You had lost.
Not once. Not twice. Not even thrice. Had you still been counting, you would have found yourself much too disappointed. But there can be only so many times before, even you, had to admit defeat gracefully. Doing so was so much more difficult than walking away. Whilst Ralsei could move on and Susie forget, it was different for both Kris and yourself.
Had you chose to turn your back, Ralsei - whilst confused - would ultimately never question your choice. Because (to him) your choices matter. Had you chose to turn your back, Susie would feel relief. Glad that you 'finally' listened to her. Because (to her) your choices don't matter.
Each 'death' and each 'rebirth' - the back and forth motions of resetting - had gone from a duty into a chore. Susie's fighting spirit never faltered - something that once gave you drive. And Ralsei's encouragement... Was bittersweet. At first, these two were driving forces behind the wheel. But now they were nothing more than annoying thorns pricking into your tender flesh as you lay hopelessly on the bed of bush. Kris remained silent.
"How many times?" you'd whisper.
"This is our fourteenth run." Admittedly, you recall missing the first few. After all, you were not in possession of a red SOUL. Of Determination. But you were close. Oh so close! For in your ribcage cavern lay a deep violet SOUL. Perseverance. It was so long did you put two and two together... and mustered the courage to confront Kris on... That look. No one else noticed the twitch at the corner of his lips. Or the way he angled his chin one degree lower upon each reset. Maybe it was the way his body tensed even before that jester had even landed the 'first' blow to his body. Like he knew just how badly it would feel. Actually, you were quite fortunate to be told at all. Prewarned of a history already written numerous times. Except no matter your approach, no preparation was put in your team's favour. Ever. It was this knowledge that shook your bones.
But not this time.
"HEE HEE HEE~! THE HEROINE IS DOWN THREE!" You snarled at him, a vice-like grip on your bō. Shocking, as your sweaty palms damped the wood.
"Jevil, this isn't funny anymore!" Why did your SOUL hammer into your throat as you uttered that?! Swallow it down, girl-
He raised a brow.
Then he grinned.
"OH HO HO~ IT WAS FUN BEFORE? YOU ADMIT IT SO!"
"W-What?! N-NO!" WHOOSH!
Geez-! That nearly struck you! "This was NEVER a game, you Freak!"
"OH BOO HOO! WOE IS ME! SUCH CRUEL WORDS YOU USE TO HURT ME!" Jevil balls his fists and rubbed feign tears from his eyes as he rocked and swayed in the sky. What a joker-
"Yeah? Well they'll keep hurting if-"
"A DEAL, DEAL! SUCH A WONDROUS MAGNIFICENT, MAGNIFICENT DEAL FOR YOU!" THWACK! No way were you taking chances!
Both Joker and Samurai pounced and dueled. Leaping, twisting, turning! Like dragons amongst the Red Sun. Weapons clashed at rapid speeds before throwing their masters back against the wall. Each clatter ricocheting across the purple cobble prison walls. The jester howled with incomprehensible laughter, babbling incoherent phrases. Some about carnivals and fun... Others about... Darker things. Deep philosophies on existence's definition to a strange man who spoke with nothing but his hands. A chaos would come, allegedly. Yet the only chaos the gang had heard of was the one right before her. Soon, Jevil pulled out all the stops. Hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades rained everywhere. And the more the madman spun rabidly. There was only so many near hits a SOUL could take before tiring. Then a solid strike from a spade to the center... And you were down.
"N-No-...!" Cradling your chest, you attempt to shield your SOUL from further-
He came closer - or rather danced closer.
Uncomfortably closing in... Then he held his hand out "A DEAL, DEAL JUST FOR YOU, YOU~!"
"WHAT?!" you cried "What could you possibly want?"
His inability to answer this simple question was... Unsettling to say the least. The strange imp's sinister Cheshire grin, faltering. Then gone. Extinguished like a flame. For once he seemed serious. Whether that was a good thing or not was still in the air. Floating. Mesmerising. Terrorising.
"... SO... SO LONELY I BE..." Jevil repeated. A man left alone to rot and be forgotten. Whatever crime he was once convicted for, did it really warrant this sort of treatment? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it one this was blaringly obvious. Painfully so...
He needed a friend.
You sighed, shoulders sinking like wrecked ships. Time to call a spade a spade. Address the elephant in the room, [Name]!
Ask yourself, if he REALLY wanted you dead... Then why did he insist on playing this game so much? Enjoying it, even? Constantly referring to it, much to Susie and Ralsei's confusion? A 'game' both yourself and Kris had to bite your lip on. A small gesture... And he knew it. This man... This pitiful Fool... Was nothing more than another lonely creature in this forsaken land. He needn't say more as the words tumbled out your trembling lips...
"Do you want...
"We're coming back for you! We promise!"
"Don't let that creep do anything you don't want him too! Ya hear that, Weirdo?!"
"Susie, it's ok-" you assured the giant purple lizard "I know you'll be back!"
And that was the last time you had seen your friends. Sending them off with a smile and wave. How you mustered it that day... Was beyond you. Yet you knew... It was either their freedom, or yours.
Turning around, you took a deep breath as you stepped into the inky shadows where he lay. A shark patrolling a dark sea. Golden eyes lit up with delight once more. Both of you unarmed. You smiled.
"Hey Jevil, it's ok to come out now. We've got all the time to talk and play now." Cautiously, you inch forward. "My attention's all yours now-"
He smiled. He chuckled. The small strange creature prowling closer. It was as if he was being reborn. Again, he offered you a purple gloved hand. You have him your left, as he did so for you. After a single shake, the fool brought it ever closer. Sweeping a single foot behind his other, he arched forward as he gently pecked your hand. An outdated greeting that wouldn't have been so bad had he not looked at you in such a way - unblinking and grinning. It was either their freedom, or yours...
And you had chosen yours.