In NeShattered Post 31, The Last True Answerer faces off against images of those he most cared for - Absolver, Losien Simon and Highemperor. Created by the Sepulchral Phantom, who seeks to see TLTA "Answered", just as TLTA has sought from other Characters for their hubris. When the Sepulchral Phantom condemns hope, TLTA believes that he is wrong and that hope is all that humanity truly has. But the Phantom argues that hope has only brought him conflict of being and that he must forsake hope to become the true Answerer. He must then fight his past, in the bodies of his friends. Although he fends off both Highemperor and Losien, he must confront Absolver with his sword, Gossamer, and ultimately severs his head. This thrills the Phantom, who claps and laughs at the display. Losien and Highemperor then come forth again.
*TLTA, the Answerer, looks on at the figures assembled before him, frozen to the spot. He is almost numb, but is aware dimly of occasional drops of rain filtering through the protective veil of the trees.*
TLTA: It rains...it rains all the time now.
*The grim lead figure, the Sepulchral Phantom, laughs thinly and mirthlessly. The noise sends involuntary shivers down TLTA's spine.*
Phantom: An effort of the story to heal the damage it constantly sustains. To continue the analogy, though, despite the scab forming, the constant fighting and resentment bred here opens the wound just as relentlessly.
TLTA: So you're here to stop me? To slay me and end the bickering by default? You may stop the fighting, but you'll only be as good as me!
Phantom: Your thought processes are needlessly emotional. Everyone, TLTA, is answered - you are a fool to think yourself above it by assuming the titular position.
*TLTA laughs bitterly. He looks out at the hills around him, then down at Highemperor's grave next to him.*
Phantom: Yes. But I prefer these words of his better; "hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man". Your fault was perhaps misjudged faith in part, but you all placed too much in the hands of hope.
TLTA: No...no, you're wrong. Hope is all we have! It's all we've ever had!
Phantom: And what has that hope driven you to do? Your divided hopes, your conflicting reasons for being, have moved you to death and despair. Abandon hope, you who call yourself the Answerer; maybe then you will see a glimpse of Heaven before I cast you into Hell.
Phantom: What say you? Are you ready to be Answered?
TLTA: So be it. Bring your doom, Phantom - I will answer it as I can.
*The massive cloaked figure nods, and clicks his two bone fingers. At once, Losien, Absolver and Highemperor move, striding toward him with malicious purpose.*
TLTA: Bring your judgement! Bring your death! I am beyond suffering, and lost from salvation! I am doom to love, and blight to friendship!I AM THE ANSWERED!!!
*As the three advance, the clear ringing of unsheathed blades is heard, and silver flashes in the night. Highemperor leaps into the air, snarling as he comes down with his long knife pointed at his foe's throat. TLTA catches his wrist, and uses the momentum to throw him, sending him tumbling roughly down the hill. TLTA turns, facing Absolver and Losien.*
TLTA: Come then! We deserve our punishment! We will all pay!
*Losien strikes out with a rapier, her face contorted in grief and rage. TLTA dodges barely, grabbing her and pulling her toward him in a poor imitation of a lover's embrace. As she struggles with him, the half-insane TLTA gazes into her eyes, as he had many times before. The empty, vacant stare he sees is too much for him, and his eyes fill with tears.*
TLTA: *whispered* No hope...even for love...
*Suddenly, Absolver spots an opening and slices down with his cutlass, creating a gash down TLTA's back. The Answerer roars and throws Losien off the hilltop, turning to face his former ally with fire in his eyes.*
TLTA: No hope then...NO HOPE!
*He draws Gossamer and charges Absolver. The shade puts up a valiant fight, but TLTA is at the height of his adrenalin-charge, and swiftly outduels him, knocking the cutlass out of his hands. Absolver looks stunned. TLTA spins and holds his blade at the shade's throat.*
TLTA: WHAT SAY YOU?
*Absolver's face slowly twists into a dark grin. Abruptly, he starts screaming at the top of his voice. His hands reach down to his pockets-*
*TLTA swings Gossamer around and with a primal roar, cuts Absolver's head off. The head of his friend sails off down the hills - the body stands stock still for a split second before lurching backwards down the hills.*
*TLTA turns, shaking, to the hilltop. The Sepulchral Phantom is standing tall, clapping and laughing.*
Phantom: Yes! A valiant end! Burn all your bridges, TLTA! Lay waste to all you care about! Become the Answerer!
*TLTA glares at him, wincing as another bolt of pain runs down his back. Suddenly, the figures of Losien and Highemperor advance up the hill and he is forced to defend himself...*
(NSP: More tomorrow.)