Mako responded.
“Whatever magical rune was used burned up in the explosion. It’ll be impossible to find out what really happened unless he wakes up.” A third voice said.
This voice felt slightly familiar. As my mind began to awaken, I realized I recognized this speaker. She had droned on in the past, talking about the act. It was the spokeswoman and leader behind the extended protection act. She sounded like she was hoping I wouldn’t wake up. And although I could open my eyes now, I decided to wait and listen for a bit longer.
“This is Clyburn. He was thought dead! Doesn’t this change everything about our position on the extended protection act?” a female seemed to ask the woman.
“This changes nothing. The final arguments will begin in an hour. That’s what we should focus on.”
“Yeah, but the vote is tomorrow! If his survival gets out before then, it might cause us to lose some votes.”
“Whoever ignited that gazebo, they did us a favor. It would take a miracle to reverse the vote now.”
“That fact won’t be lost on the opposing side if they seize on it…”
“Let me worry about that…”
“You…” Mako’s voice spoke up. “Get out of here! Haven’t you used Clyburn enough?”
“You misunderstand. We are gladdened your… erm… man has survived. We want all men to survive. This is the exact reason that this act is so important to us. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t value people like Clyburn.”
“Don’t worry… I know exactly what women like you value…” Mako responded darkly. “Now, you’re not family, so get out!”
I wanted to shoot Mako a wry look. I was genuinely listening to what they were talking about. I was very worried about this act, and anything I could learn from their side would be beneficial. Mako kicking them out was counter to what I wanted. It was a little frustrating. I could hear the door shutting as the women offered a little bit more false pretense.
“I’m sorry you feel this way, but we will make our way out now. We just wanted to make sure that poor Clyburn was well. He has our best well wishes.”
“Mm…” Mako only grunted before the door behind them closed.
I let out a sigh and opened my bleary eyes to the room. Thankfully, the room had low lighting and I wasn’t blinded. My eyes landed on Mako and I gave her a smile.
“She’s really a snake, isn’t she?” I said with a crooked grin.
“You’re awake!” Mako cried out, immediately running over to the bed. “I’m so glad!”
Suddenly, she hit me on the shoulder.
“That’s for risking your life again!” Mako said, crossing her arms angrily. “Only you are stupid enough to manage to get yourself blown up like that.”
“I’m sorry I made you worry.” I rubbed my shoulder defensively.
Seeing how weak I was, she seemed to feel some regret now and thus gave me a gentle hug this time. “Just remember, there is only one of you in this entire world.”
“I know… that’s why I have to make hard decisions sometimes,” I responded, pain showing on my face.
“I know that failure is hard…” She said, stroking my hair gently.
“It wasn’t a failure,” I said bitterly. “I saved them. However, they were evil men. Even though they could do some good, they were going to hurt the people I cared about most! I couldn’t let them do it! I had to… I had to…”
I wasn’t able to finish those words. I had to do it. I really did. I wish I could feel every bit of confidence in that, but I wasn’t 100% convinced I made the right decision. Caleb’s mother and her child were hardly without guilt. Undoubtedly, when the revolution began, there would be many people who died. I had essentially traded the life of every man for the lives of a couple of women I had known for a few months and the children I had pumped in their bellies.
Of course, there was also Charlie. I had no clue what she was, or even if she was the real Charlie. Charlie had absolutely spoken with people before. I was unable to believe she was some figment of my imagination. Was she a demon? I couldn’t believe that either. No one had mentioned anything about her existence, so just like on the ship, she had disappeared. Would I be seeing her again? I had no clue.
As I started feeling worse about it, a pair of arms wrapped around me tightly. I felt Mako’s chest press against me as she held me. The anger and frustration immediately started to go away. In her arms, I started to remember why I had done what I had done. I did it because there was no other choice for me. However, that didn’t mean I had to go down without a fight. I squeezed her shoulder, and Mako finally pulled back, looking down at me.
“What is it, Clyburn?”
“I need you to take me to that talk they’re going to. I need to be there.”
Mako frowned slightly, lowering her voice. “There are guards at the door. Getting you out of this room won’t be easy.”
Mako didn’t even ask why I wanted to go or try to talk me out of it. It was clear by the shine in her eyes that she was going to help me do what I wanted, regardless of what it was. Through her, I felt a strength-building inside me. I definitely had to do something. Since they were giving their last talk, their dead poster child showing up would certainly put a wrench in their argument. I had to change people’s minds. I had to stop the extended protection act.
“What if I can give you a rune that puts people to sleep?” I asked.
Mako gave a wry smile. “I’m aseeded, remember? There is no way that I could be able to use any rune you could draw.”
“What if… you could?”
Mako’s eyes flashed at those words. It was certainly something that would cause any aseeded person to look twice. However, it was all there in that knowledge in my head. An aseeded person wasn’t a broken person. Rather, it was the difference between being left-handed or being right-handed. Magic was all created assuming that people accessed power a specific way. That is why runes exploded when aseeded tried to use them. Of course, with a few small alterations, a rune could become safe for someone like us.
I didn’t know if Lilith knew this as well. She hid her knowledge carefully and made sure not to let anyone know what she knew. Well, none of her knowledge was direct. All she knew is what was passed down by her ancestors. The original Lilith might have had this information, but this Lilith was several generations later. Who knew how much information her however-many-greats grandmother wrote down. Actually, what she wrote down did exist. It was the demonic scripts used by Lilith’s followers, and it included the demon summoning circle I had experienced during the Day of Wrath.
If I recalled my history, at some point, Lilith had been captured and made to submit to the hero through the use of a Lilith contract. I don’t know how her family line eventually freed themselves. Perhaps, it was a result of the evil queen who captured the hero and his children and extracted their demonic blood. Well, suffice it to say, there was a lot of history that was wrong, and even Lilith herself didn’t know much beyond what her mother had passed on to her verbally, including their true mission to stop the return of demons.
All of that was way over my head. I was just a guy who came to this world by accident. I didn’t want to save this world from demons or become some kind of chosen one. I just wanted to have a family and help this world however I could. One such way would be to spread knowledge about the aseeded. Another way would be to have babies that no longer possess demonic blood. Today, that method was to stop the extended protection act from being passed tomorrow.
As such, I carefully constructed the rune on a piece of paper, making sure to account for all the conditions. Fortunately, places that were temperature regulated like this were simple. Plus, I already knew the altitude differences thanks to learning how to use magic on Amaryllis. When I was done, I handed the finished Rune to Mako. She stared at it nervously, licking her lips.
“Are you sure it will work?” She asked uncertainly.
I nodded. “Try it.”
She still looked nervous, and I understood why. If an aseeded used a rune that wasn’t made for them, it exploded. If I was wrong about this, Mako could end up dying, as could everyone else nearby. However, I had no doubt in my mind that I drew a rune that would work perfectly fine on the women outside. Unfortunately, once she walked through the door, I couldn’t see what happened. She appeared to be talking to the guards outside. There were two of them. I didn’t know if she’d have the capacity to knock them both out.
I waited anxiously for about five minutes. I was starting to worry that she had failed. Instead of thinking about how I was going to get to the final meeting, I was concerned about how I was going to deal with Mako being caught. Mother, my real Mother, had always filled my head with how deadly and manipulative the government could be. I had seen some of that first hand, especially with this extended protection act. Would they just make Mako disappear?
A few moments later, I was starting to panic, but I could barely get my feet over the bed. I truly felt weak after my accident. When the door opened, I nearly jumped out of my bed. I only just managed to keep myself from falling to the ground. The person who walked in was Mako. She was pushing a wheelchair in front of herself. She looked rushed and worried, but I immediately started to relax.
Hastily, she got me dressed and then put me into the chair. “I don’t know if or when those girl’s absence is going to be realized. We need to hurry.”
I nodded, but I was mostly left at Mako’s whim. The wheelchair was just a typical wheelchair. It didn’t have anything magical that made it float or anything like that. I was actually surprised at how much it resembled wheelchairs from my old world. Well, it wasn’t like this world forgot to invent the wheel, and chairs still looked like chairs, so perhaps I was overthinking things.
Mako began to push me through the hallways, and we were out the door quickly enough. As soon as I was out in the familiar area of the island, I felt like every guard would be able to instantly see us and point us out. However, it wasn’t like we were fugitives or something. Other than the security tasked with watching us, no one else paid us much mind.
Mako didn’t know the way, but I did, so I quickly lead her. There was a security checkpoint when trying to enter the main audience hall, but Mako’s pass wasn’t revoked and we were able to walk right in. Of course, we were part of the observers in the back and didn’t have access to the front section where all the country representatives sat. Mako quickly led me into the dark crowded hall, and I found a spot in an area reserved for handicapped. In this crowd, no one noticed my coming in the slightest.
It actually went far smoother than I expected, but then again, there was no reason it should have been some battle to the death. As far as everyone was concerned, I was still unconscious in the hospital bed. If she knew I was awake, perhaps the lead talker might have changed her tune a bit.
“The Extended Protection Act is overreaching!” A man on the stage said.
While the back audience wasn’t lit, there were lights on all of the representatives, so I could see the faces of most of the women watching him. They had looks of disgust or disinterest. I had recognized this guy. He was part of a matriarchal country that had both male and female representation. The woman who represented his country looked like she wanted to hide. She was receiving more than a few scornful looks from her competitors. Just as I had thought, things weren’t going well in the absence of Matahari, a booth that was spookily empty at this important juncture.
“Do you deny the fact that male deaths happen at an alarming rate?”
“According to the data, statistically more women die than men.” He said, wiping his sweaty forehead. “Even when you account for the population differences, the death rate for women is nearly 1%, but it is 0.5% for males. A man is nearly ½ as likely to die than a woman.”
“Those statistics don’t factor in the intrinsic value of men! Only one man is born for every 1000 women. Are you truly that bad at math that you’d suggest a man’s value is only twice that of a woman?” One woman smirked.
Although it was subtle, she also insulted his intelligence. The man glowered angrily, but before he could come up with an answer, another woman shouted out.
“The male death rate should be 1/1000 of the female death rate or the population isn’t sustainable!”
“Y-you’re not considering that a single male contribution to society can have many times-“ The man tried to argue back.
“That is meaningless if we run out of men!”
“You can’t just take control like this-“
“What? And give control to men? Let’s ask the men of Matahari how that worked for them!” One woman interrupted. “Oh, I’m sorry, they’re dead!”
A few women even chuckled at that.
“It’s a known fact that women are the keyholders of procreation. We carry the babies. Men are barely needed at all. It is right that this is a world controlled by women. It’s the natural order of things.” A woman declared.
He was being bullied by every woman there. Even those that had sided with him previously saw a sinking ship and felt that they could have a stronger position if they abandoned him now. It was as brutal of a massacre as I had ever seen. Like this, the extended protection act would succeed. This guy would be lucky to get a single word in. I had to break in and stop this from continuing down this direction. I had to interrupt their flow.
“Mako, bring me up there.”
Mako nodded, once again doing as I asked without arguing back.
“Face it.” One woman responded snobbishly. “Men like this Clyburn are in danger! We must act now, or our entire species will be wiped out!”
To punctuate her point, the slide show changed to a picture of me. It was no doubt it was me, along with my full name and the date of my alleged death. She seemed to have planned this with the person in control of the projection, Even though the speaker should have had control of it, they had planned this to override him completely. Just as cheers started to rise, I let out a yell.
“My death has been severely overestimated!” I cried out.
The words cut into the group like a knife. Most everybody was female here. Although some men had managed to get in, there were only about twenty compared to nearly five hundred women. The speaker and creator of the extended protection act’s face turned white when she saw me rolling down the pathway. Everyone else took glances. Some gasped as they realized I was the same face on the board.
My wheelchair stopped when two guards stood in the way, keeping me from being taken up to the podium.
“Since you have all used my name so freely in justification of the Extended Protection Act, I have thought it might be important when making your final votes to at least hear my opinion on the matter. After all, I am the man who died to make this all necessary, right?”
The women seemed uncertain, all glancing at each other uncertainly. The head speaker was giving me a dark stare.
“Oh, I’m sorry, have you already suppressed all the rights of your male population? Should we not be allowed to speak on matters that affect us far more than it will the lot of you?”
She looked like she had swallowed a bug, but then she gave the guards a nod and they moved aside. If she didn’t let me speak at this point, it’d cause more harm than good, and both of us knew it. Mako continued to roll me up to the podium. The man who was speaking had his mouth open in surprise when he first saw me, but as he saw me approach, he hastily grabbed the mic.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to consider the words of Clyburn Bonholdt. Some have claimed him to be the blessed man. He’s here to discuss this… Extended Male Protection Act.” The man gave one last nod and stepped aside, clapping for me.
He was one of only a handful, mostly men, who were clapping as I came up. Mako kept her head low, avoiding anyone’s gaze. She made sure to lower the mic for me, and then took a step back. I was now sitting in front of several hundred women. Many of them were world leaders. How had it come to this point? Had it been me from even a year ago, this would have been impossible. However, I had been a prince and grown a sense of the posturing that went with it. Thus, I could hold my shoulders high and face these women. It was almost like everything that happened had been preparing me for this moment.
“Ladies and gentlemen…” I said, speaking into the mic steadily. “Despite your reports and knowledge. Despite everything, your governments have done. I am alive.”
“We’re happy that another man is kept alive, but you’re in a wheelchair. Clearly, your injuries…” One woman started.
“My injuries are my own. Performed because of the choices I made.” I said.
“T-then… this is exactly why the extended protection act must exist!” One girl declared, “To protect you from yourselves!”
“Do you think the Extended Protection Act will stop me from making choices?” I sneered openly at the women, causing them to frown unhappily. “The male population has been restricted for years. We’ve been treated like celebrities, like tools, like cash cows, like princes, and like objects… and now you wish to treat us like prisoners.”
“Prison is a harsh term…”
“A gilded prison is still a prison. And a prison messes with people. Warps them. Changes the kind of person they are. You say that we are a danger to ourselves? Throw us in prison, see how much of a danger we become!”
“Is that a threat?”
“That’s a warning!” I declared. “That’s this so-called human nature you speak of. Humans were not designed for absolute female control. We weren’t designed for men to be in an extreme minority. Men and women were designed to complement each other. The current system puts men on pedestals, the new system puts them in cages, but the fundamental problem is still there. You’re separating men from women. You’re keeping them away.
“Men and women are meant to work together, side by side. Yet, your education system for men is a joke. Your expectation of men is just to pump out babies. Men were designed for so much more, and you have been selling us short of millennia! We aren’t children that must be coddled, we are men that must be unleashed on the world so that we can truly make a difference.”
“This is ridiculous.” One woman mumbled. “There is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot.”
“You’re wrong.” I shook my head. “I’ve seen a world where men and women live equally. I’ve seen a world where men are policemen, and firemen, and miners. I’ve seen a world where men take care of their children along with the woman. A man would take a woman out on a date. They would grow close and only have sex once they fell in love. Perhaps they’d get married, and then raise one or two children together.”
Some women in the audience grew slightly dazed as if they were imagining such a world as I described it.
“These are just fairytales! A male police officer? That’s absurd!”
“It’s real!” I shot back. “It’s as real of a goal as we should ever strive for! Fairy tales? It’s in your own history! This world once had equal male and female representation! So, rather than laying all the blame on men, further restricting them until they’re nothing but government sperm banks, how about you work with them. We can fix this! But you have to be willing to work with me. To teach us science so that we can create and think alongside you, and come up with methods to resolve these issues.
“This curse can be beaten, but only if we work together! If you pass this Extended Protect Act! If you file us away… that dream will never become a reality. We may survive another century, but what about the century after that, and the century after that? What state will that put humanity in? Eventually, the curse will run its course, and all men will become sterile, and then we become extinct.” As I spoke, I hastily drew something on a paper on the pedestal.
Several people stood up angrily. “Is that the future of the curse?”
“Where have you heard this?”
“He’s just spreading hysteria.”
“I’ve seen things.” I said, “I’ve been studying the nature of the curse, and what I say is true. The hero used demon blood to continue the male line. However, that blood will dwindle given enough generations, and then men will no longer be able to breed.”
“Even if this is true.” The house speaker declared, cutting off the voices in the room. “Females will figure it out, just as we always have. Your declaration that men are necessary is a falsehood. What has man discovered? What has man done? Men lack the brain capacity for science or math. Without proof, this is all just conjecture.”
“As some of you know,” I responded back, meeting her eyes. “I’m aseeded. I’m a being who should not be able to use magic. The woman behind me is the same. Please… if you will.”
I reached out my hand, and Mako took it. I connected my power to her, completing the circuit without a rune. The rune I had worked out on the paper very carefully. I could have made it work with an aseeded, but I wanted to show them a man and a woman working together. Thus, I formed the image in my mind instead.
Several of the people made alarmed noises as they felt the power rising up inside us. “They’ll blow!”
The guard took a step forward, but I immediately fixed the current, and then put my hand out. A rose grew in my hand, seemingly out of nothing. I was clearly channeling power, but I was aseeded. To everyone here, it was a complete impossibility. Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads, and their mouths fell open. The Rose continued to grow until it was full bloom. It was a single-stemmed rose with a rich vibrant red.
I let go of it, and the rose shot into the air. A moment later, it popped, causing everyone to jump. Suddenly, rose petals began to rain down over the entire audience. The effect across the group was catastrophic. People started smiling or flat out laughing. One girl even broke into tears. I leaned forward carefully.
“Men and women working together is necessary. Apart, we only can do so much, but together, we can accomplish wonders!”