Way cast aside her fleshly body and hit the man-in-white with a fist made of pure star fire. Some crimes she could forgive, some monsters she could sympathize with. Not so much here though. Oddly, the specific crime that this monster was responsible for wasn’t even that bad. All he’d stolen was one tiny ring. His mistake had been that he stole it from Jin and that the ring was forged from Way’s deepest dreams.
The body the man-in-white wore was superhumanly durable, but no matter how tough he imagined himself to be though, he wasn’t tough enough to stand up to Way’s assault.
He’d tried to hide on a planet bustling with life, to force Way to restrain herself.
She’d moved the inhabitants to an identical world that was lacking only the man-in-white’s presence and had then returned to confront him.
He’d tried to bandy words with her, but Way wasn’t in the mood for chit chat, so she’d hit him with the Moon. Things had gotten less friendly from there.
The man-in-white wasn’t without resources of his own. He wove nets of words that tore through Way like razor-wire no matter the form she was in. He matched her speed for speed and conjured all manner of illusions for her to waste her energy on.
The problem he faced was that causing Way to expend energy didn’t so much “tire her out” as “incentivize her to fight harder”. Like a sailor struggling against the sea, the man-in-white got to experience for the first time in more than an eternity was it was like to be faced with a force that he could not overpower, could not trick and could not resist.
That forced him to dig deep and fight as hard as he could. Casting away the illusions that hid what he really was, the man-in-white glowed with majesty that echoed of the gods of old. It was the gift he carried from a time before the birth of his home cosmos, from when he had been a part of something vastly more than even he could remember. Standing revealed in all of his unreal glory, he should have dwarfed the light of the sun, and he did, but he was nothing more than a dim speck in comparison to the multi-hued brilliance that blazed from Way.
He tried to flee, to cast himself to some other world, but Way hemmed him in.
Dreamlords can’t do that to one another. Each defines their own reality. If one wants to disengage from a fight then they simply become unreal to each other. At best Way would have imprisoned a doppleganger of the man-in-white, one spawned from her own imagination. There were only a few very exceptional circumstances where she could trap the original one. In this case the man-in-white couldn’t flee from her for as long as he held her ring, literally a piece of herself. So long as that was in his possession, anywhere that he ran, she would be with him.
“You really think it’s worth this much trouble?” he asked, resting, dim and pale, on a passing comet.
“She’s worth far more than this,” Way said.
“You can’t be happy forever,” he said.
“I don’t need to be happy forever,” Way said. “I just need her. Now give me my ring back.”
“It’s a mistake, nothing is ever what it should be,” he said. “You have to see that.”
“Fine,” the man-in-white said, and offered the band of gleaming golden light to Way.
“This doesn’t end here,” Way said. “I’m bringing you back to the Parliament of Time. I’ll bring you in one more-or-less unbroken piece if you don’t give me any more trouble.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” the man-in-white said. “Let’s take you back home!”
Way backed off and raised her defenses as a planetary scale rift into Oblivion opened.
The man-in-white was swallowed by it and passed into the shadows of non-being with a laugh that chilled Way to the depths of her heart.
The Oblivion Hole pulled at her with a force that was impossible in any universe and in the lightless, featureless depths, Way saw not the home she was promised but the grave she’d escaped from calling her back.
“This is where you began and where you will end”, the emptiness said without words. They were words that resonated with a younger version of her.
She wasn’t that girl anymore though. She was more than the princess who’d been scattered across the Void in a forgotten age. She was more than the shadow who carried Oblivion’s scythe and struck down entire realms under the irresistible commands of a compassionless Knight.
She knew the darkness that lay before her. She’d carried it in her heart after being reborn from it by her father’s twisted grief. She carried it still but in the years that had passed she’d found that there was so much else inside her too.
“I am late for my wedding and I do not have time for this,” she said and flared brighter than the birth of a universe. In her hands, the planetary rift mended and shrank and ultimately vanished, having never been there at all.
That was when she noticed that her ring, the one Jin had given her, was missing too. The man-in-white had taken them both.
Fortunately the planet below her was already devoid of life as it very quickly became devoid of coherent matter as well. Her temper cooled after her outburst though and she allowed the star fire to sputter out.
Space was vast and beautiful but the sight of it sickened Way. The man-in-white had lured her so far away that she knew she was going to be hours overdue for her wedding.
The thought of Jin waiting in her dress was equally enticing and heart rending when Way considered how unnecessary the delay was. She could have let the man-in-white get away. The ring wasn’t particularly critical. She could recreate it in an instant. She’d pursued the man-in-white for weeks for one reason only; he’d made Jin feel miserable when she should have been delighted. Way could forgive a lot of things, but that wasn’t one of them.
“So the question is how do I forgive myself now?” she asked a vast and uncaring sky.
“I’ve heard that forgiveness starts with acceptance,” a man in a blue space ship said from behind her. “And in this case, I’d say that means accepting a ride home.”
“Who are you?” Way asked.
“A friend of your Professor Haffrun’s,” the man said. “Wonderful instructor, certainly taught me a thing or two, and well, I owed her a favor so here I am.”
“Why?” Way asked.
“I believe you have an important engagement? Or perhaps the engagement’s ending, something about a wedding I think?” the man said.
Way inspected the man. He appeared human, but he definitely wasn’t. His eyes were centuries too old for the face he wore. His biology was different too, but Jin’s world had people who were much farther from the standard form humans wore and were bright and wonderful people none-the-less. His spaceship was a beautiful royal blue with an environmental control system that extended outside the borders of the ship. It was not only capable of generating a bubble of air for them to speak in, it was capable of making the air comfortable and lightly scented with the aroma of old books, which Way found almost intoxicating.
All of that was encouraging but it was the kindness that Way say in the man’s eyes that convinced her to take a chance on him.
“Professor Haffrun sent a shuttle out for me?” she asked.
“Anytime, anywhere,” the man said. “That’s my motto, or one of them at any rate, but yes, she knew you’d gone after a villain and figured you might need some transport home for the big event.”
“Can you really get us back before the wedding?” Way asked as she stepped in through the spaceship’s entrance portal and marveled at the spacious decor within.
“Anytime, anywhere,” the man said.
“Maybe I should have you drop me off before Jin’s ring got stolen then,” Way said. She was joking except that part of her wasn’t.
“Would you like that?” the man asked. “Bit dangerous to cross your own timeline, but it wouldn’t be the first time I did it.”
“You can do that?” Way asked. “Rewrite the past?”
“Can do it? Yes. Should do it? Well there’s no one to tell me no, but I do know better. Most of the time. Okay at least on Saturday’s.” the man said. “So do you want to?”
Way thought about it.
A second chance. Those were precious beyond measure. But the cost was usually equally precious.
“What could happen if I did?” she asked.
“Maybe nothing, or maybe everything,” the man said. “You’d get a new future, guaranteed. It’s just your past that would be a bit…unstable.”
“Well you can’t pitch away what was without throwing out who you were and who you are,” the man said.
“But I like who I am,” Way said.
“Then I would suggest cherishing your past, even the painful parts,” the man said.
“And if I didn’t like who I was?” she asked.
“Then I would suggest learning from it,” he said. “Now let’s get you home.”
Those were the 7th nicest words Way had ever heard.