Chapter 376 Journal Entries 3
I'm losing it. I'm losing everything that made me special. My muscles are gone. My bones feel creaky. I ache all over. My skin is wrinkling, sagging, cracking. My teeth chatter and hurt. I should have died back then, on that meadow, needle in my ankle, looking up at the stars, but the power kept me alive.
Now, without it, I'm dying.
I don't mind dying. Somewhere along the way, after so many fights where I thought I would die, I learned how to put my life on the line. I learned what it meant to give my life up for others. I don't mind my body breaking apart by a beam or getting torn into pieces from a variant.
But this, I hate. I hate it.
I'm losing my mind.
I'm feeling the same cloudiness I did before I got my powers. I'm starting to feel cravings. I'm starting to shiver all over. I wake up at night in a cold sweat, hungering, jittering for more.
Not for H, not for any drug, but for power.
The power that made me special.
I find myself clawing at my throat, then at the sky, at the key that's out there, somewhere, still up there. It's like it's taunting me. Making fun of me for ever tossing it away.
Why did I let it go? Why did I send it out if it wasn't going to choose anyone else?
No, why does anyone else get to have it other than me?
I was the one that saved this world twice over.
I was the best of the best. The most golden of heroes.
It was me.
I deserve it. I need it.
Without it, I'm nothing.
-January 1, 2116
There was a big stretch of empty pages after his point until suddenly, pages filled with incoherent scribbles and drawing began to appear. Messy, childish scribblings of a red key scribbled over and over everywhere.
A red key, that was Vanguard's main symbol as a hero. It was emblazoned proudly on the chest of his golden suit and on his gleaming red cape of pure energy.
It showed that he was the literal key, the answer to any threat that dared to challenge humanity.
And now, it was the obsessive fixation of a broken man.
A man who craved the symbol that made him special.
Aldrich resisted the urge to shut the journal right then and there. He had grown out of hero worship, but it undeniably had a massive impact on him. Vanguard really had been the best of the best to him.
Someone to look up to.
Seeing Vanguard reduced to this level of base desperation was...hard to stomach.
"Pitiful," said Valera, shaking her head.
"The human mind is so very prone to madness," commented Fler'Gan. "The swirl of emotions and desires, securities and insecurities, all of that comprise the complex weave of man's mind, man's soul.
It is what makes it so volatile. Beautiful in its chaos, and yet, at the same time, so very susceptible to destruction."
"Poor guy," said V. "I used to wonder when he would come back, y'know? To make the world better again."
"Hm. So this was how the key to our survival was, deep down?" said Dracul, quiet reflection in his tone. "Broken, pieces held together by a flickering will. And eventually, it all fell apart. As all things do in time."
"Not eventually. The onset of Vanguard's insanity was quick," said Emrys. "And likely triggered by an inciting incident, the nature of which is impossible to ascertain, even with the full resources of the AA and Panopticon attempting to uncover the truth.
Supermind could never read Vanguard's mind, Irregular as he was, but he could maintain a psychic tracker to know whether Vanguard was alive or not.
However, during the time of these scribblings - dated to early 2116 via analysis of the ink - Supermind lost all connection with Vanguard.
Vanguard also spent the twilight of his years in Deep Wastelands and Null shrouded areas, making him impossible to physically track. His Irregular status meant he was unaffected by Null radiation, but how he escaped the clutches of variants without power is still a profound mystery."
"It's quick. Too quick," said Aldrich. "There's an approximate three month gap between the last coherent page and...this. Something had to have happened. Something must have gotten to him."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps not. That power kept Vangaurd alive not just in body, but in mind. Without it, both were destined to crumble away," said Emrys. "It may very well be that Vanguard used up what little he had left of his power, and that paved way for the death he had cheated a century ago to claim what had slipped its grasp."
"Skip to the next relevant words," said Aldrich, watching page after page of desperate, agonized scribbles flip over. He did not want to look upon the pieces of a shattered key. It did not feel right.
"The case is already doing that," said Emrys.
After a minute, the journal stopped flipping its pages, landing on a double spread of messy but coherent words.
I HAVE SEEN THE KEYS DANCING IN THE GATE. THEY HAVE, ARE, WILL DESCEND. I UNDERSTAND NOW.
I SEE NOW. WHAT IS TO COME.
THE LIGHT OF DYING STARS CASTS A FADING SPOTLIGHT UPON A REVERIE OF CHAOS. A PHANTASMOGORIA OF WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT. LIFE AND DEATH LOSING MEANING, STRETCHING INTO ETERNITY THAT IS AND IS NOT.
WILL IT BE ALL IN ONE?
OR ONE IN ALL?
AND THE RED KEY, MY BELOVED, WILL FALL.
SHE WILL BE THE LAST TO JOIN THE DANCE, HER PERFORMANCE THE ONE TO SET THE STAGE.
I REMEMBER NOW WHY I WRITE HERE. TO SHARE TO THE WORLD WHEN MY LOVE WILL DANCE. WHEN SHE WILL SHOW HER BURNING SHINE ONCE MORE.
THESE WILL BE THE POTENTIAL TIMES OF HER AUDITION, THOUGH SHE IS SHY, PICKY. WHO KNOWS WHEN TRULY?
The page flipped, and each double page after that was just a massive date scrawled across the entire length of two pages. There were quite a few dates, some dating to the past, the earliest being from December of 2116, last year.
There were two, though, that stuck out to Aldrich the most. The last two dates.
10/31/2117. When Aldrich received his power.
5/1/2118. The approximate six months in the future date that Emrys projected. This was the final date before the final page of the journal.
ONCE MY RED HAS DANCED, THE THEATER WILL BE PREPARED.
THE GAME WILL BEGIN.