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They say a dead emperor becomes a god, would he _________?

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The simulation glitched as it should.

The landscape was gone. White as eyes could see.

Only Verre and a shade of the emperor remained.

“Verre,” the emperor whispered. Blood did not come from his lips.

Verre caressed the shade’s face. It was strange, how he still thought of him as the emperor, when the empire was gone, when the army was gone, when the world was gone.

Here, the shade was only [      ].

And outside, to the emperor who was still an emperor, even in death, Verre was only [     ].

The simulation glitched. As it should. Sera helped. She may be watching from the corner, invisible to Verre, invisible to the ghost of the man who was [      ].

Verre pressed the image of the emperor down onto the floor. The ghost of a kiss against the ghost of a man, the taste of him a phantom in his mind, lips, tongue, throat. The embrace was not hollow for it embodied the longing that was very real, too real, too blindingly, cruelly real. 

The simulation was mere virtual object, made to adapt to any beholder. It did not belong to Verre, even if the image of the emperor said so, declared so, decreed so. The image’s words were but lightness, not too different from the fantasy of a night in a brothel.

The blank landscape became a sunset. The sun froze in the sky, red as an overexposed eye in an old photograph.

A photograph. If only Verre had kept such thing of him. The simulation offered the whole man, for any authorized staff’s use, but a photograph, that was personal. A strand of hair, even. A hair from a piece of clothing they once both wore. A memorabilia, like the beads of the old lady.

A memorabilia was not a mere object, but the ghost of a moment past carved and bound to a physical vessel, one that did not receive a projection as much as to pull a beholder inside out, so that the past and present may meet, so the inside can be outside as it once was and should be.

So that we may be weighed down, by the heaviness of memories.

So that in the present time, the past continues.

Present time.

It hurts.

What is the man named [Verre]?

What is the man named [      ]?

[Sera] is the person behind the control panels, was the person behind the control panels. Here, an image of her does, in the simulation outside this simulation.

A younger emperor, growing his first beard, ran past Verre and the emperor beneath him.

An even younger emperor, eyes still soft, ran past them in the footsteps of his older self, and vanished.

The older emperor, a grown man too loving for his own sake, presses a hand on Verre’s face. Holding it there, as if Verre was fragile.

Verre was fragile, but he isn’t, and won’t be.

The lovers mingled, entwined, melted into each other. Verre was not glass shards and [      ] was not broken. The simulated sun dyed them the colour of flames and they might as well be, tongues of flames speaking the words that compromised the love that dared not speak of its name, if it ever had one, between a dead man and a man who didn’t exist.

The lovers mingles, entwines, melts into each other. Verre was atop the man and the same man was mounting him. Number was an abstraction. Existence was not measured, controlled or judged.

The lovers were happy as a pair of clams, not melting upon a breakfast table, not served up to be eaten; this was their Eleven-Day Empire, their five days made of gambled moonlight, their twilight of stolen sunlight.

The lovers are crying, their bodies kumiko, their hearts kintsugi.  They glow beneath the sun, wildflowers in their hair. They whispered in a language that even the system could not understand, no matter the analysis, the dissection, the endless studies of human love.

This was more intoxicating than wine. One glass after another, one [      ] after another. Verre kissed him, kissed them, all him, took him in, because [      ] should be inside Verre like wine should be inside a wine glass. It would hurt in the morning but as the wine flowed, as the lightness that became heaviness flowed, all was right with the world.

A forgotten god had fifty names. Each name was a godly form, presiding over war, love or fertility.

The emperor had more than fifty names, Verre was sure.

The emperor is a forgotten god, Verre is sure.

In the simulation within the simulation, time and stamina are droplets of water in an ocean. He drink in his lover again and again, as the image of his lover does with him, two wine glasses that never fill to the brim.

Image of Sera, not quite a seraph, appears before Verre like an angel of eastern gate. All the guiding stars of the sky may fall, and the sword would keep its spin.

“Handsome as you may be,” she said, in a voice too real from a reality two layers away, “layering simulations for extended personal use is forbidden~~!”

Verre shuts down the simulation at once.

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The simulations were making it worse.

Show love. Show trust. Gain trust. Kill.

Show love. Show trust. Gain trust. Kill.

Never thought about gaining love, yet it happened.

[    ] and [     ].

And this woman.

Everything is always one woman away, isn’t it?

A lark flew past in the simulated sky.


The lovers danced at the edge of the world. His name, his name, his names dissipated in the winds.



Neither would be remembered by the world.

Neither would be forgotten, either, in the shape of their shadows. In the deaths that buried them.

In the simulations, the love could run untamed, wildflowers in an untouched field. A beautiful dream that never ended. There, they bathed in the river, dawn light painting their skin red. There, they floated in the bath of the palace, red petals pecked their skin like curious fish. There, they sat before a well-lit fireplace, heads nested in each other’s hair.

Blood dyed river red. The palace smashed by catapult assaults, white wildflowers growing from its cracks. Fire that burned the records and missives. Hair flowing between fingers and desperate grasps.

The woman, dead, her hair flowing like an Ophelia, soldiers placing white flowers like water lilies around her. She appeared peaceful.

Verre, alive, his hair well-combed, alone in a chamber of white.

The emperor, the lover, the Lark…

Meditation, rumination. An art and act of cutting oneself without a knife.

Flashes like ugly fireworks.


The child-like kindness of Rien was lost.

The only kindness the world needed was a cruel one, Verre tried to believe. A kindness wrapped in white lies, a kindness that attracted no gratitude. A kindness that wasn’t love, only necessity.

The ghost of Lark landed on Verre. The firm and caring hand on his shoulder. The lips that trailed in the gray hair. The body that pressed firm against his, firmer and firmer, until the boundary was lost, surrendered, transformed into something else. Arched Verre’s body like the trajectory of a bird in flight. Nested within him.

Don’t come out, Verre told Lark, then still only a man, if they find you, they’ll kill you. I’ll show you how to kill them first.

Go in there, Verre told Lark, then no longer only a man, you’ll be victorious. But that is a lie, because I am in truth-

The nested bird came out, limp and dead.

That’s what you get for loving a viper, little bird, Verre wanted to say. The dead emperor was bleeding all over the cliff. The blood fall vanished into squares of textures into the white void.

The man, not yet an emperor, landed by Verre’s side. The same love that didn’t die came out of his lips and eyes, and the rest of his body. The red love of dawn and death, of an ill bargain willingly made.

Rumination was the act of cattle or sheep, that returned what was already eaten into the mouth to re-perform the act of eating.

To eat Lark again and again, to swallow deep.

Until all was digested.